Alaska Cruising

It only took 16 years, but we finally got our “honeymoon” trip on an Alaskan Cruise. I booked it a year into the Pandemic thinking – surely – this thing will be wrapped up in 18 more months… incorrect.

May 30th-June 6th 2022 – Norwegian Jewel

Departed Vancouver, Canada

You were able to select your boarding time. That meant nothing. The staff was not fully familiar with the process, i think the turn over rate was quite high and required re-training every day. They also implemented a new computer system which slowed everything down. We waiting in line for 2 hours on hard concrete. They retake your photo, which at first i thought was annoying since I already uploaded a photo when prepping documents. Turns out they use facial recognition to exit and enter the boat. OK, makes sense.

I did some research to see if we could do tours on our own. I found this sight – Cruise Port Insider and lots of their information was very useful. We did end up booking 2 tours, just to alleviate any consternation and it sounded like you would end up on a tour with other cruise people anyway and not save a ton…

Day 1 at sea

We worked out, found the buffet, and relaxed. Our first fancy meal of teppanyaki. Well executed and a ton of food! The only disappointment was that each chef started at the same time and were back to back, so they told the same jokes and did the same actions very close to each other, kind of like a bad row row your boat.

Day 2 – Ketchikan

Early morning off the boat for our adventure to Misty Fjords. Put on by Allen Marine Tours (local and native owned company – woot)

The trip was definitely fun – it is 1.5 hours across Alaska to the Fjord and then just a little bit there, then the return trip. We saw some Orca playing and eating – apparently that was rare, so we were in luck!

The tour guide was a very knowledgeable older man that had been in Alaska for over 40 years and loved sharing what he knew.

Con: NCL is building their own new docking area, but that means it is 20 min bus ride from town at the end of the tour back to the boat. It was stressful to know/find out where the bus was, and how long it would take a restaurant to feed us, so we just went back to the boat and ate on board. NCL does have their own gift shop in a large warehouse area next to the dock if you didn’t get anything in town.

Verdict: Expensive ($250 each). Beautify, and lucky to see Orcas. Not sure it was worth nearly $500 for us both to go.

Day 3 – Juneau

Disembarcation was at 11am, so we slept in, worked out and then got ready to head out.

I wanted to do the tram and based on the Cruise Port Insider info the station was basically across from the boat. Unfortunately “right” across only works when your ship is not the furthest one tied up at the dock. They did provide buses that circled into to town and back and that dropped us off at the base of the Tram. Prices had gone up since that page was created. $45 for unlimited trips. We only had time for 1, and we did a partial hike that was very much covered in snow but the views were spectacular. We sat for a beer at the top – our first Alaskan brand beer and found the White to be rather pleasant! The NCL tram trip was 49 each and it was 1.5 hours. I think we got the better deal doing it on our own.

We enjoyed lunch at the Hangar bar and grill and i got my first taste of Alaskan Oysters. OMG. Briney and delightful. I could eat them for ever! I also helped John with his fish and chips and goodness was the halibut amazing.

After lunch we returned to the boat to prep for our evening adventure at the Mendenhall Glacier and then an Evening (the sun doesn’t set till 10pm) Whale watch.

The bus driver dropped us at the visitor center for Mendenhall Glacier and suggest the trail to Nugget Falls for amazing views of a waterfall and the glacier.

The waterfall was amazing and seeing the large chunks of glacier in the water was so cool.

After 1.25 hours, we got back on the bus for a ride to the harbour for our whale watch.

The whale watch itself was very fun – the food was outstanding, and the views of the wales was awesome.

Verdict: The trip to Mendenhall felt rushed and stressful, i would have enjoyed more time exploring the park and seeing the glacier from different vantage points. The food was way above what we expected, staff was friendly and we saw hump back whales. The price was $200 a piece and that seemed reasonable for the 2 activities and the nice food we enjoyed.

Day 4 – Skagway

Originally the hubby had planned to do a train ride with his mom. As they were unable to join, we slept in, did a fun paper craft (i did), and then meandered off the boat for a little time in town. As we ended up doing 2 small hikes the day before, the idea of doing another hike was less than appealing to the hubby. We shopped through town, enjoyed some Beers at the Klondike Brewery, an elephant ear at the Klondike Doughboy, and trinkets and art throughout the town. We were meandering back and decided to stop for more oysters and some bisque at the Skagway Fish Co. Delicious and a nice place to sit. Lots of locals there too.

We had completed what we came to do, so we enjoyed some relaxing time on the back of the ship, reading and people watching.

Verdict: They push the train ride, not sure if it would have been worth it or not, but it would have been 3 days in a row of activity. Lots of people showed disappointment that we did not do the trip, so that is all that i know.

Day 5 – Glacier Bay

I heard from others that this is the only cruise line that bring the Rangers on board. Those that are getting stamps from all the national parks were giddy about it. The rangers arrived at 6am, their first information to use regarding the day was at 7am – you can skip this. Around 8am was our first viewing of wildlife and glaciers! Otter and Whales!

Such amazing scenery, and the captain does his best to make sure both sides of the ship gets to see everything.

Day 6 – Hubbard Glacier

Another day in nature and it’s amazing beauty. We headed up into the inlets and saw Hubbard. Got some nice history about how it has closed the flow to the sea twice in history and how the sea always won.

Not enough words to explain how cool it was to see it all.

For dinner we enjoyed La Moderna – Brazilian Steakhouse. Was such a delight, we enjoyed the food, the staff and the views.

Day 7 – At sea

Slept in, got in a workout, and then worked on finishing up a book i was reading. Listening to options for future cruises – nothing tickled our fancy, and relaxed. It was the only day that it rained on our trip, so winning!

What I liked about what we did

  • Picked a room on the right side of the boat, toward the front (away from the horn)
    • This was straight up the stairs to the gym (good for us)
  • Picked a trip with discounts on tours
    • Misty Fjords (not as much time in the fjord, but lots of great info, and we saw orcas)
    • Mendenhall Glacier and “evening” whale watch – nice walk and view, evening appetizers was basically a full meal
  • Picked a trip with 2 free pay meals
    • The Moderna – meat on swords – was AMAZING. We had done one of these a few years ago and it was not good. This was phenomenal, fantastic salad bar, all you can eat meat, not just 1 of each kind like previously, and the staff was very professional and so gracious
    • The Teppanyaki – like any good benihana! enjoyed it very much and over ate
  • Picked a trip with free drinks,
    • Free drinks – wow, this was great! The fine print looked scary – indicated 20% extra, but as long as you stayed under $13 – everything was included. And they selected the wine – it was all fine.
  • We upgraded our internet
    • see below for the cons on those…
    • Unlimited internet helped me have peace of mind with a new dog sitter
    • We had to share between the 2 of us, and didn’t realize it until we were on board.. But it was fine, and forced some true down time!
  • Did laundry half way thru the trip. They usually offer some bargain – this time is $30 for as much as you could fit into a bag. (we got 10 t-shirts, 1 long sleeve shirt, 10 pair of underwear (his and hers), 12 pairs of socks – i was very impressed with mysef – fold and roll to make the most of the space)

What i would do differently:

  • Cruise back down the inner passage. Start up in Alaska and Denali and then return via ship to the US
  • With covid still cranking and the cruise line basically incompetent at making reasonable flights, having to travel international, switch airlines, go thru customs and nearly every party “randomly” picked for another covid test… definitely would not start a cruise in Canada.
  • “Freebies” – the free internet was crap – 250 minutes across all devices for a 7 day cruise… We upgraded to unlimited internet, but did not review the fine print close enough – that was for 1 device, the second device on the ship was another 99 (not sure the pre cruise cost). It worked out ok, we would just trade it back and forth and most push notifications came thru when attached to their wifi. The app (once i realized i needed to reinstall it) worked very well to have the schedule and our trips
  • Bring a small rollie bag as our “get off the boat” luggage, as having a duffle was just cumbersome

Things to bring

  • Insulated mugs (fill up with coffee or juice to keep with you, the mugs at the buffet are very small, and the coffee obscenely strong)
  • Dry creamer, collagen packs (if you need a little something extra in your coffee)
  • Shoe rack – pre packed – heavy magnet hooks
    • Clear pockets to hold things that are small and you need, and cause clutter
    • Pre-pack it so you can just hang it up and you are ready to go
  • Lysol spray (you are sharing a single bathroom… poo pori can work too)
  • Dawn wrinkle spray (it’s like fabreeze and an iron in a single little bottle)
  • Tide to go wipes and spot cleaner (you know it’s a matter of time before you spill something)
  • Water bottle (water was potable on our cruise, could fill up in your bathroom)
  • Laundry detergent (it’s easier to do wash part way through the cruise, and not bring enough for the whole thing)
  • Laundry popup hamper (it kept everything corralled and it fit under the desk)
  • Binoculars (so glad we had these to see wild life, glaciers and more)
  • Back holder for binoculars
    • I did not have this and regretted it, my back was killing me by the end of the day
  • iPhone holder
    • I got this for skiing so i wouldn’t lose my phone, would have been fantastic when taking pictures over your deck railing
  • Zippy for room key
    • Most things could scan the code, sometimes you have to pull your card out
  • Bring a blanket – i like to always have one when i’m sleeping and comes in handy when you have a balcony
  • Magnetic clips
    • Walls in the room are magnetic, can hold papers, receipts, small items out of the way
  • Couple closes pins
  • Highlighter
  • Scotch tape roll (can be used to hang, seal bottles for transport, etc)
  • Floppy hat (string is good for boat trips, keeps on your head)