Grandkids first Cruise - good experience!: Norwegian Jewel Cruise Review by cinbol

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Grandkids first Cruise - good experience!

Sail Date: April 2012
Destination: Bahamas
Embarkation: New York (Manhattan)
We are seasoned cruisers who decided to take our Daughter, Son-in-law, and two grand-kids ages 8 and 6 on a surprise cruise for school vacation. We chose the Jewel due to the embarkation port being within driving distance, and the fact that it was a Nickelodeon cruise. We booked last minute and got great rates making the trip affordable during school vacation week ( when we checked last fall the rates were out of our range and quite a bit higher than "usual"). We also felt the Jewel was the right size ship for their first experience - not too small but not so huge that they would be overwhelmed. The kids/grand kids are not big "beach" people and prefer pools so we knew we would spend a lot of time on the ship and less time in ports and we planned accordingly.

Embarkation and Parking - NYC was an easy port to get to by car coming from MA ( 4 hour drive) and parking was a breeze. I heard people comment on the cost of parking ($245/week) however for our family to take the More train or bus would have cost much more than the parking and price of gas so we felt it was an economical way to arrive and we didn't have to worry about packing for TSA approvals! We arrived in the parking area about 10:20 am and we were checked in and boarded by 11:30 am. Note: because our port of exit and entry is US the small children did not need passports - certified birth certificates were accepted with no question - the adults all have passports so no issues there. On line check in makes the process go very quickly as well as long as you have all your paperwork with you.

Staterooms - Because this was a last minute booking our options were limited and we were inside forward in "family" staterooms - Daughter, Husband and two kids chose one cabin and DH and I the other (would have been more comfortable with one of the kids with us but they both wanted to be with mommy and daddy). Cabin space was fine for two, okay for three, but very crowded for four - extras were stored in our cabin - but we are campers with an RV and 5th wheel so we are used to small spaces LOL. Our cabin person was okay - he did seem to be confused with the number of people and quite often we were shorted towels in the 2 person cabin (and yes we were registered as 2 and 4), he also was very bad at bed making and our bottom sheet was never all the way down the bed (picky but it bothered me that I had to remake the bed every nite). We had some issues with getting service - the safe was closed in cabin 2 upon arrival and it took until Sunday nite to get someone there to open it so it couldn't be used until then. By day 3 the shower door was sliding back and forth in cabin 2 all nite and we requested repairs. We left for the day and it was removed to fix it - that took over 24 hours to get back and to come back from a beach day with no shower door was not nice - no offer was made to give us another cabin (there were empty ones near us)to use for just that day - trying to get 6 people thru one shower for dinner was tough and what would have happened if we didn't have two cabins? I did make my frustration known at the front desk, but feel that NCL did not do enough for our inconveniences.

Dining - Traveling with kids makes things a little different from what we are used to and we knew that before departure. We usually prefer to "dress" for dinner, but knowing our 8 year old grandson is a creature of habit we didn't want to have a battle every evening so we had planned to eat in Azura most nites as that dining room is more "casual". We did eat in Tzar's 3 nites and it was disappointing that we got the grandson "comply" yet saw adults being allowed into the dining room in sneakers and shorts. The food was good - not great but it's "included". We do not utilize the "fee" based restaurants - the food is not a priority for us on a cruise but we do like to try new things and found the menus to be very basic - and never saw Creme Brulee on the menu at all! And for those who don't drink soda or alcohol, you are limited to water or milk at dinner - Lemonade is only for the "kids" now at dinner.

We ate at the buffet every morning and always found the right things to keep us happy. Lunches were either at the buffet or poolside and again plenty of choices for everyone. We tended to eat light at lunch because we like to eat dinner early and catch the early "shows"

Juices are only served in the morning - through out the day you are limited to water, coffee or tea - no lemonade any more - unless you drink soda or alcohol your choices are slim.

Ports - We stayed on the ship in Canaveral (we have all been to the "parks" and the kids were not interested in the NASA tour) Knowing we would be on the beach the next two days we decided to use the ship - great idea as so many people got off the ship we had plenty of room to explore! We enjoyed the pool and buffet with no crowds! See Port reviews for GSC and Nassau

Service - overall, in my opinion, "freestyle cruising" is hurting the service we used to see on board. You don't get to know your wait staff and because they don't "work for" the envelope at the end of the week, they don't seem to be interested in "impressing" you at the table. We had mediocre service most of the week, often having to ask for things more than once, like lemons for water, coffee at the end of the meal, dessert.... in the entire week we had only one waiter who went out of his way to impress us - Mauricio made napkin creations for the kids, checked on us often to make sure everything was okay, and came and said hello when we didn't get seated at his table next time. He was our "hero" for the week and so noted on our comment card! Since we are not "drinkers" I can't comment on the beverage staff but they seemed plentiful and always looking for business - because they "work" for their tips and it shows!

Entertainment - there was something for everyone - the kids (and adults)all liked Jean Pierre (JP) the comedic magician - he does a "show and tell" for the kids exposing how some of the tricks are done as well as answering questions from the kids (maybe only because it was school vacation week?); the hypnotist Brenda Kaye was very good as well and we enjoyed the Q&A they did together - they really love what they do and it shows. The gymnasts couple was good but the show got very lame in the middle - we appreciated their strength and precision more. The production cast was okay - not the best we have seen and some of the dancers seemed very new and stiff - the singers were good but not great - we went to all the shows at 7:30 due to trying to get the kids to bed at a decent hour. We were glad to catch the "crew" show and heard some great voices on stage - amazing that NCL has such talent in the "crew" and they don't promote them to the shows.

Overall this was a great cruise for the children's first time out -there was plenty for them to do, and grandson liked the kids club although he didn't go every day - he's a shy one and very sensitive and there were some aggressive kids in the club that didn't go over well with him - it's a shame since we felt he would really have more fun there - again left wondering why NCL can't call the parents and dismiss the bad behavior kids...

In summary it was a good cruise and we got what we expected out of it - no more but no less. For us it will be our last NCL for a while - we will either go back to Princess or try some other lines - we are finding that "freestyle" is not our style and that's okay - you pick the cruise that you think will suit your style and this one was chosen for the kids. Less

Published 04/22/12

Cabin review: I18117 Family Inside

good location;quiet not much traffic other than the other guests who were usually courteous and mindful. Adequate for our needs - storage was plentiful for 2 people but crowded for 4; TV noise travels thru the walls - we had some staff members in the stateroom next to us who apparently didn't realize turning on the TV at 1:30 am would wake their neighbors - when we left them a note they stopped doing that but we were surprised to see they were crew members who should have known better. AC system didn't seem to work well at nite - during the day the room was "chilled" but after we went to bed the room got warm at nite without changing the setting on the thermostat. Shower was big enough (for a large lady) but the toilet is set in a way that you must sit sideways if your legs are long.

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Port and Shore Excursions

We took the tender into Great Stirrup Cay - we had booked a clam shell the first day on the ship and were glad to have some shade - there isn't much by way of trees. The process for tendering was slightly disorganized -with an "excursion" ticket we were supposed to have priority boarding but that was only true for the first trip out - after that it seemed to be a free for all - people who had numbered tickets (picked up early in the morning that day) were called to tender locations and then we stood in a very long line mixed in with them. When the next set of numbers was called the new people just jumped the long line causing lots of frustration and confusion. When we questioned the higher numbers boarding before us we were told "you missed your call"... More crew members along the line would have been more helpful but we eventually got there with no bruises. We were not bothered by any construction as other posters have mentioned - we did hear some hammering and big machines in the distance but nothing that was disruptive to us. Signage was not great and it took us a while to find out how to get our clam shell waiting in the wrong line once or twice but once we found the right place we were set up quickly. Overall the island was very clean and welcoming with lots of activity going on - the Nickelodeon gang was running activities for the kids beachside, and the buffet had a decent variety of foods - again not great but adequate. Again water was the only "included" choice. Tendering back was easy as people left at different times. Back on board the pool was busy as people returned from the beach.

Since we did not book an excursion we "slept in" and went to the buffet for a later breakfast (around 9:00 am). We left the ship and headed into the town to catch the #10 Jitney to go to Cable Beach. It's a short walk from the pier - maybe 10-15 minutes depending on your load and kids and the cost is $1.25 per person - exact change is needed. Thanks to the info on these boards, we headed to the Sheraton for the day - as mentioned earlier the "kids and grand kids" are not beach people so we found something for everyone. It takes about 30 minutes via the bus. $25 per person bought us use of the facilities which included a large heated pool, two other areas with shallow pools and waterfalls, activities like volleyball, ping pong, etc and use of paddle boats and kayaks as well as towels, chairs, umbrellas and a beautiful beach. There was a "hippo" slide like on GSC also for an additional fee which was disappointing - for what we paid we felt it should have been included but we had a great relaxing afternoon - the waters were a bit cooler than we hoped but we had fun. There are some straw markets on the beach and the kids got some souvenir items to bring home - haggle the price and pay what you feel is appropriate. Headed back to the ship around 3:00pm - chose to take a cab to be dropped right at the port as the kids were very tired - twice as much as the Jitney for all of us but less walking. Back in time for a snack and some pool time before sailing. We did not take the time to look around the port but saw some nice shops and a lot of hair braiding vendors.
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