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Sail Date: September 2007
We just returned from an Eastern Mediterranean Cruise on the Norwegian Jewel and loved it. Our flight from Boston was smooth and there were no hitches as far as luggage was concerned. Embarkation was fairly easy and we were on the ship ... Read More
We just returned from an Eastern Mediterranean Cruise on the Norwegian Jewel and loved it. Our flight from Boston was smooth and there were no hitches as far as luggage was concerned. Embarkation was fairly easy and we were on the ship by 1 P.M. We had the opportunity to get an upgrade to a Penthouse which we took. We were in the stern section so there were no strong breezes when we opened the sliding glass doors. Our cabin was quite nice and included a coffee and tea maker which took a little practice in using. After lunch in the garden cafe we explored the ship. It is quite spacious and ia really spotless. As latitudes members we had invitations to Captains cocktail parties and other get togethers with cruise critic members. The food on the Jewel was better than the other Norwegian ships we have been on. (Majesty,Star and Spirit). The Tsars Palace is the main dining room and is quite fancy. The Azura diningroom is more cosy and has the same menu. We also ate at Le Bistro which was outstanding as well as Cagney's, Blue Lagoon, The Tapas restaurant,Great outdoors and of course the Garden Cafe. The shore excursions while pricey made maximum use of your time ashore. We saw an awful lot in a short period of time; Ephesus, Mykonos, Santorini,Crete,The pyramids in Cairo, Alexandria, Corfu and finally Athens. We took this cruise for the interesting ports of Call. The staff was very friendly and helpful. This is one of the reasons we keep sailing on Norwegian Cruise Lines. The ambience is very low key and most people don't dress up at night. This bothers my wife to some extant. The one criticism I do have about Norwegian Cruise lines is smoking. The only place you can smoke inside are the 8 seats at the Cigar lounge on Deck 6. You can sit in your cabin and smoke but who wants to do that. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2007
We booked this cruise for the itinerary, even though we had visited most ports of call before. We did hesitate about booking with NCL, as we are big fans of Celebrity and Royal Caribbean. We still have mixed feelings about the Freestyle ... Read More
We booked this cruise for the itinerary, even though we had visited most ports of call before. We did hesitate about booking with NCL, as we are big fans of Celebrity and Royal Caribbean. We still have mixed feelings about the Freestyle Dining. It is great to have the choice of restaurants on the Jewel and to be able to turn up at either of the main dining rooms at any time in the evening. However, we found that we didn't get to meet many people because frequently there was only a table for two available for dinner, even though we indicated that we'd be happy to share. The food was of usual 'cruise ship' standard, perfectly fine and service in the dining rooms was good. We don't usually take in many shows on cruises but we made a point of seeing the Cirque Bijou show (based on Cirque du Soleil) and it was fantastic. Previous reviews have mentioned bad organization for disembarking at ports and this continues. Also if you don't take NCL's shore excursions, you are given virtually no information and a sketchy map only. We weren't warned about the distance from the dock to the town center at Corfu, for example. Taxis were very scarce and it was a 4-5 km walk in hot sun. We felt that shuttle buses should have been available there and at a couple of other ports, I'm sure passengers not on shore excursions would have been happy to pay for them. Bizarrely for our two-day stay in Alexandria, the daily newsletter said 'stay on ship's time' but didn't tell you what the local time was. We liked the bathroom in our cabin, which had a sliding door to separate the toilet, plus a transparent sliding door on the shower, which works much better than a curtain. The tea and coffee making facilities in the cabin are a great idea, pity our stewards never replaced our teabags and coffee even when we asked. There was ample storage space, however the cabins are small. We had an outside with porthole, which worked OK with the twin bed setup that was incorrectly done for our arrival. When made into a queen configuration, there is only room on one side of the bed to get in and out. I either had to crawl over the bed or slide from the other side through the three inches of space between the overhanging edge of the dressing table top and the bed. That maneuver would have been impossible for many people, lucky that I'm small and slim. Some people that we met inspected our cabin and said that their inside cabin was even smaller. The lighting was shocking, very dim. Our cabin stewards were the laziest we've ever come across in the dozen or so cruises we've taken. They didn't bother to introduce themselves at all; we rarely saw them and they did the minimum amount of work. Some days they missed our cabin altogether and we had to call Reception to get it made up. The 'Activities' were pathetic, there were very few, even allowing that this was a port-intensive itinerary. We've never seen the opening hours of the Kid's Club, Library, Spa and Internet Cafe listed as activities before, they were obviously there to plump up the list. I went for one of the few scheduled fitness classes, only to have the instructor not turn up, so I didn't bother to try any more but did my own workout. The gym is very well equipped. In summary, we feel that overall the Norwegian Jewel doesn't come near RCCL and Celebrity standards and doubt that we'd cruise with them again. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2007
We, (my husband and I aged 56 and 55 respectively) originally booked the NCL Jewel cruise because we liked the itinerary. We have previously sailed on the QE2 and so were unsure how "Freestyle" cruising would suit us. From ... Read More
We, (my husband and I aged 56 and 55 respectively) originally booked the NCL Jewel cruise because we liked the itinerary. We have previously sailed on the QE2 and so were unsure how "Freestyle" cruising would suit us. From Heathrow to Istanbul (remind me never to fly from HR again!) onward to Izmir for Ephesus, Dubrovnik, Venice, Naples, Rome and Barcelona. We flew back to the UK from Barcelona. First impressions were good - the ship looked colorful and huge. Embarkation was fine and our cabin (inside on deck 9) though quite small, was adequate and clean. The bed was comfortable and suited us although we had to request additional softer pillows. The shower was powerful and spacious and although other critiques had said the hairdryers on the ship were powerful, I was not convinced they would be - I thought they would be those silly little piped in dyers you get in some hotel rooms. However, the dryer was great - almost professional!! Small things make me happy...... There was also a launderette on our floor and I think, a couple more dotted about on the ship. Four quarters for soap powder and then free use of washing machine and dryer - there were also 2 x irons and boards. The launderette rooms are small and always busy - pick a shore day to use. Customer base ranged from families - there were quite a few teenagers and a couple of dozen younger children - to couples of all ages. I was really quite surprised by the average age profile - younger than I expected. There seemed to be many different nationalities on board but mainly Americans and Brits. Staff - fantastic. Friendly, efficient, professional. Lounges and bars - Bar City was a nice place for pre dinner drinks. Quiet and in a position to watch the comings and goings of our fellow passengers. It got a bit more buzzy after dinner and when the shows were finished. Never went to Fizz, the Karaoke bar but the Star Bar was OK. The Spinnaker lounge seemed to be where it all happened later in the evening. We went a couple of times and enjoyed the 60's music night. Entertainment - We never went to the theater to see the shows. Not our kind of thing - reports ranged from excellent to abysmal - personal taste I suppose. The individual entertainers and bands dotted around the ship in other lounges were professional and very good. Restaurants - There's always more to restaurants than the food but the main free restaurants, Tsars Palace and Azura were fine. Tsars was impressive in a Hollywood sort of way - lots of glitz, big and noisy. Azura was more contemporary, smaller and noisy. We tried a few of the optional restaurants. I felt The Bistro was pretentious, nicely fitted but kidding itself on that it was a quality restaurant. Cagneys - we had the best steak ever there and went back a second time. Sushi was good and the chefs were happy to advise. Tepannyaki, the Japanese restaurant is worth a visit to enjoy the entertainment provided by the chefs. Mama's Italian place always seemed to be busy but we managed to get in one night and it was disappointing. We couldn't get in the main restaurant and so sat on the deck outside at what was The Great Outdoors through the day so maybe we didn't get the full experience and atmosphere. Speaking of The Great Outdoors - it was, for us, the best place for lunch and/or afternoon tea. The Food - apart from Cagney's, Teppanyaki and Sushi, was average - up-market canteen food of which there was a huge quantity, which is not a bad thing necessarily - they are catering for thousands of people after all but don't expect haute cuisine. Most of the food was pre-processed - for instance in the majority of the restaurants, all the chicken, veal, lamb, steaks etc came with those stripes on them that are supposed to be barbecue grill marks. Yeah right. I was looking forward to some great puddings - New York cheesecake etc, again all was pre-prepared and the cheesecake was like marshmallow with sponge base. - not my taste. However, all were nicely presented with drizzles of coulis and flakes of chocolate. Breakfast, however, in The Garden Cafe was superb. Lots of fresh fruit, cereals, freshly made to order omelettes, waffles, pastries, bacon, sausages, hash browns, beans, cream cheese, pickled herring. You say it - the buffet probably had it! Something for everyone and well presented. Drinks - Iced water on the ship was free at cafes and restaurants. Half liter bottles of water were around $3.60. Some drinks were expensive - cheapest wine for instance was around $7.50 a glass for, I think, 125ml. The cheapest bottle of wine averaged $32 and rose to $00's. Cocktails could work out cheaper but not many were mixed by the barman - many came from pre packed cartons. The champagne cocktails were good! Spa - I only went once - on a ship day when there was a special on offer - 3 x treatments for $99. Hot stone massage, neck and shoulder massage and foot and ankle massage. It was very relaxing. The spa treatment rooms are great. Lots of aromatherapy candles, tinkling music and birdsong, plants, low lighting and fluffy towels. Elemis products. Summary - we had a great value for money holiday with no real complaints, but not necessarily one we would repeat soon. Lots of comments on board about NCL trying to get you to part with ever more money (soft drinks, cost of excursions, photos, extra cost for certain restaurants) and I would agree to a certain extent, but you don't need to spend it. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2007
We just got off the ship today for the 12 day cruise from Istanbul to Barcelona. I had done quite a bit of research before the cruise on this website, so I thought I´d return the favor and write this review. It is our second cruise with ... Read More
We just got off the ship today for the 12 day cruise from Istanbul to Barcelona. I had done quite a bit of research before the cruise on this website, so I thought I´d return the favor and write this review. It is our second cruise with NCL. We first cruised with the Majesty in the Caribbean quite a few years ago. We booked our cruise only a few days before the sailing date. Embarkation was a breeze. No line ups for us as we are Latitude members. We opt to use the ´Express Debarkation´ option (aka with minimum luggage) and carried our own luggage off the ship. That was really nice, as we had until 9:30 am to do so. The ship is huge, and very new. We had a balcony stateroom on deck 9 forward. We loved the room. We felt the engine vibration when dining at the Cagney´s steakhouse which is located on deck 13 Aft. But in our room, we felt nothing. Things we liked about the ship: - Specialty restaurant booking system has changed. 48 hour advanced booking is the system, with free cancellation by 5pm at the day of the reservation. This includes the specialty restaurants that impose no fee (Mama´s, Tango, Blue Lagoon) as well. We normally did the reservation the day before, and we did not have any trouble making the reservations on the day we wanted. Happy hours on Cagney´s, Le Bistro, and Chin Chin still exist. - Fitness center is great. There are free ´Healthy Abs´ classes once in a while, and Kirsty is a great instructor. - There are Launderettes on decks 5, 9, 10, and 11. Free of charge, except it costs U$1 for a box of soap. The capacity is a bit small though, but there are three of them on each floor. - They were happy to remove the content out of our minibar in the stateroom, so we can use it for cold water and drinks. - There were vegetarian Indian food available at the Garden Cafe. Only two selections per meal, but pretty tasty. - They never took away the wine we bought from the ports, regardless if the X-ray machines were used or not! So it was quite nice to have a glass of Italian wine on our balcony without paying the expensive prices. Things that could have been better: - There were two rowing machines in the center. One was under maintenance the whole trip, while the second one went into maintenance mode half way through the trip. - Food Tango is really a Tex Mex restaurant. And it is the restaurant we enjoyed the most for the closeness to the cuisine it advertised. Mama´s is the worst restaurant we went to. We were expecting a somewhat true Italian cuisine but Mama´s is a true American Italian roadhouse food, with thick sauces and heavily salted. Cagney´s has got nice steak. Do try the Mocha Creme Brulee. Awesome! Avoid any hot soup offered at the Garden Cafe, or at the main dining rooms. Or expect to get a soup that doesn´t taste like what it sound. For example, chicken broth tasted more like mass marketed beef broth made from cheap beef cubes, Tom Yum soup had no fish sauce or lemongrass taste to them.. and the list goes on. They do have fresh jalapeno chilis offered during lunch at the sandwich station. They also have tobasco sauce. The majority of the food is really not spicy at all. We heard other passengers commenting that they thought the quality of the food went down hill from their previous NCL cruises. Minor annoyances Italian trains were on strike on the day we arrived in Civitavecchia, which is 1 hour by train to Rome, or 1 hour 40 minutes by bus. We went to Tarquinia which is 15 minutes by bus north of the port, and it was a great visit. Check it out if you want to avoid the crowds in Rome. All in all, it was a nice cruise. Be prepared to pay some money for specialty restaurants, and don´t have your expectation too high for the main dining room food. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2007
History: I am 22 year old girl who just graduated from college. I went on this trip with my mom as part of graduation present. This was our first cruise. Also I don't have great grammar just fyi. Overview: A wonderful cruise and ... Read More
History: I am 22 year old girl who just graduated from college. I went on this trip with my mom as part of graduation present. This was our first cruise. Also I don't have great grammar just fyi. Overview: A wonderful cruise and even better itinerary. I am sold for life on NCL. Also to us this cruise was more about the ports then the cruise so we didn't do as much activities as we could of. We were just too tired from sight seeing and spent all our time in the spa :). Check in: We came in on KLM. If you have to fly oversea in economy this is way to go great free food and even free alcohol on the airplane. Also getting a passport was very easy in Istanbul even though we were a bit worried. We had Ekol pick us up from the airport and drop off up at the cruise ship. Then we made it to cruise ship around 3 and there was no line at all and we made it through checking in less then 10 mins. It all went so smoothly I could not believe it. Room: Our room was great. We had a fabulous deal and were upgraded to ocean view DD and the price was still a lot lower then what we started at with. We loved our TA. The room had lots of storage and was perfect for two people. I was really surprised about the bathroom. I accepted to be really tiny but it was very nice. The shower had even enough room to shave?. Our room steward was always friendly and helpful. We had little towel animals every day. Food: We loved the food everyday except once. The new 48 hour rule for reserving specialty restaurants instead of reserving for the whole trip was GREAT. I read about a lot of people having issues reserving restaurant times so we were a bit worried, but everything went very well. We always got the restaurant we want around the time we wanted. We tried all specialty restaurant and the two main restaurants. Our favorite was the steakhouse. The waiters and service was always good at every restaurant except Tsars. AT Tsars service slow and I did not like the food that night. Azura, Tangos, and Italian restaurant were all great free food options for dinner. The Grill at the pool was my favorite place for lunch. There hamburger there were just delicious. Breakfast was always great with lots of variety. And the food was never cold, except if it was suppose to be ? It was normally crowed in the breakfast area in the morning before we hit port but we would just take our food outside to the pool area and eat the food there. We could watch the ship pull into port without tons of people around us. They also served drinks out at the pool so we did not have to go back into to get drinks. Overall with food just love the option of eating when ever you want, where ever you want, and dress how you want. Optional Formal Night: One of our few complaints. They did not inform us that it was happening that night. I checked the daily a few times no mention that tonight was formal night. I guess if we looked at menus ahead of time we would have know that it was formal night cause of the lobsters being served. A lot of people were not dressed up that night but I asked a few if they knew of it being formal night and they said "No they did no." But we just wore our dresses when we went to Le bistro which works out fabulous because everyone was more dressed up in there anyway and we got our pictures taken that night. Also through out the cruise I saw lots of people dressed up too but still lots of people who were not. Spa: We spent a lot of time in the spa. We got the pass to relax in the spa. The stone /heat loungers are WONDERFUL. After a full day of sight seeing it was lovely to just grab a book and just relax. We went there enough all the spa ladies got to know us by name and were always nice and friendly. We also took advantage of the spa specials that were shown on the dailies. The massages, facials, reflexology, manicure, and predicators were all very relaxing and very good. Disembarkation: We got the first color off the ship and make sure you get into line very early when they give tickets the line was huge. We got first one off since we only had one day in Athens and wanted to make the most of it. We woke up at 5am and NCL had hot breakfast already out. Then we took our carry on off the ship which was really easy no one else was up. Then we met up with George the famous taxi driver and off we went. So overall very smooth later one it could have been bad but if you just got up early no problems at all. Itinerary Istanbul: We spent two days one night in Istanbul. Ekol was the company we used and they took care of us. We they fit in the stuff we wanted to do which was a lot and did it all cheaper then NCL tours. It was great having our own private tour; we learned so much and got to move at our own pace. We went to the Bizarre and got rugs, jewelry, and other gifts. It was great having our guide there she we keep us being ripped off and will help us bargain. When you’re in the bizarre remember do not be nice, just say no cause some of the shop keepers will really try and take advantage of you. Then we went to belly dancer dinner which was good food and great entertainment. The next day we went to see the Hippodrome, St Saint Sophia, and Topeka Place. Our guide was very informative, interesting and really nice person. Izmir: We used Ekol again in Izmir, Turkey. From there we drove to Ephesus which was a great Ionian, Greek/Roman ruins. I would also recommend seeing the Terrace houses even though they cost a bit extra well worth it. It gets you out of the sun for a little while and has beautiful mosaics and frescos. Our guide was very informative was a archeologist who has worked at this site. He knew a lot of very interesting details and took great pictures for us. Mykonos: This was going to be our beach day, but sadly it was rainy and cloudy most of the day. We did not get a guide here; Mykonos has a great bus system to get to most of the beaches. We went to Paradise beach, took some pics and try to lie down and relax, but it was just too cold. Then we went to back to the main town did some shopping. Mykonos is though very expensive town so we did a lot of just window shopping. A Paradise Beach towel coast 20 something euros, which I think is a bit ridiculous. Anyways try to find some shops off the beaten path and the shops get a bit more reasonable. Mykonos it self is very cute place though. Santorin: First this is the worst planned Greek island. If more then one ship is docked trying to get to Fira is very hard because you have to get on a gondola type thing which is very inefficient. So if you want to see the Island you need to get off on the first tendering boat possible and quickly get into the line because it will get worse. We got off on the first boat and got up to Fira really quickly. Then we went to a museum which was definitely very fascinating for people who love history. Afterwards we went on a Volcano Hike and Hot Springs. Volcano hike was gorgeous but the Hot Springs was defiantly something you can miss. Crete: We went with NCL tour in Knossos. Knossos is a very fascinating site but was really over crowed. We were packed like sardines in this ancient site. Also I really just do not NCL tours there expensive and can hardly hear what the tour guide said. Egypt: I would defiantly recommend Champion tour package of 2 day on night in Cairo. We had our own private guide instead of the huge tour groups of NCL and was cheaper then NCL. We got to move at our own pace and had our own driver. Our Tour guide was very nice and informative and was able to customize our tour for what we wanted to do. Olympia: We had a group formed on roll call of about 14 people. Our tour guide was great. By sharing this group it was again cheaper then NCL but still a smaller group then NCL tours. Athens: We did this on our own which is really easy because of Athens fabulous metro system which even has artifacts inside it. Makes sure to visit Acropolis before 9 am because that is when all the groups come. We stayed at the Fresh Hotel which was a very hip, comfortable hotel. With a very cool bar/lounge/pool area with a view of the acropolis would recommended to any young adults. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2006
This was the Oct. 9 sailing from Istanbul to Barcelona. We have done more than 30 cruises, and we would both rank this one as #1 or #2! It's a tossup with South America two years ago, also with NCL. The ship is new, so we expected ... Read More
This was the Oct. 9 sailing from Istanbul to Barcelona. We have done more than 30 cruises, and we would both rank this one as #1 or #2! It's a tossup with South America two years ago, also with NCL. The ship is new, so we expected and received a higher level of luxury than on our other NCL (8) cruises. The theme is Caribbean, somewhat jarring in the Med, but it grows on you. There were issues, but overall, it was a great cruise. I cannot say enough about the staff. At every juncture, they were incredible. We had a mini-suite, so we had access to the concierge, and had arranged for a cruise critic gathering early on in the Garden Villa thanks to our hosts who stayed there. Alex was the concierge and he was outstanding. He helped us with local arrangements, dining reservations and even a repair to our luggage. I was surprised to find out that he is not included in the tip calculations, so we made sure to find him at debarkation and remedy the situation. He seemed most appreciative. Everyone else, waiters, cabin steward, dining room personnel, bar staff were the best we have encountered. The food: First, the positive. The Garden Buffet is the best we have ever encountered. The only issue is just before disembarking for the ports it gets VERY crowded and tables are hard to come by. On most days, they opened Mama's also, so it did relieve the congestion somewhat. The individual stations for different food choices are exceptional. They tend to use a LOT of oil, so you may want to ask for a little less. My wife finally asked the cook at the omelet station to cut the oil about 80% and she said they were very good after that. The specialty restaurants were also exceptional. The quality of food and the service were outstanding. Kudos to all those folks. Now for the dining rooms, Tsar's and Azura. The preparation and quality were also good here, but the menu selection was the worst we have experienced on any cruise. I am a very adventurous eater, and will try most anything once, but I finally got tired of strange food choices, weird spices and poor cuisine in the dining room. If anything, lunches were worse with the exception of the cold fruit soups (only served at lunch) and forced us into the buffet more often than we would have liked. We really enjoy the dining room experience, especially on sea days, and this was the only negative from the entire trip. I saw a LOT of people ordering the "available every day" choices for the same reason. There were a couple of exceptions, when the food was outstanding, but we often found ourselves looking for the ice cream machine or fruit in the buffet after dinner. It is my understanding from a friend who is on the ship now (we met up in Barcelona to pass the torch) that the line has replaced the chef who designed the current menu because of passenger complaints. We would agree with that decision. The Accommodations: Our cabin (11156) was a mini-suite on the stern of deck 11. We couldn't have been happier. Lots of storage, well laid out and immaculate. The view from the balcony was incredible on sailing days. Our steward was wonderful and we were very comfortable, and we slept well every day of the trip. The Entertainment: We thoroughly enjoyed the shows. The guest performers were all great and really seemed to be enjoying themselves. A word to the wise - Don't arrive late! Not because of the crowds, but because of the humiliation! The production shows (2) were amazing. These kids don't have an ounce of fat on them, and it's easy to see why! Don't miss them. There were no problems finding seats, even on the one show nights, and the theater is state of the art. To address some negative comments earlier - it's a cruise ship, not Broadway. We also have been to Broadway, Opera Houses, etc. Manage your expectations and you will have a good time. Compared to our other cruises, this one gets a solid A. The Ports: The ports were amazing. We were asked to pick our favorite on the comment card, and it was impossible. We had great experiences at each one, and the history had us awestruck so many times. We used private guides in every port except Venice and Dubrovnik (on our own) and had great experiences at each, for less cost than the shore excursions, and in some cases to places that the tour buses were not allowed. Our lunch in a little town on the Amalfi Coast may have been the highlight of the trip! It's so small and the roads are so winding, that only smaller vehicles are allowed. There were two groups of us in small vans, and we arrived about the same time and had the whole place to ourselves. A pitcher of wine, two plates of antipasti, two pasta entrees, dessert and shots of Limoncello - 20 euros per person! The most amazing view I have ever experienced - priceless! Every one of the tours was professionally done, we got back to the ship in plenty of time and our cost was 30% - 60% lower than the ship's tours. I would suggest this approach to anyone cruising. We haven't booked ship's tours in years, and have had nothing but positive experiences. We did a ton of research for a year before we left, and used these guides. I have attached contact info and our ratings: Istanbul: Kagan Kosagan (kosagan@yahoo.com) - he and his wife Lale are both licensed guides and were spectacular. We consider Kagan a friend now and will plan on returning for more of his country. I give him an A++++, simply because there is no way of rating the best guide we have ever had in any place! See additional comments below. Izmir: Ephesus tour, booked through Ephesustours.com. We got a great guide, a nice van and a wonderful tour. A solid A. Athens: We used Dennis Kokkotus at d.limo@yahoo.com, or website greektravel.com/taxi. He is the son at the bottom of the webpage. Has a 6 door Mercedes limo that he seems to be able to park anywhere - very personable and a great trip. Grade A. Dubrovnik: On our own. It's an easy city to walk and the tenders drop you right at the gate to the city. Beautiful. Venice: Also on our own. Some very bad comments from some ship's tours - see above. Very crowded. Take the public boat to Burano if you want to see what Italy would be like if designed by Disney! Slower pace, better prices, beautiful city and wonderful people. Naples: We used Drive Amalfi (driveamalfi@hotmail.com). The company is owned by Salvatore, but our CC friends booked him first. They added a van driven by Roberto for the Amalfi / Pompeii tour. He couldn't have been better, see the notes about the lunch above. They arranged for a private guide at Pompeii - this is a great idea. You can get easily lost here, and the audio guide is pretty dry (we listened in on a friend's headset). Grade A+ Rome: We heard about how great Stefano (allagrande@hotmail.it) was, but again our CC buddies beat us to the punch! We got Marco, who was a great driver and maneuvered his way through Roman streets when traffic wasn't moving. Our only problem here was lunch - we think the restaurant overcharged us, and we sort of hold him accountable here. The drive back to the ship was also done at 140 kph in a rainstorm, and some of the group were a little nervous, but we got back safely. Only because of the lunch, I give him a B. Barcelona: Worth a visit and a beautiful and interesting city. We stayed an additional 3 days at the Renaissance. See comments below. Miscellaneous: The embarkation and debarkation processes were the smoothest we have ever encountered. I'm sure the Latitudes line helped at the beginning, but nobody seemed to be hassled or stressed during the process. We boarded late on Sunday, so there was no real line, and it took about 2 hours for our luggage to arrive. One of our bags had a bent handle (somehow it got opened during loading) but the ship's carpenter fixed it readily enough. About the front and back ports. We stayed in Istanbul for 3 days pre-cruise at the Sarnic Hotel in the Old City. It was nicely done, all new fixtures, beds, baths and tile, but a little spartan. Still for 70E per night, it was hard to complain. We were 2 blocks from the Blue Mosque and close to everything so we did a lot of walking. We hired a private guide for 2 days ($120 per) and he was critical to our positive experience in the city. The city is remarkable. I don't know what we expected, but it was extraordinary in every way. The people were wonderful, the sites stunning and Kagan (our guide - pronounced "Cahn" as in James Cahn!) could not have been better. Our Garden Villa pals hired his wife, Lale, and had the same experience. Do not drive here. These people make the Italians look conservative! It's not uncommon to back up 5 or 6 blocks if you want to go the other way! Traffic was unbelievable in the Old City, but everyone seemed to keep their sense of humor, and would often get out of their cars to help someone maneuver around a logjam. Amazingly, I don't think we saw one seriously dented vehicle. We could have used a few extra days, and the idea of going back to visit is being entertained as we speak. We have been to Barcelona before and enjoyed the city, so we were looking forward to it. It's still a beautiful place with a lot to do, and we did have a good time, but this time we found the people to be a little unfriendly and pushy. Last time high school Spanish and sign language worked well for us, this time we got a lot of surly looks. We also had a bad experience with a thwarted pickpocket (Placa d'Espanya) and some police (we think) that left a sour taste in our mouths. Added to the train breakdown one evening that required a subway, walk and taxi detour back to our hotel through a not-so-nice area of town, and we were both a little stressed. For a place whose restaurants don't open for dinner until after 9PM, it's amazingly hard to find a cab after 10! The food was typically good and we still enjoy La Rambla, but be careful! The highlight, as on our last trip, was the Monastery at Montserrat. It's about a one hour train ride out of the city and is the most amazing setting you will ever experience. Easy to do, but again the crowds were a little daunting. Got much better in the afternoon. All in all, don't let the negatives concern you. The entire trip rates an A+, even with the little problems. I would also recommend time in Istanbul if you can afford it. In order of preference, our ports: 1. Istanbul 2. Amalfi Coast and Pompeii 3. Izmir (Ephesus) 4. Rome 5. Athens 6. Dubrovnik 7. Venice (go to Burano - amazing!) 8. Barcelona (visit to the Monastery at Montserrat is the best part of the port) From 1 to 6, the differences were so small as to be inconsequential. Venice would have rated higher if we hadn't been there before, and if the crowds had been more manageable. We did enjoy Burano (not Murano), and the Jewish Ghetto (thanks to some CC friends!) a lot. You saw my comments about Barcelona earlier. Another word of advice - we ran into people from 3 separate ship's tours who had been abandoned in St. Marks Square and left to find their own way back to the ship. In one case, their guide told them the lines were too long for her to wait, so she bought tickets for the Doge Palace, passed them out and then left. Two days later, the ship had not made any sort of retribution. I guess it's Caveat Emptor no matter what your plans. A couple of these folks were severely handicapped and it was not a good situation. I didn't hear about any problems in other ports. We shared a water taxi with one of those groups, and met people from the other two the next day. It was a hassle getting back late, so be careful. As always, it's a good idea to know a little about the port and to have a back up plan just in case. Someone asked about age diversity - I would estimate the average age to be early-50's to mid-60's with a generous sprinkling of younger folks and a few older ones. Actually, the crowd was a little younger than we originally expected. I will say, that it was an active group. I met very few people who hadn't been on the go most of the trip. Of course, the others could have been asleep in their cabins! Please don't focus on any of the negatives, none were bad enough to even partially negate our experience. Be flexible, roll with the punches, get to know the locals and have a great time! The ship is beautiful, the staff is great and, as I said, it was one of our two best trips of all time! By the way, our CC group was amazing! We spent time with a number of these folks on a regular basis and are proud to call some of them lifelong friends now. This is a great place to meet people, and if you're traveling alone, as we were, it's like sailing with friends from the very first! Bon Voyage! Jay & Barb - Cruisin' for 24 years! Read Less
Sail Date: October 2006
By way of background, my wife and I are a retired couple in our 60's, and have sailed on approximately 20 cruises, most of them of 14-days or longer duration,. We book balcony cabins, and over the years have sailed on Carnival, Royal ... Read More
By way of background, my wife and I are a retired couple in our 60's, and have sailed on approximately 20 cruises, most of them of 14-days or longer duration,. We book balcony cabins, and over the years have sailed on Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Holland America, Celebrity and NCL. This cruise represented our third cruise on NCL and our second on the Jewel, the last being an October 2005 cruise to New England and Eastern Canada shortly after the launching of the Jewel. The 12-day 10/9/06 sailing of the Jewel from Istanbul to Barcelona is the subject of this review, although for us it represented the first leg of back-to-back cruises which continued on from Barcelona to Miami. Our overall impression of NCL and the Jewel was once again favorable, although we found a slight deterioration in some aspects of the experience since our initial Jewel sailing in 2005. We enjoy most aspects of NCL's Freestyle Cruising, particularly having the ability to travel with no dressy clothing on a trip, which for us, represented being away from home for a month. We tend to eat in the same place at the same time, but still enjoy having the option to do otherwise. We dined in two specialty restaurants, Cagney's and Tepanyaki restaurants. Cagney's was a wonderful experience, and we proceeded to book this restaurant for two evenings on the second leg of our cruise. Tepanyakis was a pleasant evening, although we felt the food was rather ordinary and not up to the quality of land based Japanese steak houses. We tended to eat in Tsar's most meals, and avoided the Garden Buffet except when it was the only open venue available. Jewel rotates two captains, and the captain changed mid-cruise in Athens. The new captain is a delightful and personable young gentleman, and both captains added a great deal to the cruising experience. The evening entertainment in the theatre is generally quite good, although we didn't attend all the performances offered. The ports on this cruise were outstanding, and were the primary reason we selected this cruise. We booked two NCL tours and, while they were conducted as well as possible, we were a bit disappointed in how little one sees on a large bus tour in congested ports such as Istanbul and Athens. We used private van tours in Naples and Rome and found them vastly superior and at less cost. Although we enjoyed this cruise immensely, there are two major aspects of it we found disappointing. First of all, NCL has watered down the cruising experience considerably, as have some of the other major lines, and does not offer a great deal to passengers in the way of on board day time entertainment or other small extras once a part of cruising. There is very little in the way of interesting port talks or other lectures of interest previously offered on most cruises. Classes are offered in photography and computer usage, all at a rather steep cost of $30 per class. Internet usage is prohibitively expensive, and not a great deal is included in the cost of the cruise other than a room and meals. I realize the argument that this has kept cruise prices low, and I understand it reflects the efforts of the industry to appeal to a broader market. Nevertheless, it is unfortunate that so little is offered in the way of interesting and fun things to do, particularly on a long cruise. During our 2005 sailing, we were very impressed with the quality and the presentation of the food on the Jewel. Unfortunately, since that time, NCL has changed its menus with fewer offerings, and more dishes which one might classify as rather ordinary food, with creative dishes, shrimp cocktails, quality steaks and similar items becoming almost a thing of the past. Frequently we resorted to the Striploin steak and the Caesar Salad which are always available, because we found little of interest on the menu. The approach seems to be, that if you wish something above the ordinary, you may dine in the specialty restaurants for an additional cover charge. My other comment relates to a seeming diminished attention to detail on the Jewel. Our understanding was that in the early months of the Jewel it was staffed with NCL's star hotel manager and its best crew from other ships. Since then, most of these experienced officers and crew have been replaced by others with apparent less experience, and this was reflected in many ways in the overall operation of the ship. Crew members often seemed confused and inexperienced, particularly in the dining rooms, but we had similar experiences at the front desk, tour operations and the like. Although the individuals appeared willing, their inexperience with the task at hand was sometimes evident. All in all, it didn't seem to be the tightly run ship it was in October 2005. To summarize, we enjoyed the Istanbul/Barcelona first leg of our cruise very much, but felt a little touch of sadness that the well run and beautiful Jewel of October 2005 had perhaps slipped a bit in the ensuing year, and hope that the trend toward bare bones cruising will not continue further. Also, we are hopeful that the apparent inattention to small details and the inexperience of many of the Jewel's crew will eventually end, and the ship will return to the glory of its first few months of sailing following its maiden voyage of 2005. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2006
Booked our NCL cruise in Nov. 2005, so we enjoyed planning, learning about the ports, about the ship, etc. Took pre and post cruise tours and they were really worthwhile. The Hotels, although far from the cities' centers were ... Read More
Booked our NCL cruise in Nov. 2005, so we enjoyed planning, learning about the ports, about the ship, etc. Took pre and post cruise tours and they were really worthwhile. The Hotels, although far from the cities' centers were excellent. We were picked at our hotel, taken to the port and waited less than 5 mins. for check in. The Jewel is a beautiful ship, very spacious, with wonderful restaurants, big cabins, and above all: excellent service. Our cabin steward and stewardess were tops. They were so good that we tipped them a nice amount of money, besides what they were to get from the $10. charged for tips daily.  Everything was spotless through the ship. The meals were above average, and the special restaurants offered food that was the best. We even used room service: very good. The convenience of freestyle is really unique: no need to rush for eating, no dressing up unless you felt like it. Not knowing the ports' languages we chose ship tours for every port. They were expensive but worth every penny. The guides knew their business, were helpful, took into consideration that most of the passengers were seniors, and did not rush us, and even the ship waited for our tour buses in Santorini when we were late! I only wish the daily "newspaper" gave more news, and offered more information on the ports, maps of the cities, etc. I bought a book in the gift shop which has all the Mediterranean ports and it helped us to understand and enjoy our tours better. The photos were very expensive, but well taken.The tax free shops were a disappointment. They mostly had jewels, few NCL souvenirs, and souvenirs and T-shirts of ports we were not visiting!!! The books in the library were not that exciting, but I had brought my own. In short, it was an exceptionally good tour, and we will cruise with NCL in the future. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2006
NCL Jewel 9/15-27/2006 We arrived in Istanbul 2 days prior to sailing. We stayed in the lovely Sari Konak and enjoyed the breakfast spread that was included with the room. The inn was well maintained, clean , excellent and very helpful ... Read More
NCL Jewel 9/15-27/2006 We arrived in Istanbul 2 days prior to sailing. We stayed in the lovely Sari Konak and enjoyed the breakfast spread that was included with the room. The inn was well maintained, clean , excellent and very helpful staff and the best location for seeing the area attractions. We walked everywhere and found the historic Sultanahmet to be safe and easy to navigate with some help and a map. The Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace are not to be missed. We didn't stop for 2 days! The harbor is one of the busiest and most exciting we have ever seen. Just mesmerizing to watch the heavy traffic pass majestically by. We enjoyed every minute of Istanbul. Boarding was set to start at 1:00, but we arrived around noon. The lines hadn't really started to form at check in so we breezed thru and were in our Penthouse, #9000, in minutes. Soon after, we met our butler, Karan. A very nice person who was available to take care of the little things that make a cruise really special. I'm missing him now and the appetizers delivered around 5:30 each day. We had been on the Jewel last Sept.2005, we are happy to report that she looks just as beautiful now as she did a year ago. In fact , we decided to just stay on that day to enjoy and relax and watch the harbor rather than try to go back into Istanbul. The Jewel was in port over night. We ate dinner at La Bistro. One of our favorites! We had a wonderful Cruise Critic gathering with 26 in attendance and 6 of the ship's staff including our captain. We met in Maltings after sail away. It was fun to put faces with screen names! Thanks to all who attended. The next morning we were docked at Izmir and soon on the tour bus to Ephesus. It's a fairly compact site and the day we were there extremely crowded. We had a guide who enlightened us on the way of life and history of the area. The biggest challenge was to take pictures that were not filled with the hoards of people. In spite of that, we enjoyed the site and had a great time. At Mykonos we opted for the tour to Delos. This site was more open and spread out so the crowds didn't seem to bother us as much. Our guide was able to steer us away from some of the rush and that made it so much nicer. A not to be missed site but be warned&the museum is not open on Monday and the cave of Hercules is probably going to be too far to hike in the time you are there. We were disappointed by that! And, wear a hat and sunscreen and carry water. Santorini is beautiful. Again we encountered many ships at anchor with us and too many people. This day we did not take a ship tour. We opted to hire a guide upon arrival with some CC friends. The town of Fira is 1,000 feet up from the base where the tender drops you off. There are 3 options for reaching the top: cable car, donkey or walking. Don't walk if you aren't in really good shape! I need to also mention that the donkeys also use this cobble stone walk so lots of droppings to avoid and smells to endure¬ to mention dodging donkeys!!! We used the cable car to go up and no line since we were among the first off the ship. Coming down was a different story. Seems everyone wanted to leave at the same time and the line for the cable was huge. We walked. It took about 20-30 minutes of moving pretty fast and being careful of our footing. It was not something I'd want to do again. We decided that it would be impossible to take a bad picture of Santorini. Just a wonderful place, beautiful towns and even some nice red wine. We enjoyed the island in spite of the crowds and would do it all again. Next we were docking at Iraklion, the capitol of Crete. Again we opted not to take a ship tour. Mainly because this cruise itinerary was so active we felt we'd need a down day. We negotiated a taxi and went straight to the museum. It's not a huge one but very well done. We ran into The History Chanel's team filming a segment for Digging for the Truth with Josh Bernstein. Since we were about the only people who recognized him, and we stood there to watch for quite a while, he came over to talk with us and give us autographed pictures. Nice man and easy to look at! The show should air late Jan 2007. From there we walked to the shopping area and wandered up and down the streets full of small shops and markets. Then, found a taxi and returned back to the ship. A day at sea!!! Finally! Yea! The port of Alexandria is really beautiful. It's all new. The circle drive was filled with busses and taxis were waiting. Again, we opted to hire a private tour for Cairo, the first day and Alexandria, the second. We did this prior to leaving home. There are lots of registered tour companies to choose from. We were met by our driver and Egyptologist and headed out for the 3 hour drive to Cairo. We were stunned by the conditions of the city, the crowded living conditions and the trash in the streets. Do go to see the pyramids, the museum and several other sites of interest. We had tried to go to the bazaar but were turned away by police due to some danger in the area. With such unsettled times don't try to do anything in Egypt without a guide. We were boarded on the first class train for our return to the ship. In Alexandria we were met by our driver and taken back to the port. The next morning we were met by our driver and a different Egyptologist. We toured the Catacombs, Roman Amphitheater and new library. All of these are not to be missed. We lunched at the Fish Market and had a great view of the old harbor where the Great Lighthouse once stood at the opening. A very enjoyable day. The popular opinion was glad we came to Egypt but probably won't return. Another well deserved day at sea to relax and enjoy the ship! We docked in Corfu and walked to town. Again let me warn you that the museum wasn't open on Monday! We found out the hard way. Several ship tours are offered we opted not to do them. We just spent the day taking in the sites of the town. A nice way to spend any day! We docked in Katakolon. It would be easy to walk to the small town and enjoy the shopping but this day we did take a ship tour. We visited the site of the Olympic Games. We arrived after a 40 minute bus ride thru the countryside. Again we were met by lots of busses from other ships and large crowds. Once inside the site groups dispersed and it was easy to move around thru the ruins and enjoy the area. Since it's spread out and not easy to know what you are viewing, we thought a guide was important. She talked all the way to the site and part of the way back. That was before most of us dozed off. With an itinerary this intense it's hard not to get worn down. Sadly the cruise came to an end at Piraeus (Athens) Greece. We felt this trip was a once in a lifetime itinerary. We enjoyed every minute! I noticed it will be offered again next year on the Jewel. You won't be disappointed if you decide to book it. We spent 2 days in Athens and stayed at the Electra Palace and just loved the place and the location. The Acropolis is under serious restoration. You have to work to get good photos and no cranes. The museum on the property is lovely. We toured on our own here and were glad we did. We arrived about 8:30 and as we were leaving the tours were arriving. It's much nicer to see it all without the crowds. Things I learned:2 times laundry was offered for $ 25 a bag - rolling allows for more room in the bag. Washers & dryers & irons are available on several floors. Butler and Concierge services are wonderful! Freestyle is the best way to travel! Reading the CC boards is essential! Read Less
Norwegian Jewel Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.0 0.0
Dining 4.0 0.0
Entertainment 4.0 0.0
Public Rooms 4.0 0.0
Fitness Recreation 4.0 0.0
Family 4.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 4.0 0.0
Enrichment 1.0 0.0
Service 3.0 0.0
Value For Money 4.0 0.0
Rates 3.0 0.0

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