Our family of 5 (kids ages 17,15 and 12) sailed Norwegian Jade July 18-25, 2010 and we had a great time! It was our first cruise ever, and the kid's first time to Europe. We were very pleasantly surprised. We had decided to visit Amsterdam first, so did not arrive to Barcelona until late the night before our cruise. Initially, we had booked hotel rooms right on Las Ramblas, but changed reservations to stay out near the airport because we knew we'd be exhausted. It was a smart move, but hotel not great...Stayed at Barcelona Renaissance Airport Hotel. It was possibly the worst service I have ever received anywhere...They had given our reserved rooms away when we arrived (even though we had made them aware of our late arrival). We then waited for other rooms.... they did end up being clean and quite comfortable, despite one non-working TV and a few other inconveniences. Front desk did not pick up phone and was very short-staffed ...We arranged for breakfast and a transfer (for a fee) from hotel to ship at noon on Sunday. We had also booked this hotel for the Sunday night following the cruise (we had an early flight that Monday morning), and we had a similarly poor post-cruise experience. They do have a nice pool, though!
Embarkation to the JADE was well organized and fairly quick..We did not realize that luggage went to one line and passengers to another, but there were many cruise staff who directed people in a friendly manner. We saw many passengers bringing on bottled water and some people reportedly had wine, but we did not... (In the ports, the ship confiscated our wine and we needed to pick it up on our last night...or we could have paid a $15 corking fee if we had wanted to bring a bottle of wine back to our cabin... Wine prices on board are Ok, but we thought the ship's beer and wine list was a bit limited...)
After a quick check in, the JADE had a wonderful lunch set up, with something for everyone. My daughter is a vegetarian and sons are picky eaters, but everyone was happy. We had purchased the soda pass for 4 out of 5 of us....probably not worth it for us because we were off of the ship so much! The ship's dining halls included OJ, coffee, iced tea and water, which we preferred to soda.
The ship was immaculately clean, with hand disinfectant everywhere. All waiters and room stewards couldn't have been nicer. One waiter in particular, Ronaldo (from the Garden Cafe), came and did card tricks and tricks with toothpicks for our kids....He was so nice! He remembered all of our names and made us feel special throughout the cruise. He was especially nice to our 12 year old, who ended up spending a lot of time with my husband and I because he did not like the "kids club". His older siblings LOVED the "teen club" so we hardly saw them when we were on board! The only JADE staff that we did not find to be helpful were (surprisingly) those at the service desk. There were often lines and when we were able to get up to the desk to ask questions, a few of the staff were clearly inconvenienced. We had rude service-desk attendants on 3 out of the 4 times we went there (because our key cards became demagnetized).
My husband and I had a room with a balcony (highly recommended) and our kids were in an interior cabin across the hall. Very nice, clean, comfortable accommodations. I had brought along an extension cord, which came in handy when we wanted to charge our camera/phones at the same time (only one outlet). Room stewards very nice and always willing to help in any way.... and great at making towel animals :). There is laundry service available (quite $$$$), but no wash machines or irons. We were lucky to have our balcony on the port side of the ship that viewed the coastline because the views as you pull in and out of ports are spectacular.
We did not eat at any of the specialty restaurants on board....the food in the regular dining halls was fine. We did go to a few of the shows which were fun, but not very good. We missed the staff talent show but my teenagers loved it! The same bands played the same songs at the different parties throughout the cruise...We weren't crazy about the music....but it was still a lot of fun, and for the limited time we were on the ship, they were fine. We all made sure we had white outfits for the white hot party, but we stayed for less than 5 minutes......not for everyone....I was afraid of getting sea sick, but did not even feel the sea except for one evening (luckily the day at sea) and I did get sick....but I put my patch on and was fine the next day. I'd suggest bringing something just in case..... The major plus for this cruise is the itinerary...
The ports were GREAT! We did private shore excursions for all 3 ports in Italy through ROME CONNECTION.....I would highly recommend. Although expensive, it was much cheaper than the ship excursions and well worth the money. All of our driver/guides were GREAT! (see port reviews)