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Norwegian Cruise Line: Norwegian Jewel

Fodorite Reviews

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Feb 7, 2017

Review of Norwegian Jewel

Leigh Age: 50 Occupation:Healthcare worker Number of Cruises: 1 Cruise Line: Norwegian Ship: Norwegian Jewel Sailing Date: 2016-10-18 Itinerary: Los Angeles to Mexican riviera It was a disaster from go to whoa Luke warm and tasteless food. One exception was the Brazilian themed restaurant The bed was uncomfortable and the seat was hard. The bathroom was a bit small. I am 6 feet tall so i struggled to dry myself in such a small space. Brian who was

our steward was very nice and he was good to us all trip. He made animals out of towels and other paraphernalia . We chose an Internet package and a food package. This entitled us to 250 minutes of Internet and 3 free meals at the restaurants that you had to pay to eat at. Our package that we booked had 4 meals but that was not what we received and when we queried at customer service they told us to contact the agent who booked the trip for us and that was like it or lump it. The Internet was ok but if you use twenty seconds for example they take a whole minute of time off the allotment. We looked at the excursions onboard . Because we come from another country our exchange rate to American is not the best so we were very mindful of this. The prices for the excursions started at 150$ per person to 250$ .We thought that was over the top so we did not book any excursion on the ship. We were supposed to make 3 stops at Mazatlan , Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas. Mazatlan was cancelled before we boarded because the ship needed maintenance which we were told would be carried out in Vallarta Two and a half days at sea. We disembarked down the gangway to the dock. We were asked by a tour guide hombre if we wanted a 3 hour tour for 20$ US. We agreed and we were 2 of 8 that they wanted for the minibus. They got two more people and then 4 more. We returned to the ship after visiting the town and went back to our room. The next day the maintenance was scheduled to finish at 5pm. It didn't finish til 11 pm and we were late leaving. The next morning the captain announced that were not stopping at Cabo because there was not enough time to get back to L.A. There was a lot of upset passengers and we heard a lot of stories which I cannot repeat here's. The management of. Norwegian decided to refund 25% of the fare. 50$ per stateroom, and 19$ for the non existent port charges at Cabo also the gave 25% off our next trip on Norwegian( NOT) Other general tips I can give are. Parents don't let your kids run in the ship, especially near the rooms. Thud thud thud. Also we got in one lift eventually to find three boys had pressed all of the floors and they took great delight in running down the stairs to laugh as the doors opened. We were going to the 4th floor sick bay where my wife had a cough and fever. We were charged 140 to see the doctor, 45 for flu test, and 57 for a strep test. The doctor said a cold. Do you have a fever for a cold....I didn't think so. Incidentally when we arrived back in L.A we flew to Houston and were taken to doctor where my wife was diagnosed with Bronchitis. Lol. While we were still on board I got some cold sores and my wife got pink eye . There are hand disinfectant things all over the ship but I guess some people don't use them 2500 people is too many to sail with in my opinion. This was a bad experience and anyone who reads this beware this is not a joke.

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Oct 17, 2016

Los Angeles to Mexican riviera

It was a disaster from go to whoa Luke warm and tasteless food. One exception was the Brazilian themed restaurant The bed was uncomfortable and the seat was hard. The bathroom was a bit small. I am 6 feet tall so i struggled to dry myself in such a small space. Brian who was our steward was very nice and he was good to us all trip. He made animals out of towels and other paraphernalia . We chose an Internet package and a food package.

This entitled us to 250 minutes of Internet and 3 free meals at the restaurants that you had to pay to eat at. Our package that we booked had 4 meals but that was not what we received and when we queried at customer service they told us to contact the agent who booked the trip for us and that was like it or lump it. The Internet was ok but if you use twenty seconds for example they take a whole minute of time off the allotment. We looked at the excursions onboard . Because we come from another country our exchange rate to American is not the best so we were very mindful of this. The prices for the excursions started at 150$ per person to 250$ .We thought that was over the top so we did not book any excursion on the ship. We were supposed to make 3 stops at Mazatlan , Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas. Mazatlan was cancelled before we boarded because the ship needed maintenance which we were told would be carried out in Vallarta Two and a half days at sea. We disembarked down the gangway to the dock. We were asked by a tour guide hombre if we wanted a 3 hour tour for 20$ US. We agreed and we were 2 of 8 that they wanted for the minibus. They got two more people and then 4 more. We returned to the ship after visiting the town and went back to our room. The next day the maintenance was scheduled to finish at 5pm. It didn't finish til 11 pm and we were late leaving. The next morning the captain announced that were not stopping at Cabo because there was not enough time to get back to L.A. There was a lot of upset passengers and we heard a lot of stories which I cannot repeat here's. The management of. Norwegian decided to refund 25% of the fare. 50$ per stateroom, and 19$ for the non existent port charges at Cabo also the gave 25% off our next trip on Norwegian( NOT) Other general tips I can give are. Parents don't let your kids run in the ship, especially near the rooms. Thud thud thud. Also we got in one lift eventually to find three boys had pressed all of the floors and they took great delight in running down the stairs to laugh as the doors opened. We were going to the 4th floor sick bay where my wife had a cough and fever. We were charged 140 to see the doctor, 45 for flu test, and 57 for a strep test. The doctor said a cold. Do you have a fever for a cold....I didn't think so. Incidentally when we arrived back in L.A we flew to Houston and were taken to doctor where my wife was diagnosed with Bronchitis. Lol. While we were still on board I got some cold sores and my wife got pink eye . There are hand disinfectant things all over the ship but I guess some people don't use them 2500 people is too many to sail with in my opinion. This was a bad experience and anyone who reads this beware this is not a joke.

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Sep 27, 2016

Alaska

I had always thought Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) was a notch above the others, so I was excited when we booked our 10 day Alaskan Cruise on NCL. However, less than a week after we got underway, We couldn't hardly wait for the cruise to be over so we could get some decent food! My husband and I both questioned if the cruise line might be suffering financially and trying to save every penny they could. Overall, the food was never hot, and poorly

prepared, it often lacked flavor and at times was what as kids we called "mystery meat". Our friends refused to order beef after having a nasty textured hamburger. I sent back two rib-eye steaks, one tough one in the main dining room, and one that was tasteless, with one quarter hunk of fat in the Italian restaurant. I sent back the duck, it was raw, in the French restaurant. I couldn't eat the scrambled eggs in the main dining room. There was no consistency in what an item would taste like from one day to the next. Waffles good one day, inedible the next. The salad dressing was watered down. Pizza brought by room service had a half inch of cheese, was greasy and disgusting. I complained at nearly every meal, I was always offered an alternative. I expressed our displeasure with the food to guest services and was offered a free meal at a speciality restaurant. NCL staff member V, did you not hear me? The food was awful, why would I want more? They sent us a bottle of Merlot and a plate of little cakes and a couple chocolates that we left onboard. My husband doesn't drink alcohol, I don't drink red wine, and I'm not going to pack a bottle of red wine in a suitcase! A refund of the money we paid extra to eat in five speciality restaurants would have been more appropriate. Our stateroom was smaller than those on other cruise lines, although the shower was larger. We enjoyed a balcony stateroom. The bed was hard. Sitting on the sofa was like sitting on cement. The paint was chipped, and metal rusting in a few areas on the balcony. The safe didn't lock 90% of the time. However our cabin boy was awesome! Always friendly, called us by name and kept the room clean and supplied. We really didn't participate in any activities. We loved the helicopter tour of the Mendenhall glacier! Our seaplane tour of Misty Fiords was cancelled due to weather, but others went later and said it was great. The whole shopping deal in Skagway and Ketchikan was troubling, a lot of pressure to buy. Glacier Bay was the highlight of our cruise. For the most part we had great weather, and being one of the last cruises of the season, there were many sales for people who wanted to shop. With two exceptions, the staff is the real jewel on this ship. This was my second Alaskan cruise. There are too many other areas to see, so likely will not do another. Regardless, I will never again book a trip on NCL, dreading meal time really put a pall over the entire cruise.

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Mar 4, 2016

Panama Canal

Be careful if you win anything from the spa. I won the big $150 credit worth $132 on a port day. The $18% tip is $27 on $150. I had a massage on port day and was charged the 18% as if it was a sea day. Anything from the spa is not free, even though they say it is. I was compensated from customer service with a bottle of wine. We booked a Miami city tour, 2hrs. ending at the airport ...$49 per person. The tour was just over one hour, due to delays

getting off the ship. You can easily walk off at this port if you are a light packer like us. There is a free people mover in downtown Miami. Saving chairs and sun beds on this ship was also a problem...we do not play this game so often could not find a chair at their excellent BBQ's. And pool entertainment. There were towels on chairs, but no person for hours. The food on this ship was excellent. The buffet was great and so were the dining rooms. The stateroom was small, but we knew that, and are well organized. The room and ship in general, is very clean. Our room steward was great. The onboard activities were good. The night shows were the best we have seen (21 cruises) The one tour we took, Miami city tour, was not great....expensive and short Overall we would choose Norwegian again as the food and entertainment were great. It was a healthy happy ship. I would have nothing to do with the spa or shore excursions. The room we were in, inside cabin was quiet, even though there was a service room beside it.

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By Amy_CR

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Dec 24, 2015

Mexican Riviera

So good things first: A.) This was our first cruise and the embarkation / disembarkation at all the ports (including LA) was fast. We were particularly worried about the disembarkation at LA because we had a flight to catch, but there were no problems there (ship arrived at 8am, we were at LAX with our luggage by 10:30am). B.) Food, entertainment (especially the acrobatics and the magic show) and on-board activities were great.

C.) Ports were gorgeous and felt very safe. Temperature at the ports were perfect for swimming but not too hot. D.) And last but certainly not least, our steward was very friendly and helpful. The folded towel animals were adorable! Now the bad (from least to worst): A.) Ship is gorgeous but noticeably aged. The toilet needed to be serviced our second day because it lost suction. The cabin door stopped locking after our third day. The toilet was fixed in 30 minutes. The non-lockable door took 2.5 hours to get a carpenter on-site (during which time we were stuck in the cabin to make sure our belongings were safe). B.) Don't expect lost keycards to be deactivated by guest services. We lost a keycard by the pool and went to guest services to get it deactivated and a new one issued. New card never worked (didn't open the door at all, after 3 trips to the service desk for a rep there to check). Old card was eventually returned to us by another guest. We were astonished to realize that it still opened out cabin door and scanned into the ship and the dining areas - guest services assured us it was deactivated immediately. And below you can read about our continuing saga with guest services: C.) Service on the ship was great everywhere except at guest services. General questions were fine (how do we disembark / tender, etc) but be prepared for an extremely unapologetic and accusatory attitude if you actually have a complaint. My sister and I were up on the 14th deck taking pictures of the sunset after we came back from Mazatlan and were unaware that the deck was booked for a private function. A man from the party that booked the deck told us to get off the deck less than politely. We are two petite sized females and didn't want to argue with other guests so we left. However, we felt uncomfortable that this happened and it certainly dampened our mood. Moreover, we were confused as to why a crew member wasn't there to inform us that this was the case and that another passenger essentially shooed us off the deck. Thus began our story. 1.) We went to the service desk to figure out what happened. The rep there told us the deck was indeed booked and gave us a freestyle daily to figure out which areas were closed at certain times. We thought maybe we were in the wrong and didn't read freestyle daily correctly. 2.) Freestyle daily had no mention that the deck was closed to the public. Now it seemed like the service rep didn't give us correct information. So we returned. And the second rep told us there would be no more of these private functions that would book out public areas. Still no mention of any apology that there was no crew to close off the area / explain. (There were private functions booked in at least 2 dining areas, one of which became closed to the public, after he told us this.) 3.) Guest service assistant manager came out. We explained the situation to him. He told us he was there around that time and didn't see us. Which sounded like he was calling us liars. We told him we have pictures during the sunset showing the time and place. At that point, he asked us if we wanted the guests from the function to apologize. No! We didn't have a problem with the other guests - they probably paid for the deck and felt equally confused as to why we were there. We just wanted an apology from NCL that this happened and more importantly, that there would be more clear information in the future so we wouldn't be put in this uncomfortable situation again. No apology given. He repeated that he was there and didn't see us. The entire experience with guest services changed what was originally curiosity and a hope for a just an apology (not monetary, just acknowledgement and reassurance) into what felt like accusation. It left a fun cruising experience with a bitter aftertaste and makes us seriously consider another cruise line even though we love the idea of freestyle cruising.

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Dec 20, 2014

Western Caribbean

We were booking a last-minute vacation, so even though we normally go with Carnival or Princess, we didn't have any other cruise lines to choose from, so we decided give Norwegian a shot. While the waitstaff in the dining rooms and the housekeeping staff are pleasant enough, there were quite a few people who worked at the Guest Services desk and the Shore Excursion desk who were clearly trained in the fine art of rudeness and impatience (ironic,

I know). Even the simplest problem that you bring to Guest Services' is brusquely dismissed and followed by some variation of the words, "There's nothing I can do about that", with absolutely no attempt to even pretend to help you resolve the issue. We had to go through numerous levels of management before the problem was solved (in other words, there WAS something they could do about it). It was even stranger that, despite being a party of three Americans, we were constantly being treated as though we spoke and understood no English. We had purchased shore excursions but were misled to another tender vessel and ended up in the wrong place, at which the first words out of the staff member's mouth was, "You obviously didn't follow directions, or else why are you the only group that is in the wrong place?" Funny, because right after she said this, the family behind us stated that they were on the same excursion we were on. When we returned to the ship to have the shore excursion tickets refunded, we were met with the same accusatory attitude from another staff member who went as far as to start yelling at us at the top of his lungs because, clearly, we were so stupid that we couldn't follow directions (never mind the fact that we were not the only party who made this mistake). I don't understand why Norwegian feels that this is an appropriate way to treat their clients, but I can tell you this: no one pays good money to go on vacation to be mistreated in this fashion.

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Aug 18, 2012

Alaska

We decided to go with Norwegian, instead of Holland America, because Cruises Only encouraged us to pay more and go with a ship with a younger demographic. We paid more than double to go with NCL. How frustrating to find out that virtually everything costs extra. Of the 12 dining room, 8 have extra charges. Sushi is a la carte, sodas cost money, if you want juice at lunch or dinner - extra. Alcohol is extra. Using the Internet - .75 cents per

minute or $59 or 100 minutes - outrageous. Exercise classes - extra. Using the steam and sauna - $149 for the week. Ridiculous. The excursions are very expensive if purchased through the ship. Wait until town...You'll know if the weather is reasonable, and save money; or buy via the Internet beforehand. The worst is the informercial salesman on the ship hawking all sorts of jewelry and goods or the spa selling Botox and cleansing treatments. It really cheapens the experience. Let me get you a deal...right. The ship sells artwork, photos at every turn. If our family pays over $4500 to go on a cruise, I don't want to be nickel and dimed in every corridor. We paid extra to get rooms adjacent to each other. When we arrived, our room view was obstructed - 95%. They could not move us (or do anything for us - just apologized - no credits or efforts to please us). Might as well have gotten an inside cabin- better than a view of the lifeboat in all of its glory. Lots of kids. Swarming the game room. Bridge players and adults looking for a quiet space - beware. They had organized bridge games, but sometimes all of the tables were taken by kids and families playing Monopoly or Mahjong. When I asked about getting a table for the game (on the day's calendar), they said "sorry, but we cannot ask people to leave." If they have a ping pong tournament on the schedule and people are playing, they ask them to leave. When they have a show and kids are playing on the stage, they ask them to leave. I don't see why they can't reserve the tables for an organized game. When I spoke to the front desk, they said, "sorry." The next day, bridge was not on the schedule. We took full advantage of the Alaskan ports. Best activities - dog sled camp in Skagway (a drive, not helicopter - much more affordable. There is one in Juneau too, but may sell out). Deadliest Catch fishing trip was fantastic. See the Mendenhall Glacier on your own - just take the bright blue bus from Juneau - $16 round trip. Bring your own bottles of alcohol on board. You can't bring them into the dining room, but you can drink them in your stateroom. The staff on board was very polite and always smiling. The front desk was nice, but not very helpful.

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By Mel_CR

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Jul 9, 2012

Alaska

Wonderful butler, room steward and coffee maker and that's about all I can say positive. Many outright lies by our booking agent or should I say "salesman". Once he had our money extremely difficult to reach him for follow up. Were told we would have assistance at embarkation (VIP) but didn't and Seattle has no place to sit. My husband is disabled and we had our service dog with us. He, the dog, btw was great and always has been on our

trips. Our wonderful shuttle driver ran off and found someone who could bring us a wheelchair and finally we were able to get VIP boarding which still was a total hassle and not well done. Our dining experiences were not the greatest to say the least including several of the specialty restaurants. Mostly for dinner we ate in our room and ventured out for lunch when their seemed to be less crowds. The concierge was very curt to any of the questions we asked. Seemed like NCL trying to nickel and dime you right and left. There was even a charge if you wanted to go to a class in "animal towel making". Mediocre at best. Cagneys, in particular, very poor. The soups were always subpar. By the 4th day we had figured out where and what to eat. We were glad when the cruise was over for many reasons,none of which was to get some decent food. We had a family suite which had a large bathroom with shower, and full size tub which was very nice. The main king bed was very comfortable. The other room had a sleeper sofa type bed which was horrible. This room also had a toilet and shower. The size of the room was fine. The cleanliness when we boarded was okay but there were stains on the carpet and the upholstery looked very tired. The balcony was on the small size but we really had only one good weather day so it didn't really matter. We really did not partake in any. We just wanted a really laid back, do nothing cruise with lots of good food (alas). We had cruised with NCL some years back and the food was excellent. Ketchikan was the only really accessible port for us and it was quaint but touristy. We sailed with NCL some years back without all of these negative findings. Seems like the newer CEO is making cuts where they should not be made, particularly food. Won't be using NCL again.

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May 5, 2012

Bahamas

Travelling with a friend, we thought we would take time out of our USA trip to vegg out and relax by going on a cruise to the Bahamas. All sounds great on paper, until we embark and discover it was completely geared for families with little children. A Nickoldeon cruise.Unfortunately our Travel agency in Australia neglected to inform us of same, so we took the positive approach and thought we will just make the most of it. We struck violent storms

and wild winds for first two days causing us to be extremely sick and very anxious, of course the weather was most unfortunate, it cannot be helped, but the Quest Staff did not care at all when we told them we wished to disembark at first Port of call. The rooms, with a balcony, were extremely small, they were very dusty and dirty, did not have any room to accommadate two woman's travelling bags. The single beds were of very poor quality, the sheets didn't even fit the beds, hence,displaying the tell tales of dirty foam rubber matresses. As for the food, it was disgusting in all eating areas, we could not eat anything, nothing was palitable.

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By Joe_CR

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Mar 31, 2012

Bahamas

Overall, my wife and I had a fantastic time..Although the weather was not co-operating NCL cannot control that.. The food was good. The entertainment was awesome and the staff was like the family you never had but always wanted. We mostly ate in the buffet area. Once we ate in the main dinning room and once in a specialty restaurant. Although, I must say, the dessert was not anything to chit chat about if you get my drift. Stateroom

was cleaned seemed to be like 3 times a day.. Our stewart was extremely friendly and always made sure we had everything we needed. We went to almost all the activities, they were all great.. Excursions are touch n go.. When we went we canceled our excursion due to poor weather. However, we still got off in the ports to have our own fun.

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By Chaz_CR

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Mar 24, 2012

Bahamas

Look else where, stay away. I went on NCL in January for my second time and in a penthouse, worst time of my life. Started from the sewer smell in my penthouse for the whole cruise to my 3 year old nephew finding a left pair of scissors left on his bed, which was left by the not so expert room attendants. There were so many other problems, to many to list. I was told I will have to contact guest relations. As the cruise went on MANY, MANY guests

were also very unhappy, terrible food, not stoping at the out island, unfriendly staff and on and on. As soon as I got home I contacted guest realations, which after days of calling them, they finally got back to me and offered not solution or resolution to any of my problems and were no help and could care less. I even researched all the executives and reached out to them with phone calls and e-mails. Not even a phone call, letter, fax, or e-mail from anyone of them, they could care even less. There executives go on tv, a CNBC Channel Cruise Special and claim they are family friendly and need and love repeat business.... LIES all LIES once you get off the ship the could care less. No matter how bad the cruise was. I should have read this page before I went on, I might not have gone....... Look else where, Carnival, Royal, Princess take it from me, I learned my lesson!!!!!!!

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Dec 24, 2011

Bahamas

If you want a great vacation look elsewhere. The food was terrible, the pools were overcrowded and you felt as if you were constantly attending a pitch for a timeshare... Beware of the excursions -there is a lot of misrepresentation and or bait and switch. Cocoa beach-a cab ride is much cheaper than the ride to town. Pick up snorkeling gear at Ron jons for 15.00. If the excursion says food is included-do not count

on it. Be prepared to hunt down staff for towels and silverware, then be prepared to share one set of silverware or a towel amongst every one in your group. Need I sat more? Terrible for vegetarians... To many sauces, rude staff. No taste. Getting to be rundown and very noisy / rattly. They were a joke. See above Will never go back to a ncl ship again. Way to expensive for what you get. We wanted to come home by the second day...

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By E_CR

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Dec 10, 2011

Miami - Bahamas

Overall not a bad experience, not really for younger crowd or singles though. The service was the highlight and the quality of food was to be expected. Not digging how NCL promotes itself when they are not capable of filling those expectations. I thought the best food was in Mama's Italian restaurant - service there was impeccable, and the desserts delicious. The Garden Cafe was a joke - especially the Chocoholic buffet, it was just disgusting.

There were just different stations with the same things, the desserts looked worse than the ones made by EZBake or something. We took two plates of different cakes and didn't finish even one of them (the cakes not the plates). It was like they used more flour and gelatin than actual chocolate when making the desserts. The other dining rooms like Tsars and Azura weren't bad, I didn't expect much since it's unlimited and at price we paid, I think the food was quite good. We had a great time at Blue Lagoon, service there was awesome and food was pretty good. Room service was always fresh! We upgraded our room upon seeing our Obstructed View room on Deck 8 - we upgraded to a Deck 10 balcony. It's just extremely small for three people with their own luggage. The rooms were clean and in pretty good condition - though towards the last few days they started some kind of construction on the room next to us and it was extremely loud and unbearable. They were geared towards an older generation and families - which I can understand. But the activities weren't that interesting. The Cirque Bijou or circus show that they have is really amateurish. They have three different things going on at the same time, you can't even see what's going on because two of them are spinning above your heads and you're just worried that they'll fall. The dancing was totally uncoordinated and the music was a mess just totally bad elevator music, I don't expect a world-class show, but I expected something watchable, not something that makes me want to leave the theater. The singing was off key and uninteresting, I guess making the guy speak in a French accent was supposed to be a good touch but I couldn't even understand what he was saying... The comedian magician was hilarious and quite interesting. The game room they have is limited in the games that are available, and they don't keep the decks of cards or puzzles together in one piece. We had 3 decks of card that were ALL mixed up (and we actually tried to fix them but cards were missing...) We started a puzzle and realized that there were THREE different puzzles mixed up in that ONE box. It's ridiculous! Traveled with friends, we are all under 30. Service was great, we kept reading about bad service but it seems that some customers are just sour faced and expected to be treated like queens. Everyone on board was friendly, though some of them don't seem extremely happy I don't blame them (we spoke to quite a few of the employees and they are all on the ship for 9 months away from their friends and family). We made friends and received great service. Some of the prices on the ship were ridiculous like the 18% auto-gratuity. I believe 15% is more than enough and if we feel like the service was great, I will tip more. The drinks weren't expensive (compared to what you pay in Manhattan) and they didn't go light on the alcohol either. There wasn't much to do, we spent a lot of the time walking around and hanging out in our room and going to a few activities. The game shows were quite amusing and we had fun. Coffee was definitely better if you paid for it, which we did every day.

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Oct 24, 2011

Bahamas

The cruise was a nightmare. The food was horrible. It actually brought us closer to other passengers because we shared the same misery. There was an overall feeling of complacency; the crew also. They tried to sell you something 24/7. Furniture was dirty and scarce for 2,000 + people. Buffet was a joke. All the food was overcooked and tasteless. Passengers went to other specialty restaurants as we did looking for some decent food. By the 3rd. day,

we realized there were none. Breakfast: Scrambled eggs were tasteless, as well as overcooked. FYI: ALL THE FOOD WAS OVERCOOKED. The only bright spots were the hand made egg stations. There were 2; for 2,000+ passengers!! Everything sat out for 3 and a half hours, and you can just imagine what it tasted like. Lunch and Dinner: Buffet was still the tasteless overcooked food. We went to other places, but in desperation we looked everywhere. By day 3, we knew we had been had. There was no good food anywhere. We despaired together with numerous other passengers. The bad food actually bonded us together. We were all trapped. An example: Our last night, Azure and Tsar had the beef stroganoff on the menu; remember, these 2 places always had the same items. It was listed as "Beef Stroganoff with Mushrooms" , sub-title description: "Egg noodles, Beets and Sour Cream" . I asked for no beets. I was greeted with the following: Red Peppers, Green Peppers, Onions, and PICKLES !!, and a half tea spoon of Sour Cream. You had to be kidding. I took pictures. The egg noodles were dry and hard, and the 3 small strips of beef were tough. I filled up half a small plate with the extra crap that had no business in this dish. I have pictures. PICKLES ?? PEPPERS ?? Ribs at Mexican place and Chen Chens were the same with different toppings. Both were like a stringy pot roast. One of my ribs was 100% fat. Chen Chen serves an egg drop soup. Someone thought it was a good idea to add CORN !! Yes folks, corn !!. Even our server thought is was a bad idea. Chef said the corn recipe was directed by the Corporate Office; back to Kevin again. Important: FOUND OUT THAT ALL FOOD DECISIONS WERE MADE BY CORPORATE, INCLUDING RECIPES AND PRESENTATIONS. Someone in the CEO's office complex makes up these menus. THIS IS WHY THE FOOD IS BAD ON ALL THE NCL SHIPS. Our cabin was a mini suite with balcony- what a joke. You had to turn sideways to get past the bed to balcony from bathroom. Furniture was marginal. Bed was hard, and the pillows were very hard. Seemed like those cheap pillows that you find in the stores for $ 5. There was no bar soap in bathroom ; nor lotion either. Stewart never bathed and stunk. He was friendly, but had bad body odor. Some other floors had this bad smell also. Some crew I spoke with said there was the same problem in part of the crews quarters. One day, steward seemed slightly annoyed we were not out of our cabin in the morning. Never offered us any food service. Did a good job cleaning. Had to fight in the beginning for more towels. About 80 % of the salt grinders did not work. They were in all the restaurants except the buffet and the pool deck. The pool deck had those little salt and pepper paper packets, which blew everywhere. The entertainment was lame except for the theater. The 70's Review Show was very good. There was a band at the pool one day that was good, but way too loud. Then we saw them do a totally Spanish show in the main lobby; this was awful. NCL will help you have a new appreciation for your favorite restaurants once you get back home. We feel sorry for those stuck on the Jewel now, somewhere on the high seas. I think the Jewel and NCL have so many deep problems, it will be almost impossible to fix.

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Jun 19, 2011

Bahamas

THE WORST VACATION EVER!!! Noisy, HORRIBLE FOOD!!!! So not worth the money. Nothing to do even though this was a Nickelodeon cruise, no activities worth while, under 2 zoo was a joke with broken toys and wires hanging out. Day care center was ridiculous, they have no way of finding you in case of emergency, neither do they want to or care to. NEVER AGAIN will I go on Norwegian. Horrible food. Too spice, or no flavoring at all. Even paid

to go to Cagney's steak house....what a waste, Applebees or TGIF serve better steak. Small, very noisy, evertyhing was old and needed updating. HORRIBLE, worst vacation ever!

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Jun 18, 2011

New York to Bahama

We started out with a "cruise professional" through NCL that made promises he couldn't keep, he then would not respond to our calls or emails. When I got a hold of his supervisor we got things worked out. He could not fulfill the promise that was made, but did provide us with a bottle of wine in our cabin for our troubles. The ship is big, so it does not feel crowded. We did not have to wait long for anything and was always able to find a

table or seat. The freestyle dining is nice in that you can eat when you want, but you do not get to "bond" with your wait staff. We had a different server at every meal. Some of the meal service was slow as we had to wait a long period between courses. The food is really the only complaint we had with the Jewel. The meals were bland and not the quality we had expected. We did eat at Cagney's one evening (you have to pay $25 per person at the specialty restaurants.) The food there was more what we expected on a cruise. The buffets were pretty much the same food each time. By the end of the week, the fruit was mushy and the rolls stale Wed night was the lobster, beef wellington night. We did not know that and chose that night to go to the buffet. Not sure what the quality of that night would have been. The desserts were nothing special either. There is a chocolate buffet on Thurs night. Mostly brownies and chocolate cakes with added flavor (orange chocolate cake, walnut chocolate cake etc.) The 2 restaurants serve the same meals, but the Tzar is a nicer atmosphere. The first night you could wear shorts in the Tzar. The second night they turned away a group of 8 due to the children having shorts on. The 3rd night they changed that rule due to so many children on board. We stayed in a family balcony room and it was very nice. The room was big as was the bathroom. The bed was extremely comfortable. The fold out couch, however, was very hard. The bath was one of the biggest of any cruise we have been on. The tub is a full size tub. Be careful you don't put any thing in the refrigerator or you may get a mini bar bill. We put a bottle of water in there to cool, and we were billed for it. They did take it off our bill, but we had to stand in line to get it taken care of. There are no clocks in the staterooms, so make sure you bring a watch or a wind up alarm clock. Your phone will not display the time due to being in the middle of no where. There are also very few electrical outlets which was surprising. (1 in the bathroom for a razor only, and 2 in the stateroom, and none by the beds.) Aside from the pool, there was not a lot of activities. We had 2 days in a row at sea and on day 2 our children were bored. No movie theater. The shows on the TV in stateroom are the same ones over and over. There are about 4 shows but they repeat their self over and over and over. Our children are 11 and 12 so in that age, where they are too old for Dora and Sponge Bob, but was not old enough to go into the teen area. There are 2 ping pong tables, but it is hard to find a time when they are not in use. Also the first day, someone hit the ball overboard, so there was no more ping pong until the next day when they brought out extra balls. We did attend 4 of the shows. The magical was the best. He is funnier than the comedian. Most of the shows are family friendly. They did tell you if they were geared toward adults. I think that was just once the entire week. If you love art, there are 2-3 art auctions. We did buy some nice pieces from the auction. You could spend $100 up to $50,000. If you see something you like, talk to them and they will work with you on getting the best price they can offer. In Orlando we went to the Kennedy Space Center. The bus tour is very long and boring. You just drive through the Center and see buildings. The museums were nice once you got to them, but there is not a lot of time due to the length of the bus tour. We spent the extra money for the up close tour and not sure I would do that again. You did get closer to the launch site, but if you have a good lens on your camera you will still get a good picture from the cheaper tour. Also after the last launch in July, not sure what there will be too see on the up close tour. On the NCL island we rented snorkel equipment. The snorkeling is much better with NCL than Disney. Disney has fake ships etc. where NCL is a true experience. The beach is very crowded. Make sure you bring water with you, as the only place you can get free water is at the food area and you will have to walk a distance for that. Bring a reusable water bottle from home and fill it before you leave the ship. On Nassau we went to Atlantis and swam with the dolphins. We all agreed that was the best part of the trip. The dolphin experience was unbelievable. You can either swim in deep water with a hand held motorized fan or have the dolphin push you across the pool with their nose while you hold on to a water board. They also do that if you have the deep water experience. Try and get an earlier time for the dolphins as it takes a good hour and half. There is not a lot of time after to experience Atlantis. The maps they give you for Atlantis is worthless. The lockers cost $12 and were sold out by they time we got there. We left our stuff under a tree and thankfully it was safe. Don't spend the $40 per person for the pier to airport transfer. You can get a taxi at the pier very easy. We flew out of Newark and it was $90. For a family of 4 that was much cheaper. You can get your color tags for debarking on Thurs evening. If you need to leave the ship early, make sure you get your color tags on Thurs. night. We had the first color (brown) and was off the ship by 9:10. Overall, the Jewel was a good experience for our family. Other than the food, I cant think of anything negative about our trip. You will never be able to wash your hands again with out singing "washy washy" . Once you go on the Jewel, you will know what I mean by that.

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By joel_CR

  • New

Apr 26, 2011

bahamas

Great family time, the kid's club was good, lot of activities for the kids than keep them busy, but watch out, lot of kids with flu and my oldest get a little cold after being 3 hours on it. But kids gonna love it. The pool is nice,(salt water) but a little pack, nice in the nights. The hallway next to the elevator in the back of the ship always stinks like sewer in the morning, thats the only negative thing that i can say about the whole trip. You

will needs a major credit card, no cash will be accepted in the ship except for tips or inside the casino, also you can pay with cash at the end of the trip or everyday in the guess desk. The food was very good, my favorite was the buffet. The grill by the pool was ok. Azura rest. and t'zar palace was absolutely awesome, great service and great steak (azura), but, i still dreaming with the BLUE LAGOON'S wings, omg, where can i found some wings like that? great rest. in top of the reception, is the only one open 24 hrs, but is just some kind of fast food, wings, mozarella sticks, chiken fingers, and chiken breast sandwich with french fries, thats it, but simplely delicious. The chocoholic night was nice. I had a balcony that i enjoy a lot, the bed super comfortable, the fridge too small, the bathroom was ok, the toilet section was a little bigger than a airplane and the shower was good, after all we are in a ship, is not a hotel. All kind of activities for all ages and all life styles everytime from 6 am to closing after midnight. The stardust theater was my favorite, them play movies in the day and some other activities and 2 principal funtions at night everyday (everyday is different). My favorite show was the comedian and magician Jean Pierre, he is absolutely awesome for kids and adults. VERY DISSAPOINTED with the nickelodeon characters, only see dora twice in the whole trip and sponge bob just one time and this was in especific activities, never came out through the ship. Also the slime show tha is on friday, slime seems to be so expensive that you see a little at the end of the show. I paid the magic kingdom excursion with my kids and was great. NASSUA BAHAMAS, Please, DON'T PAY the excursion to the atlantis, i paid the atlantis tour and day in the beach and was a waste of money, the tour in the hotel drive you to the reception and give you a map and you have to go on your own, finally on the hotel beach, the locals trying to sell you some stuff in any or another way. Behind us, in the bushes, some of the locals was selling some kind of drugs. I just feel so threated than i just take my family and went back to the ship. Stirrup cay, beautiful, safe and again beautiful, i just get there and get a palm tree and just sat there with my pina colada and my kids love the white sand and clear water, that was my favorite place from the trip. Friendly staff, great food, great shows and great time. And the best, is a free styling cruise, do whatever you want when yoyu want. And remember, if you are going to this trip soon please say hello to the famouse washy washy ladie ( catherine ) in the buffet door, you will know what i'm talking about. Good luck

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By Joy_CR

  • New

Apr 8, 2011

bahamas

Just read the review from Joan Cortes who was also a passenger on this cruise. I couldn't have said it better myself. WORST CRUISE EVER!!! Paid $10,000+ as well and it was a total waste of my money. This was my childrens first cruise and what a disappointment. Thank god for the beautiful bahama beaches. I too expected to see Jenette McCurdy all over this ship as she appears in the commercials. She was the reason why we booked this cruise. We told

everyone we would be "hanging out" with Jenette McCurdy from icarly. Couldn't believe she only had two appearances., TOTAL FALSE ADVERSTISEMENT. Its a shame because mychildren don't feel the same way about Jenette as a person. She was rude to the children who wanted to talk to her whenever she was spotted out of her cabin (we never saw her once walking around the ship) but heard some terrible stories about how she reacted to the little girls who admire her. I'm sure it wasn't totally her fault regarding the itinerary. It was her managers fault. She was probably told not to talk to passengers until her "meet and greet". Well you what Jenette - there is a word called "courtesy". She could have told the little girls who saw her and approached her "i'm so sorry but I'm not allowed to take pics with anyone." instead of her rude replies. Either that or she should have stayed in her cabin so no one could see her. She had little girls crying. What a sin. Thank God for Ciara Bravo!!!! What a sweetheart!! She signed autographs when spotted on the boat. Took pics with whoever asked. So cordial and mature. And what a beautiful family she has!! Her mother and father were so pleasant to talk to. So down to earth. She was the highlight of our trip. I even spoke with her mom in the Garden Cafe for a bit one morning when she was sitting with her older daughter (who was also a doll). Great Job Ciara!! Stay as sweet as you are!!! We also thought the boat would be decked out with the nick theme. NOT. One statue of spongebob in the "lobby area". Big deal. No characters walking around or by the pool (which they show on the advertisement). Complained so much they had me meet with Nickelodeon management. Was told this was their second "all access cruise" and they are learning from their mistakes. Great....we were the $10,000 ginuea pigs who could have used that money to pay down my mortgage!!! Now here's the best....we were asked if we wouldl like to be on a commercial they were filming on board which was to be aired during the "Nickelodeon kids choice awards". I figured they wanted to try to make us happy which we thought was awesome. They filmed us being slimed and we were estatic!!! Told EVERYONE we knew to watch the kids choice awards and look for us on the commercial. Guess what....NO COMMERCIAL WAS AIRED!! What an embarrassment. They not only screwed us on the cruise but screwed us afterward as well. My kids were so upset on not seeing the commercial. They told all their friends. Not very nice. We were also told the ship could not accomodate the characters walking around. It wasn't built for that and it wasn't wide enough. So then why show an ad with the characters all over the ship????!!! Again , false advertisement. They also told us they were not prepared for 1,500 kids. The regular nick cruises hold 500. How could you not be prepared?? They took our money..that was no problem. I also could not go to Disney with my kids because they were overbooked. My kids have never been to Disney so this was to be their first time at Disney. We would have had to pay $400 for a cab round trip if we wanted to go. We also couldn't get into the Atlantis Waterpark. Why? They had no more room. Overbooked again. What a waste of a cruise. At this point all we were looking forward to was seeing ourselves on the commercial, which like i said NEVER AIRED. The last thing i have to complain about was an incident that happened in camp. This extremely nice family won this cruise. They put their 8 year old daughter in camp. I have to add that this little girl was a quiet, sweet innocent girl. While at camp one day she was almost molested by another girl in camp. The girl brought her into the bathroom and tried to pull down her pants. The little girl got away but was traumatized. The parents complained that no one was watching her daughter while this happened (the camp counselers are all young kids i might add). They have cameras in camp and the parents asked to see it to confirm thier daughters claim. The captain would not release the tape. The other girl denied it and the captain swept it under the rug like it never happened. There was nothing the parents could do. Now this poor sweet 8 year old has to have memories of almost being molested on this cruise. I have a friend who went on the regular Nick cruise and she had fun. But of course. She only paid $3,000. If I had paid $3,000 maybe i would have been happy too. But $10,000+ later it was a waste of money and I would NEVER recommend the all access cruise to anyone - not even my enemy. Joan Cortes had it right about the food. Don't need to repeat it.0 Stateroom was OK. Stewards were excellent.

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  • New

Mar 27, 2011

bahamas

I had a great time. It wasn't the best ship I was on, nor was it the worst. I am happy with the fare I paid. I had only one issue. The hallway on deck 8 smelled of raw sewage. The ship personnel denied it yet placed an ionizer in the hallway. I am thankful my cabin did not stink and that it was close enough to the elevators because I could hold my breath long enough to get back and forth to my cabin. Food was good. Stateroom was

smaller than most, yet the shower on the bathroom was the largest I have been in. The toilet was at a weird angle though - you had to sit on it side saddle because my knees would go through the wall. I am only 5'4" tall. Bed was super comfortable. Most stuff was geared towards family - if you had no children, there was not much to do. I had a blast on Great Stirrup Cay. You don't need to rent those clamshells and lounges for $29.99 per day. No sun gets in but neither does any breeze - so you will sweat!! Plenty of palm trees and seagrape trees to sit under. Perfect weather - great crew - I would go again but I would choose not to go on a Nickelodeon cruise. Wayyy to many kids, strollers, etc..

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  • New

Mar 13, 2011

Bahamas

BEWARE! Though this cruise had a few great highlights, overall, it was very disappointing. Majority of the staff is unfriendly, expressing your concerns is a waste of your time (and whoever you are addressing....they truly have no compassion and are very defensive with no interest in the guest experience). Many hidden charges and misleading advertising. Do not waste your family vacation money. Choose another cruise line. Inconsistent

meals.....I was served raw fried fish with the batter sticking to my fingers it was so doughy....some were good, one or two were great (they happened to be in the restaurants where you had to pay cover charges) , INCREDIBLY small portions all across the board. If you eat in LeBistro, definately order the fruit fondue. Presentation is amazing and it was the only dessert I got on this ship that I actually enjoyed, besides the soft serve ice cream bar. Desserts are tasteless and clearly use cheap ingredients. Some were disgusting. I love cheesecake and was disappointed with every one of their varieties. I tried multiple desserts just in a quest to find one I liked. No such luck except the fondue in LeBistro. We had the absolute best staeroom housekeepers. They were attentive, friendly and wonderful. They actually made the cruise tolerable. Decent,.... like I mention below, the golf pro never showed either time. The magician was great. The wii was so packed that you waited and waited for your name to be called, only to find out "show's over" and you never got a turn. Nickelodean slime time live was enjoyable. My son got picked to be on stage which made it wonderful for him!!! Overall, it was good. It was really the only thing going for the ship, in my opinion. Excursions are much cheaper is you book them yourself. Look into cab/bus prices and excursion admissions. Norwegian is always out to make a buck. DISSAPOINTING!!! PARENTS BEWARE!!!! While this cruise provided some fun and memorable moments, overall, take a different cruise line. The bad outweighed the good 4 to 1. Nowegian's wording is carefully done to trick you. The kids clubs are not free the entire cruise....only when at sea. Many parents were surprised to discover this as well. I even called Norwegian to ask for clarification before we booked as to what the Kids clubs were as opposed to the Group Sitting. The representative said group sitting occured after the kids clubs closed at 10:30 pm. I asked for the kids club hours and was told "every day, 9:00am to 10:30pm." WRONG! When you are in port, there is a LARGE fee. Beware of their "coupons" too. We had one that said "Two great meals, one amazing deal"...Enjoy dinner for two at LeBistro and we will waive one cover charge at the italian restaurant. Now, in retrospect, we should have figured this out, but we ate at LeBistro and handed our server the coupon to get one cover charge waived. Come to find out, the cover charge they will waive is if you eat at Le Bistro THEN go eat at Mama's Italian Restaurant. If it said "Enjoy dinner for two at LeBistro and we will waive one cover charge at Mama's Italian Restaurant," it would have been crystal clear. But they left Mama's out on purpose and what is worse, I showed the hostess the coupon before she sat us and she said to give it to the server at the END of the meal..... I am certain they were trained to say that. If you gave it to them before the meal, you would have the option to leave before getting charged a cover charge of $20 a person. We were not the only couple to fall for that coupon either. We later discovered from other people aboard that thay fell for it as well. And when we tried to explain our disappointments, like wrong food, servers and bussers clearing plates before we were done and not asking if we were through, no one cared. For example, my husband was speaking to a manager when the manager got a phone call and excused himself. We always felt a far second to what was going on with the crew and managers. No remedies to situations were offered. When we tactfully and in a friendly manner brought some things to managements attention, we felt like we were pegged as complainers after the second sentence. All we recieved were excuses. The list is many, but here are a handful of pro's and con's Pros: 1) We had the absolutely best, fun and friendly stateroom housekeepers. And they catered to our every need with a smile. They clean the room multiple times a day. Absolutely fabulous. They always kept ice in our rooms. 2) Entertainment was entertaining! They had some great shows, a wonderful magician and a fabulous group of male singers who specialized in the Eagles, Stevie Wonder, etc... 3) My son was selected to appear on their slime time live show. It made his trip! 4) Soft Serve Ice Cream cone bar was great Cons: 1) They nickle and dime you....consistantly. When we entered the boat, staff were trying to literally HAND smoothies in my children's hands..... at $5 a pop.... a child doesn't understand the fees. Then when we take it away and give it back the the person who just handed it to my children, we get a sour face from the staff and our chilren think we are the worst parents in the world. I feel bad for the parents who didn't get to take the smoothies away from their chilren before they took a sip. They got charged. Very tacky and sneaky. But as were most tactics on this ship. 2) Sodas are NOT included. Just water,milk, tea and coffee. Lemondade and punch is not included either! My travel agent told us it was. 3) They scheduled a free golf pro clinic on two different days for short game help, club fittings, etc to meet with interested guests. My husband went...the pro never showed either seminar. We went to the desk to report it. The desk staff called the pro's room. He claimed to have been ordered by the ship to attend some training....Both days. There was no communication to guests regarding the conflict from Norwegian or the Pro. Numerous guests waited 15 to 30 minutes and left. My husband waited 45 the first day. 20 the second. 4) Food was consistently wrong. In once case, I was served raw fried fish and the batter was still doughy and sticking to my fingers as such. 15 min later, my husband and I left. The server was no where to be found. She dropped off our meals and never returned. We told the hostess and she offered us nothing. We just got an "Oh, I'm sorry." Another example was when my husband ordered a turkey sandwich from room service and got ham and swiss. Meals came before appetizers, or sometimes meals and apps were delivered at the same time....so one is cold before you can get to it. Breakfast is the same selection over and over and over...by day 7 my kids were tired of it. They wipe tables while you are sitting at them and wipe food crumbs right into your lap, sometimes its not even your food, but the people who sat there before you....the buffet is extremely hard to find a seat during peak meal times and you feel rushed and its hard to enjoy the meals. The dessert is AWFUL!!!! It is tasteless and poorly made with cheap ingredients. Thank goodness for the soft serve vanilla ice cream bar (when it worked...it was down a few times). Lights were out in some of the fancy restaurants as if no one cared. 5) If you have a child in swimmies, they aren't allowed to swim in any pool,. even the children's one. the child MUST be potty trained. They will remove you from the pool. 6) In the free child care, if your child starts to cry, they call you to come get the child. They have little patience with them. Once, we were on our way to pick up our child and just as we were getting off the elevator to pick the child up, the childcare phone rings. I answer it and he says "Your son just started crying and you need to come get him." So, I literally took 10 steps to the entrance and there was my son, happy as can be. The man said "Oh, he just started crying." He didn't look like he was crying to me. There were no tears. It sounded like they wanted my son to go. And this happened multiple times where we would get calls after we dropped him off that he was crying. Our son doesn't typically cry. and when we picked him up, there were no tears and he was happy playing inside almost every time. 7) Unless you like slots, the casinos are a joke. There was two roulette tables while only one was ever used regardless of how packed it was, 1 blackjack table, 1 let it ride table, etc. On busy nights, you couldn't play if you wanted to. 8) Some days, the shops do not open till 6pm. 9) The shuffleboard sets were regularly locked up so you couldn't play and the pool table was "out of order" as was the shower by the pool. 11) Like the gym? Don't count on getting in. They were very packed . I waited 20 minutes for a treadmill and some of the treadmills were broken or stuck in inclined positions, etc..... it was a joke. 12) I seriously could go on and on and on. The people who claim to have a great time on Norwegian cruises, I'm curious if you have sailed another cruise line. I'm afraid you are like an abused child that believes life is supposed to be this way. All cruise lines DO NOT treat their guests this way. You don't know what your missing. We will not be sailing Norwegian EVER again. And I caution all of you, particularly people with children to not waste the money on sailing here.

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  • New

Feb 28, 2011

bahamas

Just returned from an All Access Nickelodeon cruise. Worst cruise ever. Paid over $10,000 for a cruise that was falsely advertised. Claimed to "be sailing with Jennette McCurdy from iCarly". Should have advertised "appearance by Jennette McCurdy". Kids were so excited to be sailing on a ship with the star but reality set in when we got the itinerary for the week which stated she was making two appearances for the whole week. Kids were devastated when

finding this out. Saw her one day on the boat and kids approached her hoping for an autograph and picture. She barely glanced at them and said "no pics or autographs until Saturday" (which autograph was pre-printed. Made my kids cry.) NCL's commercial for this "all access" cruise was false. No characters walking around ship. No nickelodeon decorations except a big statue of spongebob in lobby area and a few posters by elevators. Had to wait on long lines to see characters and Spongebob and Patrick were not present during any of these "meet the characters". Kids got to meet them ONCE during trip. Commercial also shows Jennette at poolside with the guests. This did not happen on our cruise. Ciara Bravo from Big Time Rush was also on cruise. Thank god for her. Very sweet and pleasant. Took pics wih us and gave autograph. Kids were estatic. Her family was wonderful and inviting. Kids could not get in camp. Overbooked. Could not go to Disney because the transportation was full. Couldn't go to Atlantis because again they were booked. Absolutely ridiculous for the money we paid!!! Supervisor of ship said after many complaints that they weren't prepared for so many kids. Very big disappointment. Kids were bored by 2nd day. Would say about 90% of the ships passengers complained about the false advertising. If we had known what the trip was really about - we would have never booked it. I absolutely DO NOT recommend this cruise for anyone unless you have money to waste. Food was OK. Best restaurants for us was the mexican restaurant and blue lagoon. Cagney's was OK. Chin chin pretty bad. The desserts were horrible. Thank god for the vanilla ice cream!!! Breakfast was same old thing every day.....kids got sick of it. A big disappointment. Stateroom was fine. A little small. the on board activities were all mixed up. They had some nice things to do but they were mostly done while we were on excursions which made no sense. too crowded. couldn't get seats. had to get to shows an hour early to get a good seat. Waste of our time. should have had more meet and greets with characters Bahama's beach is gorgeous!!!! Overall - wouldn't recommend this all access trip to my enemy.

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  • New

Feb 20, 2011

Eastern Caribbean

My goal this time around is to keep this short and sweet — or at least shorter than most of my previous reviews. :) I don’t believe reviews that are all glowing or all scathing, so you’ll find a mix here. The bottom line is that anything that momentarily annoyed me or compared unfavorably to past cruises did not affect my overall appreciation of this cruise at all. This was a wonderful trip, the ship is amazing, and the itinerary

was top-notch. We love NCL, and we’ll definitely be sailing with them again. BACKGROUND My husband and I are in our early 30s and this was our eighth cruise together, our fourth in a row on NCL. We’ve grown to love the “Freestyle” philosophy, we love the ships’ layout and appearance, and, since we’re big fans of food (ha), we appreciate all the specialty restaurant options (more on that later). PRE-CRUISE As in the past, since I hate to fly, we picked a cruise leaving out of NYC and booked a night at the Wyndham Garden Hotel in Newark, NJ, which has a good stay-and-park deal that allows us to leave our vehicle there while we’re cruising. (The hotel itself is nice enough, but this was probably our last time staying there, as we’ve had multiple run-ins with the same rude employee and we’ve grown weary of it.) We had a service called Fortas Limousine pick us up in NJ, and they came in a Navigator, a welcome sight considering the sheets of ice covering the roads that day (Feb. 2). They were efficient, on time and pleasant. We’d use them again. EMBARKATION Embarkation went smoothly, as it always has for us with NCL. We arrived at the port around 11 and were on the ship by just after 12. SHIP/PUBLIC SPACES We previously sailed on Jewel’s sister ship, Gem, so we were already pretty familiar with the layout. There were a few touches and amenities that Gem had that Jewel lacked — we missed Gem’s Bliss nightclub, for one, and what’s up with the dollhouse-like furniture in the Jewel’s atrium? — but all in all, she’s a gorgeous ship. Everything was spotlessly clean and attractive. The layout is easy to navigate, and everything is spaced well enough that there rarely seemed to be congestion. Our favorite place to hang out was Bar City, the convergence of three bars — Maltings Whiskey Bar, Magnum’s Wine and Champagne Bar and Shakers Martini Bar — in one area. The Spinnaker Lounge, with its forward-facing windows and colorful furniture, was gorgeous as well. My husband fell in love with the Chill Out Lounge, the private spa area. It was $119 per person for the 10-day cruise, and it featured a room at the bow, lined with windows, containing heated ceramic lounge chairs and a thalassotherapy pool. There also were gender-specific areas containing a Jacuzzi, tropical showers, a plunge bath, steam room, sauna and lockers. This was a great place to read or relax — when there weren’t too many people. They only sold 50 passes (or so they claim), but the women’s area seemed bustling most days, and unfortunately (despite the myriad of signs begging patrons to be silent) there was a lot of loud, disruptive talking. There were fewer men, though, so my husband found it a great place to get peace and quiet. All in all, it was worth the money, though Norwegian Dawn’s private spa area far exceeded Jewel’s in quality, with more co-ed amenities like a warm freshwater lap pool and Jacuzzi. The gym is probably the site of my biggest complaints. (If you don’t work out, you can completely skip this part — you won’t care.) I’m kind of a gym rat, and I tend to go a little bonkers on food on cruises, so I usually work out twice a day. The gym is open 6 a.m.-10 p.m., yet they advertise that the weights and treadmills are only open 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Um, why? And it turns out, that’s not exactly true. I got up every morning to work out at 6 a.m., and some of the treadmills were available, and some were roped off. This makes no sense to me. On Gem, the gym was open 24 hours, so why is the gym only open some hours on other NCL ships, and why is some equipment even more limited? It’s been my experience that a lot of die-hard gym people like to get up early, so putting a restriction on the equipment like that just seems ridiculous. Also, as on every other NCL cruise I’ve been on, the front desk tried to tell me the gym wasn’t open the morning of disembarkation. But, as on every other NCL cruise, it WAS. So if you like working out … you might not want to take them at their word. I marched down there that morning and sure enough, it was open. I learned my lesson from previous cruises. Lastly, this has nothing to do with NCL — and they actually enforced it well — but please, people: don’t let your young children run around the gym, banging on the equipment. On the first day, I saw a woman with multiple kids in the gym, and while she rode a bike, her kids loudly abused the rowing machines and dashed around until a crew member was forced to ask them to leave. Come on … have some courtesy. There are plenty of children’s facilities, and the gym isn’t one of them. OK, I’ll get off my soapbox now! One thing that really disappointed my husband was a lack of a cigar bar. I’m no fan of smoking, but he likes to smoke cigars while on vacation, and we spent a lot of time hanging out in the Havana Club cigar bar on the Dawn last year. He was bummed to learn that the Jewel had inexplicably gotten rid of its cigar bar. The area where it once was is still there (and it’s still on the deck plans), near Bar City; it even still has cigar posters — right above “no smoking” signs. The worst part of this is that though cigarette smokers have all kinds of places they can light up, including the casino, cigar smokers are forced to smoke outside at the Sky High Bar, which was often windy and cool and, thanks to wall-mounted blue lights, has all the ambiance of a patio with those obnoxious bug zapper lights. If you’re going to make so many accommodations for cigarette smokers, can’t there at least be one indoor place for cigar smokers? This didn’t ruin our trip by any means, but I disliked the Sky High Bar so much that my husband usually ended up there alone, whereas on the Dawn, we could hang out together, relax, and meet new people. STATEROOM We were in 5528, an oceanview. It was like every other NCL cabin we’ve ever been in. Nicely laid out. Love the sliding shower door versus the curtain that allows bathroom flooding on other cruise lines. FOOD As on all of our NCL cruises, the food was great, with a few misses and a whole lot of hits. We love the fact that the dining room and buffet food is typically very good, so eating in the specialty restaurants isn’t a necessity, if you don’t want to fork over the cover charge. But it’s nice to have the option. We actually ate in more specialty restaurants this time than ever before. We tried Tango’s, Teppanyaki, Le Bistro, Cagney’s and Mama’s, the Italian restaurant. We enjoyed all of them. For main dining rooms, we preferred the ambiance of Azura, but both seemed fine. (Azura and Tsar’s Palace serve the same menu.) The buffet, Garden Café, was extensive and well-organized to distribute passengers and try to alleviate crowds. There was always a plethora of hot entrees, excellent pizza, burgers, the best salad bar I’ve ever seen at sea, and tons of desserts. If anyone tells you it’s impossible to find a seat, they’re not venturing far enough down the line. There always were plenty of seats to be had. My “must-eats” of the trip, in my opinion: the chocolate chip cookies and double chocolate chip cookies in Garden Café, the onion soup and mussels at Le Bistro, the truffle-oil fries and espresso brownie at Cagney, the apple streusel pie and chocolate Bavarian creme in the main dining room, the chicken fajitas and cinnamon chocolate cake at Tango’s, the shrimp and fried rice in Teppanyaki, and the foccacia bread and chicken parmagiana at Mama’s. STAFF/SERVICE Over the years, we’ve kind of come to terms with the fact that sailing NCL means giving up a little bit of the personalized service you get on other ships. On most ships where you have a set dining time, you have the same server every day in the dining room, and you develop a rapport. On NCL, you never know who you might have. And, in the past, we’ve never met our room stewards on NCL, unlike on other lines. That said, this time, we did meet our stewards on the first day, and they greeted us every morning in the hall and were very responsive to our needs. And we met a bar server in Bar City, Chastine Aliser, who was exceptional, always remembering what we liked, greeting us, chatting with us. We went back every evening to buy drinks from her. Gusti, in the martini bar, was constantly attracting a crowd, performing tricks like balancing glasses on his head and making napkin roses for the women. In fact, overall, we would say the general service on this ship was the best we’ve seen on four NCL cruises. It was excellent. The cruise director, Silas, was friendly, but I felt he wasn’t as visible as some past cruise directors, and had kind of a … car salesman-type aura to him. And the announcements by him, the captain and the assistant cruise director, “Ferdilicious,” seemed interminable. Short and sweet, please! We’re trying to relax! ACTIVITIES/ENTERTAINMENT My husband and I don’t go to many shows, but we went to the welcome aboard show, which is a good way to get a feel for the various performers on the ship, and the Cirque Bijou on the last night, which we declared the best show we’ve ever seen at sea. It had music, dancers, acrobats — it was amazing, even more so than the similar production on the Dawn. We went to a few art seminars, which were interesting. We like the art auctions, but were trying not to spend too much money, so avoided those this time. ;) My husband attended an NCL-U Scotch tasting event at Malting’s (for an extra charge) and loved it. After eyeing some of the fitness courses all week, I took pilates in the gym on the last day ($12) with Adrian from Australia. There were only two of us in the class, and it was really fun. (My abs hurt for days afterward!) I also splurged on a port day deal at the spa and got a full-body massage, scalp massage and facial for $129. On past cruises, I’ve sometimes been disappointed by the quality of the spa treatments relative to the cost, but not this time. Sarah from Australia gave me the best massage I’ve ever had! We sat for a few minutes in a Broadway performance by the production cast in Spinnaker but left when we didn’t seem to know any of the songs — they were all obscure. But the singers did have beautiful voices. We weren’t a huge fan of the piano player in Bar City (too much Carpenters, ugh!) but RJ Red, the guitarist, was very good if you like folksy music. We saw Twist of 8, a pop/rock musical group, a few times around the ship and thought they were great, and we also enjoyed the calypso group that often played on deck. ITINERARY The itinerary was excellent on this cruise. We’d been to all of the ports before, but we didn’t mind. We had two sea days right off the bat; the first was cold, the second was fairly nice. The first stop was San Juan where we just walked around and took pictures before getting back on the ship. The city is filled with history and gorgeous buildings, plants and statues are plentiful. I bought a churro from a street vendor that was the best I’ve ever had. We had considered doing the bioluminescent bay kayak trip, but I was too lazy to take the lengthy ride by bus to the site (I have the attention span of a gnat!). In St. Thomas, we’d planned to shop and then go to Magen’s Bay, but we decided instead, after doing some shopping, to just relax on the ship. In Antigua, I insisted on going back to what I am convinced is the most beautiful beach in the world: Dickenson Bay. As before, we asked the cab to take us to Tony’s Watersports, and we rented chairs beneath a thatched umbrella and read and relaxed. The sand is smooth and white, the water is turquoise, and the entire scene is just breath-taking. People constantly approach you to sell you bracelets, horseback riding excursions and, heh, even some “local herb,” but they’re generally friendly when you politely turn them down, and it isn’t too intrusive. We took an NCL excursion in St. Maarten, a lagoon kayaking trip across Simpson Bay. It was really cool. Our guides, David and Oliver from Tri-Sport, led us in double kayaks across the bay, where there were dozens of yachts, and to the place where the imaginary line divides Dutch St. Maarten and French St. Martin. David showed us mangroves, plucked a jellyfish and sea cucumber out of the water, and told us about the island’s history. I had never kayaked before, but we caught on fairly quickly. It was definitely worth doing. We’d booked an outside excursion through another company in Tortola, to visit Virgin Gorda, but it got cancelled due to lack of participants. So I just wandered out to the local market for a few minutes, which was pretty much the standard collection of touristy shirts and knick-knacks, tote bags, flimsy dresses and cheap swimsuit coverups. Otherwise, we just stayed on the ship. We’d been to Tortola before and found it pretty but a little sedate for our tastes, so we didn’t have much interest in doing anything else. Two sea days back: It was still warm and pleasant the next day, then got cold again the last day before getting back to NYC. DISEMBARKATION Disembarkation went smoothly. We learned long ago after a bad experience on Carnival that we have no desire to do the “easy walk-off” where you carry your own luggage and get off first. Unless your definition of “easy” is people screaming and practically stampeding in the halls, I wouldn’t recommend it (to be fair, we’ve never tried it on NCL). Also, we really don’t care if we’re the last people off the ship. So we took the colored luggage tags for the last group to be called (although apparently we would have had to anyway, as for the first time, NCL had required certain decks to take certain colors, and we were on 5). After eating breakfast and cleaning out our stateroom, we waited in Bar City and played cards, then got off easily around 10:30 when our color was announced. The only small annoyance was having to stand outside in the cold in line for 15-20 minutes, waiting to get into the terminal, because there was a backup at the escalators. It was quite the jolt after 85 degrees in the Caribbean. We found our bags easily, grabbed a porter, got a cab, and we were off. We’re booked on Carnival for next February, but we can’t wait until we can cruise NCL again. We loved every minute of this trip and would definitely recommend it! If you have any questions or would like to see pics of any particular part of the ship (I took hundreds), please feel free to e-mail me at cortreporter@sbcglobal.net . Happy sailing!

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Feb 10, 2011

Caribbean

While NCL ""free style" cruising is very convenient and casual,, I was shocked to see a woman walking her small dog on 2 occasions in the hallway of Deck 11 !!!!! While the emphasis on sanitizing your hands was constant throughout the cruise to minimize a breakout of illness, the presence of a dog on our deck was unacceptable. If this is allowed on NCL cruises, they will never see us again.. The food was average. The lunch menu in the

main dining room never changed !! The availabileity of a "sit down menu" dining room 24 X 7 was great. The stateroom was clean and well maintained. The onboard activities and entertainment were great. Most of the islands visited could be enjoyed on your own with walking or local transportation. We did enjoy an excursion on Tortola which took us over the main island mountain to a beach on the other side of the island.. Overall we enjoyed the escape to warm weather. The surprise over a dog being kept on our deck really turned us off .

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Feb 3, 2011

Carribean

It was our second time on the Jewel - we went in Nov 2010 to Florida and the Bahamas. As always it was fun and a memorable experience. This time we did a 10 day Carribbean cruise visiting San Juan, St. Thomas, Antigua, St. Maarten and Tortola. Both left from New York which was convenient. We had nice weather and a great staff. I highly recommend NCL to our friends and family. We booked three weeks before and had one price one day. The next day our

consultant told us there were no rooms left at that price. Luckily he was able to do some magic and got us rooms on a higher deck at the original price he told us. He also arranged for us to have a cake to celebrate our anniversary. The crew was friendly always saying hello and asking how you are doing when they see you in the hall. The first night I went to the room and the stewardess introduced herself and asked if we had all of our luggage. I told her were were missing one and asked if she would empty the mini bar so we could put water we bought. She came back a few minutes later, emptied the mini bar and I had my suitcase not to long after. They showed the NFL playoffs which was nice. I left my boyfriend there and went to eat. They didn't mind me bringing him a plate from the Garden Cafe to the lounge. The bed was comfortable, it was the two smaller beds pushed together but we couldn't tell. I usually put the suit cases under the bed but one side had a trundle bed underneath. I was able to push both suit cases and three book bags under one side of the bed. We also had a bed on the wall which made the room feel smaller but didnt bother us at all. i just wish we had a window. We chose to eat at the Garden Cafe mostly. My boyfriend is picky and it was the only place that really served anything he would eat. He had so much pasta that the pasta chief would see him in line and already knew what he wanted. We won abbrunch for two at the Le Bistro which was nice. They had a buffet out and took our orders as well. We had dinner in Azura which is one of the two main dining rooms. We aren't really formal sit down people but did enjoy the food very much. On our cruise in November we ate at the Blue Lagoon. It was decent but not a favorite. Besides the Garden Cafe we ordered room service at night. We work over night and are used to eating at 2 am. It was the only way to get food and the food was good. On the Jewel in November we had a porthole on deck 4. it was nice to be on the level where the gang ways for shore excursions left but we had to take the elevator up to where everything was happening. This time we had an inside room on deck 11. It was great being one deck below the food, pools, gym etc. We were more inclined to take the stairs to move around the boat then the elevator. I just wish we had gotten a window. I didn't like waking up at 8 am and stumbling around to find my phone for the time. It always felt like 3 in the morning. The casino was a favorite way to spend time. We stuck to the quarter machines and had a set budget for that. We overheard an older gentleman saying he bought $1500 on the cruise and his wife lost $500 of it. The evening shows both on the main stage and the lounge upstairs were entertaining. They had a couple of shows we saw in November but a different cast. And to our surprise they changed up the finale show. We had a couple of comedians and a magician as well as a couple where the man is crazy strong and his wife is insanely flexible. Because it was 10 days it felt more relaxed, not like on the 7 day where it felt like everything was pushed together. We tired our selves out so much we only missed one night of shows. Over all it was fantastic. We also attended the port shopping seminars. We won a tee shirt and got coupons for free things in the ports of call. We attended a magic lecture and free card bingo. The cheapest package they had was $40 and so we stuck to our free cards. We got invited to the Latitudes cocktail reception the first day at sea (loyalty program for returning guests). We met the captain and some other important people. We won the brunch there as well. They had some adult only shows later on at night which were quieter than the shows during the day where the kids were. There was never a dull moment. We also did a fab abs workout which left us in pain for a few days - you never know what you have until it hurts. they had movies and demonstrations and lectures and tastings. We could always find something to keep us busy. We did the kyacking in San Juan. It was fun, dark and educational. We had a great time working together and experiencing something new. Plus we got a tour of the island on the bus ride. In St. Thomas we did the mini boat/snorkling excursion. That was the best one we did. There was us and two other couples and the two guides. We had a blast jumping the waves and snorkling. We did the ATV tour in Antigua. It felt like someone bought a few ATV's and took us through peoples yards. We enjoyed the experience but it didn't feel official. St. Maarten we spent the day shopping and at the beach and had mixed feelings about Tortola. Most shops were closed because it was a Sunday and so we got off the boat, walked around and got back on. We only had a few hours there and it would have been nice to do something but at the same time it was our last and earliest port so we were glad we were able to take it slow. In November we did Sea World which we were glad we only did for the day. We went on the two roller coasters a few times and saw most of the shows. Glad we did it but probably won't do it again. On the private island we laid in the sun and he played volley ball. We went into the water but felt like we were getting stung soon after he started to not feel so well. When we went to Nassau we went to Alantis. It was fun but between being tired and him not feeling so well, we went around the lazy river a few times, down one slide and walked the beach before just getting some sun. We would definatly do Alantis again. Both times on the Jewel were awesome. We found out that our cruises have to be at least 10 days for us to really enjoy them. It was nice to hear how he had to walk up to the pasta station and the chief already knew what he wanted. I hated feeling like it was 3 am no matter what time it actually was. The pictures were nice, I was able to get 2 5x7 and 2 8x10 for $40 (formal portraits.) We were celebrating our anniversary and got a card sent to our cabin saying to take it to the matrie d on the night of our celebration for cake. We went to eat and they didnt have a table for two so we were going to go back but got caught up in the entertainment and packing that we never did. I don't understand why so many people complain about NCL. I hear a few people complain about the food once in a blue moon but you have options. NCL is a budget friendly cruise line. We don't need soda all the time and if we do its $2.25 a can. Water kept us alive. I did splurge on drinks but its not something I do back home. We are looking forward to cruising on the Epic in the future and hopefully more NCL ships.

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Feb 2, 2011

Eastern Carribean

the cruise was a waste of hard earned money..the buffets werre overcrowded whenever you went and you had to share small tables..the food was poor quality..the two main restaurants were also full whenever you wantedto eat..if you arrrived early ther was a 20 minute line of about 50-100mpeople waiting to be seated..portions were small and unappetising..entertainment was second rate and except for a couple of shows were even unprofessional boring and

a waste of time..staff couldnt care less if you were happy or not...justrememeber the old and true saying..''you get what you pay for' Norwegian is the worst horrible and poor quality small and claustrophobic on the most part very unprofessional and boring and repetitive overpriced the first few days were a nightmare..dirty room unpleasant steward and after several complaints managed to tolerate the rest of the cruise..overall a bad experience..

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Jan 21, 2011

eastern caribbean

I recently returned from a cruise aboard NCL, Norwegian Cruise Line. NCL could also stand for: “Never a Cruise so Lousy”. (I give credit for this to an elegant French gentleman we shared breakfast with). The standard of this cruse line seems to be mediocre, including the food, entertainment, the ship and the quality of service. The so-called “Freestyle” dining is a farce. Unless you go to dinner within 30 minutes after the

dining room opens, be prepared to wait up to an hour to be seated. The food was bland, the vegetables overcooked, the meats tough. This did not seem to be restaurant quality food that I have experienced on other cruise lines. It was more institutional type, what one would see in a hospital or corporate cafeteria. The chicken soup had no chicken in it. I received watermelon slices that just consisted of the rind. The ice cream was crystallized. The buffet contained rotten pears and black bananas. The orange juice was watered down. The chicken-wings were tainted. Our traveling companions’ son got food poisoning with severe diarrhea. To make matters worse, NCL charged them in excess of $100 to be examined by their medical staff. Four other passengers that I spoke with also became ill from this as well. So, STAY AWAY FROM THE CHICKEN WINGS. The stateroom was adequate, though on the small side. The lighting is poor. All of the bulbs are about 50 watts, which makes reading at night impossible The ships’ company singers and dancers were so poor that it became entertaining in a humorous way with missed queues, dancers tripping and near collisions with each other. I’ve seem better productions at my son’s grammar school. Before every meal and shore leave, you are asked to clean your hands. Now all cruise lines have this as ask you to use a dispenser. On NCL, the hosts are holding a spray bottle with alcohol, much like a western outlaw packing a six-shooter. They then yell out in a condescending manner, “washy-washy,” and proceed to shoot your hands with an accuracy that would rival the Sundance Kid. What I can’t understand is that with all their attention to keeping the passengers sterilized, you would think they would make more of an effort TO KEEP THEIR SHIP CLEAN. The windows were dirty, not only outside from the ocean spray, but food smudges on the inside. We constantly found dirty dishes with dried food or lipstick stuck to the glass or dish. The mirror in our stateroom was spotty. Our table has an animated discussion with the waiter debating whether the black object in the water was dirt or a fly. The waiter smiled and stated that it looked like a fly. The tables and chairs in the Blue Lagoon café was so sticky, we used our napkins as an impromptu table cloth. We observed broken windows, hallway lights flickering, and hoses left unattended on deck. The flow of the ship is poor. Since there are, I believe, 10 specialty restaurants, they take away passageways and cozy alcoves. It also takes away from the outside deck. Walking around the deck, you are forced to walk single-file in many spots, which makes walking arm and arm with your sweetheart difficult. The casino is not closed in, and the cigarette smoke from it flows into the adjoining lounges. The Service: What I find completely inexcusable is the attitude of their staff. On all other cruise lines, everyone, from the officers to the deck hands all great you with a grand “hello” or “good morning.” On NCL, we only received a plastic smile and occasional hello. When I was forced to ask a waiter about anything, instead of an apology, I always received some sort of excuse, like, “the kitchen is backed up,” or “we had to go to the other deck for that” and other excuses that didn’t even make sense to me. When we pointed out the dirty dishes to the café manager, his reply was, “Well the dishwashing machine can’t be expected to clean everything.” When they kept everyone waiting for an hour to disembark at San Juan, they stated it was the San Juan port management not clearing the ship. The fact was that over 2000 people were attempting to leave the ship going through two checkpoints each with a defective card scanner, causing the staff to have to scan your ID card two and three times until it read it correctly. I have one piece of advice. NCL charges you $12 per person a day for tips. You can opt out of that if you go to the service desk on the last day. Be prepared to wait in line however. My recommendation, cruise on Royal Caribbean or Celebrity or Holland America. Don’t use NCL.

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Jan 14, 2011

eastern caribbean

I recently returned from a cruise aboard NCL, Norwegian Cruise Line. NCL could also stand for: “Never a Cruise so Lousy”. (I give credit for this line to an elegant French gentleman we shared breakfast with). The standard of this cruse line seems to be MEDIOCRE, including the food, entertainment, the ship and the especially the quality of service. The so-called “Freestyle” dining is a farce. Unless you go to dinner within

30 minutes after the dining room opens, be prepared to wait up to an hour to be seated. Forget about room service. After 9pm, the phone is always busy. The food was bland, the vegetables overcooked, the meats tough. This did not seem to be restaurant quality food that I have experienced on other cruise lines. It was more institutional type, what one would see in a hospital or corporate cafeteria. The chicken soup had no chicken in it. I received watermelon slices that just consisted of the rind. The ice cream was crystallized. The buffet contained rotten pears and black bananas. The orange juice was watered down. The chicken-wings were tainted. Our traveling companions’ son got food poisoning with severe diarrhea. To make matters worse, NCL charged them in excess of $100 to be examined by their medical staff. Four other passengers that I spoke with also became ill from this as well. So, STAY AWAY FROM THE CHICKEN WINGS. The stateroom was adequate, though on the small side. The lighting is poor. All of the bulbs are about 50 watts, which makes reading at night impossible. Some of their acts were good, but the nightly shows were short, no more than 35 minutes. The ships’ company singers and dancers were so poor that it became entertaining in a humorous way with missed queues, dancers tripping and near collisions with each other. I’ve seen better productions at my son’s grammar school. Before every meal and shore leave, you are asked to clean your hands. Now all cruise lines have this and ask you to use a dispenser. On NCL, the hosts are holding a spray bottle with alcohol, much like a western outlaw packing a six-shooter. They then yell out in a condescending manner, “washy-washy,” and proceed to shoot your hands with an accuracy that would rival the Sundance Kid. What I can’t understand is that with all their attention to keeping the passengers sterilized, you would think they would make more of an effort TO KEEP THEIR SHIP CLEAN. The windows were dirty, not only outside from the ocean spray, but food smudges on the inside. We constantly found dirty dishes with dried food or lipstick stuck to it. Our table has an animated discussion with the waiter one morning debating whether the black object in the water was dirt or a fly. The waiter smiled and stated that it looked like a fly. The tables and chairs in the Blue Lagoon café was so sticky that we used our napkins as an impromptu table cloth. We observed broken windows, hallway lights flickering, and hoses left unattended on deck. The flow of the ship is poor. Since there are, I believe, 8 specialty restaurants, they take away passageways and cozy alcoves. It also takes away from the outside deck. Walking around the deck, you are forced to walk single-file in many spots, which makes walking arm and arm with your sweetheart difficult. The casino is not closed in, and the cigarette smoke from it flows into the adjoining lounges. What I find completely inexcusable is the attitude of their staff. On all other cruise lines, everyone, from the officers to the deck hands all great you with a grand “hello” or “good morning.” On NCL, at best we received a plastic smile and occasional hello. When I had to ask a waiter about anything, instead of an apology, I always received some sort of excuse, like, “the kitchen is backed up,” or “we had to go to the other deck for that” and other excuses that didn’t even make sense to me. When we pointed out the dirty dishes to the café manager, his reply was, “Well the dishwashing machine can’t be expected to clean everything.” When they kept everyone waiting for an hour to disembark at San Juan, they stated it was the San Juan port management not clearing the ship. The fact was that over 2000 people were attempting to leave the ship going through two checkpoints each with a defective card scanner, causing the staff to have to scan your ID card two and three times until it read it correctly. I have one piece of advice. NCL charges you $12 per person a day for tips. You can opt out of that if you go to the service desk on the last day. Be prepared to wait in line however. My recommendation, cruise on Royal Caribbean or Celebrity or Holland America. DON"T USE NCL.

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Dec 12, 2010

Bahamas

This was my first cruise and it will be my last. First the cruise was delayed one entire day. This started a domino of really bad effects. I scheduled the cruise to take my girlfriend for her birthday. I had wanted to take her to Nassau Bahamas. That day was taken off the itinerary as was the glass bottom boat ride. All we were able to see in seven days was Cocoa Beach Florida for a few hours and Grand Stirrup Bahamas for a few hours on which

it started to rain after about three hours. The cruise had a BBQ that was extremely sub par. I would have had better food at a friends back yard BBQ. The food on the cruise must have been cooked by fast food rejects. We even went to "speciality food" returants for a small fee, and the chefs there must have been on some serious drugs. There was no organization, no real activities to keep you busy and the entertainment would have been better if they hired some dancers from Washington Square Park. If you are a vegetarian, you had better bring your own food or you will starve to death. Even if you are into healthy food, just forget about it. They state that it is freestyle dining, but you can't get food when you really want to eat at any time. If you want room service, order an hour before you want to eat as you will wait forever. The food isn't even worth discussing. The stateroom was nice although you have no air. The people that clean are there several times a day to ensure your room is always ready for you and tidy. If you are over 60 you'll love it!! No rock climbing wall, no bowling, and I have played all the bingo I need to in a lifetime on that cruise. I had two excurisions scheduled. One was in Florida and it was so cold there that we didn't really get to see much. But the excursion that I really wanted to see was the glass bottom boat ride which was just canceled by the NCL because they were delayed. I haven't taken a vacation in over three years because of my work situation. So it had taken a lot of planning to get this week. I feel like I was totally ripped off. I have never had such a bad time on vacation in my entire life. I will never go on another cruise and I will never promote NCL. Don't waste your time and money. I can't even say that there was a little good and a little bad. It was just terrible.

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Dec 9, 2010

Bahamas

If this had been my first cruise, there wouldn't have been a second. Waste of good money. Will never take NCL again because of experience. The food was awful. I went to the buffet the first day and never went back. Food there was cold and could not identify 95% of it. The main dining room was not as good as most of the diners I've been to. Menu options unappealing. I ordered the grilled ham and cheese for lunch one day and the sandwich was cold

and cheese unmelted.(Swiss cheese). Ihad the has browns for breakfast at 3 different places. All its was as rock piece of crust. We ate at 2 Specialty Restaurants, Mamas Italian and a Staek House. The Steak House was bad and Mamas was worse. Had the chicken parm at Mamas. The chicken was ok, but pasta was tasteless and the sauce was burnt. I stopped for a snack on night at the cafe. I ordered wonton soup and a piece of cake. The soup was hot water with 2 small pieces of scallion and a wonton I spit out after tasting. I also coudn't the cake. Our stateroom was poorly designed. You couldn't walked without stubbing a toe or banking another body part. A friend of ours was using the toilet and nocked the paper out of its holder with her knee. She bent over to picke it up and hit her head. I made the mistake og going into the toilet area with my pants on. After using the toilet , I tried pull my pants back up and didn't have room. I had to shuffle out of area with my pants around my ankles. Bingo, Art Auctions, and Kid Games. Uhggggg. Main Show Room was was good 2 nights.(Circue De Soleil). Terrible the rest. Lounge entertainment not very good. Staff excellent thruout the ship.

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Nov 26, 2010

Bahamas

Not so good....I was very dissapointed in my overall experiance with this cruise. You pay almost 2 grand for a cuise and you have to pay for non-alcoholic drinks. And we went on this cruise because it was advertised as a Nickolodean Cruise for our son. WE only seen the charachters twice and we actually had to pay 40 dollars for breakfast with them. It was relly all about them trying to sell you things. They were pushing Jewelery and ARt all

week long. My son was so bored all week long. Food was not so good.....you can only eat so may burgers and hot dogs on steel rolls. The steaks and pork chops were like chewing leather. Was not very impressed with the food. The only good thing I had on the ship was when I had to pay for it. ...Imagine that. Top of the line food......I DONT THINK SO! OUR room was great, the best part of my whole trip. WE got a mini sweet and thank god for that. My son was so bored he kept wanting to go back to the room. My son loved our room attendent, he made us a towel animal almost every night. He was great. I was not impressed. ...at least not for my son. They did have a play room for kids, but it was kids only. He is four and was not staying in this room with out his mother. And he was not the only small child that had seperation issues either. I think they should allow parents in. Maybe set up some tables in the back of the room with a small bar or coffee station for those kids that don't want to leave their parents. Disney ..... Don't miss Bahamas.....It was good, but take a cab wherever you want to go, much faster. Over all it was not good. I was expecting Nickolodean Cruise....charachters walking around the ship if not all the time, some of the time. WE only seen them twice and had to pay one of the times to have breakfast with them, I was very dissappointed. I thought this is what I already paid for. It seemed like they were just into making money on this cruise, whether it be selling you art or jewelery or drinks, that is what it felt like.

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Nov 9, 2010

Bahamas

We enjoyed the cruise because of the nice stateroom and friendly staff, but in some other parts we were a bit disappointed. Somehow you had the feeling that they were trying to sell you stuff constantly! We bought the soft drink package and a wine package, the latter was not at all of the standard we have experienced on RCCL. And totally crazy was the fact that you had to choose the wines randomly at the time of purchase, not knowing what you were

going to eat! The fitness centre was well equipped and not too crowded. Finding a Deck chair anywhere close to the pool was impossible since people put towels on the chairs early in the morning and then showed up after lunch. We ended up a couple of floors up, which was ok, but a bit far from the pool bar. Overall I dont think we will cruise NCL again, RCCL is a better choice in our opinion. The food was below average in the main restaurants, but Ok in the restaurants that you paid extra for. When paying a cover charge of 25$ it is annoying not to be able to choose anything from the menu, but having to pay extra again for some choices. We had a very nice stateroom with a lovely balcony that we enjoyed immensely! The shows were average, some very much alike, boring. The behind the scenes tour was ridicilously overpriced.

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Nov 9, 2010

bahamas

This was my third cruise with NCL. My wife's is the 6th. We recommended this Cruise line to many of our friends, and always were happy with everything. We sailed on the Gem and Spirit before, and this was the first time on Jewel. Unfortunately, this cruise was the worst and very disappointing. We reserved Le bistro the very first night. I was looking forward to some french food and good steak. It was a disappointment. Seams like the chefs forgot

how to season the food. It was bland and dry, like it was seating on the plate for a while before serving. Hibachi was OK, and the staff was very accommodating. The best was Chin-Chin, the Asian fusion restaurant. Good variety and lots of flavors. We staid in the balcony room. it was good, and the staff was very friendly and accommodating. Hard working people doing excellent job. Casino is a loosing place. Don't waste your money on slots. They just eat the 20 up within 15 minutes. Even blackjack for some reason everybody was loosing. Great entertainment crew. Do not book your shore excursions. Just take the taxi and go wherever you want. Much chipper. If you book with NCL, it is a rip off. Special word about the Great Stirrup Cay. It has a beautiful beach and worm water. The ship anchors nearby and passengers shuttled to the island using tenders (about 300-400 people each). We have been to this island with NCL before and it was great. However, on Jewel we waited for over an hour to get on the tender. We came to the island on the #6 tender. When we got on the beach, there were no beach chairs available anymore. This was never a problem before. As we walk around the beach, we found a rows of unoccupied beach chairs. However, we were told they are reserved for $30 a pair. I told the shore excursion manager Michaela Ungurianu that this is wrong. She would not listen to my argument and showed an attitude of the prison guard. she told me that if i don't like it i can go back on the ship, that she does not have to look for chairs etc. i was stunned. Never heard before thing like that from the NCL manager. She even threatened to call security if I took the reserved chairs. I walked away. When we got back on the boat i came to see the manger of Guest Services Andrea Simmons. She was very nice and was surprised and disappointed with her subordinate, and promised me that she will reprimand Michaela. What realy happend here is the simple mafia style extortion of extra money from customers: first you create a shortage of chairs, then you start charging money for the same chairs. I could not belive this is happening. It was like slap in the face. This was the bigest disapointmet of the cruise. After that incident I refused to spend a single dime on board. Good bye NCL. I don't think I will cruise with you in the forseeable future.

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Nov 9, 2010

bahamas

This was my third cruise with NCL. My wife's is the 6th. We recommended this Cruise line to many of our friends, and always were happy with everything. We sailed on the Gem and Spirit before, and this was the first time on Jewel. Unfortunately, this cruise was the worst and very disappointing. We reserved Le bistro the very first night. I was looking forward to some french food and good steak. It was a disappointment. Seams like the chefs forgot

how to season the food. It was bland and dry, like it was seating on the plate for a while before serving. Hibachi was OK, and the staff was very accommodating. The best was Chin-Chin, the Asian fusion restaurant. Good variety and lots of flavors. We staid in the balcony room. it was good, and the staff was very friendly and accommodating. Hard working people doing excellent job. Casino is a loosing place. Don't waste your money on slots. They just eat the 20 up within 15 minutes. Even blackjack for some reason everybody was loosing. Great entertainment crew. Do not book your shore excursions. Just take the taxi and go wherever you want. Much chipper. If you book with NCL, it is a rip off. Special word about the Great Stirrup Cay. It has a beautiful beach and worm water. The ship anchors nearby and passengers shuttled to the island using tenders (about 300-400 people each). We have been to this island with NCL before and it was great. However, on Jewel we waited for over an hour to get on the tender. We came to the island on the #6 tender. When we got on the beach, there were no beach chairs available anymore. This was never a problem before. As we walk around the beach, we found a rows of unoccupied beach chairs. However, we were told they are reserved for $30 a pair. I told the shore excursion manager Michaela Ungurianu that this is wrong. She would not listen to my argument and showed an attitude of the prison guard. she told me that if i don't like it i can go back on the ship, that she does not have to look for chairs etc. i was stunned. Never heard before thing like that from the NCL manager. She even threatened to call security if I took the reserved chairs. I walked away. When we got back on the boat i came to see the manger of Guest Services Andrea Simmons. She was very nice and was surprised and disappointed with her subordinate, and promised me that she will reprimand Michaela. What realy happend here is the simple mafia style extortion of extra money from customers: first you create a shortage of chairs, then you start charging money for the same chairs. I could not belive this is happening. It was like slap in the face. This was the bigest disapointmet of the cruise. After that incident I refused to spend a single dime on board. Good bye NCL. I don't think I will cruise with you in the forseeable future.

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By Dan_CR

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Oct 27, 2010

Eastern Cri

Enjoyed the Staff WASHY, WASHY, SMILLEY, SMILLEY, HAPPY, HAPPY!!!!!!!!!! However the beds two singles were pushed together and very uncomfortable. Free style cursing? Why the word free? It should be called nickel and dime cursing. My first experience with NCL was on the SS Norway... was great that is why I chose the NCL line again. However NEVER AGAIN FREE STYLE CRUISING "SELL, SELL, SELL." Shore excursions way overpriced, premium

restaurants that were, in our opinion, overrated and the spa staff, while good, was hard sales. I will cause again whoever I will up grade NEVER NCL AGAIN !!!!!!!! The food OK the beds were very uncomfortable The shows were Good enjoyed them Very overpriced The Jewel small pools limited food selections again what is with the word FREE it it a play on words or a bad joke

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Sep 5, 2010

Bahamas

I just came back from the Bahamas on the Norwegian Jewel. The food was just ok. I was actually a little disappointed. The buffets upstairs in the Garden Cafe on the 12th floor was just warm. Cabin stewards were friendly. I did enjoy the shows they had night. We ran into Hurricane Earl on the last day which kind of put a damper on everything being the last day on the cruise. I had a suite on the 11th floor, seemed a little crowdedl with three people

in there. We weren't able to to to Great Stirrup Cay because of weather conditions, which was disappointing. But, we did manage to spend two days in Nassau, which I was fine with. I have been on 5 other cruises, and honestly I could say I don't think I would go back on this ship. It wasn't bad and it wasn't good, it was just ok. It was ok, I was really impressed! We managed with three people, it sleeps four. It could of been bigger and more modern. They were fine! DIdn't do the excursions, went shopping in Nassau.

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Aug 30, 2010

Canada and NE

I tried all major cruiselines, I used to like NCL because they didn't require formal dress, but, now, after what happened with Jewel, never again NCL NA extremely small inside cabins, smaller than all other lines NA All shore excursions are over priced We are booked on Norweigian Jewel that departs out of New York City on Oct 1st, 2010, and heads to New England, and Canada. We booked several months ago, and now we are fully paid for the

cruise. Last week, we received an email stating that this ship has mechanical malfunction, and will have to travel at a reduced speed, therefore, they changed the itenerary of the cruise, they called the change as "a small change", it included cutting down on the port time from 7 hours to 5 hours in avarage for some ports, they also changed the dates of some stops, but, they will still stop at all planned ports, when you call them and tell them, hey, we were palnning to rent a car and go somewhere, and 5 hours are not enough to do so, we want our money back, they are all trained to tell you that they have good news for you, and that you can buy their shore excrusions if you want to get away from the ship. When you tell them that you don't want to go on their over priced sedentary shore excursions, they just tell you that thet can't help you then because the small print in the contract you signed at teh time of booking allow them to change or cancel ports and stops as they please, and you have no recourse. Now, HERE IS THE BIG SCAM, we found out that this mechanical malfunction has been diagnosed for a while now, they have been announcing the problem about a month before each sailing, if you looked at the ship's planned itenerary, they have scheduled sailings till April 2012, they have no plans to take it off the route for repairs anytime prior to April 2012, hell, our cruise doesn't take off till October 1st, and I am writing this post on August, they have ample chance to fix the problem if they wanted to, but, instead, they decided to remain quiet, take reservations for non realestic iteneraries, that are not compatible with their limited speed abilities, and notify the passengers a month or so prior to the cruise about the change, they don't offer refunds, or compensations of any kind, the only thing they offer you is to talk to the shore excursions desk so that they can plan something for you, since the new iteneraries now offers such a short port time that doesn't allow you to do anything on your own, this mechanical malfunction weather it exists or not, will end up boosting their shore excursions sales way up, sounds like a good deal (for them of course, only them), . If they have good intentions, why don't they fix the problem now? Or, at least, why can't they announce that the ship will be travelling at a reduced speed for the next two years, and just change the iteneraries now, instead of a month prior to the future cruises taking off? NCL, NEVER AGAIN, if you are like us, and don't like to dress up for dinners, no problem, go with another cruise line,and eat upstairs, or order room service. I do stand by my statement, and will be happy to answer individual emails if you have any doubts

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Aug 28, 2010

Florida and Bahamas

My experience on the Jewel was not so great. I've cruised on other ships but Norwegian Jewel was the only one that you had to pay for juice and soda. The one free juice (unsweetened tea) was nasty and needed about 7 to eight packs of sugar to make it taste like something. A lot of the staff members were very rude they didn't smile and some rolled their eyes at you as if they didn't want you there. While on the beach they had several available gazebos

but wouldn't allow my 86 year old grandmother in a wheel chair us one because she didn't reserve it on the ship. Two nights on the boat we didn't have enough towels or wash clothes for the 3 in my room. Then our balcony rooms banister was being primed so it was wet for two days so u couldn't lean on them to look out to the sea. It should've been done prior to our trip not during the trip. For our excursion we had to walk 7 blocks to get to it when there should've been transportation from the ship to the excursion. My overall experience was not a good one and I wouldn't recommend this ship to anyone. The food was great! The state rooms are very small. We had to keep our luggage under the bed so we could have space to move around. Only one bag could fit in the closet. My state room was not fully cleaned when we arrived. Our mirrors were dirty and there were beer bottles and bottle caps under the bed that we cleaned up our selves. The activities were okay. The Bingo activity was boring and half my family fell asleep. The submarine excursion was nice I would recommend it. We didn't see any sharks, whales or dolphins but we did see starfish, turtles and small fish. My trip was not the greatest aboard the Norwegian Jewel so I don't feel I would cruise on the Jewel ever again. I may try one of their other fleets but they can keep the Jewel!

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Aug 6, 2010

Grand Caymans Cozumel

Horrible experience. It was my first and last cruise. Nothing was as advertised. We were bored to death, and we actually lost eight pounds collectively during the 4 days we were on the cruise. They advertise Freestyle cruising where you can dine at any of their ten restaurants at your leisure. BS. They didn't tell us we needed to make reservations for these places before boarding. They were fully booked when we left port so we could only go to

the food court/buffet. I always heard that cruises were famous for midnight buffets. Not these people. The buffet shut down around ten at night. There was 24 hour room service which had three menu items: Hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken tenders. The side item was french fries, nothing else. All of it was cold and stale. There was one place that was open 24/7 but it was the place where the room service guys picked up the three menu items. No bar, no buffet, just the same three items. We managed to finagle our way into a steak restaurant. We learned AFTER we waited two hours to get in that their items aren't included in the cruise cost, so we paid $30 each for the smallest steaks I've ever seen (think a McDonald hamburger patty), cold asparagus and powdered mashed potatoes. Water was scarce. They only sold bottled water at port and it was $8 a bottle for a one liter Deer Park. I don't mind tap water so I figured I could just take a cup and get some at the soda fountain...not after 10PM. The food court shut down so the only beverages left were 10oz cups of soda that room service would bring. My wife and I lost 8lbs collectively on the trip. I've never felt so sick in my life from the food and this is coming from someone who is not picky at all...I'll eat fast food, mall food, anything...the food on this cruise was horrible. The room was actually really nice. When we first boarded, we thought we'd hit the jackpot. Not huge, but spacious considering it was a ship. We had a balcony and a queen sized bed. The bed was rock hard, but what can you expect on a cruise. The balcony would've been more enjoyable if it wasn't so hot and humid but they couldn't control that...hey we're in the middle of the ocean. With no entertainment whatsoever on board (the stuff they offered was awful) we spent a lot of time in the room...watching the same four movies over and over. This is a cruise ship for your grandparents. We were 25 when we went and we're not exactly the typical 20-somethings. We enjoy a good time but we don't look to party and get drunk, still we would prefer something fun. They had shuffleboard, tennis, basketball and an arcade. The arcade was for younger kids. The sports were always full. The other stuff like the shows were just boring. We tried two but it just wasn't interesting. We never got to book any. When we got on board the line was insanely long. I'm talking fifty people in line with two or three people at the kiosk. I went back down and the line was either still wrapped around the stateroom or they'd shut down for the day. We weren't able to do any excursions. We couldn't even get a ride from port to the beach. We ended up walking three miles. Awful. I will never go on another cruise again. My wife cried twice on the ship and I felt bad because it seemed like we were trapped. We're the type of people who try to make the most of everything, but there was nothing to do. The food was bad, the staff was very rude. We're not pompous or demanding. Simple questions like, "Where is the onboard store" were met with people ignoring us, pretending not to hear us or just saying that they were busy." I have never been so thirsty in my life. We bought the $10 cups so that we could get refills of drinks but the only thing we could get was soda and after the restaurants shut down for their "lunch-dinner" break or shut down completely at 10pm...we were out of luck. We came back dehydrated and lost a good amount of weight on the trip. Never again.

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Jul 18, 2010

bahama's

if you were under 16 you would be in heaven! There were kids everywhere. Sponge Bob was the theme of the week. This is our first (and last trip ) on NCL. It was overly commercial and definitely on the low end of the the cruise line chain. The crew was excellent - very friendly and went out of their way but the wait staff is not very well trained and something was always forgotten of delayed and they were always scrambling to catch up

but with a smile. NCL developed the "free style" dining concept and it is a good idea. We ate three times in the "main" dining rooms and left most of the meals on the plate. We wound up going to the "specialty Restaurants" which charge a fee and in these venues the food was better but (except for the tapas bar which was pretty good) it still wasn't up to par with other cruise lines. One thing that was especially annoying was tat after you were charged a supplement to eat in some of the venues there was another charge to eat the "good" stuff on the menu. The food in the buffet dining room for lunch and breakfast was pretty good but there always seemed to be shortage of may items and the selection wasn't that extensive. There also many times when they were out of cups, glasses and silverware. The Blue Lagoon was a 24 hour dining spot but the menu was very limited and consisted mostly of fried food Room service also had a very limited selection - we only tried breakfast. There only was cold items offered. we had a handicap accessible cabin which was the smallest on any that we has had before. it was very difficult to manage a wheelchair. The room was clean and the attendants were very attentive and accommodating. One big problem was that the we had an ocean view cabin with a limited view which was partially blocked by a life boat. We have had similar rooms like this before and they have not caused any difficulties. The number of accessible rooms are very limited so we have learned to take what is available. Unfortunately, there was a work crew literally standing out side our window most of the time and they worked through the night until i made several complaints to guest services One great feature of the ship was that there were plenty of accessible toilets through out the specificly for handicap use and that was extremely helpful as we didn't have to trouge back to room when we needed to go. Again they were ok , but nothing to write home about. It was impossible to get a lounge chair at the pool and since we tend to want to "veg out" on a cruise and read a few books it was difficult to do so. It was also very noisy all the time. The entertainment was hit or miss. The Second City show was very good the others so/so. The casino was very busy any we grew to appreciate the sound of the slots since we didn't have listen to the piped in music on he rest of the ship

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By pres_CR

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Jun 19, 2010

Bahamas

Just got back from the Bahamas cruise on the Jewel with the wife, our second cruise together. A wonderful experience that was a lot of fun. If you've booked on the Jewel you'll love it (unless you don't like teal). First off, if you are due to sail, give your travel agent a call a couple days prior to sailing to have them call for a free upgrade. My wife did and we got a stateroom that was much more spacious. And don't even think about bringing liquor

on the ship, it will be confiscated. Try to get to the pier early but not too early. I had researched that for a 4pm cruise they begin the boarding procedure at 12:30. We took the 9am bolt bus (tix online - do it!) from Philly's 30th Street train station and got a roundtrip for $46 for two. Arrived at Madison Square Garden at 11:00. It's a quick cab ride costing about $10 including tip. Got to the terminal at close to 12. The process is easy: you unload the cab, and your luggage is taken by porters. If you don't have tags - or in our case, need new ones since we got an upgrade - they will be supplied. (Make sure you've got some $1 bills.) Once inside, your sailing documents and passport are checked and you get a plastic number and your color-coded cruise card. Unless you're a heavy soda drinker do not get the soda package at $6 a day!!!! There's iced tea available at all meals. If you want a soda once in a while, pay the $1.75 for it; you'll still come out ahead. Then to the waiting area where, when it is time to board, they call you number and onto the ship you go. As soon as you can go to Tsars, the fancy resturant. There will be no lines at this time and it is the perfect opportunity to sample the groceries. Afterwards, can't get to your cabin yet, so take time to explore the ship. I suggest you start at deck 13 and make your way down. Decks 13 does not run the length of the ship. Plenty of food on deck 12, which is where the pools are. Be sure to go through the Garden Cafe to the stern of the ship to the Topsider and I guarantee it wll be your favorite spot! your cabin is ready by 2, but your bags will be delivered to your stateroom. And that's it. The ship is beautiful, colorful and a marvel with a bar level on deck 6, spa, casino (stay away!), and other bars on decks 12, 13. The Spinnaker lonunge on deck 13 has the best view on the ship. Entertainment is everywhere from the games - newlywed game, bingo, etc. - to the evening shows - be sure to see Cirque Bijou and the cruise staff show - art auctions, to the excellent singing performers at the Atrium, bars, etc - loved the guitar-playing Alhambre Brothers especially. Fabrizio plays piano and sings in heavily accented Italian and is everywhere. Karaoke in the Fizz lounge is generally dreadful. The 70s disco night is mucho fun. The food: our last RC cruise had set meal times although there were other options. LOVED the Freestyle dining concept. Works like this: there are free restaurants - Azura, Tsars, the Blue Lagoon (which is always open). At those restaurants you go and eat. But at the others - Le Bistro, Cagney's, Tippanyaki, Mamas Italian - there is a service charge of between $10 - $25 per person. Don't go to these until they are doing a 2-for-1special after the second day as there is no need to do so quite so soon. The food is very good overall beginning with the Garden Cafe and the outdoor Grill on deck 12. Hamburgers and hotdogs at the poolside grill. But the Cafe, goodness gracious, there is every kind of food you can think of - salads of all kinds, burgers, sausages, with all the toppings pizza, indian food, fruit, vegetables, deserts. I mean it's a lot of good stuff. It's grab and go. Unlimited ice cream - chocolate in the front, strawberry way in the back. The wings at Blue Lagoon are stellar. The food portions are small, a good idea considering how much food is wasted. But you can order what you and as much as you want. Standout was le Bistro with its fancy french food: foie gras, bouillabaise, lamb chops, mushroom soup, chocolate napoleon, etc. Fabulous and worth the 2-for-1; we went twice. Didn't go to the steakhouse or asian restaurants; I can do that at home. You don't have to dress up which turns some people off, but we loved the informality and the lack of a schedule. Service: excellent throughout. The stateroom was always cleaned promptly. The restaurant servers are tres attentive - lots of bowing and scraping. Most of the crew is Phillipino and they are on point, professional and nice too. Plus, the women are very attractive (men too) with cute short hairstyles, or their hair in buns. The guys look good too. But if you appreciate looking at pretty women, you'll be in heaven. Excursions: A lot of reviews complain about the trip to the private island. I found it to be fabulous. The boat stops, the crew goes ashore preparing a beach barbeque and then the tenders filled with passengers. Better bring your sunscreen and flip flops because it is hotter than hell out there! Beach chairs are all around and it's just a lot of fun even for two hours which is about all you can stand. Bear in mind, as the day gets later, you'll have to wait for a tender and, again, it is hot as hell out there on the island. Unless you have kids and are taking them to Disney or the Spaceport, the stop in Canaveral is a waste of time. But it is an opportunity to go to the Wal-mart, drugstore, and say you've seen Cocoa Beach. if you're looking for a less-crowded pool time, this is it! Same with the private island and Nassau. Reminder: you cannot take food off the boat or bring it back in. Nassau was cool because the wife had a hankering for some conch salad. Take a walk along the shoreline about a mile to all the strip of resaurants on the beach side - the Fish Fry. Bring a photo ID along with your cruise card! Also, you can take a boat $3 each way to see Atlantis, which is worth going for the banter of the tour guide and to see the aquarium. Tips/reminders: there is a $12 per day per person service charge. Keep that in mind. There are 2-for1 martini specials at the Sky Bar and they are strong. There is a tip/gratuity automatically added to your purchases, which is convenient. There are a lot of birthdays and anniversaries so you'll hear singing. But if you have a birthday cake take it with you when you exit the restaurant or you will not see it. (Trust me on this.) You can smoke on the 7th deck and it take 2 2/3rds walk around the ship to equal a mile. And they do serve breakfast on the day you get back to NYC. I suggest the stern on deck 12 for a lovely view of the Statue of Liberty. If you want to get off the ship quickly, you can take your own luggage with you. And when the ship gets back to NYC, the line on deck 7 to leave is horrendous. READ THIS TIP: So, instead, one of you should hang on deck 6 near the casino/theatre entrance on the starboard side of the ship to see if they are setting up an exit there. I happened to be passing by, noticed the setup and asked if they would have disembarking there. We were the third in line and off the ship so quickly and thorugh customs we had to wait for an hour and a half for the bus home. Don't know why more folks don't know about this. Overall, I give the entire experience five out of five stars!!!! And enjoy!

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Mar 24, 2010

western carribean

Just back from my honeymoon on the jewel. Over all it was a fun cruise with a lot of good vibes. We ate in the main dining room Tsar and Azora a couple of nights for dinner. The food was good at best never amazing. Two nights we had special dinners: Le Bistro 20.00 per person surcharge. The dinner was equivalent to a 3 star NY dining experience. We had Foie Gras, Snails, Rack of lamb ( 7 ribs or so) bouillabase ( one of the best

I have had) . Each dish was wonderful in flavor and presentation, The Wine service was very good as well. The service was impeccable. The other night we went to CHIN CHIN for the main dining and had one of the best chinese dinners in a long time. Ok the dumplings were a little pre cooked but everything else was so fresh and flavorful. The one issue we had was at both restaurants we had leftovers and wanted them sent to our suite, Was told no problem yet they never arrived, We did not make such a big deal about it, but something NCL should figure out. Since we had a suite AD class, we ate breakfast and lunch at Cagneys most days,. The food was remarkably good just wish the menu had some daily specials or changed a little, The shrimp cocktail were large and fresh, lamb fattoush salad was one of the better ones I have had. Just a pleasure to look over the pool and dine in a civilized was. Also regarding the special restaurants ( and all for that matter) they would let you order as many dishes ( we usually asked for extra dishes to be smaller portions) as you want, so your 15-20 dollar per person surcharge can turn into a mini tasting menu if you work it like that. We met Francois, the executive chef, a hard working man but also so gracious and professional. We had booking an AE suite and I called NCL a week before the cruise and they gave us a free upgrade to an AD suite. The suite ( decieving in that it is really one large room not separate as a suite would indicate) was spacious, with great amenities, Oh how I wanted to slip the coffee maker into my bag but that was not going to happen> The creature comforts , soaps , towels , robes and bedding were all first class and wonderful. We had butler service ( PUTU) and he could not have been more gracious in helping us with in room dining, reservations, extra towels, a real gentleman. The only complaint and I had read and sort of dismissed this was in cabin 10666 ( ours) you did get some junk and debris from the cabins over head, Yes they came and cleaned the deck fast but NCL should think about some sort of shield or something to prevent the errant bowls of cereal etc from landing. I would so do the Room or at least an AFT suite again though. The boat was fun always something to do although I wish they had the Quest show ( adult scavenger hunt) at the beginning of the trip instead of the last night, It was a great mixer and fun way to meet the other passengers. During the day there was always something to do or just chill. also due to the design of the ship, the number of chairs on the main deck where the pool and hot tubs are placed is something limited. Regarding the talent, I wish there was more variety, they had a country theme duo, they were good but repetitive , as was time kominsky, a nice guy but took a long time to set up his routines and was not that funny. so regarding variety in that way I would say a little limited and dissapointing. the ship was always being cleaned and maintained, could not say enough about the staff. I think the excursions depend on your ports but also the ship definitly charges way to much of a premium for them. There are many licensed companies available to do the trips for less that also know the ship schedules and will get you back on time. For example in Belize we did a hike and cave tubing, it was 99.00 each person, with cavetubing.ca or sometnhing to that name it was 45.00 per person for same transport lunch and even more caves. The trip over all was wonderful, I will admit going AE / AD class was worth it if for nothing more then cutting the whole line when first boarding the ship, When we arrived at the terminal, we went to VIP Check in, they sat us down gave us some refreshments and literally 10 minutes later was being escorted to our cabin and 5 minutes after was at cagneys for a very civilized lunch. We did not love the itinerary, Roatan was a sad depressing stop. We walked around the town a little and poor and actually expensive . Belize we did a tour which was ok but also was slow season for the rafting , which I wish the ship would have told us as it made it a little to lazy. Mexico was our favorite stop, we took a van for 2 dollars each to a beach area, lined with taco shacks and some shops, Was one of the most fun days I have had in a while. amazing food and relaxed vibe very fair prices. The private island was a beach area with nothing to do but buy full priced drinks from the bartenders from the boat and have the mediocre bbq. I wish the ships would do more local themed foods for these such as some grilled fish or seafood and native spices, instead of pizza,burgers, hot dogs although they do serve very good chicken.

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Feb 9, 2010

western carribean

Disappointed with the food and the excursions. The stateroom was lovely, though, and the service was excellent. We appreciated "freestyle" dining (i.e. - no particular dinner time - eat whenever you want) - but that was the first and last thing that was FREE about NCL. Prepare to have them stick it to you at every opportunity! As a vegetarian, I was very disappointed in the quality of the food in the "free" restaurants (the ones without a cover

charge). The food was very bland and didn't seem fresh at all - in fact, it seemed as if it was all plated well in advance of our orders (which it very may well have been). The buffet restaurant actually had better quality food than the sit-down-and-order restaurants. The "specialty" restaurants (with a cover charge of $10-$25) had much better food than the "free" restaurants. The mini-suite was lovely and well worth the extra money. We appreciated that it was cleaned twice a day. NCL's onboard activities all seem to cost extra. Even fitness classes cost extra. The entertainment was cheesier than the last NCL cruise we went on (to Alaska). And the "cruise director", Jaime, would often speak at length before the nightly shows encouraging people to spend money on jewelry, towel-folding DVDs, tours of the kitchen, etc. It seemed like NCL was constantly trying to get us to spend more money. There were even announcements regularly broadcast over the PA system about out next "don't miss opportunity" to spend more money! I thought the Mayan ruins were very boring! We paid $70 per person and I don;t think it was worth it!

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May 29, 2009

Baltic Capitals

I've got to tell you, I was very impressed with NCL, both before we cruised and during. The Baltic 12 day cruise was awesome with the highlight being the 2 days in St Petersburg Russia, particularly with our private tour guide Anya we found through the internet (guidestpetersburgrussia dot com) but more on that later. I will try to categorize our cruise experience by pre-cruise information, arraignments and preparations (telephone & internet) and

then the actual resulting experience both on the ship and in the various ports. Hopefully this information will help all future cruisers. Initially, I checked all the cruise sites and found that NCL had prices lower than the consolidators which is a change from what I’d found in the past so I booked through them on the phone (this turned out to be fortuitous as I will explain). They gave me discounts for being an old guy and also for being retired military. The phone center people that worked with me were very helpful every time I called. They answered all my questions even to the point of quoting NCL guidance so there was no questions on procedures (particularly the procedures for bringing on our own wine). I even got them to provide a partial wine list and we tried the wines before we left so we already knew what we liked (and the cost). We don't use the cruise excursions when we cruise so I booked everything ahead of time thru the internet. I found limited information about port visits from NCL other than their excursion information but that is understandable, but cruise critic reviews were very helpful in establishing our own excursions. We spent 4 days in London (6th visit) pre-cruise and stayed near the airport (and tube station) and took the tube in which worked well and reduced costs for hotels. We had booked a Shakespearian play at the Globe Theater online which was very enjoyable. Otherwise did the normal tourist stuff in London as there is always something new to see and of course the obligatory shopping for the ladies (I usually sit in a Pub nursing a beer during shopping). We had rented a car, actually a mini van to hold the luggage, (which was cheaper to park at the hotel for 2 of 4 days than rent for 2 separate days) and drove to Dover, saw the Castle and dropped the vehicle off and the rental guys took us to the ship. We had Port side rooms so we'd be able to see the white cliffs while sailing away. Embarkation was the quickest and easiest I have ever experienced. We were apparently amongst the last to get to the ship as there were dozens of check-in folks and just a few guests checking in so took about 15 minutes to get into the door and on the ship for the 4 of us. Ports: Copenhagen: We walked from the ship into the city which was past the Little Mermaid and was a pleasant 20-30 minute walk. Wandered around down town (shopping of course, which left me in a street side Café nursing a beer) toured Rosenberg Palace (location of crown jewels of Denmark), ate lunch outside next to the water in picturesque Nyhaven then trekked off to Tivoli which was a ways away. Good thing I had my GPS and had pre-loaded all the sites we would see (except Russia and Estonia) on the maps at all the ports. Disappointed at Tivoli as it was $25+ per person just to get in and not really wanted to do the rides (and spend more $) and being limited on time took a picture of us at the entrance and left. Overall it was a beautiful city with a mix of past and present. We had a relaxing day and saw a few sites. Germany: I had pre-reserved a rental car through SIXT rental as it was the only company that would rent one to us on a holiday (we arrived on 1 May - May Day). Instead of paying a cab to take us to the rental car I paid to have the car delivered to the port and apparently we were the only ones to do so. It turned out to be cheaper to have the car delivered than take a cab, as we had to drop the car off at the closed rental office and cab back to the ship! As in England, the GPS was priceless getting around Berlin and Germany. We used it walking also. We had watched the news and there had been demonstrations in Berlin for May Day and when we arrived we saw street closures and politzi everywhere and the GPS became very very necessary. We initially tried to stay away from where we heard all the noise and cops but turned out they had closed off the area around the Brandenburg Gate for a huge street fair and the news media again had blown the minor demonstrations out of proportion just to confuse us. Ate a German lunch next to the Holocaust Memorial, wandered around Tiergraden Park, drove to see the "Wall" (which had cars parked in front of it and was hard to photograph, drove to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial to look around and drove the 2 hours back to the ship and arrived back about 1 & ½ hours before departure. Tallinn: Beautiful medieval city. We just walked from the port to the old downtown (10 minutes) and wandered the cobble stone streets and took copious pictures. No set itinerary for us, we just wandered in and out of churches etc; ate a traditional lunch in the city square, shopped (except me of course –beer time), enjoyed the parks and old city walls. Another relaxing day on shore. St Petersburg: The highlight of the trip. Met our tour guide at the port facility and the four of us were escorted both days by Anya and our driver Nicholas. You can't get off the ship unless you have a visa or are on an escorted tour private or group. As stated before I had gotten my visas ahead of time thru the internet (handled by Anya) and had them in hand when we went thru Russian immigrations. I got us the private tour although it was slightly higher it was well worth the cost. Anya was able to take us to the front of each line at every venue and designed our itinerary especially for us. She even provided Ruble coins when needed to use the restrooms, something we wouldn't have prepared for! There were some last minute changes she emailed to us even after we were on the cruise due to changes at the venues in preparation for the annual celebrations in front of the Hermitage for May Day and the celebration of victory over the Nazi's military parades (I forget what they call it). We "snuck" in a back entrance, thus didn't have to wait in line at the Hermitage for entrance. We toured the city, went to Peterhof, the Hermitage (as mentioned), Yusopov Palace, Church on the Spilled Blood, Saints Peter & Paul Fortress and Cathedral. St Pete is a marvelous city, all while being continuously provided information (and funny Russian stories) by Anya. Helsinki; Got on the "hop on Hop off" bus at the dock and did the tour of the city first and listened to the tour (earphones provided on the bus in 9 languages). Then got on and off at various venues. Saw the White Church, Olympic Stadium with views of the city from the tower, Sibelius Monument and again a traditional meal for lunch. A very cosmopolitan city. The bus got us back to the dock also. Stockholm: Meet a friend from Norway near the Vasa Museum. The ship arrived hours before anything was open so we sat around waiting for our friend for a couple of hours at a cafe next to a canal. Saw the Vasa, walked a bit and took the "Hop on Hop off" boat tour (English and Swedish guide talks) around the city and went to the changing of the guard ate a traditional meal (again) and I did my beer thing while the ladies shopped. Mostly wandered and visited with our friend. My wife always enjoys the sea days and we had 4 interspersed into the shore visits so plenty of time to rest between trips, especially since we had 4 busy days in London before the first sea day on initially starting the cruise. We found the free style cruising more to our liking than traditional dining as we could come and go on the ship to eat as we wanted. The service and crew were exceptional. The food was good but not extraordinary, but then I am used to army food so it was well received for food prepared for 3000 people (including crew) every meal. I WILL USE NCL AGAIN!

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May 24, 2009

Baltic

Good - staff friendly, competent, well trained. Cabin well looked after. Ship immaculate. Bad - Boarding process long, convoluted colour coded access to ship, cooped up for 1.5 hours in hot stuffy lounge in Dover. Continual effort to get in your pocket from the get go - only two restaurants offer table service without additional cover charges ranging up to $25/person plus 17%. Generally these "free" restaurants have wait lines up to 30 min. Drinks

and wine very expensive, beer $5, decent wines are $30 and up plus 17% - steep considering shipboard would be tax and duty free for ship. Ongoing hype to peddle overpriced merchandise from Galleria (seems to be a concession) Eg. Have priced Omega watches cheaper at high end stores! $10 charge for any currency exchange regardless of amount. Internet charges seem high. $12/person/day automatically charged to account for gratuities. Only took shore excursions in St. Petersburg due Visa - expensive but good, took 2.5 hours to clear immigration, NCL blamed Russians. One tour did not get away until noon. Tour guides spoke good English and were well versed and gave good presentations. Health - Ship had a Norwalk outbreak from previous cruise and had stringent controls in place to contain - these seemed to work as only a few pax on our cruise came down and ship was declared clear about half way through cruise. Entertainment - Generally good, shows in theatre popular and crowded. Two "free" and one cafeteria style restaurant - adequate, one gourmet beef wellington during cruise. Rooms were clean, well tended. Don't bother with most presentations - they are sales hyped for galleria, spa, art, bingo is expensive and hyped with seemingly few winners. Casino refused to state pay out on slots. Great ports of call. Money grab from the get go. Believe me, `free style' ain`t free and I question the value.

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May 5, 2009

Trans-Atlantic

This was a fantastic cruise! It was our third trans-Atlantic, with 2 of them on the Norwegian Jewel. With 6 days at sea, we had planty of time to explore the ship again, and to relax. The waitstaff in The Tsar's Palace, the stateroom attendants, the Reception Desk staff and all other crew members and staff were fantastic, going the extra mile for us. We have cruised the Caribbean and the Mediterranean on on other lines, and have done a trans-Atlantic

with another cruise line. While each of these cruises was a wonderful experience, NCL, and especially the Norwegian Jewel, met and exceeded all expecations. On our first cruise on the Jewel (Baltic Capitals, July 2008), I was greatly disappointed by the selection of food and the variety of meals available on the menu; I ordered principally from the 'Always Available' menu. On the second cruise (Trans-Atlantic, September 2008), the quality and variety of food choices had improved, but I selected about half my meals from the 'Always Available' menu. On this cruise (trans-Atlantic, April 2009), the food selections and variety had markedly improved. There were always selections on the 'Daily Menu' from which I could choose. The presentation was superb, the tast ewas excellent and the preparation was perfect. I was very impressed with the meals I had, never once having to order from 'Always Available.' I was able to speak to the head chef to tell him how impressed I was. These changes must be attributed to the Dutch head chef, and probably more to the Food & Beverage manager from France. On our previous 2 cruises on the Jewel, our staterooms were on Deck 10 midship, once port and the other starboard. This time, we were again on Deck 10, occupying the last stateroom aft and port. It was the average size category BB stateroom with a balcony, and had the typical accoutrements (TV, sofa, kettle and coffee/tea, hairdryer). The twin beds had been pushed together to make one queen-size bed. Having sailed on the Jewel twice previously, we knew what to expect in our stateroom. It was a good size for the 2 of us, and really all one needs (perhaps a little more than what one needs) considering how much time you spend inside your stateroom. Personally, taking a cruise means exploring the ship, participating in some activities, see ing a show or using the gym in addition to visiting the shops onboard or the spa/salon. All in all, the staeroom we had fit our needs. There is a myriad of activities onboard any cruise ship, so much so that it is often difficult to choose which ones to do. I enjoyed listening to chamber music quartet on the ship. I really enjoyed the Cirque Bijou and the staff/crew show ("Fountains") that were presented the night before disembarkation. I also liked the juggler Hilby who was onboard; I saw his show twice. I even attended his juggling class! I'm not one for bingo, but I do, on occasion, enjoy Trivia. I didn't go to the shows that were presented. What I did see, I enjoyed. In general, I don't do shore excursions. I prefer exploring places on my own. We had only 2 ports-of-call on this trans-Atlantic (Ponta Delgada, Azores, Portugal and Vigo, Spain) before reaching Dover. We were in these ports for a limited time and I explored on my own anyway. I did shore excursion in Russia (which I highly recommend doing inorder to avoid a lot of headaches) and in Iceland. I took them because of distance and/or accessibility and/or traffic congestion and/or individual admission costs. From everything I've said above, I would qualify my cruise as a tremendous experience. It was, by far, the best cruise I've ever done and was the best vacation I've ever had. All the vactions and cruise vacations I've taken have been outstabding, but this last one beat them all! I am very glad I took this cruise. Having said that, the only parts I did not enjoy was the very short time I spent in Miami, particularly the airport and the port. I can only decribe the airport as chaotic. I was very difficult to locate the NCL agents who were responsible for our transfer. When we finally found them, it took them several minutes to find our names on the transfer record. We were told our bus would arrive at 11am to take us to the port; it arrived almost an hour late. They gave us our ship assignment stickers, but neglected to give us bus assignment numbers. They were most unhelpful. However, the driver we had was nice and the journey was pleasant. The airport was chaos, but the port was disorganized chaos. There was no crowd control - people pushed in front of each other to go through security check. There was no direction - no agents were on hand to tell people where to go to check in and get keycards. Once again people pushed and ran to get in front of others to register. I had been through Miami airport and port in the past . Both were very disorganized and chaotic then, and neither has improved. In fact, I think they've gotten worse. The best part about Miami was boarding the ship. In contrast to this, the disembarkation process in Dover, England was smooth. It was well-directed and the staff were pleasant and rather acccommodating. There were several coaches we could take to get to Heathrow airport, and they tried to find the earliest departure from the pier for us. The cruise, of course, was the bestpart of the trip.

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May 4, 2009

Transatlantic-Miami-Azores-Vigo-Dover

This is our 3rd time on the NCL Jewel in less than a year. We were first on a Baltic Cruise in July 2008. We then were surprised how the service was onboard. We then took a transatlantic from Dover to New York in September 2008. Again our experience was surprising. Here are the highlights of this last one. We boarded in Miami on April 17th. This is probably the only drawback: Miami airport as well as the port of Miami are totally disorganized.

The difference can be felt when you board a cruiseship in New York, Dover or Barcelona. In any of those 3 cities the embarcation or debarcation is smooth. The food was excellent. NCL has definitely improved the meals and choice on this ship. From our first cruise in July 2008 to this one we saw a great difference. The swimming pool area is well kept and there are plenty of chairs for everyone. It is not crowded and there is a pool-side buffet so you don't have to go inside if you are enjoying the sunshine. Our stateroom was spacious and service was great. Members of the staff take the time to talk to you and enquire if you need anything, without you having to ask. The choice of restaurants on board in extensive. There are 13 specialty restaurants (fees apply), 2 main dining rooms, and a variety of buffet, snacks and other places to eat. The shops are rather limited but it gives you more chances to buy in the different ports. On this one we had only 2 ports: Ponta Delgada, Azores and Vigo, Spain. The disembarkation process in Dover was smooth and efficient. The transfer to London was well planned and we didn't have to wait to board a coach. The staff handling the port in Dover are pleasant, efficient and conciencious. We liked the Transatlantic because of the numerous days at sea where you can relax and enjoy the peace and calm. It is ideal for someone who needs a break. We boarded the ship and went directly to one of the main dining room, to get a bite to eat. On our first cruise we were impressed with the excellent service of the onboard staff, but we had to admit the food was regular. On our second cruise the food had definitely improved. On this last one it was excellent. I credit their French F&B Director. The daily menu had dishes for which I give a 9/10 for presentation, between a 7/10 to a perfect 10 for taste and quality, and I would give a 8/10 on the variety offered every day. By this, I mean variety on fish, meat, vegeterian dishes, and healthy choices. There is naturally the standard menu which is there everyday,and frankly we didn't order once from it because the daily choices were too tempting and ended up being excellent. We've only tried one specialty restaurant: Cagney's Steakhouse and the difference between the main dining room and the specialty restaurant is that it is not as rushed and the specialty menu is more extensive in the type of food chosen. The big advantage with NCL is that you don't need to share a table with other people if you don't want to. Our experience with other cruise lines is that there are never enough tables for 2. With Freestyle you can eat when you want with the people you want or just have a table on your own. You can also reserve a table with the restaurant reservation service. There is a hostess on deck 7, near the shore excursions desk who can take your reservations for any of the restaurants. NCL innovated the "freestyle" and now others are starting to follow. After all, we go on a cruise to be free of a schedule, not to be told when to eat and with whom. We were on other cruise lines where they could not accommodate us with a table for 2 and it was rather annoying. This is why we will keep on booking with NCL. Our stateroom was a balcony stateroom located on deck 10. Our stateroom attendant was very friendly and efficient. We never had to wait for anything: as soon as it was requested, there it was! We knew some of the staff from our 2 previous cruises and they remembered us. With the amount of people they see, either they have good memories or they are simply more personeable than other cruise line staff. As any other cruise line, there is a variety of activities ranging from sports to cooking lessons. In that respect, I think all cruise lines have a good variety. There is a movie most days. When it comes to the shows onboard: Cirque Bijou was a show with acrobats, excellent dancers and singers. The staff show is excellent and finale of "Fountains" is a must see... The other shows compare: Magicians, hypnotists etc. In this case, because there were only 2 ports, we did them on our own. Normally, the choice of excursions is good and at a decent price. Again, in this case, it didn't really apply. We liked the Transatlantic because of the numerous days at sea where you can relax and enjoy the peace and calm. It is ideal for someone who needs a break. We took the included flights with NCL. The prices were competitive. In our case we had an open-jaw: flying to Miami on a one way and then London to home. These tickets are normally more expensive and after verifying different options, NCL had the best price. We really enjoyed this cruise and are looking forward to our next one, most probably on NCL again.

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Apr 13, 2009

Miami Southern Caribbean

We researched NCL and decided to give it a try. Since we spend many hours on our balcony, it was imperative to have a balcony that's covered (to avoid rain) and private. In deciding to spend A LOT MORE money for our cabin we called NCL's "specialist" and asked if we upgraded from a balcony to a "Penthouse Suite" is the balcony (or outside deck) covered & private? NCL's specialist said "ABSOLUTELY!" WELL...there was no covering or roof on the outside

balcony...in fact the bridge 1 floor higher had a clear view of us 24-7! So much for sitting in the rain and for privacy! We were lied to, and NCL said "sorry!" When we wrote to the VP of NCL he forwarded our letter to their "cookie cutter" customer service dept. who said..they can not guarantee all information we received (NOT EVEN FROM THEM???). They gave us a flimsy shipboard credit for our next cruise. Right! My advice...get everything in writing from their "cruise specialist!" The alternative dining experience was lovely and refreshing for us. Half of the restaurants had an additional fee...some were absolutely not worth it...some were. Personal choice. There were 2 regular evening dining rooms that were included...adn they were wonderful. The service everywhere was excellent! Our costly Penthouse suite had only 1 window (not even floor-to-ceiling.)..and no covered or private balcony! From the outside large balcony, we were always on display from the Bridge above us with crew 24-7 and passing tourists looking down. Just awful! We were at concierge & butler level...our concierge was so-so...our butler was wonderful! The appointments in the stateroom were lovely, but, the sitting area and limited view from the 1-and-only window was tight! They were the OK....lots to do, usual cruise-type activites. The excursions were over-priced ....puffed up info...some were disappointing. Some were OK. All-in-all...if we were given the accommodations that were described to us by NCL, we would have been generally satisfied. They gave us mis-information and said...basically, sorry! They took no responsibility for their mis-information! Well sorry, NCL...good-bye to you!

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By Jenn_CR

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Apr 4, 2009

Southern Caribbean

Overall, this cruise met our needs - an inexpensive last minute vacation and the opportunity to see the south Caribbean from Miami instead of San Juan like other lines. If I was looking for a once in a lifetime cruise experience, though, this would not be it. The quality was just not there. If you ate at the buffet, it was cafeteria quality at best. The same selections everyday, and nothing impressive. Never a blueberry or a strawberry, or

a tropical fruit just cantelope and pineapple, bananas, apples and oranges. The second day at sea, the bread is all day old (so didn't seem to be baked on the ship). The main dining rooms are chaotic and the food isn't much better than at the buffet. For lobster night, the tails were significantly overdone (we complained and got another and it was not better). Very disappointing. For the "Chocoholics Buffet" night, everything pie or mouse was basically chocolate pudding. If you want to pay for a specialty restaurant (which we did twice), it is well worth it. Chin Chins - the food and service were both exceptional, and highly recommened. $15 extra per person. Freestyle dining is nice...but I'd rather have a rigid schedule and better food and service. The room was clean and new, and the bathroom and shower large. Our stateroom steward showed us great hospitality! We would have liked more and higher quality onboard activiites. NCL is discontinuing the NCL-U series, and for good reason - the lecturers were uninspiring and not even subject matter experts. Some NCL-U events (wine tastings, etc.) charged a fee. Cirque Bijou was a great, Las Vegas quality show. Second City Comedy - I guess it would be ok if you're a fan, but if you're not a fan - it's not even entertaining. Joe Yannetti the comedian - SO funny. There were times at sea when there wasn't anything that appealled to us to do, which was disappointing - especially on a rough day when the pool was closed. In the Dominica Republic, we did the Cayo Leventado beach escape. It's a short tender ride to the island, and it's a nice, simple beach day. We got to watch the people that did the swim with sea lion adventure, and that was a lot of fun. Be sure to get a Coco Loco drink - you wil love it! Do not miss the Tiami catamaran in Barbados! You swim with sea turtles in the wild - we had 5! You snorkle a shipwreck and a reef . You stop at the beach of Sandy Lane resort - where Tiger Woods got married. I could have floated around in that water forever! In Tortola, I really liked the Sage Mountain Hike. You have a brief - and easy - hike to see native flora and fauna, to a view of almost all the British and American Virgin Islands. Then, you stop briefly at a rum distillery and onto Cane Garden Bay beach. It's a little bit of everything with beautiful scenery. In St. Lucia - definitely take a catamaran tour to the Pitons. In Antiqua, we went on our own ($12 taxi ride each way) to Dickenson Bay Beach (where you find the Sandals resort). Prettiest beach on the cruise, and an opportunity to save some $. Chairs were $5/each and an umbrella was $24 more, but we didn't do that. Lots of water sports available, and a few restaurants/bars. My best friend and I were looking for a last minute cruise - and were pleased to find this 10-day itinerary for a reasonable price. We set our expectations low in terms of quality, and focused on the ports of call. Based on this, it met our low expectations. All in all, it was a nice vacation, but definitely not a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I think this is common to NCL cruises as compared to Royal Caribbean or a more upscale brand. Barbados and Antiqua are wonderful. The Dominican Republic was a bust - I don't know anyone on the ship that liked it. St Lucia was also not great , which was really suprising since so many friends who had been to one of the island's Sandal's resorts loved it. It you notice, NCL is changing this stop to St. Kitts. I'm not sure what St. Kitts is like - but good move in my opinion. I hope this is helpful!

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Mar 23, 2009

Caribbean

We tried the freestyle cruise for the first time becuase we have found that the rigid dinner seating was not always the best fit for us. We spent the extra money for the Courtyard Villa and the ameneties that come with it. We bought this cruise listed as a 14 day caribbean cruise. In reality it was a back to back 9 and 5 day. This was not communicated on the web site or from the NCL representative that sold us the cruise. Your mindset is different

when you take a 7 day, a 14 day or a 5 day cruise, each cruise is different. We were anticipating a 14 day "vibe" and really ended up getting a nine and five day experience. Anyone that has cruised a few times understands this feeling. We were disappointed with the quality of the food in the non-specialty restaurants and dining rooms. The lines for food at thes venues were long and getting a table was very hard at peak hours. The suite was very nice and plenty big. The courtyard area was very crowded for the 5 day portion of the cruise and became very loud and busy which ruined it's peaceful tropical ambiance that it normally would have. Again, when you pay 11 grand for an upgraded room and private pool area, you expect to reap those benefits and not have it become a party area. The specialty restaurants are very good but there is an added cost for them. For two people having wine with their meal, it can be an addtional 50-100 dollars. We dined in the specialty restaurants more often because of the crowds, noise and lack of variety of the menu. We also noted that the wait staff for the normal dining rooms were not as attentive as one would expect. It was really hit and miss. I would expect better since the gratuity is automactically charged to your account. The courtyard villas are very nice and the pictures do not do them justice from the web site. The butler and stateroom attendants are also top notch at this level of room. Onboard activities are on par with other ships. The pool area seems to not have the capacity to handle at sea days. If you did not get a chair by 9:00am, you were pretty much out of luck. The tendering process can be a real time thief. On two different ports the tendering process took 1 1/2 hours each way. This accounts for waiting to get down the steps, onto the tender, loading the tender and getting to shore. I would reccomend smaller tenders and more frequent tenders to speed up the process. We really enjoyed the cruise itself, we just feel that we did not get the bang for the buck that we would normally get when we have cruised with Celebrity. I suppose that the freestyle is why you lose the quality of the food and service becuase they have to to produce it for longer periods of time. Our 14 day cruise to Hawaii was 4K less with a comparable room and much higher quality of food, entertainment and service.

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Oct 4, 2008

East Mediterranean

We just returned from 12 days Eastern Med cruise with Norwegian Jade. It was a FABULOUS trip, but I wanted to pass on a few pointers before the details fade. We are from the U.S., and this is our 4th European cruise and 10th cruise overall (we have also cruised Princess, Celebrity and Carnival). We tend toward doing most of the ports ourselves, and hiring private guides if necessary because we enjoy researching the ports and like the flexibility and

efficiency of a private tour (we have found it to be cheaper than the ship’s tours as well). Overall this is one of the best cruises we've done and we highly recommend others to give it a try if you like to visit many ports with less sea days. Weather was great throughout the trip and glad we choose early October to do this cruise. The members of our roll call were a pleasure to meet and share tours with. We have great memories of this adventure. Would definitely do this trip again. We love traditional dining, however, due to the lateness of some of the tours we ate every night at 8:45 pm. That's pretty late even for folks who like to have prolonged cocktail hours! We were rarely finished with dinner by 11pm. I won't comment too much on food...but...all of the soups were absolutely fantastic. We never had a bad one. Many of the nights I had a hard time choosing which entree to select as none of them completely excited me, but they were all good. The Ship. It’s not as fancy or as laden with goodies as some of its sisters, but the Jade is a very nice ship. The crew is attentive and there are many activities planned. Downsides - it is short on public spaces; smoking is allowed in the one lounge where a lot of activities are scheduled, so you can’t really escape it (the high percentage of Europeans ads to the smoking population too); and the rooms are small even for cruise ship standards (no drop down bunk, so kids sleep together on a pull-out couch). Upsides - I thought the food in the Windjammer was a step above the usual (don’t miss the Asian and Greek nights, the pastries at breakfast, the desserts and the fresh melon), and there is an excellent salad bar with unusual ingredients at lunch in the dining room; the bartender at the Champagne Bar makes a killer Chocolate Mint martini (skip the frozen drinks at the pool bars, as they are WEAK); there are a ton of fitness and game activities planned if you’re interested. Do go to the port talks - they are very informative. I’m impressed with how NCL aids the independent traveler and does not solely push their excursions. Rome/Civitavecchia. After much consideration, we decided to book a private full day tour in Rome visiting some of the familiar places and including a few new ones. After researching companies to use, we decided on Limo in Rome - Claudio Caponera (www.limoinrome.com) as our driver/guide for the day. We shared this tour with 3 couples from our roll call. Our itinerary included The Roman Forum, Coliseum, Mouth of Truth, Circus Maximums, the Key Hole (Sov Mil Ordine Di Malta), Palatine Hill, Baths of Caracalla, The Catacombs, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Capitol Hill, and Gianicolo (great views of Rome from this spot) and Borghese Gallery. Claudio arranged for our lunch stop at Ristorante Massenzio. Good meal. If we could have eliminated one thing in the itinerary it would, in our opinion, have been the Borghese Gallery. After a full day of sightseeing, I for one was on "information overload". I would suggest that the Borghese Gallery be done by itself or perhaps along with a walk through the garden areas. Athens. We hired a taxi driver from Spiros at spirostours@yahoo.com for the day (8:30-2:00) Spriros at spirostours@yahoo.com . This ended up being a boon, as it costs 25 euro each way from Piraeus on the meter anyway, and saved us hundreds of steps in the heat. He parked at the back side of the Acropolis (it is not necessary to climb the hundreds of steps from the Plaka) and waited for us, then took us to the old Olympic stadium (actually pretty impressive), the Temple of Zeus, to the President’s house in time for the changing of the guard (actually worth the stop), the Parliament building, the Roman Agora, and then the Greek Agora and Plaka. We zipped through it all again because we got out early I think, and were driving instead of walking and were back on board by 2, exhausted. Ephesus. We hired a private tour guide for this port -- Denizhan at ephesustours@yahoo.com . We combined with another family I met on our Roll Call. I join the list of Cruise Critic people that highly recommend him. He was knowledgeable, personable, proud of his country, and completely professional. We started early and were through most of Ephesus by the time the first tour bus arrived. Since it reached 105 degrees that day, we were EXTREMELY grateful to have gotten to see it before the hottest part of the day. Be sure to also see the ruins of St. John’s Basilica. Denizhan also took us inside a local and historic mosque and explained a lot about Islam and Turkish politics. Lunch was the best of the trip. We also visited the museum in Selcuk, which was fine, although it is hard to compete with the Vatican, the Egyptian Museum, and others on this trip. Definitely try apple tea if you can - hot or cold, it’s delicious. All in all, a great stop. Alexandria/Giza. You definitely need a guide/tour for this stop. Most passengers ponied up for a RCI tour of some sort, and I was a little nervous not to, reading all the postings about police convoys. But having a private tour guide (we used Rasha El Ashmawy at www.egyptdailytours.com) worked out great, and we were very happy with the day. We didn’t have to wait for the convoy (and I felt safer, being less obviously a tourist in a small vehicle), we lingered at things that interested us, and went quicker through things that did not. Price for a family of four was $100 for adults and $90 for kids; a group of seven was $80 for adults and $70 for kids (solar boat museum, going inside the pyramids and mummy room at the Egyptian museum extra, but lunch included). Keys to this day are FLEXIBILITY and HUMOR, and you should realize that even if you do it with RCI there might be glitches - for example, the entire bus that took the RCI Nile trip got sick, and cartouches ordered on a different RCI tour turned black when they were worn into the pool back on the ship. However, on the whole we heard that the RCI tours were pretty good. Our tour included the Giza plateau, where we walked around near all three pyramids, drove to a vista, drove back to go inside the medium sized pyramid (Kefern) and then visited the Sphinx. Lunch was a quick falafel sandwich, and then we went to the Egyptian Museum (including mummy room) and back out to shop at the Khan Al Khalili bazaar in Islamic Cairo. We left the bazaar at 6:00 sharp, and pulled up to the ship at 9:25 (had to be back onboard by 9:30, so you really do have to watch your time). Rasha did not travel with us, but checked in with us all the way back to make sure that we made it back on board. Tips about this particular Giza/museum/bazaar itinerary: 1) change money before you get off the ship if possible because Euros/dollars are not accepted until you are at the bazaar; 2) take toilet paper in your bag - bathrooms are often bare; 3) take small change for the bathrooms; 4) resist resist resist people offering you anything (even people that claim to work for the sites you are visiting) - you will suspect it is a scam, but then you will not want to offend them, so you will go along, but it will end up being a scam at the end. We had a number of people flat out lie to us saying, I work for the government, not a tour guide. 5) take water and umbrellas - Giza plateau is really exposed; 6) at the bazaar, decide what you are willing to pay and stick to your guns as a rule of thumb, Rasha told us to chop their asking price in half or more, if you can’t settle with the first guy, you will probably see the same thing a few stores away; 7) about going inside the pyramids - a claustrophobic, hot, crowded, and stinky experience, but my family was glad they did it. The middle pyramid (Kefern) offers much the same experience as the largest pyramid (Khufu), but priced at about $6 instead of $20. The experience takes ten to fifteen minutes at either pyramid; 8) The Museum - so many treasures crammed right next to each other, it’s overwhelming - read a little before you go so you can sort out the experience before you’re there. There are actually two mummy rooms to see for the additional admission price of $20 - if you’ve seen a mummy before, you can honestly give this a miss, but if you haven’t, it is fairly interesting. If the line is long, see the rest of the museum and check back in later - it fluctuates depending on tour groups; 9) Get to Islamic and/or Coptic Cairo if you can - much more atmosphere than downtown where the Museum is; 10) Do NOT eat at the bazaar, most expensive (and worst) snacks of the trip; 11) DO try mint tea mmmmmm. Valetta. This is the one port where we decided to do one of the ship’s organized excursions, a jeep adventure tour of the island. Having just recovered from a pinched nerve in my back, I don’t know what possessed me to book this excursion. The ride is VERY bumpy and rough, especially around the limestone quarries, so if you have any back or neck problems, you should opt for a different tour. That being said, Malta Jeep Adventure is a good way to see a lot of the island. Each vehicle is an open-air jeep with seating for four people. There is a recorded guided tour playing in English to explain the various monuments or sights as you pass them. The last stop was at Golden Bay where we had free time to swim or lounge on the beach. Again, we are not big on organized tours, but this one was a good value for the money. Something that we found surprising was that all the signs were in English. Flights and pre-cruise stay in Barcelona. If possible, plan to arrive in Barcelona a day or two early. We stayed at the Regencia De Colon hotel. It is a sister hotel to the Colon, both which sit at the foot of the Cathedral and a 2 minute walk from La Rambla. The room was small, but well appointed in a great location. We had to go to the Colon to get ice for our drinks. We had dinner at Neya's. A small tapas bar 1 1/2 blocks from the hotel. The food was great - tapas and paella and very inexpensive. We really enjoyed the city. La Rambla is maybe 6 blocks long and activity abounds! We spent much of the time just watching the street mimes. They get dressed up in amazing costumes and hold perfectly still til you come up to have your picture taken. Then they go into action! Quite a site to see. La Rambla is also lined with plenty of street vendors, artists etc. But they even have street vendors that are pet shops along with the normal florists and trinket sellers. We had sangria at a street side cafe. Ugh...it was thick and really sweet and reminded us more of children’s cough syrup than a cocktail. On the day of embarkation we took the hop off/hop on bus. We took the north route to catch all of the architecture and it really was a beautiful ride. It did, however, take the entire morning as the traffic in the city was really bad. We bought a one day ticket that would have allowed us to take the south route if we had the time. Two day tickets are also available. Cash only, but you purchase the tickets at the boarding stops. We thought Barcelona was beautiful, we were pleasantly surprised. It is a very easy city to do on your own. Cabs are very easy to get either in the city or at the pier. It is about 10-15 E from the pier to the close end of La Rambla. Make sure and negotiate price before you get in.

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Jun 23, 2007

Western Europe

Norwegian Cruise Lines Norwegian Jewel Cruise Review Western Europe Jason Ma It was our honeymoon and we decided on a cruise to Western Europe.  The cruise began at Barcelona and spent the first day at sea, then it went through Messina, Naples, Rome, Florence (Livorno) and Villefranche. In other words, we visit three countries, six cities.  It was overall a very enjoyable experience for both me and my wife. Embarkation began at

13:00 pm till 19:00 pm.  We spent the earlier part of the day touring Barcelona and didn’t board the boat until 17:00pm.  The process was fairly fast and we were in our cabin within 20 minutes.  The checked-in luggage took a while to arrive our cabin though. The ship overall was a beauty, with lots of restaurants and bars located all over.  It was also fairly new and clean.  Regarding the food, the specialty restaurants were all very good and we spent two nights in the Cagney's steak house, and one each in Le Bistro and Chin Chin.  We also tried Mama and Tangos (both no fee) and they both offered very satisfactory quality.  For breakfast we often had the buffet in Garden Café and occasionally room service to save time. The first day was spent at sea and we spent the afternoon at Sky High Bar to enjoy the perfect weather and lovely ocean.  For the rest of the trip we explored all the ports on our own as we were not particularly fond of guided tours.  The first port was Messina, Sicily.  Right after we landed there were lines of cabs offering round-trip tour to Taromina for 100-150 Euros or so.  We had already done our researches before hand so we declined their offers.  There were at least two means of public transport to Taromina.  You can either take the train and then a cable car up the mountain or take the bus.  We took the latter as it went all the way up the mountain.  The bus terminal was right next to the train station.  It was about a fifteen minutes walk from the port (turn left after you exit the port and walk along the shoreline, you may want to ask the pedestrian on the way).  The name of the bus company was INTERBUS and their buses were blue in color.  Round-trip ride cost 5.20 EURO and the bus left for Taromina on approximately 8:45am and 9:45am.  The one-way trip was about an hour and a half going through a small town/village and some scenic roads along the coast (had to change bus once on both ways).  There were lots of interesting small shops in Taromina.  It was so hot up there so we didn’t really have the appetite for lunch and ended up having two excellent gelatos.  We took the return bus at 13:40 pm which seemed a little early but the one after that left at 16:00 pm or so, too late for the ship (Not sure if the train offers a better schedule).  We arrived at Messina around 3:30pm and sort of wandered around the city but there were not much to see. The second port was Naples (Napoli) and we decided to go to Capri Island.  We took the hydrofoil which was 15 Euro each way (The hydrofoil pier was right next to the port).  There were multiple companies operating the jets and the one we took was called SNAV and our boat left at 8:10am.  We also bought our return tickets just to make sure.  The ride was about 45 minutes and was quite rough so a lot of people got sea-sick.  We got off the boat and went into the tourist information center (right at the pier) and bought a map for 1 Euro (yes, they charged for the map there).  Then, we took the short funicular ride up to the town.  Once we came out of the station we saw lots of luxury shops out there but we were not particularly interested as we got all that in the city already.  We decided to go to Villa Jorvis located on the North-Eastern part of the Island.  The hike took about 30 minutes but was totally worthwhile as the view there was breath-taking.  The entrance fee to Villa Jorvis was 2 Euro each and a map for an extra 1 euro (which we bought but didn’t really use as it was not necessary).  At around noon we headed back and went to the South side of the Island and went to the Garden of Augustine which offered very impressive view.  We planned to continue down to the Marina but got exhausted from the walk and the heat so ended up staying in a nice café up in the hill for some excellent coffee.  We headed back to the pier via the cable car again and took the hydrofoil at 14:40 pm (we needed to line up for the cable car as lots of people were heading back at the same time and nearly missed the ferry from the queuing).  We walked around Naples a little bit but didn’t really find much of interest.  There were open-top city tour bus right next to the pier but we didn’t have enough time.  There were supposedly so much more to do at this port (Pompeii, Sorrento, Amalfi Coast etc.) but we preferred to stay longer in one place to enjoy more, and lovely Capri Island certainly didn’t disappoint.  Next we arrived in Civitavecchia, the port near Rome.  There were free shuttle bus taking us out of the port area and from there was a 10 min walk to the Civitavecchia (just crossed the cross-walk and walked along the coast).  We bought the BIRG ticket which offered a round-trip to and from Rome plus the intra-city bus/subway in Rome (make sure you validate the ticket in one of those small yellow machines before you get on).  We caught the 8:38am train and got off at Roma S. Pietro Station (closest station to the Vatican) at around 9:30am.  We got the map of Rome in a nearby hotel along the way and toured around Vatican City.  The artworks and architectures there were especially impressive.  We wanted to go to Sistine Chapel right after but I misread the map and went the wrong direction.  So we continued on to the Spanish Steps where abundance varieties of shops could be found.  We walked around until we felt hungry and went to a café for an excellent pizza for lunch.  We also went to a nearby Internet Café which charged a very reasonable 3 Euro per hour for ultra-speed connection (Located a few minute walk South-East of Piazza Di Spagna, also a McDonald nearby).  We continued to walk around the area and then headed back at around three o’clock.  We took the subway from Barberini station to Roma Termini and then the 16:38pm train back (Roma termini was actually quite big and complicated, took us quite a while to find the right train) Our next port was Livorno, we decided to go to Florence first and then go to Pisa on our way back if we had time.  The journey from the port to the train station - Livorno Centrale was a bit complicated.  We first took the shuttle bus to downtown Livorno and then the number 1R bus to the train station (we bought the 1R bus tickets and the round-trip train ticket to Florence at a convenient store right opposite where the shuttle bus dropped us off).  We had just enough time to get on the 9:11am train to Florence (Given the hassle I would also recommend taking taxi from the port directly to Livorno Centrale and catch the earlier train at 8:11am, train schedule here: http://www.trenitalia.com/en/index.html).  We arrived at Florence at around 10:40am.  We first went to the tourism information centre to pick up a map.  In the morning we visited Piazza Del Duomo (a wonderful cathedral) and Piazza San Lorenzo (small shops and open-air market, great for souvenir), both were within short walking distances from the train station and then in the afternoon we went to Ponte Vecchio and saw River Arno, then we took the 15:27pm train back to Livorno.  Our last port was Villefrance, France which was essentially a small French Village.  We had to first take a tender from the cruise to the pier; from there it was a 15 minute walk along the shoreline to the train station.  We decided to go to Monaco and took the 8:44am train (also available were at 7:48am, 9:01am and 9:51am).  The train ride was around 20 minutes.  There were two exits at Monaco station and most passengers took the one located in the front of the platform.  We decided to take the other one at the rear end of the platform and came out at the “quite part” of Monaco. We wandered around the small streets there and then walked along the shore to Monte Carlo, where we visited the glamorous Hotel de Paris and took some fabulous pictures.  The casino opened at 12:00 noon with an entrance fee of 10 Euro (probably my first time to go to a casino with entrance fee), it was quite different from other casinos that I have been to but as it was still early in the afternoon there was not much traffic inside.  From the casino was about a 15 minute-walk uphill back to the train station and we took the 13:11pm train back to Villefranche (also at 13:06pm, 13:32pm).  There were beaches right next to Villefranche Sur Mer so we spent some time there before we headed back to the pier. On the final day the cruise arrived at Barcelona early in the morning at around 5:00am.  Disembarkation was relatively smooth and we were the final group to leave at 9:30am.  The taxi line was long as expected but we got into the city reasonably fast.  It was July 1 and the summer sales just began so we were able to do some last minute shopping before we headed to the airport. In summary, it was a wonderful trip and my wife and I were both highly satisfy.  Based on the good experience we decided that we will travel more on cruise in the future.  A few brief tips for those going on NCL Jewel: ENTERTAINMENT: There were lots to do on the cruise and the night shows are all reasonably well performed.  We enjoyed most the show by the Second City which was a comedy talk show.  Also, the band in Java café/Crystal Atrium was very good and we spent at least three of our nights there.  In the cabin there were also TV with CNN and BBC feeding reasonably updated news. INTERNET: The charge was US$3.95 for account activation and US$0.75 per minute thereafter.  There were packages available also.  In general the connection was expectably slow and I could mostly manage to check my emails there. SHOPPING: As expected the shopping galleria on board was not the greatest place to pick up a lot of souvenirs.  Obviously, the selection was fairly limited compared to what was available off-shore.  Some of the items were also priced quite high (we wanted to get another memory stick and a 512MB one cost US$80). SERVICE: The crew members were mostly friendly and enthusiastic, in particular the waitresses in the steakhouse and the cabin stewards.  We were a little disappointed at the reception desk as most of the time they were not very helpful (at least we felt that way). LAUNDRY: There were laundry room on Deck 5, 9 and 11 (maybe more).  Four quarters for a box of laundry powder while washers and dryers are free to use.      

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Jun 11, 2007

Istanbul - Barcelona

Norwegian Cruise Lines Norwegian Jewel Cruise Review Istanbul - Barcelona Steve Larson My wife and I took the Jewel across the Mediterranean for our first cruise and first trip to Europe.  The itinerary was excellent, and the trip made for a great introduction to Europe.  Other aspects of the cruise were very nice - but not outstanding.  We don’t have any basis for comparison, other than what we have heard from our kids (who

have cruised on Holland America) and other passengers (comments we heard were that the Jewel beat the tar out of Costa Cruises, and was comparable to Royal Caribbean). Getting There I booked the cruise and air reservations directly with an NCL agent.  He was great, but there were some big problems.  We booked in March 2007 for a June cruise, and in spite of my repeated requests I didn’t receive any documents until May.  I believe they have switched over to a more automated on-line booking process since then.  We arranged our flights so that we would arrive a day early in Istanbul, and stay 3 days after the ship docked in Barcelona.  When I was e-mailed the airline ticket “confirmation”, I thought it was actually a confirmation (maybe because it was labeled “Confirmation”).  It wasn’t.  My NCL agent told me that I had to confirm the confirmation (huh?) if it was correct.  I did so by e-mailing my approval/agreement of the confirmation to my agent.  Unfortunately, although the NCL “confirmation” says one must notify NCL (which I did), it also provides a specific e-mail address which one is requested to use.  I failed to do this.  Although I didn’t see this request, my NCL agent forwarded my consent to the proper place.  This would have been fine – if they hadn’t lost the confirmation.  In late May, two to three weeks before the cruise, I was still trying to straighten out some glitches in the NCL reservations, when I learned that they had cancelled the airline “confirmation” because they said I had failed to respond.  In trying to clear up the problem, I was told repeatedly and in no uncertain terms that the fault was entirely mine. Finally after e-mailing them a copy of the consent I had sent to my NCL agent, the NCL Premium Air representative relented and said that it wasn’t NCL’s fault – it was the fault of their computer.  At one point I was told that the next flight I could arrange to Europe was in July – 2+ weeks after the cruise ended.  After a great deal of stress and after spending a solid 5-6 hours trying to fix the problem, I received a call from an NCL Premium Air contact who was able to book another flight on the dates I had requested.    I don’t recall receiving any apology from the Premium Air staff, and certainly received no compensation for my time or stress. We stayed at one of the NCL arranged hotels at Istanbul – the Conrad Istanbul - arriving a day before the cruise loaded.  It was a nice hotel, but appeared to be overpriced and was far removed from the city’s main attractions.  I would recommend others make hotel arrangements themselves.  It was nice to have transportation from the airport to the hotel, and the hotel to the cruise ship – that all worked very nicely.  But taxis would have worked just fine. On Board The stateroom on the ship was great.  We were on the 11th deck and had a balcony.  It was a great arrangement.  I would recommend avoiding anything on the 4th deck, as that is where everyone embarks and disembarks for shore excursions.  The halls on that level were often packed with people in the morning. Stewards were great.  I know some people have complained about the NCL tipping policy, but it worked fine for us and we didn’t feel any pressure or resentment from staff.  A couple of times I tried to add a tip to room service, but the stewards declined it. The ship is very clean and still seems very new.  Nothing seems dated or run down. Eating         The food was good, but not outstanding.  I may have expected a bit too much after hearing my kids talk about Holland America.  Someone in another review said the Garden Café reminded them of college dorm food (dang – I wish I had gone to school where they did!);  it was good but the dinners became very tiresome.  It is a great place for breakfast.  It is a little irksome to have to pay extra for the good food at the better places, but it is still a good buy.  The food was excellent at Cagney’s ($60 extra for two people);  the filet mignon was excellent, the tuna steak very good, and their chocolate dessert is to kill for.  The chateaubriand at Le Bistro ($30 or so extra, I think) was very good.  We also had an excellent meal (sole, as I recall) at Chin Chin’s.   I was very pleased with the Tsar’s Palace as well – good variety, excellent presentation and flavor.  Mama’s Italian offered a huge quantity of food – some people liked it, and others we spoke with didn’t.  We never had any trouble getting reservations or eating whenever we wanted (we tend to eat early).  We very much liked the ability to eat when we wanted, with whom we wanted.  The 12 day cruise only had one formal dinner night – and we missed it.  We never saw or heard any news saying when it would be – if it was in the daily newsletter, we didn’t see it (we did see an article that answered hypothetical questions about formal night).  It didn’t matter though, because my wife was sleeping like a baby all that evening! The chocoholic’s buffet one evening was very tasty and impressive.  The room service selections were a bit limited, and not real impressive.  Another commenter noted the poor quality of the burgers at the outdoor BBQ.  I would certainly second that.  We didn’t get soft drink cards, even though we are Coke addicts.  It was a good move;  you would have to drink 6-8 cans of coke a day to break even.  We generally didn’t feel that we got enough to drink, unless we went to one of the restaurants.  At the Garden Café they offer water and tea as well as ice – but only provide 6 oz glasses.  Unless you ordered alcoholic drinks (about $20 a couple), it was hard to get a drink unless you wanted to stand in line at a bar.  We ordered ice several times from room service, and half the time actually received it. Shore Excursions We took NCL excursions in Istanbul, Izmir, Athens, Dubrovnik, Venice, Naples, and Rome. The advantage of the NCL shore excursions is that you have staff on the ship to assist you, and of course if the excursion were to miss the boat for some reason, NCL would be responsible for getting you to the ship.  Since this was our first visit overseas, we liked the comfort of dealing with NCL, and not having to worry about how to get to shore or town.  Another advantage – on the day we traveled to Rome, there was a one day train strike, so transportation was at a premium; the NCL excursions went off without a hitch. However, I recommend that people arrange excursions through other vendors.  The excursions were expensive, and many included stops that seemed designed to just occupy time.  The most horrific aspect though, was that we were repeatedly subjected to sales presentations.  In both Istanbul and Izmir we were taken to carpet factories/stores where we were a captive audience for carpet salesmen.  In Sorrento it was a cameo factory and orchard.  I began to speculate that the next excursion would feature someone selling time share condos.  And to think that I not only paid good money for this, but was missing an opportunity to see the countryside while I endured the presentations.  I don’t think you would have that problem if you arrange tours yourself. We ditched our excursions in Dubrovnik and Venice.  That was a great move each time.  We also signed up for a gondola ride in Venice.  That was a great experience, but I suspect we could have done it for half the price on our own.  The tour description noted that we would be serenaded – it didn’t say it would be by someone in another boat.  And they somehow forgot to mention that we would be sharing a gondola with another couple.  The gondola ride was very similar to the old boat ride at Disneyland - only more crowded.  But having said all that - the singing & accordion were great, the canals and buildings were beautiful, and the mood was romantic.  I am still glad we did it. We noted a couple of times that the description of the tour we signed up for over the Internet had changed a bit by the time we got on the ship.  That was covered by a disclaimer – but be advised it really does happen. The tour guides were generally good.  Some were difficult to understand, and some could have improved their skills a bit more.  But most were passionate about the topics they covered, and were very knowledgeable.  At Pompeii, the public restrooms cost ½ Euro to use, but their smell is free.  And overwhelming.  NCL had a restroom trailer there for its guests;  it was immaculate and air conditioned.  NCL scored a lot of brownie points for that one. Other Comments We were on the port side of the ship.  At Istanbul and again at Barcelona before we disembarked, they started the bunkering (fueling) process.  With the doors and windows shut, the smell was so overwhelming that my wife nearly got a migraine.  Maybe this is an unavoidable part of cruising, but be forewarned. My wife loved the emphasis on sanitizing hands.  Toward the end of the cruise, some people tired of this and refused to allow their hands to be sprayed.  The exercise room was nice, and at least at 6:30 AM, not too crowded.  However, since the treadmills face the side of the ship, the water moves from right to left as you run – this can be a little disorienting.  Also, at least if you are over 6’ tall, the windows are set so low that you can only look down at the water as you run – not straight out at a view.  There is a 1/8 mile “jogging track” on one deck. Unfortunately, it is only about 3 ft wide, and in many places it is the only corridor for people to move about that deck.  A few people tried to run a few laps, but there were so many people in the way that it was futile. The pools were very nice, but rules were not enforced.  I saw kids in the adult pool a couple of times.  Although rules say that people are not allowed to “reserve” lounge chairs on the pool deck, this was commonly done.  People would come out at 8:30AM and throw towels over the furniture they wanted to use, and then disappear until 11AM or Noon.  This was commonplace. Evening entertainment was good.  They had a good mix of comedians, magic, singing, etc.  Cirque Bijou was very enjoyable.  A couple of the other shows were a bit lame (a country western review was particularly poor – even for country western music!). The ship has a money exchange desk.  After leaving Turkey I went there to exchange my Turkish Lira for Euros or dollars.  The desk clerk literally laughed at me, and in effect said “no way”.  Someone else said they had the exact same experience there.  The disembarkation procedure was extremely smooth and fast – you are able to select when you disembark, and there is no wait in leaving the ship or difficulty in finding luggage whatsoever.  Once we had our luggage it was a bit of a wait for a taxi, but that is not the fault of NCL. We stayed several days in Barcelona after disembarking.  I made these arrangements myself, and they all went flawlessly. I know I listed a number of complaints and problems, but I didn’t mention the very many things that went well.  Overall, it was the trip of a lifetime, and I am very glad we did it.  I would consider NCL again, and would certainly recommend the Istanbul to Barcelona itinerary to anyone.      

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Jun 11, 2007

Istanbul to Barcelons

Norwegian Cruise Lines Norwegian Jewel Cruise Review Istanbul to Barcelona I. Alexander We, (my husband and I aged 56 and 55) originally booked the NCL Jewel cruise because of the itinerary. We have previously sailed on the QE2 and so were unsure how “Freestyle” cruising would suit us. From Heathrow to Istanbul (remind me never to fly from HR again!) we docked at Izmir for Ephesus, Dubrovnik, Venice, Naples, Rome and Barcelona.

We flew back to the UK from Barcelona. First impressions were good – the ship looked colorful and huge. Embarkation was fine and our cabin (inside on deck 9) though quite small, was adequate and clean. The bed was comfortable and suited us although we had to request additional softer pillows. The shower was powerful and spacious and although other critiques had said the hairdryers on the ship were powerful, I was not convinced they would be – I thought they would be those silly little piped in dyers you get in some hotel rooms. However, the dryer was great – almost professional!! Small things make me happy…... There was also a launderette on our floor and I think, a couple more dotted about on the ship. Four quarters for soap powder and then free use of washing machine and dryer – there were also 2 x irons and boards. The laundry rooms are small and always busy – pick a shore day to use. Customer base ranged from families – there were quite a few teenagers and a couple of dozen younger children – to couples of all ages. I was really quite surprised by the average age profile – younger than I expected.  There seemed to be many different nationalities on board but mainly Americans and Brits. Lounges and bars – Bar City was a nice place for pre dinner drinks. Quiet and in a position to watch the comings and goings of our fellow passengers. It got a bit more busy after dinner and when the shows were finished. Never went to Fizz, the Karaoke bar but the Star Bar was OK. The Spinnaker lounge seemed to be where it all happened later in the evening. We went a couple of times and enjoyed the 60’s music night. Entertainment – We never went to the theater to see the shows. Not our kind of thing – reports ranged from excellent to abysmal – personal taste I suppose. The individual entertainers and bands dotted around the ship in other lounges were professional and very good. Restaurants – There’s always more to restaurants than the food but the main free restaurants, Tsars Palace and Azura were fine. Tsars was impressive in a Hollywood sort of way – lots of glitz, big and noisy. Azura was more contemporary, smaller and noisy. We tried a few of the optional restaurants. I felt The Bistro was pretentious, nicely fitted but kidding itself on that it was a quality restaurant. Cagneys – we had the best steak ever there and went back a second time. Sushi was good and the chefs were happy to advise. Tepannyaki, the Japanese restaurant is worth a visit to enjoy the entertainment provided by the chefs. Mama’s Italian place always seemed to be busy but we managed to get in one night and it was disappointing. We couldn’t get in the main restaurant and so sat on the deck outside at what was The Great Outdoors through the day so maybe we didn’t get the full experience and atmosphere. Speaking of The Great Outdoors – it was, for us, the best place for lunch and/or afternoon tea. The Food – apart from Cagney’s, Teppanyaki and Sushi, was average – up-market canteen food, which is not a bad thing necessarily – they are catering for thousands of people after all but don’t expect haute cuisine. Most of the food was pre-processed – for instance in the majority of the restaurants, all the chicken, veal, lamb, steaks etc came with those stripes on them that are supposed to be barbecue grill marks. Yeah right. I was looking forward to some great puddings – New York cheesecake etc, again all was pre-prepared and the cheesecake was like marshmallow with sponge base. – not my taste. However, all were nicely presented with drizzles of coulis and flakes of chocolate. Breakfast, however, in The Garden Cafe was superb. Lots of fresh fruit, cereals, freshly made to order omelets, waffles, pastries, bacon, sausages, hash browns, beans, cream cheese, pickled herring. You say it, the buffet probably had it. Something for everyone and well set out.      

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Apr 14, 2007

Eastern Caribbean

Norwegian Cruise Lines Norwegian Jewel Cruise Review Eastern Caribbean M. Sorbratee 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. Check-in Process 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.  Our Cabin 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). Daytime Entertainment 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. Nighttime Entertainment 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!  Ship’s Staff 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.      

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Mar 4, 2007

Eastern Caribbean

Norwegian Cruise Lines Norwegian Jewel Cruise Review Eastern Caribbean M.S. Anderson   My wife and I sailed the Eastern Caribbean aboard the NCL Jewel in March of 2007. The NCL Jewel is a relatively new ship, (2005 ?) and showed little wear. The color scheme is bright and contemporary which gives you a clue as to its character. This ship does not have a soft sell atmosphere but inspires more of a keep-busy nature, however,

not at that frenzied Carnival pace. The good stuff first. With few exceptions, the crew members, at every level, could not have been more accommodating. Due to a misunderstanding with Air Tran our luggage was left at the Miami airport and not transferred to the ship before we sailed. It was not NCL’s fault but they handled it with great élan. With considerable persistence they found our luggage and had it flown to San Juan to meet us the following day. They picked it up at the SJ airport and when we returned to the ship from our tour of Old San Juan it was waiting for us outside our cabin. Kudos NCL! Our last cruise was five years ago on the Princess Grand and we were spoiled! When the cruise was over it felt like we had been pampered. That was not the case with NCL. “Freestyle Cruising” is not for us! Not enough old world shmoozing. With NCL, formal night (s) are optional and there was a mad mix of different levels of dress…strangely distracting and disappointing at the same time. We missed the elegance of the formal evenings. The food aboard the Jewel was not disappointing, great variety and generally the quality was good. Some of the restaurants required reservations and exacted an up-charge…not so aboard the Princess Grand. We found those requiring an up-charge were not worth the expense of $20. per head. The main dining rooms aboard the Jewel were excellent in décor, service, food selection and quality. When we first arrived on board we found our cabin to be generally unclean. It had not been vacuumed, the mirrors had not been cleaned, the balcony furniture was unclean and in a state of disarray. The cabin steward reacted immediately and had it cleaned within half an hour. Just one more thing unlike Princess. In the future, when selecting our cruise line, we will, most likely, choose Princess.    

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Dec 17, 2006

Eastern Caribbean

Norwegian Cruise Lines Norwegian Jewel Cruise Review Eastern Caribbean Joe Turner Let me start by warning the reader that my wife and I LOVE to cruise, but are of the traditional fare - Freestyle might not be for us. GREAT: Excellent staff, very professional, always with a smile and a greeting. It doesn't get much better, and we've sailed NCL, Celebrity and RC exclusively. The ship was incredible. Very colorful, top to bottom.

I can't think of a single room that was lacking. The design and layout of this ship was perfect in every detail. BIG kudos to NCL! Le Bistro is a must! Absolutely fantastic experience. The best on the ship. We found it better than Cagney's, but I will say that Cagney's had one of the best Porterhouse steaks I've ever had. And the service in both was top notch. Cirque Bijou. Best show on the high seas. Enough said. We've sailed with Captain Fafalios before, and while he might be a somewhat quiet guy, we saw him several times, which is more than I can say for other captains we've sailed with. Musically, if "Harmonies" are on board, do yourself a favor and sit and listen to them for a while. I was totally impressed by their (no pun) harmonies. Very, very good singers. GOOD: The food was hit and miss. You'll read about the miss part in the next section. Sometimes the dining room was good, sometimes it was not. Keep an eye on the menu every day. The only problem with doing so is that if you don't like what is in the dining room, the specialty restaurants may be booked up. Much has been written about the lack of quality in the cafeteria, but we didn't see that at all. Every time we went the food was what you would expect. All in all, was pretty good. The sushi was good, but not a great selection. Nothing too adventurous for a sushi fan like me. This needs some work. The comedian and the magician/comedian were ok. I've seen some of the same tricks before, and I've heard some of the same jokes before so I wasn't that impressed. Not bad, though. The cruise staff was ok, not great. Paul the cruise director seemed to tell the same jokes and stories over and over again, very rehearsed. Almost like he has his St. Thomas day jokes, his San Juan day stories, and so on. If you haven't cruised too often, you'll like him. If you have, you'll see what I mean. Lots of photo ops, almost too many, but my wife loves pictures on a cruise. The green screen backdrops were the best ones. Trust me on this one. NOT GOOD: (Don't want to call these bad because nothing was that bad on board.) The private island - Mind you, I live in Florida, so a beach does not impress me, though this was a nice beach and I don't want to take anything away from it. I just don't see the point. Instead of going to the private island, why not just take me to another place like St. Maarten or St. Croix? To me, a private island stop is a wasted stop. If I want to go to the beach, I can go to one at another stop. I would have preferred stopping in Nassau, and I hate Nassau. Tangos and Blue Lagoon - Yuck! Did not like the food at either at all. We ordered some wings in Blue Lagoon and they were about the size of my pinky! What a joke. I would have been better off just going to the cafeteria. For that matter, I encourage most cruisers to save the money and dine in the dining room. If you have a special occasion, Le Bistro would be my suggestion. Formal night - As I said I'm more traditional. Having a formal night optional is the difference between me cruising NCL again and not. It's part of the glory of cruising to dress up on one or two nights. It's one thing when most people on board are dressed up. It's almost uncomfortable when you're almost the only one dressed up in a tux. I hated that feeling. Speaking of pictures, this cruise was the week before Christmas. Hello? Do you know how many families like to take pictures with Santa? I know that in today's world we have to respect all nations, religions and creeds, but not having a Santa somewhere to take pictures with was just wrong. NCL is missing out on this one. Finally, my cabin. 11044 was noisy! There was a sound that was coming from the ceiling on the first night of the cruise that would make you swear the ship was going to split in half, starting with my cabin! I noticed the same sound elsewhere on the ship, and I have not heard it as pronounced on any other ship that I have sailed. I will say though that, after a call to complain, the engineers worked on it little by little, keeping me up to date on their progress, and by the end of the cruise, the sound was almost gone. All in all, this was one of the better cruises we've been on. Maybe top 3 for us. It's actually difficult to find fault. However, I'm begging NCL to rethink the optional formal night though. Maybe just one on a 7-day, but it would make a difference to us avid cruisers.    

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Nov 26, 2006

Eastern Caribbean

Norwegian Cruise Lines Norwegian Jewel Cruise Review Eastern Caribbean Vincent Finelli NORWEGIAN JEWEL Eastern Caribbean Nov. 26 - Dec. 3, 2006 By Mary & Vincent Finelli This was our fourth cruise on the Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL): we had sailed on the Norwegian Wind in 1998 to the Caribbean; on the Norwegian Dream in 2002 to South America through the Magellan Straits; and again in 2002 to Hawaii and Fanning Island, Kiribati

on the Norwegian Star. We found that the Norwegian Jewel is very similar to its sister ship the N. Star in many ways. The extensive use of fine woods and the implementation of bold primary colors is also evident on the Jewel. There is nothing old fashioned or pastel about her, no mauves or pinks here, but rather striking jewel tones like emerald green interspersed with fuchsias and royal purples. The Freestyle manner of cruising allows passengers to create their own daily schedules, and it seems to be very popular with cruisers. No more are there one or two formal nights --- rather each passenger may have a formal night any night, or just skip the whole rigmarole and go casual for the entire cruise. On NCL we are all free to cruise the way we prefer. EMBARKATION Miami on Sunday is the best day to sail, if not traffic can be horrendous. We arrived in port at noon and dropped off our luggage with no trouble. We went straight to the check-in counter for suites, which was quick. We then had to wait twenty minutes for a steward to push the wheelchair on board. It was good we waited, since the distance from check-in was almost the length of the ship over a noisy metal ramp. Once in our mini suite, we realized the first difference between NCL and other lines is we can skip a visit to the Maitre D' since there is no need to choose a table for every night in the dining room. Our boat drill assembly station was the Tango's Restaurant, Deck 8 midship, so we also had the opportunity to make a week's worth of dinner reservations at the onset of our cruise. Reserve early and choice of times and venues across the ship will be yours. (More on dining later under FOOD & SERVICE). SHIP The Norwegian Jewel is just over one year old. She entered service August 2005 and made her maiden voyage on Aug. 10, 2005. She is 965 feet long and beam is 106 feet, which makes her Panamax. Her draft is 28 feet and gross tonnage is 93,502. She is powered by Diesel Electric Generators, propelled by Bow Thrusters, fixed propellers and 2 ABB Azipods, which give a great maneuverability to the ship. There are 12 guest decks and guest capacity is 2,376 double occupancy with a crew of 1,185. This is a very good passenger to crew ratio of about 2:1. The ship's cruise speed is 25 knots. This trip we spent some of our most uncomfortable days on the Atlantic Ocean ever, due to high seas (7 to 12 ft.). First night on -- Mary was ill, and the next day we missed the Loyalty party for Latitudes members. The Jewel has cell phone service and Freestyle dining, which promotes open seating; thus, there is no longer early or late seating, but rather anytime seating for meals. The following is a quick overview of the ship; unfortunately details of artists and their decorative works were not available to us, but several specific items are so beautiful they should not be missed, so we will mention them here. Decks 1 through 3 are not public. Deck 4 has the Medical Center and staterooms. This ship is very health conscious with sanitizing equipment (balls with antibacterial solutions for disinfecting hands) placed everywhere: at the entrance to elevators, restaurants, the theatre, public rest rooms and anywhere passengers congregate. Deck 5 has staterooms and forward the Stardust Theatre --- a lovely opera style room with balconies on Deck 6 & 7. Deck 5 has wheelchair reserved seats in the rear, but we preferred Deck 7 in the rear, near the exit. Deck 6 is all public areas --- forward is the Stardust, going toward midship is the Jewel Club Casino --- by far one of the roomiest casinos afloat, no crowded tight areas here. Next is the Corona Cigar Club, which accommodates up to 11 people --- hand rolled cigars, fine cognacs and liquors. Then, there is Le Bistro French Restaurant. This room is a mini art gallery with copies of works by Renoir, Degas, Matisse etc. There is a life size bronze statue of a French woman leading the people to victory, inspired by a famous painting of the French Revolution. Behind our table was a celebration picture of crowds marching down the Champs Elysee: a veritable explosion of the tricolor: red, white and blue! Next is Magnum's Champagne & Wine Bar (with tiny bubbles changing colors.) The rest of Bar Row is Shakers for cocktails and malts with a huge copper still. Mid ship is the Azura Restaurant and aft is the most beautiful room on board, the Tzar's Palace Main Restaurant. This room is reminiscent of the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia. The green Malachite Columns, the white and gold walls and a portrait series of long gone Tzars and Tzarinas all culminate in a lovely atmosphere. The finials on the balustrade are Faberge eggs and add charm. But, of course in Quarenghi's reconstruction of the Malachite Room at the Hermitage in the 1790's, all the real malachite was gone, except for the magnificent fireplace and it huge vases and the grand pedestal malachite bowl in the center of the room. Thus, the Jewel's green columns are fine replicas of the ones now in the Hermitage. Deck 7 forward is the Stardust Theatre, the Karaoke Rooms; midship is the Fyzz Lounge and Chin Chin Asia Restaurant. At midship going toward aft is the Crystal Atrium with its two huge tusk shaped crystal sculptures with scrimshaw like carvings (very apropos, since sailors first did these types of carvings on whale bones and ivory). There are two smaller ones over the Reception Desk. The ceiling has icicles hanging like crystal stalactites, it is very interesting and complements the standing crystal tusks. There is a huge screen on the upper far wall over the Java Cafe` Bar, which projects constantly changing touristic scenes from around the world. This is a nice meeting place, due to its central location and the bar offerings of coffee, pastries and a variety of drinks. Going toward aft, there is the Photo Gallery, the Art Gallery and the Internet Cafe and finally the Galleria Shops --- reasonably priced. Deck 8 is mostly staterooms, except from the mid elevators to the rear elevators, where the Blue Lagoon ( great fish & chips and crispy potato peels) and Tango's Tapas Latin Restaurant are located. Decks 9, 10, and 11 are all staterooms, mini suites and suites. Deck 12 & 13 are all public areas: i.e., the Garden Cafe` Buffet with so many service islands, that there are hardly any lines at all. Here are also the Teen Club Underground, Video Arcade, and the Splashdown Kid's Club. Toward aft here is the Ice Cream Bar (Vincent's favorite haunt) and Mama's Italian Kitchen (the decor is nice, but the food is still being tweaked after the menu change). In the Garden Buffet there is a section reserved for children; let it be said, the child size accommodations do nothing for the prestige of a whole adult family sitting down there with one 12 year old child the size of an adult. Forward are the pools, and the Top Sider Bar. Also located here are located the Card Room and the bright Library, with comfortable yellow chairs and huge copper vases with green cymbidium orchids, but alas, it is only open with access to books from 9 - 11 am. Deck 13 has Basket Ball and Tennis Courts and a lovely chapel with stain glass windows which seats 24. Decks 14 & 15 have the very private Courtyard Villas and Suites. There are a total of 10 Restaurants, 13 Bars & Lounges, 2 Swimming Pools and 6 Hot Tubs. FOOD & SERVICE Captain Tommy Stensrud has a very informative and gracious staff. Hotel Director Calvin Lodge cordially spent some time with us discussing the Jewel and her amenities. He arranged for us to meet Executive Chef Markus Reichl, from near Heidelberg, Germany, who is responsible for implementing the new menus. This is a huge task and he is doing a great job. We are fortunate to see these changes in NCL early on. We also met the very accommodating Restaurant Manager Victor Da Silva, who literally travels back and forth between all ten restaurants, plus several other venues like the snack bars, grills and coffee shops. He certainly knows his ship's offerings. We also spoke with Food & Beverage Director Denis Prguda. All of these very busy men kindly took time to discuss on board facilities with us. We really appreciate them all. We feel that the new menus are just coming together and there are still some kinks to work out, but we have the feeling that there is great improvement in the right direction. There were flashes of brilliance, like the Gnocchi with Gorgonzola, arugula and watercress, and the apple fritters for dessert in the Tzar's Palace (seats 552) at lunch. The Azura Restaurant on Deck 6 (seats 310), it is a modern hotel style dining room, but it lacks the charm of the Tzar's Palace. Cagney's Steak House ($15 cover charge per person, seats 176) walls have pictures of Calamity Jane and Cagney as prisoner # 15595. It is striking with Black and Red leather decor and carpeting with red and gold bulls' eyes. Very large white Shonwald German plates with gold rims are used. Appetizers we enjoyed were Oysters Rockefeller and Jumbo lump crab cakes; the N.E. Clam chowder which was excellent, and so was Cardini's Original Caesar Salad served with extra anchovies. Mary ordered the Surf and Turf after the Maitre D' Ramona told us the lobster had just come on board and was alive and kicking! No frozen tails here. It was excellent as was the filet of beef. Vincent enjoyed his 12 0z. veal chop, cooked to perfection, and Cagney fries. Dessert was NY Style Cheesecake and Mocha Creme Brulee`. We had excellent service from Jason and Philippe. Le Bistro French Cuisine ($10 - $25 per person, seats 129), has a lot of ambiance with the voice of French songbird, Edith Piaf ("the little sparrow") in the background. Appetizers included Terrine de Foie Gras, Lobster & Scallop Martini (Yes, it is served in a huge martini glass, but no gin in sight!) and Moules Mariniere (Steamed Mussels in Sauvignon Blanc). Vincent had the Watercress Veloute` with frogs legs; he said it was good and Mary took his word for it, but declined to share it. She stuck with the traditional French Onion Soup --- AhAh! When the entrees arrived the waiters counted : Un, deux, trois, "Viola`" and the plates were simultaneously uncovered! Vincent had the Filet Mignon and Beef braised short ribs --- excellent. Mary tried the Canard a` l'orange (Duck). Then, we finished with Creme Brulee` and Apple Tartin. All served by the friendly Daniel and Corina. Maitre D' Elena was so kind she said call me and I'll make room for you any time. But, there were so many venues yet to try, and not enough time in the week. Teppanyaki ($20 per person, seats 32) Japanese cooking show is a nice way to eat light. Chin Chin ($10, seats 158) the Thai/Chinese food venue serves a great shrimp and vegetable tempura, Pot Stickers and Spring Rolls. The Chinese Corn & Crab Soup was delicious. We had Sweet and Sour Shrimp, Beef & Broccoli and Sea food Fried Rice and delicious Banana Spring Rolls for dessert. To complete the Taste of Asia dining venue there is also the Sake Bar, where sushi and sashimi are served. We found that food and service around the ship to be very good. The choices of venues are so many that we rarely ate in the same venue more than once. Every day it was always something new and different. CABIN Mini Suite #11070 has a long nice entrance; however, it is a bit smaller than mini suites on most of the ships we have been on. Entering on the right is a nice compact bath with a full tub with shower, and the commode is separated by a sliding door. There is a single sink with a lighted mirror and shelves for personal toiletries. Then there is a triple armoire; one section had drawers, the other two were with hangers. There is a queen bed with two night shelves with reading lamps. There is also a large hide-a-bed sofa and a coffee table. When entering on the right there is a seascape painting, plus a very narrow full length mirror. There is a mural of exotic lilies and next a vanity/desk with lighted mirror and three drawers, one with a hair dryer, then a refrigerator and mini bar and a cabinet with a personal safe. The colors are maroon, green and pink, but the corker is the watermelon slice carpeting. The Stewards, Richard Espino & Vincent Ponce aimed to please. We asked Richard to remove the heavy (20 lb easy) white puff and to just put a top sheet on. We Floridians haven't used quilts in a Blue Moon. The balcony is narrow and deep with a recliner, a chair and tiny table. It is well covered with a broad over hanging roof. ENTERTAINMENT Cruise Director Paul Baya (he has a nice voice and sings well) has all the usual balls in the air and juggles them well --- Trivia, Bingo, Casino Tournaments, Pool side games, etc.... The shows were on a par with other lines and some better. The Monday night show, "Band on the run", featured the wonderfully athletic Jean Ann Ryan Co. dancers. There was only one problem, the singing was much too loud, it hurt the ears. There were people covering their ears. We were in the last row of the balcony and still it was overwhelming. A sound check would solve this. "The Second City" ensemble was terrific in two shows of improvisation. Their work was witty; the puns and word spinning were excellent. "Cirque Bijou" (Jewel) is a newly introduced spectacular show with everything it takes for a hit: Beautiful dancing girls, Strong handsome men, excellent singers and awe inspiring acts. Bravissimi! The musical entertainment throughout the ship has been great, from the pool side performances of the Caribbean Wave to the ballroom dance music of the "Jewel Show Band" and various piano bar music. The Star Bar featured Eric Lilley, who took requests willingly: Louis Armstrong, Henry Mancini and many others. Mr. Lilley is excellent on piano and has a nice voice. There is plenty to do on board and lots to do and see in the Ports of Call. PORTS OF CALL Day 1. Miami, FL, USA Depart 4:00pm Day 2. At sea Day 3. San Juan, Puerto Rico Arrive 12:30pm Depart 7:00pm A pod of dolphins were frolicking in the harbor all day between the Norwegian Jewel and RCI's Explorer of the Seas. An interesting excursion includes the visit to the Bacardi Rum Distillery and the San Juan city tour, with a stop at the San Cristobal Fort. Day 4. St. John's, Antigua Arrive 9:00am Depart 6:00pm Several excursions are offered including 4x4 Island Safari, snorkel, swim with the Stingrays, Catamaran Sail, etc.... Day 5. St. Thomas, USVI Arrive 8:00am Depart 4:00pm This is a great place for shopping. For beach lovers it is imperative to go to Magen's Bay, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Day 6. At sea Day 7. Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas Arrive 8:00am Depart 4:00pm This is NCL private island with beaches, water sports and a barbecue. Parasailing is becoming very popular. From the balcony we admired people sailing 300 - 400 feet above the turquoise blue water of the cay. It must be a spectacular view from above. Day 8. Miami, FL, USA Debarkation begins at 8:00am DEBARKATION Concierge Alexander Forbes kindly sent us notices of perks all week; but, on debarkation day, he went one better and sent us a steward to help us with the wheelchair. This was greatly appreciated and made our landing perfect. Thanks! There is early debarkation for those who want to carry off their own luggage --- something to which we never aspire --- we like to find it by the exit and get a porter, if possible. Passport and customs were well organized, and we were off by 9:00am in only 30 minutes. NCL well done! CONCLUSIONS The difference between a cruise on a NCL ship and one on ships of other cruise lines is mainly the Freestyle Dining. We had done Freestyle Dining before, but we feel that NCL is getting better at it: This time we did not see long lines of passengers waiting to be seated in any of the restaurants aboard the Jewel. Early reservations to any of the alternative restaurants allow the manager to better coordinate the service in all dining venues and allocate more workers where needed, thus, running a smooth program. Which system do we like, the freestyle dining or the traditional one? It is hard for us to choose, we like both of them. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. It's to go with the flow and enjoy what is available and different on whichever ship we are on. This is the reason why we have never had a bad cruise, we enjoyed them all: even though, some cruises may have been more memorable than others. The overall quality of the food has been much better than what we had experienced on earlier NCL cruises; however, there were some dishes which could be definitely improved; i.e., the gnocchi in Mama's Kitchen did not meet our expectation, they were heavy and chewy, while the gnocchi in the Tzar's Palace were lighter than air, just as our mothers used to make them, heavenly delicious! One excuse for this discrepancy was that new menus were introduced only a week ago, and the chefs are still new to some items. We suggest in this case that the chefs in Mama's Kitchen should contact their colleagues at the Tzar's Palace for improving their recipe for gnocchi. Our next cruises will be in the Western Caribbean on the Queen Mary II, Dec. 9th 2006 and in the Eastern Caribbean on the Voyager of the Seas, Jan. 20th, 2007. Happy Cruising!    

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Oct 20, 2006

Transatlantic

Norwegian Cruise Lines Norwegian Jewel Cruise Review Transatlantic Gigi Langer 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. FOOD 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). INTERNET SERVICES 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. TOURS 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!    

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Oct 8, 2006

Mediterranean

Norwegian Cruise Lines Norwegian Jewel Cruise Review Mediterranean Dan Buchler This was our 2nd cruise (1st cruise to Alaska on Princess). My wife and I (in our 60s) traveled with my stepson and wife (in their 30s). hereafter referred to as “kids”. We traveled on the Norwegian Jewel which went into service during late summer, 2005. It is a beautiful ship, impeccably maintained and very clean. ITINERARY Overnight in Istanbul;

Izmir for Ephesus; Athens; Dubrovnik – Croatia; Overnight in Venice; Naples for Pompeii, Sorrento and Capri; Civitavecchia for Rome; and Barcelona. RESERVATIONS/CABINS We had a “mini-suite” no. 11038 with a very private balcony and the kids had a cabin without windows, no 5021. 6 to 9 months before the cruise, we used www.cruisecompete.com to find a cruise agency. When you fill-in your cruise criteria, cruise compete solicits bids from cruise agencies. Often these bids are lower than you might get if you go to that agency directly. There is no cost to you for the service. From cruise compete we selected a bid from www.cruises-n-more.com, the low bidder. The mini suite cost $5,513 for 2 people and kid’s cabin cost $2,482 including all taxes 11038 was quite large. The sitting area between the beds and the balcony contains a foldout bed that could comfortable accommodate 2 adults. We used it as a couch or a place to flop during the day. A heavy curtain can be drawn to partition off the sitting area. Note the 21”(?) TV is in that sitting area. The sleeping area and the sitting area each have their own thermostats and the air conditioning, so it was necessary to adjust both thermostats to obtain very effective control. The bathroom contained a tub with shower with a modern and very functional Grohe water temperature control. The WC and bathtub/shoer had a sliding door that helped in maintaining privacy when we both used the bathroom at the same time. It was like 3 separate areas! The bathroom ventilation was very effective in dehumidifying. It took about 2 minutes for the mirror to dry off after a shower. The ship uses a vacuum flush system in the toilet that, though noisy, works well. Notices on the wall warn you not to throw anything but toilet paper in the bowl and that doing so will block as may as 50 toilets on the same branch. Someone, not us, must have done this, for on one morning, the flush stopped working, but was fixed by the time we came back from breakfast. 11038 was very quiet and we enjoyed our private balcony. 5021 was very small with no window. The bed occupied most of the floor space. The room had a small 13” TV, and a small, but adequate shower. The kids complained twice that they heard a clanging of some heavy door being repeatedly closed with loud clang during the night in the crew area below, CABIN STAFF (STEWARDS) The staff was excellent instantly responding to service requests and keeping the cabin clean and neat at all times. They worked an 8:00am to Noon and 6:00pm to 10pm shift. A turn-down service occurs during the 2nd shift. All stewards on the ship are taught to make various animal figures from a white towel that is left on the bed. A nice touch. (The ship holds a class in how to make these figures.) EMBARKATION NCL seemed to get everyone on board between about Noon and 3pm on day one of the cruise in Istanbul. There was somewhat chaotic porter service and security check on the shore followed by a line up in front of about 20 NCL clerks checking everyone in. Thee whole thing took about 20 minutes! Our kids were hoping to upgrade their cabin, but no upgrades were available. RESTAURANTS/FOOD Because of the fear of the Norwalk Virus, the ship really pushes minimizing the possibility of transmitting disease. At the entrance to every restaurant there is a machine that dispenses an alcohol-based cleanser with a crew-member exhorting one to use it. One finds the same dispensers when going ashore and coming abroad again. Those who surf the web will note many complaints about the food on the Jewel (and other NCL ships). Believe me these complaints are justified. First of all TV monitors on all floors at the 3 elevator shafts give an indication of how busy are the main and specialty restaurants. This ship practices free-style seating which means you can eat where you want when you want, if space is available. In general the main restaurants were never full, but the specialty restaurants were full some of the time with 7:30 being the peak hour. Reservations made in advance have to be cancelled 24 hours in advance to avoid the surcharge. Cagney’s the Steakhouse serves marvelous Filet Mignon. You pay $15 each for the privilege of dining there ($7.50 before 6:00). Chin Chins serves a fair quality Asian menu for $10. The Bistro (A French restaurant with $15 surcharge) is supposed to be good. We didn’t try it, but our kids did and loved it. Chin Chins also has Japanese Teppanyaki area that was fairly good at $10 and up. Mama’s, the Italian restaurant, had no surcharge but was only fair in quality. Tangos offered a no-surcharge Texarkana type of meal that was OK. One could go to Tangos at most times and make reservations for any of the specialty restaurants. The Garden Café and Great Outdoors served cafeteria style Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner from 6:00am to about midnight. The quality was fair. The selection was fairly good (but not up to the standard offered on the Princess Cruises.) Examples – for dinner they have a carver served roast beef. Except for day one, it was always overcooked. Two omelet stations in the Garden Café make fairly decent Omelets to order Smoked salmon was available for breakfast most mornings and you have selections of most items one would expect for breakfast including Texas French Toast. The presentation was typical all-you-can-eat buffet. The food cooled off quickly and was often not replenished quickly Soft ice-cream was always available Ice tea, tea, coffee, juice (in morning) is free but one has to buy cokes and soft drinks at exhorbitant prices. Or you can buy an all-you-can-drink soft drink card for $20 that lasts the duration of the cruise. The staff in the all of the above restaurants were very attentive and friendly at all times. During the evening we were in Venice, the Garden Café put on what they call “Chocaholics Night” from 10:00 to 11:30pm. This consisted of a some beautiful displays made out of chocolate of items like the Venetian Bell Tower, the Eiffel Your and some Disney characters. They don’t allow you to eat the displays, putting them back in cold storage for use on the next voyage. The edible items consisted of a variety of chocolates and other deserts, chocolate ice cream and mousses. The quality was fair – nothing to write home about. There were also pool-side restaurants and the Blue Lagoon with limited fair, but open all night and 24-hour free room service with limited menus. We did not use the room service preferring to bring food from the Garden Café to the room ourselves! We, and most passengers, did not use the Main restaurants for breakfast or lunch. The big problems lies in the Main Restaurants (Tsar’s palace and Azura) which are both serviced with the same menu from the same kitchen. Compared to Princess Cruises the selection is very poor. We ate several times in the main restaurant and did not get one decent meal. True, the food presentation is marvelous and they encourage you to order multiples of everything except the entrée. The best way to describe the food is “bland”! Then on the menu are certain items identified as available all the time. Included are broiled chicken and steak. Between us, we ordered the chicken on 3 occasions and on 3 occasions it was an inedible piece of rubber. Two of us ordered steaks. These were a thin cheap cut which although cooked as ordered, were very poor. The wait staff were not attentive and very slow. With a few exceptions, they weren’t even friendly. The next effect on us was to choose not to eat in the main restaurants during the 2nd half of the voyage. Optional Dress-Up was set for two of the 3 at-sea nights. In practice, few people dressed up and the number of tuxedos could be counted on one hand! The ship asks that persons entering all restaurants except the Garden Café and Great Outdoors after 5pm not wear jeans, shorts, etc. Most, but not all passengers respected this, THE SHIP The Jewel has the usual bars, casino (only open while at sea) and lounges. The Spinnaker lounge facing forward was used for multi-purposes. It offered bingo and other entertainment and had tandem recliners. The main “Stardust” theater seats about 1000 and offered a variety of entertainment. Despite complaints by other reviewers, we were satisfied with the quality of entertainment. Events that we attended and enjoyed included: “Cirque Bijou – Jean Anne Ryan Co. Dancing and Aerial stunts over the audience. “Lenny Windsor” – Benny Hill Show. Comedian. “Edge” – Juggler and Comedian. Most of the ship main facilities are accessed from Deck 7. Following a show, there was a mad rush to the forward elevators (there are 3 sets of elevators in the ship) making it necessary to walk to another elevator area if you didn’t want to wait. A bridge viewing room, open while at sea, allows unrestricted viewing of the bridge. Several of the ships navigational instruments are replicated in the viewing room so one can see exactly what the officers on deck can see. It was amazing to me to see the level of sophistication of the ship’s electronics and navigation systems. There was an unadvertised Self Service Launderette amidships on the starboard side of decks 5, 9, 10 and 11 (I think). Each facility was free and had 3 washers and 3 dryers. A machine dispensed 2 small packages of detergent for 4 quarters. The launderette does not appear on any NCL cabin plans. 2 tables with irons were also situated in each room. The on board pay-laundry was quite expensive! Several of our group indulged in spa treatments at about $100 per shot. The exercise room had good equipment. Daily classes were offered in aerobics (no charge) or yoga.. Pilates and spinning classes were $10 on various days and times. The ship, like all modern cruise ships has stabilizers which in the moderate seas (7’ to 10’ troughs) which we experienced, reduced the roll to small but definitely noticeable movement. A few souls with less hardy stomachs felt sick. The reception area dispensed free sea-sick pills. A reception desk was staffed 24 hours a day and took care of problems, questions and money changing. The line-ups at the desk were often very long with long wait times! You could exchange dollars for euros, but don’t! A visa cash card is the way to go. On shore, with most cards you got the wholesale rate of exchange minus 2% This amounted to about 1.255 $ per euro during most of the trip. If you used the reception area on the ship, it would cost you 9% or more! The ship would not buy back Turkish Lira, a major inconvenience considering the ship spent 3 days in Turkey! An ATM was available in the Casino but only dispensed dollars – singularly useless on a European voyage! The ship had facilities for small children, a teen-club, a marriage chapel and other things we did not use. SHORE EXCURSIONS There was also a Shore Excursion desk next to the Reception desk and intermittently open, which was fine if you wanted to purchase one of the ship’s excursion which NCL was anxious to sell. If you wanted to do your own things at a port – forget the Shore Excursion desk. In many cases you would get misinformation. One example of this was Venice. Elsewhere on the Internet, I had found that a shuttle bus was offered to take you from the pier to/from Piazela Roma (saving a 20 minute walk). On enquiring about this, I was told one had to walk. In fact there was a shuttle bus. We used it 3 times and had to walk on the 4th occasion because the shuttle-bus stopped running after 5:30pm. Check with the bus-driver when the last one leaves or ask at an information desk at the pier. In Venice, NCL arranged for a shuttle boat from the ship to Piazza San Marco at a cost of $25 for unlimited use. This was not useful to us as we wanted to go other places. Further, other cruise lines offered a free boat shuttle! However, if you could find the right person at the reception desk, you could get useful information with maps, directions and general information. My impression was that NCL was very poor in supporting any shore activity that did not make money for them! The NCL arranged shore excursion were of pretty good quality but quite expensive. We and our kids took several but not always the same ones. The tour guides were nearly all locals which enhanced their knowledge, However, in many cases, their command of English and local accent made them difficult to understand. We selected our excursions based on whether or not it would be easy to do our own thing and do it reliably enough to make sure one returned to the ship on time. In Istanbul we had already stayed an extra night in a hotel (Avicenna, one block from the Blue Mosque and highly recommended) to make sure there was time to react to any lost baggage (there wasn’t any lost baggage) and also because doing so was less than half the cost of NCL arranged pre-cruise (and post cruise arrangements). Our itinerary allowed us to visit more sights in less time than NCL could offer. Advice: make sure you have exact change for taxi drivers! Don’t miss the Sultan Ahmed (Blue) Mosque! We took the Bosphorous cruise arranged by NCL because it was impossible to schedule it any other way! In Izmir, we took the Ephesus and the Virgin Mary tour. Excellent lunch and entertainment in a seaside town overlooking the Ocean. In Athens we took the NCL Taste of Athens cruise to avoid hastle with the Athens Metro. The Parthenon is very majestic! Literature says tours involve physical exertion for extended periods of time. Terrain may be uneven or steep. Recommended only for physically fit travelers. With the Parthenon, they really mean it. It’s a long climb up! In Dubrovnik we took the Croation Riviera Tour. Light lunch in a quaint country setting and a glimpse of breathtaking views in the country around. Dubrovnik is a beautiful city that has been completely restored following the siege in 1993 by the Bosnians. Dubrovnik was the only port that required “Tendering” – boat from ship to shore. In Venice we did our own thing. Our kids took the Murano/Burano tour on the 2nd day and enjoyed seeing the glass factory. They nearly got left behind while engaged in negotiating the price of a piece of glass! We experienced a temporary set-back when all of about 5 ATM machines we tried on Sunday evening were out of money! Our kids took the Capri/Sorrento/Pompeii 10 hour tour seeing a lot more than one could probably accomplish by oneself. We chose to do Capri on our own using the same Hydrofoil that the Taste of Capri tour used at much less cost. We visited Anacapri, Villa San Michele, Gardens of Augustus and had a nice pizza lunch in a restaurant with a beautiful view. The 3:25pm Hydrofoil from Capri gets back at 4:05pm, providing plenty of safety factor to make sure one is back before the 7:00pm sailing from Naples. From Civitavecchia, our kids took the Vatican Tour and we did our own thing. We were ready to get off the ship when it docked at 7:00am. NCL is required to provide shuttle busses to the port entrance from which there is about a 15 min walk to Civitavecchia railroad station. We missed a 7:38 train but caught an 8:08 train to Rome, arriving 9:40. The train fare is 4.10 euros one way per person. A little after 10, we took the #110 double-decker sight seeing bus to Piazza San Pietro (The Vatican). The bus offers an wonderful overview of the city providing earphones on which one can hear commentaries in various languages including English (though rather brief) about each site. The whole route takes 2 hours! One can hop on and off at any stop. The cost is 13 euros per person (An earlier blog reported problems with lining up for tickets and buses arriving full. I think this has been eliminated as tickets are purchased on the bus and they dispatch the bus from Piazza Cinquecento in front of the Roma Termini before each bus is full.) There was a line all around the Piazza with people waiting for the Basilica security check! Previously I had booked a Vatican Museum/Sistine Chapel tour with Odyssey tours (http://www.odyssey-tours.com/tours/museum.asp). We were led through the museum and the Sistine chapel by Erin, their tour guide, who is a Texan studying in Rome. She is an excellent tour guide and speaker! After visiting the chapel and the Basilica, we had time to visit the Trevi fountain and return to the Termini station to catch the 5:00 reserved seat EuroStar Express arriving Civitavecchia on time at 5:40. (Note that I reserved the seats with Trenitalia on-line! The cost was 14 euros per person for the reserved 1st class seat. This is 3 times the regular 2nd class fare. Whether it is worth is a matter of personal taste! We felt somewhat out of place surrounded by Italian businessmen in expensive suits! Being on this train is like traveling by air. They serve free pop and peanuts.) Most of the other Jewel passengers that went to Rome by train came back on the 4:30pm commuter train arriving at Civitavecchia at about the same time we did! We were in plenty of time for the 8:00pm sailing but got drenched by a thundershower walking back to the port entrance and waiting for the shuttle bus. It is interesting to compare our tour with the NCL 9 1/2hour tour taken by the kids. They arrived at the Vatican at about 9:15 and had to wait in the security check line for the Vatican Museum for 75mins. We arrived at the Vatican at about 11:15 after an hour on the #110 tour bus, and stood in the security check line for the Vatican Museum at 12:00pm for 20 minutes. The kids had a good tour-guide, but he was difficult to understand. Our Texan guide was terrific. The tours of the Museum and the Chapel each lasted about 2 hours total, not counting security line time and the Basilica tour. After spending an hour and half in a hotel for lunch (much too long), the kids saw Rome briefly and had a quick stop at the Coliseum and a brief tour of Rome on the NCL bus. We all or course enjoyed the Sistine Chapel and were not rushed though it! Our tour and transportation cost each was $80 plus $7 snack and the kids tour cost $185 each. DIS-EMBARKATION NCL had an interest in getting people off the ship quickly in Barcelona (between 6:00am and 9:00am) so they can clean the ship and load passengers for the next cruise. They did this very well. If you carried your own luggage you could walk right off. No Spanish customs or immigration. BARCELONA This is a beautiful city. We allowed two days for sight seeing on our own and made extensive use of the “Bus Turistic”, a double-decker bus that allows you to hop-on and off at any stop. The cost is 22 euros for a two day pass. Commentaries were provided in English. We visited several buildings designed by Antonio Guadi. We stayed at the Regencia Colon Hotel and recommend it. AMSTERDAM On Monday, we flew back to Minneapolis with a 7 hour layover at Amsterdam. We took the train from the airport downtown (6.20 euros each return). Train runs every 10 minutes and takes about 15 minutes. We visited the Anne Frank Huis and walked a little bit around Amsterdam. CONCLUSION No ship is perfect. NCL provides a good cruising experience provided you are willing to work around the restaurant issues. We like the free-style concept. NCL keep things very “ship-shape”. NCL costs are somewhat lower than the competition. The itinerary was excellent.  

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By Trev_CR

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Sep 26, 2006

Egypt & Greek Isles

Norwegian Cruise Lines Norwegian Jewel Cruise Review Egypt & Greek Isles Trev Letter sent to NCL: I just returned from our second cruise on the Norwegian Jewel. As much as we enjoyed the trip, I regret that I must write to inform you of an embarrassing and awkward situation that occurred, which was not suitably resolved by the onboard personnel. We had recommended this cruise to two friends who joined us for the trip. About

three days into the cruise we had them to our cabin for cocktails before dinner and used items from the mini-bar provided by NCL. Specifically one had a tonic, one had a vodka, and one had a beer. These items were from the mini-bar. One brought a bottle of bourbon from his cabin’s mini-bar. Upon return from dinner we had a bill for the mini-bar that included the three items consumed from our mini-bar AND a charge for a bottle of rum. I immediately talked to our cabin steward and explained that nobody drank rum and that he was mistaken with this charge. He insisted that he removed an empty bottle of rum and I assured him we did NOT consume this and perhaps it was there from another cabin he had just cleaned. He insisted it was from us. The next day I reported this somewhat embarrassing situation to the front desk and they assigned a ship’s officer, Mr. Ray Williams to investigate. He said he and other staff members “saw” the empty bottle of rum and after I assured him that we absolutely, 100% did not consume this and that it was a simple mistake he said he would review it one more time. The next day he informed me that we DID drink it and that the $6.50 charge would stand. I was flabbergasted! I considered removing the amount from my onboard tip charges ($10 service charge applied daily to all passengers) but decided not to stoop to that level. The situation totally soured the rest of the cruise for me and our friends, with whom we were traveling. Having worked in an industry where one has to deal with “customers” on a daily basis, I was taught to cultivate our patrons with a the customer is always right attitude, even when you think they may not be. In the long run, it pays back 10-fold. Due to a $6.50 incident, I can only say that I will never sail NCL again, I will tell friends about this and tell them to go elsewhere, and I have informed my travel agent and told them to advise customers of the cruise line’s actions. I know in my heart that I was right and that nobody consumed the rum for which we were erroneously charged. We spent over $9,000 (our friends a similar amount) for these two weeks. Isn’t it ironic that $6.50 is all it took to make us never to want to return? There are so many excellent alternatives and you have so many patrons who sail with you, that the loss of several customers and a little bad press may not be important to NCL. A former loyal customer, regretfully.  

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Sep 2, 2006

Mediterranean

Norwegian Cruise Lines Norwegian Jewel Cruise Review Mediterranean Marion Greenwell We set sail on Sept. 3 from Barcelona, Spain after spending an extra day recovering from our flight. Barcelona was beautiful and the hotel was fine. Our room had been upgraded a few days before we started our traveling from a mini-suite to a PENTHOUSE. How wonderful that should have been. The penthouse room 11030 was absolutely gorgeous. A beautiful

sitting room, a small bedroom with a bathroom and a large master bedroom with a shower and bathtub. Plenty of telephones, televisions, balcony, a table and chairs were there for our convenience. We were so thrilled to be onboard the Jewel. Until we tried to sleep that night. The noises in that cabin were unbelievable. There was an orchestra playing right in the room, this was at two o'clock in the morning. We finally found out that the music was coming from up in the pool area and it was turned off after two trips to the reception desk. After that in the small bedroom there was a gurgle, gurgle, swish sound that occurred every few minutes. One of us finally resorted to sleeping out in the sitting room on the little settee. I took sleeping pills. We told the concierge, the butler, the steward and anyone else we could think of the next morning. That night we also told the assistant director of rooms, about our problem.  That night was so bad that I even left the small room and slept on the floor of the sitting room. Talk about uncomfortable. I was certainly not pleased with my accommodations. Again we told everyone, including the reception desk about our problems. That evening the two people, myself included, in the small room were given a room 3 flights down, and obstructed view over the Frizz Lounge.What fun it was having our clothes in one place and sleeping in another. We continued to ask what the concierge was doing to help the occupants of the master bedroom whom still could not sleep properly because of the noise level in the room. There was no other penthouses to put us in was the response. The excursions were wonderful. Rome, the Vatican, Pompeii, Sorrento, Venice, Croatia, Athens, Ismer, and Istanbul were sights to remember forever. The tours were well conducted, we saw everything listed, we returned to the ship in a timely manner. We were very impressed with the excursions. The excursion we liked the least was in Venice where we toured and wine tasting, when there was not enough time to try the wine and buy the product, most of the time was spent on the bus. The best time was the Blue Mosque, the Harem and the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. Sights of beauty and grandeur are commonplace in that exciting city. The food on board the ship was not exciting, good but very commonplace. We did eat in the restaurants but felt the buffet had better choices. We ate all lunch and breakfasts in the buffet, but it was very crowded and it was hard to find a seat, trying to balance the plate, silverware, napkin and beverage. It might be a good idea to have trays. Embarkation onto the cruise line in Barcelona was good. They picked us up from the hotel and in a few minutes we were onboard the Jewel. Too bad our luggage did not make it for another 6 hours. We could see it but we could not recover it. Debarkation was smooth but we were some of the last people to get off the ship. The entertainment onboard the ship was very good.  We also spoke to many other managers onboard the ship to help with our noisy penthouse, but nothing was accomplished. We spoke to the reception desk manager, we had people come up to the room and try to figure out the problem. The problem was there was no insulation above our heads, somewhere someone overlooked a problem and sleepless nights onboard the Norwegian Jewel was our reward. I paid for a suite with a balcony. I ended up sleeping on the floor before going to an obstructed view room without a balcony. I was not a very happy cruiser. Yes, I have written to the company along with my other roommates but the company has not replied to any letter after a month's time.  

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Aug 12, 2006

Western Mediterranean

Norwegian Cruise Lines Norwegian Jewel Cruise Review Western Mediterranean Phil Harrison We were a party of 6 including 3 children ages16,14 and 4 and a grandmother! Traveling from UK we arrived having booked our own flights. I had asked NCL UK if it was possible to book a transfer through them from the airport but was told no, but maybe on the way back we could check on board ,at shore excursions. However, I approached the NCL

representative at baggage retrieval and was told we could at $20 per person. A bit steep but we decided it was worth it as they took all our luggage. We arrived at 1p.m and went straight on ,a very small wait in Latitudes line. We took our usual onboard photo and then went straight on to ship via the FYZZ lounge, probably the brightest thing on board and you hit it first! But it was fine by me. My teenage daughter has been on a few cruises and generally is unimpressed by most things but she did say wow the first time she saw the ship which I think says it all. The ship is very clean and I was very impressed by the constant levels of cleaning. We were in KK grade inside staterooms, deck 10, it was small but adequate apart from drawer space. The shower was excellent. The service was excellent, we only encountered slow service once at Tsar’s but service at Azura’s and in particular Mama’s was excellent. Almost all of the staff were friendly and polite too. Food was good too, the buffet was very impressed by choice and quality. In the main restaurants we only had a couple of average meals most were excellent, especially Mama’s and 32 nights at Azura. The crepe soufflé is a must. The best meals were definitely good restaurant standards. Entertainment was excellent I would say the Jean Ann Ryan Company are the best troupe I’ve ever seen on a cruise ship. Cirque Bijou is spellbinding. The children’s club was the only real disappointment. My daughter is 4 and goes 4 days a week to nursery so she is used to a similar experience. However, when we went to register she saw all the play equipment but was told no you can't use it except at special times. We then took her for our first visit and wanted to stay a little while but were told under no circumstances was this possible as it unsettled the other kids. Yes I can understand this to a point, but the net effect was that Rachel got very upset as we didn't even get to say goodbye properly and she refused to go back. That was poorly handled for me. Disembarkation-we opted for Express carrying our own luggage. Express it wasn’t. There is a separate gangway on Deck 4 for people carrying their own luggage, but because you could come to it via 2 main stairways and lift blocks proper queuing went out of the window and it became a pushing and shoving routine. This needs better organizing. We decided to get a taxi back. The queue was large but moved quickly but we had to get 2 taxis because we were 6, it was still cheaper than NCL transfer though which doesn’t seem right. This was my first cruise on NCL (my Mum had been before on the Norway twice). Cruising is something I love and have been on 20 odd with Cunard,RCCL,P&O and Princess. I can honestly say it’s one of the best I’ve been on, pluses and minuses. Cunard has the best food by far but is a little stuffy. I love the freestyle concept and would have tried more of the specialty restaurants if the kids hadn’t been with us. The food may not have been quite as good in the main restaurants as Princess but it wasn’t far off. The shows were much better and more professional and fun. The staff were almost all friendly and very polite, the only exception being reception but even there some of the staff were nice, others just seemed too harassed. I think the biggest complaint would be alcohol prices. The bars were empty surely they must know by now why and need to do something.  

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Jul 15, 2006

Western Mediterranean

Norwegian Cruise Lines Norwegian Jewel Cruise Review Western Mediterranean Bob and Wendy This was our 12th cruise, the third on NCL. It departed from Barcelona and went to Messina Sicily, Naples, Rome, Livorno/Florence, and Nice/Villefranche. We bought a fly and cruise package, a 1 week sell-off for $1400 inside, and paid $20 extra for an outside (porthole). Transfers were included too, saving a 35 euro cab each way. Embarkation

was quite fast, we arrived at the dock around noon and only stood in line a few minutes before getting our ship cards. Free water and orange juice was set up beside the line. There was a table just past security for collecting booze from passengers, ours was in our checked luggage to avoid that. About 20 of us from the cruise roll call arranged to meet for sail away cocktails and then dinner, and we had lots of fun comparing travel stories and meeting each other. We had perfect weather all week, no rain, few clouds. THE CABIN Our cabin was on the small side at 143 square feet, compared to the larger cabins on CCL and HAL at about 185 square feet. The standard duvet on the king bed proved too hot so we got the steward to bring a top sheet, and we could have asked for a blanket but the bedspread over the sheet was just right. We pre-tipped the steward for some special requests, a bathrobe for Wendy (included in higher categories), an ice bucket always full, the above bed changes, and he was very attentive, apologizing a couple times when he forgot the ice (you can get your own refills from the orange chests on the steward dollies). The hair dryer was good and strong, the shower was strong enough with a removable wand, there was shampoo and body gel but no conditioner. There was an actual shower door, no clingy curtain and plenty of storage. There was only one electrical outlet so bring a power bar. I enjoyed the nice floor length mirror too. Always remember to set your cabin door indicator when you want your cabin made up or it won’t get done, the stewards follow these indicators. THE SHIP The Jewel is the ship that was featured on one of The Apprentice episodes, it is new, clean, and nicely decorated. It has nice mesh loungers and no more buggy straps. There was no water station at the pool, you have to go to the water/ice tea machine hidden in the Garden Café. The pool band rocked. The loungers around the pool were all taken or saved by 9:30-10, but there are lots in other areas. The ship had a good gym, free weights and machines with an ocean view. The jogging track was in a passenger area so you had to avoid bumping into people. The first optional formal night about two thirds of the people in the dining room dressed up. The second optional formal night very few had ties or dressier clothes. We were somewhat annoyed with NCL’s double tipping system. As on most cruise lines, tips are added automatically to your ship account. But NCL calls this a service charge, which is placed in a pool for distribution to the crew. So your service charge doesn’t go to the people serving you, except for the cabin steward. Then the NCL brochure also discusses gratuities, saying they aren’t necessary but staff are permitted to accept them for exceptional service, this to me seems like double tipping. NCL will adjust the service charge if requested. We decided we wanted to tip the people serving us, and went to the customer service desk to have it cancelled. There is a form to fill out, and you are not allowed to take the form away from the desk (I guess they don’t want it floating around giving people ideas), and you select the reason from a list (“prefer to tip staff directly”). The $140 was off our account the next day. At least three quarters of the staff we dealt with deserved tips and got them, we had a very friendly and helpful crew. ENTERTAINMENT The entertainment was good, but one stage show was super, Cirque Bijou, similar to the famous Cirque du Solei. It was non-stop action with much of the performance above the heads of the crowd. The Second City comedy show was hilarious, we like the usual passenger participation shows 'Newlywed and Not So Newly Wed', 'Family Feud', and 'Weakest Link'. THE FOOD We ate in the main dining room 3 times and the pay restaurants 4 times. Chin Chin’s asian food and Le Bistro’s French food has a $10 p.p. fee, and Cagney’s Steak House is $15 p.p. The fee is half that if you reserve to eat between 5:30 and 6:30. We love Chinese/Japanese food, and Chin Chin’s was so good we ate there twice. It also had the biggest menu of any on board. Unlimited sushi was an extra $5, not discounted. A couple should order an extra entrée to split, and extra appetizers, serving sizes aren’t large, and then you can share the variety. All the menus state that diners may order multiple appetizers. Cagney’s and Le Bistro were also very good. All 3 have window tables. The main dining room food (Tzar’s and Azurra) was decent and acceptable, about average compared to other cruises. On lobster night we were given 2 medium sized lobster tails, perfectly cooked, and they had a nice buttery sauce as well as melted butter if you wanted both. We had 2 group dinners with our new friends from the cruise roll call, one table for 20 the first night, and 2 tables for 12 the other night. The buffet in the Garden Café looked good the couple of times we strolled through. We had all of our breakfasts there (perfect omelets) and one lunch. Mama’s is the Italian specialty restaurant, no fee. We didn’t eat there but it was popular, and halfway through the week it was booked solid for the rest of the cruise. Tango’s is tex-mex, also free, and Blue Lagoon is roadhouse food like skins and wings which we had once, we liked it, also no fee. The main reservation kiosk is at Tango’s and is open most of the time and which can book any restaurant for you. The other restaurant’s can only book for their place. As other reviews have said, ignore the large screen display showing restaurant availability, it’s doesn’t match what the reservationist has to offer. If the time you want at a certain place is not available, check back later, there are many cancellations (you get billed if you are a no-show). THE PORTS MESSINA, SICILY We pre-arranged a private tour to Taormina through Sicily Life for 290E total, or 36E each. The same ship tour was $144 each which we took on a previous cruise, but it didn’t leave us enough time to explore the town properly which is why we went again. Our driver Alessandro was good, he arrived on time and spoke decent English. Sicily Life has had mixed reviews, for your driver ask for Antonio, Alessandro, or Luka who all got good reviews. It’s a pretty 1 hour drive with the hills on one side and the coast on the other. Taormina is a gorgeous and quaint mountain-top town, lots of sights including an ancient Greek/Roman amphitheatre, an old monastery and 2 medieval churches. Lots of interesting shopping, ceramics, glasswork, crafts. A good place for lunch with a lovely view of the coast and ocean is the café at the very end of the main street. A medium sized pizza was 6E. You can take the bus or train from Messina, but both stations are a cab ride across Messina from the ship. The bus will take you most of the way up the mountain to Taormina, but from the train station you would need a cab or cable car to get up, and time is too short for much messing around. The drivers have a nice map of the town showing the sights. The ship docks right in Messina, and from the deck you can see the huge old IL Duomo cathedral from a few blocks in. It’s quite impressive, worth the 5 minute walk. There are animated chimes on the hour. There is no shopping of note in Messina, it’s a commercial city. NAPLES The dock area in Naples is all torn up with construction. People used to be able to walk beside the old fort into town, but you have to walk down a block and around the construction, across busy streets with tons of traffic. Good shopping on via Toledo just past the Galleria. This was our third time here, and we decided to do the Isle of Capri on our own. It’s 14E each way by hydrofoil jet (boats that rise up on stilts), and the ship tour is $155. The hydrofoil pier is right beside the ship, with runs to Sorrento and other tourist places. Exit the terminal, walk through the bus parking toward the left rear corner, then continue left to the blue top ticket booths (go around the building, they face inland). There are several hydrofoil companies, and each window sells a different company’s ticket and time, you will find them posted in the window. An electronic board on the pier where the covered benches are shows which berth they depart from, posted about 20 minutes before ETD. For a nice view of Mt. Vesuvius sit on the left side. >From the marina in Capri it’s a long hot uphill climb to town, take the cable car (funicular) for 1.30E or an orange minibus for the same fee, to the right of the dock. Buy funicular tickets to the right of the dock, then the entrance is right in front of the dock. Each car holds 80, not long to wait if there are under 100 people. Not much to view going up, bus is better for that on the switchback road. Usually standing room only, and they all squeeze in like a university phone booth contest. We took the cable car up and the bus coming back. The island scenery is breathtaking. Capri is very pretty and so lovely to walk around, however; the shopping is very expensive as I saw a T-shirt for $100. We took the 1.30E bus to Annacapri and took the 6E return chairlift to the top of Mt. Solaro, gorgeous views. We planned to do the short hike along the mountain ridge to the Gelsomina resort for lunch, but the trail was rocky and overgrown, we needed better shoes and long pants to avoid scratches, so we went back down the chairlift and looked around the pretty town, then we were back on the bus enjoying a very scenic ride with many hairpin turns. The cabs are convertibles with awnings overhead, about 12-15E to go outside town. Here’s the link for the hydrofoil schedule, click on the timetable button, then enter your departure and destination for times and rates: (http://www.capritourism.com/en/transport.html ROME/CIVITAVICHIA We arranged a private tour of Rome through Rome In Limo at 500E for 8 people, 63E each, and our excellent driver /guide was Salvatori. There were similar ship tours for $142-199. Our vehicle was a newer Mercedes stand-up van, and he picked us up at the ship on time. Some people took the train to Rome and either met their driver there or did Rome on their own. Friends we met had arranged for a private tour company to meet them at the train station in Rome, but the driver never showed up and they had to scramble to hire another operator at the station, which they were able to do. There is nothing much to do in the port so you need to get out of that area. The drive to Rome was about an hour with heavy traffic closer to Rome. There was not much scenery on the way, everything burned brown from the heat, 35 degrees C, about 100 F by mid-afternoon. There is bottled water sold everywhere for 1-2 euros. Of course the sights in Rome are awesome, the photos and travel shows don’t do it justice. Our driver took us to a small road on a hill overlooking the whole Forum, from the Coliseum over to the chariot races arena. The tour buses can’t get up there. Then we drove over to the chariot races arena (forgot the name), the oval track still worn into the ground. Then we went to the Coliseum, there were huge long ticket lines, moving slowly, but our driver took us to a small ticket booth about 50 yards up the street facing the triple arches (like the Arch de Triumphe in Paris), on the left side facing the arches there was no line so we got our tickets, went back to the Coliseum and walked past the lines and through the turnstiles. That ticket gets you into both the Coliseum and the Forum. Then we drove to the Catacombs, where the ancient Christians were buried in deep passages to await resurrection on Judgement Day. Open graves were carved out of the sides of the caverns, where the bodies were placed, then sprinkled with lime for sanitation. Many graves are at eye level as you walk through, and you can look in and touch the rocks where the dead were laid. Richer families had whole mini-rooms carved with simple altars, or shared a room with others. Descendants today still go down there outside tour hours to hold services. You can see ancient Christian markings including personal data about some of the important deceased. This was a quiet and sacred place, it was very moving. Admission is 5E which includes a mandatory underground guide being it's easy to get lost. You go in groups of 20, according to which language you want. Of course there are lots of stairs, and it's quite chilly at the bottom, our guide wore a sweater, but we were glad to cool off from the heat. Sal made sure we were in the right place to join the correct tour when it was ready to enter the passages, but you could also listen to the announcements and figure it out. Rome is expensive in the tourist areas, but for lunch Sal took us to a family restaurant off the beaten track, lovely local dishes, wine and beer and lunch for 2 totalled only 13E. Then off to the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain, tons of people, then to the Vatican. There were huge lines there too. A special Vatican guide is required at 150E which 6 of us split and avoided the lines, but the 2 of us decided to do the free sights in St. Peter’s square and then spend the rest of our time shopping. The other 6 were not happy with their guide William as he gave only little information (you had to ask), he had a bad attitude, and was too rushed. Sal showed us a good shopping area, 2 blocks from the Vat. Sale months are July and January. Free clean bathrooms at St. Peter’s Square, those are hard to find. LIVORNO/FLORENCE/PISA We decided to do Florence on our own. The ship tour “Florence on Your Own” was $92. 4 of us shared a 15E cab to the train station, and the train to Florence was 6E each way. So the trip including return cab was 14E, about $20. The ship arrived at 7 and we were able to catch the 7:30 train with 10 minutes to spare, arriving in Florence at 9. If we missed that one the next was 8:10, but we wanted the earlier one to give us as much time in Florence as possible. We caught the 3:27 coming back. Here is the link to the train schedule: Http://orario.trenitalia.com/b2c/TimeTable On the way to your platform be sure to validate your ticket in the yellow machines on the wall, big 40E fine if caught with a ticket not validated. The ride is 1.5 hours, with some pretty Tuscan scenery after you get about halfway there, there are hillside towns everywhere. Sit on the left side going there and the right side coming back. There is good public bathroom at the Florence station, .70E, platform 5 and good internet service in the underground mall, go down the stairs and to your left. Florence is beautiful and historic, there is huge old cathedral right outside the train station. We worked our way down to the Piazza Repubblica and hit the recommended Coin department store on via Corso (50 % sale). they were selling leather shoes for 17E/$22. Then we went to the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge area, then back to the huge San Lorenzo outdoor market. We had some great pizza and beer in one of the many sidewalk cafes and it came to about 10E total. We got the 3:27 train coming back, long slow ticket lines, we were early but got ours with only 10 minutes to spare. To avoid this, buy a return ticket when leaving Livorno, or else by your ticket to go back when you arrive in Florence. If you miss the 3:27 there is a 4:10, after that you miss the ship. The trains have good seats but are hot so be sure to open the windows. Online you can order a very good free street map of Florence from their main tourist office, it came in 2 weeks: www.firenzeturismo.it NICE/VILLEFRANCHE So much to see in the Nice and Monaco area, but so little time with our 3pm sailing and delayed debarking with the tendering if you are not on a ship tour. The main sights in Nice are the market in Old Town, the modern shopping along Rue Du France and Ave Jean Medecin, and the Promenade des Anglais boardwalk. Outside Nice are the quaint medieval towns of Eze and St. Paul de Vence. Then of course Monaco and Monte Carlo. To get off early we decided to take a ship tour, the one going to Old Town in Nice plus some other sights in Nice, and then Monaco, for $65, not too bad a price. As we were going along the twisty coastal road our guide showed us the curve where Princess Grace Kelly crashed and died. In Monaco the side streets with shops and cafes etc were like a storybook, clean, quaint and beautiful. There’s a good internet joint right at the tender pier, first place you come  off the boat, about 2 E for half an hour, but there are no printers to do boarding passes. DISEMBARKATION We were off the ship early, the first color to be called at 6:30, ours was scheduled to be called at 7 and was called at 7:10, got to the airport on the transfer at 8:20. Again, there were huge lines, a 2 hour wait, and the terminal was jammed with people, we made our 12:25 flight with no problem. This cruise is port intensive with only 1 sea day, but that attracted us and we loved it. Email us if you have questions. Hi to all our cruisemates, Ruth and David, Shirley and Mike, Shelly and Vic, Ruth and Paul, Herb and Marianne, Jeanne and Tom! -Wendy and Bob Bob7@canoemail.com  

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Jul 1, 2006

Western Mediterranean

Norwegian Cruise Lines Norwegian Jewel Cruise Review Western Mediterranean Debra Goodman My husband and I are recent cruise enthusiasts, now having taken 3 cruises with our extended immediate family (my mother, 2 grown sons and a niece (ages 20-22). We had previously sailed on Royal Caribbean, but given our work schedule, opted for the Sunday sailing from Barcelona that the Norwegian line allowed. Overall our experience was very

enjoyable, but felt that RCL has a few extra touches in food, service and amenities that put them a notch above the NCL experience. What was great- Despite being fully booked, embarkation and disembarkation went very smoothly at all stops. We arrived early in Barcelona before the ship was ready, so they took us on a brief tour of the city-a nice touch. The pool area; they had two pools of equal size, one (with its accompanying hot-tubs) was adults only, which was fairly well monitored. The pool itself was deep (4’11” at it’s shallowest) but had a wide “wading area” for those who just wanted to cool down. The beds and linen: very comfy. The spa: we each took at least one treatment and everyone raved about their therapist. Be warned that they add the gratuity on the bill, but don’t tell you that if you tip them in cash. The ship itself: The NCL staff took cleanliness and health very seriously; there was a sanitizing station in front of each restaurant and when re-boarding the ship. What was disappointing- The food: We had a great meal at Cagney’s (paid extra) but the main dining rooms were ordinary, but acceptable. Service: Our cabin steward was very nice and courteous. Other attendants in the “common areas” were pleasant but not as polished as what we found on previous cruises. The front desk staff was particularly unresponsive to the various minor issues we were encountering. The array of restaurants: myriad of bars and restaurants took space away from other activities. While many of the specialty restaurants were booked during key hours, many of the bars were empty. The shore excursions: We used the shore excursions at each stop, and enjoyed them. Be warned; each tour started progressively earlier. The last stop’s excursion (Nice and Monaco) assembled at 6:45 AM. Nothing in Nice justified a 45 minute stop before 9AM. A “drive through” an hour later would have accomplished the same. Also when the tour guide says “eat in ‘Old Monaco” because it’s cheaper than Monte Carlo, believe her- even if you’re not hungry at 11AM! Would have loved to have more time for shopping in Florence (Florence and Pisa), but the tour was very informative and covered a lot. Pisa was a quick, but worthwhile stop as you can’t appreciate the tower from pictures. Another word to the wise, even level two’s were very strenuous. My mom, in decent health at 75, had trouble with all the walking, and “sat out” a few stops during several of the tours. In general, we liked “free-style cruising” and booked a 7:30 dinner reservation each night in advance for our party of 6, but missed the niceties (and service) of our own wait staff. NCL was less expensive that RCL, but it showed in some less than vital areas. In short, if I have the choice I would book RCL, but NCL did put on a fabulous vacation package, that everyone enjoyed immensely.    

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Jun 24, 2006

Western Caribbean

Norwegian Cruise Lines Norwegian Jewel Cruise Review Western Mediterranean Jan Cole My wife, daughter and I took the Western Med cruise from Barcelona at the end of June, 2006. The Norwegian Jewel is a new ship, less than a year old, and is a wonderful ship in excellent condition. It is also a huge ship, carrying over 2,000 passengers plus a crew exceeding 1,000. Here are some observations: The ship is so large that we had almost

no sensation of being at sea, even when it was moving at 20 knots. Admittedly, sea conditions were excellent during our cruise, but I would recommend this ship to those who worry about seasickness. There is virtually no engine noise or vibration. I used to look out the stateroom window to see if we were moving or stopped. Even though huge, the ship is well designed so that the individual areas are more human scale. It may take a while to get oriented to all the locations. I always enjoyed wandering around from place to place. The size issue impacts the food. When you have over 3,000 people on board, you need to think in terms of institutional food preparation. The chef has some grand aspirations but not the capability to carry them out. If you are looking for gourmet treats, you won’t be satisfied. They do provide a wide range of dining styles and menu choices. Some of the restaurants have additional charges for specialty atmospheres and selections. In general, we found them not worth the money except for a change of pace. For example, there is an Italian restaurant; any Olive Garden Restaurant in the U.S. would provide better food in a better atmosphere. Service in all areas was friendly and efficient. There were a few curious food items where the chef provided local-style dishes that were wildly off the mark. There was a New Orleans “Big Easy” Gumbo which turned out to be a seafood bisque (surely unrecognized by anyone from Louisiana) and a Coq au Vin that didn’t have the vin sauce and was served over pasta. There were others, and they just gave us a chance for a few laughs over dinner. Many people eat at the “grill”, which is a buffet with a number of food stations. This is very casual, and serves food most of the time. Although there is a good variety, it is basically simple fare. The best kept secret is the portion of the grill that is aft of the main section and is outdoors on the stern of the ship. This is a very pleasant place to sit/eat, particularly for breakfast. The drawback at the grill is the very limited number of stations to order carved meats, stir-fried items, waffles, etc. There are also very limited places to get coffee, milk, tea. On a ship with over 2,000 guests, these are real drawbacks. The coffee comes from machines, one cup at a time, and the machines were frequently being repaired. Desserts are unexceptional, unless you, like me, love soft-serve ice cream. Due to passenger size considerations, nothing was made fresh and served right out of the oven. All the pastries, cakes, etc. looked great but came right out of a refrigerator. Stick to the ice cream. Me and a lot of other folks found that a new cone every hour or so was very satisfying. The machines are self serve. The ship is extremely proactive on cleanliness. When entering a restaurant or other food area, there is a crew member with a container of hand sanitizer, urging you to wash your hands. Same goes for when you re-board the ship. Also, the public rest rooms are absolutely spotless. I give the crew of the Jewel 5 stars for their housekeeping efforts everywhere. The Jewel has a first-rate theater for shows. It is right up in the bow where you would expect lots of sea motion, but there was virtually none. The entertainment is enthusiastic and plentiful. It’s not going to be Broadway or Las Vegas so plan on an early night. The ship has a nice casino, and it wasn’t particularly crowded on our cruise. Best buy on the ship: play video poker for as little as a nickel a hand, sitting at the bar in the casino. They usually serve free drinks after 10:00 pm too. The Spinnaker Lounge, on the top deck forward is a wonderful place to look out ahead of the ship while still enjoying air conditioned comfort. The World Cup football matches were in progress during our cruise, and the Jewel did an excellent job in the Spinnaker Lounge, showing the games on a huge TV screen and providing snack foods. NCL makes a fine art of extracting maximum revenues from the passengers. Well, that is what business is all about. Expect to pay high prices for drinks of all varieties, shore tours, other ship-board services, etc. The passengers were a wide mix of nationalities, mostly from the U.S. and Western Europe. Ages ranged all over the place, although relatively few young children. Behavior was fine, usually pretty sedate, with no public intoxication problems that I saw. To sum up our cruise, we had a very good time. All of us enjoyed it and would recommend the Jewel.    

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Jun 15, 2006

Western Caribbean

Norwegian Cruise Lines Norwegian Jewel Cruise Review Western Caribbean Sue Walton Sailed from Barcelona on the Norwegian Jewel with my husband, sister and her partner on 16 June 2006. The first day at sea was a long day because the weather was poor and the daytime entertainment equally poor. In fact the whole entertainment on board this ship (both daytime and evening) was dreadful. Each daytime activity was the same old rubbish and

as for the evening entertainment ...... I could not believe that a ship of this caliber could present shows of such a low standard. The dance team were OK but everything else that was shown in the Stardust Theatre was on a 0/10 rating. There was an 'evolution' man, mime artists and magician who should all have been sacked. They were embarrassing to themselves. What I would say here (without prejudice) is that the Americans will laugh at anything, while the British will not laugh until something deserves laughing at. Why applaud somebody who is not funny? The ship is a good, modern, clean ship. The cabins are very good. We asked for a double bed so the 2 single beds were pushed together and made us a 6 ft wide bed - lovely. The bed was very comfortable and we slept well. The bathroom was excellent with the shower cubicle being large and very modern. There is a hairdryer supplied which you need to use as the British voltage will not work in the cabins. The ships voltage is 120 and British electrical is 240. I could not get my flat iron to work, but when I queried the fact at reception they arranged for a 'transformer' to be added to my electrical supply in the cabin which did the job superbly. The food is good with an adequate assortment, but if you want to eat in the specialty restaurants then you need to book within the first 48 hours or you will be disappointed. Lots of spare sun beds available on this ship so no need to reserve one for the day which was good. Trips were very expensive, so best to do your own thing. The gratuity charge is ridiculous and you should complain at reception with a view to getting this waived. It can be done so complain. The daily service charge stays regardless. The price of wine on this ship turned me into a tea-tottler by the time I got home. A glass of pino grigio was over $8. In fact Remy Martin VS brandy was cheaper. Reckon the wine was higher priced as it was one of the most popular drinks. Very expensive. The debarkation. Oh dear. This was our seventh cruise and on all of the previous cruises we were allowed to stay on the ship (although not in our cabin) until 2 hours before the flight time. Our flight from Barcelona back to the UK was at 2.30pm and we had to be off the ship by 7.45am. We were then dumped at the airport for a 6-7 hour wait. The latest anybody was allowed to get off the ship was 9.00am so if your flight was late at night you would have been at the airport all day. This only resulted in blocking up the airport as hundreds of folk arrived within 2-3 hours with no flights until later in the day. A stupid, stupid system. Debarkation starts at 6.00am until 9.00am depending on the time of your return flight. Overall a very good ship, good service, good cabin, good food, awful entertainment and a debarkation system that most certainly needs amending before I would consider booking with them again.  

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Apr 22, 2006

Eastern Caribbean

Norwegian Cruise Lines Norwegian Jewel Cruise Review Eastern Caribbean Jim Smith The first thing I will say about this boat is BOOK NOW! The entire experience from start to finish was incredible. The ship is beautiful and tasteful and IMMACULATELY CLEAN! Embarkation The entire process from start to finish was well organized taking about 30 minutes from when the cab dropped me off to me stepping into my stateroom. I was in Stateroom

#10043 (inside cabin). I am 6'1", 240 lbs and my partner is 5'11" 200 lbs and we never felt crowded. The bathroom is the highlight of the room. A shower I had no problem fitting into and amazing water pressure. PORTS San Juan Okay- did mostly shopping and siteseeing. If I go again - it is to the beach Antigua My only shore excursion - STINGRAY SWIMMING. Okay - fun but would have rather spent the day on own at the beach. St Thomas Shopping. If you are doing this itinerary wait for St Thomas for the bulk of your shopping but dont forget the beach- BEAUTIFUL! Stirrup Cay - Bahamas Didnt go because of rough weather. NCL passed on a credit to our onboard account as a courtesy. FOOD The buffet restaurant seems to serve everything at one point or another as the other restaurants. Tried: Tangos - decent Mexican with AMAZING SERVICE! Cagney's - good steak and GREAT SERVICE! Mama's - just OK Italian Tsar' Palace- only went for breakfast but make sure you make a visit. Beautiful breakfast. Garden Cafe: Never had a problem finding a seat and always clean. Dont miss the cookies at around 11 every night! Would often grab a quick bite at lunchtime on the deck. Regular fare- burgers, hot dogs etc Purchased soda card for $40.25 and myself and partner shared it ( not sure is allowed but they just glances at a sticker on your onboard account card and give you a soda at any bar or restaurant) ENTERTAINMENT Do not miss CIRQUE BIJOU! That's all I can say. Loved this ship so much that am booking for the Cruise out of Barcelona that goes all through Italy. BOOK NOW- you will love it!!

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Apr 13, 2006

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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Mar 19, 2006

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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Feb 26, 2006

Western Caribbean

Norwegian Cruise Line NCL Jewel Cruise Review Western Caribbean Jason Lunn Overall I was very disappointed with my NCL experience. The customer service on this boat was lacking. Our trip began with my girlfriend asking a customer service representative at the reception desk where she would recommend to eat for our first night on the boat. It was my birthday and we wanted to go somewhere special. The girl responded "What are you so

confused about? Didn't you get the brochure? Why don't you read that? It describes the restaurant. If you still have a question, then you can let me know." From there we went to the spa to get massaged. Mine was one of the best I have ever had! My girlfriend experienced a very good massage as well. Unfortunately, another person in our party did not have such a pleasant experience. She is a frequent massage go-er and has literally had hundreds of massages. Her masseuse was completely unreceptive to her requests and when she complained, the spa manager was dismissive and only offered to let her come back the next day and use the whirlpool. I found the food at the buffet (Garden Cafe) to be uninspiring. The general dining room (Tsar's Palace) offered consistently poor service. We constantly had empty drink glasses and often times, rude servers. Initially I thought I would enjoy "Freestyle dining." However, I found that it took away some of the fun of cruising. You don't dine with the same people, therefor there is less opportunity to make friends those at your table. Dinners were also less of an event than on other ships. No ice sculptures, or culinary artistry was seen with any consistency. The casino was a joke. Dealers were rude, pit bosses were even worse, both at times would actually root against your hand. At one point the pit boss had the audacity to come to us and claim that 6 hands earlier the dealer had miscalculated a hand and wrongly awarded it to my girlfriend, then asked for it back claiming it would get the dealer in "big trouble" if she didn't. Math apparently was not a strong suit for the casino workers, as there were several times I had to correct them shorting players odds on craps. The poker tourney was poorly run as well, set up to induce re-buys so the casino would get a larger rake, and rapidly raising the blinds to hustle through in just 2 hours. You may as well go bet your buy-in on 1 hand of black jack and then go lay at the pool. In my opinion the main reason I won't be traveling with NCL is the exorbitant drink prices. You could not get a drink on board for less than $6. Any specialty drinks were +$10. A soda drink card was +$40. This to me is gouging. It is my opinion that they needed to offer some special drink for $3-$5 each day. Or possibly a beer card. Anything would have been better than what is in place now. One bright spot was the food and service at the ship's steakhouse, Cagney's. Wonderful steaks, sides and desserts were well complimented by the incredible service! We actually went back a second time (despite the $15 cover charge) to insure we ended the cruise on a positive note. (Sameer and Melvin were our servers, and if you are lucky enough to have them on your ship, make sure to request them!) Another positive was the final show called Cirque Bijou. Its a dumbed down Cirque du Soliel style show that was pretty entertaining. The only other show of note was the Crew Talent Show, only due to the outstanding vocal performances of a couple of crew members. The ship itself, only being a couple months old was very nice. The gym was particularly nice! It will be a while before I cruise again as this was my girlfriends first cruise and she is in no hurry to go back.  

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Feb 19, 2006

Western Caribbean

Norwegian Cruise Line NCL Jewel Cruise Review Western Caribbean Cindy My husband and I took our kids, five and seven on a cruise for the first time. We had a wonderful time. The Jewel is a beautiful vessel, very clean and well decorated. By far the prettiest of the three ships I have been on. The staff was very friendly and always helpful. Both my kids loved the kids program, "kids splash down". Especially my daughter. (thank you

Animal, Ice cream, Diva and Lolly pop-you're all awesome). The level at which they liked it shooked my husband and I, when given the choice to be with us or go to splash down they waved goodbye. It was nice, my husband and I were able to have time together knowing how much fun they were having. The food was great, The Chin Chin was the best Chinese I've had. Worth the extra cover charge. All reservations were taken when we called, someone told us to go just before they opened (they all open at 5:30)and we would get seated, that is exactly what we did and had no problem. Of course, you need to be willing to eat at 5:30. That was normal for us and our kids. Buffet was very good, always consistant. As simple as this may sound, I really appreciated the sanitizing hand machines everywhere, very smart NCL. This should become mandatory on every ship. As far as the ports go, Roatan was very poor, I wouldn't go back though I'm glad my son got to see it. We spent very little time on Grand Cayman, just did a little shopping. They have the same stuff every other island has. We went to Margaritaville Resturaunt in Jamaica, that was fun. Personally, I like the ship best when it is not crowded so in Port days are the best time to be by the pool. Plus, I don't really love any of the Western island. The entertainment was pretty good, not as good as the last cruise we took but worth going to see. The comedy group was very talented and funny. Embarkation was easy and fast. The other thing I feel I should address is the fact that there was a suicide on the ship the week we were on it, I'm very pleased to say we knew nothing about it at the time. Some have said it should not have been hidden from the passengers, I'm here to say I'm very pleased my vacation was not ruined by this tragedy. Thanks NCL. I will definatly cruise with you again. Cindy  

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Feb 12, 2006

Eastern Caribbean

Norwegian Cruise Line NCL Jewel Cruise Review Eastern Caribbean John Fern It was a little disheartening to see the weather was cloudy and cool in Miami when we arrived, but we were prepared to roll with any of the little things that didn’t go our way. When we got to the embarkation, we found our way to the Latitudes line, but were only there a short time before someone pulled us out and put us in the US citizens line. Both seemed

to move at the same pace. I can’t remember exactly how long it took, but I’m guessing it couldn’t have been more than half an hour to 45 minutes. We found the Jewel to be a beautiful ship, and walked around in awe of the architecture and design, and were not disappointed in the balcony room we had on the 10th deck. Of course the bathrooms are still small, but they’ve made a much bigger shower on the Jewel than the Sun, the ship we cruised on last year. Our luggage arrived around five, which had me a little concerned before it got there, but they tell you that 7:00 is the deadline. We did the emergency life jacket training, and this time they did actually check to see who showed up, unlike on the Sun the year before. We wandered into the casino the first day, and sat down at a couple of machines. Most of our money was already in the room safe, so my wife took out a twenty, and I fished a five out of my pocket. We are not gamblers and this was one of those rare occasions when we play the slots. I figured my five would last longer if I only bet one credit at a time, and this turned out to be a colossal mistake. Three symbols came up in a row on the bottom. “Hmmmm,” I thought. “I wonder what those would have won.” I followed the little chart over to the third row where it said, “Progressive.” I don’t know what the jackpot was, and I don’t ever want to know, but I did see the photos of some of the big winners and what their cash prizes were and figured it may have been a nice chunk of change. This horrible incident proved to be an omen as to how the week would end. Since the seas were a little rough, we noticed the ship creaked. I chalked it up to being new, and maybe it had to settle like houses. It wasn’t bad, except at night, when it was more noticeable. It reminded me of a dead oak tree blowing in the wind, or a Clint Eastwood western, with someone swinging from the gallows. Of course it stopped while in port, and went away altogether when the seas were calmer on the way home. I can’t comment on the excursions, since we decided to keep our expenses down this time around. Usually we just went into town, and walked around, checking out the stores, shops, and maybe a taxi ride to a beach or to see the area. By the time we made it back to the ship, we were spent anyway, so we rested and then walked around the ship while most everyone else was still gone. One expense that is well worth the money was the sky ride at St. Thomas. We paid $38.00 for the two of us to ride to the top, and then spent most of the day checking out the view, buying souvenirs, and climbing the trails that take you higher up. When you’re ready, you take the ride back down. One word of caution about that area. As we were walking toward the sky ride, there’s a long sidewalk where these guys who are trying to get you to a timeshare type meeting swoop down. The way there, the first guy kept hounding us as we walked along, with me just saying: “No, thank you. No thank you,” over and over. He didn’t leave until we had reached a populated area. On the way back, another started in, and kept it up relentlessly. When he finally left, another one came out of nowhere and started up. They are very aggressive, and at one point, I thought he was getting mad because I just kept saying, No thank you to all his questions about where we’re from. I’m not sure what organization they are affiliated with, but they will ask if you want to go to the Blue Pirate, or see a castle or something like that. I almost thought it would have been worth taking a taxi just to avoid these jerks. We went to all the shows at night, and in my opinion, they were mostly entertaining. Or, at least they started out that way, and kind of fizzled. The Second City comedy thing started out with some pretty funny skits about being on board, but many reminded me of what we used to do in junior high school. We always got our seats on the end so we could sneak out a few minutes before the show finished, because if you leave when everyone else does, you will not get an elevator for a long time. Also, if you do get there early enough to get a seat on the end, you get a lot of exercise getting up and down for everyone else that comes later and want to get into your row. The place fills up fast. The only show I really enjoyed from beginning to end was the comedic juggler, Charles Peachock. Don’t miss this guy! Most of the other shows are a lot of flash and glitter, talented dancers, and gymnasts and acrobats. There is one guy who kept appearing at all the Broadway type shows. He didn’t have much dancing ability, and his singing was kind of annoying. He was the main attraction the first night, and reminded me of Arnold Horseshack from the old Welcome back Kotter show. We figured he’s somebody’s nephew. All week long during the shows, I thought to myself, “I can’t wait to get on that stage!” I entered the talent show last year on the Sun, and for this year, I was re-writing an old Beach Boys song: “The Sloop John B.” so it would be a satirical song about when the vacation was over, since the passenger talent contest is usually held at the end of the trip. For those who are unfamiliar with the song, the last line of the chorus goes: “I wanna go home,” which I had changed to “I don’t wanna go home.” Pretty clever, huh? This time around, I was going to have my wife record it on a small camcorder, and we went to Karaoke at Fyzies bar so she could practice with it. This place was a blast. Sometimes people would be more than a little inebriated when they took the stage, but it was fun to see. I was disappointed that they didn’t move the Karaoke to different places like they did on the Sun. When the day came to sign up for the talent show, my wife and I went to the Star Bar to enter. The deal was that the band had to have the music for the song you wanted, and hopefully your song would be in their music books. I figured finding the music for the Beach Boys song I was going to sing (with my own lyrics) would be a breeze. On the Sun, they had a book with popular songs that was the size of a phone book with every conceivable song you could imagine. When I asked the music director for the book, he said they didn’t have that one. What they did have was a book for: Broadway shows, Jazz, Latin, and Country, and none of them were going to have my Beach Boys song. I was almost ready to settle for a country song, when the music director said if I could download the music off the Internet, and print it out, that would work. The problem with that is that the majority of the times I used the Internet café, it ran veeeeeeeeeerrrrrrry sloooooooooowly, and would have cost me a fortune just to find the music, and print it out. He then told me if I could write my words and chords down, and make 6 copies for the band; I wouldn’t need the sheet music. So, I figured out the chords in my head and wrote out the lyrics, then made the copies. We went to dinner at Azura’s, saw the show in the Stardust, and did one last night of practice singing in front of a crowd. (Sorry to those who had to hear “Lodi” and “When I’m 64” over and over) That reminds me, for those of you wondering about the restaurants. We only ate at two of them. Mamma’s kitchen, and Azuras. Both were pleasant and the food was good. Most of the time we ate in Garden Café. It can get crowded, but we always found a place, and all in all, the food and desserts were good. I love the cappuccino machines they had, and miss them now that I’m home. The last day (in the port of Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas) I saw a beautiful sunrise from the balcony listening to my mini-disc player when my wife was just getting up. Some of you may know where this is going, if you read a previous post of mine. “I don’t feel good,” she said. “I’ve been going to the bathroom a lot while you’ve been out on the balcony.” She usually takes Imodium for a problem like this, but didn’t bring any with. I told her I would run down to the ship’s store and get some. When I arrived, there was a sign saying it was closed while in port. I went back to the room, and she wasn’t getting any better. From the looks of the island, it didn’t seem like they would have any there, and the tenders were taking a long time. I went to the reception desk to ask if perhaps they had anything like that available. It’s an over the counter drug, so I figured it was worth a shot. They suggested calling the ship’s nurse, which I did. She said they have it, but they couldn’t give any out until they saw my wife. We went down to their little medical office next to the gangway where mobs of people were boarding the tenders. The nurse had my wife fill out a form before the doctor would see her. When she was done, we could see the doctor working on his computer, and seemed to be in no hurry to see us. Finally, he called us in, and after a quick exam (poked her in the stomach) said it wasn’t food poisoning. I told him that she sometimes gets this at home and takes Imodium. He left and returned with some of the tablets in a small bag, and gave it to her. And then added…. “Because it may be viral, you and anyone else staying in your cabin will have to be quarantined for 24 hours.” The world seemed to stand still as the sound of that word echoed into every recess of my brain. It was such an ugly, scary, official sounding word: Quarantined. “But…we leave tomorrow,” I said. “I know,” he replied, with all the personality of a soap dish. There was no compassion in his words, and he was so matter-of-fact about it all. “I’m signed up for the talent show tonight,” I said. I don’t know why I thought passing this little tidbit of information along would make any difference to him. Did I really think he was going to say, “Well, bust my buttons! Why didn’t you say so? Of course you can go to the show!” Instead, he said nothing. “Is a quarantine really necessary?” I asked. “It’s policy,” he said, and instructed us to use room service for anything we need. We left the office, stumbling past the gangway as my talent show dream shattered like a crystal wine glass on a cement sidewalk. When we got back to the room, my wife kept apologizing. At first, I started raving about all the things she did bring, but neglecting the Imodium that could have prevented all this, but then realized it was just one of those things that came back to bite us. I reassured her that I did not blame her for this. It was nothing she did or didn’t do; it was just bad circumstances, and our ignorance on NCL policy. The Imodium made her tired, and she lay down to nap. I stood out on our balcony watching the tenders head toward the island. The ship had swayed so now I could see the beautiful beach filled with people. I felt like the little crippled boy sitting in his wheelchair at his living room window, watching the other kids going off to play baseball. I tried to scrape the positives together in a little pile: It was a gorgeous day, and we were in a nice balcony room with a great view. We had books, a portable DVD player with movies, and room service. The latter of the three would prove to more of a negative for any of you who have had the pleasure of room service food. (I don’t know how the kids on board choke down that pizza or what their idea of a cheese sandwich is.) I love my wife dearly, and was glad she had what she needed, and was resting comfortably, but I couldn’t help but think about sneaking out and going to the rehearsal. Then later, I would have to sneak off to the show and perform. Of course, I’m too much of a straight arrow to ever follow through. Besides, what if the doctor was sitting in the front row, and not be all that thrilled that I had chose to ignore his quarantine. Maybe I would be taken away in handcuffs and thrown into the ship’s brig. Maybe the authorities in Miami would be waiting for me on the pier, and I would make the front page of the Miami Herald with the headline: “CRUISE PASSENGER PUTS ENTIRE SHIP AT RISK IN ORDER TO SING AT TALENT SHOW,” along with a picture of me holding my trophy. No, the best and only thing to do was to accept the inevitable, and ride this one out. Which is what we did. We ate the bad food, watched movies and read our books. Before the night ended, we packed our suitcases and put them out before the 2:00 AM deadline. We both felt better about everything by morning, but the whole thing left a cloud over our heads that followed us to the airport, onto the plane, and back home. I think it finally left after we unpacked and sat back in our living room. It was so good to be home, and as each day has passed, I’m recollecting more of the fun and laughs we had instead of the last day. Especially when looking back over our photos and videos, we are aware that we did have a good trip, in spite of what happened. I don’t really blame NCL for the policy, but I do feel enacting the quarantine for both of us was hardly an effective measure on a ship where germs and viruses run rampant. Whenever we fly, we always hear someone with a bad cough or cold. Many times they’re boarding the same ship with those germs, and nobody is going to quarantine them. It’s also very obvious that many choose to ignore the hand sanitizers, and then are using the same handrails, elevator buttons, door handles, and slot machines. This includes the crewmembers, especially the waiter we had at Azura’s who was fighting a cold while he took our order. People tend to let things like this go, but if I thought for one second that she caught something from him, I would have grabbed my wife and run out of there, and perhaps our vacation would have ended on a much higher note. It wasn’t the worst thing that’s ever happened, but I think it’s something that everyone who takes a cruise should be aware of. I had no idea how helpless and confined you really are on a ship if something like this happens, and how easy it is for a doctor to make that decision based on an uncertain diagnosis. Update: I’ve since discovered that the doctor won the talent show. He obviously knew I would beat him if I was allowed to enter, and saw his perfect opportunity to keep me out. I heard he did a rousing rendition of “I’m a Little Teapot.” A sure-fire crowd pleaser. Wait till next year. They haven’t seen the last of me. I’ll be back.  

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Feb 12, 2006

Eastern Caribbean

NCL - Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Jewel Cruise Review  Eastern Caribbean Don McFarlane I'm not one to do this sort of thing, but I was reading some of the negative reviews regarding the Jewel and the poor customer service people claimed to have encountered and felt I needed to put my two cents worth in. We have travel with NCL on 5 previous occasions and have always felt that the service has been outstanding. Our most recent trip

on the Jewel was no exception. The ship itself is stunning. The public areas are well decorated, the variety of restaurants is unrivalled, the food was excellent, and the customer service was fantastic. We were travelling with my brother, his wife and their two year old son and the staff always made a point of fussing over him and giving him lots of attention. My wife went to the spa for an afternoon on one of our sea days and told me she absolutely loved. We liked each of the ports of call, but would suggest that if you were planning to go on any of beach outings that you simply grab a cab and save yourself some money. The Garden Café, which is the buffet meal area, has a number of different stations for a variety of foods. Keep in mind that it is a buffet and as such, bulk food. The hot food wasn’t that hot but that is fairly normal for a buffet. This was not a big concern for us because we were generally getting fruit and either muffins or Danishes with juice and coffee at breakfast. At lunch we often would just go to the sandwich station and have a fresh sandwich made to go with a salad or fruit. The prices from the bar are fair. The drink of the day does cost more, but it is bigger than your standard drink and you keep the glass. If I remember correctly a beer was about $3.50-$3.75 and a sofa drink was $1.50. I would suggest getting the weeklong pop card if you think you would be having a few soft drinks. The prices for the mini-bar are the same as elsewhere on the ship. We pre-ordered a couple of bottles of wine for our room and that worked out very well and would suggest to others. For whatever reason when you drink the bottled water or pop that is part of the mini-bar the cabin stewards do not restock the item, you need to call to have more delivered. All in all we thoroughly enjoyed the cruise, the ship, and all of the crew. We are looking forward to being with NCL and on the Jewel again in September when we cruise the Eastern Mediterranean.

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Jan 22, 2006

Western Caribbean

Norwegian Cruise Line NCL Jewel Cruise Review Western Caribbean Terry Bradshaw This was our 4th cruise on three different cruise lines (previous NCL to Alaska) but the first cruise with our two daughters – aged 6 and 10 – and we had a great holiday! We flew to Miami the day before the cruise just in case any northern snow storms delayed our arrival. Spent a sunny afternoon walking on Miami Beach and then had a nice dinner

at an outdoor restaurant. We had lots of time Sunday morning to have breakfast and make our way to the pier. EMBARKATION Quick as anything. Took a taxi to the pier and was in our stateroom about 45 minutes later. We even had our luggage delivered less than ½ hour after that as we were checking out the room. Very good service. THE SHIP Our room was beautiful. 11th deck with a balcony and the nicest bathroom I’ve seen on a ship. It was small but everything was so nicely finished and decorated that you didn’t notice the size. We toured the ship and thought it was amazing. Nicely decorated but not too overdone or gaudy. We registered the kids in the Kids Crew and had our first family dinner in the Tsar dining room. We couldn’t help looking around at the paintings on the walls and gold rimmed ceilings and saying how beautiful it was. The food was good – especially in the specialty restaurants. We loved Mama’s Italian food, Tango/Tapas Mexican food, the Outdoor Grill’s hamburgers, hot dogs and fries and the Garden Café’s breakfast buffets – omelettes every day! While the kids were at the Kids Crew, my husband and I had a romantic dinner at Le Bistro which was very good. The only real complaint I had with the food was the lack of rich, decadent (i.e. chocolate) desserts. I found a lot of custardy, bland deserts that just didn’t do it for me. The chocolate buffet had the best desserts of the week but it only lasted two hours! The kids loved all the special attractions made just for them. The kid’s cinema, kid’s play area and especially the slide and the hot tub. They couldn’t get enough of the Kids Crew and the staff there were excellent. The shows were great – especially the two shows with the Jean Ann Ryan company. Cirque Bijou was like a Cirque de Soleil production – awesome! I could have passed on the comedy and magic shows but they were still entertaining. Overall, the service was very good. My husband chatted with all the servers, bartenders, hostesses, etc. to find out how long they had been on the ship, where they were from, when they were going home, etc. and they all took the time to talk to him, even when they were really busy. Our room steward would make towel animals and put the kids\ sunglasses on them. One night, he made one that looked like Rover, our daughter’s red dog who was also on his first cruise! Nice personal touch. ITINERARY Roatan, Honduras Roatan, Honduras was a very nice port - similar to Belize we had visited 2 years earlier. The Jolly Roger Catamaran and Gumbalina Park tour was great. Best snorkelling we’ve done in the Caribbean (equal to Cozumel). Big lunch with fried chicken, mashed potatoes, salad, etc. and as much pop or beer as you wanted. The nature walk through the park was a highlight for me. Having a spider money jump on your back and its tail wrap around you was something you don’t have happen every day! We would definitely go back to Roatan. Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands Another tender port and it took a while for the pilot to park on the dock which took up almost an hour of our day. The tour guides were very disorganized at the pier and after being handed off to two more guides racing us to the waiting bus, we took the Island Tour and Stingray City excursion. Stopped at the turtle farm and held the turtles and had a quick pit stop in “Hell”. The stingrays were amazing. Our 6 year old was terrified and had to stay on the boat but the rest of us thought it was great. Ochos Rios, Jamaica We booked the Dolphin Swim/Encounter and Dunn’s River Falls. Loved the lush, tropical feel of the island but found there were too many people at Dolphin Cove at once. There was about 8 stations of 8-10 people each in the water for the dolphin swim and then the platforms of 8 people each for the dolphin encounter. My husband and daughter liked being in the water with the dolphin but they didn’t have as much interaction with the dolphins as other places we’ve heard about. My younger daughter and I did the dolphin encounter and she got to touch the dolphin but I thought it was a little expensive ($400 USD) for the amount of time actually spent with the dolphins. Dunns River Falls was great. We all did the falls once and then my husband and older daughter did it again in half the time. Nice spot. Nassau, Bahamas We were supposed to stop in Cococay but due to wave damage, the captain advised us we’d spend the day in Nassau. We hadn’t budgeted for another excursion so we took a taxi to Atlantis. Ended up paying to see the aquariums but it was well worth it. This resort is incredible. We took lots of pictures of the sharks, and other marine life and strolled the beautiful grounds of beaches, pools, etc. It was a nice unexpected port of call. Summary Overall, we enjoyed the cruise itinerary and the beautiful ship and would recommend it to anyone. I may try a Royal Caribbean cruise next time just to compare but we will definitely go back for another NCL FreeStyle cruise in the future.  

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Jan 22, 2006

Eastern & Western Caribbean

Norwegian Cruise Line NCL Jewel Cruise Review Western Caribbean & Eastern Caribbean Mike Davis Aboard the Norwegian Jewel (Saturday, 21st January to Sunday, 5th February 2006). Sailing from Miami: Caribbean CONNECTION: Our flight from Manchester, England was via Chicago on American Airlines. Boeing 767 on time from Manchester. Arrival at Chicago (Ord) Terminal 5 on time. The flight, in coach class, was reasonably comfortable

but the TV in our section of the plane was not working. Meals were OK – just. Cabin crew took a couple of hours of (siesta, perhaps?) during the flight, reappearing some 90 minutes before touchdown to serve a snack. Long walk to immigration at Terminal 5. Very long line of people waiting to be ‘processed’ by US immigration. We were surprised to encounter an officer who was (very unusual, this) polite and reasonable. Though having fingerprints and photograph taken makes you feel no better than an arrested criminal. Baggage was on the carousel just behind immigration awaiting our collection. Re-checked the baggage through to Miami. Caught airport train service to Terminal 3 for connecting flight for Miami which was due to leave some 2 hours after landing. Encountered further very long queues to go through security. This entailed having to remove shoes, which is fine on a security level, but less than helpful was the fact no chairs are provided nearby for the elderly to replace their footwear. Had to prove age qualification for alcohol at a Terminal 3 bar. Faintly ridiculous as a half-blind man would know immediately that we are well over qualification age limit. To rub salt in the wound, 3 medium-sized beers, 1 modest-size glass of red wine cost $27. . . yes, that’s right. . . 27 USD. Yikes. Delayed departure of our connecting flight (over 1 hour). We discover, on arriving in Miami, this particular flight is always late. Long, long walk to carousel and baggage collection. Good service from NCL staff at airport who direct us to bus for hotel. OVERNIGHT HOTEL: Sofitel Airport Hotel. It’s just five minutes away. Excellent hotel; large bedroom with well fitted en-suite replete with towels, and accoutrements. King-sized bed – probably the most comfortable we’ve yet encountered in a hotel. Delicious, and huge cheeseburger and fries in the downstairs bar/restaurant ($18). Really good buffet breakfast ($14) Transfer to ship by coach was at 12.45. DOCUMENTATION AND EMBARKATION: Terminal D at Dodge Island. Huge queue. More form-filling. It’s hot, humid and very uncomfortable waiting in this slow-moving, perspiring human chain.. We have ‘pre-registered’ on-line, but it doesn’t seem to speed things up any. Our passports are retained (‘confiscated’ - in my opinion) by NCL – so I demand receipts. We join another long queue to get our on-board key/credit-cards. Cheesy photograph by ship’s photographer. Drinks are available at the key desk – and are much in need. Then through ships’ security – all hand luggage is X-rayed. CABIN: Somewhat on the small side (8242 AFT). The twin beds are pushed together. (We later get them separated and this gives a much roomier feel to the cabin. We have a pull-down bunk bed on one wall and there’s a connecting door to an adjacent cabin (obviously it’s for a family room in normal usage). There’s a TV with a number of shipboard channels – two news channels (CNN – and Fox News – both pretty awful, but Fox takes the biscuit for it’s sheer right-wing bigoted nonsense) . The en-suite is a 3-section affair with sliding doors for toilet area and shower. It’s cramped but well-fitted and very well supplied with towels; face-cloths; bathmat, etc. Excellent shower. Cabin has good drawer/wardrobe space. Sockets are US standard 110v – (don’t forget to take adaptor – and should mention that some UK equipment will not function on this lower power) We don’t get an easy chair - there’s an upright chair and a small dressing table stool only. Lifeboat drill is held (for our section of the ship) in Tsar’s Palace each week – lasting about 20 minutes. Lifebelts are in top of wardrobe. Safety information on back of cabin door. SHIP’S FACILITIES: Unsure of who got responsibility for ship’s decorative schemes, but good grief, do they like ‘bright’! The exterior artwork on the prow of the ship gives a degree of warning; it is garish and glitzy. But for sheer O.T.T. kitsch pay a call to the main restaurant - Tsar’s Palace - on Deck 6 (rear). The food they serve here is excellent, as is the service, but in truth you are best advised to wear dark glasses when entering. In honesty, I’ve seen tart’s boudoirs done up more tastefully than this place. From the mock ‘golden’ staircase – mounted at intervals with the most grievously decorated ‘Faberge’ eggs, to the green marble pillars (whose ‘marbling’ is already showing damage from chair backs, through to the reproduction portraits in ornate frames of various Czar’s, Czarina’s and assorted kith and kin hanging around the room like a flock of ugly inbred sheep – the room positively shrieks bad taste. It resonates with that wild, uninhibited excess which Las Vegas does so well – and clearly no expense has been spared by NCL to create this particular house of horrors. For those without dark glasses, Azura – the other (smaller) main restaurant - is altogether much quieter and easier on the eye, and with the same very high quality menu. Deck 7 is the promenade deck. The promenade area, covered by what appears to be very durable anti-slip sandpaper, is some 550 yards in circumference (4 times around equals 1.4 miles). Shuffleboard courts (2) on the starboard side. The centre of Decks 6 and 7 features the Crystal Atrium; also located here is the Reception Desk, Shore Excursion desk, a shop (which features the most awful clocks we’ve ever seen) the Java Bar is a central feature. A trio plays every evening on the atrium staircase landing (Anna Y Trio Vientos) – they are good but their repertoire, we soon discover, is limited. Forward on Decks 6 & 7 is the superbly-appointed Stardust Theatre/Lounge – a 1000+-seater, with excellent sound and lighting. There are sufficient bars around the ship to satisfy even the most dedicated drinker. The quieter ones are on Deck 6: Maltings Beer & Whiskey bar; a champagne bar and Cigar club, Martini and Cocktail bar. I will mention briefly at this point that, no matter how ‘dedicated’ you might be, it requires very deep pockets to drink seriously on board this ship. More about this later. Up top on Deck 13 is the Spinnaker Lounge/Bar. It’s a very large comfortable room and provides wonderful views at the very prow of the ship. Fitness freaks can dampen their sweat bands one deck down from here in the exercise room. There’s a health spa (Bora-Bora) also up front on Deck 12, but if you can resist its vanity-polishing blandishments you’ll save yourself a small fortune in fees... Two swimming pools/slide/Jacuzzis (one children’s pool) are found on Deck 12, which also has a large sun-deck area with lots of sunbeds – plenty of sunbeds are also available on Deck 13. DINING: I’ve mentioned Tsar’s Palace and Azura – whose kitchens are centrally located, and who share the same daily menus. The food in these eateries is never less than excellent and, as mentioned, the service is exemplary. Should you not like the dish you have been served they will gladly replace it for you. Should you wish to ‘mix-and-match’ items from the menu they will do this without hesitation. We heard complaints about the food (some Americans deemed it to have too much ‘European’ influence) but I have eaten all over the world and can state honestly that, from my experience, the cuisine in the restaurants on this ship is 5-star quality. The Garden Café upstairs on Deck 12 has numerous serveries cleverly designed to minimize crush, and the food here is very good indeed. However, there are times when this place can be very crowded. Quite often, when the tables were busy, we took our plates of food from the Garden Café into Mama’s Kitchen (located on the other side of Deck 12) but on the very last day of our two weeks we found at breakfast (which was incredibly busy) the staff had locked the doors of Mama’s – a very silly decision. The Great Outdoors and the Poolside Grill also provide excellent food (BBQ at the pool). Hotdogs onboard the Jewel are ‘all-beef’ – I mention this for those who might be squeamish about the usual hotdog content of pigs jowl or cow’s cheek. I cannot report on the quality of the many other restaurants aboard as we didn’t see any need to pay premiums where these applied. PORTS OF CALL: (Western Caribbean itinerary) Roatan (Honduras); Grand Cayman; Ocho Rios (Jamaica); Nassau (Bahamas) – substituted for Great Stirrup Cay (in first week). Roatan was our favourite of the week: It’s very green and has interesting wildlife and lovely scenery. Grand Cayman is best viewed at a distance or, put more simply, as far in the distance as possible. A wholly charmless place inhabited by bankers and other disagreeable types. OK if you are there for snorkeling, jewelry buying, checking your off-shore deposits in one of the many banks, or lying in the sun taking your chances on attracting a spot or two of melanoma. The high point of my visit was eating a green-turtle-burger. The low point of the visit was the burger’s disgusting flavour (yes, it serves me right for eating it). My advice is don’t bother getting off the boat here. Ocho Rios: We took a trip to Dunn’s River Falls and Dolphin Cove. The falls are very picturesque but Dolphin Cove is not a very wholesome spectacle. Unless, that is, you are one of those who enjoys seeing beautiful wild creatures penned up forced to perform ‘tricks’ for the human visitors – including the toe-curlingly awful sight of seeing those visitors who pay extra getting to ‘kiss’ a dolphin. Ugh! Nassau: Apparently the rich and famous come here to live. Rubber-necking tours of their homes are available. With six cruise liners at the dock the day we visit Nassau town is, shall we say, somewhat crowded and unpleasant. Again, it’s fine to go and stretch your legs – that is if you can actually find a few unpopulated yards, but truthfully it may be an advantage to stay on board. (Week 2) (Eastern Caribbean) San Juan, Puerto Rica. A wonderful place for the first-time visitor, full of history and splendid architecture. We visited the magnificent Fort San Felipe del Morro – a US National Monument (and deservedly so). Then strolled around the old town which is full of marvellous old buildings. The quaint, cobbled streets, paved in blue-hued cobbles, exude an olde-world charm that is impossible to resist. San Juan is listed as the oldest city in the United States and totally captivated us. Worthy of spending a few days here. Antigua: (Our favourite port of call) is, as always, a delight to visit. We spent the morning shopping in St Johns, followed by a few hours at Dickenson Bay beach. Just idyllic, and such pleasant, friendly and fun-loving people. St Thomas: This looks to be a lovely island. Sadly, the weather when we visited (for most of the morning) was unpleasantly rainy. We took the tourist bus into Charlotte Amelie, then rather wished we hadn’t bothered. It’s shopping streets seem to comprise wall-to-wall jewelry shops, though we did find a very nice open-air bar in one of the side streets; an oval-shaped and nicely-tiled establishment run by an extremely engaging and entertaining young American man. This helped somewhat to moderate our sour opinion of Charlotte Amelie, but, to be honest, we wouldn’t exactly clamour to return here. Great Stirrup Cay. This is NCL’s own private island. Sounds exotic but in reality turned out to be a scrubby little strand, a couple of miles or so long, and about half a mile wide – part of the Berry Islands group. However, it actually provided us with a very pleasant day. The main (popular) beach is small – so much so, that when all the ship’s passengers are crowded on to it, the tide might have difficulty getting in. Nonetheless, we enjoyed a few hours swimming, looking around, and were provided with a splendid barbecue meal. ENTERTAINMENT: Each week (on Fridays) the Stardust Theatre features a show, ‘Cirque Bijou’ presented by the Jean-Ann Ryan Company. This is one of the finest productions currently presented anywhere. A non-stop torrent of inspired and thrilling aerial and stage acrobatics interspersed with some incredibly talented dancing. It is breathtaking, audacious and marvelously executed by a hugely talented cast. NCL deserve plaudits for putting this show on. Additionally, ‘Gossamer Magic’ – also presented in the Stardust, and featuring an illusionist (whose name, sadly, I can’t recall) is well worth seeing. Aside from this the general standard of entertainment on board was utterly lacking in any kind of depth, imagination or sparkle. The Cruise Director – a Canadian-Polish gentleman named, Mike - has a pleasant personality but very limited talent and imagination.. He cracks the self-same corny jokes at almost precisely the same time each week. Surely someone as well-paid could at least have at his fingertips at least a modest variety of quips, jokes and patter sufficient at least to carry him over seven days.. When the ship has its ‘at-sea’ days, those passengers keen to enjoy a bit of fun and frolics are hard-put to find something even mildly-diverting. They deserve much better. Happily, and fortunately, as it turned out, we’d taken some decent reading material with us. EXCURSIONS: We took just two official NCL tours: Ocho Rios – Dunn’s River Falls & Dolphin Cove, and an Everglades tour on the final day of our cruise. Mostly we organized our own sightseeing as we learned on previous cruises that it’s by far cheaper to ‘do-it-yourself’ and, without a large group with its concomitant hassle – a much more relaxed experience. The ‘official’ tours are undoubtedly twice the price you can normally expect to pay if you self-organise. WHAT WE LIKED: The Sofitel Hotel, Miami Airport (excellent).. The food and service aboard the Jewel (excellent). The cabin stewards (super service – and very pleasant people) Games of Shuffleboard (ok, it’s a simple pastime but we counted it as very pleasurable). The ice-cream – always available in the Garden Café. The promenade deck. The Stardust Theatre and the shows I’ve mentioned.Antigua, San Juan, Roatan, Great Stirrup Cay visits – in that order of preference. The general friendliness and enthusiasm of all the staff aboard. WHAT WE DIDN’T LIKE: Restriction of ship’s facilities: The denial to passengers of certain facilities during the first week of our cruise. This was caused by the filming of an NCL TV commercial by a film crew who took over parts of the ship on various days. On one day, Deck 7 (promenade) was closed for hours; another day one of the pools was closed to us and a large area surrounding it was roped off. Another day, Tsar’s Palace was closed for filming. We thought it presumptuous and mildly offensive to be told: “We hope you enjoy watching the filming of NCL’s new TV commercial”. Well, no, we didn’t enjoy the experience. It was a huge inconvenience. Some passengers were persuaded – by being offered 100 dollars each – to participate in the filming of this commercial. In truth, all passengers aboard that first week were deserving of 100 dollars as compensation for the sheer inconvenience caused by filming.. In the second week other access to certain facilities was denied to all passengers because special ‘groups’ had booked facilities. For example, the Spinnaker Lounge was taken over for a period by a religious group. Another day, the Azura restaurant was closed to general passengers, and there were other small similar instances. My argument is that if all passengers have paid to enjoy all facilities on board there should be no restrictions of any kind – or any private reservation of public space by any group. Tendering: Most of the ports visited were tendered. Sometimes there were long waits queueing in hot sunshine, and long waits aboard ship for ticketed turns to tender ashore. It was rarely a smooth or easy mode of transport, and we heard quite a number of people complaining.. Cabin Noise: We were in cabin (‘stateroom’ in this instance is so utterly pretentious) 8622 AFT. This turned out to be the worst part of the ship to get a decent night’s sleep. (Unless your own experience was to the contrary?) Engine noise was particularly intrusive –as were passenger voices in the corridor. Doors were slammed at night on Deck 7 below – probably both by passengers and crew. The ship did not appear to be decently stabilized in heavy seas and had marked rolling even in a moderate swell, and so this too did not promote a comfortable nights sleep. Cost of drinks aboard: Two years ago we sailed on the NCL Sun to Alaska. I wrote a review at the time (published elsewhere on these pages) in which I commented on the high prices NCL were charging for a bottle of wine. Since then NCL have further increased their prices to levels that can only be described as extortionate. On this trip we found that a bottle, which would cost, in a supermarket, no more than £4 to £5 (8 USD), is now priced around 40 dollars. To add insult to injury they add an automatic 15 per cent service charge. Then there’s a further invitation for the customer to add a further gratuity. The bill carries the words: “For your convenience we have added 15 percent for gratuities” What utter convoluted verbal twaddle‘. . . for your convenience, etc’ is when subjected to the cold light of simple analysis. Even Scicilian bandits – when robbing their prey - operated with far less brass-necked effrontery than this bunch. However, they don’t stop at wine. . .all alcohol, soft drinks – even bottled water – consumed aboard are at prices that are positively eye-wateringly expensive. Now, in view of the fact that NCL operate an automatic 10 dollars a day per person (5 for children) gratuity charge, why on earth do they think 15 per cent drinks gratuity is justifiable? I truly believe these high prices are counter-productive. NCL would generate more alcohol/drinks sales were they to price them at reasonable levels. In our case we restricted ourselves to four bottles of wine during the entire fourteen day voyage. In common with many other British passengers, we also cancelled the 140 dollars per person gratuity charge at the Reception desk on our final day, choosing instead to reward with tips those members of crew we felt merited our appreciation. NCL’s hard-sell policy: From the moment you first step aboard you become aware that passengers are first-and-foremost – at least, in the eyes of NCL – a marketing target. One of the comedians aboard jokes that N.C.L. stands for: ‘No change left’. He has a point. Every other broadcast ships’ announcement is a sales pitch. The volume of sales literature that comes through the cabin door threatens to overwhelm you if you don’t immediately clear it out. The selling of goods and services aboard ranges across a scale that goes from the merely persistent to the utterly relentless. It is unavoidable and so is extremely unpleasant. Discrimination against non-US passengers. Whether or not NCL are aware of this, we found it very irritating – as non-US citizens – to be treated like second-class passengers. Embarkation/Disembarkation preference was always given to US citizens. They also get preference when it’s time to go through on-board immigration/customs inspection as non-US passengers are always last to be processed. It wasn’t just ourselves who felt aggrieved by this. We heard from many fellow non-US citizen passengers this was ‘discriminatory treatment’. American passengers were also allowed to retain their passports but all others had them ‘kept’ by NCL for the duration of the voyage. Immigration/Bureaucratic procedures: (This has nothing to do with NCL rules and regulations but is part of the necessary procedures introduced by the U.S. Homeland Security Department – and so directly this affects every foreign passenger aboard NCL ships sailing from US ports.) Passing through U.S. Immigration has rarely ever – in our experience - been a pleasant experience. Most US immigration officers are surly, monosyllabic, and even sometimes downright rude. That they may have a difficult job is not in doubt, but this applies equally to other countries immigration officers, and yet most of them are reasonably welcoming and have a courteous manner. Britain – as at time of writing - does not require foreign visitors to be fingerprinted and photographed, and I, for one, am glad of this. It is at best a demeaning experience – akin to being treated as a criminal. In fairness, I will report that on our arrival at Ord airport we actually met a US immigration officer who was pleasant and reasonably courteous. (first time ever – she was a lady, and Afro-American). However, the number of times we were subjected to US immigration scrutiny during this trip was quite incredible. Each time we passed into US territory – be it mainland or island – we had to join long queues to be scrutinized and approved by an immigration official. The number of forms we were required to fill in and then re-fill in became almost a joke. It affected everyone and became quite depressing in its repetition. Even those non-US passengers who didn’t want to get off in Miami on the turnaround day were required to get off the ship, go through customs and then spend a hour before being allowed back on board. - NCL is powerless to affect these requirements as I have already mentioned. - I have read reports in recent times of a sense of alarm among US tourist bosses, who complain that recently-introduced official American bureaucratic requirements are causing foreign tourists to avoid visiting America. If this is true then it is a great pity. America is a wonderful country with some lovely welcoming and friendly people. I have now decided not to revisit the United States because of their immigration requirements. It’s a personal thing and is unlikely to upset anyone. I simply make the point as a small personal protest. SUMMATION: Last year (January 2005) we had a two-week cruise from Barbados on the Ocean Village. In truth it was a little bit like Billy Butlin’s Holiday camp at Sea. However, we had infinitely more fun and enjoyment aboard the OV than we did on the Norwegian Jewel. The OV itinerary had so much more variety and far nicer islands to visit. There were fewer days at sea. Prices aboard the OV were fair and reasonable. And the Barbadian authorities – though security conscious – make their visitors feel like honoured guests. Did we dislike our two weeks on the Jewel? Certainly not. There was much to enjoy – but on balance, the Ocean Village experience wins hands down. Will we return to sail on NCL again? Definitely not, and you shouldn’t have had to read very far into my review to understand why. Mike Davis, Shropshire, England. (report written February 2006).  

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Jan 7, 2006

Western Caribbean

Our Flight AA57 left Heathrow, but was diverted, unavoidably, to the Azores, we have no problem with this as it was a medical emergency. After an overnight stay in Miami, due to arriving after the Norwegian Jewel had sailed, we were flown to Roatan, via Honduras to pick up the Norwegian Jewel on Tuesday 10th January. Arriving at the port, we were further delayed due to the lack of organization at the gate, we were not allowed in the

port until a representative of NCL had been called to come to the gate and confirm that we were in fact delayed passengers. Our passports were checked and we were allowed to board. We were eventually booked in, and given the keys to our cabin. We were not escorted to our room, (which is usual procedure on cruise lines) nor given any type of welcome, which I thought would have been the order of the day as we had been inconvenienced and missed part of the cruise, already feeling the loss of opportunity regarding familiarization, nor were we given any form of lifeboat drill or instructions, which is part of Maritime Law. On arriving at suite 10512, we were surprised at how small the room was, there was a small gap (8½ inches we later measured) on one side of the bed, and on the other side, butted up to the bed was a couch, which we later discovered to be another double pull out bed. In front of the balcony door was a small table, Approximately two feet away on the opposite side wall was a unit withTV, tea and coffee making facilities, and a chair. This was in line with the bottom of the bed, which is approx 18 inches from the wall, which separates from the next room. On inspection of the bathroom, we were dismayed at the size of the toilet, I am 5ft 8inches, and my husband is 6ft 4inches, as the dimensions are so small, and both the toilet and shower have sliding doors, what is a tight squeeze for me is an impossibility for my husband, he was unable to sit on the toilet, and could not close the door of the shower. I went to the desk and asked for a representative to come down to the room so that they could see we were not exaggerating that should my husband need to use the toilet at night, he would need to get up and dress to use a bathroom in one of the public areas. a member of the hotel staff came down with a colleague and agreed that the room was too small, she said that this was not an unusual situation, and if we gave her twenty minutes she would find us another room. We were moved to 11150, which was very nice, the bathroom was lovely, with a bath, but more importantly, a large toilet with ample legroom, and much wider than the previous one. I packed our cases and moved to 11150. I was not told that this move was anything other than for the duration of our holiday. Friday 13th January was a scheduled day at sea; we were told the following day would be another day at sea due to inclement weather in port. We are quite used to having days at sea, this being in excess of 20 cruises that we have had, three of which have been with NCL. There was no extra entertainment provided, just the casino open, the day before there had been a blackjack tournament, when asked if there would be another one (10 dollars had been charged the day before) the reply was no, the tables were needed for ‘serious gamblers’! After complaints from other passengers it was announced at 2.10 that there would be a ‘free bar’ until 3.00pm, not exactly generous considering the amount of passengers there would need to be served in 50 minutes. We received a note in the room saying that we needed to change the door key for the second week of our cruise, when my husband went down to the desk, he was told that we were being moved BACK to the original room at 10512, I went to see the person I had previously spoken to who had moved us, she said she was unaware we had booked a back-to-back cruise when she gave us the room, but would see what could be done. I said that we couldn’t possibly move back, as she had already seen that the room was totally unsuitable, she agreed and said she would contact us as soon as she had a solution. As no word came from the Hotel department, my husband and I went down to the desk, we were ushered into the office of the hotel manager who immediately attacked us with the words ‘You are refusing to get out of your room…….’ I told him this was certainly not the case, but I was refusing to return to the room which had been established as too small for our needs on arrival so how could he now justify it’s suitability for the second week, to which he replied that we had made no request for ‘special needs’ so we had no choice, we had to move back. I replied that we HAVE NO SPECIAL NEEDS; all we wanted was what we had booked and entered into a contract with NCL to provide, and therefore expecting an obligation from NCL to provide a room with FULL USEABLE facilities. He was rude and unhelpful, saying that as far as he was concerned the room was ‘adequate’, if on the second week, when we had LEFT MIAMI, there was a possibility of a move, then he would consider it for us, in the meantime we WOULD HAVE TO MOVE BACK INTO 10512, I emphasized this was unacceptable, we would need to know BEFORE we left, as I had no intention of accepting a fait accompli once we were in the middle of the ocean, and I would rather he arrange for us to leave the ship and find us accommodation in MIAMI for the duration of the holiday. He came back with ‘ no way would NCL pay for accommodation, and if we left the ship, there would be no refund … so it was up to us!! we were due to dock in MIAMI the following morning, so as a reasonable consideration we said that if he came back to us before we docked, with a solution of alternative accommodation, even if it meant we had to pay, then we would stay on the Norwegian Jewel, otherwise we had no alternative but to leave the ship. By 12 o’clock the next day, the ship had docked, we went to Immigration, in the Dining Room, The hotel manager was there and ignored us completely, so we packed our cases to leave the ship. At the disembarkation point, the member of hotel staff who had been dealing with us was checking passports, I tried to speak to her, but she also pointedly ignored us, so we left the ship. We took a taxi to Miami Airport, and arranged for a hotel, as we were going to try and get our return flight to the UK brought forward, our holiday was now ruined by the inconsiderate actions and attitude of NCL staff, I was extremely upset at having missed the beginning and now the rest of my 14 day cruise, especially as the four days I had spent on the ship had been mostly taken up with going backwards and forwards to the desk trying to sort out accommodation, packing and unpacking our bags. Previous cruises with NCL have been such that we had no hesitation in rebooking, with the Norwegian Jewel being such a new ship, we were really looking forward to a wonderful experience, but this has certainly soured our view of cruising in the future. the restaurant and bar staff of the Norwegian Jewel were wonderful, but any disappointment on the part of a guest indicates an opportunity for improvement and I certainly hope NCL will use this situation to do so. It may also be prudent if it is explained in future brochures and on the NCL website that there is a restriction on the use of the facilities provided in the cabins for people taller than 5’10”, I’m sure the hotel staff on the Norwegian Jewel are hand picked and valued members of the company, but no-one is infallible, and, when making decisions that they feel are in the best interest of the company, such as in this situation, then the customer is, unfortunately the one who suffers. This is certainly what appears to have happened with us and our experience of the Norwegian Jewel. This time NCL made it obvious that they are in it for the money and the customer is second rated, even to use the jacussi and sauna is a 60 dollar a week charge as you need to join the Bor Bora health club, all the drinks are over priced and the service charge is 19% with 2.50 dollars per roopm service. No More NCL for us.  

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Dec 5, 2005

Ship Tour

Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Jewel Ship Tour Lisa Plotnick In its latest brochure, Norwegian Cruise Line refers to its newest ship, Norwegian Jewel, as “the Jewel that shines.” After a tour of this delightful ship in October 2005, I agree entirely. Although I am generally not drawn to large ships, this one truly sparkled with its grand dining room, variety of dining venues, smart layout, and combination of elegant and whimsical

décor. Ship Facts Norwegian Jewel was built at Meyer Werft Shipyard in Bremerhaven, Germany and made her maiden voyage in August 2005. At nearly 92,000 gross registered tons, she is the largest ship currently sailing for NCL, slightly eclipsing near-sister Norwegian Star. Her length is 965 feet - for reference, this is just 55 feet shy of that of Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas. Norwegian Jewel carries 2,376 passengers (double occupancy) and 1,154 crew. Diesel electric engines provide a maximum cruising speed of 25 knots. Norwegian Jewel boasts 12 passenger decks, numbered 4-15. Most of Decks 14 and 15, however, are for the exclusive use of those in the top four stateroom categories (there are 32 in all), and include a private lounge and outdoor courtyard area, a first for NCL. This concept reminds me of the Patio Provencale on SS France, on which an upper deck courtyard was flanked by several First Class cabins. My tour covered three general areas of the ship: restaurants, lounges, and recreational facilities (for both kids and adults). Restaurants The tour began with a walk-through of most of Norwegian Jewel’s ten restaurants. While I have been a passenger or visitor on many NCL ships, this is the first time I was onboard a ship specifically built for Freestyle Dining. I confess that I was impressed with the number and variety of dining venues. The highlight of the ship for me was the visit to Tsar’s Palace, the larger of the two main dining rooms. In a word, it is magnificent. The aft staircase leads directly into this dining room and another staircase follows - again, a reminder of traditional ocean liners in which one must descend to dine. The ornamentation is simply stunning. Even the ceiling is a work of art. I have been on many ships, either as a visitor or passenger, and this is among the most beautiful shipboard dining rooms I’ve ever seen. Although I could easily have every meal in these surroundings, I found most of the other dining venues enticing, as well: - Azura Restaurant serves the same menu as Tsar’s Palace, yet the room is smaller, and has a more casual feel. - Mama’s Italian Kitchen is very homey with its brick-like walls and family-style tables. - Chin Chin offers a variety of Asian-style meals in a very welcoming atmosphere. In addition to specialty areas such as a sushi bar and Teppanyaki room, Chin Chin offers a meal I discovered recently - Shabu Shabu - in which diners are presented with meats and vegetables to cook in an individual bowl of simmering broth. - Le Bistro, NCL’s signature French restaurant, is large yet cozy and offers a sea view from every table. I found the artwork beautiful. A cover charge applies. - Cagney’s Steak House has a rich feel to it with its wood tones and red and white color scheme. A cover charge applies. - The Garden Café is the buffet area, and is smartly designed with separate stations for sandwiches, salads, etc. It appeared easy to navigate, and was very popular during my visit. - The Great Outdoors is a typical light buffet overlooking the main pool. Nothing out of the ordinary here. Also onboard are Tango’s Tapas Restaurant and Blue Lagoon, neither of which I saw. Even with all these dining rooms, one might still encounter a wait for a table during peak hours. NCL has thus installed screens that show the real-time availability and wait times at all of the restaurants. These screens are located throughout ship, eliminating the need to congregate outside the restaurants - a great enhancement, in my opinion. Lounges A large ship is able to offer a variety of areas for passengers to congregate for drinks and entertainment, and Norwegian Jewel also shines in this regard. NCL touts its “Bar Central” idea, where a martini bar, champagne/wine bar, and beer/whisky bar are positioned side-by-side and share a large seating area. Located on the lower level of a two-deck atrium near the Chin Chin and Azura restaurants, this elegantly designed area is a nice spot for pre-dinner drinks. I loved the stained-glass atrium topper. Alongside the seating area was a row of window seats overlooking the outdoor promenade. The other two-level atrium area, aptly named Crystal Atrium, has a completely different feel. Crystals emanate from the ceiling like icicles, making the area somewhat stark in appearance. This area serves multiple purposes, as it houses the reception area and small dance floor on the lower level, and dining areas on the second level. For more funky surroundings, Fyzz Loung features artwork and carpeting resembling champagne bubbles, with comfortable blue and pink neon chairs throughout. According to the Freestyle Daily activities sheet, Fyzz Lounge is used for art auctions, afternoon trivia, and late-night dancing. Private karaoke rooms are also available. I also liked the Spinnaker Lounge, although I felt it had a split personality. The dance floor is lovely, and looks well suited for the ballroom dancing that is offered there in the early evening. Yet, the oversized, colorful seating alongside the windows is very modern, and more fitting for the room’s role as a late night adult-only disco. The Star Bar, located outside Cagney’s Steak House, is more traditional and intimate. Its relatively small size appears to make it the perfect setting for the piano/violin music offered here every evening. I imagine this would be among my favorite hangouts on the ship. The two-level show lounge is magnificent, and has stunning entryways that rival that of many land-based theatres I’ve visited. I must give special mention to the various carpet designs located throughout the ship. Bubbles adorn the carpet in the Fyzz Lounge, while you can learn some dance steps outside the Tango Restaurant. And having trouble finding your cabin? Just look down and follow the fish - they swim toward the front of the ship. . While I am not a fan of whimsical design, this somehow worked. Recreation Recreation areas on Norwegian Jewel include two swimming pools, gymnasium, spa, and a basketball/volleyball court. Additionally, the kids’ facilities truly make this a ship for all generations. I fell in love instantly with the spa area. It is so large that I was glad I had an escort to keep me from getting lost. In addition to a beautiful indoor whirlpool overlooking the bow, there are several relaxation chairs constructed manually with tile. Also located within the spa area is a traditional barbershop for the gentlemen, a rarity on ships today. In fact, it’s only the second I’ve ever seen aboard ship. The pool area is colorful and cheerful. The two pools and several hot tubs are surrounded by lighting fixtures that resemble palm trees. A separate area houses a swimming pool and hot tub for young kids. I also liked the abundance of shaded seating by the Deck 12 windows. I could easily picture my husband and son enjoying a game of basketball on the dedicated court located on Deck 13 aft. A tiered observation area is located adjacent, making this a great venue for viewing competitions. I was very impressed by the facilities offered onboard Norwegian Jewel for kids and teens. Each group has its own recreation area, complete with separate Internet stations and hot tubs. I don’t know if this will keep kids out of the main hot tubs, yet it is certainly a nice feature. The teen hangout room also offers a bar, video jukebox, and plenty of seating. Closing Thoughts While I did not particularly care for the boxy external appearance of Norwegian Jewel, I found the interiors very exciting and welcoming. There appears to be something for everyone on this large ship, including this traditional-leaning, small ship aficionado. In short, there are several characteristics that set the ship apart from others I have seen. While the décor was imaginative in many areas of the ship, I liked seeing traditional touches as Tsar’s Palace and a full-service barbershop. There are also more dining options than are available in most neighborhoods. And while the Courtyard cabins are out of reach for most passengers, including yours truly, I am sure this concept will be copied by other lines in the not-so-distant future. Norwegian Jewel is scheduled to sail alternating Eastern/Western Caribbean cruises from Miami through April 2006, when she will reposition to Europe for a series of Mediterranean and Greek Isle cruises in the summer and early autumn.  

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Nov 6, 2005

NOT FOUND

Norwegian Jewel Eastern Caribbean Joanne We just got off the ship this morning, and I must say, we were pleasantly surprised by the whole NCL experience. The ship is brand new and beautiful -- sparkling clean. The crew is well-trained and we were told they were hand-picked from the other ships to help launch this one. "Freestyle Cruising" turned out to be a nice experience, and should be especially attractive for anyone

who has avoided cruising because they don't want to sit at a table full of strangers. You can choose from any of 10 restaurants, and you can sit by yourself, or with a group. The food was much better than we expected, even at the cafeteria style general restaurant. We had heard that people had a hard time getting reservations at the specialty restaurants. We went to the reservation desk as soon as we boarded and made reservations for the entire cruise, and didn’t have a problem at all. We had a cabin with a balcony, but it was probably one of the smallest cabins we have ever been in. For some strange reason, the only covering on the bed besides the bedspread was a heavy down comforter. It was much too warm every night, even with the air conditioning turned down to the lowest level. Ask for a light blanket and sheet. The entertainment was a mixed combination throughout the week. Do not miss the 2 production shows, they were 2 of the best shows we have seen at sea. We enjoyed the horse back riding excursion in Puerto Rico. The horses were easy to ride, and the trail through the rain forest area was pretty and had a lot of shade. The only negative was the guides were not friendly at all, and were careless running their own horses all over the place. We also enjoyed the Castaway Girl snorkeling cruise. The crew was great and we saw quite a bit. We would highly recommend this ship, and would consider going on one of the sister ships in the future.

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Sep 28, 2005

Canada New England

NCL Jewel Canada/New England Jerry The Jewel is the newest ship in NCL’s fleet. The ship is beautiful and well run with an experienced friendly crew. For anyone who has sailed on the Dawn the layout of the Jewel is very similar. We sailed the Canada/New England itinerary for the past 4 autumns on different cruise lines but enjoyed sailing on the Jewel and the 11 day cruise even more than the standard 7 day cruise that does a

NYC roundtrip. EMBARKATION Since the Jewel was the only ship in on September 29 (Thursday) embarkation was easy and quick. A pleasant surprise for us was that our room had been upgraded to Penthouse status. We soon found out the advantages of being in a penthouse; butler, plasma screen television and concierge service, chocolate dipped strawberries, doorbell, I think you get the picture. ITINERARY Boston The Canada/New England itinerary is fairly standard for most of the cruise lines. By departing on Thursday we docked in Boston on Friday when everything is open. The last several times we did this itinerary we docked in Boston on Sunday when most stores etc. are closed. There is a lot to do in Boston but you do need to take some form of transport from the pier, it is too far to walk into town. Cabs and transport buses are available at the pier. Bar Harbor You need to tender in from the ship at Bar Harbor. The town is an easy walk with many shops, stores and restaurants to visit. There are beautiful areas to just sit and people watch or visit the park up the hill from where the tender leaves you off to view the ocean, ships and New England scenery. Halifax This Canadian city is a port of call for all cruise ships. You can easily walk into town along the boardwalk for sightseeing or shopping. There is even a casino downtown for anyone who has not lost enough in the ship’s casino. If you are interested in renting a taxi for some sight seeing there are plenty on the pier. One word of warning, be sure you negotiate price in Canadian or US $, how long you wish to engage the service and is the price for the cab or per person. One group we knew had a bad experience with one driver who rents a stretch white limo (the only one at the pier). He scammed them into paying several hundred dollars more than agreed to for an afternoon’s rental because of what he said was their misunderstanding of his price quote. Quebec City Depending where you dock you may have to use the bus shuttle to drop you off in Old Quebec and bring you back to the ship. Quebec is a beautiful city with many interesting sights and lots of history. There are many cafés and stores to visit. Read up on the sites before leaving the ship so that you see the things you may want to see, but didn’t know were there. Cruising the Saguenay River This is part of the trip which I found quite interesting and beautiful. The ship had a person tell us about the river’s history, the native peoples and the geology of the area as we sailed up then back down the Saguenay. Sydney This is a port where you can easily walk into the town. On days when the ships are in there are local vendors at the pier and near town who offer their crafts for sail. The town is not large with limited things to see and do, but charming nevertheless. Saint John Saint John is another small Canadian town that is within easy walking distance from the pier. It is bigger than Sydney with more to see and do. There is an interesting cemetery at the top of the hill that also doubles as a beautiful park. THE SHIP We experienced excellent food in all the restaurants we ate in, and we ate in them all! I’m amazed that the quality of the food, as well as the variety, is so well maintained and with such consistency. Mama’s Italian Kitchen and Teppanyki (Japanese) were VERY popular so plan to make your reservations well in advanced. The sushi bar was a personal favorite of mine. Who can beat all you eat sushi lunch for $5? There are monitors near the restaurants that show how busy the restaurants are around the ship—great idea. You can be at one and see that others are less crowded. There are not buffet lines on the Jewel. The set up is to place large oval stations that provide for such things as a salad station, entrée station, dessert station etc. It works very well and there is never a long line to contend with when going to dine at the Garden Café. There are launderettes for the passengers (which strangely were not shown or advertised in the original maps). This is an important feature, especially for passengers on longer cruises. The casino is large and full of the newest slot machines. The entertainment was excellent throughout the cruise with one criticism about the singing and music at the shows; louder does not make it better, it makes it louder. FreeStyle Cruising is an NCL trademark and I enjoy it a great deal. You eat when you want in resort casual attire. The crew was absolutely wonderful. Everyone we dealt with was pleasant and helpful. We recognized crew members (and they recognized us) from other NCL ships we sailed on this year. This was a great cruise experience for us on so many levels.  

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Aug 9, 2005

Western Mediterranean

NCL Norwegian Jewel Western Mediterranean Cruise Review Kelly Hampshire My husband and I were lucky enough to be on the 13 night inaugural voyage of the Norwegian Jewel around the Mediterranean this summer (August 2005). An easy, swift and orderly embarkation procedure at Dover was soon to be followed by the materialisation of the colourful ribbons and jewels that adorned the Norwegian Jewel herself. (We had some idea of what to expect

- yet only artist impressions of the ship!). On first inspections we were amazed by the vivid and modern interior throughout the ship that was highlighted with contemporary armchairs in many of the bars and restaurants. On closer scrutiny we started to notice however subtle accents of 50’s and 60’s in some of the furniture choices in the bars. Outside there was an energetic feel around the pool area incorporating the theme of the circus that appealed to the child within. There were also many large colourful palm trees that bejewelled the jewel at night. The interior theme throughout the stateroom decks incorporated mahogany wood and turquoise that flowed effortlessly into the staterooms. We resided in a category JJ inside stateroom which was designed with storage as top priority. There were seven ample storage shelves, and a roomy wardrobe. Of course other features were a separate dressing table with hairdryer, safe, fridge, a well laid out bathroom and TV (although not flat screen as in the more superior staterooms). All over the ship there were many strategically placed flat screens displaying information about all of the ten restaurants and their occupancy - rating from busy to full. This proved vital in avoiding the rush at the Garden café (buffet style restaurant) and to generally gauge busy eating times. As Norwegian Cruise Line prize themselves on their freestyle cruising we attempted to sample some of the ten restaurants – ranging from Cagneys steak house, Mama’s Italian kitchen, Le Bistro French restaurant and the Chin Chin Asian resurant (including a sushi bar!). The booking of the desired restaurants proved easy at first using the reservation desk at reception, however as word got out amongst fellow guest there were many queues and block booking of meal times over the two weeks. Another point to make here is that many of these speciality restaurants had a cover charge ranging from $10-$15 which would have to be considered with large groups. These cover charges had been reduced by $5 per person from the original printed prices on the menus. Overall the specialty restaurants provided excellent service, using more experienced and efficient staff. Only on one occasion the booked dining time of 8.00pm was made later due to large numbers and hence we were offered a complimentary bottle of wine which pleased us. The main dining restaurants differed in design from being modern as in the Azura restaurant and grand as in Tsar’s palace. Both were equal in terms of broad taste/themed menus and good service. The chocolate buffet was the best that we have ever experienced on a cruise and we were stunned by the artistry shown in the chocolate “Big Ben clock” and ice sculptures. The bars and lounges were regularly called upon throughout the two weeks and we were most impressed with the efficient and friendly service throughout. Most drinks were reasonably priced however some of the specialty cocktails and alcoholic smoothies were over $9. “Bar city” on deck 7 compromised of many of the Jewels unique bars - Malting’s beer and whisky bar, Shakers Martini cocktail bar and our favourite -Magnum’s Champagne bar which offered a deluxe range of champagnes to be indulged on formal nights. However the night always ended in the Spinnaker Lounge on deck 13 which had live music and then a DJ. Overall the entertainment from many of the performers around the bars and lounges was excellent and could not be faulted. The dance company produced two impressive shows with acrobatic expertise. There was a hugely talented comedian on board and some great lectures provided during the day. There were a good range of activities provided during the day and many art auctions to tempt you to part with cash. The assistant cruise director had a jovial personality and created many quiz nights (jeopardy, Mr & Mrs, The weakest link etc.) for guest participation - which were hilarious. There are very few if any negatives that we can find with the Norwegian Jewel. Given the fact that this was the inaugural voyage and lots of mistakes could happen we and NCL we fortunate. It was clear that there was good management and swift action throughout to prevent any guests from having a good holiday. We would wholeheartedly recommend the Jewel to fellow cruisers and hope you have an enjoyable time as much as we did.

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Aug 9, 2005

Western Mediterranean

NCL, Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Jewel Western Mediterranean Cruise Review Anthony Harverson If the term "State of the Art" is properly interpreted then it may be fairly applied to the latest addition to the NCL fleet. I had the significant privilege of sailing on the Norwegian Jewel during her inaugural voyage from Dover to several ports in the western Mediterranean. In fact , my wife and I have only set foot in our house a few

hours ago following disembarkation, so my impressions are truly fresh and untainted by the passage of time. A wonderful ship and a credit to the German shipyard (Meyer Werft) that were responsible for her construction. Of course, being absolutely new the vessel sparkled in all respects. The estimated construction costs of $420 million will come as no surprise to anyone fortunate enough to spend some time aboard. This is obviously a huge investment of shareholders cash. The projected returns over many years are likely to repay their investment many times over. My only regret is the impression that NCL tried to achieve this return during the inaugural voyage. This voyage was an expensive experience. A compulsory $10 a day gratuity per passenger. A compulsory 15% service charge on top of all purchases ( including water!! ) . Oh, by the way , this additional 15% is described on the bar bill as being "for your added convenience". And the drinks prices themselves were elevated to unreasonable levels. As the cruise director himself admitted during the introduction to a stage show. ' Drunkenness will be no problem on this ship - no one will be able to afford it!" As my original bill for a balcony suite for two was just under $7000 the additional swingeing costs of a few drinks were certainly knocking the gloss off my sense of "value for money" After a few days, I had the feeling that everything was geared to wring as much money as possible from the guests. The cruise was magnificent. The crew were drawn from over sixty countries ( many of them were existing contracted employees of NCL transferred from other ships in the NCL fleet). They were helpful, friendly, efficient, hard working and cheerful. It can`t be a particularly well paid job for the bulk of the catering, waiting or cabin staff but their efforts were unstinting and very much appreciated. The entertainment in the magnificent theatre was as good as any shows that I have witnessed in the West End of London. Finally. The disembarkation at Dover was chaotic. Two reasons. One. Dover is not equipped to deal with the arrival of 2,300 passengers ( particularly as 2,300 new passengers were arriving for the next cruise before disembarkation of the Jewel had been completed) The car parking is inadequate and you may expect to park at an overflow location over a mile away. Two. NCL support and advice to disembarking passengers appeared to stop at the foot of the gangway. The quayside was jammed with coaches, the drivers didn`t have a clue who they were supposed to be picking up. The location of the coaches to ferry the overflow car park passengers to their cars was a very well concealed secret. I ended up walking the mile to my car having waited fruitlessly for over an hour. What a sorry finish!! Dover Cruise Terminal and NCL need to rethink their strategy for any future cruise from this port.

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

Norwegian Cruise Line NCL Jewel Cruise Review Western Caribbean Bob Erickson The Norwegian Jewel is a Jewel is a Jewel. She is big but not grotesque, beautiful but not gaudy and rides smooth as silk. We booked the cruise on Wednesday, December 28 and sailed on January 1. We hadn’t planned on a cruise because we are going on the Norwegian Star to Alaska in June, but Hobbit Travel in Minneapolis had the cruise and outside cabin (with

airfare) for $499.00 and we couldn’t pass it up. Arrived in Miami and was bussed to the pier. Being Latitudes Members, we thought we would get right thru the Latitudes Member line, but found out it was faster to go thru the regular lines…..too many repeat Norwegian customers I guess. The ship left out of Miami to the ports of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Antigua, St. Thomas and Great Stirrup Cay……The night before arriving at the Cay, the captain announced that because of rough seas, we would be going to Nassau instead….since we aren’t beach people, this was a very pleasant surprise……lots and lots of shopping….. The wait staff, stewards, stewardesses, maintenance, bar people, entertainers, officers and office personal couldn’t have been more helpful in making this a great vacation. Since the tips are already built into the fare, you would expect the quality of service to drop…we’ve never found this to be true on any of our cruises with NCL. Our room was on the 5th deck, which is what you get for a last minute cruise. We did get a big picture window though. The room was very nice with lots of storage, even under the bed. The bathroom was a very pleasant surprise. A REAL shower with a sliding glass door and a glass door to close off the toilet. Still not as nice as home, but a BIG improvement. Our room was under a hallway of deck 6, and there was noise overhead when the kids were running back and forth but sleeping wasn’t much of a problem. This was our 8th cruise on Norwegian and turned out to be the best ever. I know Freestyle Cruising isn’t for everyone, but it is for us. We did dress up on Formal Night, but only because I had a new Sports Coat to wear. We ate most of our meals in the Tsar’s Palace which was decorated for the holidays and had a very festive atmosphere. Most of the meals there were outstanding. The only meal that fell below par was on Lobster Night…..it was small, mushy and no taste….but that was the only bad meal we had. We did eat in the Azura restaurant which had the same menu but was rather plain in it’s décor. The Garden Café was designed very well to move people from station to station. The food was always hot and there was a wide choice of good things to eat. Ice cream was available at anytime but with lots of kids on board, the machines were empty many times, but were refilled as soon as it was noticed. The entertainment was some of the best we’ve enjoyed on any cruise. The Big Time Quartet was our favorite mostly because we could recognize what they were playing and singing. The Jean Ann Ryan Company put on Cirque Bijou, which we thought was one of the best shows we have ever seen on shipboard. It was mystical, acrobatic and full of high energy. It was a delight. We have been to all of the ports before, so we only did a walk around (and of course more shopping) on most of the islands. I went on the Fabulous Fort tour in Antigua…..not so fabulous, but it was a great way to see the island and hear about some of it’s history. Over all opinion of the Jewel is GREAT. The ship, the décor, the service and the people are what make it so. With two new ships coming out soon, the Opal and the Pearl, I can only hope they fall into the same category of service that the Jewel has. Thank You NCL for bringing in our New Year at such a high level. We will definitely be back.  

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By TD_CR

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Nov 30, -0001

Eastern Caribbean

Norwegian Cruise Lines Norwegian Jewel Cruise Review Eastern Caribbean TD I spent much time on this site reading reviews before deciding between Royal Caribbean and NCL. One of the deciding factors was the private Island in the Bahamas that everyone raved about on this site. We love good snorkeling, coming from Florida. I booked the cruise 6 days before sailing and 3 days before I printed the confirmation out on my computer, and

the island stop was changed to Dominican Republic. I called NCL which is how I booked (directly with them) and the agent I had been conversing with said it was just changed, in fact, the front desk at the ship later said it was changed one week prior) That turned out to be a lie since many passengers on the cruise said they knew as far back as November that this was changed, and there was an asterisk on the NCL website that said that the week we were going, the itinerary was changed. I hadn';t noticed this, and it was not told to me by the agent, -she confirmed that we were going to the Bahamas) When I asked the agent from NCL about the island, she gave me much info...she should have known we weren't porting there. Let me say the positives about the cruise. The dining style is great IF you can get reservations. I went immediately to the reservation desk after boarding the ship and could only make reservation for THAT night and the next, which I did successfully. However, after that,  I was not able to get reservations. It seemed I was one day behind others. The 2 times we were at the restaurants that needed reservations, they were half empty. We tried to change one reservation and make it 1/2 hour later and they said they were all booked, however we were eating at this time, and the restaurant was empty. We noticed this at another restaurant as well. It just perplexed many on the ship. How do they say it is full when half the restaurant is empty? So after the first 2 days, on the 3rd day we went very early before 6) to the Mexican so we were able to get seats, otherwise for the rest of the trip we had to eat at the main dining rooms. One good tip...the second night they advertise "lobster night". in the main dining rooms) We all had this vision of a buffet flowing with lobsters. Wasn't the case. In the main dining rooms they served one half of what was no more than a 1 -1 1/2 pound lobster. The one half of a tail had about one tablespoon of meat that was mushy. It was a huge disappointment and I felt offended that they would take us that way and deceive us. So skip the "lobster" night.... The best restaurant in our opinion was Tangos Mexican..the selection was good and everything we had was very good. Mamas Italian, was very good also. The Caesar salad and the antipasto, as well as the fish were good. My son liked the steak and shrimp scampi. Cagneys was O.K. Don't think it is worth the $20.00 each  (they even charge the kids the full amount unless they eat from the children's menu which is the standard grilled cheese, chicken nuggets, etc., unless someone wants to eat the 16 oz steak! The buffet for breakfast was good, but was very cramped compared to the Royal Caribbean Explorer. The staff was very good and the service excellent wherever we went. It is just the configuration of the ship that felt cramped. The Royal Caribbean has the buffet at the front of the ship and it is very open with beautiful views of the front. This buffet is a section of the side of the ship. The Royal Caribbean has rock climbing, miniature golf and roller skating. This ship really had nothing for my 11 and 13 yr old. The agent lied to me about having a tennis court (there is a basketball court, but I never saw it converted to a tennis court since there is no net), and golf (all it has was a caged in 4x4 foot green square-don't know what you are supposed to do there). The rooms...we had adjoining rooms on the 5th floor center. I wondered why these rooms wouldn't have been booked...because we were right above the door where we leave the ship and every morning at 6 there was some noise and also a strong humming noise from t the propellers all night. Since it was vibration, my ear plugs made it worse. The ship tried to make it up to us by sending us a bottle of wine, (we don't drink) but every time we arrived at port and other times it was very noisy. I had originally wanted a balcony but was told by the NCL agent that the room I got with the picture window was the same size. I asked how that was possible,,,she insisted they were the same size and that it was the way the beds were configured. Well, she was wrong. The room was barely enough to fit the beds. I wondered how she could get this wrong working for NCL. The excursions....I am certain that if we ever cruise again I will not spend 350.00 to take a Catamaran out to snorkel in water near the beach where there is nothing to see. I did have tips from these reviews to go take taxis' in St. Thomas, but was told by reception at the ship that the only way to snorkel is to go out by the reefs and could only do this with a boat. Well, the catamaran took us about 30 feet from the beach and we could have done this on our own...so that was a complete waste. If you are in Antigua, do not go to Dickerson Bay, go to Runaway Beach. Why the reception told us to go to Dickerson Bay is beyond me, since it is under construction with a resort being built and barricades all over. This is not new construction, and the workers were hanging over walls yelling things out to the young girls on the beach.  We did horse back riding there (not worth the 35.00 each to just walk on the ugly road under construction. A small walk on Runaway beach--they told us we would "ride" ) and passed Runaway Beach. It is a beautiful beach about a mile away. I just don't know why the people on the ship can't give out good tips. It is beyond me...here we are on one trip a year and we are sent to a beach under construction. The substitute of Dominican Republic for the private Island owned by NCL was disappointing. We had to pay 30.00 each to get there at beach on Samna), as opposed to what would be free with their own island, and there were no jet skis or good water sports except a canoe or paddle boat which we have in our backyard in Florida for our lake. All in all, I am sorry I didn't stick with Royal Caribbean. It was only slightly higher and I think it offered us more. The dining is a good idea on NCL, but they need to get it together with reservations. For some reason, it didn't work for us after the first day. They didn't have the private Grecian area for lounging only adults), which was a quiet shaded reading area that they had on Royal Caribbean, and the pool area was so crowded and noisy that we never wanted to go there. Also the water in the pool is salt water which the kids didn't like at all. The pool on Royal Caribbean was chlorine and much larger. I felt I made a choice based on much inaccurate information from the NCL agent. Perhaps on purpose to get us to book with them, especially that change in port. I hope this information is helpful. I didn't even mention the horrendous embarking and disembarking....don't do the "take your own luggage" deal. Almost everyone did this and we waited on line for what seemed like 1- 2 hours. Better to have a leisurely breakfast and let them take the luggage. Getting on the ship was just as bad if not worse. 2 hours in the hot Florida sun outside. they seem to get the worst port. One comment--seems they give repeat customers some good deals since it seemed as if half of the passengers were repeat cruisers with NCL, so perhaps price is the deciding factor for others who cruise NCL. It just didn't compare to Royal Caribbean to us. Food is not the main reason we cruise; it is amenities and ports. My daughter was in a talent show. They said that the winner would receive a free cruise. They don't tell you until the end of the talent show that you would be competing with months of other NCL passengers, and that you were filmed. More deception....but she still enjoyed performing.    

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