My husband and I were on the 13-night inaugural voyage of the Norwegian Jewel around the Mediterranean this summer (August 2005). An easy, swift and orderly embarkation procedure at Dover was followed by the appearance of the colorful ribbons and jewels that adorned the Norwegian Jewel herself.
On first inspection, we were amazed by the vivid and modern interior throughout the ship, highlighted with contemporary armchairs in many bars and restaurants. On closer scrutiny, we started to notice subtle accents of a 50's and 60's influence in some of the furniture choices in the bars. Outside, there was an energetic feel around the pool area, incorporating the theme of the circus that appeals to the child within. There were also many large and colorful palm trees that bejewel the Jewel at night.
The interior theme throughout the stateroom decks incorporates mahogany wood and turquoise, and flowed effortlessly into the staterooms. We were in a category JJ inside stateroom, designed with storage space as a top priority. There were seven ample storage shelves, and a roomy wardrobe. Other features included a separate dressing table with hairdryer, safe, fridge, a well-laid-out bathroom and a TV (although not flat-screen as in the more superior staterooms).
All over the ship were strategically placed flat-screens displaying information about the 10 restaurants and their occupancy levels - rating them from busy to full. This proved vital in avoiding the rush at the Garden Café (buffet style restaurant) and to gauge the busiest eating times.
Since Norwegian Cruise Line prizes itself on its "Freestyle Cruising" concept, we attempted to sample some of the 10 restaurants - including Cagney's steakhouse, Mama's Italian kitchen, Le Bistro French restaurant and the Chin Chin Asian restaurant (including a sushi bar!). Booking the desired restaurants was easy at first, using the reservations desk at reception; but as word got out among fellow guests there were many queues and block-booking of mealtimes over the two weeks. Many of these specialty restaurants had a cover charge ranging from $10-$15 per person, which would have to be considered with large groups. These cover charges had been reduced by $5 from the original printed prices on the menus.
Overall, the specialty restaurants provided excellent service, using more experienced and efficient staff. Only on one occasion was our booked dining time (8 p.m.) made later due to large numbers, but in compensation we were offered a complimentary bottle of wine. The main dining rooms differed in design from modern, as in the Azura restaurant; to grand, as in Tsar's Palace. Both were equal in terms of broad taste/themed menus and good service. The chocolate buffet was the best we have ever experienced on a cruise, and we were stunned by the artistry shown in the chocolate "Big Ben clock" and the ice sculptures.
Lounges and Bars
We regularly visited the bars and lounges throughout the two weeks, and we were most impressed with the efficient, friendly service throughout. Most drinks were reasonably priced, although some of the specialty cocktails and alcoholic smoothies were more than $9. "Bar city" on Deck 7 is home to many of the Jewel's unique bars: Malting's beer and whisky bar, Shakers Martini cocktail bar, and our favorite, Magnum's Champagne bar, which offered a deluxe range of champagnes to be indulged on formal nights. However, our night always ended in the Spinnaker Lounge on Deck 13, which had live music and then a DJ.
Overall, the entertainment by the many performers around the bars and lounges was excellent and could not be faulted. The dance company produced two impressive shows with acrobatic expertise. There was a hugely talented comedian on board, and some great lectures were provided during the day. The daytime schedule had a good range of activities, including many art auctions to tempt you to part with cash. The assistant cruise director had a jovial personality and created many quiz nights (Jeopardy, Mr. and Mrs., The Weakest Link, etc.) for guest participation - which were hilarious.
We can think of few if any negatives about our experience on the Norwegian Jewel. Given the fact that this was the inaugural voyage and lots of mistakes could have happened, we and NCL were fortunate. It was clear that there was good management and swift action throughout to prevent any guests from not having a good holiday. We would wholeheartedly recommend the Jewel to fellow cruisers and hope you have an enjoyable time as much as we did.