Norwegian Jade Ship Review

 

Overview

The Norwegian Jade, a ‘Jewel’ class vessel was completed in April 2006 by Meyer Werft ship yard, Papenberg Germany, as the ‘Pride of Hawaii’.  She was built to serve the ‘Norwegian Cruise Line America’ (NCLA) operating inter-island Hawaiian cruises.  Her hull art, internal décor and artwork were Hawaiian in style.

She is one six ships of a similar designs (although not identical) built for NCL since 2001, which are specifically designed for their ‘freestyle dining’ concept.  Jade, like her sisters is around 93,558 gross tons, carries 2,380 passengers (lower berths) and has 1,100 crew, approximately.  She is state-of-the-art, very colourful inside and out, without generally crossing the line of good taste as other lines do

Due to a lack of profitability of the NCLA operation in Hawaii, the ‘Pride of Hawaii’ was transferred to NCL in early 2008 and renamed ‘Norwegian Jade’. Her new itineraries for 2008 and 2009 are all year round European ones. In the winter she will cruise round trips from Barcelona and in the summer from Southampton.  I cruised a 14 night Mediterranean round trip from Southampton in late May 2008

In preparation for her redeployment American crew were replaced with cheaper non-American (Filipino etc.) crew and her name and hull art changed.  Some internal changes were also made. These included removing the aft business centre, replacing it with new shops, adding a Casino (which was not permitted in Hawaiian waters) where the ‘Ultra Lounge’ used to be. They also created a new lounge, the ‘Medusa Lounge’, where the original shops were.  The nearby Karaoke rooms have become ‘Whatever’ rooms used mainly for Nintendo Wii computer games.  The ‘Corona Cigar Club’ is no longer a cigar club; it’s now just an extension of the ‘Bar Central’ area (the second mini-atrium). A few public rooms have had a name change, for example the ‘Aloha Café’ has become the ‘Garden Café’ and the ‘Aloha Lanai’ is now   the ‘Great Outdoors’. However much of the ships Hawaiian décor and artwork still remains, which includes ‘Hawaiian Lays’ (flowers) on the ceiling of the atrium which matched her original hull art.

Most of Jade’s public rooms are located on deck six and seven. Deck Seven also has a wrap around promenade; although the view is obscured at the bow as you pass though a tunnel.  The exceptions are ‘Cagney’s’ Steak House, the ‘Star Bar’ which are amidships deck twelve and the spinnaker lounge, forward.  There are two pools on the sun deck, one adult (salt water) and one child’s (fresh water) complete with slide. In addition there are four covered hot tubs and a band stand.  There is no indoor public pool. This is quite a disadvantage when offering cruises from Southampton, with the U.K’s unpredictable climate.

 

 

On embarkation, passengers will often enter the ship on deck six or seven near the Atrium.  The Atrium is modest two story one, although the floor area is quite large. The Aloha bar serves speciality (chargeable) coffee and alcohol, the reception desk and shore excursion desk are also located there.  The ceiling still features giant Hawaiian Lay flowers.  The Atrium really is the heart of the ship and a gathering point for guests.  On the second level (deck 7) the Blue Lagoon and Piaiolo’s overlook the space.  Twin staircases descended from the second level. At the top of the staircases is a large video screen in a giant picture frame (which always seemed to have at least some pixels not functioning) constantly showing various phycadelic images to pop musak.  This was not as annoying as it sounds.

The first thing that one notices is that the ship has a ‘party feel’ about it.  This is probably a combination of the colourful decor and the passengers themselves who are are obviously there to have a good time. As one boards, you are given a voucher for a free glass of Champagne (well sparkling wine), which is a ‘Freestyle 2.0’ enhancement.

 

Food has always played a very important role on board ships and I can’t think of another class of ship where so much of the ships design is focused on dining. For me the evening meal should be one of the highlights of the day.  The food should be entertaining, surprising and adventurous. Jade has thirteen different dining options, if you include room service.  Some have additional fees and others are included in the cruise fare.

The ‘Freestyle’ dining concept is simple; you can dine in any dining room, at any time you like and sit with who you like. Of course in reality it is not always as simple as it sounds.  Dining is of course subject to the various dining room operating hours and passenger demand. There was a peak rush at around 8.00 to 8.30pm each evening, when many of the dining rooms became full simultaneously, especially the to ‘main’ ones which have no surcharge (more about these later).  The dress code on board is relaxed for evening meals; many guys will be pleased to here that smart casual is all that is required; Tux, suits, jackets or ties are not

My wife and I often preferred a table for two. At peak time’s short lines would form (not very long ones) at the two dining room entrances. If a table is not available to meet your requirements, you are given a pager so you can go away get a pre-dinner drink or “whatever” as NCL keep saying.  We had to wait 15-30 minutes for a table for two on several occasions at peak times.  At other times you can simply walk-in.  Alternatively if you are an organised type of person, you can book a time, 48 hours in advance. This is particularly wise for larger groups.  (However only 30% of the spaces are bookable in advance, in order to still maintain walk-in availability

I must admit that I though that I was a traditionalist when it came to shipboard dining, but I actuality liked NCL’s ‘Freestyle’ system.  We could dine anytime that we wanted at a table for two, with a 0 and 30 minutes wait, depending on the demand.  Now to me that is still infinitely more flexible than the traditional method of being given one assigned time for the cruise and sitting with passengers all cruise that you may not get along with.

Plasma monitors around the ship use traffic-light graphs to display how busy the various dining rooms were, although personally I did not find the information particularly informative.  All dining rooms were pretty busy at peak times and relatively quite outside of the peak times.

 

All of Jades dining rooms are single height and most are relatively intimate. Therefore none of them have the ‘Wow’ factor that ‘Royal Caribbean’s’ Freedom, Voyager and Radiance class dining rooms have in terms of scale. However do you really prefer to dine with 1000+ fellow passengers?

The two so called ‘main’ dining rooms on board Jade are the ‘Grand Pacific’ at the very aft of the ship and the ‘Alizar’ nearer amidships. They actually share the same kitchen and have the same menus and do not carry a supplementary charge. The ‘Grand Pacific’ is the biggest dining room, accommodating 556 passengers. However this is still small by mega-ship standards.  ‘The Grand Pacific’ is extremely attractive.  The décor was inspired by the dining rooms of the Matson Liner ships that used to sail from San Francisco to Honolulu. The artwork around the room (various Hawaiian scenes) was inspired by the menu covers from the Matson Line.  A statue of Kamehameha the Great, (who conquered the Hawaiian Islands and established their independence) is located at the dining room entrance, at the bottom of twin staircases. There were many art deco style light fittings, including the ‘tulip’ variety as on board the original Queen Mary.  Windows at the rear of the room overlook the ships wake and there are also windows at the front/sides.  The  Alizar is smaller (310 passengers) and has more minimalist contemporary décor, with windows offering sea views of both the port and starboard side.

Unfortunately the food in these two rooms was a little uninspiring in terms of choice and very inconsistent. The food ranged form poor to quite good, but never excellent. I quickly got the impression that the ingredients used and the cuts of meat in particular were of the cheapest variety.  It was a lottery as to how good the meal would be depending on what dishes you chose. One evening they served the worst entrée that I’ve ever had on a cruise ship. I ordered the ‘always available’ chicken breast. In reality it was a cheap pre-formed chicken portion, served with mashed potato and a few carrots. It was certainly not gourmet quality. I’ve had better meals in a supermarket café. I also experienced several of the most salty soups that have ever passed my lips (send back to the kitchen quality) and some rubber lamb.  A friend on board had an Appetizer which featured crab according to the menu, but she was convinced that it was in fact diced ‘Crabstick’ (which is not made from crab). However not all the food was poor, on other occasions I did have some very good vegetable Kebabs, stuffed peppers, reasonable beef tenderloin, passable soup, pleasant salad and a respectable Tandoori Chicken with Basmati rice (a British favourite).   Bizarrely, one evening all of the cloth napkins were damp because of laundry drying problems. When I refused to sit with a damp napkin on my lap, the waiter said “It’s not a problem, it’s clean”.  Well it was a problem, be it a very small one.
 
I found the waiters to generally be very friendly and efficient in the main dining rooms, with just one or two exceptions.  However at the evening peak time all of the waiters clearly became a little stressed with a full dining room, although they coped. You could see them relax a little at 9.00pm when more passengers were leaving the dining rooms than were entering. It must be complex for the waiters and the Chef’s trying to manage a dining room with some passengers just starting their meals, some half way through and others finishing. 
 
There are no dedicated wine waiters; this was done by the general wait staff. This has the advantage for me that I do not need to find one waiter to order my food and another to order the wine.  The disadvantage is that they are not wine specialist.
 
 Pianiolo seats 100 and offers Tapas and Salsa fare, without a surcharge.  The menu was not vast, but quite interesting. The food and service were reasonable, but not outstanding.  I actually had a ‘Lobster Taco’ which tasted and looked like it was made of the same diced ‘crabstick’ and was not particularly palatable.  My wife had a beef burrito which was very good.  I enjoyed the Black Bean soup. Nachos and tomato Salsa flowed freely.
 
 Le Bistro is the French restaurant which seated 129 passengers. This was carried a $15 surcharge per person, with several signature dishes carrying an extra $10 fee. (Interestingly NCL offer a 2-1 deal between 5.30 and 6.30pm in most of the additional fee dining rooms).  The food and service in Le Bistro was very good. Many passengers including myself thought that it was probably one of the best dining experiences on board and well worth the extra fee.  Their Onion soup, filet mignon and salmon were all excellent. 
 
 The Jasmine Garden is described as an Asian Fusion restaurant and carries a $15 surcharge. It is three restaurants in,  one including  Shabu Shabu ($15 – a sort of Japanese meat fondue), a bar servers freshly prepared sushi at certain times($15) (The Garden Buffet also serves sushi at lunch time)  In addition of the main dining room there is a Sushi bar and a Japanese style 32-seat Teppanyaki Grill room ($25 surcharge). Here the chefs cook dishes on hotplates in front of the guests. 
 
 Papa’s Italian kitchen unsurprisingly serves Pizza and Pasta for a surcharge of $10.  The room is near the Garden buffet and accommodates 70 passengers.  There are a number of long rustic farmhouse tables ideal for large groups and the carpet has an Italian tile pattern. There are not so many tables for two, so couple may have to share if they do not book in advance. Bottles of wine are pre-placed on each table to temp you into buying them.  For a mass market line, the mainly American wine list was quite expensive. I must recommend the Merryvale, Cabernet Sauvignon, form the Napa valley – but it’s not cheap. The food was good, although the pasta that I choose (with fruit de la mere) was not outstanding either.  The Spaghetti Bolognaise was very good. The service was once again was more personal than in the bigger dining rooms.
 
Cagney’s is the ‘Steak House’ and carries a surcharge of $20 per head and has 176 seats.  I understand that there is high demand from the American market for this restaurant. Although reasonably popular with us Brits too, I do not think that steak excites us quite so much. Much of Cagney’s food is served hang-off your plate style. Occasional quantity outweighed quality.  For example, I started my meal with a Jumbo Prawns Cocktail. This featured four very large Prawns, although they were quite tasteless. My wife had the wedge, which was not so much an interesting salad with a mix of flavours, but a quarter of lettuce.  However the meat was good. I had a 14oz T-bone which was very succulent, but I struggled to finfish it.  In fact I could not eat breakfast the next morning as I was still full.  The service was friendly and efficient.
 
 The Blue Lagoon, seating 94 passengers is a 24 hour dining room which has no surcharge.  It serves simple America ‘comfort food’ (whatever that means) and I found it to be best for lunch and breakfast.   I enjoyed scrambled eggs and bacon, Fish & Chip, Potato Skins and a hot Turkey Sandwich on various visits. Service could be quite quick or pretty slow, but strangely this was not always dependent on how full the room was.  I had excellent Hot & sour Soup, Szechwan beef sweet and sour pork and Singapore noodles. The JasmineGarden was my other favourite dining room onboard.
 

 

The opulent Garden and Courtyard Villas sit on top of Cagney’s and the Star Bar.  The lift will take you to deck 14 with the appropriate key card.  This keeps the riff-raff out. Guests booked into this accommodation can have private breakfast in Cagney’s. The adjacent Star Bar is used as their private lounge during the day.

The Garden Café is the Buffet and is laid out with various food ‘islands’, providing a good range of good quality food.  This ranged from freshly prepared sandwiches, fresh soups, pasta, Pizza, salad and meats, Asia dishes, carved meats and sausages and burgers etc. My only complaint is that with any buffet some dishes were not always kept piping hot.  The cups and plates were real china, glasses plastic but trays were not provided. At peak times it could be difficult to find a seat.  They had a pretty a pretty impressive range of sauce bottles on all of the tables. Napkins and cutlery were provided on each table which saved trying to find them.

At the aft end of the Garden Buffet, there was a lido deck named “The Great outdoors” in the NCL tradition, offering dining with a sea view.  This had a reasonable number of seats and a smaller selection of food and hot drinks available, although you could walk into the main Garden Buffet for more options.

I was pleased to find that the self service coffee machines in the Garden Buffet provided free cappuccino, although they did have a tendency to spit hot milk at the users if they stood too close.  Free Juices were available for breakfast from machines.  There was also free ice cream available which was very popular with kids.
 
In the evening the tablecloths and electric candles were added to each table in the garden Café for atmosphere.

An NCL tradition, the ‘Chocoholic Buffet’ was offered in the Garden Café late one evening. For those passengers trying to watch their weight, it may well have been the straw that broke the camels back.

 The Grill, is open air on deck twelve amidships and served simple food such as hamburgers and hotdogs next to the pool.
 
General dining comments: My wife and I often elected not to have a sweet at the end of some of our meals, simply because we were often too full up to eat one. Curiously the waiters always looked very disappointed at our refusal. They often told us off in a jovial way. Although initially amusing, by the end of the cruise it began to annoy us i.e. “Would you like and sweet Sir?”  “No thank you”.  “That’s a pity Sir it’s the best part of the meal” “No Thanks”, “Are you sure…” etc.  Maybe NCL give staff a bonus every time they force a passenger to order a sweet?  Bizarre!
 

NCL claim Lobster is served in at least one dining room per night. Well firstly I don’t think that we Brits have a lobster obsession and secondly if you did, who wants to play find the lobster?

 The Dining Room staff tended to have formal uniforms, but Bar staff, room stewards and buffet staff dressed quite casually on occasions which included matching T-shirts or track suits (not it’s not Cunard).
 
Entertainment

The Stardust Theatre is an impressive space and very attractive. It holds holding about half the ships complement of passengers in raked seating and is not unlike Theatres on most modern ships. The sight lines are excellent with just a few supporting pillars. The Garden and Courtyard villa passengers have their own private balcony section.  I was most impressed that cool air came vertically out of the back of the seat in front, although my wife complained that it made her cold.

The level of technology on the stage was not particularly high compared to some other lines. Scenery was minimal and lighting and special visual effects were standard.  I was quite surprised that all of the on board entertainment was rather traditional too.  I was expecting NCL to come up with something more original for ‘Freestyle’, but no.

One of the disadvantages of freestyle dining is that it can be easy to miss the Theatre shows. Of course not all passengers would see this as a disadvantage.  On a ship with conventional dining, the two evening meal sittings are designed to dovetail with the following Theatre performance. With NCL’s Freestyle two different shows were offered each night at 7.30pm and at 9.30pm, however these were different shows to each other. On the next evening the two shows would be re-run in the reversed order.
 
 NCL clearly tried to offer entertainment on our cruise to please everyone including a crew show, Karaoke, quizzes, magic, juggling, comedy, ballet, light opera, Mr and Mrs game, Bingo and Broadway type productions. However I was not over impressed with the production shows or most of the guest acts. There was a large cast of performers in the ships entertainment troop (maybe ten) however there were rarely all in the same shows, which sounds like they had a lot of time off. They were also not particularly friendly when passing through the ship, either. I have been on smaller ships where they have smaller cast who provide excellent shows on a nightly basis.
 
 My major complaint was there was no live band in the Stardust Theatre, just taped music, even though the ‘Freestyle Daily’ repeatedly lied and said “an absolutely live orchestra”.  One performer actually said to the backroom technician, ‘start it now’ (referring to the tape).  Although the cast of the shows injected lots of energy I found the shows too American for my British tastes.  The quality of the singers was generally mediocre and there were no dedicated dancers. They even dressed ‘Freestyle’ on stage, rarely wearing anything special or anything that matched! 
 
I thought I had a good knowledge of show tunes, yet I’d never heard of the majority songs sang on stage.  The best of the mediocre bunch of shows was called the “Shout – The Mod Musical”. This was the female members of the troop all in 60’s mini-skirts, singing 60’s songs with corny jokes and bad English accents. 
 
Jason Bowen, the so called ‘Master of Ceremonies’ (not called a Cruise Director) was a very talented young man and should have been on the stage more. However he alone could do nothing to uplift some very mediocre shows.
Several nights a movie was show in the theatre instead of a show, which I regard as a poor substitute for entertainment.  Movies are fine in addition to shows; in fact I would have liked more to be on offer during the cruise, but not as a substitute for a live show.
 
The magician and the tenor were mediocre. However a guy from the Moscow State Circus, who stood on the top of a free standing ladder, on a moving ships stage, was very impressive.  A ballet dancing couple performed modern (ugly) ballet to a strange piece of percussive music and later classical ballet (pretty) to the more enchanting music of Franks Sinatra. There was a port lecturer, but unfortunately he had zero charisma and he simply read his PowerPoint slides to the audience.
 
In terms of entertainment, three lounge musicians made the cruise for me. W J Greer had an excellent voice which was a little reminiscent of Lionel Richie. He had a vast repertoire, played piano and sang his heart out for three hours every night in ‘Bar Central’.  Russian pianist Konstantin Dragulyov charmed the passengers with classical, popular and jazz tunes and acoustic guitarist Eugene Villarino sang songs ranging from Pink Floyd, John Denver to the Beatles.
 NCL have introduced short “education, entertainment and Lifestyle”. These are topics such as beer tasting, digital photography, Sushi and sake, wine tasting and ‘make perfect salsa’. However they carry surcharges and in my opinion many are simply sales talks in disguise, aimed at increasing the ships onboard revenue. For example the guy in the Photography Gallery tried to sell me a digital camera and boasted that NCL would also teach me how who use it.
Buy the way, the ships photographers were so persistent they made me feel like I was a superstar being hounded by the Paparazzi. They appeared in every dining room and at end of every gangway, there was no escape.
 
 I must say that It does concern me how far the mass market cruise lines will go, only stopping short of hypnotism, to persuade their passengers to open their wallets even wider. Two examples of this are NCL’s ‘Monte Carlo Evening’ and ‘The White Hot Party’ night which are new Freestyle ‘enhancements’.  The ‘parties’ are firstly advertised in the ‘Freestyle Daily’. On the day of the party guests are regularly reminded over the PA system.  Just so you have no chance of forgetting, most  crew member wears a t-shirt on the appropriate days with logo’s  to remind you (black for ‘Monte Carlo’ and White for the ‘White Hot’ party). Theses T-shirts are also on sale in the shop for passengers to purchase. Of course if you wore it you would repeatedly be mistaken for a member of the crew.
 
The white hot party included the master of ceremonies impressively dancing on a pair of stilts. Some female staff danced in white mini-skirts and some male staff danced topless and gyrated their hips in the face of a young woman who was made to sit on the dance floor in a chair. It was hardly family entertainment although children were present! These parties are clearly just ploys to increase the drinking and gambling revenue in the Spinnaker lounge and Casino. What worries me more than NCL’s ‘hard sell’ is the fact that it appears to work, as both events were crowded on the respective nights.  “Inches of gold” and T-shirt sales also proved so popular, I feared fights might break out over the goods.
Staterooms

 

 

I loved the yellow louver doors of the cabins – very funky!  There was also a gadget outside each cabin, on the wall which allowed you to rotate a wheel and display messages such as: “Please make up my cabin”, “Please turn down my cabin” and “do not disturb”.  With the freestyle system, everybody goes to dinner at different times so it is very useful to keep you room steward informed when you are out by using this gadget.

I quickly found out that it was directly above the stage in the Medusa lounge. The live music provided by a band on the stage each evening was so loud, and the sound insulation so poor, that I could hear the song words clearly in the cabin. (I assume that cabins either side of 8554 would also suffer from noise). Fortunately NCL exchange it for 8060 (forward – starboard) which was the same grade but without the noise pollution.  I wonder if other passengers were so lucky to get relocated.

The standard inside, ocean view and balcony cabins on board this class of ship are quite compact, but adequate. In fact some inside cabins are bigger! Hopefully the fare that you pay would reflect their size. All cabins have a coffee maker, which is a great feature, but not so easy to use for us Brits who like tea. A Kettle would be better for us. All cabins have a mini-bar, a heavy duty metal hairdryer and safe too. The air conditioning was very responsive.  Most cabins have two single beds that can be reconfigured as a double. Standard balcony cabins have a bed settee which can provide a third berth.

The bathroom was divided into three spaces; shower sink unit and toilet. Two partially frosted sliding glass doors separated the shower, sink unit and toilet from each other.  This would allow the non-shy to perform simultaneous ablution functions. The shower was of adequate size for most people and the glass door prevented leakage onto the bathroom floor and mouldy curtain syndrome. Dispensers provided, shampoo and shower gel are a reminding that this is a mass market cruise line. The toilet compartment was quite small and even a person of average height may find that there knees almost touched the wall while seated on the throne. The towels provided were pretty small and the largest would hardly wrap around anyone with a generous waist measurement.

The wardrobe space was reasonable and had a useful internal light. Curiously Ocean view cabins generally had more draw space than standard balcony ones. The Garden Villa’s and courtyard villas with their private courtyard and pool area are of course very spacious, but cost a small fortune. (Personally If I had that kind of money I would not be spending it on a palatial suite on a mass-market ship. I’s pick a more exclusive ship, even if I had a slightly more modest suite.

The cabin TV was a small out of date 14” CRT type. The Signal reception was poor and channels limited.  Although ‘classic’ black & white movies were shown, not much else was.  There were unfortunately no interactive features which is amazing for a relatively new ship. The booking of excursions, the booking of alternative dinging and the ability to check your cashless account total would have been very useful.  How about the ability to view the Freestyle dining demand ‘graphs’ in your room so you can see which dining rooms are the most busy?

There were no UK plug sockets in cabin so an American to UK adapter is required for your own appliances.

Disembarkation was one of the smoothest I have experienced. You can simply pick a coloured tag which suits the departure time that you required. You are not told what time to get off. Other lines should note this system.
 

 

 

The SS United State Library is small, but has a reasonable selection of books, and sports historic photographs on the wall of the legendary Ocean Liner of the same name. (If you have never heard of it, do look it up). A tea and coffee urn was provided. The centrepiece of the room is a superb large scale model of the ship itself in a glass case.  The signage on the model boasts that NCL purchased her in 2003.  However it dos not explain why they have apparently done nothing constructive with her since.

 Bars

 

Located amidships are three bars; ‘Tankards Beer and Whisky Bar’, ‘Mixers Martini and Cocktail’ Bar and ‘Magnums Champagne and Wine Bar’.  There are no walls separating the. ‘Tankards’ has a mock up of part of a copper still, ‘Mixers’ had the projected mage of a silhouetted woman dancing (in the style of a James Bond movies title sequence) and ‘Magnums’ had bubbles which constantly rise in a glass walled bar.  A small stage with piano served this area which is called ‘Bar Central’. It was all very attractive, with a small atrium and some SS Normandie style lighting fixtures. However in reality it was just one large bar. The noise levels could be quite loud if all three areas were full

The Star Bar on deck is an attractive and intimae ‘quiet’ bar on deck 13, with tinted windows, overlooking the pool deck. Guest often forget that it’s there or can’t be bothered to make the trek.

 The Spinnaker Lounge is on the top deck of the ship, forward and is a multi-purpose lounge. Firstly it has glass windows so is an observation lounge overlooking the ships bow.  However a centrally located stage partially obscures the view. The lounge is also used for live music, comedy, disco dancing and karaoke.  The seating is both the fixed and moveable variety, with glass tables. The circular dance floor is in front of the stage. The back of the room has a bar, a blackjack machine, dartboard and some items of very peculiar furniture which words cannot easily describe.
 On the penultimate evening the Spinnaker Lounge was close all evening to guests, for a crew party.  Although I have no objections to hardworking crew letting their hair down, but this was the passenger’s last chance to dance the night away without having to get up early the next morning. A more suitable evening should have been chosen for the passenger’s convenience.
 
The ships navigational Bridge has a viewing window where passengers can peer through and see the Star Trek like control room. Interestingly Jade used exclusively electronic navigational charts.
 
The Medusa Lounge  is a new lounge which had been added to Jade. Its decor is rather Carnival in style and features giant candles as ceiling supports, complete with dripping wax effects.  It has a circular dance floor and could be used as a disco, but for my cruise a small three piece band played music for ballroom dancing.  The Port Lecture also used this room, although far from ideal for a lecture. There are three rooms off the lounge called “Whatever Rooms” which mainly seemed to be used for Wii video games.

SS Normandie style lamp – Bar Central

Conclusion

Norwegian Jade is a modern floating resort, aimed at the mass market. She has more choices of dining than just about any other ship that I’ve cruise on.  Part of the fun of any cruise for me is exploring the ship and enjoying the facilities. On Jade I particularly enjoyed sampling the multiple dining options.

Freestyle worked for me and I enjoyed the NCL “difference”. The downside of the NCL experience is the surcharges. I managed to spend more on board than I normally would with other mass market lines.  Quite simply, if you enjoy good food you need to pay extra for it on this ship. NCL’s main (no-surcharge) dining room had reasonable service, but you were treated as just a number.  The food was not as consistent, and generally not as good as ‘Royal Caribbean’s, for example.  The surcharge restaurants on board Jade were all very good in terms of food quality and provided more attentive service.

I would like to seen the quality of food and the consistency rise in the free dining rooms on board Jade so you have a choice a ‘good’ food for free and ‘excellent’ food for a surcharge. NCL also needs to adapt their product (especially the entertainment) more to British tastes, when cruising from Southampton, which Royal Caribbean are so very good at.  The British public is also very sensitive to NCL’s ‘hard sell’ of on board services which can create a negative on board atmosphere.

On a positive note, NCL do offer a pretty unique mass-market product. Their main rivals Royal Caribbean and Carnival do not yet offer a full ‘freestyle’ system or such an array of dining choices.  However, you might well spend more money on board an NCL ship than an RCI ship. This is fine if NCL are offering you a lower fare, but if RCI and NCL have similar fares for similar cruises,  NCL may work out more expensive when the on board spend is considered.

Malcolm Oliver  (Images taken by myself)

Update: Since my review I have see other reviews which say the standard of food in the ‘free’ dining rooms has improved. I’m not surprised, remedial action was needed if NCL wished to gain repeat passengers. However the dining surcharges have probably also increased?

One final note: NCL have abolished the paper feedback form.  Instead ‘selected’ guests are sent a survey by e-mail.  This would appear to exclude the opinions of the non-IT Literate, such as older guests. Maybe NCL do not care what older guest’s think as their product is aimed at the younger market?  This is an oversight in my opinion as the British cruise passenger demographic is probably older than the American one.

Malcolm Oliver

Slide show below:

 

 Check out my ‘Norwegian Epic’ Review: 

http://wp.me/PfRKD-Iy

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101 Responses to “Norwegian Jade Ship Review”

  1. Malcolm Oliver Says:

    Hi Joze, NCL normally attract the full age range, including families. I believe kids can go to all the restaurants but they will probably prefer the buffet. Mass-market ships do get busy in places/at times, but hopefully it will not be unbearable. If they enjoy Jade, Epic, Breakaway, Getaway or Escape will be a MUST next year.

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