I am sitting here still feeling the gentle swaying of the ship and reflecting about my first cruise ever to Alaska, and there's so much to tell and say, and, and, and you get the point I am sure.
I don't think anyone could have prepared me for this experience; it's truly one of those you have to experience firsthand to really understand what it's all about.
Because I am a weenie when it comes to traveling -- (my idea of camping is the Four Seasons) I wasn't sure what the cabins would be like so we booked a suite. During this time our PCC made sure our excursions were taken care of, listened to me fret about the worry of being sick, and a myriad of other things I asked about. Over the course of 4 months my PCC and I developed a friendly rapport and I can't thank him enough.
The night of the 20th we drove to Seattle, and spent the night at the Marriot. It was expensive, and the room was okay, but we didn't really care about the room, we just wanted the 20th to be over so we could begin our adventure. After a really expensive and horrible meal at the Crab Pot on the waterfront we took a leisurely walk back to our hotel and settled in for the night. We tossed and turned due to excitement I am sure -- before we knew it, it was 8:00 AM. We ordered breakfast and talked about what we thought "it" was going to be like.
I can't remember a time I have been this giddy. Maybe when I was a child during Christmas? Or perhaps the night before I married my husband or gave birth to my son. This chick was giddy!
Boarding was easy - we had booked a suite and had preboarding embarkation privileges. Those kinds of things are worth it to me - I hate standing in line due to a hip and knee injury.
The level of service from start to finish was really amazing. In a matter of minutes we were escorted to the lounge where we met our concierge Patrick, had a few refreshments, and before we knew it we were being escorted to the ship. Our cards were scanned, we heard that lovely "ping" and then we were welcomed aboard and taken to Cagney's which is probably one of the nicest steakhouses I have ever been to. Our server was Syndrea, hands down one of the loveliest people I have ever met. She took a shine to my son, fawned all over him, and made us feel special. She was amazing. After a delightful lunch, many text messages and photos and OH MY GOD I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS a lovely lady appeared and escorted us to our cabin.
The cabin was really nice. I am not sure what I was expecting. It was darker than I think I anticipated -- I know I was frustrated because the curtains only opened one way and I would have liked more light. But my gosh to complain about that is ridiculous. I just spent a lot of time outside on our deck! Our butler appeared - Flor, another lovely lovely woman. Our luggage hadn't arrived and my husband was a little twitchy about that but she assured him it would arrive and she would help us put our clothes away. After a few moments to settle in I felt nervous in doing this but I handed her 20.00 and shared with her that my husband really liked his ice bucket full and could she make sure it stayed that way. She smiled and said "But of course and thank you" (The ice bucket was never ever empty).
During this time she wanted to know if we wanted some espresso and we both said yes. I wanted to watch her make the first cup, as that's something I have always done for my husband is bring him his first cup of coffee. It's an I love you thing. Neither Flor nor I were sure how to operate this machine, and so we both bonded over learning how to froth milk and laugh oh did we laugh. This set the tone for our entire cruise. She loved us and we loved her. And oh my gosh, she spoiled our son rotten. (Later I found out he was the only child in the suite section -- and all of the stewards butlers made sure to say hello to him and he enjoyed that).
Our concierge Patrick and our steward Vincent arrived both bearing letters -- the concierge sat down with us and made it very clear that no matter what we wanted or needed we just needed to let him know. Vincent wanted to make sure I knew the ice would never be empty, he would see to it. He then made sure our deck was ready, and brought our son an extra deck chair. I followed him out to the deck and handed him a 20 dollar bill as well, thanked him ahead of time, and told him I hoped we wouldn't be too big of a pain in the neck. He laughed and said "Don't be silly - you guys are great, I could hear Flor laugh all the way down the hall."
Finally they all left and we began to check out the room. This is when I first noticed a really odd odor. It was cross between latrine and alcohol (like rubbing alcohol) and stale water. It was odd, and creepy. I asked my husband if he could smell it, and he said it was probably because we were in port and they were doing something with the sanitation. (More about that later) Before we knew it was 3:30 PM and time for our drill, once we completed our drill and headed back to our room it was time to set sail and we were on our way.
We decided to go to Ginza our first night and it was amazing. The sushi was fantastic, the wine was wonderful, as well as all of the other Asian dishes. We met Joey the Assistant Restaurant Manager who is a dead ringer for an Asian Gary Shandling. When I told him who I thought he looked like he said - "You know I get that a lot" After supper we took a stroll on the deck and continued to explore the ship, enjoyed the sea air, ordered the kid some ice cream from out butler and turned in around 11:00 PM.
And that was the first day aboard the Star.
Some highlights - • Breakfast from any of the specialty restaurants that offer breakfast in your room. • Whale watching in Juneau. The photos we got were fantastic. We saw Orcas AND Humpbacks in the same area which the skipper from the excursion we chartered said doesn't happen often. They also put a microphone down in the water and you could hear the whales sing to one another which brought tears to my eyes. That was worth the trip itself. • The Chef's Table excursion in Ketchikan -- for one rainy rainy town the food was fabulous. I tried Black Cod (Sable fish) for the first time and became a fan. Ryan the young (24 year old) chef created lovely dishes with fresh ingredients, I recommend it to anyone. It was well worth the 125.00 we shelled out per person. • A deep conditioning and style at the salon as well as a 75 minute sports massage. (Just say no thank you to all the stuff they want to sell you, they get the message). • The larger than life prawns at Cagney's • The literally cut it with a fork tender steak at Le Bistro • The Cagney's French fries • The antipasto plate at La Cucina • Anything at Ginza - I mean anything. I think I personally ate 3 Dynamite rolls myself. • If you stay in a suite the mid afternoon snack they bring you. Cheese and fruit, or sweets. It was all great. • Sleeping like a baby at night -- the gentle motion of the ship was like being in a big cradle. I sleep better than I have in years. • The hospitality of 99% of the crew. • Bingo -- it was a hoot, and the assistant Cruise Director Joel is just hilarious. However, if you have kids, I am not sure I'd bring my child if they were under 13. There was some adult conversation about the number O-69 that we could have done without. I don't think I need to go any further with that! • The wait staff. FANTASTIC. Hands down, we didn't meet one wait person, wine steward, or maitre d' that wasn't nice and accommodating. Monique the restaurant manager actually made time to help my husband find a bottle of wine they said they were out of. • Again the butler and steward really went out of their way to make us feel at home and take care of our son, who they said over and over was well behaved and not a pain in the neck. There were 350 kids on board and we saw all kinds of stuff from really great kids to kids that I am sure parents would have liked to have left at the Kids Center the entire trip. • The portions on the ship regarding food - PERFECT size!!! • We had a private tour of the bridge and all I can say is WOW. It was mind blowing, and the staff and officers were so kind. They explained why we didn't get to travel further and see Sawyer Glacier close up -- I was horribly disappointed about that, but safety first. • The guys at the end of the crew finale with the spray bottles who danced and sang "We are family" they were funny - in fact the entire finale was heartwarming.
Things that were not so great about our cruise (there are not many):
• The odor in our room. No matter where I go I take air freshener with me when I travel. I mean let's be real when there are three people sharing a room the last thing you want to smell is someone else's poop, right? So I bring Lysol and everyone is happy. Every time we'd enter our room in the foyer as we entered this room we could smell this horrible odor. After about 5 minutes we'd get used to it. However, after about an hour we'd feel sick to our stomach and have a headache. We'd open our door to the deck and air out the room and breath fresh air and we'd be okay. The second day I asked our Butler and Steward if they smelled it. They said they couldn't, but kindly reminded me that I had been spraying Lysol and to them that is all they smelled -- so stop spraying and let it build up. So we did and sure enough the smell came back and this time they called the deck supervisor Edgar, as well as our concierge. Both men came up took a whiff and said "ICK what is that" No one knew, we all shrugged our shoulders, and began pulling everything out to see if something had died. We couldn't find anything. Next, the AC guys came up to check out the air conditioning. They found one plugged drain with rancid standing water. They unplugged it, cleaned it out, and they left 2 air purifiers in our room. That helped -- kind of. At least the headaches and the nausea went away. But the smell sort of stuck around. Everyone but us was freaking out. They offered to move us to a different cabin, but the cabin they had available was smaller than the one we were in, and my husband felt like he needed more room as it was. (We have decided our next cruise will be an owner's suite. I'd rather save for it and travel comfortably; he's a very tall guy that needs room). The ship bought us dinner at Cagney's minus alcohol, they also didn't pay for Lobster and that's fine with me. I felt weird accepting it. • The soda card rip off. We were lead to believe that the soda card covered everything even bottled water. Nope. It sure doesn't. The soda card covers everything that comes out of the soda fountain. Now on the Star the ginger ale was broken for a few days so they were giving out cans. I asked our Butler since they were giving out cans could we get cans delivered. She said yes, for 2.25 So we ran down and they end up giving us a few at a time, we'd bring them back up to the room. And that's how we did it. We figured we'd need to drink a heck of a lot of soda to make that work for our family. I myself drank a bottle of San Pellegrino a night at 4.50 a pop. So next time no soda card. • The gratuity system. -- I don't mind spending 12.00 per day per person. In fact, we gave our concierge, our butler and steward an extra 50.00 in cash without blinking. They seemed almost embarrassed to take it. What irked me was anytime we bought a beverage in the restaurant they charged a gratuity, I felt they were double dipping. I may be mistaken thinking that the bartenders don't receive the group gratuity. • Everything is for sale! Bingo, art, jewelry, make up, hair products, they want you to spend spend spend. I will say the ship's store was reasonably priced for the most part. But everywhere I turned around they wanted me to buy something. I learned to smile and say no thank you a lot. • Not being able to see Sawyer Glacier full on, but safety first we don't need the Titanic out there. • Last but not least -- Candi the Cruise Director, a lovely woman, but after 2 days of hearing her voice I wanted ear plugs ha ha. I learned how to imitate her perfectly, my family hates me now! She just has one of those voices that grate on your ears after a while.
Things I learned -
• It's a ship not a boat. • Forward is forward, and aft is the back of the ship • A green apple does wonders for any sort of sea sickness. Bonine is my friend, but take it beginning on the Wed before you set sail. And take it like clockwork. It doesn't make you sleepy • If your room is forward you will feel the motion of the ocean more, but it's a great place to see ports, glaciers, and whales.
Last but not least, we had one really rude encounter. One woman from the excursion desk needed a huge time out. I think by the time my husband finished talking with her boss she was going to get more than a time out -- her behavior was deplorable. I am still saying "OMG" when I think about it. She was totally not NCL material.
I know there's tons more I could say about my first cruise but I have rattled on and on.
Thank you all for helping me prepare, it was amazing, I can't wait to do it again.