Although I knew I did not like big ships I thought my god daughter should get the full cruising experience with all the bells and whistles. I chose NCL Pearl for date and itinerary and liked the idea of freestyle dining although the idea of paying extra for specialty restaurants seemed counter to why people go on a cruise ship.I also couldn't spend a lot and knew we would have very little time in our cabin so I requested an inside cabin midships. My cruise advisor at NCL said he would book us in a handicapped cabin that would be larger than the usual one and if the cabin was needed we would be moved. Embarkation was awful; one scanner was down they said. It took 1 1/2 hour. But that was the worse thing that happened.
We got to have that cabin which is on deck 4 next to the medical center. Very quiet down there! and the cabin was very comfortable with large bathroom as it was designed for a wheelchair. Mirrors on two walls of the cabin also enhanced the spacious feel. Didn't see the steward but room was well serviced and we always had plenty of towels. Only complaint is that a night light should be in the bathroom especially for a person with a handicap.
Even with the pocket guide you can get of the ships layout, I never did quite learn what was where and how to get there but K has a great sense of direction. We walked the stairs most of the time which was the best exercise. Did use the gym several times. I even lost a pound. And the food was better than I expected. The Garden Cafe,the buffet, had such a variety of dishes including excellent Indian food, that we always found interesting things to try. Problem is seating! Rarely did staff offer to help find space for you but we did find that the adjacent La Cucina restaurant is generally available at breakfast and lunchtimes for seating. Nicer quieter atmosphere but it is a longer walk holding your food bowl or plate. The main dining room Summer Palace and smaller Indigo share the same menu. There are daily additions so one has to check when the menu is put out if there is something of interest otherwise your choices are limited. The first night leaving Seattle and then on another evening several of the speciality restaurants had 2 for 1 deals. Those are worth it. We tried LaCucina and Le Bistro. Both were excellent, Wine list is adequate and not outrageously overpriced. If you are a coffee lover, there are two machines in the cafe that grind beans and brew your cup individually. Well worth it. For ice cream lovers (we were) the ship is heaven. The generous scoopers in the Garden Cafe were always busy and the ice cream itself was excellent. We were early to bedders so have no idea what happens after 10:30 but we did like the main entertainment and sitting in the Crystal Atrium listening to music. What I was amazed at was the pushing of jewelry and the shop till you drop atmosphere both on and off the ship. In the ports you will see signs in some jewelry shops saying they are not listed in ship info because they don;t pay the ships. But if you go on a big ship there is a lot of people watching to do and we enjoyed that. We found quiet space in the library for reading and several times got a blanket and found a lounge recliner on deck. That is what cruising was like but here no one cones around to ask if you want tea.
I had been in Juneau, Ketchikan and Victoria before so did not arrange any shore excursions. In Juneau it is easy to get the local shuttle bus out to the Mendenhall glacier and then you can spend as much time as you want there. In Ketchikan we strolled the streets went up Creek Street and enjoyed Dolly's House and then the Discovery Center. I hadn't been to Skagway so there after doing online research I reserved ahead of time with Chilkoot tours to take the bus/train combo up into the mountains. Loved every breathtaking minute. Likewise in Victoria, we took the shuttle downtown and spend several delightful hours wandering around and inside the Empress, admiring the totem poles outside of the museum, checking out the craft market by the harbor, seeing the Parliament building light up..
So my god daughter had a terrific time and I thought Glacier bay and Skagway tour made the trip for me. I hope she caught the travel bug along with a few bites of other kinds of bugs. As for me, it is back to small ships. To really see Alaska, go Cruise West.