This was our first cruise on NCL, but our third to Norway.
Our overall impression of the Jade was very good, lots to like.
It seems larger than it was, with lots of deck space, and a lovely wide promenade deck. There were several bars and lounges, each with different activities in the evening, so there was a very pleasant buzzy atmosphere, plenty going on. Apart from the buffet at times, the ship didn't feel crowded.
We were disappointed with the Atrium, which lacked any wow factor. It was particularly uninviting in the evenings, as the musician entertaining the occupants was using amplification sufficient for a large stadium.
We loved the Bridge viewing room on deck 11! Very interesting, especially on the sea days, to watch what was going on, and intriguing to see what information the crew have available.
A big negative was the casino, which allows smoking. Because of a gangway problem at Southampton, we had to board and walk through the casino. It was a very big room, and stank like a stale ashtray, so that was our only venture into it. Maybe in the future, when they have followed other cruise lines, and banned indoor smoking, and replaced all the soft furnishings and carpet in the casino.
We had booked a mid ship balcony cabin. It was very comfortable and attractively decorated since the dry dock. There was plenty of hanging space and storage, but very lacking in desk space to put items. The biggest shelf was taken up with a coffee maker, there was no coffee table and because we had a sofa, there was only one tiny bedside table. The air conditioning was effective and responsive, and there was a very adequate hair dryer. The balcony was fairly small, but enough room to sit out, and nothing like the ludicrous ones on P and O Britannia , or the Royal Princess class.
The bathroom had good and bad points. The shower had a glass sliding door, and good water pressure. The toilet also had a sliding glass door, but I can't imagine who would be able to close it! We are both under 5 foot 6, and not too overweight, but it was very snug in there! However, it did work well, no blockages etc!
Our cabin steward, Jamie, was friendly and efficient, and we loved the towel animals! Haven't had those before, but we thought they were great fun!
We ate almost exclusively in the buffet. It could be crowded at peak breakfast and lunch times, but there was plenty of seating at night. The serving area was well laid out, we found enough choice to keep us happy. The food was very American in style, but during the week, more vegetables appeared on the hot food counter! There were two types of bacon, crispy American style, and 'soft' bacon, which was just undercooked American style. You might also want to take a jar of marmalade with you if that is important, there were small individual portions of Heinz marmalade on offer, which were like runny syrup. Maybe Heinz should stick to ketchup! However, the butter was an excellent French brand. There were some cooked to order items, omelettes, pasta, and crepes, and a section of Asian stir frys and curries. We generally found the food hot enough. The chef in charge was present during most meals, very hands on and keeping an eye on things, which was good to see.
The coffee was not good, although there were some machines which ground beans and were a little better. Not as good as Celebrity, but far better than Princess, which we found undrinkable.
The seating in the buffet wasn't quite as good as on some ships. Very few tables for two, so many tables for four were only occupied by couples. There was also very little space behind the chairs, so a couple of times, we found ourselves trapped and unable to vacate our seats without having to disturb other diners nearer the aisles.
It was pleasing to see the on deck food venues open and offering burgers etc even when the weather wasn't brilliant, rather than shutting up shop at the first opportunity.
We were disappointed with the coffee offering in the Atrium. We are happy to pay extra for espresso style coffees, and often have these with a pastry as an alternative breakfast. However, the coffee served was really only passable rather than good, and there were no food items to accompany the coffee, other than pricey macarons or individual chocolates. On all the other cruise lines we have used, there were complimentary pastries etc available to enjoy with your coffee. ( the International Cafe on Princess ships was exceptionally good, Cafe al Bacio on Celebrity had the best coffee and a nice range of things to nibble, and even P and O provided pastries, although you were only allowed one!) Our coffee bill for the week came to nil, but we made up for it on shore instead!
I only ate once in the MDR. I was promptly seated at a table for two, and service was friendly and quick. I did laugh though, when my roast turkey dinner with sprouts arrived. Three halves of Brussels sprout, yes, one and a half sprouts in total! However a quick request for some more vegetables, and a plate of broccoli, green beans and more sprouts arrived almost instantaneously, so not an issue!
We enjoyed some of the entertainment, although we were mainly cruising for the scenery. We laughed at the comedian, Al Brown, and I enjoyed the quartet, Ancora, although, as it sadly often the case, the backing musicians did get too loud.
The show Elements, was excellent. I was not expecting such a well choreographed, well presented production. The magician and the trapeze type artists had parts to play, but the stars of the show were the dancers. I am a big fan and attender of modern ballet, and the dancers in Elements were of a professional standard equal to many I've seen in professional ballet companies in the UK and abroad. Even my husband, who reluctantly accompanied me, really enjoyed himself, and was very impressed.
I was disappointed by the cigarette smell in the theatre, though. I usually assume that by avoiding the area outside the casino, and entering the theatre on the upper deck, I will not be bothered. However, the smell pervaded the front staircase, and even the upper seating in the theatre. If I had booked a cabin near the front staircase, I would have been very annoyed that the corridor outside did not smell as fresh and clean as the rest of the ship. I suppose that coming from the UK, we have got used to all indoor areas being smoke free, and smelling clean and inviting. It was quite a shock, especially after the majority of our previous cruises being on Celebrity and a couple on P and O, which are smoke free inside. It was like stepping into the old days,when pubs and cinemas stank like old ashtrays.
The staff on the ship were always friendly and approachable. The customer service desk were very pleasant, bar staff were fine. We had the UBP and tried a few cocktails, disappointingly made from pre mixed bottles but tasted ok, and wine with meals. After the novelty of the drinks package wore off, we found we drank less and less as the week wore on, especially as it was a port intensive cruise, so wouldn't bother again unless it was a perk.
The cruise director Roberto, seemed to work hard, and we saw him a lot around the ship. There were more announcements than we are used to, and not always clear to follow. I was not impressed by the young man in the Future Cruise Sales office, who either wasn't able to answer my query or felt it was too much effort to bother.
The shops on board were not very tempting. Lots of watches, expensive rings that wouldn't be wearable in the UK as they looked so gaudy and fake, and there were a few beachwear items and cruise line branded t shirt type things, that would help out in an emergency. There was a good selection of perfumery, but they didn't have the brand I wanted, so I don't know whether there were sufficient savings to be had. The alcohol prices looked worse than UK prices. Nothing to tempt me to buy anything, and I am usually very easily tempted!
We chose this cruise for the ports, two of which were new to us. It is a shame that the sail into the fjords takes place so early in the day, especially when the port at the end is very small with little to do. The scenery in Norway is so spectacular that it should be made more of a feature. I was looking forward to stopping in Hellesylt to drop off excursion passengers, and then having a leisurely daylight cruise to Geiranger after breakfast. However, because it was so early in the season, the roads were still blocked by snow and ice and the Hellesylt stop was cancelled. So we sailed down a UNESCO World Heritage Site while most passengers were still asleep! Doesn't make sense to me. In Alaska, we were treated to day time scenic cruises to view the glaciers. Why not in Norway?
We didn't take any ship excursions, I hate coach or taxi rides, so we walked around the various ports and enjoyed coffee and cake in cafés shore, to make up for the lack on the ship.
Would we cruise with NCL again? Quite probably, if the itinerary was good. Did we like the Jade, yes, it had a lot going for it.
My overall preference would be the Solstice class Celebrity ships, great bathrooms, non smoking interiors, but let down by the repetitive European itineraries and the short promenade deck.
What would improve the Jade? Smoke free casino. I wouldn't hesitate to book her again. However I have heard bad things about the breakaway class NCL ships, with smoke drifting up from the casino into other areas, so it looks as if I'd have to be very selective about which NCL ships I would consider.
Apparently, RCCL ships go smoke free when they cruise from Southampton, so we will give them a try.
Comfortable bed. Good storage apart from few horizontal surfaces Only one bedside table and no coffee table No chair, just a weird round stool thing. Coffee maker, fridge, good hair dryer. Good view down from balcony, lifeboats are tucked underneath and do not obstruct view. Good size television, but not on demand. We got timetable of films from customer service desk, then they changed the programming halfway through the week! Good shower, toiletries provided in wall mounted dispensers. Tiny cramped toilet, but seemed to work ok!
Pleasant enough town although not very scenic. We walked around the old town, used the free wifi in the public library, and had coffee in one of the many cafés.
Very interesting buildings, easy to walk around. Didn't walk up Mount Aksla, although it looked ok if you are reasonably fit.
Very good weather on our day ashore. We walked up the metal steps by the waterfall in town, didn't get wet! Lovely views at the top. Nice cafe in the Fjord Centre. Free wifi and free toilets at the tourist information centre near the dock
Been here three times now. Long queues for the funicular railway, and we didn't feel like walking up this time, but we have done so before, took about an hour at a relaxed pace. Easy well marked footpath through the woods. This time we walked around the town, lots of weddings as it was a Saturday, and interesting to see so many guests in Norwegian national dress. Visited the military museum in the old castle area. Surprisingly interesting, as well as free, and had clean toilets.