Fodor’s Expert Review

Ship Overview

Norwegian Cruise Line
Cruise StyleMainstream
Ship SizeLarge
Prince Range$$
Sails To

Ala...heast Asia

Alaska, Mexican Riviera, Panama Canal, Caribbean, Transpacific, East Asia, Southeast Asia
Sails From (Benoa)

Seattle, Panama City, San Diego, Tokyo (Yokohama), Taipei (Keelung), Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok (Laem Chabang), Bali (Benoa)
Duration7-16 days

Launched in 2005, Norwegian Jewel was the first of Norwegian Cruise Line’s Jewel Class. There are four vessels in this class. Pearl and Jade rolled out in 2006, Gem joined in 2007 before Norwegian ships grew dramatically larger in size, capacity, and attractions. To compare, Jewel’s gross tonnage is 93,502; Norwegian Epic, the next class of ship that launched, is 155,873 gross tons. You get the (big) picture.Read More

Norwegian Jewel will appeal to a traveler who does not want a megaship and the crowds that come with it, but who still enjoys having enough dining options and entertainment to more than satisfy on a week-long cruise. Jewel does not do long itineraries. It sails Alaska in the summer on mostly seven-day itineraries before sailing the Mexican Riviera, Panama Canal, and Caribbean. For winter 2023-2024, it heads to East and Southeast Asia; those voyages are usually no longer than 11 days. Jewel’s destinations and its lack of amusement park attractions and waterslides mean it attracts an older set, the average age being around 55. Families will be aboard when it is in the Caribbean during winter/spring holidays. Jewel also attracts a more international mix, and Asia itineraries will have Asian and Australian travelers.

A 2018 refurbishment and multiple stints in dry dock during the Covid-19 pandemic have given Jewel a new lease on life. The ship was renovated and upgraded to get with the times, so to speak. Orange staterooms and their orange bathrooms are now outfitted in calm, neutral colors. Carpets in public areas have been changed, and restaurants feature new furniture and settings. Other new additions include Bliss Ultra Lounge and an additional outdoor outlet The Pit Stop, a 1950’s themed American roadside bar overlooking the pool. But unlike Norwegian’s newer ships, where technology is fully integrated into the guest experience, Jewel does not have all the high-tech bells and whistles. For those who prefer a traditional approach to cruising, this will feel like a blessing. Jewel passengers are able to use the Norwegian app, stateroom TV, or touch screens around the ship to make their own reservations, check menus and activities, but staff say Jewel clientele overwhelmingly prefer old-fashioned in-person service.

The ship has eight complimentary dining options and six specialty dining restaurants, including a Chinese, French, Japanese teppanyaki, sushi, and Brazilian churrascaria. There is also a cafe, over ten bars/lounges, and live music nightly.

Jewel has two mid-ship swimming pools, known collectively as Sapphire Pool—plus a private pool for The Haven suites—six hot tubs, a kids club, a tiny kid’s pool, a 996-capacity theater, a sports court, fitness center, and large fitness class studio. The spa has a salon and spacious, well-equipped Thermal Suite. The casino is big for a Jewel class ship. Another nifty feature is the Bridge Viewing Room; a glass window at central command gives a behind-the-scenes look.

When it comes to shopping, rather than several stores, all products are in a single large duty-free retail space selling Effy Jewelry, watches, handbags, cosmetics, perfumes, liquor, and casual cruise wear.

There’s three layers of sun deck to spread out, from deck 12 to deck 14. Indoors, hang out in the library, card playing room, the atrium, and Spinnaker Lounge, an observation lounge by day, a club by night.


Several refurbishments from 2018 to 2022 have refreshed and modernized the ship  
A top-notch thermal suite  
Several restaurants offer international cuisine  
No big attractions or amusements for children  
No private restaurant for The Haven suite guests, in spite of other Haven perks  
Smoking is permitted in the casino

What to expect on board

Staterooms & Cabins

Editor Rating

Norwegian Jewel has a total of 1,190 staterooms, of which there are 405 inside (138-278 square feet), 243 oceanview (138-183 square feet), 360 balcony (200-289 square feet), 134 club balcony suite (272-416 square feet), and 30 suites/penthouses (334-578 square feet). There are no cabins specifically for single occupancy. The ship also has The Haven, 18 deluxe suites and villas with extra amenities, L’Occitane bath products, 24-hour butler service, concierge, and access to The Haven Courtyard, a solarium with private pool and hot tub. Unlike newer Norwegian ships, The Haven guests do not have a private restaurant.

The 2018 refurbishment and time in dry dock during the Covid-19 pandemic has greatly revitalized the staterooms. The orangey wood veneer furniture and shelves are now glossy white and dark gray. The overwhelmingly orange bathroom has also been given a much-needed makeover. Neutral tile floor, faux-marble shower stall, a sleek square sink, and better lighting have transformed it into a bright, modern bathroom.

The stateroom’s desk doubles as a vanity. They’ve added a large vanity mirror with in-built lighting, as well as a smaller makeup mirror and hair dryer—this set up compensates for the lack of counter space in the bathroom. The color palette of the staterooms are now soft grays, white, and pops of aquatic blues. Overall the space feels calm and fresh. The extra bed is either a sofa bed or a Pullman bed, a bunk that folds down from the wall. The benefit of the Pullman bed is having a real mattress.

Other standards include bedside USB plug, Norwegian Cruise Line bath products in dispensers, ample closet space with non-removable hangers, mini bar, and for balcony staterooms, sliding glass door with a child lock.

Norwegian Jewel has 27 accessible staterooms. Norwegian recommends contacting the Access Desk and submitting the special needs request form a minimum of 45 days before the trip, and at least 90 days prior when requesting interpreters. Specially trained members of the Reservation Department will speak to guests in detail about their requirements.

On the ship, Access Officers are the primary point persons working to ensure needs are met.

All Norwegian Cruise Line ships have wheelchair pool lifts.

For deaf or low hearing, a portable kit with visual-tactile alert system is available upon request.

Food & Drink

Editor Rating

Norwegian Jewel balances complimentary dining and specialty restaurants. Several international cuisines are on offer, a boon for those who appreciate global flavors.

For complimentary dining, there is the buffet, two main dining rooms, four restaurants/cafes, and room service (ordering hot dishes incurs a $9.95 delivery fee). Located midship on deck 12, the Garden Cafe has the variety expected of a large ship. There is a hand-wash station at the entrance, and guests are encouraged to use it or hand sanitizer before starting. Spread over five islands and an additional long station, find fruit, a salad bar, two soups, pasta, fast foods such as pizza, hot dogs, and hamburgers, hot entrees such as grilled and roasted meats, an Indian station, and desserts. A few dishes highlight the current destination. There are also several action stations: salad, wok dishes, and pasta a la minute. Dinners often feature a themed special, Prime Rib or “grill extravaganza,” for example.

Garden Cafe is not as wide and open compared to newer designs, where the buffet usually occupies an entire section of the ship. Here, the dining area is squished along the starboard side, the tables and cheerful lime green chairs running the length of the windows. However, the setup is neatly laid out, comfortable, and easy to move around in. The easiest-to-access tables have a wheelchair sign designating them for accessibility. Guests can also take their meal al fresco, eating at The Great Outdoors at the stern, or poolside at Topsiders Grill. Both of these outlets are also complimentary. Topsiders does the usual burgers, hot dogs, and fries, while The Great Outdoors has a grab-and-go snack buffet for when hunger strikes.

If hunger strikes at an odd hour, head to O’Sheehan’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill, a 24-hour Irish pub wrapping around the atrium on deck 8. As expected, there’s beer on tap, leather booths, sports on TV. Find pub grub on the menu like chicken wings, loaded nachos, fish and chips, and cottage pie. Or opt for the daily comfort food special such as country fried steak or shrimp po’ boy. Pork pot stickers, beef chow fun, and lemon pepper shrimp are a few of the dishes at Chinese restaurant Chin Chin.

Jewel has two complimentary dining rooms. As the name suggests, Tsar’s Palace is the larger and more opulent of the two. The showy banquet hall-sized room has a seating capacity of 458. Upon entering, eyes are immediately drawn to the golden banister, golden nude statue, maroon carpet, white grand piano, green marbled columns, chandeliers, and faux sky ceiling. Tsar’s Palace is one of the two restaurants with a Smart Casual dress code. The daily menu is mostly European while a few global dishes add some flair.

At half the seating size, Azura is a more intimate dining room. The “cruise casual” dress code follows the rest of the ship, a surprise given the contemporary, elegant setting. Cool blue hues, bright white table cloth, and abstract art give this dining room a refined, upscale air. The menu is all about the classics. Think French onion soup, seared scallops, grilled New York strip steak, and stuffed peppers.

None of Jewel’s six specialty dining restaurants offer outdoor dining, though some have windows with sea views. Most accept a la carte payments, except Teppanyaki and Moderno Churrascaria, where it is a flat $49 per person cover charge. Otherwise, you can purchase a specialty dining package, which is worth it if you dine more than once or twice. The package can be applied to any of the specialty restaurants. The bigger the package, the better the value. For example, a 2-meal package is $89 per person, a 3-meal package is $119, a 7-meal package is $209.

Cagney’s Steakhouse is the most popular. An enormous open kitchen is the focal point of the restaurant that has all the American steakhouse classics, including oysters Rockefeller, Caesar salad, and certified Angus beef grilled the way you like. If going a la carte, the prices range from $39 for 8 oz. filet mignon and $35 for 16 oz. ribeye, to $75 for a 32 oz. bone-in tomahawk. Like traditional steakhouses, the steaks do not include a sauce ($3 each) or any side ($8 each), which can add up.

French restaurant Le Bistro’s fine dining set-up makes it popular for romantic dinners and celebrations. Like Tsar’s Palace, it has a smart casual dress code. It’s all about the French classics, with heavy emphasis on meat and seafood dishes, vegetarians and vegans beware. Rounding out the specialty restaurants: Teppanyaki, where diners watch as chefs prepare meat, noodles, and rice with gusto on a flattop steel grill, $49 per person; Sushi Bar, which is within Chin Chin, offering Japanese appetizers, sushi, sashimi; and Moderno Churrascaria, an all-you-can-meat extravaganza for $49 per person.

When it comes to interior design, the weakest dining room is La Cucina. Does the world need another Italian restaurant with bags of dried pasta, Illy coffee, exposed brick walls, and old pans on display? Though the ambience is lackluster, it will satisfy any cravings for the usual suspects of Italian carbohydrates: pasta, pizza, gnocchi, and risotto.

A 20% service charge is added to all dining.

Whether you prefer a draft beer, a dirty martini, a glass of bubbly, or a whiskey neat, Norwegian Jewel has a bar for it. Each bar highlights a specific tipple, from sake at the Sushi Bar to mojitos at Sugarcane Mojito Bar inside Moderno.

Deck 7 has three open-concept bars in a row, Malting’s Beer & Whiskey Bar, Shaker’s Martini & Cocktail Bar, and Magnum’s Champagne & Wine Bar, which has a small stage for live music. The spaces flow into each other, only defined by the change in carpet, chairs, and lighting. There is nothing wrong with this per se, just that it is not as exciting as it could be. On the newer, larger Breakaway Class Plus ships, the bars are designed to immerse guests in the theme. For example, on Norwegian Encore, which launched in 2019, Malting’s looks like a posh gastropub and has an attached cigar lounge, while Sugarcane Mojito Bar has Miami-Latin flair. Jewel does not lean into the fantasy.
The Unlimited Open Bar Package costs $109 per person per day and includes cocktails, spirits, beer, and wine under $15, and six 1-liter cartons of water per stateroom. It does not include room service, bottled water, specialty coffee, and fresh juices. For $138 per person per day, the Premium Plus Beverage Package covers it all: top-shelf cocktails and spirits, all beer, Champagne/wine by the glass, select premium bottles of Champagne/wine with dinner, and all non-alcoholic beverages. Guests residing in the same stateroom or additional staterooms under the same method of payment must purchase the same package; if individuals are under 21 they must have the Soda Package, $9.95 per person per day, an additional $3 to include juice. A 20% gratuity/service charge is added to beverage and beverage packages.


Editor Rating

Norwegian Jewel’s entertainment is mainly geared towards adults. Heavy emphasis is on nightly live music and participatory events, such as trivia with cruise staff, bingo, a number of different game shows, dance lessons, and karaoke. Cruisers who have been on other large ships may feel the program lacks variety and wow factor. For the under 18, activities are offered at the kids’ club (Splash Academy), but when there is a significant number on board, family activities are added to the main schedule.

Mornings and afternoons are full of tournaments for games such as ping pong, shuffleboard, and golf. In the early evening, there are sometimes gatherings for solos, LGBTQIA+, and Friends of Bill W.

The 996-seat Stardust Theater channels the Belle Epoque era. Art deco ceiling lights, flower murals, and starburst-patterned carpet decadently welcome patrons at the entrance. Inside, rows of teal velvet padded seats span three decks. The theater is narrow but steep, allowing a good vantage from every row. Wheelchair-accessible seating is available at both the top/back and mid-tier. Seating is first come, first serve; doors open 30 minutes before showtime.

On stage is Le Cirque Bijou, a colorful aerial art and acrobatic production, and Rock You Tonight, a musical tribute to iconic rock bands. Other nights might feature a singer, illusionist, comedian, and high-energy game shows like Deal or No Deal, where prize money of up to $5000 is on the line.

Bliss Ultra Lounge, which features seating arranged around a circular dance floor, was added in the 2018 refurbishment. Low, tufted black leather chairs and a black ceiling gives it a modern jazz club vibe. This lounge is the daytime venue for trivia, games, and scheduled social gatherings. By night, bands play top hits or tributes before late-night karaoke kicks in.

Spinnaker Lounge is an interesting multipurpose venue. Its prime location at the bow on deck 13 and panoramic windows make it a terrific daytime spot for taking in the scenery. This would be the closest thing Jewel has to an observation lounge, and it’s one of the best indoor places to park yourself when cruising Glacier Bay or the Panama Canal. Clusters of low horseshoe chairs run along the windows, and in the middle of the room, concentric rows of curved banquette seats face a central dance floor and stage. Spinnaker hosts game shows like Battle of the Sexes, bingo, and theme parties. The former “White Hot” party has been revamped into the Glow Party—wear neon or white and twirls those glow sticks. After 10:30 pm, it’s adults-only, and a DJ carries on for late-night dancing.

Spa & Fitness

Editor Rating

Norwegian Jewel’s Mandara Spa & Salon has 20 treatment rooms, a gym, class studio, and Thermal Suite.

Their most popular treatments are the Aroma Spa Seaweed Massage featuring a heated detoxifying seaweed mask; the Coconut Poultice Massage, where coconut compresses massage the body; and the Aroma Stone Therapy Massage using body oil and heated stones. A 75-minute massage costs $209 to $229, plus the 18% service charge added to all spa services. Upgrade your treatment to include the jacuzzi tub or a sensory dry floatation bed.

The salon uses Kerastase and L’Oreal products, and has four hair stations and two nail stations using the CND Shellac nail system. A Keratin Complex Express Blowout starts at $169. The spa also offers barber, waxing, acupuncture, TruSculpt body contouring, Thermage skin tightening, Dysport wrinkle treatments, and Restylane dermal fillers.

For a ship this size, the squeaky clean Pulse Fitness Center is surprisingly big and has generous opening hours of 6 am to 11 p.m. Technogym equipment is spaced out, and treadmills line the long wall of windows. The aerobic studio is also huge. Newer ships have significantly shrunk their studio size, so an older ship has its advantages. It won’t be hard to find space on the wooden floor to join yoga, RYDE indoor cycling, pilates, TRX, HIIT, and boxing using punching bags. Classes are $20 each or an unlimited class pass is $99. There is also at least one free class a day such as abs, stretch, and body conditioning.

Run 5.5 laps on the deck 13 jogging track to make a mile.

Serene and spacious, the Scandinavian-style Thermal Suite has a range of hot and cold stations to decompress in. Men and women have their own private suites with eucalyptus herbal steam room, cold plunge pool, hot and cold rain shower, dry sauna, hot tub, loungers, and self-service tea. A unisex suite in the middle has a therapy pool, whirlpool, and heated tile loungers. The Thermal Suite’s position at the bow of the ship and its big bay windows actually makes this a great place to park yourself during the Panama Canal crossing or any scenic at sea day. A pass is $69 per day or $298 for a 12-day cruise.

Key cruising tips

Health & Safety

As of October 4, 2022, Norwegian Cruise Lines welcomes all guests regardless of vaccination status, and there is no testing requirement, except when traveling to countries that have them. Masks are optional for the crew. The website states they require crew to be up to date with all their vaccinations.

Hand sanitizer is positioned in high traffic areas. The buffet also has a hand wash station and using sanitizer or washing hands is encouraged by the greeter.

Dress Code

Norwegian’s philosophy of “freestyle cruising,” giving passengers flexibility and choice, is evident in the relaxed dress code. Passengers can dress “cruise casual” in the form of casual dresses, skirts, capris, pants, jeans, shorts, and tops. Swimwear with a shirt or cover-up is acceptable at the buffet and outdoor restaurants, but no wet bathing suits are allowed, and footwear is required. Flip flops, baseball caps, visors, worn-out jeans with holes, and tank tops for men, are not permitted in any of the dining rooms or restaurants.

The dress code remains cruise casual in the specialty restaurants and main dining rooms except for Tsar’s Palace and Le Bistro. Men can wear jeans, khakis, slacks, collared shirts, and closed-toe shoes (no tank tops). Women can wear slacks, jeans, dresses, or skirt with top. Kids 12 and under are allowed to wear nice shorts.

Smart casual at Tsar’s Palace and Le Bistro means men wear pants or nice jeans and closed toes shoes. For women, it’s slacks, jeans, dress, and skirt and top. Jeans must be clean, in good condition, without holes or tears, not faded, not lower than hips or waist.

On Norwegian, there is no formal night, instead it’s “Dress-Up or Not Night.” Formal attire is completely optional. You may wish to get gussied up for theme parties and other nightly events.

Junior Cruisers

The ship’s kids’ club Splash Academy is open daily, with both set activities and free play on the schedule divided by age group: Turtles (3-5), Seals (6-9), and Dolphins (10 -12). Colorful and boasting floor-to-ceiling windows, the large room is for those 12 and under. Kids will have no problem running around the wide open space. Outside on the sundeck is a tiny kid’s pool.

The ultra mod Entourage for teens aged 13 to 17 was added during the refurbishment. Charcoal grey ceilings, geometric designs on the carpet, red leather ottomans, and professional lighting over a dance floor give this space a club vibe. There’s foosball, an air hockey table, gaming stations, and an adjacent video arcade, and small screening room. Meetups, gaming tournaments, and parties help break the ice.


Jewel has a respectable guest-to-crew ratio of 2.22 to 1. The ship has a passenger capacity of 2,376, which is on the low end of large mainstream cruises. This size is more conducive to personal service. Though Norwegian no longer does traditional dining with assigned seating, it’s possible to find familiar faces. Unlike Norwegian’s newer Breakaway Plus Class and Prima Class, technology isn’t a huge focus of the experience which means you can expect traditional person-to-person customer service.

The daily program provides opportunities for guests to interact with the senior crew. They host Captain and senior officers Q&A and “get to know your hotel senior officers” events. Interested in dining with a cruise officer? Register for a chance to be randomly selected.

If there are crew members who you feel have gone above and beyond, in addition to tipping, you can complete “Vacation Hero” cards, which help management recognize these individuals for their service.


An automatic service charge is added per person, per day, based on the stateroom. It is $20.00 for The Haven and Suite guests, $18.00 for Club Balcony Suite, $16 for all other staterooms. This amount is comparable to other large mainstream cruise lines. Staff who provide service on an individual basis, such as butlers, concierge, and youth service staff, do not benefit from the overall service charge, and guests should reward their good service with gratuities. Tipping any crew directly is always welcome.
A 20% service charge is added to beverage, beverage packages, specialty restaurant dining, and spa.


Entered Service
Number of Cabins
Passenger Capacity
Crew Members
Passengers to Crew Ratio
Gross Tons
106 feet
965 feet

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