Norwegian Jewel Cruise Review by Vanessa Wallington
- Sail Date: June 2008
- Destination: Baltic Sea
- Cabin Type: Mid-Ship Inside
Warnberne - we have been to Berlin before so stayed around the port and here's where we and many others had a problem - there was an underpass into the town, steps only, no ramps so my husband and our friends had to manhandle both the buggy and me to get me into the place! Several pushchair users also struggled. But it was well worth the visit, a lovely old fashioned town. Again we stopped for a drink and it wasn't too pricey. Later we went on the boat trip to Rostock, a very nice 45 minute trip for 10 euro return - you can get off and catch a later boat back but we were running short of time so came straight back. Had a hot chocolate on board - delicious and cheap too!
Tallinn - now here we had a huge disappointment. It was a Sunday and nothing seemed to be open, there was nothing to see really. We again took the hop on hop off bus, under £20, but had to wait ages at the bus stop once we had meandered round the cobbled streets which were very uneven. Couldn't find a toilet and had to sneak into the only cafe we found open. We kept thinking we must have missed something but apparently we saw it all.
St Petersburg. Well, so many mixed feelings here. We booked an independent tour on the internet before we came away with a company called Den Russ. Just the four of us with our own driver and guide for $450 (£225) each for the two days - no problem with Visas as using this tour company (there are others too)is your automatic visa into the country. We were warned NCL try and keep independent tours back until their excursions have disembarked and they did indeed try to do this to us but I drove forward and told the guy holding us back he had no right to keep us on board and he'd better move - which he did no problem. Cleared customs easily. The next 10 hours were a whirl of sightseeing and our guide, Ksenia and driver, Alexander, were both brilliant. Ksenia was very well informed and whizzed us round the Cathedral of Spilled Blood - everyones favorite place, don't miss it - Peter and Pauls Cathedral (2nd fave) Rasputins murder rooms (totally inaccessible to me)and on to palaces, more cathedrals,a Russian cafe that specialized in pies but didn't seem to have any left, a little market to get a shot of free vodka and cheap mementos, just cannot remember it all! We got back to ship at 7 pm exhausted but exhilarated. Day 2 we got straight off the ship at 8.30 am and cleared customs within a few minutes and the other three had a quick trip with Ksenia on the Metro (all mosaic apparently) whilst I waited with Alexander in the car. We then drove to the Peterhof Palace which for me was to be the highlight of the tour. But I was not allowed in with my buggy. Ksenia argued our cause but I was sent back out to sit in the garden whilst the others went round the palace - good job it wasn't raining. I was both very upset and angry but I sat and watched the fountains which are amazing. We had a trip round the park and then set off to the Hermitage for the afternoon. We opted to have lunch in the Hermitage cafe and it was very reasonable but the Museum itself was packed. We struggled to see various Leonardo's Van Gogh, etc, it was full of very large tourist groups of 20-30 and it was an advantage that there was just the four of us as we could wander the opposite way to the crowds when possible. We finally said our goodbyes at about 4.30 pm feeling completely cultured out! So, to summarize, St Petersburg is a huge city with a dreadful traffic problem (we were stuck in several jams over the two days) is a bit grimy in parts and is the most disabled/pushchair unfriendly city I have ever visited but it has the history, culture and a sort of magic that makes you forgive all that. Go for a private tour if you can, you can choose where to go, when and where to eat, everything, rather than be aimlessly following some woman with a placard all over the place! Helsinki - well, again not very much to see. It is a clean quiet city and there is a nice market and port but that's about it. It was poor weather, cold and wet so we went on yet another boat trip round the coast where we wrapped ourselves in blankets and had yet more hot chocolate! Everyone is very friendly and speaks good English. Was only there about 4 hours, got the shuttle bus in and out. Stockholm. A farce to begin with, we herded onto the Tour bus and sat for 40 minutes waiting to go, it was expensive at £23 each and once we set off we were told the bus did not go back to the port and we had to get the shuttle bus back from a certain bus stop between 2 and 3 pm. Our particular bus's shock absorbers were shot to pieces and we graunched round the city! Be warned! There are no public toilets in Stockholm. Once we got off the bus we had to go into McDonalds and buy a coffee as the toilets are locked and you only get a free pee if you eat or drink there. Having said all that I loved the city, it had a safe clean feel to it and I buggied all over it with no problems (though the old part was a bit bumpy on the cobbles) As a bonus we accidentally came across the changing of the guard marching down the main street just before noon, brilliant to see. We felt too rushed to truly enjoy it and would love to go back sometime.
So, that's the cities, now the important bit - the food on the ship! Now, I found it was excellent overall. The Garden Cafe serves all day but is not very well organized - for example, the curry is at one station and the rice at the other. It is also always crowded and the food is never piping hot. I had seen a hint to take food from the Garden Cafe through to Mamas Kitchen next door and this was a great tip as you could eat in peace and quiet there. At first we ate breakfast in the Blue Lagoon (a small menu) and then moved on to Tsars which we discovered had a huge waiter served breakfast menu. Absolutely great with as much coffee as you could take. We ate at night in Tsars or Azura, a very good menu although the first course seemed to include a lot of soup! I had my birthday on board so we paid the surcharge of $20 each and booked Cagney's Steak House, the best meal of the cruise I reckon with steak that melted in the mouth. We also paid the $10 surcharge on the last night at Mama's Kitchen and although the food was excellent, the atmosphere was sadly lacking and a hoard of cleaners poured in whilst we were on dessert and started turning over the place. Kind of spoilt the evening. The entertainment on board was patchy - catch the Ironics in the Spinnaker Lounge most nights, they are brilliant, and Red in the bar is a great singer. We only visited the theatre to see the Gene Allen Troup, they were very good and on 3 nights - the highlight was the Circus Bijou, not to be missed. I felt NCL were pressurizing you all the time to spend money - they had various 'sales' but I stayed quite controlled. The $10 pp service charge per day and 15% bar charge bumped the bill up and many people were complaining that the internet was very slow and costing too much. Wine cost around $38 per bottle and beer around $6 so we only had one bottle of wine the whole trip! Our friend had her mobile phone stolen on board and we met another chap who had his taken too which spoilt the trip a bit. Overall I would say this is a great way to see six so different cities, the food is very good, entertainment ok (we are great quizzers and there was at least 2 a day, they also had bingo, bridge, talks, art auctions, loads to do) the staff were excellent. We feel we have seen loads and our batteries are fully recharged, though the purse is a little lighter than we'd hoped
250,000+ people have entered their email