This was my first cruise in 13 years. My first was a 3 day Bahamas on Carnival Fantasy. I was young and only cared to party, so my memory of that trip is a bit fuzzy anyway.
My review will deal with the few areas that, based on my experience on this particular cruise, I feel qualified to share my opinion.
Embarkation: The Port of Miami is mayhem in the drop off/pick up area... However, once inside the terminal, the line moved, slowly but steadily. Once we were checked in, it was into a quieter hall, and onto the ship.
Atrium: Beautiful! I was accustomed to the gargantuan multi-level types you see so often in movies and television. The Jewel's atrium made good use of space, and had an open feel, yet was very sophisticated without being pretentious. Very smart design that allowed better use of floor space for other venues.
Cabin: A)SPACE: Ours was a BB cabin on Deck 9. I have to say that any complaints i have read regarding space are, in my opinion, unwarranted. My partner and I are two large men, linebacker builds, with a tendency to overpack. All our belongings fit easily into one closet, and our HUGE suitcase fit under the bed. Of course, the space is no penthouse at the Waldorf , but with the balcony and sitting area, we were more than comfortable. B) BATH: The bathroom was quite a bit larger than I expected, and having the toilet, basin and shower areas partitioned from one another allowed bot of us to use the room at the same time. C) BED. Somewhere between the size of a king and queen. VERY comfortable, linens very clean and fresh daily. D) CLEANLINESS: Overall, clean. However, when we were searching for a lost personal item, we ran across someones old carry on bag, which makes me wonder how often the bed is raised off the ground to be cleaned. Dining: Don't understand some of the issues people have with the dining concept. It is clearly advertised online and verbally when talking to both Norwegian and my travel agent that there would be both free and pay restaurants on board. So anyone not fully aware of this before they get on board was not paying attention. That being said, the food was sensational everywhere we went!!! Tsars Palace, (The main dining room) was gorgeous, and the food was plentiful and delicious. Don't believe any complaints about portion size. You can order as many entree's as you want for no extra charge. Fantastic! As far as pay restaurants, we ate our first night in Le Bistro. Service was top notch, and the food killer!!! I had fish, my partner beef. Creme Brulee for desert... Just great. On night 4 we ate at Chin Chin. All delicious. Our waiter Nic, went the extra mile, and was rewarded. Order the ribs!!! Most other nights we ate in the Buffet, Garden Cafe. Tons of food choices and the best buffet i have ever had, period.
Pool: This was our only area of disappointment. I will concur with a few other reviews i have seen. Very noisy and a poor job of segregating the Kids and Adults. They are beautiful, but I feel that the family pool and jacuzzi should be located away from the adult only pool. Rules were loosely enforced by the staff.
Spa. We bought the Cruise pass to use the thermal spa. Beautiful space, terrific facilities, always clean... the view is more than worth the price. This is a great splurge. Our massages were good, but overpriced. Have had better deep tissue for less, but they were in no way bad, just not worth what we paid, I think.
Shows. Band on the Run was actually pretty good. But I have to say that Second City and Le Cirque were way better than anything i would have expected on a cruise ship.
A) Grand Cayman. Did the Turtle Farm and Stingrays. Skip the turtles and go straight to the stingrays if you can. That way you will miss a real BORING tour of what is, essentially, a farm to raise turtles to be used as food. Only those with young kids may consider, since you do get to hold the turtles. Due to time overruns, we did not get to see Georgetown. B) Cozumel. LOVED IT! Rent a Jeep, drive to the otherside of the island where there are no tourists. Follow the main beach road, eat at Coconuts. Then just do, whatever!!! Big highlight for us, we want to return to Cozumel, I fell in love.
I'm sure that I am missing a TON...but overall, this was a superb value for the money. NCL is different in that the focus is on the dining in a lot of ways. No rock climbing walls, or giant screens in the pool area. But a terrific cruise on a beautiful ship. We are planning on doing an Alaska cruise next year and will likely choose Norwegian.
Oh one more thing before I forget... If you are a soda drinker, skip the soda program, bring a large plastic mug with a straw and your own pop. You'll save money.
Roomier than I thought it would be. Comfy bed, great balcony, and larger than expected bathroom.