I titled this review "Yes seems to be the easiest word" in honor of Sir Elton John's "Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word" because the wait staff on the Jade seemed to say 'No' a lot. The wait staff on the Jade seemed to be very focused on following their processes and not so much on customer service. For example, if you asked for any modification to an entree (i.e. Can you leave off the mashed potatoes from the entree?), they would say No. "Can I have iced tea without the lemon?" - No - perhaps I am going too far with this illustration.
There is also a lot of upselling once you get on the boat. I understand they need to do this because they discount the base price of the cruise so much that they need to make it up with upsell dinners, art auctions, and pilates classes, etc... There is quite the plethora of methods to spend money once you get on the boat from the traditional alcoholic drinks to spa treatments to specialty restaurants to laundry services. There are no coin-op laundry facilities on this boat so you either have to wait for the $24.95 laundry special if you are budget conscious like us.
NCL also seems to like to use fear tactics in order to get passengers to book excursions with NCL such as, "When disembarking from Barcelona, there will be a limited number of taxis and the taxi will charge you over $40 per person, so you should arrange transportation with NCL at $40 per person" - Totally incorrect - There were a plethora of taxis when we disembarked off the ship and we paid 37,50 Euros for 2 people with 4 bags to get to the Barcelona airport. Or "The walk from the port in Italy to the train station is 20 minutes so you should book our excursion instead." - I must walk fast because it only took me 5 minutes to walk from the port to the train station.
Good things about NCL: 1. Water, iced tea, hot tea, coffee, and cappuccinos are included with your ticket. A variety of juices (apple, orange, etc) are included during breakfast time. 2. "Dress up or Not" nights - No requirements to dress up for dinner on any evening on the ship. This lets people like myself pack less! 3. NCL allows you to bring on bottled sodas on the boat. We would buy bottled sodas at every port to avoid the $2.00 per soft drink price on sea days.
We have provided a linke to pictures of our stateroom here. The stateroom was in a great location because it is just around the corner from the AFT stairs, easy to get to Grand Pacific ballroom or Garden Cafe. Another good thing about this stateroom is that you have no neighbors on the side closest to your bed, you only have a neighbor on your closet side. We did not find noise to be a problem.
There is a free shuttle bus to take you from the boat to the edge of the port in Civitavecchia, Italy. From there it is a short walk to the train station for the 1.5 hour train ride to Rome. We opted to visit another city, Tarquinia, Italy instead to see 1000 BC Etruscan Ruins. Civitavecchia itself has a bustling marketplace and also a discount grocery store where you can stock up for your next sea day.
If I have one complaint about this port is that I didn't feel like we had enough time to see Athens. Athens was one of my favorite ports on this trip. We joined a private tour which took us to the main sites of Athens. The Parthenon was the highlight of the day.
Ephesus was absolutely my favorite destination on this cruise. The Terrace Houses (additional fee) was the highlight of the day. Izmir is about 70 KM from Ephesus - we joined a private tour to drive us out there. A few people took a taxi for about $100 USD, but otherwise, I did not see an easy method to go out to Ephesus via public transportation.
The Egyptians are the nicest, most helpful people in the world. The highlight of this port was the people, and the pyramids at a close 2nd. There was a sandstorm that hit the Alexandria port on the 2nd day and other cruise ships that were docking that day were not allowed to dock so I highly recommend if you are going to Egypt - go for a cruise line that spends 2 days in Egypt because you might not dock if it is only 1 day.
Malta is great because it is an easy port to walk. You can see the sights of Valetta on foot. The highlight for us was the Hypogeum (3000 BC) pre-historic burial site. We were able to get out there easily on a public bus for 0,47 Euro per person per way. Other cruisers visited Mdina via public bus system as well.
Barcelona is not to be missed as it is full of culture, great food, and historical sites. We spent 2 days touring Barcelona and 1 day in Girona. We enjoyed the Olympic museum, Olympic stadium, Olympic park as well as La Sagrada Familia and other major sites.