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.
In the Caribbean, the majority of passengers are North American, though you'll find lots of Brits looking to escape the winter cold, as well. In Alaska, you'll find a bit more of an international mix with passengers from Australia, Europe and Asia also onboard. The ship draws a broad range of age groups, especially during summer and winter/spring breaks when children and teens are out of school.
Casual dress is the name of the game when it comes to Norwegian's freestyle cruising. You might spot a handful of passengers in suits or cocktail dresses on the ship's one (very optional) formal night, but most stick to a fairly laid-back version of formal (i.e. slacks, collared shirts, sundresses, skirts, etc.). This is especially true while the ship is in Alaska. Shorts are allowed in all dining venues except the Tsar's Palace main dining room and Le Bistro French restaurant. After 5 p.m., tank tops, flip-flops and baseball caps are not permitted in any of the restaurants.
Passengers are billed $12 per person, per day, and can prepay the charge or pay while onboard. Passengers can also tip individually with cash or by filling out vouchers at the guest services desk if they prefer. Crewmembers are permitted to keep all cash tips they receive. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar drinks, while 18 percent is added to spa services. For passengers using butler and concierge services, Norwegian recommends a tip "commensurate with the services rendered."