Just returned from NCL Pearl, Alaska-Inside Passage, leaving Seattle on July 24th.
To begin, we lost our Juneau port due to a propulsion problem. Nothing we can really complain or do about that. We were given a $150 ship credit.
Let's begin with the food.
Freestyle? Not so much.
Often, the regular dining halls, Indigo and Summer Palace closed at about 9pm, so you were forced to eat at the buffet over and over again, or keep going to specialty restaurants. This is a really important point because if you get back let from a excursion, you'll be eating a lot at the buffet.
Now, finding seats in the buffet area is almost impossible. I don't recall having this problem on Princess or Carnival cruises in past. It's literally frustrating.
Stay Away from the Chinese, Lotus Garden. Sushi was fine and teppanyaki was fine. The regular Chinese restaurant, with extra charge of $15/person, is horrible.
Liked the prime rib at La cucina, even more than the filet at Cagney's (someone else also mentioned that). However, Cagney's lobster was great (additional $8 on top of $25/person).
Unfortunately, we had relatively cloudy/sprinkle weather almost entire cruise, but can't blame NCL for that.
Seas were a bit rough on day 2, July 26, enough to make wife and 3 year old daughter sick.
Went to doctor for daughter. He was watching Youtube videos. Ordered medication, that's it! Asked if she had pain, we said we were uncertain. Did know examination, not even a abdominal palpation, despite us telling him she has been constipated for 4 days. Did NO exam. Went right back to youtube, and that cost us a $148 consult fee. This fee was refunded by NCL when they heard what happened.
We had a inside mid-ship room on deck 4. It was all we could really afford. That's really important, because you should plan to spend anywhere from an extra $1000-2000 depending upon how much you drink, pictures you buy, and excursions.
But, in retrospect, if I could buy more, not sure balcony is worth cost. Also, a full-size window would be better than the port hole, in my opinion.
Glacier viewing can be tough. Huge crowds and not a lot of space to see. Just remember, when you reach the glacier, the boat eventually turns! So, you can get great photos also from side of boat if you wait an extra hour or two.
I still can't get over about freestyle dining. We really felt trapped into the buffet, because the dining hall was always huge waits, and often closed before we could get there. Buffet seating (already said this) is horrible!
I miss the big atrium and glass elevator in the carnival spirit. Just seemed more roomier. Pearl was a nice boat. Seemed cleaned. Just more impressed with the other cruise lines.
Well, our 3 year old would only stay there twice and didn't want to go back, but she is a bit shy. I did find it nice.
Specialty dining not quite what you expect, but often you have no choice in order to get somewhat better food than buffet.
Specialty dining seems expensive for what you get.
Seating in Buffet is a nightmare.
Medical Doctor on board is ridiculous.
Be prepared to spend a lot of extra money. We did Skagway White Pass Train. It's a bit long, but worth the nice views. It's also an easy excursion since traveling with kids is already difficult enough. We also did lumberjack show. It was raining, but seated area was covered. It was okay for us, and good for kids. You can see photos and vidoes of both if you check youtube. Also did a horse-pulled trolley in Victoria. It was okay but not enough. It is 1 hour long, but you want to get back in a taxi immediately afterwards and get back into downtown for more exploring. Would have loved the butchard (sp?) gardens, but it takes 45 minutes to get there and return (that's also keeping in mind that we already get into victoria late at 6pm).
I hope you enjoyed the review.
I am not personally recommending NCL for any cruise based on above experiences.