We started with four days in Barcelona, staying at the Holiday Inn near Pouble Nou - a block from a great pedestrian shopping/restaurant area - which seemed to be frequented mostly by locals rather tourists. We used the metro system to see most of the best sights of the city, Familia Sagrada, Las Ramblas, La Boqueria Market, Barceloneta etc.
We boarded the Jade on a sunny day with great expectations, as we were first time cruisers. We met our Concierge, who we saw only rarely after that, while going through the concierge lounge, and occasionally she would raise her head enough to say good morning. Our Penthouse suite (9670) was adequate, although smaller than expected, and it was a hideous shade of pink. I can't imagine being comfortable in anything smaller than a Penthouse. Speaking of the bright pink of the suite, for the most part I would describe the public rooms as garish with colors that were bordering on awful! Our butler brought us "treats" every afternoon, and other than bringing us DVD movies (3 days after we asked for them) and 2 cold room service breakfasts, we saw little of her. The one person who seemed concerned with our comfort and satisfaction was our room steward Susanna, who was very conscientious and did a great job.
The first night we ate at Papa's Italian Kitchen where the food and the service were very good - on a 2nd occasion we were disappointed. Being in a suite brought with it the perk of being able to have breakfast and lunch in Cagney's where the food and service were excellent. We had one meal in Paniolo's Tex Mex, some items were good, some so-so - our experience at Alizar was similar, and we felt like we were being hurried out to get more people in . Service at both was just fair. Our one meal in the Grand Pacific Dining Room was a disappointment, with poor service and so-so food, the Garden Cafe buffet was crowded with lots of mediocre food. Unfortunately we discovered Le Bistro on our last night so only had one meal there, and it was excellent. Our meals at Cagney's were by far the best. We had a bar set up in our room arranged before the cruise, which we liked, but I still have a hard time understanding charging $63 for a liter of Smirnoff vodka. We enjoyed the 2 NCL U beer tastings at Tankards and the bartenders there were very friendly and a lot of fun - the other bars we went to were very impersonal. I only hope that the 15% gratuity added to drinks actually went to the bartenders.
We enjoyed the 1st comedian on board, but otherwise felt the entertainment was lacking. I have mixed feelings about the $12 per day per person service charge because I doubt the people who really deserved the tips were adequately compensated, and some who gave little or no service were most likely tipped more than they deserved. We compensated those we felt deserved it outside this $12/day charge. Our last night at sea was very rough, which made for a not so great finish to the cruise, and I realize this was unavoidable - but as was said in another review, a word from the captain would have gone a long way in calming nerves and making for a better night. At this point, I'm not sure we will take another cruise. We have done independent, somewhat adventurous travel to 21 other countries, and although I admit that not having to pack and unpack for 12 days was nice, I really felt shortchanged in the quick tours. If not for pictures it would be hard to really remember some of what we saw and did. It did however, afford us a chance to see Cairo, the Pyramids, Sphinx & Khan El Khalili Bazaar without spending a lot of time there, and also let us see just a glimpse of a couple countries we would definitely like to spend more time in. If we were to cruise again it would probably be a relaxing Caribbean or Mexican Riviera cruise or something similar, but I doubt it would be with NCL. We did have a great time on this cruise because the itinerary was incredible and most of all because of the great people we met on board.