DH and I flew out of St. Louis to Miami for our week long cruise on the Norwegian Jewel. We are a couple in our 40's with no children and cruising is our favorite vacation. We decided to give NCL another try after a huge disappointment on the SUN the previous year. NCL did give us a credit toward another cruise after I contacted them upon our return. The trip on the SUN was by no means a total loss we met some wonderful new friends we are still in contact with today.
The trip from St. Louis to Miami was uneventful and we arrived mid-morning. Cabs were readily available and we were at the port in no time. Pulling into the port was like pulling into cruise ship row. It was wonderful comparing all the ships and it still amazes me their enormous size. Porters were right there to take our luggage and we went directly into the terminal to check in. Check in was quite painless and we were ushered into a large room to wait to board. NCL had coffee, cookies and juice which was nice. Our wait was extremely short and before we knew it we were able to board.
We had booked an inside guarantee and found out we were on the 11th deck midship. We had never had an inside cabin before, always booked a balcony, but were pleasantly surprised. The cabin was small, but was laid out extremely well. The bathroom shower was very large and we loved the sliding doors instead of the terrible shower curtain on some ships. There was ample closet and drawer space, but if you have a lot of clothes which need to be hung up you may want to bring a few hangers. A power strip would also be a good addition since there was only one outlet in the cabin and it was in the main cabin by the mirror.
We dropped off our bag and went off to have lunch. One thing I did not mention was that NCL has hand sanitizers everywhere and you have to use them anytime you board the ship. They also have them in all the public areas which is a really nice touch and hopefully all people use them prior to going to the buffet. The Garden Cafe has your normal buffet items for lunch and I really can't remember anything outstanding. I do remember the eggs at the breakfast buffet were terrible. I swear they were powdered eggs and in fact they actually had a grainy texture.
We do enjoy the free style dining idea, but the service is not quite as memorable. After we had finished our dinner we sat for 20 minutes waiting for someone to come clear our plates. Not really complaining because we were enjoying the atmosphere, we just noticed the difference. The food in the main restaurants was adequate, but nothing special. We did eat at the Italian and Mexican specialty restaurants and they were both excellent. Be sure to book any of the specially restaurants early they book up quickly.
We booked all of our shore excursion through NCL. We did the Sting Ray City and Snorkel tour at Grand Cayman. The sting rays were fabulous, but the snorkeling was ok, nothing special. I wish I would have known about cruise critic before this cruise, I probably would have taken many cruisers advice and booked excursions independently. We arrived back by the dock in the afternoon and a lot of the shops were already closed, so no shopping for us.
On Roatan we again snorkeled, but the day was cloudy and rainy. We had been to Roatan the year before and did the Snorkel and Beach Break and the snorkeling there was far better. Sand fleas were really bad and we bought bug spray at the beach. They don't hurt or really itch, they just leave little red welts. We bought bug spray at the beach, which helped, and in the future I will bring bug spray on every cruise. There is a little shopping area within walking distance from the ship and they have beautiful mahogany bowls and things. Do negotiate it is amazing how much they come down in price if you walk away.
The next stop was Montego Bay, Jamaica. We had nothing planned for the day so we decided to just walk around and go the Margaritaville. The shopping area is within walking distance of the pier, but you have to battle your way through the cab drivers. We did not want a tour of the island the this gentleman would not take no for an answer. He actually got in our face and started telling us there is no difference between us and him and what was wrong with us. My husband, who is a big man got between the gentleman and I and told him, sir we have no problem with you in any way, we just want to walk around the shops, we appreciate your offer but we really have other plans. The man was really rude and my husband was extremely polite, but I could tell how upset he was. The man then backed off and we went on our way, but it left a lasting impression on us.
We headed off to the shopping area which was very nice and I really saw some sights are Margaritaville. Come on people if you weigh 300 pounds a hot pink bikini is not for you...really it is true!! We bought our over priced t-shirts and really enjoyed our afternoon. The shopping area was great and unless you do a tour of some sort there is not much to do.
The last stop was NCL's private island. The island was nice the water was good, but the snorkeling was terrible. There was really nothing to see. We stayed for a couple of hours and then tendered back to the ship.
We did hit the casino and we came away winners. We did see a few shows and the acrobatic/circus show was fabulous. That is a must see for anyone, but get there early seats go quickly.
All in all the cruise was enjoyable. We did leave the Jewel with a better impression of NCL in general. We realize each ship is different and each has its good and bad. Would I go travel on NCL again? Probably not, for some time, I would like to try other cruse lines and compare.
We have been on 2 Carnival and 2 NCL and we did like Carnival better, which some may find strange. We will be going on the Carnival Miracle in February 2007 with 16 other couples and have read wonderful things. I don't know if Carnival would have been my first choice, but after ready all the reviews we decided to give it a try.
BON VOYAGE - cruising is a great experience, even it turns our bad, it is better than being at work!!