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

A Great Little Cruise - Jewel/Western Caribbean

Norwegian Jewel Cruise Review by maxnest

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Trip Details
  • Sail Date: Mar 2009
  • Destination: the Western Caribbean
  • Cabin Type: Mini-Suite with Balcony

My wife and I completed a five day Western Caribbean cruise on the NCL Jewel, March 29-April 3. This was our 26th cruise - the fifth on NCL with the remainder split among Celebrity, Princess and Royal Caribbean.

There are a number of reasons why we chose this cruise: it corresponded with my wife's spring break, embarked from a Florida port, was relatively cheap, allowed us a weekend "off" before and after the cruise, and we had a good experience on the sister ship NCL Gem last May in the Mediterranean. We've visited the two ports on this cruise - Cozumel and Georgetown, Grand Cayman - many times on previous cruises so the itinerary held no particular interest to us. We were just looking for a relaxing cruise that would be no more expensive than a stay in a resort hotel in Florida.

While NCL is not our favorite cruise line, we greatly enjoyed this cruise. About three days into the cruise I commented to my wife "this ship feels like a comfortable shoe", which I meant as a compliment. We didn't encounter anything outrageous on the ship e.g., the other passengers were laid back with no drama, no out of control kids (we were told there were 600 on board), no drunken groups taking over the pool, etc. (despite the low prices and the spring break timeframe). The ship was clean, in very good condition, and easy to walk around.

Cabin: As I stated in my Gem review last year, NCL's mini-suites (just slightly larger balcony cabins with no additional services) are very nicely designed cabins. Fair sized balcony, plenty of lights, ample drawer and closet space (but you may have to push the bed away from the closet to fully open the closet doors), mini refrigerator to store a few items in but also stocked with stuff to buy, and a couch. They also have the best bathroom design of any low to mid-priced cabins we've ever had. On the downside, the in-room desk has two chairs (one would have been fine and provided more free space) and a generic 19 inch (or so) TV that provides no "added services" such as ordering movies, making restaurant reservations, checking your bill, etc.

This was the first cruise we've been on where we didn't meet our room steward or helper. The room was always well taken care of, and we have no complaints. We're just used to chatting with our stewards during the cruise.

Noise warning: we had cabin 11132, which is located in the starboard aft section of the ship. At times there was considerable noise from the area above us (buffet tables). While this didn't bother us, I would strongly recommend against this cabin or cabins in the same general area if you're sensitive to noise. On last year's Gem cruise, we heard virtually no noises in cabin 11120, which is located a few cabins forward, so perhaps it's just the last few starboard cabins to be wary of.

Dining: First comment: we really like Freestyle dining, although I think the quality of food in the free dining rooms is noticeably lower. Second comment: there's plenty of two-person tables, if you'd like to dine as a couple. (These can be combined into large group tables.) We ate dinner in five different restaurants: Tsar's Palace (food was just ok, not much of a selection), Cagney's steakhouse ($20pp fee, good but not great food and service, although we had a great dinner in the Gem's version last year), Chin Chin ($15pp fee, very good food), Mama's Italian Restaurant ($10pp fee, good food) and Azura (food was good, still not much of a selection). In addition, we ate a lunch at the Blue Lagoon (very good junk food, including chicken wings, potato skins, burgers, fries, etc), lunch in the buffet (good food and selection), lunch from the Sky High Bar grill (unlike the other grills, freshly cooked food), and breakfast every morning on the stern of the ship at the Great Outdoors (but sometimes got our food from the main buffet area where the selection was larger). Although it's a small feature, we greatly enjoy eating in open areas at the stern of ships. (Some ships, like RCCL's large ships, don't offer this.)

Entertainment: The theater had very comfortable seats with good sight lines. Comedian and acapella group on the first night (both very good), ship dancers doing rock/pop songs (energetic and okay), a Second City troupe (very entertaining), the acapella group alone (again, quite good) and the ship dancers performing acrobatics/dancing in Le Cirque Bijoux on the last night (very entertaining). On the nights when there was only one show time (first night and the Second City night), it was very difficult to find seats if you arrived at show time; the rest of the nights were well attended but not "sold out." Surprisingly, each show was approximately an hour in length, while many other cruise lines have shows that are 45 minutes long.

Pool deck: I think the deck area around the main pools is among the most poorly designed of any cruise ship we've been on. There are too few reclining chairs, too many card tables with chairs, and the front (bow) and back (aft) portions of the pool area don't feel "open" as they do on other ships. (What's the idea with the blocked off area, which includes a bathroom and some storage space, on the starboard aft end of the main pool area? Space to sit and look out at the sea should be the priority here.) On the other hand, the pools themselves were nicely designed with shallow sitting areas on the edges. The kids seemed to be having a great time on the slide near the aft pool.

Each passenger is supplied with a pool towel in their cabin. These can be exchanged for fresh ones on the pool deck or from your room steward. During days at sea, it became all too obvious that there are too few reclining chairs on the upper decks. While there were some chair hogs (e.g., reserving chairs but disappearing for hours at a time), you could still find a chair until about 10am.

Bars: While we don't drink much alcohol, our feeling was that the price of drinks (wine, soda, liquor) seemed higher on this ship than on others we've cruised on. And some drinks were only available in souvenir glasses, resulting in even higher prices. The good news is that if you like to drink, there are plenty of locations to do so.

Additional positive comments: After we had paid for our reservation (made via NCL), the price of our cabin category (BA) dropped. I called NCL to see if we could get a reduction in the cost. As expected, they offered us a bump up to mini-suite instead, which we were very happy with.

I had left my Blackberry charger at home and realized it was out of power once I boarded the ship. I had a need to make some calls once we arrived back in Miami, so I considered purchasing a charger on the cruise. However, I explained my problem to the customer service desk and they loaned me a Blackberry charger at no charge (no pun intended). I though this was both great customer service and surprising, since a generic charging unit was for sale in the on-board store (for $37).

The atrium is similar to the NCL Gem but nicer because the electronic screen on the wall is only half the size, making it less imposing on activities there.

This ship has a minor but unique quirk - the on board stores are all located in one large area at the back of the ship instead of mid-ship as almost all other ships have. While I'm not sure it improves sales, it is refreshing to have such a large area to walk around in instead of the cramped quarters that on board ships usually provide.

Embarkation was quick and disembarkation was even quicker. Freestyle allows you to choose the time you'd like to disembark from the ship at the end of the cruise. As with our Gem cruise, this works remarkably well and is stress free, especially since you stay in your cabin until your color tag is called.

NCL docks at the San Miguel pier in Cozumel. This is wonderful as it allows you to walk into town without having to get a taxi.

While Georgetown offers little of interest, it's tough to beat a day at Seven Mile beach. Beautiful water.

Some negative comments: San Miguel (Cozumel's main town) has devolved into a collection of t-shirt stores and jewelry stores, with a few bars and the occasional restaurant mixed in. This became apparent when I went searching for a store that might sell tourist needs like batteries, chargers, camera stuff - only a pharmacy at the pier had some batteries. While the town has not been a reflection of native Mexican life during our previous cruises, it's now pretty depressing in it's commercialism. On the other hand, the sidewalk on main street seems to have been widened in many areas so walking around is easier than it used to be. Also, since when has the main street in town had imprints of swallows in the concrete? (Nice touch and related to ancient Cozumel beliefs.)

The price for a cabin (with port fees) was relatively inexpensive. However, given the high cost of drinks and the attraction of alternative restaurants, along with the automatic $12pp service charges each day, this is not a cheap cruise. Yes, you can avoid the alternative restaurants to cut down on your bill, but the quality and selection of the main dining rooms detracts from the overall enjoyment of the cruise in my opinion.

Final comments: Very relaxing, enjoyable cruise. Freestyle 2.0 is great for a cruise like this. Good ship, good crew. However, my feeling is that this class of ship is not a "destination" ship like the large RCCL and Princess ships are (and perhaps the Norwegian Epic will be). Great ship for a port-intensive itinerary (like Europe), not as much for an itinerary with a couple of sea days. As I mentioned in my post-cruise survey, if NCL had some slightly better designs for their ships - especially a larger atrium and better pool area design, along with an improvement in the quality and selection of food in the main dining rooms, they'd be tough to beat.


maxnest's Full Rating Summary
Enrichment Activities
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Cabin Review

Mini-Suite with Balcony
Cabin MB 11132

Noise warning: we had cabin 11132, which is located in the starboard aft section of the ship. At times there was considerable noise from the area above us (buffet tables). While this didn't bother us, I would strongly recommend against this cabin or cabins in the same general area if you're sensitive to noise. On last year's Gem cruise, we heard virtually no noises in cabin 11120, which is located a few cabins forward, so perhaps it's just the last few starboard cabins to be wary of.


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