My wife and I took the Jewel on the seven night cruise out of the port of New Orleans. It has been about 22 years since we had been on NCL and we selected this cruise because of the ports of call – beaches and not a lot to do, just a relaxing get-away for the two of us.
For perspective, we’ve cruised around a dozen time on Carnival to RCL to Oceania and Regent. Most of our cruises have been with our children.
Embarkation was as expected - a bit long as we didn’t get to the port until noon. Our overnight hotel prior was the Hyatt right down by the port. We should have walked down Julia Street to get there but we opted for a taxi ($17 for two for less than a mile – ouch!). NCL could probably come up with a better organizational system for embarkation but I’m not sure how that would be (love Oceania’s – just walk on and go to a certain location – very friendly).
We had booked cabin 9050 which is a balcony. Nothing unique or special here - pretty much your basic cabin. Refrigerator up high was nice as it took up less room. I Putu was our cabin steward and he certainly stood out as one of the best we’ve ever had on a cruise (even better service than our previous butler/steward combination on Oceania). Bed was fine, two deck chairs on our balcony were nice, bathroom configuration was efficient. A ledge behind the bed would have been nice as only one side of the bed had a table next to it for books, water, etc. Wifi worked fine for being on a cruise ship (better than most).
When we got on we went to Tsar’s Palace for a nice lunch instead of battling the crowds and sail-away drink offers at the Garden Café/Topsider’s Grill. We ate at Tsar’s three times – breakfast, lunch, dinner. Pretty much the standard fair but the quality was certainly a step above RCL and Carnival. We had our first night meal at Azura, thinking that the smaller environment would be nice for the lobster night. I didn’t care for this restaurant – low ceilings, busy atmosphere, just trying to bust out the food. The Garden Café environment reminded us of a hospital cafeteria – just not a good experience. Food was fine and the salad bar hit the spot for something healthy.
As for the specialty restaurants: We very much enjoyed one dinner at Cagney’s. I’m from the Midwest and have an opinion about my steak. The New York (KC Strip) I had was the best steak I’ve had on a cruise line. The ribeye was very nice as well. Salad, soup, sides were all straightforward and well prepared. La Cucina (Moma’s) was certainly not worth the $15. Service was confused as we ordered one of their pizzas for our bread/first course and it didn’t show up until the entrée course. It wasn’t like they needed to turn the table as there was only about ten people there. The risotto was under-cooked, mozz & “beefsteak” (oh, come-on that’s a beefsteak!) tomato (under-ripe as well) was sad. Entrées were the highlight – salmon and lamb.
As for the ports, those can be reviewed elsewhere. The tendering was quite painful as they didn’t seem to have the system down in Belize. We docked at our other ports and on-off was a breeze. It was very nice at each port to have the staff and crew reception line as you get back on. Seemed like they cared. And, the cold towels on the dock was a nice amenity.
In general the entire ship was very well maintained and staff was very courteous and helpful. I’m sure it will need to see drydock within a couple of years but really wasn’t too bad.
Debarkation was fairly simply. We did get the last departure group and that might have been a mistake as you have to be out of your cabin by 9am and didn’t get off the ship until 10:30am. We should have known better. But we were off to a Jazz Brunch at Commander’s Palace (great idea after a New Orleans cruise).