We took the Western Med cruise from Barcelona at the end of June, 2006. The Norwegian Jewel is a new ship, less than a year old, and is a wonderful ship in excellent condition. It is also a huge ship, carrying over 2,000 passengers plus a crew exceeding 1,000.
Here are some observations:
The ship is so large that we had almost no sensation of being at sea, even when it was moving at 20 knots. Admittedly, sea conditions were excellent during our cruise, but I would recommend this ship to those who worry about seasickness. There is virtually no engine noise or vibration. I used to look out the stateroom window to see if we were moving or stopped.
Even though huge, the ship is well designed so that the individual areas are more human scale. It may take a while to get oriented to all the locations. I always enjoyed wandering around from place to place.
The size issue impacts the food. When you have over 3,000 people on board, you need to think in terms of institutional food preparation. The chef has some grand aspirations but not the capability to carry them out. If you are looking for gourmet treats, you won't be satisfied. They do provide a wide range of dining styles and menu choices. Some of the restaurants have additional charges for specialty atmospheres and selections. In general, we found them not worth the money except for a change of pace. For example, there is an Italian restaurant; any Olive Garden Restaurant in the U.S. would provide better food in a better atmosphere.
Service in all areas was friendly and efficient.
Many people eat at the grill, which is a buffet with a number of food stations. This is very casual, and serves food most of the time. Although there is a good variety, it is basically simple fare. The best kept secret is the portion of the grill that is aft of the main section and is outdoors on the stern of the ship. This is a very pleasant place to sit/eat, particularly for breakfast.
The drawback at the grill is the very limited number of stations to order carved meats, stir-fried items, waffles, etc. There are also very limited places to get coffee, milk, tea. On a ship with over 2,000 guests, these are real drawbacks. The coffee comes from machines, one cup at a time, and the machines were frequently being repaired.
Desserts are unexceptional, unless you, like me, love soft-serve ice cream. Due to passenger size considerations, nothing was made fresh and served right out of the oven. All the pastries, cakes, etc. looked great but came right out of a refrigerator. Stick to the ice cream. Me and a lot of other folks found that a new cone every hour or so was very satisfying. The machines are self serve.
The ship is extremely proactive on cleanliness. When entering a restaurant or other food area, there is a crew member with a container of hand sanitizer, urging you to wash your hands. Same goes for when you re-board the ship. Also, the public rest rooms are absolutely spotless. I give the crew of the Jewel 5 stars for their housekeeping efforts everywhere.
The Jewel has a first-rate theater for shows. It is right up in the bow where you would expect lots of sea motion, but there was virtually none. The entertainment is enthusiastic and plentiful. It's not going to be Broadway or Las Vegas so plan on an early night.
The ship has a nice casino, and it wasn't particularly crowded on our cruise. Best buy on the ship: play video poker for as little as a nickel a hand, sitting at the bar in the casino. They usually serve free drinks after 10:00 pm too.
The Spinnaker Lounge, on the top deck forward is a wonderful place to look out ahead of the ship while still enjoying air conditioned comfort. The World Cup football matches were in progress during our cruise, and the Jewel did an excellent job in the Spinnaker Lounge, showing the games on a huge TV screen and providing snack foods.
NCL makes a fine art of extracting maximum revenues from the passengers. Well, that is what business is all about. Expect to pay high prices for drinks of all varieties, shore tours, other ship-board services, etc.
The passengers were a wide mix of nationalities, mostly from the U.S. and Western Europe. Ages ranged all over the place, although relatively few young children. Behavior was fine, usually pretty sedate, with no public intoxication problems that I saw.
To sum up our cruise, we had a very good time. All of us enjoyed it and would recommend the Jewel.
We used Romeinlimo tour company when we docked in Civitavecchia, Livorno and Naples.
Carlo and Raffaele are both very safe drivers, speak very good English and took excellent care of us. Carlo took us to Pisa/Florence and Raffaele drove us to Sorrento, Positano and Pompeii. They took us to outstanding local restaurants that the usual tourist doesn't find... We had our best Italian meal/wine with the greatest view!! These guys are punctual, so much FUN to be around, and professional.
Carlo got us right into the Accademia that day (there was a long long line) and I am hearing now that some Princess tours were not able to get inside the Accademia. Anyone would feel very comfortable with Carlo and Raffaele.
Our time in Rome with Duman was better than anything we could have imagined. When we got off the ship, he was waiting for us. He was fun, intelligent, spoke perfect English, knowledgeable about history, politics and of course Rome and Italy. He knew what time to see the sights, when the lines would be shorter and as a result were able to do many sights. It felt as if we were with a personal friend who was sharing Rome with us.
We were a little apprehensive about using a company that was not recommended by a friend. But they were terrific in every respect. For our next trip we will certainly call them.. www.romeinlimo.com email@example.com