Location: Las Cruces, New Mexico
Occupation: Vice President Investments
Itinerary: 7 Day Alaska Cruise
Ship: NCL Pearl
Date: May 20-27th, 2007
NCL Pearl Cruise to Alaska, May 20th, 2007 Sunday to Sunday
This NCL itinerary was a 7 day voyage of the Inside Passage with ports of call in Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay Cruising, Ketchikan and Victoria B.C. The cruise originated out of Seattle, Washington, and returned to the port terminal in Seattle.
Transportation to the Port from Sea-TacAirport:
There are several ways to get to the pier. NCL has a bus transport system priced at $30.00 per person for the round trip. Taxis are available from Sea-Tac Airport with an average price of $30.00 for the one way trip. Seattle Taxis have a flat rate return from the pier to Sea-Tac for $28.00 plus a current fuel surcharge of $1.50. A taxi will hold 3 people comfortably. Since we stayed overnight in Seattle, before sailing on Sunday we rented a mini van at the Airport via Thrifty Rent a Car between two couples and the cost was $40.00 per couple. The van came in handy for trips to a local restaurant and a stop at the local Safeway to secure some beverages for the cruise. Transportation from the airport to pier and return is plentiful and should not impose any problems for the traveler.
As NCL Platinum Latitudes members, check-in was a breeze and took about 5-7 minutes. Our other traveling couple who was a first time cruiser took about 10-12 minutes to complete. We arrived at the dock early and were cleared for boarding and on the ship by 12:00 PM. Check-in should pose no problem for travelers as NCL has this very well organized.
Saturday May 19th, 2007: We decided to fly into the Seattle area Saturday for a relaxing evening. Stayed at the Holiday Inn Express near Sea-Tac and dined at a local restaurant called ‘Roasters’ which was very good. Had a great night’s sleep and a leisurely drive to pier on Sunday morning. We arrived at the pier at 11:30 and were on board the Pearl by 12:00 PM.
Sunday: Port of Seattle…..After checking in and boarding the ship, many passengers head for a lunch in the Garden Café ( a large buffet with several food stations were cooks prepare the hot food entrées fresh for each passenger) or Outdoor Café (back on Deck 12). Getting organized in the stateroom after lunch, unpacking, storing clothes and getting to know the ship is the goal for the afternoon. The Muster drill takes place at 3:30PM and the sail away is scheduled for 4:00 PM on the cruise. With weather permitting, passenger gather on the deck for a dramatic view of the Seattle skyline, and the cruising out of Puget Sound. With a party atmosphere and the passengers already enjoying themselves, many try deciding what restaurant they will head off to for the evening dinner. Restaurants open at 5:30 PM, and our choice this night was the Lotus Garden for some Asian Fusion style dining. The Lotus Garden is considered a “specialty restaurant” and the cover charge is $10.00 each. This night our friends who traveled with us joined us, we used our NCL dining coupon for the first night out for a 2 for 1 dinner. The food and service was excellent and we enjoyed watching the table next to us, enjoy their Shaba-Shaba dining experience was the Mongolian hot-pot for cooking their own foods.
After dining, we walked around the ship and settled in for the first welcome aboard show in the massive and beautiful Stardust Theatre for the 9:30 PM show. The show was short (one hour) but fun. After the show most passengers headed for the staterooms or bars for a nightcap and a night of rest.
We suggest to book dinner reservations early, for prime dining times. Otherwise you should have no problems in restaurant seating. Dial 050 for reservations from your stateroom. Be sure to watch the electronic Restaurant Seating Guides that are posted on Deck 6 & 7 to see availability for dining in all restaurants.
Day 1- Monday: Cruising the Pacific Ocean past VancouverIsland…This is a day of cruising the Pacific Ocean on the west side of Vancouver Island. The scenery is awesome and there were plenty of snow covered mountains. The weather was cool with average temps of 55 with some sunshine and smooth waters. After a breakfast in the Garden Café, we went to meet our Concierge Alexander Forbes. Alex was dressed very professional and was very kind with an outstanding personality. He made arrangements for our VIP cruise, starting with an open invitation to Cagney’s Steakhouse for the VIP breakfasts and lunches. All VIP guests can dine in this fine restaurant at no additional costs with VIP status. The hostess checks in each couple on the VIP List and escorts them to a table for a fabulous dining experience. We relaxed and enjoyed the day. About 1:30 PM Alex Forbes the concierge contacted our stateroom with a private call inviting Mary and me to a private dinner with the Captain of the NCL Pearl Sverre Svodsnes. He also kindly extended the invitation to our traveling companions who were on their first cruise. We were instructed to meet in the Spinnaker Lounge for drinks with the other VIP guests and the executive staff then was personally escorted to Le Bistro for dinner. Alex had arranged a ship photographer to take photos of our group with the Captain. We had a table for eight with Mary, myself, our two traveling guests John & Meredith, a travel writer from About.com Angela, a lead dancer from the Jean Ann Ryan Company, Keeva and of course the Captain. We sat at his designated table and had the best of service with our choice of red, or white wines, and excellent food. We found the conversation with the Captain to be very enjoyable. Captain Svodsnes is a well spoken and very intelligent man, we discussed social topics, geopolitics, NCL financials as this was my occupation as a Vice President of Investments with a major Wall Street firm, and he really enjoyed discussing American politics. We all blended together very well and after 2 hours with the Captain we all retreated for the evening. It was truly a special dinner with a special and very fine man, Captain Sverre Svodsnes.
Day 2- Tuesday: Port of call Juneau Alaska …..This day you are cruising to the state capital of Juneau, Alaska. Arrival is about 2:00 PM, and you are docked at a pier. No tenders. Disembarking the ship is a breeze and plenty of buses and vans are waiting at the pier to pick up passenger for scheduled shore excursions or transporting passengers into town. The drop off point is about one mile from the ship at the Mt. Roberts Tramway, and then you can walk the town for a shopping experience. This day we arranged our own excursion for whale watching with Orca Enterprises and Captain Larry of whale watching fame. The group was escorted via a van to the point of launching for the whale watching. It was about a 15 minute ride and we had some great views of the huge Mendenall Glacier. Off to the dock for about three hours on the whale watching boat. I learned quickly that whale watching requires lot of patience. You see the whale blow, then usually surfaces a few times and curl down, tale flips up, then for another 7-8 minutes under water for feeding. We saw several whales and calves next to mothers and it was a grand experience. We returned back to the ship about 7:00 PM. We dined in La Cucina, the Italian restaurant with our guests. La Cucina is very Italian decor, and colorful with a 5 course dinner with an excellent choice for food and service. We all ordered individual brick fired oven pizzas. We also had a complimentary bottle of wine. We then planned for the late show in Stardust at 9:30 PM. There are two shows daily at 7:30 PM and 9:30 PM. After the show off to bed and the ship leaves for Skagway our second port of call.
Day 3-Wednesday: port of call Skagway, Alaska……We sailed to Skagway overnight after high winds and some rough seas of 10-12 foot waves. We arrived in Skagway at 8:00 AM. We ate breakfast in Cagney’s and then got ready to leave the ship for some early shopping and then our scheduled train ride on the White Summit Pass Railway at 12:30 PM. The town of Skagway is a historic town with wooden sidewalks styled from the 1890’s. The town main street is about 1 mile long with lots of shops. There were many jewelry stores, and as the Captain stated there is more gold in Skagway now then back in the gold rush days. We highly suggest stopping in those stores owned by Alaskans that offer Alaskan products. Skagway is a city of only 500 people, during the cruise season from May to September over 800,000 passengers stop on cruise ships to the city. We talked to allot of shop owners and were told after the ships leave in September the stores are emptied of their goods and the town becomes isolated with the 500 residents. Skagway has one small grocery store and the Alaskan Shirt Company right off the ship is great place to buy sodas and some snacks for returning to the ship. We boarded the White Pass RR Train at 12:30 PM, but with the NCL Pearl having so many passengers for departure on the train, we were delayed one hour. 16 passenger cars were connected with three diesel locomotives. The train trip was absolutely spectacular with so many snow covered mountains and scenic vistas. The train trip is a photographer’s paradise. The trip 20 miles up and 20 miles back goes slow, and travels up mountain sides, over step drop offs and thru several tunnels.
Once you arrive at the USA/Canada border the engines are reversed for the trip back down the mountain sides. Travelers sit on one side going up, then at the top seats are reversed and the passengers move to the other side of the train car so everyone gets a scenic view. Rail guides speak over the intercom and provide a narration of the trip. Bathrooms are available in each rail car. This is an excursion that you don’t want to miss. We highly recommend the White Summit Railroad. We arrived back at the ship at 7:00PM and got ready for a relaxing dinner in Mamba’s for some Tex-Mex food. When we entered our stateroom, we had a very special invitation from Captain Svodsnes, to join himself and his crew on the Bridge while approaching the Glaciers in Glacier Bay. We were to be on the Bridge at 9:30 AM. This was a very special invitation for 10 passengers. We were very excited about this. Then off to Mambo’s. We had appetizers then we choose the II Popo, selection for two people. It is large skewer with grilled chicken, beef, mushrooms, peppers and lamb. It was very good, and the presentation was very enjoyable. Mamba’s is a no cost restaurant. We highly recommend Mambo’s if you have a desire from some spicy Tex-Mex style foods. This night the main show was Sea Legs by the professional dancers, singers of the Jean Ann Ryan Company. I enjoyed the show, while Mary hit the casino for some slot action. The show was a repeat from our NCL Pearl 9-day Southern Caribbean cruise, but I enjoyed the show anyway.
Day 4- Thursday: Cruising Glacier Bay…..We were up early to get the spectacular views cruising Glacier Bay. We had a pilot and park Ranger board at 6:00 AM for the trip up into Glacier Bay. We had breakfast in Cagney’s once again, and back to the stateroom for the Nikon. We met Alex Forbes our Concierge and the other 8 guests that were invited into the Bridge with Captain Svodsnes and his crew. Up to deck 11, and thru several secure doors, past the cruise director’s stateroom, the hotel director and Captains. Then thru several other highly secure doors into the Bridge. It was awesome. The crew was very serious and the Captain and pilot was busy discussing and navigating the ice flows. We were free to walk about the Bridge, and the views were spectacular over the bow and the sides of ship. The only way to describe the Bridge was ultra high tech. It was like being on the starship Enterprise from a Star Trek movie. All of my photos in the photoshow of Margerie Glacier were taken from the Bridge. We spent 1 ½ hours on the Bridge, navigating close to Margerie Glacier and back out towards John Hopkins Inlet. We felt very special to have the opportunity to be special guests of the Captain as it gave us a great idea of what goes on in the Bridge room and the high tech data and controls for the ships operations. It was simply awesome. The entire day was spent cruising Glacier Bay and the water was like smooth glass. As he headed back down the inlet towards John Hopkins Inlet the Sapphire Princess was slowly making its way towards Margerie Glacier as it had just been in John Hopkins Inlet. The Captain of the Sapphire Princess alerted our Captain of the Pearl that massive ice flows were in the inlet and navigation to John Hopkins Glacier was prohibited. So we went up John Hopkins to the heavy ice flows, and had a dramatic view of Lar plugh Glacier. The ship slowly cruised up to the Glacier and made its 1 ½ knot turn back out into Glacier Bay. For the rest of the day, we cruised back down Glacier Bay heading for Ketchikan our next port of call. As we sailed south out to Glacier Bay dense fog began to cloud the ship, and with no breeze and cold air it was a very weary feeling. As night approached we passed several fishing vessels and late at night we could easily hear the Pearls fog horn blowing. Thursday night we joined in for the Murder Mystery that takes place on Wednesday and Thursday. We all meet in Bliss Lounge where we were handed booklets for the plot, introduced to other passengers and divided into groups of eight each. There were 17 groups split between Summers Palace and Indigo main dining rooms. Once we got to our tables the mystery began and took about 2 hours. Each passenger was assigned the name of a character and each passenger played the role thru out the mystery. If you have the chance to sign up for the murder mystery dinner, I highly suggest doing it. This was our first time dinner in Summers Palace one of the main dining rooms which is beautiful and they offer a 5 course dinner. The food and service was simply outstanding. We did not attend the show in the Stardust that night which was a magician and his wife which we had seen before on our February cruise. We did some gaming until about 11:00 PM and retired for the night as we were scheduled to be in Ketchikan at 6:00 AM.
Day 5- Friday: port of call Ketchikan Alaska……We were docked directly in Ketchikan, Alaska at 6:00 AM…..the ship docks directly at the main pier just 100 feet from the main shopping areas. We were up for breakfast at Cagney’s then off the shop at 8:00 AM for some shopping. The shops in Ketchikan are opened at 7:00 AM to accommodate the cruise ships arriving. We visited several shops that we saw items we would like to get. Since we had an excursion planned for 9:45 AM we did selective shopping and walked back to the main pier by the Pearl where we were picked up by the Island Wings van. We choose to hire a private float plane to take us deep into the mountainous areas and into Misty Fjords. We pre-selected Island Wings. After a 15 minute ride to the airplane we arrived at the docking point for the plane. We waited a short time for the pilot to arrive and pick us up. Once the plane arrived a very attractive blonde pilot emerged and began to load up the party of six passengers. Michelle the owner and pilot of her own company had over 25 years of flying experience. She stated at that she had come to Ketchikan 25 years ago, stayed for 3 months and decided to stay. Some 25 years later she is very successful pilot with her own company. The plane a De Havilland aircraft was pristine and very capable of taking our group. We loaded into the plane and went for one of the best excursions of the cruise. Over waterways, over the Pacific Ocean inlets, over ice covered lakes and snow covered mountains. The scenery was breathtaking and Michelle graciously flew us over mountain peaks and then landed the plane about an hour later into Punch Bowl Lake. The water was smooth as glass. She pulled the plane up to a tiny island about 100’ in diameter, We all got out to stretch the legs and take photos and group photos. It was awesome. I don’t know of any other float planes that would make a stop over. All passengers were provided state of the art headphones with pleasant music and narration of the terrain by Michelle our pilot. Michelle knew every waterway, mountain range and mountain peak, and her expertise made a real difference on this excursion. The float plane trip was about 2 hours total and the highlight of the cruise next to the being on the Bridge with the Captain. Once we arrived back to the City of Ketchikan, we finalized our shopping and back to the ship. All passengers were required to be back on board by 1:30 PM for a 2:00 PM departure. We had lunch in the Garden Café and then relaxed for the rest of the day. Dinner has planned for Indigo another main dining room. The diner for two was excellent with outstanding service and another 5 course dinner. Friday night was the last main show in the Stardust Theatre by the Jean Ann Ryan dancers. The show Garden of the Geisha was spectacular with very colorful oriental costumes, and spectacular aerobatics. The show was the best of the week, and you do not want to miss this performance. We attended the 9:30 PM showing, out at 10:45 PM, back for some gaming action in Bliss and then off to bed.
Day 6-Saturday: Cruising to Victoria, B.C. …..This day we head for Vancouver Island with a late stop at 6:00 PM in Victoria B.C. We ate in Cagney’s for the VIP breakfast and then did some laundering of clothes, since the Pearl has three laundries aboard at no cost to the passenger. You just buy the soaps. The machines were easy to use and very nice. For us the launderette was just down the hall from our stateroom so it made it very convenient for us. We went back to the stateroom and relaxed while the clothes were washing and did some final shopping on board. We invited a couple whom we meet from Salt Lake City to eat a VIP lunch with us in Cagney’s which they really liked the décor and royal treatment provided for the VIP guests. We had a 2:00 PM appointment in Bliss lounge and the bowling alley as Michael Kleverick the Hotel Director made arrangement for complimentary bowling and drinks for a group from Cruisecritic.com. We had 20 people in our group and had a great time bowling and enjoying a complimentary drink. It was a lot of fun to be bowling after so many years. By the afternoon and after bowling it was time to start packing the suitcases as they are required to be out in the hallway by 12:00 AM for ships pickup. So we packed our bags. The ship arrived in Victoria B.C. at 6:00PM and many passengers debarked from the ship for an evening in Victoria. Victoria has a real British flair with a real Parliament Building and the famed Empress Hotel. Many passengers choose to hit the bars and restaurants in Victoria, or make the trip to the beautiful Buchart Gardens to see the flowers. Mary and me, choose to have a last night private dinner for two in Le Bistro compliments of the Latitudes coordinator. We had a complimentary bottle of wine. Since we had dinner with the Captain on Monday and the hostess and Maitre De knew us, the service was impeccable, and the short ribs and beef tenderloin was simply perfect. We had a nice visit with our Butler Amit from our previous cruise and enjoyed the conversation. We ended the dinner with the famed chocolate fondue for two and it was a wonderful evening. With so many passengers off the ship, we felt like the ship was our own, with very few passengers aboard. It was a very pleasant relaxing night. During the day we attended the crew talent show which was very nice. Many members of the crew had some interesting talent either singing, dancing, or comedy routines.
Day 7-Sunday: back to Seattle, Washington…..We arrived back and docked at the pier in Seattle by 6:00 AM. We were given VIP disembarkation, so our bags were off the ship in a special spot in the terminal for pickup, We ate our final VIP breakfast in Cagney’s then meet Michael Kleverick the Hotel Director and he took a small group of 8 up to the Garden Villa Deck 14 for a private showing of the $25,000 per week 3 bedroom suite, the executive suites, private pool areas. The Garden Villa’s are the most expensive suites on the ship and all amenities of VIP passengers are complimentary. Past guests include the a Sheik from Saudi Arabia, Ron Popiel from television fame, Cindy Lauper and Rosie O’Donnell the God-mother of the NCL Pearl. We then left the Garden Villa and disembarked the ship were our bags were placed in the VIP area for pickup. We hailed a cab back to Sea-Tac airport at a flat rate of $28.00 for 2 passengers. NCL offers bus service back to Sea-Tac from the pier for $15.00 each. We boarded our plane for our flight back to New Mexico
Summary: NCL continues to deliver a quality cruise at economical pricing. The food selection and restaurant choices were excellent. Staff service continues to be OUTSTANDING. The ship was always clean, and ship maintenance is ongoing. Staterooms are ample, and cruisers considering this cruise should consult the NCL website on deck plans for square footage of staterooms. While we choose to cruise early in the season, the early booking gave the cruiser the opportunity to see spectacular scenery with snow capped mountains along the way, and into Alaska. As the Alaska cruise season extends into June, July and August, with warmer temperatures much of the snow pack will have melted, so booking early in the season is highly recommended. This was a spectacular cruise with the ultimate of VIP treatment. The executive staff and Captain personally went out of their way to provide us VIP service. They even extended our VIP service to our guests that we invited to take the cruise, even though it was there first cruise. They could have not been treated better, and most likely will not get this royal treatment on future cruises as they had the best of the best. The ships staff was excellent, food was fantastic. Our concierge Alexander Forbes was the best of best and really knows how to please and take care of their special guests and passengers.
There are plenty of activities on board during the day, from bowling, bingo, art auctions, trivia games, Martini and Margarita clinics and wine tasting seminars. There is always the Promenade Deck 7 for just relaxing and enjoying the scenery. The pools are filled with water, and there are several hot tubs available on Deck 12 for your comfort. The Fitness Center on Deck 11 has lots of state of the art equipment and dynamic views. The SPA is the outstanding and offer daily specials, for the ladies. The Sport Deck 13 has a large basketball/tennis court area, and rock climbing is located at the rear of the ship on Deck 14. The library and card rooms are large and offer some very quiet space for the guests. The Crystal Atrium houses the largest big screen television in the world and is awesome to view. The Java Café serves fresh hot coffee selections, fruit smoothies and of course drinks like sodas, and alcoholic beverages. On board shops are well designed and offer a wide variety of merchandise from high end jewelry to basic sundry items and gift selections. There are several areas for lounging, with the Bliss Lounge being the finest in atmosphere and décor. The Stardust Theatre is large and seats about 1000 passengers and is well designed with two levels Deck 6 and Deck 7 for entry points. The Casino offers slots, table games, and many card games. The Casino offers several types of gaming tournaments and there is plenty of action for the gamer. The restaurants offer a wide selection from causal service to 5 star services. You will never go hungry on this cruise. Room service is also available. Be sure to call ahead and plan your delivery times.
Whether you travel as a VIP guest or just a regular passenger, I am convinced the NCL staff and executive staff will do everything possible to make your cruise experience the best. The new slogan S.T.Y.L.E. is a motto that they stand by 100%. As Platinum members we have built an unprecedented loyalty to NCL. We will sail on their ships whenever we can. To us there is nothing that compares to NCL.
The new dress code “dress up or not” was extremely popular with the passengers. The addition of “freestyle dining” was also very popular as NCL gives you the passenger the opportunity to dine when you want, were you want. The selections for dining go a long way for choices. The selection of excursions are plentiful, but be sure to sign up early. I can’t see how any cruiser can have a bad time on this cruise. This cruise is highly recommended.
An extensive photoshow of our Alaskan cruise via the NCL Pearl can be viewed at:
We enjoyed the cruise, hope you enjoyed the review and be sure to view the photoshow.