My husband and I - who are seasoned cruisers -sailed on the NCL Jade departing October 21, 2009 from Athens, Greece for 12 nights with stops in 5 Greek Islands, Alexandira/Cairo, (Egypt), Izmir and disembarking in Istanbul, Turkey. I have taken my time in submitting a review as I wanted to be sure that I submit a clear and accurate one because we had chosen this ship for its itinerary only and not for the ship itself as we were very aware of the cruise line category. This ship is not for passengers expecting higher-end service at all.
Embarkation in Athens (Pireaus) was surprisingly fast and easy - I could easily say it was a breeze! Our passports were "confiscated" upon check in order for the ship to obtain visas to Egpyt and Turkey. These were given back to us prior to disembarking in each of these ports. The ship does charge a $15.00pp surcharge in addition to the $20USD pp Visa fee for Turkey. The convenience is worth it.
Because we only booked this ship for the ports, we decided on an inside cabin #10051 which was small as most inside cabins without a sofa. The bathroom was very roomy and the shower was quite large and comfortable with clear doors. This is where the good part ends. Although everyone is aware that liquor bottles are not to be brought onboard cruise ships, we always carry one on with us for our room on other higher-end cruiselines with no problem. Our usual "bar tab" - including bottled wine - on cruise ships reaches $900 so one bottle does not affect the ship's revenues and apparently other cruiselines recognize that. Our bottle was confiscated. Luggage is scrutinized and x rayed - not for weapons or other threatening objects - but strictly for liquor. The Jade has a designated room and permanent sign that directs passengers where to go if your luggage has been "halted" for liquor inspection. The sign reads that NCL has a Zero Tolerance for alcohol. Amazing! We were treated like criminals but that was ok. We did not spend one dime on liquor on this ship on purpose. We purchased drinks at each port daily and would bring in some in water bottles in my purse from each port.
Although we were booked as "Mr. & Mrs." and requested our beds to be placed together prior to embarking, they were not. When we finally found our room steward - Joseph - we asked him to correct this. He replied if we could wait until tomorrow because he had no assistance for the evening. We frowned and let it go since we knew what to expect from NCL. However, the steward returned a few hours later and told us that he would put the beds together for us that same evening after all because he didn't want us to start on bad terms. So he found assistance and corrected the bed arrangement. His service during the remaining 11 nights was very poor. Our tissue box, amenities, toilet paper, glasses, ice and such were never replaced when emptied - days would go by and we would have to remind him. Our room did not have the usual binder with the room service menu, morning breakfast tags and other ship offerings so we called to request one on the third day. The front desk insisted we had one and ignored our request. Hours later we called our room steward and the front desk again regarding the binder with no results. A 1:00am - interrupting our sleep- the front desk called to advise us that someone will be sent to our cabin in a few minutes with the binder. This was unacceptable. Things like this continued during our cruise but we were more interested in the amazing itinerary than dealing with incompetent staff. Keep in mind that gratituities are automatically charged to your shipboard account and you have the option to adjust them at the end of the cuise.
The food in the regular dining rooms was of very poor quality. I think they do this on purpose so you have to dine at their specialty restaurants - 11 of them - and spend more money. We refused to return to the main Alizar Dining room so we mostly ordered room service and ate at the Blue Lagoon. I recommend the Blue Lagoon for a quiet and cozy meal. Service there is excellent and is opened 24 hours. The Garden Cafe (buffet)was good but again the staff needs training in servicing their passengers. We dined in the Japanese Steakhouse ($25USDpp)one time which was very good. We also tried the Italian Restaurant ($15pp)once and the French Bistro twice($25pp). The food at the Italian was not good at all as it had no Italian taste. We let the server and manger know our concerns. We ordered the Chicken Parmigiana. The French Bistro is better but make sure you know "their" steak temperatures when ordering. We went twice and twice they got the temp wrong.
The Jade has internet service available in each room via ethernet cable. If you forget yours they loan you one but remember to return it otherwise you will be charged $100USD. Internet packages are the usual 250Min for $100USD.
The Jade's decor is mostly Hawaiian as it was originally Pride of Hawaii. The psychedelic decor throughout the ship may drive you crazy. The lounges have chairs shaped like man-eating flowers. The main corridors have gigantic multicolor acrylic flowers overhead. Very poor decor overall. Sanitizing is mandatory and you are required to use hand sanitizers whenever it is offered to you especially upon returning from a port or entering a dining area. They take good prevention against viruses.
We attended only three shows - 2 of which we left before the end - cheesey productions on board. Only saw the illusionist show. The pool area is very bare and decorated in circus flag themes. Quite a sight!
The ports were the best thing on this cruise. Our stops were Nafplion, Katakolon/Olympia, Crete, overnight in Cairo, Mykonos, Santorini, Izmir and overnight in beautiful Istanbul! (We stayed 4 more days in Istanbul after the cruise.) This itinerary had a minimum of 9 hours at each port- most were 10-12 with Cairo 48hours! This gave enough time to explore each port vigorously. Went on only two ship excursions, Izmir and the first day in Istanbul. The ship staff is well organized for this and those went well. For all other ports, we either went on our own or booked private tours which I highly recommend - especially in Cairo.
The ship has a slogan that you can disembark on the final day whenever you please so you can sleep in, excercise, watch a movie, etc. - well the last disembark hour is 9:00am as most other ships. That doesn't give much time to participate in the suggested activities. Would I recommend NCL or the Jade?? - only if your interest is in the ports it will visit and you are willing to adhere to poor quality and service, otherwise, definitely another cruiseline.