NCL Pearl to Alaska

Seattle to Alaska on the Norwegian Pearl

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We flew Alaska Airlines from Burbank to Seattle, and because of a late departure due to a small plane flying on instruments and trying to land at Bob Hope International Airport, we were late taking off. Add to that some strong head winds and we landed at Seattle almost an hour late. Then we sat out side our gate because the guys with the orange things weren’t there to wave them at the pilots. After a bit, three of them showed up, but what’s this, one had forgotten his orange things. He ran to another gate, dug in a pile of stuff, and sped back ready to make his guidance moves. Perhaps someone should have told the gate that the orange stick gesticulating was completed, and we had arrived. It took about ten minutes to get the gate personnel to their posts before we were funneled off the plane.

Then it was waiting for luggage. The baggage area was jammed, not with bags, but with people waiting for the carousels to start to move. There was a big board that showed which bags from which flight would be on which carousel. Ours were on carousel 13. Not! Never mind the sign info, Michael spotted them on carousel 12, on the other side of the escalators. It was supposed to be a two hour and twenty minute trip, but the by time we got the bags to the curb, we’d been a captive of Alaska Airlines for over four hours.

Since we were on a press junket, a limo picked us up and took quickly to the Cruise terminal, where we were checked on at the VIP desk. All went smoothly, and Ariana was assigned to us to take us to our cabin, 11086. Granted the printing on her manifest was small, and we were first taken to a cabin some miles away. (well by then it felt like miles, this is a big boat.) Another check of the list and we headed to the other end of the ship. At least we knew we had the right floor. Oops, our key didn’t work. Oh, that’s a 6 not an 8.This time just a short stroll and we were home. Home is a verandah mini suite, beautifully decorated with not only a hair dryer, but a lighted makeup mirror.

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Pearl is longer than three football fields and can hold 2, 400 passengers. We’re sailing full, including 500 kids. Amazingly, although around, they’re never in the way.

We had the buffet lunch in the Garden Café and the choices were more than ample; and the food good with plenty of tables arranged in semi private areas so there was no feeling of crowding.

NCL initiated what they call the Freestyle concept, so there is no assigned seating in any restaurant. There are 10 restaurants on Pearl, each serving a different style food. Outside each eatery there’s a chart showing available tables at each restaurant on the ship. For instance, the chart may show that Indigo has three tables for two available, none for four at the moment, and two for six diners.

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Actually we ate at Indigo and the five course meal was delicious. I had curry, Michael had jerk chicken, and mahi-mahi also made an appearance.

It had been a long day so we skipped the show and headed for the duvet as Pearl slid up the Inside Passage.

First Day at sea

Struggling awake at 8:30 AM we ordered room service. It was prompt and the coffee was good. By the way, there’s an automatic coffee maker in the cabin, so anytime you want coffee, there it is.

We are almost in Alaska and the pool is awash with kids and some adults. The adults are bundled up, the kids in bathing suits. The sun is out, but it’s only 55 degrees.

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There was a guy at the top of the waterslide whose job is to make sure the slide is clear before the next kid went zipping towards the pool. He was in a heavy hooded parka.

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Because we are “media” we are considered VIP’s on this cruise. The other VIP’s are in the top suites which include Courtyard Villas, each with a private courtyard, swim against the current lap pool,

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hot tub, male and female steam rooms and a small fitness area. Two of them are 5000 square feet, and cost roughly $15, 000 per person for this 7 day trip. They are both occupied..

We ate lunch in the special “Concierge” section (read VIP) of the Star Bar.

In the massive atrium of the Pearl is a Nintendo Wii presented on a two story screen.

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Two youngsters were playing, and it was fascinating to watch one move his arm in a pitching motion, and the character on the screen pitch the ball. The other player moved his arm — strike one.

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I also got a strike. Not Nintendo, but at one of the ship’s four Bowling Lanes. Unbelievable, bowling on a boat. I used to be a pinsetter, but was my first time at the other end of the lane. Our media bunch had a tournament, and I didn’t come in last. This was major fun.

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Dinner was at Cagney’s steak house. My Ahi was a bit tough, but no one left any steak on their plate. Service was excellent. The cost for Cagney’s is $20 per person.

Second City performed in the Stardust Theater and did sketches, some quite funny, but little improv. Later in the cruise they’ll do a completely improvisational performance. NCL is a exceptionally inventive cruise line, and it’s great to see this kind of entertainment.

2nd day Juneau

Not much to tell about Juneau. Michael was not well, and slept most of the day and evening. I wrote.

I joined the bunch for dinner at Teppanyaki ($20 per) and was blown away by “the act”. If you’ve been to Benihana’s you’ve seen the showbiz end of the food preparation, but these guys from the Philippines were really good and especially charming.

3rd day Scagway Tour time.

We are one hour behind PDT and so I was up very early to do my weekly 6:30 AM travel feed to KION which I would air today at 5:30 AM. The alarm rang at 4:45, but the sun had been up for almost an hour, so it didn’t seem so early.

At 9:20 it was time to start our 5 hour Glacier Point \Wilderness Safari tour. Our group met at the end of the Skagway pier which is only a block from first t-shirt shop. We boarded a creaky school bus and went about 100 yards around the area to the public docks. We were then met by Trevor, a guy in his thirties with a shaved head under a peaked cap, face hidden behind a mustache and about a foot of neatly trimmed beard. Trevor was from Texas.

We got some introductory info which passed the time until a large catamaran pulled up to the pier and we were loaded aboard. There were about 40 of us overall. The catamaran did about 40 knots and is the fastest in the area. As we zoomed, Trevor told us about the area, pointed out waterfalls and generally entertained us for the 45 minute trip. As we neared our destination, Trevor said that the two bathrooms on the boat would soon close, but not to worry there were two new lavatories at Glacier Point. We made a turn towards the North, ducked around a peninsula, and then eased our bow (or is it bows) onto a rocky black sand beach.

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Two guides, a male and a female were waiting for us, led us to a couple of four wheel drive buses. We loaded in and went for a coupe of miles on a road that had been hacked out of some pretty dense forest. Eventually we reached a clearing where there was an out building housing outer gear and boots for us to wear. The newly constructed toilets were close by, hanging off a wooden deck. But wait! An announcement was made that these were only for the women; the men were pointed down a trail into the woods. Ordinarily, unless very shy, this would not be a problem, but a third dynamic was introduced to this bucolic scenario. MOSQUITOES!!!!!! Swarms of them. They came in clouds, points ready for combat. Now here is the scene. Nature is calling, for some perhaps screaming. Obviously one hand is occupied; the other, holding newly donned jacket to the side. Face is targeted by the enemy. The dilemma, which hand to use to brush away the invader?

There was deet available in two squeeze bottles sitting on the railing of the women’s bathrooms. The mosquitoes reacted to it like lunching executives to a Martini.

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From the clearing we followed our guides, one holding a cylinder of bear repellent a quarter of a mile down a rocky and root strewn path, eventually reaching our ten man canoes.

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We boarded the canoes. “All forward”, hollered our female leader. Glacier ahead, rapids o the rear, we started to paddle.

Although we paddled for what seemed a long time, the glacier didn’t seem to get any closer. It didn’t help that we were going against the current.

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Finally, close to the glacier’s face, we were told to secure the paddles. What was that noise? The guide had started an outboard motor! We had a motor? I never figured out why we had to paddle to the glacier (and back) with this arm saver sitting behind us. Part of the experiential process?

Few people ever get as close to the ice as we did, and we spent a good bit of time there.

 

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The outboard off, we drifted with just the sound of melting water trickling into the bay. Oddly enough, even the mosquitoes just sat quietly on our jackets.

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On our way back to the waiting catamaran, our guides told us about their life on Glacier Point. There are twelve, six men and six women, who live in two “dorms” that have no heat or electricity. A third building is the main gathering and eating area. It has three light bulbs, one of which has a dimmer switch. Both of our guides were from Portland, in their early twenties, and loved the job.

When we hit the beach the mosquitoes headed back to the clearing to get ready for the next collection of fresh blood.

Our press group met for dinner in the Italian restaurant, La Cucina. Lots of good food starting with antipasto, then appetizer, then the obligatory pasta course. It was hard to find room for my tasty manicotti.

Stomachs full, we headed for the night’s show in the main theater. By now you may know how I feel about musical shows on ships. Most of them use instrumental and voice tracks recorded in a shore studio. The music is without excitement and, except for the two or three main performers, the dancers lip sync. By now, the younger cruisers are not musically oriented to Broadway, and adjustments, at least on this ship have been made. I quote from the ship’s daily schedule:

SHOWTIME: Sea Legs, a Showgirl Revue

NCL and the Jean Ryan Company proudly present “Sea Legs”-a 21st century showgirl review. This evening we are highlighting the music of Frank Sinatra and the modern sounds of Justin Timberlake and Beyonce.

I knew there was trouble ahead. Let me just say that rap performed by a white tenor in a suit and tie, no matter how scantily clad the show girls are, does not come close to being anything but a parody. Some of the show girls had microphones attached to their heads. That was to make you think they were really singing. The mics were just props.

For me the Sinatra portion of the show was really upsetting. The singer here and there actually sang different notes then were originally written in order to make the song fit his voice. Frank would have decked him. Two acrobats working a huge ring saved the day.

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