From the time we boarded to the time we departed, my vacation experience was characterized by waiting on lines with inconsiderate fellow passengers and inept staff. Here's a very telling observation I made on our second day at sea: I commented to my husband at 10:00am that every machine in the gym was occupied, every table in the Garden Cafe was occupied, and every lounge chair by the pool was occupied. How could the Jewel not have enough space to accommodate all the passengers they booked?! This overcrowding detracted from everyone's experience and really ruined the vacation for me.
We were part of a large group so we ate most meals in the Garden Cafe. It was like eating in a cafeteria -- the food was plentiful but nothing special. I liked that they had Indian food every day but the food signage at the buffet stations didn't match what was offered. For example, they kept an 'Omelet Station' sign up all day but when I asked for an omelet at lunch, they said they're only available at breakfast. And on more than one occasion I was unhappy to find ham in what was labeled 'Eggs & cheese'.
They could do a better job with the lines if they organized the layout better. For example, syrup and toppings were placed before the pancakes and waffles in the buffet line so people had to go through the line twice or just cut the line (which is what most people did). Same thing with the soft serve ice cream. There were never fewer than 15 people in line for soft serve ice cream and part of the problem is that the toppings were placed before people got to the ice cream machine.
Other general complaints about the Garden Cafe: they often ran out of drinking cups and the staff was always underfoot pushing carts through the dining room and making us get out of their way instead of them watching out for us.
I could go on about the other restaurants but I'd rather focus on my other chief disappointment - - the pools. There was simply not enough space in the pool area or in the pools themselves to accommodate everyone who wanted to use them. People hoarded chairs early in the morning and absolutely none were available by 8:00am. Walking the deck was an obstacle course through lounge chairs and discarded food - - some on plates and some spilled. The Kiddie pool was ridiculously small (capacity of 7, I'm guessing) and had a slide that ended about a foot before the wall which seemed poorly planned and dangerous. It was stuck back in a stuffy corner that got as hot as a steamroom with little ventilation. I never saw any staff supervising the area though I witnessed several young kids slipping down the steps from the kiddie hottub.
There were two main pools, one for adults only. Both pools were relatively small and given the family orientation of this cruise, the one pool that was open-to-all was constantly overcrowded. Both pools had a uniform depth of nearly 6 feet which meant most people couldn't stand and therefore had to hang off the sides, which also got very overcrowded. It was ridiculous. And making matters worse was the total lack of consideration the passengers displayed and the inaction by staff to do anything about it. I saw a child vomiting over the side of a hottub and not only did their family not remove the child from the situation, it took the staff 15 minutes to do anything about cleaning it up. I also saw a man in the open-to-all pool spit chewing tobacco in the water and swish it away with his hand, hoping no one had noticed. I am still completely incredulous that anyone would do such a thing!
I could on to complain about the children's activities featuring lines over 40 minutes to decorate a cupcake or make-your-own pizza, both of which ran out of supplies in the middle of the event. But I think what I've written already speaks volumes and helps explain why I will never again consider an NCL cruise.