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Ed Swartz

Age: 51

Occupation:Export Control Coordinator

Number of Cruises: First One!

Cruise Line: Norwegian

Ship: Norwegian Jewel

Sailing Date: April 14, 2006

Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean

Norwegian Cruise Lines
Norwegian Jewel Cruise Review
Eastern Caribbean

Ed Swartz

This is our first cruise. I went with my wife. We have lived overseas on several occasions due to work assignments and considered ourselves experienced travelers. We did a lot of research and to be honest, didn’t know what to expect, since we had read so many opposing opinions about NCL. We did use my parents’ opinions since they have cruised many times and have taken an NCL cruise recently from our home town-Houston, Texas (Galveston).

Our concerns were unwarranted. The ship, the itinerary, the shore excursions were terrific and a nice way to see so many places in a short time frame.

We started our trip by arriving into Barcelona on Friday allowing us two days to acclimate ourselves to the time difference and to spend some time in this beautiful city. I strongly recommend that you obtain your hotel reservations early if you decide to do the same.....Barcelona fills up fast.

Embarkation went well. We took a taxi from our downtown hotel to the terminal around 12:30 where there was already a large crowd in line. However, check-in went smoothly and  was only a 25 minute wait to go thru the lines before we were going aboard.

The ship was beautiful. I was truly impressed with the rich taste, cleanliness, and the size of the ship without feeling crowded even though the vessel was fully booked. (I appreciated NCL’s concern to minimize the spread of illness by the use of hand sanitizing stations through out the ship and their policy that they serve all food and drinks-even at the buffets)

We had a mini-suite on Deck 11. The room appeared small, but I was told by cruising standards it was larger than most. We never felt cramped and never had a complaint about our room or the service of our room steward. Bathroom was very functional with good lighting and bed was perfect for sleeping. We really loved the balcony.

The food was good. Not exceptional, but good quality and taste. We definitely like the free styling concept while many of our fellow passengers commented their preference for the standard seating practices – to each their own. Definitely plan ahead if you like to eat during prime time. However, with the diversity of passengers with many Europeans who commonly eat later than Americans, it didn’t seem to be overcrowded at any time.

We ate at several of the specialty restaurants in which we received better service than the main dining rooms. But to be honest, we thought the main dining cuisine was of equal par, maybe not as fancy. They definitely serve smaller portions. But we found this to be a plus. We never left hungry because we always had room to try several extra things.

Entertainment was mostly average in my opinion. There were two excellent staged shows from the same company on Monday and Thursday nights. The balance of the shows were so-so. Also the several bands playing through out the ship were average at best (We must have heard “Celebrate” and “YMCA” several times). It also appeared to be a non party atmosphere, not much going on late at night. But I believe this was partly due to the long days of touring with the early wake up calls going into port.

The shore excursions were one of our primary reasons for selecting a cruise (we wanted to see as much as possible without all the hassle of packing and repacking). NCL’s excursions were good, but I questioned the cost (I spent over $1,200 for all five ports-of-call for the two of us). My biggest complaint and it was not NCL’s fault, due to my wife’s Russian citizenship, the Italian authorities required certain nationalities to have their passports checked at the same time of the ship’s clearance. This caused some stressful situations when we had early tour times and we were standing by waiting for her passport – this process was not applicable for any Americans or Europeans.

All in all we rated this as one of our most enjoyable vacations, but definitely one of the most expensive. We will definitely cruise again, but probably from Houston were the prices are a little more reasonable.

One other tip, the airport at Barcelona was very busy. Allow extra time for check-in.

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