This was my 38th cruise and lately the quality of the experience was going downhill fast. I hadn't been on NCL for 3 years and I got a great deal on a mini-suite ($110/pp/day) compared to a veranda on Oceania ($290/pp/day) which is a little smaller in January.
Embarkation was a breeze. I was interested to see if the Jade was much different now after the refit. Everything seemed redone in the same style as before with the exception of the Brazilian steakhouse. Hawaii is still there folks.
The ship is spotless and I didn't find any worn areas at all. The rooms had very comfortable beds and pillows, great closet and drawer space unlike the new Celebrity ships and the bathroom was large enough to have a door separating the toilet area. The bathtub was actually usable unlike the one on the Marina. if you're on the 11th floor' pick your cabin carefully. I had mine changed before I left from 1 deck under the gym to under the library. The silence was fantastic.
The food was the HUGE surprise. 3 specialty restaurants - Le Bistro was better than Jacque Pepin's place on Oceania, Teppanaki is always special and the new Brazilian joint was a must for true carnivores. We always ate dinner on other nights in the Grand Pacific and it outclassed the other two more expensive lines' MDR by a mile. Downside--the buffet is too small for 2000 people. The food is OK but seats are hard to come by at mealtime.
A previous reviewer complained about the lack of North Americans on board. With only 150 Americans and 50 Canadians, I found it a refreshing change. This cruise had about 500 each of Brits, Spanish and Germans and 200 Dutch and many do speak excellent English and are extremely knowledgeable about the world. The last cruise I was on out of Miami was filled with crabby retirees trying to escape the Florida primary but unfortunately didn't leave their politics back on the dock.
The Entertainment is so much better than any other line with the possible exception of Princess. The shows are terrific, true Vegas quality and its is amazing to see Steve Rawlings juggle the laughs between English and German with such ease. In the Casino, the staff was very professional but I have noticed over the last 2 years that participation here has declined on all cruises.
The ports were all Spanish except for Madeira which we love the most. Its perpetual spring there and yes this time we did do the toboggan. Lazarote is like Mars. Try a rental car at the end of the dock--30 euros includes everything but gas. Malaga is beautiful with many interesting places to see. Check out the bike-taxis out on the Internet. these guys give you a great tour in English at a great rate.
Debarkation was a breeze also and sadly our 2 week holiday ended. However, the people at NCL offer the best value of any cruise line. Even with the $1400+ it took to get to Barcelona and the 4 nights in hotels, it cost no more than flying to Florida for a similar hotel and cruise vacation.
Thanks NCL for restoring my confidence in the cruise industry.