I had originally seen this cruise advertised last year as a re-positioning cruise from NYC to Vancouver, including the Inside Passage so made a note to keep an eye out for this for 2013. When it was advertised, it wasn't posted as a re-positioning cruise and we were told that because of the Jones Act (Law) we couldn't cruise past LA if it wasn't a re-positioning cruise. Then, after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing between NCL and the travel agent, we were told that because the ship was going to a foreign port (namely Cartegena) we could sail to San Francisco. You can imagine my anger when we got on board to have the cruise advertised as a re-positioning one
There were three of us travelling, so we chose a mini-suite with balcony on deck 11, being told it was a bigger cabin. The three of us have travelled together before and have had no issues with the third bed. Embarkation was quite simple but we were dismayed when we saw the size of the cabin. The interior one we'd had on deck 5 with Holland America on the last trip was just as big. Of greater concern was the third bed. It was the lounge which was as hard as a board. It took 4 days of asking for more padding before the bed was comfortable enough. The one layer of well-used foam that was put on the first night was insulting. If you are going to sell a cabin as being suitable for 3, make sure the bedding is suitable. Even if a child is the third passeger, they deserve better than what we got. Of great concern also was the state of the cabin. It was very dusty, and we found evidence of a previous occupant with trash left in the wardrobe and one drawer, and also a very dry remnant of a coffee bag in the coffee maker. We waited for three days before we asked for it to be removed.
The first night we went to the Azure Dining Room, waited for a long time for a meal which was a bit hit and miss. We subsequently found out that we had a substantial number of new wait staff on board, none of whom are given any pre-training re serving, just given a manual or two. Then we tried the Tzar Dining Room and faced the same issue. I don't expect silver service in a dining room unless I've paid for it but I do object to servers reaching across my face to deliver a meal or remove a plate. We took advantage of having our bottles of wine stored each night, and on the third night, one party member was told her wine was finished. This wasn't the case, it had at least one glass left. We really had to insist, speaking to a senior staff member before the bottle was replaced. The next night, another bottle was obviously off. It had a screw cap which was faulty and didn't close properly so the wine had gone off. We were told that wine should be drunk on the same night, and what could we expect with a screw cap. Once again we insisted and had the bottle replaced. Unfortunately, this sort of experience didn't end there. We had cold food served, had to send several dishes back when meat was stringy or tough or had a very strange taste. We had chocolate dipped strawberries delivered to our cabin on two occasions as an apology and were given a free bottle of wine because of problems with food. Two nights it took 90 minutes before we left the dining room, with waits of up to 20 mins for the entree to be served. Some problem had occurred in the kitchen. The final night I had duck salad which tasted delicious, only problem was it contained only one piece of duck measuring about 1 inch by 1/4 inch square. The Lamb Shank dish the same night tasted very nice also, but it was a pity that whoever served it had slopped the sauce all over the side of the dish and then wiped it with a very greasy rag. I should have sent that back but by that stage was over it. We ate a number of times in the Garden Buffet and were satisfied with the offerings, but it would be nice if the fruit provided was ripe. Couldn't help wondering why staff weren't rostered on earlier on shore days. We had to wait for cups, plates etc to be replenished. Staff seemed to be astonished that all these passegers were milling about - what are they doing here? And could someone mentioned to all serving staff that a soup spoon is for soup and a dessert spoon, used for cereal, dessert etc.
We complained about the lack of entertainment during the day which is available on other ships. We were told by the entertainment director that budget cuts meant that information talks were't offered any more. We turned up in the Showroom for a talk on the shore excursions to be told they weren't being held as only one staff member had done the Panama trip before. Then we were told that they would do one only after passengers boarded in Miama. Yes, it was held, but not all the printed information on each of the ports was available and we were given information on a lot (but not all) of the excursions which was too much to take in. Yes, they ran in on the TV but we got the whole talk even up to the last day of the cruise. We figured out that things like deck games, beanbag throw and talking to entertainment staff cost no extra for the cruise line, so that is what we got. Thing is, not everyone can do or is interested in the activities that were available. The movies that were available on the big screen were for the larger part not late release, with offerings like Pretty Woman. Was it just coincidence that half way through the cruise suddenly we were offered Les Miserables, Jack Reacher and Lincoln? Or did we all complain. I question the wisdom of showing a kids movie, Wreck-it Ralph, when only 17 children were on board. Another reviewer mentioned the poor offerings on the room tv and I must agree with them. Re-runs of the movies shown in the theatre, and re-runs of the same tv shows shown over and over. Plus of course the remote that didn't work unless it was held right in front of the on/off light.
We did do excursion off the ship, and mostly they were quite good. I do object however, to be taken as an almost captive group to jewellery stores with enormous pressure brought to bear to buy. The offerings in the shops on board were quite good but as others have mentioned, over-priced. And I can never understand why people will pay thousands of dollars for jewellery that had no valuation offered with it. We did go to the Art Auctions but by the last one were more than a little jaded by the same old information. I've never heard of a ship tour that cost money (don't think we were ever told how much).
We though we had pretty much seen it all but on the last day the organisers (????) excelled themselves. We were all told what bag tags we needed and where to be at a certain time. We turned up where we were supposed to be to be asked if we had been through Immigration? No, we didn't know we needed to. Though it must be on shore. So round we turned, walked from the front of the ship, all round the deck to the other side of the ship to join the queue for Immigration. Then when we got back to the front of the ship where we were before, got our amusement from all those who came after.and who didn't know either. Felt sorry for the staff who had to bear the brunt of passengers anger.
Comments from other passengers who have cruised before with NCL but not on the Jewel, said there was no comparison between it and the other liners and they would not cruise on the Jewel again.
Came to the conclusion that Freestyle cruising is just another term for sub-standard offering. If passengers don't want formal nights, why do so many make the effort to get dressed up night after night.