First, a little about my past cruising experiences: This was my 19th cruise overall and first with Norwegian. Past cruises have primarily been with Royal Caribbean, Princess, Celebrity, Carnival and even a Holland America voyage thrown in. ... Read More
First, a little about my past cruising experiences: This was my 19th cruise overall and first with Norwegian. Past cruises have primarily been with Royal Caribbean, Princess, Celebrity, Carnival and even a Holland America voyage thrown in. I'd heard mixed reviews (literally love/hate, no in between) of NCL in the past and wanted to see for myself. When a good itinerary popped up, with a great price and free perks, I didn't hesitate. I'm of the mind that a vacation is what you make of it... I'm pretty simple to please, had a fantastic time and just like each of the 18 before it, I wish I was still relaxing onboard.
Miami and Embarkation:
Stayed overnight at the Eurostar Langford, downtown Miami. They have an awesome outdoor rooftop bar ($reasonable) and buffet breakfast ($15pp). Ate a lovely dinner at the sports bar across the street, which I can't recall the name of. Although a little loud with sports fans watching the game, the food was good, reasonably priced and I'd highly recommend the yucca fries; so tasty! Uber to the port from the hotel was under 10 minutes and cost something like $20. The embarkation process was quick, painless and smooth overall. Arriving about 30-45 minutes ahead of our scheduled check-in time was not a problem. Curb to cruise card in hand was about 30-45 minutes, followed by a wait of approximately 15 minutes to board the ship. Not bad in my opinion. Rooms weren't ready right away (~1:00 pm), but not a big deal. Headed to O'Sheehans for lunch, which was quick, delicious and complimentary (fish and chips, shepard's pie, pound cake and brownie cheesecake were all quite good)! Just a note, when still in US port, even with unlimited beverage package, you are required to pay tax -- completely understandable and they were upfront about that!
The ship is smaller than the mega liners of Royal Caribbean, but it was nicely laid out and easy to navigate (although it took me two days to figure out that there was another main dining room at the back of the ship, haha!). Muster drill was painless and for stateroom 5048 was held in Le Bistro, French restaurant on deck 6. Simple and quick. I did notice that the deck had limited loungers for sun bathing. We always found a chair, but it was full at times, which is to be expected. On days with very high wind (first two sea days) it was a little less crowded on deck... which made sense because it was REALLY windy. Felt good though, as the hot sun and high wind evened out. The ship was recently refurbished so it was in great condition overall and very clean. For a ship with such a long service (Jade was previously the Sun) since 2006... it is in great shape. Lovely colors, what I'd call understated elegance... no plain, not extravagant, but really comfortable and classy.
5048 is an oceanview with picture window. Well appointed, classy colors and overall very comfortable. Always amazing how many cubbies, drawers, shelves and areas there are to store stuff. I can't imagine ever being able to bring enough to fill every space. The bathroom is really neat having a separate toilet with sliding door. Although it is glass, with minimal privacy, so overall you wouldn't want to invite others to use the sink while in there. Also, I found when you actually needed to use the toilet, it was kind of cramped, so that door stayed open anyway. Nice idea though! Very nice bathroom and the shower was nice (it's a sliding door, so no curtains to get frisky when showering). My only two minor complaints were the picture window (it was a great size but very scratched and hazed, so you couldn't get a great view) and the a/c. It was very warm the entire trip. We did mention it but nothing changed. I am always cold and thought it felt a bit warm, especially when sleeping, but didn't really impact me. Our companions were just a few doors down and had a hot night the first night, but it improved for the rest of the trip. It wasn't HOT, just a little warmer than preferred. Oh well, guess that means I'll spend some more time exploring the ship, haha! Oh, and the beds were pretty comfortable. This is also a connecting room, but I only once heard a sneeze from the adjoining room, nothing more for all 8-days. Our stateroom attendant was good. The room was cleaned nicely as needed and we didn't run out of necessities at all. Overall, stateroom service was good!
This is the only... complaint? I don't know that I'd call it a complaint (except one specific experience). I guess it was more of an observation. Normally cruise staff go out of their way to say hello and really make you feel special. Most experiences were similar on Jade. A few times, staff didn't respond when I said hello in passing, our stateroom attendant was a little cold, and some bar staff weren't overly friendly, but all in all everyone provided good service in the end. I think the freestyle cruising a partly to blame as the dining staff doesn't get to know you on a personal level and therefore doesn't have the ability to provide that exceptional experience. Still good, but not WOWing. Dinner was normally served efficiently, with only one night we had to wait to be seated. Bar drinks were produced quickly, tasted great and they didn't skimp on alcohol! Although dinner felt very cold with an "order-taker" feel, not really warm and friendly. Was only offered coffee after dinner twice, although simply asking worked perfectly. Bartenders sometimes were all business, but this can also be understandable when the bar is busy. Not a complain, just an observation. I think it could be summed up by saying it felt understaffed. No time to be overly friendly, but never being rude of off-putting. Except once... the hostess, Y--, at the Italian specialty restaurant. Long-story short... my reservation was confirmed for 7:00 pm, but her paper showed 6:45 pm. Arriving approximately 7:03 pm she repeated three times that our reservation was for 6:45 pm, not 7:00 pm (and I didn't have my confirmation paper at the moment). She made a call to see if we could be "accommodated," and even when seating us repeated that since we had missed our reservation, to be understanding if service was slower than expected so we could be accommodated. Just very rude about it. Seeing as the restaurant had approximately 4 tables full, the rest empty, I can't even imagine what the problem would've been if we had, in fact been late (just to note, i did confirm the reservation was for 7:00 pm, not 6:45 pm, and our other two specialty experiences were amazing). They were also a la cart and our bills were approximately $45 per person, excluding beverages. We had a perk that paid for all three, so only an extra tip for the exceptional service in these restaurants.
I'm not a food snob. If they're cooked the way I like (or somewhere close) and item that should be hot, are hot, I'm happy. So I wasn't disappointed. I thought the selection was great, food was tasty, not overly anything (not too salty, too cold, etc.) it was just great! Breakfast in the dining room was nice, paced well and satisfying. The buffet was clean, varied and worked well for lunch. O'Sheehan's pub was great. Specialty restaurants were great: Steaks were plump, cooked perfectly, very tasty, seafood was great, sides were tasty and desserts were decadent. Overall, i was really happy with the food.
The ports (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao) were great, as always. We didn't use Norwegian for shore excursions, so no reviews there. Also no review on the fitness area or children's activities. Weather was OK, rained a bit in Aruba and Bonaire. Had an amazing time at Soroban resort in Bonaire. It poured heavy when we were in the ocean, which had all of us laughing hysterically. It was a great memory!
The process was similar to all others. Luggage out the night before, pick your tags/departure time, etc. On the morning of departure our cabin steward was a little rude advising, quite firmly, that we must be out by 8:30, which was not a problem. I know turn-around day is rough for the workers, so I'll assume that's what it was. Oh well, he still did great every other day! Once our tag color was ready we walked off the ship, got our bags, traversed customs and was in a taxi within 15 minutes.
It was a great cruise... with some very minor issues that didn't detract overall. I don't know that I'd RUN back to Norwegian, but I would feel secure if I chose one for the future, that I will have a great time.
Thanks for reading: I hope it helps! Read Less