My husband and I have taken a one night Inaugural Voyage on Norwegian Jewel in November, 2005. This was our seventh cruise, and first on NCL. Previously we cruised with Carnival, RCCL, Princess and Celebrity. I have to begin by saying that I had no expectations for this cruise and this was just a way to sample the NCL and decide if we ever want to spend more than one day on their ships.
Embarkation: Ship was leaving from the Miami port. Embarkation was much disorganized; there was a two hours line to get on the ship. There were many agents but they were slow and inefficient. At one point all computers froze and it took NCL agents 20 minutes just to reboot. After the lengthy process of waiting to get on the ship, we were greeted by 4 members of the crew onboard and two jars of sanitizing liquid. They insisted that every one sanitize their hands and move on. No champagne, no cold towels, no people to help you with luggage and take you to your cabin. Cabin: We had a midrange balcony cabin, as we always do on all ships. NCL's cabins are less then small, they are tiny. I cannot imagine having this cabin for 4 (2 adults and 2 kids). The two of us could not go in the same direction at the same time in this cabin. Balcony was tiny, bathroom was minuscule. You pretty much had to keep bathroom door open to move around the bathroom. There was an empty mini fridge and a safe in the cabin. No robes, no beach bags, no ice, no sweets, no ashtrays. Everything was bare to the minimum.
Decor: I have to say a few words about the decor of the rooms and the ship in general. It looked like either a paint truck had an accident on this ship or the color designer was totally blind. All doors, carpets, and few walls and cafes were bright greenish aqua. Cabin had a mix of purple, maroon, aqua, red, orange and yellow all over it. Casino floor and ceiling was red, blue, yellow, and green squares, walls were aqua and orange, and slots and tables red and green. You could not stay in the casino for more then 20 seconds without getting dizzy spells just from the colors. Pool deck had all colors mixed together - orange, green, blue, aqua, yellow, pink, magenta, purple. Theater is bright aqua with bright orange and yellow. All cafes, bars and public lounges are in terrible colors that do not match together. I know and love modern, and this was not it. It was horrific. Also there is nothing on this ship to take your breath away, no great lobby, no marble, no columns, no crystal, no glass elevators, no huge flower arrangements, no great galleries, no sculptures. Basically, there is nothing to write home about.
Shops: The gallery shops had very poor selection; there were only a few cosmetic products, very small jewelry stand, and few t-shirts. There is no flower shop and no gift shop that we could find. Restaurants: I was pleasantly surprised by the number and variety of restaurants. Cover charges are minimal and choices are very good. There are French, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese restaurants in addition to two main restaurants and a buffet, also a grill and pizzeria. For an Inaugural Dinner there was a choice of oysters, shrimp cocktail, lobster bisque, forest mushroom soup, fillet mignon, prime rib, salmon, crawfish, chocolate mouse, and Crème Brûlée. We went to a main Tsar’s restaurant because we wanted to get an idea of regular dining on NCL. It was creatively decorated and there was no line. The waiter came with menus including a water menu. We asked for water with lemon and ordered our meal. We got one glass of water each, and were not able to get more throughout the dinner. We asked three waiters for refill and still did not get it. No one came to take our wine order. The meal was fine, but there was nothing special about it. No decorations, no special presentations, and no gourmet tastes. I have ordered cappuccino but it took so long to make it that we left without coffee. We also had snack and breakfast at the buffet and it was ok. There were no variety, and no delicatessens, but you could get a bread and cold cuts, pizza, stew, coleslaw and coffee for snack; and omelet, cereal, cold cuts, coffee and fruits for breakfast.
Service: Service is poor in every area on this ship. Pool towels are not picked up in a timely manner, no wine service at dinner, no wine service at the theater, no hors d'oeuvres at midnight. No service whatsoever at the buffet. It also takes about 20 minutes to get a $10 martini at the piano lounge.
Entertainment: It was the best surprise on this trip. Main production was spectacular - very talented cast of dancers, singers and gymnasts, good production, and decorations. We enjoyed the show and there was a standing ovation from audience at the end. The rest of the entertainment was from average to mediocre. The stand up comedian was what we could expect on NCL, we walked out after 10 minutes of listening to his blabber. Musicians and singers on the pool deck were voiceless and talentless. Group that was playing by main reception area in the middle of the ship was terrible. The singer could not carry a tune in any song. Piano bar was empty so pianist never got near the piano. Pianist near the casino played for 15 minutes and then turn on a recording for 25 minutes, then played again for another 15 minutes. There was so called adult dance party at midnight in the lounge. It turned out to be loud rap music. There was Karaoke and a 70th music after that at the club. All music on the ship was themed disco and 70th. So there was no variety, no talent, and no choices of entertainment.
In addition: There is a library, beauty salon, fitness room, and a spa that we have not used due to a short trip. Overall: If it is your first cruise or if you can get NCL really cheap – go for it, you can always do better next time. If you like to be pampered, or just be taken care of – go with another cruise line. Everything on this ship was 3 stars. If you usually stay at 2-3 stars hotels and go to diners to eat – this is the ship for you. If you like 5 stars service on land, do not take NCL, whatever you save on tickets is not worth the disappointment. My question has been answered by this one day cruise. I will not take any trips with NCL. My favorite cruise line is Celebrity, and RCCL comes close second.