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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

CMDTA on Vacation – NCL Jewel

This is my first post of a number based on my recent vacation. I will be covering a number of subjects. Some will be funny, some will be informative, but all will be rather blunt. I’m not going to try to sweeten anything. It is what it is.

My first subject is the Jewel and NCL. As some of you know I sailed on the Jewel’s sister ship the Pearl on an Alaskan cruise in 2007. That experience was rather poor but I believe in giving second chances so I gave NCL another shot.

Let me start by saying that I am seriously considering never giving anything a second chance. If the cruise on the Pearl was poor then the cruise on the Jewel was indescribably bad.


The Jewel is an unimpressive ship with NCL’s famous tacky artwork on the outside of the ship. Nothing about this ship is impressive. I honestly believe the original designs for this ship started as a nursing home and were then modified to be a cruise ship. The dining rooms are and restaurants are bland and uninspired, there is no real atrium but there is a rather ugly area they call an atrium, and the pools were ok at best. I can only say one positive thing about the Jewel – it’s easy to navigate.


Because of the largest on board credit I’ve ever seen I booked a mini-suite. Size wise it was ok but it wasn’t much larger than a standard balcony on Carnival. There was a tub which sounds nice but there is nothing special about it. It wasn’t very deep and it was rather narrow. In the bathroom they have the toilet separated by a sliding door. That’s normally a nice touch in a bathroom. I say normally because it means two people can be in the bathroom at once if one really has to “go.” It was not a nice touch in this bathroom because the door was clear. What nitwit thought it was a good idea to put a glass door there? The size of the bathroom was nice. It was nice to sit on the toilet straight on. I mention that because inside rooms are so cramped you can’t sit straight on the toilet unless you are an amputee or a midget. You have to sit on it cock eyed.

The balcony was ok. It wasn’t any bigger than a normal Carnival balcony. However, getting onto the balcony was an adventure. It had a sliding glass door which was unbelievably difficult to open. I’m not kidding when I say it took almost everything I had to get this door to slide a few times.

The TV in the room was a joke. It was a tiny tube TV. Hello! A 22” LCD is dirt cheap and would save space.

The bed was ok. They claimed they put memory foam pads on the beds. I think they did that because the beds are old. As you can imagine it wasn’t that great. Without the foam topper it would have been awful.

One thing that amazes me is the fact that NCL puts the people who pay more on the floor below the pool deck. On the Jewel that is deck 11. This means people who pay more have some of the LOUDEST state rooms on the boat. IDIOTS! We were stuck under the kids program. From 10am to 11pm it sounded like a herd of elephants was walking above us.

What was the worst thing about the room? It stunk. Seriously, it smelled really bad. NCL allows people to smoke in their staterooms. We complained so they came and sprayed Fabreeze. Then is smelled like smoke and Fabreeze. They asked if it was better the next day. We said it was a little better but it still smelled. Guess what they did? Fabreeze! We started leaving to balcony door open to air the place out. Downside was it caused all the windows to fog up because it was so humid out. It was ok by the fourth day of our seven day cruise but every time we opened a cabinet we got hit with the smoke smell.


To say the food was bad is an understatement. It was the worst food we’ve had on any cruise EVER! It was awful. Nothing we had really stood out as good but a lot stood out as bad. There were a number of things that were so bad we couldn’t eat them. Most of the food was obviously reheated and it showed. I haven’t had food this bad since I was on the Pearl. Now my wife and I mistakenly figured that due to “Freestyle Dining” which incorporates a number of “Premium” restaurants (that’s fancy speak for pay) that you had to go to one of those restaurants to get food that wasn’t crap. We thought wrong! We did the “Premium” thing one night and it was just as bad. The bread was stale and the food was crummy, and we paid $30 for that.

The other thing that really frosted by bananas about the food what happened if you ate at one of the free dining locations. They sent someone from table to table to try and sell the “Premium” restaurants. Why not send someone around and say “If the food is going to suck why not pay for it?”

The best food we found was at the buffet. A BUFFET. Keep in mind I said “best” not “good.” My wife hates buffets but by the end she was asking if we could eat there so we’d have marginal food. The worst part about the buffet was there were no lines. IDIOTS! You don’t cram that many people into a confined space when forks and knives are available and not organize them!

There was one thing we found that was never stale and always tasted good. The frozen yogurt you served yourself out of the machine.


My wife ordered encrusted snapper. Once upon a time it was encrusted but by the time it was served it had been reheated and the “crust” was the consistency of a gummy worm. That’s amazing considering the primary ingredient was nuts.

I ordered French onion soup. I’ve worked in kitchens. I know how to make it right. I also know how to make it fast but make it look right. NCL did neither. The cheese wasn’t browned and the soup wasn’t hot.

My wife ordered a hamburger through room service. Even a sub par hamburger is edible so we figured NCL couldn’t screw that up. Ha! NCL can screw anything up! What was delivered was a hockey puck with cheese on it. I say hockey puck because it was hard as a rock and cold.

My wife grabbed a yummy looking chocolate pastry from the chocolate buffet. It was a dinner roll with chocolate on it. I really wish I was kidding.

I could go on but I have other things to cover.


We tried to do that entertainment. It didn’t work. This is another failing of “Freestyle Dining.” Everyone hits the entertainment at the same time. That means you either need to stay up late to catch the late show or show up 30 to 60 minutes early. Sorry I’m not going to do that.

When you have set times for dinner the crowds are spread out and everyone can go to the show they want.

At least there were decent movies on the TV. They play recently released to video movies so in November of 2009 that means the selections were Up, Julie and Julia, and other movies from the same timeframe.


The service was ok at best. Here is another area where “Freestyle” fails. In a traditional setting you have the same waiter every night and that means he’s invested in you. He will work for his tips! Take that away and you get ho hum service.

When we complained about our room a person took our info and said they would take care of it. They didn’t tell us when or how. The communication was awful.

When you called room service you often got this guy who was as friendly as a rabid pitbull and didn’t even say goodbye.

On a number of occasions we witnessed the staff arguing with each other.

I caught and called out a bar tender for being lazy. It was our last night on the boat and I’d had enough. It wasn’t even by drink but I wanted to let him know I caught him. Someone ordered a Long Island Ice Tea and then they returned to their table. The bar tender made it by pouring two shots of vodka into a glass with two ounces of sour mix and a splash of coke. As many of you know that is not a Long Island. I thought that was how NCL made a Long Island until the guy cam back for a second. This time he didn’t go back to his table until the drink was done. Because the customer was standing there, the bartender made a real Long Island. BOOOOOOO!!!! It’s bad enough that the booze cost up to $9 a drink. You can at least give us a real drink!


Our experience with NCL and the Jewel was so poor I considered taking laxatives to rid myself of the remnants of this cruise.

I’ll be doing further posts for each port of call and stories.

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