I booked this cruise as a solo traveler. I flew into Seattle on May 24 and spent two nights at the Kimpton Alexis hotel on 1st Avenue. I would recommend this hotel as a great, comfortable hotel in downtown Seattle within walking distance ... Read More
I booked this cruise as a solo traveler. I flew into Seattle on May 24 and spent two nights at the Kimpton Alexis hotel on 1st Avenue. I would recommend this hotel as a great, comfortable hotel in downtown Seattle within walking distance to the waterfront, Pike Market and other places of interest. An Uber ride to port is available for $10 plus tip. The weather was great during my stay - sunny and pleasant most of the time, one big rain shower my second day and downright warm the day the cruise ship returned.
After checking out my fabulous room, complete with fireplace, sofa, gorgeous bath and a huge window with a view of the waterfront, I took a walk in the direction of Pike Market. I have been through the market before so walked along the outside to stay out of the crowds. It was about a half mile from the hotel and not too much uphill walking. I'd planned to have my dinner during happy hour at Cutter's Crabhouse and was very "happy" with a dinner of Manila clams, lobster mac and cheese and wine. Having flown in from the Southeast that afternoon, I decided to retire back to my hotel immediately after dinner. I got back in time for the end of the hotel's complimentary wine reception and had some Washington wine before turning in for the night.
The next day I woke up at 5 a.m. - I never acclimated to the time differences in Washington and Alaska so this became my regular wake up time for the duration of my trip. It was a nice morning so I decided to take a walk along the waterfront. I checked the menus at various restaurants and stopped to shop a little. I walked as far as the port authority offices and on my walk back scoped out the layout of the port and got information from the porters on where I would drop my bags the following day and where I would enter to get my key card. That was a big help the following day.
That evening I had dinner in the Bookstore bar/restaurant inside the hotel. After dinner I sat at the bar and talked to a few other guests about their cruises and how they were enjoying the area. We closed down the bar about midnight and it was time for me to rest up for the Bliss.
I woke up again at 5 a.m. and realized the ship might be sailing in to port at any moment so opened up the drapes. About 5:15, there was my ship! I had a great view of her coming in and doing the turn to glide into her dock. I had planned to go to the port via Uber about noon, but waking up so early ended up leaving the hotel around 10:45. My Uber driver made sure to get me to the proper area to drop off my bag and I proceeded to the door to check in. Since I knew where I was going and was by myself the process for going through security and getting my cabin key was a painless 15 minutes - super efficient embarkation.
I walked directly onto the ship and started looking around my home for the week. Cabins were not projected to be ready until 1:00 so I explored the various decks checking out the casino (big), The Local (don't like the menu as well as O'Sheehan's), the Garden Cafe (busy), then headed to the spa to purchase the Thermal Spa for the week. I paid the extra $20 rather than booking ahead of time so that I could use my on board credit. I checked out the facilities and knew this was a good choice for my Alaska trip. The area spans the aft end of the ship. There are windows on three sides, about 20 thermal loungers (I may have counted wrong) and many padded loungers. There is a steam room, salt bath and ice room, along with a jetted pool and hot tub. Fruit infused and plain water are provided along with hot tea and oranges. There are separate women's and men's locker rooms with facilities to change, shower and use the toilet. The women's area had a dressing table with hair dryer. Robes and towels were provided. If I had any complaints regarding the spa it would be that the hot tub was not what I considered hot. I'm just guessing but would say it was about 90-95 degrees. The pool was just about the same temperature. I like a hot tub to be over 100. I never tried the outdoor hot tubs but spoke to others who said they were not hot either.
After my purchase, I went to The Local for a vodka and soda. The bartender ordered guacamole and chips for me - I guess he thought I looked hungry - that wasn't happening this trip. After another adult beverage, I headed to my cabin. It was 5107, an inside cabin - something I'm not really used to. I generally stay in a balcony or at the least, an oceanview cabin but this trip the cost to upgrade was too much to be worthwhile. The Thermal Spa was a better bargain, available from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day (except the last day when it closed at 8 p.m.) and where I would end up spending much of my on board time. The cabin was small. Efficient enough for one person and okay for two but can't imagine having a third or fourth. There are several cabins the same size that are marked for three or four. Yikes!
The lifeboat drill was held about 3:30 and for me was in the Theater. I originally went to my area at the front of the theater but moved to the back not wanting to get stuck behind everyone when the drill was over.
At the end of the drill I walked to The Local again to stay out of the crowds going back to their cabins, etc. This time, after another beverage or two at the bar, it was now about 5 p.m. so I checked in at the restaurant desk and was seated at a table for dinner. As I said, I don't like the Local menu as well as O'Sheehan's...I prefer a corned beef reuben to one made with poultry and love the Shepard's pie which is not available at the Local. But the food was okay and the meal sustained me for the rest of the evening.
I'm not positive I have my times right, but I think it was about 7-7:30 before the casino opened. I spent a while there and then stopped at my cabin to grab a swimsuit and went to the Thermal Spa. It was fairly empty and I laid on one of the heated loungers and fell asleep. At 10, one of the ladies from the spa came to wake me and anyone else in there so they could close. It was a very relaxing ending to the day.
The following morning was a sea day and I decided to use my Platinum benefit to do the Behind the Scenes tour. A group of about 16 of us was taken to the theatre and shown the men's dressing room holding the costumes for the male entertainers. We were then taken to the stage where it was explained how the various backdrops were stored and used for the shows. Next was the kitchen where it seemed hundreds of workers were preparing food and collecting it for delivery to the various dining areas. On to the laundry where thousands of towels and sheets as well as crew and passenger clothing are laundered every day. The tour took approximately one hour. I thought the tour was interesting although I would not say it was worth the $79 someone told me it cost.
After having a bite to eat in the Garden Cafe I went to the Cruise Critic Meet and Greet. This was a nice affair in the District Brewery with warm appetizers and mimosas. Several of the ship's officers came and were introduced. I met a few people there then went to Q for the Latitudes party. There was no invitation other than what was printed in the daily paper. The captain spoke and told us how he would be able to get us very close to the glaciers when the ship toured Glacier Bay National Park. I found it hard to believe he could get that huge ship that close to the glaciers. I was wrong - more about that later.
Dinner was at LeBistro that night using the dining package. I had the crab salad, tenderloin and (goodbye diet) the profiteroles. Everything as usual was delicious and the tenderloin was cooked to medium rare perfection. I had excellent service also. I then went to the casino until bed time.
Tuesday was Juneau day. I planned to stay on the ship that day and had a great time with the spa basically to myself. That evening I went to my first solo traveler gathering this trip held in the Studio lounge. This place was hard for me to find but actually I walked right by the sign and just didn't see it. I ran into two other people, one of whom also did not see the Studio Lounge sign. Luckily the second of the two was able to show us the location. Our host was JoJo from the Cruise Director's staff. He was an excellent host - best of any I've had on any ship. He met with a group that fluctuated between about 8 and 20 people each night. He set up dinner for the group if you chose to go and arranged other things to do as a group. Great job JoJo!
After the solo meeting was dinner at Cagney's. I used my Platinum Latitudes benefit there that includes dinner, appetizer, desert and a bottle of wine. I chose the Spellbound Petite Syrah since there was an upcharge for it by the glass even with the beverage package. I ordered the veal and had Creme brulee for dessert. Dinner was good and so was service but LeBistro is still my favorite on board restaurant.
After dinner I went back to my cabin and fell sound asleep until 11:45 p.m. I was now wide awake so dressed again and went to the casino. This night I won a nice hand pay jackpot but this was the only big win this trip for me. After going back to the cabin to grab my driver's license (necessary to show when receiving a hand pay), the attendant paid me and I went back to bed for the night. Another nice day came to an end.
Wednesday we were in Skagway. I booked the White Pass Scenic Railway trip through NCL. I had never been on a train before so for this reason it was worthwhile. Although the staff did a nice narration of the area we were seeing, I would not do this trip again. I found fewer scenic views than I have while touring by car through South Dakota and Utah. It was good to do once in a lifetime.
I never got to the spa this day since the solo meeting was shortly after returning from my excursion. I went to dinner with the group to Taste. This was fun and at the end of our meal, before dessert one of the solos said a friend of his had seats for several of us to see the comedy show in the Social so off we went. The comedian whose name I don't recall was very funny. Afterward, some people branched off and I went to the casino to spend my son's inheritance.
Thursday brought us to Glacier Bay National Park. The ship had two park rangers on board providing commentary beginning at 7 a.m. or so. I'm not great at hopping out of bed and getting going but forced myself to do so this day. I remembered what the Captain said and followed his advice to head to Deck 8 where the helicopter pad was open for the day for viewing of all that Glacier Bay has to offer. This was the best day for just standing at the railing, taking in all of the scenery. The Captain was absolutely correct - he did get us VERY close to the glaciers then did a 180 to get us out of the bay. It was quite a feat! The weather for the day started out very cold and windy but by about 9:30 had warmed up significantly. I stayed until about 10 a.m. then decided I could admire the views from the spa. I spent a lot of the day there and got my now daily nap on a thermal lounger.
That evening I went to the solo group meeting and asked one of the women if she would like to join me for dinner at LaCucina. I had my dinner for two and hated not sharing it. Rebekah and I had our meal there. Unfortunately, although the dinner was ok the service was lacking. She and I ordered our appetizers, then chatted while eating. About half way through the appetizers, the waiter came over and asked me if he could serve our entrees. I said no, we would like to finish our appetizers first. He then left the table but came back immediately with our entrees. We were sitting at a small table for two and had an appetizer each, an entree each, the dinner rolls, butter, water glasses and our other beverages all at once. I ended up sending my half eaten appetizer away so we could have some room on the table. The Maitre'd came by toward the end of the meal and I expressed to her that I wasn't happy with the way the food was served and explained why. This fell on deaf ears. I don't normally complain about any of the hard working crew but really when fine dining, the waiter should not put the entree order in until the appetizer is nearly finished. I've found LaCucina on Pearl and Bliss to be subpar also and I won't be going there for my Latitudes meal again.
Friday was Ketchikan and again I stayed on the ship enjoying the views from the spa until about an hour after sail away. Dinner this night was LeBistro again. I planned to go by myself and did. After sitting only a few minutes another solo named Karen walked in and was seated at the table next to me. I invited her to join me at my table and she did. It's nice to chat with someone while enjoying a leisurely meal. I had the shrimp and escargot for dinner as well as the wine that was saved for me. It was all very yummy! Karen was going to see Jersey Boys after dinner but before we finished, yet another solo named Monique came in and was seated at the same table next to us. We ended up having a good conversation, Karen went on to Jersey Boys and I stayed back and had dessert (profiteroles again) with Monique. I love the way it all worked out...very fun!
Saturday was the first day in the Thermal Spa that was very busy. We wouldn't arrive in Victoria, BC until 7:30 p.m. I still was able eventually to get my nap on a heated lounger and stayed saying goodbye to the spa staff at about 3:30. The solo meeting was early that day - 4:00 - but I wanted to be sure to get there to say goodbye to everyone I met this cruise. It was a nice final meeting and we exchanged full names, email addresses and phone numbers with each other. JoJo gave each of us an NCL heavy keychain. He was a joy to be around. I unfortunately had dinner that night at Teppenyaki at 6:45 and because of the way the seating is could not invite anyone to join me.
Dinner at Teppenyaki was great as usual. The food, cooked fresh was delicious. I had the filet and shrimp. They were out of Japanese beer and had the Chinese beer so I tried that instead. I actually think I liked that better than the Japanese beer anyway. I also finished my bottle of wine that night.
The casino had closed at 3:30 that day so I went to Sugarcane bar since the duo was playing there. I enjoyed them but unfortunately we were in Victoria and Canadian law only allows for one bar to be open per deck...and this was not the bar. I asked what bar on this deck was open and told it was the A-list bar. I went there and tried the Mister Worldwide there which was surprisingly good. I'm not a sweet drinks lover but this was just enough of a change to satisfy me and wasn't too sweet for me. I bumped into another of the solo group, Bonnie and she invited me to the silent disco so I went with her to that. It was some fun, silly and probably geared more for younger people. I stayed about an hour and a half then left to get some sleep before the stressful day Sunday.
It turned out Sunday was not as stressful as I thought - well, except at the airport. I had done the Port Valet - a free service where you put your suitcase(s) out the last night of the cruise as usual. Instead of going to the cruise terminal the following morning to pick up your checked bag to lug to the airport, they take your bag directly to the airport for you. It was a great service! You need to apply in advance and I did early in the cruise so didn't need to wait in the long line on the deadline day. I was thrilled to receive my bag tags and boarding passes before 3:30 of the last day - no stress wondering if I qualified.
As for the airport, I was pointed to an extremely long line of people (say 250) waiting to go through security. I had TSA pre-check but signs indicated security for all gates and TSA pre-check were ahead and the person directing me where to go did not see it on my boarding pass. Luckily, I spoke to someone in line who said her daughter had just flown out of SEA-TAC the previous week and she was sure there was a special line. When I got to a point where an airport staff member was available, I asked him about it and he told me to skip the line and that there was a special pre-check line. This saved me all kinds of time. BTW, I briefly worried whether my bag truly would be at my home airport when I got there and indeed it was!
This was the busiest I've been on a cruise in a long time. Since I don't remember which days I did certain things, I'll close by saying I went to the Observation Lounge one day and had drinks at the bar. There were no other seats available so this was fine but glad I didn't depend on this venue to view too much scenery. I caught Siglo playing in the Atrium one day and made sure to see them again when they played in the Cavern one night late in the cruise. I LOVED their music. I found the crew to be friendly mostly. I never had a problem getting an adult beverage at any of the bars. The entire trip was very satisfying.
Hints: I asked at the reception desk whether the customs form for Canada (due in the day before arriving in Canada) could be handed in early. Yes, the reception staff can help you complete your form correctly and take it from you so you can avoid any lines when the deadline for that came along.
Be sure to use Port Valet and turn it in early in the cruise to avoid lines.
If you have access to any of the airline clubs or are eligible to buy a pass, this is a great place to spend your time while waiting for your flight out of Seattle. I flew Delta but was able to use my United pass to enjoy a quiet area, some food and drinks.
Be sure if you have TSA Pre-check to ask where the line is for that. Do not wait in the general line. Read Less