Background: My husband and I chose this cruise to celebrate our wedding anniversary, as we believed Alaska would be an absolutely beautiful way to celebrate. We were absolutely correct! For this cruise, we began in Vancouver, BC, and travelled North to Seward/Anchorage, AK aboard the Norwegian Jewel.
Travel to Port of Embarkation: For our flights into Vancouver, and from Anchorage, we made us of the NCL Air, 2nd Guest Fly Free Promotion. We were able to do a two day deviation both before and after the cruise. Our flights were operated by United Airlines/Air Canada, and American, and each flight was on time, with no delays or cancellations. We followed the advice of seasoned cruisers, and chose to arrive early. Although we did not run into any flight issues, we left room for error in case we did.
Pre - Embarkation Hotel: For our 2 days in Vancouver, we chose to stay at a Hilton/Hampton Inn, which was about a 15-minute walk to Canada Place Cruise Terminal. Vancouver is incredibly easy to get around/navigate (either by walking, or using their Transit System), and we felt safe at all times. While in Vancouver, we visited the VanDusen Botanical Gardens and Museum of Vancouver.
For our sailing, we initially chose an Oceanview Cabin, but were upgraded to a Balcony Cabin. Remember, if there is a drop in your fare, you can request a cabin upgrade, onboard credit, or a combination of the two. We were in a aft-ship balcony, category MA on Deck 11. We were directly under the Garden Cafe, and at times you could hear tables, and chairs moving, but that did not distract from the overall appeal and comfort of the room.
In Ketchikan, we did the NCL Sponsored Tongass Rainforest Island Adventure. A dedicated shuttle picked us up from the port; we were transferred to the Alaska Travel Adventures staging area, where we were outfitted with safety vests and rain/windbreakers. We took a BEAUTIFUL catamaran ride across the Sound (we saw Eagles!) until we reached the rainforest, where a dedicated guided, guided us through about 1 mile of the forest, while sharing important facts and cool stories. We ended the excursion with a snack! Thanks LeRoy from ATA! Once we were transported back to the NCL Dock, we took a free shuttle to downtown Ketchikan, were we visited a few totem poles and the Ketchikan Museum. Note: This was our only NCL Sponsored Excursion.
Our last port stop was Skagway, which was by far our favorite. We chose to rent an electric car from Nicole at Klondike Electric Rentals, a short 10 minute walk from where NCL docks the Jewel. The drive takes you up the Klondike Highway, from Skagway into Canada (BC and The Yukon), with amazing stops along the way (Carcross Desert, Tormented Valley, International Bathrooms, Emerald Lake, and Lake Tutshi to name a few). Your rental comes with a driving guide, and a set of binoculars. We also made sure to stop by the Yukon Suspension Bridge Park. If you're in Skagway, this is a great way to spend your time! P.S. Don't forget your passports, as you will need to cross into Canada on the way to Emerald Lake, and back into the US on your way back.
In Juneau, we decided to make our own way for the day. Once we disembarked, we took a free NCL shuttle to downtown Juneau. We purchased 2, $35 bus tickets (M & M Tours) to take us to Mendenhall Glacier. The cost of entry to MG is included in that $35. We spend about 2 hours at the Glacier doing the Photo Point Trail and Nugget Falls Trail, before returning to downtown Juneau. We picked up some delicious dumplings at Pel'Meni in downtown, before venturing to the Alaska State Museum, and Alaska State Capital Building. We stopped off at two breweries, and even a fudge shop, before grabbing dinner at In Bucco Al Lupo (Italian).
Our last two days were Glacier viewing days. For Glacier Bay, 3 park rangers came aboard, and shared with us the history and impact of the Marjorie and Johns Hopkins Glaciers. There was even a ranger talk on what is "under the sea". You spend the full morning/mid-afternoon cruising the glaciers, and whether you view them from your balcony, or the public decks, you are guaranteed to get a FANTASTIC view.