Just back from the Jewel sailing Jan 24-31. This was our 7th cruise but first with NCL. We had a inside cabin with 3 adults—not any extra space but we just slept there anyway! The cabin was the smallest of any of the ships we have been on. But I must say the large shower stall was a nice surprise. The Jewel was very clean and well cared for. We enjoyed the staff too, as we have on our other cruises. They all work very hard to make the passengers happy. We especially liked our waiter Joel in the Tsars dining room. He was most attentive and friendly and very prompt with our dinners. We were lucky to have him two nights in a row.
We flew from Detroit to FLL and stayed at the Hollywood Gateway Inn. It is basic but we did get one of the newly remodeled rooms so it was very clean with new carpet and paint. We used the SAS shuttle service and they were very prompt and convenient. We arrived in Miami about 11:30 and checked in with NCL. Document processing went pretty fast but we had to wait in a "holding area" for about 30 minutes until our group number was called to board the ship.
As I said earlier the ship is very nice, more subdued in dEcor than the Carnival ships that we have sailed on and that is OK. We began our feeding frenzy of the week at the Garden Cafe. The buffet food was typical of all of the cruises we have been on and the station areas kept people moving so there weren't long lines. I liked sitting on the back of the ship in the Outdoor area to eat. (We ate breakfast there every day.) We were allowed into our rooms at 2 pm. After unpacking it was time to explore the ship. It is laid out well with very good signage to help navigate where you want to go and you don't need to carry deck plans with you as they are displayed all over the place—very convenient! The only place that was a little confusing to find was the Blue Lagoon restaurant on Deck 8. Nice 24 hour place with a good selection for the late night snack or meal.
We only ate at the "free" restaurants and that was just fine. The Tsars dining room was very elegant—one of the nicest of any ships we have been on. We only had to wait one night for a table and that was Friday, a dress up night when lobster was served. We tried the Azura one night but it seemed more noisy and the chairs weren't as comfortable. Overall the food was good, love those chilled soups! The desserts were not quite as good as I remember on the Carnival ships.
Activities were plentiful and the games were fun but the crafts were pretty lame. The scrapbooking was nothing more than an advertisement for a $30.00 kit you could buy. We enjoyed the pick-up volleyball game one day, shuffleboard, and games in the game room. We went to one dance class and it was well done. The adult Quest game the last night was a blast!
Entertainment was very good or not so good. Loved the Cirque Bijou—best show we have seen on a ship. Tim, the comedian, was funny and engaged the audience. We saw him often out and about—one would have thought he was the cruise director! Que (CD) was not seen much during the day but it was his last cruise so he probably had things to wrap up. The crew talent show was diverse and funny. The ship dancers were good too. The other two nights of special entertainers were not that great. I would have liked to see the Cats Pajamas but alas they had just left the ship the week before.
Ports: Roatan- We went to Maya Key and really enjoyed our time. With three ships in port it was not the least bit crowded. We saw the rescued animals, looked at the cultural area and then snorkeled. The sand fleas were abudant—I got many bites but didn't feel them, nor did they itch. I just noticed the red blotches that evening and thankfully they went away the next day. My mom laid on the beach but she put on bug spray and wasn't bothered . The snorkeling off the pier was good and not crowded at all. A boy paddled in a kayak while we were out if we needed anything. The water was not too cold but we did have shorty wetsuits so staying out was no problem. The nice thng about Maya Key was its proximity to the ship. We were able to take my mom back to the ship to rest and have lunch and still return back to snorkle more in the afternoon. The island was very clean and I wish we could have stayed even longer.
Belize- Here we went cave-tubing with Jaguar Paw. We got one of the earliest tenders but didn't arrive on the island until 9:20, and our driver had left the Radisson where we were to meet. That is the bad thing about ports with tendering, you never know when you will arrive. All the ship excursions had top priority for the first boats. Anyway we arrived at the Radisson with no driver—what to do? Well two gentlemen approached us and told us the driver had gone and then proceeded to call Jaguar Paw for us. After a couple of calls they determined we had booked and then one of them drove us to the place in his van. Jaguar Paw picked up the cost. I was real impressed with both the Radisson men and Jaguar Paw as we were NOT left stranded. After our one hour ride we arrrived at Jaguar and had the lunch that was included before tubing. The whole river area was swarming with people as again three ships were in port. We went in a group of 4 people not 10 or 18 like some of the others. We walked through the jungle for about a half hour before the line-up to get into the river. It was a good experience, but nothing phenomenal. The caves are pretty plain compared to caverns here in the US. You just float down the river through the caves for about an hour. After tubing we looked around the the Jaguar Paw grounds for a few minutes before heading back with our driver.
Costa Maya- We didn't book any excursions but looked around the port area and then took the taxi into the town of Mahahual. The malecon is OK to walk but the sellers are one after another trying to sell you somethng, get a massage, or rent their chairs. The water is shallow and not good for snorkeling, and there is a lot of sea grass. They are continuing to build and rebuild more businesses since the hurricane. We didn't stay there long but went back to the port area with the swimming pool. The pool was not crowded and we were able to find lounge chairs nearby. The stores had more souvenirs and their prices were just as good. Plus you didn't have someone hounding you to buy constantly. One funny thing is that it was very windy that day and the captain "moved the ship" to a different area of the pier. It wasn't far but I guess some passengers were quite surprised when they saw the ship moving 4 hours before the given leave time!!
The last stop was to be Great Stirrup Cay but just after anchoring, the ship started to move! We weren't staying as one of the tender boats wasn't running. The captain was great as he secured a berth at Nassau, Bahamas for the day instead of just giving us another sea day! We docked at noon and were able to stay until 6:30. The staff also secured a couple of excursions so we were able to go snorkeling again!! I always go independently but with short notice we went with NCL and their prices weren't too bad! It turned out great as we went to Athol Island part of the National Marine Park. We had a 25 min boat ride out and back, and about an hour of snorkel time. The water was cool for some but again our wetsuits kept us warm. The area was very good for snorkeling—tons of fish to see. Again very pleased with the way NCL handled the day.
All around it was a great time—no rain and some sun almost every day. We found NCL and the Jewel a very good experience. To all the cruise critic people-it was nice to meet those of you who showed up at the Meet and Greet. About 116 had been mentioned on the roll call but only about 40 showed up!