More than 14 years old, Norwegian Jewel has regained its lustre with an extensive refurbishment in late 2018. Upgraded areas include all cabins, suites, restaurants, cafes, the teen-only Entourage club, main pool and atrium. There are two new bars -- Bliss Ultra Lounge, offering dance music after dark, and The Pit Stop, a 1950s-themed bar with a view of the pool. Two Deluxe Owner’s Suites have also been added in The Haven.
The new-look is decidedly more modern to the point of being unrecognizable in some public areas. Some people may lament the loss of the water slide and fake palm trees around the pool, but the result is a more relaxing space, especially for adults. Add to that an always-casual, laid-back ambience and a wealth of dining venues, and Norwegian Jewel is a comfortable base from which to explore any port of call.
The first of Norwegian Cruise Line's Jewel-class ships, Norwegian Jewel may lack many of the bells and whistles of its younger fleet-mates (no rock wall, bowling alley or ropes course), but it's anything but boring. With dozens of daily activities, numerous lounges for live music and 10 eateries, the variety of choices is dazzling. You'll find it all, from cheesy poolside traditions (sexiest leg contest, anyone?) and interactive game shows (the Not So Newlywed Game never gets old) to breathtaking aerial acts and a logic-defying magician in the main theatre.
Our favourite spot to grab breakfast and lunch on the go was the large O'Sheehan's Bar & Grill. Spacious and bright, thanks to windows on both sides, it dishes up guilty pleasure pub grub like fish 'n' chips and chicken pot pies. A pleasant side effect of O'Sheehan's, open 24/7, is that it takes the pressure off the main dining rooms, making the waits for dinner, which in the past could be up to an hour, much shorter. We never waited more than five minutes for a table, regardless of whether we showed up at 6 p.m. or 7 p.m.
Although it's a big ship, there is plenty of nifty digital signage that not only lets passengers know what's going on onboard but allows them to make dining reservations and buy shore excursions on the spot. See that Cagney's is filling up fast? No need to get up to the reservations desk. Just swipe your key card, choose your dining time and you're all set to go.
For more details about cabins, dining and things to do, see the separate sections of this review.
Daytime: Casual dress is the name of the game when it comes to Norwegian's freestyle cruising.
Evening: You might spot a handful of passengers in suits or cocktail dresses on the ship's one (very optional) formal night, but most stick to a fairly laid-back version of formal (i.e. pants, collared shirts, sundresses, skirts, etc.). Shorts are allowed in all dining venues except the Tsar's Palace main dining room and Le Bistro French restaurant.
Not permitted: After 5 p.m., tank tops, flip-flops and baseball caps are not permitted in any of the restaurants.
For more information, visit Cruise Line Dress Codes: Norwegian Cruise Line.
There's rarely a quiet moment on Norwegian Jewel; live music is always playing somewhere, and the entertainment staff's constantly got something going on. Daytime fun runs the gamut from trivia and art auctions to games of Bingo and "Deal or No Deal." Once the sun goes down, the ship is all about live music, laughter, karaoke and dancing.
Every night, the ship's three-deck art nouveau Stardust Theater (decks 5 through 7) plays host to a show, with a wide range of performance styles on offer each cruise. We were entranced by the captivating beauty and raw strength of a Russian aerialist duo, the best act of the cruise. The rest of the performances were a bit "take it or leave it," with a comedian, magician/comedian and two cruise revue shows rounding out the entertainment. The second show, Le Cirque Bijou, attempts to add elements of Cirque du Soleil to what is essentially a traditional cruise Vegas-style revue. When acrobatics are involved, it's engaging, but the song-and-dance numbers fall flat. The Stardust Theater also is used for "Deal or No Deal" and daytime movies.
A quick glance at the Freestyle Daily tells you all you need to know about daytime fun -- there's a lot of it. Trivia sessions are offered twice a day at various bars and lounges, as are demonstrations ranging from cooking and vegetable carving to towel animal making. Dance and fitness classes (free and for a fee) are on offer, as are myriad family fun activities, from a circus workshop and cupcake decorating class to family dodgeball. In the main theatre, you'll find a movie playing every day; on our Alaska cruise, the theatre was used for educational videos about Alaska on our first full day. Shuffleboard, sports competitions, art auctions, drink tastings, goofy golf challenges, bingo, "Deal or No Deal" and casino tournaments are other daytime options.
Keep in mind that almost all of the so-called seminars like detoxing for health and weight loss, digital cameras or relieving back pain are money-making pitches to get you to buy things.
Norwegian Jewel comes alive at night with music and dancing. Bar City and the Crystal Atrium offer live music, including jazz, piano and covers of popular music, while the two lounges also feature music but add space for dancing. A typical night's rundown includes such events as salsa dance classes with the Jewel cast, rock night with the Next Stage band in the Fyzz lounge, piano and vocals in Magnum's, and a late-night DJ in Spinnaker.
Not interested in music? Game time doesn't stop at night, with such popular cruise games as Battle of the Sexes, the Not So Newlywed Game and movie-themed trivia.
Jewel Club Casino is on Deck 7 forward and features slot machines and a variety of table games that include poker, roulette and craps. Depending on the itinerary, the casino might run slot and poker tournaments.
Along with the more sedate Crystal Atrium, Bar City on Deck 6 is the main place to hang out with a drink on Norwegian Jewel, though you'll find a couple of poolside and sun deck bars, too. The three bars that comprise Bar City are strung together seamlessly with the majority of seating at either end and just a little seating across from the middle bar (Shakers). Just the signage, a subtle shift in wood colour and a few bar-specific decorations indicate you're actually passing three distinct bars. A small Cigar Bar is located in this area, as well.
Magnum's Champagne and Wine Bar (Deck 6): The first of the three bars that make up Bar City, Magnum's is the Champagne bar -- as denoted by the coloured bubbling liquids inside the glass bar counter. Magnum's has the most seating in Bar City and no TVs. Instead, it's a great place to chill in the evening and listen to live music.
Shakers Martini and Cocktail Bar (Deck 6): Right next door is Shakers, marked on either side by statues of Sean Connery and Ursula Andress from the Bond movie "Dr. No." Limited seating means Shakers is mainly a place to grab your drink, though you will find the main sporting event of the day on the TV there.
Maltings Beer and Whisky Bar (Deck 6): The big copper still in front of Bar City's third bar lets you know this is where the brewed and distilled drinks are served. Maltings is also where you'll find the ship's weekly beer and whisky tastings, the most number of TVs playing sporting events and the best place to sit with friends to talk. It's not a spot for music, though you can hear the sounds of the piano or jazz band playing in nearby Magnum's.
Atrium Cafe & Bar (Deck 7): Located in the Crystal Atrium, the Cafe & Bar is primarily a coffee bar. There is a tiny bar counter -- just five scooped purple bar stools -- and selections are limited to speciality coffees, teas and pastries, including baked goods from Carlo's Bakery, as well as select beers, wines and cocktails. At night, one or another of the ship's bands plays popular hits from the '40s through today.
Bliss Ultra Lounge (Deck 7): Added in the 2018 refit, Bliss replaces the FYZZ karaoke lounge with dance music, modern furnishings, an illuminated bar and mood lighting.
Sake Bar (Deck 7): You'll find the rarely occupied Sake Bar immediately outside of Chin Chin restaurant, next to the sushi bar. Choose from a selection of sakes from 5:30 p.m. 'til late.
O'Sheehan's (Deck 8): The bar part of O'Sheehan's Bar & Grill is pretty small. There are only a few barstools, with two TVs playing sporting events, but it does have the largest beer selection (both domestic and imported) on the ship. Unlike other iterations of O'Sheehan's, there are no bar games (darts, billiards, etc.) to enjoy.
Topsiders Bar (Deck 12): The ship's poolside bar offers limited bar seating and a small selection of beers and cocktails.
Sugarcane Mojito Bar (Deck 13): The Sugarcane Mojito Bar debuted on Norwegian Getaway and was popular enough for the line to schedule a fleetwide rollout. Located at the front of Moderno Churrascaria, the Sugarcane is unassuming and easy to walk past. But, from 5 p.m. on, it's the place to be if you like mojitos. Though the bar's hours include an early afternoon shift (noon to 2 p.m.), we never saw anyone there during the day.
The Pit Stop (Deck 13): This new American-themed bar is a throwback to the 1950s, with classic car parts and old gas station signage. The Pit Stop takes the place of the old Sky High Bar on Deck 13, one deck above the pool. More seating has been added to this area to accommodate more guests who enjoy a drink with a pool view.
Spinnaker Lounge (Deck 13): For most of your dance-related nighttime entertainment, head to the revamped Spinnaker Lounge. There you'll find the ship's largest dance floor, home to everything from country and western line dances to ballroom dancing and pulse-pounding dance music. But Spinnaker also is home to cabaret performances by the ship's singers, "Dancing with the Jewel Stars" and interactive game shows like the Liar's Club.
Norwegian Jewel has four hot tubs and two regular pools, all on Deck 12. All are outside and have an accessible electrical hoist for passengers who need assistance. The poolside deck has room for more than 300 deck chairs. The Haven courtyard, on Deck 14, features an indoor pool and hot tub that's only for suite passengers.
Norwegian Jewel has a small sports deck on Deck 13, where there's a basketball court. A volleyball or tennis net can be strung up there, and soccer goals are erected for shootouts. Two golf driving nets are located on Deck 13, as well, as is an oversized chess set. There's also a jogging/walking track around Deck 13; one mile is 5.5 laps.
Sun worshippers will find space on Deck 12 by the pool, as well as on decks 14 and 15. Haven suite passengers have their own private sun deck space on Deck 15.
The Crystal Atrium on Deck 7 is where the main passenger service desks are, including shore excursions and guest services. Those who want to book their next cruise can do so in the same area at the Future Cruise Sales desk.
Also on this deck are the art gallery, photo shop, Internet cafe and onboard stores. The photo shop was recently digitized, so passengers can now review all their pictures on computer monitors; print copies are kept in binders along the wall, as well. The Galleria Shops, aft, feature essentials like toiletries and snacks, as well as logo apparel, jewellery (costume and gemstone), alcohol and tobacco.
A small Internet Cafe is located immediately next to the art gallery and has eight computer stations. Wi-Fi is available shipwide. Passengers can purchase Internet minutes via the pay-as-you-go option at 95 cents per minute or buy a package: 100 minutes for US$85 or 250 minutes for US$129. Plans purchased on embarkation day receive up to 20 free minutes as a bonus. There is a US$3.95 activation fee for all plans. As with all Internet at sea, speed is slower than you would get on land, especially during peak times and sea days.
The ship's library on Deck 12 offers a selection of fiction and nonfiction books, primarily in English. All items are free for passengers to borrow on a trust system. You'll also find daily trivia, crossword and Sudoku printouts in the library. Next door is the card room where passengers go to play bridge and other card games.
Norwegian Jewel also has a bridge viewing room on Deck 11 and a small chapel on Deck 13.
The Mandara Spa is located on Deck 12 at the front of the ship. The simply decorated space offers traditional cruise-ship treatments, including a variety of massages, facials, wraps and scrubs, as well as teeth whitening, acupuncture and Botox. Spa specials are offered throughout the cruise, usually on days when the ship is in port.
While there is a relaxation area with heated loungers in the Thermal Suite, it is only available to those who pay the weekly fee of US$149 (no day passes) and is not offered to passengers receiving spa services. Also in the Thermal Suite are separate men and women's saunas, steam rooms and thermal plunge baths. Passes are limited to 100 per cruise.
Adjacent to the spa is a beauty salon, where passengers can get manicures, pedicures, hair colour treatments and styling. An 18 percent gratuity is automatically added to all spa and salon services.
The fitness centre onboard (also on Deck 12) has a variety of cardio and strength-training equipment with ellipticals and treadmills facing the ocean. Try to go during off-hours (super early or late), as it can get busy during peak times, especially on sea days. A variety of classes (both free and for a fee) are offered.
Runners and walkers can use the ship's outer promenade on Deck 7 or the jogging track on Deck 13.
With the addition of O'Sheehan's Bar & Grill, the ship now offers four free dining areas. Aside from offering tasty, free food, O'Sheehan's also relieves some of the stress on the main dining rooms; we never had to wait longer than five minutes for a table in either Azura or Tsar's Palace because many people chose O'Sheehan's instead.
Norwegian Jewel also features Norwegian Cruise Line's new Norwegian NEXT dining program in its main dining rooms. The line created Norwegian NEXT to address the numerous complaints it received about the main dining room food. The menus in the two dining rooms are identical and quite extensive with 11 starters and 15 entrees to choose from, including seven "classic" entrees offered every night. Most of the entrees we tried were excellent, though you'll still find the occasional over-sauced dish. Our favourite main dining room meals were a delicious cod dish the first night and surprisingly tasty potato beignets (potato and spinach blintz-like creations over an okra-based ratatouille).
Azura Main Dining Room (Deck 6): The smaller of the two main dining rooms, Azura can be rather noisy. Tables closer to the entrance also can be a bit chilly. Ask for a table off to the side if you get cold easily, or bring a sweater. As with both main dining rooms, you can ask to be seated with another party or dine on your own. Service in Azura is fast and friendly. Dinner is served from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Tsar's Palace Main Dining Room (Deck 6): Larger and fancier than Azura, Tsar's Palace does have more of a banquet hall feel to it, with marbled pillars and faux Faberge egg balustrades, but it's quieter, and the service just a tad slower leading to a more leisurely meal. Tsar's also provides table service for breakfast (7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.), lunch (noon to 1:30 p.m.) and dinner (5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.).
Garden Cafe (Deck 12): Norwegian's signature buffet, the Garden Cafe offers breakfast, lunch and dinner via several standalone stations. Breakfasts include prepared-to-order omelettes, scrambled eggs, waffles, pancakes, cereal, pastries and fruit. Apple and orange juice, tea and coffee are available for free during breakfast. Lunches and dinners feature pasta, carving stations, sandwiches and other hot entrees. Additionally, most nights are themed and, on our sailing, they included seafood, country-western, a salmon bake and a taste of Asia. At the front of the Garden Cafe, you'll find the Kid's Cafe, which offers a kid-friendly menu and kid-sized seating. During the lunch rush (and weather permitting), you can also find seating in the Great Outdoors extension of the Garden Cafe, which offers a more limited version of the foods offered inside. Another extension of the buffet is the outdoor Topsiders Grill (also on Deck 12), offering beef and turkey burgers, hot dogs and sausages, and grilled chicken with all the fixings. Norwegian Jewel's Garden Cafe also is home to the line's original Washy-Washy waiter, who sings his love-it-or-hate-it song to the tune of "London Bridge Is Falling Down" while spraying your hands with sanitiser. Ask him to sing his "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" version. It's brilliant.
O'Sheehan's Neighborhood Bar & Grill (Deck 8): This 24-hour iteration of O'Sheehan's, which overlooks the Crystal Atrium, is primarily a restaurant, though there is a small bar with two TVs showing sporting events. The menu features classic pub favourites like fish 'n' chips, chicken pot pie, old-fashioned meatloaf and fried mozzarella sticks. Lunch and dinner menus are the same, except dinner also highlights a rotating special of spare ribs, prime rib or fried chicken. My favourite place to grab breakfast, O'Sheehan's offers a traditional morning menu, including items like two eggs any style with sausage and bacon, homemade corned beef hash, made-to-order omelettes and French toast.
Chin Chin Asian Restaurant (Deck 7); with a la carte sushi: A pan-Asian eatery (Chinese, Japanese and Thai), Chin Chin offers a dinner menu that includes hot and sour soup, vegetarian spring rolls, lemon pepper shrimp, noodle dishes and fried rice. You also can order sushi and sashimi at a la carte prices, as well as a Szechuan stir-fried lobster tail entree for an additional $10 surcharge. There are also four tables with small built-in oven tops for a special type of Japanese meal called Shabu Shabu, where sliced beef is cooked in a noodle pot in front of diners. Food is a bit hit-or-miss, with some dishes being quite tasty and others a tad mediocre. On full or half sea days, the sushi and sashimi also are available for lunch at the small sushi bar.
Room Service: With so many dining venues, it's easy to forget that 24-hour room service is also available (except on the morning of debarkation). Enjoy morning coffee and Continental fares like juice, fresh fruit, muffins and cold cereal, free of charge. Lunch and dinner options include perennial favourites like chicken Caesar salad and sandwiches, plus kid-pleasers like hot dogs and grilled cheese sandwiches attract a $9.95 fee. Haven and suite passengers can still order room service entirely free of charge.
As with all Norwegian Cruise Line ships, Norwegian Jewel offers a variety of speciality restaurants that cover a wide spectrum of food styles. Prices range from US$15 to US$30 per person.
Le Bistro French Restaurant (Deck 6); US$19.95 per person: A classic date night restaurant, Le Bistro offers upscale French dining and attentive service. Menu items run a bit on the heavy side and include dishes like cream of four mushroom soup, coq au vin, grilled beef tenderloin, duck breast and escargot. For an additional US$10 per person, you can also select seafood puff pastry with lobster, shrimp and scallops; a butter-roasted lobster tail; or a 32-ounce rib-eye steak for two.
Teppanyaki (Deck 7); US$25 per person: One of Norwegian's most popular signature eateries (and rightfully so), Teppanyaki, a Benihana-esque hibachi restaurant serves up delicious Japanese fare prepared by a knife-wielding chef who does a variety of tricks on a large cooking top in front of diners. Entrees include combinations of chicken, beef and seafood (including lobster), served with miso soup, seafood salad, vegetables and garlic fried rice. Four chefs banging utensils in the small space can get loud, but most of the din is over within 10 to 15 minutes. Wear earplugs if you must; the food is too good to forego just because of the noise.
La Cucina (Deck 12); US$14.95 per person: The weakest link in Norwegian Jewel's speciality restaurant lineup, La Cucina offers rather mediocre Italian food in a pleasant setting at the back of the ship. The menu consists of traditional favourites like fried calamari, bruschetta, chicken parmesan, osso buco, shrimp risotto, spaghetti and meatballs or spaghetti carbonara, Italian sausage, vegetarian lasagna and pizza.
Cagney's Steakhouse (Deck 13); US$29.95 per person: Located in one corner of Deck 13, immediately across from the ship's Brazilian steakhouse, Cagney's is Norwegian's signature American steakhouse, serving filet mignon, T-bone steak, rib-eye and New York strip. Diners will also find salmon and pork chop options. Cagney's is very popular and fills up quickly. Make your reservation in advance if you want a prime-time dinner slot.
Moderno Churrascaria (Deck 13); US$19.95 per person: You'll need to skip lunch if you've booked dinner at Moderno Churrascaria, the ship's Brazilian steakhouse. That's because the amount of skewered meats on offer can be a bit overwhelming, and they'll keep serving until you tell them to stop. There's also a sizeable salad bar if you want a little green to go along with all that meat.
Carlo's Bake Shop (Deck 7); a la carte: This tiny outpost of "Cake Boss" Buddy Valastro's famous bakery is located in the Crystal Atrium, right next to the Atrium Cafe and Bar. There you'll find cupcakes, lobster tails, cannolis and cakes baked fresh daily. You can even order a custom cake for special occasions. Prices range from 75 cents for an individual rugelach and US$2.25 for a cupcake to US$24.95 for a 7-inch cake.
All of the 1,190 cabins and suites were refurbished in 2018, receiving new televisions, furniture, carpets, USB outlets and artworks. The Haven, Norwegian's ship-within-a-ship area, was also enhanced with a refreshed courtyard and additional cabanas on the sun deck, plus two new Owner's Suites.
Cabins also feature coffeemakers, minibars and hair dryers. Each cabin comes with two lower beds that can be converted into a queen-sized bed; many also have Pullman beds, and some have rollaway cots. Most cabins feature one closet with enough room for the clothes of three, maybe four, adults; there's plenty of room to hang items, plus shelves. The closets and bathrooms in inside, oceanview and balcony cabins are identical, but outside cabins and above also offer at least three drawers.
Bathrooms are perfectly sized for one person at a time, with separate toilet and shower areas, and they have ample shelf space for toiletries. Combination shampoo/conditioner and body wash dispensers are available in all cabins, as is bar soap. Those staying in balcony cabins and above receive robes and slippers for use during their cruise. Passengers in minisuite cabins and above will find individual bottles of Elemis shampoo, conditioner and body lotion.
Jewel has five accommodation categories, including 37 wheelchair-accessible cabins. Families can choose from 141 interconnecting cabins in a range of categories, from standard insides to suites. Different grades of cabins can be linked to create two- to five-bedroom areas for immediate families, extended families and family reunion groups.
Interior: Inside cabins start at 143 square feet. Though a bit snug, they can accommodate two to three people.
Oceanview: At 161 square feet, oceanview cabins are roomier than inside cabins and feature picture or porthole windows.
Balcony: Balcony cabins offer slightly more space, starting at 205 square feet, and have small sitting areas. Balconies, which feature two chairs apiece, are comfortable for two adults, though three would not be too much of a squeeze.
Minisuites: Starting at 284 square feet, minisuites provide a lot more space -- and bigger balconies -- than standard balcony cabins. They come with larger bathrooms equipped with tubs. Comfortable sitting areas offer convertible sofas. Minisuites do not come with any suite-level services.
Suites: Even larger are the 20 Penthouse Suites, which can be up to 572 square feet. These cabins each feature a separate bedroom with a queen-sized bed and a flat-screen TV with CD/DVD player and library, separate living and dining areas, a bathroom with either a separate or combination shower and tub, a larger sized balcony and a walk-in closet. Penthouse suites come with butler and concierge services.
Similar to the penthouse suites are 10 two-bedroom, 546-square-foot family suites, which sleep up to six passengers in two bedrooms.
Passengers who seek privacy should think about booking The Haven, which requires a key card for exclusive access and features 24-hour butler service, concierge service and access to a private courtyard area with pool, hot tub and small gym. Haven cabins come with flat-screen TVs with CD/DVD players and espresso/cappuccino coffeemakers.
The two Haven Courtyard Penthouses, up to 440 square feet, each feature a bedroom with a queen-sized bed, an oversized bath and shower, a living area with an entertainment system, a dining room and a large balcony. A bit larger is The Haven's two-bedroom family villa, 572 square feet, which has two bedrooms (one with a queen-sized bed), separate living and dining spaces, an oversized bath and a separate shower.
Norwegian Jewel's largest accommodations are the two 4,891-square-foot Haven Garden Villas and four 823-square-foot Haven Owner's Suites. The Garden Villas are multiroom suites, each with panoramic ocean views, oversized balcony with whirlpool, steam room, private sunning area and outdoor dining space, living room with piano, entertainment system, bar and three bedrooms with king- or queen-sized beds and a private bathroom. The Owner's Suites are two-room suites and include two balconies apiece, a private bedroom with king-sized bed and walk-in closet, full bath with separate shower and powder room, and a living room with dining space and an entertainment system.
Deluxe Owner’s Suites were added in 2018. Each of the two suites have a total size of 1,197 square feet, plus a 567-square-foot balcony, and accommodate up to four guests, making them suitable for a family or two couples travelling together.