We just returned from a 10 day European Cruise on the Norwegian Jade for my wife and my 20th anniversary. I had booked this cruise about two months prior to our departure date through an internet cruise booking site. After booking, I spent time looking at shore excursions, and site seeing things to do in the ports we were to stop in. My wife and I have been on 6 different cruises, this being our 2nd cruise with Norwegian, our honeymoon, 20 years previous, being our first with Norwegian. All the other cruses we have done have been either the Mexican Riviera or the Caribbean. A couple with Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Carnival.
Embarkment was a dream. I have never before experienced that quick of a "getting on the ship" process. I don't know if it was our timing or if they have worked out all the kinks over the past few years but from dropping the luggage off on the dock to our being in our cabin may have only been 10-15 minutes. If you hate long lines and waits to board a ship, this is the cruise for you. 10 stars.
Disembarkation was also great. We had to catch a 11am flight out of Rome and they recommended being at the airport 3 hours before international flights left. We hauled our own luggage off the ship and walked right off at 6am in the morning with no wait as well.
The cabin was great. I have always been too cheap to get a balcony on the past 5 cruises I have been on. I loved the darkness of the inside cabins so I could sleep in the middle of the day if I so chose. Since this was our big 20th, I decided to splurge and get a balcony with some trepidation. I was not disappointed. My wife loved it. It had a larger shower than we were use to on all the previous cruises we have been on and it was quite roomy for a cruise room. It had double blinds so we could have it as dark as we wanted no mater what time of day.
The Stewards-They all did a great job and I felt the $12 a day per person was not too much for what they did for us. When we first boarded the room steward kept interrupting us while we were getting unpacked which was annoying until we figured out that they had a wheel that you could turn to show do not disturb, make up cabin, Welcome and turn down cabin and we had left it on welcome. They are pretty forceful to make sure you sanitize your hands every time you enter a eating area which I felt was a good thing. "Washy Washy"
The Ship. It was great as well. Very clean and well kept and in great shape for a 8 or 9 year old ship. Wasn't overly crazy about the lay out of some of the different floors. You couldn't get to certain areas without going up a floor and then dropping back down but that was minor.
Ports of Call. We left early and spent two days in Rome, which since our luggage didn't make the transfer in Atlanta, was a life saver. We stopped in Olympia and Athens Greece, Izmir and Istanbul Turkey and Naples Italy. Didn't think that much of Naples but mainly because we just stayed around the port because I was tired of spending money on Taxi's to get us to the sites. Enjoyed all of them. This was our first European cruise and we felt we had ample enough time to see what we wanted to see in each port without feeling rushed.
The Shows-They did a good job with the after dinner shows I thought. The only one I went to that was just so so was the puppeteer one. We went to the early seating for that one and thought it a bid inappropriate for younger kids but might just be overly sensitive being LDS. The singers, dancers, aerial acrobatics and magicians all did a great job and was very enjoyable.
Now these things are not really bad, just different than what I was expecting or hoping for I guess.
The Food. The Food is why I cruise. I exercised all year with this cruise in mind. I plan on gaining 10 pounds every time I step on a cruise ship...that is just a given and I plan accordingly. From the welcoming buffet in the Garden Cafe to the final dinner meal our last night in the Alazar...it never did impress me. It was ok and I didn't starve but I was not excited to go and eat the entire 10 days on board. After eating for two days in Rome and then trying a little of the local food at the ports I came to the conclusion that European tastes are different than my own and that this ship, being in Europe, was going along with the local flavors. It was very bland for my liking. I never got the impression that anyone else I talked with felt that way so like I said it wasn't what I had expected and was disappointed because of it.
The Dining Venues-I know that cruise lines are doing everything they can to keep the initial cost of the cruise down but still making a profit. I like to cruise because of the all inclusiveness of it and I don't have to keep forking out money every time I turn around for hotels and food and travel. This is the first cruise I have been on that had so many "pay as you eat" restaurants on it. To be honest, I felt they might have kept the included food somewhat bland to force people to want to try something else. I don't know if the food in the specialty restaurants was any better because I was unwilling to spend the extra money and try one.
The dress code for dining. All the things I read prior to going stated no Jeans or shorts to be worn in the Grand Pacific Dining Room during dinner hours. I way over packed because of this thinking I would be eating there 10 times for dinner and needed to take all my dress shirts, dress slacks and suits so I could have a different look each time. Not necessary. They do not enforce that policy one iota. I don't recall ever seeing shorts but jeans seemed perfectly fine. I adhered to their rule but not many did. If I didn't feel like dressing up I just ate in the Alazar which didn't have the same standards.
Freestyle Cruising. Decided I don't care for it. We had a different waitress/waiter each time so never really got to know them that well. I don't mind structuring my day around an early or late seating schedule so I prefer the set time slot with the same waiter each time and the same people at the table to get to know others guests on a ship...not bad just different.
Nothing really Ugly but needed to have a title for my review.
All in all our trip was great and we had a great time. Don't think I will be doing anymore European Cruises but it was a great way to spend our 20th Anniversary.