NCL star Alaska from Seattle review. (includes dogsled trip)
I already posted this under Alaska but thought I shuld put it here as well.
Just got back yesterday from the Seattle to Seattle on the NCL Star. To sum it up, it was a fantastic experience. The ship, the excursions, the people, all great.
I had a balcony cabin facing aft. The upgrade fairy came to visit. Lucky me. I had purchased the lowest catagory balcony and ended up in the highest in the very best spot. If anyone asks, YES the aft facing cabins are the best, esecially in Alaska. When we crusied the Tracy Arm Fjiord to Swayer glaicer I had the advantage of viewing both sides at once instead of running back and forth trying not to miss anything. I spent 3 hours sitting there in awe quietly sipping hot chocolate and taking picture after picture.
The food was in my opinion good. The main dining rooms were best for top notch dining, but the buffet wasn't horrid as some have said. It was typical and pretty good fare, with different offerings each night I went. The Blue Lagoon with the hambergers and fish and chips was used only once and my hamberger was average. My only bad experience was room service. Continental breakfast was fine, but one afternoon I opted for the veggie platter with spinach dip and a grilled cheese, and it was terrible. I didn't know you could do that to a simple grilled cheese sandwhich. Limp, soggy, greasy, and untoasted and the spinach dip was watery ranch dressing. The menu was VERY limited as well. Other than that, the food on the rest of the ship was satisfactory and in the dining rooms quite good, and I did manage to gain 4 lbs so that says something.
First stop was Ketchican. It was misty, soon to be partly cloudy. We docked right in front. In fact we didn't have to tender at all on this trip. I went on the Misty Fjiords Wildlife Quest. It offered a comfortable boat ride to some beautiful areas, but over all I felt too much time of the four hours was spent just getting to our location on open ocean that we had already crusied over. The fjiords were majestic and we saw a brown bear, plenty of eagles and some seals along with beautiful scenery, but it is not something I would do again. I then did some shopping, and found I have a thing or those little carved jade bears. Brought way too many of those home.
Jueanu was the next stop. It was misty/rainy. Took the whale watching wildlife tour. At first it seemed as if we were destined to only spot humpbacks far off in the distance, but after an hour or so the captain took us to a narrow channel where we found two humpbacks who were more than happy to put on a show for us for a good half hour. Regulations said we had to move after that but it was a spectacular sight to see them arching and showing thier tais over and over. No breeching but it was still incredible. We saw many sea lions as well along with an eagle who stole a fisherman's salmon right from his line. Did a bit of shoping here as well but the rain had me heading back to the ship.
The crusie up the Tracy Arm Fjiord was the most beautiful thing I've seen in my life. I was awe struck by the majestic natural vast beauty of the area. The blue ice burgs, emerald water, lush green mountiain sides cleaved with waterfall after waterfall all enshoruded with an almost eerie mist was breath taking. The glacier itself was inspiring as well and my perfect seat from my aft cabin balcony gave me ample viewing time as the captain turned the ship slowly so all could see. The light mist had followed us from Jueanu but it didn't really detract from the beauty.
Next stop was Skagway and my DOG SLEDDING!!! It was a picture perfect sunny day, a few small clouds scattered about but about as clear of a day as you can get in Alaska. Let me just say that though this tour is expensive, it is absolutely worth every cent. I do not regret the money I dished out in the least and I advise anyone thinking about it to go for it. You won't regret your decision. Make advance reservations too, they were sold out.
We began with a breath taking 1/2 hour ride over the mountains and glaicers. I think I sat there with my mouth half open just in awe of the beauty. You get so very close and we could see mountain after mountain dotted with snow, glaciers and little lakes. The colors were spectacular. After the flight we landed on the glaicer and were assigned a guide and split into groups of three. Your guide then introduces you to his dogs and you can pet some of them. Some are skittish but some are very friendly. He takes you through and talks about life on the glaicer and tells you safety things and answers questions, then you go for a ride.
There are two sleds hooked up to the team. The one in front has a seat for a rider and then the guide stands and drives that one and the back sled is about 5 feet behind on ropes with a seat and then a place for the driver to stand. Do not think that the person driving the back sled doesn't truly drive because believe me, you have to pay attention, lean the right way, use the brake to maintain tension on the ropes and all to keep from toppling over. It was exilerating. We went quite a distance taking turns on driving the back sled.
When we were done, having gone up the glacier and then back down in a huge figure 8 on a ride that lasted maybe 25 mins. we then went to where the puppies were. There was a 4 week old litter and we were able to cuddle them and have photos. Our guide joked that he was going to do a puppy check to make sure no smuggling was going on before we boarded the helicopter to go back home. The pups were too cute. To soon it was time to go back but as I said, the 2 hours were well worth the money if you can afford it. It was a once in a lifetime experience to be sure.
Our last stop was Prince Rupert and I have to say I wasn't all that impressed. That could have been my own fault. I was kind of adventured out so opted for the city tour which was very dull. We drove around neighborhoods of houses for two hours. Saw lots of deer and a few totem poles but not much else. We even made a stop "downtown" for suppposed shopping, but most of the shops were closed. The ones near the pier were open though. I imagine if I had chosen a different tour I would have enjoyed it more.
Overall I had a fantastic cruise. I have no complaints with NCL. Both embarkation and debarkation were a piece of cake. Took a half hour max both ways with plenty of nice polite staff to assist and guide you. I mentioned food above so won't go into it again. Service was top notch. My room was clean, plenty of room in the bathroom, good shower, friendly VERY efficient stewards. Also the murder mystery dinner was a blast. I didn't do too many other shows but the comedy was pretty funny.
I walked my two miles every morning around the ships deck as the sun was coming up (yeah I know, I'm nuts on a vacation to get up so early) the views were spectacular. Breathtaking sights and a cool brisk wind. Nothing like it. Every crew member said hello with a smile, was very helpful and friendly. Not a problem to speak of.
One last thing. I arrived a day early to be on the safe side and stayed at the downtown Hilton. It was nice enough and in a good location. The morning of my cruise I had plenty of time to walk around and go to Pike Market. The hotel held my bags until I was ready to pick them up and take a taxi to the pier.
Overall it was one of the best vacations I've had and definitely the most beautiful place, natural anyway, that I've seen and I have been to very many places. I highly recomend Alaska and think NCL did a great job. If you have questions feel free to email me.