We are a family of four from Michigan, with two teens, David(16) and Rachael(14). This was our 12th cruise. The Jewel is a Dream, and the Southern Caribbean itinerary is beautiful. We left home as soon as the kids were out of school on Wednesday, the 13th, since we were driving down to the port. The kids did miss school on Thursday and Friday, but were off on midwinter break during the cruise. The first night we drove to Beckley, W. Virginia; then on Thursday we stayed in Titusville, Florida. The drive down was easy with no real delays.
We awoke early on Friday, eager to get to the ship. We still had a few more hours of driving, but had no real traffic until we hit the Miami area. It was about 10:30 am, and I had hoped we avoided rush hour, but traffic was at a stand still. We crawled along, but finally made it to the pier at about noon. We parked at the pier, $20 per day, so $180 for the 9 day cruise. Embarkation had started, but there was a short line outside to get into the building. Once inside though, everything went very quickly. We have Platinum Latitudes status, so are considered VIP, even though we don't stay in suites. The VIP's are ushered into a small lounge with beverages and snacks where they check you in. From there we were escorted past all the lines, through security, and on to the ship...unbelievably awesome.
We had sailed on the Dawn and the Pearl before, so the ship felt very familiar, even though it was our first time on the Jewel. The ship is two years old now, but she still feels fresh and new. I knew where our cabins were, two forward deck four insides, so we took our carry ons to our cabins. The cabins were cleaned and ready, fruit baskets and wine waiting in each. These are the cheapest cabins on the ship, but they are well planed out. There is storage room for everything, and the bathrooms are great. Our bar set-up was there, as were notes from the group coordinator about our meet and greet I had set up, and notes from the hotel director, and our concierge Alex. We had sailed with Alex twice before, and he really is wonderful. His note informed us that Cagney's was open for lunch, so we headed up. Cagney's has limited hours for breakfast and lunch daily for VIP guests. We sat down in Cagney's, and Rachael heard the name Adele, at the next table. It was a member of our roll call. As we said hi, others started saying hi, and it turned out that almost everyone in the room was from Cruise Critic. We had a lovely lunch, chatting and getting to know one another. After lunch we went back to our rooms to find all of our luggage had been delivered. On our last cruise, we were sent to the "naughty room". I purchased a bar set up this time, but still smuggled a bit, plus had mixers, soda, and water packed in a duffel bag. We had no problems this time. We did see people lined up at the naughty room though. Once we were unpacked, we headed to the reception desk to get extra key cards for the kids room. As we walked up, I did a double take,..no it couldn't be...it was...my favorite receptionist, Miss Maria Virginia! We had sailed with her this New Years on the Majesty, and she had been our concierge on the Dream last New Years. She let out a little squeal when she saw us. She was supposed to be on vacation, but they had called her the week before to ask if she would come help on the Jewel. What a great surprise! I had written about her in my review of the Majesty, and she had a passenger ask if she was the famous Virginia from Cruise Critic! He told her about my review, and she printed out a copy for her bosses. While we were chatting, another clerk made the key cards for DH, but when he got to the room, they didn't work. He headed back to reception, but wasn't smart enough to ask Virginia to fix them...so when he came back, none of our cards worked! I took all six cards back up, and let about six people go ahead of me, while waiting for her. I explained the problem and she made all new cards for us. Then she escorted me down to our cabin to make sure that they all worked. We had no problems with them the rest of the trip. While she was there, she noticed that the lock on our door was blinking yellow. This means that the battery in the lock is about to die. She was surprised that the room stewards hadn't reported it, but put a note down to have it changed. Virginia to the rescue again.
The muster drill was very easy, as all of the stations were inside and seated. It only lasted about 20 minutes. We had planned an informal Cruise Critic meeting at the Sky High Bar after the Muster Drill. We had over 35 roll call members this sailing. Adele made name tags for everyone, which made it easy to put a face with a screen name. Thank you Adele! We sat and chatted until it was time to get changed for dinner. We had a 6:00 reservation for Tango's. My son took one look at the menu, and asked to be excused. He is afraid of anything spicy. DH enjoyed the seafood skewer, while Rach and I had El Popo. El Popo looks like a torture devise. It comes out on a cart, a metal bell shape with lots of prongs sticking out. The beef, chicken and veggies are skewered onto the prongs and then flamed with tequila. Rachael suggests getting the hot fudge cream puff for dessert, but the berry dessert was really good too. After dinner we were off to the shops. The first night they offer 10% off of all alcohol. If you are looking to buy high end liquor, buy it now. On the second day the specials will come out on the normal stuff...Jack 2 for $40, Crown Royal or Baileys 2 for $36, Bacardi, Absolute,... mostly two for specials. We headed off to the welcome aboard show. This show was the worst show of the cruise, just show casing a few of the singers on board. It was ok, but the rest of the shows were much better.
Saturday morning we were off to Cagney's for breakfast, then had our official Cruise Critic Meet and Mingle at 10:30 am. We had decided to bring gifts that represented our home states for a gift exchange. Rachael and I participated, and Rach got a cute stuffed flamingo from Florida, and I received two tee shirts from Newport, RI; thank you Sharon and Tara! We had most of the senior staff at our meet, from the Captain on down. Hotel Director, Asst. Hotel Director, Cruise Director Jimmy Kovel, Executive Chef, Restaurant Manager, Chief Engineer, Group Services Coordinator Jennifer, and Alex. I think I'm still missing some that were there. We asked Jimmy how he was feeling, as he had just came back onboard after having his appendix removed in Antigua. He is well, but the joke is that he now only has one kidney. He shared some funny crew stories with us,...ask him about pennies and diapers. We asked about Freestyle 2.0, and were told that they would begin on the Jewel on April 6th. There were actually chefs onboard our sailing trying out new recipes in the kitchens, but nothing that we were able to try or view. We asked about NCLA, and our HD had launched most of the NCLA ships, so they are dear to him. He felt that with them only having the Pride of America now, they will be able to perfect the concept, and bring the Pride of Hawaii back in the future. He said that the option has been left open?! Hopefully he is right. He told us all to book the P of A so that they can turn a profit. We had decided to do a Cabin Crawl after our M&G, and everyone wanted to start at the bottom, and work our way up...so we started at my cabin, visited an OV, a balcony, AE, AB, and AA. Thank you everyone, since I've only stayed in balcony or lower, it was nice to see some of the different suites. I've seen the GV's on the Pearl and Dawn. We tried to have a quick lunch in Cagney's before a 1:00 Latitudes party. We had noticed that although we did enjoy eating in Cagney's, the service was slower, and the food not quite as good as it was on the Pearl last April. It had been awesome, so it was still good....and I hate to even complain...but it wasn't quite the same. We ended up arriving just as the latitudes party was starting, and the place was packed...standing room only...I think that they said that there were about 700 members onboard. One couple had sailed with NCL 48 times. We went for an early dinner at 5:30 in Azura. It was Lobster night...or should I say Seafood Extravaganza. This time the lobster was over cooked, but Doug enjoyed the rest of the seafood in the dish. He feels that in general the food is better prepared on the smaller ships, since they prepare fewer meals. We noticed that if you ordered your beef medium rare on the Jewel, it could be anywhere from rare to well done. I never sent anything back, but if it was too bloody for me; he ate it. With all the appetizers, I never went hungry. VIP reception was at 7 pm, then on to the shows... Band On the Run was a Jean Ann Ryan production, and was a colorful and fun visit back to the music and fashions of the 70's. They even had Carol Brady introduce the show. Next was up to Spinnakers for karaoke. A lot of the singers were just bad....although one big guy singing the Bee Gee's in a really high voice was really funny. The newly wed/ Not so newly wed game was up in Spinnakers next, and is always good for a few laughs. Spinnakers also celebrated 70's night later, complete with the Village People.
Sunday was Samana day. We had booked ship tours, but we split up. David and I went on the Mangrove, Caves, and Beach excursion, while Doug and Rach went Horse Back Riding to the Waterfall. They took a tender into Samana, then were transported to the horses in a van. There were only ten people on this excursion. They were asked if they wanted to stop at a market to shop, but no one did. They were given boots so that they wouldn't ruin their own shoes, and each had their own guide that walked/ran along side their horse. The trail to the waterfall was wet, rutted mud with rivers that the horses had to walk through. The rainforest and hills were beautiful though. The guides pointed out the native flora. When they reached the top of the hill, they could see the beautiful veil-like waterfall, but had to hike down to get a closer look. Some people chose to stay at the top, since the trail was steep, slippery, and rocky. The guides did help you climb down if you needed help. The pool at the bottom of the waterfall was rocky, but you could swim there and view a second waterfall. Some locals were climbing part way up the large waterfall, and diving into the pool. The Mangrove, Caves, and Beach excursion left directly from the ship. There were about 30 of us on a very small open boat; no roof. The boat was packed full. It was about a 45 min. ride from the ship to the park. Our first stop was at an area with many islands and coves. The rock formations were very cool. There were many mangroves and birds in this area. Bird species included turkey vultures, pelicans, boobies, and frigate. The frigate were neat, since they have a pouch on their neck that the males inflate to attract mates. Up in the trees it looked like a bunch of red balloons had gotten caught in the branches. The mangroves had mussels growing on them, and if you looked closely, you could find fish, crabs, and other crawly things in the roots. Our next stop included a bathroom break, Dominican rum and cokes, touring a cave that an extended family of 30 would have lived in, and watching one of our guides crack open fresh coconut on the rocks for us. It was yummy. Our third stop brought us to the caves with pictographs. There were many drawings, but our guide pointed out the oldest ones. This was considered a very sacred place, where the natives would have honored their gods and ancestors. A drawing of a mummified bat signified the afterlife, a medicine man crying was to bring rain, and other drawings included whales, storks, frogs, crabs,... The seas had gotten rough by the time we exited the cave. The ride to the beach took about an hour, and the entire time waves were crashing over the sides of our boat. Even though we had raincoats, and the sun was shining fiercely hot, we were all soaked to the bone by the time we got to the beach. We explored Cayo Levantado, but my son had no desire to lay on the beach and swim, so after walking all the trails, and purchasing a trinket, we took a tender back to the ship. After a quick shower, we all met up again and headed to the Blue Lagoon since we had missed lunch. This is one of Rachael's favorite places on the ship, she loves the chicken fingers, Doug likes the wings, David loves the soup, and the Fish and Chips and Potato Skins aren't bad either. Tapas is right next to the Blue Lagoon, and you can stop there for an assortment of olives, mushrooms, calamari, peppers,...but you need to sit and eat them there at the bar. The show that night was comedian, Jeff DeHart. He did impressions and was ok. We had dinner in Le Bistro. Same menu as always, but when I asked for the Chocolate Fondue, they told me no. I had just had it for New Years on the Majesty, so I was surprised that it wasn't available on the Jewel.
In Tortola we took the ferry to Virgin Gorda on our own. We had done this before, and loved it. It is a short walk to the speedy ferry dock http://www.speedysbvi.com/. We were lucky, and made it to the 10:30 ferry out. Most of our roll call were there. The ferry is $25 pp round trip, $15 for kids or seniors. The open air cabs are waiting by the dock in VG, a 5 min ride to the baths is $5 pp round trip. Then $3 pp to get into the National Park, kids free. The Baths are breathtaking. Climbing through the maze is a blast. We prefer the beach at the other side of the baths, and that is where we spent most of the day snorkeling. Last time we were there, the waves were very rough, so we spent the day body surfing in the waves. This time the cove was calm and still, very easy to snorkel off of the beach. The best coral formations were near the rocks to the left of the beach. David told me that there were larger fish out past the buoys, so I swam out there. I was enjoying the underwater sights, when a school of very large fish swam below me. This startled me and when I looked up to see how far out I had swam, I was surrounded by boats. I had gone a bit further than I should have, so I headed back to the beach. After climbing back through the maze to the first beach, we had to stop for their signature drink, the Pain Killer. At the top of the hill where you catch the cabs, there is a gift shop, restaurant, and fresh water pool; with beautiful views down to the Baths. We made it back to the pier in time to take the 3:30 ferry back to Tortola, and then had time to browse around town. Doug loves Pussers Rum, which was a staple of the British Navy for hundreds of years. A bottle there, costs 1/3 of what it does at home, and they had a buy 5, get one free special, so we did. That night was prime rib night in the dinning room, my favorite menu, so we ate in Tsar's. Doug had Coq au Vin, and said it was great also. The show that night was the comedy/juggling/sword swallowing team of Rootberry. They were great, very funny. This night Spinnakers hosted a show that I hadn't seen before, Karaoke Idol - based on American Idol. The panel included Jimmy(cruise director) as Randy, Chris(one of the dancers) as Paula, and John(assistant cruise director) as Simon. They played their parts well, and John was brutal...even gonging off the contestants ... like on the old gong show.
Tuesday was Antigua day, and we took Eli's Eco Tour, http://www.adventureantigua.com/tour.html#EcoTour . There is a nice video of the island on his page if you let it load. This was a full day boat tour, with a few stops. Walt and Kim joined us on this tour, and we all had a great day. At bird island we hiked up a small hill for majestic views of the area, and had a yummy barbeque lunch with tamarind and passion fruit juices. Hell's gate was my favorite part of the tour, and we hiked to the top of the rocky structure. There were a few places that you had to crawl through tight cave-like areas, but it was cool, just watch your step and head! We made a stop to snorkel, but the current was strong, there was chop, and the mask was leaking, so I didn't have a lot of success here. Others said that the coral was nice here, but that there weren't a lot of fish. After the snorkel stop they brought out a killer homemade rum punch. We were able to view many of the 365 beaches from our boat as we sailed past. We had a great dinner at Mama's before heading to see the Country Gold show. The Jean Ann Ryan company were great, even though I don't really like country. We then moved up to Spinnakers for the rest of the evening. First they played Family Feud, then there was music with Ironics, and then the Liars Club. We always love liars club, but this time it was even better because Chris(one of the dancers) was a hoot. He told us that it was his first time participating, but he was great. The panel also included Jimmy(cruise director), John(assistant cruise director), and Jeff(comedian).
If it's Wednesday, we must be in Barbados. I had booked Sara from Glory Tours as our private tour guide, http://www.glorytours.org/ , and this was probably our best tour of the trip. We picked the Best of Barbados tour. This tour includes: Harrisons Cave, East Coast (lunch stop), Bathsheba, Wild Life Reserve(monkeys), Snorkeling at a ship wreck, Swimming with turtles (west Coast), & Glass Bottom Boat Cruise. Sara was great, teaching us about the history and geology of the island. She chatted away with us all day about her families history on the island, how she spent her days growing up on the island, sugar cane production, ecological impacts of all the new building along the beaches,...everything that we expressed an interest in. Our first stop was Harrison Cave. There is a welcome center with a short film, and then you ride a tram down into the caves. There are two stops where you can get off of the tram and look around a little; first by an underground river; second by an underground waterfall. The caves are beautiful, and amazingly undamaged by the tunneling for the tramway. Wild monkeys were running and playing outside the caves, near the parking lot. We drove past sugar cane fields and factory on our way to lunch. The restaurant was up on a hill side looking down to the water, great view! Lunch included lamb stew, fried flying fish, mac and cheese, salad, rice w/ black-eyed peas, awesome barbequed chicken with a homemade sauce, and local colas. Bathsheba was where she spent her summers as a child, and she showed us her families two beach houses. The view of the beach is spectacular there, with the waves crashing onto the shore, and eroding the rocks into mushroom-like formations. We had visited the wild life reserve 17 years ago on our last trip to Barbados, but the kids had never been there. Much of it was as I remembered it, but they had added and expanded to the original reserve. The monkeys are wild, and free to come and go as they please, but they are fed there. We were lucky when we went, and got to see at least 20 monkeys playing, jumping, and swinging in the trees. Rachael was amazed by the babies nursing from their mothers. The reserve also houses many other animals, tortoise, iguanas, caiman, deer, snakes, parrots, pelicans, flamingos,... On our way to our boat ride, we passed through Sandy Lane Resort, where Tiger Woods got married and has his golf course the Green Monkey. The glass bottom boat only had the four of us, and a couple from England with their two small children onboard. They first took us out to the turtles, and the five of us got in the water (the mom stayed on the boat with her boys the whole trip). Our captain through out some fish, and a huge turtle (probably at least 200 lbs) came to swim with us. Rachael freaked out and hid behind me, pushing me towards the poor turtle. The turtle was very gentle as his flippers paddled against my legs. I tried to swim away, but he kept following us, Rachael squealing and trying to drowned me the whole time. We did see one other smaller turtle at a distance, but only swam with the big one. We reboarded the boat and our captain pointed out famous people's houses, and other landmarks as we sailed to the shipwreck. We were also able to look at the coral through the glass bottom. Dinner was at Tsar's with an interesting couple from London, then on to see Jane Powel, the chocolate goddess of love. Her show was cute, and she has a phenomenal voice. The caribbean deck party was poolside, with the waiters flipping bottles and putting on a show. It started pouring rain, but the teens weren't smart enough to run for cover. They kept dancing until they were soaked through, then decided to jump into the pool with their clothes on!
Candy had booked 17 of us from our roll call on Herod's land and sea tour in St Lucia. The tour took us down the west coast by van where you can see some of the most beautiful scenery on the island. St Lucia is the most beautiful, lush and green port that we visited. We saw Morne Fortune, Marigot Bay, a banana plantation, fishing villages, rainforest, the pitons, a waterfall, botanical gardens, and the drive in volcano. Harod kept us well fed all day, with fresh bananas at the plantation; hot butter bread from a bakery; Johnnie Cakes, Fish Cakes, Banana Ketchup, and hot sauce at the gardens; and then took us to an all you can eat buffet of traditional foods at a restaurant called The Still. We had a cooler full of sodas, water, beer, and rum punch available all day. We were able to swim and snorkel at Jalousie Beach between the pitons. The water was very calm while we visited, and I was able to see a large variety of coral and fish here. After the sightseeing we boarded a speed boat at the beach, and cruised along the Caribbean coastline back to the cruise ship docks. Our captain stopped to show us a bat cave, and pointed out other landmarks along the way. The cost was $70 per person and inclusive of all admissions, taxi and boat fares, drinks, and lunch. This was a great tour. Thanks again Candy! The Second City Comedy Show was in the theater. We had met two of the performers formally on the Pearl, Jennifer and Larrance, and chatted with them a few times during this sailing. The show was different from what they had done on the Pearl though. We chose to eat late this night, so that we could invite Virginia from reception to join us after her shift. We had a wonderful dinner at Chin Chin, and since we ate at 9 pm, it was half price, only $5 each. We lingered over our wine and conversation, until we realized that we were the only ones left in the whole restaurant...ooops.
Friday was a sea day spent relaxing around the ship, attending lectures, dessert demo,... This was the night of the Cirque Bijou show, which is the best show of the trip. Show up early, to get a seat, the theater fills up fast. After the main show, they bring out the crew singing the home away from home song. This always signals that the cruise is coming to an end for me, but is still something that I won't miss. We had decided to meet Virginia for dinner again, since we had such fun the night before, and ate at Mama's. We walked out of dinner stuffed, just as the chocoholic buffet opened. I thought that I would just grab a few chocolate covered strawberries to eat later,...but there were none! I also love chocolate covered pineapple, but didn't find any of that either! I left the buffet empty handed and depressed. I didn't stay depressed long though, because we headed up to Spinnakers to watch the Second City Unplugged show. Very funny! Next was The Quest! We had a group of six, but we were smart enough not to participate,...it's so much fun to just sit back and watch everyone else.
Saturday was a sad day, as it was our last day at sea. I woke up early, knowing it would be a busy day, and wrote out all of my thank you notes before breakfast. When we gave Virginia hers, she told us that she had saved the notes we gave her over a year ago, even Rachael's little thank you! Mr. Norwegian Jewel is always fun at the pool deck, Margarita Tasting, and then off to pack. We had an early dinner at Tsar's at 5:30, so that we could fit in all of the shows that night. 7:30 was the Star Seeker Contest where we all cheered for Cliff. Then it was up to Spinnakers for the Weakest Link. After that we ran back down to see the Crew Show with Fountains as the finale. Last but certainly not least was one of my favorites, the Ship n' Males up in Spinnakers. We had seen this show on both the Pearl and the Majesty, but Chris(dancer) stole the show on the Jewel. He was the reining queen MC, and had a different costume every time he came out. Too funny! Afterwards we went to Blue Lagoon for one last snack before disembarkation in the morning.
Sunday morning we had breakfast in Cagney's, and then Alex escorted us off the ship. It was quick and painless. We enjoyed getting to know everyone from the roll call, and spending time together. Rachael spent a good portion of her time with the teens, and had a blast. There were only a little over 200 kids on this sailing, but 99 of them were teens, so she made a lot of friends. The casino wasn't too bad to Doug, he only lost a little, but he missed the $5 Black Jack tables. They are all $10 min. now inside the casino. We will miss the Jewel and her wonderful crew,..but are sailing on the Dream soon, so at least my documents were waiting for me when I got home! That helped dampen the post cruise depression. If you have any questions, let me know. __________________ Diana and Doug