We've just returned from our Western Caribbean cruise on the Norwegian Jewel... here are our highlights (and lowlights!)
Ship: The ship was really nice and we were happy with the amount of activities that were offered. We never swam in the pool because it was usually either rainy or loaded with kids (the cruise was during their school break), but we weren't too upset about it. We purchased a spa package that allowed us to use the private hot tubs which were much more relaxing than the ones on the pool deck. Overall, we were happy with the activities on the ship and were never at a loss for something to do.
Room: Instead of splurging on a room with a balcony, we chose to pinch our pennies and spend that money on excursions. I was dreading staying in an interior room with no window, but it actually wasn't too bad space wise. There was a lot of closet space and the suitcases fit perfectly under the bed. We actually slept like babies because the room was pitch black when the lights went out, but don't forget to set your alarm or you'll accidentally sleep all day.
Food: We really had no complaints about the quality of the food onboard the Jewel, but at times the service was pretty poor. We tried two of the specialty restaurants: Moderno (Brazilian Steakhouse) and Teppanyaki (Hibatchi). The service at Moderno was horrible... we had to ask the hostess twice to send our waiter over once we sat down and it took forever for him to bring our drinks. Teppanyaki, on the other hand, was totally worth the upcharge. The service and food there were incredible. In regard to room service, I think we were a bit spoiled because our last cruise was with Holland America. We kind of expected more options to be on the room service menu like the Holland America ship, but we didn't end up using room service very often anyway.
Ports: The cruise visited Cozumel, Belize City, Roatan, and Costa Maya. I'll go through each of them separately. Overall, we had a fun time and would definitely cruise with NCL again!
We chose a barrier reef snorkel and beach break excursion. The catamaran ride to the barrier reef spot was about 45 minutes and we were packed on the boat like sardines. Once we were in the water, it was beautiful. The beach location that we visited after the snorkel was just OK. There was a cash bar but the beach itself was pretty rocky and filled with bugs.
We didn't know this going in, but Costa Maya is basically a port designed by cruise companies. There isn't much to see beyond the port. We chose a power snorkel excursion and it was the worst excursion we've ever been on. After riding for an hour on a bus, we arrived at a beach that used to be a dolphin sanctuary before it was ruined by a hurricane. We were briefed on the power snorkeling equipment and then were told to follow the guide through the water. Twenty minutes later, we were out of the water and all we saw under there were concrete slabs and wood poles. Not my idea of a good time.
When we returned from snorkeling, we made the mistake of having lunch at Senor Frogs. The prices are 3x the amount of a normal restaurant and we ended up paying $90 for a two-person lunch! This didn't even include alcohol. Do yourself a favor and just eat lunch on the boat.
We chose an excursion that took us to Passion Island by catamaran. The island was absolutely gorgeous and we were able to swim and relax. The excursion included an open bar and buffet lunch which was nice. I only had two complaints: 1) That we couldn't stay longer, and 2) Every single toilet on the beach was broken which made to the bathroom pretty unpleasant.
This was our favorite port. We chose an excursion that took us via bus to Tabyana Beach. The beach was absolutely stunning and the water was crystal clear. There were a lot of kids running around but we still were able to swim and relax. The buffet lunch was great and all of the staff on the beach were very friendly.