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Brad McGee

Age: 47

Occupation:Entrepreneur

Number of Cruises: 4

Cruise Line: Norwegian

Ship: Norwegian Jewel

Sailing Date: March 19th, 2006

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

Norwegian Cruise Lines
Norwegian Jewel Cruise Review
Western Caribbean

Brad McGee

Our overall experience on the Jewel was excellent. The ship is attractive, well laid out, and the staff was exceptionally friendly and responsive.

THE FREESTYLE CONCEPT
The reason we chose NCL was the Freestyle cruising concept. We were not disappointed, and wish more cruise lines would adopt this. The ability to dine when you want and to have such a wide variety of dining venues is excellent.

EMBARKATION
Embarkation was very efficient. We arrived by car just after noon and were onboard within about 20 minutes. Supposedly, embarkation begins at noon for Latitudes members and 1pm for everyone else. From all indications, they opened the doors to everyone at 11:45am. When we disembarked at about 10am, we saw people already lined up at the doors to begin the boarding process. We understand that between noon to 2pm can get VERY busy and backed up.

If you drive, there is a parking lot right across from the ship that costs $12/day, paid in advance. Since there is not a parking garage, I would recommend getting a set of sunscreens for your windshield to keep the hot sun out of the car while you’re away.

STATEROOM
We were in a mini-suite (category AF) which was roomy and very nicely decorated. There was plenty of storage (a roomy closet with plenty of hangers and numerous drawers, suitcases go under the bed). The room has a small safe, a hair dryer (at the desk, not in the bathroom), dual thermostats (one for the pull-out couch area, which can be divided off with a curtain) with excellent control of the temperature, a minibar that has plenty of excess room to store your own beverages, and a coffee maker with coffee and tea. The balcony had two fairly comfortable chairs and a small table.

The bathroom was roomier than I had anticipated. There is a separate toilet area with a sliding glass partition, a soap dispenser at the sink, a shower gel and shampoo dispenser in the shower, a shower in the tub with a sliding glass door (the shower has plenty of pressure and a nice Grohe shower control), a pull-out clothesline in the shower, three glass shelves at the sink with plenty of room for toiletries. There is also an extra towel bar next to the sink that made a great place to hang a toiletry bag to give some extra room. The bathroom is large enough so that if someone is at the sink, the other person can easily maneuver around them to use the toilet or shower.

I peeked into the bathroom of an inside stateroom and noticed that they did not have a separate toilet room, but the shower was about the same size as the mini-suite.

There is a dial outside each stateroom that you can use to indicate “Welcome,” “Make up room,” “Do not disturb,” and “Turn down room.” This was handy to let the room steward know when he could come in to service the room or make his animals out of towels (which were quite clever).

One great tip: ask your room steward for feather pillows and a top sheet. The feather pillows are far superior to the standard pillows, and the top sheet is nice in the event the duvet is too hot.

HEALTH AND FITNESS
The fitness room has a number of excellent cardio machines and weights. The treadmills are fully booked in the mornings, but open up in the afternoon for the remainder of the day. There are yoga and Pilates classes ($11.50/session including automatic gratuity) that my wife says were worth the cost.

If you’re a runner or a walker, skip the fitness club and head out to the promenade on Deck 7. There are plaques on the wall that indicate one lap is 668 yards. This equates to 2 2/3 laps per mile. Don’t bother with the jogging track on Deck 13 – it’s narrower and shorter (5.5 laps per mile), and you’ll spend a lot of time dodging other people. (NOTE: there is a wooden plaque in the forward port quarter that gives different measurements than the metal plaques. The wooden plaque in not correct).

Spa treatments are $20 off if you book them the first day of the cruise. Most treatments are 50% off if you get them while the ship is in port.

DINING
Overall, I would rate the food as good, but it’s certainly not the highlight of the cruise. We primarily ate in Tsar’s. One night we went to Azura (same menu as Tsar’s, but it’s a smaller place and the service seemed just a little faster). Another night we went to Mama’s Kitchen, but decided not to go back. We ate at one specialty restaurant, Chin Chin, but were disappointed in the taste of the dishes. The Chocaholic Buffet was held on Friday afternoon in Tsar’s, and was better looking than tasting. On my last cruise I gained 5 pounds; this cruise I gained nothing. Most nights we skipped desert at the restaurant and got a cup of soft-serve ice cream (self-serve) at the Garden Café (I recommend using a cup for the ice cream versus the cones – if you see what happens to those cones throughout the day, you’d understand). They have sauces for the ice cream, but only at the machine in the forward part of the Garden Café. The juice machine serves apple, cranberry, and orange. If you want something else, like tomato, you can ask and they will get it for you.

I recommend that you make dinner reservations for the entire week as soon as you get on the ship, even if you plan to eat at Tsar’s or Azura. At about 7pm to 8pm the restaurants get crowded and there is a wait (they do use pagers, so you don’t have to stand in line). If you have a reservation, you’re in right away. You can change the reservations at any time (except that specialty restaurant reservations must be cancelled 24 hours in advance or you’ll get charged $5). It’s good to have the reservation as a fallback plan.

The service in the restaurants was excellent, but the meals still took a very long time. You can count on an hour and a half to an hour and forty-five minutes for either lunch or dinner in Tsar’s.

Specialty restaurants are 1/2 off (cover charge only, not any of the a la carte prices) from 5:30 to 6:30 every night.

ENTERTAINMENT
I would have to say that the shows were, well, entertaining. None of them are going to win any awards. I don’t think I’d classify any as “don’t miss,” but they are a good way to spend the evening. Cirque de Bijou is probably the best – the performers clearly have some exceptional physical capabilities. Most shows have two performances – one at 7:30pm and one at 9:30pm.

If you’re not a drinker or gambler, there is little to do after the evening show. It would have been nice if there was a movie theater with continuous show times (there are movies in cabin, but it’s not the same as having a theater).

DISEMBARKATION
Because we were able to wheel our luggage out on our own we were able to get off the ship when we wanted. From 7:15am until about 8am, only those without checked baggage can leave the ship. We decided to eat a leisurely breakfast in the Garden Café and depart later (they will drag you off at about 10am). This was a mistake. Since everyone is waiting to get called off the ship, they’re all up in the Garden Café and the place is mobbed! It was difficult to get a table. I might recommend that if you do want to adopt a leisurely pace the last morning, head to Azura for your breakfast (Tsar’s was closed that morning), or get room service.

MISCELLANEOUS
The service overall was excellent. We did not run into one crew member that was unpleasant. Everyone was friendly and very accommodating.

There is a “Freestyle Sundeck” a couple of decks above the Sky High Bar that has a frosted glass railing and allows Freestyle sunbathing.

As far as I could tell, the sodas offered are: Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, Sprite Zero, and Ginger Ale. So, for those interested, Sprite Zero is the diet, caffeine free alternative.

We did not take any shore excursions, so I can’t comment on these. As for port stops, I have noticed that there are generally two types of Caribbean ports: upscale and downscale. On this cruise, Roatan and Ocho Rios were definitely downscale, while Grand Cayman and Nassau (weather prevented us from going to Stirrup Cay) were upscale. If you’re planning to just walk around, it’s generally not worth it in a downscale port (as you’ll be incessantly nagged by peddlers).

There are automatic hand sanitizer dispensers at the entrance to all restaurants. Thankfully, we saw a lot of people using these. Even so, it’s best to carry along a small bottle of Purel!

Happy cruising!

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