My husband and I are avid cruisers. We have been on Princess, Carnival, Celebrity and Norwegian. This 10 day Alaska adventure was our 23rd NCL cruise. It was our 4th Alaska cruise on NCL but it was the first time we cruised in ... Read More
My husband and I are avid cruisers. We have been on Princess, Carnival, Celebrity and Norwegian. This 10 day Alaska adventure was our 23rd NCL cruise. It was our 4th Alaska cruise on NCL but it was the first time we cruised in September. Previously we were on the Pearl/May, the Star/August and the Jewel/August.
We traveled to Seattle one day before embarkation. We stayed near the airport at a hotel advertised as 3 stars, but it was small, semi-modern and while it had a restaurant on-site, it was order at the counter and they deliver it to the table. Beer and alcohol was available but I didn't see a bartender. The room was booked through a discounter for $75/day, extremely reasonable for the Seattle area. They had a complimentary airport shuttle and would also shuttle you to nearby restaurants/shopping. But I was shocked to find condoms in the nightstand! When mentioning it upon check out, they too were surprised and offered a small compensation but since it was booked through a discounter, all she could do was offer us more points on their rewards program. Other than the condom issue, the room was clean, the staff friendly, and they had a complimentary shuttle to the airport (and to the light rail stop), we would stay here again. Several in our group returned to Seattle after the cruise and stayed for an additional day or two.
Prior to the cruise, I had contacted a shuttle service for transportation to Pier 66. Pickup was scheduled for 10AM. We had 18 in our group and we had reserved a 20 passenger van, all for a cost of $10/pp. One of the problems was that they sent a bus as there were many more than the 18 passengers in our group. Several weeks before the cruise, I contacted the shuttle company advising them of our final numbers and reminding them one passenger was using a mobility scooter. We were all surprised when the person with the scooter was actually using a large electric wheelchair. The bus driver tried in vain to load it into his bus (which did not have a lift) and eventually called for another bus with a lift. Other than the wheelchair incident, we were all loaded on the bus and enjoyed a scenic route to the pier as there was an accident on the Interstate. We arrived at the pier by 11:15AM.
Embarkation was easy. When we arrived we were surprised to see we had VIP status so we were immediately whisked to the VIP lounge and escorted to the ship. Many other passengers were already on the ship at this time.
A few weeks prior to the cruise, we noticed a large price drop for balconies. We were originally in an ocean view cabin on deck 8 but we upgraded to a B3 family balcony for an additional $300.
We had a Cruise Critic Meet and Greet arranged by another deladypilot. It was very well attended by both passengers and crew. The hotel director, Stephen Jacobsen, spent several minutes telling us of the cruise and what to expect. Afterwards, we had a fun gift exchange MC’d by another cruiser, SantaCruz. My role on the CC rollcall thread, was to keep a Google spreadsheet listing CC user names/real first name/cabin numbers, etc. It was helpful to keep track of numbers participating in the events planned. We also had a slot pull and a celebration dinner. (BTW, as Platinum NCL cruisers, we could have taken a Behind the Scenes tour but it was scheduled the same time as our M&G.)
We were in a B3 family balcony, 9526, it was in a nice location forward and port side. We never felt any motion when others complained (and the white bags were out). Family balcony only means it has a connecting door which can be unlocked if you have the adjacent cabin booked with a friend or family member. I heard a baby crying a few times during the cruise but nothing else.
The cabin itself is small but with ample room to store your clothing in the closet or on shelves and 3 drawers. We use packing cubes for our clothing and just leave the foldables in the bags and stack them on the shelves or place in a drawer. Luggage goes under the bed. A hanging toiletry bag kept small items handy in the bathroom. You must be organized or the cabin would get claustrophobic.
There is a very small table on one side of the bed and a fold out couch on the other. My husband uses a CPAP machine, set it on the couch and used an extension cord to plug it into the 110 outlet. There are 3 outlets in this cabin: 1 on the desk, 1 by the vanity and 1 in the nook by the ice bucket.
To make more room on the desk/table, I moved the coffee maker since we never used it. I put it on the shelf behind the TV and didn't impede our viewing of the TV. If we would've had any motion of the ocean, I would have moved it back to the table. I put it back on the table before we disembarked as the room steward has 19 cabins to maintain and service, quite a feat for anyone, but he was always smiling and willing to go the extra fathom (mile).
Since we had VIP status, we were invited to have breakfast and lunch in Moderno. We ate breakfast there a few times and lunch twice, but we preferred O'Sheehan's for breakfast. The coffee was infinitely better there and they had good choices for breakfast, even getting a fruit plate even though it wasn't on their menu. The first lunch we had in Moderno was good, but the second one wasn't. I tried the swordfish and it was very overcooked.
The Garden Cafe was mobbed most of the time. Breakfast was especially bad. One morning, my husband said he was going to "beat the crowd" and went there by 7AM. He said it was horrible. People were eating like it was their last meal!
We did enjoy a few items in the buffet. They offer a very nice salad bar and my husband enjoyed the stir fry items. And in the evenings, they had a crepe station set up. We had to have them a few (too many) times!
We enjoyed our meals in the dining rooms. Portions are a reasonable size. I had tilapia one night which was very good. Dinner with an Officer was offered and we met the Staff Chief Engineer. We were joined by two other couples and had a lovely evening with conversation and good food and complimentary wine. We were surprised, though, that the group photo taken before dinner was no longer complimentary. Instead it appeared on our folder at the photo station for a cost of $24.99! It was a horrible photo as one lady was looking down at the floor; the photographer should have checked his images before dismissing us.
We didn't purchase the Dining Package or the Alcohol Package but we had a $150 on board credit and we both received dinner for 2 certificates for being Platinum NCL cruisers. We ate in LeBistro twice, Moderno once and LaCucina once. We also had a few drinks for sailaway and made a purchase in the gift shop. In the end, we had a balance of $15 in our OBC account, so a person can eat well and not spend a ton of money.
ChinChin is still one of our favorite restaurants and is now complimentary. Some menu items are gone but our favorites were still available. We never had a problem getting a seat, but we eat early. Rating: 5.
O'Sheehan's was our choice for a quick meal one evening when neither of us wanted to go to the dining room or fight the crowds in the buffet. I had the chicken pot pie and it was terrific! The puff pastry was the perfect topping! I also had to try the caramel chocolate cheesecake. Way too sweet but good! Overall rating for O'Sheehan's: a solid 4.
LeBistro is always a wonderful meal. Whether starting with the mushroom or onion soup or a salad, it's all good. Our normal entree is the beef tenderloin and this time was no different. It was cooked to perfection! And the desserts! The creme brulee is always wonderful, but one evening our waiter brought out an additional dessert: a wonderful chocolate cheesecake. We prefer LeBistro over Cagney's any day. Rating: 5.
LaCucina was OK. I doubt we'll go there again. My husband ordered lasagna and said it was no different than the lasagna they serve in the dining room. I had a lobster pasta dish which had 4 smallish pieces of lobster and a lot of pasta. Rate that meal a 3.
Moderno is the meat eaters dream. We've gone to Moderno on many other ships so we know the routine. Green card for more, red card when you're done. The salad bar was extensive and varied. Lots of good stuff there. We asked our waiter for more of the cheese bread and had to remind him. The wait staff bring skewers of meats/sausage/chicken to your table and serve you directly from the skewer. Some of the meats and chicken were dry and flavorless. The portions of beef tenderloin tiny. I had to specifically ask for the fish and it was so dry I could hardly swallow it and the shrimp was so small it was barely a bite. Pineapple is usually served several times during the meal to clean your pallet, but not this time. It came right before dessert and most of it was from the core of the pineapple. Dessert was the papaya cream. Overall the dinner was a disappointment and it also would be rated as a 3.
Our Cruise Director/Director of Entertainment - Philly Joel - had lined up a variety of acts for this 10 day cruise. The NCL song and dance troupe put on Band on the Run and their Cirque show and two Broadway type shows. All were very good. Be sure you get a balcony seat close to the railing for the Cirque show so you can appreciate the aerial acts. Other acts included a magician, juggler, hypnotist, comedian, and the Las Vegas Tenors (great!). After 10PM though, there is not much going on with the exception of the White Hot Party held near the end of the cruise. The last afternoon of the cruise, the crew had a talent show and CD Joel joining in by singing too. Joel was very visible and eager to make your cruise your best yet.
The ship's officers were constantly out and about. Steven Jacobsen was often seen throughout the day and would always stop for a short conversation. Captain Niklas Persson made appearances several times during the cruise. Someone always stopped by during dinner asking if everything was done to our satisfaction. In fact, after the meal in LaCucina, we spoke to one officer and the next day we received chocolate covered strawberries. (Now chocolate covered strawberries are a treat but between the VIP status and our comments at dinner, we must’ve received 8 plates of them during the cruise. Enough already! ;) )
This ten day cruise had stops in 6 ports, plus we cruised Glacier Bay. We also had two sea days. In each stop, we were told how lucky we were to have such fabulous weather. We only had heavy rain in one port. But it was cold! There was snow on the mountain peaks and if you were out in the wind, you’d better have your ears covered.
Since we had already been to Ketchikan, we only walked around the town and did a bit of shopping. It rained off and on but it wasn’t a heavy rain. Shopping at this time (the last cruise of the season in most ports) meant for crazy deals. Even the ship’s gift shop had all the Alaska items on sale at an unheard of 75% off!
In Juneau, we booked a helicopter tour through Viator with Coastal Helicopters. Wow! I thought I’d be nervous but instead was mesmerized by the scenery! After weigh-in, they outfitted everyone with overshoes with studs so we could walk in the glacier, then loaded everyone in the 6 passenger helicopter according to weight. I always get the middle seat in the back so not the best for photos but it was still wonderful. We landed on Herbert Glacier and were able to do a bit of walking although the pilot said to stay very close. We saw water standing in several places and crevasses you wouldn’t want to fall into. DH was hesitant about the helicopter but afterwards he said it was the highlight of the cruise.
We had also been to Skagway a number of times so we booked a glass blowing glass with Jewel Gardens also through Viator. I was nervous about this one as I didn’t want to ruin my glass masterpiece. We made either a blown glass paperweight or ornament, so we did one of each. Again, a highlight of our cruise.
Cruising Glacier Bay was awesome! We had perfect weather and while cold, there was still plenty to see including wildlife … seals and mountain goats … along with glaciers calving and glaciers as far as you could see. It is something you truly need to experience yourself.
Icy Strait Point is a fishing camp made into a cruise port/stop. They had a nice gift shop (more bargains) and a lovely nature trail which we enjoyed very much. After being on or near glaciers for the past several days, it was refreshing to be in a rain forest. Hoonah, AK is a short bus ride away. Unfortunately, most if not all, of the shops in the tiny town were closed for the season. ISP is a tender port but they are working on a pier which should be ready for the 2016 season.
Sitka was the only port where we really needed rain gear. Some people took the shuttle into town and returned immediately. We decided to walk a little and enjoyed a few hours of window shopping /exploring. It was the Running of the Boots in town and also the cruise industry was cooking free hotdogs and hamburgers for the residents, thanking them for their hospitality during the cruise season. We’d never seen in our cruise history.
Victoria is one of our favorite Canadian cities. Again, we’d been here in the past and since my knee was bothering me, we took the bus to the downtown area and walked up to Chinatown and back down to the Empress Hotel. We stopped for a beer at a sidewalk café and returned to the ship fairly early as she was in port until 11:59 PM. Again, the weather was perfect.
We arrived in Vancouver right on time and had one last breakfast in O’Sheehan’s with two of our Cruzin Cuzins. Disembarkation was a breeze. It’s always nice that NCL has officers and crew on deck to say one last good bye. Once we were off the ship, we were directed to our luggage and then to the shuttle bus to the airport. We had not prearranged for this but it was easy. With the Canadian conversion, the price was about $12pp. Customs in YVR is mostly automated and it went very smoothly. We were at our gate a couple of hours early. I was shocked my StraightTalk phone was able to connect to wifi and I could retrieve emails. (I had great cell phone coverage in all the ports, even in Glacier Bay using my ST phone.)
To summarize, this was a fantastic cruise. We met so many people, had a great crew, and of course, we were with our Cuzins, too. We had the perfect weather for Alaska in September. We bought several cruise rewards so you know we’re going on at least 4 more NCL cruises. :) Read Less