We like cruising. We have been on several cruises, Costa, Holland America, Royal Caribean and Carnival and this was our first Norwegian experience. We are not the dress-up types and the fixed dinner seatings on most cruise lines are not our favourite, so the freestyle cruising from Norwegian sounded like a perfect match. Being from Sweden the Auckland to Sydney sailing was quite exotic for us so the Norwegian Jewel was our choice for this year.
General impression of the ship.
I liked the ship in general. It is quite modest in colors, not too much glitter and glamour and it feels relaxed. There is plenty of bars and dining, I would have liked a little bit more space to sit and read in a smaller lounge without activities and music though. The swimming pools are in one space, on other ships they are often separated to create a lively and quieter area so you can choose. There are plenty of bars, restaurants and although we had a full cruise, it never felt crowded. I liked the bridge viewing room, never seen that before. Fellow passengers were mainly from New Zealand and Australië and I really enjoyed their company.
The ship has a lot of different venues for dining. Apart from the main dining rooms and the buffet there are a complimentary Irish pub and an Asean restaurant, and several specialty dining restaurants. You are free to come whenever you like and dress code is minimal, but I was refused in the Tsars Palace main dining for not wearing a collared shirt. The alternative is the Azurre restaurant, it serves the same menu but is far less attractive. We never had to cue for any of the dining venues. We had a specialty dining package and used quite some of the restaurants.
The buffet restaurant is not my favourite. It looked always crowded and noisy so we hardly used it. The Garden Cafe was the better choice, it offered a smaller selection but you could sit outside.
The Azurre and Tsars Palace are the main dining venues. The Azurre is located midships and does not look very inviting. Tsars Palace is brighter and we we got a table at the window often. We like to share a table and talk with fellow passengers, but without asking we got a table for two. To be honest, I found the food in the main dining not the strongest part of the cruise. It was three courses, a bit middle of the road, and no local specialties. We now and then got food that had been standing for a while, was a bit cold or dry. Have seen better! The O'Sheehans Irish pub can be an alternative, pubfood, but not too bad. We had 4 specialty dinners in our package, we choose the Brazilian, Teppanyaki and French Bistro. To me it made a great difference. We loved the Moderno Brazilian, good meat, nice staff, nice atmosphere. Teppanyaki was good fun and good quality as well and we enjoyed the French Bistro as well. We did not try the Asean, Italian and Steakhouse...
Bars and drinks.
We were on the free at sea beverage package and that is good value.
But we were a bit disappointed by the fact that specialty coffees were excluded from the package. And we found out that it is hard to get anything else then a brewed coffee anyway. There is only one place for a specialty coffee: the central coffee bar which is exploited by Starbucks where you get your latte in a disposable cup... Personally, I prefer a well brewed and nicely served coffee and I don't need any Starbucks during my cruise.
I am not the napkin-folding or bingo kind of guy, so I can't judge on that, but I love theatre so we don't miss any of the shows. The theatre is the best I have ever seen on a cruise ship. It is huge and you have an unobstructed view from any seat. The shows are very well done. The production shows where of high standard, very professional and with quite good singers as well. Although not always my taste, I enjoyed every show just because it was so well done.
To be honest, I have never been disappointed by the staff one any of my previous cruises, and Norwegian Jewel is no exception. Without exception, staff is kind, attentive and courteous.
I felt a bit like I had to be a bit carefull on buying additional services. Shore excursions are ridiculously overpriced, and I felt the same on any spa treatment. There was a raffle where you could win spa vouchers, I spoke to one of the 'winners' and they needed to spend a certain amount of money first to be able to redeem their price. I was willing to buy cruisenext vouchers (*Buy 1000 dollar vouchers, get 500 dollar off your ships account immediately') but found out you can only spend 250 dollar at a time on a new cruise. I have to book 4 cruises to use the whole 1000 dollar.
Despite some remarks, I liked the cruise experience with Norwegian. It was good value for money. Would I cruise with them again? Yes, but I would consider other cruise lines as well.
The cabin was on deck 8, a few steps from O¨Sheehans. It was quite satisfied with it. Big enough, relatively spacious bathroom. We will not sit in the room to watch outside the window but we do like a bit of natural light in the room, so obstructed view was a good choice. Housekeeping was very good, sometimes a bit too much replacing personal items and taking papers out of the garbagebin we had thrown away. But overall more than satisfied with room and service.