Looking for a nice winter break and a great value that features lots of sunshine? If yes, book this cruise on the NCL Jade!
Ship: A recently refurbished ship with friendly staff and great service all around. I was a bit skeptical of the interior design based on other reviews, but thought the Hawaiian theme was tastefully done throughout the ship. All public spaces were nicely appointed and provided a lot of different areas to spend time at throughout the 10 day voyage.
Cabin: We had an ocean view cabin, which was a equivalent to a 3 star hotel. We were surprised to have a handicapped accessible room, which provided about double the amount of space of similar rooms and was especially noticeable in the bathroom. The room itself was clean and our cabin attendant was great. It was a nice surprise to have an animal made of towels sitting on our bed every evening upon our return.
Food & Drinks: Dining options were plentiful and that is not even including the specialty restaurants with cover charges. Overall the quality & presentation were good, but keep in mind this is not fine dining since it is like most all-inclusive vacations. We had most meals in the 2 main dining rooms (Grand Pacific & Alizar), which offered the same menus (changed daily) in different settings. The first night featured lobster tail and grilled fish, which our waiter tried to turn in to an all you can eat experience. The buffets in the Garden CafÃ© were stocked with lots of different options ranging from Indian, Italian, German and American comfort foods. The 24 hour dining option is the Blue Lagoon, which offered mostly American & British comfort foods. The pool area featured 2 large charcoal grills with fresh meats grilled during lunch. The coffee bar featured Lavassa beans for espresso based drinks that were available for an additional cost. The beer & wine selections were mainstream with enough variety for a week long voyage. In particular, draft beers included Heineken, Amstel, Stella Artois and Becks, along with about another dozen global beers in bottles. A highlight of the dining experience was the German Fest, which featured an amazing lunch buffet designed by the German executive chef and live music on the back deck.
Cagney's Steakhouse featured quality cuts of beef that were flavorful and cooked to perfection. The quality of service and food was great. If looking for a less crowded and quieter atmosphere along with greater choice of options unavailable elsewhere on the ship, it is worth the cover charge of $20. We also tried the Taste of India buffet lunch in Alizar, which was excellent and worth the additional cost.
Consider putting a few bottles of wines in your checked baggage. They typically do not confiscate them, which allows you to skip the $15 corkage fee by opening them in your room before wondering around the ship with your favorite drink.
Entertainment: They type and quality was similar to that on other mainstream cruises. The one standout was the Elements show, which was similar to a performance at Cirque de Soleil. More high quality acts such as this would be greatly appreciated on future sailings!
Ports & Excursions: All of the ports were good, with some definitely better than others such as Barcelona & Funchal. We did all excursions on our own, which amounted to considerable savings compared to NCL's offerings.
Cruise Critic Gathering: NCL did a great job arranging the Cruise Critic gathering. The meeting was held in Le Bistro and included a nice buffet of pastries & drinks. All of the ships top officers were in attendance and they made sure to emphasize they should be contacted for any reason to make our vacation more enjoyable. I would also like to thank NCL for going above and beyond once they found out that we were contributing members of CruiseCritic. The level of service & attention was significantly increased to levels that exceeded benefits available in other top level travel industry frequent user memberships. Greatly appreciated were extras that ranged from canapÃ©s, to dinner & drinks with the Captain.
Conclusion: This was a fun cruise with a more relaxed atmosphere compared to other cruise lines. I would definitely cruise again with NCL and on the Jade, especially since it has a couple of different itineraries throughout the year.