In order to put Norwegian Jewel's dining options into perspective, you have to start with the concept of Freestyle Cruising, which underlies Norwegian Cruise Line's entire cruising philosophy.
“Freestyle is about options and you and your travel partners deciding whatever you want to do whenever you want to do it. It gives you total freedom to organize your day without being restricted to certain times and certain places,” explained Hugo Vanosmael, Hotel Director on Norwegian Jewel.
To illustrate, under the traditional cruise ship dining system, each guest was assigned a specific table in the main dining room and a specific time that he or she had to be there. “We don't have this so you decide [when and where to eat].”
“Besides that we have all these other specialty restaurants. That enhances the dining experience in that you are not restricted to eat either in the dining rooms or the buffet.”
“It is kind of the resort-like feeling where you are not restricted to one place. You can go and decide for yourself.”
The Main Dining Rooms
Norwegian Jewel has two main dining rooms. Guests can have dinner in either restaurant. You simply decide which one you want to dine in and go there when you want to eat. If no tables are available, you are given a beeper, which will alert you when your table is ready.
Consistent with Norwegian's philosophy of giving the guests options, each of the two main dining rooms were conceived of as providing its own style of dining experience.
“The Tsar's Palace is the bigger, more elegant dining room.” Indeed, the room was inspired by the palaces of the Russian czars in St. Petersburg, complete with portraits of members of the Romanoff dynasty and plenty of sumptuous gilt highlights.
“If you go to the Azura, it is more intimate, dim lights and more contemporary.”
The two dining rooms have different dress codes. In keeping with its more sophisticated atmosphere, the code is more exacting for the Tsar's Palace. However, this does not mean formal wear. Guests are asked to wear jeans or slacks, not shorts. Men should have collared shirts and closed shoes. For women, a dress/skirt and top are specified.
For the Azura, casual attire is fine. “If you have families with kids or shorts, you'll like to go to the Azura restaurant.”
Part of the Tsar's Palace experience is live entertainment during dinner. “We have it every day there. It gives an atmosphere. Live entertainment is always more fun than piped music. Also, the interaction. People even make requests for certain songs. We even have had people singing along in the dining room with the musicians. That's fun. It sets the tone on the ship and creates an atmosphere.”
“The two main dining rooms, the menus are more or less the same. There are small differences.”
The dinner menus in each of the two main restaurants have two pages. “We have the always available items, which we know people like, - - salmon, steak, Caesar's, onion soup. Some classic dishes that a lot of people like. And we have the [page that] changes daily.”
In the latter category are dishes such as the ever popular surf and turf (lobster and steak). “But we have so many nice local dishes as well. There are so many options, so much variety in the food on our ships, it is amazing.”
Above: The Tsar's Palace
Above: The Azura Restaurant
While the Azura is only open for dinner, the Tsar's Palace also opens its doors for breakfast and lunch. This includes being open for lunch on port days as well as on sea days - - something rather rare in today's cruise industry. “We are about options so we don't want to take away options even if not many people are going there. Freestyle is about options and so you need to have these options all of the time. You cannot just have them certain days and other days you don't.”
Both the Tsar's Palace and the Azura Restaurant are complimentary (i.e. included in the cruise fare).
Cruise ship dining guide - - Norwegian Jewel - - Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) - page 1