We just returned from a 21 day Med/Turkey/Greece cruise on the NCL Jade. This was actually a back to back, with us booking each piece separately (it was actually several hundred dollars cheaper that way). We are retired, age 70 and 57, well traveled by land and cruise. We have sailed HAL (5), Princess (3), RCI (1), Carnival (2), Celebrity (1), and one prior cruise on NCL. We always book inside guarantee and are quite happy with that choice. We are independent travelers, and rarely use ship excursions.
We decided on this cruise for two reasons: Price and itinerary. Both of those were great!
Our expectations of NCL and the ship were fairly low due to one prior, relatively bad cruise with NCL and the cheap prices of these B2B cruises. That said, I can say that our expectations were either spot on or exceeded.
*Great bathroom in the inside guaranty cabin, best I've ever seen on a cruise ship (except for a disabled cabin we once needed).
*Ship was full, but did not feel crowded (but if this were a cruise where the pool area was useable, I'm sure that are would feel very crowded)
*Ship was incredibly smooth, even in rough and very rough weather.
*Ship entertainers were better than most other cruises we have taken. (10+ on RCI, NCL, HAL, Princess and Celebrity)
*Wine and alcohol prices were within acceptable limits, especially with the wine package giving about a 20% discount on bottle pricing.
*No port stops required tenders.
*The ship is extremely well maintained and appears spotless, inside and out.
*Embarkation and Disembarkation were smooth and efficient.
*The food was poor to average. Nothing we ate could be classified as above average, or even good as compared to an average restaurant, banquet or buffet. One exception: The extra charge ($30/pp) specialty restaurant, Cagney's Steakhouse. My ex-butcher husband declared the beef "outstanding".
*No indoor or covered pool area (we knew this before departure, but this is a serious disadvantage of the Jade.)
*Very few activities on board during sea days. Even worse if one chose to stay on the ship on a port day.
*Artwork and furnishings of the ship are leftovers from when this ship sailed only in Hawaii. This is just weird now that the Jade only sails in the Mediterranean.
*No information on ports. Except for the ship sponsored excursions, no information is offered or available. This is a shame. We did take one ship excursion (Tunisia) and were disappointed that it was mostly a shopping trip to "the best and most honest merchants."
Other general comments:
Service was very variable. We had to move mid cruise to another cabin (we booked the back to back separately, so we expected this). One cabin steward was very good. The other never even stopped to introduce himself for 3 days, and did the bare minimum in our cabin. Bar service and dining room service was equally inconsistent. NCL is losing revenue on this score - the bartenders and waitstaff take too long to show up for drink orders. This isn't because the staff is lazy - it's because NCL management has decided to not have as many staff as they should to service this number of passengers, and many of the servers are under trained.
The officers are much more social and visible than other cruise lines. You see them everywhere, including the captain, who we observed buying one passenger a beer at the bar. Nice change from the traditional aloof approach.
NCL's Freestyle Concept is a matter of taste - either you like it or you don't. Personally, we found it a relief to not have to dress up for any formal nights, but the torn jeans and T-shirts in the dining rooms did make it feel less 'special' as a vacation.
Would we sail NCL again? Absolutely - UNDER CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES. Specifically, a port intensive, heavily discounted cruise that would allow us to purchase some great lunches in the ports to make up for the lousy food on the ship.