We are a married couple working and trying to find time in our busy schedules to get a break from the hectic pace of the everyday. Away from responsibilities. Away from cell phones (NOTE to first time cruisers please disable your cell phone or be prepared for huge international roaming charges on your cell bill when you return home!) We have found the NCL Jewel and her sister the Gem out of New York to be an ideal way for us to rest our Midwestern tired bodies in the warmth of the Bahamas.
Because of the multitude of flights from Detroit to New York we book our own flight planning to arrive a full day in advance. YES buy travel insurance with the cruise line. I have read other writers recommending other choices such as other carriers but they will not match what the cruise line can provide, at keast in our experience. Out of our 12 cruises there have been medical emergencies on at least 5 medical emergencies, 4 of which required a change in course for the ship or a helicopter evacuation. Without insurance you are looking at about $35,000 added to your credit card! In international waters the ship has limited options and you may be forced to pay for the ride home on your own--if you choose to not pay the travel insurance.
We stay with family in New York but there are a lot of great choices in the city. Consider linking with the cruise line if a first timer to reduce your travel stress.
With NCL we have always contacted our NCL cruise consultant Kim Horton. If considering NCL give her a call: 877-436-9722 extension 7028. She or people like her can add an extra touch that will make your trip a little more enjoyable. These are intangibles such as locating a cabin close to the stairwell or out from under the basketball court, to arranging for a special occasion or a late breaking upgrade. Sure the Internet is a convenient way to book a cruise but you can't see the whole picture like another human!
Our embarkation at New York Harbor was a little longer than usual due to the fact that two NCL ships and a Celebrity ship were in port at the same time. But all staff were helpful and proffesional and and we unloaded our bags got through security and were on board within 20 minutes from getting out of our cab. One of us was on crutches and we were pleased to receive special support in our embarkation.
Another travel hint: don't take everything on board with you. Take a small travel kit with essentials such as passports, medication, and swim suits if you plan to get right in the pool. Your suitcases will be delivered to your stateroom but it may take a few hours. We have seen folks drag all their stuff on board personally but there is no need if you plan ahead.
Also for most of us remember that the cabin is small. Bed. Small table. Bathroom. Closet. That's it. There will be room for a laptop and suitcases slide under the bed. But if you bring everything with you from home you will be looking at it for a week!
We were very fortunate to have almost perfect weather. Some people had trouble with motion sickness nonetheless. If this is your first trip on a vessel bring medicine for seas sickness. If you have some rough patches in the water you may have trouble getting it on board.
As we said we were cold and tired travelers from the frozen Midwest. Because of the crutches we chose to stay on the shop at each port and enjoy the quiet. But many others including families took advantage of the Orlando port of call to take advantage of Disney and other sites such as the NASA Space Center. Our stop at Grand Stirrup Cay was also beautiful and guests enjoyed disembarking and using the new facilities set up there by NCL.
Our stop at Nasau was uneventful. Again we stayed on board and enjoyed the quiet.
A special thank you to the officers and crew for excellent service. Many of the international crews come from places where English is not their native language. One sweet new cew member told us she learned English from watching television in her home in a village in the Philipines. The crew all come from places around the world. Many have not seen their families for months. You may see them on shore if they have leave at a local restaurant or wherever there is a good internet hookup to contact home by Skype or email (the shipboard Internet is slow although reliable). They are all highly motivated by culture and corporate policy to treat you well. NCL treats it's crew well and OT shows. They try hard to make your experience a joyful one.
We are especially concerned now about our friends on the Gem and the Jewel with the recent events surrounding hurricane Sandy. True to the standards set by NCL they are making every effort to care for their passengers, officers and crew. When considering a cruise for you and your family please consider the NCL Jewel.