Seven Days; Four Ports; One Fun-Filled Ship

This past week, we sailed North to Alaska from Seattle, Washington aboard Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Pearl! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

This past week, we sailed North to Alaska from Seattle, Washington aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Pearl! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Over the past seven days, I cruised to the beautiful state of Alaska aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Pearl. Altogether, it was my fifth voyage to Alaska, and my third trip to the region aboard a Norwegian Cruise Line ship, with two previous sailings in 2005 and 1998.

But it was my very first time sailing out of Seattle to the 49th State, on a voyage that whisked me to Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, Ketchikan, and the capital of British Columbia, Canada, Victoria.

Glacier Bay National Park: still the highlight of any Alaskan cruise. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Glacier Bay National Park: still the highlight of any Alaskan cruise. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The full Live Voyage Report, day-by-day:

My Category BB balcony stateroom aboard the Norwegian Pearl. The beds are amazingly comfortable! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

My Category BB balcony stateroom aboard the Norwegian Pearl. The beds are amazingly comfortable! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Disembarkation yesterday in Seattle was a snap; after another fantastic breakfast in the Garden Café, I made my way back to my stateroom, rounded up the last of my things, and was off the ship by 9:00am.

Seattle’s Pier 66 is remarkably convenient, and being from Vancouver, I drove down to the pier and parked my car across the street at Republic Parking’s Bell Street garage, which I had reserved and paid for in advance. Today, I was picked up, taken to the garage, and I was on my way back to Canada at 10am.

Ever wanted to go bowling at sea? You can do it aboard the Norwegian Pearl, with four lanes in Bliss Lounge, Deck 7 Aft. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Ever wanted to go bowling at sea? You can do it aboard the Norwegian Pearl, with four lanes in Bliss Lounge, Deck 7 Aft. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Of course, I didn’t want to be – I’d rather have been back aboard the Norwegian Pearl, sailing once again to Alaska. In seven days, I didn’t even get a chance to scratch the surface of all there is to see and do aboard the ship’s 12 passenger decks.

Norwegian Pearl stands out amongst the chilly landscape in Juneau, Alaska. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Norwegian Pearl stands out amongst the chilly landscape in Juneau, Alaska. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

My take on the past week:

Go Norwegian If: You’re looking for a fun, feature-laden cruise vacation aboard a ship that is vibrant and energetic, yet still retains a classy, upscale feel.

Avoid If: You crave silence and personal space. Norwegian’s ships are fun and active, with scheduled events that rotate through the ship’s collection of public rooms – meaning that quiet lounge is likely to get a whole lot busier!

Fun, funky furniture in Spinnakers Lounge on Deck 13 forward. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Fun, funky furniture in Spinnakers Lounge on Deck 13 forward. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

So how did this sailing compare to my ex-Vancouver sailings? Very well, actually. Sure, you miss the Inside Passage, but the port call in Victoria was a great way to end the cruise, and was actually more useful than I had imagined. I love my home port, but Seattle wins major points in my books for having some of the friendliest pier staff around at Pier 66, and for having their organization down pat. Vancouver’s Canada Place terminal can be a disaster with three ships tied up on busy days; having Seattle’s piers separated helps cut down congestion tremendously.

See the fish on the carpeting in the stateroom corridors? If they're swimming "up", your heading forward. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

See the fish on the carpeting in the stateroom corridors? If they’re swimming “up”, your heading forward. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

But the real reason I’d go down to Seattle again is to sail aboard the Norwegian Pearl or her sister, Norwegian Jewel, both of which will operate through the rest of the 2013 Alaskan Cruise season and return to their respective runs in 2014. There are even some unique Vancouver—Alaska-Seattle and Seattle-Alaska-Vancouver repositioning runs that are great for those looking to spice up their voyage a bit.

Finally, I want to end this Live Voyage Report by specifically addressing folks who’ve sailed NCL in the past. Not Norwegian, but NCL – the somewhat lost, wayward NCL that was always strangely likeable yet never quite managed to hit its stride.

Come Back.

The "New" Norwegian: Lots of Fun. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The “New” Norwegian: Lots of Fun. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

I have always held a soft spot in my heart for the company that introduced me to cruising, but the “new” Norwegian is firing on all cylinders. The beds are the best I’ve slept on any line except Silversea. The service from everyone from my stateroom attendant Emerson to Vita in restaurant reservations to Jennifer outside the Garden Café who started everyone’s morning with the catchy guitar riff “Washy-washy; happy-happy; smiley-smiley!” just to make the act of sanitizing everyone’s hands prior to dining fun, was unusually personal for a 2,384-guest ship. And the food – the food has come a long, long way.

While cruising Glacier Bay, hot beef broth is served up alongside hot chocolate or a bevvy of spiked drinks. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

While cruising Glacier Bay, hot beef broth is served up alongside hot chocolate or a bevvy of spiked drinks. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

There’s little touches, too, like heavy cardboard billfolds in the bars and the addition of Elemis toiletries in suites and high-level staterooms. Proper, graphically-beautiful menus in all restaurants and lounges and a vastly-improved Freestyle Daily. If you’re wondering why I am even bothering at all to mention the layout of the line’s daily programs, it is because if they’re caring about a detail that, to most, would seem insignificant, they’re paying attention to the big ones, too.

Wide Open Spaces: Norwegian Pearl boasts a large, wraparound promenade deck. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Wide Open Spaces: Norwegian Pearl boasts a large, wraparound promenade deck. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Of course, Norwegian isn’t for everyone. If you don’t like families, kids, and fun activities, you’ll likely want to look elsewhere. But I paid close attention to the faces disembarking yesterday morning and found an amazing cross-section of people of all ages, drawn to the freedom of Freestyle Cruising and the family friendly amenities and features.

The little disembarkation booklet the line gives passengers says, “You’ll Be Leaving Soon – but the cruise with stay with you.”

Does it ever.

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Our Live Voyage Report aboard Norwegian Pearl has sadly come to a close, but we’ll have a full, deck-by-deck Photo Tour of this vibrant ship posted soon here on From the Deck Chair!

 

 

3 Responses to Live Voyage Recap: Norwegian Pearl to Alaska

  1. Tina says:

    Your blog is so interesting and helpful! I am cruising to Alaska this summer on the same boat and can’t wait.

  2. Steven Pichette says:

    Hello,

    Excellent review of your trip. I’m going to be taking the same cruise this September. Cannot wait. Thanks for posting!!

    Steve

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:


Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!