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Norwegian Jewel
Cruise from NYC to the Bahamas
October 17, 2010

by Keith Henderson

We sailed on the Norwegian Jewel leaving on October 17th, 2010 out of New York City to Port Canaveral, Great Stirrup Cay, and Nassau and returned on the 24th. It was our 12th NCL cruise (15th overall) for both my wife and me and we are both 53. This was also our second time sailing on the Jewel as we had sailed on her a year ago going on a 10-day cruise from NYC to Canada.

Day 1 – Sunday - Embarkation
Luck is on our side and it is a bright sunny early fall day with mostly clear skies and temperatures in the low 70’s. We live in south central Connecticut, so we decided to drive to the New York cruise terminal instead of taking a bus or train. After an hour and a half drive, we arrived at the terminal at 12:30 pm. We were not sure if other cruise ships would be docked at the same terminal on Manhattan’s Westside. To our pleasant surprise, the Jewel is the only ship at the terminal and there was very little traffic and/or people at the curbside of the terminals. By 12:45 pm, we had parked our car at the overhead parking at the pier ($210 for the 7 days) and were inside the terminal for the embarkation process.

When we walked into the terminal, there was a short line for security before lining up for the sign-in process. We just walked up to a clerk in the gold and platinum Latitudes line, received our docs and keycards, and walked onto the ship in less than 20 minutes. The waiting lines for other categories seemed to be moving slow for the time we were in the terminal. We tried to head up to our cabin on deck ten to drop off our carry-ons (which always includes a change of clothes in case our other bags arrive late and 12-packs of Diet Coke). It was an inside cabin (room 10607) which was midship. But, as we got to our deck, the doors to the hallways leading to the cabins were closed and we heard announcements that all cabins would not be available until 2:00 pm. We just headed up top-side to get a quick lunch before coming back to our room after it was cleared by 2:00 pm. We then went to the muster drill at 3:00 pm to our assigned station in the Tango’s restaurant. We did not have to bring our lifejackets to the muster. After the drill, we went back to our room to find that our luggage had arrived, so we quickly un-packed before the sailaway at 4:00 pm. We also emptied the small fridge in the cabin by placing all of the items on top of the fridge to make room for our Diet Coke. We informed the room steward who had come by to introduce himself that we had done so.

Sailaway in NYC is always special as we sail down the Hudson along Manhattan and go past the Statue of Liberty. They had a band playing great tunes for the sailaway by the pools topside. They stopped playing so they could blast “Proud to be an American” as we sailed by Lady Liberty. Then, to officially start the cruise, the ship passed under the Verranzano Bridge and let out a big blast of her horn (I ran across this bridge in the two NY Marathons I have run there). This time, as we sailed down the Hudson, we went aft to the Great Outdoors which gave great unobstructed views of the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty. It was much less crowded than being around the pools.

The show for the evening was the “Welcome Aboard Show” show in the Stardust Theater at 9:30 pm. The Stardust Theater holds about 1,000 people and has a variety of seating with most have good views. The show was hosted by the Cruise director, Shona Blair, who did a good job of welcoming us and introducing a few of the music performers that we would see during the cruise in the Bar City and Star Bar. One was a piano player Nathaniel Reed and the other was a guitarist named Alan Dunn. The show ended with a comedian named Steven Scott. We did not think he was especially funny, but some people were chuckling during his part of the show. After the show, they had a “Welcome Aboard Toga Dance Party” in the Spinnaker Lounge at 10:30 pm.

Day 2 – Monday - Sea Day
The weather was a cool 72F and mostly sunny with a chilly wind and calm seas.

The average age of our cruise seemed to be around 50 with lots of young families onboard as well. The ship had several Nickelodeon related activities which was probably the main draw for this cruise. They offered a wide variety of activities for all interests during the mornings and afternoons.

Around noon, we were off the coast of Virginia and there was an aircraft carrier and its escorts about 15 miles away. Then, 3 Blackhawk helicopters came from the coast and did several fly bys before they circled back and headed for the coast.

The evening’s entertainment in the Stardust was a NCL Production Show called “Band on the Run”. The show is centered on the performers singing and dancing to songs from the 70’s. We had seen the show on a previous cruise, so we decided to just go up to the pool deck and use the hot tubs while they were empty.

In the Spinnaker Lounge they had the “Newlywed, not so newlywed” game show at 8:30 pm which is always funny. The CD, Shona, and the participants were very good. At 10:30 pm they had their “70’s Disco Groove Party” with the surprise appearance of the Village People imposters. It was a funny and entertaining hour.

Day 3 – Tuesday - Port Canaveral
This was our first port day and the weather was nice with partly cloudy skies and warm temps in the low 80’s. In the morning, they offered a breakfast with Nickelodeon characters that had a fee of $15 for adults, $10 for kids 4-12. Kids under 4 were free.

We had arrived in port at noon and were scheduled to leave at 10:00 pm that evening. Our ship was the only cruise ship in port this day. The ship is docked at a pier area that is not close to anything. You needed a taxi, rental car, or shuttle to go to a beach, see the Kennedy space center, or go over to Orlando for the afternoon and early evening. You could see the large buildings of the Kennedy Space Center off in the distance from the ship. The terminal building has no shops. As you walked out, they had a shuttle bus that would take you to the Cocoa Beach Walmart and other stores for $10 a person for an all day ticket. There were several cabs waiting and a free shuttle to take you to a few Cocoa Beach shops.

We had decided to join a group of Cruise Critic members that had arranged for vans to take us to the Space Coast River Tour. We met at the Maltings Bar and went off the ship together at 12:30pm and used vans hired through Manatee Transport (on the advice of the tour person) to take us on the short 10 minute ride to Merritt Island to meet the boat for the River Tour. The Space Coast River Tour is a 2 hour tour on a covered 44 foot pontoon boat that goes through the local canals and cruise port to show what the local area has to offer in flora and fauna. The cost of the tour was $29 per person. We had a great time. Their website is http://spacecoastwatertours.com/default.aspx. We enjoyed the tour as we got to see a few manatees, pods of Dolphins, and a wide variety of bird species. One dolphin jumped out of the water. They also offered a complimentary beer/wine/soft drink and snacks. After the tour boat returned to its dock, the vans from Manatee Transport were waiting there to bring us back to the ship. They only charged us $5 per person for the round trip.

The main show in the Stardust was the comedian, Steven Scott. Since we did think he was funny, we decided to pass on seeing his show so we went down to Bar City where Alan Dunn was singing Irish songs. He was a very good guitarist and singer, but he seemed to spend more time telling tales than actually singing. In the Spinnaker lounge and they had a “Majority Rules” game at 8:30 pm and “Dancing with the Jewel Stars” dance competition at 10:30 pm. The dance competition was very funny and entertaining.

Day 4 – Wednesday - Great Stirrup Cay
We arrived at Great Stirrup Cay at 9:30 am. This was the stop at the NCL private island and since we have there several times, we stayed on board to relax. You have to take tenders to the island from the ship. They gave out tender tickets starting at 09:00 am and we passed the line of passengers waiting for the tickets that almost the length of the ship. The first tenders were leaving at 10:15 am and the final one back to the ship was 5:30 pm. The weather was wonderful again with a nice breeze and warm sun and temps around 85F. You could see that there was construction going on over at the island. We were told that NCL was expanding the area that could be used by the passengers on the island. They had several activities on the island for those that went over including a “Nick: Live” at beachside.

On board, there was a lot of maintenance work being done on the life boats and railings. They also offered the laundry bag special where you pay $25 to have laundry done with whatever you can fit in their bag. By 6:00 pm we were sailing off to our next stop, Nassau.

The main show for the evening was a show featuring Massimo & Alesia. They are a married couple with the husband having a ballet background and the wife having been a former Olympic gymnast. The show was called “INCANTO” and had the couple performing amazing dance and gymnastic routines with Alesia bending her body into amazing positions. It was a great show to watch. Up in the Spinnaker, they had the Jewel show band playing Big Band Dance music and Jazz. They had an hour of the Production Show singers singing songs from Broadway shows at 8:30 pm which was very good. Poolside, they had a late night “Island Nights Deck Party” form 10:45 pm to 1:00 am with their reggae/calypso band called “Upryzin”.

Day 5 – Thursday - Nassau, Bahamas
We arrived in Nassau and docked at the pier by 8:00 am. The skies were ominous with dark rain clouds and temps in the mid 80’sF. The pier is situated right in Nassau with rows of cabs waiting to whisk you off to wherever you want to go. Off in the distance on the hilltop you can see the Water Tower, Fort Fincastle, and the Queen’s Staircase. We were the only ship there as we docked. The Carnival Pride arrived as we were walking off the ship at 11:30 am, We have been to Nassau several times before, so we had decided to just take a walk to see Fort Fincastle and Fort Charlotte. The exit from the terminal area is on the same street as the Hard Rock Café and there is a Seńor Frogs only a few blocks away. To get to Fort Fincastle and the Queen’s staircase, we went left on Bay Street until Elizabeth Street and then went right as we walked up that street for a half mile to find the Fort area. (You pass a hospital on the way) It was raining off and on most of the way. There is a charge of $1 to enter the fort which is next door to the water tower which is the highest structure on the island. There is not much to see inside the fort, but you get wonderful views of the harbor, the Atlantis Resort, and the rest of the island.

We then walked the two miles from Fort Fincastle to Fort Charlotte by heading back to the town center and then continuing east by going left along the shoreline on Bay Street. This fort has a fee of $5 and there are a few small exhibits to be seen inside the fort. There were great views of area from there as well.

We walked back to downtown Nassau and saw that traffic was being stopped as a military funeral procession was coming down the street. They had a marching band and about a hundred Bahamanian soldiers escorting the hearse to the cemetery. Once the procession went by, we stopped by the straw market in town and made a quick visit to the Hard Rock Café before heading back to the ship. They are finally finishing the building of a permanent building to house the straw market. The original had burned down several years ago. It should be finished by next year. Here is a tip, we found several items at local shops that were cheaper than what they were asking for in the straw market.

The rest of our afternoon was spent relaxing in the pools to cool off after all of our walking. All aboard time was 5:30 pm. The ship did not leave until 6:00 pm. We decided to have dinner in Le Bistro and had a window seating to view the city as we sailed away from Nassau.

There was a Murder Mystery Dinner offered at 6:00 pm for a fee to participate. The sign ups for the dinner had to be made in advance of the dinner on a previous day. In the Stardust Theater they had a Second City Comedy Sketch show. After seeing them so often on previous cruises, we decided not to see the show as there is a lot of repetition of sketches. In the Spinnaker at 8:30 pm, they had the “Battle of the Sexes” game show hosted by the assistant CD, Sinan. Sinan is very funny and has a clever wit. He made a great host and the show was funny. Then, they had the “White & Pink Hot Party” in the Spinnaker lounge at 10:30 pm which was a lot of fun.

Day 6 – Friday - Sea Day
It was another calm sea day with partly cloudy skies and temps in the 80’s. The pool deck was jam packed by 10:00 am.

Up in the Great Outdoors, they had the Jewel show band playing jazz during a German Beer Fest with lots of German food being offered from 12:30 pm to 2:00 pm. To us, it was a free jazz brunch as we sat backed and listened to those great musicians play terrific jazz tunes.

They offered a guided tour of the ship’s galley, bridge, and the back stage of the theater during the afternoon. There was a fee if you wanted to go. We had taken the tour on our previous cruise on the Jewel. It is very interesting to see the food being prepared and where it is stored. Captain Idar Hoydal, himself gives the bridge tour after which you can pose with him for a picture. We did not take the tour this time. You had to sign up in advance of the day to take the tour as they have a limited number of people that can take the tour.

In the Stardust, they had several shows. At 12:30 pm, they had the Nickelodeon “Slime Time Live” show. At 3:00 pm, they had the International Crew Show which ends with the very funny “Fountains” show. If you have not seen them perform “Fountains” on a cruise, make it a point to see it. It is very funny. The main show in the Stardust Theater was a pair of comedy jugglers called “Will and Wally”. Their show was entertaining. You have to respect jugglers (and other acts) working on a moving ship. In the Spinnaker, they had several shows. At 8:30 pm they had another Second City performance (which we skipped). At 10:30 pm, they had a very funny “Liar’s Club”. And they offered the “Quest” game show at 11:30 pm for adults only which was very funny as people do ridiculous things to get points.

Day 7 – Saturday – Sea Day
The temps were getting cool again as we only got to 70F with mostly sunny skies and calm seas, but a cool breeze. For the last day at sea, they had lots of activities and shows. They had a poolside Nick game at 12:30 pm. They had a Jazz brunch in Le Bistro from 10:00 am to noon that day for a fee of $15 per person.

The main show for the evening in the Stardust was “Le Cirque Bijou” which was terrific. It has the dancers and singers from the production shows perform along with acrobats and the couple from the Incanto show, Massimo and Alesia in a Cirque du Soleil type of show. The theater gets packed for this show. We arrived at 7:00 pm for the 7:30 pm and already about 1/3 of the theater was full. By 7:30 pm, there were only single seats available. I would recommend to not sit in the first 5-6 rows as you will not see the acrobats that hang from the ceiling over the audience. In the Spinnaker, they had a “Perfect Couple” game show at 8:30 pm hosted by Sinan which was hilarious. At 10:45 pm they had another Second City show.

We went down to the Crystal Atrium to listen to the Jewel show band play jazz tunes before we headed back to our cabin for the evening. Before we turned in, we put out our luggage to have the porters bring them downstairs in preparation of arriving back in New York City. We also put back all of the items we took out of the fridge on the first day to let them get cold for the next passengers that would sail after us in our cabin.

Disembarkation Day – Sunday - New York City
We arrived at the dock in New York by 8:00 am. I had gone top side earlier to see a wonderful sunrise over the city skyline. A NYFD fire boat went by us spraying fountains of water to welcome us back. Another cruise ship was already docked at the terminal, the Aida Luna.

They made the initial announcements that people with their own carry off luggage could proceed to the gangways starting shortly after 8:30am. From what we saw and heard from other passengers, this process can best be described as chaos. There are too many people trying to take advantage of this process and there isn’t a plan to have it go orderly. (They really should have this controlled with a tag system to get an organized flow working) They made the first call of luggage colors starting shortly after 9:15 am with yellow (our color). We took our time leaving our room and waited until after 10:30. When you return to NYC, you have to go through customs and immigration which is a slow process.

It was a beautiful sunny fall day. On the drive back, we decided to drive south to see Battery Park and then up the east side of Manhattan on the FDR Drive to see the Brooklyn Bridge before heading over to the Bronx to visit the new Yankee Stadium and the Hard Rock Café that is there. It was my 49th HRC to visit. There is not much to see, but they had the Statue of Liberty outfit that Elton John wore at a concert along with Ace Frehley’s (Kiss) flaming Les Paul guitar. The drive back home to Connecticut was very pretty with the almost peak foliage.

Dining –
The Jewel was built for “freestyle” dining. The ship has several restaurants which include two main dining rooms (Tsar’s and the Azura) that are free of charge along with the buffet areas (Garden Café and the Great Outdoors), poolside bar grills, and the Blue Lagoon (comfort food). Tsar’s and the Azura have the same menus each night and because Tsar’s is larger, the wait times were shorter. The other restaurants had a fee, which we choose not to go to. They have Cagney’s (Steakhouse), Chin Chin (Asian), Le Bistro (French), Mama’s Kitchen (Italian), Tango’s (Tapas), Sushi Bar, Mongolian Pot, and Teppanyaki. We are not too picky about food, so we never felt the need to go to any one restaurant over another. We did go to Tsar’s one evening and to Le Bistro (see Latitudes) on one night. The other nights, we just went to the buffet because it was quicker and you could see what food you picked. To be honest, the best meal we had on the ship was the night they offered prime rib in the buffet. It was terrific and much better than the one my wife had in Tsar’s. The worst meal we had was in Le Bistro. The filet mignon tasted like it had been micro-waved. The maitre d’ did not offer to replace them. Too bad, as it was a meal we had been looking forward to. Other than that, the food was good and there was a wide variety to choose from.

We did notice that the specialty restaurants were very empty with only Cagney’s and Teppanyaki being busy every night. At peak times for breakfast and lunch, the Garden Café buffet area was very crowded. We did use the Mama’s Kitchen restaurant that is next door on the same deck aft to find an empty seat even though a lot of people thought of the same thing.

Bar Service –
We are beer drinkers and we took advantage of the beer bucket specials where you would get 6 beers for the price of 5 that was offered throughout the cruise. They allowed us to mix the beers we ordered. The free beer would be the cheaper of the two you selected.

Also, in Le Bistro we were entitled to a free bottle of wine (see Latitudes). When we explained that we do not drink wine, they allowed us to order 1 beer each of any variety we preferred. On previous cruises, they gave us more than one beer each.

Latitudes –
We are rated as Platinum Latitudes members and were invited to the two Latitudes parties. We also received a welcome aboard package with fruit and champagne. But, we did not get any snacks delivered to our cabin as on previous cruises. There were about 800 Latitude passengers on our cruise. They had a party on the first sea day for everyone. They gave away a variety of small gifts for the Latitudes guests, we remember when they gave away a free cruise or at least a free dinner in a specialty restaurant.

We were also invited to a separate party for Gold and Platinum Latitudes members in the Spinnaker Lounge and there were about 80 attending that one. It was a wine and cheese affair with the dance music band playing for an hour. We brought our own beer to drink. We had a good time chatting with other members.

As platinum members, we were offered some additional perks. The guided tour of the ship was free. The laundry service was free of charge. We also were invited to Le Bistro for a free meal and bottle of wine. We were given VIP tender tickets for the private island and VIP luggage tags (yellow) for disembarkation. We did not see any room designated as a Latitudes room while on board this particular cruise.

Activities –
There were plenty of other things to do on aboard for all interests. They had the usual plethora of bingo games and art auctions. For the first time in years, they actually had poolside games along with bands and DJs playing music. It was fun to be around the pool again. For the last couple of years, it seemed that NCL wanted nothing going on around the pool.

We took advantage of the several trivia games (which we enjoy) they offered during the cruise. We met up with several friendly people that helped us to win a few matches. We enjoyed their company and conversations.

The casino is open during times at sea. We do not gamble, but we would stop and watch people making donations to the ship.

They had dance lessons in the Spinnaker lounges on sea days that people took advantage of. They had health seminars for acupuncture and hypnosis in the Fyzz lounge on sea days as well.

If you attended Organized Cruise Staff Activities, you could get points that you could accumulate during the cruise and redeem for small NCL items like water bottles, key chains, and beach balls..

Music –
They had plenty of talented musicians on board to entertain people at various locations and times. The Jewel Show band was great playing jazz. Our cruise was their last as their contract was up.

In the bar city area and Crystal Atrium they had a trio and/or a single pianist playing easy listening music. The Spinnaker lounge band called Modal Magic played a wide variety of music to listen and dance to. They have 2 singers and a quartet of musicians. We have seen them on several other cruises and are very good.

Crew –
For the majority of times, we were always met by a smile and a “How is your day” when we walked by any of the crew members.

Shona, the cruise director was always at the production shows, Latitudes parties, and other poolside activities. The rest of the cruise staff were very friendly, especially Sinan, Montsie, Rommel, Megan, Brooke, and Rachel. We thought that this cruise offered much more activities to choose from than others. The CD staff was very busy in offering these. Our hats off to them for their efforts.

The ship –
The fitness center had a wide variety of treadmills, ellipticals, stationary bikes, and other pieces of equipment available at all times at no extra charge. They even had a punching bag and free weights. They offered pilates and spinning classes for a fee. The running track goes from midship around to the aft and the basketball court. It is very narrow on the sides around the court and walkers can get in your way. It takes 5 ˝ laps to complete a mile. The promenade deck is for walking only and it takes 2 2/3 laps to walk a mile.

The pool deck has two pools with one designated as adult only and the other having a slide. There are two hot tubs next to each pool. In addition to these, there is a small kids pool tucked away in a corner of the pool deck by the Topsiders Bar. There is a hot tub in that same corner, but it does not get as hot as the other Jacuzzis by the big pools.

The Bora Bora Spa has several treatment rooms and a relaxation area with heated ceramic lounge chairs and a large lie-down hot tub. In the segregated areas, each one has saunas and a hot tub. Since these were segregated, we decided to not use them as we like to relax together. You can buy spa passes for the day ($20) or the entire cruise ($99). They offer spa treatment specials during port days.

We constantly saw crew members cleaning and polishing.

One trick we learned was that the carpeting on the decks with cabins had dolphins in the print. The dolphins face forward in all of the hallways, so you can use that to help navigate around the ship.

There is a bridge viewing room on deck 11 forward on the port side. You can view the bridge and see the various plaques the ship has accumulated from each of the ports it has visited since being launched.

We always book an inside cabin. Our cabin had more than enough room for the two of us. The closet had about 20 hangars. We stored our 4 pieces of luggage under the beds. There is a safe and a small fridge in the cabin.

Overall –
We enjoyed our cruise on the Jewel. We lucked out with calm seas everyday. The itinerary is getting old though. We wish they could switch out Port Canaveral for Key West. We have already booked another NCL cruise for October 2011 sailing on the Jade from Venice to Rome with stops along Adriatic ports, Messina, and Naples.


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