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Norwegian Pearl
Alaska
July 1, 2007

by Linda Carmi

My husband and I have sailed to Alaska a number of times, this time on the Norwegian Pearl. We were very happy with the online deal that I booked one month prior to the July 1,2007 sail date. The deal was for a seven day cruise with a mini-suite at a price far below that of a verandah cabin. We have sailed Norwegian to Alaska in recent years and found it somewhat a disappointment. Even so, we looked forward to this cruise with eager anticipation. 

Our Alaskan Air flight arrived in Seattle in time for us to board the ship approximately one half hour before sailing. I did the pre-boarding questionnaire online which made our boarding quick and easy. My husband requires use of a wheelchair which was ready and waiting for him at the pier.

We were excited to see our suite on Deck 11 and were not disappointed. The ship is seven months new, and the cabin was sparkly new with polished cabinets and colorful linens. There was a flat screen TV, hair dryer and magnifying mirror in the sitting area. There was a full sized sofa bed situated in the sitting room area that could easily accommodate a third person. This area can be separated from the queen bed by a heavy drapery that can be closed for privacy. The closet is positioned beside the queen bed making it somewhat awkward to access, though it is ample in size for a seven day cruise. There are lots of deep drawers, (good for sweaters) not the usual shallow ones. The best part is the full sized bathroom. The lavatory is separated by a glass sliding door, the sink area in middle and then...! a full bathtub with shower! It was absolutely wonderful. My husband used it several times during the cruise for a soak. 

We were greeted with a bowl of fresh fruit and champagne on the table. It seems that we were given a Honeymoon package!? Not sure why. It included a complimentary dinner in one of the five specialty restaurants on board, Le Bistro. We did not go there because my husband found it easier to take meals in the Garden Cafe. The Pearl has "free-style" dining, which means that you have the freedom to enter the dining room at your convenience. You do not necessarily have the same table or same table mates at each meal. There are pros and cons to this offering. We have discovered that we are not fans of "free-style" dining. 

The food in the Garden Cafe was tasty with nice variety and presentation. The issue that we encountered here for all seven days seemed an unusual one given that we were on a cruise with presumable well trained staff. On each visit to the Cafe I discovered that there was an absence of plates/and/or flatware at the food stations. You can imagine the havoc that ensued when hungry crowds appeared for lunch and dinner! Very odd! and it happened every day of the cruise.

We were assigned two room stewards, though we did not realize it until late on the second day. It seemed to be late afternoon before our room was made up each day. Again, not sure why?? We used room service several times and servers were always extremely courteous. 

Ports of call were Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, Ketchikan and Victoria before returning to Seattle. We were in Skagway on July 4 and found it such a treat to witness a charming parade. The store merchants closed up shop during the parade, and reopened at the conclusion. It was lots of fun with people dressed in Goldrush costumes, driving pick-up trucks, with dogs and cats joining in the festivities. It was charming and I enjoyed it tremendously! There was even a group of bagpipe players complete with kilts.

I enjoy all of the port cities, though I must confess that Skagway and Ketchikan are my favorites. They are smaller and more rustic with lots of nature to enjoy. I like to get off the main streets where the shopping tends to be places like Diamond International and the like. Nothing wrong with those places, I simply prefer the local artisans. I found a wonderful local proprietor of a salmon specialty shop with gourmet foods and even clothing and art in Ketchikan, called Chinook & Company. I wandered in and spent about an hour making selections with the friendly owner, Linda Meuter. She is a wealth of information and a true delight. Her shop is locaed at 307 Stedman Ave. in Ketchikan. She also has a website, www.chinookandcompany.com.

The tour through Glacier Bay was narrated by a park ranger, which was helpful and interesting. We were able to enjoy the entire cruise through Glacier Bay on our balcony. The ship sails in and slowly makes a 360 degree turn so that we missed nothing. We could hear the narration on the shipboard TV channel while we remained very comfortable on our balcony. 

We had good weather in each port, from the 60's to high 70's. There was a bit of rain while sailing, but despite this I saw kids swimming in the outdoor pool each day at sea. 

The entertainment on board was nice. We saw a production show, magician act and comedian. There was an on board art auction, which is the norm for cruises. I did not attend any auctions, but heard a great "art history" lecture by the art auctioneer.

Over all, my husband and I enjoyed the cruise. We enjoyed the mini-suite and appreciated the luxury of more space. Our favorite way to cruise is still the traditional versus free style. Different strokes for different folks... I give the Pearl a "B".


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