My wife and I (late 40’s) sailed on the 10-day Alaska cruise 9/17 – 9/27 (Last cruise of the season). We’ve sailed NCL, Carnival, Princess and Royal Caribbean. Weather was unseasonably beautiful (50-55 degrees, and it only rained on two days).
Anyone who states that “O’Sheehans Prime Rib dinner is the best”, literally has no idea what Prime Rib is. This is on the level of something I would expect from Denny’s or a glorified school lunch program.
Other than the Prime Rib dinner, I went to O’Sheehan’s late at night, and the food in general was very sub-standard.
Fish and Chips: The batter & fish were cold, damp and doughy.
Fries: Were cold & damp
Grilled Chicken Sandwich: The chicken was dry
Hamburger: On-par with a buffet burger
Strawberry Shortcake: Was a good late night snack, but is not on the Late-Late (after midnight, I believe) night menu.
We were given the Ultimate Beverage Package as an NCL promo for booking the cruise. However, it was not a “Free” as one would expect. At the time of booking (even though the UBP was a free promo) you are still charged for the Service Charge (18%) of the package price, which came to roughly $125 per person. Secondly (due to tax legalities) you are charged Tax on drinks while you are in US mainland waters…..This only applies when coming out of Seattle in Washington State waters. The cruise left Seattle at 4pm and the tax was applied until about 8:30pm (same time that the Casino was allowed to open). There were no other taxes charged the remainder of the cruise, so clearly Alaska is exempt from this tax rule.
We were also give the Ultimate Dining Package as an NCL promo for booking the cruise, but again were charged the Service Charge. However, it was a far more manageable $18 per person.
The cabin carpets are dated and worn. Absolutely need to be replaced.
The Buffet runs on only the Starboard side of the ship, which leaves seating in serious question during peak times. The La Cucina restaurant and back of the ship are open for extra seating, which does help alleviate some of the problem.
The Buffet seems to close often(10:30a – 11a, around 3p-5p). We specifically ran into the issue post lunch – pre dinner (3p - 5p)….right around the time you re-board the ship on several port days. The back deck mini-buffet is open, but selection is very limited.
MDR & Specialty restaurants: I typically order several appetizers at dinner, but I am getting the feeling that NCL perhaps is trying to dissuade this practice. In Cagney’s (twice), Le Bistro and the MDR, I ordered multiple appetizers. I re-verified quantity with the waiter/waitress at the time I ordered, so there was absolutely miscommunication excuse to fall back on here! Each time, the waiter/waitress only brought one appetizer, and then promptly tried to clear the table afterwards readying for the entrée. IF this happened once, or even twice…I could easily write it off as just a mistake by the staff…..but no less than 4 times is no coincidence. I’m finding it hard to believe this is a mistake, and perhaps more of an NCL attempt at an assumptive-suggestion to try to save on costs. Either way, when reasserting my order, the waiter/waitress brought the other appetizers out promptly.
Our room stewardess was adequate, but certainly not one to go out of her way. I will concede that we were often in the cabin during peak cleaning times, but on several occasions we had the “Make Up Cabin” indicator dialed up on are door plate when we stepped out, only to come back to the indicator spun to “Do Not Disturb” and a dirty cabin. It was almost comical…..almost!!
Everything Else! This was a fantastic cruise overall!!
With regard to the Ultimate Beverage Package, I read many reviews of difficulties getting a drink. This was absolutely not my experience at all. On the very, very rare occasion (once in 10 days) the bar was too busy, so I walked 200ft and found another bar. Even with the Service Charge ($125pp) applied at booking, I got my money’s worth out of it.
The MDR menu is well-rounded and decent, but the food is largely unspectacular. Other cruiselines have much more of a WOW factor on the MDR menu. The specialty restaurants - Cagney’s, Le Bistro and Teppanyaki - were all fantastic.
We saw several of the shows, and all of them were better than expected….and surprisingly better than many of the comparable standard shows on other NCL ships.
We had a mid-ship balcony cabin, and the only real issue was the worn and dated carpeting. Found two electrical outlets in the main cabin (one on each corner unit - Vanity and TV). To save on table space on the TV corner unit, you can unplug the coffee maker and tuck it behind the TV. Get your coffee from the buffet.
There are two types of WMF coffee machines in the buffet. One brews in bulk, and the other type brews by the cup. The “brew by cup” option is a better tasting cup of coffee, but it is also much stronger.
There were two soft served machines in the buffet (one by front doorway, and one towards the aft). One machine was chocolate/vanilla, and the other was strawberry/vanilla.
The Washy/Washy guys at the buffet are hilarious and very creative with their music.
The Hot Tubs are open, even in Alaska. Each of the hot tubs had a person or two in them, and there was an active waiter taking drink orders. Saved you from having to jump out into the cool breeze!
Ketchikan: Walked around Creek Street, shops and watched the seals devour the salmon swimming in the creek….talk about a buffet!!
Juneau: Mendenhall Glacier and Nugget Falls is a must – Don’t miss it. Don’t short change yourself on time. Plan for a solid 2hrs+ to walk out to see/enjoy the Glacier/Falls area, and walk back. Bus ride of $15 each way/pp ($30 total/pp) available at multiple port vendors.
Skagway: From a port vendor, took a 6 hr Yukon Van tour up to Carcross and Emerald Lake. Also stopped by for lunch (included) at what could be best described as a Sleddog camp and hobby farm (Alpaca’s, goats, miniature horse, sleddogs, and young sleddog pups). Some folks in our van commented that the Van Tour was so much better than the train because they could see much more, and stop to enjoy the scenery. Apparently the train often offers only viewing out of one side, as the track runs right along side the mountains. The views were incredible, and nice photo op when stopping at the “Welcome to Alaska” and “Yukon” signs.
Icy Point: Rained this day, so we didn’t plan anything. The port is small, with a museum building and some local shops. There was a ridiculously high Zip Line (apparently the height of the Empire State building) right there in port. I heard it was $150 for one run….but it absolutely looked like the run of a lifetime!! Take that one, and I imagine all other Zip Lines would pale in comparison.
Glacier Bay was SPECTATULAR! It was a beautiful, clear day. We sat on our balcony, bundled up with a couple of layers of clothing, hat and gloves, a bottle of wine, binoculars and simply watch the beautiful scenery go by. Spun around in front of Johns Hopkins and Margerie Glacier. Margerie was calving, and I captured some amazing video of it. The cracking of the ice sounds like thunder, and you can feel the reverberations. This was truly the highlight of the trip! Recommend leaving your balcony door partially open and turning on Channel 23 to hear the National Park Ranger’s commentary.
Sitka – It was drizzling all day, so we just took the free port shuttle into town and walked around. I bunch of small local shops, but didn’t see anything worth getting excited about. However, it was a nice, quaint town.
Victoria – Just a beautiful city! Go to Fisherman Wharf and feed the seals….they are hilarious in begging for fish! Our plan was always to go Whale Watching here, and we did….However, it was a bit of a cluster. We almost never book excursions through the ship, but sort of wishing we had when it came Whale Watching in Victoria. The issue was we docked at 2p, got off the ship 2:45p, and promptly started looking for a local Whale Watching tour. The issue is that just about every Whale Watching tour had already left for their last tour of the day. We walked straight to the Fisherman Wharf area, and one Whale Watching company had a boat leaving out of Victoria Harbor at 3:30p….we had 25mins to scamper 12 blocks to get to Prince of Whales tours….we literally made it with less than a minute to spare. The boat itself was probably built for 65 people, but there was only 35 on our boat. It was a 3hr tour, but took us an hour to get out to where the orcas were being tracked by all the Whale Watching boats. We saw Orca’s jumping out of the water, which was amazing! The boat itself stays quite a distance away from the pods, so really seeing or photographing them is challenging. We also swung through Race Rock lighthouse and saw all the sea lions laying around.
We had a mid-ship balcony cabin, and the only real issue was the worn and dated carpeting. Really like having a sliding balcony door versus a hinged door.....far easier to get in and out. Found two electrical outlets in the main cabin (one on each corner unit - Vanity and TV). To save on table space on the TV corner unit, you can unplug the coffee maker and tuck it behind the TV. Get your coffee from the buffet.