My husband and I, an elderly couple, took the Norwegian Jewel Alaska cruise August 13-20, departing from Seward and arriving in Vancouver, B.C. ; this was our fourth cruise with Norwegian and first on the Jewel. We cruise with NCL ... Read More
My husband and I, an elderly couple, took the Norwegian Jewel Alaska cruise August 13-20, departing from Seward and arriving in Vancouver, B.C. ; this was our fourth cruise with Norwegian and first on the Jewel. We cruise with NCL primarily because of “Freestyle Dining.” Many years ago I accompanied my mother on various Princess cruises and enjoyed dressing formally for dinner, but set dinner times, company-selected table companions and dressing up hold no appeal for us, so Norwegian suits us perfectly.
We began our cruising career with an obstructed-view outside cabin and have worked our way up to a balcony; having read the cabin would be supplied with a coffee-maker, we brought our own brew. Sitting on our balcony, drinking Peet’s French roast with the gorgeous Alaskan landscape slipping by - pure bliss! For those who spend little time in their cabins, a balcony may be a poor choice, but now we wouldn’t cruise any other way; my husband is an avid photographer and appreciated being able to use a tripod without being surrounded by hordes of people jostling for a view of the glaciers.
Our experience on the Norwegian Star (Dubai to Venice, March 2017) was in some respects superior though I don’t know if this is due to differences between the ships or to some fleet-wide degradation. I’m referring to O’Sheehan’s, which was wonderful on the Star, much less so on the Jewel. Aboard the Star we took all our breakfasts and lunches at O’Sheehan’s and were looking forward to the same on the Alaska cruise. Our first breakfast aboard we headed to the restaurant and were disappointed to find that instead of an à la carte meal, the venue offered only an “express breakfast,” which included some gross scrambled eggs (made from a mix?) and watered-down orange juice. Since it was a cruising day, I don’t know why anyone would feel the need for an “express” meal. Aboard the Star the Reuben sandwiches and chipotle chicken sandwiches were perfection; aboard the Jewel, a Reuben isn’t offered and the chicken sandwiches and Caesar salad were mediocre. We didn’t go back.
With the exception of three specialty dinners, we took most our meals in the Tsar’s Palace; the food was excellent as was the service. We never had to wait more than five minutes for a table and were usually seated immediately. Our package included unlimited alcoholic beverages. I don’t drink, but my husband enjoys a glass of wine at dinner and was pleased with the selection. We had one dinner at Chin Chin, the Asian restaurant, which was average as was its counterpart on the Star. We ate at La Cucina (good), Teppanyaki (fun experience and very good) and Cagney’s (outstanding and the best filet mignon we’ve ever eaten). The Garden Cafe was a zoo and noisy to boot. Because the weather was cool, most people didn’t want to eat outside, which would have distributed the diners better; the one lunchtime we went up there, on a cruising day, passengers were eating their meals standing up for lack of seating. No thanks.
I read recently that Cruise Critic rated Norwegian’s internet service as one of the best in the industry; whoever wrote this obviously hasn’t cruised on the Jewel. Our package included 250 minutes of internet service as it did on the Star. Our Latitudes level also included an additional 30 minutes; aboard the Star we went to the internet cafe where the attendant added the extra 30 to our account. When we tried to do this on the Jewel, we were informed that this offer was only valid if the passenger had purchased the initial 250 minutes. I checked on NCL’s website; this is correct, and the young woman who attended us (who was very polite) was right, but this policy seems just plain cheap. In any event, the internet connection was terrible and many of our minutes were eaten up waiting for a page to load.
Despite a $50 credit toward a cruise-sponsored tour that our package included, we decided to make independent arrangements. On the internet I reserved a float plane flight in Ketchikan for my husband with Southeast Aviation, a company recommended by Lonely Planet. Miraculously, the weather was perfect and the flight exceeded his expectations.
The Norwegian iConcierge app is a joke; at least aboard the Star it was possible to make tour reservations, an option unavailable on the Jewel. Since the dining hours can change slightly from day to day, it would be helpful to post them on the app. Menus for the day? Nope.
On returning home we received an email from NCL asking us to evaluate the cruise. One question asked if we were familiar with Cruise Critic and, if so, were we planning to write a review. I replied yes to both, hoping this indicates the company reads the reviews and is interested in their passengers’ opinions.
Although my negative comments may give the impression that we didn’t enjoy the cruise, I would like to stress that the negatives were minor compared with our overwhelmingly positive experience - the food, the itinerary, the staff, the state of the ship, our cabin. Within days of our return I reserved another NCL cruise for January of next year. Read Less