We had an excellent first time cruiser experience on the Norwegian Jewel. I booked it about 60 days in advance through an online booking agent. This was to be my 40th birthday celebration. The timing and price were perfect. NCL was great to work with from the start. I was reading through different rules and guide lines and had a few questions. On several occasions I called a customer service agent and they were knowledgeable and always willing to help.
I immediately joined the Cruise Critic roll call for our cruise and signed up to attend the Cruise Critic members meet and greet. In the roll call, as well as other blogs, I was able to get acquainted with veteran and other first time cruisers. Cruise Critic proved to be my most valuable source of information for our cruise preparation and packing. Every topic concerning cruising is here, from future cruise credits, and understanding the automatic gratuities to washy washy girls.
We embarked from New York City. We are from Connecticut so we parked our car at the Metro North Southeast station the cost for 7 days was only $32, it is $30 a day at the pier. The train ticket to Grand Central Station was $12.25pp one way. With this being our first time sailing out of NYC I wasn't taking any chances and arranged a car to meet us curbside at Grand Central through the NCL website. This was about $30. We took a cab to Grand Central when we returned for $10.
Embarkation was well organized and pretty painless. We boarded the ship around noon, the staterooms were not ready yet so we wondered around and found a bar and the decks. All this was brand new to us. We were allowed into the rooms around 1:30. Our room was not quite ready so we went and explored for a while longer.
The On board entertainment was endless. There was something for everyone. Once we got our bearings on the location of certain things on the ship and where we were in reference to it all we had a great experience! We went to see Cirque Bi Jour in the Stardust Theater. This was an awesome high flying acrobatic performance, a must see. We watched and participated in several game shows like "The weakest Link" "Dancing with the Jewel Stars" and Daily Trivia. When we weren't relaxing in our stateroom and balcony, we were engaged in some form of activity, somewhere, meeting new and interesting people.
The spa's Chill Lounge pass was well worth it for us. It was $119 plus tax and gratuity each. There was a men side and a women's side then a couple's area. These areas were child free. Here there were tile lounge chairs that were heated, and facing a wall of windows looking out from the front center of the ship. Other sets of soft seating, a large whirlpool with 2 double loungers in it, and 2 sets of double showers.
I purchased a "Total Spa Day" for a discounted price on a shore day. It was the day we were supposed to stop at Great Stirrup Cay, but the seas were to rough and we had to skip it. That did not bother us as much as it did some others. The treatment was 75 minutes and included a mini facial and scalp massage. I added on a hair conditioning treatment. I did have to remind the therapist about the added treatment and was hit with a product sales pitch before I was off the table. I put an end to that and will be sure to prevent it from happening again. Overall the treatment was relaxing and therapeutic and I will do it again.
Dining and food were varied and there was cuisine and a setting for everyone. I normally stay away from buffets, have for years for various reasons. We loved the buffets. The food was fresh, good variety at every meal, the menu change everyday, and CLEAN! Tsar's Palace was also a great place to have a sit down meal that is part of the included dining. Very Grand. We did enjoy the Cagney's steak house one evening more for the setting and ambiance of the restaurant. It was a fee of $25 per person, can't say that we would do it again. My husband had equally good steak on the deck at the BBQ the next day. Overall we ate at all the different buffets. Room service was good and convenient for morning coffee and a light breakfast or snack.
The Photo services were lack luster. There were several opportunities to have single, couples, and group photos taken just about every evening. The positioning in most cases was amateur at best. All the "professional Style" photos were automatically printed in an 8x10. We wanted 5x7's. In order to get 5x7's we had to pay $20 for each 8x10 and then an additional $12.95 for a 5x7. (yup $34.95 for a 5x7!) We bought 2 8x10, and 1 5x7 that had been taken by them on the deck the day we sailed. The amount of pictures that are printed and don't get purchased is astronomical. Very wasteful. We would have bought more if we could have looked at a proof sheet and chosen what to print and what size.
Disembarkation was a breeze. We chose to walk off with our luggage at our leisure. (We watched the luggage handlers while embarking...ouch) There were plenty of cabs at the curb to take us to the train station. We were home and unpacked by 2pm.
We had a great time. we have been asking ourselves why we have not done this before? We purchased FCC's while on board, we will be doing it again!