Norwegian Jewel - Western Mediterranean: Norwegian Jewel Cruise Review by birdnutty

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Norwegian Jewel - Western Mediterranean

Sail Date: July 2006
Destination: Europe - Western Mediterranean
Embarkation: Barcelona
NCL was responsible for our air arrangements. We landed in Barcelona at 8 AM were met by the clearly marked NCL reps who gathered all we weary travelers and loaded us onto a brand new air conditioned bus. We were then delightfully surprised to find that NCL had arranged a free bus tour of Barcelona for us. Took us right from the airport with a tour guide for 3 hours, touching on many of Barcelona's highlights. Several times we got off the bus and were given time to walk around, do a little shopping, take pictures, etc. We got to the pier around 11:45 AM, strolled right up to the ticket counter (no lines) and were in our staterooms in less than half an hour The distance from the pier to the city sights is a LONG way, through strictly industrial area, not pleasing or even safe to walk through. Don't attempt it except by taxi.

We had originally planned on leaving the boat and going sightseeing, but had just enough time on the tour to get a flavor of the city so we no longer More felt compelled to see more. We were also glad we didn't because we were MUCH more tired than we thought we'd be (jet lag and lack of sleeping opportunity on the plane) and the pier was so far away!

We had 6 in our group, three inside staterooms on the 5th deck. WARNING!!!! If you get stateroom 5063, 5065, or 5067, get them changed!!!!! The first night, despite my sleepiness, I was awakened over and over by clanging and banging and the sound of buckets being dragged across the floor  starting at 12AM ish, and lasting until 4:30 AM. This is despite the earplugs I always wear when traveling. They didnt help at all. One of my friends in the next stateroom had the same problem. My hubby, as well as the rest of our party must sleep like the dead, because it didnt bother them at all. Anyway, we mentioned it to each other the next morning at breakfast, thought it was strange but would probably go away. Well, it didnt. Second night was the same. My friend, a much more sensitive sort than me, called and complained about the noise, got nowhere. Third night, same thing, but nerves were getting really stretched, with 3 nights of no significant sleep and grueling day activities (more on that later). At 4:30 in the morning, I was really dead tired but unable to sleep due to the din, so I wanted to call reception to make a complaint. But THAT wouldve woken the hubby (bombs are fine, just dont talk in the same room.. Go figure) So I dragged myself out of bed at walked up to reception in my PJs (I did throw something over them, but it was clear that Id been in bed) and told them about the noise and asked them what was going on. The Russian lady behind the desk was nice, but the best she could do was send maintenance down to listen in the hallway. But the noise was sporadic, so of course they never heard anything. Turns out my friend had also called, but about an hour before I had, so they mustve gotten tired of listening to us!

Anyway, my friend was really pissed and kept bugging them, so finally on Wednesday, (Rome), they volunteered to change our rooms. Apparently, the ship had been completely booked, so although they wouldve liked to have moved us, there was no place for us to go. Wed afternoon, they dropped off some entertainment folks and so had their rooms available (finally). So they offered us those outside cabins, one deck down, and we slept like babies for the next 3 days.

Turns out that the original rooms were located under one of the restaurants, and 12 AM to 4AM is cleaning time. Sooooooo.. just a word of warning to make sure you know whats around your cabin before you book it.

Both staterooms were impeccably clean, well laid out and had plenty of room for all the sundry things we brought. We hardly even needed the shoe bag to put miscellaneous things in that I normally hang on the wall or the back of a door. Only got a towel animal once, but it was very cute.

Our cabin stewards in both rooms were very friendly and extremely accommodating. Theyve recently upped the number of cabins (from 22 to 35) that the stewards have to service every day, and I cant imagine having to deal with that many rooms several times a day. As a result, they dont have time to stop in constantly, which is a little departure from what we are used to, but I can certainly understand it and dont find it a real problem.

Back to the first day  it was a sea day, which was great. Relaxing, which we needed to try to rid ourselves of the jet lag. We strode around the ship, trying to learn its quirks (which there are plenty of) Its hard to navigate, because there are so many places where you cant get all the way around the ship on several floors because of the specialty restaurants. I conquered the layout finally on the next to last day. And I am no stranger to ship layouts  weve been on 13 cruises on boats both smaller and larger than this one, and I have never had so much difficulty trying to figure out how to get from point A to B. But another of my friends had no trouble. Once again, go figure.

We were hoping for a few more organized activities during the day, like perhaps a ping pong tournament, for instance. One friend was raring to go, as she had won the tournament on a previous cruise we had together. There werent enough tables on board, and the kids seemed to dominate them anyway. The slide in the kids pool is real neat  we decided to try it, despite the fact that were far from being kids. The attendant was nice, tho, and had no problem with us going. The secret to the slide is to make yourself little, go on your back, hugging your knees. The real kids, being lighter, had no trouble.

We didnt get super dressed up for formal night, but the guys wore suits and the ladies wore crushable type stuff that was easy to pack. We like the dining room for formal night. Its the only time I ever get to eat escargot. Its more relaxing (or time consuming, depending on what youve got planned for the evening) to eat in the dining room, and the portions are smaller so you dont have as much of a tendency to overeat. You are welcome to have as many entrees as you wish (or whatever else you want) but they dont push it. Food, although not stellar, was good, I thought, and presentation very attractive. If you ever walked away from the table hungry, it was your own fault.

The sea day was the one when the Latitudes parties are held, so we were invited to two, as were in the silver level.

Monday: Messina Sicily We had the ships tour for Taormina/Mt Etna. It was very interesting, and we enjoyed it a lot. We were taken on new busses (didnt run into a bad tour bus ever) into Taormina - a lovely old-fashioned style Italian town . Went to the Greek theater, which is a fascinating ruin.. Had our first of oft-time repeated experiences here. Number 1, its HOT and HUMID. Be prepared for it to drain the energy out of you, if youre susceptible to that kind of thing. Number 2 is that there are few public toilets in Italy. When you find one, use it, even if you dont feel you need to. I didnt run into the toilets that had no toilet paper, as I had read elsewhere on CC, but it was not uncommon to have half the toilets non-functioning, if you could find them at all. Mt Etna had a restaurant with about 30 busses of tourists swarming around, 4 toilets in the ladies room (a 4 holer, as my mom calls it), a line a mile long and two of the toilets werent working. The busses, as nice as they were, did not have restroom facilities. I was afraid to drink as much as I really should have, because I was afraid of having to go when there was no place to do it.

Anyway, back to Taormina&its a little bit of a walk uphill to the theater, but there are beautiful views of the coast from there, as well as the interesting ruins. We stopped at one of the lower cafes for a gelato, our new passion. Theres something special about having a gelato in Italy, and there are gelaterias everywhere.

Back to the bus and off to Mt Etna, the local dormant volcanoes. Since wed never seen volcanoes up close before, we really enjoyed this. Theyve turned it into quite the tourist trap, however,and it is jam packed with tourists. Considering the fact that it is only (temporarily) dormant and not dead, it takes a real leap of faith to build as much, including a hotel (I think thats what it was that I saw), up there as they have. Got back to the ship, couldnt wait to get the grungy sweat off me, drink about a quart of water and off to dinner.

We never did any of the specialty restaurants. For the price, we can find similar at home, and we dont feel we should pay extra when there are perfectly decent meals that come included in the price of the cruise. This night we ate in the buffet, as we wanted to get to the show at 8 so we could get to bed at a decent hour. We had to be off the ship by 7:30 the next morning, so we needed some sleep. This night was Edge  a combination comedian/juggler  100% entertainer. We enjoyed his show immensely.

All the shows we saw, we thought were fantastic, NCL does a great job with its entertainment. The only drawback I found was that we find many similarities and sometimes duplications of shows, since we travel at least once if not twice a year on NCL. They rotate the shows or at least the concepts from ship to ship, so since we also change ships when we cruise, we have frequently run into the same performers/shows/concepts as previously. Fortunately, this has not been a problem, since we like the shows so much that we dont mind seeing them twice.

Wednesday, Naples/Amalfi coast. We had hired Marcello Maresca from We left at 7:30 AM, meeting him on the pier. One of our first sights was Mt Vesuvius in the distance. What an imposing sight that is! Marcello drove us all up the Amalfi Coast, a beautiful twisty turny tiny road on the cliffs. Each turn brought more scenery, fantastic views of the coast. We stopped at a roadside stand (truck) where Marcello knew the vendor. We smelled fabulous olive oil, tasted incredible lemons (Bread lemons, Marcello called them, and you eat it like an apple, including the rind. Definitely lemony, without the harsh tang of what you expect. Yummy.) She also treated us to a slice of fresh, ripe figs and wonderful cherry tomatoes. And spices in little bags  a slice of Italy all wrapped up in a fruit stand. Then Marclello took us to a little pizzeria WAAAAAAYYY up on the side of a hill. There wasnt another soul in the place, and we ate out on the shaded veranda - all kinds of authentic Italian food. There was grilled eggplant and zucchini, fresh mozzarella and tomatoes, mussels, gnocchi, olives, prosciutto, hard salami. Then came the pasta course  a double helix style pasta with a light alfredo like sauce. Lemon filled cake and a whipped cream/nutty light thing for dessert. Of course, the homemade wine flowed, and the limoncello bottles came out afterward. Cost was 20 Euros per person. We drove through and past Positano and Ravella, and kept on going the rest of the way up the coast, which I guess is a departure from what most tours do. Marcello times his arrivals/departures to when he knows the busses full of people will not be there, so we enjoyed a great deal more of the coast. We were able to stop frequently for photo ops, and he also stopped at the neatest miniature nativity along the side of the road. Incredible detail, tiny figures that move (during the Xmas season), just beautiful. Marcello is a very colorful, interesting, dynamic personality type of guy, with a strong disdain for shopping (so if you want to go shopping, I suggest you find someone else). Very opinionated and sure of himself. .Seems to be resentful of all the building going on, and really admires the old way of life in Italy that is fast disappearing.

Toward the end of the day, we stopped at Pompeii, didnt bother with a tour guide, just went around with a self tour book and map that someone lese had given us. By then the heat had become a little less intense, but still very draining, and the hour that we had there was plenty to give us an idea of what it was all about. We had a great day, a wonderful tour, and once again, came home exhausted  especially after the wine and liqueurs we consumed. After the show, (Charles Bach, a magician/illusionist) we watched the volcanoStromboli erupt off the port side of the ship  quite a ways in the distance, but in the dark you could see pillars of fire spurting into the air. We were surprised that the captain didnt make an announcement about it when it was happening. Infinitely cool.

Thursday: Rome. Had heard such amazing things about, so we hired them for the day. Roberto, our guide for the day was well spoken in English, and very nice. He was well versed in his subject matter. Did not have the same personality as it sounds like the other drivers (especially Remo and Daniele) have, but we had a pleasant day, The biggest problem was that Robertos voice was somewhat quiet and in our 8 passenger van, the 3 in the back could not hear a word spoken from the front. As a result, some of us missed vast quantities of information that Roberto was telling us during the 1+ hr trip to Rome. We had chosen the best of Rome tour, which basically means that we saw as much of the city as possible in one day, with no in depth detail on any one site. This was fine for us. We stopped very briefly at some places, drove past others slowly enough to take pictures. Rome was crowded, the streets are small and congested, I wont even try to describe the driving habits of the Italians. Someone on CC had said that street signs are only suggestions, which I thought was funny. Marcello took it one step further by saying that street signs were merely decorations. This I believe. Sitting in the front seat of the van takes real courage and nerves of steel. Spent some at the Coliseum and the Vatican. Some of us were watching our Euros, and didnt want to pay to go into the museum where the Sistine Chapel was. So that group went to St Peters square, which was free. 2 people in our group wanted to see the Sistine Chapel, so they split off and we were to meet them at a particular time. Nobody had mentioned where, however, and this is a big place with hundreds of people around. We had a bit of a worry time when we couldnt find them almost an hour after the decided meeting time and were really trying to decide what to do. We had to leave soon, or risk missing the boat. True dilemma  did they take a cab, not being able to find us? Should we stay and continue to look for them, or leave and hope we dont abandon them? Unfortunately, they didnt have the phone # of our guide, or of his company, so they couldnt call & Just in the nick of time, Roberto figured out where they had to be and sprinted into the museum and got them out. Whew!

We got back with about a half hour to spare, got showered and off to dinner. Show was Second City, a wonderful comedy troupe which we really enjoyed. That was followed by the cruise staff show  hilarious! The talent was excellent, and then the finale, the Roman Fountains was not be missed. Paul Baia, the cruise director is excellent. Highly recommended. Just before the shows, we did a whirlwind room switch to quieter rooms, and I enjoyed my first good night of sleep since wed started. Tomorrow, Livorno, & Florence.

After 4 days of intense activities, we decided to take it easy for today and get up a little later, and go to Florence on our own. We strolled off the boat about 10:30, caught a shuttle bus from the pier to the bus station, a short ride on the bus to the train. In talking to other people at the bus station, we learned that you buy tix for the busses (1 Euro each) at the newsstand across the street. The bus took us to the train station where we bought tix to Florence Central for 24 Euros for 2. The train is the same one you would take to Pisa, and many people did just that. We decided to just go to Florence and if there was time we would stop at Pisa on the way back. The train ride took about an hour or so, and Florence was the very last stop, so if you decide to do this, dont worry about getting off at the wrong place. Some cars are air conditioned better than others, so sometimes its worth it to go from car to car, but in our case the train was crowded and we had to stand up for the first half hour. After the train stopped at Pisa, quite a few got off, so we got seats real quick before everyone else got on. In Florence, its a very short walk to get to most of the major attractions. All you need is a good map (which we didnt have, but we stumbled onto many of the attractions by accident.) Once again, it was brutally hot, and I was afraid to drink as much as I wanted, as I was afraid of not finding a rest room. Its a city filled with art and sculpture and so many interesting things. Bands on the steps of a museum, little kiosks set up with artists selling their wares on a square, museums everywhere, churches  the list goes on. We stopped at a little cafe for a sandwich and a drink , and used their restroom (the only way to find one) Headed back to the train station to be there by 3. Was a good thing  the train filled up almost as soon as it got there, as Italians that live in the city very frequently leave the cities on weekends by train to go on their weekend getaways. This was a Friday, and the train was packed. Many people were left standing till they arrived at their destination. Upon arriving back in Livorno, we realized that we had no idea where the shuttle station was. We found the bus # that we needed, but there was 1 R, as well as 1, and I believe a 1 N or S. Had a crappy tourist map that we showed the bus drivers to ask if they went to what we thought was the right shuttle stop (there are 2) , and all claimed total ignorance of what we were talking about. Finally found out that we had to go to the Grand Piazza ( think thats the name) and picked up our shuttle back to the ship. Good thing we left Florence when we did  it took us about an hour longer to return than we thought it would have. Had we taken the train one hour later, we wouldve had to take a taxi from the train station to get back to the ship in time.

Tonights show was Cirque Bijou(?)  a marvelous display of gymnastics, a pair of dancers (the woman could contort herself to do amazing things) and the Jean Ann Ryan company dancers, who once again gave a terrific show.

Saturday: Nice and Monaco -- Took the ships tour. Climbed onto another beautiful bus, drove thru the streets of Nice . Another pretty town. Didnt take long, as its so small. Stopped off at the Promenade (French Riviera) where we observed the rocky beaches along the Mediterranean. Visited the most beautiful open air market that I have ever seen. Stands full of perfectly arranged GORGEOUS fruits and veggies, flowers and even a whole stand of marzipan figures. It was so pretty I couldnt stop taking pictures. Then off we went to go to Monaco, a country dripping in ostentatious wealth. Here we once again got off the bus and saw the palace, Russian church and walked the lovely, narrow streets. Grabbed sandwiches at one of the shops there, a gelato (of course) then we were off to Monte Carlo. Monte Carlo is a city that I guess could be described as the capitol of Monaco. Our bus dropped us off and parked underground, since the entire city (like so much of this area) is completely built on a cliff. Walked up to the Hotel de Paris, which costs about 1500E a night, and walked through the Monte Carlo Casino. Beautiful inside, but no cameras were allowed. It costs 10E to get in to gamble, but gambling doesnt start until 2, so even if we wanted to, we wouldnt have been able to. Looked in the windows of the jewelry store (Omigod), ogled at the Lamberghinis, Bentleys, Rolls, Porches and other luxury cars there (Mercedes was a garbage car) all driving around the pretty square. Saw part of the track under the city buildings, thru the streets for the Formula 1 race. Then it was back to the ship to prepare for sailing at 3 PM.

One event worth mentioning for our trip home: We had transfers via NCL to get back to the airport, which went off very nicely. We had 10:30 AM flights out of Barcelona, and were off the ship in plenty of time. Quite painless, actually. However, there were 3 terminals, and no matter what terminal your flight left from, you were left at Terminal A. We were lucky because we had more than enough time to hoof it over to the next terminal, but it wouldve been a real problem for someone with a tighter time frame. .For someone with a lot of luggage, it wouldve been an even bigger problem.. It turns out that there are available luggage dollies for free, but we didnt see any and didnt know about it, so we struggled with our errant, wayward pieces as we bumped and tripped our way over the construction damaged roadway headed for a terminal that was an unknown distance away. I hope NCL changes that procedure  theres no reason why the passengers cant be loaded onto busses according to what airline/terminal theyre leaving from. But by the time, we were at that point, the comment cards were long since turned in, and theres not many other ways to inform them. Maybe thats part of their plan. Hmmmm. Less

Published 09/25/06

Cabin review: IE5065 Mid-Ship Inside

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