Occupation:Professor of Education
Number of Cruises: 9
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Jewel
Sailing Date: October 21st, 2006
Norwegian Cruise Lines
Norwegian Jewel Cruise Review
We just completed a wonderful freestyle
cruise with NCL, and loved it. Here are a few tips. We loved the ship—lots of
nice spaces and we did not find the décor at all gaudy; all was in good taste.
Things did get crowded, though, for example, when getting on and off for tours
(more about tours later), and for special events (e.g., mask-making, the Cirque
Bijou show, and the Crew show). The personnel were the most friendly and helpful
we’ve seen in our 9 cruises to date (with RCL, Crystal, Celebrity, Cunard, &
Princess). The staff members seem to have a good time and really like the
customers. The Cruise Director, Mike, was a natural comedian and had a superb
array of activities and entertainment. They really made it fun and communicated
all the options quite well. If you hate loudspeaker announcements, they do come
on 2 times a day, but not in your room; only in the halls, common areas, and on
the ship’s TV station.
We loved the options and food offered for breakfast and lunch. But, as others have said, dinner in the two main restaurants (Azura & Tsar’s Palace) is disappointing at best (except for the Captain’s dinner). But, there are so many other options that it’s not really a problem-- if you know where to go. And it is wonderful to be able to eat at any time, and at any place, and with anyone you please—a big plus for freestyle cruising.
One of the best kept secrets for dinner is the Garden Café (the main cafeteria area), which, although very busy and loud during the day, is quiet with soft lighting and great food at night…and it does not require reservations. Their Mexican buffet was especially good, with home-made taco shells. In the daytime (and evening) be sure to try out the aft part of the Garden Café, the Great Outdoors. They have their own buffet line with most of the same food, and it’s quiet and nice to eat outdoors looking off the stern of the ship. In the mid-afternoon, they have great scones & jam.
We really enjoyed the pay meals at Le Bistro ($10 per person), Cagney’s Steakhouse ($15), and Chin Chin ($10). The latter has the most varied menu, with Thai, Chinese, and Indian dishes. Try the dumplings (pot stickers), spring rolls, Chinese chicken salad, the hot pot, Peking duck, and great desserts (ginger crème brulee and banana pancakes with coconut ice cream). If you go to the pay restaurants at 6:00 you pay only half the cover charge. Of the free meals, Tango’s had good Mexican food & Tapas. We did not try Mama’s (Italian). Some folks said they enjoyed breakfast – ordered from a menu--at the quieter Blue Lagoon, right next to Tango’s. Room service was fine, but the pizza was not good, and the menu was limited.
Espresso machines make regular and decaf cappuccino & espresso. Be sure the machine you use does not need service (there will be a red notation at top). Otherwise, you might conclude it is too weak, as I did. When I found the right machine, it was surprisingly good. And the regular coffee is brewed, and very good, too. The cheapest thing from the bar is Coke ($2 each); otherwise stay away from ordering more than 1-2 of the expensive drinks (if you can’t do that, try a Friends of Bill W. meeting). We had iced tea & coffee for free; iced water with lemon worked well, too.
ENTERTAINMENT & ACTIVITIES
The 3 shows put on by the Jean Ann Ryan Co. were exceptionally well done—some of the best we’ve seen at sea. They include ballroom dancers and acrobats to give variety to the typical show, and they are wonderful. The tenor, Chris , was great—concert-quality singing. And Cathy Bowman’s cabaret show was well done. We did not see all the comedians, but heard they were good, as was the magician. The passenger talent show on the last night and the concert (by cast members) were not worth the time.
The Jamaican group that performed poolside was wonderful and encouraged people to dance and have fun. They were very versatile, but at their best with Reggae. The other combos were very good, too.
There were plenty of activities; I might have wanted to have more dance classes (only 3 for the 15 days). The dance hosts were not particularly good dancers, which I found odd.
They have a huge casino, and it makes a lot of money for NCL. My husband did very well in poker tournaments and blackjack. He also met a lot of nice people in the cigar bar, which is well ventilated, and near a piano (not sequestered in a dark area, like on many ships).
The library has a fair selection of books in many languages. They also have a free book exchange, which is nice. I found a bestseller there (-:.
There were no religious services on the schedule, so if you would like to have them, just let the front desk know at the beginning of the cruise, and they will put it in the schedule. They have a nice little chapel area, or can schedule your group elsewhere. NCL automatically scheduled daily meetings for “Friends of Bill W” (12-Step programs) with refreshments, and for “Friends of Dorothy” (gay and lesbian travelers).
There is an internet desk with computers you can use, WiFi spots on the boat, or you can borrow an ethernet cable to get to the Internet on your laptop from your room (there is a limited number of cables available). And you will pay about $100 for 250 minutes of Internet time with any of these options. There are other packages available (e.g., fewer minutes). I just figured I could deduct the cost. And it was nice to stay in touch with folks at home. The service is slow, so if you plan to do a lot of lengthy emails, you will have to budget your time.
SUN, SPA & GYM
We had gorgeous sunny to partly sunny weather the whole way, with only a couple of windy cloudy days that were not suitable for sunning. The quietest place on the boat to sit in the sun is on the bow, on deck 14 (you have to walk up from deck 13 or go up 2 flights of outside stairs from the pool area. I could usually find a shady spot there; but it’s mostly in the sun. If you want to hear the music, you can stay on deck 13, and it is still less crowded than around the pool area.
The spa is gorgeous, very open and the Jacuzzi looks out over the bow of the boat. But you can’t use it for free. You have to either buy a service (e.g., facial, massage) or sign up for a pass ($150 for 15 days; $100 for 8 days; also a daily fee which I don’t remember). I always sign up for the spa pass because I love the quiet areas; the steam room & sauna are large; you get a locker with a key, and after you shower, you can dry your hair right there. The pass includes a unisex area with heated mosaic chairs, and a large Jacuzzi-like pool. If you don’t get a pass, there is a men’s and women’s area with lockers (no keys), a tiny steam room & small sauna. These are free, but crowded.
The gym was great; nice and big and looking forward across the bow. There are plenty of weights (1 lb & up) but no exercise bands, so if you use them, be sure to bring them.
We don’t take tours, as we find them to be a waste of money and time; and the crowding to get on and off the ship drives us crazy. So, we do our research on each port before the trip (click Port Reviews on this site, buy a guide book, or Google the city & copy the relevant info into a Word file; we bring our laptop so we can download and view digital pics after each day of sightseeing). And then we get off right after all the tours have left for the morning and either take a train or taxi. All the people at the train stations and most taxi drivers speak English, and it is very easy to figure out. Also, it’s kind of interesting to ride in a tender (or take a short bus ride to town) with the dancers and singers and other “talent” on the boat.
For example, in Villefranche, it was easy to take a train to Nice, Cannes or Monte Carlo. Or you could get a taxi to take you up to Eze if you wanted to see a gorgeous small, “perched” town. In Livorno, the trains go to Pisa & Lucca or to Florence. From Civitivecchia, the train goes to Tarquinia (or Rome). Of course if you have never been to Florence or Rome, you may want to take a tour, but we heard a lot of complaints about the tours. So, you might get a few people together and share a taxi/tour. It will probably be cheaper than a bus tour, and less hassle.
For the smaller ports, the taxis are plentiful, and you can get a quick tour, or just walk around. Our favorite port was Funchal, Madeira—just gorgeous to explore (they have a free internet café right near the municipal hall). Be sure to take the launch that takes you across the small bay for 1 euro; it saves the walking around the quai, if the ship is docked on the far side of the bay. The funicular up to the church is worth the ride (but don’t get a round-trip ticket; once you get up there, you can get a different one down that lets you off at the Botanical Gardens; we missed this tip, and thus, the gardens). Then it’s a longer walk back to the ship, but probably worth a Taxi ride.
One tip: When booking a cruise check out on which day of the week you are in which port. It seems that we kept hitting a port where the opportunities for shopping and eating would be great, but where the stores and restaurants were closed because it was a Sunday or holiday.
We loved freestyle cruising and Norwegian. If you want really great food, just plan to pay $10-20 per night for about ½ the dinners; go to the Captain’s dinner; and then eat the rest of the dinners up in the Garden Café. Have a ball!