Part 3 – Staff, Entertainment & Facilities
In the first two parts of this review, I focused on the basics of the ship and the food. Today I will talk a little bit about the activities on board and the staff in general. Lets get to it!
It is always hard when the staff know you are going to write about their ship. Since I have had past dealings with Norwegian, they alerted the staff that I was on board. Because of this, it was clear to me from almost the beginning that they were going out of their way to give me special treatment.
The first way this happened was by providing me with VIP privileges. One of the reasons I allowed this is so that I could review the ship both as a regular guest and as a VIP. The VIP privileges were the same as for those who stay in suites or who are Platinum guests. Essentially I wasn’t given anything beyond what some other guests receive.
Let me start by saying that the staff around all areas of the Jewel were mostly excellent. During my sailing I made sure to observe staff and other guests around the ship. From the bartenders to the entertainment staff, everyone was pleasant and friendly. Often times on other cruise lines I have felt the staff was unhappy. That was not the case on the Norwegian Jewel.
As a cruise guest, the cabin steward is perhaps the most important staff member you deal with. Everyone wants their room cleaned and tended to properly. My steward on this sailing was the best I have ever had on ANY cruise. Usually cabin stewards are friendly, but limited by time and sometimes language barriers.
My steward Mauricio was great. If I asked for something he got it. Never did I feel like he didn’t understand me or like he didn’t want to help. Of course, he too knew I was a blogger, so I’m not sure whether the great service was due to that fact or not. He did seem to provide equally as friendly service to my cabin neighbors though.
I could tell the senior officers truly cared about the guest experience aboard the Jewel. More so than on many other cruises, I saw senior officers about the ship interacting with guests. One weird thing of note is the captain’s no handshake policy. Even during the VIP meet and greet, guests were not allowed to shake the senior officers’ hands. My guess is that the captain has seen one too many norovirus outbreaks.
During the cruise, there is a night where the ship’s officers dine with the guests. Norwegian doesn’t charge for this. Guests simply put their name in a hat and if chosen, they get the opportunity to eat with an officer in one of the ship’s main dining rooms. While free wine is provided, everyone simply orders off of the regular menu.
Somehow even though I didn’t enter my name, I was chosen to have dinner with the hotel director, Richard Janicki. The fact that I was hand picked for this meal was troubling, but I saw it as a way to report about the experience and to talk to the man one on one. Within two minutes of sitting down, he was grilling me about the blog, what I write about and whether or not I was going to give his ship a good rating. I didn’t know whether to be upset about his aggressiveness or impressed that he cared so much.
On a side note, if you are sailing Norwegian than make sure to sign up for this officer’s dinner. Like I mentioned before, there is no charge and you get to drink free wine! It is also a good way to meet other guests and of course to get a little up close time with a ship’s officer.
Now back to Hotel Director Richard. I did have several other run-ins with him and other senior officers. After spending nearly a week on the ship, I came to believe that they truly care. I watched from afar on several occasions where Richard and other officers helped guests and tried to make the atmosphere pleasant. Like I said before, everyone seemed to care just a little more than on other lines, especially Carnival.
During my six days on the ship I did attend a few shows. Overall, I felt that the entertainment offerings were well below what we experienced on the Norwegian Jade. The singers were not very good and the musical shows were on par with what every other cruise line has. Not bad, but just blah. Among the production shows, the one bright light was Le Cirque Bijou. Basically a Las Vegas style Cirque show with acrobats and aerial silk performances. Really good and definitely the best show of the week.
When we were on the Jade, I think Gary Glading spoiled the guests with amazing entertainers. Jaime De Souza was the cruise director on this sailing and while she personally was wonderful on stage, many of the shows were not. I definitely understand the different nature of this cruise, so I am not going to be too harsh. I simply cannot compare the shows on an 11 day Meditteranean cruise to those of a 6 day repositioning sailing.
Besides Le Cirque Bijou, the one show that stands out more than any of the others was a local folkloric group called the Astor Street Opry Company who came on in Astoria, Oregon. Obviously this isn’t a regular offering for Norwegian since Astoria isn’t a normal port, but they were good. This troupe puts on a very corny and old fashioned show, but it fits right in with Astoria. While this afternoon offering won’t win any awards, it was something different and I applaud Norwegian for paying to have them come on board.
As for the other typical shows like the Newlywed Game and Quest, those were great. The guests who participated in the shows during my sailing did a great job and helped engage the audience. Like I mentioned before, Jaime the cruise director was great as well. My only complaint about these second tier shows is the venue. I am not a big fan of the Spinnaker Lounge since it is often hard to see if you are not near the front. Also, I wish it was located closer to the ship’s other venues. That is more a criticism of the ship design than the shows though.
As for the other entertainment, there was the typical games, trivia and karaoke that you will find on almost any cruise ship these days. In general the staff seemed upbeat and excited with one exception. The karaoke host was terrible. He lacked any excitement and never brought any energy to the lounge. For this reason the karaoke area was almost always empty except for the same five terrible singers.
The Norwegian Jewel is a fairly modern ship with a wide range of activities. From pools and hot tubs to a basketball court, there is a lot to do on this ship. With that said, you will find she lacks some facilities that other more modern ships have. Unfortunately the Jewel doesn’t have a rock climbing wall like some of her sister ships, you won’t find any mini golf aboard and the water slide is barely ten feet tall.
Norwegian has signed a deal with Nickelodeon and thus have integrated Nick activities into their children’s program. From character meet and greets to other themed activities, there seemed to be something Nick related each day. While I wasn’t traveling with any children, the families I saw really seemed to enjoy the activities. Additionally, the Nickelodeon staff were always high energy and truly did a great job.
As for other areas, the ship has a typical card room and library up high on the ship. In this same area you can find an average sized gym and a full spa. Like I said before, the Jewel has all of the basics covered, but is missing some of the facilities that are found on newer ships. Not a deal breaker, but something to note if you are considering a newer ship like the Breakaway or Getaway.
The Norwegian Jewel has a crew that cares about their ship. I think we were spoiled in Europe with Gary Glading and his entertainment staff on the Jade, but I was still impressed overall with my experience. While the shows weren’t that great in my opinion, I have been on a lot of cruises and sometimes all of the shows start to look the same. For someone who is new to cruising I don’t think this would be as much of an issue.
It is often hard for me to see the difference between the way I am treated and how other guests are. I try very hard to blend in in the background to watch and what I saw during this sailing was impressive. Everyone from the senior officers on down looked to care tremendously about the service that people on board received. For this reason I give high accolades to the Jewel’s staff and an average rating to the entertainment on board.
As for the facilities, like I said they are limited. I would definitely like to see more of a variety of things to do on board, but the Jewel does well with what it has. The addition of Nickelodeon seems like a positive one and for those who simply like to dip in the pool and play in the casino, then the Jewel will be just fine. For families with children and those who tend to be outside more, a bigger ship may be better in this area.