About a month prior to our cruise, I read a litany of recent negative reviews of the Norwegian Jewel. They said the ship was outdated and run-down and the staff was uninspired if not uninterested. I started to think that I had made a mistake in booking the cruise.
For the most part, my experience did not match the negative reviews I read. But there were some instances that made me question Norwegian's commitment to customer service.
The cost of the cruise was reasonable, especially for Easter week. Our cruise included the Unlimited Beverage Package that uncluded some decent whiskeys and mixed drinks, but amazingly, did not include bottled water. Norwegian doesn't need to offer Fiji water like Celebrity does with their Premium Beverage package (which is cheaper than Norwegian's) but they need to offer some bottled water.
Our 3 year old very much enjoyed the kids activities in the Splash Academy. We had been concerned after reading that Norwegian had cancelled its affiliation with Nickelodeon. The staff seems to have done well transitioning the activities. The first evening was problematic, mostly because there were so many children on this cruise. In spite of being overwhelmed by the number of children, the staff got to know every child personally and the children enjoyed interacting with the staff.
We ate exclusively in the free restaurants. I had considered getting a 3 meal specialty dining package, but was a bit turned off by the fact that Norwegian recently converted most of its specialty dining restaurants to a la carte pricing. The menu options in the two main dining rooms, Tzar's Palace and Azures, were identical to each other each night. The former had a dress code, the latter did not. We ate 3 times in Tzar's and once in Azures. The food was good but not spectacular. The prime rib and steaks came over-cooked every time (my wife likes her steaks medium; she began ordering medium rare and it still came over-cooked) but the rack of lamb that I ordered medium-rare was absolutely perfect. I dislike the fact that Norwegian has added 3 a la carter items to the traditional menu each night, usually a whole lobster, a surf & turf, and a ribeye steak, that you can order for $20 or more. These things should be included in a cruise, at least once per cruise.
O'Sheehan's is a quasi Irish Pub that has menu options such as chicken wings (very bad), chicken strips (good) and pot pie (didn't order it but it looked good). We ate there twice, once for lunch and once for dinner. The service was slow but the views from a table by the window were great.
We went to Chin Chin's (a Chinese restaurant) once. The food was awful. The hot and sour soup was inedible. The calamari was served doughy. The main dish (Peking chicken and shrimp) came with one shrimp. By the time the main course arrived, we decided to walk out and go eat at the buffet. Luckily, the grill at the buffet was serving grilled shrimp kebabs. I grabbed 6 of them and ate them over a bed of white rice and had a great pseudo-Asian meal.
One thing that Norwegian did exceptionally well regarding food was the lunchtime grill set-up on the pool deck. One day there was tri-tip and grilled vegetables and another day it was ribs and bbq chicken. I made the mistake of waiting too long the first day (I ate too much for breakfast and wanted to wait a bit to eat lunch) and the food disappeared. I learned from my mistake the second time and ate a huge plate of ribs (before remembering that it was Good Friday and I wasn't supposed to eat meat!)
One last thing that really bothered me was regarding the automatic gratuities. We had 3 adults and one 3 year old child in the cabin. They charged us for all 4 automatically, which is not a problem. My preference is to not have the tips charged automatically for my son, but rather use cash tips to give to staff members who dedicated service specifically to him. So, midway through the cruise, I went to the customer service desk to have those tips removed. I was told that, as of January of this year, Norwegian no longer allowed for changes to be made on-board. I was given a form to fill out and and an email address to send the form to. I was told my credit card would be refunded within 2-3 weeks after Norwegian receives the form. If they are going to increase the number of hoops you have to jump through in order to NOT pay the tips, they should just be included in the original price of the cruise. Not being able to adjust them on-board is a bad policy. In the end, I did not give as many cash tips as I had originally intended just because the process was an extra hassle. It ended up hurting their employees. I did submit the form yesterday by email and received a response within an hour, so that was good. But it's an unnecessary hassle that can be handled on the ship.
With 3 adults and a child, I was concerned the room would be too small. The room was fine. There was one fold down bed and on trundle bed, along with a queen size bed. The queen size bed was extremely comfortable. (We noticed that the staff was in the process of changing out many mattresses throughout the ship when we boarded. Maybe we had a brand new mattress.)
Storage was limited, but once we put our empty suitcases under the bed, there was plenty of room for everything. The shower was not cramped, although the toilet was. (This may be TMI, but when I sat on the toilet I had to take off my pants in order to be able to sit comfortably.) The small size of the toilet area may be a unique factor in this particular room; the wall behind the toilet seemed to slant inwards. We were at the very end of the hall, so it could be just this room.
The room was midship on the 4th (bottom) floor. When the ride got choppy on the last full day, we were thankful to be in this cabin. Also, we had easy access to the mid-ship elevator and stairs, not to mention being right next to the main exit. Surprisingly, there didn't seem to be an extra noise from the stairs with this location.
We have traveled extensively in Mexico, and just wanted to find a local restaurant outside of the port area (which we did). The worst part about Cano is all the people hawking cigars and jewelry and shore excursions around the port. It was incessant. We had to walk 30 minutes to get through the gauntlet. Then, when we returned, we had to go through the same gauntlet again.
I know people need to make a living, but it seems the unabated salesmanship is making this port completely unenjoyable.
We walked from the port to the cathedral, which is easy to do on your own. They have painted a blue line on the street to follow. There is a visible police presence along the walk. Additionally, a group of American ex-pats have taken it upon themselves to station themselves along the route to welcome and give directions to cruisers. The cruise ships cancelled stops at Mazatlan for a couple of year because of security and safety reasons. I have never felt safer in Mexico. Props to the tourism office in Mazatlan for making visible, consequential improvements.
Very safety conscious. Instruction from PADI certified instructors. It left me wanting more, which I may have to plan around for my next trip.
I chose to do the beginning SCUBA class at las Caletas. My wife and son went with me as a part of the Las Caletas hideaway excursion. While the excursions were pricey ($149 for me; $129 for my wife) the staff on the boat and on land went out of their way to make it a 5 star experience.
The Scuba class took about 2 hours. During this time my wife and son swam on the beach and took a tour of the monkey reserve. I returned in time to take a Paella cooking class and to then have my son take a Guacamole cooking class. The lunch was fantastic (including the above mentioned paella) and the drinks were free-flowing.
On the boat ride back to the ship, the staff had a dance-off on the front of the catamaran. It was very entertaining, especially since there was the added risk of falling off the boat into the ocean.View All 89 Beach Reviews