My wife and I just returned from a one week cruise aboard the Norwegian Jade and decided to post a review.
A little bit of background: We are in our early 40s and have two children. We have been on approximately 14 cruises since we were married (12 of which were on NCL). We typically cruise out of New York or Miami with our two children. This year, however, my wife and I decided to do a European cruise without the kids. We selected the Jade's June 28 sailing from Venice with stops in Dubrovnik, Athens, Kusadasi (Turkey), and Split (Croatia).
In short, we had a blast. Anyway, here it goes:
We flew directly to Venice from Philadelphia, leaving on Friday evening and arriving in Venice on Saturday morning. While the flight departed from Philadelphia about two hours late, we arrived in Venice in plenty of time to make it to the ship.
Upon arrival in Venice, we took the ATVO bus into town (6 Euros per person). We then took the More
"People Mover" tram to the pier (1.3 Euros person). There were a few other ships in port at the time and the Jade was docked far from the tram stop. Compared to other ports were have sailed from (New York, Miami, Barcelona), the Venice port seemed less organized. Unlike other ports where you simply drop off your luggage with porter, in Venice there were no such porters to be found. Rather, there was a long line to drop off your luggage at an x-ray machine.
Once we dropped off the bags, we checked-in and received our room keys. The check-in process was quick and efficient.
After checking-in, but before getting aboard the ship, non-EU citizens were required to turn-in their passports. We were provided a receipt and told that we could pick-up them up on Thursday.
We finally boarded the ship at about 1:30. Our room was ready at that point, so we went to drop-off our carry on bags. In order to off-set the cost of airfare, we decided to go with an inside cabin on deck 10. The cabin was in great shape and included plenty of storage space.
While we typically would have gone to lunch in the main dining room, we decided to head back out to Venice for a walk around town and a quick lunch. Although we were exhausted from the 8.5 hour flight, how often are we in Venice? We had a great time strolling around the canals and enjoyed a quick lunch. By 4:00, we were back aboard and ready to sail away.
The sail away from Venice was simply amazing. There is nothing like gliding past St. Mark's Square and the Doge's Palace as we headed out to sea.
Because we had been awake for 30+ hours (I couldn't sleep on the plane), we headed to an early dinner at the Grand Pacific dining room (more on the food to come) and then crashed for one of the best nights sleep I've had in a long time.
Day Two – Dubrovnik
After sleeping all morning, we had lunch at the Great Outdoors Cafe as the ship docked in Dubrovnik.
The location where the ship docked was about a 30 minute walk from the old-town section of Dubrovnik. The ship also had buses available ($15 per person, round-trip). We opted to take the bus.
We absolutely loved Dubrovnik. The views were breathtaking, the people were friendly and there was a lot of history to take in. We spent hours exploring the town and then stopped for drinks at a cafe in one of the squares in town. You can definitely tour Dubrovnik on your own. One thing to remember about Dubrovnik (and Split) is that they (generally) do not accept Euros.
After getting back on board, we enjoyed some piano music in "Bar City" and headed to dinner again in the Grand Pacific dining room.
A word about the dinning rooms on the Jade. We have been on a number of NCL cruises and have generally found the food in the main dining rooms to be pretty good, but we typically do the specialty dining 3 or 4 of the nights on a 7 night cruise. I found the food and the service in the main dining room on the Jade (Grand Pacific – we did not try Alizar) to be better than I have come to expect in recent years. As a result, we only did specialty dining on 2 of the 7 nights on the cruise.
Day Three – Sea Day
Moring in the gym. Well equipped, not too crowed. Unlike other Jewel-class ships I have been on, the Jade lets you use the treadmills any time of the day or night. As a result, I would be careful about booking a cabin directly below the gym.
After a lunch in the Great Outdoors (my favorite breakfast and lunch spot on the ship), we enjoyed an afternoon hanging around the pool. Not too difficult to find two loungers, especially on the level above the pool.
At 7:00, there was the first of two Latitudes cocktail parties. The Captain introduced himself and his officers. We certainly enjoyed the wine and hors d'oeuves.
For dinner, we booked the Brazilian Steak House, Moderno, which is one of our favorite specialty restaurants. One bit of advice about Moderno: go hungry. I don't think I was ever as full as I was after that dinner.
Day Four – Athens
As in Dubrovnik, we decided to tour Athens on our own.
I had learned from Cruise Critic that there was an express bus (X80) that ran from the port in Piraeus to the Acropolis is Athens. Our plan was to take this bus. After purchasing the tickets from a booth just outside the port terminal, we headed across the street to the X80 bus stop (you really take your life in your hands crossing this street). Unfortunately, there were hundreds of other cruisers with the same idea (it looked like there were two other ships in port at the time). We waited about 15 minutes and when the bus arrived, it was already packed. Only about 6 new passengers are able to get on the bus. So we waited another 15 minutes or so with the dozens of other cruise passengers, all trying to get into Athens.
We finally gave up waiting for a bus and walked to the Piraeus Metro stop. Not only was the Metro farther away than I thought, but we actually walked right past it and had to double back. Anyway, we finally found the Metro, which we took into town (Monastiraki Station). We were able to use the ticket we purchased for the bus on the Metro.
When we arrived in the center of Athens, we purchased two universal tickets (12 Euros each) which were good at 7 or 8 different ancient sites around town, including the Parthenon. After strolling around the Roman Agora, we made our way up to the Acropolis. When were there (about 12:30), it was incredibly crowded, but well worth the wait in line. Not only is the Parthenon amazing, but the views of Athens from the top of the Acropolis are stunning.
After the Acropolis, we made our way the Ancient Agora, which is much more low key than the Parthenon, but still fascinating. The museum inside the Stoa should not be missed.
After lunch, more exploring around Athens before taking the subway back to Piraeus. In hindsight, we should have taken a cab from the Piraeus subway stop back to the pier, but we decided to walk. By the time we made it back to the pier, we were both exhausted.
There is free Wi-Fi in the Piraeus cruise terminal, so you may want to check emails or facebook (like we did) before getting back on the ship.
Day Five – Kusadasi
This was the one port where we did an organized shore excursion. We selected the Ancient Ephesus and the House of the Virgin Mary tour.
The House of the Virgin Mary, which was about 30 minutes from the port, was interesting to see and very moving. Ancient Ephesus was great as well. Our guide, while moving quickly through the site, shared a ton of interesting information.
After Ancient Ephesus, our tour went to the "Ephesus Theme Park." It was a bad as it sounds. Our tour guide said the Turkish government built the park a year or so ago. From the looks of the number of buses in the parking lot, every tour makes a stop here. It is basically a big store with lots of overpriced souvenirs. There was also a 10 minutes show where guys dressed up as gladiators pretended to fight before a Roman emperor. We spent about 40 minutes at this place. The whole thing was tacky.
The last stop on our tour was a rug making demonstration/sales pitch. Fortunately, this stop was near the port, so we just skipped the demonstration and walked into town.
While we loved Ancient Ephesus, Kusadasi itself wasn't too impressive. We strolled around town for a little while, but then decided to go back aboard for a late lunch.
Day Six – At Sea
After lots of walking the prior two days, we were really looking forward to a relaxing day at sea.
We had lunch in the Grand Pacific then spent the afternoon by the pool. While crowded, we had no problem finding chairs. Also played a little trivia in the Spinnaker Lounge (and were soundly defeated).
There was a second Latitudes party where we met a few more of the ship's officers. I would encourage any Latitudes member to make these events, for the free drinks, if nothing else.
Days Seven & Eight – Split and Venice
The last day of the cruise
The Jade docked just outside of the old section of Split. It was a short walk into town. There was one other ship in town that day, but that ship used tenders.
Like Dubrovnik, Split is a charming city with lots of history and character. Roman emperor Diocletian built a palace here, much of which still stands. The main cathedral in town was supposedly built over Diocletian's tomb. In any event, the cathedral should not be missed. Also, there is bell tower next to cathedral which rewards the long climb up with some spectacular views of the city and its harbor. Just outside the walls of town is a long waterfront strip with lots of stores and restaurants. After touring the old city, we stopped for a drink or two along the waterfront.
By 4:00, we were back aboard the Jade, just in time for the 4th of July party by the pool. For our last dinner aboard the Jade, we wanted to go to Le Bistro, but it was fully booked. We went to Cagney's instead. We enjoyed it, but my favorite still is Le Bistro. Next time I'll remember to book it early. After dinner, we again enjoyed AJ Clarke on the piano in Bar City.
The following morning, it was time to disembark. The process was simple and well-organized. We used our yellow Latitudes priority luggage tags. Unlike when we boarded, the Jade was berthed at a slip much closer to the People Mover tram. We walked off the ship at about 9:00, grabbed our luggage and headed to the People Mover. By 9:15, we were in Piazzale Roma. We decided to stay one extra night in Venice, so when we got off the People Mover, we walked to our hotel.
All in all, we had an absolutely wonderful time aboard the Jade. If fact, we enjoyed it so much, we took advantage of an on-board promotion where you get a $100 on-board credit if you place a $250 deposit for another NCL cruise. Hopefully we will be sailing again this time next year! Less
Norwegian Jade Cruises to the Western Mediterranean