First of all, I'm going to start by saying that I've been a travel agent for over 23 years. I'm no cruise expert as I've only taken three cruises in my life, but I have traveled a lot and as a person with a family and a middle class bank account, I feel like I can give some pretty reasonable travel reviews and advice. I also a frequently contribute to Trip Advisor.com.
As I type this, I'm literally on the pool deck of the Pearl eating some roasted chicken and watching the activity around me. When I first booked this cruise, I got on Cruise Critic.com as well as Trip Advisor and any other site I could find that may have helpful information about Alaska and the NCL Pearl. Well, I have to say that while I did find some useful information, the amount of negativity posted about this cruise/ship was very disheartening. Half of the people posting, liked the ship/cruise, and the other half didn't. So, I gave up on reading the reviews and decided that I would plan for the worst and if I got the "better" then I wouldn't be disappointed.
I will divide this review up into different experiences starting with embarkation. I hope this review is helpful for someone sitting "on the fence" about booking this cruise. My husband and I cruised together on this one and it was a wonderful vacation.
We flew into Seattle and stayed at the Radisson hotel Sea-Tac airport. (booked on our own). Upon arrival at the Radisson, we made reservations for shuttle transfer to the Pier. (also booked on our own) The transfer arrived to the hotel promptly at 11:45 and the driver loaded our luggage into the van and took us nonstop to Pier 66. Cost: $12 per person. We made it to the pier in about 10 minutes. We paid the driver upon arrival and he accepted cash or credit. He unloaded the luggage and we handled it from there.
Upon arriving at the dock, we found that there was an NCL representative EVERYWHERE to help. We were shown the end of the line and we proceeded along with everyone else to the baggage check. I'd estimate it took about 20 minutes to get to the baggage drop. Make sure to have the NCL baggage tags attached to your luggage which are provided with your cruise documents. Many people did not, and it just held them up. We had 6 tags total and used every one, plus my husband and I each had a carry on as well. I don't believe there was a limit even though the info booklet leads you to believe you can only have 2 checked pieces each. I surmised this was a reference to general airline policy. That being said, we dropped our luggage and proceeded through the customs/boarding/check-in area.
It amazed me how many people complained about the check-in process. I'm betting many of the complainers were the same people with their heads in their butts, not paying attention to instructions. Watch the desk for the representatives waving the round NCL placard. This means they are available to help you. I watched many of them wildly waving this placard while passengers in line just stood there. Pay attention people. We walked past at least a dozen of them and proceeded straight to the desk to check in. We presented our cruise ticket, I.D. and credit card. We were provided with one key card each (or however many in your party). The card served as your room key, credit card, etc....You use it for everything. From there, we boarded right onto the ship. Of course you had to pass by the token picture taking, but that's to be expected. If you don't want the picture, don't buy it. Also, if you are concerned about carrying this card around the entire week, bring your own lanyard and someone at the reception desk will punch a hole in your card and you can wear it around your neck all week if you want to. Otherwise, you'll see people purchasing lanyards onboard (totally unnecessary purchase).
Now, here is where you need to listen because I read such negative reviews of check-in that I couldn't imagine what people were expecting. You are checking into a floating "hotel" with 2500 people- basically during the same time frame-and all going to the same place. I was amazed at how efficient the whole process actually was. Anybody who complains has NO idea what they are talking about or have such high expectations, that they really should just never leave their house. From drop off at the pier to stepping onto the ship, it took less than an hour. This was completely reasonable to me. Now that we're onboard, I will try to describe each day to you.
Day 1: At Sea
When we boarded the ship at about 12:45 p.m., they made a general announcement that our cabins would not be ready until 2pm. We were forewarned that there would be a delay in getting our bags, so the advice to pack another bag with essentials was a good tip. Being as it was the nicest day in Seattle ( 78 degrees) my husband wished he had thrown his swimming trunks into the bag because it was a gorgeous day and it was very warm. There were people in the pool and the hot tubs.
We were hungry so we proceeded to the Garden Cafe (buffet) and oh what a crowded mess. I can't begin to describe the madness in there. I'm glad I paid attention to the reviews because I went and found a table while my husband got his food. When he returned, I went for mine. Again, I understood it would be like this, I mean there were literally thousands of people boarding that ship and everyone was hungry and I wish we had looked to see if we could eat somewhere else (as I just read another reviewer said they did)...so please, just be aware on day one, it's going to be a little chaotic. As far as the buffet goes, it was really good. I read where people were complaining about the food, and I will discuss this later, but really, I'm not sure what they expected.....it was a buffet! I do have one complaint regarding beverage service. The only free beverages on board were the ice tea, water, tea and coffee, or hot cocoa. If you want a soda, you are going to have to pay for it (about 2.49) for a glass, or you buy the pop "package". To me, this is just silly, especially for sit down meals, but that's just me. Oh and if you do buy a soda, expect to pay for a refill too (same price) unless you have the package.
I did run into a situation during our first lunch that was really irritating. I ordered a glass of the house white wine from our waiter who gave us a real hard sell on a bottle, which I didn't want at the time. So, 20 minutes later, he brought me back a glass that looked like pee water. I took one sip and looked at him and asked him if he was joking because honest to God, it was half water and half wine. DEFINITELY watered down and it cost over $5.50 for a tiny glass. This REALLY irritated me because I drink wine all the time, everywhere I go, and I've had plenty of house wines. This was awful. So, I took my glass to the small bar inside the cafe and complained. Now, the bartender had PLENTY of wine bottles in front of him but he walked to the buffet and went behind the counter where I couldn't see him and he returned with an open bottle. He made a HUGE production out of "his" pour and although it was better than the other one, I swear they probably added water to the bottle to make it go farther. I was actually pretty angry about this. They tried a hard sell on an entire bottle when we first sat down, and I'm all about drinking for a buzz, but I was not out to get drunk at that point. I just wanted a nice glass of wine to relax me while we settled in. So, I guess I got what I deserved for not ordering the entire bottle. Lesson learned.
We finished our lunch and proceeded to the pool deck area for the Bon Voyage party. It was pretty hot and I kept going back to the cabin to see if our bags arrived yet. They finally did and so we changed into our bathing suits and hung out for a while listening to the music and watching the dancing. We bought two "token" bon voyage drinks and they were ok, but at 8.95 each, they should be. We decided to try to get in the hot tub and this is where I have another complaint. There are four hot tubs and one of them is designated for kids. The other 3 have clear signs saying "adult only" or "must be accompanied by an adult"...well, let me tell you what. It was like being on the toddler Titanic. There were literally so many kids sitting in the hot tubs that you couldn't even get in. Little kids, big kids, fat kids, small kids...you get my point. Well, it was really aggravating that parents would get on a ship and then just set their kids free. As a parent three kids I was shocked at the lack of supervision.
Case in point: My husband and I finally made our way into a hot tub and soon, 8 other kids jumped in. My husband and I were literally sitting shoulder to shoulder. A little girl, about 8 years old, walked around the ledge, up around us, and put her foot down between our shoulders and tried to wedge herself in between us. Now, I know my husband- and I know he's no pedophile- but that little girl didn't know that! How her parents could just let her jump in and out of a hot tub with NO supervision was really upsetting. Parents, honestly- wake up! Do you really want your daughter at ANY age sitting next to a strange, grown man in a hot tub, anywhere on this planet?
We finally saw some of the NCL employees chasing the kids away and we both applauded. Don't get me wrong, we love kids and have 3 of our own but please, watch your kids. This is not the pool area at the Holiday Inn for a softball or baseball tournament. Some people have saved for years for a vacation experience like this, don't let your kids ruin it. There are plenty of places on the ship designated for kids. Also, for some odd reason, the hot tubs that were set aside for "families and kids" were WAY hotter than the designated "adult" hot tubs. We complained about this numerous times but even on our last day, if we wanted hot water, we had to climb in with the kids. Also, it may sound like a trivial thing, but those were the only hot tubs that were covered. So if it's raining and you are in the "adult" hot tubs, your head will get wet. The kids' nice hot, tubs, were covered...Personally I think they need to switch them around.
We ate dinner in the Summer Palace. I was really impressed with this restaurant. It was HUGE, but it was very old-fashioned in dEcor and had an air of old-time luxury to it. We did not have reservations and had no problem getting a table by the window. The view was awesome. The wait staff was friendly, but not overly, and pretty efficient. Language was no problem. I couldn't decide between the steak or lobster, so I ordered both; minus the red snapper which was included with the lobster entrEe. I ordered the steak medium and it came well done. Lesson learned. Next time I order my steak medium rare. The lobster was delicious. I would have rather had my own drawn butter for dipping, but they just asked if you wanted butter and then poured it over. Maybe all of those little firepots are considered a fire hazard?
The menu was pretty minimal, but I think it covered enough bases to keep most people happy. We ordered a bottle of wine with dinner and it was 28.00 plus tip, one of the least expensive. Please keep in mind, no matter what alcohol you order to drink, or where, a gratuity is automatically added to the bill when you are presented with it. We discovered this only after my husband tipped 20 percent on the bar bill. We are all about tipping well for good service, but really, it's kind of shady for them not to mention it.
Day 2: At Sea
Breakfast at Summer Palace and then Blue Lagoon. I woke up early and let hubby sleep. I went down to the Summer Palace and had an omelet with bacon and toast. It was very good except the first order of the toast the waiter brought was barely toasted, ice cold white bread. I asked for a toasted English muffin instead and had better luck. Breakfast was very good. Went back to the cabin to get hubby and by the time we got to the Summer Palace at 9:35 they had already closed. So, we went up to the Blue Lagoon which they warn you that the breakfast menu is limited, but really, it has all the basics. Hubby had an egg white omelet and I had French toast. Everything was very good. The view out the window was incredible and we were able to see some whales as we ate.
After breakfast we went to the gym to work out. The gym was pretty large with a good selection of equipment. Yes, it can be hard to get a bike or stepper, but it depended on the time of day you were there. It is first come first served, just like at your local gym. I didn't have a problem and neither did my husband, who also enjoyed the selection of free weights.
I headed to the Library to take a look around and there was a pretty good selection of materials and the desks had lovely ocean views. If you want to use your laptop and need to plug in, I suggest the desk at the far left as it's the only one with a standard plug.
We enjoyed lunch out on deck and pretty much just relaxed until dinner. We ate in the Summer Palace again, and the food was delicious. We did order a bottle of Pinot Grigio with dinner and with tip it came to 32.00.
After dinner we went to see the show "Oh what a night". I wasn't sure what to expect from this show after reading the mixed reviews online. Again, take everything you read with a grain of salt. I don't go to many live shows and as a matter of fact the last live "show" I saw was probably during the last cruise I took, 10 years ago. So, I'm not an authority on shows, but I can tell when a crowd is enjoying or absolutely hating a show. The cast of Oh What a Night took the floor and at first I almost laughed. It was just such a different looking group of guys, but in the end I thought they were great. For the most part the singing was enjoyable, even the songs with the high notes. The cast interacted with the audience and their energy was contagious. There were some hilarious moments and moments when you wanted to join in and sing along.
Was not very impressed with this restaurant. It was smaller than Summer Palace and I found the menu selection to be almost a clone of the Summer Palace with one or two exceptions. The waiter was not the friendliest either. The steak I had was better than the one at the Summer Palace.
Day 3: Juneau
We pulled into Juneau around 1:30-2:00 pm. I suggest that if you do NOT have a shore excursion that you find somewhere nice and quiet for about 20 minutes while everyone else gets off the ship. If you do have an excursion, just be prepared for about a 10-15 minute wait to get off the ship.
Based on reports I read on tripadvisor.com, we decided that we would look for the MGT "Blue bus" when we arrived in Juneau. As soon as you get off the ship you will see a ton of tour operators, bus operators etc....look for the one that says "we are the real MGT". You can't miss their bus. It is a BRIGHT blue color and says Glacier Express on the side. For $14.00 per person round trip, they drive you up to the Mendenhall Glacier, drop you off and then tell you when they will be picking you up. It was pretty simple. Now, me, being the genius that I am, decided I would take a bunch of sandwiches and stuff off the ship so we could have lunch on the cheap. When you do it this way, no food is included. Of course when you arrive at the glacier, there are signs that say "NO FOOD, due to the bears." I wasn't sure what the heck to do with the food but then everyone started pointing at the tree above us. There was a sleeping baby bear. So after we took pictures of the sleeping bear, we were walking the trail and around the corner comes strolling a black bear! Now, imagine 20 people chasing a black bear down a trail. What the hell are they thinking? I don't know what they are thinking but I'm thinking I have to get the hell out of there with all my food. So we went up to the visitor center, paid the $3.00 per person fee and went inside to sit and eat. There is no eating area, we just sat there and ate.
Afterward, we walked to the glacier. Let me tell you, if you research the Mendenhall Glacier ahead of time, pictures do NOT do it justice. It is just amazing. The water is crystal clear and there are mini icebergs floating and it is so peaceful and serene. It's hard to imagine how large that glacier used to be until they point it out to you in the visitor center. We did the hike to Nugget Falls and it really didn't take that long. They tell you about 45 minute round trip. There is a shortcut. Some people take it, some don't. We took the short cut going (you cut across 2 small creeks-no big deal) but took the actual trail coming back (Through the woods). It was a VERY comfortable hike that really anybody could handle. No uphill, or rock climbing or anything like that. I recommend you do it unless you have serious health problems and can't walk long distances. You can walk right UP to the falls. It's very pretty. I'm glad we didn't spend the money on the cruise ship tour. Don't do it, really. There is no need. You can do this part of Juneau on your own.
When we got back into town, we asked where the liquor store was because honestly, we were a bit tired of paying for every drink and soda that we wanted. So, we were pointed to the nearest liquor store and we bought 3 bottles of vodka and a bottle of rum. I also bought a 3 liter box of wine and 2 six packs of coke. Now here is some info I never knew before. When you go back on the ship, you put your bags through the metal detectors and as long as you are not buying alcohol with metal lids, you can buy the smaller plastic bottles (liter or so) and metal detectors do NOT pick them up. I opened up the box of wine, discarded the box and took the "bladder" and put it in my back pack. We took the vodka and filled up 4 empty water bottles. Hubby put the rum in his bag. We had NO problem getting back on the ship. I'm not sure I care if people frown on this because I really don't care and I know other people were doing it because the liquor store was FULL of cruise passengers. People want to know the facts and I'm here to deliver them. As a matter of fact as I'm sitting here in the NCL Pearl library listening to ANOTHER baby cry in the adjacent card room, I'm sipping my contraband wine. Pffft.
After we returned to the ship we went to dinner in the Summer Palace. I wasn't so impressed with the dinner selections tonight, but I will have a whole food category later. We didn't do any shows, we were too tired.
Day 4: Skagway
We started the day off early. We decided to book an NCL excursion, which there were some glitches but in the long run, it worked out just fine. (booked it first day of the cruise on board with an NCL rep, who completely screwed up the entire thing) We booked the White Pass/Suspension Bridge excursion which was about 159.00 a person. Considering that you had to be at the pier by 7:30 a.m., I suggest you set your alarms and get up early to eat breakfast or do what I did and set them for a bit later, go raid the kitchen for bagels and danishes, yogurt and fruit and stuff your backpack for the bus/train rides because unless you pay for the extra-long tour, no food is included. Please, please be sure to be on time. I absolutely RUSHED my husband only to get on the bus and wait another 30 minutes for people who were late. VERY rude. Bring your passport just like the tour documents instruct you to do. You are entering Canada and although it doesn't seem foreign, it is another country. Many families couldn't take the trip because they didn't bring their passports. It's the same as flying people.
Upon arrival at the end of the pier we were directed to coach number 105. We were advised we would be driven up to the train, ride the train up to British Columbia and the suspension bridge, then ride the bus back down. (which was the complete opposite of what the excursion 'expert' told us at NCL.) We had a quick bus drive to the train, the driver was very explicit about where we should meet her (she drives the bus up herself). The train ride was really nice and they pointed out all of the views and monuments, etc... along the way. You could move around the train, go outside of the cars onto the platform and take as many pictures as you liked. There was a bathroom on both the bus and the train which as far as I'm concerned is a major plus. The train stopped once or twice up to BC to let off people who planned a "Hiking" excursion, which quite frankly scared the crap out of me as there are bears just walking around everywhere...but to each his own.
We arrived in BC and the customs agent came on board to check our passports. It was a very quick process. We got off the train and had 45 minutes to walk around, cross the bridge, take photos or whatever. There was a gift shop where you could buy souvenirs, coffee, tea and snacks. The view was beautiful. We headed back down and back through customs again. The bus driver stopped twice for more pictures at scenic vistas because she knew some of us had to get to other excursions. So, we arrived back at the dock and proceeded to our next excursion, also booked via NCL. The Salmon Bake excursion, which I must say was fabulous.
As soon as departed the bus from the first excursion, we were directed to the bright yellow bus that said "Liarsville Salmon Bake". Ironically enough, the lumberjack dude driving the bus was named Sam. Total throwback to the 1800's but completely legit. Sam was a very nice old fellow who obviously loved what he was doing. Complete with long straggly white beard, white hair and old baseball hat- to the baggy pants and suspenders...he was friendly in a gruff way (not a ZZ Top way) and you could completely imagine him running the toy shop at the North Pole. He pointed out sights along the ride and offered a local's perspective on the town of Skagway which was very refreshing. We were dropped at the Salmon Bake, again, with very good instructions on where we were supposed to go and what we were supposed to do when we were done.
We didn't book the "show". We just booked the salmon bake. We proceeded to a really rustic, old "town" picnic area and barbecue. There was pasta salad, coleslaw, wild rice, roasted chicken, Caesar salad (yes I said Caesar) and that lovely salmon with their yummy glaze (very sugary). There was also fresh baked corn bread and blueberry cake. They had lemonade, water, hot coffee and tea. It was very nice for ONCE to be told to go back for seconds. As a matter of fact they said if we didn't eat enough, they would fill a plate big enough for 3 and make us eat it. We ate at picnic tables with other groups of people and honest to God, it was about the best food I've ever had. The salmon was just to die for. I went back 3 times for more salmon. So after we ate, we walked around the makeshift "town" which is supposed to show you how things looked and were run back in the 1800's and early 1900's. There was a gift shop (stop! Don't buy unless it's unique-I found the same items in town for less than ½ the price).
As we boarded the bus to head back to the dock, Sam asked if he could take us on a tour "off the beaten path" that his employer would be very "angry" about if he found out. So, we all said yes. (gimmicky, but fine). We drove up to an overlook where you could see the entire town of Skagway and it was very nice, with a good view. He told some great stories about the old times, but it obviously was just an attempt for some extra tips but you know what, I'd have probably done the same thing. I think this tour ran about 45.00 a person, but really, it was worth it. I ate so much food and it was so good. I highly recommend it.
On the way back down to town, we had the option to get off in town or go back to the ship. We were told the shuttle from town back to the dock was like 2.00 a person. Well, my husband was tired and stayed on the bus and headed back to the ship, I wanted to shop. So I got off and did some shopping. Skagway is not a very big town at all and the shops are very limited. There were mostly jewelry stores with some specialty "gift and tee-shirt" shops mixed in. I did find some VERY good deals. Three pack of shot glasses for 5.00 with each city "Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan"....t-shirts were like 5.00, there were all sorts of really inexpensive souvenirs.... The Red Onion Saloon is here too which in the old days (maybe) was also a brothel. I stopped and had a Bud Light draft-I know, shame on me, but I had to do it. You don't have to put this on your must-see list. It was just a very crowded bar with fat, unattractive women dressed up in old fashioned bustiers and corsets and flowing skirts. People were taking pictures with these girls and I really wondered why they would want to do that.
So, as I was walking along wondering if I really wanted to waste the 2 bucks on a shuttle back to our ship which was really right in front of me, I just walked it. Honestly. If you are in Skagway, don't buy ANY shuttle pass to town. You just walk right down Broadway (yes Broadway), this is the main drag. So I arrived back to the ship, went through the metal detectors again and was back in my cabin in no time.
We had dinner in Indigo again and this time I had prime rib, which was really good. After dinner we saw the "Second City Troupe". It was ok, but I'm not a huge fan of Improv. After that we just went back to the cabin.
Day 5: Glacier Bay
We pulled into Glacier Bay and it was the worst day weather-wise. It was pretty cold, very cloudy and rainy. We finally had the chance to pull out that rain gear that I packed. I was amazed at the number of people who did not bring raincoats, rain ponchos or umbrellas....Don't worry about getting up early to "find a spot" on the deck. You can see the glaciers from every deck. Our favorite viewing spot was the the 12th deck, aft. There was a buffet restaurant back there as well as a coffee/tea/drink station and when the ship turned you got to see everything. You spend this entire day on the ship. While we didn't see any whales in the bay, the glaciers are breathtaking and we did see a bald eagle and some other birds. It was interesting to see the group of kayakers who paddled so close to the glaciers...that would have scared me. Glacier Bay is a National Park and the park ranger gives commentary over the loud speaker.
After dinner we went to see "Shark bait". Oh, how I hated this show. It begins with two guys juggling and jumping around stage like 2 year olds. Their claim to fame is that they worked for Ringling Bro's Circus for 8 years as clowns. Yes, this is easy to imagine. The show is glorified juggling with the performers practically begging for applause and congratulating each other on their juggling feats. It was almost embarrassing. Then they plucked these really overweight women from the stage and tried to include them in the show. There were a few sexual references, which were pretty uncomfortable to listen to, considering the type of audience. So glad that it was finally over, we headed to the lounge to hear comedian Bud Anderson, who seemed to be pretty good in the first night introduction, but was a bomb tonight. I'm not sure if I even laughed at any of his jokes. There was some lady in the audience who howled with laughter at everything he said (like a sitcom laugh track) and you had to wonder if she was planted there. He was just so unfunny. After that we walked through the casino which was so smoky that my hair smelled after two seconds inside and then just strolled around the ship.
Day 6: Ketchikan
We did not book any shore excursions for Ketchikan so we weren't in a rush to get off the ship, especially since the ship arrived into port at 6:00 a.m. and was scheduled to depart at 1:30, so there was not a lot of time to do anything. We had a leisurely breakfast then walked off the ship into town. After browsing the souvenir shops we found a market trail which led around town, past the salmon hatchery, over Ketchikan creek, past the Museum and Eagle center and back down into town. All told it was about a 35 minute walk or so, depending on how long you stopped to look at the scenery. The salmon were spawning so we watched them in their desperate bid to swim upstream and I was surprised by how many dead ones were floating around. I wondered if this was due their exhaustion and not having made it, or if it was due to environmental factors. Anyhow, that was about the extent of what we saw in Ketchikan. It seemed like a quaint town, but I liked Skagway better. The Captain told us that we witnessed a miracle in that it didn't rain while we were there. He said it rains 360 days of the year in Ketchikan. We really didn't even need jackets as the sun kept peeking out and it was about 61 degrees. Definitely the warmest day of all.
Back onboard ship we hit the buffet for lunch (what a nightmare) then kind of hung out the rest of the day. Hubby worked out and I read my book in the library. Then we went out onto deck and sat in the hot tub for a while.
Had dinner in the Summer Palace again and ordered the Steak and shrimp. The fried shrimp was really good and I ordered a second helping. Tonight was the chocoholic buffet and it was really good. It was kind of crowded and hard to find a table. Waiters were walking around with champagne (4.95 a glass) which we bought because you just had to. I was disappointed that there weren't any chocolate covered strawberries......
Day 7: Victoria
Breakfast, lunch and dinner was pretty much the same as the rest of the week. We pulled into Victoria and bought bus passes into town. We were dropped off in front of the Empress hotel. We strolled around the waterfront, walked through Chinatown and wound up walking back to the cruise ship on our own. Made me kind of sorry we spent the money on the round trip bus passes. It's not really a long walk to town. Victoria was pretty, but it seemed kind of boring to me. Maybe because there was so little time to explore?
Back on the ship we packed our bags and we chose the 9:00 pm tags for our bags, which in reality, you don't need to do. As a matter of fact, you can just keep your bags with you and get off the ship whenever you please.
In the morning we took our carry-ons and headed to breakfast. The buffet was crowded but not as bad as the first day. We ate our breakfast and then left the ship. It took about 30 minutes to get our bags and get off the ship.
Bring your binoculars. Bring rain ponchos, even if they are the cheap 1.99 plastic type.
Bring a medium size backpack to store your gear when you go up to deck and into town.
Bring your own lanyard. They will punch a hole in your room key at reception and you can wear it around your neck and not worry about misplacing it.
Bring an extension cord. If you have a few cell phones, lap top, curling iron, straightener, etc...it's a good idea to have one. Yes, there are hair dryers on the ship.
Bring your own travel mug or sippy cup for your own beverages, or just to fill on ship and carry around.
Various notes and observations:
I went to weatherchannel.com for two straight weeks prior to our cruise and it showed a giant thunder cloud and rain EVERY day with temps of 55-57 for the entire time we were supposed to be there. I even checked it the day before we left. Rain, rain, rain. It only rained once.
Pack a few ziploc bags to toss some snacks into for when you head into port. YES it's perfectly ok. You will see people walking back to their cabins with plates of food all the time. There is nothing wrong with tossing a few croissants and some bagels and fruit into to some baggies while you ride the train or go hiking. Just do it. Only do not take a snack to Mendenhall Glacier like I did. You could become bear food.
Dress in layers. If you've been told this, then please listen. It's the best thing to do if you want to be comfortable. Yes, even in early August, bring some hand gloves or mittens. Also a scarf and beanie or hat won't hurt either for those times you may be outside on the train freezing your butt off to get the perfect shot.
Oh, and if you like to sit in the hot tub and you have room in your luggage, either bring a robe or make sure you have some loose, comfortable clothes to toss on as soon as you get out. Only the people booking the suites get a robe. Really, plan to use the hot tub. Just use common sense....it's gonna be nice and warm in that hot tub, but when you get out, it's freezing.
EVERY time you walked into the Garden Cafe (buffet) they sprayed you with hand sanitizer. I hope I never hear "washy washy- happy happy", EVER again.
All in all, we really enjoyed this cruise and the ship minus all of the young kids and screaming babies. The food was good, the ship was clean, our inside cabin was just fine. The staff was friendly and helpful for the most part and the ports of call were beautiful. I would recommend this cruise to anybody.