Travelled with friends up to Alaska, great way to see several ports in a short time, which is why we like cruising.
We were very lucky to have sunny weather the whole time, truly amazing. The Captain did a fantastic job manuevering the ship, we always were on time and had super smooth sailings.
The food in the dining rooms was probably our first let down. With all the variety of restaurants on board, the main dining rooms do not have a large variety to pick from every night. One whole sheet of the menu is "classics" with 3 or 4 appetizers, 3 or 4 main entrees such as baked chicken, then a few desserts. The "unique" menu for the night had maybe 3 items such as meatloaf and poached salmon. Meatloaf? What's so special about that? The service was hit and miss also. One night we were given the wrong meals (there were 5 of us) and another night we watched as they tried to give our meals to another table. Yikes! Anyways, the same food every day was boring.
Buffet areas were great, but they kept shutting them down making it hard to find food. There were several times when the only place to get anything to eat was at the back-end of the ship, which if you are sitting at the pool mid-ship you really wonder making the long walk to back of the boat just to get a hamburger or hot dog.
Drink service was missing all the time too, there were several times where we had to go find a bar ourselves, just for a soda.
Rooms were clean, and my husand loved having a shower door verses a curtain. But one day we ran out of tissue, another day we were charged for items missing from the mini bar but were just on the counter to make room for a snack that was brought back to the room.
The decor of the ship needs updating, compared to a other ships the atrium is underwhelming. In our experience RCI ships have beautiful decor, Carnival may be glitzy but it's fun. The decor on the Jewel is tired... it needs refreshing.
There was some confusion over Nickelodeon events. Some things are handled by the Splash Academy (daycare for kids) but most are not. We did the Pajama Party with Spongebob, great fun for the kids. But you reserve that through the same desk as the dinner reservations, which was confusing not only for us but for the staff who sent us upstairs to the Splash Academy first. The Splash Academy rep had no idea what to do, we were lucky enough to have a different NCL person come by who did know what to do.
Splash Academy was a big hit for our 6 year old travelling with us. She loved it!
The shows were great, especially JP the magician. However the seating in the Stardust Theater is very peculiar. The seats are so tight (front to back) that everyone has to stand up to allow people to pass by to an open seat... and with rows 40 seats across you can imagine how difficult that was! No drink service either... no way to get drinks to the middle seats. They tried to sell raffle cards, OMG, everyone had to pass pens and papers across, it was the craziest thing I have ever seen.
Ports in Alaska were Ketchikan, Juneau,and Skagway. All very easy to visit from the dock, all had tours you could take separate from the cruise ship. The train in Skagway was fantastic, so much history. If possible, we like taking tours early so we can still walk through town. It might be an early start, but you can see and do more that way.
Victoria is beautiful, but most shops close at 6, so if you have a "late" day in port (ours was 2:30-9:00pm) shop first then have a bite to eat somewhere. Or go to the museum which a open til 9pm. You can easily grab a cab right at the dock, $10 a carload.
Service charges... you can't get out of paying those daily fees even if the service was poor, as ours was, at dinner. They just refused to remove anything, but did give a us a free bottle of wine for our troubles.
This was our first NCL cruise, seeing Alaska was wonderful! We were really not impressed with the ship, or the service, on NCL. Free style seemed to cross over into a low key, figure it out for yourself, style. There was a pervasive lack of service or just enthusiasm on board. NCL staff members are certainly friendly when contacted, just aloof the rest of the time. It's as if they are so busy with other things they have to do they are focused at tasks at hand, not the passengers.