Norwegian Jewel cruise, reposition from Vancouver, BC to Los Angeles, Sept. 29, 2015. Cabin 5052
This was our second cruise on the Jewel, in addition to cruises on the Mississippi and Columbia Rivers, with other cruise lines (plus ... Read More
Norwegian Jewel cruise, reposition from Vancouver, BC to Los Angeles, Sept. 29, 2015. Cabin 5052
This was our second cruise on the Jewel, in addition to cruises on the Mississippi and Columbia Rivers, with other cruise lines (plus several less-pleasant ones on Navy ships).
For comparison with our first cruise experience on the Jewel, see http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1920121 . Generally, those comments still apply, except where noted otherwise. I provided courtesy copies of that review twice to NCL management. They did not reply. Considering the extremely competitive nature of the cruise ship industry, that is both surprising and disappointing. I learned that NCL management is interested in hearing from their customers only when it involves additional income.
Our cruise documents were more helpful than before. The departure pier was specified, along with its address, but the destination was listed only as “Los Angeles”. In actuality, the Pier is in San Pedro, which is within Los Angeles, but considered a separate area by some. The Long Beach airport is closer than the Los Angeles airport. It could be a better choice for some passengers, who might not consider it, because no specific information was provided about our arrival location. With no help from NCL, I located our destination pier, which was important to us, because of travel plans following the NCL cruise. Our cruise documents now made a distinction between “boarding” and “departure” times, which was helpful. The documents for our previous cruise had used the terms interchangeably, which led to considerable confusion as to when we should actually appear for the check-in process. The cruise documents now said that boarding would be at noon, and that we should not arrive more than an hour earlier. Based on our previous experience, we arrived at 10:30, and found 100-150 people ahead of us. As before, there were many staff members to guide and assist passengers. We boarded a bit before noon.
A printed guide to the ship was available in the check-in area. This was a change from our previous cruise, and very helpful. Some passengers received one-sided copies. Be sure to grab a double-sided one, as it has helpful information, and a rudimentary map of the ship. NCL’s website now has better maps of each deck on their website. They can be downloaded, if you know how. However, they’re in the PNG format, rather than the more-common JPG format. I downloaded and converted the deck plans for each deck, then transferred them to my smart phone, for easy access. Look here, if interested: https://www.ncl.com/cruise-ship/jewel/deck-plans.
From our previous NCL cruise, we knew that most passengers would head immediately to the Garden Café buffet for lunch. We had lunch at O’Sheehan’s, which was nearly vacant, though almost full when we finished our lunch. The place has an Irish bar theme, and good menu of “pub grub”. No draft beers were available during the cruise, nor were advertised drinks that required draft beer.
Luggage was delivered to our cabin by 3:00. An orientation tour of the ship was offered at 1:30. We’d taken the tour on our previous cruise, and found it very helpful. The tour on this cruise included only a visit to the assembly stations for abandon ship drills and a lengthy tour of the spa, where spa staff members explained the wonderful services (additional cost) available to us. The tour was disappointing, and seemed to be largely an excuse for marketing the ship’s spa. Even worse, the tour was led by a person with a very thick accent, who was difficult to understand.
After the mandatory abandon ship drill (life jackets not necessary), many passengers headed for the bar. The scene there was very dis-organized, with the bartender making no effort to serve passengers in their arrival order. Rather, he served the persons who yelled loudest. With many passengers having taken advantage of a promotional beverage package, this was totally foreseeable, but apparently not a concern for NCL food and beverage managers. A better system wouldn’t have been difficult to devise. During the cruise, we observed other situations where it became apparent that “crowd management” is not one of NCL’s core competencies.
I understand that the Jewel spent some time in a shipyard in 2014. I noticed some improvements in our cabin, which was near the one for our previous cruise, and of a similar class. Our previous room was 5068. I remember noticing only one single 110-volt electrical outlet previously. Now, I found three single outlets, plus a “razor only” outlet in the bathroom, above the mirror. I still recommend bringing a multiple-outlet tap and/or extension cord, as you may have more electronic devices, or want to use only one location for powering them.
The bed was very comfortable (the beds were joined, per our request), with firm mattresses and soft pillows. As before, no guest guide was provided, leaving us to discover everything on our own. The shower controls are a clever, but unconventional arrangement, where the left knob controls the water flow and the right one controls the temperature. After an airline career that included both international and domestic layovers, I do not recall seeing a similar arrangement in any hotel. An explanation in a guest guide would have been thoughtful. The actual water temperature varied significantly and unpredictably during showers, providing an incentive to keep them brief. The room was compact, but very adequate, with lots of storage and two small desks. Our room category was “OB” (Ocean View, Midship, Deck 5).
Several television channels are available, though there is no channel guide or information about them. The movie and cartoon channels are not identified. Three news channels are available: MSNBC (very liberal), Fox News Channel (very conservative), and BBC (very British, and with a lot of sports programming), plus a few that seemed to show movies and cartoons. CNBC is also provided, though it lost credibility with most investors after the 2008 recession (I watch Bloomberg at home). Several shipboard channels are available. Interestingly, most of these are very grainy and snowy. One is from a webcam mounted near the bridge. Another channel shows the ship’s position on various maps, along with interesting information about the ship’s course and speed, plus weather-related information. It includes the current time, which is otherwise displayed only on the room’s phone (very difficult to read), the pool deck, and the sun deck. You may wish to bring an alarm clock, unless you want to rely on the phone’s wake-up call. Other channels tout shopping and shore excursions, and one shows videos of entertainment from previous days.
Individual reading lights are located above the beds. Sadly, they are flood-type lights with frosted covers, and not very effective. If you want to read in bed, you should consider bringing a battery-powered reading light, as there are no electrical outlets near the head of the beds.
Another change from our previous cruise was a small refrigerator with an “honor bar” inside. No pricing information was provided until Day 3, when a list was tucked into the refrigerator’s door. “If you have to ask the price….”
As before, the carpeting for passageways in the stateroom areas is different from that in public areas. An easy way to remember your orientation is that the fish images on the carpet are swimming toward the bow. Also, stateroom numbers increase as you move aft.
Food is plentiful on the ship, though the quality seemed to vary more than we remembered from the previous cruise. While most of it ranged from pretty good to excellent, some was nasty. Coffee had not improved from our previous cruise. It retains the honor of being the worst coffee I have experienced – even after careers in the Navy and the airlines. I used the espresso machines in the Garden Café buffet, which were okay. I’m not a coffee snob – I buy my beans from Costco.
With only a couple of exceptions, all of the ship’s staff were very friendly and competent. Most were from developing countries, and appreciate this employment opportunity. The ship has almost 1100 crewmembers, from sixty countries, to serve about 2500 passengers.
Entertainment on the ship is plentiful and very high caliber. We enjoyed all of the performances. Of special note is the Jewel’s “Show Band” (house band), led by Larry Lockwood. He is a gifted trumpet player. Another favorite was the “Awesome Twosome”.
A welcome improvement from our previous cruise was the placement of deck plans on each deck, for guidance in finding your destination. They are located in the passageways on either side of the elevators/stairs at most locations, and on most decks. These are in addition to the profile views of the various decks on the ship.
At the forward end of the port (left) passageway on Deck 11 is the Bridge Viewing Area, which provides a daytime-only view of the ship’s bridge, along with repeaters of electronic chart display information used by bridge officers. Unfortunately, no explanation of the information is provided, and passengers are not allowed to hear radio conversations. Instead, there is a repeating video of the ship’s construction process. Based on my career as an airline pilot, I know that many passengers are interested both in understanding the technology and in listening to radio conversations, especially in congested waters. While impressive and current, maritime chart display technology is many years behind that used by commercial airliners.
Some information provided by NCL is incorrect, mis-leading, or contradictory. We learned to verify everything. One is the issue of reservations in the complimentary dining rooms. Guidance clearly states that reservations should be made only for large groups. In fact, the Restaurant Reservations desk will accept reservations for smaller groups. We learned this the hard way, after appearing at Tsar’s Palace without a reservation. We were told to expect a fifteen-minute wait, and were given a buzzer. Twenty minutes later, we inquired about our status. We were told that the hostess had just buzzed us (either she hadn’t, or the buzzer had failed), and were seated immediately. We watched several couples with reservation arrive and be seated immediately while we waited.
Another is the issue of onboard shopping discounts for Latitudes members (NCL’s frequent traveler program) in the duty-free shop. Our Latitudes letter stated that the discount did not apply to “watches, alcohol, tobacco, and sale items”, implying that it would apply to other items. Our traveling companions learned that it actually applied only to NCL logo items.
Depending on where you look, a $7.95 service charge applies to all room service orders, only those outside of 6:30 to 10:00 am, or to everything except beverages and baked goods ordered for breakfast. Take your pick….
The last day’s newsletter explained the procedures for disembarking in Los Angeles, and how to clear U.S. customs and immigration screening. That was of only academic interest, since we’d already cleared immigration and customs during a port visit to Astoria, Oregon. Since that stop, we were considered to be in the U.S. I suspect that this was standard protocol for the Los Angeles-based cruises to Mexico, and no one thought to change the information. The same incorrect information was repeated on an internal television channel. The PA announcements on the morning of arrival made no effort to correct the error. It didn’t cause specific problems, but probably left some passengers confused. In Astoria, the entry process for U.S. citizens was efficient and much quicker than advertised. For non-citizens, it was pretty much a disaster. The Cruise Director continued calling more groups to join the line, even though it already contained a few hundred persons. NCL must bear most, if not all, responsibility for that mess.
On a positive note, there was considerably less presence of the very annoying photographers. I appreciated that.
NCL is very proud of their “Norwegian Concierge” smartphone app, which is said to work only aboard ship. Most likely, it is intended to work with the ship’s Wi-Fi system. Presumably, it will offer information about the schedule for shipboard activities. Attempts to launch it in the embarkation area resulted in an invitation to launch it after boarding the ship. It didn’t work there, either. Ship’s staff said that the company was still working to implement it. It’s a great idea, as it might be used to publish the daily menus for the various restaurants on the ship, which were otherwise impossible to find, short of actually visiting each restaurant, and then only for that day.
Compared to our 2013 Alaska cruise, the Jewel experience was better in some areas, and worse in others. It’s very disappointing that NCL is uninterested in comments from customers, unless it involves additional revenue. I won’t bother with sending them a courtesy copy of this review. Read Less