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Dana

Age: 34

Occupation:stay at home mom

Number of Cruises: 2

Cruise Line: Norwegian

Ship: Norwegian Spirit

Sailing Date: August 21st, 2004

Itinerary: Alaska

Dana Mudd


Pre-cruise:

We arrived the evening of Thursday, July 19. I had already made arrangements with Townepointe Limousine (http://www.townepointelimousine.com) to meet us at the airport and take us to our hotel. Greg, from the Townepointe was extremely helpful in arranging this service. Glen met us at Baggage Claim. If you do arrange for a car service, ask the driver to bring the car around while you are claiming your bags. Glen waited to see how much luggage we had and then went to get the car. It seemed to take forever for him to come back to us! After being on a plane for 5 hours we were ready to go! He had lots of information about Seattle. He gave us a great map of the area. We had other maps but his turned out to be the best. The ride was going smoothly until we realized Glen had the wrong hotel-there are 2 Best Western Hotels within a block or so of each other. Not sure how this happened, I looked at my e-mail when I got home and I had sent the correct address. Oh well! We could see the right one so we just went around the block. No problem. We had really enjoyed the ride and the conversation with Glen. My sister-in-law made reservations through Priceline. Best way to go in my opinion. Hotel rates in the downtown Seattle area were outrageous! Best Western Executive Inn was the chosen hotel. When we arrived in our room, we realized immediately that it was smoking room and we had asked for a non-smoking room. We tried to get it changed but the hotel was full. Apparently, if you book through Priceline you basically get whatever is left. The staff was great though. We went to the lounge for dinner and they brought some kind of machine to the room that got rid of most of the smell. I am extremely allergic to cigarette smoke and never had a problem after the machine ran for about 30 minutes. The hotel was nice and clean. It was very convenient for the things that we wanted to see in Seattle. The restaurant had great food. There is a Laundromat down the street that we used on Saturday morning before we went to the pier so that we would start off with all clean clothes. Neither my sister-in-law or I are good with directions, needless to say we got lost but a helpful gentleman pointed us in the right direction and then showed us the new machines to use! Not sure of the name but it was next to the Five Points bar. The owner of the bar also owns the Laundromat. The hotel has a free shuttle that will take you to the airport. It starts running around 10:30 but you can call the front desk and they will take you earlier. I would advise doing this. We called around 9:30 and we had to wait for a group ahead of us. The ride is only 10 minutes or so.

Seattle:

It took us months to decide what to do with our day in Seattle. I e-mailed the chamber of commerce and got great information and coupon books. I contacted the transit system and received several route maps. After discovering the ride free zone would take us where we needed to go, we decided against renting a car. This was a great decision! We are from the Atlanta area and the bus system is not that great so we were a little apprehensive. The ride free bus area was wonderful! A little confusing as to what bus to take but we always found a helpful person to point us in the right direction. On Friday morning, we found the right bus to take us to Pike Market (www.pikeplacemarket.com). We had breakfast at the Athenian Inn. Great food at very affordable prices. The market was amazing! Beautiful flowers, produce, etc. I wanted to take all the flowers home with me. The prices were incredible. Biggest lobster tails I had ever seen at the stand next to our breakfast place. Of course, we had to go to Starbucks. That was a necessity for my brother-in-law. Then we headed over to the aquarium (www.seattleaquarium.org). We had coupons that were good for this attraction. $2 off adult admission. Really neat place. My daughter loved it! We were there for a couple of hours. Then we did some shopping around the downtown area. Our next stop was the Space Needle (www.spaceneedle.com). It took us a few minutes and a few wrong turns before we figured out what bus we needed to get us to that area. If the monorail was working that would have been what we needed. Oh well. This is the only time the bus went out of the ride free area but it only cost us $1.25. We had make reservations for 12:45 at Sky City. Yes, the lunch prices seem high but not if you consider the $13 price tag for the observation tower that we were going to do anyway. The observation Deck is included in your lunch price. Amazing view and the food was good too! Very relaxing and the view kept our 3 year old entertained. After lunch, we went back to our hotel, which was just across the street to drop off some things. On our way back we made reservations to Ride the Duck (www.ridetheducksofseattle.com). Their office is right across from the Space Needle. Reservations are recommended for this attraction. Then we headed back to Ride the Ducks. Our driver was Helen and she was a hoot! This was one of the highlights of our trip! We saw lots of downtown and we went into Lake Washington where we saw the Sleepless in Seattle houseboat. I would highly recommend this tour! After our duck, we went back to the hotel to relax and prepare for the next day.

Embarkation:
When we arrived at the pier, there was a guy there with a cart to get all our luggage, we checked in with someone curbside and they directed us into the waiting area at the pier. It was about 10:15 and the check-in process would not start until 10:30. Everyone was told to wait downstairs until the gates opened upstairs. We had a stroller and my husband has a bad knee so we started looking for the elevator. It was around the corner to the right so we went ahead and took it upstairs. No one yelled at us so I guess it was ok! We were the first ones standing at the gate when it opened. One of our fellow cruisers was able to place us on the VIP list. We were literally the first one in line to register. They were handing out numbers to everyone else-not really sure what the numbers were for. We are also Latitudes members. Registration was painless and quick, then it was off to the VIP room. There were drinks and snacks available to us and a window with a great view of the Spirit. Also, a bathroom was close by. Someone from NCL came to get us around 11:30 and we were the first ones on the ship.

AMAZING! The lobby looks as if it belongs in a luxury hotel. In fact, my daughter kept asking me when we were getting on the big boat! It does have a heavy Asian theme but it was beautiful. And I am not one for Asian décor! The decks were a bit confusing. By the end of the week, we had finally mastered the right elevators to get us to either Windows or the Garden Room. Casino was nice but smoky. My husband did get lucky there with the slot machines. Restrooms all over the ship which came in handy with our toddler. We liked going up to Galaxy of the Stars-great observation area. Also, you could go downstairs and view the Captain’s bridge. I was fascinated by this! The hot tubs were a busy place. My husband and brother-in-law used them one night. My daughter went to the kid’s pool once. It was nice! But the weather was a little too cool for us. The pools were heated. It was just the thought of getting out that bothered me! The ship is so amazingly clean. I literally someone scrubbing with a toothbrush! The staff everywhere from the restaurants to Kids Crew to deckhands were extremely nice. Although, we did think the staff at the reception desk was the least friendly. There was a gentleman there that was very nice but the ladies were not. They weren’t rude-just not very helpful. The camera shops staff was a lifesaver. My brother-in-law accidentally reformatted the disc for his digital camera. They were able to recover all his pictures. We also bought a few pictures. We had already booked all our shore excursions so we did not have much contact with this area. They did fix a price for me where my 3 year old had been charged an adult price. This was done very quickly. The seas were mostly calm. There night that we left Skagway was rough when we were in the Pacific Ocean. We had bought bio-bands and they worked. At least, I am assuming they did because we were never sick.

Cabin:

We had balcony cabins 10532 and 10536. They were adjoining cabins. We had to call the front desk when we arrived to have someone come and unlock the adjoining doors. The balconies did not join, this would have been nice. We used our balcony a lot. I can’t imagine cruising Alaska without one. Well worth the price. Our room stewards were Horace and Liwang. They were great! Always a clean room! We also had towel animals every night! They brought extra hangers and an egg crate for the bed to us on our first day. They were so cheerful and seemed to love what they were doing. The bed was hard but the egg crate did wonders. The duvet cover was so warm and comfy. I have now purchased one for our bed at home! I think the bed was supposed to be a queen but it felt bigger than a queen to me but not as big as a king. 10536 was the cabin designated for 3 or more persons. The small couch folded out to a bed for our daughter. It was good for her but I think an adult would be uncomfortable. I had to lay down with her the first night and it felt like what it was-a sofa bed! It would be fine for small children. The adjoining room was the same except that it had a chair and a floor lamp. It also appeared that the chair folded out as well. No refrigerators! I really missed not having one. My daughter loves milk first thing in the morning so we would have to hurry and get her some from the buffet. On the Sun, I would fill her cup up the night before and have it there when we needed it the next morning. Don’t know where they would put one. The closet had plenty of hanging spaces and some shelves-but they were in the corner and not very user friendly. There were 4 small drawers in the cabin. I could have used more shelves for jeans, fleeces, etc. My daughters clothes were a problem They don’t fit on adult hangers and there were not enough shelves or drawers for them, so I left them in the suitcase and laid it on its side in the closet and just took out what I needed each day. Luggage fit under the bed except for one piece we just had to leave behind the drape. We could have given it to the steward but it really wasn’t in the way. We did not need a nightlight. We left the light on in the bathroom and then cracked the door. We did take a stick up for the bathroom to help with any odors. The shower was awesome! Sliding glass door and great water pressure. Best ship shower ever! Bathroom had plenty of storage room. A lot of people take the over the door shoe hangers but we didn’t need one. I had packed mostly travel size bottles and they all fit nicely and there was a large shelf under the sink that held a lot. The drapes were heavy and kept the room dark in the mornings. Bring a travel alarm clock as the only clock is on the phone or on the ship’s TV channel. My husband watched a lot of TV. They do get TNT for all you race fans. They were playing some good movies on the movie channel as well.

Food:
We ate at both the main restaurants, the Blue Lagoon, Bier Garten and Raffles. The food was incredible-I now have 5 pounds to lose. We eat out a lot so we are good judges of restaurant type food. Raffles was always our quick breakfast place before excursions. We loved the hamburgers and the rice at the 24 hour Blue Lagoon and they would wrap stuff up for us to take back to our room. We had lunch at Windows almost everyday. We ate at the Garden Room once for dinner and then at Windows 3 times for dinner. The other nights we went to the Buffet. We would always look at the menu earlier during the day to decide where we wanted to eat. The first night we just did the buffet because it was easy and we were tired. The other nights we didn’t care for the menu. There was always something at Raffles that we liked. They seemed to have solved the earlier issue with keeping the food warm because we did not have a problem. There were occasional waits to find a table in Raffles for breakfast. Other times we had no problem. We never waited longer than 20 minutes for dinner. Try doing that at a mainland restaurant on a busy night. 7-8 seemed to be the busiest time. We prefer early dinners but Kid’s Crew did not open until 7. We learned that if we went to dinner at 6:30 the wait time was shorter and then I just took our daughter to Kid’s Crew at 7. Some servers were better than others. Candinodo (sp?) from the Philippines was wonderful-kept my daughter entertained during our first lunch onboard. One night we did not get the iced tea we requested. We could have asked again but we were fine with the water. Not a big deal in the big scheme of life. Sometimes you just have to let things go! There was a waitress in the Garden Room that for some reason did not like us and was not very friendly but she was efficient. The evening we were sailing Sawyer Glacier we did not want to miss the view or change out of our fleece! So, we went down to the Garden room and ordered off the menu and then room service brought it to us. That was really nice! We weren’t sure they would do it but we thought we would try! We had a soda card and The Bund on Deck 7 was where we got most of our drinks. The soda card was well worth the price for us. I am a soda fanatic. No problems getting soda at lunch or dinner either-even in Raffles. The chocolate buffet was amazing too! My favorite was the fruit fondue. Yummy! It was served around the pool area the day we sailed Sawyer Glacier so we didn’t miss out on the view. Dress code was relaxed. We were told that jeans were acceptable in the dining rooms as long as they were not torn. This was great. We didn’t wear most of the dinner clothes that we brought. I usually wore black pants and a nice shirt and my husband wore dockers. Some days we didn’t even have to change for dinner because what we were for the day was acceptable. Wish I had known that before I packed. Not sure if the other ships are following this dress code or not. Room Service was always prompt and correct. Love this! The food was always great.

Shows:
The only show we saw was Jane Powell and she was great! At the beginning it was slow and we were wondering if we had made a mistake but then it picked up! We were so glad we stayed. So, if you go be patient-the best is yet to come!

Ports of call:

Ketchikan

We went to the Tongass Trading Company so my husband could get a new pair of sneakers. They had a huge variety of things-even a hardware store! We then went to the rain gauge to meet Jarred from Island Wings for our Misty Fjords flight seeing trip. This was the first excursion that we have ever done independently and things went very smoothly. The trip was fantastic! Amazing scenery. Michelle’s plane was the cleanest plane that I have ever seen. We had a party of 5 and we were joined by another couple. Plenty of room. Michelle was good about pointing out things of interest along our journey. We landed on a lake and walked around the beach for a while. We saw bear tracks! I had read tons of information on cruise trip regarding this excursion and that is why I booked and because they did not charge for my 3 year old because she sat in the middle and did not have a window seat. Was she personality/tourguide extraordinaire? Not really, maybe I expected something different given the rave reviews. But who can argue with the trip itself-so amazingly beautiful. By the way, we though it would be chilly on the plane-think again! Don’t bundle up too much or you will get hot. We still had time to explore when our flight was over, so we went to a few souvenir shops and stopped at a restaurant to have some appetizers. Then it was back on board. We docked when we arrived in Ketchikan but had to tender back to the ship. One of the staff captains was standing near us and he was so nice! We talked a few minutes about weather in the ports to come and the cruise in general. We had excellent weather in Ketchikan.

Juneau/Sawyer Glacier
Another beautiful weather day. We did the Mendenhall Glacier/ Wildlife Quest through NCL. This excursion is ran by Allen Marine Tours (www.allenmarinetours.com) We wanted to see the Glacier and go whale watching and this was the only excursion we could find that did both. Time is tight in Juneau-wish there had been more time. This excursion was breathtaking. We saw eagles, seals, sea lions, whales. We had thought about doing the Tracey Arm Excursion but didn’t want to really spend another 5 hours on an excursion. In hindsight we should have since the ship could not get really close to Sawyer Glacier. Because of the 90 degree temperatures this summer, lots of ice is melting and breaking away so it was not safe for the ship to go any closer. But it was still neat to be in the water with icebergs everywhere! Beautiful scenery, waterfalls and majestic mountains. By the way, some people are negative about the ships excursions saying they are overcrowded, etc. We had 53 people on this tour. Not crowded at all! This is the tour you will need your warm clothes for! It was very comfortable down below but up top was windy and cool. Bring gloves, hat and scarf for this excursion.

Skagway
We did the Best of Skagway tour. Again through NCL and there were only 22 people on this excursion. It started with a bus ride up through Skagway and into Canada. We stopped several times for photo ops. Beautiful scenery! We then too the White Pass Railway back down to Skagway. This simply can’t be missed. We really enjoyed this. Beautiful waterfalls, etc and a great narrator to point out sites along the way. Back in Skagway we again boarded the bus for our Salmon Bake and tour of Liarsville. Ok, I must confess that none of the 4 of us like Salmon but we thought we had to try it in Alaska to see if it was different. Well, I am sure it was wonderful but not to us. Although my 3 year old loved it! The side dishes were great and they had hot cider and cookies! We are just not fish people. Liarsville show was entertaining and then we panned for gold. Not actual panning since the gold rush actually occurred 600 miles to the north. But it was fun. Then back on the bus to the Red Onion Saloon for a tour of the brothel. Interesting. We then had some time to shop before going back on board. We found several interesting souvenirs at the White Pass Railroad store. The train at least one way is a must but not sure the other things were a must. Another beautiful weather day! The train was a little chilly though so bring a jacket.

Prince Rupert:

We would have done the Bear Sanctuary if it was still in season but it wasn’t and none of the other tours looked interesting. So we just got off the ship to explore on our own. I needed to make a stop at Safeway and when I came out it was raining so we just went back to the ship. There really didn’t seem to be anything of interest anywhere. Wish we could have gone to Victoria instead. Oh well. We had a relaxing day onboard. Might be a good stop if you are on a 10 or more day cruise but with only 4 ports, I would have preferred a port with more to offer.

**Note: The tour guides that are used on the NCL excursions seemed to be mostly college students from Washington State. They were great! What a fun way to earn money for school. So, don’t forget to tip them if you have a good tour!

Kid’s Crew:
Fantastic! Love the sea days when they are open almost all day! My daughter cried when we left and woke up every morning begging to go play with her friends. She is 3 so she was in the 2-5 group. I am a stay at home mom so she is not used to daycare. But she adapted very quickly. The counselors were great and the activities seemed to be well planned. The whole area seemed to be well organized-staff seemed to be mostly from Canada. We did buy the backpack and the soda card was worth the money! Although next time I will ask for a sticker instead of the band-it was hard to keep track of! I wish that they would open earlier in the evening though-we like to eat at 5 or so but had to wait until 7 for Kid’s crew to open so that we would have a more enjoyable dinner. The last night the kids had a pajama party and dinner. The dinner was in a sectioned off part of Raffle-again well planned. Everyone on board was so nice to out toddler, always a pleasant smile for her. From the passengers too! There were a lot of older passengers onboard and I think they missed their grandkids!

Disembarkation:
We needed earlier color tags so we went to the reception desk and got these without a problem. We had breakfast and were off the ship by 9:30. Went through customs and then retrieved our luggage. All of it was mostly together. Very quick.

Transportation to airport:
Again, set up through Townepointe Limousine. We called as soon as we were off the ship and they sent a limo over. We were earlier than expected because things had gone so smoothly. We did have to wait a few minutes but the weather was beautiful and we were better off outside that at the airport anyway. Tyler soon arrived and had us on our way. Checked baggage at curbside and then went to security. We did have to wait in a long line so I would not push it close with departure times. We ate lunch at the airport and then boarded our plane for our long journey home.

Expenses:
Yes, tours are pricey but you get what you pay for. I wouldn’t change any of ours. Except maybe adding the Tracy Arm Excursion. We booked through an online travel agency back in February so we had a few months to pay off the cruise. We booked our own airfare. Also, so that we would not be left with a huge bill after the cruise, throughout the year I purchased traveler’s checks to pay for our onboard account. We set it up with a credit card during check in but on the last sea day went to reception and paid the balance in full with traveler’s checks. Now I will not have a big credit card bill next month! The soda band really worked for us. We purchased water at our first port stop. Bought some souvenirs but didn’t go wild. Didn’t have the luggage room for a lot anyway!

For those of you with kids all of the above excursions were perfect for our 3 year old. She is a great traveler and I do believe that every child is different. Some people suggest that you don’t do long tours with toddlers but ours has always done fine. Of course, she will sleep anywhere! The umbrella stroller is a must anything larger would be really cumbersome. I have a packing list for toddlers if anyone is interested. She is potty trained now so life is easier. We just took some of her favorite snacks, juice boxes and every medicine known to man and we were well prepared. Pack comfy clothes for playing on board. We didn’t pack any toys just some coloring books for the plane. She was easily entertained. There is a child lock on the balcony and we had the talk about not standing in furniture, etc. We had no problems. If you have a climber you may want to have the furniture removed from the balcony. She was never out there without us. The kids menu was great and they would always bring it right out to her. We did room service a lot before going to Kid’s crew and also for PB and Js for shore excursions. Just be aware that the doors are very heavy. We had smashed fingers on the first day! We also brought our portable DVD player. This was useful on the plane and on the ship.

Packing tips:
Leave the hair dryer at home. It will not work on the Spirit. You are limited to 500 watts. The hair dryer on board was fine. Take a power strip. You will need it. Most of the things we plugged in were small wattage-cell phone charger, DVD charger, curling iron, etc. By the way, we didn’t use our cell phones the entire time. Not sure if we would have had coverage with Verizon. We just wanted to escape everyone for a week! Our family had the emergency number on the ship if they needed us. Now for clothes. We had 5 suitcases for the 3 of us. Remember this summer was unusual for Alaska-it was very warm. They had 90 degree temps earlier in the summer. So, my husband packed mainly jeans and a mixture of short/long sleeve shirts, a few pairs of shorts and several fleece pullovers. I packed 3 pairs of jeans, 2 docker type pants, 2 thin stripe cords and a mixture of long/short sleeve shirts with things that I could pull over these shirts. Fleece, lightweight sweaters, long sleeve shirts. I did take a few shorts but I never wore them. I was cold on the ship most of the time. Layering was the key. We used just about everything we packed except for our dinner clothes. For dinner I had packed mostly Chico’s travelers collection. If you are not familiar with their clothes you should be! Great travel clothes. I only wore one outfit though. When I was packing I took a pair of pants and then paired it with a short sleeve top, long sleeve top and then a pullover of some sort. I also packed a light weight jacket and a medium jacket. Same for husband and daughter. For my daughter’s clothes, I packed things that would be worn in spring/fall. Long sleeve shirts with leggings or short sleeve shirts with sweaters and pants-both jeans and cotton pants. Gymboree outfits with the matching shirt/sweater/pants were perfect. I had packed some things for dinner that were never worn. She is the one I over packed for but you never know with a toddler. I should have left the dressier things and brought more casual. Of course we packed gloves, scarves, etc. These were needed on the balcony as we cruised Sawyer Glacier and on the whale watching trip. They did not offer the $20 bag of laundry deal as they offer on several other ships. This would have been nice. I hate coming home with dirty clothes!

All in all a wonderful cruise and we are all ready to go again. I wish that NCL sailed the Greek Isles-that is our cruise for next year. So I guess we will try another cruise line. At least it will give us something to compare with NCL. We love the Freestyle concept-it is the main reason we started cruising. I would like to do the Southern Caribbean cruise on the Spirit. Maybe in a year or so. We would also like to do a cruise that goes farther north in Alaska. Next year NCL will be offering various Alaska itineraries. We love NCL and have never had any problems with customer service. I have called a few times and had great service every time. If you have any questions please feel free to e-mail me at themudds@yahoo.com .
 

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