Winter 2012 in Spain loomed with the potential of being wet and cold (if the previous two winters were anything to go by) so in October, 2011 I booked on the internet a cruise to the Canary Islands to get away from any inclement weather. In the event I needn't have bothered,the weather on the Costa del Sol was better than the overcast, cool, dull days experienced in Madeira, Tenerife and Lanzarote!
We embarked on the Norwegian Jade at Malaga, having driven to the port in our own vehicle. Parking was easy, a woman with a clipboard approached us when we arrived dockside, helped us unload our suitcases, told us it would cost 7 euros per day to park and gave my husband a receipt when he handed over the keys. Spanish law requires car ownership and registration papers be carried in the vehicle at all times, but I took them from the glovebox and stashed them in the pocket of my suitcase. We checked in our luggage prior to boarding and mentioned that we had accepted the cruise line's parking offer. No one seemed to know anything about it. Uh oh, this did not auger well!
Our stateroom was spotless when we embarked and the standard did not lapse during our nine days cruise. Freestyle dining suits us (we once did a half-world cruise with another line that had fixed dining. My husband forked out the price of a small principality in tips to the Maitre d' to enable us to change tables a couple of times during the voyage!). We took the opportunity to enjoy meals from some of the extra cost restaurants. Where in the world would you get a three course meal - appetiser, steak that so melts in your mouth that you almost don't need teeth, and a dessert for USD $25 per person? Try Cagneys and the Bistro restaurants if you are cruising Norwegian Jade. If you are vegetarian your menu choices are limited in all of the twelve or so restaurants, and even more limited if you think mushrooms taste like dirt and you don't eat them.
The evening shows were varied, one was deeply ordinary, conversely the 'Elements' show was awesome - swings,roundabouts and personal taste.We thought the Norwegian Jade was a happy ship. We didn't see much of the captain and frankly we didn't want to after the fiasco of the Costa Concordia. We wanted to think he was on the bridge, in charge, keeping us safe, and alive. Gary Glading is the cruise director and he and his team were charming, couteous, fun and professional. The last thing a passenger wants (whoever deemed a fee-paying sea-venturing person to be a 'guest'?) is an idiotic cruise director popping up like a ventriloquist's dummy at the beginning of every social event asking the audience are they pleased to see him?
So, we had good service, the ship did not have that 'old and tired' feeling about it - she is only 6 years old - the excursions were well planned departed and arrived back on time and covered what they said they would.
The included service charge was a thorn in our sides. When we booked the cruise we read the small print in the contract that said a 12 and a half percent service charge was compulsory and added to the total cost of the cruise. It turned out that this was to be distributed among all the stateroom stewards and the restaurant servers. An extra 12 1/2 percent was added to every beverage bill. We prefer to reward personally for good service, so we tipped the restaurant staff and our own stateroom steward then obtained reimbursement for the 12 and a half percent we'd paid on the total cruise cost when we booked.
We disembarked 'freestyle', carrying our own luggage for expedience, and yes, our car was there waiting for us, cleaned, polished, and on the dockside.