This was a Scandinavian mini-cruise, outside of the Jade's usual Mediterranean schedule. It had an interesting itinerary and departure/arrival was only 20 miles from our home. DW and I were new to NCL, but not new to cruising (4x ... Read More
This was a Scandinavian mini-cruise, outside of the Jade's usual Mediterranean schedule. It had an interesting itinerary and departure/arrival was only 20 miles from our home. DW and I were new to NCL, but not new to cruising (4x Carnival so far). It seemed a good way to get acquainted with NCL and see if the freestyle concept suited us. We booked direct with NCL Europe, initially an oceanview stateroom (5100). The upsell fairy contacted us 2 months before departure and we upgraded to a mini-suite (11022) for a very good price.
Day 1 - embarkation Rotterdam (Netherlands)
Easiest start of a cruise ever! No long-haul flight to the USA, just a short 25 minute drive from home. We arrived around 12:15 PM at the (historic) cruise terminal in the center of Rotterdam. It was a typical Dutch scene: disorganized, yet oddly efficient. The actual embarkation was a breeze, we were on board in under half an hour.
Thank you fellow CC'ers for the advice to head for the main restaurant for lunch! There were no seats left at buffet, and having lunch in the quiet Grand Pacific dining room was much more comfortable. There were only a dozen or so people in there. It was almost too quiet - I overheard the maitre d' saying they should direct more people to the dining room.
At 14:00 we could enter our cabin ("mini-suite") on deck 11 fwd. Great location: quiet! Above us was the card room, no noise whatsoever from there. The cabin itself was very comfortable, about the size of a Carnival balcony room, only with a larger bathroom and balcony. Everything was in good working order. There was also a lot of closet space. We had two issues: one on the balcony chairs was broken (it took a full day to be replaced) and we only received two small towels on the first day (we had to call for extra).
No complaints about the cabin stewards except for the lack of contact. Unlike our Carnival cruises, we hardly ever saw the cabin stewards. They didn't make an introductory chat and somehow we always seemed to miss them while they were on their shift.
Life boat drill at 16:00 consisted of gathering in the theatre with your life jacket on your lap. After the usual announcements, we were instructed to put the life jacket on - a little difficult since you're cramped in your seat. With the drill out of the way, the party started and around 17:00 we left the cruise terminal.
A cruise ship this large is a big event for the port of Rotterdam (the only get dozen each year) so lots of people were waving us out. There was even a fireboat throwing large arcs of water as a added bonus - quite a spectacle. Rotterdam is about 10 miles inland, so we had to sail an hour or so on the river (passing many more waving people on shore) before getting to the North Sea.
PA announcements we made in English, Dutch and German.
Side note: I think NCL should have emphasized that the spoken language on board their ships is English. 75% of the pax were from Holland. Now, the Dutch are often commended on their foreign language skills, but we did notice a language barrier between the crew and the guests. While this provided sometimes hilarious scenes (we overheard someone ordering "sunshine" eggs), most of the time both crew and guests were a loss for words. There were a lot of Dutch people who simply didn't speak English well enough to convey a simple request, let alone keep up a decent conversation. This was especially noticeable at the stage shows, where almost no-one picked up on the jokes. The language barrier was a minor issue, though - everyone got along just fine. NCL had appointed a Dutch-speaking host by means of the very nice Tammy (actually half English, half Dutch) who translated the cd's (Karen Maybury) announcements and acted as interpreter on several excursions and activities.
That evening, we had dinner in Alizar (the casual dining room). Most nights, we opted out of dessert in the dining room to have a crêpe & ice cream at the buffet upstairs.
After that we explored the public areas of the ship and called it a night. Note: we don't hang around in bars or discos, we prefer watching a movie or reading a book.
Day 2 - at sea
Breakfast in the buffet. Here comes our biggest gripe: the Jade didn't nearly have enough seats available during breakfast or lunch. No matter how early or late we arrived, all seats were always taken. There was additional seating at Papa's (Italian specialty restaurant), but that meant several long walks (100 yards) from the buffet with our plate and coffee/tea in hand - there were no trays! - so it was quite inconvenient. We never had problems finding a seat on Lido deck at Carnival ships, so on this point NCL was quite a letdown for us.
Throughout the cruise we participated in several trivia quizzes (when we could, we teamed up with a gentleman from the US and two ladies from England) and won most of them - yay! Host Ken had a wicked sense of humor.
Other on-board activities that day were equally enjoyable, from the pastry demonstration to the NCL U history lecture.
I liked the bridge viewing room, with a large window that provided a view into the bridge. There were also digital display screens, one showing our position on a moving map and another showing the speed, heading and other technical data.
Dinner in the Grand Pacific dining room ('formal night') was good. We had crème brûlEe for dessert, since we had tasted that in the demo earlier that day.
After dinner we saw "Showdown" in the theatre. This was a singing contest where the audience voted for their favorite artist. We were pleasantly surprised at the vocal qualities of the performers.
There also was a late night comedy show (Lenny Windsor).
Day 3 - Oslo, Norway
The Jade arrived right on time and at 08:00 AM we were the first people of the ship. Customs had cleared the ship, but the announcements hadn't been made yet. As we walked up to the gangway, the crew simply let us out. We bought our Oslo Passes at the cruise terminal (discounted price: NOK 176), took the water bus to Bygdøy and visited the Viking ship, Kon-tiki and Fram museums. Since this was a Monday, most other museums in town were closed. We did a little shopping in Aker Brygge, then took a tram to the city center and walked down Karl Johan Gate, where we grabbed a quick sandwich at one of the many eateries. We spent some time on the grounds of Akershus Castle, but the interior was closed because of a special event. After a brief visit to the Grunerløkka area we went back to the city center before making our way back to the ship. We sailed for Copenhagen at 18:00.
Dinner in Grand Pacific again. We preferred it over Alizar, mainly because it was lighter and more spacious.
We went to the theatre for a show with juggler/comedian Pete Matthews. Too bad most of his jokes were wasted on the crowd. I guess they missed their subtitles!
Day 4 - Copenhagen, Denmark
We were scheduled to dock at 11:00 AM. That gave us plenty of time to sleep in, have breakfast and take a Dutch trivia quiz with host Tammy (the lady translating the announcements).
The only downside was the ship's location: Freeport. The main cruise port, Langelinie, is closer to town, but there were 2 other ships already in port, so we had to travel a little further.
After docking, we left the ship as soon as we could. We had bought a Copenhagen card online so we could hop straight on the #26 bus to the town center.
We exited the bus at the Little Mermaid statue, walked around the Citadel (Kastellet) to the resistance museum. There, we found two city bikes (they take a DKK 20 coin that is returned when you park it at another bicycle stand). We drove through Nyhavn and Rosenborg to the Round Tower. Nice view around the city, even though half of the viewing area was closed due to construction. We walked a long way through the shopping streets (Købmagergade and Strøget) to the Danish Design Center and the Glypotek Museum. We then spent some time in Tivoli and around 18:30 we took the bus from the Rådhuspladsen back to Freeport.
After dinner at Alizar we went to the theater to see the magician. There was an surprise performance by a Danish folklore group acting out several H.C. Andersen fairy tales. They put on a very nice show that was greatly appreciated by the audience. The magician (Stephen Garcia) that came on afterwards was pretty good too.
Day 5 - at sea
A lazy sea day with two trivia quizzes and another history lecture. We took it very easy: eating, reading, watching TV (the CBNC Cruise, Inc documentary!) and sleeping. What more do you want? Had lunch at the buffet where we actually managed to get a table near the action stations.
I happened to be near the bridge viewing room as the captain made his afternoon announcements, so I briskly walked up there and watched him as he addressed the ship.
After dinner (Grand Pacific) we packed our bags, then went to the final show: Variety Showtime. There were encore performances by the magician and the comedian. Then the social hosts came on stage dressed in toga towels and proceeded to imitate the Trevi fountain by spraying each other with water - it was hilarious. After that very wet performance, the captain, senior officers and crew said their thanks and goodbyes. The cd came on one last time saying this had been a great cruise and they'd enjoyed our company very much (although it must have been somewhat of a challenge for them).
After the show we hurried over to the chocolate buffet. What a sight! We admired the sculptures (both ice and chocolate) and indulged ourselves a little. Yes, only a little. Oh well. Moving on...
Day 6 - debarkation
When we woke up around 07:00 AM, we were already on the river to Rotterdam. We had our final breakfast of the cruise watching our country pass us by.
The only major issue occurred that morning. One of the fun things about cruising is getting to know other people. However, on the Jade this concept was taken further by delivering the invoices (expense account statement) unfolded and face up at the door sign of each cabin. We could see other guests' proprietary information such as full names and of course a detailed list of what everyone had spent during the cruise. Up until the point that we removed ours, fellow cruisers could read our statement as well. Needless to say, we promptly reported this to the purser's desk as we value our privacy (don't we all?).
After quick post in another thread, I learned that this is not the usual way to deliver invoices, so I guess this was a thoughtless action by the crew member involved.
We arrived back in Rotterdam around 08:15 AM and we were scheduled to disembark at 10:00 AM. From our balcony, we watched the busy shore side activities. Our color was called at 09:45 AM and after a little wait on the stairway (it turned out we were called too early) we were whisked through customs and were outside at 10:05. Bye, bye, NCL Jade!Bottom LineYes, we had a good time on this cruise. The ship was great, the cabin was very nice, the food was good, the on-board activities were entertaining and the itinerary was interesting. There were some issues, but all but one of them too minor to ruin a vacation over. As said earlier, we wanted to see if the freestyle concept suited us. We didn't care too much for the specialty restaurants (we feel we'd paid enough for the cruise as it is). While being flexible in dinner times is a good way to cruise, the lack of seating during breakfast and lunch was a big disappointment. Also, we missed our daily chats with cabin steward and wait staff. Our verdict: we're not sure we'd sail with NCL again, unless they happen to have a great promotion. Read Less