Norwegian Jade Cruise Review by nw_man: NCL Jaded...
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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. More
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. Less
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Cabin review: Norwegian Jade
Port and Shore Excursions
There is no need to pay the cruiseline for a trip at this port, everything is right there in front of you.
Hop on hop off bus is available to see all the main sights, although it was so horrendously busy we didnt bother. We walked a bit, then jumped into a cab twice to get to places out of walking distance.
Very busy place, keep your wits about you for the usual pickpockets.
For your convenience, they have a shuttle, for a 5 euro per person fee.... not happy about that personally but this isnt the place for such discussion.
Once again we did our own thing, much cheaper than anything the cruiseline had to offer.
We hired a driver on the keyside and got some other cruise passengers from our ship and for 45 euro each had a long day trip to both Florence and Pisa.
Climbed the Duomo in Florence, took in the city sights for about 4 hours then took the drive to Pisa to see the famous leaning tower. Time in Pisa was limited to an hour or so, but there really isnt that much there to do and see, so was adequate.
Please do not let my rating of 1 for the port put you off this destination, I rate the port itself 1, NOT Florence or Pisa etc.
It rained. Hard. Very hard. It was also All Saints Day, so pretty much everything was closed. Of course none of this was the cruiselines fault and couldnt be helped.
Once again, a hop on hop off bus was available, 13 euro per person. We took it and got utterly drowned, it's an open top bus ! Still, it got us to all the main places of interest for little cost.
The casino is worth a visit, although be aware that whilst you are allowed in the building, if you want to actually see inside the casino itself they charge you 10 Euro.
It was raining so hard that our day was a total wash out and we retreated to the ship quickly along with everyone else.
Of course Naples is the port of call for Pompeii, Herculaneum, Sorrento, The Isle Of Capri and the Amalfi Coast and it was our intention to jump on the hydrofoil and go to Capri, get a ferry to Sorrento and then get on the train to Pompeii and back to ship.
However, even the best laid plans go astray occasionally..... the hydrofoil was 16 euro per person one way, 32 euro return. Now that is a very expensive cup of coffee... we were going to have a short stroll round Capri, a drink and a look at the sights before the main event, Pompeii. We decided against.
Instead we found a superb local taxi guide, Ernesto... Ernicabs ! Can you believe that ? Ernicabs ! Well, Erni is a gentleman of advancing years and what a true gent he was. He took us to Pompeii, chatting all the way along some of the most crazy roads and drivers I have ever seen in all my life ! He gave us a guide book, a map, took us to the exit at Pompeii, then drove us to the entrance. Let me explain...Pompeii is spread out, perhaps 2 km from entrance to exit. Most cab drivers take you to the entrance and wait there, they expect you to return all the way back on foot. Erni didnt, he showed us the exit first then explained where he would be waiting. What a great service.
We hired an english speaking guide once inside, along with some other english speaking people who were looking for a guide, that cost us 10 euro each, but was invaluable. They do have an audio guide for 5 euro though so you can guide yourself.
Pompeii is a must see.
Our one regret on the day was that we didnt have enough time in Naples itself, I think you could easily spend your entire day there and never venture out of town.
It isnt really walkable into the town so there were shuttle buses provided for a price, personally I think charging for this is a bit out of order but that isnt for this review.
There is a hop on hop off bus around Palma, however we didnt use it. I think the price is 15euro per person.
We took the local bus to the cathedral for 1.25 euro per person, then jumped a cab and went to the castle.
Enjoyed it, lots of shops for all the shopaholics too.
The port doesnt allow passengers to walk from the ship but offers a complimentary bus system to get you from ship to town. Then it was a case of a 10 minute walk for the train into Rome.
Take note fellow travellers : Do not pay for a rip off excursion into Rome ! Our cruiseline was charging $99 each to simply take you there and drop you off, we took the train, 9 euro RETURN and this also included public transport whilst in Rome, i.e the underground and bus services !
Having said that, the train was very full with passengers. Also, please be aware that cruiselines do not wait for passengers who go it alone, Rome is a 1 hour 20 min train ride away, longer by car. We left 20 passengers stranded when the ship sailed that night !
Got off the train at St Peters Square, took in the ambience but had already decided not to enter the Vatican as we have been there previously.
Instead we got on the hop on hop off bus ( again ! )..it is generally best to try to do a full lap we feel if the bus is full. However, there is much competition in Rome and it never was so we simply hopped off and on at random.
Saw The Pantheon ( marvellous ), Trevi Fountain, various other places of interest and the Coliseum and Roman Forum.
We grabbed an English speaking guide at the Coliseum for 8 euro each, he was our best bargain of the week.... a full guided tour ( you need to pay the entrance fee yourself although his man gets the tickets so you jump the queue ). The tour lasted an hour, was excellent and he also passed us onto a colleague who took us on a further 1 1/2 hour tour of the Roman Forum. Superb.
We heard later on that the cruiseline tour didnt even enter the Coliseum, absolutely criminal !! Apparently they drove round it on the tour bus....