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We live close by to the Los Angeles port, so getting there was easy for us. We just called in a favor from my son to drive us over. We arrived around 10:15, and the lines were fairly short. Since we rolled our own luggage onboard there was not a need for the porters. NCL began allowing people onboard around 11:30, and the process was very smooth. Rooms were not available until about 1:00 so we took the luggage up and had lunch in the Garden buffet. We have been on the Jewel before so didn’t need to do our customary walk all around to find where things were. The ship had gone through a refurbishment, so a couple of things had changed but most of it was as we remembered. We had an OV room, #5056. The room itself seemed smaller than most OV rooms we have had in the past. There is plenty of space for storage of clothing, etc., but it was a challenge to get by the desk to climb into bed. The commode side of the bathroom was small, but the shower area actually seemed larger than I remembered. We had a really good cabin steward, by the name of Alley. He was attentive without being intrusive. We first encountered him in the hallway on the first day as he was getting yelled at by another guest who seemed to feel that the steward’s job was to attend to her every whim. We commiserated with him but we/he didn’t realize that he was going to be our cabin steward. The next day he formally introduced himself and all week the cabin was kept clean no matter whether we left the room at 6:00 in the morning or Noon. The entire ship was clean, and there were no health problems, unlike the HAL Veendam that was shadowing us. They ended up in quarantine in Puerto Vallarta. We had the Ultimate Dining Package, which I really like as a benefit, but my wife isn’t quite as fond of. In order of how I rank the cruise lines the quality of the food makes a big difference to me. I find that NCL provides a better dining experience in the specialty restaurants than in the MDR, but I wouldn’t pay the extra $20-$30 each for the difference more than once on a cruise. It was a nice perk to have. Unfortunately NCL seems to have decided to phase it out and will instead focus on fee income by beginning to charge even more for “upgraded” a la carte items in the Specialty restaurants in a couple of weeks. O’Sheehan’s was a nice alternative to the buffet for lunch and breakfast. I don’t know if it was because there were a lot of families on board, or if the prices have been raised too high, but the restaurants were mostly empty all week. The only exception was the Teppanyaki restaurant, which only serves 32 per seating and Cagney’s on New Year’s Eve. We had dinner in Le Bistro the first night and only about 5 tables had people at them at the 7 PM seating- and it was about the same on the last night. Le Bistro was a nice, relaxing atmosphere with good food, but I wouldn’t spend extra $ to go there specifically. The Teppanyaki dinner was really good- the quality of the beef was excellent and would have been worth the price. Moderno was almost empty, and had good food, but La Cucina was disappointing - Olive Garden serves a tastier meal. We didn’t eat there but Chin Chin was empty most nights even when free of extra charges. Cagney’s seemed to be very poorly run- New Year’s Eve was a full house and they weren’t organized even though they brought in extra staff. We had received a call asking if we could change our reservation from 7:00 to 5:30, but we didn’t want to eat that early on a shore day- or on New Year’s Eve. We were seated almost 20 minutes later than our reservation, and found empty tables on both sides of us. The order was taken and we didn’t see our server for 15 minutes. The table next to us had a different server and had their order taken just before ours. Their food came out a full 20 minutes before ours was served, even after we asked our server what was taking so long. The Maître’ D came by and asked how we were enjoying the meal and we let them know our concern, but no action seemed to be taken. The food was good, but the service was really poor. We had reservations there again the following night and considered cancelling them but decided to go back for the food. We had a much better experience that evening. I was pleasantly surprised by the Garden Buffet. In the past it seemed like every day had the same food, but they did a good job of providing some variety. The Washy-Washy guy- Rowan- was a popular figure onboard the ship and he obviously loved his job. People would walk through the buffet singing his songs. There was Prime Rib in there one night and Roast Suckling Pig another. The BBQ by the pool was a little hit and miss. I had some really good, fresh grilled chicken one day and another day my wife was given a hot dog right off the grill which had been cooked elsewhere and then placed on the grill for show- it was ice cold. The ribs were good, but didn’t strike me as freshly cooked. I found that the freshness of the food really made a difference in its taste- which is why I think I prefer the Specialty restaurants. The itinerary was not ideal with four sea days and only three in port. We got spoiled by the Pride of America in Hawaii type cruises with a new port every day. We like the shore days, but were took this cruise due to its convenience as opposed to having to fly cross country/ocean the day after Christmas. Cabo San Lucas was nice and we did an NCL shore excursion of a “Luxury Day Sail” with Cabo Adventures. The weather was great and they did a great job - it was worth the price. In Mazatlan we just decided to stay on the ship as we had concerns about safety in the area. Puerto Vallarta was another NCL excursion with Vallarta Adventures for whale watching. It was on a Zodiac boat and we had a great time. It took a while to find the whales, but one we did there were plenty of them. The Zodiac boat is a bit bumpy so if you have back problems beware! Activities on the ship itself were plentiful. We stopped by the Casino and dropped a small donation there, we played the Deal or No Deal game and saw a fellow we had been chatting with win over $500 and we were involved in the Karaoke fun a couple of different times. We had a Cruise Critic meetup that was attended by the Ship’s Officers and also went to a Latitudes gathering. Most of our time was spent just sitting and relaxing- either reading or sitting in the Jacuzzi. The ship arrived back to LA almost 12 hours before we were scheduled to do so. The rumor was a medical emergency of some type. To me it just proved the fact that NCL could have included an additional port day on the itinerary without any problem. As a result on the early arrival there was no Casino on the final night. I am sure that cost NCL quite a few $$$. Suggestion to NCL - fix the advance reservation system. We booked 5 nights of reservations for dinner and were requested to change due to overbooking on two different occasions. I can understand one problem, but we had three as we also had a reservation for a shore excursion that was not honored and had to be re-booked. I am glad we checked on it before being disappointed. I would strongly suggest that even though you may have an itinerary printed out in advance from the NCL website that you still confirm your reservations once on board. We were told we had to take the earlier time for dinner one night because we were one of the last reservations made- I guess 45 days prior to sailing isn’t early enough??? Entertainment was better than normal. We normally avoid the Comedian and Magician but they were in the Variety Show on the last night and were both really good. The singers were just OK but the dancers, especially the males in the group, were excellent. One 70's music night and Cirque Bijou were the best presentations. Overall the cruise met expectations in about every way. There were ups and downs, but the ups far outnumbered the downs. We still had a great, relaxing time. While there was selling going on for B-I-N-G-O, or other things, I have come to expect that while on the ship. There wasn’t an air of pushing Diamonds International or Gold by the Inch at every turn. NCL was a good value and we will return again.

Relaxation: Goal Achieved!

Norwegian Jewel Cruise Review by robbinsca

2 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: December 2015
  • Destination: Mexican Riviera
  • Cabin Type: Oceanview Porthole Window
We live close by to the Los Angeles port, so getting there was easy for us. We just called in a favor from my son to drive us over. We arrived around 10:15, and the lines were fairly short. Since we rolled our own luggage onboard there was not a need for the porters. NCL began allowing people onboard around 11:30, and the process was very smooth. Rooms were not available until about 1:00 so we took the luggage up and had lunch in the Garden buffet. We have been on the Jewel before so didn’t need to do our customary walk all around to find where things were. The ship had gone through a refurbishment, so a couple of things had changed but most of it was as we remembered.

We had an OV room, #5056. The room itself seemed smaller than most OV rooms we have had in the past. There is plenty of space for storage of clothing, etc., but it was a challenge to get by the desk to climb into bed. The commode side of the bathroom was small, but the shower area actually seemed larger than I remembered. We had a really good cabin steward, by the name of Alley. He was attentive without being intrusive. We first encountered him in the hallway on the first day as he was getting yelled at by another guest who seemed to feel that the steward’s job was to attend to her every whim. We commiserated with him but we/he didn’t realize that he was going to be our cabin steward. The next day he formally introduced himself and all week the cabin was kept clean no matter whether we left the room at 6:00 in the morning or Noon. The entire ship was clean, and there were no health problems, unlike the HAL Veendam that was shadowing us. They ended up in quarantine in Puerto Vallarta.

We had the Ultimate Dining Package, which I really like as a benefit, but my wife isn’t quite as fond of. In order of how I rank the cruise lines the quality of the food makes a big difference to me. I find that NCL provides a better dining experience in the specialty restaurants than in the MDR, but I wouldn’t pay the extra $20-$30 each for the difference more than once on a cruise. It was a nice perk to have. Unfortunately NCL seems to have decided to phase it out and will instead focus on fee income by beginning to charge even more for “upgraded” a la carte items in the Specialty restaurants in a couple of weeks. O’Sheehan’s was a nice alternative to the buffet for lunch and breakfast.

I don’t know if it was because there were a lot of families on board, or if the prices have been raised too high, but the restaurants were mostly empty all week. The only exception was the Teppanyaki restaurant, which only serves 32 per seating and Cagney’s on New Year’s Eve. We had dinner in Le Bistro the first night and only about 5 tables had people at them at the 7 PM seating- and it was about the same on the last night. Le Bistro was a nice, relaxing atmosphere with good food, but I wouldn’t spend extra $ to go there specifically. The Teppanyaki dinner was really good- the quality of the beef was excellent and would have been worth the price. Moderno was almost empty, and had good food, but La Cucina was disappointing - Olive Garden serves a tastier meal. We didn’t eat there but Chin Chin was empty most nights even when free of extra charges.

Cagney’s seemed to be very poorly run- New Year’s Eve was a full house and they weren’t organized even though they brought in extra staff. We had received a call asking if we could change our reservation from 7:00 to 5:30, but we didn’t want to eat that early on a shore day- or on New Year’s Eve. We were seated almost 20 minutes later than our reservation, and found empty tables on both sides of us. The order was taken and we didn’t see our server for 15 minutes. The table next to us had a different server and had their order taken just before ours. Their food came out a full 20 minutes before ours was served, even after we asked our server what was taking so long. The Maître’ D came by and asked how we were enjoying the meal and we let them know our concern, but no action seemed to be taken. The food was good, but the service was really poor. We had reservations there again the following night and considered cancelling them but decided to go back for the food. We had a much better experience that evening.

I was pleasantly surprised by the Garden Buffet. In the past it seemed like every day had the same food, but they did a good job of providing some variety. The Washy-Washy guy- Rowan- was a popular figure onboard the ship and he obviously loved his job. People would walk through the buffet singing his songs. There was Prime Rib in there one night and Roast Suckling Pig another.

The BBQ by the pool was a little hit and miss. I had some really good, fresh grilled chicken one day and another day my wife was given a hot dog right off the grill which had been cooked elsewhere and then placed on the grill for show- it was ice cold. The ribs were good, but didn’t strike me as freshly cooked. I found that the freshness of the food really made a difference in its taste- which is why I think I prefer the Specialty restaurants.

The itinerary was not ideal with four sea days and only three in port. We got spoiled by the Pride of America in Hawaii type cruises with a new port every day. We like the shore days, but were took this cruise due to its convenience as opposed to having to fly cross country/ocean the day after Christmas. Cabo San Lucas was nice and we did an NCL shore excursion of a “Luxury Day Sail” with Cabo Adventures. The weather was great and they did a great job - it was worth the price. In Mazatlan we just decided to stay on the ship as we had concerns about safety in the area. Puerto Vallarta was another NCL excursion with Vallarta Adventures for whale watching. It was on a Zodiac boat and we had a great time. It took a while to find the whales, but one we did there were plenty of them. The Zodiac boat is a bit bumpy so if you have back problems beware!

Activities on the ship itself were plentiful. We stopped by the Casino and dropped a small donation there, we played the Deal or No Deal game and saw a fellow we had been chatting with win over $500 and we were involved in the Karaoke fun a couple of different times. We had a Cruise Critic meetup that was attended by the Ship’s Officers and also went to a Latitudes gathering. Most of our time was spent just sitting and relaxing- either reading or sitting in the Jacuzzi.

The ship arrived back to LA almost 12 hours before we were scheduled to do so. The rumor was a medical emergency of some type. To me it just proved the fact that NCL could have included an additional port day on the itinerary without any problem. As a result on the early arrival there was no Casino on the final night. I am sure that cost NCL quite a few $$$.

Suggestion to NCL - fix the advance reservation system. We booked 5 nights of reservations for dinner and were requested to change due to overbooking on two different occasions. I can understand one problem, but we had three as we also had a reservation for a shore excursion that was not honored and had to be re-booked. I am glad we checked on it before being disappointed. I would strongly suggest that even though you may have an itinerary printed out in advance from the NCL website that you still confirm your reservations once on board. We were told we had to take the earlier time for dinner one night because we were one of the last reservations made- I guess 45 days prior to sailing isn’t early enough???

Entertainment was better than normal. We normally avoid the Comedian and Magician but they were in the Variety Show on the last night and were both really good. The singers were just OK but the dancers, especially the males in the group, were excellent. One 70's music night and Cirque Bijou were the best presentations.

Overall the cruise met expectations in about every way. There were ups and downs, but the ups far outnumbered the downs. We still had a great, relaxing time. While there was selling going on for B-I-N-G-O, or other things, I have come to expect that while on the ship. There wasn’t an air of pushing Diamonds International or Gold by the Inch at every turn. NCL was a good value and we will return again.
robbinsca’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Oceanview Porthole Window
Cabin OG 5056
Small but well planned out.
Deck 5 Inside Cabins, Outside Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews