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I travelled with my family of three (Mom, Dad and brother), on the Norwegian Jade for it's New Year's sailing, leaving Miami on December 28th, 2017 and stopping at Roatan (Honduras), Harvest Caye (Belize), Santo Tomas de Castillo (Guatemala), Cozumel (Mexico) and Costa Maya (Mexico), returning to Miami on January 5th, 2018. Overall, my experience on the boat was really wonderful...The Jade is beautifully re-furbished, and well laid out, both in terms of the amenities and with our staterooms. The dining halls and speciality restaurants offer a wide variety of well-made menus and although I did not make it to all the shows, the ones I saw were very enjoyable...big shout out to the Bailamos show and the Elements show- a sort of Cirque du Soleil performance- they were both spectacular!! I also really appreciated the small touches such as the multiple usb/wall plugs and spacious bathrooms in our room, making it seem more like a upscale hotel than a room cabin. And, although the weather did not cooperate- please note that it is quite chilly this time of year, particularly the water- the staff on board were so pleasant and helpful, it more than made up for all the shivering and chills we experienced, lol. :) Also, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Roatan- shout out to Theris of Dixon Tours who I booked my excursion with-- she and my driver, David- were truly wonderful and friendly and definitely provided a fantastic experience...And of course, the Daniel Johnson's Monkey and Sloth hangout was AMAZING!! Incredibly educational and so much fun, all at the same time. I highly recommend both. :D However, there were a few downfalls with our sailing that marred the experience for me, and made me mark down my review. My first beef was with the stop in Guatemala- we docked at Puerto Barrios in Santo Tomas de Castillo and I really think Norwegian needs to reassess this port. Firstly, Santo Tomas is a commercial port, so you are literally docked in a commercial shipyard, which is not the most ideal. Secondly, Puerto Barrios, the town associated with Santo Tomas is also literally as its namesake- a run-down barrio or shanty town, that is dusty, dirty and quite a bit run-down. Granted, we docked there on New Year's day, so almost everything was closed, but even beyond that, I couldn't find any real redeeming or interesting features to speak about. The town was small, seedy, and primitive at best, and the people not really that helpful or friendly. I saw that stop as a complete bust and from the feedback I got from other passengers, we were all wondering why on earth we stopped there. Perhaps the excursions were more enticing, but I don't see why we must be forced to choose that simply because the actual port is not up to par. It was not a pleasant or even interesting experience and I was very disappointed. My other issue with the trip related to Norwegian's systems with its "freestyle" cruising experience. Please note that although Norwegian leads you to believe that "freestyle", means easy, casual, doing what you want dining and drinking, THIS IS FAR FROM THE TRUTH. We lucked on the first day, as my mom has cruised multiple times and knows how things work, but if you're a first-time cruiser or not familiar with this concept, you can really run into problems. So for instance, we just happened to book our reservations for restaurants not the first day, cause we're just anal and like to know where we're dining. It turns out that if you didn't though, many times you had to wait up to 45mins for a seating in a restaurant, or could not even get a reservation for the WHOLE week, if you had a large party, especially in the smaller specialty restaurants. I find that to be really misleading and mis-informed as over and over again, I heard many people saying at the hostess desk that they didn't know they had to book a reservation to eat, particularly at popular times of between 7-9pm. So be forewarned!! A similar situation occurred with our drinks package, which in full disclosure, was given to us as a perk. We were all given the "Ultimate Beverage Package", which leads you to believe that you can drink as much as you want of anything you want, just so long as you don't cross an $89 limit per day, which one would think is almost impossible to meet. However, Norwegian doesn't tell you that bottled water is not included in this. Or, fresh juice. Or, fresh brewed and speciality coffees. You have to pay extra for each of these items and I don't mind telling you that it really pissed me off that I have the "Ultimate" package but still can't even buy a $4 glass of orange juice or that a bottle of water costed me $7, yes $7!! I resorted to taking full glasses of water every day at my table, to fill a reusable water bottle I had thought to bring with me, for just in case. It was ridiculous. Furthermore, the stipulations of this package are so silly...For New Year's Eve, we wanted to use the package to buy an $86 bottle of champagne to celebrate and we each had a the package, so one of us would buy that and the rest would get drinks for the others for the whole night. Not so, you can't. Norwegian says that you can only make a purchase of $15 at any one time per drink. so if you want champagne, you have to buy separately. And there were many other cases where this was so and it seemed so arbitrary...For instance, you get Belvedere vodka on the package, but Grey Goose- and both are on the same level price-wise. It was so strange and made it very frustrating when you order sthg, only to be told, "oh no, that's an extra cost". So what does the Ultimate package really cover then? Hmmmm? And is it worth it to get? To me, it's a resounding "no". Beyond those 2 major issues, I have to say that the experience itself was really enjoyable, mostly because of the truly friendly, well-trained and helpful staff. They for me, made the experience and now that I know the ins and outs of Norwegian, I think with a little more planning, I could get around those niggling frustrations. Just know that freestyle is not so freestyle and casual as one would think.

A fantastic boat and wonderful service, but a few issues with Norwegian

Norwegian Jade Cruise Review by Trinijo

4 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: December 2017
  • Destination: Western Caribbean
  • Cabin Type: Mid-Ship Oceanview Picture Window
I travelled with my family of three (Mom, Dad and brother), on the Norwegian Jade for it's New Year's sailing, leaving Miami on December 28th, 2017 and stopping at Roatan (Honduras), Harvest Caye (Belize), Santo Tomas de Castillo (Guatemala), Cozumel (Mexico) and Costa Maya (Mexico), returning to Miami on January 5th, 2018.

Overall, my experience on the boat was really wonderful...The Jade is beautifully re-furbished, and well laid out, both in terms of the amenities and with our staterooms. The dining halls and speciality restaurants offer a wide variety of well-made menus and although I did not make it to all the shows, the ones I saw were very enjoyable...big shout out to the Bailamos show and the Elements show- a sort of Cirque du Soleil performance- they were both spectacular!! I also really appreciated the small touches such as the multiple usb/wall plugs and spacious bathrooms in our room, making it seem more like a upscale hotel than a room cabin.

And, although the weather did not cooperate- please note that it is quite chilly this time of year, particularly the water- the staff on board were so pleasant and helpful, it more than made up for all the shivering and chills we experienced, lol. :)

Also, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Roatan- shout out to Theris of Dixon Tours who I booked my excursion with-- she and my driver, David- were truly wonderful and friendly and definitely provided a fantastic experience...And of course, the Daniel Johnson's Monkey and Sloth hangout was AMAZING!! Incredibly educational and so much fun, all at the same time. I highly recommend both. :D

However, there were a few downfalls with our sailing that marred the experience for me, and made me mark down my review.

My first beef was with the stop in Guatemala- we docked at Puerto Barrios in Santo Tomas de Castillo and I really think Norwegian needs to reassess this port. Firstly, Santo Tomas is a commercial port, so you are literally docked in a commercial shipyard, which is not the most ideal. Secondly, Puerto Barrios, the town associated with Santo Tomas is also literally as its namesake- a run-down barrio or shanty town, that is dusty, dirty and quite a bit run-down. Granted, we docked there on New Year's day, so almost everything was closed, but even beyond that, I couldn't find any real redeeming or interesting features to speak about. The town was small, seedy, and primitive at best, and the people not really that helpful or friendly. I saw that stop as a complete bust and from the feedback I got from other passengers, we were all wondering why on earth we stopped there. Perhaps the excursions were more enticing, but I don't see why we must be forced to choose that simply because the actual port is not up to par. It was not a pleasant or even interesting experience and I was very disappointed.

My other issue with the trip related to Norwegian's systems with its "freestyle" cruising experience. Please note that although Norwegian leads you to believe that "freestyle", means easy, casual, doing what you want dining and drinking, THIS IS FAR FROM THE TRUTH. We lucked on the first day, as my mom has cruised multiple times and knows how things work, but if you're a first-time cruiser or not familiar with this concept, you can really run into problems. So for instance, we just happened to book our reservations for restaurants not the first day, cause we're just anal and like to know where we're dining. It turns out that if you didn't though, many times you had to wait up to 45mins for a seating in a restaurant, or could not even get a reservation for the WHOLE week, if you had a large party, especially in the smaller specialty restaurants. I find that to be really misleading and mis-informed as over and over again, I heard many people saying at the hostess desk that they didn't know they had to book a reservation to eat, particularly at popular times of between 7-9pm. So be forewarned!!

A similar situation occurred with our drinks package, which in full disclosure, was given to us as a perk. We were all given the "Ultimate Beverage Package", which leads you to believe that you can drink as much as you want of anything you want, just so long as you don't cross an $89 limit per day, which one would think is almost impossible to meet. However, Norwegian doesn't tell you that bottled water is not included in this. Or, fresh juice. Or, fresh brewed and speciality coffees. You have to pay extra for each of these items and I don't mind telling you that it really pissed me off that I have the "Ultimate" package but still can't even buy a $4 glass of orange juice or that a bottle of water costed me $7, yes $7!! I resorted to taking full glasses of water every day at my table, to fill a reusable water bottle I had thought to bring with me, for just in case. It was ridiculous.

Furthermore, the stipulations of this package are so silly...For New Year's Eve, we wanted to use the package to buy an $86 bottle of champagne to celebrate and we each had a the package, so one of us would buy that and the rest would get drinks for the others for the whole night. Not so, you can't. Norwegian says that you can only make a purchase of $15 at any one time per drink. so if you want champagne, you have to buy separately. And there were many other cases where this was so and it seemed so arbitrary...For instance, you get Belvedere vodka on the package, but Grey Goose- and both are on the same level price-wise. It was so strange and made it very frustrating when you order sthg, only to be told, "oh no, that's an extra cost". So what does the Ultimate package really cover then? Hmmmm? And is it worth it to get? To me, it's a resounding "no".

Beyond those 2 major issues, I have to say that the experience itself was really enjoyable, mostly because of the truly friendly, well-trained and helpful staff. They for me, made the experience and now that I know the ins and outs of Norwegian, I think with a little more planning, I could get around those niggling frustrations. Just know that freestyle is not so freestyle and casual as one would think.
Trinijo’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Mid-Ship Oceanview Picture Window
Cabin OB 5538
The cabin was fairly roomy and very well-laid out. I shared with my brother and we had lots of space for all our stuff and didn't feel cramped. I particularly appreciated all the shelves and nooks for stashing our clothes and so on and even more so, the multiple wall outlets and usb charging ports for all the many techie gadgets we can't seem to live without these days. The bathroom as well was surprisingly roomy and easy to share. I also appreciated the tv and continuously looping set of movies/tv shows that aired, which was good company when I was getting dressed in the mornings and evenings or that came in REALLY handy, when I fell ill with motion sickness on the second-to-last day of travel.
Deck 5 Inside Cabins, Outside Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Beach
    We booked a day beach pass with Barefoot Beach Hotel, which included the beach stay and drinks and, it was wonderful!!
    We took the town buggy on to the Beach and word to the wise, where the town buggy drops you is a good 8 minute walk to Bare Foot Beach. So for the same $3pp, I'd suggest taking a taxi, which will drop you off much closer.
    However, the whole "broad walk" path to the Mahajual beach is littered with stores and restaurants, which is great for people watching and browsing around.
    At the Hotel, it was very easy to confirm our booking and we were assigned a waiter named Cain who was incredibly friendly and hard-working. He ferried us to our seats, took our drink and food orders and basically spent the day being our "go-for". He was great!
    Of all our stops, I loved Costa Maya the best, due to the really friendly service- I made friends with Eduardo and his chihuahua Abby, lol, the wonderful beach, with crystal clear waters and the great food!! Everything was simple, fresh and good and i really have nothing bad to say.
    I thoroughly enjoyed this stop and would highly recommend Cain and the crew at Barefoot Beach Hotel.
    View All 346 Beach Reviews
  • Private Resort Day Pass
    My family and I privately booked a day pass to Playa Mia on Cozumel and overall the experience was fine. The facility is about a 40 minute drive away, due to the intense traffic on the main road around the cruise terminal. It is well maintained and nicely laid out, in terms of the pool and chairs and so on.
    I found the food to be a bit poor in terms of quality- it was far below the level we were accustomed to on the boat. And, I also did not like the beach that much. Although it is sandy, once you go past 1 foot out in the water, the beach is filled in with rocks which make it very hard to walk on and were also slimy and covered in sea weed.
    The day I was there was very windy, so it made more than a little uncomfortable to find my footing in the choppy water and I am not a sea-weed person at all, so I didn't find the experience to be too pleasant.
    I probably would not go back to that resort. I did ask some of the locals though and they all recommended Uncle Sancho's Beach Resort instead. So that'll be my next try for a Cozumel visit.
    View All 191 Private Resort Day Pass Reviews
  • Island Tour
    I privately booked Theris Dixon, of Dixon Tours, on recommendation from another tour operator. I booked the Walk on the Wildside Wildlife tour and, I was not disappointed!!
    Theris herself was incredibly helpful and willing to answer my ten million questions and requests, which I greatly appreciated. I wanted to try and book a group of 4 persons, in order to get a lower group rate and she was so patient and funny with me, being very accomodating with all my attempts to arrange this and answering any questions I had along the way.
    She made the process very easy to book and follow and I had no problems finding her tour group outside the terminal...It was all as instructed and very easy to follow.
    She provided my group with a driver- David- who was friendly and chatty and provided us with a humorous commentary on the island and the whichever stop we made along the way. Our excursion included a stop at the Iguana Sanctuary, Daniel Johnson's Monkey and Sloth Hangout and lastly, a brief stop at Half-Moon Bay in the West End. All along the way, David told us about where we're driving, checking in if we needed any extra stops and smoothing the way for us, at each of the stops. He was a wonderful guide.
    By far and away, my favorite stop of the day was Daniel Johnson's Hangout. Daniel and his brother Luke, as well as Stephanie were so friendly, knowledgeable and fun, that they made the experience truly memorable as well as enjoyable. I would most certainly recommend them, as a real high-point in Roatan and for my entire cruise. It was amazing!!
    And of course, I must thank Theris for her incredible patience and accommodation of my many, many requests. She was amazing as well and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend her.
    View All 228 Island Tour Reviews