Alaska Cruise on the Norwegian Jewel

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One of the reasons we booked a cruise to Alaska from Vancouver, rather than from our home of Seattle, was to travel one-way through the Inside Passage all the way up, and to visit Hubbard Glacier and Seward. Ships departing from Seattle run mostly offshore, west of Vancouver Island, and generally only visit Southeast Alaska to allow time for the return run back to Seattle (the Jones Act prohibits one-way trips between US ports). We had cruised the Inside Passage many times in our first boat, but only in Canadian waters. We were looking forward to seeing familiar places again, and the Alaska portion for the first time.

And we opted for an early-season cruise because we knew how beautiful the Canadian Inside Passage was with snow on the mountains and wanted to experience this again. We ended up not seeing a lot of the Canadian Inside Passage, as our ship passed through much of it at night. The snow had already melted though, so we didn’t miss much. But the snow was still very present in Alaska, and the mountain scenery there was spectacular. And being early in the season also meant the ship was more lightly loaded than in the middle of summer.

We had enjoyed the overall experience with Norwegian Cruise Lines on our Caribbean cruise aboard the Norwegian Encore, with features such as flexible meal times and no assigned seating. So we booked with them again, this time on the Norwegian Jewel. From a ship amenities perspective, we preferred the Encore overall. The much-smaller Jewel carries a maximum of 2,376 passengers compared to 3,998 on the Encore, and has fewer restaurants and entertainment options. And the Haven “ship-with-a-ship” concept is limited on the Jewel, with no dedicated restaurant, bar or hot tubs, and only a very small pool area.

But from a cruise itinerary perspective, we much preferred the trip on the Jewel. On our Norwegian Encore Caribbean cruise, we didn’t take any excursions, opting instead to visit each port on foot on our own. The Jewel offered more interesting trips, so we booked one for each port and had a great time. And the overall scenery was much more impressive, particularly Glacier Bay and Hubbard Glacier. Given our choice between the two trips, we’d likely take the Jewel to Alaska again.

Below are highlights from April 29th through May 8th, 2023. Click any image for a larger view, or click the position to view the location on a map. And a map with our most recent log entries always is available at

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Vancouver Cruise Port

The Canada Place cruise terminal in the Port of Vancouver handles over a million passengers a year, with 331 ships scheduled for 2023. Most are heading to Alaska, but other destinations include Hawaii, Asia, California and the South Pacific.

In another “filling in the gaps” trip, we booked a one-way cruise from Vancouver to Seward, Alaska on the Norwegian Jewel. We had cruised the Inside Passage many times in our first boat, but we’d only visited the Canadian portion. On our trips to Southeast Alaska and Prince William Sound in Dirona, we ran offshore directly from Seattle to Alaska, as the Seattle cruise ships do, and had never seen the Inside Passage north of the Canadian border. And we’d never visited the Alaskan Inside Passage cities of Ketchikan, Juneau, or Skagway, having only stopped in Sitka on our Southeast Alaska trip.

This cruise would give us an opportunity to fill in those gaps, plus spend some time in Vancouver. We’d not traveled to Canada since returning to Seattle, and hadn’t visited in Vancouver for over fifteen years, not since docking there during one of our winter cruises in our first boat.

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Inside Passage to Alaska

After our second night at the Vancouver Pan Pacific hotel, we woke up to find the Norwegian Jewel, the ship we’d be taking to Alaska, docked just outside our room. We boarded later that day and spent the afternoon exploring the ship, then had a wonderful time watching from our balcony at the bow as we sailed at a leisurely 10 knots from Vancouver and up the Inside Passage towards Ketchikan. We had cruised the Inside Passage many times in our first boat, but only through the Canadian portion, and we enjoyed the sights, old and new.

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On our Norwegian Encore Caribbean cruise, we didn’t take any excursions, opting instead to visit each port on foot on our own. The Jewel offered some more interesting trips, so we booked one for each port. In Ketchikan, we took an off-road UTV safari through Tongass National Forest in a Yamaha Wolverine X2. Although we would have preferred to explore on our own, we had a great time in the UTV tour. The scenery was spectacular, and we found the vehicle surprisingly capable.

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Alaska’s capital, Juneau, is the only mainland US capital city with no road connections. The only way in or out is by air or sea. And despite having a population of only 32,000, it’s the second largest city in the US by area, after Sitka, also in Alaska.

We arrived by boat, as do the majority of visitors to the city. Read more …

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During the Klondike Gold Rush of 1896 through 1899, roughly 100,000 prospectors poured into the Yukon in northwestern Canada, in the hopes of striking it rich. The main routes to the Yukon gold fields were from the southeast Alaska towns of Skagway or Dyea, across White Pass or Chilkoot Pass respectively. No roads or railways existed back then, so the prospectors had to cross on foot and Canadian authorities required they carry a year’s worth of food to enter the country. The stores weighed roughly a ton and took several trips to transport it all.

In 1898, construction began on a narrow-gauge railway to reach the gold fields that became the main route when completed in 1900. The railway continued to operate until 1982, mainly transporting ore from Canadian mines. Six years later, with cruise ship tourism increasing, the railway was re-opened as a heritage tourist route, the White Pass Scenic Railway.

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Glacier Bay

Dramatic Glacier Bay National Park was the only overlap between our Norwegian Jewel cruise and our 2010 Southeast Alaska trip on Dirona. But we could return here every year and never tire of the amazing scenery.

On another unusually clear day for early in the season, we cruised slowly up Glacier Bay under a bright blue sky between soaring mountains still covered in snow. Although the sun was shining, the day was cold, and we bundled up to watch from our stateroom’s forward balcony. The topography, and temperature, reminded us very much of our recent trip to Antarctica.

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Hubbard Glacier

Hubbard Glacier, at the head of Yakutat Bay, is the largest tidewater glacier in North America at 76 miles (122km) long and 7 miles (11km) wide. The terminal face is 600 feet (182m) high, with 250 feet (76m) hidden below the waterline. The 350 feet (106m) visible above the waterline is actively calving, filling the surrounding waters with large chunks of ice.

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Seward Highway

The 125-mile (201 km) Seward Highway, between Anchorage and Seward, is considered one of the most scenic routes in the state of Alaska. Named a National Forest Scenic Byway in 1989, the 2.5-hour journey from Seward passes through the Kenai Mountains and between Turnagain Arm and the Chugach Mountains, with numerous lakes and other attractions along the way.

An alternative to driving, that follows the same route, is the Coastal Classic tourist train. Making a few sightseeing stops along the way, the train is popular with cruise ship passengers transferring between the Anchorage airport and Seward.

The train had not yet begun running for the season when we’d be arriving into Seward aboard the Norwegian Jewel, so we opted for a sightseeing transfer with Aurora Limousines instead. This gave us an opportunity to make several stops along the way, particularly at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, where orphaned or injured bears and other animals are cared for.

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Show locations on map Click the travel log icon on the left to see these locations on a map. And a map of our most recent log entries always is available at


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