Husband Jon and I love cruising, so we schedule one as many times a year as possible. We have 22 cruises under our belts - so far...Many more to come, we hope. This was our first experience with NCL. Let us give you the good, the bad, and the ugly from this cruise.
Scheduled through NCL, our air travel was uneventful and a positive experience.
From airport to ship was great - a short but very interesting tour of Barcelona, hitting the high spots, so we didn't have to revisit later on.
Left off at the cruise port we signed in with relative ease. Introduction to our stateroom was as good as it gets! So far, so good. We had splurged on a mini-suite for the first time ever, and were extremely happy with the results. And when we first entered our room, there was one of our complimentary bottles of wine with our wineglasses and opener welcoming us. Pretty cool stuff! The room was large enough to accommodate both of us doing our "own thing" even when I got that nasty norovirus and had to remain in bed for a day. Jon was able to use the living area and block off the lights from his activities on the laptop, so I could sleep.
Unfortunately, here comes some of the "bad." Our room steward left much to be desired. We saw him less than any steward on any other cruise. We asked for wine glasses, but he refused. Our room was not made up until 11:30AM on most days, but he asked us to vacate the room on disembark day at 7:00AM - an hour and a half earlier than required.
Because of the norovirus the staff in the Garden Cafe - the buffet - had to serve all the food and drink. All of this wait staff were slow and some were even sullen. The drink servers were especially bad, making us feel that we were imposing on them! They were the ugly.
The free restaurants - all 3 of them - specialized in slow service. What really annoyed us was bad information. On the first night we went to the Blue Lagoon, a small no-charge restaurant, and were told that we would have to pay for coffee. So, being coffee drinkers, we didn't return there, until we were informed correctly by other passengers that coffee was free there. The entire cruise line has been accused of nickel/diming customers, and we saw it first hand. The free "Freestyle Dining" was slow and cumbersome from waiting on the stairs for table assignment through dinner service. We noticed that if you asked to share a table, we always ate alone, but if we didn't want to be seated with others, sure enough, we had company. Does this sound like Freestyle to you?
And can you believe that you had to pay to play shuffleboard? Just indicative.
There were very few quiet places to sit, relax, decompress, talk to other cruisers without loud music playing from the bar.
On the other hand, the entertainment was good and kept us entertained in the evenings. During sea days we were used to more enrichment and educational seminars on other cruise lines - very few were offered on NCL.
Another point in NCL's behalf was the ease of getting on and off the ship in every port. There were two gangplanks in use almost each time, which really speeded up the process. The life jacket drill was also almost painless, a nice change from other cruises.
The food was good enough, but we did lose weight on the cruise - probably from the exertion of those wonderful ports more than lack of volume.
Disembarkation and our transfer to hotel in Barcelona were both great. Thanks to NCL for both.
To summarize, lots of good but some bad news on this NCL cruise. Our biggest complaints involved NCL's philosophy of setting reasonable rates for the cruise, but extracting additional dollars at every opportunity. We don't think the problems were specific to the Jade.