Anyone who books with NCL has made a mistake. Nothing with this cruise line warrants a repeat trip. The staff were rude and couldn't care less about your vacation, especially in the restaurants. The ship was a like a traveling Wal-Mart where you are constantly hounded to spend money on over proceed jewelry, t- shirts, photos, etc. Deck 7 was so crowded with junk you couldn't get to the restaurants where the food was mediocre at best. The only person that smiled and said thank you was the one insisting you applied hand sanitizer before entering. Many of the excursions are over priced misrepresentations. Travel 2500 miles and spend $1000's of dollars to be told by the tour guide that you are not on vacation, your on his time. Want a chair on the private island. Be prepared to pay $30. This cruise line could apply for a role in the next Pirates of the Caribbean movie.
The cruise went to amazing ports and great scenery. The excursions were pricey at some ports but for the most part worth it. The St Petersburg excursions were fabulous but you were rushed through most of the exhibits because it takes so long to get through customs and we were running an hour behind.
The one of the problem we had is that we were booked in a Mini Suite on Deck 11 and the Kid Zone was directly above our room and all we heard from 8am to 11pm were the kids screaming, jumping and dropping things on the ceiling. It was so annoying that we complained but nothing was done - this was so not worth the extra money we spent. My suggestion is to double check the room you are booked in and make sure you are not below restaurants, pools and Kid Zones.
Another issue we had was the food was mediocre at best - the desserts were bland and the meals were that great.
This was our first cruise on NCL -- it was too good a deal to pass up on this super itinerary.
It took a little getting used to NCL's way of doing things (we have always cruised on Royal Caribbean in the past), but we were impressed with the ship's layout overall, and our stateroom (8th deck ocean view) was well laid out and provided adequate space for a 12-night cruise. We missed not having a chair/loveseat though.
The beds were very comfortable and the bathroom (in particular, the shower) was larger than we've been used to.
The stateroom attendants were very friendly and did a great job.
The ports were absolutely amazing and we were fortunate to have great weather.
The entertainment was some of the very best we've ever seen. The NCL singers and dancers on the ship were outstanding.
The cons were primarily the food and the service, or rather lack thereof, in the Garden Cafe. The food selections seemed to be geared toward Europeans and Asians only. We went to Tango's (the pay extra restaurant) and we were the only people there, so the service was fine. But the fajitas leftlots to be desired.
There are some advantages to freestyle dining especially if in port late, but we found we prefer assigned dining/seating, as it gives you more of an opportunity to make new friends.
We did note that the cruise staff seemed to take the life vest/boat drill on the first day as a joke. We would have hated to have a real evacuation, as cruisers wouldn't be prepared.
The ship appeared to be clean, although we never saw any crew members cleaning around the ship, as we are accustomed to seeing on RCCL.
While we had a wonderful time, we probably won't cruise NCL again.
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 two 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 theprocedures 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. However, Cruise Critic reviews were very helpful in establishing our own excursions. We spent four days in London (6th visit) pre-cruise and stayed near the airport (and tube station) and took the tube into London which worked well and reduced costs for hotels. We had booked a Shakespearian play at the Globe Theater online which was very enjoyable. Otherwise we 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 the 4 days than to rent for 2 separate days) and drove to Dover, saw the Castle and dropped the vehicle off. The rental guys then 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 it took about 15 minutes to get into the door and onto the ship for the four 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, and 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 of the ports. Disappointed at Tivoli as it was $25+ per person just to get in and I had not really wanted to do the rides (and spend more dollars) and being limited on time. So I 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 to 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 it 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 1-1/2 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. We 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 and 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 and 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 of 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: Met 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 café 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. We 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 four interspersed into the shore visits, so there was plenty of time to rest between trips, especially since we had four 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 3,000 people (including crew) every meal. I WILL CRUISE NCL AGAIN!
I booked a cruise to celebrate my birthday from Miami to Dover with NCL on the Norwegian Jewel.ON the third day of the cruise I was walking along 7 Deck Atrium starboard, and a man from the Duty Free shop was coming toward me pushing a tolley full of unsecured goods from the Duty Free shop. As he got to me he caused the trolley to tip over and the whole contents of the trolley landed on my leg. Fellow passengers rushed to my aid and got a wheelchair and took me to the Medical Centre where I received an injection and tablets for the pain.
My leg was badly swollen so I had xray's taken -- nothing broken and the doctor said I had bruising internally which was restricting the blood flow to my foot and causing me to be in agony with pain. I was travelling with my partner and she had to push me back to the cabin where I remained for the next 36 hours. In that time no one from the ship's crew came to see if I was ok. I returned to the MedicalCentre on a further two occasions for treatment for the pain. My partner suffers with a back problem and could not push me round the ship in the wheelchair.
As we were visiting Portugal and Spain enroute to Dover I asked at reception what they were going to do for me about getting ashore in the two ports. They said I could borrow the wheelchair, but I explained to them that my partner had a back problem and could not push me around in the wheelchair, so she said in a sarcastic tone well you will have to stay on board then.
I remained in the wheelchair for the rest of the cruise. Before I disembarked the ship in Dover they told me the NCL office in Miami was aware of the accident and they would contact me when I got home. We arrived in Dover 28 April and it is now 26 May and I have had no response from NCL. I have sent emails to NCL's office in London and Miami but have had no reply. My birthday cruise was ruined by the accident, NCL was negligent under Health and Safety rules because the crew member was pushing an unsecured and unstable trolley full of goods around the ship.
I have not had an apology from NCL or nothing, and I think it is a disgrace to treat a passenger in this way. We don't care for this sort of attitude.
We just returned today from the worse cruise I have ever been on. We have completed over 27 cruises. This was our second on NCL. I will never use them again!
The food was boring in all of the restaurants included in the cruise price. They had several restaurants for a fee from $10 to $20 per person, but we did not frequent them. We don't feel we should have to pay extra for better food.
The service was even worse. I had a waiter just drop my food in front of me on the table.
Our stewards were nice but not very good at cleaning. We had excessive dust on shelves and the headboard area of the bed. The room was the smallest ever on any ship we have been on.
The entertainment was excellent and we liked Bar City, and had amaazing coctails, but they were rather pricey.
Our shore excursion to the beach in Grand Cayman left a lot to be desired. The umbrellas were $5 and all broken and dangerous with metal points uncovered.
It was the first time in over 27 cruises that the day before it endedwe said "I can't wait to get home!" Most of the time we say we don't want to go home and want to just keep cruising.
I cannot recommend this line or ship to anyone. Please go elsewhere.
Let me start with a little bit of background information. This was my fourth cruise and my first cruise on NCL. We were in an oceanview cabin on deck 5. Our cabin was very nice with two twin beds, vanity area, desk area and bathroom. The closet was very large and had a shelf across the top and a pull down shelf that you could use for shoes. Between the closet and the wall was the safe with four nice deep shelves underneath it. On the other side of the closet was three large lower drawers, a good size open area for the ice bucket and glasses with two shelves above it. Then there was a small desk area with the TV above. On the other side of the room was the vanity area that had 3 small shelves up the side of the mirror, a small vanity drawer, and three more large drawers. There was a stool to sit at the vanity and do your make-up, hair or what ever. They supply a hair dryer that to my DD's surprise was very powerful.
Between the beds were two smalltables each with a shelf underneath. I would have liked to have had a nightstand instead with a drawer as nothing stayed on the little table due to the amount of rocking we were experiencing. The bathroom was very large. The toilet area had a sliding glass painted door just like the shower had. They were separated by a large countertop and sink that had a moveable faucet somewhat like your kitchen faucet. A large shelf was under the sink which had a wastebasket in it and there were three small shelves up the side of the mirror to put your toiletries on. The shower was exceptional with a height adjustable/handheld shower head which included massage if you like. The temperature of the water is written on the handle in Celsius. I really like the fact that even the shower enclosure was wood grain very high end. Carpet was nice and bright as well. Bed was super comfy as were the linens. Only down side to the stateroom was the window was dirty and at some point had been leaking to the point that the screws and part of the metal trim was rusted. It had been repaired and caulked but the rust was very unattractive. Overall room was excellent.
The ship overall was very nice and easy to navigate. Elevators were slow but all elevators on cruise ships are slow. I did not like the fact that the rear elevators only go to deck 7, which made getting to Tsars' Palace rather complicated and confusing. It does help if you remember that food is basically at the rear of the ship and entertainment is at the front. They have cleverly helped you keep track of the front and rear of the ship on the hall by installing carpeting that is fish and sea weed making all the fish swim forward. I told my daughter when we got on just remember the fish swim forward but didn't explain that I was talking about the carpet. Wednesday she said hey mom look all the fish are swimming to the front of the ship, duh. There is a "Freestyle" deck for that type of sunbathing it is forward deck 15; I never went there just saw the sign.
The garden café had a lot of different stations which was very nice although seating was a problem. Pool deck was very nice with adult only, family and kid only areas. The theater was beautiful and the curtain was cool how the peacock changed color when the lights changed. Was unique how the Spinnaker was all windows in the day and transformed into a club at night. Was a little bit weird walking out of a lounge with the chapel right there. Reception area was sort of blah except for the blue led lights tree not sure if that was just for the holidays or what. There were some rather interesting led icicles in the ceiling that changed colors. It was open to the Blue Lagoon and Tango's. I didn't really care for the interior decorations of the ship overall. Now this was the most disappointing part of the cruise. This is where I found I really dislike "Freestyle". Although it is nice to just go eat when you want to you also lose that part of cruising that makes me feel like a queen. You don't have an assigned waiter naturally so it is basically the luck of the draw. Service in Tsars was a nightmare.
The first night we went there and choose to share a table with others. We were seated right by a service station so it was very noisy. The waiters didn't introduce themselves and offered no suggestion at all. See nothing on the daily menu that interested me I went for the always available cheese tortellini which was good. The waiter was very slow. The entire table was not served at the same time and parts were eating their appetizers when the rest were served the main course. There was not a separate desert menu if you requested they would get you one but they didn't bring a dessert menu without being asked. The second night also in Tsars we were not even asked if we would like to share we were just seated at a two person table. Meeting new people is one of the best parts of cruising. We ordered steak and fries which were served cold. The waiter disappeared and didn't return until we were nearly finished to see if we needed anything. It was then that we were able to get ketchup only to find out that the fries were cold. Our drinks were not filled and we had to tell the waiter each evening that we wanted tea with splenda and no lemon. The waiters seemed to get irritated when we asked for Splenda because it was not already on the table and they had to get it. Not sure why as it was in huge bowls in the garden café. The food in the garden café was always cold except for the carved meats and the cooked to order items such as omelets and pasta station. Azure was the best restaurant we ate there 3 nights. We had one waiter there, Renaldo, who was worth his weight in gold. He offered suggestion as to what was the best thing on the menu and never let your drink run low. That is what a cruise waiter is supposed to be. The rest of the waiters appeared to be new or from a fast food restaurant not friendly at all.
One night ate at Blue Lagoon it is good for a fast food type meal. Didn't try any of the pay restaurants as I believe that your meals should be included in your cruise fare and you should not have to pay extra to get good service or good food. Did not feel that food was readily available all the time as when the Garden Café closed your choice was blue Lagoon and that is a sit down restaurant. There should be some kind of place where you can self serve pizza, cookies, ice cream, finger sandwiches etc all the time. There was a great CD Que. He is from South Africa. He was very personable as was all his staff. Dan, Dan the party man was pretty cool also. They had great games the not so newlywed game, dancing with the jewel stars, Liar's Club, Majority Rules, Quest, Greatest Couple or something like that.
Of course they had BINGO which is basically something to lose some money at other than the casino. Had some pool games but I didn't go. They had a pub crawl not sure what the cost was as I didn't participate. They had karaoke, Wii, and dancing. One late night event not to be missed is the White Hot Party, it was great. On sea days their ballroom dance couple taught the cha-cha and one other dance. They did seem to have a lot of "classes" that you had to pay for I didn't do these either. Basically they had the same activities as most lines do just different names. As stated earlier dining service was horrible. Our room steward Michael and his asst Asid were great. By the first evening he knew my name and addressed me anytime he saw me. Asked that the window be cleaned in room and it was done promptly. Brought a second Freestyle Daily even though he had already been there came back to make sure I found it. Put my DD's new pajamas in the bed at turn down exactly as I had instructed him to. Delivered the laundry promptly and even took a piece back to ask about a special request even though it couldn't be done. Michael is an outstanding room steward. He always made unique towel animals that I had never seen in the past. Entertainment gets the best grade possible.
Bar hops were just so-so at best. Always there until you needed one then they all vanished. This was the best part of the cruise. The Jean Ann Ryan production numbers were great especially le Cirque Bijou this is a show not to be missed get there early. There was a comedian he was just so-so, a ventriloquist Ken Groves he and his two puppets were fantastic at all 3 of his shows and last but definitely least was a quartet group called The Cat's Pajamas they were fantastic. Altogether the Cat's did 4 shows on our cruise because they did an extra set the day we missed Great Stirrup Cay.
First port was Roatan which was a great day we did an island tour with TransTours. It was great we went to several scenic viewing areas, a children's home, had authentic food, went to see the monkeys and still had time for the beach. You can't go wrong with TransTours. Second port was Belize which is a tender port and if you don't have you excursion with NCL you have to get a ticket to get off the boat. This was a little strange to me I feel that it should be first to the gangway first off. That is a little discriminatory to me. I have just as much right to leave as their tenders do. Did a snorkel, beach, manatee tour with Coral Breezes. The excursion started off good but then a storm rolled in so we snorkeled in the rain with really bad currents and very choppy water. Then when we got to the beach/island it was pouring down rain everyone was sitting under the roof wrapped in wet towels freezing for what purpose I don't know but we had to wait until time that we were supposed to leave. Then we voted to skip the manatees so we could get back to the ship to get dry and warm. This excursion should have been cancelled when it started to rain. Not impressed with Coral Breezes.
Third port Costa Maya, three ships in port which is a dock port. The pool there was nice other than that there is nothing there but shopping unless you pay for some kind of excursion. We thought it would be like Cozumel and we could just catch a cab into downtown, NOT. If you are not into shopping plan to stay on the ship or book and excursion. The last port was supposed to have been Great Stirrup Cay but being a tender port which was cancelled due to the safety issue. We actually had waves from 4 to 7 ½ feet according to the ships log on TV. I am glad they didn't try to tender. Que the CD did a great job of creating activities to fill the time. Most of which had to be inside due to the cold, windy, rainy weather.
Getting off was pretty painless. The night before you choose what time you want to leave. Place the appropriate color tag on your luggage. Place your luggage outside your door prior to midnight. Get up have breakfast and pretty much the time you chose they will call that you can disembark. They also have a feature where you can tote your own luggage and leave before everybody else. I was not impressed with anything except the entertainment.
To be exact I was rather dissatisfied with everything else. I believe that they are all about selling something be it a special dining area, bingo, martini classes, pub crawl, next cruise, over priced poor photos, art or whatever. I don't like feeling like everything is for a fee. I do like cruising though and will cruise again just not with NCL.
Here is the bottom line first: we had a great time and I loved the ship. We would do this itinerary again in a heartbeat.
Itinerary: NYC-BOSTON-HALIFAX-QUEBEC CITY-PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND-SYDNEY, NS
Embarkation We arrived at the pier in Manhatten at 10:00 am the ship had already disembarked from the previous cruise. We went directly into the line and were processed for our key cards, etc. Unfortunately, since there had been some guests with a viral infection on the previous cruise, we were held up while the ship was sanitized for about 2 hours. Upon boarding, we went to the Tzar's Palace for lunch and then explored the ship before sailing.
The Ship We found the ship to be very clean and very nicely appointed. Some of the common rooms are a bit gaudy in the decorations but we did get used to them over the length of our cruise. Our cabin was just what we had expected, small but comfortable. The ship was in the middle of upgrading to the Freestyle 2.0 pillows and other bedding. They renewed our bedding on the second day.
Food and Restaurants Food and Restaurants: We ate at the followingSpecialty restaurants -- Cagney's (twice) Chin Chin, Mama's, Tango's. We also ate at Tzar's Palace, Azura's, the Blue Lagoon (often) and the Garden Cafe'. We did not have a bad meal on this ship. Cagney's was exceptional and that is why we ate there twice. I feel that is worth the $20 PP that we spent (just for the Jumbo Shrimp cocktail according to my wife).
Entertainment We had some great entertainment led by a great Latin/Tango singer/dancer named Daniel Bouchet. Daniel gave three concerts during the cruise, two formal and one informal, jazz-type performance in Bar City. Daniel is a great performer who brought a international flavor to the cruise. Tony Duncan provided a juggling act that was very good. One of the highlights of the cruise was the show by Kenny Byrd, a ventriloquist who did a very funny show aided by a few of the passengers. One of the "volunteers", a young lady named Lucy from Utah, provided one of the funniest performances that I have ever seen anywhere. Other shows included the Jean Ann Ryan dance shows. The best of these was the last one called "Cirque Bijou" which includes a lot of tumbling and acrobatics and was very professionally done.
Staff We had two of the best stewards taking care of our room. Everything was done faster than our expectations. They left towel animals every day for our enjoyment and on separate days left us a plate of chocolate-covered strawberries and a plate of hot cookies prior to our bedtime.
Ports and Excursions We did everything on our own except for a bus excursion in Boston. We were glad we did this since the pier was a long distance from the downtown area and there were no cabs located at the pier when we disembarked. We found the the piers were located within walking distance to the towns at all of the other ports. Our favorite after Boston, was Quebec City.
Cruise Director Staff and Activities The staff was very good and they had the usual activities for our participation. We especially enjoyed the trivia games which were very well attended. The only down-side was that NCL no longer gives out gifts for each game (NCL branded cards, key chains,etc.) but has opted to issue a trophy to the winning team that has to bring the trophy back to the next game to turn over to the next winner. There were several Ballroom Dance Classes that were excellent. These classes seemed to be popular with the guests. Other NCL 'university" classes included a great series on digital camera photography. One complaint was that many of the NCLU classes were actually wine, beer or liqour tasting classes that charged $15 PP to attend. I do not consider these classes as "life enrichment" classes proposed under Freestyle 2.0.
Disembarkation We did the express disembarkation from the ship at 8:15 AM in NYC. The ship arrived on time and cleared customs quickly. We were off the ship quickly but it was a long walk to the street.
Other It has to be noted that the ship was utilizing extreme sanitization procedures during the cruise. Everyone was required to spray and clean their hands upon entering any eating areas. All food at the action stations in the Garden Cafe was handled by the crew only, using tongs. Passengers were not allowed to pick up anything. Salt and pepper shakers were not on the tables. In the dining rooms waiters handed out individual pieces of bread and rolls, the baskets were not placed on the table. In the common areas, public bathrooms had their doors blocked open so that they would not be handled by people entering and exiting the doors. Hand sanitizers were in all of the halls and in each elevator.
The good news is that even though we heard that some passengers had fallen ill, no one that we knew personally got sick.
This was our third long, 11-nights, cruise with NCL. We have cruised with the Dawn in Western Caribbean and the Wind around Hawaii before.
Pre-Cruise We have been in London many times before so we went there just two days before our cruise. The hotel we stayed at was Days Inn Westminster and the standard on that is lower than we normally choose but this time the location of the hotel was the most important thing. We wanted to stay close to Victoria Station, and it was okay.
On the day of the cruise we took a train from Victoria to Dover and we arrived in Dover around 10.30. We took a cab from the train station and arrived at the terminal just before 11.
Embarkation We used the Latitudes check-in but there were no lines anywhere so that made no difference. The ship wasn't ready for embarkation so we had to wait for a short while but we were on the ship before noon. We got the bubbly welcome, ate lunch on The Great Outdoors and drank a glass of Taittinger on Magnum's before they announced that the cabins were ready,1.30.
Cabin We had a BA Balcony Stateroom on deck 10, number 10034. The cabin is located close to the stairs in the front of the ship and that location was good for us. The cabin isn't very big but it's okay and we had enough room for our things. The bathroom was very nice, small of course! We really loved the bed, it was so comfortable, and whatever they have done to the beds, Freestyle 2.0 rules when it comes to the beds! The balcony wasn't used very much on this cruise but every second on it counts and in my opinion, it's worth to pay extra for a balcony.
Restaurants and Food We ate at Tsar's Palace, Azura, Le Bistro, Blue Lagoon, Cagney's, Mama's and Garden Café.
Tsar's Palace and Azura are the main restaurants and all the food we had there was very good. We liked the interior in Tsar's Palace more than in Azura but the service and the food (obviously since they have the same menu and the food is from the same kitchen) was equal. We also had breakfast at Tsar's a few times and that was very good too.
Le Bistro, great service and great food! We ate at Le Bistro twice and I can definitely recommend it to everyone. The second time I had Moules Anisette (steamed clams) as starter and Crème Brule as dessert and both were great. We also liked our waitress, Svitlana from Ukraine, very much.
We didn't like the Blue Lagoon on the Dawn but this was very nice -- the interior, the food and the service. Fish & Chips for lunch there was very nice.
Cagney's had the best dessert I have ever eaten, Cagney's Banana Foster Flambé, and that alone was worth the extra 20$!
Mama's had very good pasta but the Cannoli I had for dessert there was one of very few things I didn't really like on the ship. There was nothing wrong with it; I just didn't like it!
Garden Café had a very large selection of dishes and the breakfast there was much better than the breakfast in Garden Café on the Dawn. As for the quality of the food served at lunch and dinner, it was okay but not much more. Buffet food is seldom great but sometimes it's nice to avoid all the attention you get in the other restaurants and then it's okay that the food isn't 100% perfect!
We ate at The Great Outdoors too but I don't consider that to be a separate restaurant, it's more like a part of Garden Café)
Our overall opinion about the food is that it was better now than on our previous NCL-cruises. Because of Freestyle 2.0?
Bars and Beverages Magnum's Champagne & wine bar, Shaker's Martini & cocktail bar and Maltings beer and whiskey bar were located together in something they called Bar City. They were all nice to sit in and have a drink and look at all the people passing by. We did like Pearly Kings on the Dawn better than Maltings, because we just love an English pub!
Star Bar was one of our favourites on the Dawn but we didn't really like it on the Jewel. The second evening we ordered a drink which we had ordered in Spinnaker Lounge the evening before and it was far from the same standard. It was messy and they also tried to charge us for a souvenir drink. I told them when I ordered it that I wanted a regular drink and not a souvenir drink. They apologized and it was no problem to pay the correct price but I guess they had ruined the magic, we didn't go there again! The Spinnaker Lounge was the best place to get a drink, especially in the evening when 60280 played/sang.
The selection of drinks was good but we missed the beer menu they had on the Dawn with more than 40 kinds of beer. We don't know how many kinds of beer they had on the Jewel since we never saw a beer menu. Maltings had a menu with lots of whiskeys but not a menu with beer.
We also didn't like that they didn't have the cheapest Champagne they had in the menu. The cheapest Champagne they had by the glass was Taittinger for a little more than $15. Taittinger is one of our favourites and we had it a few times but they should have had something around $10 too. A regular cocktail cost around $7,50 and a little more simple, for example a Gin & Tonic (a favourite for us) cost around $6.
As for wine we ordered NCL's anniversary wine for $34.50/bottle a few times and that was okay.
Entertainment We didn't really like any of the "big" shows we saw in Stardust, the theatre. We loved 60280 which played in Spinnaker every evening and we also loved Izabella Zebrowska, a violinist we saw in Spinnaker. (She also played in Stardust but we missed that, unfortunately).
Overall we thought that the entertainment had been better before but maybe that's just our personal taste.
Ports The ship stopped in Lerwick, Shetland Islands, Reykjavik, Iceland, St. John's, New Foundland and Halifax, Nova Scotia.
We tendered in Lerwick, no problems with that. In Reykjavik the ship docked rather far from the town centre but NCL had a shuttle bus to the centre, I think the cost was $5 one way.
We liked all the ports and had excursions booked with NCL in Lerwick, Reykjavik and Halifax. The cost for an excursion booked through the ship is higher but in all nontendering ports we saw buses come late to the ship, and since they were NCL-booked tours the ship waited for them, otherwise they might have missed the ship. The total cost for our vacation was around $10000 so if we paid a few dollars extra to bathe in the Blue Lagoon, that's really no problem!
What Could Have Been Better The weather! It's not NCLs fault and we knew when we booked the cruise that the weather on the Atlantic ocean can be bad in September, but it was a little too windy some days! The movement didn't bother me much but there was a lot of strange noises because of the wind!
One evening we had a very loud noise in our cabin and it took almost two hours before someone fixed it for us. I went to Reception twice and called once before anyone came. The problem was that the door didn't close properly and they "fixed" it with a wooden stick!
They were less pushy trying to sell drinks than they have been before, good. Sometimes we even had to ask for the wine list at dinner, not so good!
I don't like that every time you order a drink, you have to specify that you don't want a souvenir glass. Of course it should be the other way! If I ever become a real VIP, like booking a Garden Villa or cruising with them for the 100th time, I will talk to the captain and tell him that every time they try to sell me a souvenir drink without asking me first, I will drink it but not pay for it!
Less "free" sparkling wine than before! On our previous cruises they have given away sparkling wine on the formal night (which they now just call "dress up or not", not good either) and they didn't now. At many kinds of presentations they have served sparkling wine before and now they first had the presentation and afterwards they might serve sparkling wine, sometimes in the shop after the presentation. I understand why they do it that way but I don't like it!
Maybe six sea days was a little too much when the weather wasn't very good but it's not very easy to find any port to add on the Atlantic ocean!
Post-Cruise Debarkation in New York was very quick and less than half an hour after we left the ship we sat in a cab on our way to the airport.
It's always easy to check in at the airport when flying with British Airways, the worlds best airline! Our plane left JFK almost two hours late so we missed our connection to Stockholm at Heathrow, so we had to wait there for a few hours before we could fly home.
Our overall experience was great! The ship was great, the crew was great, the food was great and the ports were great! Some things have been better before but some things were better now.
We can absolutely recommend NCL to anyone and the Norwegian Jewel is a great ship.
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 powderand 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.
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). We used a local tour operator. Our itinerary allowed us to visit more sights in less time than NCL could offer. We also took a cruise on the Bosphorous.
In Izmir, we took the Ephesus and the Virgin Mary tour. We had an excellent lunch in a small restaurant by the Temple of Artemis. For Izmir we used the same tour operator as we did for Istanbul. We were very impressed with the services provided.
You can email this company at email@example.com Athens - we used Spiros from www.athenstaxi.net He is very reasonable...around 200 euro for up to 4 people for a full day tour.
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.
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.