I have read a few of the most recent reviews and I feel the need to defend NCL because I am hearing a lot of the same complaints I heard on the ship. Yes, there were multiple medical emergencies, that's what happens when the average demographic is 74 years old. There were a couple medical evacuations people never even knew about, that is called HIPPA and a person's right to privacy. The Captain had to make a tough call when the coast guard did not answer distress calls, nor was a medical evacuation possible for a young woman who walked on the boat healthy and fell deathly ill from an infection that later took her life. If that was my loved one, I pray they would make the same choice and I am comforted that they chose trying to save a human life over make a popular decision. I realize there were a lot of disappointed passengers, but please take comfort in knowing that collectively we did everything possible to help save a human life.
Now, for my review...
Getting to the ship from the airpot in Seattle, the $20 NCL shuttle was easy. They took my luggage right from the baggage claim and the next time I saw it was outside my stateroom door at 6:30pm. An Uber would have been about $40 for a solo traveler, so it saved me money. Check in was easy and I was early, so I enjoyed the Seattle Pike Place Market before returning to the ship for embarkation at 11:30am. I would recommend going straight to the observation lounge if you're like me and need to charge your phone. There are hidden charging ports in the lamps. Comfortable seating and really good food (salmon chowder) were calling my name on day one while the Garden Cafe was over run with people. You are allowed in your rooms after 1:30. I booked my room last minute, no solo supplement for a really great price ($499) with an inside guarantee and was assigned a handicapped accessible inside state room. The room was really spacious and would be great for a person in a wheelchair. I am guessing it to be 200 square feet, the only problem for me was that I confused the lights with the automatic door opener and would accidentally open the door while standing in my underwear. I'm guessing I would have figured it out eventually, but I had a request to change rooms due to a handicapped passenger needing the room. I was asked very graciously and politely, since I'd already shown the neighbors more of me than I cared to, I voluntarily gave it up. Linda, the accessibility coordinator told me that at 24 into the cruise, there were no longer any larger rooms available for an upgrade, but she offered me either a studio or inside cabin plus a $200 on board credit. I happily accepted the studio cabin since I was solo and wanted to have access to the solo lounge. I had a really hard time finding my interior room on deck 13, I felt like I was in a maize, once I switched to room 12517 in the Solo Studio, I never had trouble finding my room again.
This brings me to NCL's Solo Cruiser Program. I am so impressed with this program. The Solo Host, Jose Jaramilla, went above and beyond in assisting every solo cruiser whether you were in the solo studios, or not. I met him the at the first meet and greet in the Mojito Bar on the first day and he brought everyone back to the solo lounge and explained the program. An itinerary with show dates and times was provided where selected seating had been reserved for the solo cruisers to sit as a group. It was in the far lower right corner, but at least you weren't sitting by yourself. You could sign up for one or all of the activities and there were daily meetings followed by dinner for those that wished to eat with the group. What a wide variety of ages, 22-75, ethnicities, and personality types. From the introvert to the extrovert, there is something for everyone. Jose did a great job ensuring everyone had a great time. For solo cruising, NCL has my vote 100%. Jose is also seen during many of the game shows and theme parties, which were pretty low key with the generally older demographic, but he is hilarious. The solo cabin itself it small, 99 square feet with less than a full size bed, but it's well designed. The shower and the toilet feel more like you are in a rocket or coffin, so I was really wishing I'd shaved my legs in that handicapped accessible bathroom. There is a virtual window and you do have access to the solo lounge where there is an espresso machine, ice water, fruit, orange juice, and pastries always available. It was very easy to meet other solo cruisers in the lounge which was a huge perk. It was like a little ship in the ship.
I did not get in on a free at sea with the super low rate, so instead I brought on two bottles of wine and paid the $15/bottle corking fee. This was enough alcohol for me and the bar tenders were quite pleasant and entertaining even though I wasn't ordering a bunch of alcohol. They seem to keep up with demand and for those that couldn't get drinks fast enough, I would recommend some of the quieter bars like the whiskey bar, wine bar, mojito bar (love Black Cowboy), or the bar in the observation lounge. The atrium bar was always busy, but I thought the guys were great. I loved the adults only Spice H2O for the hot tub to watch the sunset, although it could have been a bit hotter. It was a chilly sprint out and to the heated hallway. It was too chilly for the pool for me, but I did lay out one day and watch festivities. Freestyle dining was made easy, I was always seated quickly with my group and ate in the complementary restaurants except for Cagney's one night and Sushi at Food Republic. I enjoyed the lighter lunch food in the observation lounge, it seemed a little more on the gourmet side. The Garden Cafe was OK, I always seemed to catch the half hour between breakfast and lunch when there was really no food. Kids and adults who love ice cream will be happy, there were numerous Ice Cream Stations, both hard and soft serve, although I'm not positive about the hours. The food in the Main Dining Rooms was good, but not great. If I didn't know any better, I would be more impressed. There was no lobster, not even at Cagney's, salmon the first night and that was fabulous, but I did not catch it on the menu again. I was a little disappointed being it was an Alaskan Cruise. It seems NCL has taken money out of fine cuisine and put it into entertainment as the meals consisted of less expensive cuts of meat, fish and pasta. They were all well prepared and presentation was beautiful, but budget cuts were noticeable for an experienced cruiser. I heard the Q really stands out, but who wants to pay $25 extra for what you used to get for free? The sushi at The Food Republic is amazing and well worth it for about $8/roll. Nolan, the head chef is fantastic and ensures his customers are satisfied with his creations. The Local had Pub-Style food and a nice made-to-order omelet for breakfast with a very friendly staff.
Shows and Entertainment...The Jersey Boys is a must see production, as good as a Broadway Show. Havana was very well choreographed. I had hoped to see a comedy show, but lines we long and there was standing room only. The game shows were entertaining as usual, the night life was pretty mild due to the advanced age demographic. I had a great time and feel the crew was vey friendly and courteous. The Social was open late for dancing and as a solo lady, it was an added benefit that not only one, but a male and female security guard would walk you back to your cabin upon request. I felt very safe on and off the ship at all times.
Juneau...For those that like to save money, you can take the city bus to the Mendenhall Glacier for $2 instead of $45 for the express bus. It drops you off 1.5 miles away, but it is a beautiful paved trail and I saw a Momma bear and two cubs along the way (escorted by park rangers).
I will be going again at least once, if not more. I need to bring my kids to show them the beauty on this side of the country, I am awe struck.
Getting off the Bliss proves to be the biggest challenge. If you are in a rush to get off the boat to catch a flight, do the express walk off as early as you can. Otherwise, plan on it taking 1-2 hours to get off the boat from the time you get off the elevator. If you are traveling with anyone that may need any medical assistance or not tolerate standing in a circulating line for that period of time, get them a wheelchair assisted disembarkation. I hope they work the kinks out of disembarkation before they get to Miami for my next venture on the Bliss.
The solo cabin itself is small, 99 square feet with less than a full size bed, but it's well designed. The shower and the toilet feel more like you are tiny, so beware if you are a larger person or claustrophobic. There is a virtual window and you do have access to the solo lounge where there is an espresso machine, ice water, fruit, orange juice, and pastries always available. It was very easy to meet other solo cruisers in the lounge which was a huge perk. It was like a little ship in the ship.
Super quaint town, lots of shopping right off the boat, the lumberjack show is quite amusing. You can catch seals feeding on salmon right in the middle of town.
I would highly recommend Mendenhall Glacier. If you want to save some money, take the city bus for $2 and then you will take a paved trail 1.5 miles into the national park. An Uber runs about $40 each way.
I would suggest the bus tour over the train tour based on comments from fellow passengers.