Let me start out by saying that I cruised with the NCL Gem in May 2011 and had an awesome experience. We chose to book on the Jewel because we thought we would get the same service and quality. Unfortunately we were wrong.
Hotel info: We stayed at the Westin Times Square which we loved. Very central to everything in the city. Rates were reasonable. We paid less than $10 for a cab to the cruiseport. We would stay there again.
Embarkation - We left from NYC which was convenient for us. The whole process wasn't overly long but we had an issue with the woman we dealt with at the port to set up our onboard account. She told us that when we set up our onboard account to use our credit card and not debit because on a debit a hold is put on the card. She said this to us three times so we used our credit card. Later on in the cruise we got a letter saying that our card had been denied (I already had a hold on my credit card because of a hotel we stayed at in NYC, and only used my credit card because the woman at the desk told me to) Long story short, when I went to the financial desk to settle the matter, the manager was very rude to me. When I gave her my debit card she said she was going to authorize the card for $100, and then she said "do you even have that amount on your card?" how rude is that? the comment made me very upset.
Stateroom- When we arrived on the ship, our stateroom was not available yet. When we did get to our stateroom we were disappointed. We had upgraded to a balcony stateroom and were not happy with it. We stepped out on the balcony and there was salt water stains all over the window of the balcony. There was dirt, coffee stirrers, a bandaid and dried up macaroni and cheese on the floor of the balcony. We felt that the room must have been overlooked when we checked in. We let this go the first day but after other things happened with the service we were receiving the next day we did complain. The balcony was cleaned once we complained.
Activities - We thought that the activities were good, although I felt that there could have been more activities planned for the days that we were at sea. There wasn't much to do. We enjoyed the game shows at night. We loved the newlywed game and quest (the adult scavenger hunt! so much fun!) The cruise director was good, and personable but we felt that some of the assistants were very catty and snobby.
Service - Some of the waitstaff was friendly, we loved our room attendant, very sweet and welcoming. On the second night of our cruise we decided to order room service. My cousin who I was traveling with, tried to get through to room service for an hour but could not get through. we decided to go down to the blue lagoon (24 hr restaurant) We both ordered our food. I received mine but my cousin did not get her food. We waited another 20 min for the waitress to come back, when she did she said "is there a problem?" and my cousin said "I didn't recieve my food. The waitress said that she could put the order through again but there was other people in front of her so she would have to wait again. My cousin only ordered strawberry pound cake, it wasn't even something that needed to be cooked! So we went back to the room and tried room service again. Of course now we got through but the person on the phone said that since it was after midnight that we would be charged $5 to deliver it! even after we had already waited over an hr!
Dining - Some of the food at the buffet was good but overall I was not impressed with the food, it was just low quality. I felt this way about the Gem as well. I have been on Royal Caribbean before and I felt that their food tasted much better. Don't waste your time with the chocolate buffet. I love chocolate and I really didn't even touch my plate on this cruise or on the gem. We enjoyed the pizza 24/7. It's a large pizza for a $5 fee, I felt that it was worth the charge. We had vegetarian and it was delicious. We ate at Cagneys which was good, Teppanyaki which was outstanding and delicious, Tangos was good and the italian restaurant was good as well. I feel as though NCL keeps the food in the main dining rooms mediocre so you will pay more money to go to the specialty restaurants. Also, in the buffet, there is never enough seating. No matter what time you go, it is very hard to find a seat.
Entertainment - My favorite entertainers were the acrobatic team "Duo Egleia" They are so talented! We also saw the comedian Jean Pierre who was funny but I didn't like how he always put a plug in for all the merchandise that he sells.
Great Stirrup Cay was nice. The water was beautiful and warm. No complaints there except when getting off the ship and waiting for a tender boat. People were supposed to go to the pool area to get tender tickets and then wait for your ticket number to be called. Well it seemed like alot of people who did not spend the time to get tickets were being let off the boat as well. The area to wait was very crowded and we were there for over 30 min. and this was around 11 am! not earlier when everyone wants to get off. Unacceptable
There were some odd things that happened on the cruise - We had called room service and told them that we did not have a menu in our room. Someone came and delivered one. The following morning someone came in our room while we were sleeping and put one on the table to make it look like it was already there. My cousin woke up when the person came in the room. Also the morning that we were getting off the cruise our room attendant came in our room at 7:30 to put our bill in the room. Everyone else had their bill outside the door, why did he come in? just strange stuff went on and I think that is unacceptable and disturbing your privacy.
Disembarkation - The process ran smoothly, kind of long.
Summary - Overall I would not cruise with NCL again. There were just too many things that happened. We did complain to a manager onboard but once you have a bad taste in your mouth you don't want to return. We wrote a letter to NCL and recieved a $133 (per person) credit off another cruise in the next year. I don't think I will be using the credit. Back to Royal next time.