We are a young family with 3 kids, ages 6, 4, and 3. We recently went on a Norwegian Cruise with 3 other families. Our previous two family cruises were on the Disney Cruise Line. This was not our first choice, but we thought hey, why ... Read More
We are a young family with 3 kids, ages 6, 4, and 3. We recently went on a Norwegian Cruise with 3 other families. Our previous two family cruises were on the Disney Cruise Line. This was not our first choice, but we thought hey, why not? Unfortunately, we realized this cruise was not suited for our young family's needs and desires.
Ship - B
The Jewel was a little tired, a little worn. The bathrooms, pool, and atrium area were all beautiful and looked to be recently remodeled. I was very impressed with the beautiful pool area. There was a decent sized family pool with a smaller wraparound deck to sit on, and an equally sized adults only pool. Both pools were flanked by two hot tubs. The family pool also had a great water slide! The pool is much better than the pools on the Disney Cruise ships, mostly due to space vs user ratio.
Cabin - A
Our Deck 11 mini suite cabin was spacious, with a large comfortable bed, and a smaller pull out bed that slept our two kids fine. We also had a walk out balcony that offered incredible views. The bathroom was decently sized and well designed with pocket doors for privacy into the toilet and shower tub. The closet and drawers had ample storage space for our family of 5 and the under the bed area was enough for our 2 large suitcases! We put our bulky stroller out on the balcony, though I think it would've also fit under the bed.
Dining - B
I believe the reason why people choose Norwegian is for the ample amounts of food that are always available. There was no shortage of food on this boat. Everywhere I turned at every moment, there were people eating! We ate most of our meals at the Garden Cafe buffet with our kids, which had plentiful and varied dining options. I had a slider once and it was great. The regular fries were disgusting. The curly fries were delicious but I only saw them once. My kids regularly ate pizza and hot dogs. I stuck to the Indian food (yum! The head chef is from India), the salads, and fruit. There was a crepe station that my daughter went to once. She also tried all the different beautifully displayed cakes. Each night the buffet had a different theme: Mediterranean, Asian, South Western, seafood, etc. But the American junk food staples were always present, as were the Asian style foods. We went to Tsar's twice and it was fine. It really all depends on what you order. We went to Azura's once and I also enjoyed my food there. The grill O'Sheenans (I think) had disgusting fish and chips but I think my hubby enjoyed his buffalo wings. Our friends' boys loved the pot pies. Chin Chins was a hit or miss. The seafood udon I ordered had zero flavor. The hot and sour soup was good. Other things were salty. If I had to do it again I would probably skip the specialty style free dining such as Chin Chins and O' Sheehan and stick to the buffet or the main dining rooms. During sea days, they serve a delicious BBQ lunch on the pool deck!
I also read many conflicting things about the drinks. We had the Ultimate Beverage Package. There were some delicious cocktails on board but you definitely have to ask for a double or triple shot (or a floater). No point in drinking all the calories and staying sober! After awhile I stuck to the wine. The Malbec was very good! We did not tip each time we ordered a cocktail like I read somewhere. I am not sure how they made their cash but I think it somehow adds up at the end. Either way I am sure they would appreciate an extra tip. I also read a lot of complaints about the coffee. People complained there was no place to get free coffee on the ship. This is untrue. We had a coffee maker in our cabin, and coffee was always flowing in the Garden Cafe. We did not pay extra for the UBP but I would recommend having it!
Activities - D
This is what colors my opinion about NCL the most. 80% of the daytime activities were geared towards adults, and specifically selling things. "Buy a Raffle Ticket for this auction!" "Come see our tanzanite earrings!" "Visit the Art Gallery for champagne and buy this art!" "Ladies Free Pamper but buy this foot insert!". We skipped all of those. The few daytime family activities they had were Origami, Pool side games and activities, and a few cooking demonstrations. One HUGE complaint I have is that NOTHING on this ship is open until 9am with the exception of breakfast. It is unfortunate enough that having young kids means a 6:30am wake up time, but even worse when you have to twiddle your thumbs for 2.5 hours waiting for SOMETHING to do on boat, whether it be the kid's club, or anything else. Also, the television choices in the cabin were dismal. 10 channels, 5 of them being NCL advertisement, 2-3 being news, and the other 2-3 being adult content. There were those mornings when my kids were awake, hubby and I were trying to use the bathroom and get ready, and the kids were going bonkers being crammed into a tiny room. A little TV show would've helped ease the pain!!!
Nighttime Activites - the reason why our friends chose this line was for the night life. They had lots of great adult or older child oriented shows in the evening. We went to a magic show and two acrobatic shows, all of them which were very entertaining and excellent. My youngest kid was not interested at all, so that was unfortunate. There were some amazing musicians on boat. I especially enjoyed the Prism band on the pool deck at night. Their singers were incredible! One of them was doing a Selena medley and she rocked it! There was some dancing in the Spinnaker Lounge late at night. My biggest gripe with the evening activities was that I could not go to any of them, and they were the only ones I was interested in (see lame daytime activities above). More to come on why I couldn't go...
Splash Academy - C
The main reason why we go on cruises is because we love the idea of having some adult only time on vacation. We've had such positive experiences with Disney Cruise Line and we were hoping for a similar experience here. We didn't get it. Here is why.
Splash Academy is much smaller. Families are not NCL's target audience, so they don't invest a ton into the childcare. I get that. But I did not understand their hours. They are open 9-12am, 2-5pm, and 7-10:30pm. Why? Is it not possible to rotate employees in and out so that you are open longer? For families whose kids wake up so early, it is nice to have an earlier drop off time. DCL is open 7-midnight every day, with no closures. I didn't want to dump my kids off and not see them an entire day, but it would've been nice to have the flexibility in my schedule. Maybe drop them off earlier in the morning so I could work out, then do some pool time mid day. Etc etc. As a result of their dinnertime closure, I felt like I was eating for HOURS every evening. First I took the kids to dinner at the buffet. Then wait for Splash Academy to open. Then I would drop them off and go to my own dinner.
And here is the best part. On TWO separate nights, when I went to drop off my younger kids, they told me they were FULL. At occupancy. And my children could not go in. WHAT?! You know how many kids and their exact ages before the boat even leaves! You should be prepared to staff this! This ruined TWO nights of dinner plans. So instead I wandered around the boat, looking for something to do with the kids that was age appropriate and enticing. Because there was no way I was going back to the room of boredom (why don't you have a kid's channel?!!!)
Also, Splash Academy closes at 10:30. Yes, you can pay extra for late night hours, where the kids play Wii and stuff, but no thanks. (Yes normally my kids are asleep at that time, but some of those excursion days they took a late nap, so a later bedtime was in store.) So all of those fun nighttime activities...goodbye. You sounded fun.
On the plus side, Splash had many fun and engaging themed activities happening. My oldest child had fun. After a couple of days, my youngest refused to go. My middle could be bribed.
Service - A+
Thank you, to all the hard working, friendly, and smiling crew members. You really made the NCL a nice place for 7 days. You were wonderful. Thanks for all that you do.
Ports and Shore Excursions - A+
We were transported off and on very easily and treated well. Coming back on board NCL provided us with cold towels, lemonade, water, and ice cream. Getting off the boat there were always photographers and different photo ops with props and people in costume. We enjoyed our time in Mexico. We did not pay for any port excursions so I cannot speak for that.
- They have a library on the 12th floor which I loved exploring. There were kids books and books in many different languages to check out and read. I scored the first night and found Harry Potter and the Cursed Child!
- There is a game room next to the library. We had a special date night with our daughter there and played Monopoly. That was a nice touch.
- They also had a Video Arcade that we took my son to on our special date night. Our package included a $50 free arcade credit. There aren't a ton of games, but the ones they had held the interest of kids ages 3-12 (those were the ages of the kids we were traveling with) and beyond. Note: Arcade is open from 9am-10:30pm.
- Gym - hubby and I both spent a lot of time here. The gym is very nice and well equipped. It was spacious enough but got busy at certain times of the day. The downside was there were some free classes that I tried to take but they canceled them with no warning. Not surprisingly, the pay to exercise classes went on without a hitch.
- Photos - those photographers are into their jobs and will take quite a few of your family in every single configuration and pose! We had a package for 50 prints free. While our family did not have 50 shots to take home, some of our friends took quite a few family photos.
Overall I thought this cruise was well priced, but much better for older adults or people traveling without children. The Disney Cruise Line is much more oriented for families. For example:
1) Kid's club open 7am-midnight with no closures. Extremely large kid's club with so many people on staff. Much more interactive and fun. Good for all ages - I met some teens and asked them if they liked it. It was an overwhelming yes!
2) They will even feed your kid in the kid's club for no additional charge during dinner or lunch hours if you want to have a special meal to yourselves. They also pick up your kid early from the main dining halls and take them to the kids club so you can finish your 3-4 course meal in peace.
3) There is always family friendly activities on board. Meet characters, take an art class together, watch a movie in their full sized movie theater or on the pool deck, play family games together. etc. There was always something to do that was family oriented and fun
4) The evening shows are better suited for kids. Sometimes the storyline was hokey, but the production value was Broadway standards and so was the talent. My youngsters always enjoyed them
I know this was long but hopefully informative! Read Less