NCL Jewel South East Asia March 2019 - 12 day cruise.
We are a couple from Montreal, Canada and travelling with a 6-yr old who enjoys adventure and travel as much as we do. This is not our first cruise, but first time on an NCL cruise. ... Read More
NCL Jewel South East Asia March 2019 - 12 day cruise.
We are a couple from Montreal, Canada and travelling with a 6-yr old who enjoys adventure and travel as much as we do. This is not our first cruise, but first time on an NCL cruise.
We booked this cruise through a travel agency thinking that there could be some benefits that we could not otherwise access. None that I can see, but $100 to open our files.
Once I gave my credit card info, my stateroom was booked, at the very front of the ship ( yes - the bow, and steps further ahead you are in the ocean) without my knowledge. I have just read an interesting article going over one of the most exciting step in the cruise is finding and booking the stateroom. Well not for us, and could do nothing to change it, without paying extra. This is a 294m ship long, with the buffet restaurant at the other end of the ship, and most other activities in mid-ship. This became, by default, our daily walking exercise. The last 2 days of the cruise, the ship was going through rough seas and I can tell you that it was not pleasant to be at either end of the ship.
We opted to prepay the ship service charge and going for the unlimited beverage package, to avoid the pressure of thinking twice before ordering drinks. This package does not include freshly pressed fruit juices, bottled water or alcoholic drinks over US$15.
I must have spent 100's of hours planning, researching and documenting to plan for this NCL South East Asia cruise.
Info that I extracted from internet is very fragmented, incomplete, and at times contradictory. Many coming from some arrogant contributors.
Things that we brought along
1. Travel Adaptors (Canada uses 110-120V, Far East 220-240V) Just make sure that your electronic devices are dual voltage. The Adaptor is just a device to make your electronics fit in the holes. Adaptors are not power converters.
2. Battery Chargers (must be with your carry on, NOT allowed in checked-in Luggage)
3. Spare unlocked smart phone (used as hotspot for other devices and laptops to connect to )
4. Photocopy Passport ( 40cs colour copy at Office Depot). NCL keeps all Passports and return them on the day prior to final destination. You will need a copy of your passport if you buy a SIM card. If crumpled, difficult for the SIM card cashier to scan to complete your purchase). If offshore and requested by local authorities, you need to show your room card key and a govt picture ID. This is where the copy passport also comes in handy.
5. Deet Insect Repellent. We got bitten just once (luckily!) close to the docks at dusk.
6. Roll of toilet paper (off shore excursions).
7. Singapore $300 in cash (CAD306) for 2 days.
8. Thai Bhat 8,000 in cash (CAD365) for 2 days
9. Hong Kong $4,000 in cash (CAD706) for 4 days.
We did self-guided tours for Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong. You can certainly use less cash and more credit. We used credit cards for hotels/lodgings and higher value purchases in reliable establishments.
Canadians do not need visa for these 3 countries above.
For Cambodia and Vietnam, while self-guided tours are possible, if you stay close to the Port, we opted to book local tour guides to play it safe.
We online ordered a SIM card (Smart Comfort - SIM Card Asia) from SIM OPTIONS for US$39.90 + 9.90 = US$49.80 (CAD$68.45) delivered to our Hotel in Singapore. This gives us 12GB internet, 3G+ connection, valid for 30 days from first use, plug and play and valid for Singapore, Vietnam and Hongkong.
The card will barely work where the ship docks, with fluctuating on-off signals. On land, and just simple emails, you would be ok.
I am used to 135Mbps download speed at home, and that SIM card speed is nowhere comparable, but nevertheless acceptable and useful when on shore. If you find the speed too slow, relatively easy to buy sim in all 3 countries above.
Singapore sells the 3-day sim at 7-11 convenience store (they all speak English) for S$13.
I bought a sim in Phu My, Vietnam at a phone store, 10 mins taxi ride from the cruise port, for 140,000 VD (CAD$8). I wanted their fastest data SIM card for minimum of 3 days. Could not get myself understood, even with the help of Google Translate on my phone. My taxi driver with his very limited English, rescued me. They did not accept payment in US$. Once again, driver came to the rescue and lent me local money.
HEADING TOWARDS CRUISE
From our hotel in Singapore, we took a taxi to the Marina Cruise Centre. If you let Hotel concierge book the taxi for you, they do not tell you that there is a S$2 fee to your cab fares. Lots of taxis coming in to drop passengers off, all the time, that we took instead.
We arrived at the Cruise Centre just after 2 pm, with a huge line up, with a good number of NCL staff to welcome and guide us.
We left our tagged luggages at the entrance, and got them later just outside our stateroom.
We got in the queue while filling up our profile forms and authorization for NCL to charge for Cambodia and Vietnam visa. (No Thailand visa required for Canadians). When we completed our forms, well over 200 people had joined the queue after us.
US$89 per person for visa to go ashore in Sihanoukville, Cambodia is crazily expensive, given that this is only a one day (actually only 6-7 hours since ship leaves at 5pm) offshore excursion and total ripoff by NCL
US$69 per person for visa to go ashore in Vietnamese ports is equally brutal in price.
For a family of 3, the cost of these 2 visa would be a hefty US$474 (CAD640)
We will now include this visa factor when evaluating costs for future cruises.
Internet research to procure a visa for these 2 countries revealed it is easier said than done, as there are misleading, contradicting and incomplete information in any cruise forums/Trip advisor, and even "official" site.
NCL takes advantage of this visa situation to make some good easy money from us all. Some reliable post claims that Celebrity cruise charges a single digit visa fee per person.
Besides the very long wait in the queue, actual check-in was painless and our pictures were taken that would be used when embarking and disembarking the ship. We were told that NCL would use these same pictures taken for visa purposes.
We downloaded the NCL app to view features of the ship and facilities offered. The app is only focused on advertising for their paid restaurants and offshore excursions. The rest is totally useless. No other pertinent information that’s worth hanging on to the app.
2 hours later, we finally went onboard. Our stateroom was ready when we got on board, reasonably clean and fully equipped.
2 single beds - Let housekeeping join them together to make a queen size bed, or the beds will somehow separate by next morning!
Child wall overhead foldable bed
30” Flat TV
Shower stall, toilet & sink.
Shower gel and shampoo dispenser
Soap bar, body lotion.
Bath towels and beach towels
Toilet paper (Dollar store quality)
Safe (did not work), hair dryer, hangers, ice bucket.
2 bottled water labelled $5.50 each
Shelves to store stuffs.
Two night tables with lamps.
Three outlets on each of the 2 mini workspace: For laptop, double usb and a 3-prong.
We used our travel adapter on the 3-prong outlets for charging other dual voltage devices.
As we moved the night table around to maximize space, we found a pair of sunglasses behind, which we handed to our housekeeper. This therefore tells us that the room is not necessarily spick and span, as one would have liked it to be.
Housekeeping is done daily. Twice daily actually.
At about 5pm there was a mandatory drill regarding safety protocol where everyone has to attend (staff updating attendance register to ensure everyone attended) for about 30 mins.
Ordering drinks at the bar was painless as our adult card keys were marked with the prepaid beverage code. We only needed to show 1 card to order for our 2 drinks. Long line up on the very first day.
NCL has a number of options, all crazily expensive.
- Unlimited WIFI US$25.50 per day online purchase prior to cruise (Otherwise US$29.99) No VPN, no streaming.
- Unlimited WIFI with VPN and streaming US$29.50 per day online purchase prior to cruise (Otherwise US$34.99)
- 250 Anytime minutes for US$105 online purchase prior to cruise (Otherwise US$125). No VPN and no streaming. Need to log out when done, to stop the minutes counter.
Note that for the unlimited options above, you will have to pay for the entire duration of the cruise, as there is no pro-rata charge. You therefore cannot purchase for a few days only, as I originally thought I could do. It's all or nothing unlimited package. After the 4th day of the cruise, the unlimited options are no longer available.
Signals strength is best in common areas, but works to a lesser degree in the stateroom.
Our first day on the ship was very promising and eager to start our adventure ...
On the second day, a sea day, at 6am we were surprised that the Garden Cafe, and other restaurants were not open.
Later in the same morning, we went to the restaurant reservation and politely enquired about opening hours of restaurants, to plan our offshore excursions. Arlene, on the customer service, raised her ducky squeeky voice to reply with such an attitude that took us all by surprise. For sure one of the worst staff we have ever encountered on any cruise ship. Ever. She sometimes worked at Chin Chin restaurant that my 6-yr old avoided like the pest. Seriously!
We then realized that many of the staff, in general, on board the NCL Jewel are either ill-mannered or totally did not give a .
Very cold treatment at the Tsar restaurant before we got seated.
On the eve of the last day, on Friday Mar 15, at 7.54pm, I ordered a Scotch at the Atrium and the barman stated that he will give me a premium Scotch. I responded, that as long as I do not get billed, since I have a prepaid package. He stated that he will key in a lower grade Scotch. Another barman called vmal murmured, loud enough for me to hear: "Why such a fuss? This is the last night of the cruise" and turned his back on me without me having a chance to respond.
I am flabbergasted with these kind of remarks. They sometimes forget that we are the customer.
1. The itinerary to South East Asia is splendid.
2. The ship itself has been renovated recently and feels like new.
3. Our stateroom was small but descent and contains everything one would require.
4. Staff attitude is perhaps one of the triggering point in liking or not liking a cruise line. While there are many lovely and polite staff on board, there is an equal if not more unpleasant staff on the NCL Jewel. Too many.
5. Process for check-in takes way too long.
6. The charge for visa is grossly exaggerated.
7. There is limited upfront information to a lot of things.
The actual location where the ship docks at each port seems to be kept in secrecy. I arranged for a driver to pick us up in Phu My, Vietnam (as indicated on all documents we have) and have a nasty surprise that we docked at Cai Mep and had difficulty to contact the driver for this new location.
In Sihanoukville, Cambodia we walked from the docks to the gate to meet our guide. In fact, there is a free shuttle to the gate but it was not advertised. What was advertised was $15 shuttle from docks to the City.
8. Going ashore using tender (In Ko Samui, Thailand) is a nightmare. Chaotic and totally disorganized.
9. Everyday struggle at the Garden Cafe Buffet to find a table, as the restaurant is too small to cater for the number of passengers.
10. Only a couple of good night entertainment show, and the rest is mediocre.
Overall, the worst cruise line experience we have had. Read Less