Cruising to Alaska in October was a new experience for my wife and I, so I thought I would share some of our experiences aboard the NCL Encore during the October 2 sailing. This was our 6th Alaska cruise with 4 of them on NCL (Jewel, Pearl, Bliss and now Encore).
Voyage: The seas were a bit rough on the first Sea Day and the final Sea Day, mainly due to wind. We were told at Icy Point Strait that the gondola system was shut down due to a windstorm that knocked down some power lines. This affected some activities, one person we met was very disappointed that he couldn’t experience the very long and fast zip line ride. We have been fortunate on previous Alaska voyages to rarely face choppy seas, but we have seen worse turbulence on cruises in other parts of the world. When entering Glacier National Park with the narration from a park ranger, it seemed that most of the highlights were on the Port Side (our cabin was on the Starboard side) – so maybe left sided balconies were be preferred. I watched most of the park from the port side jacuzzi – some people thought I was crazy in 38 degree weather but I was extremely comfortable in the hot water (unlike the bundled up and gloved people on deck) and only had to get out of the water briefly to take a few pictures.
Weather: We didn’t have high expectations, being Seattle natives. The temperatures ranged from low 50s on good days to the mid 30s in Alaska. Surprisingly, our tour of Glacier National Park was the best conditions we have ever seen – sure it was 38 degrees, but crystal clear, no wind, not a cloud in the sky. Absolutely spectacular views of the Glaciers. Rain, wind, fog, etc probably all influence how close a ship can get to the Hopkins Glacier, but I certainly have never had a better visit. We were mostly dry until Thursday when it rained all day in Ketchikan. Rain, coupled with the need to take a 15 minute bus ride from Ward Cove to Ketchikan convinced us to forgo a 6th visit to Ketchikan and spend the day on the ship. The crew operated most of the activities including the water slides and Kart riding daily until Thursday (Ketchikan), although the low temperatures and absence of kids made participation light.
I don't see anything I can criticize with a Haven two bedroom large balcony. I think being on the Port side may be marginally better to view Glacier National Park from (if you want to use your balcony for viewing). Given the cold weather, I don't see any advantage in having a large balcony over a small balcony.
Surprisingly, our October 5 visit to the Glacier had absolutely perfect viewing conditions - brilliant sunshine, not a cloud in the sky, no wind. Unbelievable, although it was 38 degrees. I know people have complained giant ships don't get as close to the glaciers as small ships which I assume is dependent on conditions like wind and fog - I felt we were as close as any of my previous Alaska sailing.