With 10 restaurants, ship is afloat in delicious choices

Cruising

November 06, 2005|By ARLINE BLEECKER | ARLINE BLEECKER,ORLANDO SENTINEL

Like all of Norwegian Cruise Line's newer vessels, the Jewel is a movable feast.

The 2,400-passenger ship, which made its debut in Europe late last summer, has 10 restaurants. A seven-day cruise hardly seems enough time to sample them all. On a two-night introductory sailing last month, I had only enough time to check out the ship's three reservations-only restaurants.

My advice: Bring clothing with elastic waistbands.

Most of Jewel's restaurants are, well, gems. On one evening, I dined at Teppanyaki, a 32-seat Benihana-like restaurant where acrobatically inclined chefs work on steel cooktops. The room is part of Chin Chin, the ship's Asian eating emporium.

I also sampled Le Bistro, the line's signature French eatery - which, on Jewel, boasts 8-foot-high reproductions of impressionist paintings - and lunched on filet mignon prepared to perfection. And what can I say about the chocolate fondue? With warm, silky, dark chocolate in which to dip fruits, I could only murmur "sensational" between bites.

At Cagney's - an upscale candlelit steakhouse that boasts an open kitchen - I could choose between a 3-inch-thick steak and a 2-pound lobster.

Each reservations-only venue levies a surcharge - between $10 and $15 - and I found no reason to begrudge the extra fee.

In Teppanyaki, our chef not only entertained us by catching salt shakers in his foot-high white toque but also expertly prepared the best steak teriyaki I've tasted. (Maybe it was all the butter!) And, the sirloin at Cagney's was worth every bit of its cholesterol content.

The cruise line noticed that passengers often found themselves waiting in a long line for its reservations-only restaurants.

So on Jewel, Norwegian introduced a unique dining-information system in which flat-screen TVs function as video scoreboards. Situated just outside each restaurant, the screens keep track of estimated waiting times and seat availability at all the restaurants. For passengers who prefer to wait, beepers are handed out.

For more information: 800-327-7030; ncl.com.

Arline Bleecker writes for the Orlando Sentinel.

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