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Norwegian Jewel

Editor's note: This story is from the Cruise Critic Archives. Content was up to date at time of publication.

In June, while visiting the still-under-construction Norwegian Jewel at its Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, we snapped a "before" series of photos that offered an idea of what a not-yet-finished ship looks like. Now that Norwegian Jewel has not only been completed but also has gathered a few European sailings under its hull, we had the opportunity to visit the ship during a port call in Helsinki. The objective? To contrast the "before" shots with "afters." While Norwegian Jewel is, by and large, modeled on sisters Norwegian Dawn and Norwegian Star, there are also some intriguing innovations. (Still curious? Perhaps we got carried away, but we also took photographs of other public rooms that intrigued us -- so take a look at some additional views).

In Papenburg, the ship's name, already painted on the hull, was one of the most vivacious aspects of Norwegian Jewel. Take a look now at the ship, docked in Helsinki, for a closer look at its splashy hull (in fact, the hull is so colorful that we could actually identify the ship from our airplane while coming in for a landing!).

Even folks with incredible imaginations may find it hard to believe that the dreary looking pool area, at left, could be so massively transformed, at right, in just a few months. The Sapphire Pool area is designed to appeal to families, featuring a water slide and a kids' pool that's tucked off to the side, along with two regular pools and a handful of whirlpools. There's also a bandstand. Note: This pool area, unlike those found on Dawn and Star, is not terraced -- which actually creates a more expansive sense of space.

When we visited in June the hallways were pretty much completed, save for the protective liner covering the carpets.

In this standard balcony cabin, the contrast between "before" and "after" is pretty marked, not least because the furniture has been "unstacked" and the view from the balcony is a tad more scenic.

In our first look at the Jewel Club Casino, the vivid, circus-like design already made a bold statement -- this is one of the most dynamic bars at sea -- but of course the addition of key gaming accouterments (note the slot machines to the right) is the real magnet.

It's hard to tell, in this "before" of Tsar's Palace, the ship's main dining room, that this isn't some basement storage facility! All gussied up, and with palatial windows uncovered, it feels quite grand.

When we first spied FYZZ, the show's cabaret lounge-karaoke bar, we described it as something out of "The Brady Bunch." This time, it reminded us more of the kind of place you might find on "The Jetsons" -- funky in an otherwordly, futuristic kind of way. By the way, crew we met onboard told us this is the in-spot for night owls.

What's unique about the sports court is that it offers rows of spectator seats, making even a pick-up game of basketball an event in its own right. The court can be converted as well for aficionados of volleyball and tennis.

Norwegian Jewel's Garden Cafe, the ship's buffet venue, has been designed in the now-trendy "food court" style that, in contrast to a traditional cafeteria format, eliminates or at least cuts down on lines.

What a difference a day (or a couple of months) makes! One of NCL's contemporary signatures is a fabulous, round-the-ship promenade that's highlighted with entertaining murals.

--by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor

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