First I have to say why I chose NCL. I chose it because I wanted to try the Freestyle dining. The one and only other cruise I've been on (Royal Caribbean) was amazing, but the food was just ok (presented beautifully, and service was great, but taste was lacking). My travel companion is the Food and Beverage Director for a large resort, so needless to say, good food is very important to him. For his first cruising experience I did not want him to be disappointed. With the speciality restaurants to choose from, I thought NCL would be perfect, and they did not disappoint! The food in the two main restaurants was the same that you get on other cruises, nice, just nothing to write home about... the food in the speciality restaurants was amazing, and well worth the small cover charge.
The service, like you'll find on most cruise ships, was outstanding! When in any of the restaurants or bars, you'd hardly put your glass on the table, before they would be over to refill for you. The stateroom attendants were great. We had a small issue with the hair dryer, in that the cord was broken. We called down, and asked them to tape it up, then went to the casino, we came back a little over an hour later, and the hairdryer had been completely replaced, with a note saying that if we needed anything else, not to hesitate to ask. This example fits the quick, friendly service all throughout the ship. By the second day, so many of the crew members knew our names, and were talking to us like old friends. They made us feel welcome and almost like stars. You can tell that they make an effort to make most of the guests feel that way.
Now onto to Alaska. What an amazing place! Everywhere you turn there is something beautiful to see. We were fortunate with nice clear days while in port. We chose not to get off the ship while in Ketchikan. We decided that instead of spending the money on an excursion we would treat ourselves to a spa service (this was a great idea, as the excursions are almost the same amount as the spa, but given a second chance, I would not have missed ketchikan, I would have chosen the spa day during Prince Rupert). But with the ship practically empty in Ketchikan it got us a chance to explore view the scenery from the decks.
In Juneau, we split up, he went fishing for the day, and I went did the whale watching/Mendenhall glacier trip. This was so much fun. On the whale watching portion we learned saw about 15 humpback whales, and we learned how to effectively spot a whale. The entire time I was madly trying to take pictures, but kept just missing them. Amazingly the last whale came up for it's final dive just as I was shooting, and I got a great shot! Then on to Mendenhall Glacier. Being this close to a glacier was impressive. The trails in Mendenhall park are beautiful, and if your up to it will take you about 30 feet from a towering waterfall. If you want to learn about glaciers at all I would recommend stopping by the Mendenhall visitor center in the park. It is fun, and informative (which came in handy later on on the ship). Incidentally, Michael, had a great time on his fishing trip, with on member of the fishing group catching a 5 foot halibut (perhaps not a halibut, I don't know very much about fishing)
That afternoon was Sawyer Glacier, again, absolutely amazing! Blue ice all over the place, towering mountains, waterfalls, and again humpback whales! Apparently there were also seals, but I did not see them. This is where the Mendenhall info came in handy. Sadly the naturalist they had onboard to explain about glaciers, was boring. It reminded of us of Ferris Beuller's Day of... "Beuller, Beuller," Very boring, but I'd learned about them that morning!
Next was Skagway. Our ship was the first ship in port, and we chose to go shopping. This was great for the first hour or so, but then 4 other ships arrived as well, so as you can imagine, 5 ships each carrying 2000 people, made for quite a busy town. So we went back to the ship. Next time I go to Skagway I am going to have to do the White pass railway tour, as many people were raving about it, that evening.
Our final port was Prince Rupert. As I said this port should have been the day we chose to do the spa. Prince Rupert was not very exciting. I have heard, however, that at the time we went it was an extremely new port to the cruising world, and this year they have added more tours, and options.
So that does it, we had an excellent vacation, and both of us agreed that we wanted to do it again. We planned on going to the future NCL cruising seminar, unfortunately we missed it. I've heard, though, that they are incredible discounts if you do go to the seminar. As it turns out we are going to go on another NCL cruise. We've got our next cruise planned on the NCL Star back to Alaska for this coming May!!!!!
A few more notes: Embarkation was extremely quick, just listen to the NCL representatives while you are waiting. At check-in we got into the wrong line, which happened to be extremely long. NCL reps were walking along the line telling people where to go, a lot of people were not listening, but we did and turned out we did not have to wait in that line. which made our check-in about time take about 5 minutes instead of 45.
Finally, I scheduled our flight for a red eye that night. I though we could take the day and see Seattle. There were many problems to this. Michael's drivers license expired (he does not live in the country, and does not drive, where he is), and the one rental agency that had a pickup in downtown Seattle, and a drop off at the airport has a driving age of 26 (I was not old enough to rent the car). This created a problem with what to do with our luggage, and all the time we had. We were also extremely tired (last day of vacation does that to you). So we just went to the airport and figured we'd sit in the airport for 8 hours. The airport literally would not let us. They would not let us check-in, until 4 hours prior to our flight, and they would not let us wait in the check-in area. They said the security would make us leave if we waited in check-in for longer than an hour. So now we have our luggage, and no place to go. We ended up getting a taxi to take us to the cheapest hotel near the airport, and we had to pay for a room for the night, even though we'd only be using it for 6 hours. But at least we did get to sleep. My recommendation would be to get an afternoon flight, and do your transfers from the ship to the airport through NCL. They have all NCL transfers disembark first, then they have the disembarkation for those getting there own way back, which can take a while.
Also, get an outside stateroom. The view in Alaska is constantly amazing, and it is worth it to pay more for a view.
I hope this helps. If anyone has questions, feel free to e-mail me.