We took the Christmas cruise on the Jewel, Dec. 21-26, 2008. My overall experience was great and I would definitely sail with Norwegian again.
The staterooms: When we initially arrived, it seemed like space would be limited, but the storage was awesome. We kept finding new places to stash things. The bathroom was great but I could definitely see how the toilet situation could be difficult for a very tall person. You may have to sit sideways because knee space was tight. The shower was better than what I've experienced on Royal Caribbean. More spacious (2 smaller people can fit together) and generally more luxurious. Be prepared to bring ear plugs or a fan if you are a light sleeper because on nights when we had rough seas, the hangers all clattered together in the closet making it difficult to sleep. The bed was pretty comfortable, no complaints there.
The food: We found the food to be enjoyable almost every meal. The buffet was surprisingly good More
(Garden Cafe) and I always found something good to eat, although we only tried it for breakfast and lunch. We ate all our dinners at Tsars, except Christmas night we had Cagney's (very delicious). Tsars was always a positive experience, great food and great staff. From family members who tried Azura, the other main dining room, I heard awful things about the wait. It seems to be commonplace with other reviewers as well.
The disembarkation process: Just pick the time you want to leave and it's as easy as that. We didn't wait much except for the customs line.
The Mayan Ruins tour in Cozumel: Although the ferry ride was rough and it took awhile to get there, this excursion was really a cool experience. The box lunch/snack provided by NCL, however, was pretty pathetic and you should expect to buy food from the various restaurants outside the entrance to the ruins.
The staff: We never encountered rudeness during our cruise and quite often, we had wait staff who were extremely personable and polite. We rarely saw our room stewards but when we did they always greeted us and were very friendly. A few nights we felt it appropriate to leave a larger tip for the staff because they had done such a good job of accommodating us for showtimes, large parties, etc.
The shows: We saw the Second City production (comedy, similar to Whose Line is it Anyway?) which was funny. We also saw the Cirque Bijou which was quite impressive but it seemed that some of the routines kept repeating themselves. However, that did not detract from the overall show and we were definitely wowed. Get to the shows a bit early (20-30 mins) if you don't want to hunt for a seat.
The chair hogs: I hate to harp on this again, but I have to wholeheartedly agree with the other reviewers. The second and last "at sea" day was a madhouse. We got out to the deck at 9:30 and had to search diligently for 2 chairs. We found two singles that were not together but we carried one over and it was fine. However, the vast majority of the chairs had towels (but no people) on them. We watched several sections of chairs and no one ever came in the hour or two we took notice. Also, we overheard one large family talk about how they came out at 7am just to put their things on a group of about 10 chairs and had only filled maybe 6 of them by lunchtime. It was really frustrating. I hope NCL enforces the 30 minute rule in the future.
The Port of Miami: Okay, this is not really applicable to the ENTIRE port, but if you have never been there before, a few tips. We apparently did not prepare very well and had no idea where to go once we were at the port (we drove from central FL). You need to get to Terminal B if you want to just drop passengers off and if you want to park, you need to go to Parking Garage C. This was in no way clear if you did not obtain directions in advance. The signs were not even listing our cruise ship under the terminal rosters. When parking, a simple rule is just stay to the left. Eventually you will need to veer left to enter the garage and many people tried to go around and ended up cutting in at the last minute. We arrived around 12pm and the parking situation was a nightmare. We waited in traffic for probably an hour or so.
All things considered, we had a really fun and relaxing experience!! Less