Pre-cruise: My Mom and I flew into Miami from Grand Rapids Michigan on Feb. 27th. We stayed at the Courtyard By Marriott Miami Downtown for the night. Our room was average and there was no continetal breakfast, so we were glad for the great price of $75 from Priceline. We did not want to wait until the port shuttle service began, so for a $10 taxi ride we got to port about 1030. We had printed out Nowegian Jewel luggage tags at home, so our luggage was whisked away as soon as we exited the taxi.
Check In: Check in was extremely easy, and by 1130, our number was called to board. No champagne was served as we boarded. We were directed to the Garden Cafe for lunch. The buffet was good. After lunch we walked around a bit and then snuck into our room by 1 pm and saw it was ready for us. The steward walked in, but was ok with us being there. We gave him an extra big tip that day! Rooms were ready to go by 2 pm. We had the mandatory safety drill (no lifejackets necessary) in Le Bistro and afterwards found our luggage outside our room.
The ship: The Jewel is beautiful. I loved that it was not as big as the other ships I have been on. Everything was very clean and in great shape. The crystal atrium is how I envision Elton John's livingroom to look! The theater was very elegant though difficult to manuver around since rows have entrance from one side only and people coming in early sat on the ends and had to repeatedly get up and allow people in their row. All the restaurants were spectaculr. Spinnaker lounge was beautiful...I thought it would just be another smoky bar so didn't check it out right away, what a mistake! The pools were nice, though it was either too packed with college kids or to cold to use it! We did not use the casino or any of the bar/lounges (too smoky).
Our room: We really enjoyed our oceanview room- 5064. I loved the bright cheerful colors! It was very quiet and we were very close to the elevators and just one flight down from the theater and Azura where we ate most of our dinners. I liked how the bathroom was setup so more than 1 person can get ready simultaneously. The beds were very comfortable and linens were wonderful egyptian cotton. Leo did a great job keeping the room clean.
The restaurants: Azura and Czar restaurants were gorgeous though we did not appreciate the too-low booth seating in Azura. We went to Czars the first dress up or not night, but found a 25 minute wait and slower (but great) service. Every other night in Azura we were seated immediately and were done with dinner within 45-60 minutes. The food was really good with the same menu at both. I especially loved the cold fruit soups. Desserts were slightly disappointing since I am a huge chocolate fan but most were versions of chocolate pudding/mousse. We went to Blue Lagoon twice for lunch on sea days and loved the wings, though the fish and chips was inedible and the tartar sauce tasted moldy. Breakfast and lunch buffet was pretty good though some of the items were not very warm. We did better at the omelet and egg stations where they cooked it for you. We did not go to any of the specialty restaurants. We missed the midnight chocolate buffet! Bummer! We absolutely adored Freestyle! Between my Mom and I, we have been on all the other big lines, and this is an industry BEST!
The entertainment: We really loved the comedians and jugglers. You cannot miss Bud Andersen! The Cirque Bijou was incredible. Make sure to go an hour early for a great seat. Try to get in the middle of the theater towards the back. We went to the Jean Ann Ryan Dancers 70's show....it was ok...We have noticed that most cruise line singing groups are just ok....We did not go to the country music night. Paul Baya is a really entertaining cruise director and we really enjoyed the employees coming out on stage after the Cirque show. I saw Contantine Dragulov on the piano a few times..he is a great pianist but should stick to the piano (not singing along).
The Ports: We stopped in Roatan, Belize, Costa Maya, and Great Stirrup Cay. We loved the first three but were disappointed with GSC. We caught one of the first tenders and were ready to come back just an hour later. Could have been that the weather was cool and windy and snorkeling appeared hazardous. The area is pretty dumpy....Castaway Cay and RCL's Labadee are much, much nicer. When we tried to catch the tender back to the ship, we were told we had to wait (ended up about 40 minute wait) because there were so many people waiting to get to the island that we would slow them down. Understandable, but the NCL security guy got pretty aggressive with a few people.
The weather: We had very cool weather....3 of the 7 days did not reach 70 degrees and with the wind on board, we had to wear our jackets! But I still came home with a tan and re-energized!
Disembarkation: We picked up luggage tags in the Crystal Atrium on Saturday night. We had our luggage in the hall before we went to bed at night. We chose a later time so we slept in and had a leisurely breakfast before going to the Crystal Atrium to wait for our color to be called. We had to walk quite a ways, but it went fairly quickly. We used SAS transport to bring us to Fort Lauderdale Hilton hotel...Would highly recommend SAS!
Would I cruse with NCL again? In a heartbeat...we are already planning my son's graduation trip to Hawaii in August! I took advantage of the $250 deposit while on board. I paid $250 which will cover our entire family's deposit on our Hawaii cruise and was given $100 on-board credit for this cruise.
Room 5064- great beds, great decor, great bathroom setup, close to elevators, quiet
We booked with Ronys after we found Victor Bodden's tours were sold out. We went with Fido who was wonderful. He took up to tour the island which included scenic views and shipwrecks. We stopped at the Iguana Farm for about 30 minutes. The iguanas and other animals were great. Next was a "glassbottom" boat tour. We were the only customers that day and they still took us out! You board the boat and walk down into the boat so you are sitting with windows on both sides of you to view the reef. Incredible experience! Took maybe 45 minutes. We drove to Victor's house to see all his animals. What a fun experience. The monkeys were a hoot! One grabbed a small tube of sunscreen out of my purse pocket and ran away with it. I told the guide and he started walking towards the monkey, and he immediately dropped it like he knew he was in trouble! Be warned..if they take something of yours, do not try to take it back. They will bite you! Then we went to WestBay (?) and had great blackened snapper. After that we did a bit of shopping and headed back to the ship. Fido was wonderful and made us feel very safe.
We booked our excursion through Coral Breezes. They used Hammerhead Sports for our snorkeling trip. We went with Mr. Bigs and his group and boated out to Bannister Island for a quick bathroom/change break. We then boated out to the reef and got in the water. Mr. Bigs led the group snorkeling for about 20-25 minutes and then called the boat around. I thought we were going to go to a second snorkeling spot, but they loaded us up and brought us to Bannister Island. The reef was beautiful, but we were very disappointed in how little time we spent in the water. Bannister Island was pretty but there was not much going on. The other two couples with us decided they were ready to go as well, so we headed out to look for Manatees a half hour early. We did see one manatee and watched him/her from about 10 feet away for 15-20 minutes, then headed back to Belize City. We stopped to see a dolphin jumping out of the water. I was disappointed in this excursion. Mr. Bigs and his crew (except James) were not interactive with us at all. James sat with my Mom and showed her pictures of fish when she didn't get off the boat to snorkel. I did talk with Mark from Coral Breezes and he was very appreciative of the feedback and has already spoken to Mr. Bigs. If ever in Belize again, I would choose the Reef/Stingray snorkeling & Caye Caulker excursion with this same company.
We were very impressed with the amenities in Costa Maya! There was a very nice shopping area and swimming pool area that we wished we had more time to use! We booked the Mayan Adventure with Native Choice. We were bussed to the Chachoben Ruins in very nice air conditioned buses. Our guide was an Austrian girl, Kutty?, who was terrific explaining our surroundings and the Mayan Culture. Once at the ruins, we had a 90 minute tour (cannot remember the guides name, but it was not Ivan or David) at the different ruins. Very informative (albeit a bit too long) but I learned so much about the Mayans! After the ruins, we drove to the Mayan host family's home! What beautiful gardens they had! It was great fun learning how to make tortillas and the meal they served was fantastic! They took a lot of time explaining the food they use and how food fits into their culture. One of the young women danced for us. It was so much fun! On the way back to Costa Maya, we stopped and bought fresh pineapple! It was the best pineapple ever! After returning, we did some shopping in the port area. It was a beautiful area and wished we had more time there both shopping and swimming!