My wife and I sailed on the Jewel the week of Feb. 7th. This was my first NCL outing and I'm not sure there will be a second. It was Superbowl Sunday when we boarded so the night before we planned to stay in Miami. Hotel prices were very high so we stayed in a smaller hotel near Homestead AFB. We rented a car but didn't sight-see much due to heavy traffic from Superbowl crowds.
Soft drinks: Our complaint began before we even boarded as we were forced to smuggle our own Coke aboard. $50 for a mug and unlimited Pepsi is no bargain if you don't like Pepsi so if you prefer Coke I'd suggest bringing your own supply. We had to replenish ours in Roatan, but they didn't give us any trouble about bringing it back on the ship with us.
Embarkation: This took longer than I'm used to but it wasn't a long delay, about an hour to get aboard and it seemed to be streamlined so maybe we just arrived during a rush. Then again it's not a small ship so there are lots of people to get aboard. The cabins weren't ready so we had to wait on deck (with our carry-on luggage) until we were given word we could go to our cabin.
Service: The food service staff and housekeeping is excellent and the ship officers are cordial as well. All the staff seemed friendly in fact.
Dining: Our main complaint is the food in the main restaurants. We had great food there on two nights but otherwise the food was lackluster and not what we're accustomed to on a cruise. Twice part of my meal was barely warm when served as if it sat too long on a rack somewhere. On two nights we ate at Chin Chin's which has an Asian menu and a $15 per person charge and it was worth the price. Too bad the main restaurants don't serve such good food. Our last experience with open dining (Princess) was mixed with good food and poor service, NCL seems to have reversed this but it's still not good enough.
Entertainment: The entertainment was mostly worthwhile. Bud Anderson, a stand-up comic, was very good but we skipped his more adult-themed show.
The Jean Ann Ryan group that did three shows that culminated in Circue Bijou was good but not great and my only complaint is that if you're going to cover someone else's song at least try to do a good imitation. The ballroom dance couple and the acrobat-gymnast were the highlights.
The ventriloquist Kenny Byrd is very talented but his material was tired and not funny. It was still amazing to see what he could do but we finally left early when the jokes got too repetitive. We saw him later at the ice cream machine and my wife just didn't have the heart to answer honestly when asked about the show. With better material he could give Jeff Dunham some competition.
The country duo Rushlow and Harris was also funny, down-to-earth and very good. So good my wife felt compelled to buy their CD afterwards. And forced me to go to both of their shows, the second began with Kenny Byrd so we sat through another of his shows as well.
The staff show that included Fountains was very very good, possibly the highlight. Paul Baya added something to each show and is a real asset to the Jewel. His assistant is also good and I have nothing negative to say about any of the crew, staff or other employees.
It was nice to relax in the Spinnaker Lounge but even with headphones on the bingo calling and required responses forced us to leave.
The ship has about 2500 passengers and only two pools, four public hot tubs and far too few chaise lounges. Some people were so frustrated over this they got rude about saved chairs but we chose to just stay up on deck 13 instead. I don't plan to ever cruise on the NCL Epic as it will have almost twice as many passengers and there is a limited amount of outdoor deck space. Prices are cheaper than when we began cruising 15 years ago but the price paid is over-crowding. Not as bad as on airplanes but still more than I'd like.
It was a good cruise with many positives but we've yet to cruise on Costa, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity and we liked both Princess and Carnival better than NCL. Any cruise is a good cruise but I doubt we'll repeat with NCL.