We are avid cruisers and cruised with a number of cruise lines before, but this was our first cruise on the Norwegian Jade and it was the first time we took our family with 3 grand children with us.
To a novice person it must be bewildering to read all the enticing promises by the different cruise lines. Like all advertisements, a cruise line's promise would tell you only half the truth. The Norwegian Jade promises a Freestyle adventure. What was free was the fantastic scenery of the Adriatic ports visited, the ancient culture and the beautiful weather. For most other things you have to pay. For example if you wish to eat in the numerous speciality restaurants, to have a pop drink, or an espresso, not to mention beer and other alcoholic drinks, it could cost you more than in your home country.
When entering the ship the first time, the decoration will shock you, until you realize that the original name of the ship was Pride of Hawaii, which explains the rather strange decor adorning the ship. Although the ship is 6 years old, it is in relatively good condition, the staterooms are very similar to other mass market cruise lines, adequate in size, however, it would be advisable for the cruise line to provide the maximum vital statistics for persons being able to use the toilet cubicle.
We found the food acceptable in the main dining room or at the buffet, however the emphasis is on quantity not quality. The buffet arrangement was better than on similar class cruise lines, instead of the long line up in front of the trough, the different foods were laid out in island formation, permitting access from all four sides and avoiding the need for line ups. We had every intention to pay the extra charges ranging from $ 15 to $25 per person to try the various speciality restaurants during our trip. Our first dinner was in the Jasmine Chinese restaurant. The four of us ordered 12 different dishes but the quality of the food ranged from bad to embarrassingly awful. When complained to the staff, her explanation was that all the specification of their dishes and ingredients are put together in their Miami office, and that the on board chef has no authority to change anything. We were wondering whether the Miami head office also has a remote access to taste the different dishes. But her parting comment was that she agreed with our opinion on the quality of food. Following our experience with the Jasmine Chinese restaurant, we cancelled all our bookings with the speciality restaurants, and tried to use the dining room facilities where no extra charges applied for the food and one could eat in a more civilized atmosphere than at the buffet.
We found the shore excursions well organized and the mark ups charged by the ship were not outrageous. Most embarking and disembarking procedures went smoothly in spite of having more than 2000 passengers on board.
The entertainment on board tried to cater for the cosmopolitan, mainly European clients, and was similar to that provided by most other cruise lines, the showgirls had the obligatory long legs and could sing in tune. It was a pleasant surprise to find excellent music on the ship, not the electronic noise found on most cruises frequented by North Americans.
There is an intense competition going on during the cruise to part with your money. You can loose it very quickly in the casino, or slowly while trying to connect to the Internet. Others, such photographers, boutiques, health spa are constantly hawking their ware. You can even dine with the ship's officers, which sounds a rather desperate attempt by the cruise line to get your money. As more and more people bring their tablets and smart phones, using free WiFi connections at every port is replacing the irritatingly slow and costly Internet connection on the ship.
Being a summer school holiday season, there were approximately 300 teenagers plus a similar number of pre-teens on the ship. If one was lucky, one had a good chance to only see the children early morning before breakfast and late night at bed time, as there were numerous activities for the children.
At the end of the cruise our family voted on whether to take another Norwegian cruise. The result was: adults 2 NO and 2 MAYBE. The children voted 3 YES. If one is not very discriminatory in the quality of the food, or the type of entertainment, the Norwegian Jade, like a number of other higher end mass market cruise lines, can provide a good way to explore the richness of the different cultures, with a guarantee that you will not stay hungry, but like in everything, you get what you paid for.
Although the internet is full of comments and reviews on the various cruises, it is very difficult to decide whom to believe, one person's trip of a lifetime can be an other's trip on a floating hell. Relying on Agents can also be misleading, as the overwhelming majority are only ticket agents influenced by the commission they receive. If you are lucky to find a real travel agent, who have visited different ships, they will be able to give you advice based on first hand experience.
When selecting a cruise, we suggest to select the area to be visited first, then decide whether you are willing to pay more than $300 per person per day for a stateroom, preferably with balcony. If the answer is yes, chose one of the better class cruise lines. If your range is closer to $ 200 per person per day, chose any of the higher end mass market cruise lines, like the Norwegian Jade.
Well seasoned traveller