This was only our second cruise, so I am not an expert, but I cannot say enough about our cruise on the Norwegian Jade.
Our party was Mom (44), Dad, (46), Son (12), Daughter (15) and Grammy (83)
We stayed two nights in Venice prior to leaving and have a great taxi ride to the terminal ... dropped us right off at the door to the check in area. Bags were taken right away. We had pre-booked the same taxi to pick us up at the airport when we arrived, which was a lifesaver. We arrived a bit late and they were waiting right for us. Others seemed to have to wait for a taxi.
We maybe waited about 30 minutes until it was our turn to go on the boat. This gave us enough time to buy a couples pass to the spa for the week. This was by far the best use of $199 USD I could think of. At the most, there was one or two other people in the spa relaxation area and my husband and I enjoyed relaxing there every day. Reviewers are correct. The pool area is CRAZY and packed with people. My kids didn't really use the pool, but we did go to the beach. We loved walking through the crowds to the spa...pure peace and tranquility.
I thought the food was good, if not excellent, and the service was great. We tended to dine around 7, and I did notice queues for dinner as we were leaving, but we didn't have any issue. We dined in both Alizar and Grand Pacific as well as Le Bistro (the best!) and Shabu-Shabu (fun, but could be skipped if needed.) We also went to the Blue Lagoon and loved the quiet atmosphere for lunch and/or breakfast. We are not big buffet people, so didn't spend too much time there. Room service was fun, convenient and fine. Great for breakfast.
We had two balcony rooms on Deck 10, mid ship. Not huge, but we seemed to manage fine. By only complaint was that you can no longer open the door between decks. If I had known that in advance, we probably would have done connecting rooms, but other than that things were wonderful. From my experience, there was no illness on the ship and lots of opportunity to wash hands, etc. The Hawaiian theme didn't bother me. Strange but okay. I didn't really care about the tvs either. We watched a couple of movies, but there is so much to do, I didn't really care that it wasn't a flat screen. I am not sure why that is such a sticking point for people.
Loved Venice (very expensive but wonderful)
Loved both Split and Dubrovnik. We did the ship's walking tour of Dubrovnik which, while pricey, was awesome. We booked the Segway tour of Split on our own as the Segway place was within walking distance of the ship. This was an amazing experience!! I thought the tender for Split worked fine for us. Do have someone from your party go up early to stand in line for the tender pass. It is worth it. My husband when up at 8:30AM; they said to arrive at 9AM. We were Tender Number 5.
Really liked Athens: We booked a private taxi tour on our own which was fabulous and cost effective for 5. Toured the usual spots and had an amazing lunch. Kids are still talking about it. Grammy made it to the top of the Acropolis which was awesome!
Really likes Izmir: We did this on our own as well. Got a bit lost in the bazaar, but we are still talking about this so it stuck with us. We didn't go to Ephesus, but I heard good things about it. We did do the open air bus toward the end of the day. When we went on, there was only one other couple. We also took a horse carriage from downtown Izmir back to the boat. Kids loved, and my son even got to drive.
Fun days at sea: Were just that, fun. We did a little relaxing, some bingo, trivia, etc. Our kids didn't do the teen club so I can't comment on that. We likes the entertainment. It was fun and gave us something to do together. Just go and plan to enjoy yourself. It's vacation!
One tip for the last day. It was amazing to see how many people just sat around waiting in the lobbies to leave the ship...bored. We packed up and went to the Grand Pacific for a lovely, sit down breakfast. I was surprised that very few families did this. We sat and enjoyed a nice meal, while waiting for them to call our number to leave the ship.
We stayed an additional two nights in Venice at the end of the trip as well. This made for the perfect end. One tip, if you are going to use the public transport to take you from the terminal to San Marco, buy the tickets online in advance. We did wait about 45 minutes in line to purchase these tickets.
Overall, wonderful experience.