629 Norwegian Jewel Cruise Reviews

1. Background: we are late-fifties, with 30 cruises on many cruise lines and 11 cruises on NCL. 2. Review: Overall a good value based on low price, great itinerary, decent service, decent food, decent entertainment. This ship and this ... Read More
1. Background: we are late-fifties, with 30 cruises on many cruise lines and 11 cruises on NCL. 2. Review: Overall a good value based on low price, great itinerary, decent service, decent food, decent entertainment. This ship and this cruise line lacks the "Wow" factor of other lines; but the low price makes it a good value. a. Embarkation. Smooth and fairly efficient. If you get there early (before noon) plan to wait in lines (security and check-in) for about an hour before boarding. b. Itinerary: excellent. 4 Stops in Belize, Cozumel, Roatan, and Costa Maya. All stops were good or great scuba diving locations. Plenty of time to enjoy shore excursions or just enjoy a beach day. c. Ship: OK. Older, smaller ship, fairly clean and public areas were decently maintained. Easy to find your way around. d. Cabin: Good. Inside cabin was small but adequate. Cabin service was good. e. Food: OK. (No need to spend money on pay-as-you-go restaurants.) - Main dining rooms were too slow. Plan on 2-2.5 hours to eat dinner. Decent variety. Most dishes were pretty good. But the time factor means food sometimes comes cold. Orders were sometimes wrong. - Buffet was good for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Sometimes a bit crowded but could always find 2 seats. Most food was tasty, and there was a pretty good variety of hot and cold dishes. - Blue Lagoon was a great place to get a snack 24/7 especially wings. - "Room Service" was a joke. Tried to call them twice; it took 15-20 calls to get through. When I did get through the food that came was terrible. IMHO not worth your time. f. Entertainment: pretty good; worth going to for the most part. Comedians were funny and production shows were pretty good. Pianists and bands around the ship were pretty good. g. Value. Low prices: inside cabins were going for around $300 plus tax. At this price this was a great deal.   Read Less
Sail Date February 2014
I went with a group of 130 ppl. The food has definitely changed with most of the cruise lines from what others said in the ports from the other ships. This was my 10th cruise but my first on Norwegian. The food was good in the buffet. I ... Read More
I went with a group of 130 ppl. The food has definitely changed with most of the cruise lines from what others said in the ports from the other ships. This was my 10th cruise but my first on Norwegian. The food was good in the buffet. I was disappointed with the food in the main dining rooms. It seems like they are trying to push the cruisers to the specialty (for an extra fee) dining rooms. I never went to a specialty dining room. The people I know that did go to the Japanese Steak House said that it was good and worth the extra $25 that they paid each for their meal. I wish that I would have just stuck with the buffet. The ship was clean and they were squirting our hands with sanitizer every time we entered the ship and buffet. There were self serve sanitizer balls at every dining room and many other places on the ship. We had a great room steward, but some friends complained that they couldn't get extra water delivered to their room fridge. ( they were on another deck with another steward). Overall the destinations were what made the trip special. The room and balcony did seem smaller compared to the ones I've been on with Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Princess. Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
Although we have done 14 cruises, this was our first with ncl. We found the ship to be the cleanest we have been on. The staff was the friendliest we have ever encountered. The food, however, was far below our expectations. As previously ... Read More
Although we have done 14 cruises, this was our first with ncl. We found the ship to be the cleanest we have been on. The staff was the friendliest we have ever encountered. The food, however, was far below our expectations. As previously mentioned by another cruiser, it appears that they are encouraging their passengers to use the alternate dining options. Very limited menu in the dining rooms. Very disappointed with their 'steak'- it was a tough, thin cut that would normally be found only on a steak sandwich. They had the exact same steak on the night they described it as filet mignon/with shrimp (three tiny overcooked shrimp atop the thin steak). Cabin was satisfactory. Loved the fact that the shower had a glass sliding door and not a curtain! Storage space was great also-lots of shelves and drawers. Getting on and off the ship was easy. Liked that they actually counted passengers on their safety drill, Princess does not do this anymore. Entertainment was good every night. Did not like the tender-we did not use ncl's tender boats but used a private island ferry that did not have life-jackets for all passengers. When we questioned this we were told there were more in a cupboard-but how could you access these if the boat tipped?????? First time to visit New Orleans and we loved the city-safe and very friendly people. Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
A little background, This is my 3rd cruise and I totally love cruising. I have been on Princess, CCL, and now NCL. We are in our late 30's and mid 40's. Like to think of myself as a very simple guy. Hotel: We got a great deal on ... Read More
A little background, This is my 3rd cruise and I totally love cruising. I have been on Princess, CCL, and now NCL. We are in our late 30's and mid 40's. Like to think of myself as a very simple guy. Hotel: We got a great deal on the Hyatt French Quarter. Great location but overall I was a bit disappointed in the French Quarter, I knew that it was a party area but it was not very clean. Once we got over to the French Market / Jackson Square area it was more what we expected out of New Orleans. Embarkment was super easy. It was a bit of a maze to get to the check in desk but once we got there it was super simple. Overview: When we got on the ship and began to walk around both my wife and I first noticed that there was no real WOW factor to the ship. No grand atrium, The hallways while clean did not shine with brass and bling. It took us back that there was no live music in the atrium and the welcome consist of a few staff members in a line at the end of gangway. This is not a bad thing but it was just something that caught our eye. Cabin: We had Cabin 10098 a mid ship Balcony. Very nice location just off of the elevators (We did not hear noise from the elevators the whole trip.) Had a wonderful room attendant, Wilmer. We asked him once we got to the room to remove the extra chair and table to give us a little more room. He was more than happy to do it. Food: I have read over and over that there are reviews about there being issues with the food onboard. We ate 3 times at Tsars, once in Mama's, once at Moderno, twice in the Buffet and one night we did room service. All except for room service were wonderful. My room service Burger was overcooked and super dry. The bun was a rock. On the flip side. The dinner I had at Mama's was one of the best meals I have ever had on a cruise. Ports: Cozumel - Due to rain our plan shore tour was cancelled. We opted for Chankanaab Belize - We did the cave tubing. This was an amazing tour. We went with Carlos Chan. Roatan - We did the Maya Key private Island. Very nice relaxing day Costa Maya - We did the ruins with Native choice. This was by far the most amazing and wonderful tour of the whole trip. Overall, this was a wonderful cruise and I would be happy to do another cruise with NCL if the itinerary and the price are right. I dont know that NCL won us over so much so that we would only cruise with them but we will certainly give them consideration when booking our next cruise. IF you are looking for a great cruise with plenty to do or nothing to do than this is a good cruise for you. IF you are looking for the WOW factor then the Jewel may come up a little flat. Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
This was our sixth cruise but our first on Norwegian. We were excited to try out this cruise line as all of our other experiences had been on Carnival. Boarding the ship was relatively smooth and much like Carnival. My first impression of ... Read More
This was our sixth cruise but our first on Norwegian. We were excited to try out this cruise line as all of our other experiences had been on Carnival. Boarding the ship was relatively smooth and much like Carnival. My first impression of the boat was that the decor was more modern than what I had experienced on previous cruises. We went to the buffet to have lunch and wait for our rooms to be ready. The food at the buffet was okay - nothing to write home about. I sampled two or three deserts but found them to be very disappointing and after a bite of each, I threm them out. There were no bar servers wandering around to purchase a drink from - I am used to them wandering through the dining areas with a tray of the drink of the day. I am not a huge drinker but I do like to start my cruise off with a fruity cocktail. As promised our rooms were ready at about 1:30pm. The oceanview room had a nice large window with a window sill large enough for me to sit in the window and look out. I knew from information online that the room was going to be about 20 sq.ft. smaller than the rooms we usually have on Carnival. I was pleased with the storage in the room-in fact this is one area where Norwegian has outdone the competition. It was also extremely nice to have the mini fridge in the room. We did not purchase any of the drinks from the fridge but we had carried on a case of water and we were able to place a few bottles in the fridge to keep them cold. Then I went to the bathroom and boy was that a surprise! It was soooo small! I am a plus sized lady but this was ridiculous. I had to squeeze through the opening to get to the toilet and then squeeze back out to the areas where the sink was - same story with the shower. I will say the shower size was fine once you were actually in there and it was nice to not have a curtain clinging to you while trying to wash. The toilet area was ridiculous - you could lean your head on the wall in front of you (where your knees basicallay touch the wall) while sitting on the toilet. We ate dinner with some others we were cruising with (42 in our group) in the Azura dining room. We were impressed to see Steak and Lobster on the menu the first night but it was short lived the steak was a thin tough piece of meat that was not appealing. I later found out that they do not grill their steaks instead they pan sear them and finish them in the oven. We did not eat at any of the restaurants that you have to pay for but some of our friends did. Their opinion is that the cruise line skimps on the included food and serves better food in the specialty restaurants so you will spend more money. My husband and father ordered fish in Tsars Palace and were served half cooked fish that smelled spoiled. When we complained they apologized took our cabin number and later sent chocolate covered strawberries to our room. The only thing I can say was consistently excellent on the boat was the Salmon at dinner in Azura dining room and the omelets in Tsars Palace. Carnivals included food is by far better quality than what we were served on Norwegian. We received excellent service from a few people on board but mostly it was hit and miss. The first night at dinner our server raised her voice to me when I moved my tea glass closer to the edge of the table in an effort to make it easier for her to reach to refill. She insisted I move it back before she would fill it. She had little to no personality and was rude. This was not a good way to start a trip. The next morning we received excellent service from Charmaine in the Tsars Palace and she restored our confidence that we would be treated right. Our ship stopped in Cozumel, Belize, Honduras and Costa Maya. Honduras was my favorite stop - we booked a private island tour through island marketing prior to leaving home. This was not through Norwegian but was a wonderful experience - we will definitely do it again. In Belize we did the Calypso train tour and it was interesting but it was a bit disappointing that the tour did not include touristy areas. Next time I would try to book an excursion to a beach area because the tour presented Belize as a very poor and shabby area. In Costa Maya my husband scuba dived and enjoyed it . I looked around the overpriced shops at the end of the pier. They have a beautiful pool right there in the middle but after seeing that a rum and coke at the pool/senor frogs was $16.50, I decided to head back to the ship and enjoy the pool/hot tub there which we had practically to ourselves. Shows on the boat were better quality than Carnival. The store seemed to have a nice selection on board as well. There did not seem to be as many activities, games and shows going on during the day as what I am used to unless you wanted to do aerobics or fitness stuff. Debarkation was easy breezy as we picked 9:20 as our time. We ate at the buffet before debarking and walked right off the ship and through customs. The porter took our luggage all the way to the parking lot and it was so nice. Norwegian would definitley not be my first choice in the future. Overall I was disapointed considering that this trip was a couple hundred dollars more per person than we normally pay with carnival - I just expected better food and service. Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
Just completed Dec 8 cruise. A better ship and crew than in February. Which was the worst. This ship has been spruced up, but still shows its age. Yet it does present itself well. Cabin steward was not up to the usual. We had trouble ... Read More
Just completed Dec 8 cruise. A better ship and crew than in February. Which was the worst. This ship has been spruced up, but still shows its age. Yet it does present itself well. Cabin steward was not up to the usual. We had trouble communicating in English, and I never knew his nationality. Later in week when we needed something. I would find him in the hall, and show him what we needed. Dining is where this NCL cruise beat the pants off the last. The MDR Czar's Palace for evening usually had a decent menu. The food was mostly good. Maybe not knockout, but at least edible without complaints. Service friendly but not the same as assigned dining. Noisy at times with tables being cleared for next diners. The one time we ate lunch in MDR service was slow. We did not do much buffet dining. However there was usually something there to eat. The last night my wife got sick about 4 PM. So I dragged out going to MDR. Around 8 PM it was clear she was going nowhere. Just by chance I went to buffet. It was Deutscher Nacht. This was great. A lot of German dishes including deserts. Sauerbraten, blaukraut, knack and bratwurst, dumplings, a fine apple strudel, on and on. The entertainers were good. Lots of bands and music groups aboard. The stage shows were.... what to expect on ship. I can't fault the performers, but live music at all the productions would have been nice. We had an outside room with window. Bathroom was super small, usually small. I have photos if you need them. The biggest bummer ! We can't sit or move in that bathroom ! Public rooms seemed a bit neglected at times. Not kept spic and span as on other ships. Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
NCL vs. DCL vs. RCCL There's a big difference between the D and the N! For comparisons sake we'll toss in the comparison the RCCL too! We are die hard DCL fans having sailed DCL five times including a 14-night transatlantic all ... Read More
NCL vs. DCL vs. RCCL There's a big difference between the D and the N! For comparisons sake we'll toss in the comparison the RCCL too! We are die hard DCL fans having sailed DCL five times including a 14-night transatlantic all on the classic ships. We've done RCCL twice and decided to give the NCL Jewel a try. We have two girls (ages11 and 8) and we are your typical 40-something, mid-western family. Why NCL? The timing was perfect for our kid's school break and it left from NOLA-- a city we love and where we thought the kids might have fun doing a swamp tour, eating beignets, etc It was a Nickelodeon cruise, so we thought that might signal family friendly. Indeed there were over 800 kids on board--just shy of 30% of the cruising guest population... Add their parents and a big demographic on this cruise was families with kids. Our initial impression of NCL Jewel was that it is a ship that was built for a time when NCL's focus was primarily adults and a shift in focus on families has been retrofitted into an older model. The intent is there, but it's like going into a building that's been repurposed-- some things work better than others. Also, our second impression of NCL facilities is that it has the feel of a "starter home" from a cheap contractor. It looks pretty when you move in, but you start to notice cheap fixtures, nail pops that go unfixed, thin walls, poor insulation, etc. That's how the NCL Jewel feels--- it's bright and cheery, but for a ship only built in 2005, the maintenance is slow. We noticed rusty rails, chipped tables, fading teak, soiled carpet, lots of indents from chairs on the deck flooring, broken theater seats, etc Each in of itself is a minor issue not worth thinking about, but they add up to a "cheaper feeling" environment. Embarkation: While we love the "introduction" on DCL, the NCL process moved quickly and was unique. We arrived at the port around 11:30 and there was a short, quick moving line. Porters took our bags (with the stapled bag tags, which I thought was odd, but we received all of our bags--- so it must not be an issue). The port staff were pleasant. It lacked the unique flavor if DCL (Mickey hands, etc)... But fine. We boarded immediately and landed on an outside deck where they ran our cards. There as a big colorful balloon arch ( just like your early 90's prom) and a few dancers. A large speaker was blaring festive music--- so it was a fun entrance. We ended up entering the actual ship near guest services and were kind of lost. There wasn't anyone really directing guests and lots of people were sort of sitting and milling around. Eventually we ask a staff member about lunch options and she directed us to elevators. Having never been on the ship, it was hard to navigate and not much guidance. Our initial impression of NCL was that it was bright and colorful, mixed with typical cruise ship glitz of mirrors, faux flowers and shiny, neon lit surfaces. Some of the lounges had cool furniture which was kind of fun (Fyzz Lounge, Spinnaker’s). For comparison, we find DCL to be a bit "classier" in style. RCCL has much of the same feel as NCL, but not as bright. I also don't recall much of any pomp upon embarkation at all with RCCL. I also recall RCCL and DCL requiring a bit longer of a wait to board, but that just may be port differences. Both DCL and RCCL had staff ready to move people along....we felt less lost even on new to us ships. First impression of Meals: On NCL, we found our way to the "garden buffet" which was in the back of the ship. It's equivalent to any of the other buffets. It's set up like RCCL in "stations" which are easy to navigate as opposed to DCL's cafeteria style on a Magic and Wonder… Lots of variety including Indian and Asian options. The table areas are much larger than both RCCL and DCL, so big that we missed the fact that we could have found a table outside. The food itself was pretty mediocre. We could certainly find things to choose from, but nothing stellar. We are not food snobs, although we like variety--- so if we thought it was mediocre, the true "foodies" of the world would be dismayed. We definitely thought DCL and RCCL had better food quality. There was a BBQ at the pool later on...again, food was just ok—hot dogs, burgers, etc. Like RCCL, NCL doesn't offer soda as an option without buying a soda package. There were flavored waters, lemonade, and tea available. One flavored water was sugar free and there was unsweetened ice tea. We did buy one soda package for my husband eventually. It was about 50 bucks, but he is diabetic...so worth it to give him more drink options. We had our first dinner at Azura. It's freestyle dining, so we just showed up like a regular restaurant and we were seated pretty quickly. It was nice that we could just go in whatever we were wearing rather than running back to change for the dining room. On DCL and RCCL, we like eating in the main dining room (or assigned restaurant on DCL), but dressing up for dinner isn't always practical. To be fair, I doubt either would have denied us service in casual capris and t-shirts, but still....we try to follow the expected norms. So were seated in a fun velvet booth that the kids thought was awesome. The service was friendly, but no effort to personalize the experience or get to know what we liked since we would likely not have them as servers again. It was formal service and the typical course line-up. The food varied from good to just ok to downright bad. For example, I had the ribeye that tasted like it was frozen and right off the Cisco truck...but it was accompanied by spinach that was cooked perfectly and clearly started as fresh that day. My husband ordered the mahi mahi that was well seasoned. The desserts were quite good, which is usually where I find things more pretty than tasty. However, my daughter really enjoyed the lemon sorbet and I thought the chocolate raspberry truffle cake was excellent. I'm not a huge sweet eater, but chocolate truffle is one of my favorites. However, I ended up with this almost every-night as the dessert menus didn't change. It was tiring by the end... On other nights we tried the other main dining room with similar quality results. The steak was tough, the salads flooded with salty dressing, the soups sort of tasteless.....we did find a little restaurant called Blue Lagoon that had cheese sticks and wings....good for snacks. Again, these were likely just frozen, deep fried fare.... But ok for snacks. The wings were good! We did discover the downfall of "freestyle" though as we didn't time things right and realized we were going to be incredibly rushed to make the main show. Both DCL and RCCL, by the nature of the scheduled dining times, assure that everyone makes it to the main events. Also, while the staff was pleasant we never found them willing to go the extra mile....so drinks were refilled slowly, coffee arrived after we finished dessert, it was difficult to find a steak knife, etc. There was no need to really please the customer since service isn't tied to tips in any way. For example, DH asked if there was any other sugar free option besides SF tiramisu one night (not a coffee fan, but also diabetic). Waitress simple said she didn't think so, but would ask. She never came back with an answer, even when the rest of us were served dessert. On DCL, I'm betting they would have found an alternative SF option from another venue and RCCL always has a SF ice cream option listed. We found out later that there was indeed SF ice cream available, but she just didn't bother to find out. This level of food and service was a running theme to the point that the food quality was laughable by the end. I've had better food in school cafeterias. Steak so full of gristle I had to saw through it...one night they served a black bean soup that was clearly reconstituted from a dried mix--- but not even thoroughly cooked so the beans were CRUNCHY! Really? Couldn't even break out canned black beans? We push it aside and they eventually took it away, but never asked why we didn't eat it or if they could replace it with something else. We adopted a strategy of ordering multiple items in hopes of finding something edible among them.... On both DCL and RCCL the food was much better. Hit or miss items on both for sure, but the "misses" were only occasional and quickly replaced with alternatives. We didn't try the specialty restaurants because I couldn't imagine how the food could suddenly be worth 30.00 per person if the base line was so, so bad. We were so glad we didn't encourage friends to join us because we would have been embarrassed to have brought them there with such bad food! On a good note....the lobster was small, but tasty though. Entertainment: The entrainment in the NCL Stardust Theater seems to fall somewhere between DCL and RCCL. The cruise director, Jamie, appears to be sharp and witty without being crass. It's a different approach than DCL as the CD doesn't wear an officer's uniform? On DCL, we've always found the CD's to be class-acts. However, we've always been very put off by the RCCL CD's who seem to major in jokes appropriate for adolescent boys and find mocking children and senior citizens appropriate humor. On this NCL trip, Jamie opened the first show by recognizing the couple married the longest, greeting the children, etc. There seemed to be something for everyone! DCL is, of course, very family friendly. Unless specifically noted, one can safely assume all events are rated G or a light PG. There are some versions of acts that have an adult version later in the evening in an adult-only venue...but that's fine. We've gone to these without our kids...and they are still pretty tame. The main shows in DCL are true stage productions and are top notch. However, they almost all are Disney themed, so one has to embrace that going into their vacation--it's a Disney cruise! We found much of the RCCL entertainment to be less then family friendly and this was similar for elements of NCL. The comedian, Noodles, at the first showing in the main theater was completely inappropriate for the 800+ kids on the ship. Many of his jokes were in poor taste because they were racist/ethnically derogatory (I didn't know people still told "pollock" jokes), but whatever. It was the jokes about four-hour erections and climaxing that really were the ones he might have better saved for a later show. I noticed several families get up and leave. I just hoped it would go over my kid's heads. It would have been just as easy to leave these jokes out and still do an entertaining set. I wondered how he could look out at his audience with kids sitting right near the front and be comfortable delivering such content. He's a regular, so NCL must approve of it and it's similar on RCCL. There was a show band night of 70's music that I found boring, but DH thought it was ok. The magician was funny and my girls liked him. The Cirque Bijoux was a big hit with my kids, but it was standing room crowds so I could only see pieces of it and the story line was hard to follow. The folks on the silks were pretty cool though. We skipped the final "concert " which I gather many do since there was only one show. In other entertainment, there were lots of trivia quizzes and mock game shows (which we liked as adults) and I know there was a casino, bingo, etc as they announced events from time to time. However, they weren't hyped like on RCCL. Both NCL and DCL seem to make an effort to try to make an "event" of various activities. Theme music, costumes....big intros with enthusiastic staff. In my opinion, I think Disney's execution is a bit more polished-- better costumes, more thematic sets, themed music, etc--- but I appreciate NCL's effort. Karaoke was a hit as usual and NCL made an effort to include kids (as does DCL). On RCCL, we often felt like staff was just going through the motions and couldn't wait to finish to move on to whatever their next responsibility was. Events weren't always well attended either and folks would show up and leave frequently. Outside the theater, the RCCL big events were the Quest (an adults only scavenger hunt) and a late night 70's party. Not bad things to have to appeal to the masses, but these were the BIG events that were hyped all week and neither had any appeal for kids. The message that kids were to the afterthought was a theme. NCL also had a Quest, but it wasn’t quite as hyped. NCL’s big event was the “White Hot Party”---and they hosted two versions, one for 18+ and one for kids/families. We attended the family one and it was pretty well-attended for the first ½ hour or so…then the teens sort of wandered off. They dressed them all in togas and decorated for the party---there was effort made to make it as unique as the adult version. There is no casino on DCL, so that wasn't even part of the cruise. We aren't gamblers typically and they always seem smoky, so we didn't spend much time in the casinos on NCL or RCCL. Just from a walk thru, RCCL's seemed bigger and more active though. Family-Friendliness; This is the Big One for us! We travel as a family, pay for a family and want a family friendly environment. As noted above, DCL really shines in this area. There are plenty of events for families to do together from games shoes, dance parties, games, crafts, etc. We often travel with grandparents in tow too making it multigenerational and they really do have events for all ages. RCCL is not this! On both cruises, we have felt that RCCL mocks children and only accommodates their needs out of pure necessity, not as an embraced business philosophy. There were very few "family" events on the RCCL cruises---some events for kids (mostly within the kids club programming) and lots for adults--- but not many organized events for both. Even the acts at the earlier time slot often contained language and sexual content not appropriate for kids. The attitude we felt was that the assumed goal is to escape your kids by sticking them in kids club so you can get to the real fun. NCL fell in between again. There were plenty of events for families to do together. Slime Time live was fun to watch. There were circus clinics that included teaching both kids and adults to spin plates, juggle, etc. This was more fun than I thought it would be. They had karaoke that included kids for the first hour and then switched to an adults only venue. They made a point of fitting in as many kids as possible. Again, it was sort of a retrofit where they were trying to fit kids activities into adult spaces (as opposed to DCL which has designated family spaces where events wouldn't need to be cut-off for one group or another), but the effort to include kids is appreciated. There was a Wii bowling challenge--- and I usually think of things like video games as sort off a half-effort at programming, but we saw it in action and it was well attended by mostly middle school boys. Kids Clubs: Our girls have always enjoyed the kids clubs on DCL. We feel they are given lots of personal attention and there are lots of age -appropriate activities. We also like the fact that there is a "tween" club that goes to age 13 in a separate facility. We do find that the activities are a bit redundant in the kids clubs, if one cruises more than once every few years. We did find that it's important to go to the opening events on the first night, especially if you are traveling in a small party (so you haven't brought along cousins, for example, as built in companions) and especially the Tweens seem to "group up" during the first few events making it harder to make cruise friends if you come in later. We also liked that parents can give ages 8 and up permission to self-check in/out (or maybe it was that our 11 year old could check the 8 year old in & out). Either way, this made it convenient to just send them off to the clubs after dinner, etc. Dd 11 would take the wave phone, so we knew we could contact her and she could let us know if she checked out. They seemed to really enjoy the NCL clubs as well, especially our 8 year old. Our 11 year old regularly checked herself in and out and asked to go and participated in activities. They separate the groups as 3-5, 6-9, 10-12. The oldest group-tweens met in the teen facility when the teens were elsewhere. My dd11 preferred this. Dd11 could check in and out on her own with our permission, but dd8 could not. It wasn't a big deal, but with no paging system or wave phones, we were forever checking in to see if she wanted to leave. Dd11 made a group of friends and with no wave phone, it was a bit of an issue in keeping up with her whereabouts. Not because she was irresponsible, but because there was no means of easy contact. She would checkout to go have lunch or a snack and would have to run back to the stateroom to leave a note, but we wouldn't always go back to get it..or if we did, it was inconvenient. We liked the fact that if they check themselves in, they have to stay for two hours. She found this frustrating and I'm not really sure what the reasoning was behind this rule, but I liked knowing where she was for a given amount if time since there was no other means of communication. Also, NCL didn't use wrist-bands outside of the kids club. They put them on when they entered and left them when they checked out. This was more comfortable than the clunky bands on DCL. The clubs themselves appeared to have enthusiastic counselors and a variety of activities. The closing over the meal hour wasn't so much of an issue as I thought it would be because my kids usually swim then anyway. I did hear other parents grumbling a bit though. The fact that they charge after 10:30 was annoying since it meant adults couldn't really participate in late night activities. There was a fee on port days until 5pm too. This was a bit annoying since we came back early on a rainy day and they were looking for something to keep them busy. However, my younger daughter read a book and my older daughter found some other girls in her “group” to go to the Blue Lagoon with—so she was set. The culminating kid’s "show" on NCL was a circus for which they had learned tricks all week. There seemed to be a lot of participation and the circus was in the theater. This was similar to DCL's "Friendship Rocks". Each has its own flavor and DCL gives them all t-shirts and features a video....but NCL featured smaller groups of kids actively engaged in showing of a new "skill" ( ex--dd8 did plate spinning). If I recall, RCCL did a small talent show, but it was in an out of the way lounge and featured a small audience and not a lot of careful prep. So overall, DCL's kids clubs had more "polish" and seemed to go farther with professional facilities for each age group...and, of course, the Disney characters are a central feature. NCL had the Nick characters, but they were more of an add-on and maybe it felt this way because we aren't that into Nick. My girls watched Dora when they were in preschool, but not recently. They aren't into Sponge Bob so that was lost on us. Others may be more into it. We did go to a few Nick family events including Slime Time Live and a few dance parties and they were fun, the "Nick team" was definitely energetic....but I spent most of my time cringing that my kids would end up covered in slime or with a head if hair full of whipped cream. This was definitely MY issue though—others probably didn’t care. On a ship without self-laundry, this was a concern. My dd was ask to mash a whipped cream pie in her face right after having her hair "braided" in Jamaica. Luckily she mashed it herself and kept it to her face....I'm not sure how I would have gotten smeared whipped cream out of a head full braids. Again, for other parents this may have been less of an issue---so I’m not faulting NCL for my hang-up. I would rank the kids clubs with DCL ahead, but NCL had a fine program and we were happy with it. We would return for the kids program. RCCL, for a comparison, was by far (based on our experience) lagging behind. On the two RCCL cruises we've taken, my kids were downright bored. The facilities were plain, counselors pleasant enough most of the time, but not overly engaging with the kids....and the activities weren't timed out to know when to go....and many repeated and were simple things that didn't involve a great deal of creativity...that said, there were a few highlights here and there that they liked--- but the didn't ask to go and wanted to be picked up quickly. At one point, I found my younger daughter (then 6) wandering in a hallway having been separated from the group as they moved around the ship. I alerted the staff to the fact that I had found her and was going to just go ahead and take her with me for the evening and they didn’t really seem at all concerned. Staterooms: This was the odd thing. We booked an ocean view room for four and were assigned a room for three. When we inquired, it seems that all of the standard staterooms are only equipped for three. There indeed were two twin beds (which could be pushed into a double) and one bunk directly over one of the twins. Hmm...we figured perhaps the other bunked pulled down from the ceiling like on DCL? Nope-- when we returned we found a cot propped in the middle of the two twins! The real odd thing? There was an 8 inch metal handle protruding from the side of it upwards right smack in between two mattresses with the desk blocking the end of one. So essentially we had a giant bed for three that filled the entire 1/2 of the room wall to wall....with an 8 inch handle to fall over in the dark smack in the middle and a ladder on one side and the desk on the other side. There was no way for the person under the bunk to safely get out off bed without climbing on top of the person in the middle. And the person on the other side against the wall had to do the same, plus straddle the 8 inch handle in the dark. I can't figure out how any engineer could have conceptualized this idea as a safe one! I can only figure that NCL is trying to retrofit for families as it changes its corporate focus. Needless to say, we had Guest Services and the Hotel Manager come look and they agreed it was odd, but said that's how they do it. In the end, we had them at least shift the cot to the far right so the handle was against the wall and not in the middle. Now it was just my immediate family and my girls are fine with sharing a bed with the parents....but some kids (including teens) and non-family immediate family units might object more to being quite that cozy. In the end, we slept DH on the left, me in the middle, and dd11 next to me leaving dd8 and all her stuffed animals in the bunk as she tosses and turns the most. It was like camping in a tent all in a row in one bed. Weird! Sure enough, anytime anyone needed to use the restroom, they would have to climb over me.... We think DCL has the best bunk set up as they don't come down over the main bed so there is no head bumping. Instead a couch flips into a bed and a bunk pulls down from the ceiling. On RCCL they flip down over our bed on each side making sitting up on bed inconvenient, but at least everyone has his or her own sleeping space. NCL, however, had the best storage for a standard stateroom. There were 6 drawers (plus a desk drawer) and then lots of recessed shelves deep enough for clothing, shoes, etc---and the closet. We always seem to be stumbling over our things in DCL and RCCL and DCL usually has a coffee table to trip over or have removed. NCL managed to fit a desk, a small table and two night stands in without taking up much space. We couldn't use the nightstands due to our mega-bed situation, but we stacked them against the wall without a problem. There was a small refrigerator that we didn't use with a mini bar in it, but it was out of the way. DCL had cool boxes that never seem to cool much and no minibar at all-- which we like! We don't ever use that stuff and it takes up space. RCCL has a messy minibar of junk that takes up space on the desk and, when asked, the stateroom attendant just moves it to a shelf thus using up shelf space. They did finally remove it when we pressed the issue, but it was a bit of a hassle that wasn't necessary. The shower on NCL was hands down the best...it was pretty roomy for a cruise ship. You could actually pick up the soap when it dropped. DCL's is ok and some might prefer the tub, but NCL was better. RCCL was the smallest and hardest to use-- like showering in a tiny cylinder! The toilet on NCL was in it’s own “closet” though---some might like the privacy of it since others could be in the bathroom at the sink. However, the wall and “closet door” took up valuable space thus making using the restroom a tight, uncomfortable experience and we just had one person in the bathroom at a time anyway. NCL had a nice, normal hair dryer---which was really helpful. I always have to bring my own on other cruise lines which takes up luggage space. Overall: So, all in all, I would say that we would definitely pick DCL over NCL and RCCL if all things were equal (price, timing, ports, etc). The food is better, the entertainment is better, the Kid’s Clubs are top notch and the facilities kept up. It’s just a better quality experience overall for us. However, it does come at a cost…so sometimes the trade-offs might be worth it. I would do NCL again if the price was right, but I would go into it eyes-wide-open about the food expectations and maybe take some granola bars with me! We actually have another RCCL trip planned in the future….the price and timing were right and it is a very port heavy itinerary, so we won’t really be experiencing much of the entertainment or kid’s clubs---so it seemed like an ok option since or priorities for that trip will be meals and sleeping. So that’s my impression of the three lines. I’m sure others have different takes depending on their preferences and priorities. I’m sure I’m definitely a bit DCL biased since we’ve cruised them more often…..but read the review with a grain of salt from your perspective and hopefully some of it was helpful to your planning. Let me know if you have questions!   Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
Overall we had a good time. The ship looked in pretty good shape, clean. The staff, for the most part, were pleasant and in good spirit. Plenty of smiles and greetings. Heard housekeeping staff singing while they cleaned. Our mid-ship ... Read More
Overall we had a good time. The ship looked in pretty good shape, clean. The staff, for the most part, were pleasant and in good spirit. Plenty of smiles and greetings. Heard housekeeping staff singing while they cleaned. Our mid-ship balcony seemed a little tight but was clean and had plenty of room for our clothing, bags fit easily under the bed. The food was just OK. The extra price for the steak house was too high. $60 for two? Should have been more like $30. The prices on the ship were higher than what we have experienced on previous cruises. For instance, a 950ml bottle of Kahlua was $19.99 on board while a 750ml bottle was $14.99 at my local supermarket. The watches and jewelry were also a little too high to be considered a good deal. The show "Band on the Run" was good. The best place to be seemed to be Spinnaker Lounge. The best band was Groove International (reggae, R&B). The worst was Twosome Awesome (yes, they also had the worst name). Tsar's Palace was great one night, great food, great service. Then another night it was the complete opposite. Terrible food and terrible service. Must be a management issue. Azura was great the first night we ate there. There was a terrific waitress from Croatia named Danjella (J is silent) She was all smiles and seemed to inspire the other waiters who were also smiling and humming. The next time we at there we got a real grouch. No smiles. His service was efficient but the experience was not so enjoyable. We certainly did not feel welcome. We had excursions at Cozumel (Nachi Cocom), Roatan (West Bay), and Costa Maya, which is really Mahahual, Mexico(Nohoch Kay). We didn't plan on anything at Belize. Good thing since it rained the entire day. Can recommend all but the majority of us seemed to like Nohoch Kay the best. Super friendly staff and excellent food. Overall OK. But we will probably go back to Carnival or Royal. Embarkation in New Orleans was pretty easy. Disembarkation was pretty simple. The border folks just looked at our declaration form and said move along. Out in no time.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
This was my and my college aged sons first cruise. After reading many reviews I was somewhat nervous as what to expect and experience. Let me say we had a wonderful week and will be returning on another Norwegian cruise. Sailaway day: ... Read More
This was my and my college aged sons first cruise. After reading many reviews I was somewhat nervous as what to expect and experience. Let me say we had a wonderful week and will be returning on another Norwegian cruise. Sailaway day: Lines were long however we got to the Port of New Orleans and was on the ship within an hour. I did bring 5 bottles of wine on board and got the corkage stickers without any issues. This did save me on purchasing any wine on board but you do have to take your wine with you to dinner or the bar. The server who opens your wine gets the tip from the corkage fee. We did check our luggage and once on board our cabins were not ready so we took our items with us and got something to eat in the garden cafe which everyone else did too so we had to sit outside. Our cabin was ready around 1:30 pm and luggahge arrived around 3:30 pm. The weather in NOLA was chilly so we quickly ate and went to explore the ship with all items in tow. (the wine got heavy) We toured the spa and after reading many reviews chose to get the spa package for each of us for the week. You must be over 18 to go to the spa. The spa is a great place to get away from the crowds. Included in the spa is steam bath, sauna and whirlpools and heated chairs...I really loved the chairs. Both sons ages 18 & 21 loved the spa too. It was $149 for the week so it isnt cheap but really enhanced our experience. Sea Days: We went to the spa, I used the gym on all sea days and went to 2 wine tasting events on these days. The kids went to the casino, arcade, and hung out at the pool bar. Kids over 18 but not 21 can have beer and wine with parenta permission but can only get one at a time which I did sign for my 18 yo. We did go to the comedian show which was really funny. Dining: Our main place to eat was Tsar's Palace in the evening men do need pants or jeans not shorts and close toe shoes. We did one pay restaurant the Teppanyaki and it was good but not as good as our local Shoguns. Not sure I would go again. We also ate at Azura's which is cramped and service not as good as Tsar's. Blue Lagoon was our go to place for different eating times which was good but not exceptional. I consider myself a foodie so the overall the food was average and we quickly learned the beef is low quality so we stuck with fish and chicken and starters. You can get as many of these as you like and one evening I had 3 starters for my meal. Best desert was the Chocolate decadence on the next to last night. Getting off the ship was so easy.. We did not check our bags we carried them off and were off thru customs and to the car in less than hour.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
Our 3rd consecutive Christmas cruise, we thought we would be kicking it up a notch going from our previous cruises on the Carnival Conquest to a more $$$ trip on the the NCL Jewel. We were disappointed in finding both the cabin and bath ... Read More
Our 3rd consecutive Christmas cruise, we thought we would be kicking it up a notch going from our previous cruises on the Carnival Conquest to a more $$$ trip on the the NCL Jewel. We were disappointed in finding both the cabin and bath much smaller than on our similar class Carnival cruises. The service and interaction with our cabin steward was also lacking. I don't ever recall being called by name. The carpet in the cabin was worn, dirty and in need of replacement. The hallways were narrower then on any ship we have ever sailed on, and the one to our room was frequently cluttered with ice chests, totes of cleaning supplies and carts of towels making passage difficult. The menu choices in the dining room as well as the service (downright rude at times) was also less than what was offered by Carnival. One of the biggest failings was the dessert offering both in the dining room as well as the buffet line. No chocolate melting cake here! What was mostly offered was what we referred to as, jiggly gelatin-like desserts. Only after we had turned in our comment cards on the last day of the cruise did the assistant maitre d' visit our table in the room and offer us dessert choices one would expect to be served in the main dining room, selections they had sent to us from the ships' specialty restaurants. I'm sure those dining around us wondered where the heck the creme brûlée and Tiramisu came from! Vegetarian options were also limited. My daughter requested a simple garden salad and was told by the server that wasn't possible. We later found out the rule was "if it's on the ship, a guest can have it." We appreciated the thought that went into making sure everyone sanitized their hands before entering the buffet and restaurants. However, standing guard at entrances with a squirt bottle and saying "Washy Washy" for seven days was a bit overkill. There were some positives, however. We greatly enjoyed the extra touches throughout the trip. NCL did a great job bringing the Christmas spirit aboard. They offered a holiday show, Christmas candies, Christmas dinner, caroling, and broadcasted church services. They also offered flavored water and cold towels when returning from excursions. The entertainment was also excellent as was the embarkation and debarkation process. We also had no problem getting off the ship for excursions and had funk at all of our ports. We had a great time, but probably won't sail with Norwegian again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
Our Jewel sailing last week exceeded expectations in both the culinary experiences and the service throughout the ship. This was our fifth NCL sailing so we knew what to expect coming in- and the Jewel excelled! We were in an aft corner ... Read More
Our Jewel sailing last week exceeded expectations in both the culinary experiences and the service throughout the ship. This was our fifth NCL sailing so we knew what to expect coming in- and the Jewel excelled! We were in an aft corner suite on the 10th deck. The room was large and the balcony was terrific. The bed was extremely comfy and the bathroom with full tub was dandy. Dining- we enjoyed the chef's table and bonded with the other attending guests- there were 13 guests at the private table setup in LeBistro. We also had very good dinners in Cagneys (rack of lamb), LaCucina (veal ossobucco) and the remaining evenings in Tsars (lobster, lamb shank twice and prime rib) as you can see I blazed a carnivorous trail while my wife had mostly seafood and she was likewise very pleased. Also, on the first sailing night we had the most scrumptious, tender lobster tail we had ever had on a cruise ship. Also, despite the poor reviews of Mamas (LaCucina) our meal there was exceptional from start to finish. A bonus was an invite to the captains cocktail party in the Haven where we consumed Manhattans and Appletinis with many fine hors d'oeuvres. Ports- we have visited all three islands previously and opted for our own adventures instead of any planned excursions: Montego Bay- the ship docks at a commercial pier that is close to the main dock and is a 2 minute mandatory shuttle ride. I wanted to find a private taxi and just cruise around to areas where we could avoid seeing any tourists. We were very lucky to meet Sheryl McIntosh (1-876-855-5002) who was happy to drive us around while reciting interesting historical facts about Jamaica. She also can be found on Facebook. We told her we wanted to find the least expensive Blue Mountain Coffee and some Jerk Seasoning to bring home - she took us to the locals grocery which was the size of a Walmart and very busy with locals doing their everyday shopping- she brought us right to the coffee aisle and found the seasonings quickly and helped direct us through the speed checkout line which which is almost an oxymoron as the "speed line" was obviously still moving on island time. We actually found the simple experience of grocery shopping entertaining with Sheryl's expertise. Grand Cayman- we are both experienced divers but decided to just do a snorkel on this trip so had brought our own gear. We are huge fans of public transportation when we travel and GC proved to have an exceptional system. Only 1-2 blocks away from where we tendered in is the bus depot. The "buses" are actually new air-conditioned minivans and a one way trip was only $2.50. Locals hop on and off on their way to work or to run errands. We took about a 15 minute ride to "Cemetery Beach" which is part of 7 mile beach. There is a sandy trail leading directly to a gorgeous beach that adjoins a sunny oceanfront cemetery. Large sea-grape trees provide shade and there is plenty of beach to spread out on. We snorkeled directly out from the beach about 100 yards to the reef which was loaded with elkhorn and brain corals, sponges, sea fans and an abundance of tropical fish as well as some large snapper and jacks. The visibility was excellent and we enjoyed a very nice 2 hour snorkel. There are no facilities to rinse after so we did our best to dry out our gear on a tree and laid out on our towels. Bring water and any snacks as there is nothing available- just a pristine, beautiful beach. We hopped the bus back into town- there is a shaded bus stand right across the street from the cemetery. Cozumel- We have traveled all over this island previously and decided to just hoof it to a very cool tiki bar we had previously stumbled upon - Wet Wendys - I believe it is about 3-4 blocks away from the pier area off of 8th avenue but google can help you locate this fine restaurant/bar- it is owned by Americans. The house margaritas are made from scratch and are ginormous, fish tacos were authentic Mexican fare - much better than the ones I experience in our home town beach restaurants. I anchored myself at the open air bar while my wife would wander off to shop. The service on the ship was very good. Our SuperHeros were: Rommell, waiter in Cagneys who always had a smile and displayed a wry sense of humor. When I had dinner in Cagneys I opted for the wedge salad- when he served the salad he sang, "Wedgie-wedgie" to the same cadence as the "washy washy" song. Kumar, bartender in the Star Bar and sometimes poolside. He explained to us that his specialties were "tantalizing martinis" so we soon renamed him "Kumartini Rocks!" He was alot of fun. Ernesto, bartender poolside. He is an obvious veteran and leader of the bar staff. His service was quick and efficient and he serves some very strong drinks. Elvina, #1 concierge. She never missed a beat on any of our requests or dinner reservations. She is a pro. Chef Angelito Santos, he put on a great chef's table with his course descriptions and also provided a fantastic behind the scenes private galley tour. He has a great sense of humor and laughed when I caught him fixing the model train that was running in the lobby at the large Christmas Gingerbread display. My only Jewel neg is that while I enjoy playing blackjack in the casino, the cigarette smoke proved intolerable. Thanks to all of the Jewel staff- you succeeded in exceeding our expectations. Fire away with any questions, I'll do my best to answer. Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
We've just returned from our Western Caribbean cruise on the Norwegian Jewel... here are our highlights (and lowlights!) Ship: The ship was really nice and we were happy with the amount of activities that were offered. We never swam ... Read More
We've just returned from our Western Caribbean cruise on the Norwegian Jewel... here are our highlights (and lowlights!) Ship: The ship was really nice and we were happy with the amount of activities that were offered. We never swam in the pool because it was usually either rainy or loaded with kids (the cruise was during their school break), but we weren't too upset about it. We purchased a spa package that allowed us to use the private hot tubs which were much more relaxing than the ones on the pool deck. Overall, we were happy with the activities on the ship and were never at a loss for something to do. Room: Instead of splurging on a room with a balcony, we chose to pinch our pennies and spend that money on excursions. I was dreading staying in an interior room with no window, but it actually wasn't too bad space wise. There was a lot of closet space and the suitcases fit perfectly under the bed. We actually slept like babies because the room was pitch black when the lights went out, but don't forget to set your alarm or you'll accidentally sleep all day. Food: We really had no complaints about the quality of the food onboard the Jewel, but at times the service was pretty poor. We tried two of the specialty restaurants: Moderno (Brazilian Steakhouse) and Teppanyaki (Hibatchi). The service at Moderno was horrible... we had to ask the hostess twice to send our waiter over once we sat down and it took forever for him to bring our drinks. Teppanyaki, on the other hand, was totally worth the upcharge. The service and food there were incredible. In regard to room service, I think we were a bit spoiled because our last cruise was with Holland America. We kind of expected more options to be on the room service menu like the Holland America ship, but we didn't end up using room service very often anyway. Ports: The cruise visited Cozumel, Belize City, Roatan, and Costa Maya. I'll go through each of them separately. Overall, we had a fun time and would definitely cruise with NCL again! Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
I am very new to cruising..the last time I was on a cruise was about 20 years ago and it was a Royal Caribbean ship and it was a 3 night cruise. This past week we sailed on the Jewel and I would like to tell you about our experience. ... Read More
I am very new to cruising..the last time I was on a cruise was about 20 years ago and it was a Royal Caribbean ship and it was a 3 night cruise. This past week we sailed on the Jewel and I would like to tell you about our experience. Boarding was very easy and our room was ready when we arrived. The only problem (and I found this out on our last night) was that we were supposed to have towel animals on our bed each night. We did not have these on any of our nights onboard. Our room was also not very clean and I had to ask each day for 1 extra towel and on a few days I had to ask for the bathmat. The bathroom floor was unclean and so I cleaned it each day and the glass shelves were very dusty. I had no idea that tips were automatically deducted each night at $12 per person. To us, this seemed like a lot for the poor service we had in the housekeeping area. Last time I cruised I remember we put tips in envelopes for each person. This seems better to me since tips are for service. If you are guaranteed a tip, then maybe you won't try as much to please the consumer. Room service was brought to our room twice for breakfast. The first time everything was good. The second time we got old fruit so we opted to eat breakfast at the buffet on a few days and at the great outdoors which is behind the buffet and faces the back of the ship. Great views in this area. Anyway, other than our housekeeping issue the staff onboard was very very friendly and helpful. The food onboard was pretty good, we ate one night at Tzars and the rest of the nights at Azura's and two nights at buffet. All the workers in the restaurants were awesome...we couldn't have asked for better service. We only did 1 specialty restaurant and that was the Bistro for the Jazz brunch and we did enjoy ourselves. On one night they had a chocolate extravaganza. There were plenty of delicious desserts and there were plenty of children onboard, due to the Thanksgiving holiday. It was rather upsetting to see children walking with huge plates of desserts and then leaving most of them on the table uneaten. Especially with so many workers from the Phillipines who have families that are at home suffering..to see such a waste was awful. I was a bit disappointed in the pool area. I went down to enjoy the hot tub on our first full day at sea and I was not able to get in any of them. It was a chilly day and there were children in all of them even though some said adults only. I was able to use when we were in Costa Maya as we had no onshore activites other than taking a stroll through the shops. I did enjoy them once I was able to use them. The entertainment was good. We made a few of the shows and all of the ones we saw were great. We especially like the magician/comedian...he was hilarious! I am sorry I do not remember his name. We also saw Jeri Sager who was also very entertaining. I have been spending my time in all exclusive resorts in Punta Cana, Mexico, Jamaica for the past 20 years and having to pay for so many items was very new to me. I wanted a slice of coffee cake at the java cafe and was told it is only complimentary if I pay for coffee. I do not drink coffee so I was unable to try a complimentary slice. I was also surprised at the price of bingo. We went down to play on the last evening and the price was $49 for 3 games. The frustrating part that right before the game that paid the most, they sold cards for $10. On the all exclusive trips we have been on, bingo is free and so are many other games. They give out prizes like bottles of rum, tshirts etc...for free. This really was so different and something I was not used to and actually did not like paying extra for the games. We had a balcony stateroom midship, deck 9. It was a nice room...we had a place for everything. The view of the sea from the ship was wonderful and the rocking of the ship so soothing. My husband and I both slept fantastic. It was also easy getting around the ship and elevators were close to everything. A little bit of walking and going up and down steps but we did not mind at all since it helped us burn some of the calories from all the food. Oh and the pizza was very good...just not sure why we had to pay a room service charge of $5.00 to order a pizza when it is free on the buffet and you could just bring it to your room. We did two excursions, in Belize we went to Altun Ha and it was great. We learned a lot from our tour guides who were very passionate about the Mayan Culture. The other excursion was in Roatan and I am still frustrated that they did not cancel our trip or refund most of our money. In the morning we went to the stardust theater to meet up for our trip. Many trips that day were cancelled due to the weather which was windy and rainy. Our excursion was a tour of the Roatan and a boat ride on Dixon cove. I booked this trip solely for this boatride. We could hardly take any good pictures because when we got to our stops it was so rainy you could barely see let alone take pictures. Then we were taken to the boat but it was pouring rain, the boat had 2inches of water in it and the seats were soaked. Of course no one took the ride since it was to dangerous. The tour guide came to all of us and had us write our cabin numbers down and the reason we did not take the boat ride. I waited two days to see if we would be refunded and did not hear anything so I went to the excursion desk. I was told that they had no idea we did not take the boat ride and they would call me to tell me their decision on a reimbursement. We were only given a 25% reimbursement. I thought we should get all our money back as they should not have sent us in this type weather, especially with cancelling so many of the other excursions that day. All in all the trip was nice..even with some issues. We will be taking another cruise in January aboard the Royal Princess. We booked this one last year with some friends. It is a newer ship and we were upgraded to a suite so we are looking forward to the larger room and to again be on the sea. Maybe we will have a bit better experience on this ship. I will let you know.   Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
Bottom line: The dinner dining experience in both of the two main dining rooms was the worst we have had on any cruise. This was our eighth cruise, our second on Norwegian. Our first cruise several years ago on NCLs Dawn was amazing - the ... Read More
Bottom line: The dinner dining experience in both of the two main dining rooms was the worst we have had on any cruise. This was our eighth cruise, our second on Norwegian. Our first cruise several years ago on NCLs Dawn was amazing - the food was absolutely superb and the free-styling everything we expected. I should say that we were with a larger group, our two adult children, their spouses and four very young grandsons (0 to 5), so admittedly we were a larger than normal group. First, when we made dinner reservations, we were told 5:30 or 8:30 are the only times one can make reservations for; it did not matter how far ahead we called. So much for so called Free-Styling. We found it was a lot easier to not make reservations and just walk in; after the initial surge of coure. Generally, service was very slow. On another cruise line one would expect at least two servers for a large table. Normally, we only had one who was often not anywhere around. On our first night, it took more that two hours from sitdown to dessert! Our experience on other nights was better, but still much longer than normal. On the positive side, one night we did put in a written complaint and management responded very quickly and was very nice. Food selection - the dinner menu was pretty much the same every night especially for the entrees - there was some minor variation, but not much. Sometimes when the food arrived it was tepid. On one occasion, our oldest grandson's hotdog arrived 30 minutes before the main entrees were served - we appreciated the speed but one would assume everyone's meal should arrive at roughly the same time. Finally, but importantly, we found the taste of the food generally bland. This was nothing like our first NCL cruise. My spouse was so disappointed with the entire main dining room experience, she said more than once, "NCL - never again". Three points on the positive side -- One night we ate at Chin Chin's (you pay extra to eat there) and absolutely loved it! The food was tasty, fast and hot. The server, chief cook and the dining room manager were top notch - beyond excellent. All of them stopped by to talk and were obviously desiring that our experience be the best. Really a good memory! But that did make us wonder - is the quality of the dinner in the main dining room being notched down on purpose to drive people to the pay dining rooms? We would hope not. Since we had two older grandsons with us (4 and 5) we were able to observe the children's care program. Simply WoW!! Kudos to the young adults (and NCL) for this program. We were extremely impressed by the quality of care and creativity of the program. We give it five stars! The shows in the main theater were probably the best we had ever seen - particularly the Cirque du Soleil (sp?) like show - it was GREAT.   Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
My wife and I took the Jewel on the seven night cruise out of the port of New Orleans. It has been about 22 years since we had been on NCL and we selected this cruise because of the ports of call – beaches and not a lot to do, just a ... Read More
My wife and I took the Jewel on the seven night cruise out of the port of New Orleans. It has been about 22 years since we had been on NCL and we selected this cruise because of the ports of call – beaches and not a lot to do, just a relaxing get-away for the two of us. For perspective, we’ve cruised around a dozen time on Carnival to RCL to Oceania and Regent. Most of our cruises have been with our children. Embarkation was as expected - a bit long as we didn’t get to the port until noon. Our overnight hotel prior was the Hyatt right down by the port. We should have walked down Julia Street to get there but we opted for a taxi ($17 for two for less than a mile – ouch!). NCL could probably come up with a better organizational system for embarkation but I’m not sure how that would be (love Oceania’s – just walk on and go to a certain location – very friendly). We had booked cabin 9050 which is a balcony. Nothing unique or special here - pretty much your basic cabin. Refrigerator up high was nice as it took up less room. I Putu was our cabin steward and he certainly stood out as one of the best we’ve ever had on a cruise (even better service than our previous butler/steward combination on Oceania). Bed was fine, two deck chairs on our balcony were nice, bathroom configuration was efficient. A ledge behind the bed would have been nice as only one side of the bed had a table next to it for books, water, etc. Wifi worked fine for being on a cruise ship (better than most). When we got on we went to Tsar’s Palace for a nice lunch instead of battling the crowds and sail-away drink offers at the Garden Café/Topsider’s Grill. We ate at Tsar’s three times – breakfast, lunch, dinner. Pretty much the standard fair but the quality was certainly a step above RCL and Carnival. We had our first night meal at Azura, thinking that the smaller environment would be nice for the lobster night. I didn’t care for this restaurant – low ceilings, busy atmosphere, just trying to bust out the food. The Garden Café environment reminded us of a hospital cafeteria – just not a good experience. Food was fine and the salad bar hit the spot for something healthy. As for the specialty restaurants: We very much enjoyed one dinner at Cagney’s. I’m from the Midwest and have an opinion about my steak. The New York (KC Strip) I had was the best steak I’ve had on a cruise line. The ribeye was very nice as well. Salad, soup, sides were all straightforward and well prepared. La Cucina (Moma’s) was certainly not worth the $15. Service was confused as we ordered one of their pizzas for our bread/first course and it didn’t show up until the entrée course. It wasn’t like they needed to turn the table as there was only about ten people there. The risotto was under-cooked, mozz & “beefsteak” (oh, come-on that’s a beefsteak!) tomato (under-ripe as well) was sad. Entrées were the highlight – salmon and lamb. As for the ports, those can be reviewed elsewhere. The tendering was quite painful as they didn’t seem to have the system down in Belize. We docked at our other ports and on-off was a breeze. It was very nice at each port to have the staff and crew reception line as you get back on. Seemed like they cared. And, the cold towels on the dock was a nice amenity. In general the entire ship was very well maintained and staff was very courteous and helpful. I’m sure it will need to see drydock within a couple of years but really wasn’t too bad. Debarkation was fairly simply. We did get the last departure group and that might have been a mistake as you have to be out of your cabin by 9am and didn’t get off the ship until 10:30am. We should have known better. But we were off to a Jazz Brunch at Commander’s Palace (great idea after a New Orleans cruise). Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
This was my 23rd cruise overall, and my eighth cruise on Norwegian. I booked with the Aquafest LGBT group’s annual Halloween sailing, and our group made up almost 500 of the Jewel’s 2100 passengers. I’ve sailed on the Norwegian Pearl ... Read More
This was my 23rd cruise overall, and my eighth cruise on Norwegian. I booked with the Aquafest LGBT group’s annual Halloween sailing, and our group made up almost 500 of the Jewel’s 2100 passengers. I’ve sailed on the Norwegian Pearl twice, a sister ship of the Jewel, as well as the Norwegian Dawn twice. Both ships are similar to the Jewel in design and capacity, so I had high expectations for the Jewel. I received the first indication that those expectations would not be met when I checked in. In the past, passengers received a pocket-sized brochure and map of the ship along with their key card. But on this day, I was handed a poor-quality black-and-white photocopy of that map. Norwegian’s continued cost-cutting has become evident even before stepping aboard. Strike one. On my other seven Norwegian cruises, I’ve always admired the friendliness and efficiency of the staff and crew. So I was surprised when after I boarded, I went to the Guest Relations desk and asked where the check-in area was for the Aquafest group. The agent behind the desk stared at me blankly. Then she asked her colleague if she knew what the “Aqua Fresh” group was. I corrected her twice. The colleague didn’t know either. Could it be that the Jewel’s staff was not prepared for a group that was occupying one-quarter of the ship this week? Luckily, another Aquafest passenger was nearby and overheard the conversation, and informed me where to go. Strike two. After checking in with Aquafest and meeting their staff, my friend and I headed up to the Garden Café for lunch. At some point, I heard the news that a surprise CDC health inspection was taking place – this is done approximately every six months on every cruise ship that operates out of the U.S. And when I saw the incredible disarray of the lunch service in the Garden Café – empty food trays not being replaced in a timely manner, lack of fresh plates, many items mislabeled or not labeled at all, etc. – I assumed it was due to the crew’s attention on the health inspection. But as the week progressed, I learned that the inspection was not the reason. These problems persisted throughout the week. Over eight Norwegian cruises, I had never seen the buffet restaurant so poorly managed as it was on the Jewel. Strike three. The Norwegian Jewel struck out in the first inning without a single hit – and I’ve only been on board for an hour. Throughout the week, there was nothing in particular that the staff or crew did to sway my disappointment from the first day. Even the service at dinner that first night in the Tsar Palace was quite slow. Other dinners that week were in specialty restaurants or in the Azure dining room, which had pleasantly prompt service. Our other dinners were in La Cucina, Moderno Churrascaria and Cagney’s Steakhouse – all were as enjoyable as I’ve experienced them previously on other ships. One exception to the lackluster staff was the beverage manager, Katya. She was very friendly and sociable. Because the Aquafest group provided its own entertainment for the guests, I didn’t get to see much of the Jewel’s entertainment. I did see Band on the Run and Jean-Pierre’s magic show – both were very entertaining and enjoyable. But the best aspect of this cruise was the itinerary. New Orleans is a great embarkation port, and my friend and I enjoyed spending two nights here, plus one more night after the cruise ended. The cruise had four ports of call: Cozumel, Belize, Roatan and Costa Maya. During my previous calls to Cozumel, I went to a nearby resort and bought a day pass. But because Norwegian uses the downtown pier, it was very convenient to walk around the town and explore the shops. Aquafest had also invited its guests to visit Senor Frogs, where we enjoyed a raucous daytime party atmosphere before heading back to the ship. In Belize City, we took a ship excursion to Altun Ha, a very impressive Mayan historic site. Our tour guide, who had a Mayan background, was excellent in explaining some of the history and architecture relevant to the pyramids. We had the ability to climb to the top of the largest pyramid, which was quite the treat. In Roatan, we joined some other Cruise Critic members for a catamaran sailboat charter, provided by Radical Adventures. This was the highlight of the cruise! Captain Ed and his wife Julie, along with a crew of three locals, sailed us to a secluded cove for a couple hours of snorkeling and a delicious lunch. And in Costa Maya, Aquafest had arranged an excursion for the entire group at a beach club about 30 minutes away. If I had to rank my eight Norwegian cruises solely based on the onboard experience, I would have to rank this cruise as the lowest one. I’m worried that Norwegian’s cost-cutting, as well as all the focus they are putting on Epic, Breakaway and Getaway, is having a detrimental effect on the rest of the fleet. Norwegian needs to do more to ensure that its passengers looking for a mid-sized ship experience are not being ignored. Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
. . . on a ship, that is! First off, I think a cruise is always the most relaxing of vacations, and have to have one every year. This was the one and only for us in 2013. However, we picked NCL only because we were part of the Aquafest ... Read More
. . . on a ship, that is! First off, I think a cruise is always the most relaxing of vacations, and have to have one every year. This was the one and only for us in 2013. However, we picked NCL only because we were part of the Aquafest group on board - an association of GLBT folk who each year at Hallowe'en partially charter a ship for a great party. NCL works well for these events, with its "Freestyle Cruising". The party was fun, the ship was fun, the crew was fun, but outside of an Aquafest function we would be sailing on another line. Embarkation was great. We're from New Orleans, so, of course, it's a fantastic place to start your trip! We were on the ship quickly and smoothly. In time for the lunch we always enjoy on sailing day in the main dining room - here, Tsar's Palace. This is a good idea. You avoid the push and shove of the buffet, and are seated for a refined, civilized experience. The ship is decently laid out and easy to get around. I have never seen such clear markings of where the venues are on any ship in the past. Also, the elevators have guides, telling you what is on each deck. This was my first cruise I did not walk the ship deck to deck before sailing to familiarize myself with it. We were able to join the group party at the Sky Bar instead! That said, there is a massive bottleneck between the pool deck and the buffet, as it skirts the pool grill and goes past the pool's restrooms. Two columns in the middle of this path were padded, gridiron style - a reminder of past boo-boos. It appears the pool deck at one time had paths on both the port and starboard sides, allowing for better flow. The port side is closed at both ends - aft by a hot tub that is an obvious addition. A pleasant consequence is there is a nice secluded place by the pool and two hot tubs in the forward port corner of the pool deck. The pool deck on the Jewel is quite large, accommodating two large pools and four hot tubs, plus the one that was an afterthought. The itinerary includes the usual Western Caribbean suspects: Cozumel, Belize, Roatan, and The Magic Mayan Kingdom (a/k/a Costa Maya). I understand there's a different set of itineraries too, including Jamaica and Grand Cayman. Again - we were on board for the party, and not the ports. At Cozumel we had a booked excursion through Cozumelwatersports.com. A catamaran/snorkel excursion that was absolutely fabulous. Not too large. A real catamaran. The cast and crew very attentive to safety and comfort. Will do again. NCL quite often, for more money, places you on a cattle boat with 80 people for a "snorkel/sail". Yes, Belize is third world. But not everyone gets to live in the USA. Explore the city. Stay on the main street that goes over the pivot bridge. Absorb it. Watch your wallet, especially when someone "bumps" into you. Ignore the men trying to sell you their sisters. We walked down this street to St. John's Anglican Cathedral, and enjoyed a delightful treat of early 19th Century Caribbean architecture. You could absorb the history from the plaques on the walls. Across from the back of the church is the Government House, open as a museum. Some fine displays of Belize in the past, and a great specimen of old colonial days. I thought I was in a W. Somerset Maugham story! Wondering around the grounds of Government House the staff pointed out to us two iguanas in the trees. What a treat. Walking back the children were being let out of two schools on our route, and it was great to see them in their starched white uniforms. (Much more presentable than the typical American kid, I might say.) Back in the tourist village we went to our favorite shop, The Loom Ltd., which sells pillow covers, runners, etc., to find them in the midst of a liquidation sale. Budging them out of their space? Diamonds International. As if they need more room! At Roatan we did a beach party with our Aquafest group, and it was a blast. A great beach club. Great Honduran beers. Great fun! Not too much at the Coxen Hole port, it appears. Consider an excursion here. Costa Maya was another beach party, one that NCL gave to Aquafest for free. Thank goodness we did not pay for it, as it was a poor cousin to the Roatan experience. 45 minute bus ride each way - but in a comfortable bus. Not much in the way of shaded areas, and no umbrellas. However, a very special young lady pointed out an open thatched hut with recliners and chairs - even a table and a counter - and we enjoyed the day there. Great food and beverage service. But, we might not have been so happy if we had to pay for it. Costa Maya is a huge disappointment, and we are glad that next year, when the Jewel sails from Houston for the Aquafest cruise, it will be off the list. As for restaurants: We are used to dining well - both at home and when traveling (we're from New Orleans!). The only restaurant on board worthy of the upcharge, we concluded, is Le Bistro. The food there is excellent. The staff is the most coordinated and pleasant of any of the dining rooms on board. We ate there four times - twice as scheduled dinner - once as part of the "Chef's Table" event - and a fourth time for the Jazz Brunch the final day at sea. I would recommend all of it. Especially Chef's Table. A multi-course meal with champagne and three different (and good) wines - for about $80.00 per person. A couple photos, too! And, after dinner drinks. The food and service were memorable. Look for this - especially the day you board. We found out about it from a pleasant lady bringing specialty restaurant menus around the main dining room on the day we sailed. Or, ask about it at a specialty restaurant desk in the lobby the day you board. On future cruises we will likely eat in the main dining room for dinner on the other nights, as we did our first night - when we had a pleasant meal. Cagney's is just a steakhouse, and while the food was good, it was rushed and the service was poor. We were ignored after our entrees were served. Moderno, a churrascaria, is a meat lover's orgy - maybe too much. We did not like some of the flavors. The salad bar there is wonderful, though. At Chin-Chin's (Asian flavas) we really enjoyed the appetizers, but our entrees were like the Chinese take out we can get back home. We have yet to have done the hibachi tables they have, though - that might be fun. Finally, we cancelled the Italian restaurant in favor of another Le Bistro dinner after hearing a few bad things, and recalling some less than stellar meals in the Italian restaurants on other NCL ships in the past - moreover, the ship was giving it away to the Aquafest group, another sign . . . On sea days - wait for the cookout on the pool deck. Much better than the buffet, and they stir up a wonderful paella! It is kind of hard to get a drink on this ship. On the pool deck I would observe more crew clearing tables than I would beverage servers. Not the fault of the crew, for sure. A staffing matter. We did not do any ship entertainment because the Aquafest demimonde took up our evenings. There is a great guy who sings and plays piano in the Martini bar on deck six. This bar, and the adjacent Maltings, are among the more civilized venues on board. Overall - a great time! Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
I enjoyed the cruise and am very glad I went. However, my biggest disappointment in the cruise was the activities and entertainment. Except for the shore excursions, the on board offerings were somewhat simple and mindless. ... Read More
I enjoyed the cruise and am very glad I went. However, my biggest disappointment in the cruise was the activities and entertainment. Except for the shore excursions, the on board offerings were somewhat simple and mindless. 70's-80's Pop culture, mindless TV game shows etc. and low-level (though well executed) Las Vegas stage shows are fine, even fun, but when they are the only options, it seems like they are being aimed at the lowest common denominator of the population. I did not hear one note of classical music during the entire cruise. (Couldn't there be an audio channel on the TV?) There were no lectures and really no activities that required any thought or intellect--and this is a shame because, for example, people (especially children and teens!) came back from seeing wonderful Mayan ruins, indigenous populations and local economy and history and had no clue what they had seen. So much more could have been done to enrich the experience of the cruisers with a little education and preparation. And how about a couple of rudimentary Spanish lessons--or conversation groups to revive people's knowledge of Spanish? Instead we had big prep sessions and relentless print ads in our daily bulletins to alert people to shopping opportunities! All of this tended to lower the level of conversation on the boat to the catatonic level of a week long visit to a mall. Of course most people come aboard with friends and family, with whom they tend to stick to the exclusion of other passengers, so I don't expect too much in the way of scintillating company. But the most interesting conversation I had during the entire cruise was with a 13 year old boy whose family went off to a specialty restaurant. He was a musician and also interested in child psychology. My other conversations, though pleasant, were mostly stories about casino gambling, how drunk people got the night before, how much they paid for jewelry and how they missed seeing football during the week. The ship is using the internet for its operations. Why does it have to be so expensive for the passengers? Also, even if external internet access is not provided, the "intRAnet" (on-board internet) could be used so much more effectively. There is a "community" section on the internet that is free. This could be used to post restaurant menus, event schedules, television schedules (movies) and many other bits of information that passengers would like to have available. It is already up and running but has only ship embarcation schedules. Regarding food, generally it was OK, but by no means did it ever rise to the level of fine dining and the two extra-charge specialty restaurants were just not that much better than the complementary dining options. I did not try Cagney's steak house, but to my surprise The Brazilian churrascaria, Moderno, had nearly flavorless grilled meats, some of which were actually too tough to eat. La Cucina, the Italian restaurant, was better, but only one cut above the Olive Garden. The outdoor grill barbecue offerings were also dry, tough and flavorless. The Tsar's palace and Azura had dishes that looked good, but were only occasionally really well prepared. I had to do something I never do--namely send food back because it simply was not worth eating. I found the Garden Grill buffet had the best chance to provide edible food, some of which was quite good--the small Indian offerings being reliably tasty. And why should we have to pay extra for espresso? The Garden Grill already has coffee machines that grind and fresh-brew quite decent Americano coffee. Machines that do this and also provide espresso are everywhere. It would be so easy to install them, and it would add a lot to the experience of the cruise. Small matters: The chairs in the library are extremely uncomfortable and narrow. The library was rather heavily used, and more space with comfortable chairs for reading would be welcome. I had plug adapters for European electric plugs, so I could use the library or card room with my own computer for a more pleasant place to do some writing, but others who only had US plugs were frustrated. For folks like me who like to spend recreational time not only reading but writing, a room with tables and universal electric outlets for our own computers would be most welcome. It would be good to have adapters available, or dual wall plugs. Although a service charge of 12% was added to the bill, I felt continually pressured to offer additional tips--even for coffee. I would so much prefer a service charge of 15-18% and a no-tipping policy throughout the ship. This is exacerbated by the fact that the ship is full of concessionaires who work on commission. These are likeable folks, but their income depends on hard selling (and up-selling) and this became obsessive and egregious at times. The shore excursions were the high point of the trip for me. There was a large variety of excursions for different tastes, and the guides and activities were informative and fun. All this said, I want to commend the ship on the superb quality of the crew who were consistently helpful, happy and competent. They made the cruise a pleasure at all times. I also want to commend the ship on its excellent environmental policies. I would cruise with NCL again if only to support this effort. It made me feel that I was not harming the earth quite so much when indulging in a cruise experience.   Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
The Panama Canal has been on my bucket list for a few years. Now that we are retired, we have more time to travel. This is the longest cruise we've taken. However, some people were on the ship for almost a month, having sailed Alaska, ... Read More
The Panama Canal has been on my bucket list for a few years. Now that we are retired, we have more time to travel. This is the longest cruise we've taken. However, some people were on the ship for almost a month, having sailed Alaska, and the Pacific Coastal to Los Angeles. We are Platinum Latitudes members, having sailed NCL many times, as well as Celebrity, Royal Carib, and Viking River Cruises, all more than once on each. We've stayed in Ocean view rooms, balconies, mini suites and full suites. We originally booked a balcony for this trip, when a special deal came out to book the mini suite for a couple of hundred $ more, we jumped on it. Thank goodness we did! We stayed overnight at the Best Western San Pedro. A good hotel with a hot breakfast, in a not so good neighborhood. It was fine for one night, plus they had free transport to the cruise terminal in the morning. We arrived at the port around 12:10. Lots of people to check you in, it was a breeze. That's where it stopped. After going through security we couldn't believe the people waiting to get on the ship. There were no more seats to sit and wait, people were sitting on the floor and standing. Seems there was a hold up in the boarding, some security issues. Finally after waiting till about 1, they started the boarding process. After that it ran smoothly, perhaps another 15-20 minutes we were on. Our cabins were ready, we put our luggage in the cabin and met our friends in the beautiful Tsar's dining room for lunch. Lunch was not as good as I remember, service was spotty and my appetizer was cold. No worries, my steak sandwich was hot. This first impression of dining in Tsar, left us not wanting to go back, but try the other options. By the time we finished lunch, it was almost time for the Mandatory Life boat drill. We were instructed to go back to Tsars, sign in and watch crew put on life vests. That was it. My feeling is if the ship was sinking, there would be chaos and people would run for the first life boat they saw, not the dining room. Oh well...... We had some time to put away our clothes before meeting up with cruise critic members for sail away at the Great Outdoors. The mini suite was very large with plenty of room for the two of us. The balcony had a lot of room, you could easily fit 4 comfortably. The sofa was huge, I think it made into a king sized bed! There was a black out curtain between the bed and the sitting area and balcony, we made use of it daily, as my husband rises earlier than me. It pulls back and attaches to the wall most of the time, unless you want privacy or one wants to sleep in, then it stretches the length of the room. We really enjoyed this feature. The TV seemed to be adequate for the space, however, can I tell you how tired I was of FOX and MSNBC news constantly blabbing away for 16 days! I was longing for CNN, ABC, or CBS! There were occasional movies that repeated and a kids channel. Anyhow, the bathroom was spacious, and there was a lot of room for your clothes, suitcases, etc in the cabin. We had a coffee maker with coffee replenished daily. We met our cabin steward, Mark Flores, before sail away, we introduced ourselves to him once and from that moment on, he used our names. I asked him to empty our refrigerator, it was done by the time we came back from sail away. We ordered a liter of vodka for the cabin, I asked Mark to bring the mixers that go with it, he said he would tell room service. They were there when we returned. Mark kept our cabin spotless, he greeted us by name with a ready smile, and replaced towels and ice often. I don't think we've had a better cabin steward ever! His service was 5+ stars! After sail away and before dinner, we went to our friend's balcony cabin for cocktails. (they ordered 3 bottles for the room!) When we walked into the balcony room we were shocked at the size of it. It was so much smaller than the mini suite. I was VERY happy we changed to the mini suite. Their balcony could fit 3 of us, very crowded at that. The sofa was half the size of ours and the walking space between the wall and the bed was tight. There was a kettle, not a coffee maker, the bathroom was much smaller, I think the TV was smaller also. On a cruise like ours, with 16 days and nights, and 7 of the days being sea days, I highly recommend a mini suite. We ate dinners at the more casual restaurant, Azura. Also we had 2 meals at Le Bistro, a dinner at Chin Chin, and La Cucina. Many times we ate at the buffet, where the food was good and you could always find something you like. The buffet was crowded on this ship. We always managed to find a place to sit. Breakfast was usually on our balcony. We are light breakfast eaters and would have a pot of coffee in the room, then walk up one flight of stairs to the buffet and bring down our croissants, yogurt, cereal, fresh fruit and enjoy another pot of coffee while staring out at the sea. Lunch was at the Great Outdoors, or on the pool deck while sailing, as they always had some kind of BBQ. Most of the staff members on this ship were smiling, friendly, helpful. Some were great! Especially the "washy washy singers". What smiles, and positive attitudes through out the entire cruise. We were fortunate to have dinner with Captain Lars in Tsars one night. We learned of his life on and off the ship. The weather on this cruise was something you couldn't order! It was sunny and warm, with only the afternoon of the canal crossing having rain. Temperatures ranged from low 80's F to high 90's F. We spent many afternoons on loungers on deck 13, above the pool deck, listening to music, drinking a beer, catching the suns rays! It was breezy while cruising, keeping us cool! The average age on the ship was 64.4. I know that because I went on the ship's tour and it was posted in the crew area. The cruise consultant said it was young for a Panama Canal crossing. There were few children, I think 25. Many people were from New Orleans, that is where we ended the cruise. There were approximately 1430 Americans and 870 foreigners. (I don't remember the exact count) The entertainment was good to excellent. I especially enjoyed La Cirque Bijou. Get to the theater early for seating on this one. Doors open 45 minutes before showtime. We did not do any ships excursions. We booked one tour in Costa Rica online before leaving. Another we walked off the ship in Puerto Vallarta and found a mini van for 6 of us, many offer tours as you get off the ship on all stops. I was worried about Cartagena, Colombia, however it was easy to find taxis and tour guides to take you around. If you go into old town you will be hounded by pesty touts trying to sell you everything. We had to duck into a restaurant to get away from the constant hounding. I still say, don't miss old town, it is beautiful, put blinders on and go! There is a wonderful aviary at the port, with an over priced shop, and cheap beer,wifi and food. If you don't want to venture into town, at least see this, I saw more birds there than on the entire trip. Our favorite thing about this cruise.......Transit through the Panama Canal! Read "The Path Between the Seas" before you take this cruise. You will learn all that was involved with putting this engineering marvel together. It will be 100 years old in 2014! We were up early, 5:30, on deck to go under the Bridge of the Americas by 6:30. The outside deck was packed, we stayed up there for a half hour, then went to the wonderful solace of our balcony. A Panama Canal expert comes on board and gives a narration the entire length of the canal, pointing out various interesting items and facts. His lecture comes over the tv in your cabin, as well as the intercom on open decks. After the transit and Cartagena we had 2 sea days, a Cozumel stop, then one more sea day till we arrive in New Orleans. I could barely sleep as we entered the Mississippi and arrived in New Orleans. I wanted to see what we were sailing by, unfortunately it was dark! When I went out on my balcony around 2am, my neighbors were also out there peering into the darkness. I think it would be great to sail from NOLA so you could see this part of the cruise! Bring binoculars! I used them most days. This was a wonderful cruise, I marked something off my bucket list. I highly recommend anyone to transit the Panama Canal, and read about it before you do.   Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
This was our first back to back cruise and our first Western Carib cruise but our 5th and 6th NCL cruise. We had a balcony cabin. We arrived one day early in New Orleans and stayed at Staybridge about 4 blocks from cruise pier. Loved the ... Read More
This was our first back to back cruise and our first Western Carib cruise but our 5th and 6th NCL cruise. We had a balcony cabin. We arrived one day early in New Orleans and stayed at Staybridge about 4 blocks from cruise pier. Loved the Staybridge and would recommend it. Right on the route for the Halloween parade and in walking distance of everything. Very good breakfast buffet, too. Boarding was a breeze as usual and went right to the spa to book the Thermal Package. Well worth it. Then went to lunch in the dining room. We do not care for buffets. Our room was ready and our luggage had been delivered. We were unpacked and settled by 2. We enjoyed the trip out the river passage. We enjoyed all of the ports, but particularly Roatan and Jamaica. Belize was a disappointment - no good beaches unless you go to Ambergis Cay which we did not know about at the time. We loved the Jewel. We mostly ate at the main dining room - sometimes at Blue Lagoon, and also at Le Bistro and the Asian restaurant. Blue Lagoon is fast and has a great dessert at lunch - a brownie sundae. I thought overall the food was better on the Jewel over our previous NCL cruises. Pretty much the same menu but prepared and served better. One negative of the back to back is that the menu is repetitive but there are still a lot of choices. Entertainment was not as good as previous cruises - particularly the lounge acts. One bright spot was the Twosome Awesome. Really liked them. Dawn had better acts. Loved our cabin - glad to have a balcony. Stewards good but not intrusive. Better pool area than the Sun or the Dawn. Better casinos. One thing we did not like on the first week of our cruise...there was a large group of 500 that had been booked and some areas of the ship would be closed off for them which I found to be unfair. We booked early (over 10 months pre-cruise) and probably would not choose to cruise with this particular group of people but we had no knowledge and no choice. Also, sometimes certain lounges would be closed because they were using them and our favorite sundeck was reserved for this group. According to some members of this group, they booked late and got really great rates. Doesn't seem right when we booked early and then do not have the use of the whole ship. I know the cruise lines want to fill the ship but makes me want to wait to the last minute to book - might get a better rate and maybe find out if there is a group I don't want to be around. My husband said to be sure I mentioned that the Jewel had really cold beer. That was his complaint on our previous NCL cruises. They did not keep the beer cold enough. Anyway, we all in all we loved our cruise and have booked another one for next November. Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
We arrived at our hotel in San Pedro the night before our cruise departed. The Crowne Plaza was very nice and conveniently located near some very good seafood restaurants near the harbor. The next morning, the hotel shuttle transported us ... Read More
We arrived at our hotel in San Pedro the night before our cruise departed. The Crowne Plaza was very nice and conveniently located near some very good seafood restaurants near the harbor. The next morning, the hotel shuttle transported us to the cruise terminal about a mile or two away. Embarkation was as expected, a long delay followed by a rush to line up for boarding. Several groups of "Special Event" cruisers were allowed to board ahead of everyone else who had been waiting a long time to board. I think NCL should not allow this. Board by your boarding number and don't give special treatment to large groups. Boarding went okay and we were finally in our balcony cabin on Deck 9. We went to the buffet for some lunch and then went topside for the sailaway. Leaving San Pedro harbor was beautiful with the gorgeous sunset. The next day was a sea day so we spent most of the day exploring the ship. We had just cruised on her sister ship Norwegian Pearl in June to Alaska, so we were already familiar with the deck plans. The names of some of the dining rooms were different from the Pearl, but the locations were the same. We dined at Tzar Palace on our first night and really enjoyed the lobster dinner. The dining room was almost empty when we were there, but picked up as we were leaving. The staff were very attentive to your needs and were very friendly. During our cruise, we dined at the other main dining room, Azura, and the specialty restaurant, Cagney's Steakhouse. The steaks were excellent and our waiter was always asking us about how we enjoyed our meal. Anyone who cruises should experience a specialty restaurant at least once during a cruise, even though there is an additional charge for eating there. Our first port was Cabo San Lucas. This was the only port that required us to tender. The tender process did not go very well. It took several hours for some people to get off the boat. We were using the life boats from our ship, but later some local vessels were called in to assist with the tendering process. We did not have any shore excursions planned thankfully, so we spent a short time on shore trying out some local food. We were approached all along the pier to the restaurants by peddlers offering boat trips or taxi rides to town, or locals trying to sell their wares. Some of these vendors were very persistent and would not go away. It didn't matter if we were going into town, or returning to the ship, they would harrass you all along the route. This is why I hate traveling to Mexico. Our next port was Puerto Vallarta. Again, we did not schedule a shore excursion and just walked around the area near the pier. A large group of cruisers walked over to the Walmart store near the port. Yes, I said Walmart. There's a high end shopping mall next to the Walmart, but catered to the more wealthy people of the area. After another sea day, we arrived at our next port city of Huatulco, Mexico. The area near the port was filled with shops and restaurants. To get to the city center required a taxi ride. We opted to stay near the port and use the free wifi areas to catch up on my emails. There are really nice shops near the port, so we didn't see a need to go into town. Our next port was Puerto Chiapas, Mexico. This is a small port know mostly for it's coffee and chocolate. There is a large hut next to the pier that has several shops inside. Otherwise, a long walk or taxi ride would get you to the nearest town. Also next to the pier is a large restaurant with a swimming pool. Most of the crew took advantage of the pool and the special discount they had for beer. After another sea day, our next stop was Puntarenas, Costa Rica. This is another small port with what appeared to be a flea market atmosphere. The tiny stalls lined a sidewalk along the beach. Everyone appeared to be selling basically the same stuff, so it was easy to get a good deal if you found something you liked. The beach looked like mud, but was just a dirty sand. The water was dirty, but there were many local swimming in the water. If you like rain forests, this is the place to book a shore excusion. There are jungles as far as you could see. The area has several coffee plantations along the mountain slopes. Another sea day, and finally we reached the entrance to the Panama Canal. I was blown away at the sight of Panama City. It's tall white buildings along the coast were not what I expected. Going under the Bridge of the Americas rivaled going under the Golden Gate Bridge. Then we entered our first set of locks, the Miraflores Locks. This is a set of two locks that lift the ship approximatelhy 55 feet. It takes quite a while to attach the ship to the "mules" that will guide the ship through the locks. Although the ship uses its own power going through the locks, it appears that the trains are pulling it along. This is not the case. Our ship is what is called a Panamac ship, meaning it's the largest ship that can fit in the locks. There was barely room on each side of the ship. It was strange watching the ship being lifted in each lock. It was so slow that you don't notice being lifted as you would in an elevator. However, you could tell you were being lifted. The process takes a while while the water fills the locks. Then the gates are opened and you enter the next set of locks to start the procedure all over again. After the Miraflores Locks, the next set is the Pedro Miquel Locks. This lifts the ship to the level of Gatun Lake, 85 feet above sea level. After leaving Pedro Miquel Locks, we sailed under the beautiful Centennial Bridge and into the Culebra Cut. Most of this area is jungle, a we could here monkeys in the trees along the bank. We couldn't see them, but we could certainly hear them. Finally, we reached the last set of locks, Gatun Locks. This is a series of three locks that lower the ship 85 feet back to sea level. It was in these locks where we encountered a very heavy rain storm. The whole trip through the canal took all day. We exited the last set of locks at dusk. The cruise director and photographers took pictures as the ship went through the canal. The DVD they produced was less than I had expected. It wasn't even high definition. I've seen better videos on You Tube. For th $30 they charged for the DVD, I expected a lot more footage of the ship . Our last foreign port was Cozumel. Having been here before, we checked out the shops along the strip. As in most Mexican ports, we were followed by vendors trying to get your business. That is especially true at the big stores like Diamonds International, Colombia Emeralds, and all the other stores you are told to shop at during the shopping seminar given on board. We did find some nice T-shirts. Day 17 and we arrived in New Orleans, my favorite city. Being from Louisiana, it was great eating good southern food again and listening to good Cajun music. While in New Orleans, we visited the WWII museum. This is a must see for anyone visiting New Orleans. It's a very large museum and the movies are a must see as well. The weather for the entire cruise was hot and humid, with the exception of Los Angeles. Sunscreen, sunglasses, and chapstick are a must. We didn't experience the swarms of mosquitoes everyone told us about, even in the Panama Canal. A Panama Canal cruise has been a bucket list trip for me for many years. Now that I've done it, I don't think I will ever need to make that trip again.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
We had a great time but it's due to the fact that we were traveling with 3 other families. Overall, for our first time cruising, it was a good experience. Seattle Embarkment: We arrived at the terminal early (11 AM) which gave us ... Read More
We had a great time but it's due to the fact that we were traveling with 3 other families. Overall, for our first time cruising, it was a good experience. Seattle Embarkment: We arrived at the terminal early (11 AM) which gave us lots of time to check-in with no line. There were lots of agents available so the check-in process was very quick. You can even arrange/reserve/or change your dining option before boarding. There was a table with staff to assist you with this. We found out Lobster night will be on the first night so we switched our Cagney's reservation to another night. Note: there was a deal where for $57/adult, you can dine at Cagney's, Le Bistro and Mama's Kitchen (aka La Cucina) which was what our group pre-paid. Dining: Lobster night was average; not impressed. This was on the first night and available at either Tsar or Azura. You get one lobster tail with small steak (tough piece of meat and on the salty side). The lobster taste frozen and slightly overcooked. I asked for second and our server was nice enough to get it for our table without the tough steak. Our favorite was Le Bistro. The food was excellent and the service was A+. Our server, Dorothy, was amazing and really paid attention to our needs. Don't know if others are aware but for the flat fee, you can order as many items as you want from the menu; as many appetizers, entrees, and desserts as you want. So it is not expensive. Kids 12 and under are half price. The kids in our group were having a feast. They tried everything on the menu and reorder items that they liked several times. Our second favorite is Cagney's. The steaks were excellent. You can decide what sauce and butter to go with your steak. The service here also was very good. La Cucina was average. Service was good but the food was ok; I'd say a little bit better than Olive Garden and close to Macaroni Grill. Note: if you prepaid for dining and there are kids under 12 in your party, make sure to get the refund since it's supposed to be half price. Also check your final statement that the refund took place. There was an issue with one of the restaurants that I prepaid and the refund didn't take place. I had to ask them to fix it on my last day which they did. We ate at the Garden Cafe' quite a bit. Mostly because of the varieties which made it easy to please everyone. Breakfast had lots of selections. There were cold stuff (cereal, yogurt, milk), hot stuff (waffles, pre-made omelets, made-to-order omelets, eggs benedicts which was good, etc.), juices, and coffee. For lunch, there were burgers, hot dogs, fries, salad, some type of grill meat depending on the day (chicken or cornish hen or fish or beef), and some Asian dishes (stir-fried, curry, noodles). Dinner had more varieties as there'd be one main hot dish (roast turkey or prime ribs, or roast pork). There was also a crepe station every night. There was one day where they had 2 small roast pigs being served at the pool area. It was excellent, especially the crunchy skins. The meat was gone within an hour. Can't forget the Chocoholic Buffet. This is a must even if you don't have a sweet tooth or like chocolate. I can't recall which night during the cruise but at 10 PM, the Garden Cafe was completely filled with all sorts of chocolate treats. Not to mention there were several ice sculptures and lots of chocolate arts. Even though they said the start time is 10 PM, one of the crew (Rowan aka Washy Washy Guy) told us to be there early. The kids and I got there at 9:45 PM and the place was already filled with people. Be prepared to be push around 'cause it seemed like some people had never seen or eat chocolate. Some items were really good while some are just ok. Excursions overall were ok; the details are in my individual port reviews. With our big group, we were able to cover most of the excursions. Bering Sea Crab Fishermen's Tour was 3 out of 5. Mendenhall Glacier Explorer was 3 out of 5. Helicopter Glacier excursion got mixed review; the adults liked it while the kids gave it a 3 out of 5. Whale watching was 3.5 out of 5. There was always a show in the main theater, Stardust, at 7:30 PM and 9:30 PM. Entertainment was good, especially the two contortionists. Our cabin was 11546, midship mini-suite with balcony. It was small but good. Balcony is definitely a must. There was a bath tub which was a plus so we can bath our 1-year-old. Daily activities for sea days were not appealing. The last thing while on vacation for me is to hear "how to get flat abs in 7 days" or "how to detox in 5 days", etc. Our kids tried the kids club once for a couple of hours and they got bored. There were some activities that were worth it; Salsa dancing, ballroom dancing, and a fruit carving demonstration. Overall, we had fun because we were with friends. Bottom line, get the package dining deal 'cause Le Bistro and Cagney's are a must. Do go on an excursion and definitely get a midship cabin with a balcony. Hope I'm not forgetting anything.   Read Less
Sail Date August 2013
1. this is a family cruise. though there are many activities to keep the children busy, as the week wears on they get bored and tend to slip into the no-kids areas more and more often. worse than that, seeing all those families having fun, ... Read More
1. this is a family cruise. though there are many activities to keep the children busy, as the week wears on they get bored and tend to slip into the no-kids areas more and more often. worse than that, seeing all those families having fun, i really missed my own kids by the end of the week. 2. there is very limited nightlife. this was a huge disappointment to my husband. with all the spaces dedicated to the kids, there's not enough room for more nightlife. if thats important to you, pick a different ship. 3. alaska is beautiful, but so is your state. our cruise only went to the lower part of the state, and I found it to be very similar to where I live. the cruise routes are NOT all the same. there are some real distinct differences between them. 4. do an excursion at least in every other port. just do it. if you don't you'll never know what you missed. if you do, and it's awful, you'll have a good story for cocktail parties. 5. check the mdr (main dining rooms) menu every afternoon to see what they're having for dinner. they served lobster the very first night of our cruise (2 weeks ago, it was on the 3rd night). you do NOT want to miss the lobster. there was salmon pretty much every night and it was FABULOUS. the steaks were very disapointing, and i'm sure thats because they're trying to "encourage" everyone to go to cagney's surcharge dining room. i hate surcharge dining rooms. BTW the buffet was pretty good. Lots of fresh fruits and veggies. I also enjoyed lots of "ethnic dishes" like Dal (daily) and Palak-something and Curry (only saw it once or twice). Lots of other dishes the names of which I can't recall but I could see I would enjoy them and so I tried them and I was mostly delighted. They also had cranberry juice every breakfast which was not available on our other cruise and really handy for my disposition! There are refridgerators in every room (just ask the cabin steward to remove the mini-bar contents - unless you want to buy them!) and i finally started carrying an extra glass of cranberry juice back to the room w/me because i needed it twice a day for my poor bladder. If I'd brought a covered coffee cup or water bottle that would have been easier than carrying the glass.... although i didn't see alot of fish options, there was lox, with all the fixings, every morning. EXCELLENT. also- EGGS BENEDICT on the buffet: you could choose eggs florentine (w/spinach) or the traditional eggs w/canadian bacon (ham). then you got to put on your own sauce, and it was a choice of two: REAL HOLLANDAISE (yummy) or BEARNAISE. i'm avoiding gluten i picked hollandaise every time! YUM YUM! 6. pay attention to your meal times. the 24 hr dining options didnt work for me, and i get cranky when i'm hungry. plan your schedule to give yourself an hour to eat. you'll be glad you did. 7. go to all the on-board "shows"! you will only be disappointed if you don't go! 8. i got "permission" to bring my espresso machine onboard from someone on the phone lines. at the port, security confiscated it and said "show your permission to the security dept on board". but when we got on the ship we found out that under no circumstances would that be allowed. they gave us a small coffee machine for our room. WAIT- no they gave us a hot water pot and some instant coffee mix. 9. if you are sensitive to a/c systems, bring a weeks worth of cough drops and a scarf for your throat and maybe even cough syrup. it doesn't take that much room. if you start coughing you'll be so glad you did. 10. yes the toilets plugged up. 3 times. not our fault. but it did motivate us to get out of bed (to go use facilities elsewhere) and get on with our day when it would have been so easy to just relax in bed and waste the whole day (did I mention my dh's devotion to nightlife)? 11. there is NO alarm clock or dock for your ipod but there is a tv w/hdmi and mini-hdmi hookups. if only i'd brought that cord! 12. ART everywhere! I take the stairs alot, to make up for all the dining options! every landing had huge pieces that were great and VARIOUS. i tried to get to all the floors and see everything. that was also a great way to know if i was going in the right direction (everyone kept getting confused between mid and forward and aft elevators). Art in the cabins (unless you had a pull down bunk). Focusing on the art in the hallways helped reduce my feelings of claustraphobia (some hallways are really narrow). My favorites were the city scenes on the port side of 8). 13. Even though our room was almost at the bottom of the economic heap (category ox) it was sooooo comfy. the bed, the linens, the pillows, the "obstructed view" were all perfect. both my husband and i thought the bathroom was shallower in space than on carnival, but we appreciated the cabin itself being more roomy. we loved the desk/shelf designs too. came home and went into our master bathroom and i found myself thinking, we could cut out about 12' feet of space and still have a bigger bathroom than onboard... that would double the size of our "walk in" closet! i don't think d.h. is going to like that suggestion.... Read Less
Sail Date August 2013
First, I have been on only 4 cruises prior to our Alaskan cruise so I am not a "beginner" cruiser. I also spent several years in the US Navy with deployments on ships. I understand how cruise lines operate... a friend was a ... Read More
First, I have been on only 4 cruises prior to our Alaskan cruise so I am not a "beginner" cruiser. I also spent several years in the US Navy with deployments on ships. I understand how cruise lines operate... a friend was a captain for RCL, so I have a bit more knowledge than most. I originally had an inside cabin (about 140 sq feet) booked for me and my two teen sons, but due to a job offer, I moved the cruise up by a month... thus allowing my teen daughter to join us (who would have been at camp in August during our original sail date). I upgraded to a balcony (about 200 sq feet) rather than pay the OUTRAGEOUS penalty for changing date of the cruise... the 1000 fee to change date was waived (although it cost me 1300 to upgrade and add my daughter). THAT SAID... Embarcation: Flawless. One of the smoothest embarkations ever. Presented documents for citizenship, set up spending account limits for each child... filled out a document allowing each of them to spend up to $100 on the ship for the week). Waited about 15 minutes and by 11:30 we were on the ship. Rooms were ready by 1 pm. BRAVO! Luggage: we all received our luggage by 5 pm (4 suitcases- one for each of us). Fairly reasonable, although previous cruises I have walked on with luggage, and will again do so in the future. OK. Garden Buffet: Upon arrival we were directed to the buffet for lunch. Not terrible, mediocre. Same foods, with some rotation of soups... I really liked the pretzel sticks and rolls... Reminded me of real German pretzels. ALWAYS crowded and difficult to find a seat. Kids were happy with the selection, so no real complaints until the last night ... more later. OK. Stateroom: Cabin 9634 was of decent size, but when set up for sleeping you could NOT access the balcony without some tricky maneuvering. Many bumps on heads... The pullman is directly in front of the sliding doors. Not the greatest in design... FLAWED! Our steward made up the room by 6 pm, essentially rendering our balcony useless when the skies were light until 11pm. The beds were HORRIBLY uncomfortable. The sofa sleeper, although wider, was like a rock slab. My daughter complained of it nightly... and it would fall apart! The foot piece is brought in from storage to extend the bed out, held on only by a weak velcro strip. The pullman was pretty uncomfortable too, but my 13 year old didn't seem to mind. Another fatal flaw in the layout, when the cabin is set up for 4 single sleepers, as we were... (Single mom and 3 teen children) the ladder to the pullman does not securely attach to the pullman... lots of near falls. We alleviated that by setting one bed on a slight diagonal, but it wasn't perfect. BE WARNED! The bathroom was of decent size for a cruise ship, although of all the ships I have been on Holland America has the biggest. Storage? TERRIBLE for a family of four... there was one closet, 4 useable cubbies and 3 drawers. I wound up moving the teapot and ice bucket tray to accommodate more storage. There was too much extra furniture (chair, and 3 tables...). Hindsight, I should have asked for their removal completely to give us more room, but we needed the space to set binoculars and miscellaneous items on. The main beds... not terrible, but mediocre. The bedding consists of a mattress, 2 layers of nasty looking foam (looked like carpet padding) and a mattress cover. The sheets were silky soft and much enjoyed after a long day of walking in port. If you have a family, and can afford it, go for 2 cabins (I would have saved a bit more booking two interior cabins and we would have been MUCH more comfortable). MEH! Safety drill Tsar's Port Side forward: I know the hurdle everyone must jump before relaxing. Most disorganized drill EVER! Staff were yelling at passengers in an almost threatening tone... Not cool. It was a completely booked cruise, so they should have expected latecomers etc... No reason to yell! It lasted entirely TOO long... and most people didn't pay attention anyway. (So far, Carnival's has been the most organized and expedited.) Advice, BE PATIENT! Kids are screaming, crew is yelling, parents and seniors just want it over... It does end, sure enough. If you have small children, bring a low tech toy (electronics must be shut off during the drill) to capture their attention. TWO THUMBS DOWN! Spa: BEST THING GOING FOR NCL! I purchased the week long spa pass (must be 18) for both my 19 year old son and myself and made serious use of it. The heated chaises are the best place to be when pulling in or out of port or just to take the chill off after a rainy day tooling about Alaska. There is a co-ed therapy pool and in each locker room there is a hot tub, lounging area, sauna, herbal steam room, and a Japanese cold pool... plus lockers, toilets and several showers. I have read they only sell 50-60 passes for the cruise, and believe this to be true as the spa was NEVER crowded. People were polite, and lots of pleasant conversation. There was mutual respect if you were taking a snooze on the chaises... Hot water for a variety of (Lipton in a Bigelow box) teas, cold water, and orange juice were available at all times. Nice touch. The spa staff was friendly and helpful. By the end of the week all knew your name. My 19 year old, 17 year old and me all had massages... on par with expensive spas, but still overpriced. Be careful!!! the 18% gratuity is added automatically. I didn't realize this until I got to my stateroom. We tipped an additional $15 each. (Perhaps that is why the staff was always so friendly to us?) I don't regret it, I should have read the receipt more closely when I signed. I do think there should be a sauna for general use... STANDING OVATION! POOLs/Hot tubs: HEATED to a comfortable 86 degrees so even on the coldest Alaskan day, you can enjoy a swim. There is one pool and 2 hot tubs for families; one pool and 2 hot tubs for adults only. They were never crowded because the ambient temperature was never above 60... My youngest (almost 14) had a blast using them... BRAVO!! Entertainment: We went to 3 shows... Magic, Comedy and Cirque de Bijou... all were first rate, however the comedy, although family "friendly" did get a bit risqué. WE enjoyed the shows, to be sure... However, if you plan on the 7:30 show, arrive at 7 and wait in line. My son and I went for the comedy show at 7:20 and had a zinger of a time trying to find seats. The 9:30 show is not as crowded. BRAVO!! Casino: What can I say? Casino. My 19 year old son and I played a total of $90 using the special offers ($10 for 20 and $25 for 50) ... So our total loss was $45. At one point, I was up... but aren't we all? :-) It taught my son a great lesson! He doesn't want to gamble anymore! LOL (me either...) MEH... Tsar's: The "complimentary" main dining room (same menu at Azura the other main dining room)... We liked the look and elegance of this dining room best. The food was better than buffet (to be expected) but not special. Night one or two (sorry I cant remember) was lobster tail (Maine) and the most horrible excuse for a sirloin steak EVER! Tasteless, tough and it looked weird... The lobster tail was great, broiled to buttery sweet perfection. The other nights had slightly differing menus with a Chef's special. The one night all 4 of us dined at Tsar's... our table was not completely set, we were missing flatware, butter, cream... I felt like I was annoying the server... because he acted ... ANNOYED. Not to mention, there were open tables EVERYWHERE, but they seated us around the corner with other families. I'm sorry, I have well behaved teenagers... I do NOT need to be seated by children who can't sit still for the duration of a meal, or by parents who do not know when it is time to take a screaming child OUT of the dining room. Because of that, two of my children opted to dine at the buffet for the remainder of the cruise. LUNCH MENU: BEWARE: NEVER CHANGES!!! Not ONCE! My theory, they WANT you to dine elsewhere... and pay for it. Ambience? BRAVO!! Service, hit or miss; Variety: BOOOO!!!! Quality: better than the buffet (and your only other complimentary option) Teppanyaki: AMAZING! Worth the up-charge? Debatable. Definitely better than Benihana! The food was very good, presentation and service phenomenal. WHAT I AM USED TO IN THE MAIN DINING ROOM of other cruise lines. Seriously! We dined there on the 2nd last night and it made me wish I was rich so I could afford all the up charge restaurants. Our server gave my children Shirley Temples at no charge. BRAVO!! Sushi Bar: Better than expected. My daughter LOVED the salmon nigiri. We each had 2 rolls. The miso soup was tasty!! The hot saki? Gekkeikan ($5 per bottle on land) $6 for a TINY bottle (about 3 thimble size cups full) Overall, BRAVO! Chocoholics Buffet: A sight to behold! Get there early. If you are any later than 8:30 when the 7:30 show lets out, it is wall to wall pushing, screaming, rude PEOPLE! Is it so hard to act civilized in the presence of decadence? IT was also a sight of horrible gluttony and WASTE!. People loaded 2 plates overflowing with different treats and treasures... knowing full well they couldn't possibly eat that much... The sad reality was in the morning with barely eaten plates laying next to the stateroom doors. My family ate what they took... and enjoyed watching the idiocy of those around us. Mind you, it surely wasn't the majority... but seriously? You spend a pretty penny on a cruise, and I understand you want your money's worth... but do you have to act like Tarzan? No, I take that back, Tarzan was more civilized. Of all the upcharges on board, I think the only place there should be an upcharge is at this event. Game room: well stocked with board games and well used. Bravo! Library: good size lending library, well lit, comfortable. Bravo! Gym: Must be 16. Good selection of equipment and classes but I did not use... My daughter used an elliptical a few times and enjoyed her time in there. MARTINI TASTING: Just do IT! TWO THUMBS UP!! a flight of 4 half size martinis for $15, but you get an explanation, history lesson, and quiz, games... the more you participate, the more you get. The first night, I had 2 additional martinis. Beware, they are all vodka based, so gin martini lovers (like me) need to appreciate it for what it is and order a gin martini at the Martini bar another time. BRAVO! Bingo: OVERPRICED and only 3 games per session! The ship makes SOOOOOOOO much money from bingo. THe big jackpots are only won if the coverall bingo is in 47 calls or less. We played the "show me the money" level so that the kids could play free... we had fun, so that is what it was all about, right? OK! Shore Excursions: DO NOT BOOK THROUGH CRUISE LINE: no matter what they say, the cruislines mark up as much as 75%. We did all our tours independently upon arrival. With the change of plans I didn't really have the time to prebook, but that wasn't a problem AT ALL! All the private tours cater to the cruise ships and most, if not all, guarantee you will be done and returned to the ship prior to departure. We did Saxman Village and City Tour/Dolly house in Ketchican... Sourdough Company. Saw over 30 bald eagles... Bears didn't want to be seen. Tour guide was great. In Juneau, we did whale watching (http://www.juneauwhalewatch.com)... The original price was $110 for a 3 hour tour... My son said he was having the best 19th birthday... and the lady gave us a $10 discount. Great tour! We saw several whales and were entertained by a momma and her calf! Refreshments and drinks were included. First rate tour! In Skagway we did the bus to White Pass and the city tour through Klondike Tours. Our guide was awesome. In Victoria, we walked to the Empress and had tea seated right away without reservations... pricy, but high tea is never cheap. My point: You do NOT need to book or pre-book a tour. THERE are PLENTY available on the pier and whether admitted or not... you might be able to get a discount to save even more money. We had a BLAST on all of our excursions NOT booked through NCL! Our cabin steward was awesome. I gave him an additional tip on the last night. I always tried to do a once over in the cabin in the morning and make sure the kids were out so he could make up the room, but there were a few times where we weren't ready and he came back later. He always greeted me and the children by name, and made fantastic towel animals when he found out they are one of my favorite treats on cruises. :-) BRAVO! Have a great vacation in Indonesia next month! Teen Club: My daughter participated in several activities and made a lot of friends. My youngest didn't go at all other than to sign up. My oldest wished he could have participated. BRAVO! 18-20 crowd: Cruise lines lack at catering to this precious age group. Too young to do some things, too old to do others. I know it is strange age range to be. My son went to the casino with me. He did a few adult activities, but there really were not organized ANYTHING for this age group. Did it ruin his cruise? NO! He had a great time talking to the older people in the spa. EVERYONE who met him was charmed by him and I got many compliments on how well behaved and courteous he is. I do wish, however, they had a late-teen or early adult program or even a few activities at the beginning of the cruise. I looked on day one because I read some cruise lines do this, but none was to be seen. BOO! Kid's programs overall: There were over 700 kids on board and for the most part, they were well behaved and occupied with activities. Families I had spoken with had trouble coaxing their children away from the program. BRAVO!!! WELL-DONE! Store: Great selection of goods. Although I did not purchase anything, I walked around and window shopped. They had all the souvenirs you could need. OK. Freestyle cruising: Not sure I am sold on this. Yes, I enjoyed not having to dress up on formal night (I am a comfort seeking person... and love my jeans, blouse and sandals... but I do know how to glitz out). I don't think I liked the way the main dining rooms were run. One night we had to wait nearly 40 minutes for a table. Yes, we received vouchers for a free drink... but still.. If it were early and late seating... this would NOT have happened. I missed bonding with my table mates... It is always fun to see familiar faces and network. THE JURY IS STILL OUT. Nickel and diming: true as it may be... all cruise lines do this, but NCL JEWEL takes the cake for the most gold digging. So many things I didn't expect to have charges, had charges... BOO! Hidden gems: 11th deck port side (Bridge observation) LOVED IT! LAST night at the Garden Buffet: I told you more later... Let me just say, when I asked politely if there was more pepperoni pizza coming out, the man said, "this is all we have so take it or leave it." HUH?? ABSOLUTELY UNACCEPTABLE, a simple, we have none this evening would have sufficed. REALLY sour taste for my last night on board. Disembark: Walked off with our own baggage... smooth... easiest customs EVER! BRAVO!! I am sure I missed something... Overall, we had a great trip to Alaska which is what was looking forward too. I tried NCL on a recommendation from a friend (was going to book a more familiar line, but it would have departed from Vancouver... Seattle was easier for us)... I would choose NCL again if it was the right itinerary and price... but as far as loyalty goes... Not there yet. I hope you found this somewhat helpful. I am not an optimist by nature, but a realist... I am highly critical too... so take that with a grain of salt. Read Less
Sail Date July 2013
EMBARKATION Easy and fast. They allowed those in our party who were not Latitudes members to check in with us who were gold members. Great boarding picture, but you didn't have to have it taken. FOOD Generally very good and had a ... Read More
EMBARKATION Easy and fast. They allowed those in our party who were not Latitudes members to check in with us who were gold members. Great boarding picture, but you didn't have to have it taken. FOOD Generally very good and had a great variety. Loved the fresh fruit for breakfast and lunch in the buffet. Never had to wait long for my omelet in the morning. Hint: For the buffet area there is extra seating at the Italian restaurant on the other side of the elevators. There are usually tables there and it is quieter. We ate dinner mostly in the main dining rooms. We had no complaints. Staff was good about getting a high chair for our toddler, bringing his food before our entree and giving him a little more attention. (Well, he was kind of a flirt with our female waiters) Also, we waited twice for a table. The second night out - a dress up or not night - we had to wait and one other night. They give you a coupon to get a glass of "bubbly" or pop for while you what. Yes, there is a difference in the quality of food from the main dining room and speciality restaurants. Glaringly apparent in the French onion soup and mushroom soup in the main dining room compared to LaBistro. CABIN AWESOME to have an aft balcony on an Alaskan cruise. You can see both sides of the ship and not have to deal with the cold wind while viewing the glaciers. The balcony was large enough for all 6 adults to have a view. With the mini suite there are two chairs at the desk/mirror so we brought one out on the balcony to add to the two chairs that were there. Just two of us were in this cabin, others were relatives.Under 3 Children's Program I think they had something every day. I only went once to watch grandson. Most of the kids there were happy, but a little too young to understand how to "play" with balloons, scarfs and music. Entertainment Good A few times it was hard to find a seat for the late show. There were several IMAX-type movies on glaciers and the gold rush. Did not do games or BINGO. Fitness Daughter said equipment was often in use and she didn't want to wait. Shore excursion desk We needed to change a shore excursion. This was no problem and the guy at the desk was very pleasant about it even though it meant a little refund to our account. DISEMBARKATION Easy Peasy Walked off with our luggage. No great wait for an elevator like on the Epic. We left our luggage at the pier for $3 per bag in a secure room while we went to the Space Needle before our 5 p.m. flight home. This was our 5th NCL cruise. The layout of the public rooms on the Jewel were our least favorite of all the ships- awkward. Read Less
Sail Date July 2013
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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