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This is a review of the NCL Jade 5 night cruise out of Miami. This cruise was a Christmas gift for my wife - our first cruise without the children. When booking, I envisioned a short relaxing vacation to get away from the cold of the Northwest. To that extent, the cruise was a success. As we had previously sailed on Disney and RCCL, I was looking forward to trying out another line. What got me to choose NCL was a good price and a lot of reviews touting the quality of the food (which is highly important to me). We flew into Ft Lauderdale the day before departure and took an Uber to Miami (Southwest doesn't fly into Miami International). The Uber cost ~$40 and was super simple. Just grabbed the bags, walked out to the ride share curb, and ordered up a ride. We stayed at the Hyatt Regency Miami which is about 2 miles to the Port of Miami. Downtown Miami was what you'd expect from a major city - lots of concrete and tall buildings. The most memorable thing about Miami was the traffic. I've never in my life heard so many horns being honked. It's like they have their own language/communication system consisting of just the horn (and a few hand gestures) :) We ordered another Uber in the morning to get over to the port (~$6) and arrived at around 10:15. The check in process was extremely quick which I'm guessing is from the early arrival time. Security was quick - metal detectors & routine stuff. We waited in line for maybe five minutes to get to the counter. Showed the agent our boarding docs, got our freestyle cards, and was assigned boarding group 2. Then up to the terminal to wait for boarding. I checked the time when we completed the process and it was 10:29 (yup, from curb to terminal waiting area was a whopping 14 minutes). We expected to be waiting until 12:00 to board, but the ship was ready early and we were onboard at 11:30. I couldn't be happier about the process. Once on board we headed to O'Sheehan's on deck 8. We were seated promptly and the service was good. We tried the fish-n-chips and the Shephard's Pie. The Shephard's Pie was tasty. The fish was greasy/soggy - While the taste wasn't too bad, it was very much standard school cafeteria fare, not even as good as a chain restaurant. After lunch we wandered around the ship a bit. Overall it was very nice. Everything was easily accessible and laid out well for a smaller ship. What did stand out was the lack of recreation options. There's a multi-purpose basketball/tennis court on Deck 13, but that's it other than the pool area. On that note, I'm glad my kids weren't with us, because this ship is not made with active teens/tweens in mind. Not a huge factor in this review, because I didn't select this cruise for that (just a heads up if you were thinking about bringing the kids). The staterooms opened up around 1:00 and we headed to ours. We were in cabin 11604 which is a mini-suite. To me, this "mini-suite" was comparable to the standard balcony cabins on Disney/RCCL. The room was nice enough - 2 double beds pushed together, a sleeper sofa, flat screen tv, coffee maker, and refrigerator/mini-bar. (Note: I left a note for the room attendant to empty the mini-bar so I could use the refrigerator. Instead of removing the items from the cabin, he just moved them to other shelves and under the desk area -- I guess I'll need to be more specific in the future, ie please remove from the room). Bathroom was nice with a full tub/shower and separate toilet area. I did find it weird to have a separate toilet area with a see through glass door? Kinda defeats the purpose in my mind. Overall the room was very quiet. The deck plan shows an open area on deck 12 above this room which I believe is a galley area. One night I think I heard a heavy cart being rolled somewhere - lasted all of 2 minutes and then silence again. Here's a huge thing to note - this ship is small and as I mentioned, there's not a lot of outdoor space. Finding a lounge chair near the pool or upper deck was dang near impossible unless you wanted to wake up a 0-dark thirty and reserve one all day! But - the balcony was a God-send and we spent a lot of time on it. I mention this because on the bigger ships I've been on, while I might not get prime seating near the pool, I've never been unable to find somewhere to sit outside - which was often the case on this ship -especially on the sea days! You've been warned! Food: We tried the Atrium, Grand Pacific, O'Sheehan's, the Garden Cafe (buffet) and the Outdoor cafe - we didn't eat at any of the specialty restaurants. The Atrium and the Grand Pacific share the same menu each night. The Atrium is the casual restaurant and the Grand Pacific is more dress up. To be honest though, the dress code at the Grand Pacific is a low bar to overcome - if you have long pants, you're in (and they do enforce that). You're supposed to have a collared shirt as well, but I saw many a t-shirt as well as numerous flip flops so shoes don't seem to be required. Overall, I liked the Grand Pacific better for the atmosphere. Food was good in the main dining rooms with a decent selection. Nothing over the top - no seafood nights, or anything special, just okay food. The buffet on the other hand was disappointing. Breakfast was blah and so was lunch and dinner. I found most of what I ate at lunch/dinner to be overcooked and under flavored. I was also underwhelmed by the variety. Ports: Harvest Caye - was a fun beach day. I would have liked to see some ocean inflatables to play on, but not having them was fine. Plenty of loungers and umbrellas - no reason to rent a cabana. People were enjoying the zip lines and there was an area to rent paddle boards etc. The pool was nice and had a swim up bar. Just an all around relaxing beach day. Costa Maya - We booked a tour to the Chochaben ruins through Native Choice travel for $110. Note: The EXACT same tour through NCL was $99 each - save your money! That was a great tour and very educational. Our host, Fabiola, was very knowledgeable about the history of the area and quite fluent in English. The trip was about 4hrs with a 45 minute drive to and from. Our group had 12 people which allowed us to ask questions and was very relaxed. When the cruise tours of 30 plus people showed up, I was even happier that I booked this on my own. After the tour, we walked around the port area. It's your typical Caribbean port - if you've seen one, you've seen them all. There was a taco stand near the Port entrance that's authentic and worth the visit. $3 for a beef or chicken taco - yummy. Entertainment: Prior to booking, I checked to see what the entertainment on board would be. I was super excited about the Blazin Boots country music show. Alas, it was replaced by an on-board production show... :( The local talent was okay and they put on a decent show, but it was not professional tier in my opinion. The comedy show was decent. The aerial rope show was quasi erotica and probably not a good choice for kids. They were exceptional athletes though - so I would recommend it just for that. The Cruise Director, Jackie Tran (nope, I didn't make that up), was a little hokey. Overall, the entertainment was subpar when compared to Disney and RCCL. Service: The crew lacked energy and excitement. I'm used to happy faces and engaging staff, but that is not the norm on the Jade. Most just seemed to "be there". Not happy, not sad, just there. Obviously, there were exceptions - Maria and Maria in the Grand Pacific were fun to talk to and joke with, and a bartender at the coffee shop was upbeat, but other than those three, I couldn't name a single person. I never met our room steward - he was a ghost. Overall: Overall I'd rate the entire experience at three stars. It wasn't bad, it was a good value, and I got what I paid for. It just wasn't memorable. As I cruise more, this particular vacation will not stand out in any way.

NCL Jade underwhelming

Norwegian Jade Cruise Review by Patman2u

3 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: February 2019
  • Destination: Caribbean
  • Cabin Type: Mini-Suite with Balcony
This is a review of the NCL Jade 5 night cruise out of Miami. This cruise was a Christmas gift for my wife - our first cruise without the children. When booking, I envisioned a short relaxing vacation to get away from the cold of the Northwest. To that extent, the cruise was a success. As we had previously sailed on Disney and RCCL, I was looking forward to trying out another line. What got me to choose NCL was a good price and a lot of reviews touting the quality of the food (which is highly important to me).

We flew into Ft Lauderdale the day before departure and took an Uber to Miami (Southwest doesn't fly into Miami International). The Uber cost ~$40 and was super simple. Just grabbed the bags, walked out to the ride share curb, and ordered up a ride. We stayed at the Hyatt Regency Miami which is about 2 miles to the Port of Miami. Downtown Miami was what you'd expect from a major city - lots of concrete and tall buildings. The most memorable thing about Miami was the traffic. I've never in my life heard so many horns being honked. It's like they have their own language/communication system consisting of just the horn (and a few hand gestures) :)

We ordered another Uber in the morning to get over to the port (~$6) and arrived at around 10:15. The check in process was extremely quick which I'm guessing is from the early arrival time. Security was quick - metal detectors & routine stuff. We waited in line for maybe five minutes to get to the counter. Showed the agent our boarding docs, got our freestyle cards, and was assigned boarding group 2. Then up to the terminal to wait for boarding. I checked the time when we completed the process and it was 10:29 (yup, from curb to terminal waiting area was a whopping 14 minutes). We expected to be waiting until 12:00 to board, but the ship was ready early and we were onboard at 11:30. I couldn't be happier about the process.

Once on board we headed to O'Sheehan's on deck 8. We were seated promptly and the service was good. We tried the fish-n-chips and the Shephard's Pie. The Shephard's Pie was tasty. The fish was greasy/soggy - While the taste wasn't too bad, it was very much standard school cafeteria fare, not even as good as a chain restaurant.

After lunch we wandered around the ship a bit. Overall it was very nice. Everything was easily accessible and laid out well for a smaller ship. What did stand out was the lack of recreation options. There's a multi-purpose basketball/tennis court on Deck 13, but that's it other than the pool area. On that note, I'm glad my kids weren't with us, because this ship is not made with active teens/tweens in mind. Not a huge factor in this review, because I didn't select this cruise for that (just a heads up if you were thinking about bringing the kids).

The staterooms opened up around 1:00 and we headed to ours. We were in cabin 11604 which is a mini-suite. To me, this "mini-suite" was comparable to the standard balcony cabins on Disney/RCCL. The room was nice enough - 2 double beds pushed together, a sleeper sofa, flat screen tv, coffee maker, and refrigerator/mini-bar. (Note: I left a note for the room attendant to empty the mini-bar so I could use the refrigerator. Instead of removing the items from the cabin, he just moved them to other shelves and under the desk area -- I guess I'll need to be more specific in the future, ie please remove from the room). Bathroom was nice with a full tub/shower and separate toilet area. I did find it weird to have a separate toilet area with a see through glass door? Kinda defeats the purpose in my mind. Overall the room was very quiet. The deck plan shows an open area on deck 12 above this room which I believe is a galley area. One night I think I heard a heavy cart being rolled somewhere - lasted all of 2 minutes and then silence again. Here's a huge thing to note - this ship is small and as I mentioned, there's not a lot of outdoor space. Finding a lounge chair near the pool or upper deck was dang near impossible unless you wanted to wake up a 0-dark thirty and reserve one all day! But - the balcony was a God-send and we spent a lot of time on it. I mention this because on the bigger ships I've been on, while I might not get prime seating near the pool, I've never been unable to find somewhere to sit outside - which was often the case on this ship -especially on the sea days! You've been warned!

Food:

We tried the Atrium, Grand Pacific, O'Sheehan's, the Garden Cafe (buffet) and the Outdoor cafe - we didn't eat at any of the specialty restaurants. The Atrium and the Grand Pacific share the same menu each night. The Atrium is the casual restaurant and the Grand Pacific is more dress up. To be honest though, the dress code at the Grand Pacific is a low bar to overcome - if you have long pants, you're in (and they do enforce that). You're supposed to have a collared shirt as well, but I saw many a t-shirt as well as numerous flip flops so shoes don't seem to be required. Overall, I liked the Grand Pacific better for the atmosphere. Food was good in the main dining rooms with a decent selection. Nothing over the top - no seafood nights, or anything special, just okay food. The buffet on the other hand was disappointing. Breakfast was blah and so was lunch and dinner. I found most of what I ate at lunch/dinner to be overcooked and under flavored. I was also underwhelmed by the variety.

Ports:

Harvest Caye - was a fun beach day. I would have liked to see some ocean inflatables to play on, but not having them was fine. Plenty of loungers and umbrellas - no reason to rent a cabana. People were enjoying the zip lines and there was an area to rent paddle boards etc. The pool was nice and had a swim up bar. Just an all around relaxing beach day.

Costa Maya - We booked a tour to the Chochaben ruins through Native Choice travel for $110. Note: The EXACT same tour through NCL was $99 each - save your money! That was a great tour and very educational. Our host, Fabiola, was very knowledgeable about the history of the area and quite fluent in English. The trip was about 4hrs with a 45 minute drive to and from. Our group had 12 people which allowed us to ask questions and was very relaxed. When the cruise tours of 30 plus people showed up, I was even happier that I booked this on my own. After the tour, we walked around the port area. It's your typical Caribbean port - if you've seen one, you've seen them all. There was a taco stand near the Port entrance that's authentic and worth the visit. $3 for a beef or chicken taco - yummy.

Entertainment:

Prior to booking, I checked to see what the entertainment on board would be. I was super excited about the Blazin Boots country music show. Alas, it was replaced by an on-board production show... :( The local talent was okay and they put on a decent show, but it was not professional tier in my opinion. The comedy show was decent. The aerial rope show was quasi erotica and probably not a good choice for kids. They were exceptional athletes though - so I would recommend it just for that. The Cruise Director, Jackie Tran (nope, I didn't make that up), was a little hokey. Overall, the entertainment was subpar when compared to Disney and RCCL.

Service:

The crew lacked energy and excitement. I'm used to happy faces and engaging staff, but that is not the norm on the Jade. Most just seemed to "be there". Not happy, not sad, just there. Obviously, there were exceptions - Maria and Maria in the Grand Pacific were fun to talk to and joke with, and a bartender at the coffee shop was upbeat, but other than those three, I couldn't name a single person. I never met our room steward - he was a ghost.

Overall:

Overall I'd rate the entire experience at three stars. It wasn't bad, it was a good value, and I got what I paid for. It just wasn't memorable. As I cruise more, this particular vacation will not stand out in any way.
Patman2u’s Full Rating Summary
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