Norwegian Jade Cruise Review by talljules1
- Sail Date: August 2018
- Destination: Baltic Sea
Embarkation, muster and debarkation
Leaving from Southampton we found no real differences between the embarkation processes for Celebrity or NCL. We are Select with Celebrity and newbies on NCL, but didn't miss priority boarding. We were checked in quickly. With Celebrity it is then straight on to the ship where you get a welcome drink. For NCL we then had to wait about 20 mins in the terminal before boarding, and no welcome drink. We didn’t miss the welcome drink (we had a drinks package). Muster was similar on both lines – no videos to watch on NCL, so muster seemed quicker. Debarkation was smooth on both lines.
Verdict: No meaningful difference.
We have had standard balcony and concierge staterooms on Celebrity. We had a Guaranteed balcony stateroom on Deck 9 on the NCL Jade. The stateroom was a little smaller on the Jade (more like the standard balcony on Celebrity Infinity). That said, the bed was larger on NCL, making for a better night’s sleep. There was plenty of storage space for our clothes and stuff on both lines, and cases went under the bed on both. Celebrity give chocs on the pillows (we never eat them) but no towel animals. NCL gave us towel animals each night (and we like those) but no chocs on pillows. On both lines our staterooms were well appointed, in good repair, clean and had pleasing décor. NCL had more plug sockets (including some USB charging sockets around the stateroom and in the bedside lights).
Verdict: It is a close call but for us, NCL win this one for the towel animals, bigger bed and more sockets/USB charge points.
Public areas (general)
Although the Eclipse is a larger ship than the Jade, neither feel crowded. Both ships are well maintained and clean and tidy. Both are pleasant. But the décor of the Eclipse is more plush, perhaps more refined, and for us, more pleasing to the eye. Just somehow “a bit nicer”.
Verdict: Celebrity wins this category easily.
Before we cruised with NCL we had seen a fair few very negative reviews about their food and service. We were pleased to find that they did not generally reflect our experience. On Celebrity Eclipse we had Select (i.e. anytime) dining and your choices are the Oceanview Café (buffet), Mast grill (poolside), Aqua Spa Café (in the Solarium) and the main dining room. And the food is good, but we have found that the food in the buffet is generally luke warm at best, never hot. NCL have freestyle dining (again, anytime) and offers more choice, with two main dining rooms (Grand Pacific and Alizar), Jasmine (Asian), Garden Café (buffet), The great outdoors (a mini-version of the buffet at the back of the ship), Topsiders (poolside grill), Pitstop grill (not always open) and O’Sheehans (open 24 hours a day). We never actually made it to the main dining rooms on NCL, enjoying either O’Sheehans, the Garden Café, Jasmine or the Specialty dining rooms. However, we found the service to be prompt and the food to be good. Food quality and service quality was as good on both lines. NCL have screens that let you see how busy the various restaurants are.
Verdict: NCL win this one purely because they offer more choice.
On the Eclipse there is Murano (a favourite though we have seen a decline, sadly, over 5 years), Tuscan grill, QSine (our least favourite) and Sushi on Five. Suite guests can dine in Luminae (and we have eaten there – but not hugely impressed that had to send a steak back 5 times to get it cooked correctly!). Aqua class can dine in Blu (which we have not tried). On NCL we had the choice of Cagneys Steakhouse, Teppanyaki, Moderno Churasscuria, Le Bistro, Sushi and an Italian restaurant we didn’t try and cannot remember the name of. Thus, a little more choice again on NCL than Celebrity. Food quality was comparable on both ships. We like Murano and Sushi on Five on the Eclipse. On NCL Jade we had excellent steak in Cagney’s, Moderno was an experience, and Le Bistro was good (without being quite so over the top as Murano).
Verdict: Too close to call.
Bars (and drinks package)
A tricky one this, because Celebrity has fewer bars but does have the Martini Bar (which we love) and the World Class Bar (which we quite like). NCL doesn't have those but does have more bars and has Sugarcane (a mojito bar). While not ice-topped, it is the NCL equivalent, I guess, of the Martini bar. Whilst NCL has more bars, several of these are effectively the same (so all the bars in Bar Central on Deck 6 of the NCL Jade are VERY similar).
Verdict: The Martini bar has to win, so Celebrity wins here.
Regarding drinks packages, with Celebrity we have had a Classic drinks package included in the cruise fare, which we always upgrade to the Premium package. On NCL we were “premium all inclusive”. Both include drinks up to $15 but the NCL package excludes premium coffees and bottled water (you did get a litre a day per person in your stateroom). Also worth noting that the NCL drinks do not include a New Zealand Sauv Blanc in the premium all inclusive/ultimate beverage package range. On both lines, you pay the difference for drinks more expensive than the package. We found the selection of drinks perfectly acceptable on both lines. Whilst there was more choice on Celebrity, the cost of buying coffees/water was less than the cost of upgrading from Classic to Premium (and considerably so). Before we sailed I wanted to know if NCL had Clamato. They do. They also do a good Long Island Ice Tea! Ultimately, therefore, this one is a tie. However, if you love specialty coffees with cake, then Café Al Bacio on Celebrity would carry this in their favour.
Verdict: Too close to call.
A controversial one, this. We vape, rather than smoking but the rules for both are the same. On Celebrity you can smoke on one side of the promenade deck (where there are comfy seats), by the pool in a designated area, and at the back on the top of the ship in a designated area. No indoor smoking on Celebrity and no smoking in the casino. On the NCL Jade you can smoke on the promenade deck (deck 7) portside, but there was no seating (apparently they only put it out on warm weather cruises!), on Deck 13 port side by the Pitstop bar, in the Casino (if you are playing), and they have a cigar room where you can smoke/vape. These were our social hubs. Whilst the cigar room is pleasantly decorated, for a vape-er rather than a smoker the smell of cigarette smoke on clothes after time in there was unpleasant. Can appreciate lots of people would not like others smoking in the casino. No smoking on NCL jade where there is food. Controversially therefore, for comfort and consideration, Celebrity just win this one.
Verdict: More comfortable for all concerned, I suspect, on Celebrity.
Didn’t spend much time in the Casino on last few cruises. Did note on the roulette table (my game) that on Celebrity chips are worth $1 and on NCL they are worth $2 – so more expensive to play. Similarly minimum bet for blackjack was higher ($10) on NCL rather than Celebrity ($6). Both have well equipped casinos. Rather like the Chinese theme in the Jade Casino. (Also like the Egyptian theme in the Celebrity Infinity).
Verdict: Too close to call.
Website and IT
Without doubt, NCL win this one. We found their website easy to navigate, responsive and, hey, it worked. Alas Celebrity has a lot of work to do in this area. On the Eclipse there are smart TVs in your stateroom where you can see your on board account, and you can watch the free movies one by one by your choice. On the NCL Jade, you cant see your account through the TV, and the movie channel rolls through them (so you end up catching snippets – but they had some good movies!). However, NCL have their own App that works on board and on that you can see your account, book excursions, find info re ports etc.
Verdict: NCL easily win this one.
Have seen this issue crop up in reviews for NCL. We have had tender ports with both Celebrity and NCL and on both had no issues at all.
Verdict: No meaningful difference.
Overall we have had good cruises with both lines. We were pleased to find that NCL was an enjoyable (and more relaxed) alternative to Celebrity. We met great people on both lines and had a wonderful time. We no longer feel constrained to one cruise line! There are positives and negatives to both. Ultimately different does not necessarily mean better or worse. We would cruise with either line again.
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