Just back from a nine day cruise to the Southern Caribbean on the Jewel. It was our second cruise with Norwegian and our first on the Jewel. I am writing not only for those who are new to the Jewel, but may also be new to NCL or cruising.
Embarkation: Got to the pier around 12-12:30. Waited approx. 5 minutes and was admitted into processing. We presented our e-ticket (completed online and printed). Note: you only need the one ticket summary that lists all those in your cabin. No need to take the whole printout. Completed the form asking if anyone was ill (novo virus fear), then lead to registration. No real lines this early in the day, but if you get to the port later in the day and are a Latitude Members (previous NCL cruiser) you may go through a shorter line. We again presented our e-ticket, passports, credit card, and had our photos taken for our "cruise cards." You will use your cruise card to get on and off the ship, make purchases on board, dinner reservations, etc. Once through registration, we were lead to another room where our new cruise cards were waiting. We were invited to sit with all the other early birds waiting to board - about 10-15 minutes. We have arrived later for a cruise and earlier for a cruise - earlier is much better.
Once onboard, we are offered champagne or juice (we took the champagne, not bad) and were greeted by a crew member. After ascertaining that we had never sailed on the Jewel we were offered lunch in the Garden cafe (the buffet line) or to browse the ship and get our bearings. We opt for the browsing. I have heard that you can ignore the buffet and go into the dining rooms for lunch, but we never bother, too much to see and do to sit around and "dine."
On this first day, several of the "specialty" or "pay extra" restaurants are offering samples off their menus and are inviting guests to taste and see the menus. As we were celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary during the cruise we had already decided to take advantage of Cagney's, the onboard steak restaurant. Reviews were high so we thought the extra $40 splurge worth the extra cost. More on that later.
The Spa: From research on this website I found out that if you register and tour the spa on the first day you can get entered into raffles for free treatments - as long as you are present for the raffle. Since I wanted to get some treatments this trip, I made sure to register. The spa is everything a spa should be: calm, soothing, scented, with lovely people taking care of your every need. They have many types of massage, facials, as well as acupuncture, teeth whitening, and even botox. Several talks where given during the cruise on body and wellness with the hope, I am sure, that you will buy a service, but the talks are also informative. Although I did not win a free treatment, I did take advantage of a special offered for the raffle group only - one hour massage and rejuvenating facial for $149 ($100 off the regular price). Word to the wise: several people chosen in the raffle were not at the drawing. There were referred to as "the losers" and another name was drawn - show up for the raffle or don't bother to enter. An 18% tip is automatically added at the end of your treatment, so don't tip again unless you are fabulously wealthy and like to spread it around. Although facial products are suggested for your particular skin needs there is no pressure to buy. Just say "thank you, I will think about it" and they are gracious in your refusal. You can always go back to buy anything you really liked. Later in the cruise specials will be offered on a daily basis, so no need to rush the first day unless it is specifically what you want.
Our cabin: We had a balcony cabin and I confess that I have become spoilt to this small luxury. The cabin feels bigger, brighter, and at night we will crack the door open and listen to the sound of the sea - fabulous! Also when you want some quiet time to yourself, it is a great place to sun, read, or nap. The beds have been upgraded and they are wonderful - duvet coverlet, comfortable pillows, crisp sheets, all in white. We had plenty of storage. The bathroom is small, but highly functional: vanity/sink in the middle with handy shelves and large mirror, and a toilet and shower on each side - there is even a drying cord in the shower for wet bathing suits, drying undies, etc. We used this every day. NCL provides hand soap, moisturizing bar soap, body lotion, shower shampoo and bathing gel. A great savings on packing space. I forgot my sponge for the gel, but won't the next time. The controls on the shower are wonderfully easy and convenient to use: single bar (turn on/off on the left - temp setting controlled on the right) and since you can set the temp and never change it, you always have the perfect temp for you. The shower head lifts out to make rinsing you or your clothes a snap. Again, very well thought out.
TV has all the news shows: CNN, Fox, and several movie channels with many recent selections, and other information regarding excursions, ports, and happenings on the ship. Miss a seminar that looked interesting, or the "Newlywed Game" from the night before? Most likely it will run on the TV several times during the cruise. We loved the cabin.
Washing: If you want to wash your own clothes, several washer and dryers are provided on many floors - just ask at the desk. They offer a special on laundry service on Wednesday ($20 wash, $25 wash/fold), but do not promise the clothes back until Friday. Since we disembarked on Sunday morning, we didn't bother with this service.
Restaurants: Well in a nutshell, delicious and plentiful. We liked almost all of the food offered, and with all the choices available every day, there is no way you won't find something you like. DH liked the hamburgers, I didn't. So I ate from the hundreds of other things offered. Don't fuss about the food - you are being way too picky if you do. The crew works very hard to accommodate all guests with respect to dining and service options, they deserve many thanks for their efforts. My only caveat: When we sailed on the Dawn last year the Italian and Tex/Mex restaurants were free. They now charge $10 a person to eat there. We tried Mama's, the Italian restaurant, and the food was very good. But the portions were very large, and I left a lot of food on my plate. Keep in mind that several Italian dishes are offered throughout the cruise in the "free" restaurants and they were just as good. However, they did have a lobster ravioli that DH ordered that did not appear anywhere else. My advise: take a look at the menu (it remains the same the whole cruise) and if there is something you really want to try, it may be worth the money to you, otherwise, you will most likely get several chances at these foods at some time during your cruise. Example: Sushi was offered in the Garden Cafe at lunch one day. OK, Cagney's - definitely worth the extra $20 per person. High end steak house, cooked perfectly to order, impeccable service, intimate atmosphere. We got two steak dinners, a bottle of Champagne, and all the courses in between for around $100 - that would have been over $200 in our favorite four restaurant. So splurge if you can.
Entertainment: What can you say? NCL has the best entertainment around. We had a wide range of performers: The Ann Ryan troupe (amazing, amazing Cirque de Sole), jugglers, Second City comediennes, even a hypnotist (also conducted quit smoking clinic). The music was everywhere around the ship: bands, solo guitar performer, pianist, string quartet. And to get people to try new hangouts, they moved the acts around so you had to check your freestyle guide every day to see who was playing where. Then there are the participatory games - Newlywed game, The Quest (18 or over), Talent shows, etc. Always something to do, see, or hear. We never went to the Casino - too smokey and boring for us.
Samana - I think anyone who has reviewed the boards knows that there is not much in Samana - NCL, change this stop! We elected to do the Cayo Levantado Island excursion. Beautiful island, beautiful palm tree lined beach, chairs all provided. Also pleased to see security on the beach, small stands selling native crafts and souvenirs, a bar, food, massage (yes, some of the local women were offering massage and there were takers) and even swimming with a sea lion. When asked if we would like a massage, picture with the Monkey/iguana/snake and we declined, no worries, no one bothered you and it was a very relaxing way to spend the day. Back on the ship those that chose to go into Samana said that they would not go again and were very disappointed.
Tortola: This was our second visit to Tortola. The first trip DH and son did the Rhone dive (loved it) and I took the island tour excursion with the ship - very nice overview of the island. This trip DH and I did the Virgin Gorda excursion - great excursion. It started with a very short bus ride to the ferry, a 30-45 minute ferry ride, and buses to the park site. After a walk over somewhat rough ground (very do-able) we came onto a beautiful beach, blue/green water, large, smooth boulders - very unique. Once at the beach we only had 15 or 20 minutes before they blew a whistle and those who wanted to climb through the boulders and caves were taken to another beautiful beach. Again, not really hard, but DH is over 6 ft and he had to get on his knees at some points. Also, some large people had a problem climbing and fitting through small places. Again, you do not have to go on this part of the excursion and many people decided to hang out at the first beach - same beautiful water, beach, etc. so unless you just hanker to go through the caves, you may want to only do the first beach. At the second beach DH snorkeled and enjoyed the fish and I swam and enjoyed the crystal clear waters. The another whistle was blown and we took a different walk back up to the top - long, but again not killer hard. My advise: Do NOT wear flip flops. Water shoes or sandals made for the water are your best bet.
Antigua - Our excursion this day was with Adventure Antigua -the Eco Tour - a great day. Beautiful scenery of the coast, swimming, snorkeling, and a really delicious lunch of barbeque chicken, pasta salad, regular salad and fried plantains. Some of the best BBQ chicken I ever had. The crew was informative - gave a lot of information about the island and its ecology, very professional, and everyone had a wonderful time. And if you are not adventurous, no problem, the boat ride and scenery alone are worth the price. Believe what you have heard, this is a great tour. We did a quick walk around the city before the tour began and bought a few souvenirs. A very friendly place.
Barbados - We got some showers and clouds this day. Did a tour with Glory Tours - Natural Wonders. Again, very informative, professional, great time. We toured Harrison's Cave - after a brief overview of the formation of the island and the caves - you ride through the cavern on a tram (no walking). Prepare to get a little "rain", the caves are still forming and water drips at intervals from the ceiling. But all in all a very interesting tour. Then it was off to Orchid World to walk through the gardens and see the plants, especially the beautiful orchids. Then lunch at a local shop - you are given a choice of sandwich, fries, salads, drinks. Again, a good lunch very enjoyable chatting with others on the tour. The final stop, Barbados Wildlife Reserve, was also enjoyable. We saw the monkeys, large turtles, deer, peacocks, birds, etc. Although the Glory tour is pricey, all of these places charge an admittance fee, so you have to factor entrance fees and lunch in the total. Again, believe what you read, a great tour.
St. Lucia - OK, this was the port I was the most excited about (my sister recently honeymooned on the island) and it rained the whole day - I mean stay in your Pjs with cocoa and a good book rain. But again, we took a tour - this time with Cosol and what a great tour. Even with all the rain, our guide gave us the best tour you can have with the scenery almost grayed out and rain falling on your camera. We visited a banana plantation (ate bananas fresh off the tree), saw charming fishing villages, the Toraille waterfall and botanical garden, the volcano (very neat), and Marigot Bay (very grey, but I could tell it must be beautiful). We did not get to swim or snorkel (also part of the tour), but they again gave us lunch (local dishes buffet style) and he even stopped at a local house/bakery and gave us fresh, warm bread and cheese - very yummy and comforting on a rainy day. Again, any entrance fees are paid by the tour guide. They also provided a cooler with drinks like water, rum punch, local beers and soda. Very hospitable, professional, informative, and worth the price.
After these very busy port days, we had two final days at sea. Hint: get your deck chair early, by mid morning there were only a few places to sit - far away from the pool area and in the sun or wind. We wised up the last day and claimed our spots right after breakfast. Yes, people do hold their spots and yes, people respect that they have held their spots.
Disembarking: We chose to take our own bags off the ship (again freestyle your way) and were able to do an early disembark process to catch an early flight. Again, this process was easy, organized and efficient - what else would you expect?
We had a great time this cruise and the only reason I can make it through the winter is because we will be on the NCL Pearl in April - can't wait!
Cosey home away from home with a great balcony view