Norwegian Jewel Cruise Review by petesweet
- Sail Date: May 2008
- Destination: Baltic Sea
- Cabin Type: Inside
As we left check-in and entered the ship, there were crew and copy machines stationed in the hallway, where our passport was copied for us to use for our visit to St. Petersburg. Our group had come prepared and had our passport copies, but this is a nice touch if people did not know one was necessary.
Got on board just in time to grab our life jackets and head to muster drill. Three of our family members were detained to have their visas examined (they are from the Philippines), so they didn't make the muster drill. No make-up drill for them. It was a very low-key thing. Thought that was unusual.
CABIN Our cabin was 8019 (forward), and Hazline and Joseph were our stewards. They get a grade of A (for "adequate"). While towel animals are not important to us, they seem to be an indication of attention by the stewards, and we did not get any, whereas others got them every night. I might mention, however, that we always saw our stewards in the hall wiping down the walls and cleaning the rooms. I have a feeling they were perhaps filling in for sick crew members. There was a LOT of sickness on board. More about that later.
I had read about a sewage odor in the halls, and we experienced this for the first time this cruise. Probably our location. Apparently it is just part of the cruise experience. If it could be fixed, I'm sure NCL would have done something about it. We certainly couldn't complain about the cleanliness of the ship.
Our cabin was underneath the Stardust Theater, which made for some noise for those of us who retire early. Earplugs solve the problem.
Our cabin seemed smaller than what we have enjoyed on other ships, but that could just be my deteriorating memory!! I did like the cabin arrangement on our recent Explorer of the Seas cruise much better. There was less storage space in this cabin. For example, there are two tiny bedside tables, but no drawers. Wonder why they wasted that opportunity to have a little more storage space? There is less storage space in the bathrooms than we have experienced before. However, nice touch: There are 4 hooks and 2 towel racks on the inside of the bathroom door. (Drawback: My beloved hanging shoe rack in which I store almost everything couldn't be hung on the inside of the bathroom, but I hung it on the outside of the bathroom door, and it was ALMOST as satisfactory.)
Our Explorer bathroom had three mirrors that could be adjusted so you could see your hairdo. Not so on this ship, so take your own mirror. Here's the storage capability in the inside cabin bathroom: The aforementioned hooks and towel racks on the door, two smaller towel racks under the sink, five small racks above the toilet to put things on, three shelves and a shelf under the sink (all very small but appreciated). Soap and shampoo were provided in dispensers, and little lotion bottles were provided.
In the cabin itself, there were three small drawers, two tabletops, one chair, one stool, the two tiny bedside tabletops already mentioned (each with an open shelf underneath), one shelf above the TV, five shelves for clothes, one shelf above the fridge, and a drop-down shelf inside the closet. Beds are high enough so you can store your suitcases underneath.
Apparently mints on the pillows are a thing of the past, but who needs them?
We were looking forward to having a relaxing lunch in the main dining room after embarkation, but it was not to be because of the flight schedule NCL arranged. It's a nice plan, though, if you board early enough. I learned about that possibility from reading tips on Cruise Critic.
DINING: Tsar's Palace: Beautiful!! Service was pleasant and, for the most part, efficient. Sometimes we had to ask a couple of times for things, and once we never did get vinegar for our fish and chips. We thought the food was good, but we've experienced more variety on other cruises (and I'm not talking years ago, but recently). We named our table "Starvin' Marvin" and always ordered for the table in addition to our own entrees. (There were 7 in our party.) The servers were always happy to feed Marvin, and that gave us an opportunity to try more things.
Tsar's is serious about no jeans in the evening. My 12-year-old niece had to run back to the cabin and change out of her jeans one evening. Also, I forgot one day as we rushed back from a late night in port and was gently turned away and directed to Azura. Azura was a little less formal. More modern dEcor. Same food.
Blue Lagoon is a small eating area that is always open. HOWEVER, we were very disappointed with the service. My niece and I went there when it was practically empty and had to wait 30 minutes to be waited on and another 15 minutes to be served. My toasted cheese sandwich was dry toast with a piece of cheese stuck in it. Our entire family group of 7 had previously eaten there at a busy time and experienced slow service, but we thought that was a result of the crowd. Apparently not so.
Garden Cafe: Because of the norovirus problem, all food was served to us by crew members. This made for slow lines, but it was necessary and appreciated. It did seem, however, that we could have picked up a box of dry cereal ourselves without infecting others, but they wanted to hand us everything. The servers were always cheerful and efficient in very difficult circumstances. While the menu was basically the same for breakfast and lunch each day (which is to be expected), the evening meal was more varied and very nice.
I personally had a real problem with the noise level at the cafeteria. With so many people being served, I could not understand the need for LOUD "background" music. In fact, I called the Hotel Manager about it, since he had attended our Meet and Greet and offered to help with any problems. He said their goal was to have soft background music. He said he would correct the problem, but it was never corrected. I didn't bother to call again. Don't know if he forgot, or whether he didn't agree that it was unpleasant. My idea of "soft background music" is not loud jazz played by brass or singers belting out the blues. The louder the music, the louder people talk to be heard above it.
Tango's: We easily got reservations for 16 in Tango's and enjoyed a birthday celebration. A nice little cake was provided at the end of the meal, and the servers sang to the birthday girl. The service was good and the food was great! To add to the ambience, the restaurant is in a balcony above the Crystal Atrium and we were able to enjoy the lovely chamber orchestra playing classical music. Very nice!
PROGRAMS Both my husband and I retire early and did not go to the evening programs. We did, however, thoroughly enjoy the 4 Seasons String Quartet in the Crystal Atrium as well as the wonderful guitar/singing trio from the Philippines. We also watched that same trio in the Fyzz Lounge where various couples danced, and there were some terrific dancers who made it to the dance floor. It was so much fun.
We also enjoyed the talent show put on by the crew. Wow! They can do a whole lot more than take care of our needs, that's for sure.
There were two special programs following port excursions. There was a cute parade of characters with dialog by "Hans Christian Andersen" as we finished up our day in Copenhagen, and the other was singing and dancing by a St. Petersburg folkloric group. These two groups were local talent who boarded the ship just for their programs.
Since ours was more of a family reunion, we didn't take part in many of the ship's activities. We enjoyed the lectures on Russia and England.
In addition to playing cards, the lovely card room provided the following games: Clue, Mah Jongg, Yahtzee, Scrabble, and Monopoly. Next to the card room is the nice library. On the other side is the Latitudes Lounge, which can be used for games as well (if you are a Latitudes member). It seems that anyone could use that lounge, however, as there was a signup sheet but not policing.
We had fun at the murder mystery dinner (free activity). You will want to watch your Freestyle Daily for the sign-up time, since there is a limit to how many can participate. They put you in tables of 8, so if you can gather your own group of 8 and sign them up, that seems preferable to being with strangers. (Only one person has to stand in line to sign up the group.) The interaction is a lot of fun.
One disappointment. There was no mention in the Freestyle Daily about the Activity Cards, and I didn't learn until the last day on the ship that there was a way to earn points toward neat logo items. We always enjoyed working for ShipShape Bucks on Royal Caribbean. I mentioned this to someone who enjoyed the Activity Cards, and she said it was explained by the Cruise Director at the activity itself. Seems to me it would be good to put information in the Freestyle Daily about this and then put some kind of indication by such activities each day. Since I did not participate (through ignorance), I can't explain how it works, but future cruisers might want to check on this.
We did not purchase any of the ship's tours. We arranged a WONDERFUL custom tour by Denrus in St. Petersburg at great savings over what the ship offered. In the other ports, my husband and I just walked around since we have traveled so much and really just wanted to get the flavor of the ports. Other family members enjoyed some of the ship's tours and also took advantage of the hop-on-hop-off transportation, both of which they enjoyed.
CAUTION: Two couples missed the ship in Sweden, and we watched them on the dock as we sailed away. I understand they had to make their own way back to Dover to pick up the luggage that was left for them there. That's very sad. Some will say they should have allowed for more time to get back on the ship, and yes, they should have. However, my sister-in-law said that could easily have been them. It took them more than twice as long as they allowed to get back to the ship. Good thing they started back earlier. Word to the wise!! As it was, a number of people strolled back to the ship late and were very fortunate that the captain delayed departure a bit. They were supposed to be on the ship by 3:30, with sail-away at 4:00. The ship left at 4:10 to allow time for some stragglers.
Disembark for tours on deck 4 forward and mid. We were a bit concerned about how to handle leaving the ship for our custom tour in St. Petersburg, but it was NO PROBLEM. The ship's tour groups are gathering in various lounges, and we just went to deck 4 right away and quickly walked off. (The procedure in St. Petersburg is that a few yards from the ship there is a small welcoming band and then a little customs shack, where you present your passport, extra passport copy, and tour ticket or visa. You will be given a red card. DO NOT LOSE THIS. It will be collected when you return, and I understand it will cost you big bucks to replace. Can't say that from experience—just what I heard.)
Final disembarkation is on deck 7.
Free laundry rooms on three decks. I know 9 and 11 have them. Can't remember the third deck. The one on deck 9 was above from cabin 9090. It is not well marked, but you will recognize it because it has a porthole in the door. It is very clean and has good machines. I did my laundry at an early hour when many were not up, so I had no problem with getting a washer or dryer. It can get busy, I understand. There are soap and fabric softener dispensers for a fee, or you can bring your own.
Passports are stamped in Russia. Not so in other countries unless you make arrangements. Since it was not important to us, we did not look into that.
The weather was PERFECT.
There was beautiful artwork throughout the ship.
The prettiest scenery was sailing out of Sweden.
ONE PARTING SHOT: I was one of those foolish people who absentmindedly packed my transfer voucher in my suitcase the final day. I thought about digging through my luggage on the pier to present it to the driver; however, I decided to take a chance. No problem: I asked the person directing traffic, and she said it would not be needed.
Happy sails to you.
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