We recently took the Jewel to Alaska with our two small children (ages 5 and 7), my parents (seniors) and my brother and his wife. This was my 4th cruise and first with Norwegian.
Embarkation: The easiest and most efficient I have experienced by far. It is worth signing up for the free latitudes rewards program as you get to go through a priority line for embarkation. The whole process took less than 1/2 hour (which is especially helpful when travelling with small children). Once on the ship, we proceeded directly to the Tsar's dining room for lunch.
First Impressions: The ship was clean and nicely appointed. It was easy to find your way around (once your oriented yourself fore and aft).
Staff/Service: We found the staff to be courteous and efficient but not overly friendly. There were a few exceptions which we were happy to acknowledge using the "vacation hero" comment cards. The cruise director was talented and funny. There was a bit of a mix up with our account and our automatic gratuities were removed. We rectified the problem that same night, but returned to our cabin to see our room only 1/2 made up and missing the towel animal.
Dining: We ate mostly in the dining rooms and the garden court buffet. We found the dining room food to be "pretty good", but not exceptional. The buffet was extensive, with many "made to order" stations for soups, sandwiches, omeletes etc. There was a kids menu in the dining rooms but our kids preferred to order off the adult menu. We really liked the freestyle dining offered by Norwegian, as well as the "dress up or not" nights.
Entertainment: The entertainment was top notch...some of the best I've seen on a cruise ship. Of special note were "Duo Elegia" (gymnasts) and Jean-Pierre (Comedian/Magician). The "Cirque Bijoux" show was amazing...a mini version of cirque de soleil. The ship's farewell show was also excellent. Every show was "kid friendly".
Pool Area: It was too cold to use the pool area much, but the water was heated well. The hot tubs were lukewarm and there were too many kids splashing around. I think the kids used the hot tubs as kiddie pools because the actual pools were really deep. The waterslide was quite slow and most kids had to either push themselves down or get up and walk. The pool music was quite loud.
Public rooms: We especially enjoyed the spinnaker lounge...it had great views and comfy chairs. We also used the card room a lot. It was poorly monitored and maintained. The one crib board disappeared after the first day. All the card decks were mixed up and most of the games were missing pieces. My parents found some fellow bridge players, but it was really loud in the card room so they moved elsewhere.
Kids Club: My 5 and 7 year old had to be in different rooms due to the age groupings (There were some "free-play" times when all the kids were together). My 5 year old is almost six and had to be in with the 2 to 5 year olds. They were in a smaller room and I think she would have liked to have been in the larger room with the bigger kids. Regardless, the kids asked to go back several times. They got to participate in a few performances before the nightly entertainment, which was fun for them. The sign-in/out process was a bit disorganized.
Shore tours: We only booked one shore tour which was the train ride over the white pass...a must do. We took a shuttle to the mendenhall glacier in Juneau and found we had plenty of time to hike to the glacier and return for some shopping. Overall, we found the tour prices high, especially for a family of 4.
Overall, we had a great time on the Jewel...there was something for everyone in our group. The food wasn't as good as Royal Caribbean, but the entertainment was better. I would choose Norwegian again and hope to sail again soon!