We flew into Seattle 2 days before our cruise, to avoid any last minute surprises and enjoy our waterfront hotel and the joy of seeing NCL Jewel docked at Pier 66 for her first Seattle to Seattle Alaskan cruise.
May in Seattle can be anywhere from overcast and rainy to cloudy with glorious sun and temps from 50-80. We each brought an extra large 29" suitcase knowing a variety of weather meant a few different wardrobe strategies. And while Seattle was mostly sunny with temps in the 60's and 70's, SE Alaskan ports of Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway all ranged about 5 degrees cooler than last year, the predominately overcast to drizzly skies, 48-57 degrees.
From the Marriott Waterfront the bell staff carted our suitcases across the street and down approximately 1 long city block to the Cruise Terminal. I do walk short distances with a tripod cane, but cannot stand for long periods of time. NCL Accessibility Desk had been contacted more than a month in advance to arrange a wheelchair both at embark and debark for these reasons.
We arrived at 10:45 AM and there was a line of about 50 people out the doors.
Inside was the usual snaky back and forth line you'll see in airports. But unlike Miami, there were no benches or chairs for those with mobility issues.
Wheelchairs were being used to debark pax at this time, which was understood.
The line took about 15 minutes to move to the security screening, with my DH trying to get someone's attention, I was just about ready to drop. A scooter had already been ordered by the company NCL recommends, but would not be available until we were allowed into our cabins, roughly 2 1/2 hours later.
Once staff saw the difficulty, I was assisted through security, and a few benches were available between the escalator and a separate elevator, also available. On the second floor a row of hard,small plastic bucket chairs was lined up near Accessibility Check-In desk. Jason, a very nice clerk, checked us in with the minimum of fuss, and called for wheelchair assist.
We realized we had boarded early, but were unaware of VIP status, (not suite pax this time), so were content to wait another 30 minutes until general boarding announced. Room service staff are the ones you will find called on the assist mobility-challenged pax up the various ramps and onto the ship. We are more than happy to tip for this helpful service and being delivered to Tsar's Palace (main dining room=MDR) restaurant for lunch, which begins at noon.
Food in the MDR for lunch is on a fixed menu, it remained the same throughout the week. We tried Portobello Mushroom with Goat Cheese in marinara sauce, Caesar Salad, Open Faced Shrimp and Salmon Sandwich on wheat roll with Avocado and New York Strip Steak in Peppercorn Sauce with Fries. The food was served promptly, at the desired temperature from a smiling waitress. The seafood sandwich was excellent and DH enjoyed his steak.
Rooms now ready, it was very simple to go from the AFT elevators adjacent to the MDR, (decks 6 and 7, with 1 Accessibility elevator, clearly marked going down to 6, with a ramp entry into the MDR), to Deck 9. I'd researched then booked a Handicapped stateroom, 9150 so we would be able to store the Scooter and have a no-threshold bathroom, with shower chair, heavy duty grab bars et al.
There are 4 of these cabins each on Decks 9 and 10, and each one is 1 1/2 X the size of the typical balcony cabin. Lots of storage cubbies and a closet hanging system that pulls the rod down to a seated height. A small Fridge, coffee maker and hair dryer completed the amenities, with the option of a ramp out to the 4' x 12' balcony, a small couch and table.
Our room steward, Juniver, popped in to introduce himself. DH drinks a lot of water and likes it cold, so asked for a bucket of ice twice a day, as well as having the minibar items removed so we could chill our own sodas and bottled water and have room for some snacks.
Ship's Muster was next. Mobility challenged pax were asked to stay on their floor while designated staff came to assist. DH went down to the MDR muster point, while we waited and waited. I mentioned that I was okay with taking the elevator down and meeting the group but instructed to wait. Walkie talkies were used between Muster staff and others...told drill over, go back to cabin please.
For slightly more than 2,000 pax we had about 1,000 crew members, and the vast majority were friendly, smiling and helpful. For the few that weren't, I believe it was more a language issue, or perhaps a cultural one, with the desire not to reply in the negative to pax.
The ship itself was nicely laid out, with a number of small seating areas for conversation, rest or reading. The Jewel never felt overly crowded except perhaps the first 30 minutes in each port when everyone wanted to be off the ship.
Officers were helpful, willing to answer questions, stop and chat for a minute.
We had interactions with the Hotel Director, Guest Services Manager, Cruise Director and Events Coordinator who was also the Accessibility Officer. The Hotel Director listened to my concerns and comments re need for pax to have some wheelchairs available at the ports, as the shuttle areas were between 2 and 3 long city blocks away, and few took their own wheelchairs or scooters due to the pitch of the gangways/other logistics.
These concerns were addressed. In Juneau I noticed 2 wheelchairs under an NCL canopy with crew standing by to assist. In Ketchikan the Salmon Landing dock is adjacent to the shuttle gathering area, and a little farther away at the Ore Dock in Skagway.
We are not huge Show folk, and with the 7 AM port calls, would usually retire after dinner, watching Not So Newlywed Game or listening to Fire & Ice, a very talented duo performing during prime dining hours.
We ate in both the MDR and 2 Specialty restaurants this cruise, having tried several others before. This time it was Chin Chin, the Asian fusion eatery, and Moderno Churrascaria, the Brazilian Grill with strolling passadors offering a good amount of different meats.
We returned the Moderno a second night, having loved the succulent, medium rare lamb chops, Garlic Steak, marinated Cap Steak and lime and garlic marinated chicken legs. A salad bar was nice but the Cheese Rolls were not the usual Brazilian treat.
The service at both Specialty restaurants was a notch or two above the MDR overall, though we were pleased with nearly all servers regardless of venue.
Chin Chin's food was likewise tasty, the BBQ Ribs and Soothing Chicken in Lettuce Cups being standout apps.
We also ate at the Blue Lagoon, on Deck 8 mid-ship across from Moderno for early breakfast and late lunch/snacks. Very good breakfast, and we both enjoyed the Chicken Strips at lunch, while the batter on the Fish, (and chips), was swimming in grease. We splurged on the Brownie Supreme dessert, very chewy and decadent-servers do encourage you to indulge.
There were frequent announcements for Bingo, Casino tournaments, Spa Specials and Photo deals but luckily they did not broadcast into our stateroom the way the important Captain and Safety Officer/Muster ones did. The Dailies were delivered into our room each evening, plenty of ways to spend your vacation dollars as well as a good overview of each day's events.
We do not go to Diamond International type stores while in port or Senor Frog sort of taverns, but like to do research on line first, then shop in the smaller shops with made in Alaska type merchandise. Due to the drizzly weather in Ketchikan, and cooler, humid overcast of the other ports, DH was happy to find local sources for ibuprofen.
Our excursions were booked through NCL in advance and I now regret my seal in double booking a couple of ports, with Juneau for a total of 9 hours of tours!
It was easy enough to cancel one of the two in Skagway, with full on board credit as long as it was more than 24 hours before the tour.
Likewise I canceled one Specialty restaurant booked through NCL website about 45 days before our trip, as I realized following 9 hours/2 tours, scrambling for a table less than 30 minutes later would not work. Customer service staff were both professional and pleasant in these matters.
We hardly noticed the motion from our Deck 9 near AFT balcony except on the first Sea Day when a notorious area of shallow sea was encountered. Evidence of other pax discomfort was seen, but quickly cleaned up all over the Jewel. Motion sickness tablets passed out the the CS Desk for any who needed them or didn't have wrist bands/patches etc.
Photo ops were amazing, both from the Jewel's many floor to ceiling windows, upper decks and balcony. Due to icing, a detour was made from Tracy Arm into adjacent Endicott Arm with viewing of Dawes Glacier.
Wildlife was seen from both our ship and the smaller excursion vessels, and it was neat to have sunrises as early as 4 AM and sunsets as late as 10 PM. I did not feel comfortable bringing my Scooter out on open deck which was somewhat misty, but could park it in designated spots in various restaurants, the Stardust Showroom, Casino and Buffet.
Disembarkation was extra smooth. Pax needing a wheelchair assist gathered in a lounge near the exit on Deck 7, or if booking the NCL Best Of Seattle tour, in the Showroom. It was only a matter of minutes for the 8 AM procession off the Jewel then waved through Customs, (this time with only the show of our ID and completed Customs forms), and out to the luggage area.
I knew we would miss all those earnest, smiling faces and hardworking crew, and knew better than to look for turn-down service, chocolates on the pillow or a daily platter of appetizers delivered, but we are still very 'high' on NCL and have already started planning for next year's cruise!