We sailed on the Norwegian Jade leaving on May 24th, 2009 out of Southampton, England to Dublin and Cobh, Ireland and returned on the 29th. It was our 9th NCL cruise (12th overall) for both DW and me and we are both 52. This cruise was billed as the 5-day Irish Escape. This particular itinerary was only offered for this one date and will not be repeated in the next 2 years. It was the shortest cruise we had ever taken, but we wanted to book this itinerary.
Prior to Cruise
We flew to London Heathrow, arriving on Friday evening. We took the Heathrow Connect train from Heathrow to Paddington Station. Our hotel, the Quality Crown Paddington Hotel was across the street from the station. We had booked a 9 hour guided bus tour of London on Saturday with the Grey line for the next day. It was a great way to see a lot of London in only one day. The tour included a stop at Westminster Abbey, saw the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace, toured both St. Paul's Cathedral and the Tower of London, and ended the day with a cruise down the Thames.
Day 1 - Embarkation
From our hotel, we took the underground from Paddington to Waterloo via the Bakerloo station. We then took a train from London Waterloo station to Southampton on the Southwest Train line. Here is a tip, the train splits on the way to Southampton. You need to be in the first five cars of the train if you want to go to Southampton central station. The train station is about a mile and half away from the terminal for the Jade. It was a 5 pound cab ride. We arrived at the terminal at 1:00 pm and headed into the terminal for the embarkation process.
When we walked into the terminal, there was a short line for security before lining up for the sign-in process. We just walked up to a clerk in the Latitudes line, received our docs and keycards, and walked onto the ship in less than 15 minutes. We tried to head up to our cabin on deck nine to drop off our carry-ons (which always includes a change of clothes in case our other bags arrive late). It was an inside cabin (room 9083) which was midship. But, as we got to our deck, the doors to the hallways leading to the cabins were closed and we heard announcements that all cabins would not be available until 2:00 pm. We just headed up top-side to get a quick lunch before coming back to our room. Our luggage had arrived by 3:00 pm, so we quickly un-packed before the muster drill.
The muster drill was scheduled for 4:00 pm, so we headed down to deck 6 to our muster station in the bar city lounge area. After the drill, we dropped off our lifejackets and then went to deck 13 and the Bali Hai bar overlooking the pool area to watch the sail away. The Jade pulled away from the pier at around 5:00 pm. The weather had cooperated and it was a sunny afternoon as we left Southampton.
After the sail away, we went back to our cabin to change before going to dinner in the Grand Pacific main dining room. There was no wait time and we had a good meal that only took an hour.
The show for the evening was the "Welcome Aboard Showtime" show in the Stardust Theater. The Stardust Theater has a variety of seating and most have good views. The show was hosted by the Cruise director, Karen who did a good job of welcoming us and introducing two entertainment acts that would be performing on other evenings. They were a juggling act named "Yoolio" and a marionette act called "Stars on Strings" which were quite amusing.
After the show, we went to the Spinnaker Lounge for the Super 70's disco party.
Day 2 - Day at Sea
The day at sea had slightly choppy waters and cool temps. Topside, the pool areas were sparsely attended, but the Jacuzzis were busy.
We like to go to trivia (quiz) contests. We planned to go the morning trivia before we had breakfast. On other cruises, the morning trivia usually averages about 5 or so people. We were quite surprised to find that the Spinnaker Lounge was completely filled for the morning trivia. We found out that the Brits really enjoy their Quiz contests. We felt like strangers in a strange land as most of the questions asked were related to British culture. So now we know how it feels for visitors to the States having to answer questions on local culture. Everyone was very personable and we quickly starting chatting with others to learn about British culture.
In the late afternoon, we spotted several pods of Dolphins following our ship in the Irish Sea. I wonder if they were Irish or English dolphins? lol
They had a Latitudes party in the afternoon in the Spinnaker Lounge which was filled up with fellow Latitudes members.
The evening's entertainment in the Stardust was two shows. First up was the juggler, Yoolio. We were not impressed by him from the Welcome Aboard show, so we decided to go to eat during the show. We had decided to go to the buffet for dinner as we did not see anything special on the dining room menus. The second show of the evening was a production show called "Shout!, The Mod Musical". We arrived at the Stardust Theater a half hour before the show and we were surprised to find out that almost all of the seats were already full. The turnout was so large that the theater was completely full before the start of the show and they were turning people away. They quickly announced that a repeat performance of the show would be shown on another evening to allow those who could not get in a chance to see the show. The show itself was very good and worth the wait.
Day 3 - Arrival in Dublin
Due to tides, the Jade had to pull into Dublin Harbor in the early morning hours. So when we woke up, we saw that we were already docked. They were letting people off the ship by 8:00 am or so. We went to breakfast before leaving the ship.
They had free shuttles running from the ship to the middle of Dublin City (2 miles away) dropping you off at Kildare Street. We had booked a 2 hour guided walking tour before we sailed on the ship. We were to meet the guide by the James Joyce statue near the Spire and GPO. We had wanted to see the Pro-Cathedral before the tour so we decided to walk from the ship to the church instead of taking the shuttle to Kildare and then having to walk north for almost the same distance. The Cathedral was in the Greek Revival style and very austere compared to other churches we have seen.
We met Ronan from the "Definitive Dublin Walking Tour" at the appointed time. In 2 hours we learned a lot about Irish literature, music, and history starting from the Spire and GPO, going to Trinity College, the Oscar Wilde house, Grafton Street, and ended up at Dublin Castle. Ronan was very knowledgeable and passionate about the city. It was definitely worth the 12 Euros each that we paid. We were the only people on the tour that day, so we covered a lot of ground in those short 2 hours.
We spent the rest of the afternoon at a pub called Oliver St. John Gogarty's on Fleet Street in the Temple Bar area. I had been there before and I knew my wife wanted to hear live Irish music. We had a great time listening and singing along with the two musicians playing there. At the table next to us was an English couple from the ship. We had good craic that day!
We then headed over to Kildare Street to catch the shuttle. There was a long line and people in the front said that they had been waiting for almost an hour. We were contemplating walking back to the ship when two shuttles showed up.
They had a "Taste of Ireland" folkloric show in the Stardust Theater at 7:30 pm. It had traditional step dancers and a singer. It was very entertaining. After that we went to dinner in the Grand Pacific before waiting to come back to the Stardust for the Main show which was a comedian named John Martin. Dinner took a little longer than planned and even though we did get to the Stardust by 9:15 pm for the 9:30 pm, seats were very scarce. We decided to call it an evening after all of the walking we did that day. We heard that the comedian was very funny.
Later that evening they had Monte Carlo night in the casino once they had sailed out of Dublin harbor. We just walked on the outside promenade deck to watch the city lights as we sailed away before heading up to our cabin.
Day 4 - Cobh
It was a cloudy morning with light showers as we approached the harbor of Cobh (pronounced Cove) which serves as a port for Cork. We had booked a bus tour online before we left for the cruise. The ship was due to arrive at the dock at 9:00 am, so we headed for breakfast before we docked so that we could meet the bus.
As we went down the gangway, there were rows of chartered buses for the NCL excursions along with quite a few drivers holding up signs for taxis and vans for tours. We found our bus that we had booked and it was full with other passengers who had booked the tour in advance. We only paid 20 Euros each for the tour by Butler Tours/e-coach, which was quite a bit less than the same tour offered by NCL.
The bus first took us to the village of Blarney (pronounced Buh-Larney) where we had the option to walk up and pay to go onto the grounds of Blarney Castle for 10 euros each or to walk around the small village which had a few shops and a pub in addition to the large Blarney Woolen Mills store. We had previously decided not to go up to the castle. The queue for the Castle was long. We did see the NCL bus tour arrive and those guests we admitted right away as their tour included the admission to the castle grounds and the castle itself. We walked about the small village and even went up a hillside road to get some photos of the castle.
The next stop was to visit Charles Fort near the fishing village of Kinsale. It was only a 10 minute stop, but the views were great for pictures. The bus driver then brought us down into Kinsale for a 2 hour stop to explore the quaint village. We would have preferred a little more time at the Fort versus the village though.
The bus driver picked us up and took us back to Cobh where we passed the cemetery where victims of the Lusitania were buried. The Lusitania was sunk just off the coast of Kinsale. We had a brief stop at the large St. Colman's cathedral in Cobh which was much more impressive than the cathedral in Dublin. Finally the driver took us back to the ship pointing out sites in the village along the way. At the dock is a small museum about the Irish emigration to North America.
In the Stardust Theater, they had two shows for the evening. First up was a repeat of the "Shout!" musical at 6:30 pm. Then at 9:30 pm, they had the marionette show "Stars on Strings" which was very funny and entertaining.
The late event in the Spinnaker Lounge was the White Hot Party that started at 11:00 pm. We went there looking forward to ending the day dancing. At the start, the music selection had hits from the 70's and 80's but then turned to all pulse beat songs and the crowd thinned out pretty quickly. I made a comment to the DJ that he should look out into the crowd to see the age and reaction of the guests to his music, but he just shrugged his shoulders.
Day 5 - Sea Day
It was an overcast and slightly cool day with calm seas. The pool area was lightly used while the Jacuzzis were full of people.
We took a walk to check out the shops on board as well as the bridge viewing room on deck 11 forward.
They had several schedule events for the afternoon. They had the Jade Crew Show in the Spinnaker at 2:00 pm which was quickly filled well before the show started. At 3:00 pm in the Stardust Theater, they had a British Tenor named Laurence Robinson whose was billed as an opera star. We did go to his show and he was very good singing both opera and pop songs.
We are Gold Latitudes members and were invited to a Latitudes event for the Silver, Gold, and Platinum member. The invitation said it was a wine and cheese event. We did go to say hello to the staff, but when we asked the waiters if we could get a beer instead of wine (we do not like wine), we were told it was wine only. So we left after a short time and headed for the trivia contest being held in the bar city area (which was full as usual).
The evening's entertainment was 2 performances of the same show called "Showdown!". It was billed as a combination American Idol meets Motown X-Factor. The singers were very good and if you enjoy those reality shows, we were sure you would really enjoy the shows. We ended up leaving before the end of the first show to go to dinner.
We ended the evening at the Spinnaker Lounge for the 50's and 60's Sock Hop. The band called "Sound Bytes" did a great job of playing pop songs.
Disembarkation Day - Southampton and London
We arrived at the pier in Southampton by 7:30 am to a cool sunny morning. We had been given VIP tags for disembarkation, which meant we could leave the ship any time after they announced that passengers who had signed up for express disembarkation could leave.
We went up for breakfast in the buffet before going back to our cabin to get our bags to be ready for the calling of disembarking. They started calling for the express passengers to leave the ship by around 08:15 am. We headed down to deck 6 to go off the ship and quickly found our bags before heading out to catch a cab for the train station to return to London for our final day in England. We caught a 9:00 am train to London and purchased 1-day travelcards at Waterloo station before going back to Paddington on the underground and the same hotel we used the previous weekend. We spent the afternoon visiting Abbey Road, Savile Row, Royal Albert Hall, and the original Hard Rock Cafe (my 37th to visit) using combinations of buses and the underground system which was very convenient and easy to figure out.
The Jade built for "freestyle" dining. The ship has several restaurants which include two main dining rooms that are free of charge along with the buffet area. Most of the other restaurants had a fee, which we chose not to go to. We are not too picky about food, so we never felt the need to go to any one restaurant over another. We either went to the Grand Pacific or the buffet. All in all, the food was good and there was a wide variety to choose from.
We did find that the lines in the Grand Pacific were much shorter than the Alizar (the other free dining room). If we went by 6:00 pm, there was no waiting for a table.
The buffet area seemed more open and easier to find a seat than the similar buffets on the Norwegian Gem, a sister ship of the Jade.
Bar Service -
We are beer drinkers and we took advantage of the beer bucket specials where you would get 6 beers for the price of 5 that was offered throughout the cruise. Since the Jade had been in Europe, their selection of beer was much better than any other NCL cruise ship we had been on. I wish they could bring some of those selections over to the States.
Since we rated as Gold Latitudes members, we were invited to the two Latitudes parties. We also received a welcome aboard package with fruit.
We did not see any room designated as a Latitudes room while on board this particular cruise. Maybe because it was so short?
There were plenty of other things to do on aboard for all interests. They had the usual plethora of bingo games and art auctions.
We took advantage of the several trivia games (which we enjoy) they offered during the cruise. We met up with several friendly people that helped us to win a few matches. We enjoyed their company and conversations. I played and answered all 6 questions to the "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" game they held in the Spinnaker lounge.
They had plenty of talented musicians on board to entertain people at various locations and times. But, it seemed that almost everyone played easy listening music. The Jade Orchestra was tremendous during the production numbers in the Stardust as well as at playing terrific jazz at several times during the cruise.
Poolside and in Bar City, they had a guitarist playing soft rock and easy listening which got old really quickly.
In the Medusa lounge, there was a small combo called "Guys and Dolls" playing ballroom dance music.
I do hope that NCL recognizes that Boomers grew up listening to rock, pop, and country and enjoy hearing it more times than not. I like most music, but I still prefer to hear music that gets your foot tapping instead of putting you to sleep (mini-rant).
For the majority of times, we were always met by a smile and a "How is your day" when we walked by any of the crew members.
Karen, the cruise director was always at the production shows and Latitudes parties. The rest of her cruise staff were very friendly.
The ship -
The ship originally built as the Pride of Hawaii to be used for the Hawaii only cruises by NCLA. Even though the ship has been renamed the Jade, other than the hull artwork being changed, the rest of the interiors still had Hawaiian themes.
The fitness center had several treadmills and other pieces of equipment available at all times.
We constantly saw crew members cleaning and polishing. Of all the cruises we have been on, the Jade was the most shipshape we have ever seen.
One trick we learned was that the carpeting on the decks with cabins had dolphins in the print. The dolphins face forward in all of the hallways, so you can use that to help navigate around the ship.
Overall - We enjoyed our cruise on the Jade. The main reason we had booked the cruise was to take advantage of the itinerary to Ireland. We have seen that in 2010 and 2011, NCL will not have any sailings around the British Isles which is very disappointing. We hope they change their minds and add a few trips soon.
Here is a link to photos we took on our holiday:
We have already booked a 10-day cruise from New York to Canada in October on the Jewel and are already looking forward to it.