Sail Date: September 2009
We loved this holiday. We arrived at the terminal early - 11:05 and to be honest I expected to be turned away - but no drove up to the luggage drop off, the porter removed the luggage and of we went o park the car (a very short distance ... Read More
We loved this holiday. We arrived at the terminal early - 11:05 and to be honest I expected to be turned away - but no drove up to the luggage drop off, the porter removed the luggage and of we went o park the car (a very short distance away). There was no queue at check, we had a very short wait int eh lounge before it was announced we could board the ship and by 11:45 I had a glass of champagne in my hand. Cabins were ready at 2 o'clock but in the meantime we explored the ship and had lunch in the great outdoors in glorious sunshine looking at the white cliffs of Dover. We had a balcony cabin, aft on deck 9, which was lovely quiet location. The cabin was great, good amount of storage, but a little more thought could have given us more - but it was fine. Bathroom was great - really lovely that it was a shower cubicle - nice and roomy and no nasty shower curtain. The ship was very clean and the cabin was well looked after, There were towel animals left every other night which were great and I was disappointed when the monkey was removed after only 1 night!. Dining - there are 2 sit down restaurants and the food was good which some favourites every night and some items changed - we had some great meals in both of these. The garden cafe buffet had an amazing choice and changed daily, the Great Outdoors, at the back has lovely wicker chairs and tables and a small buffet area all of its own. In the cover charge restaurants we ate in Le Bistro (as part of our anniversary package - which was excellent) , Mama's Italian - food good - but service almost too fast and we had to tell them to slow it down between the main and the dessert and Chin Chin Chinese (again great food and excellent service) with these look our for 2 for 1 offers on most port days. Drinks were pricey - my husband (a non drinker) bought the soft drinks package which he got his moneys worth out off - me I stuck to water during the day - thats normal for me and a glass of wine before/after dinner - or Sangria at the tapas bar. Entertainment - we saw one musical night, an excellent English comedian, one great singe and of course the amazing Cirque Bijou is fantastic, don't miss it. We did a Meet and Greet with Cruise Critic and all the Officers came along (which was great) many of the Officers were very visible on the ship, easting in the restaurants and saying hello to passengers each evening. All the ports were great - we did our own thing in every one except St Petersburg where we ganged up with 10 other folk - all met on cruise critic of via the Russian tour company's web sites and had an amazing two days touring St Petersburg with Alla. Getting off the ship was no problem - it was all very very well explained by NCL and was well organised and tooka bout 15 minutes. Our gang met up in malting to disembark together at 07:30 and we were on our way with tour company before 08:00. As I said at the start we loved it - some thing s could have been better - but very minor, like I would have liked to see a slightly stricter dress code for Tsars restaurant - the venue warrants it. Some folks ate in this lovely setting in hoodies!! The constant photographs as you disembarked and then all the photo shopping of the imagines is so unnecessary. There are lots of revenue opportunities - but you can easily ignore then and lots of flyers with the freestyle daily newspaper and they must get through tons of paper but just ignore it. We loved having the balcony especially on sea days for the absolute peace and quiet and most public areas can be noisy, and I was greatful that we had such great weather to ensure we took full advantage of it. Already looking forward to the next NCL cruise doing Africa and the Canaries in February! Get hold of Rick Steves book of Scandanavia, lots of hints and tips and contains a walking tours and covers Copenhagen, Tallin, Helsinki and Stockholm. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2009
We are a professional couple from Naples, Florida, USA - no kids. We flew into Heathrow, and took the train down to Dover. We stayed at the Churchill (great location, lackluster hotel), and took a taxi to the ship. Off to the ... Read More
We are a professional couple from Naples, Florida, USA - no kids. We flew into Heathrow, and took the train down to Dover. We stayed at the Churchill (great location, lackluster hotel), and took a taxi to the ship. Off to the various ports, liked them all. Weather was perfect. We particularly liked Stockholm. The only tours we took were in St Petersburg (because of the visa situation - this was a bit of a zoo); the rest of the ports we just walked around and took the HOHO buses. That worked very well for us. The ship was very clean and very well-organized. Food was universally good - we tried all the restaurants. We're not that easy to please, we've been around....... The booze situation is OK - every time we ordered drinks it was a $12.00 charge, which was not too bad. We hung around the Spinnaker Lounge a lot - a very restful place during the afternoon, with comfortable places to read and watch the sea...... The casino was well-run, not a clip-joint and user-friendly. Brighter than we would like, but nice. Good craps game! I played Texas Hold-em a couple of times, and it didn't seem to be a particularly user-friendly set-up, but maybe I'm wrong. We visited the art shows (a hoot!). we played bingo (silly, and an apparent rip-off), and we saw a lot of shows in the Stardust Theater and Spinnaker Lounge(very good, amazing variety). For our first cruise, we would say that Norwegian runs a good ship, and we would do it again. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2009
The cruise.. in a nutshell.. Flew to NYC, and then got on the big bird, 777, to London, man that beast looks big, especially when you sit in row 42 of 43 rows.. LOL. Tiny seats, no leg room.. the body curves so you really don't have ... Read More
The cruise.. in a nutshell.. Flew to NYC, and then got on the big bird, 777, to London, man that beast looks big, especially when you sit in row 42 of 43 rows.. LOL. Tiny seats, no leg room.. the body curves so you really don't have much legroom on the window seat, but we figured it beats the 5 seats in the middle... let the time warp start! The sun was up and then it was DOWN and then it was UP. We moved our watched up SIX hours today... We arrive at Heathrow, the passport check went very quickly.. then we got our luggage, pretty easy... and found our van for the trip to Dover.. nice trip over.. saw a bit of the landscape in England, looks like any other place really.. some like Nebraska.. rolling hills... rainy day. Arrive at Dover, cruise terminal, we check in and sit for 3 hours.. heck had we known this we would have given up all our luggage and done something in Dover, it looks like a small place.. Around 2 PM we finally get on the ship, but not to our room, not until around 2:30.. the lifeboat drill is at 3:30.. so we hang out until then... did a bit of unpacking. room is great, lots of good shelves and drawers, no problems there... scads of room and plenty of hangers.. just right actaully. Ship is nice, big and clean..... immediately we notice the ages, we are YOUNG very young.. really young, VERY young.. and we are thinking this may not be a good thing.. LOL. Looked like the average cruising age for this trip was in the 70 to 75 range. And we found out 400 on the ship had been on the ship for 12 nights already, with the Baltics cruise, which we hear is wonderful... maybe one day, but not for a couple of decades.. LOL. We find the Garden Cafe and get a bite to eat, food looks good enough... we are really tired, so we skip the first night of entertainment, which we heard later was a good comedian... . The Freestyle cruising is different. you eat when you want, but to go to the Tzars palace you must dress up a bit, (no jeans)... mostly we went to Azure, same food, and shared big tables, which is very interesting when you eat with Americans, lots of Canadians and mix in some Europeans... kind of fun. Fish... first night on the ship I ordered the Red Snapper, it was so tough I couldn't get a knife into it.. really I had no idea one could cook fish long enough to make it like a rubber ball, our table of 8 was very impressed with it.. we all played with it. Our waiter didn't think it was very humorous and he took a long time to bring me a replacement dish.. this was my first impression. The two nights they offered Lobster (tiny tail) it was very tough, the second time one the waiters asked me how my food was, so I told him, " my lobster is very tough".. so he kindly brought me another, which was also very tough, so hubby got three lobster tails that night. The fish was generally very overcooked. the fish and chips in the Blue Lagoon was very good. This is how tea works. the doors open at 3 PM you file in and sit wherever you want.. and everyone is served at the same time.. we enjoyed it, the little cucumber sandwiches are really tasty... the English however noted that this is not how high tea is served.. no gloves ect.. for us it was fine. Never did meet our steward in person, we saw several in the halls, but never did one introduce himself... (Carnival cruise we met our Steward three times the first day and we were given a card with his name and number in case we needed anything). Room was kept very clean and nice, we didn't get to enjoy many towel animals though.. we got two rabbits and a snake in our 11 nights.. we are funny we enjoy those little extra's.. Room service: one night we skipped the big restaurants and they had coconut cream pie, later on I was hungry for it.. and we called for it and we were told, "sorry it is not on the menu"... (doesn't it all come from the same galley)... so we didn't order anything.. the room service menu is set in stone, never changes... so next day at the Garden Cafe I enjoyed a nice piece of Coconut Cream Pie......... it wasn't like I asked them to make ME a coconut cream pie, it was already being served in the two nice dining rooms. Free style dining, pros and cons...... con you never get the same waiter even if you go to the same table two nights in a row.... pro you eat when and where you want... we enjoyed sharing most nights... depending on the menu's we would decide to eat in a dining room or the cafe. Tzars is nicer, but we found the service to be very slow at times... Azure quicker. The entertainment, we heard a lot of complaints about it, but we personally found it to be OK, all fairly enjoyable, the dance shows were really great and the Cirque show the last night is one not to miss, very well done even in very rough seas. The seas were very rough at times, and it was bit nauseating, so we drank water, and skipped the alcohol, and I took off my damn scopolamine patch it was making me very dry.. and I did just fine without it.. but now I know, we can both handle very rough seas, I was really amazed at no one lost their balance, but the staff was good to help folks out if they needed it, carrying their food etc... The side to side roll and up and down of the ship was quite evident at times.. you'd sit in the theatre with the curtain closed waiting for a show to start and the curtain would sway significantly from side to side.. Stay well hydrated and just keep eating.... I did feel badly for two young sisters, they were in the dining room at lunch and clearly green with sea sickness, so the waiter offered gingerale, and then collected $1.95 for each one... now I realize the ship needs to make $$ and they can't help the rough seas, but really it seems like they could have just let them have two free cans of gingerale. The conversations were interesting.. one day we sat with a French lady, and it was hard to understand each other, but we had an interesting conversation about many things. Some of the cruisers were very well traveled, they have been everywhere twice! In fact many seemed bored with the ports of call, they prefer the days at sea... many read all the time, saw Kindles everywhere.. and people playing cards, dominio's etc.. some never left the ship at all. Each port was interesting, Iceland wasn't as interesting as I had dreamt, but the Blue Lagoon was a big highlight for us... we only had about 90 minutes there, but it really was enough. Lerwick was sweet, quaint. Halifax was very, very interesting, it was nice to do a half day of exploring on our own, we covered a lot of ground on foot, and boy we felt it. The next day was nice getting on a bus and going to Peggy's Cove, had a wonderful narrator who was born and raised in Nova Scotia, and she loves her city... that is a one beautiful place, and the rain Gods were kind to us, it poured rain all the way over, stopped when we arrived, and started again as we left. The seas there are fascinating to watch, and the huge smooth rocks very cool to walk on. Then the city tour the hop off and on buses was nice, we just sat and listened to our narrator talk about the city... Halifax is a very livable city. Canada is nice, and the people are very nice. Iceland we did a gray line tour, at a much cheaper price than what NCL offered... and in Lerwick we just walked around, in Halifax we booked two NCL tours which were comparable in price to Gray Line. One of the big highlights was getting up very early and watching the Statue of Liberty as we sailed by her... really it gives you a feeling for what our forefathers saw as they traveled into NYC to immigrate here.. of course not on a great ship such as ours.. but still pretty neat... We slid under one of the big bridges, it really looks like you won't make it under, very cool to see... and then to watch the sun rise up over New York City.. way cool... the pics don't do it justice. A great trip, no big problems, we had jet lag for days, and shared a cold back and forth a bit... and at times the trip was a bit dull, but enjoyable.. The ship was exquisitely clean, and they sprayed our hands before entering the buffet or any restaurant... nice. The cruise lines are big on getting you to book another cruise or put down a deposit.. at once of the events. the cruise director asked for a show of hands on how many put down deposits or rebooked.. and ONE person raised their hand.. it was rather telling. The speciality restaurants, if you walk by them, no one is dining there... and we noticed every day they had a special for them, buy one get one free, etc.. they really don't get any business to speak of and those who did use it complained they would try to get a 7PM reservation but they could only get a 6:15 or 8PM slot, so when they would arrive at say 8 PM they would be the ONLY diners, the guess is it has to do with staffing.. We heard Cagneys' had tough steaks, but that Mama's pasta is delicious. The Garden Cafe does stay really busy and then you have those travelers who seem to show up at 0700 for breakfast and then they set up a table for dominos near the window and never move till the sun sets. We saw one couple (two people) setting at the same window table for 8 every day... this is OK when the place is not busy, but during dining times they should give it up .... The food is fairly bland, but tolerable, the older folks couldn't get enough salt to come out of the shakers... (we found it to be salted just fine). The chilled soups are good and offered daily. The vegetable consume was wonderful on a rough sea day. The cappucino/latte machines are great. The lounges are nice, as is the entertainment they provide, the Spinnaker lounge is really nice, too bad it's used for everything from bingo to trivia, it'd be nice to just be able to sit and relax in there and lounge around a bit. The dance troupe is wonderful, I was surprised they didn't utilize them more in the entertainment.. I think in the 11 nights we saw them three times. It was interesting to hear conversations about the stars... the hypnotist talked about his "Vegas show".. and all his CD's.. it makes one wonder why is he in the middle of the Atlantic selling his CD'sx for "half off"... Everything with NCL seems to have a selling point.. the Chinese medicine guy (from Brazil) ended his talk about Chinese Medicine selling his "special formula's for life"... After a while it makes you not want to go to a lecture because you feel like it's going to be a marketing scheme for something. The $25 laundry bag is costly! Not having a guest laundry is definitely a way to make more $$$ off your guests.... we packed enough to last. The cabin had plenty of room for everything. The Showers are great!! no curtain, rather a nice door, so you don't have a wet bathroom everyday. Plenty of good bathrooms all over the ship, and very clean and nice. We noticed in the last three nights of the cruise the staff became much more friendly and conversational... in the first nine nights they were just doing a job. and many looked rather worn down... The crew entertainment on the last night was hilarious!! And we missed the Liars club, we heard it was also hilarious. NCL didn't get our $250 for another cruise, but we'd use them again, this cruise was unusual in that it was repositioning 11 night trip, so the clientele will be older as not many in the 40 to 50 age range can take off that long from life. If you prefer a cruise with no or very few kids this is the one.. we saw maybe 12 children on the ship, and about that many teenagers. The chocoholic buffet is a must go, as it is some of the best dessert you will get on ship.. the souffles were good, but most of the desserts were not worth the calories, especially the jello type cheesecake, not the touted New York Style cheesecake which is clearly is not. The ice cream is good and can be had at anytime in the Garden Cafe. And my one big complaint is when we would go to a lounge to enjoy a show, the waiters would come along and take our drink order, often we would order Ice water, they would smile and say OK and never come back. one night we had three different waiters take our drink order and finally one gal brought us ONE glass of water (no ice) to share... One guy during trivia actually brought us water on the first try and we got a $5 tip from me... he was so pleased and he gave us great service all through that event. The waiters should bring whatever you order, as we may then order a real drink later.. or we may give them a real tip for water.. but many assumed incorrectly. Also if they put a napkin down in front of you, that seems to be a signal to other waiters, of "don't bother they aren't ordering real drinks"... Iceland's port offered 15 minutes of intenret for $2.. $3 for 30 minutes.. NCL is slow and costly. Really this is about ICELAND .. (not listed in the offering).. we stopped in Reykjavik.. do the Blue Lagoon.. it's wonderful!!! We did the city tour in the am.. and Blue Lagoonin the afternoon.. via Gray Line.. the cost was much more reasoanble and we felt very safe.. The port building at Reykjavik has internet for $2 for 15 and only $3 for 30 minutes.. very useful.. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2009
We started off feeling like we were stranded in the airport at Gatwick. Once we got through customs and into the terminal building there was no NCL person to be found. We wanted to take the NCL bus to the port, I had contacted NCL prior to ... Read More
We started off feeling like we were stranded in the airport at Gatwick. Once we got through customs and into the terminal building there was no NCL person to be found. We wanted to take the NCL bus to the port, I had contacted NCL prior to our departure and was assured that our name would be put on the "list" to reserve space on the bus for us. I went to the airport information desk and had the NCL representative paged, and got no response. Since there was no answer to our page I went and enquired about taking either a bus or train to Dover, none would have made it to the port on time. I was almost ready to take a taxi to the port when I decided to have the rep paged again. This time the page went out to "the Norwegian Cruise Line representative" and a rep showed up in about 5 minutes. She was about 5'3" and holding her NCL sign at chest level! She explained that she was looking for another couple, I suggested that my husband hold the sign up in the air for all to see but the offer was declined so we stood there while she ran around looking for the missing people. We stood waiting for over 1 hour, she finally found the missing couple in another terminal. Our coach left around 12:30 and so by the time we arrived at the ship there were no lines to check in and we were at our cabin in no time. Our cabin was on deck 4, forward. It had a porthole. It is hard to describe here but the porthole was recessed and the water got into the porthole and spun around in it like a front loading washing machine. The noise was terrible. After 2 sleepless nights in the cabin we were moved to a cabin on deck 8, thanks to the efforts of John O'Hara the hotel director. There were many people on this cruise who seemed to have no regard for other passengers. I have read here that the Garden Cafe (buffet) staff didn't bus the tables fast enough and at times this was true, the staff was busy talking to each other and weren't moving very fast. This is true of a lot of companies...if the boss isn't around then slack off a little. My complaint would be not of NCL but of the people who seemed to think it was perfectly okay to sit at a table during peak times (while others were carrying around plates of food looking for a place to sit) and bring out needlepoint, dominoes, books or cards. The food was okay but we knew that we were not going to get gourmet meals...we went for the itinerary which is what attracts us to NCL in the first place. We ate in Mama's Italian restaurant on one night, the rest of the time we ate in Tsars Palace for dinner. We usually had breakfast and lunch at the buffet. We are not picky and always found something to our liking. Cookies and ice cream seemed to be a big hit with all of the passengers. We went to most of the shows and enjoyed them. We bought a spa pass for the 2 of us, $169 for the cruise. Single passes were available for $20 per day or $50 on port days and the port day pass was only good from 8 - 2 pm. We enjoyed the heated loungers and the large spa tub although it did need a good scrubbing by the end of the cruise. Watching the sunset from the front windows of the spa was really a treat. Lerwick, Shetland Island was our first port. The pier was right in the town and since we were exhausted from our first night in the "washing machine room" we did not have any tours booked. We walked along the streets and window shopped, we also took a lot of pictures of the quaint little houses about the town. Our second port was Rekjavik, Iceland. We booked a ship tour to the Blue Lagoon Spa.We had a very informative guide who told us the history of Iceland and explained much of what we were seeing on the way to the Blue Lagoon. I think it took about 45 minutes to get there. When we arrived at the Blue Lagoon we were given plastic wrist bands similar to thick wrist watch straps. This wrist band got you through the turnstiles and also doubled as the key to your locker. We were told that it was necessary to take a "naked" shower prior to entering the lagoon but there was no attendant to enforce this. Everyone that I saw obeyed the signs and took a "naked" shower. The lagoon itself was very nice, the water was an odd milky blue colour and in some areas of the lagoon the water was a little hotter than others. In a couple of places on the perimeter of the lagoon there were crates that had long ladles for scooping up silica mud to put on your face. There was also an area that had a waterfall as well as an area that had a steam bath and another with a sauna. We were in the water about 1.5 hours and really enjoyed our stay. On the way out there is a gift shop that sells all kind of products made from the minerals and mud from the lagoon. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2009
Overall, this was a very enjoyable cruise. That said, I must warn that this route is not for those expecting glorious weather. I was well aware that booking a North Atlantic cruise in September could lead to a bumpy ride and I was not ... Read More
Overall, this was a very enjoyable cruise. That said, I must warn that this route is not for those expecting glorious weather. I was well aware that booking a North Atlantic cruise in September could lead to a bumpy ride and I was not disappointed. More of that later in the review. My pre-cruise arrangements were made by myself. I flew from EWR-LHR on Virgin-Atlantic 3 days before the cruise. I had originally been booked on Air India but the route was discontinued and re-assigned the booking to V/A. Had it been my choice I would not have flown them. Their economy section is very tight, the food was lousy and the beverages were served from 150 ml cans which is less than 6 oz I also booked my hotel for 2 nights in London thru Hotline and stayed at the Holiday Inn Camden Lock at a bargain rate of $55.00 for night. The hotel was very comfortable and I was very happy with my accommodations. I used Dot2Dot to transfer from the airport to the hotel. It works like Super Shuttle in the US. The rate was GBP 23.50. Another bargain was had when I booked tickets at the National Theatre for 2 evenings which were a mere GBP 15.00 each thanks to Travelex underwriting certain performances. The National does amazaing work. I even got there early one evening and enjoyed a country music concert in the foyer. To get to Dover I booked in advance with National Express (coach service) fun fare of GBP 5.00. That was less than $10.00. The taxi fare was more than 3 times to get from the hotel to Victoria Coach Station And as luck would have it, the very nice bus driver saw how many of us were going on cruises and made a special stop at the cruise ship terminal, saving us the cab fare in Dover. I arrived at the terminal at around 11:00 a.m. The bags were put onto carts (there is a sign at the terminal saying that tipping is not expected) and I walked into the terminal for what had to be the fastest check-in. No lines at security or check-in counter. I was given a colored boarding ticket and told to wait until the color was called. I didn't wait more than 15 minutes and, again, boarding went smoothly and quickly. The Jewel is very similar in layout to some of the other NCL ships I've sailed (Dawn, Star and Gem) so I immediately felt at home. The ship appeared to be in very good condition and the only wear and tear was on some furniture. Here is my rundown on the various aspects of the cruise: Stateroom: Inside #8029. Very small but comfortable. For a single it was fine. But it could actually sleep 4 which to me would turn out like a Marx Bros. movie. However, it was situated above the theatre and whenever music played the bass came right though the walls. The music was mostly in the afternoon (for rehearsals) and the early evening (the 2nd show would end by 10:30 pm) so it didn't ruin my sleep. I also bring ear plugs whenever I travel so I had that added insurance. Situated forward, the rocking of the ship when the winds were strong (and they were strong most of the cruise) was more pronounced. I don't get seasick but it made for some daunting walks. Fortunately, the dining room (Azura) is midship and low and was much steadier. The bed was comfortable and I enjoyed the duvet. The a/c worked well although I really didn't need to cool the room. Personally, I think having a balcony cabin on this voyage would have been a waste. I overheard people discussing the need to have their cabin steward seal up the balcony door to avoid drafts. The bathroom is one of the best for a standard inside cabin, including a sliding door stall shower, twice the size of a Princess shower. There is a 13 inch tv and it feels funny discussing tv in a cruise review but there was a bonus feature. The jacks in the front allowed me to view my digital photos on the tv screen and play my cd player through the tv speakers. My cabin steward did a good job but I wouldn't say exceeded my expectations. But whatever requests I made were honored so I am not complaining. Food: I must say that I was very happy with the food on this cruise. Morning were usually spent in the Garden Cafe buffet. I thought that the selection was comparable to a Las Vegas Hotel buffet. I found lots of my favorites, including smoked salmon, eggs benedict, loads of fresh fruite (honeydew and pineapple were sweet as sugar). I had no big issues with finding a table. A few times, if there were no free tables I just looked for an unoccupied seat at partially vacant one. There was only one morning where I found the tables weren't be cleaned up quickly enough. It was the morning after the Chocoholics Buffet and I was told that a lot of waiters had to work late for that event so they were short-staffed that morning. Some mornings, I woke up before the buffet opened and I went to the Blue Lagoon which is the 24 hour dining facility. I was surprised to find that a hot breakfast was available and was happy with that as well. I preferred the dining room (Azura) for lunch and dinner. I only tried the Garden Cafe for lunch one day and was not very happy. The dining room lunch menu changes daily and the selections were very good. It's almost like dinner, which is why on more than one occasion I skipped dinner. One afternoon I arrived back to the ship after lunch in the dining room was over so I went to Blue Lagoon and found it to be an excellent alternative for lunch (the Buffalo wings are great). This Blue Lagoon is larger than the original ones on ships like the Dawn. It shares the atrium with Tangos (the Mexican restaurant). In fact, one morning the breakfast was served in Tangos. When I did have dinner in the dining room I was impressed with the selection and quality. If NCL is cutting back in the food department they are making up for it with imaginative recipes. I found the lobster issue not to be an issue. On my last Princess and Carnival cruises I found the lobster to be a big disappointment so I no longer have my heart set for cruise ship lobster. I skipped it one evening it was offered. The second time it was offered it was ½ a tail with other seafood. It was okay. What really impressed me was the 8 oz sirloin steak which is available every night. I ordered it on 2 evenings. I thought it was even better than the prime rib. Overall, the entire dining staff was friendly and accommodating. I only shared a table once since I knew the others. Most times I sat alone. I am a people person but telling my life story at every meal on an 11-night cruise would have worn me out. I did not go to any of the pay venues. I considered going, especially on the 2 evenings when the Italian and Asian restaurants are ½ price for the entire evening (not just 5:30-6:30). But I was so happy with the main dining room that I never bothered going to the others. Entertainment: I only saw one show in the main theatre (although I did hear a lot of the others inside my stateroom), Cirque Bijou. This is the show that everyone says is one of the best at sea. Well, It was okay but I don't think it should attempt to head to land and expect the same accolade. It is impressive that they can perform whilst the ship is rocking and pitching in rough seas. I did notice one performer abort a move which involved standing on one foot on her partner's shoulder. Perfectly understandable. I did, however, enjoy the music offered in various venues aboard the ship, primarily the String Quartet who performed in the Crystal Lobby. Spa: The Bora Bora spa is a lovely venue. I did not book any treatments but I did purchase the pass to use the facilities for the entire cruise. Given the outlook in the weather dept. I knew that the pool and outdoor jacuzzis wouldn't be an option for me. So it was well worth the $99.00 for 11 days' use of the steam room, sauna, jacuzzi, thelassotherapy pool, thermal beds, etc. When I saw how many people during sea days were desperately seeking a place to settle into I knew this was a smart move. And we had plenty of sea days. Shore Excursions: I only booked one ship sponsored shore excursion (in Lerwick, Shetland Islands). I was very happy with the tour. First of all, we had to tender in Lerwick, so there was no need to line up for a tender ticket. Just had to report to the theatre until our tour was called. By the way, the hallways on Deck 4 get really crowded during tender service and I felt bad for the guests with cabins on this deck. The guide was excellent and the coach used to shuttle us around the island was comfortable (despite the fact we were warned that we would be traveling in school buses). After a brief tour of Lerwick, we head to the southern portion of Mainland. The scenery on the island is beautiful and just walking around Lerwick, as charming as it is, doesn't do it justice. We even made a stop to view a beach down below filled with seals lying on the sand and swimming in the water. We returned with enough time to take a stroll through the main shopping street. I found the Tourist Information center offered internet for GBP 1.50 for 30 minutes (vs the ship's 75 cents/ minute and very slow). I also had learned through a Google search about a fish & chips shop called the Fort Cafe (oddly enough directly opposite the fort). For GBP 5.00 I had a generous helping of haddock and chips. Others from the ship discovered it on their own and we all agreed it was very good. The only other excursion I took was booked with others on our roll call (thank you Nancy and Paul). We went with Iceland Horizons on the Golden Circle tour. Now this tour is about $160.00 (including lunch) if you go on a bus. It's about $270.00 (including lunch) if you want to tour with a small group in a min-bus. We paid $70.00 (no lunch) to travel on a mini-bus with a small group. So unless that lunch NCL offered was worth $200.00 I can only say that we made out like bandits on our tour. Our guide was David, who owns the company. He met us right off the ship and there were no problems finding him He was terrific. He gave us an amazing talk about Iceland's history, including its recent economic trials. We visited all of the 3 major sites of the Golden Circle in addition to some extras. We managed to get ahead of the large buses at the beginning and later on when we did encounter them, I was glad we had our own little group. We returned to Reykjavik early enough for David to offer to continue on and give us a brief tour of the city Another bonus is that fall foliage was at its peak (even if it's only bushes) and the landscape was that much more beautiful. This was definitely one of the most memorable shore excursions I've taken. We missed the port of St. John's, Newfoundland. It was closed due to high winds. We spent an extra day in Halifax instead and received a $10.70 port charge refund on our onboard account. I spent a good portion of our Halifax visit in the Bora Bora spa since the weather was nasty and I've visited Halifax many times. The places I wanted to go to would not have been enjoyed in the rain or cold. I did meet with a friend for coffee who lives in Halifax which to me has a lot more meaning. Other thoughts: The passenger breakdown was overwhelmingly senior citizens and their parents. I didn't see many wheelchairs so they were mostly a very hearty group. Disembarkation was very easy in New York. I decided to stay on board as long as possible. To disembark early would mean having to get a taxi during rush hour and deal with even more congestion on the road. So, I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and then returned to my cabin to await my luggage tag color to be called. Disembarkation started later than originally planned by the time my color was called they were caught up. No long lines to get off the ship. I found my luggage very quickly and US citizens passport control moved. Unfortunately, the set-up for taxis at Pier 88 is a little bit of a hassle. You exit the terminal on ground level and then have to cross 12th Avenue with your luggage to get to the taxi stand. It was a bit daunting but I have to say that the line for taxis moved pretty quickly. My ride to Queens came to $30.00 on the meter which was pretty good. Only minor traffic delays crossing Manhattan and onto the Queensborough Bridge. Before I knew it, the cruise had already become a memory but mostly a nice one. Conclusion: Having sailed on quite a few NCL cruises by now, I would have to say that NCL did a very good job for the most part and delivered what I expected from them. Had a paid the final asking price for the cruise my opinion may have been different. As it was, I got a terrific rate and it will probably be a long time before I spot a deal like this. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2009
Bottom Line This is a very long review, so for those who want to skip to the bottom line, here it is - I very much enjoyed my cruise on the Jewel. As noted below, there were a few minor negatives, but they were far outweighed by the ... Read More
Bottom Line This is a very long review, so for those who want to skip to the bottom line, here it is - I very much enjoyed my cruise on the Jewel. As noted below, there were a few minor negatives, but they were far outweighed by the positives. The ship is nice, the itinerary was excellent (other than missing a port), the staff was great, the entertainment was good (with Le Cirque Bijou being outstanding), and the food was good to excellent. Background My friend Linda and I are in our 50s. This was my 9th NCL cruise (16th overall), Linda's 9th NCL cruise (15th overall). We booked the Jewel primarily because we wanted to try a Trans-Atlantic sailing (lots of sea days) and the itinerary was very appealing. Reservation, Pre-Cruise and Embarkation I booked this cruise directly through my PCC at NCL about a year ago. He was very helpful and professional, answering all of my questions in a timely manner. I reserved a BA cabin with a $100 per cabin OBC. Soon after I booked, prices went down significantly and a new NCL promotion was in effect. A quick call to my PCC gave me the choice of a price reduction or a cabin upgrade from my original BA cabin to an AF for the same price. In addition, my OBC would increase from $100 to $300 if I opted for the AF. I did so. A couple months later, I received an email promotion from a cruise TA that I have booked through several times in the past. Their offer matched NCL's pricing but doubled the OBC. Despite my positive dealings with my PCC, I couldn't pass up this offer, so I cancelled my direct booking and rebooked through the TA, retaining my AF cabin but now with $600 OBC. Finally, another two months later, American Express was offering a $100 OBC if you paid for the cruise with an Amex card (which I normally do anyway). An email to the TA confirmed that I was qualified for this additional OBC, giving me a total of $700 OBC - wow! We decided to fly to London on Thursday 9/17 (with the cruise embarking on Saturday 9/19). The overnight flight would get us to Heathrow on Friday. Through our CC roll call, we had arranged to share a transfer with three others (Len, Mike and Wendy). Our flight included a stopover in Dublin, where we encountered mechanical problems with our plane, delaying our arrival in London. When we arrived, we couldn't find Jeff (our driver). Fortunately, I had purchased an unlocked cell phone with a UK SIM card, so I was able to call Jeff and figure out where he was waiting for us. Having the phone also allowed us to communicate with Mike and Wendy, who were waiting for us with Len at a local hotel. Once Jeff picked us all up, we headed over to Dover, where we were all staying at the Best Western Churchill. Linda and I opted for the Best Western Churchill because of its location right on the water with a clear view of the White Cliffs of Dover and its proximity to the pier (a quick, inexpensive cab ride the next morning). There were a couple of bad reviews of the Best Western on Trip Advisor, but we chose to ignore them, figuring the price was right ($115 for the night) and it was only one night - how bad could it be? It turned out fine. The hotel is certainly not modern or luxurious but it was perfectly adequate, and it was centrally located for everything that we wanted to do (visit Dover Castle, walk around central Dover, walk along the waterfront, and view the Cliffs). After quickly checking in and putting our bags in our rooms, we headed to Dover Castle (short cab ride from the hotel). We spent a couple hours there and enjoyed exploring the castle and getting great hilltop, panoramic views of Dover and the English Channel. It was a brisk, downhill walk back to the hotel (with a brief stop at a convenience store to pick up soda). After taking a breather at the hotel, we headed back out to explore Dover, looking for a good place to have a local meal. We ended up at the Park Inn where we had a nice, casual dinner in a pub atmosphere. The next morning, we called for a cab to take us to the pier. With five of us sharing the ride (plus all of our bags), we ordered a mini-van, which was not a problem. It was a quick ride to the pier, where our bags were quickly taken by the porters. They were so fast that they ran off without waiting for a tip. We made our way through the check-in process, which didn't take long at all (maybe 10-15 minutes). Then, we sat in the waiting room, waiting for our color to be called. That took all of 10-15 minutes. We were on the ship before noon. As we embarked, we were greeted by crew members (including a couple of officers) along with free glasses of champagne. Our cabins weren't ready yet, so Linda sat in the atrium while I ran around the ship taking photos. Half an hour later, I rejoined Linda and we went to the Azura dining room for a nice sit-down lunch. Our bags were delivered to our cabin very quickly (fastest that I can ever recall), probably around 2 or 2:30. I was completely unpacked before the muster drill at 3:30. Sailaway was great since we got spectacular views from the ship of Dover, the White Cliffs and the English Channel. The Ship I liked the dEcor of the ship. However, if your preference is understated elegance, the Jewel might not be your cup of tea. The ship is also well maintained with very few signs of wear and tear. The worst that I encountered was one public bathroom that was not very clean. Early in the cruise, Hotel Director John O'Hara invited us to join him on the bridge. Captain Hoydal graciously welcomed us and spent quite a bit of time talking to us, telling us about the ship's operation and answering our questions. We also took part in the "Behind the Scenes" ship tour, which was complimentary for Platinum Latitudes. The tour was supervised by Group Service Coordinator Rochelle Brown. I'm pretty sure the regular fee for the tour was $55. The tour lasted for almost 3 hours. We started in the Art Gallery with a welcome from the Hotel Director, John O'Hara. Then, we proceeded to the bridge, where the Captain gave us a very detailed tour and entertained questions. Next came the Stardust Theater and a tour of the backstage area, including the dressing rooms and the stage itself. Then, we were taken through the laundry room and the environmental systems area (waste management). Next came a tour of the provisions area, where all of the food is stored and processed (meat cutting, vegetable cleaning/cutting, etc.), followed by a walk-through of the actual galley where the meals are prepared. It was a fascinating tour but its length and physical demands (lots of walking and standing with no chance to sit down) should be kept in mind by anyone considering it. Also, the group size (approximately 20) occasionally made it difficult to hear the guide. Stateroom We were booked in 11002, a starboard AF mini-suite, pretty much identical to the AF that we had on the Gem a year earlier. We were very pleased with the location and accommodations - spacious, plenty of storage drawers, roomy closet with lots of hangers, spacious balcony, coffeemaker, a safe that was eye-level, a desk with two chairs (the hair dryer was stored in one of the desk drawers), a roomy sofa that could be made into another bed if needed, a small (old-style CRT) tv, a small coffee table, a curtain that could be drawn to separate the tv/sofa area from the beds, a bathroom with a full tub, and a mini-fridge that was stocked but still had enough room for the bottles of soda that we had carried on. We were originally intending to have the steward empty the fridge but we decided that it really wasn't necessary. We picked 11002 because it was the last AF on the starboard side and it was under the spa, which (to me) meant the likeliness of noise would be close to zero (this proved to be true). We also thought that 11002 would have only one neighbor, which also reduced the chance of noise. However, we didn't know that there were several cabins forward of our cabin that were used for crew members. In fact, Darin Wyman (our Cruise Director) was right next door! As it turned out, noise was never a factor at all. Since 11002 was all the way forward, it did lead to lots of walking when we wanted to do anything at the stern of the ship (mainly dining in Tsar's Palace or the Great Outdoors, or going to the Galleria Shops). However, for our purposes, it was still a convenient location since it was below the Spinnaker Lounge and above the Stardust Theater and Jewel Club Casino (all places that we frequented). The two beds had been prepared as a single bed. We asked the steward to separate the beds and it was done later in the afternoon. We also requested extra towels to be supplied throughout the cruise - no problem there either. Two bathrobes were hanging in the closet and two beach towels were laid out on the bed. The bathroom was partitioned into three sections. On one side was the toilet, separated from the rest of the bathroom by a sliding door. In the middle was the sink area with several small shelves on the wall, probably adequate for most people's toiletries. A liquid soap dispenser is mounted on the wall. There is also a shelf under the sink with a built-in trash bin. Also mounted on the side wall is a Kleenex dispenser. On the left side of the bathroom is the tub. The tub is very deep, so getting in and out of the tub may not be as easy as at home. There's a clothesline above the tub and the tub has a 3-part sliding door, not a curtain. The tub's water controls might be a little tricky to some: instead of a cold water knob and a hot water knob, there is just a single water knob (on the left) for water pressure. The temperature of the water is controlled by a knob on the right, with the temperature indicated in degrees Celsius. Our steward was courteous and professional throughout the cruise, although he never did introduce himself to us - something that doesn't bother us at all but I know is important to some. He also made quite a few towel animals for us - not something that makes or breaks a cruise for us but still fun. I think we ended up getting five towel animals. We also received chocolate mints on our pillows every night. We were so happy with our steward that we gave him an additional tip at the end of the cruise on top of the automatic gratuity. Muster Drill The muster drill was held at 3:30pm, right before sailaway. Our muster station was in the Stardust Theater. It was quick and easy and took only 15-20 minutes. OBC There's always a little apprehension as to whether one's OBC is going to be accurately credited. I had printed out email confirmations from my TA indicating the exact amount that I should be receiving. Fortunately, this proved unnecessary because in our cabin on embarkation day were NCL statements accurately detailing all of the OBC credits that I was expecting. Latitudes There were 1400 Latitudes members on this cruise! Because of the number of people involved, they split up the group and held two Latitudes parties in the Spinnaker Lounge on different days. Ours was held on Friday (almost a week after embarkation, much later than usual, which seemed odd but I assume there were scheduling conflicts). The officers were introduced and the Captain welcomed us aboard with a few brief remarks. Drinks and hors d'oeuvres were served and there was a raffle for several prizes. As Platinum Latitudes members (neither of us actually qualifies but several years ago, we both purchased Freestyle Cruise Rewards onboard a Dawn cruise and, at the time, the purchase included an upgrade in Latitudes status), we were also invited to a Latitudes party for Silver, Gold & Platinum members. This party was held on Sunday (9/27) but we had a scheduling conflict and couldn't attend. Linda and I both purchased $250 Cruise Rewards for future bookings. As long as you know you will cruise within four years, it's a deal that's hard to pass up since you get $100 immediate OBC for your current sailing and the $250 will serve as your total deposit for a new cruise (for most cabin categories). We also asked for and received Jewel Latitudes pins from the onboard cruise consultant in addition to an unsolicited badge holder/lanyard. Other benefits that we received as Platinum Latitudes members included: complimentary dinner in Le Bistro with a bottle of wine, a complimentary "Behind the Scenes" tour, early tendering in Lerwick, early disembarkation in Reykjavik and Halifax, complimentary "fill the bag" laundry service (offered twice, which we used once, normally a $25 service), and VIP disembarkation in NYC. Cruise Critic Activities We had a very active CC roll call and kudos to Len, Margie, Kit and Tony (among others) for putting in all the time, effort and cost (mainly Len's wonderful lanyards and CC member id badges) in organizing our CC activities, including the Meet & Greet, a gift exchange, Murder Mystery Dinner, Cabin Poker Crawl, and Farewell Dinner. Group Service Coordinator Rochelle Brown was instrumental in many of these events, serving as the ship's main contact for group events. On our first sea day, we held the CC M&G in the Spinnaker Lounge (bumping a session of Bingo). We had a tremendous turnout - probably between 90 and 100 attendees. It was fun to meet many of those who attended, finally getting a chance to put a face to the screen name. Quite a few staff members and officers attended the M&G. Refreshments were provided. Following the M&G, we held the gift exchange, which was a lot of fun. It served to really loosen up the crowd and gave us our first chance to interact with one another. Len coordinated the Murder Mystery Dinner, which ended up being held in Tsar's Palace. The name of this murder mystery was the Eternal Cruise (for those who had participated in the past and didn't want to repeat it). The ship's staff set this up specifically for CC because the regular MMD on this cruise was held in Cagney's and a fee was charged for it, whereas the CC MMD was held without a surcharge. The Cabin Poker Crawl was held on our second sea day (Tuesday). The CC members who were interested in participating met in Bar City, where we divided into two groups. We toured an inside cabin, an oceanview, a balcony, an AF mini-suite, and an AB suite (all cabins belonging to participating CC members). At each cabin, a card was dealt (each time from a new deck) to each attendee, so at the end of the crawl, each attendee had a 5-card poker hand. At the beginning of the crawl, each attendee who wanted to play the poker aspect of the tour anted up $10 to the pot, which would be split between the high and low poker hands at the end of the crawl. We had 12 players for a $120 pot. Following the crawl, we all reconvened in Bar City, where we revealed our poker hands. The high and low hands then split the pot. This was a great, fun activity since it allowed us to see five different categories of cabins, CC members got to have fun together, and there was money to be won. The CC farewell dinner was held following our port stop in Halifax (Monday, 9/28) in Tsar's Palace. Again, we had a good turnout (probably 50-60 people). TV Here's the channel guide for the ship's tv: 21 - Onboard Information 22 - Navigational Information 23 - Bow Cam & Announcements 24 - Safety 25 - Shore Excursions & Cruise Rewards 26 - Destination & Shopping 27 - Onboard Activities 28 - Fox News 29 - BBC Entertainment 30 - ESPN 31 - BBC Knowledge 32 - TVE 33 - BBC World News 34 - New Release Movies 35 - Feature Movies 36 - French & Spanish Movies 37 - German & Subtitled Movies 38 - Spa Information Some of the stations faded in and out depending on the ship's reception (weak signal, poor signal, no signal). Channel 34 showed recent movies, not what I would call "new releases" but fairly recent (within the past 3 to 6 months). Channel 35 showed older movies but some still worth seeing, especially if you failed to see them in their initial release. Here are the recent releases that were showing on Channel 34: The Proposal, Star Trek, State of Play, Angels and Demons, Earth, Fast and Furious 4, My Life in Ruins, and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past The channel cycled through these eight movies (in the same order) throughout the day and throughout the cruise. Here are the featured movies that were showing on Channel 35: 21, August Rush, Bella, Chaos Theory, Charlie Wilson's War, Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Definitely Maybe, Enchanted, Fool's Gold, The Best of Hannah Montana, I Am Legend, Iron Man, Kung Fu Panda, Leatherheads, Mad Money, Made of Honor, Michael Clayton, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, P.S. I Love You, Run Fatboy Run, The Bucket List, The Forbidden Kingdom, The Great Debaters, The Holiday, The Other Boleyn Girl, The Spiderwick Chronicles, The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep, Vantage Point, and Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins As with Channel 34, Channel 35 cycled through these movies in order 4-1/2 times during the cruise. Some of the movies were also shown in the Fyzz Lounge. Dining There are numerous places to eat onboard. Here's how the dining venues break down on the Jewel. Included, no reservations recommended Azura (Main Dining Room) Tsar's Palace (Main Dining Room) Blue Lagoon (almost 24/7 comfort food) Garden Cafe (buffet) Great Outdoors (buffet) Room Service Surcharge, reservations recommended Le Bistro (French/Continental) - $15 Cagney's (Steakhouse) - $25 Sushi and Sake Bar - $15 Chin-Chin (Asian) - $15 Mongolian Hot Pot - $15 Tango's (Tex/Mex) - $10 Mama's Kitchen (Italian) - $10 Teppanyaki (Japanese hibachi) - $25 Miscellaneous Tapas Bar (free tapas with the purchase of a drink) Java Cafe (free dessert with the purchase of a specialty coffee) We dined in most of the venues. Azura is the smaller of the two main dining rooms. Tsar's is quite large. We had three dinners and one lunch in the main dining rooms. All of the meals were good but not exceptional. Linda specifically enjoyed the chilled soups. The buffet was quite good (for a buffet) in that there was a large selection of items, including salads, soups, breads, meats, poultry, pizza, pasta, hot dogs, burgers, carvery station, wok station, Indian food station, sandwich station, desserts, self-serve ice cream, and self-serve espresso/cappuccino machine. At breakfast, there was also an omelet station. We had most of our lunches in the buffet and enjoyed the food we had. We never had dinner there. There does tend to be a problem finding an open table in the buffet but it never took us longer than a few minutes to find an unoccupied table. Also, they seem to run out of glasses too quickly. Tables were cleared and cleaned promptly. The Blue Lagoon has three different menus - breakfast, main menu (served for lunch and dinner), and a late night menu (a shortened version of the main menu). We ate there several times and enjoyed the potato skins, wings, Chefs salad, fish and chips, and cheeseburger. They offer mild and hot wings. I ordered the hot and enjoyed them but still think they should be hotter. I seem to recall that they were hotter on previous NCL cruises. Breakfast was good. I had the "Full House" breakfast (2 eggs any style, bacon, sausage, baked beans, sautEed mushrooms, and hash browns), substituting a ham and cheese omelet for the 2 eggs. Both the service and the breakfast were good. We ordered room service several times, usually as a wake-up meal on port days. They were always punctual, calling 5-10 minutes before delivery. The menu is a little more extensive than it used to be (noted additions include an angus burger and eggs all day) but I do miss the chocolate mousse. We had meals in almost all of the specialty restaurants - Le Bistro, Cagney's Steakhouse (twice), Chin-Chin, Tango's, Mama's Kitchen, and Teppanyaki (twice). All of our meals in the surcharge restaurants were good to excellent. The service was excellent, too. Food and Beverage Manager Michael Harris often stopped by our table in the dining rooms to ask how we were enjoying our meals. We were fortunate enough to have a meal in Teppanyaki with some of the staff, including Hotel Director John O'Hara and Cruise Director Darin Wyman, among others. It was great to get to know Darin just a bit on a personal level. He struck us as thoughtful, engaging and very passionate about his job. They offered 50% off the surcharge at Chin Chin and Mama's for reservations between 5:30 and 6:30 on port days. They also offered $5 off at Cagney's, also on port days for early seatings. We took advantage of all three deals since it fit our schedule. A minor note: since the discounts being offered are 50% off and $5 off and no longer just 2-for-1, single diners will have no problem qualifying for the discounts. In the past, 2-for-1 didn't offer any benefit to single diners since they really couldn't eat two meals and the ship wouldn't recompute it as 50% off. We had absolutely no problem getting reservations to any of the restaurants. We booked most of them over the telephone. They allow reservations for same day and next day. As Platinum Latitudes members, we were allowed to book an extra day in advance. I know that many people don't like the idea of paying a surcharge for dining on a cruise ship and I can understand that viewpoint. Also, no one is happy that the surcharges have gone up over the years (with the Italian and Tex-Mex restaurants imposing surcharges after initially being included). But my approach is that I price the cruise and then budget extra for dining surcharges. If I still feel that the total price is a good deal, I book the cruise. To me, even with the higher surcharges, the specialty restaurants are worth it. In addition, our sizeable OBC more than covered all of our surcharge dining. We were disappointed that we weren't able to obtain copies of the entire cruise's dinner menus for the main dining rooms in order to strategize our dining plans for the week. We asked at the main reception desk in the atrium but they weren't available (as they have been on some of my previous NCL cruises). Later on in the cruise, I asked the Restaurant Manager Mihaela Mocan, who had greeted us several times during the cruise in the restaurants, for a copy of all the menus. She was gracious enough to do so, sending a full copy of all the dinner menus to my cabin. I do think, however, that having them available at reception for anyone's perusal should be routine. Mihaela was also kind enough to obtain and give Linda the recipe for the mushroom soup that is served in Le Bistro. We were very surprised to see how empty all of the surcharge restaurants were. Despite the fees, they have always been somewhat busy on our previous NCL cruises. Teppanyaki, in particular, struck me because it has always been one of the toughest restaurants to book, but not on this cruise. I'm willing to bet that you could have gotten a reservation at any of the surcharge restaurants for almost any time of your choosing or simply showed up without a reservation. For those who are interested, they offered two special meals during the cruise - a Jazz Brunch in Le Bistro for $15 and a Taste of India lunch in Chin Chin for $15. Late-night snacks are served in the casino around 11:30 pm. The Chocoholic Buffet was held at 10:30pm in the Garden Cafe on Monday, 9/28. Activities Chances are you won't be bored on the Jewel. The ship offers most of what you would expect on a cruise ship and probably much more - bingo, port and shopping talks, art auctions, excursion briefings, portrait sittings, spa treatments, casino gambling (in addition to slot, blackjack and Texas Hold 'Em tournaments), internet cafe, Latitudes party for repeat cruisers, VIP Latitudes party for Silver, Gold and Platinum members, onboard shopping, yoga, tennis, trivia sessions, shuffleboard, lectures, fitness classes, wine/martini/margarita tastings, card room, video arcade games, Wii in the Fyzz Lounge, karaoke, golf putting competition, ping pong, basketball, country line dancing, White Hot party, disco dancing, towel folding demo, aerobics, singles get-togethers, etc. There were also meetings for Friends of Bill W. and Friends of Dorothy. I'm sure I missed some other activities, so be sure to peruse your Freestyle Daily thoroughly. NCL "U" sessions included: "Shetlands to Empire" lecture by Jim Forrester; New World Wine/Cheese Tasting ($15); European Beer Tasting & Food Pairing ($18); The Art of Making Sushi & Sake Tasting ($15); "Iceland Emerges" lecture by Jim Forrester; The Art of Infused Vodka and Martini Tasting ($15); "Great Conveyor Belt" lecture by Jim Forrester; Old World Wine Tasting ($15); "Canada's Rock" lecture by Jim Forrester; Global Beer Tasting ($15); "The Blueness Province" lecture by Jim Forrester; and "Drifting Continents" lecture by Jim Forrester. For those who are interested in more active participation or simply enjoy watching your fellow passengers have fun, you can sign up for the Murder Mystery Dinner (this time offered in Cagney's for a fee, limited to 64 participants); or check out any of the audience-participation games: the Newlywed Not So Newlywed Game; Liar's Club; Majority Rules; The Perfect Couple; Dancing with the Stars; or Where in the World Am I? No Qwest on this sailing - I'm guessing it was omitted because of the older demographic. The game room was very active on this sailing. In fact, at times there was a need for more tables and chairs. This is when the Latitudes Room next door would have come in handy but the Latitudes Room has been converted into the Lifestyles Room and was being used as a satellite sales location for the Galleria Shops. The game room was well stocked with games and the staff sponsored bridge games (held in Tango's) and Scrabble (no room that day in the Game Room so we relocated to Tsar's Palace). I met several people playing Scrabble and got together with them to teach them how to play mah-jongg, a great way to spend a couple spare hours on a sea day. The Game Room had several mah-jongg sets but we had to go through a couple of them to put together a complete set. The Library was also quite busy with lots of readers. In fact, reading could be seen throughout the ship, in the lounges and in the windowsill sitting areas. CD Darin Wyman, in response to the clear need for reading spaces, even designated certain areas of the ship as DMZ (Designated Malacophonous Zones), such as Le Bistro from 7am-4pm or Tsar's Palace from 7am-2pm. The Library also supplied daily written trivia quizzes, crosswords and sudoku puzzles. Bora Bora Spa According to the spa's promotional flyer, the spa offers: heated mosaic lounge chairs, a thalasso therapy pool, steam rooms, sauna, Japanese plunge pools, Jacuzzi tubs, tropical showers, and relaxation areas. Various passes for the spa were available - 11-day pass for $99 (individual) or $165 (couple); 1-day pass for $20; port day cruise pass (8am-2pm on all port days) for $50. For those interested in spa treatments, here's their main menu: Teeth whitening - $149; ionithermie - $159 (one 50-min session) or $399 (three 50-min sessions); oxydermy facial - $169; La Therapie hydra-lift facial - $119; aroma spa seaweed massage - $195 (half-body) or $259 (full body); absolute spa ritual - $265; Mandara hot stone heaven - $145 (50 min) or $195 (75 min); acupuncture - $150 (first treatment) and $125 (follow-up treatments); aroma-flex - $119; couples float massage - $179; deep tissue massage - $129; Swedish massage - $119 They ran $99 specials during the cruise ($99 for any one of the following): hot stone massage; La Therapie hydra-lift facial; Swedish massage; Ionithermie inch loss treatment; lime and ginger exfoliation with massage; milk wrap with massage; back massage with reflexology on the feet; and fire and ice manicure and pedicure combo. They also ran a special for combining certain treatments (you mix and match) - 3 for $99; 4 for $119; or all for $129. The services included: European mini facial; pro collagen eye treatment; conditioning hair treatment; scalp, neck and shoulder massage; moisturing hand spa; and foot and ankle massage. Lastly, they offered a special combo deal of mini-treatments (20-min versions of the more expensive, longer treatments) - 3 for $99 (you mix and match). The mini-treatments included: scalp massage; hand and arm massage; foot and ankle massage; back massage; mini-facial; hot stones back massage; and milk wrap. Please note that an 18% (not 15%, as with bar tabs) service charge is automatically added to all of the above fees. Shows There was a show every night in the Stardust. On embarkation night, there was a Welcome Aboard Show, hosted by the Cruise Director, Darin Wyman. It wasn't really your typical Welcome Aboard Show since it wasn't used to preview some of the acts that would occur later in the cruise. The show was a quick welcome from Darin, followed by a stand-up comedy act by Tucker, who was pretty funny. Tucker offered a second show on the following night in the Spinnaker Lounge. There were three production shows in the Stardust Theater - Band on the Run, Country Gold, and Le Cirque Bijou. All were presented by the Jean Ann Ryan Company. I enjoyed them all for the most part. I thought the singers and dancers were enthusiastic and talented. Le Cirque Bijou was by far the most impressive, with the acrobats displaying eye-popping stunts of strength, timing, flexibility, agility and balance. This is a show not to be missed. Other shows presented in the Stardust Theater included: Buddy Wachter on banjo (okay); Los Locos Ole (comedic duo, eccentric humor, not exactly mainstream, not well received); Hypnotist Dr. Scott Lewis (fairly traditional, Vegas-style hypnosis act, generally funny); Chantz Powell (young pheenom, extremely talented singer-dancer-trumpeter); Comedian Jeff Harms (long-time actor/comedian, still pretty funny, especially with his interaction with the audience); Dorothy Bishop (singer, who had to catch up to the ship in Halifax when we missed docking in St. John's, Newfoundland; good voice but stylistically may not appeal to everyone). Most of the individual Stardust acts put on second shows later on in the cruise in the Spinnaker Lounge. Two other shows were presented in the Stardust - the International Crew Show and the Passenger Talent Show. The crew members were quite good, especially considering they are amateurs. The passengers were also pretty entertaining. Kudos to CC members Rita and Barry, who performed in the show (Rita sang and Barry did a stand-up routine). Following the International Crew Show, the officers and many of the crew staged their Norwegian Way finale. Following the Passenger Talent Show, Fountains was presented as a finale. Word was that Fountains was not going to be presented on this sailing, but numerous requests by CC members convinced them to perform it. It was greeted with uproarious laughter and much applause. Music in the Lounges There were numerous musical acts performing throughout the ship - 4 Strings Quartet in the Atrium, pianist Constantine Dragulyov, the Alambre Trio, Kenosis and Carrie Stone. These groups offered a very diverse selection of music, with a little something for almost everyone's taste. It was clear, however, that the music chosen by the groups was done so with this sailing's demographic in mind, i.e., skewing towards an older audience. Casino/Gambling The casino offers what you would expect: table games (blackjack, craps, roulette, three-card poker, Let It Ride, and Texas Hold 'Em) and slots (pennies on up), including video poker. There's also that game that seems to be incredibly popular for a reason that eludes me - The Tumbler - you drop your quarters/tokens in, trying to cause the machine to push a prize into the prize chute. There are a couple of blackjack tables at poolside. However, they were never put to use during our sailing since the weather was chilly throughout. There is also a blackjack machine up in Spinnaker Lounge. The advantages of the blackjack machine is that it still pays 3-to-2 for blackjack (whereas the $5 table in the casino pays only 6-to-5), it stands on all 17s (whereas the dealer hits a soft 17 in the casino), it uses a 6-deck shoe without a continuous shuffler (unlike the casino), and there's no smoking allowed in the Spinnaker. The casino also runs tournaments for blackjack, slots and Texas Hold 'Em. The casino was not very busy at all, even on sea days. Many of the tables were empty. Occasionally, the $5 blackjack table was full but that was it. The Tumbler, however, still attracted a decent crowd. Signing up for the Casinos at Sea card qualifies you for accumulating points as you gamble, points that equate to dollars off your shipboard account. You need a minimum of 25 points to get $25 credited to your account, but the points are also allowed to carry over to your next cruise if it's within a year. There is no fee to obtain the CAS card, so it's worth signing up for. When you do so, you also receive a coupon book for specific casino promotions. For instance, for $10, you can obtain $20 in slot play. Linda used that coupon and parlayed the $10 into $75 or so. Another coupon serves as a first-card ace at the blackjack table. A third coupon serves as a $10 match play coupon at a table game. There are several other coupons in the coupon book. If you're planning to gamble anyway, sign up for the CAS card and get the coupon book. Some of the coupons are actually worthwhile. Executive Casino Host Che Alapa Ap was kind enough to comp us drinks one night and, later on in the cruise, comped us a meal in Cagney's. Ports and Shore Excursions In Lerwick (a tender port), we booked an NCL excursion - Scalloway Castle and Shetland Ponies. It was a good excursion, showing us much of Lerwick and the countryside. We got to spend enough time at the castle and plenty of time checking out the ponies. Following the excursion, we walked around the town of Lerwick, right near where the tenders docked. We walked around Fort Charlotte and up and down the 2 or 3 main streets of Lerwick, in and out of many of the shops. For Reykjavik, 8 of us from the CC roll call booked an independent tour of the Golden Circle, which included a visit to Thingvellir National Park, the Geysirs, Gullfoss Waterfall, the Hellishaedi Geothermal Power Plant, and a quick tour of downtown Reykjavik. This was an all-day tour, lasting from 8:15 to about 5pm. Thingvellir was geologically fascinating since we were walking around the area where Iceland is slowly splitting apart (but growing since the rift gets filled in), where the North American and Euro-Asian tectonic plates meet. The Geysirs and hot springs were also fun to view. Gullfoss Waterfall was beautiful and the power plant reinforced one of the more interesting facts about Iceland - i.e., how it generates much of its electricity at very low cost by harnessing the geo-thermal power that it sits on top of. One major disappointment was missing the port stop of St. John's, Newfoundland. The harbormaster in St. John's closed the port to traffic because of high winds. In Halifax, we didn't book an excursion. Linda, Len and I walked along the waterfront until we reached the Halifax Casino, which we checked out briefly. We then turned around and returned to the ship, with a detour at a local supermarket to pick up soda. At the end of the cruise, we were again fortunate enough to be invited to the bridge to view our sunrise entry into New York Harbor. Despite having to get out of bed before 5am, we were thrilled to take advantage of this opportunity. A huge thank you to Hotel Director John O'Hara and Captain Hoydal for allowing us this privilege. Service Our steward was excellent. The staff at main reception was courteous and attentive. The wait staff throughout the ship was eager to please. Smiles were commonplace. I cannot say enough about the officers and staff members who went out of their way to cater to our CC group. Captain Hoydal was very gracious and made time for us despite his extremely busy schedule; Hotel Director John O'Hara was incredibly accommodating; Cruise Director Darin Wyman always had a welcoming smile; Food and Beverage Manager Michael Harris made sure that we were cared for; Executive Casino Host Che Alapa Ap was a pleasure to deal with; Group Service Coordinator Rochelle Brown provided excellent service; this is all in addition to the aforementioned Restaurant Manager Mihaela Mocan, who supplied me with the dinner menus and Linda with the soup recipe. Conclusion I would absolutely sail on the Jewel again and would recommend her to friends and family. Of course, there's always the caveat - if you're someone who loves traditional cruising with fixed dining times, assigned tables, and assigned tablemates, it might not be for you. But, for me, Freestyle is still the way to go. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2009
I am 16. I pretty much organised this cruise, mum paid and brother (14) came for the ride Embarkation at Dover was easy. The check in queue moved quickly, and there was a short wait to board, but the process was all very efficient. ... Read More
I am 16. I pretty much organised this cruise, mum paid and brother (14) came for the ride Embarkation at Dover was easy. The check in queue moved quickly, and there was a short wait to board, but the process was all very efficient. During the day, the pool had quite loud music playing, whether it was live or not. The music was usually played over and over again. The pools were good, as was the slide. The lounges were spacious. In my opinion, Spinnaker was the best, as it provided quite a variety of seating, and a number of activities. The teen club wasn't fantastic and a lot of the activities didn't materialise. I would recommend going on the first couple of nights, just to make friends. I had no issues with any of the public rooms, and had no bad experiences. Our room was set up just to a double bed when we arrived, and this was quickly rectified to a twin bed. When the third bed was pulled down, there wasn't much room to move around. The bathroom was functional, nothing flashy, but it did the job. The balcony was a great investment. I have read horrors of dining, but there was no issue. We mainly ate at the Garden Cafe, which had a new selection of food every day. The food was tasty. Blue Lagoon offered a 24h service, but had a small menu and was the same every day. Azura and Tsar's Palace have the same menus, which changed every day. The food was of good quality and the service was excellent. We only went to two cover charge restaurants. Teppanyaki for $25 was by far the best eating experience I have had. It was well worth the cover charge. I recommend chicken. The other was Chin Chin ($15). The food here was fantastic, and very filling. The shows were of mixed quality. Cirque Bijou was fantastic. The Jean Ann Ryan company shows were probably the best (they did Cirque Bijou). The two comedians didn't have much of an act, and mainly picked on the audience. Word of warning. Sit at the back, and don't come in late, or leave early. You will be picked on. The crew show was ok. It was interesting to see some of the faces you had picked up on the cruise. The Fountains production was hilarious. The service throughout the ship was excellent. We didn't do any NCL shore excursions. They seemed quite expensive. I would highly recommend a private tour for St. Petersburg and would highly recommend Guide Guru. Drinks were generally expensive. The cheapest bottle of wine (for my mum) was $28. This turned out to be a lot cheaper than buying it by the glass. Tea, Coffee and water was available at the Garden Cafe for free all day. We could have had a similar cruise with another company at the same price, but it would have been an inside room. We liked the freestyle aspect of NCL. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2009
This is my 10th cruise, but my first cruise with Norwegian (I have previously cruised with Princess, Holland America, and Royal Caribbean). Overall my friend and I greatly enjoyed ourselves (we are both in our twenties), but they were ... Read More
This is my 10th cruise, but my first cruise with Norwegian (I have previously cruised with Princess, Holland America, and Royal Caribbean). Overall my friend and I greatly enjoyed ourselves (we are both in our twenties), but they were things that we would definitely recommend that the ship consider improving: 1. There is a $10 fee to exchange money - ouch! I would recommend going to an atm in each country to avoid the fee. 2. There were only 3 power outlets in our cabin, one in the bathroom, one under the TV and one by the vanity mirror. There is a bigger need for outlets now since people need to charge the batteries for their digital cameras and phones. 3. The same movies were showed every day on our cabin TV. On all of my previous cruises, there was a different selection of movies every 2 days. 4. There were not that many activities planned on the ship besides Wii and karaoke. In addition activities that used to be free such as having tour of the galley now have a fee. 5. The ship ran out of mints halfway through the trip, which seems impossible to do b/c the ship runs this route all summer thus they should know how many mints to order per cruise. 6. The gym should put all of the TVs on mute b/c it is very annoying to be using a machine next to someone who has their TV blaring. On other cruise lines the only way you can get sound on the TV is by using headphones. 7. The ship docked far from the ports in St. Petersburg, Helsinki, and Stockholm which was annoying b/c then we had to pay for transportation from the ship to the port. 8. The shows in the Theater were not that great, but we did greatly enjoy the circus show. Also, the comedian was terrible. Next time NCL should consider booking an American comedian instead of a British comedian since the majority of the passengers are American and have a different sense of humor than the British. 9. Check the weather before you go, b/c it rained and it was cold, thus I should have packed a warmer jacket. 10. There should be a sign up sheet for the Wii/Karaoke rooms b/c some people monopolized the rooms for multiple hours on the days at sea. 11. The desserts were pretty horrible, but I really liked the cookies and the frozen yogurt. The pretzel bread was amazing too. 12. The ship needs to improve their embarkation process. We used the NCL bus to get from the Heathrow to Dover. When we arrived at Dover we were told we couldn't check in for another hour. After we checked in, we weren't allowed on the boat for another hour and a half. When we finally got on at 12 noon, we were so exhausted that we wanted to go directly to our rooms to rest, but the cabins weren't available untill 2pm! Pros: 1. The staff was very friendly. 2. The deck on 7 was very nice for walking since there was special material on the floor so you wouldn't slip. 3. The shower had a door instead of a curtain, which was a definite plus! 4. It was easy to get a table at dinner. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2009
Hi, I just came back from the Baltic cruise on the NCL Jewel. It was just perfect, we had a lovely time and already miss it. Embarkation was fast were on the ship in less then 1 hour. Days at sea were great lots of things to do ... Read More
Hi, I just came back from the Baltic cruise on the NCL Jewel. It was just perfect, we had a lovely time and already miss it. Embarkation was fast were on the ship in less then 1 hour. Days at sea were great lots of things to do if you want to or just relax as we did. Ports were all nice, the only thing that I think should be changed is the 2 days in St' Perersburg. One day in enough and instead the itenary should include Oslo. Food was always good, we ate at the Tsar, Azura and Garden. Staff just perfect, all very friendly especially Melissa and Flora from the Philippines who work in the Garden and all the staff at the Galleria Shopping. Nothing else to say except the fact that we had a FANTASTIC holiday and are already thinking of a next one soon. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2009
My wife and I recently returned from a Baltic Capitol cruise on the Norwegian Jewel. A jewel it was not. The line touts its freestyle cruising, but it is anything but free. They nickle and dime you to death, e.g. $10 to exchange ... Read More
My wife and I recently returned from a Baltic Capitol cruise on the Norwegian Jewel. A jewel it was not. The line touts its freestyle cruising, but it is anything but free. They nickle and dime you to death, e.g. $10 to exchange currency, $10 to $25 cover charge per person for the opportunity to eat at an alternative restaurant rather than at the dining rooms which serve bland, tasteless meals or fight what seems to be the entire western hemisphere for a table at the garden cafe. If you don't get your laundry done on the two "special" days where they only charge $25 for whatever you can stuff into a pillow case size bag, you may well pay over $100 for a bag of laundry, including $3 for a pair of socks or a handkerchief. With the exception of the room stewards, you would be hard pressed to find a crew and staff who were less interested in providing quality customer service. I saw many people cleaning the table from previous occupants so that they could sit down while the staff stood around talking to each other. The Russian memorabilia that was sold on the ship after departing from St. Petersburg was about double the price that it was sold for in the port. When i asked about the best way to get into town at one port, I was told that if I had purchased their shore excursion I wouldn't have to worry about it. This was our first, and last, cruise on Norwegian. In summary the food was poor, the service worse, the entertainment mediocre, and with the exception of the ports, which were great, a very disappointing experience overall. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2009
Norwegian Jewel was very good. Beauiful ship but miss the big beautiful atiums of other lines. Dining-Good alternative dining, though we never pay for extra dining. We prefer to travel more often and economize. Loved the Blue Lagoon (never ... Read More
Norwegian Jewel was very good. Beauiful ship but miss the big beautiful atiums of other lines. Dining-Good alternative dining, though we never pay for extra dining. We prefer to travel more often and economize. Loved the Blue Lagoon (never crowded), especially while leaving a port. Comfort food great there. Dining room good but SLOW service. Waiters terribly rushed. Not enough staff. Started eating at buffet to hurry it along to get somewhere else . Crepes there terrific Entertainment-Some old and tired, some very good,. Violins show and Cirque show terrific. No fun piano bar like RCCL and HOLLAND. Boring guitar player in lounges. Bored looking audience, but nowhere else to go. Piano player very accomplished, but sometimes frantic jazz type style hard to listen to very long. Cabins-Adequate but bad lighting. Could not read well without portable light. Bedding and mattress wonderful. Enrichment-Destination speaker excellent but not enough other good enrichment. Acupuncture speaker a joke. Just selling with little authority of subject. Heard many complaints of nothing to do on sea days. Many things geared to selling to passenger's. Needs more arts, crafts, computer or hands on stuff. Embarkation: Excellent on and off. Shore Excursions-Expensive like all ships. Didn't take any Read Less
Sail Date: August 2009
This was my 7th cruise (Princess in '02, Celebrity in '04 & '06, NCL in '07, and RCCL twice in 2008). I traveled with my wife and three children (5, 4, and 2). With us were my parents (60s), my sister and her ... Read More
This was my 7th cruise (Princess in '02, Celebrity in '04 & '06, NCL in '07, and RCCL twice in 2008). I traveled with my wife and three children (5, 4, and 2). With us were my parents (60s), my sister and her children (10 & 9), and my aunt. We stayed in London at Le Meridien Piccadilly Circus for 2 nights pre-cruise. We used the underground to get from Heathrow to PC. That was really easy but there are stairs you have to negotiate (about 1 story worth of stairs). In London, we used the Ho-Ho buses but also did a lot of walking since PC is walking distance to Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Parliament/Big Ben, London Eye, etc. We watched the changing of the horse guards and found that to be really interesting because you can get really close to the guards on horses. To get to Dover, we took taxies to Victoria Train Station, took the train to Dover, and then taxies to the port. Make sure you get into the right section of the train. After we got situated in the train, it was announced that the train would be split up before Dover and only the back half of the train would continue to Dover. It was a stressful chore to get all 11 of us and our luggage moved! So, ask about that if you take the train. Boarding at Dover was efficient. We got there around 12 and were through in 30 or 40 minutes. The ship - Our group of 11 had 4 balcony staterooms all in a row on deck 10 mid-ship. The 4 rooms were also 2 pairs of connecting rooms. In addition, the balcony dividers are big swinging doors that can be opened up by the room attendant. We had them opened up right away and the kids made use of that throughout the cruise for easy access to their cousins and grand-parents' rooms. With the balconies opened up, the views also opened up tremondously since it's a lot less "tunnel-vision" when viewing from inside the room. I love the flexibility the Jewel offers with their stateroom configuration. Dining - We started the cruise dining at Azura but switched to Tsar's Palace mid-way. The menu is the same but Tsar's service was quicker and better. The venue is also more attractive to most members of our group. For this cruise, Tsar's palace was especially fitting given the St. Petersburg palace inspired dEcor. The buffet (Garden Cafe) felt the most crowded of any ship I've ever been on. Even during off-peak hours (i.e., 3 or 4 PM) it felt close to full so you can imagine how crowded it felt during breakfast. On numerous occasions, passengers shared tables with people they aren't traveling with. Lunch and dinner was also crowded in there so our group ate lunch and dinner in the main dining room as much as possible. By far more people chose to eat buffet on this cruise than I have seen. The main dining rooms were quite empty until at least 7 PM. Note: if you travel with a group of 8 or more, NCL will allow you to make a standing reservation for the same time each night (5:30 at Tsar's or 6:00 at Azura, or much later) once you board. You make the request at the dining room or by calling when you're on the ship. However, this is almost unnecessary since there are so few people when the dining room opens. My wife and I felt the food was OK. Not as good as RCCL or Celebrity. We never tried the specialty restaurants as we prefer to have the entire group dine together in the main dining room every night. Entertainment - Contrary to the food, the production shows were the best I have seen on any cruise. We were all extremely impressed with the talent on this ship. The group did 3 shows: Band on the Run (very good), Country Gold (pretty good) and Cirque Bijou (the best). Service - Overall, the level of service was really good on this ship. Much better than on the Pearl in '07 (even though we had a "butler" on that cruise). Our room attendant Greg and Vikash were always so friendly and accommodating and the wait staff at the rear (near the windows) of Tsar's Palace were awesome! Spa - My wife did one treatment (called Ladies'something). It was promoted on the first day and took place on the second sea day (bet. Germany and Estonia). It was pretty popular and there was a wait list. The whole thing lasted from 4 to 6 PM and she really liked it. My mother and aunt purchased daily spa passes on two separate sea days. The first time was the second sea day (before Estonia) and the second time was the 3rd sea day (after Sweden). She loved it the first time but on the 3rd sea day, she said NCL sold too many passes and they didn't get to lay on the heated tile loungers despite going two separate times. The cruise-long pass was $99 per person (less than the $120 that was reported earlier). Pools - All of the pools were kept nice and warm. Even the kiddie paddle pool was very warm. The water slide was popular and the water for the slide was even warmer. We definitely used the pools much more than we anticipated. It helped that we had amazing weather. Lots of warm sunny days in the 70s. It only rained one afternoon when we were leaving Stockholm. Kids Club - "Lefty" was great. She always tried to tempt our 2 year old to join her older sisters but the little one wasn't buying it. Over all, the program was just OK. The program wasn't as good as that on NCL Pearl in '07. The 2 to 5 year old group seemed more like babysitting than fun activities. For example, the kids didn't do a "talent show" and we never saw the little ones march throughout the ship or sing new fun songs. We miss that. Denmark - We did a walking tour and a canal cruise. I would highly recommend it as this is a really walkable city right from the port. For the canal cruise, we took it from Gammel Strand, after strolling there through the renowned shops on Stroget, instead of taking it at Nyhaven. This way, you get a much less crowded canal boat. There was a line to get on in Nyhaven. Ours canal boat was only about 1/4 full. I preferred the canal cruise here over that in Russia and over the harbor cruise in Stockholm. Germany - It was 80 degrees and sunny so we took it easy and stayed in Warnemunde and hit the beach. Now I can say I swam in the Baltic Sea! The beach was full of Germans (as opposed to cruisers like you see in Caribbean). The number of topless ladies and guys in Speedos reminds you that you're not in the US. The kids loved it especially since they have play-structures and trampolines on the beach (provided by vendors for a small fee). In the afternoon, I had two glasses of Rostocker beer by the pier while my wife shopped. This day turned out to be one of my most enjoyable days because I was so relaxed and unhurried. Estonia - The medieval city was awesome to see. We did our own walking tour again and it was easy to do. All these walking tours really helped us keep the cruise weight gain down. Russia - Getting off the ship took an hour. NCL has their own tours exiting the front of the ship and the independents exiting mid-ship. The two lines this created were the same in length and both got through about the same time. It was fair, so no complaints. We were close to the end of the line so had I arranged to meet the tour guide at 10 AM instead of 9 AM, we could have quickly gone right through immigration. I would recommend you do that. You can avoid standing for 1 hour on the docks and you can enjoy breakfast. The buffet is crazy on these days. The 11 of us did a private tour with Anastasia. Their quote was notably better than the other tour companies and the guide was good and knowledgeable. I have to say the driver was more impressive the way he negotiated the traffic. The Hermitage and Church on Spilled Blood were our favorites. The church is simply amazing. Catherine's Palace and Peterhof were also really impressive. We left St. Petersburg wanting to see more and craving to learn more about its history. Finland - After hearing how most people thought Helsinki was the low-light of the trip, we decided to do a NCL tour: Poovo - Town and Country. This tour takes you on a scenic drive through the city of Helsinki and into the Finland country-side to Porvoo, Finland's second oldest city. The town's old center has cobblestone streets and some cute shops. Then you are taken to a family of horse breeder's ranch where you visit their home, horse stable and venture around its lands. They also display a few horses including a pony which the kids were allowed to take a short ride on. What an awesome photo-op! You also get to enjoy cake and coffe/tea on their patio. Lastly, the tour takes you to a 15th century church. The walls of this church is made of huge stacked stones - the wall was nearly 6 feet thick. We all really enjoyed this excursion. The bus can either take you back to the ship or drop you off in the middle of Helsinki. We did the latter and after shopping, took taxis back to the ship. Sweden - Beautiful city, but so pricy! I really enjoyed sailing in and out of Stockholm through the archipelagos. I think it takes close to 4 hours each way. You can see many homes on these islands. The best spot to view this is not at the Spinnaker Lounge where others have recommended. From there, you only stare out at water since the ship must always point to the water. A much better view is to pick either side of the ship - whether your own balcony or on deck 7. There you feel much closer to the islands, homes, boats, and swans. Ok - I'll fess up. We were guilty of feeding the seagulls as we sailed in and out of Stockholm. I know you're not supposed to (and boy did my wife keep reminding me) but it was so cool to see them come 5 feet from you and then dive from deck 10 to catch pieces of bread headed toward the water. Getting from Dover to Heathrow - we took NCL's transfer at $80 a head. Ouch! The Dover taxi driver (on embarkation day) said they would have taken our group for less than half of that. Too bad no one mentioned that on CC earlier. The NCL transfers were purchased pre-cruise and non-refundable so we stuck with it. Overall, my wife feels this was the best vacation ever. The fact we had temperature in mid-70s and even low 80s certainly helped her enjoy the trip. On the other hand, because of all the research and planning I did from transportation to currency to selecting the sites to see, and just generally feeling responsible for our group of 11, I felt as much like a guide as a tourist and that ended up taking some pleasure away. So, don't overdo the research so you'd be ready to enjoy yourself. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2009
We are 2 professional couples in our 50's just returned from a superb cruise, our 5th together and our second with NCL. Our overriding thoughts, on reading some previous reviews, are " What do some people expect?". The ... Read More
We are 2 professional couples in our 50's just returned from a superb cruise, our 5th together and our second with NCL. Our overriding thoughts, on reading some previous reviews, are " What do some people expect?". The staff and crew of this ship could try no harder to make your holiday perfect. We have travelled the world, expect high standards and NCL hit the mark! Embarkation: No problems, stayed over night in Dover and arrived at 11.45am set to cruise. Within 45 mins we had a glass of champagne in our hands, no stress!, Embarkation just like any other cruise or airline. Just chill, you are going on vacation!! Having done our home work we avoided any scrum and enjoyed a leisurely lunch in the Tsars palace until our cabin was ready( always pays to do research before any trip). Cabin: We did our home work again and booked 1 cabin on port and 1 on starboard, either side of the mid staircase. This meant ease of meeting our friends, we were central to most things and we always had a sunset to enjoy from 1 balcony while enjoying our pre dinner drinks. Cabins were fine, super bed and the balcony is a must. We liked the separate doors on the shower and toilet. Entertainment: The shows are great, curate's egg as some better than others( I am sure England has funnier comedians and Russia better magicians) but the Cirque Bijou and the Juggler were simply superb. We enjoyed the opportunity to see some again in the Spinnaker lounge late shows. The daily programme is extensive, surely enough to please anyone. We loved Ken's quizzes( mal de mer , Ken!!!) and our friends really enjoyed the dance lessons. We were never bored!! Dining: One criticism, it is getting a bit naughty to have so many restaurants where you now pay a supplement. Having said that we sampled every one and they were all excellent, never had a bad meal at all. The winner was Le Bistro where the food and service were absolutely superb. Mongolian hot pot was the surprise of the food, not sure what we were expecting but what good fun. Managed to put on 8lbs in 12 days so that speaks for itself. Again, do your homework, not quite sure why people queue in the garden cafe at breakfast for an omelette etc. when you can have it served in comfort and with zero stress in the Tsars. We had to smile on the final morning when a waiter was explaining what a sunny side up egg was to a lady - where had you been for 12 days? Value: Having traveled to the USA many times we struggle to see what people moan about with pricing. 15% is put on most drinks etc but it is just like holidaying in the States as a Brit. Again if you have done your home work you know what the score is before you arrive, so just chill and enjoy. We felt we got excellent value for our money overall. We work with the general public so totally empathize with NCL, you will never please some people. Our advice - you are on vacation, no one will try harder than NCL staff to make sure you enjoy it, so relax and enjoy their company and service. 12 days with no rain, just as we ordered. Thank you Don't forget, do your homework before any cruise!! Read Less
Sail Date: August 2009
Hello Travelers, I would like to share with you our experiences on NCL Jewel Baltic Capital Cruise with a 2 day extension in London, the good, the bad and the ugly from August 1 thru August 16, 2009. My wife and I flew from Chicago to ... Read More
Hello Travelers, I would like to share with you our experiences on NCL Jewel Baltic Capital Cruise with a 2 day extension in London, the good, the bad and the ugly from August 1 thru August 16, 2009. My wife and I flew from Chicago to London on United Airlines while my friends from Tampa, FL flew in on British Airlines. After arriving in London, our Vantage tour Representative was waiting for us. The drive from London to Dover where NCL was docked was 2 hours away with a quick stop in between. Our friends were waiting for us at the ship. If you cruised with NCL before, make sure you sign up as a Latitude member. By doing this you'll able to skip the long registration line, check in at the Latitude registration desk and get onto the ship a lot faster especially after that long flight. You'll be boarding just in time for lunch. There's going to be a couple thousand hungry passengers wanting to have lunch. If you're lucky, you'll find a table to sit down at. What we did was we ate in the kids section with no problem at all. Get use to it. Tables are limited at the Garden Cafe Restaurant on NCL. The food is so, so and we didn't eat at any of the specialty restaurants throughout the cruise. I have to get this off my mind about traveling in the month of August. I like kids but, there were too many of them on this cruise. I heard around 800 kids. I'm talking about the 12 - 16 year old kids. I know that NCL Jewel is a freestyle cruise but the parents let them run wild, bumping into you, cutting in front of you while waiting in line for food. They were really rude with no manners at all. Now let's talk about the cruise. I try not to take excursions from the ship because they're over priced and you don't see as much if you do it yourself. Try to take private tours and save money. Be adventurists and don't be afraid ?. NCL preaches on the TV set in your stateroom that you're safe with their tours. Private tours are the best way to go and book early. Get ready to do a lot of walking like I do because I'm a photographer/Videographer my passion is getting the right shot. Remember you have to be back onboard ½ hour before departure. Always get the location where NCL Jewel is docked at each port and mark it on a map. CAUTION! Watch out for the open markets, PPP (Pick Pocket Paradise). For the men, always make sure you keep all your valuables in your front pockets and keep nothing in your back pocket. For the ladies, make sure you keep you purse is zipped, the straps are over your shoulder and your purse in front of you. Don't be afraid, have fun and good luck! Currency: Some countries accept US dollars and some do not. Most of them accept Euros. All I can recommend is that you exchange $75 per couple for that country's currency to get around and charge when necessary. If you need more money, find a bank and have your passport with you. You may or may not need it to exchange money. The only country that asked for our passport was Berlin, Germany and they don't exchange $100 bills for Euro. They exchange $50 bills or less. 1st port is Copenhagen, Denmark. Arrive at 9am and Depart at 6pm. Ask NCL staff for the bus number to return before you leave the ship. Get ready to do a lot of walking. Last time I was here for a week. You only have 8 ½ hours to see it all. NCL docked in a good location where you were able to walk to mostly everything. You walk past the Little Mermaid and the palace. Take a tour if you like. We saw the guards walking around which was a Kodak moment. Find and walk down the pedestrian street where you see the street performers and do a little shopping. Make your way to the boats for a 1 hour tour that I highly recommend. Have a hot dog and a beer. Then you walk to Tivoli Gardens and take a few pictures of the outside. I've been in Tivoli Gardens before and you don't really need to spend your money to go inside because there's really nothing great to see. There are lots of restaurants, rides for the kids and some gardens to see which is no big deal. It isn't worth the money to see unless you really have your heart set on seeing "Tivoli Gardens". Spend your time and money wisely because your there for a short time. Make your way to the City Center and take a picture of Hans Christian Anderson. Getting tired? When you are ready to go back to the ship, you'll find the bus located at the city center square on the other side of the big black bill board. That's where the buses pick you up. Get the number of the bus that takes you back to the ship, take a taxi or walk back. 2nd port is Warnemunde (Berlin), Germany. Arrive 7:30am and Depart 10pm. Get ready for a long day. I had booked a private tour with a guy called Taxi-Harry & his email is h.stutz@email.de . He charges 450 Euros which was $640 for the 4 of us. You must have Euros to pay the man. Tipping is extra if you want and any entrance fees are extra. He had a comfortable Mercedes station wagon. One sat in the front and 3 in the back. His colleague named Temo (Mr. T), a young man in his 30's was our driver. He spoke broken English but saved us a lot of money. It took him 2 hours to drive from Warnemunde to Berlin. Was it safe? Of course it was. We saw the Olympic Grounds Tower & Stadium, East Side Gallery, Bebel Platz, Checkpoint Charlie, Holocaust Memorial, Brandenburg Gate, Potsdamer Platz, Reichstag, Charlottenburg Palace, and Kurfuerstendamm (Ku-Damm). Then we stopped at the Sony Center for lunch. Honestly, we ran Mr. T all day long and he was a good sport. Trying to cash our $100 dollar bills for Euros in Berlin was impossible. You need to exchange money on NCL. Always cash in money the day before when you go to Germany. Remember, it takes at least a week to see Berlin, we saw all this in 1 day and I'm sure there's a lot more to see, but we're very happy and exhausted by time we got back to the ship. You price this tour from the ship and see how much you pay for 4 people. 3rd port is Tallinn, Estonia. Arrive 9am and Depart 5:30pm. Get ready to walk. Take a taxi or Ho-Ho bus (Hop on- Hop off bus) to the Old Town. There's plenty to see and do. Get yourself a map and have fun. Do it yourself tour unless you want to learn all the history, then book a tour from the ship. I just can't stand getting on and off the bus waiting for people. 4th port is St. Petersberg, Russia. Arrive 8am and Depart the next day at 7pm. We arranged a private tour a month or so in advance. We got lucky. We booked with a lady named "Anya" who is a school teacher and does this as extra income. She speaks English very well. Her email is tour@guidestpetersburgrussia.com. Plus, she sends you a Visa Voucher to enter Russia at no cost to you. She ask for a $400 deposit for the 4 of us up front to book the tour. Don't worry, it was safe to do so. Anya ask you to send her your passport information so she can get you the Visa Vouchers. Anya mailed them to us ASAP. Always make copies and bring them with you. Anya hires a driver which is included in the price of the tour. Anya charges for GROUP OF 4 = $1365 for the 2 days at 8 hours per day. WARNING! It takes a long time to get thru Russian Passport Control because they are slowwww! Make sure you are one of the first off the ship if possible. GO EARLY! At least ½ hour before the ship lets you off. NCL had docked at a cargo port which is farther away than the rest of the cruise ships. On the 1st day she was waiting for us at the gate with a sign in her hand with my name on it. The first day was with Anya and she gave a little to much history of everything, but that's ok. Remember, she's a school teacher and she's only doing her job. 1st Day Tour with Anya; Van and driver from 09:00am till 5:30pm - Guide for up to 8 hours - Driving tour of the downtown of St. Petersburg - You have elected to see both the Catherine's Palace and Peterhof grounds. The Peter and Paul Fortress with Panoramic views of St. Petersburg and the massive fountain on the Neva River. Anya wanted to be paid in full at the end of the day, we so we paid her. 2nd day was with Irina (Colleague)and her email is kruglova.a@gmail.com. She was great. Irina lived in Florida for 2 years and speaks English. - Transfer from the the ship to the downtown - Tour day to start at 9am - Kazan Cathedral - Largest Orthodox Church in St. Petersburg. - Church on Spilled Blood - Onion Domes and Mosaics - Shopping at an outdoor market Watch out (PPP) - Canal boat tour - You will pay directly to the vendor for this 1-hour tour - Hermitage Museum and Winter Palace - The largest art museum in the world. - Transfer back to the ship by 5pm for 7pm departure. The 2 days in Russia was a great experience and would do it again exactly the same way. Also, I like Irina a little better than Anya as a tour guide due to the fact that she was more open and friendly to be with. I want to share with you a thank you message from Anya. Thank You for joining us! It was wonderful to have you. Please stay in touch! Irina and I send our warmest thanks. I hope that passport control improves in the future as well. I won't even begin to explain the red tape I go through in order to provide the visafree documents and port access in the first place! It is at least 4-6 hours of work per group. There is no reason they can't be faster. They just need to open more passport stalls. They certainly have the facilities to do that! I never no on any given day how many stalls will be open. The good news is that you were able to have the visafree documents from me, so the only headache was the delay getting off the ship. To obtain a regular visa is FAR more complicated and costs $221 per person after the fees and the process takes 2-3 weeks and that is a real nightmare. My "land guests" go through a much more difficult process to get a Russian Visa. Enough about my VisaFree and Visa red tape concerns. The most important to know is how wonderful it was to have you! Please come back to see us. Warmly, Anya and Irra 5th port is Helsinki, Finland. Arrive 8am and Depart 5:30pm We had booked a private 5 hour tour with Paulo from Paulo's Tour and his email is: paulostours@hotmail.com . He speaks English and a very nice guy starting his own tour business. He's a little pricey, but it's better than getting on and off the bus with 50 people. The 5 hour tour cost us 240 Euros which is $335 divided between the 4 of us. He drove us to Porvoo (Must See) and stayed there for awhile. We had some coffee, relaxed with the locals and took lots and lots of pictures and movies. We headed back to Helsinki for a tour. It was so nice there that we asked to be dropped off to walk the market instead of returning to the ship. We had taken a cab back to the ship. Helsinki was a great place to visit and you need more than a day. 6th port is Stockholm, Sweden. Arrive 8am and Depart 4pm Get ready for a lot of walking. We jumped in a taxi and he drove us to the Royal Palace to see the Crown Jewels. The Jewels were beautiful. We took plenty of pictures of the soldiers standing guard at their stations. Then we walked throughout the city and went to the tower to view the city at its highest point. You can pay to go up or walk up to the top for the view. After taking plenty of pictures and movies, we walked back to the city where Stockholm Kulturfestival was taking place. It was time to give our feet a rest and decided to take a boat ride which worked out really well. After the boat ride we jumped in a taxi to go back to the ship when it started to rain. Well, another great place to visit and once again, only enough time to catch the highlights of Stockholm, Sweden. We're back on the ship for 2 days at sea. London, England for 2 days. Our 1st day in London. We arrived in Dover, England for 2 days, staying at the Park Plaza Hotel. We were walking distance to the London Eye, St Margaret's Church in Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Parliament Square, Trafalgar Square and stopped at the Red Lion Pub for fish & chips and a beer. Get yourself a speed ticket for entrance onto the London Eye and eliminate the hassle of waiting in a long line. You pay more money but, it's worth it. 2nd day in London. We jumped into England's funny looking taxi and went to St. Paul's Cathedral where Princess Diana got married. Then we jumped in a taxi and went to Buckingham Palace for a tour because the Queen was on vacation and that's the only time you can visit the Palace. Then we raced to see the Changing of the Guards taking plenty of pictures and movies. From there we took another funny looking taxi and went to Harrods for some shopping. It was starting to get dark when we decided to take a boat ride down the Thames River. That's when the city comes to life and you see Big Ben, London Eye and the Tower of London all lit up. It was breath taking. At the end of our day we had to stop at a local pub for their famous fish & chips and a ice cold beer. What a way to end the trip. Happy Travels, We love to travel August 2009 Read Less
Sail Date: July 2009
In three words - Book this cruise Ok in more words, We drove to Dover, 2 adults and a 16 year old and dropped the bags and family at the terminal and parked the car, an entire 40 steps away. Check in took 10 minutes. We arrived at the ... Read More
In three words - Book this cruise Ok in more words, We drove to Dover, 2 adults and a 16 year old and dropped the bags and family at the terminal and parked the car, an entire 40 steps away. Check in took 10 minutes. We arrived at the terminal at 11.40am and was on the ship at 12.10. perfect embarkation. We were greeted with Champagne, teen club reps for our son and the opportunity to but the soda cards. First of course of many opportunities to spend money onboard. We had a BA balcony cabin, midships 10th deck and it was an ideal location, although even on the 12th night we still walked the wrong way out of the elevator into the wrong corridor. The cabin was a little cramped for 3 with the sofa bed pulled out, especially wardrobe space and with the bed out we couldn't get onto the balcony. It would have been ideal for two people. However we managed just fine and with the sofa bed away during the day we had more room to move around. Although we were too busy to spend time in the cabin as there is so much to do when on board. The ship was very clean and the cabin was well looked after, although not once in 12 nights did we ever meet the Steward - we had this miracle worker coming in and making beds and replacing towels without a chance to say hello. The towel animals left every other night were fantastic and we were sad when the Monkey was finally removed from the ceiling, so much so we wanted to ring reception and ask them to bring it back. Dining - there are 2 freestyle sit down restaurants and the food was good compared with other ships we had been on, with 5 courses available and good service however the queues to develop after 7.30pm. The garden cafe buffet had lots of action stations with freshly prepared food and a great mixture of choice for all diets. The Great Outdoors, at the back has lovely wicker chairs and tables and a small buffet all of its own. In addition there are many cover charge restaurants, Le Bistro, Mama's Italian, Chin Chin Chinese, Cagney Steak House, Tepanyaki to name a few. Some have half price cover charge before 6.30 and it was well worth it. We ate at Mama's 3 times, Cagneys twice and Le Bistro three times and the food was fantastic, especially Le Bistro and I didn't fancy anything on the menu and loved everything I had. Price of drinks could be lower, they were expensive compared to bar prices but did match 4 star hotel prices with $5.95 for a pint of beer and some cocktails upto $12 a go. We recommend the marguerita madness when for an hour they are served at $4.95 and also go for a helmet of beer, pay for 5 and get 6. It certainly didn't stop us enjoying ourselves. Children's clubs - there are clubs for all ages. Our son went to the Teen Club consistently and at one point we wondered whether he had actually come with us on this holiday, however he was in bed every night and came on shore and ate most meals with us but he had a fantastic time. They have their own murder mystery, pre show dinners, late night dodgeball, disco's, scavenger hunts etc. Entertainment - we had 3 good production shows and fully recommend them all - Cirque Bijou is fantastic, don't miss it. We weren't amused by the comedian but there was so much more to do on board. We did a Meet and Greet with Cruise Critic and all the Officers came along (which we didn't expect) and invited us to the bridge for a free tour and we got to know many of the Officers and they are very visible on the ship, visiting every restaurant and saying hello to passengers each evening. And the Captain - well we have never seen so much of a Captain - he comes and talks to passengers every day and is very approachable and spent over an hour explaining everything on the Bridge to us. We had the need to ask Julian, the Hotel Manager to help with a suit that had not made it back from the cleaners in time for dinner and not only did we get it cleaned for free, we were sent an apology bottle of Chardonnay. Mike the Food and Beverage Director is open to feedback, as is Victor the Maitre D' and they rectify and amend anything. Although there wasn't anything to really make any complaint about. Friends - where to start, having been in touch with some on the roll call we ate every evening with a great family from New Orleans and did a private trip with 6 from Canada and America. We have made excellent new friends and will be cruising with them again. Honestly we cannot put in words to describe how fantastic this was and a lot of this was the people and the company. We never read any of the books we took and our son didn't get his game boy out. On the other hand if you want to sit in a quiet place and read, there are lots of places to do this. Getting off the ship - we had no problems in St Petersburg - from announcement to getting through immigration took 15 minutes and we were on an independent tour and not on the ship one. We waited on the stairs at 7.25am and by 8am our tour guide was flabbergasted we were there. Our tip is ensure all your private party meets together and gets off together and it worked a treat - we even got off before the ships tours. We used Anastasia, well organised, others used SPB which had a good review too and we saved 2/3 of the cost of the ships tours. Currency - we took £100 in Rubbles, £50 in Swedish and £50 in Denmark and the rest was Euro's. We paid in Russia with Dollars to the tour company. Most places took Euros and in Estonia a currency exchange company got on board and sold Estonian and rubbles and exchanged back for the same rate with no charge - excellent service. See separate ports for info on them - we did not use any of the ships trips, they are expensive and you can do them much cheaper yourself - however they may be great value but we don't know and they were certainly popular. And our friends had a cabin on 14 - courtyard villa - amazing - the brochure does not do it justice - they get a special seating section in the theatre, get off the ship before anyone else, a butler, concierge - speciality restaurants for breakfast and lunch - real 5 star treatment, if you can afford it or get a deal that makes it un-missable - do it - private lounge, private sun deck, own pool and hot tub too. Then again the pools on deck were not crowded, they were 31degrees and lovely. The casino was good and we are not gamblers - Gareth the manager is a good laugh and takes care of his guests. Our only disappointment - the photography - NCl are aware and are taking over the franchise to fix it so it may be sorted by the time you get on - 1000s of poor quality pictures taken and they never check the picture - you are grabbed on the gangplank every day unless you run past them and we never did work out why we needed to be photographed with a whale in Finland Getting off - pick yout time, take your luggage labels and walk off the ship - no queue and the guys are there to carry your luggage - the 40 steps to the car What can we say - amazing, fantastic - we would have stayed on if there had been a free cabin and stuff the consequences with the job. But they were full until 26th August. oh well back to the real world and the laundry. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2009
An absolute adventure - 6 beautiful ports, a wonderful ship, glorious weather, and, of course, great company (my boyfriend who took me on this fabulous adventure)  We agreed that it far exceeded our expectations.I had been reading other ... Read More
An absolute adventure - 6 beautiful ports, a wonderful ship, glorious weather, and, of course, great company (my boyfriend who took me on this fabulous adventure)  We agreed that it far exceeded our expectations.I had been reading other reviews on Cruise Critic prior to our cruise and was aware of the concerns or complaints of others.  We had an incredibly positive experience all around from embarkation to disembarkation, excursions, food, staff, etc.    We spent two days in London prior to the cruise at an NCL recommended hotel, the Grosvenor House. Beautiful hotel, great location, and lots of sightseeing.  Coach down to Dover and embarkation - a smooth start and smooth sailing had begun.  Our cabin, a mini-suite on the 11th deck, was very spacious, large bathroom, balcony, terrific location.  Day at sea and then Copenhagen - a walking tour and a charming city;   We shopped a bit and walked back to the ship - quite a manageable walk.  (All our excursions were through NCL and were excellent - very knowledgeable tour guides and very friendly.)  Day at sea and then Warnamunde.  We opted to take an excursion to Berlin  (the Jewish History tour) and it was absolutely worth the time spent.  Fascinating day in Berlin, very comfortable train ride back and forth. (We had met another couple previously and they joined us in our train compartment and made the trip even more enjoyable.)  Highly recommended excursion.  On to Tallinn - a very beautiful, charming city.  Great walking tour .  Had lunch in the square at a typical Estonian restaurant - wonderful! Two full days of sightseeing in St. Petersburg - amazing..We took two 8-hour tours and went to the Russian Folkdance at night.  Brush up on your history of the Tsars - lots to absorb!!  By the way, disembarkation in Russia, no problem.  Maybe it took 20 minutes so our fears were allayed. Helsinki - probably our least favorite.  We took a tour of the city and then outside of the city to Porvo and a horse farm.  I thought it was a relaxing day and a respite from the hectic pace of the last few days. (My boyfriend didn't really agree.) Then Stockholm - what a wonderful surprise!  We took a tour including a cruise and a walking tour - such a beautiful city. We could have stayed there for days.  Time to shop and then the coach back.  Sailaway - a dazzling experience not to be missed.  Two days at sea to unwind.  Quite an adventure.  (If you enjoy shopping, you can rest assured that the tour guides will always find time and places for you to shop.  We actually found the souvenir spot at the port in St Petersburg to be the best place to shop there though the Russian Bazaar on the ship after departing St Petersburg was quite an event.)       Aside from these fascinating ports,  the ship was an endless source of entertainment.  So- the entertainment -the shows, Jeanne Ann Ryann dancers in particular - terrific.  Lounge shows - enjoyable.  Always something to do.  The food - a very pleasant surprise.  We thought the food overall was quite good, partaking of the main dining venues a few times - Tsar's, Azura's - very good; the Garden Cafe Buffet - always a large array of different types of food ;  and the speciality restaurants - terrific.  Tango' s- ate there twice so we obviously liked it;  Chin Chin's , Teppenyaki, Le Bistro (excellent);  Mama's -(we thought mediocre but others we met disagreed. ) We even found no need to make reservations though we did tend to eat a bit later and isn't that the beauty of "freestyle"?  We really just loved that aspect of this cruise - eat whenever, dress any way you like.    The fitness facility worked well for us as well as we made use of the gym , yoga and pilates classes.  Nice way to spend time on sea days.    We also really enjoyed all the lovely spots on the ship to just hang out, lots of great places to have a Martini and watch the late sunsets or just read a book.  And the staff - the incredibly friendly and helpful staff ensured that your trip would be wonderful.  They couldn't have been nicer or more accommodating.      Disembarkation went smoothly though I would have preferred to stay on the ship another 12 days.  My advice is simply, "GO!!" Read Less
Sail Date: July 2009
First an introduction:I'm 16, from London, and this is holiday was my first cruise. My Mum came with me- largely to finance it! The suggestion of a cruise was immediately met with the usual groans and preconceptions- 'it'll ... Read More
First an introduction:I'm 16, from London, and this is holiday was my first cruise. My Mum came with me- largely to finance it! The suggestion of a cruise was immediately met with the usual groans and preconceptions- 'it'll be full of old people' or 'we'll get seasick' or even 'we'll die of some swine/gastronorovirus disease' (find out how many of these were true by reading on...) However, I tried to see through these issues and managed to convince her that trying cruising would be a good idea.Briefly- We enjoyed our holiday. NCL was almost certainly the right line for us- their freestyle method of cruising seems like the only sensible way to do things onboard, certainly for new cruisers. There were of course some issues which I'll bring up of course, but generally it was an enjoyable and memorable holiday.So, ONBOARD- in this cruise you spend 4 out of 12 days at sea. To Do: The Jewel offers a wide variety of onboard activities. There's everything from ice-sculpture to shuffleboard. Everyday a 'Freestyle Daily' is delivered which contains information about what is going on around the ship. It could be set out a little better- just a (usually) long list- but was very useful. It also documents times of restaurants, info about ports etc... While the activities were good, there is a wide range meaning that you'll definately find something you want to do- but maybe only a couple. NCL try to satisfy the wants of everyone from a 10 year old Mexican to a 70 year old American so its obviously difficult. This does also mean that there is time for relaxation which is good up to a point.Bora Bora Health Spa- A particular disapointment. My Mum had looked forward to using the extensive spa facilities on board. Annoyingly, almost all treatments were totally overpriced, you'll struggle to find something over 15 mins for less than about $70- which is simply too expensive (especially for Brits using the US Dollar). So to our disapointment we were simply priced out of this area of cruising. Most treatments were at least $90 so we didn't think it was worth it given what else we were forking out for. Kid's club- First few steps onboard the ship and I'm greeted by a clown giving me a leaflet about the teen programme- not exactly the ideal welcome for a 16 year old. Put off by this I didn't really bother with any of the offered programmes. Possibly if my sister had come we might have tried it, but I prefered to keep my Mum company during the holiday, rather than abandon her. Food- This is an area that the Jewel does well. Previous moans about cold food didn't occur thankfully. We had an almost faultless dining experience. NCL offers a huge variety of dining options:Garden Cafe- This is the main buffet. Plenty of food and range for breakfast, lunch and dinner with good opening times. Overcrowding is usually a problem with seats a few minutes walk away from the food a normality. Once you got the food is was well cooked and tasty. Soup, pizza, pasta, bread, burgers and salad are always avaliable, along with a variety of delicious desserts and daily main meals. A good option for quick and easy food. For about 4 days in the middle of the cruise the buffet transformed from self-service to 'queue up- wait- don't touch anything- shout what you want on plate- get food and try to find seat' Basically crew had to serve you food which results in bad experience and long queues- defeats to point of a buffet really. Thankfully this measure to control viruses was ceased. Be prepared to be squirted with anti-bac/ virus liquid throughout the ship- a huge measure to try to stop the viruses. Main restaurants- Tsar's Palace & Azura (same menus). Tsar's is the only dress-up place onboard (for dinner). The food is of good quality and the service is also good. There is a decent range of food on the changed-daily menus. Tsar's is great for breakfast if you want to avoid the queues of the Garden Buffet. It's not self-service but the quality of the food is much better and you eat in comfort and style. Typical modern food is served which always goes down wellRoom Service- most items are free, 24h a dayYou can order simple favourites like sandwhiches, burgers, salad and desserts straight to your room. Usually pretty quick and easy.Blue Lagoon- 24h serving family favourites like pasta, burger, chicken & chipsAll other restaurants have a cover charge, with some having half-priced happy hours operating between 5.30-6.30Chin Chin ($15)- Excellent quality Asian cuisine here, certainly worth a visit (Try the steamed barbeque pork buns to start!! Yum Yum) There's also a teppanyaki, mongolian hot pot & sushi bar as part of the asian restaurant sectionTango's- Latin (didn't go) Cagney's- steak and seafood (put off by the $25 per head cover charge)Mama's- italian. $10 is too much for the same pizza and pasta you can get next door at the buffetLe Bistro ($15) good french cuisine served hereGenerally food is excellent, as is the service onboard the Jewel. There are plenty of bars too, dotted all around the ship. Entertainment- The evening entertainment in the Stardust Theatre is worth seeing. It feautred a number of musical events, magic, comedy, all of which were good but not brilliant. There are also some smaller shows dotted around the ship from time to time. Cabins- We got a mini-suite which was excellent and pretty spacious. The toilet is too noisy from other rooms. Neighboughs smoking on balcony is particuarly annoying. Be warned about supposed VIP ExtrasWhat you don't actually get: Priority embarkation- No                                       Bottled Water- Yeah the privelage of paying $5.25 for it                                      Hors d'oervers delivered twice- as if...                                       Priority disembarkation- Ha Ha, yeah rightVery disappionting- GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER NCL.comGeneral:There is too much selling on NCL- almost constant reminders and adverts to sign up to this, or buy that or check out this thing. Sure it is fine to make people aware of these things, but to bombard them at every oppurtunity is a bit much on their holiday. Everyting is $$$EXPENSIVE$$$ Be warned. Wine is too expensive, drinks are too expensive. Restaurant cover charges are too expensive and there are too many cover charge restaurants.Lunch at sea can be chaotic- open more restaurants for lunch!Service is great, with friendly and cheerful staff around every corner. Go on the behing the scenes tour towards the end of the cruise to get some great new perspectives of the ship and how it is run. This takes you to the galley, theatre, laundry and bridge with guides at each respective post (i.e. captain on the bridge). Book this up early on in the trip (you'll be alerted).The majority (50%) of passengers were American and retired. However there was a large Mexican/ Spanish/ S. American contingent in large family groups, along with a fair share of Europeans. It is worth noting that we were extremely lucky with the weather ( hardly any rain when in port)That's probably about all I can think of folks. Don't hesitate to contact me if you have an questions or want more tips and advice. Thanks very much for reading Read Less
Sail Date: July 2009
The what's not to love part stared even before we got to our embarkation check in station, but more on that later. We always travel to foreign ports (we're from the U.S.)several days early and this was no exception. Arrived ... Read More
The what's not to love part stared even before we got to our embarkation check in station, but more on that later. We always travel to foreign ports (we're from the U.S.)several days early and this was no exception. Arrived in Dover 3 days before our cruise and stayed at the Ramada Dover because of decent reviews and their web site suggested it was only a 15 - 20 minute walk to town center. The hotel was nice but it's more like a 15 minute cab ride to town center. Oh well. We did the Dover museum,including the bronze age boat and the Painted Roman house - all very interesting. On embarkation day we left the hotel at 11:00 am and began the checkin process at 11:15. That's when the "love" started. Before reaching the VIP (suites) checkin desk, Carlos (our concierge from 2 previous cruises) rushed up, hugged and kissed my wife and hugged and welcome me back aboard. During the checkin Harry and Amit (butlers) welcomed us back aboard (we cruised a transatlantic on the Jewel in April)as did 3 or 4 other crew members. A lady sitting next to my wife said "do your cruise a lot or do you own the ship?" And my wife said "no, we just make friends". In fact, we wrote 25 to 30 positive crew comment cards for this trip. Literally every crew member we met face to face during the entire trip greeted with friendly "hellos". The entire crew from the Capt on down or the lowest member on up were really super. Our cabin was one of the suites and because of that we had breakfast and lunch in Cagney's every day. A very nice perk. However, we ate in almost every dining option available and the service and food was always excellent. The speciality restaurants - Mama's, Tango, Chin chin, Le Bistro and Cagney's were superb. Tzars Palace, Azura and the Great Outdoors were just fine also. so many old friends and many new one also. The Baltic was smooth and the ports were very interesting. Probably liked Tallinn and Stockholm the best and St Petersburg the least - it's Russia you know. All in all lot's of activity and plenty of time to relax. Since it's holiday time in Europe there were plenty of families on board having lots of fun - even 4 young girls sleeping in an elevator. We can't say enough about NCL - the people are great, food excellent and the ships are eclectic and colorful. We've booked 2 more cruises on NCL totaling 35 days and are looking forward to the Epic. Disembarkation was a breeze and Heathrow was a zoo - don't fly in or out of there on a Sunday. We missed the love NCL showed us. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2009
Back last August my in-laws, my wife and I decided to have a family holiday. Where to go? What to do? Since we had cruised before (Princess) and my in-laws were Cunard fans, a cruise seemed obvious. This time however we needed to take into ... Read More
Back last August my in-laws, my wife and I decided to have a family holiday. Where to go? What to do? Since we had cruised before (Princess) and my in-laws were Cunard fans, a cruise seemed obvious. This time however we needed to take into account the fact that our baby son would be a year old and we needed some suitable accommodation. Princess didn't seem to go with the idea of having a baby as a fifth passenger in a cabin and Cunard did, but not at our price-point! Solution? A family penthouse on the Norwegian Jewel, a walking friendly itinery in the Baltics and an excellent price, equivalent to two mini-suites but with all the benefits of a higher classed cabin.Since we had both previously cruised on different lines, I joined Cruise Critic to find out more about NCL. Some people raved about them, some people raged about them. Some loved the freestyle attitude and the relaxed stance on clothing and dining, others complained about the quality of the food and the wait times in port. We joined the Cruise Critic RollCall and decided to get stuck in to making our holiday (and other's) the best it could be. And that, after a fortnight on the Norwegian Jewel, is the key to getting the most out of NCL.Let's start with the massive positives. I don't know about anybody else's experience, but as Princess and Cunard veterans we found the attitude and service of officers and crew to be quite the best we have ever encountered on a cruise ship. From our cabin butler to the people cleaning the corridors to the senior management staff, there was a genuine attitude of wanting to do one's best. On previous cruises I've sometimes felt that the smiles that greeted me on deck could be forced - on the Norwegian Jewel I didn't meet a single member of staff who didn't seem genuinely happy to be working onboard. Yes, we chatted to people about missing their families during long working stints and how the work was hard with lengthy hours and lots to do, but through it all I never met a staff member who wasn't enthusiastic for their job. And trust me on this - as a priest in the Church of England dealing with people talking about all kinds of personal issues (and often trying to cover things up), I'm pretty good at telling when someone isn't giving me the whole story.So why is this? Why does NCL have a happy ship sailing around the Baltics, even if the profit margins are tight and the sales targets must be challenging? It comes down to leadership and the attitude of senior management. One little example - as we were lined up waiting to get our passports stamped in Russia (more on this later) I watched the Hotel Director, one of the most senior officers onboard the ship and responsible for hundreds of staff, personally move a bin into place (for all those hot chocolates that the patiently(ish) waiting cruisers were happily drinking) and then fill it with a liner. This despite the fact that he was surrounded by much more junior staff who he could easily have told to do the job, and despite the fact that he probably had better things to do (such as sweet talking CC reviewers like yours truly). This kind of leadership is what helps support and maintain a "If a job needs doing and you can do it, do it" culture aboard the ship. Well done NCL (and well done Julian).What else is worth raving about? Well, I personally loved the freestyle attitude. Brilliant. What really used to wind me up on Princess was that on formal nights some guests wouldn't bother getting dressed up, and then they would happily wander into the cabaret lounges in shorts and t-shirts and completely ruin the feel of the place with everybody dressed to the nines. With NCL the stance is "Dress up or not". If you get dressed up you do so on the understanding that others won't. That's OK. That's fine by me, as long as I know that's how the game is played.Now, let's move onto the "room for growth" features, and begin with that huge bugbear of many - Food! I know that on this site there is a huge amount of grumbling over the number of pay restaurants aboard NCL ships. After observing this first hand I really can't see the difference between NCL and the other cruise lines we have sailed. In fact, the Norwegian Jewel seemed to have *more* free eating restaurants than the Princess ships we'd been on and the buffet was, in our opinion, as good as if not better than Princess. What NCL do have however is a larger number of pay options as well. Some are magnificent ("Chin-Chins", the oriental fusion restaurant is absolutely brilliant, and the Teppenyaki grill is great and during the 5:30 to 6:30 happy hour an absolute bargain) and some are fair to middling. It really depends what you like - we don't much go for dressed up Mexican food so Tangos didn't appeal, but others raved about it.The one area where NCL is weaker than Princess and Cunard though is in the main dining room. Let's be brutally honest - the food is not as good as their rivals. That's not to say that the food is bad - it's not, it's good, but on Princess and Cunard every meal feels like a 5 star dining extravaganza. NCL on the other hand feels like a very, very, very good chain restaurant, but simply not up to the silver service aspirations of the other cruise lines we've been on.And you know, I wonder whether this is the one area that NCL could spend a bit more money on to get a product that was the "relaxed quality rival" to the likes of Princess and Cunard. As someone who likes good food and adores a great kitchen, I would have absolutely no difficulty in choosing NCL above Princess if the dining room experience was similar to their rivals. But it's not and I wonder why that is. Yes, the menus are slightly less ambitious than their equivalent aboard Cunard and the like, but is that because of a lack of creativity amongst those who set the dining possibilites, or a lack of financial ability to be as creative as they want to be? Bottom-line - do NCL spend as much per head on dining as their competitors do? If they do then they need to review what they are doing with the money. If they don't, then perhaps this is one area for improvement (and such an improvement would have huge commercial benefits).From food to drinks. I found the bar prices to be comparable to those aboard other ships, apart from the wine list. Aaahhh... the wine list. What is that about? I'm quite used to spending good restaurant / hotel prices on a bottle of wine when I'm on holiday, but the cost of most of the wines was simply ludicrous. Good practice is for a bottle to cost 2 to 3 times as much as what you might pay picking it off the supermarket shelf, but for the price to be double that again is simply silly. I wonder whether this strategy is back-firing for NCL and that if they lowered their wine prices suitably they might actually make a larger profit? Something to consider back at head office.Apart from that, I can't see the reason people complain about "Nickel and Dime-ing". NCL is no worse than most (and better than some) on the balance between what is all-inclusive and what is extra. They don't pretend that everything on the ship is free, so don't be surprised when the Steakhouse costs extra.One more small area for improvement - though the Norwegian Jewel moved to the Baltics a month ago or so, the setup still seems slightly geared for the Caribbean party crowd. One example - most of the people buying coffee in the morning at the Java Cafe didn't really appreciate the kind of music that was being played in the background. 11am in the morning at sea, reading a book and enjoying a Latte I *don't* want house music and 90s pop. What I want is Frank Sinatra, Big Band, 50s and perhaps a little early 60s, that kind of thing. I think that's what the rest of my coffee drinking neighbours wanted as well. By all means get the party started later on, but in the morning let us chill (and let us chill stylishly).Right, what next? Russia and immigration! Aaahh....What is it with those who still complain about the amount of time spent getting into Russia on the first day in St Petersburg? Can we get one thing straight? It's not NCL's fault.Let's do that again.It's not NCL's fault. It's not. Not.Not. Their. Fault.A quick guide for American citizens complaining about how long immigration takes on the first day in Russia:i) You are in Russiaii) Russia is an authoritarian, administrative societyiii) NCL has no control over when the port authorities let passengers off the ship (and yes, this *can* depend on when the chief of police in the harbour finishes his coffee, and yes, there is nothing you can do about it)iv) NCL has no control over how many immigration officials are at hand to process people through the boothsv) NCL has no control over how many of the limited immigration officials available process NCL tour customers and how many process those on private toursvi) NCL have done absolutely everything possible to make the process as easy as possible, including printing out landing cards and providing refreshments as you wait to go through immigration.vii) Have you tried getting into the USA as a non US Citizen these days? Come back St Petersburg, all is forgiven...Let's move on.Great shows. Brilliant shows. Fantastic shows. Cirque Bijou, the NCL version of Cirque du Soleil, is just completely stunning (even if we might have witnessed the last performance for a while). Amazing. A good mix of other entertainers, jugglers, singers and comedians. I was particularly impressed by Lenny Windsor who managed to appeal to both the Brits and Yanks aboard, and whose late night show wasn't in the slightest bit offensive. I don't like swearing, but I don't mind when it's used for emphasis of a comedic point and not as an excuse for having a weak vocabulary. Bottom-line - great line up and Reuben (13 months old) particularly bopping along to all the music, whether string quartet or live band.Briefly on the ports (as others have written longer guides).Copenhagen - Ouch. Expensive but pretty.Warnemuende - It's a long train ride to Berlin, so we wandered around the town and had a great afternoon.Talinn - Fantastic old town centre and really easy to walk into.St Petersburg - We did a two day private tour - well worth it. Amazing city with huge amounts to see and enjoy. I could have sat in the Cathedral on the Spilled Blood all day.Helsinki - Fantastic market by the docks with great food on offer (Mmmmm - Reindeer!!!). Hop-on, hop-off bus expensive but interesting.Stockholm - We docked close to the city centre. Hop-on, hop-off boat tour is an absolute bargain at 10 Euros. Vasa museum is awesome. Beautiful harbour front and gorgeous little streets in the old city. Stunning scenery as you cruise out through the other islands. Sadly, next year NCL will be docking out of the city and I'm not sure how easy it will be to get in then.So let's conclude. NCL is what it is and what it does it does very well. Criticisms above are points for improvement (and when it comes to my main dining room concerns, a possible big win), not matters for complaint. If you want indulgent five star cuisine and free wine, then cruise with another firm that gives you that. If on the other hand you want a relaxed family holiday with great service then NCL might just be your cup of tea (iced or otherwise).Finally some mentions. Thank you to Madel who was our fantastic butler and handled having a baby in the cabin magnificently. Rowena at the Java Cafe - you earned your tip with great relaxed but professional service. Julian and Tony - you run a great team and you need to know that when others here complain (and I know you read this Julian - the Teppenyaki was magnificent - thanks again). Carlos - thank you for encouraging my son to walk and your handling of all those little touches for me. Daniel on Rich's team - You're right, Mohitos *are* a great drink (and thank you Tony again for that).Feel free to ask me any questions about the above (or anything else).Peter+ Read Less
Sail Date: June 2009
NORWEGIAN JEWEL BALTIC CRUISE We just returned from a 12-night Baltic Cruise aboard Norwegian Jewel. This was our family's 9th cruise (4 on Norwegian, 3 on Royal Caribbean, and 1 each on Celebrity and Carnival). In our group ... Read More
NORWEGIAN JEWEL BALTIC CRUISE We just returned from a 12-night Baltic Cruise aboard Norwegian Jewel. This was our family's 9th cruise (4 on Norwegian, 3 on Royal Caribbean, and 1 each on Celebrity and Carnival). In our group we had 20 people traveling, 18 of whom "did the cruise together," and a mother and daughter who preferred to spend time alone outside the group. Of the 18 who hung out together, we had 2 grandparents in their early 80's, 7 seasoned adults (late 40's to early 60's traveling with their kids), 4 young adults in their early 20's (all single), and 5 teenagers between 14 and 17. PRE-CRUISE: While it's possible to fly transatlantic overnight and make your way to Dover to board the ship in one Herculean effort, this didn't appeal to our group as we'd be starting the cruise exhausted. Instead, one family flew to London several days ahead to do some sightseeing, and the rest of us flew to London two days before the cruise. This gave us an overnight in London to collect our wits and start recovering from jet lag, and then we took the train to Dover and spent a night there before boarding the ship. TIP: We selected a hotel near Victoria Station in London to help reduce the friction factor of travel. Victoria Station is the collective melting pot for the Gatwick Express Train, the Heathrow Airport Coach, and the train to Dover. By staying at a hotel within easy walking distance of Victoria Station, we never had to worry about finding enough taxis to move a large group and their bags about town, nor did we have to haul our cruise luggage up and down stairs between platforms in the London Underground. The Tube is enormously convenient if you are traveling light, but it would be a nightmare to negotiate with large suitcases. Keep that in mind when you make your travel arrangements. There are several reasonably priced small hotels and guest houses near Victoria Station; contact me if you would like more information. In Dover we stayed at the Churchill Hotel (managed by Best Western) which has the perfect location right down on the waterfront and which offered us a good price for a comfortable night's rest (beware of the sea gulls; our friends left their bedroom window open and went out to eat, then returned to discover a wily gull had apparently popped in and enjoyed unwrapping and eating their tea biscuits, leaving crumbs all over the bed!). STATEROOMS: Norwegian Jewel is a beautiful ship; this was our second cruise on Jewel. We also sailed a 12-night Mediterranean Cruise on this ship in 2007. Our group was divided between interior and oceanview staterooms. The balcony cabins are a little larger, but we all managed in the smaller rooms which are cramped, but well designed with good storage space if you follow a couple simple rules. #1) Don't try to live out of your suitcase. Unpack as soon as your bags are delivered; put things away in the closet and drawers, then stash your suitcases under the bed. #2) Repack dirty clothes that you do not plan to wear again as you go instead of allowing them to pile up around your cabin. This will also make your packing at the end of the cruise a breeze because most of it will already be done. TIP: I bring Downy dewrinkler spray in travel sized bottles (available at Wal-Mart) to keep our clothes wrinkle-free, but on this cruise NCL was offering some very good discount prices to press clothes, so a couple of the guys got some of their shirts pressed - $2 per shirt I believe it was. While the interior and oceanview rooms are on the cozy side, the bathroom design on NCL is better than most other ships in this class. The showers have a glass door (no icky shower curtain that sticks to you while allowing water all over the bathroom floor), and there is decent counter space for toiletries. A hairdryer is provided, and the electricity is wired for 110 small appliances. I believe there was a plug for 220 as well (please check on that to be sure). FREESTYLE DINING: There are two main dining rooms with open seating for dinner (NCL's signature "Freestyle" Dining). Tsar's Palace is the larger and dressier of the two, while Azura is smaller and more informal, although guests are requested to not wear jeans or shorts at night (especially Tsar's Palace and the specialty restaurants). We found to our disappointment, however, that despite posting the dress code in the Freestyle Daily, the rules were not well enforced on this cruise (two years ago the dress code was enforced on Jewel, which made the dinners onboard more pleasant). Both main dining rooms serve the same menu on any given day. We made reservations for the first formal night (Tsar's Palace) and also for a surprise birthday party for my husband (Azura), but otherwise never had reservations in the main dining rooms, and never had to wait to be seated despite that we regularly had a sizable group eating together. If I had one criticism of the main dining rooms, and I offer this reluctantly, it was that the service was slower and uneven on this cruise by comparison to two years ago. The exception was my husband's birthday party where the staff in Azura could not possibly have knocked themselves out more to make it a success. Otherwise it seemed as if the main dining rooms were a bit short staffed, and my hunch is that this is a cost savings measure on the part of the cruise line as they tough out the recession like the rest of us. We paid a little less for this cruise than we did for our 12-night cruise on the same ship exactly two years ago, and I don't know about you, but I am paying more these days for just about everything from gas to food at home compared to a couple of years back. The travel industry is trying very hard to weather the storm, and in the process they surely must be forced to cut a few corners here and there to stay afloat while offering folks like you and me a swell vacation, and doing it at a price cut. All in all the meals in the main dining rooms were delicious and the staff was both cordial and attentive. Jewel also has a cafeteria style buffet, alfresco dining at the Great Outdoors, Blue Lagoon is open 24 hours a day for burgers, chicken fingers and fish and chips fare (the teenagers and twenty-somethings regularly went there for a "second supper" in the wee hours of the morning after dancing the night away at the disco), and a tapas bar that serves light fare if you are not especially hungry. These are all included in the price of your cruise. Additionally there are a number of specialty restaurants onboard, each with a modest cover charge: Mama's Kitchen Italian, Tango's TexMex, Chin Chin Asian with an adjacent Sushi Bar, Teppanyaki Japanese (like Benihana or Kanpai of Tokyo), Le Bistro French and Cagney's Steak House. We ate at both Le Bistro and Cagney's on this cruise and both were excellent. The doting service was measurably better than the main dining rooms, but of course, for a cover charge one expects better. On our 2007 cruise on Jewel we tried Tango's (immense burritos) and Mama's, the latter not being as splendid in our opinion as Impressions Italian restaurant on Norwegian Dawn. There are electronic boards throughout the ship that offer updates on seating availability so that in a pinch you can check to see which dining room or restaurants are full and which have room for your party. Two families in our group were able to make last minute reservations at Teppanyaki (one family even went twice!), which is often the hardest specialty restaurant to nab because of its small size and the "show" that goes along with dinner. Breakfast and lunch are offered in a dining room (Tsar's Palace I believe?) but we preferred to eat at the Great Outdoors. There was always a substantial selection of tasty dishes available plus fresh fruits, made to order omelets at breakfast, and salads at lunch. We enjoyed The Great Outdoors, even if it was just for a cup of coffee or tea, taking in the fresh air and the passing sights. Freestyle Dining worked like a charm on this cruise. TRAVELING WITH KIDS: Although we still have teenagers in our group, none of them used the teen center on this cruise as they are all "veteran cruisers" and have no trouble meeting others their age onboard. Having offered that caveat, Norwegian ships offer a marvelous staffed program for kids from toddlers through teens divided by age group. My own kids claim that they have enjoyed the best counselors on NCL ships. Note also that while most cruise lines start their little kids' program at 3 years old and potty trained, NCL has organized programs for 2-year olds where parents are given a beeper to be paged when needed for a diaper change (no staff on any cruise line can change diapers due to health regulations). All cruise lines end their teen program at age 17, which can often leave the 18-20 year old crowd in limbo ... they cannot participate in the teen activities, but they are also not allowed in the adult venues either. On most NCL ships (I believe the exceptions are Alaska and Hawaii where the ships remain in US waters) your 18-20 year olds are allowed to hang out in the adult disco and bars and if you sign a consent form, they are permitted to have beer and wine onboard (no hard alcohol). Perhaps we are lucky, but our kids in this age bracket have not abused this privilege and they have a terrific time joining in with the early 20's crowd dancing and going to the clubs at night. NCL initiated a change in their booking policy on this cruise which caused considerable last minute heartburn for our group. In the past we have been able to book our kids in the cabins next door to the parents. We have sailed NCL for years and never had any trouble reserving 3 and 4 staterooms for a large family; in fact, this is one of the reasons we liked NCL. When I set up this group last November, that booking policy was still in place. When I went to pay all the final bills in April, however, I discovered the policy had changed, and now NCL is requiring all staterooms to have someone over 21 booked in each cabin (I was told that this has always been the policy, but I know for a fact that this is not the case as we are not newcomers to NCL). This new policy is a nightmare for large families because we need more than 2 staterooms for a family with only 2 parents over 21. In the end we had enough people in the group to shuffle folks around on paper, sometimes placing people who had never even met in the same cabin in order to show somebody over 21 in with each under 21 passenger (all involved were people we knew ahead of the cruise who agreed to this of course), but what if we had not had a surplus of older people in our group? Would we have had to cancel our cruise at the last minute? As it was, once onboard, it was like an episode from a Pink Panther spoof with people swapping rooms the first afternoon - crazy! I am hoping NCL will come to their senses and change back to their former policy (and change the online check-in which they have also monkeyed with, to the detriment of family travel). NCL is in every other way so well suited to families; it would be a shame to have to cross them off my list, giving all our business to Royal Caribbean and Celebrity (among others) who remain family-friendly in their booking policies. ENTERTAINMENT: Norwegian has the best entertainment at sea, and Jewel was excellent both this year and back in 2007 too. We have seen superb magicians, jugglers, comedians, and singers in the main theater, plus they always have a quiet piano bar or guitarist (our cruise had both) playing in one bar or another throughout the evening. The pianist, Michael Chio, in particular was wonderful - nobody whispered a word over drinks when he played Phantom of the Opera. In addition to their main shows, often the entertainers put on a cabaret on another night in a smaller venue, such as a magician act doing a big, glitzy show one night in the theater, and then a more intimate sleight of hand cabaret for a smaller audience in a lounge another night. The Jean Ann Ryan Company put on performances like you will see nowhere else at sea. Most cruise ships have competent Broadway / Las Vegas style reviews, but in my experience, not up to what you will see from the Jean Ann Ryan Company. On the 12-night cruise they put on two high energy shows with singing, dancing, and some gymnastics. But where they really shine is their cirques; on Jewel it's the Cirque Bijou. Gymnasts fly overhead, East European aerialists are exquisitely agile and graceful, and the singing and dancing are spectacular - everything from Latin to Bollywood to Irish Riverdance. Bravo! Norwegian Jewel also has its own show band onboard (no canned music for theater shows like on some ships). On our cruise we were delighted to discover the band was Rama 111 from Poland. We had seen them before (Norwegian Majesty, Christmas Cruise 2006), and we were so impressed then that we bought their CD. They are apparently quite well known in Eastern Europe as they play all the jazz festivals there. As a show band they can play anything from country to Broadway and pack a wallop, but we were especially glad that they had occasions on our cruise to play a few sets in Spinnakers - big band one day, jazz or bossa nova another - a welcome change for many of us from the rock and roll band (Crossroads) that played more often than not at night in that club. There was also a string quartet on the cruise which played classical selections (unfortunately often in the Atrium Lounge which is too noisy with people passing through - a pity because the quartet was quite good), and a Latino guitar trio that offered a wide range of music in their sets. On Norwegian Jewel there is a wide variety of entertainment to carry you through until about 1am daily, and after that usually the only people still going strong are the younger generation tearing it up dancing in Spinnakers at the late night disco. ONBOARD ACTIVITIES: We enjoy participating in the trivia competitions, which usually got a good turn out on this cruise. Bingo also attracted a crowd, although that isn't our scene, nor is the casino. In fact one of the things that I appreciate about the design of Norwegian Jewel is that the casino is completely self-contained, and you are not obliged to walk through it to get places like on most ships. Norwegian doesn't go in for cultural or naturalist talks onboard like some cruise lines (Celebrity comes to mind) and we would go if talks of this type were offered. They did have assorted seminars on wine / beer / and martini tasting. We did the martini class and it was fun, not to mention getting a bit loopy sampling the drinks. Two of the most accomplished Jean Ann Ryan dancers, Svetlana and Roman, offered dance lessons. We attended one session and they did a first class job. There was lots of humor to keep it fun, and they didn't skimp on offering detailed instruction with personal attention. I have remembered the steps (now if my husband will join me on the dance floor we may have accomplished something!). I could do without all the overhead loud speaker announcements, but given that sometimes people even in our own group hadn't read their Freestyle Daily, I guess half the ship would never know anything that was going on if they didn't make announcements. We also found that the ship seemed to always have muzak playing ... I don't remember that from our cruise on Jewel in 2007, and we preferred the quiet over hearing recorded background music all the time. Here's some information on the ports of call: COPENHAGEN: On European itineraries we tend to wing it rather than book cruise line shore excursions. In Copenhagen we walked over to Tivoli; the adults enjoyed a light lunch while the kids did some rides. Then we went to Nyhavn and did a canal cruise. It was enjoyable, but Copenhagen is a large city and we discovered we spent a fair amount of time just getting from here to there, hobbling over cobblestones past lots of buildings that we often could not identify. The grandparents did the HoHo (Hop On Hop Off double-decker bus) and I think they got the better deal in Copenhagen. In addition to being taken round to see the narrated highlights of the city, they had a convenient stop at Nyhavn for everyone who wanted to take the canal cruise or enjoy a canal side pub, then hop back on the bus to the port. For $25 (US) the HoHo here is a good deal - take it. WARNEMUNDE: We loved this port of call! Hundreds of people opted for pilgrimages into Berlin, and I use the word pilgrimage advisedly because the trip is long and arduous (that night onboard it was dead as a doornail. If the Berlin folks were not penitents setting out for the journey, they perhaps wished they'd done something else in port as they collapsed from exhaustion after). About half our group got up and out early enough to catch the ferry to Rostock and we had fun there. The kids played at a city park (teenagers and 20-somethings having a hoot - helped to offset that none of them had a decent night's sleep the night before), we walked the city walls and ate lunch outdoors in the beautiful old Hanseatic town square, then paid a visit to the maritime museum. Warning - they don't speak English at the museum. Fortunately my husband speaks German and one of the staff was delighted to give us a private tour. We returned to Warnemunde mid-afternoon and thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful little seaside resort village; the other half of our group spent the entire day there. We swilled a couple pints at the sidewalk cafes and met some German couples who were either there on holiday, or were catching an Aida cruise from Warnemunde the following day. This is a charming, relaxing port. Unless you just have to get to Berlin right now for some reason, skip it on the cruise, and take your trip to Berlin another time. It's a LONG way from Warnemunde. TALLINN: Another absolutely delightful town. We were fortunate to arrive on a sunny, warm day with a marvelous youth orchestra playing in the town square. We pulled up chairs at a sidewalk cafe and stayed awhile over refreshments to enjoy the performance, which was outstanding (mostly violins and accordions - hundreds of them). Tallinn's old town is a magical fairy tale place full of turrets and pointy roofed skinny buildings along narrow, twisty cobblestone streets. It's small so you can't get lost, and each turn offers more eye candy to those of us whose countries (US and Canada) only date back a few centuries. Tallinn was a Hanseatic town, like Rostock, but more of the original medieval city remains intact here (it helps that it wasn't bombed to smithereens during World War II). Make the most of your visit by having lunch at Olde Hansa. The restaurant has no (apparent) electricity - it's dark inside with candles and the menu is about as medieval as the atmosphere - we loved it: http://www.oldehansa.com/oldemail/OldeHansa_short.mpeg SAINT PETERSBURG: This is the one port of call where I would NOT recommend you try to wing it. First of all, you would have to obtain a visa to do so, and then what? You are docked in an industrial port many miles from anything you want to see, and at each attraction you will stand in line for hours while those of us on tours zip right in ahead of the throngs of independent visitors. My recommendation is that you do as we did and book a private tour. It cost us about half what the cruise line shore excursions charge (we paid $260 for 2 full days; $234 for those with student IDs and also for our octogenarian grandparents), plus we had a comfortable midi-van for 20 people with a private guide rather than a big bus with at least twice that many people being herded about. We used Natalia at Guide Guru and I would recommend her highly (feel free to mention my name): http://www.guide-guru.com/ I was able to work with Natalia to customize our tour (impossible with a cruise line shorex) so we got to see exactly what we wanted to see for the amount of time at each place that suited us. The first day we spent the morning at Catherine's Palace, and the afternoon seeing the gardens and fountains at Peterhof plus the inside of Montplaisir, and ended the day with a stop at Saint Isaac's Cathedral before heading back to the ship. An evening program was available but we passed on it because we knew the older members of our party would be tired, and the teens and 20-somethings would want to enjoy the social activities onboard the ship in the evening. The second day we did a bus tour of the Nevsky Prospekt, took in a long visit at the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood, then visited the Hermitage for a few hours and topped off the day with a relaxing canal cruise. There has been much discussion about cruise ships making life difficult for passengers who book private tours, so heads up on this matter! Natalia warned us about it, and true enough hundreds of people on OTHER cruise lines have been hassled if they did not book shore excursions with the ship. I am pleased to say that Norwegian is one of the very few cruise lines which did NOT interfere with us trying to disembark and join our tour as soon as we docked. Evidently most other cruise lines have been telling their passengers that the Russian authorities insist that they clear all the cruise line shore excursions through immigration before allowing any private tours or independent travelers to disembark. This is baloney! It's a perk the ship is offering to passengers who bought their tour from the cruise line at the expense of others; it has nothing to do with Russian immigration policy (they could not care less whether you are on one tour or another so long as your documents are in order). On Norwegian Jewel those who had private tours were asked to use one gangway and NCL tours use another, but as far as I could tell this was mostly to help them keep their own tours organized as groups. Immigration the first day was slow for everyone, but we were being processed just the same as everyone else. On other cruises I have read that passengers were delayed by as much as 2-3 hours before being allowed to disembark. I would be livid! HELSINKI: I am sure Helsinki is on the itinerary due to its convenient location, but in my opinion there isn't enough here to warrant a full day of sightseeing. Since there wasn't a priest on our cruise (disappointing, as in the past we have had priests on our NCL cruises), we spent our Sunday morning seeking out and attending Mass. Fortunately the church was located along the HoHo bus route so that's what we did, although in 20/20 hindsight the HoHo here is expensive (25 euros or $35 and change at today's exchange rate) and frankly not worth it because there is so little to see, and the docks are not that far out for most folks (not the elderly) to just walk into town. After Mass we wandered through town and saw the humungous Lutheran Cathedral (very plain - not worth the hike up all those stairs unless you are into huge, plain white buildings). From there we walked over to the lovely conservatory-styled Kappeli Cafe near the gardens. It's charming, but OUCH, I paid about $100 bucks for four of us to have a snack / light lunch (ie a croissant filled with tuna salad or a slice of pie) with coffee or cokes. We then strolled over to Uspenski Cathedral (Russian Orthodox) which was beautiful, though small after the spectacular churches we visited in Russia. We took the HoHo out to the rock-cut church (Temppeliaukio) but it was closed so we didn't get to go inside. All in all we exhausted Helsinki in a couple of hours. It was very clean, which was nice, and everything was in tip top repair (given how expensive everything was, small wonder they have the resources to keep the place tidy and maintained), but I could enjoy similar countryside vistas visiting Wisconsin, and find livelier pubs there at a better price. If I had my druthers we would have skipped Helsinki and gone straight to Stockholm, spending the extra day (or even just an extra half day) with an overnight there instead. STOCKHOLM: I was worried that with a 4pm sailing time we would be cut short here as we could have easily spent two days at this port. In the end, how much you will have time to see depends on where you are docked, and if you are planning a Baltic Cruise, this is one of the questions you need to ask. We were docked at Stadsgarden which is right in the center of town. It could not possibly have been a better location. Many cruise ships however, including Norwegian Jewel in 2010 I believe, dock at Nynashamn which is way the heck outside of Stockholm (it really shouldn't be called Stockholm at all it's that far away). Check them out on Google Earth and you will see what I mean. In our case, we were in the heart of the city, and the HoHo ferry (a real bargain at something like $12 or $13 per person) docked literally about 30 feet from the bow of our ship. The HoHo circuit runs continually at half hour intervals with stops at most of the places anyone would want to visit. We spent half a day at the Vasa Museum (the actual 1628 galleon raised from the sea - it's a magnificent ship to behold and the accompanying museum exhibits are superb) and then had to choose whether to do the Nordic Museum next door, or Skansen, or Gamla Stan, and opted for the latter. It was a very low-stress fun day. Once back onboard we understood why we set sail at 4pm rather than crowding the dinner hour. The sail away through the Stockholm Archipelago was magnificent, and it goes on for hours before the ship reaches open water. We nabbed prime seats up in Spinnakers, and the views were awesome. Sometimes the shipping channel cut in so close to wee little islands that it seemed like we were cruising through people's front yards; on one occasion a couple of pugs came out to bark at the passing ship, the way dogs do at cars back home. Awhile later we spotted a deer swimming between islands. Immense ferries passed by us like any two vehicles on a thoroughfare, sounding as the ships slipped past each other. It was a splendid finale as we departed our last port of call heading back to Dover. Please feel free to contact me directly (JBFLeBlanc@aol.com) if you have any questions about Norwegian Jewel, or about Baltic Cruises. Janet LeBlanc Read Less
Sail Date: June 2009
    We started our vacation with two days in London before going to Dover.  We did all the arrangements are on own and saved money even though we stayed at the same hotel that the cruise uses.  We took Silver fleet to Dover and it was ... Read More
    We started our vacation with two days in London before going to Dover.  We did all the arrangements are on own and saved money even though we stayed at the same hotel that the cruise uses.  We took Silver fleet to Dover and it was fast, efficient and cost effective.   We planned this cruise based on the ports, We were orginally booked on Carnival but they cancelled their Baltic Cruises due to the economy.  This cruise was the best price with the same ports.  I was nervous about taking an NCL since I had not heard good things about the free styling but we decided to try it anyway.   Our stateroom was a balcony room in the center front of the ship.  It was an excellent room and I loved the design of the bathroom.  Plenty of storage space and I packed alot.  The ship was attractive and very clean.  It was a little smaller than ships I have recently been on but it was very well laid out.    We did not do alot of specialty restaurants.  We did do Tangos and Mama Italian. Both were very good and the service in both restaurants was excellent.  Too much food.  The food at Azure was good but not great.  The amount of food is limited both in selection and quantity compared to the other restaurants.  However everything I ordered was good and we found the service was excellent.  This was one of my concerns.  The other was waiting to get a table.  We never had a problem but we eat early, before 7 so that was never an issue for us.   NCL's wine package was not good for us.  I am the wine drinker and you had to buy 10 bottles. That is too much for me.  The wine selection was not great and the prices were not good.  I bought a couple of bottles and found they were very high for what you were purchasing but you are a captive audience.  The wine at the bars has different prices for the same wine which I didn't get.  The best place for wine I found was the Jave Cafe and I found that too late!  I attended a Cruisecritic meet and greet and was impressed that the ship's staff including the captain took the time to talk to us and discuss our concerns about St. Petersburg.  We lined up at 7:15am and were off the ship in 15 minutes.  NCL did everything right there.  They fixed the problems they had on previous cruises and did what they promised us.  We were not put after the NCL excursions.  In fact we were off before they started coming off the ship and day 2 in even easier.   The activities we attended were all good but I think there could have been more.  I enjoy the lectures and those were few if you don't count the shopping ones!  We did not go to many of the shows but the two we went to were wonderful.  Cirque de Bijou is not to be missed!   Service was excellent everywhere and we had wonderful cabin stewards.  Everything was always very clean.  Disembarkation was so easy and fast we could hardly believe it.  Our bags were easy to get to and we were on the bus to Heathrow in no time.  We took 3 NCL excursions and they were good. Warnemunde was the best as we decided not to do Berlin with the long train ride and instead Glasglow which was one of our favorite ports.  Pass on those Ice Bars...what a disappointment.  We did independant tours in St. Petersburg and we went on our own in Tallin, Helsinki.   In summary, we had a wonderful time.  The weather was good, sunny no rain on port days. We were blessed that way. I would sail again with NCL. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2009
The Norweigian Jewel is a very large ship and, while all the cutesy coloring makes her look like a tart, she does have well-appointed innards. We boarded at Dover and it was quick and easy. They gave us a complimentary drink while waiting ... Read More
The Norweigian Jewel is a very large ship and, while all the cutesy coloring makes her look like a tart, she does have well-appointed innards. We boarded at Dover and it was quick and easy. They gave us a complimentary drink while waiting which was the ONLY free thing we received while on board. Our cabin was large and comfortable and the room stewards were simply great. If you didn't want to pay big bucks to eat at one of their six "theme" restaurants, you could fall back upon the one dining room (quite beautiful, actually) or go to the HUGE buffet on Deck 11. The noise and finding a place to sit proved to be rather bothersome, but the food was good. Not great, mind you, but good. The dining room served very good food with a wide selection from which to choose. NOW, on the down side of things, my wife and I felt like we were in a floating department store for eleven days! The push to sell their wares, whether it be the speciality shops or the spa services or bingo, et cetera, was excessive. At the ONE bingo game we attended, we purchased our cards and, during the first game alone, there were NINE advertisements from the caller telling us such things as the great sale at the Russian Bazaar beginning at thus and such a time, or the GREAT deal on a facial at the spa. Yak, yak, yak. After a day or so of these sales pitches, you just naturally want to visit the bars more often. Big Mistake. They charge a 15% gratuity for each drink! The entertainment was, on balance, very good; a comedian one night, a dance trope the next; a mixture of singers. By all means, visit the casino and look around. It's better, though, if you just hand them some money and walk back out as their machines are set at about a 99% advantage to the house. As this was a Baltic cruise, we visited Estonia, Russia, Denmark, Sweden and Finland. The tours were pricy but well done. Because Russia just HAD to have their people there very slowly and methodically checking passports and visas, it was a long wait just to get off the ship in St. Petersburg, and you really don't have time to see very much when you do get away from the ship. We enjoyed visiting the large house where Rasputin was murdered. It was a rainy day and the Russia people looked more than just a little glum as they trudged along. If I lived in Russia, I think I would be a little glum also. We had planned to attend a performance of the Russian Balet that evening, but didn't get back in time from our tour. The Jewel refunded our money without hesitation as it was not our fault. The other ports were very nice. I don't want to make this a very long review; I will just say we certainly enjoyed the Baltic States. Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagan was fun. It was a hot day and I ordered two small cups of good Danish ale for us as we continued to look around. Did not appreciate the $28 they charged!!!! We were told we would get a refund on the cups as we left the gate. I am still wondering what to do with that twenty cents. There simply HAS to be more to it than the dollar versus the Euro and all that. The word "greed" should also be used. We will stick to smaller ships from now on. No "free" style crusing anymore. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2009
My wife and I were on the Norwegian Jewel for the Baltic Cruise from 3rd June to 15th June. Within the first 2-3 days you get the impression that the cruise company is trying to make as much money out of you as possible. While we ... Read More
My wife and I were on the Norwegian Jewel for the Baltic Cruise from 3rd June to 15th June. Within the first 2-3 days you get the impression that the cruise company is trying to make as much money out of you as possible. While we appreciate that the cruise line is in it to make money, it is all in your face without any subtlety. Having said that, we enjoyed the port visits, the food was reasonably good, and the on board entertainment was excellent. As the passengers come from many countries, it is difficult to create meals that will appeal to all tastes. Understandably there will always be those for whom the food is not to their tastes. The mainly Asian (Filippino and Indian) crew who worked in the bars, restaurants and cabins were always courteous and helpful, despite having to work 10-12 hours every day for 10 months of their contracts. They do not have the benefit of the two day weekends enjoyed by most working people. They are stuck in the bowels of the ship when they are not working, and on their relatively low wages they cannot afford to go shopping or sightseeing when they have time off at some ports. If sometimes a crew member does not seem happy and cheerful, I hope cruisers will always be aware how hard these people work while separated from their families for 10 months at a time. No effort was made to help passengers who did not chose to go on shore excursions organised by the ship, and wanted to do their own thing. I believe that some cruise lines provide free shuttle. No information was given as to what options are available to get into the local town, or how far the local town is. In one of the talks we were told by one of the staff that it would take 45 minutes to walk into town. Perhaps it was an attempt to encourage us to buy a ship's excursion. As a couple in our 70s, it took as 15 minutes to walk into town at Tallin. The biggest concern is that there is inadequate seating at the Garden Cafe where the buffet system operates. For breakfast and lunch the seating spills over into the Mamma Mia Italian restaurant. This restaurant only operates in the evenings and you have to pay to eat there. The buffet restaurant does not provide trays, which means you have to make several trips to collect your courses from the area where the buffet food is available to your table. One day I measured that the distance from the buffet area to my table was about 100 yards. Each time you leave your table to collect a course results in a 200 yards round trip. One consolation of the long walks is that you will be burning some of the calories you are consuming. With all the high tech equipment on board this modern liner we could not receive BBC television for 48 hours prior to reaching Dover. Even in Dover the tv screen in our cabin displayed the message "No (or bad) signal". There was no problem with the American Fox TV news. The ship made no attempt to display an up to date weather forecast for the days when we are in port. A large number of passengers went into Stockholm on a sunny morning and were completely drenched by about 2 pm. The lesson from this is that, in the absence of a weather forecast for the day in port, you should always be prepared to avoid a soaking. With millions of dollars being spent on designing cruise ships, one would think that someone would come up with a design to stop the rattling and sliding of empty coat hangers in wardrobes during rough seas. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2009
Hello, my husband and I traveled on the Norweigan Jewel in June of this year. We are both 52 and have cruised many times on nine different cruise lines. We were joined by our bachelor friend who is 53. We were a little concerned about NCL ... Read More
Hello, my husband and I traveled on the Norweigan Jewel in June of this year. We are both 52 and have cruised many times on nine different cruise lines. We were joined by our bachelor friend who is 53. We were a little concerned about NCL because on a previous cruise, early on in the Freestyle Dining concept, we weren't all that happy with the dining service, there was a lack of accountability. But, the price and ports were right so we took a chance.We are so very happy that we did, what a Marvelous Vacation!!! We started with two days pre in Cranbrook, a village about half way between London and Dover. The George Hotel was great, the service, the food and the room were top notch. Enjoyed a day in Canterbury and toured Dover Castle (including the Secret Wartime Tunnels - fascinating!) before boarding the ship, which was fast, and hassle free.To summarize, we are completely sold on NCL, we did not have one problem, 95% of the staff were outstanding, the ship was incredibly well maintained, entertainment was varied and great, and the cabin was tip top with a comfy bed and very well laid out bathroom, the food could use a some improvement (a little bland at times). The ship is only 4 years old but I have been on other ships of the same age and they showed every bit of the wear and tear of years of constant use. The Jewel looked brand new and the staff worked round the clock to maintain its beauty (not in an obnoxious, in your face way). Our balcony cabin, a BB 9574, was very well laid out with plenty of storage, a larger then usual balcony, and the best bathroom configuration we've seen. I did bring my own conditioner as suggested.We ate at all the specialty restaurants except the Teppanaki because it was too loud for the group of 7 of us dining that night that wanted to talk with each other. By far we thought Le Bistro the best. We only ate in the included dining rooms once and it was just OK. The only thing that we think NCL needs to work on is the food. As stated above, a lot of it was bland. In every venue it was a hit or miss with the menu - some dishes good to very good while others were take a bite and leave it. Not usually ones for the shows, we did attend some this cruise and they were all very good and entertaining, especially Le Cirque Bijou, Fountains and the Liar's Club. Specialty music was everywhere, varied and good.The staff was probably the best overall that we have ever experienced on a cruise line!  What respect they showed the passengers - in all my cruises I have never seen the Captain AND all the department heads go to a Meet & Greet and spend over 45 with us and answer our questions. You didn't just see them then either. They were all over the ship every day; they were there when we got off the ship and when we came back from our days in port, completely accessible. I have never seen that on another line, including Regent or Radisson. Special mention must go to Julian - the best and friendliest in the business, Tony the food and beverage head - right on top of everything - Rich - patience and assistance extraordinaire and finally Cherrylynn in Chin Chin's - incredible service and attention! This kind of management, leading by example, was evident throughout the Jewel, trickling down to all levels of service.Our first port was Copenhagen and we were one of the first off. Took a taxi to Nyhavn and jumped on a canal cruise boat. We were 3 of only 7 on the cruise - by the time we came back the next ship was packed. Next we walked over to Christiansborg Palace and toured the underground ruins. On to Tivoli where we had a Danish lunch, then took a ride on the HOHO bus, visited the ICE BAR (we were the only 3) and then HOHO back to the ship.Germany - off early again, pre-arranged rental car at Hertz and on to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp - very moving! Then drove into the city and took pictures at the Berlin Wall then on to Checkpoint Charlie and the museum. Parked the car by the Brandenburg Gate and hopped on a city bus to Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedachtnis-Kirche. Lastly, a tasty German beer at a sidewalk cafe by Brandenburg Gate before driving back to port.Next stop Tallinn - off the ship early and took a taxi to the top of the Old Town. Visited Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and the Dome Church then on to Kiek in de Kok and took a tour of the secret tunnels - very interesting. Had a delightful lunch in the town square and then toured the Dominican Monastery. Great little town to just walk around and explore - did a little shopping and stopped for a tasty dessert before walking back to the ship.Ah, the highlight, St. Petersburg. After all the concern regarding disembarkation in Russia, most, including us, thought that NCL did an incredible job. I timed it and it only took 20 minutes to get through immigration. You also had some pretty high up staff outside handing out water and hot chocolate, keeping an eye on the line and talking with the passengers. Much patience was shown to the few but obnoxious who chose to complain anyway - "It's windy out here" - really? Perhaps the wind did not get the memo from NCL to not be blowing that day.We had pre-arranged a two-day tour through Anastasia with another family of four. We cannot say enough about Anastasia, our guide Helen and our driver (never could pronounce his name so we gave him an American name - Sam). During the entire experience with them, they were flexible, accommodating, prompt and friendly.The first day we toured the Hermitage, the Church on the Spilled Blood, shopped a bit, rode the metro (subway), visited a grocery market and had lunch at a traditional Russian restaurant. In the late afternoon we were treated to a private canal cruise (just the seven of us!) complete with champagne and chocolate then some of us went to the Folklore show and some back to the ship.Our second day was just as fantastic. We were driven to Catherine's Palace and we walked right in - past hundreds of people waiting - I don't know how Helen did it, we were just glad she did! Then on to Peterhof where we had lunch and toured the gardens before our ride back on the hydrofoil. "Sam" picked us up and we went on to St. Isaac's Cathedral and finally a stop at a riverside cafe for a Russian beer and then back to the ship. An incredibly perfect experience! Next stop - Helsinki. Off early (see the pattern), bought an all day ticket for the tram and rode it to Market Square - great food and maybe the best shopping of the cruise. Then rode to see The Church In The Rock (Temppeliaukio) and back to the Square to board our Sunlines boat trip. Once off the boat took tram to Rautatientori Square next to Central Railroad Station to board the Pub Tram a special tram that serves beer while you sightsee - the three of us had the who tram to ourselves! After a walk in Esplanade Park, back to the ship via tram.Last stop - Stockholm. Off early, taxi to the Vasa Museum before the crowds and tours. Had purchased the Stockholm Card before we left home so we then used public transportation for free - actually everything we did was free admission with the SC. Took the Historical Canal Tour then walked right over to Gamla Stan (Old Town) and arrived at the Royal Palace just in time to see the Changing of the Guards and then toured parts of the Palace. A wonderful traditional Swedish lunch in one of the squares and a tasty ice cream cone that we enjoyed while walking back to the ship.Back in Dover, we took the train to Charing Cross station and walked the short distance to our hotel - The Trafalgar. Great hotel, wonderful staff, comfy rooms and good food.We took the tube to Victoria station, had a really good pub lunch right next door to the Victoria Palace Theater where we saw the musical Billy Elliot - a MUST see! After the show we crossed the street and toured Westminster Cathedral and took the elevator up to the top for a most magnificent 360-degree view of London. Dinner on a moored boat on the Thames then called it a night and the best vacation!One thing that was driven home to me on this trip is how important attitude is - not just while traveling of course, but every day of your life. After reading some of the negative reviews and/or comments from this sailing I honestly wonder if maybe we were on two different cruises. I truly believe that the night and day difference between the two experiences is attitude AND respect. If you are waiting for things to go wrong, they will. If you are looking for people to fail, they will. If you greet people and life with a smile and an open mind, people and life will respond in kind. It boggles my mind how anyone could have been on this cruise and gone to those fascinating ports and not had a marvelous time. What a waste.I hope you have enjoyed my LONG review and I hope it proves helpful to those yet to travel. I would be happy to answer any questions. Happy Sailing - Sally Read Less
Sail Date: June 2009
Overall our experience on the Jewel was positive.  The entertainment was wonderful, the cabin more spacious than most I've sailed in and the staff was cheerful and efficient.  My husband and I especially enjoyed the piano player, ... Read More
Overall our experience on the Jewel was positive.  The entertainment was wonderful, the cabin more spacious than most I've sailed in and the staff was cheerful and efficient.  My husband and I especially enjoyed the piano player, guitar player and small combos that played in various areas throughout the day and evening.  We were blessed with wonderful weather throughout the cruise which always makes the vacation brighter. We did observe some of the same issues with the food experience that other reviewers have complained about. The Garden Buffet was crowded and chaotic and the free restaurants had long waits and somewhat limited menus.  However, we discovered some strategies for overcoming these limitations.   The first evening on board some of specialty restaurants will offer a half price cover charge from 5:30 -6:30. Go for it.  We had a lovely dinner, with a window table at the Le Bistro the first night for an extra $15 for two. Only about 3 other couples took advantage of this, so our service was attentive and the chef had plenty of time to spend on preparing our perfect meal. While the rest of the ship's passengers were trying to sort out the dining rooms we were being pampered and fawned over. A great way to start the cruise.  Knowing I don't like the confusion of buffets, we opted for a sit down breakfast in the Tzar's Palace any days we did not have to be off the ship early.  On days we had to be out early we used room service for breakfast. Both options leave you feeling relaxed and taken care of. We also discovered that The Great Outdoors (Deck 12 aft) is seldom crowded and offers an ample selection of breakfast, lunch and snack foods, including scones, cream and jam in the afternoon.  Check it out as soon as you board the ship while you wait for your stateroom to be prepared. After the first day, things calmed down in the two main restaurants and we were able to get a table without an excessive wait. The main courses were mediocre in most cases, but the appetizers and desserts were generally very good. Don't hesitate to ask for alterations to the menu.  I was happily provided with extra steamed vegetables, different side dishes, two or three appetizers instead of a main course. It seemed that all reasonable requests would be cheerfully accommodated. So let yourself go with flow and you really will have a good time on this cruise Read Less
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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