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Norwegian Jewel Cruise Review
4.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating
2,389 Reviews

Amazing New Zealand, great ship, great fun

Norwegian Jewel Cruise Review by MkeCruzn

3 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: Jan 2020
  • Destination: Australia & New Zealand
  • Cabin Type: Penthouse with Large Balcony

We selected this ship and itinerary because we wanted to visit this part of the world for the first time. Cruising seemed an ideal way to see a lot of New Zealand including the sounds on the South Island. We planned our own air since we wanted to stay an extra few days in Auckland at the beginning and Sydney at the end. More on this later.

The Norwegian Jewel was just refurbished and it’s clean overall. If you’ve been on other Jewel-class ships, this will feel comfortable. There are a few differences (no Atrium Bar, for example) but they were small things. The crew kept saying that this was the “friendliest ship” in the Norwegian fleet, and I must say that they lived up to this billing.

Embarkation was smooth and quick. We arrived around 12:30 pm so the crowds had not started growing too large. Disembarkation went smoothly also, but was a bit jammed up at 9:30 am since it seems that is when many people want to leave.

Entertainment was very good overall. The main thing that kept it from being excellent was a comedian-magician near the end of the cruise. He was trying to be funny during his interactions with the audience, but it mostly came across as creepy and unfunny. I think they were giving him a trial, as he was really not up to the level of the other performers. The other professional shows were amazing, high quality and professionally done. The lounge bands were typical for cruises: decent and competent, but not really inspiring.

The food onboard was excellent overall, but we only went to a few venues. For the free venues, O’Sheehans has the most unique menu choices and the longest hours. Tsar’s Palace (main dining) was our preferred sit-down restaurant for dinner, with good service and tasty food. Azura (the second main dining room) appears to be where they train newer staff members; service wasn’t as consistent. We grabbed a snack a couple of times in the Garden Café, and that was reasonable but seemed always busy. For the specialty restaurants, we went to Cagney’s, Le Bistro, Teppanyaki, La Cucina, and twice to Moderno (overall, our favorite). We bought a 6-dinner package, so the cost per meal was less than $30.

Our Free at Sea offer included Wi-Fi, ship to shore phone, drinks package and $50 per port shipboard credit per tour booked. One issue we had with the Wi-Fi: most ships allow you to connect to the NCL app while you're onboard without using your package minutes. Not on the Jewel: my app said that I had to connect to the Wi-Fi in order to use the app, which would burn up the minutes. You can buy more time, including unlimited, but it costs. I’m planning to comment to NCL about this.

The enrichment talks were mostly good, although the educational talks were somewhat dry and not engaging.

Ports: Overall, the ports provided a wide range of opportunities for tours and local exploration. The time in each port was a good fit for the number of activities available in each.

Auckland: We stayed at the Avani Metropolis for three full days before embarking on Monday. We took a tour to Hobbiton and the Glow Worm caves on one day, which we booked in advance. We toured Waiheke Island on a wine tasting day, which we booked once we arrived in Auckland. We had a day free to walk around the city and meet up with other cruisers from the roll call for a casual sunset snack. Embarkation day is available to do a few things, if you don’t mind boarding relatively late (4:00 pm is the latest possible), but note that you can’t get off the ship once you’ve boarded.

Bay of Islands: a beautiful location. We did not plan anything in advance, and we found there were many tours available from local providers once we got off the ship. We took a fast boat ride out to the Hole in the Rock and had a great time, then walked around the town. There’s a free shuttle from the tender dock into town (and back, of course). You can walk but it’s a bit far. The Treaty Grounds is near the tender dock, but it’s not free to go in and walk around.

Tauranga: We booked a tour on our own to the Te Puia Geothermal Valley and Maori cultural show. It turned out to be a private tour for the same price as a group tour. Most of the other tours went to Hobbiton and the Glow Worm caves, and we felt that we made a good choice to do this tour earlier.

Napier: We took an Art Deco tour through the ship, which was probably a good idea due to the limited number of tours. This tour started with a drive around the residential areas, followed by a walking tour that was done early enough to have time to walk back around the town.

Picton: We booked a day-long wine tasting tour on our own, in advance. We were a group of 11 and we had a great time. Getting back in time was no problem, and the smaller group size let us visit smaller wineries. It seemed that many people do a wine tour here, as we saw a lot of other tour groups.

Akaroa: A nice little port town. We took the Black Cat harbor cruise and saved money by booking it upon arrival. We saw some nice dolphins, seals and lots of birds. We walked around town and enjoyed seeing the historic buildings.

Dunedin: We took the ship tour to Nature’s Wonders, which is a private wildlife park about an hour and half by bus from the ship. We saw a lot of seals and a few nesting penguins. We did not have a lot of time to visit Dunedin on the way back. They did offer to drop people off in Dunedin if they wanted. Note: there is no free shuttle between Port Chalmers and Dunedin (round trip is $10 NZ per person).

Cruising the sounds: The weather was cooperative and the clouds that hugged the coastline did not extend very far into the sounds. As a result, we had beautiful conditions in all three sounds. We feel fortunate, as the cruise before us could not visit the sounds due to high winds.

At sea (2 days): About what you’d expect. The first day, the weather was a little rough and windy for our cabin crawl, but we all managed. The weather the second day was much warmer and less windy, so it was a good day for the pool and deck.

Sydney: We stayed 5 days including debarkation day (you should have most of the day available). We stayed at the Sydney Harbour B&B in The Rocks, near the top, so we got lots of exercise walking up and down the stairs. It was also Australia Day on Jan. 26 (Sunday) so we couldn’t do a lot of regular activities due to disruption of the ferry schedules. We toured the Opera House on Saturday morning and attended a concert there in the afternoon. If you have the choice, take an early tour (9:30 at the latest) so you can visit the concert halls that may be closed later in the day for events. We also visited the Tauranga Zoo, but bad weather delayed the opening of the Sky Safari (tram from bottom to top).

We'd definitely go back on a similar itinerary, but we would pick one with more ports in Australia or maybe plan some more land time on our own.


MkeCruzn's Full Rating Summary
Cabin
Onboard Experience
Enrichment Activities
Value For Money
Embarkation
Dining
Public Rooms
Entertainment
Fitness & Recreation
Shore Excursions
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Cabin Review

Penthouse with Large Balcony

We originally booked a midship balcony on Deck 9 and got an upgrade to the aft-facing penthouse with larger balcony for a pretty good price. It turned out really well, since the penthouse includes access to Moderno for breakfast and lunch (with the Haven guests) and access to the Haven deck for viewing Doubtful, Dusky and Milford Sounds on the last day in New Zealand. Our personal butler kept the amenities well stocked (including our own Nespresso machine in-cabin). We hosted the CC cabin crawl for our sailing, and they brought snacks, orange juice and glasses for making mimosas. We also got priority access to board tenders and we could disembark at any time we wanted.


Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

Auckland

We stayed at the Avani Metropolis for three full days before embarking on Monday. We took a tour to Hobbiton and the Glow Worm caves on one day, which we booked in advance. We toured Waiheke Island on a wine tasting day, which we booked once we arrived in Auckland. We had a day free to walk around the city and meet up with other cruisers from the roll call for a casual sunset snack.

We did not plan anything in advance, and we found there were many tours available from local providers once we got off the ship. We took a fast boat ride out to the Hole in the Rock and had a great time, then walked around the town. There's a free shuttle from the tender dock into town (and back, of course). You can walk but it's a bit far. The Treaty Grounds is near the tender dock, but it's not free to go in and walk around.

View All undefined undefined Reviews
Geothermal Springs

We booked a tour on our own to the Te Puia Geothermal Valley and Maori cultural show. It turned out to be a private tour for the same price as a group tour. Most of the other tours went to Hobbiton and the Glow Worm caves, and we felt that we made a good choice to do this tour earlier.

View All 40 Geothermal Springs Reviews
Rotorua

We booked a tour on our own to the Te Puia Geothermal Valley and Maori cultural show. It turned out to be a private tour for the same price as a group tour. Most of the other tours went to Hobbiton and the Glow Worm caves, and we felt that we made a good choice to do this tour earlier.

View All 63 Rotorua Reviews
Taste of Marlborough

We booked a day-long wine tasting tour on our own, in advance. We were a group of 11 and we had a great time. Getting back in time was no problem, and the smaller group size let us visit smaller wineries. It seemed that many people do a wine tour here, as we saw a lot of other tour groups.

View All 18 Taste of Marlborough Reviews
Napier Art Deco Tour

We took an Art Deco tour through the ship, which was probably a good idea due to the limited number of tours. This tour started with a drive around the residential areas, followed by a walking tour that was done early enough to have time to walk back around the town.

View All 16 Napier Art Deco Tour Reviews

We took the Black Cat harbor cruise and saved money by booking it upon arrival. We saw some nice dolphins, seals and lots of birds.

View All undefined undefined Reviews

We took the ship tour to Nature's Wonders, which is a private wildlife park about an hour and half by bus from the ship. We saw a lot of seals and a few nesting penguins. We did not have a lot of time to visit Dunedin on the way back. They did offer to drop people off in Dunedin if they wanted.

View All undefined undefined Reviews
Dusky Sound

The weather was cooperative and the clouds that hugged the coastline did not extend very far into the sounds. As a result, we had beautiful conditions in all three sounds. We feel fortunate, as the cruise before us could not visit the sounds due to high winds.


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MkeCruzn
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