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
Norwegian Jewel Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.0 0.0
Dining 4.0 0.0
Entertainment 4.0 0.0
Public Rooms 4.0 0.0
Fitness Recreation 4.0 0.0
Family 4.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 4.0 0.0
Enrichment 1.0 0.0
Service 3.0 0.0
Value For Money 4.0 0.0
Rates 3.0 0.0

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