First, let me start by saying that you should not fly Iberia to get to Barcelona. I flew from Dulles/Madrid/Barcelona, and I am still waiting for my luggage 72 hours later; unfortunately, I found out to my dismay, after the cruise, that Iberia loses 17 pieces of luggage for every 1000 passengers.
Now, onto the cruise. We embarked in Barcelona, 2 passengers in our 30s, with little trouble. Prior to embarkation, we did have to wait for the pre-arranged NCL bus that waited nearly 45 minutes to fill before we could leave from the airport. If we were to do it again, we would take a cab from and to the port; it would have been around the same price (if not cheaper), and easier than waiting for buses to fill up.
Upon arriving at the port, embarkation took only 20 minutes until we were on the ship. Luggage, however, arrived much later to our room, with NCL replying that they had til 7:00PM to deliver it.
Since this was our first cruise, we really have nothing to compare it to. The short summary is that the food was poor, the "freestyle" dining wasn't, the shore excursions were excellent, and we felt as the week progressed, service seemed to decrease as our bill increased.
As the shore excursions were our favorite part of the cruise, and as the cruiser is given the least amount of "real" information about them prior to the cruise, I'll focus on the excursions.
Keep in mind we booked all excursions in advance, and we saved about $30 dollars for each excursion by doing so.
Taormina & Beach: In the morning, we took a bus to Taormina and briefly toured the town, the highlight of which is visiting the famous Teatro Greco theatre. It was quite amazing to view, but keep in mind, the first part of the tour includes much walking. For the second half of the day, we took the bus to a beach on the Mediterranean sea. The tour includes chairs, umbrellas, changing rooms, and a snack stand. You will need to get towels from the ship and take them with you, however. All in all, a pleasant start of our trip and worth the $79 each for it.
Treasures of Naples: We took the tour bus for a brief tour of Naples, including a church and local city area, then took the bus to an authentic Naples' restaurant to make and eat our own wood-fired pizza. The restaurant was okay, the pizza was excellent, but the city of Naples was dirty, graffiti ridden, and felt like the most dangerous of all places visited, although still worth the $79 each we paid for it. I would not tour Naples on your own.
Rome and Vatican: A long exhausting day, but one filled with visits to St. Paul's cathedral, the Vatican, and brief stops at the Coliseum, Circus Maximus, a local restaurant, and a brief city tour. The $199 each paid here was still worth the price as our tour guide was knowledgeable, and we got in immediately ahead of people who were waiting hours to get in. Be prepared to be exhausted as this is one of the longest days and much walking is required.
Splendor of Florence: Another long exhausting day, but visits to see the "David", the Ponte Vecchio, gold and leather stores, and a walking tour of the city made the $189 tour worth it, along with another good tour guide with walkie-talkie listening devices (as provided in Rome) that made it easier to hear, see, and keep up with our guide. Again, another long walking tour, bear in mind, and you don't get to go to the Ufizzi Gallery on this tour. Also, by now, you will be most accustomed to the guides saying loudly for all to hear, "andiamo" (Let's go!).
Highlights of Monaco and Monte Carlo: This tour takes you to Nice, Monaco, and Monte Carlo. It states that it's a brief walking tour, however it's 3 hours of walking. The areas are beautiful, but it's not much to look at other than being amazed at the wealth and opulence seen at Monte Carlo hotels and waterfront areas. Also, be prepared for the poorly working elevators at the Monte Carlo stop that took 30 minutes to get up and into both in and out of the tour area.
Overall, I enjoyed the excursions far more than I did my visit on the ship itself. Our cabin was spacious enough, the bathroom for room 5024 is quite tiny, but the larger than port-hole sized window (an upgrade given to us later) made the cabin okay as the 5th floor is close enough to see out into the beautiful Mediterranean as you cruise. Frankly, I would not want to be on the 11th floor, as the Garden Cafe, pools, and children's areas (on the 12th floor) must have been quite loud if you were trying to sleep.
One last odd but minor note. If you like soda, you will have to pay $1.75 per can that you have to get from the crew person, or pay $69 for a sticker to drink it all week (again, you will have to obtain the soda from a bar or waitperson). The sticker is not worth it, and I would not pay for it if I were you. In addition, the Garden Cafe had all the same food (except steak) as the sit-down restaurants, and you didn't have to book a time or dress up to get in them.
While we may cruise again, with the exception of the itinerary and good shore excursions we experienced, there was nothing about the Jewel, neither the food, entertainment, or lay-out, that would necessarily make us automatically sign up for NCL again.