We arrived in Seattle the night before so we could get an early start on the whole process of getting on the ship. We arrived at the dock around 11 a.m. and were quickly sent upstairs to begin the registration process. We ... Read More
We arrived in Seattle the night before so we could get an early start on the whole process of getting on the ship. We arrived at the dock around 11 a.m. and were quickly sent upstairs to begin the registration process. We walked right up and were promptly greeted and given a boarding group card and sent to the registration desk in which we submitted our identification documents and credit card for the ship expenses. After quickly completing the registration process (Make sure you pre-register) we sat a few minutes until the 11:30 a.m. boarding time. Promptly at 11:30 a.m. they began to board. From this point we were on the ship by 11:45 and in our room by noon.
Day 2: At Sea:
Sat by the kid's pool most of the day and actually got sunburned and overheated sitting out by the pool.
Day 3: Ketchikan
We were off the ship first thing in the morning and walked the hundred yards or so to the Great American Lumberjack show. This was a really fun show and the kids loved it! From here we went over to the Wilderness center and enjoyed finding out more about the history of Alaska. Since we had some time to kill we walked up to the fish ladders (no fish here) and then up to the Eagle rehab and Salmon hatchery. When we got up to this very small center we found they charged too much and walked back to the ship.
Day 4: Juneau
Capitol of Alaska with about 30,000 people. It is a pretty small town. Once we got off the shuttle bus into town we got on the Mendenhall bus. It is only $5 each way and takes you directly to the nature center at the glacier. We spent about 2 hours here then headed back to the bus
We departed Juneau at 2 p.m. and sailed to Sawyer Glacier. I would recommend finding a good seat on the Starboard side (right) around 3-4 p.m. and just sit tight and enjoy the scenery, we sat in Raffles. As the captain sails up the Tracy Arm you will notice the ice in the water gets more and more prevalent to the point you have to wonder how much further you can go. We only got about 1-2 miles to the glacier since the ice was too heavy to get much closer, but getting there was half the fun. We arrived and departed the glacier around 6-7 p.m. One note, the captain retracts the ship stabilizers so the ship, while only going about 7 knots has a very pronounced lean each time the ship turns. They did warn the passengers of this fact.
Day 5: Skagway
There were 4 ships in port today, so this small town of a few thousand had increased in size by nearly 10,000 people and we knew the highlight of this port, White Pass train was going to be crowded. We opted for the 8 a.m. tour with M&M tours. I talked to Mark Jennings at M&M (Skagwayadventures.com) and they have Frasier bus combination tour which gets you to the pass and 7 miles further into Canada. Keep in mind you will need your passport as you are leaving and re-entering the USA. The price we got was less than the ship had and it was about 20% longer, you do take the bus back to Skagway so the trip is abut 2.5 hours long. I don't think I would want to do the nearly 2 hour trip on the train roundtrip as you just saw everything for 2 hours and the bus is only about 30 minutes to get back. The scenery and history is really incredible and this is a must do excursion here. I would recommend you sit on the left side of the train for this tour.
Skagway looks like most other small ports filled predominantly with Jewelry stores and the same junky gift stores all the other Alaska and Caribbean ports seem to have. We did find "Alaska Shirt Company" to be the one stop gift and souvenir store and was very well organized and had some great cheap items.
Make sure you are back in time to watch the "Steve Hites" show. He is a local and worked on the railroad and wrote dozens of songs about the gold rush and the Klondike. His songs and stories are not to be missed. The ship does not leave Skagway until he is finished with his performance.
Day 6: Prince Rupert
Prince Rupert is just a small town with some incredible scenery. Not much in town. We chartered a local fishing boat and went out salmon fishing for the day. The seas were high (4-6 feet), it was raining and windy. To make matters worse, we did not catch any fish, but we did feed them from the ship, unintentionally I might add.
Day 7: At Sea
The Ship: This was only our third cruise and the first with 2 of our children (7 and 9). We wanted a Alaska cruise due to its close proximity to California, negating a long travel time. After some extensive research we choose the NCL Spirit since it was supposedly the closest thing to a Disney cruise, but in Alaska. Once onboard we found the kids area to be significant and the staff to be excited to have our kids. The kid's pool was fantastic with a pirate theme and 2 slides. The pool was constantly heated to 85 degrees and the spa right next to it was kept a comfortable 100 degrees. The same temps applied to the main Tivoli pool and spa as well.
We found the ship to be what we expected. Although the ship was made for an Asian audience, I expected the retrofit to "Americanize" the ship more. This was not the case as I found the Asian influences to carry "strongly" throughout the ship. Getting around was kind of confusing at first as you cannot get to the 7th floor restaurants without going up to the 8th floor over and back down to the 7th floor.
Make sure you go to the Galaxy lounge and down the spiral staircase where you can stand behind the Bridge and view the crew piloting the Ship. We had heard complaints of the beds being too hard. Being a well seasoned traveler, I found the beds to be average, not too hard and not too soft. Unless I slept on different beds than the ones stating they were too hard, I really don't see what the fuss was about.
The spa: Not being a big spa guy, my wife signed us both up for a pedicure. Since I am no critic here, I cannot provide much input, but my wife pointed out the lady doing the service was not to the level she should have been for this service.
Windows: The food here was OK, about what I had expected. The service was spotty as the freestyle cruising allowed us different dining times and locations. Sometimes service was exemplary as expected, other times we would get a server with a real attitude. On two separate occasions we found glassware with significant chips in the glass, yet they remained in service.
Garden room: The menu here is the same as Windows, only in a smaller, more intimate setting. I was nice to sit by the side window enjoying our dinner and watching the scenery go by.
Le Bistro: Food here was just OK, the overwhelming Asian influence on this cruise carries through even to the French restaurant. It looks as if this restaurant was originally an Asian restaurant and they just changed the menus, and little else.
Blue Lagoon: This restaurant, if you can even call it that, is just a small (20 seats or so) quick meal place. Again the strong Asian influence is apparent as you can get fried rice with your hamburger. It is primarily a hot dog and hamburger cafe with some Asian (Wok) dishes added to the menu.
Trattoria: When we first got on the ship and took a self guided tour, we could not find this place. Only at night did we realize the Trattoria is just a section of the buffet they serve you the Italian food. The food here is pretty much the same as the buffet except they serve you. Service was poor as compared to the other dining options.
Maxim: At Maxims they claim to have USDA approved Premium Gold beef. Well, USDA has no such certification and when I pressed the waiter he confessed that the beef was not Prime (Prime, Choice and Select are the 3 USDA approvals), but was of Choice grading. I figured they would have advertised the meat was Prime grade if it in fact was Prime, so I did not expect it. I did find their attempt to "rename" their beef a bit misleading. My wife ordered the full lobster and I ordered the Porterhouse steak. My wife claimed the spinach salad and the crab cakes to be excellent and she thoroughly enjoyed the lobster. I found the steak to be just as ordered and was well seasoned and flavored. I also had a very typical tasting Caesar salad. I do not understand why in all the restaurants on the ship that offer this salad have the small cheesy croutons instead of the proper croutons for the salads.
Raffles: What can I say, it is a buffet... A VERY poorly organized buffet. Everyone must file through the whole line single file, guided by railings, so if you forgot to get a pat of butter, get back in line and wait it out, again. This was very frustrating, especially with small children. I swear, each time I got in line I was behind a 95 year old that was trying to determine whether each food item could be digested safely. While they did have multiple drink stations, we found ourselves frequently looking for one that has not run out, this got really annoying. While the food selection was somewhat varied, it still had a very heavy Asian influence on the food choices and options. The waffle/Ice cream bar made things a bit easier here for the kids.
barbecues - One nice thing that we all enjoyed was the afternoon barbecues next to the Tivoli pool and on the back of the ship by Raffles. They usually had hamburgers, hot dogs, grilled chicken and pork ribs and sometimes grilled Salmon. This was nice as it was served outside and was freshly prepared, with short lines.
Murder Mystery Dinner: What you ask is this? Well on Sunday night they had signups for a Murder Mystery Dinner which sounded like fun. They said they would only take 96 people and you must signup by 7 p.m.. I arrived at 6:55 p.m. to find a line of about 150 people in front of me. They did take everyone in line for the dinner reservations for the Monday night event. We met at 8:30 p.m. on Monday night in the main theater to go over the rules. We then all proceeded to Windows in groups of 8 to have dinner and accuse each other of murder. We then met back in the main theater to announce who the murder was. This event took very little NCL effort, yet provided a unique experience. We all had fun and I would recommend this to anyone. (You must be 18 or over.)
Activities: I have to hand it to NCL, there really is too much to do. They have really tried to provide something for everyone. From Spanish lessons to craft projects, if you could not find something to do on this ship you have no one to blame but yourself.
Entertainment: We watched a couple of the production shows and found them to be just average. The theater which seats about 1000 was not very well laid out as it is just like a movie theater with some seating on the balcony
The headline comedian, Adam Ace was pretty funny and he can be summed up with one word, "Spaz." His humor was a mix of Galigher and Carrot Top and was pretty clean albeit a few suggestive jokes.
The Lounge singers, Harmony and Rhythm did an awesome job doing their part filling in around the ship.
Don't miss Steve Hites while in Skagway.
Casino: I consider myself an "active" gambler. I spent only enough time playing Blackjack to cover all our dinner expenses. I found the staff to be friendly and helpful. The casino was much larger than I expected and was always bustling with action.
Kid's Crew: This was the main reason we went with this ship. Beth (Bubblegum Beth) and Lindsey were awesome. At first my two children 7 and 9 were upset because one of the kid's crew staff accused them of cheating at a kids game. This REALLY upset them as they denied this and initially refused to go back, and this was only the first day!!! We spoke with Beth and she assured us she would talk to the new girl on staff and personally assured us the kids would have a great time. From this point forward the kids did have a great time. I found the kids facilities, staff and activities FAR better than those we have seen on Carnival or RC. On the link below which contains the daily's it also have the 6-9 kids week schedule.
Smoothie coupons: This was a huge deal. For $34.99 you get a coupon book for 20 smoothies for the teens. Now, we go this at the kids club for our 7 and 9 year old and they had no problem selling them to us. We were able to redeem them throughout the trip with no problems. This comes out to $1.75 each as opposed to the $5.50 each at the bar. I could redeem them at any bar 4 at a time, even without my kids.
Disembarkation: We arrived in Seattle around 7 a.m. and began disembarking around 7:45 a.m. We stayed in our cabin until they called our blue tags. We were called around 8:30 a.m. We made it out of our room around 8:45 a.m., we were off the ship, through customs by 9:00 a.m. and in our hotel (Westin) by 9:15 a.m. This was just incredible!! Kudos to NCL!!!
Here is the Freestyle Dailies from the 6/18/05 cruise. I am still missing the day 6 in Prince Rupert. As soon as I find it, I will add it to the post.
http://members.bigvalley.net/jlawson/nclspirit.zip Read Less