Three friends and I have just returned from the Norwegian Jewel cruise to the Bahamas from December 31st 2011 to January 6th, 2012.
First off, the good news:
1. The Norwegian Jewel is a very comfortable, easy ship to navigate around in. It didn't take long to find your way around and the deck levels are situated nicely. There are plenty of places to find food, comfort and excitement. But watch out that the Mongolian Hot Pot and Bar City do not have any signs on the ship to let you know where they are actually located.
2. The staff is incredibly friendly (especially the bar staff) and the food is quite good. The famous "washy-washy, happy-happy" girls always brighten up even the dreariest of days. And that's good, because the weather was terrible for this trip. But, I don't hold the cruise ship accountable for that. There was plenty to do on-board since the sun decided not to shine and we did not get to dock at Great Stirrup Cay, since the waters were so rough. But, the staff made it nice to be on the ship. The best servers were at Bar City and the Star Bar. And Spinnaker Lounge had great entertainment BEHIND the bar!
3. The food was excellent. I have read some reviews here that the food was bad, but I just don't agree. The food was better than on Carnival. So what if you have to pay an extra ten dollars to eat Chinese at the Chin Chin? It's well worth the "all you can eat" that is included. The free buffet had an excellent diversity of good quality, hot and fresh offerings, which changed daily. Breakfast was pretty much the same every day, but still very good and diverse.
4. The entertainment was outstanding at the Stardust theater. The Jewel dancers were quite good and the singers had possibly the best vocal talents of any cruise ships I have been on. Duo Elegia was OUTSTANDING!!! They are an acrobatic act that just blew us all away! They should be performing in Vegas! And although the cruise director "Dan the Man" was very annoying, we have to give him credit for booking such great talent. We loved "The Fountain" show. Very funny.
5. The staterooms are great. The beds are the most comfortable beds we've slept on in a cruise ship. The stewards take great care of you.
Now the bad:
1. Beware of roving gangs of drunken, under-age teens once the sun goes down. I have no idea where security was, but we saw the same group of six under-age teenagers totally wasted throughout the entire cruise. They were obnoxious, rude and downright hostile. They were bribing other (naive) guest with cash to buy them drinks, putting the bill on the (naive) stranger's stateroom card! They would get discovered in one bar and then they would just go to another and do the same thing. They mostly went up to young girls and told them that they had "lost their card." We thought that by the end of the cruise they would be caught, but on the final night, they were in the Spinnaker Lounge already drunk and yelling out obscenities at everyone. Nothing was ever done about it, even though we had mentioned it to the staff.
2. Everything seemed to be about getting more money out of you. We all went to Bingo one day and during the entire game, all the "caller" did was market to us about how to spend more money. We just wanted to play a nice, relaxing game of Bingo, but we just kept being inundated with "Buy these game tickets!" and "Make sure you go and buy things in our duty-free shop!" and "Remember the artwork auction downstairs!" Everything was being marketed ALL THE TIME. It was annoying! In addition, watch out for false advertisements. They lure you in with statements like "Play Bingo for only ten dollars and get a chance to win our jackpot of over $7,000!" But, when you get there, you only get one card for ten dollars and they try to sell you additional cards for a lot more money.
3. Beware of the Bahama excursions. We booked the "Sea and See" excursion and it was pretty bad. The boat they put us on was an old, rickety, oily thing. We were told that we could not sit on the back seat (it was falling apart!). The tour guide had no microphone, so he screamed at us through the entire tour. The people in the front got spat upon and the people in the back couldn't hear a thing. We met a couple that had rented scooters and toured the entire island by themselves and they said they had a great time (although Norwegian specifically discourages this, since they make no money from that).
4. If you want to enjoy the buffet at the Garden Cafe, make sure to get there very early or very late. Any time in-between and you will not be able to find a seat to eat. There are just not enough tables to accommodate all of guests.
All in all, the cruise was enjoyable, but I am not sure that I would travel with them again. I'll have to try out some more cruise lines to see how they compare.