45 Barcelona to Europe - Western Mediterranean Norwegian Jewel Cruise Reviews

Background information: This was my seventh cruise, third one with norwegian cruise lines. I cruised with my husband, mom and dad, and my sister and her fiance. Embarkation: We flew from Boston to NYC, NYC to Paris, and then Paris to ... Read More
Background information: This was my seventh cruise, third one with norwegian cruise lines. I cruised with my husband, mom and dad, and my sister and her fiance. Embarkation: We flew from Boston to NYC, NYC to Paris, and then Paris to Barcelona on Air France. No problems with any of flights, however, we were exhausted since we flew overnight and there was a six hour time difference. We finally arrived in Barcelona with no sleep at around 12 pm. We took the local taxi to the pier which cost about 25-30 euros.They also charge a baggage fee. Be careful they do try to rip you off. We were on the boat by 1 and put our small bags in our room. You might want to put a bathing suit and tanning lotion in a small bag because the bags don't come to your room to much later. We then went to the Garden Buffet for lunch. Reviews in food section. The Boat: I thought the boat was nice. We traveled on the Dawn last summer and felt that the Dawn was slightly nicer. I like the glass elevator on the Dawn and the Jewel did not have a really great entrance. Other than that, the boat was nice, not the best, but good. I liked the idea of all the bars( such as champagne bar, martini bar, etc) all in one location. It was nice to sit here and listen to the piano after dinner. The pool area is very crowded but I expected this. We were never able to get 6 seats next to each other since by 10 am, all the chairs were already "reserved" with towels. Norwegian needs to make a better system for this. People leave towels for hours at a time. They did have 2 pools and 2 hot tubs although a lot of kids younger than 13 used the hot tubs without adult supervision. Entertainment: The entertainment on Norwegian is some of the best. Due to the very long days, we only went to 2 shows but both were fantastic. We wen to the Jean Ryan company performance and Cirque Birjoe( not to be missed). My husband and parents also went to see a magician named Sean that they loved. At night, there was a lot to do around the boat. They usually had a band playing in the Spinnaker Lounge and lots of other entertainment around the ship. We usually went to the show and then to the casino and called it a relatively early night since we were so tired. Excursions: The ports were the absolute highlight of my trip. Everyday we had an incredible time. We did 2 excursions by the boat and the remaining days we used ROMEINLIMO( more information to follow). In Messina, we did the Taormina and Sicilian Vineyard excursion. We went to Taormina and had beautiful views of Mt. Edna and saw the Roman theater. We then went to a beautiful vineyard and had incredible wines, that we bought, and a home cooked italian feast. It was so much fun. The next excursion we did via the boat was Monaco and Nice highlights. This tour was really worth it as we saw things that I don't think we would have been able to see on our own. The trip went to Monte Carlo. Nice and Monte Carlo are beautiful and not to be missed. The BEST part of our trip was using a company called ROMEINLIMO( www.romeinlimo.com). We had the best driver named CARLO. We used him on Wednesday to Naples, thursday to Rome, and friday to Florence. He had everything planned out for us including all the prearranged tours to Pompeii,Vatican, David,etc. If we wanted to do something else, he was very accommodating. For lunch he took us to some of the best places that were reasonably priced. Truly was the best way to see the ports in the limited amount of time we had. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!! Food: The food on the Jewel I thought was very good to excellent. The garden buffet was okay for lunch the first and last day. Nothing to special but they did have variety. We ate breakfast most days in the dining hall before our excursions began. Breakfast was always good. For dinner, we ate in 2 of the speciality restaurants-Le Bistro and Chin Chin. Both meals were great although I did miss the chocolate fondue at Le Bistro. The main dining hall food for dinner was mostly excellent. Disembarkation: Big problems here but not the cruise fault. Another passenger mistook our baggage for their baggage so i was missing a huge suitcase at the end. Luckily, we and the other family were staying in Barcelona so we got it back later on in the night. Disembarkation overall was very easy. Barcelona: We stayed for four nights at Hotel Jazz in Barcelona. Incredible hotel and city. Loved Barcelona and hotel jazz. Highly recommend Salamanca for dinner in Barcelona. If you are a seafood fan, you will love all the food. Please feel free to email me with any questions.My email is dentistmel@hotmail.com HAVE FUN!! Read Less
Sail Date August 2007
We are a married couple who have been on 15 previous cruises the seven last years, and this was our 3rd cruise with NCL. We embarked and disembarked in Barcelona, and we have never had a smoother and faster embarkation than on this ship. ... Read More
We are a married couple who have been on 15 previous cruises the seven last years, and this was our 3rd cruise with NCL. We embarked and disembarked in Barcelona, and we have never had a smoother and faster embarkation than on this ship. Upon arriving at the port, embarkation took only about 30 minutes until we were on the ship. It was also the best disembarkation ever, no hustle at all to leave your cabin at a fixed time, and no problem having room service breakfast, and it was also delivered on the requested time. Luckily we did not trust the warning given on board during the cruise, that it would only be a limited number of taxis available at the port with arrival, and that we therefore were advised to buy shuttle bus tickets to Barcelona Airport. From our color tag was announced about 8 am for disembarkation of the ship, and afterwards picking up our luggage at the terminal, the whole process took only about 35 minutes from we left our stateroom on deck nine, to we said goodbye to our taxidriver at Terminal B at the Airport. When disembarkation from Voyager of the Seas this May, also from Barcelona, we bought a shuttle bus transfer on board to the airport. This was with much more hustle than picking up a taxi on our own. Much faster was it also to take a taxi. Norwegian Jewel is a very nice ship. Our balcony cabin was nice and clean, and it was very well taken care of by our two nice cabin attendants from the Philippines. Comments about some of the restaurants and cafes on board: The Garden Cafe on the Jewel is redesigned compared to the Garden Cafes on board the NCL ship's Dawn and Star. On the last mentioned two ships, we found the Garden Cafes to be a very canteen look a like. On the Jewel it is placed separate food stations for different menu selections on the floor, which is a great improvement. We are however not a great fan of the Garden Cafe, it is still noisy and crowded. On the other hand we really loved the Ship's Great Outdoor Cafe. Coming from a place with long winters, we mostly loved to sit out in the open to eat lunch and breakfast. Fortunately the weather was warm and sunny during our whole cruise. The buffet menu at the Great Outdoors was limited, but it was easy to pick up more menu selections on the nearby Garden Cafe. We found the quality of the buffet food to be quite alright and with a lot of selections - not outstanding in the gourmet sense - but acceptable nonetheless. With the the exception of two, we had all our other dinners in one of the two the main restaurants, Tsar's Palace. There are two main restaurants on board with waiter service - Tsar's Palace and Azura (same menu). On this cruise we were unfortunately very disappointed with the menu selections for the main courses for dinner at Tsar's Palace and Azura. The choices were limited, and for instance if you are a fan of fish- and seafood, we only found for two days during the cruise that they had a seafood-/fish dish on the menu. The limited dishes offered was however mostly tasteful and with a nice presentation. The reason for the limited menu selections is of course that NCL wish to push their passengers to use the cover charge restaurants. We had two dinners in the cover charge restaurant Le Bistro. We find the food to be of a high quality and with a nice presentation. However, we were disappointed that they no longer had Filet Mignon on the standard cover charge menu to $15. Instead they could now offer a Chateaubriand on the special menu, for $10 in addition to the cover charge of $15. Strange enough, we also found the waiters in Le Bistro to be a bit more in a hurry, than we for instance experienced in Tsar's Palace. Except for one waiter, we were very satisfied with the waiter service in Tsar's Palace, both for dinner and breakfast. We were also very satisfied with the service from the wine stewards (yes, they have wine stewards in Tsar's Palace). The head waiters in Tsar's Palace were also attentive. Compared to the Dawn and Star, Jewel's Italian Restaurant is no longer a part of the Garden Cafe, but has its own interior, except for a few table at the Great Outdoors (not everyone was happy with the last point). A nice touch, we had no trouble at all getting a table for two for all our meals, not in anyone of the restaurants we visited on board. Some comments about the pools and the Jacuzzi on Pool deck: After our opinion, the Jewel has a lot of offers to kids concerning water activities, and though we are not travelling with children, we support that. There is a little kid's pool, with a Jacuzzis for the parents/parents with children. The children's/ youngsters pool are at the same size as the only adults pool. In addition they have two jacuzzier and also a waterslide, besides the pool. Nearby the children's/youngsters pool is the adult's only pool. Unfortunately, still with all this offers for water activities, the children's/youngsters are also using the adult's only Pool, and the two Jacuzzis for adults. We were very disappointed with that, and there were only a few times that the Pool/Deck staff prevented other than adults to use the Pool/Jacuzzis. We have seen much better Pool/Deck staff on other cruise lines. This is a huge lack of supervision/management. We think NCL does a good job with bands playing on Pool deck. However, we think the bands should rotate more. Most of the time there was a reggae band playing, and after a few days we had preferred another repertoire. This was a cruise in the Med. and not in the Caribbean! The itinerary: We are very found of the itinerary in the Western Mediterranean. We have only one complaint, it was all to short a stay in Villefranche on the Côte d'Azur. The last tender was already leaving Villefranche at 2.15 pm. The entertainment: We found most of the entertainment on board to be of a good quality. Conclusion: We really like the freestyle cruising concept, and we also find most of the crew to be very service minded. But as you will understand reading this review, my wife and myself find both positive and negative thinks on our cruise with the Norwegian Jewel in the beginning of August. Read Less
Sail Date August 2007
We were a party of a late-50's couple with an adult daughter. We had no problems in Barcelona, coming from Germany where we had spent the night with friends. Getting onto the ship was a breeze. Our bags were delivered promptly. Our ... Read More
We were a party of a late-50's couple with an adult daughter. We had no problems in Barcelona, coming from Germany where we had spent the night with friends. Getting onto the ship was a breeze. Our bags were delivered promptly. Our mini-suite was tight for moving around, but with plenty of storage. For three adults, the mini-suite, with balcony, was a plus. The bathroom was quite nice. Service to our room was fine. They kept us well-supplied with fruit and ice. We made the mistake of booking in August when many other nationalities were on holiday. There were tons of children running around, crashing into us, and not able/willing to read the signs in English about no children under 12 in the hot tubs, or in the adult pool. We were able to use the adult pool once. Complaints to the attendant helped minimally. He explained to us that most of the people on the ship did not speak or read English. Cultural differences were obvious in dress, smoking and demeanor. Other than that, we enjoyed the pool decks very much. We discovered Tsar's Palace early in the cruise and ate there every night. The dishes were well-prepared and interesting enough. Wine choices were what we were used to. Service was excellent. Families with children were well dressed (resort wear), and well behaved. Eating in the buffet area was very much like being in the pool area - children careened around like crazy! But it was very close to our stateroom and we enjoyed the convenience for quick breakfasts and snacks, and drinks. We appreciated the "free" tea, coffee and tap water. Another note about room choice: We were on the 11th. level, mid-ship. Excellent choice, being very close to the elevators, stairs, restaurants and pools. About the excursions: We were very pleased with the guides and transportation. There is no way we could have seen so much, in so little time, on our own. We recommend the Naples/Pompeii trip and the Taste of Florence. Don't buy gold jewelry from the stores recommended by the ship without comparison shopping. Listen to your guides - they know what they are talking about. The prices for the trips seemed reasonable. Note that the all-day trips are grueling even for people in great shape, as we all are. Several people complained, but they probably had not read up on how much walking and climbing was included. The weather was perfect, but very warm in Rome. The guides kept us in the shade as much as possible. Nice. The shows were enjoyable and it was nice to have something to do after dinner. We enjoyed the live bands around the pool deck. Disembarking was a breeze, too. We chose to carry off our own luggage, secure our own taxi, and it took no time at all. Having a late-afternoon flight out of Barcelona back to Germany, we went into the city of Barcelona and enjoyed a walking tour on our own. There were tons of people rolling their bags, too, so having our luggage with us was no problem. I cannot reiterate enough - pack light!! You won't need much. All in all, our family had a fabulous time! We expected to use patience with others and it helped! We expected to spend a lot of money and that helped, too. We expected good value for our money and we got it. We would highly recommend this ship and trip to others. Read Less
Sail Date August 2007
My husband and I recently returned from a 1 week cruise on the Norwegian Jewel which we took to celebrate my 50th birthday. We had previously enjoyed two cruises on Celebrity ships. I am writing this review, in part, to alert others to the ... Read More
My husband and I recently returned from a 1 week cruise on the Norwegian Jewel which we took to celebrate my 50th birthday. We had previously enjoyed two cruises on Celebrity ships. I am writing this review, in part, to alert others to the differences between the two lines. We left home a day early in order to have a night in Barcelona to explore. I would wholeheartedly endorse this ! Even though we lost some sleep, we did have a bus tour of Barcelona and some time to stroll. The city bus tours are great, but the tape and ear piece method of delivering the spoken parts of the tour were difficult to follow and hear. You have to be careful in Barcelona because there are apparently a number of pickpockets. We did not have any negative experiences. We stayed at the Tryp Apolo Hotel as provided by the cruise line. It was fine-not 5 star but great for one night. Buffet breakfast was very good and included in the price. Embarkation was very smooth and no wait. Our suitcases arrived very quickly. The ship is quite new and in great condition. This is where our comparisons to Celebrity really began. The room was nice, but not as nice as Celebrity rooms. The colors are a bit loud and the pillows were not comfortable. The room steward introduced himself and we rarely saw him again. I realize that this is deliberate but a couple of times I wanted to ask for things and the notes I left in the room were ignored. I think the practice of not directly tipping negatively affects room stewards, waiters,etc. I was spoken to rudely a couple of times on the ship. I don't think this would happen on Celebrity where tipping is personal. Pools and sports areas were well used because there were a lot of children on board. I am not used to seeing ships with so many kids, but since I don't use the pools, it did not matter. The kids were a bit noisy, but it did not bother us. Food is another area where NCL compares poorly. First of all, Freestyle Dining is anything but freestyle. Passengers in suites could book the whole week, but the rest of us could only book two days in advance. Much of one's time is spent scheduling meals. Since the show times are only published the day before, it is difficult to know when a good restaurant time is. Most of the time it was a scramble to get into an alternative restaurant. And an alternative restaurant is what we were after since the food in the regular restaurants was very ordinary. I don't think we should have had to pay extra on an already expensive vacation to get great food. All food on the Celebrity cruises was very good. The chocolate buffet was particularly disappointing. I had anticipated it for months and it consisted of some recycled choc statues and some ordinary cakes and breads. On a more positive note, shore excursions were a highlight. We took mostly ship organized trips and they were well organized, punctual,and interesting. We did not see many ways to take private taxis the way you can do it in the Caribbean. The itinerary on this cruise makes it very busy if one wants to see as much as possible. We are in our 50's and although we found it tiring, I would recommend seeing as much as you can because there is so much great scenery. Entertainment was very good with the usual variety of singers, dancers, magicians and comedians. The theatre was not as nice as that on Celebrity where there are little drink tables. I would agree with other reviewers about the practice of "nickel and diming" passengers. There were so many little ways in which passengers were asked for more money, such as being sold water at meals. I would rather have paid $100 more for the cruise and have water included. Disembarkation was smooth and uneventful. On the whole, I found that the NCL cruise fell far short of what I expected. I chose the cruise because Celebrity did not offer the same itinerary. I won't make that mistake again. Read Less
Sail Date August 2007
First, let me start by saying that you should not fly Iberia to get to Barcelona. I flew from Dulles/Madrid/Barcelona, and I am still waiting for my luggage 72 hours later; unfortunately, I found out to my dismay, after the cruise, that ... Read More
First, let me start by saying that you should not fly Iberia to get to Barcelona. I flew from Dulles/Madrid/Barcelona, and I am still waiting for my luggage 72 hours later; unfortunately, I found out to my dismay, after the cruise, that Iberia loses 17 pieces of luggage for every 1000 passengers. Now, onto the cruise. We embarked in Barcelona, 2 passengers in our 30s, with little trouble. Prior to embarkation, we did have to wait for the pre-arranged NCL bus that waited nearly 45 minutes to fill before we could leave from the airport. If we were to do it again, we would take a cab from and to the port; it would have been around the same price (if not cheaper), and easier than waiting for buses to fill up. Upon arriving at the port, embarkation took only 20 minutes until we were on the ship. Luggage, however, arrived much later to our room, with NCL replying that they had til 7:00PM to deliver it. Since this was our first cruise, we really have nothing to compare it to. The short summary is that the food was poor, the "freestyle" dining wasn't, the shore excursions were excellent, and we felt as the week progressed, service seemed to decrease as our bill increased. As the shore excursions were our favorite part of the cruise, and as the cruiser is given the least amount of "real" information about them prior to the cruise, I'll focus on the excursions. Keep in mind we booked all excursions in advance, and we saved about $30 dollars for each excursion by doing so. Taormina & Beach: In the morning, we took a bus to Taormina and briefly toured the town, the highlight of which is visiting the famous Teatro Greco theatre. It was quite amazing to view, but keep in mind, the first part of the tour includes much walking. For the second half of the day, we took the bus to a beach on the Mediterranean sea. The tour includes chairs, umbrellas, changing rooms, and a snack stand. You will need to get towels from the ship and take them with you, however. All in all, a pleasant start of our trip and worth the $79 each for it. Treasures of Naples: We took the tour bus for a brief tour of Naples, including a church and local city area, then took the bus to an authentic Naples' restaurant to make and eat our own wood-fired pizza. The restaurant was okay, the pizza was excellent, but the city of Naples was dirty, graffiti ridden, and felt like the most dangerous of all places visited, although still worth the $79 each we paid for it. I would not tour Naples on your own. Rome and Vatican: A long exhausting day, but one filled with visits to St. Paul's cathedral, the Vatican, and brief stops at the Coliseum, Circus Maximus, a local restaurant, and a brief city tour. The $199 each paid here was still worth the price as our tour guide was knowledgeable, and we got in immediately ahead of people who were waiting hours to get in. Be prepared to be exhausted as this is one of the longest days and much walking is required. Splendor of Florence: Another long exhausting day, but visits to see the "David", the Ponte Vecchio, gold and leather stores, and a walking tour of the city made the $189 tour worth it, along with another good tour guide with walkie-talkie listening devices (as provided in Rome) that made it easier to hear, see, and keep up with our guide. Again, another long walking tour, bear in mind, and you don't get to go to the Ufizzi Gallery on this tour. Also, by now, you will be most accustomed to the guides saying loudly for all to hear, "andiamo" (Let's go!). Highlights of Monaco and Monte Carlo: This tour takes you to Nice, Monaco, and Monte Carlo. It states that it's a brief walking tour, however it's 3 hours of walking. The areas are beautiful, but it's not much to look at other than being amazed at the wealth and opulence seen at Monte Carlo hotels and waterfront areas. Also, be prepared for the poorly working elevators at the Monte Carlo stop that took 30 minutes to get up and into both in and out of the tour area. Overall, I enjoyed the excursions far more than I did my visit on the ship itself. Our cabin was spacious enough, the bathroom for room 5024 is quite tiny, but the larger than port-hole sized window (an upgrade given to us later) made the cabin okay as the 5th floor is close enough to see out into the beautiful Mediterranean as you cruise. Frankly, I would not want to be on the 11th floor, as the Garden Cafe, pools, and children's areas (on the 12th floor) must have been quite loud if you were trying to sleep. One last odd but minor note. If you like soda, you will have to pay $1.75 per can that you have to get from the crew person, or pay $69 for a sticker to drink it all week (again, you will have to obtain the soda from a bar or waitperson). The sticker is not worth it, and I would not pay for it if I were you. In addition, the Garden Cafe had all the same food (except steak) as the sit-down restaurants, and you didn't have to book a time or dress up to get in them. While we may cruise again, with the exception of the itinerary and good shore excursions we experienced, there was nothing about the Jewel, neither the food, entertainment, or lay-out, that would necessarily make us automatically sign up for NCL again. Read Less
Sail Date August 2007
This was our first experience on cruising and we just loved it. The ship was great and the "freestyle" is definitely our type. Not having to follow strict schedules and dress codes during vacation is very important for us and ... Read More
This was our first experience on cruising and we just loved it. The ship was great and the "freestyle" is definitely our type. Not having to follow strict schedules and dress codes during vacation is very important for us and this was exactly what we got aboard of the Norwegian Jewel. A very relaxed and joyful atmosphere aboard helped us very much to relax and really enjoy our cruise. We booked a mini-suite AG on deck 11. This is what they call a "Guaranteed" (GUAR) which means that NCL will assign the exact cabin for you. You only have the guaranty that you will have the type of cabin you purchased but you don't know the exact location of it in the deck. Therefore, these cabins are less expensive than the "regular" mini-suites but they are exactly the same. Only the location can vary. We were lucky (because we made an earlier reservation) and we got a technically AFT mini-suite which was really almost mid-ship. Good choice! In purchased the NCL transfer from the airport which worked very efficiently and was a very good option. As soon as we arrived a young lady took care of our luggage and guided us to the bus which was going to carry us to the pier. The check-in was smooth and very efficient, although not using the specific desks which were reserved for the suites passengers. We arrived at the airport by 1.30 pm and we were entering the ship at more or less 3.00 pm. Our luggage was delivered at the cabin by 6.30 pm. The cabin was just fantastic! Very spacious, with lots of storage (more than enough for our needs, but I must confess that we do not travel with lots of stuff...). We had two lower beds that were converted to a queen-size bed, a contiguous sitting area with a sofa, a mini desk and a TV set, a very nice private balcony with two chairs and a small table, and a quite luxury bathroom with bathtub/shower, lavatory and with a separate area for the toilet. The mini bar was ok and we also had an electric kettle which could be quite useful for tea. The air conditioning was very efficient and we must really slow it down at night so that we can reach a comfortable temperature for sleeping. We had just one small problem in the first night which consisted on a persistent "little noise" as if someone was tapping a sort of "Morse code" on the wall. You cannot imagine how this can be irritating when trying to sleep! I figured that the origin of this tapping was a sort of friction in one of the decoration panels of the cabin and managed to fix it by introducing a plastic card underneath the frame of the panel... Problem solved, excellent nights from then on! Our stewards (Indra and Mario) were very efficient and did a great job making us always very comfortable. In what concerns the restaurants we just used the buffet (at the Garden Cafe and Great Outdoors) and the main dinning room Azura. We found it both excellent! We felt no need to go to the speciality restaurants and pay an extra charge when we were receiving such a good service and food in the free restaurants. Garden Cafe and Great Outdoors are just fine for breakfast and lunch and Azura is perfect for dinner, with a cosy atmosphere and a more sophisticated menu. The bars and discotheque were excellent. In what concerns the bars we could always choose between 10 different types of ambiance and music, which was very nice. Drinks and beverages are rather expensive, but I believe that this happens with all the cruise lines... The shore excursions (we only used 3) were ok. The debarkation procedures were very well organized, allowing everybody to choose the most convenient moment to get out of the ship between 6.30 am and 9.45 am. Although we were "independent travellers", we asked for the NCL transfer to the airport. This implied that we let them handle our luggage the previous evening which was not very convenient, mostly considering that we had to pick the luggage once again at the pier after the debarkation... After seeing the kind and dimensions of the suitcases that most of the passengers were handling personally in the debarkation day [as if it were last minute luggage] I will never more let NCL pick up my two small trolley suitcases in the evening prior to debarkation day! Anyhow, we let them handle the luggage again between the pier and the airport, which means they took it into a sort of small truck which departed before our transfer. I was a little bit worried about this but with no reason at all. When we arrived at the airport our luggage was already waiting for us at the drop off point. In general terms, we can say that everything was very well organized and the staff was very friendly and efficient. We spend a very pleasant week aboard and we definitely will cruise with NCL again! Read Less
Sail Date August 2007
A little background information; This was our 15th. cruise, 5th with NCL, 3rd on the Jewel. I sailed with my partner & we are in our 30's, from the UK. We flew in on the day of the cruise as it was only a 2hr flight. We arrived ... Read More
A little background information; This was our 15th. cruise, 5th with NCL, 3rd on the Jewel. I sailed with my partner & we are in our 30's, from the UK. We flew in on the day of the cruise as it was only a 2hr flight. We arrived at Barcelona airport at 10am & after retrieving luggage & taking a taxi (28 euros) we arrived at the cruise terminal. There were no lines at all, so we registered our credit card & handed over our cruise ticket & was told we would be allowed to board at 11.30am. Embarkation, easiest & quickest ever, we were in our cabin at 11.30am. The Cabin: An inside cabin that did seem small, but had enough drawers, hangers & wardrobe space to put everything. No need to bring your hairdryer as the one provided is near professional. Having the bed made up as a double does make the room smaller as you lose the walk up the middle you have if they are set up as singles. The pillows were hard & I did ask for feather ones. I got one, so my partner & I had to share. I do like NCL's bathrooms, although still obviously quite small, well set out & the shower with a sliding door is excellent. My 6ft 4" partner did not get on very well with the toilet placed at an angle though. We did decide that this would be our last inside cabin though, as basically because you have no natural daylight you could sleep all day & night & we did on a couple of occasions! The Ship: To me she is still very new looking & apart from a few stains on carpets here & there there was nothing to tell us otherwise. I love all the colors on The Jewel, I do not find them distasteful at all, as other reviewers have noted, only rich & interesting to the eye. I love the Fyzz Lounge where everything appears as bubbles, even the chairs. The Theatre is sophisticated with expensive wallpaper & dragonfly printed carpets to the entrance. Very good sight lines, although not as good from the balconies. I do miss a little drinks table though. The Spinnaker Lounge was my favorite lounge & we spent most nights there after whatever theatre show we had seen. The Food: I would say good to very good. We personally preferred the Azura Restaurant over the Tsars (regular restaurants), as it was more intimate & cosy. We received better service there also. We went to the Mexican Restaurant (no charge), this was very good, portions are big so beware. We also went to Cagneys & Chin Chin, which were both very good. These were both pay restaurants, but we took advantage of the daily happy hour 2 for 1 offer between 5.30 & 6.30pm. this was available at all the pay restaurants apart from Teppanyaki, Mongolian Hotpots & Sushi. Also excluded were Cagneys specials (ie. surf & turf) & Le Bistro tasting menu, although there are plenty of other choices on the menu, so do not let this put you off. This offer is available every day. I would suggest booking, whichever restaurant you want to eat in, even if you book on the same day, as there were queues on the days we did not book. Although the maximum we had to wait was 20 mins. The entertainment: In a word, excellent! The Cruise Director was John Ibrahim & was a very personable guy who was in that many places I thought there was at least 2 of him. His favorite word was, smashing! During the week we had 2 shows by the Jean Ann Ryan company, Band on the Run & Cirque Bijou. Both excellent, although I preferred Band on the Run. Very upbeat, great costumes & the cast looked like they loved performing it. They have some very talented dancers/singers. We also had a singer, Daniel Bouchet who I thought looked like a young Eulio Inglesius & certainly had the Spanish ladies swooning, as he sang in Spanish & English. Magician Shaun Farqhuar, very good & I normally do not like magicians & The Edge who basically was a juggler although he was not billed as this. He was very very funny & kept picking on people who came in late to the show. Also there was the Second City, who I personally did not think were as good as I have seen previously on the Jewel, I did not think one of the ladies was very good at improv at all, but again I still enjoyed there act. All this together with various musicians & bands etc around the ship meant that we were spoilt for choice, excellent! Staff: All staff without exception were very friendly, helpful & attentive & our cabin stewards Leah & Chris looked after us well. Fellow Cruisers: This cruise I think was full & there were lots of children. We were not used to this as we do not normally cruise at this time of year, but to say how many there were I do think they were quite well behaved. They did sneak into the adult only pool, but I did see a deck steward asking them to get out. There were quite a few nationalities on this cruise & many from Spain, so to accommodate them announcements & entertainment introductions were said in English & Spanish, which is only right, but again something we are not used to with NCL. Debarkation: We did the express debarkation as we had an early fly & just kept our luggage with us & walked straight off at 6.30am. No queues, no problem. So to summarize, this was a fabulous cruise on a great ship with wonderful entertainment & very good food. We will definitely cruise with NCL again. Read Less
Sail Date August 2007
Best advise I can give to anyone planning their first or umpteenth cruise is to research, research, research. I feel it has helped tremendously on having a better experience for any trip to any novice or frequent traveller. My husband and ... Read More
Best advise I can give to anyone planning their first or umpteenth cruise is to research, research, research. I feel it has helped tremendously on having a better experience for any trip to any novice or frequent traveller. My husband and I are in our mid-30s, and travel overseas often. However, this was our first cruise so I did not know what to expect. Visions of missing the boat, lost luggage and stormy seas were dancing around my head, but we decided anyway to give cruising a try. I booked thru our World Perks membership on Northwest Airlines, without much trouble. Thanks to cruisecritic.com and other valuable travel forums (or is it 'fora'?) online, we were counting the days with great anticipation. We arrived Barcelona a day before, which was welcome reprieve from the long and tiring 12+ hour travel. After a short nap, we changed into fresh clothes and took the metro to Poble Español, an artisan Spanish village where we had reservations for a wonderful flamenco-dinner show (www.tablaodecarmen.com). Embarkation was not until 1pm, so we went on a leisurely stroll along La Ramblas early that morning (when it's less crowded). We checked in at around 2:30pm which took less than 15 minutes. We were celebrating a wedding anniversary that week, so I ordered their Romance Package, which was a great deal. There was a nice bottle of red wine and a plate of dipped strawberries in our cabin upon arrival. Our room stewards from the Philippines, John and Shara, were awesome. We would return to a clean room within a hour every morning, after breakfast. They were not only fast and efficient, I've never seen such sincere, hard-working folks. Working in the hotel industry, I've learned that 'nice begets nice' - treat your server with respect and appreciation, and they will gladly go that extra mile for you. After a sip of the welcome bottle of wine, we decided to explore the ship as most would want to do. The main restaurant reservations is at Tango's (7th level) or by dialing 050 from your cabin. They can only accept reservations for up to 3 days, so it's best to call them every morning to book ahead, for the popular restos do get filled fast (Teppanyaki most especially). The Garden Cafe was the only place open on that first day, so it was PACKED with so much people, it gets frustrating to meander through the crowds. It's the place for breakfast and lunch as well, so practice much patience when you can not find any free table after you go through the long lines of buffet. The staff is quick to bus out and have clean tables as soon as guests leave, though, so it is best not to let this frustrate you. If you don't mind eating outdoors, it is best to head out to the pool lounge where there are plenty of clean tables to chow down. The buffet was varied and meant to suit every taste and preference. Food quality was alright - not outstanding in the gourmet sense - but acceptable nonetheless. The steak and lobster dinner on the optional gala night at Tsar's and Azura for me was the best deal for the no-cover charge restos. Le Bistro was pretentious as a "fine-dining" venue, since the servers' presentation was almost too comical to take seriously ("As they say in France, un doo twa and walah!"). Tangos Tapas Bar had a cosmo decor and ambience. Teppanyaki was fun and funny, as the crazy Filipino chefs seemed to have morphed this art of Japanese food preparation into a style uniquely theirs. Service in all the restaurants we went to are extra prompt - plates were cleared immediately after each course, but it never felt 'hurried'. Entertainment on board was phenomenal. The Jean Ann Ryan group, Shawn Farquhar and Chicago's Second City comedy troupe wowed us on the nights they performed. Had a Las Vegas flavor to it, which may be cheesy for some, but we loved every performance. We didn't take any organized shore excursions, though I would recommend those who are not as adventurous as us, to do arrange them. Our first port was Messina (Sicily) and we just explored the small town on our own, since Taormina and the Mt Etna expedition didn't really appeal to us. We took the local Italian train to see the ruins of Pompeii on the next day. It wasn't too bad, although the trains weren't too clean, but I've seen worse conditions before. The train trip to Rome and Florence the next two days wasn't too bad, but I would suggest waking up early so as to catch the earliest train from the port, since travel time is 1 hour for Rome and 1.5 hours for Florence. Villefranche was our favorite port, and the short 15 minute train ride to Monte Carlo was a pleasant one. We're not really fans of organized travel (which is why we chose the Freestyle Cruising of NCL) and with some advance preparation (I bought our tickets for the Vatican Museum, Uffizi Gallery & the Galleria Accademia on www.tuscanyall.com), a simple Italian phrase book, and a bold, adventurous spirit, we got to experience the real local culture and save money for more shopping! Shore excursions are expensive, but having the security of a tour guide and a bus to herd you along are important to you, then I suppose it will be a good value for you. For info on going and exploring the ports of call on your own, I found this website very helpful: www.europeportreviews.com It was over-all a wonderful experience for us. The Norwegian Jewel was a beautiful ship, one could see that no expense was spared in making this floating city a true gem in the Mediterranean seas. Cruising can be very expensive too, so be wary everytime you give your room card to be swiped for that fruity cocktail drink or earrings from the duty-free shop. We felt some schaudenfroide when we saw some of our fellow passengers get a near coronary when they requested for their bill on their last day (note to parents: your kids get an embarkation card, so they can swipe charges to your account!). The only thing we didn't like about the entire thing was the crowds. Although the ship's mantra was "Freestyle Cruising", some habits die hard. People still eat at the same time, swim at the pool, bask under the sun, and enjoy that cocktail drink at the same time as you, so it can get frustrating. But with a positive attitude (after all, it IS your vacation), we thoroughly enjoyed our freestyle cruising and can't wait for our next NCL experience. Read Less
Sail Date August 2007
Impressive ship, rather new and fully loaded (even with passengers). We took the 7 days West Mediterranean Route from and to Barcelona via Messina (Sicily), Naples (Capri), Civitavecchia (beachday), Livorno (leaning tower of Pisa)and ... Read More
Impressive ship, rather new and fully loaded (even with passengers). We took the 7 days West Mediterranean Route from and to Barcelona via Messina (Sicily), Naples (Capri), Civitavecchia (beachday), Livorno (leaning tower of Pisa)and Villefrance (beachday). Despite interesting ports/spots our destination was the NCL ship! Our inside stateroom on 9th floor was nicely decorated, almost clean (but don't look under the bed!) and had a comparable roomy bathroom (we often took advantage of the comfortable shower). The interior was functional but the illumination is definitely too dark, so you hardly see your personal belongings in the storage compartment/safe close at the door. Also some more compartments near the bed were missing. Nevertheless, we slept very well also caused by quite aircon and ventilation. Unfortunately the housekeeping was not introduced to us which underlines the rather unpersonal touch of bigger ships. The "garden cafe" is by far the most unpleasant location: loud, overcrowded and badly designed. A long floor and way to take a cup of coffee or helping yourself at the buffet. Unfortunately the freestyle cruise was often misinterpreted by unsuitable dress codes including muscle shirts or pure swimwear. We preferred the main restaurant TSAR's were you are served by friendly staff for breakfast and dinner. The special restaurants are polarizing. Our favorite was the sushi/sashimi bar, whereas the steakhouse didn't met or expectation esp. not price wise. The pool deck was always crowded and extremely loud. The animation program during the days at sea by the cruise director and his team was not our style. So we left the area immediately. Not even or 9yr old son was in favor such a "funny" program. We often asked ourselves, were are the wooden floor trim of the pool deck surface gone? The metal ground is rather unpolite at hot outside temperatures and pretty slippery when wet. The nightlife was always a highlight. We didn't miss any show. The musicians and dancers were mostly unbeatable. You should have your seat early and order your drink on time. A midnight buffet at the pooldeck is not presented at our trip. The Kids Management Policy is a simply not acceptable. Our son (9yrs/ 8mos)was not allowed to be in the same kids group with his friend (10yrs/1mos)due to strict age split (x to 9yrs and 10yrs +). We had to ask the German Cruise Management to explain this regulation to our irritated boys. Luckily the friendly officers (incl. the captain) were highly appreciated. Our summary: As for our next cruise we'll looking for a smaller ship which will meet our experiences from past cruises (e.g. NCL Dream/Windward) again. Less people, more familiarity, personal treatment. But nevertheless, NCL Jewel is an impressive ship, rather new and fully loaded. CU, Karsten, Birgit @ Felix Read Less
Sail Date August 2007
OK, so here is my review of the beautiful Norwegian Jewel. Cruised 22nd July 2007. We flew with British Airways, and arrived at Terminal A. Unfortunately, our luggage was on the carousel in Terminal B, so we had to go back through ... Read More
OK, so here is my review of the beautiful Norwegian Jewel. Cruised 22nd July 2007. We flew with British Airways, and arrived at Terminal A. Unfortunately, our luggage was on the carousel in Terminal B, so we had to go back through security, as if we were checking in for a flight back out of Barcelona (crazy I know). This was very frustrating, as we (and many others) were just desperate to get out of the airport and get onboard. The transfer bus NCL used didn't have very good aircon, and we were a bit "wound up" by the time we embarked. Embarkation was an absolute breeze. No queues at the Latitudes desk, so we were onboard within 10-15 minutes. First impressions of the ship were very good. Everything was sparkling clean, and remained so for the entire cruise. We located our cabins on deck 9, which were nice and modern. They did seem to get smaller and smaller as the week wore on. We were just glad that we had booked two adjacent cabins for the five of us (three in one room, two in the other) because we had the benefit of two separate bathrooms. Our room was suitable for 4 people (allegedly) and had an extra Pullman bed which we didn't use, as well as an overhead bunk. God knows where the Pullman bed would have gone. There was barely enough room at either side of the kingsize to walk!! Maybe they make it up into one massive bed the full width of the room that sleeps three people? Our children had their room made up as twin beds, and although it was the same size, they seemed to have more space because of this. They also had an overhead bunk which they didn't use. We had plenty of storage space though, each room with double wardrobe and shelving area, and three drawers. Small fridge with minibar stuff, but room for your own things too. There are two US sockets and one European. Unfortunately, I only brought a US adaptor, so my UK hair straighteners didn't heat up properly. I'll remember that for next time. I have found that the sailaways with NCL are far superior to RCL or Celebrity. There was a party atmosphere at the pool, with crew and guests dancing to the band. A great start to the holiday! We enrolled the kids in their various kids clubs, however, I don't think they were that impressed. This is a very port intensive cruise, with only one day at sea, therefore, the clubs are only open in the evening on port days (unless you want to pay $5 per hour). This was a little disappointing, because the weather was over 40 degrees, so they could have done with a little time away from the pool during the day. I'm sure the kids wouldn't agree with that, because they just wanted to go down the water slide a million times!! Anyway, our two youngest boys only went to their clubs twice the entire cruise. The teen club seemed to be a bit more appealing for our oldest boy, and he met up with his new friends every night after dinner. They had supervised activities for teens until 1am. I'll not go into details regarding the ports of call, because they have been pretty well covered by other reviewers. NCL Jewel provides a very upbeat family oriented cruise experience. The pool bands were rotated, so that you didn't get constant repetitive reggae music. Although I love reggae, on past cruises, I've felt that the pool band played the same songs in the same order and it starts to drive me crazy by day two. This time, the pool band had a bigger repertoire, and were very enjoyable. Another good point, some days the band from the nightclub played at the pool, and they had loads of different "sets" from Abba to Motown. Most enjoyable! The freestyle concept is, in our opinion, a better option for families. We have cruised several times with RCL, Celebrity and NCL. They are all excellent for different reasons, but the flexibility really suits us. We managed to get into most restaurants without a reservation, but because we wanted to see particular shows towards the end of the cruise, we made reservations about 30 minutes prior to dining to guarantee our spot. This system worked very well. The food onboard is very good, and I felt was far superior to RCL (we cruised on Voyager of the Seas 6 weeks ago, see my review). On that cruise, we chose to dine in Portofino (pay restaurant) every night, because the dining room service was a bit disappointing. We had no complaints whatsoever with NCL. The cabins were nicer too.... The entertainment was very good as well. We didn't make it to all the shows, but the ones that we did see were of a higher standard than Celebrity or RCL. We were a bit disappointed that we didn't see all of Shawn Farquhar's show. We don't normally enjoy magic shows, but he was doing brilliant sleight of hand stuff, and I was gutted we missed the start. So, we had a fantastic cruise. Staff seem to be really friendly (better than RCL), and most pleasant. Ship is lovely (nicer than Voyager). The entertainment is excellent (better than Voyager). In a straight choice between RCL Voyager and NCL Jewel, who are both doing similar Med cruises from Barcelona, NCL wins hands down. Read Less
Sail Date July 2007
Just returned from 7 day cruise in the Med on the wonderful Norwegian Jewel after reading so many reviews i was a little worried but to my pleasure they were all wrong. Let's start by saying that don't believe everything you ... Read More
Just returned from 7 day cruise in the Med on the wonderful Norwegian Jewel after reading so many reviews i was a little worried but to my pleasure they were all wrong. Let's start by saying that don't believe everything you read, make your own opinions and always go with an open mind when you are on vacation. Embarkation was great we arrived the same day as sailing from Toronto and it only took us 20 minutes to get on the ship the transfers from the airport were very simple, I highly recommend using the ship transfers saves you alot of time and hassle book them ahead of time with your agent or through Norwegian. Our cabin was an outside balcony room 9060 very nice cabin well appointed and the bathroom was nice everything was fresh and still looking new, not just the cabin but the whole ship overall. Dining we truly enjoyed the Freestyle I don't think we will every go back to regular cruising as having choices of restaurant made you feel that you were in a 5 star resort with many options we tried all the restaurants and the food and service was excellent and whoever says that the buffet is not great than I don't know where they have been eating it offers exceptional quality for the amount of people they are cooking for and they always have plenty of everything and the staff are always very pleasant and courteous. Entertainment well we went to a couple of shows not bad the best is the cirque Bijou everything else is ok if you like that sort of thing. The casino is very nice and the dealers are pleasant as well. Shore Excursions be prepared to pay out alot of money but they are so worth it as some of the cities are far away from the ports. The Best shore excursions are in our opinion the Godfather tour in Messina, The Almafi Coast tour in Naples, Rome on your own gives you time to visit what you want and also time to do some great shopping just off the area of the Spanish Steps, Florence definitely take the exclusive tour it's so amazing as is the ufisi Gallery so worth seeing Botticelli's Birth of Venus, now after all of that packed in 4 days on your last stop we would recommend you do Villafranche or Nice on your own no need for a tour here it's a great little port to just hang out have lunch and visit the beach as you don't have much time. Overall this cruise is one of the best we have been on and we go on 3 cruises a year. Looking forward to cruising again in November and December. You will love the Norwegian Jewel. Read Less
Sail Date July 2007
Just returned from a wonderful 7-day Western Med. cruise on the NCL Jewel. July 13-22, 2007. We are a family of 5. Parents ages late 40's with 3 teens, 2 girls 17 and 15, boy 12y.o. We chose the Jewel because of cost and itinerary. We ... Read More
Just returned from a wonderful 7-day Western Med. cruise on the NCL Jewel. July 13-22, 2007. We are a family of 5. Parents ages late 40's with 3 teens, 2 girls 17 and 15, boy 12y.o. We chose the Jewel because of cost and itinerary. We had never been to Europe and this was a great way for us to see so many places and not have to drag 3 kids thru tiny hotels in Italy. Barcelona was place on embarkation. We arrived 1 day prior to allow adjustment to the time change. We stayed at the Hotel Majestic which gave us 2 rooms (not adjoining) but was a perfect location and place for us to see Barcelona. We visited the Rambla, Bari Gotic, Gaudi houses before boarding the cruise on Sunday. Embarkation to the Jewel was easy. We arrived to the port around 2 pm and had to wait about 15 min to get our cabin keys and check in. We explored the cabin and had lunch at the Garden Cafe (my son and husband wanted "real food" as Barcelona is a real seafood place!) Then we went to our cabins and were greeted by 2 wonderful stewards (Mario and Indra) from the Philippines. Our luggage was there. We had 2 adjoining minisuites with a huge adjoining balcony, lots of closet and drawer space. My 3 teens were a little cramped with all their stuff so we were very glad we took the upgrade offered to us from the BA to AF balcony cabins. It was definitely worth the price. The bathtub/ BR was very spacious. The rooms were kept spotless. Every morning we had room service bring coffee and muffins early for us so the kids could sleep in a little. On the first day everything was open with their staff so you can book things and get to know what's available, e.g. the spa, workout room, kids clubs, etc. The spa pedicures and massages book up fast! Dining: Somehow despite reading this board just about every day for 2 mos. I still didn't get the "Freestyle". Somehow we messed up on getting this down until 2 days into the cruise. Here is what you need to know. There are 2 restaurants that have open seating daily, no surcharge, no reservations -Azure and Tsars. We liked Tsars better for atmosphere but the menus in both restaurants are the same on a given day but change daily. The new menus are posted daily, not in advance so it makes it hard to choose what days you want to eat there. We liked the Mon. and Thurs. menus for us. Tangos also is no surcharge, no reservation and the food is Mexican and very good. Tangos is the central reservation area also for the speciality restaurants. If you want to eat at Cagneys, LeBistro, ChinChin or Teppanyaki (surcharge) you must have reservations. For Mama's (no surcharge) you must have reservations too. We didn't realize this because there are boards posted that say which restaurants have seating, and wait times. So we wanted to eat at Mama's, which said "no waiting" on the board to find out that they were booked up for 2 nights. We were disappointed so we went to Tsars didn't care for the menu that night (Wed.) so the person at Tsars called up to ChinChins and arranged for us to eat there even though they were booked up. We were very happy that the NCL dining staff tried very hard to please us. You can make reservations 2 days in advance by phone or at Tango's. We liked all the restaurants. Each had their own personality. Our least favorite was Azure because it is too close to the Cigar Bar (Yucky smells in the hall) and it was dark and modern. Tsars is nicer and the water views were better. Chin Chins was my favorite but you should try them all. As for the other areas, the shows were fun. We loved Second City Comedy and there were 2 shows most nights so we went to the 9:30 shows. My teens went to some of the teen activities and thought they were kind of silly but I don't think my kids are the best of judge. They like to hang together anyway. The pools were pretty to look at but with the Temp. in Italy being over 90 each day the pool water was very warm, salty and not refreshing. Only my husband and 15 y.o. enjoyed them. The adult pool only pool often had kids in it and there was no supervision to keep the kids from jumping and splashing. The smokers were also not abiding by the rules and smoked around the pool although there is a designated area for them. Unfortunately, the NCL pool staff didn't enforce this which makes it very unpleasant for the non smokers. Disembarkation was very easy for us. We chose our own carry off so we could leave anytime before 10 a.m. We could have easily made a 10 a.m. flight home but being worried about it, we had arranged a night stay in Barcelona and left monday 10 a.m instead. Shore excursions were varied for us by port. We had arranged some private and some ship and some on our own. We are used to a fast pace so having to wait for the stragglers to board the bus was annoying (we had to wait 45 mins one day) and felt we saw so much more for less money on our private tour in Rome. The shore excursions we picked were Messina - "Taoromina and the Beach", loved Taoromina, the beach was nice, the kids enjoyed swimming in the Med., Naples- did Capri on our own. Rome with private driver, private Vatican guide- fantastic day, made it back to the ship over 1 hour before the tour buses and saw so much more. Florence- did "A Taste of Florence", museum walking tour of the outside, lunch on our own, shopping exploring on our own in the afternoon, Cannes-"St. Paul de Vence", ships tour tendered us in. Very easy and quick, loved St. Paul, great town, shopping was my favorite there, with over 1 hour to walk around Cannes before tendering back to ship. Overall, beautiful ship. Staff was very friendly and helpful. Would definitely recommend it. Have fun. Read Less
Sail Date July 2007
NCL Jewel - Western Mediterranean Review I was on the 7/8/07 sailing of the Norwegian Jewel to the Western Mediterranean. This was my first taste of Free-style NCL (I last sailed with NCL way back in 1978). I am in my early 50's and ... Read More
NCL Jewel - Western Mediterranean Review I was on the 7/8/07 sailing of the Norwegian Jewel to the Western Mediterranean. This was my first taste of Free-style NCL (I last sailed with NCL way back in 1978). I am in my early 50's and single. This was my 14th cruise overall, with most being on RCCL, Carnival, and Princess. Overall, I was very satisfied with the Free-style and enjoyed it very much. The cruise was tiring because there was so much packed into a short cruise. I would recommend spending a day or 2 in Barcelona either before or after the cruise. Transportation Since I only booked the cruise at a late date, I booked my own air from JFK on Aer Lingus (through their website) with a change in Dublin each way. Both flights were pleasant and on time. For the first time in a long time, I had an empty seat next to me on every flight, so I was not squished next to someone. Once in Barcelona, I retrieved my bags quickly and went outside to hail a cab. There was some traffic getting into the pier and the fare ended up being $27E and change. I gave him $30E. This is after I tried to purchase transfers from the NCL rep at the airport for $25E who talked me out of it and told me the taxi fare is only $20E! This would not be bad if you had a traveling companion to share the cost, but I was traveling alone. Embarkation I arrived at the pier at approximately 12:00pm. Dropped off my bags outside and went in to the terminal to very long lines. The NCL personnel were not allowing anyone new to get in the lines and directed all to sit. It seems the computers were down and they couldn't check anyone in. At this point I still had some hope to try and see some of Barcelona, maybe on the hop on/hop off bus. After approximately 45 min. everyone started surging onto the lines in no particular order, so that people who just walked in ended up at the front of the lines compared to people that came first and were told to sit. It was a huge mess! Finally I just cut the line in front of huge family group who were trying to keep almost 30 or so people together. When I got to the counter they were still having problems and although I received my room key/ID card, they could not get any of my credit cards to register. They told me I would have to go to the front desk later in the day to straighten it out. They then told me to be back on board by 4:00pm, even though we were sailing at 7:00pm, because of the life boat drills! There went any hope of seeing Barcelona, but I guess it's my own fault for not booking an extra day there. Oh well, things could only get better and they did. Once past the main entrance, there are some small shops before the escalator up to the ship. Buy your water here! Huge bottles that the ship charges $3.95 were only $1E each here. I only bought 2, because I was carrying other items and went back later to purchase more and they had already closed for the day. I did have to return to the Purser's desk later that day to register my credit card and had to wait in another line. Stateroom I had an obstructed ocean view stateroom #8552, which had a rather small lifeboat outside, so the view was actually pretty good. The location of these staterooms is recessed under another deck, so the sun never shines in directly, which actually kept the room nice and cool. There also was some lighting at night, so it never got pitch dark, which is fine for me. The stateroom had plenty of storage areas and a mini-bar/refrigerator. When I asked my room steward to empty it he said I could just take out what I wanted to make room for my own items. Minor complaints; Although the bathroom at first glance appeared large, I think they could have done without the door between the sink and the toilet. It has striped clear/frosted glass so I doubt anyone would use it while someone else was at the sink or shower (which also had the same glass). I just think it would seem even larger without the wall. My only other complaint is that there was not enough lighting in the cabin. The vanity was a joke with only one tiny spotlight, which was inadequate. Even the overhead lights didn't do much. My luggage was delivered within an hour or so. During this time, my room steward came and introduced himself and then I never saw him again the rest of the cruise, but my room was "cleaned" (though somehow cleaning didn't include dusting) on schedule as long as I changed the "wheel" outside my room. The "wheel" has 4 colors; yellow; welcome, green; make-up cabin, red; do not disturb and blue; turn-down cabin. One night I was in a hurry for dinner and forgot to change this and never returned until after midnight and my room was un-touched so always remember to change the wheel! Ship The ship was very nice although not as pretty as the RCCL ships which IMHO are the best looking ships out there. I also thought the ship design was the most confusing I've experienced as some of the hallways did not always flow well and I thought there were a number of dead-ends but eventually found my way around well. Although I enjoyed the pool on several occasions, nothing was ever enforced as far as an adult only pool or hot tub. I really missed the enforced adult only solarium found aboard the RCCL ships. My favorite pre-dinner spot most evenings was Shakers Martini Bar where I sampled many of their special (pricey) martinis during the week. Dining/Food During the week I ate at Tsars twice, Chin Chin's Mongolian hot pot, Tangos, Le Bistro, Mamas and Azura. I had met up with friends on the cruise so we always dined together. I thought the main restaurants were terrific! The choices were fabulous and I have to say that the food was highly spiced and not the bland food one normally finds on most cruise ships. Saying that, the specialty restaurants were mostly even better! It will be really tough to go back to a regular cruise again. Tsars was the prettiest dining room and we ended up eating there the first night as well as Thursday. The first night I had smoked salmon appetizer, salad, leg of lamb (just ok) and a souffle for dessert. The second time we went there I had a spring roll, avocado & tomatillo soup, tabullah salad, a veal dish and chocolate mousse for dessert. Tango's was great, especially the tuna appetizer, red snapper, tortilla soup and seafood brochette and the fresh berries with cream for dessert were amazing! The Mongolian hot pot dinner produced a ton of laughs between our party of six (not recommended, too many people) but the food was rather bland (and you had to cook it yourself) just joking, we knew that going in! LOL On the 2nd night (which is the formal night if you want to dress) we ate at Azura, which had the lobster on the menu (I should have ordered 2 since they were really small) in addition to seafood cocktail and a dynamite chocolate crème brulee for dessert. We sampled Le Bistro on Friday and it was excellent. I had the seafood cocktail, escargot, cream of mushroom soup in a bread bowl, and a beef short rib/tenderloin combination which was outstanding and although I never normally order beef on a cruise because they never cook it the way I like, the tenderloin was cooked to my fussy (very, very rare, almost raw) standard. The only letdown was the Tarte Tatin (apple tart) which was just okay. Mama's on the last night proved better than I expected (I didn't really want to dine here since I get so much quality Italian food at home in NY) but the rest of my group picked it. The food was okay, first they serve an antipasto on the table, I then had pasta with carbonara (not the greatest) and veal and shrimp combo for the main course which was good. Desserts here were uninteresting to me so I skipped them. I ate breakfast most mornings at the buffet, which had more than enough choices to satisfy most, but my only complaint is that they had smoked salmon the first morning (which I love!) and then I never saw it again the rest of the cruise. Instead they had some other horrible smoked fish in place of it. Two of the mornings that I had very early shore excursions, I ordered room service (hang the card out the night before) and it was delivered early or close to the time I requested and always had all that I requested (limited menu though). One nice touch, they call right before they deliver, so that you are up and ready when they arrive. When I was on the ship for lunch, I usually just grabbed a burger or hot dog at the outdoor grill area near the pool. The buffet lunch never appealed to me. Entertainment I did not attend any shows mostly because the shows were at 7:30 and 9:30 and we usually ate dinner at 8 or 8:30pm. Not that I'm a big show person anyway. I do have to say that the vocal/musical group that played in the lobby and for Tango's restaurant were very good and the band by the pool was also pretty good. My main entertainment is the casino where I played craps almost every night in addition to a few slots. The slots were terrible to me, but I made it up at the craps table and ended up a winner by the end of the cruise. Shore excursions Since I was traveling alone, I booked all my excursions through the ship. I thought they were well arranged and the guides were fair to great. Messina - Picture Perfect Tindari I've been to Sicily before, so I already had visited Taormina and Mt. Etna, the big draws. However, I had not made it to Messina. Since my tour to Tindari did not leave until 1:00pm, I walked into town to view the Duomo. It was only a few blocks away and I found it easily. I then walked a few more blocks and found it to be pleasant but a fairly uninteresting city, architecturally. The trip to Tindari was about an hour and they made 2 photo stops on the way at scenic overlooks. Our guide was just fair, mostly because he was very hard to understand through his accent and his strange way of emphasizing certain syllables, that I just ended up tuning him out after a while. We climbed the steps up to the town area and then we toured the ruins of an Greek amphitheater, Roman villa and church. I then walked to the small town square and toured the lovely cathedral that was there. I also had time for a cup of fresh orange gelato, yummy! On the way back we stopped by a church/monument overlooking Messina and it's harbor for another photo op before returning us to the ship. Naples - Amalfi Coast and Pompeii This was an all-day tour that drove a good portion of the Amalfi coast including a stop in the town of Amalfi. Gino was our guide and he was great! It was a stunning scenic drive that lasted for hours! We then made our way to the ruins of Pompeii where we had lunch included on our tour at a large restaurant (can't remember the name) just outside the entrance to the ruins. Lunch consisted of unlimited wine, spinach cannelloni, chicken breast with vegetables and roasted potatoes and gelato for dessert. Very nice. Once fortified we then began our tour of the ruins, which were quite impressive and very fascinating. We toured many individual dwellings and saw mosaics and painted walls. Overall, it was my favorite day of touring and Gino made it very enjoyable. Civitavecchia - Art, Architecture & Flavors I previously visited Rome and although I would have liked to explore more, I did not want to deal with the heat and crowds, so I chose somewhere else to visit. This was a 4 hour tour to the Etruscan tombs and to the town of Tarquinia. The tour guide we had was uninteresting. First we went to explore the tombs themselves and then into town to visit the museum. We then had about ½ hour free time in town, during which we discovered 2 small charming churches up the main street. Then the best part of the tour took us to a farm (agrotouristic) for various tastings. We were seated on a lovely patio under a grape arbor and were able to taste many home-made products grown or produced by the farm including; several red and white wines, olive oils, brushetta, liver pate, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, honey, jams, bread, and also different liquors such as limoncello, amaretto, peach and rose flavors. We were here for over an hour with unlimited tastings. All products were for sale in a nearby building but no pressure was put on anyone to buy. I did purchase several bottles of wine as well as a can of olive oil to bring home. I was able to bring all aboard the ship without a problem and drank one of the bottles in my stateroom during the remainder of the week. Livorno - Pisa and Lucca I had previously visited Florence so again I chose to do something different. This was an all-day tour lead by the very vibrant Antoinella. She was great and had such enthusiasm for the Tuscany region where she lived. First we drove to the lovely walled city of Lucca where we had a walking tour of the major sites with about 1 hour free time at the end of the tour. Then we were off to Pisa. Pisa was a zoo! It was so crowded, but the buildings are still magnificent! We had about 1 ½ hours free for lunch before our guided tour began. We walked down the main street quite a ways until we came to Il Santo, a quirky decorated bistro. Two friends and I shared a carafe of wine, a mixed salami plate along with melon and procuitto for appetizer, then penne Bolognese and penne with pesto. Delicisioso! Last time I was there we didn't visit inside the Duomo, so I was glad this time we did. It was spectacular! Villefranche - Monaco and a Visit to Eze This was the only port where the ship moored off-shore and we had to tender into. There was no wait when departing on the tour. This was a 6 hour tour, our guide was Gilles, he was good. We were first taken to a beautiful overlook to snap a few pictures of the amazingly beautiful Cote d'Azur, then it was off to old Monaco where we had a walking tour of the old city, cathedral where Princess Grace and Prince Ranier were married and are now buried. Then we saw the palace and had about a half hour of free time where my friend and I stopped for a cup of coffee. I wish we had more time in this area, since there were many small tourist-type shops. We then passed the harbor areas with the many yachts and made our way to the Monte Carlo area where we were shown the famous casino and the ritzy Hotel d'Paris. We then had about 45 minutes of free time. It was too early for the famous casino but there was another casino for those that wished to gamble. We chose to check out the pretty nearby park and then stopped at a ice cream stand. I chose a strawberry sorbet. It was great! We then traveled to the medieval French mountaintop town of Eze, where the bus parked at the base of this walled village. Looking up, it looked like a long climb up, but once we started walking inside the pretty winding streets we were up to the top before we realized it. Gilles gave us a guided walking tour about ¾ of the way up. Located at the top is the Jardin Exotique (exotic garden) which required a $5E entrance fee. We paid the fee and proceeded to climb the rest of the way through a beautiful garden with many statues and art pieces. Once at the summit, the view was a breath-taking 360 degree view. We spent our entire amount of free time up here taking it all in. We couldn't believe later how many people chose not to enter the garden and make their way to the top because of the $5E fee. We thought it was worth every cent! The only down side to this port was the long line for tenders when we returned to the dock. We probably waited 45 minutes to an hour to board. On NCL's behalf, they did walk up and down the long line serving ice water or cold juice to those waiting. We should have just went over to one of the cafes along the harbor and waited there until the line went down. Overall, I was very happy with this cruise and the excursions, it was quite a lot packed into 1 week, but I got to see many different sights. I will definitely recommend the NCL ships and their free-style dining. Read Less
Sail Date July 2007
It was our honeymoon and we decided on a cruise to Western Europe. The cruise began at Barcelona and spent the first day at sea, then it went through Messina, Naples, Rome, Florence (Livorno) and Villefranche. In other words, we visited ... Read More
It was our honeymoon and we decided on a cruise to Western Europe. The cruise began at Barcelona and spent the first day at sea, then it went through Messina, Naples, Rome, Florence (Livorno) and Villefranche. In other words, we visited three countries, six cities. It was overall a very enjoyable experience for both me and my wife. Embarkation began at 13:00 pm till 19:00 pm. We spent the earlier part of the day touring Barcelona and didn't board the boat until 17:00pm. The process was fairly fast and we were in our cabin within 20 minutes. The checked-in luggage took a while to arrive our cabin though. The ship overall was a beauty, with lots of restaurants and bars located all over. It was also fairly new and clean. Regarding the food, the specialty restaurants were all very good and we spent two nights in the Cagney steak house, and one each in Le Bistro and Chin Chin. We also tried Mama and Tangos (both no fee) and they both offered very satisfactory quality. For breakfast we often had the buffet in Garden Cafe and occasionally room service to save time. The first day was spent at sea and we spent the afternoon at Sky High Bar to enjoy the perfect weather and lovely ocean. For the rest of the trip we explored all the ports on our own as we were not particularly fond of guided tours. The first port was Messina, Sicily. Right after we landed there were lines of cabs offering round-trip tour to Taromina for 100-150 Euros or so. We had already done our researches before hand so we declined their offers. There were at least two means of public transport to Taromina. You can either take the train and then a cable car up the mountain or take the bus. We took the latter as it went all the way up the mountain. The bus terminal was right next to the train station. It was about a fifteen minutes walk from the port (turn left after you exit the port and walk along the shoreline, you may want to ask the pedestrian on the way). The name of the bus company was INTERBUS and their buses were blue in color. Round-trip ride cost 5.20 EURO and the bus left for Taromina on approximately 8:45am and 9:45am. The one-way trip was about an hour and a half going through a small town/village and some scenic roads along the coast (had to change bus once on both ways). There were lots of interesting small shops in Taromina. It was so hot up there so we didn't really have the appetite for lunch and ended up having two excellent gelatos. We took the return bus at 13:40 pm which seemed a little early but the one after that left at 16:00 pm or so, too late for the ship (Not sure if the train offers a better schedule). We arrived at Messina around 3:30pm and sort of wandered around the city but there were not much to see. The second port was Naples (Napoli) and we decided to go to Capri Island. We took the hydrofoil which was 15 Euro each way (The hydrofoil pier was right next to the port). There were multiple companies operating the jets and the one we took was called SNAV and our boat left at 8:10am. We also bought our return tickets just to make sure. The ride was about 45 minutes and was quite rough so a lot of people got sea-sick. We got off the boat and went into the tourist information center (right at the pier) and bought a map for 1 Euro (yes, they charged for the map there). Then, we took the short funicular ride up to the town. Once we came out of the station we saw lots of luxury shops out there but we were not particularly interested as we got all that in the city already. We decided to go to Villa Jorvis located on the North-Eastern part of the Island. The hike took about 30 minutes but was totally worthwhile as the view there was breath-taking. The entrance fee to Villa Jorvis was 2 Euro each and a map for an extra 1 euro (which we bought but didn't really use as it was not necessary). At around noon we headed back and went to the South side of the Island and went to the Garden of Augustine which offered very impressive view. We planned to continue down to the Marina but got exhausted from the walk and the heat so ended up staying in a nice cafe up in the hill for some excellent coffee. We headed back to the pier via the cable car again and took the hydrofoil at 14:40 pm (we needed to line up for the cable car as lots of people were heading back at the same time and nearly missed the ferry from the queuing). We walked around Naples a little bit but didn't really find much of interest. There were open-top city tour bus right next to the pier but we didn't have enough time. There were supposedly so much more to do at this port (Pompeii, Sorrento, Amalfi Coast etc.) but we preferred to stay longer in one place to enjoy more, and lovely Capri Island certainly didn't disappoint. Next we arrived in Civitavecchia, the port near Rome. There were free shuttle bus taking us out of the port area and from there was a 10 min walk to the Civitavecchia (just crossed the cross-walk and walked along the coast). We bought the BIRG ticket which offered a round-trip to and from Rome plus the intra-city bus/subway in Rome (make sure you validate the ticket in one of those small yellow machines before you get on). We caught the 8:38am train and got off at Roma S.Pietro Station (closest station to the Vatican) at around 9:30am. We got the map of Rome in a nearby hotel along the way and toured around Vatican City. The artworks and architectures there were especially impressive. We wanted to go to Sistine Chapel right after but I misread the map and went the wrong direction. So we continued on to the Spanish Steps where abundance varieties of shops could be found. We walked around until we felt hungry and went to a cafe for an excellent pizza for lunch. We also went to a nearby Internet Cafe which charged a very reasonable 3 Euro per hour for ultra-speed connection (Located a few minute walk South-East of Piazza Di Spagna, also a McDonald nearby). We continued to walk around the area and then headed back at around three o'clock. We took the subway from Barberini station to Roma Termini and then the 16:38pm train back (Roma termini was actually quite big and complicated, took us quite a while to find the right train) Our next port was Livorno, we decided to go to Florence first and then go to Pisa on our way back if we had time. The journey from the port to the train station - Livorno Centrale was a bit complicated. We first took the shuttle bus to downtown Livorno and then the number 1R bus to the train station (we bought the 1R bus tickets and the round-trip train ticket to Florence at a convenient store right opposite where the shuttle bus dropped us off). We had just enough time to get on the 9:11am train to Florence (Given the hassle I would also recommend taking taxi from the port directly to Livorno Centrale and catch the earlier train at 8:11am, train schedule here: http://www.trenitalia.com/en/index.html). We arrived at Florence at around 10:40am. We first went to the tourism information centre to pick up a map. In the morning we visited Piazza Del Duomo (a wonderful cathedral) and Piazza San Lorenzo (small shops and open-air market, great for souvenir), both were within short walking distances from the train station and then in the afternoon we went to Ponte Vecchio and saw River Arno, then we took the 15:27pm train back to Livorno. Our last port was Villefrance, France which was essentially a small French Village. We had to first take a tender from the cruise to the pier; from there it was a 15 minute walk along the shoreline to the train station. We decided to go to Monaco and took the 8:44am train (also available were at 7:48am, 9:01am and 9:51am). The train ride was around 20 minutes. There were two exits at Monaco station and most passengers took the one located in the front of the platform. We decided to take the other one at the rear end of the platform and came out at the "quite part" of Monaco. We wandered around the small streets there and then walked along the shore to Monte Carlo, where we visited the glamorous Hotel de Paris and took some fabulous pictures. The casino opened at 12:00 noon with an entrance fee of 10 Euro (probably my first time to go to a casino with entrance fee), it was quite different from other casinos that I have been to but as it was still early in the afternoon there was not much traffic inside. From the casino was about a 15 minute-walk uphill back to the train station and we took the 13:11pm train back to Villefranche (also at 13:06pm, 13:32pm). There were beaches right next to Villefranche Sur Mer so we spent some time there before we headed back to the pier. On the final day the cruise arrived at Barcelona early in the morning at around 5:00am. Disembarkation was relatively smooth and we were the final group to leave at 9:30am. The taxi line was long as expected but we got into the city reasonably fast. It was July 1 and the summer sales just began so we were able to do some last minute shopping before we headed to the airport. In summary, it was a wonderful trip and my wife and I were both highly satisfy. Based on the good experience we decided that we will travel more on cruise in the future. A few brief tips for those going on NCL Jewel: ENTERTAINMENT: There were lots to do on the cruise and the night shows are all reasonably well performed. We enjoyed most the show by the Second City which was a comedy talk show. Also, the band in Java cafe/Crystal Atrium was very good and we spent at least three of our nights there. In the cabin there were also TV with CNN and BBC feeding reasonably updated news. INTERNET: The charge was US$3.95 for account activation and US$0.75 per minute thereafter. There were packages available also. In general the connection was expectably slow and I could mostly manage to check my emails there. SHOPPING: As expected the shopping galleria on board was not the greatest place to pick up a lot of souvenirs. Obviously, the selection was fairly limited compared to what was available off-shore. Some of the items were also priced quite high (we wanted to get another memory stick and a 512MB one cost US$80). SERVICE: The crew members were mostly friendly and enthusiastic, in particular the waitresses in the steakhouse and the cabin stewards. We were a little disappointed at the reception desk as most of the time they were not very helpful (at least we felt that way). LAUNDRY: There were laundry room on Deck 5, 9 and 11 (maybe more). Four quarters for a box of laundry powder while washers and dryers are free to use. Read Less
Sail Date June 2007
Preface My wife and I are both in our late 20's / early 30's and we have been on around 10 cruises together. This was our first trip to the Mediterranean and my wife's first trip to Europe. We traveled with another couple ... Read More
Preface My wife and I are both in our late 20's / early 30's and we have been on around 10 cruises together. This was our first trip to the Mediterranean and my wife's first trip to Europe. We traveled with another couple and made all of our cruise and flight plans through a travel agency. I arranged most of the shore excursions on my own. I have gone through our trip from the flights all the way to the disembarkation and post cruise excursions. I hope you enjoy the review as much as we enjoyed the trip! Thank you to all of the Cruise Critic members for your feedback and help while I was researching and planning for this trip. Flights Our trip got off to a bumpy start when we were delayed for over 4 hours in New Orleans due to high winds at our connection airport, Newark. Apparently this is a common occurrence when flying through Newark as I learned later. The delay caused us to miss our connection to Madrid. The Continental gate agent in New Orleans was supposed to put us on the late flight to Madrid, but upon arrival in Newark and after a marathon run to the gate, I was informed that in fact we were not on the flight. They proceeded to put 6 stand-by passengers on the flight ahead of us. I was not a happy camper! Thus, we had an unexpected detour and instead of staying in Barcelona we had deluxe accommodations at the Holiday Inn - Edison, NJ. We made the best out of the situation by spending the day in New York until our late afternoon direct flight to Barcelona. While I thought our trouble with Continental was over... boy was I wrong! After checking with baggage services multiple times in Newark to make sure our bags were correctly rerouted directly to Barcelona, neither of our bags arrived on the flight. After waiting in a long line and filing a claim for our bags, we hopped in a cab with the clothes on our backs and a few items in our carry on bags and headed to the ship. Embarkation The cab ride to the port was uneventful and cost around 35 euro. We were dropped off right at the front entrance at around 11:30. We proceeded to check in and noticed that a special desk was setup for lost luggage. Apparently this happens a lot! The NCL folks were very helpful at the desk and took a full report on our luggage situation. They informed us that since our first port of call, Messina, Sicily, did not have a commercial airport the first possible delivery point for our luggage was Naples which was Wednesday (this was Sunday). Boooo! NCL again was very helpful and offered us unlimited laundry service, a bag of toiletries and also gave us directions to a local mall where we picked up a handful of items. After filing our baggage paperwork, we breezed through the check in line in about 5 minutes and we were aboard. Ship The ship was in immaculate condition and the theme was very tasteful. It definitely had a more upscale feel to it. Room Our room was small, but nice. We chose an interior room to save money so that we could go all out on our shore excursions. This turned out to be an excellent decision. While we thought we would be unhappy buried on level 4 the location was superb as we were able to get off the ship first in almost every port. The room was also very quiet at night with no engine noise and very little movement at all. The only time we really spent time in the room was at night to sleep. It definitely served the purpose. Public Spaces The ship was well laid out with plenty of spaces to sit down and enjoy a quiet moment. We were especially impressed with the layout of the buffet area. Even though the space was servicing a majority of the 3,000 passengers on board it was laid out in a way where it flowed well and never seemed over crowded. We really spent very little time on the ship other than our first day at sea so a lot of the spaces on the ship went unused by us. Dining This was our first cruise with NCL and thus our first experience with "Freestyle Dining". We enjoyed the concept and felt that it allowed for more of a personal choice on each night. The way the restaurants were managed and the methods to inform the passengers of the current wait time, televisions throughout the public areas, was well conceived. We ate at the Tex Mex restaurant, the "regular" dining room, and the extra fee steak house. All of our meals were great. The only downside that I can see to the Freestyle Dining concept is that the service is a bit slower than your typical mass feeding style due to the fact that all courses are not being served at the same time. You also don't get the personal connection with your waiter as you would if you were dining at the same table every night. With that being said we preferred the choice and the freedom that Freestyle Dining afforded us. Ports Messina, Sicily Our first port of call was on the beautiful island of Sicily. I had prearranged a private tour for the four of us in our traveling party with Sicily Life. Alessandro from Sicily Life was waiting for us as we exited the ship. He was a very nice guy and spoke excellent English. We hopped in this van and were off for our first stop in Mt. Etna. Along the way Alessandro told us many interesting facts about the island and really seemed to know a lot about the history and culture of Sicily. We stopped briefly at a small village at the foot of Mt. Etna for a photo op and then stopped several more times on the way up the mountain for photos of the breathtaking views. Upon arrival at the visitor's center we climbed up one of the dormant craters. We then noticed a much higher crater and decided to make that climb as well. This trek was a bit harder than it looked and we all got our workout for the day. Be advised that it is very windy on the top of the mountain so keep hold of your possessions, such as hats. I speak from personal experience as I lost my hat at the top of the higher crater. As I mentioned before I still had no luggage so this was my only hat! Luckily a very brave Italian decided to save the say and literally slid down the side of the mountain to retrieve my cap. We offered him a "tip" but he declined and went along his way. After returning from our climb we grabbed a few drinks from the visitor's center, met back up with Alessandro, and headed down to our next stop Murgo winery. This was a small family owned winery in the foothills of Mt. Etna. Alessandro arranged for us to taste some wine and olive oil and after purchasing a few bottles we proceeded down the hills to Taormina. Alessandro took us to an overlook that offered awesome views of the town and sea below. Being from Taormina, Alessandro seemed to know all of the best routes to avoid the crowds. We took a few photos at this spot and then we were taken to lunch that we had prearranged with Sicily Life. The restaurant offered a great outdoor terrace and wonderful Sicilian selections. Our only complaint here was that it had really heated up through the day and at this point the temperatures were pushing 100 degrees. We still managed to enjoy our lunch and had some time on our own to wander the streets and shops of Taormina before being driven back to the port in Messina. Alessandro and Sebastiano, who we communicated with to book, from Sicily Life were both wonderful and I would not hesitate to recommend them. Naples / Amalfi Coast, Italy The ships next call was in Naples. Again I had prearranged a shore excursion this time through Drive Amalfi and Salvatore. Salvatore was waiting for us at the port doors as we exiting the ship and we all climbed into his van and headed out for the day. Salvatore is a very nice guy and really knows a ton about the area. He is originally from Amalfi and his family has lived there for generations. If you are looking for a reputable guide that knows his stuff he is your man! We hit a bit of traffic driving through Sorrento, but eventually made it to the famous Amalfi drive. Salvatore stopped at several locations to allow us to take pictures before driving through the small coastal town of Positano. As others have mentioned driving along the Amalfi coast can be a bit scary so we were glad we were in the good hands of Salvatore. We drove along the beautiful coast and made our way to Amalfi. After seeing Salvatore's son and brother along the way, we were dropped off downtown and we were given around 30 - 45 minutes to walk the town square and check out some of the local craft shops. We picked up some great gifts from a local stationary shop and met Salvatore for our drive to a lunch spot that he had selected. He took us to Ristorante Pizzeria San Giovanni in Pontone. They restaurant had a great terrace overlooking the Amalfi coast. The food was wonderful and reasonably priced. We enjoyed our lunch after our after lunch limoncello. After lunch we headed back down the hills for a stop in Pompeii. Since we had run into a bit of traffic earlier we didn't have as much time as we would have liked to explore the ruins, but we were still able to see a good bit albeit quickly. After Pompeii we met Salvatore and jetted back to the port in Naples. All in all, it was a great day along the Amalfi coast with Drive Amalfi and Salvatore. We arrived back to the ship and learned that our luggage did not arrive in Naples. Thanks Continental! I love wearing the same clothes! Rome, Italy For our stop in Civitavecchia (Rome) we decided to go it on our own. With some assistance from the Cruise Critic gang (thanks Hein!) we had great directions on catching the train from Civi to Rome. We boarded the train and got off at the first stop of San Pietro as I had faxed in our info and prearranged a guided Vatican tour for 10:30. The best move that we made on the entire trip might have been prebooking this tour as the line at 9:00 was unbelievably long! We skipped the entire queue and checked in with the guard at the front of the Vatican Museum. Within 10 minutes we were in the museum and paired with our tour guide. Along with a group of around 30 we toured through the museum and the Sistine Chapel. After seeing the overwhelming sights inside the chapel we headed over to St. Peter's. We took some photos and bought a few things from the gift shop. We found a small cafe along the way to the metro and decided to grab a quick bite to eat. After eating we took the metro to the Termini station, changed lines, and got off at the Coloseo stop to see the Roman Colosseum. The structure was massive and very impressive. We walked through the Roman Forum and took a few more shots. We decided since the line was pretty long at the Colosseum to forego the inside tour and to catch a cab to a few more sights before having to hop the train back to Civi. We got a cab over to the Pantheon and then took a short walk over to the Trevi fountain. After once again being overwhelmed by the history of the city we took a cab back to Termini and caught our train back to the port. We ended up seeing a ton of things in Rome on this day and in the end we were very happy, but exhausted! Upon return to the trip we got a pleasant surprise when we found our luggage waiting outside our door. Once again I want to stress how impressed I was with NCL's help with this matter. They kept us constantly updated on the status and were very helpful along the way. I cannot say the same for Continental since we were never contacted by the airline. I will be filing for reimbursement for our clothing and personal item expenses incurred during the 6 days we were without our luggage. Also for the first time ever I purchased travel insurance so whatever the airline will not cover will be covered by insurance. Livorno / Florence, Italy Our last stop in Italy was in Livorno. Once again I arranged a tour through Tuscany in my Pocket and Guido. For some reason we were a little apprehensive for this tour as there weren't as many reviews on Guido as some of the other tour guides. We were way off on this one! In all my years of cruising and after booking dozens of private tours, Guido was the best guide I have ever had. Immediately upon entering his van he had all of us cracking up with his catch phrase, "Mama Mia!" I thought that was only in the movies! He told stories and kept us all interested for the hour ride to Florence. Our first stop was the Duomo in the center of town... Wow! What an impressive and ornate site! We spent a few minutes there and then hopped back in the van over to the Academia Gallery to see Guido's friend, David. However, upon arriving at the gallery we were rudely greeted with a sign on the door stating that the gallery was closed for a few hours in the morning due to a "staff meeting." It turns out this was an unannounced strike. Welcome to Italy! Without missing a beat Guido brought us back to the car and took us to the Basilica of the Holy Cross. There was a long line to get in, but Guido brought us through the back door into the small leather shop. We were even treated to a private leather demonstration by the owner of the shop. We ended up buying a few hand crafted items and the shop keeper put our initials on the items in gold leaf. We toured the church and saw the final resting places of Michelangelo and Galileo among others. This was a great stop. After spending almost an hour in the church we headed back over to the Academia. When we arrived the place was in chaos. All those who had booked tours in the morning, including us, were jammed in the alley waiting at the door for them to open. Guido again took matters into his own had somehow communicating with one of workers. He then whisked us off to another door where that same worker came over, met us and let us in. The David was one of the most impressive things I have ever seen. Until you see it in person you cannot imagine the scope and precision of this work. It is truly a masterpiece. We walked through the rest of the gallery and then met Guido. He took us to one more stop at Michelangelo Park for some great views of Florence from the hills. After snapping a few photos we were off to the Chianti region of Tuscany. Guido had arranged for us to dine at and tour a small winery named Monagliari. This was also a wonderful stop and the beauty of the countryside cannot be explained in words. Since we had the unexpected "staff meeting" at the Academia we were running a bit behind so we didn't get to spend as much time as we would have liked touring the winery, but did enjoy a fabulous lunch. On the way back we talked and laughed with Guido about various topics from how Rome is great without the Romans to he and his son's love for Spongebob. Again Guido is a wonderful guide and I don't thing we would have had as memorable of a time if he was not with us. Villefranche, France The final port of call for our trip was Villefranche. We decided to book an excursion through the ship since this was a tender port and our time was very limited. We chose the Monaco and the View from Eze tour with NCL. We had seen a show on the Travel Channel about Eze and we were really looking forward to that stop. After meeting and tendering to shore we hopped in a bus and headed to Monaco. Upon arrival we stopped at the cathedral and saw the tombs of Princess Grace and Price Rainier. We then took the short walk to the Royal Palace and were given 30 - 45 minutes to explore on our own. We caught the changing of the guard and walked back to the bus for the short ride to Monte Carlo. We walked around the casino area and had a short time for personal exploration. After Monte Carlo we boarded the bus for the half hour ride up to the mountain village of Eze. Eze was a great village and offered some unique shops and quaint medieval charm. Our friends who knew very little about this village really enjoyed our choice. I was pleased with the NCL organized tour. I am sometimes wary of ship excursions because I hate being herded like cattle, but this tour was very relaxed and allowed for plenty of personal exploration time. Disembarkation and Post Cruise The disembarkation process was very smooth and uneventful. We chose the express walk off option so after enjoying a final breakfast on board we walked off and quickly jumped in a cab. We spent the rest of the day until our flight to Madrid at 8:00 p.m. exploring Barcelona on the HO-HO bus. We found this an efficient way to explore the city given our limited time (we were supposed to have an additional day at the front end, but due to our flight delays this did not happen). At the end of the trip we spent two days in Madrid and took a side trip to Toledo. I would highly recommend our hotel that our travel agent set up for us in Madrid, the Petit Palace Londres. It was a typical small, Euro-style hotel, but the location was unbelievable. We were on a street between Puerto del Sol and the Gran Via. All in all even with the flight/luggage issues this was the trip of a lifetime for us. We were glad we got to share the experiences with our friends. We all would like to thank NCL, the staff of the Jewel and all of our tour guides for making this trip so memorable! Read Less
Sail Date June 2007
We booked Air, Hotel and Cruise thru NCL from our TA. We splurged and went for the owners Our flight was from Toronto to Amsterdam and then Amsterdam to Barcelona. 6:00 p.m: We arrived at Toronto airport and received our Airline ... Read More
We booked Air, Hotel and Cruise thru NCL from our TA. We splurged and went for the owners Our flight was from Toronto to Amsterdam and then Amsterdam to Barcelona. 6:00 p.m: We arrived at Toronto airport and received our Airline Tickets which included both boarding passes to Amsterdam and to Barcelona. We flew to Amsterdam with no issues, when we arrived in Amsterdam that's where our problem started. Once boarding time started, went up with our boarding pass was told we cannot get on the plane without a ticket, I explained that the boarding passes was all we were given. After what seemed forever, the lady behind him called us over and said everything is now fine. She phoned someone in Toronto and they confirmed they didn't give us that tickets. she indicated that this happens all the time. We arrived in Barcelona and met up with a NCL rep where we had to wait for an hour or so for the remaining other flights. Once everyone was there we were told to board the buses based on the hotel you are at. We arrived at the hotel (Melia Barcelona) around 3:00 a.m (toronto time), I was dead tired, The Hotel was beautiful. I was too tired to explore so we just ordered food in and went to bed. A letter was given to all of us to meet up at 11:30 in the lobby. We squared off our hotel bill and went directly on the Bus which took us 1/2 hour to get to the ship. As we got into the warehouse, we saw the long long line to get onto the ship. Thank goodness I saw the sign for Suite passengers. No lineup! They took our passports and held onto it for the the entire trip(not sure if this was for non US Citizens only). Make sure you make a copy of it!. We met Alex (Concierge), and the butler(Karan). Karan escorted us up to the suite and showed us around (Pictures to follow). What a cabin, coffee maker, 1 1/2 baths (TV in one). Phones everywhere including the bathroom, 2 balconies (front and side). One huge coffee maker that even grinds beans. This was amazing. Our luggage even arrived within the hour. At 6:30 we were to meet up with the Cruise critic Meet and Greet in the Garden Villa. I would like to personally thank Karen (Swimgrl) for hosting the M&G, Gary(GaryCarla) for his unbelievable Website and Sdiver(Sandy) for assisting with the M&G. It was a pleasure to have met you and everyone else. I'm not sure how many were there but it looked to be over 100 CC. The ship was was beautiful, we ate mostly in the speciality restaurant and that was a choice we chose prior to boarding the ship. The food is excellent. We had lunch at the Buffet a few times, it got quite crowded and to find available seats was not easy. We took advantage of breakfast in Cagneys a few times and most times ordered Room service. No cooking, cleaning or working for 15 days was a real treat so I lived it up! We booked all our excursions with NCL and have learned from this trip we should have gone private as many who did from the Cruise Critic raved at their trip. We chose Rome and the Vatican excursion and found that to be very stressful. We had to stand in line for 3 hours to get in to the Museum where you walked in the museum for another 3 hours. The Vatican museum, sistine chapel was breathtaking. We that this excursion didn't allow time to shop The excursion was a 9 1/2 hours long but from ship to ship it took over 11 hours. We also booked A visit to Pisa and Livorno by Boat. We enjoyed the Visit to Pisa, it was well worth it. We also booked Eze and Monaco. We did a fair amount of walking but this place was breathtaking. I sure would love to live there. 2 of our other excursions were messed up so We ended up shopping at Gibraltar, Ajaccio, Palma de mallorca and portugal and just loved it there. The weather overall was just wonderful, warm and not too hot, it did get a little rough by the end of the week. The entertainment was amazing and a must to check out. The Casino was okay. I found they were not as generous as they were on the Sun. Last year I got comped for a meal and drinks. But not this time. Overall we had a good time. Now back to reality...work Read Less
Sail Date October 2006
This was our 4th NCL cruise and we have been pleased with all of them. We booked it for the price and destination. Since price was a consideration, we booked an inside cabin and rarely spent much time there. The Jewel was everything that ... Read More
This was our 4th NCL cruise and we have been pleased with all of them. We booked it for the price and destination. Since price was a consideration, we booked an inside cabin and rarely spent much time there. The Jewel was everything that we had hoped for and was simply beautiful. This was also our third cruise booked during the time of 9/11, our first being the week of the tragedy. One of the things that was really nice on this trip was the remembrance service on 9/11 on board the Jewel with the entire crew of officers in full uniform behind a wreath of white roses. There weren't a lot of people that attended that, but, we thought it was very special. Embarkation: Other than problems with gate changes in Atlanta, the whole thing went very smoothly. Luckily, we weren't in a group that came through Heathrow, Gatwick, or Paris. There were multiple bad stories of luggage lost, delays, searches, etc. We were also lucky in that we were not in the group of 100 cruisers who never received their luggage the entire trip! From talking to them, NCL tried to help in a lot of different ways from taking them to a city to buy clothes and then washing/drying them free of charge every other day to reimbursing them for some of the loss. The embarkation at Barcelona was very smooth for us, with luggage arriving relatively promptly and porters and buses ready for us when we arrived. We had hoped to be able to take a tour of the city before boarding the ship, but, were hustled out to the ship quickly without a chance to make other arrangements. So, we only saw some of the city from the port-to-ship ride. Stateroom: It was little and cramped, but we had expected that. Like I said, we spent so little time there that we made do with it. We had a bottle of wine waiting for us upon arrival and that was nice. The refrigerator was stocked with candy, water, beer, soft drinks, wine, etc., upon our arrival. That was also new to us, since that wasn't the case on previous trips. We had brought our own water bottles for the 12 day cruise and we used the refrigerator for storing those. My husband appreciated have FOX channel on the TV instead of just movies and ship info. Our 2 cabin stewards were outstanding! Dining: We ate in all of the regular dining venues as well as Mama's Italian Kitchen. I was disappointed in Mama's because we had reservations and still had to eat outside with the regular diners from the Outside Grill. I felt that it took away from the good comments we had heard about the food and atmosphere because we were only two tables away from the same place we ate most every morning on deck! I am an early riser, so the Garden Buffet was usually the only thing opened when I ate. I liked it, but got tired of eating there so much. We really liked Azura's and Tsar's Palace. We requested a specific waitperson each time we were at Azura's and the service was wonderful! I thought that this helped in the overall satisfaction that we had with the restaurant. Since the Captain's Gala was the night of the first full day of sailing, and the menu included lobster, we dined at Tsar's Palace that night and had a great time! The food was good all of the time and sometimes it was exceptional. Shore Excursions: We took one in every city, an expensive thing to do, but we reasoned that we might never be back and wanted to see as much history as possible. Most of them were excellent. The biggest problem we had was in Venice with a second day Walk the Heart of Venice tour. First of all, the tour was basically St. Mark's Square period. If I had known that from the beginning, we would have skipped it and gone to Murano. Our guide was a soft-spoken older woman who forgot to turn on her microphone, who was more interested that we pronounce the Italian artists names correctly, and whose pace could only be described as SLOW! We spent so much time just getting there--ship was docked 15 minutes from the Square and she took almost 35 to get there--that we missed the tour of St. Mark's Church all together! Her comment that our tickets were good for 3 months didn't help at all! The Doges Palace was lovely, but, that was all we saw! Our favorite tours were in Dubrovnik, Croatia--Croatian Riviera--was wonderful! The guide and the restaurant by the waterfalls were excellent!--and Ruins of Ephesus in Izmir and Nuevo Ghetto in Venice were also outstanding! We had tried to get information before the cruise from the website on exactly what was included in some of the tours, but it was no help. In calling NCL in Florida with the same questions, there was still no help. I was trying to find out if the Athens' tour--Taste of Athens-- went to the top of the Acropolis. No one knew. It was only the night before the tour that I finally got an answer. The excursion sheet never said yes or no, just that it was one of most photograhed places and that walking might be difficult! As we found out, it DOES go to the top and walking wasn't difficult, just a little steep, and expect 1000 persons visiting the place at the same time! Having 2-3 cruise ships in all these ports at the same time made crowd control awful. However, I thought that the NCL tours handled it well, even when people got lost! OnBoard Entertainment: Anything that the Jean Ann Ryan Company did was excellent! There were 3 shows and all were fabulous! We attended almost every night show in the theatre and felt that most of them were well worth the time. The exception was Edge that I thought was not very good and not very appropriate for audiences with children. Second City was great and the parody of ship life just hilarious. The tenor Chris Riggins was magnificent! The Norwegian Jewel Show Band was outstanding every time they played. The show-stealer of the cruise was the Crew Talent Night and the hilarious finale of that, the Fountains! The entire audience was laughing so hard they were crying! Cruise Life: NCL goes overboard with photographs! When you arrive in a port, when you dine, when you play, when you are walking, swimming, etc. There is a photographer in your face all the time..and the pictures aren't cheap! We finally got to the point we just said no, thank you, and went on our way. Yes, we bought the formal portraits, but we said no on almost every thing else. It is easier to keep collecting your pictures in one place--we chose the formal shots--for the entire cruise and then making your decision on pictures during the last full day or two than to try to choose and buy as you said along, or so we decided. I loved the library with the daily Sudoku and Word Find puzzles and the quietness you could find there almost any time of the day or night because it was open most of the time, even though there wasn't a crew member there. We also liked the Internet Cafe, coming to realize that when everyone else was eating was the best time to find an empty spot! Disembarkation: We knew the procedure about the luggage tags and the luggage outside your room before midnight from previous cruises. However, since we were supposed to be leaving the ship at 5:30 a.m., and we weren't called until 5:48, and only then because I kept calling the main desk to find out why we were delayed, I wasn't too happy. It is a 30 minute ride from dock to Istanbul airport, and at that hour, it went smoothly. The mess began inside the airport. There are 5 passport checks from the door where you walk in until you board the airplane. What no one told the airport was that 2 or 3 cruise ships would be dropping off about 700 passengers bound for Chicago on a 10:00 a.m. flight at the same time! The line was awful! There were 3 ticket check-in stations for these two Turkish Airlines flights to Chicago and about 600+ passengers waiting in line. It took us 3 hours and 20 minutes just to check-in, then two more passport checks just to get to the gate which was hidden and not marked in the concourse aisle! At 10:00, there were still a lot of people in line for this flight and, of course, the flight was late taking off. After waiting in line for 3+ hours, then waiting another 45 minutes to get on the plane, and then an 11+ hour flight to Chicago, was very exhausting! And to leave the waiting area at the gate meant that you had to go through another passport/ticket check to get back in! If you are traveling with children, and many were, be prepared! The Istanbul airport was, by far, the worst experience we have ever had. I realize that it wasn't NCL's fault, but, there should have been some forewarning about the wait time. It might have helped. Yes, we will travel with NCL again. We really have been treated like family on their ships and we appreciated the service. Read Less
Sail Date September 2006
I recently returned from from a 12 day cruise of the Western Med aboard the NORWEGIAN JEWEL. I was very disappointed with the food on the ship, as it was the worst of all my cruising so far. If you wanted a very good meal you needed to ... Read More
I recently returned from from a 12 day cruise of the Western Med aboard the NORWEGIAN JEWEL. I was very disappointed with the food on the ship, as it was the worst of all my cruising so far. If you wanted a very good meal you needed to pay for it. Cagney's Steakhouse cost me 60.00 for a good meal and they nickel and dime you to death. I have never been on a cruise where my baggage was not in my room when we boarded the ship, as this was the case this time. When I called to find out where it was, they stated that they had until 7:00 PM that night to get it to us. Where in all the literature (web site or brochure) is this stated? We arrived in Barcelona and after a three hour tour by bus we were allowed on board. Since we were tired and wanted to get some sleep and clean up, we could not as we did not get our baggage until after 5:00PM. Barcelona was a bust and a waste of time for us because of this problem. We wanted to go on the Jump on Jump of bus but never had the chance. The tours were very good and was the highlight of the cruise was a previous Manager of the restaurants on the Crown Odyssey from Orient Lines was in charge on the Jewel and was kind enough to have a special dinner just for us and 4 other couples. I had ordered a wine and fruit to be in my stateroom (For my Wife's birthday Sept 12th) when we arrived and I got it two days into the trip. I thought that you might have left us a bottle also. On the Free Style dinning we did not like it as they state that you can eat anytime and this is not ture. Most close at 9:00 or 10:00 PM and you can get leftovers at the Garden cafe only. To get a good meal I eat just about once a day at the money restaurants We were looking forward to having Lobster and the one we were served at the free restaurant was overcooked. I sent it back three times then left for another restaurant to eat at. We went to the steak house and had to spend an additional 60.00 to get lobster and steak what a rip off. Best meal I cannot say for sure. But, shore excursion were very well organized and went without any problems, which I must say was great seeing that you had 2,000 plus people on board. I thought it was all done in a first class manner. The other problem is that they do not go the extra mile for anyone since they have to split up the 10.00 dollars a day per person between them. ( They get it no matter what.) I wanted my 10.00 dollars a day to go to the folks that did the most for you. We did tip some extra money and when I left my bill was over 2,000.00 dollars. A luxury cruise vacation should be remembered for a lifetime, but I will never forget this one. By the way, 125 folks did not get there bags the first day and I know of at least four that never got them. Two extra days in Istanbul. The hotel in Istanbul was nice, but the Marmara Hotel would have been much better as it is in city center and the cab drivers do not rip you off. We could not get into the restaurant I wanted to eat at as there was a convention going on, but we did enjoy Istanbul. I would not recommend NCL to anyone at any time and now I am looking to Holland America, Celebrity, Oceania South America Asia China late 2007. Read Less
Sail Date September 2006
I recently took the twelve day trip from Barcelona to Istanbul. It was my first and last time on NCL. I will preface my experience by saying that the only other cruise I have taken was the transatlantic trip on the QE2 so perhaps I was ... Read More
I recently took the twelve day trip from Barcelona to Istanbul. It was my first and last time on NCL. I will preface my experience by saying that the only other cruise I have taken was the transatlantic trip on the QE2 so perhaps I was spoiled. However the treatment from NCL from the start was shoddy. Arriving in Barcelona early, I wanted to tour the city for the day before going to the ship. I found NCL reps very easily at the airport and asked if they could take my bag to the ship.I called earlier about this arrangement and was told since I booked the ticket on an internet agency they could not take my bag. I figured this coud be fixed at the airport to no avail. I asked if they could charge my room to take the bag but was simply told no. It was ninety degrees in Barcelona that day. Being very well traveled I knew about the express bus to the center of town so lugging my bag onto the bus I was downtown within thirty minutes but I was already sweating pretty badly. I was lucky enough to ask one of the many town tour guides standing in the Placa Catalonia about bag storage and they led me two blocks to their offices which had lockers. Needless to say I was teed off at this hostile welcome by NCL. They nickle and dime you during the whole time onboard but wouldn't charge me to take my bag. I will say that my room was very clean but turned out to be right next to the stairs and the elevators and was very noisy. Now I'm deaf in one ear so in most cases I can sleep through anything but the banging and running that pervaded the room was constant. It took multiple complaints and one final scene before NCL moved me. They kept saying they were fully booked but somehow found a room four days into the trip. Now about the ship. I can only describe it as a three star Vegas hotel with the crowd to match. The pool is surrounded by these plastic light trimmed palm trees and reggae band played so loudly every afternoon that you had to escape to either ends of the ship for some peace and quiet. The colors in the interior of the ship are garish and while I will say the boat is clean its still tacky tacky tacky. As reported by others I thought the food was awful and only heightened by the truly bad taste of the decorations. The Tsars Resturant is huge with these amateur portraits of russian nobility gazing at you. I can only say this ship is the Imperial Palace and not the Bellagio. I remember ordering a first course of Bruschetta and getting two pieces of toast about the size of a quarter with a tiny piece of tomato. I laughed out loud at the ridiculous portion size of everything. A big word of caution to anyone like me who is traveling alone. The freestyle dining is an awful prediciment for single travelers as you end up eating alone until you hopefully meet people who ask you to join them. The final straw occured when I made a reservation for the chinese resturant paying the extra fee for the honor. I was seated at a table by myself and was then ignored for a good ten minutes. I was looking at my watch saying I'd sit for another five minutes when ten members of the NCL staff entered the resturant, were seated a few feet away and there orders taken. I walked over to the highest ranking officer at the table, tapped him on the shoulder and asked, " I didn't realize that staff were served before paying customers!" Well this set off lots of alarms with all the staff and I left the resturant angry and hurt. I must say two days later the resturant called me and had me back for a complimentary dinner. My anger over all aspects of the ship was such that I had a final blowout at reception and gee an hour later I was told that another room had been found. Now being an expert traveller, I did not sign up for any shore excursions. I know my way around most of Europe and how to get places on my own but I caution those who are unfamiliar with where the train station or simply town is. NCL offers no assistance to those who need to know about shuttle buses to town or directions of any kind. If you haven't paid to get on the bus your on your own. Enjoy the free ice cream cone machine because its the only complimentary object onboard. I will again say the boat is clean and huge and the staff for the most part very friendly. If your looking for a new tacky Vegas hotel that floats this boat is for you and if you like meatloaf go for it. As for me, never, never again. Read Less
Sail Date September 2006
Norwegian Cruise Line European Cruise, RCL Jewel- Barcelona to Barcelona - 8/13/06 - 8/21/06 Overview - wonderful trip, 5 ½ stars, highly recommend Weather was beautiful during the entire trip: High 84, low 60, Sunny. We flew on ... Read More
Norwegian Cruise Line European Cruise, RCL Jewel- Barcelona to Barcelona - 8/13/06 - 8/21/06 Overview - wonderful trip, 5 ½ stars, highly recommend Weather was beautiful during the entire trip: High 84, low 60, Sunny. We flew on NCL-arranged Iberia Airlines from Chicago. We stayed at a free-park, Country Inn, in Bensenville, IL that provided a nice room, overlooking a beautiful golf green , free breakfast and a free shuttle to O'Hare airport. Iberia, the airline is not well known. The shuttle driver, when we announced our departing airline, said where's that? We got to O'Hare early because of the British terrorist threat . Fortunately, every thing went smoothly, so we had time for a late lunch in the O'Hare airport. We found a great Wolfgang Puck Restaurant! Tasty. We did have a great flight with Iberia - English was the second language. Left O'Hare at 4:45 pm, on 8/12/06. Got into Madrid at 6 AM, on 8/13/06. (7 hour time difference.) Had to run the longest distance possible in the Madrid airport to get the Barcelona flight. Arrived in Barcelona at 10 AM. Immediately met by NCL; they took all the luggage. We were transported to the Jewel by 11 AM. Embarkation speedy - many, many people checking you in; very courteous and friendly. Went right to the cabin. Ship beautiful, clean, stable. Cabin 9662 was in extreme AFT portion of ship, but close to the Garden Cafe and the Outdoors Cafe for breakfast and Tsar's Palace for dinner. It was a long trip to the bow of the ship and Bingo and the shows. The cabin was big enough for two and had a nice balcony that overlooked the water. First thing to do is get your dinner reservations. Went to Tango restaurant on 6th floor. (Can also use 050 on telephone.) . Recommend to eat at Tsar's MONDAY night for the Steak & Lobster. The dining reservation system is wonderful with computer. When we changed reservations over the phone (Special button on telephone for dinner reservations), they "see" all your reservations immediately and tell your times. You can cancel your reservations any time before 5 PM.any day. We took a nap Sunday pm due to jet lag, but went to the announced Barbeque (chicken, burgers, hot dogs and fixins - good) on deck 12 that evening. Saw the Welcoming Show - thought it was very good. The first day (Monday) is a Sea day, so there were no excursions. That was great timing for us, for we were tired from the jet lag. Fortunately, in the morning, I hit a Bingo for $167. (There are new amazing Bingo machines. I had 36 cards, and the machine took care of all of the numbers. When I had 5 out of 6 numbers needed, I stood up , and when they called my number I said bingo. That was it.) At 2:15 PM Monday they had the putting contest, and I won the craziest contest I was ever in - for the finals of the contest the two of us had to putt from the top stair, down a long flight of stairs, to a plastic "hole" at the bottom.. It took 6 times before I could hit it. (Two of us had both holed long 24 feet putts to get into the finals.) After the Bingo and the putting contest, I really knew it was "my day". That evening we went to Tsar's Palace at 5:30pm and had a wonderful window table for lobster and filet. Very good. On Tuesday we went to Sicily and took the Toarmina and Vineyards tour. Toarmina was a little stone village on a side of hill that had many little shops, an imposing view of the sea and Mt. Etna, and an ancient Greek theatre. After that, we visited the wonderful estate in the Vineyard. The Sicilian hostess poured as much wine as you could drink (7 different varieties) and the Sicilian dinner was marvelous. The weather was clear and we could see the top of Mt. Etna all day. The cost of the excursion was $142 pp but well worth it. We bought some very good wine for 11 Euros. On Wednesday, we went into Naples in the morning by ourselves. Be sure not to wear your jewelry. A friendly waiter in a coffee shop actually took my gold chain off my neck and handed it to me, and said, This is Naples! The police were very accommodating and helped us get across the street. Both August 15 & August 16 were special religious holidays, so about only half of the stores were open. Most of the shops were on Toledo Via. It was about 4 blocks directly up hill from the ship berth. We had good Italian coffee (thick) - ask for sugar. We found a nice department store, called "la Rinascente" on Toledo Via and shopped a lot. At lunch we had a wonderful pizza at the Vera Pizzaria. Pizza was invented in Naples and is very good - the most famous is "Marghereta Pizza" The Italian draft beer was very good. They say you should make certain that you go to a pizzaria with a wood burning stove. On Wednesday afternoon, we took a short ship's excursion: "Views of Naples". Saw some of the beautiful residential areas around the city. Very pleasant. (tour included another Italian beer) That night we went to the Japanese Teppanyaki restaurant - excellent. Very much like the best Benihana I have ever been to. On Thursday, we went on the "Rome and Vatican" tour. Very nice, but huge line to get into the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel (2 ½ hours). They had been closed to the public for the two prior days because of the religious holiday, so "everyone" wanted to get into the place on Thursday. Both the Sistine Chapel and St Peters are marvelous. It was incredible to see the size of St Peters - those who climb up to the top railing inside look little ants way up there. Had a mediocre lunch with the tour. It was a huge walk from and to the bus. I didn't think I could do it - but I did! The only reason I made it with my poor circulation legs, was that I took along a Sports Seat. (It is like a cane with a seat that flips down, so I could rest a little when we stopped.) Also, we had a wonderful ship crew member, Jose Montezandro ( bald, from the Philippines) who helped me during the entire walk (run?). We next took a bus tour around Rome, and stopped at the Coliseum. That night I went to the Garden Cafe and brought chicken caesar salad and individually cooked pasta (they have a pasta chef) back into the room for us. Both of us were too tired to go the show On Friday we went to Florence. It was even more impressive than Rome. Of course, the trip to Florence from Livorno (the port) was spectacular. The hills, mountains, vineyards, and farms were all beautiful. We went on the "Splendor of Florence" tour. Better pace. Had one hour to view David with the very finest tour guide imaginable. His lectures about David and Michelangelo's sculpture were very vivid. He had gone to school for four years at the Accademie(?) where David was shown. His name is Bernardo Randelli, via Stefano Tur, 10 50137 Firenze - Italia +39 333 269 9744. After David, we walked to the beautiful Cathedral and Duomo and onto the Ponte Vecchio (old bridge), and then to a wonderful lunch.. Then we went to the Santa Croce where most the celebrities of Renaissance were buried. Then we had about ½ hour to shop. Beth loved the Gold Corner shop and I bought Florentine leather billfolds. Because two ladies were 20 minutes late, we had to RUN to our bus to get back to the ship in time. The same ladies had also missed the bus in the morning ! That Friday night we went to Cirques Bijou. Best show I ever saw!! It's is a MUST SEE. Then we went to the Le Bistro restaurant. It was very good food , but our waiter must have had a bad day. . Saturday morning we went to Villefrance. Beautiful area on the French Riviera. Took a local tour ourselves around the town on a little train. Very pleasant. Then we took the real train to Monte Carlo, only 20 minutes away. What a magnificent area that is! Just bought T-shirts and souvenirs, and had a beer overlooking all the yachts. Took the train back to Villefrance, and tendered back onto the ship. Tender was very quick both ways. Ate at Tsar's Palace at 6 PM because we were packing. Sunday morning we left the ship at 6:15 AM, because an early flight from Barcelona to Madrid. Very quick disembarkation . However, on the Barcelona runway, Iberia discovered they had a flat tire, which made us 2 hours late to Madrid. Fortunately Iberia held its flight to Chicago for us in Madrid. Very good airline. Very good food - two full meals both coming and going, and all the free wine you wanted. Happy, even though late, flight home! Country Inn's shuttle met us right outside the International Terminal within 15 minutes after telephoning them and we stayed another night in the room overlooking the golf course. Read Less
Sail Date August 2006
Though there are several reviews of this ship/itinerary, I thought I would submit mine, as a first -time cruiser. I travelled with my family -my parents are grizzled veterans with well over 30 cruises on half a dozen lines under their ... Read More
Though there are several reviews of this ship/itinerary, I thought I would submit mine, as a first -time cruiser. I travelled with my family -my parents are grizzled veterans with well over 30 cruises on half a dozen lines under their belt, and my brother who has been on 5 cruises on three different lines - but I am a novice, so I will share my views, but also include some of theirs, as a comparison. We flew from London, Manchester and Newcastle respectively, on the Sunday after the Thurs when the terrorism alert broke, so all air travel was a bit fraught still. No hand luggage, tons of security, and some delays of course. The flight out of Heathrow was delayed 3 hours, so my brother and I were among the last to board at about 5.30pm, which meant I didn't really experience a 'normal' embarkation. We were off the transfer bus and on the ship in less than 5 minutes, which may not have been the case had we arrived earlier. This was a positive, but also made me a little jealous when I headed from my stateroom to the sail-away buffet, and saw hundreds of people lounging on the pool deck, tucking into their barbecues and looking as if they had already been there forever! The cabin was an agreeable surprise to me (an oceanview balcony stateroom) though my brother felt there was more space in his cabin on the Royal Caribbean's Voyager. We called for the room to be 'twinned' before we went to eat, and it was done by the time we returned. I thought the bright turquoise, pink and orange decor was great, cheery and clean-looking, but everyone else in the family found it a tad overwhelming! My parents had an inside stateroom, though they normally go for a balcony, but because we had to travel in school holidays due to my being a teacher, they found the price-hike unacceptable, so plumped for an inside stateroom, which they found rather dark and more cramped than same cabins on RCI's Jewel of the Seas, which is their favorite ship. The inside cabins on that have a sofa as well as the bed, which is not the case on the Norwegian Jewel. I have to say, having the balcony was a must for me, I wouldn't cruise again without it. We all convened daily on our balcony for pre-dinner drinks and sunset-watching, and I read there at nights before bed for a couple of hours - it's very relaxing, gives an impression of space and light and just felt luxurious! The bathroom was also a decent size, well organized with a large shower and plenty of useful touches, like the shampoo and shower gel dispensers in the shower, the moisturizing lotion which was always promptly replaced when I pinched it (!) and a separate toilet. Everything spotless, and I couldn't have asked for more from our cabin attendant, whom I never saw, but who turned down and made up our cabin every day beautifully. Oh, and the beds were REALLY comfortable, with excellent quality linen - which I hadn't expected. On to dining. This was very good indeed, in my opinion, and also my dad's. My brother was on a health kick, so didn't indulge as we did, but found plenty of choice, and was able to eat from the Cooking Light menus, as well as having access to lots of fresh fruit and veg, but he gave the Chocoholic Buffet a miss to avoid temptation! My mum was less impressed with the speciality restaurants than the rest of us, but generally approved of the variety available. We ate in all but one of the restaurants/cafes on board. Mama's Kitchen was the only exception, because though we booked all our dinners up to Thurs, to leave our options open, we found on Thurs eve that Mama's was booked for the rest of the cruise - shame, because I really fancied some calamari! Booking dinner for 8pm each night wasn't a problem, and we ate at the Bistro twice, because we liked it so much the first time. Tsars was good when we ate there for lunch when most people were ashore, but I thought it might have been too big, noisy and crowded at dinner time. Azura's on lobster night was busy, but the food was plentiful and tasty. We ate lunch twice and breakfast once at the Blue Lagoon, which I liked for its quietness, ambience and smaller, more manageable portions. We loved the Bistro - I had the chocolate fondue twice! The service there and at Cagney's was the best I thought. Cagney's was my favorite meal, where you can look at the cuts of meat before choosing, and even my health-conscious work-out fiend brother succumbed to joining us for the gorgeous Cherries Jubilee! My dad and I love Asian food, so Chin Chins was high on our priority list. We both enjoyed it thoroughly, though I was irritated when I chose the first and last items on the menu (edamame beans appetizer and green tea ice cream dessert) and was told I couldn't have either because the supplies came from Japan and they had run out - this was on Tues! Also on Tues they ran out of soft-serve ice cream in the Garden Cafe because the mix came from America and they couldn't get it in Europe. I thought this was a bit feeble, since surely you would just make sure you had enough? The Tom Yam soup and dim sum at Chin Chins was great though, and my dad loved all of his dishes. My mum and brother were less impressed, and felt it just wasn't authentic Asian, but that they were trying to do too much by offering Chinese, Japanese, Malaysian, Indian etc all in same kitchen. I had wanted to try the Teppanyaki, but when we saw that it was a sort of goldfish bowl where other passengers tended to congregate outside the windows to watch, we felt it might be hard to relax under the scrutiny. I also regret not trying the sushi bar, but there was so much choice and only a finite space in my tummy! We ordered coffee and juice from room service most mornings, before going to Garden Cafe for breakfast, and the room service was prompt and efficient. I disagree with most reviewers about the bar prices being exorbitant. I tend not to drink, but did treat myself to the odd cocktail, and a frozen Blue Hawaii, margarita or appletini in any London pub would cost me the same or more than $5.50. My parents think the drinks are far too expensive, but admit that NCL's prices are on a par with other lines. If you are drinking several rounds in a group, and drinking beer, wine and spirits I imagine it would be pricey, but for the occasional treat it was fine. Spinnakers Lounge was always empty during the day, which amazed me because it was by far the nicest place to hang out and relax, with cool double-bed sized turquoise wave-shaped couches, polo-mint chairs with footstools, and giant orange sofas. You could read there, great views from wraparound floor to ceiling windows, and even listen to the band rehearse at lunchtimes. We often picked up sandwiches and salads from the Garden Cafe and took them to eat in Spinnakers where we were routinely the only people! There were lots of activities like trivia quizzes or games, which we attended but found we were either the only people to turn up, or among a very few others. This may be because of it being in school holidays, with lots of kids in tow, adults were less able to shoot off to a quiz, or could be because the activities weren't announced, so people forgot about them. The entertainment was excellent overall, but I am told that NCL is best line for that anyway. Both Jean Ann Ryan Company shows were fabulous, especially the Cirque Bijou. I LOVED the crew talent show, which was probably the most fun time I had in the beautiful Stardust Theatre. I skipped both magic shows after the start, because that's just not to my taste, but we all enjoyed the Second City improv, and it seemed as though, ship-wide, there was plenty to keep everyone entertained. I like karaoke, so often went to those sessions in the Fyzz Lounge. I only went on one shore excursion, to Pompeii, and found the whole thing well organized and smooth, though exhausting! Getting up that early isn't for me, and on a one week cruise, I wanted to be sure to have lots of time to lie by the pool, work on my tan, and just chill out. I never had a problem getting a sun lounger, and while the pool area was often busy, it didn't feel too crowded. The only thing that bothered me was that they piped music too loudly from the pool deck speakers sometimes, and it made hearing my iPod almost impossible at times, no matter how loud I turned it up, trying to hear my Green Day, with 'Girl From Ipanema' pounding away from the ship speakers was a bizarre audio experience! The staff on the Jewel were generally polite and helpful, but I didn't like the auto-gratuity thing. I asked to have the daily $10 taken off my bill, in favor of personal tipping, and I do think that staff try harder if their tips are dependent on their personal service, rather than knowing that no matter what they do, they will get some cut of a generic tipping kitty. I did have the best facial of my life at the Bora Bora though, and was happy to tip generously for my exceedingly well-trained skin therapist. Mind you, if you do plan to use the Bora Bora's services, don't be too quick to sign up. By Weds they are offering 2 for 1 treatments, and by Friday it's 3 for 1. I paid $99 for a facial and reflexology treatment, but if I had gone early in the week they were $99 each. On Sat you could get 3 things for $89, so be patient! Also go early for your appointment or leave free time afterwards, as you get to use their divine relaxation room for free, with heated beds, sauna, whirlpool, drench showers etc. My brother bought a weekly pass to use all those things, plus steam room etc, and he was there 2 or 3 times a day, and said he had never felt so relaxed by the end of the trip. All in all, I had a great trip. Four of us with different ideas of what constitutes good food, relaxation and fun all managed to find lots to enjoy, while still getting to spend quality time with our family in a pleasant setting, with convenient access to all facilities. My mum still adores her Royal Caribbean Jewel of the Seas, but now realizes that the freestyle experience is a huge draw for people who want flexibility, and who don't really enjoy sitting at large tables of strangers in the same dining room night after night. That and the entertainment quality were the two things we all agreed were the biggest pull for NCL. Read Less
Sail Date August 2006
Overall, our cruise was uneven. It's hard to write a balanced review when there was so much gap between the highs and the lows, but I'll give it a shot! Embarkation from Barcelona was smooth, but the lines were long. We arrived ... Read More
Overall, our cruise was uneven. It's hard to write a balanced review when there was so much gap between the highs and the lows, but I'll give it a shot! Embarkation from Barcelona was smooth, but the lines were long. We arrived a little before noon, and the line went right outside onto the sidewalk. We had a minisuite on deck 11. It was lovely -- especially having a bathtub, and a reasonably sized one at that. I had presumed it would be like the little shallow tubs you often find in midrange hotels, but this was a proper tub, comfortable for my six foot sweetie to use. What luxury! Another pleasant surprise was a chair on our veranda with a reclining back. The second chair was regular wire mesh. We asked our steward for a third chair (third bathrobe, third cup etc&the room had been set up for two) and he looked doubtful, but went off and came back with another regular garden chair. He told me we couldn't have 2 reclining-back chairs because they take up too much balcony space and it would be unsafe (?), but when he couldn't fit the regular chair through the doorway to our stateroom, he disappeared and returned with a second reclining back chair. So, we are happily ensconced in our minisuite. Got our chairs, got our books, got our fresh flower (one gerbera daisy -- it was in pretty sad shape by day 5!) and all is well with the world. As an added bonus, the dEcor was a little more subdued than the NCL photos. I think some changes have been made. Unfortunately, we had air-conditioning malfunctions twice during the week, but a maintenance worker arrived right away both times. The muster drill was way more comfortable than the RCCL ... we all went to the theatre and sat down while they did an airline-like demonstration of how to fasten your lifejacket. Evidently the theatre is where we were to go in case of an emergency ... seriously ... personally, I'd be heading for the lifeboats and to heck with the rules! Food The Tsar's Palace was fine. Not outstanding, but nothing to complain about, either. It was the only alternative to the buffet at breakfast and lunchtime, and that alone made it shine like a beacon. I had really good fresh-squeezed OJ at breakfast, and the service was consistently good. The buffet, on the other hand, was more all you can stomach than all you can eat. I heard a number of people complaining that the buffet food has gone way down from previous years. The buffet did serve waffles, omelettes, eggs to order etc. at breakfast, and it had a self-serve cappuccino/espresso machine and soft-serve ice cream going all day. However, the lunch and dinner food was pretty bad, and should be avoided. The setup of the buffet has nearly all the tables very close to the serving stations, so it is noisy. On the other hand, you can go to the great outdoor, a lovely table area at the aft (just keep walking through the buffet...you'll get there). One side smoking, one side non-smoking, and (I didn't figure this out until a couple of days in) it has its own buffet table which had different food from that in the main buffet. It also offered cream scones for afternoon tea (self-serve). The alternative restaurants were really good. We dined at all of them except Cagney's (just never got there) and Blue Lagoon (fish and chips and burgers). Le Bistro had the most fabulous salmon appetizer and French onion soup, but our steaks were a pretty flavorless. The presentation of the main course is a bit cheesy (As we say in Paris, un-deux-trois, et viola! while they lift the cover off your dinner. Puh-leeese!) Chin-Chin Asian was our favorite and served a variety of foods from Thailand, Indonesia, China, Japan and India. Mama's Italian was a real surprise; we had a fabulous meal there and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We really liked the freestyle dining concept. The only hitch was that we did not go straight to the Blue Lagoon on the first day to make reservations, and consequently there were nights when we had dinner in the Tsar's Palace or Azura's by default, because everyone else was full. Kind of takes a bite out of the concept of what you want, when you want it because you do have to plan ahead. Pool and spa The pool was a huge hit with the kids on the ship, and it helps that there is a little kids' pool that is separate, and that the family pool has a waterslide. The rule that kids can't go in the hot tubs without an adult was widely ignored (I didn't care, but some folks might). The drawback to the pool area is that the adult pool is right beside the family pool, so if you are seeking tranquility this is not the place to do so. Hardly anyone ever entered the adults' pool. Also, all the deck chairs are clustered in the open area around the pools, and the shady areas at the sides of the ship are filled with tables and chairs. Again, I hardly saw anyone using the tables, and those of us who burn in the Mediterranean sun (okay, me) were dragging lounge chairs into the shade and having to push tables and chairs out of the way to make room. One nice note...a spray bar spritzes you with tiny drops of cool water periodically if you sit right at the edge of the covered area. Very pleasant. The spa was quite lovely. I had a haircut and a pedicure. I would highly recommend the pedicure as you get to sit in a cushy armchair looking straight out through huge windows to sea. Oh yeah, my feet felt great afterward, too! Kids' program My 11 year old daughter went straight to the kids' program the first night to sign up. Like other cruise lines, the kids are divided into groups by age. The kids' area was terrific. The preteens got to use the teen club (I guess the teens were elsewhere) with a full disco lighting system, a popcorn machine, X-Boxes, computer games, a music video jukebox, a miniature pool table and ping-pong. My daughter loved the kids' club and we couldn't drag her away! One note to new family cruisers, though...the kids' program on this cruise, like most, offers activities during shore time but the vast majority of kids at that time will be little ones who are left there while their parents are sightseeing. Older kids will find this very boring. The kids' program offers one night when the kids have dinner together (yes, this means the parents get an adult night!). Or, if you prefer to dine in adult surroundings, you can feed your offspring at the buffet (kids don't seem to mind the food) and take them to the kids' club when it opens at 7pm, then go for dinner yourselves. Other stuff There is a fully stocked card and games room, with loads of cards and board games, and no one gets cranky if you take them to your room. On the other hand, the library shelves are locked except when the librarian is present...even the free book exchange shelf! Logic, please? We never went to the shows or the casino. We did meet up with CC buddies (hi, Xander!) who said the dance lessons were lots of fun. Service This is where things got dicey. At 7:15 our first morning, I woke to the realization that a stateroom underneath the gym did not mean innocuous activities above me like stationary bikes and stairmasters. It meant that there were treadmills. Did you know that some people use treadmills to (gasp) jog? Neither did I -- until they were doing it over my head. It was really awful. The gym attendant said he had no idea what was causing the thump-thump-thump that I described to him, but he'd ask the free-weight users to set their weights down quietly. We tried to have breakfast on our balcony, but the thump-thump was even worse there, and reverberated across the steel. I went to guest relations and stood in line. As soon as I described it and the woman checked the ship's deck plans to establish the location of my room, she said Oh, it's people jogging on the treadmills. Okay, so this must happen a lot! The really awful part (other than the noise) was trying to resolve this. I was told to call guest relations next time it happened. In hindsight, this was where things went wrong. Did they think I was having auditory hallucinations? That I was a compulsive liar? Why did they have to verify that this was causing noise in my stateroom? Anyway, like a good little passenger, I went away and next heard it shortly before lunch. I phoned guest relations. No one showed up for about 15 minutes, but I concluded that surely it would be attended to, and left for lunch. On my way out, I changed the do not disturb sign to please make up room. We had lunch, hung out on the deck, and then I stood in line again at guest relations to make sure the noise thing had been sorted. I was told that my complaint had been recorded and that it had been resolved. Good! So what happened when I returned to my stateroom? There was a message on my phone that the crew had come when I called before lunch, but since my 'do not disturb was still up, they couldn't knock on the door. Even though I had just phoned them from the room and asked them to come. Okaaaayyyyy... An hour later, thump-thump-thump. I phoned. No one came. One jogger stopped, but another started. I phoned again. No one came. I phoned a third time. After half an hour, someone showed up, verified that I was not hearing things, and had the treadmills over our room shut down. All told, it took 7:30 am to 4:30 pm, one trip to the gym, two trips to guest relations and four phone calls to solve a problem that one crew member had been able to identify almost immediately. As I remained not impressed with that situation, I decided a few days later to follow up with the manager of guest relations. I left a message in the morning explaining that I had a complaint about the level of service I'd received, and asking him to call me back. Fourteen hours later, I called again to see whether he got the message. By this time, I was getting peeved, and when I asked him why he hadn't returned my call all that time, he said he had other things to do besides answer passenger complaints. This attitude could have some impact on the standards of passenger service overall, doncha think? I remained polite but persistent and the next day he gave us a $200 onboard credit as compensation. Other glitches...my daughter told a woman in the buffet that the OJ machine was malfunctioning, and she replied that it wasn't her station...a waiter in Azura rudely interrupted us while we were speaking to him...my daughter went on a guided tour with the kids' club in the theatre, and was treated to full view of a porno magazine that one crew member was reading in the theatre (she described the picture to me in some detail!) On the other hand...our room steward was terrific...Ashish from India, in the Tsar's Palace, insisted on carrying a tray of lunch foods all the way to the pool so he could serve us on the lounge chairs ... the vast majority of dining room staff and every single maitre'd was great and provided very good service. One night, three young women at a table beside us were being bothered by a persistent man, and the staff removed him quickly and discreetly. Overall It was our first cruise with NCL. I wouldn't write them off, but it won't be my first choice for our next cruise, either. Also, I have learned the value of choosing your stateroom very, very carefully. Pity that the minisuites are all located on Deck 11, which is directly under a deck full of public areas. NCL is more casual than RCCL was, and that suits us fine. It was clear, though, that some of the more "luxe" touches I'd seen on the Mariner of the Seas were missing...no cushy pads on the lounge chairs, no really lovely central atrium area, that kind of thing. However, I do still expect that the food will be good and the service will be better than some of the experiences that we had. I don't need to be fawned over, but I do expect better than what I (sometimes) saw. Happy cruising! Read Less
Sail Date August 2006
As a loyal Princess customer I was somewhat excited to see how different the Norwegian Jewel would be. I was very excited based on the reviews posted here and was looking forward to seeing Italy with my husband and friends for the first ... Read More
As a loyal Princess customer I was somewhat excited to see how different the Norwegian Jewel would be. I was very excited based on the reviews posted here and was looking forward to seeing Italy with my husband and friends for the first time. Unfortunately, I will remain a loyal Princess customer as the experience on this ship was quite disappointing for the amount of money we spent. The ship itself is quite nice with lots of theme rooms and very colorful all around. We had booked into a mini-suite with a balcony and the balcony size was excellent and the room not too bad- though not that much bigger than an interior room on Princess! Embarkation was a breeze so we were excited thinking the service would be great. This was where the great service stopped. In the restaurants (including the cover charge ones) we found that they were extremely inflexible and simply asking for another basket of bread at dinner was met with rolling eyes. Trying to get a waitperson to get you a drink while in the general Garden Cafe (it was a buffet) was very difficult- even though they were standing at their station leaning against the counter. We were charged for laundry that we never sent out for and by the time we had to leave the ship, they still had not credited us back. We often felt that as long as we were spending money, they were great but the minute you wanted to use a coupon (sent by the cruiseline) the answer was, "let me look into this", "we don't honor those here", or "it's out of our hands- accounting makes the final call". It was quite a departure from Princess where their service was all about making you happy and not having you waste your time fighting over $10! At any rate, i will say some positive things about the boat. If you are going to go and enjoy quality food then you will need to book at the cover charge restaurants. The main dining room was just average. Le Bistro was the best meal we had on the cruise- service, atmosphere, selection and quality were all there. Next would be Cagney's- a steakhouse with great window seats and great food. Finally, you have to try Teppanyaki's- it is a Japanese steakhouse style where they cook in front of you. The food is fresh, the atmosphere is fun and the chefs are great! The ports of call were excellent and wanting to err on the side of caution decided to bite the bullet and purchase bus tickets for "Rome on Your Own" and "Florence on Your Own" so that we would not have to worry about traffic and getting back to the ship in time. In both of these locations we then got the double decker bus tours which ranged from 12 to 20 Euros for the day once we arrived in the city. This was by far an excellent thing to do as it allowed you freedom throughout the day to see what you wanted. The great thing about taking the "on you own..." options was that there was always a guide on the bus who handed out great maps of the city and locations of interest. They were extremely knowledgeable and basically spoke the whole way in from the port so that you were well versed in what to do and what not to do. In Naples, my husband and i did the half day Pompeii tour and again, we had an excellent tour guide and it was just enough time to see alot of Pompeii. Our friends took the "highlights of Capri, Sorrento and Pompeii" and were not nearly as happy as us- they spent 2 hours in traffic and had very little time to actually experience each of the places they went. Finally, in Villefranche, you really don't need to purchase any tour as a train is right there when you tender in and it's only a 7 minute ride into Nice! Sicily was phenomenal and I would recommend anything that gets you into Taormina for the day- it's absolutely beautiful! Because my husband spoke Italian, we bargained with a few taxi drivers to take us in from the port and ended up with a fantastic guy named Giovanni- we will never forget him as he made our first port so memorable. If you choose this option, expect to pay 90 euros each way- that was for 4 people in the car. If you plan to stay in Barcelona and want to see the city i would highly recommend Hotel Jazz. I had checked Trip Advisor and there wasn't one bad review- now i can see why. The price was reasonable, the room clean and modern, the service friendly and excellent and they have a pool on the roof that overlooks the city. A great find. If, however, you are looking to relax and don't care about the city then you MUST go to Gava Mar. Gava Mar is 7 minutes west of the airport and the hotel we booked is geared towards executives. It is directly on the beach yet has grounds all around and the most beautiful pool. Every room has french doors that open onto the Mediterranean and it's very modern and clean. It was a complete surprise for us right down to them having a car waiting at 4:30am to take us to the airport. The hotel is called AC Gava Mar and is excellent. So I think I've said it all- though not the best service, Norwegian had the best itinerary so we're glad we went. We won't, however, book with Norwegian again. Read Less
Sail Date August 2006
We were a party of 6 including 3 children 16,14 and 4 and a grandmother!  Travelling from UK. We arrived having booked our own flights.  I had asked NCL UK if it was possible to book a transfer through them from the airport but was told ... Read More
We were a party of 6 including 3 children 16,14 and 4 and a grandmother!  Travelling from UK. We arrived having booked our own flights.  I had asked NCL UK if it was possible to book a transfer through them from the airport but was told no, but maybe on the way back check on board ,at shore excursions.  However,I approached the NCL rep at baggage retrieval and was told we could at $20 per person.  A bit steep but we decided it was worth it as they took all our luggage.  We arrived at 1p.m and went straight on ,very small wait in Latitudes line.  Usual onboard photo and then straight on to ship via the FYZZ lounge probably the brightest thing on board and you hit it first!  But it was fine by me.  My teenage daughter has been on a few cruises and generally is unimpressed by most things but she did say wow the first time she saw the ship which I think says it all.  The ship is very clean and I was very impressed by the constant levels of cleaning. We were in KK grade inside staterooms,deck 10,small but adequate apart from drawer space.  Shower excellent. Service was excellent only encountered slow service once at Tsar's but service at Azura's and in particular Mama's was excellent.  Almost all staff were friendly and polite too. Food was good too buffet was very impressed by choice and quality.  In main restaurants we only had a couple of average meals most were excellent especially Mama's and 32 nights at Azura.  The crepe souffle is a must.  The best meals were definitely good restaurant standard. Entertainment was excellent I would say the Jean Ann Ryan Company are the best troupe I've ever seen on a cruise ship.  Cirque Bijou is spellbinding. Children's club was the only real disappointment. My daughter is 4 and goes 4 days a week to nursery so she is used to a similar experience.  However,when we went to register she saw all the play equipment but was told no you can't use it except at special times. We then took her for our first visit and wanted to stay a little while but were told under no circumstances was this possible as it unsettled the other kids.Yes I can understand this to a point, but the net effect was that Rachel got very upset as we didn't even get to say goodbye properly and she refused to go back.  That was poorly handled for me. Disembarkation-we opted for Express carrying our own luggage.  Express it wasn't.  There is a separate gangway on Deck 4 for people carrying their own luggage,but because you could come to it via 2 main stairways and lift blocks proper queuing went out of the window and it became a pushing and shoving routine.  Needs better organizing.  We decided to get a taxi back the queue was large but moved quickly but we had to get 2 taxis because we were 6 it was still cheaper than NCL transfer though which doesn't seem right. This was my first cruise on NCL (my Mum had been before on the Norway twice).  Cruising is something I love and have been on 20 odd with Cunard, RCCL, P&O, Princess.  I can honestly say it's one of the best I've been on,pluses and minuses.  Cunard has the best food by far but is a little stuffy.  I love the freestyle concept and would have tried more of the speciality restaurants if the kids hadn't been with us.  The food may not have been quite as good in the main restaurants as Princess but it wasn't far off. however,the shows were MUCH better more professional and fun. The staff were almost all friendly and very polite the only exception being reception but even there some of the staff were nice others just seemed too harassed. I think the biggest complaint would be alcohol prices.  The bars were empty surely they must know by now why and need to do something. Read Less
Sail Date August 2006
We were lucky enough to be on the 13 night inaugural voyage of the Norwegian Jewel around the Mediterranean. An easy, swift and orderly embarkation procedure at Dover was soon to be followed by the materialisation of the colourful ribbons ... Read More
We were lucky enough to be on the 13 night inaugural voyage of the Norwegian Jewel around the Mediterranean. An easy, swift and orderly embarkation procedure at Dover was soon to be followed by the materialisation of the colourful ribbons and jewels that adorned the Norwegian Jewel herself. On first inspections we were amazed by the vivid and modern interior throughout the ship that was highlighted with contemporary armchairs in many of the bars and restaurants. On closer scrutiny we started to notice however subtle accents of 50's and 60's in some of the furniture choices in the bars. Outside there was an energetic feel around the pool area incorporating the theme of the circus that appealed to the child within. There were also many large colourful palm trees that bejewelled the jewel at night. The interior theme throughout the stateroom decks incorporated mahogany wood and turquoise that flowed effortlessly into the staterooms. We resided in a category JJ inside stateroom which was designed with storage as top priority. There were seven ample storage shelves, and a roomy wardrobe. Of course other features were a separate dressing table with hairdryer, safe, fridge, a well laid out bathroom and TV (although not flat screen as in the more superior staterooms). All over the ship there were many strategically placed flat screens displaying information about all of the ten restaurants and their occupancy - rating from busy to full. This proved vital in avoiding the rush at the Garden cafe (buffet style restaurant) and to generally gauge busy eating times. As Norwegian Cruise Line prize themselves on their freestyle cruising we attempted to sample some of the ten restaurants - ranging from Cagneys steak house, Mama's Italian kitchen, Le Bistro French restaurant and the Chin Chin Asian resurant (including a sushi bar!). The booking of the desired restaurants proved easy at first using the reservation desk at reception, however as word got out amongst fellow guest there were many queues and block booking of meal times over the two weeks. Another point to make here is that many of these speciality restaurants had a cover charge ranging from $10-$15 which would have to be considered with large groups. These cover charges had been reduced by $5 per person from the original printed prices on the menus. Overall the specialty restaurants provided excellent service, using more experienced and efficient staff. Only on one occasion the booked dining time of 8.00pm was made later due to large numbers and hence we were offered a complimentary bottle of wine which pleased us. The main dining restaurants differed in design from being modern as in the Azura restaurant and grand as in Tsar's palace. Both were equal in terms of broad taste/themed menus and good service. The chocolate buffet was the best that we have ever experienced on a cruise and we were stunned by the artistry shown in the chocolate "Big Ben clock" and ice sculptures. The bars and lounges were regularly called upon throughout the two weeks and we were most impressed with the efficient and friendly service throughout. Most drinks were reasonably priced however some of the specialty cocktails and alcoholic smoothies were over $9. "Bar city" on deck 7 compromised of many of the Jewels unique bars - Malting's beer and whisky bar, Shakers Martini cocktail bar and our favourite -Magnum's Champagne bar which offered a deluxe range of champagnes to be indulged on formal nights. However the night always ended in the Spinnaker Lounge on deck 13 which had live music and then a DJ. Overall the entertainment from many of the performers around the bars and lounges was excellent and could not be faulted. The dance company produced two impressive shows with acrobatic expertise. There was a hugely talented comedian on board and some great lectures provided during the day. There were a good range of activities provided during the day and many art auctions to tempt you to part with cash. The assistant cruise director had a jovial personality and created many quiz nights (jeopardy, Mr & Mrs, The weakest link etc.) for guest participation - which were hilarious. There are very few if any negatives that we can find with the Norwegian Jewel. Given the fact that this was the inaugural voyage and lots of mistakes could happen we and NCL we fortunate. It was clear that there was good management and swift action throughout to prevent any guests from having a good holiday. We would wholeheartedly recommend the Jewel to fellow cruisers and hope you have an enjoyable time as much as we did. Private shore excursions; 1) Port of Livorno, Civitavecchia and Naples; Romeinlimo was terrific! Duman, Carlo and Rino were knowledgeable, courteous and punctual. The fact they also had a great sense of humor made the trip, especiall the three stops where we used them, that much more enjoyable and memorable. www.romeinlimo.com 2) Monaco, Monte Carlo & Eze www.revelation-tours.com I would highly recommend their service to everyone. Read Less
Sail Date August 2006
Norwegian Jewel Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.0 4.1
Dining 4.0 3.8
Entertainment 4.0 4.1
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.9
Family 4.0 3.9
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.8
Enrichment 1.0 3.4
Service 3.0 4.1
Value For Money 4.0 3.8
Rates 3.0 4.1

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