Norwegian Jewel Cruise Review by skraun
- Sail Date: January 2000
- Destination: Eastern Caribbean
- Cabin Type: Mid-Ship Mini-Suite with Balcony
The Jewel was the first experience we had with Freestyle cruising. In fact, the Freestyle concept is what led us to try NCL. With two children (ages 11 & 7), we thought the freestyle dining would provide us with additional flexibility. It really wasn't the case. While you get to pick and choose where you dine each night, it is extremely important to do homework in advance to know where you'd like to dine, and then make sure you book reservations that first day to ensure you get a time to your liking. While the main dining hall is always available, the 'better' restaurants book up fast. It's not early versus late seating options, but you do find yourself locked into a set of times.
A big downfall to Freestyle cruising is the service. You no longer have the same wait staff for every meal. Each meal a new set of faces. We really missed the pampering: having our waiter know this one prefers chocolate milk, that one white and I drink lots of coffee without ever having to ask (beyond that first day). With Freestyle, it's more like dining at any basic restaurant at home - basic service. On past cruises we often received great tips from our waiters on what to do and where to go. That rapport never surfaced with the Jewel.
And on the subject of food, we're not sure but suspect all the dining comes from a central kitchen. Feeding thousands is a big task, so don't expect gourmet dining. Basic at best. I do give thumbs up to the Cooking Lite menu available in the main dining room. Breakfast especially, was very tasty. Great flavor and not your average items. Thumbs down to charging for the 'specialty' restaurants. If you're going to charge, offer above and beyond. We dined at the steakhouse one night. My husband's steak was average. My salmon tasted just like the one I had two nights before. For $10 extra per person, we expected more - much more. On a cruise with Disney, we dined in its Palo restaurant. There we felt the extra fee well worth it as the restaurant had its own kitchen, and the food could compete with the best restaurants we had at home. An experience rather than another meal!
Positives on the Jewel: our stewards for the cruise were wonderful. Like your traditional cruise, they remained the same. A request for an extra padding for the pull-out couch (my daughters complained it was too hard) appeared night two along with an extra blanket. They learned quickly we were early risers (and our youngest not an night owl) and had the clean up/ turn down cycle timed perfectly to match us.
Also kudos to the kids club. Both of my children loved it. The activities age appropriate, and the staff terrific. If I had a request it would be for some type of pager system - especially for the younger kids. At check in you provided a location you planned to be in, but what happens if there's an emergency and you've decided to visit the casino rather than the dance floor?
Overall our experience wasn't bad. We were able to enjoy the sun, had fun and relax. A jewel in the making, but polish needed.
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