Day 1 - If you have someone dropping you off to NYC, make sure you enter the Pier from 55th or be prepared to circle around a few times. The lines were really long, perhaps because the cruise was fully booked. It took over an hour to board the ship. Tsar's is excellent. Lot of good choices and definitely recommend getting there before 2 pm on boarding day to get lunch. On other days, get to Tsar's before 1 for lunch. Rooms are usually ready after 3:00 pm, and the drill is at 4:00 PM.
Deck 12 / 13 by the pool area gets very crowded and loud. The kid's club opens at 8:00 pm, but the line is really long on boarding day. Took over an hour to check-in my child, though I had registered earlier. The hotel director later stated that they had over 700 kids onboard.
Attended first night "Welcome aboard" show at Stardust Theater, and it was impressive.
Day 2 - Meet and Greet was at 11:00 AM at Azuro's. Great opportunity to meet ship staff, notably Shona Blair the Cruise Director who is from a small town in Seattle. Her boss John O'hara has genuine concern that your cruise on the Jewel will be the best ever. FYI, his extension is 8888. We asked for bridge and galley tours, and were told it may happen on the last day - which it did.
Day 3 - Arrived Port Canaveral on time. Cell phone started working when we were close to the port, however not from the room. Get to Deck 6 or 12 facing the land.
Took the FREE shuttle to Cocoa Beach. NCL shouldn't be charging $20 for the same ride. Anyway, the free shuttle takes you to Ron Jons. You get a 15% coupon on the bus. While many loved the shop, I didn't find a reason to shop from here, unless you have forgotten to pack something such as swim gear. Cocoa beach is a 5 minute walk from the bus stop. There is a Walmart across from Ron Jons, and there are a couple of good and reasonably priced restaurants in the area - Punjab Restaurant (Indian) and Florida Sea House were named by the bus driver (Ron). Please tip the bus driver at least $1, as they depend on such tips. Across from Ron Jons is a Walmart and you can buy soda and bring it on ship for the rest of the cruise.
We actually headed back to the ship for lunch. I was surprised to see the number of people who stayed back on ship. The pool area was full again, and kids were everywhere. Relaxed in the room, ate dinner at Tsar's, and headed to Stardust Theatre.
The comedian Steven Scott had a show at 7:30 PM and was entertaining. Before he came on, Shona the cruise director told us of her experience from the morning, which was hilarious:
Normally I don't step out of the ship, but one of the passengers asked me where the line for the KSC excursion was. One of the staff had pointed the guests towards the bus, and at the front of the line was a woman who was wearing a mini skirt that was really short, and really tight resulting in her being able to take only very small steps.
When the bus door opened, she was unable to get on the bus, because her tight skirt wouldn't let her take a big step. She wiggled and tried again, but was unsuccessful. The people in the line were getting agitated. Then she tried to loosen a button, but again was unsuccessful. The driver of the bus took a step back as he didn't want to get into any sort of trouble.
With the passengers getting more agitated, the man behind her held her from the back, and lifted her into the bus. The woman got really mad and said "You don't know me well enough to handle me like that". The man said "Sure, you can pull my zipper up and down a few times, and we both know each other".
Day 4 - Great Stirrup Cay
It is very difficult to get on the first tender, however if you really want to be amongst the first to get to the island, buy an excursion such as the $20 unlimited Hippo slide. Kids and most adults will love the Hippo ride. From NCL's perspective, if you spend money, you are understandably treated better. If you prefer not to be rushed, eat lunch and leave later when there aren't too many people getting on the tenders. I should probably have done that, however I ended up coming back for a light lunch and shower, and headed back to the island. Snorkeling is the main activity on this island, and you have to pay $30 to rent the gear. Get your own gear, and rent the vest for 5-6 bucks. I wasn't overly impressed with snorkeling, though it is fun. I expected to see more fish, and corals, but it was limited, and the water was really salty. However you can wash off at the island itself and get lunch there. If you eat Halal, there's no sea food, but they have veggie burgers if you ask. Ice cold water and fresh fruit was probably what I enjoyed best though.
On your way back, you will want to be amongst the first ones to get off the tender, as they scan everything all over again, and it takes 20 minutes or so to offload the 150-200 passengers from each tender. Tenders have different points to get off, so ask one of the crew members in advance.
We made it to the 7:30 pm Second City show. It was good, but I was expecting more out of it.
Day 5 - The best day on the cruise, spent at Nassau. Now I know why a lot of people are crazy about Bahamas. Ship gets there early in the morning. We ate breakfast and headed out at 9:30 am. Took the water taxi ($3 per person each way) to Paradise Island where the Atlantis is. Bottled water was being sold in the taxi for $1, and we were told that the same thing is $5 at the Atlantis. The aquarium in Atlantis behind the casino is great, considering it is free. There are a lot of fish including sting rays in there. You can also snorkel with them if you buy the pass. We took the water taxi back, and went to the straw market. My daughter loved the braiding there. Bought tee-shirts 3 for $10, and a cap for $8. We headed back to the ship for lunch since it is right by the straw market. After lunch, I rented the scooty for $25 including gas, and $10 for insurance. You have to give a deposit of $20, and pretty much have to tip everyone. Keep some singles, as everyone is expecting you to tip. The scooty was the most fun for us. Though the guy gave a beaten up scooty, it was a lot of fun riding it all over the island. I went to the far end of the island - about 7 miles, and then headed back to downtown. Visited McDonalds (free wifi) and the Pirate musuem, which was good, but not huge.
We saw the Incanto show which lived up to the hype. Alisa was amazing, and the act in the end was perfect. Around 9:30 pm the pool area was great, not crowded for the first time!
Day 6 - On sea
Attended the international crew show. It wasn't anything out of the world, but these were all crew members who have other jobs and it was nice to see them display their talents.
Juggling show was house full. The two jugglers were good and the show was loved by the kids. They made a few errors, but they weren't very noticeable.
The liars show was nice too, but it is for adults only. All 4 artists try to explain the meaning of the word, but 3 of them are lying. The words they used were interesting...
"blennophobia" - fear of slimy gluey stuff
"plotlokton" shouting eskimo woman
"pismire" pissing ant
"tittup" horse sound
Day 7 - On sea
Bridge tour was very nice. Cirque Bijou was nice though a lot of it was dominated by Alisa, and if you saw Incanto, there are a few repeats.
Tsar's honored a special meal request on the last sea day.
Instant Win strips seemed like a waste of money.
Disembarkation - Disaster Day
So far everything was great, but this was the worst morning for most if not all passengers. Seriously NCL needs to improve the process. Firstly, other than Garden Cafe, none of the restaurants seemed to be open. A lot of people got to the Garden Cafe after 9 am, and it was closed. Can you believe it? Once NCL knows you will be getting off, there's no food. There were huge delays with the debarkation, so a lot of hungry folks were still on the ship until 11:30 AM. Long lines at the immigration. This was one place where you would prefer not to have a US passport. The line for non US citizens was very short.
• Great shows
• Nassau is fantastic (weather permitting). The water in the ocean is crystal clear.
• Shona, the Cruise Director is very friendly and approachable. My daughter requested her to dance with her, and she complied.
• John O'Hara the Hotel Director makes extra efforts to honor requests.
• Towel animals were often made by the room steward, and were adorable.
• Good gym, great location and view, though the treadmills in the front row are too high.
• Ship is very punctual. It departed all the ports on time and will leave people behind who are late.
• $210 for parking at the Pier is a rip off. Find cheaper parking or take a cab, if you're local.
• Laundromat is not self service. They offered $25 deals, but I would rather do my own laundry.
• While freestyle cruising is great, I prefer dedicated wait staff who can easily address special requests.
• Crowd can be rowdy. Too many kids can make too much noise.
• Tendering at Great Stirrup takes time.
• The Garden buffet should be open for 24 hours like other cruise ships. They have some 24 hour restaurants, but they aren't as easily accessible. The specialty restaurants should have longer hours. I tried Tsar's at 9:30 for breakfast, but was late, and they weren't accepting anyone for lunch after 1:00 pm either.
• Some ethnic cuisines were off, Indians don't eat beef or pork, but one of those items was featured under the Indian selection every night.
• Too noisy at Great Stirrup due to the construction going on.
• Get breakfast early on disembarkation day. Be prepared for long lines while debarking.