162 Norwegian Jewel Family Cruise Reviews

This is our second time on the Jewel. First time cruising for my family was from New York in 2011. This one went from New Orleans. We arrived in New Orleans and had a blast touring the city. My wife is Filipino and had never been to NOLA. ... Read More
This is our second time on the Jewel. First time cruising for my family was from New York in 2011. This one went from New Orleans. We arrived in New Orleans and had a blast touring the city. My wife is Filipino and had never been to NOLA. She was in awe of the food there. Unfortunately this kind of spoiled the dining on ship! I have to say having cruised on the Jewel before we knew what to expect for dining, but I also feel the quality and variety has diminished since our inaugural cruise 3 years ago. Same restaurants but food was not as impressive. I won't go so far as to say it was awful or we hated it but it was a bit unimaginative and boring compared to what we remembered. Oddly enough this time around I found the buffet to be more interesting and the two dining rooms less so. We usually ate at Azura both cruises and found this time it was quite ordinary. We did try Moderno one night and it was a nice change, though not phenomenal. This trip we opted for a balcony room and I was very happy we did so. Much nicer than any of the inside or window rooms to have both the extra open feeling and the fresh air. From now on I will always book a balcony! The room size was very adequate. There were three of us sharing the space and it worked out ok. Steward was terrific as usual, and all the Filipinos on ship were great. I found this trip that the non-Filipino staff were less friendly than what we were used to but still NCL seems to focus on service. We booked one shore excursion (Altun HA in Belize) and it was a complete waste of time and money. Never again. Alternatively in Roatan we booked an independent tour guide from Roby's Tours nd it was the best experience we ever had. They provided us with a private can and guide and they were at out disposal all day for $125. It was great and the highlight of the trip. We unfortunately had our stop at Costa Maya cancelled due to weather and safety and that not only kept us from one more shore opportunity but cause an extra sea day which tend to get a bit boring. In addition the seas were a bit rough and my family started to feel the consequences. We opted for the walk off disembarkation and found it to be the right decision although the majority of the ship did also so it was a bit time consuming. All in all it went pretty smoothly however. We were off the ship and through customs in less than an hour. I would like to try a little higher quality cruise line like Oceana or Regency or Celebrity for a future cruise, but for now we are booked in November on the NCL Spirit in Europe so I will give NCL one more chance to impress! Read Less
Sail Date March 2014
Our experience on the Norwegian Jewel was fantastic. I am raving about freestyle cruising and absolutely love the concept. We did spend an extra 20 bucks each one night for the Teppanyaki restaurant and it was well worth it. The service on ... Read More
Our experience on the Norwegian Jewel was fantastic. I am raving about freestyle cruising and absolutely love the concept. We did spend an extra 20 bucks each one night for the Teppanyaki restaurant and it was well worth it. The service on the ship was the best I've experienced in the industry thus far after 10 cruises on four different cruise lines. The NCL officers, staff, and crew were warm, welcoming, helpful, fun, and made customer service a top priority. Very impressive. I would love to go on another NCL cruise someday. While the ship is not really new (built in 2005 I think), it is well maintained and still sparkles in most areas throughout the interior. As an engineer, I must say in my humble opinion that the German built ships such as the Jewel have noticeably better quality, finish, materials, and workmanship than their Italian and French built counterparts. I must admit that this is the geek in me coming out, so others may not care as much or pay attention to the engineering quality, etc. Overall, we had a wonderful experience and enjoyed New Orleans too. It was fun to be on the Mississippi River for several hours departing and returning. The only downside that I will mention is that the Captain, for reasons he explained as weather related, decided to not dock at Costa Maya. So, we only got three of our four stops. I am still baffled by the decision as the wind and waves were not bad at all, and it was 80 degrees and sunny. The other three stops were just great though! Read Less
Sail Date March 2014
1. Background: we are late-fifties, with 30 cruises on many cruise lines and 11 cruises on NCL. 2. Review: Overall a good value based on low price, great itinerary, decent service, decent food, decent entertainment. This ship and this ... Read More
1. Background: we are late-fifties, with 30 cruises on many cruise lines and 11 cruises on NCL. 2. Review: Overall a good value based on low price, great itinerary, decent service, decent food, decent entertainment. This ship and this cruise line lacks the "Wow" factor of other lines; but the low price makes it a good value. a. Embarkation. Smooth and fairly efficient. If you get there early (before noon) plan to wait in lines (security and check-in) for about an hour before boarding. b. Itinerary: excellent. 4 Stops in Belize, Cozumel, Roatan, and Costa Maya. All stops were good or great scuba diving locations. Plenty of time to enjoy shore excursions or just enjoy a beach day. c. Ship: OK. Older, smaller ship, fairly clean and public areas were decently maintained. Easy to find your way around. d. Cabin: Good. Inside cabin was small but adequate. Cabin service was good. e. Food: OK. (No need to spend money on pay-as-you-go restaurants.) - Main dining rooms were too slow. Plan on 2-2.5 hours to eat dinner. Decent variety. Most dishes were pretty good. But the time factor means food sometimes comes cold. Orders were sometimes wrong. - Buffet was good for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Sometimes a bit crowded but could always find 2 seats. Most food was tasty, and there was a pretty good variety of hot and cold dishes. - Blue Lagoon was a great place to get a snack 24/7 especially wings. - "Room Service" was a joke. Tried to call them twice; it took 15-20 calls to get through. When I did get through the food that came was terrible. IMHO not worth your time. f. Entertainment: pretty good; worth going to for the most part. Comedians were funny and production shows were pretty good. Pianists and bands around the ship were pretty good. g. Value. Low prices: inside cabins were going for around $300 plus tax. At this price this was a great deal.   Read Less
Sail Date February 2014
This was our sixth cruise but our first on Norwegian. We were excited to try out this cruise line as all of our other experiences had been on Carnival. Boarding the ship was relatively smooth and much like Carnival. My first impression of ... Read More
This was our sixth cruise but our first on Norwegian. We were excited to try out this cruise line as all of our other experiences had been on Carnival. Boarding the ship was relatively smooth and much like Carnival. My first impression of the boat was that the decor was more modern than what I had experienced on previous cruises. We went to the buffet to have lunch and wait for our rooms to be ready. The food at the buffet was okay - nothing to write home about. I sampled two or three deserts but found them to be very disappointing and after a bite of each, I threm them out. There were no bar servers wandering around to purchase a drink from - I am used to them wandering through the dining areas with a tray of the drink of the day. I am not a huge drinker but I do like to start my cruise off with a fruity cocktail. As promised our rooms were ready at about 1:30pm. The oceanview room had a nice large window with a window sill large enough for me to sit in the window and look out. I knew from information online that the room was going to be about 20 sq.ft. smaller than the rooms we usually have on Carnival. I was pleased with the storage in the room-in fact this is one area where Norwegian has outdone the competition. It was also extremely nice to have the mini fridge in the room. We did not purchase any of the drinks from the fridge but we had carried on a case of water and we were able to place a few bottles in the fridge to keep them cold. Then I went to the bathroom and boy was that a surprise! It was soooo small! I am a plus sized lady but this was ridiculous. I had to squeeze through the opening to get to the toilet and then squeeze back out to the areas where the sink was - same story with the shower. I will say the shower size was fine once you were actually in there and it was nice to not have a curtain clinging to you while trying to wash. The toilet area was ridiculous - you could lean your head on the wall in front of you (where your knees basicallay touch the wall) while sitting on the toilet. We ate dinner with some others we were cruising with (42 in our group) in the Azura dining room. We were impressed to see Steak and Lobster on the menu the first night but it was short lived the steak was a thin tough piece of meat that was not appealing. I later found out that they do not grill their steaks instead they pan sear them and finish them in the oven. We did not eat at any of the restaurants that you have to pay for but some of our friends did. Their opinion is that the cruise line skimps on the included food and serves better food in the specialty restaurants so you will spend more money. My husband and father ordered fish in Tsars Palace and were served half cooked fish that smelled spoiled. When we complained they apologized took our cabin number and later sent chocolate covered strawberries to our room. The only thing I can say was consistently excellent on the boat was the Salmon at dinner in Azura dining room and the omelets in Tsars Palace. Carnivals included food is by far better quality than what we were served on Norwegian. We received excellent service from a few people on board but mostly it was hit and miss. The first night at dinner our server raised her voice to me when I moved my tea glass closer to the edge of the table in an effort to make it easier for her to reach to refill. She insisted I move it back before she would fill it. She had little to no personality and was rude. This was not a good way to start a trip. The next morning we received excellent service from Charmaine in the Tsars Palace and she restored our confidence that we would be treated right. Our ship stopped in Cozumel, Belize, Honduras and Costa Maya. Honduras was my favorite stop - we booked a private island tour through island marketing prior to leaving home. This was not through Norwegian but was a wonderful experience - we will definitely do it again. In Belize we did the Calypso train tour and it was interesting but it was a bit disappointing that the tour did not include touristy areas. Next time I would try to book an excursion to a beach area because the tour presented Belize as a very poor and shabby area. In Costa Maya my husband scuba dived and enjoyed it . I looked around the overpriced shops at the end of the pier. They have a beautiful pool right there in the middle but after seeing that a rum and coke at the pool/senor frogs was $16.50, I decided to head back to the ship and enjoy the pool/hot tub there which we had practically to ourselves. Shows on the boat were better quality than Carnival. The store seemed to have a nice selection on board as well. There did not seem to be as many activities, games and shows going on during the day as what I am used to unless you wanted to do aerobics or fitness stuff. Debarkation was easy breezy as we picked 9:20 as our time. We ate at the buffet before debarking and walked right off the ship and through customs. The porter took our luggage all the way to the parking lot and it was so nice. Norwegian would definitley not be my first choice in the future. Overall I was disapointed considering that this trip was a couple hundred dollars more per person than we normally pay with carnival - I just expected better food and service. Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
Overall we had a good time. The ship looked in pretty good shape, clean. The staff, for the most part, were pleasant and in good spirit. Plenty of smiles and greetings. Heard housekeeping staff singing while they cleaned. Our mid-ship ... Read More
Overall we had a good time. The ship looked in pretty good shape, clean. The staff, for the most part, were pleasant and in good spirit. Plenty of smiles and greetings. Heard housekeeping staff singing while they cleaned. Our mid-ship balcony seemed a little tight but was clean and had plenty of room for our clothing, bags fit easily under the bed. The food was just OK. The extra price for the steak house was too high. $60 for two? Should have been more like $30. The prices on the ship were higher than what we have experienced on previous cruises. For instance, a 950ml bottle of Kahlua was $19.99 on board while a 750ml bottle was $14.99 at my local supermarket. The watches and jewelry were also a little too high to be considered a good deal. The show "Band on the Run" was good. The best place to be seemed to be Spinnaker Lounge. The best band was Groove International (reggae, R&B). The worst was Twosome Awesome (yes, they also had the worst name). Tsar's Palace was great one night, great food, great service. Then another night it was the complete opposite. Terrible food and terrible service. Must be a management issue. Azura was great the first night we ate there. There was a terrific waitress from Croatia named Danjella (J is silent) She was all smiles and seemed to inspire the other waiters who were also smiling and humming. The next time we at there we got a real grouch. No smiles. His service was efficient but the experience was not so enjoyable. We certainly did not feel welcome. We had excursions at Cozumel (Nachi Cocom), Roatan (West Bay), and Costa Maya, which is really Mahahual, Mexico(Nohoch Kay). We didn't plan on anything at Belize. Good thing since it rained the entire day. Can recommend all but the majority of us seemed to like Nohoch Kay the best. Super friendly staff and excellent food. Overall OK. But we will probably go back to Carnival or Royal. Embarkation in New Orleans was pretty easy. Disembarkation was pretty simple. The border folks just looked at our declaration form and said move along. Out in no time.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
This was my and my college aged sons first cruise. After reading many reviews I was somewhat nervous as what to expect and experience. Let me say we had a wonderful week and will be returning on another Norwegian cruise. Sailaway day: ... Read More
This was my and my college aged sons first cruise. After reading many reviews I was somewhat nervous as what to expect and experience. Let me say we had a wonderful week and will be returning on another Norwegian cruise. Sailaway day: Lines were long however we got to the Port of New Orleans and was on the ship within an hour. I did bring 5 bottles of wine on board and got the corkage stickers without any issues. This did save me on purchasing any wine on board but you do have to take your wine with you to dinner or the bar. The server who opens your wine gets the tip from the corkage fee. We did check our luggage and once on board our cabins were not ready so we took our items with us and got something to eat in the garden cafe which everyone else did too so we had to sit outside. Our cabin was ready around 1:30 pm and luggahge arrived around 3:30 pm. The weather in NOLA was chilly so we quickly ate and went to explore the ship with all items in tow. (the wine got heavy) We toured the spa and after reading many reviews chose to get the spa package for each of us for the week. You must be over 18 to go to the spa. The spa is a great place to get away from the crowds. Included in the spa is steam bath, sauna and whirlpools and heated chairs...I really loved the chairs. Both sons ages 18 & 21 loved the spa too. It was $149 for the week so it isnt cheap but really enhanced our experience. Sea Days: We went to the spa, I used the gym on all sea days and went to 2 wine tasting events on these days. The kids went to the casino, arcade, and hung out at the pool bar. Kids over 18 but not 21 can have beer and wine with parenta permission but can only get one at a time which I did sign for my 18 yo. We did go to the comedian show which was really funny. Dining: Our main place to eat was Tsar's Palace in the evening men do need pants or jeans not shorts and close toe shoes. We did one pay restaurant the Teppanyaki and it was good but not as good as our local Shoguns. Not sure I would go again. We also ate at Azura's which is cramped and service not as good as Tsar's. Blue Lagoon was our go to place for different eating times which was good but not exceptional. I consider myself a foodie so the overall the food was average and we quickly learned the beef is low quality so we stuck with fish and chicken and starters. You can get as many of these as you like and one evening I had 3 starters for my meal. Best desert was the Chocolate decadence on the next to last night. Getting off the ship was so easy.. We did not check our bags we carried them off and were off thru customs and to the car in less than hour.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
NCL vs. DCL vs. RCCL There's a big difference between the D and the N! For comparisons sake we'll toss in the comparison the RCCL too! We are die hard DCL fans having sailed DCL five times including a 14-night transatlantic all ... Read More
NCL vs. DCL vs. RCCL There's a big difference between the D and the N! For comparisons sake we'll toss in the comparison the RCCL too! We are die hard DCL fans having sailed DCL five times including a 14-night transatlantic all on the classic ships. We've done RCCL twice and decided to give the NCL Jewel a try. We have two girls (ages11 and 8) and we are your typical 40-something, mid-western family. Why NCL? The timing was perfect for our kid's school break and it left from NOLA-- a city we love and where we thought the kids might have fun doing a swamp tour, eating beignets, etc It was a Nickelodeon cruise, so we thought that might signal family friendly. Indeed there were over 800 kids on board--just shy of 30% of the cruising guest population... Add their parents and a big demographic on this cruise was families with kids. Our initial impression of NCL Jewel was that it is a ship that was built for a time when NCL's focus was primarily adults and a shift in focus on families has been retrofitted into an older model. The intent is there, but it's like going into a building that's been repurposed-- some things work better than others. Also, our second impression of NCL facilities is that it has the feel of a "starter home" from a cheap contractor. It looks pretty when you move in, but you start to notice cheap fixtures, nail pops that go unfixed, thin walls, poor insulation, etc. That's how the NCL Jewel feels--- it's bright and cheery, but for a ship only built in 2005, the maintenance is slow. We noticed rusty rails, chipped tables, fading teak, soiled carpet, lots of indents from chairs on the deck flooring, broken theater seats, etc Each in of itself is a minor issue not worth thinking about, but they add up to a "cheaper feeling" environment. Embarkation: While we love the "introduction" on DCL, the NCL process moved quickly and was unique. We arrived at the port around 11:30 and there was a short, quick moving line. Porters took our bags (with the stapled bag tags, which I thought was odd, but we received all of our bags--- so it must not be an issue). The port staff were pleasant. It lacked the unique flavor if DCL (Mickey hands, etc)... But fine. We boarded immediately and landed on an outside deck where they ran our cards. There as a big colorful balloon arch ( just like your early 90's prom) and a few dancers. A large speaker was blaring festive music--- so it was a fun entrance. We ended up entering the actual ship near guest services and were kind of lost. There wasn't anyone really directing guests and lots of people were sort of sitting and milling around. Eventually we ask a staff member about lunch options and she directed us to elevators. Having never been on the ship, it was hard to navigate and not much guidance. Our initial impression of NCL was that it was bright and colorful, mixed with typical cruise ship glitz of mirrors, faux flowers and shiny, neon lit surfaces. Some of the lounges had cool furniture which was kind of fun (Fyzz Lounge, Spinnaker’s). For comparison, we find DCL to be a bit "classier" in style. RCCL has much of the same feel as NCL, but not as bright. I also don't recall much of any pomp upon embarkation at all with RCCL. I also recall RCCL and DCL requiring a bit longer of a wait to board, but that just may be port differences. Both DCL and RCCL had staff ready to move people along....we felt less lost even on new to us ships. First impression of Meals: On NCL, we found our way to the "garden buffet" which was in the back of the ship. It's equivalent to any of the other buffets. It's set up like RCCL in "stations" which are easy to navigate as opposed to DCL's cafeteria style on a Magic and Wonder… Lots of variety including Indian and Asian options. The table areas are much larger than both RCCL and DCL, so big that we missed the fact that we could have found a table outside. The food itself was pretty mediocre. We could certainly find things to choose from, but nothing stellar. We are not food snobs, although we like variety--- so if we thought it was mediocre, the true "foodies" of the world would be dismayed. We definitely thought DCL and RCCL had better food quality. There was a BBQ at the pool later on...again, food was just ok—hot dogs, burgers, etc. Like RCCL, NCL doesn't offer soda as an option without buying a soda package. There were flavored waters, lemonade, and tea available. One flavored water was sugar free and there was unsweetened ice tea. We did buy one soda package for my husband eventually. It was about 50 bucks, but he is diabetic...so worth it to give him more drink options. We had our first dinner at Azura. It's freestyle dining, so we just showed up like a regular restaurant and we were seated pretty quickly. It was nice that we could just go in whatever we were wearing rather than running back to change for the dining room. On DCL and RCCL, we like eating in the main dining room (or assigned restaurant on DCL), but dressing up for dinner isn't always practical. To be fair, I doubt either would have denied us service in casual capris and t-shirts, but still....we try to follow the expected norms. So were seated in a fun velvet booth that the kids thought was awesome. The service was friendly, but no effort to personalize the experience or get to know what we liked since we would likely not have them as servers again. It was formal service and the typical course line-up. The food varied from good to just ok to downright bad. For example, I had the ribeye that tasted like it was frozen and right off the Cisco truck...but it was accompanied by spinach that was cooked perfectly and clearly started as fresh that day. My husband ordered the mahi mahi that was well seasoned. The desserts were quite good, which is usually where I find things more pretty than tasty. However, my daughter really enjoyed the lemon sorbet and I thought the chocolate raspberry truffle cake was excellent. I'm not a huge sweet eater, but chocolate truffle is one of my favorites. However, I ended up with this almost every-night as the dessert menus didn't change. It was tiring by the end... On other nights we tried the other main dining room with similar quality results. The steak was tough, the salads flooded with salty dressing, the soups sort of tasteless.....we did find a little restaurant called Blue Lagoon that had cheese sticks and wings....good for snacks. Again, these were likely just frozen, deep fried fare.... But ok for snacks. The wings were good! We did discover the downfall of "freestyle" though as we didn't time things right and realized we were going to be incredibly rushed to make the main show. Both DCL and RCCL, by the nature of the scheduled dining times, assure that everyone makes it to the main events. Also, while the staff was pleasant we never found them willing to go the extra mile....so drinks were refilled slowly, coffee arrived after we finished dessert, it was difficult to find a steak knife, etc. There was no need to really please the customer since service isn't tied to tips in any way. For example, DH asked if there was any other sugar free option besides SF tiramisu one night (not a coffee fan, but also diabetic). Waitress simple said she didn't think so, but would ask. She never came back with an answer, even when the rest of us were served dessert. On DCL, I'm betting they would have found an alternative SF option from another venue and RCCL always has a SF ice cream option listed. We found out later that there was indeed SF ice cream available, but she just didn't bother to find out. This level of food and service was a running theme to the point that the food quality was laughable by the end. I've had better food in school cafeterias. Steak so full of gristle I had to saw through it...one night they served a black bean soup that was clearly reconstituted from a dried mix--- but not even thoroughly cooked so the beans were CRUNCHY! Really? Couldn't even break out canned black beans? We push it aside and they eventually took it away, but never asked why we didn't eat it or if they could replace it with something else. We adopted a strategy of ordering multiple items in hopes of finding something edible among them.... On both DCL and RCCL the food was much better. Hit or miss items on both for sure, but the "misses" were only occasional and quickly replaced with alternatives. We didn't try the specialty restaurants because I couldn't imagine how the food could suddenly be worth 30.00 per person if the base line was so, so bad. We were so glad we didn't encourage friends to join us because we would have been embarrassed to have brought them there with such bad food! On a good note....the lobster was small, but tasty though. Entertainment: The entrainment in the NCL Stardust Theater seems to fall somewhere between DCL and RCCL. The cruise director, Jamie, appears to be sharp and witty without being crass. It's a different approach than DCL as the CD doesn't wear an officer's uniform? On DCL, we've always found the CD's to be class-acts. However, we've always been very put off by the RCCL CD's who seem to major in jokes appropriate for adolescent boys and find mocking children and senior citizens appropriate humor. On this NCL trip, Jamie opened the first show by recognizing the couple married the longest, greeting the children, etc. There seemed to be something for everyone! DCL is, of course, very family friendly. Unless specifically noted, one can safely assume all events are rated G or a light PG. There are some versions of acts that have an adult version later in the evening in an adult-only venue...but that's fine. We've gone to these without our kids...and they are still pretty tame. The main shows in DCL are true stage productions and are top notch. However, they almost all are Disney themed, so one has to embrace that going into their vacation--it's a Disney cruise! We found much of the RCCL entertainment to be less then family friendly and this was similar for elements of NCL. The comedian, Noodles, at the first showing in the main theater was completely inappropriate for the 800+ kids on the ship. Many of his jokes were in poor taste because they were racist/ethnically derogatory (I didn't know people still told "pollock" jokes), but whatever. It was the jokes about four-hour erections and climaxing that really were the ones he might have better saved for a later show. I noticed several families get up and leave. I just hoped it would go over my kid's heads. It would have been just as easy to leave these jokes out and still do an entertaining set. I wondered how he could look out at his audience with kids sitting right near the front and be comfortable delivering such content. He's a regular, so NCL must approve of it and it's similar on RCCL. There was a show band night of 70's music that I found boring, but DH thought it was ok. The magician was funny and my girls liked him. The Cirque Bijoux was a big hit with my kids, but it was standing room crowds so I could only see pieces of it and the story line was hard to follow. The folks on the silks were pretty cool though. We skipped the final "concert " which I gather many do since there was only one show. In other entertainment, there were lots of trivia quizzes and mock game shows (which we liked as adults) and I know there was a casino, bingo, etc as they announced events from time to time. However, they weren't hyped like on RCCL. Both NCL and DCL seem to make an effort to try to make an "event" of various activities. Theme music, costumes....big intros with enthusiastic staff. In my opinion, I think Disney's execution is a bit more polished-- better costumes, more thematic sets, themed music, etc--- but I appreciate NCL's effort. Karaoke was a hit as usual and NCL made an effort to include kids (as does DCL). On RCCL, we often felt like staff was just going through the motions and couldn't wait to finish to move on to whatever their next responsibility was. Events weren't always well attended either and folks would show up and leave frequently. Outside the theater, the RCCL big events were the Quest (an adults only scavenger hunt) and a late night 70's party. Not bad things to have to appeal to the masses, but these were the BIG events that were hyped all week and neither had any appeal for kids. The message that kids were to the afterthought was a theme. NCL also had a Quest, but it wasn’t quite as hyped. NCL’s big event was the “White Hot Party”---and they hosted two versions, one for 18+ and one for kids/families. We attended the family one and it was pretty well-attended for the first ½ hour or so…then the teens sort of wandered off. They dressed them all in togas and decorated for the party---there was effort made to make it as unique as the adult version. There is no casino on DCL, so that wasn't even part of the cruise. We aren't gamblers typically and they always seem smoky, so we didn't spend much time in the casinos on NCL or RCCL. Just from a walk thru, RCCL's seemed bigger and more active though. Family-Friendliness; This is the Big One for us! We travel as a family, pay for a family and want a family friendly environment. As noted above, DCL really shines in this area. There are plenty of events for families to do together from games shoes, dance parties, games, crafts, etc. We often travel with grandparents in tow too making it multigenerational and they really do have events for all ages. RCCL is not this! On both cruises, we have felt that RCCL mocks children and only accommodates their needs out of pure necessity, not as an embraced business philosophy. There were very few "family" events on the RCCL cruises---some events for kids (mostly within the kids club programming) and lots for adults--- but not many organized events for both. Even the acts at the earlier time slot often contained language and sexual content not appropriate for kids. The attitude we felt was that the assumed goal is to escape your kids by sticking them in kids club so you can get to the real fun. NCL fell in between again. There were plenty of events for families to do together. Slime Time live was fun to watch. There were circus clinics that included teaching both kids and adults to spin plates, juggle, etc. This was more fun than I thought it would be. They had karaoke that included kids for the first hour and then switched to an adults only venue. They made a point of fitting in as many kids as possible. Again, it was sort of a retrofit where they were trying to fit kids activities into adult spaces (as opposed to DCL which has designated family spaces where events wouldn't need to be cut-off for one group or another), but the effort to include kids is appreciated. There was a Wii bowling challenge--- and I usually think of things like video games as sort off a half-effort at programming, but we saw it in action and it was well attended by mostly middle school boys. Kids Clubs: Our girls have always enjoyed the kids clubs on DCL. We feel they are given lots of personal attention and there are lots of age -appropriate activities. We also like the fact that there is a "tween" club that goes to age 13 in a separate facility. We do find that the activities are a bit redundant in the kids clubs, if one cruises more than once every few years. We did find that it's important to go to the opening events on the first night, especially if you are traveling in a small party (so you haven't brought along cousins, for example, as built in companions) and especially the Tweens seem to "group up" during the first few events making it harder to make cruise friends if you come in later. We also liked that parents can give ages 8 and up permission to self-check in/out (or maybe it was that our 11 year old could check the 8 year old in & out). Either way, this made it convenient to just send them off to the clubs after dinner, etc. Dd 11 would take the wave phone, so we knew we could contact her and she could let us know if she checked out. They seemed to really enjoy the NCL clubs as well, especially our 8 year old. Our 11 year old regularly checked herself in and out and asked to go and participated in activities. They separate the groups as 3-5, 6-9, 10-12. The oldest group-tweens met in the teen facility when the teens were elsewhere. My dd11 preferred this. Dd11 could check in and out on her own with our permission, but dd8 could not. It wasn't a big deal, but with no paging system or wave phones, we were forever checking in to see if she wanted to leave. Dd11 made a group of friends and with no wave phone, it was a bit of an issue in keeping up with her whereabouts. Not because she was irresponsible, but because there was no means of easy contact. She would checkout to go have lunch or a snack and would have to run back to the stateroom to leave a note, but we wouldn't always go back to get it..or if we did, it was inconvenient. We liked the fact that if they check themselves in, they have to stay for two hours. She found this frustrating and I'm not really sure what the reasoning was behind this rule, but I liked knowing where she was for a given amount if time since there was no other means of communication. Also, NCL didn't use wrist-bands outside of the kids club. They put them on when they entered and left them when they checked out. This was more comfortable than the clunky bands on DCL. The clubs themselves appeared to have enthusiastic counselors and a variety of activities. The closing over the meal hour wasn't so much of an issue as I thought it would be because my kids usually swim then anyway. I did hear other parents grumbling a bit though. The fact that they charge after 10:30 was annoying since it meant adults couldn't really participate in late night activities. There was a fee on port days until 5pm too. This was a bit annoying since we came back early on a rainy day and they were looking for something to keep them busy. However, my younger daughter read a book and my older daughter found some other girls in her “group” to go to the Blue Lagoon with—so she was set. The culminating kid’s "show" on NCL was a circus for which they had learned tricks all week. There seemed to be a lot of participation and the circus was in the theater. This was similar to DCL's "Friendship Rocks". Each has its own flavor and DCL gives them all t-shirts and features a video....but NCL featured smaller groups of kids actively engaged in showing of a new "skill" ( ex--dd8 did plate spinning). If I recall, RCCL did a small talent show, but it was in an out of the way lounge and featured a small audience and not a lot of careful prep. So overall, DCL's kids clubs had more "polish" and seemed to go farther with professional facilities for each age group...and, of course, the Disney characters are a central feature. NCL had the Nick characters, but they were more of an add-on and maybe it felt this way because we aren't that into Nick. My girls watched Dora when they were in preschool, but not recently. They aren't into Sponge Bob so that was lost on us. Others may be more into it. We did go to a few Nick family events including Slime Time Live and a few dance parties and they were fun, the "Nick team" was definitely energetic....but I spent most of my time cringing that my kids would end up covered in slime or with a head if hair full of whipped cream. This was definitely MY issue though—others probably didn’t care. On a ship without self-laundry, this was a concern. My dd was ask to mash a whipped cream pie in her face right after having her hair "braided" in Jamaica. Luckily she mashed it herself and kept it to her face....I'm not sure how I would have gotten smeared whipped cream out of a head full braids. Again, for other parents this may have been less of an issue---so I’m not faulting NCL for my hang-up. I would rank the kids clubs with DCL ahead, but NCL had a fine program and we were happy with it. We would return for the kids program. RCCL, for a comparison, was by far (based on our experience) lagging behind. On the two RCCL cruises we've taken, my kids were downright bored. The facilities were plain, counselors pleasant enough most of the time, but not overly engaging with the kids....and the activities weren't timed out to know when to go....and many repeated and were simple things that didn't involve a great deal of creativity...that said, there were a few highlights here and there that they liked--- but the didn't ask to go and wanted to be picked up quickly. At one point, I found my younger daughter (then 6) wandering in a hallway having been separated from the group as they moved around the ship. I alerted the staff to the fact that I had found her and was going to just go ahead and take her with me for the evening and they didn’t really seem at all concerned. Staterooms: This was the odd thing. We booked an ocean view room for four and were assigned a room for three. When we inquired, it seems that all of the standard staterooms are only equipped for three. There indeed were two twin beds (which could be pushed into a double) and one bunk directly over one of the twins. Hmm...we figured perhaps the other bunked pulled down from the ceiling like on DCL? Nope-- when we returned we found a cot propped in the middle of the two twins! The real odd thing? There was an 8 inch metal handle protruding from the side of it upwards right smack in between two mattresses with the desk blocking the end of one. So essentially we had a giant bed for three that filled the entire 1/2 of the room wall to wall....with an 8 inch handle to fall over in the dark smack in the middle and a ladder on one side and the desk on the other side. There was no way for the person under the bunk to safely get out off bed without climbing on top of the person in the middle. And the person on the other side against the wall had to do the same, plus straddle the 8 inch handle in the dark. I can't figure out how any engineer could have conceptualized this idea as a safe one! I can only figure that NCL is trying to retrofit for families as it changes its corporate focus. Needless to say, we had Guest Services and the Hotel Manager come look and they agreed it was odd, but said that's how they do it. In the end, we had them at least shift the cot to the far right so the handle was against the wall and not in the middle. Now it was just my immediate family and my girls are fine with sharing a bed with the parents....but some kids (including teens) and non-family immediate family units might object more to being quite that cozy. In the end, we slept DH on the left, me in the middle, and dd11 next to me leaving dd8 and all her stuffed animals in the bunk as she tosses and turns the most. It was like camping in a tent all in a row in one bed. Weird! Sure enough, anytime anyone needed to use the restroom, they would have to climb over me.... We think DCL has the best bunk set up as they don't come down over the main bed so there is no head bumping. Instead a couch flips into a bed and a bunk pulls down from the ceiling. On RCCL they flip down over our bed on each side making sitting up on bed inconvenient, but at least everyone has his or her own sleeping space. NCL, however, had the best storage for a standard stateroom. There were 6 drawers (plus a desk drawer) and then lots of recessed shelves deep enough for clothing, shoes, etc---and the closet. We always seem to be stumbling over our things in DCL and RCCL and DCL usually has a coffee table to trip over or have removed. NCL managed to fit a desk, a small table and two night stands in without taking up much space. We couldn't use the nightstands due to our mega-bed situation, but we stacked them against the wall without a problem. There was a small refrigerator that we didn't use with a mini bar in it, but it was out of the way. DCL had cool boxes that never seem to cool much and no minibar at all-- which we like! We don't ever use that stuff and it takes up space. RCCL has a messy minibar of junk that takes up space on the desk and, when asked, the stateroom attendant just moves it to a shelf thus using up shelf space. They did finally remove it when we pressed the issue, but it was a bit of a hassle that wasn't necessary. The shower on NCL was hands down the best...it was pretty roomy for a cruise ship. You could actually pick up the soap when it dropped. DCL's is ok and some might prefer the tub, but NCL was better. RCCL was the smallest and hardest to use-- like showering in a tiny cylinder! The toilet on NCL was in it’s own “closet” though---some might like the privacy of it since others could be in the bathroom at the sink. However, the wall and “closet door” took up valuable space thus making using the restroom a tight, uncomfortable experience and we just had one person in the bathroom at a time anyway. NCL had a nice, normal hair dryer---which was really helpful. I always have to bring my own on other cruise lines which takes up luggage space. Overall: So, all in all, I would say that we would definitely pick DCL over NCL and RCCL if all things were equal (price, timing, ports, etc). The food is better, the entertainment is better, the Kid’s Clubs are top notch and the facilities kept up. It’s just a better quality experience overall for us. However, it does come at a cost…so sometimes the trade-offs might be worth it. I would do NCL again if the price was right, but I would go into it eyes-wide-open about the food expectations and maybe take some granola bars with me! We actually have another RCCL trip planned in the future….the price and timing were right and it is a very port heavy itinerary, so we won’t really be experiencing much of the entertainment or kid’s clubs---so it seemed like an ok option since or priorities for that trip will be meals and sleeping. So that’s my impression of the three lines. I’m sure others have different takes depending on their preferences and priorities. I’m sure I’m definitely a bit DCL biased since we’ve cruised them more often…..but read the review with a grain of salt from your perspective and hopefully some of it was helpful to your planning. Let me know if you have questions!   Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
Bottom line: The dinner dining experience in both of the two main dining rooms was the worst we have had on any cruise. This was our eighth cruise, our second on Norwegian. Our first cruise several years ago on NCLs Dawn was amazing - the ... Read More
Bottom line: The dinner dining experience in both of the two main dining rooms was the worst we have had on any cruise. This was our eighth cruise, our second on Norwegian. Our first cruise several years ago on NCLs Dawn was amazing - the food was absolutely superb and the free-styling everything we expected. I should say that we were with a larger group, our two adult children, their spouses and four very young grandsons (0 to 5), so admittedly we were a larger than normal group. First, when we made dinner reservations, we were told 5:30 or 8:30 are the only times one can make reservations for; it did not matter how far ahead we called. So much for so called Free-Styling. We found it was a lot easier to not make reservations and just walk in; after the initial surge of coure. Generally, service was very slow. On another cruise line one would expect at least two servers for a large table. Normally, we only had one who was often not anywhere around. On our first night, it took more that two hours from sitdown to dessert! Our experience on other nights was better, but still much longer than normal. On the positive side, one night we did put in a written complaint and management responded very quickly and was very nice. Food selection - the dinner menu was pretty much the same every night especially for the entrees - there was some minor variation, but not much. Sometimes when the food arrived it was tepid. On one occasion, our oldest grandson's hotdog arrived 30 minutes before the main entrees were served - we appreciated the speed but one would assume everyone's meal should arrive at roughly the same time. Finally, but importantly, we found the taste of the food generally bland. This was nothing like our first NCL cruise. My spouse was so disappointed with the entire main dining room experience, she said more than once, "NCL - never again". Three points on the positive side -- One night we ate at Chin Chin's (you pay extra to eat there) and absolutely loved it! The food was tasty, fast and hot. The server, chief cook and the dining room manager were top notch - beyond excellent. All of them stopped by to talk and were obviously desiring that our experience be the best. Really a good memory! But that did make us wonder - is the quality of the dinner in the main dining room being notched down on purpose to drive people to the pay dining rooms? We would hope not. Since we had two older grandsons with us (4 and 5) we were able to observe the children's care program. Simply WoW!! Kudos to the young adults (and NCL) for this program. We were extremely impressed by the quality of care and creativity of the program. We give it five stars! The shows in the main theater were probably the best we had ever seen - particularly the Cirque du Soleil (sp?) like show - it was GREAT.   Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
We arrived at our hotel in San Pedro the night before our cruise departed. The Crowne Plaza was very nice and conveniently located near some very good seafood restaurants near the harbor. The next morning, the hotel shuttle transported us ... Read More
We arrived at our hotel in San Pedro the night before our cruise departed. The Crowne Plaza was very nice and conveniently located near some very good seafood restaurants near the harbor. The next morning, the hotel shuttle transported us to the cruise terminal about a mile or two away. Embarkation was as expected, a long delay followed by a rush to line up for boarding. Several groups of "Special Event" cruisers were allowed to board ahead of everyone else who had been waiting a long time to board. I think NCL should not allow this. Board by your boarding number and don't give special treatment to large groups. Boarding went okay and we were finally in our balcony cabin on Deck 9. We went to the buffet for some lunch and then went topside for the sailaway. Leaving San Pedro harbor was beautiful with the gorgeous sunset. The next day was a sea day so we spent most of the day exploring the ship. We had just cruised on her sister ship Norwegian Pearl in June to Alaska, so we were already familiar with the deck plans. The names of some of the dining rooms were different from the Pearl, but the locations were the same. We dined at Tzar Palace on our first night and really enjoyed the lobster dinner. The dining room was almost empty when we were there, but picked up as we were leaving. The staff were very attentive to your needs and were very friendly. During our cruise, we dined at the other main dining room, Azura, and the specialty restaurant, Cagney's Steakhouse. The steaks were excellent and our waiter was always asking us about how we enjoyed our meal. Anyone who cruises should experience a specialty restaurant at least once during a cruise, even though there is an additional charge for eating there. Our first port was Cabo San Lucas. This was the only port that required us to tender. The tender process did not go very well. It took several hours for some people to get off the boat. We were using the life boats from our ship, but later some local vessels were called in to assist with the tendering process. We did not have any shore excursions planned thankfully, so we spent a short time on shore trying out some local food. We were approached all along the pier to the restaurants by peddlers offering boat trips or taxi rides to town, or locals trying to sell their wares. Some of these vendors were very persistent and would not go away. It didn't matter if we were going into town, or returning to the ship, they would harrass you all along the route. This is why I hate traveling to Mexico. Our next port was Puerto Vallarta. Again, we did not schedule a shore excursion and just walked around the area near the pier. A large group of cruisers walked over to the Walmart store near the port. Yes, I said Walmart. There's a high end shopping mall next to the Walmart, but catered to the more wealthy people of the area. After another sea day, we arrived at our next port city of Huatulco, Mexico. The area near the port was filled with shops and restaurants. To get to the city center required a taxi ride. We opted to stay near the port and use the free wifi areas to catch up on my emails. There are really nice shops near the port, so we didn't see a need to go into town. Our next port was Puerto Chiapas, Mexico. This is a small port know mostly for it's coffee and chocolate. There is a large hut next to the pier that has several shops inside. Otherwise, a long walk or taxi ride would get you to the nearest town. Also next to the pier is a large restaurant with a swimming pool. Most of the crew took advantage of the pool and the special discount they had for beer. After another sea day, our next stop was Puntarenas, Costa Rica. This is another small port with what appeared to be a flea market atmosphere. The tiny stalls lined a sidewalk along the beach. Everyone appeared to be selling basically the same stuff, so it was easy to get a good deal if you found something you liked. The beach looked like mud, but was just a dirty sand. The water was dirty, but there were many local swimming in the water. If you like rain forests, this is the place to book a shore excusion. There are jungles as far as you could see. The area has several coffee plantations along the mountain slopes. Another sea day, and finally we reached the entrance to the Panama Canal. I was blown away at the sight of Panama City. It's tall white buildings along the coast were not what I expected. Going under the Bridge of the Americas rivaled going under the Golden Gate Bridge. Then we entered our first set of locks, the Miraflores Locks. This is a set of two locks that lift the ship approximatelhy 55 feet. It takes quite a while to attach the ship to the "mules" that will guide the ship through the locks. Although the ship uses its own power going through the locks, it appears that the trains are pulling it along. This is not the case. Our ship is what is called a Panamac ship, meaning it's the largest ship that can fit in the locks. There was barely room on each side of the ship. It was strange watching the ship being lifted in each lock. It was so slow that you don't notice being lifted as you would in an elevator. However, you could tell you were being lifted. The process takes a while while the water fills the locks. Then the gates are opened and you enter the next set of locks to start the procedure all over again. After the Miraflores Locks, the next set is the Pedro Miquel Locks. This lifts the ship to the level of Gatun Lake, 85 feet above sea level. After leaving Pedro Miquel Locks, we sailed under the beautiful Centennial Bridge and into the Culebra Cut. Most of this area is jungle, a we could here monkeys in the trees along the bank. We couldn't see them, but we could certainly hear them. Finally, we reached the last set of locks, Gatun Locks. This is a series of three locks that lower the ship 85 feet back to sea level. It was in these locks where we encountered a very heavy rain storm. The whole trip through the canal took all day. We exited the last set of locks at dusk. The cruise director and photographers took pictures as the ship went through the canal. The DVD they produced was less than I had expected. It wasn't even high definition. I've seen better videos on You Tube. For th $30 they charged for the DVD, I expected a lot more footage of the ship . Our last foreign port was Cozumel. Having been here before, we checked out the shops along the strip. As in most Mexican ports, we were followed by vendors trying to get your business. That is especially true at the big stores like Diamonds International, Colombia Emeralds, and all the other stores you are told to shop at during the shopping seminar given on board. We did find some nice T-shirts. Day 17 and we arrived in New Orleans, my favorite city. Being from Louisiana, it was great eating good southern food again and listening to good Cajun music. While in New Orleans, we visited the WWII museum. This is a must see for anyone visiting New Orleans. It's a very large museum and the movies are a must see as well. The weather for the entire cruise was hot and humid, with the exception of Los Angeles. Sunscreen, sunglasses, and chapstick are a must. We didn't experience the swarms of mosquitoes everyone told us about, even in the Panama Canal. A Panama Canal cruise has been a bucket list trip for me for many years. Now that I've done it, I don't think I will ever need to make that trip again.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
We had a great time but it's due to the fact that we were traveling with 3 other families. Overall, for our first time cruising, it was a good experience. Seattle Embarkment: We arrived at the terminal early (11 AM) which gave us ... Read More
We had a great time but it's due to the fact that we were traveling with 3 other families. Overall, for our first time cruising, it was a good experience. Seattle Embarkment: We arrived at the terminal early (11 AM) which gave us lots of time to check-in with no line. There were lots of agents available so the check-in process was very quick. You can even arrange/reserve/or change your dining option before boarding. There was a table with staff to assist you with this. We found out Lobster night will be on the first night so we switched our Cagney's reservation to another night. Note: there was a deal where for $57/adult, you can dine at Cagney's, Le Bistro and Mama's Kitchen (aka La Cucina) which was what our group pre-paid. Dining: Lobster night was average; not impressed. This was on the first night and available at either Tsar or Azura. You get one lobster tail with small steak (tough piece of meat and on the salty side). The lobster taste frozen and slightly overcooked. I asked for second and our server was nice enough to get it for our table without the tough steak. Our favorite was Le Bistro. The food was excellent and the service was A+. Our server, Dorothy, was amazing and really paid attention to our needs. Don't know if others are aware but for the flat fee, you can order as many items as you want from the menu; as many appetizers, entrees, and desserts as you want. So it is not expensive. Kids 12 and under are half price. The kids in our group were having a feast. They tried everything on the menu and reorder items that they liked several times. Our second favorite is Cagney's. The steaks were excellent. You can decide what sauce and butter to go with your steak. The service here also was very good. La Cucina was average. Service was good but the food was ok; I'd say a little bit better than Olive Garden and close to Macaroni Grill. Note: if you prepaid for dining and there are kids under 12 in your party, make sure to get the refund since it's supposed to be half price. Also check your final statement that the refund took place. There was an issue with one of the restaurants that I prepaid and the refund didn't take place. I had to ask them to fix it on my last day which they did. We ate at the Garden Cafe' quite a bit. Mostly because of the varieties which made it easy to please everyone. Breakfast had lots of selections. There were cold stuff (cereal, yogurt, milk), hot stuff (waffles, pre-made omelets, made-to-order omelets, eggs benedicts which was good, etc.), juices, and coffee. For lunch, there were burgers, hot dogs, fries, salad, some type of grill meat depending on the day (chicken or cornish hen or fish or beef), and some Asian dishes (stir-fried, curry, noodles). Dinner had more varieties as there'd be one main hot dish (roast turkey or prime ribs, or roast pork). There was also a crepe station every night. There was one day where they had 2 small roast pigs being served at the pool area. It was excellent, especially the crunchy skins. The meat was gone within an hour. Can't forget the Chocoholic Buffet. This is a must even if you don't have a sweet tooth or like chocolate. I can't recall which night during the cruise but at 10 PM, the Garden Cafe was completely filled with all sorts of chocolate treats. Not to mention there were several ice sculptures and lots of chocolate arts. Even though they said the start time is 10 PM, one of the crew (Rowan aka Washy Washy Guy) told us to be there early. The kids and I got there at 9:45 PM and the place was already filled with people. Be prepared to be push around 'cause it seemed like some people had never seen or eat chocolate. Some items were really good while some are just ok. Excursions overall were ok; the details are in my individual port reviews. With our big group, we were able to cover most of the excursions. Bering Sea Crab Fishermen's Tour was 3 out of 5. Mendenhall Glacier Explorer was 3 out of 5. Helicopter Glacier excursion got mixed review; the adults liked it while the kids gave it a 3 out of 5. Whale watching was 3.5 out of 5. There was always a show in the main theater, Stardust, at 7:30 PM and 9:30 PM. Entertainment was good, especially the two contortionists. Our cabin was 11546, midship mini-suite with balcony. It was small but good. Balcony is definitely a must. There was a bath tub which was a plus so we can bath our 1-year-old. Daily activities for sea days were not appealing. The last thing while on vacation for me is to hear "how to get flat abs in 7 days" or "how to detox in 5 days", etc. Our kids tried the kids club once for a couple of hours and they got bored. There were some activities that were worth it; Salsa dancing, ballroom dancing, and a fruit carving demonstration. Overall, we had fun because we were with friends. Bottom line, get the package dining deal 'cause Le Bistro and Cagney's are a must. Do go on an excursion and definitely get a midship cabin with a balcony. Hope I'm not forgetting anything.   Read Less
Sail Date August 2013
First, I have been on only 4 cruises prior to our Alaskan cruise so I am not a "beginner" cruiser. I also spent several years in the US Navy with deployments on ships. I understand how cruise lines operate... a friend was a ... Read More
First, I have been on only 4 cruises prior to our Alaskan cruise so I am not a "beginner" cruiser. I also spent several years in the US Navy with deployments on ships. I understand how cruise lines operate... a friend was a captain for RCL, so I have a bit more knowledge than most. I originally had an inside cabin (about 140 sq feet) booked for me and my two teen sons, but due to a job offer, I moved the cruise up by a month... thus allowing my teen daughter to join us (who would have been at camp in August during our original sail date). I upgraded to a balcony (about 200 sq feet) rather than pay the OUTRAGEOUS penalty for changing date of the cruise... the 1000 fee to change date was waived (although it cost me 1300 to upgrade and add my daughter). THAT SAID... Embarcation: Flawless. One of the smoothest embarkations ever. Presented documents for citizenship, set up spending account limits for each child... filled out a document allowing each of them to spend up to $100 on the ship for the week). Waited about 15 minutes and by 11:30 we were on the ship. Rooms were ready by 1 pm. BRAVO! Luggage: we all received our luggage by 5 pm (4 suitcases- one for each of us). Fairly reasonable, although previous cruises I have walked on with luggage, and will again do so in the future. OK. Garden Buffet: Upon arrival we were directed to the buffet for lunch. Not terrible, mediocre. Same foods, with some rotation of soups... I really liked the pretzel sticks and rolls... Reminded me of real German pretzels. ALWAYS crowded and difficult to find a seat. Kids were happy with the selection, so no real complaints until the last night ... more later. OK. Stateroom: Cabin 9634 was of decent size, but when set up for sleeping you could NOT access the balcony without some tricky maneuvering. Many bumps on heads... The pullman is directly in front of the sliding doors. Not the greatest in design... FLAWED! Our steward made up the room by 6 pm, essentially rendering our balcony useless when the skies were light until 11pm. The beds were HORRIBLY uncomfortable. The sofa sleeper, although wider, was like a rock slab. My daughter complained of it nightly... and it would fall apart! The foot piece is brought in from storage to extend the bed out, held on only by a weak velcro strip. The pullman was pretty uncomfortable too, but my 13 year old didn't seem to mind. Another fatal flaw in the layout, when the cabin is set up for 4 single sleepers, as we were... (Single mom and 3 teen children) the ladder to the pullman does not securely attach to the pullman... lots of near falls. We alleviated that by setting one bed on a slight diagonal, but it wasn't perfect. BE WARNED! The bathroom was of decent size for a cruise ship, although of all the ships I have been on Holland America has the biggest. Storage? TERRIBLE for a family of four... there was one closet, 4 useable cubbies and 3 drawers. I wound up moving the teapot and ice bucket tray to accommodate more storage. There was too much extra furniture (chair, and 3 tables...). Hindsight, I should have asked for their removal completely to give us more room, but we needed the space to set binoculars and miscellaneous items on. The main beds... not terrible, but mediocre. The bedding consists of a mattress, 2 layers of nasty looking foam (looked like carpet padding) and a mattress cover. The sheets were silky soft and much enjoyed after a long day of walking in port. If you have a family, and can afford it, go for 2 cabins (I would have saved a bit more booking two interior cabins and we would have been MUCH more comfortable). MEH! Safety drill Tsar's Port Side forward: I know the hurdle everyone must jump before relaxing. Most disorganized drill EVER! Staff were yelling at passengers in an almost threatening tone... Not cool. It was a completely booked cruise, so they should have expected latecomers etc... No reason to yell! It lasted entirely TOO long... and most people didn't pay attention anyway. (So far, Carnival's has been the most organized and expedited.) Advice, BE PATIENT! Kids are screaming, crew is yelling, parents and seniors just want it over... It does end, sure enough. If you have small children, bring a low tech toy (electronics must be shut off during the drill) to capture their attention. TWO THUMBS DOWN! Spa: BEST THING GOING FOR NCL! I purchased the week long spa pass (must be 18) for both my 19 year old son and myself and made serious use of it. The heated chaises are the best place to be when pulling in or out of port or just to take the chill off after a rainy day tooling about Alaska. There is a co-ed therapy pool and in each locker room there is a hot tub, lounging area, sauna, herbal steam room, and a Japanese cold pool... plus lockers, toilets and several showers. I have read they only sell 50-60 passes for the cruise, and believe this to be true as the spa was NEVER crowded. People were polite, and lots of pleasant conversation. There was mutual respect if you were taking a snooze on the chaises... Hot water for a variety of (Lipton in a Bigelow box) teas, cold water, and orange juice were available at all times. Nice touch. The spa staff was friendly and helpful. By the end of the week all knew your name. My 19 year old, 17 year old and me all had massages... on par with expensive spas, but still overpriced. Be careful!!! the 18% gratuity is added automatically. I didn't realize this until I got to my stateroom. We tipped an additional $15 each. (Perhaps that is why the staff was always so friendly to us?) I don't regret it, I should have read the receipt more closely when I signed. I do think there should be a sauna for general use... STANDING OVATION! POOLs/Hot tubs: HEATED to a comfortable 86 degrees so even on the coldest Alaskan day, you can enjoy a swim. There is one pool and 2 hot tubs for families; one pool and 2 hot tubs for adults only. They were never crowded because the ambient temperature was never above 60... My youngest (almost 14) had a blast using them... BRAVO!! Entertainment: We went to 3 shows... Magic, Comedy and Cirque de Bijou... all were first rate, however the comedy, although family "friendly" did get a bit risqué. WE enjoyed the shows, to be sure... However, if you plan on the 7:30 show, arrive at 7 and wait in line. My son and I went for the comedy show at 7:20 and had a zinger of a time trying to find seats. The 9:30 show is not as crowded. BRAVO!! Casino: What can I say? Casino. My 19 year old son and I played a total of $90 using the special offers ($10 for 20 and $25 for 50) ... So our total loss was $45. At one point, I was up... but aren't we all? :-) It taught my son a great lesson! He doesn't want to gamble anymore! LOL (me either...) MEH... Tsar's: The "complimentary" main dining room (same menu at Azura the other main dining room)... We liked the look and elegance of this dining room best. The food was better than buffet (to be expected) but not special. Night one or two (sorry I cant remember) was lobster tail (Maine) and the most horrible excuse for a sirloin steak EVER! Tasteless, tough and it looked weird... The lobster tail was great, broiled to buttery sweet perfection. The other nights had slightly differing menus with a Chef's special. The one night all 4 of us dined at Tsar's... our table was not completely set, we were missing flatware, butter, cream... I felt like I was annoying the server... because he acted ... ANNOYED. Not to mention, there were open tables EVERYWHERE, but they seated us around the corner with other families. I'm sorry, I have well behaved teenagers... I do NOT need to be seated by children who can't sit still for the duration of a meal, or by parents who do not know when it is time to take a screaming child OUT of the dining room. Because of that, two of my children opted to dine at the buffet for the remainder of the cruise. LUNCH MENU: BEWARE: NEVER CHANGES!!! Not ONCE! My theory, they WANT you to dine elsewhere... and pay for it. Ambience? BRAVO!! Service, hit or miss; Variety: BOOOO!!!! Quality: better than the buffet (and your only other complimentary option) Teppanyaki: AMAZING! Worth the up-charge? Debatable. Definitely better than Benihana! The food was very good, presentation and service phenomenal. WHAT I AM USED TO IN THE MAIN DINING ROOM of other cruise lines. Seriously! We dined there on the 2nd last night and it made me wish I was rich so I could afford all the up charge restaurants. Our server gave my children Shirley Temples at no charge. BRAVO!! Sushi Bar: Better than expected. My daughter LOVED the salmon nigiri. We each had 2 rolls. The miso soup was tasty!! The hot saki? Gekkeikan ($5 per bottle on land) $6 for a TINY bottle (about 3 thimble size cups full) Overall, BRAVO! Chocoholics Buffet: A sight to behold! Get there early. If you are any later than 8:30 when the 7:30 show lets out, it is wall to wall pushing, screaming, rude PEOPLE! Is it so hard to act civilized in the presence of decadence? IT was also a sight of horrible gluttony and WASTE!. People loaded 2 plates overflowing with different treats and treasures... knowing full well they couldn't possibly eat that much... The sad reality was in the morning with barely eaten plates laying next to the stateroom doors. My family ate what they took... and enjoyed watching the idiocy of those around us. Mind you, it surely wasn't the majority... but seriously? You spend a pretty penny on a cruise, and I understand you want your money's worth... but do you have to act like Tarzan? No, I take that back, Tarzan was more civilized. Of all the upcharges on board, I think the only place there should be an upcharge is at this event. Game room: well stocked with board games and well used. Bravo! Library: good size lending library, well lit, comfortable. Bravo! Gym: Must be 16. Good selection of equipment and classes but I did not use... My daughter used an elliptical a few times and enjoyed her time in there. MARTINI TASTING: Just do IT! TWO THUMBS UP!! a flight of 4 half size martinis for $15, but you get an explanation, history lesson, and quiz, games... the more you participate, the more you get. The first night, I had 2 additional martinis. Beware, they are all vodka based, so gin martini lovers (like me) need to appreciate it for what it is and order a gin martini at the Martini bar another time. BRAVO! Bingo: OVERPRICED and only 3 games per session! The ship makes SOOOOOOOO much money from bingo. THe big jackpots are only won if the coverall bingo is in 47 calls or less. We played the "show me the money" level so that the kids could play free... we had fun, so that is what it was all about, right? OK! Shore Excursions: DO NOT BOOK THROUGH CRUISE LINE: no matter what they say, the cruislines mark up as much as 75%. We did all our tours independently upon arrival. With the change of plans I didn't really have the time to prebook, but that wasn't a problem AT ALL! All the private tours cater to the cruise ships and most, if not all, guarantee you will be done and returned to the ship prior to departure. We did Saxman Village and City Tour/Dolly house in Ketchican... Sourdough Company. Saw over 30 bald eagles... Bears didn't want to be seen. Tour guide was great. In Juneau, we did whale watching (http://www.juneauwhalewatch.com)... The original price was $110 for a 3 hour tour... My son said he was having the best 19th birthday... and the lady gave us a $10 discount. Great tour! We saw several whales and were entertained by a momma and her calf! Refreshments and drinks were included. First rate tour! In Skagway we did the bus to White Pass and the city tour through Klondike Tours. Our guide was awesome. In Victoria, we walked to the Empress and had tea seated right away without reservations... pricy, but high tea is never cheap. My point: You do NOT need to book or pre-book a tour. THERE are PLENTY available on the pier and whether admitted or not... you might be able to get a discount to save even more money. We had a BLAST on all of our excursions NOT booked through NCL! Our cabin steward was awesome. I gave him an additional tip on the last night. I always tried to do a once over in the cabin in the morning and make sure the kids were out so he could make up the room, but there were a few times where we weren't ready and he came back later. He always greeted me and the children by name, and made fantastic towel animals when he found out they are one of my favorite treats on cruises. :-) BRAVO! Have a great vacation in Indonesia next month! Teen Club: My daughter participated in several activities and made a lot of friends. My youngest didn't go at all other than to sign up. My oldest wished he could have participated. BRAVO! 18-20 crowd: Cruise lines lack at catering to this precious age group. Too young to do some things, too old to do others. I know it is strange age range to be. My son went to the casino with me. He did a few adult activities, but there really were not organized ANYTHING for this age group. Did it ruin his cruise? NO! He had a great time talking to the older people in the spa. EVERYONE who met him was charmed by him and I got many compliments on how well behaved and courteous he is. I do wish, however, they had a late-teen or early adult program or even a few activities at the beginning of the cruise. I looked on day one because I read some cruise lines do this, but none was to be seen. BOO! Kid's programs overall: There were over 700 kids on board and for the most part, they were well behaved and occupied with activities. Families I had spoken with had trouble coaxing their children away from the program. BRAVO!!! WELL-DONE! Store: Great selection of goods. Although I did not purchase anything, I walked around and window shopped. They had all the souvenirs you could need. OK. Freestyle cruising: Not sure I am sold on this. Yes, I enjoyed not having to dress up on formal night (I am a comfort seeking person... and love my jeans, blouse and sandals... but I do know how to glitz out). I don't think I liked the way the main dining rooms were run. One night we had to wait nearly 40 minutes for a table. Yes, we received vouchers for a free drink... but still.. If it were early and late seating... this would NOT have happened. I missed bonding with my table mates... It is always fun to see familiar faces and network. THE JURY IS STILL OUT. Nickel and diming: true as it may be... all cruise lines do this, but NCL JEWEL takes the cake for the most gold digging. So many things I didn't expect to have charges, had charges... BOO! Hidden gems: 11th deck port side (Bridge observation) LOVED IT! LAST night at the Garden Buffet: I told you more later... Let me just say, when I asked politely if there was more pepperoni pizza coming out, the man said, "this is all we have so take it or leave it." HUH?? ABSOLUTELY UNACCEPTABLE, a simple, we have none this evening would have sufficed. REALLY sour taste for my last night on board. Disembark: Walked off with our own baggage... smooth... easiest customs EVER! BRAVO!! I am sure I missed something... Overall, we had a great trip to Alaska which is what was looking forward too. I tried NCL on a recommendation from a friend (was going to book a more familiar line, but it would have departed from Vancouver... Seattle was easier for us)... I would choose NCL again if it was the right itinerary and price... but as far as loyalty goes... Not there yet. I hope you found this somewhat helpful. I am not an optimist by nature, but a realist... I am highly critical too... so take that with a grain of salt. Read Less
Sail Date July 2013
EMBARKATION Easy and fast. They allowed those in our party who were not Latitudes members to check in with us who were gold members. Great boarding picture, but you didn't have to have it taken. FOOD Generally very good and had a ... Read More
EMBARKATION Easy and fast. They allowed those in our party who were not Latitudes members to check in with us who were gold members. Great boarding picture, but you didn't have to have it taken. FOOD Generally very good and had a great variety. Loved the fresh fruit for breakfast and lunch in the buffet. Never had to wait long for my omelet in the morning. Hint: For the buffet area there is extra seating at the Italian restaurant on the other side of the elevators. There are usually tables there and it is quieter. We ate dinner mostly in the main dining rooms. We had no complaints. Staff was good about getting a high chair for our toddler, bringing his food before our entree and giving him a little more attention. (Well, he was kind of a flirt with our female waiters) Also, we waited twice for a table. The second night out - a dress up or not night - we had to wait and one other night. They give you a coupon to get a glass of "bubbly" or pop for while you what. Yes, there is a difference in the quality of food from the main dining room and speciality restaurants. Glaringly apparent in the French onion soup and mushroom soup in the main dining room compared to LaBistro. CABIN AWESOME to have an aft balcony on an Alaskan cruise. You can see both sides of the ship and not have to deal with the cold wind while viewing the glaciers. The balcony was large enough for all 6 adults to have a view. With the mini suite there are two chairs at the desk/mirror so we brought one out on the balcony to add to the two chairs that were there. Just two of us were in this cabin, others were relatives.Under 3 Children's Program I think they had something every day. I only went once to watch grandson. Most of the kids there were happy, but a little too young to understand how to "play" with balloons, scarfs and music. Entertainment Good A few times it was hard to find a seat for the late show. There were several IMAX-type movies on glaciers and the gold rush. Did not do games or BINGO. Fitness Daughter said equipment was often in use and she didn't want to wait. Shore excursion desk We needed to change a shore excursion. This was no problem and the guy at the desk was very pleasant about it even though it meant a little refund to our account. DISEMBARKATION Easy Peasy Walked off with our luggage. No great wait for an elevator like on the Epic. We left our luggage at the pier for $3 per bag in a secure room while we went to the Space Needle before our 5 p.m. flight home. This was our 5th NCL cruise. The layout of the public rooms on the Jewel were our least favorite of all the ships- awkward. Read Less
Sail Date July 2013
Everything seemed great. We had a great update to a balcony forward on the 10th floor. My sisters were on the 9th with Mom and my nephews. I had another sister upgraded to a penthouse on the 8th floor. We were ready. The problem we had was ... Read More
Everything seemed great. We had a great update to a balcony forward on the 10th floor. My sisters were on the 9th with Mom and my nephews. I had another sister upgraded to a penthouse on the 8th floor. We were ready. The problem we had was that my husbands medication came up missing the very first day. I will say Guest services bent over backwards to aide us but no such help from the stewards supervisor. We finally came to the conclusion that it was done by accident and paid the service fee minus the price of the prescription. The spa was great the body massages were 1/2 price by Wednesday and took full advantage. If you can get up there the first day, the 119.00 for daily use if their hot spa, steam room is worth the fee. Excursion... we purchased the Yukon Expedition for Skagway for 119.00 online and glad we did. A bear was eating dandelions on the side of the road. Eagles everywhere,, and the beauty if the area shown was a delight. The lunch was great too. I loved it. Even though it was 5 hours .. its seemed to go fast. The other excursion was the the Mendenhall in Juneau for 59.00. You can get it much cheaper at the booths right in town. It was a good sight to see but long for 2 and a half hours. A shuttle in town goes for 8.00 each way.,,, save and go local. In Ketchikan we went also local and caught our first whale sighting and bald eagle in the mini bus. That trip was 50.00 for 2 hours. We enjoyed Moderno on the ship.. They will have to roll you home if you don't turn the green card to red to stop.... Loved it... Tsars and Azura were great too but my little nephew s loved the buffet in the Garden on the 12th... out of 5 stars I would give it a 4 because of the medication. Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
Hello - Overall we enjoyed our trip to Alaska. We had decent weather overall and really liked the sites we saw - which were amazing at times. The review below though is going to focus on the Jewel, what we liked and what we didn't ... Read More
Hello - Overall we enjoyed our trip to Alaska. We had decent weather overall and really liked the sites we saw - which were amazing at times. The review below though is going to focus on the Jewel, what we liked and what we didn't like or found underwhelming. For background purposes: We are a family of four, kids ages 13 and 11 (girl and boy)and we travelled from MN to Seattle and arrived one day early to tour the downtown Seattle area. We were on the June 29th cruise and visited Ketchikan (no rain that day and in the 60s!), Juneau (low/mid 60s and sprinkling/drizzling - but did not impair our whale watching), Skagway (cold and windy that day, but we were on the train ride, so OK) and Victoria (beautiful city and nice day in the 70s). Seattle was beautiful the day we left and arrived back in port. Room: We had a mini-suit in the forward to mid section of the ship (11526). Our room location was fabulous for the areas we probably visited the most - pool area, buffet for breakfast/lunch, stardust theater for shows, exercise room and spinnaker lounge. The room size was nice for a family of four and we loved having the deck for outside viewing. The interesting part was that there were no outlets in the bathroom for hairdryers (only low voltage razors), which I thought was odd and a bit inconvenient. With that said, there were a desk area that you could use for make-up and hair. My only complaint about that was poor lighting for that purpose in that area. Definitely bring a power strip with you. Our cabin steward was friendly and did a great job with making up the room each morning and getting beds ready at night. Overall we would probably give the room an A-. Food: We ate all breakfast meals at the buffet and most lunches. We also ate at Cagney's one night and the Italian place (forgetting the name - La Cuccina I think). We also ate at the blue lagoon and the outside grill for lunch a few times. Overall the buffet was just OK - same food every single day with no changes ups (or at least not that I really saw). Breakfast was better than lunch. Would rate the buffet a C+. Cagneys & La Cuccina were both pretty good, but it is disappointing to have to pay extra money to get good food. The specialty restaurants did not seem to fill up ever from what I could see. I would rate them an A-/B+ (just because of the extra charges - which I did know in advance). Blue Lagoon was good the day we ate there, probably a B. The outdoor grill (both grill and picnics) were OK - probably a B-/C+. We enjoyed the chocoholic dessert buffet night (A!). We ate most of our dinners in the main dining rooms (visited each at least twice). The food was OK and again, fairly repetitive with only four new main entrée options to choose from most nights - and not all that exciting of options. We were rather unimpressed with the selection and quality of the MDR food. Probably would rate the MDRs B-/C+. All in all, I would say the food was average and not much to get excited about. I should say - I love food, so this is always an area of importance for me. :) Exercise Room: We used this several times for cardio, using the ellipticals. The two days we had early excursions, we walked on deck 13, which was nice (though cool!). The fitness center opens at 6:00, which we liked. Overall the equipment was in decent shape and ellipticals had TVs on them and faced the ocean, which was nice! Fitness Center gets an A. Shows: We saw the opening night show (sneak peeks of coming shows - good), the 70s music show (we enjoyed), the comedian (David Naster - he was pretty good), and the Cirque Bijou (very good). We were unable to get into the magician show, even though we arrived almost 10-15 minutes ahead of show time. We thought the shows were very good overall, but found you need to arrive very early for seating (both 7:30 and 9:30 shows). I would rate the shows an A. Kid Entertainment: My kids did not sue the splash club or teen club. The both fell into different age brackets and the staff would now allow my 13 year old (who only turned 13 about 1.5 months earlier) to hang with my son at the splash club, so they did not want to go at all (they are both very shy and wanted to stay together). That was a bit disappointing, but I understand they need to make rules. My kids liked playing ping pong, but a group of about 8 boys (am guessing ages 10-15) took over the indoor ping pong table daily and since we were in Alaska, most days it was too cool and windy to use the outdoor tables. This was a bit of a bummer too - but they did get to play a little. Many of the staff planned activities seemed more geared towards adults, so my kids did not participate in too many of the daily activities other than cupcake decorating and a wii bowling tournament. This ship has the Nickelodeon theme, but they really only had about one activity a day and you rarely saw the characters. Kids/Family entertainment : B-/C+ Overall Activities: The had many music options and decent talent overall, which we enjoyed. My biggest complaint though was how hard they pushed the bingo, deal or no deal and quick pick tickets. We did play the bingo and deal games the first day, but at a minimum price of $29 for bingo (ranging to 60+) and $20 for deal or no deal - we did not play after that - the cost/benefit was just not there. The ship must make a lot of money off of these games. Had the entry prices been more reasonable, we mat have played again. You will also find the "pot" to win grows each day- so if you do play, save it for later in the cruise. They kept advertising bingo as $1,000 winner, $2,000 etc..... but we are not convinced anyone wins anywhere near that (and hence, NCL just makes money). I would be wrong on this as we did not attend all the games after the first day. Because so many of the daily activities cost money to partake, I would rate the activities a B-. Spa: My daughter and I did visit the spa one afternoon. I had a deep tissue massage, which was good and she enjoyed the teen package. While I liked my massage - At $139 I thought it was very expensive and I have had as good for prices closer to $80 for the same amount of time. I was expecting "wow" and it was good, but not wow - so not worth the price tag in my opinion. I also did not like the hard sell to buy some products at the end of it. I would rate the spa a B. Bars/Lounges: We visited most and thought they were all pretty good. Prices generally in line with what I see in MN - so good. It does add up over the week though! :) Rating of A for this area. Pools: One pool for family and smaller pool for adults only. Both were heated. Family pool was fairly small and the slide very small (for 11-13 year old kids anyway). There were two family hot tubs and two adult only. The family hot tubs were not very warm, which disappointed by kids (as they were not allowed to use the adult ones). The overall area of the pools was fun to hang out in during the warmer days on-board and they had music and food service (though no free outdoor beverage service - you had to go into the buffet for that). It would be nice to have some free beverage service in this area to be more convenient for guests. Overall, I would rate the pools/pool area a B. Staff: We generally found most of the staff to be friendly and good at their jobs. We did have two waiters in the main dining rooms that did an OK job, but were not overly friendly or trying to engage with you (hence we did not give them extra tips like we did the others!). I enjoyed the "washy washy team each day - my husband not so much! Staff - A-/B+ I think I have rated just about everything. Overall we had a good cruise. I would consider going on an NCL cruise again, but probably not on the Jewel if the kids were with us. It would really depend on the port options and price compared to other cruise options though given the mediocre food. Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
I just returned today from a 7 day cruise on the Jewel. The reviews I read here in advance were of so much help that I thought I would write my own comprehensive review in hopes that it may be of help to future travelers, particularly ... Read More
I just returned today from a 7 day cruise on the Jewel. The reviews I read here in advance were of so much help that I thought I would write my own comprehensive review in hopes that it may be of help to future travelers, particularly those with children, as it was myself, my husband and our 6 year old daughter on this trip. Just a little bit about us so you know where I am coming from with my opinions. This is only our 3rd cruise, 2nd on NCL. We did the Boston to Bermuda cruise on NCL Dawn last April. I chose this cruise on the Jewel because it is easy for us to get to NYC, as well, I have wanted to sail out of NYC because I have heard from others about the nice views while sailing away. Also, this is one of the few NCL ships which has the Nickelodeon themed events and we thought our daughter would like that. I am not a relaxing cruiser, I like to have my freestyle daily with me and I'm always hurrying from one event to another. Cruiseport/Embarkation: We live in Maine so we drove to Connecticut the day before and then drove into the city early Sunday morning. It was St. Patty's Day and we were concerned about street closures due to the parade. We had no idea how easy it was going to be to get to the cruiseport. It was excellent! Our GPS brought us right there, no problem. Instead of a garage it is a parking lot that is literally right next to the boat. It is expensive ($245 for 7 days) but I think it is totally worth it. Embarkation was very easy and well coordinated and we were on the ship having lunch by 11:30. It was a far easier place to sail out of then Boston and the sail away by the Statue of Liberty was awesome, even though it was freezing :-) Cabin: We had an oceanview picture window room on the 5th deck. I had wanted to have a balcony but when I booked they were all sold. Our room was fine, no issues. It was exactly the same as the room we had on the Dawn last year. The beds are very comfortable. Some people have mentioned in reviews that the tv's are old and that is true, it is not a flat screen, but it didn't bother me any, it worked just fine. We were quite happy with the room, and even though our boat was full of spring breakers it never got too loud. Food: I could say a lot about this, but I'll try to keep it as short as possible. Buffet - We don't generally like buffets but if we are in a hurry we will go there for a quick breakfast or lunch. This buffet was not good, actually I truly feel that awful is an adequate way to describe. I'm not picky and when we did go I tried several different things and it all just seemed like cheap, sub-par food that was pushed out quickly with not much care. Couple that with the mobs of people and dirty tables and it was not appealing. The positives: the washy-washy guy and girl were fun, the soft-serve ice cream machines, and the anytime coffee. I will say that there seem to be plenty of staff working in the buffet cleaning all the time, however, we had a full ship and some of the guests are just slobs so it is not the crews fault that it was messy, they were doing the best they could to keep up with it. Chocolate Buffet -- They have this one night in the Garden Cafe. They have some pretty impressive chocolate sculptures and ice sculptures that are fun to see. The chocolate, however, leaves much to be desired. I'm not sure what you could do to mess up chocolate but the offerings they have for this are terrible. It was the same way on the Dawn but we figured we'd go see this and see if it was different. One thing, the black forest cake, was the only thing remotely tasty. They only had about 6 different things but just had them spread out over the whole buffet area and most of them tasted like something you would get off the week old discount section in the bakery area of the grocery store. They were dry and tasteless. But, it is worth going to see the sculptures. Blue Lagoon -- this is the complimentary 24 hour cafe that overlooks the atrium, so it is a good place to be if you want to have a bite while listening to someone play in the atrium. We loved this area on the Dawn and the food was great, so we were happy to see that the menu was the same on this ship as it was on the Dawn. We ate lunch here our seond day and were very disappointed. First off, the waitress we had was not friendly. She acted like she was put out that she had to wait on us. We got the spinach artichoke dip which was one of our favorites from the Blue Lagoon on the Dawn, however, it was not the same. Actually it was bad, to the point where it tasted spoiled so we didn't eat it, we just had the chips. Our regular meals were okay, they were adequate but not good. We didn't eat there for the rest of the cruise. Azura - this was one of the two main dining rooms. This and the other dining room have the same menu each night. We ate here one night and the atmosphere is nice, the more casual of the two. This dining room is also much smaller than the other so it fills up very fast and usually has a wait of a half-hour or more. Tsar's Palace - this is the more formal of the two dining rooms. It is very large so there is usually no wait. It opens at 5:00 PM and does require men to wear pants for dinner. This room has large windows at the back with a great view. We had breakfast and dinner here most every day. The staff in here was wonderful! Very friendly and attentive, especially to our daughter. The menu doesn't vary much from night to night but we found plenty of good food to eat. My husband had several decent steaks and I especially liked the basil pesto pasta. The only thing we didn't care for much was the prime rib on the last night, but pretty much everything else we had in there was good, especially the desserts! There was a dessert called chocolate decadence that they served on the final night and it was to-die-for! It is extremely rich and I recommend ordering vanilla ice cream on the side to eat with it. Also, the bread and butter pudding was great (again with vanilla ice cream ordered on the side). If you can't tell, I prefer dessert to any other part of the meal :-) But also all of the soups and salads that we had for starters were very good. We did not eat at any specialty restaurants, mostly because we were more focused on the shows and entertainment than the food, and we were happy with Tsar's. We usually went to dinner early so we could get it out of the way and have our evening clear for events. The one place we were going to try was Mama's but the night we wanted to go they were full until 8, and then we heard other guests who went saying it wasn't good. Again, just heresay. I heard nothing about the other specialty restaurants from this trip. Room Steward: I think from what I heard most of them are great! Our guy was very friendly when we arrived and introduced himself right away. We had great experiences the previous two times we had cruised so we thought this was going to be another one. We really didn't have any major problem with him, he did a fine job of make up/turn down service. Just a couple of things that kind of bugged me: We would leave for dinner and turn our dial to "turn down cabin" so he would know we were gone for a while. One night we did this but then had some time after dinner so decided we would go back to our room for a few minutes. We forgot we had turned the dial and he knocked on the door. My husband answered and explained we would only be there for a few minutes. He asked us to turn our dial back to the normal position and change it again when we leave. So we left a few minutes later and we again turned it to "turn down" status. When we got to the theater it was quite cold in there and my daughter wanted her sweater so my husband went to the room to get it. Our steward was just going in and when he saw my husband coming he said he would come back. My husband stopped him and explained that he was only grabbing a sweater and leaving. When my husband told me this he was laughing and said "the guy seemed a little pissed off and I can't blame him". I disagree, I understand that he needs to get the rooms done, but it was still early and it's our room, we should be able to go in it as we please! So that annoyed me a bit, but I didn't have the interaction with him myself. Also, a nice bartender at Topsiders by the pool gave us a Stella Artois beer glass earlier in the week when we ordered a large bottle. He said "this is yours to keep". We were happy about it because we have some Amstel gold rimmed glasses in a bar that we have and this would match. Anyhow, my husband cleaned it and set it up on the shelf behind the tv with other items of ours. When he went to pack it on Saturday night he realized it was gone. We figured that the steward took it. I can't blame him, I'm sure he thought it was an empty bar glass. We were afraid to ask about it because I didn't want to get the bartender in trouble in case he's not supposed to give them away, although, I suspect it is something they do frequently. So we let it go, and my husband said he was happy anyway because he had a Stella Artois large bottle that he had kept from earlier in the week. He kept the cork for it and had cleaned it out and it had been sitting on the desk for a few days. We got back later that night after turn down to discover that the steward had removed it. Again, I don't really blame him because I'm sure he probably thought it was trash, but my husband was not happy, he thinks that the steward should have asked us about it before removing it from our room. Wait Staff/Bar Staff -- With the exception of the lady in Blue Lagoon that one day (mentioned above), the wait staff and bar staff were fantastic. Very friendly and patient. One special mention: Mauricio Tuiza in Tsar's. This guy was awesome, he stood out among everyone. He was wonderful and we really enjoyed interacting with him. The wait staff moved around the room each night so we only had him once but he was the best! In comparison to the Dawn, I think the wait staff was better on the Jewel. Entertainment -- We do as many activities and entertainment as possible on the ship. I live by the freestyle daily :-) I will give NCL credit, they are not going to let you get bored on one of their ships! There are many who like to just lay by the pool and relax, but for those of us who like to go, go, go, this suits us well. Every morning there was some type of aerobics or other exercise activity offered early, around 7. I never participated in these, although I really should have after all of the desserts! There was some type of trivia most mornings and I participated in that which was always a lot of fun. Then on sea days there were usually a variety of activities, either music, game shows, bingo, etc., then we would fit lunch in and always plenty to pick from in the afternoon. We got off the ship at each port but there were still activities for those who chose to stay behind. There is a show in the theater every night which runs twice, once at 7:30 and again at 9:30. We saw all the shows, mostly at the 7:30 time. The entertainment on this ship was good, quite a bit better than on the Dawn, although that wasn't bad. For a run-down: 1st night - welcome show....this is where you meet the cruise director, Jaime, and then you get a brief glimpse of some of the acts you will see during the week, and you will see a song and dance from the ships singers/dancers, who were really good. 2nd night -- Band on the Run...Carnival had a similar show when we went on that in 2011. The talent on this was better. It was a half-hour show with 70's music. It wasn't spectacular but it was pretty good if you like that type of music and worth a half-hour of your time. 3rd night -- David Naster, comedian. When we saw him on the welcome show I didn't think he would be that funny but we still caught his show at 9:30 after getting back on the boat in Port Canaveral. I was so wrong! this guy is hilarious! He's not adults only, however, he's edgy enough that I probably wouldn't bring my child to the show, although most things would go over her head. He was good, though, I highly recommend his show! 4th night -- Duo Elegia -- This is a husband and wife acrobatic team and they are unbelievable! It's not just your run-of-the-mill show, it is really good. 5th Night -- Jean Pierre something? He is a magician/comedian. I think he's kind of annoying and a lot of his act is him being a pervert, but his illusions are pretty impressive so it's definitely worth going to see. And then he will stay after and you can purchase his magic kit/book. He also offered a workshop for kids the following day in the theater where he showed how to do some tricks, but we were not able to make that one. 6th Night -- Le Cirque Bijou -- this is their major show. Reading prior reviews helped me to prep for this one. They said do not sit in the first 6 rows because people drop from the ceiling and you won't be able to see them. We got in line at 7 and sat 8 rows back in the center and it was perfect! The dancers/singers and Duo Elegia are the main part of this show. It is a really good show. I was not sure how it would be because the "big" show on the Dawn was a huge disappointment, however, this one certainly was not. At the end of this show Jaime came out and brought on all of the staff from all areas of the ship so they could be recognized. It was really nice, I always like that part. 7th night -- Goodbye show -- Jaime hosted this and opened by reading off a top 10 list of the dumbest questions ever asked by cruise guests. It was really funny, a huge hit. Then they showed the video of the past weeks highlights. The rest of the show was pretty much all Jean Pierre again. Some of his tricks were really good, and he is funny sometimes but he really does get old after a while. None of the shows last more than 45 minutes. I recommend seeing all the shows but the best shows were Le Cirque Bijou and David Naster. However, my personal favorite entertainment came after the show in the theater, up in the Spinnaker Lounge. The game shows that incorporate the guests. Some of them: Perfect Couple, Newleywed Game, Dancing with the Jewel Stars, and the best one: The Quest. The good thing is that if you do miss any of these they usually show them on the tv so you can see them when your getting ready in the morning. If you only see one of these, try to make sure you see the quest. It is 18+ and is on the last night at 10:30 but it is totally worth it, it is hilarious!! Entertainment Staff: Sassy Stephanie, Amazing Alicia, Legendary Leslie, Zesty Zack, Jersey Boy Joel and Dazzling Devyn. I think I got them all. They were all really good for the most part. Leslie was the best, he has a great personality for this. But they were all pretty good and friendly. Although, the last day we attended several activities which were hosted by Stephanie and she just seemed tired and annoyed with everyone and was a little snippy with a couple of guests during a couple of the activities. I have to give her a break, I'm sure it is very hard to do this week after week, and probably some people are completely obnoxious, so I won't completely hold it against her, but the others were still friendly. We played Bingo one time because we wanted to, well I wanted to :-) It was expensive but fun. I also played Deal or No Deal once and that was fun and only $40 for two of us. Kid's Stuff: So one reason we chose this cruise was that it is a Nickelodeon cruise. There was a whole Nick staff and they seemed very high energy during all of the Nickelodeon events, which were mostly free. There was a character breakfast which we attended for $20 each. It was held in Spinnaker and it was cute. The breakfast was done nicely with kid-themed food. Spongebob, Patrick, Dora, Diego, the Fairy Oddparents all came out and danced along with the Nick staff and then all of the characters went to different corners and the kids got in line to meet them. Here's the thing: All week there are other events that the characters are at and plenty of character meet and greets which are free. I do not think that the character breakfast was worth the money. It was basically a meet and greet with breakfast. My daughter just wanted to meet them. I really would strongly suggest saving your money and taking your kids to the free meet and greet and other events. They had a family deck party one night which was great, along with a Dora Dance Party and Dora Storytime, and Slime Time Live gameshow. Kid's Club: My daughter had gone to the kid's club on the Dawn so she was not shy about going to this one. She loved it so much that I had to beg her to spend time with us! The counselors all have cute nicknames. My daughter especially liked Lipstick and she was usually the one at the front and very friendly. They gave us a list of their theme days/nights. And the best part was when they created a circus show that the kids performed in the theater. It was so cute! The security in this area will make you feel okay about leaving your kids here. It is a great service and it made her feel like she had some really great experiences independent of her parents on the ship. Ports of Call/Shore Excursions: Port Canaveral: We went to Universal Studios. We were lucky to have beautiful weather. This worked out well. We had nice coach busses to take the groups over. They left on time and it was about an hour ride. It gave us about 6 hours to explore at Universal and we were lucky that it wasn't busy at all there that day. I had also purchased express passes ahead of time so we were able to do all of the rides during the time we were there and also do some shopping and get an ice cream. It was a very expensive excursion but we all really enjoyed it. We were back in time to catch the 9:30 show that night. Great Stirrup Cay: This is NCL's private island. They dropped anchor and had a continuous flow of tender boats to bring people over. My husband and daughter were very excited to go to the beach but I hate the beach! I am pale and burn really easy. I spray tan, not real tan :-) Anyhow, we didn't do a shore excursion so we were really in no hurry to get over there. They had a person sitting out by the pool area to hand out tender tickets. We were near the end because we didn't get them until late, but it was fine with us. The tender boat was fine and it is a real short ride to the beach. It is nice. There are some local vendors set up selling t-shirts, hats, etc., and someone doing hair braiding. They also have a very large blow up waterslide that you can pay to go down. You can use your keycard for that. As well, you can use your key card for drinks. They also serve a buffet lunch at the beach. We had lunch first and it wasn't bad, your typical bbq type lunch. It was fine. Then my daughter and husband got in the water to play. All beach chairs were taken and there was nowhere to sit in the shade so I just found a place to sit, although in the sun. They were in for about a half-hour and then decided to come out and we headed back on the tender boat. If it were just me I would stay on the boat at this stop and enjoy the peace and quiet. Nassau: Okay, well....we had a not so great expeience in Nassau. We had a shore excursion booked to go to the Atlantis for a tour of the aquarium and The Dig. We had some time to kill before going there and wanted to walk down to Diamonds International to look at the watches. You have to walk through this building and from the time you get to the end of the pier from your cruise ship you are hounded, or rather, bombarded by people offering to take you on tours of the island, offering to braid your hair, wanting to rent you a scooter. They are relentless! There are some nice shops downtown, with some tourist shops mixed in. We went to a few but then started to head back the other way. At about 10:45 we headed back toward the pier. Again, walking through the throngs of people offering their services and a hair braiding lady is offering up her services. Well my daughter heres this and wants her hair braided. I had promised her she could do that at some point on the vacation so we stopped. The lady had pictures and Stella picked what she wanted which were braids and beads across the top of her head like a headband. I asked her how much and she said $3 per braid. Now, let me stop here and say that I had seen some of the braid work that was done the day before and there didn't seem to be a huge number of braids. I asked her how long and she said 10-15 min. and my daughter was pleading with me so I told her okay. Now I know I should have haggled but I was tired and just wanted to get it done. She had us follow her back to the hair braiding area which is basically a covered gazebo. My husband went to get some cash from the ATM while they started on her hair. I knew immediately that I was in trouble because the braids were tiny. They were so skinny they barely looked like braids. But then they would combine a couple of braids into one bead so I was hoping they were counting by beads not braids. They kept going and we were getting really concerned, not just because of money but we were afraid we would miss our shore excursion because it was taking much longer than what they had said. They finally got done and told us $120. We only had $102 on us and she said that was fine. I really wanted to throw $40 at her and walk off because that is about how much it is worth, but then again, this is my stupidity for agreeing so we gave her the $102 and then had to run to meet our excursion. We did catch it on time and the bus to get there was sketchy but the Atlantis is really great to see. Other than the Atlantis I wasn't a huge fan of Nassau, it was a bit sketchy aside from a few of the nice stores. Pool -- the pool area on this ship is pretty nice. There are actually two pools, both with salt water and about 80 degrees, and then 3 hot tubs around the pool area and a large shower. However, the more pool space means less deck chairs so if you want one you've got to be really early. The kids area is off to the side and kids have their own hot tub and then a toddler pool. Also, I forgot to mention the waterslide. It's not huge and my daughter was big enough to go down it. She went once and didn't seem to care about going again and I didn't think much of it but a few days later she told us that the guy who is working at the top of the waterslide yelled at her to go when she was on it so she thought he was mean. I don't know what happened, I wasn't up there with her, so that is only her account. The layout was similar to the Dawn. My only complaint would be that there are many activities which are held in the Spinnaker and that is on 13 forward and not easy to get to quickly. But you'll learn your way in a few days! Sorry for the long review. It was a great week and we have great memories. Can't wait to do it again! If you're going, hope you have a good time! Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
My family and I were on the NCL Jewel round trip sailing from NYC to Bahamas. This was our second cruise with the line and on the Jewel, and like many other passengers we were excited to be there. Embarkation was smooth as expected, our ... Read More
My family and I were on the NCL Jewel round trip sailing from NYC to Bahamas. This was our second cruise with the line and on the Jewel, and like many other passengers we were excited to be there. Embarkation was smooth as expected, our balcony cabin was ready, clean and on time, but we did have some problems. We were missing beach towels in our cabin, there were 4 of us in the cabin and 1 beach towel. I spoke to my steward about this and nothing was done. I called housekeeping still nothing was done, it was not until 4 sailing day when arriving to Grand Stirrup Cay [GSC] and a change of steward that I was to receive my towel (2 were given, total of 3). I pre-ordered wine for the first day of the cruise. Wine bottle was there but 0 wine glasses...once again I asked the steward and once again I was ignored.. I got glasses from the main dining room. I also pre-ordered chocolate covered strawberries for my kids for the first day... and that arrived late. On the first night my family and I went to Azura's for dinner. Service was horrendous. It took the server 15 minutes to take our order, 20 minutes to get our appetizers, 35 minutes for the main course, I'm not kidding! another 20 minutes for dessert...let's just say I was kind of mad, but I did not want to ruin my vacation complaining. Oh my kid asked for a soft drink that he did not get...and the server was annoyed when I asked 2 time around for his drink. We ended up eating at Tsar's for the remainder of the trip. I did notice that most of the crew were tired and inattentive, except when wanting for me to buy drinks... 4 times I had a server jump in front of me aggresivly wanting me to order a drink. it became a joke with my family. The public restrooms that I visited were dirty, which surprised me, because when I sailed back on NOV 2011 one of things that impressed me were how well kept the restrooms were. At GSC, the food was unappetizing and cold. The beach was dirty with old used drinking straws and cigarettes butts in the sand, beach service was non existent. For example, I tried to get attention of a server for drinks (go figure)I was ignored, my DH had to go to the bar and get some. The Cruise Director Jaime, she was ok... it felt like she was trying to hard to entertain guests. Assistant CD Joel, rude, condescending and not funny. I only saw 2 shows, the comedy of David Naster outstanding..JP the magician same old routine and boring. Overall, the cruise was ok, but I missed the little things such as having my steward knowing my name and having him and her giving me some attention. When my DH approached me in getting cruise rewards, I was apprehensive in going to another sailing with this line, but I believe in second chances and I'm giving them another chance in impressing me again. Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
This was my 13th cruise but my first time on NCL. I found the Jewel to be gaudy and not up to the aesthetics of other ships I had sailed. I also found it to be crowded. I attribute this to Norwegian's free style cruising. It seems ... Read More
This was my 13th cruise but my first time on NCL. I found the Jewel to be gaudy and not up to the aesthetics of other ships I had sailed. I also found it to be crowded. I attribute this to Norwegian's free style cruising. It seems everyone on ship tries to do the same thing at the same place at the same time. In traditional early/late seating only half the passengers do the same thing at the same time. The breakfast buffet was especially annoying with the crowds and the fact that there are no waiters to serve you coffee and juice. Also no trays to carry your food. By the time you get your food and then the coffee and juice and find a table everything is cold. Every other cruise line I have been on served you coffee, etc. Adding to the crowding is the fact that there are 7 specialty restaurants. These had to take up space that was formerly occupied by other facilities, such as lounges. There were too few lounges resulting in overcrowding. Also the quality of the main lounge group "Next Stage" was below par. Fabrizio in the piano lounge was also below par and there was no intimacy in the piano lounge nor a dance area. 3 bars are squeezed into an area called bar city. At best it seats maybe 150 people in this entire area. To accommodate the entire ship this is ridiculous. To Norwegians credit the food was above average. Not great but always decent. The specialty restaurants were hit and miss. I could not even chew my T bone steak in "Cagney's" the steak house specialty restaurant. Yet "Modernero" was excellent. The noise level in the Tsar's Palace MD was upsetting and the service was bad. They were definitely understaffed as the staff was busting their butts, but failing. Yet in the other MD, with the same menu, the service was better, but not good. Also the Stardust theater had some of the best acts I've ever seen on a cruise ship. The bottom line is I've never experienced a bad cruise and this was not bad either. But I would rate the ship below most for spaciousness and decor. The crowding caused stress, not relaxation. However for the price we paid it was an excellent value and we did enjoy ourselves. If you keep your expectations low, you will enjoy yourself too. Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
Six of us went to this cruise leaving NYC to FL and Bahamas. Booked it 3 months prior, not sure if we got the best rate, but this week's rate is quite reasonable for a mini-suite so we splurged on one, with my in-laws across in an ... Read More
Six of us went to this cruise leaving NYC to FL and Bahamas. Booked it 3 months prior, not sure if we got the best rate, but this week's rate is quite reasonable for a mini-suite so we splurged on one, with my in-laws across in an interior cabin. Husband and I have been seasoned cruiser, bringing along our 4 yrs old and 20mo old daughters. This is what i recalled for our cruise. Positive: 1) Nick team was phenomenal. We love love love Dora, Diego and sponge bob. The meet and greet was very organized, and it moved quickly. Lot of activities for kids all ages, even under 2. 2) Love the welcome back party atmosphere when returning to the ship at Nassau, Diego was there to greet us back, and there were some guy on stilt too, it was quite a show. Even attracted some passenger from Disney dream to gawk from their balconies. 3)Service was quite consistent, some names popped up for us: Eric, our room steward was exceptional, always a smile to greet us with names. Jiwan, in Tsar dinning room, was quite patient with us, kids and all. 4) Rooms was quite nice, with 4 in the room, it really never feel crowded. Ample storage space, and we brought a lot of stuff. Room for improvement: 1)The under 2 Zoo's location is a bit odd, but it serves its purpose. Beware of strong wind when opening the door to the pool, it snaps back very quickly and can easily shorten a finger or two. Also, I always ponder why is the designated smoking section tables located right by the kiddie pool area? I keep smelling smoke when the kids were in the kiddie pool...not cool. They should consider moving it somewhere further away from the kids, imho. 2) Food wasn't exactly bad, we always managed to find something we like. Just a comment about the chocolate buffer being hosted on the last night, making the buffet extremely crowded, not really well thought out. oh, i would really like to see more variety of fruit being offered. BTW, the watermelon was horrendous, love the grapefruit. 3) Cruise director Dan the man was alright, i don't see him much except during shows. I think Jersey Joe was a bit funnier, his skit on Dancing with the Jewel star as a backstage correspondent was hilarious. I see him around the ship much more, and he is quite personable. 4) Great stirrup cay was pretty, but it has a lot of construction going on. we booked a clam shell on the ship, and I am glad we did, as it serves as a tender ticket so we don't have to wait in line to get one. i don't particularly like how close they are to each other, nor the site where they are placed, they were right next to a body of questionable water, and it was quite far back from the sea. 5) Kids club check in and check out was awfully slow, and in a really narrow location. That was the main reason why we didn't place our 4 yr old there much. we used it for less then an hour, and she didn't really ask to go back. The bottom line is, we enjoyed the cruise, especially the kids. Love the nickelodeon theme, even for people that are not in the kids club, they would have something to do. I hope my review is helpful, as i often get a lot of helpful advice from here.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
It was quite an experience! We are from Florida so we flew to Seattle WA (arriving near midnight Friday). Up at 5:00 AM to catch the Amtrak Cascades to Vancouver BC. Arrived in Vancouver about an hour late. Took a quick taxi to the port to ... Read More
It was quite an experience! We are from Florida so we flew to Seattle WA (arriving near midnight Friday). Up at 5:00 AM to catch the Amtrak Cascades to Vancouver BC. Arrived in Vancouver about an hour late. Took a quick taxi to the port to find the worst embarkation process ever. Stood in line for security and customs for almost 3 hours. Finally made it on board to be told by a ships officer that we could go to our room or the buffet but then found that we could do neither because the ship was conducting its mandatory muster drill. At least a third of the passengers were still on the dock at this time! Did Norwegian not hear about what happened in Italy recentl involving a Costa ship? Anyway, not a good way to start a cruise but thankfully that was the worst part of it. We had a balcony on the port side. A nice room but I was surprised that it was smaller than any other cruise ship I have been on. I wish these ships would ban smoking on balconies! We ate in the Garden Cafe buffet most of the time but did try each of the dining rooms and one specialty restaurant (Mamas Italian). Mamas was excellent and for only a $10 pp cover charge was a very nice meal for a special occasion. The food and service in the other dining areas was OK but not exceptional (as has been the case on all other cruises that I have been on). The entertainment on board was top-notch. The ships production company shows were outstanding. I was pleasantly surprised that there was so much acrobatics and gymnastic elements in the shows. The musicians at the various bars and lounges were also outstanding. The only drawback was when they were performing at the same time in different lounges. I couldn't be two places at once. We booked an excursion for every port (except Victoria) through NCL and all of them were spectacular. The only disappointment (if you can call it that) was that the glacier excursion boat only got us about 200 yards closer to the actual glacier than the Jewel. I should have saved my money and stayed on the Jewel. We booked a tour in Seattle (our de-embarkation point) so we had no problem getting off the ship. After our tour the bus took us to the airport so that worked out fine. The only other comment I have about the cruise was the price of bingo. It was about 3 times more than other cruises I have been on so I did not play. Some of the ships staff were very friendly and helpful. However, I must say I was less than impressed with the majority of them. They did their jobs but I got the impression that it was just a job and they were not happy doing it. The help in the buffet area were extremely slow in cleaning tables and providing any kind of service. Besides our room steward, the only other crew members that stood out were the "washy washy" girls that sprayed disinfectant on each persons hands as they entered the buffet area. Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
We are seasoned cruisers who decided to take our Daughter, Son-in-law, and two grand-kids ages 8 and 6 on a surprise cruise for school vacation. We chose the Jewel due to the embarkation port being within driving distance, and the fact ... Read More
We are seasoned cruisers who decided to take our Daughter, Son-in-law, and two grand-kids ages 8 and 6 on a surprise cruise for school vacation. We chose the Jewel due to the embarkation port being within driving distance, and the fact that it was a Nickelodeon cruise. We booked last minute and got great rates making the trip affordable during school vacation week ( when we checked last fall the rates were out of our range and quite a bit higher than "usual"). We also felt the Jewel was the right size ship for their first experience - not too small but not so huge that they would be overwhelmed. The kids/grand kids are not big "beach" people and prefer pools so we knew we would spend a lot of time on the ship and less time in ports and we planned accordingly. Embarkation and Parking - NYC was an easy port to get to by car coming from MA ( 4 hour drive) and parking was a breeze. I heard people comment on the cost of parking ($245/week) however for our family to take the train or bus would have cost much more than the parking and price of gas so we felt it was an economical way to arrive and we didn't have to worry about packing for TSA approvals! We arrived in the parking area about 10:20 am and we were checked in and boarded by 11:30 am. Note: because our port of exit and entry is US the small children did not need passports - certified birth certificates were accepted with no question - the adults all have passports so no issues there. On line check in makes the process go very quickly as well as long as you have all your paperwork with you. Staterooms - Because this was a last minute booking our options were limited and we were inside forward in "family" staterooms - Daughter, Husband and two kids chose one cabin and DH and I the other (would have been more comfortable with one of the kids with us but they both wanted to be with mommy and daddy). Cabin space was fine for two, okay for three, but very crowded for four - extras were stored in our cabin - but we are campers with an RV and 5th wheel so we are used to small spaces LOL. Our cabin person was okay - he did seem to be confused with the number of people and quite often we were shorted towels in the 2 person cabin (and yes we were registered as 2 and 4), he also was very bad at bed making and our bottom sheet was never all the way down the bed (picky but it bothered me that I had to remake the bed every nite). We had some issues with getting service - the safe was closed in cabin 2 upon arrival and it took until Sunday nite to get someone there to open it so it couldn't be used until then. By day 3 the shower door was sliding back and forth in cabin 2 all nite and we requested repairs. We left for the day and it was removed to fix it - that took over 24 hours to get back and to come back from a beach day with no shower door was not nice - no offer was made to give us another cabin (there were empty ones near us)to use for just that day - trying to get 6 people thru one shower for dinner was tough and what would have happened if we didn't have two cabins? I did make my frustration known at the front desk, but feel that NCL did not do enough for our inconveniences. Dining - Traveling with kids makes things a little different from what we are used to and we knew that before departure. We usually prefer to "dress" for dinner, but knowing our 8 year old grandson is a creature of habit we didn't want to have a battle every evening so we had planned to eat in Azura most nites as that dining room is more "casual". We did eat in Tzar's 3 nites and it was disappointing that we got the grandson "comply" yet saw adults being allowed into the dining room in sneakers and shorts. The food was good - not great but it's "included". We do not utilize the "fee" based restaurants - the food is not a priority for us on a cruise but we do like to try new things and found the menus to be very basic - and never saw Creme Brulee on the menu at all! And for those who don't drink soda or alcohol, you are limited to water or milk at dinner - Lemonade is only for the "kids" now at dinner. We ate at the buffet every morning and always found the right things to keep us happy. Lunches were either at the buffet or poolside and again plenty of choices for everyone. We tended to eat light at lunch because we like to eat dinner early and catch the early "shows" Juices are only served in the morning - through out the day you are limited to water, coffee or tea - no lemonade any more - unless you drink soda or alcohol your choices are slim. Ports - We stayed on the ship in Canaveral (we have all been to the "parks" and the kids were not interested in the NASA tour) Knowing we would be on the beach the next two days we decided to use the ship - great idea as so many people got off the ship we had plenty of room to explore! We enjoyed the pool and buffet with no crowds! See Port reviews for GSC and Nassau Service - overall, in my opinion, "freestyle cruising" is hurting the service we used to see on board. You don't get to know your wait staff and because they don't "work for" the envelope at the end of the week, they don't seem to be interested in "impressing" you at the table. We had mediocre service most of the week, often having to ask for things more than once, like lemons for water, coffee at the end of the meal, dessert.... in the entire week we had only one waiter who went out of his way to impress us - Mauricio made napkin creations for the kids, checked on us often to make sure everything was okay, and came and said hello when we didn't get seated at his table next time. He was our "hero" for the week and so noted on our comment card! Since we are not "drinkers" I can't comment on the beverage staff but they seemed plentiful and always looking for business - because they "work" for their tips and it shows! Entertainment - there was something for everyone - the kids (and adults)all liked Jean Pierre (JP) the comedic magician - he does a "show and tell" for the kids exposing how some of the tricks are done as well as answering questions from the kids (maybe only because it was school vacation week?); the hypnotist Brenda Kaye was very good as well and we enjoyed the Q&A they did together - they really love what they do and it shows. The gymnasts couple was good but the show got very lame in the middle - we appreciated their strength and precision more. The production cast was okay - not the best we have seen and some of the dancers seemed very new and stiff - the singers were good but not great - we went to all the shows at 7:30 due to trying to get the kids to bed at a decent hour. We were glad to catch the "crew" show and heard some great voices on stage - amazing that NCL has such talent in the "crew" and they don't promote them to the shows. Overall this was a great cruise for the children's first time out -there was plenty for them to do, and grandson liked the kids club although he didn't go every day - he's a shy one and very sensitive and there were some aggressive kids in the club that didn't go over well with him - it's a shame since we felt he would really have more fun there - again left wondering why NCL can't call the parents and dismiss the bad behavior kids... In summary it was a good cruise and we got what we expected out of it - no more but no less. For us it will be our last NCL for a while - we will either go back to Princess or try some other lines - we are finding that "freestyle" is not our style and that's okay - you pick the cruise that you think will suit your style and this one was chosen for the kids. Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
Let me first preface my review of our Norwegian cruises by saying that although my family are experienced cruisers, with my seven year old daughter going on her 8th cruise and my wife and I both in are early to mid-thirties going on our ... Read More
Let me first preface my review of our Norwegian cruises by saying that although my family are experienced cruisers, with my seven year old daughter going on her 8th cruise and my wife and I both in are early to mid-thirties going on our 18th cruise together, we have never cruised out of the North East, so a voyage from New York was both exciting and proved to have some new experiences for us both. We started off Friday night leaving Boston's North shore around 5:30 PM and drove south to Stamford Connecticut to visit with my brother and sister in law for the night. This made sense as we wanted to break up the drive to NYC and avoid the hotel prices in New York, while staying only 45 minutes away. We had dinner at a fantastic seafood restaurant called the Kona Grill in Stamford. The Sushi was outstanding. Following dinner we settled in to our hotel the Court Yard in down town. On Saturday morning when we awoke, after a small breakfast, Vicki, my daughter, Ilona, my wife and I retrieved our car and headed south of I-95 to New York City. After a short drive, we arrived at the terminal, where we were able to park are car right on the roof and then take the elevator right to the embarkation station. Let me say this for embarking in New York. We have sailed form numerous ports in Florida, as well as Honolulu, and San Juan, where the lines seem to take forever. While I don't know if it was because we were there by 11:00 AM or if this is just the way it goes in NYC, but as a latitudes member we were put in a very short line, and within 10 minutes of getting in line, we were having our picture taken by the NCL photographers and on board the beautiful Norwegian Jewel. Once onboard, we made a quick reservation for Le Bistro tomorrow night, and then promptly headed up to deck 12 for a buffet lunch in the great outdoors. The buffet is separated into many small stations, and they even have a kid's area where the serving counter is only about two feet high for the little ones to serve themselves. I tried the Indian cuisine. It was not bad, especially for buffet quality food. I also made my traditional first stop at a bar and purchased the soda card for the week. This is a great savings tool, as they only charge you $6.25 per day for unlimited soda and juice, which comes out to about 3 drinks per day. I know it may not be the most honest thing, but I often use this to get my wife a soda or two each day at the pool too, so it really works out well financially. After lunch, we checked out our mini suite room. This room is a good size for a family of three with a queen bed, and pull out sofa bed. The mini suite has a curtain to give some privacy to Ilona and I while, Vicki gets her own space too. The bathroom has a tub instead of the shower stall in the standard rooms. The balcony is also nice with a chair and recliner, as well as a small table. Once we unpacked, we headed over to one of the lounges on deck 12 for a family introduction to the camp and more importantly a meet and greet with Vicki's favorite pouras friend, Sponge Bob Square Pants. After that it was dinner and a great teaser show of all the entertainment to follow. The magician/comedian named John Paul was the headliner. He was very good and I look forward to seeing his full show later this week. Sunday, April 15, 2012 This morning, Vicki and I got up early, about 6:45 AM and walked around the ship a bit. I figured that we must now be down around the Virginia area so the weather would be warmer. Well, the sun was out, but so was the wind, either naturally or as a result of the ship sailing into it. We tried to walk on the jogging path this morning, but it was just too cold. After that, we attended a cooking demonstration in the main atrium, where they chefs made a couple of the specialty dishes of Le Bistro, peppercorn filet of beef and an apple tureen. Both were very good, and a great foreshadow of our meal to come this evening. By 10:30 AM we had sailed far enough south for Mr. Golden sun to come out, and shine on us, he did. The rest of the morning was a great pool day lounging out, swimming in the pool, soaking in the hot tub and even taking a ride or two down the twisty yellow water slide. That afternoon, Vicki did a little time in the camp and then we took part in family cupcake designing. While Vicki and I had fun doing family stuff, Ilona tried her hand at winning some money at the black jack tables for about 2 hours. Sunday evening was dress up or not night on the Jewel. Many people were dressed to the nines, men in fresh pressed suits and a few tuxedos, and women in elegant evening gowns. Monday April 16, 2012 Monday morning we woke up and had breakfast at the buffet on the 12th deck. After that Vicki and I headed over to the pool and hot tubs where she played for a couple of hours, and met some new friends. Shortly thereafter the Jewel pulled into Florida at Cape Canaveral. Today we took the ship excursion to the Kennedy Space Center. This is a very educational and fascinating place for both kids and adults. We arrived after a short 30 minute bus ride, which where we received a narrated tour of the route and learned some interesting facts about rockets and American history. The first exhibit we took part in was the 3-D IMAX movie about the Hubble telescope. It was truly intriguing to see some of the images taken by this amazing piece of technology. We also watched an IMAX movie about the space station and training astronauts go through in preparation for their missions. There were also some great exhibits on the rockets that have gone into space and other NASA related events. Monday evening dinner at the "free" restaurants did not look too appetizing, so we opted for Mama's Italian. To be honest, I can't imagine the food being any worse at the "free" restaurants. However, I should state that I have dined at Lachuchina, on the NCL the sister ship of the Jewel at least 4 times in the past year and a half, and I found the food to be at least as good as most chain level Italian restaurants generally. After dinner we checked out the Brenda Kay hypnotist show. It was really funny and it is always amusing to me to see what some people will do once up on that big stage. Ilona again had a good night at the casino, while Vicki and I took in some karaoke. Tuesday April 17, 2012 Tuesday we arrive at Great Stirrup Cay, NCL's Private Island. After a short tender to the island, we found our clam shell, which essentially a large canvas is shaped like a giant clam shell which blocks the sun over two lounge chairs. Vicki and I snorkeled off the beach. At first there was not much to see, but as you progress further away from the shore and closer to the reef and rocks about 200 yards or so the water clears up a bit and there a many blue, yellow and other colorful tropical fish to view. There is also a very interesting underwater landscape with mini caverns for the fish, reefs, rocks and coral to view. NCL puts on a pretty good barbeque considering they are cooking for 2,000+ people, with burgers, hot dogs, chicken and even my favorite, BBQ ribs with sauce. Gourmet it isn't, but good comfort food it sure is. After we got back to the ship, we tried the Cagney's steakhouse for dinner. Wednesday April 18, 2012 Today we awoke in Nassau Bahamas. We had an early morning excursion to the lavish Atlantis Resort, where we headed over to the aqua park. We had been to Atlantis for a week last summer so we had a good idea of the lay of the land. As such, we knew exactly where we were headed, right to the wave and rapids river. You can either sit in a single or double person pool inner tube or ride the river around the park. It takes about 30 minutes to complete the course which goes from a lazy river to 3 foot waves to simulated white water rapids. So much fun. There were also 9 slides, but unfortunately for Vicki, she was 3 inches too short for those, so we did the rapids a few more times though and then laid out by pool. As it turned out, lounging by the pool in the hot Bahamas sun was my biggest mistake of the cruise for me. I fell asleep for about an hour, and when I woke up, the lobsters in Maine had nothing on me when it comes to red skin. Wow, was I in pain that night. A little burn gel later when we got back to the room and I was good to go see John Pierre, the ships magician and comedian that night. He has some amazing card tricks and is pretty funny too. I finally joined Ilona that night at the Casino to try my hand at some black jack, but after losing $100, and then winning back 80% of it, I decided it was not my nigh and should take my minimum loss and leave. After picking up Vicki from the camp we had a late night snack of Buffalo wings, cheese cake and strawberry short cake, then came back to the room and sat out on the balcony listening to the sound of the ocean for a few minutes before bed. Thursday April 19, 2012 Thursday is the first of two days at sea. I awoke to the pain of my sun burn in full force, but was determined not to let that stop me. Vicki and I tried the buffet on Deck 12 again for breakfast. I did have to check in with the office today, as it has been almost 3 days since I spoke to anyone. The good thing about being on NCL as opposed to other lines such as Carnival and RCCL is that NCL does not block Skype, so I was able to have a 20 minute video conference with my staff back in Massachusetts. This day was filled with card playing and scrabble in the game room. Later that night, we attended the production show Circus bijou, which was a circus O type of show. Great acrobats and dancing, a show I would not hesitate to go to again. Friday April 20, 2012 Friday was our last full day on the cruise and day at sea. As we approach the North east again, the weather stated getting a little chilly requiring pants and sweatshirts. Not too much to report on this day, just a take it easy and relax before heading back to work next week. It was a little too cold to sit by the pool, so we stayed inside for the most part. Ilona went to the Casino again and Vicki played with the kids at camp. Friday night we had dinner at Le Bistro one last time, the three of us. Vicki tried escargot for the first time, and she liked it. Imagine that, how many 7 year old little girls will eat snails, knowingly and say they enjoyed it. There is a video up on YouTube of her first snail dining. Overall, our family really enjoyed this trip. We were not too sure about it with the limited itinerary and lack of Caribbean islands, but this cruise really was a lot of fun, and we did get all the sun we were looking for, (trust me, my skin still is red and in pain With that said, I would come back to the NCL Jewel anytime, a great ship, good times and a nice voyage. To see our photos and videos check out www.familytravelstory.com Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
We left from NYC in April and it was still quite cool weather, so keep in mind the time of year you leave, cause this takes away from your 7 day cruising, we were stuck inside cause of cool weather leaving and returning. Beautiful clean ... Read More
We left from NYC in April and it was still quite cool weather, so keep in mind the time of year you leave, cause this takes away from your 7 day cruising, we were stuck inside cause of cool weather leaving and returning. Beautiful clean ship, with bright bold colors, lots of bathroom located around the ship. Shows: JP the comedian/magician was great. Spa: did not use this facility, too pricey Gym: so so nothing great. Pools: 2 available, 1 for adults only, salty pool, and 1 for kids Resto: We booked Cagney's and Tappanayaki each $25.00/person Cagney's great steakhouse and Tappanayaki, great show, food was a little salty. Azzurra, very good food, no REZ needed, different menu every night. TSAR: big ballroom style, No REZ needed, good food, a little salty, We also had brought our own bottles of wine, they didn't give us any trouble, some we paid corkage fees for and some we didn't. $15.00/bottle. Garden cafe: breakfast place, lots of variety Drinks/Beverage: you could buy buckets of 6 beer ~$20.00, try the drink of the day, every day there's a special drink. "Rebelious" so good. Duty Free: boring, those need to be upgraded. They should also upgrade to being able to see your expenses on the TV, like Carnival, but you can always swing by the front desk & they will print up a copy for you. *** Iron available just call concierge and they will bring it to you and pick up later on Parking: we left our car in the "Manhattan Cruise" parking lot for a price of $35.00/day, it can be quite pricey, but you are right next to the pier. Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
EMBARKATION: We were ominously greeted with a letter informing us that on the previous sailing they'd had an outbreak of gastroenteritis, and we had the option of cancelling our trip for full credit towards a future cruise. We ... Read More
EMBARKATION: We were ominously greeted with a letter informing us that on the previous sailing they'd had an outbreak of gastroenteritis, and we had the option of cancelling our trip for full credit towards a future cruise. We didn't worry too much and just hoped for the best. Embarkation was delayed for extra sanitation measures, but we still boarded by around 12:30. We went straight to Tsar's for lunch (a friend said the buffet was a madhouse -- thank you Cruise Critic!) Service was a bit slow (and we were told as much before we entered) but we were happy to be onboard and our rooms were ready by the time we finished. STATEROOM: We were in mini-suite 11552 with Winnie as our steward. My 8-year-old son just asked me to mention that "Winnie was awesome!" She did take very good care of us. I was a little concerned in the final weeks before the trip that the mini-suite would be too small for all four of us, but I think it worked just fine. My sons, 14 and 8, shared the pull-out bed with no problems, and the only time we had a major bathroom traffic jam was right after Great Stirrup Cay when everyone wanted to shower at once! (Our friend in another room let me come over to use her shower, which relieved the back-up.) But other than that we didn't have any trouble. I was surprised how much more spacious the mini-suite was than my friend's regular balcony room, especially the bathroom. The thick curtains between the two sides of the room and between the room and balcony allowed us to divide it into three sections when needed for privacy. MEET & GREET: We had our M&G on Sunday morning, and it was pretty low-key. Thanks to Linda for stepping up to organize it -- I know you didn't realize you had volunteered to be our "group coordinator!" The best part was that Richard, the cruise director, was there and talked to my boys. They had seen him on stage the night before and had decided he was a real celebrity, so they were ecstatic that he talked to them, and then remembered their names for the rest of the cruise (and even recognized them by name from the stage one night.) KIDS/TEEN CLUB: Unfortunately, I don't have much info to offer. My 14-year-old visited the teen club for about 4 minutes the first night, said that it was full of "surly older kids" and never went back. My younger son just wanted to hang with family, so he never even checked out the kids club even though he's usually pretty social. But we were having lots of fun together, so I didn't mind! ACTIVITIES: We did a lot of family games, including the digital scavenger hunt, the regular scavenger hunt, and several trivia and game show activities throughout the week. These were all run by the "regular" entertainment staff, as opposed to the Nickelodeon staff, which drew a younger crowd. For the grown-ups, we did all three martini tastings over the week, which were a lot of fun and definitely a good deal. The first one was run by Ed who then left for vacation. Orrestas (sp?) and Dino did their best on the other two tastings, but Ed clearly was a lot more comfortable in front of the group. The new guys admitted to being quite nervous, but we all still had fun. Volunteer for games -- they give away free extra shots! SHOWS: We went to shows a lot early in the week and sort of wore out by the end. We enjoyed the welcome aboard show very much, and based on that came back to see David Naster's comedy and Jean-Pierre's comedy/magic, which were also fun. Band on the Run (typical cast singing/dancing with 70's theme) was OK. The boys loved the Pirate-themed acrobat act (my partner, Mike, and I used that night for a romantic dinner opportunity!), and my younger son and I only caught the end of Cirque Bijou, but it looked like it was a big hit. We made sure to catch the end so we could see the crew invited on stage and cheer for them. FOOD: We had our first dinner at Azura, and decided that we liked the atmosphere so much that we never actually had dinner at Tsar's. The food at Azura was good quality hotel-style food. Nothing to do back flips over, but very satisfying. We were not planning to do as many specialty restaurants as we did, but after enjoying the first two so much, we were eager to try more things. We went to Mama's, Le Bistro, Moderno, and Cagney's. All were excellent, and you definitely noticed the upgrade. We thought Mama's and Le Bistro were by far the best values -- Mike had Osso Bucco at Mama's that he thought was incredible (he's the foodie of the family) and I loved my seafood fettuccine as well. Le Bistro was our couple's dinner, and it was every bit as special in both ambiance and quality as I would have expected. Moderno was very good, but I thought $20pp was high for the meat-on-a-skewer concept. We had a very light lunch that day and I still couldn't finish all the samples of meat. My boys asked me to mention that they thought Moderno was the best meal of the cruise. Cagney's was also very good, but I wasn't sure why it was priced higher than Le Bistro, as I had an excellent filet there as well and the overall experience was I thought better at Le Bistro. Of course, Cagney's was the last night and I think everyone was getting a little punchy from being together 24/7 all week, so please take my lack of extreme enthusiasm with a grain of salt. Also, we had the a la carte sushi one day as a light lunch, and found it delicious with prices much lower than what we pay at home. We did breakfasts in the Great Outdoors, the Garden Cafe, Tsar's, and the Blue Lagoon. The cafe had the most selection, but you had to put up with the hordes of people. Tsar's was a little slow but decent. I asked for one substitution one morning and did not get it, but ordering off the menu as written the food was fine. The Great Outdoors and Blue Lagoon had the best atmosphere (read: quiet and not as crowded, especially Blue Lagoon) but more limited selections. Lunch for us was in the buffet or Blue Lagoon every day except that first day in Tsar's. So over-all, our take on the buffet is that most of the food was good, and occasionally we came across something that we didn't care for. I'd give it 85% good and 15% "never mind, I'll go get something different." But with so much to choose from, we all found food we liked at every meal, and I personally never felt like I had to go back to the same choices again because there were plenty of good options. For most of the week there were servers at the buffets and you couldn't touch any serving utensils due to the previous outbreaks. People complained about it taking longer, but I actually missed the service when they removed the high alert status mid-week. We did order one $5 pizza to our room right after we got back from Nassau, and it was quite good. The best desserts we had all week were the Chocolate Fondue and Vanilla Crème Brulee at Le Bistro, the Apple Crisp and Raspberry Crème Brulee at Cagney's, the Key Lime Pie at Azura, and the Brownie Sundae at Blue Lagoon (available 11am -- 5pm only.) DEBARKATION: We chose the latest time slot for our luggage tags and took our time eating breakfast in the buffet. Afterwards we tried to move to the Crystal Atrium, but deck 7 midship was a zoo, so we hopped right back onto the elevator and went up to 12, walked forward past the pool area (a little chilly for us to stay out there, but some people were) and went to the card room for a game of Yahtzee that lasted until our tags were called. We took the forward elevators down and didn't even have to wait in line to leave the ship -- customs was also pretty well cleared out and we went right through. Hope you future cruisers found some useful info! Like I said before, this was an awesome family vacation and worth every penny, even at the higher Spring Break prices. I would do it over again in a heartbeat. :) Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
Review of Jewel, Feb 4-11, 2012 Background: This was our third mother/daughter cruise -- my fourth time on NCL, DD's second, and about my 14th overall. Thanks to the new Latitudes structure, I was silver going in and am now gold. ... Read More
Review of Jewel, Feb 4-11, 2012 Background: This was our third mother/daughter cruise -- my fourth time on NCL, DD's second, and about my 14th overall. Thanks to the new Latitudes structure, I was silver going in and am now gold. I'm 55, DD is 27. DH and I left SW CT about 9am, picked up DD in Queens at 10, and DH dropped us at the pier about 11. Jewel was the only ship in port on the 4th. It was not as crazy-crowded as I've seen it at other times. We found a porter quickly and turned over our bags. Once inside the terminal, there was NO line getting through security. We walked right up to the scanners and then to a check-in station. We were given boarding # 5 and directed to a waiting area. NCL staff had just set up the table with specialty restaurant menus, and since we knew we wanted to eat our first dinner at Teppanyaki, we made our reservation for 7pm. We were pleasantly surprised to be told there was a 20% discount that night. (Although the girl still wrote "$25 pp" on our reservation slip, we received the discount at dinner.) They started boarding about 11:30, and we were on board before noon. Thanks to Cruise Critic, this time I knew we could check our carry-on things instead of dragging them with us to lunch. We boarded through the forward doors on deck 7 and were among the first to check bags at Fyzz, only a few steps away. Having been on Jewel a year earlier, I enjoyed the feeling of knowing where I was going. Knowing we wanted to avoid the buffet for lunch, we went straight to Tsar's. (No one tried to send us upstairs to the buffet, and it was clearly stated in the Freestyle Daily that Tsar's was open from 12-2.) The DR was almost empty when we arrived and we had a nice lunch. Cabins were ready earlier than the 2pm expected time -- I think it was about 1:30 -- so we collected our things from Fyzz and made our way to Deck 9 and our aft-facing balcony, #9674. Having been in a balcony on Dawn, we were prepared for the size, which is small. There's ample storage space for two, but there's really no "moving around" space. The beds are barely a foot apart when made up as twins, and if one of us was using the vanity desk/seat, there was no getting by w/o climbing over the bed. For the most part, everything was in good condition, except for a stain on the couch and a burn mark on the bathroom sink. Obviously, wear & tear is unavoidable. I always cruise with an over-the-door shoe holder, which I hang on the closet door; it really keeps the little stuff organized. I was hoping for a little more balcony depth, after reading so much about the awesome stern balconies, but it felt no different to me than the side balconies I've had previously on Dawn and Gem. I guess it's only Deck 10 that has that wonderful extra depth. Still, I enjoyed the view of the wake, although the weather didn't allow us to enjoy it often (more about that later). Our luggage was delivered by 3:30. A note about the TV -- we like to turn it on when we're in the cabin getting dressed, and I was AMAZED at the selection of movies this time around. In the past, it was slim pickin's, but we found really current films like The Help and Moneyball playing at various times, as well as Back to the Future, Silence of the Lambs, Larry Crowne, Real Steel, West Side Story, and Puss in Boots. There was a sitcom channel endlessly playing "The Nanny" (heaven help me) and sometimes "The King of Queens" or "Malcolm in the Middle." Our cabin steward was David, who introduced himself shortly after we arrived. Warm and fuzzy he wasn't. There was no conversation between us throughout the week other than a greeting, but he did his job and took good care of us, so I'm not complaining. The first night we didn't get chocolates on our pillows, which I knew was a Silver perk, so I left him a note and from then on we each had 2 mints every night. My daughter said she liked towel animals and he made them each night as well. Our muster station was Tsar's, which obviously holds a lot of people. I was curious to see if anything had changed, with the Costa tragedy still so recent, but they still did not require us to bring lifejackets to the drill. Although there was much conversation while we waited for the drill to begin, you could have heard a pin drop during the actual demo of the lifejackets and the announcements. Sailaway was cold and cloudy, but a great many people bundled up and endured the wind until we passed under the Verrezano Bridge. We moved to our balcony and enjoyed the shelter from the wind but it was pretty much dark at that point. At 5:45 we got a call from Teppanyaki wondering if we were still coming to dinner. They'd mixed up our time and expected us at 5:30 instead of 7 (even though our confirmation slip said 7). Luckily, there was still room at the 7pm seating. We unpacked, stuffed our winter coats inside our suitcases and shoved the cases under the beds, and headed to dinner at 7. Only 2 of the 4 tables were in use during our seating, so the timing mix-up was unimportant. We were pleasantly surprised to be told each "couple" would be offered a complimentary bottle of wine --choice of chardonnay or merlot. We drank about half the bottle and took the rest back to our cabin. Later in the week, we finished it at Cagney's. I was very surprised that this wasn't an incentive to book dinner in a specialty -- it was offered after we'd been seated -- and later learned other specialty restaurants also gave free wine. Dinner was delicious and entertaining and we enjoyed chatting with our tablemates. The Welcome Aboard Show was offered at both 7:30 and 9:30pm. We met Dan "the Man" Olsson and remembered him as the assistant CD on our Dawn cruise in 2010. (btw, Dan got off the ship with us on the 11th to go on vacation. I don't know who's replacing him.) As usual, the show gave a taste of the entertainment to come during the week, including the production cast, Jean Pierre Parent (comic/magician), and Bernie Martini (singer/pianist). We don't usually go to the lounges to hear the musicians, but we were blown away by Bernie's voice and sweet personality, so we attended both his Frank Sinatra tribute in Bar City (outside LeBistro) and his Cole Porter tribute in the Crystal Atrium. He also did one with Elton John music that conflicted with something else we were doing. Sunday we woke up early enough to have breakfast in Tsar's and then met up with our Cruise Critic group at 10am for a cabin crawl, followed by our Meet & Greet. Many thanks to Brooke who organized all of it, complete with printed name tags/holders. The crawl was great -- we saw everything from an inside cabin to an obstructed view to a balcony to a mini-suite to an aft penthouse and finally, the piece de resistance -- the Garden Villa and the Haven. What a feast for the eyes that was! And it gave us a head start on getting to know the lovely people on our roll call. The M&G was in the Star Bar, with approximately 40 people attending (not that many did the crawl). CD Dan and Hotel Director Hugo both spoke and answered questions. Biggest question was, "Where can we watch the Super Bowl?" and Dan assured us that every TV on the ship would be showing it (and did). Our group was not offered a tour of the bridge this trip. (We had originally booked a mini-suite, which, due to a promo, was less $ than the balconies. But I was concerned about noise coming from above and wanted to experience the stern balcony, so I switched our cabin, paying another $250 or so for the B1. In retrospect, it was a bad trade-off. After seeing a mini-suite on the cabin crawl, now I know I'd really like the extra space, especially since we used our balcony so little.) The day was cold and rainy, so nobody was outside. Instead of a 7:30 and 9:30 show, they offered the production show Band on the Run at 3:30 and 7:30 because of the Super Bowl. As promised, it was in all the bars and lounges -- on a big screen in Spinnaker and the Atrium, and on multiple screens in Fyzz (and other places, I'm sure). The staff set up extra chairs wherever possible to provide a lot of good viewing spots, and they also had mini-buffets nearby with pizza and wings and nachos. It was very festive -- and being in large part a NY/NJ crowd, you can imagine the joy at the Giants win. Plenty of Patriots fans showed their support too. Evening Entertainment: Overall, very good to excellent. Band on the Run is a typical cruise ship production show. Brenda Kaye puts on a funny hypnosis show, of course with audience volunteers, plus a late-night PG-13 version in the Spinnaker. Duo Elegia is a heart-stopping display of acrobatics and balance and aerial feats; the husband/wife team presents moves that you wouldn't think were humanly possible. Le Cirque Bijou is more acrobatics performed by the production show dancers, all very impressive. JP the magician is highly entertaining/very funny/good magic involving the audience. A special thing happened during his 2nd show -- he worked it into his act so that the guy "volunteer" could propose marriage to the girl "volunteer" up on stage at the end of the magic trick. This firefighter from NJ got down on one knee and made a beautiful proposal to his stunned girlfriend. The audience went wild! If you go to the final night's variety show, be sure to stay for Fountains -- you won't regret it. Other Late-Night Entertainment in the Spinnaker: "Newlywed/Not so Newlywed Game" -- I've seen it on every cruise and I'm always entertained by it. "Dancing with the Jewel Stars" -- just amazing. The passengers were every bit as talented as the professionals, and the judges were hysterical. And of course "The Quest" on the final night -- we were surprised that most of the crowd had not seen it played before. My DD joined a team of veteran players and they were the top scorers. We did not attend the White Hot Party. We went to the crew talent show on the final afternoon, which included a Q&A session with Captain Lars and Hotel Director Hugo. They were very generous with their time and offered a lot of interesting info. Captain Lars is on board for 10 weeks and then goes home for 10 weeks throughout the year. Food: In addition to the first night at Teppanyaki, we had dinner at Cagney's mid-week. Their Caesar salad is much better than the one in the MDRs, imho. Delicious steaks, and we ordered multiple sides since I knew the portions were very small of mashed potatoes and onion rings. Yummy apple crisp a la mode for dessert. We had dinner once in Tsar's and 3 times in Azura. No problem finding items we enjoyed on the menus, sometimes from "always available" and sometimes the nightly specials. On two nights we arrived at Azura near 7pm and were told it was a 20-30 minutes wait, but the actual wait was only about 10 min. We used room service for breakfast on our port mornings. Breakfast in the Garden Cafe is difficult. It's just not possible to go through the stations and get scrambled eggs or French toast or pancakes, find a table, go back for juice or water or coffee, and then sit down to a hot meal. I much prefer sitting down to a hot meal in Tsar's, but the timing is rough unless you're an early riser (I am not when on vacation) with Tsar's closing at 9:30am. We never went back to the MDR for lunch after embarkation day. Lunch in the Garden Cafe had plenty to choose from: burgers, hot dogs, pizza, made-to-order pasta, Indian and Oriental stations, sandwiches, salads, and a daily-changing assortment of hot dishes. I simply cannot understand those who complain that the food is the same every day in the Cafe. Sure, it is, but you couldn't possibly eat every type of food in one day, so you can easily have variety. The soft-serve ice cream machines, located near the midship beverages and also farther aft near the Great Outdoors, are open pretty much anytime the Cafe is during lunch, dinner, and late-night. There were sprinkles and chocolate syrup available too. There were made-to-order crepes each night at the station just aft of the main buffet area. We walked through the Chocoholic Buffet on Thursday, but it was a zoo. Honestly, I think the food looks better than it tastes, and I am a chocolate-lover to the max. Weather/Itinerary: IMO, this is a pretty crappy itinerary. It's more of a ship-is-the-destination type of cruise for people who can drive to NY and don't want to fly. I cannot imagine anyone getting on a plane to NY when they could fly to a warm weather port and enjoy warm temps every day of their cruise. As I said, the first day sailing south was miserable. On Thursday heading north, I was hoping to be able to enjoy a walk on Deck 7, but it was too cold for me, unless I bundled up. The hot tubs were far more popular than the pools. DD and I managed to sit on our balcony and read for a while wearing sweatshirts and using beach towels as blankets. Friday, our last day, was even colder, too cold for my balcony. BUT, the ocean was as smooth as glass, which is a trade-off I would take anytime. Sailing in winter is normally an invitation to sea-sickness for me, but this time around, I barely knew I was on a ship. DD and I are huge Harry Potter fans, so we took advantage of the Pt Canaveral stop to go to Universal's Islands of Adventure and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We used the ship's excursion so as not to deal with car rental or worry about getting back on time. This was a highlight of the cruise for us. On the bus ride it was raining pretty heavily, but we were prepared with ponchos. Luckily, by the time we arrived at Universal, the skies cleared and we had a beautiful day. Being an off-peak week, the park closed at 6pm, but the lack of crowds allowed us to walk onto rides that sometimes have up to 2-1/2 hr waits (specifically, the Forbidden Journey through Hogwarts Castle, which doesn't accept the Express Pass). Yes, our day there was short (6 hrs) but we did and saw everything we wanted to do, as the shops/restaurants stay open til 7pm. There was a bus ready to leave at 7:15 and another at 8pm. The week prior to ours, it was too choppy for Great Stirrup Cay, but we had no problem tendering, and it was hot on the island. I rented a clamshell on embarkation day and was grateful for the shade, plus having priority access to a tender. The downside of a clamshell is that unless you get there early enough to grab the first row of them, you are looking into the back of another clamshell while lounging in your beach chair. You also lose some of the cooling beach breezes inside it. (Some of the shells were solid blue fabric, while others had a mesh strip on the back. Ours was solid, and I wonder if the other kind with mesh would offer more of a breeze.) We were scheduled to anchor at 11am but got there early, around 9am. The tendering process is long -- 450 people fit on those boats, so loading and unloading takes a good 30 minutes on each side. The lunch BBQ was very good and able to handle the large numbers of people. We had no problem finding a seat at the shaded tables. At our final stop, Nassau, where we also arrived early, we opted to walk to the Hilton and buy their day passes for $55 each. That included a $30 per person voucher for lunch/drinks at their poolside bar & grill, or inside at their buffet. The beach is small but not at all crowded, and I loved their padded lounge chairs with individual clamshells attached, so you could enjoy sun or shade. The beach faces the harbor and we had a view of the 5 ships in port. We started walking back to the ship about 4pm as the clouds darkened and just made it before it started to pour. But while we were on the beach, the weather was lovely. We didn't bother buying any Internet minutes this trip, knowing how slow the connection speed is, plus we were able to check e-mail on our phones while in Florida on Monday. I used the spa only once for a conditioning treatment/scalp/neck/back massage followed by a blow dry. The weekly spa passes were limited to 50 people and they were gone by the evening of the first day (DD was sorry she didn't grab one earlier to use on those cold sea days). We did not play bingo or Deal or No Deal, didn't go to Art Auctions or the casino, and didn't buy any photos, so we weren't hit with extra costs other than the specialties and a few drinks. Without exception, every crew member we encountered was polite and friendly and always smiled or said hello when passing in the corridors. A note about Latitudes: DD is bronze, and as I said, I was silver. We each received invites to the first cocktail party (didn't go). I received a separate invite to the wine & cheese party for silver (and up, I assume). It didn't say anything about bringing a guest. I didn't go to that either, so I don't know for sure, but I had the impression that unless you had the personalized invite in hand, admission might be denied. I wonder how that would work if traveling with a spouse who is at a lower level. Disembarkation: We took "light blue" for a 9:45 time slot. Again the ship was early. Each color was called well before the time it was given. Perhaps there were many walk-offs at 8am? We got up early enough to get to Tsar's with our carry-on luggage just before 8:30 to have a relaxing last breakfast. Then we waited in Bar City on Deck 6, not for our color to be called, but for the time we'd given DH to pick us up. We disembarked about 9:45 and waited about 25 minutes to get through the Customs line. Getting a porter would have gotten us through much faster, but then we would have been waiting outside, so we didn't. As much as the weather was lousy during our three sea days, what really mattered was decent weather in port. Much better than the other way around! And as lousy as I think the itinerary is, I wouldn't want NCL to stop offering it -- it's a great getaway from the Northeast without needing to fly if you only have a week to vacation. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
I booked this cruise about two weeks in advance. My son had just turned 18 and I needed a getaway, so I booked this cruise for myself, my 18 year old son, my 15 year old son and a friend of his. We shared one balcony cabin, which was kind ... Read More
I booked this cruise about two weeks in advance. My son had just turned 18 and I needed a getaway, so I booked this cruise for myself, my 18 year old son, my 15 year old son and a friend of his. We shared one balcony cabin, which was kind of tight, but worked out fine. Had it been a summer cruise with only shorts, t-shirts and sandals, we would have felt that the clothing storage areas were more generous...but we had clothes for cold and warm weather... I had cruised twice before with NCL, and wasn't thrilled. I had also cruised from the Northeast in February before and never had a day with warm weather. So, I really took a chance booking this cruise! As it turned out, we had good weather (except the first and last days at sea). Comfortable temps in Fla, and three days of 80+ degree days in the Bahamas and one sea day. I think that two things made this cruise unexpectedly pleasurable for me. First, I traveled with friends from past cruises and second, the cruise director, Richard, was fabulous! Most cruise directors I've experienced will introduce a show, try to sell stuff on TV, and appear here and there around the ship. Richard was EVERYWHERE, along with his fun staff. He had a good sense of humor and was very approachable for guests. He didn't just try to get the party started, he kept it going! I never realized how important the cruise director is on a ship! The food was good. Mostly dined in Tsar's Palace, where we had good service and good meals. I'm not much for paying extra for specialty restaurants on cruises. The buffet was well organized and wasn't overly crowded. There were times that food was available in strange places and I didn't like that the Blue Lagoon was the only place for a late night snack, but that's a minor detail. My teenagers had fun, but if you expect a "teen program" onboard, it didn't exist. The teen activities were generally just activities around the ship open to all, and often the teen "club" was closed and locked. Seems that teens meet one another on the basketball court (boys and girls), hang out at the back of the ship and in the Blue Lagoon. But, really, don't expect a youth staff to entertain your teenagers. They have to make their own fun! I think that they should lower the age for the late night parties onboard, since there is nothing specific for teens, they should be allowed to dance the night away with the adults as long as they behave (and they did behave better than many of the drunken "adults"). Thanks to this experience on the Jewel, I will probably sail with NCL again. They are off my "bad cruise line" list... Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
Norwegian Jewel Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.0 4.1
Dining 4.0 3.8
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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