The Travelers: Two 30-something single ladies. It was my first real cruise (other than a budget, 4-day deal in high school) and her second (previously cruised on RCCL). The cruise was booked through my friend's timeshare company -- we wanted to cruise out of NY or Baltimore, and had to cruise Thanksgiving week, so there were only a couple options. The main objective of our trip was rest and relaxation!
The Room: We were in Balcony Stateroom #10086. It was a great location...near the mid-ship elevators and stairs, and either up or down just a couple decks to almost everything important to us (food, alcohol, spa and gym, pool deck, theater, etc.) Unfortunately we had smokers in the cabin next door, and also somewhere else around us, and rarely found it enjoyable to spend any amount of time on the balcony. The cabin was a little tight, but there was a ton of storage and it was more than adequate for a week. Our cabin steward was okay, but not great -- we stopped getting towel animals on the third day, we never got ice, and didn't even get turn down service a couple nights.
The Itinerary: Let's just say we didn't choose this cruise for the ports of call. The weather all week was incredibly windy -- Captain Lars remarked on it several times. Even in the warmer locales (Florida and the Bahamas), it was WINDY. We didn't get off the ship at Port Canaveral, instead taking advantage of spa specials and a less-crowded pool and hot tub. Our visit to Great Stirrup Cay was cancelled because of the choppy seas, and we ended up pulling into Nassau the night before we were due to arrive. That was the only port we had booked an excursion -- the sea lion experience at Blue Lagoon. We really enjoyed it, although there was a little bit of confusion about when and where exactly we needed to be for our swim. I would go back to Blue Lagoon again. By the last sea day of our cruise it was very cold, very windy and very rainy.
The Spa: Even before we boarded we had kind of decided to purchase the week-long spa pass, and it was totally worth the $149 cost. The women-only side (and I'm assuming the men-only as well), had a large hot tub, steam room, dry sauna, fancy showers, plunge pool and comfy Adirondack-type chairs. The co-ed Relaxation Room had the larger "therapy pool" and the much-discussed heated ceramic loungers. Heaven! We went to the spa every day and sometimes twice a day. We often showered in the spa rather than in the cabins. I do think the spa pass should give you a discount on spa services (say, 15%) for a little added value. We took advantage of a port-day special for a massage/facial combo, which was great. My friend even went for acupuncture on the next to the last day, in hopes that it would help her seasickness.
The Food and Drink: This was definitely an area that I had some concerns about before we sailed. My friend is a vegetarian and is allergic to onions, so finding food for her can sometimes be a challenge. And I am a bit of a foodie, and had heard mixed reviews about NCL cuisine. I will say that I was pleasantly surprised on all accounts! I would rate the food as good to very good. There were some outstanding selections in the MDR, as well as the Blue Lagoon. We usually did breakfast, and occasionally lunch, at the buffet. It was generally kind of a madness but there was a lot of variety, and we loved eating in the Great Outdoors section. We ate at both Le Bistro and Cagneys, and of the two, I would definitely recommend Le Bistro....I still think back on that Coq Au Vin! My friend didn't make any advanced arrangements for her special diet, but on the first night we were introduced to one of the "Special Diets" servers in the MDR. The two women she worked with throughout the cruise -- Nancy and Rebecca -- made it possible for her to order ANY food on the menu to meet her dietary restrictions, with advanced notice (usually 24 hours). The only downside is that we couldn't be totally flexible in our dining plans (although we could eat whenever we wanted, in either MDR), and that sometimes our meals weren't timed to come out exactly in synch -- so maybe I would still be on my app while she had her main course. No biggie.
I didn't find the alcoholic drinks much more expensive than I would pay in any big city or upscale bar, and there were Happy Hour and other specials advertised in the Freestyle Daily. I loved the champagne cocktails at Magnums, Margarita Madness at Moderno bar and the fact that they also had hard cider on board, as well as beer.
The Entertainment and Shipboard Activities: We took advantage of a lot of the fun activities on board, like trivia, game shows, dance and exercise classes and interactive events. We saw a couple live productions, which I thought were well-done and there was always live music in one or more of the venues. The Cruise Director (Dan the Man) and his staff were GREAT. We found so many things to do that they often overlapped and we missed out on something. The pool deck was usually very crowded (unless we were in port or getting ready to dock) and we didn't spend that much time up there. Lots and lots of kids (700+) on board that week!
OVERALL, I loved my week on the NCL Jewel. The service was great, the amenities were great and I found it to be good value for my vacation dollars. I will definitely cruise NCL again.