Disembarkation is always as major production. In the space of about 6 hours the crew has to get all the passenger and their luggage off the ship, clean everything up, and bring a whole new batch of passengers and their luggage aboard.
On the other end of the ship they are busily unloading garbage and re-loading another weeks' worth of food, drink, and merchandise.
The disembarkation process starts the night before. Each passenger is required to have their luggage ready to be hauled away by midnight thenight before arrival. This means that you need to hold back some clothes for the morning. They have funny stories about people who forget to do this.
The next morning, after a final breakfast on board, the passengers are called in groups to specific public areas on the ship. This allows housekeeping to start getting the cabins ready for the next set of passengers.
After sitting in your "disembarkation assembly area" for an hour or so, you are led off the ship into the cruise line terminal for a sometimes emotional reunion with your luggage.
It was great! As I said earlier, crusing is the best way to vacation. This is my first time on NCL and I recommend it highly. The week was fun, interesting, and relaxing. We got to see many things and places that I've never seen before and we didn't have to drag our luggage around every day to do it.
I never gave much thought to Alaska before this, but now, having seen the panhandle, I'd like to see the rest of the state.
The one negative thing I took away from the whole experience was the sense that the cruise line was trying to nickel and dime us all the time. The cruise ticket buys you your cabin and all the food you can eat. The excursions, alcohol, souvenirs, etc are all extra. I've been on cruises before, so I understand this.
On this cruise we indulged ourselves with a massage (not included). We went to a few of the specialty restaurants (extra cover charge). Once, my wife ordered a soft drink from a bar (not included, soft drinks are included with meals only).
Any booze you bring on board with you is confiscated when you board, and returned at the end of the cruise. Any booze you buy from the ship's duty free shop is held until the end of the cruise. Any booze you buy at a port is confiscated when you re-board and returned at the end of the cruise. They want you to buy their booze at a price comparable to what you would find in a bar (beer: $5, wine: $7, martini: $10) plus the 20% gratuity automatically tacked on.
The cruise ticket itself was quite reasonably priced. But they got our money in other ways.
Even so, it was a great vacation that was worth the total cost. I hope to take many more cruises in the years to come.
We were off the ship by about 10 am, but our flight back to San Jose didn't leave until 5 pm. At the excursion desk on the ship they told us about a Seattle City Tour that would pick us (and our luggage) up at the ship terminal, show us around the Seattle area for a few hours, and then drop us off at SeaTac Airport. Perfect!
I've been to Seattle 3 times now and each time I'm struck by how inviting the city seems. The weather isn't as nice as the SF Bay Area, but, if for some reason I had to leave San Jose, I could see myself living in Seattle.
Here's a shot of downtown Seattle from Gas Works Park. Note the Space Needle on the right.
And finally: Here's what my wife has to put up with: