This is a little bit long, but I write with the hope that you will find it more entertaining than I did the cruise.
Let me begin by saying that I've been on 20+ cruises over the last 30 years. When we started cruising, our friends compared every cruise to their experience on NCL; nothing measured up. This was my first cruise with NCL and I was prepared to be wowed. Apparently, a lot has changed in 30 years.
Not everything was bad, in fact, our first contact with the ship was fantastic. The ship was docked right in downtown Seattle. I didn't think we had the right ship though, because where it should have said "Bliss" it said "Wayland", right there on the bow. I later learned that he's the artist who designed the images that cover the hull. OK, but doesn't an artist sign a canvas at the bottom of his work?
The actual check-in process was the quickest and smoothest I've ever experienced. Things were looking up. Then we got to the baggage check area. There was a young man standing there whose sole job it seemed was to shout "no liquids" every 20 seconds. We had a couple of unopened cans of soda that we brought from the hotel which we quickly tossed in the conveniently provided barrel. The web site says that this is to speed up the baggage inspection, but the fact that you can bring aboard wine (for which you are required to pay a "corkage fee") tells me that it's all about the money. The funny part about this was that later that day I spied two 12 packs of soda that were tied together with a duct tape handle and a room tag that was dutifully delivered to the outside of a cabin by the crew. Apparently, they were dropped off with the rest of their baggage and brought right onto the ship. Note to NCL. Keep a closer eye on the checked baggage. Somebody just cost you $100 in lost revenue.
But then we boarded the ship. After the obligatory spray of hand sanitizer, we enter the actual interior of the ship. Not ten steps inside, the first crew member I saw was holding a picture of a slice of prime rib. At first, I thought she was hyping one of the specialty restaurants, but no, she was informing us of the main menu item at the buffet that evening. That seemed a bit odd to me, but the purpose was to become clear as the week dragged on.
We found our cabin and it was exactly what I expected. Very nice and compact and entirely suitable for a week's stay. I called my son and we went to his cabin to touch base with him and his family. By this time I was getting a little bit hungry so I checked the schedule to see where I could grab a quick bite. But it turns out that food is only available until 3 o'clock on embarkation day and so I had to wait until dinner time. I've can't remember ever being on a cruise where food wasn't available all day on embarkation day. People have been traveling! They're hungry!
That night we went to the buffet to sample the prime rib. It was very good, and the buffet area is the largest and most diverse I've ever seen on a ship. You could almost walk off the calories just wandering around the buffet.
The next day was a sea day and I decided to spend a little quiet time reading a book I'd brought along. I found the library, or should I say the library/game room. It was shockingly small for such a large ship, and two of the tables were occupied by gamers so there was no way I was going to be able to read in there. I made my way to the observation lounge and finally found a chair there.
In the early afternoon, I started looking into the entertainment options that were accessed through the cabin TV set. The first thing I realized was that we needed reservations to see the much-hyped Jersey Boys show. OK, let's scroll through and see what's available. The entire week was already taken; no reservations were available! Keep in mind that this was less than 24 hours after we sailed. I have never, and I mean never, been on a cruise where 1. reservations were required to see the shows in the theatre, and 2. it was impossible to see such shows. Remind me again what I was paying for?
So this was our onboard entertainment for the week:
1. The Beatles group in the theatre the first night. I was surprised at the small crowd, I had expected it to be packed. But we enjoyed it very much.
2. The same group in the Cavern Club. As close as you're ever going to get to actually being there. But the club is very small, I would guess less than 100 people. So this was something that most guests were not going to be able to experience. Arrive early. Very early.
3. Deal or No Deal in the Atrium with the cruise director.
4. A movie in the Atrium. It was a Disney nature film. Enjoyable but disrupted by the sound of the mini bowling alley coming from the open floor above.
5. The show Havana in the theatre. Great sets, music, and dancing. But the rest of the production left us flat.
6. Two lounge singers in the atrium. They were fine, just what you would expect to see on a cruise ship.
And that was it. Very disappointing.
Now the food.
That young lady with the food advertisement that I saw when I boarded the ship was not a onetime thing. Every day there were people hyping the featured item at the buffet that evening. The reason is clear. "Freestyle Cruising" is based on steering guests away from the dining rooms where most of the evening meals are served on other cruise lines, and toward the buffet and the $pecialty re$taurant$. Now I've eaten many meals in buffets onboard ships, but mostly breakfast and lunch. This is the first ship where I've actually been encouraged to eat dinner in the buffet. The restaurants are way too small to handle the guests unless most of them don't eat there. We did manage to eat in the restaurants on three occasions. Two of those were acceptable. On the third, I ordered the always available New York Strip. The first one I received was well done. It was replaced with a steak that was actually difficult to cut because it was so full of gristle. They offered to replace that too but I had managed to get enough off of it and I was done.
I could go on about the overpriced soft drinks, the room steward who failed to empty my mini fridge after I asked him to, and the botching of my post-cruise travel plans, but you get the idea.
The cruise ship should be one of the destinations on a cruise. This one felt more like a ferry boat ride to Alaska.
We were able to charter our own boat tour for just the six of us. An amazing personal experience.
An interesting place to visit but very crowded on a Saturday morning (duh)!
Interesting town to visit. Very picturesque.
Very interesting to see. Glaciers have gotten smaller since I last saw them.