A fun cruise with lackluster food on the NCL Jewel: Norwegian Jewel Cruise Review by nonanon

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A fun cruise with lackluster food on the NCL Jewel

Sail Date: February 2010
Destination: Western Caribbean
Embarkation: Miami
My wife and I sailed on the Jewel the week of Feb. 7th. This was my first NCL outing and I'm not sure there will be a second. It was Superbowl Sunday when we boarded so the night before we planned to stay in Miami. Hotel prices were very high so we stayed in a smaller hotel near Homestead AFB. We rented a car but didn't sight-see much due to heavy traffic from Superbowl crowds.

Soft drinks: Our complaint began before we even boarded as we were forced to smuggle our own Coke aboard. $50 for a mug and unlimited Pepsi is no bargain if you don't like Pepsi so if you prefer Coke I'd suggest bringing your own supply. We had to replenish ours in Roatan, but they didn't give us any trouble about bringing it back on the ship with us.

Embarkation: This took longer than I'm used to but it wasn't a long delay, about an hour to get aboard and it seemed to be streamlined so maybe we just arrived during a rush. Then again it's not a small ship so there are lots of people to get More aboard. The cabins weren't ready so we had to wait on deck (with our carry-on luggage) until we were given word we could go to our cabin.

Service: The food service staff and housekeeping is excellent and the ship officers are cordial as well. All the staff seemed friendly in fact.

Dining: Our main complaint is the food in the main restaurants. We had great food there on two nights but otherwise the food was lackluster and not what we're accustomed to on a cruise. Twice part of my meal was barely warm when served as if it sat too long on a rack somewhere. On two nights we ate at Chin Chin's which has an Asian menu and a $15 per person charge and it was worth the price. Too bad the main restaurants don't serve such good food. Our last experience with open dining (Princess) was mixed with good food and poor service, NCL seems to have reversed this but it's still not good enough.

Entertainment: The entertainment was mostly worthwhile. Bud Anderson, a stand-up comic, was very good but we skipped his more adult-themed show.

The Jean Ann Ryan group that did three shows that culminated in Circue Bijou was good but not great and my only complaint is that if you're going to cover someone else's song at least try to do a good imitation. The ballroom dance couple and the acrobat-gymnast were the highlights.

The ventriloquist Kenny Byrd is very talented but his material was tired and not funny. It was still amazing to see what he could do but we finally left early when the jokes got too repetitive. We saw him later at the ice cream machine and my wife just didn't have the heart to answer honestly when asked about the show. With better material he could give Jeff Dunham some competition.

The country duo Rushlow and Harris was also funny, down-to-earth and very good. So good my wife felt compelled to buy their CD afterwards. And forced me to go to both of their shows, the second began with Kenny Byrd so we sat through another of his shows as well.

The staff show that included Fountains was very very good, possibly the highlight. Paul Baya added something to each show and is a real asset to the Jewel. His assistant is also good and I have nothing negative to say about any of the crew, staff or other employees.

It was nice to relax in the Spinnaker Lounge but even with headphones on the bingo calling and required responses forced us to leave.

The ship has about 2500 passengers and only two pools, four public hot tubs and far too few chaise lounges. Some people were so frustrated over this they got rude about saved chairs but we chose to just stay up on deck 13 instead. I don't plan to ever cruise on the NCL Epic as it will have almost twice as many passengers and there is a limited amount of outdoor deck space. Prices are cheaper than when we began cruising 15 years ago but the price paid is over-crowding. Not as bad as on airplanes but still more than I'd like.

It was a good cruise with many positives but we've yet to cruise on Costa, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity and we liked both Princess and Carnival better than NCL. Any cruise is a good cruise but I doubt we'll repeat with NCL. Less

Published 02/24/10

Cabin review: OA Oceanview Picture Window

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Port and Shore Excursions

Belize is great and if I retire as an expatriate it might be here. They speak English and it's beautiful but litter along the roads is a big eyesore. The main drawback to Belize is it's not a deep water port so it requires tenders. That meant if you didn't book a tour through NCL you had to wait until everyone who had was off the ship.

Here we went cave tubing and it was fun but not great. The drive out and back was fun with a lively and entertaining band of guides who kept telling us they were "just keeping it real for you". That seemed to be a trademark phrase. We hiked to the top of the river, carrying life jackets and tubes, then linked up in groups of about six to a guide. They seemed to hold us back to answer questions and show us cave formations, I assume the 45-minute trip could be done in a third the time if you were allowed to just float along. My only complaint here was that the headlamps provided were out of date and dim compared to the very bright LED lamps the NCL excursion had. They traveled in larger groups and had to wear hard hats which was amusing but without being able to see much the experience was lackluster overall. There were some "rapids" that required you to keep "Butts Up", another catch phrase of our tour guides (cave-tubing dot com).

This stop was my favorite and convinced me it's better to book your own excursion instead of going through the cruise line. We were told to take a taxi into Majahual, a small village, and were to meet the tour guide at a small bar there. We took a bus due to some confusion but negotiated the same fare as a taxi, $2US. We had to have someone at the bar call the tour operator and wait a short time, then he got our driver and we set off to tour the Mayan ruins of Chocchoben. We were the only couple in our air-conditioned van and though our driver spoke little English he was helpful in showing us some points of interest and helping us buy some fresh pineapple along the way.

At the ruins we had our own guide who was very knowledgeable and patient as I asked him many questions. The other groups seemed to be 40 or more people per guide so I was very glad to have booked privately. The ruins are interesting and some are mostly as they were found - overgrown and partly buried. There was a fair amount of climbing and hiking but nothing strenuous and with our own guide we moved at our own pace and lingered where we wanted. We booked this via the internet from costa maya tours dot com.

We missed NCL's private island, Great Stirrup Cay due to rough seas and had to lounge on deck instead, until even that got too chilly. I don't mind days at sea so I wasn't as disappointed as my wife.

Read 1761 Costa Maya Reviews

Back in Miami. We booked the Everglades Tour through NCL before the cruise and I'm glad we did so. We got expedited debarkation so we could meet our tour guide and driver which got us off the ship in much less time than on boarding. The tour was fun and educational, we saw a few gators even though it was unseasonably cold. If you take this tour and suspect it may get chilly I recommend taking along something more than a sweatshirt like we did. Even a parka would have made sense that day and the locals were dressed like it was going to snow.

Read 1826 Miami Reviews

I would definitely recommend booking excursions similar to NCL's but doing so privately. We not only paid half as much but we got much more personal attention in much smaller groups. In Roatan we went snorkeling on a small boat with 10 passengers and two crew. We had the whole side of the island to ourselves it seemed while the NCL groups crowded on the other.

We were greeted by dancers in island costume who danced as the ship docked. We walked past the main areas and found our van driver holding up a sign for us. He missed another couple who had booked the excursion but it would have been crowded with 14 on that small boat as well as cramped in the van that took us to and from the port. The tour company was upset about this mistake and booked the couple for the afternoon tour instead.

Read 2443 Roatan Reviews

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