NCL JADE: Back-to-Back Brit Isles&Norway: Gr8 ports bad food
CABIN SPACE & QUALITY ("Picture Window" Deck 5 forward) This was a back-to-back cruise for 26 nights. We broght clothing for spring, summer, and cold weather. Lots of room for clothes, space was not an issue. We expected to be able to sightsee from the cabin: since the windows were never washed, this wasn't possible.
CABIN ATTENDANTS: Highly cooperative and helpful. Always kept us clean and supplied with clean towels, sheets, TP, soap, etc. Excellent service.
ITINERARY: Superb! Ports could not have been better.
SHIP APPEARANCE AND CLEANLINESS: Originally the "Pride of Hawaii," it is now the Jade. Decor is cheesy, gaudy, ticky-tacky, and cheap looking. Cleanliness, the responsibility of the crew, was excellent dexcept for windows.
FOOD SERVICE: British Isles: Dinner: main dining rooms had long lines, accompanied by poor reporting of "wait times." Food was generally poor, particularly beef and fish (always too salty). Salads: unless you ordered what was on the menu, it was poor. Breakfast in main dining room featured long waits but adequate quality of hot food. Specialty restaurants: Ship restored to offering "2 for 1" pricing at the cheaper specialty restauants. Due to the poor quality offered in the main dining rooms, we tried the French, Italian, and Asian Fusion restaurants. Only found Asian Fusion satisfactory. While asst maitre de's tried to be helpful, we got frustrated when first entree was rejected and second was equally unsatisfactory. Garden Cafe was a mob scene since it was designed for warm weather cruising, not North Atlantic region. We skipped dinner at least 3 nights because of quality issues and once because of over-crowding.
Norway: Same dish offered on prior cruise was often much better, but the chefs still had problems with beef and fish. Overcrowding issues resolved. Breakfasts in Grand Pacific had become our norm, and service was clearly improved. Even breakfasts in the Garden Cafe were improved once they resolved the issues of the heating lamps for the hot food. Nevertheless, food service concept (no trays) for the Cafe proved unworkable.
SHORE EXCURSIONS & DESTINATION LECTURES: very expensive, but with lots of shopping opportunities. Staff had little knowledge about sightseeing in any of the ports on both cruises. Do your homework before getting on-board. Destination lectures lacked specificity about individual ports.
GAMBLING: heavily promoted.
SMOKING: Pervasive is areas allowed. If you are allergic or sensitive to smoke, it was handled very poorly on the first cruise, only a little better on the Norwegian leg. Specifically: cigarette smoke was around the 6th floor lobby to the Theatre, and even halfway down the stairs to the 5th and 7th floors.
THEATRE: Seating was very poor, with long rows of seats. Given the seating issues (plus the cigarette smoke), we avoided it as much as possible.
OTHER ACTIVITIES & ENTERTAINMENT: Their staff pianist and troubador were fine. We avoided areas of smoking and the theatre as much as possible.
SIGHTSEEING TO BOTH SIDES OF SHIP: Unless you had a stern cabin, only three areas available: Spinnaker Lounge, Sun Deck, and Great Outdoors (aft of cafeteria). Crew used much of the area by the front windows of the Spinnaker (the only indoor space) for storage of props, chairs and custumes. Passengers who wanted to see the great scenery were chased away by crew. When brought to staff attention for remedial action, there were nice words but no action.
CREW ATTITUDE: Always wanted to be helpful, but there was more attention paid to trying to ameliorate than resolve.
EMBARKATION & DISEMBARKATION: couldn't be simpler or easier.
ROOM NEWSLETTERS: Stuffed with spending opportunities and little information about ports other than shopping.
INTERNET CAFE: Extremely slow, frustrating, and expensive. Try to use internet cafes or libraries off the ship.
TRAVEL TO & FROM EMBARKATION PORT: Booking thru NCL was easy, no hassle, and very expensive. On our own, we went from Southampton to Heathrow for 15 pounds (for 2) vs. $160.
This was our third and fourth cruises on NCL; given the food service issues, it isn't likely that there will be a fifth.