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mpcaruth

Carnival/Royal family cruises NCL Jewel - Picture review

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Well as I sit at home with 10 inches of snow outside, I reluctantly start my review of a tropical Caribbean vacation that has ended.

 

We are a family of four: me (41), hubby (42), son (turned 13 on last day), and daughter (11). We have cruised 9 times in the past 8 years, and this is our first time on Norwegian. My son has always wanted to try NCL; due mostly to the whimsical décor of their ships’ hulls. He has always stared at the NCL ships in ports. He also wanted to cruise from New Orleans, as I told him we could do a paddle boat ride on the Mississippi the day before the cruise. Through in Nickelodeon's Slime Time Live, and this seemed to be the perfect cruise for my son.

 

I will attempt to review this cruise and give comparisons to our experiences on Carnival and Royal Caribbean. Please understand, we have not cruised on the newer Royal Caribbean ships (due to these cruises costing more than double the Carnival cruises). You can click on the links in my signature to see my other cruise reviews. I will give detailed picture reviews of the ports of call. I will also include details regarding the kid's program for Tweens, and include my kids opinions of the cruise.

 

We drove to the port all the way from Virginia. The total drive time was about 13 hours, but we split it up in two days. The Friday before the cruise we had an ice storm and school was cancelled, so we headed out early. This gave us nearly a full day in New Orleans and we checked into our hotel at 10:30 on Saturday. We stayed at the “W Hotel” in the Riverside area, next to Harrahs. This was very convenient to Canal Street and the Riverwalk. The hotel was nice, especially since we only paid $90 for it off of Hotwire. The going rate for the hotel was nearly $280 if booking directly. By the way, Harrah’s is usually available on Hotwire for ½ price ($325 rather than $650) if you are will to gamble with Hotwire.

 

After checking in, we headed out for lunch, site seeing, and our pre-booked paddle boat ride to the Chalmette Park’s Battle of New Orleans reenactment. Remember the song, “In 1814 we took a little trip, along with Col. Jackson down the mighty Mississip”?

 

I didn't realize that my camera setting was wrong, and the photos are a little over-exposed. Sorry:

 

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Chalmette battle field:

 

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Andrew Jackson on the right:

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We really enjoyed the Creole Queen paddle boat ride. Surprisingly, it was not very busy. The entire cruise was about 2.5 hours, with a little less than 1 hour at the battle field. We didn’t have enough time at the battlefield, and had to be back on board about the time the canon firing was scheduled. It was nice cruising up the Mississippi and seeing the ships and barges. We sat outside for most of the ride, but then headed inside near the end and had a drink from the onboard bar. Food was available, but we did not get any.

 

My daughter lying in front of the paddle:

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Royal's ship heading out to sea as the Creole Queen was heading back:

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Thanks a lot, now I am singing the song. :)Can't wait for more of your review, great pictures. Your son is going to grow up to be a cool man, he is very handsome now.

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Hi mpcaruth! I remember your family now from the Belize tubing trip. Your review is great so far. I love seeing the New Orleans pictures. We usually cruise Royal Caribbean and Carnival too. I hope you had a good time on your cruise! We have 10 inches of snow too. :( So hard to come back to, but I guess at least we were lucky that we got a week away!

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LOVE your pictures. I've never looked into the paddle boat/battlefield before. My sons would love it!

 

Can't wait for the rest- 24 more days for me. We got 12" of snow yesterday

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The morning of the cruise I woke up early and headed out to get breakfast to bring back to the family. The hotel had breakfast, but the cheapest thing on the menu was a muffin at $9. I ended up at the famous “Mothers” restaurant, and there was no line! Check out the reviews of this place on Tripadvisor. Warning: order half the amount of food you think you want, or less. Seriously, I got an omelet platter, grits, muffin, and 3 biscuits for the 4 of us, and we only ate one third of it. Unbelievable. After we checked out of the hotel, we drove around New Orleans for about an hour looking at the sites, including Bourbon Street on a Sunday morning.

 

Mothers Restaurant:

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I typically pre-pay for private parking before the cruise, but had read on CC that you do not need to do this for the Fulton Parking garage. We arrived at the parking garage around 11:00 and paid $12 per day (the port charges $16). A free shuttle was provided to the port, and they had staff assisting with our luggage. Which reminds me, given the ice storm when we left home much sooner/quicker than anticipated, I neglected to print off luggage tags. I called NCL and was informed that it was not a problem and that they had tags at the port. Yep, we easily obtained tags and placed them on our luggage. We were on the ship by 11:30 and sitting in Tsar’s for lunch. What an easy process: kudos to NCL!

 

We each got a sail away drink and watched the Jewel leave dock. Honestly, leaving on the dirty Mississippi did not feel like we were heading out for a Caribbean cruise. Not bad, but just different. We visited the bridge viewing room while sailing down the River and hit Deck 7 for viewing the River at sunset. (As you can tell, my family likes the open air, breeze, and sailing on water more than dancing deck parties at sail away).

 

 

 

Bridge Viewing:

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Not the typical aft wake I am used to:

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Sun setting:

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My kids were so intrigued with this safety image. They have to slide down a chute?!?!?!?!

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Thanks a lot, now I am singing the song. :)Can't wait for more of your review, great pictures. Your son is going to grow up to be a cool man, he is very handsome now.

 

I sing the song all the time now. My kids had never heard of it, but I introduced them to it through Youtube before the cruise. Thanks for the compliments.

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LOVE your pictures. I've never looked into the paddle boat/battlefield before. My sons would love it!

 

Can't wait for the rest- 24 more days for me. We got 12" of snow yesterday

 

You will love the cruise, especially after all this snow. We really enjoyed the paddle boat. I had read some reviews that said is was just a boat ride down the muddy industrial Mississippi and nothing spectacular. I say, yeah so. "Woohoo, Ww were on the MISSISSIPPI ON A PADDLE BOAT", says the family from the mountains of Virginia We all enjoyed it, especially my son (but he loves ships, boats, harbors, docks, rivers, lakes, etc).

 

Hi mpcaruth! I remember your family now from the Belize tubing trip. Your review is great so far. I love seeing the New Orleans pictures. We usually cruise Royal Caribbean and Carnival too. I hope you had a good time on your cruise! We have 10 inches of snow too. :( So hard to come back to, but I guess at least we were lucky that we got a week away!

 

Sorry you have to endure the snow too. I posted a picture with you in it on your review. I think I may have 1 or 2 more. I will post them here on my review when I get to writing about Belize.

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FOOD

 

Main Dining Room: We ate at Tsars main dining room for dinner twice and lunch once. The lobster and steak was good, the lamb was very greasy and not good. I LOVED the bread pudding with caramel sauce. This would end up being my favorite food on the entire ship. All four of us agreed that Carnival has much better dining room food overall. Royal Caribbean and NCL are about the same for us.

 

 

Buffet: The buffet had more than 6 different stations and we never had to wait in line for food, even at breakfast. Sometimes finding a seat was a challenge, but the Italian restaurant was opened up during the days of over flow seating. The food at the buffet was really good for buffet food, and honestly more appealing than the main dining room for most things. Every day there was a salad station, hot food, Indian (my favorite), Wok, sandwich-station-turns-into-a crepe-station-randomly, desert, etc. I thought the deserts were not were the calories, except for the amazing bread pudding. I could never figure out why the back outside buffet line was almost always closed (even at 12:00 on a sea day). This was irritating as we had to go all the way to the back to find an empty seat, only to find the drink station there was closed, and we had to go back forward to get a drink.

NCL wins the buffet category mostly due to good food, variety, and NO WAITING in line.

Royal comes in second, as the food is usually good, and they have the best salad bar.

Carnival comes in last as it is always busy, congested and my blood pressure always seems to rise when I go there. Carnival ships typically only have 2-3 super long stations and everyone must wait in line, even if they just want a roll.

 

Other free food options

Pizza: All the pizza taste about the same. Carnival has a 24-hour pizza station for free, while NCL charges $5 to deliver. WHAT?!?!?! It’s nice that pizza is available on Royal on the Promenade.

 

Ice cream: We got an ice cream cone on embarkation day and it was not good. My daughter said, "it's worse than McDonald's ice cream". She and I both threw ours away. The boys ate theirs without complaint. I was so disappointed, as I usually stop everyday to get an ice cream cone while cruising. I am not a big desert fan, and I hate chocolate, but I love ice cream. On the last day, I tried a cone again, and it was good. Geez, I guess we must have gotten the wrong batch or something.

NCL looses at ice cream, because they have the ice cream serving police. And, half the time the station was unmanned and closed. Carnival wins, as ice cream is always available, and is always good with some days having strawberry frozen yogurt.

 

Blue Lagoon: we enjoyed this on the Jewel. Be warned though, the menu is very limited after lunch time. I had a hankering for mozzarella sticks for dinner one evening, but found out they are only available during lunch. The strawberry pound cake was wonderful one time, and dry the next.

 

Blue Lagoon:

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Specialty Restaurants:

We only ate at one specialty restaurant during the cruise. Basically, I am just too frugal to pay extra when there are very good free options. However, given my OBC and wanting to do something special for my son’s birthday, we ate at the Hibachi grill, Teppanyaki, the last night. It was wonderful!!! It is $25 for adults and ½ price for kids 12 and under. As it was 5 hours away from my son’s 13th birthday, he got the kids rate (even though he was not happy about it).

 

Throwing an egg:

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Catching food with mouth:

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One more photo from Teppanyaki of the Green Tea cake dessert. I did not like it, but the rest of my family did.

 

Green Tea cake:

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I forgot to write about reservations. I wanted to use my onboard credit to pay for the the meal, so I had to wait until we boarded the ship to make reservations. As soon as we boarded the ship in New Orleans, I headed to the reservation desk, as I was told this restaurant sells our fast. I had no problems for 7:00 on Saturday night. I did notice throughout the cruise that Teppanyaki tended to book out quickly on the restaurant monitors.

 

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PORT DAY 1: COZUMEL

 

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We had been to Cozumel a couple of times before, and this was the port we were least excited about. I did not make any reservations beforehand and figured we would wing it: 1) Mr. Sanchos in the morning and snorkeling at the Money Bar on the way back to the ship. 2) Mr. Sanchos all day. Or 3) See if a cheap deal on an ATV/dune buggy excursion to Punta Sur could be found.

 

We ended up with #2 – Mr. Sanchos until it threatened to storm. We grabbed a taxi for the 4 of us for $17 one way. We were one of the first to arrive at Mr. Sanchos and were greeted at the entrance by staff. Since we chose not to do the all inclusive deal (at nearly $200 for all of us), they said they had to search our bags to make sure we do not take in any drinks or food. We gave them our water bottles.

 

We were there for about 5 hours. We had beer, soda, nachos, and tacos for around $60.

 

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Cozumel Continued:

 

We paid $12 for each kid to use the water toys. My son loved the water toys, but my daughter had a hard time climbing onto the floats.

 

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Cozumel Continued:

 

We brought our own snorkeling gear. I knew there would not be much to see, but thought it would be a good time for the kids to practice snorkeling before we hit the reefs later in the week. This was perfect for my daughter, who is always intimidated by snorkeling at first. She stayed in the water the longest.

 

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See the sting ray?

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Cozumel Continued:

 

More photos

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This is how close to our chairs we were:

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There were a lot of Italians at Mr. Sanchos. I believe they were on the Costa cruise that was docked in port. One lady decided it was okay to be topless - which my son liked. While all the men were in speedos, regardless of age or size - which my daughter hated. LOL.

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Well, it's time to take a break.

 

Upcoming:

-Kids program and Nickelodeon

-Belize - Cave tubing

-Roatan - Maya Key resort with snorkeling, Mayan culture center, and animal reserve

-Costa Maya - Pez Quadros and private boat/fishing/snorkeling

-Ship entertainment

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Hi There,

I'm really enjoying your review. Could you please tell me what kind of camera you are using for the underwater photos?

Thanks in advance...:)

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Yes!! I am interested also about the underwater photos, and the camera you used!! They are beautiful!!! Loving your review, and looking forward to the next installment...... It's a balmy 4 degrees here, and looking at these photos is a nice diversion!!! :)

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I'm enjoying your review, too. Thanks for all the pictures, as I love the pictures, as I'm in a real post-cruise funk!:(

 

It's always interesting to see things through other peoples' eyes. I am also interested in what underwater camera you were using; the pictures are great.

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Hi There,

I'm really enjoying your review. Could you please tell me what kind of camera you are using for the underwater photos?

Thanks in advance...:)

 

I use a Panasonic Lumix DMC-Z19 with an Aquapac waterproof bag. It is not a waterporof camera, but I insert it into the waterproof Aquapac bag and put it on underwater settings. I love the Lumix cameras: pocket size, 20x optical zoom, manual settings, wide angle, HDR function, HD video, etc. I carry this around with me the entire cruise. I also have a Cannon DSLR for when I am feeling photo happy and want to be creative or get better shots, but sometimes it is just a PAIN to carry around the big DSLR.

 

The Aquapac bag can fit many cameras, and I have the one with the extended zoom casing: http://usstore.aquapac.net/explore-product-range/waterproof-camera-cases/mini-camera-case-with-hard-lens-uss428.html

 

 

I hope to post more of the review this evening. However, I am working out of town today and may get back late.

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I'm enjoying your review' date=' too. Thanks for all the pictures, as I love the pictures, as I'm in a real post-cruise funk!:(

 

It's always interesting to see things through other peoples' eyes. I am also interested in what underwater camera you were using; the pictures are great.[/quote']

 

It hasn't even been a week and I am in a post-cruise funk too! Glad you are enjoying the photos. I am excited to share my Maya Key photos this weekend.

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