top of page

Alaskan Review: The Norwegian Cruise Line, Jewel!

NCL Jewel in Hoonah Alaska
NCL Jewel in Hoonah Alaska

Table of Contents

Buckle up, adventurers and sea lovers, for we are charting a course to the icy fjords and splendid glaciers of Alaska. But this is no ordinary escapade; we're setting sail aboard the Norwegian Cruise Line's Jewel, a spirited vessel that's taking vibrancy to the Arctic. In this Norwegian Alaskan cruise review, you'll be captivated not just by the awe-inspiring sights of the Last Frontier, but by the experience crafted by NCL, a seafaring pioneer renowned for its expansive fleet and dedication to freedom and flexibility at sea.

Before we stow away, it's time to unfurl the sails and introduce you to the opulent ship that will be our home among the waves of Alaska.

Alaskan Cruise Review: A Closer Look at the Norwegian Jewel.

Sleek yet robust, the Norwegian Jewel is a beacon of modern seafaring, characterized by its delicate blend of contemporary aesthetics and classic comforts. A mid-sized beauty, it boasts a myriad of amenities, suitable for the seasoned traveler who desires neither the confinements of smaller ships nor the overwhelming scale of larger vessels. Here's a snapshot of what to expect once you step aboard:

  • Spacious staterooms with elegant design and a view that redefines 'room with a view.' This is an older ship, but still a great option when cruising Alaska.

  • A multitude of dining options, from the sophisticated Chin Chin Asian Restaurant to the garden-like ambiance of the Garden Café.

  • A spectrum of lounges and bars, each exuding its own unique charm, perfect for every mood and every moment of your Alaskan odyssey.

A cruise isn't just about the destinations; it's a culinary and cultural voyage that thrills the senses. NCL are maestros at orchestrating a symphony of flavors and entertainment, and on this cruise, they've outdone themselves. Here's a taste of what's in store:

Specialty Dining: Culinary Expeditions

Steak and Lobster at Cagney's
Steak and lobster at Cagney's

Experience the world on a plate with the NCL Jewel's eclectic dining options. From succulent steaks at Cagney's Steakhouse to the delicate delectables at Le Bistro, traveling through taste has never been more extravagant. Meat lovers can delight in the skewers that are walked by the tables at the Moderno Churrascaria, while lovers of pasta will enjoy the Italian restaurant called La Cucina. Last but not least, relish the enchanting culinary performance at Teppanyaki where master chefs serve up a show along with your meal. 

These are the 5 specialty restaurants on the NCL Jewel. Over the years of cruising, I have had them all, but on the Jewel, Cagney’s and Le Bistro are my favorites.  Cagney’s ribeye, with a crab cake appetizer, are amazing along with the 7 OMG cheesecake. For a fee you can add a lobster tail to your meal which is not included in the specialty restaurant dining package. At Le Bistro I have to get the Escargot appetizer and lamb chops entree.

None of the specialty dining restaurants have a dress code except Le Bistro will say business casual, but you will see people dressed up in their best in the evenings at these restaurants at times, but it is not required which I love. I am not a dressy kind of girl. Still do not show up in swimsuits.

If you did not buy the specialty restaurant package, or the package was not included in your free at sea deal, you will have to pay per entree at these restaurants. I highly suggest if you are going to eat at specialty restaurants, get the dining package.

Room Service is not free on board, but not terribly expensive at 4.95- 9.95 per order, depending on if you are ordering breakfast or dinner.

If you are interested in a Starbucks coffee, there is a Starbucks on board on deck 7 in the Atrium. It is not free, but I thought the prices were similar to the Starbucks back home.

Complimentary Dining Restaurants.

Cheesecake from O'Sheehan's
Cheesecake from O'Sheehan's

The quintessentially American can indulge in a cut of The Great Outdoors' burgers and hot dogs, but also, if you are running late for breakfast in the mornings, the Great Outdoors keep breakfast going a little bit later in the day, and the lunch will last a little bit longer out there too. They also have the Topsiders Grill which is the basic burgers, hot dogs and fries, located near the pool.

The Garden the buffet that is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but does shut down throughout the day to set up for the next buffet. You can get salads, pasta, pizza, desserts, and even some specialty items. For example, one night might be Mexican food night or Greek lunch day. You can always find something different at the buffet. 

The main dining rooms are also included in your cruise for free and you can eat there for breakfast, lunch or dinner. There are 2 dining rooms on this ship, and they are called Azura and Tsar’s Palace. This is more upscale than the buffet, with the table service, and you will have several courses to choose from. Menu’s change daily, but there are also items that stay the same on these menus. What I love about Freestyle dining, is you do not have to choose a specific time to eat, just go when you want. If you are hungry for dinner at 5 PM one day and 8 PM the next day, it is totally fine. Freestyle dining is the best. 

Chin Chin is a complimentary Asian Restaurant. Yes, I said it's included in your cruise and has some of the best fried dumplings I have ever had. There is a section right beside the restaurant with a bar where you can get sushi, or Sake but you will have to pay for it.

My favorite is O’Sheehan’s Bar and Grill which is open 24 hours a day. Sure at 1AM the menu is limited but still great. Go there for breakfast if you don't want the main dining room or buffet. I love the fish and chips, but they have a great pasta dish also.

NCL Jewel Staterooms

As one might think, interior cabins tend to be the most affordable for this cruise, but if you were going to splurge on one cruise in your life for a balcony, this should be the cruise. My cabin was an ocean view because I got a great deal, and I loved it, but a balcony would have been better. As a solo traveler it was a great deal to be able to afford an ocean view room. 

Me hiking to a waterfall in Juneau Alaska
Me hiking to a waterfall in Juneau Alaska

Speaking of solo travelers, with this being one of the older ships in the fleet, there are no solo cabins onboard, so if you are traveling as a single look for deals to help with the price. April or even May cruises tend to be cheaper and last-minute deals make the prices even better.

I have no problem in interior rooms, in fact some of the best sleep I have ever had has been in an interior room. So, for affordability reasons if you can only afford the interior, go for it. By the time you add in flights and shore excursions this can be an expensive cruise.

Interior rooms can hold up to 4 people, which will be bunk bed style rooms. Ocean View can hold up to 4, with fold outs on from the walls. Balcony rooms can hold 4 people with a couch that folds out into a cot.

There are suites available, like the club balcony suite, but they also have Haven suites which are amazing and offer amazing extras, so if you can afford it and want the extra luxury, with butler service it will be amazing.

Seals resting on iceberg, picture taken from cruise ship.
Seals resting on iceberg, picture taken from cruise ship.

My best suggestion for the type of cruise cabin is to choose, use YouTube to look at what rooms look like, you can find tons of videos online to help you decide what type of room you would like, and you can get a better idea of the size. The NCL website is also beneficial for this as you can see where the room is located. If you pay extra for the cruise to pick where your room is located, you will want to pick what's best for you. For example, do you want to be close to the elevator, or in the middle of the ship because you tend to get seasick. There are all kinds of reasons that could make you pick the category, so you choose your own room...

If you pick the sail way category, the cruise ship will pick the room for you. This tends to be the cheapest option, and you will find out the room they picked when you do the online check in 21 days before your cruise.

Deskside Delights, and fun on the ship

Evenings on the Jewel are a joyous jubilee of music and merriment. Unwind to the backdrop of tranquil waves and live music in the Spinnaker Lounge or take to the floor at the high-octane atmosphere of Bliss Ultra Lounge. Personally, I enjoy going to Spinnakers during the day, with all the large windows, it is a great place to look out at the best views from the indoors or get some quiet time when events are not happening.

For the outdoorsy at heart, open-air movie nights under the Alaskan sky will be memories etched in time. If movies are being shown, it will be chilly on deck for sure at night. Also, why not kick off the night with a toast at the Sugarcane Mojito Bar, sampling minty-cool libations that could keep Old Man Winter at bay?

View from White Pass Train in Skagway
View from White Pass Train in Skagway

One of my favorite outside bars is called the Pit Stop and it is on deck 13. That area will be extremely busy when cruising the Hubbard Glacier area, but some of the best drinks I had were made at this bar.

Hot tubs will be open and even the pool since it is summer, and during the day usually the deck is not too chilly, but for me, except for the day I got the sun burn, it was too chilly for the pool.

My favorite inside bar is the Atrium Bar. I love how it is open to 2 decks and it is a great place to meet people. Many NCL activities happen in the Atrium. Trivia, the game shows like Deal or No Deal or take an Origami class. The Atrium is so much fun.

Other bars that are a great option all right beside each other on deck 6. Maltings Beer & Whiskey Bar, Magnums Champagne Bar, Shakers Martini Bar, and The Humidor Cigar Bar for those who enjoy. The Casino Bar is on deck 6 also.

Unfortunately, you will be less likely to see the Northern Lights on an Alaska Cruise, as peak season for the lights is in the winter. But there is always a chance in April, September or October, but a very small chance. Northern lights are best spotted north of Anchorage in those months.

The Stardust theater is the place to play Wheel of Fortune, watch the comedy show, or sign along with the musicals. One thing I love is the theater is large and you will not have to make reservations to see the shows. On larger NCL ships you have to make reservations to see the shows and hope they have not all been booked.

There is also a Fitness Center, Spa, Basketball, Volleyball, and Tennis courts. Plus, there is a jogging track, shuffleboard, a giant chessboard, a golf cage, and ping pong tables, available for everyone who likes to be active during a cruise.

Pro’s and Con’s List

Personally, the Cons list is very short, but I will have suggestions for you if you choose to take this cruise.

Pro List Con List

  • Ship size is perfect for me, I prefer smaller ships. They are less crowded. This class of ship is not the smallest in the NCL fleet, but far from the largest.

  • Able to make reservations for specialty restaurants easy. Could book them throughout the cruise. There is a tendency on larger ships they will be booked up by the end of first day.

  • Large theater, so I did not have to make reservations for the shows. The shows were great.

  • Food was amazing, from buffets to specialty restaurants. It was all great.

  • Amazing friendly staff that will remember you throughout the cruise.

  • Arriving late at the embarkation port provided no time in Seward.

  • Avoid the casino from 7PM till midnight if you have a problem with cigarette smoke.

  • Upper decks are packed when cruising the Hubbard Glacier area.

Suggestions and Tips

Suggestions I have for anyone taking any Alaska Cruise. If you, book a balcony room. On this cruise I just had an ocean view room, as a balcony room was too expensive for me since the cruise was in peak Alaska Cruise season. Booking the balcony room is great for the viewing of Hubbard Glacier as the ship turns in the bay and you would see it perfectly from any balcony room on the ship. By having a balcony room, you can avoid the huge crowds that are on top decks. I did not enjoy dealing with the crowds there, so I went down to the Promenade deck near the atrium, and this was where I got the best view of the glacier and there were not any crowds.

Bald Eagle seen from ship
Bald Eagle seen from ship

Just because marijuana is legal in Alaska, does not mean you should go to a dispensary and bring it on the ship. Cruise ships follow Federal law, which means it is illegal to bring on board. Also, depending on where your cruise ends (especially Canada) you could run into issues if you bring it into the country. This also includes edibles. Smoking marijuana on board is illegal. I personally did not see or have any issue with this on any of my Alaska cruises, but several people were talking about it being brought on board, or people being escorted off the cruise ship for bringing it on board.

If you prefer the larger or newer cruise ships, the Norwegian Bliss is another NCL ship that sails Alaska. If you enjoy the larger ship all the bells and whistles check it out, but as a warning this ship will cost more than the NCL Jewel. As a side note here, if you enjoy this size and style of the Jewel, you should check out the sister ship to it. In fact, there are 3 other sister ships to the Jewel. They are called the Gem, Jade and Pearl, and they cruise all over including the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal, and Europe too.

The casino program has changed over the years, but I still gamble a little while on board, but as a warning I do not feel you will be as lucky gambling on the slot machines as you would in Vegas. I say that, but I also know that I won $800 on this very cruise, my largest win in 14 cruises.

Shore excursions purchased from the cruise line are more expensive than if you book them with a third-party vendor like Viator. But in general, Alaska excursions are more expensive than excursions in the Caribbean. I have booked excursions with and not with cruise lines in the past. Just be aware if you book a third-party excursion and it runs late, the ship will not wait on you. If you purchase the shore excursion through the cruise ship and it runs late, the cruise ship will wait in port if the excursion is running late.

A neat trick if you are lost on the ship and don't know which way is the front of the boat? If you are in a hallway with fish on the carpet, the fish always swim forward. I noticed this carpet in the hallways where the staterooms were located.

For the best service by bartenders on the ship, give them a tip. You would tip your bartenders at home so you should tip them here. A dollar goes a long way.

Ports of Polar Promise: My Alaska Itinerary!

My Alaskan voyage, a 7-day cruise, promised a panorama of experiences, each port of call a gem reflecting the grandiosity of Alaska's landscapes and cultures. You will have to fly into Anchorage and make your way to Seward to start this cruise.  You can do the opposite version that will start in Vancouver and end in Seward if you like also. If flying from the continental US it will be cheaper to fly in or out of Vancouver, and your most expensive flight will usually be into or out of Anchorage, depending on which version of this cruise you take. My suggestion is to always work with a travel agent on booking cruises or looking into airfare, to save you some money. Travel agents are also helpful if you easily get overwhelmed with planning for the many ports of call like this cruise has.

  • Day 1-Seward: Boarding the ship will be a breeze, it was for me. Before you go to your room, pay your muster station a visit so they can scan your card. This will be your muster station throughout your cruise. So, if there is an emergency and everyone has to go to their muster station you will know where it is because you visited it on your first day on the ship. From there, check out your room if it is ready (usually around 2pm) and explore the ship. Now let the fun begin!

Glacier view on train ride from Anchorage from Seward
Glacier view on train ride from Anchorage to Seward

There are many ways to arrive in Seward from Anchorage Alaska. Rent a car, hire a private driver, take a bus, or my favorite is taking the 3-hour train ride that takes you past the coast, up the mountains and past other glaciers on the way. This is the best way to see wildlife while traveling from Anchorage to Seward. I saw a brown bear and at least 50 Bald Eagles. The crew on the train say that the early train rides tend to see mountain goats on the cliffs, or a Moose walking in a grassy field. I highly recommend the train.

  • Day 2-Cruise Hubbard Glacier: Welcome to the kingdom of icebergs and glaciers. The Jewel will carefully skirt the monumental Hubbard Glacier, a majestic river of ice commanding horizon-wide reverence. This glacier is huge, the noises it makes when calving will bow your mind, as the huge icebergs fall off into the bay. 

Hubbard Glacier
Hubbard Glacier

The cruise ship will do a turn in front of the glacier so every balcony room can see the view, but also that means every outside deck or window on the ship will see it too. There is always a chance that the cruise ship will not be able to travel up to the glacier, due to weather or fog. They might have to skip or not be able to do the turn because of the weather, but the captain will turn the ship for everyone to get a chance to see the glacier if possible. You will have plenty of time to see Hubbard Glacier in all her beauty. Deck 13 and 14 near the front of the ship will be packed, but don't worry, go to deck 7 where you can walk out on the Promenade deck on whichever side of the ship is facing the glacier and will get a great view without all the crowds. You will see seals resting on the pieces of ice that are floating in the bay, they will not even pay the cruise ship any attention as it floats on by.

  • Day 3-Icy Strait Point (Hoonah): A community rich in Tlingit heritage, Icy Strait Point is a serene stop that offers a multitude of cultural excursions and exceptional views of Alaska's untamed beauty.

Bear watching excursion with a beautiful creek
Bear watching excursion with a beautiful creek

This port is the best place to do whale watching. I have heard that time and time again, from everyone I have talked to. So, I highly suggest it. This port is small, so it is best to book an excursion with the cruise line or a third-party company like Viator, or you will be back on board the ship early as there is not much to do here in Hoonah.

For me I wanted to see bears, because I had heard if I stay out on deck long enough, I will see whales from the ship at some point on the cruise. (And I did). Anyway, there is a wonderful boardwalk trail bear watching excursion to take from Hoonah that I booked with the cruise line. The boardwalk takes you into the woods, past a creek where bears like to go and catch fish, and then an open area where you could look up into the mountain where the guides day there are hundreds of bear dens. Our tour did see bears, but we were at a safe distance away, plus there is a tour guide that will move you away from a location if the bear is too close. I felt perfectly safe on this excursion and seeing a bear was amazing.

  • Day 4-Juneau: The capital city of Alaska greets us with a palette of natural wonders. Take a seaplane tour over the crystalline ice caps, or perhaps set foot on the fabled Mendenhall Glacier. There are plenty of excursions to choose from in Juneau.

Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau
Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau

My shore excursion was to Mendenhall Glacier where I walked the trail towards the glacier for a bit and visited the visitor center where I was able to hold a piece of the glacier that calved. While walking the trail I did see a huge banana slug, seals, and a few bald eagles.

Next the bus tour took us to the Salmon Hatchery which was great to see the different stages of life of the salmon, and salmon jumping up the ladder to the hatchery from the ocean. There were many bald eagles and sea lions here trying to catch a meal while the salmon were swimming up the ladder. They have an aquarium inside the visitor center that show many native fish and mollusks in the area. Even starfish and a small octopus.

Next on the shore excursion we went to a Salmon bake. This was a great experience The salmon cooked perfectly, with all the fixings that are popular in Alaska, during the time at the salmon bake I had time to hike to a waterfall, pan for gold and just enjoy nature.

This 3-part shore excursion lasted all day, but I enjoyed every minute of it.

  • Day 5-Skagway: The historic seaport of Skagway speaks volumes of Alaska's storied past. Here, the setting sun paints a golden glow over the White Pass and Yukon Route, a living testament to the gold rush era.

Gold Pass Train Skagway Excursion
Gold Pass Train, Skagway Excursion

I highly recommend doing the shore excursion called the White Pass Train. It will take you up the route the goldminers hiked, up the mountain and into British Columbia Canada. The train ride ended at the station in Canada, and we all took a bus to Carcross in the Yukon Territory of Canada, spotted some beautiful lakes and even the northmost desert in the world. Yes, I said desert, it actually has sand just like a desert, the desert is small though. After our time in Canada the bus drives back down the mountain and through the international border back to Skagway. This was an amazing way to see the wilderness. I suggest you look for mountain goats on the craggy mountain cliffs as you ride by.

  • Day- 6 Ketchikan (Ward Cove): Delve into Alaskan Native culture at Saxman and Totem Bight, witness the spectacle of the Misty Fjords, or simply amble through the 'salmon capital of the world'—there's something for every kind of explorer.

Me on the Alutian Ballad in Ketchikan
Me on the Alutian Ballad in Ketchikan

Ketchikan is my favorite port. I love the cute little city, Creek Street, the Lumberjack Show and so much more. But my shore excursion was on the Aleutian Ballad, the boat from the TV show called the Deadliest Catch. The boat tour took us out into the bay and showed us what it was like to be on the crab fishing boat. We were able to see marine life in the area and learn so much. It was a wonderful experience. While visiting Ketchikan, be sure to check out the totem poles.

  • Day 7-Cruise Inside Passage: A tranquil seafaring through this labyrinth of islands and passages shall be the conclusion to our land of the midnight sun adventure. This is your sea day so to speak. So, relax, you have been busy visiting all the ports of Alaska. While relaxing I spent a couple hours on the outside deck looking for whales and I spotted several humpbacks and Orcas in the distance. They were not close to the ship, but I was easily able to spot them when they came up to the surface and squirt water out of their blowholes. I was able to spot them without binoculars but would continue to watch with the binoculars after I saw the location they were in. So, my suggestion here is to bring a pair of binoculars with you. Mine was nothing fancy, just a cheap set I ordered from Amazon.

  • Vancouver-debarkation day. You cannot count this as a day on board, because you will be off the ship by 9AM usually. But before you get off the ship, get some breakfast that way you are prepared for the day ahead, whether you are heading directly to the airport for a flight home, or exploring Vancouver for the day.

Sailing Our Way to Satisfaction

Every aspect of this Alaskan sojourn, steered by NCL's Jewel is an indelible experience. From the orchestrated luxury of onboard living to the harmonic dissonance of the wild arctic vistas, this is a cruise geared toward the intrepid traveler—a purveyor of experiences that are grand, yet personal because of the smaller ship, but above all, joyously memorable. Set your compass, secure your spot, and get ready to emblaze on this adventure into the eternal logbook of your wanderlust.

An Alaskan cruise on the NCL Jewel isn't just a means to an end; it's a revelry—you're invited to an ongoing festivity of life, love, and the endless expanse of the sea. Embark, and may your hearts brim with the thrill of the Voyage.

This blog contains affiliate links. If you click on them and make a purchase, I might receive a commission at no extra cost to you.


Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
bottom of page