Day 6, A Sea Day on our way to Juneau, Alaska. October 23, 2023
We knew it would be getting colder as we headed north to Alaska, but it still is a shock to the system after not being in cold temperatures since who knows when! Juneau is currently -2C as I write yesterday’s blog! Yikes. What have we got ourselves into going to Alaska on the last cruise of the season? The sun is glorious though and I’m seeing snow capped peaks off our starboard side and it really is very pretty scenery to be sailing in from the comfort of our very warm and cozy cabin! Every now and then I step out on the balcony to take a few shots with my Fuji XT-4, but I think I’ve gotten soft after having spent last winter on the Viking Neptune for our World Cruise primarily visiting warm, tropical destinations!
But I digress….let’s get back to what happened yesterday on our first full sea day of this Norwegian Encore Alaskan cruise.
With our ‘Priority Access’ which I purchased for each of us, we get ‘free’ room service breakfast each morning. We thoroughly enjoyed room service breakfast on the Neptune more than 50% of the time as I’m not a ‘get up and go’ kind of gal. The catch with this room service breakfast is that it is only for cold menu items: muffins, yogurt, fruit and cereal. We also had a pot of hot coffee delivered and some hot water for me to enjoy with my Tazo green peppermint tea. The bran muffins were delicious and quite tasty but there was no where to order butter on the order form, so I naturally assumed butter would be served with the muffins, but I was wrong. Pro tip: write butter on the menu form so you get butter with your muffins!
We had seen in the ‘Freestyle Daily’ that there was morning trivia at 9:30am in the Atrium on Deck 6 so we wandered down to see what that was all about. We miss playing our twice daily trivia with Gene and Margaret and Mike and Sharon from the Neptune! Of course being a much larger ship there were no spots available for us to play, so we went to the internet help desk instead to get Richard’s phone working on the wifi. Richard only has 150 minutes of wifi which was included in the price of the cruise. I upgraded to unlimited wifi for the duration of the cruise on day 1, so I am able to blog and conduct research on our destinations. Richard had not downloaded the NCL app before boarding so he was having difficulty accessing the wifi, so another Pro Tip: download the NCL app on all devices you will be using onboard or it will be tough to get on the wifi once onboard.
We had seen there was a presentation and video on Alaska going on in the Encore Theatre on Deck 7 at 10am, so we thought it might help us better understand our destinations in Alaska. Of course before the official presentation started the ‘Cruise Next‘ guy took the stage and told us we would each receive $1,000 off our next cruise which could be taken at any time up to 4 years out, if we visited the ‘Cruise Next’ desk and booked another cruise while onboard. With a captive audience sitting in the theatre I wonder how many of them thought “Wow! I need to go and book another cruise with Norwegian to get that $1,000 off my next cruise?” It would be interesting to know how many people book another cruise while on a cruise? I still think using www.vacationstogo.com like we did is one of the best ways to book a cruise because there are last minute deals to be had on the ‘90 Day Ticker’ if you’re flexible and willing to wait until 90 days before sailing. Of course using your own preferred travel agent is always a great idea too while using www.vacationstogo.com as a research tool as it lists every ocean cruise around the world by date, departure port, # of days and cruise destinations etc...
We were intrigued by the presentation on Alaska which gave us a high level overview of Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan which are the 3 Alaskan ports we will visit on this cruise.
Richard had seen there was a Blackjack tournament going on at 11am and it was a one winner elimination with the finals (if he made it past round 1), taking place while sailing to Ketchikan. He ended up being one of the last 3 people at the table before busting with an Ace, drawing another Ace and then holding at 18, with the dealer drawing 19. Oh well better luck next time.
We headed to the Garden Cafe for lunch and saw that there was a beautiful looking Tom Yum soup with all of the fixings (chicken, green onions, cilantro, lemons and hot sauce) on the side.
Oh my the soup was amazing! We really, really enjoyed the Tom Yum soup off the Oriental buffet. We accompanied our soup with salads which we made from the salad bar. I have to say that the food on this Norwegian cruise is very, very good!
We had see in the ’Freestyle Daily’ there was a special ‘Port Talk and Shopping Experience’ at 12:30pm in the Encore Theatre so we thought we should attend the Port Talk and learn about our upcoming destinations.
The Port Talk was not like any other Port Talk we had experienced before. The ’port talk’ was all about what stores to visit in each port that Norwegian endorsed or which the stores had paid Norwegian cruises to promote them! We also received a VIP card to fill out to bring to the woman giving the talk who called herself the ‘Onboard Shopping Expert’ to let her know what we were interested in purchasing onboard, so she could give us a ‘VIP‘ shopping card to present to these special Norwegian endorsed stores in each port. Quite a good scam I would say, for the captive audience sitting in the theatre. The only reason we stayed until the end of the presentation was we had a raffle ticket for a necklace and earrings which the ‘Shopping Expert’ was raffling off. Richard’s eyes were rolling through the entire presentation, but we did receive a couple of good handouts on Juneau and Skagway which provided us with port maps and information on each port. We also got two free ‘Effy’ necklaces which will probably turn my skin green! Much like the MSC ship I was on last month in Europe, the heavy sales pitch onboard to ’buy, buy’, buy’ is constant.
As we walked back through the main area on Deck 6 to get the elevators to our cabin on Deck 9, we saw there was an ‘Art Auction’ starting soon. People were lining up to get their bidding cards for the auction, because of course everyone who boards a cruise needs a new piece of art to bring home don’t they? There was even a ‘Less than $500’ Art Auction being pitched for tomorrow. Wow! Run, don’t walk to sign up for a bidding card!!!
I spent the afternoon blogging and getting up to date with the blogs, but with a spotty internet and with only the ability to connect one device at a time to the wifi it was a slower process than I’m used to. On the Neptune we each were able to have 2 devices connected at any time to the wifi. Having access to two connected devices was really handy when I was blogging and doing research and uploading photos from my iPhone to my Ipad (on which I write the blog). Oh well, different is a bit slower, but it is still ‘doable’.
While Richard napped, I went to the ’Pulse Fitness centre’ on Deck 16 to workout. I find that the same timing to go to the gym works on all cruise ships; later in the afternoon from 5-6pm seems to be a great time when most people are either doing pre dinner cocktails or getting ready for dinner. The gym had ‘Techno gym’ equipment which did not offer a pre-set program for either cardio or weight loss, but I still managed a good workout for 30 minute and worked up a good sweat. The nice thing about this gym was the cold, wet towels in the refrigerator to use after the workout. A very nice touch!
We had dinner reservations tonight at Los Lobos Mexican restaurant at 7:30pm for just the two of us. Richard again had worked his magic to get a table at the back of the restaurant next to the windows, aft of the ship, which gave us a nice private table with no kids, or a large group next to us. We each ordered a margarita, ordered our meal and waited. 25 minutes went by before finally Richard reminded our server that we wanted our margaritas before our appetizers arrived. Of course the margaritas arrived and 20 seconds later our appetizers arrived. I think what we are going to do the next time we go for dinner is to order our drinks and hold off on ordering our meals until we have enjoyed our drinks for awhile.
The homemade salsa made fresh daily was absolutely delightful! Spicy, with a nice smoky, rich taste. The chips were warm and fresh too. A nice nibble before our dinner.
My beet, jicama salad with pepitas was very nicely presented in a modern glass bowl and was a small, but enjoyable portion.
I had a pulled chicken burrito which was delicious! The burrito was packed with white chicken breast, rice and veggies. I could not even finish half of my burrito. It was so filling!
Richard had a chicken mole enchilada. Richard loves mole sauce and the presentation and taste of his mole enchilada with refried beans and Mexican rice on the side was delicious!
Richard had the flan with a chocolate base for his dessert, while I had only a small taste of the dense Mexican flourless chocolate cake for my dessert.
The food was amazing at Los Lobos. Wow! Upscale Mexican. Food 9/10; Service 6/10. We have decided that the service issue we seem to be having at the Specialty Dining restaurants has to be a training issue. Understanding that people want their drinks almost as soon as they arrive, time to enjoy the drinks and then have food arrive so the meal can be enjoyed leisurely and not rushed, just doesn’t seem to be a concept that the dining staff seem to understand. If the restaurants were packed I would understand the need to rush us out for the next guest’s reservations but that is not the case. The restaurant was more than half empty at 7:30pm.
Our fellow cruise traveller friends really enjoyed their meal at the a la carte included restaurant called ‘Taste’. They had an endless supply of wine, excellent food and service and they even had the F&B Manager for the ship visit their table and give them comment cards to write comments about any of their favourite servers on the ship. He explained that the mandatory $20 USD per cruiser/per day service charge pool is split between all of the staff on the ship, with those receiving kudos on guest comment cards, given extra from the service charge pool. Interesting. I wonder if a server provides bad service do they ‘dock’ their tips any? Or deal with the training issue? Hopefully I can meet the F&B Manager for a chat, as our friends got his card.
The ’Beatles Invasion’ was playing in the Encore Theatre at 9:30pm so we went to the show which followed the career of the Beatles through time until they broke up. The 4 musicians were excellent vocalists and instrumentalists and had us up dancing with “Twist and Shout” for their encore after the 50 minute show. The Encore has a ‘Cavern Club’ onboard where these 4 musicians perform 2 more times in a smaller venue during the remaining sailing evenings. We thought the performance was outstanding and really entertaining! Richard said the performance was better than anything we saw on Viking during the World Cruise!
Early 1960’s Beatles era.
Sergeant Pepper era Beatles. Paul on the left, George on guitar, Ringo on drums and John on keyboards.
After the Beatles Invasion show we headed to ‘Maltings Whiskey Bar’ on Deck 8 for a night cap. Well let’s be real, we closed the bar down at midnight, but the good news was the clocks went back an hour last night, so we gained an extra hour of sleep!
We never knew that Alaska had its own mainland time zone which is 4 hours different from Eastern Standard Time. In fact up until the 1980’s Alaska actually had 4 different time zones. Imagine trying to get anything done in business in a State the size of Alaska with 4 different time zones. One place would be shutting down at 5pm, and the furthest away part of the state would only be at 1pm. That sure made for a short time to be able to catch someone still at work in the pre-internet, early computer days of working life.
We will provide our overall impressions of the ship and some photos of the various venues on our next full sea day, but we are so far very impressed by the food and beverages on the Norwegian Encore. For a ‘budget’ cruise Norwegian has put their money where cruisers want it spent. Now if this ’captive audience’ can keep their Visa cards in their pockets, they’ll get off this ship with money to spend somewhere else!