July 2014 - Norwegian Pearl to Alaska - Inside Passage
- Embarkation was smooth as silk. It was almost disorienting how quickly we went from standing outside the pier to starting our vacation aboard the Pearl. Once on board, your trip has started! We spent some time wandering around the ship, trying to get our bearings on where things were located. If your kids have an interest in doing the rock-climbing wall, Seattle is a good place to do it. Windy conditions often shut down any available windows at sea, although my DS did get to climb the wall on the day we were sailing into Victoria. - The food was very good. The few times I had something at the Garden Cafe that I didn't like, I just went back and got something that I DID like. It's also worth mentioning that if you are a fan of Indian food (I am), some of the Indian selections in the buffet were pretty good, especially the huge pan of chicken biryani they had out one night. The Indigo Main Dining room was great for the two dinners we had there. Service there was slow, but we were never in a hurry anyway. It seems like every time I had soup onboard, it was delicious. So soup fans, rejoice. Cagney's was a treat we all did together on my wife's birthday. Great steak, great service. The two lunches we had at Summer Palace were so-so and that space itself is a bit cheesy, but overall I thought the food was good. I definitely gained weight on this cruise! Take the time to take the stairs, everyone! - Plenty of fun things to do for kids while aboard. The kids were never bored, although the Splash Academy proved to be too "kiddie" for our 12yo, who went once and never went back again. Our DS(7) really enjoyed his 6-9 age group though, especially the session in Glacier Bay when the rangers went there. Entourage was so-so for our teen, but she had so much fun doing everything else, there were no complaints. All the kids enjoyed the comedian Bud Anderson and Second City's improv show in Spinnaker Lounge. The wife and I also had a good time at their adults-only shows. The "Best of Broadway" show was highly enjoyable for the entire family, too. We went to Deal or No Deal twice. The kids really liked that one. And hey, we won an 8x10 photo, too. I definitely recommend the Glacier/port talk they do during the Sea Day. You learn a lot about how glaciers are formed and about the towns you will be visiting on the trip. - Speaking of Spinnaker, it is by far my favorite public space on the ship. Spectacular floor-to-ceiling windows and a great space to relax when there is not something loud (e.g., bingo) going on in the room. - Staff was excellent. Always willing to go the extra mile. Is the service in the restaurants a bit slow? Sure. But we were having too much fun to rush through a meal anyway. The longest we ever had to wait for a table was ~10 minutes for Indigo one night. I think we waited for < 5 minutes for Summer Palace for lunch one day, too. - In Juneau, we did the Mendenhall Glacier & Hatchery tour. Our tour guide was very entertaining and informative (seriously, a 24 foot difference from low tide to high tide? WOW). The Glacier is absolutely breathtaking. You definitely need to take the time to walk 20 minutes down the path that leads to Nugget Falls. The views there are amazing. I wish we could have had more time to enjoy it (we were there a total of 75 minutes and 40 of those were the roundtrip walk down to the Falls). The Hatchery was great. With the salmon running, the kids really got to see a LOT of fish. We also saw a bald eagle swoop down and grab one, which was cool. The tour culminated with a salmon bake. DELICIOUS. There's a waterfall there too, which is a couple minutes' walk and is definitely worth it. - Skagway was probably my favorite port of all. We did the Klondike Family Experience. Plenty of stuff on this excursion: 40 Below (brr), gold-panning, sled dogs (and puppies we got to hold!), more food (yum, just wish we realized it was going to be the first thing we did), a brewery tour (and tasting beer and root beer). - The absolute highlight of this cruise is Glacier Bay. Don't feel the need to be rude when trying to get pictures, folks! The ship took 4-5 (maybe more?) sloooooooow rotations in front of Margerie and you WILL get the shot you are wanting. My suggestion (assuming you don't have a balcony): Be Outside on either Deck 12 or 13, NOT behind the glass of Spinnaker. Feel (and HEAR) the sound of the glaciers from deck. The rangers did a great job narrating over the loudspeakers. They are located in Spinnaker and had some cool wares, so take time at some point to swing through there and check out some great books/DVDs/etc. This is the day we took the most pictures (at least 200 on my iPhone alone). - Ketchikan was cold and rainy....but we still enjoyed it a lot. It was really the only rain we saw the whole trip, so no complaints there. Scenic town, so definitely take the time to walk around, especially over to the original red light district, which has a lot of charm. We did the Lumberjack show, which was cheesy but a lot of fun. - Victoria was beautiful. The port time (6pm-Midnight) was too late and too short, which was too bad. The excursion we did here was the Victoria Highlights tour: DO NOT DO THIS TOUR. Despite it purportedly being good for kids, it is essentially two hours trapped on a bus, whizzing by things you wish you could get out and see. We happily got off the tour downtown and enjoyed seeing a bit of Victoria ourselves before making the 30-minute walk back to the ship (yes, there are shuttles, but it was a lovely evening). - You WILL be cold at some point during this cruise. But who cares? A good windbreaker will be your best friend. Also, BRING BINOCULARS. They were great to have everywhere, not just Glacier Bay. These first-time cruisers will be second-time cruisers in the (hopefully not-too-distant) future and it WILL be on NCL.