This was our first cruise with Norwegian and our third overall....the first two being with Carnival. I have to admit I was skeptical after reading the boards...so many negative comments...I was seriously worried that we'd made a mistake sailing on the Jewel.
We were pleasantly surprised and I am glad to report that you should ignore all of the negative remarks about NCL and Jewel.
We drove to NOLA from Cincinnati....a very easy 12-13 hour drive. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Superdome the night before our cruise. Found a good rate through stay123.com that included parking for the week. The total for the room and parking was $189 which I thought was fair for a Saturday stay in NOLA during the French Quarter Festival and parking for 7 days. The hotel was very nice no problems at all. I seriously don't understand all of the complaints that I've read. We were on the eleventh floor and the noise from the street could be heard if you were listening for it. We walked to the FQ around 4 PM and did not return to our hotel until about 9 PM. On the way back we didn't realize that Loyola turned into Elk Street once you were on Canal so we got a little lost coming back and I did not feel safe. Nothing happened but I do not recommend walking to the Holiday Inn at night. Take a cab!
We (husband and I in late 40's) got a cab about 10:30 Sunday morning...the hotel was very busy and trying to find the bellman was difficult. Finally we hailed our own cab and we got to the Julia Street port in about 10 minutes. There was a lot of traffic and congestion at the port at that time but it was manageable. We got our number and waited for about 40 minutes until they called our number. We then showed our passports, set up our sail cards, had a photo taken and boarded the ship. The line to get on the ship moved slowly but it was not a miserable process. By 1:00 we were eating lunch in Tsar’s dining room. Cabins were ready right around 3 PM and they announced it over the PA system. Sail away took place at 5 PM and it took about 9 hours to get down the Mississippi to the Gulf.
We at dinner every night at Tsar’s as we like dressing up for dinner. The first night they told us there would be a 20 minute wait and we were given a voucher for a free glass of champagne or soda. The wait only took about 10 minutes. Sunday was Surf & Turf night and we had no complaints about the food. We chose not to eat at any of the specialty restaurants and did not regret our decision at all. We found the food to be plentiful, delicious and always available.
Monday was a sea day. We spent most of our time at the pool. We also did a martini tasting which was a lot of fun and a very good value (we each received 6 mini martinis for $15 per person). My only complaint of the entire cruise is how NCL handled the payment for those who attended the martini tasting. They collected everyone's cards at once ant then laid them out on the bar for us to pick up. There was a mistake made on my card and I was charged for someone else's tasting. Luckily she was honest and had the charges removed from my card. Note....the charge was still on my card at the end of the cruise. We reported the mistake and it was taken care of promptly. Not a complaint, we just feel that the cards should have been handled in a different manner. On Monday we ate lunch at the buffet and we were pleased with the selection. Kenny Byrd (the ventriloquist who entertains on Jewel) joined us for lunch and we had a great time chatting with him!
We did an excursion at each port that we did not book with NCL. I will review those separately. Getting off at each of the ports was very easy including the tendering process in Belize. Be sure to read your daily news for tips on how to get a ticket to tender etc. They give those to you for a reason and it really helps keep you organized and aware of the activities that take place on the ship. At each port (except Belize), NCL staff are there to greet you with water, cool washcloths and popsicles...they make you feel like royalty and that they are truly happy to see you.
My husband and I are not "show" people but we did see Kenny Byrd's show and the finale concert that took place on Saturday. Kenny Byrd was hysterical and the concert was good not great but again....I am not really into that kind of variety show. We did happen to find out by chance that they were showing movies in the Stardust Theatre. We never heard or read a thing about movies so not sure how everyone found out about them. Maybe we just overlooked something and we probably wouldn't have watched a movie anyways but if you are into movies, you should try and find a schedule.
We do not play BINGO or gamble so we did not use that Casino other than to change large bills into small. The ATM is also located in the casino. It costs $5.50 to use it so use it sparingly. I was told that the ATM sometimes runs out of money towards the end of the cruise. We used it on Tuesday and didn't have a problem. The onboard gift shop had a little bit of everything...I had to use it because I ran out of dental floss and it was very convenient. I think I can do better at Macy's than what they were selling the perfume for but it appeared that a lot of people were buying.
We went to line dancing lessons the first night onboard and it was fun. That was the only time that we made it to the “disco”. We really wanted to go to the White Party but we were exhausted and fell asleep! Next time, we will pace ourselves and save our energy…lying in the sun really tires you out after 5 days! We went to a few of the game shows and again wanted to go to Quest on the last night but fell asleep. Maybe it was the time change, the sun, the alcohol or all three! We got up really early every day so we had a hard time staying awake at night!
We did another martini tasting on Saturday; again it was a lot of fun and entertaining. We tasted 6 different martinis (from the previous tasting) so it was again worth the money.
Television channels are very limited but who really needs TV on a cruise? There were 2 news channels, 2 movie channels, Nickelodeon channel and a sitcom “on demand” channel.
We are already thinking about booking our next cruise…and hope to make it on Norwegian!
After we tendered to the dock in Belize, we were put on another boat and taken to Goff's Cay which is a very small private island 11 miles off of the coast of Belize. The island was beautiful as was the blue water. The only thing on the island was a bathroom, a hammock, a few palm trees and a hut where they cooked and served drinks. Our group went snorkeling but we chose to stay on the beach. The tour included 2 rum punches per person. Lunch was grilled by the locals (chicken kabobs that were served with rice and corn...good but not great...for $8 per person. There were locals selling their wares on the beach...they were very polite and when you said "no" they stopped bothering you. After a few hours, we returned to the dock in Belize. It was a beautiful if not spectacular excursion.
We took a shuttle bus to the beach following the instructions that were provided and were met by Nick, the manager of the resort. Nick and his staff made us feel very welcome. We were given a palm tree shelter, a lounge chair and use of snorkeling equipment and kayaks. We didn't use the snorkeling equipment but we should have because we heard there were great fish to be seen out by the breakers. We used the kayak and had a blast. This was an all inclusive excursion so we had lunch and rum punch on the beach. There was a clean restroom available and the staff were very attentive and friendly. When we were leaving, we met the owner of the resort who spent a few minutes talking to us and then called us a cab and personally escorted us to it. It was a short cab ride back to the pier. This was an outstanding excursion!
This was the best excursion of our trip! Highly organized and a ton of fun! They took us by air conditioned bus to the "other" side of Cozumel where there is no electricity (therefore no credit cards so bring plenty of cash for this one) and took us to 4 beach bars. Each bar was unique and offered gorgeous beaches and a free shot upon arrival. We had a blast with our "babysitters" Coleen and Sylvia and are happy to report that we are officially "fo ho's"! Will definitely do this again next time we are in Cozumel!
We messed up the time change and the location of this excursion and we were about 25 minutes late getting there but luckily, they waited for us. We had a driver named Karen and a total of 8 people in our group. She took us to Bananarama resort where we were given a lounge chair, a free drink ticket and use of the beach. The water was gorgeous and we did a little snorkeling off the rocks on the left side of the beach. Our bar was playing music and it was a very carefree and fun atmosphere...very different from the small, quiet, uncrowded island from the day before. We purchased lunch and rum punch at the bar (Thirsty Turtle) which was very good. We really enjoyed our stay. There was plenty of security on the beach and Karen kept a watchful eye on us. We were on the beach for about 4 hours and really enjoyed it!