We are sitting at Tsar’s Restaurant aboard the newly refurbished Norwegian Jewel as the residual storms from Cyclone Owen hit the east coast, just off Sydney.
While the wind and rain batters the ship from the outside, the lightning illuminates the decorative window coverings.
It just accentuates how ornate and decadent this restaurant is. It takes more than a cyclone to disrupt the ordered world of Tsars, where the crab cakes, beef medallions and honey creme brulee continue to be served impeccably.
The Jewel has just spent two weeks in a Singapore dry dock having one of the American line’s most extensive refits. Tsar’s is an example of how Norwegian has balanced the traditional with the new.
“NCL has changed things like carpet and upholstery, but there are things about Tsar’s that we decided to keep,” says James McCallugh from the line.
And indeed it remains beautiful and ornate, with white marble columns, chandeliers and plush velvet chairs. It’s hard to believe that a meal in this elegant room is included in the price.
The rest of the ship has received significant updates, but has retained much of its charm.
It’s Norwegian free and easy spirit, as well as its homey feel which has attracted loyal customers from around the globe and won new friends in Australian waters.
The Jewel has had updates to her dining offerings, like the special Japanese dedicated dining area called Chin Chin where guests can feast on sushi, or opt to have food thrown to them by their chefs at a Teppanyaki grill.
Then there is Moderna, the Brazilian eatery, where for an additional US$29.95, you can try beautifully prepared barbecued meat.
The Pitt Stop, also new onboard, is an American-style diner where you can grab a burger with a view of the pool.
Shows are another hallmark of Norwegian. There are two new ones onboard: Velvet, making its debut in Australia – a heady mix of disco and cabaret. And Rock You Tonight, which includes music from the likes of The Who, Queen and Journey.
For the VIP guests, The Haven has been newly re-imagined with stunning cabanas and a clean and modern private pool area.
Inside The Haven, you can see touches from the CEO of Norwegian Cruise Lines Holdings, Frank Del Rio. His love of art is apparent in NCL’s sister brands, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas, where the ships are adorned with his favourite pieces.
The wood paneling in The Haven is exquisite and there are modern artworks adorning the walls of the suites and hallways.
All 1,188 staterooms have been upgraded with new televisions and USB outlets, as well as new carpet, artwork and furniture. The ship also boasts two new Haven Deluxe Owner’s Suites, at nearly 1,200 square feet and featuring large, 567-square-foot balconies, two private jacuzzies and accommodates up to four guests.
The new Mandara Spa has its own thermal suite where you can purchase a pass and indulge in a coconut poultice massage or get a facial.
There’s still so much more to see and do – it’s only my first day at sea!
The refurbishment is a big improvement and is going down well with the Jewel‘s easy mix of American, European and Australian guests.