(1) The kids' program. My wife and I went with a 2 and 4 year old. They both loved the kids' program and begged to go to whenever possible. My 9 year old nephew, also on our cruise, also loved the kids' program. It's free when the ship is sailing, $6 a child or $10 for two when the ship is in port. Almost no one used the latter service, but we did, and the kids got lots of attention.
(2) The staff. Hardworking, and always friendly.
(3) The Blue Lagoon. An eighth floor 24 hour casual dining spot, rarely crowded, relatively quiet, big picture windows.
(4) The specialty restaurants. We dined at La Cucina and the Tex Mex restaurant, $10 a person each (5 for kids). Well worth it. Better food and better service, they really try to please the customers who choose this option. At first I saw this as a ripoff, trying to extract more money from customers, but after trying it I see it as a way for customers who want a much better dining experience to pay a little extra for it.
(5) The kiddie pools. Mostly too cold to use them, but our 4 year old loved them.
(6) The buffet. A nice buffet, but, more important, unlike on our Carnival experience two years ago, no significant lines, ever, whereas Carnival had long lines all day. Also a nice small kiddie area.
(7) Room service. On port days, with short times in port, we just ordered room service (didn't have to be from the breakfast menu, I had pizza twice) to be delivered at 6:30, we ate in the hall (room too small) and were out by 6:45.
(1) Smallest room sizes in the industry. And our room (4506) was clearly smaller than the other outsides. And, if we had to do it again, we'd want a guaranteed window instead of a porthole. My sister had the window and it was a great way to see Alaska.
(2) SELL! SELL! SELL! NCL is constantly trying to sell you whatever they can: jewelry, shore excursions, bingo, spa services, and so on.
(3) Entertainment. We didn't go to most of the shows because of the kiddies, but we thought the Frankie Vallie tribute band was awful, and the Second City group only okay. On sea days, there was relatively little to do on board, no lectures on Alaska and only one movie, NCL wanted you to attend bingo or a ripoff art auction instead.
(4) Short times in port. Had to leave Juneau at 1:30, for example. (But unlike many people, we actually enjoyed Prince Rupert, because it seemed like a real town, not a tourist trap, and wasn't filled with other ships).
(5) Food in non-specialty restaurants: mediocre.
(1) The Versailles dining room. Long lines, bad service, mediocre food. Only one table for 10 (our party size) available in the whole place. The first day, we witnessed the maitre de giving instructions to the waiters, who didn't know what she was talking about, the waiters apparently had been on another ship or in another dining room before. If you got to the restaurant much passed 5:30 when it opened for dinner, the line was crazy. When this happened once, we asked whether Aqua would be better. We were told no, but went there anyway, no line. Lunch and breakfast were also disorganized with bad service. Aqua is not as attractive, but had much better service (same food). But do yourself a favor and eat in the specialty restaurants at least two nights, just add it to your budget.
(2) The "happy happy guy." Standing at the entrance to the buffet was an employee with a bottle of anti-germ spray. Every time someone came in he said "Happy happy smiley smiley." By the end of the cruise, I wanted to "punchy punchy" him in the "mouthy mouthy." How about a simple "good morning?"
Miscellaneous: Alaska car rental in Ketchikan was a pleasure to deal with. We drove north to the totem park and then to Ward Lake, avoiding the crowds.
Avis in Skagway was unpleasant to deal with. They refused to honor a rate we got from the internet, and, after our daughter got car sick (but not in the car) we asked if we could return it very early in the day for a partial refund, early enough that they probably could have rented it again (11 am, the other NCL ship was going to be in port until 7:30 pm). Nope.
Nice playground for small children in Prince Rupert right by the ship. There are Safeways in P.R. and Ketchikan if you need groceries or toiletries, and of course Juneau has all sorts of stores. In Juneau, we took a taxi directly from the boat to the glacier, and got there well before the crowds, we had the glacier practically to ourselves, 34 dollars plus tip each way.