style="letter-spacing: 0px">We have always enjoyed the formal nature of P & O and were really not sure how we would enjoy 'Freestyle 2.0' as offered by NCL. Everything is more casual, especially around dining but would this effect the overall quality of the cruise?
Well after just returning home, I am pleased to say the answer is a resounding 'No'.
Certainly things are more casual but the food was excellent, service amazing and NCL Jade lovely.
It was busy at check-in but it still only took about 45 minutes to board, once our luggage was taken. The biggest hold-up was security and certainly on a hot day the terminal could do with improved air con.
Once aboard we were able to go straight to cabin. To keep costs down on such a short cruise, I opted for inside cabins on deck 9. Not having a balcony or window was never a problem and the cabin was well appointed and kept very clean and tidy at all times by our Steward. I especially liked the individual shower cubicle which afforded plenty of space for a long hot soak.
Time was now getting on so we had lunch at the outside Grill. Amazing burger which was the first of many.
NCL Jade was originally built for the Hawaii market and does not have an undercover pool. The two main pools are on deck 12 and this is really the only area that ever felt crowded at times. I would have preferred another pool on the aft deck but the two pools are lovely, good sized and close to the Grill and Garden Cafe. We enjoyed good weather and I made good use of pools. I would expect this area to be really busy on an extended cruise especially somewhere hot.
We found the buffet food to be very good. Plenty of seating and has a great alfresco area on the stern of the ship which is in the open air but has a cool sun canopy. I have to say I found the buffet area to be very well designed and is certainly an area that P & O could learn some lessons from.
Freestyle is all about choice and there are plenty of evening dining options. The two main restaurants are included in price but you can pay extra cover charge and sample Asian, French, American and Italian cuisine. We opted to try out the Japanese Teppanyaki on the first evening. This carries the most expensive cover charge of $25.00 per person. The meal was the highlight of the cruise and was simply stunning. I would advise booking to eat here as only 16 people are fed at each sitting. There are no set dinner times at any of the other restaurants unless you want to book in advance. It really is free and easy. The food and service in main dining room was also very good. This was the one area that I thought would let us down compared to P & O but I can happily say the food was as good. Service was fantastic at all times.
We enjoyed time ashore in Le Harve and Guernsey, arriving back onboard in plenty of time for lunch. The tender operation at Guernsey was very well organised.
NCL Jade has a large theatre and whilst the production values were not quite as good as P & O, we still really enjoyed the shows. The couple from Cirque were especially good.
Lesley and I made good use of the Casino and eventually ended up in profit by a small margin which is clearly always a good thing.
NCL Jade arrived back in Southampton early on Sunday and after one last fantastic breakfast we left the ship about 0930 hrs. To save hassle we took our own luggage off. I would not do this on a longer cruise but we only had a couple of cases between us.
In conclusion we had an amazing time. NCL really surpassed my expectations in all ways, especially the food. Everything is less formal and this does attract a different type of passenger to P & O. There were several Hen and Stag Parties on board but again this never caused any problems and I suspect all short cruises attract these type of groups.
I would not hesitate to cruise with NCL again and the only issue now would be who to cruise with in future? Honestly I have no idea. My brother is now a cruise convert and is busy planning his next cruise. Thank you NCL for a wonderful weekend.