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beeandkmon

Trip Report: Seward to Vancouver (NCL Jewel)

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Posted (edited)

This is the report of the trip my husband and I (both 30) took on the NCL Jewel. We have cruised the 

Caribbean, Hawaii, and Europe. We enjoy hiking and other outdoor activities. 

 

 

 

 

Day 1: Traveling (Chicago to Anchorage to Seward)

 

At 8:00 on Saturday evening we tucked our toddler into bed, said bye (and thank you!) to my parents (the babysitters), and jumped in our car for the drive to the airport. Our flight left Saturday night (technically Sunday morning) at 12:50 AM. We were able to get a direct flight from Chicago to Anchorage so we opted to drive the few hours to O’Hare as opposed to flying from our home airport and having to pay extra and gain a layover. The flight from Chicago is about 7 hours and we tried to sleep as much as possible. We must have done better sleeping then we realized because we both thought the flight felt extremely quick.

 

We landed early and took an uber to downtown Anchorage. I had booked the park connection motor coach to transport us to Seward. There are buses that leave directly from the airport; however, this one worked best timing wise.

 

We arrived in Anchorage at about 5 am and had two hours until our bus left. We didn’t want to walk around too much as we had our bags with us and as it was so early nothing was open anyway. The Hilton Hotel was open with the coffee cart opening fairly early.

 

The park connection bus was on time and easy to use. We paid about $65 for the ride. I know everyone who rode the train said it was fantastic but we were so tired that we ended up sleeping a bit on the drive so I am glad we opted for the shorter/cheaper option.

 

Major Marine Tours will store your bags for the day so we dropped them off and then we grabbed breakfast sandwiches. We took the 6 hour Major Marine Boat tour. This was the shortest of the “all day” tours. On Major Marine Tours you are given an assigned seat inside and then are free to walk around the deck. We saw whales, seals, otters, sea lions, puffins, and a glacier. There were a lot of people with mobility issues who chose to stay inside. This helped to make the decks feel very uncrowded. We never felt like we had to fight for a spot. I was a bit skeptical when booking this tour. Despite the rave reviews. I felt that being on a boat for 6 hours was going to be a bit long and boring. I was also a little worried that we would be too tired after flying all night. However, we really enjoyed this day. I will say that while I was glad we chose one of the “all day” tours so we could leave Resurrection Bay- I was glad we booked the shortest of these tours. While it didn’t seem too long we were definitely ready to be done as we pulled into port.

 

After the boat tour we dropped our stuff off at Murphy’s Alaska Inn. Due to late booking this was one of our only options. The motel was fine. It was expensive- as all hotels in Seward are. However, this was one of the cheaper options. The motel was a good location and was clean. However, it was definitely very old.

 

We walked downtown for dinner at Seward Brewing Company. At first we were confused thinking the port was the entire town. We didn’t realize that “downtown” was actually a few blocks away. Seward Brewing Company was fantastic. The pretzel appetizer and the fish tacos were amazing. I would highly recommend.

 

Despite it being only about 8:00 and perfectly light out we called it a night. With the time change and flying the night before we were exhausted!

Edited by beeandkmon
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Following...Thank you for taking the time to do a review.  Looking forward to more.

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Day 3: Cruising Hubbard Glacier 

 

This was a day "at sea" cruising Hubbard Glacier. The glacier itself was beautiful and we were able to have a fairly relaxing day on the ship. We were glad we had brought really warm clothes as it was cold at the glacier. The viewing was fairly crowded on deck but I don't think anyone had a problem finding a place to stand. 

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Day 4: Icy Strait Point

 

The Jewel tenders at ISP when another ship is in port. Tender tickets were given out about a half hour before docking and I didn't have any problem grabbing us an early ticket. We got off the ship right away and walked the nature trail, looked for whales off the shore, and then walked to Hoonah. There is a $5 shuttle but we enjoyed the really easy mile and a half walk. The path was nice and there were a lot of people also making the walk. We stopped in a few shops and looked at the Totem Pole being carved. 

 

We made it back to our ship by noon and jumped back on to eat lunch really quickly and grab our things for whale watching. I had booked a 2 pm whale watching tour with Icy Strait Whale Watching Tours. This was a fantastic tour. It is a smaller boat with about 24 passengers.The boat is great as the inside has large windows that pop out when you reach whales. So despite the rain you could stay dry inside while still having a great view. There are also decks to go out on. We took a half hour ride out and then spent about an hour and a half watching various whales. I didn't get great pictures as we were too busy enjoying the whales. Hot chocolate, soda, water, and snacks were available on the boat. 

 

We had a bit of a nervous patch in the morning when I realized that our tour ended at 5 and the last tender was scheduled to leave at 5 (instead of the 5:30 originally said). I called them and they assured me they did this tour every week and that everyone on our tour were also on the Jewel. They promised to drop us off right near the tenders at 4:55. They really came through at their word and literally dropped us off next to a tender- in fact when one tender left we took their spot. 

 

I highly recommend this tour. It was much more affordable than what the ship offered, the boat was perfect, and we got to see fantastic whales!

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Day 5: Juneau

 

We booked a rafting trip through Alaska travel adventures. We had booked this tour independently and as it happened this was also the trip you could book through NCL. We actually only saved about $10 booking it on our own which was not typical. However, doing it on our own didn't inconvenience us at all. 

 

We met at the Mount Roberts Tram and were taken on a bus to the drop point. From where the rafts take off you have a view of Mendenhall Glacier. They also offer a canoe and kayak trip that gets closer to the glacier; however, we were fine with this view as we had already done a lot of glacier activities. 


After seeing the glacier you float down the river for about an hour an half. You can choose to be in a boat where you paddle or one where your guide does all the work. While there were a few rapids on this trip it wasn't anything super intense. However, our guide was fantastic and we had a great time. We did get a little wet and had wished we had been wearing warmer socks! 

 

At the end of the tour they give you a small snack and try to get you to purchase things (of course). The bus driver did drop us off right at our ship which was very nice. 

 

In the afternoon our boat cruised by Dawes Glacier. It was a lot less crowded on deck than when we saw Hubbard Glacier. I don't know if the temperature was to blame or if people had had enough glaciers. I won't complain though as it was nice to view the glacier on an empty deck!

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Day 6: Skagway 

 

In Skagway we got off the ship very early to catch the white pass railway train to Laughton. The train offers a hikers service that drops you off at a trailhead so you can hike and then picks you up later. Our train left at 8 but you have to take a shuttle at 7:40 from the station to pick up the train at a separate station. The train ride is about an hour and gives you a chance to see some great views and experience the train without committing to an all day trek. 

 

At 9:00 we got off at the trailhead and began the 2.5 mile hike to the glacier. We had to hike very quickly as there are two options for returning- 11:15 and 4:00. Since our boat left at 5 the 4:00 wasn't an option. The hike was fairly strenuous at the pace we had to keep in order to return in time. However, we did make it to the glacier which was beautiful. We wished we had more time; however, we also think waiting all the way until 4:00 (if our ship had left later) would have been a little too much time. 

 

It seemed really strange to be standing in the middle of nowhere waiting for a train to pick us up. However, it also was an incredibly unique experience. We were the only people waiting so we stood on a cement block with no one around for miles watching for a train to round a corner to pick us up.

 

When we returned to Skagway we walked around town- nothing too exciting- and then returned to the ship. image.thumb.png.0214b47c838becadf680bccb01624252.pngimage.thumb.png.f0007e316ae399810d17e54f8bafbb1f.png

 

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Day 7: Ketchikan 

 

We didn't really plan anything for Ketchikan as we thought we may just want to walk around in our last port. I also didn't find anything that I really wanted to do. 

 

Our boat docked at 1:00 pm so we got off right away and walked around town. We went into a few shops and then took the public bus to Totem Bight. The Silver Line leaves from First City Saloon at 11 past the hour. It is $2. 

 

We thought that the totem poles were interesting to see- but an hour was more than enough time to see them in. If you do go they ask for a $5 donation but there is not a worker so exact change is needed. 

 

When we returned to Ketchikan we spent a long time looking at the Salmon in the creak. By this time other boats had started to leave so it was really uncrowded. Ketchikan was also a good place for us to do some shopping. The only thing we'd bought up until this point was some train items for my "choo choo" loving toddler in Skagway. This was our first day where we weren't super busy so we were able to look into shops. 

 

In Skagway we had been told to look for a sticker that says "locally owned" in the window of shops as the cruise lines own most of the shops closer to the ships. We tried our best to support local vendors.image.thumb.png.2b73ca30a7824defde0f629a6289df1c.png 

 

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Day 8: Cruising 

 

Not much to say about this day- I'll give a review of the Jewel itself at the end

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Day 9: Vancouver 

 

We had an arrival time of 8:00 and an 11:05 flight- so we knew when we booked we would be cutting it close! However, it ended up being more than enough time. 

 

The day before arriving we were told our ship would be in port at 7:00 and that we could self disembark at about 7:30- maybe earlier if they cleared the ship on time. We got in line at 6:45 and were one of the first. By 7:20 they were letting people off. We went through customs and jumped on the skytrain to the airport. I had written down very clear instructions on how to get on the skytrain but they weren't needed. Everything was so well marked and easy to figure out. 

 

Getting off the boat quickly ended up being a huge advantage as customs and security had no line. It took us 90 minutes from exiting the ship to the time we were seated at our gate enjoying the free wifi. We had two hours to spare! However I think that 30 minutes later may have resulted in a wait at the airport. 

 

Unfortunately, all we got to see of Vancouver was the airport. We would have loved more time but had to get back! 

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The Jewel Review: 

 

When I booked the trip we chose the Jewel for 2 reasons: we loved the itinerary and it was less than half the price of other Alaskan cruises (which allowed us to book more activities!). So we were doing this trip for the ports. There were a lot of things about the Jewel we were not impressed with; but, we didn't book this trip for the ship.

 

We felt that the sea days were slightly lacking in activities and a lot of the activities were just ploys to sell you stuff. When its cold sitting by the pool is not so enjoyable so we wished there were more activities! We loved the cruise director and felt he did a good job; however, some activities run my others could be a bit disorganized. 

 

We were not too impressed with the main dining room. We felt the quality was a bit lacking. I had some salmon that was so dry it was almost inedible and my husband had a very over cooked steak. Believe it of not we did much better at the buffet and my husband said the steak there was actually great. We also felt the service wasn't the best in the main dining room- drink refills that were promised never came, appetizers took forever to arrive but main courses arrived while we were still eating appetizers. We also enjoyed eating in O'Sheehans and loved that his was an option. 

 

Inside areas of the ship were very crowded. The buffet was always jam packed. We did discover rather quickly that La Cucina was open for additional seating for the buffet. This was always a great place to bring your food and have a more relaxing time (although it was a bit of a walk). As people weren't necessarily sitting on the deck it made lounges and other spaces feel a bit tight. 

 

We also felt that the Jewel often got the short end of the stick at ports. We had to tender in ISP and in Juneau were a bit far (although a free shuttle was offered). This was not really a problem- just an observation. 

 

We loved the shows- they were fantastic each night! A couple did acrobatics and we loved them. We felt that embarkation and debarkation went very smoothly. We felt that we had a lot of storage in our stateroom. 

 

It may seem like I had a lot of complaints about the ship- however- I would still recommend this cruise in a heartbeat. You don't go to Alaska for the ship- you go for Alaska. This ship let us see great ports and we loved being in Seward for a few days before. We wanted to maximize our time in Alaska and this itinerary did that.  We also were able to get a really good deal which gave us a little more room in the budget to do things like ice climbing and whale watching. 

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On ‎8‎/‎1‎/‎2019 at 11:35 AM, beeandkmon said:

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Great photos, especially this one. What an amazing experience.

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