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We began planning this cruise almost a year out. This would be our third NCL cruise. Previously we'd done a Baltic (Dream) and Western Caribbean (Sun) with NCL and had had a fantastic time on both. After having experienced an oceanview and a side balcony cabin, we opted to try an aft cabin this time. Because we were booking so early we had our pick of any cabin on the stern and chose one on Deck Ten. We used one of our Cruise Rewards certificates for the deposit, always a great deal. Later on, because of continued sales and fare reductions, we decided to move up to an aft mini-suite on Deck Eleven. In preparation for the cruise I started a roll call on Cruise Critic, which remained extremely quiet until the fall. At one point I was beginning to think we'd be the only people on the ship. But then suddenly there was a flurry of activity. Since I'd started the roll call, I offered to set up a Meet and Greet. Initially we had about thirty people sign up. Every few weeks I would call our Personal Cruise Consultant at NCL, just to check in with her. Several times I got the price lowered because of sales in progress. Between initial booking and payment of the final balance, we'd reduced the price of our cruise by a thousand dollars, plus we'd been given $300 of onboard credit. About six weeks before we sailed I contacted the Jade's event coordinator, asking her if she could provide a date, time and venue for us to hold a Meet and Greet for thirty. I heard back from her about two weeks later. By that time our roster had exploded to nearly one hundred. I kept the Event Coordinator informed of the changes and she told me we'd have the Meet and Greet in Le Bistro at eleven a.m. on our first at-sea day. I asked everyone on the roster to provide me with any background information they'd care to share with the group (interests, hobbies, career, children, fun facts, etc) which most did. I assembled all of this information on a roster that I sent out on a master e-mail list. As I got new information, I updated the roster. This enabled people with like interests to start contacting each other prior to the cruise. It also allowed people to start setting up private tours and gave the people with children a good idea how many other children might be on the cruise. For some reason teenage girls outnumbered boys by about ten to one. Those were some lucky boys. We also assembled a comprehensive list of tips for the group. We initially considered using Nile Blue for our Cairo overnight excursion but then opted for an NCL excursion, mainly for our own peace of mind. For Rome, Athens, and Ephesus we also decided to use ship's excursions. We'd do Malta on our own. We booked all of the excursions early, so early in fact that I couldn't remember what we'd signed up for when we got to the ship. We decided to travel to Europe several days early, mainly to make sure we made it in time. I'm an airline pilot, so I have the advantage of pass travel, but that's on a strictly space available basis and we have been stranded before because the flights were full. We lucked out this time, though, and got out on our first try to Munich. That gave us a chance to spend three days in Garmisch (which I highly recommend) before we flew down to Barcelona on Saturday, March 7, the day before the cruise. While we were flying to Munich the upsell fairy sent us an e-mail, offering a garden villa suite. Unfortunately, I didn't check my email until two days later. I called NCL back, spending 30 minutes on hold at international long distance rates, before finally finding out the offer was no longer available. I later found out that the upsell fairy called a lot of people on this cruise. Because of tremendous fare sales, the cruise finally sold out, except for the suites. Many of them were still available shortly before the sailing date. We'd booked Saturday night at the Continental Hotel in Barcelona. It's located on La Rambla. Fortunately, I'd booked our room nearly a year in advance, because the hotel had sold out fairly quickly. We took a taxi from the airport to the hotel, which cost us 30 Euros (including the tip). Some members of our roll call also stayed at the Continental and took a bus from the airport that dropped them near the hotel. It cost them around four Euros each. The Continental is in a great location. The rooms are clean and comfortable, though very small. And you'd better like the color pink. To paraphrase a line my wife heard in the film Steel Magnolias, it looked as if someone had upchucked Pepto-Bismol all over the room. We had a balcony room overlooking La Rambla. Those rooms are bigger than the non-balcony rooms and cost 112 Euros a night. We arrived at the hotel a little after noon and went right to our room. We were lucky that it was ready because there were several couples waiting for their rooms who'd been there for several hours. They'd flown in that morning from the States. Another note about the Continental: Free wi-fi is offered, as well as a free breakfast, which is served until ten a.m. At all times, there is a free food buffet (tapas), as well as coffee, tea, soft drinks, beer, and wine. There's also a computer terminal available near the buffet. It was a beautiful day in Barcelona, though a bit on the cool side. After dumping our luggage, we set off on foot to explore the town. Since it was a Saturday, the joint was jumping, as they say. Half of the attraction of La Rambla is just people watching, and it was jammed with people. We just roamed about town, making our way north and west toward Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi's masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia (Holy Family) Cathedral, one of Barcelona's landmarks. James Michener's Iberia, which was first published back in the 1960s, had a chapter devoted to Barcelona and I think three pages just on the doors of Sagrada Familia. By the way, even if you're just the least bit interested in Spain, I highly recommend Michener's book. Incidentally, urban myth has it that the word gaudy derived from Gaudi's name and looking at Sagrada Familia one might easily believe that legend, but the word existed as far back as the 16th century. Sagrada Familia is a bit of a hike from the Continental (it didn't look that far on the map) but it was a beautiful day for a walk. We could have taken the subway but that's no way to see a city, in my estimation. We eventually found it and took our obligatory photographs, electing not to go inside. Another member of our roll call, Susan (CC ID: Educators2), did go inside and wrote about that on her critique. For more information, I'd urge you to read her excellent write-up. We then wandered back toward our hotel, enjoying the wide boulevards and expansive plazas that Barcelona has to offer. We also viewed its own version of the Arc de Triomphe. Incidentally, I made the mistake of thinking Barcelona was in Spain. Silly me. The locals were quick to point out that were in Cataluña. Though Spanish can be spoken there, the natives speak Catalonian, which I think is related to Klingon. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped by Cortes Ingles, the big department store, which was just a block north of our hotel. They have a very nice grocery store in the basement and we stocked up on some goodies we wanted to have for our evening Sundowners we planned to have on our balcony each day. The only problem was that the entire population of Tokyo seemed to be in the store and it was very hard to move about. Upon the recommendation of our hotel clerk, we ventured out to dinner at Costa Gallega, which is one block west and about seven blocks north of the Continental on Passeig de Gracia, 71. On the way there we walked past another one of Gaudi's notable bits of architecture, the Casa Batllo, commonly known as the house of skull and bones. The nickname is not for anything nefarious but for how the building looks. The skulls are the balconies and bones are the supporting pillars. You can get some great night photos of it, but you'd best have a tripod with you. Dinner was excellent. We had paella, along with numerous tapas and a pitcher of sangria. Afterwards we joined the throng on La Rambla, just enjoying the nightlife of Barcelona. Because our room faced La Rambla, we weren't going to get to sleep too early anyway. Sunday, March 8, 2009 finally arrived. The day we'd been planning for almost a year was upon us. There were times when I didn't think my countdown clock on Cruise Critic would ever break 300. We slept late, mainly because we'd been out late, and so missed the breakfast buffet. But there were still plenty of food left. We took our food back to our room and ate on our balcony, where we were treated to a parade of antique automobiles down La Rambla. I don't know what the occasion was but we saw some beautiful classic cars. There must have been well over one hundred of them. The hotel has a left-luggage storage area, so we left our bags there and set off to do a little bit more exploring of the city before heading to the port. It was another gorgeous day in Spain, er, Cataluña. We walked down La Rambla this time, to the Christopher Columbus statue. Columbus sits atop a tall column, in many ways reminiscent of Nelson's statue in Trafalgar Square. He's pointing west, as if to say, "the gold's that way, boys." We walked around the marina area and found a spot where we actually saw the Norwegian Jade, away in the distance. That was an exciting moment and prompted us to walk back to the hotel to collect our luggage. We decided to take a taxi from the hotel. More adventurous members of our roll call who were staying at the Continental opted to walk down La Rambla and take a bus to the port from the Columbus statue. Personally, I think that dragging a suitcase down La Rambla on a Sunday should qualify as an Olympic Event. Within minutes of being picked up by our taxi at two p.m., we were at the port. Check-in was a breeze, the easiest we've ever experienced. I must say we were very disappointed that the Captain wasn't there to personally greet us. Just kidding. Incidentally, the ship opened for boarding at noon. When you check in, you'll leave your passport at the check-in desk in order for the ship to obtain your Egyptian visa. It will be returned to you the day before you arrive in Alexandria. As we boarded we were treated to champagne. I got a good laugh when I heard a man behind us exclaim, "I ain't never had champagne before." I am not making this up. My initial impression of Jade is quite favorable. It's obvious she's new construction (two-years-old in ship terms makes her a newborn). She's clean and polished, though the Hawaiian motif does seem a bit odd, given her current location. But it's not bad. After the champagne we made our way to our cabin, which was already available. On our previous cruise aboard the Sun, we'd had to wait for a couple of hours before our cabin was ready. Before we entered the room, we met our cabin stewards, Armel and Raymundo, both from the Philippines. They did a great job for us the entire cruise. Both were extremely friendly and polite, and they kept our stateroom spotless. We're in a mini-suite on Deck 11, cabin 11656, just below the Garden Deck. If you look at pictures of the Jade from astern, it's the cabin right below and directly to the left of the flag staff. Once we were in the cabin we did the happy dance and pinched each other. We were finally here! A mini-suite is not a suite and you don't have all those sweet suite benefits, but you also don't have the huge cost of a suite, either. We knew in advance what we were getting, as would anyone who watches the CC threads. What we did like was the extra space and the very large bathroom. The bedding is new and the bed is very comfortable. We have a nightstand on either side of the bed. We also have a mini-bar and refrigerator. There is an Ethernet port to connect to the internet. Every cabin on the ship has an Ethernet port. There is also one 110-volt outlet and one 220 outlet. It's a very good thing I brought a power strip. There is no clock in the room, other than you can see the current time on your cabin's telephone (if you get close). My wife reports that the hairdryers on the Jade are far superior to what were on the Sun and Dream. Waiting for us in the cabin was a bottle of champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries, included with the Deluxe Honeymoon/Romance package we'd purchased. It was neither our honeymoon nor our anniversary, but we treat every cruise as a honeymoon. We also had Jade Latitudes pins in our cabin. We set off to explore the ship. From our cabin to bow of the ship is a long way, almost a thousand feet. Everything we saw impressed us, both the cleanliness and condition of repair. It's obvious that this is a well-run ship. I did pick up a few things about ships in my years in the navy (mainly try to avoid them—but those were a different kind of ship). We were given a tour of the Ying and Yang spa and decided to buy there cruise-long spa package. It was $250 for two and for an additional $26 we could get the one-hour couples' razul, which is essentially an hour in a big shower smearing stuff on each other. The spa package gives one unlimited access to a steam room, sauna, ice-cold plunge pool, hot tub, relaxation area, traditional showers, and a tropical-rain, ice-rain shower facility. There are separate facilities for men and women, and then there is the relaxation area for both men and women that features a heated therapy pool and several ceramic tile recliners, which are heated. Once I tried one of those heated recliners, I was hooked. Our luggage was delivered less than an hour after we boarded. Again, we were disappointed that the captain or senior staff member didn't deliver it personally. Where's the love? The lifeboat drill took place at five p.m. Our muster station was in the Grand Pacific restaurant. By the time we arrived there was no place left to sit, so we staked out a corner of the restaurant and had a nap. My wife woke me up at five-thirty to tell me the drill was over. I am now ready to face any iceberg the Mediterranean has to offer. We decided to enjoy the Barcelona sunset from our balcony, toasting the end of the day with our champagne and strawberries. There was still the sense of unreality, because we'd had to jump through so many hoops just to arrange our schedules to make this cruise. It wasn't until the day before we left Dulles that I was able to clear the last work obligation. We sailed promptly at seven p.m. The cruise was on! And what a great cruise it was. We had a fabulous time. How often does one get the chance to check off so many items from his/her bucket list on just one holiday? Both my wife and I had waited all our lives to see the Sistine Chapel, the Parthenon, and the Pyramids of Giza. Our excursions were terrific, we loved the ship, and we made new friends too numerous to count. We certainly got our money's worth. I've already posted some detailed accounts of our excursions on the NCL forum, so I'll just try to summarize them in this critique. Later in the evening of the first day I was contacted by Ana Roncevalles, the Jade's Group Services Coordinator, to let me know that the venue for tomorrow's Meet and Greet had been changed to the Alizar Restaurant from Le Bistro because the latter facility wasn't big enough for our large group. Ana said she would be posted at Le Bistro to direct our group to the right location. In the meantime, I spent the rest of the evening and much of the next morning phoning the roll call members to let them know of the change. It's things like this that make it important you have the cabin numbers of your Meet and Greeters. The Meet and Greet was a big success. We had ninety people show up and the last people didn't leave until almost two hours after we started. The ship provided coffee, tea, juice and pastries. More important was the lineup of heavy hitters they provided to address us, starting with the Captain, Haarvard Ramsoey (from Norway, naturally). Along with the captain was Armando Da Silva, the Hotel Director; Darin Wyman, the cruise director; Ehab Ashwan, Assistant Hotel Director; and Claus Pascher, the Food and Beverage Director. I was impressed. It's the first Meet and Greet I've been to that the captain attended. Captain Ramsoey mentioned that NCL pays close attention to what's written on Cruise Critic and takes our opinions very seriously, except perhaps about hot dogs. Darin Wyman echoed the captain's welcome, and Mr. Da Silva emphasized that he was available 24 hours a day to answer any questions and solve any problems. Later during the get-together Mr. Da Silva took me aside to reiterate how important he felt our group was and gave me his card, asking me to contact him if we needed anything. He said that he regarded CC members as VIPs. Here are my impressions of several facets of the ship. I emphasize these are just my opinions: Work out facilities: The health club on the ship was large, with a wide variety of exercise equipment. There were numerous treadmills but even so, I usually had to wait to get one. Latitudes Members Reception: This took place in Spinnakers (Deck 13 forward) on our second sea day, early in the afternoon. The captain and the senior staff were there to welcome us, emphasizing how important repeat customers are to NCL. There was plenty of free food and drink. The sushi was particularly good. The featured drinks were rum punches, whisky sours, champagne, red and white wine, and beer. The ship's library is fairly extensive for a ship of its size. It also pays homage to the S.S. United States, with several displays about that grand ship. Next door is a room for board games and cards. It was always packed to the gills. The pool deck, just aft of the spa, library, and gym features adult and children's pools, as well as hot tubs. As I've seen on every cruise, a hot tub mafia instantly arises and seizes control of certain hot tubs for the duration of the cruise. This was no exception. The children's pool also has a water slide. Even though the weather was in the low to mid-fifties (or around 13 to 15 for our metric friends), the pools are heated and there were people using them. There are two golf nets, one on either side of the ship and a multi-purpose tennis, basketball, and soccer facility aft on Deck 13. Tennis rackets can be checked out from the library. There are also ping pong tables on the pool deck. At sea activities: I like to get a run on a treadmill and then just relax and read on at-sea days. I'm usually not interested in anything else, which is probably a good thing because there didn't seem to be as much offered on this cruise as I've seen on others. I was happy with what was available but I know others were hoping for more. Best cruise investment I've ever made: an Amazon Kindle. We did take part in many of the trivia contests with friends we'd made through the roll call. We managed to amass quite a collection of those valuable NCL luggage tags and playing cards. I also went to one of the beer tastings and a martini tasting. Each of those costs $15 but you get your money's worth. The beer tasting was fine and the martini tasting was a lot of fun, mainly because so many people were there. It was a good group. Food: Always the hot topic on a cruise. The only restaurants we did not try were Teppanyaki and Jasmine Gardens. Grand Pacific and Alizar, the main dining rooms, offer the same menu. We found the food and service in both places to be quite good, with a decent menu selection. Sirloin steak, chicken, or salmon was always available if none of the daily entrees appealed to you. My favorite restaurant, by far, was Cagney's. I'm a steak lover and I had two excellent sixteen ounce T-bones. My wife, who doesn't care for red meat, had the sea bass, which she said was very good. The service was excellent. I don't mind the service charge because I like the quiet ambiance. My wife's favorite dining venue was Le Bistro. Paniolo's, the Tex Mex restaurant, was very good, too. Be prepared—the appetizers there are huge. You might want to just share one, otherwise you'll be full before your entrEe arrives. It was the only restaurant where I had no room for dessert. There were two lobster nights on the cruise in the main dining rooms. We had two room service breakfasts, one the morning of our Rome excursion. That one was delivered forty minutes early, while we were still asleep. But I think everyone on the ship had ordered room service breakfast because of the early excursion departures. Our other room service breakfast was breakfast in bed as part of the honeymoon package. We had that the morning of our arrival into Malta. The breakfast was terrific, though there was enough food to feed a small army. The Garden Cafe buffet offered a wide variety of items. It was the most robust buffet we'd seen yet on an NCL ship. We often gathered our breakfast there and took it back to eat it on our balcony. The main deficiency with the Garden Cafe was that seating was sometimes limited. In the mornings they opened the Italian restaurant for overflow seating. After Cairo you couldn't serve yourself from the buffet. You had to point to what you wanted and a server would give it to you. This is routine NCL policy after an Egyptian port call. The ship had a couple of theme outdoor lunches on the Garden Deck. The first was supposed to be German, though most of what was touted as authentic German food really wasn't. But if you've never been to Germany, you probably wouldn't know the difference and the food was still good. The second was on St. Patrick's Day, where they featured a British Pub lunch. I thought that was an odd choice for a traditional Irish holiday, but St. Patrick was Welsh, after all. The food was good. The internet cafe is on deck seven and only has eight terminals. That surprised me as I had thought a ship the Jade's size would have more. I often saw people waiting for a terminal. I hadn't intended to bring my laptop but I was glad I did. As with all NCL ship's, the two connection plans offered were 250 minutes for $100 or 100 minutes for $55 (or pay as you go for 75 cents a minute). They offer various specials throughout the cruise to add bonus minutes, such as signing up for cruise rewards and so forth. Keep a sharp eye on the Freestyle Daily for information on these. Connection is usually slow, though it seems to be better early in the morning and late at night. On occasion the ship would lose the signal. If you were working on something at a ship's terminal, you were out of luck because there is no way to save your work. There is an ATM in the internet cafe, incidentally, with a fee of $5.50. It only dispenses U.S. currency. Tip—prior to Cairo go to the Guest Services desk on Deck 7 and get lots of singles and five dollar bills. They are the currency of the realm in Cairo. One and two-Euro coins are useful, too, as are the five-Euro notes. Cruise rewards certificates: If you plan to cruise again with NCL, these are a great deal. They allow you to book a cabin for a $250 deposit, in effect. The $250 is charged to your on-board account but you also receive $100 in onboard credit. You just have to book your next cruise within two years of the effective date of the Cruise Rewards Certificate and make the cruise within 30 months. The certificate can be used to book any level of cabin, including the suites. Tours: I covered these in fairly extensive detail on the NCL forum. Rather than duplicate what I've previously written, I'll just add links to the various port reports I posted on the CC NCL forum. We used NCL excursions for every port but Barcelona and Malta. Those we did on our own. Many members of our roll call took the train from Civitavecchia to Rome and had no problems. Likewise, many used public transportation and taxis in Piraeus and Izmir with similar good results. We also had a sizeable number use both Nile Blue and De Castro in Alexandria and all were very pleased with their tours, though Nile Blue did accidentally strand one couple halfway between Alexandria and Cairo. The Nile Blue bus didn't have a bathroom and made a pit stop. One couple was still using the facilities when the bus took off without them. I'll just say that our NCL tours were great. Rome was the highlight for my wife because the two things she really wanted to see were the Sistine Chapel and the Coliseum. We had two guides and they were great, as were all our guides. Athens was the only excursion where we had lousy weather. It rained most of the day and by the time we reached Poseidon's Temple later in the day, it was bitter cold. Still, it was a great day. Ephesus was an unexpected treat. I didn't expect the ruins and excavations to be so extensive. To walk down the streets where Mark Antony and Cleopatra once strode, not to mention Paul and John (and we're not talking about Beatles here) was awe-inspiring. Turkey was also the tidiest country we visited. I loved our Cairo overnight. Many I've spoken with were turned off by the poverty, overcrowding, and slums we encountered. Unfortunately, I've encountered far worse in sub-Saharan Africa. I thought what we saw was a tremendous learning experience and quite helpful in understanding what makes that part of the world tick. I just wish my children could have seen it. They'd certainly appreciate how blessed they are. Our NCL tour was great and our guide was the best I've yet experienced. Malta was another pleasant surprise. I just wish we'd had more time to see it, but then again, one of the great things about a tour is that it whets your appetite to come back and explore the places you've visited. I hope we make it back to Malta. Rome: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=945092 Athens: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=946344 Izmir: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=947483 Cairo: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=949809 Malta: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=952181 Laundry specials: The ship had three laundry specials. The first was on Day One and was discount pressing for all your items that had been crushed into your luggage. The other two laundry specials were everything you could cram into a laundry bag, washed and folded for $24.99—no pressing. The bag is picked up in the morning and returned two days later, though we got ours back in a day. Finally, an iron and ironing board could be obtained from housekeeping by touching in 00 on your phone. The spa passes we bought were a great investment. We used the spa every day except on the Cairo overnight. Sometimes we hit it in the morning and in the late afternoon. It was great. We each had a 25-minute massage as part of the honeymoon package and it was incredible. I've never been so relaxed in my life. I'm afraid if we'd had the hour-long full body massage they would have had to carry me back to the cabin. We also had a cake and champagne party in the late afternoon on St. Patrick's Day. It had nothing to do with St. Patrick's Day, however. This was also part of the Deluxe Honeymoon/Romance package. There was quite a large turnout for this. What to wear, what to wear? It's freestyle, baby. Just do me a favor—don't show up to the buffet in just a bathrobe. To quote my daughter—ew. The Grand Pacific was the designated "dress up" restaurant, which meant no jeans in the evening. There was one person who wore the same tee shirt every day with a particular four letter word prominent on the front. I was tempted to chuck him overboard, mainly to wash the shirt. The ship had two "dress up or not" optional formal evenings. Tuxes were few and far between. I brought mine and saw perhaps four or five others. There was one man in a kilt. Entertainment: We really enjoyed Second City but it's not for everyone. Improv is a risky entertainment vehicle because it's either hilarious or it's a dud. Fortunately, there were more hits than duds. The cast members are very talented. Don't sit up close if you don't want to became part of the show. We really enjoyed Lenny Windsor, the comedian. Don't be late for the show unless you want to become part of that show. The tenor, Laurence Robinson, received rave reviews as did the marionette show. The children of our roll call members seemed to really like Jimmy Tamley, the ventriloquist. The NCL shows were good, with some talented performers, but I would have preferred shows with more of an up tempo. We missed the Jean Ann Ryan company. On the night the ship was in Alexandria, they showed the film "Cleopatra," in the Stardust Theater. That was the blockbuster epic from the 1960s with Liz Taylor and Richard Burton. I wouldn't have minded seeing that again on the big screen, though I doubt I would have stayed awake. The entertainment did what it was supposed to accomplish: entertain. It's not the reason I go on a cruise in the first place. Nationalities: Most of the cruisers were from the U.S., though the Canadians weren't far behind. There were also a large number of cruisers from the U.K. and Germany. Not surprisingly, there were a number of Spaniards. Other nationalities I encountered were Aussies, Kiwis, Norwegians, Danes, Chinese, Japanese, and South Africans. I'm sure there were many others. Without exception, every member of the crew we encountered was friendly and polite. The stewards on our deck were the hardest working bunch I've ever seen. If they weren't tending to our cabins, they were out in the passageways polishing bright work. They always had a wave and a smile for us. Negatives: very few. We had to wait thirty minutes for a table at Alizar one evening but that was no inconvenience. They gave us a beeper and we sat in the lounge next door, chatting with our waiter, an American from Dahlonega, Georgia. We enjoyed that. I would like to see more treadmills in the gym. The obligatory shopping stops on every excursion are annoying, but I understand that's the tour business. Your guides aren't paid very much and depend upon commissions from the shops and our tips for their income. However, for something as spectacular as the Pyramids, for which you've waited to see your whole life, I want to spend more time there than at the Papyrus Institute. Speaking of tips: I couldn't believe how many of my fellow cruisers were stiffing their guides at the end of a tour. It was embarrassing, especially the ones who were practically sprinting from the back door of the bus to avoid paying a tip. Another embarrassing thing was how many of our fellow passengers were rude and to the ship's employees. I mean some were downright hostile. Is it really that hard to say please and thank you? Paying for a cruise doesn't automatically give one the right to treat the staff as serfs. The hot tub hogs didn't bother us this time because we had the spa passes. I've learned to tune out the constant shilling for bingo but I understand why NCL does it. Their main profit centers on the cruise are excursions, gambling and bar sales. I'm supporting the industry with my bar bill so you bingo fans need to pony up. Disembarkation had a bit of a rough start because of problems with the port's luggage conveyors. They weren't working properly at first and then the Spanish, er Catalonian stevedores weren't sorting the luggage according to the proper color. You'd think the Jade had never been to Barcelona before. But the ship's staff got it sorted out quickly enough. Two other cruise ships arrived this morning, including RCCL's massive "Brilliance of the Seas," who followed us from Alexandria and Malta. We left the ship at 8:30 and were in a taxi by nine. Despite the large number of passengers getting off three ships simultaneously, there was very little wait for a cab. We shared a taxi with one of our roll call friends, splitting the 30 Euro fare. The ship was offering a bus to the airport for $40 per person. The cab is definitely the better deal, but I urge everyone else to take the bus so I can continue to get cheap fares on NCL. In summary, this cruise lived up to all of our expectations. We saw sights we'd dreamed of seeing all our lives. It's hard to explain what it feels like to be amid the ruins of the Parthenon, gaze in awe at the Sistine Chapel, or stand transfixed in front of the Pyramids. My wife and I had to keep pinching each other to believe we were really seeing what we were seeing. It was the trip of a lifetime. We loved the ship and were well taken care of. We've made more great friends and we've carried memories enough for several lifetimes. We'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Pinch Me! Are Those Really the Pyramids?

Norwegian Jade Cruise Review by Carnac767

Trip Details
  • Sail Date: March 2009
  • Destination: Eastern Mediterranean
  • Cabin Type: Aft-Facing Mini-Suite with Balcony
We began planning this cruise almost a year out. This would be our third NCL cruise. Previously we'd done a Baltic (Dream) and Western Caribbean (Sun) with NCL and had had a fantastic time on both. After having experienced an oceanview and a side balcony cabin, we opted to try an aft cabin this time. Because we were booking so early we had our pick of any cabin on the stern and chose one on Deck Ten. We used one of our Cruise Rewards certificates for the deposit, always a great deal. Later on, because of continued sales and fare reductions, we decided to move up to an aft mini-suite on Deck Eleven.
In preparation for the cruise I started a roll call on Cruise Critic, which remained extremely quiet until the fall. At one point I was beginning to think we'd be the only people on the ship. But then suddenly there was a flurry of activity. Since I'd started the roll call, I offered to set up a Meet and Greet. Initially we had about thirty people sign up.
Every few weeks I would call our Personal Cruise Consultant at NCL, just to check in with her. Several times I got the price lowered because of sales in progress. Between initial booking and payment of the final balance, we'd reduced the price of our cruise by a thousand dollars, plus we'd been given $300 of onboard credit. About six weeks before we sailed I contacted the Jade's event coordinator, asking her if she could provide a date, time and venue for us to hold a Meet and Greet for thirty. I heard back from her about two weeks later. By that time our roster had exploded to nearly one hundred. I kept the Event Coordinator informed of the changes and she told me we'd have the Meet and Greet in Le Bistro at eleven a.m. on our first at-sea day. I asked everyone on the roster to provide me with any background information they'd care to share with the group (interests, hobbies, career, children, fun facts, etc) which most did. I assembled all of this information on a roster that I sent out on a master e-mail list. As I got new information, I updated the roster. This enabled people with like interests to start contacting each other prior to the cruise. It also allowed people to start setting up private tours and gave the people with children a good idea how many other children might be on the cruise. For some reason teenage girls outnumbered boys by about ten to one. Those were some lucky boys. We also assembled a comprehensive list of tips for the group.
We initially considered using Nile Blue for our Cairo overnight excursion but then opted for an NCL excursion, mainly for our own peace of mind. For Rome, Athens, and Ephesus we also decided to use ship's excursions. We'd do Malta on our own. We booked all of the excursions early, so early in fact that I couldn't remember what we'd signed up for when we got to the ship.
We decided to travel to Europe several days early, mainly to make sure we made it in time. I'm an airline pilot, so I have the advantage of pass travel, but that's on a strictly space available basis and we have been stranded before because the flights were full. We lucked out this time, though, and got out on our first try to Munich. That gave us a chance to spend three days in Garmisch (which I highly recommend) before we flew down to Barcelona on Saturday, March 7, the day before the cruise. While we were flying to Munich the upsell fairy sent us an e-mail, offering a garden villa suite. Unfortunately, I didn't check my email until two days later. I called NCL back, spending 30 minutes on hold at international long distance rates, before finally finding out the offer was no longer available. I later found out that the upsell fairy called a lot of people on this cruise. Because of tremendous fare sales, the cruise finally sold out, except for the suites. Many of them were still available shortly before the sailing date.
We'd booked Saturday night at the Continental Hotel in Barcelona. It's located on La Rambla. Fortunately, I'd booked our room nearly a year in advance, because the hotel had sold out fairly quickly. We took a taxi from the airport to the hotel, which cost us 30 Euros (including the tip). Some members of our roll call also stayed at the Continental and took a bus from the airport that dropped them near the hotel. It cost them around four Euros each.
The Continental is in a great location. The rooms are clean and comfortable, though very small. And you'd better like the color pink. To paraphrase a line my wife heard in the film Steel Magnolias, it looked as if someone had upchucked Pepto-Bismol all over the room. We had a balcony room overlooking La Rambla. Those rooms are bigger than the non-balcony rooms and cost 112 Euros a night.
We arrived at the hotel a little after noon and went right to our room. We were lucky that it was ready because there were several couples waiting for their rooms who'd been there for several hours. They'd flown in that morning from the States. Another note about the Continental: Free wi-fi is offered, as well as a free breakfast, which is served until ten a.m. At all times, there is a free food buffet (tapas), as well as coffee, tea, soft drinks, beer, and wine. There's also a computer terminal available near the buffet.
It was a beautiful day in Barcelona, though a bit on the cool side. After dumping our luggage, we set off on foot to explore the town. Since it was a Saturday, the joint was jumping, as they say. Half of the attraction of La Rambla is just people watching, and it was jammed with people. We just roamed about town, making our way north and west toward Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi's masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia (Holy Family) Cathedral, one of Barcelona's landmarks. James Michener's Iberia, which was first published back in the 1960s, had a chapter devoted to Barcelona and I think three pages just on the doors of Sagrada Familia. By the way, even if you're just the least bit interested in Spain, I highly recommend Michener's book.
Incidentally, urban myth has it that the word gaudy derived from Gaudi's name and looking at Sagrada Familia one might easily believe that legend, but the word existed as far back as the 16th century.
Sagrada Familia is a bit of a hike from the Continental (it didn't look that far on the map) but it was a beautiful day for a walk. We could have taken the subway but that's no way to see a city, in my estimation. We eventually found it and took our obligatory photographs, electing not to go inside. Another member of our roll call, Susan (CC ID: Educators2), did go inside and wrote about that on her critique. For more information, I'd urge you to read her excellent write-up.
We then wandered back toward our hotel, enjoying the wide boulevards and expansive plazas that Barcelona has to offer. We also viewed its own version of the Arc de Triomphe.
Incidentally, I made the mistake of thinking Barcelona was in Spain. Silly me. The locals were quick to point out that were in Cataluña. Though Spanish can be spoken there, the natives speak Catalonian, which I think is related to Klingon. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped by Cortes Ingles, the big department store, which was just a block north of our hotel. They have a very nice grocery store in the basement and we stocked up on some goodies we wanted to have for our evening Sundowners we planned to have on our balcony each day. The only problem was that the entire population of Tokyo seemed to be in the store and it was very hard to move about.
Upon the recommendation of our hotel clerk, we ventured out to dinner at Costa Gallega, which is one block west and about seven blocks north of the Continental on Passeig de Gracia, 71. On the way there we walked past another one of Gaudi's notable bits of architecture, the Casa Batllo, commonly known as the house of skull and bones. The nickname is not for anything nefarious but for how the building looks. The skulls are the balconies and bones are the supporting pillars. You can get some great night photos of it, but you'd best have a tripod with you.
Dinner was excellent. We had paella, along with numerous tapas and a pitcher of sangria. Afterwards we joined the throng on La Rambla, just enjoying the nightlife of Barcelona. Because our room faced La Rambla, we weren't going to get to sleep too early anyway.
Sunday, March 8, 2009 finally arrived. The day we'd been planning for almost a year was upon us. There were times when I didn't think my countdown clock on Cruise Critic would ever break 300. We slept late, mainly because we'd been out late, and so missed the breakfast buffet. But there were still plenty of food left. We took our food back to our room and ate on our balcony, where we were treated to a parade of antique automobiles down La Rambla. I don't know what the occasion was but we saw some beautiful classic cars. There must have been well over one hundred of them. The hotel has a left-luggage storage area, so we left our bags there and set off to do a little bit more exploring of the city before heading to the port. It was another gorgeous day in Spain, er, Cataluña. We walked down La Rambla this time, to the Christopher Columbus statue. Columbus sits atop a tall column, in many ways reminiscent of Nelson's statue in Trafalgar Square. He's pointing west, as if to say, "the gold's that way, boys." We walked around the marina area and found a spot where we actually saw the Norwegian Jade, away in the distance. That was an exciting moment and prompted us to walk back to the hotel to collect our luggage.
We decided to take a taxi from the hotel. More adventurous members of our roll call who were staying at the Continental opted to walk down La Rambla and take a bus to the port from the Columbus statue. Personally, I think that dragging a suitcase down La Rambla on a Sunday should qualify as an Olympic Event.
Within minutes of being picked up by our taxi at two p.m., we were at the port. Check-in was a breeze, the easiest we've ever experienced. I must say we were very disappointed that the Captain wasn't there to personally greet us. Just kidding. Incidentally, the ship opened for boarding at noon. When you check in, you'll leave your passport at the check-in desk in order for the ship to obtain your Egyptian visa. It will be returned to you the day before you arrive in Alexandria.
As we boarded we were treated to champagne. I got a good laugh when I heard a man behind us exclaim, "I ain't never had champagne before." I am not making this up. My initial impression of Jade is quite favorable. It's obvious she's new construction (two-years-old in ship terms makes her a newborn). She's clean and polished, though the Hawaiian motif does seem a bit odd, given her current location. But it's not bad. After the champagne we made our way to our cabin, which was already available. On our previous cruise aboard the Sun, we'd had to wait for a couple of hours before our cabin was ready. Before we entered the room, we met our cabin stewards, Armel and Raymundo, both from the Philippines. They did a great job for us the entire cruise. Both were extremely friendly and polite, and they kept our stateroom spotless.
We're in a mini-suite on Deck 11, cabin 11656, just below the Garden Deck. If you look at pictures of the Jade from astern, it's the cabin right below and directly to the left of the flag staff. Once we were in the cabin we did the happy dance and pinched each other. We were finally here!
A mini-suite is not a suite and you don't have all those sweet suite benefits, but you also don't have the huge cost of a suite, either. We knew in advance what we were getting, as would anyone who watches the CC threads. What we did like was the extra space and the very large bathroom. The bedding is new and the bed is very comfortable. We have a nightstand on either side of the bed. We also have a mini-bar and refrigerator. There is an Ethernet port to connect to the internet. Every cabin on the ship has an Ethernet port. There is also one 110-volt outlet and one 220 outlet. It's a very good thing I brought a power strip. There is no clock in the room, other than you can see the current time on your cabin's telephone (if you get close). My wife reports that the hairdryers on the Jade are far superior to what were on the Sun and Dream.
Waiting for us in the cabin was a bottle of champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries, included with the Deluxe Honeymoon/Romance package we'd purchased. It was neither our honeymoon nor our anniversary, but we treat every cruise as a honeymoon. We also had Jade Latitudes pins in our cabin.
We set off to explore the ship. From our cabin to bow of the ship is a long way, almost a thousand feet. Everything we saw impressed us, both the cleanliness and condition of repair. It's obvious that this is a well-run ship. I did pick up a few things about ships in my years in the navy (mainly try to avoid them—but those were a different kind of ship).
We were given a tour of the Ying and Yang spa and decided to buy there cruise-long spa package. It was $250 for two and for an additional $26 we could get the one-hour couples' razul, which is essentially an hour in a big shower smearing stuff on each other. The spa package gives one unlimited access to a steam room, sauna, ice-cold plunge pool, hot tub, relaxation area, traditional showers, and a tropical-rain, ice-rain shower facility. There are separate facilities for men and women, and then there is the relaxation area for both men and women that features a heated therapy pool and several ceramic tile recliners, which are heated. Once I tried one of those heated recliners, I was hooked.
Our luggage was delivered less than an hour after we boarded. Again, we were disappointed that the captain or senior staff member didn't deliver it personally. Where's the love?
The lifeboat drill took place at five p.m. Our muster station was in the Grand Pacific restaurant. By the time we arrived there was no place left to sit, so we staked out a corner of the restaurant and had a nap. My wife woke me up at five-thirty to tell me the drill was over. I am now ready to face any iceberg the Mediterranean has to offer. We decided to enjoy the Barcelona sunset from our balcony, toasting the end of the day with our champagne and strawberries. There was still the sense of unreality, because we'd had to jump through so many hoops just to arrange our schedules to make this cruise. It wasn't until the day before we left Dulles that I was able to clear the last work obligation.
We sailed promptly at seven p.m. The cruise was on! And what a great cruise it was. We had a fabulous time. How often does one get the chance to check off so many items from his/her bucket list on just one holiday? Both my wife and I had waited all our lives to see the Sistine Chapel, the Parthenon, and the Pyramids of Giza. Our excursions were terrific, we loved the ship, and we made new friends too numerous to count. We certainly got our money's worth. I've already posted some detailed accounts of our excursions on the NCL forum, so I'll just try to summarize them in this critique. Later in the evening of the first day I was contacted by Ana Roncevalles, the Jade's Group Services Coordinator, to let me know that the venue for tomorrow's Meet and Greet had been changed to the Alizar Restaurant from Le Bistro because the latter facility wasn't big enough for our large group. Ana said she would be posted at Le Bistro to direct our group to the right location. In the meantime, I spent the rest of the evening and much of the next morning phoning the roll call members to let them know of the change. It's things like this that make it important you have the cabin numbers of your Meet and Greeters.
The Meet and Greet was a big success. We had ninety people show up and the last people didn't leave until almost two hours after we started. The ship provided coffee, tea, juice and pastries. More important was the lineup of heavy hitters they provided to address us, starting with the Captain, Haarvard Ramsoey (from Norway, naturally). Along with the captain was Armando Da Silva, the Hotel Director; Darin Wyman, the cruise director; Ehab Ashwan, Assistant Hotel Director; and Claus Pascher, the Food and Beverage Director. I was impressed. It's the first Meet and Greet I've been to that the captain attended. Captain Ramsoey mentioned that NCL pays close attention to what's written on Cruise Critic and takes our opinions very seriously, except perhaps about hot dogs. Darin Wyman echoed the captain's welcome, and Mr. Da Silva emphasized that he was available 24 hours a day to answer any questions and solve any problems. Later during the get-together Mr. Da Silva took me aside to reiterate how important he felt our group was and gave me his card, asking me to contact him if we needed anything. He said that he regarded CC members as VIPs.
Here are my impressions of several facets of the ship. I emphasize these are just my opinions: Work out facilities: The health club on the ship was large, with a wide variety of exercise equipment. There were numerous treadmills but even so, I usually had to wait to get one.
Latitudes Members Reception: This took place in Spinnakers (Deck 13 forward) on our second sea day, early in the afternoon. The captain and the senior staff were there to welcome us, emphasizing how important repeat customers are to NCL. There was plenty of free food and drink. The sushi was particularly good. The featured drinks were rum punches, whisky sours, champagne, red and white wine, and beer.
The ship's library is fairly extensive for a ship of its size. It also pays homage to the S.S. United States, with several displays about that grand ship. Next door is a room for board games and cards. It was always packed to the gills.
The pool deck, just aft of the spa, library, and gym features adult and children's pools, as well as hot tubs. As I've seen on every cruise, a hot tub mafia instantly arises and seizes control of certain hot tubs for the duration of the cruise. This was no exception. The children's pool also has a water slide. Even though the weather was in the low to mid-fifties (or around 13 to 15 for our metric friends), the pools are heated and there were people using them. There are two golf nets, one on either side of the ship and a multi-purpose tennis, basketball, and soccer facility aft on Deck 13. Tennis rackets can be checked out from the library. There are also ping pong tables on the pool deck.
At sea activities: I like to get a run on a treadmill and then just relax and read on at-sea days. I'm usually not interested in anything else, which is probably a good thing because there didn't seem to be as much offered on this cruise as I've seen on others. I was happy with what was available but I know others were hoping for more. Best cruise investment I've ever made: an Amazon Kindle. We did take part in many of the trivia contests with friends we'd made through the roll call. We managed to amass quite a collection of those valuable NCL luggage tags and playing cards. I also went to one of the beer tastings and a martini tasting. Each of those costs $15 but you get your money's worth. The beer tasting was fine and the martini tasting was a lot of fun, mainly because so many people were there. It was a good group.
Food: Always the hot topic on a cruise. The only restaurants we did not try were Teppanyaki and Jasmine Gardens. Grand Pacific and Alizar, the main dining rooms, offer the same menu. We found the food and service in both places to be quite good, with a decent menu selection. Sirloin steak, chicken, or salmon was always available if none of the daily entrees appealed to you. My favorite restaurant, by far, was Cagney's. I'm a steak lover and I had two excellent sixteen ounce T-bones. My wife, who doesn't care for red meat, had the sea bass, which she said was very good. The service was excellent. I don't mind the service charge because I like the quiet ambiance. My wife's favorite dining venue was Le Bistro. Paniolo's, the Tex Mex restaurant, was very good, too. Be prepared—the appetizers there are huge. You might want to just share one, otherwise you'll be full before your entrEe arrives. It was the only restaurant where I had no room for dessert. There were two lobster nights on the cruise in the main dining rooms. We had two room service breakfasts, one the morning of our Rome excursion. That one was delivered forty minutes early, while we were still asleep. But I think everyone on the ship had ordered room service breakfast because of the early excursion departures. Our other room service breakfast was breakfast in bed as part of the honeymoon package. We had that the morning of our arrival into Malta. The breakfast was terrific, though there was enough food to feed a small army. The Garden Cafe buffet offered a wide variety of items. It was the most robust buffet we'd seen yet on an NCL ship. We often gathered our breakfast there and took it back to eat it on our balcony. The main deficiency with the Garden Cafe was that seating was sometimes limited. In the mornings they opened the Italian restaurant for overflow seating. After Cairo you couldn't serve yourself from the buffet. You had to point to what you wanted and a server would give it to you. This is routine NCL policy after an Egyptian port call.
The ship had a couple of theme outdoor lunches on the Garden Deck. The first was supposed to be German, though most of what was touted as authentic German food really wasn't. But if you've never been to Germany, you probably wouldn't know the difference and the food was still good. The second was on St. Patrick's Day, where they featured a British Pub lunch. I thought that was an odd choice for a traditional Irish holiday, but St. Patrick was Welsh, after all. The food was good.
The internet cafe is on deck seven and only has eight terminals. That surprised me as I had thought a ship the Jade's size would have more. I often saw people waiting for a terminal. I hadn't intended to bring my laptop but I was glad I did. As with all NCL ship's, the two connection plans offered were 250 minutes for $100 or 100 minutes for $55 (or pay as you go for 75 cents a minute). They offer various specials throughout the cruise to add bonus minutes, such as signing up for cruise rewards and so forth. Keep a sharp eye on the Freestyle Daily for information on these. Connection is usually slow, though it seems to be better early in the morning and late at night. On occasion the ship would lose the signal. If you were working on something at a ship's terminal, you were out of luck because there is no way to save your work. There is an ATM in the internet cafe, incidentally, with a fee of $5.50. It only dispenses U.S. currency. Tip—prior to Cairo go to the Guest Services desk on Deck 7 and get lots of singles and five dollar bills. They are the currency of the realm in Cairo. One and two-Euro coins are useful, too, as are the five-Euro notes.
Cruise rewards certificates: If you plan to cruise again with NCL, these are a great deal. They allow you to book a cabin for a $250 deposit, in effect. The $250 is charged to your on-board account but you also receive $100 in onboard credit. You just have to book your next cruise within two years of the effective date of the Cruise Rewards Certificate and make the cruise within 30 months. The certificate can be used to book any level of cabin, including the suites.
Tours: I covered these in fairly extensive detail on the NCL forum. Rather than duplicate what I've previously written, I'll just add links to the various port reports I posted on the CC NCL forum. We used NCL excursions for every port but Barcelona and Malta. Those we did on our own. Many members of our roll call took the train from Civitavecchia to Rome and had no problems. Likewise, many used public transportation and taxis in Piraeus and Izmir with similar good results. We also had a sizeable number use both Nile Blue and De Castro in Alexandria and all were very pleased with their tours, though Nile Blue did accidentally strand one couple halfway between Alexandria and Cairo. The Nile Blue bus didn't have a bathroom and made a pit stop. One couple was still using the facilities when the bus took off without them.
I'll just say that our NCL tours were great. Rome was the highlight for my wife because the two things she really wanted to see were the Sistine Chapel and the Coliseum. We had two guides and they were great, as were all our guides. Athens was the only excursion where we had lousy weather. It rained most of the day and by the time we reached Poseidon's Temple later in the day, it was bitter cold. Still, it was a great day. Ephesus was an unexpected treat. I didn't expect the ruins and excavations to be so extensive. To walk down the streets where Mark Antony and Cleopatra once strode, not to mention Paul and John (and we're not talking about Beatles here) was awe-inspiring. Turkey was also the tidiest country we visited.
I loved our Cairo overnight. Many I've spoken with were turned off by the poverty, overcrowding, and slums we encountered. Unfortunately, I've encountered far worse in sub-Saharan Africa. I thought what we saw was a tremendous learning experience and quite helpful in understanding what makes that part of the world tick. I just wish my children could have seen it. They'd certainly appreciate how blessed they are. Our NCL tour was great and our guide was the best I've yet experienced.
Malta was another pleasant surprise. I just wish we'd had more time to see it, but then again, one of the great things about a tour is that it whets your appetite to come back and explore the places you've visited. I hope we make it back to Malta.
Rome: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=945092 Athens: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=946344 Izmir: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=947483 Cairo: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=949809 Malta: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=952181
Laundry specials: The ship had three laundry specials. The first was on Day One and was discount pressing for all your items that had been crushed into your luggage. The other two laundry specials were everything you could cram into a laundry bag, washed and folded for $24.99—no pressing. The bag is picked up in the morning and returned two days later, though we got ours back in a day. Finally, an iron and ironing board could be obtained from housekeeping by touching in 00 on your phone.
The spa passes we bought were a great investment. We used the spa every day except on the Cairo overnight. Sometimes we hit it in the morning and in the late afternoon. It was great. We each had a 25-minute massage as part of the honeymoon package and it was incredible. I've never been so relaxed in my life. I'm afraid if we'd had the hour-long full body massage they would have had to carry me back to the cabin.
We also had a cake and champagne party in the late afternoon on St. Patrick's Day. It had nothing to do with St. Patrick's Day, however. This was also part of the Deluxe Honeymoon/Romance package. There was quite a large turnout for this.
What to wear, what to wear? It's freestyle, baby. Just do me a favor—don't show up to the buffet in just a bathrobe. To quote my daughter—ew. The Grand Pacific was the designated "dress up" restaurant, which meant no jeans in the evening. There was one person who wore the same tee shirt every day with a particular four letter word prominent on the front. I was tempted to chuck him overboard, mainly to wash the shirt. The ship had two "dress up or not" optional formal evenings. Tuxes were few and far between. I brought mine and saw perhaps four or five others. There was one man in a kilt.
Entertainment: We really enjoyed Second City but it's not for everyone. Improv is a risky entertainment vehicle because it's either hilarious or it's a dud. Fortunately, there were more hits than duds. The cast members are very talented. Don't sit up close if you don't want to became part of the show. We really enjoyed Lenny Windsor, the comedian. Don't be late for the show unless you want to become part of that show. The tenor, Laurence Robinson, received rave reviews as did the marionette show. The children of our roll call members seemed to really like Jimmy Tamley, the ventriloquist. The NCL shows were good, with some talented performers, but I would have preferred shows with more of an up tempo. We missed the Jean Ann Ryan company. On the night the ship was in Alexandria, they showed the film "Cleopatra," in the Stardust Theater. That was the blockbuster epic from the 1960s with Liz Taylor and Richard Burton. I wouldn't have minded seeing that again on the big screen, though I doubt I would have stayed awake. The entertainment did what it was supposed to accomplish: entertain. It's not the reason I go on a cruise in the first place.
Nationalities: Most of the cruisers were from the U.S., though the Canadians weren't far behind. There were also a large number of cruisers from the U.K. and Germany. Not surprisingly, there were a number of Spaniards. Other nationalities I encountered were Aussies, Kiwis, Norwegians, Danes, Chinese, Japanese, and South Africans. I'm sure there were many others.
Without exception, every member of the crew we encountered was friendly and polite. The stewards on our deck were the hardest working bunch I've ever seen. If they weren't tending to our cabins, they were out in the passageways polishing bright work. They always had a wave and a smile for us.
Negatives: very few. We had to wait thirty minutes for a table at Alizar one evening but that was no inconvenience. They gave us a beeper and we sat in the lounge next door, chatting with our waiter, an American from Dahlonega, Georgia. We enjoyed that. I would like to see more treadmills in the gym. The obligatory shopping stops on every excursion are annoying, but I understand that's the tour business. Your guides aren't paid very much and depend upon commissions from the shops and our tips for their income. However, for something as spectacular as the Pyramids, for which you've waited to see your whole life, I want to spend more time there than at the Papyrus Institute. Speaking of tips: I couldn't believe how many of my fellow cruisers were stiffing their guides at the end of a tour. It was embarrassing, especially the ones who were practically sprinting from the back door of the bus to avoid paying a tip. Another embarrassing thing was how many of our fellow passengers were rude and to the ship's employees. I mean some were downright hostile. Is it really that hard to say please and thank you? Paying for a cruise doesn't automatically give one the right to treat the staff as serfs. The hot tub hogs didn't bother us this time because we had the spa passes. I've learned to tune out the constant shilling for bingo but I understand why NCL does it. Their main profit centers on the cruise are excursions, gambling and bar sales. I'm supporting the industry with my bar bill so you bingo fans need to pony up.
Disembarkation had a bit of a rough start because of problems with the port's luggage conveyors. They weren't working properly at first and then the Spanish, er Catalonian stevedores weren't sorting the luggage according to the proper color. You'd think the Jade had never been to Barcelona before. But the ship's staff got it sorted out quickly enough. Two other cruise ships arrived this morning, including RCCL's massive "Brilliance of the Seas," who followed us from Alexandria and Malta. We left the ship at 8:30 and were in a taxi by nine. Despite the large number of passengers getting off three ships simultaneously, there was very little wait for a cab. We shared a taxi with one of our roll call friends, splitting the 30 Euro fare. The ship was offering a bus to the airport for $40 per person. The cab is definitely the better deal, but I urge everyone else to take the bus so I can continue to get cheap fares on NCL.
In summary, this cruise lived up to all of our expectations. We saw sights we'd dreamed of seeing all our lives. It's hard to explain what it feels like to be amid the ruins of the Parthenon, gaze in awe at the Sistine Chapel, or stand transfixed in front of the Pyramids. My wife and I had to keep pinching each other to believe we were really seeing what we were seeing. It was the trip of a lifetime. We loved the ship and were well taken care of. We've made more great friends and we've carried memories enough for several lifetimes. We'd do it again in a heartbeat.
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Cabin Review

Aft-Facing Mini-Suite with Balcony
Cabin M1 11656
Great viewbeautiful sunsets eastbound and glorious sunrises westbound. Could barely hear crew moving tables and chairs around on Garden Deck early in the morning. After big event on garden deck we'd find litter and crumbs on the balconynothing major. Aft location provided great wind break. We could use the balcony no matter how cold and windy it was. Quiet hallway. Big bathroomvery nice cabin.
Deck 11 Inside Cabins, Suite Cabins