We have done 42 cruises and have cruised with NCL 15 times. We are very familiar with the line and its ships. However, it was our first time on the Jade. We flew Upper Class from NY to London with Virgin Atlantic and had a car service (Smith) pick us up at Heathrow airport and take us to Gatwick where we spend the night at the Hilton London Gatwick. We chose this hotel because it was very convenient to take our early flight on British Airways to Venice the next morning. The Hilton was a typical airport chain, the only problem was trying to print our boarding passes for the next day flight. None of the terminals in the lobby worked. We had to beg the concierge to let us in the "Executive Lounge" and print the boarding passes there. That was a little stressful.
The next morning we just took the train from the hotel to the airport (3 minutes). Gatwick was a mad house early Saturday. It felt like I was on Grand Central Station, NY during rush hour. Confusing and very crowded. Eventually we checked in and found the gate. One thing different than in America is that nobody respect any lines. BA calls for wheel chair, first class, and passengers with young children first. After that it's free for all. Being used to waiting in line for your turn we were a little surprised.
The flight from London to Marco Polo, Venice was just 1h 40 m. BA served a light snack and refreshment. We had paid more for an exit aisle and it was a good move. However, you are not allowed to keep your purse or carry on under the seat during take off and landing. Also different from what we are used to. Descending at Marco Polo we saw some ships and Venice from above. Just beautiful! We retrieved our suitcases and tried to find ATVO counter to exchange our vouchers for a bus ticket. We finally found the counter and the bus stop as well. Boarded the bus (which smelled like cigarette) and were lucky to get a seat because it was very crowded and lots of people rode standing up. It was a short ride though - only 20 minutes. We had purchased the tickets on line and paid 9 Euros instead of 70 Euros for a water taxi.
We got off at Piazzale Roma. I had done my homework (thank you CC) and knew how to reach Hotel Arlecchino from PR. We were traveling light with only a small suitcase, a backpack, and a big handbag. So crossing the only bridge to the hotel wasn't a hassle. We were greeted by Francesco and he gave us room 907 on the top floor. The small elevator didn't go to the top floor and there were at least 14 steps to reach it. Good thing we didn't have heavy suitcases because there is no bell boy. The room was small but clean. The view to the left was of a courtyard and to the right the bus station. At night when we came back to the hotel exhausted and ready to collapse, we made the mistake of letting the window open because it was a nice night and were awake at midnight by hungry mosquitoes. We spent 20 minutes killing mosquitoes around the room.
That Friday after checking in at Arlecchino, I asked Francesco how to get to Murano and Burano. He immediately got us a water taxi to take us to Murano for free. I was very impressed that a 3 star hotel would provide private transportation to anywhere. The water taxi picked us up in front of the hotel and we enjoyed the ride to Murano taking it all in. He didn't mention it, but of course the catch was that he dropped us off at a glass factory and a lady was ready to be our guide. We didn't know anything about it but went with the flow. We tipped the water taxi guy even though I don't think he was expecting it. It turned out that the presentation was very good and we were the only 2 tourists at the factory at the time. It was a very big place and really nice. We were not looking to buy any glass so our guide wasn't pushy. By a total coincidence she had lived in our town in Connecticut as a Travel Agent for a long time.
After having a wonderful lunch by a canal in Murano and walking around we asked how to get to Burano and bought our vaporetto tickets. Once again we were shocked how tourists and locals boarded the vaporetto. No lines at all. It was crazy! People pushing and no respect whatsoever. My husband said that if that happened in NY people would be "eating tomatoes without arms". And he's a true New Yorker. It was very uncivilized. After the cruise on our last day in Venice we had learned our lesson and no one would push us around anymore. Burano was very pretty and like Murano very crowded. We took lots of pictures because every corner was a photo op. Got back on the vaporetto, well aware of how to handle the lines or the lack of it, and got off at Fondamenta 9. Walked around getting lost and enjoying it till we reached the Rialto Bridge where we had a delicious dinner overlooking the Grand Canal and all its entertainment.
The next day we woke up early and had a nice breakfast at the hotel which was included on the price of the room. Coffee, tea, juices, bread, cold cuts, yogurt, pastries and so on. The only problem was that the room itself, like everything else at Hotel Arlecchino, was very small. I don't think I have ever been in a smaller hotel. The reception area is non existent, the elevator is tiny, both of our rooms (1st night and last night) were the size of the bed. That hotel is small and I mean small. But, one good thing about the hotel is its location. Very nicely situated if you are taking a cruise.
After checking out, we crossed the bridge again to get back to PR and walked to the People's Mover. Paid 1 Euro each and boarded the train. In one minute we reached the port. Walked to the ship. After being in such a small hotel room I was eager to get to my Deluxe Owner's Suite, the Black Diamond Suite # 15000. I was already familiar with it through pictures from CC boards. Checking in was a breeze and our butler came to escort us on board. The room was ready for us and it was even nicer than the pictures. We left our suitcases and went to lunch at Cagney's. Carlos, the concierge, recognized us (we've had him 3 times before) and made a big fuss. After lunch we walked around the ship and went back to the cabin for sail away since the suite has 2 balconies - port and starboard.
After 42 cruises, I can honestly say, that leaving Venice was the most beautiful and magical cruise experience I have ever had. It takes about 45 minutes to leave Venice behind and every second is gorgeous. It is fantastic to see all the sights up high. Even though I think cruising out of Venice is a pain because of its lack of ground transportation, I think it's worth it just for that magnificent view.
As mentioned above, The Black Diamond Suite is divine. However, it does get very winding up there and you feel the ship move more than if you were in the courtyard/haven suites. It doesn't bother us but it's good to know. Also there are a lot of stairs to go from deck 14 to deck 15 where the suite sits all by itself. It is also loud since you are looking down on the Main Pool. I enjoyed seeing all the fuss going on It didn't bother me at all. But if you like a quite balcony, suite # 15000 is not for you. That night we had dinner at Teppanyaki.
Next day we arrived at Dubrovnik at 1 PM. It is a tender port. We had an excursion booked through the ship. We met our guide after a short lifeboat ride and she walked us around the walled town. Very interesting. I loved Dubrovnik. After enjoying this magnificent site we boarded a bus to Cavtat, a delicious seaside village. Cavtat wasn't as crowded as Dubrovnik was. But both places were really nice. Our guide was very knowledgeable about her country and told us some stories about the war and how she was 13 years old and hiding underground. They depend on tourism and don't work during winter...
After Cavtat we were transported back to the port and tender. That night we had drinks at the back of the ship saying good bye to Dubrovnik and its evening lights before heading back inside for dinner at Le Peppe.
Day at sea was restful and we enjoyed the Haven and our wonderful suite. It was formal night and we took advantage of our free dinner offer at Le Bistro since we are both Platinum members. Unfortunately we didn't see any shows because we were either at dinner or drinking champagne watching the sunset on the always empty deck above the courtyard.
We arrived early in Athens and once again had booked a tour through the ship. We had the most eloquent guide, Alexandra. What an interesting woman. Very well informed about her country and what we were seeing. We spent our Honeymoon in Greece and it was wonderful to be back after 24 years. Once again all the sites were very crowded and it was quite warm in Athens that day. Thank God I had brought a hat and water. Lunch at a hotel was included and it was very good. The Athens tour was a long one and we were pretty tired at the end of the day. Keep in mind that it is a walking tour and if you have difficult walking and climbing this tour is not for you. But it does cover a lot. I loved seeing Athens again. That night we had dinner at Jasmine. Our waitress was our cabin steward girlfriend. Good food and a very funny waitress.
Day 5 was Ephesus in Turkey. Absolutely spectacular! No need to mention how crowded it was. What a site. We booked through the ship and had a lovely guide. She did a good job keeping all 45 of us together in such a busy place. Even though there were people everywhere it was a great experience. I highly recommend Ephesus. After Ephesus we boarded the bus again and went to a rug factory. It was very interesting to see how its made. We were served a refreshment and a snack. After that they placed lots of rugs on the floor and explained how to "understand" oriental rugs. Of course, after that they were looking to make a sale and in fact 2 people from our bus made a purchase. After that we went to a nice 5 star hotel for lunch. After lunch we drove to the Virgin's Mary House. It was already the end of the day and it wasn't too crowded. Very beautiful place. I loved Ephesus! Back at the ship we had dinner at Moderno. Good meat and excellent caipirinha.
A very needed sea day after all that walking. Dinner again at Le Bistro because we had another free voucher since each one of us got one. We had a medical emergency that caused the ship to stop at Corfu where we had rented a villa for our honeymoon. I'm very sorry for the person who had a medical problem, but it was such a treat to see Corfu again even if it was just from the ship.
Last day of the cruise was Split. Again we had a tour booked through the ship. Diocletian Palace was a little bit of a let down but I'm glad I saw it. We also visited Trogir. What I really enjoyed in Split was seating at a cafe having a drink and overlooking the gorgeous harbor. Beautiful place! Split is also a tender port and we took the last one back to the ship. I really enjoyed this port. That night we had dinner at Cagneys.
Unfortunately the next day it was time to leave our wonderful perch and go back to Hotel Arlecchino. I forgot to mention that NCL keeps all passports that are not European. I was a little apprehensive about it but Carlos returned them to us in person the day before last. Disembarking the ship was a breeze and by now we knew how to get to the People's Mover and back to Piazzale Roma where we bought our bus ticket for the next day to take us back to Marco Polo Airport. I had bought a bathroom card on line but didn't really find out how or where to exchange it for the card itself. It was only 3 euros and I let it go. It was not necessary at all. I was always able to find a ladies room in Venice without having to pay. Either at a cafe or a tourist site.
We went back to the hotel and this time Francesco gave us a room on the second floor room 704 that didn't require climbing stairs. The location was better but the room was even smaller than the first one. The view was much nicer since it was a corner room overlooking the canal. We knew better than to open the windows this time. The room wasn't ready when we arrived so we just left our suitcases in the narrow hallway and went sightseeing.
We walked all the way from PR area to St Mark's. Absolutely lovely. Every corner was beautiful. It was early in the morning and we saw how Venetians really live. By the time we reached St Mark the square was body to body. This was in May which is not even high season yet. We were so tired at that point that we sat down at one of the cafes overlooking the square and the Grand Canal and had 2 over priced cappuccinos but totally worth it. Went to the bathroom before getting on line to get into the Doge's Palace. This was my second time in Venice and my husband's third. But it was our first time going inside Palazzo Ducale. I loved it! It took pretty much all morning. After that we were too tired to walk back to the hotel so we took the vaporetto. We sat all the way in the front and had a wonderful ride of the Grand Canal all the way back to PR. It is for sure the best place to see the Grand Canal. Our stop was the last one so we really did appreciate everything.
When we got back to the hotel our room was ready and we went upstair to rest a little and get ready to meet my sister and her husband who were in Venice on their way to Milano. We had dinner at a wonderful restaurant by a canal near St Mark's Square. Ristoranti de Raffaella. My sister and her husband stayed at Hotel Kette which is a 4 star hotel behind St Mark's Square. Her hotel was much nicer than ours but they had to pay for a water taxi both ways from the train station to the hotel and back. 140 Euros and next time that's what I will do. No more 3 star hotel in Venice. It's just too small. We did our LHR - JFK boarding passes at her hotel because Hotel Arlecchino doesn't have a printer for its guests. Francesco sent us next door to Hotel Olympia where we did our checking in for the flight from Venice to London but couldn't do it for the flight from London to NY because it was a later flight.
Before going to dinner with my sister we went on a Gondola ride. We had a bottle of red wine and plastic glasses with us that had come with our suite on the Jade. We chose the premium ride for 120 Euros but quite frankly not necessary at all. We had seen all the sites already from our many vaporetto rides and we were so busy talking, drinking, and laughing, that we didn't pay attention to what Pietro was telling us. Nonetheless we loved the gondola ride. Again that was the first time we were on a gondola. I loved it! At dinner we were seated outside next to the canal and saw 2 gondolas riding side by side and one of them had a singer singing O Sole Mio. It went very slowly and we enjoyed almost the entire song without having to pay extra for the singer. What a treat! After dinner we dropped my sister off and took the vaporetto back to PR. It was late at night and the vaporetto was very crowded to the point that I thought it would tip over. Very scary! This time I hated the ride and couldn't wait to get out of there. Being the last stop it sure takes time.
Next day being a pro already we just boarded the bus back to the airport and checked in with British Airways back to London where we were greeted again by a "Smith" driver who took us back to Heathrow. Since we were flying Upper Class on Virgin Atlantic we had a private security area and were escorted to Virgin Atlantic Club House. I have flown a lot and I mean a lot. Many times on first class but I have never gone through a private security in a major airport or anywhere. I was in shock and very happy.
I think I wrote down "I loved it" many times throughout this review. And that's exactly how I describe this cruise. From the first flight to the last one coming back home everything was wonderful. Even things that were not that great like the size of the hotel room or the vaporetto ride back on the last night, they were still a good experience. The itinerary was superb, all our tours were perfect, the ship is very nice. I don't have to mention again how much we loved our cabin.
I Loved It!