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natefish95

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  1. Oh this is going to be fun! Can't wait to hear about your adventures!
  2. I'll be following this thread super closely to gather all the intel before my Venezia cruise in September. Love your Paris pics! I've never been there, but went to Nice and Avignon back in 2013. I minored in French in college, but don't use in much, so I'm super rusty.
  3. I saw you liked the Broadway Cabaret. Is the really amazing male singer still there? I think during Velvet he did a toned down, "coffee shop" version of Stayin' Alive that was incredible! Also, Benedict was another amazing bartender I had last month! He was at Maltings every night with Evangeline. Is your dad a big Elvis fan? I'm seeing family in Memphis right now actually.
  4. I think you sold me on the Aleutian Ballard excursion. That sounds like so much fun! What would you recommend wearing? Was there any "fishy smell" that stayed on your clothes?
  5. Hope you both had an amazing day! Look for a bartender named Evangeline. Last month she was in Maltings and is AMAZING! She is hilarious. Danny was at the pool bar during the day and would make really fun puzzles using stir sticks. He kept me occupied for like an hour one afternoon with a couple. Check out the guitarist named Drake Allen. He is extremely talented, especially if you like country music. I can't wait to be back on the Jewel for my Alaska cruise in September. How have the seas been so far? Other than bus tours, what have been you least favorite Alaskan excursions? Having trouble deciding on what to do.
  6. So glad he made it! I recently had a ton of flight issues and had to book a list minute ticket on American because Delta cancelled my flights. I was coming in the day before, so had some wiggle room, but I had to be very proactive and find my own alternate flights because Delta was no help. I never book flights through the cruise line because I want to have the power to select my own flights and be in complete control of my itinerary.
  7. Just caught up with the whole thread! Love following along your adventure. Earlier you mentioned the spa. Is there a free sauna or steam room in the locker room or is everything part of the for fee thermal suite?
  8. I even beat the rush most nights on Celebrity, whose demographic skews older than NCL. I'm still a big night owl and love staying up late. I used to do shift work and would be up at 4am most days, but now that I have a normal job, I can't be bothered to get in before 9am most days haha
  9. I hung out at Maltings every night because Evangeline was AMAZING! So funny and makes great drinks. I don't drink bourbon AT ALL, but the bourbon blackberry smash was actually pretty good. I'm a big fruity/sweet drink type of guy, so I love the frozen Mango Metldown during the day. I usually drink Malibu and Pineapple during the day, but they had no Malibu all week 😞 (I'm also glad the ship serves Coca Cola products now. I grew up in Atlanta and Pepsi simply will not do.)
  10. Wellllllllll, I think that about covers most things. If you have any questions, please ask and I will do my best to answer! Really looking forward to my Alaska cruise on the Jewel in September! My favorite bartender Evangeline will still be on board then too!
  11. Food So....I'm not a foodie, but I'm a bit chunky, so I know my food and I'm not that picky. First of all, food was better than Carnival and Royal Caribbean (except the Jewel OTS buffet, which was weirdly on point the entire week). I just cruised on Celebrity where nearly every meal was flavorful and delicious. NCL is somewhere in the middle. Nothing was flat out bad, but very few things made me go "omg I want to eat this for the rest of my life until I pop" The buffet was solid the entire week. Didn't have anything I didn't like and I thought the selection was really good. I was a big fan of the pre-made sandwiches, especially the tuna salad sandwiches. Chin chin, like I said above briefly, was sooooo bland. I needed sriracha and soy sauce to clog my arteries and give that food some flavor. A guy walked by and asked how the calamari was and I literally told him not to get in. The potstickers were also bland, but the sauce was good (i think it was literally just soy sauce and not some special sauce). I got the kung pao chicken, which is normally somewhat spicy, but I needed the waitress to bring me sriracha to give it flavor (sriracha is the only hot sauce they have for you hot sauce aficionados). Biggest let down of the week MDR food was fine the entire week. I don't really remember what I had, but nothing stood out as being awful, so I guess that's good. What did stick out were the chocolate eclairs. I could about 20 of those things. Favorite dessert of the entire week. Ask for two orders. Thank me later. (I only ate in Azura and service all three times was really bad. One time my server wasn't even there when the restaurant opened and another server had to cover their section until they arrived. Another time I waited almost 30 minutes between my two appetizers. There were also some food temp issues with most things being lukewarm.) Now for the biggest highlight, was my specialty dinner in Cagneys. I was able to get a reservation on board the night before I wanted to dine, which was nice because it was mostly showing sold out except for reservations at like 8pm. I'm a millennial, but eat dinner with all the Baby Boomers at 5pm. I got the tuna tartare and wedge salad as starters, both were excellent. For my steak, the waiter recommended the strip and he was not wrong! Cooked perfectly and very flavorful. I got the peppercorn sauce on the side, which paired nicely. For the sides I got the truffled mashed potatoes and the mushrooms. You could really taste (and smell) the truffle in the mashed potatoes, which I liked. (they weren't as good as the wasabi mashed potatoes on Carnival though) For dessert I had the 7 layer chocolate cake and it was sooooo rich and flavorful. If you're a chocolate lover, get this. I could only eat mayyyybe 3 or 4 of the 7 layers. I had to waddle out. MDR: 3/5 stars Buffet: 4/5 stars Cagneys: 5/5 stars Chin Chin 2/5 stars
  12. Entertainment So straight up, probably the best entertainment overall in my 20 cruises (except for seeing Blue Man Group on the NCL Epic years ago. Nothing will beat that show. First off, the singers and dancing on the main stage were incredible. The vocalists were actually really, really good and didn't sound like American Idol rejects. One of the lead male vocalists did a slowed down acoustic version of Stayin Alive, which was...no words...just awesome. I wish I had a video or something. The dancers were also very talented and could really move! It's easier for me tjudge singing than dancing, but the dancers were great as well! The singers also did a Broadway Cabaret show in the Spinnaker Lounge one night. I love Broadway, but they were mostly doing older songs, which aren't my favorited. Talented singers, but just wasn't feeling the vibes. There were about 3 guest acts, but I only made it to one, Le Cirque Bijou which is basically just a bunch of acrobatics, which we've all seen on cruise ships before. BUT Y'ALL, they were better than all the others. They had great visual effects that were timed perfectly for their moves. There was a guy who dropped out of the ceiling on some bungie cords and did some flips and they had people hanging from the curtain things over the audience. (the chairs with blue drapes on them mean they will be spinning and twirling above those seats. If you want a great view, and to maybe get hit with a swinging curtain, seat right in front on, behind, or next to those draped off seats. I also met one of the performers in the steam one and he was so nice! Now my man Drake Allen was the solo guitarist for the week, and he is probably my single favorite solo guitarist I've seen on a cruise, but I'm definitely biased because I love country music and that's what he likes to play most (he does other non-country sets of course, but the country sets were just amazing). He also played us some of his original music, which is actually really good! I downloaded it after the cruise and have been listening to it lately. In between sets he would sit and chat with people and just an all-around nice guy. He's on the ship through June, so if you like country music, make sure to listen to his sets. (And don't forget to fill out Vacation Hero cards for musicians you like. It helps them out a lot too) 5/5 stars
  13. Ports So our four ports were Ensenada, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, and Cabo. All four of these were new to me, so I was really excited to explore some new ports and do some new things! A couple months before the sailing, our ports were reversed, which actually gave us some odd port times. Ensenada was 7am-1pm, and we didn't dock in Mazatlan until noon. Oh whale Ensenada Port time of 7am to 1pm? I think not. I got a massage and stayed on board. The excursions didn't look exciting and neither did the port area. Don't think I missed much. NEXT! Mazatlan Again I didn't like the excursions and did very minimal research. I knew that as soon as you exit the port area, you can follow the "linea azul" (blue line) to get to the centro historico, so I decided to do that and just got for a wonder (didn't tell my mom I was just going to wonder around Sinaloa state though). Side bar: I never felt unsafe in Mazatlan. It was the semana santa, or holy week, so the city was pretty quiet. There were police on many street corners and were very present. I obviously didn't see the whole city, but the walk to the centro historico was very safe. Once I got the centro, I just kinda bumbled around walking down random streets. The centro itself looked really nice with some restaurants surrounding it. I think I did about 4-5 miles. Apparently, Mazatlan has a bunch of ice cream shops. Just outside the Plazuela Machado I stopped at Helarte Sano for some ice cream. The lady working there was so nice and let me try several flavors. I don't remember exactly how much it was, but 2 scoops in a bowl was $5 and I received change in pesos. the ice cream (it was really sorbet because I got fruity flavors) was delicious! Highly recommend! Puerto Vallarta So I actually booked an excursion through NCL (the latitudes discount and $50 credit is very nice, but the excursions were pretty reasonably priced in general. I booked the "Horseback Ride Experience", which is obviously horseback riding plus a tequila tasting. We met on the pier about 10:30am and had a group of about 20 of us. It was only about a 25 minute bus ride through town until we got to the Hacienda Dona Engracia. Our guide on the bus directed us to some tables and said the guide would come meet us in about 10 minutes. That must have been 10 minutes in Mexican time, because we waited almost 40 minutes. They did bring us water bottles and frozen margaritas. Eventually, our guide finally came and retrieved us. We walked over to the stables, read us the rules, explained how to stop, steer, etc. We were then divided into beginners and intermediates and assigned horses. Once we all mounted our noble steeds, we set off in a line and rode through a tiny town and then into a little valley type area and rode along a river and through it a couple times. My horse was pretty easy to control and I was able to trot a bit in some ports, which I enjoyed. We made it to a little river clearing and had the option to "swim with the horse" none of us had any idea what that meant and the guide didn't explain. So now I'll tell y'all what that meant. You mount a horse bareback and walk a circle in the river up to your chest in water. The excursion description said to wear a bathing suit under your clothes, and I wish I had listened. I actually did bring a bathing suit, but didn't change into it at first because I'm dumb and didn't actually plan to go "swimming". It was a game time decisions for me and now I can say I rode bareback...on a horse. We eventually rode back the same way we came and then had a buffet lunch of tacos, which were actually really good and we could go back and get more tacos if we'd like. They also served us drinks, including beer and margaritas. Once we finished that, we went to the little store area and did a tequila tasting. In total we had about 6 half shots of tequila: their blanco, reposado, anejo and flavored coffee, peach, and almond flavored tequilas, which were all actually really good. Bottles were about $45-75 I think. After that, I stopped at one of the stalls set up where they were selling hand painted tiles. They actually looked hand painted and not Made in China hand painted. The main guy at the stall was also super nice and the tile was only $15. I also bought the picture they took of us on the horse because it was only $5. Almost everyone bought it! They need to talk to the cruise lines about photo pricing... Then it was a 25 minute ride back to the ship. All onboard was 3:30, but we didn't get there until 3:20 and it was a long line to get back on, but at least it was moving. They also had ice cold towels, which was a nice touch. It was in this moment I realized how dusty and dirty I was. I know I don't have foundation on, so why is this towel orange. Lord, that shower felt so good. Cabo So in this port, I also did an NCL excursion called "Famous Arch, Sea Lion, and Whales" They should just call it a whale watch excursion because we stopped at the arch for 30 seconds and 90% of the boat ride was dedicated to whale watching. We were split into 2 zodiacs and I actually really liked the setup. On the left there are room for 2 and on the right there are single seats, perfect for loners like me. There are small cubbys under the seat in front of you to put small bags. The excursion description was accurate because there is no bathroom and zero shade. We had an opportunity to pee beforehand though. Our guide was HILARIOUS and super knowledgeable about whales. It's the tail end of whale season, but we still saw about 10-15 whales, including one that completely breached right as we got off shore. If the whale is on the right side, they tell the right side to stay seated and the left side can stand up to make sure everyone gets a view. Overall, really enjoyed this excursion and highly recommend it! Ports 4.5/5 stars (half point deduction for weird port times)
  14. Hi everyone! Planned to finish this up today, but like I said earlier, Delta wifi was $20 and I don't even know y'all to be dropping that on wifi. The next sections I'm going to do are Ports, Entertainment, Food, and Debarkation. Are there any major categories I'm missing? The TL;DR is that ports and entertainment were amazing, debarkation was painless, and food was mostly good.
  15. What time do you land in San Diego? I would get there as early as possible. Hopefully they learned from our clusterf*** and will give better direction next time (and it may not be as full since spring breaks are mostly done (I hope for you). I took such a good nap when I got into my cabin and slept so well that night. The airport is SUPER close to the cruise port. I think my Lyft was like $8 and took less than 10 minutes. I had to get out and walk the last block or so because it was so backed up.
  16. I second that Chin Chin was not great. I looooove Asian food. Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, etc. It's all good in my book. I got kung pao chicken, calamari, and steamed potstickers. it was al so bland! The only things that added flavor were sriracha and soy sauce. (Don't mind you hijacking at all! I was traveling all day today and planned to work on the plane but the Delta wifi was $20 and I don't love y'all that much.)
  17. Spa/Gym Before the cruise, I purchased a thermal suite pass online or $199. This is an absolute must for me. I'm a big spa guy, and love the quietness of the thermal suite, plus the incredible views out the front of the ship. I've done the thermal suite on 4 Jewel class ships and they're all basically the same with minor differences, but I like the Jewel the best to me. Only the Jade and Jewel have a jacuzzi in the men's section. The Pearl and Gem have a jacuzzi in the middle co-ed section, which I'm sure is nice for couples. Since I travel solo, I like it in the men's section because it's less busy. On the men's side (and I'm willing to bet the women's side is the exact same) there is a steam room that can fit about 4-5 people, a large sauna with a wall of windows to the ocean that can easily fit 8-10 people, a single person cold plunge tub, 2 rainfall showers, 3 normal showers, lockers, and of course toilets and sinks. There are also about 7 comfortable chairs with ottomans that are great to lounge in and do some reading. I "rested my eyes" many times in these chairs. There are plenty of towels and robes provided as well. There was also a counter with lemon water, hot water, tea bags, and some fresh fruit. In the co-ed section, there are about 6 or 7 heated tiled lounges, a sitting area, and a small thalassotherapy pool. Overall, I spent hours in the thermal spa reading my books and enjoying the sauna/steam room. It was so nice to get away from the crowds (and the kids) in a quiet space to truly relax and enjoy vacation. Thermal suite gets a 5/5 stars Since I had such a difficult travel day, I decided to get a bamboo massage the second day while we were in Ensenada, which would also give me a 20% latitudes discount. For a 75 minute bamboo massage, not including the discount or the mandatory gratuity, it was $229. Expensive, but I wanted to treat myself since I overcame all odds. The massage fine. Just fine. Back in DC, I get a 90 minute deep tissue for $150 and the guy I see is much more skilled. I'm firmly against massages onboard cruises. At the end she tried to upsell me on some products "for my acne and dark circles". Don't remember me telling you I had issues with that, so thanks for pointing that out to me. A politely said no and she left it at that. Didn't appreciate her comment, but I moved past it. Massage was 3/5 stars Finally moving onto the gym, I'm a huge Peloton rider and rode them almost every day on Celebrity. I definitely missed that on this cruise, but the Jewel has a nice gym with plenty of equipment, and even a couple rowers. They provided sweat towels and also some cold towels, which feel amazing after a workout. I definitely wish I went to the gym more, but don't we all? Off the gym, there is a tiny locker room and a free steam room that can fit about 3-4 people. Funny note, the treadmills were in kilometers per hour and I could not figure out how to change it. Had to do some fun mental math to figure out the normal speeds I walk and run at. 5kmh=3.1mph Gym gets 4/5 stars
  18. Okay I swear there is good to come! I just got back to the hotel after exploring San Diego. Highly, highly recommend checking out Bali Hai for lunch or dinner. Amazing food and views! Also went to the USS Midway, which is a must do. My second time and I still spent nearly three hours there. Okay onto the cruise! Cabin I stayed in interior cabin 10021 and loved it! It was the perfect location because it was only a couple decks up to the lido deck and spa and a couple decks down to where most stuff is located on Deck 6 or 7. I'm not sure when the Jewel was last renovated, but it must have been very recently. The cabin had a nice clean and modern look to it and reminded me a lot of the cabins on Celebrity Summit. All the drawers and closet doors were soft close (I have those in my apartment too and I tend to slam things that aren't soft close...oops...). There are two USB ports in the lights by the bed, which are honestly such a nice feature to have. I wish more cruise lines had these installed. There was also this nifty mirror that had a touch sensor. Touch it once to turn it off and on and you could also dim it. Provided a lot of light to the cabin. The bed was firm and the pillows were quite flat, but I stacked two on top of each other, which made it more comfortable. I slept AMAZING every single night. Some of the best sleep I've ever gotten on a cruise. The bathroom was also bright and clean with a large shower. NCL has mounted bottles of shampoo and body wash (maybe conditioner too? I don't remember). I'm not a tall guy, but thought it was plenty spacious for me. Overall I'd give the cabins a 5/5 stars (for those keep score, embarkation was 1/5 stars)
  19. I loved your earlier reviews! Your dad would have HATED the embarkation nightmare.
  20. This was the mob of people waiting to be let into the terminal building. We literally did nothing but inch forward for two hours in this area. I really don't think I'll ever sail out of San Diego again because this was such a bad experience. I know having two ships really screwed things up, but still, it was bad.
  21. Hopefully this works, but this was my disassembled shower at the Detroit hotel. Wish I took a video of all the pieces scattered about and the nails in the soap dish.
  22. Embarkation What. A. Nightmare. I swear I had a great time, but this cruise started off so poorly. Easily worst embarkation I've ever had. For anyone not familiar with the port of San Diego, it has 1 terminal with jetway type bridges that connect to ship for embarkation and debarkation. Unfortunately for us, the Disney Wonder was also in port with us and had that slot. We had the berth on the other side with no nice boarding bridges, but both cruises had to check in at the same terminal building. Apparently, having two ships in port caused the terminal to "reach capacity" pretty quickly. I arrived shortly before noon and the port was a mess. There were so many lines and no one knew were to go or where to drop their luggage. It was the most disorganized cluster I've ever seen. I got in the most organized looking line, which was snaked all through the parking lot. As we were waiting in line, a port worker came up and said we don't need to be in this line and we should go to the fence and find a porter to drop bags. I walked to the fence and saw no porters. I saw a guy with an empty cart, confirmed he was getting bags for the Jewel, and gave him my bag and got back in a random line to nowhere. Now this line also crossed an active gate/entrance to the port that had busses and trucks driving past. When there appeared to be space on the other side, groups of 3-5 people would run across and join the mob on the other side. The security guard was yelling at people to not get run over. It was chaos. Once I played frogger, I made it to the other side and joined an absolute mess of people. There was no line. Just a mob. No organization. No reps from NCL trying to organize things or at least give guidance. It was all left up to the ports workers to direct people, and frankly they were no help. Disney guests were able to just walk right in with no problem, but they were only letting small groups of 3-5 people for the Jewel in at a time. Me and some other couples finally made it to the front and said we were one group so we'd all be let in together. Once we finally made it past the gate, we had to wait another 10 minutes just to enter the terminal, then another 20 minutes for security, and then another 10 minutes to check-in (I finally hit Platinum and I'm so glad I get priority check-in). Everyone was cranky and hangry. I didn't actually get on board until 2:30. They ship was supposed to sail at 4pm, but people were still boarding then and it didn't leave until 6pm. I don't mind crowds. I don't mind lines (too much). I HATE disorganized chaos. I don't know how NCL managed to F this up so badly. Once it started getting busy, they should have actually tried to organize some lines outside and better communicate with the port workers and security. It was a total nightmare and I got sunburnt on the back of my neck after standing outside for 2 hours. I felt really bad for the elderly who were also forced to stand in this mess of people.
  23. Unsolicited travel advice If y'all didn't read the above posts, I have some travel advice. BE NICE TO PEOPLE. At many times I was very upset and was cursing like a salty sailor while venting to my parents. When I talked to a representative in person or on the phone, I kept my cool and was nice to them. They did not personally wrong me and it's not appropriate to take out your anger to a random employee, who is actually trying to help. If I wasn't getting the help I needed, I reiterated what I needed and why. In the baggage office, I spoke to a different employee after the first one blew me off. I saw so many people screaming at the baggage office reps like they personally damaged their bag or didn't load it on the right flight. Be insistent on what you need, but don't be rude Personally, I do not book flights through the cruise line. I like being in control of my own flights and I feel like you lose that by going through the cruise line (this isn't NCL specific either). In a crunch time, do not wait for the customer service reps to help you book new flights. If you're sticking with the same airline, check flights in the app. If that's sold out, check other airlines. Had I not been proactive, I never would have made it to San Diego on American. I think I got one of the last seats and it was a race against time given how an entire plane of people are also looking at other ways to get to San Diego. Pack snacks in your carry on, especially if you're going to be at airports super late or super early where options are limited. Pack a portable power bank. I had one with me, but of course it wasn't charged. Have trip insurance. With my Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card, it has trip insurance built in. I'll report back with how things work out regarding getting reimbursed for my two missed hotel reservations and getting reimbursed for the American Airlines flight and maybe the Spirit flight (weirdly enough, I was able to get credit on Spirit for the cancelled flight. I don't know if I'll ever fly Spirit so we'll see if I decide to claim this) Now we can move on to the actual cruise part πŸ™‚ Thank you for reading. I feel better writing that all out. Glad you could all be part of my free therapy.
  24. Oh I 100% do. That 6am double screwdriver on the plane was great and let me nap a bit on the plane.
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