Norwegian Jewel Cruise Review by Cavewomanflygirl
- Sail Date: May 2009
- Destination: Baltic Sea
- Cabin Type: Mid-Ship Mini-Suite with Balcony
Pre-cruising was unpleasant. I had several instances to have to contact the cruise line before departure. Each time, NCL refused to deal with me directly because I hadn't booked directly with NCL, my travel agent had booked my reservation. I'm a Latitudes member and this cruise was my 4th with NCL. So when I had issues and questions regarding Latitudes, I was really upset that they refused to talk to me because I'd booked with a travel agent. I assume they'll only offer you customer service if you've booked directly with NCL (online?) Irrespective of how I book my cruise, a Latitude member should be able to have a Latitude issue dealt with.
Embarkation was a circus. The staff at Dover was entirely out of control. There was no direction to Latitudes checkin. There was insufficient seating to accommodate passengers in the waiting area. The air was stifling. Everybody was waiting and waiting for embarkation to commence and when they finally started calling categories to board, they did so without the use of microphones, so it was a "state secret" which category they called. People were getting agressive second guessing what was going on and they were pushing their way to the front of the line. I've never seen such a chaotic, unnecessarily disorganized embarkation. I had booked a minisuite, category AF. We were on deck 11, aft, port side. The cabin was beautiful, but to be honest, it was identical to the balcony stateroom I had been in on NCL Sun. Not at all any more spacious than a balcony stateroom, much to our disappointment. We could have saved ourselves hundreds of dollars had we known this. Our cabin attendants were magnificent.
The Tsar's dining room was lovely, but the food was very average. We started looking for alternatives because we disliked the Tsar's food very soon. The buffet upstairs aft was not very good either. And worst of all, the hours of operation were VERY limited. On past cruises, I always remembered the buffet being the one place that was open 24/7. Not on NCL Jewel. So we had to stand in line and wait morning, noon and evening. And late at night, sometimes you were out of luck. I found it to be a major chore to manage knowing the schedule of the dining rooms. And due to Norovirus concerns, for the duration of our cruise, the buffet area was roped off for selfservice...we had to wait in line for drinks to be dispensed for us and for food to be plated for us. This was on our last bleeding nerve after about one day. More staff needs to be out stacking the drinks and food so passengers aren't standing 20 deep to get any thing at the buffet.
The Jean Ann Ryan entertainment is phenomenol.
Russia is an issue relative to shore excursions. Unless you book your tour to St. Petersburg with NCL, expect to be treated like a 2nd class citizen by NCL staff. We had booked our tour directly with an agency in St. Petersburg and had been warned about this. They advised that we may have to "insist" on being let ashore. We couldn't feature ourselves insisting to be let ashore when the NCL staff is standing there in our way. Upon arrival at St. Petersburg, we had noticed (from our balcony) people disembarking. Yet, when we went down to disembark, we were turned back and advised that the ship wasn't cleared by Russian Port Authorities yet. I filmed the chaos of trying to get disembarked. Have a look at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpezkbQbb-8. Basically NCL allowed their tour participants ashore ahead of all of us who had booked our shore excursions privately. What's the diff? Well, we lost hours of tour time by having to wait, penned up in the hallways and gangway area until NCL lets you go ashore. My suggestion to NCL was to have their regulatory affairs management deal with Russian port authorities to ensure that there is sufficient staff at the St. Petersburg port to handle an entire shipload of passengers. Money talks, and with the potential financial impact of thousands of passengers being withdrawn by the cruise lines for lack of sufficient port staff to handle them efficiently, I would think that the cruise lines have a significant bargaining position to force the issue. This situation was highly upsetting for us, but my primary concern in hindsight is to ensure that NCL has every opportunity to do service recovery, to provide their passengers (all passengers, whether they booked their tours by NCL or privately) with a wonderful experience in Russia.
Other topic - the pool/spa areas were lovely.
The pay restaurants were okay, not great. We tried Bistro and Chin because they had the shortest lines. If you play your cards right, you can visit all the specialty restaurants for half the normal cover charge. The daily schedule includes a little announcement every day about which restaurant is the deal of the day. Look for it!
In the end, I believe all cruise lines are fighting for each bit of revenue they can squeeze in this economy. With tempered expectations, you can have a wonderful cruise on NCL Jewel. It is truly a beautiful ship and the staff is very hard working to provide a safe and clean environment and a very nice cruise experience. Go forth and enjoy!
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