If you take nothing else from this review, here is my summary. If you are the type of traveler who enjoys exploring new places, then never cruise to places you really want to go.
Overall, I have to say we found the cruise relaxing, especially on sea days, when we could sleep in, and lounge about at our leisure. On the days in port, however, things were very, very hectic as 2400 people tried to get off the boat for a mad scramble around town.
The ship in general was clean and well maintained, although one of the pool heaters was broken (the adult pool) on our trip, which meant that only the brave and well seasoned went swimming in that one.. :-)
The Freestyle dining scheme of NCL is a nice thing, as the idea of formal seating definitely didn't appeal to us. The big down side of the dining is that the surcharges for the "specialty" restaurants didn't seem to equate to the type of food being offered. Papa's, the Italian specialty, offered a row of picnic tables down the middle of the restaurant as a seating option. I for one am not paying $20US/person to sit at a picnic table and be served pasta. Teppanyaki, another specialty, wants $25US/person surcharge to watch someone make you a stir-fry.. A STIR-FRY!! The free restaurants offer a decent variety of food, and the Grand Pacific Dining room had excellent service for the nights we dined there, with only a minimal wait during the peak times. For the most part we ate in the Garden Cafe (buffet style), where we never had a problem finding a nice variety of foods for breakfast and lunch.
The one thing that is hard to miss on the NCL Jade is the amount of extra charges that are thrown at you for the little things. I expected the Internet to be expensive, as we are at sea, but $.75/minute still seems a little high (other option is to purchase a package of minutes in $100 or $200US groups). No, it was other little things that surprised me, things like: 1. Why aren't the pool tables free? 2. Why isn't the tabletop shuffleboard free in the Spinnaker lounge? 3. Why isn't Bingo free, instead of $50US per round? 4. Why aren't the Yoga classes free? 5. I expected the Spa to be pricey, yet I was still surprised by how much they wanted.. 6. The Photo gallery brings new meaning to the term "highway robbery".. 7. The Galleria shopping was pricey as expected, although I give credit to the Liquor Duty Free pricing, which was very competitive.
The other thing to note is the $12/day/person tipping charge added to your account. For those who may not be aware, this charge can be increased if you want, it can also be DECREASED if you want. You need to fill out a form on the day before you disembark at the reception desk. We dropped our tip down by $88US to an even $200, which we felt accurately reflected the level of consistent service we received for the duration of the cruise.
Before you read the Port reviews, it is only fair to say that we are a younger, fit couple who enjoy going "off the beaten path" a bit when we travel. If you are not that adventurous, and don't enjoy planning your own trips or routes around towns, then the shore excursions offered through the boat probably will suit you nicely. We just couldn't believe the difference between what the ship wanted, and what it actually cost us, and we always got to more things than the ship excursions.
Inside cabin was simple but effective with a nice bathroom for the size of the room, and enough storage space to unpack 1.5 suitcases into.
I'm keeping the descriptions very simple for the ports.
Rome is impossible to see in the time you are given. Follow the advice of other posters, and take the train in. Pick 4-5 things you want to see in the day, and plan a route to them yourself. We spent approximately $100 Cdn for the two of us, compared to $149US/person from NCL.
This was supposed to be Athens, but due to a strike, we ported at Napflion instead.
We tendered into port, rented a car and had a lovely time driving around with another couple from the boat. We spent approx. $70 Cnd for the two of us instead of $179US/person from NCL. We received a $5.73US onboard credit for not being able to go to Athens. That almost covered the beer I had later that night.
This is the only excursion we did through NCL, as it was actually reasonably priced. At $59US/person it took you to Ephesus, and then of course on to a carpet factory where a nice man in a nice suit fed you tea/wine and snacks while trying to convince you to spend $1000 - 8000US on a carpet. If you do this tour, make sure you break away from the group and go to the terraced houses. It's 15 Turkish Lire (they don't take Euro/US) each and VERY worth it! It is part of Hadrian's house and it's in the middle of being restored.. very interesting!
Alexandria - Cairo
The pyramids are simply awe-inspiring, and you have to see them to appreciate them. If you get there early enough you can get a ticket to go inside them, to the burial chambers. WARNING! This is not for the claustrophobics, or couch potatoes, it is a steep, dark, low ceiling to get up to Khufu's chamber, and there aren't any windows to look out.. :)
This is the one where NCL gets you but good. The boat wanted $450US/person for an overnight excursion to Cairo. Total cost for the two of us including food, entrances, taxis and train fare = $275 Canadian. Egypt is a third world country. Nuff said.
Don't do an excursion. You can walk around Valetta in just over an hour, with plenty of time to shop, eat and enjoy the atmosphere. Valetta is on an island, with many a hill and stairs to climb, so if you have any mobility problems, take a taxi to city center, where the ground evens out a bit.