12 Houston First-Time Cruisers Cruise Reviews

Having read a couple of negative reviews I feel compelled to balance it, in favour or Princess who, in our opinion were impeccable. There is one recent review that frankly after reading the 6th sub heading I stopped, and it says to me ... Read More
Having read a couple of negative reviews I feel compelled to balance it, in favour or Princess who, in our opinion were impeccable. There is one recent review that frankly after reading the 6th sub heading I stopped, and it says to me nothing in this world would seem to please that person. For us - the service was second to none - the food was outstanding - the cabin was admittedly tiny, but then we expected that, and the sea wasn't 'knocking us from wall to wall' although it was unusually rough, but is that really Princess's fault!! The beds were incredibly comfy, and my pillow was perhaps the cosiest I have ever had in a 'hotel' style environment. Our only niggle is the 2 pools are too small for 3.5k guests, but then it is a boat!! Having said that we feared a mad scramble for sun beds, and there were enough to go around, and incredibly it wasn't crowded either. Theatre shows - amazing!! West end standard. Alcohol - a bit expensive, but we knew that, so were grateful we didn't over indulge. NEVER saw a drunken person once! We chose to eat 'anytime' dining, and apart from the first night which coincided as my 50th birthday too (where we ate in Coral), we ate in the Horizon buffet every night and we couldn't fault the choice, or quality of food. We didn't do the formal nights as frankly dressing up and trying to be something we're not wasn't our thing and some sites were to be best forgotten!! Guys from across the pond - a 'please' and 'thank you' in customer services goes a long way, and believe me, gets noticed when it's short coming!! I was astounded at the amount of times I heard a demand for food or drink with neither word at the beginning or end of the request. The waiters may be waiting, and most were from many different parts of the world, but they didn't need to constantly be made to feel servile. More so to witness hats being worn at dinner and many not making the least bit of effort to dress for dinner, even if it was just casual dress was disappointing to see. Princess actually ask that guests wear what they would do for a casual dinner - SO, a lot of you go to dinner in short shorts and scrappy T-Shirts do you??? So - in summary, where those choose to put down a company who I believe actually couldn't really have done much more than they did, perhaps if only the company could do a review about the customers, about trying their best to please people who in truth simply will moan at anything, then that would be a review worth reading!!! As they can't - I've done it for them. For the reasons above cruising isn't for us, based on being surrounded by people who want to eat and be lazy all day every day (the sites we witnessed proved that one!!). Perhaps there wasn't enough food guys! I am English - though you would have worked that out I'm sure. Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
We had fantastic weather, great excursions and enjoyed the cruise. We arrived on the Friday and checked into the Doubletree beside the Bush Airport it had a supplied shuttle and we went to a cajun restaurant down the street and had ... Read More
We had fantastic weather, great excursions and enjoyed the cruise. We arrived on the Friday and checked into the Doubletree beside the Bush Airport it had a supplied shuttle and we went to a cajun restaurant down the street and had fantastic seafood dishes. We bought a few drinks and snacks for the cruise had a leisurely breakfast and ordered an uber to get us to the port. It was simple and quick and cost $47 for the two of us. We checked our bags and checked in for the cruise we got zone 5 and loaded the boat approx. noon. We went ot our room and checked it out small but functional, the mattresses looked worn and had a ridge in the middle of the mattresses. We had room 5574 mid ship, I liked the location we spent a lot of time on the 6th floor evenings in the lounges and ate at Alizar 3 times. We had dinner in the Grand Pacific I had made reservations and we got the worst possible table beside the prep station this pissed me off a little, service was good and we enjoyed the meal. Cozumel we just went ashore and wandered around doing some shopping, the Mexican vendors are very aggressive and i wanted to pummel a few of them they were so disrespectful, ask for a price and then the pressure sales tactics after were rediculous. Belize- The highlight, swam with the sharks and Rays had a great lunch on the island. The tour company was great and we booked through NCL. Honduras=--We went on the Jolly Roger catamaran snorkeling adventure, great snorkeling and friendly staff good lunch and beautiful soroundings Overall lots of fun we met some great people enjoyed the musicians in the lounges nightly, the comedy and acrobatic shows were excellent. The magic show was ok not my thing. I don't know if I will cruise again I prefer to go to a destination and explore it more than the 6hr window that you get with cruising. We loved Belize and will make that a future destination to visit. Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
This was the very first cruise ever for me and my husband. We enjoyed getting to know some of the crew members & learning about cruising around the world. Loved the destinations visited: Cozumel, Belize, and Honduras; people were ... Read More
This was the very first cruise ever for me and my husband. We enjoyed getting to know some of the crew members & learning about cruising around the world. Loved the destinations visited: Cozumel, Belize, and Honduras; people were extremely courteous and friendly, tasty food and needless to say...wonderful beaches. Unfortunately one of our tors was canceled due to the rain and we couldn't experience cave tubing in Belize so we decided to do snorkeling, which, I highly recommend to anybody who is into water sports, it is absolutely breathtaking. Inside of the ship most of the crew members were friendly and some others were not - I assumed this is part of learning from many different personalities and cultures from around the world. The food was good and there was plenty of variety, I wouldn't say it was excellent but I guess that comes along with the price we paid for it. What we enjoyed the most was the entertainment; great shows every night, talented dancers, phenomenal acrobats, a great magician and a comedian as well. We loved our first cruise experience and are already discussing which will be our next one! Read Less
Sail Date November 2015
This was our first cruise. We never really considered cruising before--it seemed so focused on food, and impossible to connect with local culture. While those might be legitimate criticisms, we nonetheless found it an ideal vacation! ... Read More
This was our first cruise. We never really considered cruising before--it seemed so focused on food, and impossible to connect with local culture. While those might be legitimate criticisms, we nonetheless found it an ideal vacation! The Jewel is a bit older, and seems geared to an older crowd. We chose a cruise that was after school spring breaks and of a length that most working adults could not get away: hence, it was nearly all retired people. While we are younger, that pace was ideal for us. We don't drink or gamble or need spectacular shows to keep us entertained: spending the day reading, talking together, meeting a few interesting people and having a menu of possible but not pressing events was just ideal. Maybe I'm easily entertained, but having a cabin steward make up our cabin every morning and return to tidy it before bed was heavenly! We had cute towel animals whenever we got out of the cabin for turn down. Some people have complained about the food on Jewel, and I will admit that one of the meals we had at Chin Chin during lunch time was cold: the tea was cold, the entree's were cold, it was like some piece of equipment had failed. However, everything--even the too cold food--was prepared artfully, creatively with fresh and appropriate ingredients, inventive recipes with influence from multiple cultural traditions. While I will grant that there were repeat dishes on the menus and buffet, there were many choices and specials to keep it interesting. It was also easy to eat a delicious and healthy diet--many fresh fruits and vegetables, sugar free desserts, multiple protein choices. While there were tempting desserts and breads, if you wanted to avoid them, there is no need to feel deprived. A few days into the cruise, we discovered that the Italian Restaurant next to the Garden Cafe is open for overflow seating during breakfast and lunch! So we took our buffet plates in there, where the tables are charming wood, the walls real brick arches, and the viewing of the ocean is ideal. We enjoyed long brunch conversations while watching sea turtles, porpoise, and flying fish go by. I enjoyed dragging my husband to the dance lessons offered most days. There were several kinds of linedancing, swing dance, waltz, square dancing salsa and merangue. The one thing I did wish was that the instruction was more geared to just dancing with a partner to music rather than doing a routine. Those teaching are show dancers and seemed to relate more to teaching a dance to perform rather than teaching how to lead/follow and a vocabulary of moves. I had heard that there would be sales at the store just before the last day but that did not happen. Rather, there were specials on various items throughout the cruise and not everything went on sale at any given time. I was also surprised that the number of things like games offered at the store was limited. However, if you wanted any toiletry, candy, t-shirt, underwear, clothes, luggage, etc it is a good (if expensive) option. I liked shopping there. We booked ship excursions in all but one port, where we had a private guide. You do lose a little time when the ship first docks when you choose to do this--you have to wait until the tour operators are ready for you, and wait your turn to disembark. This means an extra two hours on board sometimes. In Cabo San Lucas, we were able to grab an early tender and meet up with our tour at the pier instead of waiting to be dismissed from the ship with our group. This allowed us to do some shopping that we would not have had time to do. I loved that you just don't hear "no" on board. No one tells you when to eat or sleep or where to be or what to do, it is completely relaxing. The staff is laid back and friendly and really good at making you feel welcome. They have also apparently toned down some of the selling that perhaps has happened on other ships or in other times, because we did not feel pressed to buy drinks or anything. Yes, you can definitely spend a lot of extra money: but no one is going to make you feel bad if you choose something else instead. We stayed at the Best Western Suites in Seabrook before we boarded. It has a free shuttle to the cruise port and is a terrific place to be the night before a cruise. I wish there had been more educational opportunities on board, lecture series or the like. Don't miss the Spinnaker Lounge, even if you don't drink! It has the best views and the most unusual furniture. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
This Cruise was a celebration of my wife's battle of overcoming Cancer. We left Kansas City the night before and arrived in Houston almost two hours late due to air delays. We stayed at the LaQuinta on NASA Parkway, and basically just ... Read More
This Cruise was a celebration of my wife's battle of overcoming Cancer. We left Kansas City the night before and arrived in Houston almost two hours late due to air delays. We stayed at the LaQuinta on NASA Parkway, and basically just slept, ate breakfast and left. The taxi ride to the hotel and cruise terminal was fine, and the driver was great about telling us bits of information. Upon arrival to the cruise terminal, we gave out bags to the gentlemen outside, and that was the last time that we saw them until they ended up at our stateroom door later on. The Embarkation process was easy, as we were given a boarding group number, and once that was called we proceeded onto the ship where we had lunch at O'Sheehan's Bar and Grill on Deck 8 Mid. I will say that most of the food on board is pretty bland and flavorless, but overall very good- More on that later. We were allowed into our staterooms a little before 1PM, and upon entering the room, the congratulations package that I had ordered for my wife was there with streamers and a large cake. The cake was vanilla with Lemon and Strawberry- WHAT?! What celebration cake is lemon and strawberry? Where is the chocolate?? :) We dropped our bags in the room and explored the ship, including the booking of a couple of shore excursions. 4PM was the departure time, and we headed up to the very front of the ship to see us pull away. (Deck 14 I believe) The ship's horns are right above that deck, so when we did start moving, everyone soiled themselves when the 3 blasts of the horn sounded. The shows on the Jewel were amazing, and the cruise director, Jaime was awesome at keeping us up to date with everything that was going on. The restaurants were all nice, and had quite a few options. It is very easy to overdo it here. The Garden Cafe was the buffet, and the highlight there was Washy Washy man, with his guitar that he would play for hours on end and sing about washy washy to tunes like "London Bridge is falling down"... "Washy Washy Good For you, Good For Me, Good For Us..." The biggest rip-off by far is the pictures on the ship- you spend over $130 for 10 pictures. That piece is highway robbery in my opinion. Also, the tax and duty-free shops were good from some things, and not good for others, so be careful and know what you are buying. The port shopping consultant on board, Dani, was amazing and was honestly probably our hero of the cruise. When we stopped in Roatan, we were in Diamond's International. It was Dani's day off, and she came through in street clothes, but still worked with the salespeople to get us the best deal possible. We did shore excursions in Cozumel and Roatan. In Cozumel, we did the Dune Buggy and Beach Snorkel. This was a great relaxing and fun excursion for people who like adventure and can drive a MANUAL Transmission. It was painful to see all of the people who couldn't and were killing the clutch and transmissions on the buggys. In Roatan we did the South Shore Zip Line Adventure, and that was beyond amazing. It was only about a 20 minute or so bus ride to the location, and once we got geared up, we began the zip line adventure. It was absolutely amazing to zip line over the forest of Roatan, and is something that I will remember for a LONG time. A small note, you CAN bring your cameras with you even though the sign says not to... They are just not responsible if it gets dropped or broken. Overall, for a first cruise, I can't find much to complain about other than the cabin and the rip off that the pictures were. (See Cabin review for more on that) Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
I found a handful of people complaining about length of time to get a drink. We found the best waiter the 1st day & our group just meshed with him. He had the best personality & went the extra mile for us daily. We usually started ... Read More
I found a handful of people complaining about length of time to get a drink. We found the best waiter the 1st day & our group just meshed with him. He had the best personality & went the extra mile for us daily. We usually started out the day with a nice tip because he was well deserving of it. I hope you all are lucky enough to meet Oswell Raymond. He will make your trip extra special. You will leave feeling like family! Food was always good. The sushi was delicious & well worth the little extra. Music by the pool was always upbeat & fun. The comedian was pretty funny too. My only complaint would be the bathroom close to the pool. It was clean, but each day it stunk like yearn a bit more. By the end of day five I didn't even bother using that room - the indoor room was very close by so, it was never a bother! I am anxious to take my next Norwegian cruise! Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
It was our first cruise. And we don't like crowded places. But at Jewel, we never had this. Everything was good organized. We booked a balconyroom and it was awesome. Very clean, super roomservice. We were the most time eaten at the ... Read More
It was our first cruise. And we don't like crowded places. But at Jewel, we never had this. Everything was good organized. We booked a balconyroom and it was awesome. Very clean, super roomservice. We were the most time eaten at the buffetrestaurant, because we like indian and asian foot. We also enjoyed breakfast at our balcony. And the T'sar Restaurant have very good breakfast and dinner and great service. o'Sheegans Bar was our favorite location at ship. Superbarkeeper, good drinks and we always met nice people there. So, at least, we would book it again. And thanks to the german Food director, Mr. Ritzinger, we could ask him in german everything and he gave us great tipps. Read Less
Sail Date March 2015
Cruise Critic has been such a helper to prepare for our first trip - we read 300+ reviews and tips and came back from the cruise today happy and fulfilled! The roll call is the must - we felt connected even before the trip. Tim and Debbie ... Read More
Cruise Critic has been such a helper to prepare for our first trip - we read 300+ reviews and tips and came back from the cruise today happy and fulfilled! The roll call is the must - we felt connected even before the trip. Tim and Debbie were such nice hosts and arranged a very nice meet and greet on the first sea day. Cruise critic is influential - The senior officers showed up for us and gave us a nice intro and a card of all their contact information. I told Gary, the manager of guest service, about my experience with his staff and feedback. He took notes and the next day we got a plate of chocolate covered strawberries delivered to our room as his appreciation. Tim and Debbie and quite a few members opened up their staterooms for the cabin crawling - it was so fun and I can see the jealousy eyes from other guests! We visited several inside cabins (many personalization ideas), ocean view, balcony, mini suite and a suite. WOW! I know what I want for the next cruise. Free style and unlimited beverage package are king! As first-time cruiser, My husband and I were not sure what to expect. Free style is a relief for him and UBP gave us the reason to explore and hang out. NCL Jewel does have a nice crew. Our waitress Reubenlene at the Tsar dinning room has been so helpful and taken good care of us every dinner. I am also impressed by the Hotel Director Steven - the best example of walking management I have ever seen. He is EVERYWHERE! At 8am he might walk by the pool and later on greet you at the breakfast buffet. When you come back from excursion he is the washy washy person at the security. You see him constantly at the hallway of every deck. Of course on the welcome and farewell shows you see him and his staff. He personally read every guest comment card and recognizes his team - Reubenlene showed me a photo of her being recognized by him last time! The trip was not perfect (bad traffic and weather when we were in Houston, noisy afternoon near our cabin when all the lifeboats were back from Banana Coast, no towel animals, only lobster sauce pasta on the last night, my skin and swim suit reaction to the hot tub chlorine...) but we did have a great time and felt the hospitality and the good service from every crew member.   Read Less
Sail Date March 2015
This was my first real cruise as far as being out for more than a couple of days. I went with my girl friend and two other couples. We had a lot of fun on this cruise and had beautiful weather through almost the entire cruise. I broke down ... Read More
This was my first real cruise as far as being out for more than a couple of days. I went with my girl friend and two other couples. We had a lot of fun on this cruise and had beautiful weather through almost the entire cruise. I broke down a few of my thoughts per categories. Hope this helps. The Ship - Just in general, this was a nice ship. Plenty of room, wasn't ever hard finding a table by the pool or just something to do. Always clean, felt secure all the time, very friendly staff that were really helpful. Nothing bad at all to say about it. I would say the ship was good. Nothing over the top, but it was a good ship.The biggest complaint was the boat seemed really rocky. Especially at the back or the front of the ship. The people who we went with who have been on several cruises before said that was the worst they've ever had. I don't get sea sick very easily, but pretty much all of us didn't feel very good at some point during the cruise because of the rocking motion. Don't know if there is anything they can do about that, but it was annoying. Entertainment - I actually had fun watching all the shows. Some of them are a take it or leave it, but it's about an hour for each show and it gives you something you probably normally wouldn't go see yourself. This is in the good to great category. Honestly really well put together and there was some talent on the ship. Food - Some of it was really good, some of it was rather average. I was on vacation I thought I would try new things. I had a lot of fun actually trying new things. Some of it I liked, some of it I didn't eat all of it, but hey, I tried it. The dinning halls are nice, but the wait is really long. Sometimes you have to wait for a table, then you wait what seems like a long time for the food. After you get done eating, you get a desert and somehow you spent 2 hours just eating dinner. The buffet is actually really good and worth going to if you don't want to wait. We ate breakfast every morning there and a lot of lunches. Overall is the food is decent, but it could probably be a little better and the service time could be a little faster. My biggest tip was to go to O'Sheehans. The place fills up, so just go during an off time, but the food is really good and it's wall to wall windows so you can see the ocean wherever you are. Not a large menu but we tried pretty much all of it and loved it all. Ports - Average. The biggest thing I would say for this is have a plan when you get there. If you just get off the ship and decide to wing it you will be wasting time and money. Cabs are expensive and so if you are planning on just going to the beach it will cost you and a lot of the beaches will charge to get in as well. The excursions seem like a lot of money but once you start factoring in what it would actually cost just to be on the beach, it's not that much more. Do some research on the excursions as well. We went cave tubing in Belize which was fun, but it was so far away that we spent 2 of our hours just on travel. Like I said, if you plan on getting off the boat, have some plan on what you actually want to do. Activities - This is something I wish I did more of. We were all so tired after the day that we didn't say up much past 11:00 to do some of the fun stuff at night. Part of that is because we ate dinner late and then called it a night. What we did do was fun and we had a good time. I wish that some of it was a little sooner instead of starting a lot of the adult stuff 10:30 and later. During the day we would hang out by the pool and sometimes they would have a live band, but it would have been nice just to have music going on all the time. Mix it up. Overall we had a lot of fun, but there are some things that we could have done it make it a better experience. If you are looking for a value cruise this is it. If you want something that is nicer and have more of the bells and whistles then you probably aren't going to get all of that here. Some of it you will for sure, but for the money it is hard to beat. Read Less
Sail Date March 2015
Embarkation – quick, easy, priority embarkation for Haven guests Haven Experience – as background, we booked a two-bedroom suite last July for five of us girls. The prices dropped SIGNIFICANTLY and included all the great perks within ... Read More
Embarkation – quick, easy, priority embarkation for Haven guests Haven Experience – as background, we booked a two-bedroom suite last July for five of us girls. The prices dropped SIGNIFICANTLY and included all the great perks within a few weeks of sailing. Oh well! We all know how that works. For anyone who has the flexibility to wait – you cannot beat the current fares for the Haven right now. • Room Steward – OK, not great. Our second time in a suite and both times we had “lack-luster” room stewards. Kind of strange. • Butler “Erlindo” – good • Concierge “Florentina” – good • Haven Attendant “Jon” – outstanding. Took care of the Haven from sun up to late afternoon. Always had a smile on his face and the five of us loved his “copy that” and “happy” responses to all requests. He’s a keeper! • Mini gym – recumbent bicycle and treadmill. Great for me, since I cycle each morning. Deck 15 (only accessible from the Haven I think) provided the perfect spot for my stretching and core building exercises so I never had to fight the gym crowds. Food – Specialty restaurants • Teppanyaki – excellent, great quality and huge quantity. Chef was very entertaining • La Cuchina – excellent salmon, pasta carbonara – friendly service • Moderno – very good food, but extremely slow service. After 1.5 hours – decided to quit Complimentary dining • Azura – nice casual atmosphere. Fair service and fair food • Tzar’s – beautiful atmosphere. Fair service and fair food • O’Sheehans – nice casual atmosphere – good for people watching. Fair service and fair food. • Buffet – nicely laid out with a great selection that should meet anyone’s needs. Only ate there for lunch. Entertainment • “Band on the Run” – good, not great • Comedian - OK • Russian Couple – AWESOME! • Cirque – AWESOME! Splash Academy - one of us girls was my 8-yr old granddaughter - she loved Splash Academy. They put on a Circus that last sea day. It was great. Excursions • Cozumel – Fury Snorkel & Beach tour – GREAT!!! Snorkeling was good and the beach time with all the large water toys was great for all ages. • Banana Coast – Tranquility Bay was awesome. Quiet, serene, excellent massage ($45 for an hour). The name fits – enjoyed a beautiful day there. Overall – a very nice cruise. I’m a freestyle fan and really enjoyed the relaxation.   Read Less
Sail Date February 2015
We just returned from the Dec. 20-27 cruise on the Jewel: my wife and I (both 53), and our 20 year old college sophomore daughter and 18 year old high school senior son. These longish, idiosyncratic reviews helped us, so here goes. Just ... Read More
We just returned from the Dec. 20-27 cruise on the Jewel: my wife and I (both 53), and our 20 year old college sophomore daughter and 18 year old high school senior son. These longish, idiosyncratic reviews helped us, so here goes. Just to put us in perspective: fairly well travelled (couple of weeks in Europe every other year, a week in the Caymans most years, and a few weeks on Kiawah most summers). We have never cruised or done package tours; even out of the way Greece, Turkey, or Italy we plan ourselves, albeit at mostly higher end places. My wife is concerned that as the kids' schedules get more hectic, family trips will be harder. (I suspect the lure of free vacations will take care of that.) Anyway, we decided to try a cruise (and to not host Christmas for the first time in many years). Worked with a great TA, researched on Cruise Critic, and decided on NCL Jewel as a good balance of ship, itinerary, etc. We live outside D.C., but it is an easy direct flight to Houston. We had an aft suite (I could never figure out if it was a penthouse or not, but it had the butler and concierge, so not sure it mattered). We had the kids share a balcony room next to us; they haven't shared rooms when we travel for many years, but we were--needlessly, in hindsight---concerned about security (not really concerned, but never having cruised....) that we put them together near us. They were good sports about it, and the steward made some tweaks to give them more privacy. Bottom line, had a great time. Different than what we were used to, but a lot of fun. Bunch of comments and observations below: 1. Food: we ate in the specialty restaurants every night. Just our preference, but food quality is important to us, and the supplement seemed reasonable (did the package). LOVED Moderno for breakfast and lunch; much better than the couple of times we ate in the Garden Café for those meals. Best meals: Cagneys (ate there twice, once much better than other time): not up there with Palm or high end steakhouse ashore, but good. Also really enjoyed La Cucina--limited menu but well prepared. Enjoyed all of the others, but food was nothing really special (I enjoy almost anything with my family on vacation) 2. Other food observations: found service slow at specialty restaurants, even when not that full; my sense was that the servers were stretched a little thin. Felt that there could have been a higher high end on the wine list; it topped out at about $65 (except for the Champagne). Not much of a mark up, which was nice, but even a small "reserve" list would have been nice. Had the butler serve breakfast in the suite a couple of days: very nice, and he was happy to get off menu items. 3. Steward, Butler, and Concierge (Florentia) were outstanding. Helpful, always there but not obtrusive, friendly. Could not have been nicer, and a major part of the trip being great. 4. From what we saw, the priority boarding and disembarkation made a real difference. We breezed on and off in just a few minutes, and missed the customs lines when we returned. 5. The bars were nice, well staffed, and I thought well priced. They could all make a "real" drink (martini, Manhattan, etc.) as well as the various specials. 6. We really enjoyed the various "small" musical acts, generally at Magnums (one of the bars). Fun hearing Italian piano players and Brazilian guitarists playing and singing classic rock, folk rock, etc. Not being sarcastic--really enjoyed it, and we wished they stayed open past midnight. 7. We found the back of the boat suite very quiet, with no foot traffic past our rooms. Folks we talked to in the other suites, including Haven, said it was often "noisy." No personal experience, just repeating a couple of comments. 8. We all enjoyed the spa. My wife and daughter both had facials and massage(s), and said they compared favorably to higher end day spas in and around D.C. I had a shave--full hot towel, face massage, etc. like in the old time (and new!) barber shops, and it was great. We got the week passes to the steam, whirlpools, sauna, complex (with great views!), and found them both very nice, and usually pretty empty. Gym was ok, a little crowded for my taste but pretty nice. 9. Wifi was confusing and slow, but usable if you need to stay connected. 10. All of our excursions were through the ship. We did the Mayan ruin trip in Cozumel (ok, a little too commercial but Angel was a great guide). Son and I did the already-certified scuba dives in Belize and Roatan (outstanding in both places; professional, well run, good equipment, great reefs and wall dives). Wife and daughter went to animal preserve/beach day in Roatan and had a great time. Daughter (budding classics/archeology teacher) did another Mayan ruin in Belize and found it great, much "better" than Cozumel in scope and depth. All well run; no standing around waiting (except for a short weather delay in Belize). 11. I didn't see many (ok, any) of the "big" shows, but wife and daughter enjoyed them. The "risqué" ship-run programs (think PG-13 truth or dare) were fun, and good natured, and the cruise director said several times before they started that they were really for those over 18. Nothing explicit, all double-entendre stuff. Fun, and funny. 12. I thought the dance bands and/or DJ in Spinnaker at night were good, but hampered by the age rang from 18-65 all together. Motown followed by hip hop followed by 80's hair bands: hard to please everyone, but they did their best, and most people were able to dance most of the time. 13. Bars were a great place to people watch, particularly the row of bars in "bar city." 14. Kids, as kids do, found groups of other 18-21 year olds, and had fun by themselves, which was fine with us. We signed the beer and wine waiver for them (they have the occasional glass of wine with dinner at home, and we let them follow local laws when we travel), and they were reasonably responsible. 15. Initial thoughts: we would cruise again, although not necessarily right away, and would probably go NCL again for a family cruise (but kids could have their own cabins next time). If it is just my wife and I, we would probably try to go a little more "luxury," although I get a little confused about all of the labels. But if it is just us, not sure I would do a week cruise vs. a week in Tuscany or France. But will probably try it at least once more. I am sure I will revise those opinions a few more times as the experience percolates. Hope folks find this useful. Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
This past December our family went on a Christmas cruise with the NCL Jewel leaving out of the port of Houston. There were 23 family members plus 2 close friends and we booked a total of 10 cabins. All in all we had a wonderful time! We ... Read More
This past December our family went on a Christmas cruise with the NCL Jewel leaving out of the port of Houston. There were 23 family members plus 2 close friends and we booked a total of 10 cabins. All in all we had a wonderful time! We enjoyed the ship, the service and time to spend together having fun and reconnecting. We also compiled a list of pros and cons we'd like to share with other potential travelers. It always helps us to read the reviews and we hope our experiences might prepare future travelers for what they might expect on the NCL Jewel. * Embarkation and Disembarkation in Houston went smoothly, very organized, nice new cruise terminal hub, parking was easy. * Overall the Staff was great! Very friendly and helpful. We loved our room steward, Mia! However, there were days that rooms weren't made up until noon or later (maybe too many rooms for 1 steward?) * Speaking of rooms...they are TINY. When sharing a Balcony with 3 or 4 (even when the 3rd and 4th are children) the room is "all bed" !! When prepared for the evening, you can't get to the balcony doors... definitely a negative... * We loved the coffeepot in the room! Only cruise we've ever traveled that had coffee in the room... Big Thumbs Up! * We didn't love the plumbing issues that 4 of our balcony cabins encountered... maintenance was quick to respond, but several days of plumbing issues got old. Guest services was very apologetic and offered us an evening at The Steakhouse (specialty restaurant) to make up for the inconvenience. * Dining... Breakfast in the Garden Cafe Buffet was perhaps our favorite. Loved the variety and it was very good. Also loved the Crepe station in the evening (Chocolate Crepes with WhipCream and Powdered Sugar is now my fav!) Lunch and Dinner in the Garden cafe was average. Loved that staff was at all doors with hand sanitizer... "Washy, washy, Happy, happy!" * Evening Dinner in the Tsar's Palace was fair. We were traveling with a large family group and made reservations every evening for 8pm. Our tables were always ready, but the meal usually drug out for 2 hours or better. Not sure why our service was so slow. Often the wait staff got our orders mixed up and the food was just average. We wonder if the cruise line is trying to push guests to the specialty restaurants (extra surcharge). There were moments they got everything right. The chocolate dessert night was one (except they ran out of my dessert and had to substitute another, which was just as scrumptious to be honest). And a Big Shout-out to Chester, the assistant waiter who went out of his way to make things right (as much as possible). Note: Read all menu descriptions... we had several dishes that we were not at all what we were expecting, escargo and chicken alfredo to name two... made for humorous memories but not tasty eating! * The Specialty Restaurants... Some of us ate at the Steakhouse, La Cucina and Teppenyaki. Meals here were excellent and the wait staff was very attentive. Not sure if the food was worth the extra charge, but the ambience was nice. * Room Service... Menu was very limited and the 2 occasions we used it, the wait was over 45 minutes. It might have been easier to go up to the Garden Cafe, get our meal and bring it back to our room. Also the pizza was an additional cost for Room Service, $5 per pizza (but free up in the Garden Cafe, go figure) * One of our family members is on a Gluten-Free Diet and here NCL did everything right! Kelli was given a personal Dietary Assistant for the cruise and almost without fail, every meal in the restaurant was great. However it was almost impossible to eat in the Garden Café Buffet, nothing is marked. The dietary assistant told her to call her directly before eating in any of the sit-down restaurants and she would bring the menu to her. Also she arranged for Kelli to look at the next day’s menu for our evening meal and pre-order it the night before. Very nice. One other nice perk is that the gluten-free pizzas on the room service menu are free of charge (rather than the $5 for everyone else!) Note: you must notify NCL of your dietary restrictions at least 30 days prior to sailing. * Entertainment was enjoyable for all ages... Loved the Russian Duo "Deja Vu" and also the comedian David Naster. The comedic juggler, Scotty Cavanaugh was very good too. The children in our group also enjoyed the activities with Dora and all the Nickolodean characters. * The "Kids-Only" Hot tub was a great idea and we liked that staff did "police" the other hot tubs to encourage children to give the adults their space :-) * There is no free Sauna or Steam room on the NCL Jewel. It is $149 for the week. That being said, the Sauna/Steam room is extremely nice and was enjoyed very much by our dad. * The professional photographers on the ship as a whole did a great job. We all have some great pics of us individually and as couples... However, when we all got together on formal night (23 of us!) for family pics, we were pretty disappointed in the photographer. He did a very poor job of arranging our family on the grand-staircase and seemed almost bored with his job. Granted, we were a big family, but this is their bread-and-butter! We bought a lot of pics, would have been so much happier if that particular photographer would have taken a little bit more time working with us. It's not often we can get the whole family together and this cruise was about making memories... * Note for anyone traveling with a wheelchair...Hallways are narrow. Everyday when the room stewards were cleaning rooms, their cleaning carts, dirty laundry bags and other items lined the hallways, making wheelchair travel an adventure to say the least... * We stopped in 3 ports of call... Cozumel, Belize City and Trujillo. Had a great time in each port, but chose to do independent excursions, so we don't have any reviews for NCL's excursions. Leaving and re-boarding the ship was well-organized, but prepare for lines to re-board if you wait too long in the afternoon. We docked at the pier in Cozumel, but had to tender in at Belize and Trujillo. The tender service was excellent, very smooth and well run. Our family loved the week together. It was wonderful to just relax and not worry about the meals, cleaning, etc. We have traveled on other cruise lines and feel that NCL is just about average. Their service was excellent, the ship décor very pleasing and the entertainment enjoyable. However, service in the main dining rooms, along with menu options/taste, and the cabin issues, i.e. plumbing problems and the cabin's tiny size, as well having to pay for the steam/sauna room really did have an impact on our experience with the NCL Jewel. Overall, it was a great Christmas cruise and the memories we have will keep us smiling for a long time.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2014

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