The Cost of Freedom
A moderately short transatlantic cruise at a great price seemed just the ticket for someone who hates hates the overnight eastbound flight. Especially for me, a veteran cruiser on other lines who has somehow managed until now to avoid NCL because nearly everyone I knew who had sailed with them seemed to have had problems including one near capsizing in the Straits of Juan de Fuca.
But what the heck, I went ahead and booked two of us in separate balcony cabins, looking forward to experiencing the much-vaunted "freestyle" change of pace. And I did get my money's worth barely.
First off, I thought the best features of this particular cruise were (1) the Tsar's Palace dining room; (2) the largely Filipino waitstaff and cabin attendants who all spoke fluent English; (3) the smoothness of the Atlantic contrary to what some others have written here; (3) the shower in my cabin that exceeded the quality of many other lines' More
cramped and silly ones; and (4) the generally adequate and sometimes excellent entertainment. I also thought the check-in and check-out processes were only normally inconvenient. And the overall food quality in all dining locations was well above average.
Now what I didn't like. On all other cruises I have taken, I have been accustomed to begin my day by taking a brief steam and sauna, followed by a brisk walk around deck and a light breakfast on the Lido. Much to my dismay, I found that I would have had to pay $20 a day just to use those simple facilities. Needless to say I did not pay it. Nor did I pay for the alternate dining at any time, though I was invited by others to join them as their guests. Call me a cheapskate. And when I used the casino each night after dinner and found that, unlike on other cruise lines, I was losing consistently and steadily after the first five nights, I entertained myself by just betting the nickel slots thereafter. I did pay $100 to use the ship's Internet cafe as I have no laptop of my own only to discover that well over half those funds were spent solely on time used to achieve a connection. I resolved from that point on to go out of my way not to add any further to my on-board account, choosing as well to tip my steward and waiters independently rather than giving them over to the tender mercies of NCL.
Short, very short, stops in the Azores and Spain were also on the itinerary. Each was OK, except that the much larger P&O Ventura had dibs on the main dock in Vigo and we had to bus into the town from the commercial shipping dock. I walked "freestyle" around each town rather than trying to squeeze a shore excursion into the five or six hours we had alloted to us. I half expected to pay the bus driver on the shutttle but oddly enough it was free.
Now don't get me wrong I am happy to pay for extra services, wine, tips to waiters, etc. I just don't like too much shilling for extras by the cruiseline itself. I think the best cruiselines always have such things as self-serve laundromats, well-stocked free libraries open at convenient times, INEXPENSIVE transfer services, and the like. The Jewel had none of those. And things like "art auctions" (I use the quotation marks deliberately) or much too expensive bingo sessions for the old folks seem misplaced.
Oh, yes. I need to mention that my TV screen at 12" was hopeless, and I had to use the open public toilets next to the restaurants rather than the one in my cabin, which, because it was so tiny and so jammed up against the wall could not even accommodate my 6' 1" and modest 200 lb. frame. Less
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