After a very stressful year, we had the opportunity to sail on the NCL Jewel in the Haven. Not our first NCL cruise, but our first time in the Haven, and hopefully not our last. We traveled as a family of 6 -- Myself (48), husband (60), 3 daughters (19, 17 and 14) and one boyfriend who is part of the family. We live in Southern California, so this was an easy itinerary requiring no flights, just $16 per day parking (although it went up to $17 per day while we were gone). None of the kids had ever cruised before, and they ended up loving it. We booked about a year in advance, and received all the promos while they were still amazing -- UDP for all 7 nights for everyone in the cabin, UBP for 2 adults, soda for everyone else, 3-8 sail free, and $300 obc.
I've done a full photo review here: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2299718
Embarkation was very easy -- about an hour from parking to dining in Modernos. The suite lounge in the terminal is nice, and the snacks were delicious. We had about an hour and a half drive to the port, so we were hungry by the time we got there. We were escorted up to the restaurant, and received wonderful service. The cabins were ready by about 1:30, and bags were delivered by 2pm.
Our Steward, Butler and Courtyard Valet were all wonderful. They really enhanced our trip, and we are very appreciative of their hard work and friendly smiles. The pre-concierge handled our dining change we needed (wanted later on two nights) and everything was correct when we arrived. We had requested the fridge to be emptied, and some cranberry juice and milk. The milk didn't turn up for a day or so, but otherwise it was all waiting as requested. Except the elusive pillows off the pillow menu. We asked for some memory foam ones, and a reading wedge, none of which were provided. I have a feeling the pillows don't exist, because I truly feel the pre-concierge and steward are top knotch and would have provided them if they were available.
The cabin is lovely, and we found ourselves prefering to retire early at night, or just hanging out together there in the afternoon. The storage space was just enough for the six of us. The sleeping arrangements worked for us. I know some worry about having six in the 2 bedroom family suite, but we were fine with it. Kids were so excited about this trip, I think they would have slept on the floor if necessary. The bathrooms were wonderful, and the amenities very nice and constantly replenished. The beds were very comfortable, and my request for an extra pillow on the second day (I like a lot of pillows) was quickly fulfilled.
The Haven public areas are fantastic -- not enough time in a 7 day cruise to do it all, but what time we spent there, we loved. Len, the valet, was fantastic. We ate a number of meals there and loved them all. I do wish they offered a little variety in the menu -- like two menus switching off every other day or something like that.
We dined at all the specialty restaurants, Tzars twice, The buffet/ Great Outdoors twice, and O'Sheehans once. We had wonderful meals at all of them, although O'Sheehans had the worst service (still ok though) and the food there was ok. I had Indian food in the buffet -- went there specifically for it, and it was very good. And some pizza/tuna wraps from the Great Outdoors. Pretty typical buffet food, but no complaints -- it was good for buffet food.
We did not do any excursions, or really any ship activities, other than a few shows -- the comedian/magician, Russion acrobats and the Le Cirque. All were excellent. We visited most of the bars at least once and had primarily good service. The Sake bar, and once at the Great Outdoors were the only places we had poor service in a bar. This is the first cruise where I didn't even go to all the public areas. My husband and I both felt the deckplan was poorly planned. The flow from one space to the other is not good. You had to remember which side of the ship went thru on which deck. It just wasn't intuitive. Also, because of all the specialty venues, there is a lot less lounge area than other ships we've been on -- with the caveat that we haven't cruised in quite a few years, so this is probably quite common on the newer ships.
Disembarkation was smooth -- the concierge escorted us from the meeting place to the area on deck where your key is scanned and then you head down to the customs line. It took an hour from the time we left the meeting point, until we got to our car.
Love the newer carpeting and furnishings from the drydock in 2014. The new color scheme is more soothing. The cabin is beautiful, and in very good condition. Amenities were excellent, space more than adequate. Beds were comfortable -- adore the down comforters! Bathroom is well designed (except for the knob on the shower door -- hard to grip when it is wet). Coffee machine was a welcome perk, and we enjoyed the spacious balcony, which offers a reasonable protection from wind, even when sailing.
Easy drop off of bags at the porter tent prior to parking, and parking lot is right there next to the ship. Security screening was smooth, and well managed. Terminal is clean, and suite lounge area was nice.
Beautiful -- took a water taxi to Lovers Beach and the Arches. Very close to the ship/marina, so easy to do on your own and not worry about being back on time. Most expensive of the three ports, so not a shopping destination. Lunch was very expensive.
Was nervous about this port, but it's obvious that they have made a big effort to make it safe and convenient for visitors. Handy blue line from the port so that you can easily walk into the Historic District. Best shopping prices of all the ports. Got a very affordable massage, and visited the beautiful Cathedral
Easy to grab a public bus (the white and blue ones) from the port south to the Malecon, which is beautiful and an enjoyable outing. The port area is the nicest, but the little shopping mall nearby has the most aggressive vendors.