We flew to Seattle a day before our cruise to avoid any flight delay issues. Four of the five of us had cruising experience with one rookie in the group!
The embarkation process ran smoothly for the most part; however, we were told by the people checking us in and assigning room keys that our Latitudes group of "Silver" would be called for embarkation and that we didn't need a number assigned. I clarified this information twice with different crew members. However, once groups were called, Platinum and Gold were called then they began calling numbers 1, 2, etc. I approached to ask about Silver embarkation and was told I needed a number. After I explained what I was told twice (and pointing to the staff members who we spoke with), they let us board immediately without hesitation or argument.
We thoroughly enjoyed our cruise of Alaska. This was the 2nd time on the Pearl with the same itinerary (last cruised in June 2013) for two of us; however, it was the first time on a cruise anywhere for one person in our group. She absolutely had the best time! She requested Alaska as she wanted adventures with friends and the Pearl did not disappoint! We enjoyed all aspects of the ship and the ports. As it was September, we had more rain than we previously experienced in June, but you have to expect rain in Alaska. We selected shore excursions that we wouldn't mind doing if it was raining.
Juneau - Zip line on Douglas Island (booked through NCL). This was an absolutely fantastic experience for all of us. The guides (Ian and Kelsey were great and made the experience less frightening for some in our group who were a bit fearful in the beginning. We had gorgeous sunny weather, which the guides explained, "never happens."
Skagway - Ocean Raft Adventure (booked through NCL). This was one of the highlights of our trip as we were on a Zodiak boat with about 11 people and were able to get up close and personal with beautiful waterfalls and coves we would never have seen in any other way. We saw many bald eagles and sea lions and the guides were great at explaining what we were seeing in the coves. Rain was predicted but held off until after our excursion! We walked around the city area before and after our excursion and really enjoyed the neat shops.
Glacier Bay - A truly amazing view of beautiful and majestic glaciers! You'll want to be up early to watch the water color change to a gorgeous turquoise blue as you get closer to the glaciers. Watching wildlife float by on mini-icebergs was a great treat as well! It was raining on this day, but that didn't damper any spirits or detract from nature's beauty!
Ketchikan - It rained the entire time, but we walked around and enjoyed this gem of a city! We loved Creek Street and visiting the artisans. Some of us bought jewelry made on-site from the artist (I can't recall the store), and the people all over were so very nice!
Victoria - We had gorgeous weather and walked around the city for a bit. We got a shuttle right off the pier for a 10-minute ride downtown. We wish the time had been better in Victoria as we arrived around 6:00 pm and would have loved more daylight to spend in that beautiful city.
Mandara Spa - - I simply can't say enough about the terrific Thermal Suite in the spa! The price of $129 (purchased online on NCL before the cruise) was absolutely worth it! We just couldn't get enough of relaxing in the therapy pool with amazing jets and bubbles, lounging on a heated mosaic chaise or one of the many other lounge chairs, or spending time in the "women only" section with the individual whirlpool tub or sauna. If you want relaxation in the truest sense, spend the money for the thermal suite access. I don't think I ever want to be on a cruise ship without it!
We booked massages in the spa as well with mixed results. One of us really enjoyed it, while others thought it wasn't as good as other massages. The downside is the very pushy sales side once the massage is over. While I agree the products are great, I didn't want to be pushed to make a purchase after emerging so relaxed from the massage. It actually ruined that a bit as I began to tense up with all the sales pressure.
We really enjoyed some of the events, an illusion act in the theater, Music and Humor with Jim (he is so funny!), and Deal or No Deal game.
I highly recommend dressing in layers and for comfort for Alaskan cruises. Dressy items only needed if you choose to dress up for dinner (we did that a couple of nights). We typically wore jeans or track pants with tops that could be layered. Inside the ship, the temperature is fine for short-sleeves; however, you'll want long sleeves or a light layer if you'll be outside very much, especially if the ship is moving.
We had one night of very rough seas/winds (Thursday night heading to Ketchikan). I believe the navigation station on the television said the gale force wind was an 8, which really caused some rocking and rolling. We ended up letting the ship rock us to sleep after taking some anti-nausea medication! Thankfully, none were ill in our room.
We had the dining package and ate at specialty restaurants most often - Teppanyaki, Cagney's Steakhouse, Moderno (Brazilian steakhouse), and LeBistro (French). All were amazing but a special shout-out to LeBistro for amazing food and extra-special desserts (chocolate fondue, anyone?). We ate at Summer Palace once and the food was good there as well. Breakfasts and most lunches were in the Garden Cafe (buffet). While it was certainly busy there, we ended up finding a table at LaCucina (Italian restaurant), which allows use of the area during breakfast and lunch. The service was fabulous at all places and I have no complaints or concerns in those areas.
Disembarkation was very organized and well-done! We left our bags in the hall the night before and picked them up in the port after getting off the ship when our group was called. It was very seamless and nicely done.
Overall, on board expenses consisted of photos purchased, wine with dinner, massage at the spa, and gratuities. I estimated in advance what I thought I would spend and didn't go over my "budget."
I've personally cruised with Carnival and NCL and prefer NCL hands-down! I highly recommend NCL for an Alaskan cruise and am already thinking of the next one...this time with a different itinerary. I'd like to see Sawyer Glacier and Sitka the next time we cruise Alaska.
Our group of 5 reserved 2 mini-suites and we were simply amazed at the roominess inside! Three women in one mini-suite had plenty of room to unpack entirely with everything tucked away in drawers and the massive closet. We packed hangers from home to help ensure everything could be hung immediately. Our bathroom was nice and large (for a cruise ship) and our shower had a tub with glass enclosure (no curtain sticking to us!). We brought a small multiple-outlet to allow for charging of multiple items.
We asked for all items to removed from our small refrigerator so we could store some items we brought on board (Gatorade, water, etc.).
Our steward, Paul, kept everything clean and remembered that we liked ice every night. He always greeted us by name and he was attentive to anything we requested of him.
We've always had a balcony cabin before and I got a little spoiled by the extra space in the mini-suite.
Great adventures with the Alaskan Canopy! Loved the tour guides who made this an extra special and fun experience!View All 23 Ziplining Reviews
Ocean Raft Adventure booked through NCL. This adventure far exceeded my expectations and was an incredibly fun way to see nature at its finest! Our guide got us deep into coves with beautiful waterfalls that would not have been otherwise experienced! This truly felt like what you would imagine
Alaska to be - - water, mountains, waterfalls, eagles, and other wildlife! There was just something extra special about being on the water in a small Zodiak boat and getting that close to nature.View All 33 Rafting Reviews
Beautiful and majestic! Love Glacier Bay and being able to see it from our balcony was extra special!
We enjoyed the small town - Creek Street was especially a treat!
We loved Victoria as it is very beautiful but we really wish we had more time to explore. Arriving at 6:00 pm and leaving late at night (11:30 pm) makes it a bit hard to truly appreciate this location.