We signed on to the 13 day cruise in the Mediterranean on the Norwegian Jade and was surprisingly disappointed. We booked for the attractive package price and the good reviews of the new Jade, which we knew were being repositioned from the Hawaiian market. However, since the dollar was weak against the Euros, we're in for a number of surprises:
1) The foods: The buffet catered the same exact items in all 13 days. Everything was bland and low quality. Fruits consisted of the basic melons, pine-apples, apples, bananas,etc. that were either sour or had no taste. The restaurants offered very limited menus. The steak house charged $20 per person, but some of the dishes on their menu had an extra $10 charge per plate (so read the fine print). The Sushi bar was horrible, $15 per person, $10 per diluted sake, and when we asked for a seaweed salad, we were told it belonged to the Chinese menu, which couldn't be combined....We left the restaurant paying $100 for 3 and was hungry...
2) Decor: Everything is still in the Hawaiian theme, the bar, the pictures, paintings..The only change was possibly the paint outside the ship.
3) Laundry room: This was the biggest surprise for families with children as most of us were informed that, like most ships, there were self-service laundry rooms. However, the laundry areas have been taken out and replaced with more cabins. So, expect a much fuller ship with longer buffet line, lack of dinning tables and crowded common areas with people who wear their dirty clothes for several days (13 in this case). Laundry service was available at the prices of an upscale hotel....There was one discount offer for one batch of basic wash-and-fold laundry (equivalent to a 4-5 lb bag) for $19.99. It took 5 days to get our clothes back.
4) As usual, ship crews were mainly interested in selling you drinks, jewelry and expensive shore excursions.
5) The entertainment was poor. Most ship communications/newsletter focus on advertising: Bingo, Casino, Jewelry sales, art auction....
6) Your overall cost: Taxi ride from Southampton to Heathrow is $300. You can book through the cruise operator for a shuttle costing $80 per person, but you have to leave very early in the morning.
7) Shore excursions: Expensive. Most of the time is spent in transport. It's better to try going independently to places closer to the ship terminal and plan your own leisure time. Nevertheless, Europe is very expensive and the exchange rate is very bad for the dollar at the moment.
Overall, we spent 2 extra days in Barcelona and 3 extra days in Paris, and our total cost came out 3 times the cost of the cruise even though it cost only $103pp to fly from Heathrow to Paris.
We would have been happier if the cruise ship provided a little better foods and entertainment. The atmosphere on the ship felt as if we have never left America. Nothing cultural was introduced, not even a piece of good Italian pizza when we got to Naples. My parents took the same cruise on the Millenium and experienced different cuisines as the boat docked at different ports (Spain, Portugal, Italy, France....)
NCL's strategy seems to be tapping into the old American/Hawaiian market with mainly American customers, pricing everything in USD but finding themselves with the high cost of Europe. While the ship is new and well kept, we pretty much get "luxury on a shoestring": our sheets were changed only once in 13 days.... We ran into many acquaintances on the cruise who liked the Jade in Hawaii but found the Mediterranean experience disappointing.....
The most unfortunate experience: On our first dinner at the Pacific dinning room, we sat near a service station where 2 waiters constantly talked/complained about something in their own language (Phillipino). Then we saw one table sent back a salad, supposedly from finding something that was not supposed to be there. With dismay, we saw that the waiter scooped out whatever it was in that salad, remixed it and covered it up. A few minutes later, the waiter brought that same salad to another table and served it to someone else. We were at a loss as to what to do, stand up, tell the person at the other table, leave the dinning room? We also thought this is just one of the common tales we heard in the food service industry..Needless to say, we did not return to the Pacific, wanted to make a complaint but was afraid of retaliation. We expected to write an evaluation at the conclusion of the cruise but was never given a form to fill out. NCL did follow up with an online survey but there was not enough room for details, mostly just checking off preselected options..