This is the way to see Ruins and History.: Norwegian Jade Cruise Review by cwistyred

Norwegian Jade 5
Member Since 2008
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This is the way to see Ruins and History.

Sail Date: April 2013
Destination: Europe - Eastern Mediterranean
Embarkation: Other
Before I start this review, I need to preface it with a few disclaimers: My Husband and I are very happy with the basics of travel. I have no need or want for Butlers, Concierges or Suites. Food is subjective and my tastes will not be the same as yours. As long as it has good taste and there is some variety, we are very happy. Buffets are just great. No need to be waited on constantly. As long as we have clean towels, the room doesn't look like a hurricane just went through it and ice in the bucket, the steward has done their job. We had a balcony this trip, I really enjoy the balcony, but if an itinerary was good and if all we could afford or all that was available was an oceanview, we would be happy with that. The only reason we don't stay in inside cabins is that the spouse has some claustrophobia issues that could be brought up in an inside room.
In acknowledging all of the above, this review is based on our opinion of this cruise.
This was our first trip on NCL. More We have sailed before on various lines, some of which are now out of business, such as Premier. I have never been on a bad cruise. I admit we have never sailed on the high end lines and never will. NCL had a checkered reputation for a few years there and although I never purposely avoided the line, I never booked passage on it either. I believe the devotion shown on Cruise Critic to the company took the risk of out trying them. We are now part of the devoted following.
The Jade is the perfect size . Not so new with shopping malls and cabins that look out over "Boulevards". Just great cabins and decks that overlook the real star of the trip -- the various Seas we sailed. Nothing in the world like blue water and a gorgeous breeze. If I want to look at streets and shopping malls, I will book a hotel room in Paramus New Jersey. Although there were over two thousand passengers onboard, we didn't find the ship crowded and always easily got to where we needed to go. Very international passenger list. All announcements made in various languages, which I liked. If you only want to hear your native language, sail closer to home. English speakers were still probably the majority on the ship, but not by much. The average age on this trip was probably fifties, but there were a lot of younger couples and the children were well behaved and we rarely saw them. The Kids Club on the ship must have really been doing their job. Again we don't hang out by the pool, which may have been a different story. The staff members on this ship were very upbeat and friendly, with a smile and a yes at all times. A lot of singing to be heard upon returning from shore excursions. Just people with great attitudes. The only other ship I have been on with crew this upbeat was the old Seabreeze of Premier Lines (now sitting at the bottom of the ocean) a great old style vessel with a professional, happy crew. A shame they went out of business as they had a very distinct market niche which I believe they could have expanded upon.
The itinerary and price for this trip couldn't be beat. We enjoy history and with Italy, Greece and Turkey as the destinations, we couldn't say no. We are not beach people or night life revelers. The destinations need to have jaw dropping sights and that wow factor. Istanbul will definitely make you go "wow". Also the weather we had that week must have been sent down from heaven. No rain except for a few drops in Naples. Temperatures in the 60's and 70's. Just perfect. We only did one tour on this trip, to Ephesus and this was done through Cruise Critic and organized by the lovely Mary. I think you really need to take a tour in this port to get the full history of the place and because it is further away from the port and hard to get to with public transportation. In the other ports we did DIY either alone or with friends we made on the ship. (Good ship for making friends) Public transportation is very accessible in most of the other stops. Please be smart when traveling and wear a money belt or a pouch around your neck under your shirt. YOU WILL BE THE TARGET OF PICKPOCKETS AND THEY ARE MORE CLEVER THAN YOU. GENTLEMAN THEY WILL GET THE WALLET IN YOUR FRONT POCKET, NO MATTER WHAT YOU THINK . Many men feel that no one can get to them. Yes they can. We were victims on our first trip, but luckily my Husband had listened to me and all they got was the spare money we had to buy small souvenirs. On this trip we were there when an American couple were pickpocketed on the Metro in Rome. The husband had his wallet in his front pocket of his pants and they took the whole thing -- money and credit cards. That is bad news so far from home. He also did not have a list of phone numbers for his credit cards or any of the digits for the cards. At least have written down and in some secret place a list of the phone numbers and the last four digits of your card. This will help the companies identify you and help stop the thieves from using them.
The freestyle concept for dining is a great idea and we wouldn't want to go back to a specific dining time. This allows you to eat when you are actually hungry. Also dressing up is not required. We like jeans and being able to wear them to dinner is a great bonus. We are not talking about wearing t-shirts and baseball caps, but nice jeans and appropriate shoes and shirts. Really wonderful after a long day in port. We primarily ate in the Grand Pacific dining room for dinner. Never waited more than a few minutes to eat. Got the beeper and went out on the deck until it startled you with it's flashing lights and vibrations. The Maitre'D was a lovely young woman or a charming young man who always greeted everyone warmly. We like to dine alone and always got a table for two, mainly right near a window. The food is good and the portions are right so that if you want more, you can have it, but it cuts down on waste, and heaven knows how much waste there is on a cruise ship. Is the food the quality of a gourmet restaurant? (whatever that means) Probably not, but it is not Applebees, which I have heard people compare it to. I like Applebees, but the difference is in the style of food and not the quality. Comparing apples and bananas. The food we found to be good and served at the correct temperature. I have read other reviews about the food being cold, we never found that to be the case. There are changing menus every day and a set menu of items that you can get at any time. If I didn't find an entree I really wanted, I ordered a few appetizers instead with salad, and was really happy with that. One evening after we had dinner in the dining room, we went up to the buffet as I really wanted curry and of course they had it up there. You can always go to the buffet after dinner if you are not satiated with your meal. We went up there every evening to get coffee and ice cream. I really enjoyed the soft serve chocolate ice cream with the various toppings. Is it Ben and Jerry's? No, but it was cold and tasted like chocolate and was fairly creamy. The buffets themselves were varied and always had more things to choose from than I could ever eat in a year. Breakfast had everything from the standards of eggs and bacon to pancakes as well as lox and all the fixings. Lunch was just as varied with hot foods, sandwiches, yogurts and everything in between. The outside buffet on the aft deck usually opened a little later and had more ethic foods with a theme, such as one afternoon it was all German foods. Be smart when eating at the buffet, get your table first and then get your food. Don't hover holding plates of food that you might spill on someone's head. On that note, we always found a clean table in the area we wanted to sit in. Our preference was outside on the aft deck behind the buffet. Never really had trouble getting a table there, which was not true on other cruises we have taken, where the outside tables are just not available no matter when you go to eat. The staff is constantly cleaning and restocking. The concept of tables sitting dirty does not happen on the Jade. Sitting, looking at the wake while you sail past an active volcano, eating good food and having coffee is just about as good as it gets.
We did eat in Cagney's one evening. The food was good and I found it just fine. Was it out of the ordinary? No. My Husband is the true carnivore in the family and actually enjoyed the steak from the everyday menu in the Alizar restaurant better. Again our tastes may be different than yours.
The cabin we had was on deck nine, slightly forward on the port side. We received it through a guaranteed booking. Cabins were above and below us, so no noise whatsoever. We got really lucky. The best thing about the cabin? The sliding door to the balcony. You can leave it open, and we did every evening. Imagine sleeping with the sound, smell and the gentle breezes coming off the sea. That's worth the whole price of the trip. Again we were heaven blessed and the ocean during the entire ten days was extremely calm. Gentle wavelets as they were called. I get seasick in the bathtub, but I found I rarely needed any Bonine on this trip. I probably didn't need it at all, but I was still afraid not to take it. There were many, many times that you could not feel the ship moving at all. The rooms have a very smart designed bathroom which was far superior to other ships I have been on. The decor is soft and easy on the eyes and they had recently replaced the old standard TV's with new flat screens. Totally large enough for two people. Lots of storage and we always pack too damn much.
The public areas on the ship all seemed to be utilized for their designated purpose. There were usually people playing games in the card rooms. People reading in the library. Exercise classes in the room near the fitness center (which I did not use on this trip, too much walking with this itinerary.) The fitness center had quite a few high quality gym machines and never seemed crowded. The pool deck is crowded on any ship, let's face it. We never sunbathe, but I did take note of how the area seemed to be utilized. The main area around the pool was busy, but if you went up one level there always seemed to be open loungers up there and they seemed to be getting the same sun as surrounding the pool itself. The hot tubs were well used, but at night you could definitely use them if you wanted to.
I never felt nickeled and dimed on this trip. No one soliciting you to buy drinks or really anything else. Could you spend a lot of extra dollars? Hell yeah, there are lots of bars with luscious drinks, bingo, art shows, lots of excursions, specialty restaurants of every type. All kinds of "sales" for the onboard shops. Photographers everywhere. But we never felt pressured to get anything extra that we didn't want. Other lines are constantly hounding you for drinks and games and etc. etc. I didn't feel that here at all. Oh they announce these things are available, but don't bombard you with it. But then we are not soft sells, ask any seller in the Grand Bazaar.
Getting on and off the ship was pretty easy. For embarkation in Civitavecchia, we got to the ship around 1:30PM and literally it only took a few minutes to get on the ship. Sign your papers, get you card and you are off. The most difficult part was once you got to the port (we walked from the hotel we stayed overnight in to the port) you had to load your luggage in the shuttle bus that took you to the ship, it was way too far to walk and I am not sure if they even let you. Of course everyone is trying to shove their luggage in at the same time, but another shuttle was coming in just moments. No need to push. The elevators on the ship never seemed crowded, not even on debarkation day, which can be very hectic. People on this cruise were pretty courteous to others. Not everyone spoke the same language, but I think everyone got their point across and helped each other. No knocking you over to get to the last olives in the tray at the buffet. (That actually happened to me on Carnival)
So what is there to criticize? I guess if I really had to pick nits and come up with something, I would say that the embarkation bus situation was problematic during the more crowded times. People tend to panic and struggle to get luggage in the hold and then grab a seat on the bus. If there was a representative there sorting this out, it would be helpful. The floorplan of the ship is a little choppy, but I don't think that can be avoided due to the need to locate the kitchen area close to the two main restaurants. Some people are upset by the decor that still says "Hawaii" but we could care less. Made it feel tropical and since we were in the Med, it was fine. Some people were upset that the line doesn't give you more port information, but the truth is they want to sell you a sponsored tour. They don't want you to be an independent traveler, that does not help their bottom line. You can't fault them for that. Most Cruise Critic travelers know enough to make prior arrangements and to at least do some research prior to the trip. Other people don't necessarily do this and are left floundering at the various stops. Could they have more drink choices that are included with dinner or the buffet? Yes they could. On the Jade for lunch or dinner your drink choices were Ice Tea or water. For breakfast, juices were available. They need to make their money somewhere, so they sell drink packages for more choice. We were fine with tea and water most of the time. The Husband bought Diet Coke in the various ports and brought it on the ship (only Pepsi available to buy on NCL) and if I wanted something else to drink, I bought it on the ship. Very reasonable policies, with the price of the voyage so inexpensive.
The evening entertainment was fine, not that we went to all of the shows because most nights were too tired from visiting every ruin known to man, but the shows we did see were professional and totally fun. There were singers of every kind all over the ship and we really enjoyed RJ Red who sang in the main atrium in the evenings. He sings folk and classics of the 60's and 70's and has the perfect voice for that type of music. I really didn't hear any complaints from anyone over a lack of music choices. Dancing was available at various venues, but since the Husband and I have danced once in all the years we have been together, I didn't get to partake on this voyage.
I have several things I can't comment on because we don't do these things. Never went to the Spa, bingo, Deal or No Deal, pool, hot tubs, art auctions, couples games,nightclubs or specialty restaurants other than Cagney's.
We REALLY loved this cruise and have been recommending it to everyone we know. If you want pampering, I understand that is available on this ship, but we found the service to be wonderful in just the regular cabins available. I really want to cruise NCL again and hope that will be possible in the near future.
Again, we are easy to please and we were definitely pleased. Less

Published 05/18/13
3 Helpful Votes

Cabin review: BC9544 Balcony

Cabin 9544 was extremely quiet with cabins above and below. Near the staircase and pretty centrally located although it is considered forward. Would definitely sail in this cabin again.

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Port and Shore Excursions

We had decided to DIY this port as public transportation is available to the Acropolis, which is where everyone wants to go. We met up with some new friends from the ship and walked out through the port gates. You are now bombarded by taxi drivers who want to give you a full days tour, which were not unreasonably priced. They would drive you from place to place all day and back to the ship for 100 euros for four to five people. We didn't need that and had intended to walk to the Metro station and take the subway. But after mucho haggling we got one driver to take us to the base of the Acropolis for 20 euros for the four of us. That was fine, he didn't give up on trying to get us to go for the whole day deal though. He took us as close as he could and we then took the steep walk up to this historic ancient site. It is amazing to get your first glimpse of the Parthenon, a place all of us have seen in books since childhood. We got there early before the tour buses and really got a good look around. It is a spectacular site. I had books with me that explain what we were looking at. Guides were available for hire at the gates if you wanted one. We left the Acropolis and went to the acropolis museum which is amazing, but beware if you are afraid of heights as many of the floors in this multi-story building are glass and you are looking down to lower levels. It takes a moment to get past it, but is worth the few moments of fear. From there we walked to the Parliament building to see the tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the changing of the Guard. The Greek soldiers are flamboyant and worth the walk, which goes past some markets and gardens which were interesting. Back to the Plaka area at the base of the Acropolis for shopping and food. We ate at a lovely little cafe with outside seating and had excellent gyros and beer. Walked around a little more and it was time to head back to the ship. Caught a really friendly cab driver and 20 euros back to the ship. Be sure to know this is a strenuous port day with a lot of walking. Wear good shoes and no damn flip flops

Okay, get into training now for the frenzy that is Istanbul. It is a great world city and beautiful, but it is crowded and chaotic and completely different from the rest of Europe. It is a Muslim country but secular in government. You will see Burkas and traditional dress, but you will also see a modern city where women dress like the west. Sailing into Istanbul is second only to Venice. The huge Mosques come into view and the symbols of this city are in full view. We had an overnight in this city so it gives you plenty of time to take it all in. A lot of people did tours, we DIY'd it using our feet and the convenient tram. After leaving the port gates, go to any of the multitudes of ATMS and get some Turkish Lira, yes many of the sellers and restaurants will take US money (not so much for euros) but you need the Lira for transportation and any sites you are not going to pay for with credit cards. Walk west to the Tophane tram station and buy your tokens from the machines. If your ride all the way to Sultanhamet you are at the pinnacle of the hill and it is down hill from there for all sights. From this stop you can go to the Blue Mosque, Haghia Sophia and the Grand Bazaar. Just down from this stop is the Topkapi Palace, which I must admit was my least favorite thing in the city and the most expensive to visit. The call to prayer is heard throughout the city and let's you know you are not in Kansas anymore. The Blue Mosque is amazing and so detailed. Just know that during the day it closes well before prayer time and you may have to wait over an hour to visit. Please, please dress conservatively in this nation. Don't wear shorts and tank tops (men and women). You will need to cover head, shoulders and knees in the Mosque. I brought my own scarf which I bought in the Bazaar for a very low price. They do have blue scarfs available to cover yourself if you come without your own. Clean feet and socks please as you have to take off your shoes. The Haghia Sophia is the crossroads of culture and religion and worth the money to visit. It was both a Church and a Mosque and is now a museum. The parks in Istanbul are full of flowers and stray animals who play and frolic without fear of humans. Again nobody bothers them that I ever saw. People are very friendly and eager to help. As always beware that people who are too friendly may have alternative motives as to scam you or at the best want to get you in "their cousins" carpet store. At one point I got confused on just how to get from one place to another and found a tourist policeman in a little booth. This booth was set away from the crowds and I don't think anyone ever went over to talk to him. Before I could even get near it, he came out of the booth and was so happy for company and to use the English that he knew and for me to use the few words of Turkish that I had learned. He asked me all kinds of questions about America and how I was enjoying Turkey. People were very curious if you liked their nation. Of course we did. Had a great dinner at a little restaurant and went back to the ship for the evening. Many people went to a traditional restaurant with a show for dinner. We chose not to do that. Also right near the cruise docks are a line of cafes and restaurants that are all Hookah bars where you can smoke fruit flavored light tabaccos and woods. People from the ship enjoyed this as well. The next day we visited all the sights we didn't see the first day and then really shopped. Get your haggling skills ready, but don't get crazy. A Turkish Lira is worth roughly half of a US Dollar and things are pretty reasonably priced after just a little bargaining. Bought some jewelry and pashminas and many Turkish Evil Eyes for everyone back home. Took the tram back to the ship for a gorgeous evening sail away.
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Katakolon is the gateway to Olympia and ancient Greece. We decided to DIY it and enjoy an easy day knowing that the next few ports would be intense. After leaving the ship, which docks right in the middle of this little town, we walked right through the gates and were met by several bus companies offering roundtrip tickets to Olympia for 10 euros. We picked one and went off on a clean bus through the countryside. No need to pre-book anything if all you want is passage to the site. Guides were available at the gates if you wanted an in depth tour. We stayed for about two hours and the site was much more interesting than I thought it would be. Not a lot of intact buildings but definitely worth seeing. Took the bus back to town, where we walked around and bought some souvenirs. Walked back to the ship and got ready for dinner. There were plenty of restaurants to choose from in Katakolon if you would like some Ouzu and gyros.

Naples - love it or hate it, you can't ignore it. We went to Naples on our last trip and did Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast. Decided that we should see Naples on this trip and we had the audacity to do it on our own. Girded our loins and set out to take the bus to the incredible World renowned Museum of History. Rick Steves needs to revise his book in regard to this city. His directions to catch the bus were horrible and if not for my Husband's obsession with hat buying we would have went the wrong way and it wouldn't have been pretty. The bus stop is actually only a block or so from the port but you have to walk through a strange alley to get to it. Doesn't even look like there is a street there. You buy your bus tickets at the newstand. The Bus ride was fine and got to the Museum in one piece. This museum is world class and full of things you have seen in books. The most amazing thing about Museums in Europe is that the art is right in front of you. Very few glass cases and you can come eye to eye with a statue that is thousands of years old. In the US the statue would be behind a bullet proof glass and be 20 feet away. After the museum we walked following the Rick Steves walking tour. I trusted him again and he almost let me down twice. He refers to a street where you make a major turn by it's local name and not by it's actual name, which changes about six times along it's route. You need to know the name that it is called where you make the turn and he didn't really provide that. Luckily the street looks like the picture in the book, but so does fourteen other streets in the area. This streets walks you to the major churches and sights in Naples. Unfortunately the two great churches were closed!! They wouldn't re-open until late afternoon and we would already be gone. Bummer. Did go to the Sanservo chapel to see the amazing veiled statue of Jesus. You just stare at this statue with absolutely no comprehension of how it was carved. It doesn't seem possible. Walked the rest of this street to try and find the famous Da Micheles for pizza. We did find it but it was way too crowded and chose a neighboring restaurant instead. Very good pizza there as well. We then followed Rick's instructions to get to the Piazza with the tram back to the port. We actually did find it, but it was not as easy as Rick makes it out to be. Gotta send this man a note. Got back to port in one piece. The truth about Naples, yes it is crowded and dirty, but it is very alive. You feel how people live and it is no tourist trap. You are with the natives as most tourists skip this city and visit the outlying areas. Also, and this is very curious, this was the only city where we didn't get "bumped" by potential pickpockets. Not once and to be honest, I was very nervous about getting robbed. I know it happens in Naples, but we didn't experience it. Got bumped in Olympia, Athens and Istanbul and of course Rome. But not in Naples, go figure.
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