Part 2 – Food
Much like with any mainline cruise ship, the food on Norwegian’s Jewel is both plentiful and varied. Back when Norwegian introduced Freestyle Cruising, the idea of having several specialty restaurants on a cruise ship was a new one. Nowadays, most cruisers both accept and expect to have a plethora of options. In this way, Norwegian continues to lead the way in the cruise industry.
Let’s take a look at the dining options on the Jewel.
The Norwegian Jewel like most of the other ships in the fleet, has a wide range of complimentary dining options. With three buffets, a coffee shop, two dining rooms and snacks all over the ship, there is always something to eat.
(Both the Garden Cafe & Great Outdoors serve similar food and are located next to each other) The Jewel’s buffets are uninspiring for the most part. While most of the food is boring and in some cases tasteless, the Indian selections at lunch, the salad bar and of course the pretzel rolls are fantastic. As far as breakfast goes, all of the standard fare is available. The morning is by far the busiest time of day as few people on my sailing took advantage of the breakfast served in the dining room. I did notice a couple of times that the staff was slow to restock some popular items on the buffet, but this can happen when a large rush of people comes in.
In what is seemingly a cruise industry tradition, the Jewel also has a chocolate buffet on one of the nights of the cruise. From what I could tell there were nearly a hundred different things to taste spread across the massive buffet. Having just come from dinner and not being much of a chocolate person, I didn’t eat much, but the chocolate mousse I had was delicious. I also spoke to quite a few people who said everything they tasted was really good. (Look for some photos of the spread below in the gallery.)
Topsiders Bar & Grill:
While this pool side grill normally serves buffet style fries, hamburgers and hot dogs for those hanging around the pool, two times on my sailing they converted it into a special place. During two different parties, they popped out a skillet and began cooking meats and vegetables fresh in the middle of the deck. The first party saw them grilling things like hamburgers and hot dogs fresh, but the second one was special. They had tri-tip, ribs, grilled corn on the cob and more. It was fantastic.
Main Dining Rooms:
The Jewel has two main dining rooms. The Azura Main Dining Room is located Midship on Deck 6 and is slightly less formal while Tzar’s Palace is located Aft on the same deck and has a slightly more upscale feel. Each has its own set daily menu with items like chicken or fish. One dining room has a New York Strip while the other has a Ribeye for example.
Both of the dining rooms serve the same “special” or rotating menu. Since most people want to know which night lobster is served, the Jewel like other Norwegian ships has lobster on the first night. Speaking of the first night, both of the main dining rooms were so overrun that night that they handed out coupons for free champagne to everyone to apologize for the long waits. The wait that night was around forty-five minutes to get a table. Things improved dramatically for the rest of the sailings once people settled in and found their way to the specialty restaurants. I never waited more than 5 minutes for a table the rest of the sailing.
The food in the main dining rooms was hit or miss. Often I couldn’t find anything appealing to me on the rotating menu. More than once I found myself ordering chicken or steak off the dining room’s permanent menu. In fact, I found the steak (type depends on the dining room) to be of surprisingly good quality. If you are ordering appetizers don’t miss the mushroom quesadilla on Azura’s menu or the Caesar Salad on either menu. As for rotating dishes, the crab cakes and lobster are very good. Don’t be afraid to ask for something else if a dish isn’t to your taste.
Blue Lagoon is a coffee shop. It is open 24 hours and the food is complimentary. Look for things like fish and chips, chicken wings and hamburgers. They also have a very limited breakfast menu as well. The best time to try Blue Lagoon is when all of the other restaurants are closed. I prefer the food in the other venues, but it is nice to have a choice no matter what time of day it is.
Room Service: The room service menu on the Jewel is pretty limited. I did order a Tuna sandwich once and it was delivered in about 20 minutes. The sandwich was fresh and good. Norwegian does charge a $3.95 fee for deliveries after midnight. Also, while the room service is free outside of the late night surcharge, Norwegian does have a $5 charge for pizza. For that price they will deliver it to you anywhere on the ship!
Cagney’s For Breakfast & Lunch:
Since Norwegian knew I was planning on writing a review of the Jewel, they permitted me to eat breakfast and lunch in Cagney’s. Normally this perk is limited to Platinum guests (75+ points in their loyalty program) or those staying in suites. The menu served during these times is unique to other venues and is not the same as you would see at Cagney’s for dinner.
One of the nicest things about using the Cagney’s breakfast and lunch benefit is having the staff know you. The venue is small and the group who has access to it is small as well, so the staff quickly learns your name and preferences. I love to drink Iced Tea and by day two they automatically had it on the table. The ship’s Concierge is also usually there during meal times to make any arrangements for guests. If you are planning on staying in a suite, this is a really nice benefit.
With those things said, I did find the service to be slow in Cagney’s. On the Jade everything was prompt, but on this sailing I often sat for 10 minutes before my server came to take my order. Since I was alone, this was probably more noticeable to me than to other guests.
As for the food, it is definitely of higher quality than what is found in the normal dining rooms for breakfast and lunch. My favorite items on the menu are the Crab Cakes Benedict for breakfast and the 1/2 Rotisserie Chicken for lunch. As for appetizers, they have a Prosciutto and Asparagus salad that is amazing. Of course at breakfast they have all of the standard fare including a small buffet set up. The best part of eating in Cagney’s is that the food is made to order. Something that is rare on a cruise ship.
Specialty Restaurants (Fee):
The Norwegian has many different specialty restaurants serving just about every type of food. Since I was focused on providing reviews of complimentary food selections, I was only able to visit one of the specialty restaurants during this six day sailing. I did have a chance to speak to other passengers about some of the others and have previous experiences eating in some of them as well.
Cagney’s is an American style steakhouse serving large cuts of meat. The cover charge here is the highest of any restaurant at $30. Most diners find the charge worthwhile and say that both the portions and the experience are over the top.
This French inspired restaurant serves up classic dishes such as Escargot. I have read that some people prefer Le Bistro to Cagney’s, but I think they each offer a different experience. The inside of this restaurant is relaxed and the cover charge of $20 is a little easier to deal with if you have a large party. They also have a Jazz Brunch for $15 that is usually served during one of the sea days.
If you have ever been to Benihana or just about any other Teppanyaki restaurant then you are familiar with this style of eatery. You sit around a table that has a flat top grill in the middle. As the chef prepares your food, he makes jokes and entertains you. I actually ate at the Teppanyaki on the Jewel. The chef was really great and the entire group of people I was eating with enjoyed the meal. As for the food quality, I found it pretty standard and in no way fantastic. With a $25 cover charge, I would almost say this is something that can be skipped.
Chin Chin Asian Restaurant:
This Asian restaurant sits atop an Atrium that looks down on several popular bars. For that reason if you are eating at the wrong time, there may be some noise. With that said, since it only has a $15 cover charge, I think this restaurant is among the better deals with Norwegian. While I didn’t eat here during this sailing, Jasmine and I enjoyed the same restaurant on the Jade during our Mediterranean sailing earlier this year. All of the food was delicious and the portions were enormous. Highly recommended!
Sushi & Sake Bar:
We also ate at this restaurant on the Jade. The sushi is all hand rolled and made in front of you. With a la carte pricing, it makes for a great snack!
Moderno is a Brazilian style steakhouse. On the Jade, almost no one ate at Moderno, but the Jewel sailing was different. People not only filled this location almost nightly, but everyone also spoke about how good the salad bar was. If you are not familiar with the concept, a Brazilian Steakhouse usually has a really high quality salad bar that is combined with unlimited amounts of meat that are carved at your table by men walking around the restaurant. For $20 this is a restaurant I will be trying the next time I am on a Norwegian ship.
Mama’s Italian Kitchen: We ate at her sister restaurant on the Jade and weren’t impressed. For $10 this appears to be a good value, but I think the food in the main dining rooms is better. With that said, if you are looking for family style Italian food, then this may be a place to try. During our visit on the Jade, neither Jasmine and Shawn Reece cared for their entrees while mine was pretty good. We did find the main issue was with the sauce. It was just tasteless. With that said, the pizza was made fresh and was much better than what you find in the buffet.
The food on the Jewel is very good. Unlike my experiences with other cruise ships and lines, I found just about everything on the Jewel edible. While some times things lacked seasoning or were over-seasoned, for the most part I enjoyed what I ate. As for suggestions, the steaks on the dining room menus are always good and the pretzel rolls in the buffet are life changing. There is no doubt in my mind that Norwegian has designed the experience around their Specialty Restaurants. I would definitely suggest budgeting to eat in one or two of them since the food for the most part is outstanding.
For photos of all of the Norwegian Jewel menus, visit Beyond Ships. There are many more photos of both the food and the venues below in our gallery and if you have any questions about cruising in general, Norwegian or the Jewel please let me know in the comments!