Our experience was that, as usual, service on NCL continues to be excellent. We love our waiters, hostesses, and staff there so much. They always make us feel welcome and are generous with their time and energy. We found the entertainment to be great and enjoyed the exotic ports. We went to several art auctions (they ran really long though- nearly 3 hours each) and jewelry discussions on board were actually very informative and always with raffle prizes. We felt there was more to do than ever on this cruise and we loved that! However, our experience on the Jade this time was negatively affected by constant sanitization issues and cold weather on deck (why didn't they put a ship in Europe with an INDOOR POOL???). Overall we feel that NCL is constantly making steps in the right direction and we can see the improvements in recent years! Jade is a beautiful ship and the crew is very dedicated and experienced. Thank you for another great vacation!
Stateroom Clean but there were minor problems. For example, we never got a card saying who our stateroom attendant was and never actually met the person responsible. We usually flagged someone in the hall down in the evening when we needed a freestyle daily for the next day. Overall the room was kept clean but we frequently needed to be out for the entire day before it was attended to due to the hygiene and sanitization campaigns on board. Normally it's done up while we're out to breakfast or anytime we're out of the room for an hour or two. On this cruise it was usually never cleaned until mid day and we went to bed on more than a few occasions without turn down service after being out to dinner and a show. Also, there was no movie/tv listing. Reception told me "Turn to channel 22 for listings" but there were a few problems with this. It was a 9 day cruise and you had to sit and wait while it went through 5 different movie channel listings on a daily basis (there were several languages on board so one was a german channel, one was french, one was spanish etc) and it was peppered with advertisements for NCL. So you could sit there 15 minutes waiting for a tv listing and never see the day's tv listings. Ridiculous. Please NCL, just print a list of tv stations and the movies you'll be showing for our cruise instead of the upteenth reminder to use the spa or photo services on board! It would have been nice to know what movie we were watching or when some good ones were being shown.
Fun stuff to do We watched some great movies on board (Phoebe in Wonderland, Dark Knight, and Funny People) in our stateroom. We loved the whatever rooms and went to play Wii a few times on sea days. Other people used them for karaoke! We enjoyed art auctions and jewelry seminars when they were offered and learned a lot this cruise. There were always 3-4 activities being offered at any given time on sea days including napkin folding, towel folding with a towel animal dvd, social groups, alcohol tastings (still being frequently cancelled due to lack of interest- NCL, IF YOU JUST OFFER 1 PER SEA DAY INSTEAD OF 5 IT MAY INCREASE INTEREST) and special food and cooking classes as well. One of our favorite activities was to go lay on the wave furniture together in Spinnaker lounge and watch sports on the giant flat screens or to read.
Dining In the dining rooms, as usual, the food was good throughout most of the cruise and even excellent on a few occasions. We went to our first specialty restaurant and were lovingly tended to for several hours as I ate all you can eat sushi (ok quality, not the best I've ever tasted but safely and artfully prepared). The vegetable tempura, seafood hotpot with jasmine rice and various curries in the regular dining room were some of my favorite meals. We felt as though NCL also did a great job serving local specialties as well from Morocco and the mediterranean which really made our trip special. Thanks NCL!!!
The buffet was a real issue. Apparently 12% of the previous cruisers had norovirus like symptoms and the staff was forced to serve everything at the buffet for our entire cruise. IT really slowed the lines down. Thought you would run up and grab an iced tea and piece of fruit? Nope, plan on 15 minutes in various lines and being shoved and jostled by angry cruisers who just waited 20 minutes to get a plate of food in another line there. Are you up early and want a quick coffee and box of cereal or fruit at 0600? Nope. You can explain to the attendant how to make your coffee but every other food item is completely roped off until the breakfast buffet officially opens. It's more frustrating and chaotic than normal when the staff is constantly serving every dish (including drinks) and people are more voracious and angry than normal.
And then, still with issues, THE BLUE LAGOON. NCL, PLEASE hear my PLEAS!!!!!!! We love the Blue Lagoon. PLEASE, just keep it as a 24 hour comfort food place. DO NOT SERVE BREAKFAST THERE. It is so aggravating. The breakfast menu causes issues during the early a.m. changeover and near noon when it changes back to the regular menu of tasties (can't say enough good things about the mozzy sticks, chili cheese dogs and burgers, fish and chips). Angry people flood in there at 1050 and then moan and complain that they can't have scrambled eggs because the menu is changing or that they weren't served fast enough. Tell them to go the dining room or buffet when they want breakfast like eggs and pastries. It's a limited menu anyway. PLEASE NCL, if you make one change before our next cruise, PLEASE make the 24 hour service at Blue Lagoon continuous and serve the same menu for the entire 24 hours!!!!!
Also, WHAT HAPPENED TO THE COKE? Why is there Pepsi onboard? Please bring back the COKE NCL!
Entertainment Some hits and some misses. Smokey Joe's Cafe and the Il Divo cover band "Fourever" were outstanding. NCL Jade had some true vocal talents and these shows showcased them. We were so excited to go to "Showdown" or some other American Idol-like show they had because of this. But it was a letdown. It was more of a show than a showcase of talents. It was pitiful and the songs were poorly chosen for the performers overall. I do applaud the wonderful abilities of these talented performers onboard though and we would like to see more of this on future cruises!
They had a magician, Palladino, whose tricks were really, really good. He kept us captivated the entire time and did lots of audience involvement for those who like to get up on stage!
Also, for the first time, we saw local folklore! We loved it. The Madeiran folkdancing show was hokey but we enjoy that sort of thing and really liked seeing real local performers come on board before sailaway to sing and dance. I encourage NCL to start doing this in every port if possible. BRAVO!
Ports In general, don't eat in Morocco. Visit the market there on a tour before even sipping the tea and then make your own judgement call. We ate on the ship's excursion and it tasted great at the time but not so much afterwards. Casablanca, Rabat and Agadir were interesting but we're not dying to go back. We enjoyed visiting Funchal and Las Palmas on our own. In Malaga we took a private excursion with other cruise critics to Alhambra including a full lunch with coffee, beer and dessert wine for less than the price of 1 of us with the ship. Highly recommended but dress warmly as it's a bit colder in Granada due to elevation and location in Spain!
Barcelona hotel Can't recommend it enough- Hotel Continental at the top of the Ramblas. We walked to the port (45 minutes, flat, very easy with rolling luggage). It cost about $200/night for a hotel with balcony but it can't be beat and here's why. People watching is more fun from a safe distance with a drink in your hand. This hotel offers free beer, wine, juice and soda 24 hours/day. They also offer snacks, fresh fruit, a variety of breads, cereal and make your own ice cream 24 hours/day. IS the food great? Nope, but it's edible and having snacks available all the time saves lots of money. We had breakfast there, went out for a big lunch, and then snacked in the evenings. It was great! The location is easily accessible to several metros. It is walking distance or metro to any site. We never used the metro there and visited the Barcelona Cathedral, Picasso Museum, Sagrada Familia, the entire Ramblas and Bouqueria market, and Gaudi's houses. The rooms are super cheesy but the location and snacks cannot be beat!