This was my family's fourth Eastern Caribbean cruise in as many years. Although we didn't have plans for a cruise this winter as I took a "Honeymoon Cruise" in September, when I saw the prices and mentioned them to the family the response was "Book It!". We live in the NY area, on Long Island, so the trip to the ship is normally a "piece of cake". The day before the cruise we got a foot of snow and were concerned about the limo ride. As luck would have it everything was cleaned up and we had no problems. That was the first good news. The Embarkation had to be one of the best ever. We had arrived early because of our unfounded fear of traffic delays. The trip through security and the pre-boarding check in was a snap and well organized. We did have to wait almost an hour while they "cleaned" the ship. They said they do that every few trips but we suspected some "norovirus" might have occurred last trip.
When the boarding started everything went smoothly. Our cabin, a mini-suite, was as expected. Our last two trips were on the NCL Gem in the same cabin type so we knew what to expect. We did spot a notice that they were offering a "Special Deal" for the first 50 folks with a 10 day pass to the spa for $119. We signed the wives up and they loved it. We departed about 30 minutes late due to the extra cleaning I suppose. There are two "Main Dinning Rooms". The bigger one "Tzar's Palace" is entered from deck 7 aft and a smaller one on deck 6 called Azure. Our experience on the Gem was the smaller one was better. Although they share the same kitchen the service and noise level was better in the Gem's "Magenta" dinning room. The opposite was true on the Jewel. The small dinning room had poor service and it seemed no dress code. I try not to be a "prig" but if I want to see sloppy people eating in flip flops while their children play computer games at the table I can go to Mc Donalds at home. The Tsar's Palace on the other hand was 4 star every time. We also ate at "Chin-Chin" Chineese and Mama's Italian Kitchen. Both of these "pay resturants" were worth every penny. To qualify that, I am Italian and I love to cook. I do not go to Italian resturants because, as all Italians know, Mom's cooking was best. I have to admit even the sauce at the buffet was good. (Sorry Mom)Somebody in the kitchen knows what he/she is doing!
To conclude my "ship review", the ship is well laid out. The stations at the buffet were a big help. The first two days were tough with the crew serving food but it got better after that. I suppose there will always be people wandering about as if they hadn't ever been on a buffet before or are new to food. The bussing at the buffet was quick and it wasn't to hard to find a table. I thought the food was above average and better then the Gem. The ship itself was very clean and, as usual in my experience, the cabin attendants were wonderful. My only complaint with the food service was the coffee area back aft of the Garden Cafe was often closed. I understand they don't serve food there all day. There is a great seating area with tables back there and there were always folks sitting out side with a cup of coffee or some iced tea. When they closed the food line they also closed the coffee machines causing you to have to walk into the buffet to get a cup of coffee or an iced tea and then walk back through the crowds.
My other complaint was with the "Customer Service Desk". The short version was I booked three cabins at the same time, through the same agent, with the same credit card. We were to receive $100 cabin credit from NCL and an additional $140 from the Booking Agent. One cabin did get the additional $140 but the other two did not. I went to the desk to have them fix the oversight assuming they would contact my agent, their "Travel Partner", and fix it. Not so. Their responce was to "contact the office in Miami" and then decline the credit. When I asked for an explaination they told me to see my travel agent when I got home. After being "jerked around" for most of the cruise they said my agent agreed to give me a credit when I got home. I have worked in Customer Service for 31 years and never would have gotten away with that. THey should have issued the credit and worked it out with my agent, their "Travel Partner" in my opinion. My brother and I both spent the cruise with the feeling we were being "ripped off" and being treated poorly till the last two days.