You will find many conflicting opinions regarding NCL. We were very happy with them and loved the Freestyle. We would sail on NCL again if the price and itinerary were right. We did feel however that Celebrity and HAL were a bit nicer. Can't help on the ship since we sailed the Sky which is now in Hawaii under another name.
Have you sailed before? If you prefer a set dining time and the same wait person every night than Freestyle might not be to your liking.
I feel that for Alaska that a balcony is a must. There is just too much scenery and wildlife viewing that you don't want to miss. Again however you will get conflicting opinions on this. Many cruisers prefer inside to save money and use the savings for tours and extras. So if you're like me and love to sit quietly and veg out as the scenery rolls by then a balcony. If you like to get out and visit the casinos,etc and will not be in the cabin much than an inside should be ok. I will never cruise Alaska without a balcony.
I wouldn't gamble on getting an upgrade either. If you decide you want a balcony go ahead and book that. Alaska cruises sell out pretty much 100%.
Again, since they sell out I wouldn't expect too many last minute bargains. IMHO book early and get the best cabin location available.
As you read these message boards you're going to find different opinions on just about everything. We're all quite passionate about our cruising experiences. There's no right or wrong really, just differences. You need to make sure to know your likes and dislikes and make sure that factors into your final decision.
We sailed to Alaska on the NCL Sun the first part of June. It was a wonderful trip. The ship is beautiful & the crew is very friendly. We thoroughly enjoy the freestyle dining, but haven't cruised any other way, so don't have a comparison.
We booked an inside stateroom, and were lucky enough to have the price of a balcony room come down to the same price. They upgraded us with only an $40 pp charge for the 3rd and 4th persons in the room. My first experience with a balcony. It was wonderful to be able to look out at the scenery, but it was cool enough, especially with the wind, that we didn't spend much time outside on our balcony. Next time, depending on price differences, I would definitely book an outside room, but wouldn't spend a lot of extra $$$ for a balcony.
Insie cabin or balcony depends on the cruisers budget. If you have no limit then get the nice spacious room with the balcony thats what I did on my first and only Alaska cruise. If you are on a budget and the inside room is much cheaper than get that. That is what I would do if I were to do it again but I am waiting unitl I am about 70 years old or so to do it again. The balcony does have a really nice view but keep in mind that the ship is docked about 8 hours a day and all you will have is a lovely view of the port.
I think you will find that you really need to do a little research into the various Alaska cruises and the lines that sail in Alaska before you start deciding on a particular line or ship. A book that I found really packed with information on Alaska cruises is Frommers "Alaska Cruises and Ports of Call". It will describe both the cruise lines and their ships and the different ports/itineraries that are available. Then, choose an itinerary (round-trip out of Seattle or Vancouver, One-way Southbound or Northbound). Find a ship or ships that most closely fit where you want to go and what you want to do.
Personally, I don't much care whether I have a balcony or not. I spend most of my time up on deck anyway as the views are all around you, not just on one side. I like an outside cabin because they generally have a bit more space, but an inside cabin isn't a bad deal either particularly if it means that you will have more money to do the shore excursions. Be sure to budget those in because they can be expensive, but some of the opportunities are the kinds of things you just can't do too many other places. You will get as many answers as months for which month is best. My first Alaska cruise was a late August/early September cruise that included Labor Day. I am doing it again this year because I liked the timeframe. June and July will give you the most daylight (almost 24 hours each day) but tend to be more crowded and more expensive than either later or earlier in the season. I booked my first Alaska cruise fairly late (July for a late Aug sail date) and got a fairly good deal. I booked in March this year and have watched prices and so far, the cruises aren't coming down in price as I get closer to the time that I cruise. You can also save $$$ on flights and hotels by booking early.
Hope this helps a little. Of course this board is great for answering questions as they come up too.
I think you need to determine other factors that are important for Alaska travel and see what ship fits? Route, ports, time in ports, glacier, price. ANY trip will be a compromise- it take many many to really see the Inside Passage. I most always late book myself- but I am extremely flexable and for me everything I go to Alaska for is outside the ship. There have been several bargains this year, but if you have your dates firm- then book ahead and keep track of trends YOURSELF. As mentioned- it is vitially necessary to budget fully for costly excursions- you get only half a trip without them. Determine how much time you have- my opinion only- I don't do any one ways without at least an additional 5 days independent interior touring- allow 7 add on days with a cruisetour. Also include College Fjords. Round trips are an excellent adventure- packing a lot into 7 days- but my clear preference is for Vancouver trips- just more inside passage sailing on most lines compared to Seattle.
i just saw your post so i am sure by now you have made some decisions in your plans. i went solo last sept for my first cruise and loved it. sept was wonderful for great weather, the kids were back in school and it was in a '' shoulder month'' so the cabin was much cheaper. i had a inside cabin ( finances dictated this ) and had no problem what so ever with this choice as i was treated like a queen as if i had been in a much more expensive cabin. i was only there long enough to shower and sleep anyway. the rest of the time i was busy doing things in the ports, lounging in a good spot to see the scenery go by or doing activities on the ship. i was on the carnival spirit and loved it. a great ship and we did the roundtrip glacier bay roundtrip from vancouver. a great city and i want to go back and spend more time there. there are great tours you can take that cost very little as many have posted already or i loved being on the ship when it was in port and not so crowded with the other passengers. i am sure you are going to have a wonderful time what every choices you have made. i cant wait to go back next may for the same trip. i am counting the days. have a wonderful time.