This was our second cruise and first with NCL. We selected the itinerary because of the number of ports visited with only one sea day for an 11 day cruise. Our previous cruise was on Princess in the Baltic.
Overall, we enjoyed it as much as our first cruise, which means we are likely to continue to use cruises as our main way of taking holidays. NCL certainly believes in the freestyle cruising. We were also impressed that while there are plenty of upswell opportunities, they were as hard sell as it seemed on Princess. There was a much wider demographic of people than on our Princess cruise and as others have noted about the Norwegian Jade, being in Europe all the time, is that it gathers a fair few non-English speaking people and tries to cater to Italian, Spanish, French, Portuguese, German and Russian. This seems to only degrade in the buffet queue and during embarkation and disembarkation where everyone just assumes that no one will understand them. Also many people not used to their personal space being invaded in public will need to get used cultures that just don't have the same ideals.
The specialty food is very varied on the Norwegian Jade and all of it felt like value for money, but clearly if you want memorable meals, you will need to budget for it as part of the trip. The MDR food was average but acceptable and the buffet was boring and repetitive. All of it was acceptable though, but on Princess we actually liked the buffet and chose it sometimes as an alternative to the MDR.
As others have noted, the level of cleanliness is excellent on the ship, and they clearly focus on it. We also went not he insiders tour of the ship during the sea day and it was well worth the cost. It was excellent and the staff were clearly passionate about their jobs and took lots of pride. The Enviromental Areas were the most interesting, seeing a trash area of a 3,800 person town that was as clean as any other part of the ship. They clearly take pride in minimising the impact of our holidays on the sea.
We chose an inside cabin to see if it would annoy us. Outside of feeling detached from the weather it didn't cause us any major issues. We didn't feel like second or third class citizens either.
I should have guessed the shore excursions from the boat would not be value for money, but I was really disappointed in the ones for Tunis and Napoli. The only hard sell we got was on these excursions and in both cases, they clearly detracted from excursion in my opinion. While the other two we did were sort of "on your own" which included a guide during the transfer and then lots of free time were great and almost made them worth the money. Overall, finding alternatives are far more entertaining and value for money.
Overall, the minor annoyances were easily forgotten and we focused on a highly enjoyable cruise that felt like it was a great way to relax.