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19 Norwegian (NCL) Rotterdam Cruise Reviews

We were on the Breakaway for two nights, one night sailing from Rotterdam to Southampton, then an overnight in Southampton, staying in the Haven Deluxe Owners Suite 16102. Embarkation If you are ever sailing from Rotterdam stay in ... Read More
We were on the Breakaway for two nights, one night sailing from Rotterdam to Southampton, then an overnight in Southampton, staying in the Haven Deluxe Owners Suite 16102. Embarkation If you are ever sailing from Rotterdam stay in the Hotel New York, the old Holland America Line building which is literally a minute away from the Cruise Terminal. Staying in their Loft Suite meant we could go onto our roof terrace and watch Breakaway come up the river and tie up literally yards away, and so the excitement begins! She has a classic design without the Epic top hat, and you either love or hate the hull art work, personally I think it's rather cool. Boarding was a breeze, and we ended up maintaining the Butler family tradition (since the Sun) of being the first fare paying passengers to board; being met at the gangway by Denis Prguda the Hotel Director who brought Breakaway into service, a man we've sailed with before and a real professional. The first impression of Breakaway (as with all NCL ships) is WOW, classy, elegant and fun looking, and as you explore the ship it is obvious she is the daughter of Epic and the granddaughter of the Jewel Class ships. Albeit after a while you realise she is Deluxe Epic on Steroids. Throughout this review I will refer to comparison with Epic, so apologise to those who have not sailed on Epic you should. The Haven As usual with Haven guests we were escorted to the Haven by our butler Lucky Lee who has looked after us before and as we discovered later had set the wet bar in our suite exactly how we like it. Unlike Epic the entrance to the Haven is nowhere near as grand, but hey a door's a door. Walking into the reception we were met by Ruth Hagger (who we've known for more years that either of us likes to admit) and the lovely Elvina De Meneses who we last saw on Epic. Ruth was her usual friendly and professional self, ensuring we knew about the reserved seating for the Burn the Floor show that evening in the Theatre. The Haven area has a comfortable bar and meeting area, and an elegant dining room, neither of which are as large as Epic but there are less Haven guests so I don't think this will be a problem as they have less Haven guests to cater for. Fortunately (especially for winter in New York) the Haven has a moveable full glass roof, so no problems with wind and inclement weather. The area itself is much superior to Epic with beautiful items including a stunning and very impressive green planted wall feature. The colours are muted with many beds and sofas/chairs, with a really nice feature being a surrounding balcony on deck 17 under the glass roof with even more beds and sofas. So this is a super place to sit and relax especially for the suites with compact balconies, and we always like to have breakfast here as opposed to the dining room. Pools, hot-tub, sauna and Spa treatment rooms (as on Epic) compliment the Haven area, although the small pool appeared not to have a swim against system? There were a large number of day visitors on the ship before we sailed, so I have no doubt that the Haven will provide more than enough space, comfort, luxury and enjoyment for its guests when cruising. The food in the restaurant was as usual up to the high standards we have come to expect, and it was nice to catch up with lots of crew who we've known from past cruises just like coming home to a family get together. The Deluxe Owners Suite (16102) At the front of the ship above the Mandara Spa with a wraparound balcony what a spectacular suite, except for the Garden Villas, the finest suite in the fleet. The colours, design and finish are magnificent, as we walked in we were just wowed by it, the lounge is stunning with masses of space, a large dining table and even larger sofa which I believe turns into a bed. The wet bar as I said had been stocked correctly by Lucky and I was pleased to see that NCL have kept the same glorious coffee machines, and there is enough technology to keep even me amused. The sound system is still Bose but It's a shame that the surround sound speakers have disappeared. I suspect that is because it's possible to remove the adjoining wall to the next Owners Suite, now that makes some accommodation, find a hot tub and it's nearly a Garden Villa! The whole front of the lounge, as well as the bedroom and bathroom, have a glass wall and doors that open onto an enormous wrap around balcony, with loungers table and chairs. Arturo Guerrero (VP Hotel & Newbuild Operations/Development) who we've had fun with on previous new builds came up to check on us and bet me (unlike Epic) that I wouldn't find anything wrong or missing with the suite. Lucky for me I found one screw on the balcony that had not been tightened. He of course had it fixed within the hour, but still paid his wager. There is no doubt that Breakaway meets all the quality build standards that come from Meyer Werft. Into the very large and comfortable bedroom, with fantastic views through to the plush and luxurious bathroom. A large corner tub with windows on two sides, a very large shower again with a glass wall to the side, dual vanity sinks and everything else you would need in a luxury suite. A very large dressing area leads back into the hallway with a well-appointed guest bathroom. The only other observation about this beautiful suite is that there is more storage space than we've ever seen in any suite (in any hotel let alone ship). Dark wood and soft touch opening drawers and cupboards, although as Pamela said she'd hate to be the steward (ours was Noel) responsible for cleaning the finger marks off. A great example of fantastic design ignoring practicality and functionality, but beautiful all the same. The Ship In two days it's impossible to review the whole ship, so I will focus on the areas we enjoyed and stood out to us. You need at least two weeks on Breakaway to experience the whole ship and she definitely warrants at least that much time. Breakaway has restaurants and then some, Norwegian classics and new additions with the exciting and innovative feature of outdoor dining to many of them along the superb Waterfront, which is a brilliant feature and one NCL should be very proud of. As well as the Haven we ate in Cirque Dreams and Dinner Jungle Fantasy, the show is mind boggling and even better than Epic, the tent seating all tables on one floor with standard seating around the edge and premium nearer the action. We sat at one of the two elevated stage tables which provided a superb view, although from what we saw everyone had a great view of a mesmerising performance. The set menu was excellent, although as we were so enthralled with the performance the food was really an afterthought but delicious nonetheless, this experience is a must do on Breakaway. The other must do as far as dining is concerned is dinner at Ocean Blue with the Raw Bar alongside, the menu by Geoffrey Zakarian is simply brilliant, fine dining at its best. My dover sole was to die for and Pamela says her crab risotto was even better; a truly memorable experience, and worth every cent. With inside and outside dining this restaurant is worth making a beeline for. Of course we had to have cocktails in the Ice Bar which seemed slightly smaller (but probably wasn't) than Epic. The New York theme was very much different from Epic, and I would say we missed the actual ice bar inside the cool room. What's a Norwegian cruise without donning the snow cape? Pamela spent a few hours in the Mandara Spa, coming back invigorated and rejuvenated, she loved the time in the Salt Room and very much enjoyed La Therapie Oxy-Polish facial. All in all a great success. The Casino is a very important and key feature for us, we had a great time 'investing' dollars with NCL, met lots of our old casino friends, who always smile as they manage our investment! The set- up is almost identical to Epic, Rimarie Manzano, the Casino Host and Jules Boligao the Casino Fleet Host Manager were charming and attentive as always and made us both very welcome. It was terrific to see that Le Bistro has been brought back to prominence by NCL with a superb location on Deck 6 where the venue actually looks like a classic bistro in Paris. Therefore, Platinum Latitudes members will enjoy meals in fine surroundings as well, of course, as all the other guests on Breakaway. A few very happy hours were spent in Fat Cats Jazz Club and it was especially enjoyable as they brought Slam Allen and his Blues Band from Epic, a venue to spend many hours listening to superlative jazz. We strolled all around the Waterfront seeing all the outside elements of each restaurant. as well as a great outdoor seating area for Maltings. As I said, the Waterfront is a brilliant idea and I am sure that the glass windbreaks along the walkways will ensure dining comfort. The pool and sundecks are everything one comes to expect, the meccano style rope area and walk the plank looked fun, although I didn't have time to try any of it. The crazy golf has an amusing and challenging course recommended only for golfers with a 10 handicap or less! As always a basketball court is available (mainly for the crew if any of our other cruises are to go by)! The colourful and breath taking waterslides are going to give endless hours of fun for all and H2O looks like a party location for the outdoor evenings. I think I liked VIBE, although I preferred POSH on Epic. I am not sure the design and set-up has been completely thought through, but I have no doubt it will be a success and the cabanas are a great idea for the lucky few who secure them. Back to the restaurants, the Garden Cafe looked spacious and again a similar design to Epic, every food station accessible and what looked like a great choice of dining. The Uptown bar and grill near H2O also looked like an interesting venue to spend some quality eating and drinking time in. Cagneys and Moderno are set up exactly like Epic on each side of the stern of the ship with the centre tables overlooking the Manhattan Room below. It seems that Cagneys has a new menu and a number of people we spoke to commented very positively about the quality of the steaks. Savour and Taste, together with the now classic O'Sheehan's are all well located and complete the eating areas providing great choice and menus. The centre of the Ship on decks 6 through to 8 have the new Norwegian signature very large LED chandelier changing mood and colour as the day drifts by. This is the hub of bars, restaurants, shopping and entertainment and it is great place to people watch and while the time away. (Assuming you have any of course)! Again like Epic Teppanyaki is a big feature with numerous eating/cooking stations which generate a fun atmosphere, great food and entertainment. Whilst catching up with lots of old crew friends, we met up with Andy Stuart and Francis Riley and of course, the inimitable and world famous Klaus Lugmaier, all who were beaming from ear to ear about Breakaway and justifiably so, as she is a fantastic ship and will no doubt become NCL's number one very quickly. However, in closing, there is one point I must make, NCL designs and builds innovative ships, however, they are only steel, wood, glass etc. What makes NCL stand out for us, and ensures we come back time and time again, are the Crew, some of who we consider close friends and indeed, some we have known for over 15 years. NCL recruits, trains, retains and motivates the best crew sailing and to them Pamela and I say a very heartfelt THANK YOU. Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
My wife and I boarded the not quite finished Norwegian Epic in Rotterdam to spend ten nights aboard disembarking in New York. Due to over running construction our first three nights were spent in a Spa Suite that was beautiful, it was ... Read More
My wife and I boarded the not quite finished Norwegian Epic in Rotterdam to spend ten nights aboard disembarking in New York. Due to over running construction our first three nights were spent in a Spa Suite that was beautiful, it was carefully designed to make maximum use of space, with masses of storage, a comfortable circular bed with a corner Jacuzzi bath; an ideal suite for two with access to the fantastic Mandara Spa and Salon just seconds away. The Spa and fitness centre provided every conceivable exercise and treatment facility we could want, staffed with the usual professional and knowledgeable staff that we have come to expect from NCL. Touring the ship we were simply over awed with the options to eat, drink, party and relax, everything we needed was on decks five, six and seven with fabulous outdoor entertainment on decks fourteen and above. As well as the NCL classic restaurants there are the new dining options including O'Sheehan's which has a terrific vibe overlooking the two story screen which was a must for the soccer fans on this cruise. The Garden Cafe complex is light airy and spacious with so many food stations to meet any taste requirements. Hidden at the forward end of the Garden Cafe down the stairway is the beautiful La Cucina Italian Restaurant which served us fantastic pasta. The Bistro on deck five seems out of the way but once seated inside the ambience, as well as the new menu was superb, and the addition of a wine sommelier made the experience a delight. Dinner in the Moderno Restaurant is a new twist with the classic serving one would expect in a Churrascaria, this restaurant shares space with the ageless Cagney's and overlooks the Manhattan Room, make sure you are hungry when you go to Moderno, and remember to turn the card to red otherwise the food keeps coming and you can't say no. The Asian complex of Shanghai's, the Noodle Bar and an enormous Teppanyaki included new menus and the food quality and taste were outstanding, our suggestion eat in Shanghai's but make sure you order at least one noodle dish. All of the restaurants we experienced were first class. There are numerous indoor and deck side bars and I was delighted that NCL has put in a reasonable Humidor cigar lounge which is tucked away so was not full of cigarette smokers but a great place for a cigar, my suggestion here is look at the Sun's cigar area and bring some of that to the Epic. Important to us was the casino, and the Epic Casino excels, it is huge and spirals off in four directions from around the famous chandelier. With many tables, lots of slots and two decent poker tables, the setup works very well, and the dealers looked fantastic on Fedora and Flappers night which is way superior to Monte Carlo night. We loved the design of the casino, it is situated on a major thoroughfare and is surrounded by restaurants, so occasionally when playing tempting food smells would be noticed. The entertainment is a key feature on this beautiful ship, on our first night we experienced dinner in the Spiegel Tent, and then Blue Man in the Epic Theatre. For two hours the artists in Cirque Dreams and Dinner enthralled us, this is the finest two hours entertainment afloat, if you do nothing else when you cruise on Epic go to the Tent. My wife still talks about the guy in the bath tub doing the washing up, which was probably why we had to see the show again later in the week, me I just wished she could get changed as quickly as the hula hoop lady! It's non- stop, you actually don't notice the food but that is excellent. Blue Man is a show you either love or say "what was that about?" we loved it, a scaled down more interactive version of the Vegas show we'd seen some time ago and worth the line to get in. The Legends in Concert show was a blast, Tina, Madonna and Elvis were very good but the band and the five backing dancers/singers were just as good. The other venues we had a blast in were the Ice Bar where my non alcoholic strawberry drink actually froze in the ice glass after ten minutes, we did feel funny dressed in the silver ponchos and gloves waiting to go in as people walked past, well worth the experience and frost bite. Great jazz was playing in Fat Cats when we went in and then stayed for hours. Bliss Ultra Lounge is for people slightly younger than us, but it's a great experience with a very cool entrance later in the evening which caused confusion to some people. At the start of the fourth day as we were due to leave Southampton we were moved to our Owner's Suite in the new Courtyard Complex. We knew they had worked tirelessly to finish the area and our first impressions were WOW. We have always loved the Courtyards on the Jewel class ships but the EPIC Courtyard is an entirely different and sublime experience. As we entered the reception area the muted colours and decor exude class and comfort, in front of us through the glass doors is a massive Courtyard (compared to the jewel class) with ample space for all the suites, further in front is the steam rooms, treatment rooms etc then the gym above which wasn't finished, but NCL acknowledged this and as always looked after us. From reception we walked around into a sitting area with a bar which has fresh air from the slated glass alongside, then Klaus greeted us as the first passengers to enter the sublime Epic Club Restaurant which in our view has a better design, ambience and location than any other premier cruise line dining rooms we've experienced. The menus and food quality in the Epic Club are first class with masses of choice and great taste. At the rear of the restaurant is the Epic Club lounge which is just beautiful and the perfect place for a pre dinner drink, or for relaxation overlooking the pool deck, and as always a grand piano - what is it with NCL and grand pianos? Above the Courtyard we discovered even more fantastic space for sun worshippers, as well as Posh. All in all the Epic courtyard complex has the feel of a super deluxe ship within a fabulous ship, we could relax, be pampered and enjoy the luxury and solitude behind the "gold and black door" but then go into the big ship to play......a perfect vacation for us. Then finally the famous Klaus took us to our suite, and OMG it is just perfect for us, six weeks ago we were in the Garden Villa of the Gem and loved it as always but this suite is even better. There are a few small things we miss from the Villa but the design, colour scheme, location, views, bathroom, furnishings etc.etc. are just awesome. We entered the living/dining room which felt like stepping into a luxury suite, which of course it is, the enclosed solarium balcony with open windows led into a beautiful bedroom, all of this accommodation had floor to ceiling views across and to the side of the bow, and what views. I always maintain that the best place to wake up in the morning is an NCL ship, and our wake ups on the Epic with the drapes drawn back were stunning even with the Atlantic fogs and rain. My wife tells me the bathroom configuration met all her requirements she could sit in the tub and look out to the sea forward, me I loved the walk in shower that has a massive glass window to the side, I've stayed in hotels that have a smaller bathrooms than this shower, and finally more storage space than we could possibly utilise. The finish of the suite exceeded our expectations, and the technology rich ship provided all the toys I could want including interactive television that access downloadable movies, account information and even casino games. Also on board is a sophisticated photo gallery that has easy to use kiosks that avoid the time consuming search through endless photos before you found the ones you wanted. There's so much to do and experience on this ship, she is designed for everyone, and yes of course on her first sailings there are bound to be teething problems, but NCL acknowledged them and dealt with them appropriately. The staff on board had worked tirelessly whilst the ship was in France to bring her into service, and during our time on board they continued to do so. It was a shame that some passengers clearly expected everything to be perfect and we witnessed lots of rudeness from passengers to crew which we believed was totally uncalled for. Overall though I think the majority of our fellow passengers (who were not deliberately looking for things to fault) had a brilliant time. The crew should be proud of what they've achieved so far and it will only get better, as the Epic settles down. Special thanks from us go to the girls and Ricky who served us in the Epic Club they were just so much fun, our steward Benjamin who did a fantastic job, Karan and Anshuman the Concierge who provided first class professional service, nothing was too much trouble for these guys, our butlers Chris and Ravi who were always only a call away. Not forgetting the team in the casino, they make it such fun whether we win or loose. The roll call of stars could go on but special mention goes to Captain Vorren a charming and professional mariner who's company we very much enjoyed and last but not least the irrepressible Klaus Lugmaier the man on 8888 who makes it happen, where he gets his drive energy and staying power from is a mystery to us, nothing is ever too much bother and he is so approachable, we are sure it helps that he has Sean with him as well! Thank you crew of the Epic we have spent nine days aboard and have one to go before we dock in New York and our only regret is we have to disembark. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
We have just got back from first sailing from Rotterdam. It took a long time to board as we found out later that there was a problem with ship and had to sail slower than scheduled and therefore was due to arrive at 5.30pm instead of 10am. ... Read More
We have just got back from first sailing from Rotterdam. It took a long time to board as we found out later that there was a problem with ship and had to sail slower than scheduled and therefore was due to arrive at 5.30pm instead of 10am. So there was a delay in boarding to give people a chance to decide not to sail if there travel arrangements would not allow. then the computers went down so after arriving at 10.30am we boarded eventually at 2.30pm! The ship is huge and in the most, beautiful.we had a balcony cabin on deck nine which was the only thing that we did not like about the ship. we did not like that there was no bathroom and although the shower and Toilet doors were not see through they were not soundproofed! also the sink in the main cabin was very small. The TV and phone were not working but I am sure these will be ironed out before the transatlantic sailing. The Blue Man group show was great& full so make sure you make reservations on line before you cruise. We also because of delayed arrival got to see the cast from the legends show perform in the main restaurant during lunch on the day into Southampton. In fact all the entertainment around the ship was very good and the staff very good too. If you like this new concept of cabins I am sure you will love the Epic, as for us I do not know if we will sail on her again as we did not which is a shame because we could not fault any of the rest of the experience we had Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
Pre CruiseI absolutely love cruising and have been interested in it for many years. Went onboard my premiere cruise in September 2008 onboard the world's largest cruise ship Liberty of the Seas with Royal Caribbean which was a ... Read More
Pre CruiseI absolutely love cruising and have been interested in it for many years. Went onboard my premiere cruise in September 2008 onboard the world's largest cruise ship Liberty of the Seas with Royal Caribbean which was a spectacular 7 night Western Caribbean cruise roundtrip from Miami, Florida. I had planned a trip to England to visit close friends and explore a country I've always loved and been interested in and am interested in long term. Wanted a shorter cruise that allowed me to explore Europe and see other countries, decided on this fabulous 5 Night Scandinavian Mini Cruise roundtrip from Rotterdam. Have long been interested in seeing some of the Scandinavian countries. With 2 sea days & visiting Oslo, Norway and Copenhagen, Denmark onboard Norwegian Jade. Done Inside stateroom in the past but with the single premium and not much difference in the fare between Inside, Outside & Balcony got a Balcony guarantee. Flew from Canada to London Gatwick , spent an enjoyable day in London area with my friend. The following morning went on the short 40 minute flight to Amsterdam. Embarkation Following my short flight to Amsterdam giant Schipol airport I am familiar with from a previous trip I exited into the arrivals hall and quickly found a representative holding a big "Norwegian Jade" sign. Curiously missed the rep standing right by the entrance and she went over to tell her friend with a laugh, she was a ways over. I had pre booked the NCL transfers (shuttles) for $50 each way for the 1 1/2 hours drive from the airport to the pier in Rotterdam north of Amsterdam. They told me which coach to go to and off I went just outside and found it, the driver and his assistant taking my luggage. The drive was very pleasant through the scenic Dutch countryside with its historic houses and its famed windmills and small towns dotting the landscape, would love to spend more time in The Netherlands in the future. We reached Rotterdam, a magnificent city with a meld of old and new and very friendly people. A smaller city but still large enough to feel quite busy.  We made our way across the well known Erasmurg Bridge, a modern cable bridge opened in 1996 by Queen Beatrix, spectacular in its own right! Turned into the port and gave my luggage to the friendly porters. A table with hosts did an initial check of my cruise documents and I headed in line for the airport style security. Then proceeded to the check in, quite smooth, had to check a few things with the cruise line reps as Rotterdam doesn't receive too many cruise ships so they have a volunteer force but they were friendly, helpful and would find out for you. Then took the welcome aboard photo, had my hands sanitized, I notice more with the H1N1 Swine Flu scare this cruise. The magnificent Norwegian Jade with her swirling blue colours towered above. I was extremely excited!  Checked in with security , there was an issue with my ID picture, very minor just had it retaken at the reception desk, met the nice German agent , see later on. I was all set!  Norwegian Jade Norwegian Jade has an interesting history in her short life. She was built in Papenburg, Germany at the Meyer Werft shipyard and made her debut in May 2006 named Pride of Hawaii in Hawaii as part of the NCL America brand and trio of ships sailing year round Hawaiian cruises from Honolulu. She did this until December 2007. After 1 1/2 years of being in Hawaii having the trio of large ships in Hawaii was too much for NCL along with other cruise lines going there and there were issues with the 90 % American crew who had to be on board. It was decided NCL would take Pride of Hawaii (now Jade) and Pride of Aloha (the former Norwegian Sky that debuted in 1999) and bring them away from Hawaii and back into the main fleet. Pride of Aloha returned to being named Norwegian Sky. Pride of Hawaii received her new name Norwegian Jade and went in for a refurbishment to do the renaming, her hull was painted in the swirling blues she has now in keeping with the fun tradition of all modern day NCL ships. A section of passenger staterooms were removed to make room for the lavish large new Jade Club Casino, a casino not being allowed with the Hawaiian laws and minor changes made to the ship. The Hawaiian decor of the ship, paintings and furnishings kept in place as NCL hopes someday the ship may return to Hawaiian waters. She sailed over to Europe with a new international crew bringing valuable experience to the ship and now sails year round European cruises mainly in the Mediterranean but also to other parts of Europe as my cruise was.  Norwegian Jade is 93,000 gross tons among the biggest ships today and is 965 feet long with 12 decks all along with up to 14 decks, approximately 15 land stories in height. She has 2,402 guests and 1, 111 crew.  She carries several firsts or unique features not often found on cruise ships including: - first tennis court at sea , one of 4 now with her sisters Norwegian Pearl, Gem & Jewel that also has soccer & volleyball - golf cage to practice your shot  - the giant 4,490 Garden Villas with vast amounts of space with a piano, several bedrooms and access to a private courtyard with pool & more - the amazing 15 dining options everything from Teppanyaki to main dining rooms to 24 hour comfort food  She has an amazing 15 dining options, 13 lounges and bars including three clustered in a unique grouping called Bar City, the Medusa lounge & nightclub fusion, three onboard shops, shore excursions desk by the reception, 2 storey atrium with a java coffee bar with specialty coffee, 24 hour fitness centre with special memorabilia you can see!, 2 swimming pools, one for all and one for adults, kids club with their own on deck dining area and splash pool, a teen centre & club with full programming, wrap around jogging track & promenade deck, full service spa & beauty salon with 25 treatment rooms, shop and thermal suites, card & games room, a quiet room, wedding chapel, video arcade, full theatre, casino with private gaming rooms, poolside gaming tables, ping pong & pool tables poolside, deck games and a business centre with meeting rooms. Many all day activities that are a departure from traditional cruising activities with destination lectures, nutrition and fitness sessions, trivia, deck activities, cooking demonstrations and group games such as love and marriage and much more. Yoga, pilates, spinning classes & wine and sushi tastings at charge. She has bright and vibrant colours and a funky decor throughout, some areas more subdued and not ever anything too much.  Stateroom My very first balcony stateroom which was absolute bliss! Had two excellent stateroom attendants who took great care of me, was sure to leave an extra tip for them. My deluxe oceanview with balcony BA that was upgraded on the guarantee stateroom to a Deck 10 BB. With a fairly spacious bathroom with the shower in one section, the very large sink with huge tap and storage and mirror in the centre and the toilet with its own sliding door off to the side with attatched hangers, electronic safe and mini bar. Don't use the minibars with all the food onboard. Then 2 very comfortable double beds that was set up when I arrived as requested for myself as one big Queen bed, which was so nice! A living room area with couch and coffee table with the room service menu & guidebook. A TV with 24 hour complimentary movies, about 15 channels and information channels along with the ships webcam over the bow and route maps from the bridge. Then the best feature the spacious private balcony with 2 chairs and a small table. I loved the space of the room and enjoyed the balcony so much, eating out there, going there in the morning and hearing the water as I went to bed. Seeing the ship come into port while still in my pyjamas! Several perks come with Balcony staterooms including priority dinner reservations for longer ahead I used and a pair of terrycloth robes to use during the cruise.  The are just over 1,200 staterooms onboard including Inside, Oceaview, Suites, Mini Suites & the larger Romance Suites.  The Inside & Outside with the balcony has but no living area or balcony and more condensed. The Suites with more space and bathtubs or jacuzzis in the stateroom. The giant Garden Villas and their smaller but luxurious counterparts Courtyard Villas and Owner Suites. A portion of the Courtyard Villas and the duet of Garden Villas have exclusive access to a sensational private courtyard with their own swimming pool, padded lounge chairs, hot tubs, breakfast buffet and much more. They have specialty coffee & cappacino makers in their rooms and many perks. I didn't have access on Norwegian Jade but at a cruise conference as a travel agent in April last month toured the spaces on sister Norwegian Pearl. Freestyle DiningNorwegian Jade has a wide array of dining options with an incredible 15 options onboard! This includes 7 dining options included and 8 specialty restaurants & options with cover charges. The number and international flair to the dining options is quite amazing. They had many dishes I hadn't seen before on a cruise that was fun to try being very interested in the culinary world myself. I especially enjoyed guacamole and tortilla chips at the buffet, scallop tartar in the dining room as well as trying foie gras for the first time at Le Bistro the French restaurant and the Jamaican jerk pork in the dining room another night were all dining highlights. NCL invented their signature Freestyle Dining, that is open dining where you "dine wherever, whenever & with whomever" for all guests for the entire cruise. I ate at the dining rooms, buffet and grill and especially enjoyed the more intimate Alizar. I dined on two ocassions which wasa good amount for me at the specialty restaurants - Teppenyaki and Le Bistro, the French restaurant. Traditional cruise dining has its place on Royal Caribbean on my first cruise in September 2008 I loved getting know the waiters and family we sat with every night. Crew get to know you on NCL but not to the same extent, it's different with the Freestyle. Garden Cafe Breakfast brings the indoor & outdoor buffet restaurants with a wide American hot and cold selection including eggs, bacon, toast, home fries and  a variety of cereals. More European and British offerings include fish, bangers, an international cheese selection and poridges. Unique to NCL are several action stations with chefs at the ready to create food fresh to order at wok stations. Breakfast includes omlettes with selections of toppings and cheese. An all day fruit selection features freshly cut fruit, fruit salads and several excotic options. Fresh bakery items are always available with large muffins, danishes and breads. A toast machine station has wait staff at the ready to assist you.  Lunch brings carving roasts to the action stations, a number of sandwiches, hot foods and more. Dinner has the tables set with linens and candles, I liked going in and having a late night desert or snack here in the dressed up atmosphere. Also the host of the magnificent chocoholic buffet on the final night, which was well laid out with exceptional chocolate sculptures, chocolate fountains, deserts, and my favourite candy apples.In the morning there are a number of fruit juices available from the beverage stations in addition to the always available choice of teas, coffee and hot chocolate. For a real treat there's also cappacino and espresso. Fresh squeezed fruit juices are available in the morning & there's a bar for alcoholic drinks at charge.  Great Outdoors  The Great Outdoors is an outdoor buffet that branches off from the Garden Cafe. It is a more intimate buffet area with its own selections and a spectacular view over the stern of the ship with the rolling wake behind.  Grand Pacific Dining Room-  The Grand Pacific Dining Room is larger main dining room with over 500 seats. It's the designated dress up dining spot onboard and for dinner you need to dress up and for breakfast & lunch smart casual is appropriate. It's a stunning space with dark rich colours, statues and artwork. A graceful golden staircase leads into the dining room at the main entrance. I enjoyed several meals here, the window tables while at sea with the sun setting was a special time! The Jamaican jerk pork for dinner was very tasty! NCL has excellent selections of tea, brewed well. This time which I wanted to this cruise I also tried the dining room at breakfast & lunch. Loved the lunch, the dining room was quite easy going and a relaxed atmosphere to have my pork pasta. The breakfast was quite rushed with slower service though I went on a port day and the host explained it can be hard with people wanting to get off the ship and be on time for the shore excursions. I think room service & the buffets are the better breakfast option. Though you can go wrong with eggs benedict to start your day!  Alizar Main Dining Room  Alizar is the more intimate main dining room with 300 seats and more enclaves of seating than the Grand Pacific. My favourite dining room and one of my favourite dining spots onboard. Alizar has a beautiful pop art and modern feel to it while still retaining formalities. It has a really special relaxed atmosphere, a nice level of lighting and cozy chairs and banquette seating. Love the colours and the vibe to it, a main dining room with an extra edge and atmosphere.  Blue Lagoon  Blue Lagoon is a 24 hour comfort food hotspot. Serving a menu of comfort food & classic dishes including shephards pie, macaroni & cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches, chili, burgers and more. I had a great lunch here of fish and chips and chicken wings. Loved the chicken wings, the fish and chips were quite good. Enjoyed seeing chicken wings on a ship along with these other innovative dishes not often seen onboard cruise ships. The restaurant overlooks the main atrium. The Grill  Alongside the Waikiki Pool area a buffet with hot dogs, hamburgers & other grilled meats and salads. A casual poolside option. BBQs and food parties are also held here. Room Service The 24 hour room service I liked and did more times this cruise, enjoyed eating outside on my private balcony with the port & ocean views. Did the room service breakfast, you simply fill out a card and hang it on your door by 3:00am. You choose when you would like it delivered. This is the best option for a port day I did when we visited Denmark. Also had a hot pizza and movies night! Both came quite fast with friendly attendants. The only thing is the breakfast doesn't have hot food options such as eggs and hashbrowns that can be ordered I saw on other cruise lines. However they still have other solid options and eggs can be ordered all day on the main room service menu. Specialty RestaurantsAsian:  On Deck 7 midship surrounding the Bar City collection of bars and piano lounges in the smaller 2 storey atrium is a collection of Asian specialty restaurants laid out together. Speaking of bars, being 21 I am of age to drink onboard now and enjoyed several drinks. Really enjoyed the raspberry martini and the mimosa I had twice.  Teppenyaki - This intimate high action experience carries a $25 cover charge. There are several small horseshoe tables seating eight diners each around a large open grill where your personal Teppenyaki chef works his magic! They put on a dramatic display of culinary skill & acrobatics in a fun dinner show stir frying and creating gourmet Japanese cuisine in front of you. I greatly enjoyed my dining experience at Teppenyaki and highly reccomend it!  A series of dishes are given to you , I'll let you be surprised and great deserts! I had the Seafood Diablo I highly reccomend with a full lobster tail, scallops and clams done on the grill !! Jasmine Garden- This is the main Asian restaurant with Chinese and a variety of other Asian Cuisine and fusion food carries a $15 cover charge per person. Beautifully decorated off the smaller atrium with the Champagne bar below, many people seemed to be enjoying this restaurant. Sushi & Sake Bar The sushi and sake bar carries a $15 cover charge, sake is available at bar pricing. This at the entrance to the Asian speciality restaurant area has a long Asian themed bar with bright colours and cozy chairs. Here the pair of talented sushi chefs create a wide menu of sushi & sashimi with fruit sushi or green tea ice cream for desert. Shabu Shabu This traditional Japanese dining experience of cooking meats in a hot pot has a $15 cover charge and is hosted at the sushi & sake bar. Other Specialty Restaurants Le Bistro The original tried and true specialty restaurant of NCL going back to its earliest ships continues in high style with a $15 cover charge. There's a deluxe menu that carries an additional $10 cover charge.  It serves a high end gourmet French cuisine menu with wine pairings at bar pricing. I went here and really enjoyed the elegant classic atmosphere and the fine food, many extra special gourmet dishes here!  Having foie gras with a truffle sauce was wonderful ! Papas Italian KitchenServing selections of make your own pasta, Italian classics and other pasta, meat and casserole dishes with a $10 cover charge. Piniolo Tapas & Salsa With a menu of the favourite Spanish bites and small dishes of food- tapas as well as American Tex-Mex cuisine from Texas and Mexico with a $10 cover charge.  This restaurant wraps around the second floor over the main atrium across from Blue Lagoon. Cagneys Cagenys is a steakhouse tucked away on the upper decks serves the ultimate surf & turf cuisine with fine steak, meats and seafood with a $25 cover charge. A deluxe menu including angus beef and Alaskan crag legs carries an additional $10 cover charge. Crew & Fellow GuestsThe crew were very friendly and accomodating, especially nice to me as a single cruiser making sure I was enjoying myself. I think with the Freestyle Dining concept where the wait staff and hosts move about the many dining venues this gives them more variety than other cruise lines staff do and they seem very happy! I am interested in working on a cruise ship in the future and loved talking with them about ship life especially the front desk, shore excursions & cruise activity staff.  As this cruise was roundtrip from Rotterdam, Netherlands there were 1, 900 guests from The Netherlands and 300 guests from other countries. A different tone to the cruise than with mainly Americans a little quieter. The Dutch are gracious people and I enjoyed meeting them, they need only stand in lines a little better. 5 Night Scandinavian Mini Cruise Day 1- Depart Rotterdam Upon embarking I  enjoyed the signature surprise welcome of NCL !  A wonderful welcome from the crew. I was excited to get into my balcony stateroom and loved the space and the views from the balcony! Then headed over for my first meal onboard at the Garden Cafe and took some pictures!  Was excited to see all the different foods in the Garden Cafe and liked trying some of the European selections. The oregano chicken is to die for!  I then wandered about the ship taking in the stunning views of Rotterdam and the river which we were docked in.  The lifeboat drill I really like how NCL did it, not sure if this unique to the Jade with the cooler climates of parts of Europe where she sails or done across all their ships. However announcements came on to tell you the various restaurants, dining rooms & public rooms where your station was based on what it said in your lifejacket. At the right time you simply took your lifejacket from your stateroom down to in my case the Grand Pacific Dining Room. The crew demonstrated the lifejackets which you put on with them. The annoucements went over the safety drill & other safety information and we were set. I returned to my balcony to see the ship off and as Rotterdam doesn't have too many cruise ships dock each here, if you can depart from Rotterdam I reccomend it! They treat you royally, they had a huge send off for us. A live orchestra played on the balcony of the pier and many adults and children who made streamers and signs cheered and waved as we left. Then all along the river over the next few hours, we even had a soccer tournament watch us, they stopped taking pictures of and paying attention to the soccer and turned to the ship!  Guess a 15 storey 965 foot long luxury ship can do that! I then made my spa appointment for the teeth whitening I wanted done, the spa staff were great people. Made my reservation for Teppenyaki the next night at the reservations desk in the atrium which is open most of the day, a host will key your reservation into a laptop guaranteeing you a space for the time slot you choose. For Teppenyaki for sure reservations are a good idea, otherwise if you really want a specific spot in a peak hour it may be a good idea. Around 8:00pm one night I just walked into Le Bistro. The dining rooms you don't need reservations, just walk in , there may be a short wait. Had my first dinner, had the divine Jamaican jerk pork at the Grand Pacific main dining room with a window seat with perfect ocean views! I then explored other parts of the ship including the shops. A smaller jewelery & watch shop is in the atrium. Then at the stern on Deck 6, the main hive of activity the main shop area is located. To the left Columbian Emeralds, a high end jewelery and Swiss watch shop which I wondered about, how many buy $3000 necklaces. Then to the right the larger main Galleria Shop with a variety of souvenirs, clothing, good pricing on duty free alcohol and more.  Checked out the Internet cafe which is 75 cents a minute or prepaid time plans, there is a night I used it apparently once each cruise or more where they take off half your charge. If you used $14 of Internet time, it becomes $7. Look for this in the Freestyle Daily. Also have at charge newspaper delivery and printing. Greatly enjoyed a pair of amazing acrobatics & magicians from the Moscow Circus, put on an amazing show with fire tricks, juggling, spinning plates and more. The Artistic Director said with the short cruises they had entertainers on and off every day and explained how they take the time to research them. During the cruise on other nights also enjoyed the well known comedy of British Lenny Windsor, quite crude but funny mostly too and a fabulous magician! A Showdown show with the cast onboard was along the lines of American Idol and lots of fun and had excellent singing. Checked out the bridge viewing room, a special feature with maps of your cruise's route, ship memorbilia and certificates of Norwegian Jade. During the day large windows look down into the bridge and you can see the Captain and officers driving and monitoring the ship! Went to the lounge & late night club Medusa Lounge for some music with a great singer I saw her there all the time! Chocolates on my pillow finished the night each night!  Different flavours mixed it up!  Day 2- At SeaStarted the day off right with enjoying room service breakfast on time, even a little early. However the room service attendant calls you before he comes to make sure you are ready. I had put out the card before and had a breakfast with toast, delicious fruit plates a danish and hot chocolate. Enjoyed it on my balcony with the North Sea stretching out below me. I then went over to the reception desk in the atrium to meet Liu, a extremely nice and polished host for the behind the scenes tour. It is an extra at $55 per person but was well worth it, not sure of the charge  though I really wanted to do it. However it was an amazing experience and quickly became one of the highlights of my cruise , I am interested in working onboard a ship in the future and have always had a passion for cruise ships and cruising. Love learning about behind the scenes.  We met with the Hotel Director who gave an overview of what it means to run a cruise ship in the 21st century and about Norwegian Jade. We then headed into the crew areas, neat to see the lavish colours and fabrics of the passenger areas into the simple white and steel of the crew areas. We headed into the Laundry where we met both the Executive Housekeeper & Laundry Master. Both very nice men who explained the housekeeping and laundry runnings of the ship. Saw many machines including the machine they fold linens and sheets with, the giant washers and dryers holding over 200 pounds of laundry each cycle! The laundry attendants giving us demonstrations throughout the area. We then headed up into the Stardust main theatre for a tour with the Artistic Director in charge of the shows and entertainment onboard. Got a look at the soundboards, behind the scenes and headed into the backstage seeing the costumes, dressing rooms, set pieces, lighting and more! I absolutely loved this as a big theatre fan. Standing on the stage was a thrill. I got to know him and would say Hi throughout the cruise and at the shows, gave him a nice comment card where the crew member is rewarded at the end, for him and one of the great agents at the reception desk from Germany. We took a lunch break and were served orange juice, Mimosa cocktails (my favourite) and sandwiches in the Asian restaurant.  We then moved into the galleys (kitchens) onboard with a tour of the Main Galley serving the main dining rooms with the Executive Chef from my country of Canada near to where I live. He has a staff of 400 who work in the galleys and preperation areas and 265 waiters and servers throughout the ship, a huge department! We saw racks that hold 800 deserts enjoyed nightly in the dining rooms, the many special kitchen areas including the diet area for special requirements and more. Then met the Provisions Master deeper below in the ship and the Provisions Team who carry the 7000 items needed onboard and the masses of food including 6000 eggs and many 8 kg containers of ice cream to name a few things. We walked into fridges, freezers and storage areas to see where all is stored with the products from around the world. Everyone very friendly to us. We then met the Environmental Officer who ensures the ship is following all environmental procedures onboard and for waste management. We saw the waste management systems and met some of the Environmental Operators, as the shipboard garbage men are called. Operating on three 8 hour shifts they receive and process all waste and garbage appropriately from all areas of the ship.  Then the crowning highlight we met the Staff Captain after passing the many high security doors to the bridge!! Such an experience I will always remember, standing where they drive and monitor all the giant ship's operations, systems, safety equipment, doors, fire prevention systems and more. We saw the helm of the ship, met the watchmen and the First Officer along with the Staff Captain and the Captain himself can drive the ship. Saw the bridge wings where they pull into port and the many systems, what a wonder and a exceptional tour before we returned back to our side of the ship!  Had a rasberry martini, my first cruise drink I ordered! Delicious. Then the Artistic Director came across me and invited me to attend the rehearsal for that night's show , the cast warming up and doing their sound checks with the orchestra, a good experience.  Checked out other areas of the ship and hit the hot tubs, loved the pool area at night with soft music and the waterslide! Then headed to Teppenyaki (see above) for dinner, a memorable experience I reccomend! Extremely popular onboard. Then saw the Broadway style show all about an older time in the US and relationships, very well done. The theatre is well designed as a completely obstruction free theatre with only small supports for the balconies on either side of the stage. Finished the night with the beautiful library and casino I checked out. Love sea days!  Day 3- Oslo, NorwayFrom my balcony watched as the ship made her way into port in Oslo right alongside downtown passed the beautiful surroundings, Norway defintley has scenery! Had long been interested in Scandinavia and was excited to be here. Had breakfast at the Grand Pacific with great Dutch seat mates and enjoyed the eggs benedict. Was in a bit of a rush for my shore excursion but I had a lighter breakfast and the wait staff were quite good when I told them I had a tour to get to. Then met for my Nordic Traditions shore excursion to explore Norway! A great guide we had and we explored the Vigeland scultpure park with more than 300 intricately carved sculptures signifying our lives as humans on Earth. Very green and graceful. We then drove through the centre of Oslo and saw their brand new opera house they are very proud of where you can walk on the roof! We headed to the Kon Tiki museum to see the famed ship that crossed the Pacific made of reeds and its later modern day voyage in a replica! We also went to a Viking era museum with outdoor replicas pioneer village style and its art gallery to see authentic Norwegian artwork and furniture.  I then wandered the area surrounding the port saw the Noble Peace Prize Museum though was closed , wandered the harbour and the Akershus Castle, a spectacular historic fortress directly across the street from the pier. Enjoyed a traditional Norwegian Style hot dog with mustard, went shopping for their handmade wool clothing and more. Explored the downtown and its parks before returning to the ship. Enjoyed Norway, a quieter serene country with nice albeit a little more serious people. Enjoyed lunch at the Blue Lagoon (see above) for chicken wings as an appetizer and fish and chips, two good items to have onboard I thought!  Then refreshed at my room and got ready for my spa appointment. Headed over to the Ying and Yang Spa, the full service spa & beauty salon onboard. Muted colours and beautiful floors and most of all people there. Cruising out of Norway had this calm light blue shaded waters, perfect view from the spa! I had booked an appointment for the Go Smile teeth whitening. Got the discounted price of $179 plus the 18% service fee, and I gave a little extra tip. The regular price is $199, far less than the $600-700 on land! Filled out the questionaire regarding my teeth and waited in the serenity of the spa. My first spa experience onshore or sea!  The Canadian Assistant Spa Manager once she was ready let me know and led me into one of the pretty treatment rooms. Did the preperation and cotton with a mouthguard and then did the actual whitening with a small light and with the whitening material. Quite painless, sometimes felt something and she added more cotton. She was very nice and we had a great chat about cruising and the spa. I then thanked her and got a $20 thermal suite pass for the next sea day I had seen when I toured Norwegian Pearl and wanted to try. They put a sticker on the back your cruise card and you can come and go as much as you want that day or get a full cruise pass for $75. Enjoyed a great dinner at Alizar and then headed to the Monte Carlo night which didn't work out, see below. Headed to the 24 hour fitness centre for some treadmill time and cooled off with an iced towel they have there. The changerooms are spacious and include private showers and steamrooms. Fitness classes and seminars are offered here. At charge private training and nutrition planning with the fitness instructors is also available.  Day 4- Copenhagen, Denmark Had a big brunch at the Garden Cafe and then headed to my balcony as we pulled into Copenhagen, Denmark. Looked around the multicoloured buildings and the buzz of Copenhagen surrounding us, we were at the pier slightly away from the downtown but taxis & sightseeing buses were readily available. Saw Celebrity Century and Jewel of the Seas docked at the other pier nearby. Took the popular double decker sightseeing bus that were parked by the ship and went for a whiz through Copenhagen seeing the many palaces, fountains and areas of the central part of the city. Especially loved Denmark, such a vibrant and friendly country filled with energy and plans for the future. Refreshed back at the ship and left again to go on the Copenhagen Highlights & Ice Bar shore excursion. We had an amazing tour guide. We headed on a coach with her then while waiting for the bus she gave us excellent insight into Copenhagen and the country of Denmark as a whole.  The coach then headed off into the city, we took a stop at the famed Little Mermaid statue, a symbol the Danes like but also like others to recognize other places. Sleek and sexy she stands by the vibrant harbour area we discovered. Headed into central Copenhagen and went into Nyhavn, the fabulous high energy tourism and young people heart of Copenhagen. Lined with cafes, restaurants, clubs and bars along the canals of the city. We stopped to see the harbour area with the new opera house, concert hall and the under construction theatre, walked along the cobblestone walkways. Saw the intricate Amalienborg Gardens and the quarter of Amalienborg Palaces- one the Queen and the Price of the Kingdom of Denmark, one for their family, one for the Prince & his family soon to live in and one as a guest house!! Then the highlight we went to the Ice Hotel and entered the Absolut Ice Bar!! Kept a cool -20 degrees Celsius and completely carved of ice minus the steel floor for safety I and the other guests greatly enjoyed the bar!! We had our choice of brightly coloured vodka drinks served in glasses carved out of ice. Ice sculptures, bar stools and glowing celings and walls all ice was so special. Then continued into the canals and alleys and main hub and train station of Copenhagen during rush hour, I felt this excursion and the tour company did a sensational job and the excursion really gave quite an in depth look at Denmark along with my earlier double decker tour. Loved Denmark!!!  Then boarded and headed for dinner. Had been eyeing the menu of Le Bistro the French restaurant and walked right in with a one of a kind table by this large French painting. Had a fabulous gourmet dinner there. Had foie gras for the very first time, very smooth! Then had my favourite of French onion soup all done nicely wish a cheese crust followed by orange duck with truffle sauce, mashed potatoes and vegetables. Great French decor in here, a peaceful restaurant, really enjoyed it there. Then headed to the giant observation lounge- Spinaker. Brightly coloured room with funky furniture abounds for the signature NCL White Hot Party! It was a great event with low lighting, the theatre performers doing a dance number. Glowing ice sculptures, funky decorations, crew with the special White Hot shirts on for sale and a big dance floor! It was lots of fun. As they say on the big screens "Ice Ice Baby" ! Also saw an amazing magician doing incredible tricks! I then unwound with room service movies & pizza. Something nice NCL does in the staterooms is having 24 hour complimentary movies, not pay per view like some cruise lines. Good new releases, excellent!  Day 5- At Sea Awoke to the dark waters of the North Sea and enjoyed breakfast at the Garden Cafe, got a perfectly cooked omlette from the chef at an action station and headed all the way aft to eat above the stern with the rolling wake far below! Then headed to the spa and checked in for the thermal suite. They scanned my cruise card and I showed them my sticker, gave me a terry cloth robe and led me to the Male Thermal Suite. To the left is the Male Thermal Suite, in between is the unisex area and to the right the Female Thermal Suite. You are given a locker key for your own locker for the duration. Each thermal suite has a multitude of amenities for that type of deep relaxation, serenity and quiet. There's a steamroom, sauna with ocean views, deluxe bathrooms with special spa products, special showers with either a warm tropical shower or an ice mist I liked. There are private showers and an ice cold plunge pool and hot tub filled to overflowing. A relaxation area overlooking the bow of the ship with floor to celing panoramic views forward. Then you can enter the unisex area with a grouping of luxurious heated tile thermal loungers! Tiled chairs that are curved to your body and heated. A hydrotherapy pool with lounge chairs plunged in the pool for the ultimate relaxation.  I continued the water theme and headed to the pool area, fun  quieter when in the cooler climates of Northern Europe but still a good spot. Tried out the twisting waterslide! Then headed for lunch of pork pasta and more at a window seat in Grand Pacific! Went for a sushi tasting comp for the small group of us that attended and sake tasting at the sushi bar, great to try the variety of sushi. Back in my stateroom enjoyed the balcony which I did many times through the cruise and got my laundry I had put in. The laundry was waiting all folded and in tissue in a basket. and a hanger. They also have an embarkation special with unlimited to fill the bag with laundry for one price.Then headed back to the thermal suite for another while to relax more. Headed to my favourite Alizar for a final dinner greeted by the hosts from India & China that now knew me. Enjoyed a mimosa again! Then headed to the Farewell show with a great show with all the crew and Liu again the host starting things off, will keep it a surprise but they show you how to farewell the Norwegian Way!  For the Freestyle Disembarkation, it is easy going. You can pick up the newsletter a condensed version from the usual Freestyle Daily newsletter with all the going ons onboard. You pick up by the reception desk one of quite a number of colour coded luggage tags. You choose the time you wish to embark. The time if you do the NCL transfers (shuttles) to the airport are suggested. I took the appropriate ones attatched them to my luggage and needed to have the checked luggage out in the hallway by 10:00pm.  Day 6- Return to Rotterdam & Disembarkation I awoke to us arriving back into Rotterdam, went on the balcony for a bit! Looked over the special final day Freestyle Daily. They had several drinks on offer from the bar, the swimming pools & photo gallery open as the lounges and atrium area. The buffet restaurants were open where I had breakfast and Mamas Italian Restaurant open as I found out it was daily for additional seating, got to see what the restaurant looked like. A cozy Italian countryside feel with big wooden tables, Italian paintings and cookware. I did as the newsletter suggested and relaxed on a deck chair for a while, one lady walked by and smiled how relaxed I looked, why not? As it got closer to the time I moved to the atrium until my colour was called. Made my way down to the promenade deck, the Hotel Director and our wonderful British Cruise Director Karen Maybury bid farewell as we scanned the card with security and cleared customs. The Dutch woman remembered me from check in said hello. Then walked outside and quickly found the coach for the NCL transfer back to the Amsterdam airport for my flight back to London, England for several final days.   Comments I did have an amazing time but there is always room for improvement. One thing I noticed is NCL is more promotional of their onboard products than other cruise lines which can be a bit much at times for people that have already paid good money for their cruise. I know onboard amenities are important for the cruise line but I feel NCL should tone things down a little more in line with other cruise lines. Being in the travel business I am familiar with it and still know their cruise fare is more important and 3/4. The main part of the ship in the area of atrium and in various parts of the ships there are display cases which are promoting the various extra services and products onboard including the specialty restaurants, spa services and more. This is okay but the number of display cases seemed to be a bit much. Having toured Norwegian Pearl last month at a cruise conference I felt the same about the display cases onboard her. Also one night in the theatre just prior to the show the cruise staff were promoting a $25 lottery ticket & pull tab package, cruise staff were in the audience, I would say I saw maybe 2-3 people go in on it of the 1000 + guests in the theatre. There are more announcements than I'vse seen before that granted mention the other events onboard but always mention extra services.  With regards to dining NCL does have more than the norm of 2-3 specialty restaurants with 8 specialty options onboard. Still an option and I loved the variety and creativity and the dining rooms and buffets remain in good stead. However most often you would be offered sparkling or bottled water for $4.50 at the start of your meal, people know they can get alcohol at charge but having to say you want regular water for something so simple seems silly all the time. I prefered on Royal Caribbean where you knew you could get bottled water but they just automatically gave you ice water. Some people would get confused that the waters they were offering were at charge vs regular ice water.   The Monte Carlo night in the future I wouldn't attend, it also was all about promotions at the same time promoting the casino where it was held, not a true party or what I would say is a cruise experience. I left after a few minutes. On my Royal Caribbean cruise they had towel animals every night and turn down service which was wonderful. NCL only did the towel animal one night  which was fun but included a flyer about a towel animal book to buy and would lay expensive Columbian Emeralds jewelery flyers on the bed at turn down sometimes. These perks of cruising such as towel animals, turn down & seeing a show people should just enjoy without promotions. People understand cruising isn't all inclusive and there are extras to choose from onboard in addition to the cruise fare but they also don't want promotion to be overdone. NCL still has all the other services other cruise lines do and can promote like they do but should take it down a notch I feel. Their guests have already paid their cruise fare and flights or transportation to get there. My onboard account in the end was essentially the same as Royal Caribbean even with the extra promotion. People understand cruising isn't completely all inclusive and there are extras to choose from onboard in addition to the cruise fare but they also don't want promotion to be overdone. In travel courses we learn cruising is approximately 80% inclusive.  Conclusions  I had an amazing time onboard Norwegian Jade in Scandinavia and greatly enjoyed discovering a new cruise line and part of the world with them. The 5 nights was a good duration to fit into my other travel plans in Europe, not too short but still a good duration to also allow time for my other plans. When the cruise is the only part of the trip longer cruises for sure are wonderful but when doing other plans 5 nights I learned is a perfect fit I would do again. Some guests added nights in Amsterdam or other European cities or continued with the following 3 night cruise to with 1 sea day and visiting Le Havre (Paris) & the Channel Islands ending in Southampton, England for a 8 night cruise. 5 nights is long enough to enjoy and explore all the ship has to offer and with 2 sea days & 2 ports was a great fit. My comments section denotes some improvements that I feel would make it even better.  Norwegian Cruise Line and its trademark Freestyle Cruising has a special style. Norwegian Jade is a well run ship with great crew & staff and atmosphere happening with many creative activities and dining options onboard. It was fun trying a balcony stateroom this time, I enjoyed the added space and having a beautiful balcony to see the ship come into ports & the ocean views.  Seeing oil rigs glowing in the night in the North Sea , the first time I've ever seen another type of floating city at sea of another variety was exciting. Being my first cruise as a single was wonderful, you meet people throughout your cruise but also are able to enjoy time and relaxation on your own which I appreciated. The crew & staff were good to see how you were doing and making sure you were having a great time. I would cruise single again, no problem and am interested in NCL now. I absolutely love cruising and its my favourite form of travel, its an exceptional experience with people from across the world on this sensational floating palace.Thank you NCL & Norwegian Jade!! Best wishes.  Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
This was to be my first time on a new NCL Freestyle cruising ship. I didn't know what to expect and wondered if it would suit me as I have been used to the more traditional cruise vacation. I arrived at the Port of Rotterdam at 1230 ... Read More
This was to be my first time on a new NCL Freestyle cruising ship. I didn't know what to expect and wondered if it would suit me as I have been used to the more traditional cruise vacation. I arrived at the Port of Rotterdam at 1230 midday and was given a yellow card with a number 25 on it. I was told to take a seat in the waiting area until my number was called. I was only waiting for 15 minutes and then proceeded to the check in counter. The process was quick and efficient by friendly NCL staff. Rotterdam Terminal is not the best and needs a face lift. As I boarded you couldn't help but admire the Gem. As you enter the ship you are greeted by rich colors and smiling staff. I proceeded to my stateroom which was to be a Balcony BC grade on deck 9. Cabin number 9168 which is at the back of the ship. I opened the door and right away was more than happy with the look and size. The most impressive thing that stood out to me were the bathrooms. It is the first time that I have seen the toilet with a sliding glass door to separate it from the rest of the bathroom. A great idea. The showers are hot and powerful which is what you would expect from Grohe!! These bathrooms are standard even in the lower categories and this puts NCL ahead in my opinion. All plug sockets are American 2 pin so if your from the UK/Europe you will need adapters. All staterooms have Flatscreen HDTV with a good selection of TV channels although I would have liked to have seen Sky News or BBC World available and not just Fox News !! The air conditioning system is good and has a 'quick cool' button if you want instant temperature reduction. Plenty of wardrobe space and hangers are available and a easy to use safe. The beds were very comfortable with good pillows that provide good support. I decided to then go to the top of the ship and work my way down. I wanted to familiarize myself with the facilities on offer. Deck 14 and 15 had plenty of sun deck space with nice new loungers. Also the rock climbing wall is here. Then down to deck 13 for the Spinnaker lounge, the decor is quite eye opening to put it mildly but is a really nice place to chill by day and socialize by night. Cagneys Steak house is a must and did not disappoint. The meal I had there was amazing and the food exceeded all expectations. Deck 12 houses the Spa and it really is a tranquil place to come to at least a few times during your cruise. The hydro pool is very inviting and the hot ceramic loungers are most welcoming. The sauna I saw in the mens changing rooms was really nice and a good size. It looks out to sea and was the ideal temperature. The spa has all the normal facilities with Elemis treatments etc... The Library was well stocked and a nice place to come for peace and quiet. Next door is the card room very similar to other cruise lines. The Tahitian Pool is really nice and the hot tubs are a good place to spend a few hours to wind down and relax the muscles. The swimming pool is heated to a comfortable temperature. The water slide is fun and I have to admit I tried it Once! The loungers have really soft mattresses and look really well. On either side of the ship in the pool area they have these double bed like chairs where you can relax and even take a siesta. I thought they were a brilliant idea. The grill served hot dogs hamburgers and salads which were of a good standard and fresh. The Garden cafe was really nice and the amount of choice was impressive. I had the best Indian lunch there in a long time. There was always a wide choice of Chicken,Beef,Pork,Fish dishes with soups,salads,desserts and the Pecan Ice cream is a must. On a sunny day take your food to the back of the Garden Cafe 'The Great Outdoors' where you can sit outside which was really nice. All of the restaurants are impressive in design. I managed to eat in the Grand Pacific dining room,Cagneys Steak house and Lotus Garden. Grand Pacific is your traditional cruise ship main dining experience and the food was of a high standard and service was also good. Cagneys as stated above was amazing. Lotus Garden was a real gourmet experience and the Chinese dishes were all presented in a unique way. You will know what I mean when you dine there. The choice was huge and it was hard to decide what dish to go for as they all looked so good. I went for the Chicken Satays with peanut sauce for starter then the beef Szechuan strips with chicken fried rice. It was perfect and service was second to none. On this particular cruise the restaurants , especially Cagneys and Orchid got really busy between 8pm and 9pm. Best to make reservations. The Teppanyaki looked very impressive but I didn't have enough time to try it although I would love to in future. Down to Deck 8 where the Blue Lagoon is housed and offers 24 hour dining. I went one night at 11pm and decided to try the Singapore Fried rice with chicken,shrimp and pork. It was simply delicious and makes a great snack at anytime. There was also fish and chips in a basket which I thought was a great idea. The bowling alley and nightclub are impressive. The nightclub has private VIP areas with four poster beds and other such novelties. The DJ was very good and knew how to get a crowd on the dance floor. The show on both nights was 'Worldbeat' which was a mix of Greek,Irish, American and Japanese music fused into one 45 minute presentation. It was very professional and for someone that doesn't really go to alot of shows , I went to the same show on both nights so that says it all. The Java Cafe and the crystal Atrium are really nice meeting places. This area houses the reception,shore excursion desk,internet cafe and cashier. The Java Cafe does a mean cappuccino and is well worth a visit. I was lucky enough to see most types of cabins with the highlight being the Courtyard Villas. As you enter you just go 'WOW'. It is pure luxury and offers the ultimate 5 star cruise vacation experience. The facilities on offer are mind blowing and if your budget can stretch to it then why not. They are like apartments, in fact they are bigger than some apartments I have seen!! So what's my impression?? Well before I got on board I was wondering if the vibrant colors and 'different' furnishings would be to my taste and would I find it all a bit too much. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised because NCL have got it right, they know what they are doing. It really does work and creates the perfect vacation environment. Would I go on NCL again ?? Yes I really have to say I'm seriously thinking about booking the Gem for my next vacation. The FreeStyle experience has changed my opinion of what I want from my cruise vacation and has opened up a whole new world to me. I love the idea of dine when you want with whom you want and being able to choose whether to wear a suit or just go smart casual. For all of you lucky people booked on Gem prepare to be amazed!! Read Less
Sail Date October 2007
We did use the Gem one nighter from Rotterdam - Dover just to see the new ship and compare it to the pearl, which we did use in february for 9 nights . Transfer to Port of Rotterdam is very easy .. Just fly into Amsterdam and use the train ... Read More
We did use the Gem one nighter from Rotterdam - Dover just to see the new ship and compare it to the pearl, which we did use in february for 9 nights . Transfer to Port of Rotterdam is very easy .. Just fly into Amsterdam and use the train .. runs every 20 minutes and then it is a short ride by metro. As we did leave the station , the Gem was right in front of us .. only a 2 minutes walk. the Cruise terminal is a little bit older but we did check in in the first group at 11.30 am and were on the ship within 2 minutes. The cabins and layout is a 100% copy of the pearl, which is a good thing .. we booked an inside at Deck 9 which was just fine for the few hours of sleep we wanted to catch . The overall colors on board have been toned down just a little bit compared to the pearl , so it looks very sparkling and animating . It was actually the 2nd night they were running the boat for passengers and we were highly impressed with the service and stuff on board. Everything was running smoothly , bar service, casino , restaurants .. We did choose the Garden Cafe for an early lunch and the food was outstanding and presented very nicely ... We did like the indian dishes and the soup varieties best .... but naturally there were all kinds of salads, burgers, roasts ... pizza/pasta station available .. In the evening we went to Magenta and really liked the atmosphere .. a little bit more light and colors than in the sister restaurant Indigo at the pearl made the difference. The service was immaculate ... food was well prepared, my lamb rack was melting in the mouth .. We were amazed how well everything was working together .. if you did not know you would think this crew was running the boat for at least a couple of months ... not much to improve .. We booked our transfer from Dover to London by bus in advance with NCL and everything worked pretty well .. it is a 3 hours drive so be prepared .. Read Less
Sail Date October 2007
We flew the day before from London to Rotterdam with British Airways, It is so easy so have a direct fight from London. We arrived in Rotterdam and made our own way to the Hilton Rotterdam by tramway. The cost was around 3.50 euro per ... Read More
We flew the day before from London to Rotterdam with British Airways, It is so easy so have a direct fight from London. We arrived in Rotterdam and made our own way to the Hilton Rotterdam by tramway. The cost was around 3.50 euro per person. We booked an executive room as you pay a bit more but receive a lot more advantages like drinks and nibbles, breakfast. On the morning of the mini cruise, we walked all the way to the ship to burn the calories from the breakfast. That way we could also see the hull and the design from Peter Max. I found the design very nice. The embarkation process in Rotterdam was very disorganised. No proper lines to enter the cruise terminal, nobody from NCL around. Dutch people who don't know where to start a line and just jump in or push to get in front of you. The port of Rotterdam staff need to go to the USA for some training. We were handed a colour card to give you access to the ship as they arranged boarding by colour. When we finally arrived in the terminal, we went directly to the Latitude check-in area. One lady was asking us to wait while the checking agent was asking for us to go to the desk. Again no organisation. We finally boarded the ship 30 minutes after we checked in. When we arrived aboard, one of us went directly to the room to put or bags and the other one went to book the restaurant Moderno for that evening. We were in a mini suite and we could not really tell the difference with a normal balcony stateroom. Just that you have a larger bathroom and a better shower. The balcony was very small. Tea and coffee facilities were available in the room. We went for lunch to the Garden Cafe before the rush. The food selection was amazing. You could find for every taste. Asian, Indian, pasta, sandwiches, salads, burgers,... The quality was excellent too. For me one of the best buffer at sea. We started to tour the ship. The ship was very clean, all the staff aboard were smiling and saying hello. This is going a long way with us and from that we can see that the staff is very happy. The ship was very nice. Maybe a bit of lack of space at the pool area. I could not imagine a day at sea in the Caribbean. It would have been packed. The pools are very small too for a ship of this size. The boat drill at 3.30pm was a bit chaotic. The sail away from Rotterdam was very nice. For dinner we went to Moderno, the Brazilian restaurant. The service and the food were excellent. Well worth paying the $20. If you are a vegetarian, do not go there as you would only be able to eat the salad bar. After dinner, we went to see the show. We were a bit disappointed that Rock of Ages was cancelled due to the lead singer being a bit sick. The replacement show was excellent. 10 out of 10. Again one of the best show at sea. In the evening, we walked around the ship and discover the ambiance aboard. We went to the martini bar and decided to have a cocktail there and listen to the pianist. The lady had a great voice. A shame that some rude Dutch people could not stop screaming. They were drunk and they should have been asked to leave the area. Also one inconvenient from the area was the smell of people smoking in the casino. The morning of disembarkation, we decided to go to the Garden Cafe for breakfast. The place was full and this with only 2000 passengers aboard. I could not imagine if the ship would have been full. We didn't have the choice than to seat in the outside area. Disembarkation was again a bit chaotic. Would I spend a week aboard NCL Breakaway, maybe I would. I am not decided yet. Did it get the wow factor like our week aboard Oasis of the Seas. No. Did it get our wow factor to compare with NCL Epic. Yes. My 3 tops on this one night cruise: - The great staff of Norwegian Breakaway - The excellent food served - The excellent show My 3 downsize: - The checking was disorganised - The smoking areas inside the ship and outside the ship - You can't find a quiet corner if you would like to read a book Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
NCL newest ship The Norwegian Breakaway just completed its first 1 night cruise from Rotterdam to Southampton and I was one of the lucky ones on this maiden cruise. I will give you a full and detailed review of the ship. Firstly the ... Read More
NCL newest ship The Norwegian Breakaway just completed its first 1 night cruise from Rotterdam to Southampton and I was one of the lucky ones on this maiden cruise. I will give you a full and detailed review of the ship. Firstly the ship itself is much better looking than its sister Epic but still its not so eye catching as some may want. The Waterfront promenade from what I saw does not seem to offer more than seats outside an restaurant or entertainment venue. There is the ice cream parlour on this promenade. When the ship sails in warmer climates the limited number of seats outside will be taken quickly or maybe pre bookable. I think that this a let down. Inside the 3 deck Atrium which houses the majority of entertainment, dining and services is in my opinion very plain. This is the same all over the same, it just very plain in decor. Nothing that says wow. By putting more dining and entertainment venues this has made all them all small. For example the Bliss night club was packed and there were only 1575 guests on this short cruise, what will happen when the ship is full. The same goes for dining options The Mahatten Room with its dance floor and one of the 3 main dining rooms was 'red' ie fully booked for 2 hours and Taste and Savor (the other 2 main dining rooms) were nearly full. This leads me on to the Buffet which on boarding was a bit chaotic again not enough seats and the rectangle layout is not so good. Again this area is not themed and lacks any decor. The food in all dining options was good, cooked well and enjoyable. Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy Dinner Show is worth the $29.99 standard seating fee or $39.99 premium fee. The menu is a set menu of 3 courses starting with a Salad, followd by Surt n Turf (jumbo battered prawns with steak, a piece of broccoli and half jacket potato with the inners taken out and reput in masked) followed by a Trio of little cakes/desserts on a long dish. The show itself lasts 90 minutes and this is non stop so you have to watch and eat at the same time, there are no pauses such as in Cirque Dreams on Dinner. There is no speaking in the show and no such story line- just very good acrobots, over 300 costumes and recorded music. This is still very enjoyable. I was in a Studio stateroom/cabin and these are bigger than on Epic. I was actually surprised on the size of them and at a push you could just fit 2 adults on the bed. Just like on Epic the shower and toilet are separate. Some of these cabins have connecting doors. Rock of Ages was not shown on this cruise and instead we had the other Broadway show they perform 'Burn the Floor'. if you like Strictly Come Dancing you will like this. Along with singing it mainly consists dancing, more dancing and more dancing. Not really my cup of tea but it was performed well. The casino on the ship is the biggest at the sea with more slot machines than I saw in my whole Las Vegas trip. The machines start at 1 cent a spin going up to $25 for those with deep pockets. There are a wide range of table games from the usual Roulette, Poker etc. The outside pool is on the small side again more space is taken up with the 5 big water slides than fill up half of the top deck. They were open but it was a bit cold to use. The Ropes courses with The Walk The Plank was good and enjoyable though the crew said that if the sea is anything more than choppy and the slip is slightly moving up or down or rocking this will be closed. It is too dangerous otherwise. The Spa with the worlds first Salt Bath at sea is large and well equipped with also houses the gym (on two sides, one has a seaview the other hasn't just a mirror). A day pass for the spa was $20. Fat Cats and Slaam Allen (from Epic) was onboard and performing and still as good as I remember it. Duelling Pianos is back along with the Comedy Club. Bliss Nightclub is too small and only about 10 seats. Breakfast in Savour main dining was good but service was bit on the slow side and they were not busy. Crew on this were as the cruise director put it 'The Best of the Best', the majority had transferred from Epic. I saw a lot of faces I had seen before. I was lucky enough to see a range of cabins/staterooms as they were getting ready for Travel Agents ship visits, the suites are well equipped but have tiny balconies. Overall a good 1 night cruise but the ship is not so pleasing to the eye inside and NCL in making so many different things to do/eat have made so small that people will not get a seat or even get in a venue. Any questions please ask. Quality of Food 4 OUT OF 5 Entertainment 4 OUT OF 5 Shore Excursions n/a Staff 5 OUT OF 5 Children's Facilities N/A Onboard Activities 4 OUT OF 5 Cabins 4 OUT OF 5 Overall Rating 4 OUT OF 5 Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
Overnight, Rotterdam to Southampton There's no doubt about it: Norwegian Epic is a beautiful ship. The crew are wonderful, the food is excellent and the entertainment is probably the best you'll ever see at sea. The bad news is ... Read More
Overnight, Rotterdam to Southampton There's no doubt about it: Norwegian Epic is a beautiful ship. The crew are wonderful, the food is excellent and the entertainment is probably the best you'll ever see at sea. The bad news is the embarkation at Rotterdam took almost four hours and was the most chaotic we've ever encountered in all the years we've been cruising and the disembarkation at Southampton wasn't much better. And the much-vaunted "wave" cabins leave quite a lot to be desired. It has to be said, though, that the positives far outweigh the negatives and even though it was just one epic night on the Epic, my wife and I had a fantastic time (when we finally did get aboard). So let's get the negatives out of the way first. To be fair to NCL, there was a technical problem with a propeller shaft on the ship, so part of the delay in checking us in may have been down to them deciding what was going to be done. The fault meant that our voyage took about five hours longer than scheduled (though for us that was a bonus as it meant we got to sample even more of the ship!). But we had to queue in a long line for almost two hours outside the terminal to have our documents checked and be given a coloured card before we were allowed in to the building and up the escalators to actually check in. We then queued in another long line for another hour, listening to announcements calling for passengers with different colour cards to begin embarkation, before we were finally all told that it was actually the check in that was by the colour of our card and we should all sit down till it was called. As we did, more and more people came up the escalators and joined the long line we had just left! Total chaos with a complete lack of any organisation. Getting off at Southampton was nearly as bad - just one gangway was open to get everyone off, and because everyone's key card had to be scanned a huge queue soon built up. Fortunately someone had the good sense to open another gangway further down the ship but it still took almost 45 minutes to disembark. All this is (hopefully) a one-off with a port NCL don't use very often (Rotterdam) and a new ship. But a much bigger negative is the "wave" cabin. They have curvy walls and where the wall curves out, the wall in the adjacent cabin curves in, and vice versa. The theory is that by putting the bed in the space where the wall curves out, the cabin can be narrower and deeper than standard cabins but appear to be as spacious. The reality, though, is that it doesn't. Both my wife and I had the same thought when we first stepped through the door: "It's a bit narrow, isn't it!" Even worse, there's a "no passing zone" bottleneck at the foot of the bed, which means that even with just two people in the cabin, you're forever getting in each other's way. I don't know how a family with children would manage - or even if I could for more than a week. Another big problem is the lack of a proper bathroom. The tiny washbasin is situated in the main part of the room, not far from the "no passing zone" at the foot of the bed, while the shower and toilet are opposite each other just inside the room's doorway (both concealed by sliding translucent glass doors). More modest types can spare their blushes with a curtain that pulls across to hide the area from the rest of the cabin but it does mean that when you have a shower all the water that normally ends up on the bathroom floor now ends up on the cabin floor. It's not helped by the fact that all the towels are stored by the washbasin in the main cabin anyway. So if you forget to pick up a towel before you step into the shower, stand by for a flood! The plus about the cabins, though, is that they are nicely decorated in an elegant, modern fashion, there's plenty of storage space and they have quite a big flat screen LCD TV. And the bed is really comfortable. Five stars all round in that respect. Now for the positives. Apart from the flaws in the cabin mentioned above and the embarkation/disembarkation Norwegian Epic deserves five stars all round. I don't know whether NCL picked the crew from the best of the crews on their other ships, but it certainly feels like they did. And best of all everyone we saw looked really happy and excited to be working on the Epic. We tried to sample as many of the dining options and as much of the entertainment as we could in our limited time and it was all excellent. We had (a very delayed) lunch in the Garden Cafe buffet after lifeboat drill on the first day and the variety of food available was probably the best we've seen in any ship's buffet. Lunch on the second day (because of our extended voyage time) was in the main Manhattan Room restaurant and again was first rate - and made even more enjoyable by a special performance of Legends In Concert, an excellent tribute show featuring the likes (or should that be look-alikes) of Madonna, Elvis, Tina Turner et all. And for breakfast we went to O'Sheehan's Bar and Grill, the 24-hour cafe, and had their excellent country breakfast. And as for dinner, well, we had it at the very best show we've ever seen on board a ship - and one of the best we've ever seen on land either: Cirque Dreams. Think Cirque du Soleil in a much more intimate fashion and then some. It's billed as the first "big top" at sea, and it's a dazzling two hours of acrobats, muscle men, trapeze artists, music and comedy all taking place in a 10ft-wide circular area in the middle of the room just feet away from the audience at their dinner tables. Even the waiters take part in the show - as do some lucky people plucked out of the audience by the cast. Like me - I got to play the bells in one of the musical numbers! Before that, we saw the excellent Second City comedy and improv show, from the legendary Chicago breeding ground of many of America's top comedy stars, like Bill Murray and Tina Fey from 30 Rock to name just two. It's very American and as there were a lot of Dutch, German and French passengers on board the audience was quite small - but those who didn't go missed a damn fine show. After Cirque Dreams we tried to get in to see the end of the Blue Man show but the theatre was packed out, so instead we stopped by Howl At The Moon, billed as "the world's greatest rock 'n' roll duelling piano show," for one quick drink and were certainly glad we did - we were still there two and a half hours later having fun singing some of the greatest songs of the last 50 years in another amazing show. So there you have it. Norwegian Epic, the good the bad and the beautiful, and definitely well worth a try. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
What a trip certainly the GOOD the BAD and the UGLY. Let's get the UGLY out the way yes the EPIC will never win any prizes for her external looks - slab slided like many with the Garden Villa's perched on top adding to the odd ... Read More
What a trip certainly the GOOD the BAD and the UGLY. Let's get the UGLY out the way yes the EPIC will never win any prizes for her external looks - slab slided like many with the Garden Villa's perched on top adding to the odd look. The trip on Sunday to Rotterdam was a breeze we got the Eurostar at 1157 and caught our connection in Brussels at 1518 and were in our Hotel room by 1710 so 4 hours 10 minutes allowing for time difference. Hotel Manhattan was in a great location and for a small charge we got an upgrade to the executive floor with free bar. Let's say we more than drank the amount charged. Ate out at a restaurant suggested by the hotel and the food was good. On Monday had a good breakfast - which was to prove a smart move. We walked down from the hotel knowing that their should be some good options for photos as we crossed the Erasmus bridge. So first sight was a bit of the GOOD and the UGLY, GOOD the EPIC is here, UGLY the external view of the EPIC. As we crossed the bridge it was busy with locals taking pictures. After crossing we were treated to the Erasmus bridge opening. Crossing the bridge gave the first suggestion of problems as a few people stopped us to say they were late getting off. On the E-ticket boarding was from 1000 we got there about 1045. The GOOD - first ticket and passport check nearly empty and get our colour card and head upstairs, the BAD - upstairs in Rotterdam Cruise Terminal very busy odd think I but we find a seat with another group of Brits and do what the Brits do best - yep gossip and moan about the situation. So suddenly just about 1140 they start calling card colours - GOOD. Hang on why aren't those people getting through passport control - BAD who knows as they call more colours. Then a message if you have checked in please sit down until called for embarkation - BAD - problem no seats left as they are filled by new comers so terminal is starting to heave. So our colour is called about 1210 and like all good Brits we charge as a group to the queueing ropes. They had two separate queues each served by about 20 terminals - GOOD think I. Hang on why are all those people still not through passport control - possible BAD looming. BAD - apology announcements start for delayed check in and boarding. I feel an UGLY coming on. UGLY - an announcement - we have suspended check in - so we stand for nearly an hour in the check in queue. Then the announcement we dreaded "EPIC has a problem which will not effect safety but will delay arrival until 1730. You have an option to cancel with refund and cruise credit, if you travel NCL will refund up to 100 euro's per person towards travel arrangements". Suddenly embarkation starts for some and the check in queue moves only 3 in front nearly us. BAD - why are they not calling people forward. UGLY - check in systems and ships security card scan system has failed another 45 minutes going no where you could cut atmosphere in terminal with a knife. By this time rumours of queue outside terminal and facebook and twitter are getting messages from all angles and sources, NCLs facebook is battered black and blue by all and sundry. GOOD - we are on the move again and checked in. Then through yet another passport control and we are on board. GOOD as we feared this cruise would be cancelled after the previous announcements. Who is to blame for the fiasco hard to tell, I think terminal panicked and started check in too early leading to the overcrowding, NCL did not help by not supplying information in the terminal. The Cabin We had a stern facing balcony cabin (9294). First thoughts were that it seemed smaller than the similar Eclipse cabins. OMG look at the toilet and shower - could be interesting. Oh look there is a modesty curtain that will be good sound proofing then. The shower and toilet were functional and the shower powerful. The big but here is the basin is the wrong side of the curtain so when you come out the toilet you touch the curtain before you can wash hands - probable noro virus source in the future I think. Good sized TV with stop start movies, a geek lovers phone to play with. 2 euro and 2 usa sockets hidden in a cupboard with a hole to feed cables up through - an idea which really works and keeps cables tidy. Tea and coffee in the cabin, storage ok not brilliant but not bad, Comfortable bed and some interesting lighting used. Balcony a good size but tiny table. As stern is vertical all balconies are private and cannot be looked down onto. Safe and minibar also in cabin. Hairdryer is powerful. Overall a good cabin if you can see past the shower toilet arrangements. In this instance you want the bed nearest to balcony, not the toilet area. And yes cabin is curvy. Pictures including a using toilet (with clothes on) example later. The vibration at night was terrible and when sailing the noise on the balcony very loud. I would not recommend a stern cabin and would certainly not book one. Many of the NCL favourites are on board we sampled the following. The Garden Cafe for late lunch on Monday and Tuesday breakfast. Very well organised and plenty of duplication of stations so no wait time. Quality of food was good. Head Waiters and Assistant Head Waiters wear head milkes to keep the area flowing and direct you to available seating the highlight is the bow facing sitting area with marvellous views forward. The Moderno Churrascaria Restaurant is a Brazilian style restaurant where your servers serve the meat from skewers. You start with a huge self-service salad and soup bar. Once ready for mains you have a green card face up and the servers start. There is a constant stream of food until you flip the card to red to stop the mains. You also get some sides of rice, garlic mash and re fried beans. Desert was a coconut creme caramel. This is something we have always wanted to try and the experience did not disappoint. More than worth the $18 per person surcharge. For Tuesday lunch we ate coming up the Solent in the Manhattan main restaurant. This is very contemporary styled with understated colours in fact a very beautiful dining room. As an added bonus the Legends (tribute acts were playing) and were really good. They had played the previous evening too and the dinner show or dance concept is a good idea. Bars and Entertainment We sampled a couple of the bars and found the service and selection good. I will add prices when I get the receipts out. H2O spice could be great on a warm evening. We tried the ice bar and enjoyed the experience. The $20 surcharge included 2 strong cocktails so was probably a fair charge for the 45 minutes you do need to book though. Bliss Ultra lounge is a very modern nightclub concept and was really busy. Projected the DJ onto a smoke screen at the front entrance before you go in - very quirky. Howl at the Moon in the comedy bar was great duelling pianos and a lively crowd so was great fun a simple concept that worked. Blue Man group Simply superb and great entertainment we really enjoyed their show. I think the Broadway at sea concept will really catch on across many companies. If pre-booked for the Blue man group you just present your room card at the entrance to the theatre There was lots of live music around the ship. Deck Space There were seats on the promenade deck but with the lifeboats hanging here next to no view. Top decks had a myriad of places to find a lounger as well as multiple flumes and pools, which looked great fun. Other Areas Spa is very large spa and gym certainly bigger than any we have seen at sea with all the usual facilities. Gym included a squash court which has now become an additional gym area rather than a squash court. Theatre - Not as large as you would think comfortable seating and drinks holders at each seat. Casino - verrrrryyyyyyy verrrrryyyyyyy verrrrryyyyyyy large. Shops - A wide selection laid out differently to other ships and they still manage to get the $10 tat out. They were selling at duty free prices with no VAT added. Photo area - Lots of screens but we never managed to try them. Other cabin types We did see into some of the other cabin types and there was not a great difference in size between them. Some had a bath behind the Perspex screens very odd. The studio rooms are a good concept and probably an OK size for one - a full king bed is in there. The lighting changes colour so if a single cabin not to sure about the love lighting mode. Unfortunately we could not get into the suites. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
As we only had one night on board to sample this new ship from NCL I can only give my impressions on what we managed to see and do in the limited time available to us. So very hard to choose which ones to go and do but in the end this is ... Read More
As we only had one night on board to sample this new ship from NCL I can only give my impressions on what we managed to see and do in the limited time available to us. So very hard to choose which ones to go and do but in the end this is the review of our encounter with the not quite finished Norwegian Epic. I will start with the check in as this seems to have caused a bit of stir amongst many people. Our e-doc suggested that embarkation would start at 10.00 a.m. We arrived just after this and initially everything seemed to be running smoothly. We were given a colour coded card (orange) at the initial reception desk outside the terminal and then passed through security in all under about 10 minutes. It was then upstairs to wait for our colour to be called for the actual check in. We waited for near on an hour before the first colour was called and check in started. We were about the fourth group to be called forward. It was only then that the announcements started, initially asking people who had already checked in to take a seat and await their colour to be called again for embarkation. We checked in without problem and moved back to the area we had first waited only to find that now there were no longer any seats available, meaning we had to stand to wait. All the time the girl on the PA was asking people to sit down await the next stage. Quite where she expected us to sit, "God only knows! Anyway not long after that they announced that they were closing the check in desks, we assumed that this was because of the bottle neck that we were now caught up in. Possibly another hour passed before the big announcement was made about the new arrival time at Southampton. Full refunds were offered to those who had arrangements which meant they could not cruise along with an offer of up to €100 per person for any addition costs incurred. All this was conveyed by means of a typed letter which was handed out by NCL personnel. Not a problem for us and more of a bonus as it meant we had an extra 7 hours on board. Eventually embarkation did start but only after another long wait. All in all it took us over 4 hours to go through the embarkation process and when you consider what was going on behind the scenes then I don't see this as a big deal. I have read other stories of people who turned up later and didn't even get into the terminal building until after 1.00 so can only consider our selves lucky by comparison. Given the unprecedented circumstances, I am in the opinion the NCL handled it well enough, sadly though not well enough for many others. After we got on board it was a case of finding our cabin. We found moving round the ship very easy. The main through fares on the lower decks have ample room for all to get around and they also feel spacious too. There are one or two pinch points but none that will hold you up at all. Very interesting to see a pair of escalators between decks 6 & 5. The lifts at the aft don't stop at 5 but you can take the stairs down one flight in that area. The main elevators we used were at the aft and opened directly onto the main central area on decks 6 and 7. I thought this worked well and again gave the impression of space. The decks which contained accommodation had the usual set up for lifts and stairs. Surprised to see the buttons on only one side, not like the new Celebrity Solstice class ship where they are on both sides of the lift door. We found our cabin (9257) but unfortunately the seapass would not open the door. It was a case of going back down to customer relations and getting new cards issued. We were not the only ones that this had happened to either. First thoughts upon gaining entry to the cabin were "Wow". The wave balcony cabin certainly does look fantastic. A mixture of dark wood and mirrors with buff colour upholstery and worktops intermingled. There is loads of storage and hanging. 2 full height mirrors. The one nearest the balcony giving the impression that the balcony is even bigger than it is. Every little area seems to have a space to store something, even the back of the sofa has doors which house life jackets and extra bedding. There are coffee/tea making facilities in the cabin and the sockets are cleverly hidden under the worktop behind a door with a cable port to allow you to stand items on the top. A mini bar and safe are also incorporated into the wall of units which I personally think looks really impressive. I would give the cabin10 out of 10 for design and layout of this area. Now the bad bit, the washing and toilet area has been totally cocked up in my opinion. I will start with the layout of this particular area of the cabin that we stayed in. As you walk into the cabin from the corridor there are opaque glass doors and panels either side of you, one housing the toilet and the other the shower. Both cubicles are accessed by sliding doors and there is a non carpeted wet area between the two. Closing the area off from the main cabin there is a curtain which pulls across to obscure the goings on behind. Unfortunately, this does not cut down any sound especially from the toilet cubicle, either when flushing or conducting any other business. There is a small gap at the top of the doors by the sliding door track which seems to allow all the noises going on behind the panel to transmit to the rest of the cabin. The toilet flush seemed particularly loud even with the door closed. In order to then wash your hands you need to pull the sliding door open to get to the sink. You could argue that you need to wash your hands every time you go into the cubicle but it still seems an odd configuration. The sink is very small and when washing your hands, water goes everywhere including the bed! I feel this set up will not be very popular with many people staying in these cabins. A solid hinged door panel to the toilet in the style of the rest of the cabin would have been more appropriate. The shower I can live with but the toilet is a different matter. Indian shadow puppets spring to mind. I could tolerate this set up on a cruise but would have to say it not ideal and considering it is a brand new ship and design then some questions need to be asked especially WHO likes to been seen sitting on the toilet? Due to the short amount of time on board we elected to eat within all the free areas. The food in "The Garden Cafe" was on par with our experience on Celebrity Equinox and the layout enabled easy access with little or no queuing and the food was of excellent quality. Our only grumble was with the free drinks, the drinking water had a very strong taste of chlorine and the tea selection was short of other ships as there were some favourites missing. The other area we ate in was O' Sheehan's bar and grill (open 24 hours) which we found the fare to be very tasty albeit a bit slow on service. All the other eateries were only viewed and looked to be nicely laid out; maybe we will sample these in the future. The evening entertainment we booked was the Blue Man Group and we can only say is, what a fantastic spectacle. Not to be missed and thoroughly entertaining. The theatre is compact and the stage can be viewed well from all areas. Whether it was because of miss management or under staffing but no body had their booking checked on entering so we could have on this night just turned up and gone in. We were not able to view the Spiegel Tent and were turned away a couple of times when we asked to see inside, one can only assume they want your money before they let you see inside. The pool area has some really cool looking water slides which will give many folk hours of fun. Slightly confused by the amount of shaded sun loungers, there seem to me to be more shaded ones the ones in the sun but having said that we never got to see the area on Deck 19 as it was closed because the area had not been finished. I think that the kids will love this ship; the areas dedicated to them appear to be well thought out and look very appealing even to an adult like me. I am not quite sure what to make of H²O area, nothing happened here while we were on board and can only assume that it will be more of an evening venue with a big screen under the stars. To summarise, the Norwegian Epic will undoubtedly be talked about for some time to come and sadly not everything will be positive. The bathrooms in the cabins will cause much debate and can only be a negative thing for what I consider a really great ship in other areas. I would consider her for another cruise but the price would need to reflect the negative. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
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
Sail Date May 2009
We just went on a short repositioning cruise from Rotterdam, the Netherlands to Southampton, UK. We flew into Rotterdam from London in the morning of sailing. It's a public holiday in the Netherlands, which we didn't know. My ... Read More
We just went on a short repositioning cruise from Rotterdam, the Netherlands to Southampton, UK. We flew into Rotterdam from London in the morning of sailing. It's a public holiday in the Netherlands, which we didn't know. My wife and I wandered around with all the shops closed. The lunch was done in the Burger King. The cruise terminal is not far from city centre, which only took us 10 minutes from Central Station on the tram.The tram crossed the maganificent bridge with the view of NCL Jade. We arrived the terminal with excitement. However, I have to say the embarkation process was the worst I had experienced. They had special lines for VIP/disabled/suite passengers and the normal passengers in other cabins, which were standard for all other embarkation process I had. However, all 'non-special' passengers were handed out different colour tags and were checked in according to that. Hence, there wasn't a system of 'first come, first served' and lots of confused people waiting around. The loud constant multi-language announcement certainly didn't help the situation.We embarked on the ship eventually after two hours sitting and waiting around. The cruise experience was getting better. They handed out welcome drinks to all the passengers getting on to the ship. We booked an inside room, which was adequate for our short 3-night cruise. The big draws of this cruise were NCL freestyle and numerous restaurants available on the ship. After tasting the different menus of the restaurants, we decided to try one in this short cruise. We went to Jasmine for the first day and had free meals in the main dining room for the other days. The presentation and quality of the food and services were excellent and the choices were as wide as we could imagine.The ports of calls were interesting (Le Harve, France and St Peter Port, UK) and we would normally not go to those places without this cruise. Out of the two, St Peter Port was more interesting personally.The disembarkation process was a breeze. We enjoyed our breakfast in the main dining room and were off the ship by half past nine. Then we took two-hour coach trip back to London.I would definitely recommend NCL freestyle cruising. You can dress up whatever you want and go wherever you want to eat and entertain yourself to whenever you want. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
This was a perfect example of how better NOT to introduce past or future (paying!) customers to a new ship or product!! Boarding did not start till shortly before noon, no explanation why and despite the fact some 2000-3000 passengers ... Read More
This was a perfect example of how better NOT to introduce past or future (paying!) customers to a new ship or product!! Boarding did not start till shortly before noon, no explanation why and despite the fact some 2000-3000 passengers were already checked in, waiting to be let on board, hoarded like cattle. Not a good start. There was absolutely no reception of the passengers. Since it was some sort of an inaugural sailing, well it was the first sailing with paying passengers, one would have at least expected a welcome glass of champagne. No, not with NCL, nothing comes free with them. Staterooms were of course ready by the time we boarded ( they only had agents on the night before anyways which surely did not trash the ship ), again no sight of any recognition or welcome aboard or any other approach or appreciation. One leaflet was delivered later in the afternoon but that was it. Not even the arrival time or deboarding process in Southampton was explained or mentioned. No ice in the buckets, a sealed fridge, no attendants nearby, nada, nothing. I did not even hear the captain speak, I guess that's falling out of fashion with NCL these days since I did only thear the captain once(!!) on an 11 day Jade cruise recently Not a good first impression. The ship was full, again, how can you do that if you want to show your new product and make sure it "shines"? So instead it seemed extremely crowded everywhere and in the end left me disliking this otherwise pretty ship, uncertain whether I want to book NCL again in the future. I did go to Ocean Blu restaurant for dinner, paid the premium charge of USD 35.- After all the hype about the restaurant I was quite puzzled to see how small and tucked away it was. Well, dinner was very good, but one incident again left me puzzled with NCL's strategy and attitude towards customers. When I asked whether I could have a second appetizer, the soup, I was told I had to pay an addition for this and in the end was charged an additional USD 4,25 on top of the cover charge of USD35.-. Unbelievably cheap from NCL, especially given the fact that all the portions were extremely small and the main course, obviously a fish, had absolutely nothing on the side, no rice, no potato, no veg no nothing. It was just a fish, well done, but still simply not enough as a main course. I left for the show after dinner, which , without any information other than on the daily planner, had been changed from Rock of Ages to Burn th Floor. Ths show was nothing to write home about and simply was not well received by a European audience. Quiete a few people got up and left early. I felt sorry for the dancers who were incredibly good! Other impressions from the ship: - Haven area - did not look half as nice as on Epic but might be better suitable for NYC cruises. If Getaaway however will feature the exact same enclosed area, I doubt that it is gonna be a success. - Sports Complex on deck absolutely fabulous, the Aqua Park slides are amazing and so is "The Plank". - Waterfront . The weather wasn't cooperating so I won't comment on this. It looked good and could work just fine and as advertised! -Ths ship is quite identical to the Epic when it comes to its looks. It has a lot more glass and thus views of the ocean but it is also smaller which, if full, leaves you with a " way too many people" feeling. - POSH Beach Club excellent, better rhan on Epic. - Pools small, the whole deck area a big improvement over Epic but still quite "packed". - Buffet. Very crowded, selection quite basic with not too much variety. The revolving doors to the buffet, whoever thought of that should be slapped on the head. Nightmare and will lead to a lot of anger! - My inside cabin did not even have a picture on the wall. Very basic, very very small, much too small by today's standards. - Gym has now been divided into one area for cardio ( they have the views ) and one area for the weights ( they are tucked away ). Did not care for it. - Spa looked quite nice but is probably too small on a longer and sold out cruise. So overall Breakaway was not my cup of tea. NCL's beahviour/attitude towards the guests on this cruise makes me look elsewhere first. They made it very clear that they did not value the European guests on this mini cruise. All the talks, all the advertisement is geard towards Americans. So where does that leave us Europeans. I guess we are just good enough to fill the Jade... Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
We came back from Epic yesterday afternoon. Rotterdam to Southampton. What a shamble at Rotterdam. We arrived at 10.30pm and only boarded at 1.15pm. People were all over de place, announcements you could not understand. They were asking ... Read More
We came back from Epic yesterday afternoon. Rotterdam to Southampton. What a shamble at Rotterdam. We arrived at 10.30pm and only boarded at 1.15pm. People were all over de place, announcements you could not understand. They were asking hundreds of people to seat down on 50 chairs. Girls from NCL based in Dover were on hand to help the very inexperience staff in Rotterdam. Around 12.30, they stopped the checkin. More delay. The were having a meeting about the situation. Finally that made an announcement to inform us the ship was tech and will arrive in Southampton at 5pm instead of 10 am.Passengers were offered to cancel the cruise or stay onboard. A few minutes later boarding started. The first thing we did was going to the box office to book the show for that night. First we wanted to do Spiegel Tent and after the Blue Man Show. One girl said it was possible to do both while the guy said it was not. It was like yes and no for around 5 minutes. You would imagine they would know. At the end we only booked Blue Man Show and it was great. Good fun. After that debate, we went to the Lido for lunch, the food was excellent and the views from the restaurant were amazing. After lunch we decided to go and see our cabin. The girl at the check in told us we were upgraded and at the end it was the same cabin as we booked. The cabin was an inside (why pay for balcony on a one night). The cabin was very small ( we later visited a balcony and it was not better) and not practical. When you entered the room, directly on your left you had the toilet with a plastic tinted door and on the right the shower cubical also with tinted plastic door. A bit further down, you had a sink (very small and not deep) with a mini fridge above and the tv near the fridge. Not the best set up if you are 3 in the room or don't know the other person if you are two. The phone only started working on Tuesday morning. Lucky we didn't have an emergency during the night. After checking the room, we started exploring the ship, the pool deck was very cramp. Not much desk place. The two pools were very small. We went down to explore the ship. Deck 5,6,7 were nice with restaurants, bars and shops. You could see the ship was not finished and some wires were apparent and a lot of workers were working around the passengers. In the evening we decided to go to the Churascaria and it was excellent. Service, staff and food. We could not fault it. The only problem was some staff from Dover and also a table of travel agents being very loud and making very upsetting comments. Lucky no kids where around for the language used. Before and after diner we spent a bit of time in the Martini bar. The Pianist was excellent. The bar staff had a bit of an attitude in that bar.This was the only place where we found unfriendly staff. During the morning, we had breakfast in the Lido and again the food was nice and tasty. After lunch we wanted to try the slides and jacuzzi and no luck as they were all closed. They only opened at 2pm for a 3 pm arrival. Instead we sat in the sun for a while before going for our duty free tax purchases. And yes they were selling duty free within Europe. We hope HMRC won't find out our big trouble ahead again if they need to pay taxes for all the sales they have done. A few minutes later my partner told me we were approaching Isle of White and I didn't believe it as we had another 5h00 to go before the arrival. When the sentence was finished, the Captain made an announcement and told us we made a very good progress during the night ( the announcement was around 12.00) was would now arrive at 3pm. Amazing he did not know that early to help passengers changing the travel plans. We decided to have lunch in the Manhattan restaurant. Once again the food and service was excellent. A band was also playing during the lunch. After lunch we all went to the deck and see the arrival of the ship, as it was the first time, the inaugural in Southampton, we were waiting for something exceptional and nothing happened. Maybe NCL was ashamed about the late arrival, or they just did not care. It was like a normal arrival. We were also surprised not to receive a certificate as it was the first sailing for the ship ( non promotional). When we sailed on Independence Of The Seas a few years ago. We all received a certificate with a picture of the ship in a very nice leather folder. We also received a video of the ship. It was great. Here NOTHING. During the cruise, we went to the front desk and asked if this was the inaugural, Maiden voyage, or ... and her answer was I don't know. She also said they haven't decided. Once again what is going on there. A little after our arrival, they started the disembarkation process and again it was chaos. Normal as nobody knew when to leave the ship. When we left the ship, we were expecting a big welcome in the terminal and again nothing. After this trip, we don't think EPIC made a big entrance like other ships for the Inaugural. Maybe NCL EPIC is a bit shy. What a shame as we were expecting more from this sailing and also by being the first passengers sailing from the ship. It looks like we were more Guinea pigs instead. The ship was just ok and not very well designed. It looks more like a rushed job. (Nothing to compare to Oasis Of The Seas who has got a WOW factor) The food and service were excellent. As we found out a 7 nights cruise onboard NCL can be very expensive as you need to pay a lot for the restaurants. We need to agree they offer for every taste, from French to Japanese. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
Rotterdam-Southampton inaugural cruise of NCL Epic. Total chaos in Rotterdam as the terminal is way too small to handle such a big ship, waited in line for 2 hours outside on the pavement. Inside hardly any facilities, seating for only 100 ... Read More
Rotterdam-Southampton inaugural cruise of NCL Epic. Total chaos in Rotterdam as the terminal is way too small to handle such a big ship, waited in line for 2 hours outside on the pavement. Inside hardly any facilities, seating for only 100 people. Ship general: It's all about the size and how to put as many people as possible on. For me it lacked sophistication and grandeur, everything was functional, nothing had a real wow-factor. Lots of issues with finishings: pool water overflowing would not drain, part of the ship (villa complex) not finished; general feeling of rather cheap craftmanship, not finished to a high standard. Stateroom-Standard midship balcony: Smaller than comparable stateroom on Celebrity's Solstice class. The new bathroom design is in reality a way of covering up for the reduced size of the room, there's just no space for a separate bathroom. Sink area cramped and small, water would overflow easy; shower and toilet are plastic cabins, ok but nothing special. Balcony is fine, two standard seats and a small table; dividers were left open to ajoining balconies. Dining: at least a dozen options, but only 3 without a cover charge. We had dinner and breakfast at the Manhattan Room at the back end of the ship with a great view. Live music during the night, very nice. Quality of the food was good, nothing to complain about, same for the service, very attentive. Only point was the roar of the engines causing the tableware to ramble. For luch we used the buffetrestaurant, also no complaints, great choice, good quality. Entertainment: we visited the Blue Man group show and enjoyed it very much. Quite an unusual performance, lots of fun, highly recommended. Outside/pool area: it's all about the aquafun waterslides, great for kids, less so for others maybe? In general the whole area lacked atmosphere. Disembarkation: again not very smooth, about 1 hour waiting while the announcements indicated that immediate disembarkation would be available upon arrival. Summary: NCL Epic is not quite what we had expected, dissappointed in the general lack of atmosphere, it's all about size. Entertainment and food are good but that did not outweigh against the other points. I guess we are spoiled by Celbrity's Solstice class ships and had too high of an expectation of the Epic. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
I booked a balcony cabin at the aft of the ship. PRE CRUISE I had a ship visit in BRISTOL so booked a klm flight to AMSTERDAM then a train to ROTTERDAM the trains were so packed i had to waited ages to get on the nest one. HOTEL. ... Read More
I booked a balcony cabin at the aft of the ship. PRE CRUISE I had a ship visit in BRISTOL so booked a klm flight to AMSTERDAM then a train to ROTTERDAM the trains were so packed i had to waited ages to get on the nest one. HOTEL. I stayed at the MARITIME HOTEL overlooking the PORT. I have used this hotel before and always had a lovely cooked breakfast but this time hardly anything cook and all the meat and cheese had gone. Plus the wi fi was awful my laptop could not even pick it up. EMBARKATION I walked over to the port and joined the queue got a color card but was not told i had to check in 1st so when my card was called handed it in and then had to to check in and then had to explain i had no card. CABIN. BALCONY cabin aft DECK 14. Has to ask if the cabins were ready and then find it myself. No sign of the steward. No ashtray and no ice i called for these and hours later nothing if i had not seen the steward later i would have got neither! the mini bar was locked and was not going to be opened. the bathroom was ok apart from no proper soap. FOOD Market cafe cafe was full up so had to go outside to sit and the revolving door kept stopping. No trays or any mention of washing your hands. DINNER i had in the CIRQUE DREAM AND DINNER only 1 food choice and the wine was too pricey. ENTERTAINMENT Only did the CIRQUE DREAMS JUNGLE FANTASY which was worth every penny of the $29.99 sadly no pictures or video allowed. i wanted to see "RICK OF AGES!" but this had changed to "ROCK OF AGES" and the show was full. i much prefer a dinner and walk in show. LIFEBOAT DRILL A good location in the restaurant names cabins go into their machine but no talk from the captain then it was over. LIBRARY Very poor selection CIGAR ROOM A great idea but much too small BOWLING Sure small ships have a big one but only 2 lanes??? DISEMBARKATION Very quick had to take own luggage off and no shuttle to the station. FUTURE AWARDS A great idea paying $250 towards a deposit on another cruise and $100 off your bill but no interest i9n booking a cruise and no brochures at all!! OVERALL IMPRESSION better than the one on the EPIC 2 years ago which was 3 hours waiting to get onboard and 1 engine failing. But i think the ship is too big and does not have some things smaller ships have. Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
I booked this cruise as i had already booked the transatlantic but had the cancel later.I printed out the tickets, i hate this, much nicer to get them in the post. especially the baggage labels but got proper labels later. GETTING TO THE ... Read More
I booked this cruise as i had already booked the transatlantic but had the cancel later.I printed out the tickets, i hate this, much nicer to get them in the post. especially the baggage labels but got proper labels later. GETTING TO THE SHIP i decided to go on the harwich-hook ferry overnight on the new superferry. plenty of space,outside cabin was lovely and free internet for an hour. next morning arrived in HOOK, just missed seeing the EPIC as we were both going the same way! i then got the train to ROTTERDAM, the chip cards on the trains and bus are confusing. 1 or 2 trips or day passes but the machines do not accept notes! got the train and bus straight onto the SS ROTTERDAM a hotel now. had a lovely outside cabin and did a tour of the ship. when i got there the EPIC was already there. i waited for her to leave, it was cold and windy i was FROZEN! by the time the ship left at 1930hrs. Next day i moved to another hotel "OCEAN PARADISE" a floating chinese hotel on the river(strange feel, actually moving!) the next day left the hotel and walked over the ERASMUS BRIDGE to the cruise terminal. EMBARKATION i got to the terminal at 1030 went thru x ray and handed my case to the porter thinking it would go onboard ship(I WAS WRONG! later it was still there!! had to carry in onto the ship!) then upstairs i had my colour coded card, light blue. there was a queue already but the terminals were not even ready! CONFUSING! they started calling the colours and they had to try and get thru this stupid queue despite making announcements to sit down. then another queue for passport we waited and waited and waited! an announcement that the ship had engine problems and that it would leave on time but not arrive to soton till 1730 instead of 1000! if we wanted to cancel would get a refund plus an onboard credit, not an option as i had to get home somehow! the photographer had put up his stand in this massive queue! WHAT A GREAT IDEA! i mentioned about this horrendous queue and was told ALL THE CRUISES HAVE THIS!(THEY CERTAINLY DO NOT!!) "HAVE A NICE CRUISE" he said HOW RUDE!) what got me was all the staff were passing cups of water amongst themselves while we just had to stand for 3 hrs! finally we got onboard! the cabins were not ready so told to have lunch before it finished with the lifeboat drill starting soon! leave your cases but there was no room to leave them! after a nice lunch of FISH AND CHIPS. which i later found was the same menu for breakfast and lunch, in TASTE AND MAHATTAN restaurants what would you do on a longer cruise if you did want to pay extra for another restaurant! CABIN i had a balcony cabin on 9 deck 9201. no sign of any steward! no phone in cabin!(later found it in the safe! the safe did not work! no ice! there was 2 glasses covering a toilet and shower but a tiny sink in the living area not big enough! a nice size of cabin with plenty of drawer space, balcony with 2 chairs and table. what i did not like was it was only half covered so if it rained not much good and could be seen from above which i do not like! FOOD i booked the cirque dreams and dinner this was fantastic like a circus cum moulin rouge show with dinner in between the acts. this was well worth the $15 charge. ENTERTAINMENT i only saw 2nd city which was good and cirque dreams which were good. DISEMBARKATION This was another mess, we arrived in SOTON at 1400 a bit earlier than they said. as soon as they said we could get off there was a massive crowd all trying to get off at the same time! 2 queues we joined one and then was told to go to the other one. carried off the cases and no sign of a shuttle bus to the station. the driver was fast asleep i think it was only for people going to the ship(MEDIA AND PRESS)so we had to walk to a bus stop get a bus to the station. Found the ticket office was closed so had to walk over to the other side! COMMENTS AN AWFUL CRUISE! NO ORGANISATION AT ALL! no proper reason given for the delay and things just got worse! i have done 3 other NCL cruises and THIS WAS THE WORSE! Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
This was our fourth cruise, the first two being on Holland America Line and the third on Celebrity. We wanted to have a look at the NCL "Freestyle" type of cruising and the five day itinerary out of Rotterdam seemed perfect. ... Read More
This was our fourth cruise, the first two being on Holland America Line and the third on Celebrity. We wanted to have a look at the NCL "Freestyle" type of cruising and the five day itinerary out of Rotterdam seemed perfect. Especially as the balcony cabins were going at a reduced rate. Unfortunately, you get what you pay for and we were not impressed or happy with our cruise.Embarkation was not difficult, but it was a bit confusing to the many (a lot really) Dutch people who simply don't read or understand English well. We completed a health survey, handed over our tickets and credit card, and were given our keycards. We then joined in the group trying to get onto the ship. It was about noon and the ship was fully booked, so we were in line to get aboard for about 20 minutes. Our picture was taken, we showed our passports to immigration again, and then we were free to board.The cabins were not going to be ready until 2 p.m., so we decided to go for lunch. We were told that the Garden Cafe (Lido) was serving lunch so we headed in that direction. There's no polite way to say this, the Garden Cafe was a zoo. The lack of enough seating seems to be the cause of this feeling. There are no trays, so picking up an entire meal in one go is pretty much out of the question. Also, it's very important that one of your party (you're out of luck as a single) find seating and then you relay back and forth to the buffet to get your food and drinks. We looked around, saw the chaos and lack of seating and walked out.As we pushed the button for the elevator, a helpful crewman asked if he could help us. We mentioned that we were looking for lunch and only then did we learn that the main dining room, the Grand Pacific, was also serving lunch on Deck 6 aft. We found the Grand Pacific and it was an oasis of calm. There was someone at the door to welcome us, a waiter to take us to a table for two and an actual menu from which we could choose a meal.And here we come to our first (and most lasting) disappointment with the entire NCL dining experience. The service ranged from incompetent to disinterested and the food from mediocre to inedible. For a ship with 12 restaurants, 8 of which you must pay extra to enjoy, you'd think they'd have a bit more interest in serving good food in a timely manner. We actually finished a meal in the main dining room and had to go to the buffet to get something to fill us up. Granted, not everyone has the same taste, but I have never before been served a raw spring roll. The lunch set the tone when, after being seated, we were promptly ignored for 15 minutes. Other people were seated and served before a pointed look at the dining room manager conveyed to him the idea that we might actually have come to the dining room with the idea of getting a meal.Here's some point on which NCL could improve:1. Train the service staff to understand that there's a difference between decaf and regular coffee and that's why the tops of the coffee carafes have different colors. 2. Teach the service staff that when people are dining together they like to have their meals together. We often had to wait more than 10 minutes for the second meal at the table and saw one poor couple stare at his eggs and bacon for 20 minutes before the man got up, walked over to the waiter, and ask where his wife's breakfast was.3. If you're going to ask extra money for "specialty" restaurants, make sure that the specialties they serve are edible. We had dinner at Paniolo's (tapas and mexican food) and were surprised to be served fajitas that were too bitter to eat (something bad in the marinade) and an enchilada served in a flour tortilla (actually making it a burrito) and filled with grilled vegetables and cottage cheese. We found the food so disgusting that we didn't even stay for the dessert we had already paid for, feeling that the risk was too great.4. If you run out of something in the kitchen (and how do you run out of a certain breakfast cereal twice in five days?), don't just bring something to replace it, but rather inform the customer and allow them to make a second choice from the menu. When one of us couldn't have the ordered chocolate mousse served in a dark chocolate cup, we were brought two chocolate cookies from the buffet which were placed on a plate with a layer of chocolate frosting between them. Frankly, the fruit cup looked more appealing. The dessert remained untouched.The dining experience was not worth the price of admission.A highlight was our nice cabin and lovely balcony. The room was small, but certainly big enough for a five day cruise. I wouldn't want to spend two weeks in the cabin though. The separation of the three main areas of the bathroom: toilet, from sink/mirror, from shower was a welcome change, making it easy to share the facilities during the beginning and end of the day. We did not see much of our cabin steward though.We did not partake of the entertainment, so we cannot give an opinion on that. We did hear the constant announcements of the various activities though, which is quite annoying, especially after the "once-a-day" style of announcements on HAL and Celebrity. Honestly, do they think that we don't read the daily?In summary, we'll leave freestyle cruising to those who don't care about service and good food. We will never cruise with NCL again. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
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