We had a wonderful time on the Jewel. We have been on 6 prior cruises; this was our second on NCL. We flew into Tampa and drove down to Miami. The drive took about 4 hours. It was an easy drive and we saw quite a few alligators on the way down. We rented the car from Alamo. No drop off fees and they take you to the cruise port.
We arrived at the cruise port at 12:45. The line was horrible to check in. We were later told that customs forgot about the time change and that is what delayed check in. We were on the ship by 2:15.
The ship is absolutely beautiful. We had a mini suite for the first time. I must say we are now spoiled! We loved it. We were on deck 11 towards the back of the ship. This was very convenient for the buffet and Tsars. We loved how dark the room could get with the drapes closed. Our two girls slept on the sofa bed. The deck was bigger than a balcony room making it easier for 4 people to be out on it. We loved the bathroom. It had a toilet with door, sink and then a tub. My girls really enjoyed having a tub.
Food-The buffet was the best buffet we had ever been to on a ship. We liked how the areas were separated so we didn't have to just go through one long line. Breakfast-The omelet stations were great. They would even make eggs cooked to order. One morning we made a bagel sandwich. The bacon was great. French toast and waffles were also very tasty. Lunch was also very good. The pasta station was unbelievable. The best I've ever had. They had about 5 or 6 different pasta shells. You could choose your sauce (marinara, meat sauce, Alfredo, butter and garlic). They would then put this in a pan and you could tell them to add things like bacon, parmesan, garlic, green onions, etc. Once this cooked for a minute or so they would add freshly cooked noodles. YUM! Pizza was also good when it just came out of the oven. Whenever they have a sail-away bar-b-que make sure you get the food. It was extra good, right off a grill. Room Service- Order the BLT's, they are nice when you come back from port hungry. Their personal pizzas were also good. My girls ordered chicken strips and my husband and I wanted to claim them.
Dinner-Tsars and Azure, this is where I felt the food wasn't nearly as good. It was okay just not my type of food. One night we ate at Tango's. I loved it. We had Taquitos, nachos, quesadillas, fajitas, burritos and a really good dessert with ice cream, cornbread crumbs and fruit. We also ate at Chin Chin's. I really liked the lettuce wraps. My husband got Mushu pork and some kind of beef. I enjoyed the Kung Pao Chicken. Dessert was again great- a banana pancake with sauce. Kid's crew-My girls absolutely loved the kid's crew. They had so much fun when we were on the ship. My 6 year old kept wanting to skip lunch so she could stay in the kids club. The hours are 9AM-10PM. They are open until 10:30 if a show is going on. My daughter who is 11, wanted to skip swimming to stay in the kids club. We finally pried them away, so they could do the waterslide. Staff-The Jewel has the absolute best Captain Konstantino Fafalios. You always saw him coming to the buffet for lunch. He really made himself visible to the guests. He was very friendly and you could tell he wanted to make sure everyone was enjoying themselves. John O'Hara was wonderful to. I really appreciated all his help and information. My daughter had to do a project for her school and the staff was very eager to help. Also, big thanks to Helmet for providing great information about the meals on the ship. Ports Roatan-We booked Tabayan Beach break through NCL. The beach was very nice, however it was a cloudy day so not as nice as it could be. There were plenty of chairs available. We did not experience any of the sand fleas that I had read about. The food I felt was awful. The only thing I could eat was the pineapple. It is hard to cook for that many people on a beach. I of course am a very picky eater. Overall, though we did have a good day.
Belize-We booked with Cavetubing.bz. Vitalino Jr was our guide. It was us and another family we had met through cruise critic. We had so much fun. It was great to have this small group to go through the caves with. This was our second time cave tubing. After tubing we had a delicious lunch of chicken, rice and coleslaw. They also give you a soda or rum punch. We were starving after tubing and we couldn't get enough. Highly recommend it. Costa Maya-Maya Chan-I can't say enough about this place. We were met outside the port by the Maya Museum; they promptly sent us in a taxi to Maya Chan. Once at Maya Chan we were greeted by Preston. He was so funny. Mark the owner was right inside. They were getting ready for a wedding that day. It's funny my daughter is only 11, but once she saw the setting for the wedding she was already thinking into the future this would be a great place for a wedding. Absolutely beautiful! Once we picked a spot to spend the day, I thought I would never get my husband out of the hammock for the rest of the day. They immediately gave us a rum punch and some fresh fruit. The place was just so relaxing. The drinks were yummy and the food was very good. We loved the floats; you can actually take two drinks with you out into the water. We even saw a stingray that day. We originally were going to kayak and snorkel but we were having such a good time relaxing on the lounger beds and sipping drinks that we just couldn't make ourselves get up. The next time we are in Costa Maya we will definitely be heading back to Maya Chan. Great Stirrup Cay-They were doing renovations here, so I don't think our experience was the norm. Part of the beach was closed. There were so many people and not enough chairs. We stayed about 2 hours then headed back to the ship.
Overall-We loved almost everything about our cruise. The cabin, the staff, and the ship were all just wonderful. On the ship we put a deposit down for a future cruise. We can't wait. We love the NCL experience. This was one of our better cruises, of course I have never had a bad cruise just some better than others. If you have any doubts about going on a cruise don't, this one is a JEWEL!