Dec 6-13-09 NCL Jewel review- Linda Sauls, Cabin 8518
This was our 28 cruise, but first on NCL. We booked this cruise with trepidation; not sure how we would feel about a "new" cruise line and not wanting to feel we are jaded.
It is from this perspective, I write this review. I want to touch on MY observations for our cruise; yours may mirror my thoughts or may be totally different.
Cabin: Very surprised by several things; first the hairdryer, OK guys, not a big deal for you, but, more weight for the ladies and we'd rather take more shoes! The hairdryer can blow 5 lbs of hair in 5 minutes; that sucker puts out some heat! Next, for the first time, we had coffee/tea in our room. We REALLY enjoyed that feature of having coffee whenever we wanted a cup of Joe. Nice touch was NCL using all Elemis products for shower gel, shampoo and hand soap.
Captain: We were totally blown away by these gentlemen as we were with all senior staff. We had a Cruise Critic meet and greet and captain and senior staff were all present and involved. Each spoke for a few minutes about their responsibilities on the ship AND gave us their person phone numbers to call if there were an issue. They want to resolve issues when and if they happen and not find out about it later. They were true to their word. Our toilet decided to go on vacation and refused to flush, one call and 5 minutes later we could hear them working somewhere in the "bowels" of the ship. A quick call to ask us to flush and insure all was well which is was, then 30 minutes later a follow up call asking if there were any other issues or problems; (wonder if they all went to Disney College of customer service)
We were invited to a trip to the bridge; and the Captain spent 30 minutes speaking with us and telling us about the ship, navigations systems and answering our questions. Also, this is the ONLY ship we've seen that has a Navigation viewing area that is open every day until sunset.
Steven the Hotel Manager was also very engaging with the guests. I took 10 pounds of homemade fudge with us and sent some to the Captain and staff and to Steven. We received a heartfelt thank you phone call. You know, they are away from their families for the holidays; if you have anything special you've made, I'm sure they would be appreciative of the thought and the goodies. They're all in the spirit of the season; a 6 ft Christmas tree decorates the bridge in addition to the many trees making the entire ship very festive. Some passengers and crew members wore Santa Hats or reindeer ears; it was a fun holiday atmosphere.
Food is so subjective, I choose not to comment as there will always be those that disagree. There is a VAST array of food on this ship, so even the pickiest eater will find something that pleases them. We sat with a Culinary Institute graduate who has a very successful restaurant and declared the food to be excellent quality and very fresh. She was surprised by the innovation of a salmon/spinach Eggs Benedict and the ability to have fresh squeezed OJ in the garden cafe. Some Italians commented at the pasta station that the marinara and preparation was "just like my Mama did". If you can't find something you like, sorry folks, but it's you, not NCL.
Tours: We went with Rony's Tours in Roatan, Honduras. ABSOLUTLY a perfect choice for us. There were 2 couples in a large Air Conditioned van. Our guide for the day was Hank Hynds. He knew his island and loved sharing it with us. We booked with him because of positive comments on cruise critic. His e mail is www.ronystours.com. We paid $20 per person. We saw the entire South shore of the island and North Shore. Hank took us to see the monkeys, which was very entertaining; these little brats jump on you and if you have a pocket...they'll pick it! They have not seen a piece of Velcro they can't open in under a second; quite entertaining as were the toucans and parrots. Also there is an animal and I can't remember the name that is a cousin to the raccoon in the US. This little guy would put his paws thru the cage and turn around backwards and would HISS until you scratched his back. He was quite the entertainer. The other couple on this tour wanted to do a beach break and we wanted to zip line, so Hank dropped off our friends at the beach and took us to south shore Canopy Tours for our try at zip lining! There were 13 trips and the rush is incredible; I'm also a BIG chicken being into my 60's and wanting to make 70. (It was on our "bucket list"). We had 2 GREAT guides, Marcos and Newton. They took the time to explain the safety features and how to use them, then hooked us up for our first line. I was scared to death! Since I was grey-green at the end of the first leg, Marcos decided he would do everything for me and all I had to do was to enjoy. The platforms for landing were all over 6X8 ft which we're told us unusual, most just barely being wide though to stand on around the tree. Since we weren't with a tour, we had plenty of personal attention and really enjoyed. From there we went to the cameo factory to watch the artisans, then onto the orphanage. We knew ahead of time this is what we wanted to do and Rony was kind enough to find out what the kids needed. We took games, clothes for the girls and large bottles of vitamins. Our friends stopped and bought food enough to feed the 22 children for a meal and also brought hockey sticks and putts for the kids. They all spoke some English and were very thankful. The woman that takes care of the kids doesn't speak English so Hank was our interpreter. They have propane only to cook with so most foods that cook a long time (rice/chicken/beef) are cooked in pots outside on firewood to keep the cost down. The kids were very well taken care of. The orphanage is run by the Baptist Ministries and is only a few miles from where we docked. Just an incredible day!
I had a "Linda" day for Belize; sent hubby to Altun Ha and I took advantage of the specials in the spa and reading a book on our balcony listening to the soothing water lapping the ship. Pure Nirvana.
Entertainment: Of our 28 cruises, the entertainment was the best we have seen. We had "Matilde" and Patrick Murray; amazing, that "lady" took no prisoners. She conned a guest into kissing her then exclaimed" Sir...do you realize you just kissed a dummy! What kind of smarts does that make ju" Her Spanish accent just cracked us up.
Cat's pajamas, an incredible acapello group that kept us all hopping in our seats with songs from the 50's thru the 80's. They were REALLY good.
The spotlight however was Cirque Bijou...on a cruise ship! Gymnasts and acrobats and bungee jumpers seemed to fall from the sky hovering over guests watching the performance. It is a performance not to be missed.
OK, these are just some of my observations on our cruise. We did already book a deposit on another NCL cruise to be decided. It's a good deal. $250 deposit made on the ship, 4 years to take the cruise AND they give you back $100 credit on your sign and sail card for the cruise you are on.
If you get to the martini bar...say HI to Robert and have a sour apple martini. You'll find the staff top notch, customer service is incredible and this cruise line has now beaten my previous favorites.
Quick note...really do love the freestyle EVERYTHING. Embarking took 8 minutes and we got to choose the time we got off the ship. Every other cruise line you feel like cattle on the day you disembark, not so with NCL...they actually encouraged you to sleep in, have a drink, work out.....yes I said they actually sell bloody Mary's screwdriver and some other stuff on the day you leave. Leaving the ship was a breeze. They announced your color. that YOU chose, we left the cabin, walked off the ship, picked up our luggage and were headed back to Orlando in less than 45 minutes from when we left our cabin....
Have a wonderful and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, maybe we'll meet onboard on another great NCL cruise.
Linda Sauls LSauls7537@aol.com
small balcony cabin, adequate for "moderate" packers, not sufficient for more than a week. Quiet location, deck 8 cabin is very convenient to everything on the ship.