This is our 11th cruise, and second on Norweigan Cruise Line. We were on this cruise to attend a conference on board, and had a very nice time, in spite of the bland and uninspiring food offered.
The ship itself is gorgeous, and looks as though it has been updated very recently. Our last cuise on Norweigan, in 2006, was on the Pride of America. The Jade is much nicer, and even though it's a large ship, there are many places where you can go to get some peace and quiet. Since this ship caters to families with children, this was most welcome. The spa is second to none in the industry, with a thermal suite right over the bridge and very nice locker rooms with all the bells and whistles. The spa is located far enough away from the fitness room so there is no traffic going by, and lends to the serenity of the facilities.
We arrived around 2:30 for a 5:30 sailing and were whisked on board quickly. Our luggage was delivered promptly, and we were unpacked before the muster drill.
The stateroom was very spacious with lots of storage. The bathroom had a separate WC and a large soaking tub with shower door enclosure. The balcony was large and private. The bed was very comfortable, and there was a nice flat screen TV.
Service was good in the dining room and lounges, even if a bit slow. Our first morning, we went to have breakfast in the main dining room, and were there for over two hours. We ate dinner each night in the small dining room. We did try to eat in the main dining one evening, and were told it was a 15 minute wait. 40 minutes later, we went to see what the impediment was, and found there was a legion of us, all with beepers, some who had been waiting longer than us. I was only upset in the lack of accurate information. If they had said 40 minutes, we would have opted for the other dining room. There was no maitre'd in sight, just a flustered young woman trying her best to calm a very angry crowd. We just turned in our beepers and headed for the other dining room. Since the menus are the same, we weren't quite sure what all the fuss was about. It's not like you were going to get an outstanding meal in either venue, so what did it matter in the end.
A big disappointment to us was the (lack of) service in our stateroom. In fact, in all the years of cruising, we have come to take for granted the excellence in stateroom attendants, so we'll chalk this one up to an aberration. We got off to an iffy start. We did see our attendant when we arrived, out in the hall in passing. We greeted him and introduced ourselves, not the other way around as we are accustomed to. Around 7pm we left for dinner. Late that evening, when we returned, it was obvious that no one had been in our room to turn it down for the evening. Just wanting a shower and bed, we put the luggage mat on the sofa and turned in. The next day, we came back to our room and found that the bed was made, but the bathroom was dirty. The dripping washcloth was still on the edge of the tub, towels (still damp) had been rehung on the door, the sink and tub were not cleaned, and the floor around the toilet was sopping wet. We met our attendant out in the hall, and asked if he would fill our ice bucket with some of the ice we saw in the ice chests sitting out in the hall by the rooms. He answered that if we wanted ice, we would have to call on the phone and order it from room service!?! I thought our attendant was there to service our room, but I guess not in this case. We never did get ice in our room, which I always thought was pretty standard.
The food on the Jade was just OK to just awful. The meats (pork, lamb, beef, and even chicken) were overcooked and tasteless. The salad appetizers were quite good. The seafood was decently cooked, which was a big relief. One night, I ordered a sirloin steak medium rare and it came not just well done but nuked. To begin with, the meat was so thinly cut it looked like a breakfast steak you might find at Denny's. They did try again, and the next steak came medium well, which was adequate, but not enjoyable. It was still tough and chewy. We tried the desserts only once on the first night, and relied on the international cheese plate after that. We did eat in the Italian restaurant one night and it was OK but the pasta was cooked to the point of mushiness. I ordered hash browns for breakfast one morning, and they brought what looked like a little tater tot. We only ate lunch twice in the Garden Cafe, and each time we ate at the Indian food station. The meats were still tough and chewy but at least there was a little flavor in the sauce. There seemed to be a lot of choices, and if you like hamburgers and sandwiches, you would be just fine. We did find a great place to eat breakfast that we'd like to share. On the aft deck behind the Garden Cafe is another complete setup for breakfast, complete with an omelette station and a cappucino maker. From there, you can carry your food (no trays on the Jade) over to the Italian restaurant which allows you to eat there. We had an ocean view table every morning and a peaceful breakfast without crowds and noise. It was heaven.
Entertainment was rather low key. We did not stay for the marionette show, but we did enjoy the broadway production, "Shout". There is a piano bar, karaoake, game shows, bingo, cards, and lots of lounges. The highlight of the ship for us was the spa, which we spent quite a bit of time enjoying.
Disembarkation was as easy as embarkation. We kind of felt bad for the taxi driver who took us to the train station. The train station is far enough away to need a cab, but close enough that it's not profitable for the taxi. He was a little grumpy and said that he had waited for three hours only to get 3 trips, at around 5 pounds per ride, to the train station. Maybe NCL ought to run a few shuttles for the few of us who opted to use the train???
Overall, we had a pleasant cruise on a beautiful ship. Since it was such a short cruise, the poor quality food was not a big issue, but had this been a longer cruise with more sea days it would really have been much more of an issue. We have sailed on Holland America and Celebrity many times, and can definitely say that the quality and taste of the food on this ship are far inferior to anything offered on these two cruise lines. If we had to choose a cruise with a similar itinerary with another cruise line we would definitely choose the other cruise line, even though the Jade itself is absolutely gorgeous. So, I suppose in the end it's fair to say that in spite of all the many positive things about the Jade, the food is really the dealbreaker for us.
The itinerary is simply wonderful, and you should all experience a cruise to Ireland. Sailing down the Solent at sunset was something we will never forget. The weather held out for us the entire voyage. We really enjoyed ourselves, and anyone who is in Great Britain for a tour, may want to consider starting or ending their journey with this short cruise. Just don't get your hopes up for some fantastic dining experiences.