7 Night Alaska Glacier Bay (Seattle Roundtrip) Sail Date: August 06, 2017 Ship: Norwegian Pearl Cabin Type: Oceanview Cabin Number:5030 Traveled As: Couple Reviewed: 3 months ago
Until recently, I always said, "I have no desire to ever go on a cruise." Well, I'm eating my words now! We loved our first cruise so much that we are DEFINITELY going on more cruises with Norwegian!!! We put down 3 deposits while on the ship with the CruiseNext program. (Which got us $375 in on-board credits!) We are moving to Europe soon, so we want to get family together for perhaps a Mediterranean cruise. Cruising is such a fun, unique way to vacation. Everything is generally planned ahead of time and you oftentimes get to see places in the world that aren't accessible by car. Everyone should give cruising a try at least once in their life. You may just fall in love with it!! :)
5 out of 5
It was quite easy!! We hired a town car from our hotel (SeaTac Fairfield Inn) and a curbside person from Norwegian took our bags right away and put them on a cart. Our cruise consultant had printed and folded our luggage tags for us so that made it quick. We were scheduled to board between 1:30 and 2:00 but it was around 1pm and it wasn't any problem to get in line for check-in. The security line was fairly short and we were at the check-in counter in no time! No waiting there, we walked right up. We got our Freestyle Cards and went on our way to board the ship! No wait time there either. It was wonderful!! :) Our stateroom was ready by that time, so we went there and dropped off our carry-on bags before exploring the ship. The "muster drill" went smoothly and wasn't too much of a hassle. I think we got our checked bags delivered between 5-6 pm.
Food and Dining
5 out of 5
Overall the food was great!! I have to be gluten-free and I was really happy with the choices. I was also really impressed with how well-trained the servers were in gluten-free needs! In the Indigo dining room, I ordered a dish that wasn't labeled as being GF, so I asked for the sauce to be left off. To my delight, they brought a GF sauce on the side and replaced the french fries with a baked potato, without me even asking!! That is 5-star service right there. Kudos to the chef! I wouldn't say the Garden Cafe/Great Outdoors buffets were "overwhelming" but I had to choose food very carefully and sometimes ask questions about what was GF. A suggestion I have is to label the dishes that are gluten-free, and maybe also vegetarian/vegan/dairy-free for people with those requirements. It would take extra work by NCL staff, but I know MANY guests would be pleased! I also would like to suggest that there be dairy-free milk options, like almond and/or coconut milk, at the coffee stations and for the cereal. We ate at 4 specialty restaurants: Lotus Garden (no extra charge), Teppanyaki, Le Bistro, and Moderno (in our dining package). Moderno was our favorite! We thought the bacon-wrapped chicken, pork ribs, and roasted pineapple were the best! (I'm going to try making the roasted pineapple at home!) If I had to choose "least-favorite" restaurants, it would be O'Sheehan's and Topsiders Grill. I loved the Irish American Stew (also GF!) at O'Sheehan's but my husband wasn't a fan of the restaurant overall. The Topsiders Grill wasn't bad, just nothing special about it.
5 out of 5
I went to the Q&A session on Monday about "how to run a floating hotel," and that was interesting. We played the BOGO bingo on Friday, and did one general trivia game. Our most frequented activity was going to the thermal suite in the Mandara Spa! I bought passes for the week as my husband's birthday present, and it was SO NICE! The whirlpool and therapeutic pool were the perfect temperature and I didn't get overheated. I loved the heated chairs as well. (They put me to sleep!) The spa/thermal suite was very clean, with clean towels and robes, and lockers in the changing rooms. It was also nice having ice water, tea, and fresh oranges available. We took advantage of the Spa-Topia deal on Thursday, which was still a bit pricey but it was worth it especially since my husband had been deployed the past 6 months. (Hot stone or bamboo massage, facial, foot/ankle/scalp massage) Another activity we loved was on Glacier Bay day (Thursday) when the Park Rangers came aboard! I appreciated the announcements over the PA system on where we were, and we were delighted to be able to stamp our National Parks passport and buy some National Park souvenirs. We also attended the talk by a Park Ranger in the Stardust Theater. We used the fitness center quite a bit (my husband more than me). It was never very busy, and all the equipment worked and was well-kept.
5 out of 5
We didn't take advantage of entertainment very much but what we did see was great. We did attend the opening night show, which was basically a variety show. It ended with the comedian Tim Kaminski, whom we LOVED! So we attended his family comedy show the next evening and he was AWESOME!! We were laughing pretty much the entire show. I caught the end of his Q&A later in the week, and afterward told him how much my husband and I loved his show. He asked where my husband was and I said he was napping. Well, lo and behold Tim takes me over to a phone, asks what our room number is, and dials my husband to ask why he wasn't there for the Q&A if he thinks he's so funny!! It was the most HILARIOUS exchange!! So, my husband got a personal call from a comedian. :)
We don't have children yet.
Service and Staff
5 out of 5
In a word, OUTSTANDING!!! 5-star service all around! There was only one server (in the Indigo dining room) that was less than stellar. He seemed a little quiet. But overall, Norwegian has excellent service and the staff made our trip very enjoyable. Gio, our Cruise Director, was a fun guy and entertaining.
5 out of 5
The Norwegian Pearl is a beautiful ship, inside and out!! (I noticed the exterior was prettier than other cruise ships we came upon.) Now, this was our first cruise so we have nothing to compare it to, but we were impressed. I think we both have pretty high standards for organization and cleanliness, and we have no complaints in that department. I'm in nursing school so I'm very big on hand washing, so I was extremely pleased with the many hand sanitizing stations around the ship, and sometimes the staff with spray bottles. (Washy washy, happy happy!) We've all heard the horror stories of norovirus on cruise ships, but the likelihood of that happening on a NCL ship is very low, from my estimation. My one critique is that it would be nice to have hand sanitizing stations in the eating areas, because after touching a menu or the buffet serving utensils, it's a good idea to clean your hands again. So I just always carried a little bottle of sanitizer with me. Of course, it was difficult at first navigating the ship, but by the end of the week I had it down pretty well. The touch screens by the elevators were helpful in finding your way or looking at restaurant availability. Sometimes the ship felt crowded but not the majority of the time. It just depended on where you were and when. We were near the bow elevators so it was easy to take them up to deck 12 to the fitness center and spa, which we frequented.
Cabin / Stateroom
5 out of 5
We loved our cabin! I knew I wanted a picture window room since I can get kinda claustrophobic, and I had no issues at all in that room. The stateroom had a lot more space than I'd imagined! I thought it would feel cramped but it didn't. In my pre-cruise research, I heard/read to bring extra electrical outlets, but we didn't need to use that at all! There was a USB plug on either side of the bed for charging phones, 1 outlet at the desk, 2 outlets and 1 USB plug under the TV, and 1 outlet under the mini-fridge area, and that was plenty for us! (And I have a lot of electronics.) I also heard that it's a good idea to bring a shoe rack for the back of the bathroom door to store items in, but that was unnecessary. We had plenty of drawer and shelf space! I brought a hanging toiletry bag so I didn't need too many things cluttering the bathroom. I was even impressed with the size of the shower! The bed and pillows were very comfy, even more-so than some hotel beds. I brought beach towel clips which I used to clip together the curtains, since it gets light very early in Alaska summers (before 5am sometimes!). Our room was kept clean and neat by our stateroom attendant Ryan P., and he was always so friendly when we passed him in the hallway. We were never wanting in clean towels, and I loved how our bed was turned down in the evenings and we got towel animals!! I was so delighted with that (I'm a kid at heart). The Freestyle Daily newspaper is really nice too, and I'd look it over every evening and highlight the things I wanted to do the next day.
I would say to bring a highlighter and read your Freestyle Daily every evening! There is SO much to do and it can be overwhelming if you're the type of person that likes to get out there and do stuff. But also make sure you leave time for just doing nothing. My two favorite spots were: 1) the Great Outdoors cafe on the aft of the ship. I'd sit out there for breakfast (usually getting food from the Garden Cafe) and then read afterwards while drinking coffee. It was so lovely! And 2) the Mandara Spa thermal suite. Now, the thermal suite is an extra cost but we got our money's worth! There was never many people there so you felt like you were in an exclusive place, and it's at the bow of the ship so we were able to watch as we pulled into port from there.
Seattle was fine and like any other big American city. We arrived in Seattle (via airlines) several days before the cruise (August 3) so we had a few days to explore the city. It was Fleet Week with the Navy, so we got a free tour of the USS Michael Murphy in the harbor. We ate at Anthony's Pier 66 restaurant outdoors, and the rockfish was excellent! We also rented a car and the next day (my husband's birthday) we drove out to Mt. Ranier. A bit of a trek but worth it and we recommend it!! Very beautiful. We ate at AQUA by El Gaucho for his birthday dinner, and the halibut was exquisite. Definitely make a reservation there if you want to eat dinner there. On Saturday, we took the ferry over to Bainbridge Island, which is a cute little place with neat shops. We ate at the Thai restaurant there. After we got back from the cruise, we went up the Sky View observatory, which is higher (and cheaper) than going in the Space Needle. Great views!
At our first stop, Juneau, we did the Sled Dog Discovery and Musher's Camp excursion (through Norwegian), which took us out to a remote location via shuttle and we got to meet the sled dogs, learn about the Iditarod, cuddle with 15 day old puppies, and go on a "sled" ride pulled by about 15 of the dogs. The sled ride (they pulled a wheeled vehicle) was the best part! I felt it was overpriced for what we got to experience, and I wish we'd had more time with the puppies (it was less than 5 minutes). But, my husband absolutely LOVED it, so because of that (and it being a once-in-a-lifetime thing) it was worth it. After the excursion we still had time to kill, so we stopped in at the Red Dog Saloon and signed our names on the wall. (Bring a black sharpie!) Then we took a taxi out to Mendenhall Glacier National Park/Tongass National Forest. It cost $35 there and $20 back (we shared with other people going back). We took a hike there and got right up close to a waterfall, and we had a great shot of the glacier. I actually enjoyed that more than the dog sledding!
I think our favorite port in Alaska was Skagway because of the White Pass and Yukon Route railway excursion! If you go to Skagway you MUST do this! It was about 3 1/2 hours and the views were spectacular! Totally worth it. We booked it through Norwegian but it would be easy to book it outside the ship (I bet it would be cheaper). We also went on a hike before the ride and we happened upon a stream where the salmon were running!
In Ketchikan we had scheduled a seaplane tour of the Misty Fjords but not through Norwegian (because it was cheaper through ShoreFox/Pirate Airworks). Unfortunately, it got canceled because of the heavy fog that morning. We were only there from 6am-1pm, and had we stayed till the afternoon we might've been able to fly out then when the fog lifted. So that was a huge bummer!! But instead we were able to snag a cheap tour of the city through Ketchitour. We paid $30/person and it was basically a private tour because we were the only ones on the shuttle!! (It's supposed to be a trolley tour but they took us on a smaller shuttle.) Our tour guide was excellent (I forget his name - but he's American Indian and grew up in Ketchikan), and he took us to a river where the salmon are....and we got to see TWO black bears!!! One of them even caught some salmon and was eating it. THAT in itself was worth the tour. :) It was perfect timing. He also told us where to shop for authentic, locally made items. I forget which shop it was, but I found a cute ornament made out of bark with a black bear painted on it, by a local artist.
We didn't do an excursion in Victoria but I think it was my favorite city. I wish we would've had more time, like during the day and not just in the evening. We ate at Moderno at 6pm so that cut into our shore time, but we needed to get that last specialty restaurant in! (Tip: schedule your specialty restaurants at the beginning of the cruise so you're not scrambling, even if the line for the desk is long!) We took a tour bus into the city, which only cost $10 USD/person roundtrip. We saw the Empress Hotel, Parliament, and went into a few shops. What a nice city!
4 out of 5
We chose to carry off our own luggage for disembarkation, otherwise you have to set your luggage outside your door by midnight. Disembarkation was supposed to happen starting at 8am, but it was delayed because of a "security issue." We grabbed breakfast from the Great Outdoors buffet after leaving our stateroom. (They want you out of your room by 9am.) The line to leave the ship was very long and slow, but we weren't in any hurry to get off! It was definitely a slower process than embarkation. But a fun thing was that some of the staff were there sending us off, including one of the "washy washy, happy happy" singers! He reminded us to "washy washy at home!" Loved that. :) It was a bit chaotic waiting for our town car to pick us up, but it eventually arrived.
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