We were traveling with a group and our travel agent made all the arrangements for us, including tours at our ports of call, so I can't comment on the quality or price of NCL tours. After touring Istanbul all day, the embarkation process was smooth and efficient, and we were able to unpack and dine without feeling stressed. Disembarkation at ports of call was very efficient, especially when we were tendered ashore...the swipe card ID is a great idea and enhances security. On our last day, disembarking in Athens was very easy as we had the option of taking our luggage off instead of being caught up in what seemed like a colour code nightmare. Moving about the ship was relatively easy via elevators, stairs, and outer decks, with good signage everywhere...just figuring out which end is which was the trick! The crew aboard the Jade is friendly and for the most part very efficient and well-trained. Our cabin was so well tended to, twice daily, that we felt pampered! I also really liked receiving the newsletter in the evening, outlining the next day's activities aboard ship. This cruise was classified as "freestyle cruising" meaning eat when you want, where you want, allowing you to stick to your budget or splurge. Although the brochure says jeans can be worn throughout the ship, on your first visit to the Grand Pacific dining room you'll be turned away if it looks like you're wearing denim, so you learn pretty fast that you can really only dress casually for dinner in the Garden Cafe (cafeteria style dining). I cannot fault the food served in any of the venues we visited (Grand Pacific, Alizar, Garden Cafe, Topsiders Grill, Papa's Italian Kitchen), although the fish entrees were usually overcooked. The variety and menu rotation were very good. Having been forewarned about the potential weight gain on a cruise, I was vigilant in making the right choices for me (having recently lost 20 lbs, I wasn't about to regain any of it!) and found it was easy to eat wholesome foods aboard the Jade...I especially loved having their Muesli with slice almonds in the morning. For health reasons, we obviously didn't over imbibe, although the 3 Martini Tasting events, with "Marcello" their very entertaining bartender, were lots of fun and delicious! A few negatives I feel I must address include: (1) the poor INTERNET service ...I found it very frustrating to see minutes disappear while getting nowhere online, making it very difficult to take care of business while on board! I was charged $58 to access and read my email twice and send 3 short email responses! Not good service for anyone who needs to stay connected to their company. (2) the cigarette SMOKE in the Casino, which made it impossible for me to participate anywhere in that area, and I love playing roulette! (3) SELLING BOTTLED WATER to passengers instead of offering them a complimentary bottle seemed tacky... Overall, my husband and I had a very "first cruise" aboard the NCL Jade, and we'll probably take another cruise as a result of this positive experience.
We were VERY COMFORTABLE in our inside cabin. There was plenty of room for the two of us, but note that our beds were separated instead of being pushed together and this might not appeal to some couples. Presumably separated b/c of the hazard of hitting one's head on the recessed upper bunk and potential difficulty of getting by the end tables if the beds had been pushed together.
Lots of shelves, drawers, and closet space with plenty of hangers, and our empty suitcases fit easily under the beds. Nice sized shower and sink area, although toilet angle difficult seating for a taller guy.
The only NEGATIVE aspect was nightly NOISE which I think was coming from a kitchen or crew area...hooting, hollering, and pots banging, LOL, which would usually start 12:30-1:30, one night lasting until 2:30 am. The noise awakened me in spite of my wearing ear plugs! However, I didn't complain b/c the crew on that ship worked hard, for incredibly long hours, and I didn't want to get them into trouble.
Exited the ship and walked right to our tour bus.
Alexandria (2 days in port)...tight security with armed guards and documentation verification. If there are more than 10 or you, you are required to have a security guard traveling with you. Our bus traveled in a bus convoy to Cairo. We returned to the ship after 11 pm, but bus had no problem gaining entry. Katakolon and Nafplion were our last two ports of call before arriving in Athens. In Nafplion, we were tendered ashore in the Jade's lifeboats...kind of neat!