45 Barcelona to Europe - Western Mediterranean Norwegian Jewel Cruise Reviews

We booked our cruise through an agency on the internet. They made many mistakes with flights not being confirmed both going and coming home. They are telling us that NCL made all the arrangements, but unfortunately, they are our agent and ... Read More
We booked our cruise through an agency on the internet. They made many mistakes with flights not being confirmed both going and coming home. They are telling us that NCL made all the arrangements, but unfortunately, they are our agent and we were not happy with how they handled things. This was a family vacation with my 79-year-old father. The boat is lovely. Clean, and kept in good condition. Staff was pleasant I am a foodie. I Liked the specialty restaurants for their value, but it wasn't very different from the restaurants in the States. Waiters were very accommodating. Took yoga one morning and we were charged 15% great. on top of the lesson. A little much. My sister ordered cake and champagne for my father's birthday to be given at one of the specialty restaurants, but the person taking the order put it in his room instead -- a big mistake. The preservationist was not willing to compensate for their mistake. The rooms were cleaned it seems twice a day. Even the bathroom sparkled. The Freestyle dinning in the Garden cafe had a very high noise level. We felt that the groups that were from Barcelona were very loud and sat at the tables for hours with all their kids. Myself, as well as staff members who I spoke to because there was always cutting of lines informed me that there is nothing they can do this is how they are. This was very upsetting since I was taught being out of your own country manners comes first. Toward the end of the trip many of the families were found at night sitting on the floor with their families and their kids playing. Something I did not expect... Nor did I find any cruise personnel telling them to get off the floor so people could walk. Excursions: Very well organized for leaving the ship. There were a few changes that should be made one is the Rome and the Vatican Tour with Mario was too fast. One person fell and hurt herself. None of the personnel had Band-Aids to help clean her up. Also, the restaurant Papa Rex was not what I expected for $189.00. We were greeted at the door with someone taking our picture which showed us they were only interested in our money. The main course was a disgrace to the ship. They served roast beef that was like shoe leather and thin with canned peas and old roasted potatoes. I traveled 3000 miles to get an authentic italian meal in an Italian restaurant. Many people were very put out by this you should change your restaurant, or change your main entree Something that is of higher quality and the restaurant makes well, and represents the region, and the ship. Florence excursion would have been even nicer if head sets were given. Again, a lot of walking and keeping up with the speaker who was not able to talk above the noise level on the streets. There were 738 kids on this cruise more than we wanted. Especially when you wanted to enjoy the pool and there was not enough space for the adults. Would I use NCL again, only if the cruise was for adults. I feel they let the Barcelona rule the ship.... and I am waiting for a response from the travel agency for the mess I had to encounter with 5 members of my family with tickets. Read Less
Sail Date August 2006
Norwegian Jewel We have just got back from a 2 week back to back cruise on the Norweigian Jewel and just wanted to let you know how much we enjoyed it. Embarkation This was so easy. We flew into Barcelona airport from London Heathrow ... Read More
Norwegian Jewel We have just got back from a 2 week back to back cruise on the Norweigian Jewel and just wanted to let you know how much we enjoyed it. Embarkation This was so easy. We flew into Barcelona airport from London Heathrow and no sooner had we picked our bags up from the luggage carousel then we were met by a rep from NCL who took our bags from us and pointed us in the direction of the coach which was taking us to the ship. Once on board the coach we were informed that as they would not be ready for us to board the ship until 12.30 they were going to take us on a tour of Barcelona. When the trip was finished we were taken to the port. Although there were a lot of passengers at the port there were lots and lots of desks open so we only waited a few minutes before we were booked in a ready to go. Very speedy and efficient. Cabin We were allocated cabin 8086 which was an obstructed view cabin. This was a very comfortable, well laid out cabin. Although it did indeed have an obstructed view this was good enough for us all we wanted was a bit a natural light instead of an inside cabin. The cabin was situated mid-ship and was in a perfect position for us. Not to far away from anything but also not too close to anything which meant it was central but also nice and quiet too. Dining Although we tend to eat quite a boring diet the dining options on the ship were superb. They catered for very taste. As I said we are really quite boring eaters and do not eat Chinese, Japanese or anything spicy so we did not try a few of the speciality restaurants but saying that there was still plenty for us to eat. The Garden Cafe and Great Outdoors: These were great for breakfast and a snack during the day. The blueberry compote they had at the waffle station was absolutely fabulous. I really need to find out where they buy it from or get the recipe. They had a sandwich bar for lunch times where you could get any kind of sandwich made up as you liked with a variety of different breads to choose from. They also had a small section for kids meals and a free ice cream machine. Tsars Palace and Azura: These were the main restaurants where you could get breakfast, lunch and dinner. I would have like to have breakfast at Tsars Palace but it closed at 8am and we never got up on time. This I would say was a disappointment for us as being expect to be up and ready by 8am is really not on when you are on holiday. Saying that the Garden Cafe catered well for breakfast but it would have been nice to try a formal setting for breakfast at a reasonable time. Lunch and Dinner at these restaurants was superb. There was always a good choice on the menu which was well cooked, well presented and well served. Cagneys Steak House: This is one of the speciality restaurants that we did try and it was lovely. Although there is a $15 per person cover charge it was well worth it. Both the steak and lamb were cooked to perfection. Mamas Kitchen: Another speciality restaurant but this time no cover charge. The first time we visited Mamas Kitchen the meal was nice but unfortunately the second time my meal had obviously been re-heated and was not so good. Saying that the service was first class and I would certainly use it again. Entertainment The theatre shows were the best I have ever seen on a ship. Band on the Run and Circque Bijou were first class. I could go on and on about how great they were but I will have to restrict myself to saying DO NOT MISS THEM. Kids Club We travelled with our 4 year old son and he loved the Kids Club. On port days it was open from 7pm to 10pm with the option of paying $5 per hour if you wanted to attend outside those times. For us 7pm to 10pm was perfect. It gave us a bit of time to have a nice meal and watch and show before we took him to bed. He was always anxious to attend and was always first in line to get through the door when they opened. On the one sea day each week that we had Kids Club was open 10am-12pm and then 2pm-5pm and again 7pm to 10pm. To top it all just before the end of our cruise we bought a game ticket and won a free Caribbean cruise for 2. The prize was 1 week for 2 in an inside cabin. We would have to travel from the UK but no flights are included in the prize. To be honest we are looking at seeing if we can get this transferred to a European cruise and understand they will give us $1,000 towards that so we are now looking at brochures to see where we want to go. Read Less
Sail Date August 2006
NCL Jewel Review 7/16/06 Sailing Before I begin my review of our trip to Europe aboard the NCL Jewel, I want to thank everyone on this board for all of their help. We were able to get so much more enjoyment from our trip due to the advice, ... Read More
NCL Jewel Review 7/16/06 Sailing Before I begin my review of our trip to Europe aboard the NCL Jewel, I want to thank everyone on this board for all of their help. We were able to get so much more enjoyment from our trip due to the advice, recommendations, counsel and suggestions of all of the members. To let you know a little bit about us, my DW and I are 44 years old (we have 2 kids in sleep away camp), celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary, taking our 4th cruise (twice on Royal Caribbean and once on Disney) and our first trip to Europe. We booked this trip about 10 months ago through our TA. We did our own air and transfers, our own pre-cruise hotel. Ok here we go.  We left JFK airport on Thursday afternoon July 13. We had a 5:40 PM flight that arrived in Barcelona at 7:45 AM on Friday. Although JFK was a little disorganized, Delta was just great. The flight was smooth as can be. When we arrived at BCN (Barcelona airport) we waited on a very short line (maybe five minutes) to pass through customs and immigration. Our bags were waiting on the carousel and we grabbed a luggage cart (there are no sky caps at the Barcelona airport and the luggage carts are free to use, just walk to the side of the carousel and grab one) and proceeded to the taxi stand. There was a long line of taxis waiting. We knew from these boards that the fare for the cab to the Majestic Hotel should have been around 25 Euros and it was exactly that price. We arrived at the Majestic about 9:00 AM. Great Hotel. As this was our first time in Europe we had nothing to compare it to, but we have stayed in the Plaza Hotel (not so great) the Waldorf Astoria (very nice) The United Nation Plaza (very nice) in New York, The Fairmont in San Francisco (best bed we ever slept in) as well The Princess in Acapulco (beautiful grounds) so even though we've never been to Europe we've been to a couple of nice hotels and the Majestic was certainly nice. We had room #701, a junior suite overlooking the Passeig De Gracia, the hotel is situated between two Gaudi buildings, the Batllo and La Pedrera. The hotel is just a few blocks from the top of Las Ramblas (there are definitely hotels a lot closer to Las Ramblas) and is on both the RED and BLUE line of Bus Turistic. The staff and concierge at the hotel were excellent. Everyone speaks English, the hotel was immaculate, the staff very friendly, and the room huge. We freshened up and hit the streets. When my DW and I talked about jet lag with our friends, everyone advised us "not to go to sleep" so we didn't. Even though we hadn't slept the entire evening (save for a few winks on the plane) we forged ahead and went for a walk and breakfast on the Passeig De Gracia. After a nice omelet at an outdoor cafe we bought tickets for the Bus Turistic and made the Sagrada Familia our first stop. The church is quite impressive from the outside so we decided to go inside as well. The line in front of the bus stop was huge so my DW and I figured that we would just walk around the church, see the whole thing take a few pictures and get back on the bus. As we circled the block we found another ticket window around the corner that had absolutely no line, so we bought tickets and went inside. There is an elevator that goes to the top, but the line was very long and we didn't want to wait. We asked if there were stairs but we were told that there weren't, so we just walked around for a little bit and left. My DW then walked through the small, limited gift shop but didn't get anything. Across the street from the church was a great gift shop that had some really beautiful things. We went to a local supermarket in the neighborhood, walked around a little bit and then got back on the bus and made the Parc Guell our next stop. The bus stops on at the bottom of the hill several blocks from the parc. It is a long uphill climb on a very narrow street to get up to Parc Guell. It was very hot (the middle of the afternoon in the middle of July) but the views from the Parc were well worth it. The parc has a beautiful entrance (mosaic dragons and lizards line the steps) and the columns, corridors, open spaces and buildings are really incredible. The panorama overlooks all of Barcelona. Just an incredible view. There is a small snack stand with shaded umbrellas at the top where we enjoyed some ices. We then took the outside path of the parc down to the main street, which led us back down the hill to the bus stop. By now it was about 4:30 or 5:00 PM. We took the bus back to the Hotel Majestic (seeing quite a bit of the city along the way) and took a short nap and got ready for dinner at 9:00. The concierge recommended a restaurant called Botafumiero. It is a seafood restaurant that had great fish and Paella. With wine and tip, dinner for 2 was 100 Euros. Certainly not cheap, but we loved it. When we arrived at the restaurant at 9:00 PM we were one of the only diners in the restaurant. When we left at about 11:30 the place was packed. We took a cab back to the hotel to get ready for tomorrow. We woke up Saturday morning and my wife asked me to look at her watch to see what time it was. I asked her if she had changed her watch to Barcelona time. She said she had, and I said "well, then it's 12:15 PM." She made some comment about my age and my ability to see small numbers so I checked her cell phone and sure enough, it was 12:15. We felt great but we had slept for about 11 hours. We thought it was a small concession to the travel and the time change, went down to the internet cafe at the hotel (20 Euros for the duration of your stay), did our business and then I went out to get us some coffee and rolls. We are both big coffee drinkers so we didn't mind the espresso that they serve in Spain. Got dressed and then took a cab down to the Plaza Catalunya, so that we could walk down Las Ramblas. After a few blocks of the human statues, the bird salesman and postcard kiosks, we took a left hand turn and entered the Barri Gotic (the Gothic Quarter). We found ourselves in front of a beautiful church and sat down at a cafe (Estruch) for pizza and salad. The plaza was a beautiful place to have lunch and watch the action. After lunch we began our search for the Picasso Museum. We only had the map from the Bus turistic (and because the museum is not one of their stops, its not on the map) so we really weren't sure where it was. We saw some signs pointing in the general direction of the museum and we gladly followed. The time that we spent lost (there is no other word for it. We didn't know where we were or where we were going) in the Barri Gotic was magical. We loved it. We found wine shops (you can bring wine on the ship, but I'll talk about that later), alleyways, incredible architecture, friendly people and eventually the Picasso Museum. The line was about 25 minutes and the entrance fee about 8 or 10 Euros. My wife loved the museum and all of Picasso's works. I'm not as sophisticated as she is, so she tolerated my opinions for the 45 minutes we toured the museum. After we left we walked toward Port Vell. It was a pretty good walk to the port, but we were there to see Barcelona so we didn't mind. The port is fantastic. I'm not sure which part was old and which parts were built for the 1992 Olympics, but the cool breeze, open space and views of the Marina were beautiful. We walked all the way down (and it was a pretty long walk) to the bus stop for the Bus Turistic. By now it was 8:00 PM (although it seemed like the middle of the day) so we took the bus back to the Batllo (the stop closest to our hotel) and got ready for dinner. We wanted to visit an acquaintance in Barcelona so we asked the concierge to change our dinner reservation at Aqua to 10:30 PM. By the time we finished our visit and got down to Agua (a great restaurant on the beach) it was after 11:00 PM. The hostess wasn't too happy that we were so late for our reservation so she made us wait till 11:30 for our table. We sat at the table closest to the Mediterranean and settled in. By the time our food came it was midnight and the restaurant was still packed. I guess it's true&they have dinner at midnight in Barcelona. Food was very good (service just OK). Wife had fish, I had chicken. With wine and tip, about 65 Euros. Grabbed a cab back to the hotel about 1:30 AM to get ready to board the Jewel in the morning. I guess that since we were doing a pre-cruise, we should have packed our luggage with that in mind. I would definitely recommend packing a bag for your pre-cruise and then packing bags for your cruise. We spent a lot of time on Sunday morning having to repack all of our luggage. On Sunday morning, again, I went down to the Fresh and Ready (that was the name) to get coffee and croissants. After breakfast and packing we left our bags with the hotel to do a little last minute sightseeing. We stopped in the Casa Batllo (a famous Gaudi building on the Passeig De Gracia) for only a moment. From the brief glimpse we had it was great. We bought a few souvenirs, took a stroll around the neighborhood (everything was closed on Sunday morning. The streets were deserted) and then went back to the hotel. Grabbed a cab to the port (I don't remember exactly, but I'm going to say it was about 15 Euros) We left the hotel at 1:00 and arrived at the ship at 1:15. A porter took our bags from the cab, took them to the conveyor belt and directed us to the passenger side of the terminal. We had cabin 11026 an AF Minisuite. A day or two before we left for Barcelona we called the telephone number on the cruise documents and the woman on the phone told us to go to the Latitudes line to check in. We went to the Latitudes section and there was only one party on line in front of us. There was plenty of staff to move the lines along and direct you where to go. We spent less than three minutes showing our documents, getting our picture taken and receiving instructions. We then proceeded to the ship. There are a ton of duty free shops in the terminal. Selling liquor water, soda, etc. We brought wine in our carry-on bag and NCL never said a word. We did pay the corkage fee (15 dollars) to have them open the wine on the ship. If you're a big soda drinker, I would definitely wait to get to the ship and then buy what you like. My DW and I bought a 6 pack of 1.5 liter water for 8 Euros. There were plenty of people on the ship that brought their empty water bottles to the Garden Cafe to refill their bottles, but we didn't. After passing through the mini mall in the terminal we took an escalator up to the gangway. There was absolutely no line to board the ship. We did see a hand sanitizer at the gangway and were worried that the ship had recently encountered a problem, but apparently that is now NCL's policy. At almost every doorway and entranceway on the ship there was an automatic hand-sanitizing machine. When we got onboard and went to the buffet and saw that there were tongs in all of the serving dishes, we felt better. I had heard that if there are crewmembers behind the buffet doing the serving that there is reason for concern on the part of the passengers. I am not a nervous Nellie, a neat freak or anything like that but this was an important trip for my wife and I and we were relieved not to have any viral concerns. We boarded the ship and grabbed an elevator to the 11th floor. Immediately we could see that the ship was brand new and in immaculate condition. We have sailed on the Disney Wonder (great ship) and Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas (fun, but just fair) but the NCL Jewel far outshines these ships. After seeing our cabin, my DW and I went upstairs to the Garden Cafe for lunch. Instead of having one long line for everyone the Jewel's buffet consists of several different clearly marked stations. If you want fresh fruit, you go to the station marked FRESH FRUIT. If you want carved meat you go to the station marked CARVED MEAT. There was never a line at any of the stations, the trays were always full, hot and clean. If you want, you can take your food and proceed to the back of the ship (aft) and sit outside in the Great Outdoors. There is a shaded area and a sunny area. After lunch we went to Tangos on the 7th floor and made our reservations for dinner for the entire week. We ate in Cagney's twice, Mama's twice and Tsars, Azura, Le Bistro each once. After making reservations we went to the internet cafe and signed up for the 100 minute plan ($55.00 and they give you 15 free minutes). There are 8 PC's in the cafe. The internet speed was OK. It is not as fast as our cable connection at home, but when you think that you are in the middle of the sea, you realize that it's pretty good. We went to the cafe everyday (at different times of the day) and did sometimes had to wait a few minutes before a PC was free. There were times when several passengers were waiting for a terminal, but if there was a wait, we either left and came back, or waited. We then went to the spa to get an appointment for my wife's massage, and I signed up for the "cruise duration spa package." For $70.00 I was allowed entrance to the men's changing room. There was a steam room, a sauna, an ice plunge pool, plenty of showers a relaxation area and a whirlpool. There were several whirlpools (hot tubs) around the pool area, but they were always crowded, full of chlorine and not really hot. In the men's locker room the whirlpool was set against the forward window and I felt as if I were floating in a hot tub high above the Mediterranean. There are two flat screen TVs in the relaxation room and several recliners. We unpacked, we walked around the ship, went to the Muster Drill (our muster station was in the Stardust theater), attended the sail away party (the cruise director and some of the crew jump into the pool with all of their clothes on. It was fun) showered and got dressed for dinner at Cagney's. Not a particularly decorated restaurant. Dark with very little ornamentation. The food, on the other hand, was very well presented and very good to excellent. That night I had a T-Bone steak, crab cakes, potato wedges and garlic-mashed potatoes. My wife had soup, a filet Mignon. Desert was very good too. With wine the bill was $55.00. No show on the first night. We went to the casino and played some roulette. Casino is nice and big with plenty of tables and slots. We're not big gamblers so I can't tell you too much about the casino, but we went almost every night and played for 15-30 at the roulette table. The next morning (Monday) was our sea day. I got up, went to the gym. I'm not a gym rat so I'm not too familiar, but this ship appeared to have everything. There were plenty of treadmills, ellipticals and bikes. The gym has a picture window that goes the length of the room and TVs on several of the machines. There was always someone on staff at the gym. After my short workout, I went to the internet cafe and spent about thirty minutes online. As I returned to my room I realized that I didn't have my room card (this is the part of the review that I'm embarrassed about). I traced my steps back to the gym and internet cafe, but I didn't find my card. My DW and I went to the reception desk and they issued both my DW and me a new card immediately. We went back up to the spa and I was given a new tag for my spa pass as well. The whole thing took less than 5 minutes and the crew was wonderful. When everything was squared away, we went up for brunch. As I mentioned before (my wife is very modest, so please don't think that I'm bragging) we have visited some nice hotels and some very nice restaurants in New York. So we have something to compare it to, and we thought the food in the Garden Cafe was very good. After brunch we walked around the ship, took some pictures and looked for some lounge chairs. There were none available on deck 12 by the pool, so we went to deck 13, but we still couldn't find 2 chairs. We went higher to deck 14, where we found several chairs available. Even though we were two decks removed from the pool, it was a pleasant place to sit. If you're not interested in all the noise (the band, the kids on the water slide, the buffet) you might find deck 14 as the nicest place to sit. It did get very windy late in the afternoon, and I moved down to deck 12 (the pool deck). My wife took a massage (she said it was very nice), I hit some golf balls in the "driving range" and went for a steam. On Monday night we had reservations at Le Bistro. We arrived on time for our reservation and were told that our table would be ready in 10-15 minutes. This was the only time on the ship that we felt we got even the slightest bit of "attitude" from any of the crew (maybe Le Bistro was trying for the authentic French atmosphere). It was well worth the wait. The staff was excellent and they give you a huge and very good meal. I had the escargot, a Caesar salad, the French onion soup, a filet mignon with BEarnaise sauce and a cheesecake for desert. It was a great meal. That night we went into the theater to see the band on the run. My wife loved it, but I thought it was just OK. The Jean Ann Ryan Company sings the greatest hits of the 70s, 80s and 90s. After dinner we went to the casino and then back to our room to prepare for our first tour with NCL in Sicily. My wife ordered a wake up call every day (you set the time on the phone) and room service for 6:40 (just rolls and coffee. They call you on the phone about 2 minutes before they come, so you'll be ready and they won't have to wait). I went up to the gym, exercised for a few minutes then showered, grabbed our day bag (we always carried a water bottle, eye glasses, band aids, extra pair of shoes, extra camera, etc. nothing that we would care about if it was stolen, but just some things we thought we might need) and headed fro the Stardust theater (this is where all of the tours meet). It was more organized than I ever imagined. I thought we would be sitting there till everyone arrived then have to sit through an orientation, and then show our tickets, etc. We arrived at the Stardust Theater at 7:55 and were on our bus to Taormina by 8:10. When everyone was seated on the bus (we did the Taormina/Mt Etna excursion) the guide introduced himself, explained a little bit about what we were going to do and we were off. The tour starts out in the town of Messina (the town we were docked in) and proceeds to Taormina (probably a 45 minute ride). Nice comfortable air-conditioned bus (no bathroom on the bus). When we arrived in Taormina, we parked the bus and took and elevator seven stories up to the town. Beautiful view. We proceeded to walk through the town on the Corso Umberto till we reached the Greco Roman Theater. The guide gave a 15-minute talk about the theater and then we were on our town for the next 45 minutes. My wife did some shopping (ceramics, wine, etc) and we all met our guide in the square at the appointed time, took the elevator back down and went to a nice restaurant for lunch (bruchetta, great pasta, salad, veal, desert, wine, water and bread). Make sure that you use the rest room at the restaurant, because at the next stop (Mt. Etna) there was a very long line for the restroom. The trip to Mt. Etna winds up the mountain. As we drove the guide gave a little speech and then let everyone rest, for the rest of the trip to the Crater Silvestre. When you arrive on Mt. Etna it is probably about 30 or 40 degrees colder than it was in Taormina (altitude change) so bring a sweater, if you feel you'll be cold. We were only given a short time to walk amongst the craters (you can even walk into them if you want), pick up some hardened lava to take home, and enjoy the landscape. Some people on our tour even climbed the mountain higher to see a different crater, but my DW and I (this being our first volcano and all) were content with the craters nearby. We were all back on the bus and at the ship in plenty of time. That night my DW and I decided to see the 8:00 show and have dinner after. After the early show on Tuesday night, make sure that you go out on Deck 7 (starboard side) to see Stromboli. It is an active volcano, situated between Naples and Rome, that gave quite a show. It was only smoking the night that we passed, but I've read from other cruisers that some night there is a lava flow. That night was a manipulator/magician named Edge. He was pretty good (played a lot with the audience) and after the show we went to Tsars palace for dinner. I didn't love the menu that night, so I just had some pasta from the cooking light section and a steak (not even in the same class as Cagneys). My wife had salad and fish. The service was OK and the restaurant decor was nice. Of all the restaurants we visited this was our least favorite. It was OK, but nothing special. Went back to the room to prepare ourselves for Pompeii and Naples. Next morning's tour procedure was just as good as the first days. We were on our bus very quickly and although we were taken to a cameo factory first, we were soon at Pompeii to see the ruins. There was no factory, just a jewelry showroom. It was a blatant attempt to get us to buy some cameos. We were only there a short time, and were soon on our way to see the ruins at Pompeii. Even though it was still pretty early in the morning, it was very hot. We arrived at Pompeii (lots and lots of tours going through the site on that day) and began our tour. Our guide explained what happened in 79 AD and how the site was discovered and excavated. He showed us what life was like in the city in 79AD and tried his best to tell us what was original and what was rebuilt over the centuries. Very interesting tour. Our guide was very knowledgeable and we would never have enjoyed the site or realized what we were seeing were it not for our guide, Antonio. Although it was very hot and there were many tours going on that morning, he made the place come alive. You could feel what life was like during that period. We were given 20 minutes to buy some souvenirs outside the site and then meet to get the bus back to the ship. My wife and I went back on the ship, had lunch in the great outdoors, with the view of Mt. Vesuvius as our lunch partner, and then headed back off the ship to spend a few hours in Naples. My wife had purchased the Fodor's Italy book before we left and we decided that we would take a cab to Scapanapoli (a neighborhood in Naples) to walk the streets and see the city. We arrived at the Piazza de Gesu and started our walk. We're from New York (lived in Manhattan for 10 years) and we were amazed at the pace of lifestyle in Naples. We thought New York was fast-paced, crowded, rude and full of lunatic drivers, but we soon found that New York has a sister city in Naples. We bought some wine, vinegars, and pasta, and then we set out to find some pizza (I know I said that we already had lunch on the ship, but I was in Naples and I was definitely going to get some pizza). My DW was not at all happy walking around Naples so we just stopped at the closest pizzeria. Pizza was just OK (we never did see the famous Da Michele). had some gelato (my DW said that Carvel is better) and headed back to the ship. We live in New York and never think twice about it, but we did not feel comfortable in Naples. Maybe it was due to the fact that our guide warned us about the dangerous streets and advised us to leave all of our rings and valuables on the ship. Perhaps that warning (from a native Neapolitan) made us wary. We then proceeded to the main commercial street Via Toledo. Tons of stores, shops, gelato, office buildings, banks&just what you would expect to find in the third largest city in Italy. The streets are narrow and crowded, and the people could be described as indifferent at best. We walked around the Via Toledo for an hour or two and then took a cab back to the ship. Every time that someone comes back from Europe they always tell you a story about a crazy cab ride that they experienced. Well, this is ours. When I returned back to the US someone asked me, "What side of the road do they drive on in Naples?" I said "either." Not only did the cab driver not know where the port was (how hard could it be to find the port?), but he didn'tt seem particularly learned about the traffic laws of Italy. When we were finally in view of the ship and he had exhausted all possible routes, he asked us if he could just drop us off. My DW said, "please do." She couldn't wait to get out of the cab and out of Naples. We went swimming, took a steam, relaxed by the pool, and got ready for dinner at Mama's. I had heard that this was the most difficult reservation on the ship and that it was packed every night. When we arrived (8:00 PM) we were amongst only a handful of diners (I'm not sure why it always shows up as a long wait on the NCL Jewel Restaurant board). We got a table by the window and enjoyed a great meal. My DW had the antipasto trolley (huge selection- anchovies, smoked salmon, hams, cheeses, etc.) brought to the table so she could select her appetizers and I had the Caesar salad (excellent). For our main course I had the chicken over pasta and my wife had the fish. We ordered a bottle of wine and had a very enjoyable evening. I must say that the service and the food were both excellent. That night we went to see Charles Bach a magician/dancer perform in the Stardust Theater. Nice show. Nothing we haven' seen before, but still very enjoyable. A few minutes in the casino and then back to the room to prepare for Rome. After the show we went to the casino for a few minutes and then to the Spinnaker lounge to dance. The Spinnaker can rock or can be rather docile, depending on the crowd. There were nights that the dance floor was filled and other nights when my wife and I were the sole dancers. The house band, The Ironics, were pretty good. Played a lot of 80s disco music. For the next day's tour my DW and I hired a private guide. We got the guide from Claudio Caponera www.limoinrome.com claudio@limoinrome.com . His name was Fabio. We paid 450 Euros for the private tour plus 150 Euros for a private tour of the Vatican. 580 Euros=725 US dollars, so it was quite an expensive day, but he came with a driver so we had our own driver and our own guide. They were very prompt and met us at the dock at exactly 8:00 AM. After pointing out and visiting a few highlights (St. Pauls and the statue of Moses), we stopped at the Vitorio Emanuelle Monument. It is a monument to the last King of a unified Italy and is also the Italian monument to the Unknown Soldier. It is a beautiful building and has great views of the coliseum (go all the way to the top on the left side for the best view). Our next stop was the coliseum. There is a huge line, and I don't believe you can buy tickets in advance. Our guide told us to go through the metal detectors and wait for him. After 10 minutes he appeared and said, "lets go up." I don't know how, but he got inside and had three tickets in his hand. We took an elevator up to the top and he gave us a half hour tour of the coliseum. It wasn'tt as crowded as I thought it would be (judging form the lines outside) so we were able to walk around and take pictures pretty freely. It was really impressive. After the coliseum, we went to the Arch of Titus. Visited for a few minutes while Fabio explained about the Arch and then back in the car and onto the Trevi Fountain. Having such a short stay in Rome we were only able to spend a very short time in each location. We felt that by hiring the private guide, we could see what we wanted to see and spend as much time there as we wanted. We threw our obligatory coin into the fountain and then headed to the Spanish Steps. We had lunch on the Via Veneto and my DW did some shopping and then back in the car and headed over to the Vatican. I changed into long pants in the car and by the time that we arrived at the Vatican (around 2:00 PM) there was absolutely no line. We bought our tickets and headed inside. Our guide, Fabio, was an art historian and gave us way too much information (there was no air-conditioning) about all of the frescoes in the Sistine chapel. As we proceeded to the Sistine Chapel, we passed through many magnificent halls. When we finally arrived in the Sistine Chapel, it was somewhat disappointing. The frescoes viewed online at the Vatican Museum site are better to look at. It was rather dark in the Sistine chapel and although as a whole it was very impressive, Michelangelo's frescoes can be more thoroughly enjoyed viewed on your PC. We walked through St. Peters square on our way out if the Vatican and made our way to the car. There was some traffic on the way from Rome to Civitavecchia, but we made it back to the ship in plenty of time. As far as our guide is concerned, it was a very expensive day, but we felt that we were only in Rome for a few hours and we wanted to make the most if it. We wanted to eat where and when we wanted to eat, we wanted to see what we wanted to see. We could have shared the excursion with some other passengers, but my DW preferred to do it by ourselves. The best part about having a private driver and a guide was that the car always dropped us off at the site and was waiting there (with the air-conditioning on) as soon as we walked out. We never had to deal with parking or meeting the car. As soon as we arrived at the site (coliseum, Trevi fountain, Vatican) the door was opened for us on the van and we proceeded in. As soon as we left the site Alfredo (our driver), was waiting for us. The other great thing about our guide in Rome was never waiting for anything. The line in the Coliseum stretched for quite a distance, but we walked right in. His knowledge of the streets, the sites and the best times for visiting made his services worth the money. This is not such a big deal to the men, but he also was able to direct my wife to the highest quality facilities in Rome. When it was time to leave the Vatican my wife and I decided we should use the rest room before we got in the car for the long ride back to the ship. The line at the Vatican was very long and the facilities looked like something you would see at the ballpark. Our guide waved his hand as we passed the Vatican restroom and directed my wife to the Philippine Embassy. He took her in and a few minutes later they emerged. We would never have known to go there, so for all the little things that he did and showed us, it made our day that much more special. We got back to the ship and I took a steam and got ready for dinner. We decided that we would try Azura for dinner. It is one of the two main restaurants and is designed in a modern theme. The service and the food were excellent. I ordered a main dish, the lasagna, as an appetizer and it was great, I then had a chicken dish as my main dish (also very good) and a chocolate soufflE as a desert. That night was the second City improv Show, and after dinner we went to the internet cafe (we passed on the show) and did a little shopping in the gift shop. Compared to the other ships that we've been on, this gift shop is huge. Big selection, clothes, toiletries, food, watches, clocks, perfumes, etc. The next day we had hired a private guide, benvenutolimos.com , to take us to Pisa and Florence. Our driver, Savario, met us on the dock in Livorno, right on time in a brand new Mercedes Sedan. He introduced himself, we spoke a little bit about our plans for the day and we were off first to Pisa.We made our reservations to climb the Tower of Pisa online at http://www.opapisa.it (you must make your reservation at least 14 days before your visit and not more than 45 days before your visit) and Savario took us right to the ticket office. We picked up our tickets for the 9:00 AM climb, and strolled around for a few minutes till 9:00 AM. Absolutely no crowds at this time of the morning. The climb up the tower was great (maybe the highlight of the trip). No handrails, no lights, but an incredible sense of history. To walk the steps that Galileo had walked was just amazing. The view from the top was equally awesome. You read about all the red tile roofs of Tuscany, but to see the entire sight unfold before your eyes was just beautiful. The climb from the bell tower to the top of the tower was a little tricky and I would not recommend it for everyone. Great little souvenir stands all along the Field of Miracles and a beautiful church and baptistery. We got back in the car and started the drive to Florence. As I understand it, large buses and most cars are not allowed in the city center of Florence. Our guide explained that he had a special pass that would allow him to enter the city center. His company had made our reservations for us to see The David. When we arrived he simply walked us to the head of the line, said something in Italian to the guard. The guard lifted the rope, we walked right into the Galleria D'academia, went up to the ticket window, paid for our tickets and in less than five minutes were standing in front of the great David. I expected a much larger crowd and was very surprised at how close we were able to get to the statue. We spent a long time taking in this enormous sculpture. It really was amazing. There really is not much else of interest in the Galleria D'Accademia and we left. Our guide then took us to the main square in Florence and said that everything we wanted to see was right there. The Duomo, the Pontevecchio and all the great shops of Florence were all very close by. We walked to the Duomo and were mesmerized by the beauty, scope and grandeur of the church. On the outside, the green and pink marble structure is still dazzling today. I can only imagine how it appeared to the Italians so many centuries ago.  The doors of the baptistery across from the church did not disappoint either. They are marvelous. Each relief tells a different story and the detail of each panel is more intricate than I could believe. It's hard to believe that the craftsmen of that era could produce such incredible work without any of the tools at our disposal today. After circling the Duomo, my DW made her visit to Gucci #1 (she knew there was another Guscci in Florence as well as Fendi, Louis Vuiton, etc so I guess that she felt she still had other chances to buy) right next to the Duomo. After about 20 minutes she left empty handed. We then had lunch at Gilli in the town square. Although it was early for lunch and very hot, there were still plenty of coffee drinking, wine sipping, smoking Florentines at the restaurant to give it some atmosphere. A glass of wine, a bottle of water, a small bowl of pasta, a salad for my wife came to 50 Euros. Not cheap, but very good and just what we wanted. We then walked to the Pontevecchio (we were in Florence and felt that we had to). Lots of Jewelry shops and great views of the city from across the Arno River. I was touristy enough to get stuck with and an 8 EuroGelato. When the woman said "8 Euros" I almost put it down, but it was so hot, I said OK and swallowed my pride, along with the gelato. My DW found some ceramic pottery that she bought for our friends and family back home. She bought some wine, and we headed to the Via Tourabouni (sp) so that my wife could fulfill her dream of shopping in Florence. She went to Fendi and Louis Vuiton but came up empty, she then headed to the other Gucci that our guide had told us about and she struck gold. She found a Gucci wallet that she loved. Mission accomplished.! After Gucci we headed to Santa Maria Croce (the church that houses Michelangelo's remains). I had seen pictures of the church before that looked very interesting, but was a little disappointed with our visit. After the church, we told the driver that we wanted to go to the Piazza Michelangelo. The drive from the city center across the Arno up to the Piazza was definitely worth seeing. It is where Florence's rich and famous reside. Big villas that overlook the city. When we arrived at the Piazza Michelangelo (this piazza contains the copy of the statue of David) we were blown away by the view. It overlooks the entire city and is a photo opportunity that is not to be missed. I know that we did not see the Uffizi Gallery but we had such a limited amount of time in Florence. Between the trip from Livorno to Pisa, Pisa to Florence and then Florence back to Livorno, we did a lot of travelling and could not afford to be late getting back to the ship. Hopefully on our next trip to Florence well see the Uffizi. We then left Florence for our trip back to Livorno. We left Florence early, as our driver said that there is sometimes traffic getting out of the city on Friday afternoon (I guess it's that way everywhere). We hit no traffic at all and were back on the ship in plenty of time. We went swimming, had something to eat at the buffet, enjoyed the ship and got ready for dinner. That night we went back to Cagney's and once again it was excellent. I had the shrimp cocktail (nothing special) boneless ribeye, french fries and a very nice bottle of wine. Cheesecake for desert. After dinner we got seats for the often-hyped Cirque Bijou show in the Stardust theater. Great performers. Bungee jumping from the ceiling, gyrating acrobats, very original performance. Went back to the room to get ready for Villefrance (Nice).  If you are not on an NCL scheduled tour you will have to get a tender ticket on Friday if you want to leave the ship early. I think that by 9:00 there was no longer a need for a tender ticket and it was "first come, first served" boarding on the tender. We had planned to take a cab from the port at Villefrance to the Negresco Hotel in Nice. We figured it was a major landmark and a good spot to begin our walk on the Promenade Des Anglais. We got a coffee and a croissant and sat for a few minutes at a spot overlooking the beach. It was still very early in the morning, but there were already plenty of people on the beach. We made a big mistake by not bringing bathing suits. We didn't realize that we could spend the day on the beach in Nice. I guess that we had conditioned ourselves so much that we were sight-seers, that we didn't think of ourselves as vacationers. At some of the beaches in Nice, you could walk right on (actually down) and lay down on a towel and enjoy the day. At others you could rent a chaise lounge and umbrella. We walked pretty far on the promenade Des Anglais, but there was really nothing to see and the beach itself was rocky. I mean like big rocks. We live on Long Island in New York and the beaches are beautiful sandy beaches. I was expecting an incredible beach, after all it's the French Riviera, but it was really nothing special at all. Nice is a pretty big city and perhaps if we had explored the whole city, we would have felt differently, but overall it was pretty disappointing. We grabbed a cab (25 Euros) back to Villefrance and had a pretty nice lunch at the Calypso Cafe near the port. We then walked around the crescent shaped beach town of Villefrance. Much nicer than Nice. There were plenty of people enjoying themselves in the surf. Nice cafes, souvenir shops, beautifully colored apartments (like a postcard) and houses built onto the cliffs surrounding the beach. This is what we had always imagined when we thought of a charming French seaside village. We loved Villefrance and wished that the ship had stayed in port longer. I'm not sure why the ship has to leave Villefrance so early in the afternoon. The ship is docked out at sea, so it's not taking away a dock space from another ship and the trip from Nice to Barcelona is relatively short so I'm not sure why the ship departs so early in the day (2:30 PM). Once back on the ship you can get colored luggage tickets for the disembarkation. We packed most of our luggage and spent the rest of the afternoon at the pool. Nice band playing, a stupendous underwater escape by Charles Bach (the magician), a steam, a good soaking in the men's whirlpool and a cheeseburger cooked to perfection highlighted our last afternoon on the ship. That night we decided that we would try to get into Mama's Kitchen for our last dinner. We didn't have reservations, but we tipped the Maitre'D and we got right in. The restaurant connects to the great outdoors in the aft section of the ship and we asked if we could sit outside and have our dinner served to us there (we had seen other diners doing this earlier on the cruise), and they were very accommodating. Again, just a very good meal. We loved sitting outside having our dinner overlooking the Mediterranean Sea as we cruised from Nice to Barcelona. That night in the great outdoors we met the Captain. He was very gracious. After dinner we went to the casino to try to lose the money we had won so far (we felt it was only right to give it back, since it didn't belong to us anyway), but of course, my DW kept winning at the Roulette table. We are very small time gamblers and usually just bet the minimum ($3.00). When 12:30 AM came (all the bags have to be outside of your room by 1:00 AM) we took our small winnings and went back to the room to put the bags outside. We had an early wakeup call for the next day, ordered a few rolls and some coffee from room service and we were out of our room by 7:15 AM. No line at all to get off the ship. We just swiped our card, walked off and right into the terminal. NCL offers express disembarkation which just means that you can carry your own bags off the ship by yourself. My wife got us dark blue tags that indicated an early departure flight. We were supposed to leave Barcelona at 10:40 AM. Our bags were on the carousel in the NCL terminal waiting for us. There was plenty of people to direct you in the terminal and plenty of red caps to help you with your bags. We walked out of the terminal and saw a huge line of taxis waiting. From the time we left our stateroom till the time we got to into the airport terminal was about 45 minutes. Ok, so to give a little bit more information about the ship& We were in Cabin 11026 an AF minisuite on the starboard side. I thought that since the ship's starboard side faced the land (due to the itinerary) that we would get a better views on the starboard side. In Messina we did face the city (the port side looked onto the sea), in Naples the ship pulls in to the dock and both sides of the ship have a view of the city. In Civitavecchia and Livorno the ports were industrial ports, so there was not really anything to see from either side of the ship. In Villefrance, the ship was docked at sea and there were great views from both sides of the ship. The room was very nice (not incredible, but very nice), The bathroom is split into three sections. The shower is separate, the toilet area is separate, and the sink-vanity area is separate (all three areas are separated by stenciled, sliding glass doors). Depending on the modesty of the passengers involved, it is possible that one person could shower, one could use the toilet and one could brush their teeth at the same time. Our luggage easily fit underneath the bed. Nice amount of drawer and closet space for me and my DW. If you want, you can take the life jackets and put them under the bed on put them on the top of the closet. There is a hairdryer and it is stored and permanently plugged into one of the drawers in the suite area. The safe is excellent. It needs to be reset with the password each time it is opened and closed, but it is very easy to use and we never had a problem. The bed was pretty comfortable and two chairs and a table were provided on the balcony. There weren't as many TV channels as we would have liked, but they did have CNN and Fox News so we were able to keep up with the news. We were only two people in the minisuite so we did not have a need for the over the door shoe holder to keep our toiletries. There was plenty of room on the vanity and the shelves. There are two plugs in the minisuite area so I brought a few surge protectors and extension cords to plug in all of my cameras battery chargers, phones, walkie-talkies, etc. We thought the food was very good to excellent (I already covered most of the meals that we had). We never had breakfast in the Garden Cafe, so I cant tell you what they had. The shows were good (not great, but good). The ship was immaculate. The ship is less than one year old and it shows. We have only traveled on ships that were at least 7 years old and the difference is striking. From the elevators to the buffet station configuration to the hand sanitizers, the ship showed its modern design. The pool deck was crowded from the time that all of the excursions returned until dinnertime, but not to the point that you could not enjoy them. The whirlpools were always crowded and were too cold and too chlorinated for me. The shore excursions were extremely well organized. I don't know if anyone else noticed this but the captain made an announcement over the ships loud speaker every morning between 7:30 and 8:00 AM. We were up so it didn't wake us, but I wonder if other passengers were awoken by these announcements. The room was certainly big enough for two people, and might be serviceable for three or even four. There was only one time that we felt the ship move (Monday night in the Stardust Theater, during the Band on the Run show) otherwise it was smooth sailing. I have written about the food, our cabin, the shore excursions, the embarkation and disembarkation process, the entertainment, the health club, but the one area that I haven't critiqued was the crew. This was the most outstanding part of the cruise. There was never a moment that we had to wait (except in the internet cafe. They have far to few terminals for the number of passengers that want to use them), felt that they weren't interested, met with and exasperated crew member, or received any sort of attitude from anyone in the crew. As a matter of fact there were times when I saw the ships officers flipping burgers or assisting passengers if the need arose. Our stewards were fantastic. As we walked through the ship (the fish in the carpet always face the FRONT of the ship) every crewmember greeted us heartily. We spoke at length to quite a few crewmembers and they certainly made us feel welcome. Overall, the whole experience was excellent. We would definitely recommend the NCL Jewel. If you have any questions, please email me at Tagoladad@aol.com and put JEWEL QUESTION in the subject line Read Less
Sail Date July 2006
This was my fifth cruise and fifth cruiseline. Overall, my husband and I had a wonderful time, but I have to say that this was not my favorite ship or favorite cruiseline. The ship -- In my opinion, the ship is average. I have been on ... Read More
This was my fifth cruise and fifth cruiseline. Overall, my husband and I had a wonderful time, but I have to say that this was not my favorite ship or favorite cruiseline. The ship -- In my opinion, the ship is average. I have been on some truly beautiful ships, and this is not one of them. Our room (10th floor balcony) was slightly below average and not spotlessly clean, as it has been on other ships. Service -- I thought this ship offered the lowest level of customer service I have ever had on a cruise. The staff was not especially friendly or accommodating and the service in the restaurants was often painfully slow and inattentive. Restaurants -- The freestyle dining concept was kind of strange. On the first day, my husband and I made reservations at Cagney's (very good) and Chin Chin (pretty good). The rest of the week we stopped by the restaurants (rather than making reservations) and got into every one of them. This mystified us because when we phoned for reservations, we were always told that they were fully booked; HOWEVER, when we just stopped by to see if they could "squeeze" us in, they always could. And every restaurant always had dozens of empty tables. Our guess is that this is some sort of method of controlling the number of diners per restaurant, but I imagine that passengers who couldn't get reservations would have been very upset if they had known that so many tables went unused! Odd. Ports -- For us, the trip was more about the ports than the ship, and the excursions that we took were all outstanding. Because our outbound flight was cancelled, we missed Barcelona :(, but we had been there before. In Messina (which we had also been to before) we took the "Godfather" tour. Lots of fun but, if you haven't been to Sicily before, I would have to recommend an excursion to Taormina and/or Etna. I n Naples, we took the "Capri/Sorrento/Pompeii" tour. It was a very long, busy day, but the sites were great. In Civitavecchia, we only took the bus transportation to Rome. This was VERY expensive, but it raised our comfort level about getting to/from Rome. The guide on the way in was fantastic and offered very helpful advice. In Livorno, we took my favorite excursion. Since we had already been to Florence, we took the "Cinque Terre" tour. The Cinque Terre is gorgeous and the tour is a lot of fun. Lastly, our least favorite port was Villefranche -- but that's because we love Italy so much! Overall, if you get a "deal", I'd recommend NCL and the Jewel, but there are better ships and, I think, better cruise lines. Read Less
Sail Date July 2006
My husband and myself just got home from the NCL Jewel (7.30.06). What a GREAT cruise!! This would be the 6th cruise for me (3rd for husband) and we both agree that this was the best cruise ever!!! We used NCL air. Direct flight from JFK ... Read More
My husband and myself just got home from the NCL Jewel (7.30.06). What a GREAT cruise!! This would be the 6th cruise for me (3rd for husband) and we both agree that this was the best cruise ever!!! We used NCL air. Direct flight from JFK (Delta) and since we arrived very early Sunday am NCL treated us to a free tour of Barcelona. Nice informative tour. Embarkation: We boarded the ship approx 12:00. No waiting and was on within 5mins of arriving. TIP: You can but soda and water at duty free shops in the terminal! We ended up leaving port about 2 hours late due to late arriving passengers because of the recent strike at the airport. Our cabin was a obstructed view on 8th deck. It was no problem and would get an obstructed view again. Esp. on this type of port intensive cruise! Food: We both found all meals to be good to excellent. We only tried 2 specialty restaurants Tapas and Teppanyaki. Both were good with good service. A note on free style restaurants. We felt that having to make reservations defeats the purpose of free style and ate mostly out of Tsars and buffet. Entertainment: Excellent! All shows were good! My husband especially liked "Edge"! Ports: We took private guides in each Italy port! All 4 guides were excellent and knowledgeable. Your days are very long but as long as you were prepared...no problems. Wear sturdy shoes ( Yes I wore white sneakers and never felt out of place). My husband wore a pants in Rome...although nobody was declined entry because of wearing shorts. He then wore shorts the rest of the trip!! Bring water and sun block!!! I could go on forever about each port so please feel contact me with any specific questions. In Villefrenche we decided to take it easy and walked around the port. It was very nice and relaxing day after a busy 4 days. If you have a chance make sure you check out the farmers market on top of hill! YOu can get a map and direction at the tourist desk on port!! We stayed 2 days post cruise. We opted to book our own hotel. Hilton Diagonal Mar. Excellent hotel. It was a bit out of the way but 2 mins from the green line Bus Turistic (hop on/off). Great Mall across the street and 10 min walk to the beach. We took a train to Monserratt (sp) on 2nd day! Worth the trip. No problems with train and cheaper then taking a formal tour. A beautiful place. We used the hop on/off on both days (2 day pass) and found it a great way to see the city as long you are not in a rush to get around! Return flight: NCL booked us on Air France with only a 50 min connection time at Paris!!! Very nervous about this but Air France had a rep meet us and ran us thru the airport and got us to our connection with mins to spare! Tip: Make sure you have a least 2.5 hours to check in Barcelona...airport very busy!!! We both found Air France to be very pleasant and would use them again!! Both airplanes much nicer then Delta!!! I hope you find this review helpful and any questions feel free to contact me. mandm97@hotmail.com Read Less
Sail Date July 2006
Let me first begin by stating that this was my first cruise and my husband's second cruise (his first one was over 15 years ago). We decided to take a Mediterranean cruise as a first anniversary trip following recommendations by a ... Read More
Let me first begin by stating that this was my first cruise and my husband's second cruise (his first one was over 15 years ago). We decided to take a Mediterranean cruise as a first anniversary trip following recommendations by a relative. I chose to book on the NCL Jewel due to price and cruise length. I originally booked a mini-suite but two weeks before the trip I was offered an upgrade to a penthouse for an additional fee which I accepted. Embarkation: Due to problems booking air to ship transfers through our cruise specialist at a large internet agency we ended up taking a cab to the ship. This was very convenient, quick, and cost only 30 Euros. Upon arriving at the port our luggage was quickly checked in and we were directed inside to complete embarkation procedures. Since we were in a penthouse we finished embarkation procedures in a separate area and then were guided to our room. Stateroom: Our stateroom was gorgeous with a comfortable bed, tub and shower, large closet, flat screen tv, and huge balcony with two lounge chairs. Our room was completely forward on the 9th deck and directly two floors below the bridge. Because of the upgrade to a penthouse we received appetizers in our room each evening, a bottle of sparkling wine at embarkation, butler service,concierge service, and overall VIP status including an invitation to the captain's cocktail party. We rarely used the butler service although he was very nice, and we never spoke to the actual concierge. Our cabin steward was outstanding! Dining: We found the food in most restaurants to be average. The food in Le Bistro was exceptional though. Overall dining service was okay. The servers in the specialty restaurants definitely go out of their way more than those in Tsars where we ate twice and had bad service both times. While onboard we tried Cagney's, Tsars, Azura, Momma's Italian Kitchen, Le Bistro, and Tangos for dinner. The Garden Cafe is where most people go for breakfast. It is a buffet style breakfast; however, the food lacked in quality and the atmosphere was quite crowded as most people get there about the same time so that they can go on shore excursions. If we were to do it again we would definitely skip the Garden Cafe and order room service for breakfast. Shore Excursions: We found the shore excursions to be very good with the exception of the final day when we went to EZE and Monaco and the tour guide wasn't very good, we found out that there were additional charges to tour all of EZE, and the bus driver was quite conservative with the air conditioning. Other shore excursion that we went on included Taormina and Mt. Etna -wonderful, Amalfi Coastal drive and Pompeii- fabulous, Rome and the Vatican -good but the Vatican is extremely crowded, and A Taste of Florence- very nice. These excursions were wonderful but exhausting as you are away from the ship from approximately 7:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. most days. I would not recommend this trip for children or elderly as the ports are working ports and the shore excursions are a bit of a necessity to fully experience the area. Onboard Entertainment: We primarily went to the 8:00 show in the Stardust theater most evenings. We went to the Band on the Run performance which was nice and the type of entertainment I would expect. The second show we went to was the shipboard entertainer Edge who was okay but at times reminded me of someone who would be voted off of the television show America's Got Talent. Second City Comedy Troupe performed in the theater one evening and then did a short show in the Spinnaker lounge another evening, ask we expected they were fabulous and left us with a good laugh. Finally we attended Cirque Bijou in the theater which was amazing, especially as the performers started flipping from bungee cords over the audience. We tried going to bingo on two different occasions and once it was cancelled due to low numbers and the second night it started late as they waited for people to show up. Disembarkation: We received our luggage tags in our room the night before and placed our luggage in the hall before we went to bed. The next morning we simply got off the ship and claimed our luggage in the terminal and went to meet the ships airport transfer. They put the luggage on a separate truck and the passengers on buses. Once at the airport they set the luggage out for you to once again find your own luggage. The real disaster traveling home came when we entered the airport to hoards of people and a lack of organization. What we later found out is that the ground crew at the Barcelona airport had been on strike for two days and was just resuming service that morning. This resulted in many flights being canceled or delayed. It would have been appreciated if NCL would have forewarned us of the situation ahead of time so that we could have adjusted our travel arrangements prior to arriving at the airport. Read Less
Sail Date July 2006
My wife and I were treated by my grandmother on our first cruise. We were in a group of 8. We were excited it was to be to Europe which was also a first for us. I was more excited for the actual cruising experience and my wife was more ... Read More
My wife and I were treated by my grandmother on our first cruise. We were in a group of 8. We were excited it was to be to Europe which was also a first for us. I was more excited for the actual cruising experience and my wife was more excited for the places we would see. If I were to go that far again, I would stay at least a day in the embarkation city to recuperate from the long travel from the U.S. The ship's newness was quite noticeable. As the Jewel is approaching the end of it's first year one could tell that everything was still pretty unbroken in. The activities were fun. Plenty of stuff to do for any age. I am not a big fan of the Vegas type show, but the rest of the evening entertainment was pretty good. I even ended up going to the crew's talent show with little hopes for seeing some good talent, but was very impressed. I enjoyed that one more than their grand finale vegas type show. The service, I thought was very good. Most of the crew seemed eager to please and make you feel pampered. I enjoyed seeing their nation's flag on their name tags. Our rooms were very well taken care of each and every afternoon and evening turn down with a new towel animal and mints. The excursions were impressive. But if my grandmother were not the one paying for it all and wanting us to do it all sparing no expense, I would probably do a few of the ports on my own next time. I did not care for the restrictedness that most of the excursions had. And in each port, there seemed to be much better pricing for a smaller vehicle to take you around. We really enjoyed our day in Naples (Pompeii) and Messina through NCL, but Pisa and Villefranche through NCL were so low in value for what was given and or described in the excursion descriptions. My older grandmother ended up walking 15+ minutes to see the leaning tower of Pisa to only find a street right next to the entrance. If the big buses are not allowed there, that's all fine, but put that in the description for people who are not as able to walk can give it a second thought before they end up having to trek it out. She ended up being able to get a public city bus back to the bus. Again, communication is the missing factor. We went through shoretrips for our excursions in Rome and Barcelona. Our travel agent recommended it for Rome especially so we could see everything we wanted to and not be limited to NCL's itineraries. Well our guide, which turned out to be almost merely a driver, did not do very well. His English was poor and he couldn't master the driving and talking on the microphone about all the stuff we were seeing. Maybe that was for the better after seeing how people drive over there. He did get us back to the ship all safe and sound. Our large group didn't help things either with everyone wanting to do things from seeing the sights (imagine that), to shopping, to eating at a nice and quiet italian restaurant with a large LOUD group of uncultured Americans. But it was a good but overwhelming day. Shoretrips redeemed itself in Barcelona with a great guide and excursion. It was cut short by over 30 minutes, but the guide was great. Our stateroom was very nice. The dining was probably the biggest disappointment for my wife and almost for me. Of the 6 specialty restaurants, 3 of them were good and the other 3 were average or even poor. Stay away from Tango's. Cagney's, Chin Chin and Tepanyaki were the places we would go the whole week if we were going again. Being that they were the best, we still expected a tad better. In our group we had several who are regular cruisers and they too said that they thought that Princess had the best food. And I had read other reviews and knew I had to get reservations early at those better places to eat. If I had not we wouldn't have been able to eat there at all. Overall it was a fun week/trip. Just not enough time to see the historical sites when you're cruising. When I go back to Italy it will be on a plane and in a hotel to enjoy the experience more fully. Read Less
Sail Date July 2006
This is an exceptionally long review. To make it easier to digest, I have broken it up into 4 pieces that are included in the appropriate Message Boards: Jewel July 2 Barcelona  Getting there. On the Cruise Airfare forum. Jewel July 2 ... Read More
This is an exceptionally long review. To make it easier to digest, I have broken it up into 4 pieces that are included in the appropriate Message Boards: Jewel July 2 Barcelona  Getting there. On the Cruise Airfare forum. Jewel July 2 Barcelona  What a Great Time. On the Norwegian Cruise Line forum. Jewel July 2 Barcelona  Ports of Call. On the Ports of Call: Europe forum. Jewel July 2 Barcelona - Post Cruise Visit to Barcelona. On the Ports of Call: Europe forum. Finally, I have placed this review, in its entirety, under Member Reviews. WE DECIDE TO TAKE A MEDITERRANEAN CRUISE Early May 2006. So, we (myself, my wife and my son) have decided to book a cruise on the Norwegian Jewel for their itinerary beginning in Barcelona, Spain on July 2, 2006. After several phone calls to NCL and visits to a variety of web sites, it seems the best value we can get in a cabin is directly through NCL. Although Ive never cruised on their line before, six weeks before departure we are given an early booking rate, with a repeat cruiser price for their AG mini-suite. But, they upgrade us to the AF. I dont know exactly what all their hocus-pocus discounts really mean, but its a better rate than I got from any travel agent so we took it. Based on our web research, we decide to get travel insurance through CSA travel, who offers a pre-existing condition clause. Basically, if any of our known health issues should flare up at the last minute, we would still be covered with trip cancellation insurance. (A tip from several travel agents was dont worry about pre-existing condition clauses. You wouldnt be the first person to ask a doctor to write a note saying you had the flu. Anyhow, thats not my style.) I didnt care for the airfare through NCL. They told me I wouldnt have my flight arrangements until three weeks prior to departure. I like to know when and where Im going. Also, my research on cruisecritic.com found a few experiences I didnt care to share, such as 14 hour lay-overs and triple connections. Theres just too many things that can go wrong. Also, I preferred an airline where the cabin crew spoke English. British Airways was about $50 more per-person than NCLs airfare, a worthwhile expenditure in my opinion. GETTING THERE IS HALF THE FUN  OR WELCOME TO BA.COM I first found out that British Airways could get me from New York to Barcelona on Expedia.com. BA offered the lowest fare at the time on a single airline. I could have saved a few dollars by changing airlines at connections, but I was worried about luggage getting lost. Also, Expedia would be harder to deal with if I wanted to change my non-cancellable flights or if I missed a connection. I figured with British Airways, I could go to a ticket counter at the airport and at least deal with any travel problems face to face with a person. We were traveling from New York to London, then connecting in London to Barcelona. When I booked our flights through the British Airways web site, I had several surprises. First of all, after paying for our tickets, I went to the My Booking section to select seats and found that they were not allowing seat selection. The terse explanation on the website was that they had already met their allocation of pre-selected seats. Then came the second surprise as I read through the long email confirmation they sent me and saw a section about connecting flights. The computer had arranged a connecting flight 90 minutes after our London arrival. It also turns out we had to take a bus from their Terminal 4 to their Terminal 1. It also said we needed to go through security at terminal 1. But the thing that bothered me the most was when it said to allow a minimum of 75 minutes to transfer between flights at different terminals. That gave us 15 minutes of leeway. We had to get out of JFK in New York and go to Heathrow, two of the busiest airports in the world, and we only had 15 minutes of safety time to fall back on. Since there were three of us together, I wanted to make sure we sat together. The computer wouldnt let me. Also, I was concerned about the tight connecting time  what if our plane leaving New York was delayed half an hour? Thats not exactly unthinkable. No FAQ covering that. So, I figured Id give them a call. Heres what calling British Airways means: Monotonous British Airways theme music, a never ending on-hold recording telling you that they will charge you $20 to talk to you, and a reminder that all your answers would be on BA.COM. After half an hour of their horrible symphony, I gave up and decided I would argue it out with them at the airport if necessary. I did some research and came up with a list of five direct flights from Heathrow to Barcelona, plus another 12 connecting flights, that were after our scheduled flight yet would still get us to the port in time to make our cruise, so that no airport employee could tell me I was stuck and there was nothing that could be done. The day before leaving, I logged on and found our seats were all together and quite satisfactory. I even had the opportunity to move the three of us a few rows up from the back, which was important because we had a connecting flight and the quicker we got out of that 747, the better. I dont know why they couldnt tell me where they were when I booked, but I guess thats the way BA does things. However, there was another surprise: British Airways was changing their baggage policies! While it didnt affect us, it did make me read the policy carefully, which told me that my carry on luggage was an inch and a half too large to take on board. A few searches of cruisecritic.com helped me find out that BA is very strict, so at 8:30 at night we ran out to the nearest Sears to buy a suitcase that was an inch and a half shorter. We showed up at the airport three hours early and went to the Fast Luggage Drop to put our bags on. The clerk saw our carry on and asked us to put it on her scale. It turned out it was 7 lbs. too heavy. It was the right physical size, but too heavy. She wanted us to take some stuff out of it to put into our regular luggage, but all it contained was a change of clothes for three people and a few books and magazines. What could I take out? Also, I wasnt opening my luggage at the counter to put on a show for the other travelers to see my underwear so I told her well just check it, which really seemed to surprise her. Maybe she just wanted to check out my undies? I said to the clerk - thats strange, weve only got a change of clothes in the bag, and she said that those types of bags arent really good for carry-on because they were so heavy. This was the standard Crew bag with the telescoping handle that almost ALL travelers carry. BTW  I travel several times a year throughout the USA and always use our larger crew bag as a carry-on. I cant recall ever seeing ANYONE having a carry-on challenged. Ive seen guitars and skateboards going into overheads, as well as duffel bags that were twice the allowed length and required two men to lift them up. I guess British Airways is strict. Until I got to the waiting gate. There were bags twice the size of mine being carried on. There were backpacks with aluminum frames, and plenty of pilot bags And it just wasnt in Business Class or First Class  the woman seated in front of me had a suitcase that was twice the length of a crew bag  AND she had a crew bag as well. I dont know what the baggage clerks problem was and why I was singled out. At that point, I just hoped theyd lose my luggage so I could get some money out of them. Incidentally, they did a fine job with our luggage. Nothing was lost, nothing was damaged. There was just that *&%$^&* clerk at JFK. Once on-board the plane, the crew was attentive, friendly and better than any flight crew Ive ever encountered in the coach section of an American carrier. The service was wonderful, especially considering that it was a full 747 that must have contained 400 people. Maybe it was just that they had more attendants working the plane. There seemed to be 6 flight people in the World Traveler section, which is BASpeak for cheap seats. Yeah - $1100 - thats cheap. We landed in Heathrow on schedule and rushed to the bus. We were at Terminal 1 within 15 minutes of exiting our plane at Terminal 4. I walked up to a British Airways representative and showed her the boarding pass for our Barcelona flight and asked where to go. She saw that I only had an hour and she took my family to the front of the security line and asked the security personnel to let us through because we were close to our boarding time. We were at the waiting area in Terminal 1 50 minutes before they announced the gate. The flight to Barcelona was on a 767, instead of the 757 that Expedia said the flight was. That means our seats D-E-F were in the center section, not a window section, which was disappointing because we had never flown over London or Barcelona and wanted to enjoy the view. Thats certainly no fault of British Airways, however. WELCOME TO BARTHELONA Our first task was to get through Passport control in the Barcelona Airport. Not hard to find. I had my Spanish phrase book open to the page on how to talk to customs inspectors. As it turned out, there was no customs people to talk to, just a uniformed officer with a big rubber stamp who stamped our passports. Im not sure if he was even awake. I studied Spanish for 4 years in High School. That was 30 years ago. But my wife speaks German and my son is studying German in school, so I was the closest thing to a Spanish speaker in the family. I could ask how much something costs, I could understand some of the answers I got, and I could navigate a menu in a restaurant. Of course, in Barcelona, the books all say that the language is Catalan, not Spanish. My experience was that anyone I had to deal with spoke Spanish. It also seemed that most people had a smattering of English, except the cab drivers. My wife had prepared for that by writing out index cards with the addresses of places we intended to use taxis to reach. We had no major language barriers, although a few misunderstanding. On the trip to the boat terminal, I asked him, based on in my wonderful Spanish education of thirty years ago, how much the trip would cost. He told me Nada mas, veinte minutos (Not much  twenty minutes). So much for my Spanish capabilities. Well, how much could it cost anyway? (It was 15 Euros). The taxi drove us right up to the terminal where an NCL porter took our bags from the trunk and put them on the ship. No hassles, and he seemed very happy with the 5 Euro tip I gave him. It was about 10:45 AM. Walking into the terminal, we went through metal detectors, our hand luggage went through X-Ray and we passed into the check-in area. There were at least 50 check-in stations and we were immediately checked in. We walked through the terminal, which had perhaps a dozen stores selling soda, water, liquor, wine, sundries and souvenirs. I bought a 6 pack of 2-litre water bottles for 6 Euros. I had brought some Crystal Light lemondade mix that I later used to make something to drink in the cabin. (I prefer to get my calories from wine and food, not soda.) As we reached the stairway to the entry point, there was a large empty table with a sign saying alcoholic beverages had to be left there, and an NCL woman asked us if we had any liquor. I told her no and we went up the escalator. The gangway onto the ship was at the top, and after the obligatory photographs, we were on the ship. WHAT A JEWEL It was about 11AM. We walked on and met the first sanitation nazi. Sanitation nazis are the unfortunate crewmembers that have to sit at the entrances to the buffet and the boarding points and nag the passengers to make sure that they wash their hands with a special sanitizing gel. The dispensers are pretty cool, though, you just wave your had under it and out comes the stuff. Most of the time. I guess with the recent rash of guests getting sick on ships, its a good thing. Id just hate to have to stand there for three hours straight with a smile on my face telling people to wash themselves. The steward was still making up our room, but he invited us to put our hand luggage in the room and enjoy the ship. I gave him 20 Euros and asked him to take his time getting the room ready and to please get us extra bath towels. For the rest of the cruise, the room stewards were attentive, the ice bucket was kept full, and we had no complaints at all. A quick note  I like to tip in cash. I figure that the cruise line knows whos getting what if you add it to a bill. If you tip a person in cash, they can put it in their pocket with nobody knowing anything about it. If they want to share it with the tip pool, thats their business, but a lot of these servers are sending money back home to their spouses and children, and I bet they appreciate having a few extra bucks in their pocket. In the room were two bottles of wine, two bottles of champagne, two fruit baskets, chocolate covered strawberries, a cake and Happy Anniversary banners. I bought an Anniversary package for my wife. She bought champagne and wine for me, and my mother had ordered us a bon-voyage present. The NCL order department must have had a real laugh if any one single person saw the amount of alcohol being delivered to our room. Our Cabin was 11574  a midship type AF mini-suite on the Port side. We were two steps from the elevator, although we tended to use the stairs a lot. Directly above our balcony were the ping-pong tables, and one night there was a lot of ping-pong playing going on. But, we were so tired nothing could have kept us awake. Dont let the word mini-suite fool you  it is nothing more than a cabin with a full sized bathtub. The toilet is in a separate compartment from the shower, but its got a frosted glass door, so I dont think the wife would have appreciated me using it while she was bathing. I chose to go upstairs to the public rest room if the need arose. This room was only slightly larger than a standard balcony cabin on the Carnival Victory we cruised on two years ago. With the couch opened into a bed for our son, there was little room to move, same as the Victorys cabin. Of course, the Victory couch was a twin sized bed, while the Jewels was a double. Now, that being said, you should note that NCLs standard Balcony Cabin is smaller than their mini-suite, so you get what you pay for. While wandering around the ship, we saw an outside cabin with a window, not a porthole, and it looked like a closet with two twin beds. That would not be my choice for a place to stay in, but everyone has their own set of values and must decide whats important for them. Our room was by no means bad  it just wasnt a suite. When we booked it, the rate for the mini suite was actually lower than the rate for the balcony stateroom, so I grabbed it. The garden buffet was one deck above us on the starboard, and it was convenient to pop upu for breakfast before our excursions. The wife would order coffee for three for the room, she would eat from the two fruit bowls we had received as gifts, and my son and I would go upstairs to the buffet. I typically ate the smoked salmon, some pickled herring, and some fresh or dried fruit. I had an omelet one day, but the lines were generally longer than my patience would stand for. My son preferred the muffins. Anyhow, back to embarkation: Since the steward needed to finish preparing the room, we hit the buffet for lunch. Food quality was good but not exceptional. The hot food was hot - the cold food was cold. There was plenty of dried fruit and fresh fruit, and a large array of breads and rolls. Cold cuts, a Vegetarian hot food section, a carving station, chaffing dishes with hot meats, chicken dishes and fish selections, vegetables in cream sauces and plain steamed and a salad bar. I would get tired of eating off the buffet for an entire week, but with so many eating choices on NCL, it wasnt going to be an issue. The first official order of business was the muster drill. We have traveled on Carnival Cruise lines before, and they make everyone put on their lifejackets and line up by the tenders. After 20 minutes of being squished into tight rows, with some loudspeaker explanations, they let you go back to buying drinks. NCL did it much better, I think. First of all, the muster meeting sections were much smaller. We were in the Tangos restaurant with about fifty other guests. They actually took attendance, which seems like a good idea. There were also ships personnel there to attempt answering your questions. Personally, if I was on a sinking ship, I dont know if Id want a barely English-speaking dishwasher to direct me in the proper way to save my family, but at least it was well organized, and in an emergency, thats one of the most important things to be. One important aspect about the NCL Jewel worth noting. On this itinerary, the Jewel is essentially an American ship with a majority of American passengers. We were a little concerned about not getting information or instructions in English. Nothing could be further from the truth. Id estimate that half the passengers were American and a good 20  25% were British. There were plenty of other nations represented, but if you spoke English you were part of the majority. All ships announcements were made in English first, followed by German, Italian and I believe Spanish as well. FOOD - FOOD - FOOD Mid Afternoon, Embarkation day. The next thing we did was make dinner reservations. Sunday, we planned to eat in Tsars - but because of traveling from New York, we had already gone 24 hours without sleep and we were tired. We saw in the newsletter that there was a barbecue on the pool deck, and we went there. It was hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, sausage and all the trimmings. Pretty good, actually. We heard something about a Concierge who would make reservations for us, but since I couldnt find his/her desk, I just wandered up to Tangos where there were three people on line in front of me. It took five minutes until I was able to make our reservations. Monday, or first day at sea, which was also our 20th Anniversary, we chose to eat in Tsars. It was Lobster night, why pay to go anywhere else? Tuesday we planned to eat in LeBistro. Wednesday in Cagneys. Thursday we would be touring Rome and getting back to the ship late, so we figured wed grab from the Garden Cafe (aka The buffet.) Friday would be a late day in Florence, so we planned to do the buffet again. We reserved a spot in Tepanyaki, the Japanese steakhouse, for Saturday. On Wednesday, we decided we wanted to try Tangos and I went up to make a reservation for Thursday. It was no problem getting a 7:00 table on a days notice. From talking to other guests, I found a wide variety of opinions on the restaurants. Sometimes you get a good server, sometimes he or she may be a bit crabby. Sometimes you get the good center cut of the steak, sometimes you get the end cut. If they cook all the lobster tails for fifteen minutes and you happen to get a 3-1/2 ounce tail while your spouse gets a 4 ounce tail, youll swear that your lobster tail is chewy and dried out while they say theirs is the best lobster they ever had. Thats food, my friends. One comment I read on many NCL reviews was that portions were too small. I dont know how much some people normally eat  but I found the portions were perfect. I dont need a 16 ounce steak. The portion sizes allowed me to try lots of different things Ive never had before. I wonder how many people really loose weight on these cruises because the portions are too small? Heres my quick rundown on the restaurants: Tsars  breakfast was great. Everything was hot. I tried their Cooking light selections both times we ate breakfast there. The first day it consisted of two PERFECTLY poached eggs with some spinach and a low fat hollandaise sauce. The other breakfast was a similar poached egg with asparagus and some more low fat cream sauce. I think their idea of low fat is only putting six ounces on instead of twelve. Anyhow, it was delicious. For dinner on formal night, we had lobster. The broiled lobster tails were unspectacular, but Ive never met a lobster I didnt like. When I asked for a second tail, our server had one waiting on the waiters station for just that purpose. I tried the escargot appetizers. They tasted pretty good if you like lots of butter. First time I ever ate them, so I have nothing to compare to. For desert, we ordered a variety of sweets from the menu. Then they brought us an Anniversary cake and sang, Let me call you Sweetheart. Overall, the service in Tsars was excellent, and we gave them a nice tip. Now, we had two cakes in the cabin. Tuesday at Le Bistro was definitely my favorite meal on the ship. I had mahi-mahi, which was moist, tender and cooked perfectly. My son had the Beef Wellington, which was cooked exactly as he asked. The wife had the salmon, which she loved. The chocolate fondue, so often discussed on this board, was great. They didnt ask if we wanted a second helping, they just brought it out. We had a bottle of California Merlot, which was included in our Anniversary Package. I asked if I could just have the value of the Merlot towards ordering a different bottle of wine, but I guess thats not their way of doing things. Actually, the value of the wine was probably about two dollars. The wife said, Just take the wine, so we did. It was your standard jug wine in a 750 ml bottle. One more thing  the service at Le Bistro was great. They were worth the extra Euros we left for the wait staff. Wednesday at Cagneys was my wife and sons favorite dinner. I asked if they had filet mignon. They said they were out of it. (The menu had Surf and Turf which included a lobster tail and a filet mignon, but I wasnt in the mood to make an issue. Obviously  thats just the way they do things.) My son had the NY Cut Strip steak and my wife had the rib eye. I had a regular cut Strip Steak and choose to fill up on appetizers instead. Once again, the service was great. Then we had some delicious deserts. I wish I remembered what it was specifically, because Im going to be starving myself the next month to lose that weight off of my stomach. Finally, the staff came over with an anniversary cake and sang, Let me call you Sweetheart. I didnt think Tangos was so good. We brought the bottle of champagne from our Anniversary package and the waiter challenged us (but not too determinedly) and wanted to know if we bought it on land. I guess he didnt recognize their own cheap wine? After half an hour I had to ask for our champagne  the waiter had forgotten. Along with my sons soda. And our appetizers. The service -- at least our server, was very inattentive. I suppose that they figure that since its the free restaurant, they wont get any tips, so whats the use? My wife and son both had the chicken fajitas. The chicken was the worst Ive ever been served in a restaurant. It was chopped into small enough nuggets to wrap in your fajita, but it was at least half fat and skin. It wasnt chicken thigh. It was the part of the thigh you throw away when you clean it. You could barely chew it  it was gross. The chicken on the buffet upstairs was a hundred times cleaner. At least the Caesars salad was good. I ordered the blackened grouper and it was very good, no complaints from me. I dont remember exactly what we had for desert. The wife had the Sapodillas. Sort of like a zeppoli with chocolate. I dont remember what myself or my son had, they were Mexican themed desserts, sugary and chocolately - A diabetics nightmare, but very tasty. Even though the service was somewhat lacking, we still tipped the waiter and finally saw him smile. But we gave him a little less than we had been dispensing at the other restaurants. The service was really bad. Tepanyaki was a fun meal. I dont think we had the most experienced cook show-wise, but everything was cooked perfectly. I really enjoyed the coconut ice cream desert. The service was very disorganized, they kept forgetting to get us drinks, which is really surprising because drinks is a major money maker for NCL. Our Tepanyaki dinner finally concluded as the entire wait staff came over with an Anniversary cake and sang, Let me call you Sweetheart. At least, by the third time, I knew I was supposed to kiss my wife at the end of the song. The entire room applauded us. Man, once NCL gets an Anniversary in the computer, it doesnt forget. That was four anniversary cakes NCL gave us. I tried the first one, the one my mother ordered for us. It was very very sweet. However, after a few martinis and no sleep, it got fairly well attacked the first night. I was scraping the icing out from between the layers and licking it off the knife. The three cakes from the restaurants were terrible. Imagine making an emulsion of sugar, sugar water, sugar syrup, and  more sugar! Maybe a little lard thrown in for color. The wife wanted me to give it to the cabin steward so it wouldnt be wasted. I pointed out he probably got four cakes a day and he probably threw them all out. We just gave him some more Euros and asked him to remove the cakes when he had a chance. The Chocoholic buffet was a little disappointing. I was expecting a wide array of chocolate candies, pastries, unusual stiff. It was pretty much the same cakes they had at the buffet the rest of the cruise, only all at once. As you walk up to the buffet, there are waiters shoving glasses of champagne with strawberries into your hands, which was really neat. Then they demand your sign and sail card. Oh well, I guess nothings free. My favorite was the chocolate dipped fruit, but they only had one dipping station and the crew had to dip it for you, so the waits were a bit long, but it was delicious. They had an ice cream bar, but once again, a crewmember scooped it into your dish. Since the toppings were in front of the ice cream bar, you had to wait while a bunch of little kids choose if they wanted twelve jellybeans and six marshmallows, or eight marshmallows, two M&Ms and four jellybeans, etc. They could have had a much shorter line by putting the toppings to the side. Not that ice cream could ever be bad, IMHO. Finally, two nights we just wandered over to the Sushi Bar, where there was never a bad wait. My wife and I have a local Japanese Sushi restaurants that we frequent, so we love the stuff. The California rolls were very tasty. The tuna was pretty fatty - I prefer the very lean type. Sorry, but I confuse the Japanese names unless I have the place mat with the pretty pictures. The "White Tuna" was awful - it was very cold and had no taste at all. I enjoyed the Octopus and my wife liked the shrimp. However, for my complaints, I did go back two times - it wasn't THAT bad. Drinks: Heres a quick rundown on drink costs, as best as I can remember them. I had quite a few, so maybe my memory isn't perfect. Remember that NCL adds 15% to your drink bill: Tanquerey martini - $8.75 Except sometimes it was $9.75. It depended upon who served you and which button they pressed on the computer terminal. It usually said "Bombay" martini on the receipt, but a bartender explained that "that doesn't mean anything." Okay. Glass of Chardonnay: $5.75. Or $7.50. Or $11.50. It depends what the bartender feels like pouring, unless you hang over him or her and request a particular wine. Dont order Chardonnay, and dont order House Chardonnay. Look at the menu and ask by name, or ask the price first. Margarita: $9.75. Except when it was $8.75. The free souvenir glass seemed to get the price lower. You could order a small Margarita for $6.00, but get less ice, but I think the same amount of drink. Who knows? Glass of Sangria, oh yeah. Up in Tangos, the bartender told me Sorry sir, we only sell this by the bottle. That is, unless you ask Florentine, the bartender in the Atrium lobby who ran up to Tangos and got it for me for $5.50 a glass. (She had originally sent me to Tangos for it, and was greatly distressed when I came back to her and ordered a glass of Pinot Grigio. When I told her they wouldnt sell it by the glass, she said thats no way to treat a guest and she took care of it personally. If you see her or her partner Reginald, in the Atrium lounge, make sure you take good care of them. We did and they returned the favor.) Gin and tonic  finally, a bargain for $5.50. Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages  a nice, fruity dry red wine you can get for $8.00 in the USA. Or for $30 on the Jewel. Bottle of Dom Perignon: $170. But served with a smile. Dont forget the 15% gratuity. Cheers! THINGS TO DO ON THE JEWEL I won $175 playing bingo the first day, not a bad start. Since I figured theres no way Id win twice, I didnt play any more bingo and didnt try the casino. I came out ahead, unless you count all the rest of the money I spent. The shows werent my favorite thing. Maybe I was just too tired after all the touring we did during the day. The eight oclock presentation of Cirque Bijou was standing room only. I was too tired (and jetlagged) to stand through the whole thing, and it really wasnt my cup of tea. I fought to stay awake for the Magic show the following night, but once he started teasing the audience members in the front rows about falling asleep, I decided to sleep on my balcony instead. The Second City Improv show was okay  the little kids in the front row were having a grand time. I guess I was just too tired after nine hours of walking around Italy and a bottle of wine for dinner to really appreciate the entertainment. We did enjoy sitting in the Atrium and listening to the band. They were an Asian group that played a lot of American Country music. The lead singer had a very deep Johnny Cash type voice, and they played Elvis, John Denver and Willie Nelson to name a few. It was funny watching a bunch of Asians sing about America, but they were talented and we made it a point to get down there every evening for a drink. Too bad they only played until 10:15pm. We tried visiting the Spinnaker Lounge to watch the soccer matches, but there wasnt even standing room. Strange that most of the lounges had the world cup, but they didnt pump it up to the individual cabins. I guess NCL figured they wouldnt sell any drinks if we watch in our cabins. We enjoyed the games on the ship, such as Movie Trivia. No prizes, just a fun half hour activity. Please dont think Im criticizing the entertainment. I went on this cruise to visit Europe, not to watch shows. We were tired every night from all the running around we did all day, and as I said, the wine didnt help either. Our first day at sea, my son and I did a one mile jog around the sports deck, followed by a good workout in the fitness center. It didnt have all the equipment as the gym we attend at home, but we did okay and were able to get a vigorous workout. Man, have I written a lot. And I havent even talked about the excursions yet. PORTS OF CALL Messina As I said earlier, we were pretty tired from our travels. Since Messina was our idea of a me too tour, we decided to just explore around the port neighborhood. We got off around 10:00 AM. A gentleman walked up to us and started talking in Italian. Oh my gosh  Im not in Kansas anymore. These people speak another language! I was able to make out the word taxi and figured he was asking if we want a ride so I told him No grazie, just like my phrase book told me to. About a dozen old men were hanging around the port with cloth maps that said either Sicily or Italy and they were yelling One Euro. See  everybody knows English! No Grazie. There is a Visitor info booth right at the dock. A couple of ladies were giving out maps and telling you what you could visit. We decided to go the Messina Cathedral since it was so close to the ship. We self - toured the cathedral and found it interesting. There are a lot of beggars in the plaza around the cathedral. I made it a point to get some Euro coins to give out. We sat down in the cafe across from the clock tower and had the most delicious Brushetta Ive ever eaten. Then we had some Margherita Pizza that was the best pizza Ive ever eaten. Naples For Naples, we had originally planned to walk around near the ship in the morning, then take a train to Pompeii. For the morning, we walked around Naples, not far from the boat, and my son and I both bought leather coats from a street vendor for 30 Euro each. My son was thrilled to have his own leather coat, and I just enjoy haggling. The fact that I couldnt speak Italian didnt make much difference, I just kept saying no and he kept lowering his price. We chose a restaurant for lunch, because the waiter stopped me on the street and said he had the best Pizza in Naples. I asked how his wine was, and he said it was the best in the world! How could you pass up the best wine in the world? Lunch was delicious. The pizza had prosciutto, spinach and half a dozen greens I couldnt even recognize. And the wine wasnt bad either, especially when I came to learn that when you order a wine they bring you half a liter. We chickened out after our inability to communicate efficiently at Messina, and decided to take the ships tour of Pompeii. Im glad we did. The tour guide, Antonio, was really funny and kept referring to us as Antonios family. We did do the obligatory stop at the seashell factory that others have mentioned. His knowledge of Pompeii was far superior to mine, and I would have missed a lot of things if we had gone alone as we originally planned. It was well worth the money to take the ships tour and pay the $60 per head. Rome We were planning to take the train to Rome the next day but since the bus trip to Pompeii had gone so well, we went to the excursion desk Wednesday evening to ask about where the Rome on your own bus leaves you off and how much time youd have in the city. At the excursion desk, we were told Theres no way you can get from the ship to the train station on your own, which was pretty much a strong-armed tactic to frighten us into taking their tour, based on the information I had read on cruisecritic.com. Then we heard that the taxis were on strike that day, and they might be the next day too. We realized that the people at the excursion desk were going to try to sell us as much as possible, but we didnt want to waste half the day dealing with getting around if the taxis DID decide to go on strike. So, we put our $90 down and signed up for the bus ride. Once again, it was well worth it. Man  what a topsy turvy route it is to navigate through the Port of Civitavecchia. I think it was worth it to play it safe. The tour guide/babysitter on the bus, Natasha, was great. She talked for about half the trip to Rome, telling us what we were passing and what we would see. She gave out maps and walked through the bus asking people if they needed help finding anything on the map. Before leaving New Jersey, we had reserved a 10:30 guided tour of the Vatican through the Vatican web site. The bus got to Rome at 10:30 and left us off at the Coliseum. We rushed onto the nearest metro train, figured out how to get to the Vatican, and took off. One note about Rome: we had heard many stories about pickpockets. This is what we did to avoid problems: First, no wallets. I split my cash up between my shirt pocket and pants front pocket, with a little extra in my camera case. I had a credit card and some more cash in a money belt around my waist, under my pants, with a shirt hanging over my belt. Second, we were vigilant. On the trains, I made eye contact with anyone that looked in my direction. If anyone was checking me out, they knew that I was doing the same to them. Third, I constantly looked over my shoulder and moved back and forth from leading my family to following. My wife wore a fanny pack (with nothing of real value in it.) When I saw a guy getting a little too close to my wife, I was on his heels immediately and I let him know it. Fourth, everything I carried with me in Rome had a photocopy of it on the ship. So, if I did lose something, I could report it quickly. Fifth, I was verbally prepared to start screaming and yelling and making a scene. As a tourist I may have been a target, but I wasnt going to be an EASY target. One of the people on the bus did get pick-pocketed on the train, however they didnt have a lot to lose as they were well prepared too. The St. Peters Basilica Metro stop is about four blocks from the walls of Vatican City. One tip to help you that I found out eventually on my own: in Rome (as in Florence, Naples, Barcelona & Villefrance), street names are posted on buildings about two stories above the street. In the US, were used to seeing them on signs on the corners. You have to look UP, and if you dont see it, look across the street to the other corner. Also, street signs dont exactly match maps. A map may say via Angels while a street sign will say Via Angelo. I couldnt figure out the method of capitalization or the use of the letter O or A at the end of a word. Maybe whoever put the sign up just does it how they feel like it, or maybe each mapmaker just takes his own liberties. Anyhow, weve walked the half-mile from the metro to Vatican City. The line to the Vatican Museum was wrapped around the walls, almost to St. Peters Square. Id guess it was at least a 1/3 mile line. From the street we walked from the metro on, its another 4 blocks or so to the museum entrance. It was 11 AM when we finally got there. I showed our reservation to the security guard and he said we were half an hour late. He sent us to another guard who said you probably wont be able to catch up, but go on in and they let us into the Vatican. The tour was long gone and we were at first upset about missing it, but then it occurred to us  we are in the Vatican and didnt wait on line! Lets pay the entrance fee and do the self-tour, which we did. It was awesome. But the biggest thrill I got was in the Sistine Chapel. What a sight! All I can say is dont miss it. Leaving the Vatican museum, we walked around the walls to St. Peters Square, which is about a five-block walk. It wasnt too crowded as it was near lunchtime. We wanted to go into the Basilica, and the line didnt look too bad, until we got closer and saw it was a Disney style que where the line wrapped back and forth. Rather then loose 45 minutes waiting; we decided to go back to the metro and head to the Spanish Steps. The Spanish Steps are a few blocks from the Metro, and we finally stumbled onto the bottom of the plaza after getting confused with the map. Then we walked to the Trevvi Fountain. Again, the map was hard to follow  maybe I was just excited, tired and temporarily stupid. Time was running out and we all threw some coins in because we definitely wanted to come back. Then we walked to the Forum. As Americans, we see something thats a hundred years old as being old. Two hundred years is historic. But the Forum  thats thousands of years old. We just have no concept of what age is here in the United States. We took a cab to the Coliseum, and I was dismayed at the size of the line. We had expected it, but it was also later than we expected and close to our rendezvous time at the bus. I was afraid I was going to miss seeing the inside, which was one of my major expectations. Then a young lady walked up to us and asked if we spoke English. We said yes, and she asked if we wanted a tour of the Coliseum for 20 Euros. I asked if she could get us in without waiting on line and she said that was part of the tour. She explained that admittance was 11 Euros, so she was only charging us 9 Euros. I gave her our money and we walked in with an entire tour group. I guess it was some type of official tour, they had had flag that the tour guide carried and they had tickets and receipts. Anyhow, we were in! We stayed with the tour group for about fifteen minutes, than went off on our own. I had a blast. Best 9 Euros I spent that day! Now, as we were waiting to leave Rome, we sat on our balcony and watched the buses unloading their guests. Then a few private cars, vans and even limos unloaded guests. Than one of the two gangplanks were brought in. Finally, a single gangplank, with a single crewmember sat at the dock, with a small car next to it and a woman who continuously looked at her watch and talked into her cell phone. For almost an hour after the All Aboard deadline, the ship waited for a private tour that had failed to return in time. Lucky for those people the ship had a short ride to Florence and the captain was willing to wait. It made no difference to us if we left the dock at 7 or 8, but we did think about our plans to train it to Florence tomorrow. What if we ran into problems, would they wait for us? Florence The next day in Florence, instead of doing the train as we had planned, we gave the ship another $90 each for the Florence on your own excursion. Now the excursion desk realized they had us hooked and they said Why do you want to do it on your own? Wouldnt you prefer a guide to make sure you see everything? No, I told her. I wanted to miss a few things and just give me the tickets and stop selling me. I asked her how far it was from the bus to the Uffizi and she didnt know. She asked me to stop by and tell her when we returned to the boat. I forgot to do that. One interesting observation  one of the people on the bus was one of the agents from the Excursion desk, obviously taking advantage of an empty seat on her day off to do Florence on her own. I wonder why SHE didnt take the $200 tour to make sure she didnt miss anything. On the road to Florence, the tour guide talked about an hour, telling us about Florence. At one point, she pointed out Pisa off in the distance, and from the highway we could see the leaning tower, albeit very tiny, as we were several miles away. At least I can say I saw it, right? Before leaving the states, we purchased admittance to the Academia Galleria and the Uffizi Museum, so we didnt wait on any lines. We had an 11AM admittance to the Galleria and a 2PM admittance to the Uffizi. We got into both museums about fifteen minutes early, when we arrived, with no question asked. I got to see Michelangelos David, Botticellis Birth of Venus and a thousand other works of art. The Uffizi had a special DaVinci exhibit that we spent a few minutes in as well. Florence was Awesome. I wish I had another day or two just to spend in the Uffizi museum. It is immense. As soon as we got there, we said theres no way were would see everything, so we set our priorities based on where we were and where the exit was, and we enjoyed what we could. One sad footnote to Florence  several of the people on our bus were almost half an hour late getting back to the meeting point. I was there on time. To their credit, the tour company waited for them, but all I could think of was that I had an extra half hour that I could have been exploring one of the most amazing art museums I had ever seen. On the ride back to the ship, the bus driver took us into the hills overlooking Florence where we could see a wide vista of the entire town  what a beautiful city! I cant wait to come back here again. One note about the Florence on your own bus tour: The bus lets you off at a parking area about a mile from the Plaza Santa Croce which is the meeting point. From there, you are another mile to the Academia Galleria, or about a third of a mile to the Uffizi Museum. At the end of your day in Florence, you meet at the Plaza again and them all walk as a group to the Bus parking area. This is not exactly what they told us on the ship: The bus lets you off right by everything! I guess it depends upon what your definition of everything is. Another note they didnt tell us: There is a very large church in the Plata Santa Croce where Michelangelo is buried. While we were waiting for our late tourists, I called my mom on the cell phone to say hello and she told me we should be able to get in to see his tomb. Of course, if I knew I was going to be standing around for half an hour waiting for someone, I would have done that. I guess that will have to be for another trip. France Our last stop was in Villefrance, France. This was another me tour stop on the itinerary. We decided to just walk through town and maybe get a bite to eat. I wanted to go swimming in the Mediterranean, and we found a little restaurant overlooking the beach about a quarter mile from the marina. When I asked if she spoke English, she barked no and just about walked away from us (Id guess she was about 18 years old). The servers were snotty and inattentive. It took me ten minutes to get her attention for a glass of wine. While the wife and son sat in the restaurant having a snack, I ran down to the beach, put my shoes and shirt next to bunch of sunbathers and ran into the water. It was very clean and warm  Id estimate the water at about 80 degrees. You could see the bottom from the surface in 15 feet deep. Little fishes swam about under the bathers, and there was a large field of eelgrasses right off the beach. I had a pair of swim goggles, but they were my sons and didnt fit right. I tried diving down to explore a little, but the goggles filled with water and blurred my vision. I had a nice little swim, got out of the water after about fifteen minutes, and went back up to my clothes, which were still there  I had had some doubts. I leaned against the wall and dried in the sun and looked around the beach and I suddenly realized  it was a topless beach. Actually, only about one out of twenty women were topless. It wasnt the least bit sexy or erotic -- myself and the other Americans were probably the only ones who noticed anything. I guess you would say it was natural. Whatever, it wasnt the Jersey shore. Once I was relatively dry, I rejoined my wife and son in the restaurant. They had only gotten drinks  wine for my wife and soda for my son. I had a little talk with the owner of the place about tipping; he set me straight about how it is in ALL of France! He told me Of course, a payment is appreciated if you think the service was good, but its not expected. Anyhow, as hard as his attitude was, he was very friendly and I enjoyed the time there. An American woman walked up from the street and asked to use his bathroom, and he didnt force her to buy anything. My wife gave me my wallet to put back in my now dry pocket and lo and behold  what did I find in my pocket but my Cell phone! Yes, I had purchased an unlocked quad band cell phone for our European Vacation, I purchased a European SIM for it, I spent hours programming all the numbers I needed into it. I set up the voice mail from the USA, which, at $1.50 a minute, was a bit expensive. After an investment of about $200 and many hours, I took it swimming in France. Cest la vie! Cell phone no more. We walked a little longer towards the marina and found a restaurant overlooking the harbor. I asked the waiter where I could sit and he basically said there, there or there and turned his head and walked away. A few minutes later, he came by and briskly thrust the menus at us. Talk about making you feel at home. My wife and I shared a carafe of local wine (it was delicious), she ordered a plate of cheese and I ordered salmon tartar. A soda for our son. When the server asked what our son wanted, I said nothing and youd think I started an international incident. The waiter thumbed up his nose and sneered. I guess were used to service with a smile in the USA. Maybe they just dont do it that way in France. Anyhow, the waiter brought a large disk of French fries for my son, which he didnt charge us for. They were, according to my son, the best French fries he ever ate. I teased him to thank the waiter but ask for some Ketchup for his Freedom Fries. I tried the fries and they were excellent. When I paid the waiter, I gave him a good tip, and he suddenly became all smiles and thanked me. I wonder if the waiters assume theyre not getting tipped and just treat everyone lousy. But, if they treat everyone lousy, they wont get tips? So they dont get tips? Anyhow, I hope he didnt spit in my food. Final ports note: The Bathrooms. We had no problems finding a bathroom in italy. At the Ufezzi gallery, there was a ten minute wait for the lady's room. My wife was prepared with her own private stash of TP. The bus to Pompeii had a bathroom on it. The buses to Rome and Florence didn't. The tour guides offered to stop at a rest area if anyone wanted, but nobody needed it. DEBARKATION They leave luggage tags in the atrium and tell you to pick up what you want. Some are for people with tours or post-cruise hotel packages. We wanted to leave the ship as late as possible since we had to drag our luggage around Barcelona until our hotel room was ready. Luckily, we were able to get luggage tags for the latest general debarkation offered, the 9AM group. We tagged our luggage and put it out in the hallway the night before and it was picked up promptly. The next morning, we slept late, had a calm breakfast and around 8:45 went to our room. When they called our group, we walked off the ship along with a very small, orderly, well organized line. Our luggage appeared on the carousel quickly, a porter helped us with our bags and we went to the taxi stand where we had a forty five minute wait for a cab. It wasnt very well organized. There was a line of cabs wanting to pick up fares, and a line of passengers wanting to rent cabs, but the actual pick-up section was only about thirty feet wide, wide enough for five cabs to pickup at a time. But I guess thats a Port issue, not an NCL issue. I gave the cab driver my index card with the name and address of our hotel and away we went. POST CRUISE We decided to stay a few days in Barcelona. Based on research, I choose the Hotel Continental Palacete. Its a few blocks north of Las Ramblas which means its quieter in the evenings, yet still in walking distance to the tourist areas. The hotel has a 24-hour buffet that includes wine, beer, espresso and a serving table about twenty feet long. For breakfast, they had several choices of omelets, salmon, plus all kinds of salads. My favorite was the chocolate covered walnuts. The beer, as I found out later, was way too warm for me. The red wine was a zinfandel, but I wandered around and found a Bodega where I purchased a bottle of dry red wine for the room. For 210 Euros for a triple it was a steal, compared to what they were getting for other hotels in the area. The rooms were clean and modern, and about the same square footage as our AF cabin on the Jewel. The staff ALL spoke English and were very helpful with directions, maps, etc. We arrived at the hotel around 11:15 AM. Check in time was 3PM. They had a locked luggage storage room where we put our bags, we grabbed a quick snack from the buffet and walked down through las Ramblas to the Picasso museum. Back to the hotel, my only complaint was the air conditioning. From the reviews on Trip Adviser, I think Continental Palacete has better A/C than most other las Ramblas hotels, but our room never got below 75 degrees. When the maids service the room, they turn the AC off, so you come home in the afternoon to a very warm surprise. It got very hot in the afternoons in Barcelona. Maybe it hit me worse because us NJ/NY folks are used to moving fast. Now I know why people take siestas and move so slow. But this is Spain, not the US. We didnt find strong air conditioning anywhere, either in Spain or Italy. Even the museums, where youd expect strong A/C to protect the artwork from deterioration, were warm (by my standards  you may feel completely different.) In Barcelona, we used the metro to get around and found it easy to navigate. (The train cars were air conditioned very well.) We visited the Picasso museum, the Sagrada Familia, the Dali museum, and we spent several hours walking up and down las Ramblas. What a carnival that place is. One sorry note to our trip was a couple from Illinois we ran into in the hotel. They had walked from the hotel to the Sagrada Familia, in the afternoon, and as theyre walking along, she got splashed on the back of her clothes. A man came running up and said that he saw some kinds spill water down on her from a window, and he helped her to the side of the building where he grabbed some paper towels and started patting the water off her back. He quickly left and she suddenly realized her pocketbook, which had been in FRONT of her the entire time, was open. Her wallet was missing. She told us it happened so fast she didnt realize what had happened. Once again, she had her credit card numbers written down and called as soon as she got back to the hotel, but by that point there had already been a $2000 purchase on her credit card at a jewelry store. Shes only responsible for $50, but -- Ouch! One of her words to me was Ive lived in Chicago almost my whole life  I thought I was a savvy city person but it happened so fast. BYE BYE EUROPE The return flight from Barcelona to Heathrow was uneventful. Heathrow is weird in that we had to go through security leaving Terminal 1, but not entering Terminal 4. I realize it has something to do with the layout and passenger flow, but it just seemed bass awkward. The flight from Heathrow to New York left about an hour late and they were having air conditioning problems on the jet. They couldnt get any cold air moving as we sat in the afternoon sun, but the flight attendants began to come around with plastic cups and pitchers of ice water, even for us poor sweaty slobs crushed into coach. They pushed the plane away from the gate, but then there was a delay because, according to the captain, flight control has informed us that there is a bit of debris on the runway and it will be ten minutes whilst they straighten it up. I just love the way they talk. In New York, theyd say shut up and sit down, were scraping some crap off the runway. When we finally took off, the lady in front of me reclined her seat in my face, making for a totally horrible 7-hour flying experience. I corrected her once when she started fluffing out her long black hair and let it fall back over the seat, covering my video screen. The flight attendants came through with the drink cart and gave everyone two drinks saying, After that dreadful wait, you must need a double. They also dispensed bottles of wine to anyone who wanted it so they wouldnt have to wait when the meal came around. The in-flight meal was actually edible. Salmon, a salad and a piece of cheesecake. There was a late flight snack, which consisted of a ham sandwich. Three days later, my stomach is still reminding me about. Does anyone else always seem to get stuck behind the person who must recline their seat? I wouldnt recline mine unless the person in front of me did  I find it uncomfortable to sit that way. Or am I just an anomaly in that respect? We had been thinking of our trip as the trip of a lifetime but now we want more. We cant wait to go back to Rome and Florence and have some more time to enjoy the cities. We love cruising, but thats not the way to visit Italy, at least not a 7 day cruise with only one day in each Port. One postscript to our trip. When the plane touched the runway in New York City, I turned to my wife and said isnt it nice to be home? Then the cabin crew announced Welcome to the United States and I had a touch of pride, thinking that many of those foreign voices and accents I had heard on the plane for the past seven hours belonged to people who were coming to visit my country, and I wondered if they were going to be as excited as I had been the past ten days visiting Europe. I thought of the excitement I have when I take someone from out of town into New York to visit our sites. Remember in the old days of airline travel? Your family would come down to the arrival gate and as you stepped off the plane into the terminal, there was the old fashioned ritual of being welcomed home by the people you love and care about. These days, you need a boarding pass to get into the terminal. Its unfortunate in that some of the old ways die as the world changes. Weve lost that special feeling of having your family come to meet you on your return home. When we arrived at JFK airport in New York, there are two separate lines for Passport control. One line for US Citizens and one for non-citizens. When our plane got in, there was a long line for non-US citizens but we Americans got through with no wait. The officer at passport control took our passports and ran them through his scanner. Then he stamped them. He asked us how our trip was and we told him it was wonderful, we loved it, Italy was fantastic, but it still felt great to be back in the states. He handed us back our passports and said Welcome Home. It was a Kodak moment for me. Read Less
Sail Date July 2006
I recently returned from a 7-day cruise of the Western Med aboard the NORWEGIAN JEWEL. We were a party of 9 passengers occupying 3 staterooms on Deck 10. The JEWEL is a beautiful ship with an accommodating staff which made our stay aboard ... Read More
I recently returned from a 7-day cruise of the Western Med aboard the NORWEGIAN JEWEL. We were a party of 9 passengers occupying 3 staterooms on Deck 10. The JEWEL is a beautiful ship with an accommodating staff which made our stay aboard ship very enjoyable. Unfortunately, we did not have the same enjoyable experiences on our shore excursions. The tour in Messina was very good with a wonderful guide. The other 4 tours were not as satisfying for the following reasons: Highlights of Capri, Sorrento & Pompeii  This tour was entirely too long. We were rushed from one location to another and wasted over an hour in line for the funicular up and down the mountain. We had almost no time on our own in either Capri or Sorrento to shop or explore. Had the tour not included Pompeii, it would have allowed us much more time to explore these beautiful locations. It was obvious our guide had a love of Pompeii. We felt we were rushed in the other locations to allow entirely too much time in Pompeii. Rome, Baroque City  Again, it was almost impossible to hear the guide over the traffic and crowd noise. Florence & Pisa  The guide in Florence had a small handheld speaker but it was still impossible to hear over the traffic and crowd noise. Eze & Monaco  Once again, it was impossible to hear the guide. It did not help the situation in Eze when she began her talks before half the tour was caught up to her. The narrow streets made it impossible to get close enough to hear anything. I feel this particular tour was especially a waste of money as I literally learned nothing of the area from this guide due to not being able to hear. We could not even hear her directions regarding when and where to meet after our short free time in Eze. She had to repeat the information several times as the back of the group caught up. If NCL is going to offer tours, I feel they should provide the individual headsets we saw many tour groups wearing. We were not offered this option on any of our tours. In general, all of the tours were very long. Because of this, we returned to the ship too exhausted to enjoy the amenities offered by the ship and crew. I understand the need to take a long bus and/or boat ride to reach a destination such as Capri and Sorrento is a necessary part of the tour. However, if the tours covered a little less ground and allowed more leisure time, I believe your travelers would be happier. It would create less stress and frustration among cruisers. The food aboard ship was not the best but it was plentiful. The Chocolate Buffet boasted beautiful desserts with very little taste. Mama's Kitchen was very good. Tzars and Auzura were okay but nothing special. I was disappointed in the shore excursions and food but our entire party was extremely upset with NCL when we departed the JEWEL. We were not warned of the Iberia Airlines strike which occurred at the Barcelona Airport just days before our departure. We walked into the most stressful, confusing and frustrating travel nightmare I have ever experienced. We were dropped off at the airport to fend for ourselves in a country where we did not speak the language. The least NCL could and should have done was warn us in advance of the situation at the airport and provide personnel to help with translation and sorting out flights. Our flight was scheduled to leave Barcelona at 9:55 am on July 30. It took us almost 2 hours just to get through the lines and checked in for our flight. The flight was delayed and left Barcelona around 1 pm on July 30. We missed our connection in Madrid and had to switch to a different flight from Madrid to Spain  again with no assistance from NCL. We almost did not get all of our party on the flight. Two of us were on standby and were cleared as the last two passengers on the flight to JFK. We were over 4 hours late leaving Madrid. Due to the delays in Spain, we arrived at JFK at 8 pm on July 30 (instead of 3:10 pm as originally scheduled) just as our flights to the West Coast were departing. We had carefully scheduled our flights so we had four to six hours between our arrival on Iberia and our departures from JFK  plenty of time to clear Customs, switch terminals and check in for our flights. Four people in our party had connections to Portland, Oregon, on Jet Blue which has only one flight a day to our location. This meant we had to stay in New York an additional 24 hours before we could catch a flight home. The other 5 members of our party were also stuck at JFK overnight as the airport had shut down for the night so there were no connections to their destinations (San Diego, Atlanta and Seattle) until the following morning. The 5 people in our party traveling to the Pacific Northwest checked 7 bags in Barcelona. None of the bags arrived with us in New York. Our bags finally arrived from Spain at approximately 5 pm on July 31  just three hours before our scheduled departure for Portland. As a result of all the delays experienced by Iberia, we finally arrived home 25 hours after our scheduled arrival. The fact that NCL simply abandoned us in Barcelona is totally unacceptable. As a result of the fiasco in Barcelona, I can assure you no one in our party will sail on NCL again. This is very unfortunate as the ships crew and cruise portion of this vacation was truly enjoyable. Read Less
Sail Date July 2006
NCL Jewel Review Western Med, July 16, 2006 INTRODUCTION AND EMBARKATION This was our 12th cruise, the third on NCL. It departed from Barcelona and went to Messina Sicily, Naples, Rome, Livorno/Florence, and Nice/Villefranche. We ... Read More
NCL Jewel Review Western Med, July 16, 2006 INTRODUCTION AND EMBARKATION This was our 12th cruise, the third on NCL. It departed from Barcelona and went to Messina Sicily, Naples, Rome, Livorno/Florence, and Nice/Villefranche. We bought a fly and cruise package 1 week sell-off for $1400 inside, and paid $20 extra for an outside (porthole). Transfers were included too, saving a 35 euro cab each way. Embarkation was quite fast, we arrived at the dock around noon and only stood in line a few minutes before getting our ship cards. Free water and orange juice was set up beside the line. There was a table just past security for collecting booze from passengers, ours was in our checked luggage to avoid that. About 20 of us from the cruise roll call arranged to meet for sailaway cocktails and then dinner, and we had lots of fun comparing travel stories and meeting each other. We had perfect weather all week, no rain, few clouds. THE CABIN Our cabin was on the small side at 143 square feet, compared to the larger cabins on CCL and HAL at about 185 square feet. The standard duvet on the kind bed proved too hot so we got the steward to bring a top sheet, and we could have asked for a blanket but the bedspread over the sheet was just right. We pre-tipped the steward for some special requests, a bathrobe for Wendy (included in higher categories), ice bucket always full, the above bed changes, and he was very attentive, apologizing a couple times when he forgot the ice (you can get your own refills from the orange chests on the steward dollies). Good strong hair dryer, strong enough shower, removable wand, shampoo and body gel, no conditioner. Shower door! & no clingy curtain. Lots of storage. One electrical outlet, bring a power bar. Nice floor length mirror. Set your cabin door indicator when you want your cabin made up or it wont get done, the stewards follow those indicators. THE SHIP The Jewel is the ship that was featured on one of The Apprentice episodes, and is new, clean, and nicely decorated. Nice mesh loungers, no more buggy straps. No water station at the pool, you have to go to the water/ice tea machine hidden in the Garden Cafe. The pool band rocked. Loungers around the pool were all taken or saved by 9:30-10, but there are lots in other areas. Good gym, free weights and machines, ocean view. Jogging track was in a passenger area, had to avoid bumping into people. The first optional formal night about two thirds of the people in the dining room dressed up. The second optional formal night very few had ties or dressier clothes. We were somewhat annoyed with NCLs double tipping system. As on most cruise lines, tips are added automatically to your ship account. But NCL calls this a service charge, which is placed in a pool for distribution to the crew. So your service charge doesnt go to the people serving you, except for the cabin steward. Then the NCL brochure also discusses gratuities, saying they arent necessary but staff are permitted to accept them for exceptional service, which seems like double tipping. NCL will adjust the service charge if requested. We decided we wanted to tip the people serving us, and went to the customer service desk to have it cancelled. There is a form to fill out, and you are not allowed to take the form away from the desk (I guess they dont want it floating around giving people ideas), and you select the reason from a list (prefer to tip staff directly). The $140 was off our account the next day. At least three quarters of the staff we dealt with deserved tips and got them, very friendly and helpful crew. ENTERTAINMENT The entertainment was good, but one stage show was super, Cirque Bijou, similar to the famous Cirque du Soleil. Non-stop action, much of it above the heads of the crowd. Also, the Second City comedy show was hilarious. And we like the usual passenger participation shows Newlywed and Not So Newly Wed, Family Feud, and Weakest Link. THE FOOD We ate in the main dining room 3 times and the pay restaurants 4 times. Chin Chins asian food and Le Bistros French food has a $10 p.p. fee, and Cagneys Steak House is $15 p.p. The fee is half that if you reserve to eat between 5:30 and 6:30. We love Chinese/Japanese food, and Chin Chins was so good we ate there twice. It also had the biggest menu of any on board. Unlimited sushi was an extra $5, not discounted. A couple should order an extra entrEe to split, and extra appetizers, serving sizes arent large, and then you can share the variety. All the menus state that diners may order multiple appetizers. Cagneys and Le Bistro were also very good. All 3 have window tables. The main dining room food (Tzars and Azurra) was decent and acceptable, about average compared to other cruises. On lobster night we were given 2 medium sized lobster tails, perfectly cooked, and they had a nice buttery sauce as well as melted butter if you wanted both. We had 2 group dinners with our new friends from the cruise roll call, one table for 20 the first night, and 2 tables for 12 the other night. The buffet in the Garden Cafe looked good a couple times we strolled through. We had all our breakfasts there (perfect omelettes) and one lunch. Mamas is the Italian specialty restaurant, no fee. We didnt eat there but it was popular, and halfway through the week it was booked solid for the rest of the cruise. Tangos is Tex-Mex, also free, and Blue Lagoon is roadhouse food like skins and wings which we had once, liked it, also no fee. The main reservation kiosk is at Tangos and is open most of the time and which can book any restaurant for you. The other restaurants can only book for their place. As other reviews have said, ignore the large screen display showing restaurant availability, its doesnt match what the reservationist has to offer. If the time you want at a certain place is not available, check back later, there are many cancellations (you get billed if you are a no-show). THE PORTS MESSINA, SICILY We pre-arranged a private tour to Taormina through Sicily Life for 290E total, or 36E each. The same ship tour was $144 each which we took on a previous cruise, but it didnt leave us enough time to do the town properly which is why we went again. Our driver Alessandro was good, arrived on time and spoke decent English. Sicily Life has had mixed reviews, for your driver ask for Antonio, Alessandro, or Luka who all got good reviews. Its a pretty 1 hour drive, hills on one side, coast on the other. Taormina is a gorgeous quaint mountain-top town, lots of sights including an ancient Greek/Roman amphitheater, an old monastery, 2 medieval churches. Lots of interesting shopping, ceramics, glasswork, crafts. A good place for lunch with a lovely view of the coast and ocean is the cafe at the very end of the main street. Medium sized pizza was 6E. You can take the bus or train from Messina, but both stations are a cab ride across Messina from the ship. The bus will take you most of the way up the mountain to Taormina, but from the train station you would need a cab or cable car to get up, and time is too short for much messing around. The drivers have a nice map of the town showing the sights. The ship docks right in Messina, and from the deck you can see the huge old IL Duomo cathedral a few blocks in. Its quite impressive, worth the 5 minute walk. Animated chimes on the hour. No shopping of note in Messina, its a commercial city. NAPLES The dock area in Naples is all torn up with construction. People used to be able to walk beside the old fort into town, but you have to walk down a block and around the construction, across busy streets with tons of traffic. Good shopping on via Toledo just past the Galleria. This was our third time here, and we decided to do the Isle of Capri on our own. Its 14E each way by hydrofoil jet (boats that rise up on stilts), and the ship tour is $155. The hydrofoil pier is right beside the ship, with runs to Sorrento and other tourist places. Exit the terminal, walk through the bus parking toward the left rear corner, then continue left to the blue top ticket booths (go around the building, they face inland). There are several hydrofoil companies, and each window sells a different companys ticket and time, posted in the window. An electronic board on the pier where the covered benches are shows which berth they depart from, posted about 20 minutes before ETD. For a nice view of Mt. Vesuvius sit on the left side. From the marina in Capri its a long hot uphill climb to town, take the cable car (funicular) for 1.30E or an orange minibus for the same fee, to the right of the dock. Buy funicular tickets to the right of the dock, then the entrance is right in front of the dock. Each car holds 80, not long to wait if there are under 100 people. Not much to view going up, bus is better for that on the switchback road. Usually standing room only, and they all squeeze in like a university phone booth contest. We took the cable car up and the bus coming back. The island scenery is breathtaking. Capri is very pretty, lovely to walk around. Very expensive shopping, saw a T-shirt for $100. We took the 1.30E bus to Annacapri and took the 6E return chairlift to the top of Mt. Solaro, gorgeous views. We planned to do the short hike along the mountain ridge to the Gelsomina resort for lunch, but the trail was rocky and overgrown, we needed better shoes and long pants to avoid scratches. So we went back down the chairlift and looked around the pretty town, then back on the bus, very scenic ride, hairpin turns. Cabs are convertibles with awnings overhead, about 12-15E to go outside town. Heres the link for the hydrofoil schedule, click on the timetable button, then enter your departure and destination for times and rates: (http://www.capritourism.com/en/transport.html ROME/CIVITAVICHIA We arranged a private tour of Rome through Rome In Limo at 500E for 8 people, 63E each, and our excellent driver /guide was Salvatori. Similar ship tours were $142-199. Our vehicle was a newer Mercedes stand-up van, and he picked us up at the ship on time. Some people took the train to Rome and either met their driver there or did Rome on their own. Friends we met had arranged for a private tour company to meet them at the train station in Rome, but the driver never showed up and they had to scramble to hire another operator at the station, which they were able to do. There is nothing much to do in the port so you need to get out of that area. The drive to Rome was about an hour with heavy traffic closer to Rome. Not much scenery on the way, everything burned brown from the heat, 35 degrees C, about 100 F by mid-afternoon. Bottled water is sold everywhere for 1-2 euros. Of course the sights in Rome are awesome, photos and travel shows dont do it justice. Our driver took us to a small road on a hill overlooking the whole Forum, from the Coliseum over to the chariot races arena. The tour buses cant get up there. Then we drove over to the chariot races arena (forgot the name), the oval track still worn into the ground. Then we went to the Coliseum, huge long ticket lines, moving slowly, but our driver took us to a small ticket booth about 50 yards up the street facing the triple arches (like the Arch de Triumphe in Paris), on the left side facing the arches, no line, got tickets, went back to the Coliseum and walked past the lines and through the turnstiles. That ticket gets you into both the Coliseum and the Forum. Then we drove to the Catacombs, where the ancient Christians were buried in deep passages to await resurrection on Judgement Day. Open graves were carved out of the sides of the caverns, where the bodies were placed, then sprinkled with lime for sanitation. Many graves are at eye level as you walk through, and you can look in and touch the rocks where the dead were laid. Richer families had whole mini-rooms carved with simple altars, or shared a room with others. Descendants today still go down there outside tour hours to hold services. You can see ancient Christian markings including person data about some of the important deceased. A quiet sacred place, very moving. Admission is 5E which includes a mandatory underground guide (easy to get lost) in groups of about 20, according to which language you want. Of course lots of stairs, and quite chilly at the bottom, our guide wore a sweater, but we were glad to cool off from the heat. Sal made sure we were in the right place to join the correct tour when it was ready to enter the passages, but you could also listen to the announcements and figure it out. Rome is expensive in the tourist areas, but for lunch Sal took us to a family restaurant off the beaten track, lovely local dishes, wine and beer and lunch for 2 totaled only 13E. Then off to the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain, tons of people, then to the Vatican. Huge lines there. A special Vatican guide is required at 150E which 6 of us split and avoids the lines, but the 2 of us decided to do the free sights in St. Peters square and then spend the rest of our time shopping. The other 6 were not happy with their guide William, little information (you had to ask), attitude, and too rushed. Sal showed us a good shopping area, 2 blocks from the Vat. Sale months are July and January. Free clean bathrooms at St. Peters Square, those are hard to find. LIVORNO/FLORENCE/PISA We decided to do Florence on our own. The ship tour Florence on Your Own was $92. 4 of us shared a 15E cab to the train station, and the train to Florence was 6E each way. So the trip including return cab was 14E, about $20. The ship arrived at 7 and we were able to catch the 7:30 train with 10 minutes to spare, arriving in Florence at 9. If we missed that one the next was 8:10, but we wanted the earlier one to give us as much time in Florence as possible. We caught the 3:27 coming back. Here is the link to the train schedule: Http://orario.trenitalia.com/b2c/TimeTable On the way to your platform be sure to validate your ticket in the yellow machines on the wall, big 40E fine if caught with a ticket not validated. The ride is 1.5 hours, with some pretty Tuscan scenery after you get about halfway there, hillside towns. Sit on the left side going and the right side coming back. Good public bathroom at the Florence station, .70E, platform 5. Good internet in the underground mall, down the stairs, go to your left. Florence is beautiful and historic, huge old cathedral right outside the train station. We worked our way down to the Piazza Repubblica, hit the recommended Coin department store on via Corso (50 % sale). Leather shoes for 17E/$22. Then we went to the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge area, then back to the huge San Lorenzo outdoor market. Had great pizza and beer in one of the many sidewalk cafes, about 10E total. We got the 3:27 train coming back, long slow ticket lines, we were early but got ours with only 10 minutes to spare. To avoid this, buy a return ticket when leaving Livorno, or else by your ticket to go back when you arrive in Florence. If you miss the 3:27 there is a 4:10, after that you miss the ship. The trains have good seats but are hot, open windows. Online you can order a very good free street map of Florence from their main tourist office, it came in 2 weeks: www.firenzeturismo.it NICE/VILLEFRANCHE So much to see in the Nice and Monaco area, but so little time with our 3pm sailing, and delayed debarking with the tendering if not on a ship tour, predicted at about 9am. The main sights in Nice are the market in Old Town, the modern shopping along Rue Du France and Ave Jean Medecin, and the Promenade des Anglais boardwalk. Outside Nice are the quaint medieval towns of Eze and St. Paul de Vence. Then of course Monaco and Monte Carlo. To get off early we decided to take a ship tour, the one going to Old Town in Nice plus some other sights in Nice, and then Monaco, for $65, not too bad a price. As we were going along the twisty coastal road our guide showed us the curve where Princess Grace Kelly crashed and died. In Monaco the side streets with shops and cafes etc were like a storybook, clean, quaint, beautiful. Theres a good internet joint right at the tender pier, first place you come too off the boat, about 2 E for half an hour, but no printers to do boarding passes. DISEMBARKATION Off the ship early, first color called at 6:30, ours was scheduled to be called at 7 and was called at 7:10, got to the airport on the transfer at 8:20. Huge lines, 2 hour wait, terminal jammed with people, made our 12:25 flight with no problem. This cruise is port intensive with only 1 sea day, but that attracted us and we loved it. Email us if you have questions. Hi to all our cruise mates, Ruth and David, Shirley and Mike, Shelly and Vic, Ruth and Paul, Herb and Marianne, Jeanne and Tom! -Wendy and Bob. Read Less
Sail Date July 2006
NCL was responsible for our air arrangements. We landed in Barcelona at 8 AM were met by the clearly marked NCL reps who gathered all we weary travelers and loaded us onto a brand new air conditioned bus. We were then delightfully ... Read More
NCL was responsible for our air arrangements. We landed in Barcelona at 8 AM were met by the clearly marked NCL reps who gathered all we weary travelers and loaded us onto a brand new air conditioned bus. We were then delightfully surprised to find that NCL had arranged a free bus tour of Barcelona for us. Took us right from the airport with a tour guide for 3 hours, touching on many of Barcelona's highlights. Several times we got off the bus and were given time to walk around, do a little shopping, take pictures, etc. We got to the pier around 11:45 AM, strolled right up to the ticket counter (no lines) and were in our staterooms in less than half an hour The distance from the pier to the city sights is a LONG way, through strictly industrial area, not pleasing or even safe to walk through. Don't attempt it except by taxi. We had originally planned on leaving the boat and going sightseeing, but had just enough time on the tour to get a flavor of the city so we no longer felt compelled to see more. We were also glad we didn't because we were MUCH more tired than we thought we'd be (jet lag and lack of sleeping opportunity on the plane) and the pier was so far away! We had 6 in our group, three inside staterooms on the 5th deck. WARNING!!!! If you get stateroom 5063, 5065, or 5067, get them changed!!!!! The first night, despite my sleepiness, I was awakened over and over by clanging and banging and the sound of buckets being dragged across the floor  starting at 12AM ish, and lasting until 4:30 AM. This is despite the earplugs I always wear when traveling. They didnt help at all. One of my friends in the next stateroom had the same problem. My hubby, as well as the rest of our party must sleep like the dead, because it didnt bother them at all. Anyway, we mentioned it to each other the next morning at breakfast, thought it was strange but would probably go away. Well, it didnt. Second night was the same. My friend, a much more sensitive sort than me, called and complained about the noise, got nowhere. Third night, same thing, but nerves were getting really stretched, with 3 nights of no significant sleep and grueling day activities (more on that later). At 4:30 in the morning, I was really dead tired but unable to sleep due to the din, so I wanted to call reception to make a complaint. But THAT wouldve woken the hubby (bombs are fine, just dont talk in the same room.. Go figure) So I dragged myself out of bed at walked up to reception in my PJs (I did throw something over them, but it was clear that Id been in bed) and told them about the noise and asked them what was going on. The Russian lady behind the desk was nice, but the best she could do was send maintenance down to listen in the hallway. But the noise was sporadic, so of course they never heard anything. Turns out my friend had also called, but about an hour before I had, so they mustve gotten tired of listening to us! Anyway, my friend was really pissed and kept bugging them, so finally on Wednesday, (Rome), they volunteered to change our rooms. Apparently, the ship had been completely booked, so although they wouldve liked to have moved us, there was no place for us to go. Wed afternoon, they dropped off some entertainment folks and so had their rooms available (finally). So they offered us those outside cabins, one deck down, and we slept like babies for the next 3 days. Turns out that the original rooms were located under one of the restaurants, and 12 AM to 4AM is cleaning time. Sooooooo.. just a word of warning to make sure you know whats around your cabin before you book it. Both staterooms were impeccably clean, well laid out and had plenty of room for all the sundry things we brought. We hardly even needed the shoe bag to put miscellaneous things in that I normally hang on the wall or the back of a door. Only got a towel animal once, but it was very cute. Our cabin stewards in both rooms were very friendly and extremely accommodating. Theyve recently upped the number of cabins (from 22 to 35) that the stewards have to service every day, and I cant imagine having to deal with that many rooms several times a day. As a result, they dont have time to stop in constantly, which is a little departure from what we are used to, but I can certainly understand it and dont find it a real problem. Back to the first day  it was a sea day, which was great. Relaxing, which we needed to try to rid ourselves of the jet lag. We strode around the ship, trying to learn its quirks (which there are plenty of) Its hard to navigate, because there are so many places where you cant get all the way around the ship on several floors because of the specialty restaurants. I conquered the layout finally on the next to last day. And I am no stranger to ship layouts  weve been on 13 cruises on boats both smaller and larger than this one, and I have never had so much difficulty trying to figure out how to get from point A to B. But another of my friends had no trouble. Once again, go figure. We were hoping for a few more organized activities during the day, like perhaps a ping pong tournament, for instance. One friend was raring to go, as she had won the tournament on a previous cruise we had together. There werent enough tables on board, and the kids seemed to dominate them anyway. The slide in the kids pool is real neat  we decided to try it, despite the fact that were far from being kids. The attendant was nice, tho, and had no problem with us going. The secret to the slide is to make yourself little, go on your back, hugging your knees. The real kids, being lighter, had no trouble. We didnt get super dressed up for formal night, but the guys wore suits and the ladies wore crushable type stuff that was easy to pack. We like the dining room for formal night. Its the only time I ever get to eat escargot. Its more relaxing (or time consuming, depending on what youve got planned for the evening) to eat in the dining room, and the portions are smaller so you dont have as much of a tendency to overeat. You are welcome to have as many entrees as you wish (or whatever else you want) but they dont push it. Food, although not stellar, was good, I thought, and presentation very attractive. If you ever walked away from the table hungry, it was your own fault. The sea day was the one when the Latitudes parties are held, so we were invited to two, as were in the silver level. Monday: Messina Sicily We had the ships tour for Taormina/Mt Etna. It was very interesting, and we enjoyed it a lot. We were taken on new busses (didnt run into a bad tour bus ever) into Taormina - a lovely old-fashioned style Italian town . Went to the Greek theater, which is a fascinating ruin.. Had our first of oft-time repeated experiences here. Number 1, its HOT and HUMID. Be prepared for it to drain the energy out of you, if youre susceptible to that kind of thing. Number 2 is that there are few public toilets in Italy. When you find one, use it, even if you dont feel you need to. I didnt run into the toilets that had no toilet paper, as I had read elsewhere on CC, but it was not uncommon to have half the toilets non-functioning, if you could find them at all. Mt Etna had a restaurant with about 30 busses of tourists swarming around, 4 toilets in the ladies room (a 4 holer, as my mom calls it), a line a mile long and two of the toilets werent working. The busses, as nice as they were, did not have restroom facilities. I was afraid to drink as much as I really should have, because I was afraid of having to go when there was no place to do it. Anyway, back to Taormina&its a little bit of a walk uphill to the theater, but there are beautiful views of the coast from there, as well as the interesting ruins. We stopped at one of the lower cafes for a gelato, our new passion. Theres something special about having a gelato in Italy, and there are gelaterias everywhere. Back to the bus and off to Mt Etna, the local dormant volcanoes. Since wed never seen volcanoes up close before, we really enjoyed this. Theyve turned it into quite the tourist trap, however,and it is jam packed with tourists. Considering the fact that it is only (temporarily) dormant and not dead, it takes a real leap of faith to build as much, including a hotel (I think thats what it was that I saw), up there as they have. Got back to the ship, couldnt wait to get the grungy sweat off me, drink about a quart of water and off to dinner. We never did any of the specialty restaurants. For the price, we can find similar at home, and we dont feel we should pay extra when there are perfectly decent meals that come included in the price of the cruise. This night we ate in the buffet, as we wanted to get to the show at 8 so we could get to bed at a decent hour. We had to be off the ship by 7:30 the next morning, so we needed some sleep. This night was Edge  a combination comedian/juggler  100% entertainer. We enjoyed his show immensely. All the shows we saw, we thought were fantastic, NCL does a great job with its entertainment. The only drawback I found was that we find many similarities and sometimes duplications of shows, since we travel at least once if not twice a year on NCL. They rotate the shows or at least the concepts from ship to ship, so since we also change ships when we cruise, we have frequently run into the same performers/shows/concepts as previously. Fortunately, this has not been a problem, since we like the shows so much that we dont mind seeing them twice. Wednesday, Naples/Amalfi coast. We had hired Marcello Maresca from Seesorrento.com. We left at 7:30 AM, meeting him on the pier. One of our first sights was Mt Vesuvius in the distance. What an imposing sight that is! Marcello drove us all up the Amalfi Coast, a beautiful twisty turny tiny road on the cliffs. Each turn brought more scenery, fantastic views of the coast. We stopped at a roadside stand (truck) where Marcello knew the vendor. We smelled fabulous olive oil, tasted incredible lemons (Bread lemons, Marcello called them, and you eat it like an apple, including the rind. Definitely lemony, without the harsh tang of what you expect. Yummy.) She also treated us to a slice of fresh, ripe figs and wonderful cherry tomatoes. And spices in little bags  a slice of Italy all wrapped up in a fruit stand. Then Marclello took us to a little pizzeria WAAAAAAYYY up on the side of a hill. There wasnt another soul in the place, and we ate out on the shaded veranda - all kinds of authentic Italian food. There was grilled eggplant and zucchini, fresh mozzarella and tomatoes, mussels, gnocchi, olives, prosciutto, hard salami. Then came the pasta course  a double helix style pasta with a light alfredo like sauce. Lemon filled cake and a whipped cream/nutty light thing for dessert. Of course, the homemade wine flowed, and the limoncello bottles came out afterward. Cost was 20 Euros per person. We drove through and past Positano and Ravella, and kept on going the rest of the way up the coast, which I guess is a departure from what most tours do. Marcello times his arrivals/departures to when he knows the busses full of people will not be there, so we enjoyed a great deal more of the coast. We were able to stop frequently for photo ops, and he also stopped at the neatest miniature nativity along the side of the road. Incredible detail, tiny figures that move (during the Xmas season), just beautiful. Marcello is a very colorful, interesting, dynamic personality type of guy, with a strong disdain for shopping (so if you want to go shopping, I suggest you find someone else). Very opinionated and sure of himself. .Seems to be resentful of all the building going on, and really admires the old way of life in Italy that is fast disappearing. Toward the end of the day, we stopped at Pompeii, didnt bother with a tour guide, just went around with a self tour book and map that someone lese had given us. By then the heat had become a little less intense, but still very draining, and the hour that we had there was plenty to give us an idea of what it was all about. We had a great day, a wonderful tour, and once again, came home exhausted  especially after the wine and liqueurs we consumed. After the show, (Charles Bach, a magician/illusionist) we watched the volcanoStromboli erupt off the port side of the ship  quite a ways in the distance, but in the dark you could see pillars of fire spurting into the air. We were surprised that the captain didnt make an announcement about it when it was happening. Infinitely cool. Thursday: Rome. Had heard such amazing things about Driverinrome.com, so we hired them for the day. Roberto, our guide for the day was well spoken in English, and very nice. He was well versed in his subject matter. Did not have the same personality as it sounds like the other drivers (especially Remo and Daniele) have, but we had a pleasant day, The biggest problem was that Robertos voice was somewhat quiet and in our 8 passenger van, the 3 in the back could not hear a word spoken from the front. As a result, some of us missed vast quantities of information that Roberto was telling us during the 1+ hr trip to Rome. We had chosen the best of Rome tour, which basically means that we saw as much of the city as possible in one day, with no in depth detail on any one site. This was fine for us. We stopped very briefly at some places, drove past others slowly enough to take pictures. Rome was crowded, the streets are small and congested, I wont even try to describe the driving habits of the Italians. Someone on CC had said that street signs are only suggestions, which I thought was funny. Marcello took it one step further by saying that street signs were merely decorations. This I believe. Sitting in the front seat of the van takes real courage and nerves of steel. Spent some at the Coliseum and the Vatican. Some of us were watching our Euros, and didnt want to pay to go into the museum where the Sistine Chapel was. So that group went to St Peters square, which was free. 2 people in our group wanted to see the Sistine Chapel, so they split off and we were to meet them at a particular time. Nobody had mentioned where, however, and this is a big place with hundreds of people around. We had a bit of a worry time when we couldnt find them almost an hour after the decided meeting time and were really trying to decide what to do. We had to leave soon, or risk missing the boat. True dilemma  did they take a cab, not being able to find us? Should we stay and continue to look for them, or leave and hope we dont abandon them? Unfortunately, they didnt have the phone # of our guide, or of his company, so they couldnt call & Just in the nick of time, Roberto figured out where they had to be and sprinted into the museum and got them out. Whew! We got back with about a half hour to spare, got showered and off to dinner. Show was Second City, a wonderful comedy troupe which we really enjoyed. That was followed by the cruise staff show  hilarious! The talent was excellent, and then the finale, the Roman Fountains was not be missed. Paul Baia, the cruise director is excellent. Highly recommended. Just before the shows, we did a whirlwind room switch to quieter rooms, and I enjoyed my first good night of sleep since wed started. Tomorrow, Livorno, & Florence. After 4 days of intense activities, we decided to take it easy for today and get up a little later, and go to Florence on our own. We strolled off the boat about 10:30, caught a shuttle bus from the pier to the bus station, a short ride on the bus to the train. In talking to other people at the bus station, we learned that you buy tix for the busses (1 Euro each) at the newsstand across the street. The bus took us to the train station where we bought tix to Florence Central for 24 Euros for 2. The train is the same one you would take to Pisa, and many people did just that. We decided to just go to Florence and if there was time we would stop at Pisa on the way back. The train ride took about an hour or so, and Florence was the very last stop, so if you decide to do this, dont worry about getting off at the wrong place. Some cars are air conditioned better than others, so sometimes its worth it to go from car to car, but in our case the train was crowded and we had to stand up for the first half hour. After the train stopped at Pisa, quite a few got off, so we got seats real quick before everyone else got on. In Florence, its a very short walk to get to most of the major attractions. All you need is a good map (which we didnt have, but we stumbled onto many of the attractions by accident.) Once again, it was brutally hot, and I was afraid to drink as much as I wanted, as I was afraid of not finding a rest room. Its a city filled with art and sculpture and so many interesting things. Bands on the steps of a museum, little kiosks set up with artists selling their wares on a square, museums everywhere, churches  the list goes on. We stopped at a little cafe for a sandwich and a drink , and used their restroom (the only way to find one) Headed back to the train station to be there by 3. Was a good thing  the train filled up almost as soon as it got there, as Italians that live in the city very frequently leave the cities on weekends by train to go on their weekend getaways. This was a Friday, and the train was packed. Many people were left standing till they arrived at their destination. Upon arriving back in Livorno, we realized that we had no idea where the shuttle station was. We found the bus # that we needed, but there was 1 R, as well as 1, and I believe a 1 N or S. Had a crappy tourist map that we showed the bus drivers to ask if they went to what we thought was the right shuttle stop (there are 2) , and all claimed total ignorance of what we were talking about. Finally found out that we had to go to the Grand Piazza ( think thats the name) and picked up our shuttle back to the ship. Good thing we left Florence when we did  it took us about an hour longer to return than we thought it would have. Had we taken the train one hour later, we wouldve had to take a taxi from the train station to get back to the ship in time. Tonights show was Cirque Bijou(?)  a marvelous display of gymnastics, a pair of dancers (the woman could contort herself to do amazing things) and the Jean Ann Ryan company dancers, who once again gave a terrific show. Saturday: Nice and Monaco -- Took the ships tour. Climbed onto another beautiful bus, drove thru the streets of Nice . Another pretty town. Didnt take long, as its so small. Stopped off at the Promenade (French Riviera) where we observed the rocky beaches along the Mediterranean. Visited the most beautiful open air market that I have ever seen. Stands full of perfectly arranged GORGEOUS fruits and veggies, flowers and even a whole stand of marzipan figures. It was so pretty I couldnt stop taking pictures. Then off we went to go to Monaco, a country dripping in ostentatious wealth. Here we once again got off the bus and saw the palace, Russian church and walked the lovely, narrow streets. Grabbed sandwiches at one of the shops there, a gelato (of course) then we were off to Monte Carlo. Monte Carlo is a city that I guess could be described as the capitol of Monaco. Our bus dropped us off and parked underground, since the entire city (like so much of this area) is completely built on a cliff. Walked up to the Hotel de Paris, which costs about 1500E a night, and walked through the Monte Carlo Casino. Beautiful inside, but no cameras were allowed. It costs 10E to get in to gamble, but gambling doesnt start until 2, so even if we wanted to, we wouldnt have been able to. Looked in the windows of the jewelry store (Omigod), ogled at the Lamberghinis, Bentleys, Rolls, Porches and other luxury cars there (Mercedes was a garbage car) all driving around the pretty square. Saw part of the track under the city buildings, thru the streets for the Formula 1 race. Then it was back to the ship to prepare for sailing at 3 PM. One event worth mentioning for our trip home: We had transfers via NCL to get back to the airport, which went off very nicely. We had 10:30 AM flights out of Barcelona, and were off the ship in plenty of time. Quite painless, actually. However, there were 3 terminals, and no matter what terminal your flight left from, you were left at Terminal A. We were lucky because we had more than enough time to hoof it over to the next terminal, but it wouldve been a real problem for someone with a tighter time frame. .For someone with a lot of luggage, it wouldve been an even bigger problem.. It turns out that there are available luggage dollies for free, but we didnt see any and didnt know about it, so we struggled with our errant, wayward pieces as we bumped and tripped our way over the construction damaged roadway headed for a terminal that was an unknown distance away. I hope NCL changes that procedure  theres no reason why the passengers cant be loaded onto busses according to what airline/terminal theyre leaving from. But by the time, we were at that point, the comment cards were long since turned in, and theres not many other ways to inform them. Maybe thats part of their plan. Hmmmm. Read Less
Sail Date July 2006
We arrived early in Barcelona and were kept waiting at the airport for our transfer to ship. However, when we got there we were dealt with quickly and efficiently. We were boarded and in the Garden Cafe having lunch at 11.45am! The ship ... Read More
We arrived early in Barcelona and were kept waiting at the airport for our transfer to ship. However, when we got there we were dealt with quickly and efficiently. We were boarded and in the Garden Cafe having lunch at 11.45am! The ship is immaculate and very tidy and the staff were very hardworking and generally polite. There was a little bit of frostiness from a member of the reception team, when I arrived at reception to request a waiver form to sign as I wished to pay my own tips as opposed to having my shipboard account debited daily. The premium is $10.00 per person per day. There were 4 people in our cabin and I found this to be excessive, meaning that we were paying £25.00 per day in gratuities for housekeeping. Two passengers in my party were students, who were not able to afford this amount. I later learned of a number of other guests who were unhappy with this charge. However, the pools were lovely (saltwater), the food was very nice, if a little small in portion (in main restaurants). The buffet style in the Garden Cafe was nice, but the food there could have been hotter, most days I found the 'hot' dishes were lukewarm. The Tsars Palace and Azura restaurants were excellent though, we did not use any specialty restaurants. We bought the Soda package for a member of our party and this was $47, for the week, again, I thought this was a little high, having read a review for a trip the month before and was quoted as $20.00 for the same itinerary. Do NOT take the local bus tour in and around Naples, if you are not going to Pompeii. It is 20 Euros and not worth the money and the buses are not air-conditioned. Trip to Rome, using the ships coach transfer was good, on time, but there are not many public toilets in Rome and you will have to use a local cafe's ONE toilet before you set off. The owner will insist on you buying something before he will let you use his facilities. We will cruise with NCL again, (this was our first time). Read Less
Sail Date July 2006
First of all this is my first cruise, so I have nothing to compare to. I do travel a lot, and eat in good restaurants. Embarking, was smooth and easy. Our cabin 8109 was larger than I expected. It was a handicap acc. room though. Very ... Read More
First of all this is my first cruise, so I have nothing to compare to. I do travel a lot, and eat in good restaurants. Embarking, was smooth and easy. Our cabin 8109 was larger than I expected. It was a handicap acc. room though. Very comfortable plenty of closet and storage. I bought a soda pass and it was worth it for me. just to rehydrate Food I did not have high expectations of this, but I was surprised. You can get better food stateside, but keep in mind that they are catering 3 meals a day for 2500 people on a boat! You better schedule your meals when you get there. And know when you are getting back to the boat from your excursions. They fill up fast. We ate breakfast every day at the Garden Cafe. This usually was a quick bite because we were so busy with excursions. The quality was good, and I really liked the coffee (strong) Lunch at the Garden Cafe was very acceptable. I really enjoyed the selection of cold salads, many different ones that I have not tried before. Again the variety and quality were good. Only bad thing is the ice cream machines kept going out and the hand scooped ice cream was really bad. No flavor and gritty. Complain to management if this is not fixed. The french fries are great better than the ones by the pool. Dinners. Le Bistro our first night. It was ok, not really super. My filet was not cooked to order, and we had a show to go to so I ate it as it. The Chocolate Fondue was the best desert on the boat in my opinion. Service was blase. Tempanyaki- We really enjoyed this meal. I have had better, but it was worth the charge. good service. Cagney's- This turned out to be the best food of the place to our party of 4. I had the filet again, and it was cooked perfectly. The Caesar salads, have no anchovy and are bland. Add anchovy, or salt and lots of pepper to make them better. Great service here. Shabu- Shabu Don't waste your money. good service bland food. Chin Chin- We loved this. All the dishes were good. I ordered Singapore noodles. I have had this dish a thousand times. NCL is the only place that makes this dish without curry. It was supposed to have some heat to it, None. I asked for a dish of red pepper paste. this helped spice it up. it was good. Tangos- We all really liked this too. have everyone order something different and share. Quality and service as good at the paying rest. Tsars Palace. I had the Coq Au Vin (spelling) chicken in wine reduction. Very tasty. Service was average. Food very acceptable. Shows Cirque de Bijou, fantastic considering the size of the stage they have to work with. Must see. Band on the run -- Must See. The guy doing circus tricks. was lame. Second City fantastic. Excursions. The worst thing about excursions is that you may be stuck next to that one person who only wants to complain. Example -- we were at Pompeii looking at the human form made by the hot ash landing on the people. A teenager and her father (mid 40s) from NYC were next to me. She asked what is that? I explained that this is the actual shell of the person who passed away from the explosion. To me this is a pretty somber place. What does the father say? "Well may be if Michael Jordan was in there I would be impressed." He spent the rest of tour making snide comments and complaining. I felt like saying shut your yap, and go back to NYC. Taromino- Good -- we just got a taxi right off the boat. He also took us to church in Messina, and a great restaurant 2-3 blocks from the ship. Go out of the docking area, cross the street and head right. You can see the ship from the outdoors. Antipasta buffet, fantastic, Seafood Risotto fantastic. Capri-Sorrento-Pompeii an NCL tour Very good. I could have done without Sorrento. Rome we did on our own. Took a train into the city, Which included our bus/metro tickets. Get good directions from the boat on how to get to the train station, it is a little tricky about a 15 min walk. Coliseum. Paid a tour operator outside 11 Euro to tour it. Main reason was we jumped the line which was about an hour long. very cool. We then walked to Pantheon. Wow. On the way we stopped by a local supermarket and got fresh baguette, cheese, pizza bread, foccacia etc for 7 Euro. this was a great meal and fed 4 of us. We went to the vatican but did not have time to get into the Sistine chapel oh well next time. Florence- NCL taste of Florence. Awesome. Cant put into words the art and architecture. Nice, Monaco NCL Tour. I could have just stayed in Nice. beautiful. Debarking very smooth, be aware the Barcelona Airport is a Mess! Get in Line Early. That is about it, I have been up for about 30 hours now! I will put some pics on my web page at http://pbase.com/jhlewis in a few days. Read Less
Sail Date July 2006
My partner and I are cruisers as we live in S. Florida. This was our 10th cruise and our first on Norwegian - The Jewel. The flight from Miami was good but upon arrival to Madrid (to connect to Barcelona) the plane was already gone and ... Read More
My partner and I are cruisers as we live in S. Florida. This was our 10th cruise and our first on Norwegian - The Jewel. The flight from Miami was good but upon arrival to Madrid (to connect to Barcelona) the plane was already gone and we had to be rebooked on the next flight - no problem. The problem was no one was there to meet the plane -- so we put on your walking shoes through the Madrid airport (about a mile around). We finally got on the flight to Barcelona. Then on to Barcelona --we arrived and finally got on the bus to the ship after about another 1/2 -3/4 mile walk in the terminal to ur luggage which was in the opposite terminal from which we arrived. The flight home was better as we went directly from Barcelona to Atlanta and then on to Miami. We arrived at the ship and the first thing we did was to go to our room. The balcony cabin was very nice and spacious. The bathroom was one of the nicest as it had a separate commode area from the sink/shower. We then immediately went make reservations at the specialty restaurants for the nights that we wanted. We ended up eating at Cagney's two nights ($15pp extra, per night) and one night at Le Bistro ($10pp extra). We were glad we did as people could not get normal dinner times (between 6-9) if you did not book early. The Tsar's restaurant was average - some nights better than others. Forget formal nights on this ship -- don't bother to bring the good jewelry. No one dressed nor was it enforced. We had our tuxes and were dressed and everyone barely wore shirts and slacks. Needless to say the second formal night we dressed nice casual. Someone wrote on a previous review "this was the first cruise I didn't gain weight." They were correct. The food is average at best. We are generally use to Celebrity Cruises in which you can't decide between all of the goodies -- here it was like choosing the best of the lot. breakfast buffet and Dining room breakfast was good though you had the problem of people coming and going and running around in buffet serving area due to set-up. The worst of the food was the lunch buffet. I have NEVER been on a cruise line where they served the same thing three days in a row with different sauces or in different styles. As a former shareholder in Royal Caribbean - Celebrity spends $25 per day per passenger. If NCL was spending $12 a day it was a lot. The desserts were awful and they have yet to discover "Chocolate" in their desserts. The excursions were excellent from the ship and we were glad we did it that way instead of trying to set things up on our own. We did the Vatican & Sistine Chapel, Mt. Etna, and Pompeii excavations. The Martini bar with Candy as hostess was very nice and the service was good but the number of staff to numbers of guests was low. They need some more help as they even had casino staff working the re-entry areas at port stops. Casino staff was very nice and casino laid out well though you can not earn any points in their program so don't bother joining unless you are a big gambler. The entertainment was some of the best we have seen on a ship and the theater is beautiful. One show was a Cirque de Soilel show - excellent. Overall,the ship is a beautiful ship -- a bit garish like an Atlantic city casino -- but it works. The staff was very nice and helpful. We had one specific waitress in the Tsar restaurant (Nancy). She was great. The room was beautiful and the value of the cruise with airfare was excellent -- but NCL needs to make MAJOR improvements in their food quality and buffet set-up. Also, the limited choices in the Tsar restaurant basically forces you to the specialty dining --in which this type of food is standard on other cruise lines. As long as you go with these things in mind you will have a wonderful time, get a great tan -- and be dieting at the same time... We did stay in Barcelona for 3 days post cruise and had a wonderful time. We were at the Tryp Apollo; very nice hotel; very good buffet breakfast included. Near La Rambla and the subway which was excellent to get around. Buy the 10 trip ticket to save money. People were wonderful in Barcelona. We look forward to our next trip to Spain. Read Less
Sail Date July 2006
BACKGROUND: This is my 4th review for Cruise Critic, having reviewed Norwegian Star, Diamond Princess, and Carnival Glory. This was our 8th cruise together for my dear wife and I. My former cruise experience was as a US Navy officer. We ... Read More
BACKGROUND: This is my 4th review for Cruise Critic, having reviewed Norwegian Star, Diamond Princess, and Carnival Glory. This was our 8th cruise together for my dear wife and I. My former cruise experience was as a US Navy officer. We are both teachers from Florida. We left our 2 wonderful grown children in Florida. FLIGHTS: We were able to use our frequent flyer miles (most via credit card usage) from US Airways by booking the flights 331 days in advance. Yet, we had to be FLEXIBLE by going to Barcelona one day early and returning two days later, using Star Alliance Lufthansa (wonderful airline)and not returning on same plane together. However, it saved us $2500 in airfares, plus had time to enjoy Barcelona. WEATHER: June 3-12 Beautiful, fair, no rain, low 60's, highs mid 70's. PRECRUISE: In Barcelona, we arranged privately to stay at "Fodors Choice" el Jardi hotel for 96 Euros per night, located about 1 block off the famous Ramblas promenade street in the Barri Gothic district. Used pricey taxi (25-35 euros) to and from the airport. Enjoyed the hop on, hop off "Bus Turistic" for touring around the city @ 22 Euros pp for 2-day pass (includes valuable coupon book for sights and fast food places). Sit-down restaurants expensive in Barcelona ! You were warned ! EMBARKATION: The NCL website includes directions to the port for every port, EXCEPT Barcelona ! We WALKED from our hotel the healthy 2 miles, thankfully pulling WHEELED luggage. A good prep for the kind of walking we would do on excursions. (Upon return after debarkation, we chose the 1.50E pp city bus waiting with the taxis !) Embarkation was swift @ noon, taking only 20 minutes. This was the ONLY time I felt special as a Latitudes (former NCL cruiser), saving perhaps 5 minutes. I had originally booked inside Deck 3 for $1099 pp, and was not happy to see the price drop to around $899 pp. Like a fool, though, the week before embarkation, I accepted NCL's offer for upgrade to Deck 9 BALCONY for an ADDITIONAL $175 pp. However, the balcony was a new treat for us. The cabin did not seem noticeably larger than inside cabins. (In the future we'll book lowest inside "GUAR" and hope for the usual free deck upgrades.) EXCURSIONS: We successfully prebooked our port excursions online with NCL. Yes, you could save 20% or so by booking independently, but the ship WILL WAIT for you, if there is a problem. Our bus was an hour late returning from Capri, Sorrento, and Pompeii tour due to an accident (someone else) on the Autostrata in Naples. BTW, don't even THINK of renting a car or motor-scooter. Watch your step walking, everywhere you go, both onboard and ashore. We saw a bunch of folks on crutches and with arms in fresh casts! The ship's shore excursions are precisely and efficiently timed to really let you see the most. The "speaka-the-English-a" guides are excellent ! Don't forget to tip the guide and the driver, too (2 Euros apiece for a full day's tour). I believe they receive incentives for bringing you to certain cameo factories and inlaid wood dealers. The 4-hour "Picture Perfect Tindari" excursion in Sicily was only $49 pp and was surprisingly good. The included restaurants on other(longer)tours are very good. BTW, take advantage of restaurant restrooms! They have SEATS on their toilets! In Augustus Gardens on top of the Isle of Capri and at Pompeii, there are LINES of folks waiting for the restrooms having no toilet seats, and an attendant collecting 0.50E who hands you a paper towel for toilet paper. And did I mention none of the motorcoaches have washrooms as in Northern Europe? What if we ran Disney World like that? We took the Florence tour that skips the leaning tower in Pisa, so we could see the REAL Michelangelo's David in the Academia Museum. It was impressive, but we were somewhat unimpressed with the rest of that museum. Glad the excursion somehow skips the long line. Rest of Florence wonderful on walking tour. Don't be intimidated by 10 hour tour in Florence and Rome. You are riding tour bus 2 hours each way, plus an hour for lunch. However, you're on your feet the rest of the time. We did Rome and Vatican tour. After 2 hour bus ride, we stood in line for the Vatican Museum for 1.5 hours. Note to self: fresh batteries for digital camera...and an extra memory chip, too! Our sorta-English speaking guide led us through everything using little radios with earpieces. No way on earth you could do a Rick Steeves (on your own) type tour here. You would lose your mind worrying about how you are going to make it back to the ship on time ! All 9-10 hour tours are exhausting, but wonderful ! Now, a word or two of advice. They classify the tours as Level 1,2, or 3. I don't remember seeing any Level 3 (strenuous) tours listed, but the Level 2 tours were EXHAUSTING, and I really thought we would might bring some folks home in a box ! Capri and Eze both involve a LOT of climbing! Also, being teachers, we know that every child is different. BUT, most kids under 13 would probably be happier staying onboard the ship, participating in the wonderful kids programs, swimming, etc. There were probably less than 100 kids onboard. A few did, well...let's say better than others on these very culture-oriented excursions. Only things we did not see in Rome were Trevi "3 coins in a" Fountain and the Pantheon. From Villefrance port, we took the "Eze and Monaco" tour, which was great and not too pricey. Good thing we were with tour guide. They turn you loose for a half hour here and there for shopping. Since my wife and I do not drink nor gamble nor buy shipboard photos, we felt we could afford these nice excursions on a wonderful itinerary to places we will probably never visit again. We felt fairly safe in our tour groups, but watch for pickpockets ! Near the Coliseum in Rome we were walking with our group when a couple of 10-year old size boys kinda slid in close to us. When one started fingering one of our people's camera bag that was kinda half open and on the side of his belt...I shoo-ed them away with a loud "hey, hey, HEY !!!" We all stopped and had an additional review about not being such easy targets. Of course, they know you're tourists when you're in a TOUR group ! And only use your back pockets for handkerchiefs. For excursions, bring your own empty 1 liter water bottles from home. The tap water from the ship is good! Bottled water from ship is $6.13 for a too large 2-liter. (Wish I had left suit, jacket, and binoculars at home !) "Formal" nights are just a gimmick for getting you to buy EXPENSIVE photos made by the ship's photographers. The fellow across from me on my return flight was on an RCCL similar itinerary, except Marseilles, France, instead of Sicily...he said Marseilles was awful. However, we are already looking forward to RCCL's Jewel of the Seas 12 night Northern Europe for next year. Wish NCL had a similar itinerary! SHIP: 1100 crew, 2350 passengers,(1200 US, 400 Brits, 300 Germans, 200 Spanish) yet never seemed crowded ! Where is everyone hiding? Somewhat crowded in Garden Cafe(wonderful, self-serve) at breakfast before excursions. Warning: If you choose extra cost restaurant @ half price Sun eve, you will miss out on lobster night in Tsar's Palace or Azura. We thought all the food was excellent ! Service slow in Tsar's Palace and Azura at times. Cagney's and LeBistro worth the extra, probably...but who can be sure? Make all your restaurant reservations for the week by phone "050" when you get to your stateroom. Free tea, coffee and ice cream available 24/7. So, why get unlimited soda card for $20, then TRY and get the bartenders to refill your special insulated 6-ounce coke container? At $9 a drink, you may never see anyone drunk or falling overboard on this ship ! Chocolate night was fun and beautiful and delicious, but much seemed to have freezer burn, perhaps cleaning out leftovers, reglazing. However, the ship is new, beautiful, and clean ! It only has a 2-story atrium, perhaps to allow space for 10 restaurants and 14 bars. Elevators a problem...get used to climbing stairs or waiting ! The absolutely beautiful Stardust Theater holds only 1000, yet was NEVER full. Don't miss "Band on the Run" and especially "Cirque Bijou"...never saw anything as wonderful at sea ! Kinda like Circus Solei...kinda. "2nd City Comedy" great in StarDust. 7-piece orchestra, although excellent, needs to be 8-piece like everyone else's! Intellilights under-used in Band on the Run...but made up for it on Cirque Bijou. Pretty good Magic Show by Gossimer. Comedian funny, but had to wake folks up exhausted by tours at 10pm show. We opted for 6:30 dinners, 8 pm shows, and to bed 10-ish, to hear alarm at 5:45a.m. Some tours meet 6:45am! Really good 4-piece Bob Marley-type band used around pool area. And a nice, mellow-sounding trio with guitars in atrium. The yellow round water slide is too low and flat, probably not intended for adults (See the one on the Carnival Glory!) 4 nice hot tubs, of which 2 are adults only. 2 SALTwater pools, of which 1 is adults only. On the downside, NCL now charges $70 / week pp if you want to use sauna & steam rooms and their nearby hot tubs and heated lounges. Not happy about that ! It was free 3 years ago on the NCL Star. DISEMBARKATION: We opted for the express debarkation, which allows you to debark carrying all your luggage on one trip. DON'T. This causes you to be at the mercy of the elevators. After waiting 30 minutes, we decided to try the ones at the forward end of the ship, which worked for us after another 10 minutes. We were not in the mood for WALKING to our hotel by then ! Next time, we'll just do the colored tag thing and pick up our bags at the carousel. Read Less
Sail Date June 2006
My husband and I just returned from our first Mediterranean cruise on NCL Jewel. This was our second cruise with NCL and it was fabulous. Embarkation - We arrived early on Sunday morning into Barcelona and took a taxi to the port (27 ... Read More
My husband and I just returned from our first Mediterranean cruise on NCL Jewel. This was our second cruise with NCL and it was fabulous. Embarkation - We arrived early on Sunday morning into Barcelona and took a taxi to the port (27 Euros). We were early, but had no trouble giving our bags to a porter and entering the terminal (nicest I have ever seen). We waited about 1/2 an hour before they started checking people in. We were the only ones in the latitudes check in line. They started boarding the ship around 11:00 by groups. We were group 1, so we did not have to wait. When we boarded the ship we went directly to the excursion desk and booked our excursions for the week and then to the restaurant desk (in Tangos) to make a reservation for Le Bistro. Stateroom - We had a category BD balcony stateroom on Deck 8 Forward. It was a nice room, a little smaller than the one we had on the Sun a couple of years ago. I wasn't thrilled with the mini-bar taking up the whole refrigerator, but there was a note saying they would remove the items if requested. The bathroom was great. There was a shower with glass door on one side and a toilet with glass door on the other with a sink in between them. We had signed up for the Honeymoon / Anniversary Package and our champagne was there waiting for us, but it wasn't cold. The strawberries showed up later in the day. I was surprised that there was also a bottle of wine with a note saying it was from NCL. Ship - The Jewel had many bright colors, but it did not look as bad in person as it looks in the photos I have seen. Everything was clean, except all the windows looked like they had not been washed in a couple of weeks. Our favorite bar was the Windjammer on the 12th floor. Food - We ate dinner in Tsar's on 4 nights and it was great. We checked the menu outside of the restaurant each day to make sure there was something that interested us. On the last night of the cruise we ate at Le Bistro. This was the best meal that we have ever had. The filet mignon was cooked perfectly (mine medium rare, his medium well). The crème brulee was fabulous. They even brought us a cake and sang to us after I mentioned the next day was our anniversary. The staff was very friendly and did an excellent job. The food in the buffet was okay. Breakfast was the same each day. The omelet station was very good. We did not like the lunch or dinner in the buffet very much. Entertainment - Cirque Bijou was outstanding and Second City was very funny. The other comedy or magic acts were not great. We didn't see Band on the Run, so I cannot comment on that. The nightlife was a little dull. Everyone seemed to go back to their staterooms after the late show in the main theater. Sicily - In Sicily we went on the Taormina and Sicilian Vineyard Tour. It was 105 degrees that day and shade was hard to find. The Greek Theater in Taormina had a large screen set up for a film festival. I thought this took away from the experience. The Vineyard was nice, though I didn't care for the wine. They gave you plenty of it, along with lunch. Be sure to ask to see where they keep the wine barrels. We were expecting a tour of the vineyard, but this did not occur until someone asked to see were they stored the wine. Naples - We took the Amalfi Coastal Drive and Pompeii tour. The Amalfi Coast is beautiful. If you are scared of heights, sit on the left side of the bus. The road is very narrow and the drop down is really steep. Our guide was great and had to get out of the bus many times to move cars and yell at people that were blocking the road. After an hour stop in town, we went on to Pompeii. It was interesting to see, but definitely not somewhere I would return. Once again it was close to 100 degrees and there was absolutely no shade. We had lunch in the hotel outside of Pompeii and then stopped to shop in the cameo factory before heading back to the ship. Civitavecchia - We did tons of research and planning for this port. We decided to take the train to Rome. When you get off the ship there is a shuttle to take you out of the port. Well, this shuttle doesn't start until about an hour after you can get off the ship. We ended up finding others to share a cab to the train station. We purchased a BIRG ticket to Rome, which was 9 Euros. This included round trip to Rome and all subways and buses in Rome. The train took about 1 hour and 15 minutes to get to St. Peter's Station. From here you can easily walk to the Vatican and St. Peter's Basilica. We climbed to the top of St. Peter's Basilica (432 steps) and could see most of Rome from the top. We then stood in line for about 1 hour to get into the Vatican Museum. You are herded through here along with hundreds of others. The Sistine Chapel is worth the wait though. When we came out the line was gone. I recommend going here after 12:00. We took the subway to the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon. Then back on the subway to the Coliseum and the Forum. When we got out of the train station at the Coliseum, we were immediately approached to take a tour of the Coliseum. We decided to do this so we wouldn't have to stand in line again. The tour was good and the guide explained everything that we saw. We walked around the forum area and then headed back to the train station to return to the ship. I would recommend doing this on your own. We saw a lot more than any of the ship excursions saw. The ship's Rome On Your Own excursion is much too expensive. We figured out that we saved about $200.00 going by train. Livorno - Once again we did this on our own. We took a bus to the train station and the train to Florence. We went to see the statue of David, but after 45 minutes in a long line that did not move, we decided to leave. We went to the Duomo and climbed to the top of the copula, from which you can see all of Florence. I only recommend doing this if you are in good shape. The stairs are very narrow in areas and steep. We then went over to the Ponte Vecchio. We wanted time to see Pisa too, so back to the train station. We got off in Pisa and walked to the Leaning Tower. It is a beautiful area. We did have time to climb to the top though. If you are taking the train from Pisa, make sure you are on the right one. They kept changing the track that our train was on. We ended up taking a taxi back to the ship from the Livorno station, as we only had 15 minutes to get back on the ship. Villefrance - We did the Eze and Monaco excursion with the ship. Eze is beautiful. We got there early in the morning before any of the stores were open. It is an old city made of stone on the top of a mountain. From there we went to Monaco. We saw the princesses' houses, the cathedral and the palace. We then had time to explore on our own and eat lunch. Next we went to Monte Carlo. We were given about an hour to walk around or gamble. You cannot go into the Grand Casino with shorts or a hat and they charge 10 Euros just to walk in the door. The marina here was filled with huge yachts. It was amazing. Disembarkation - We did the City and Montessori tour through the ship, so we put our luggage with tour tags outside of our door the last night of the cruise. We met in the main theater at 6:45 and waited for our tour to be called. When our tour was called they sent us off the ship and to get our luggage. I loved how the luggage comes around on conveyor belts, like the airport. Much easier than having to find it in a large warehouse type area like all of our past cruises. Once we got our luggage, we went outside to find our bus. Very quick and easy. Monserrat & City Tour - I recommend doing this tour. The drive up and around the mountains to Monserrat was breathtaking. I'm not sure why they called it a city tour though, as you do not see any of Barcelona, until they drop you off in the middle of it with your luggage. We were staying a couple of blocks away from where they dropped us off at the Avenida Palace. The hotel was very nice and about a block away from Las Ramblas. I would definitely stay there again. While in Barcelona we just walked around the port area and Las Ramblas. We were completed exhausted from our trip. Read Less
Sail Date June 2006
My daughter and I just returned from a 7 night cruise on the Jewel, and we both agreed that it was the best cruise we have ever taken. Everything was perfect; I was truly amazed at how smoothly and efficiently the whole operation ran, from ... Read More
My daughter and I just returned from a 7 night cruise on the Jewel, and we both agreed that it was the best cruise we have ever taken. Everything was perfect; I was truly amazed at how smoothly and efficiently the whole operation ran, from embarkation through disembarkation. The ship, although a bit too colorful to my taste, was beautiful and immaculate. The crew was the friendliest I have ever encountered; everyone was so gracious and seemed to go out of his or her way to do whatever he or she could do to please us. ( FYI, we have been on seven cruises and have cruised on Celebrity, RCL, Disney and once prior on NCL). Our cabin was great, I was very surprised by its size and by the size of the bathroom; we were up-graded from a category BC to AF a few days before we left. We found the food to be very good to excellent. We ate dinner mostly at the speciality restaurants; Chin Chin, Le Bistro (2X's), Cagney's and Tango's, and at Tsar's twice. The service was excellent, the food always arrived in a timely manner and was never cold. We had breakfast at the Garden Cafe or ordered room service when we were in port and would leave early on a tour. We usually ate lunch off the ship, but when we did have lunch on board, we ate either in Tsar's or the Garden Cafe. The entertainment on board was great, better than most cruises we've taken. Except for the last port of call in France,we took tours. We booked all our tours though NCL, and once again, I was really surprised by how efficiently they ran their tours. Perhaps we could have saved some money and did tours on our own, but since we weren't familiar with the ports and not speaking a word of Italian, we were happy we booked with the cruise line. In Messina we took the Taromina and vineyard tour, our favorite! Capri was beautiful, but very hot and crowded; our guide was not the best, but who cared, we were in paradise. We did the Taste of Rome and had four hours on our own to explore. Our guide in Rome was very helpful, he took the time to show us on the Map where and how to get to whatever we wanted to do - he also gave us tour of the city before he dropped us off. We didn't go to Florence, we opted for a half day tour of Lucca instead. Our last day we didn't take any tours, Villa Franc was beautiful and could be covered in two hours walking around - the beach there is great, just a 10 minute walk from the cruise terminal. Our experience on the Jewel will always be a special, it truly was the perfect vacation. Read Less
Sail Date June 2006
We took the Western Med cruise from Barcelona at the end of June, 2006. The Norwegian Jewel is a new ship, less than a year old, and is a wonderful ship in excellent condition. It is also a huge ship, carrying over 2,000 passengers plus a ... Read More
We took the Western Med cruise from Barcelona at the end of June, 2006. The Norwegian Jewel is a new ship, less than a year old, and is a wonderful ship in excellent condition. It is also a huge ship, carrying over 2,000 passengers plus a crew exceeding 1,000. Here are some observations: The ship is so large that we had almost no sensation of being at sea, even when it was moving at 20 knots. Admittedly, sea conditions were excellent during our cruise, but I would recommend this ship to those who worry about seasickness. There is virtually no engine noise or vibration. I used to look out the stateroom window to see if we were moving or stopped. Even though huge, the ship is well designed so that the individual areas are more human scale. It may take a while to get oriented to all the locations. I always enjoyed wandering around from place to place. The size issue impacts the food. When you have over 3,000 people on board, you need to think in terms of institutional food preparation. The chef has some grand aspirations but not the capability to carry them out. If you are looking for gourmet treats, you won't be satisfied. They do provide a wide range of dining styles and menu choices. Some of the restaurants have additional charges for specialty atmospheres and selections. In general, we found them not worth the money except for a change of pace. For example, there is an Italian restaurant; any Olive Garden Restaurant in the U.S. would provide better food in a better atmosphere. Service in all areas was friendly and efficient. Many people eat at the grill, which is a buffet with a number of food stations. This is very casual, and serves food most of the time. Although there is a good variety, it is basically simple fare. The best kept secret is the portion of the grill that is aft of the main section and is outdoors on the stern of the ship. This is a very pleasant place to sit/eat, particularly for breakfast. The drawback at the grill is the very limited number of stations to order carved meats, stir-fried items, waffles, etc. There are also very limited places to get coffee, milk, tea. On a ship with over 2,000 guests, these are real drawbacks. The coffee comes from machines, one cup at a time, and the machines were frequently being repaired. Desserts are unexceptional, unless you, like me, love soft-serve ice cream. Due to passenger size considerations, nothing was made fresh and served right out of the oven. All the pastries, cakes, etc. looked great but came right out of a refrigerator. Stick to the ice cream. Me and a lot of other folks found that a new cone every hour or so was very satisfying. The machines are self serve. The ship is extremely proactive on cleanliness. When entering a restaurant or other food area, there is a crew member with a container of hand sanitizer, urging you to wash your hands. Same goes for when you re-board the ship. Also, the public rest rooms are absolutely spotless. I give the crew of the Jewel 5 stars for their housekeeping efforts everywhere. The Jewel has a first-rate theater for shows. It is right up in the bow where you would expect lots of sea motion, but there was virtually none. The entertainment is enthusiastic and plentiful. It's not going to be Broadway or Las Vegas so plan on an early night. The ship has a nice casino, and it wasn't particularly crowded on our cruise. Best buy on the ship: play video poker for as little as a nickel a hand, sitting at the bar in the casino. They usually serve free drinks after 10:00 pm too. The Spinnaker Lounge, on the top deck forward is a wonderful place to look out ahead of the ship while still enjoying air conditioned comfort. The World Cup football matches were in progress during our cruise, and the Jewel did an excellent job in the Spinnaker Lounge, showing the games on a huge TV screen and providing snack foods. NCL makes a fine art of extracting maximum revenues from the passengers. Well, that is what business is all about. Expect to pay high prices for drinks of all varieties, shore tours, other ship-board services, etc. The passengers were a wide mix of nationalities, mostly from the U.S. and Western Europe. Ages ranged all over the place, although relatively few young children. Behavior was fine, usually pretty sedate, with no public intoxication problems that I saw. To sum up our cruise, we had a very good time. All of us enjoyed it and would recommend the Jewel. Shore Excursions; We used Romeinlimo tour company when we docked in Civitavecchia, Livorno and Naples. Carlo and Raffaele are both very safe drivers, speak very good English and took excellent care of us. Carlo took us to Pisa/Florence and Raffaele drove us to Sorrento, Positano and Pompeii. They took us to outstanding local restaurants that the usual tourist doesn't find... We had our best Italian meal/wine with the greatest view!! These guys are punctual, so much FUN to be around, and professional. Carlo got us right into the Accademia that day (there was a long long line) and I am hearing now that some Princess tours were not able to get inside the Accademia. Anyone would feel very comfortable with Carlo and Raffaele. Our time in Rome with Duman was better than anything we could have imagined. When we got off the ship, he was waiting for us. He was fun, intelligent, spoke perfect English, knowledgeable about history, politics and of course Rome and Italy. He knew what time to see the sights, when the lines would be shorter and as a result were able to do many sights. It felt as if we were with a personal friend who was sharing Rome with us. We were a little apprehensive about using a company that was not recommended by a friend. But they were terrific in every respect. For our next trip we will certainly call them.. www.romeinlimo.com info@romeinlimo.com Read Less
Sail Date June 2006
Background: My husband and I are in our 30s with no kids. We sailed on the Dawn in 2003 and swore we would never cruise again because we had 35 foot seas and 50 knot winds for 3 of the 8 days of our NYC-Bahamas cruise. It was a horrible ... Read More
Background: My husband and I are in our 30s with no kids. We sailed on the Dawn in 2003 and swore we would never cruise again because we had 35 foot seas and 50 knot winds for 3 of the 8 days of our NYC-Bahamas cruise. It was a horrible experience that we did not want to repeat. We not only had rough seas but the overall level of service on the cruise was poor. However, I decided it was time to try again - with NCL - but this time in the much calmer waters of the Western Mediterranean. Needless to say, we not only had the time of our lives but we were ready to sign up for our next cruise by the third day. Travel to port: We booked our air through NCL since it was cheaper than doing it on our own. Unfortunately, our "personal cruise consultant" misinformed us and told us that we could not make any airline or seat requests until the air was first booked and then we could make changes through NCL's air department. That information was incorrect and we were told by Lufthansa that since the flight was oversold, we would have to get to the airport 4 hours in advance of our flight so that they could assign us seats. Our flights took us from Washington to Frankfurt and then Frankfurt to Barcelona. When we arrived in Barcelona at 10 AM, there were three NCL representatives waiting in the luggage area for passengers. We left our suitcases with the representatives and boarded a bus to the ship. We did not have to look for our suitcases when we got to the cruise terminal - they were already waiting outside our door when we arrived. The ride from the airport to the terminal took about a half hour. Embarkation: This was a sign of things to come. Our past experiences with embarkation were horrible because we waited a few hours to check in and then longer to get our luggage. NCL must have had some changes in its policies because once at the cruise terminal in Barcelona, it only took us about a half hour to get into our cabin. What a pleasant surprise! Stateroom: We were upgraded to a balcony cabin from a porthole outside cabin because of several problems we had with a NCL representative. We did not ask for it nor did we complain a lot but they must be trying a new policy to keep passengers happy. Our room steward, Boris, was amazing and always made sure our cabin was clean. A couple of times we forgot to turn our room sign to "make up cabin" or "turn down cabin" but upon returning to the cabin it was done anyway. He told us that he knew we left and wanted to make sure that it was clean when we returned. There was plenty of room under the beds for our 4 suitcases and 1 small carry-on bag. There was also a closet with around 20 hangers, 4 drawers, and 5 or 6 shelves to store clothes/other items. There is a mini-bar fridge in the room but beware - everything is extremely expensive! There is a hairdryer in the room as well. Ship info: The Jewel is spotless. The public spaces are all well kept. There are 2 small pools on deck 12 and several whirlpools there as well. The Spa is nice but, unlike on the Dawn, there is no pool there and you cannot use the whirlpools unless you pay a daily or weekly pass. There is a fitness room with several treadmills, exercise bikes, and weights. The Spinnaker Lounge was a fun place to go and relax after the ship set sail and before there were Bingo events going on in it. Our cruise was sold-out and what we really liked is that it never seemed to be crowded. There were not mobs of people in one place at one time. Even when we tendered in Villefranche, there were not a lot of people waiting in line for the boats. Dining: We ate 2 nights in Tsar's Palace. The food was excellent and the service was exceptional. I have read other reviews on this site that complain about the food there but everything was perfect for us. We also ate in Tango's and Mama's Kitchen. Again, the food was great and so was the service. The only place that we encountered any problem was in Azura's. I realize that the food is cooked in the same kitchen as Tsar's but it was not as good and not warm at all. Also, our waiter seemed to not want to be at work. Everyone has the right to a bad day though! For breakfast - we ate mostly in Tsar's and occasionally in the Garden Cafe. Tsar's was excellent and the Cafe was okay. This may be in part because we arrived in port early every morning and it seemed to be pretty full. We ate several lunches in the Blue Lagoon. This is one of the ship's best kept secrets! The food is good (soups, fish and chips, burgers, hot dogs, stir fry, wings, etc.) and comes out fast. Entertainment: Paul, the cruise director, was great. He didn't talk too much like some cruise directors, but he always let people know what events were happening on the ship. As many others have said, the Jean Ann Ryan Company is great! They performed the second and sixth nights of the cruise. Both performances were excellent! Second City also performed one night and they were very good as well (improv comedy). The comedian that performed to music (uncertain of his name) and the Gossamer magic were okay but nothing spectacular. Shore excursions: First off, the captain was great at making sure we arrived early to every port. On our last cruise, we got in late each day. In Naples, it is very easy to get a bus or tram to the train station. From there, we went to Pompeii on our own and spent less than half of what it would have cost for the ship's half day excursion there. We did not do any of the ship's excursions except Rome. In Rome, we took the "Taste of Rome" excursion. This was a bus trip that drove around all of the big sites and then left us off near St. Peter's Basilica for 4 hours. We were glad we took this trip because it allowed us to get a general tour of the city and to have some free time to do what we wanted. The most important things to pack for the shore excursions are sunscreen and good walking shoes! Also, make sure to pack water because our cruise was the last full week of May and it was already in the upper 80s almost everyday. Disembarkation: The Jewel staff was excellent in giving specific instructions on disembarkation. We were in the first group to leave the ship at 6:30AM. Unlike our last experience on NCL, in which it took us over an hour to find our suitcases, we walked into the cruise terminal and found our suitcases within a minute. From there we boarded a bus and went to the airport. The only problem was that when we arrived at the airport, there were three buses of people who could not find their luggage. We walked around and could not find a NCL rep anywhere to help us. After close to 15 minutes a rep came out and said our luggage was on a truck and we would have to go over to claim it. Not really a major problem at all but it is something that NCL needs to work on since many of the flights were early. Summary: We were sorry the cruise had to end because we had such a great time. I would definitely recommend NCL to anyone looking to have a laid-back atmosphere and the freestyle atmosphere. NCL has definitely worked on customer service over the past few years and this cruise was a completely different experience than our last. Read Less
Sail Date May 2006
My family (my parents and my sister) and I just got back from the 7 nights Western Mediterranean cruise with NCL on the Jewel. Since I really enjoy and appreciate all the reviews I read from this website I think its only fair that I ... Read More
My family (my parents and my sister) and I just got back from the 7 nights Western Mediterranean cruise with NCL on the Jewel. Since I really enjoy and appreciate all the reviews I read from this website I think its only fair that I should also share our experience with you. We started our trip to Barcelona two days before the cruise so we could spend some time in Barcelona and after reviewing the hotel options NCL offered, we decided to book our own hotel. I use tripadvisor.com for hotel suggestion and booked hotel H10 Universitat Hotel at Plaza Catalunya. The hotel is very nice but I am not sure if it is worth what we paid for ($215 per night per room). Barcelona is a very nice city and we had a great time explore it on our own. Two days was really not enough to see Barcelona but we did visited good potion of the city. Sergrada Familia by Gaudi was just absolutely magnificent; a must see in Barcelona; do go there early to avoid the crowd. Now on to the cruise, the embarkation was very fast (no wait) and the staffs are really friendly. We just walked right on to the ship without any line and they took our credit card info on the ship and sent us to our room and buffet up at the 12th deck. We booked two rooms for four of us, my sister and I stay in room 9074 with a balcony and our parents stay in an inside room just opposite our room (9073). The rooms are small but they do have a good size bathroom. The hair dryer was also surprise powerful. We loved the balcony in our room, and our parents spend a lot of time in our room so they could also enjoy the balcony. My sister and I both agree that we will never cruise without a balcony room, its just a must have for us because we like to stay in our room. After checking out our room we went up to the 12th deck for the sail away party/buffet which a big surprise was waiting for us. The buffet was not self-serve but served by the staff, you have to ask for everything even a cup of water. No explanation was given on why they change the format of the buffet instead we were told to sanitize our hands every where we go, it was very frustrating. After chatting up with some of the crews we found out that there was an outbreak of stomach flu couple weeks ago on other cruise ship and just to be safe they stop us from serving the buffet ourselves. It is now a big hassle to eat the buffet breakfast and lunch which my family enjoyed so much. All the staffs in the buffet area were also not well trained on handling serving the guests this way. Finally, after a couple days they stopped serving this way and allowed us to serve ourselves--still I think the damage is done, it just really decrease the free style experience. The ports that this cruise stopped at were mostly in Italy, our first stop is Messina in Sicily. We did not join any shore excursion; we just walk around the town ourselves and it was very relaxing. There are lots of taxi drivers soliciting for business at the port. Our next stop was at Naples and this time we joined an excursion to Sorrento and Pompeii. This is one of the excursions we really enjoyed because our tour guide is very good. We first stop by a cameo factory where the product and prices are very reasonable better than any other store we encounter later; they also allow us to use the restroom which was fairly clean. Our next stop was Sorrento and the drive leading to it was very nice. We also enjoyed a nice lunch (great cheeses) at one of the farms that grow lemon and olive trees. They also have a nice little gift shop. In the afternoon we went to Pompeii. It was really too big for us to see all of the ruins in one and half hours and it was so hot, dusty and crowded that we didnt want to stay too long. All in all we had a good time. The next stop was Rome (Civitavecchia) which is 1-1/2 hours away from the port). The excursions we joined were Classical Rome where they took us to the Rome Forum and outside of Colosseum in the morning and St. Peters Basilica in the afternoon. Both places were so crowded that it is really not a good idea to go with a tour guide, its almost impossible to follow the guide and especially our guide, we thought she was running instead of walking. Next time we go we probably will do a little more research and tour Rome on our own so we could see what we like to see and stop when we want to stop. Our last excursion was at Livorno which was the port for visiting the Florence. Since we have been on two full day excursions before we opted for only going to Pisa for half day instead of full day trip to Florence. We really enjoyed Pisa too, its just big enough for my parents and us to walk around and they did give us the option of exploring this place on our own. There were also plenty of souvenir shops around this place. The last stop was Villefranche at France and again we took it easy and just walked around the nice little town and we really enjoyed the Gold Coast scenery. As for the food, we did not try any of the specialty restaurants we only eat at the main dinning room either Tsars Palace or Azure. The food is really good with lots of choices but the portion is very small. We end up ordering two starter dishes every meal. The staff in the restaurants were friendly and nice but not very well trained; they are bite slow for me. That is my feeling for all the services on this ship, very friendly and nice but not very well trained/professional. Just a quick notes on the show, the band on the run and cirque Bijou are really nice, a must see. We also enjoyed the Second City comedy show. Overall it was a nice cruise and we did enjoyed ourselves but the only thing is there is not an extraordinary special space, meal or experience on this cruise. But, for the price we paid we think it is a good deal. We will cruise with NCL in the future. Read Less
Sail Date May 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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