Norwegian Jewel Cruise Review by Jason Ma
- Sail Date: June 2007
- Destination: Western Mediterranean
- Cabin Type: Mid-Ship Inside
Embarkation began at 13:00 pm till 19:00 pm. We spent the earlier part of the day touring Barcelona and didn't board the boat until 17:00pm. The process was fairly fast and we were in our cabin within 20 minutes. The checked-in luggage took a while to arrive our cabin though.
The ship overall was a beauty, with lots of restaurants and bars located all over. It was also fairly new and clean. Regarding the food, the specialty restaurants were all very good and we spent two nights in the Cagney steak house, and one each in Le Bistro and Chin Chin. We also tried Mama and Tangos (both no fee) and they both offered very satisfactory quality. For breakfast we often had the buffet in Garden Cafe and occasionally room service to save time.
The first day was spent at sea and we spent the afternoon at Sky High Bar to enjoy the perfect weather and lovely ocean. For the rest of the trip we explored all the ports on our own as we were not particularly fond of guided tours.
The first port was Messina, Sicily. Right after we landed there were lines of cabs offering round-trip tour to Taromina for 100-150 Euros or so. We had already done our researches before hand so we declined their offers. There were at least two means of public transport to Taromina. You can either take the train and then a cable car up the mountain or take the bus. We took the latter as it went all the way up the mountain. The bus terminal was right next to the train station. It was about a fifteen minutes walk from the port (turn left after you exit the port and walk along the shoreline, you may want to ask the pedestrian on the way). The name of the bus company was INTERBUS and their buses were blue in color. Round-trip ride cost 5.20 EURO and the bus left for Taromina on approximately 8:45am and 9:45am. The one-way trip was about an hour and a half going through a small town/village and some scenic roads along the coast (had to change bus once on both ways). There were lots of interesting small shops in Taromina. It was so hot up there so we didn't really have the appetite for lunch and ended up having two excellent gelatos. We took the return bus at 13:40 pm which seemed a little early but the one after that left at 16:00 pm or so, too late for the ship (Not sure if the train offers a better schedule). We arrived at Messina around 3:30pm and sort of wandered around the city but there were not much to see.
The second port was Naples (Napoli) and we decided to go to Capri Island. We took the hydrofoil which was 15 Euro each way (The hydrofoil pier was right next to the port). There were multiple companies operating the jets and the one we took was called SNAV and our boat left at 8:10am. We also bought our return tickets just to make sure. The ride was about 45 minutes and was quite rough so a lot of people got sea-sick. We got off the boat and went into the tourist information center (right at the pier) and bought a map for 1 Euro (yes, they charged for the map there). Then, we took the short funicular ride up to the town. Once we came out of the station we saw lots of luxury shops out there but we were not particularly interested as we got all that in the city already. We decided to go to Villa Jorvis located on the North-Eastern part of the Island. The hike took about 30 minutes but was totally worthwhile as the view there was breath-taking. The entrance fee to Villa Jorvis was 2 Euro each and a map for an extra 1 euro (which we bought but didn't really use as it was not necessary). At around noon we headed back and went to the South side of the Island and went to the Garden of Augustine which offered very impressive view. We planned to continue down to the Marina but got exhausted from the walk and the heat so ended up staying in a nice cafe up in the hill for some excellent coffee. We headed back to the pier via the cable car again and took the hydrofoil at 14:40 pm (we needed to line up for the cable car as lots of people were heading back at the same time and nearly missed the ferry from the queuing). We walked around Naples a little bit but didn't really find much of interest. There were open-top city tour bus right next to the pier but we didn't have enough time. There were supposedly so much more to do at this port (Pompeii, Sorrento, Amalfi Coast etc.) but we preferred to stay longer in one place to enjoy more, and lovely Capri Island certainly didn't disappoint.
Next we arrived in Civitavecchia, the port near Rome. There were free shuttle bus taking us out of the port area and from there was a 10 min walk to the Civitavecchia (just crossed the cross-walk and walked along the coast). We bought the BIRG ticket which offered a round-trip to and from Rome plus the intra-city bus/subway in Rome (make sure you validate the ticket in one of those small yellow machines before you get on). We caught the 8:38am train and got off at Roma S.Pietro Station (closest station to the Vatican) at around 9:30am. We got the map of Rome in a nearby hotel along the way and toured around Vatican City. The artworks and architectures there were especially impressive. We wanted to go to Sistine Chapel right after but I misread the map and went the wrong direction. So we continued on to the Spanish Steps where abundance varieties of shops could be found. We walked around until we felt hungry and went to a cafe for an excellent pizza for lunch. We also went to a nearby Internet Cafe which charged a very reasonable 3 Euro per hour for ultra-speed connection (Located a few minute walk South-East of Piazza Di Spagna, also a McDonald nearby). We continued to walk around the area and then headed back at around three o'clock. We took the subway from Barberini station to Roma Termini and then the 16:38pm train back (Roma termini was actually quite big and complicated, took us quite a while to find the right train)
Our next port was Livorno, we decided to go to Florence first and then go to Pisa on our way back if we had time. The journey from the port to the train station - Livorno Centrale was a bit complicated. We first took the shuttle bus to downtown Livorno and then the number 1R bus to the train station (we bought the 1R bus tickets and the round-trip train ticket to Florence at a convenient store right opposite where the shuttle bus dropped us off). We had just enough time to get on the 9:11am train to Florence (Given the hassle I would also recommend taking taxi from the port directly to Livorno Centrale and catch the earlier train at 8:11am, train schedule here: http://www.trenitalia.com/en/index.html). We arrived at Florence at around 10:40am. We first went to the tourism information centre to pick up a map. In the morning we visited Piazza Del Duomo (a wonderful cathedral) and Piazza San Lorenzo (small shops and open-air market, great for souvenir), both were within short walking distances from the train station and then in the afternoon we went to Ponte Vecchio and saw River Arno, then we took the 15:27pm train back to Livorno.
Our last port was Villefrance, France which was essentially a small French Village. We had to first take a tender from the cruise to the pier; from there it was a 15 minute walk along the shoreline to the train station. We decided to go to Monaco and took the 8:44am train (also available were at 7:48am, 9:01am and 9:51am). The train ride was around 20 minutes. There were two exits at Monaco station and most passengers took the one located in the front of the platform. We decided to take the other one at the rear end of the platform and came out at the "quite part" of Monaco. We wandered around the small streets there and then walked along the shore to Monte Carlo, where we visited the glamorous Hotel de Paris and took some fabulous pictures. The casino opened at 12:00 noon with an entrance fee of 10 Euro (probably my first time to go to a casino with entrance fee), it was quite different from other casinos that I have been to but as it was still early in the afternoon there was not much traffic inside. From the casino was about a 15 minute-walk uphill back to the train station and we took the 13:11pm train back to Villefranche (also at 13:06pm, 13:32pm). There were beaches right next to Villefranche Sur Mer so we spent some time there before we headed back to the pier.
On the final day the cruise arrived at Barcelona early in the morning at around 5:00am. Disembarkation was relatively smooth and we were the final group to leave at 9:30am. The taxi line was long as expected but we got into the city reasonably fast. It was July 1 and the summer sales just began so we were able to do some last minute shopping before we headed to the airport.
In summary, it was a wonderful trip and my wife and I were both highly satisfy. Based on the good experience we decided that we will travel more on cruise in the future. A few brief tips for those going on NCL Jewel:
ENTERTAINMENT: There were lots to do on the cruise and the night shows are all reasonably well performed. We enjoyed most the show by the Second City which was a comedy talk show. Also, the band in Java cafe/Crystal Atrium was very good and we spent at least three of our nights there. In the cabin there were also TV with CNN and BBC feeding reasonably updated news.
INTERNET: The charge was US$3.95 for account activation and US$0.75 per minute thereafter. There were packages available also. In general the connection was expectably slow and I could mostly manage to check my emails there.
SHOPPING: As expected the shopping galleria on board was not the greatest place to pick up a lot of souvenirs. Obviously, the selection was fairly limited compared to what was available off-shore. Some of the items were also priced quite high (we wanted to get another memory stick and a 512MB one cost US$80).
SERVICE: The crew members were mostly friendly and enthusiastic, in particular the waitresses in the steakhouse and the cabin stewards. We were a little disappointed at the reception desk as most of the time they were not very helpful (at least we felt that way).
LAUNDRY: There were laundry room on Deck 5, 9 and 11 (maybe more). Four quarters for a box of laundry powder while washers and dryers are free to use.
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