We flew to LAX the morning of the cruise (all other times we have flown in the evening before). Representative met us at baggage claim, coach arrived soon, trip to ship was fine. Embarkation went well.
Our mid-ship balcony cabin was spacious and appealing - except for the dirt. The only surfaces that were not dirty were sticky. The room was never adequately cleaned. My wife tried to clean the balcony door herself to no avail. Just over halfway through the cruise the HVAC stopped working right and the room became very cold. The first solution tried by maintenance was to shut off the system and hope we did not notice. We noticed. The next solution was to tell us to live with it.
This typified the attitude of the hotel staff - passengers were a bother. We had sailed 18 months earlier on the NCL Dawn and were delighted. Our interior stateroom on the Dawn was kept in top shape. Lounge and entertainment staff were attentive. The Dawn was kept clean. Public areas on the Jewel repeatedly had trash left out for twelve hours or more. I drank no alcohol on the cruise; perhaps that explains why on the Jewel my drink orders were routinely forgotten. The Dawn had no such issues.
The lounge musicians, with the exception of Michael Masci at the piano, were forgettable. Not bad, just not up to the standards of a lower-tier cruise line.
We ate twice at Mama's Italian Kitchen and once at the Oriental Fusion specialty restaurant. Food and service were excellent. In those two restaurants the staff had a service attitude and attention to detail. The main dining rooms were another story.
The Azura Main Restaurant was chaotic with service that would not be tolerated at most fast food restaurants. We ate there once and vowed never again.
Our first dinner at Tsar's Palace was a delight. The waiter was personable and helpful. His menu suggestions were excellent and he went above and beyond what we expected. Our second dinner there we requested the same waiter at the check-in desk. The hostess assured us she had passed on the request. When escorted to our table we were told that the only description that had been passed was "Some Indonesian guy" and it was too general. The waitress was adequate, but we still left disappointed at the lack of attention to detail.
We ate one evening in the buffet; it was infinitely better than Azura. We made frequent use of the Blue Lagoon 24 hour restaurant for snacks and drinks. The restaurant was always clean and the staff always on their toes.
We loved the port call in San Francisco. The Hop On/Hop Off bus tour was well worth the money. We could have stayed there longer. Astoria, Oregon, was a bust. We took the Seaside/Cannon Beach tour, which included a very very very short stop at a magnificent group of tall rock spires used for migratory bird nesting. Right back on the bus and into the two towns for shopping. The tour guide recommended all sorts of pedestrian places to shop, owned by his friends. These are small towns with small town attractions and establishments. A waste of time.
We toured Victoria on our own. It is truly beautiful.
Nanaimo was a pleasant surprise. We took one of the typical "Best of.....plus underwater basket weaving and nuclear weapons design" tours. Pleasant people, pleasant countryside, well organized tour, the cranberry farm proved far more interesting than we could have expected.
Disembarkation in Vancouver went well. We chose to carry off our luggage and go directly to the bus to Seattle for our flight. The bus service was comfortable, quick and pleasant.
How two ships in the same fleet could differ so much is astounding. The Dawn was just short of crisp; the only thing crisp we found on the Jewel was leftover French Fries matted to the floor. The ship was dirty, the staff had no service orientation, and in general the hotel staff failed to perform. We might give NCL another try, but it will be several years. This Jewel simply did not sparkle.