so we got back from our alaska cruise last week. thanks again to all of you who gave advice regarding excursions. bottom line, you dont have to book ahead if you dont want to.
we went to juneau, skagway, ketchikan and victoria. in none of them did we book an excursion with ncl and we got the tours we wanted in every port. whale watching is too much hype. we live in l.a. and so we can see that anytime. not gonna pay 100 bucks a pop- forget about it! that was a big attraction in juneau though. it was raining-which sucked, and so juneau wasnt as good as it could've been- you could hardly see mendenhall glacier! the other ports made up for this though the weather was lame in all of them when we went. seattle was still the most exciting place though (where we picked the cruise up from)!anyway, just do your own thing. you save a little (surprising not a lot) but the nice thing is you're not pressured to meet groups (several ncl bookings were canceled) and you can go at your own pace.
now the ship. sucked compared to the star. we were on the star last year to mexico and it was our first cruise. maybe because we has "stars" in our eyes we were real seduced by the ship. second time around its like, "ok, been there, done that." problem was the ships are basically the same. they make a big deal out of the pearl cuz its bigger and newer, but the star had a place to get free popcorn and a movie theater. also the cruise director, an aussie named simon, was a character. our guy clint was a whitebread game show host. anyone know how much these guys get paid and if their jobs are real?
also, why are the ships the same? they even have the same names for some of the spaces (the spinnaker lounge, blue lagoon, etc.)? another way the star beats the pearl is that the pearl's atrium was screwed up by whoever the fools were who decided to put a giant video screen in it. the star has a beautiful glass elevator and curving steps surrounding by flowers. whats up with that? also blue lagoon was fancier and sitdown style on pearl, but the one on star allows you to literally take food from the counter 24/7 w/out having to wait for a server.
pearl brags that its got a bowling alley. so what? its 5 bucks a game. should be free if i'm paying so much dough for the cruise. lastly, the entertainment on star was better. unfortunately both ships and probably all of ncl depends on this jean ann ryan dance group things which is a family-oriented cheezy showtune group. at least this time they had a sexy chick doing a cirque du soleil knock off trapeze act!
you reviewers for that trip who were on ship with us please speak up. cant find a way on this thing to respond to your reviews!
lastly, how the heck do these people come on these cruises with like, 50 people, or 3 other couples or whatever? dudes, its hard enough coordinating a trip for your own family. how do these yahoos coordinate something expensive and hard to do with 10-50 people with conflicting interests, schedules and financial options?
Glad to hear that you didn't have any trouble booking your excursions once you got there. I wondered how that had gone for you.
I thought your comments about the two ships were interesting. We've never sailed on the Star, but have sailed on the Jewel, the Sea, and the Sun, and loved the Pearl. I have found though that it's really hard to recapture that magical feeling of your first cruise. I thought some of the furnishings on the Pearl were weird, but loved the layout and loved the lounge chairs with blankets on the Promenade deck.
Just so you know, you didn't miss Simon on the Pearl by very many weeks. I don't know when the transition occured, by we had Simon in May. Have a "Smashing afternoon" -- I'm assuming it was the same guy??
I thought that the entertainment on the Pearl was lacking, however, even with Simon as CD. When you sailed the Star, was it to Alaska or on a Mexican Riviera cruise? I'm really wondering if they schedule less entertainment on the Alaskan cruise figuring that people are too busy watching the scenery to care.
As far as your comments about large groups, I have NO idea how they do it. We've had enough trouble getting my schedule to mesh with my DH's, and when we try and get our two young adult age kids factored in, it becomes almost impossible!
nice reply. cant remember who you were-sorry! i'm sure we emailed though. your name?
there was as much entertainment on pearl as star, but quality was less. for example, the comedian on pearl was no good compared to jeff harms onthe star (who wasnt great-but okay). again, its too bad they depend on that jean ann ryan co. so much.
i was more laid back this time, going to events on board when it was convenient, so we missed a couple of things. no biggy.
we took star to mexico.
do cruise directors move around like blockbuster employees? lol
what about chocoholic buffet? pretty lame. and annoying that people create huge lines to get in. it was poor quality chocolate and a lot of junky mousse-type stuff.
In the ship's defense, I think the entertainment can vary greatly from week to week, as well as ship to ship. A lot of the magician/juggler/illustionists tend to travel around, and your chances of getting a really good one are probably about the same as getting a poor one.
A lot of people have really liked the Jean Ann Ryan shows -- but I'm getting very tired of them. After being on 5 NCL ships, most of which do variations on the same theme, they're all beginning to look and sound very similar. Were they still doing the same weird combination of Beyonce/Justin Timberlake/Sinatra, or whoever it was when you were on the Pearl? I didn't even bother to go. I didn't like any of the 3 entertainers individually --- and certainly didn't like the idea of the combination of the 3 of them.
As far as cruise directors, they normally serve contracts of a certain length -- maybe 4 months, or so -- and then they go on vacation. When they come back from vacation, they may or may not be assigned to the same ship. I don't know exactly what determines their assignment. Maybe one of the longer-time posters or TA's can fill in the blanks on that one.
I also agree wtih you about the chocolate buffet. We went and took photos of the sculptures, but didn't even grab a plate. About the only thing I'm interested in any more is the chocolate dipped fruit -- but by the end of the week, when it's held, even that doesn't hold much interest.