We left Mahwah NJ at 11:15AM in the midst of the snow storm, our limo driver sliding up and down the hills in our neighborhood in 5 inches of snow. As we got closer to NY City, the roads had more slush and less snow. There was absolutely no traffic at all at the Washington Bridge, probably the first time in my life I've ever seen that. It took about an hour to make the normally 45 minute ride, which to my thinking was fantastic.
The car dropped us off at the boat terminal where we got through a long winding security line in about 10-15 minutes. It took another 10 or 15 minutes to check in and we walked onto the Jewel. Total time from our front door about an hour and a half. If it wasn't for the snow storm, there would have been much more traffic and it probably would have taken two hours.
We walked around the ship a few minutes, exploring, and decided to get a bite to eat. The buffet was a madhouse and the Great Outdoors was closed because of the ice and freezing rain, so we went downstairs to Tsars for lunch. Service was a tad slow but the food was fine.
We were curious if there were any changes to Muster, being only a week after the Concordia accident. Muster was a total waste of time, 800 people crammed into the Tsars dining room while they demonstrated how to put on a lifejacket and told us to watch the safety film in the rooms. I don't really see that as a problem, because if the ship is sinking only a total fool would run to the Tsar's dining room, the largest single room in the ship with the fewest exits. I understand the need for some kind of safety plan, but I don't get NCL's.
Sail-away was a little sad: most of the outer decks were closed because they were covered with snow. Portions of the promenade deck were opened, but it was very wet and they had roped off the bow and stern sections. Eventually, we went up to our AFT balcony 9174 where I used a plastic literature holder as a shovel to scrape the snow off the balcony, and we watched the Verrazano bridge glide overhead as we sailed out to sea.
Sea Day one was cloudy with occasional visits from the sun. We went up to the sitting area on deck #14 above the Spinnaker lounge where we sat with shorts, sweatshirts and our Kindles. You could see breaks of sun through the clouds illuminating large patches of ocean, and the Captain was steering the ship to "hit" those sun-patches, which I never noticed done before.
Monday we were in Port Canaveral and decided to stay on the ship. It was sunny, close to 80 degrees and we enjoyed a half empty ship sitting on deck 13 overlooking the pool.
Tuesday we were at the private Island, Grand Stirrup Cay. The weather was fantastic. Blue sky's, hot sun, about 80 degrees. DW told me to put on sun-screen but I said "no, it's too cold to get sunburned." She was right, I was wrong. Ouch. We did a parasailing trip which was phenomenal. In between reading, sunbathing and having a delicious hamburger among a starving pushing crowd of thoughtless slobs, I got in about an hour and a half of delightful snorkeling on a secluded section of beach that had a shallow, colorful reef.
I found a pair of eyeglasses not far off-shore in a Gucci case. There was no rust or sea growth, so they must have been recently lost. If anyone is missing them, I dropped them off at the Jewel's Customer Service counter for the Lost & Found.
Wednesday I went on a cruise ship excursion for the "Shark Feeding Dive." Look it up on YouTube: it was great if you like to scubadive.
Thursday, Sea-day two, was great. High 70's, calm sea, lots of sun. And this time I put on lots of sunscreen.
Friday, Sea day three, it was bumpy, rainy and windy. It finally cleared up at the end of the day for a wonderful sunset. 5 Hot & sunny days out of 6 on a winter cruise from NY - who can complain?
Now, a subject dear to my heart - Food.
We ate dinner at Azura twice, Tsar's twice, LeBistro twice and once at Tango's. Breakfast we usually grabbed at the Great Outdoors, although once we made it to Tsar's. The MDR only serves breakfast until 9:30, which is a bit early for us.
As far as dinner was concerned, I thought the MDR was not as good as it's been on past NCL cruises.
Day one (Saturday) was lobster night. Well, actually 1/2 lobster tail and a piece of red snapper over spaghetti night. My DW's lobster was good, but my half tail was about the size of a Jumbo shrimp, and way overcooked. I asked for a second order, and it was much better.
None of the other meals in the MDR's was memorable, at least not from the quality or variety of the food. The service was good at every meal, and the waitstaff always quick to recommend a particular dish. In no particular order, the other nights I tried eggplant parmigiana, spaghetti with bolognese sauce (which was very good), and a pasta & shell fish meal that included two mussels, a clam, three calamari rings and a morsel of fish fillet. I guess when you pay $500 for a 7 day cruise, you can't expect fillet mignon every night. But spaghetti is kind of cheap.
Le Bistro is by far our favorite restaurant on the ship. I can't remember the French names, but one night I had the fillet mignon and the DW had the Bouillabaisse which she loved. The second time there she had the Lamb and I had the salmon. We love the escargot and think we cruise with NCL just for that alone. And the chocolate fondue desert - real creamy milk chocolate. I asked for a dish of vanilla ice cream, just so the extra chocolate wouldn't go to waste.
Tangos was great too. I had skewered shrimp & swordfish, and DW had shredded beef fajitas. We tried three or four appetizers as well. Tangos had a "first margarita on us" promotion, which gives you the opportunity to drink a 5 oz watered down margarita at no cost. I ended up getting two more (on my dime of course), and barely felt the alcohol until the third. Not that I need to be drunk, but let's just say it seemed to me I can remember having more potent drinks in the past.
The buffet is hit and miss. I loved the pizza. The salad bar had good variety, although they have four, one quart pouring containers of dressing, one of which is labeled as "Ranch." I guess the other three are mystery dressing?
The hot buffet line includes asian food, indian food and the weird cheap stuff they put on cruises like macaroni & cheese. I guess people like it, but I expect more on my vacation than macaroni & cheese. Now, I did like the breaded, deep fat fried cauliflower and broccoli. It gives me a chance to pretend to myself that I'm eating healthy. There's a good choice of cold sandwiches and wraps, as well as hamburgers, hotdogs, sausages and chicken.
We avoid the chocohalic buffet, which we also refer to as the Revoltaholic buffet. Just too much food and too many people knocking each over to get at it.
We never had a wait for dinner. We typically went to eat around 8:30 or 9:00PM. Never made a reservation for a speciality restaurant and always got seated on arrival. The only restaurant that was consistently full was the Hibachi restaurant, Tempenyaki's, which I'm sure I spelled wrong.
We don't go to the show's because they are too early. Generally, we sit at the pool until sunset, go in the hot-tub for half an hour or so, grab some wine & cheese, shower and go to dinner. Show's just don't fit into that schedule, as the late show ends at 10:15.
The bar entertainment was fun, there was a guy who called himself Bernie Martini who played the piano by Bar City, and a rock band called "Next Guess" that did some old 70's music that's our stuff.
We tried going to the "Hot Hot Party," but it consisted of a lot of people just sitting around Spinnaker's lounge watching the NCL crew in ripped t-shirts jump up and down and scream "we're having a hot hot time!" It just made me feel old, and since there was no place to sit, we left. We found a nice quiet outdoor bar overlooking the pool and sat there and enjoyed a nightcap.
I don't mean to complain or criticize about the entertainment, I'm just saying it wasn't for me. I like an entertainer who sits in a piano bar and sings Billy Joel songs, and I like midnight comedy shows, which we either missed or they didn't have.
Getting off the ship back in NY was well organized. We left our cabin at 9:30, not realizing that breakfast stops serving at 9:30, waited in the atrium about 20 minutes and got off the ship. Customs and bagage pickup was quick. We were in our limo by 10:30.
About the room:
We were in AFT balcony 9174. Great room. The overhang from deck 10 gives you almost complete privacy. (The deck 11 balcony is pretty visible from the Great Outdoors above, with deck 10 better covered.) This is the first time in about 10 cruises, including two others on the Jewel, where I found that the water temperature and pressure in the shower was uneven. I'd be in mid-shower when it would suddenly get burning hot, then cold, then return to the set temperature. The bathroom was also looking a bit "tired." The trash bins under the sink looked like it had rust on it. There were missing paint chips on the privacy slider door between the toilet and sink and some of the caulking looks like it had been gouged out. The gasket on the slider door to the balcony was torn out of the slider track. I noticed several gouges in the paneling in the hallway outside our room. Nothing to ruin my cruise, but for a ship that was refurbed last year, I was surprised to see such signs of wear and tear.
Finally, one real criticism: The PA system cannot be heard in the AFT of the ship. When the captain makes his daily announcement, we'd have to run out into the hall to hear it. It didn't come across any of the NCL channels on the TV either. Even when they were calling tag colors to leave the ship, we didn't hear it. As a matter of fact, we were "light blue" and supposedly in the 9:45 disembarkation group. When we were waiting in the atrium, it was about 9:50 and they announced "We are way ahead of schedule on disembarkation." The screens show "colors already called" and light blue wasn't one of them. We decided to get on line to leave, and when we got into the terminal, ours were just about the only bags left in our section.