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Back from the NCL Jewel (Northbound Alaska)! LONG

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Posted (edited)

I've always enjoyed reading peoples' experiences so here are mine. Sorry, no dailies but I can try to answer any questions. 


Expect lots of spelling and grammatical errors...



Cruise left Vancouver on 7/29. I booked a sailaway inside cabin 2 weeks before sailing to get a cheap rate. I placed bids for an ocean view and on a balcony but my bids were low so no upgrade. Embarking took slightly longer than I thought at maybe 45-60 minutes (arrived at around 1). I was able to go to the expedited line since I showed my Global Entry card (although honestly I have no idea why this would help at check in, but it did allow me to skip the main line which easily had over 200 people on it).When I went to check in, they still didn't have a room assignment for me so I was told to take a seat and that someone would find me when it's ready (this is where most of the time was spent). Someone got me and took me straight to check in. After check in, I went through security. Had no problems with my 11 cans of mini Diet Cokes in my luggage (I elected to carry on my own luggage). At customs the line wasn't bad. They do have a Global Entry line which is at booth 1 however you cannot see it from when you enter. One of the workers told me I could go straight to line 1, however the other lines were the same length so he suggested just staying in the general line so I did. 


The location of my room was pretty good...level 7 and only had neighbors on one side of me. Never heard any noise from other cabins or from above. The room was tiny, but functional so it wasn't too bad. My bed was already set up as a queen instead of 2 separate beds which was perfect for me as I went solo.  I did bump into the bunkbed (was closed up) a few times though since I sleep on the right side of the bed. Kind of surprised 3 people would book this room unless on a budget because it was already small for me. No problems with the toilet. The shower was good however, the water temperature did frequently change although nothing drastic. When I met people who booked the inside cabins, but where they got to pick the locations, they all seemed to be on level 3 and 4.


On embarkation day I went to the spa raffle (didn't win), ate lunch at the Irish themed pub (burger was fairly good), and went to a solo cruiser's meet. It was mainly retired people, but there were some around my age (30s). I went to dinner that night with a woman in the group and we had fun talking about travels and work (same profession). I also took a tour of the spa. Honestly, as someone who loves spas, I wasn't really impressed so I decided not to buy a day pass. I also felt the women who worked in the spa were very pushy to the point of being rude. 




I more or less did the same on board stuff each day....Jacuzzi and pool, and napping. The cruise had designated adult areas and people actually followed the rules (on the Sun, it was a free for all). I met nice people who I would often see throughout the cruise who I met in either the pool or Jacuzzi (never led to eating or seeing a show with them though as some came with their families, and the other were 2 guys who I think just wanted to do their own thing whenever which I get).


The shows I saw on board consisted of a Russian husband and wife acrobat/dance duo which actually wasn't bad, but it just wasn't my kind of thing. I only went to it because I ran into people from the group who invited me and had no plans. I was surprised to see them eating a couple of times at the buffet when they have like no body fat. They probably just ate salad though. I also saw a comedian (Larry something) during the adult comedy night. He was probably the best comedian I have had on a cruise.



The rest of the main events for musical numbers which I had no interest in seeing, and another comedy night which had no age minimum.I didn't use the gym although I did plan on using it (honestly!!). In Vancouver I got really bad painful blisters on my feet and didn't want to make it worse by doing my usual exercise.  Nothing like spending $6 Canadian dollars on a box of mediocre band aids! The gym did have a small steam room infused with eucalyptus. I used it a couple of times. Would have used it more but it frequently would be closed before it was supposed to close (per the sign).



Same experience from when I went on the Sun... Most of the food is edible... not amazing and often isn't good. I had breakfast each day in the buffet since I like getting up early and sitting with binoculars looking for whales. Breakfast buffet was your usually stuff where you couldn't go wrong. NCL has the best muesli, so I ate that almost daily. I also liked their raisin French toast with this banana sauce thing. Once in awhile they had lox and scrambled eggs on a bagels which was really good.


I spent lunch and dinners at all their complimentary restaurants. Again nothing blew my mind, however there were some heroes...The dining rooms had 2 really good desserts. One was this orange thing with some type of berry ice cream. The other was this chocolate mouse over red velvet cake. Cons? Their pasta selection at the buffet was really lacking. The first night you had your choice of 2 pastas with limited sauces, but on the other night you only had 1 choice. The fish at all restaurants was pretty much inedible because it was either under-cooked (fish and chips at the pub were gross), or really dry. The prime rib and the other red meat dish served at the buffet typically consisted mainly of fat. I actually ate fairly healthy for lunches and dinners always making sure I had a salad. I did regularly get ice cream though or their crepes. Crepes were good, but aside from bananas, the fruit isn't fresh. 



I went solo (34F) and went to the events for solos at least in the beginning. This ship doesn't have the studio rooms, so no solo lounge, however there was still somewhat of an attempt to get us party of 1's to meet each other. Each evening was the same. Meet at 6 in a small room adjacent to a lounge and make dinners arrangements. We had a very nice bubbly host who made dinner plans for people. She also tried to play matchmaker for me for a guy I was crushing on within the group (I can share more about this but it's off topic LOL). Like I stated earlier, the group consisted mainly of older people who often just complained, along with a few younger people. The younger ones were all cool and professionals. No one was weird. It seemed like we just either got fed up with friends uninterested in traveling for whatever reason (finances, work, etc), preferred traveling solo, or who just booked something last minute and wanted to relax. All were professional.

The more into the cruise though, the more we lost people. Newbs would show their faces though. I stopped going mid cruise. Why? When cute guy stopped going as well as a couple of the ones that I liked talking to stopped going, I stopped too. I got sick of eating early dinners with retirees who often just complained.


PORTS (excursions all booked independently)

This was my 2nd Alaskan cruise. When I did the first one, I went cheap on everything and regretted it (hence the 2nd cruise). The first stop was Ketchikan. It's not the most exciting port. A lot of the excursions were of no interest to me. I was planning on riding a bike at Ward Lake especially since there was no rain, but again with my blisters I passed. I did light hiking up to see the 2 fish ladders. I saw salmon running!!! This was a huge must for me. While it wasn't a large running, it was large enough for me. I also took the free downtown shuttle stop at the area around The Totem Heritage Center. Driver reminded me of Miss. Crabtree from South Park. Seemed uptight and took it out on people (at least on me!). Saw a couple of the free totem poles, but was bored. I did attempt a hike up nearby, but just as a went uphill, I said nah and went back down. Took a leisurely walk next to the Totem Park and took the bus back to port and walked around a little. Had salmon chowder at Fish House at 10:30 since I know it fills up later in the day due to its popularity. Honestly, this was the best chowder that I have ever had. Service was bad.Weather was perfect. No rain whatsoever despite what the forecast said. 


Juneau was the 2nd stop. Did the canoe tour at Mendenhall. Had a great time. Had excellent weather although it was definitely cold out on the water. I cannot imagine doing this in the rain in which the tour group said is what usually happens. I would be miserable. That's really all I did. I got to town at around 12:30 (tour started at 1:30). I just relaxed in the hot tub most of the morning talking to one of the people I met.


Next stop Skagway. I booked an all day Yukon Klondike tour on the bus with Chikoot Charters for $95 (did the train before). Loved it. It included lunch a Caribou Crossing. Lunch was really good surprisingly. The BBQ chicken was cooked perfectly, great coleslaw, and delicious apple donuts! The place is a tourist trap no doubt about it, but I had fun walking around with mini horses, goats, etc walking around. I did find it depressing how they chain the dogs up as they get ready to race. I would have been happier not going to Caribou Crossing because I feel like my $$ goes to support how they treat their dogs. Didn't spend time in Skagway aside from the our. All touristy crap.


Glacier Bay sailing was next. Wow, this has changed. When I went in June 2 years ago, GB was huge and was all around it. It was significantly smaller on this trip. Ranger never used the words global warming.Hubbard Glacier is the new GB imo which I saw the next day. It was much more impressive on this trip than on the last time. Cruise director said Hubbard is expanding. Saw lots of calving there, and heard it too. 


Cruise ended in Seward. Took a 9 hour Kenai Fords tour. Cute guy from the solo meets was on it, and we spent almost all the tour together talking. This tour was expensive. Probably not worth the $,  but I'm glad I did it. We couldn't see Resurrection Bay at all due to the fog. Couldn't see most of the glaciers either due to the fog. There were a couple whale sightings, 1 otter sighting, and really just puffin and seagull sightings. Did see some glaciers at the end hearing a lot of calving and seeing some so that was fun. The food sucked, but I knew that coming in. Breakfast was a can of juice, a tiny cinnamon roll, and a yogurt. You had to pay for coffee which I thought was weird. Lunch was a mediocre chicken wrap, chips, and a granola bar. I probably should have gone with Major Marines since their food seemed good, but ended up choosing Kenai Fords because it was slightly longer and cheaper. 


Ended my day with taking the complimentary shuttle to the train station (almost missed the train due to the shuttle taking 15 minute longer than it was supposed to show up). Took the 6PM train to Anchorage since I was going home. Booked Adventure class (not Gold Star which is the dome seating and included dinner and drinks). People are right saying that there really aren't bad seats. I think the views of wildlife on land may actually be better with the cheaper seats since you aren't high up (although scenery viewings might be better in the dome). I was able to spend most of my time in the complimentary dome that is shared for Adventure class people as it never was full and no one seemed to wait (otherwise I would have gladly gotten up). Decided to skip the dinner. You don't get to choose the time you eat, and the worker said that typically you have to eat with the people in your cart (I had assigned a loud family near me with 3 small kids who weren't well behaved so I opted out of having dinner not wanting to take my chances).


Took a Lyft to the airport for $20 (included tip). Uber had surge pricing and wanted $80 or around there.  I thought about asking others if they wanted to share a ride, but most had a lot of luggage and came with other people so I knew just to go solo. I did run into a girl I met from the solo meets who I liked, but she wasn't going to the airport. 


I booked a Basic Economy seat on Delta which I got for $150. It left ANC at 12:55, and had a short stopover in SLC, before arriving at LAX. Initially I was wanting an AA or Alaska flight that were both nonstops that left before midnight, but I got scared of pushing it due to the train coming in at 10:15. I actually would have made both fights since I had no check in luggage, and the precheck line had very few people on it, but I would have been nervous. This was my first time on Basic Economy as I normally always pay to choose my seat out of fear of getting that middle seat or the seat next to the toilet. Surprisingly, I had great seats. From ANC to SLC I had an aisle seat in the middle of the plane and the flight was full. I did volunteer to check in my carry on since I knew there would be little space left for me since people abuse the amount of stuff they take on in order to save $. From SLC to LAX I had a window seat in the middle of the plane and no one had the middle seat (flight wasn't full). Both flights left right on time, and I got my luggage quickly at the carousel at LAX which no long wait. 


All in all, a fairly nice short trip. 2 nights in Vancouver, 7 nights on the cruise, and 1 very long last day (9 hour cruise and 4 hour train ride). I probably should have just spent my last day at a hotel in ANC or Seward, but I thought what I did made sense since I saved $$ and could sleep on the plane due to being exhausted (I did sleep most of the flights, and I'm someone who can never sleep on planes). While I wouldn't say that I have regrets, I probably wouldn't have done that again. I didn't get sick on the excursion as I took Bodine, but I still felt the rocking in me hours later at the airport and on the airplane. I felt clammy on the flight and thought I would throw up. 





Forgot to mention this. Saw no bears. People on the cruise did seem to see them on that rainforest hike in Ketchikan though, and the cute guy in my group saw one in Skagway (he rented a car). I saw most of the whales on my trip actually from the window on the cruise of the buffet in the mornings. No killer whale sightings. Saw a number of otters, sea lions, and seals. Saw those white sheep with horns on the cliffs a few times. Saw moose a few times from the train. Saw a few bald eagles at a distance throughout the trip. And saw a porcupine from the train (I always thought they were the size of a rabbit, but they are much larger than I thought they would be). 

Edited by FaithPlus1

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I can't find it now but someone posted a picture of what looked like a seafood buffet on the Jewel to Alaska that included shrimp, crab claws, mussels and other goodies.  I've seen dailies for the Garden Cafe that has "Alaska Dinner" on Day 2 and "Fisherman's Dinner" on Day 6.  Did you see anything like that?  If so, in what venue and which night? We'll be on your exact cruise and wouldn't want to miss it.  Thanks.

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I was on the same cruise and agree with most of your comments.


I also found O'Sheehans to not be really worth it. The portions were small and I prefered the selections in the MDR.


To add a few things:


1 - I checked in using the Casinos at Sea line but ended up having to wait about 45 minutes to board anyways. They let the first group of passengers on around 11:45am.


2 - The fisherman's dinner was a lot of fish, salmon mainly, cooked different ways. I didn't take a picture sorry. I do not remember seeing mussels or crab. There was a shrimp pasta.


3 - I was in an inside room on Deck 10. I will say that being midship is totally worth the price, no matter what type of room. My son and I were always going around and around the ship doing different things and it was useful to always sort of be close to our room. 


4 - My son loved the Splash Acedemy. The staff were amazing and I had no issues leaving him there. He begged to go a few times and this is a kid who would sit in his room and watch tv/play on his tablet if I let him.



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