Best Birthday Ever!: Norwegian Jewel Cruise Review by augpod

Norwegian Jewel 5
Member Since 2006
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Overall Member Rating

Best Birthday Ever!

Sail Date: December 2008
Destination: Southern Caribbean
Embarkation: Miami
My friend Les and I have recently returned from a GREAT Southern Caribbean cruise on the Norwegian Jewel, and I wanted to share some of my thoughts and recommendations.

1. TRAVEL. Since we were traveling in December, fairly close to the holiday, we had a rather stressful traveling day getting from Knoxville, TN, to Miami. We were really glad, therefore, that we flew in a day early, so that we could recover our good humor before getting on the ship the next morning. We stayed at a small and very cute hotel in the Art Deco district, and had some excellent food and beach time that evening and the next morning. To make up for our grumpy day of air travel, the embarkation was a breeze no trouble at all. NCL had it all very well-organized.

2. THE SHIP/STATEROOM. I thought the Jewel was a great ship nice floor plan, nice (and often even stylish) public areas, nice deck spaces. I'm not one to study the specs, but it seemed like a fairly easy and intuitively-laid-out ship. More And our room was great! We had a balcony stateroom toward the front of the ship, because my travel companion is very fond of both feeling and seeing the ocean, thinking about the ocean, brooding over the ocean, reading stories about the ocean. So we (and especially he) spent a lot of time on the balcony, which was lovely and very quiet, and it made our room feel much larger. I'm a balcony fan. I have to say, too, that the bathroom seemed very large to me compared to other ships I have been on. The shower didn't even make me feel like I was squishing myself into it. I could raise my arms freely, etc. Perhaps that is just a factor in the ships getting bigger and bigger all the time. And by the way, kudos to NCL for the 2.0 mattress toppers: VERY comfy big bed.

3. THE FOOD. Great food! We were very impressed by the Garden Cafe for lunch, which I think was one of the better cruise buffets I have experienced. If you like ethnic food, NCL has really gone out of the way to add very good Asian and Indian options. I thought the Indian food rivaled the food at restaurants I have been to. Overall our experience in the main dining rooms was very good also, but we did try several of the specialty restaurants. Our favorite was Le Bistro, which seems to be everyone's favorite, and if I were going to do only one, that would be it. They have great service, nice atmosphere, and GREAT FLAVOR. I just closed my eyes and said "MMMMM" through most of that meal. Try the steak, oh try the steak. But I was also very fond of the sushi restaurant it was a close second, and might have been a TIE had we not been seated at a bar. We also ate at the Mongolian Hotpot and had Shabu-Shabu (very nice but the wait was very LOOOONNNNG because of the staffing problems due to the short flu-related serving spoon lockdown. This was not their fault they were very overworked but it did affect the experience), and at the Italian restaurant, which was at least above average. Overall, we were impressed with the food on this cruise and had only perhaps one meal in the main dining room that was only average or perhaps below (unfortunately this was on the first lobster night/formal night day 2 of the cruise)but this seems an acceptable ratio. I WOULD RECOMMEND having a lunch or two in the main dining room, by the way. We did it three times, and it was always FABULOUS. I know the buffet is quite good, but you really feel like you're having the gourmet experience in the dining room. And it's very quiet and soothing, unlike the dining room chaos.

4. THE ENTERTAINMENT. I didn't see too many of the evening shows I went only to the crew show (loved it) and the Cirque du . . . Something. A fabulous circus with wild dancing and contortionists and high flying. You must see it. But also: one of my favorite things was a string quartet from Russia called Four Seasons. They played every night in the main Crystal Atrium, and they were totally FLAWLESS and wonderful. I went to see them several nights, and thought they were really good enough to have been a main stage act. Check them out if they are on your cruise.

5. PORTS. I love these ports. I love the Southern Caribbean. So I can't do a lot of complaining here, but I have some thoughts (maybe interspersed with a few slight quibbles and consumer alerts), which I have put in my port reviews, below.

6. SERVICE/STAFF. Fine. Our cabin steward Robert was lovely. Because of the freestyle cruising we didn't get to know our servers (which I kind of miss), but restaurant service was fine. Our Cruise Critic group's Meet and Greet was attended by some of the officers, and they spoke to us a little about various things, and were very gracious. Everyone seemed on the ball, and very professional.

7. HEALTH ISSUES. There was a brief issue with stomach flu, apparently, which resulted in a couple of days of lockdown in the buffet line (which means only the servers get to touch the serving utensils). This must have worked fine, because lockdown ended after a couple of days, so I thought NCL must have done a fine job containing the problem. There were the usual sprays and gels to sterilize hands, and that too must have helped. 8. POOL. This ship has an adults-only pool! We really enjoyed it. We used it on every at-sea day, and it was fairly uncrowded. And it seemed salty, which I also liked.

Overall: I was crazy about this cruise. It was so RESTORATIVE to travel this time of year (Dec. 11-21) even if travel is a bit hectic. I felt rehydrated and reconstituted by the time it was over, and came back with a sexy tan in the middle of December. It made me happy, happy, happy. Go, go now! Less

Published 01/04/09

Cabin review: B38536 Family Balcony

Great balcony, great view, big bathroom for a cruise cabin! Very nice bed. Hurrah for NCL 2.0 comfy mattress toppers: no dip in the middle.

Read All Family Balcony (B3) Reviews >>

Port and Shore Excursions

ANTIGUA. We went to Runaway Beach (VERY short taxi ride from the port) and had a fabulous beach day. I loved it, because the sea was totally rough, and I enjoy riding the waves in rough surf. I could hardly stand to get out of the water. We enjoyed our stay there, but I heard from other Cruise Critic folks that trying to do too much in Antigua is a mistake. If you really want substantial beach time, better get yourself a cab (WAY cheaper than the ship's beach excursion, by the way) and go straight there, because trying to combine it with something like Nelson's Dockyard, which takes a long time to get to apparently, can result in disappointment.
Read 1192 Antigua Reviews

BARBADOS: I really like Barbados overall. I have been once before and had a really great day just taking a cab tour around the beautiful island. To me, it is the most beautiful of these islands, maybe even more so than St. Lucia (though it's a close call). This time, though, we signed up for a "snorkel with the shipwreck and sea turtles" NCL-sponsored excursion, and it was very crowded and rushed. The visibility was also bad, but I think that was an anomaly. Anyway, it was like 30 minutes turtle (which was just CHAOS, I'm telling you, about five boatloads of crazy people thrashing around hitting you in the head, and because the boat only had one very small exit point, you really got about 15 minutes in the water, if that, by the time everyone got off and back on), then 30 minutes at the shipwreck (much better visibility there, and the wreck was COOL, but same problem as with the turtle stop), then 30 minutes at the beach. By that time we had had enough of the rush and crunch, so we (along with about three other passengers, I think) got permission to stay at the beach and find our own way back to the ship. We had to jump off the boat with all our belongings and swim to shore, but it was very worth it (and also felt like an adventure), and we shared a cab back with a couple of other mutineers so it was quite cheap.

Read 1226 Barbados Reviews

ST. LUCIA on MY BIRTHDAY!! Fabulous. Love St. Lucia. We went on an excursion organized by one of our Cruise Critic buddies with a company called HARROD's which I would highly recommend. For one thing, they waited on us even though we were like two hours late. Here's why: we had to tender, and it was just awful. Chaos, evil, bad feelings, despair. We got up early (our tour was supposed to begin as soon as we could get there after docking, we thought about 8:30), got our tender tickets the moment we could, then proceeded to wait. And wait. AND wait. For whatever reason, there were only two or three boats running back and forth, and the sea was ROUGH, and the boats were SLOW, the commute LONG, and people were going out of turn, and life just felt nasty, brutish, and short. I don't know what the problem is, but I have a feeling NCL isn't happy, since I notice they are dropping St. Lucia in many of next year's itineraries. But I can't help but feel like NCL could have done a little better that day: everyone was just MISERABLE. We had to stand in line about an hour to get back to the ship at the end of the day, too [THIS, BY THE WAY, IS MY ONLY SUBSTANTIAL CRITICISM OF NCL'S PERFORMANCE ON THIS CRUISE]. Anyway, we were more like 10:30 getting there, and the poor Harrod's guys just sat and waited, and just reorganized our tour a little we did have to miss the waterfall, but it was a very fun day. We saw the volcano, ate at a very nice restaurant, and went to the coolest grocery store (CHEAP RUM and CHEAP BANANA KETCHUP! And by the way I really like the banana ketchup. Truly. I've tried it now on dumplings and it's very nice a little vinegary, not too banana-y. Think sweet and sour sauce, not ketchup). Then we finished up at the prettiest beach I think I've ever seen, right between the two Piton peaks. Perfect. The Harrod's guys were professional and excellent, the van uncrowded, the company pleasant, everything very organized and under control. I would highly recommend them if you are headed to St. Lucia and fancy a tour. They take you back to the port by boat, and it's a nice ride.

Read 1136 St. Lucia Reviews

TORTOLA. I loved Tortola! I had been once before and taken the ferry to The Baths, and that is great, but this time Les and I went on the ship's excursion to dive at the Wreck of the Rhone. Oh my goshif you're a scuba diver, this is a must-see. Very well-preserved, very poignant, very awe-inspiring. The group that NCL had contracted with was very good, very attentive (they put all the equipment together for us, then changed out everything for the second dive and also their equipment was quite decent, their guides professional and knowledgeable). Afterward, we meant to run back to the ship, dry off and eat, and go back out to town, but we got exhausted like you do after diving. So we didn't go back but town looked very nice, really, very clean and pleasant. I'm a little sorry we missed it.

Read 1240 Tortola Reviews

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