This was a first cruise to Alaska and as an introduction to Alaska it was awesome. Our group included my wife and me, our two young adult sons, and my 83 yr. old mother-in-law (who was on her first cruise). It is hard to find anything to criticize. The overall experience on the Norwegian Jewel is geared to a family traveling together. There are activities for young children and if there is a demographic group that may be not well represented it is young adult singles.
We did not avail ourselves of any of the specialty dining options, prefering to dine in the Tsar's dining room and Azura, with the occasional foray to the Garden Cafe and the Blue Lagoon. The menu selection in the Tsar's and Azura are varied with several changes as the cruise contiues. Presentation and quality are very good and, of course, you can add extra entrees if you are hungry!
Since we cruise for the total experience, we book interior staterooms rather than balcony rooms. Our cabin, though small (143 sq. feet) provided everything we needed in sleeping and bath facilities. It was clean, comfortable and very quiet. Don, our steward was attentive and kept the cabin well supplied and clean (even though we were somewhat cluttered with our "stuff").
Embarcation was quick and easy. I suggest that anyone driving and parking use the Republic Parking service across the street from Pier 66 in Seattle.) We arrived at noon on the day of sailing and had a very nice lunch in the Garden Cafe and followed that up with a tour of the ship to familiarize ourselves with the layout of the ship. We then went topside and took in the downtown Seattle skyline views and Puget Sound views. Cast-off took place on-time and it was a wonder to watch this large ship navigate through a very busy harbor scene with a lot of pleasure boats running around.
A few notes about the shipboard experience. NCL entertainment is well produced and thought out. The entertainers a first class and the shows are well worth it. Comedian/Magician Jeanne Pierre was very entertaining and funny. Cruise Director Jaime de Souza was very personable and made us all feel like we were members of the family. The entertainment was first class and appropriate for all ages. The Cirque de Bijou show in the Stardust Theater was the highlight of the cruise. The other shows were excellent and varied! As a counterpoint to the Stardust Theater productions the various lounge acts were very good and we enjoyed that experience when we wanted less of a "production" experience. The entertainment is appropriate for all ages and parents will not have to worry about any raunchy shows.
The ship is clean and well maintained. The staff and crew were very courteous and friendly and really appear to enjoy their jobs.
If I was traveling with young children or grandchildren, I would not hesitate to take a cruise with NCL. There are activities onboard ship that are staffed from early morning until late evening and the kids we saw were having a great time.
Hope this helps! Enjoy the experience!
Juneau had a clear, warm and sunny weather, which we were told, was not the norm. My boys and I took the Mt. Roberts Tramway to the top and did some hiking and enjoyed a free show on Tlingit Native culture and a free musical production, as well. We enjoyed spectacular views of the city and port, as well. My wife and mother-in-law took a tour to the Mendenhall Glacier which they enjoyed very much. Once, again there is a large number of activities available for shore excursions. After departing Juneau in the early afternoon we cruised into Tracy Arm and up to the Sawyer Glacier. This fjord-like passage has gorgeous scenery and terminates at the glacier. The turn-around at the head of the fjord was very interesting, as it requires the ship to turn 180 degrees on it's own length.
Our first port-of-call was Ketchikan where we had a charter fishing trip set up. We had good success and will be receiving our salmon, halibut, and rockfish filets any moment now - all arranged by the charter service. In all the ports there are a number of shore excursions and activities available, ranging from sightseeing and shopping to some very active sports activities like zip-lining and hiking. I would say that even if you don't book ahead or through the on-board concierge, you will not be disappointed with the activities and vendors available on the docks. In all likelihood the prices will be cheaper than those booked through the cruiseline. The cruise out of Ketchikan was stunning. We had great weather and the scenery was awesome. However, the best was yet to come.
Went to the National Park Service and took a free walking tour with a Ranger!
Skagway was the next stop and we took a free walking tour led by the National Park Service. Very informative and the stop at their Interpretive center is well worth it. Many local tour service are available as well, and we heard a lot of positive comments from others about them. After lunch aboard ship we took the White Pass and Yukon Railroad train tour up to the top of White Pass and the Canadian border. It was well worth it! There are a number of options here as well with one-way railroad combined with tour coach drives to different local attractions. The one we would have done, had we heard about it early was the trip up to the top, followed by a bicycle trip back down the road into Skagway. After the train trip we walked around Skagway (it is a small town). We boarded and spent a day at sea.
Victoria was the final port of call. My wife and Mother-in-law took a tour bus out to Butchart Gardens, while the boys and I rented bicycles on the dock and did a self-guided bike tour to downtown Victoria. We parked and locked the bikes at the inner harbor area and enjoyed a "classic" boat event and then walked around the Empress Hotel. Victoria is a beautiful city and a vacation destination in its own right. We could have spent several days there.
Boarding in Victoria was with some regret as it meant we would be done with the cruise the next morning. But all good things do come to an end and we would do it all over again. However there are other destinations to look forward to, as well.
A do not miss experience!