This was our first trip on Norwegian and we were very excited to try a new line. We have cruised before on Carnival multiple times and always in suites. We were cruising with 9 people in two suites on the Norwegian Jewel for seven days to the Mexican Riviera.
Dining: we had upgraded dining for our entire party and ate at all of the upgraded dining restaurants. The service and food at La Cucina was amazing. Our waiter was attentive to our large party of 9, service was well timed and the atmosphere was nice. The food at Le Bistro was also very good - best creme brulee I have ever had at sea. Service was a little slow but not inordinately so given the size of our group. Cagneys and Moderno's share a kitchen and DEPLORABLE service and so-so food. We went to Moderno's upon boarding and lunch took us over two hours with no refills of drinks for anyone in the party, terrible service all around, etc. Dinner at Moderno's was even worse. The salad bar is amazing but we had all eaten our salads before we even received water much less our drink orders. The server took our passes and disappeared. We would have the meat skewers brought to our table with 1/2 the table served and the rest skipped. One side of our table we ended up getting food for on the other side. Then when desert time came we refused desert and wanted to leave and it took another 30 minutes to get our cards back from the server. When we went to Moderno's the food was all OK but again the service was absolutely atrocious. As big fans of teppanyaki, we were pleased with the teppanyaki skills of the chefs but again all other aspects of service were sub-par. OF all of the up-priced dining options, the only one we could foresee making it in the real world was the Italian restaurant.
As suite guests one of the nicest perks is priority embarkation/disembarkation. On Norwegian - your priority status is NOT printed on your paperwork - make sure to bring one of your extra luggage tags with you. We had to speak with three different individuals in the port of Los Angeles before we could get one to direct us to the priority line rather than the regular line. This was a very frustrating way to start off the trip. At disembarkation, the priority only lets you slide in front of a few people. We ended up taking an hour to get from the Priority line to the point where we met with customs.
Entertainment, fitness and recreation, public rooms, and shore excursions were comparable to Carnival in all aspects. Where we really felt Norwegian needs to step up their game is in three areas:
1. Enrichment - there are significantly more activities geared towards selling you something rather than just fun. To be fair the initial embarkation party had to be moved at the last minute due to terrible weather upon departure but all of the other events felt lackluster, with little to no interaction with the cruise director and his staff. An example of this was the white hot party where the cruise director and staff got the party started and about 10 minutes in were congregated in a corner talking to one another for the remainder of the time they were in the room. Norwegian has also eliminated Nickelodeon (I had no small kids on the cruise so I thought this would not be an issue) but they seem to have forgotten to replace it with some sort of theme. The small children on the boat were primarily with their parents - which I have NEVER seen before but after signing my teen up for the teen club IN the kids club - the club was a blank room with a couple of tables. Hopefully they will re-theme these areas soon as the kids on this ship were NOT happy campers.
2. Suite service - one of the luxuries of being in a suite is the butler, the concierge, the little extra service you get in your private quarters. We saw our concierge upon arrival and he took our baggage. We saw him again on Monday (day 2), he called on Weds to check in and we saw him on Sunday when we disembarked. He was non-existent and almost comically unavailable. I called on day one to request the pillows be switched out which I had requested prior to sailing as my DH and DS are allergic to feathers. His response was that I should ask the butler when he arrives on duty at 6 PM. I was shocked, not because this is an unreasonable request (we just left a note for the butler) but I had never experienced anything other than impeccable service from personal staff on the ship. Our butler really bent over backwards trying to compensate for an inattentive concierge, poor service at the front desk, and lazy room stewards. I felt terrible for him as he was the only one who seemed to care about his job and he was fighting a loosing battle.
3. Service overall - in every other review I have ever had about service on a ship it has always been what I like to refer to as ridiculously attentive. In fact, my husband and I generally will bring $100 in ones per person, and an additional $500 in cash because we like to tip all of those who provide this level of service. Generally we argue at the end of a cruise how much to tip each of our personal attendants, which to call out as really exceptional, etc. On this cruise there was one person I wanted to tip at the end of the cruise and that was our butler. The staff on this boat was not happy, there was no one saying good morning in the hall, no one checking on your day, no one smiling. It became a game for us as we would smile at every staff member and say hello or good morning or good evening and it was so rare to get ANY response it was frustrating and disappointing.
There were so few servers, bartenders, guest service reps, workers of any kind with smiles I had to wonder if this was a company wide issue or simply an issue on this boat. One of the nicest things for us is that generally on a cruise ship - outside of your cabin everyone always has a smile and treats all guests the same. In the past we have generally cruised as a group with one suite and multiple inside/balcony rooms and it makes no difference which category you are in - you are always treated impeccably. The one thing I can say is that the awful service was consistent - everyone felt it, not just us. I would not recommend Norwegian for anyone even though the rooms are really amazing - the service is not worth the price. We thought we were stepping up with two suites and Norwegian over Carnival and we did in terms of space, but we really paid the price in terms of service.
The cabins: two family suites (11024 and 11030) with four adults in one and five adults in the other. These cabins are an amazing layout. The master bedroom is generous with ample storage for two. The second bedroom has a pull out double bed (definitely needs the additional cushion you can request) and a pull down twin loft which was long enough for my 6'4" son. I would say you can comfortably fit two large adults or three smaller (normal) size adults in this room but it is cozy. The living room sofa also converts to a bed for a potential sixth guest. If you have fit four adults in an interior cabin - you would not feel crowded with six adults in this space although I have seen many reviews to the contrary.
Two of our party took this excursion and only recommend it for the advanced adventurer. They had an amazing time and thought it was well worth the price.