My husband and I sailed on the Norwegian Jade, April 2nd through 9th, with two other couples. This was our 16th cruise and 3rd with NCL. Our ports were Cozumel, Belize City, Belize and Roatan, Honduras. We drove down from Kansas to ... Read More
My husband and I sailed on the Norwegian Jade, April 2nd through 9th, with two other couples. This was our 16th cruise and 3rd with NCL. Our ports were Cozumel, Belize City, Belize and Roatan, Honduras. We drove down from Kansas to Houston's Bayport Cruise terminal the day before and stayed at the Best Western Plus Seabrook Suites. The hotel is very nice, ideal to stay before your cruise as it's about 5 minutes from the cruise port. I was sure my husband had set the GPS incorrectly when we were dumped off in an industrial area, but the hotel is there off a main highway with nothing but industry around it. There is not a place to eat dinner on property, but they do serve a continental breakfast, so prepare to take the hotel shuttle, or a taxi if you don't have your own car. The free shuttle will take you to the cruise terminal. We chose to park right at the terminal.
We arrived at the terminal at about 10:30 AM which was the time we had chosen through NCL. There was no waiting as we made it swiftly through security, filled out our health forms and got right to the counter with our documents. About half an hour later boarding commenced. All of this is moot, as NCL would be through sailing out of Houston by mid-April. We've heard a variety of reasons for this, but for us it was love/hate. This is the easiest terminal to drive to and park, but what a nasty port; smelly, noisy and polluted. Also, the Texas tax on liquor was a mess for the ship to deal with and the passengers certainly weren't happy about it. Not too long after our arrival, it was announced that we were free to drop our bags off in our cabin—for our convenience—even if our cabins weren't quite ready. Nice touch, NCL.
We chose to enjoy our relaxing lunch in one of the main dining rooms, the Grand Pacific. We had it almost to ourselves, as we knew that the buffet area would be wildly busy as folks boarded. This dining room would be where we would eat dinner every night. Reviewers tend to prefer this dining room to the other, the Alizar, as the Grand Pacific is more open. We found the dining experience aboard the Jade surpassed any experience on any ship in all of our cruises. We did start out with a very rocky first night. Our food service was slow, servers inattentive, our food was cold, lack of bar service; we finally complained when our dessert arrived with the ice cream completely melted. We had a great discussion with staff and from that evening on, Gautam, our maitre d' and Romeo, who would be our waiter every night, took care of us completely. Courses were perfectly paced, as Romeo would always ask if we were going to the show. The food was beautifully presented and the quality was excellent. None of us can say we were dissatisfied with a single dish. On sea days we had lunch in the Grand Pacific every day. Again, so much nice than the hustle and bustle of the buffet.
Prior to our cruise, we were quite concerned about the quality of the dining experience aboard the Jade, as there were so many negative reviews on Cruise Critic. We noticed that the reviews had seemed to improve in the last couple of weeks before we sailed and so we were hopeful. I know staff does read our reviews and they DO listen. Because the MDR experience was so satisfactory we never bothered to go to one of the Specialty Restaurants. One of the other couples when to Moderno and reported that it was excellent.
One of our perks was the free Ultimate Beverage Package. We sailed with Celebrity a couple of months ago and their package did not offer near the premium liquors that NCL offers in their package. What we found odd was that NCL charged extra for bottled water and premium coffees and there was also some complaints about the cost of cans of soda, however you can get a glass of soda without charge. We simply brought our own refillable bottles from home to take off of the ship. The water tasted fine. We found bar staff aboard the Jade to be very friendly and after awhile they would know what your drink was. We particularly patronized the Aloha Bar and there was always a warm greeting and smile to be found there. The casino itself is nice enough. What I say in all my reviews regarding the shipboard casinos: Lower the table minimums. It's nuts to have so many empty tables with dealers doing nothing. C'mon lower those minimums and you'll still make plenty of profit.
Since entertainment is so subjective, I don't have a lot to say about the shows and I'm not much of a show-goer. I thought the magician/illusionist act was laughable and cheesy. I left after about the 4th time I saw him do some variation of putting his wife in a box. My husband had a good time though and always enjoys the shows. The musical entertainment in the small venues and bars was excellent! A good variety and good quality.
Our first port was Cozumel and we've been there many times. Usually we enjoy shopping and walking around, but this time we pre-booked Mr. Sancho's online with a $5 deposit. It would be our beach day. Food and fun activities in the sun, plus the good reviews were a big selling point for us. Unfortunately, it was pouring rain. One of the couples decided to tough it out and go anyway. Of course, it cleared up in a couple of hours and they said they had the beach to themselves. The food was great and there was so much to do. We walked around and paid our usual visit to Woody's Bar & Grill enjoying some time relaxing with a giant margarita and appetizers. Nellie, the proprietor, runs a nice place just off the town square and it's fun to sit in the open cafe and watch the people go by.
Our second port was Belize City, Belize. This our 3rd time to Belize. The first two times we booked Cave Tubing with Vitalino Reyes. A fantastic tour and if we go to Belize we will do this again! This time we had considered just grabbing a taxi and touring around, but it was pouring rain. Also, this port was a tender of about 25 minutes. We just walked on the tender after all the numbers had been called as we were no in hurry. We stayed in the mall area and walked around, but really, unless you book a tour, there is not much to do in Belize City. A private island will be completed 2016 and should make it a very nice port stop. Our friends booked a ship's excursion to Starfish Island and went anyway even though it rained. They were dissatisfied with this tour. It was $65 and did not include chairs or umbrella and of course, you take your own towel from the cabin. Our other couple wisely stayed on the ship.
Our 3rd port, the island of Roatan, Honduras, was finally sunny! We had booked tours from home with Bodden Tours on their website after reading some stellar online reviews. The email communication with them was constant as they answered all of our questions and sent their recommendations. Prices for tours are extremely reasonable. The husbands did a deep sea fishing tour and the wives did a Best of Roatan private tour. The men had a successful fishing day and we enjoyed our excursion around the island and to Victor Bodden's "Monkey Business" where you get to visit a small zoo and get up close and personal with the animals. Our guide, Howard, took us anywhere we wanted to go and patiently waited while we enjoyed ourselves. We had asked for history and culture information during our tour and Howard proved to know absolutely everything about his island home. This was also a tendered port and it took 5 minutes using the ship's lifeboats as tenders to get to the dock. We found the tendering process at both ports to be pretty seamless. Just get down and get those tender tickets when they tell you to be there.
There are many activities aboard the Jade, most are geared to upsell—make you spend more money. We would like to have seen more enrichment-type activities. We especially enjoyed the "Senior Officer's Profile Q&A". The captain, hotel director and chief engineer talked about their careers and answered many questions about the operation, crew and history of the NCL and Jade.
You can also meet many officers if you attend the Cruisecritic Meet & Greet. Get on the boards, find your cruise and sign up. Norwegian, in fact most cruise lines, really roll out the red carpet for the Meet & Greet and we like having the opportunity, not only to meet our Cruisecritic friends, but the ship's officers as well. What we think does matter, as I guarantee they are reading this review. Also, if you have a major issue? Address it with the appropriate department head, as we did in the dining room the first night. Give them an opportunity to correct it. This was a request straight from the hotel director, Mirsad Bucuk. They gave us cards with their names and phone numbers, so there you go!
The ship itself while kept immaculately clean and in excellent repair is needing an update. It's obvious that it still retains all of it's Pride of Hawaii themes and decor from when it was based in the Hawaiian Islands. The decor does not seem appropriate for the now, Norwegian Jade. We heard that it will undergo a much-needed refurbishment late this year.
The layout of the ship is a good one. One thing that struck me is that the ships Tradewinds Gift Shops are completely out of the traffic flow in the aft of the ship. I walked back there a couple of times and it was literally deserted. Most ships have their shops along the main walkways. I'm not a pool person, but everyone in our grouped complained about the fact that the adult pool and hot tubs on deck 12 were filled with children. While we all like kids and have some of our own, it's nice to have a kid-free zone. Our last two cruises on the Celebrity Equinox and a solarium with pool and hot tubs that was completely off-limits to kids, and it was enforced. It's easy to miss it, but don't: The bridge viewing room on deck 11 forward. Very interesting.
For disembarking from the Jade, we chose to carry our own luggage off. This is the way to go! None of the putting our luggage out at night, or worrying about it being buried in the bottom of a pile and since we were driving, meticulous packing was not needed. We were first off the ship by 7:30AM and through customs and in our car within about 45 minutes.
We will certainly sail with Norwegian again. I love the freestyle option. I don't have to be anywhere at any certain time and I don't have to dress up if I don't want to. The attitude of the crew is outstanding. They are always smiling and genuinely friendly. With the dining experience so much better than our last two NCL cruises, I hope the other NCL ships take note! Read Less