Nearly 10 years old, Norwegian Jewel has definitely lost some of its luster. But a new pub, computerized photo gallery and some funky digital signage added during a 2014 dry dock give the ship a touch of modern cred. Add to that an always-casual, laid-back ambience and a wealth of dining venues, and Norwegian Jewel is a comfortable base from which to explore any port of call.
The first of Norwegian Cruise Line's Jewel-class ships, Norwegian Jewel may lack many of the bells and whistles of its younger fleetmates (no rock wall, bowling alley or ropes course), but it's anything but boring. With dozens of daily activities, numerous lounges for live music, a waterslide on the pool deck and 10 eateries from which to choose, the variety of choices is dazzling. You'll find it all, from cheesy poolside traditions (sexiest leg contest, anyone?) and interactive game shows (the Not So Newlywed Game never gets old) to breathtaking aerial acts and a logic-defying magician in the main theater.
With so much to see and do, it's a shame to see how often the ship shows its age, particularly in the cabins and Spinnaker Lounge, where upholstery is dated. (Bold, patterned upholstery went out of style years ago.) But a brand-new dance floor in Spinnaker still makes it one of the best spots for dancing on the ship. And our cabin, while not overly large, was a comfortable handful of square inches larger than the cabins we've stayed in on most newer ships. The extra room made it slightly easier to ignore our stained sofa bed.
Jewel's facade is not all faded, though. Our favorite spot to grab breakfast and lunch on the go was O'Sheehan's Bar & Grill, which was added onboard Jewel during a spring 2014 dry dock. O'Sheehan's is bright and airy, thanks to windows on both sides, and it dishes up guilty pleasure pub grub like fish 'n' chips and chicken pot pies.
A pleasant side effect of O'Sheehan's, open 24/7, is that it takes pressure off the main dining rooms, making the waits for dinner, which in the past could be up to an hour, much shorter. We never waited more than five minutes for a table, regardless of whether we showed up at 6 p.m. or 7 p.m.
Also added during dry dock is nifty digital signage that not only lets passengers know what's going on onboard, but allows them to make dining reservations and buy shore excursions on the spot. See that Cagney's is filling up fast? No need to get up to the reservations desk. Just swipe your key card, and you're all set to go.