Norwegian Jewel Cruise Review by trex-de: No cooking, no cleaning for me!
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No cooking, no cleaning for me!
We have sailed on Carnival several times but prefer NCL and have recently reached silver latitude status. This cruise was a great price, and our kids could stay with the grandparents and only miss 2 days of school. We sailed the Pearl to Alaska in July 2011 and this ship is very nearly identical, minus the rock wall and a few other differences.
We live in Northern DE so we can easily drive 2+ hours to New York City, leave our car in the secure garage at that port, and hop right on the boat. Embarkation was easy and quick- on the boat in no time. We were required to pay a $30 corkage fee on the 1.5 liter bottle of wine we brought along. Well worth the price compared to prices for alcohol on board.
It is my understanding that the Jewel holds about 2300 passengers. We heard that 1050 of them were 18 and under during this holiday sailing!! As long as they aren't mine, I don't care. The Kids Club did seem like a madhouse at check-in and check-out times and the kid hot tubs More were always full of kids and tweens. They all looked like they were having the time of their lives! I only noticed the kids at one time, when 2 small children were brought to the future sailing meeting and ran all around the Spinnaker lounge hooting and hollering while David tried to give his presentation.
We enjoyed the Garden Buffet and it's selection, which was even better than that on the Pearl. We ate in the main dining room a couple of times, Azura twice, Le Bistro once, sushi lunch once and Asian Fusion is our traditional dinner on the last night. If we didn't like the menu for the main dining room, we just ate elsewhere. Le Bistro is, in my opinion, not what it used to be. I probably enjoyed the sushi and Asian meal the most. Thanksgiving dinner was delicious, better than I had anticipated! But the portions were rather small- more like the sizes we SHOULD eat on Thanksgiving! We thought we were being clever and went to the Garden Buffet later that evening for seconds but- aghast- the buffet was entirely devoted to chocolate! We wanted stuffing! ah well.
We greatly enjoyed the entertainment on the Jewel. Dan the Man was very personable and fun as cruise director. We went to the Meet and Greet on day 2 and met quite a few staff members. Le Cirque Bijou with the married Russian acrobats was just amazing, loved hearing a bit of their backstory in the show that featured just the 2 of them. We saw that couple everywhere we went- on the beach at Great Stirrup Cay, holding hands in Nassau. Cute couple. I dragged my husband to the White Hot Party and we had drinks and I actually got him to dance! The dance floor was packed with everyone from 21-year-olds to couples much older than ourselves! No need to be self-conscious, everyone was just happy to be dancing and enjoying themselves.
We attended the latitudes party we were invited to on the first day or two. As usual, we didn't win a single one of the raffle items. David, the future cruise specialist, assured us there was another invite-only party later in the week for the silver and up latitudes members. We waited, and we waited, still no invite. Stopped by David's office on Friday, only to find that we had missed the party the night before! Never did get an invite, although we were on the list. David said only 9 people showed up, but they presumed it was due to the Thanksgiving holiday and rocky seas. I wonder how many other invites did not get delivered? At any rate, David apologized profusely and a few hours later he rectified the situation with a bottle of wine and chocolate-covered strawberries sent to our stateroom. Bravo, David!
We have sailed this itinerary before and couldn't have cared much about the ports, but we took advantage of not having the kids along and did a few things. The ship docked in Port Canaveral at noon and we took the NCL transport bus to WDW. We paid $181 to walk into Epcot at 1:30pm- only to find that all fast passes had already been distributed for the day! We waited in line for Test Track for 2 hours (it kept breaking) and only rode 2 rides all day. I had thought that the parks would not be packed until close to the holiday, but people I spoke with from Florida and Georgia said their kids were off all week. Drat. We did eat a fabulous dinner at the Biergarten in Future World.
Great Stirrup Cay- wow, we haven't been there in several years and it has been transformed! Hooray NCL for stepping up and making some much-needed changes. It was nearly unrecognizable to us! They are still working on the lazy river and I can't wait to see that completed! Food was improved, tons of beach compared to before, the weather was in the 80's...we never wanted to leave. We rented a floatie and relaxed.
Nassau- we booked the Athol Island snorkel through NCL, which had done several years before. It was disappointing this year; there were plenty of fish at first, when the guides were feeding them, then most of the fish went away and the reef we were at appeared to be dead, very little color at all. Last time the reef itself was beautiful, let along the fish. Still a nice time. Then we took the ferry boat to Atlantis. You can't walk anywhere anymore without the wristband, so we purchases the basic aquarium tour wristband and walked all over that enormous resort until our legs were aching! Their aquariums are simply the best we have seen. Rays the size of queen beds, etc.
We did 2 tasting clinics- the martini tasting and the sangria tasting. The martini tasting was one of 3 tastings offered that week. We tasted 4 martinis at $15 per person. It was fun and informative. The sangria tasting ended up being only about 10 people so it was intimate. Our presenter entertained us with riddles and jokes, and sent us home with his personal sangria recipe which I have already tried and it will knock your socks off!
So we had a fabulous time on this cruise, it was even better than we had expected and we are seriously considering using our $250 future booking ticket to reserve the same week next year and bring the kids along. Thanks, NCL! Less
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