Text originally published on CruiseReviews.com in December 2005. Updated where needed.
Republished with permission.
In its latest brochure, Norwegian Cruise Line refers to its newest ship, Norwegian
Jewel, as “the Jewel that shines.” After a tour of this delightful ship in October
2005, I agree entirely. Although I am generally not drawn to large ships, this one
truly sparkled with its grand dining room, variety of dining venues, smart layout,
and combination of elegant and whimsical décor.
Norwegian Jewel was built at Meyer Werft Shipyard in Bremerhaven, Germany and made
her maiden voyage in August 2005. At nearly 92,000 gross tons, she was (at the time)
the largest ship in the NCL fleet, slightly eclipsing near-sister Norwegian Star.
Her length is 965 feet—for reference, this is just 55 feet shy of that of Royal Caribbean’s
Voyager of the Seas. Norwegian Jewel carries 2,376 passengers (double occupancy)
and 1,154 crew. Diesel electric engines provide a maximum cruising speed of 25 knots.
Norwegian Jewel boasts 12 passenger decks, numbered 4-15. Most of Decks 14 and 15,
however, are for the exclusive use of those in the top four stateroom categories
(there were 32 in all as of this writing), and include a private lounge and outdoor
courtyard area, a first for NCL. This concept reminds me of the Patio Provencale
on SS France, on which an upper deck courtyard was flanked by several First Class
My tour covered three general areas of the ship: restaurants, lounges, and recreational
facilities (for both kids and adults).
The tour began with a walk-through of most of Norwegian Jewel’s ten restaurants.
While I have been a passenger or visitor on many NCL ships, this is the first time
I was onboard a ship specifically built for Freestyle Dining. I confess that I was
impressed with the number and variety of dining venues.
The highlight of the ship for me was the visit to Tsar’s Palace, the larger of the
two main dining rooms. In a word, it is magnificent. The aft staircase leads directly
into this dining room and another staircase follows—again, a reminder of traditional
ocean liners in which one must descend to dine. The ornamentation is simply stunning.
Even the ceiling is a work of art. I have been on many ships, either as a visitor
or passenger, and this is among the most beautiful shipboard dining rooms I’ve ever
Although I could easily have every meal in these surroundings, I found most of the
other dining venues enticing, as well:
Azura Restaurant serves the same menu as Tsar’s Palace, yet the room is smaller,
and has a more casual feel.
Mama’s Italian Kitchen is very homey with its brick-like walls and family-style tables.
A cover charge applies.
Chin Chin offers a variety of Asian-style meals in a very welcoming atmosphere. In
addition to specialty areas such as a sushi bar and Teppanyaki room, Chin Chin offers
a meal I discovered recently—Shabu Shabu—in which diners are presented with meats
and vegetables to cook in an individual bowl of simmering broth. A cover charge applies.
Le Bistro, NCL’s signature French restaurant, is large yet cozy and offers a sea
view from every table. I found the artwork beautiful. A cover charge applies.
Cagney’s Steak House has a rich feel to it with its wood tones and red and white
color scheme. A cover charge applies.
The Garden Café is the buffet area, and is smartly designed with separate stations
for sandwiches, salads, etc. It appeared easy to navigate, and was very popular during
The Great Outdoors is a typical light buffet overlooking the main pool. Nothing out
of the ordinary here.
Also onboard are Tango’s Tapas Restaurant and Blue Lagoon, neither of which I saw.
Even with all these dining rooms, one might still encounter a wait for a table during
peak hours. NCL has thus installed screens that show the real-time availability and
wait times at all of the restaurants. These screens are located throughout ship,
eliminating the need to congregate outside the restaurants - a great enhancement,
in my opinion.
A large ship is able to offer a variety of areas for passengers to congregate for
drinks and entertainment, and Norwegian Jewel also shines in this regard.
NCL touts its “Bar Central” idea, where a martini bar, champagne/wine bar, and beer/whisky
bar are positioned side-by-side and share a large seating area. Located on the lower
level of a two-deck atrium near the Chin Chin and Azura restaurants, this elegantly
designed area is a nice spot for pre-dinner drinks. I loved the stained-glass atrium
topper. Alongside the seating area was a row of window seats overlooking the outdoor
The other two-level atrium area, aptly named Crystal Atrium, has a completely different
feel. Crystals emanate from the ceiling like icicles, making the area somewhat stark
in appearance. This area serves multiple purposes, as it houses the reception area
and small dance floor on the lower level, and dining areas on the second level.
For more funky surroundings, Fyzz Lounge features artwork and carpeting resembling
champagne bubbles, with comfortable blue and pink neon chairs throughout. According
to the Freestyle Daily activities sheet, Fyzz Lounge is used for art auctions, afternoon
trivia, and late-night dancing. Private karaoke rooms are also available.
I also liked the Spinnaker Lounge, although I felt it had a split personality. The
dance floor is lovely, and looks well suited for the ballroom dancing that is offered
there in the early evening. Yet, the oversized, colorful seating alongside the windows
is very modern, and more fitting for the room’s role as a late night adult-only disco.
The Star Bar, located outside Cagney’s Steak House, is more traditional and intimate.
Its relatively small size appears to make it the perfect setting for the piano/violin
music offered here every evening. I imagine this would be among my favorite hangouts
on the ship.
The two-level show lounge is magnificent, and has stunning entryways that rival that
of many land-based theatres I’ve visited.
I must give special mention to the various carpet designs located throughout the
ship. Bubbles adorn the carpet in the Fyzz Lounge, while you can learn some dance
steps outside the Tango Restaurant. And having trouble finding your cabin? Just look
down and follow the fish—they swim toward the front of the ship. While I am not a
fan of whimsical design, this somehow worked.
Recreation areas on Norwegian Jewel include two swimming pools, gymnasium, spa, and
a basketball/volleyball court. Additionally, the kids’ facilities truly make this
a ship for all generations.
I fell in love instantly with the spa area. It is so large that I was glad I had
an escort to keep me from getting lost. In addition to a beautiful indoor whirlpool
overlooking the bow, there are several relaxation chairs constructed manually with
Also located within the spa area is a traditional barbershop for the gentlemen, a
rarity on ships today. In fact, it’s only the second I’ve ever seen aboard ship.
The pool area is colorful and cheerful. The two pools and several hot tubs are surrounded
by lighting fixtures that resemble palm trees. A separate area houses a swimming
pool and hot tub for young kids. I also liked the abundance of shaded seating by
the Deck 12 windows.
I could easily picture my husband and son enjoying a game of basketball on the dedicated
court located on Deck 13 aft. A tiered observation area is located adjacent, making
this a great venue for viewing competitions.
I was very impressed by the facilities offered onboard Norwegian Jewel for kids and
teens. Each group has its own recreation area, complete with separate Internet stations
and hot tubs. I don’t know if this will keep kids out of the main hot tubs, yet it
is certainly a nice feature. The teen hangout room also offers a bar, video jukebox,
and plenty of seating.
While I did not particularly care for the boxy external appearance of Norwegian Jewel,
I found the interiors very exciting and welcoming. There appears to be something
for everyone on this large ship, including this traditional-leaning, small ship aficionado.
In short, there are several characteristics that set the ship apart from others I
have seen. While the décor was imaginative in many areas of the ship, I liked seeing
traditional touches as Tsar’s Palace and a full-service barbershop. There are also
more dining options than are available in most neighborhoods. And while the Courtyard
cabins are out of reach for most passengers, including yours truly, I am sure this
concept will be copied by other lines in the not-so-distant future.