About the Reviewer: I'm a 28 year old male who sailed with his 60 year old mother onboard the Norwegian Jewel on January 3, 2009 out of Miami with port calls in Roatan (Honduras), Belize City (Belize) and Costa Maya (Mexico). This was my 6th NCL cruise and my mom's 5th NCL cruise. We've both sailed on other lines including Princess (5x) and Carnival (1x). I've sailed on other lines including Royal Caribbean and three times with Celebrity.
Pre-Cruise Stay: Red Carpet Inn - Fort Lauderdale, Florida For our own insurance on the cruise we flew down on January 2, 2010 and we're thankful we did as a snowstorm struck New England. We arrived at the airport slightly delayed but called for the hotel shuttle which was quick and convenient. When we were on our way back to the hotel two other groups had called to be picked up so we turned around and headed back to the airport. We circled the airport for a while and found one of the couples and then finally checked in. I didn't book this hotel and I wouldn't stay there EVER again. The hotel was in the middle of no where and didn't make me feel safe at all. The rooms looked like they might have been hastily renovated and everything had a cheap feel to it with the floor being warped and the beds being hard as rocks! Friends who we met up with in Fort Lauderdale said there room looked completely different and they got it for much less than we did. Lesson learned, look elsewhere for deals or better yet, stay at the post cruise hotel we did at the Double Tree in Miami!
Transportation to Miami Cruise Port: SAS Transportation Thanks to other Cruise Critters I learned of this little jewel for transport between the hotel and the cruise port in Miami. For $15 per person we were there in no time, arriving around 11:15AM to the pier.
Embarkation: Since we arrived early to the pier the other Jewel passengers were still clearing out of customs and the ship was not ready. There was a small line for checking in which grew throughout the day. We were in the waiting area for approximately 10 minutes before they started boarding the vessel with numbers. Our friends who were sailing with us arrived later in the afternoon and were part of a very long line of passengers. Later we learned this was because a Royal Caribbean ship which shares the berth on occasion with NCL had taken the Ethernet cables with them that are used for computer terminals at check-in. NCL had to scramble to find replacements and as a result there were less than the usual number of people available for checking in. We had a great embarkation that flowed fairly smoothly though because we arrived early. Sadly when we boarded the champagne welcome aboard bubbly was gone. I had later learned this stopped when the Jewel had repositioned in November. It was a nice way to kick off the vacation and I do hope NCL re-instates it. Upon boarding the vessel friendly staff and crew greeted us and made us feel at home immediately.
The Ship: The Norwegian Jewel was built in 2005 and is not showing her age anywhere onboard. Mom and I sailed on the Jewel in May 2007 doing the Greek, Turkey and Egypt itinerary and spent 12 days aboard her so we knew our way around very easily. The public rooms had great carpeting, excellent upholstered soft comfortable chairs and elegant ambience.
While we toured the ship with a couple we cruised with before onboard a Princess cruise, the major public venues used by mom and I this sailing were Tsar's Palace (main dining room deck 6 aft), Azura (deck 6 midship dining room), Le Bistro (NCL's signature French Bistro - Deck 6), Stardust Theater (Deck 6 & 7 forward), Atrium, Garden Cafe, Great Outdoors, Body Waves Fitness Center (Deck 12), Cagney's Steakhouse (Deck 13 midship) and Spinnaker's Lounge (Deck 13 forward). These specific venues will be looked at much more in-depth following. All the public areas onboard the Jewel look like the ship was just put to sea which means there is a good maintenance team onboard!
The Stateroom: Our cabin was 9038 and our friends had the neighboring 9036. Both were category BC balconies and the price was an incredible steal for the accommodations. Both of the rooms were in excellent condition. Willie was our room steward and he did an excellent job of keeping the room immaculate all week long, including when some glitter got loose. His impeccable cleaning abilities got him a STYLE card and a nice tip.
Food: This is a subjective area and there is always much debate about it. The menus onboard the Jewel were the exact same menus we dined with before on the Spirit 7-day in May 2009 and were also the same from the previous year. We knew which days we'd be hitting the dining room and which days we could venture to other restaurants. NCL's cold soups are so great that I wouldn't want to miss any of my favorites which include chilled melon, strawberry, blueberry, banana and peach soups. If you haven't tried NCL's cold soups then you must on your next vacation!
Our food was always cooked to order where necessary, hot and served promptly. Special requests were usually granted including requesting larger portion sizes of some favorites like prime rib and mom's nightly special side order request. The crew were always happy to oblige with any request and they were rewarded for their going out of their way appropriately. Prime Rib and Beef Wellington are two dishes not to be missed in the main dining rooms. Cagney's Steakhouse offers phenomenal cooked to order steaks as well as jumbo sized shrimp cocktails. Mom loved the seafood options available in Cagney's and thoroughly enjoyed the salmon dishes offered in the main dining room as well.
Service onboard the Norwegian Jewel was exceptional as it was on my previous cruise onboard the Norwegian Spirit but to go through the exceptional service where it was encountered here's a day by day break down of what we did, who we encountered and sometimes what we ate:
Day 1: Miami, FL - Embarkation: In about 45 minutes from being dropped off to the pier we were on the ship. This occurred just after boarding started at noon. Since staterooms are not available until 2PM we dined in Azura main dining room for lunch. We started out with excellent service offered by Elvis, who was also onboard in 2007 when we sailed. It was nice to see a familiar face and he also remembered Nalan, our primary waitress in Tsar's Palace on that sailing. Elvis did a wonderful job serving us and attending to our every need. We wasted some time floating around the ship hoping to find the couple we were traveling with and with visiting and passing through each public space it brought back fond memories of our previous cruise.
Due to an embarkation snafu we ended up sailing an hour later than usual because of the US security requirements requiring the manifest be handed over one hour prior to sailing for inspection. Irregardless the sail away party continued on a cold, cloudy Miami Sunday. When we were finally under way our luggage had finally arrived to our stateroom. Since we were one of the earliest people at the pier we couldn't figure out why there was such a delay and as a result we opted to dine in Azura. Service was exceptional by the wait staff. After the dinner it was off to a quick Friends of Dorothy gathering before running to the early show.
Entertainment this evening was an opening show by comedian Tim Kaminski in the Stardust Theater. Tim was hilarious with his comedy. The Wizard of Oz skit he did with audience members was just too funny. Everything was clean comedy though and while he did poke fun at different areas nothing was offensive to anyone (in my opinion). Tim would be around the rest of the cruise doing performances and out and about on the ship. I got to interact with him on several occasions and thought he was not only a good comedian but a great individual. It's not often guest entertainers mingle like he did. It reminded me of Jane Powell, the Chocolate Goddess of Love and her very friendly personality. Tim is a great entertainer and not to be missed!
This night I was too exhausted to keep up for the late night disco so it was off to bed after the show.
Day 2: Sea Day: Breakfast room service was actually a half hour early but it helped get me up in time and up to the Garden Cafe to get my own breakfast so mom and I could meet up with Jane, cruise staff, for the organized staff activity of Walk-A-Mile around the Promenade Deck. Jane is very friendly and made the three laps fly by and it is a great way to meet your fellow passengers! Thankfully the time on this ship was at 9:30AM for walking.
Next it was back inside to freshen up after walking about another four miles and time to get ready for the Cruise Critic Meet & Greet which was at Malting's Beer & Whisky Bar on Deck 6 mid-ship at 11AM. Rochelle Brown touched base to confirm the event while I was doing the Walk-A-Mile but she greeted me promptly upon arrival. Thanks to another CC member (trish1c) for the name tags! All major department heads were present at the meet and greet and did a nice informal introduction. John O'Hara, Jewel's Hotel Director, did a nice speech for the group and then introduced each department head. Sadly the Captain and the Cruise Director were both ill and unable to attend the gathering but John did a nice job of giving us all a warm welcome aboard and handed out his card to everyone in the group with his number so that if there were any problems they could be dealt with as quickly as he could - and he really meant it! It was nice to see such a strong showing of Cruise Critic members as well! Thanks to everyone for showing up! It was a real nice time with catering from NCL's food and beverage department.
After a quick break for lunch it was time for the poker cabin crawl organized by another Cruise Critter. We started off by visiting a standard balcony cabin and then worked our way up to mini-suites, suites and finally a courtyard villa cabin (all were CC roll call members). This was a nice way to explore the ship's accommodations and a place I didn't see in 2007 while onboard (the Villa complex). This was nice way to get to know the fellow CCer's and to make new friends for the rest of the week!
Off to dinner tonight in Tsar's Palace which is the aft main dining room. I always feel like royalty when dining in this, the most elegantly decorated restaurant on the ship. The waitstaff treated us like royalty as well and this evening we were graced with the excellent service offered by Alexandra. Dinner food and service were excellent. There was a bit of a hang up between the appetizer and the main course but that was because there were so many people sat at the same time (not her fault, the kitchen was overwhelmed).
Tonight's show was Band on the Run featuring the singers and dancers of the Jean Ann Ryan Company. This show is a tribute to the 70's and features the live show band performing. Overall it was a great show and a definite one to catch!
The disco opened incredibly late the whole cruise up in Spinnaker's Lounge. There was always a Latin hour before the actual club opened. I've never seen a 12:30AM disco start before. This was much too late and made the evening drag for me. I was finally able to get a CD to DJ Watson containing some vocal house music for the upcoming White Hot Party. After listening to the first few songs of the night (hip hop) I gave up and called it a night. The disco was off to a very disappointing start.
Day 3: Roatan, Honduras: Land ho! Finally warmer weather prevailed even though it was cloudy and I was just thankful I could wear shorts for a change! We didn't have any organized excursion and just decided to explore the new mall area that had been built since our last visit. Thanks to Willie our impeccable stateroom steward we knew that the best time to get off the ship was by 10AM because they were doing mandatory lifeboat drills after that including the sounding of the ship's alarm system! Thanks for the head's up Willie. We bumped into fellow CCer's ashore before returning to the ship. I did a power walk around the Promenade Deck for two miles before going up to the Body Waves Fitness Center. The fitness center has tons of cardio equipment and some free weights available. Definitely the most well stocked fitness center I've seen in a while.
After completing the workout it was off to the Garden Cafe for lunch. Blueberry soup, vegetable curry and cooked to order Asian noodles were just a few of the things that made it to my plate. Yummy selection there!
Tonight we dined in Le Bistro which is NCL's signature French Bistro. This is the first time we have ever tried this dining venue on any NCL ship and while we've seen the dEcor, dining there is something one must truly experience. The menu has escargot available, succulent lamb and tenderloin. It was a nice dinner and the service by Marisol Lamorena was just exceptional. She was so friendly and because of the smaller dining venue she was able to converse with us and could really offer friendly service. She brought us samples of some dishes and recommended we try them irregardless of what we ordered. If you dine in Le Bistro, definitely ask for her as your server. She was the first to receive a STYLE card this cruise from us for her exceptional service.
Tonight's spotlight show time was a 22 year old singer named Chantz Powell. This was the worst entertainment of the whole cruise for both mom and I and usually we sit it out to the end but this performance we actually got up and left. Chantz is a soul meets Michael Jackson moon-walking performer. I am not sure what target audience he was supposed to be hitting but he didn't hit it with mom or I.
This night was the night of the pub crawl. While I didn't partake in it, I did bump into the crawlers every where. Since the crawl was supposed to terminate at the Caribbean Deck Party it was fun watching everyone pour into Spinnaker's Lounge where the party was moved to because it was raining up on deck and very cold and windy. The party seemed a bit more subdued because of the venue change. The disco picked up later and some fellow young CCers and I began to dance the night away. It was a pleasure to meet John O'Hara, Hotel Director, up in the disco and ask him some questions about changes NCL has made. The first of which was where was what happened to the champagne bubbly when boarding? NCL discontinued it in November fleet wide. What happened to Monte Carlo night? This was also eliminated effective two week's prior to our sailing. A question from the couple we were traveling with made me wonder where the bathroom amenities basket went. The answer was that NCL didn't see people using them so they have now just placed what people used most which are the lotion and the washing gel. Thanks for the information John and once again thank you for the hospitality you showed during this cruise to both mom and I.
Day 4: Belize City, Belize: SHORE EXCURSION: Lamani & New Jungle River. This is a full day long excursion but well worth the price. You are taken on an incredibly fast high speed boat tour down a river while looking for wildlife. Upon arrival at the ruins you'll need to lather up the bug spray which we forgot (whoops)! Get ready for a real jungle trek after having a native lunch. Going around the old ruins which are still largely covered by the jungle made me feel like a real world explorer. This was a great NCL offered tour and I highly recommend anyone who likes to go off the beaten path to take it! A small note about the terrain though, it's a bit uneven and this tour wouldn't be recommended for people with any difficulties in walking. Mom had a bummed knee and this prevented her from traversing one path but they did have a more suitable longer path around it which another tour guide took us down.
We were the second to last tender back to the ship and mom had very minimal time to shop shore side before we returned back onboard. It was off for a quick dinner in Tsar's Palace before going to another fantastic performance by the Jean Ann Ryan Company called Country Gold. This is another performance not to be missed.
After the main performance of the evening it was time to run back and change for the most anticipated nightclub event of the entire cruise: NCL's WHITE HOT PARTY. I was up there for the pre-party and all the cruise staff was on hand as well as John O'Hara, Hotel Director. At 10:30PM Kenosis started performing live before the dancers of Jean Ann Ryan did a quick number and the dance floor opened up to what was supposed to be a night of house music. DJ Watson did play some house music including the new Lady Gaga Bad Romance remix. I just couldn't figure out why on a night that was geared to a faster bass beat that DJ Watson would continuously play hip hop music. It drove me NUTS! Luckily I made a bunch of new friends on this night because I wasn't out on the dance floor and it made the rest of the nights in the disco more tolerable! This was one of the later disco nights of the cruise.
Day 5: Costa Maya, Mexico: With a noon tour departure it allowed for sleeping in and what an idea that was! I felt bad for Willie because he'd already knocked once to turn it down and so I cleared out and got something quickly to eat and went back to brush my teeth when he tried for a second time to clean the cabin and I was there. Mom went ashore and I just took my jacket and went up on deck and slept. =) The winds were fierce up there and it was again chilly so the windbreaker came in handy.
SHORE EXCURSION: Off to the Chacchoben ruins for the afternoon NCL excursion. The tour guide was informative and you could hear him very well all over the bus. This short tour gives you the historical significance of the ruins and offers you a tour of sacred Mayan ruins. This was my second time to these ruins which were more excavated then when I last saw them in 2003. I would recommend this afternoon tour to anyone who wants to see something exciting and sleep in a bit!
After a quick freshening up it was off to Cagney's Steakhouse for a 5:45PM dinner reservation. Viviana was our server for this incredible meal that brought back memories of the sunset dinner we had there in Mykonos, Greece in 2007. The shrimp cocktail was succulent and the rib-eye steak was phenomenal. Mom's filet mignon was also very tender but cooked to her liking. Viviana's service earned her a STYLE write up as well because it stood out. If you go to Cagney's make sure you ask for her, especially for special occasions as a table behind us celebrated a birthday and she did such a great job handling it for them.
After enjoying a quick trip to the Friends of Dorothy it was off to spotlight show time of Cat's Pajamas. This is an a cappella group consisting of four guys who I'd seen throughout the week at several events and in the disco. Tonight was their primary show and while I would have missed it otherwise I'm happy that a few of their groupies who were onboard (Kate, Kelly and Kathleen) talked me into going. It was a great performance that I enjoyed. These guys are very talented performers who are onboard for only the next few weeks.
Next it was up to Dancing with the Jewel Stars in the Spinnaker Lounge. This was not to be missed. Your fellow cruise passengers get up and dance with different members of the crew who are experts at different styles of dancing. Chris from the production company rallied hard to win but ultimately another couple won. The losing couples are interviewed and the whole thing is just hilarious. Don't miss this and be sure to cheer on your fellow cruise guests and the hard working crew members who participate! After the show the disco opened and I stayed and had a nice time with the people in attendance.
Day 6: At Sea: Room service was prompt as usual for sea days and after grabbing a hot plate of food from the Garden Buffet it was time to dine out on the balcony! Jane hosted the Walk-A-Mile again and we conversed more about our travels around the globe. This walk flew by!
This lazy day at sea provided more time for a work out after which we went up for lunch at the Great Outdoors. It was a nice relaxing day and then it was time for a disco nap.
That evening we had dinner in Tsar's Palace and because of the show tonight was hyped all over the ship everyone flooded the dining room. The service was great but the time between courses was a bit lengthy. The kitchen simply was swamped as the dining room was sat all at once. Luckily Cherryl, my favorite bar waitress onboard, was covering our side of the dining room and she kept stopping by while checking on her section and we'd continue the conversation. If you want a good bar waitress then find Cherryl! She'll take good care of you and always is smiling and she's so very pleasant with personality.
Next it was off to Cirque Bijoux in the Stardust Theater. Seating went VERY fast, faster than any other performance this cruise and as a result mom and I couldn't get a seat together. Thanks to Carlos Zarate, the concierge, for getting us seats in the suites and villa section just before it opened to the rest of the people who were crammed into the theater.
Cirque Bijoux is an incredible show! You do not want to miss this Cirque style show with hints of Irish step dancing and aerial acrobatics. From our vantage point we were able to see everything. It was a great theatrical experience put on by the Jean Ann Ryan performers. Excellent work guys and gals! I had missed this performance on the Jewel in 2007 and I can't believe what I missed!! This is a MUST SEE!
After a brief stop in the cabin to get changed for the disco it was off to the Chocoholic Buffet in the Garden Cafe. This is another signature NCL event. I LOVE chocolate! Cruising with orthodontics means that you have to cut back on the amount of sweets. I took this one night off to splurge and splurge I did! Each action station had the same chocolates available and the displays were different from the last time we sailed on the Jewel which was an added treat!
Went to the disco afterward to dance off the sugar rush and stayed until the disco closed. I had a blast with fellow passengers and members of the crew who were in attendance. The club closed around 4:30AM.
Day 7: Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas / Sea Day: Mom woke me up fairly early as she was getting ready to leave the cabin after sneaking out for her breakfast earlier. We'd pulled up to the island and dropped the anchor. Royal Caribbean's island is next door and either the Majesty of the Seas or a sister to her pulled up and then turned around and left. We stayed though and some tendering occurred before the weather got really rainy and windy. I didn't get off the ship and finally the decision was made around 11:30AM to make it a sea day. A hastily put together FreeStyle Daily was issued out and suddenly there was a lot to do again onboard! Nice work by the cruise staff for getting the Daily out so quickly and for trying to fill in the blanks for sunbathers with no where to go.
I caught the matinee show of the Cat's Pajamas just in time after waking up from yet another disco nap. Met up with a bunch of friends there and the performance was with different songs than before. These guys are really talented and have a large repertoire to pick from.
After the Cat's Pajamas performance it was up to the $5,000 Bingo where Jane was in attendance. She tried to convince me to play but I'm not a gambling man. I went along with the friends I made but had to leave early to get ready for another exciting dinner at Cagney's Steakhouse. The couple we were sailing with chose Cagney's and it was a great dinner had by all. This time I had a cooked-to-order succulent T-bone steak, shrimp cocktail and the clam chowder. All of them were mighty tasty and I definitely recommend Cagney's for a special dinner. The wait-staff and food there are both exceptional. Sadly we couldn't have Viviana as she was the designated floater that evening to help out in other areas as required.
After a quick stop at the Friends of Dorothy it was off to the Crew Talent Show for one show only at 8PM. I think the Jewel has the MOST talented crew I've ever heard at sea. They have some exceptionally good singers amongst their crew and this show is not to be missed. Show up and support your fellow crew members because they work hard and even if they don't sound up to par they've already broken their backs for you all week and the least we as passengers can do is cheer them on! This was not the case this cruise, all of the performers were GREAT and standing ovations were definitely warranted! The show culminates with FOUNTAINS which was being performed for the 527th time. LOL It's hard to describe it other than it's a must-see and the comedian Tim Kaminski was in it as opposed to Que (Cruise Director). He did a really great job and the goggles were just hilarious!
Back to the room for it was time to pack and get ready to bid adieu to the Jewel and get ready for the disco. I missed Tim's farewell variety show completely but managed to get up to the Adult Quest Game Show upstairs in Spinnaker's. This was a fun way to end the cruise by hanging out with newly made friends and doing all sorts of things. Thanks to John O'Hara (Hotel Director) and the security officer for giving our team a few props for the show! This is an adult's only game show and very much a must attend and get involved event! What happens in the Spinnaker STAYS in the Spinnaker Lounge!!
The last night in the disco is always a sad one because you run around saying goodbye to all your new found friends and exchanging emails and not to mention busting a few moves out on the dance floor. I hope the friendships made onboard continue on and that I can sail with all of these great people again!
Day 8: Miami, FL - Disembarkation: Luckily with staying out so late at the disco the previous night I was able to snag the Aqua colored bag tags to be the last ones off the ship (or the last group off). Since we had a post-cruise hotel stay at the Double Tree in Miami we couldn't check in right away and needed to stay onboard the Jewel as long as we could. John O'Hara wanted to know how the cruise went and gave mom and I a call to pass along some information to us as well about an upcoming Norwegian Spirit cruise. It was a nice way to be sent off from the Jewel and when our color was called we made our way down to the gangway. It was an easy end to an incredible week of active, yet relaxing experiences onboard the Norwegian Jewel.
Conclusion: This cruise was an absolute steal for the price paid and will be a lasting memory! Forget Celebrity Cruise Line's trying to treat people famously - NCL treated mom and I famously. The hard work of so many require specific acknowledgement again starting with John O'Hara (Hotel Director) for rolling out the red carpet and giving us VIP treatment onboard. He went out of his way to make sure that every cruiser onboard had a good time and we were no different! Thanks John!! Other people who onboard who created lasting memories due to their impeccable service were Willie (our incredible stateroom steward), Jane (cruise staff), Cherryl (Bar Waitress), Marisol Lamorena (Le Bistro Waitress), Alexandra (Best Tsar's Palace Waitress), Vivianna (Best Cagney's Waitress), Carlos Zarate (Concierge) and Que (Cruise Director). Special mention to the folks of the Jean Ann Ryan Production Company for their phenomenal work with the production shows and for being great people to hang out with onboard including Richard Oaxaca (Dancer), Erik Hall (Dancer), Samee Nann (Dancer), Chris "Chrissy" McQuade (Dancer), Jessica Quarles (Principal Singer), Betsy Padmonsky (Principal Singer), Jodie Gibson (Dancer) and Joanne Donn (Wardrobe Supervisor). Without all of these people the Norwegian Jewel wouldn't glisten in the Caribbean. If you see any of them onboard a future sailing say hello to them for me and know that you're in for one GREAT cruise!