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Norwegian Jewel - NCL Norwegian Cruise Line - cruise ship review and photos

Back in 1989 NCL's Skyward was one of the first (if not THE first) cruise ship to call at the island of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. 

Arriving at Road Town, Tortola
Arriving at Road Town, Tortola

I remember standing out on deck twenty years ago as Skyward docked at an unassuming container dock. By open-air minibus we were driven around this gorgeous island with its pristine beaches. It was truly "paradise found".

Tortola Breakfast in the Caribbean sun
View from our balcony   Breakfast in the sun

A lot has changed in twenty years. Tortola has been turned into an important port of call for cruise ships and on this Monday in March there are no less than three large liners calling at Road Town, the island's capital. 

Downtown Road Town shopping center Downtown Road Town shopping center
Road Town shopping center   Road Town shopping center

After breakfast Lucy and I set off on foot to discover Road Town. What was a sleepy town back in 1989 is now a busy place, full of "authentic" looking shops selling the usual tacky souvenirs. 

Road Town, Tortola
Road Town, Tortola

In the afternoon we head for the famous island of Virgin Gorda on another NCL tour. We are driven to the ferry dock by minivans. By pure coincidence we board the ferry first, so we pick a seat on the small sundeck. With roaring engines our ageing ferry pulls out, passing our Jewel and Royal Caribbean's Legend of the Seas which rests at anchor in the bay. 

First glimpse of Virgin Gorda The Baths, Virgin Gorda
First glimpse of Virgin Gorda   The Baths, Virgin Gorda

After a 30-minute ride, Virgin Gorda appears on the horizon. The island is famous for The Baths, a series of huge granite boulders on a pristine beach with rock pools that are perfect for snorkeling and swimming. Still, Virgin Gorda has remained quintessentially Caribbean. From the ferry dock we are driven straight to the Baths, which turn out to be well worth a visit.  

The Baths, Virgin Gorda
The Baths, Virgin Gorda - picture-perfect

We feel like we are starring in our own television commercial as we sun, swim and enjoy the breathtaking beauty of The Baths. Despite the odd dark cloud, the weather is downright perfect. And at 81F/28C, so is the sea!  It must be said: after 20 years, paradise is still here!

 

This corner of the Caribbean is attracting some rich and famous Brits. As we sail back to Tortola we pass an island owned by The Queen. And on the horizon is Richard Branson's famous Necker Island (booked solid up to 2011). 

British Virgin Islands' sunset Leaving Tortola
Sunset over the BVI's   Setting sail from Tortola

I can see why people flock to the British Virgin Islands. The clock ticks a little slower here than in its US counterpart and the waters seems to be even more translucent. Add to that the distinct British influence and you'll understand why the BVI's are like heaven on earth for many.

Funnel
Funnel

At 6.00 PM Norwegian Jewel salutes Legend of the Seas as both ships head for Antigua. When the sun makes way for another tropical evening, we head down one deck for dinner.

Blue Lagoon 24-hour restaurant Bart goes Mexican
Blue Lagoon, open 24/7   Bart goes Mexican!

We have reserved a table for two at Tango's, the ship's Mexican restaurant. And we are not the only ones. The place is packed, with many people waiting. It takes a good 15 minutes before we are picked out of the crowd and escorted to a table on the other side of the atrium - in the Blue Lagoon section. 

Tuna starter - delicious!
Tuna starter at Tango's - delicious!

So far,. our dinners have been civilized affairs but tonight we have entered the Kids War Zone. Spread all over the Blue Lagoon Restaurant are dozens of teenagers munching away on limitless quantities of fries and burgers.

Blue Lagoon 24-hour restaurant Tango's Latin Restaurant
Blue Lagoon   Tango's Latin Restaurant

Tango's levies no surcharge and is one of the most popular eateries on board. Even though the hard working staff does all it can to keep the place look like a restaurant, the atmosphere is definitely "cantina" tonight. Which is a shame, as the Mexican food is downright excellent.

A nigthcap in The Great Outdoors
A nightcap in The Great Outdoors
     
 

Photos and text: 2008 Bart de Boer - www.ShipParade.com

First published on May 12, 2008

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