3 Istanbul Norwegian Jewel Cruise Reviews

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 July 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 June 2007
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 October 2006
Norwegian Jewel Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.0 4.1
Dining 4.0 3.8
Entertainment 4.0 4.1
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.9
Family 4.0 3.9
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.8
Enrichment 1.0 3.4
Service 3.0 4.1
Value For Money 4.0 3.8
Rates 3.0 4.1

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