I will begin this review by saying I did not have the same experience as 99% of my fellow passengers. I never had dinner in the main dining room (ate at 2 specialty restaurants and the rest of the time Maxi served us in our suite!), never went to a show (we were too busy partying with our fellow suitemates!), did not have a spa experience (went for a stone massage, they did not have slippers and expected me to walk around barefooted...said NO THANKS), did not have ONE drink in any bar as I was too busy drinking wine with my fellow suite mates! That being said:
Check-in: We were whisked to the nearest check-in, processed and on our way in less than 10 minutes. We found our fellow cruisemates and were told about a suite VIP lounge. NCL did not inform us of this. At 11:30 AM the consierge escorted us onto the ship. From there we were left to fend for ourselves in finding our rooms.
If I had paid "full price" for our suite I would have been VERY upset (suite 10001)! We did NOT have a 1/2 bath as advertised. I also believe (am not certain) that the suite next to the other end unit did not either. Ours was quite a bit smaller than the end unit and did not have a separate bar either. Another thing, if we had not become REALLY good friends with 10002 we would have had a major issue. The walls were paper thin and there is actually a tiny area in one corner of the sitting area that you can see into the next suite; a good laugh to be sure between friends, however a big shock to others
Suite perks are champagne upon arrival and daily canapes. The consierge COULD make your experience great. On past cruises our fellow suitemates informed us that their consierge roped off seats for them in the stage balcony, met them after shore excursions, was constantly checking to see if she/he could be of assistance. We found ours, Simone, to be of NO help whatsoever. She made 2 initial specialty restaurant reservations for us and two other requests were met with resounding NO's. The rest is totally the butler. Maxi, our butler, was absolutely the best. He served us every course just like you would have in the restaurant. Soup, then taken away, salad, taken away etc. He poured our wine, he did anything and everything for us. We had his personal pager and whenever we wanted anything we paged him. But not just that, he became our FRIEND. His attitude was, "I am here to make you feel pampered and special." On the other hand, the butler at the other end of the hall, from everything that was said to me, had no personality and did little to enhance the suite experience.
I think we had an amazing weather week. Sunday (sea day) was terrible; rainy, cold, and the sea was rough. Our three port days were incredible: low seventies maybe even eighty. The forest fires however made the visibility very hazy. I would love to go back just to REALLY see what it is like. BUT, nothing will measure up to this past experience. Maybe a land/sea tour. Or a one way not round trip. The only times I was cold was up on the glacier (the crazy woman that took us to the helicopter said it was only 10 degrees colder so I left a lot of my layers behind!!), and when the ship was going through the ice and up to the glacier. But I had on earmuffs, gloves, jeans, wind pants, a sweater, fleece jacket, and my Gortex raincoat. AND...Maxi served us hot French onion soup on the balcony while we snapped photos and cried out of sheer amazement. I NEVER wanted to go to AK. I am a warm weather nut. I only said yes because it was my daughter. We don't spend a lot of time together and I knew this would be special. God truly blessed our experience. In Juneau, while at the pier, I walked out on our balcony and a bald eagle was perched on a piling. He proceeded to put on a show of diving, retrieving a fish, flying back to his piling...this went on for several hours. Bald eagles are very common in AK but to have your "own" was special. On our whale watching excursion we had two whales breach (which is NOT common). I had seen this in Hawaii, but my daughter had not. The Misty Fiords Island Wings seaplane...wow, wow, wow. Michelle is an amazing pilot; landing in a glacier pool high in the mountains; all I can say is...incredible. We saw mountain goats and more eagles. The highlight of course was the helicopter/dogsledding in Skagway. My breath was taken away so many times. A very "religious" helicopter ride..regardless of your faith. My daughter begged me to do this as I had no desire to be in a helicopter (went to Hawaii 5 times and NEVER got on one) or on a dogsled. AND...VERY EXPENSIVE. I can now say it was worth every penny. I won't repeat my comments on the White Pass Railway, suffice to say it was a terrible experience.
Many people have asked about what to pack. I took NO formal wear (never missed it), one black pants suit, 2 pair of jeans, 3 pair of cropped pants, two sweaters, lots of long sleeved tees, several short sleeved shirts, a pair of shorts, Gortex tennis shoes and rain jacket, and several fleece items. Binoculars ARE A MUST. They became a part of us. Also sunglasses of course. Sunscreen...believe it or not. I wore everything with the exception of a few tees and my bathing suit. Many people went in the hot tub and for some reason the days we were in port....THE POOL WAS CLOSED. Maybe, in all fairness I could have gone at the wrong times. I would say to you....don't miss it going to Alaska. Go prepared for rain and if it doesn't...at least you won't be miserable! Go expecting cold and if it isn't, relish the sun. Take time to develop new friendships. Our time was so enhanced by new relationships. Our trip would never have been the same without them. We spent many an enjoyable hour sharing the day's adventures, having a bottle of wine, and commenting on the passing scenery with people who had been strangers the week before.
My life has been greatly enriched by realizing my expectations were so limited, my horizons so low, and that I have much to learn and see. I can only envy all of you whose trip to Alaska is yet to come...
To see my Alaska pictures: http://community.webshots.com/user/10snut200