Since all reviews are subjective, let me hell you about our party. We are a family of four, we are in our mid-forties and our kids are 19 and 17. I'm also french canadian so please be merciful when I make some big grammar ... Read More
Since all reviews are subjective, let me hell you about our party. We are a family of four, we are in our mid-forties and our kids are 19 and 17. I'm also french canadian so please be merciful when I make some big grammar ''no-nos'' ! We are not really fancy or stuffy folks. We travelled a bit when we where first married but mostly went camping when our kids were youger. Nonetheless, we like well- cooked meals , clean rooms, good service and good entertainement. We feel all of the above were delivered to us in our NCL cruise. This was our first cruise since our honeymoon, some 24 years ago (abord NCL m/s Southward) so I do not have anything else to compare our cruise with.
This was then also our first time participating in a CC group. Being not really gregarious people , we were a bit apprehensive about participating in the M&G. Told my concerns to the group and they all reassured me, so we went. We were very glad we did, met wonderful folks and everybody respected each others ' privacy. We chatted whenever we saw each other on the ship, danced together when we saw each other on the dance floor, had supper once at teppanyaki when we realized we made separate reservations at the same time, etc. It was a mix of privacy and friendliness and they all enriched our cruising experience immensely and we are very glad we participated. Even our kids who are generally reserved made friends to party with and had a blast ! So thanks to Andrea for making this all possible and to Jake for being the FB administrator. We also appreciated meeting some senior staff and management and being invited to a tour bridge. That was a very classy touch from NCL.
So now, it's embarkation time !!! It was the fastest thing I had ever seen ! Half an hour and we were onbord. Dropped our carry-ons at the Fyzz lounge and off we went to the Tsar for a great meal. Right after, we were called by staterooms floor to allow us in ours.
The ships is in Tip Top shape, being well cared for by the crew. The Decor is fun and joyful without being ''cheezy'' looking. We had booked two inside staterooms on the 9th floor, wich were very clean and the lay-out was perfect to my taste. The bathroom was a nice surprise. We appreciated our stewart, kept the room clean and made towel animal every night but the first one.
Overall, food was very good. We ate at the tsar and azura on sea days. The food was good. My husband took steak and it was cooked to his liking. We had lunch twice at the tsar and that was enough for us since the menu is always the same. That was a disappointement, I was not expecting that. I would have appreciated let's say, a three day menu rotation. More over, this was the only time my husband' steak was way overcooked. So off we went to discover the Garden Cafe. That was a nice surprise ! We felt the variety of food was really good. We also reallly enjoy the made-to-order stations : Crêpes, Pasta, Omelette and my husband ate his meat at the carving station every time we went. The little berrie sauce to put in your granolas or waffles were very good ! The bacon was out of this world, cooked to perfection ! We also enjoyed the fruits and fruit salad. Had a fruity soup once and was very good (peach and pistachio, I think). It was way to noisy to enjoy all this good food so we always brought our plates and ate in the Great Outdoors. OMG , that was paradise to me ! Eating at the aft of the ship is magical ! Even for supper we went there, since to my surprise, it was warm enough to enjoy our meal in the evenings. We went to two specialty restaurants : Tango and Teppanyaki. At Tango I would advise anyone to stay away from the ribs. They were the worst we ever saw. Full of fat and not grilled, just boiled with some bbq sauce slap on them. Should have taken the lobster taco, heard they are good. On the other hand, the ''Il Popo'' entree was very very good. I loved those hot Jalapenos ! At Teppanyaki the shrimps and steak were cooked to perfection, with a melt in your mouth feeling. I was a bit disapointed at the chocolate buffet. The presentation was really good but half of the cakes were a bit dry, and I did not see any chocolate covered strawberries, just chocolate fondue wich was not that good. My husband and I surely took a good 8 to 10 pds, so that would be difficult to say that we did not enjoy the food aboard !!!
As for the novovirus on board , I had it and for 24hrs the bucket was my best friends ! When I got better (after 24 hrs) we went to eat and the washy-washy lady made her entrance into our lives !!! She stayed there all cruise long with a smile on her face to sanitize our hands whenever anyone entered any restaurant. So a big kudo to her ! I did not mind all the sanitary precaution they took at the garden and everywhere. Better this than a full stomach flu outbreak onboard. No one else in my family got sick so I was grateful for all the precaution taken.
The entertainement was surprisingly good. I did not expect much out of it but everyone in our family enjoyed them ! And you know how 17 and 19 years old are not that easy to please ! My son though did not enjoy the band on the run show but my daughter did. I can't comment since I was near my bucket !!! My personal favorite was Incanto. Cirque Bijou not to be miss also. Very good were the.Magician/comedian Jean-Pierre and the a capella group ''Cats' pyjamas''. Did not attend the singer show, heard she was really good. Stevens Scott stand up show was the least favorite in our family. Maybe it's a cultural thing but did not find him to be funny. Then again, If you like funny faces , funny sounds à la Jim Carey you will like him. Just not our cup of tea.
Now, let's talk about our FABULOUS itinairy ! Leaving from NYC was so much fun and truly beautiful at dusk. Going under the brige was thrilling ! We arrived in NYC with our car from Pallisade Parkway and then the Henry Hudson highway ( not sure it's called an highway but you get the point) and up to our hotel because we arrive a day early to enjoy the city. Our hotel was The Affinia Manhattan and it was great. Our suite (it's an all suite hotel) was larger than expected and we had a full kitchen. The bathroom was a bit small but I did not mind. The location is fabulous, right in front of Madison Square Garden, near Macy's and the Empire state building. I am certain I saw Wll.I.Am, going up the stairs of the side entrance. It's when he smiled at me that I realized that it was him !!! I'm sure of that ,even though nobody in my family beleives me !!! BTW no bed bugs in sight ! I got a really good price($179) on the hotel website. I had booked back in april. To go to the terminal was a breeze but be sure to go park the car and then get your luggages and your family out. There is a stairwell to the pier. My husband, drop us plus the luggages at the pier and had to go back on Henry Hudson to go park the car.
By noon, on the second day ,it was warm enough to be in summer gear and we enjoyed our 2 days at sea to party and unwind before all those wonderfull ports of call.
Puerto Rico : Really enjoyed walking the Paseo La Princessa trought the Gate into the city to Fort El Morro. Visited the Fort ( It closes at 6 in winter) and then stroll trought Old san Juan. Back to the ship by 8, had supper and then my husband and I went back in town for a romantic walk along The Paseo and again into the city right on to Plaza Colon, sit there for a while and felt like a local. The Plaza the Armas and Plaza Colon were beautifully illuminated in blue. That was gorgeous , we felt like we were in the ''Avatar'' movie !!! We stayed on busy streets and felt save all evening long. Old San Juan is so beautiful, I feel like it is the Spanish version of Quebec City ( wich is a French walled city in Quebec). The grounds around the Fort reminded us of '' Les Plaines d'Abraham'' in Quebec.
In St-Thomas, I had booked independently a Sea Trekking session in Coral World. We wanted to make a day of this highlight and felt the 3 and a half hour NCL tour was not long enough to also enjoy the beach beside (Coki beach). So we took an open air cab and shared it with some people who wanted to go to Magens beach so the driver stopped at Drake Seat for some pictures then stopped at Magens Beach to debark them so at least we got to see it ! Then off to Coki Beach. Very nice beach but a lot of people asseling us to offer us food , drink, cookies for fishes etc... Anyhoo, we spent a nice 2 hrs there and then off to the Sea Trekking. I was a bit scared but did it anyway, and I am really glad I did ! So much fun ! We bought the pictures and videos of us under water for $60 bucks. It is very worth it to relive our adventure over and over. Then visited Coral World. Nice but small. Took a taxi back to the ship and asked the driver to go and stop for pictures on the Mountain Top. Great View of the bay and of OUR JEWEL ! When we got to the ship, really appreciated the frozen towel they gave us to cool down. Nice touch !
In Antigua, We booked an NCL tour. The swim with stingrays tour. OMG So much FUN ! It is really impressive. My daughter was a bit scared but did it anyway and we had a blast. Our bus driver was nice and talked to us about Antigua along the way. Had lunch aboard the ship then it was off to Dickenson Beach. Very Nice ! Right after we got off our Stingray tour, my daughter started to itch and by the time we got back onboard after the beach she had rashes on her feet , hands ant tights. The next morning it was worse so we went to the medical center aboard and they took good care of her. They said i twas an alergic reaction to the ''oil'' on the rays and prescribed her some cream and medecine that soothed her almost right away. We were all greatful for their service.
In St-Marteen, we did a morning walk into Philipsburg and walked the great bay beach in it's full lenght. Since it was early in the morning, we had the beach to ourselves. On our way back to the ship pass through the city streets for a bit of shopping. Back to the ship for lunch, and then we went to the NCL tour I had booked. 4X4 Jeep tour of the whole island. Was fun but a bit frustrating for me who likes to take picture. I did not realized we would not stop here and there for some shots. We did not stopped also in Marigot, just drove throught it. Then we spent an hour in Orient beach. So beautiful !! (No No, not talking about the nude part, surely not THAT beautiful !) I realize now that is was a big convoy and there is not much place to pull over so many jeep. Our guide BJ, was good at keeping the convoy togheter and talking trought the walkie-talkie they landed us telling us about what we were seeing and some the islands particularities. Then back to the ship and the frozen towels!!!
In Tortola we did the NCL tour ''Virgin Gorda Highlights'' What a Great tour !!! First we took what they called a ferry. It is not the ferry I'm used to !!! Much Better ! More like a giant speed boat ! Very nice ride ! Then we were driven in an open air bus to The Bath. So gorgeous ! Lots of cactus ! We choose ( as I was advice in tour reviews I had read) to do the path in reverse starting with Devil's Beach stay there for a bit (almost by ourselve) and then when people started to arrive, off we went to work our way to the Bath. So much fun. Those boulder are truly impressive. A must see ! Not too much people since they now were all at Devil's Beach ! You should absolutely wear those Wet Suit Shoes if you book this tour. We had them and were able to be more carefree and enjoy the walk and were able to climb some boulder. Sandals just won't cut it. All in all a very impressive and beautiful sight.
All the reserch for the NCL tour we pre-booked was done on their website and I called my NCL consultant (Bridget Carter) for the booking. I truly appreciated her. I felt in good hands and she was always returning my calls : To rebook our cruise for a lower price, to prepay the gratuities and to buy the 2 soda packages and a $100 gift certificate I did buy for myself to use in the teppanyaki. I was sorry to be told she was no longer working there when we wanted to book our next cruise on the Dawn. So now it's Alexis ext.4253. We see how it goes but so far so good !
The big surprise was disembarkation ! What a let down from the breezing embarkation we had. I guess half the ship decided to do the NOT-SO-EASY Walk off. We were in line with our luggages (way too much of them !), our coats, and our good spirits but we were off the ship at only 10:30! Next time will do the easy walk off really early or sit on our buns in any lounge and wait until 10 :30 ! This is the only thing that did not go smootly in all of our cruise and we feel needs improvement.
We are very satisfied with our cruising experience and feel we received our money's worth and beyond ! We would go back on the Jewel (and probably will) and even redoing the same itinary since it was so great ! But for now, the countdown to our next cruise abord the Dawn next january (for another fabulous 11 days itinary) has already started and we can't hardly wait !!!
Thank you to everyone , in all departements , for making our vacation a memorable one !!! Read Less