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Jewell 12/03 Review (long)

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Day One: Arrival/Deplaning/Port call

Notes from the 12/03 Jewell Cruise, with yours truly, my dear wife (DW), dear daughter (DD) and poor dear son-in-law (pdSiL).

Arrival went as well as can be expected; there were some delays with the transfers and bus, leaving about 20 cruisers stuck at a bus stop for about 20 minutes. While we waited, a couple just leaving the cruise walked by, and the guy smirked and said “good luck…make dinner reservations early.” Looks like everybody is catching on!

 

DD & pdSiL took a later bus and the bus driver actually begged for tips! We got to port circa 1130…it took about 25 minutes from entry into the NCL building pier side until entry on the ship. Some of the delay was due to the inevitable lines for pictures; please pass along to others that it is ok to “just say no” to photos; some folks don’t understand that you don’t have to have a single photo taken while you are on a cruise—I know I haven’t.

 

We immediately hit Tangos to make dinner reservations for the entire week; I used the dailies posted here on CC to plan out a series of dinners that would let us do the shore excursions we wanted, eat dinner, and see all the shows. We had some problem making a reservation for Shabu-Shabu, but got it all cleared up; it seems the computer just wasn’t taking Shabu-Shabu reservations!

 

HINT:We purchased the romance package, and it is a great deal: we had a very nice sparkling wine and chocolate-covered strawberries waiting in the cabin (deck 8, obstructed view). We also received a "free" dinner at Le Bistro (w/wine), canapes delivered to the room, and a free photo (didn't use).

 

We immediately asked for and got egg cartons and extra hangars (Mr. Price, our room steward, was top-notch). Later that night, we heard another passenger complaining “people read about these egg cartons on the internet, and now there’s a run on them!”

 

We hit the Garden Café for light lunch; the special coffee/espresso and soft-serve ice cream machines are always available (even when Garden is closed, and we made frequent use of them).

 

Took the introductory tour of the Bora Bora spa, and got the hard sell. When you enter the free prize drawing at the end, don’t be surprised if you “win.” It seems the drawing is more of a marketing device, where you “win” a reduced cost treatment for a time spot (like 0800) when its unlikely anyone else has reserved. Woo-hoo, some prize!

 

We survived the mandatory lifeboat drill, which was indoors(!) and in the martini bar (!!). We considered singing “nearer my God to Thee” but chose not to. Went up on deck and watched the Jewell pull out of the port-o-Miami, exiting a narrow channel: “cool.” Dropped by the Casino for a lesson in 3 card poker from Lilly, but I never got back to put my newfound skills to work; pdSiL did sign up for the Texas Hold ‘em tourney.

 

DD & pdSiL’s luggage was not in before dinner, so they joined us at Chin-Chin in jeans and t-shirts (no problem). Chin Chin was superb; as pdSiL said, “they have this Asian thing down.” We can recommend the huge teriyaki steak and steamed sea bass entrees, but the chicken yakitori was small, about the size of my chicken & beef satay appetizer. Other great appetizers included Japanese beef Tataki (light but very spicy), potstickers, shrimp/veggie tempura). At the end, they were “out” of green tea ice cream on the 1st night?

 

Full but tired, we found the free self-service laundry near our cabin (deck nine), and called it a night.

 

I will post a new “day” the rest of the week, and try to answer any questions!

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Remember, the food in the main dining room and the Garden café is the same for breakfast; the only difference is the service. If having things served to you is important, or if you really dislike the notion that your food may have been sitting under a hot lamp, then the dining room is for you. We tried it and found the service in the dinning room to be just average: very courteous, but took too long between coffee refills (which is akin to life support for us), and they mixed up our orders. Oh, and the café has the on-site waffle maker.

 

We attended the CC roll call, but we came late and left early, so we missed out on the chance to do some serious CC’ing. Someone should probably bring paper name tags so we can all carry our CC monikers. CAPT Tommy Stensrud attended along with some other senior officers.

 

Checked out the running track/exercise area. As I was “doing laps,” a squall blew through, and the sun worshippers all ran inside. See, the weather changes all the time in Carib, don’t panic & leave at the first rain squall; it turned sunny again 15 minutes later. In the exercise room, 7 treadmills were “out” (!); there were more people working out than I have ever seen, and the unisex spa area was full, too!

 

We attended the Latitudes reception in the Spinnaker lounge. HINT: get there early, it was SRO, and why? Because its free cocktails—nice rum punch, been decades since I had one, two, four—free hors d’oeuvres, and a nice talk by CAPT Tommy Stensrud, who covered many of the same topics he had earlier with CC. He said the Pearl was enduring 100 knot winds during its Transatlantic—hope Shoreguy is tied down! He also mentioned Jewell was staying on the same port rotation, but changing to 5 and 9 day cruises, while sharing the route with Pearl. The new Gem is headed for NYC as the sole (or did he say “main”) NCL ship there.

 

Naptime (those rum punches got the best of me)…skipped formal/lobster night in the Tsars’ dining room for Cagney’s. Among the best of the menu items: colossal shrimp, nice crab cakes, and of course, surf & turf. I thought some CCer had reported one could get lobster tail gratis in the specialty restaurants on lobster night in the main dining room, but I can confirm this is NOT the case. Our waiter tossed my béarnaise sauce on the way to the table and coated my pdSiL; the Maitre d’ gave him a free laundry pass form. Bananas foster flambé was the signature dessert.

 

We made it to the early show of the Jean Ann Ryan Company “Band on the Run.” Skip it. I suffered as a teenager through the ‘70s once, but I thought the madness was over.

 

As vocals go, they are very good dancers. But the outfits! The men on stage went without shirts for most of the show, only to switch into black lace tops (I kid you not) for the last sequence. They hit all the greatest hits of the Village People, but no Who, no CSNY, why, they didn’t even do any BeeGees. The Company has talent (they would prove this in a later show) but this particular show was poorly developed. Example: The ladies came on stage and broke into a roaring version of Lady Marmalade, but instead of continuing into the song’s signature refrain (come on, you know it, “Voulez-vous couchet…”), they just stopped; later, a male/female duet came on stage to sing a slow change-up, but all they did was the refrain from Don Maclean’s American Pie, twice! (and that refrain, by itself, is a downer).

 

Went to bed, hoping I don’t see visions of sugar plum fairies dancing in my head…

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Thank you for your detailed review. We're on the 12/24 Jewel sailing and I look forward to reading your posts for the subsequent days.

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We were also on the cruise last week and had a really great time.

 

I called the reservation desk when we boarded(extension 050) and made some reservations. Also called Mama's at 5pm one day and got a 5:30 reservation. Called Teppanyaki one day ahead and got a 5:30 reservation. Went to Bistro without a reservation at 6pm and got a table in 20 minutes. I also had a discussion with Denis Prguda, the Food and Beverage manager about the comments on this web site regarding the need to reserve upon boarding and how that seemed to contridict "Freestyle" . He said he understood and that they were working on it.

 

We thought Band on the Run was a good show and enjoyed it all. A very talented group.

 

The CC party was nice- met a number of fellow CCers and chatted with them through out the week. The senior oficers who attended, including Paul Baya- who is a very good CD, Alex the concerige, Calvin Lodge-Hotel Director, Capt Tommy, etc were all very nice and spent time talking with us at the party and during the week. I felt like I knew them already via the photos others had posted.

 

The Freestyle Dailys UTE FAN had provided a few weeks ago were fairly valid with just a few schedule adjustments: Charlie Bach was Wed night instead of Thurs and the crew show was on Tues at 8:45, not Wed. Crew show was fun and Fountains was over the top.

 

We missed GSC due to waves so Tommy took us to Nassau for the day. It was quite a feat to see him pivot the ship in the small harbor and back it into the dock with a strong wind!

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I don't recall seeing Shabu Shabu anywhere on the dailys or the NCL website. What do they serve? Is it a fee restaurant?

 

Steve

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All: Thanks for the responses...more to come shortly!

 

Foursum--Thanks for adding in! Tommy backing the ship into Nassau was indeed spectacular...I kept thinking he was showing up the other 6 Captains there! As for Band on the Run, to each his own...maybe I just expected too much.

 

Dolfandude--Shabu Shabu is the great NCL mystery...I didn't see it on any of the menus posted either. Here is the deal: Its a Mogolian Hot Pot service. Its served in Chin Chin, but has its own tables. You get some set appetizers, then they bring a large pot of broth, which is boiled at your table. You add in chicken or beef and a ton of vegetables, and then ladle out what you like: that's shabu-shabu, in a nutshell.

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[....] As vocals go, they are very good dancers. But the outfits! The men on stage went without shirts for most of the show, only to switch into black lace tops (I kid you not) for the last sequence. They hit all the greatest hits of the Village People, but no Who, no CSNY, why, they didn’t even do any BeeGees. The Company has talent (they would prove this in a later show) but this particular show was poorly developed. Example: The ladies came on stage and broke into a roaring version of Lady Marmalade, but instead of continuing into the song’s signature refrain (come on, you know it, “Voulez-vous couchet…”), they just stopped; later, a male/female duet came on stage to sing a slow change-up, but all they did was the refrain from Don Maclean’s American Pie, twice! (and that refrain, by itself, is a downer).

 

Went to bed, hoping I don’t see visions of sugar plum fairies dancing in my head…

 

Gasp! There were homosexuals in the show??

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Gasp! There were homosexuals in the show??

Now how would I know that?

 

I would only say that my pdSiL and I turned to each other at the end of the show and said, in unison, "I didn't know the 70s were so gay!"

 

And yes, I wanted to spellout Y-M-C-A, but my DW would not let me!

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Breakfast at the Garden café; if you time it right, you can always find a food island that’s unoccupied; most don’t seem to realize there are multiple serving sites for every dish EXCEPT waffles.

 

Running notes: I know there is a nice walking track on deck 6, but some walkers prefer the sunshine up on the running track, so NCL needs to put arrows indicating walkers in one direction, runners the other direction, to limit runners passing walkers from behind, which is both difficult/dangerous to each. Might want to post warning signs in limited space areas (aft both port & starboard). If you see my tag line below, you now what happened when I tried to run laps on the Star when we pulled out of port in Seattle.

 

Disembarking went very smooth…if you aren’t on an excursion, just chill for about 15 minutes after announcement, then head down. We walked OSJ…very easy walking tour, despite 88 degrees F. The great fort, El Morro, was worth the half mile walk. I had a copy of Fodors walking tour for OSJ, 2006, and it was spot on. We did have one unplanned, unpleasant moment. While resting in the shade at El Morro, I walked over to an interior portico, where I stumbled upon an older man in a straw hat (read tourist, like me) happily urinating in the private space. Oh well, maybe he had “a condition.” We bought the two fort ticket, but never made it to the other fort. I had compiled detailed notes on where to stop and eat/drink from CC, Fodors, and ChowHound.com, but suddenly realized I left them in my room! So we walked down to the Cathedral where Ponce de Leon is buried (neat, but under renovation), then stopped to buy a guyaberra (always wanted one of those) and back to the ship.

 

pdSiL & DD could not accompany us on this shore walk, as pdSIL had sudden, severe sea-sickness and resulting dehydration (hence the moniker “poor dear” :( )…the ship’s doc was very helpful. By nightfall, the meds seemed to be working, but pdSil lost seven pounds during the first half of the cruise. I was really looking forward to seeing his insatiable appetite match up with the unlimited food available, but it was not to be.

 

We spent part of the afternoon in the spa (those warm stone chairs are like magic!); the $65 cover charge for the week is really worth it.

 

We went to Mama’s for dinner, and it was a very different atmosphere from what I expected. The Italian restaurants are often oversubscribed, because everybody eats Italian, and they’re free. On the Star, Mamma’s was just a part of the café which dimmed the lights, added red/green paper table cloths and some pull-down window dressings, and voila, an Italian restaurant.

 

Mamma’s on the Jewel is a romantically dim, richly paneled interior that has wonderful ambience. Once again the food was excellent, but service was somewhat off. The menu indicates a standard set of hors d’oeuvres will be brought to table, but none arrived. Suddenly our salad/soup course arrived. Next we received our entrees, but we were missing the promised pasta course (prima platti) which normally precedes the entrée. So they went and brought both at the same time. Still, the Caesar salad was excellent, as was the farfalle carbonara (very rich & creamy), sirloin with gorgonzola cream sauce, and Tiramisu for dessert. We suggest skipping the pizza course in favor of the pasta choices. The vegetarian manicotti was good – not great.

 

After dinner and before the show, I went back to Cagney’s to get the bill straightened out. I thought I had been overcharged, but the Maitre d’ (Ramona) explained the bill was correct, and she noted the explanation was printed in the corner of the NCL dailies each day. But since I wasn’t told that by choosing surf & turf, I basically forfeit the “twofer” cover charge, she credited it to my account anyway. The bottom line: if you like to eat at the specialty restaurants at 1730/1800 to get the discounted cover, don’t bother if you intend to order anything special (like surf and turf, shabu-shabu, sushi, or Teppanyaki), because you end up paying full fare. Its not a big deal, its just not clear in the advertising, and last time I cruised on NCL, this was not the case.

 

We attended the ship’s talent show, which has a number of very talented performers, but the finale (‘fountains’) steals the show…it ‘blows,’ so to speak, but that’s all good. :D

 

We then caught “Edge” right after—hilarious combination of juggling and improv—sit down front at your own risk, and whatever you do, don’t come late unless you want to be part of the show!

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Hello

I was also on the Dec 3rd Cruise. Wife and I enjoyed it very much and I will have a review of the cruise soon. I will say this I enjoyed this cruise better then the 2 I had on the Princess(Did I actually say that?). The food, crew, service and the ship was great.

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I'm curious what you used those egg cartons for? :confused: I know my son has used them for school projects :D

Since you asked, the "egg carton" is a foam pad for your bed which gives extra support, named because it looks like (drum roll, please;)) an egg carton. We swear by them.

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Slept in till 0815, I must be on vacation. Since one Carib port looks much like another to me, we took advantage of the natural flow off the ship and stayed on board. That meant having the exercise room, the spa, and lunch all to ourselves. We also missed the crowds disembarking, and the mandatory “photo op.” We did walk into the harbor town of St John and visited the Anglican Church on the hill: beautiful dark wood interior and the cemetery had tombstones dating back to the 17th century. We also visited the one room “Museum of Antigua & Barbuda” which was quaint, and made more so by the visit of a local all-girl high school class, all in their blue dress school uniforms. The town itself was a jumbled mess of people, shops, and cars; we weren’t intrigued enough to stop in to any of the shops—the heat got the better of us.

 

DD & pdSIL got adventurous, and walked off looking for a taxi to one of the island’s 365 beaches. They found some other Ohioans, and took a taxi to Castaway Beach…it was easy, cheap ($25 round trip), and convenient. Clearly, Antigua is for beach lovers. They raved about the white sand, clear blue water, and perfect weather.

 

We got afternoon tea/late afternoon light snacks at the Great Outdoors Grill (aft). Light sandwiches, pizza as well as Tea: finger sandwiches, scones with cream and strawberry preserves. It’s a nice alternative during the brief closings of the Garden Café.

 

Dinner @ le Bistro: tres magnifique! It was a perfect combination of atmosphere, cuisine, service. Among the delectable choices: excellent escargot and chicken w/morelles. DW liked the short ribs with tenderloin but was disappointed in chocolate mousse (more like runny pudding); she loved the goat cheese tart. DD and I ordered the apple tart for desert and we would recommend it...surprise song & cake for our anniversary was a nice touch, although there was no way we could eat one more bite!

 

We caught the “Wonders of Charles Bach” which was a magic & illusion show with some dance, comedy & improv added in. I’m no fan of magic shows, but the added elements made it enjoyable, even for me! Took a moonlit stroll around the 6th deck, and called it a night.

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ya learn something new everyday...I've always heard people call'em egg crates.......

Egg crates, huh? I have heard them called that. But I've also heard "foam thingies" and "sleep pads."

Whatever they are called, they work!:)

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quote:

After dinner and before the show, I went back to Cagney’s to get the bill straightened out. I thought I had been overcharged, but the Maitre d’ (Ramona) explained the bill was correct, and she noted the explanation was printed in the corner of the NCL dailies each day. But since I wasn’t told that by choosing surf & turf, I basically forfeit the “twofer” cover charge, she credited it to my account anyway. The bottom line: if you like to eat at the specialty restaurants at 1730/1800 to get the discounted cover, don’t bother if you intend to order anything special (like surf and turf, shabu-shabu, sushi, or Teppanyaki), because you end up paying full fare. Its not a big deal, its just not clear in the advertising, and last time I cruised on NCL, this was not the case.

 

!

 

When we ate in Cagney's on the Star in Sept. our server explained very clearly that the early twofer didn't cover the surf and turf. We laughed about it later that we'd gone early to save money and then spent way more in the end with the surf and turf the guys ordered. LOL

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But since I wasn’t told that by choosing surf & turf, I basically forfeit the “twofer” cover charge, she credited it to my account anyway. The bottom line: if you like to eat at the specialty restaurants at 1730/1800 to get the discounted cover, don’t bother if you intend to order anything special (like surf and turf, shabu-shabu, sushi, or Teppanyaki), because you end up paying full fare. Its not a big deal, its just not clear in the advertising, and last time I cruised on NCL, this was not the case.

Yep, this happened to us as well! At Cagney's, we had 5 people, and we understood it to be only a $5 additional charge for surf & turf or the lobster (we were dining at 6 pm so it was half price cover). Bill comes and it was $30 for the 4 of us and $20 for our daughter who had surf and turf! By then they were starting to get busy and we decided it was such an enjoyable meal it was worth the $50 so we paid and left. I wasn't sure at the time if the extra fee was because she ordered surf & turf or if it was because we had 5 people and they were being strict about it being buy one/get one free cover charge.

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quote:

After dinner and before the show, I went back to Cagney’s to get the bill straightened out. I thought I had been overcharged, but the Maitre d’ (Ramona) explained the bill was correct, and she noted the explanation was printed in the corner of the NCL dailies each day. But since I wasn’t told that by choosing surf & turf, I basically forfeit the “twofer” cover charge, she credited it to my account anyway. The bottom line: if you like to eat at the specialty restaurants at 1730/1800 to get the discounted cover, don’t bother if you intend to order anything special (like surf and turf, shabu-shabu, sushi, or Teppanyaki), because you end up paying full fare. Its not a big deal, its just not clear in the advertising, and last time I cruised on NCL, this was not the case.

 

!

 

It hasn't changed.

 

It's the same at Cagney's, Le Bistro and Teppanyaki.

 

Read the menu and the daily carefully :)

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Different port, same routine (breakfast, workout). We took a taxi into Charlotte Amalie and did some shopping. The only place I can recommend is Mr. Linen, with excellent prices on tablecloths, pajamas, etc.

 

We returned in time for lunch at Tsar’s, and noted that (unlike breakfast) lunch in the dining rooms is mostly different from the fare offered in the Garden Café. Soups seemed to be the same, but otherwise the menus differed. We had the BLT – made with a fried egg (and it hit the spot).

 

Service was mixed, although I can’t understand how people can complain about waiting 5-10 minutes to be seated. Maybe it’s because I come from a major urban area (Washington DC), but waiting times (back home) of 30-45 minutes are not uncommon for a good restaurant or a popular mealtime.

 

Several times during this cruise, I heard folks opine “I see empty seats; why can’t we be seated?” I think its two reasons: first, especially in the main dining rooms, seating is not the only limiting factor. If the kitchen or service staff is limited, filling all the seats at the same time would simply ensure all the diners had a similar bad service experience. It makes good sense to space out the diners so that no one feels unattended. Second, especially in the specialty restaurants, they are planning on two-plus hours per table, with seating starting every 30 minutes. Do the math, and you may need to reserve many empty tables now because they will be filled with reserved diners sometime in the next two hours

 

We hit the laundry, which was very useful (you do need four quarters to purchase soap, otherwise its free).

 

Had Shabu Shabu (Mongolian hot pots) for dinner; it is an interesting dinner experience, but I probably would not repeat it. After some set appetizers (edamame, pot stickers, salad) they place a large pot of boiling broth in the middle of your table, and give each diner a plate of raw beef/chicken, onions, carrots, cabbage, mushrooms, and tofu, which one dumps into the pot to cook. HINT: If you have more than two at the table, only dump two of your portions in at a time. There were four of us and the server had to scoop out extra broth – remember Archimedes Principle!!

 

Each then fishes out a plateful to eat. If I wanted to work this hard, I would stay home and cook. I guess my shabu skills just dont match up to the chefs on the Jewell. They did have green tea ice cream for dessert.

 

Attended the Second City Improv Comedy show—my vote for best entertainment! Some of the humor may require familiarity with the internet, but most was universal. It was racy w/o crossing the line into ‘adult.’

 

Afterwards we hit Shakers Martini bar for a nightcap…nice strong martini! One would be the limit, even if I’m just walking back to the cabin!

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Guess how today started…yup, pretty much the same. I did try an omelet with some sausage gravy (mmmm). I picked up a taste for sausage gravy in the military, and good sausage gravy is hard to come by; Jewell’s was very good.

 

Ran on the treadmills, and by-the-way, running on a treadmill on a moving ship is truly exciting. If the workout doesn’t get you, the ship’s roll will, or the visual image of the ocean will trick out your balance. I bet watching someone run on a treadmill-at-sea is even more fun than running on one.

 

DW & I picked up spa treatments for Saturday (private island day) for late afternoon. Generally there are discount spa treatments available for in-port days.

 

We finally hit Sushi bar for lunch; lunch sushi is only available on at sea days. I really looked forward to this—Star had a moto-maki sushi bar, all-you-can-eat and the sushi rolls past your seat on a conveyor belt! Jewell has a more conventional set-up, but was it so good. The surcharge for lunch was something like $12.50 for two (maybe it’s a twofer, since you order off the dinner menu which shows a $12.50 surcharge each). You can order all you want, and the individual sushi, sashimi, and special rolls are huge—almost too big to eat in a bite. Loved the Sake (salmon), Unagi (bbq eel), and California rolls, but the special rolls (like the Godzilla, with carmelized cashews and mango) really steal the show.

 

Met a nice couple from Norfolk, VA, which was a reminder of how nice freestyle is. They had as much of a passion for sushi as we did (we were both waiting for the sushi bar to open), so we had something in common, and we all had a very enjoyable time chatting while we “swallowed the fish.” Nothing forced about it: just good food and good company.

 

Spent the afternoon in the spa, putting the thermal bath and hot stone chairs to the test: yup, you’ll fall asleep even if you’re not tired.

 

Dinner @ Tango’s, the Tex-Mex no-charge restaurant. I am no huge fan of Tex-Mex but my DD & pdSIL are big Tex-Mex eaters, and they seemed to like it; they shared something called “Il Poppo” which was roasted chicken, beef and vegetables in a Tequila sauce. DW & I tried a seafood skewer, which was quite good.

 

Afterward, we made it over to the Spinnaker lounge for a short Improv show by 2nd City (again, hilarious), then quickly down to the Stardust theatre for Cirque Bijou. I graded the Jean Ann Ryan company pretty harshly for their “Band on the Run” show, but this Cirque d’Soleil-like act was very well done; clearly, dancing and acrobatics are the company’s strong suits.

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Thanks for the enjoyable report. I am especially enjoying it because I also live in NOVA but was born and raised in Norfolk.

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Woke to CAPT Tommy apologizing for deciding that the seas were too rough to tender to the NCL private island, so we were on our way to Nassau (Bahamas), along with 7 other cruise ships! Hint: we had a copy of Fodor’s 2006 Carib ports of call from our local library, and it really paid off in this case. We had excellent info on all the scheduled ports, we now had additional info ready for this unexpected stop, and in between, the guide provides the sort of light reading that’s perfect for a vacation.

 

Jewell was the third ship to arrive, and we got most of the day in port. It made no difference to our daily routine: breakfast, work out, disembark and stroll the town, re-board for lunch.

 

This time we hit Blue Lagoon for lunch, which completed our tour of all the Jewell’s restaurants. It was very different from the Blue Lagoon on the Star: on Star, BL was more of a cafeteria set-up, and almost always open. On Jewell, BL is the other half of Tango’s (around the center atrium), it’s a sit-down restaurant, and while it’s advertised as “always open,” it seemed more often closed than open. It has an eclectic menu of appetizers and entrees, from won ton soup to buffalo wings to fish & chips to shepherds pie…both the appetizers and entrees are small—almost tapas style, in my mind, but they were fresh and tasty.

 

After a proper afternoon nap, we hit the Bora Bora Spa for treatments: I got the Seven Seas mixed style massage (50 minutes, $99 with Latitudes discount), while DW got a combination foot relexology and hot stone massage ($110). Very relaxing, but the hard-sell at the end for massage therapy products was somewhat annoying.

 

Our final dinner was a reprise @ Chin-Chin’s. I intended to sample the steamed sea bass or the teriyaki steak, but the delicious sushi lunch from the day before kept me thinking, and yes, you can order from the sushi menu in Chin Chin. So I just couldn’t resist ordering the all-you-can-eat sushi. DD and pdSIL tried the roast duck and lemon chicken, respectively, with very positive results.

 

We skipped the final shows and get togethers, packed and got a good night's sleep.

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The Garden Café was really crowded at 0700; I guess all the express disembarkation folks were trying to get in one last snack.

 

We had signed up for BAGS, a new service where NCL works with US airlines to print your boarding passes and transfer your luggage to your flight for direct US routes; $15 @, and you do have to re-posess your bags briefly after US Customs, but otherwise seems like a smart choice. Unfortunately, the ship indicated they couldn’t get the data from American Airlines to print our boarding passes, so we were out of the BAGS program and back into normal disembarkation.

 

Perhaps we got knocked out of BAGS by the airport random security inspection…when we got to the airport, we had been randomly pre-selected for the full luggage inspection with puff-machine and swabbing, so that may be why we were ineligible.

 

Anyway, we were “purple taggers,” meaning we were one of the last cruisers off the ship, as we had a late afternoon flight; the wait was boring but not overwhelming, and I was amazed at the number of passengers in line at the reception desk either to clarify their bills or pay in cash.

 

Once out in the terminal, the process was confused…people were milling all around the terminal looking for their bags, and then forming several parallel but not well-defined lines to move through customs. One suitcase of our’s had its tag ripped off, so we had to retrieve it from the “lost baggage” area.

 

Once through the lines for customs, we joined a throng just outside the door to board our NCL-arranged bus. It seems like all discipline broke down at this point. While we did get on the bus, I saw many folks quickly jump aboard local taxis for the 15 minute trip to the airport, and I couldn’t help but think the airport transfer is good for getting to the ship, but probably not for getting back to the airport.

 

All-in-all, NCL provided very good service, super shows, and excellent cuisine. The line clearly favors an informed customer who is willing to use the specialty restaurants and other services (spa, shows, etc) in a flexible fashion.

 

Freestyle is not for everyone. If you want gourmet classic American cuisine served in a luxury setting, you may be disappointed. If you really care what other people in the restaurant are wearing, it’s not for you. If you hope for the cruise line to create your social environment and dish it up to you, ditto.

 

Thanks to all for reading along, and for the many positive feedback posts!

 

Hope you enjoy your next cruise as much as I enjoyed this one!

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