My 85-year-old mother-in-law is finally getting to her bucket list and took my husband and me on this cruise. Her money. She is not wealthy. She has never led an extravagent life-style, so this was a huge deal for her. I helped make the ... Read More
My 85-year-old mother-in-law is finally getting to her bucket list and took my husband and me on this cruise. Her money. She is not wealthy. She has never led an extravagent life-style, so this was a huge deal for her. I helped make the reservations and schedule air flights. She was shocked at the cost, but hey, she's 85 years old, and things just aren't as cheap as she'd ever remember! But no sooner did I book the cruise, then the add-on charges came. The gratuity fee - okay, she got that and paid it. The cost to have anything besides water, coffee or tea on board. The additional gratuity that was added because there was a rate increase after we booked. On board, it was the cost to do anything. When embarking, we were taken to the buffet line immediately, only to find out later that there was a charge for eating at it since we hadn't left the dock yet. Entertainment costs everywhere. Bingo - $40 a card. Alcohol was outrageously expensive - we figured that out before we left and actually got their alcohol package, where we could drink as much as we wanted for one cost - only to have another gratuity cost slapped on that meant we had to drink an additional 3 drinks a day to make it worth while. Pressure everywhere to buy from them - photographers constantly taking your picture, saying you don't HAVE to buy (but of course they're only taking your picture so you will buy). To do any activities in their fitness center - all cost. Dining entrees with extra costs attached, even in the "free" restaurants. Casino fees, if you play some games (didn't know that until afterwards and it was billed to me). If you wanted help finding transportation that was not NCL related, the staff didn't keep information on hand. We had to be on a bare-bones budget, and I've never worked so hard in my life just making sure whatever move we made did not cost us. We still managed to somehow get charged $204 onto our card for some things we had no idea why ($56 is what I was expecting).
That's the bad side. There are mediocre sides. The ship looks dated. But it's still very nice. Food was plentiful and interesting, but far from gourmet. Very crowded at times, which was very unnerving for my mother-in-law, especially in the buffet restaurant. My mother-in-law was in a wheelchair, and the deck hallways were very narrow. For some reason, the housekeeping staff kept their cleaning carts in the hallways, making it impossible to pass them in the hall - mom had to get out of the chair, toddle a few steps while I folded the chair, passed it by the cleaning cart, then opened the chair again and wheel her about 80 feet to the next cleaning cart. . . usually 3 or 4 each trek. It also made the deck hallway look very dowdy.
The good sides, and there are plenty: Great staff! A large majority are Philipino, so there are some language barriers, for which I am willing to tolerate, since I saw how damn hard those people worked! We befriended a couple of them - they work 10 months 7days a week, then get two months off. That was hard to see, but have to admit, don't know any Americans who would do this kind of schedule! They WORKED HARD! We were all very impressed. My mother-in-law took a shine to one server in particular, who greeted her with a hug every time we saw her - it made the difference for my mother-in-law! Our cabin steward, with whom there was a huge language barrier, did a fantastic job. Bartenders were good, although not a single consistent drink the entire cruise.
We loved our cabin, even though it wasn't anything fancy. Since we had someone in a wheelchair, we got a handicap-accessible cabin for the three of us. It was to sleep 3. Still don't understand why they had a bunk bed as one of the beds - one of us had to get into it each night, and none of us are spring chickens. Obviously, mom always got a real bed. . . . But it was large and spacious, to accommodate the wheelchair, and always clean as a whistle.
Hint - if you're going to Alaska in June/July, remember you'll have light in the sky most of the night - whether you want a window or not depends on whether you want to see light in the sky all night.
This is the first time we've traveled with my mom-in-law as a handicapped person. We got royal treatment for this, going to the head of most every line, and privileged seating many places. It was nice, I admit, but I can see someone abusing this, like they do in Disneyland. But, most importantly, the staff treated my mom-in-law like she was the most important woman in the room, and she so needed that. It truly was the trip of her lifetime!
Overall - if you don't mind spending money haphazardly, there is plenty to spend money on in this trip. Otherwise, be prepared to shell out at every turn. Ask lots of questions before consenting to anything they give you. You can have a good time, but it may be more work than you think it's worth. We loved Alaska! That view was FREE! Read Less