The recently-refurbished Norwegian Jewel returns to Asia after a three-year hiatus, promising port-rich itineraries and fresh sailing experiences
Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) recently celebrated its long-awaited return to Asia, and commenced a six-month season of voyages in the region.
As the first ship in the NCL fleet to return to Asia in over three years, Norwegian Jewel offers 16 itineraries ranging in length from 10 to 14 days. For the first time, guests have the opportunities to call at 11 countries and sail from nine different departure ports, such as Singapore, Bangkok (Laem Chabang), Taipei (Keelung), and Seoul (Incheon). Other first port calls for NCL include Manila, Boracay, Palawan and Salomague in the Philippines; Bintan Island, Indonesia; and Hualien, Taiwan.
The highlight of my cruise was undoubtedly the culinary experience, with 15 dining options available.
Throughout my 4D3N cruise from Taipei to Manila, I dined at the Tsar’s Palace which serves plated Western dishes, and had a burger for supper at the 24/7 O’Sheehan’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill. The indoor buffet-style Garden Café is where most people will be, as it serves up breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu changes daily but my favourites were the Australian-style meat pies and Key Lime cheesecake; there’s also a soft-serve machine here!
I was able to dine at two speciality restaurants: La Cucina served up Italian favourites like an excellent burrata salad and moreish mushroom pasta, while Brazilian steakhouse Moderno Churrascaria featured an impressive salad bar filled with cured meats, cheeses, and piping hot soups, which guests can fill up on while waiting to be served skewers of sausages, steak, and chicken carved table-side.
Meanwhile, Bar City, located between the Casino and The Atrium on Decks 6 and 7, is a boon for those with Premium Beverage Packages to have a different drink at each of the four bars. Aside from Bar City, there are 13 bars and lounges, including a Sugarcane Mojito Bar, and Malting’s Beer & Whiskey Bar.
On one of the evenings, I caught the Rock You Tonight production, which delivered a high-energy performance featuring iconic songs from Queen, Journey, and The Who. Although I didn’t recognise all the songs, the dance crew were captivating in their performance, leaping and spinning across the stage with such gracefulness.
Finding moments of relaxation was effortless. The ship’s amenities, from spacious sun decks to cosy lounges, provided numerous idyllic spots for soaking up the soothing sea breeze or simply enjoying a good book.
Another space to relax is the Mandara Spa and Thermal Suite where a plethora of treatments from full-body massages to rejuvenating facials are offered. During my tour of the enormous thermal suite, I thought that the heated mosaic loungers and glass-walled saunas – located over the bridge wing and offering the same view as the ship’s captain – stole the show.
For the active, there’s an enclosed sports court behind the funnel, as well as shuffleboard courts, giant cheeseboards, and golf cages. Shore excursions can also be arranged for those looking to disembark at the myriad ports of call. Norwegian Jewel offers several shore excursions per location, with choices ranging from adventurous expeditions to trying the local cuisine.
The main pool deck offers two full-sized pools, four hot tubs, and tons of open deck space for sun loungers. Live music & DJs also keep the vibe going throughout the day.
To take in views of the ship and the endless sea, head to the forward sun decks on the 14th and 15th floors. It’s a quieter space away from the bar music and main pool deck.
I stayed at the Balcony Stateroom on the 10th floor which was furnished with a queen-sized bed, and one single sofa bed. On both sides of the bed are USB charging ports, great for keeping your devices near you.
The room’s floor-to-ceiling glass doors opened up to a private balcony, and this was where I spent several hours perusing a good book; it’s been so long since I found time to sit down and read. While the Wi-Fi served my needs, however, it wasn’t the fastest.
I was also pleasantly surprised that the gentle rocking of the ship added to the overall sense of tranquillity, lulling me into a deep sleep every night.
All the accommodations on Norwegian Jewel, from the inside rooms right up to The Haven, underwent a significant revitalisation in late 2021, and I’m glad to report the modern bathrooms with large, glass-doored showers, as well as the cabin carpeting, certainly felt new.
This 4D3N cruise experience from Keelung, Taiwan to Manila, Philippines was a perfect blend of relaxation opportunities, culinary excellence, and restful nights. As a frequent traveller who rarely opts for cruising holidays, I think I finally understand the appeal of cruising, and would not mind doing it again.