Let me first preface my review of our Norwegian cruises by saying that although my family are experienced cruisers, with my seven year old daughter going on her 8th cruise and my wife and I both in are early to mid-thirties going on our 18th cruise together, we have never cruised out of the North East, so a voyage from New York was both exciting and proved to have some new experiences for us both.
We started off Friday night leaving Boston's North shore around 5:30 PM and drove south to Stamford Connecticut to visit with my brother and sister in law for the night. This made sense as we wanted to break up the drive to NYC and avoid the hotel prices in New York, while staying only 45 minutes away. We had dinner at a fantastic seafood restaurant called the Kona Grill in Stamford. The Sushi was outstanding. Following dinner we settled in to our hotel the Court Yard in down town.
On Saturday morning when we awoke, after a small breakfast, Vicki, my daughter, Ilona, my wife and I retrieved our car and headed south of I-95 to New York City. After a short drive, we arrived at the terminal, where we were able to park are car right on the roof and then take the elevator right to the embarkation station. Let me say this for embarking in New York. We have sailed form numerous ports in Florida, as well as Honolulu, and San Juan, where the lines seem to take forever. While I don't know if it was because we were there by 11:00 AM or if this is just the way it goes in NYC, but as a latitudes member we were put in a very short line, and within 10 minutes of getting in line, we were having our picture taken by the NCL photographers and on board the beautiful Norwegian Jewel.
Once onboard, we made a quick reservation for Le Bistro tomorrow night, and then promptly headed up to deck 12 for a buffet lunch in the great
outdoors. The buffet is separated into many small stations, and they even have a kid's area where the serving counter is only about two feet high for the little ones to serve themselves. I tried the Indian cuisine. It was not bad, especially for buffet quality food. I also made my traditional first stop at a bar and purchased the soda card for the week. This is a great savings tool, as they only charge you $6.25 per day for unlimited soda and juice, which comes out to about 3 drinks per day. I know it may not be the most honest thing, but I often use this to get my wife a soda or two each day at the pool too, so it really works out well financially.
After lunch, we checked out our mini suite room. This room is a good size for a family of three with a queen bed, and pull out sofa bed. The mini
suite has a curtain to give some privacy to Ilona and I while, Vicki gets her own space too. The bathroom has a tub instead of the shower stall in the
standard rooms. The balcony is also nice with a chair and recliner, as well as a small table.
Once we unpacked, we headed over to one of the lounges on deck 12 for a family introduction to the camp and more importantly a meet and greet with Vicki's favorite pouras friend, Sponge Bob Square Pants. After that it was dinner and a great teaser show of all the entertainment to follow. The
magician/comedian named John Paul was the headliner. He was very good and I look forward to seeing his full show later this week.
Sunday, April 15, 2012
This morning, Vicki and I got up early, about 6:45 AM and walked around the ship a bit. I figured that we must now be down around the Virginia area so the weather would be warmer. Well, the sun was out, but so was the wind, either naturally or as a result of the ship sailing into it. We tried to walk on the jogging path this morning, but it was just too cold. After that, we attended a cooking demonstration in the main atrium, where they chefs made a couple of the specialty dishes of Le Bistro, peppercorn filet of beef and an apple tureen. Both were very good, and a great foreshadow of our meal to come this evening. By 10:30 AM we had sailed far enough south for Mr. Golden sun to come out, and shine on us, he did. The rest of the morning was a great pool day lounging out, swimming in the pool, soaking in the hot tub and even taking a ride or two down the twisty yellow water slide.
That afternoon, Vicki did a little time in the camp and then we took part in family cupcake designing. While Vicki and I had fun doing family stuff,
Ilona tried her hand at winning some money at the black jack tables for about 2 hours.
Sunday evening was dress up or not night on the Jewel. Many people were dressed to the nines, men in fresh pressed suits and a few tuxedos, and women in elegant evening gowns.
Monday April 16, 2012
Monday morning we woke up and had breakfast at the buffet on the 12th deck. After that Vicki and I headed over to the pool and hot tubs where she
played for a couple of hours, and met some new friends. Shortly thereafter the Jewel pulled into Florida at Cape Canaveral. Today we took the ship excursion to the Kennedy Space Center. This is a very educational and fascinating place for both kids and adults. We arrived after a short 30 minute bus ride, which where we received a narrated tour of the route and learned some interesting facts about rockets and American history. The first exhibit we took part in was the 3-D IMAX movie about the Hubble telescope. It was truly intriguing to see some of the images taken by this amazing piece of technology. We also watched an IMAX movie about the space station and training astronauts go through in preparation for their missions.
There were also some great exhibits on the rockets that have gone into space and other NASA related events.
Monday evening dinner at the "free" restaurants did not look too appetizing, so we opted for Mama's Italian. To be honest, I can't imagine the food being any worse at the "free" restaurants. However, I should state that I have dined at Lachuchina, on the NCL the sister ship of the Jewel at least 4 times in the past year and a half, and I found the food to be at least as good as most chain level Italian restaurants generally. After dinner we checked out the Brenda Kay hypnotist show. It was really funny and it is always amusing to me to see what some people will do once up on that big stage. Ilona again had a good night at the casino, while Vicki and I took in some karaoke.
Tuesday April 17, 2012
Tuesday we arrive at Great Stirrup Cay, NCL's Private Island. After a short tender to the island, we found our clam shell, which essentially a large canvas is shaped like a giant clam shell which blocks the sun over two lounge chairs. Vicki and I snorkeled off the beach. At first there was not much to see, but as you progress further away from the shore and closer to the reef and rocks about 200 yards or so the water clears up a bit and there a many blue, yellow and other colorful tropical fish to view. There is also a very interesting underwater landscape with mini caverns for the fish, reefs, rocks and coral to view.
NCL puts on a pretty good barbeque considering they are cooking for 2,000+ people, with burgers, hot dogs, chicken and even my favorite, BBQ ribs with sauce. Gourmet it isn't, but good comfort food it sure is. After we got back to the ship, we tried the Cagney's steakhouse for dinner.
Wednesday April 18, 2012
Today we awoke in Nassau Bahamas. We had an early morning excursion to the lavish Atlantis Resort, where we headed over to the aqua park. We had been to Atlantis for a week last summer so we had a good idea of the lay of the land. As such, we knew exactly where we were headed, right to the wave and rapids river. You can either sit in a single or double person pool inner tube or ride the river around the park. It takes about 30 minutes to complete the course which goes from a lazy river to 3 foot waves to simulated white water rapids. So much fun. There were also 9 slides, but unfortunately for Vicki, she was 3 inches too short for those, so we did the rapids a few more times though and then laid out by pool.
As it turned out, lounging by the pool in the hot Bahamas sun was my biggest mistake of the cruise for me. I fell asleep for about an hour, and when I woke up, the lobsters in Maine had nothing on me when it comes to red skin. Wow, was I in pain that night. A little burn gel later when we got back to the room and I was good to go see John Pierre, the ships magician and comedian that night. He has some amazing card tricks and is pretty funny too. I finally joined Ilona that night at the Casino to try my hand at some black jack, but after losing $100, and then winning back 80% of it, I decided it was not my nigh and should take my minimum loss and leave.
After picking up Vicki from the camp we had a late night snack of Buffalo wings, cheese cake and strawberry short cake, then came back to the room and sat out on the balcony listening to the sound of the ocean for a few minutes before bed.
Thursday April 19, 2012
Thursday is the first of two days at sea. I awoke to the pain of my sun burn in full force, but was determined not to let that stop me. Vicki and I tried the buffet on Deck 12 again for breakfast. I did have to check in with the office today, as it has been almost 3 days since I spoke to anyone. The good thing about being on NCL as opposed to other lines such as Carnival and RCCL is that NCL does not block Skype, so I was able to have a 20 minute video conference with my staff back in Massachusetts. This day was filled with card playing and scrabble in the game room. Later that night, we attended the production show Circus bijou, which was a circus O type of show. Great acrobats and dancing, a show I would not hesitate to go to again.
Friday April 20, 2012
Friday was our last full day on the cruise and day at sea. As we approach the North east again, the weather stated getting a little chilly requiring pants and sweatshirts. Not too much to report on this day, just a take it easy and relax before heading back to work next week. It was a little too cold to sit by the pool, so we stayed inside for the most part. Ilona went to the Casino again and Vicki played with the kids at camp. Friday night we had dinner at Le Bistro one last time, the three of us. Vicki tried escargot for the first time, and she liked it. Imagine that, how many 7 year old little girls will eat snails, knowingly and say they enjoyed it. There is a video up on YouTube of her first snail dining.
Overall, our family really enjoyed this trip. We were not too sure about it with the limited itinerary and lack of Caribbean islands, but this cruise
really was a lot of fun, and we did get all the sun we were looking for, (trust me, my skin still is red and in pain With that said, I would come back to the NCL Jewel anytime, a great ship, good times and a nice voyage.
To see our photos and videos check out www.familytravelstory.com