25 Barcelona to Europe - Western Mediterranean Norwegian Jewel Cruise Reviews

Background information: This was my seventh cruise, third one with norwegian cruise lines. I cruised with my husband, mom and dad, and my sister and her fiance. Embarkation: We flew from Boston to NYC, NYC to Paris, and then Paris to ... Read More
Background information: This was my seventh cruise, third one with norwegian cruise lines. I cruised with my husband, mom and dad, and my sister and her fiance. Embarkation: We flew from Boston to NYC, NYC to Paris, and then Paris to Barcelona on Air France. No problems with any of flights, however, we were exhausted since we flew overnight and there was a six hour time difference. We finally arrived in Barcelona with no sleep at around 12 pm. We took the local taxi to the pier which cost about 25-30 euros.They also charge a baggage fee. Be careful they do try to rip you off. We were on the boat by 1 and put our small bags in our room. You might want to put a bathing suit and tanning lotion in a small bag because the bags don't come to your room to much later. We then went to the Garden Buffet for lunch. Reviews in food section. The Boat: I thought the boat was nice. We traveled on the Dawn last summer and felt that the Dawn was slightly nicer. I like the glass elevator on the Dawn and the Jewel did not have a really great entrance. Other than that, the boat was nice, not the best, but good. I liked the idea of all the bars( such as champagne bar, martini bar, etc) all in one location. It was nice to sit here and listen to the piano after dinner. The pool area is very crowded but I expected this. We were never able to get 6 seats next to each other since by 10 am, all the chairs were already "reserved" with towels. Norwegian needs to make a better system for this. People leave towels for hours at a time. They did have 2 pools and 2 hot tubs although a lot of kids younger than 13 used the hot tubs without adult supervision. Entertainment: The entertainment on Norwegian is some of the best. Due to the very long days, we only went to 2 shows but both were fantastic. We wen to the Jean Ryan company performance and Cirque Birjoe( not to be missed). My husband and parents also went to see a magician named Sean that they loved. At night, there was a lot to do around the boat. They usually had a band playing in the Spinnaker Lounge and lots of other entertainment around the ship. We usually went to the show and then to the casino and called it a relatively early night since we were so tired. Excursions: The ports were the absolute highlight of my trip. Everyday we had an incredible time. We did 2 excursions by the boat and the remaining days we used ROMEINLIMO( more information to follow). In Messina, we did the Taormina and Sicilian Vineyard excursion. We went to Taormina and had beautiful views of Mt. Edna and saw the Roman theater. We then went to a beautiful vineyard and had incredible wines, that we bought, and a home cooked italian feast. It was so much fun. The next excursion we did via the boat was Monaco and Nice highlights. This tour was really worth it as we saw things that I don't think we would have been able to see on our own. The trip went to Monte Carlo. Nice and Monte Carlo are beautiful and not to be missed. The BEST part of our trip was using a company called ROMEINLIMO( www.romeinlimo.com). We had the best driver named CARLO. We used him on Wednesday to Naples, thursday to Rome, and friday to Florence. He had everything planned out for us including all the prearranged tours to Pompeii,Vatican, David,etc. If we wanted to do something else, he was very accommodating. For lunch he took us to some of the best places that were reasonably priced. Truly was the best way to see the ports in the limited amount of time we had. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!! Food: The food on the Jewel I thought was very good to excellent. The garden buffet was okay for lunch the first and last day. Nothing to special but they did have variety. We ate breakfast most days in the dining hall before our excursions began. Breakfast was always good. For dinner, we ate in 2 of the speciality restaurants-Le Bistro and Chin Chin. Both meals were great although I did miss the chocolate fondue at Le Bistro. The main dining hall food for dinner was mostly excellent. Disembarkation: Big problems here but not the cruise fault. Another passenger mistook our baggage for their baggage so i was missing a huge suitcase at the end. Luckily, we and the other family were staying in Barcelona so we got it back later on in the night. Disembarkation overall was very easy. Barcelona: We stayed for four nights at Hotel Jazz in Barcelona. Incredible hotel and city. Loved Barcelona and hotel jazz. Highly recommend Salamanca for dinner in Barcelona. If you are a seafood fan, you will love all the food. Please feel free to email me with any questions.My email is dentistmel@hotmail.com HAVE FUN!! Read Less
Sail Date August 2007
We were a party of a late-50's couple with an adult daughter. We had no problems in Barcelona, coming from Germany where we had spent the night with friends. Getting onto the ship was a breeze. Our bags were delivered promptly. Our ... Read More
We were a party of a late-50's couple with an adult daughter. We had no problems in Barcelona, coming from Germany where we had spent the night with friends. Getting onto the ship was a breeze. Our bags were delivered promptly. Our mini-suite was tight for moving around, but with plenty of storage. For three adults, the mini-suite, with balcony, was a plus. The bathroom was quite nice. Service to our room was fine. They kept us well-supplied with fruit and ice. We made the mistake of booking in August when many other nationalities were on holiday. There were tons of children running around, crashing into us, and not able/willing to read the signs in English about no children under 12 in the hot tubs, or in the adult pool. We were able to use the adult pool once. Complaints to the attendant helped minimally. He explained to us that most of the people on the ship did not speak or read English. Cultural differences were obvious in dress, smoking and demeanor. Other than that, we enjoyed the pool decks very much. We discovered Tsar's Palace early in the cruise and ate there every night. The dishes were well-prepared and interesting enough. Wine choices were what we were used to. Service was excellent. Families with children were well dressed (resort wear), and well behaved. Eating in the buffet area was very much like being in the pool area - children careened around like crazy! But it was very close to our stateroom and we enjoyed the convenience for quick breakfasts and snacks, and drinks. We appreciated the "free" tea, coffee and tap water. Another note about room choice: We were on the 11th. level, mid-ship. Excellent choice, being very close to the elevators, stairs, restaurants and pools. About the excursions: We were very pleased with the guides and transportation. There is no way we could have seen so much, in so little time, on our own. We recommend the Naples/Pompeii trip and the Taste of Florence. Don't buy gold jewelry from the stores recommended by the ship without comparison shopping. Listen to your guides - they know what they are talking about. The prices for the trips seemed reasonable. Note that the all-day trips are grueling even for people in great shape, as we all are. Several people complained, but they probably had not read up on how much walking and climbing was included. The weather was perfect, but very warm in Rome. The guides kept us in the shade as much as possible. Nice. The shows were enjoyable and it was nice to have something to do after dinner. We enjoyed the live bands around the pool deck. Disembarking was a breeze, too. We chose to carry off our own luggage, secure our own taxi, and it took no time at all. Having a late-afternoon flight out of Barcelona back to Germany, we went into the city of Barcelona and enjoyed a walking tour on our own. There were tons of people rolling their bags, too, so having our luggage with us was no problem. I cannot reiterate enough - pack light!! You won't need much. All in all, our family had a fabulous time! We expected to use patience with others and it helped! We expected to spend a lot of money and that helped, too. We expected good value for our money and we got it. We would highly recommend this ship and trip to others. Read Less
Sail Date August 2007
This was our first experience on cruising and we just loved it. The ship was great and the "freestyle" is definitely our type. Not having to follow strict schedules and dress codes during vacation is very important for us and ... Read More
This was our first experience on cruising and we just loved it. The ship was great and the "freestyle" is definitely our type. Not having to follow strict schedules and dress codes during vacation is very important for us and this was exactly what we got aboard of the Norwegian Jewel. A very relaxed and joyful atmosphere aboard helped us very much to relax and really enjoy our cruise. We booked a mini-suite AG on deck 11. This is what they call a "Guaranteed" (GUAR) which means that NCL will assign the exact cabin for you. You only have the guaranty that you will have the type of cabin you purchased but you don't know the exact location of it in the deck. Therefore, these cabins are less expensive than the "regular" mini-suites but they are exactly the same. Only the location can vary. We were lucky (because we made an earlier reservation) and we got a technically AFT mini-suite which was really almost mid-ship. Good choice! In purchased the NCL transfer from the airport which worked very efficiently and was a very good option. As soon as we arrived a young lady took care of our luggage and guided us to the bus which was going to carry us to the pier. The check-in was smooth and very efficient, although not using the specific desks which were reserved for the suites passengers. We arrived at the airport by 1.30 pm and we were entering the ship at more or less 3.00 pm. Our luggage was delivered at the cabin by 6.30 pm. The cabin was just fantastic! Very spacious, with lots of storage (more than enough for our needs, but I must confess that we do not travel with lots of stuff...). We had two lower beds that were converted to a queen-size bed, a contiguous sitting area with a sofa, a mini desk and a TV set, a very nice private balcony with two chairs and a small table, and a quite luxury bathroom with bathtub/shower, lavatory and with a separate area for the toilet. The mini bar was ok and we also had an electric kettle which could be quite useful for tea. The air conditioning was very efficient and we must really slow it down at night so that we can reach a comfortable temperature for sleeping. We had just one small problem in the first night which consisted on a persistent "little noise" as if someone was tapping a sort of "Morse code" on the wall. You cannot imagine how this can be irritating when trying to sleep! I figured that the origin of this tapping was a sort of friction in one of the decoration panels of the cabin and managed to fix it by introducing a plastic card underneath the frame of the panel... Problem solved, excellent nights from then on! Our stewards (Indra and Mario) were very efficient and did a great job making us always very comfortable. In what concerns the restaurants we just used the buffet (at the Garden Cafe and Great Outdoors) and the main dinning room Azura. We found it both excellent! We felt no need to go to the speciality restaurants and pay an extra charge when we were receiving such a good service and food in the free restaurants. Garden Cafe and Great Outdoors are just fine for breakfast and lunch and Azura is perfect for dinner, with a cosy atmosphere and a more sophisticated menu. The bars and discotheque were excellent. In what concerns the bars we could always choose between 10 different types of ambiance and music, which was very nice. Drinks and beverages are rather expensive, but I believe that this happens with all the cruise lines... The shore excursions (we only used 3) were ok. The debarkation procedures were very well organized, allowing everybody to choose the most convenient moment to get out of the ship between 6.30 am and 9.45 am. Although we were "independent travellers", we asked for the NCL transfer to the airport. This implied that we let them handle our luggage the previous evening which was not very convenient, mostly considering that we had to pick the luggage once again at the pier after the debarkation... After seeing the kind and dimensions of the suitcases that most of the passengers were handling personally in the debarkation day [as if it were last minute luggage] I will never more let NCL pick up my two small trolley suitcases in the evening prior to debarkation day! Anyhow, we let them handle the luggage again between the pier and the airport, which means they took it into a sort of small truck which departed before our transfer. I was a little bit worried about this but with no reason at all. When we arrived at the airport our luggage was already waiting for us at the drop off point. In general terms, we can say that everything was very well organized and the staff was very friendly and efficient. We spend a very pleasant week aboard and we definitely will cruise with NCL again! Read Less
Sail Date August 2007
A little background information; This was our 15th. cruise, 5th with NCL, 3rd on the Jewel. I sailed with my partner & we are in our 30's, from the UK. We flew in on the day of the cruise as it was only a 2hr flight. We arrived ... Read More
A little background information; This was our 15th. cruise, 5th with NCL, 3rd on the Jewel. I sailed with my partner & we are in our 30's, from the UK. We flew in on the day of the cruise as it was only a 2hr flight. We arrived at Barcelona airport at 10am & after retrieving luggage & taking a taxi (28 euros) we arrived at the cruise terminal. There were no lines at all, so we registered our credit card & handed over our cruise ticket & was told we would be allowed to board at 11.30am. Embarkation, easiest & quickest ever, we were in our cabin at 11.30am. The Cabin: An inside cabin that did seem small, but had enough drawers, hangers & wardrobe space to put everything. No need to bring your hairdryer as the one provided is near professional. Having the bed made up as a double does make the room smaller as you lose the walk up the middle you have if they are set up as singles. The pillows were hard & I did ask for feather ones. I got one, so my partner & I had to share. I do like NCL's bathrooms, although still obviously quite small, well set out & the shower with a sliding door is excellent. My 6ft 4" partner did not get on very well with the toilet placed at an angle though. We did decide that this would be our last inside cabin though, as basically because you have no natural daylight you could sleep all day & night & we did on a couple of occasions! The Ship: To me she is still very new looking & apart from a few stains on carpets here & there there was nothing to tell us otherwise. I love all the colors on The Jewel, I do not find them distasteful at all, as other reviewers have noted, only rich & interesting to the eye. I love the Fyzz Lounge where everything appears as bubbles, even the chairs. The Theatre is sophisticated with expensive wallpaper & dragonfly printed carpets to the entrance. Very good sight lines, although not as good from the balconies. I do miss a little drinks table though. The Spinnaker Lounge was my favorite lounge & we spent most nights there after whatever theatre show we had seen. The Food: I would say good to very good. We personally preferred the Azura Restaurant over the Tsars (regular restaurants), as it was more intimate & cosy. We received better service there also. We went to the Mexican Restaurant (no charge), this was very good, portions are big so beware. We also went to Cagneys & Chin Chin, which were both very good. These were both pay restaurants, but we took advantage of the daily happy hour 2 for 1 offer between 5.30 & 6.30pm. this was available at all the pay restaurants apart from Teppanyaki, Mongolian Hotpots & Sushi. Also excluded were Cagneys specials (ie. surf & turf) & Le Bistro tasting menu, although there are plenty of other choices on the menu, so do not let this put you off. This offer is available every day. I would suggest booking, whichever restaurant you want to eat in, even if you book on the same day, as there were queues on the days we did not book. Although the maximum we had to wait was 20 mins. The entertainment: In a word, excellent! The Cruise Director was John Ibrahim & was a very personable guy who was in that many places I thought there was at least 2 of him. His favorite word was, smashing! During the week we had 2 shows by the Jean Ann Ryan company, Band on the Run & Cirque Bijou. Both excellent, although I preferred Band on the Run. Very upbeat, great costumes & the cast looked like they loved performing it. They have some very talented dancers/singers. We also had a singer, Daniel Bouchet who I thought looked like a young Eulio Inglesius & certainly had the Spanish ladies swooning, as he sang in Spanish & English. Magician Shaun Farqhuar, very good & I normally do not like magicians & The Edge who basically was a juggler although he was not billed as this. He was very very funny & kept picking on people who came in late to the show. Also there was the Second City, who I personally did not think were as good as I have seen previously on the Jewel, I did not think one of the ladies was very good at improv at all, but again I still enjoyed there act. All this together with various musicians & bands etc around the ship meant that we were spoilt for choice, excellent! Staff: All staff without exception were very friendly, helpful & attentive & our cabin stewards Leah & Chris looked after us well. Fellow Cruisers: This cruise I think was full & there were lots of children. We were not used to this as we do not normally cruise at this time of year, but to say how many there were I do think they were quite well behaved. They did sneak into the adult only pool, but I did see a deck steward asking them to get out. There were quite a few nationalities on this cruise & many from Spain, so to accommodate them announcements & entertainment introductions were said in English & Spanish, which is only right, but again something we are not used to with NCL. Debarkation: We did the express debarkation as we had an early fly & just kept our luggage with us & walked straight off at 6.30am. No queues, no problem. So to summarize, this was a fabulous cruise on a great ship with wonderful entertainment & very good food. We will definitely cruise with NCL again. Read Less
Sail Date August 2007
Best advise I can give to anyone planning their first or umpteenth cruise is to research, research, research. I feel it has helped tremendously on having a better experience for any trip to any novice or frequent traveller. My husband and ... Read More
Best advise I can give to anyone planning their first or umpteenth cruise is to research, research, research. I feel it has helped tremendously on having a better experience for any trip to any novice or frequent traveller. My husband and I are in our mid-30s, and travel overseas often. However, this was our first cruise so I did not know what to expect. Visions of missing the boat, lost luggage and stormy seas were dancing around my head, but we decided anyway to give cruising a try. I booked thru our World Perks membership on Northwest Airlines, without much trouble. Thanks to cruisecritic.com and other valuable travel forums (or is it 'fora'?) online, we were counting the days with great anticipation. We arrived Barcelona a day before, which was welcome reprieve from the long and tiring 12+ hour travel. After a short nap, we changed into fresh clothes and took the metro to Poble Español, an artisan Spanish village where we had reservations for a wonderful flamenco-dinner show (www.tablaodecarmen.com). Embarkation was not until 1pm, so we went on a leisurely stroll along La Ramblas early that morning (when it's less crowded). We checked in at around 2:30pm which took less than 15 minutes. We were celebrating a wedding anniversary that week, so I ordered their Romance Package, which was a great deal. There was a nice bottle of red wine and a plate of dipped strawberries in our cabin upon arrival. Our room stewards from the Philippines, John and Shara, were awesome. We would return to a clean room within a hour every morning, after breakfast. They were not only fast and efficient, I've never seen such sincere, hard-working folks. Working in the hotel industry, I've learned that 'nice begets nice' - treat your server with respect and appreciation, and they will gladly go that extra mile for you. After a sip of the welcome bottle of wine, we decided to explore the ship as most would want to do. The main restaurant reservations is at Tango's (7th level) or by dialing 050 from your cabin. They can only accept reservations for up to 3 days, so it's best to call them every morning to book ahead, for the popular restos do get filled fast (Teppanyaki most especially). The Garden Cafe was the only place open on that first day, so it was PACKED with so much people, it gets frustrating to meander through the crowds. It's the place for breakfast and lunch as well, so practice much patience when you can not find any free table after you go through the long lines of buffet. The staff is quick to bus out and have clean tables as soon as guests leave, though, so it is best not to let this frustrate you. If you don't mind eating outdoors, it is best to head out to the pool lounge where there are plenty of clean tables to chow down. The buffet was varied and meant to suit every taste and preference. Food quality was alright - not outstanding in the gourmet sense - but acceptable nonetheless. The steak and lobster dinner on the optional gala night at Tsar's and Azura for me was the best deal for the no-cover charge restos. Le Bistro was pretentious as a "fine-dining" venue, since the servers' presentation was almost too comical to take seriously ("As they say in France, un doo twa and walah!"). Tangos Tapas Bar had a cosmo decor and ambience. Teppanyaki was fun and funny, as the crazy Filipino chefs seemed to have morphed this art of Japanese food preparation into a style uniquely theirs. Service in all the restaurants we went to are extra prompt - plates were cleared immediately after each course, but it never felt 'hurried'. Entertainment on board was phenomenal. The Jean Ann Ryan group, Shawn Farquhar and Chicago's Second City comedy troupe wowed us on the nights they performed. Had a Las Vegas flavor to it, which may be cheesy for some, but we loved every performance. We didn't take any organized shore excursions, though I would recommend those who are not as adventurous as us, to do arrange them. Our first port was Messina (Sicily) and we just explored the small town on our own, since Taormina and the Mt Etna expedition didn't really appeal to us. We took the local Italian train to see the ruins of Pompeii on the next day. It wasn't too bad, although the trains weren't too clean, but I've seen worse conditions before. The train trip to Rome and Florence the next two days wasn't too bad, but I would suggest waking up early so as to catch the earliest train from the port, since travel time is 1 hour for Rome and 1.5 hours for Florence. Villefranche was our favorite port, and the short 15 minute train ride to Monte Carlo was a pleasant one. We're not really fans of organized travel (which is why we chose the Freestyle Cruising of NCL) and with some advance preparation (I bought our tickets for the Vatican Museum, Uffizi Gallery & the Galleria Accademia on www.tuscanyall.com), a simple Italian phrase book, and a bold, adventurous spirit, we got to experience the real local culture and save money for more shopping! Shore excursions are expensive, but having the security of a tour guide and a bus to herd you along are important to you, then I suppose it will be a good value for you. For info on going and exploring the ports of call on your own, I found this website very helpful: www.europeportreviews.com It was over-all a wonderful experience for us. The Norwegian Jewel was a beautiful ship, one could see that no expense was spared in making this floating city a true gem in the Mediterranean seas. Cruising can be very expensive too, so be wary everytime you give your room card to be swiped for that fruity cocktail drink or earrings from the duty-free shop. We felt some schaudenfroide when we saw some of our fellow passengers get a near coronary when they requested for their bill on their last day (note to parents: your kids get an embarkation card, so they can swipe charges to your account!). The only thing we didn't like about the entire thing was the crowds. Although the ship's mantra was "Freestyle Cruising", some habits die hard. People still eat at the same time, swim at the pool, bask under the sun, and enjoy that cocktail drink at the same time as you, so it can get frustrating. But with a positive attitude (after all, it IS your vacation), we thoroughly enjoyed our freestyle cruising and can't wait for our next NCL experience. Read Less
Sail Date August 2007
OK, so here is my review of the beautiful Norwegian Jewel. Cruised 22nd July 2007. We flew with British Airways, and arrived at Terminal A. Unfortunately, our luggage was on the carousel in Terminal B, so we had to go back through ... Read More
OK, so here is my review of the beautiful Norwegian Jewel. Cruised 22nd July 2007. We flew with British Airways, and arrived at Terminal A. Unfortunately, our luggage was on the carousel in Terminal B, so we had to go back through security, as if we were checking in for a flight back out of Barcelona (crazy I know). This was very frustrating, as we (and many others) were just desperate to get out of the airport and get onboard. The transfer bus NCL used didn't have very good aircon, and we were a bit "wound up" by the time we embarked. Embarkation was an absolute breeze. No queues at the Latitudes desk, so we were onboard within 10-15 minutes. First impressions of the ship were very good. Everything was sparkling clean, and remained so for the entire cruise. We located our cabins on deck 9, which were nice and modern. They did seem to get smaller and smaller as the week wore on. We were just glad that we had booked two adjacent cabins for the five of us (three in one room, two in the other) because we had the benefit of two separate bathrooms. Our room was suitable for 4 people (allegedly) and had an extra Pullman bed which we didn't use, as well as an overhead bunk. God knows where the Pullman bed would have gone. There was barely enough room at either side of the kingsize to walk!! Maybe they make it up into one massive bed the full width of the room that sleeps three people? Our children had their room made up as twin beds, and although it was the same size, they seemed to have more space because of this. They also had an overhead bunk which they didn't use. We had plenty of storage space though, each room with double wardrobe and shelving area, and three drawers. Small fridge with minibar stuff, but room for your own things too. There are two US sockets and one European. Unfortunately, I only brought a US adaptor, so my UK hair straighteners didn't heat up properly. I'll remember that for next time. I have found that the sailaways with NCL are far superior to RCL or Celebrity. There was a party atmosphere at the pool, with crew and guests dancing to the band. A great start to the holiday! We enrolled the kids in their various kids clubs, however, I don't think they were that impressed. This is a very port intensive cruise, with only one day at sea, therefore, the clubs are only open in the evening on port days (unless you want to pay $5 per hour). This was a little disappointing, because the weather was over 40 degrees, so they could have done with a little time away from the pool during the day. I'm sure the kids wouldn't agree with that, because they just wanted to go down the water slide a million times!! Anyway, our two youngest boys only went to their clubs twice the entire cruise. The teen club seemed to be a bit more appealing for our oldest boy, and he met up with his new friends every night after dinner. They had supervised activities for teens until 1am. I'll not go into details regarding the ports of call, because they have been pretty well covered by other reviewers. NCL Jewel provides a very upbeat family oriented cruise experience. The pool bands were rotated, so that you didn't get constant repetitive reggae music. Although I love reggae, on past cruises, I've felt that the pool band played the same songs in the same order and it starts to drive me crazy by day two. This time, the pool band had a bigger repertoire, and were very enjoyable. Another good point, some days the band from the nightclub played at the pool, and they had loads of different "sets" from Abba to Motown. Most enjoyable! The freestyle concept is, in our opinion, a better option for families. We have cruised several times with RCL, Celebrity and NCL. They are all excellent for different reasons, but the flexibility really suits us. We managed to get into most restaurants without a reservation, but because we wanted to see particular shows towards the end of the cruise, we made reservations about 30 minutes prior to dining to guarantee our spot. This system worked very well. The food onboard is very good, and I felt was far superior to RCL (we cruised on Voyager of the Seas 6 weeks ago, see my review). On that cruise, we chose to dine in Portofino (pay restaurant) every night, because the dining room service was a bit disappointing. We had no complaints whatsoever with NCL. The cabins were nicer too.... The entertainment was very good as well. We didn't make it to all the shows, but the ones that we did see were of a higher standard than Celebrity or RCL. We were a bit disappointed that we didn't see all of Shawn Farquhar's show. We don't normally enjoy magic shows, but he was doing brilliant sleight of hand stuff, and I was gutted we missed the start. So, we had a fantastic cruise. Staff seem to be really friendly (better than RCL), and most pleasant. Ship is lovely (nicer than Voyager). The entertainment is excellent (better than Voyager). In a straight choice between RCL Voyager and NCL Jewel, who are both doing similar Med cruises from Barcelona, NCL wins hands down. Read Less
Sail Date July 2007
Just returned from a wonderful 7-day Western Med. cruise on the NCL Jewel. July 13-22, 2007. We are a family of 5. Parents ages late 40's with 3 teens, 2 girls 17 and 15, boy 12y.o. We chose the Jewel because of cost and itinerary. We ... Read More
Just returned from a wonderful 7-day Western Med. cruise on the NCL Jewel. July 13-22, 2007. We are a family of 5. Parents ages late 40's with 3 teens, 2 girls 17 and 15, boy 12y.o. We chose the Jewel because of cost and itinerary. We had never been to Europe and this was a great way for us to see so many places and not have to drag 3 kids thru tiny hotels in Italy. Barcelona was place on embarkation. We arrived 1 day prior to allow adjustment to the time change. We stayed at the Hotel Majestic which gave us 2 rooms (not adjoining) but was a perfect location and place for us to see Barcelona. We visited the Rambla, Bari Gotic, Gaudi houses before boarding the cruise on Sunday. Embarkation to the Jewel was easy. We arrived to the port around 2 pm and had to wait about 15 min to get our cabin keys and check in. We explored the cabin and had lunch at the Garden Cafe (my son and husband wanted "real food" as Barcelona is a real seafood place!) Then we went to our cabins and were greeted by 2 wonderful stewards (Mario and Indra) from the Philippines. Our luggage was there. We had 2 adjoining minisuites with a huge adjoining balcony, lots of closet and drawer space. My 3 teens were a little cramped with all their stuff so we were very glad we took the upgrade offered to us from the BA to AF balcony cabins. It was definitely worth the price. The bathtub/ BR was very spacious. The rooms were kept spotless. Every morning we had room service bring coffee and muffins early for us so the kids could sleep in a little. On the first day everything was open with their staff so you can book things and get to know what's available, e.g. the spa, workout room, kids clubs, etc. The spa pedicures and massages book up fast! Dining: Somehow despite reading this board just about every day for 2 mos. I still didn't get the "Freestyle". Somehow we messed up on getting this down until 2 days into the cruise. Here is what you need to know. There are 2 restaurants that have open seating daily, no surcharge, no reservations -Azure and Tsars. We liked Tsars better for atmosphere but the menus in both restaurants are the same on a given day but change daily. The new menus are posted daily, not in advance so it makes it hard to choose what days you want to eat there. We liked the Mon. and Thurs. menus for us. Tangos also is no surcharge, no reservation and the food is Mexican and very good. Tangos is the central reservation area also for the speciality restaurants. If you want to eat at Cagneys, LeBistro, ChinChin or Teppanyaki (surcharge) you must have reservations. For Mama's (no surcharge) you must have reservations too. We didn't realize this because there are boards posted that say which restaurants have seating, and wait times. So we wanted to eat at Mama's, which said "no waiting" on the board to find out that they were booked up for 2 nights. We were disappointed so we went to Tsars didn't care for the menu that night (Wed.) so the person at Tsars called up to ChinChins and arranged for us to eat there even though they were booked up. We were very happy that the NCL dining staff tried very hard to please us. You can make reservations 2 days in advance by phone or at Tango's. We liked all the restaurants. Each had their own personality. Our least favorite was Azure because it is too close to the Cigar Bar (Yucky smells in the hall) and it was dark and modern. Tsars is nicer and the water views were better. Chin Chins was my favorite but you should try them all. As for the other areas, the shows were fun. We loved Second City Comedy and there were 2 shows most nights so we went to the 9:30 shows. My teens went to some of the teen activities and thought they were kind of silly but I don't think my kids are the best of judge. They like to hang together anyway. The pools were pretty to look at but with the Temp. in Italy being over 90 each day the pool water was very warm, salty and not refreshing. Only my husband and 15 y.o. enjoyed them. The adult pool only pool often had kids in it and there was no supervision to keep the kids from jumping and splashing. The smokers were also not abiding by the rules and smoked around the pool although there is a designated area for them. Unfortunately, the NCL pool staff didn't enforce this which makes it very unpleasant for the non smokers. Disembarkation was very easy for us. We chose our own carry off so we could leave anytime before 10 a.m. We could have easily made a 10 a.m. flight home but being worried about it, we had arranged a night stay in Barcelona and left monday 10 a.m instead. Shore excursions were varied for us by port. We had arranged some private and some ship and some on our own. We are used to a fast pace so having to wait for the stragglers to board the bus was annoying (we had to wait 45 mins one day) and felt we saw so much more for less money on our private tour in Rome. The shore excursions we picked were Messina - "Taoromina and the Beach", loved Taoromina, the beach was nice, the kids enjoyed swimming in the Med., Naples- did Capri on our own. Rome with private driver, private Vatican guide- fantastic day, made it back to the ship over 1 hour before the tour buses and saw so much more. Florence- did "A Taste of Florence", museum walking tour of the outside, lunch on our own, shopping exploring on our own in the afternoon, Cannes-"St. Paul de Vence", ships tour tendered us in. Very easy and quick, loved St. Paul, great town, shopping was my favorite there, with over 1 hour to walk around Cannes before tendering back to ship. Overall, beautiful ship. Staff was very friendly and helpful. Would definitely recommend it. Have fun. Read Less
Sail Date July 2007
Preface My wife and I are both in our late 20's / early 30's and we have been on around 10 cruises together. This was our first trip to the Mediterranean and my wife's first trip to Europe. We traveled with another couple ... Read More
Preface My wife and I are both in our late 20's / early 30's and we have been on around 10 cruises together. This was our first trip to the Mediterranean and my wife's first trip to Europe. We traveled with another couple and made all of our cruise and flight plans through a travel agency. I arranged most of the shore excursions on my own. I have gone through our trip from the flights all the way to the disembarkation and post cruise excursions. I hope you enjoy the review as much as we enjoyed the trip! Thank you to all of the Cruise Critic members for your feedback and help while I was researching and planning for this trip. Flights Our trip got off to a bumpy start when we were delayed for over 4 hours in New Orleans due to high winds at our connection airport, Newark. Apparently this is a common occurrence when flying through Newark as I learned later. The delay caused us to miss our connection to Madrid. The Continental gate agent in New Orleans was supposed to put us on the late flight to Madrid, but upon arrival in Newark and after a marathon run to the gate, I was informed that in fact we were not on the flight. They proceeded to put 6 stand-by passengers on the flight ahead of us. I was not a happy camper! Thus, we had an unexpected detour and instead of staying in Barcelona we had deluxe accommodations at the Holiday Inn - Edison, NJ. We made the best out of the situation by spending the day in New York until our late afternoon direct flight to Barcelona. While I thought our trouble with Continental was over... boy was I wrong! After checking with baggage services multiple times in Newark to make sure our bags were correctly rerouted directly to Barcelona, neither of our bags arrived on the flight. After waiting in a long line and filing a claim for our bags, we hopped in a cab with the clothes on our backs and a few items in our carry on bags and headed to the ship. Embarkation The cab ride to the port was uneventful and cost around 35 euro. We were dropped off right at the front entrance at around 11:30. We proceeded to check in and noticed that a special desk was setup for lost luggage. Apparently this happens a lot! The NCL folks were very helpful at the desk and took a full report on our luggage situation. They informed us that since our first port of call, Messina, Sicily, did not have a commercial airport the first possible delivery point for our luggage was Naples which was Wednesday (this was Sunday). Boooo! NCL again was very helpful and offered us unlimited laundry service, a bag of toiletries and also gave us directions to a local mall where we picked up a handful of items. After filing our baggage paperwork, we breezed through the check in line in about 5 minutes and we were aboard. Ship The ship was in immaculate condition and the theme was very tasteful. It definitely had a more upscale feel to it. Room Our room was small, but nice. We chose an interior room to save money so that we could go all out on our shore excursions. This turned out to be an excellent decision. While we thought we would be unhappy buried on level 4 the location was superb as we were able to get off the ship first in almost every port. The room was also very quiet at night with no engine noise and very little movement at all. The only time we really spent time in the room was at night to sleep. It definitely served the purpose. Public Spaces The ship was well laid out with plenty of spaces to sit down and enjoy a quiet moment. We were especially impressed with the layout of the buffet area. Even though the space was servicing a majority of the 3,000 passengers on board it was laid out in a way where it flowed well and never seemed over crowded. We really spent very little time on the ship other than our first day at sea so a lot of the spaces on the ship went unused by us. Dining This was our first cruise with NCL and thus our first experience with "Freestyle Dining". We enjoyed the concept and felt that it allowed for more of a personal choice on each night. The way the restaurants were managed and the methods to inform the passengers of the current wait time, televisions throughout the public areas, was well conceived. We ate at the Tex Mex restaurant, the "regular" dining room, and the extra fee steak house. All of our meals were great. The only downside that I can see to the Freestyle Dining concept is that the service is a bit slower than your typical mass feeding style due to the fact that all courses are not being served at the same time. You also don't get the personal connection with your waiter as you would if you were dining at the same table every night. With that being said we preferred the choice and the freedom that Freestyle Dining afforded us. Ports Messina, Sicily Our first port of call was on the beautiful island of Sicily. I had prearranged a private tour for the four of us in our traveling party with Sicily Life. Alessandro from Sicily Life was waiting for us as we exited the ship. He was a very nice guy and spoke excellent English. We hopped in this van and were off for our first stop in Mt. Etna. Along the way Alessandro told us many interesting facts about the island and really seemed to know a lot about the history and culture of Sicily. We stopped briefly at a small village at the foot of Mt. Etna for a photo op and then stopped several more times on the way up the mountain for photos of the breathtaking views. Upon arrival at the visitor's center we climbed up one of the dormant craters. We then noticed a much higher crater and decided to make that climb as well. This trek was a bit harder than it looked and we all got our workout for the day. Be advised that it is very windy on the top of the mountain so keep hold of your possessions, such as hats. I speak from personal experience as I lost my hat at the top of the higher crater. As I mentioned before I still had no luggage so this was my only hat! Luckily a very brave Italian decided to save the say and literally slid down the side of the mountain to retrieve my cap. We offered him a "tip" but he declined and went along his way. After returning from our climb we grabbed a few drinks from the visitor's center, met back up with Alessandro, and headed down to our next stop Murgo winery. This was a small family owned winery in the foothills of Mt. Etna. Alessandro arranged for us to taste some wine and olive oil and after purchasing a few bottles we proceeded down the hills to Taormina. Alessandro took us to an overlook that offered awesome views of the town and sea below. Being from Taormina, Alessandro seemed to know all of the best routes to avoid the crowds. We took a few photos at this spot and then we were taken to lunch that we had prearranged with Sicily Life. The restaurant offered a great outdoor terrace and wonderful Sicilian selections. Our only complaint here was that it had really heated up through the day and at this point the temperatures were pushing 100 degrees. We still managed to enjoy our lunch and had some time on our own to wander the streets and shops of Taormina before being driven back to the port in Messina. Alessandro and Sebastiano, who we communicated with to book, from Sicily Life were both wonderful and I would not hesitate to recommend them. Naples / Amalfi Coast, Italy The ships next call was in Naples. Again I had prearranged a shore excursion this time through Drive Amalfi and Salvatore. Salvatore was waiting for us at the port doors as we exiting the ship and we all climbed into his van and headed out for the day. Salvatore is a very nice guy and really knows a ton about the area. He is originally from Amalfi and his family has lived there for generations. If you are looking for a reputable guide that knows his stuff he is your man! We hit a bit of traffic driving through Sorrento, but eventually made it to the famous Amalfi drive. Salvatore stopped at several locations to allow us to take pictures before driving through the small coastal town of Positano. As others have mentioned driving along the Amalfi coast can be a bit scary so we were glad we were in the good hands of Salvatore. We drove along the beautiful coast and made our way to Amalfi. After seeing Salvatore's son and brother along the way, we were dropped off downtown and we were given around 30 - 45 minutes to walk the town square and check out some of the local craft shops. We picked up some great gifts from a local stationary shop and met Salvatore for our drive to a lunch spot that he had selected. He took us to Ristorante Pizzeria San Giovanni in Pontone. They restaurant had a great terrace overlooking the Amalfi coast. The food was wonderful and reasonably priced. We enjoyed our lunch after our after lunch limoncello. After lunch we headed back down the hills for a stop in Pompeii. Since we had run into a bit of traffic earlier we didn't have as much time as we would have liked to explore the ruins, but we were still able to see a good bit albeit quickly. After Pompeii we met Salvatore and jetted back to the port in Naples. All in all, it was a great day along the Amalfi coast with Drive Amalfi and Salvatore. We arrived back to the ship and learned that our luggage did not arrive in Naples. Thanks Continental! I love wearing the same clothes! Rome, Italy For our stop in Civitavecchia (Rome) we decided to go it on our own. With some assistance from the Cruise Critic gang (thanks Hein!) we had great directions on catching the train from Civi to Rome. We boarded the train and got off at the first stop of San Pietro as I had faxed in our info and prearranged a guided Vatican tour for 10:30. The best move that we made on the entire trip might have been prebooking this tour as the line at 9:00 was unbelievably long! We skipped the entire queue and checked in with the guard at the front of the Vatican Museum. Within 10 minutes we were in the museum and paired with our tour guide. Along with a group of around 30 we toured through the museum and the Sistine Chapel. After seeing the overwhelming sights inside the chapel we headed over to St. Peter's. We took some photos and bought a few things from the gift shop. We found a small cafe along the way to the metro and decided to grab a quick bite to eat. After eating we took the metro to the Termini station, changed lines, and got off at the Coloseo stop to see the Roman Colosseum. The structure was massive and very impressive. We walked through the Roman Forum and took a few more shots. We decided since the line was pretty long at the Colosseum to forego the inside tour and to catch a cab to a few more sights before having to hop the train back to Civi. We got a cab over to the Pantheon and then took a short walk over to the Trevi fountain. After once again being overwhelmed by the history of the city we took a cab back to Termini and caught our train back to the port. We ended up seeing a ton of things in Rome on this day and in the end we were very happy, but exhausted! Upon return to the trip we got a pleasant surprise when we found our luggage waiting outside our door. Once again I want to stress how impressed I was with NCL's help with this matter. They kept us constantly updated on the status and were very helpful along the way. I cannot say the same for Continental since we were never contacted by the airline. I will be filing for reimbursement for our clothing and personal item expenses incurred during the 6 days we were without our luggage. Also for the first time ever I purchased travel insurance so whatever the airline will not cover will be covered by insurance. Livorno / Florence, Italy Our last stop in Italy was in Livorno. Once again I arranged a tour through Tuscany in my Pocket and Guido. For some reason we were a little apprehensive for this tour as there weren't as many reviews on Guido as some of the other tour guides. We were way off on this one! In all my years of cruising and after booking dozens of private tours, Guido was the best guide I have ever had. Immediately upon entering his van he had all of us cracking up with his catch phrase, "Mama Mia!" I thought that was only in the movies! He told stories and kept us all interested for the hour ride to Florence. Our first stop was the Duomo in the center of town... Wow! What an impressive and ornate site! We spent a few minutes there and then hopped back in the van over to the Academia Gallery to see Guido's friend, David. However, upon arriving at the gallery we were rudely greeted with a sign on the door stating that the gallery was closed for a few hours in the morning due to a "staff meeting." It turns out this was an unannounced strike. Welcome to Italy! Without missing a beat Guido brought us back to the car and took us to the Basilica of the Holy Cross. There was a long line to get in, but Guido brought us through the back door into the small leather shop. We were even treated to a private leather demonstration by the owner of the shop. We ended up buying a few hand crafted items and the shop keeper put our initials on the items in gold leaf. We toured the church and saw the final resting places of Michelangelo and Galileo among others. This was a great stop. After spending almost an hour in the church we headed back over to the Academia. When we arrived the place was in chaos. All those who had booked tours in the morning, including us, were jammed in the alley waiting at the door for them to open. Guido again took matters into his own had somehow communicating with one of workers. He then whisked us off to another door where that same worker came over, met us and let us in. The David was one of the most impressive things I have ever seen. Until you see it in person you cannot imagine the scope and precision of this work. It is truly a masterpiece. We walked through the rest of the gallery and then met Guido. He took us to one more stop at Michelangelo Park for some great views of Florence from the hills. After snapping a few photos we were off to the Chianti region of Tuscany. Guido had arranged for us to dine at and tour a small winery named Monagliari. This was also a wonderful stop and the beauty of the countryside cannot be explained in words. Since we had the unexpected "staff meeting" at the Academia we were running a bit behind so we didn't get to spend as much time as we would have liked touring the winery, but did enjoy a fabulous lunch. On the way back we talked and laughed with Guido about various topics from how Rome is great without the Romans to he and his son's love for Spongebob. Again Guido is a wonderful guide and I don't thing we would have had as memorable of a time if he was not with us. Villefranche, France The final port of call for our trip was Villefranche. We decided to book an excursion through the ship since this was a tender port and our time was very limited. We chose the Monaco and the View from Eze tour with NCL. We had seen a show on the Travel Channel about Eze and we were really looking forward to that stop. After meeting and tendering to shore we hopped in a bus and headed to Monaco. Upon arrival we stopped at the cathedral and saw the tombs of Princess Grace and Price Rainier. We then took the short walk to the Royal Palace and were given 30 - 45 minutes to explore on our own. We caught the changing of the guard and walked back to the bus for the short ride to Monte Carlo. We walked around the casino area and had a short time for personal exploration. After Monte Carlo we boarded the bus for the half hour ride up to the mountain village of Eze. Eze was a great village and offered some unique shops and quaint medieval charm. Our friends who knew very little about this village really enjoyed our choice. I was pleased with the NCL organized tour. I am sometimes wary of ship excursions because I hate being herded like cattle, but this tour was very relaxed and allowed for plenty of personal exploration time. Disembarkation and Post Cruise The disembarkation process was very smooth and uneventful. We chose the express walk off option so after enjoying a final breakfast on board we walked off and quickly jumped in a cab. We spent the rest of the day until our flight to Madrid at 8:00 p.m. exploring Barcelona on the HO-HO bus. We found this an efficient way to explore the city given our limited time (we were supposed to have an additional day at the front end, but due to our flight delays this did not happen). At the end of the trip we spent two days in Madrid and took a side trip to Toledo. I would highly recommend our hotel that our travel agent set up for us in Madrid, the Petit Palace Londres. It was a typical small, Euro-style hotel, but the location was unbelievable. We were on a street between Puerto del Sol and the Gran Via. All in all even with the flight/luggage issues this was the trip of a lifetime for us. We were glad we got to share the experiences with our friends. We all would like to thank NCL, the staff of the Jewel and all of our tour guides for making this trip so memorable! Read Less
Sail Date June 2007
This was our 4th NCL cruise and we have been pleased with all of them. We booked it for the price and destination. Since price was a consideration, we booked an inside cabin and rarely spent much time there. The Jewel was everything that ... Read More
This was our 4th NCL cruise and we have been pleased with all of them. We booked it for the price and destination. Since price was a consideration, we booked an inside cabin and rarely spent much time there. The Jewel was everything that we had hoped for and was simply beautiful. This was also our third cruise booked during the time of 9/11, our first being the week of the tragedy. One of the things that was really nice on this trip was the remembrance service on 9/11 on board the Jewel with the entire crew of officers in full uniform behind a wreath of white roses. There weren't a lot of people that attended that, but, we thought it was very special. Embarkation: Other than problems with gate changes in Atlanta, the whole thing went very smoothly. Luckily, we weren't in a group that came through Heathrow, Gatwick, or Paris. There were multiple bad stories of luggage lost, delays, searches, etc. We were also lucky in that we were not in the group of 100 cruisers who never received their luggage the entire trip! From talking to them, NCL tried to help in a lot of different ways from taking them to a city to buy clothes and then washing/drying them free of charge every other day to reimbursing them for some of the loss. The embarkation at Barcelona was very smooth for us, with luggage arriving relatively promptly and porters and buses ready for us when we arrived. We had hoped to be able to take a tour of the city before boarding the ship, but, were hustled out to the ship quickly without a chance to make other arrangements. So, we only saw some of the city from the port-to-ship ride. Stateroom: It was little and cramped, but we had expected that. Like I said, we spent so little time there that we made do with it. We had a bottle of wine waiting for us upon arrival and that was nice. The refrigerator was stocked with candy, water, beer, soft drinks, wine, etc., upon our arrival. That was also new to us, since that wasn't the case on previous trips. We had brought our own water bottles for the 12 day cruise and we used the refrigerator for storing those. My husband appreciated have FOX channel on the TV instead of just movies and ship info. Our 2 cabin stewards were outstanding! Dining: We ate in all of the regular dining venues as well as Mama's Italian Kitchen. I was disappointed in Mama's because we had reservations and still had to eat outside with the regular diners from the Outside Grill. I felt that it took away from the good comments we had heard about the food and atmosphere because we were only two tables away from the same place we ate most every morning on deck! I am an early riser, so the Garden Buffet was usually the only thing opened when I ate. I liked it, but got tired of eating there so much. We really liked Azura's and Tsar's Palace. We requested a specific waitperson each time we were at Azura's and the service was wonderful! I thought that this helped in the overall satisfaction that we had with the restaurant. Since the Captain's Gala was the night of the first full day of sailing, and the menu included lobster, we dined at Tsar's Palace that night and had a great time! The food was good all of the time and sometimes it was exceptional. Shore Excursions: We took one in every city, an expensive thing to do, but we reasoned that we might never be back and wanted to see as much history as possible. Most of them were excellent. The biggest problem we had was in Venice with a second day Walk the Heart of Venice tour. First of all, the tour was basically St. Mark's Square period. If I had known that from the beginning, we would have skipped it and gone to Murano. Our guide was a soft-spoken older woman who forgot to turn on her microphone, who was more interested that we pronounce the Italian artists names correctly, and whose pace could only be described as SLOW! We spent so much time just getting there--ship was docked 15 minutes from the Square and she took almost 35 to get there--that we missed the tour of St. Mark's Church all together! Her comment that our tickets were good for 3 months didn't help at all! The Doges Palace was lovely, but, that was all we saw! Our favorite tours were in Dubrovnik, Croatia--Croatian Riviera--was wonderful! The guide and the restaurant by the waterfalls were excellent!--and Ruins of Ephesus in Izmir and Nuevo Ghetto in Venice were also outstanding! We had tried to get information before the cruise from the website on exactly what was included in some of the tours, but it was no help. In calling NCL in Florida with the same questions, there was still no help. I was trying to find out if the Athens' tour--Taste of Athens-- went to the top of the Acropolis. No one knew. It was only the night before the tour that I finally got an answer. The excursion sheet never said yes or no, just that it was one of most photograhed places and that walking might be difficult! As we found out, it DOES go to the top and walking wasn't difficult, just a little steep, and expect 1000 persons visiting the place at the same time! Having 2-3 cruise ships in all these ports at the same time made crowd control awful. However, I thought that the NCL tours handled it well, even when people got lost! OnBoard Entertainment: Anything that the Jean Ann Ryan Company did was excellent! There were 3 shows and all were fabulous! We attended almost every night show in the theatre and felt that most of them were well worth the time. The exception was Edge that I thought was not very good and not very appropriate for audiences with children. Second City was great and the parody of ship life just hilarious. The tenor Chris Riggins was magnificent! The Norwegian Jewel Show Band was outstanding every time they played. The show-stealer of the cruise was the Crew Talent Night and the hilarious finale of that, the Fountains! The entire audience was laughing so hard they were crying! Cruise Life: NCL goes overboard with photographs! When you arrive in a port, when you dine, when you play, when you are walking, swimming, etc. There is a photographer in your face all the time..and the pictures aren't cheap! We finally got to the point we just said no, thank you, and went on our way. Yes, we bought the formal portraits, but we said no on almost every thing else. It is easier to keep collecting your pictures in one place--we chose the formal shots--for the entire cruise and then making your decision on pictures during the last full day or two than to try to choose and buy as you said along, or so we decided. I loved the library with the daily Sudoku and Word Find puzzles and the quietness you could find there almost any time of the day or night because it was open most of the time, even though there wasn't a crew member there. We also liked the Internet Cafe, coming to realize that when everyone else was eating was the best time to find an empty spot! Disembarkation: We knew the procedure about the luggage tags and the luggage outside your room before midnight from previous cruises. However, since we were supposed to be leaving the ship at 5:30 a.m., and we weren't called until 5:48, and only then because I kept calling the main desk to find out why we were delayed, I wasn't too happy. It is a 30 minute ride from dock to Istanbul airport, and at that hour, it went smoothly. The mess began inside the airport. There are 5 passport checks from the door where you walk in until you board the airplane. What no one told the airport was that 2 or 3 cruise ships would be dropping off about 700 passengers bound for Chicago on a 10:00 a.m. flight at the same time! The line was awful! There were 3 ticket check-in stations for these two Turkish Airlines flights to Chicago and about 600+ passengers waiting in line. It took us 3 hours and 20 minutes just to check-in, then two more passport checks just to get to the gate which was hidden and not marked in the concourse aisle! At 10:00, there were still a lot of people in line for this flight and, of course, the flight was late taking off. After waiting in line for 3+ hours, then waiting another 45 minutes to get on the plane, and then an 11+ hour flight to Chicago, was very exhausting! And to leave the waiting area at the gate meant that you had to go through another passport/ticket check to get back in! If you are traveling with children, and many were, be prepared! The Istanbul airport was, by far, the worst experience we have ever had. I realize that it wasn't NCL's fault, but, there should have been some forewarning about the wait time. It might have helped. Yes, we will travel with NCL again. We really have been treated like family on their ships and we appreciated the service. Read Less
Sail Date September 2006
Norwegian Cruise Line European Cruise, RCL Jewel- Barcelona to Barcelona - 8/13/06 - 8/21/06 Overview - wonderful trip, 5 ½ stars, highly recommend Weather was beautiful during the entire trip: High 84, low 60, Sunny. We flew on ... Read More
Norwegian Cruise Line European Cruise, RCL Jewel- Barcelona to Barcelona - 8/13/06 - 8/21/06 Overview - wonderful trip, 5 ½ stars, highly recommend Weather was beautiful during the entire trip: High 84, low 60, Sunny. We flew on NCL-arranged Iberia Airlines from Chicago. We stayed at a free-park, Country Inn, in Bensenville, IL that provided a nice room, overlooking a beautiful golf green , free breakfast and a free shuttle to O'Hare airport. Iberia, the airline is not well known. The shuttle driver, when we announced our departing airline, said where's that? We got to O'Hare early because of the British terrorist threat . Fortunately, every thing went smoothly, so we had time for a late lunch in the O'Hare airport. We found a great Wolfgang Puck Restaurant! Tasty. We did have a great flight with Iberia - English was the second language. Left O'Hare at 4:45 pm, on 8/12/06. Got into Madrid at 6 AM, on 8/13/06. (7 hour time difference.) Had to run the longest distance possible in the Madrid airport to get the Barcelona flight. Arrived in Barcelona at 10 AM. Immediately met by NCL; they took all the luggage. We were transported to the Jewel by 11 AM. Embarkation speedy - many, many people checking you in; very courteous and friendly. Went right to the cabin. Ship beautiful, clean, stable. Cabin 9662 was in extreme AFT portion of ship, but close to the Garden Cafe and the Outdoors Cafe for breakfast and Tsar's Palace for dinner. It was a long trip to the bow of the ship and Bingo and the shows. The cabin was big enough for two and had a nice balcony that overlooked the water. First thing to do is get your dinner reservations. Went to Tango restaurant on 6th floor. (Can also use 050 on telephone.) . Recommend to eat at Tsar's MONDAY night for the Steak & Lobster. The dining reservation system is wonderful with computer. When we changed reservations over the phone (Special button on telephone for dinner reservations), they "see" all your reservations immediately and tell your times. You can cancel your reservations any time before 5 PM.any day. We took a nap Sunday pm due to jet lag, but went to the announced Barbeque (chicken, burgers, hot dogs and fixins - good) on deck 12 that evening. Saw the Welcoming Show - thought it was very good. The first day (Monday) is a Sea day, so there were no excursions. That was great timing for us, for we were tired from the jet lag. Fortunately, in the morning, I hit a Bingo for $167. (There are new amazing Bingo machines. I had 36 cards, and the machine took care of all of the numbers. When I had 5 out of 6 numbers needed, I stood up , and when they called my number I said bingo. That was it.) At 2:15 PM Monday they had the putting contest, and I won the craziest contest I was ever in - for the finals of the contest the two of us had to putt from the top stair, down a long flight of stairs, to a plastic "hole" at the bottom.. It took 6 times before I could hit it. (Two of us had both holed long 24 feet putts to get into the finals.) After the Bingo and the putting contest, I really knew it was "my day". That evening we went to Tsar's Palace at 5:30pm and had a wonderful window table for lobster and filet. Very good. On Tuesday we went to Sicily and took the Toarmina and Vineyards tour. Toarmina was a little stone village on a side of hill that had many little shops, an imposing view of the sea and Mt. Etna, and an ancient Greek theatre. After that, we visited the wonderful estate in the Vineyard. The Sicilian hostess poured as much wine as you could drink (7 different varieties) and the Sicilian dinner was marvelous. The weather was clear and we could see the top of Mt. Etna all day. The cost of the excursion was $142 pp but well worth it. We bought some very good wine for 11 Euros. On Wednesday, we went into Naples in the morning by ourselves. Be sure not to wear your jewelry. A friendly waiter in a coffee shop actually took my gold chain off my neck and handed it to me, and said, This is Naples! The police were very accommodating and helped us get across the street. Both August 15 & August 16 were special religious holidays, so about only half of the stores were open. Most of the shops were on Toledo Via. It was about 4 blocks directly up hill from the ship berth. We had good Italian coffee (thick) - ask for sugar. We found a nice department store, called "la Rinascente" on Toledo Via and shopped a lot. At lunch we had a wonderful pizza at the Vera Pizzaria. Pizza was invented in Naples and is very good - the most famous is "Marghereta Pizza" The Italian draft beer was very good. They say you should make certain that you go to a pizzaria with a wood burning stove. On Wednesday afternoon, we took a short ship's excursion: "Views of Naples". Saw some of the beautiful residential areas around the city. Very pleasant. (tour included another Italian beer) That night we went to the Japanese Teppanyaki restaurant - excellent. Very much like the best Benihana I have ever been to. On Thursday, we went on the "Rome and Vatican" tour. Very nice, but huge line to get into the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel (2 ½ hours). They had been closed to the public for the two prior days because of the religious holiday, so "everyone" wanted to get into the place on Thursday. Both the Sistine Chapel and St Peters are marvelous. It was incredible to see the size of St Peters - those who climb up to the top railing inside look little ants way up there. Had a mediocre lunch with the tour. It was a huge walk from and to the bus. I didn't think I could do it - but I did! The only reason I made it with my poor circulation legs, was that I took along a Sports Seat. (It is like a cane with a seat that flips down, so I could rest a little when we stopped.) Also, we had a wonderful ship crew member, Jose Montezandro ( bald, from the Philippines) who helped me during the entire walk (run?). We next took a bus tour around Rome, and stopped at the Coliseum. That night I went to the Garden Cafe and brought chicken caesar salad and individually cooked pasta (they have a pasta chef) back into the room for us. Both of us were too tired to go the show On Friday we went to Florence. It was even more impressive than Rome. Of course, the trip to Florence from Livorno (the port) was spectacular. The hills, mountains, vineyards, and farms were all beautiful. We went on the "Splendor of Florence" tour. Better pace. Had one hour to view David with the very finest tour guide imaginable. His lectures about David and Michelangelo's sculpture were very vivid. He had gone to school for four years at the Accademie(?) where David was shown. His name is Bernardo Randelli, via Stefano Tur, 10 50137 Firenze - Italia +39 333 269 9744. After David, we walked to the beautiful Cathedral and Duomo and onto the Ponte Vecchio (old bridge), and then to a wonderful lunch.. Then we went to the Santa Croce where most the celebrities of Renaissance were buried. Then we had about ½ hour to shop. Beth loved the Gold Corner shop and I bought Florentine leather billfolds. Because two ladies were 20 minutes late, we had to RUN to our bus to get back to the ship in time. The same ladies had also missed the bus in the morning ! That Friday night we went to Cirques Bijou. Best show I ever saw!! It's is a MUST SEE. Then we went to the Le Bistro restaurant. It was very good food , but our waiter must have had a bad day. . Saturday morning we went to Villefrance. Beautiful area on the French Riviera. Took a local tour ourselves around the town on a little train. Very pleasant. Then we took the real train to Monte Carlo, only 20 minutes away. What a magnificent area that is! Just bought T-shirts and souvenirs, and had a beer overlooking all the yachts. Took the train back to Villefrance, and tendered back onto the ship. Tender was very quick both ways. Ate at Tsar's Palace at 6 PM because we were packing. Sunday morning we left the ship at 6:15 AM, because an early flight from Barcelona to Madrid. Very quick disembarkation . However, on the Barcelona runway, Iberia discovered they had a flat tire, which made us 2 hours late to Madrid. Fortunately Iberia held its flight to Chicago for us in Madrid. Very good airline. Very good food - two full meals both coming and going, and all the free wine you wanted. Happy, even though late, flight home! Country Inn's shuttle met us right outside the International Terminal within 15 minutes after telephoning them and we stayed another night in the room overlooking the golf course. Read Less
Sail Date August 2006
Though there are several reviews of this ship/itinerary, I thought I would submit mine, as a first -time cruiser. I travelled with my family -my parents are grizzled veterans with well over 30 cruises on half a dozen lines under their ... Read More
Though there are several reviews of this ship/itinerary, I thought I would submit mine, as a first -time cruiser. I travelled with my family -my parents are grizzled veterans with well over 30 cruises on half a dozen lines under their belt, and my brother who has been on 5 cruises on three different lines - but I am a novice, so I will share my views, but also include some of theirs, as a comparison. We flew from London, Manchester and Newcastle respectively, on the Sunday after the Thurs when the terrorism alert broke, so all air travel was a bit fraught still. No hand luggage, tons of security, and some delays of course. The flight out of Heathrow was delayed 3 hours, so my brother and I were among the last to board at about 5.30pm, which meant I didn't really experience a 'normal' embarkation. We were off the transfer bus and on the ship in less than 5 minutes, which may not have been the case had we arrived earlier. This was a positive, but also made me a little jealous when I headed from my stateroom to the sail-away buffet, and saw hundreds of people lounging on the pool deck, tucking into their barbecues and looking as if they had already been there forever! The cabin was an agreeable surprise to me (an oceanview balcony stateroom) though my brother felt there was more space in his cabin on the Royal Caribbean's Voyager. We called for the room to be 'twinned' before we went to eat, and it was done by the time we returned. I thought the bright turquoise, pink and orange decor was great, cheery and clean-looking, but everyone else in the family found it a tad overwhelming! My parents had an inside stateroom, though they normally go for a balcony, but because we had to travel in school holidays due to my being a teacher, they found the price-hike unacceptable, so plumped for an inside stateroom, which they found rather dark and more cramped than same cabins on RCI's Jewel of the Seas, which is their favorite ship. The inside cabins on that have a sofa as well as the bed, which is not the case on the Norwegian Jewel. I have to say, having the balcony was a must for me, I wouldn't cruise again without it. We all convened daily on our balcony for pre-dinner drinks and sunset-watching, and I read there at nights before bed for a couple of hours - it's very relaxing, gives an impression of space and light and just felt luxurious! The bathroom was also a decent size, well organized with a large shower and plenty of useful touches, like the shampoo and shower gel dispensers in the shower, the moisturizing lotion which was always promptly replaced when I pinched it (!) and a separate toilet. Everything spotless, and I couldn't have asked for more from our cabin attendant, whom I never saw, but who turned down and made up our cabin every day beautifully. Oh, and the beds were REALLY comfortable, with excellent quality linen - which I hadn't expected. On to dining. This was very good indeed, in my opinion, and also my dad's. My brother was on a health kick, so didn't indulge as we did, but found plenty of choice, and was able to eat from the Cooking Light menus, as well as having access to lots of fresh fruit and veg, but he gave the Chocoholic Buffet a miss to avoid temptation! My mum was less impressed with the speciality restaurants than the rest of us, but generally approved of the variety available. We ate in all but one of the restaurants/cafes on board. Mama's Kitchen was the only exception, because though we booked all our dinners up to Thurs, to leave our options open, we found on Thurs eve that Mama's was booked for the rest of the cruise - shame, because I really fancied some calamari! Booking dinner for 8pm each night wasn't a problem, and we ate at the Bistro twice, because we liked it so much the first time. Tsars was good when we ate there for lunch when most people were ashore, but I thought it might have been too big, noisy and crowded at dinner time. Azura's on lobster night was busy, but the food was plentiful and tasty. We ate lunch twice and breakfast once at the Blue Lagoon, which I liked for its quietness, ambience and smaller, more manageable portions. We loved the Bistro - I had the chocolate fondue twice! The service there and at Cagney's was the best I thought. Cagney's was my favorite meal, where you can look at the cuts of meat before choosing, and even my health-conscious work-out fiend brother succumbed to joining us for the gorgeous Cherries Jubilee! My dad and I love Asian food, so Chin Chins was high on our priority list. We both enjoyed it thoroughly, though I was irritated when I chose the first and last items on the menu (edamame beans appetizer and green tea ice cream dessert) and was told I couldn't have either because the supplies came from Japan and they had run out - this was on Tues! Also on Tues they ran out of soft-serve ice cream in the Garden Cafe because the mix came from America and they couldn't get it in Europe. I thought this was a bit feeble, since surely you would just make sure you had enough? The Tom Yam soup and dim sum at Chin Chins was great though, and my dad loved all of his dishes. My mum and brother were less impressed, and felt it just wasn't authentic Asian, but that they were trying to do too much by offering Chinese, Japanese, Malaysian, Indian etc all in same kitchen. I had wanted to try the Teppanyaki, but when we saw that it was a sort of goldfish bowl where other passengers tended to congregate outside the windows to watch, we felt it might be hard to relax under the scrutiny. I also regret not trying the sushi bar, but there was so much choice and only a finite space in my tummy! We ordered coffee and juice from room service most mornings, before going to Garden Cafe for breakfast, and the room service was prompt and efficient. I disagree with most reviewers about the bar prices being exorbitant. I tend not to drink, but did treat myself to the odd cocktail, and a frozen Blue Hawaii, margarita or appletini in any London pub would cost me the same or more than $5.50. My parents think the drinks are far too expensive, but admit that NCL's prices are on a par with other lines. If you are drinking several rounds in a group, and drinking beer, wine and spirits I imagine it would be pricey, but for the occasional treat it was fine. Spinnakers Lounge was always empty during the day, which amazed me because it was by far the nicest place to hang out and relax, with cool double-bed sized turquoise wave-shaped couches, polo-mint chairs with footstools, and giant orange sofas. You could read there, great views from wraparound floor to ceiling windows, and even listen to the band rehearse at lunchtimes. We often picked up sandwiches and salads from the Garden Cafe and took them to eat in Spinnakers where we were routinely the only people! There were lots of activities like trivia quizzes or games, which we attended but found we were either the only people to turn up, or among a very few others. This may be because of it being in school holidays, with lots of kids in tow, adults were less able to shoot off to a quiz, or could be because the activities weren't announced, so people forgot about them. The entertainment was excellent overall, but I am told that NCL is best line for that anyway. Both Jean Ann Ryan Company shows were fabulous, especially the Cirque Bijou. I LOVED the crew talent show, which was probably the most fun time I had in the beautiful Stardust Theatre. I skipped both magic shows after the start, because that's just not to my taste, but we all enjoyed the Second City improv, and it seemed as though, ship-wide, there was plenty to keep everyone entertained. I like karaoke, so often went to those sessions in the Fyzz Lounge. I only went on one shore excursion, to Pompeii, and found the whole thing well organized and smooth, though exhausting! Getting up that early isn't for me, and on a one week cruise, I wanted to be sure to have lots of time to lie by the pool, work on my tan, and just chill out. I never had a problem getting a sun lounger, and while the pool area was often busy, it didn't feel too crowded. The only thing that bothered me was that they piped music too loudly from the pool deck speakers sometimes, and it made hearing my iPod almost impossible at times, no matter how loud I turned it up, trying to hear my Green Day, with 'Girl From Ipanema' pounding away from the ship speakers was a bizarre audio experience! The staff on the Jewel were generally polite and helpful, but I didn't like the auto-gratuity thing. I asked to have the daily $10 taken off my bill, in favor of personal tipping, and I do think that staff try harder if their tips are dependent on their personal service, rather than knowing that no matter what they do, they will get some cut of a generic tipping kitty. I did have the best facial of my life at the Bora Bora though, and was happy to tip generously for my exceedingly well-trained skin therapist. Mind you, if you do plan to use the Bora Bora's services, don't be too quick to sign up. By Weds they are offering 2 for 1 treatments, and by Friday it's 3 for 1. I paid $99 for a facial and reflexology treatment, but if I had gone early in the week they were $99 each. On Sat you could get 3 things for $89, so be patient! Also go early for your appointment or leave free time afterwards, as you get to use their divine relaxation room for free, with heated beds, sauna, whirlpool, drench showers etc. My brother bought a weekly pass to use all those things, plus steam room etc, and he was there 2 or 3 times a day, and said he had never felt so relaxed by the end of the trip. All in all, I had a great trip. Four of us with different ideas of what constitutes good food, relaxation and fun all managed to find lots to enjoy, while still getting to spend quality time with our family in a pleasant setting, with convenient access to all facilities. My mum still adores her Royal Caribbean Jewel of the Seas, but now realizes that the freestyle experience is a huge draw for people who want flexibility, and who don't really enjoy sitting at large tables of strangers in the same dining room night after night. That and the entertainment quality were the two things we all agreed were the biggest pull for NCL. Read Less
Sail Date August 2006
We were lucky enough to be on the 13 night inaugural voyage of the Norwegian Jewel around the Mediterranean. An easy, swift and orderly embarkation procedure at Dover was soon to be followed by the materialisation of the colourful ribbons ... Read More
We were lucky enough to be on the 13 night inaugural voyage of the Norwegian Jewel around the Mediterranean. An easy, swift and orderly embarkation procedure at Dover was soon to be followed by the materialisation of the colourful ribbons and jewels that adorned the Norwegian Jewel herself. On first inspections we were amazed by the vivid and modern interior throughout the ship that was highlighted with contemporary armchairs in many of the bars and restaurants. On closer scrutiny we started to notice however subtle accents of 50's and 60's in some of the furniture choices in the bars. Outside there was an energetic feel around the pool area incorporating the theme of the circus that appealed to the child within. There were also many large colourful palm trees that bejewelled the jewel at night. The interior theme throughout the stateroom decks incorporated mahogany wood and turquoise that flowed effortlessly into the staterooms. We resided in a category JJ inside stateroom which was designed with storage as top priority. There were seven ample storage shelves, and a roomy wardrobe. Of course other features were a separate dressing table with hairdryer, safe, fridge, a well laid out bathroom and TV (although not flat screen as in the more superior staterooms). All over the ship there were many strategically placed flat screens displaying information about all of the ten restaurants and their occupancy - rating from busy to full. This proved vital in avoiding the rush at the Garden cafe (buffet style restaurant) and to generally gauge busy eating times. As Norwegian Cruise Line prize themselves on their freestyle cruising we attempted to sample some of the ten restaurants - ranging from Cagneys steak house, Mama's Italian kitchen, Le Bistro French restaurant and the Chin Chin Asian resurant (including a sushi bar!). The booking of the desired restaurants proved easy at first using the reservation desk at reception, however as word got out amongst fellow guest there were many queues and block booking of meal times over the two weeks. Another point to make here is that many of these speciality restaurants had a cover charge ranging from $10-$15 which would have to be considered with large groups. These cover charges had been reduced by $5 per person from the original printed prices on the menus. Overall the specialty restaurants provided excellent service, using more experienced and efficient staff. Only on one occasion the booked dining time of 8.00pm was made later due to large numbers and hence we were offered a complimentary bottle of wine which pleased us. The main dining restaurants differed in design from being modern as in the Azura restaurant and grand as in Tsar's palace. Both were equal in terms of broad taste/themed menus and good service. The chocolate buffet was the best that we have ever experienced on a cruise and we were stunned by the artistry shown in the chocolate "Big Ben clock" and ice sculptures. The bars and lounges were regularly called upon throughout the two weeks and we were most impressed with the efficient and friendly service throughout. Most drinks were reasonably priced however some of the specialty cocktails and alcoholic smoothies were over $9. "Bar city" on deck 7 compromised of many of the Jewels unique bars - Malting's beer and whisky bar, Shakers Martini cocktail bar and our favourite -Magnum's Champagne bar which offered a deluxe range of champagnes to be indulged on formal nights. However the night always ended in the Spinnaker Lounge on deck 13 which had live music and then a DJ. Overall the entertainment from many of the performers around the bars and lounges was excellent and could not be faulted. The dance company produced two impressive shows with acrobatic expertise. There was a hugely talented comedian on board and some great lectures provided during the day. There were a good range of activities provided during the day and many art auctions to tempt you to part with cash. The assistant cruise director had a jovial personality and created many quiz nights (jeopardy, Mr & Mrs, The weakest link etc.) for guest participation - which were hilarious. There are very few if any negatives that we can find with the Norwegian Jewel. Given the fact that this was the inaugural voyage and lots of mistakes could happen we and NCL we fortunate. It was clear that there was good management and swift action throughout to prevent any guests from having a good holiday. We would wholeheartedly recommend the Jewel to fellow cruisers and hope you have an enjoyable time as much as we did. Private shore excursions; 1) Port of Livorno, Civitavecchia and Naples; Romeinlimo was terrific! Duman, Carlo and Rino were knowledgeable, courteous and punctual. The fact they also had a great sense of humor made the trip, especiall the three stops where we used them, that much more enjoyable and memorable. www.romeinlimo.com 2) Monaco, Monte Carlo & Eze www.revelation-tours.com I would highly recommend their service to everyone. Read Less
Sail Date August 2006
Norwegian Jewel 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
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
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
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
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
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
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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