We sailed on the Jewel the week of 2/23/14. This was our first cruise on Norwegian. Overall, we had a great experience. There is a lot to say but I'm going to organize my feedback by category for simplicity.
Easy Breezy. The port of New Orleans was easy to access from all of the touristy areas of New Orleans, so its perfect for travelers who want to spend some time in the city before or after the cruise. Getting on the ship was efficient and easy. The only thing that was kind of confusing is that the boarding groups were a combination of numbers, letters and casino card guests. Since we are new to Norwegian and to this port, we weren't exactly sure what kind of order they were going in. For example, it went something like this... we were boarding group 2 - they called boarding group 1 so we got excited that were would be next... then boarding group A, boarding group B, Casino Group, boarding C... Even if we were the 5th or 6th boarding group, it would have been nice to at least have some idea of how many groups were still in front of us. Small critique, but that is really the only thing that could be changed to reduce confusion. Everything else was great.
We stayed in a mid-ship balcony room on deck 10 (10582). This was a great central and quite location, close enough to the elevators but we did not have problems with hearing foot traffic in the halls. The room is a normal sized cruise cabin, small but organized well to maximize space. Storage space was adequate for both of our things without trouble. There is a small flat screen TV with limited channels. Bathroom feels small since its organized into 3 compartments - the sink is in the center with a toilet and shower area on either side. The toilet area has a sliding door with frosted plexiglass and same with the shower. This is designed so two people can utilize the bathroom at once and still have some semblance of privacy. The toilet area was small if you close the sliding door, however, we usually just used the regular bathroom door instead since we didn't need to both use the bathroom at once. The balcony was a nice size with two sitting chairs and small table.
We really enjoyed the comedian, Micheal. We went to his regular show as well as his late night adult only show. The regular one was better but the adult only was okay too. We didn't really care for the magician/comedian, Jean Pierre. We thought he came off as bit abrasive and wasn't that funny. We also really enjoyed the newlywed game and perfect couple game. We attended a couple trivia sessions as well, which were fine and pretty much what we expected.
The first day, there seemed to be a lot of staff dedicated to high pressure sales of the water, beverage and food packages, which we didn't really like. Staff in the buffet were friendly and quick to clear plates. Staff in the main dining rooms was very slow and unfriendly at lunchtime but the waitstaff was more friendly and attentive at night. The waitstaff in the specialty dining rooms were the best, quick to refill drinks and always asking if they could get you anything more. The biggest area where we found disappointing with regard to service was the hostesses. In La Crucina, the hostess was rude to us when we didn't have a reservation and arrived at 5:45pm. She told us there was no availability until 8:30pm, even though the menu screens showed the restaurant was green (which was supposed to mean immediate seating available) from 6:00-8:30. We asked her why the menu board didn't reflect that they were full and she said they had availability for one guest, so the board won't show full - but not availability for our party of 2. The hostess at Azura was not very friendly either. Our room steward was okay but we did not think he was as good as the room steward we had on our last cruise. He was nice and kept the ice full, no complaints but didn't go above and beyond really either. We did find out half way though the cruise that ours was the last one for most of the staff - they were about to go on a 2-4 month break in the home countries, after having worked 7 months on the ship, so that could explain the few spotty areas we did encounter with regard to service. I would be excited and a little distracted too!
1) Buffet: The buffet always felt sanitary, with the washy washy people standing guard outside, however, we felt the selection was somewhat limited compared to our buffet experience on carnival. There was a salad station, pasta station, pizza station, local (rotating) section, an Indian food section, a crepe station (which was in a separate room) and dessert. The Indian food was really really good and flavorful and the crepes were delicious. Everything else was just okay. Seating was at a premium in here, it was really hard to find a place to sit during peak hours.
2) Tsars & Azura: These are the two main dining rooms. I like that they only enforce a dress code in Tsars, leaving Azura as the more casual option, however, I wish there was more of a difference in the menus to make it feel like they were two distinct restaurant venues. The menus were almost exactly the same. Food ranged from okay to good.
3) Java Cafe: Coffee was okay, nothing special. I would consider the quality to be just slightly below the normal quality one would get at the big name coffee bars in the US.
4) Blue Lagoon: This is a free dining option with bar food type items - hot wings, mozzarella sticks, sandwiches, etc. We had one light lunch here, which was pretty good.
5) La Crucina: The italian restaurant. We really liked this one. The restaurant had a very cute Italian Kitchen decor and was pretty quiet and tucked away near the back of the ship. We ate here two nights and tried the lobster pasta, pizza, lasagna and chicken parm. The pizza was much better than what we had at the buffet. The soup appetizer was really good as well. The lasagna was just "ok" and the other entrees were really good.
6) Cagneys: I'm vegetarian so I probably didn't appreciate this restaurant as much as others would. My husband had steak with au gratin potatoes and broccoli, which he really enjoyed. The steak arrived with a garlic butter slice on top, which added a lot of good flavor and he also said it was cooked perfectly. The waiter asked him to cut into the center when it was first delivered to make sure that the it was cooked to his liking. He really appreciated that they put so much effort into making sure the meat was cooked the way he liked.
7) Le Bistro: We really liked this place but the food is very rich. It was apparent that the food was high quality and the service was top notch at this venue.
8) Chin Chin: This is well worth the $15 cover charge. The food is cooked very well and the appetizers are really tasty. They also have hot pot at certain tables that you have to request ahead of time, we saw others doing this and it looked like they enjoyed it.
1) Cozumel: We booked the Mayan Ruin tour through the ship. Our guide, Juan, was really nice and informative. He was a Mayan descendant. He kept us entertained both directions and was excited to share his culture. Tulum is very very hot, make sure to wear sunscreen and bring a hat. The ruins were really beautiful and it was really cool to see iguanas roaming free everywhere throughout the park. They no longer allow anyone to climb on the ruins, so everything was seen at a distance only but still very cool.
2) Belize: We booked the Cave Tubing and Rainforest Hike Tour through the ship. We thought this was the best choice because of the time and distance required for the tour. If you book through the ship, it gives you piece of mind that they won't leave you behind if you tour runs late. Also, Belize is a tender port and having a tour booked through the ship allows you to leave on as early of a tender as you like. If you book independently, you are required to be in line by 7am to try to get an earlier tender ticket number to make it to your tour. We thought this made it well worth it.
Lunch was provided before our tour at the cave tubing site, buffet style then we started our journey to the river. We felt very safe, they only allow 8 guests per guide and equipment was in good shape and included hard hats with lights as well as life jackets, which they require you to wear in the water. They suggest water shoes because sandals get lost in the current, they have them for rental for $3 if you don't bring any, but we brought our own.
Our guide was very nice and friendly but seemed a little rushed. He mentioned it was his last tour of the day, so maybe that was it. He had us walk through the jungle really quick, we only briefly stopped twice for him to show us termites and a pineapple but then back to the trail. We passed 4 groups along the trail and in the cave, so I know we were going faster than other groups. Although we might have liked to take a slower pace to really enjoy the walk through the beautiful jungle, we still had a wonderful time. We really enjoyed the walk. We arrived at the river and the guide gave us a couple minutes to swim around the water while he linked our tubes together then we were off. The cave was amazing and the lights on our hard hats came in handy. There were a few tiny rapids but it was mostly calm and we felt very safe the whole time. All in all, we loved it.
3) Roatan: We booked with Little French Key. We were not sure what to expect since it was the first time we didn't book through the ship and first time in Roatan, but we found Larry and Dave very easily just outside the port gates. They put us in a van with a few other guests and drove us to Frenchy's 44 which was about a 20 minute drive from the port. We then took a small ferry just across the water to Little French Key. It was absolutely beautiful and ended up being our favorite excursion of the entire trip. The water was clam and clear and the staff were extremely friendly. Drinks were delish, especially the monkey la la. They also had a small zoo with rescue animals which was very cool. There were a couple jaguars that were in an enclosure that we thought looked a little small but otherwise all the animals looked very happy and well taken care of. They will let you hold the monkeys, we went into the pen in the large spider monkey enclosure which was cool but their most shining star is undoubtedly "Lisa" the monkey. She is the sweetest most cuddly animal I've ever seen, I was ready to smuggle her back to the US! Everyone should ask to hold her, it will make your trip! We also went snorkeling which we really enjoyed. There was a good variety of fish and the reef was amazing. Little French Key is definitely a place not to be missed during your visit to Roatan!
4) Costa Maya: We reserved Maya Chan Beach and had a great time. It is an all inclusive, funky beach resort. They only allow a small number of guests so it provides a really nice experience. It never felt crowded and the staff treated us like family. Everything was included - alcoholic drinks, food, water toys and the snorkel and kayaking tour. The food was incredible. The beach did have some trash floating in the water, but we did research in advance and know that this is an issue in the entire Costa Maya area because of their location, all beach resorts in this area have similar problems. It was not too much but the only thing that could be improved in a perfect world, but again, it wasn't Maya Chan's fault either. We would definitely go back here!