Our group consisted of my mother, who was just shy of 85, and myself in Owner’s suite cabin 9504, and my brother and his wife in the connecting balcony stateroom, 9506. Here are some general observations of the ship, itinerary, dining, ... Read More
Our group consisted of my mother, who was just shy of 85, and myself in Owner’s suite cabin 9504, and my brother and his wife in the connecting balcony stateroom, 9506. Here are some general observations of the ship, itinerary, dining, etc.
The first point to mention is that prior to boarding, we took the NCL shuttle from Gatwick airport to the ship. NCL needs to update the information available online. The information states that the pickup point for the shuttle is at Gatwick’s North terminal only. We stayed over the night before at the Hilton connected to South terminal, so dutifully schlepped our luggage up to North terminal, only to find out that there is a pickup point at South terminal too. Mom was not happy.
My brother and his wife went out of Heathrow airport which had multiple shuttle buses running, however there was only one for Gatwick, which meant we had to wait until all passengers had arrived. Two of the incoming flights were slightly delayed, so it was more like 1:30 PM before we arrived at the ship. Our stateroom just became available as we were boarding. We received a personal escort to O’Sheehan’s where we met my brother and his wife.
This cruise attracts an older demographic. The average age of the passengers was 60 and there were only 75 children on board, of which there could not have been more than half a dozen or so teenagers. I did not get a nationality breakdown, but the percentage of Americans was certainly less than on the Getaway in the Baltic the year before. On that cruise, Americans made up about 40% of the passengers, while on this cruise it seemed that at least the Brits outnumbered the Americans.
The crew seemed more diverse than on the Getaway as well. On the Getaway, Philippinos clearly dominated, but while well represented on the Jade, there seemed to be more from other places including Croatia, India, China and Latin America.
My mom thought the Getaway was too big and things were too far away, so we intentionally chose a smaller ship for this year’s cruise. Overall it was an improvement; however being on the front of the ship did make some venues at least as far as on the Getaway where we were mid-ship. But the advantages of a front facing stateroom more than made up for it since mom could see out both sides of the ship without having to go up on deck.
Compared to the Getaway, the Jade definitely experiences more motion. This was compounded by stormier seas and the fact that we were on the very front of the ship. Motion doesn’t bother us, but for those affected by motion, this may not be the stateroom for you. Mom and I both commented that we slept the best when the seas were at their stormiest.
One thing to note is that when the storm door to the front deck is open, a draft will come through the stateroom door behind it. With temperatures in the 40s and 50s when getting to Northern Norway, this draft becomes very noticeable. Having a hull balcony on the side was certainly an advantage for this particular cruise as it provides good protection from the wind without significantly blocking the view.
The room was all that we could have hoped for, and worked out well by making a common living room accessed from my brother’s stateroom. We pretty much always kept the connecting doors open except when sleeping. One thing we hoped could be done is to open the door on the side balcony too, but that is apparently not allowed.
The closet next to the master bathroom is cavernous, I would only take points off for the amount of space available for folded items, while there is an overabundance of space for “knickknacks”. The shelf above the hanger rack cannot be used because the life preservers must be stored there. However since there were just two of us, it did not present any limitation, and there are places outside of the closet that could be used for flat storage.
The bathroom was amazing, the only minor gripe I would have is with the mirror lighting. It really isn’t good enough for shaving, although the vanity mirror was excellent, just not my space. :)
My mom and I are not much in the way of drinkers, and one place we screwed up was in ordering our three complementary bottles of liquor. Neither of us drink any kind of straight liquor and about the only mixed drink either of us have are margaritas. It was a bit awkward to keep asking the butler for mixers. In the future, I think we will just swap the liquor for bottles of wine.
Our butler Putu was from India, steward Vanier was from the Philippines, and concierge Carlos was from Chile. All were outstanding. Putu was the consummate professional, we really never got to engage in idle chit-chat or otherwise crack his professional demeanor, and we did try. Vanier on the other hand was very engaging and always made time for us if he could. Carlos was a real hero for us on a couple occasions, including securing about the best table in the Grand Pacific dining room after a relatively disappointing experience at Alizar’s.
We did not make a whole lot of use of the Haven area, mainly going up there on sea days when housekeeping needed to clean the room. There never were all that many people there, and usually the same ones. As cold and windy as this itinerary is, the Haven deck area went unused.
We set out as an objective to eat at least one meal in every dining venue and one drink at every bar. My brother and I succeeded. We ate at seven specialty restaurants, doubling up on Le Bistro and Cagney’s. All were outstanding, although we would have to concede that Cagney’s on the Getaway was a bit better than on the Jade. Mom and my favorite restaurant on the Getaway was Le Bistro, and that was repeated on the Jade.
The only real disappointment was at Alizar’s. We had a reservation, but were seated very close to the entrance, and all of our orders seemed to underwhelm. However our meal at the Grand Pacific was excellent, even though both restaurants share the same menu and kitchen, so I attribute the experience at Alazar’s as a one off. I have never been a big fan of the buffet, so it was pretty much as expected. We only used room service one time, to order pizza after hiking up to Manafossen waterfall.
We only had lunch at O’Sheehan’s on a couple occasions, but have always liked it for breakfast and lunch. Not sure why people stream to the buffet when this is available, but I hope it stays that way. We had most breakfasts at suites only Moderno’s, and on sea days, lunch at Cagney’s. The crab cakes eggs Benedict at Moderno’s were excellent, as was the French dip sandwich at Cagney’s.
The only bar that was a bit of a disappointment was the Saki bar. I never had Saki up to that point, so went there with my brother to taste a couple. Turns out the Saki bar only carries two brands and the bartender knew almost nothing about Saki including how to serve it. It was also the only instance where a crew member used the phrase “I only work here”. In fairness, he did come around and found a way to warm the Saki after he saw me holding my hands over the cup trying to warm it.
The quietest bar was the mojito bar next to Moderno’s. There was rarely anyone there and it was always quiet. So if looking for a quiet place to get a drink, this is it. The best bartenders were found at the Champaign / Martini bar. Once you get them going they were a real riot, so that was the only bar at which we became “regulars”.
The entertainment isn’t really why we go on cruises, but was decent. “Elements” was a lot of fun and my mom particularly like Tres Amichi. Los Blondes played a lot of classic rock and pop, including sets of the Beatles, ABBA, etc. and gave everything they played a bit of a Latin beat. My mom particularly liked Sean, who was a natural Kenny Rogers, playing a lot of Neil Diamond, Johnny Cash, etc. I felt sorry for him when he had to play in the main atrium, as all the activity going on there drowns him out, however there a world of difference to hear him at the stage near the Champaign bar. I would also add that we like the performance venues on the Jade much better than on the Getaway, where such venues seemed to be more of an afterthought than by design.
One tip about the Stardust theater, while we could sit in the exclusive Haven section, the best seats are actually in the section behind it, especially for “Elements”. Hat tip to concierge Carlos for that.
We thought all of our shore excursions were quite good except “Northern Lights” which only my brother and his wife did. I did not go on that excursion so cannot really comment. We made one mistake in going to the Viking farm (Historic Avaldsnes and Viking Farm), in that it was a bit too hilly for mom. My brother and I had to help her up the final hill from the walk to the farm.
In Bergen we went on our own to do some shopping and hoped to take the funicular, but the weather did not cooperate. The top of the funicular was pretty much in a cloud bank. In Lenkes, Lofoten, we did the Flakstad, Nusfjord and Sund tour. An unexpectedly pleasant surprise for me was a stop to see all sorts of antique machine tools and engines, mostly steam. I almost missed the bus talking to the machinist who had acquired much of the equipment.
In Tromso, we did the polar expedition, and visited the sled dogs. It was raining, the dogs were drenched and many were shedding their winter coats, so overall not at their best, but all were friendly and happy to meet us. There were also three litters of puppies at the time. Having had several Norwegian Elkhounds, this was mom’s favorite stop.
In Honningsvag, my brother and I split up from mom and his wife. We did the King Crab Safari through NCL, while they did the land only version booked directly through 71 North. While expensive, the King Crab Safari was an absolute blast and the highlight of the trip. The large crab do not live in the little bay or sound they took us, so the crab caught were only 3’ across or so. One already in the holding tank was a bit bigger. After pulling in a crab pot, the crab was prepared and we chowed down on some very delicious king crab. The ride back was a blast to, with the driver taking the boat full out and doing donuts and such. The morning session only had 16 people signed up.
In Alesund, we again went on our own and took the hop on hop off bus. Unfortunately everyone else seemed to have the same idea, so stood in line for quite a while waiting to get on a bus. It was well worth it, however. The view from the top of the hill, still containing bunkers dating to WWII, was amazing.
Lastly, in Stavanger, excepting mom, we did the hike up to Manafossen Waterfall. While we knew it was an activity level 3 tour, it was still a bit more than I had expected. The description said “hike” not “climb” after all. At 60 years old, I found I was not as sure footed as I thought, so getting to the top was a bit of a struggle. Getting down was even worse on suspect knees. But the view made it worth every bit of the effort.
My biggest gripe would have to be with the ship’s wifi /cellular. I accidentally burned a lot of my time unknowingly when my phone connected to the ship’s cellular network. I had only authenticated with the wifi, and did not expect that the cellular would connect. Talking to NCL, they told me I have to keep roaming turned off. The problem is, if your carrier is T-Mobile America, you must turn roaming on to connect to T-Mobile in Europe. If nothing else, NCL needs to put a daily cap on connection time. For instance, if you get 250 minutes, then set a daily cap of 10% or 25 minutes, and require people to explicitly approve going over that cap. The fact that it is based on time rather than data usage is a bit problematic too, as the network was often very slow and took a long time just to pull in email. In the end I hardly used the ships wifi and waited until we were in port.
All in all, a great trip, and NCL remains our go to cruise line. Read Less