6 Norwegian Jewel Cruise Reviews for Group and Theme Cruises to Caribbean - Western

My husband and I took our fist trip alone with out our son (who is nearly 3) in February. We went for the 2 bedroom penthouse suite and were glad we did just because it was nice to have 2 bathrooms, the more comfortable chairs on the ... Read More
My husband and I took our fist trip alone with out our son (who is nearly 3) in February. We went for the 2 bedroom penthouse suite and were glad we did just because it was nice to have 2 bathrooms, the more comfortable chairs on the balcony and some space to spread out. Since we were in a suite, we had priority embarkation (awesome), a butler (imperative), and breakfast/lunch at Cagney's (the best perk of all). We arrived in NOLA and it was rainy, so we skipped the french quarter and just boarded the boat. We had lunch at Cagneys (seriously, have I told you it was the best perk) and explored the ship a bit. Our room was awesome. I slept in every bed in the room during our 7 night stay, but preferred the lounge chairs on the balcony or the floor to any of the beds. I kid you not, I slept on the floor 3 of the 7 nights and on the patio 2x. The bed was hard as a rock, as was the pull down bunk and the pull out couch. I have a bad back, so it was easier to sleep on the floor and know what I would wake up with. MDR food was pretty crappy as was the buffet, but again, I am on a special diet and cant have fried food, dairy, or sugar, so most of the options for me were removed before we got started. The ports of call were great and I will re-state again that the suites have the priority stuff and we were on the first tender off the boat in Belize which meant we got to our excursions earlier than anyone else. We booked all the excursions through external sources and were very happy with all of them. Coral Breeze Tours (Belize), Argel and Adiel King (cozumel), and Subway Watersports (Roatan) were all excellent and I will do them again. The boat was clean, there were no lines for food (ever) and the shows were fine. Don't spend the money on the hibachi restaurant (it sucked) but go ahead and pop for cagneys if you aren't in a suite. Read Less
Sail Date February 2014
I went with a group of 130 ppl. The food has definitely changed with most of the cruise lines from what others said in the ports from the other ships. This was my 10th cruise but my first on Norwegian. The food was good in the buffet. I ... Read More
I went with a group of 130 ppl. The food has definitely changed with most of the cruise lines from what others said in the ports from the other ships. This was my 10th cruise but my first on Norwegian. The food was good in the buffet. I was disappointed with the food in the main dining rooms. It seems like they are trying to push the cruisers to the specialty (for an extra fee) dining rooms. I never went to a specialty dining room. The people I know that did go to the Japanese Steak House said that it was good and worth the extra $25 that they paid each for their meal. I wish that I would have just stuck with the buffet. The ship was clean and they were squirting our hands with sanitizer every time we entered the ship and buffet. There were self serve sanitizer balls at every dining room and many other places on the ship. We had a great room steward, but some friends complained that they couldn't get extra water delivered to their room fridge. ( they were on another deck with another steward). Overall the destinations were what made the trip special. The room and balcony did seem smaller compared to the ones I've been on with Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Princess. Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
We've sailed on Holland America, Princess, and Celebrity before so we were looking forward to our first NCL cruise aboard the Jewel. The New Orleans Cruise Port is adjacent to the old Riverwalk and Convention Center and was somewhat ... Read More
We've sailed on Holland America, Princess, and Celebrity before so we were looking forward to our first NCL cruise aboard the Jewel. The New Orleans Cruise Port is adjacent to the old Riverwalk and Convention Center and was somewhat a pain to get to. It may of been newly refurbished as there weren't signs directing people anywhere. After almost boarding the ship without checking in (Port staff had no clue) - and after 30 minutes in line, we finally checked in and boarded the ship. Our first objective was to sign up for the "Ultimate Beverage Package" which ends up being $400 a person, both people in a room MUST purchase so there goes $800 right out the door. What they don't really make obvious - is that the package doesn't cover all your drinks. Bottled water and specialty coffees ARE NOT included. We were hit with a $6 charge for a bottle of water! Dinner in the "Tsars" dining room was a bit stuffy, because you have to wear pants. We wanted to use our beverage package, but there were no Beverage / Wine Stewards to be found. We discovered most people don't change for dinner, and eat at the "Azure" dining room - which was always busier than the other. After a few days in, we began to notice that a good portion of the staff, maybe 50%, were somewhat new to working on a cruise ship. According to other cruisers, half of the trained staff on the Jewel went to go work on the new Norweigan Epic. Learning this let us switch our patience modes, but our patience only goes so far. I doubt we'll return to NCL anytime soon. They aim to upcharge you for EVERYTHING - so much that it got annoying. Don't buy the beverage package unless you can drink 8 drinks a day MINIMUM. Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
. . . on a ship, that is! First off, I think a cruise is always the most relaxing of vacations, and have to have one every year. This was the one and only for us in 2013. However, we picked NCL only because we were part of the Aquafest ... Read More
. . . on a ship, that is! First off, I think a cruise is always the most relaxing of vacations, and have to have one every year. This was the one and only for us in 2013. However, we picked NCL only because we were part of the Aquafest group on board - an association of GLBT folk who each year at Hallowe'en partially charter a ship for a great party. NCL works well for these events, with its "Freestyle Cruising". The party was fun, the ship was fun, the crew was fun, but outside of an Aquafest function we would be sailing on another line. Embarkation was great. We're from New Orleans, so, of course, it's a fantastic place to start your trip! We were on the ship quickly and smoothly. In time for the lunch we always enjoy on sailing day in the main dining room - here, Tsar's Palace. This is a good idea. You avoid the push and shove of the buffet, and are seated for a refined, civilized experience. The ship is decently laid out and easy to get around. I have never seen such clear markings of where the venues are on any ship in the past. Also, the elevators have guides, telling you what is on each deck. This was my first cruise I did not walk the ship deck to deck before sailing to familiarize myself with it. We were able to join the group party at the Sky Bar instead! That said, there is a massive bottleneck between the pool deck and the buffet, as it skirts the pool grill and goes past the pool's restrooms. Two columns in the middle of this path were padded, gridiron style - a reminder of past boo-boos. It appears the pool deck at one time had paths on both the port and starboard sides, allowing for better flow. The port side is closed at both ends - aft by a hot tub that is an obvious addition. A pleasant consequence is there is a nice secluded place by the pool and two hot tubs in the forward port corner of the pool deck. The pool deck on the Jewel is quite large, accommodating two large pools and four hot tubs, plus the one that was an afterthought. The itinerary includes the usual Western Caribbean suspects: Cozumel, Belize, Roatan, and The Magic Mayan Kingdom (a/k/a Costa Maya). I understand there's a different set of itineraries too, including Jamaica and Grand Cayman. Again - we were on board for the party, and not the ports. At Cozumel we had a booked excursion through Cozumelwatersports.com. A catamaran/snorkel excursion that was absolutely fabulous. Not too large. A real catamaran. The cast and crew very attentive to safety and comfort. Will do again. NCL quite often, for more money, places you on a cattle boat with 80 people for a "snorkel/sail". Yes, Belize is third world. But not everyone gets to live in the USA. Explore the city. Stay on the main street that goes over the pivot bridge. Absorb it. Watch your wallet, especially when someone "bumps" into you. Ignore the men trying to sell you their sisters. We walked down this street to St. John's Anglican Cathedral, and enjoyed a delightful treat of early 19th Century Caribbean architecture. You could absorb the history from the plaques on the walls. Across from the back of the church is the Government House, open as a museum. Some fine displays of Belize in the past, and a great specimen of old colonial days. I thought I was in a W. Somerset Maugham story! Wondering around the grounds of Government House the staff pointed out to us two iguanas in the trees. What a treat. Walking back the children were being let out of two schools on our route, and it was great to see them in their starched white uniforms. (Much more presentable than the typical American kid, I might say.) Back in the tourist village we went to our favorite shop, The Loom Ltd., which sells pillow covers, runners, etc., to find them in the midst of a liquidation sale. Budging them out of their space? Diamonds International. As if they need more room! At Roatan we did a beach party with our Aquafest group, and it was a blast. A great beach club. Great Honduran beers. Great fun! Not too much at the Coxen Hole port, it appears. Consider an excursion here. Costa Maya was another beach party, one that NCL gave to Aquafest for free. Thank goodness we did not pay for it, as it was a poor cousin to the Roatan experience. 45 minute bus ride each way - but in a comfortable bus. Not much in the way of shaded areas, and no umbrellas. However, a very special young lady pointed out an open thatched hut with recliners and chairs - even a table and a counter - and we enjoyed the day there. Great food and beverage service. But, we might not have been so happy if we had to pay for it. Costa Maya is a huge disappointment, and we are glad that next year, when the Jewel sails from Houston for the Aquafest cruise, it will be off the list. As for restaurants: We are used to dining well - both at home and when traveling (we're from New Orleans!). The only restaurant on board worthy of the upcharge, we concluded, is Le Bistro. The food there is excellent. The staff is the most coordinated and pleasant of any of the dining rooms on board. We ate there four times - twice as scheduled dinner - once as part of the "Chef's Table" event - and a fourth time for the Jazz Brunch the final day at sea. I would recommend all of it. Especially Chef's Table. A multi-course meal with champagne and three different (and good) wines - for about $80.00 per person. A couple photos, too! And, after dinner drinks. The food and service were memorable. Look for this - especially the day you board. We found out about it from a pleasant lady bringing specialty restaurant menus around the main dining room on the day we sailed. Or, ask about it at a specialty restaurant desk in the lobby the day you board. On future cruises we will likely eat in the main dining room for dinner on the other nights, as we did our first night - when we had a pleasant meal. Cagney's is just a steakhouse, and while the food was good, it was rushed and the service was poor. We were ignored after our entrees were served. Moderno, a churrascaria, is a meat lover's orgy - maybe too much. We did not like some of the flavors. The salad bar there is wonderful, though. At Chin-Chin's (Asian flavas) we really enjoyed the appetizers, but our entrees were like the Chinese take out we can get back home. We have yet to have done the hibachi tables they have, though - that might be fun. Finally, we cancelled the Italian restaurant in favor of another Le Bistro dinner after hearing a few bad things, and recalling some less than stellar meals in the Italian restaurants on other NCL ships in the past - moreover, the ship was giving it away to the Aquafest group, another sign . . . On sea days - wait for the cookout on the pool deck. Much better than the buffet, and they stir up a wonderful paella! It is kind of hard to get a drink on this ship. On the pool deck I would observe more crew clearing tables than I would beverage servers. Not the fault of the crew, for sure. A staffing matter. We did not do any ship entertainment because the Aquafest demimonde took up our evenings. There is a great guy who sings and plays piano in the Martini bar on deck six. This bar, and the adjacent Maltings, are among the more civilized venues on board. Overall - a great time! Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
This was my 23rd cruise overall, and my eighth cruise on Norwegian. I booked with the Aquafest LGBT group’s annual Halloween sailing, and our group made up almost 500 of the Jewel’s 2100 passengers. I’ve sailed on the Norwegian Pearl ... Read More
This was my 23rd cruise overall, and my eighth cruise on Norwegian. I booked with the Aquafest LGBT group’s annual Halloween sailing, and our group made up almost 500 of the Jewel’s 2100 passengers. I’ve sailed on the Norwegian Pearl twice, a sister ship of the Jewel, as well as the Norwegian Dawn twice. Both ships are similar to the Jewel in design and capacity, so I had high expectations for the Jewel. I received the first indication that those expectations would not be met when I checked in. In the past, passengers received a pocket-sized brochure and map of the ship along with their key card. But on this day, I was handed a poor-quality black-and-white photocopy of that map. Norwegian’s continued cost-cutting has become evident even before stepping aboard. Strike one. On my other seven Norwegian cruises, I’ve always admired the friendliness and efficiency of the staff and crew. So I was surprised when after I boarded, I went to the Guest Relations desk and asked where the check-in area was for the Aquafest group. The agent behind the desk stared at me blankly. Then she asked her colleague if she knew what the “Aqua Fresh” group was. I corrected her twice. The colleague didn’t know either. Could it be that the Jewel’s staff was not prepared for a group that was occupying one-quarter of the ship this week? Luckily, another Aquafest passenger was nearby and overheard the conversation, and informed me where to go. Strike two. After checking in with Aquafest and meeting their staff, my friend and I headed up to the Garden Café for lunch. At some point, I heard the news that a surprise CDC health inspection was taking place – this is done approximately every six months on every cruise ship that operates out of the U.S. And when I saw the incredible disarray of the lunch service in the Garden Café – empty food trays not being replaced in a timely manner, lack of fresh plates, many items mislabeled or not labeled at all, etc. – I assumed it was due to the crew’s attention on the health inspection. But as the week progressed, I learned that the inspection was not the reason. These problems persisted throughout the week. Over eight Norwegian cruises, I had never seen the buffet restaurant so poorly managed as it was on the Jewel. Strike three. The Norwegian Jewel struck out in the first inning without a single hit – and I’ve only been on board for an hour. Throughout the week, there was nothing in particular that the staff or crew did to sway my disappointment from the first day. Even the service at dinner that first night in the Tsar Palace was quite slow. Other dinners that week were in specialty restaurants or in the Azure dining room, which had pleasantly prompt service. Our other dinners were in La Cucina, Moderno Churrascaria and Cagney’s Steakhouse – all were as enjoyable as I’ve experienced them previously on other ships. One exception to the lackluster staff was the beverage manager, Katya. She was very friendly and sociable. Because the Aquafest group provided its own entertainment for the guests, I didn’t get to see much of the Jewel’s entertainment. I did see Band on the Run and Jean-Pierre’s magic show – both were very entertaining and enjoyable. But the best aspect of this cruise was the itinerary. New Orleans is a great embarkation port, and my friend and I enjoyed spending two nights here, plus one more night after the cruise ended. The cruise had four ports of call: Cozumel, Belize, Roatan and Costa Maya. During my previous calls to Cozumel, I went to a nearby resort and bought a day pass. But because Norwegian uses the downtown pier, it was very convenient to walk around the town and explore the shops. Aquafest had also invited its guests to visit Senor Frogs, where we enjoyed a raucous daytime party atmosphere before heading back to the ship. In Belize City, we took a ship excursion to Altun Ha, a very impressive Mayan historic site. Our tour guide, who had a Mayan background, was excellent in explaining some of the history and architecture relevant to the pyramids. We had the ability to climb to the top of the largest pyramid, which was quite the treat. In Roatan, we joined some other Cruise Critic members for a catamaran sailboat charter, provided by Radical Adventures. This was the highlight of the cruise! Captain Ed and his wife Julie, along with a crew of three locals, sailed us to a secluded cove for a couple hours of snorkeling and a delicious lunch. And in Costa Maya, Aquafest had arranged an excursion for the entire group at a beach club about 30 minutes away. If I had to rank my eight Norwegian cruises solely based on the onboard experience, I would have to rank this cruise as the lowest one. I’m worried that Norwegian’s cost-cutting, as well as all the focus they are putting on Epic, Breakaway and Getaway, is having a detrimental effect on the rest of the fleet. Norwegian needs to do more to ensure that its passengers looking for a mid-sized ship experience are not being ignored. Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
And here we are...back from yet another fantastic cruise on NCL!! This time it was the December 13th 2009 sailing of the Jewel out of Miami. There is sooo much to say, but I'll try to keep it short and sweet and hit the main points. ... Read More
And here we are...back from yet another fantastic cruise on NCL!! This time it was the December 13th 2009 sailing of the Jewel out of Miami. There is sooo much to say, but I'll try to keep it short and sweet and hit the main points. (As for other information...I reserve the right to remain silent!!!) Embarkation was a unique experience for us this time. Normally we process thru the balcony or mini suites window for Latitudes members and it usually goes without a hitch. But this year, one of our group was in a wheelchair, so upon ascending the stairs from the street to the entrance, we found a coral of wheelchairs ready and waiting right there. I hadn't even put my hand on the handle, when I was immediately met by a NCL crew member there to help. He stayed with us the whole time as we cleared security, and then whisks us around alllll the other lines to a special line so that we could process quickly and use the elevator to ascend to the embarkation area. One quick stop for the photo op and we were on the ship with a glass of champagne in hand!!! From arrival at the street to sipping champagne was maybe 20 minutes. Even those in our group that didn't arrive via the "handicap express", said that checking in was fairly easy. The key here is PREREGISTER online and bring a copy of that with you. If you are a Latitudes member, you can use that express line. Suite holders also have their own special lines for those special guests. Disembarkation was handled with equal ease and simplicity. After we finished yet another wonderful breakfast, we made way to the Fizz Lounge where wheelchairs with crew members waited to escort us off the ship, thru immigration, to the luggage area where we collected our bags. I traveled with my group of 9 that became 11, that sometimes swelled to 12, 14 and 20 at times...and a great time was had by all. We had been on the Jewel before, and she is a lovely ship! The ship was very clean and well kept, as is typical of the NCL line as a whole. We all had balcony rooms this time, complete with safe, mini fridge and bathrobes. Our cabin was a handicap cabin, and it was roomy and spacious with plenty of room for the scooter. Our room stewards were kind and efficient. Richard and Joselito are two very sweet guys that were always there when we needed something. The towel animals are always a treat, especially when my constantly being lost sunglasses would miraculously reappear on the towel animals head!! The first thing we did was haul our bags to our cabins. Generally the cabins aren't quite ready, but the room stewards were more than accommodating to let us drop off our bags and roam the ship a bit til the cabin was ready. Second stop was a cocktail at the martini bar by Magnum's Champagne Bar. The VERY BEST BARTENDER on the ship is Edgardo and he's in charge of the martini tastings. Not only does he make the BEST martinis on the ship, he's a hell of a dancer too! Next stop was making dinner reservations. You can always access the dinner reservations attendant on the far right of the registration desk (as you face it). They are very helpful and bend over backwards to accommodate your party and requested meal times. You can book the day you are in and the next night without any trouble. If you have a balcony or mini-suite, you can book the following day as well. The larger suites can book any days ahead that they want. Maracar was working the desk most days, when she wasn't hostessing at Chin Chin's and she is by far simply the most accommodating hostess you'll ever meet. She would go so far as to hunt me down to make sure I had my next reservations made, and then call my cabin to confirm the reservations she'd made for me. We were a large group and had no trouble getting in anywhere we wanted. Sometimes we had to juggle our times here and there, but the crew bends over backwards to accommodate you. I just can not say enough about the food. We did the Garden Cafe and Blue Lagoon for simple breakfasts before our excursions. Lunches would be there too, along with grazing at the poolside buffet for quick mid day bites. This year the Jewel tried out two specialty lunches. I didn't make the Jazz Brunch, but we did try the Indian Buffet lunch held in Le Bistro. This was a $15 surcharge and worth the price for generous selections of well prepared authentic Indian dishes. Every dinner we dined at the specialty restaurants. WELL worth the surcharge!!! Don't let those fees scare you off, it's TOTALLY worth it. Things you MUST eat: BBQ Pork Ribs, Dirty Noodles, Lamb Medallions - Chin Chin Restaurant Escargot, Chicken Coq Au Vin, and anything on the menu - Le Bistro Lobster, yes lobster! - Teppanyaki Combination Pizza - Mama's Italian More lobster, Rib Eye - Cagney's The spa prices are pricey as always. But watch your Freestyle Daily for specials. Also physically GO to the spa and talk to the spa crew. They will work special combo deals for you that are listed on the menu of services. You can make an appointment for a treatment and usually negotiate a little extra freebie such as a free Eye Treatment while at the desk. Best Spa Deals: the 10/20/30 plan - 10% off first treatment, 20% of 2nd, 30% off third...combine those with bartering at the counter for a freebie. The other thing I would HIGHLY recommend is the Spa Pass. You pay a flat rate (was $99 for single of $125 per couple for the 7 day cruise or $20 per day individually) and you have access to the mineral baths, hydrotherapy pools, sauna, steam room, stone therapy lounges, cold plunge and the private locker area for the entire cruise. You also have access to the very restful lounge area that sits at the very FRONT of the ship with full glass panoramic views out the bow. The entertainment is always a great value as it's FREE!! I've been to many many Jean Ann Ryan Company productions and had the pleasure of meeting many of the performers, but this particular group was really something special. Not only are they talented and gifted they were so personable, unlike any other cruise I've been on. We would see the performers out and about on the ship and they were always friendly and welcoming, often times actually hanging out with us!! Make sure you see ALL their performances. By the way, if you get a chance to meet Richard (one of the male athletic performers for the JARC), please do so. His smile will light up your day, and his genuine zest for life is contagious. (Not to mention those 12 pack abs!!!) Don't miss the Crew Show. I don't think that the Cat's Pajama's will still be performing, but if they are make sure you see EVERY performance. They are spectacular young men whose acapela talents will mesmerize you. The Fizz Lounge is a great place to hang out and for karaoke, and the Spinnaker lounge seems to always have great tunes spinning. Now I've never been one to generally attend the usual games and things that the cruise director staff puts on, but this trip was an exception. The cruise director Que Hundermark has taken these "game shows" to a whole new level. He single handedly (well not single handed he has a GREAT staff) as taken simple games like "The Newlywed Game", "Dancing With the Stars", and "Qwest" and made them into extremely well attended events on the ship. We attended many, if not all, of them and had the most fantastic time. We laughed til we couldn't breathe in some cases, and won a trophy in other cases. (Details will NOT be disclosed, so don't ask!! LOL ) We've met many cruise directors on our many cruises, several with NCL, and Que is the best yet!! He was always available, always friendly and made each and everyone of us feel like we were the most important person to him on the ship. Speaking of being made to feel like you are important...I'd like to make a point to comment on John the Hotel Director and Mustafa the Food & Beverage Manager. These two men simply never sleep. Especially John O'Hara the Hotel Director. This man was up before I had breakfast and when I would leave the Spinnaker Lounge after dancing all night...he was still there, standing in the back, watching everything that was going on. John and Mustafa were out and about every evening greeting guests at the restaurants. We saw them literally every night, and every night they would stop at our table and visit. And not just stop by...they would chat with us leisurely as if there wasn't anywhere else they had to be. Now believe me, my group isn't all sunshine and smiles, there were a few of us that had comments to make about service from time to time. And each and every time these two gentlemen would listen attentively, take notes, make calls and voila...things happened. Watch your Freestyle Daily for specials in the Duty Free Shop. Great deals on liquor on certain days, plus free tastings! Always, always, ALWAYS mention you are a Latitudes member and get an additional 10-20% off anything you purchase in the shopping area. Just cuz it says Latitudes on your card, doesn't mean you'll get the discount. So ASK for it. NCL University offered all kinds of classes and tastings. Though usually we partake in many, this trips focus seemed to be on the martini tastings. What fun!! Edgardo, the head bartender, served each martini with complete recipes, fun facts about the history of that martini, while running a trivia contest amongst the tasters! One of the guests in our group presented him with a special holiday martini recipe, which he incorporated into the 2nd tasting and gave a complimentary sample to everyone. Do take part in these tastings. They are only $15 and with the 4 samples you'll get...an alcohol bargain on board! Best Hostess - Maracar in Chin Chins Best Head Bartender - Edgardo in the Martini Bar and Spinnaker Best Room Stewards - Richard and Joselito on Deck 10 Best Officers - John Ohara, Hotel Director - Mustafa, F&B Manager - Que, Cruise Director Be sure to tell them the BEADBABE says hello Though I did not really use the casino, some in my group did. They had a few issues which I'm sure they'll be taking up directly with NCL. Since I don't know much about gambling, I'll leave that segment for them to review. The consensus amongst the gamblers in the group was...that standard "casino" rules don't always apply on board. So make sure you know the "house" rules on the games before you start. Despite that due to rough seas and winds, we missed our stop at Great Stirrup Cay, our Captain took us out to sea for an added a sea day....the entire crew bent over backwards to keep us fed, entertained and happy. Additionally, our beloved Captain invited the entire Cruise Critic group to a special tour of the bridge!! This was a very special treat. He allowed us to wander around and ask questions. He was infinitely patient and seemed genuinely interested in our questions. We weren't hurried at all and thoroughly enjoyed this little perk! I can't say enough about this ship...the whole experience was awesome. If you want to know anything specific, I'm happy to answer questions! Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
Norwegian Jewel Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.0 4.1
Dining 4.0 3.7
Entertainment 4.0 4.1
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.9
Family 4.0 3.9
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.8
Enrichment 1.0 3.4
Service 3.0 4.1
Value For Money 4.0 3.8
Rates 3.0 4.1

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