Review or Norwegian Jade adventure... July 13 - 21
Food: mediocre at best... Meals not hot... most items frozen and microwaved. Bland food and many repeated menu items. Impossible to get a rare steak, as the food continued to cook in the trays as everything was shipped to the dining rooms from a central kitchen. This appears to be the reason for the cold food and bland selections. The focus seems to be that they are trying to get you to go to the "upscale" (read as "up charged") restaurants. These all involve extra charges typically up to $25 per person. Service issues and apathy from the wait staff. Example: We pointed out an overcooked steak to the waiter and he shrugged his shoulders and walked away!
Serving staff challenged to keep up with demand especially during breakfast and lunch. The water and ice machines both consistently broke down during breakfast and lunch in the buffet dining room (deck 12). Not enough chairs to manage the number of customers. Breakfast and lunch both lead to struggles to find a seat.
Dinner in the main dining rooms during "normal" dinner time (6 pm to 8 pm) typically required a wait for table and one of those digital pagers like you get at chain restaurants. Twice we had to stand in 20 minute long lines just to get on the waiting list and the pager to wait again! Free Style Dining? No thanks, not for us.
The drinks are pricey, and subject to a forced 15% "gratuity" markup. A glass of cheap house wine cost as much as a margarita, at around $7.00 USD. Added to the $12 a day charged to each adult and child, the staff should be very wealthy. Passengers are also told that they should feel free to tip service above the norm. But with such high prices and guaranteed payment already in hand, the staff has no incentive to work for their money.
Trying to find a seat for "at sea" days anywhere on the deck was nearly impossible. Apparently NCL stands for "No Chairs Left!" As many as 50 people were seen laying on towels or sitting right on the decks. A "policy" of monitoring the seats and removing property if the person did not return in 20 minutes was farcical and never resolved the problem. Not that they actually did remove property. One witnessed example gave the abandoned property 1.5 hours of second chances while thirty or forty people walked around looking for a seat. The person had reserved FOUR chairs and was in the gym. This all happened before 9 am. So imagine how many people were looking by 11am. We got the impression that if the gratuity were sufficient, the staff would conveniently fail to notice saved seats for as long as the tipper wanted.
The ship has a mini-soccer field aboard which takes a huge amount of lovely deck space at the fan-tail of the ship. Maybe 6-8 children made use of this facility to play soccer, and it has several rows of stadium seating to watch the "event" but never seemed to really draw any people to use it or watch... Perhaps this could be better served as a sun deck for all passengers. Similar that a huge grill was set up with a buffet line and service line taking up miles of deck space when there was no place to sit and eat the food or enjoy the poolside. Could the space be better utilized? We sure thought so.
We tried to inquire with Gary, the cruise director, to see if he was aware that there were not enough chairs on the deck ... He spoke with us briefly and oh so cheerily at first but when we began to express any dissatisfaction, he walked away rapidly! One would think that the cruise director would be the ultimate for quality control and would want to know that a customer may have an issue... Not Gary! HE RAN AWAY like a little girl!!!
Entertainment had two very good shows: the "Circ de Solei" acrobatics performers were very interesting to watch, and the "Three Amigos" comedy mariachi band were really great! The magic show and the pop singers didn't really do much for me. Don't waste the time with the finale show on the last night as the staff comes and sings "you are now a Norwegian." That made us feel like it's the last chance to put their hands in your pocket...
One lounge featured a singer that sounded like Cat Stevens, but couldn't really play guitar that well. He sang and played those sad folk ballads, and the patrons looked like they wanted to commit hari-kari, just to end the misery. The lounges are supposed to be FUN!
If you didn't want to gamble, pay outrageous sums for drinks, or listen to a sad version of Cat Stevens, there was really very little to do after the shows were over. Besides the fake art auctions, and bad jewelry for sale...
Ship: the boat was velvety smooth and oh so quiet! If you didn't look, one barely realized the boat was under way. Even in a 30 knot wind in the Aegean sea, and spray rolling off the whitecaps, the boat was steady and quiet. The ship was leaning pretty hard into the wind, as the water in the pool was a couple inches deep on the one side and dry on the other, but still the boat was smooth as glass. No mechanicals could be heard from our stateroom whatsoever.
Transfers and excursions were nice, but expensive -- I'm noticing a trend here of expensive things with Norwegian! We did the Corfu tour and the "Easy Ephesus" tours. The cruise line seemed to do human logistics very well. No problems with late or missed busses, or long walks. We were subject to hard-sell Turkish rug salesmen presenting "information" on how rugs are built, which was crammed into the Izmir Turkish tour. I'm sure the rug dealer kicked back to the tour operator, which in turned greased the cruise line for delivering a busload of potential buyers every few hours. I wish I could get a bus load of buyers every few hours to my business!
This may sound like a lot of negatives, and we definitely will NOT EVER do a Norwegian cruise again, BUT, Overall, we had an amazing time in spite of the nickel and dime stuff and poor staff attitudes.