My husband and I (both of us are retired "seniors") just returned from a ten-day cruise on the NCL Jade (Jan. 22-Feb. 2). Despite some chilly weather (especially in Istanbul where it had snowed the day before) and occasional rain (especially in Ephesus/Izmir), it was one of our best vacations ever. We booked this tour in June through an online agency and thought we had a bargain-basement price at the time, but prices dropped even more as we approached sail date. We were told our prices could not be reduced but we were instead upgraded from an oceanview cabin to a midship balcony. (Cabin size was great--even the shower! The bed was extremely comfortable.)
Everything was smooth, at every stage of the trip, from online pre-boarding, to multiple emails and reminders and specialty restaurant reservations online before embarkation, to quick and efficient at-port boarding and baggage handling, to safety drill immediately upon embarkation, to room-service breakfast, to wonderful room steward...all the way to smooth and fast disembarkation ten days later.
Gary Glading was the best cruise director we've had--energetic without being cutesy and over-the-top like so many others. His linguistic skills and rich personal background make him excellent.
Onboard entertainment was top-notch and varied. We went to most of the shows and all were high caliber performances. As we walked around the ship, we caught parts of some very good performers in the bars and lounges. Our past experience was that there are a usually a few very talented and many more less-talented individuals; on this cruise all performers were very talented.
We had three days at sea and wanted to take advantage of the specialty dining restaurants "special deal" (if you pre-booked a "package" of three restaurants). We ended up going to four of the seven (I think) specialty restaurants and appreciated the smaller, more intimate, and special menu dining settings. (Especially fabulous was Cagney's--save this one for a particularly special night onboard.) We love NCL's freestyle cruising approach and are glad we don't have to pack an extra suitcase just for formal nights (unless we had wanted to). It was truly ok to go to dinner in your dockers and a polo or in your tux and bow tie. We saw both. This is SO much better than being tied to a particular seating and a large table of the same people!! The Grand Pacific dining room is a "typical" grand-scale cruise ship dining room and provided excellent food. (We also had breakfast there several days.) The Alizar dining room was our favorite "non-specialty" location (instead of the huge Grand Pacific or the buffet) because it was about 1/3 the size and the dimmed lighting and decor were more "special". Room service was always available and we had breakfast in our cabin a few days--a lovely option. Food is an important feature of any successful cruise and we can rate this aspect extremely high, both for options, menu variety, accessibility, and, of course, quality of food.
The best money we spent onboard was at the spa, and we're not even "spa types". We purchased a couples "pass" to the thermal suite of hot tubs, hydrotherapy pools, sauna, steam room, etc. where we spent an average of two hours a day. This turned out to be a real bargain at $238 for the two of us for the entire cruise! Look into this.
Another good deal is the bottled water package and the wine package offered at the beginning of the cruise. We saved quite a bit of money this way. We also had some excellent red wines for an average price of $22 a bottle.
The only money we "wasted" was on the Deal-or-No-Deal and bingo games, but that was our own free choice. There was no coercion to participate.
We made alternative shore excursion arrangements (EphesusDeluxe.com, ShoreExcursions.com, and CruisingExcursions.com) for all ports except the two-day tour in Istanbul and the one-day in Rome (post-disembarkation). We had excellent tours via all those other companies (and saved over 50% on NCL's shore excursion prices) but were glad to take NCL-sponsored tours for those other two ports, given the need to optimize time available. (Special thanks to Ephesus Deluxe for a fabulous private tour of Ephesus--a terrific value for the money.)
Other reviewers will I'm sure let readers know about the seemingly terrific opportunities for children and families, about the casino and/or the fitness center...we didn't utilize these. But from the viewpoint of theses two old codgers, this cruise was overall wonderful!