We are a retired couple and for my 60th birthday, my husband knew I fancied cruising, although he wasn't particularly bothered.
We chose NCL because we wanted freestyle cruising and did not want to sail from the cold waters of Southampton. So NCL Jade it was. The itinerary suited us as there were nine ports of call in a 14 night holiday.
We flew Jet Two from Manchester; however, Manchester Airport was crowded and rather unpleasant as there were so many people in the Jet Two cramped area.
Embarkation for the Jade was quick and efficient and as soon as we boarded, we were able to access our state room.
We were on deck 11 -- a mini-suite which was ok -- rather dark colours and in need of refurbishment. The T.V. looked as if it had come out of the ark!! However, the bed was very comfortable and the cabin very clean. It was nice to have a bath tub as well as shower, BUT where were the toiletries? We had paid a lot of money for a mini-suite and we expected to have quality shower gel and body lotions etc. Even 3 star hotels supply better products. Apparently, Elemis products used to be supplied. Come on NCL -- you can do better -- this is penny pinching!
Please be aware if booking Deck 11 -- our cabin was directly below the gym and at 6am every day, there was a lot of banging and thuds coming from over-enthusiastic gym members! We complained but the ship was full and they couldn't move us. Customer services were most apologetic and offered us a free meal and wine at one of the speciality restaurants.
NCL Jade was decorated in a Hawaiian theme and was rather brash and tacky and it took a lot of getting used to. Having said that, the ship was extremely clean at all times.
But, oh, there was no escaping people and noise. We had not realised that it was the Italian and American children's school holidays and there were many kids on board. 400 in the first week and over 600 in the second week. We could not access a poolside sun bed as they were all taken at an early time and it was so noisy and busy.
There were many places to eat (many you had to pay a supplement). The food was good and of a high standard but the Garden Cafe (buffet) was crowded and people were pushing and filling their plates high with copious amounts of food. We struggled to find a seat and there was no escaping NOISE. Thank goodness we discovered The Blue Lagoon on Deck 8 which served breakfast at your table. Very few people knew about this and it was calm and quiet. There was not the choice but the ambience was super and we loved the crispy bacon!
The two main dining rooms were extremely busy especially after 7pm. We preferred the Alizar to the Grand Pacific. We also ate at Le Bistro on 3 occasions -- lovely, peaceful and good quality food.
Entertainment was of a high standard especially the New Orleans Jazz Group - Ed on trumpet was amazing. We would have liked to have some light classical concerts and also it would have been nice to have some interesting lectures -- not just sales talks! The theatre was lovely -- but there were too many juggling, magician, acrobats performing.
The ports of call were super -- and we booked 2 tours -- Olympia and Ephesus -- very expensive but most enjoyable. The worst port we visited was Piraeus which was filthy and Athens was just as bad.
The staff were most attentive, friendly and courteous at all times. Our cabin steward, Joel, was a delight as were the dining staff and customers service -- Marin Perez looked after us well.
Disappointingly, the drinks were very expensive -- outrageously overpriced. It cost us 80 dollars for 24 bottles of mineral water for our room. We did not buy any wine as even the cheapest bottle was overpriced. Shopping on ship was a joke. Everything so expensive- eg a 400gm bar of Toblerone cost 19 dollars. We had paid our gratuities of Â£91 each up front so we were not happy when every time we ordered a drink there was 15% gratuity added.
If you want a lively, noisy holiday with many children running around and some parents ramming buggies in front of you to jump the queues then The Jade is for you. Perhaps if we had sailed at a different time of year, it would have been quieter. Thanks must go the staff who worked tirelessly at all times and always with a smile on their faces.