Just completed a 7 night Western Med cruise on NCL Jade departing from Palma in Majorca and what a week it was !
This is our third cruise and we found it strange to discover that NCL embark passengers at more than one port.... some of us got on at Palma but the majority of people embarked at Barcelona the following day. Not a real problem though, except the ship was geared up for the Barcelona 'timeframe' in that they had the last night entertainment on our first night and the first night welcome on our second night... plus we had to attend TWO emergency drills which didnt exactly thrill me.
So, onto the ship itself... well we like to travel and have several holidays per year so we usually go for inside cabins and this was no exception. The cabin itself was immaculate, cannot fault it, BIG double bed, maybe super king size even, the usual safe, TV, mini bar, shower etc etc... 10/10.
Ship layout is easy to follow, an excellent theatre, no poor seats at all.
Found the food to be pretty good, although we have to say that we arent fussy eaters at all. However, the scramble in the Garden Cafe, particularly at breakfast was immense... people pushing and rushing, difficult to find a table and general madness. Having said that, they do open a ' pay ' restaurant to cope with the massive demand and you simply have to carry your breakfast through to there.
This prompted us to try one of the other ' free ' breakfast outlets, however to say they were s-l-o-w would be an understatement.. about 30-40 people in there and it took them almost an hour to get our order sorted. Not good at all.
We didnt try any of the ' pay ' food outlets, cant see the need to really, although they seemed very popular.
Entertainment : NCL have a production team that put on their own shows. Dire. We almost walked out of 2 of them. However, they brought onboard 3 outside shows for 3 evenings and they were excellent, a magician / Illusionist, a quartet of male singers a little like Il Divo and some Spanish Ballerinas / dancers. They were all quality.
We read before our trip a lot of reviewers saying NCL ' nickel and dime ' their passengers.... well we are from the UK so it took some time to work out what they meant. They mean they chase you for every penny they can get out of you. Oh how true this is !!! In fact we have renamed NCL the Nickel and Cent Line.... they want ALL YOUR CASH !!
Let me explain. Alcohol : a bottle of lager was $7.32 ( £4.88 at £1 = $1.5) including compulsory tip and tax. That is one heck of a price to pay if you intend enjoying several a night. They have the total cheek to add a 15% tip and in their words state ' ADDED FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE ' !! Are they having a laugh !!?? You like wine ? Prepare to whine at your bill come the end of the week ! Disgusting prices.
We purchased a soda package for $53 for the week for unlimited sodas... passable if you drink a lot of soda. However it soon becomes apparant that waiters and bar staff do not like you very much when you are on this package.. they work off tips, remember the 15% added for YOUR convenience ? Well its already been added to the soda package, presumably NCL just pocket that, the bar staff and waiters were less than keen to rush to re-fill you ! As for the waiters and bar staff, there are hundreds of them. You cant settle for 2 minutes without them allover you asking would you like anything from the bar. I did feel a little sorry for them, NCL obviously pay them poor wages and force them to make it up with tips.
Whilst I am on a rant about tipping...... lets discuss the superb $12 a day per person that NCL kindly add to your onboard bill, for YOUR convenience ! Excellent, thanks for that NCL. I have a great idea for you... pay your staff next to nothing and then force your passengers to stump up a contribution to their pay packet and then pocket some of that and then make your passengers embarrassed when they query this. Americans may be used to tipping but us Brits are most certainly not. Now dont get me wrong, our cabin steward got a hefty tip from me and we also paid via the onboard end of trip bill, but $12 per day per person ?? That is too much.
My advice : go to guest services / reception and get them to lower it to a more realistic figure. We did. They did everything in their power to talk us out of it, but stick to your guns and they will lower it.
One other thing from the Nickel and Cent Line.... they dock at a port where walking through the port is forbidden. They CHARGE YOU 5 euros per person to take their shuttle off the keyside ! Sweet !!! Not.
Onto NCL trips : We didnt do a single one of them. Why not you ask ? I shall enlighten you my reader friend. They are perhaps the most hideous, the most horrendous, the most heinous disgraceful rip off of all from the Nickel and Cent Line !!
You want to go to Rome ? See the famous Vatican, perhaps the Trevi fountain or the coliseum ? With the Nickel and Cent Line this will set you back a mere $99 per person for them to transport you on a bus and leave you there.... Rome on your own they call it... I guess its a little like added for your convenience !! Anyway.... The train station is about a 10 minute walk, drops you at either St Peters Square or the main station in the centre of Rome and costs..... NINE EUROS RETURN, including any underground trains you care to catch plus busses ! It was Rome on our own..... without the added in-convenience !
I fear that my review is now nothing more than a rant dear reader, so shall leave you with the positive.
Would I sail again with NCL ? Absolutely. Did we have a superb time ? Yes. Are the staff friendly, the rooms spotless and efficient, the ships facilities good ? All yes.
NCL : pay your staff a little more, they do a great job. Charge your customer a little more for their cruise and drop the added for your convenience garbage daily charge and extortionate bar prices.