EMBARKATION: We arrived at the NYC ship terminal at 11:30 and there was already a huge crowd. We waited about 1 hour before boarding. They used a number system and it worked well.
BOARDING: The Jewel is a beautiful and very clean ship. We were greeted warmly and proceeded to lunch. We opted to go to the restaurant Tsar's instead of the Garden Cafe (buffet) for lunch. I would recommend this instead of the mad rush at the buffet.
FIRST IMPRESSION: Our waitress was friendly but appeared to be uninformed. When we inquired about the drink of the day, she didn't know what it was and said she thought it was around $9.00. It actually was $5.95. OK no big deal, hey it's the first day. Lunch was good and our rooms were ready about 1:15pm.
MAIN RESTAURANTS: The 2 main restaurants were Tsar's and Azura. We ate at both but preferred Azura's space. The food was good and service was steady. We had a group of 13 and using the Freestyle Dining was easy. There was never a long wait. The few times we all ate together we made reservations. In the main dining rooms you can make reservations for the early or late dining only. We found that when we just showed up, with parties of 5 to 9, we were seated with no longer than a 15 minute wait. We also lunched a few times at The Blue Lagoon a fast food restaurant open 24/7.
BUFFET: At the Garden Cafe you are greeted daily by the "Washee, Washee, Happy, Happy" team at the entrance where you will receive a sprayee, sprayee of hand sanitizer. There are automatic sanitizers throughout the ship and this definitely helps keep the buggy, buggies away. ENOUGH! The food was good but I found it to be repetitive. Not a varying bread selection and the desserts left alot to be desired.
SPECIALTY RESTAURANTS:(Cover Charges Apply) We ate at MAMA'S ITALIAN RESTAURANT on Deck 12($10 cover)and had the usual Italian food. The Fried Calamari was delicious. They also have good old spag & meatballs if you so desire. This also doubles as an extra dining room, off Garden Cafe, during breakfast and lunch. Then onto LE BISTRO($20 cover) the French Restaurant. A beautiful place but somewhat disorganized. I expected the staff to be on their best but our first courses were delivered out of order and one of us was served their main course 10 mins after the rest. Yes, I timed it. Then it was CAGNEY'S STEAK HOUSE'($25 cover). What a breath of fresh air. We were greeted by our waiter and head waiter, who could not do enough for us. The food was delivered in a casual pace so as not to rush you and it was cooked to perfection. We had a table of 9 and sat directly across from the open kitchen. Anyway - DO GO to Cagney's you won't be disappointed. By far the best food on the ship.
ENTERTAINMENT: The shows were really great. A wide variety of acts from comedians to acrobats, dancers, singers, jugglers and even a hypnotist, some very funny stuff here. The lounge entertainment was also varied but our favorite was Nathaniel Reed, pianist and singer in The Martini & Wine Bar Deck 6. And while you're there, have Jonas prepare a "Fresh Bacardi Daiquiri" for you. Fresh squeezed lime juice, simple syrup and Bacardi Superior Rum. Oh, and The NCL Orchestra was fantastic too.
DISEMBARKATION: NCL's Freestyle cruising comes through here too. No rush at all leave at your leisure. We waited until 10:30am, no lines and easily retrieved our luggage back at the terminal.
PET PEEVE: One thing that really annoyed us was a female staff member who went around to the restaurants selling roses. I don't want someone coming up to me and saying " wouldn't you like to buy your wife a nice rose" I found it offensive and sent a "Dear John" letter to the hotel manager, John Harris, who encourages it and also gives you his personal cellphone number for any problems or suggestions. And guess what? I didn't see her for the rest of the cruise.
ALL IN ALL: I really liked my 10 day cruise and would definitely go on NCL again.