So, this was my Wife and I's first cruise with NCL on a last minute deal.We have cruise with several other cruise lines before.We are both in our 30's. Usually we would not have gone during school holidays, but had no choice. We left Venice on Saturday 18th August 2012 and visited Corfu, Santorini, Mykonos and Katakolon (for Olympia). So let's review in order:
We flew from Edinburgh to Venice (all booked through NCL) and back again. Transfer and Embarkation was excellent, though I have to say the Venice boarding areas were unorganised to say the least. Southampton it is not. Overall cannot complain, well done.
Had an outside balcony room on deck 9. Well apportioned, very clean and tidy and well looked after. The cabin steward was always friendly with a warm smile. Just as good as other cruise lines, though adjoining passengers could be heard through the walls.
Probably the majority were Italian, with British, French, German and American,but the Italians seemed to total as many as all the other nationalities put together. Beware!! It appears Italian children have no manners, they are allowed to run around everywhere at any time. It became very tiresome. Without trying to sound specific about Italians, be careful when queueing! For us Britis it's a national past-time, but it seems our Italian friend have no idea it exists. When queueing, stick your elbows out and take no nonsense or you will never get to the front.
If you want to use the pool area, either sleep on a sun lounger are get up at 6am, otherwise you have no chance. The fact that the adult pool and childrens pool were right next to each other was horrendous. It was noisy beyond belief. The ship is crying out for an adult area away from the children with a seperate pool and hot tubs. There is a basketball court at the back of the ship which appeared a complete and utter waste of space, never saw anyone in it. If anyone at NCL is reading this, please make this area a pool and bar for the adults!!
FOOD AND DINING:
The Jade offers many different types of cuisine, most of which come with a surcharge (I'll get to that later). We dined in the Grand Pacific restaurant at the aft of the ship. It was your usual large area with friendly waiters and good service. However, the menus barely change each night, and as previous reviews have pointed out, the food is usually lukewarm. However, we requested tables nearer the kitchens and the food came out hotter. You'd think in this day and age they'd find a way to keep your food warm.
The main 'surcharge free' dining rooms cannot have tables booked, and this is an utter nightmare! Because the so called 'freestyle' cruising is meant to give you the choice you want, what it actually does is create a bun fight at certain times of the evening. I simply cannot believe that we had to queue up for ages some nights just to get a table, it was like a school canteen, totally unacceptable. Then when you finally get to the front, if there is no table free they give you a buzzer to let you know whens a table becomes available.If we'd have wanted to eat at a chain pub, we would have gone to one!
In addition to that, 'freestyle' means people can wear what they want. So we make an effort for dinner, and the family sat next to us are in T shirts and shorts! It's just not good enough, it ruins cruising!
Also, because you are not at the same table every night, you always have a different waiter meaning you cannot build up a rapport with them, as it's someone different every night.
This type of dining just does not work. 2 sittings at specified times and with diners actually wearing trousers is such a more refined and sensible way of doing it.
Expensive and with a compulsory 15% surcharge. Not good.
Generally very good. Randy the piano man in Magnums champagne bar is great, very good indeeed. The stardust theatre productions were all exceptional with one particular exception, the truly awful 1970's esque 'magic' act. It was dire, cringeworthy in fact.
Extortionate beyond belief! Don't buy them, if you can, try and do it yourself. For example, when we docked in Katakolon, my Wife and I caught the train to Olympia (10 euros each return) and went in to the archeological site and museum (9 euros each). So in total 38 euros, about Â£34. And what did NCL want for doing the same thing? $89.99 each!!!!! That's approx Â£120! Utter rip off! You don't mind if the company puts a reasonable markup on for organising it, but come on, Â£120! I'm afraid it's a line that runs right through everything NCL do, a constant and endless attempt to get more money out of you, and it never stops.
THE FREESTYLE EXPERIENCE
To us, it appeared to be a phrase to warrant doing less and wanting more money for it. It does not work, unless you want to go to Butlins at sea. Freestyle cruising has completely eroded the mystique of cruising altogether. NCL are always after more of your money, it never ends. The $12 per person per day stateroom charge which supposedly goes to the staff is ridiculous. We cancelled ours on the last day before arriving home, a fact they do not tell you about. Cancel it, the price of the cruise was enough. People in shorts for dinner, does not work. Endless surcharge restaurants does not work. No defined restaurant meal time does not work. NCL have found a way to completely destroy all that we looked forward to in a cruise. And it's a real shame, beacuse the ship and it's crew were great, the ethos however is not.
You want something to remember froma cruise, something exceptional, like a magical night at the opera or a meal you will never forget. You don't get that with NCL. Take it from us, go to P&O or Cunard. They know how to do it properly.