Chose this trip with the help of a Travel Agent who pitched us at the right level of formality.
The age range of passengers was predominantly 50+ although there were younger people, children and babies but everyone we met was friendly and willing to talk and share experiences (not always about cruising but about lives in different countries). Majority of people were from America.
The Norwegian Star seemed a big ship to us which meant we did not feel confined at any point and provided variety for eating and entertainment. Having not cruised before could not say what size ship we preferred but do not think anything much smaller would suit us although I accept this is personal preference. There was one formal night known as dress up or not and there were those that did the full whack with tuxedoes and long dresses and those that didn't. It wasn't a problem either way.
Starting with arrival in Seattle- our hotel was located virtually opposite the airport although other NCL passengers were in the centre- pros and cons for both. We had anticipated spending time in Seattle but forgot the time delay and it did not happen. We were met at the airport and escorted onto the hotel transfer bus, check in was ok and there is a review of the hotel on Tripadvisor. Coach in the morning to the port was smooth and turned into a very amusing tour of Seattle as a bonus because the ship was not ready for us- brilliant coach driver with local knowledge and sense of humour set the tone.
Embarkation was smooth and efficient. Cabins were not ready but passengers were ushered onto cafe on top deck where food and drink were available. It did not take long for cabins to be ready.
CABIN: We heeded the advice to get a balcony cabin on an Alaskan cruise and although not essential for a good trip it is definitely to be recommended if the budget can stretch to it. I believe that balcony cabins are the lowest grade where there are tea and coffee making facilities in the cabin.
Size is adequate and the layout is well organised. Bed is comfortable but pillows are abysmal. Shampoo and shower gel are provided but is no conditioner.There is a decent hairdryer ladies so you don't need to pack one. Bathrobes were also there.Needless to say it was spotlessly clean as was the entire ship.
RESTAURANTS:Self service one up top which had a massive variety of food of a high standard with separate sections for different foods e.g. salads, Italian, Asian, soup etc and a further huge range of puddings> I defy anyone to not find something they liked. We only ate here at lunchtime (could control the size of our portions) or if we were doing an early morning trip (for speed and that extra 10mins in bed). By the pool area there was a burger/hotdog bar. There were 2 "posh" restaurants where there was waiter service. They served the same menu and it was personal preference as to the situation. On arrival at the restaurant you were asked whether you wanted to share a table or be on your own. Sometimes it was nice to share experiences with someone different and other times we sat on our own- no pressure either way. Choosing not to share sometimes meant you had to wait that little longer for a table but it was not a big deal. Food was superb and there was a constant menu with about 3 choices for each course and that sat alongside a daily changing one with the same variety. The 2 were interchangeable. The majority of the waiters/waitresses were friendly and chatty without being obtrusive.There were many speciality restaurants but they had a cover charge and we never saw any of them full. The food was so good in the main one that we never felt the need to pay out so can't comment (and we never met anyone who had tried them). Ice cream bar was just too nice! LOL
ENTERTAINMENT: In the theatre there were professional shows which tended to happen at 7.30 and be repeated at 9.30. They lasted approx 1-11/2hrs and were of an excellent standard. They varied from a tribute act, dancing, comedy, juggling. Everyone that we saw had us enthralled. In one of the bars they had a different entertainment usually requiring participation. People we saw there appeared to be having fun. There were different things happening in different bars in the evening such as a pianist, violinist/flautist, quartet/ rocker. During the day there was something happening every hour (timetable provided in your cabin the night before) but we never did any of these activities and many carried a charge. There was a free gym with free towels and free headphones (hand in your room key in the spa reception as a deposit) It was adequately equipped and there were some classes (again a charge for many)The Spa itself was expensive as was joining the health club but you had to join the health club to use the indoor pool, although it was only approx 10m. Didn't join so again, can't comment.Casino there too but didn't partake. Bingo was $25! The outdoor pool and Jacuzzis were very much used during our unseasonal good weather. There was a library on the top deck where there was a daily crossword, word search and Suduko printed out for free and a variety of reference and non-reference books.There was also a basketball court.
MONEY:We took out soft drink package when booking allowing free soft drinks and tea and coffee- excellent deal for us. There is also a wine package which I believe to be worth it if you like wine. Drinks were obviously on the expensive side but no more so than a hotel in a major city. Everything is charged to your room and paid for at the end of the cruise. There are lots of money making opportunities for the cruise operator such as photographs galore; each port, each night in the restaurant, on the "dress up or not" night, but you did not have to buy them. The shops covered most things that you might have forgotten and were desperate for.
GOODS: Excellent service, levels of cleanliness, standard of food and in our case weather (not a drop of rain and opportunity to sunbathe most of the daylight hours.) You have to use alcohol gel on boarding every time and on entering any restaurant- didn't hear of any bad tummies.
If you are hesitating about cruising then speak to someone who knows and let them help you choose which operator would best suit your requirements- not only do the itineraries vary but the levels of formality, the age groups and the nationalities. There will be one for everyone.