First of all I will start by saying that this was our first cruise. We had nothing to compare this to and little to no expectations of what to come other than reading reviews and comments on the forum here. With that said, we had a wonderful experience on the NCL Jade and we would both highly recommend the ship and the company to anyone interested in cruising, especially as first timers.
I will start with accommodations and the perks of the suite. After the prices dropped in September due to the fact that NCL removed Egypt from the itinerary we decided to upgrade to a penthouse suite. It was well worth it! The priority embarking process was simple and fast. We walked up, showed our passports, they took our pictures, and we were led to Cagney's by our concierge. By the time we were done lunch our room was ready. The accommodations were great and the view out of the back of the ship was amazing. We were in room 9170 which is the corner aft facing suite on the 9th floor. The square footage in the room was plentiful and there was plenty of space under the bed for our luggage. The closet space was great as well as the drawer space. The bathroom was small, but why do you need a big bathroom. The shower/tub combination was nice and big enough for two :) The balcony was roomy, and had a small chair and table and a lounge chair which I used a lot and even took a nice nap on listening to the moving sea. The bed was unbelievably comfortable and the upgraded blanket and pillows were great. The espresso machine in the room was okay but broke down several times, and that was a disappointment since my wife used it every day. Being able to eat in Cagney's for breakfast and lunch was a plus, and we ordered in breakfast from Cagney's every port morning. The butler service was fabulous and we were treated like royalty. Having our own concierge was great too mostly for the fact that we could make reservations in the main dining area even during busy times. Regular staterooms cannot do this as we found out after talking to some friends we met on board.
Next, on to the staff. Our butler Jayson was fabulous. He was prompt and courteous and recognized certain things. I told him from day one that I drank a lot of iced tea so he made sure to always have a pitcher of iced tea in the fridge. My wife is gluten free. So Jayson made sure that when he brought our afternoon snacks, he brought one for me and one for my wife that was gluten free. Our concierge was Karibi and she was great. She always stopped in to see us in Cagney's if she knew we were in there and she would make reservations for us in the dining area whenever we wanted. She even helped us out with reservations when we needed larger tables when we were going to be eating with friends. Our steward was Alfredo and he was wonderful. Our room was always made up promptly when we requested and turned down promptly when we requested. Alfredo always made fun towel animals and left fun notes for us. He was a joy to run into in the hall and we would spend lots of time just chatting about his cruise experiences and his family back home. The cruise director was Gary and he was amazing. I've heard a lot of people review Gary and say he's the best on the seas. I can see why they say that. Gary was personable, fun, and energetic and spoke about 10 different languages. He hosted the game shows, ran seminars, and was a wealth of knowledge and would have informal coffee chats each sea day. The employees that ran the activities were also fun and energetic and we had a blast getting to know them.
Now, to talk to about dining. I'll start with the main dining areas. We mostly ate in the Grand Pacific which is on deck 6 in the aft. The meals were good, not great, but good. It was rare that I didn't finish something because I didn't enjoy it. One side of the menu was always the same, the salmon tartare appetizer is wonderful as well as the mexican mushroom quesadilla. The other side of the menu changed each day and there were some pretty good meals. The garden buffet on Deck 12 we weren't impressed with. We never did a sit down meal there but my wife would occasionally stop in for something and usually was disappointed. The only specialty restaurant we ate in was the Moderno Churrascaria. The cover charge was worth it. The salad bar was huge and the meats were wonderful and they just kept coming until you flip that card to red. I recommend checking this one out. Eating in Cagney's for breakfast and lunch was great. The crabcake eggs benedict is excellent and I ordered that into the room several times. And since they had a lobster dish on the breakfast menu I asked them to make me a lobster omelet which was great. The lunch menu is decent. The shrimp cocktail appetizer is huge and if you order a double one you'll get 6 shrimp instead of 3.
Onto the ship itself and things to do. The layout of the ship is easy to get used to and there are good public spaces at each area of the ship. Lots of people have written that the old Hawaiian theme is too loud and outdated, but we didn't mind it at all. The atrium on deck 7 is nice and wide open and there was always music. We partook in lots of activities on board which were always well run and fun. We did trivia, scavenger hunts, shuffleboard, mini golf, name that tune, and ping pong just to name a few. We always found people to team up with and the staff made it fun. We only went to two shows in the Stardust Theatre. One was a one man comedy and juggling act. It was decent. We also went to the Elements show on the last day. It was great. It's pretty amazing the show they put on considering your on a ship. There was always something going on, whether it was morning trivia, a martini tasting, or a seminar on the Greek Gods with Gary. We kept busy, but that's what we wanted to do and that's the good think about freestyle cruising.
Overall, we had a great experience as first time cruisers and we would both highly recommend NCL and the Jade ship to anyone. We are already looking at cruises for the future and will most likely stay with NCL. We just need them to add a South American itinerary. :)