Just off of the Jewel and wanted to share some of the highlights that I think will be useful to those of you traveling on this ship in the near future. I won't write a very long and drawn out review, but will focus on the positives (which were many) and just one or two negatives, but will include photos for those of you dreaming of heading out aboard the Jewel.
Let me just say that this was only our second NCL cruise. We did the exact same itinerary last March aboard the Gem, but I have to say that thanks to CC I knew so much more and could enjoy the trip much better. It also helps going back to familiar places. We made much better use of our time this trip.
We were a group of five, split into two obstructed ocean view staterooms on deck 8. Our room steward was Rickmann, and he was wonderful. He actually came on-board during the Port Canaveral stop, beginning a long 10-month contract. We have three girls, aged 8, 6 and 3 and they loved his towel animals each night.
One of the highlights for us was the Nickleodeon experience on the Jewel for the children. The Nick host, Isaac, was outstanding, so energetic and fun, he almost made the cruise for us just by his approach with all of the Kids. There were only 400 kids on-board, low for the Jewel compared to vacation time in February when they said they had over 900 kids on-board. There were several events each day to meet and greet the Nickleodeon cast, including Spongebob, Patrick, Dora and Diego. Photo ops galore and even a Dora dance party and story time. If you are traveling with kids this age, be sure to take advantage of an NCL ship with this option. Epic, Jewel and maybe now the Gem. They also had Slime Time Live which was a great family gameshow in the Stardust theatre.
This week was obviously college spring break week, and it sure was lively. For the most part they were well behaved, and since we are on a different time schedule than they, we didn't notice too much noise, although we had our cabin doors banged on at 3 AM a few nights. Our neighbors with kids sleeping got into a confrontation with some loud college party'ers across the hall and had to call security. They admitted to being quite tired of the raucous behavior and would be glad when spring break was over.
Our meet and greet, thanks to Dolores, was great. This was the first time that we had attended a M&G and we learned a lot from Richard Malik the cruise director and Brian Walters the hotel director. I was very interested to learn that the new speciality restaurant Modernos Churrascaria would be opening on the Thursday night of our cruise, and we took advantage to enjoy the wonderful food there on the last night. For $20 pp you get a LOT of food, about 8 different kinds of meat, including bacon wrapped chicken, lamb chops, Spanish and Portuguese sausages and filet mignon and garlic beef served by Gaucho dressed waiters. Also included is an amazing salad bar. The restaurant is located where Tango's used to be. Just make sure you are hungry when going there. It's definitely worth it.
One criticism that I want to share than both my wife and I noted as frustrating was that around the pool deck, where any people spend the afternoon, there are NO included drink options nearby. The closest is the garden buffet which is quite a hike carrying cups. I asked if there was a place to get drinks and was guided to the bar, which charged $3 for a glass of juice. In he garden buffet, the only drink options were unsweetened ice tea, tea and coffee, plus water. Only juice option was in the morning and by 11AM was no longer available except at a price. NCL should really consider offering juices and milk all day. An ice cream station near the pool would be great also.
The entertainment was exceptional, especially Duo Elegia who really entertained our three daughters. The crew were outstanding as many others have noted on the Jewel. The wait staff in Tsar's Palace, Azura, where we ate 6 of 7 nights and Moderno were all very friendly and professional. One waiter even cut up our daughters steak for her, without being asked. The food was noticeably better this time on the Jewel than we had on the Gem last year. Since we ate in the included restaurants most nights we expected worse food, but we had exceptional food every night. Lobster tail was the first night. Amazing salmon tartar on the regular menu, and I ordered multiple appetizers every night, as they were all so good.
Overall, we had one of our best cruise experiences ever on this trip, and we definitely didn't want it to end. We bought two future cruise certificates, so NCL, you have won our loyalty. Thank you Norwegian for a great and memorable trip!
Next trip, Bermuda!