3 Istanbul to Europe - Western Mediterranean 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
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
Sail Date September 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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