Number of Cruises: 1
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Jewel
Sailing Date: April 15th, 2007
Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean
Norwegian Cruise Lines
Norwegian Jewel Cruise Review
This was the first cruise for my husband and
I. We had decided to go with NCL after reading the reviews of both the ship and
the itinerary on this website, and I have to agree that most of the comments
that the other users have made are fair and accurate. Our cruise was the last in
the Caribbean season for the Jewel.
We arrived at the Port at around 12:15 and were able to proceed with checking-in despite the fact that the NCL travel tickets that we got said that the check-in time was 1pm. The queues for the immigration and check-in for the ship were fairly short and orderly (however please note that we were in the ‘Foreigners’ queue, the ‘US Citizens’ queue looked far longer), so I would advise going for early check-in if you can manage it. The building in which the check-in was being conducted was air-conditioned and there was complimentary water, tea and coffee for those waiting in the queue.
We had an ocean view stateroom, which was on port side, Level 4 of the ship, the lowest level. We had a small porthole in our room, and while not palatial, there was lots of cubby holes and other really neat storage ideas that meant that all our luggage fitted in without a problem. When we first came on board, our room was made up as 2 single beds. On the first night, we pushed the beds together but the room stewards very kindly made up the 2 single beds into a double bed from day 2 onwards without us asking them to.
Meals, Reservations & Surcharges
On the whole, we liked the food on board the cruise. There was a great variety to suit all tastes and certainly, no one would object if you wanted to really go for it! We were very impressed with the standards of hygiene on the ship. At the entrance to all the eating places were hand sanitizers and everyone was encouraged to use them before proceeding on to have their meals. When we walked through The Garden Café on a couple of late nights, we saw staff hard at work cleaning not only the counter surfaces, but also the walls, cupboards and even behind the workstations!
We were disappointed on only 2 occasions. On our first afternoon on board the ship, we joined in the Sail away BBQ party on the pool deck of the ship. Despite the food being cooked in big BBQs on the spot by the ship’s chefs, our burgers were overdone and the hot dogs were cold. The second occasion was when we docked at Great Stirrups Cay (the last stop). We were disappointed with the buffet lunch selection. The nicest thing there was the barbequed chicken. My husband had a burger which was seriously underdone and this is coming from someone who will eat rare beef!
Meals taken at The Garden Café, The Great Outdoors, Tsar’s Palace, Azura, Tango’s, and Blue Lagoon, and the poolside bars are included in the fare price. The days when we stopped in a port were the worst for dinner times. I guess most people who got off the boat wouldn’t have lunch, and so were starving by dinner time. The early dinner sittings were always booked solid when everyone arrived back on ship. So my advice is to plan ahead on the days when you know the ship will be in port and make reservations.
Soft drinks cards were available for just over $60, but unless you are planning to drink soft drinks morning, noon and night I wouldn’t recommend getting the card. My husband and I shared the soft drinks card, but we still had nowhere near enough soft drinks to make it worthwhile. Soft drinks cost $1.25 per can. Most bars on ship were doing an offer on beers where you could get 6 beers for the price of 5, around $22, and pina coladas and other cocktails were served in tall souvenir glasses for $9 a pop.
We ate all our breakfasts at The Garden Café as we thought that they had the best buffet selection there, with pancakes, French toast, waffles made-to-order, an omelet station, various cereals, yoghurts, fresh & dried fruit, breads and pastries and a hot selection with corned beef hash, sausages, bacon etc. Breakfast times were usually very busy here and invariably we always had to share a table with another couple or family.
A selection of late night snacks were available at The Great Outdoors, including salads, a couple of hot food items, usually pizza, fruit and desserts and on a few nights, we sat there nursing a late night cup of tea. It was always very quiet here and on the pool decks and we went on a walk around the ship to chill out and listen to the waves at night.
We had dinner twice at Tsar’s Palace and Tango’s. The menu at Tsar’s and Azura seem to offer the same menu, it’s just that you have a choice of different restaurant environments. Tsar’s is decorated in a very opulent style, the service was very good and there are a few menu options for appetizers, salads & soups, entrees and desserts. Although you could order anything on the menu as many number of times as you wanted.
Tango’s is a Mexican restaurant which we really enjoyed. The fresh salsa and tortilla chips that are brought to your table when you first sit down are really delicious. A note of recommendation – save room for dessert – the dessert that I had both times, was the cream puff filled with coffee ice-cream with dark chocolate sauce and almonds. It was to die for! Also, this was a really popular restaurant, so we suggest that you book. The first time we ate here, the only table we could get was at 9:30pm.
There is a small cover charge if you want to eat at one of the ship’s ‘speciality restaurants’. You generally also have to reserve a table if wanted to eat at any of these. When we first checked-in on board the ship, we tried to take the advice of other reviewers to go and book the restaurants for the week. However, we were told that the ship’s policy was that you could book for that night and the night after. They would not take advance bookings further than that. The ship’s staff also confused us with their instructions as to where we could go to do the restaurant reservations. Basically, you can go to Tango’s anytime between 8am and 5pm to make a reservation for any of the ship’s restaurants. Or after 5pm, you could dial a reservation number. My impression was that the reservation service was rather flaky. While there were no problems with our reservations at the specialty restaurants, we had problems when we booked for Tango’s. They could not find our reservation even though we had turned up in the morning to do the booking ourselves!
We ate at the teppanyaki restaurant located in Chin Chin’s ($20 each for cover charge). It was great, food and theatre in one. Other passengers who had gone, also echoed these sentiments. There are only 3 sittings, which last 2 hours each, 5:30pm, 7:30pm and 9:30pm. The 7:30pm sitting was the most popular.
We also ate Sushi at Chin Chin’s ($15 each cover charge for dinner). The sushi chefs were very obliging so don’t feel that you can’t order ‘off menu’. If you wanted something that wasn’t on the sushi menu that they hand to you, for instance, edamame, miso soup or green tea ice cream, they would still bring it out to you. For sushi connoisseurs, I’m afraid the quality was varied, it really depended on which chef you had making it for you at that time.
Ports & Port Excursions
We didn’t sign up for any of NCL’s port excursions as we wanted to just chill out on our holiday and not have to confine ourselves to some strict time schedule. For most of the ports, the ship docked at 9am and the all aboard time was 3:30pm. So unless you were prepared to make an early start, there wasn’t much time to be spent exploring the port of call.
When we disembarked in Puerto Rico, we found vendors hawking tours that were the same as those offered by NCL but at ‘half price’. In Antigua, we took a local taxi ($3 per person if you share a taxi) to Runaway Beach. We paid $5 each for deckchairs and an umbrella. There is a beachside bar that serves drinks and food and which offered some basic toilet facilities. The same excursion is offered by NCL at a cost of $34 each!
By far the best selection and cheapest duty free shopping for alcohol and even swimwear was to be found in St Thomas so save up your dollars till you get here.
Shopping at Ports
We attended the shopping lecture by Linda the ship’s shopping consultant on day 2 while we were ‘at sea’. A note to all intrepid shoppers – NCL may offer a guarantee with all the shops listed in the ‘shopping guides’ that they produce, but if you read the small print you will realize that the shops have all paid NCL to appear in their brochures and marketing material. So I would still advice those who are planning a large purchase to proceed with caution and shop around for the best prices and quality. I found that the quality of gold offered by the jeweler shops in the NCL shopping programmed were of inferior quality to what you could get with some of the other jewelers who had not advertised (14ct as opposed to 18ct gold).
But if you can’t walk away from a freebie, do look out for the various coupons that come with the shopping guides as you could walk in to the stores and pick up free semi-precious stones, t-shirts or charm bracelets without buying anything (of course, while you are there, the store assistants will try and up sell you to a full priced product, but if like us, you aren’t interested, you can politely refuse and walk away).
It seemed that if you wanted to, there was always something you could do on board the ship both for the days ‘at sea’ and while the ship was in port. The library offered a small selection of fiction and non-fiction titles, and also popular board games like scrabble, monopoly etc.
There were also (almost) daily bingo sessions (fee charged to play), ice carving, sushi, dessert, towel animal folding (highly recommended!) demonstrations as well as a basketball court, table tennis, outdoor chess on the deck of the ship.
Deck chairs by the pool were always snapped up really early on in the day but if you were willing to sit somewhere with less of a view of the pool, there were generally chairs available. A note to swimmers – the pool was filled with chlorinated salt water, and in rough seas, was quite a ‘wet n’ wild’ playground.
A highlight was the Calypso Band, Caribbean Wave – every time they came on and played, it didn’t matter that it was overcast or rainy, it felt as if the sun had come out again and we got into the ‘holiday feeling’ all over again.
There was a show in the Stardust Theatre every night that we were onboard and my husband and I went to all of them. Unfortunately, most of the shows were rather bland and innocuous. The best of the bunch were the stand up comics, Second City, the spectacular Cirque Bijou (it’s even more impressive when you think that all those acrobatics are actually performed on a very small stage while the ship is swaying!) and also the show put on by the crew, called ‘Fountains’.
There was also a ‘Murder Mystery’ dinner on Day 4 which my husband and I signed up for. There is a limit to the number of people who can sign up to play, so get there early for the sign up session if you’re interested! We had a good laugh at the ‘Murder Mystery’, our first, and also got to meet some other really friendly couples of our age group in the process.
There were also various ‘themed’ late nights at the Spinnaker Lounge, for e.g. 70’s night etc. It all depended on the crowd that was on the ship during the trip. We had some hilarious performers from our fellow passengers for the 70’s night. Another highlight was the Caribbean Pool Party out on the pool deck with a tongue-in-cheek ‘Miss Norwegian Jewel’ competition.
NCL also laid out a Chocoholics buffet on the Friday night – an omissible treat if you are a self-confessed lover of the dark sweet stuff!
Our room stewards have to get a special mention. They were very efficient and ensured that our cabin was always clean as a whistle (far cleaner than some of the hotels that we stayed in during this trip!).
Also the cruise director, Paul and his staff, who were there to make sure that all the passengers were entertained, gave the impression that they could be anywhere and everywhere all at the same time! It was pretty incredible how they managed it. They were very funny and worked really hard all through the cruise to ensure that everyone enjoyed themselves.
Check-out and Disembarkation
This was a bit of a drag. We had to get our bags packed and put outside the door of our cabin by midnight on Day 6. NCL had a rota of when all passengers had to report in for an immigration check. Ours was at a red-eye inducing time of 7:15am. Thankfully, the queue moved pretty quickly and we proceeded to breakfast straight after. When we tried to return to our cabin to pick up the rest of our things, we realized that they were already in the process of cleaning our rooms for the next passengers. We packed up as best as we could and had to wait in one of the ship’s public areas such as the pool deck or the Stardust Theatre as we were called to disembark according to a schedule. We were called to disembark at 9:40am but it was a bit of a shambles as lots of people were trying to use the lifts to get down to Level 4 to disembark at the same time. This jammed the lifts and the whole scene was rather chaotic. Once we were off the ship though, finding our luggage was more straightforward and less troublesome than we had anticipated.
We were lucky and managed to get a taxi to take us to our hotel in Miami within 5 minutes. But just a word of warning – Miami taxi drivers can be sharks! Make sure that they turn on the meter in the taxi when you get in. You don’t want them to ‘forget’ and charge you an exorbitant flat fee. Unfortunately for us, we had a nasty experience with a Miami taxi driver who tried to do just this when he drove us from our hotel to the airport. Fortunately, the hotel had told us that it would only cost between $30 – 35 to get from South Beach Miami to Miami International Airport. Equipped with this information, we managed to get the errant taxi driver down on price, but it still left a bad taste in our mouths.