Warning - this review contains positive comments
Background: This was my 8th NCL cruise, traveling with a group of 9 (3 families) in total including 4 new cruisers. Ages range from 19 to 51.
Embarkation: Arrived at the pier around 11:00 and were on board by 11:30. NCL does this so efficiently, very easy and quick.
This was my first time on the Jewel and I found it to be very easy to get around and well laid out. We were on the 9th deck aft balcony (port side) and loved the room. Others in our group had a Deck 11 aft mini-suite (which they enjoyed) except a bit of noise from above occasionally, Deck 5 outside and Deck 4 port window. We all had wonderful room stewards who keep our room fully stocked with towels, ice and managed to magically make up our rooms each time we went for breakfast.
Dining was exceptional, we went to Tangos (loved the lobster tacos), Mama’s Italian Kitchen, Chin Chin (wonderful combo of sushi, sashimi and asian dishes), Le Bistro (my favorite – best mushroom soup ever) as well as Tsar and Azura. Service in all the restaurants was friendly and efficient and they accommodated any special requests we had. We purchased the wine package on our first day (choose 9 bottles and get 20% off) so we were able to enjoy different wines each night. Freestyle worked so well for us, with such a large group, we were able to make reservations for whatever restaurant we wanted each night and whatever time.
The CC Meet and Greet was in Le Bistro on our first sea day (thanks George and Michelle) for arranging, then we went to the Slot Pull where we doubled our money (we all paid $16 and got back $32.75, thanks to the big pull of $1000 from Brian). We also won the dinner with the officers and had the pleasure of sitting with Captain Lars who is a very charming, funny man. And Barbara and Eileen arranged a group dinner at Mama’s Italian Kitchen (over 40 of us) which we all enjoyed. Thanks to the CC roll call which helped with much of the planning.
San Juan – wandered around town to the fort – very humid that day and we were pretty wilted by the time we were done. Then met up with the gang at Brickhaus for drinks (fishbowl sizes of rum punch). For dinner we went to Café Puerto Rico where the waiter helped select our meal which was fantastic – mofungo, plaintain, skirt steak, grouper and rice and chicken. We all enjoyed the different dishes and flavours and our mojitos went down very nicely with our meal. Dropped by Senor Frogs but it was too crowded for us so we headed to the ship.
St. Thomas – half the group went on the St. John Turtle Bay snorkeling excursion and they loved it. Saw many many fish and sea turtles. We went to Koki beach where we had a great morning bobbing in the water and snorkeling. Excellent beach – I would definitely come back. We all met back on the ship and headed to downtown for some shopping.
St. Marten – booked a private excursion with Bernard’s and we toured the French side of the island with a stop to play with sea urchins, starfish and other crawling things. Then onto the Orient Beach where we sunned and swam for a few hours. Water was perfect and we also had bbq at Pedro’s hut which was delicious. Back in our van and drove to the beach (I can’t remember the name) where the airplanes take off and land. Pretty cool to be in the water and have a plane whish by you. Drove around the Dutch side while Slim our driver pointed out different landmarks/ hotels and other interesting points. Our driver was excellent, so accommodating and friendly and had many many stories to tell us. We were back at port by 3:30 after a brief stop at a grocery store and wandered the shops near the ship until it was time to board.
Tortola – weather was a little sketchy. A bit of rain (although not hard) and overcast. We were only there until 12:30 so we just shopped around the market and the local stores and bought our souvenirs to take home.
We enjoyed the many activities offered on the NCL. Loved the martini tasting and mojito tasting. Gustav and Marcello are exceptional bartenders – very funny and entertaining. We ended up at Shakers after dinner most nights where they would challenge us with puzzles and create new martinis for us to try. The “boys” went on the bar-hopping and had a lot of fun singing and drinking their way through the ship. We also went to progressive trivia most nights (right after martini tasting) so you can imagine the havoc we caused. We came in 4th or 5th which isn’t too bad considering our brains weren’t fully functioning (ha ha). Other activities some of us attended were Pool Olympics, scrapbooking, cooking demos, jewellry seminars and more. All in all, there’s plenty to do or you can just relax with a book in the sun or shade (which my dh did most sea days).
Some of us bought the spa package $139 for the 9 days which included use of the steam room, hot tubs, hydro-pool and heated seats. A few services were purchased which included detox seaweed wrap, body massage, pamper day specials and manicure and with the exception of a bit of hard sell after the treatment, we were all very happy with our services.
Overall, we all had a wonderful time and our 4 new cruisers will be cruising again (they bought cruise rewards) with NCL. I’m always amazed at how wonderful the crew is, we always received excellent service wherever we were and it’s one of the reasons we keep cruising NCL. Hugo and his team takes customer service to such a high level with their positive friendly attitude which made each of us feel special.