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Review of the Norwegian Pearl
Norwegian Cruise Line
Cruise Date: July 2012
Booking: Travel Agency
Cabin number: 8076
Cabin category: obstructed view
NCL Pearl to Alaska 7/22-29/2012
I just got back a couple of days ago from my extended vacation (if you can call it that now that I am retired). Another fantastic cruise. I will start with the land tour booked thru NCL.
THE LAND TOUR
We arrived in Anchorage 2 hours late at 9:30 PM due to storms in Houston where we changed planes. It was still as light as the middle of the afternoon and the bus driver from the airport to the hotel gave us a nice tour pointing out the sights in town as we drove thru. It was strange checking in after 10 and it was still light out. At midnight, after official sunset it was still a little light. I did wake up at 1 and it was dark, but at 4 it was already light.
The only downside to this tour was the early hours everything started. Our luggage had to be outside our room by 6AM. So we got up at 5:30. Had a nice buffet breakfast provided as part of the tour at the Sheraton. 7:15 we were on the buses to the train station for the 8 hour ride to Denali national park. The train ride was fantastic, beautiful scenery and we saw moose. There was a dome car which we sat in a while but found the regular car more comfortable. Lunch in the dining car was nice and then we arrived in Denali.
The first night we bought tickets to the dinner theatre at the McKinley Lodge where we were staying. I would recommend this to everyone. The dinner is family style all you can eat baked salmon and bbq ribs with corn, beans, salad and dessert. The cast is also the wait staff. One note: The tour guide offered tickets for the second night 8:30 show for the same price $63.00. When we called the front desk, for the 5:30 show it was sold out but they offered us the 8:30 show for 25% off. Check with them before buying from the tour group.
Day 2, up at 4:20 AM as we had to meet the tour director at 5:30 for the 8 hour tundra wilderness tour. We had to catch the 4:45 shuttle as our lodge was a mile from the main lodge. Good breakfast buffet included with tour. This tour was beautiful. We saw grizzly bears, caribou, moose, porcupines, hares, arctic squirrels, dall lambs, bald eagles and great scenery. A box lunch (more like snacks) included.
Upon arriving back to the lodge it was time to souvenir shop across the street and walk around on our own. We signed up for an additional excursion that night to Jeff King?s huskie ranch. He won the Iditarod dog sled race 4 times and raises huskies. I wasn?t sure this would be worth it, but it was. Upon arriving you get to hold the puppies and then watch the older dogs train. They want the puppies to get use to people and cameras so they won?t be disturbed by the races start with all the journalists and photographers. It was a fun and informative evening. Back to the lodge at 10, still light as the afternoon, for dinner and prepare to get up early again.
Luggage out by 6, on the buses by 7:30 for trip back to Anchorage. Another beautiful and informative trip. One highlight, we were able to see MT. McKinley which they say only 30% of tourists see due to the usual cloud cover. I forgot to mention we had great weather everywhere we went. Anchorage in the high 60?s, Denali high 50?s to low 60?s and no rain except for the last night after 10.
Back in Anchorage we toured ourselves, seeing films about the northern lights and the big earthquake there in the 60?s. The only part of the Smithsonian outside DC is here at the natural history museum.
The next day we had a 2PM flight back to Seattle so we could sleep late, hurray! Those on the Saturday cruise had a 6:30 flight and had to have their luggage ready at 4AM. Thankfully I chose the Sunday cruise.
Back in Seattle we found out Underground Seattle had an 8 and 9 PM Adult only red light district tour of underground Seattle. The regular tours end at five and we landed at 6. It was funny and informative and I would recommend it to every adult traveling without children.
Sunday morning we were driven to the NCL Pearl. Having already sailed the NCL Gem, it?s sister ship I was familiar with the layout of the ship and felt comfortable going on. Being a latitude member (previous NCL cruiser) we breezed thru check in and were onboard minutes after going thru security. Knowing must people rush to the buffet we headed to the Summer Palace MDR and had an excellent lunch by a window looking out at Seattle. Had a great waiter who we had 2-3 more times that week. Eating in the MDR on embarkation day is highly recommended for peaceful, good eating.
Usually I start my reviews with the negatives of the trip but I am having trouble thinking of any. We could have had my time in the beautiful city of Victoria, B.C., and smoking should be limited in the Casino, but otherwise I cannot think of any real negatives.
The food in both the MDR and the garden café (buffet) was very good. The first night one MDR had a wait but we were seated immediately in the other. We had no other waits the whole cruise. Surprisingly they served Lobster tails the first night in the MDR, a great start. They understand how to good steaks the way ordered (very rare for me, medium well for my wife). Never had to return any food. When I couldn?t decide on a dish, I was tossed between two, he brought them both out and my wife and I shared the extra plate.
Ports of Call were great and very interesting. Juneau ? we took a helicopter to a glacier (not Mendenhall like most excursions but a 4 glacier tour). Getting out and walking on it was fantastic. We were talked into spending the extra money for the tour by previous Alaska visitors and since this is probably a once in a lifetime cruise destination I am glad we did it. Skagway was next, the famous White Pass Railroad was on our agenda. We took the fun train ride up to British Columbia, boarded buses to this suspension bridge built over rapids into the Yukon Territory. Lots of fun. Bus ride back very scenic and informative.
The next day we sailed into Glacier National Park and park rangers boarded the ship at 7AM and stayed to 2PM. They narrated over the intercom what we were seeing. They were available to meet and ask questions in the Spinnaker lounge, a good viewing area in front of the ship. The ship ?parked? by 2 glaciers for an hour (1/2 hour on one side, then ship turned and sat for another ½ hour.) One of the glaciers was receding 7 feet a year and the other was growing 7 feet a year. The one that was growing was currently having parts break off from the summer heat (50?sF). We then sailed and saw other glaciers before leaving for the rest of the day at sea.
Ketchikan was next. Our only morning with rain. Great weather the rest of the trip. After our tour of the town, the rain stopped and we were able to walk around the town. All the towns looked like towns from the Old West.
On to Victoria, a place I would consider moving to with the great weather and beautiful countryside. On the way to Victoria, while eating breakfast, we saw whales off the side of the ship.
The entertainment on the ship was very good. A tribute group to the four seasons, O What A Night, were fantastic. The Comedian, comedian-magician were also very good. I was a little disappointed in the Second City Comedy Troupe as this group was not as good as ones I saw on other NCL cruises. We enjoyed the shows every night. We also attended the game shows, late night comedy and had a goodtime. My name was actually chosen to play in 3 different games and that was also fun.
I just thought of a negative, when we sailed on the Gem several years ago the bowling was free, now they charge $5.00 a game. My wife, an avid bowler did bowl for free when she bowled with the ?stars?. They had a late night bowling with the officers of the ship. My wife was paired with the cruise director. Incidentally, her name was Julie, very appropriate for a cruise director. When we heard it the first day, we sought her out as that was the name of the cruise director on our first cruise. Sure enough it was her and after introducing ourselves she remembered us the rest of the cruise. Another member of the entertainment staff was on our last NCL cruise the Spirit from New Orleans. It?s nice to find staff members who did a good job on other cruises.
Disembarkation was a breeze as we took a ship excursion (tour of Seattle with drop off at airport). Just a little more money than going directly to the airport, we met in the theatre, were escorted off the ship, no waiting on line, and our luggage was ready for pickup to take to the bus. Tour included going up the Space Needle and time at the famous Pike?s Market. A great way to leave the ship as long as your flight is after 3PM as we arrived at the airport at 1:30. I booked the 6:30 flight on purpose so I could see Seattle.
I would highly recommend a cruise to Alaska with the land tour for everyone, any age. For younger cruisers plenty of adventurous excursions that I cannot do anymore.
All of the cruises out of Seattle, Princess, Royal Caribbean left the same day, did the same itinerary (saw them at all the ports) so choose the line you like, I had a great time on NCL which I believe is usually less expensive than the other lines mentioned.
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