October 2014 - Norwegian Jewel to Caribbean - Western
First I would like to say that many of the negative comments I have read, especially from those on the same cruise, were almost laughable. Much is due to the "eye of the beholder." Much is due to unrealistic expectations. Your room steward may have been a "lemon." (Ours wasn't) NCL is not a luxury cruise line. You're not going to get gourmet "Michelin star" dining with waiters dancing at your feet. Or Broadway shows in the theater (although they're pretty darn good) C'mon folks get real. You are traveling on a floating hotel to foreign/exotic ports of call in other counties for perhaps $100 per night/per person on average. See how much transportation, food, lodging, recreation and entertainment you can buy for that amount for any decent vacation location! My party of 3 has traveled to and stayed for one week at a resort on the Mexican Riviera and spent over twice as much as on this cruise to 3 ports. Entertainment and night life had to be sought out. There were transportation costs. It cost a penny....
Highlights of the cruise. We lucked out on the weather with virtually no rain issues even though traveling in the rainy season. The day riding around in a Jeep to numerous sites and beaches in Cozumel was unforgettable. The Mayan ruins in Belize were impressive. Only Trujillo was a disappointment. Outside of some very friendly locals and some cheap clothing purchases (it helps when you can barter in Spanish) this is not a place I would care to visit again. An opinion shared by many I might add. We plan to go to Roatan if we return to Honduras.
On board the ship, the best thing was the entertainment. The comedian and the magician both were funny and entertaining. The musical shows were better than expected and the acrobatic "cirque" show was pretty dazzling.
I have cruised on other similarly priced cruise lines and never been overly impressed with the food so I didn't have high expectations. NCL was no different. The main dining rooms tend to be crowded and slow with irregular service and less than expansive menus, so we pretty much stuck with the buffets. The selection was large but the quality underwhelming. They're buffets. What do you expect? It didn't bother us. We did "splurge" at 2 of the specialty restaurants and they were excellent - well worth the extra $20.
I had no complaints with our "mini-suite" - basically a "balcony" with a larger bathroom AND a TUB! Well worth the extra dollars. Everything was fresh and clean. The beds were comfortable. The room steward was superb. Always courteous and helpful. Never intrusive. Addressed us by name. We returned from the ports to find the room made up, fresh towels in the bathroom, and a filled ice bucket on the counter. We didn't need or expect the bed linens to be changed daily but he did it anyway unless we told him not to.
My only significant complaint was that a few of the staff were rude and discourteous. But the overwhelming majority were fine and a few were exceptional. I met most of the major staff members and only one, a man from Eastern Europe who worked in Food Services, was unpleasant. A young woman from Argentina who worked with scheduling the boat tenders was extremely unpleasant. Lastly, an Asian woman who managed the specialty bakery was awful but her assistant couldn't have been nicer. He appeared embarrassed by her behavior and went out of his way to make up for it. Outside of those 3, no problema.
Most of the bartenders and table tenders were fine. Most of them are foreigners especially Filipinos. Working class people. Most responded positively to being treated respectfully and kindly as people not servants. A small gratuity worked wonders also. Needless to say they looked forward to serving and pleasing us again. We saw other passengers being rude to the staff so I'm not surprised if they responded less than perfectly to them.
It seems like some travelers expect to be entertained at all times and places on the ship and are disappointed when they are not. My group (over age 50) was content to spend a lot of time on board just RELAXING. "Recovering" from shore excursions. Lying in the sun. Reading. Entertaining ourselves. So maybe we have less critical "eyes." Lower expectations.
Whatever your expectations are, there's a cruise line out there that can meet them for you. But you will pay for what you get. NCL is not Crystal or Seabourn. But it does provide a reasonably good "product" for the price. I have no qualms about cruising with them again.
A word of advice to the naive. If you don't like being around non-adults, then do your best to avoid cruising during "Spring Break" or other school vacation periods. I found this out the "hard way" on my first cruise.....