My husband and I just returned from our first Mediterranean cruise on NCL Jewel. This was our second cruise with NCL and it was fabulous.
Embarkation - We arrived early on Sunday morning into Barcelona and took a taxi to the port (27 Euros). We were early, but had no trouble giving our bags to a porter and entering the terminal (nicest I have ever seen). We waited about 1/2 an hour before they started checking people in. We were the only ones in the latitudes check in line. They started boarding the ship around 11:00 by groups. We were group 1, so we did not have to wait. When we boarded the ship we went directly to the excursion desk and booked our excursions for the week and then to the restaurant desk (in Tangos) to make a reservation for Le Bistro.
Stateroom - We had a category BD balcony stateroom on Deck 8 Forward. It was a nice room, a little smaller than the one we had on the Sun a couple of years ago. I wasn't thrilled with the mini-bar taking up the whole refrigerator, but there was a note saying they would remove the items if requested. The bathroom was great. There was a shower with glass door on one side and a toilet with glass door on the other with a sink in between them. We had signed up for the Honeymoon / Anniversary Package and our champagne was there waiting for us, but it wasn't cold. The strawberries showed up later in the day. I was surprised that there was also a bottle of wine with a note saying it was from NCL.
Ship - The Jewel had many bright colors, but it did not look as bad in person as it looks in the photos I have seen. Everything was clean, except all the windows looked like they had not been washed in a couple of weeks. Our favorite bar was the Windjammer on the 12th floor.
Food - We ate dinner in Tsar's on 4 nights and it was great. We checked the menu outside of the restaurant each day to make sure there was something that interested us. On the last night of the cruise we ate at Le Bistro. This was the best meal that we have ever had. The filet mignon was cooked perfectly (mine medium rare, his medium well). The crème brulee was fabulous. They even brought us a cake and sang to us after I mentioned the next day was our anniversary. The staff was very friendly and did an excellent job. The food in the buffet was okay. Breakfast was the same each day. The omelet station was very good. We did not like the lunch or dinner in the buffet very much.
Entertainment - Cirque Bijou was outstanding and Second City was very funny. The other comedy or magic acts were not great. We didn't see Band on the Run, so I cannot comment on that. The nightlife was a little dull. Everyone seemed to go back to their staterooms after the late show in the main theater.
Sicily - In Sicily we went on the Taormina and Sicilian Vineyard Tour. It was 105 degrees that day and shade was hard to find. The Greek Theater in Taormina had a large screen set up for a film festival. I thought this took away from the experience. The Vineyard was nice, though I didn't care for the wine. They gave you plenty of it, along with lunch. Be sure to ask to see where they keep the wine barrels. We were expecting a tour of the vineyard, but this did not occur until someone asked to see were they stored the wine.
Naples - We took the Amalfi Coastal Drive and Pompeii tour. The Amalfi Coast is beautiful. If you are scared of heights, sit on the left side of the bus. The road is very narrow and the drop down is really steep. Our guide was great and had to get out of the bus many times to move cars and yell at people that were blocking the road. After an hour stop in town, we went on to Pompeii. It was interesting to see, but definitely not somewhere I would return. Once again it was close to 100 degrees and there was absolutely no shade. We had lunch in the hotel outside of Pompeii and then stopped to shop in the cameo factory before heading back to the ship. Civitavecchia - We did tons of research and planning for this port. We decided to take the train to Rome. When you get off the ship there is a shuttle to take you out of the port. Well, this shuttle doesn't start until about an hour after you can get off the ship. We ended up finding others to share a cab to the train station. We purchased a BIRG ticket to Rome, which was 9 Euros. This included round trip to Rome and all subways and buses in Rome. The train took about 1 hour and 15 minutes to get to St. Peter's Station. From here you can easily walk to the Vatican and St. Peter's Basilica. We climbed to the top of St. Peter's Basilica (432 steps) and could see most of Rome from the top. We then stood in line for about 1 hour to get into the Vatican Museum. You are herded through here along with hundreds of others. The Sistine Chapel is worth the wait though. When we came out the line was gone. I recommend going here after 12:00. We took the subway to the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon. Then back on the subway to the Coliseum and the Forum. When we got out of the train station at the Coliseum, we were immediately approached to take a tour of the Coliseum. We decided to do this so we wouldn't have to stand in line again. The tour was good and the guide explained everything that we saw. We walked around the forum area and then headed back to the train station to return to the ship. I would recommend doing this on your own. We saw a lot more than any of the ship excursions saw. The ship's Rome On Your Own excursion is much too expensive. We figured out that we saved about $200.00 going by train.
Livorno - Once again we did this on our own. We took a bus to the train station and the train to Florence. We went to see the statue of David, but after 45 minutes in a long line that did not move, we decided to leave. We went to the Duomo and climbed to the top of the copula, from which you can see all of Florence. I only recommend doing this if you are in good shape. The stairs are very narrow in areas and steep. We then went over to the Ponte Vecchio. We wanted time to see Pisa too, so back to the train station. We got off in Pisa and walked to the Leaning Tower. It is a beautiful area. We did have time to climb to the top though. If you are taking the train from Pisa, make sure you are on the right one. They kept changing the track that our train was on. We ended up taking a taxi back to the ship from the Livorno station, as we only had 15 minutes to get back on the ship.
Villefrance - We did the Eze and Monaco excursion with the ship. Eze is beautiful. We got there early in the morning before any of the stores were open. It is an old city made of stone on the top of a mountain. From there we went to Monaco. We saw the princesses' houses, the cathedral and the palace. We then had time to explore on our own and eat lunch. Next we went to Monte Carlo. We were given about an hour to walk around or gamble. You cannot go into the Grand Casino with shorts or a hat and they charge 10 Euros just to walk in the door. The marina here was filled with huge yachts. It was amazing.
Disembarkation - We did the City and Montessori tour through the ship, so we put our luggage with tour tags outside of our door the last night of the cruise. We met in the main theater at 6:45 and waited for our tour to be called. When our tour was called they sent us off the ship and to get our luggage. I loved how the luggage comes around on conveyor belts, like the airport. Much easier than having to find it in a large warehouse type area like all of our past cruises. Once we got our luggage, we went outside to find our bus. Very quick and easy.
Monserrat & City Tour - I recommend doing this tour. The drive up and around the mountains to Monserrat was breathtaking. I'm not sure why they called it a city tour though, as you do not see any of Barcelona, until they drop you off in the middle of it with your luggage. We were staying a couple of blocks away from where they dropped us off at the Avenida Palace. The hotel was very nice and about a block away from Las Ramblas. I would definitely stay there again. While in Barcelona we just walked around the port area and Las Ramblas. We were completed exhausted from our trip.