Norwegian Jewel Cruise Review by sadou: You get what you paid for
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You get what you paid for
We left New Orleans on Feb 2nd 2014 in the total fog. We did enjoy the city as it gave it a mysterious ambiance especially when you think about the cemetaries and legends that are vehiculed about it.
Embarkation was not the easiest we had in the past cruise we did. It was our second cruise with NCL (the other being on the Spirit to Bermudas a few years ago). So we knew it was not the standard we had with Celebrity or Princess, but we were aware there would be some difference.
New Orleans port is, for what we saw, going under renovation. I hope it will be easier for people to be going through traffic as you have to wait many minutes just to be dropped with your luggages by the taxi: buses, cars, taxis all converge in a small area and it is chaos. We were litteraly 3 to 4 blocks away in a hotel but not close enough with our luggage to walk it. So the taxi was $7 per person ($14 for two) for a ride that should have lasted 3 minutes, but they charge per person as they More know they will be stuck at the drop off zone.
Once on the ship, we were able to get to our cabin quite rapidly, but that was after we were like a herd of tourist waiting in line for something like 45 minutes.
Room: (inside cabin just under the casino). We were concerned a bit that the room that had been assigned to us would be noisy, but really, we heard nothing the whole week. The size of the room as OK and as expected. It was clean and our room stewart was always smiling and pleasant. He did an excellent job. One thing though: the matress on the side of my husband was really showing years of abuse, being shaped almost as a banana. We did not tell anybody, but maybe we should have mentioned it.
Food: At first, we could not understand why some people had been complaining about the food. It was good and there was a good variety. But as the week progressed, we found it to be repetitive and very standard. The Garden Cafe Buffet presented many stations, but when you think about it, a whole section was for Indian food and stir fry. Personnally, we love exotic food, but it was always the same thing. For the pasta bar, it was pasta and your choice of sauce. Nothing else: no vegetable, no chicken, not shrimp. Pasta and sauce. I was told I would have to book at the paying restaurant if I wanted shrimp in my pasta! I had to laugh about it. They did offer a package at $119 per person to go and eat in any of the a la carte restaurant, but we relied on our past experience and left it open as we thought the main dining room would offer a better experience.
Really, that is not what happened. On one of the evening, I really was disappointed with their "new Orleans combo of shrimp and beef". My idea of New Orleans style shrimps is not 3 breaded shrimps beside a small steak. I would have thought it would have been more creative. As for dessert, we were not the only one finding that there was way too many dessert made of gelatin. In the end, everything tasted the same. They did have the chocolate fountain at night at the Garden Cafe, but their main thing was the Bread Pudding. Yes it was very nice, but all by itsef in its category. I remember some sorbet (coconut once and pineaple another night) that were very good.
We did eat at the Bistro (French cuisine). It was very good. We had the duck magret and confit and as for the started, the 4 cornets. Nicely presented and refined as well.
we did attempt to eat at Moderno. We had heard that the food was really excellent. Oooops. Major problem there. Three of the restaurant a la carte gives on the Atrium: Chin Chin, Moderno, and the Sushi Bar. We had a reservation for the Moderno at 8.30 PM (they are not opened on lunch time except on sea days). We sat down and when our waiter came to take our order, we could not hear him. He almost had to scream so we could hear him. The inconceivable thing is that since there are no walls seperating the restaurant from the atrium, the shows scheduled (that night was a tribute to Neil Diamond) are so loud that you cannot hold a conversation! And it was until 9.30 PM. When the manager of the restaurant came to see us because we wanted to leave, he was very gracious and understanding. He also said that he has that kind of problem every week!!!! I sure hope that the refurbishing due in May will take cake of this problem. Already that the ship atrium is far from being impressive... this is really a major problem. No wonder there was always room in the restaurant.
We did sample the sushis at the Sushi Bar before a late dinner and it was good.
Shows: They were all excellent. Very impressive that show called Le Cirque Bijou. The performers were really on the ball and gave it all they had.Jaimie the cruise director is far from acting like on of these Diva we had seen on an European ship one day: she did a very good job, was funny without being vulgar, and we felt she really enjoyed people and her job too. Good for you Jaimie! She was accessible and always smiling. A good asset for NCL.
As for all of the personnel, we can honestly say that they are very pleasant and work so hard to please their guests. Even the captain seems to be a good sport and seems close to his passengers. He also seems to show appreciation for his team (from the people in the laundry room to his officers).
See below for our port reviews.
In all, we enjoyed the destinations. We knew we did not want to spend too much, so we figured we had what we paid for. Was it a good deal? It was a honest deal. Knowing what we know, we would have paid a little bit more as we missed the dining experience this time. For us, it is part of the fun of cruising. We really look forward to these wonderful dinners.
We hope that this will have been helpful.. And we take this opportunity to thank the family who was part of the cruise critics community and invited us, after the roll calls, to visit the Villa they had rented. It is rare that people will share this privilege. The mother (Christmas Carole) was a lovely lady. I will remember them for a long time. Less
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Cabin review: Norwegian Jewel 5541
Located just under the casino, but still very quiet. Not badly situated and easily accessible when you want to get to the gangway on deck No. 4
Port and Shore Excursions
We left Belize City for Cayer Caulker on a big fast boat with approximately 30 other people. It took approximately one hour to get to the sand bank where we stopped to swim with sharks & rays. I can honestly that the emphasis was really put on security which is good. We were supposed to be in about 4 to 5 feet deep of water but that day, there was a bit more (hardly touching the bottom of the ocean) and there was a bit of current. They had installed 2 ropes at the back of the boat, called "life lines" to help people who were not comfortable or got tired during the swim.
They were in the water with us and one of the guide took a shark in his arms, holding him to make sure we would all touch it and have a nice experience.
There was many rays which we were also invited to touch and caress. A bigger nursing shark (5 to 6 feet long) came along. They called him Cody. I was able to touch it too. It was not exactly as exciting as the video of Ambergris I had seen on YouTube, but a fun experience just the same. We normally make our own arrangements, but since this is a bit out of the way, we considered it was not worth saving $20 each to risk missing the ship upon our return. You never know. I am sure that if we would have had more time, we could have had a better experience, but...
Cayer Caulker is one of the island that time forgot. If you want to get away from it all, this is the place: with its "Front Street" not asphalted, no big resort, no big hotel, some little restaurants tipical of these island, you feel like you really are in a far far away place. A rasta man pushing a cart, a couple of young kids having fun on a golf cart, some fisherman cleaning the fishes he brought back and throwing his pieces to the pelicans waiting.... all of that in a decor worth all the films you might have seen on Robinson Crusoe. During our return, the captain slowed down in the mangrove to try to spot manetees, dolphins and also to feed some big tarpons near the boat. It was appreciated.
We got away from all of our routine... for a few hours.
We are the kind of people who like to come out of a place, richer for having discovered a bit more about the culture. Costa Maya is a village made for the ship passengers. You need your card to get into the place. Dolphin swimming, beach break, shopping, swimming pool, you have it there.
We had read that you could go the Mahahual easily by taxi. Of course, we took the bus/shuttle offered at the exit of the village for $3 each, but as you got off the bus, they told us we could get a taxi for $2 each ($5 for two with the tip). It is only a 6 minutes ride.
We enjoyed the beach there. Plenty of restaurants/bars offering beer at $1.00 and massage at $20 for one hour. It is like a wide sidewalk with, on one side, the restaurants, bars, shops, no cars, and on the other side, tables belonging to the restaurants, massage tables (probably 80 of them), the beach with chairs for free if you buy drinks for the restaurants.
You can walk for a long time on the beach and swim in a beautiful ocean.
Worth getting out of the initial place where the ship docks.
Not a place I would crave going back to either.
Although they did not speak about it during their presentation of the excursions offered, we opted for Passion Island Beach Break. It was a wonderful choice. Both of us being in our late 50's, we can honestly this excursion is worth every penny as there is something for everyone: young couples, active teenagers, families with youngsters and people like us looking for a relaxing place to enjoy the beach. Althoug the island is small ( not wide at all and only ½ mile long), you can be far enough from any crowd that would gather to play of party. The food and all the alcohol drinks (plenty of it) were included. The beach was very wide with palapas, beach chairs, hammocks, sun beds...
A few boutiques owned all by the same business people... souvenirs and jewelleries.
The food was like a mexican BBQ: chicken, fish, rice, wonderful salsa and guacamole with tortillas. But with your plate on the table under the big palapa, and your feet in the sand.... looking at the color of the aqua ocean, what more can you ask for!
No snorkeling... just beach break. We left Cozumel at 11 AM which was good as other ship left just a few minutes after our arrival, leaving all the installations to us.
The catamaran that took us there was big and fast and took us only 30 minutes from the pier to get there.
Some people who saw our photos after they were themselves in Playa Del Carmen could not believe how beautiful our beach was.
Go in all confidence, you will not be disappointed. And a High Five to Alex, our guide who saw to our every needs once on the island too. Him and his team are doing a superb job!
New Orleans is a destination in itself. Bourbon street has to be walked once in the evening to understand the zoo it has become. Not out kind of scene. Just one street down, you can walk on Royal Street and is so much more pleasant. However, Saturday night is no good for shopping, as many boutiques and antique shops are closed. Fancier restaurants are busy and also pricy.
As we took a city tour upon our return, we really were able to appreciate the beauty of this singular city. Beautiful houses in the Garden District, Pontchartrain Lake, the cemetaries, the parks (Botanical garden) where you can enjoy the sculptures, the trolley rides, the French Market... everything contribute to make you want to return one day and really discover this beautiful place.
Roatan was also a nice place. However, we did not leave with the feeling that we would miss not being able to return one day.
People were very nice, but as we have been in many caribbean ports, this one did not offer anything particularly special.
We took a little tour of the island, offered by one of the taxi stand that awaits you when you get off the ship. We paid $30 per person, but once we got in the taxi, a young lady came aboard with us, as our guide for the day. It was not explained to us that she was an independant and that we would have to pay her on top of the taxi ride. We found it was a bit chicky from them. But she did a good job explaining the island and took us where we wanted to go. Julyvet was a nice person.
We went to a Iguana Farm where we spend only 15 minutes as there was many iguanas but that was about it (it is a preservation center). They charge $10 per person. Too much in our opinion, but it is for a good cause. And they give you one big leaf each for the Iguana to eat! Wow, isn't that exciting.... You had to laugh, they really thing we are stupid. But after all, it is vacation.
Then we went to Maya Eden. Another little zoo with a few Mayan statue, a couple of racoons, and a butterfly conservatory. There we had the chance to hold a Honey Bear (Kinkajou), funny little animal that looks a bit like a lemur, but they call it a night monkey. Very placid little animal. They also offer zip lining there.
We drove in a nice part of the island where they have some nice houses, and changed our mind to go to the beach on the west end of the island.
I guess we were not fascinated by the island but we were glad we went.