May 2015 - Norwegian Pearl to Alaska - Inside Passage
We enjoyed our cruise very much. Alaska was beautiful and awe inspiring. The cabin was comfortable, if small, and the shows were pretty good. The staff were professional, helpful and friendly - really great. There were several onboard activities to choose from to keep busy most of the time.
I had two complaints. First, the buffet; the food was mediocre at best, and it was so hard to find a seat that the food was cold by the time you could sit down to eat. Dinners were better because we purchased the upgraded dinner package and most of those restaurants were pretty good, though they were very slow. If you want to spend less than an hour and a half eating dinner then you're stuck with the buffet.
Second; I expected to pay for alcohol, but if I wanted a coke with my meal there was an extra $2.65 charge. All sodas and bottled water were extra and prices were pretty much double what they should have been. On other cruises I've never been charged extra for a soda with my meal.
Your account is charged daily for an 18% gratuity, supposedly for the staff, which would be fine, but there is a line on all the register slips for an "extra tip." That makes me feel like they expect more. For good service I tip 20%. Adding 2% seems cheap and insulting, but I'm not going to start tipping 36% to 40%. That's ridiculous! So I felt guilty most of the time for not leaving extra tips.
Excursions were really good, but basically a license to steal. At some ports you can get the same excursions independently and save a bundle. In Victoria, the price for a tour to Buchart Gardens bought through Norwegian was $89. I took the city bus for $2.50 each way, and admission to the gardens was about $26 (US) which saved me $58. It also gave me the advantage of being on my own timetable. I could stay as long as I wanted. It pays to shop around.