Pride of Aloha - Alaska: Norwegian Sky Cruise Review by April

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Pride of Aloha - Alaska

Sail Date: September 2003
Destination: Alaska
Embarkation: Seattle
Saturday, September 20 - After a leisurely breakfast, Fred took us to the port for our cruise. There was evidently a Washington home game because traffic was backed up terribly. We arrived at the dock about 12:15 and checked our luggage in. We went around to the check-in and there was practically no line so we walked right up to an agent. We gave her our tickets and she said. "Did you know you have been upgraded?" I answered that we did not know because I had stopped checking on the internet about two weeks before our cruise. I started getting excited and Matthew thought I had gone off the deep end. I knew that we had to be in a suite because we had booked a category BA. She told us it was room #9201, but I did not know which suite that was. She set everything up and told us she would call someone to escort us to our room. Amit (who we later learned was one of our butlers) came and took most of our carry-ons and walked us past the line to have our pictures made and then up the More elevator. Since I am directionally challenged, I did not know if we were heading forward or aft. Imagine my surprise when we unlocked our stateroom door and the bow of the ship was in front of us! We were in an owner's suite!! By now, I was really excited! We wanted to look around the cabin, but Amit made us sit down while he told us about the amenities of the suite. Ruth, the concierge, came by and told us what special treatment we could receive

After they left, we went to the buffet to have lunch because it was the only restaurant open. At least it was a nice day and we could eat outside. We walked around the ship and found that the spa was having a tour at 2:00. Of course, we could not wait to get back to our room to check it out. Matthew wanted to watch college football (and did while I went on the spa tour).

I took a ton of pictures and was amazed at our good fortune. Here goes the long description of the suite (#9201). You open the door to a hallway, on the right is the door to the half bath with a sink and toilet (complete with a fresh flower). On the left, is a mirrored wall with two pocket doors concealing closets, one with hangers and a shelf, and the other with just a high shelf and a bar (with no hangers). After the hallway, on the right is a set of floor to ceiling glass shelves with glass doors and then the bar area which has a counter area with cabinets and a small refrigerator enclosed in one of the cabinets (refrigerator stocked with soft drinks, Evian water, sparkling water). There is another set of glass shelves with drink ware, and an ice bucket with glasses on a tray. The bar area complete with two bar stools, has the bar accessories and a small sink. A bottle of champagne was on ice for our arrival. After the bar area, the room opens to the dining/living area. There was a large glass table with fresh flower arrangement, two love seats, a smaller glass end table with a lamp. The dining room table had a tray of fresh fruit and four chairs. The balcony had four chairs and a table, two chaise lounges, a large cooler for drinks, and a hot tub (I would call it a Jacuzzi tub). Along one wall, there was ample closet space (mostly shelves) and a murphy bed. There was a desk area with personalized stationary, room service, breakfast, and alternative restaurant menus (we were told we could order anything from room service). There was a 27" TV, a CD and DVD player (complete with music CDs in room and a list of available DVD movies), surround sound speakers in both the living room and bedroom. Plenty more shelves and drawers around the corner and across from the bar. The bedroom had a queen size bed, vanity area (more drawers), bedside tables with lamps (no lamps on the headboard), and a walk-in closet with large hanging area, safe, and more shelves. The bathroom had a separate shower with glass doors, a tub, sink area with one sink, a scale (whose idea?), and another fresh flower. In addition to the liquid soap/shampoo, we received various bars of soap, shoe mitts, bathing salts, and lotions. Each of the bathrooms also had water glasses. This cabin would be great for a family or a longer cruise. Unfortunately, now we are spoiled and will not be able to go back to a smaller cabin.

After looking at the Freestyle Daily, we got our life vests (there were six in the cabin) and went to the muster drill. I was amazed at the number of people who could not get to the correct place. We then returned to our cabin for sail away. We sipped our champagne and just enjoyed the views.

At 5:00, the spa was having a drawing for some spa services so we went to that. One aspect of this cruise we did not enjoy was the constant advertising of ship revenue producers (spa, casino, bingo, art auctions, stores, booze). Of course, we know that is where the cruise lines make their money. We went to dinner at the Four Seasons restaurant, which turned out to be most convenient for us since Seven Seas is aft and you can only access it from the aft elevators. We were seated immediately and we both had prime rib. Other than Le Bistro, the dining room food was fair and the buffet food was borderline bad. We returned to our suite to see if our luggage had arrived and it had not. As we were heading to the Stardust Lounge, we told our room steward (Jose, and his assistant Christophere) and he said he would check on it (I also had to explain that the luggage tags had our old room number on them). I also asked Jose if he would put an egg crate mattress on our bed, which he did. The show gave a preview of the Jean Ann Ryan dancers and Milt Able, the comedian.

We returned to our suite and our luggage had still not arrived so I called the reception desk (and explained again about the luggage tags). About five minutes later I got a call from Ruth, who said that one bag had been found and someone was bringing it up and that if the others were not found I would need to fill out a report. About thirty minutes later, Ruth called and said that the people in our old room were not there and that our luggage may be inside the room, but since they were not there, no one could go in without security. At that point, I went to the reception desk and filed a report for our two missing pieces. A short time later, someone brought our two bags and Ruth called to make sure we had gotten everything. Needless to say, we were relieved. I filled out the breakfast room service request (Amit said we could write in if we wanted something that was not on the menu) and placed it on the door.

Sunday, September 21 - After an intense week in Seattle and the excitement of the suite, we were ready for a break. Luckily, it was raining and foggy so we did not feel guilty about doing absolutely nothing. Our breakfast was delivered at 9:00 by Amit. Room service in a suite is not as simple as leaving the food. It includes putting a tablecloth on the table, setting the silverware, plates, and napkins, ensuring all the condiments are there, and if we were ready to eat, Amit would even put the napkin in my lap. Wow! Since Matthew is not a big breakfast eater, I had ordered him some danishes and muffins. I had bacon, eggs, and French toast. There was more food than we could eat! We had a couple of grapes and a pear from our fruit tray and Amit took the tray and said he would bring us fresh. We unpacked our suitcases and found that we had more room than we could ever use. All of our bags fit under the bed so they were out of the way. We did leave the suite for a while to explore the ship so Jose could clean up our room, but we quickly returned. We had lunch at the Four Seasons, which was good. Matthew was disappointed that ESPN did not have any football games on, but he got over it. We napped that afternoon and since it was formal night, put on our better clothes and proceeded to the atrium to have our picture made. Since there is no set times for dinner, the photo lines were not long and we had our picture made at the atrium and another location. We decided to try the Seven Seas restaurant and we had to wait about five minutes. It was lobster night and two tails were served per plate. Matthew ordered seconds and I had a NY strip, which was good. We went to the show, "Hey, Mr. Producer," which is scenes from various plays. Since we had not seen most of the plays, we were kind of lost sometimes, but overall the production was good. The dancers are very talented, and there was a gymnast that was excellent.

Monday, September 22 - We woke up to a cloudy day and we were almost to Juneau. Our breakfast came again (pancakes - not good) and Amit wanted to refresh our fruit, but I asked him not to because we had eaten so little. At about 12:00, the captain came on and said that we would be arriving in Juneau soon and we could debark as soon as we got clearance. We went up to the buffet (had cold cheeseburgers and the buns were twice the size of the burger) and were glad we got there when we did since there was a long line when we left. We got off the ship and made some phone calls. Then we went shopping! The Juneau Shirt Co. had all their stuff 50% off so we bought a lot of souvenirs for the people at home. We went to the House of Russia and bought some stacking dolls, and went to a couple of other stores.

Our tour with Orca Enterprises (Captain Larry) was at 3:30 so we made another quick phone call and went to their office to wait. We walked to a bus, which took us through Juneau and the driver pointed out the highlights of the town. We saw the Mendenhall glacier and then we arrived at Auke Bay. We had a naturalist onboard, who worked in the winter on Celebrity as their naturalist in Hawaii. He was very informative and knowledgeable. We cruised close to an island that had several bald eagles and then we were in search of whales. Since he and Larry had been out that morning, they knew there were a mother and calf, and four other humpbacks in the bay. We were not out long when we saw our first blow. The naturalist told us that a humpback needed air about every 7-8 minutes. When the four would come up, he would start timing and tell us when it was time to look again. Of course, they would move around, but so would we. We followed the mother and calf a while and the naturalist said that the calf jumped out of the water that morning. We were looking in one direction, and out of the corner of my eye I saw a big splash. In a few seconds, the calf jumped out of the water again. It was awesome! We also went around an island with sea otters (cute). On the way back to the dock, Mendenhall glacier was in full view with the mountains around it. They said they had not seen the mountains in about a month. It really turned out to be a beautiful, sunny day, but was chilly on the boat! The driver let us out in town and we shopped a little more and then decided we were tired so we went back to the ship. We had dinner at the Four Seasons (both had beef tenderloin) and then went to see Jane L. Powell at the Stardust Lounge.

Tuesday, September 23 - I forgot to order breakfast the night before so I went to the buffet. Everytime I go there. I ask myself why. Some items (nonfat milk was one) were not replenished. The cups are tiny. There were no seats available inside. Since we had arrived in Skagway, I went outside and ate (and it was cold!). We were supposed to leave Skagway at 5:00, but that was extended to 7:00. We went to town for shopping and there was a Skagway Shirt Company with 50% off their stuff so we bought more and walked around town a while. We went to a locally owned jewelry store and started looking at the gold in quartz jewelry. We looked at a couple pieces in Juneau but they did not look good. We found a pendent I liked and we bought it, even though we had not shopped around, which is not like me. I ran back to the ship and dropped off our bags and ran back out to meet our tour at 12:15. I was just on time and there were four people that had not shown up yet. There was a lady beside us saying that we should leave them. We waited around for a while and two more people showed up and then we left. It made no sense that a bus came to pick us up at the ship when the train was right beside us. Anyway, the bus took us to the train depot and we loaded up on the rail car. We took the first seats on the left and people were coming on wondering which side was best (thanks Cruise Critic). Matthew is a train nut and so he enjoyed the trip. I really enjoyed the views and took tons of pictures since it turned out mostly clear. We took the bus back and they told us pretty much the same things we heard on the train, with the exception of the thirty earthquakes a day that Fraser gets. We did get to stop and get out for pictures. Our next stop was Liarsville, which was cheesy, but we did get to pan for gold (do not dump contents of the pan into water - the gold is already in the pan). We arrived back at town and made a few quick shopping stops and got back on the ship. We went to Seven Seas for dinner and had to wait about twenty minutes. It was Italian night and we had tomato soup, Caesar salad, chicken Parmesan, trout, and tiaramisu. We then went to the Stardust Lounge to see Running Wild and it was OK. We made stops at the photo gallery thru the week and I asked the people behind the counter if they would hold all our pictures and they would not but they did tell us they would not be moving the embarkation pictures. So, throughout the week we gathered our pictures and put them behind our embarkation pictures so we could compare and pick out the best ones.

Wednesday, September 24 - Our 9th Anniversary - We both woke up several times during the night and Matthew was running a fever so we decided to visit the ship's medical center. It opened at 8:30 and I called the reception desk before then to find out if we needed to make an appointment or just show up and she told us to just show up. Since we were to see Sawyer Glacier, I wanted to get the doctor visit over with so we could enjoy the rest of the day. We arrived and we were the only ones there. The receptionist took our information and both our temperatures (sure enough Matthew had a fever). We sat back out in the waiting area and the doctor called us back. He diagnosed me with pharyngitis and Matthew with tonsilitis and gave us each five days worth of antibiotics, some saline spray (which I was unable to find in Skagway), and some Tylenol. Total cost was $120 paid on shipboard account. Needless to say, it was worth the cost to get to feeling better. After our visit, we quickly went to the buffet and back to our haven. Since we were on the front of the ship, we turned our couch around in front of the doors and watched instead of sitting on our deck. We did not get close to Sawyer Glacier but we could see it. A small boat from the Sky made its way closer to the glacier and it turns out it was the ship photographer who took closeups of the glacier and the ship there. We thought it was funny that that evening when we went to the photo gallery they had pictures on a table that said they were pictures of the glacier "taken today." Well, I know they were not taken that day because our cabin was at the bow and there were three people standing on our balcony in the pictures, and there was no time when there were three people on our balcony. Anyway, we turned around (almost 360 degrees) and left the glacier. Matthew laid down and napped for a while and I cleaned up the cabin. We went to the dining room for lunch, but nothing appealed to us so we went to the buffet - I had pizza and it was OK.

The weather was good going into the glacier but as we were leaving, it started raining and became very foggy. About 5:30, the seas became very rough. The doors were slamming shut and open, anything in the bathroom that was not behind doors came off the shelves, the TV's swiveled back and forth. I had never been seasick before, but now I can empathize. I had removed my patch Tuesday morning and had not replaced it. Matthew replaced his, but he still got sick. When it started getting bad, I put a patch on and took a prescription strength Bonine but they took a while to work so I had about an hour of sickness. We were invited to a party in the Captain's quarters at 7:00 that evening and had reservations at Le Bistro for 7:30. Needless to say, we did not make either. About 9:00, things calmed down and we ordered room service at around 9:30 - I ordered a chicken Caesar salad and Matthew had a NY strip sandwich, we also ordered the "assorted cheese and international crackers." Another steward brought our dinner and put out the tablecloth and set the table just like in the dining room. He said that everybody was ordering room service. The food was fairly good and our cheese and crackers turned out to be a huge platter with a box of Carr's crackers.

The people we went fishing with on Thursday said they were in the dining room (5th floor) when the seas got rough and the waves were hitting the sides of the windows. Amit told us the next morning that they missed us at the Captain's party, but that everyone else that came left after about five minutes. Obviously it was not only we that were sick.

Thursday, September 25 - I remembered the room service breakfast this morning and ordered French toast, muffins, and danishes. I must say that they sure do give you a lot of food. Also, you must specify if you want something like butter, syrup, kind of jam, etc. There was also variation in the times it was served, from ten minutes before the time specified to about 10 minutes after the first time listed (ex. 9:00-9:15). We were meeting Ken from Northern Lights fishing at the dock at 8:00 for our fishing trip. There were three others with us on the boat from Florida, one of them being the infamous "Sugar Lips" from the Miss Norwegian Sky contest. We had a great trip and I would highly recommend this outing for anyone interested in fishing. At one point, we had all five lines in the water and all of them had fish on them! That was exciting and I am not a fisher person. The weather in Ketchikan was cloudy with rain at times and Ken said that most of the ship run excursions (fishing and flights) had been cancelled, so we were glad we did not book with the ship. Matthew and I had taken rain suits and were glad we had since it was rainy, but also because we would have gotten fishing stuff on our clothes. We were out until about 1:00 pm and Ken arranged for a van to pick us up and take us back to town. We went back on the ship for some lunch at the buffet and to drop off our rain suits. We also made our make-up reservations at Le Bistro for 7:30 pm. We went back into town and did the rest of our shopping. Prior to our trip, the consensus was that Ketchikan was the place to shop and they did have more stores than the other ports, but I am glad that we did not wait to buy anything in Ketchikan. Juneau and Skagway had stores that had 50% sales going on for the end of the season, but Ketchikan had few, if any items, marked down that much. I would venture to say that if we had not needed to buy some last souvenirs that we would not have shopped.

When we got back to the ship, we took a nap and then went to dinner. Since our anniversary was during our cruise, we had a note in our cabin upon arrival to give to the Maitre'd at the restaurant we dined in that evening. I had the cream of mushroom soup, Caesar salad, filet and Matthew had the French onion soup, Caesar salad, and salmon and we shared a chocolate fondue (yum)! Other than the mushroom soup, everything was excellent, but I would say the service was no better than what we received in the dining rooms. Before our dessert came, they sang "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" to us and brought out a small cake. We asked them to send the cake to our room but we never got it (it is not like we were starving to death!). I found it interesting that many of the ship's personnel ate in Le Bistro the same night we did (including the ship's doctor who remembered us). After dinner, we went to the Stardust Lounge to see the final show of the Jean Ann Ryan company - Sea Legs Cirque. It was excellent! We stayed for the Liar's club, which was a lot of fun.

Friday, September 26 - Today was our last day on board. We had room service for breakfast and then went to the photo gallery to pick out our pictures. We only purchased two of ourselves, because we had just had pictures made last year, and these were not that great. We made a final round thru the shops but did not buy anything even though the Alaska stuff was 35% off. We went to Shawn Farquar's up close magic show, which was great! The weather started off foggy, and we got to hear the foghorn, but it turned out to be an absolutely beautiful day with crystal clear blue skies. The ship ran into several pods of dolphins (I think) and there were about 50-100 dolphins in each pod. That was exciting! We went to the chocoholic buffet at 2:00. I am a chocolate freak, and I did not think the chocolate was that great, but the ice sculptures and decorations made from chocolate were fabulous! By the way, they did not allow anyone in to take pictures before it started. We took our food back to the cabin and ate. We packed, enjoyed the views, and took time to decide how much tip to leave to whom. We participated in the freestyle tipping, but that did not cover our butlers or concierge. We also wanted to leave the room stewards a little something extra since they had much more to clean in our suite than in the other cabins. Ruth (concierge) came by to tell us that when we were ready to go on Saturday, just to call her and someone would meet us to escort us off the ship. For dinner, we went to the Four Seasons for the Klondike dinner. Matthew had BBQ halibut (which was very good) and I had a sirloin steak (also good). We went to Jane L. Powell's show at 9:30 and enjoyed it. We finished packing and put our luggage out (with special tags attached).

Saturday, September 27 - What a bittersweet day. We ordered room service for breakfast and Henri brought it this morning. He asked if he could take our fruit tray but we asked him to leave a couple pieces which he did. Amit came by and we stood around talking with them for a few minutes. They wanted to know if we would be taking another NCL cruise and I told them that after Wednesday night, we did not know if we would take another cruise at all. They said that the cruise prior to ours was terrible and the seas were rough for a day and night. Now that would be miserable! Anyway, we had a great time and I know that we would not have had as good a time had we not been in the suite. We gathered all our stuff and called Ruth to let her know we were on our way down. When we arrived, there was another couple there (who were our neighbors that we never met) and we were waiting on one more couple. With us all together, Ruth bypassed the line to get to our luggage, where it was waiting in a special area. We breezed thru customs and went inside the terminal. It was a madhouse! Evidently, busses were late and there were hundreds of people in a small area. After we figured out that no one was in a rental car line, we went to the Budget counter where I had reserved a car. After that was taken care of, we went outside to wait on the bus to take us to our car. Since it was so pretty, we decided to drive to Whistler. The views up were gorgeous. Unfortunately, the traffic was horrible, so we did not stop to take pictures and the ones taken in the afternoon contend with the sun. We stopped at Brandywine and Shannon falls and they were both good places to stretch our legs, and they were nice waterfalls. I had packed long sleeve shirts and long pants but we really needed shorts and t-shirts. When we arrived at Whistler, I thought the town would be a little more visitor friendly, but there were no signs to the gondola. We finally stopped at a tourist information center and she told us where it was, but we still could not find it. After driving for a while, we tracked down the gondola and found a parking place. The town was crowded with mountain bikers and visitors in general. We bought our tickets and waited in line. We got in a car with two women, mother and daughter, who were just enjoying the day. While we were trying to find the gondola, Matthew said that he wondered if it would be worth the trip. Let me tell you it was! There was not a cloud in the sky and we could see almost forever. I am not sure what the elevation is there, but we both became winded easily. We made the trip back down the mountain and then drove up to Pemberton. We found out later in the day that Pemberton had the highest temperature in Canada that day - 86 degrees. We drove back to Vancouver and checked in at the Westin Bayshore. We asked the lady at the reception desk where was a good casual place to eat and she said Cardero's beside the hotel. So after we took our stuff to the room, we went to dinner. It was still nice so we dined outside. I had salmon and Matthew had the seafood wok, which he said was not that great. After we returned to the room, I started looking at the Westin information and discovered the bed had feather pillows and down comforter. That is not good since I am allergic to feathers, so I called the front desk and someone immediately came to change the bed. We ordered a pizza from Dominos and then retired for the evening. However, some people down the hall had other plans. Matthew said they were slamming doors, yelling, and having a grand time until about 4:00 am when the security guard came to make them be quiet. I slept thru the whole thing.

Sunday, September 28 - We had planned to sightsee around Vancouver, but after watching the weather, found that it was clear in Seattle. We made the decision to go ahead and drive down there early so we could go up in the Space Needle. We took the scenic route out of Vancouver (not by choice), waited about twenty minutes in line at customs, and arrived in Seattle without incident. Matthew had become very familiar with downtown Seattle, so he took us right to the parking lot at Seattle Center. From the top of the Space Needle, we could see Mt. Rainier (90 miles away) and even Mt. Baker (150 miles away). After three visits to Seattle that was our first sighting of Mt. Rainier from the ground. We stayed at the top for about three hours and just enjoyed ourselves (and took lots of pictures). Since we enjoyed our dinner at Cutters before, we decided to go back there for dinner and have salmon one last time before we left the Northwest. Again, our food was delicious and the chocolate lava cake was to die for. We found our hotel, Days Inn (not good) at the airport and crashed.

Monday, September 29 - We needed to be at the airport at 5:20 am for our 7:20 flight so we were up at 4:00. Yeah! Surprisingly, the airport was not crowded and we were at our gate by 6:00. This was after one of our carry-ons was searched because it tested for nitroglycerin, it turned out to be glycerin in soap or lotion. Our first class seats were nice on our long flight, and we actually got good food. We had a fruit plate with strawberries, blueberries, and cantaloupe, and then either French toast or French toast. The flight attendant said she would give us a bottle of champagne since they had run out of cheese omelets, but we told her that was OK since we wanted French toast anyway, and we do not drink. We arrived back at Charlotte and gathered our luggage (and found out two of our four bags were searched), got the car, and headed home. I had decided we were going to eat at the Cracker Barrel for dinner since we were going into Southern cooking and sweet tea withdrawal. Less

Published 10/27/03
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