Great trip, great itinerary. It's hard to be back at work: Norwegian Jade Cruise Review by AlexB1972

Norwegian Jade 5
Member Since 2011
7 Forum Posts

Overall Member Rating

Great trip, great itinerary. It's hard to be back at work

Sail Date: March 2011
Destination: Europe - Eastern Mediterranean
Embarkation: Barcelona
We are a couple in our late 30s without kids. One of us is an Italian citizen living in the U.S. The other is a U.S. citizen. We love history, architecture, art and archaeology. We're not heavy drinkers nor do we gamble much.

We are not super wealthy and we saved a lot in order to be able to afford this awesome 12-day cruise and the flights. Thus, we didn't have time to see any of Barcelona's beautiful sights. We left the US on March 26 and arrived in Barcelona early on March 27. We'll go through each section of interest one by one.


We arrived at the airport early (about 9 am) and we got through immigration easily. We took a cab to the pier. It was about 30 Euro, cheaper than purchasing NCL's transfer. One of us is a fluent Spanish speaker, so it was not a problem. The weather was cloudy, but not too cold. Since we arrived so early, the check-in counters were not staffed yet. At about 10 am they opened up. We easily registered and checked More in (we had our online check in information pre-filled) - documents in hand.

Then we waited until about noon before we were able to board. We were jet lagged and tired, but we were very happy with how smoothly it went. Luckily, we embarked so quickly that we even avoided the dreaded embarkation pictures.


It seemed to us that about 40% of the passengers were from the U.S. Another 20% or so were from Canada. The rest were German, Spanish, French and British.

The average age of the US passengers was much older than that of non-US passengers, probably in the 60s or older range. This is easy to explain; the US is not as generous as its Canadian and European counterparts as far as vacation benefits go. The younger folk tended to be Canadian or European.


This was not a common problem. We witnessed just a couple of bad examples at one of the main dining rooms (Alizar) where a very demanding table was treating the waitstaff like dirt and we did say something.

But, on the whole, such displays of rudeness were rare as far as we saw.


We have sailed on very large megaships and smaller ships, and we really liked the size of the Jade. It was easy to find all the venues, restaurants and public areas.


We initially purchased an inside stateroom. Then, when prices drastically went down, we called NCL and were upgraded to a balcony. We were on deck 9. We enjoyed the balcony very much, though some of the passengers like to smoke on their balconies and the smell wafts through.

Everything was very well taken care of. The bedding was comfortable and nice. Storage space was plentiful. There is a soap dispenser on the sink and a shampoo/body lotion dispenser in the shower. We loved this, so we didn't have to bring our own travel-size bottles.

Our room stewards, Sandy and Shirkanth, were exceptional. We saw them a lot and talked to them a lot. We think that being friendly to the staff goes a long way to ensure that everything will go smoothly.

We are not demanding people and we are not snobs; we were certainly not above talking to the staff who, more often than not, proved to be very receptive to friendly chit chat.

There is a minibar in the cabin that contains a few alcoholic items, water, etc. We are big sparkling water drinkers so we used up a San Pellegrino and it was $5.95 including the 18% automatic gratuity.


We are not big alcohol drinkers so we never really stopped at one of the many bars except for one time at the Aloha Bar, right on Deck 7 as you board the ship, to have a cappuccino.

We enjoyed the Medusa Lounge, the Spinnaker Lounge, the Arcade and the Stardust Theater (shows are a separate topic).


We really liked the Freestyle Cruising way of NCL - not having a set dinner time was really helpful especially when we met with our new friends or if we were late getting back aboard after a port stop.

A word about food - food is subjective, of course. We are not food snobs, but one of us is an Italian from a city in Italy - Bologna - that is well known for its cuisine. In other words, we can tell when something is good and well prepared and when something is not. We like filet mignon, but we also like sandwiches.

All but one of our breakfasts we had on Deck 12 at the buffet. We enjoyed the variety and choices - all sorts of egg concotions, meats, fruits, cereal, pastries, etc. We really don't know how anyone could not find something to eat.

Our one breakfast in the Pacific Dining Room was just as good as the buffet.

All but one of our lunches at sea were at the buffet and again we always found something we liked. We enjoyed our lunch in the Pacific Dining Room. The steak and cheese was really good.

Most of our dinners were either at the Pacific or the Alizar dining rooms. Both offer the same menu and there is no extra charge. Again, we found the food to be of very good quality (considering there are about 2000 people on board).


We went to the French restaurant, Le Bistro, twice. We loved it. It was well worth the cover charge. Presentation and the food were exceptional. We had foie gras, scallops, coq au vin, porc au romarin, filet de boeuf, creme brulee, chocolate fondue for two and chocolate napoleon. We had San Pellegrino to accompany our dinner. We always left an extra gratuity for the wonderful waitstaff.

We went one night to Papa's Italian Kitchen. It was ok, not great. The food is not really Italian - but more akin to an Italian-American version. Still, we left an extra gratuity for the waitstaff who was great.


Karen was the cruise director. She's since left the Jade for a brief vacation and will be the Epic's cruise director when she returns. I thought she did a marvelous job, as did the cruise staff - Senad, Vicki, Chelo, etc. These people work hard and it shows, but they also have fun. They are also talented - Senad performed at the last night's crew show and he certainly has musical talent.

We thought the NCL show "Elements" was spectacular. Modelled after Cirque du Soleil, it featured magic, creative costuming and scenery and lots of acrobatics. Other shows featured excellent acrobatics and vaudeville/circus gymnastics. All the performers were excellent. We didn't go to one of the shows - "Shout!" - since it was not our cup of tea. There was a British comedian who was also good and a very talented virtuoso violinist - Nicola Loud - who was superb. Most of the shows tended to be visual in order to satisfy the needs of the multilingual passengers aboard. On the last night, the crew had its own show. There are many talented crew members on board.

There were activities to do throughout the day, from bingo to dance lessons to trivia. In short, it was impossible to get bored.


One of us is a spa addict. She had the seaweed treatment, a reflexology treatment and a Ionithermie treatment. All of them were expensive but she enjoyed them all. The spa personnel was not too pushy on after-treatment purchases.


Although we understand NCL's policy of adding $12 per person per day, we felt too unsure that that money would actually go to the people who provided us with great service. On the last sea day, we went to take the charges off. Although the NCL staff really wants you to keep them on, we finally got them taken off. We tipped our waitstaff in the Pacific - Fabrizio and Abhilasha - and our housekeeping staff - Shirkanth and Sandy - ourselves. They were very happy.


Towel animals - we only saw two. To be honest, we don't give a crap about towel animals. Some fellow passengers were acting like the lack of towel animals was a grave deficiency on the part of NCL.... sigh.

Food complaints - US passengers complained about small portions (more like European sized portions) and that the food was too European... sigh.

Show complaints - again, US passengers complained they didn't want acrobats or vaudeville acts, that they were 'lame'... another sigh.

Diversity - it was a very diverse cruise. Few children, but certainly lots of different people of all colors and nationalities on board. Quite a few GLBT couples as well and, as far as we saw, we didn't witness any discrimination against them (we are not GLBT, but we are definitely GLBT friendly) by passengers or staff.

Enrichment - few educational activities on board except for dance lessons or napkin folding. But that's ok. It's hard to do with a multilingual ship.

Casino - didn't go.

Kids' areas - didn't go.

Pool - most of the times, too cold to go.

Gym - one of us was there running everyday. Machines in perfect shape. Less

Published 04/11/11

Cabin review: BC9156 Balcony

Standard balcony cabin. No noise heard. Water pressure was great. Ample space for clothing and supplies.

Read All Balcony (BC) Reviews >>

Port and Shore Excursions

Like a Greek coworker of ours said, all that's there to see is the Acropolis. We shared a cab with another couple and saw the Acropolis and Parthenon, then the Temple of Zeus, then the changing of the guard at the Presidential Palace. We were taken to a tourist trap restaurant for lunch. Food was good but it was pricey. About 57 Euros for 2 Greek salads and some fried calamari. As previously stated, we shared a cab ride. We paid 50 Euros, for a total of 100 Euros. Weather was cool and rainy, though it cleared up later on. This was perhaps our least favorite stop.

Istanbul - day 1 The ship arrived at 1 pm. We and our newly found friends headed up to the Spice Market and Grand Bazaar (the only time the Grand Bazaar would be open during our stop). It was cool and rainy. We really enjoyed the Spice Market. One of our fellow traveler/friends was looking for Iranian saffron and, after negotiating a price, was victorious! The major difference between the Spice Market and Grand Bazaar was that locals tended to shop at the Spice Market whereas foreign tourists were all at the Grand Bazaar. Needless to say, we preferred the Spice Market for its more authentic and local character. Then, in need of warmth, we headed to the Cymberlitas Hamam (Turkish bath).

Though it's a coed bath, women are separated from the men. We definitely thought the hamam was the one experience we will remember most fondly. The architecture inside the hamam, which was built in 1589, is exquisite. There are different types of service options, but most opted the 'traditional' which includes 15 minutes of scrubbing the skin (using a special sponge) and 15 minutes of washing/shampooing. Men wear a little cloth around the waist. Women wear just a pair of plastic underwear. If you're prudish around nudity, then perhaps this is not your place. If you're an adventurous traveler, do not miss the hamam experience.

Istanbul - day 2 Our friends had once again arranged a private tour of Istanbul - the hippodrome, the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Topkapi Palace, with the addition of the underground cisterns. The places were amazing and the architecture, art and history were superb. A lot of people, especially US citizens, are afraid of venturing out to countries like Turkey, thinking they are backwards. Very far from the truth - Istanbul is just like any other European metropolis. Although Islam is prevalent, the government is strictly secular. Some women wear hijabs, some wear chadors, but most women were just like any other ladies in any other big city - fashion conscious, slim, hip. The cisterns were amazing and certainly recommended. We had dinner in a Turkish restaurant that was recommended in a Rick Steves or Lonely Planet guide (can't remember which) - it was delicious and inexpensive. Weather was cloudy and definitely on the colder side.

Read 403 Istanbul Reviews

Through CruiseCritic, we connected with three other couples, one of whom organized a private tour of Ephesus and the terrace houses. These wonderful people became our friends and fellow adventurers on most of the other ports as well. We had a great time and hopefully we will cruise again with them. Ephesus was an amazing site, well preserved and in much better shape than even Pompeii. The Library of Celsus alone is a majestic building and pictures don't do it justice. The terrace houses were amazing - frescoes and mosaics still look as if they were made yesterday. Our tour guide, Gorkce, took us to an authentic Turkish restaurant for lunch. Great food at very little cost. Weather was sunny, but a bit cool.
Read 184 Izmir Reviews

Malta was the only stop we decided to do via a NCL excursion. Since we are history and archaeology aficionados, we chose the Prehistoric Views and Sights tour. The tour took us through two neolithic temples, a prehistoric cave and the fishing village of Marsaxlokk. We thoroughly enjoyed this tour. We thought this tour was much better for those who are already familiar with neolithic belief systems and temples. Marsaxlokk provided very nice pictures and some nicely priced souvenirs. Malta's landscape is very reminiscent of central and southern Sicily (not a big surprise considering how close they are).

After the tour was over, we explored Valletta on our own. We visited St. John's Co-Cathedral where we saw Caravaggio's masterpieces - the Beheading of St. John and St. Jerome. One of us, however, though the overly Baroque and ornate architecture were a bit too much, while the other one loved it. Weather was warm and sunny.

Since one of us is Italian, we did this on our own. Prior to the trip, we set down and figured out what we wanted to do with so little time in port, since the US citizen of us had never been there. Word of warning - the port talks offered by the ship like to scare people in thinking that Italian trains strike all the time and are never on time. BS... not true. For 9 Euros roundtrip, the train from Civitavecchia to Rome is a breeze and there are plenty of them. We prebooked tickets for the Sistine Chapel. We rushed through the enormous Vatican museums and we saw them. Then we walked to Castel S Angelo, then Piazza Navona, then the Pantheon, then the Vittoriano, then the Roman forum and then the Colosseum. We didn't have time to see the Spanish steps or the Fountain of Trevi. One can spend weeks in Rome and still not see everything.... Weather was sunny and warm. We had a good pizza in a little non-touristy place near Piazza Navona. Italians were nice, despite the stereotypes (it also helps one of us is an Italian and fluent Italian speaker). Rome is awesome.

Rome is exceedingly easy to do on your own and doing that saves a lot of money.

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Member Since 2011
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