Review of Norwegian Cruise Lines ship Jewel 1/5/19 thru 1/30/19
The Norwegian Jewel can be a good value depending on your priorities. I’ll touch on what I felt were the major items to help you make that decision.
Price: When you compare prices, the NCL ships appear to be a good value. Remember to add mandatory port charges and $15 per person per day gratuities. These might be included in other competing prices. Also, most added amenities costs extra. Some things you expect (shore excursions, casino play, spa treatments, and liquor). Some things are surprises (fountain soft drinks, coffee (anything but regular), Wi-Fi (only 2G), bottled water (you cannot take off or bring on any water, but theirs), and any room food service (except continental breakfast).
Staterooms: The staterooms are a good size compared to other similar priced ships. The mini-suite level and above have bathtubs with retractable clothes lines. The water was always hot and had good pressure. The room stewards and stewardesses are polite and attentive. I would not recommend anything smaller than a mini-suite for more than two people for more than a week. A balcony room (next level down) might be acceptable for three people for only a week.
Ship: The ship has been refurbished, but is still showing its age. Everything was kept clean and there were no funky smells (like on some other older ships). There is no grand entrance with chandeliers, curving staircases, glass elevators, or a shopping gallery. There were a few burnt out light bulbs in the common areas, and the common bathroom towel dispensers don’t work. The twin pools are small, but there are four hot tubs. There are no newer extras such as water slides, climbing walls, target shooting, or similar activities. There are shuffleboards, ping pong tables, gym, basketball hoops, casino, spa, theater, card room, library, and several bars. The ship doctor is only available for a few hours a day, charges $150 to see you, and does not have a pharmacy (your need to take his prescription ashore at the next port to have it filled). All of the personnel were helpful and courteous whenever we met in the hallways, in the dining areas, or on the ship decks. Partway through the cruise, the sole of my shoe came loose. The hotel staff had someone repair it within a few days. Our cabin tv was not working properly and would only get about half of the channels. It took them ten days of working in our cabin (a few hours each day) to get all of the channels all of the time.
Dining: There are buffets and dining rooms included in your price. There are six specialty restaurants which are $30 (or more) per person per meal. The included food options are fine for breakfast and lunch, but plan on buying dinner (the food is much better). In the included food places, the meat (beef, pork, chicken, turkey, or seafood) was consistently over cooked. Wine runs about $9 per glass, but you can buy four mix and match bottles starting at $105 ($88 plus 20% duty charge) to drink anywhere on the ship.
Entertainment: Most of the singers on our cruise are non-American born performers singing American songs. So, the songs might not sound exactly as you think they should. But they all were pleasant and did try their best. The musicians from the various bands were generally good, and some were very good. The other types of performers were average to good. The productions were not as lavish as on other ships we have been on.
Shore Excursion Department: This was the biggest disappointment. The shore tour descriptions don’t match reality, and they are double the price of booking them on your own. The personnel in the department have not been on the excursions, so they cannot answer any questions. Their standard response was “The descriptions are written by our head office in Miami. It is unknown where they get their information. We only know what is in the description.” It would have been nice if the Excursion Department put a talk on the night before in one of the lounges regarding the following day’s port. The talk would include: 1) Why the ship chose this particular port, 2) How to get around, 3) What is special to see, to eat, and to buy in this port, and 4) Approximately how much money do these activities cost (so you bring enough money ashore). Alas, this is not the case. You are completely on your own, so make sure that you do a lot of research before you go (including reading reviews of the things you are thinking of doing). We saved for years and traveled to the other side of the world and booked ship tours, only to learn these lessons the hard way. There is nothing worse than to have your dinner companions say “Did you see that special ______? It only happens in this one place in the world.” And to realize that the ship never mentioned it because they didn’t have a tour doing it that they could make money off you. On the ship tours that we did book, they never left the ship on time (some over an hour later) which cut into the excursion time. Rather than leave the port a little bit later to compensate, the excursion was cut short (i.e. you may have paid for a five hour tour, but you only got four hours). However, if you book tours on your own, you need to remember that you won’t be allowed to get off the ship for an hour or two after its port arrival time. Ship tours have priority in disembarking. Due to amount of time needed to get off and on the ship, most ports only had six hours ashore. Our cruise went to the South Pacific and Australia. We had well over a hundred snorkelers and scuba divers (some like us even brought our own equipment). Water sports are what this part of the world is known for. And there was not a single talk put on by the Excursion Department (or anyone else) regarding the places to go while in port. It was only later that we learned that if we had taken the local bus to the other side of the islands, that the water, fish, and coral were so much more superior. It was easy to tell that the Department was geared towards how to make the most money off the passengers, and not how to ensure that the passengers have their best time possible.
Conclusion: If you can get a great price, are not looking for a fancy ship or food, and are willing to tackle ports on your own (or pay high prices), then the Norwegian Jewel cruise may be a good vacation for you. While we have done several Norwegian cruises in the past, I'm not sure we would cruise on the Jewel again.