Just returned from the 7/16 Jewel cruise. I went with my 4 adult children (a 60th birthday present). We were all first-timers. Also with us was my sister and brother-in-law who are cruise veterans. We relied on their experience to make our trip more informed.
Since this is my first cruise, I really didn't know what to expect outside the fact was there was going to be food everywhere, anytime. It is very intersting reading all the previous reviews. Two separate groups, same cruise, same relative accommodations, with one giving 5 stars and the best food and time ever, and the next review from a group having the worst food, service, etc. and vowing never to return. I think it's fair to say the harshest critics seem to be those more experienced cruisers who have been on many of the higher-end lines. Comparing NCL with some of these lines may not be fair.
Embarkation was easier than I thought, on the ship at 12, rooms ready at 2, so we have a leisurely lunch in an empty Tzars.
Had 3 people in an inside stateroom. Room was clean (the whole ship was spotless). A little tight but not in the room that much. I'm average size so I wondered how a six-footer can sit on the toilet, since my knees were practically hitting the wall.
I'm not a fussy eater, so no real complaints about the food. They definately use too much salt in a lot of their preparations (common complaint). The MDRs can get crowded between 6:30 and 7:30. One night they moved us (party of 7) from Tzars to Azura and one night the wait was too long for us, so we went to Chins --awful, I quess this was our major, negative food experience (all 7 of us agreed).
Service was slow at times in the MDRs but we were patient..we always went to the 9:30 shows so we were in no rush. Some nights had more attractive entrees than other nights (you can check out the menus earlier).
The Garden Buffet was fine, nice selection (C'mon critics..it's buffet food!) and because of many individual stations there were no long lines. I especially enjoyed breakfast there.
Did have last night dinner at Cagneys and enjoyed the meal and yes, the service is better etc, etc.
For those who complained about portion size...order another or different entree or desert, especially if you don't like them.
Kids...yeah, they are everywhere, but not excessively annoying. Did whatever sunbathing on the upper decks where it was quiet and away from the pool. Only time we were annoyed by kids is when parents approvingly let their kids run around the MDRs, running around waiters carrying trays of food. It was an accident waiting to happen. I guess the managers do not want to offend anyone by politely asking these parents to reign in their kids. Also, Tzars has the only dress requirement on the ship, yet there were plenty of people with shorts, tees and flip-flops. Either you enforce the rules or eliminate the requirement (that's the teacher coming out in me).
Beers were about $6, mixed drinks $6-10. We brought rumrunners with vodka and rum. Brought in cans of Coke and ordered juices for room service. These made up our pre-dinner, cabin drinks, and we still ordered ship's drinks the rest of the evening. BTW, all drinks include a built in-gratuity.
The entertainment was fine, funny magician, good comedian, energetic reviews, sometimes a little repetitious, some low points...but on the whole, enjoyable.
The Quest, (an adult scavenger-hunt type team game) was fun and the only venue where kids were not allowed (if you like to see men prancing around in their underwear with team member's bras on their heads.)
Yes, they do nickle and dime you...$20 for Deal or No Deal, $39 for bingo, fees for taste testing, etc. A lot of pushing of merchandise (especially on the TV channels).
Port Canaveral, unless you are going to KSC or Orlando, doesn't offer much except Cocoa Beach. We took the Radisson shuttle RT for $6 which took us to Ron Jons. We didn't go to the beach, just walked around...CVS...Dinosauer shop...etc. By the pier, there are cheap beers (compared to the ship).
GSC...get there early...rained heavily, then cleared for a beautiful day. Got lounges under trees so we were set. Buffet very good and not crowded.
The Corona Cigar bar was closed but I had my daily evening cigar at the Sky High Bar or on Deck 7. I was surprised that cigarette smoking was allowed in cabins ( I guess to satisfy the more-smoking foreign clientele.)
In Nassau, spent most of time at Atlantis, took tour ($39), very interesting and beautiful...a lot of walking. Took taxi ($4 pp) and water taxi back ($3pp)..need to take free shuttle from Atlantis to water taxi.
Later we just walked around the shops on Bay St. in Nassau.
Debarkation was no problem..it's better to carry all of your bags back with you to avoid finding your bags at claims later.