Year Started: 1966
Ships in Fleet: 13
Summary: With the recent introduction of new ships the third biggest cruise company in the world. Free-style cruising, elaborate dining options and surprisingly good entertainment.
Regions:Bahamas, Bermuda, Caribbean, Mediterranean Western
Good for: Teens. Seniors. Group.
Regions:Eastern Seaboard, Caribbean, Bermuda
Good for: Value for Money. Children`s Programs. Singles.
Regions:Caribbean, Mediterranean Western, Transatlantic
Regions:Bahamas, Caribbean, Eastern Seaboard
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Bahamas, Caribbean
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Bahamas, Caribbean
Good for: Value for Money. Teens. First-time Cruisers.
Good for: Group. Singles. Families.
Good for: Teens. Seniors. Families.
Regions:Caribbean, Inland Waterways, Mediterranean Western, Mexico
Good for: Value for Money. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Caribbean, Inland Waterways, West Coast
Good for: Families. Value for Money. Teens.
Good for: Value for Money. Overall Service. Disabled Travelers.
My husband and I booked this cruise for our 30th wedding anniversay. When we got to our room I checked the mini bar, it was missing half of the contents although it had been checked off as complete. We reported this and halfway through the cruise it was topped up. We checked our statement when we left the ship and everything was OK. One week after leaving the ship a $77 dollar amount was taken from my credit card. No paperwork was every sent to justify this amount being deducted. When we contacted NCL we were told that this was for the mini bar - we took nothing from this bar as it was horrendously expensive. Two months later we have now received a refund (slightly less because of the difference in exchange rate)
The cruise went to amazing ports and great scenery. The excursions were pricey at some ports but for the most part worth it. The St Petersburg excursions were fabulous but you were rushed through most of the exhibits because it takes so long to get through customs and we were running an hour behind.
The one of the problem we had is that we were booked in a Mini Suite on Deck 11 and the Kid Zone was directly above our room and all we heard from 8am to 11pm were the kids screaming, jumping and dropping things on the ceiling. It was so annoying that we complained but nothing was done - this was so not worth the extra money we spent. My suggestion is to double check the room you are booked in and make sure you are not below restaurants, pools and Kid Zones.
Another issue we had was the food was mediocre at best - the desserts were bland and the meals were that great.
The NCL Spirit is rated a 4 star but my experience puts it closer to a 3 star (this was my 4th cruise experience...first with NCL). Cruises are about services and food (primarily). What this cruise lacked was quality of food in their dining rooms. For example, the appetizers were barely a single mouthful and pre-cooked food (unfrozen). For the entrees, the quality simply was not there. Some items were so laden with butter and cream that you almost felt it went straight to your arteries. On lobster night they served half a tail in the entree. The added 1 shrimp a 2 mussels. Ridiculous. The dining service was slow and in one room (the Windows) the lady in charge "Jenny" didn't bother to greet you.
NCL promotes "freestyle" cruising. A great concept but totally mismanaged for dinner service. On three occasions we had to wait 45 minutes for a seating. They would not take any reservations in their dining rooms. It felt as if NCL made it somewhat uncomfortable to wait and hoped many would chose their specialty restos for added cost. Bar service seemed very pushy on selling you drinks. Theyjust did not stop asking you.
Sorry, I did not get my money's worth. I have been on other cruises and for the same money (and family vacation) thus far the Royal Caribbean is the best. Thank you.
Hi my name is Alki and this year I went on my first cruise to Bermuda with NCL Spirit. I am very satisfied from all my time on the ship. Crew memberes made sure for me to have a great time partying and they were very helpful. Definetely I will do it again in a couple of years. I like that Spirit leaves from Boston MA during the summer because I live in Boston.
My husband (75) and myself (65) just returned from the cruise to Alaska. Our cruise was terrible. The entertainment was a disaster. Not approriate for family oriented cruise. The service was not good. Our room attendent Sherton was very good and helpful and kept our room perfect. He is the only one that I can say was very attentive.
Children were running in the hall and I spoke to the personnel about this because they bumped into me three different times.
I have an artificial hip and if they had knocked me down I would be in a wheel chair because I cannot have any more surgery on my hip. The personnel told me they could not do anything about the running in the halls and in the resturant. We have travel with Norwegian before and had excellent service. We had planned to make this a yearly anniversary trip on their ships. Now we will never travel with Norwegian again and I will advise anyone else not to.Also too many hidden fees and having to buy our cokes all the time. This is rediculous.
We just returned from our cruise. Overall it was great.
First a bit about the ship. The food was great. We put out the extra bucks and went to dinner in Cagney's Steak House and Il Adiago and they were both worth the extra money. The service was super and the food wonderful. The buffets were good also. When the inside buffet was busy, we just went outside without a wait.
We had a balcony cabin, as well as a handicapped room for a friend of ours. NCL took very good care of our friend. The room was huge, especially the bath. Perfect for a wheelchair. Our balcony room was perfect. I will never stay in an inside cabin again.
The shows were okay. We cruised Royal Caribbean five years ago and the adult games were similar. I would think by now things would change. The comedian was very funny. The broadway type shows were cheesy and a waste of time. The partying at the pool at night was fun. We always found something to do if we didn't care for the shows. There are so many things to doon the ship that if we didn't like what we saw in one place, we would just go someplace else.
Surprisingly we did well in the Casino. The machines go from $.01 on up. There were plenty of tables to choose from.
Our overall ship experience was good and we would cruise on the Sky again.
My only suggestion would be to do something about the entertainment. The cruise director as Austin Powers was a bit much. I think a dueling piano bar for adults would be great fun.
As for the ports, Freeport was pathetic. Where we docked was all industrial. Cargo containers, sand piles -- it was just awful. Nothing pretty about it at all.
We took the $39.00 NCL shore tour. Driving around was sad. They had lots of devastation from past hurricanes, and the homes are in very poor condition. These people are very poor. The first market was dirty and there was no paper in the toilets. Bring you own, I guess. It wasn't worth the stop as far as we were concerned. The second place was better. There were 86 shops and a casino across the street. Much nicer. The last stop was the beach. 20 minutes for picture taking and a drink.
The next day we went to Nassau. The port was much better. We decided to take a taxi on our own and went over to the Atlantis Resort. We shared a taxi and paid $4.00 per person. We were there in five minutes. It's a beautiful place. We walked around for about an hour. I'm sure we didn't see even half the place. We took a taxi back for $4.00 each again. Right across from the place where we docked there was a straw market. Lots and lots of stores. Something for everyone. We really enjoyed that.
The last day we went to NCL's island. It was very nice, although you need to get there early to get a lounge chair. Otherwise you'll have to sit on a sand chair. They had bar service, a BBQ, music, volleyball and you could also rent floats, snorkel equipment or take a parasail ride. The food is free, but of course everything else has a charge. We paid $18.99 for two foam floats for the day. The beach is nice and the water was crystal clear.
On the last day getting off the ship couldn't have gone more smoothly. We opted for the easy walk off. We took our own luggage, and went through Customs in about two seconds. It was perfect.
So overall, we had a blast. We would have hoped the ports would have been better, but didn't think about the hurricane damage. Shame on us being from SW Florida.
We are planning another cruise and will go with NCL again. But next time we'll do more research into the ports.
My husband and I traveled to Hawaii this June to set sail on Pride of America. It was our first time in the islands and our first cruise. I had read many reviews of the ship ahead of time, and posted some questions on the message board here, which helped me to get ready for the experience. It was the trip of a lifetime!
We flew from Ohio on June 6 with Delta Airlines (with our second leg, a 9 1/2 hour flight from Atlanta to Honolulu). We arrived in Hawaii after 2 p.m. The flight wasn't too bad. I learned that the perfect seats on a 747 are the first row of two seats behind the threes, in the tail section. I had space beside my window seat that nearly equaled a seat width. We had extra storage under the seat in front of us and I was short enough (5'3) to be able to stand and stretch in the space beside our seat. I needed that, as my legs tend to swell when I fly. It was great.
When we got our luggage, we headed out to wherethe shuttles were. I had read that Roberts Hawaii offers $6 transfers to the pier. We couldn't see their bus, but saw another shuttle marked Waikiki and the driver said they were headed to the pier too. He said it would be $8 apiece. We took it.
Embarkation was smooth and easy. We were on the ship in no time (around 3 p.m.). Our room was ready when we got there. It seemed a little small to me, but my husband exclaimed, "It's huge!" when he saw it. I had been warning him that cabins were small on ships. The bed was two twins put together to form a king. There was a loveseat in the room and a small TV. There was ample storage. We unloaded our suitcases and had a couple of drawers in the closet we left empty. The suitcases easily fit under the bed.
The balcony was heavenly. If I had known better when I booked, I would have tried to get one without a lifeboat under it. We were on the 8th deck and the lifeboats were on the 7th. Actually our balcony was over a metal walkway between two lifeboats, which stuck out even further. It wasn't bad, and didn't obstruct our view, but it was in it, if that makes sense. My husband looked on the bright side of things and said if anything happened, at least we'd have an easy way down!
The bathroom was sufficient in size. The toilet and shower both worked well. There was shower gel and shampoo you could use at the push of a button. Soap was the same way at the sink. I took along my own shampoo in little containers, but my husband used the ship one and liked it. I had read there was no storage space by the sink, but there was enough for all of our little bottles of products. I have a travel bag that I hung on a hook on the door for my makeup, etc., which worked well.
The room had no alarm clock, but we just called for a wakeup call each day and they were always prompt with that. We left the balcony door open all night long, which was a wonderful way to listen to the sound of the waves when we were sailing, and to get some fresh air. One added bonus -- the sea air cleared my sinuses completely that week. Now that I am back home, I sure miss it!
We ran into our cabin steward several times in the hall during the week. She did a great job. She looked tired; they work such long days. But she kept the room clean and turned down our bed for us every night. She made four lovely towel animals for us during the week -- a dog, rabbit, elephant and snake. We delighted in them and tried to keep them as long as we could!
The ship was beautiful. We enjoyed the bright decor. The Mardi Gras Lounge was such a cozy place to be for a show and the Hollywood Theatre was elegant and seated so many. We saw many of the shows. We couldn't get enough of Second City, they were great. We went to their large show and both of their Mardi Gras improv shows and even attended a class to learn about improv with one of the comedians, Jeff Griggs. The magician, John Shyrock, was great too, as was the comedian, Chris Alpine. We went to a special show where the magician showed us how to perform some tricks, which was neat. We also went to the crew farewell show, which was really funny, especially their closing "Fountains" act. And we saw a local Maui band perform poolside one afternoon as well.
The food on the ship was good. We ate dinner two nights at the Aloha Cafe, and once each at the Skyline Main Dining Room, Liberty Main Dining Room, Jefferson's Bistro, Lazy J Steakhouse, and Cadillac Diner. We would have eaten at Little Italy instead of the steakhouse, due to the cover charge, but it was closed the night we planned on going (the night most of the ship was at the luau on Kuaui). Service was awesome at the Bisto, especially, but we had really friendly service at the Lazy J and Skyline as well. The food was delicious at the specialty restaurants, and good in the main dining rooms and buffets. I had read where the main dining rooms could take forever. We had two different experiences there. We were in and out of the Skyline in an hour, with good service, but the Liberty took about two hours and didn't impress us as much, service wise. But I know that can depend on the waiter/waitress at the time. The Cadillac Diner was a quiet, fun little place. I discovered I loved their macaroni and cheese. It's on the children's menu there, but I asked for it as a side with my sandwich. It was delicious! The best desserts I had all week were the chocolate chip cookies and the marshmallows we'd have dipped in chocolate for us from the fountains at the buffet. Yum! The buffet had a lot of food, and although it was packed, we never had too much trouble finding a place to sit. I like that they had antibacterial dispensers as you walked in.
We ate in the buffet for most of our breakfasts, but on the two days we had slightly later excursions, we went to the Skyline restaurant. Service was fast there for breakfast. They have an express menu. The fresh squeezed juice is free there too, but there is a charge at the buffet. However, there is regular OJ at the buffet that is no extra charge, in a dispenser. My favorite buffet breakfast dish was the Belgian waffle quarters. One day I tried to wait for an omelet, but it seemed to be taking too long so I just got other stuff. There was so much good food at the buffet that I didn't need to wait.
The pool was a cool place to hang out. It was a little hard finding some chairs together the one day we laid out, but we managed to on the deck overlooking the pool. We swam in the small adults only pool at the back of the ship one time (at least I thought it was an adults only pool), but another couple was in there with an infant and toddler at the same time. It didn't bother us, but I had read where no one in diapers was supposed to be in the pools. We tried out the hot tub at the back of the ship and it was nice and hot. We took walks on the Promenade deck a few times, and my husband jogged on it one morning. One night we played chess in the almost deserted card room. The room was stocked with lots of games. It was a neat place to get away for awhile. The library was such a cozy place too.
One of the two sailing highlights was the night we sailed by the lava flow on the starboard side. We watched on deck. It was amazing! No pictures turned out for me, though. Then, we got to see the Na Pali Coast from our portside balcony. Breathtaking, is all I can say about it. Pictures can't do it justice.
We took a shore excursion each day. The first day, we went on the Road to Hana tour. It was beautiful and we had ample stops to take pictures. I loved the black sand (lava rock) beach. Gorgeous! Lunch was pretty good, but just like the ship, it seemed all we had to drink on all our excursion lunches was tea and water. The road to the other half of the tour was closed, so we went back the way we had come, which was a little disappointing. I heard those who took the same excursion the next day went all the way around. One lady on our bus got sick, so be warned that if you get motion sickness, do not go on this tour.
The second day in Maui we did the Rainforest and Waterfall Hike. I learned I am not cut out for true hiking, but it wasn't too bad. Just be warned there's some climbing involved on steep and rough terrain, including climbing up tree roots on the side of a steep hill and using a rope to help lower yourself down an embankment. My husband took my backpack a couple of times to help me balance myself better. We loved swinging on the rope into one of the waterfalls we saw that day -- that was worth the hike for me.
In Hilo we took the Volcano and Rainbow Falls Deluxe tour, but the water from Rainbow Falls was diverted to the hydroelectric power plant due to a drought, so we went to a non-profit zoo instead. The zoo was neat, and the botanical gardens were gorgeous. The volcano was neat to see, all the steam coming out. And the walk through Thurston Lava Tube was great as well. The buffet lunch was good, as was the trip to the Macademia Nut Factory, where we bought some nuts for gifts.
We took the Captain Zodiac Rafting, Snorkeling and Dolphin Adventure in Kona. That was a lot of fun. We went really fast on the raft. We saw a lot of spinner dolphins jumping and spinning to entertain us. It was neat getting some good shots of the cruise ship in the background too. The snorkeling was good. The reef was in good shape there. There weren't a lot of fish, but the ones there were pretty colorful. Our favorite was the parrotfish. After the tour we walked around Kona. It's a charming town. We ate fish and chips at Quinn's Restaurant, and we found a neat little Internet place -- Beach Dog Internet Cafe -- where we could surf at a rate of $5 for 30 minutes. We stayed for an hour so I could get caught up on news from home. Crystal, who runs it with her husband, was so sweet. She gave us free ice cream samples while we were there. We bought some coffee in a shop near there as well as to take home. The line for tendering was a little long on the way back to the ship, and the rain didn't help, but there were awnings to cover most of the line.
Kauai was the most majestic of the islands. We went on the Waimea Canyon, Wailua River and Fern Grotto tour the first day there. The canyon was gorgeous. My husband didn't like that we stayed at a tourist trap for as long as we did at the canyon though! But some people like to shop. The riverboat ride was cool. I enjoyed seeing the Fern Grotto, but wish you could still go inside it. (You can't since it was damaged in a storm). There is a partially blind cat that lives at the Fern Grotto; it was resting under a large umbrella there. On the way back, they sang and entertained us on the riverboat and taught us how to do the hula. The buffet lunch that day was our best lunch of the entire trip.
Our second day in Kauai we went on the Heaven and Earth tour. We went on a helicopter ride over most of Kauai. It was fabulous! They seat you in the helicopter based on your weight. When it was over, they offer a DVD of your trip for sale. We bought one. The rest of the trip was by land. We saw a lot of beautiful coastline and ate lunch at a beach. The beaches were nearly deserted. They were gorgeous.
You have to put your suitcases out by midnight the night before the cruise ends. They give you color tags to put on them -- ours was black because we were taking an excursion. If you are leaving on your own, you can choose your time of departure the day before in increments of 15 minutes, and you are assigned a color accordingly. Disembarkation was as easy as going on our regular excursions.
We took the Best of Oahu Grand Finale tour. I loved getting the chance to see Pearl Harbor and visit the Arizona Memorial. It was such a moving experience. We then went to the Polynesian Cultural Center. On the way there, we stopped for lunch (on us) and somewhere to sample nuts. Everytime we went around a curve we saw a beautiful beach view, and I so wish we could have stopped for a picture. When I go back someday, I will definitely spend more time on Oahu. I felt like I didn't see enough. The Polynesian Cultural Center was really neat. The canoe pageant and Samoan shows were great, as was the luau, which was included in our cost. The food was delicious and everyone got a free fresh orchid lei. My husband and I went to all the villages in the time we had there, and tried to play all the games we could find. We threw spears at a target, swung poi balls, tossed sticks, balanced poles, learned to play a tune on the ukelele, and sampled poi. We also got some fake tattoos. We had a blast.
We got to the airport around 7:30. Our flight was at 9:50. We took a change of clothes and our toothbrushes in our carry-ons. The clean clothes were welcome after a hot day of touring in the sun. We slept little on our red eye flight back.
I loved every minute of our trip. Cruising was so much fun! We were pretty tired by the end of it, but I wouldn't have changed a thing because we wanted to see all we could of the islands while we were there. When we go back someday, we will know what we want to hit again, this way, and what else we'd like to see. I definitely want to return to Hawaii someday, and I'd love to sail on the Pride of America again. It was a terrific experience!
This is my review of the Pride of America from May 30th through June 6th.
Prior to boarding the POA we stayed at the Hyatt in Maui for three days. The hotel was beautiful. We rented a car through Thrifty. The first night we attended the "Drums of the Pacific" Luau at the Hyatt. We had a great time watching all the different performances.
The next day we drove to the top of Haleakala which was amazing. The view from the top is breathtaking. The following day we drove the road to Hana. We stopped at the Garden of Eden, black sand beach and other points along the road. Not recommended if you get carsick easily. The sights along the road were beautiful. We flew back to Honolulu the next morning and rented a car from Thrifty. We went to Pearl Harbor and took a behind the scenes tour on the Battleship Missouri. The ship was awesome. We returned the car and took the Thrifty shuttle to the pier.
We arrived around 1pm and had to wait in line for a bit to go through security and check-in, but we were onthe ship by 2pm.
The ship is beautiful. We tried to put all the negative comments we have read about the ship aside since we were celebrating our honeymoon. While exploring the ship we encountered our first negative experience. We were in the saloon bar and we were approached by a waiter named Garrett. We wanted to order two beers and he proceeded to offer the bucket of beer. I declined, but he continued to push it on us. We reiterated we didn't want a bucket, only two. He was very pushy and then with an attitude he said he needed our ID's. I was surprised because in all my cruises I never needed to carry ID with me, because my ship card was enough. I had my ID on me but my wife didn't and then he said he couldn't serve us. I bet if we had bought the bucket of beer he wouldn't have given us an issue. My wife asked him don't the under 21 people have some sort of indicator on the card showing they are under 21 and he said yes they have a corner clipped out or cut. He then proceeded to say well they don't always clip the card. I told him that wasn't our problem and all he needs to do is scan our cards and he can check our ages, and he didn't know what to say and stormed off with our cards. He finally brought back our two beers and proceeded to lecture us how everyone isn't as nice as him and we should always have our ID with us and how there are over 1400 cameras watching us. We left and never came back to that bar. We didn't let this ruin our vacation though; we just filled out the comment card with a lengthy comment and returned it to the purser's desk.
So after we left the Saloon Bar we made our way to the Lahaina Lounge for a meet and greet with fellow cruise critics. It was great to meet everyone and then we had a surprise appearance and meeting with Captain Buz and the cruise hotel manager.
We ate at the Skyline restaurant the first night and the food was very good. Our waitress Delia was very nice. The first day we just hung out and walked to a beach that was nearby, we should have taken a taxi, but now we learned our lesson. The next day we stopped in Maui and took the Molokini snorkel tour through the ship. It is run through the Pacific Whale Foundation. The tour was very informative and fun. We were able to see the green sea turtles (Honu) and many beautiful fish.
The next day we were in Hilo on the Big Island. We took an excursion through NCL for the Volcanoes National Park tour to see the active volcanoes. The tour was run by Polynesian Adventures and our tour guide, Captain Rob, was terrific. He was funny, knowledgeable and entertaining throughout the entire tour ride. The ride to the park was beautiful. The flowers and plants on all the islands are all breath taking. Volcanoes National Park is like being on a different planet. We made several stops at different vista points and picture spots. Our first stop was at the Caldera. This part of the volcano constantly emits steam and sometimes even toxic gases. Our favorite stop was when we were able to walk on the cooled lava from the 1974 eruption. It was amazing that trees and flowers have started to bloom and grow amongst the destruction of the lava. Our final stop in the park was the lava tube which was pretty cool too. We walked down a path and walked into and through the lava tube to the other side. On the way back to the cruise ship we had extra time so Captain Rob gave us a bonus stop at an orchard farm. There were some beautiful flowers in there. There was even an orchard worth $20,000!!! We didn't even think it was that nice, but apparently it only blooms like once a year or something crazy like that.
That next day we were in Kona on the Big Island. We had to tender there and NCL did a good job organizing the tender process. They gave out numbers in Pink's Champagne Lounge and then called you by numbers to go down and get on the tender. They had several tenders in service and it was quite efficient. Kona was beautiful as well. We did a lot of shopping and went to the little beach next to where the tender docked. It was extremely hot but the water was nice and refreshing. Kona was a good day to relax and get some shopping done.
From Kona we went to Kauai. Kauai is absolutely gorgeous. We rented a car through Thrifty and we had privately booked an ATV tour with Kipu Ranch Tours (www.kiputours.com). We had some time to kill before we had to check in at the ranch so we drove to Poipu. There was a little shopping center so we walked around looking at the shops and we grabbed a drink at Starbucks. We came across Puka Dog (which was featured on the travel channel) they opened at 11am so we waited ten minutes until they opened because we had to try one. We got the Kauai mustard sauce dog and split it. It was pretty big so both of us were satisfied. It was a good hot dog but kind of pricey at almost $7.00, but we figured when else are we going to be able to try this? The ATV tour on Kipu Ranch was amazing. This ranch has been used for several movie scenes such as Indiana Jones, Mighty Joe Young and of course Jurassic Park just to name a few. This is an active cattle ranch owned and operated by the Rice family. Our tour guide Mike and Justin were amazing. They gave a history lesson about the ranch and the island of Kauai and showed us a fantastic four-hour tour. We got to swim in the river that Indiana Jones swung into as well as ending the tour at the beautiful waterfall with this amazing, huge bamboo. Our second day in Kauai we spent at the beach between the Marriott hotel and Duke's beachside bar and grille. The water was a little rough and brisk but all the same great.
The Sushi bar was phenomenal -- $15 a person for all you can eat sushi. And the Asian Fusion restaurant had great food and terrific service. The shows we saw were also fantastic. The shows on the POA aren't Vegas Style shows; however the Hawaiian dances and comedy acts were great. Second City performed three times and we went each time and laughed hysterically each and every time. Also, Chris Alpine performed several times and he too was fantastic and also very, very funny.
Overall we had a great time on the cruise. The service was a bit lacking, most likely because of the crew being all American. It was hit or miss with the waiters and although we had a decent room steward, we heard nightmares about some other stewards. However, we didn't let that get to us. We were there to see Hawaii and that's what we got. That being said, we would probably not take the same Hawaiian cruise on NCL's POA. We had a great time, Hawaii was more beautiful than words could describe, but NCL needs to give more training or something to teach the crew to be more personable and courteous as a whole.
The cruise ship smelled like raw sewage.
The staff was unprepared for passengers upon arrival.
I will never cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line again!
This was our first short, 5-nights, cruise with NCL. We have done three long, 11-nights, cruises with them before on the Wind, the Dawn and the Jewel.
Pre-Cruise Since this was a short vacation and we have been in London many times before, it was my 10th visit there, we decided to stay there for just one night before the cruise. We stayed at Park Plaza Victoria Hotel close to Victoria Station and that was a very nice hotel.
On the day of the cruise we took a National Express bus from Victoria Coach Station at 7.15. A little early but the next bus would get us to Southampton later than we wanted so it was the choice we had!
We came to Southampton 9:25 and had some breakfast at McDonalds before we walked to the terminal, arrived there at 10.30. It was definitely walking distance between the coach station and the terminal but with more luggage we would have taken a cab. (We took a cab after the cruise and paid £5+tip, around $8+tip.)
Embarkation They started the embarkation at 11:05 so we had to wait for a while before we couldcheck in. Since there were no lines everything went very fast. We were the first to get to one of the Latitudes desks where we checked in. The lady at the desk then took us to the concierge, Ruth Hagger, where we got our keys. I didn't see any VIP-check in, maybe because we were so early and there were no lines anyway? Ruth took us to the VIP waiting area where we waited for just a few minutes before we got escorted onto the ship around 11:30. We got our glass of sparkling wine and then we left our luggage in our cabin which was almost ready. When the luggage was left we went to Magnum's for our traditional first glass of Champagne, Taittinger!
Our Cabin We stayed in AE Penthouse 8634 which is located aft. The cabin was definitely big enough for us and there was lots of space for the luggage. We had a bathtub instead of a shower and I think that a shower had been better because I felt too close to the roof every time I took a shower!
There was a nice, but small, dining area which we didn't use because the cruise was so short. On a longer cruise it might be nice to have dinner in the cabin one night and then stay in bed and watch DVD's on the rather large flat screen TV for the rest of the evening!
The balcony was nice and equipped with one sun chair and two other chairs with cushions. We didn't really like the aft view but know that many do like it. The cheapest cabin with suite perks and side view but without a second bedroom, which I won't use and therefore don't want to pay for, is the A4 Courtyard Villa so if I feel like paying for that for our next cruise I might do that, if not I will be back in an aft Penthouse or Romance Suite and I will be happy with that too.
The Restaurants and the Food Since the cruise was short we didn't have time to eat at many of the restaurants. We had all our breakfasts in the concierge lounge (Star Bar-Cagney's) and most of our lunches too, we had lunch at Blue Lagoon once. For dinner we went to Grand Pacific twice, Paniolo twice and Le Bistro.
The breakfast in the concierge lounge was VERY good and one of the best suite perks. They had a buffet for cold items and a very nice menu for hot items. We really liked their omelettes, pancakes and egg Benedictines with lobster.
The lunches there were also excellent and they even had a few dishes from the dinner menu. Those dishes took some time to prepare so we didn't try any of them, we probably will on a longer cruise. They had really nice crab cakes and I can absolutely recommend their fettuccini with mushroom and cheese sauce.
We had lunch in Blue Lagoon on our port day in Dublin because we wanted to get off the ship. We ate fish & chips there and that was very nice, but not like in a real English pub! One bad thing was that we asked if they had any Irish lager, since we were in Ireland and a stout (=Guinness!) isn't the best beverage with fish & chips, and was told, NO. Later we saw that they had Harp, which is an Irish lager.
The dinners in Grand Pacific were also very nice. The lines were very short both times (the second time we went there we had a reservation but there was no line at all so that really wasn't necessary, we made the reservation just to be sure we shouldn't have to stand in a line the last evening on the ship!) and the service was good. The menus in the main restaurants didn't have many dishes that attracted us but one nice main course is enough and all food we ate tasted well.
Le Bistro has great French food, probably not as good as a real French luxurious bistro but then the price is completely different too. The $15 extra charge is NOT too much. I can only think of one bad thing with Le Bistro and that is that they serve Foie Gras and the animals are not well treated when that is produced. I had Moules(?) Anisette (steamed clams), grilled swordfish and crepe Suzette and everything was very good.
Paniolo has great Mexican food, definitely worth the extra $10. Later in the evening the first night we went to Paniolo we sat in the bar outside Paniolo and drank a Marguerita when someone passed the bar with a tray with food which smelled so good so we decided to go to Paniolo the next day too! The second day I had Cheese Quesadillas, Sizzling Fajitas (the great smelling dish) and strawberry ice cream.
The Bars and the Beverages The Star Bar was very nice on the Jade, for some reason it wasn't that nice on the Jewel. Bali Hai is probably very nice on a warm cruise but this time it was a little too cold there in the evenings but we had some drinks there overlooking the pool area and that was nice. Bali Hai is also located on the deck outside Spinnaker Lounge so when the bar inside isn't open yet, it's perfect to buy the drinks at Bali Hai and drink them at Spinnaker. We didn't really liked the "bar city" when we cruised on the Jewel and it's the same on the Jade. It's nice to sit there with a drink but too many people are passing all the time so it's not relaxing at all! Especially the Champagne bar, Magnums, should be separated from the other bars and located in a calmer area.
Paniolos bar was, in our opinion, the best bar on the Jade. They made very nice Margueritas and the staff was very nice too. Since our cabin was located aft on deck 8 it was also very convenient to go there and buy a drink to drink in the cabin, we could have called room service or our butler but the bar was so close so it was easier to go and buy them ourselves.
All drinks we had were well made and tasted good. The drink prices were in my opinion decent, drinks on a cruise ship are never cheap but a drink at a bar in Sweden cost even more so I see no reason to complain on high prices. A Gin & Tonic costs around $6.50 with the gratuity added.
I don't know if they still try to sell souvenir drinks at a high price because I always asked for a regular sized drink when I bought something fancy.
The wine list was okay and for me it seems like the selection of cheaper wines is bigger then it was when we cruised a few years ago. This cruise we drank more Champagne then we have done before and the prices on that were decent too. Champagne always cost much but is always worth much too!
The Rest of the Ship All public areas are "colourful," if I shall say it nice! It was better than the Jewel but I really can't understand why they need so many different colours everywhere. The atrium was very nice, and very red.
On this rather cold cruise the pool area seemed big enough but I guess it was very crowded when the ship cruised around Hawaii. The quiet zone in the front of deck 14 seems like a nice place to spend time on a sunny day at sea in the Caribbean or the Mediterranean but this time it was too cold and too windy there.
We were in the casino for maybe one minute and that was more than enough! In my opinion a casino shall be a luxurious and glamorous place filled with tuxedos and nice dresses but a casino where the most casual dressed, if I shall be nice to them, people sit and smoke and just push a button for hours is just tragic to me. Others don't have to agree but my opinion is that people who think that the casino on a cruise ship is a good place to be in might need help. Note that I wrote "might," I don't say that everyone who likes a cruise ship casino has a problem, but some probably have.
As Penthouse guests we also had the opportunity to see the courtyard area. It was very nice but much smaller than I thought it would be. The private sundeck on deck 15 looked great for a warmer cruise.
The Ports We stopped in Dublin and in Cobh, outside Cork. In Dublin they docked rather far from the central parts of the town but a free shuttle was provided. (I'm sure that the city of Dublin provided the shuttle, NCL should probably have charged for it!)
Since we had been in Dublin before we decided to just walk around by ourselves for awhile. We had lunch at Blue Lagoon before we went to town and there we just had some Guinness before we took the shuttle back to the ship.
The ship docked very central in Cobh. We docked right by the train station so those who wanted to go to Cork could do so by train. We had booked an excursion because we wanted to see some of the Irish countryside. NCL had some interesting excursions in Cobh but unfortunately most of them were in the afternoon and we really prefer to go on an excursion before lunch and be back for lunch instead of leaving after lunch. The best excursion we could find before lunch was to Blarney Castle so we booked that. It was nice and we got to see some Irish countryside so we were happy with it, but it was probably not the most interesting excursion they had.
The Suite Life The best thing with staying in a "suite" (I know it's not really a suite unless the bedroom is in a separate room but everyone calls it a suite so I call it a suite too) isn't the suite itself, it's the perks you get. The suite was very nice and the extra space would have been great on a longer cruise. Since this cruise was so short we didn't have very much luggage. In my opinion the aft view made the suite itself less attractive. The pillow menu in the suite is a great idea and on a longer and warmer cruise I should have ordered a Climarelle: "Stay cool and comfortable with this super-scientific-body-temperature-regulating-pillow"!
The best thing with having a suite was the breakfasts and lunches in the concierge lounge, a very relaxing experience and great food! We walked through the Garden Café once and couldn't believe how much noise there was there, have we really eaten there on previous cruises!? I doubt that we ever can go back to a standard balcony cabin again!
It was also nice to be able to ask the concierge to make dinner reservations but is it really harder to do it yourself? Priority tender tickets must also be a good perk but not needed on this cruise. The butler service can also be nice but how many "normal" persons really need a butler? I liked the treats we got every afternoon and dinner in the suite one night can be great on a longer cruise but for other things than that, I don't really need a butler.
Priority embarkation was also nice but even better was the priority debarkation. We waited in Le Bistro until it was time to go and then we just cut the line and were off the ship in less than a minute, how nice was that!? I understand that people standing in that long line don't appreciate that some people don't have to wait in the line, but we have paid more so why should I be sorry and feel bad for it?
Debarkation and Post-Cruise Debarkation was as I just said -- very quick and easy. After we had left the ship we took a cab to the coach station and waited there for a short while before our bus to Heathrow departed. We came to Heathrow at 12:10 and then we went to terminal 5. Our plane wasn't to depart until 4:50 but since we should fly in Club Europe (British Airways business class within Europe) we could spend all that time in the lounge where they had some excellent wine. Our plane landed in Stockholm at 8:15 and we were back at home just before 11:00.
What Could Have Been Better I don't really like to try to find bad things when the overall experience was so good but I know that even the bad things are important to mention and by doing that, all the good things I have written about the cruise get more credibility.
I have already mentioned our aft view. Yes, it's only my opinion that the aft view isn't as good as a side view and I know that many love the aft view. My question then is: if the aft view is so good, why aren't the Courtyard Villas, Owner Suites and Garden Villas located aft? I think that NCL could have some Penthouses on the side of the ship too so that those who prefer the side view could book one of those. For me it feels wrong that the standard balcony cabins cost much less and have a much better view than the Penthouses!
The coffee maker in our cabin was broke, really not a problem but still something bad! We told our butler and she took it with her, no replacement.
Sometimes there were kids in the adults only hot tubs and no one told them to leave. That wasn't really a problem either but a rule is a rule. Some late evenings there were also lots of teenagers running around on the deck outside the Star Bar and they were very loud. There were more teenagers on this cruise than on our previous cruises (because it was shorter?) and most of the time that was no problem but I can't understand why they have to sit on the stairs? Is there really no other place for them to be in?
According to NCL's brochure we should get a bottle of "Moet & Chandon White Star Champagne on arrival," but we got a bottle of cheap sparkling wine. Not a big problem but still annoying because if I pay for Champagne, I want Champagne! I asked the concierge about it and she said that was changed fleet wide a few months ago. The brochure also mentions a "Daily choice from special hors d'oeuvre menu" and we never had the chance to choose anything. All we got was very good, but it was not up to us to choose what we wanted.
On the last evening of the cruise, just before dinner, the whole bar city was filled with people who participated in a quiz. Couldn't they have chosen another area for that? In my opinion a bar is a place for people who want to have a drink, in this case a pre-dinner drink before the last dinner on a cruise, and the bar city is filled with people not drinking! How good business is that for NCL? It was no problem for us to go up to the Star Bar instead, but what was NCL thinking?
Conclusion This was a really great cruise! Does anyone doubt that I recommend cruising with NCL on the Norwegian Jade?