We sailed from Istanbul to Barcelona in November 2009, visiting 8 ports, with two overnights--one in Istanbul and one in Venice. The itinerary and time in ports was fantastic, and is what made us sign up for a cruise in not the best time of the year to expect good weather. This was our second cruise on the Jade. The ship's overall design is great, making it easy to navigate onboard. The two main pools are both large and water temperature good for swimming in November, although a bit too cold early in the morning. I am a lap swimmer, and was able to do flip turns and get a decent workout because the pools are rectangular and do not have steps at the ends. Crew members are all extremely helpful, friendly and efficient. The ship is kept in spotless condition at all times, including restrooms in public areas. Our balcony cabin was a good size, with a nice sitting area at one end that housed a small convertible sofa, small desk and the TV plus shelves. The closet area is well located and provides adequate hanging space, shelves and drawers. I think the desk in the sitting space could be modified to provide a few more drawers. The bathrooms in the balcony cabins are compartmentalized, with opaque glass doors for toilet and shower, so more than one person can use the space at the same time. Shower is large for a cruise ship, and there is a nice clothesline with plenty of hanging space for hand washed items. My only complaint about the cabin is that the lighting is inadequate, especially if you are trying to put on makeup.
Since this was our second cruise on the Jade, we were able to see what may or may not have changed since the western Mediterranean cruise we took in August 08. The most obvious differences were the quality of entertainment and the average age of the passengers. The shows were not as elaborate or as professional as those we attended on our previous cruise in August 2008. Since we were pretty tired from our time in all the ports, it was not an important issue for us. The best shows were Smokey Joe's Cafe and the crew show, which was hilarious. The dance venue seemed aimed at an older audience, which probably was appropriate, since most of the passengers were of retirement age or older. It was a bit stodgy for our taste. The fact that there were fewer young people made the atmosphere seem a bit like a retirement village, but early November is a difficult time for young families with children to take time off for such a lengthy trip, and young singles usually want to cruise in warmer months. On the flip side, not having tons of children in the pool area made it possible to swim and enjoy a bit more peace and quiet when you wanted to relax.
The two main dining rooms are well staffed and provide very good menu choices. The food the first two nights was not quite as good as was served to us during the rest of the voyage, for some reason. We ate at three specialty restaurants--the French Bistro, which was fantastic, the Asian-fusion restaurant which was good, but not fantastic and the Tex-Mex restaurant that is billed as a Tapas place with southwestern touches. The latter restaurant was way below par. My skewered shrimp were overcooked, kind of tasteless and the rice that was served with it was actually too spicy for me, a person of spanish heritage, who enjoys good Tex-Mex cuisine. The menu seemed all over the place, and certainly did not reflect true Spanish or southwestern American cuisine. I think this restaurant should be axed and replaced with a true Tapas bar similar to the one we enjoyed on the Norwegian Sun with no upcharge. We often stopped there to have wine and some tapas before we ate dinner a bit later in the evening, thus spending more money for drinks than we did onboard the jade. The buffet was as good or better than our last experience on the Jade, but it would be nice to have the Indian bar that we enjoyed either on the Jade or the Sun, can't remember which ship had this little spot, where a crew member actually cooked hot flatbread before your eyes, plus there were several great Indian dishes at the station. True, there were one or two Indian entrees available most of the time, but not quite up to the quality we experienced previously.
Nice good sized cabin with nice balcony. Quiet, although the cleaning crew sometimes made too much noise early in the morning. We were almost right at mid ship on the 9Th floor, which is perfect for anyone having problems with seasickness, which my husband sometimes experiences.