I was given a present of a cruise, with a specific budget, by my daughter for my 70th birthday last year. Took a long time deciding which cruise line to book with but eventually decided on a cruise to the Eastern Mediterranean with Norwegian Jade because of the ports to be visited. Also my Travel Agent in Scotland included a return charter flight with British Airways from Glasgow to Venice with port transfers from / to Venice Airport.
Embarkation - The arrangements at Venice were excellent and we were quickly on board just before noon. Had to wait a couple of hours for the cabin to be ready and another couple of hours for my case to appear.
Cabin - I had decided to upgrade, after my initial booking, to a full window cabin on Deck 8 towards the stern of the ship. Cabin was compact with double bed. For a single person, it was perfectly acceptable but for 3 persons, which it could take it would have been rather cramped. Disappointed to find that the TV was rather ancient - limited channels and not able to access your on board bill with it.
Food - I had dinner on the first night in the Grand Pacific Dining room. Service was good, but was not offered a seat at a "sharing table" which I thought might be offered to a single traveller. The second night I had dinner in the Blue Lagoon - again enjoyable. The other nights I had dinner in the speciality restaurants - twice in Cagney's Steakhouse, which was excellent. Also in the Jasmine Garden and Papa's Italian Kitchen - also most enjoyable. Did not enjoy my meal in the Brazilian restaurant - meat was not very tasty. Breakfast most morning in the Great Outdoor at the stern - very enjoyable. The Garden Cafe had a huge choice at lunchtime but tended to be rather busy.
Drinks - Drinks were OK but you had to keep check of your tab with the 15% surcharge on everything.
Shore Excursions - These were excellent with registered guides who had a great knowledge of their countries. Would recommend the Croatian Riviera & Dubrovnik (Dubrovnik), the Acropolis and free time (Athens) and Ephesus and the House of Mary in Izmir.
My only complaint, and this was also the concern of the guides, is that all the cruise lines seem to arrive in port on the same day. At Ephesus I think there were 6 cruise lines all visiting at the same time.
The NCL shore excursion staff were excellent.
I used to have my own company providing services for US visitors to Scotland, including shore excursions, so really appreciated such a professional service.
Staff - I have never experienced such a high level of service from, I believe, about 60 different nationalities in the crew. This was one of the highlights of my cruise.
Entertainment - The different live music available all over the sip was excellent. Also, on the recommendation of one of the Restaurant Managers, I went to the Elements Show on my last evening - excellent.
My main disappointment was the lack of organised events for single passengers - only 3 over the 7 days and, unfortunately on my cruise (1st - 8Th September) a lack of single passengers - only 2/4 turning up at any of the events.
I managed to avoid the NCL photographers, who were all over the place.
When I went to book the cruise I specifically told my Travel Agent that I wanted to avoid the school holiday period, as I thought that outwith the holidays there might be more single passengers. Unfortunately I "hit" the last week of the Italian school holidays with approx 200 Italian children on board with their families. They ran "riot" all over the ship. I spoke to some American passengers who said that it was the worst cruise they had ever been on with NCL.
My Travel Agent is, I think, a preferred supplier with NCL, and one would have thought that they could have found this out for me and I would have then booked a cruise a couple of weeks later.
So, in summing up, I did enjoy the Norwegian Jade, especially the service from the staff and the ports of call, but it was not value for money when a single passenger has to pay the double rate, even though they are not eating for two!!
I mentioned this to the NCL Cruise Consultant on board and was given the standard reply that all cruise ships charge this way. She did mention the Norwegian Epic, but I did not want to cruise with 4000 passengers and also did not want to see the Western Mediterranean.