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Cruise Ratings
Sail Date: November 2008
My husband and I booked this cruise nearly a year earlier because we planned to take our 10 year old grandson with us and we live in Texas and he lives in New Jersey. After we worked out the logistics, we booked a mini suite and looked ... Read More
My husband and I booked this cruise nearly a year earlier because we planned to take our 10 year old grandson with us and we live in Texas and he lives in New Jersey. After we worked out the logistics, we booked a mini suite and looked forward to an enjoyable cruise. After making our final payment we watched in dismay as the cruise prices tumbled. What started out as a much looked forward cruise was turning into a nightmare. Prices continued to drop and our aggravation and anger continued to grow since NCL seemed oblivious to our complaints. Finally, after much negations between us, the line, and our travel agent, and a reasonable upgrade fee, we were reassigned an AB Penthouse, two bedroom, two bath with butler service. Now we were in the right frame of mind for a cruise. Having arrived in Barcelona a day early, we took a cab to the dock and our luggage was immediately portered away .We were directed to the embarkation area. Although there were lines for regular cabins we went straight ahead to suites and VIPs and were attended to right away. After receiving our key cards we were escorted to an anteroom where we were greeted by the concierge, met the Hotel Director, and our Butler showed us our way to our suite. Best embarkation ever!!!! STATEROOM Our stateroom was great and provided all three of us with privacy. This would be ideal for a family since the second bedroom sleeps three and the living room/dining room combination is quite roomy. Our stewardess and steward kept our quarters neat and clean and always stocked with fresh towels and toiletries BUTLER We thought we died and went to heaven. What can you say about someone who anticipates your every wish? Ice, drinks, snacks, whatever. And our grandson was ruined for life with cookies and milk before bedtime, movies for the DVD player and juice and soft pretzels for his snacks. TREETOP KIDS CLUB Our grandson (10) couldn't have been in better hands. There were several counselors on staff and always being with the kids. They played tons of games, had dinner together occasionally, saw shows, and even had a pajama party. On sea days they were open from 9 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Our grandson had the best time ever and never wanted to leave. DINING and RESTAURANTS Suite guests have the availability to breakfast and lunch in Cagney's, the steakhouse. The menu is diverse and the food delicious. The Garden Buffet was always busy with good reason. The food was very good, with great variety and presented well. The Blue Lagoon was good too, with the promised "comfort foods". All the other restaurants were "extras" at $15 to $25 each. They did run promotions of ½ price, but this was not advertised, you had to ask each day. The Bistro, French has been and continues to be excellent. Cagney's steakhouse for dinner was also a very pleasant surprise. It was also excellent. We enjoyed the food at La Cucina (Italian) and the Tapas bar is fun and very good value, with complimentary appetizers provided with your drinks. The Japanese Teppanyaki was noisy, and not worth the $25 charge. The food was bland and disappointing. Room service was very prompt and hot and tasty. ENTERTAINMENT Ray the Cruise Director, was one of the best in this position we've met. He was personable without any "haughtiness" and his entire team exhibited a true camaraderie. This attitude infects the passengers with a great experience. The Big shows were also a big cut above the others ships we've sailed. The entertainers' voices were very good and the dancers were excellent. The other shows - Comedians, 2ndCity, Vocalists, and instrumentalists were OK. PORTS Ville France is a charming small French coastal town. Its main allure is the ease to get to Monte Carlo and Nice. We took the local bus (1 euro) to Monaco (about a ½ hour ride along the coast). Just walking around Monte Carlo and seeing the Casino, the Hotel Paris and all the designer shops are worth the visit. Livorno is the gateway to Pisa and Florence. We visited the Leaning Tower and a few other churches in Pisa then off to Florence. We got great photos of the city and visited the Museum Academia (Michelangelo's David, It is Magnificent!). After Several more churches and a little shopping, we stopped for the best gelato we ever had, then back to the ship. Civitavecchia is the port for Rome. We were there on Wednesday and were able to arrange to be at the Pope's audience at St. Peter's. Then after hitting the highlights (Trevi, Spanish Steppes, Coliseum and much more) we visited the Cappucine Monastery. If you've never seen this, you must. It is a VERY different sight you'll never forget. Corsica is the birthplace of Napoleon. It is a quiet city (Accacio) and was a welcome respite after the non-stop tours for the first three days of this trip. Malaga was also quiet. We arrived early and most shops were still closed. It was pleasant to simply walk around the downtown area and get a feel for the local culture. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2009
This is my 3rd sailing on NCL and after 3 so-so cruises I have decided NEVER to cruise with them again after this cruise.  It is simple really, they nickle and dime you to death and the service you get in exchange for it is just mediocre ... Read More
This is my 3rd sailing on NCL and after 3 so-so cruises I have decided NEVER to cruise with them again after this cruise.  It is simple really, they nickle and dime you to death and the service you get in exchange for it is just mediocre at best.  There are other cruise lines out there that are so much better that what little money that you think you are saving on NCL you really are not.  Spend the extra and go on Carnival or RCCL or Princess and have a good cruise.  Here is why.Check in:  got to the port at 1:00 p.m. - got on the boat at 4:45 pm!  I have NEVER had to wait so long in my life to get on a boat.  No explanations, just get through this line and wait in another.  It was madness.  This was a 3-day cruise on a small boat.  Come on people.Cabin - standard balcony cabin - but get this I wanted to take a shower and our bathroom wasn't stocked with any bathroom stuff.  I had to borrow a shower cap from my friends next door.  This was the way it went all weekend.  On the 2nd day we had to ask for new towels because we weren't given any AND there was so much dust on top of our tv set that you could write your name in it.I saved the best for last - we made reservations for 8:00 for 6 at the LeBistro (a specialty restaurant) cover charge of $15 per person.  We arrived at 8:00 and were promptly seated.  At 10:10 p.m. we were eating cold food on extremely hot plates.  The food had been under heat lamps for so long that my friend's steak that had gravy on it had "jellified" (not really a word but you get the picture).  Two hours and ten minute wait to get cold food AND to pay extra to get it????  We asked to speak to the head waiter who happened to be a itty bitty thing who came to the table, gave no explanation or apologies and they took off two of the $15.00 cover charges.  Well I was having dinner with a table full of attorneys and this just didn't cut it with them - the poor girl didn't stand a chance - needless to say, we got all of the cover charges removed from our bill.  All around the ship we heard people complaining about service - albeit it was a cheap cruise - I guess you do get what you pay for - but I won't be found on a NCL ship anytime soon. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2009
Norwegian Sun Repositioning Cruise LA to Vancouver BC - May, 2009 A group of friends and family joined the Norwegian Sun for the three night repositioning cruise from LA to Vancouver BC.  Below are some thoughts on the ship, and on ... Read More
Norwegian Sun Repositioning Cruise LA to Vancouver BC - May, 2009 A group of friends and family joined the Norwegian Sun for the three night repositioning cruise from LA to Vancouver BC.  Below are some thoughts on the ship, and on repositioning cruises. EMBARKATIONBecause of the swine flu scare it took longer than normal to embark.  We arrived at 11:55 and were not on board till 2:10 PM.  This would have been OK, if we had been given better information about the reasons, and also better direction when we were in the boarding area.  Direction in the boarding area consisted of one security guard yelling at people to stay back from the boarding line until your group number was called.  The few times he used the public address system he bellowed into it.  An NCL representative could have given the directions, and would likely have done so with more grace and charm. NORWEGIAN SUN - THE SHIPWe had previously taken the same journey aboard the Norwegian Star, so it was fun to compare the two ships.  The Sun is a smaller ship, which gave us more of a "homey" feeling, and made it easy to find our way around.  The downside is that there are fewer venues, so there is less variety.  The shopping on board was also more limited.  The ship was clean, comfortable and well maintained.  The cabin was nice, standard sized (balcony on the Fjord deck).  Bathroom was smaller than I've experienced in other ships, but was very efficiently laid out with an innovate circular design.  Certainly enough room to do everything that was needed. ENTERTAINMENTThis was probably the best aspect of the trip for me (apart from just being at sea!).  The Jean Ann Ryan Company was very good, with a Cirque de Soleil style show.  The comedian was funny, thinking well on his feet. The magician was also very good. Two things which could have done with improvement were the Martini "lesson" at "NCL U" where the staff member was difficult to understand, and the staff seemed unprepared for the number of people who turned up.  A passenger, who had taken the same "course" on board another ship said they did a better job, and had actually been able to mix the drinks themselves and so could learn more. The other demonstration was the towel folding, which was fun but again the staff member was difficult to understand. FOOD The food was very nice.  If you like to have a sit-down lunch when you first board, then check the various full service restaurants.  I was told by one crew member that no full service restaurant was available, but walked to Seven Seas and found they were serving lunch.   Similarly, if you like a full service breakfast check around.  On our trip they were serving full service breakfasts in the restaurants.  However, you had to check the daily paper, since they would direct you to a different restaurant if you were not in the one which was assigned to your cabin. STAFFStaff were very friendly, and dealt promptly with problems and concerns.  We noted that a lot of new staff came on board for our trip, and they were not fully up and running on how things worked.  We wondered if this partly due to this being a repositioning cruise.  Also, restaurants and housekeeping seemed to be short-staffed at times.  However, the staff's can do attitude made up for a lot. One thing which we appreciated was that the number of announcements over the public address system was limited.  The Captain spoke once a day (around 10:00 AM), and the Cruise Director made some announcements, which were not piped into the private cabin areas, which we very much appreciated. SERVICEService at times was sporadic.  For housekeeping, errors were made in each of the four cabins which we had.  Examples include: coffee makers weren't present, informational binders were missing, mattress toppers were not on the bed despite being requested, soap wasn't provided (despite two requests).  One cabin was not made up till about 3:00 PM, and the cabin steward apologized saying that his partner was at training that day. One complaint often heard is that you are continuously pressed to buy drinks on the mass market ships.  We actually found that this wasn't the case, except for the evenings in the Dazzles Nightclub. One notably poor area of service was the East meets West Steakhouse, where other diners were getting up to try and get the servers' attention.  The food there was wonderful however. FINAL THOUGHTS & REPO CRUISESDespite the issues raised above, we enjoyed our three nights aboard.  My cabin was a balcony on the Fjord deck (Deck 9) which was very quiet.  This deck is sandwiched between two other accommodations decks, which I try for, since I believe it makes for a quieter cabin.  Fellow Cruisers - A mixture of people and ages.  A think the destination, lack of port calls, and cooler weather made for a mellower crowd.  Still fun, and folks were having fun, but it was not a "booze cruise," which we appreciated. We also very much liked that there was no enforced "formal night" aboard.  Norwegian Cruise Lines' "Freestyle" cruising ethic means that you can dress formally if you wish to, but it is definitely not required.  NCL is The repositioning (repo) cruises make for a nice short break, and are a good way to try cruising if you just want to get taste.  Be advised that these types of cruises do not focus as much on port calls. Our trip did not have any intermediate stops, so we were at sea from Thursday evening till Sunday morning.  Also, some aspects (such as midnight chocolate buffet) which you might get on a longer cruise, are often not provided. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2009
I just got back from spending 7 days on the NCL Star's repositioning cruise from San Pedro, California to Vancouver, Washington via Juneau and Ketchikan, Alaska.Juneau: Beautiful sunny weatherBest cruise tour:  Mendenhall Glacier.  ... Read More
I just got back from spending 7 days on the NCL Star's repositioning cruise from San Pedro, California to Vancouver, Washington via Juneau and Ketchikan, Alaska.Juneau: Beautiful sunny weatherBest cruise tour:  Mendenhall Glacier.  Interesting.  Learned something new.  Took great pics.Worst cruise tour:  Gold Creek Salmon Bake.   Cooks were unwilling to give more than 1 piece of salmon at a time.  Sauce is sickeningly sweet.  Try pouring sugar on your salmon?  My partner loved it, but then she does not like the taste of salmon.  I, on the other hand, thinks salmon tastes great by itself.Tram Ride:  Loved it.  Great views, especially on a sunny day.  Great pics.Ketchikan: Beautiful sunny dayBest cruise tour:  Tklingit Village.  Hosts were gracious.  They did not mind your taking pictures of them, in fact encouraged it.  They encouraged folks to dance with them.  I did.  Totem poles were beautiful.Not bad, but not great tour:  Lumberjack.  I've been to a real Lumberjack show out in the woods of Snohomish County, Maine.  There is, of course, no comparison.  Here, they use a swimming pool.  They try their best, but the show is sorely lacking in giving serious credit to those who have been lumberjacks and have risked getting limbscut off, etc., while building this great country.  Good show, but corny.  Vancouver CloudyOne tour only:  City TourThis was lousy.  Save your money.  You can get to the airport without doing this.  What really galled me is that the bus driver told us where to buy food.  So, trusting that he is not going to want us to get ripped off, we saunter into this shopping area, like lambs to the slaughter.  The ice cream cones alone were $5.00 a piece.  Trust me, this guy has to be getting a cut of the action.  Do not take this tour.  If you are going to be spending the night in Vancouver, go on the trolley ride.  I've been to Vancouver before and the city trolley ride is great...costing far less and letting you spend far more time at different places along the way.  Vancouver is a beautiful city and it is sad to spend the day doing this tour.Best restaurant on board ship:  Soho.  Go to the Jazz Brunch.  It is great!  Yummy...The other restaurants on ship leave a lot to be desired.  The worst was Ginza, although the staff there was wonderful...but I don't go to eat to see the staff, I go to eat.  The food here is terrible!Versailles is ok...at least it is free.  The waiters however, on the last night of the cruise were rude.  Food is not that great...variation?  What's that?The Norwegian Star is a beautiful ship...but what is this about, this Free Style.  Yes, you can get ok food at any time of the day, but the dining halls do not open until 5:30p.m...so how is that free style?Also, the shows are sub-standard.  Boring!  The only shows I truly enjoyed were the shows put on by staff and passengers.  If I saw this one girl balance herself on this guy one more time, I was going get sick.  Yes, it is a good thing to see ONCE...not every show!  NCL is money grabbing too.  They actually took my payment for the whole tour, and then also had the nerve to hold another $721.00 in captivity.  Best thing about this trip...meeting 3 wonderful people at the daily Bill W. meeting.Well, folks, I'm back to Royal Caribbean or off to Princess.  You can keep NCL.  It's just not for me! Read Less
Sail Date: April 2009
My husband and I took the repositioning cruise on the Star.  We previously took the NCL Dawn and I've been on over 10 cruises.  This was my second cruise to Alaska and third time to Alaska.  We had a great time on the cruise.We ... Read More
My husband and I took the repositioning cruise on the Star.  We previously took the NCL Dawn and I've been on over 10 cruises.  This was my second cruise to Alaska and third time to Alaska.  We had a great time on the cruise.We booked this particular cruise because it came with a large shipboard credit and the prices were reasonable enough that we could splurge and get a "Romance Suite."  A few weeks before we left, I ordered the Honeymoon/Anniversary package from NCL for $75. This includes a bottle of champagne, chocolate-covered strawberries (that were so ripe and delicious!), canapes delivered one night, a honeymoon/anniversary "cake and champagne" party with a free 5x7 photo, and cover charge for dinner for two at Le Bistro restaurant with a bottle of wine.GETTING THERE & EMBARKATIONWe took the Blue Van from LAX to the pier, which I reserved independently.  This worked quite well and was about $15 pp one way.Embarkation was so easy.  Our reservation said to get to the pier two hours before sailing, and we arrived just then.  There was a very long line still waiting to get checked in.  Thankfully we were in a suite and had a separate check-in area.  There was no one in the line.  The concierge, Belkys, met us.  She was very friendly.  We were escorted onto the ship and given champagne after we posed for the obligatory picture.THE SHIPThe ship is like its sister, the Dawn.  Although somewhat older it doesn't show.  It's still very nice, clean, and well-maintained.  The ship had come from Mexico right as the swine flu issue arose, but we were confident that it was OK.  There was antibac everywhere.  THE ROOMWe loved our room.  It was honestly not as large as I thought it would be, but it was very nice.  There was plenty of storage space, a desk, sofa and small table, chair and ottoman, and table and chairs.  The bed was sooooo comfortable!  It had a pillow top.  The linens were nice, as were the pillows.  The curtains were not blackout curtains, so we did get a lot of light in the room.  We had a flatscreen TV and access to a large DVD library.  There was also a vanity area.  The bathroom had a tub/shower on one side, the sink area in the middle, and the toilet on the other side.  While people have been praising this "ingenious" design, it is still not private enough in my opinion for multiple people to use it at once.  The partitions between the sections is a thin plastic that you can still see through. Towels were fluffy and in abundance.  The baths have Elemis toiletries.  There was a dispenser with shampoo, body wash, and hand soap.  There were also bottles with the aforementioned and lotion, conditioner, soap, a loofah, and a shower cap.  We had larger-sized bottles.  I also saw people with smaller bottles.  Toiletries were not replaced.  There was a large balcony with two nice lounge chairs and a table.  We loved having champagne and canapes on the balcony.  We also had a mini-fridge, glassware, and a Lavazza single-serve espresso pod machine that made the most delicious espresso.ALASKAAll in all, I did not feel that our ports (Juneau and Ketchikan) portrayed an accurate representation of Alaska.  This was the biggest disappointment.  My husband was underwhelmed.  On past trips I remember seeing tons of animals and glaciers.  We didn't see much of either.  I think that the regular itinerary for this ship should be better and that ours was poor because it was a repositioning cruise.We went fishing in Ketchikan (great trip!) and took a bus to Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau.  RESTAURANTSAll in all, we felt that the quality of NCL's food had improved over our last cruise.  Food generally was as good as or better than food that we get at home.  It's not the quality of a celebrity chef or 5-star restaurant but I would say that it's better than anything below that (which in my opinion is very good).  There was always plenty of fresh fruit.  Alcoholic drinks were reasonably priced, we thought.Reservations - We had no problems with reservations, which was unlike our prior NCL cruise where it was hard to get reservations.  I made a reservation for Le Bistro one night in advance.  The concierge made a reservation for Cagney's one night in advance.  We made reservations for Ginza and Endless Summer the same day.  We did not have a reservation for La Trattoria and had no wait. Ginza - Ginza is the Asian fusion restaurant.  I think the cover charge is $15 pp.  We felt this was worth it.  This was sort of like PF Chang's lettuce wraps, etc.  The meal starts off with edamame.  Food and service were good.  Dessert was the stand-out, with a trio of Asian-flavored creme brulee. La Trattoria - Half of Market Cafe buffet gets transformed into this restaurant at night.  (We were thoroughly confused one night when we went to eat here and it was missing because it's also the location of the chocolate buffet.)  It had a $10 cover charge.  There were so many yummy things on the menu, it was hard to choose.  Breadsticks, bread, bruschetta, and olives started the meal off.  There's an antipasta tray, soup, calamari, etc.  I had a delicious chevre pizza.    Endless Summer - Endless Summer is Tex-Mex and comes with a free margarita.   The meal starts off with chips and salsa, pico de gallo, and freshly made guacamole.  Entrees were traditional fare such as tortilla soup and fajitas.  My husband had the lobster tacos and said they were good.  Cover is $10 pp. Le Bistro - Le Bistro was my favorite.  I think the cover is $15 pp.  The wait staff was excellent.  They even gave us a "happy anniversary" cake.  The menu is traditional French, and they make crepes suzette at the table.  The quality rivals a good French restaurant on land.  This restaurant's decor itself was not as nice as Le Bistro on the NCL Dawn, which had fine art and Versace plates.  Cagney's - The cover is $20 pp.  We enjoyed our meal a lot.  It is supposed to be like Morton's, e.g., iceberg wedge, side items, quality beef.  It's not quite as good but still a nice experience with good food.  Versailles - Versailles is the main dining room.  We did not have a wait for a table for 2.  The food was good but, in contrast to the other restaurants, it was apparent that they are preparing so much more food at the same time.  This restaurant has Eating Well selections.  No cover charge.   Market Cafe - This is the buffet, and I'm not a big fan.  There were some stand-outs, such as the soft-serve ice cream and chocolate fountain.  There is an Indian station, pasta station, pizza, hot dogs, burgers, etc., in addition to different entrees and side items.  The quality isn't that great.  I preferred to sit down for breakfast and lunch and grab a snack at Market Cafe.  Aqua - Aqua is the other dining room without a cover charge.  We had a good meal and I loved the souffle.  Our waiter was great. EXCURSION DESKThere are so many tours in Alaska.  I went to the excursion desk to inquire about some of them.  Most of the staff was friendly and polite, but I did speak to one man who was rather rude.  There are brochures, etc. at the desk.SHOPSThe ship has two shops but also sets up an area in the atrium daily.  The shops sell duty-free liquor and cigarettes, perfume and cosmetics.  There is a Diamonds International.  There are also T-shirts, toiletries, Bijoux Terner items ($10 items such as ties, jewelry, evening bags, pashminas), souvenirs, etc.  Amber jewelry is pushed because of the "proximity" to Russia.SPA/INDOOR POOL/GYMThe ship has an indoor spa area, which includes an indoor pool, comfortable lounge chairs with a view, a hydrotherapy pool, and hot tub.  The men's and women's locker rooms have a sauna and steam room.  The men's locker room has hot and cold plunge pools.  There is tea, water, and juice by the pool.  For $20 a day, you can buy a day pass to use these facilities.  You can buy a cruise-long pass for $99 or a couples' pass for $140.  We bought the couple's pass, as we knew that we wanted to use these facilities daily.  They say they only sell 40 couple's passes for the entire cruise, but they don't limit the number of day passes or single's passes, as far as I can tell.  So it can get crowded.  You also get to use a spa robe.  Although the price of this has gone up, we still felt like it was worth it.  However, on an Alaska cruise when it's too cold to sit out by the outdoor pool, the indoor area was busier.  Sometimes we couldn't get a chair, and people would reserve the chairs with a towel and then never return.  One of the women at the front desk always acted annoyed to see me, but the woman who replenished the towels was very nice.The gym was nice and tended to be busy during the mornings.  It had treadmills, ellipticals, etc. with TVs.  There is also a classroom.  I did the aerobics in the mornings, which was a good workout. I did the spa tour when we got on the ship.  This is a Steiner spa.  They pitched the regular ionithermie treatment and GoSmile tooth whitening, etc.  (My mom did the ionithermie once and it did not work.)  The first cruise deal was 20% off signature treatments for the first morning of the cruise.  The regular prices are slightly higher than land spa prices.  I did note that they ran specials throughout the duration of the cruise, whereas on other cruises I've been on, this would just be on certain days.  They ran the 20-20-20 promotion for the entire cruise, where you can get 3 mini-treatments of 20 minutes each for $99.  They also had a similar promotion with up to 5 treatments.  I got a 1 1/2 hour treatment for $149 that included a mini-facial; back, neck and shoulder massage; foot massage or scalp massage; and full-body exfoliation.  The flyer said that it also included a body wrap, which I did not get.  The technician was nice but not overly friendly.  At the end, she tried to sell me over $1000 worth of products.  $175 in muscle soak might relax my muscles, but I'm sure it would give my husband a heart attack. LATITUDESWe got pins that said "NCL Star."  There was a Latitudes cocktail party with hors d'oeuvres and drinks.  The band played and a few bottles of champagne and other gifts were given away in a raffle.  The end of the party turned into a sales pitch to make a deposit for a new cruise.  Members also get a gift shop discount off some items. CASINOThe casino was on the smaller side but fine.  Everyone got free coupon books where you could get $30 in slot play for $20, chip coupons, etc.  ART AUCTION/PARK WESTWe were invited to a "special" wine and cheese event with an exhibition of some of the artwork on the ship through Park West.  There was no pressure to buy, and this was not an auction.  Supposedly, prices were deeply discounted.  The host gave us a brief overview of the selected artists.  There were, of course, numerous auctions throughout the cruise.  This was a nice, small event, but I'm still not a Park West fan. PHOTO SHOPThis was a disaster.  Photos must be purchased in packages, e.g. a 5x7, 3x5, 2 wallets and a magnet (that has nothing to do with NCL or the trip) for $15, or 2 5x7s and a frame for $20.  This is bad if you just want one photo.  There are no exceptions to this, and the man in the photo lab was rather rude.    PORT TALKI attended the port talk on Juneau, which was an hour-long sales pitch by Ian, the shopping consultant.  He gave out some prizes (people were horribly grabby over a free Frisbee!).  All attending got a coupon for a free "diamond" charm bracelet at Diamonds International.  I should know by now that this is always a rip off, yet I can't seem to learn.  I redeemed by coupon in Juneau and got a plastic-like gold bracelet with a charm that says "DI."  The "I" supposedly had a diamond chip in it.  The talk just emphasizes the stores that have paid NCL to promote them.  Most other events with free giveaways were a similar waste of time.  Better to spend the time enjoying the scenery or in the hot tub.SUITE PERKSFrom what I can discern, people in categories A1-AE get special perks as described on nclsuitesandvillas.com.  We were in a category AD.  Our perks included assistance from a concierge, Belkys, who was very nice.  We did not use her much, but she was available via phone and also had a spot in the Star Bar where you could visit her.  She would check in on us at breakfast and see if we needed anything.  She made dinner reservations for us one night.  We also had a butler, Theodore.  I only saw him once, as we did not want room service.  He will get you anything that you want, however.  He brought us canapes daily and also replenished our coffee.  We could have breakfast and lunch in Cagney's.  This was the best.  No waiting for a table and great service.  I became addicted to the Challah French Toast with Tahitian Vanilla Mascarpone and Macerated Berries.  YUM!  In addition to the menu, there was a small buffet with strawberries and fresh whipped cream.  There is French press coffee, which is much better than the buffet coffee.  We were invited to a "VIP" cocktail party with the captain.  This was our only real opportunity to meet the captain...other cruises had opened this up to all guests.  The priority embarkation was great.  We did not use the disembarkation.  There were canapes and a bottle of champagne in the room when we arrived, as well as a beautiful floral arrangement and fruit basket that was replenished.  This really spoiled us, and it will be hard to ever have a regular cabin again! 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Sail Date: April 2009
This was my 3rd cruise on NCL and I had a GREAT time! The food was very good, the best I've found on NCL. Even the buffet was good, but not as well organized as on the Pearl. I agree with other recent comments that the food service ... Read More
This was my 3rd cruise on NCL and I had a GREAT time! The food was very good, the best I've found on NCL. Even the buffet was good, but not as well organized as on the Pearl. I agree with other recent comments that the food service options on the Spirit in the mid-late afternoon (about the time you are returning from shore excursions) are unfortunately limited. I ate about an equal number of meals in the "free" dining rooms, buffet and room service. I was surprised that there was no "dress up or not" night on this cruise (or did I miss it?), although I'm always part of the "or not" crowd. Also, I noticed that there were no dress code signs at any of the restaurants except for the Windows "designated" dining room. And the sign at Windows only banned shorts and tank tops, not jeans. I saw several gentlemen at dinner in the Garden dining room wearing shorts (cargo, not Bermuda) and in one case topped with a logo'd T-shirt. So, as others have recently noted, it indeed seems that the dress code is "dead" as far as NCL is concerned. Not that this rubs "casual" me the wrong way...I simply note it because it is a topic of frequent discussion. Also, I didn't see any "2-fer-1" deals in the specialty restaurants, as I've typically seen on other NCL cruises after the first week. So I never ate at any of the specialties. :-) Looks like the $20 laundry deal is now $25 and it takes an ADDITIONAL day (returned by 6:00 PM the SECOND day). As with prior NCL cruises, I was pleased to find no traces of smoke in my cabin. But smoke on my balcony was occasionally a problem, especially when the ship was in port or moving very slowly. As a result, I'm now considering Celebrity for future cruises. I really liked my cabin steward. He was friendly and helpful, and this was the first time I left a cash tip of more than just "loose bills/spare change" (in addition to the automatic "service charge," of course). As I said, this was a GREAT cruise and I only note the foregoing issues because they represented a slight departure from my previous experiences on NCL. :-)I was in a category BB balcony, deck 10 forward, port side.Following are brief comments on port stops:New Orleans (embarkation) - Went smoothly enough. I arrived a little before noon and was on board in less than an hour.Costa Maya, Mexico - The port area was simply a dock and shopping plaza. Took the Chacchoben Ruins tour, liked it.Santo Tomas, Guatemala - None of the tours looked interesting, so I just walked around the port area. It was surprising interesting.Belize City, Belize - Took the Altun Ha Ruins tour, liked it. The city itself (outside of the "secure" dock area) was pretty "hard scrabble." Aggressive panhandlers, and their version of "English" was unintelligible to me. Other than the tour, I was not impressed.Curacao, NA - Took the Trolley Tour and then walked around town for a few hours. Liked what I saw. When I previously visited Curacao last year, I took the Discover Curacao tour, but was disappointed for some reason.Bermuda - Took the Bermuda Island bus tour (5 hour). This tour was kind of long, but it covered the entire island and I really liked what I saw!Boston (debarkation) - Things got off to a slow start, but once rolling I got off quickly as part of a tour group. I was concerned about the possibility of additional delay and screening due to flu issues (the ship had stopped in Mexico the prior week) but there was no such problem. They just glanced at passports and didn't even scan them (although foreign passengers - including Canadians as I recall - were screened ON THE SHIP before departure). Took a brief Scenic Boston bus tour that dropped me at the airport, liked it. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2009
Great departure date allowed us to spend a couple of days enjoying the music festival in New Orleans which started on Friday and ship left Sunday. Embarkation was very smooth and fast.Glad to see that the Asian art was kept after the ... Read More
Great departure date allowed us to spend a couple of days enjoying the music festival in New Orleans which started on Friday and ship left Sunday. Embarkation was very smooth and fast.Glad to see that the Asian art was kept after the ship's overall last Fall. Stateroom ( balcony ) was comfortable....mattresses were new ! Food : Raffles ( self serve) had quite a variety from fish to pasta and meat. Something new everyday and if one didn't like fish there was plenty of meat & pasta etc.. Dessert at Raffles was boring....not much change from one day to the next and it would be nice to have a few more cookies available there instead as having to go to the area near the Raffles bar ( aft ). Mostly we had fruit for dessert. Also there were never any cookies at the Blue Lagoon 24 hour restaurant, just slices of cake.We had dinner at the Bistro..very nice dinner; also at the Garden & the Windows restaurants. Except for one night when we asked for medium well cooked meat and we were given what I would call rare ( a lot of blood ) all other meals were good. The waiter asked if we would like to order something else but we declined. Just couldn't be bother waiting for another entree because we wanted to make it to the show. "Open areas "We particularly like the aft part of the ship as it has three levels ( from deck 12 to deck 9 ) where one can sit under the sun or in the shade and it is quite there. The only activities going on there are ping pong ( deck 11 aft ), the children's pool ( really not that noisy except perhaps for a couple of hours a day when the kids come ). In deck 9, besides the kids' pool there is a whirlpool so we used that one several times. Staff was great. Literally we did not find anyone who wasn't pleasant. Several of the ship's officers came to our meet & greet meeting. From that day on, every time they passed us they stopped to say hello. Actually a couple of times they actually sat down with us and just chatted. Entertainment : Shows were good. We went to every one except one night when they had Second City.Games: it would be nice if they could come up with at least one new game. It seems that every cruise line has the Newlywed not so newlywed show. It was actually quite hilarious because some of the participants did not quite understand the Cruise Director Paul who has quite a "thick" British accent. The audience ended up "translating" some of the questions which made the game show a lot funnier.  Disembarkation : Due to 5 non US people not clearing US Immigration on time, ( they were paged so many times we lost count !!!) the disembarkation was held for quite a while as no one was allowed off the ship by US Immigration/Customs until they were cleared. Some people who had early flight departures did not make it on time and it caused quite a bit of chaos when finally everyone was able to disembark. Although the disembarkation was by color, I was a bit messy. We were supposed to disembark at 09:15 and we didn't until 10:30. By the time we got our bags was almost 11:00. Must say I was impressed by everyone's Customer Service on both this vessel. On previous cruises ( NCL or other cruise lines we always seem to "find" one or two members of staff who aren't as friendly. On this cruise we did not encounter that !  We enjoyed the cruise and itinerary and are looking of doing this same repo cruise next year ( they are changing the itinerary a bit).  Read Less
Sail Date: April 2009
We're relatively new to cruising and must say that Freestyle is definitely our style. People who are used to "old school" cruising may say they don't get a chance to meet people or have the same server get to know them. ... Read More
We're relatively new to cruising and must say that Freestyle is definitely our style. People who are used to "old school" cruising may say they don't get a chance to meet people or have the same server get to know them. With freestyle, you can still do that, plus you have flexibility. We ate when we wanted with whom we wanted or by ourselves when we wanted. We could dress up or not. For those who "missed" the dress up nights the only place we saw it listed was under the Photography description in the Freestyle Daily. You can also check with the reception desk at the beginning of the cruise and they'll let you know.We also discovered that repositioning is a great deal. It was like 3 vacations in one: 3 nights in New Orleans during the French Quarter Music Festival what a treat (we stayed at the Drury Hotel which has a special cruise rate); then the 12-day cruise; then Boston - where we spent another 4 nights in Cape Cod. With many airlines now giving good deals on one-way flights, getting a discounted round-trip only fare was not an issue. Try Southwest for New Orleans and Jet Blue for Boston.We ate all of our dinners in either Windows or the Garden dining rooms. We tried to sit in the section where some of our favorite servers were - but we couldn't do this all the time. The food was good - not great - but fine for us. It did seem to go downhill by the last few days of the cruise. We never ate in the buffet for dinner because we like sitting down and being served and feeling like we're really going out for dinner. There's one night where you can put your name in a drawing to "win" dinner with an officer. I recommend doing that, because you get to meet an officer, usually from another country, and whenever you run into him/her onboard there's a connection. Plus the wine was free and you get a prime spot in Windows.We found the NCL staff to be courteous and attentive. We had two problems - at different times - with our cabin and both times they were promptly fixed, with a note or phone call the next day asking if the problem had been resolved. The voltage in the cabin is 110, so I never used my hair dryer or straightener; although some folks said they used their straighteners with an extension cord. I was afraid to do that because my straightener said 125V, so I'd recommend a converter. Our cabin location - 11th level aft was perfect, as we could run up a get some fruit or snacks from the buffet and bring it down to our cabin and eat out on the balcony for breakfast or an afternoon snack. (Hint there are shrimp cocktails on the dinner buffet with 3 large shrimp, but they're hard to find. By the end of the cruise, they were little baby shrimp.) There's also a children's pool and deck area on the 12th level aft, just above us. And since there were only a few kids onboard since it was not a "break" time we found this area to be a nice, quiet place to hang out.  We went to the shows every night, and while some were definitely better than others, overall we enjoyed them. We liked the comedian, the female singer, the hypnotist, and Second City. The NCL productions were fun they really work hard and you have to give them credit for that.  We met many CC-ers on board after our Meet & Greet the first day. If you haven't already checked out a roll call for your cruise, I recommend it. Then have someone contact the ship to set up a M&G place/time for you. Since we were such a large group, we had "special treatment" and contact names of ship staff if we needed anything. 12 Days was a perfect amount of time and all-in-all, we had a great experience.For ports of call, see separate reviews. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2009
The Jewel did not appear to have comfortable places to sit & read - a frequent activity of transatlantic cruisers. Even the library chairs were uncomfortable.  With the very cool , windy weather, lounging on the pool deck was not an ... Read More
The Jewel did not appear to have comfortable places to sit & read - a frequent activity of transatlantic cruisers. Even the library chairs were uncomfortable.  With the very cool , windy weather, lounging on the pool deck was not an option. The entertainment was good , as well as the food in Tsar's Palace(free) restaurant. Freestyle dining made it possible to catch the shows twice, which we usually did. The first production show, Band on the Run had excellent singing & dancing. The 2nd production show had a country music format. The 3rd was entitled Cirque du Soleil & included breathtaking gymnastic feats. The cast did a fantastic job on all 3 shows. We thoroughly enjoyed The Skinny German Juggle Boy, who not only was a tremendous juggler, but also VERY Witty & amusing. The Hypnotist was entertaining , as well as informative. The comedian was funny & incorporated the audience into his act.  The soprano, Jennifer Fair, had a well trained voice & pleasing personality. The ship's crew presented their talent as one of the shows.  The cabin stewards worked efficiently as a team & did the usual towel folding thing.  The lack of formally scheduled lecturers was a HUGE omission for a cruise with so very many sea days.  At least Rich, the cruise director, responded to our disappointment by rounding up a few passengers to give lectures by the 3rd sea day. They were well attended attesting to the need for intellectual stimulation in addition to the "beer University" and other similar type activities.Embarkation was somewhat slow compared to other cruise lines, especially COSTA. Debarkation, on the other hand, was well done.The incessant hawking of "CRACKERS" - pull tabs, was annoying & done 15 mins. before each show in the Stardust Theatre. Bingo was another rip off, with handsets selling for $ 49 & up for a prize of $100 to start with. There did not seem to be many folks paying extra money for the specialty restaurants which probably was a reflection of the value seeking consumers who paid a very reasonable price for this cruise.We have been cruising for many years on over 45 cruises on the popular cruiselines and will have second thoughts about choosing Norwegian again. Not having to dress formally was a plus , but not having comfortable seating & incessant quests for the passenger to pay extra for so many activities was a definite minus. Shore excursions were expensive & there was so little time in the Azores & Vigo that going too far afield on your own was prohibitive.  More time should have been allotted to these two ports as we were near the final port of Dover many hours before the official docking time of 5 AM.For those within driving distance of Miami , staying at a nearby motel, such as the RED ROOF INN or Las Quintas proved to be a good value .  They offered parking for up to 14 days @ $4 per night & a reasonable room rate ($79).  Included was a free ride to the port offered at 1 PM and a shuttle from the airport every half hour, also , at no charge. They also offer "breakfast" of coffee,tea, juice, bagels & individually wrapped danish.NCL had no control over the weather , however, the ship was rocky only a few minutes out of Miami- most unusual . Due to the windy weather, the first 3 or 4 days were also rocky requiring meclizine for some of us.In conclusion, there were positives & negatives on this cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2009
I'm a 29yr old male who chose this cruise and brought my girlfriend as well as went with another couple of the same age.  The price was right (~$750pp) for a balcony which was then upgraded to a mini-suite due to additional ... Read More
I'm a 29yr old male who chose this cruise and brought my girlfriend as well as went with another couple of the same age.  The price was right (~$750pp) for a balcony which was then upgraded to a mini-suite due to additional reductions in price.  No matter what is said below - you can not beat the pricing of this cruise; inside cabins went for as low as $339pp.I booked online and while they were easy to get a hold of, very accommodating and gave better pricing than NCL themselves - I found their service not to be forthcoming with information and when they did information, it was not always correct.  One example would be that I asked which airport was closest to our disembarkation port of Dover, England.  I was told Heathrow which is not true - Gatwick is 30 minutes closer but I did not find that out until I was on the ship (after I had already booked my return flight home).  They were also unable to tell me when we would be getting off the ship in Dover and NCL would not talk to me because I had booked online.  I had to guess when to book my flight and ended up in a bit of a time crunch when heading to the airport.Now on to the cruise.  Getting onto the ship was relatively painless since we did receive some special treatment due to having a mini-suite.  However - NCL's efficiency at routing lines and placing signage is very poor.  For example - they had two lines going into the port, both of which needed to go through metal detectors.  When you got to the end of the lines, there were three metal detectors off to the left and only one off to the right.  The guy directing the lines would let three people from the line on the left go over to the three metal detectors on that side and only one person from the right line go over to the metal detector over on the right.  This resulted in the line on the left moving 3x as fast as the line on the right.  Would it not make more sense to simply alternate the lines and send two people at a time from each line to occupy all four metal detectors instead of only allowing people from the left line head over to the three metal detectors on the left while only letting people from the line on the right go over to the metal detector on the right?  Such a simple concept but the guy directing traffic simply smiled at me when I suggested this to him and continued to allow the left line move 3x as fast.I was very surprised at all the additional fees on the cruise.  I had not cruised with NCL in the past, only Carnival.  Some of these fees included $12/day for gratuities for cabin stewards and waitstaff and $7/day for soda.  Personally I prefer a price with everything included however, I did not find out these fees until well after I had already purchased my tickets for the cruise.  I was also under the impression there were laundry facilities on the ship which were available to guests.  This was not the case - we could only have our laundry cleaned if we paid for a service.  This was a bit upsetting because something as simple as a white undershirt would cost $5 to have washed while it cost me less than that to purchase in the first place.Due to being a transatlantic cruise, we had a couple of rough days at sea  but it was not too bad.  However, we always had high winds so the pool deck was barren.  The pools were closed on several days and very few people were out on the deck, in general.  This led to my group paying close attention to the events available on board.  Unfortunately we could only endure trivia, bingo, social cards, etc so many times.  I would say we ended up spending most of out time in the casino.  I did well in the casino but not everyone in my group had the same good fortune.  However, none of use had a good experience in dealing with the dealers.  The dealers were very impersonable and showed no consideration for their players.  From neither smiling nor conversing to not saying "Thank you" when players gave them tips - the dealers proved to the the least friendly staff on the entire ship.  The single best casino employee was a guy named "Louren" who was a "Slot Attendant."  He remembered names, went out of his way to build rapport with guests and generally had a pleasant demeanor.  Also - be wary of the progressive blackjack tournament.  They raked in over $2,000 across 11 days and only paid $500 to the winner.  2nd-6th place received a Tshirt and 2nd & 3rd received a bottle of champagne which I felt was insufficient considering the money they had pulled in.Some bartenders were "ok" while other bartenders were very unaccommodating.  The waitstaff was decent in the main dining rooms but did not compare to the quality of the waitstaff in the majority of restaurants that required a cover charge.  The absolute best staff/crew on the entire ship were the cabin stewards.  Not just mine but the stewards for my friends as well proved to be extremely accommodating and excellent at making guests feel at home.The entertainment was decent.  From a comedian, to hypnotist, to dancers - the big show each night had something to offer.  However - the best attraction was the "Skinny German Juggle Boy."  This guy was hysterical and extremely entertaining.  He ended up doing two shows which were different from each other and both were worth attending.I preferred the food setup better on Carnival.  While Carnival may set dinner times, they also offer a lot more options all day and late at night than NCL's alleged "freestyle" cruising.  The buffet was almost exactly the same day after day and the food quality in the dining rooms was sub-par on most nights.  Another aspect of this cruise to be careful of is the demographic.  I believe I only ran into ONE unpleasant person so everyone was friendly and happy to converse.  However, this was a cruise for retirees and other people in that age range.  While I thought the low price would attract a younger crowd - it turns out this cruise was quite the opposite.  I heard somewhere that the average age on the ship was 57 but I thought it was actually higher than that.  This resulted in very early ending nights.  The casino would close around midnight because of a lack of players and while there was one lounge scheduled to have events as late at 11:30pm, almost nobody showed up.  I am more of a night out so we spent many late nights awake in our cabin watching movies.  By the way - the movie selection offered on television was fantastic.On to our ports of call - we only had three including Dover, England where we had to get off of our ship.  This was a  minimal # of ports considering the length of the cruise but certainly acceptable considering the price.  However, we only spent 5 hours at the first point & 7 hours at the 2nd port but we got off the boat at 7am when there was nothing to see and had to be back on in the very early afternoon.  This was okay in the Azores islands but we stopped in Vigo, Spain on a Sunday so it was not until it was almost time to get back on the ship that any stores or restaurants actually opened.  I highly recommend avoiding a cruise that arrives in port in the morning, while only staying for a few hours on a Sunday.  The shore excursions were not very enticing although I did hear mediocre feedback from those who did sign up for them.One last item to note is that we were required to go through the immigration process a day or two prior to actually disembarking from the ship.  If you followed the schedule provided, you had to wait in line from 45min to 1.5 hours.  If you simply waited until the end of the day, there was virtually no line at all and you could breeze through.  Regardless - this was a MUCH better experience than having to go through the immigration line during your actual disembarkation.Overall the price for the length of the cruise was unbeatable but the quality of the cruise was sub-par.  This is great for anyone who is looking to do a long cruise on a budget and does not require luxuries such as drinking soda or eating good food.  Also keep in mind the age demographic - older folks know this type of cruise attracts and older crowd which is great but if you are looking for a younger crowd to stay up with you late at night - this is not the cruise for you.  Good luck and happy cruising. 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Sail Date: April 2009
The Norwegian Jewel is quite colorful. We were greeted with champagne and orange juice upon arrival. It was next to impossible to find a seat in the buffet - this was a problem throughout the cruise. We preferred sitting in Mama's ... Read More
The Norwegian Jewel is quite colorful. We were greeted with champagne and orange juice upon arrival. It was next to impossible to find a seat in the buffet - this was a problem throughout the cruise. We preferred sitting in Mama's Kitchen where there was always available tables during the buffet. There were hardly any lines at the buffet, which was really impressive. On many past cruises you would have to wait in line for 10 minutes - on the Jewel there are many stations - even the wait for omelets was usually just one or two in line. The food was good but repetitive. The salad bar was my favorite. By the ceasar salad you could help yourself to the romaine and the cut up chicken breast. Walnuts, Almonds, dried apricots were a nice addition to the many other salad toppings. They did not have honey mustard dressing at the salad bar (my favorite) but one of the waiters was always willing to go to the dining room and bring me a bowl. The grilled chicken was good - but the burgers were usually cold because they were not made to order. One station always had oriental or thai food on one side and Indian or Vietnamese type food on the opposite side. We found the food to be satisfactory in the Czar (free dining room) but there were days when nothing on the menu suited any of us and we went to the Blue Lagoon (also free). The menu is very short and the same every day at the Blue Lagoon - we enjoyed it because you were able to listen to Constantine, the piano player, during dinner hour. Also, the burgers were made to order and very good at the Blue Lagoon - and the spinach artichoke dip was good - we often just stopped there for an appetizer while Constantine played his tunes.  We had a mini suite with balcony which included a luxury bath. It's going to be hard to go back to a regular cabin after this cruise! The weather was very windy, cool, and we only used the balcony a few times. The pool temperature was over 90 - which did make it possible to swim in the cool weather, however, the hot tubs were not that hot! We thoroughly enjoyed ALL the shows and often went early to sit up front. Do not walk in late during the Skinny Juggler Act unless you want to be embarrassed - he makes comments to everyone walking in late. The musicals and Cirque de Soleil were all excellent! The ballerina who dances in all the musicals is just awesome. The card room was small - and always full. The Spinnaker Lounge is really nice - 12th deck forward with many large windows. They had live bands every night for dancing. Every day there were dance lessons - mainly for couples - but they did have line dancing twice. Some days there were crafts and Danny did a great job teaching us how to make crepe paper flowers, ribbon roses, paper boxes, and flower combs, beaded bandanas. He's a friendly young man from Peoria, Illinois and also will be found teaching line dancing, singing karaoke, and doing the trivia games.  One thing the ship could use is a roof on part of the pool area since it will be in the Baltic all summer. Most days it was too cool to even walk past the pool area, especially with the windy conditions! I believe one of the reasons the bargain prices were on this cruise is because it just stopped in two ports, Vigo and Ponta Delgada, and we had half the time you usually have at a port.  We took a cab to the train station (8 pounds) and took the train into London. A hint here - train tickets were 2 tickets for 28 pounds - but if four are traveling together you can buy 2 tickets and get 2 free - the ticket person was very nice to give us that information! The train stops in Charring Crossing, where you can connect to tubes and it's included in your ticket. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2009
A moderately short transatlantic cruise at a great price seemed just the ticket for someone who hates hates the overnight eastbound flight.  Especially for me, a veteran cruiser on other lines who has somehow managed until now to avoid ... Read More
A moderately short transatlantic cruise at a great price seemed just the ticket for someone who hates hates the overnight eastbound flight.  Especially for me, a veteran cruiser on other lines who has somehow managed until now to avoid NCL because nearly everyone I knew who had sailed with them seemed to have had problems including one near capsizing in the Straits of Juan de Fuca. But what the heck, I went ahead and booked two of us in separate balcony cabins, looking forward to experiencing the much-vaunted "freestyle" change of pace.  And I did get my money's worth barely. First off, I thought the best features of this particular cruise were (1) the Tsar's Palace dining room; (2) the largely Filipino waitstaff and cabin attendants who all spoke fluent English; (3) the smoothness of the Atlantic contrary to what some others have written here; (3) the shower in my cabin that exceeded the quality of many other lines' cramped and silly ones; and (4) the generally adequate and sometimes excellent entertainment.  I also thought the check-in and check-out processes were only normally inconvenient.  And the overall food quality in all dining locations was well above average. Now what I didn't like.  On all other cruises I have taken, I have been accustomed to begin my day by taking a brief steam and sauna, followed by a brisk walk around deck and a light breakfast on the Lido.  Much to my dismay, I found that I would have had to pay $20 a day just to use those simple facilities.  Needless to say I did not pay it.  Nor did I pay for the alternate dining at any time, though I was invited by others to join them as their guests.  Call me a cheapskate.  And when I used the casino each night after dinner and found that, unlike on other cruise lines, I was losing consistently and steadily after the first five nights, I entertained myself by just betting the nickel slots thereafter.  I did pay $100 to use the ship's Internet cafe as I have no laptop of my own only to discover that well over half those funds were spent solely on time used to achieve a connection.  I resolved from that point on to go out of my way not to add any further to my on-board account, choosing as well to tip my steward and waiters independently rather than giving them over to the tender mercies of NCL. Short, very short, stops in the Azores and Spain were also on the itinerary.  Each was OK, except that the much larger P&O Ventura had dibs on the main dock in Vigo and we had to bus into the town from the commercial shipping dock.  I walked "freestyle" around each town rather than trying to squeeze a shore excursion into the five or six hours we had alloted to us.  I half expected to pay the bus driver on the shutttle but oddly enough it was free. Now don't get me wrong I am happy to pay for extra services, wine, tips to waiters, etc.  I just don't like too much shilling for extras by the cruiseline itself.  I think the best cruiselines always have such things as self-serve laundromats, well-stocked free libraries open at convenient times, INEXPENSIVE transfer services, and the like.  The Jewel had none of those.  And things like "art auctions" (I use the quotation marks deliberately) or much too expensive bingo sessions for the old folks seem misplaced. Oh, yes.  I need to mention that my TV screen at 12" was hopeless, and I had to use the open public toilets next to the restaurants rather than the one in my cabin, which, because it was so tiny and so jammed up against the wall could not even accommodate my 6' 1" and modest 200 lb. frame.  Read Less
Sail Date: April 2009
We just recently completed on 16th cruise since August of 2001, with this one being our 5th repositioning cruise...which we find very relaxing and a great bargain.We flew to Miami and stayed in the Embassy Suites prior to embarkation - ... Read More
We just recently completed on 16th cruise since August of 2001, with this one being our 5th repositioning cruise...which we find very relaxing and a great bargain.We flew to Miami and stayed in the Embassy Suites prior to embarkation - which is a breeze since we now book suites on NCL ships because of the really great perks. Left the hotel at 11:00 am and were eating lunch in Cagney's by noon. After checking in we were greeted by Carlos and Amit our concierge and butler from a previous repositioning cruise on the Pearl. In fact, every crew member we met face to face during the entire trip greeted us with a warm "hello" and made us feel very welcome.Our stateroom was all the way aft with a large balcony and's a great place to watch the ocean go by. On the next to last day of the trip the ship was buzzed by 2 French fighter jets - a nice distraction.We enjoyed breakfast and lunch in Cagney's everyday and met some wonderful people there. In fact, we seem to meet more people in the "Freestyle" atmosphere than we do in traditional fixed seating dining. The exception was two really boorish couple we had the displeasure of dining with in Tsars Palace one evening. Other wise we enjoyed Mama's Italian, Tapas, Chin Chin, Le Bistro and Cagney's Steakhouse. There's a wonderful romance package available for Le Bistro that's more than worth the modest charge.The Jean Ann Ryan dancers were spectacular as usual and the German juggler was really funny. We missed the Second City troupe this cruise.This trip was so relaxing, I finished a total of 6 books and there's a great public place that shall remain unnamed that's almost always quite and deserted - great place to read and watch people.The ports were fun, though not much time in either one. The crated lakes on Ponta Delgada are worth the visit and Vigo, Spain was a very pleasant surprise.We made so many friends with the crew that I don't have room to list them all. The people in Cagney's top list with Tapas and Mama's not far behind. Also, we had the best ever room steward and a great butler.We've booked a total of 4 additional NCL cruises - the Baltic, South America, a reverse transatlantic and hopefully an Epic next year. NCL spoils us and we like it - and we've found you get what you give in return. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2009
THE TRANSATLANTIC was GREAT. We started with daytime temperatures of 80 degrees in Miami and finished at 65 degrees in Dover. That was a drop of about 1 degree a day over the 12 day cruise. The seas were calm to moderate with only one ... Read More
THE TRANSATLANTIC was GREAT. We started with daytime temperatures of 80 degrees in Miami and finished at 65 degrees in Dover. That was a drop of about 1 degree a day over the 12 day cruise. The seas were calm to moderate with only one overnight of roughness. However, the 25 MPH wind from the ship's movement into a primarily angled wind across the bow, made outdoor activity (sun bathing) impossible. The Starboard & Port balcony rooms were usable but my forward suite balcony was not, except during the day and for a quick cigar at night.With only two ports, the 8 cruise critic events (planned and executed by a committee of six and chaired by "yours truly") provided the perfect added dimensions to the activities list. We had 80 at the initial Meet & Greet. There were 24 to 36 CCers, each, at the Cruise Critic Murder Mystery, Cabin Poker Crawl, Music Trivia Contest, Photo Scavenger Hunt, Awards Luncheon, and NCL Murder Mystery Dinner. Our Farewell Luncheon was attended by 55 CCers.The Porta Delgada, Azores was a nice respite with beautiful idyllic scenes and the wine tasting excursion was a nice touch. DIYers were happy with the easy ability to hire local taxis. The stop in Vigo, Spain offered two possibilities: Vigo, itself or Santiago. DIYers can do either by taxis but I would recommend a guided tour for Santiago (NCL or private) because of shortness of time and need for explanations of what to see. (the Gaelic character of Galicia, Spain was underscored by the bagpipe music outside the Cathedral)The Baltic cruise was STUPENDOUS. We had incredibly great weather in every port except Helsinki, where it rained. But the temperature was in the 70s & 80s (F) everywhere, including St. Petersburg. We never used the Winter/Spring clothes we brought. Our tour guides in Talin, Berlin and, surprisingly, St. Petersburg were super. We'd really love to go back to Estonia and include Latvia & Lithuania. There were 12 CCers who had booked the BTB Altantic & Baltic. We made a Merry Group for dinner, cocktails and sight seeing on the Baltic after meeting on the Atlantic. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2009
One Fantastic and Fun Cruise on Norwegian Jewel in April 2009PersonalBeing the seventh son of eight boys in a row and two girls, I am a member of a fantastic and close family with personalities spanning the crosscut of those a person would ... Read More
One Fantastic and Fun Cruise on Norwegian Jewel in April 2009PersonalBeing the seventh son of eight boys in a row and two girls, I am a member of a fantastic and close family with personalities spanning the crosscut of those a person would meet in a lifetime.  We lived on the Detroit River at the mouth of Lake St. Clair.  Our home was a massive English Tudor on the River with a man-made / dredged one mile long horseshoe-shaped canal 150 feet wide and 10 feet deep.  The story about the house and how we lived is another writing.  The upper mouth of the canal was so designed to capture the current of the River water as it entered the River from Lake St. Clair and divert some of the flow into the canal so we had fresh and clear circulating water through the canal.  Our home was on the lower mouth, or exit, of the canal to the River.  We had 350 feet of concrete seawall providing us with a solid water front face for boat dockage, swimming, shoveling the hockey rinks from seawall to seawall and more.  We shoveled paths through the snow on the ice for the many skating parties hosted.   So much of the focus of our activities shared was centered at our home on water-related fun with all the students of St. Martin School welcomed to our home every day for the pleasures and experiences of hockey games, skating parties, swimming, hand-ball, baseball, football, running down trails in the fields, flipping outboards and cleaning them out and swimming on them, going out on the River and Lake in storms, rescuing overloaded or stalled boaters, swimming around the canals, swimming across the River to Canada, boating to wander the wilderness of Peche Island and swim its beaches across from our home in the middle of the River, keel boating on the ice floes in the canal and the River, and enjoying the fresh air and water while watching passersby on boats.  The Great Lakes Freighters were a special design and breed of ore, wood, coal and other cargo locked in the Great Lakes and dozens of these ships passed our home every day sounding their horns and the familiar rumble of their engines.  We were able to tell the freighter by the sound of the engines before we would see the ship.  There were Great Lakes Cruise ships - North American and South American as well as the later Aquarama - offering passenger service while the historic BobLo Boats transferred passengers to and from BobLo Island, a thrilling park in the Lower Detroit River.  When Queen Elizabeth II of England entered the St. Lawrence Seaway and cruised to Chicago, Illinois in July 1959 on the Royal Yacht Britannia, she passed our home.  The historic Yacht Delphine, now moored in Monte Carlo, Monaco, on the Mediterranean was owned by the Dodge Family and docked at their Rose Terrace Estate in Grosse Pointe on Lake St. Clair, used to come and anchor just off the freighter channel in front of our home each summer for a month.  My dad used to play cards on the ship with the Dodges.  The story of the Yacht is better left to another writing though readers may research it on the Internet.   Each of my siblings and I held responsible positions of honor and trust as Captains of private boats and yachts and these experiences cultivated in me an exceptional desire to travel and experience the world and its peoples on land and by Sea.  Thus I found myself desiring to reach out and find a new part of myself while traveling and so I pursued that with the encouragement of my parents and never looked back.  This cruise at hand is my number eleven and my thirty-third trip to Europe with another (#12) already scheduled for September 2009.Each event in my life prepared me to respond to the Call of the Unknown and pursue Cruising.  Planning and executing my plans became my purpose because at age 19 I had made a list of all the far-out things I wished to do with and in my life.  In 1993 I completed the list with a month-long trip to Russia.  So I made a new list on which I am working now and it includes travel and cruising as much as possible.  Since I have no self-limiting beliefs, I accept no boundaries as to what I might do and experience.  Before traveling to a destination, I look at the Five Arts as related to the region as that presents the character of the destination.  The Five Arts are:  Music, Dance, Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture.  Understanding the part these play in the area enables me to maximize my experience and know what I have done.  I am blessed that I can recall day, date, time, place, persons, cost of my trips.  This is not because I memorize.  On the contrary, it is because I so totally experience everything good that it becomes a part of me, and need not be remembered or memorized.  The information is just in my mind as part of me.  This ability supports my continuing to go and meet the wonderful persons to whom I introduce myself and with whom I find great pleasure in sharing the experiences of the day.  It is noteworthy how my interests and pursuits differ dramatically from my siblings.  While each of us has had the opportunity for incredible experiences spanning the globe, my focus on travel and its personal growth opportunities and experiences has widened my horizons and positioned me as one focused on relationships to the discharge of value as related to worldly goods.  Outside of basic needs, I have few needs and wants and my desire is to continue to live my blessing to meet great people and share the day.   I would be happy to move from NCL ship to NCL ship for the rest of my days meeting happy people and sharing the beauty of each day with them as an NCL Ambassador.My travel arrangements are handled directly with the Cruise Line and Airline with no reliance on a travel agent.  The person with whom I deal at NCL has been my personal representative for many years and we have a relationship according to which she will call me and advise or recommend a certain trip based on destination and price because she knows my interests.  Past Cruises:NCL  Dynasty  July 1998 Inside Passage Vancouver to Alaska 7 days NCL     Sky     November 2001 Hawaii to Mexico  15 daysNCL         Sun     Western Caribbean October 2002NCL Dream May 2004 14 days Dover, Baltic, Scandinavian, St. PetersburgNCL Jewel October 2006 Barcelona to Miami 14 DaysNCL  Pearl November 2006 Southampton, England to Miami  11 daysCarnival           April Easter 2007 Mexican Riviera from San Diego, CaliforniaNCL  Sky September 2007 from Hawaii to Mexico 15 daysCarnival Freedom October 2007 Rome to Miami Holland America Line Rotterdam  October/November 2008 25 Day Athens to Fort LauderdaleNCL Jewel April 2009 11 Day  Miami to Dover - this cruise NCL Jewel September 2009 11 Day Northern Route Dover to NY - BookedObviously Norwegian Cruise Line is my preferred Cruise Line and this preference has been confirmed and reinforced by ventures on Carnival and Holland America Line.  A Bit of My Philosophy:You can always read the ship specifications on line or in brochures.  Therefore, though some writers give all this information, I prefer to share the experiences of cruising, as that is what I believe you read to learn.  The persons met on the ship and the fun of cruising and the unique experiences are my reasons to cruise and share with you.  A person's behavior and presence reflects the personality of the moment - or what we call state.  State is how a person is with someone else.  It is how one represents or presents self to and with others.  Some persons are active and engaging. Others are passive and merely observers.  My personality is Extrovert / Pragmatic and so I am active and engaging and will be found participating in activities and choosing to share time and experiences and be with persons of a similar focus on living life to the fullest.  My action plan by which I live is to maximize every moment and I do that best by sharing my time with interesting and interested persons and offering my friendship to each knowing that I risk possible rejection by persons passive in nature.  The person I offer is myself and when I offer, it is with the knowledge that the offer may not be accepted.  This deters me not because I know that there are millions of persons to whom I may offer my friendship and with whom I may share my thoughts and philosophy as well as experiences of life.  While we walk in the same direction sharing, we grow and in doing so we find ourselves.  Out of my respect for the privacy of those persons mentioned and with whom I shared the cruising experience, the names are changed to preserve their identities.  This eleventh cruise is another most memorable trip both because it is recent and because of the wonderful persons who befriended me and let me be myself.When asked why I cruise frequently, my answer is always because of the persons I meet as well as my ability to respond to the call of the unknown.  Since age 21, I have been traveling and meeting wonderful people by looking for the face of God in each person.  A stranger is a future friend and I allow for this to be true for me.  My goal is to share myself with no conditions because when I offer friendship and it is received the gift I give of myself to others is my own gift to myself while being unattached to the results.   Persons quickly realize that I seek nothing for myself while wanting what they want for themselves.  It is nonsense for me to want for another what that person fails to want for self.  This belief frees me from conditions, which stain many relationships and create guarded interaction instead of freedom.  Being outcome oriented, my goals are to maximize every moment of every day and to share that concept with each person nearby.  When I die, I will slide into death as a great baseball player slides into base under the guarding eye of the baseman trying to tag the runner out.  Until then, my plan is to live each moment to the fullest and share the fun, knowledge and experiences I have gained.  Each of us believes we know what is in our minds. Yet I challenged myself to prove this by being able to speak or to write and have my communication received and understood by another.   This serves as proof that I truly know what I think I know.   Each of us is born with Talents and then we build on this base and strengthen it with skills and abilities, which we learn and improve by testing in real-life situations.  This blending of the talents, skills and abilities coupled with our belief system and our physiology creates the presence with which we are with others - our state - and how we present ourselves and see ourselves.  Some of us live "as if" and this is beneficial because then we create that which we seek to become and on which we focus.  Often we find the measure of the person is determined by how the person handles that which comes to him/her instead of what comes to the person.  Realizing this we are able to understand more fully the integration of self-determination and self-reliance and the other self-words into our thought process and behavior as being the basis of finding self and success as each of us defines it.Finding self is an interesting challenge and concept.  My mind is conceptual and I live in a conceptual world whereas the world in which we were taught to live in is mechanical.  We are taught to put on socks before shoes and to put on pants before shoes.  Books and resources are available to guide one step by step through the mechanics of doing or learning anything  - computers, roofing, siding, drywall, and whatever.  Yet, my living in a Conceptual World is like being in an umbrella world in which I quickly see at arm's length the situation and objectively gain an understanding of the mechanics of how something is done or put together because my conceptual approach allows the mechanics to fall into place more easily and more clearly for me.    Thus, I contend that most persons do not know the person, whom they see in the mirror each morning and moreover they are not aware that there is a conceptual approach to the world in which we live.  Therefore, to share my life more fully, I have written a book titled "The ABCs of Conceptual Daily living" and am re-editing it for another release on the Internet for the purpose of offering choice to persons seeking to find self and create or re-create or re-frame their lives.  My belief is that it is a disservice to myself and to God and to you and to society as a whole if I were to fail to share this information and way of life as well as hold it to myself as my domain.  Each of us is placed here on earth for a Purpose.  Purpose may be defined as the reason you were plunked down in your family where ever you are and in whatever geographic location and with the certain Talents given you and upon which you have expanded yourself by developing skills and abilities to further serve mankind by using your talents, skills and abilities to serve others.  When focus is on a program of life-long education of self, then one finds within self anew and a much larger dimension of self by which to help others while and by pursuing excellence of purpose.  Purpose also includes determining on your own that which you wish to do for a career - something fun - something you love to do such that when it is Thursday afternoon you would be pleased if it were Monday AM.  That is a career pursuit in which your personal growth may be exponential and lead you to continually challenge and expand your own capabilities.  The time required for me and few friends to determine our purpose and write it into a three-sentence short paragraph was seven months of writing, reviewing, crossing out and changing words, deleting, restating, synthesizing and culminating in a typed and framed Statement of Purpose particular to myself as I see and have come to know myself.  Because I am in a constant state of becoming, I am committed to being a better person today than yesterday.  Because this commitment is to myself, it is easy to change myself because I know that change comes from inside and no other person can change me - just as I am unable to change another.  This is why I seek to be a catalyst of change for others by my sharing my knowledge and experience because by doing so, perhaps a kernel of information shared may be the catalyst for a paradigm shift in a person's life.  That would be success and satisfaction for me.Most persons do not know that they do not know what they do not know.  Most persons do not know that this concept even exists.  Yet I live seeking to come to know that which I know I do not know.  Hence, my life-long learning plan pursuit.Understanding that simplicity of thought and design is the fundamental principle of and the basis of daily living is key.  As a child, we learned that the approach to a puzzle or math problem was best designed as one determining the elements of the situation and therefore reducing a problem to its least common denominators offering a solution more easily found that struggling with and being stonewalled by the size of the overall problem.Travel to Port of Embarkation:In the past two years, I have traveled between Detroit and Fort Lauderdale on the same low-cost Spirit Airlines flights approximately twenty times and so I set my air to arrive in Fort Lauderdale at 9:35 AM for the 35 -mile transfer to Miami Port for boarding any time after 12 Noon the same day.  Historically, the plane is inbound from Las Vegas to DTW and arrives on time at 5:21 AM allowing for a timely 6:35 AM departure.  As might be the case, the inbound flight was delayed and so we departed late from DTW and arrived in FLL at 10:10 AM.  I have learned to travel light and strategically pack knowing that whatever I might need on the trip is sold in the destination.  So I arrived with my carry-on and made my way to the GO-Shuttle service at FLL for transfer to Miami Port.  There were other persons on the same flight retrieving baggage before coming to the Go shuttle and I thought I would ride to the Port with them and fill a shuttle directly to the Pier though they were boarding a different NCL Cruise Ship.  Well, as it would happen, the Go man directed me into a Shuttle filled with persons being transported to six various destinations in Miami and they were to be delivered before I would get to the Pier.  So, OK, I will ride in this Shuttle and paid the $23.  The Causeway in Miami was shut due to a dump truck overturned and having spilled its load.  This caused a backup on I-95 Freeway.  One party in the van was on his cell phone loudly discussing business and personal information and each of us was disturbed that he was doing so.  Arrival in Miami brought us to a Freeway exit far from the destinations and so I ended up with a 3-hour tour of Miami streets and neighborhoods before arrival at the NCL Jewel with less than an hour to spare.  Reflecting on the mishap brings up a story to be told later.  Arrival at the Pier and entry into the Terminal was delayed by a long snaking line both outside and inside the terminal.  In the line I met many persons with the most memorable being Irkl, a gal from Nuremburg, Germany.  We found common ground based on my visits to her city.  We both arrived at the registration counter at the same time for quick check in and processing including photo for the NCL boarding card computer check.  The stateroom key card is used as a credit card for your charging purchases and services on the ship and the total will be charged at the end of the cruise to your credit card registered when you cleared for boarding in the Terminal.  The ship photo staff members were on hand to take the first Welcome Aboard photo before stepping on the gangway onto the ship where I was greeted by crew offering champagne gladly received.  Having been aboard the Jewel for its Maiden Voyage from Barcelona to Miami in October 2006, I knew my way and was familiar with the ship so I made my way to my Inside Stateroom, 10019.  Stateroom:My stateroom is on the inside of the exterior starboard forward hallway three doors forward of the forward elevator bank.  It provides quick access to the elevators and stairs and positions me approximately midway between the ranges of decks I will frequent - decks 6 through 13.  Two single beds against the walls provide more floor space in the center of the room.  My second bed became a display of the dozen towel animals fashioned by the crew with a new one each day.  I wrote a note on the second day stating that I liked the animals and thanking them for adding to the family of guests entering my room. So, as a result of the note, the staff left the animals there on the bed instead of removing them after a day.  The condition of the stateroom was such that I immediately unpacked and settled in and placed my carry-on bag in the closet on the floor with shoes.  The lighting in the room is soft and could be better because as I sat and wrote at the desk, it seemed dark.  For a woman applying makeup in the room, it would be a challenge.  A wall-mounted hair dryer was next to the small room vanity.   Closet space, shelf space, drawer space were adequate.  Life jackets are stored on the top closet shelf.  Emergency instructions are on the door. The phone does not provide the time.   Additional stateroom information as well as other ship specifications are provided in NCL brochures and on the Internet so I will not be detailing specs as other writers seem to do by lifting information for restatement.  Ship Information:The ship publishes like the Federal Government.  I would like to be selling it paper and printing equipment and supplies.  Pages of promotional and department-specific sales and ship activities and information are delivered to your stateroom daily and extra pages are available in public displays near the Front Desk where you can get an answer to any question or find resolution to any situation.  The Freestyle Daily is a folded publication offering highlights on the day's activities and schedules of events so you may choose to be involved or dismiss certain events.  It is very comprehensive and an ideal reference document for the day.  A handy fold-out pocket card provides you with a schematic of the ship detailing by deck the identity and location of each public area, elevators and stairs so it is easy to find your way around the ship and familiarize yourself the first days aboard.Dining:Your choices for dining run the range of grille to Specialty Restaurants ($10-$20 Cover Charge).  The Specialty Restaurants offer the experience of truly fine dining for the price of the cover.  Dress is normally causal.  Occasionally, the Freestyle Daily will note that the night will be a "Dress Up or Not" night coordinated with Portraits by the Photo Crew.  While there is a grille at the pool for swimsuit attire, a cover-up is worn when in the Garden Cafe or Great Outdoors Buffets on Pool Deck 12.  The Dining Room meals are tastefully prepared and served with such courtesy found only in the finest of dining establishments.  There is never a sense of time pressure to finish the meal and exit the room.  As to the Buffets, I feel the same as to the service and food choices as well as presentation though I did come upon an Ugly American taking issue with a kind service person behind the Buffet counter stating to the effect that he is dissatisfied because this is the third day he is at the Buffet and he finds some of the same food offered as has been offered since the cruise began.  There is always the possibility that on board will be a person for whom the world is not right.  For those persons and those they bother, I say a prayer and move on.  Certain persons without restraint and self-discipline in their daily lives will not demonstrate these qualities on a Cruise Ship filled with strangers, who will remain strangers because of the personality of the certain persons.Activities:The Cruise Director and Staff offer a choice of activities throughout the day and these are listed by time in the Daily.  My fun day generally begins with a swim 7 AM to 8 AM followed by my shower and then release of my stateroom to the Stewards. Breakfast in the sit-down and be-served Dining Room or in the Garden Cafe Buffet offers the opportunity to meet and share a meal with new friends.  Sometimes these meals linger because the conversation is most interesting and perhaps there is not a scheduled activity of interest such to cut the meal and visiting time short.  Often I would receive a voice mail message from a new friend as to where the person (s) would be found should I be available and choose to meet.  Leaving these messages is also my open invitation in the event a person is interested to come.  If the person appears, then I introduce to the new friends and vice versa if I were the one responding to the invite to come and join at as certain location and approximate time.  In the morning I always review the Daily to target certain activities and know their times and then flexibly plan my day.  Normally, 2 PM Dance Class or Dance Review is offered in the Deck 13 Forward Spinnaker Lounge and that is the perfect place for refreshing a dance as well as meeting the single persons on the cruise.  Those are persons who will be dancing in the Spinnaker each night after the Theatre.  I target to be at a meal table for six as a table for eight is too many for good conversation with all persons.  This way I offer myself the potential of meeting dozens of persons at each mealtime. Early Dinner at 5 PM enables you to go to the 7:30 PM Theatre presentation unless the meal consumes too much time and you find yourself going for the 9:30 Theatre.  The stage show presentations are fantastic and professional.  The added acts brought in for the cruise add variety and talent. The pools are heated and sanitized seawater and offer depths to around six feet. Hot tubs are large and popular spots for friendly conversation while meeting new friends.  Large glass panels shield the Deck 2 Pool area from cross winds.  Large glass panels shield the forward portions of Deck 14, over the Spinnaker Lounge, offering guests choices of spots for sunning as well as just observing the ocean or approaches to ports. Deck 13 aft includes a jogging track, basketball court, golf practice area, deck chess set and shuffleboard.Children's Clubs:The Staff are most sensitive to the desires and needs of the youth on board and provide guidance and care so that the parents may rely on the program and the best behavior of their children.  The staff brings them to the Theatre and offers a respectable and exciting program.  Lunch with the director revealed to me that the program is admirable and offers youth many positive choices to reinforce their lives with meaning.Staff and Service:It is obvious that the members of staff are committed to providing the best of service, as this is the basis of the relationship with prior guests that will bring them back to NCL.  "How May I Help You?" is the popular offer you hear from each staff member.  It is my commitment to myself and others to learn and remember names so that when I see guests or staff, my recalling their names demonstrates that they are important persons to me.  Because the world is a mirror of you and of my presence, the staff is exceptionally pleasant and kind to me in the most respectful and comfortable way and each remembers me.  One morning I exited my stateroom and in the hallway was a housekeeper, whom I had not seen yet on the cruise.  I looked at her and recognized her and stated same to her at which time I told her that I recalled her name as Lily and she and Rose were my room stewards on the Jewel on its Maiden Voyage in October 2006 and that I was in Stateroom 4345 Starboard Forward.  She recalled; we hugged and she stated Rose is no longer aboard.    Another instance was when we were doing the Mandatory Emergency Life Boat Drill before embarkation.  The gal leading my station looked familiar and I stated so and that she was aboard in October 2006 and a dancer in Jeanne Ann Ryan Company on stage port side.  She acknowledged it was she, whom I recalled.  Never did I witness a staff member in a hostile or unwilling behavior situation. Entertainment:The Cruise Director and Staff offer more choices than there are hours in the day so I will touch on some of the major presentations.  Come with me and experience some of the fun of the cruise days and nights.  This story is my life aboard ship.Out of my respect for the privacy of those guests mentioned and with whom I shared the cruising experience, the names are changed to preserve their identities.  The professional Theatre presentations were spectacular and enjoyed although I had seen them three times on other cruises.  The piano man and the guitar man have a tough job and seem to have a problem keeping a following of guests in their areas.  The outside entertainers were all great.  This brings me to much of my fun as Joe was the Kick-Off Showtime Comedian the night of departure and he was terrific.  He knew how to connect to the crowd.  I was sitting in the first row center seat before the stage and Joe asked for guest input as to how one arrived at the ship.  I told my story of transport from Detroit until at the Miami Pier and he took it from there and I was the brunt of his jokes for the next 1.5 hours of a normally half-hour show.  Joe called me up and gave me his CD in front of the audience and so from that moment the guests knew me by name and sight and story so from then on it was fun day after fun day for me as I interacted with persons who were in the audience that Friday night.  Saturday 2 PM was the first of the Dance Classes and I was there to meet guests and have fun dancing the Fox Trot.  Cathy was a great partner.  The Theatre was great that night and we had a time!  Before dinner I was invited to a party in the Spinnaker Lounge.  Earlier in the day I had called EH, who had come up to my table when I was eating BBQ on the Pool Deck before Embarkation yesterday.  She recognized me from the Pearl 2006 crossing from Southampton to Miami on its Maiden Voyage, during which we went through a Hurricane in the Bay of Biscay.  We met on that cruise and I took her bowling, rock-wall climbing, Theatre, Dancing, Dinner enjoying Il Popo in Tango's Mexican near the balcony.  She introduced me to T and we planned to share together and I offered dinner in Tango's to give T the same experience and have fun.  We parted with having shared stateroom numbers.  So on Saturday afternoon I phoned EH inquiring whether she were invited to the party and she was.  I invited them to dinner that night and suggested that she bring the invite for the champagne bucket for the drawing to win a prize.  We did not see each other upon entry into the Spinnaker Lounge and so we took seats, as it happened, directly across the dance floor from each other.  The first prize-winning name pulled from the bucket was for EM and she jumped up from the seat with T and went to the dance floor to Sylvia, Future Cruises Executive.  With that, I jumped up and ran out onto the dance floor and danced with EH in celebration of her win.  We each returned to our seats.  The next name called was mine and so I went up and danced with Sylvia before receiving my DVD Towel Folding prize.  The next name called was Irkl, with whom I boarded the ship. So I ran out there on the dance floor and danced with Irkl.  Afterward while talking to Sylvia, Sau came up to me barely able to stand.  He had been drinking much champagne for too long and so I told him I would get him back to his stateroom before going to dinner with these two beautiful women, EH and T.  We went over to them so I could introduce the three and let them know my plan and determine where I would meet them.  We sat and talked.  Sau gained composure. When leaving, he indicated he wanted to eat and so I took the three to Tapas for Il Popo dinner before theatre.  I was custodian of Sau's pewter mug engraved 1901 by his grandfather.  Sau has been on 63 cruises and will re-do the Baltic when we disembark at Dover, England.  After dinner, Sau wanted to go to Theatre with us and so we four went to see "Band on the Run" before I took him to his stateroom and then went dancing in the Spinnaker.  There was an interesting personality clash when we arrived in the Theatre.  Next to me was a woman to whom I spoke and she was indifferent.  I told her I had seen the show and that I hoped she would enjoy it as much as we four will.  She thought I was from a different planet.  She failed to enjoy the show.  The Spinnaker Lounge was wild with a 1970s Disco Party when I arrived to dance the night way.  Sunday and I was concerned as to the condition of Sau.  I checked and found he was OK and later met him in the Dining Room for lunch.  The day brought us the Art Auction at 1 PM and was remarkable because at 2 PM I was at the Waltz Dance Class and in walked Sue and Lana without partners and my partner was leaving to go help her ill husband.  Lana found a partner and Sue and I graciously met and became partners.  We found common ground and enjoyed the class fun and so I asked her to dinner at 5 followed by 7:30 Comedy Hypnotist then followed by dancing in Spinnaker. She accepted.  My volunteering for hypnosis in the Theatre followed our delightful dinner.  Years ago I had been hypnotized by my dentist and am therefore susceptible.  The experience was fun, so I am told.  While I do not recall what I did, apparently I am now a Victoria's Secret Male Model as well as a Trombonist in an Orchestra among other things.  After the show we danced and then I took Sue to her stateroom.  Sue had been a suspect in a Murder Mystery earlier in the day and I had been allowed in as an observer.  On the way to my stateroom from her room, I saw another suspect, Granny, in the hall and called out to her that she could not get away from me.  Before turning, she said, "That is Ralph's voice."  She turned, we hugged and I walked her to her stateroom talking.  I left her and walked to stateroom 019 and inserted my key card into the locked door only to hear a female voice inquire "Who is at my door" to which I replied "Housekeeping madam, sorry, we will be back in the morning" because my stateroom is one deck up.  I chuckled to myself as I went up the stairs to my deck level.Monday began with a swim followed by meeting for breakfast with a group and 2 PM Dancing, followed by basketball and golf practice on Deck 13.  Walking the Promenade Deck or the upper Deck 13 for fresh air exercise is contagious and many persons are walking and visiting as they walk.  Dinner and Showtime were shared and then Joe was scheduled for an extra Late Night Comedy session in Spinnaker at 10:30 PM.  Needless to say, we were in the front row and Joe knew we were there and again made me the brunt of many jokes.  Following Joe, the Lounge was again a hot spot of dancing.   Tuesday, the stretch and relax 7 AM class replaced my swim hour. The day included Chess on Deck with the giant chessboard and pieces.  Meals with different persons were most interesting.  Saying hello to new friends fills the days.  The 2 PM Dancing filled the afternoon with fun and some new people.  Phone messages delivered and received made for invitations to meet for a meal, something to see, someone to meet or just to be together to talk and enjoy the day together and consider choices for evening.  Entertainment spots abound on the ship with offerings to fit every palate so it is easy to say, "Let's meet at X."  During the day, the hypnotist offered sessions in the Theatre regarding stress control, diet control and more.  They were filled with an audience of attendees seeking guidance and alternative solutions.  Dinner at 5 followed by another 7 PM Party.   The girls were having a dinner together and when we met during the day I mentioned that I had received another party invite and wished to have them join me at 7 PM in the Spinnaker Lounge after Dinner.  They agreed to eat early and we agreed to meet at the forward deck 13 Elevator at 7 PM. The doors opened and I walked over and to the two by each arm and went into the party.  We skipped Theatre at 7:30 for lack of time and missed a great Violin presentation. That allowed for evening time to walk the decks before the Hypnotist had another late show in the Spinnaker Lounge before late night dancing.  A few of us volunteered to be on the floor for hypnosis and from all reports, the feats were funny. Both guys and gals put on a show for the audience.   Again I was a Trombonist in an orchestra and was awakened on the dance floor as a Chippendale with my shirt in my hand.  We men had been told we were Chippendales. Wednesday began at 3:40 AM at which time I awakened and was compelled to write a download of y thoughts clarified during my sleep.  Years ago while at IBM I studied the mind and computer programming and built in my mind a relational data base into which the events of the day are merged and inter-related as I sleep so that I have total recall of most positive events in my life and that they are also connected by relational anchors.  Writing is important to me.  Years ago I challenged myself to prove to myself that I know what I believe I know.  The proof I assigned is to be able to communicate to you oral or written word and you understand.   My philosophy and belief system as well as my way of life may offer value to others and that is for them to receive and determine for themselves.   I wrote until 7 AM and then swam until 8 AM. 2 PM was dance followed by Library reading and visiting in the Spinnaker in the large lounge chairs looking out at the ocean.   Visiting the Library is important to me as a means of keeping up on current events.  While in the Library, I always deposit the Tour Books and Maps I intentionally bring aboard ship to give to persons I meet who might be intending to travel to certain places post-cruise.  Those books and maps not so given are deposited in a general shelf from which any guest may draw.  I also take a set for each of my Stateroom Stewards or Stewardesses to give them a personal resource because they are not permitted to utilize the Library information.  My dinner was with new friends with whom I then went to the Theatre and sat in the front row for a comedian juggler, who picked on me and told me to roll down my socks as he has his so that the girls would be attracted to me.  When standing to exit the Theatre, there was Sue signaling to me. She is a beautiful woman who whom any man would be drawn.  She is composed and has an exceptionally global perspective nurtured by her travels and having lived abroad for a year.  There is a reason why the Lord puts certain persons together - even if as ships passing in the night or fog.  Each encounter enables us to share value and receive value resulting in our continuing to be becoming each day.  We become better each day.   The reason we are together is to reconfirm to each that the unique offerings of each to the other is a demonstration of balance in life and that each contributes to the overall balance of society and nature.  A group of us went to dance the night away in the Spinnaker Lounge White Hot Party!  The dance was electric and hot.  Confetti snow fell from above the dance floor. I took to the dance and shared a tray of chocolate covered strawberries, which was delivered to my Stateroom in the afternoon compliments of the Front Desk.Thursday opened with Stretch and Relax and Aerobics at 7 AM followed by my regular routine.  Meeting with friends, more aerobics in the fitness center, Casino, 1 PM Art Auction, 2 PM Dance, 3 PM Hypnosis for Weight Loss filled much of the day.  Dinner was followed by a Crew Show, in which the Ship's Crew presents their talent and comedy in the Theatre at 9:30 only.  At 10:45 PM Joe held court again in the Spinnaker Lounge and needless to say I was at a front table for him to be able to jab at me.  The reality is that going day and night wears out the body and mind.Friday we dock in Ponta Delgada, Azores for shore excursions.  Visiting the Azores is a new experience for me.  The area is clean as a whistle and the islands are garden-like.  Theatre tonight is another fantastic Production Show titled Country Gold.  Dancing theme for tonight is Country with Line Dancing fun. Saturday is another fun Day at Sea with more of the same choices during the days- Lunch Buffet or in Dining Room, 1 PM Art Auction, followed by an incredible evening presentation by a Soprano Vocalist in Theatre.  A 10:45 PM American Idol competition in the Fyzz Lounge offers the chance for awards after Karaoke.  Sunday we arrive at Vigo, Spain to find the city quiet and the stores and restaurants closed.  There is a complimentary shuttle into town for a short visit as we depart at 2:30 PM.  Tonight The Jean Ann Ryan Company presents Showtime: Cirque Bijou featuring aerialists, gymnasts and more.  At 10 PM is the Chocoholic Buffet in the Garden Cafe where you may see and taste all the chocolate fantasies.  To see it is to believe there could be so much chocolate in one room and in so many different designs and shapes.  Chocolate buffet would be better served and received and more appreciated if it were scheduled for 4 PM instead of 10 to 11 PM. Monday is our Last Day at Sea and Last Night aboard the Jewel.  The Disembarkation talk spells out what need be done by guests for easy disembarkation upon arrival in Dover, England.  2 PM Dance was not crowded as many wanted to catch up on things they may not have done.  Many were out on the Pool Deck in beautiful weather. The scheduled Customs Processing consumed an hour and half of the mid-day time.  I had asked Sue to join me for dinner in the Chin-Chin restaurant and later added Lana and Joe as my guests.  We enjoyed a three-hour dinner and missed the 8 PM Theatre show-time presentation.  Tonight the halls are crowded with luggage to be offloaded in Dover in the morning.   Some readers may conclude that not much was done on the ship.  That is the choice offered by NCL.  You choose what you shall do or not do.  Yet, much fun and activities in which I participated were left unsaid due to the length and detail in this writing as it is.  Rest assured, the Freestyle Daily publications lists so many activities and lectures and more that each person may find something of interest.  Shore Excursions:Two Island Ports offered visits.  The first was a Friday visit to the picturesque city and area of Ponta Delgada, Azores, 930 miles from Lisbon, Portugal.  The reports of persons on each tour were positive.  The second was a Sunday visit to Vigo, Spain.  The city is large and known for it commerce.  The tours were dampened by the fact that the city and other villages are closed on Sundays and so stores and restaurants were not open to receive travelers.  Most tours were reportedly nice.  The shuttle from the Port to the town was timely.  It would be a better disclosure of service if the Shore Excursions desk were to advise guests whether a shuttle would be provided because some guest purchase tours based on the probability that no shuttle service will be provided.  Both of the tours I selected were managed well and most interesting.  On Sunday, we gathered with extra time in a Plaza near the Cathedral, to which I was drawn and in which I found a Mass being said in the beautiful structure.  That alone made the shore excursion worthwhile.Disembarkation:Representatives of the United Kingdom Customs somehow came to the Jewel on Monday and the ship provided a schedule by which all guests were to pass through Customs.  The process was lengthy with long lines and few Customs Representatives.  Spreading out the schedule would have reduced the line wait while not lengthening the overall time required by the Customs Process.  To wait and go at the end of the schedule when all the guests had been processed would have been a better choice and would have saved a guest 1-2 hours in line.  The process did speed the customs process in Dover Terminal and was favorable to me.  Since I carried my carry-on bag off the ship, I was ready to exit the ship upon clearance.  Yet, I waited for my friends though I got them early-exit luggage tags for their bags so we could be among the first off the ship.  When ashore, the queue for the taxi stand was long with no taxis in line and few arriving to assist the volume of persons seeking shore transport to train or bus.  We did get a taxi and transferred to the Dover Priory train station for rail travel to Victoria Station in London.  From Vic the traveler can take the tube direct to Heathrow Airport (LHR) for one-way 4 GBP (35 minutes) so I purchased that ticket in advance for the day I would transfer to LHR Terminal 4 for NW/KLM as well as my one-way 4 GBP ticket to the Gloucester Road Tube Station on Cromwell Road where I was staying at the Crowne Plaza London Kensington.  My choice is to walk London and so I did not purchase tube / tickets.   My rail ticket Dover to Victoria was 18 GBP and I purchased mine first and told the ticket agent to duplicate my ticket for my friends.  He stated a quantity of tickets of three or more is 505 off so the group rode to Vic at half price.  Upon arrival at Victoria Station, I took my friends to the Taxi Queue and placed them into taxis before going to the underground  - destination Gloucester Road Tube Station on Cromwell Road across from my hotel.  A friend, whom I had met on the NCL Pearl in November 2006, came to the Crowne Plaza and we had a wonderful dinner visit after which I took her to the Gloucester tube to go to catch the train for a 4 hour train ride back home in northern England.  She called me at 10:30 from the train to let me know she was OK and I could rest easily.  She represents the kind of long-lasting friends I make on the NCL Cruises. The Crowne Plaza is recommended for its location and accessibility.  It is close to Museums, Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, Big Ben and the London Eye, Parliament, Hyde Park and much more.  Reservations were made and confirmed on the Internet.  $230 per night.  My tube ride to Heathrow Airport was shared with a young family with a boy age 4. Their destination was New York.  The early morning commotion was tough on the boy and he became ill and vomited his guts out on the floor of the train.  Because I am always prepared for any unexpected occasion, I offered a leak-proof plastic bag and papers to clean up the floor, a fresh water bottle to clear the burn in the boy's throat, soft large wet wipes to assist the family in bringing stability to the situation.  Then I retrieved from my bag three balloons and offered them to the boy and his mother.  He immediately perked up and smiled happily and stabilized for the short ride to Heathrow Terminal 4. My overall plans included that this return flight via Amsterdam direct to Detroit is the first leg of my round trip flight with the second leg being the flight back to London in September to again catch the Jewel for the Northern Route Cruise to New York.  The round trip flight cost me $760 as opposed to the one-way NW/KLM cost of $1,230 when booked in February.  Looking ahead to my flight from NY to DTW September 30, it was booked on Spirit Air for $69 on special instead of the normal $228 for a one-way ticket.  Planning ahead and being outcome-oriented permits you to create your own flexible travel plans to fit your style of travel at a cost-effective rate.  That makes you happy as you anticipate the trip.Summary:My love of cruising and meeting the choice persons who do cruise is nurtured by the fact that I do meet those persons in abundance and form bonds with them.  Norwegian Cruise Line is my Cruise Line of Choice because I have had wonderful experiences on each and every cruise to the point where I have taken my family members to give them a taste of my experiences.  The memories of my trips and the fun and persons I have met are such that I am called to continually cruise. As a result I am already scheduled for an NCL Cruise in September 2009.  I have tasted the other Cruise Lines and prefer NCL.  The Comedians, Singers, Musicians, Jugglers, and especially the Jean Ann Ryan Company Theatre Productions are such that I continue to return for more as they complement the experiences of meeting people and making new friends and sharing the day with them while at theatre, dancing and generally having fun aboard ship.  The courtesy of the general crew and the programs of the Cruise Director and Staff signal the type of environment in which I choose to travel.Cost is the only offset to traveling single.  It takes a big bite out of the budget to pay for two as a single.  Hence, I am open to any interest by a non-smoker wishing to explore our sharing a stateroom.  I m aboard for fun and offer no conditions or expectations other than respect for the individual and for myself and my values and standards of thought and behavior.  I have Stateroom 11023 booked for the Jewel for 19 September 2009 Dover to New York and the cruise promises to be most interesting as it follows the northern route. Thank you for the opportunity to share.Ralph - Oceansailor7 Read Less
Sail Date: April 2009
This was a honeymoon cruise.  I am 28 and my wife 27.  Having never cruised before, I picked this transatlantic crossing because of its great itinerary and ability to relax during multiple days at sea.  I  booked my penthouse suite on ... Read More
This was a honeymoon cruise.  I am 28 and my wife 27.  Having never cruised before, I picked this transatlantic crossing because of its great itinerary and ability to relax during multiple days at sea.  I  booked my penthouse suite on deck 9 almost a year prior to the cruise.  I read multiple conflicting reviews about the Gem and NCL in general.  Being rather easy going people, my wife and I decided to give the cruise a try.  We are certainly not affected by minor nuisances and felt we could deal with any little issues, not allowing them to ruin the trip for us.  After all, 8 great ports sounded stupendous.Embarkation at the Manhattan cruise terminal was easy.  We arrived at 11 am, left our bags with the loading area attendant, and were quickly ushered to the check-in counter.  The VIP area was basically a holding area away from the other 2,400 or so passengers on the ship.  We thought the snacks provided were thoughtful and weren't very put off by the fact that they weren't particularly tasty.  We had no idea how many other bad food items we would have during this cruise.At 12:40, the concierge (Alex), started calling groups to be escorted onto the ship by their different butlers.  Ours was Andrew, and he was very nice.  We were lucky to meet another nice honeymoon couple that were in the suite right next to ours!  Andrew took us to our suite and gave us the rundown on the different channels, the portable phone that worked all over the ship, how to contact key people, etc.  He then gave us some free time to get comfortable while our bags were delivered (at around 5 pm we got all 3).  We were so pleased to find that we had a huge balcony right at the bow of the ship.  I had researched it, but never imagined the balcony was so big.  We then met up with our new fellow honeymooners and went the Cagney's steakhouse for a VIP-only lunch.  Everyone had the 10 ounce steak and I had the fish.  They were good, but not particularly stupendous.  This was now 2 mediocre meals in 3 hours time!  We left port at 4 pm and truly enjoyed the view of the city from our balcony.  Complimentary bubbly was included, which we enjoyed greatly.We had 5 days at sea at the beginning of the cruise, which proved to be a great time to make up for all the sleep we've lost during our regular busy lives. It was too cold and windy to really spend time on our balcony or on any deck, so we mostly stayed indoors.  Seas were relatively calm, and my motion sickness-prone wife had no problems the entire cruise.  Being suite guests, we had a selection of 100 DVD's to choose from, which were delivered by Andrew as needed.  We enjoyed relaxing in our very comfortable bed, just watching movies or visiting with our new found friends.  Something we did find bothersome was the frequent announcements made on the overhead PA system, which were easily heard inside staterooms from the hall.  These tended to interrupt our sleep early in the day, but weren't truly an issue.  Our suite was very comfortable for 2 people.  We had a full-size tub, a nice closet with hangers, a nice table with 4 chairs, a CD/DVD player, a loveseat, and seating for 7 people on the balcony.  Our only issue with our suite was the strong odor of smoke.  We are not smokers and were really put off by it.  Our steward, Felipe, sprayed some chemical all around the room, which merely masked the odor for a few hours.  We couldn't understand how smoking was permitted inside staterooms.  After a while, we got used to the odor.We signed up for a "spa pass" that was valid the entire trip, for $330 for the both of us.  This gave us access to individual whirlpool tubs, steam room, sauna, a large unisex hydrotherapy pool, and an average size jacuzzi tub.  With the temperature in the 50's and 60's most of the cruise, the outside pools weren't really an option, so it was nice to have the spa pass.  We used it almost every day.  We used the gym a few times.  They had all the latest machines available, with individual TV screens.The ship, in general, is very attractive.  There are lots of public areas to keep your interest.  There are lots of colors and bold designs, and we enjoyed the decor immensely.  It seemed like you could always find something new to admire on the ship.  This being a transatlantic crossing, we knew it would be an older crowd.  This simply meant that the trendy areas, such as the Bliss Ultra Lounge, were all but deserted the entire cruise.  Shore excursions/ports:We had 8 ports: Ponta Delgada (Azure islands), Lisbon, Cadiz(Seville), Malaga(Granada), Ajaccio(Corsica), Civitavecchia(Rome), Livorno(Florence, Pisa), Cannes(Monaco, Monte Carlo).  We took shore excursions in 7 of 8 ports.  We didn't take one in Ajaccio (I knew from reviews that there wasn't enough to see for a shore excursion, so we took a little sightseeing train available 2 blocks from the terminal).  We could have done without an excursion in Cadiz, as there is lots to see right in town.  We booked all the excursions through NCL, as we like to play it safe, trying to avoid independent tour operators.  Once we hit Ponta Delgada, getting lots of sleep was over.  We had to be up early in almost every port to be herded onto buses for the excursions.  Be aware that almost every major excursion requires an hour and a half bus ride to the location (e.g. Granada, Rome, Florence, Pisa, etc.)  We didn't mind it, as the sightseeing was nice.  Every tour guide was excellent, except for one in Cadiz that seemed to barely speak English.  We didn't know how she was allowed to conduct the tour.  Fortunately, the tour was mostly a view of the countryside, so we didn't mind it too much.  Overall, our excursions were great.Food:I could probably write a small book about our dining experience on the ship.  There are 2 main dining rooms open for dinner (Grand Pacific and Magenta) and one for lunch (Grand Pacific).  The buffet (Garden Cafe) is open all three meals.  The Blue Lagoon is a table service restaurant that was open 24 hrs. a day with a very limited menu (no fee required).  For suite guests, Cagney's Steakhouse has breakfast and lunch available.  There are several specialty restaurants, which all charge a fee of $10 to $25 per person.  In addition to the fee, some restaurants charge an additional fee for specialty items like lobster.  We found these fees to be excessive, surely a terrible value for what you received.  This being a "Freestyle" ship, the dress code was lax.  You could wear just about anything to eat, except all table service restaurants required pants and Grand Pacific did not allow jeans after 5:30.  Being casual people, we enjoyed the dress code.  80% of the food on the ship was mediocre.  10% was excellent, and 10% was not fit for human consumption.  They couldn't even get simple food items right.  The room service chocolate cake and brownie were the worst I've ever had.  My elementary school cafeteria was a gourmet eatery, compared to the room service menu items we had.  The bread in my club sandwich was stale/dry.  My wife had a chicken noodle soup that was simply some broth with a single noodle and piece of chicken.  We felt guilty leaving food uneaten, but we simply couldn't' stomach so many items we had.  The buffet was very average, but the bad food was only made worse by the fact that you could only find a table if you got there as soon as they opened.  After a while, we came to realize that people would send a single person to sit at a table before food was available, just so that they could have a place to sit.  Often times, there would be only 1 or 2 people sitting at a table that could hold many more.  One woman actually refused for my wife and I to sit at an 8 person table with her and her husband.  The nerve of some people!  Often times, we noticed single people simply reading a book at a table during peak eating times.  They really need a person to facilitate this area to move it along better.  The worst meal we had was at the italian restaurant (La Cucina) with a $10 cover per person.  Just about every item we had seemed like it was from a TV dinner box, and not a very good brand at that.  I had lobster ravioli which tasted like the only part of the lobster it contained was the shell.  Simply awful and fishy tasting, and I love seafood!  The maitre'd admitted that they bought the ravioli pre-made from Sysco.  This was the only place we complained, and they only comped half of our fees.  Incredible!  Le Bistro (French) was quite good.  I had a wonderful beef tenderloin, and my wife had the lamb, which was also delicious.  Tequilas (Tex-Mex) was quite good.  Cagney's steakhouse was quite average, with the lobster certainly not worth the extra fee on top of the cover.  The Teppanyaki was good (akin to Benihana).  Orchid garden (Asian fusion) was average to poor.  They couldn't get even the basics (chicken lo mein) right.  I had a lobster which tasted like it was cooked in fish head stew.  Awful!  The highlight of the food scene on the ship was the sushi restaurant.  The sushi was absolutely delicious!  We enjoyed sitting at the sushi bar and talking to the chef, John.  It was a great value, but was nearly deserted at all times, even at peak hours.  Most specially restaurants were half empty, but they never offered an incentive, such as half-price or buy one/get one.  Also, service at the table service restaurants was spotty at best.  Once we waited 20 minutes after sitting to have someone greet us.  Often, servers would forget to bring you something you ordered.  Drinks were not refilled, and sometimes appetizers and entrees would come out all at the same time.  I could go on and on about the food, but suffice it to say that it was simply a disappointment.  Without a doubt, food is the one area that will keep us from cruising with NCL again.Disembarkation was a bit confusing at first, but it actually worked quite well.  If NCL booked your flight back home, they delivered luggage tags to your cabin the night before disembarkation.  They were color coded, in relation to the time you needed to be of the ship to make your flight on time.  We received VIP tags, which didn't seem to serve any purpose.  You still had to carry your own luggage to the transfer bus.  We were really upset at the airport.  NCL booked our travel, so the airline had NCL's contact information instead of ours.  This was an issue, as our flight was changed while we were on the cruise, putting us home 4 hours later than we were supposed to be.  NCL should have communicated the change to us.  We only found out after waiting in line at the airport for an hour and having the agent tell us that our reservation was cancelled!  I then had to wait in a second line for a ticket agent to clarify the mix up.  Very frustrating.  We then had a 5 hour layover in Madrid, while waiting for our flight to Miami.All in all, we greatly enjoyed the physical ship.  The itinerary was excellent, if not exhausting, but we enjoyed seeing so many different things.  Food quality and service really need to be examined on this ship.  Were it not for these glaring flaws, we would likely cruise on NCL again.  We will definitely try another cruiseline in the future. 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Sail Date: April 2009
Warning - do not wear any jewelry you are fond of keeping to the ship's spa.  The spa does not provide any secure area for your belongings.  Learn from my experience. I had a spa appointment, for which they were 20 minutes late (no ... Read More
Warning - do not wear any jewelry you are fond of keeping to the ship's spa.  The spa does not provide any secure area for your belongings.  Learn from my experience. I had a spa appointment, for which they were 20 minutes late (no apologies or excuses offered).  The attendant led me back to the treatment room and instructed me to place the jewelry I was wearing in my pant pocket and hang my clothes on the wall hooks. At the end of the treatment, the attendant place my clothes on the treatment table and left the room.  My clothes fell to the floor - scattering the contents of my pockets onto the floor. Due to an emergency, I needed to leave the room before gathering my belongings. I returned to the room a few minutes later to discover my jewelry was missing.  Needless to say, the jewelry was never located.  The head of the NCL Gem security assured me that NCL had zero tolerance for theft. If you are interested in museums and/ or shopping in local stores, be sure to check whether the ship is docking on a day when these places are open.  The day that the NCL Gem docked at five of the six ports was a local holiday where museums and/or stores were closed.  NCL does provide a "Port & Shopping Guide."  This is generally a one - two page flyer that does little to assist in sightseeing or shopping.  The flyer contains unusable maps of the area.  Little or no information on products unique to the area is provided.  Although given that for the most part shops were not open, the failure to provide such information does not impact your tour.  The maps do not highlight the location of attractions. You are much better doing your own research. The personnel at the reception desk need to be trained to help passengers on a first come first serve basis.  Frequently, they allowed passengers to "cut" in front of others who had been patiently waiting in line. The stores on the NCL Gem were still stocked with Caribbean merchandise.  The ship never fully converted to European merchandise.  Most of the merchandise was of average quality.  Merchandise on sale was displayed as one would expect to find in a Wal-Mart or Target. The tour guides for the NCL sponsored tours were in general knowledgeable and very pleasant.  However, they should mention special accommodations available to the disabled.  For instance, the Vatican has a special entrance for the handicapped.  [We only learned of this from another tourist.]  Also, the tour guide failed to indicate that the "easy ten minute walk" to the Vatican was over uneven cobblestones.  Level 1 tour guides should be sensitized to the impact of such things on the disabled. The nightly entertainment was varied and generally good.  The NCL Gem had musicians, magicians, a juggler and singers.  The bar areas had very entertaining lounge singers.  The ship is beautiful and well maintained.  The personnel at the specialty restaurants are exceedingly pleasant.  The cabin stewards do a good job cleaning the cabins.  Disembarkation procedures at the various ports are well organized. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2009
Too many Cruise Critic members define "critic" as "someone who frequently finds fault or makes harsh and unfair judgments".  Actually, the word comes from the Greek word meaning "able to discern", which in ... Read More
Too many Cruise Critic members define "critic" as "someone who frequently finds fault or makes harsh and unfair judgments".  Actually, the word comes from the Greek word meaning "able to discern", which in turn derives from the word kritEs, meaning 'a person who offers reasoned judgment or analysis, value judgment, interpretation, or observation".  It is in this spirit that I offer my critique of our 2009 eastbound transatlantic crossing and Mediterranean cruise aboard the Norwegian Gem from New York to Barcelona from April 18 through May 3, 2009.  On the whole, it was the trip of our lifetimes (so far, anyway) which exceeded our expectations in some areas and fell short in a few others. I cruised with my wife as an early (it's next year) 25th wedding anniversary celebration.  This was our seventh cruise since being bitten by the Cruise Bug in 2006, and our fourth with NCL.  We are approaching 50; our two kids are in college and class schedules kept them there for this trip.  We had previously sailed on a 2-nighter aboard the Gem in December 2007, and although she no longer looked brand-new she was well maintained.  The public areas and open decks were always kept spotless. Embarkation at Pier 88 in New York was relatively smooth and quick.  The representative who handled our boarding barely said a word; good thing we knew what to expect - a first-time cruiser would have been confused.  That was the only glitch, and after we were handed our numbered passes we waited in the crowded terminal for boarding to begin.  Standing there (there were four times as many people waiting as there were available seats) we got our first look at our fellow passengers.  I expected Rodney Dangerfield to appear and say to one of them: "So, how does this ship compare to the Mayflower?" Ba-DUM dum!  I had expected an older crowd, but I was surprised at how old - the majority had to be over 70.  Later, I'd learn the implications of sailing with this bunch. Our cabin was a mini-suite, which is not in the suite category but is actually a "deluxe balcony", on Deck 11 approximately amidships starboard.  We knew that the standard balcony staterooms were on the smaller side, and the extra space in our mini-suite was valuable for a 15-night sailing.  The cabin location was ideal, with only minimal noise from the pool deck above.  Plus, it was up one flight to get to the Garden Cafe buffet and down 5 flights to Magenta, one of two main dining rooms.  There was a curtain which could be drawn to separate the sleeping and sitting areas, handy if you stay up later than your companion.  The highlight of the cabin was the bathroom, which was divided into three separate sections with the toilet on one side, the sink in the middle and the tub and shower on the right.  Yes, a bathtub!  It was a first for us, and a hot soak was a great way to relax after a busy day. Far and away, the Gem boasted better bathrooms than any cabin we'd ever booked.  On embarkation day it was announced that the cabins would not be ready until 2PM, so after boarding at 1 PM, we spent the next hour or so having lunch at the Grand Pacific, the other main dining room.  Afterwards, we headed to our cabin, but it was still not ready.  We stowed our carry-on bags in the closet and left to explore the ship.  In the end, the stewards were not finished until almost 4:30 PM, just after sailing time.  Even then, it wasn't very clean.  It was obvious that, for whatever reason, preparing the cabins had been given a low priority that day.  However, by the first morning the stewards had recovered from the rough start, and Deival and Jeffrey did a competent job for the rest of the cruise.  They always followed through if we mentioned something that needed attention, but I would have preferred that they took care of things before being asked.  Service staff on the Gem, whether in the hotel or food service areas, was always friendly and cheerful.  In a competition with a typical American waitress or hotel chambermaid, they'd win hands down!  Sometimes, though, attention to detail was lacking and as a rule I'd call their approach reactive rather than proactive. We chose this cruise because of the unbeatable itinerary.  We had never taken a transatlantic cruise and we had never been to Europe.  This itinerary accomplished both, with more ports and fewer sea days than most transatlantics, and allowed for a 15-night cruise while using only ten vacation days.  After departing Saturday afternoon and enjoying splendid views of the Statue of Liberty and our passage under the Verrazano-Narrows bridge, we headed out to sea, with the next landfall not until Thursday morning in the Azores at Ponta Delgada, over 2300 miles away. After that we'd have another sea day, then hit Lisbon on Saturday, Malaga in Spain on Sunday, Cadiz, Spain on Monday, enjoy a final sea day Tuesday, arrive in Ajaccio, Corsica on Wednesday, dock in Italy at Civitavecchia (Rome) on Thursday, Livorno (Florence, Pisa) on Friday and Cannes France on Saturday.  Then we'd disembark in Barcelona on Sunday.  Looking back, it felt like two separate cruises - the first week was relaxing and unhurried with lots of free time, and the second a frantically paced, port-heavy grind.  We lost an hour's sleep each night for most of that first week, finally ending up six hours ahead of New York.  I thought it would be easier to adjust a bit at a time, not all at once as in jet travel.  However the process left me with a sleep deficit and I was quite tired as we neared the end of the cruise.  Some of our shore excursions required meeting times as early as 6:40 AM.  That certainly didn't help! The seas were smooth, the weather cool and a bit windy for the crossing.  The outdoor decks were deserted and the pools empty as we made our way east.  The temperature was between 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit.  Our balcony was crunchy with the crusty salt spray that continually dried there, blown by the wind even to Deck 11.  The highlights of those early days were our Cruise Critic meeting, the Cabin Crawl that was organized through the roll call, and the destination lectures given by Marianne and Peter Bonenberger that familiarized us with the countries we'd visit.  We enjoyed bowling in the Bliss Ultra Lounge, where I came in dead last, even with the bumper rails up.  I blamed the ship's movement for my poor score!  One night there was a Murder Mystery dinner, and we participated with our Cruise Critic friends. We did not use the casino or the spa, and we only attended one evening show...we'd enjoyed Comedian Bill Hildebrandt on the Norwegian Dream in October 2008, and he repeated his act, word for word, on the Gem.  Not quite as funny the second time around.  Our favorite entertainers aboard were Furioso, a string quartet from Poland.  We'd stop by to listen for awhile after dinner most nights, which is certainly not an option back home.  We didn't find much else worth staying up for that we had not seen already. Dining aboard the Gem was the biggest disappointment of the cruise.  The food was rarely the proper temperature, the soups thin and watery.  Comparing the menu descriptions to what you were served was always interesting. I remember one bit of "menu honesty" though.  What we normally call a Hot Turkey Sandwich at home here was referred to as a "Warm Turkey Sandwich". And, the portions were very small.  I estimated that you'd have to stack three servings of NCL prime rib to come close to what we enjoyed on Princess in 2008.  If I were a host I'd be ashamed to serve such meager dishes to my guests.  There were probably only three or four dishes that I truly enjoyed during the cruise, but most were of no better than average quality, and some a lot worse.  The "Always Available" "Baby" Shrimp Cocktail was like eating a bowl of grubs.  The "shrimp" were thin and stringy, and the whole mess was covered by a cocktail sauce and mayonnaise concoction.  The Fish & Chips in the Blue Lagoon 24 hour eatery certainly wasn't haddock.  Nor was it any other fish I've ever eaten fried.  I loved their tomato soup, though, and most times it actually arrived hot. The Blue Lagoon had the worst service of any eatery.  They didn't use an order pad, and as a result you sometimes didn't get everything you ordered, or all the items would arrive at once.  It might take 20 minutes to have your water glass refilled.  "Comfort food" indeed!  At one meal in Grand Pacific, we were served a breadbasket that looked like it had been already used.  At the same meal, my wife's Caesar Salad was very warm.  She asked for another, but it was no better.  They should put the entrees wherever those salads are kept - maybe they'd warm up closer to the proper temperature!  Paying more to eat in the specialty restaurants was not always a solution.  The Lobster Ravioli at La Cucina were gummy and too fishy-tasting.  Rumor has it they're purchased in bulk, not made onboard.  Worst of all were the "nachos" in Tequila.  We were served a plate of thin chips with Cheez Whiz poured on top - that's it!  I haven't had nachos that were quite that bad since a visit to a drive-in theater in 1980!  The filet mignon at Cagney's was cooked perfectly and the Oyster's Rockefeller was outstanding, but if those French fries weren't frozen shoestrings I'll eat my napkin.  They sure didn't taste like they'd come anywhere near the truffle oil the menu said they were cooked in.  The servers would address a problem if it was brought to their attention, but again, it was after the fact.  We met some friendly servers and chatted with them.  One, Shamilla in Magenta, was particularly personable.  What they serve is decided on a corporate level, and I'll bet all cruise lines have reduced their food budgets. But these hard working servers carry out their duties with hospitality and aplomb. Yes, they have difficult guests to contend with.  Especially on this cruise!  I'm not prejudiced against any group, but the elderly aboard this cruise were the most rude, crabby, and cantankerous crowd I'd ever seen.  They continually pushed in lines.  They cut in front of people in the buffet.  As a matter of fact, the Garden Cafe was such a free-for-all of rudeness and crudeness that after the first week I never returned.  It was not worth the aggravation to fight for the poor-quality food and lack of seating.  The undersized seating area was especially a problem when it was too cold or windy outside to eat.  The opened the nearby La Cucina for overflow seating, but by the time you got there, your food was stone cold.  And if you wanted anything else, you'd have to walk all the way back.  The service was generally better in Magenta than in Grand Pacific, where orders were frequently mixed up, beverages never arrived and where the meals were often unevenly paced. Mealtime on the Gem meant another chance to see how cost cutbacks affect the product.  On the positive side, because the senior set lined up to wait for the included dining rooms to open at 5:30, there were plenty of tables available later in the evening, and the specialty restaurants were practically deserted.  These food frustrations were what led us to reconsider purchasing a future cruise credit.  There are others lines out there.... We booked excursions through NCL in all ports except Ajaccio.  Ponta Delgada, located on Sao Miguel Island in the Azores, was beautiful - a green, hilly island which looked completely undeveloped outside the towns.  It's volcanic in origin, and we loved seeing the caldera lakes and thermal vents on our "Hot Springs & Botanical Gardens" excursion.  There are many cows, and we saw them effortlessly standing on the impossibly steep slopes, presumably not worried about the sheer drop to the sea a few feet away.  The island was clean, with evidence of new infrastructure improvements funded through membership in the European Union.  Tea is produced here, and we enjoyed a sample while visiting a plantation. Lisbon, Portugal's capital seemed a bit less affluent than most capital cities I've visited.  They have all the trappings of modern life, but also cling to their rich history, heritage and culture.  It was a real treat to sail under their 25 de Abril Bridge, which spans the Tagus River on the very day it was named for, which is the anniversary of the day the country replaced their dictator with a democracy in 1974.  The bridge reminded us of the Golden Gate Bridge, and we learned it was built by the same company.  We chose the tour "Monumental Lisbon".  After visiting Rossio Square, the Alfalma, and the Jeronimos Monastery, we headed to both the Monument to the Discoveries and the Belem Tower.  There's a row of restaurants close to the port, and after our excursion we enjoyed a drink and a snack at one of them near the river.  Because it was a holiday in Lisbon, some things that were normally open may have been closed.  At sailaway, one of our fellow Cruise Critic members invited us and a few others to a party in their bow penthouse suite, with excellent views of our passage under the bridge, up the river and out to sea. On Sunday morning we arrived at Cadiz, Spain in a 50-knot, wind-driven rain.  We waited a few miles offshore for the storm to subside.  The wind buffeted the Gem's side and I could not open the balcony door because of the pressure.  The ship actually listed a few degrees too.  The captain came on the intercom to reassure the passengers.  Finally, the storm broke and we proceeded to the dock for a late arrival.  Our excursion was delayed as well; we finally boarded the bus at 11:30 and headed out into the rain and the "Arcos & Sherry" tour.  Arcos de la Frontera was a Pueblo Blanco, or white village, where the whitewashed homes are situated along a sandstone ridge. The top of Pena Nueva provided spectacular views of the valley below.  The skies began to clear as we began the 30-mile ride to Jerez de la Frontera and the home of the Estevez Group, a winery that makes the region's specialty, Sherry.  The tour covered the bodegas, or aging cellars, but nothing else.  It seems that every time we choose a shore excursion to learn how something is produced, we'll see it, and maybe taste it, but nothing else.  At tables inside, four Sherries were offered for tasting.  The last one tasted like raisins or prunes.  Very sweet, and not my style.  I overheard one of our elderly fellow passengers saying "I'm not paying $8 for prune juice"!  It seemed, though, that folks were much more jovial on the ride back to the ship after the wine tasting. That night, the Gem would pass through the Strait of Gibraltar and enter the Mediterranean Sea.  I would have loved to see Africa so close off to starboard, as the Strait is only 7.7 nautical miles wide at its narrowest, but our transit was scheduled between 1:15 and 2:40 AM.  Because I had a much-needed appointment in my very comfortable bed, I skipped my chance to see the lights of Morocco. When we awoke the next day, we were approaching Malaga, Spain.  As the Gem maneuvered toward the dock, we passed two naval ships, one from Greece and one from the U.S., and a beautiful Star Clippers vessel.  Today we'd see the Alhambra, about 2 hours away by bus - and there were six buses headed there from the ship, so we knew we'd have plenty of company.  "Granada and the Magnificent Alhambra" included a 2 ½ hour tour of the palace and fortress complex, a remnant of the days when the Moors ruled Granada almost 800 years ago.  From there we moved to the Generalife Gardens to see the flower beds, hedges and fountains.  Our tickets were repeatedly scanned as we moved from exhibit to exhibit, causing some our fellow passengers to complain loudly.  The kvetching increased considerably at our next stop, a local hotel for a buffet lunch.  It was very crowded, and not particularly well-managed, but I thought it was unnecessary for someone to shout "Help!  Would somebody PLEASE tell us what to do?" at the top of their lungs because they couldn't figure out where the two lines began and ended.  After lunch, we headed straight back to the pier, skipping the promised "panoramic tour of the city" and photo stop at the Albaicin.  I have no idea why that happened - no explanation was offered. Then came Tuesday and our final sea day of the cruise.  We slept until 9AM, and enjoyed every minute.  The weather had turned nicer and the seas smoother once we were in the Mediterranean, and we hit the pools for the first and only time during the cruise.  The chair hogs were out in full force, and lounge chairs were at a premium.  It was a nice, relaxing day.  By 11 PM we had sailed 4,150 miles since New York and had another 145 miles to sail before reaching Ajaccio, Corsica the next morning. Corsica is a French island 110 miles from the Côte d'Azur.  We had planned to venture out on our own in this port.  We got off the ship at about 9:30 and headed out to find Le Petit Train d'Ajaccio, similar to a Disney World tram but resembling a train engine with cars full of tourists in tow.  I had discovered this online, and it sounded like a great way to see some of the city for only 10 Euros each.  We found the office, but they told us that the trains were departing from... the pier!  So, we walked all the way back, bought our tickets, and waited about an hour for one to show up.  While we were waiting, an elderly man collapsed just outside the cruise terminal.  His companions tended to him until the ambulance arrived.  It's a good thing that one came - despite running back to the gangway and asking that the ship's doctor come down to help - NCL staff would only say that the ambulance was coming.  Finally, trains began to arrive and the passenger backlog began to clear.  As we boarded I watched more than a few portly passengers hoist themselves into the cars with a great deal of heaving and hoeing in an effort to navigate the narrow openings.  Ajaccio is the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte, so a stop at his monument was obligatory.  Then we set out for Les Îles Sanguinaires, rocky wind-swept islands where we saw a tower dating back to the time when the Genoese ruled Corsica.  The tour ended back at the town square, and we continued our explorations on foot.  There was even time to by a baguette at a boulangerie before re-boarding the Gem in time for a late lunch in the Blue Lagoon. A day later we were docked in Civitavecchia and on our way to the Eternal City on the "Rome and the Vatican" tour, which was the most expensive excursion of our cruise.  My wife looked forward to this port the most.  She had waited all her life to see the Sistine Chapel ceiling and Michelangelo's Pietà.  First stop was the Vatican Museums. Our guide had a deep knowledge and great passion for Michelangelo and we benefited from her experience as we negotiated the displays using "strategy, my dears!"  I expected crowds here, and I got 'em.  It was hard to keep up with the group due to the crowding; there was only time for brief glances at the wonders on display.  Soon enough we found ourselves in the Sistine Chapel gazing upward in awe Michelangelo's unbelievably impressive paintings.  Amazing.  Four years, on his back, working alone.  It took our breath away.  We were warned not to take pictures, and we didn't - at least none that used a flash...  After another buffet lunch at a hotel we were taken by bus past some ancient Roman ruins, with a stop at the Coliseum.  We were not able to go inside, but we snapped photos from a block away.  We discovered a gelateria where I first tasted the awesome wonders of lemon gelato.  I hope it won't be my last taste!  I wonder why something that good isn't widely available in the States. By now we were getting that "If it's Tuesday, this must be Belgium" feeling, but it was Friday and we had docked in Livorno.  It was also May 1, a holiday in Italy.  This we knew - but we couldn't have guessed how it would ruin the day for us.  We picked the "Cinque Terre" excursion because we thought the museums in Florence might be closed, and instead we would enjoy some quiet time off the beaten path in the remote "five lands" which are inaccessible except by boat, train or a long, arduous walk.  Wrong!  Double wrong!  I think the entire population of Italy descended on the Cinque Terre that day.  The plan featured a bus ride to La Spezia, where we'd board a boat for the trip to the first town we'd visit, Manarola.  From there, we'd walk the Via Dell'Amore, or "Street of Love" to Rio Maggiore.  Then, we'd climb aboard another boat and make our way to the fishing village of Vernazza.  Finally, we'd spend time in Monterosso al Mare, and maybe have lunch before taking the train back to La Spezia and the bus.  Well, we did it, but we certainly were not alone.  I later learned that the Cinque Terre is both a National Park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is often crowded, and more so on holidays.  The stretch of the Via Dell'Amore that we walked was a narrow path along the cliffs overlooking the sea - so narrow, that with the crowds, the pace was "STEP, wait, two, three, four, STEP, wait, two, three, four" at its fastest.  At the worst of the bottlenecks we stood, cheek to jowl, for minutes at a time without moving.  The tour guide made a valiant effort to keep the group together, but this was next to impossible.  An elderly couple with mobility problems kept falling behind.  Understandably so, as the paths were narrow, steep in spots, with many stairs and tight corners to slow them down.  I think the activity level of most of the European excursions should be adjusted to show the true level of difficulty for passengers like this in areas where easy accessibility such as we in the U.S. enjoy because of the Americans with Disabilities Act does not exist.  Looking back, we picked the best excursion on the worst day.  The Via Dell'Amore was not romantic - it's was more like a cattle drive.  The restaurants weren't quaint, they were jammed.  We got separated from our group and wandered around alone for an hour before we relocated our guide.  But we did find a quiet dirt path in Monterosso that led up a hill past houses where fresh laundry hung outside the windows and lemon trees grew in the sunny side yards, and we discovered a centuries-old church where we lit a candle in thanks for our amazing adventure. Then, Saturday, (a lil' French lingo here) the pièce de rEsistance... Cannes, France.  The French Riviera.  Not the original Riviera, though, as that honor goes to the Italian Riviera and the area from La Spezia to the French border.  But when we tendered ashore in Cannes and boarded yet another bus for the trip to "Monaco and Nice", we knew this Riviera was no slouch.  We passed the venue for the famous Cannes Film Festival and famous hotels like the Carlton along La Croisette and the sea.  Arriving in Nice, we had time to stroll a spectacular open-air market with the most incredible variety of fruits & vegetables, meats, cheeses and flowers imaginable: the famous Cours Saleya.  What a shame that we couldn't bring any of that magnificent produce home with us.  But we feasted with our eyes, and took lots of pictures.  We snapped up a small jar of pesto and a selection of local mustards as all-too-precious souvenirs.  Back aboard the bus, we motored to Monaco.  Along the way, we caught a glimpse of Nice's harbor from the road above.  Eze was visible across the ridge, a medieval village we'd have to come back another time to visit.  Then, we arrived in Monaco, where lifestyles of the rich and famous play out on a daily basis.  It's tiny, too.  Imagine: during one cruise were we able to visit the two smallest countries in the world.  Monaco, at 0.7 square miles, is second only to Vatican City in size at two-tenths of a square mile.  We had two stops in the Principality; one on "The Rock", the oldest part of Monaco and home to the Palace and the most breathtaking views of the harbor - and the other in Monte Carlo, home to the renowned Casino and ostentatious displays of wealth at every turn.  The weather was spectacular as we drooled over the yachts in the harbor, saw the guard marching at the Palace and then took a quick lunch at a nearby shop. A short time later we stared in awe at the luxury sports cars, opulent jewelry stores and lavish hotels in Monte Carlo.  We saw the viewing stands and the guardrails in place for the Grand Prix later in the month, the Formula One race held yearly through the heart of the Principality.   What an exciting place to visit!  All too soon it was time to climb into the bus and head back to the Gem.  The ladies sunbathing without the hindrance of a top on the beach at Cannes kept many a male nose pressed to the bus windows on the return trip to the ship.  That night, we'd have to face the fact that it was time to pack and prepare to disembark in Barcelona the next morning.  Disembarkation was easy - your luggage is placed on airport-style carousels for retrieval. Truly, it was the trip of a lifetime for us.  Was everything perfect?  Of course not.   Would we do it again in a heartbeat?  Absolutely!  We have seen much more of this wide world now and we've seen its people - and we're richer for the experience.  We met a great group of people on the Cruise Critic roll call that we would love to sail with again, and who added immeasurably to our enjoyment of the cruise.  We loved the itinerary, but not the type of crowd a transatlantic attracts.  I don't get it:  they have money, the time and the physical ability to go on a cruise like this - so why are these older folks so petulant and rude?  And, despite a few disappointments or places where we thought the cost-cutting had gone too far, Norwegian and the Gem and especially its crew were a good choice to help us get there.  What a trip: over five thousand nautical miles of memories to last a lifetime.             Read Less
Sail Date: April 2009
Here is our review of the Gem's 15 day transatlantic cruise, which departed from New York on Apr 18 and arrived in Barcelona on May 3. Cabin: We were in an AD suite on deck 10 aft. Loved the extra space and wide balcony at the rear ... Read More
Here is our review of the Gem's 15 day transatlantic cruise, which departed from New York on Apr 18 and arrived in Barcelona on May 3. Cabin: We were in an AD suite on deck 10 aft. Loved the extra space and wide balcony at the rear of the ship. We were able to use the balcony during the Atlantic crossing even though the weather was cool because the ship blocks a lot of the wind. The only negative to being at the aft is that we were a long way from the spa. The main reason we went with a suite is the VIP perks. NCL has the best suites in the industry. Our cabin steward was Barrington, and he was great. Our butler Mark Santos was fabulous. He couldn't do enough for us. For example, one of the VIP perks are the suite snacks delivered to your cabin in the mid afternoon. These treats vary on rotation from canapes, to truffles, to chocolate covered strawberries, to cheeses, etc. Well, on the third day of the cruise my wife mentions to Mark that she really likes the chocolate strawberries. So every day since then Mark brings both the regular treat of the day, plus a plate of strawberries. If the treat of the day was the strawberries, we would get 2 plates of them. Then a week later, she mentions to Mark that she really liked the giant soft pretzels that we got last year on the Sun. Mark said he would talk to the chef about it. So every day since then Mark brought the regular treat of the day, plus the plate of strawberries, plus a plate with two soft pretzels. Another VIP perk is being able to have breakfast and lunch in Cagney's, avoiding the crowds in the Garden Cafe. The food is great, and although the breakfast menu doesn't change, there's enough variety that you could go over a week without having the same thing twice. Food: We ate at every restaurant on the ship except for Teppanyaki. We found that the service in the main dining rooms was a bit slow, but that could be due to the crowds. The main rooms had a rush right at opening at 5:30, and the specialty restaurants were not overused at all. The demographic on this cruise was an older crowd that tended to eat early, which freed up space in the restaurants for late diners. The quality of the food was fine in our opinion. It was not 5 star dining, but we didn't have one meal that we regret ordering. The portions were small, especially for the appetizers, but that is OK. You can always order multiple appetizers or entries or desserts if you like. We never left the table hungry or dissatisfied. Our favorite restaurant was Le Bistro. We had 2 dinners there, and the beef tenderloin was excellent both times. Our least favorite experience was the Garden Cafe. Ports: The main reason we chose this cruise was the ports. We had never been to Europe and this cruise had a great itinerary of places we wanted to see. We were amazed at how beautiful the Azores were. We had a fun day in Lisbon on a jeep safari that took us to some out of the way places. In Cadiz, we loved wandering around the medieval streets, and in Malaga we took a hike up the hill to the old castle of Gibralfaro for some great panoramic vistas. It was interesting to see how much Corsicans still loved Napoleon Bonaparte. In Rome and in Livorno, we arranged for private tours with Rome In Limo. They were fantastic. We highly recommend using them. They're attentive, knowledgeable and courteous. In Rome, we saw a lot of the major sites like the Colosseum, the Forum, the Pantheon, Trevi fountain, and we also had a private guide for the Vatican. In Livorno, we first went to Pisa to see the Leaning Tower, then we went to the medieval village of San Gimignano before we had a private wine tasting at a nearby winery. Our last port was Cannes, where we strolled the promenade looking for the rich and famous. We had a nice mix of NCL tours, private tours and DIY tours and we loved each one. The cruise ended in Barcelona, where we stayed two nights to see the sites. We loved the architecture there. Ship Activities: We purchased the spa package, which was $165 for the entire cruise. The heated ceramic beds and the hydrotherapy pool were incredible. We thought the price was worth it, especially during the lazy sea days and after a busy day of walking around the ports of call. On other cruises I usually get a number of massages, but I didn't need them this time. I just spent time in the pool letting the massage jets do the work instead. We were part of the Cruise Critic roll call for this cruise, so we got to meet a large number of great people at a couple of Meet&Greets. The ship sent 8 officers to our first M&G, and the hotel director Richard introduced each officer and actually gave us each of their telephone numbers so we could call them if we had any problems. They wanted to hear from us while we were onboard, rather than read about it here afterward. The roll call also got together for a cabin crawl which was cool because we got to see all the different types of cabins available, including the Garden Villas. Because of all the extra suite snacks mentioned earlier, we tended to have late dinners which meant we didn't attend many shows. We saw a couple of comedian shows that made us laugh, but that was all. We did try the bowling in the Bliss lounge a couple of times. Don't go expecting to bowl your best. The ship's motion makes the ball act unpredictably, often with hilarious results. All in all, we had a great time. The Gem is a beautiful ship. We found most of the crew to be very friendly. We would sail with her again. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2009
Our perspective - This was our second NCL TA for my husband and I. We had also previously sailed on the Gem repo between London and Barcelona. Embarkation - We arrived at the Terminal around 12:45.  There were no lines for check in.  ... Read More
Our perspective - This was our second NCL TA for my husband and I. We had also previously sailed on the Gem repo between London and Barcelona. Embarkation - We arrived at the Terminal around 12:45.  There were no lines for check in.  By the time we finished with the paperwork, our number had been called and we walked right on the ship.  After a glass of champagne, we enjoyed a leisurely lunch in the Grand Pacific dining room until our room was ready.  This was a totally stressfree way to begin the vacation. Cabin - Our last 4 cruises had been in penthouse suites, so I was concerned about 15 days in a minisuite.  We chose the cabin because it was on the aft and it was an excellent value. We were pleasantly surprised at the amount of room, the accommodations and the rear facing balcony.  We enjoyed sunny and warm afternoons on the balcony as we crossed the chilly North Atlantic.  There are no butlers or concierge or nightly canapEs with a minisuite.  But the cabin stewards were attentive and kept the cabin spotless. Demographics - Because of the nature of a TA, it was an older crowd. There were only 27 children on board as opposed to the Gem Caribbean cruise the previous week which had 900 kids!!!  I find the passengers to be experienced travelers with fascinating life stories. The active cruise critic group organized by Ron and Diane contributed positively to the cruising experience. The Cabin Crawl organized by Dancin' Mike and Rich was enjoyed by all 60+ participants.Specialty Restaurants - The Specialty restaurants were empty except for Teppanyaki. You could walk into any of the others and get a table at any time. The 2 for 1 specials were discontinued.  We ate multiple times at all the specialty restaurants except Teppanyaki. We loved Le Bistro the best.  The 'crepes suzettes flambe' no longer are prepared at the table due to fire regulations, but they still taste the same. I would recommend skipping Tequila, although the lobster tacos were tasty.Magenta and Grand Pacific - The benefit of the older population is that many preferred to eat at 5:30 in the free restaurants. That worked out well for us. We would hit the Garden buffet early to take au d'hoeuvres back to the cabin and then have a leisurely dinner in one of the restaurants later on. We ate dinner at Magenta 4 times and were seated in less than 5 minutes, enjoyed excellent service, and good food. We really appreciated that the portions were small. It enabled us to try several different starters and soup and entrees and desserts. We never went to bed hungry. Garden Buffet and Room Service - One common complaint about the buffet is the lack of seating, especially when it was too cold to eat outside.  We always found empty tables in La Cucina and enjoyed the nice quiet ambiance especially on chaotic port mornings. The expresso/capaccino machines and the availability of ice cream were nice extras.  Room service was disappointing.Shows - Again another benefit of the demographics, was that there were always plenty of seats at the 9:30 shows. We enjoyed the 3 song/dance productions. Second City was very funny on this ship. On past cruises, Second City wasn't always funny. The diversity of entertainment was good from the Chocolate Goddess of Love to the classical pianist to the Skinny German Juggle Boy who was hysterical. Ship Activities - We are not fans of bingo, art auctions or jewelry presentations.  The NCL U lectures were well attended although the speakers were very dry. The Murder Mystery dinner was fun.  The 'Behind the Scenes' tour was outstanding. The cruise director, Andrea, was the best in the industry. He gave a talk on mathematics, taught dancing, led a nighttime astronomy experience on the top deck, spoke many languages and displayed no annoying egomania typical of many in his field.  Maybe the unorthodox combination (for a cruise director) of a gracious Italian upbringing with a Masters degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Southern California, contributed to his approach. He was truly a renaissance man!Laundry - The self service laundries have been removed on the Gem.  A laundry special was offered every Thursday. We viewed the Laundry Days as a competition - how much stuff can we stuff into the little bag. It was $25 a bag. It was worth it on such a long trip.Spa Package - Conflicting information on this one. On the first day, we were given a tour of the spa and told that the spa package was $165/person and day passes were $20. Other passengers were told there would be no day passes. Later in the cruise, the Spa was advertising in the Freestyle Daily day passes for $10 on one of the port days. I bought the day pass for $20 on another port day. I was the only one in the entire facility from 10 am to 1 pm. It was glorious!!!! Shore Excursions - We normally do not book shore excursions because most of the fun is in researching and discovering new places.  Because of the May 1 holiday weekend and the anticipated European crowds, we booked an NCL excursion from Civitavecchia and one from Livorno.  The excursion to Pisa from Livorno was good. The bus was efficient and the tour guide was excellent.  No regrets. It certainly cost more than taking the port shuttle-Livorno bus-train- Pisa bus each way, but the total lack of hassle was worth it. Last year, we took the train on our own to Florence and almost missed the ship as well as almost killing each other! Never Again!!  Before we left home, we booked NCL's Tarquinia Biking Adventure from Civitavecchia.  It combined a tour of the Etruscan city of Tarquinia with a biking trip which ended with a wine tasting at a local farmhouse.  I was obviously the only one on the ship excited about this excursion.  It was cancelled because my husband and I were the only 2 signed up.  How sad but certainly not NCL's fault. Fitness Center - The Cardio and Weight machines were well maintained and in good shape.  Again because of the demographics of the cruisers, you could always work out without waiting. Disembarkation - This could not have been easier.  Based on our schedule, we walked off the ship. Our luggage was waiting.  A porter took our luggage to one of a long line of taxis and we were off to the airport.  From the ship to the cab was less than ten minutes! Price and expectations - Our 7 day cruise to Bermuda last year on the Dawn was more expensive than the 15 day TA on the Gem. I have been on the QE II and other cruise lines that offer more gourmet food than the Gem, but they were much more expensive than NCL. I think the Gem TA was a bargain and I altered my expectations and ratings accordingly. We thoroughly enjoyed the Transatlantic cruise on the Gem. We have already booked an aft cabin on next year's TA to Venice and the Greek Isles on the Gem. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2009
Embarkation: We arrived at the port of NY at 12 pm. Check in went smoothly and we were ushered into the suite passengers waiting area. At 12:45 we were escorted to our cabin by our Butler Jose. Although our cabins were not ready, we were ... Read More
Embarkation: We arrived at the port of NY at 12 pm. Check in went smoothly and we were ushered into the suite passengers waiting area. At 12:45 we were escorted to our cabin by our Butler Jose. Although our cabins were not ready, we were able to leave our carry on bags and head off to lunch in Cagney's. Cabin: We were in a Penthouse Suite (11512) on deck 11 forward right by the elevators. The cabin was very spacious and the bathroom was incredible. Double sink, bathtub with TV and window, separate shower with window as well. Since there were only two of us, my hubby used the second bedroom as his closet and dressing area. The second bathroom and shower was also a plus. Due to the strong breezes, we were rarely able to use the balcony while at sea. There are DVD players in the bedroom and living room, and they did have a DVD library, although most of the videos were old. Coffee machine used pods for both tea and coffee, which was not as good as the fresh bean machine we had on the Jade, but did the trick. It did break down during the week and it took a day to get it fixed Ship: The Gem was just that. A beautiful and well kept ship, the crew was always cleaning and performing routine maintenance Dinning: The biggest complaint I have is with the food. I found the dinners in the main dinning rooms rather mundane. Nothing was bad, just far from gourmet. The Garden Cafe (buffet) at dinner time was fair. We enjoyed Le Bistro and Teppanyaki. The Mexican restaurant was pretty good as well. Breakfast and lunch in Cagney's was a great perk. Blue Lagoon for a late night snack was good, although the service was rather slow Sea Days: Our first five days were at sea. It was quite breezy and cool outside, so we were not able to enjoy much time out on deck. We had purchased a Spa Pass and spent many hours relaxing there with a good book. There were many activities and port lectures to choose from. The casino was open as well, and we did make our daily "deposit." On our first sea day we had our Meet and Greet in the Magenta dinning room. It was attended by almost 100 of us. It was great to finally meet everyone we had been "talking" to for the past several months. Many of the officers attended as well. Our M&G organizer designed t-shirts which we were able to order before hand and wear for the M&G. They were a big hit on the ship. Great job Ron! Day two, we held our CC Cabin Crawl. There was a large turn out for this as well. We managed to see cabin categories all over the ship. It was one long parade from one end of the ship to the other...and back again! Our first port was Ponte Delgada, in the Azores. We arranged to tour with four of our CC friends. We got off the ship and set out to hire a taxi to take us around. There is a lack of vans on the island, so we needed two cars to take all of us. We split up three to a car, so one couple had to separate for the ride. We went to Sete Cidades, saw the blue and green crater lakes and the town. We stopped at many other wonderful points of interest as well. The island is so green it reminded us of Ireland. We had our driver drop us off in town on the way back to do some shopping and walked back to the ship along the seaport. We ate dinner that night in the Grand Pacific dinning room. Late night Quest game in the Spinnaker Lounge, always good for a laugh Lisbon was wonderful. We joined another CC couple, hired a driver at the port and headed off for a wonderful tour. The tour company was ActionTur. Our driver Vitor was very knowledgeable and his English was good. Their web site is www.actiontur.pt. or actiontur.turismo@gmail.com. Vitor showed us all of the highlights of Lisbon, Sintra, Cascais, Belem, and the Alfama. Unfortunately, that day was a holiday and many of the museums were closed. The highlight of the day was the Belem Pastry shop, a must stop for the best pastry I have ever had. I highly recommend Vitor as a tour guide, he knew all the ins and outs of the city and we covered a lot of ground. We had Dinner in the Garden Cafe as we were exhausted after a long day of touring Cadiz: Our day in Cadiz started out rainy. We got off the ship and headed to the Cathedral of Cadiz. By the time Mass was over, the sun started to come out and the day turned out beautiful. We followed the Cadiz walking tours around the city. They have each of the four tours marked by colored lines down the streets so that you can follow them easily. The walk along the shore was beautiful. Be sure to check out the trees along the water front, they are amazing. Being Sunday, many of the stores were closed. Dinner in the Mexican restaurant that night was pretty good Malaga: Our stop in Malaga was terrific. We once again hired a taxi with CC friends and he took us to the wonderful town of La Ronda, a medieval village about half an hour ride from the pier. When we arrived, he set us up with a local guide who walked us through the town, telling us all the local history. As he described it, it is the "little Grand Canyon." I was amazed at the orange trees growing along the streets in the town. The area is steeped in Roman and Moorish history. We had a drink and snack in the town square before heading to the Cathedral of Malaga which is incredible. The art work there was amazing. Our driver was Jose Luis Torres. He spoke English, although not fluent. His cell number is 645 01 0608 and is taxi #1073. Dinner in the Grand Pacific was ok The next day was a sea day. It was beautiful and sunny and the pool deck was crowded. We spent the afternoon relaxing in the sun. We also had a second meet and greet to catch up with each other. We ha dinner in the Magenta dinning room that night Ajaccio: We walked around Ajaccio on our own. Many statues of Napoleon Bonaparte, as this was his birth place. There was a local market a few blocks from the pier that had local cheeses, fruit and cured meats. Walked the shopping district and then headed back to the ship. There was a cocktail party held in the courtyard for suite passengers that evening and then we ate dinner at Tepanyaki, which is always good Rome: This was the day I had been looking forward to. We arrived in Rome and were off the ship by 8am. I had arranged a tour through RomeInLimo a few months before the trip. I had asked on our CC role call if anyone was interested in joining us and sharing the cost of the tour. (The price you are quoted is for 2-8 or 10 people for the day.) We were joined by two other couples. We were met by Duman, our driver as we got off the ship. He settled us into his Mercedes van and off we went. He was very knowledgeable and took us to so many places that the ship tours do not get to go. We walked around the Coliseum, Pantheon, threw coins into Trevi Fountain, saw the Spanish Steps and looked through the Keyhole with a view to St Peters. He also arranged a fantastic lunch at a Trattoria before we headed off to the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel. We had also booked a tour guide for the Vatican through RomeInLimo. I would highly recommend doing this. We had such an amazing day Florence: The next day we arrived in Florence and found our driver Gian, also from RomeInLimo, waiting for us as we left the ship. It was a national holiday in Europe, so once again the museums were closed. We had arranged a winery tour in Tuscany with them before we left home. We headed off to Pisa and spent some time admiring the tower, and taking too many pictures before heading to Tuscany. Our first stop was at the medieval village of San Giminano. Although crowded because of the holiday, we really enjoyed strolling through the village, looking in the shops and having a gelato. Then it was off to the Torciano winery for lunch and wine tasting (drinking !!!!). I don't think I ever saw so many wine glasses on one table! We bought wine which they shipped directly to our home. We ended the day with a short stop at another village before heading back to the ship. I highly recommend RomeInLimo for your Italy tours. They were the best tour company we have ever encountered. The Mercedes vans were clean and new, drivers knowledgeable and personable and the reservation process with Jany was a breeze. They were very easy to work with and our two days with them were stress free Cannes: We are not too fond of ships excursions, but due to our short stay in Cannes, we chose a tour of St Paul De Vence that included a stop at a perfume factory through the cruise line. Although we enjoyed the perfume factory, our time there could have been shorter, giving more time to explore St Paul. Unfortunately, some people thought they were the only ones on the tour and had no regard for meeting times. Because of this, we got back to the pier later than expected and did not have enough time to walk around Cannes itselfBarcelona: What an incredible city. We spent two days post cruise at the NH DucDeLa Victoria Hotel, about two blocks off Las Ramblas. Our room was clean and spacious for a European hotel, with a little balcony overlooking the street in front of the hotel. We were off the ship by 9:30 and checked into our hotel by 10:30. The room was not ready, but they held our bags and off we went. We went to the Cathedral of Barcelona for the dancers at 12 pm and found many of our CC friends there as well. After the dancers, we bought tickets for the HoHo bus and spent the day touring the city. We had a great late afternoon lunch of Paella at a restaurant called Can Majo on the beach. Back on the HoHo and off to Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia. Don't miss it ! Las Ramblas was very interesting, the mimes were great, but watch your bags and wallets. Pickpockets abound! The next day we took the train to Montserrat which was beautiful. Take the cable car up and enjoy the view. Catch the choir in the cathedral at 1pm. The train ride out to Montserrat takes about an hour and very easy to do. Don't forget to have Tapas and Sangria at one of the many Tapas restaurants in Barcelona Overall, this was an amazing cruise. The Gem is a great ship, clean and well kept. The crew was accommodating. Our Butler Jose and the Concierge Alex were always available and our room steward Antonio really went out of his way the day of the cabin crawl to have our cabin ready early. We are looking forward to sailing on her again in October 2010! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: May 2009
We just went on a short repositioning cruise from Rotterdam, the Netherlands to Southampton, UK. We flew into Rotterdam from London in the morning of sailing. It's a public holiday in the Netherlands, which we didn't know. My ... Read More
We just went on a short repositioning cruise from Rotterdam, the Netherlands to Southampton, UK. We flew into Rotterdam from London in the morning of sailing. It's a public holiday in the Netherlands, which we didn't know. My wife and I wandered around with all the shops closed. The lunch was done in the Burger King. The cruise terminal is not far from city centre, which only took us 10 minutes from Central Station on the tram.The tram crossed the maganificent bridge with the view of NCL Jade. We arrived the terminal with excitement. However, I have to say the embarkation process was the worst I had experienced. They had special lines for VIP/disabled/suite passengers and the normal passengers in other cabins, which were standard for all other embarkation process I had. However, all 'non-special' passengers were handed out different colour tags and were checked in according to that. Hence, there wasn't a system of 'first come, first served' and lots of confused people waiting around. The loud constant multi-language announcement certainly didn't help the situation.We embarked on the ship eventually after two hours sitting and waiting around. The cruise experience was getting better. They handed out welcome drinks to all the passengers getting on to the ship. We booked an inside room, which was adequate for our short 3-night cruise. The big draws of this cruise were NCL freestyle and numerous restaurants available on the ship. After tasting the different menus of the restaurants, we decided to try one in this short cruise. We went to Jasmine for the first day and had free meals in the main dining room for the other days. The presentation and quality of the food and services were excellent and the choices were as wide as we could imagine.The ports of calls were interesting (Le Harve, France and St Peter Port, UK) and we would normally not go to those places without this cruise. Out of the two, St Peter Port was more interesting personally.The disembarkation process was a breeze. We enjoyed our breakfast in the main dining room and were off the ship by half past nine. Then we took two-hour coach trip back to London.I would definitely recommend NCL freestyle cruising. You can dress up whatever you want and go wherever you want to eat and entertain yourself to whenever you want. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2009
The cruise.. in a nutshell.. Flew to NYC, and then got on the big bird, 777, to London, man that beast looks big, especially when you sit in row 42 of 43 rows.. LOL. Tiny seats, no leg room.. the body curves so you really don't have ... Read More
The cruise.. in a nutshell.. Flew to NYC, and then got on the big bird, 777, to London, man that beast looks big, especially when you sit in row 42 of 43 rows.. LOL. Tiny seats, no leg room.. the body curves so you really don't have much legroom on the window seat, but we figured it beats the 5 seats in the middle... let the time warp start! The sun was up and then it was DOWN and then it was UP. We moved our watched up SIX hours today... We arrive at Heathrow, the passport check went very quickly.. then we got our luggage, pretty easy... and found our van for the trip to Dover.. nice trip over.. saw a bit of the landscape in England, looks like any other place really.. some like Nebraska.. rolling hills... rainy day. Arrive at Dover, cruise terminal, we check in and sit for 3 hours.. heck had we known this we would have given up all our luggage and done something in Dover, it looks like a small place.. Around 2 PM we finally get on the ship, but not to our room, not until around 2:30.. the lifeboat drill is at 3:30.. so we hang out until then... did a bit of unpacking. room is great, lots of good shelves and drawers, no problems there... scads of room and plenty of hangers.. just right actaully. Ship is nice, big and clean..... immediately we notice the ages, we are YOUNG very young.. really young, VERY young.. and we are thinking this may not be a good thing.. LOL. Looked like the average cruising age for this trip was in the 70 to 75 range. And we found out 400 on the ship had been on the ship for 12 nights already, with the Baltics cruise, which we hear is wonderful... maybe one day, but not for a couple of decades.. LOL. We find the Garden Cafe and get a bite to eat, food looks good enough... we are really tired, so we skip the first night of entertainment, which we heard later was a good comedian... . The Freestyle cruising is different. you eat when you want, but to go to the Tzars palace you must dress up a bit, (no jeans)... mostly we went to Azure, same food, and shared big tables, which is very interesting when you eat with Americans, lots of Canadians and mix in some Europeans... kind of fun. Fish... first night on the ship I ordered the Red Snapper, it was so tough I couldn't get a knife into it.. really I had no idea one could cook fish long enough to make it like a rubber ball, our table of 8 was very impressed with it.. we all played with it. Our waiter didn't think it was very humorous and he took a long time to bring me a replacement dish.. this was my first impression. The two nights they offered Lobster (tiny tail) it was very tough, the second time one the waiters asked me how my food was, so I told him, " my lobster is very tough".. so he kindly brought me another, which was also very tough, so hubby got three lobster tails that night. The fish was generally very overcooked. the fish and chips in the Blue Lagoon was very good. This is how tea works. the doors open at 3 PM you file in and sit wherever you want.. and everyone is served at the same time.. we enjoyed it, the little cucumber sandwiches are really tasty... the English however noted that this is not how high tea is served.. no gloves ect.. for us it was fine. Never did meet our steward in person, we saw several in the halls, but never did one introduce himself... (Carnival cruise we met our Steward three times the first day and we were given a card with his name and number in case we needed anything). Room was kept very clean and nice, we didn't get to enjoy many towel animals though.. we got two rabbits and a snake in our 11 nights.. we are funny we enjoy those little extra's.. Room service: one night we skipped the big restaurants and they had coconut cream pie, later on I was hungry for it.. and we called for it and we were told, "sorry it is not on the menu"... (doesn't it all come from the same galley)... so we didn't order anything.. the room service menu is set in stone, never changes... so next day at the Garden Cafe I enjoyed a nice piece of Coconut Cream Pie......... it wasn't like I asked them to make ME a coconut cream pie, it was already being served in the two nice dining rooms. Free style dining, pros and cons...... con you never get the same waiter even if you go to the same table two nights in a row.... pro you eat when and where you want... we enjoyed sharing most nights... depending on the menu's we would decide to eat in a dining room or the cafe. Tzars is nicer, but we found the service to be very slow at times... Azure quicker. The entertainment, we heard a lot of complaints about it, but we personally found it to be OK, all fairly enjoyable, the dance shows were really great and the Cirque show the last night is one not to miss, very well done even in very rough seas. The seas were very rough at times, and it was bit nauseating, so we drank water, and skipped the alcohol, and I took off my damn scopolamine patch it was making me very dry.. and I did just fine without it.. but now I know, we can both handle very rough seas, I was really amazed at no one lost their balance, but the staff was good to help folks out if they needed it, carrying their food etc... The side to side roll and up and down of the ship was quite evident at times.. you'd sit in the theatre with the curtain closed waiting for a show to start and the curtain would sway significantly from side to side.. Stay well hydrated and just keep eating.... I did feel badly for two young sisters, they were in the dining room at lunch and clearly green with sea sickness, so the waiter offered gingerale, and then collected $1.95 for each one... now I realize the ship needs to make $$ and they can't help the rough seas, but really it seems like they could have just let them have two free cans of gingerale. The conversations were interesting.. one day we sat with a French lady, and it was hard to understand each other, but we had an interesting conversation about many things. Some of the cruisers were very well traveled, they have been everywhere twice! In fact many seemed bored with the ports of call, they prefer the days at sea... many read all the time, saw Kindles everywhere.. and people playing cards, dominio's etc.. some never left the ship at all. Each port was interesting, Iceland wasn't as interesting as I had dreamt, but the Blue Lagoon was a big highlight for us... we only had about 90 minutes there, but it really was enough. Lerwick was sweet, quaint. Halifax was very, very interesting, it was nice to do a half day of exploring on our own, we covered a lot of ground on foot, and boy we felt it. The next day was nice getting on a bus and going to Peggy's Cove, had a wonderful narrator who was born and raised in Nova Scotia, and she loves her city... that is a one beautiful place, and the rain Gods were kind to us, it poured rain all the way over, stopped when we arrived, and started again as we left. The seas there are fascinating to watch, and the huge smooth rocks very cool to walk on. Then the city tour the hop off and on buses was nice, we just sat and listened to our narrator talk about the city... Halifax is a very livable city. Canada is nice, and the people are very nice. Iceland we did a gray line tour, at a much cheaper price than what NCL offered... and in Lerwick we just walked around, in Halifax we booked two NCL tours which were comparable in price to Gray Line. One of the big highlights was getting up very early and watching the Statue of Liberty as we sailed by her... really it gives you a feeling for what our forefathers saw as they traveled into NYC to immigrate here.. of course not on a great ship such as ours.. but still pretty neat... We slid under one of the big bridges, it really looks like you won't make it under, very cool to see... and then to watch the sun rise up over New York City.. way cool... the pics don't do it justice. A great trip, no big problems, we had jet lag for days, and shared a cold back and forth a bit... and at times the trip was a bit dull, but enjoyable.. The ship was exquisitely clean, and they sprayed our hands before entering the buffet or any restaurant... nice. The cruise lines are big on getting you to book another cruise or put down a deposit.. at once of the events. the cruise director asked for a show of hands on how many put down deposits or rebooked.. and ONE person raised their hand.. it was rather telling. The speciality restaurants, if you walk by them, no one is dining there... and we noticed every day they had a special for them, buy one get one free, etc.. they really don't get any business to speak of and those who did use it complained they would try to get a 7PM reservation but they could only get a 6:15 or 8PM slot, so when they would arrive at say 8 PM they would be the ONLY diners, the guess is it has to do with staffing.. We heard Cagneys' had tough steaks, but that Mama's pasta is delicious. The Garden Cafe does stay really busy and then you have those travelers who seem to show up at 0700 for breakfast and then they set up a table for dominos near the window and never move till the sun sets. We saw one couple (two people) setting at the same window table for 8 every day... this is OK when the place is not busy, but during dining times they should give it up .... The food is fairly bland, but tolerable, the older folks couldn't get enough salt to come out of the shakers... (we found it to be salted just fine). The chilled soups are good and offered daily. The vegetable consume was wonderful on a rough sea day. The cappucino/latte machines are great. The lounges are nice, as is the entertainment they provide, the Spinnaker lounge is really nice, too bad it's used for everything from bingo to trivia, it'd be nice to just be able to sit and relax in there and lounge around a bit. The dance troupe is wonderful, I was surprised they didn't utilize them more in the entertainment.. I think in the 11 nights we saw them three times. It was interesting to hear conversations about the stars... the hypnotist talked about his "Vegas show".. and all his CD's.. it makes one wonder why is he in the middle of the Atlantic selling his CD'sx for "half off"... Everything with NCL seems to have a selling point.. the Chinese medicine guy (from Brazil) ended his talk about Chinese Medicine selling his "special formula's for life"... After a while it makes you not want to go to a lecture because you feel like it's going to be a marketing scheme for something. The $25 laundry bag is costly! Not having a guest laundry is definitely a way to make more $$$ off your guests.... we packed enough to last. The cabin had plenty of room for everything. The Showers are great!! no curtain, rather a nice door, so you don't have a wet bathroom everyday. Plenty of good bathrooms all over the ship, and very clean and nice. We noticed in the last three nights of the cruise the staff became much more friendly and conversational... in the first nine nights they were just doing a job. and many looked rather worn down... The crew entertainment on the last night was hilarious!! And we missed the Liars club, we heard it was also hilarious. NCL didn't get our $250 for another cruise, but we'd use them again, this cruise was unusual in that it was repositioning 11 night trip, so the clientele will be older as not many in the 40 to 50 age range can take off that long from life. If you prefer a cruise with no or very few kids this is the one.. we saw maybe 12 children on the ship, and about that many teenagers. The chocoholic buffet is a must go, as it is some of the best dessert you will get on ship.. the souffles were good, but most of the desserts were not worth the calories, especially the jello type cheesecake, not the touted New York Style cheesecake which is clearly is not. The ice cream is good and can be had at anytime in the Garden Cafe. And my one big complaint is when we would go to a lounge to enjoy a show, the waiters would come along and take our drink order, often we would order Ice water, they would smile and say OK and never come back. one night we had three different waiters take our drink order and finally one gal brought us ONE glass of water (no ice) to share... One guy during trivia actually brought us water on the first try and we got a $5 tip from me... he was so pleased and he gave us great service all through that event. The waiters should bring whatever you order, as we may then order a real drink later.. or we may give them a real tip for water.. but many assumed incorrectly. Also if they put a napkin down in front of you, that seems to be a signal to other waiters, of "don't bother they aren't ordering real drinks"... Iceland's port offered 15 minutes of intenret for $2.. $3 for 30 minutes.. NCL is slow and costly. Really this is about ICELAND .. (not listed in the offering).. we stopped in Reykjavik.. do the Blue Lagoon.. it's wonderful!!! We did the city tour in the am.. and Blue Lagoonin the afternoon.. via Gray Line.. the cost was much more reasoanble and we felt very safe.. The port building at Reykjavik has internet for $2 for 15 and only $3 for 30 minutes.. very useful.. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2009
We started off feeling like we were stranded in the airport at Gatwick. Once we got through customs and into the terminal building there was no NCL person to be found. We wanted to take the NCL bus to the port, I had contacted NCL prior to ... Read More
We started off feeling like we were stranded in the airport at Gatwick. Once we got through customs and into the terminal building there was no NCL person to be found. We wanted to take the NCL bus to the port, I had contacted NCL prior to our departure and was assured that our name would be put on the "list" to reserve space on the bus for us. I went to the airport information desk and had the NCL representative paged, and got no response. Since there was no answer to our page I went and enquired about taking either a bus or train to Dover, none would have made it to the port on time. I was almost ready to take a taxi to the port when I decided to have the rep paged again. This time the page went out to "the Norwegian Cruise Line representative" and a rep showed up in about 5 minutes. She was about 5'3" and holding her NCL sign at chest level! She explained that she was looking for another couple, I suggested that my husband hold the sign up in the air for all to see but the offer was declined so we stood there while she ran around looking for the missing people. We stood waiting for over 1 hour, she finally found the missing couple in another terminal. Our coach left around 12:30 and so by the time we arrived at the ship there were no lines to check in and we were at our cabin in no time. Our cabin was on deck 4, forward. It had a porthole. It is hard to describe here but the porthole was recessed and the water got into the porthole and spun around in it like a front loading washing machine. The noise was terrible. After 2 sleepless nights in the cabin we were moved to a cabin on deck 8, thanks to the efforts of John O'Hara the hotel director. There were many people on this cruise who seemed to have no regard for other passengers. I have read here that the Garden Cafe (buffet) staff didn't bus the tables fast enough and at times this was true, the staff was busy talking to each other and weren't moving very fast. This is true of a lot of companies...if the boss isn't around then slack off a little. My complaint would be not of NCL but of the people who seemed to think it was perfectly okay to sit at a table during peak times (while others were carrying around plates of food looking for a place to sit) and bring out needlepoint, dominoes, books or cards. The food was okay but we knew that we were not going to get gourmet meals...we went for the itinerary which is what attracts us to NCL in the first place. We ate in Mama's Italian restaurant on one night, the rest of the time we ate in Tsars Palace for dinner. We usually had breakfast and lunch at the buffet. We are not picky and always found something to our liking. Cookies and ice cream seemed to be a big hit with all of the passengers. We went to most of the shows and enjoyed them. We bought a spa pass for the 2 of us, $169 for the cruise. Single passes were available for $20 per day or $50 on port days and the port day pass was only good from 8 - 2 pm. We enjoyed the heated loungers and the large spa tub although it did need a good scrubbing by the end of the cruise. Watching the sunset from the front windows of the spa was really a treat. Lerwick, Shetland Island was our first port. The pier was right in the town and since we were exhausted from our first night in the "washing machine room" we did not have any tours booked. We walked along the streets and window shopped, we also took a lot of pictures of the quaint little houses about the town. Our second port was Rekjavik, Iceland. We booked a ship tour to the Blue Lagoon Spa.We had a very informative guide who told us the history of Iceland and explained much of what we were seeing on the way to the Blue Lagoon. I think it took about 45 minutes to get there. When we arrived at the Blue Lagoon we were given plastic wrist bands similar to thick wrist watch straps. This wrist band got you through the turnstiles and also doubled as the key to your locker. We were told that it was necessary to take a "naked" shower prior to entering the lagoon but there was no attendant to enforce this. Everyone that I saw obeyed the signs and took a "naked" shower. The lagoon itself was very nice, the water was an odd milky blue colour and in some areas of the lagoon the water was a little hotter than others. In a couple of places on the perimeter of the lagoon there were crates that had long ladles for scooping up silica mud to put on your face. There was also an area that had a waterfall as well as an area that had a steam bath and another with a sauna. We were in the water about 1.5 hours and really enjoyed our stay. On the way out there is a gift shop that sells all kind of products made from the minerals and mud from the lagoon. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2009
Bottom Line This is a very long review, so for those who want to skip to the bottom line, here it is - I very much enjoyed my cruise on the Jewel. As noted below, there were a few minor negatives, but they were far outweighed by the ... Read More
Bottom Line This is a very long review, so for those who want to skip to the bottom line, here it is - I very much enjoyed my cruise on the Jewel. As noted below, there were a few minor negatives, but they were far outweighed by the positives. The ship is nice, the itinerary was excellent (other than missing a port), the staff was great, the entertainment was good (with Le Cirque Bijou being outstanding), and the food was good to excellent. Background My friend Linda and I are in our 50s. This was my 9th NCL cruise (16th overall), Linda's 9th NCL cruise (15th overall). We booked the Jewel primarily because we wanted to try a Trans-Atlantic sailing (lots of sea days) and the itinerary was very appealing. Reservation, Pre-Cruise and Embarkation I booked this cruise directly through my PCC at NCL about a year ago. He was very helpful and professional, answering all of my questions in a timely manner. I reserved a BA cabin with a $100 per cabin OBC. Soon after I booked, prices went down significantly and a new NCL promotion was in effect. A quick call to my PCC gave me the choice of a price reduction or a cabin upgrade from my original BA cabin to an AF for the same price. In addition, my OBC would increase from $100 to $300 if I opted for the AF. I did so. A couple months later, I received an email promotion from a cruise TA that I have booked through several times in the past. Their offer matched NCL's pricing but doubled the OBC. Despite my positive dealings with my PCC, I couldn't pass up this offer, so I cancelled my direct booking and rebooked through the TA, retaining my AF cabin but now with $600 OBC. Finally, another two months later, American Express was offering a $100 OBC if you paid for the cruise with an Amex card (which I normally do anyway). An email to the TA confirmed that I was qualified for this additional OBC, giving me a total of $700 OBC - wow! We decided to fly to London on Thursday 9/17 (with the cruise embarking on Saturday 9/19). The overnight flight would get us to Heathrow on Friday. Through our CC roll call, we had arranged to share a transfer with three others (Len, Mike and Wendy). Our flight included a stopover in Dublin, where we encountered mechanical problems with our plane, delaying our arrival in London. When we arrived, we couldn't find Jeff (our driver). Fortunately, I had purchased an unlocked cell phone with a UK SIM card, so I was able to call Jeff and figure out where he was waiting for us. Having the phone also allowed us to communicate with Mike and Wendy, who were waiting for us with Len at a local hotel. Once Jeff picked us all up, we headed over to Dover, where we were all staying at the Best Western Churchill. Linda and I opted for the Best Western Churchill because of its location right on the water with a clear view of the White Cliffs of Dover and its proximity to the pier (a quick, inexpensive cab ride the next morning). There were a couple of bad reviews of the Best Western on Trip Advisor, but we chose to ignore them, figuring the price was right ($115 for the night) and it was only one night - how bad could it be? It turned out fine. The hotel is certainly not modern or luxurious but it was perfectly adequate, and it was centrally located for everything that we wanted to do (visit Dover Castle, walk around central Dover, walk along the waterfront, and view the Cliffs). After quickly checking in and putting our bags in our rooms, we headed to Dover Castle (short cab ride from the hotel). We spent a couple hours there and enjoyed exploring the castle and getting great hilltop, panoramic views of Dover and the English Channel. It was a brisk, downhill walk back to the hotel (with a brief stop at a convenience store to pick up soda). After taking a breather at the hotel, we headed back out to explore Dover, looking for a good place to have a local meal. We ended up at the Park Inn where we had a nice, casual dinner in a pub atmosphere. The next morning, we called for a cab to take us to the pier. With five of us sharing the ride (plus all of our bags), we ordered a mini-van, which was not a problem. It was a quick ride to the pier, where our bags were quickly taken by the porters. They were so fast that they ran off without waiting for a tip. We made our way through the check-in process, which didn't take long at all (maybe 10-15 minutes). Then, we sat in the waiting room, waiting for our color to be called. That took all of 10-15 minutes. We were on the ship before noon. As we embarked, we were greeted by crew members (including a couple of officers) along with free glasses of champagne. Our cabins weren't ready yet, so Linda sat in the atrium while I ran around the ship taking photos. Half an hour later, I rejoined Linda and we went to the Azura dining room for a nice sit-down lunch. Our bags were delivered to our cabin very quickly (fastest that I can ever recall), probably around 2 or 2:30. I was completely unpacked before the muster drill at 3:30. Sailaway was great since we got spectacular views from the ship of Dover, the White Cliffs and the English Channel. The Ship I liked the dEcor of the ship. However, if your preference is understated elegance, the Jewel might not be your cup of tea. The ship is also well maintained with very few signs of wear and tear. The worst that I encountered was one public bathroom that was not very clean. Early in the cruise, Hotel Director John O'Hara invited us to join him on the bridge. Captain Hoydal graciously welcomed us and spent quite a bit of time talking to us, telling us about the ship's operation and answering our questions. We also took part in the "Behind the Scenes" ship tour, which was complimentary for Platinum Latitudes. The tour was supervised by Group Service Coordinator Rochelle Brown. I'm pretty sure the regular fee for the tour was $55. The tour lasted for almost 3 hours. We started in the Art Gallery with a welcome from the Hotel Director, John O'Hara. Then, we proceeded to the bridge, where the Captain gave us a very detailed tour and entertained questions. Next came the Stardust Theater and a tour of the backstage area, including the dressing rooms and the stage itself. Then, we were taken through the laundry room and the environmental systems area (waste management). Next came a tour of the provisions area, where all of the food is stored and processed (meat cutting, vegetable cleaning/cutting, etc.), followed by a walk-through of the actual galley where the meals are prepared. It was a fascinating tour but its length and physical demands (lots of walking and standing with no chance to sit down) should be kept in mind by anyone considering it. Also, the group size (approximately 20) occasionally made it difficult to hear the guide. Stateroom We were booked in 11002, a starboard AF mini-suite, pretty much identical to the AF that we had on the Gem a year earlier. We were very pleased with the location and accommodations - spacious, plenty of storage drawers, roomy closet with lots of hangers, spacious balcony, coffeemaker, a safe that was eye-level, a desk with two chairs (the hair dryer was stored in one of the desk drawers), a roomy sofa that could be made into another bed if needed, a small (old-style CRT) tv, a small coffee table, a curtain that could be drawn to separate the tv/sofa area from the beds, a bathroom with a full tub, and a mini-fridge that was stocked but still had enough room for the bottles of soda that we had carried on. We were originally intending to have the steward empty the fridge but we decided that it really wasn't necessary. We picked 11002 because it was the last AF on the starboard side and it was under the spa, which (to me) meant the likeliness of noise would be close to zero (this proved to be true). We also thought that 11002 would have only one neighbor, which also reduced the chance of noise. However, we didn't know that there were several cabins forward of our cabin that were used for crew members. In fact, Darin Wyman (our Cruise Director) was right next door! As it turned out, noise was never a factor at all. Since 11002 was all the way forward, it did lead to lots of walking when we wanted to do anything at the stern of the ship (mainly dining in Tsar's Palace or the Great Outdoors, or going to the Galleria Shops). However, for our purposes, it was still a convenient location since it was below the Spinnaker Lounge and above the Stardust Theater and Jewel Club Casino (all places that we frequented). The two beds had been prepared as a single bed. We asked the steward to separate the beds and it was done later in the afternoon. We also requested extra towels to be supplied throughout the cruise - no problem there either. Two bathrobes were hanging in the closet and two beach towels were laid out on the bed. The bathroom was partitioned into three sections. On one side was the toilet, separated from the rest of the bathroom by a sliding door. In the middle was the sink area with several small shelves on the wall, probably adequate for most people's toiletries. A liquid soap dispenser is mounted on the wall. There is also a shelf under the sink with a built-in trash bin. Also mounted on the side wall is a Kleenex dispenser. On the left side of the bathroom is the tub. The tub is very deep, so getting in and out of the tub may not be as easy as at home. There's a clothesline above the tub and the tub has a 3-part sliding door, not a curtain. The tub's water controls might be a little tricky to some: instead of a cold water knob and a hot water knob, there is just a single water knob (on the left) for water pressure. The temperature of the water is controlled by a knob on the right, with the temperature indicated in degrees Celsius. Our steward was courteous and professional throughout the cruise, although he never did introduce himself to us - something that doesn't bother us at all but I know is important to some. He also made quite a few towel animals for us - not something that makes or breaks a cruise for us but still fun. I think we ended up getting five towel animals. We also received chocolate mints on our pillows every night. We were so happy with our steward that we gave him an additional tip at the end of the cruise on top of the automatic gratuity. Muster Drill The muster drill was held at 3:30pm, right before sailaway. Our muster station was in the Stardust Theater. It was quick and easy and took only 15-20 minutes. OBC There's always a little apprehension as to whether one's OBC is going to be accurately credited. I had printed out email confirmations from my TA indicating the exact amount that I should be receiving. Fortunately, this proved unnecessary because in our cabin on embarkation day were NCL statements accurately detailing all of the OBC credits that I was expecting. Latitudes There were 1400 Latitudes members on this cruise! Because of the number of people involved, they split up the group and held two Latitudes parties in the Spinnaker Lounge on different days. Ours was held on Friday (almost a week after embarkation, much later than usual, which seemed odd but I assume there were scheduling conflicts). The officers were introduced and the Captain welcomed us aboard with a few brief remarks. Drinks and hors d'oeuvres were served and there was a raffle for several prizes. As Platinum Latitudes members (neither of us actually qualifies but several years ago, we both purchased Freestyle Cruise Rewards onboard a Dawn cruise and, at the time, the purchase included an upgrade in Latitudes status), we were also invited to a Latitudes party for Silver, Gold & Platinum members. This party was held on Sunday (9/27) but we had a scheduling conflict and couldn't attend. Linda and I both purchased $250 Cruise Rewards for future bookings. As long as you know you will cruise within four years, it's a deal that's hard to pass up since you get $100 immediate OBC for your current sailing and the $250 will serve as your total deposit for a new cruise (for most cabin categories). We also asked for and received Jewel Latitudes pins from the onboard cruise consultant in addition to an unsolicited badge holder/lanyard. Other benefits that we received as Platinum Latitudes members included: complimentary dinner in Le Bistro with a bottle of wine, a complimentary "Behind the Scenes" tour, early tendering in Lerwick, early disembarkation in Reykjavik and Halifax, complimentary "fill the bag" laundry service (offered twice, which we used once, normally a $25 service), and VIP disembarkation in NYC. Cruise Critic Activities We had a very active CC roll call and kudos to Len, Margie, Kit and Tony (among others) for putting in all the time, effort and cost (mainly Len's wonderful lanyards and CC member id badges) in organizing our CC activities, including the Meet & Greet, a gift exchange, Murder Mystery Dinner, Cabin Poker Crawl, and Farewell Dinner. Group Service Coordinator Rochelle Brown was instrumental in many of these events, serving as the ship's main contact for group events. On our first sea day, we held the CC M&G in the Spinnaker Lounge (bumping a session of Bingo). We had a tremendous turnout - probably between 90 and 100 attendees. It was fun to meet many of those who attended, finally getting a chance to put a face to the screen name. Quite a few staff members and officers attended the M&G. Refreshments were provided. Following the M&G, we held the gift exchange, which was a lot of fun. It served to really loosen up the crowd and gave us our first chance to interact with one another. Len coordinated the Murder Mystery Dinner, which ended up being held in Tsar's Palace. The name of this murder mystery was the Eternal Cruise (for those who had participated in the past and didn't want to repeat it). The ship's staff set this up specifically for CC because the regular MMD on this cruise was held in Cagney's and a fee was charged for it, whereas the CC MMD was held without a surcharge. The Cabin Poker Crawl was held on our second sea day (Tuesday). The CC members who were interested in participating met in Bar City, where we divided into two groups. We toured an inside cabin, an oceanview, a balcony, an AF mini-suite, and an AB suite (all cabins belonging to participating CC members). At each cabin, a card was dealt (each time from a new deck) to each attendee, so at the end of the crawl, each attendee had a 5-card poker hand. At the beginning of the crawl, each attendee who wanted to play the poker aspect of the tour anted up $10 to the pot, which would be split between the high and low poker hands at the end of the crawl. We had 12 players for a $120 pot. Following the crawl, we all reconvened in Bar City, where we revealed our poker hands. The high and low hands then split the pot. This was a great, fun activity since it allowed us to see five different categories of cabins, CC members got to have fun together, and there was money to be won. The CC farewell dinner was held following our port stop in Halifax (Monday, 9/28) in Tsar's Palace. Again, we had a good turnout (probably 50-60 people). TV Here's the channel guide for the ship's tv: 21 - Onboard Information 22 - Navigational Information 23 - Bow Cam & Announcements 24 - Safety 25 - Shore Excursions & Cruise Rewards 26 - Destination & Shopping 27 - Onboard Activities 28 - Fox News 29 - BBC Entertainment 30 - ESPN 31 - BBC Knowledge 32 - TVE 33 - BBC World News 34 - New Release Movies 35 - Feature Movies 36 - French & Spanish Movies 37 - German & Subtitled Movies 38 - Spa Information Some of the stations faded in and out depending on the ship's reception (weak signal, poor signal, no signal). Channel 34 showed recent movies, not what I would call "new releases" but fairly recent (within the past 3 to 6 months). Channel 35 showed older movies but some still worth seeing, especially if you failed to see them in their initial release. Here are the recent releases that were showing on Channel 34: The Proposal, Star Trek, State of Play, Angels and Demons, Earth, Fast and Furious 4, My Life in Ruins, and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past The channel cycled through these eight movies (in the same order) throughout the day and throughout the cruise. Here are the featured movies that were showing on Channel 35: 21, August Rush, Bella, Chaos Theory, Charlie Wilson's War, Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Definitely Maybe, Enchanted, Fool's Gold, The Best of Hannah Montana, I Am Legend, Iron Man, Kung Fu Panda, Leatherheads, Mad Money, Made of Honor, Michael Clayton, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, P.S. I Love You, Run Fatboy Run, The Bucket List, The Forbidden Kingdom, The Great Debaters, The Holiday, The Other Boleyn Girl, The Spiderwick Chronicles, The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep, Vantage Point, and Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins As with Channel 34, Channel 35 cycled through these movies in order 4-1/2 times during the cruise. Some of the movies were also shown in the Fyzz Lounge. Dining There are numerous places to eat onboard. Here's how the dining venues break down on the Jewel. Included, no reservations recommended Azura (Main Dining Room) Tsar's Palace (Main Dining Room) Blue Lagoon (almost 24/7 comfort food) Garden Cafe (buffet) Great Outdoors (buffet) Room Service Surcharge, reservations recommended Le Bistro (French/Continental) - $15 Cagney's (Steakhouse) - $25 Sushi and Sake Bar - $15 Chin-Chin (Asian) - $15 Mongolian Hot Pot - $15 Tango's (Tex/Mex) - $10 Mama's Kitchen (Italian) - $10 Teppanyaki (Japanese hibachi) - $25 Miscellaneous Tapas Bar (free tapas with the purchase of a drink) Java Cafe (free dessert with the purchase of a specialty coffee) We dined in most of the venues. Azura is the smaller of the two main dining rooms. Tsar's is quite large. We had three dinners and one lunch in the main dining rooms. All of the meals were good but not exceptional. Linda specifically enjoyed the chilled soups. The buffet was quite good (for a buffet) in that there was a large selection of items, including salads, soups, breads, meats, poultry, pizza, pasta, hot dogs, burgers, carvery station, wok station, Indian food station, sandwich station, desserts, self-serve ice cream, and self-serve espresso/cappuccino machine. At breakfast, there was also an omelet station. We had most of our lunches in the buffet and enjoyed the food we had. We never had dinner there. There does tend to be a problem finding an open table in the buffet but it never took us longer than a few minutes to find an unoccupied table. Also, they seem to run out of glasses too quickly. Tables were cleared and cleaned promptly. The Blue Lagoon has three different menus - breakfast, main menu (served for lunch and dinner), and a late night menu (a shortened version of the main menu). We ate there several times and enjoyed the potato skins, wings, Chefs salad, fish and chips, and cheeseburger. They offer mild and hot wings. I ordered the hot and enjoyed them but still think they should be hotter. I seem to recall that they were hotter on previous NCL cruises. Breakfast was good. I had the "Full House" breakfast (2 eggs any style, bacon, sausage, baked beans, sautEed mushrooms, and hash browns), substituting a ham and cheese omelet for the 2 eggs. Both the service and the breakfast were good. We ordered room service several times, usually as a wake-up meal on port days. They were always punctual, calling 5-10 minutes before delivery. The menu is a little more extensive than it used to be (noted additions include an angus burger and eggs all day) but I do miss the chocolate mousse. We had meals in almost all of the specialty restaurants - Le Bistro, Cagney's Steakhouse (twice), Chin-Chin, Tango's, Mama's Kitchen, and Teppanyaki (twice). All of our meals in the surcharge restaurants were good to excellent. The service was excellent, too. Food and Beverage Manager Michael Harris often stopped by our table in the dining rooms to ask how we were enjoying our meals. We were fortunate enough to have a meal in Teppanyaki with some of the staff, including Hotel Director John O'Hara and Cruise Director Darin Wyman, among others. It was great to get to know Darin just a bit on a personal level. He struck us as thoughtful, engaging and very passionate about his job. They offered 50% off the surcharge at Chin Chin and Mama's for reservations between 5:30 and 6:30 on port days. They also offered $5 off at Cagney's, also on port days for early seatings. We took advantage of all three deals since it fit our schedule. A minor note: since the discounts being offered are 50% off and $5 off and no longer just 2-for-1, single diners will have no problem qualifying for the discounts. In the past, 2-for-1 didn't offer any benefit to single diners since they really couldn't eat two meals and the ship wouldn't recompute it as 50% off. We had absolutely no problem getting reservations to any of the restaurants. We booked most of them over the telephone. They allow reservations for same day and next day. As Platinum Latitudes members, we were allowed to book an extra day in advance. I know that many people don't like the idea of paying a surcharge for dining on a cruise ship and I can understand that viewpoint. Also, no one is happy that the surcharges have gone up over the years (with the Italian and Tex-Mex restaurants imposing surcharges after initially being included). But my approach is that I price the cruise and then budget extra for dining surcharges. If I still feel that the total price is a good deal, I book the cruise. To me, even with the higher surcharges, the specialty restaurants are worth it. In addition, our sizeable OBC more than covered all of our surcharge dining. We were disappointed that we weren't able to obtain copies of the entire cruise's dinner menus for the main dining rooms in order to strategize our dining plans for the week. We asked at the main reception desk in the atrium but they weren't available (as they have been on some of my previous NCL cruises). Later on in the cruise, I asked the Restaurant Manager Mihaela Mocan, who had greeted us several times during the cruise in the restaurants, for a copy of all the menus. She was gracious enough to do so, sending a full copy of all the dinner menus to my cabin. I do think, however, that having them available at reception for anyone's perusal should be routine. Mihaela was also kind enough to obtain and give Linda the recipe for the mushroom soup that is served in Le Bistro. We were very surprised to see how empty all of the surcharge restaurants were. Despite the fees, they have always been somewhat busy on our previous NCL cruises. Teppanyaki, in particular, struck me because it has always been one of the toughest restaurants to book, but not on this cruise. I'm willing to bet that you could have gotten a reservation at any of the surcharge restaurants for almost any time of your choosing or simply showed up without a reservation. For those who are interested, they offered two special meals during the cruise - a Jazz Brunch in Le Bistro for $15 and a Taste of India lunch in Chin Chin for $15. Late-night snacks are served in the casino around 11:30 pm. The Chocoholic Buffet was held at 10:30pm in the Garden Cafe on Monday, 9/28. Activities Chances are you won't be bored on the Jewel. The ship offers most of what you would expect on a cruise ship and probably much more - bingo, port and shopping talks, art auctions, excursion briefings, portrait sittings, spa treatments, casino gambling (in addition to slot, blackjack and Texas Hold 'Em tournaments), internet cafe, Latitudes party for repeat cruisers, VIP Latitudes party for Silver, Gold and Platinum members, onboard shopping, yoga, tennis, trivia sessions, shuffleboard, lectures, fitness classes, wine/martini/margarita tastings, card room, video arcade games, Wii in the Fyzz Lounge, karaoke, golf putting competition, ping pong, basketball, country line dancing, White Hot party, disco dancing, towel folding demo, aerobics, singles get-togethers, etc. There were also meetings for Friends of Bill W. and Friends of Dorothy. I'm sure I missed some other activities, so be sure to peruse your Freestyle Daily thoroughly. NCL "U" sessions included: "Shetlands to Empire" lecture by Jim Forrester; New World Wine/Cheese Tasting ($15); European Beer Tasting & Food Pairing ($18); The Art of Making Sushi & Sake Tasting ($15); "Iceland Emerges" lecture by Jim Forrester; The Art of Infused Vodka and Martini Tasting ($15); "Great Conveyor Belt" lecture by Jim Forrester; Old World Wine Tasting ($15); "Canada's Rock" lecture by Jim Forrester; Global Beer Tasting ($15); "The Blueness Province" lecture by Jim Forrester; and "Drifting Continents" lecture by Jim Forrester. For those who are interested in more active participation or simply enjoy watching your fellow passengers have fun, you can sign up for the Murder Mystery Dinner (this time offered in Cagney's for a fee, limited to 64 participants); or check out any of the audience-participation games: the Newlywed Not So Newlywed Game; Liar's Club; Majority Rules; The Perfect Couple; Dancing with the Stars; or Where in the World Am I? No Qwest on this sailing - I'm guessing it was omitted because of the older demographic. The game room was very active on this sailing. In fact, at times there was a need for more tables and chairs. This is when the Latitudes Room next door would have come in handy but the Latitudes Room has been converted into the Lifestyles Room and was being used as a satellite sales location for the Galleria Shops. The game room was well stocked with games and the staff sponsored bridge games (held in Tango's) and Scrabble (no room that day in the Game Room so we relocated to Tsar's Palace). I met several people playing Scrabble and got together with them to teach them how to play mah-jongg, a great way to spend a couple spare hours on a sea day. The Game Room had several mah-jongg sets but we had to go through a couple of them to put together a complete set. The Library was also quite busy with lots of readers. In fact, reading could be seen throughout the ship, in the lounges and in the windowsill sitting areas. CD Darin Wyman, in response to the clear need for reading spaces, even designated certain areas of the ship as DMZ (Designated Malacophonous Zones), such as Le Bistro from 7am-4pm or Tsar's Palace from 7am-2pm. The Library also supplied daily written trivia quizzes, crosswords and sudoku puzzles. Bora Bora Spa According to the spa's promotional flyer, the spa offers: heated mosaic lounge chairs, a thalasso therapy pool, steam rooms, sauna, Japanese plunge pools, Jacuzzi tubs, tropical showers, and relaxation areas. Various passes for the spa were available - 11-day pass for $99 (individual) or $165 (couple); 1-day pass for $20; port day cruise pass (8am-2pm on all port days) for $50. For those interested in spa treatments, here's their main menu: Teeth whitening - $149; ionithermie - $159 (one 50-min session) or $399 (three 50-min sessions); oxydermy facial - $169; La Therapie hydra-lift facial - $119; aroma spa seaweed massage - $195 (half-body) or $259 (full body); absolute spa ritual - $265; Mandara hot stone heaven - $145 (50 min) or $195 (75 min); acupuncture - $150 (first treatment) and $125 (follow-up treatments); aroma-flex - $119; couples float massage - $179; deep tissue massage - $129; Swedish massage - $119 They ran $99 specials during the cruise ($99 for any one of the following): hot stone massage; La Therapie hydra-lift facial; Swedish massage; Ionithermie inch loss treatment; lime and ginger exfoliation with massage; milk wrap with massage; back massage with reflexology on the feet; and fire and ice manicure and pedicure combo. They also ran a special for combining certain treatments (you mix and match) - 3 for $99; 4 for $119; or all for $129. The services included: European mini facial; pro collagen eye treatment; conditioning hair treatment; scalp, neck and shoulder massage; moisturing hand spa; and foot and ankle massage. Lastly, they offered a special combo deal of mini-treatments (20-min versions of the more expensive, longer treatments) - 3 for $99 (you mix and match). The mini-treatments included: scalp massage; hand and arm massage; foot and ankle massage; back massage; mini-facial; hot stones back massage; and milk wrap. Please note that an 18% (not 15%, as with bar tabs) service charge is automatically added to all of the above fees. Shows There was a show every night in the Stardust. On embarkation night, there was a Welcome Aboard Show, hosted by the Cruise Director, Darin Wyman. It wasn't really your typical Welcome Aboard Show since it wasn't used to preview some of the acts that would occur later in the cruise. The show was a quick welcome from Darin, followed by a stand-up comedy act by Tucker, who was pretty funny. Tucker offered a second show on the following night in the Spinnaker Lounge. There were three production shows in the Stardust Theater - Band on the Run, Country Gold, and Le Cirque Bijou. All were presented by the Jean Ann Ryan Company. I enjoyed them all for the most part. I thought the singers and dancers were enthusiastic and talented. Le Cirque Bijou was by far the most impressive, with the acrobats displaying eye-popping stunts of strength, timing, flexibility, agility and balance. This is a show not to be missed. Other shows presented in the Stardust Theater included: Buddy Wachter on banjo (okay); Los Locos Ole (comedic duo, eccentric humor, not exactly mainstream, not well received); Hypnotist Dr. Scott Lewis (fairly traditional, Vegas-style hypnosis act, generally funny); Chantz Powell (young pheenom, extremely talented singer-dancer-trumpeter); Comedian Jeff Harms (long-time actor/comedian, still pretty funny, especially with his interaction with the audience); Dorothy Bishop (singer, who had to catch up to the ship in Halifax when we missed docking in St. John's, Newfoundland; good voice but stylistically may not appeal to everyone). Most of the individual Stardust acts put on second shows later on in the cruise in the Spinnaker Lounge. Two other shows were presented in the Stardust - the International Crew Show and the Passenger Talent Show. The crew members were quite good, especially considering they are amateurs. The passengers were also pretty entertaining. Kudos to CC members Rita and Barry, who performed in the show (Rita sang and Barry did a stand-up routine). Following the International Crew Show, the officers and many of the crew staged their Norwegian Way finale. Following the Passenger Talent Show, Fountains was presented as a finale. Word was that Fountains was not going to be presented on this sailing, but numerous requests by CC members convinced them to perform it. It was greeted with uproarious laughter and much applause. Music in the Lounges There were numerous musical acts performing throughout the ship - 4 Strings Quartet in the Atrium, pianist Constantine Dragulyov, the Alambre Trio, Kenosis and Carrie Stone. These groups offered a very diverse selection of music, with a little something for almost everyone's taste. It was clear, however, that the music chosen by the groups was done so with this sailing's demographic in mind, i.e., skewing towards an older audience. Casino/Gambling The casino offers what you would expect: table games (blackjack, craps, roulette, three-card poker, Let It Ride, and Texas Hold 'Em) and slots (pennies on up), including video poker. There's also that game that seems to be incredibly popular for a reason that eludes me - The Tumbler - you drop your quarters/tokens in, trying to cause the machine to push a prize into the prize chute. There are a couple of blackjack tables at poolside. However, they were never put to use during our sailing since the weather was chilly throughout. There is also a blackjack machine up in Spinnaker Lounge. The advantages of the blackjack machine is that it still pays 3-to-2 for blackjack (whereas the $5 table in the casino pays only 6-to-5), it stands on all 17s (whereas the dealer hits a soft 17 in the casino), it uses a 6-deck shoe without a continuous shuffler (unlike the casino), and there's no smoking allowed in the Spinnaker. The casino also runs tournaments for blackjack, slots and Texas Hold 'Em. The casino was not very busy at all, even on sea days. Many of the tables were empty. Occasionally, the $5 blackjack table was full but that was it. The Tumbler, however, still attracted a decent crowd. Signing up for the Casinos at Sea card qualifies you for accumulating points as you gamble, points that equate to dollars off your shipboard account. You need a minimum of 25 points to get $25 credited to your account, but the points are also allowed to carry over to your next cruise if it's within a year. There is no fee to obtain the CAS card, so it's worth signing up for. When you do so, you also receive a coupon book for specific casino promotions. For instance, for $10, you can obtain $20 in slot play. Linda used that coupon and parlayed the $10 into $75 or so. Another coupon serves as a first-card ace at the blackjack table. A third coupon serves as a $10 match play coupon at a table game. There are several other coupons in the coupon book. If you're planning to gamble anyway, sign up for the CAS card and get the coupon book. Some of the coupons are actually worthwhile. Executive Casino Host Che Alapa Ap was kind enough to comp us drinks one night and, later on in the cruise, comped us a meal in Cagney's. Ports and Shore Excursions In Lerwick (a tender port), we booked an NCL excursion - Scalloway Castle and Shetland Ponies. It was a good excursion, showing us much of Lerwick and the countryside. We got to spend enough time at the castle and plenty of time checking out the ponies. Following the excursion, we walked around the town of Lerwick, right near where the tenders docked. We walked around Fort Charlotte and up and down the 2 or 3 main streets of Lerwick, in and out of many of the shops. For Reykjavik, 8 of us from the CC roll call booked an independent tour of the Golden Circle, which included a visit to Thingvellir National Park, the Geysirs, Gullfoss Waterfall, the Hellishaedi Geothermal Power Plant, and a quick tour of downtown Reykjavik. This was an all-day tour, lasting from 8:15 to about 5pm. Thingvellir was geologically fascinating since we were walking around the area where Iceland is slowly splitting apart (but growing since the rift gets filled in), where the North American and Euro-Asian tectonic plates meet. The Geysirs and hot springs were also fun to view. Gullfoss Waterfall was beautiful and the power plant reinforced one of the more interesting facts about Iceland - i.e., how it generates much of its electricity at very low cost by harnessing the geo-thermal power that it sits on top of. One major disappointment was missing the port stop of St. John's, Newfoundland. The harbormaster in St. John's closed the port to traffic because of high winds. In Halifax, we didn't book an excursion. Linda, Len and I walked along the waterfront until we reached the Halifax Casino, which we checked out briefly. We then turned around and returned to the ship, with a detour at a local supermarket to pick up soda. At the end of the cruise, we were again fortunate enough to be invited to the bridge to view our sunrise entry into New York Harbor. Despite having to get out of bed before 5am, we were thrilled to take advantage of this opportunity. A huge thank you to Hotel Director John O'Hara and Captain Hoydal for allowing us this privilege. Service Our steward was excellent. The staff at main reception was courteous and attentive. The wait staff throughout the ship was eager to please. Smiles were commonplace. I cannot say enough about the officers and staff members who went out of their way to cater to our CC group. Captain Hoydal was very gracious and made time for us despite his extremely busy schedule; Hotel Director John O'Hara was incredibly accommodating; Cruise Director Darin Wyman always had a welcoming smile; Food and Beverage Manager Michael Harris made sure that we were cared for; Executive Casino Host Che Alapa Ap was a pleasure to deal with; Group Service Coordinator Rochelle Brown provided excellent service; this is all in addition to the aforementioned Restaurant Manager Mihaela Mocan, who supplied me with the dinner menus and Linda with the soup recipe. Conclusion I would absolutely sail on the Jewel again and would recommend her to friends and family. Of course, there's always the caveat - if you're someone who loves traditional cruising with fixed dining times, assigned tables, and assigned tablemates, it might not be for you. But, for me, Freestyle is still the way to go. Read Less
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