My wife and I have taken 14 cruises together in the last 6 years. We have cruised on Carnival, Princess, Celebrity, RCCL and HAL. This was our first cruise on any NCL ship. We are senior citizens and do not have a lot of extra money but ... Read More
My wife and I have taken 14 cruises together in the last 6 years. We have cruised on Carnival, Princess, Celebrity, RCCL and HAL. This was our first cruise on any NCL ship. We are senior citizens and do not have a lot of extra money but love cruising. We are able to take as many cruises as we do because we budget carefully and shop heavily for the best cruise deals we can possibly find. We will never cruise Regent or Oceania as we would have to make a cruise on one of those lines our one cruise in 3-5 years because of price. I say this because in reviewing our cruises, I always try and compare apples to apples. The cruise lines we have cruised on are what I call mass market cruise lines. I do not expect from them gourmet food or spacious standard staterooms. I expect good to very good food in the complimentary food venues and adequately sized staterooms with adequate storage.
The other thing you should know before I proceed with my review of this ship is that when we cruise, the ship itself is our destination. We do not care about ports and do not do excursions. If we could go on a 12-15 day cruise where all the days were sea days, that would be ideal for us. Given these parameters and our biases, I will proceed with my review of the Norwegian Jewel.
The Jewel is the smallest ship we have been on to date. No big atrium with glass elevators. A small atrium with no elevators. We had an obstructed oceanview cabin, #8556. Despite the fact that we had more problems on this ship than any other ship we have been on, we enjoyed this cruise as much as any cruise we have been on.
We entered the ship on deck 7. Since our cabin was on deck 8, we needed only to go up one floor. We were immediately impressed with the color scheme and decor of the Jewel. Wood paneling and bright but not overwhelming colors throughout. Our cabin was the smallest cabin we have had on any of our cruises with some tight spaces in various parts of the cabin but because of the way it was laid out and decorated, it seemed a little larger than it was. In any case, we made do and got used to it pretty quickly. It proved to be adequate for our needs.
Problem #1 occurred when my suitcase arrived. I am very sensitive to heat and overheat easily. If this happens for a prolonged period of time, I get sick. I always have the thermostat turned down to the lowest setting but this has seldom proved adequate. I carry with me a small portable electric fan to aid in keeping me cool. My suitcase arrived with my fan missing and a love note from security telling me it was a prohibited item and would be returned to me at the end of the trip. I had read the list of prohibited items from NCL's website (as I always do before I book with any cruise line) and there was nothing in there even hinting that the fan might be a problem. It listed dangerous or potentially dangerous items and no hair dryers or irons, the standard prohibitions that all cruise lines have. So I went down to guest relations with the letter and explained that I have taken my little $7 fan on every cruise that I have been on so far and no other cruise line has prohibited it. He asked me if I had cruised NCL before. I told him no. he said "well, each cruise line has their own policies". I said that is fine but I checked NCL's prohibited item list and it wasn't on there. He pulled it up on the computer and quickly read through it and could not find any indication that the fan would be banned. I told him I wanted to talk to a ship's officer, the captain if necessary, as this was a medical issue that would endanger my health. If I had any indication ahead of time that I couldn’t have a fan, I would never have booked with NCL, ever! Also, I would have gotten a note from my MD if necessary, but again, there was no indication that this would be a problem. I asked him to tell me how my fan would be considered dangerous by any stretch of the imagination. He asked me to wait while he went in back and talked to someone. When he returned, he now said the fan was confiscated because it had do be checked to make sure it would not damage their electrical system by drawing too much current. They were going to have their electrician check it and if he approved it, it would be returned to me. He added, “we generate our own electricity so we have to be careful”. What? Other cruise ships DON’T generate their own electricity? Do they use the world’s largest extension cord? Whatever. I told him that would be fine. Just have the electrician give the fan the once over (after he is done checking the electric toothbrushes) and return it to me once he okays it, which I had no doubt he would. I pointed out that I have a CPAP machine which they let go through which I was confident drew a heck of a lot more current than the fan. I got the fan back late that night. But this was an unnecessary hassle that could have been avoided and a bad way to start the cruise.
Problem #2 – When I went to put valuables in the room safe, to which you enter a 4-digit code, after I entered 3 digits, I encountered an error message. I obviously could not lock the safe as I needed to enter 4 digits. I advised the room steward who notified his supervisor. They sent someone up who repaired it but it continued to have problems locking. It would take anywhere from 4-6 attempts before it would lock. It opened fine.
Problem #3 – About 2 hours after we arrived in the room, the toilet stopped working. It would not flush. I reported it to both my room steward and guest services. They had a plumber come up and after about an hour and a half it started working again. The next day it again stopped working at about the same time. Another call to guest services. Plumber again. Fixed after two hours. Third day, no problems. Fourth day, toilet stopped working in the early evening. Told the room steward who said yes, all of our section had stopped working. There was apparently a woman in one of the floors above us who was putting tampons down the toilet in violation of the small sign over the toilet that said not to flush anything but toilet paper. Fifth day, toilet again went out in the early afternoon. Another call to guest services. By this time, I was feeling pretty miffed about the inconvenience. I went down to guest services and remarked that I felt I should be provided some compensation given the frequency of the inconvenience. The guest services representative looked it up in his computer and told me that I had only reported one incident which had occurred that day. I told him, no, I had reported 4 incidents over a 5 day period. He said they had a record of only one reported incident, which was caused by another guest and they could do nothing about what another guest does, so I was not entitled to any compensation. I again said I had called guest services every time. He said it wasn’t in the computer so that was that. The 6th day was OK. The 7th day, night before disembarkation, the toilet went out again in the middle of the night. I called guest services. It was fixed by 3 am. Somebody in guest services must have discovered that I was telling the truth because earlier in the evening I received a call indicating that we would receive an onboard credit for the inconvenience.
Problem #4 – Room noise. The noise from the entertainment in the Fyzz lounge on floor 7, below us, was very clear in our room. It sounded like it was coming from next door. We could not only hear all the instruments, but it was so loud we were able to make out the words of the songs they were singing. Additionally, on one morning, we were awakened but a very loud tapping, like someone hammering. This went on for half an hour. On another morning we were awakened by the sound of lifeboats being lowered.
Since this was a matter of room location and there were no other rooms available, nothing could be done.
Those were the problems. Now for the good stuff.
Food – Here is where the Jewel shines. The Norwegian Jewel had one of the largest varieties of food and absolutely the most food accessibility of any ship we have been on, bar none. The food, in my opinion, ranged from good to very good. Cagney’s steakhouse, which we ate at one night, was excellent! If you are a steak person, this is worth the upcharge, although we had 3 specialty restaurants included as a promotion in booking this cruise, so it cost us nothing. We also ate at Le Bistro (very good despite them cooking my filet medium-well when I ordered it medium-rare. I sent it back and they cooked me a new one) and Moderno, also very good.
Although there is a $7.95 charge for room service, there is a complimentary 24 hour pub restaurant, O’ Sheehan’s, which quickly became my go to place (loved the fried mozzarella sticks with marinara sauce). It had a limited (although not severely limited) but tasty menu, which frankly, obliterated the need for room service. In addition, there were late snacks, which were really late night meals, available at various venues on the ship depending upon the hour, through midnight. You would never go hungry, despite the hour or your tastes and it was all complimentary – no upcharge. Kudos to NCL for that. RCCL could take a hint. Our last cruise on Anthem, there was nothing decent to eat, except pizza, after 9 pm unless you wanted to pay an upcharge. Complimentary room service on Anthem consisted of two pathetic wraps.
The buffet had a wide variety of food, much of it very tasty, but too little available seating for the number of passengers. This was particularly evident on embarkation day for lunch and sea days, particularly at breakfast time. It was impossible to find seats, even at a shared table. People stood like vultures waiting to grab the first available seat of someone leaving.
One of NCL’s policies which I do not like is that they prohibit you bringing factory sealed cans of soda pop on board. You must buy from them on board at exorbitant prices or go without soda pop altogether. Their stupid explanation for this is that they are preventing sneaking alcohol on board. Yeah? When was the last time they found somebody sneaking alcohol on board in a factory sealed soda pop can? Maybe, like never. The real explanation is that they want to get more money out of you. In any case, their complimentary food available policy makes up for a lot of ills, soda pop policy among them.
Environment – We found the ship’s use of space and décor to our liking. The rich wood paneling, the use of fun colors and the use of available space was well done. We loved eating in Tsar’s dining room, which was gorgeous. The fitness room was well fitted.
There are only two small pools and three small hot tubs. The pools were too cold to be of use all but one of the days we were there. The library was one of the best we have seen on a ship. The game room was nicely designed with good game tables. Both had very nice views.
Activities - There seemed to be a wide variety of activities in the daily ship paper. I did not go to most of them as my wife and I are readers. We become “cruise potatoes” on cruises. We take cruises for R&R. We like to kick back, relax and read. We find a comfortable place to lounge, read for a while and then change locales and continue reading. We break for eating, napping and shows.
Entertainment – In all the cruises we have been on, there were never performers who were not talented. Some had more talent than others, but all had sufficient talent to perform professionally. That being said, there has been entertainment I enjoyed greatly as well as entertainment I did not care for. That is a matter of personal taste. The Jewel had a production show, a comedian, a magician/comedian and a cirque style acrobatic music show in the main theater. There was also a very talented guitarist vocalist in one of the lounges. I enjoyed all of it to one degree or another. I thought that they had a well balanced variety of entertainment.
Crew - I found the crew of the Jewel to be unfailingly polite and 99% of them of them to be bend over backwards friendly, even the ones who had to defend policies not of their making and sound like a moron doing it, because they had no choice. Almost every single crew member I came into contact with always had a smile on their face and attitude of they wanted to do anything and everything they could to make this the best vacation I ever had. Hail to the staff!!! They deserve my gratitude for doing their best to correct or help me cope with problems and make my cruise enjoyable. My room steward, Danlito (call me Donny) was outstanding. I couldn’t have asked for better.
The problem with the Jewel is not a problem with the Jewel. It is a problem with NCL’s executive and administrative staff who make stupid and aggravating policies that irritate their customers and then put their line staff in the position of having to carry out and defend those policies over which they have no control or authority. If the customer is unhappy, of course it is the poor line staff that gets blamed as the corporate execs in their ivy tower don’t ever have to take the heat or hear the complaints. They just make the rules and collect fat paychecks and benefits. The line staff are just working their butts off and trying to keep their jobs.
Despite all the problems, I would cruise the Jewel again in a New York minute but pick a different cabin. We had one of the best times we have had on a cruise and given the difficulties we encountered, that is saying a lot. I gave the Jewel 4 stars instead of 5 because of the problems we encountered, the lack of decent swimming pools, the soda pop policy and the crowded buffet seating.
But….there is a lot to like about the Norwegian Jewel. Read Less