Our journey began on United from Harrisburg, through O'Hare, to Seattle. Beautiful flights, easy connections. We arrived the afternoon before our cruise and spent the evening checking out the Space Needle, Pike's Fish Market and the pier (stayed at a Quality Inn near the Space Needle for under $100 and got their shuttle to the pier the next morning).
Norweigan took wonderful care of us from the get go. We boarded with relative ease just after noon, had lunch on the ship and were in our room shortly after 2pm. It was a gorgeous, sunny day to set sail. We set about to learn our way around the beautiful ship, and soon found ourselves in the Stardust Theatre for our lifeboat drill (I forget the other title the ship gave it...muster?)
We booked an inside cabin which was not in a main hallway, but just off the one near the front of the ship (4543) fairly near the elevators. This kept us away from any hall noise and yet close to the elevators to the theatre and Spinnaker lounge. We also discovered we would disembark in port from this level several times, so our least expensive cabin turned out to be GREAT, and we never felt deprived as we spent very little time there. (the tv always had a few from the front of the ship so you could tell where you were and what the weather was). We spent time in the library, lounges and restaurants to enjoy the view, or ofcourse, on deck. I took the money I saved on the cabin and used it at the spa and for our excursions!
I had arranged with the ship to hold a Meet & Greet with our Cruise Critic pals, which they did with one email! Easy! On Monday, when we were sailing the Inside Passage and on the ship all day, we met at 11am in the Indigo Dining Room for our private gathering. The ship had set up refreshments and many of the top staff stopped by to say hello and talk to us (including the Hotel Director - who will be leaving to head up the new EPIC soon - the Cruise Director, Restaurant Manager and Head Chef, among others). I was IMPRESSED! They must REALLY care what we 'cruise critics' have to say! It was so nice to meet the people I had been communicating with for the past months, and to see them again throughout the trip. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND all groups do this!!
NCL has great service throughout - everyone seems genuinely happy to see you and welcome you to their department. The food was wonderful, and we were well taken care of no matter where we went. The entertainment was first rate - especially comedian David Naster, the juggler (sorry, I forget his name) and the Frankie Valle/Four Seasons show, "Oh What a Night." I enjoyed most of the dance troupe's performances as well, and the crew performed the final afternoon, which was terrific. There was never a lack of things to do. We stayed on the ship in Victoria and got to see "Avatar" which I had missed at home. It was nice having the ship nearly to ourselves for the evening. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start at Juneau.
Juneau was quaint, and we found out you can't get there by highway (the longest road only goes 40 miles!). Our whale watching tour through "Harv and Marv" was waiting for us and gave us a great tour. We saw whales, sea lions, and bald eagles. We got to stop at Mendenhall Glacier on the way back to the ship. This was really neat. Lots of good pictures.
In Skagway, we did, as many, the White Pass RR into Canada. It was just about our only rainy day, and the sun managed to come out by the time we stopped for our salmon bake at Liarsville, followed by their show, which was fun. Last stop was the old brothel in town for a tour and a beer (you could have wine or root beer I believe). We aren't big shoppers but there were lots of shops in town.
Glacier Bay was worth the whole trip. WOW!! Not to be missed - so glad my husband wanted to see this! And we had such an amazing day! Just awesome! There were two rangers on board to point things out and tell us about the region and what we were seeing.
Ketchikan was another quaint town, easy walking to everything. We did the Duck Boat tour and the Lumberjack show, which were both good times. Lots of shopping ops for those who care to partake. It was too early for the salmon so we missed that, and the eagles that come because of them.
Back to the ship. We enjoyed both main dining rooms, especially the bigger one, the Summer Palace. The buffet was good but sometimes crowded and hard to find a table without walking a good bit. Plenty to eat though, nice variety. Made to order omelets or ready to eat cereal, and everything in between! The OJ was pretty watery, but lots of fresh fruit (had the best pineapple!!). Skip the chocolate buffet - it was pretty disappointing and nothing any better than what was offered each night for dessert (actually, desserts were probably better). Also enjoyed the Blue Lagoon and the outdoor buffets. We didn't pay to eat in any of the specialty restaurants - I just figured I had paid for all of these other venues so why go elsewhere? (yes, I am "frugal" but again, didn't feel at all deprived). We went to the Bliss Lounge to bowl and listen to karoke (had a great Expresso Martini) and stopped by the Star Bar but there was never anyone in there - it's pretty secluded - so we didn't stay. Otherwise, we hung out at the Spinnaker where a lot of the dance classes, bingos and other games were played. Boy if you like Bingo and raffles, you'll have a ball on the Pearl! We don't gamble, so it was a 'bit much' to us, but again, if it's your thing, have fun!
Disembarkation was easy. We carried our bags off ourselves. It took about 1/2 hour but the line kept moving. We got an airport shuttle through the ship, which was fine until we got to the airport. The bus only made one stop (instead of asking what airline you were leaving on). So we were dropped at the "A" side of the airport and had to walk to "U" for United - a lengthy walk with all of our bags in tow. This was probably our biggest gripe of the whole trip. Otherwise, everything was really terrific, and I'm so glad that we booked on the NCL Pearl (I'd had 2 friends who had done it and recommended it). We packed 2 carry on bags and one checked bag, plus I had a backpack. This was so we could layer, but I imagine in the warmer months, this wouldn't have been necessary. I never used the pool or hot tub as it was too chilly on deck (although other, braver souls did) so didn't end up needing our swim things or shorts.
I think if you read other reviews of this trip on this site, you will be more than prepared for your travels. (and the ship provides daily lists of activities and announces them on the PA as well). ALASKA IS WORTH SEEING and I highly recommend seeing it on the NCL PEARL.