Hello - Overall we enjoyed our trip to Alaska. We had decent weather overall and really liked the sites we saw - which were amazing at times. The review below though is going to focus on the Jewel, what we liked and what we didn't like or found underwhelming.
For background purposes: We are a family of four, kids ages 13 and 11 (girl and boy)and we travelled from MN to Seattle and arrived one day early to tour the downtown Seattle area. We were on the June 29th cruise and visited Ketchikan (no rain that day and in the 60s!), Juneau (low/mid 60s and sprinkling/drizzling - but did not impair our whale watching), Skagway (cold and windy that day, but we were on the train ride, so OK) and Victoria (beautiful city and nice day in the 70s). Seattle was beautiful the day we left and arrived back in port.
Room: We had a mini-suit in the forward to mid section of the ship (11526). Our room location was fabulous for the areas we probably visited the most - pool area, buffet for breakfast/lunch, stardust theater for shows, exercise room and spinnaker lounge. The room size was nice for a family of four and we loved having the deck for outside viewing. The interesting part was that there were no outlets in the bathroom for hairdryers (only low voltage razors), which I thought was odd and a bit inconvenient. With that said, there were a desk area that you could use for make-up and hair. My only complaint about that was poor lighting for that purpose in that area. Definitely bring a power strip with you. Our cabin steward was friendly and did a great job with making up the room each morning and getting beds ready at night. Overall we would probably give the room an A-.
Food: We ate all breakfast meals at the buffet and most lunches. We also ate at Cagney's one night and the Italian place (forgetting the name - La Cuccina I think). We also ate at the blue lagoon and the outside grill for lunch a few times. Overall the buffet was just OK - same food every single day with no changes ups (or at least not that I really saw). Breakfast was better than lunch. Would rate the buffet a C+. Cagneys & La Cuccina were both pretty good, but it is disappointing to have to pay extra money to get good food. The specialty restaurants did not seem to fill up ever from what I could see. I would rate them an A-/B+ (just because of the extra charges - which I did know in advance). Blue Lagoon was good the day we ate there, probably a B. The outdoor grill (both grill and picnics) were OK - probably a B-/C+. We enjoyed the chocoholic dessert buffet night (A!). We ate most of our dinners in the main dining rooms (visited each at least twice). The food was OK and again, fairly repetitive with only four new main entrée options to choose from most nights - and not all that exciting of options. We were rather unimpressed with the selection and quality of the MDR food. Probably would rate the MDRs B-/C+. All in all, I would say the food was average and not much to get excited about. I should say - I love food, so this is always an area of importance for me. :)
Exercise Room: We used this several times for cardio, using the ellipticals. The two days we had early excursions, we walked on deck 13, which was nice (though cool!). The fitness center opens at 6:00, which we liked. Overall the equipment was in decent shape and ellipticals had TVs on them and faced the ocean, which was nice! Fitness Center gets an A.
Shows: We saw the opening night show (sneak peeks of coming shows - good), the 70s music show (we enjoyed), the comedian (David Naster - he was pretty good), and the Cirque Bijou (very good). We were unable to get into the magician show, even though we arrived almost 10-15 minutes ahead of show time. We thought the shows were very good overall, but found you need to arrive very early for seating (both 7:30 and 9:30 shows). I would rate the shows an A.
Kid Entertainment: My kids did not sue the splash club or teen club. The both fell into different age brackets and the staff would now allow my 13 year old (who only turned 13 about 1.5 months earlier) to hang with my son at the splash club, so they did not want to go at all (they are both very shy and wanted to stay together). That was a bit disappointing, but I understand they need to make rules. My kids liked playing ping pong, but a group of about 8 boys (am guessing ages 10-15) took over the indoor ping pong table daily and since we were in Alaska, most days it was too cool and windy to use the outdoor tables. This was a bit of a bummer too - but they did get to play a little. Many of the staff planned activities seemed more geared towards adults, so my kids did not participate in too many of the daily activities other than cupcake decorating and a wii bowling tournament. This ship has the Nickelodeon theme, but they really only had about one activity a day and you rarely saw the characters. Kids/Family entertainment : B-/C+
Overall Activities: The had many music options and decent talent overall, which we enjoyed. My biggest complaint though was how hard they pushed the bingo, deal or no deal and quick pick tickets. We did play the bingo and deal games the first day, but at a minimum price of $29 for bingo (ranging to 60+) and $20 for deal or no deal - we did not play after that - the cost/benefit was just not there. The ship must make a lot of money off of these games. Had the entry prices been more reasonable, we mat have played again. You will also find the "pot" to win grows each day- so if you do play, save it for later in the cruise. They kept advertising bingo as $1,000 winner, $2,000 etc..... but we are not convinced anyone wins anywhere near that (and hence, NCL just makes money). I would be wrong on this as we did not attend all the games after the first day. Because so many of the daily activities cost money to partake, I would rate the activities a B-.
Spa: My daughter and I did visit the spa one afternoon. I had a deep tissue massage, which was good and she enjoyed the teen package. While I liked my massage - At $139 I thought it was very expensive and I have had as good for prices closer to $80 for the same amount of time. I was expecting "wow" and it was good, but not wow - so not worth the price tag in my opinion. I also did not like the hard sell to buy some products at the end of it. I would rate the spa a B.
Bars/Lounges: We visited most and thought they were all pretty good. Prices generally in line with what I see in MN - so good. It does add up over the week though! :) Rating of A for this area.
Pools: One pool for family and smaller pool for adults only. Both were heated. Family pool was fairly small and the slide very small (for 11-13 year old kids anyway). There were two family hot tubs and two adult only. The family hot tubs were not very warm, which disappointed by kids (as they were not allowed to use the adult ones). The overall area of the pools was fun to hang out in during the warmer days on-board and they had music and food service (though no free outdoor beverage service - you had to go into the buffet for that). It would be nice to have some free beverage service in this area to be more convenient for guests. Overall, I would rate the pools/pool area a B.
Staff: We generally found most of the staff to be friendly and good at their jobs. We did have two waiters in the main dining rooms that did an OK job, but were not overly friendly or trying to engage with you (hence we did not give them extra tips like we did the others!). I enjoyed the "washy washy team each day - my husband not so much! Staff - A-/B+
I think I have rated just about everything. Overall we had a good cruise. I would consider going on an NCL cruise again, but probably not on the Jewel if the kids were with us. It would really depend on the port options and price compared to other cruise options though given the mediocre food.