This was our eleventh cruise on various cruise lines but our first repositioning cruise. We had taken two previous NCL cruises and liked the "Freestyle" concept. The Jewel left Miami and after six ports and 13 nights was ending up in NYC which appealed to us greatly as my husband had never seen the NYC and this way we could kill two birds with one stone.We were travelling with another couple. We left Toronto the same day as the cruise (April 11) at 6:30 am and were in Miami by 9:30. We took a van taxi and were at the port by 11:00 and our embarkation was so quick we were on board by noon.We missed the "bubbly" welcome of past NCL cruises, but it was still a faster embarkation than we have experienced with any other cruise line. We had packed sandals and shorts in our carry-on so we were out enjoying the sun immediately, being true Canadians!
Our cabin was ready by 1:30 and it was a small inside one. Initially, we thought how are we ever going to put all our stuff away but it was amazing how we did get everything quickly organized with room to spare.Our previous cabins have either been mini suites or balconies and I can honestly say I rarely missed the space they offer as we don't spend much time in our cabins. The Jewel is very much like the Pearl which we had been on the year before. It is a beautiful ship which is very well taken care of. It was spotless and very proud of its consistent 100 ratings from the Health Dept.There was a huge amount of cleaning that occurred in the midst of the night. Kudos go to Cesar Happa who is the Executive Housekeeper. His staff did an excellent job and I don't think I have been on a cleaner ship.
We decided that we would eat most of our meals at the main restaurants (Tsars and Azure)which we stuck to with the exception of two evenings where we had meals at Tangos and Le Bistro, the specialty restaurants.We never had to wait for a table in these restaurants and the service was always very quick and friendly. The food was excellent. Initially, we would have breakfast in the aft area of the ship ( The Great Outdoors) as we usually just wanted something light and it wasn't too crowded. Then we discovered the breakfast at Tsars which was wonderful. Service was quick,the area quiet and food exceptional. I still miss the Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon.Many lunches we were in ports however we loved the Blue Lagoon where they serve "comfort food" 24 hours a day. Great chicken wings and a brownie ice cream dessert which was worth the calories. A lot of people didn't seem to find this until later on the cruise which was great for us as it was a nice quiet area on deck 8.We never felt like we "needed" to go to a specialty restaurant but were taken to Le Bistro one night by a friend. It was nice but I had no desire to go again. We also enjoyed the Mexican food at Tangos, especially the free Margarita
We attended the Cruise Critic Meet and Greet the first sea day and there were 150 people registered. The Cruise Director Iain Bagshaw, the Hotel Director John O'Hara, the comedian Tim, and the Captain all attended and spoke to us about the ship and their jobs. They were truly welcoming. John O'Hara gave everyone his personal phone number and encouraged them to call if there was a problem. Subsequent to this meeting, the ship organized a Murder Mystery dinner and Bridge tours for the Cruise Critic group. They really treated the Cruise Critic group extremely well. Iain, John and the Captain seemed to be everywhere during the cruise and they were certainly the friendliest and most visible senior staff I have ever encountered on a ship.The staff in general were extremely nice and friendly and went out of their way to help. I really got the feeling that everyone loved to work on the ship.
The entertainment was first class. We particularly liked the hypnotist Dr. Scott Lewis. We had gone to his first show of the evening and it was so funny we went to the second show as well. My husband volunteered and ended up on stage with 20 others.It was all good fun and family friendly. Dr.Lewis had another show and then three workshops on Stress and Weight reduction which were very educational. We also enjoyed the dance and Cirque productions. Spectacular!
We didn't do a lot of activities on board although there was plenty to do if we were so inclined. The Cruise Director Iain and his staff seemed to be everywhere and all worked very hard to give people a great time.Iain even had a "coffee chat" time in the main reception on sea days where you could just go and talk with him. We only went on one shore excursion that was organized by the Ship and that was the Shark and Ray Alley Snorkeling expedition in Belize. More on that later. We did, however,take the "Behind the Scenes" ship tour which was worth every penny. It was led by Elwynn, the Group Services Coordinator, and we spent three hours in the Kitchens, stores, laundry, environmental services, bridge and theatre.In each area, the person responsible spoke to us about what was going on and answered our questions. We spoke with the Captain, the Executive Chef, a dancer, a costumer, a stores Manager etc. This was a fascinating tour which gives you a real appreciation for how everything works on the ship. I really think it is invaluable if you love to cruise. Elwynn did an outstanding job in organizing everything and all the speakers. The only thing I could complain about is how fellow cruisers would "reserve" lounge chairs for hours on end by dropping their towels everywhere and then leaving indefinitely. We were very inclined to go around and grab up all the towels and hand them in so that they would have to pay $25.00 to retrieve them. It is unfortunate that there are so many selfish people and no way for the cruise line to police this.
Our disembarkation was the best we have ever experienced. We took our own bags and walked off the ship at 8:30 a.m. We zipped through Customs and were checked in at our hotel on Wall St. by 9:30. We had a great time on this cruise and would go again in a minute. The staff were wonderful, the ship spotless and the itinerary outstanding.