The GOOD: Our balcony cabin was wonderful. Clean, bright and cleverly laid out. I saw inside a windowless cabin and it was dark and claustrophobic even though similar in square footage. The cabin bathroom had separate sliding doors for the shower and toilet. Only two outlets in the whole cabin - one in the bathroom and one near the small refrigerator. We made use of the mini-safe in the cabin.
Most of the ship staff were very helpful and professional. They all work so hard and such long days. We enjoyed chatting and getting to know some of them personally.
We loved the trivia contests even though we never won any of them! Met some fun and intelligent people. Also, this activity allowed us to be somewhere more quiet, away from the noise and crush of people.
The gym is decently equipped with the usually machines. I also walked along the outside circuit on Deck 12 on the mornings when it wasn't blowing too hard.
The gorgeous Versailles dining room became our favorite venue for dinner. The food ranged from weird fusion/bad to surprisingly good (the Indian food for lunch at the Market Cafe and the rack of lamb for dinner) but most of their desserts were disappointing. The ice cream stand is a very nice treat. I do like the open seating, dine whenever concept.
The Stardust Theater is beautiful and the seats were very comfortable. We'd catch the earlier 7pm shows so we could have a late dinner and avoid the crowd.
The complimentary champagne at the "art" auction was decent and, again, it was a quiet, peaceful venue away from the noise and crowds. Besides, I could never tire from looking at the Rembrandt etchings they had.
Disembarkation/customs in Canada went pretty well considering three cruise ships had docked that same morning. We took our own bags off the ship and that was a wise decision. NCL did right by offering a choice of times to leave the ship. We had breakfast first and did not feel rushed in preparing to disembark. We found a taxi right away after we cleared customs.
I took photos of Canada Place and Vancouver as we docked. Two other HAL cruise ships (Oosterdam) were at the pier already. You can see them on my zazzle home page under mltdesigns.
The Not So Good: The NCL website needs improvement. It wasn't set up to be intuitive and the site couldn't keep our accounts separate (two people with different addresses booked in the same cabin). Also, NCL customer service did not deliver on their promise to email me about my airline arrangements. I had to chase them down twice over the phone to get that information.
Embarkation took a very long time. Also my luggage never showed up to our cabin. I had to ask TWICE at the reception desk about it. Finally, I was told it was being held for contraband items. A fire hazard. I had a curling iron in my bag but was dumbfounded by their policy. Passengers can smoke in their cabins but I can't have a curling iron or clothes iron in the room?! The security staff decently let me keep the contraband items if I don't use them while I was on the ship. I was really more upset that I wasn't notified that my bag was being held. I was finally able to retrieve my luggage after 8pm that night.
We had to pay for everything else, expensive too! Cabin fee does not cover mandatory tips at $12/per person per day (we paid that plus extra directly to our waiters/housekeepers etc.), alcoholic drinks, soda, bottled water, any excursions and for use of the inside pool in the spa. However, the martini I ordered was made perfectly and, while the canoe paddle on Mendenhall Lake was $160 a person plus tip, it was the highlight of our trip. I was surprised how expensive this cruise turned out to be even though we did not eat in any specialty restaurants and only bought two drinks each during the whole cruise.
The fee for wifi Internet service was outrageous at 75 cents a minute and terribly unreliable. Even though I was given partial credit, it was still quite a rip-off. On Day 4 of the cruise, I was finally able to check email at the public library when we docked at Juneau, then later in Ketchikan. Both libraries are 2-3 blocks away from the ship docks.
Too little time at port. After spending about 3.5 hours on a tour/excursion at both ports, we only had an hour or two to explore the town. I'll just have to go back someday!
Library and movie theater were closed due to construction. The TV seldom had any stations on. All I wanted was CNN news since the Internet wasn't really available.
Bathroom amenities: Practically none. I suggest bringing your own shampoo and soap. The shower dispenser took many pumps to get enough to clean with.. and it was cheap product.
I've not been on any other major cruise ship so I'm not sure how to rank the NCL line. The week-long river cruise ship I was on had much better food and included more educational/interesting activities. I was also spoiled by the all-inclusive river cruise fare which included beer, soda, meals and shore excursions, optional tipping.
Summary: Alaska is a must-go-see. A balcony or outside window cabin would really make for a better trip. I loved my first ocean cruise experience - it was an adventure on many levels and restful too. Next time, I'll select a cruise that starts closer to Alaska and with more ports of call.