Norwegian Jewel Cruise Review by weatherguy: The Jewel's Crown is Slipping!!
Overall Member Rating
The Jewel's Crown is Slipping!!
Destination: Canada & New England
Embarkation: New York (Manhattan)
I. Background Information --
We are a couple in our late 30s that travelled with her brother & her sister-in-law on this NCL Jewel cruise ship that took a 9-Night Canada / New England cruise on October 1, 2010. We've got 12 cruises under our belt, so have a goodly number of other cruises to compare this one with. We've sailed on 5 NCL ships, 3 RCCL ships, 2 Carnival ships, 1 Princess ship, & 1 Holland America ship.
Even though I'm about to rate this the LOWEST 2-Star rated ranking of all of my 12 cruises, I was still determined to make the best of it by participating in varied game shows, theatre shows, and dance parties. All my other cruise ship experiences I have rated either 3 star or 4 star ratings. This is MY FIRST rating I have given a 2 star (lowest rating).....just for the reader's comparison. Reasons are all listed down below.
II. Hotel Information
It's no secret that hotel prices in New York City are astronomical, but being the More probing shopper I am, was able to clinch a $79 rate at the LaGuardia Airport Hotel, which was within walking distance of the American, U.S. Airways, & Delta Airlines terminals. They also have a courtesy shuttle bus, too. The motel is adequate; nothing extravagant, but enough to spend one night's rest. It's a 3-star motel -- just average. I always ask for a quiet room as half the rooms face the busy, noisy highway on Ditmars Blvd.
III. Travel to Port of Embarkation
If you're taking this cruise from New York City, I recommend you to find a shuttle or shared transportation with others to cut-down on the ground transportation costs from your motel to where the cruise ship's pier terminal is on Manhattan's West side. Otherwise, if you don't want to do business this way & are looking for private transporatation, & you're feeling the need for a cabbie, then always go with the YELLOW cab, which has better rates. You'll generally pay between $30 to $40 WITH the inclusion of tolls & tips, total, and it generally takes between 40 minutes to 50 minutes to get there from near the LaGuardia airport. Tack-on additional time if you're coming from the JFK airport, and it will cost you more. Generally the costs from LGA airport with a yellow taxi are metered rates from LGA airport & not a flat rate. You'll find that traffic will come to a complete stop & stand-still at times when in the streets of Manhattan.
IV. Ship Information
The NCL "Jewel" cruise ship's inaugural year was a 2005 build, making it a little over 5 years old at the time of my sailing on October 1, 2010. It has a passenger capacity of 2,376 based upon a double occupancy of cabins. The length of the ship is 965 feet, has a gross tonnage of 93,502, a crew of 1,081 & diesel electric engines. The maximum beam is 105 ft, and draft is 28 ft.
Now....at the time of my sailing on the NCL "Jewel", the ship was limping at reduced speeds, so much so, that it altered our itinerary resulting in approximately 6 hours LESS of TOTAL time in all ports combined. This was due to excessive wear in the thruster bearings of the ship's azipod propulsion system. This problem is due to be fixed in late November 2010, when it will be dry-docked for repair. However my cruise was greatly disrupted because of reduced time in ports, meaning we didn't get to do the tour excursions we planned. This attribute, along with other considerations, results in a lowered rating of my overall cruising experience because of this mishap in travelling at reduced speeds & partially ruining our itinerary & limited shore excursions due to lessened times in port.
We were eventually booked in to a Oceanview cabin on deck 5 of this October 1, 2010, 9-Night Canada / New England sailing. I'll go in to detail on why I've rated this sectional lower than my previous cruises.
A.) The GOOD --
#1.) GREAT air-conditioning and climate control meant we were always comfortable, temperature-wise, while in the stateroom.
#2.) GREAT shower space in the Oceanviews & Balcony staterooms of the NCL Jewel ship; however, watch for the lip above the floor getting in & out, or you could stub your toe badly!
#3.) Big picture window on Deck 5; as compared with obstructed views on Deck 8 (lifeboats) and some smaller porthole windows on Deck 4 & some on Deck 5
#4.) Water pressure in the shower head was good.
B.) The BAD & the UGLY --
#1.) Very cramped-space design in the toilet area of cabin meant wall was right up to my nose, with an unjustified wall between bathroom sink & toilet which consumed even more room. This has to be the POOREST designed and most cramped toilet space I'd ever been in with regards to the toilet configuration. I'm 6' 2" and even people who are obese are going to have problems getting in and out of this toilet area due to very restricted space.
#2.) Water pressure in the sink was very weak -- only a trickle.
#3.) Sink was plugged a good deal resulting in slow drainage. When I dispatched maintenance to clear the slow-draining sink, they had the NERVE to deposit all this GOOPY-GOO in to our toilet which STUCK to the toilet bowl and would not flush down!! What NERVE!!! This was disgusting!!! It only became dislodged after the stateroom steward handled the mess!
#4.) Shower drain also exhibited slow drainage & had to dispatch maintenance again to rectify this problem.
#5.) On our final day of cruising, the toilet stopped flushing. Now we've seen this before on other cruise ships, so these kinds of toilet flushing systems are apt to occasionally not working, BUT....the maintenance man who came out was NOT friendly, and his work flooded the edge of the toilet's floor and this flooded water bleeded in to the carpet of our entrance door for the first 1 1/2 ft of carpet next to the door. Fortunately they cleaned it up right away and were on top of it, but these 5 problems noted above are what I consider to be excessive problems with the stateroom's maintenance & designed combined together, so I've reduced points in this category to only a 2-star rating out of 5 overall in this area of my evaluation. Did I mention one of our lights in our stateroom hadn't been replaced for several days?? Maintenance was ONLY dispatched when I TOLD them to come out. It should have been the stateroom stewards' responsibility to dispatch maintenance without me HAVING to ASK them to come out. So, the service was far from stellar, since I had to keep placing work orders myself, for which it should have been the stateroom stewards job.
Okay, historically, I've always enjoyed a goodly number of meals on previous NCL ships in years gone by. However, NCL's crown *IS* slipping!!
In particular, I've noticed a few changes in the menu selections. There were at least 2 or 3 times when I reviewed the dinner menu in the main formal dining rooms and shook my head, and saying the menu option choices do NOT look good on this go-around on at least 3 different days for dinner. So that's when I ordered the steak, or other items from the "Always Available" menu.
A.) The GOOD ~
#1.) In particular, I enjoyed the many BREAKFAST selections in the Garden Cafe'. This is the restaurant in which I refer to as the "Mad House Buffet Line" -- The Garden Cafe, because it is a mad house and easy to run in to others. Choices here were abundant and well-tended to in the morning. However, as usual on every ship, finding a place to sit was next to impossible, especially on this crowded ship. Every ship I've been on has this problem. The ship designers NEVER---NEVER design these places with enough sitting areas in the buffet. It is what it is, gang!
#2.) I really enjoyed the steaks & prime rib selections in the main formal dining rooms, (Tsar's Palace Dining Room & Azura), on the NCL Jewel cruise ship. Steaks were consistently GOOD, and some of the most tender steaks I've ever had on the NCL ship's fleet in my past 5 NCL cruises. Only wished they'd douse the steaks with more gravy as that peppercorn gravy is always a delicious gravy! So this is where NCL excelled!
#3.) We did audition the Tango's Tex-Mex specialty restaurant. I really enjoyed the beef fajitas, and asked for extra salsa & sour cream to go with it all. The mexican rice & refried beans were really fresh & the Southwestern Egg Rolls were really great too! On the last couple days of the cruise this was 1 of 2 restaurants that was given away at 2-for-1 pricing. Mama's Italian was the other, which we didn't go to. We sampled the lobster tacos. It was a bit too creamy & rich for me, but others may find a liking to it. So, overall, I give a GREAT thumbs-up to the Tango's Tex-Mex specialty restaurant. Glad we did it!
#4.) The Blue Lagoon restaurant -- This was a GREAT choice for any time of the afternoon, evening or late night. I really enjoyed the food here, thorougly, and menu selections were excellent serving comfort food -- Chicken Wings, real beef burgers, chicken fingers, fish n' chips (french fries), hot dogs, and I ordered every one of these selections and scarfed it all down but good! The service was really fast at 9 PM, and the food always fresh. This place was much better managed on the Jewel than it was on the NCL Sun.
Overall, I'd rate the food quality in the main formal dining restaurants as Above-Average for the "always available" items, and right around average for other changing menu items, and would rate the menu OPTIONS or SELECTIONS in the main formal dining room as BELOW-average; hence the 3-star rating right at about average. You will definitely find LOTS of fish selections available on this NCL Jewel ship as it seems like there's fish available everywhere on the menus in the main formal dining rooms!
B.) The BAD ~
#1.) As I mentioned at the start of this sectional, MENU selections in the main formal dining room were UN-appealing and not what I considered attractive. There were some menu item selections that I needed translations for, as I didn't even know what it was on the menu??? Sure wish they'd start speaking English on the menus, and start serving normal food.
#2.) Let me explain to you the FreeStyle Dining experience: It only works well when you come to dinner at the NON-peak dining times in the main formal dining rooms. During PEAK, busy dining times of between 630 PM & 730 PM, the whole FreeStyle dining experience collapses & breaks down. (How so??) I'll tell you--->> The first thing NCL tests you on is your patience! Don't come between 630 PM & 730 PM, or else you'll be WAITING a long time, and won't get to be seated right away! On our 1st night, we arrived at the main formal dining room at 7 PM. Get this--->> We first had to wait in ONE line just to get a beeper/flasher device. That took about 5 - 10 minutes. Then, once we got the beeper/flasher notifying device, we had to wait another additional 20 - 30 minutes JUST to be seated! This is just unacceptable! So Free Style does NOT work... repeating.... does NOT work during the PEAK, busy eating period times in the main formal dining rooms roughly between 630 PM & 730 PM, give or take 30 minutes on either side of those times. Now you know why traditional dining still does exist today on several of the cruise lines. Good thing for me, I usually eat at opening times around 5 PM, so I can get to go to all the shows the rest of the evening has to offer.
#3.) We also auditioned the specialty restaurant "Chin Chin" or Asian Fusion. Being that we are well-versed with how Chinese food is supposed to taste and my partner and her people are Asian, we know what to compare with. My girl has always said, "When the cruise line sticks with something simple such as meat & potatoes, it turns out well. As soon as they try to cook complicated, international food selections, it becomes a fiasco!"
Let me first apprise the reader that the menu lists that Jasmine rice is served. This is WRONG & FALSE!! I know how Jasmine rice is supposed to taste & what its texture is supposed to be. It has a wonderfully fragrant smell and is sticky white rice. The rice that was served, instead, was low-grade, low-quality American white rice, like Uncle Ben's. My partner & her Asian friends just laughed at it, knowing it was not authentic. What a BIG disappointment -- HUGE. However, to most Americans not well-versed with how this food is supposed to be, it may just very well pass you by, going unnoticed by many of you, but we know better!
Also, there was a lack of authenticity to the Kung Pao Chicken and Szechuan Braised Beef menu selections. When we did more probing, we found out that the chef in Chin Chin was actually a Filipino chef and NOT a Chinese chef. It showed, as all the food we ordered was not authentic and as her people put it -->> The taste is "JUST NOT RIGHT -- NOT THE WAY IT SHOULD BE". I whole-heartedly agree. I was very much disappointed with this Asian Fusion, Chin Chin restaurant, as it just wasn't right -- the whole taste and the lack of jasmine rice.
The only good I can report was that the ambience was bright and cheery, and there was a nearby atrium down below that's decorated beautifully on the descending stair case from above.
#4.) On a final note, this has been a problem not only on this ship, but in other recent cruises as well. What happened to water glass refilling in the main formal dining rooms & crumb scraping??? Years ago when I first started cruising, water glasses were always refilled timely, (without the need to ask), and crumbs were always scraped from the tables. What happened??? Nowadays, I always have to tell them to refill water glasses, and ONLY once did I see crumbs scraped from our table. It seems that NCL is getting out of the customer service business.... no more chocolates on pillows & no more towel animals either!! I don't need and don't require these last 2 features, but it'd be a nice touch for NEWBY cruisers to see & experience, what I once experienced a long time ago. Sheesh!! I think we're beginning to see a revolutionary change in the cruise line industry whereby instead of it being special as it was many years ago, that it's becoming usual and commonplace. And when that happens, it's not special anymore; the service becomes like the airlines -- only the most rudimentary basic services offered.
As a side note, this is also the MOST dressed-down cruise line of all of them, too, so if you like casual wear and NOT formal wear, then you'll actually be pleasantly pleased with NCL's philosophy on dress code standards, as they're the most lenient of all the cruise lines, though I still don't think you can get away with shorts in the main formal dining room during dinner time. Lunch & breakfast is fair game though for shorts. I, for one, actually like the relaxed dress-down standards, but I trust many women would like to dress-up. Women, this ain't goona happen much on this cruise line!
This is an area difficult to comment, as this was a very port-intensive cruise, having no sea days until the end of the cruise, so we were off the ship during all the port days which was 6 out of 8 days.
However, I do have one BIG bone to pick with the Cruise Director Shona: DON'T TAKE AWAY THE QUEST GAME SHOW from your cruise activities!! The cruise director told me the reason she took it out was because it was not the right demographic of audience of people. Let me suggest that in my own personal experiences, I have found many people from all walks of life, & ALL AGES that DO ENJOY this game show! After all, they enjoyed the hypnotist shows, with a full house, even at the 1015 PM late night show. Quest game show is right along the same alley! So....don't take the wind out of our sails! KEEP the Quest Game Show in the portfolio of activities!! Also, I'd have liked to see more game shows, as we had with Cruise Director Pedro on our NCL Sun cruise in April/May 2010. Take your cues from him, as he has a LOT more action-packed set of games incorporated within the activities section.
VIII. Children's Clubs
This is another area I cannot comment that much on, as our party had a 1-year-old baby, which was NOT eligible for the children's clubs. NCL will not baby-sit children UNTIL they become at least 2 years old, and then they will take responsibility for entertaining children & youths all the way up to teen-agers, free of charge in most instances, unless you want NCL -- the cruise line -- to take care of the children "after hours" or while in port, and then you must pay for those 2 times; otherwise it is free for most other times.
A.) The BAD
#1.) Here is yet another area in which I feel that NCL's crown is slipping, overall, with some notable exceptions listed down below in "The Good" sectional write-up. I have to say that this is one of the fewest cruises in which I can actually say that the NCL crew & staff onboard the NCL "Jewel" was not really the friendliest bunch on the whole, big picture. Smiles were only offered when I smiled first. Otherwise staff behaved as though they did NOT want to be there on the ship. As I said, earlier, when we had a plumber come out to service our toilet, on the last sea day, not only did he not smile, but he actually frowned, like I murdered his family member, and didn't even offer to say "Hello" or "Sorry about the problem you're having". How cold & insensitive, I thought.
#2.) In other areas, I got a reaction when I asked our stateroom steward to bring us soaps for the rest of the cruise, instead of using the bath gel, and he offered resistance in doing so. I'm old school, and I use bar soap instead of bath gel. I got a grief-stricken face from him, (Jesus Garcia), when I asked for bar soap in the future instead of bath gel, like it was such an inconvenience. Where's the customer service?? It has died. Jeez!
#3.) NCL just doesn't seem to be training or insisting that their staff maintain a polished customer-service focused personality. This has become an obvious oversight on NCL Jewel.
A.) The GOOD
There are some GREAT stories though, that I can offer, and special recognition is due for which I will mention where credit is most due and deserving.
#1.) The Group Event Coordinator on NCL Jewel -- I think her name was Elwynn OCampo -- was most outstanding! She is the 1st and ONLY one I've seen organize a tour of the bridge & of the galley for our cruise critic community. Never, have I seen BOTH the bridge tour & galley tour offered on any of my previous 11 cruises, so a big kudos goes out to her! I hope I got her name correct. I wrote it down on paper but lost the slip. Anyways, she's a great group event coordinator.
#2.) Carlton or Carlson Kennedy from Jamaica was the FASTEST restaurant server in the Azura dining room. I had asked him to expedite our dinner so's we could make it to the evening shows, and not only was he fast with us, but he was lightning-speed fast with other tables as well. I've personally never seen anyone move as fast as he does in the dining room. Came to find out he's been doing this work for 8 years, and I name-dropped him to the Maitre' D's, complementing his fine, outstanding work!
#3.) Also Genevieve Baylon from Philippines was outstanding in the Tsar's Main formal dining room, always offering outstanding service in a timely fashion as well. I learned she has many friends on the ship, too!
#4.) Service in the Blue Lagoon restaurant was speedy-quick & accurate when I was there 2 nights in a row around 9 PM. The Maitre' D there ran a tight ship there, as I caught her reprimanding one of her servants over some sort of issue, (surprisingly in public presence), but it does prove the system does work, as the orders were accurate, speedy, and the food was fresh & very tasty.
I have mixed feelings here in this sectional, resulting in just an average rating.
When the evening shows were good, then they were really good to GREAT, but when the shows were bad, they were also really bad, too. Let me hash this out down below in the shows featured.
A.) The GOOD
Of course, the best cream-of-the-crop, goes to the hands of Massimo & Alesia in the show entitled "INCANTO" & again in the show entitled "Le Cirque Bijou". I personally greeted and complemented these two athletic gymnasts. The fact that these 2 are a married couple adds a nice finishing touch as well! These 2 shows were, without a doubt, the best 2 shows on the ship, and it showed in the crowd's pleasing standing ovations, applause and attendance. I was always up there in the front 2 rows for all the shows so I could see everything.
Other good, decent shows included the production show entitled, "Band on the Run", 2 hypnotist shows by Brenda Kaye, & Ross Bennett's FIRST show ONLY in the big Stardust Theatre; (not the 2nd one in the Spinnaker Lounge). I'm not going in to the details of each show; you can just watch them on your own, should any of these shows appear on your sailing, which you won't get all of these shows, as the contracted performers jump from ship to ship and sailing to sailing at various dates in time.
B.) The BAD
Okay, the good news to report in the Bad news sectional of the entertainment column is that there were MORE good shows than there were bad shows.
The worst show was the vocalist show in the Stardust Theatre. I've heard a lot of vocalists come on stage in the big theatre shows on lots of cruise ships in the past, and the vocalist on this ship, I think needs to be retired, as she's past her prime. She didn't even dress well either. It's a bit embarrassing to say this, but I was actually a part of this show on stage, and I'm still calling it the worst show of the bunch! I got to participate in 5 shows total; 2 in the big Stardust Theatre & 3 in the Spinnaker lounge, so even though I'm rating this cruise as the lowest rating, I was still determined to make the BEST out of it, and enjoy it to the best of my ability, even in spite of the many flaws.
I also did not care for the guitar & drum player from Ireland, either. It was just run-of-the-mill general musician playing, similar to what you'd get in any one of the bars or lounges throughout the ship; nothing great; nothing out of the ordinary; just a different genre of music. I didn't even bother with his 2nd show in Spinnaker lounge.
Second City cast: Well, what can I say about this cast?? They're trying. It's like the little engine that could! They're trying to make a show hoping it will stick to anything and entertain folks and please them, so I credit them for trying. After all, it's not easy to get up there and do un-scripted, un-rehearsed shows off the top of your head, and the creativity required to do a script-less show probably requires more talent than both you, (the reader), and I think together! I didn't see all of their shows. I think they had 3 shows in total. I saw the first one on-stage in the big Stardust Theatre and 1 of them in the Spinnaker Lounge, Deck 13, Forward. The one in the Stardust Theatre I felt was better.
As for the 2nd-to-last show, the Juggler, I was actually disappointed. I've seen far better juggling scenes than I saw with this juggler. Most everything he juggled was just 3 items, until the end when he juggled the numerous rings. He did jump out in the audience to enhance his show which I think caught a number of folks by surprise, and tried to crack some jokes, but it just didn't come together in my opinion. I've seen better jugglers on other ships and other cruise lines.
XI. Port & Shore Excursions
This is the one area that actually got me most upset, because of the inept handling of the Shore Excursion Department who bungled our tours in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada & again in New York City. The axe really needs to be dropped hard on this inept shore excursion staff!!!
We signed-up for 2 tours in Sydney at 1 PM and 330 PM, and when we got our tour tickets, they mishandled our tour times and assigned us 1 PM meeting times for BOTH tours. How does that happen?? I even showed them my confirmed times. All they could offer was that the tour operator CHANGED the time of the tours at the last moment and no longer offered tours at the time we signed-up for. So, as usual, none of it is on NCL; they're just going to wash their hands clean of it all, and so it all has to be the fault of the tour operator, huh??
This really angered me, big time! It was bad enough that we missed doing our original tour because they stripped 2.5 hours of time away from us at Sydney from a limping ship travelling at reduced speeds, then we get double-bungled again in Sydney by throwing us 2 tours at the same time which is impossible to do, & didn't get our tour times correct, even when I showed them proof of documentation of the times we signed-up for!
Then, the tour in New York City got cut short into HALF the time we should have been given because of incompetent staffers getting us off the ship so terribly late in disembarkation in New York City that we only got half a tour instead of a FULL tour. Again, NOT happy with that result, and NEITHER WOULD YOU BE, if you were in my shoes in these 2 botched ports of call!
I'll give you a run-down on the tours we did on this 9-Night Canada/New England cruise.
#1.) Newport, Rhode Island ~ Chose the Vanderbilt's tour which took us to the Breakers & Marble House. I think I enjoyed this tour the best out of the entire crop of 7 tours we did on this cruise. Opulence is well-established in viewing the Newport mansions. Only downside is that you're not permitted to take pictures inside the mansions.
#2.) Boston, Massachusetts ~ Chose Scenic Boston & Harbor cruise. The harbor cruise basically takes you to see panoramic views of the CBD of downtown buildings of Boston, to where you can capture some pictures out on the open decks of the boat, and if creative enough, you can get pics of you and your partner with the backdrop of the city. The scenic motor coach of the tour takes you for ONE stop at Trinity Church; otherwise you're on the bus the whole rest of the time. Fortunately we were dropped at Quincy Market with enough time for me to walk around on foot to visit the Freedom Trail and the burying grounds, Old North Church, Paul Revere's house and one or 2 other places. Good thing I went on foot on my own at the end of the tour in Quincy Market, because I was able to get far more pictures that way than I would at the mercy of being "stuck" on a motorcoach, with reflective glass all over the place ruining any would-be pictures.
#3.) St. John, New Brunswick, Canada ~ Here I went with Bay of Fundy Up Close. There was a short walk to the museum and although they spent some time explaining the Bay of Fundy Tides which approach 50 ft, in the upper-most part of the Bay, they also spent too much time talking about other parts of the musuem such as the whales and marine life. I'd have liked them to show a video on the tides and videography on the tidal extremes, which didn't happen. The boat portion of the tour did live up to its name. We did get very close to where the St. John river meets with the Bay of Fundy and got to see the Jet Boat tour in action. The portion of the Bay we saw has a rate of tidal change of 5 feet per hour, either up or down & an intermittent slack tide, too which lasts for about 45 minutes! This was pretty neat and interesting to see this outside our Oceanview stateroom, too, watching our window go below the cement pier, and then rise above the cement pier late in the day! Since we came in at near low tide, I did take pictures of the water line marks at the pier showing the differences.
#4.) Halifax, Nova Scotia ~ The only really big-hit highlight I found here was the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, which displays the Titanic 1912 Exhibit and the Halifax Explosion of 1917. Extraordinary real-time artifacts are placed on display with the Titanic exhibit, and it has been noted that famed film-maker James Cameron visited this museum prior to making his film on the Titanic as he had the sincere desire to "get it right" on the facts of Titanic's ship design, colors, and appearance, by taking notes & cues from this museum! You are permitted to take pictures of the Titanic exhibit along with viewing a real deck chair recovered from the ill-fated ship's maiden voyage in April 1912. There are other interesting artifacts recovered from the wreckage of the Titanic including children's shoes, life vest pieces, gloves, and kitchen artifacts, shortly after the Titanic sank way back in 1912. They're not replicas, but instead real-time pieces of recovery. In addition to the real deck chair, they've even created a replica chair for you to sit in! This is an excellent museum & I highly recommend visiting this Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, if you have a desire in learning about maritime incidents at sea, as there's much more than just the Titanic & Halifax explosion exhibits. The fee was nearly $9 American dollars at the time of October 2010.
The rest of Halifax, we visited with the HO/HO bus. The public gardens were a complete joke & waste of time -- nothing special there. There was also a Museum of Natural History that may interest the reader for which we visited on the HO/HO bus. I found some interesting displays & tidbits.
Then, there's the brewery you can visit for about $16 U.S. It's the Alexander Keith's beer brewery. I auditioned 5 samples of their different ales including an ale that had a coffee / chocolate flavor. It was interesting to say the least! It was only $8 US dollars to sample all 5 ales, at 4 oz. each. So I passed a good time there!
If you do use the Gray Line HO/HO bus, be mindful that it's not well-managed at the initial bus stop, especially when you're competing with 2 or 3 other cruise ships in port & the lines get long -- NCL long, that is!! Your wait for a bus may become excessive like 30 minutes or longer as the line gets really long for all 3 routes. Consider boarding your HO/HO bus by walking to another destination where the line is much shorter.
#5.) Sydney, Nova Scotia ~ We got screwed by NCL on this port of call as they bungled our 2 tour excursions & had to cancel one of the tours because of their inept handling of our tour times which conflicted with one another which were originally NOT supposed to. Shame on you, NCL!!! Shame on you!!! We were stuck with our 4th choice, Sydney Highlights. Don't even waste your time with this particular tour called, "Sydney Highlights". Just a complete waste. You only get off the bus at an Indian museum, which was uneventful and totally missable. Thanks for screwin' us over, NCL!! Our original tour we wanted was Taste of the Cabot Trail --OR-- Grand Tour of the Bras D'or Lakes, Baddeck, & Alexander Graham Bell, but both tours cancelled because of a limping ship that cut our time in port by a full 2 1/2 hours short, voiding-out the possibility of those tours!
#6.) Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island ~ Here we chose Island's Finest, Anne of Green Gables, and Lobster Lunch. This tour was a let-down. Unless you're an avid reader & a disciple of L.M. Montgomery's books, then this won't be such a memorable tour. The highlight for us was the lobster lunch. We enjoyed it so much that we actually paid to order another round of lobsters for all of us, at a great bargain price of only $15 each!! And yes....this is a FULL-sized lobster of about 1 to 1 1/2 pounds, with claws -- and the whole bit! The restaurant is in a beautiful setting overlooking a river with picturesque landscape!
We did go inside the Green Gables house, but nothing really moved me about it. I suppose you'd have to read the book in order to appreciate the house & its setting. She was an internationally renowned author having her book published in like 17 different langages as I remember, so maybe historians and older folks who have an appreciation for historic, memorable books by L.M. Montgomery would be best happy with a tour like this one. Aside from L.M. Montgomery's works & Green Gables house, there's really NOTHING of any interest to see in Prince Edward Island, as this port is pretty much totally missable, too, as well. We were taken to the red cliffs for a quick photo stop, but after seeing the Grand Canyon in Arizona, as I have, this seems like nothing at all!
#7.) New York City ~ Again, because of terribly TARDY disembarkation, once again by NCL, our tour got cut short here in New York City. It was supposed to be a 5 hour tour; instead it was a 2 1/2 hour tour -- half the time for which we paid for. I'm working on getting a refund for this tour at present time, October 11, 2010, for NCL's incompetence in handling disembarkation & embarkation, which was a continued problem throughout the cruise.
In this tour, our first stop was at Top of the Rock in Rockefeller's Center, 70 stories high for a bird's eye view of the city of New York. It was crowded up there, but still manageable. We were afforded a short time there and also again in Rockefeller Plaza, but then that was the end of the free time. The rest of the other time was spent on the motorcoach going over a limited area of streets, and even repeating streets we'd already seen. The bus did not stop for a picture stop at the United Nations & a cathedral as it promised to, because our tour was cut short to only 2 1/2 hours and should have been 5 hours instead, because of the awfully slow & unacceptable tardy disembarkation time, getting off in New York City.
This was a REAL hardship on all involved: The crew & the thousands of guest passengers aboard the NCL "Jewel". Alright let me tell you something here: I've cruised with NCL 5 times, (& other cruise lines 7 times). Here's the ONE attribute I can tell you about NCL.
NCL can handle the crowds of their smaller ships pretty well. This is the NEWEST & BIGGEST NCL ship I've been on, and what I can tell you is that NCL has EXTREME difficulty in handling the LARGER crowds. They're totally incompetent in managing large crowds.
Time and time again, they ineptly handled the larger crowds on this NCL Jewel ship, with super LONG wait times. It wasn't just once. Once would be forgiveable. But it was time and time again. At our first port in Newport, Rhode Island, the line to get back on to the ship was ferocious!! We waited 45 minutes to get back on to the ship when re-boarding. Some complained it took a long time to get off the ship, but we were okay there, and didn't have that problem.
Then, next port of call in Boston, Massachusetts, a SECURITY BREACH was violated!! When we boarded the ship near the end of the day, NCL was NOT EVEN screening baggage or personal effects people brought back on board the ship. My girl pointed that out to me! This is a MAJOR SECURITY BREACH!! (And why did they do that, you ask??) They were LATE, super-late, with getting people back on-board the ship again here in this 2nd port of call for the 2nd time! It took us 30 minutes in line to get back on the ship again. Good thing for me, I make the best of it by chatting with people in line to make the time move by faster.
So I say again, the first thing NCL tests you on is your patience....!
I didn't so much pay attention to the other ports of call afterwards, but these 2 ports really stood out. Then, for a 3rd time they bungled the dis-embarkation process, again, in New York City. We were between 1 to 2 hours LATE in getting off the ship, because of the incompetent disembarkation staff & their inept handling of the entire New York City disembarkation process, causing our 5-hour tour to only run 2 1/2 hours long.
There must have been a number of people complaining about the long lines and long wait time, because about 2-3 days before the end of the cruise, everyone was given a FREE drink coupon, good for any espresso, alcholic drink, or specialty drink to be used at any of the bars, restaurants, or at the coffee cafe. So you know they admitted their mistakes. Bottom line--->> NCL Jewel is completely inept at managing large crowds and I even saw where they were using only one gangway to manage these couple thousands of guests, when there should have been at least 2 gangways in operation. So for these reasons, I've docked the embarkation/disembarkation category down to the lowly 1-star rating.
Although I've ascribed the NCL Jewel the lowest cruise ship experience rating, of only 2 stars, I can tell you, the reader, that it *IS* the prettiest NCL ship that I've been on, and that compares with the Wind (retired), the Spirit, the Sun, & the Star, so the ship's beauty is a wonderful, astonishing feature that you will enjoy in the event you decide upon NCL Jewel. However, this is the first ship I've seen charging for use of the sauna, indoor jacuzzis, & steam room, although there is a free-of-charge steam room available for use too, but NO sauna for free, and NO indoor jacuzzi for free either. Surprisingly, I don't believe there's an indoor pool either.
NCL needs to get with the program and improve the managing of large crowds for disembarking/embarking, needs to manage the busiest crowds in the main formal dining room where there's too much wait time during peak periods of dining, insist on better customer service with better attitudes meant for people who want to be on the ship, & get a competent shore excursion staff that adheres to the appointment times originally promised, in original reservations! Also, revert back to the attractive menu selections in the main formal dining room we had on the Sun cruise ship in May 2010. At least we didn't need translations, and the food was identifiable & appealing back then. You're heading in to the wrong direction with these unappealing menu selections in the main formal dining rooms.
Some may view this writing as a negative, but I believe it's a positive. It's because of writings like these that will help aid the cruise line in getting back on-par in the right direction, and point-out their mistakes rather than me sugar-coating my cruise experience like so many others do. I refuse to do that. I tell it like it is. When it's good I mention it above; when it's bad, I point that out too. In this particular case the bad outweighed the good, even though I made the best of my cruise. After all, what would this world be like if we all sugar-coated and said everything was great all the time?? The cruise lines would only slip-up, fall in to a rut, & not improve.
Author: weatherguy Less
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