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Norwegian Jade Review

4.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating
1962 reviews
22 Awards

Great Cruise including Spain, Morocco, Gran Canaria, Madeira

Review for Norwegian Jade to Canary Islands
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2-5 Cruises • Age 70s

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Public Rooms
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Sail Date: Mar 2011
Cabin: Family Balcony

Here is my trip story of our Barcelona visit and NCL cruise:Our 15-29 March trip to Spain, Morocco, Gran Canaria and Madeira. My Wife and I just returned from our trip to Barcelona with another cruise on Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL). The cruise began on 18 March continuing through 27 March, so we had two days prior and two days after the cruise to visit Barcelona. My Son and his friend were with us on the cruise and the two days after the cruise. Overall, going with my Son and his friend really made the trip. We had much more fun with the guys. Our friend, as last summer, was the cruise director and did a great job. The only thing negative about the trip was that my Son encountered some digestive issues later in the cruise that seemed to come and go. My Wife had some allergy problem toward the end of the cruise. She seemed the think it may have been something the housekeepers use to spray to disinfect the rooms. However, it may have been related to our tour in Agadir that included a stop at a shop selling spices, herbs and ointments. Neither person missed much on the trip in any event.Upon our arrival in Barcelona, we took a taxi to our hotel, a nice three star (Hotel Astoria) in the newer section (Eixample) of the city about a mile north of the Placa Catalunya (large square in Barcelona that is generally considered the city Centre. It is where the old city and the 19th century-built Eixample meet. My Wife and I had coffee for about an hour until our room was ready (about 11). After we checked in the hotel, we walked down to the Placa Catalunya and started through the Bari Gothic (oldest part of the city). We were diligent regarding pickpockets with my carrying the passports and most of our money in a money belt. Barcelona is renowned as the pickpocket capitol of the world. Apparently, if arrested (rare), pickpockets are generally fined. We saw some of the old city walls, including some original Roman construction. The Romans probably founded the city and built it up from a military camp. We checked out the cathedral and some of the ancient buildings, as well as the remains of a Roman temple until about 1:30, when we hit a wall (we didn't sleep on the flight over) and went back to the hotel for a nap. We slept about three hours, then got up had an excellent dinner. The Spanish tend to eat their evening meal late in the evening, perhaps at 10pm. Many restaurants do not open until 8pm. We found a local chain restaurant called Troubador that included food from all over Spain. It was quite good, but the locals say real Catalonian cuisine is a step above. We just could not wait until that late to eat.Restaurants serve lunch about 1:30-3:30 and then tapas (small dishes or appetizers) from 5-6pm. We ate lunch at the hotel one day (fixed menu for 13 euros) for a fine meal. We checked out a top rated restaurant close to the hotel (from my internet research), but the multi-course menu without wine was 99 euros (about $140 each). We didn't want to take a mortgage to eat. While I am on the subject of wine, it is worth noting that the Spanish Rioja wine is quite good and generally not pricey.Our second day in Barcelona, we set out early for the monastery of Montserrat. Monserrat is a Benedictine Abbey Monastery about 800 or more years old. There is a Madonna of some religious significance found in a cave on the side of the mountain. Monserrat is located several miles inland from Barcelona on the side of a mountain range with unique rock formations. Some say the formations may have inspired the architect, Gaudi. We took the early train (7:40am) from Barcelona (about an hour's ride), then transferred to a funicular (cog train) up to the monastery. The scenery was magnificent. We visited a museum with some Picassos and other artists from the area, then the monastery. We left about 1:20pm and arrived back in Barcelona about 3pm. We rested, and then had another great meal (we did eat well on this trip). The next morning, we slept in a bit, had a great Spanish breakfast. The coffee is great, and the Spanish omelet (includes potatoes), took a cab to the cruise port and upon arrival there met the guys checking in with NCL. They had gotten a call from the NCL upsell fairy. They were offered a suite at the stern of the ship for a good price (much lower price than if you purchased it outright). Having a suite entitled them to eat at Cagney's (specialty restaurant) for breakfast and lunch and check in early. We were able to join them checking in early and eating at Cagney's, which was a plus. We had a balcony on deck 9, which was nice, although sometimes it was too chilly to be out on the balcony. Their balcony was about three times as large as ours, and at the stern was generally warmer with less wind.We had been on NCL in July for a Med cruise, and the layout of the Jade was very similar to the Gem. Our time on the ship was great. First, the food. We did not have a bad meal on the ship. One meal was a zoo, since we tried to eat breakfast that the buffet (Garden Cafe). Because the Jade has previously encountered the rotavirus problem for some guests, the first couple of days at the buffet the staff had to serve you rather than self-service. That was a zoo and it took some time to even get our food. We had great breakfasts with the guys at Cagney's, at the Alcizar (small main dining room), and later at the Garden Cafe. NCL has specialty restaurants with a modest charge ranging from $10-$30. We ate at some of these restaurants: French, Italian, Chinese and Mexican. All were very good, as well as the Grand Pacific or Alcizar main dining rooms. I did notice one comparison between the MDRs and specialty restaurants. At the Italian restaurant Ginny ordered a seafood pasta dish that included large scallops as well as other seafood. When I ordered the same dish at the Grand Pacific MDR the scallops were much smaller and the serving size was about half. I was hungry, so I just ordered a second serving.Second, trying to keep the weight off. I went to the gym when I could (four times during the cruise) and had a great workout, mostly with the stationary bike.Third, the entertainment on board was generally excellent. There was a show of early 60s English pop music, a magician's show and group of four Spanish singers. The best was the show called "Elements." It was quite a production, including dancers imitating the elements, the magician and at the end a male/female acrobatic team that along with the two performers swinging over the audience were quite a hit.Fourth, the perhaps most of all, the port excursions.Our first port was Casablanca. We took the Imperial Rabat & Casablanca excursion that was more about the capital of Rabat than Casablanca. This is the NCL short description: "Travel to the diplomatic capital of Morocco, Rabat, rich in historical monuments and history. Arriving at the Mechouar Quarter you'll admire the magnificent exterior of the Royal Palace and continue your drive to the archaeological site of Chellah. After lunch at a typical Moroccan restaurant, continue on foot to the Kasbah of Oudaya, a beautiful quiet spot in the middle of busy Rabat. Once back in Casablanca, you'll have an orientation tour of the city.The tour took us to see the royal palace (only the outside) as well as the ancient site of Chellah that dates back to Phoenicians and Romans. The tour guide was OK but did poorly explaining the detailed history of the site. The old Kasbah city of Oudaya was interesting, but we spent too long drinking tea at the restaurant and discovered that the good looking pastries were one euro each (that is why you must ask before you munch). The Mohamed V Mausoleum was located at an interesting historical site opposite side of the Hassan Tower on the Yacoub al-Mansour esplanade. The Hassan tower is among the remains of an incomplete 12th century mosque. Back at Casablanca, we saw the huge Mosque of Hassan II, which was very impressive. The next port was Agadir, which is a port in the southern part of Morocco (if you don't count the disputed Western Sahara which Morocco annexed after the Spanish left the colony 30 years ago). Agadir is a relatively new city, as it was destroyed almost completely by an earthquake in 1960. The weather is dryer there, than at Casablanca. We took a tour called "The Saadian Capital Of Taroudant," which included a drive inland through some great scenery to Taroudant is a typical Moroccan city with ancient walls and a traditional souk or market. My review of this tour on NCL reads:"Tour excellent, tour guide very well informedThis tour included a two hour bus ride through the countryside to Taroudant, a small quant walled city well worth the trip. While the ride was long, we saw much, including the tree climbing goats, which were fascinating. The scenery was great with farms, towns, farms and beautiful mountains in the background. Our guide, Gamal was the greatest. He was a retired geography and history teacher, with a great sense of humor. He filled us in on much of the local history, geography and culture. Great tour and Great guide."When we signed up for this cruise, I was more interested in the Moroccan ports and our visit to Barcelona, as well as the stop at Malaga, allowing us to visit Granada and the Alhambra. The stops at Gran Canaria and Funchal, Madeira were almost an afterthought. Those islands turned out to be just as much fun visiting as the others. We really liked both islands. Gran Canaria is a part of Spain and Madeira is a part of Portugal. Both are volcanic islands with spectacular scenery, beautiful seascapes and ports with quant houses on the sides of hillsides with exotic plants and trees abounding.We took an excursion at Gran Canaria that was about the best total excursion that I have taken on a cruise. Here is my comment on the NCL website about the excursion:"Best tour for the money yetGran Canaria was a pleasant surprise and this tour was super. Our guide was excellent and the sights on the tour were many. First we took the scenic tour up the hill to Pico de Bandama, where we could see a volcanic caldera and much beautiful scenery. Then we visited a botanical garden where our guide explained the different unique plants on the island. We saw the Colon house where Columbus stopped on his way to the new world, and a museum of the archaeological history of the original inhabitants of the island. The tour included a restaurant with a sample of the local small potatoes and wine. Great tour, highly recommend."The Spaniards conquered and colonized the island in the 15th century. The people there are a mix of the indigenous people and Spanish conquerors. At the museum, we discovered that many from the Canary Islands were instrumental in colonizing the Spanish new world. Canarian people were early colonizers of St. Augustine, Florida and San Antonio, Texas, as well as throughout Latin America. Many Canarians left for the Americas after the Spanish Civil War in the 30s, and now some of their children or grandchildren are returning, since they qualify as Spanish citizens. That is leading to 30% unemployment on the islands. I can see why people want to live there, the island was beautiful.Funchal, Madeira is another beautiful island that is a part of Portugal. The island is similar to Gran Canaria, but more lush and green due to more annual rainfall. We took the scenic tour again that included a bus ride up to Pico de Serrado at 3592 feet with spectacular views of the island. Those views from the bus had Ginny closing her eyes, as she is a bit afraid of heights. However, once we arrived at the top with a short walk up to the peak viewing station, it was worth the visit for her as well. The tour included a trip to the village of Monte with more quaint hillside homes to the top of a cable car where we boarded for a ride down to sea level and to a wine tasting. Madeira is famous for its wine, which was most loved by the British and many of America's founding fathers. We learned that the signing of the Declaration of Independence was toasted by Ben Franklin and others with Madeira wine.After a sea day (and a good workout at the gym) we ported at Malaga on the southern Med. Our tour took us to Granada and the Alhambra, a Moorish palace with art work (architecture) that was amazing. This is the description of the tour from the NCL website. Our tour was long and lunch was good, but too bad the lunch was not in the old town of Granada:"Granada & The Magnificent Alhambra: In the shadow of the mighty Sierra Nevada lays Granada, a peculiar blend of Arab and European culture with a wealth of extraordinary monuments. Take in the views, as you travel north over the Malaga mountains and through the picturesque countryside. Visit the Alhambra, palace of the sultans and one of the finest examples of Moorish art in Spain. Six centuries of Moorish rule left an indelible mark on Spanish culture and architecture, especially in the south in Andalusia, where this palatial complex is one of the world's great architectural wonders. The Alhambra has been damaged and restored over the centuries, but it's not difficult to picture the place as it was, in all its glory 600 years ago. From floor to ceiling, every inch seems to be covered with some kind of pattern: geometric, floral or Arabic script. The ceilings drip with stucco stalactites and each room seems more richly decorated than the previous one, walls of wood filigree frame courtyards and fountains. Rose-colored walls stand in sharp contrast to the turquoise and black Pool of Myrtles and the garden is scented with jasmine and rose. Continue to the small summer palace along an avenue of stately cypress trees and venture into the Generalife Gardens, with trimmed flowerbeds and box hedges, myrtle bushes and above all, fountains. The view from the gardens is splendid. After lunch at a local restaurant, enjoy a panoramic tour of the city making a photo stop at the Albaycin district."Our tour bus split into two parties before starting the Alhambra tour. Our guide was Carlos, not the guide on the tour bus. Carlos was pretty good, perhaps better than our guide on the bus. One problem, six persons on the other half of our bus decided the walking was too much for them and left the group got lost and we spend half an hour waiting for them to appear. It was frustrating, since the tour guide made it clear what time and place our group was to meet the bus.The cost of this tour was a bit much, even considering the distance we had to travel from Malaga to Granada, the Alhambra tour, and lunch. However, the tour was good and we would do it again.After another sea day, we returned to Barcelona and disembarked about 8:30am to be picked up by Armando from Barcelona Day Tours, www.BarcelonaDayTours.comI had arranged for a private tour for the four of us for four hours that included pickup at the port, the tour and drop off at our hotels. The tour was a bit pricey, but worth it, since our luggage was in the van while on tour and we avoided the problem of arrival at the hotel too early to check in. Also, Armando gave us an excellent tour of the city; including several Gaudi houses (Gaudi is the designer of the famous Sagrada Familia church). We saw Gaudi's "Park Guell" (a park originally designed as a high end subdivision); Sagrada Familia (outside); the old city(Bari Gothic); Olympic village (1992 Olympics); and the Castel de Montjuic (old citadel at top of the hill overlooking the harbor). Some of these places, we were not able to go inside, but he gave us a history of the site. Also, we saw other points of interest around the city, with a good background. That evening we went to see flamenco the Tablao Carmen located at the Poble Espanyol de Montjuic. The Poble Espanyol is a reconstructed typical Spanish village with buildings from all over Spain. It was underwhelming, but had some interest. The dancing and music at the flamenco was quite good. We did the tapas choice for 45 Euros and had plenty of food. We had all the wine and water to drink that we wanted. I recommend the tapas choice, since the meal choice was about 20 Euros more. I picked Tablao Carmen based on comments from Cruise Critic. I understand that there is another flamenco show in Las Ramblas that is pretty good. My only comment was that the dancers did not use castanets, which I had seen in some larger production flamenco shows like one at the National Ballet in Mexico City. Our last day in Barcelona was a Monday, so we could not visit any museums, since museums are closed on Monday. We did the Rick Steves walking tour of Las Ramblas and the Bari Gothic area, then walked over to the Arch de Triumph and over to Sagrada Familia, to see the inside of the church, as well as go up the lift to see the city from above. On buying our lift ticket, the cashier, who was half our ages, informed us that while the lift took us up to view the city that we would have to walk down. We said no problem, and she then voiced her concern that we were older and might not want to walk down. I told her not a problem that we biked 120 miles a week. The walk down was not a big deal. As it was, we had walked over two miles from the Gothic area to get there. The church is very impressive, especially from the inside. The design is very distinctive and not found elsewhere. The inside is very much lit by sunlight. The church is still under construction with more towers to build, probably taking 15 or more years.It is important to note that Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, which is a region of Spain with its own language (a romance language similar to Spanish and Italian) that did not come willingly into the union with Spain. Catalonia was largely an autonomous state within the Kingdom of Aragon and Spain until it picked the wrong side (as it seemed to do a lot) in the War of the Spanish Succession. Since the early 18th Century Catalonia lost its autonomy until after Franco died and the new Spanish constitution granted Catalonia, the Basques and Galacia autonomy. Franco had tried to ban the Catalonia language and flag. Franco even considered destroying Sagrada Familia since it was a symbol of Catalonia, but decided not to do so.With this kind of history, there is no love lost between Madrid and Barcelona. Catalonians consider themselves Catalonians first, Spaniards second. Recently, the Catalonian Parliament outlawed bull fighting in Catalonia largely as a way of distinguishing themselves as not Spanish. The Spanish Parliament then voted to make bull fighting a national activity. It appeared to me that Barcelona is a fairly prosperous city, and I have read that Catalonia is the most prosperous region of Spain. Barcelona is worth a visit. We would like to go back. Viva Catalonia.

Cabin Review

Family Balcony

Cabin B2

Balcony room was great, but when it gets chilly a balcony is almost a waste.

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