This was my first cruise experience and might be my last, for a couple of reasons.
It would be hard to top on so many levels that I am afraid another cruise might disappoint. The weather was beautiful. I never got seasick, which surprised me because I get seasick very easily. The food was great. The restaurant service was excellent. I have food allergies and figured I would just eat at the buffet all week and keep things simple even though I saw on the website that you could call if you had dietary issues. My food sensitivities are a little unusual, and I didn't expect the cruise menu to accommodate those needs. The first night at dinner, I asked about items on the menu and mentioned what I needed to avoid. The waitress helped me pick a dish that was suitable. Not only that, she asked what my specific needs were, and had me order from the next day's menu so that the chef could tailor the food to my specific needs. This continued for the entire week, and for two different restaurants. I was very impressed.
This first cruise was certainly a learning curve. I learned what I would do differently if I ever get a chance to take a cruise again. The biggest negatives were that there were hidden costs that are not advertised. It would be better if all of the 'hidden charges' were listed up front, like port taxes, and gratuities. The cruise actually cost about twice as much as the initial advertised cost. Also, the online ship schematic was different than what we found once on board. My mom had chosen a handicapped room with a balcony online, but there was no balcony once we checked in. I was disappointed for her since this was also her first cruise (at age 90).
The service for a handicapped person was very good. When we boarded, my mom got special help. she had also arranged for an electric scooter while she was on board. That worked out great for her, but I think a mandatory training session should come with the scooter. Mom was a bit of a menace because of 90 degree turns in the corridors, and because she cranked up the speed to 'rabbit' when clearly she should have stayed at 'turtle'.
I was pleasantly surprised that the medical center provided a generic motion sickness medication at no charge. I didn't end up needing it, but it was nice to know that it was available. I could have saved $100 that I spent on scopolamine patches and Bonine.
Would I do it again? Probably. Next time, I would book a room on a lower level. Level 8 was great, but level 6 would have been less expensive, and you don't really spend any time in your room. I noticed that on levels 10 and above, you could definitely feel the motion of the ocean more keenly. Next time, I probably wouldn't do the shore excursions, but venture out on my own. Next time, I would not shop in the tourist shops. It sounds like there might be a next time after all.
Food and Dining
Service and Staff
Cabin / Stateroom
If you want to have a climbing wall, go with the Pearl. The Jewel does not have one. Someone said they might get one by Christmas 2014.
Ports Of Call
Cruise Sawyer Glacier