Norwegian Jewel Cruise Review by calenita: Family Fun on the Jewel
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Family Fun on the Jewel
We've been on one cruise before - Celebrity Galaxy - which we really enjoyed, but that was just the two of us for our anniversary. This time we were looking for a family trip and the great prices we found on a 9-day cruise sold us on the Jewel. We were hesitant about cruising with our children primarily because of the formal dining room and set dining times, so the NCL Freestyle policy sounded great - and it was!
We flew from Syracuse to Fort Lauderdale with JetBlue. Great airline. We flew in a day early in case there were storms and stayed at the Yankee Clipper. Big hotel right on the beach. It was OK but I don't think we would stay there again. We had rented a car from the airport in FLL and planned on dropping it off in Miami. This worked well since they have a shuttle from the drop off at the Miami Airport site right to the port.
Embarkation - Pretty busy and we had done some shopping before we got to the ship so we were not the first onboard. I think it was More about 2 p.m. when we got on the ship.
First Impressions - The Jewel looks beautiful from the outside but I was disappointed by the main atrium. It is not as grand as I remember the Galaxy being. I liked all the wood paneling and the jewel tones everywhere though. Staff were friendly and we were excited to be on ship.
Rooms - We got to our rooms right away and settled in. We had an outside cabin our first cruise and this time we chose inside since we had the whole family. The children did not mind this but I found I really missed a window! The cabin is DARK when you turn the lights off -- at all times of day. It was small but not uncomfortably so for two people. The kids were good in their cabin too. There was a sort of bunk bed that came down for one of them. There is drawer, shelf and closet space. Room for suitcases under bed. It was comfortable for 9 days. I heard some people complaining in the hallway to the steward they could not see in the cabin because the husband had some vision problems. They said it was too dark - maybe they should have booked an outside cabin? DH liked the shower better than Celebrity.
Kids Activities - I noticed a lot of reviews don't talk about the kids activities much so I wanted to highlight this. We signed all three up for the kids club and teens club the first day. They have an orientation - very informal - the first night. Our youngest went to the 6-9 year old group and LOVED it. The second went to the 10-12 and liked it a lot and the teen (13) signed up for the teen club but only went to very few activities since no other teens were showing up. Our cruise was Feb 29 and the average age on board was 51 so there were not tons of kids. A lot of people from Quebec were on board (It must have been their school break) so I think some of those kids did not participate in kids club. Anyway, the kids club was pretty small all week, which suited our kids fine. They still had fun. We would drop them off for activities during the day on sea days if they wanted and usually in the evenings on all days. They even went to dinner once with the kids club which I think they enjoyed. The last day they painted NCL t-shirts which was a fun souvenir! Some nights they went to the show with kids club but usually if we wanted to go to the show the kids went with us. The staff were very friendly with the kids, remembered their names and the teen staffer even did the Murder Mystery with our teen one night even though she was the only one who signed up! They had a pajama party for the kids club so come prepared if you are interested!
Food - A big topic on cruise critic!:) Having gone on Celebrity where we LOVED the food, we found the food to be quite good on the Jewel. I booked us into Mamas the first night because I had heard how busy it was. We got a great seat by the window as we sailed out of Miami. For breakfast we ate at the Great Outdoors which was great. We enjoyed the fresh air and the views whether it be of the water or the ports. Wonderful Eggs Benedict, tons of fruit, sticky pecan buns, omelets etc. We were always so stuffed at breakfast we did not eat lunch but instead just had an earlier supper. Supper we would eat at Tsars, Mamas or Tangos. If any of those were in town as restaurants I would not hesitate to go there - the food was good. We took the boys a couple of times to the supper buffet and then dropped them off at Kids Club when we went to Tsars. At the dinner meals it takes about 1 1/2 to 2 hours for the meal. So that was pretty long for our 7 year old to sit! The food was good and we did not try any speciality restaurants because we wanted to spend our money on other things. We did buy the Teen Passport for our daughter and she received coupons for 20 slushies for $30 which works out to $1.50 a slushie. Can't beat that. She would get slushies for the rest of us sometimes.
Chocoholic Buffet - This was on the second to last night on ship. It was about 10:30 or so and it was a MOB. The chocolate was ok - much better chocolate desserts at Tsars, Mamas or Tangos. It was fun to see the chocolate sculptures like the Eiffel Tower but I was disappointed in the chocolate which was for consumption.
Exercise room -- I went to the exercise room in the mornings. Never had a wait for either a treadmill or elliptical. Also weights available there. Really nice equipment. Huge floor to ceiling windows so that was fun. Also they have tv on some of the machines.
Swimming Pool - We had some rough days at sea. Once they closed the pool to kids. It was just too rough with water sloshing all over. I enjoyed those days because the pools were not as busy. It was just like swimming in rough seas. It was hard to find a lounge by the pool. Got one the last day at sea by being a chair hog - yes, I put the towels and books on there and left for breakfast! Other days I would get a lounge later on Deck 13 overlooking the pool and once got one by the pool when it was still shady there by the adult pool, that was the first day. They had music by the pool, a nice Caribbean band. I enjoyed them but DH thought they were too loud. They also had pool games one day which was fun to watch. The children enjoyed the slide at the pool. I used it once and it was fun.
Library - I got some books from the free exchange at the library and then returned them at the end of the cruise. There are no kids books in the library.
Games Room - In the evening we played Clue a couple of times in the Games Room which was a fun quiet place to be.
Spinnaker Lounge - They have GREAT loungers if you wanted a quiet place to read/relax there. DH also played Bingo there a few times!
Casino - The Casino is pretty low key compared to the one on Celebrity. We walked through. DH may have played some things, but no one won anything.
Entertainment - The magician was just great. They also did a Quick Change routine which was fun. The Cirque Bijou was fantastic! The main couple are just amazing. Didn't care for the jugglers - too much talking and not enough juggling. A lot of the stuff was in poor taste for kids too I thought since there were a lot of kids in the audience. I'm not interested in explaining to my 7 year old what a rubber is. The final night was a fun variety show.
Laundry - I did some laundry on Deck 5. I think not a lot of people know about this. There were no signs and I asked our steward where the machines were. They are right by 5070. The machines are all free. I brought woolite and dryer sheets and it worked great.
Ports - We chose this itinerary because of the ports and were glad we did. Samana - We walked into town and then did the Cayo Levantado Beach Escape. It was nice, but not the nicest beach we were at. Our daughter had her picture taken with a sea lion there which is among the many animals which walk up and down the beach. They have a photo shop where they print a pix for $8 which worked well.
Tortola - We took an open bus/taxi to Cane Garden Bay. I think it was $6 each way per person. We were there with about half the world it seemed. Really crowded. The water is crystal clear but the beach was just too crowded.
Antigua - Our favorite island from past trips and this trip! We did some great shopping at the pier. I had a VIP coupon from the ship so we got a great price on watches and jewelry. I had also won the "shopping" draw the night before on ship which was fun. We then took a taxi to Turner's Beach. We want to go to Darkwood and the taxi guy said he would take us there and then on to Turners and maybe we would like Turners better because they have shade palapas for the kids. (No charge). He was right. We also saw fish there by the rocks in snorkeling. Just love Antigua and the people. As an aside, a week later we went back to Antigua for a week and this time we did the Canopy Tour which was great. My teen and pre-teen wanted to do this and I was pretty scared, but it was great. You don't have to jump (except for the leap of faith at the end) and the zipline just takes you rapidly through the jungle. Great fun.
Barbados - We walked out of the pier terminal past the gates and got a taxi there which took us to Accra Beach and then came back again for us right when we said. This was the favorite beach of the kids because it was more wavy. There is a great chicken place across the road - sort of like KFC but is called Cheffrette or something like that - but they do give change in local currency... which is easy to spend anyway!
St. Lucia - We did the Pirate Excursion which the boys wanted to do. They take you to an island for a treasure hunt and you conquer the island and it was "fantastic" my 7 year old says. We won several prizes on the treasure hunt so that was fun. VERY kid friendly! I think I would have preferred the catamaran tour if I didn't have kids along. DH and I did this our previous trip to St. Lucia. The Pitons are great.
Debarkation - We chose to take our own bags off the ship so we could leave when we wanted to. Although it is freestyle debarkation, I know our stewards - VERY nice guys - wanted us out so they could change the sheets. We really liked our stewards - Joselito and Christopher - a lot and gave them an extra tip at the end on top of the automatic gratuity. Tons of taxis at the port and then off to Miami Airport which was a disaster area but we made it!
Cruise Critic Meeting - I went to the Cruise Critic meeting the first day but the rest of my crew were elsewhere. The captain and many of the officers were there to meet us which was very nice. It was a fun get together and we had special lanyards made by one of our group - who also wrote a review on here - I used it all week which was great for storing my key as I walked around.
We enjoyed the cruise. The ship is easy to find your way around and very well maintained. I would recommend it to friends. The trip was also very affordable for a family of 5! I liked the amount of fresh fruit available on ship and the kids loved the free soft ice cream machines all day. I LOVED the cappuccino machines at the Garden Cafe/Great Outdoors. Great great coffee! Less
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