We planned our cruise on NCL Jade nearly a year before sailing. As the cruise was planned to celebrate a special 60th birthday, I was asked to plan the cruise due to my experience in cruising. We were a party of 11 adults (family and friends) travelling together. 9 of the 11 individuals had never sailed before and hence I had to choose a ship and itinerary that would suit all. We settled on NCL Jade 9 day cruise as it offered an interesting itinerary covering 5 Norwegian stops (Haugesund, Hellesyt-Geiranger, Flam, Alesund and Bergen) and 1 Scottish (Kirkwall in Orkney) stop. Also it offered 2 days on sea. Moreover 3 birthdays, including the special 60th, would be celebrated on the cruise.
As I had sailed Jade before, I knew it would suit everyone. Jade is a very elegant ship and not too big. Easy to manoeuvre around and from my previous experience, I was aware of the good food and entertainment offered on board. Also the premium all inclusive experience which had all beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) of up to $15 in value included in addition to pre-paid gratuities which was an added bonus as we wouldn't need to worry about these extra onboard charges at the end of the cruise.
Although we had booked 11 months in advance, it seemed the time for the cruise arrived very quickly. On the day of departure, it was a wonderful sunny day and we drove to Southampton in 3 cars. Due to the bank holiday weekend, traffic was a bit heavy but we got to the car parking area in 2 hours. We were shuttled to the ship within half an hour or so as there were 4 ships sailing that day and lot of us arrived at the same time. However once we got to the cruise terminal, we dropped off our baggage and headed inside to check in. Check in was very swift and there were no queues whatsoever. Once checked in, we had a short wait to board. However we were inside the ship by 1.30pm or so. Unlike my previous experience on NCL and many other cruise lines, there was no one to welcome or guide us as we entered the ship. Hence we made our own way to our cabins to drop off our hand luggage before heading to the Garden cafe for a buffet lunch. This was a large area on the starboard side of the ship which extended from the aft to the pool side in the centre. Hence, despite it being busy, we all found seats easily. Food was good with a vegetarian Indian section too. There were various other food serving areas like salad station, pizza and pasta counters, burger bar, breads section, desserts area etc. So all of us found something or other to eat here most days during lunch time.