Dining: We ate in most of the dining areas. As mentioned previously, we enjoyed breakfast and lunch in Cagney's. While they had the same breakfast menu daily, the lunch menu varied. We had breakfast and lunch once or twice in the Garden Café. Our evening meals were in Lotus Garden, Mambos, Summer Palace, LaCucina, Indigo, LeBistro (twice). I enjoyed all the meals, only wishing they were served a little warmer. The Braised Short Ribs/Tenderloin at LeBistro is still my favorite entrée but I fell in love with the chilled fruit soups found in many of the dining venues. LeBistro's chocolate fondue was suburb. Speaking of chocolate, the chocolate buffet was held from 10 to 11pm on Friday night. I love chocolate, but by that time I was pretty much chocolated-out and we chose not to attend. Over the course of the cruise, we enjoyed enough complimentary bottles of wine that we never opened our private box.
Entertainment: Thankfully, Tubez has been eliminated from the entertainment lineup. The SeaLegs at Sea show (which I didn't attend), Garden of the Geisha, the magician and Second City were repeats from the Caribbean cruise. The only act that was "new" was the juggler. The "Fountains" show was just as hilarious as the first time I saw it! Simon Murray was the Cruise Director on this cruise and did a great job, but his assistant still had a phony laugh which put me off from the very start. Several of the shows we enjoyed in the past were shuffled to other venues at strange times (e.g. passenger talent show). We attended one of the art auctions and enjoyed the Art Director - "Flash" Gordon. He was very entertaining and truly knowledgeable about the art on board the ship. We signed up for the Murder Mystery Dinner, which was fun. This cruise had so many people interested in this dinner; it was divided over two evenings. Even at that, something like 72 people were made into teams of 8 or 9 tables participating in the mystery. I was a team captain (or whatever they called it) and felt as though a little more instruction would've been nice. We made the best of it and had a grand time.
As usual, the casino was smoky and noisy. For far less noise and no smoke, we headed to the Bliss lounge for some machine poker. Of course, I lost money, but my fiancé broke even. Karaoke in Bliss was simply awful - but maybe it was just the times I stopped in. I didn't attempt Bingo this time - it's too expensive and I never seem to win anyway. Since the last port of call was Victoria, the casino and shops closed at 3PM Saturday evening and did not reopen for the duration of the cruise. A very few hardy souls used the pools and hot tubs. Most days it was too windy and cool to enjoy the water, even if it was heated. You still have to get in and out! Very few outdoor activities were scheduled, but the last evening while in Victoria, a BBQ was held on deck. Lounge chairs were on the Promenade deck for glacier viewing. NCL provided very nice Faribault Woolen Mills blankets to help keep you warm. (That's a plug for my home state!)
Miscellaneous: We did laundry one evening. Self-service launderettes are on decks 5, 9 and 10. The machines are free, but you need to purchase the detergent or bring your own from home. Fabric softener is not available. We did try to use the stairs whenever possible and used the gym facility a few times. When it wasn't too windy, we also made it a point to use the outdoor walking circuits.
Ports of Call: This was the first time we have taken shore excursions. We booked two of them independently and one through NCL. We liked the whale watching experience in Juneau with Captain Larry - although some did not like the fact that we shared the boat with 40 others. We had front row seats and a great view with the Captain right by our side. The White Pass Scenic Railway tour in Skagway booked through NCL was very enjoyable. We did have to wait for nearly an hour for our scheduled train to leave, but we still had the full 3-hour ride. The weather in both Juneau and Skagway was unbelievably warm - many times we were told we were lucky to be there so early in the season as the locals do not expect the snow cover to last the entire summer. But the highlight of our excursions was the Misty Fjords flightseeing with Island Wings. We had an amazing 1-1/2 hours of scenic wonders, landing by a tiny island where we walked around and had our photos taken with the pilot, Michelle. Unfortunately, the weather went south and we had a miserable, cold, wet experience for the remainder of our stop in Ketchikan. We felt, as others have stated, this port was the best for shopping. We did not stop at Diamonds International, Emeralds International, or the Tanzanite International shops that are everywhere. Instead, we made it a point to shop in the shops "owned and operated by Alaskans".
Onboard Shopping: Everything from a candy bar, cold medicine, inexpensive (or expensive) jewelry or a t-shirt is available on the Pearl. New to the Alaska cruise, were Ulu knives and other Alaskan souvenirs. Knives were kept for security reasons and could be picked up the last evening of the cruise.
Disembarkation: We had VIP departure off the ship and it was very easy. We had breakfast in Cagney's, and enjoyed a personal tour of the Garden Villas. These 3 bedroom, 3-1/2 bath estates are available for the paltry sum of $25,000 per week. Afterwards, we gathered our carry-on luggage and joined the line to disembark. We walked right over to our luggage (held in the VIP area), went through Customs and off to a taxi in less than 5 minutes. The Seattle airport was well organized and we had plenty of time for our flight connections.
To Summarize: The Pearl is a beautiful ship and the food and crew are wonderful. I didn't think I would enjoy this cruise as much as I had our Caribbean cruise, but NCL did it again. I have to rate this cruise as 10+. I don't know when we'll book our next NCL cruise, but you can be sure it will be in the not-to-distant future!