We had saved for several years to be able to take a cruise and to say we were disappointed with the Norwegian Jade trip is an understatement. Whilst some of our complaints may be considered mild overall we would have to say they added up to an experience that we would not wish anyone to go through. This was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime and travelling on the Jade was definitely not worth the money we spent. We checked into the airport at JFK with Iberia expecting our flight to Barcelona to be exactly that a flight directly to Barcelona. Turned out that no one including Iberia that we flew with could be bothered to let us know that we were to change planes in Madrid. Several other couples on our flight out of JFK had the same experience. Sitting on a plane at Madrid expecting to be flown to Barcelona we were surprised to be told that we had to get of the plane and take another flight (with the same flight number and same gate number) several hours later into Barcelona. We have to say that boarding the ship was a pleasure no mad rush the staff was very polite and accommodating. The ship itself is quite attractive, bright clean and cheerful. Our cabin whilst small was very nice and even came with a coffee pot and TV. The first night onboard was very good, staff was attentive and helpful the food was ok and there seemed to be plenty to do.
We did notice that the pay restaurants like Cagney's had gone up in price and there was an additional charge of $10 per person on top of the $20 pp. No problem we assumed that the food would continue to be of high quality and with plenty of selection in the restaurants that were included in the price of the cruise. Unfortunately this proved to be a rather optimistic outlook. We assumed somehow that Alizar and the Grand would serve different menus but they were identical. The Blue Lagoon portions were minute and microwaved and the Garden Cafe always had on its menu a few of the items served in Alizar and the Grand. Quantity was the goal of the day in the Garden Cafe, quality was not far above that of Hospital food and it may be an insult to hospitals. One evening looking forward to enjoying an appetizer of Bay Scallops we were served scallops that literally were no bigger than a ¼ of an inch. The baby shrimp cocktail was usually chopped frozen shrimp in a ketchup, mayo and horseradish sauce. One customer was over heard answering his wife's question about the dish of the day in the Garden Cafe "same chewy meat we had last night", when asked about a skirt steak dish. Lobster was served twice on the cruise and wasn't bad apart from being a tad overcooked and chewy. By that time we had learned that one should always order more than one appetizer and entrEe and we were almost satisfied. However it must be said that after the first day the food went down hill rapidly in quality. The dishes on the buffet were obviously leftovers created anew the day after. Bread was stale if you ate it in the morning again leftovers from the night before. The ice-cream was disgusting in the Garden Cafe if it could be legally called ice-cream. We have never before had bacon with no taste it was an interesting experiment. In addition the food was never hot, we didn't have a hot meal the entire cruise except for well prepared while you wait omelettes. I have served and managed restaurants and been in the food industry for many years as a product developer for major grocery chains and it was clear that the staff had to deal with the garbage that was purchased by the cruise line and they tried to do their best with very little. For three days as another cruiser noted we were not allowed to serve ourselves (even ketchup had to be poured for us) due to feared outbreaks of gastro after visiting Egypt.
The streets of Egypt were horrendous the squalor comprised of unending garbage and the blood running in the streets due to festival slaughter of cows, goats and sheep was sickening. However the cruise staff insisted we sanitize our hands constantly but did not bother to have a walk through sanitizer when it was our footwear that had walked through blood, excrement and garbage. In the vain hope that maybe if we paid for a meal we would get better we attempted the Sushi restaurant. No surprise that the fish was kept on board frozen we could accept that what we could not accept is that it was served frozen and half of the offerings were missing because they were too frozen to serve. Upon complaining to a staff member in uniform we were told that they had to keep the fish frozen. We attempted to explain that this was not the point but she appeared to have lost command of her English at that juncture and we gave up. We did not attempt another paid dining experience due to this and many overheard complaints about the other restaurants.
The excursions were overpriced and from what we understood from many others on board a "rip-off" in Rome passengers were informed there was no train from the local station to the main terminal and many chose to take the NCL $119 trip into the main center. Apparently they were dumped at the Coliseum and then told to pick up the bus at 4:30. A three year old child was charged $90 reduced rate for this "tour". When we told many others we took the train in and a Hop on Hop Off bus at a cost of around $30 Euros they were appalled at NCL's obvious money grab.
On Board entertainment and sea day activities were poor at best, non-existent at worse. If you didn't pay there was virtually nothing to do except Bingo and self directed activities like reading, the pool or the absolute worst TV ever, more on that later. There were obviously some very talented people on board. The Shout show was excellent the singers were a joy but only available once. Smokey Joe's show again was excellent and only available twice. As for the rest of the entertainment in the bars and lounges adequate to poor at best.
NCL charged you $15 to take a Mojito Muddling class amongst others and pretty much everything had a price attached. On the TV apart from some news shows were the same movies 10-2 movies shown repeatedly. The Wizard of Oz and Singing in the Rain must have been on five times a day and the selection of newer movies was just as abysmal but at least we didn't have to pay a gratuity on top of it. Even if we spent a few hours watching TV and helped ourselves to a coke from our mini fridge there was an auto gratuity added. So I got up, went to the fridge, got a coke and paid NCL 15% tip for helping myself.
The internet cafe charged .75 cents a minute and neglects to tell you if you want to print anything you must keep your browser open so you end up paying again to print things like Boarding passes. Generally the staff were hard to find probably because there was only one of them and it is hardly her fault that she has to attempt to work all day every day by herself. The printer often didn't work and the connections are so slow as to be ridiculous, the cost is excessive and it felt like the connections were slow so that the ship could earn more money from you. Recommendation take along your own laptop and wireless access.
The worst was the disappointment at not getting into Athens. We were left with the impression that rough seas (and they were rough the night before) were the problem. We were told they couldn't get a pilot aboard the ship. This as far as we were concerned was a deliberate lie. The Captain chose to go slowly through the night because he knew that a blockade was taking place on both the 3rd and the 4th of December (we were due in on the 4th). There was no way a pilot could get to our ship due to this not the weather. It was not until the morning of the 4th when we were due in that we were told we would be late into Athens due to rough weather the night before. It was very obvious the boat was going extremely slowly and even when the weather was "moderate" the shipped had slowed down greatly. Later that same day we knew the Port had been reached but the ship appeared to be going in circles and not entering the Port. Several passengers with binoculars noted that the Port appeared to be blocked with lots of boats in it but we couldn't get in. We were told around 2 pm that there was no getting a Pilot out to us and we would have to forgo seeing Athens. Rumors swirled around the ship and one rumor in particular had the staff threatening a passenger who was attempting to tell people the truth about not getting into port. rumor has it that this passenger was threatened with being dumped on shore and having their shore access restricted. Boat blockade
- 4 December, 2008 Fishermen blocked the entrance to Piraeus port with their boats for the second day yesterday. They were protesting a European Union directive, due to come into force next year, preventing them from fishing less than 1.5 nautical miles from the coast and at a depth of less than 50 meters. http://www.sfakia-crete.com/sfakia-crete/news.html
Boat blockade Fishermen blocked the entrance to Piraeus port with their boats for the second day yesterday. They were protesting a European Union directive, due to come into force next year, preventing them from fishing less than 1.5 nautical miles from the coast and at a depth of less than 50 meters. http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_articles_politics_100016_04/12/2008_102730
It is obvious that we were lied to and in place of Athens we were given a $7 refund and free beer and wine for a period of one hour. If they had made any attempt to apologize and tell us the truth and even offer us rewards toward our next cruise some kind of customer service would have gone a long way to overcoming the bad taste left after this kind of treatment.
The day to day staff in the Casino and serving in the restaurants tried their best but from overheard conversations it was obvious that they were putting in 12-16 hour days due to being so understaffed. Several conversations that took place between uniformed officers were overheard as they tried their best to ensure some service but were hard pressed since staff were exhausted. Service was terribly slow in the restaurants and it was clear that walking through boat that standards were slipping.
We spoke to several people after the cruise on the bus to the airport and on the plane home and many of them told us that this was there 4 or even 7th cruise on NCL and every one of those we spoke to told us how disappointed they were at this cruise. They had chosen the Jade due to excellent previous experiences and were now overwhelmingly angry and ready to complain. We met one couple who had cruised over 36 times many on NCL and who would never sail on an NCL ship again after this experience.
The ports are amazing and for the most part everything we had hoped for. Rome was incredible and very easy to do on your own. The train from Civitavecchia was easy to find and very quick (much quicker than the NCL overpriced buses). Touring Rome is difficult due to traffic and we have to say the Hop on Hop Off buses are useless as the staff are far more interested in their cell phone conversations than telling tourists what stop they are at. We were told later by other passengers that the public transit is quicker and easier and included in the price of your train ticket to Rome which was around $8 Euros.
Turkey is fantastic but organize your own tour through Sisan or one of the other companies recommended by cruisers. We went with 6 others and paid $75 and had a superb experience with Sisan's Dennis the tour guide. Malta is ridiculously easy to do on your own but be prepared for the hill and steps up it's a good hike but many private tours can be arranged at around ½ of the ships rate. Egypt well it has to be seen but be prepared it is filthy and as one passenger told us they will sell their grandmother to you for a buck. Even the cops in Egypt want a handout but be prepared to be very rude to the guys trying to sell you stuff. The filth and the harassment make the pyramids a disappointment and the National Museum is a disgrace, it is dirty and dingy and you cannot see the incredible pieces in a decent light. King Tut's treasures under lit and in filthy cases and always carry your own toilet paper because they charge for it and won't let you flush it. We organized a tour from home and our guide Rasha El Ashmawy at www.egyptdailytours.com was excellent and highly recommended.
Disembarkation was easy with carrying off your own luggage, and we were off the bus at 6 am sharp as our flight was due to leave around 9:30 from Barcelona. It was pretty obvious that no-one gave a rat's as we got of the ship. We were forced to wait until all the buses were loaded with people which meant sitting around for ½ an hour of so before we left for the airport. Then at the airport we were not allowed to get off the bus until the luggage had been taken of the two trucks ahead of us and our luggage wasn't even on the truck. All in all though a simple process to get of the ship and at that point we were looking forward to airport food which I have to say well outweighed the Jade with respect to quality.