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Norwegian Jewel Cruise Review
4.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating
2,389 Reviews

NCL the New Carnival?

Norwegian Jewel Cruise Review by Sparkamatic

17 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: Feb 2016
  • Destination: the Mexican Riviera
  • Cabin Type: Balcony

I am a frequent cruiser but this was my first NCL cruise, and may be my last. I booked 90+ days early to take advantage of the "Unlimited Beverage Package-UBP" (supposed deadline) that was the major selling feature of this Mexican Riviera adventure.

It turns out that the UBP was offered for free right up to the week before departure and my balcony room was offered with this package for LESS than Half the price we paid for this cruise. Ouch! That is a tough way to start a cruise by being taken to the cleaners for over $1,200. And of course, the cancellation policy would have cost more that the savings realized from re-booking at the lower rate.

Anyhow we set out for a wonderful week, but soon realized we were on a party boat that gave new meaning to the term "going ugly early-and often". The Jewel is tired and rode hard and it shows with many deferred maintenance items clearly visible to the passengers like: unheated adult pool (kids pool was a balmy 84), broken hand rails, rusty paint spots and worn carpeting.

Maybe the food will make up for the roughness of the ship? Not so much as we found the buffet food to be so tasteless and of low quality that we were willing to pay for the specialty restaurants. Like my wife said "lots of choices, but they were all buckets of slop".

We tried both dining rooms and found the dining room food to be slightly better than the buffet, but not much. We used our onboard credits to try Cagney's Steakhouse and Teppanyaki but they were not much better than the food at Denny's.

With four out of seven days at sea, the ship needs decent dining. We are not picky eaters and typically avoid snobby restaurants, but could not stand the food after a day or two. It seems that the ship budgets a certain amount for food and drink, and the Unlimited Beverage Package seems to steal food dollars to pay for all the drinks.

From a value standpoint, we felt it was a rip-off. Why can't cabin credits be used to pay the exorbitant gratuities? Why is it only "soft money" that can be used for the overpriced shore excursions or specialty restaurants? Speaking of gratuities, NCL has figured out how to completely DIS-incentivize their staff and crew by charging mandatory gratuities for everything. It really added up from the 18% on the "value of the beverage package" to the 18% on specialty dining to the $13.50 per day per person for all the other nuisance charges. And the staff was flat out rude when you didn't tip them additionally over and above these already collected tips.

This itinerary and ship is all about the booze, tattoo's, and kids running wild while the parents got drunk and NCL delivered big time in those departments!

Sparkamatic's Full Rating Summary
Enrichment Activities
Value For Money
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Shore Excursions
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Cabin Review


The cabin was good sized, but the balcony was very small.

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

Cabo San Lucas

Time in port was too short, only about 5 hours.


Not much to see, a 1+ million population dirty town.

Puerto Vallarta

Upscale tourist town, but again, not much time to explore. In port from 8-5.

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