Flights from Glasgow to London and then London to Miami were with British Airways. Can't praise them highly enough. The luggage was sent off in Glasgow and we did not see it again until Miami. Husband is disabled and assistance was provided at Heathrow which was most welcome. Flights were good with attentive cabin crew and good food and drinks.
On arrival in Miami we were transferred by bus to Sofitel Miami (nr airport). Very nice hotel and extremely comfortable beds. Unfortunately there was no tea/coffee making facilities in room but coffee and drinks were available in main lobby of hotel. The next morning, before transfer to the ship we walked (about 10 mins) to a retail outlet which had a Publix store and stocked up on some wine, soft drinks and snacks for the ship.
EMBARKATION: Slightly disorganized bussing from hotel to ship but we eventually arrived and stood in queue which moved quite swiftly inside the NCL terminal. Once in terminal I paid corkage for my wine and we were then directed to balcony queue which only took a few minutes. A few minutes later, after receiving keycards we were on the ship and getting hands sanitized. A welcome glass of champagne and oj for daughter and then we set out to explore the ship. The Jewel certainly impressed us and was clean and sparkling. Had been advised by Cruise Critic members to go to main restaurant for lunch but we ended up at the Garden Cafe and had something there instead. Sail away was fun with other CC members at the Great Outdoors.
STATEROOM: We had a balcony cabin on Deck 10 and it was relatively spacious but a bit cramped with 3. Lots of storage space and balcony was bigger than I expected. Met our cabin stewards Bob and Mohan who attended to our requests to empty fridge and keep ice bucket filled. They did a great job and kept our cabin clean and always stopped for a quick word whenever they saw us. It was great having a kettle to make a cup of tea or coffee. Used the $25 special for the laundry service - what a boon that was!
SERVICE: Without exception, everyone we met was unfailingly polite and helpful. The staff in the restaurants do a great job as well as the bar staff, the reception and shore excursion desk.
DINING: Food is always subjective but this is how we found it. We ate in Tzars Palace twice and Azura twice - these are the non paying dining rooms. On two occasions the steak my husband ordered was inedible and I mean inedible. I tried a piece and was unable to swallow it. Very poor quality meat although the rest of our meals were fine. We ate in the following speciality restaurants: Teppanyaki (fantastic experience), Mama's Italian Kitchen (very good especially the antipasti trolley), Le Bistro (excellent - part of the romance package), Tango's (very good), Cagney's (excellent), Chin Chin (excellent) - ate there twice. We also found the other free restaurant Blue Lagoon to be excellent and ate there 3 times.
However we found the Garden Cafe to be the worst place to eat on the ship. The food variety and quality were very good, however I really like my food to be hot or at least warm and it was always cold or lukewarm. It was also very noisy and busy and not the best place to be for someone who was disabled. On a positive note I liked the omelette station very much but my husband would not venture back into the Garden Cafe after the first couple of times. Surely NCL should be able to keep food hot in this day and age?
ENTERTAINMENT: Cirque Bijou was really impressive. We also enjoyed Band on the Run, Country Gold and Joe Yannetty the comedian. Saw the end of the hypnotist show and it looked like fun too. Good eye lines in theatre. Did not participate in bingo due to high cost. Would have participated in martini tasting but it was in the middle of a sea day when sun loungers were at a premium!!! Special mention to Caribbean Wave - they were great and I could have listened to them all day. Also 60280 were very good with a wide range of songs.
TEEN CREW: My daughter went to this programme and enjoyed it. She made new friends which helped to make her holiday more enjoyable.
EXCURSIONS: Went to Playa Rincon in Samana with Casa Dorada - beautiful beach, not many people and excellent Pina Colada!. In Tortola went to the Baths with Speedy's ferry - beautiful beach but beware of the path down to the beach if you are disabled - it was quite tortuous for my husband. The Xtreme Circumnav tour with Eli in Antigua was the highlight of our trip. Fast powerboat round the island stopping off to see the local attractions including the stingrays (not crowded) and snorkeling, lunch etc included - worth every penny! St Lucia was the tour with Cosol - very good tour and great value for money - the trip to Jalousie beach was lovely and the snorkeling was great there too. We went snorkeling with the turtles in Barbados with Outdoor Barbados - we had rain and it was a bit miserable but we still had fun. We were doing a back to back tour, so when the ship returned to Miami we spent the day at South Beach before setting sail for Grand Cayman were we did some shopping before getting a bus to 7 mile beach $2.5 dollars pp each way. In Cozumel we took the ship excursion for my daughter to do the Dolphin Trainer programme - we paid $30 each to be observers. It was a fantastic day. Alejandro showed us around and looked after us so well. My daughter had a great time and one-to-one time with the dolphins. Highly recommended tour. DISEMBARKATION: Had leisurely breakfast as we were going to depart last as we had no imminent flights to catch. Waited in room until our color of luggage tag was called and we strolled off ship for bus transfer back to Sofitel. Had the use of a room there until our flight back to UK. Dumped our luggage and took a taxi to Dolphin Mall for a spot of retail therapy before returning to hotel to collect luggage and transfer to airport. Flights back were again with BA and were good with no problems.
SUMMARY: Fantastic first time cruise and we would definitely go again with NCL (purchased cruise reward). However I hope they will address the keeping food warm issue in the Garden Cafe as that was the only blip in an otherwise wonderful 2 weeks.
This was a nice cabin on the starboard side of the ship forward. It was in a quiet location not too far from the elevators. Handy to run up a couple of flights of stairs to the pool, Great Outdoors etc. Kettle in room was a bonus.