Norwegian Jade Cruise Review by FCruzer: A good time for the most part
Overall Member Rating
A good time for the most part
Destination: Western Caribbean
The wife and 12 yr old son wanted to do something different this year. We have cruised 3 other times (royal Caribbean, carnival, Holland america), so we thought why not try a Holiday cruise. NCL had a good special going on for this particular sailing, so off we went.
We had sailed from the Tampa CruisePort #2 previously with Carnival, so we knew pretty much how the embarkation/disembarkation would go. Taxi rides from TPA airport to the cruise terminal was a flat $25 for all of us. It is hectic when you get to the terminal, but there are plenty of porters who will take your bags (we tipped $2/each) and get them where they are supposed to go.
Lots of standing in line to get your embarkation docs squared away and finally get on board. It was around 1.5 hrs for us in total and we were there right at noon which is the earliest the doors open.
We were in cabin 9081, (inside, mid ship) and our luggage showed up around 3pm. Before that we went up to the Garden More Cafe (the buffet) and had lunch. Plenty of standard buffet fare and it was all actually very good.
The Jade was originally the Pride of Hawaii, and as such has that Hawaiian theme throughout. It is ok I guess. For the most part the ship was clean and everything worked (bathrooms, climate control, etc.) just fine.
We ate nearly all meals in the main dining rooms (Grand Pacific and Alizar). The "freestyle dining" means you don't need a reservation (except for large parties), but you must have slacks/jeans and closed toed shoes for the Grand. I wore jeans and a collared button down shirt as was fine. Many folks chose to really dress up (especially towards the end of the cruise), so you can do that too. The Alizar has no such restrictions and I wore shorts and a polo shirt there with no concerns. My son wore jeans and a t-shirt.
The biggest shortcoming we experienced with NCL (as opposed to our other cruises) was that the main dining room food was substandard. There is only one waiter for your table (and many others), and he/she is just not able to keep up. Only once did we have a waiter who was not overwhelmed - and that was when we were in Cozumel and most folks were still in town. The food came out cold and our glasses were frequently empty. I don't blame the waitstaff. They just had too much to do when the rooms filled up. In all our other cruises we had two waiters and they worked in tandem to create a fantastic experience. Not so with NCL. Oh...we did not eat in the specialty restaurants or have any of the drink packages. Just too expensive unless you MUST have alcohol or sodas.
The entertainment in the main theater (Stardust) was exceptional. Probably the best we have seen. The illusionists (Zander and Allison) were very good. He (Zander) liked to strut around a lot, but the illusions were worthwhile. The Russian acrobats (Dmitry and Ksenia) were absolutely incredible. We have never seen anything like them. You have to see what they do to believe it. The comedian (Ron somebody) was also very entertaining and worth the time. The Jade dance troupe/singers were also very good, and the combined shows (first and last nights) were also very enjoyable.
1) Cozumel: We have been here before, but NCL pulls up to the Punta Lagosta pier which is much closer to town. Our Carnival ship docked much further up the coast at Puerta Maya which was much more restrictive. Here you can walk right out (actually over and then out) onto the busy main street that parallels the shoreline. Starbucks and every kind of tourist trap shop is right along that street. Be sure to utilize the FREE bathrooms in the Lagosta pier before you start walking the street. Most places do not have public bathrooms. There are some off the public square (farther down the street) that you have to search for that cost $0.50. The cost is supposed to be "for keeping these stocked, open and clean". Yeah right. There is a secondary Starbucks down the main street that does have a public bathroom (you may have to wait - keep it clean!) and free wi-fi. We hung out in their second story seating area for awhile sipping our drinks and watching the world go by.
2) Harvest Caye: NCLs private island. It just opened in Nov 2016 so we were some of the first to experience it. Very nice and clean. A few shops to buy things. The Belizian rum is excellent! I am not a drinker at all, but I enjoyed tasting all the different kinds of rum the locals create.
Swimming off the beach and in the pools was great. My son found sea shells to take home for his friends.
I asked the locals working there if NCL had treated them fairly during the whole 5 year project and they were all very positive. The employment opportunities were appreciated and the environment/ecology preservation was top notch.
3) Santo de Tomas Guatemala: You port, literally, in an industrial yard. Cranes and shipping containers everywhere. A Guatemalan Navy yard is also right there. There is the obligatory tourist trap building where many folks are selling you the same thing, but you can walk off the fenced compound into the real Guatemala. I speak Spanish and my son is learning in junior high, so we walked into town a little ways and bought some Naranja Fanta and conversed a little bit. This was great fun as we could see how people really lived. We saw their houses, streets, vehicles (!), read signs and even found a local newspaper. Pretty third world, though, and it opens your eyes real quick.
4) Roatan Bay Islands: It rained on/off the whole time we were in port. You get off the ship and there is a two story tourist trap area and that is about it. You pick up your shore excursions just behind the building, and you can walk off the compound if you like. Even so there is a big sign warning you to hide your valuables, don't travel alone, stay with your tour group, and in general be extra careful. As a result we did not leave the area and returned to the ship. That was ok as the view was tremendous. I sat under an awning in a deck chair reading and watching the rain move in and out. Probably my favorite part of the whole cruise.
5) Costa Maya: A standard cruise-oriented tourist trap. Lots of people selling the exact same stuff. The fresh fruit drinks ($4 USD) at the shack in the middle of the compound were very good. The compound is made up of three different areas, and you used to be able to walk between them. These other areas were all blocked off for us, so after a turn or two around the area we returned to the ship. While we were there we had two other ships (Royal Caribbean and Regent) docked there as well so everything was packed. Hard to walk anywhere. We did meet a nice lady from Canada that lives there year-around now and sells magnetic bracelets. The wife bought one and we had a great conversation about expatting to Mexico. It is not as hard as you might think and the amenities down there are much, much better that you are led to believe.
As I mentioned this was a Holiday cruise and there were Christmas decorations all around the ship. We all sang carols on Christmas Eve, and the "Holiday Showcase" in the main theater on Christmas day was excellent. Likewise all the staff wished you "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year", not being afraid to say things like that. I appreciated the lack of BS political correctness. For Christmas dinner you had the option of turkey and all the trimmings, Beef Wellington, duck, etc.
My son being 12 did not fit into the "Teens" club and that bummed him out quite a bit. He did not want to hang out with the "kids" so he stayed in the pool, played basketball, or watched tv in the room. As a result I cannot comment on the kids programs on board.
I used the Fitness area nearly everyday. It has a fairly good assortment of treadmills, recumbent cycles, weight machines, free weights and a mirrored yoga/exercise room. I actually ran into the male Russian acrobat (Dmitry) there one night and we had a pleasant, short, conversation.
Lastly I should mention that we had many days of rough seas. We had gale force winds at least 3 days and that made the ship rock a bit. I overheard many people at dinner/breakfast talking about the effects of seasickness. People staying in their rooms/not eating, etc. Lots of folks walking around with the little round patches behind their ears. I talked with ship staff and they said the Caribbean can be like this - sometimes smooth as glass, sometimes not. If you have any reservations about whether you could get seasick, bring your meds with you. We did not use any as our sea legs are pretty good. No shame, however, to use them if you need to. Less
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