Lovely Ship - Fantastic Crew - But Never Again!
We sailed on the Jade’s inaugural cruise from Barcelona to Istanbul.
Our Flight Was from Cardiff to Barcelona by KLM via Amsterdam. We had a very short transfer time but our flight from Cardiff was delayed and we missed our connection so KLM booked us onto a later flight flying Business Class it made the total journey time if 12 hours.
Pre cruise stay at the Mont Blanc Barcelona. After our experience here we could never recommend this hotel to anyone. The room was fine, comfortable bed, and decent bathroom. All rooms had an exercise bike. The complementary breakfast buffet was mostly on ...
the poor side of average. At the price it would have been good to have freshly made tea, coffee and possibly toast brought to our table instead of the side table of thermos jugs and DIY toast, although you could order eggs and bacon cooked to order. Read More
The Down Side. Within 24 hours my bag had been stolen from inside the hotel. The thieves remained on the premises. Only my husband’s intervention prevented them from going to our room and emptying the safe. Staff later let slip that there had been another theft which was from a safe on the same day.
Security at this hotel is dire. One reason is that the room and safe keys are both clearly marked with the room number. No-one was on security even at the weekend when there were about one hundred or more NCL guests and the function rooms were being used by people from outside the hotel. CCTV cameras were unavailable.
Staff assured me they would report the theft to the police but failed to do so leaving me with no time left to report it before the coach arrived to take us to the ship.
After the theft hotel staff were extremely rude and patronising to me, thus adding insult to injury. No-one from the hotel came to speak to me nor was there anywhere private to go to discuss what had happened. They made it very clear that although the theft happened in their hotel it was my lookout and they couldn’t care less.
Check in There was more queuing than we expected when we arrived, and we had to queue quite a while to board the ship but check in was smooth and efficient, and later we noticed that there were no queues at all.
The ship is beautiful, tastefully decorated with wonderfully soft carpets efficient lifts and it’s wonderful Art Deco Dining Room and mirrored passage from deck 6 into the Stardust Theatre and lot of Hawaiian art around the ship. We particularly like the pool deck lighting. Many of the crew were very experienced NCL old timers, efficient, confident and friendly. Cons. If we had a dollar for every time someone asked if they could ‘get me something from the bar’ we’d be able to afford another cruise.
Safety In line with other companies room key cards didn’t state our cabin number although the colour might have been a clue. The safe is battery operated. The battery failed on ours twice and had to be replaced. It might be worth checking whether the door stays shut in such an event, we found ours open. There was a power blackout and it was reassuring to see that in all the lifts automatically went to deck seven, and opened the doors which remained open until power was restored. This would be particularly Important if you ever got the maximum load of 20 people into it, because it was quite a squeeze with twelve or more.
Freestyle. Ends point blank at 8.00 am on disembarkation day! More of that later. As far as I could tell, Freestyle 2 was basically the opportunity to pay for extras. A lot of stuff came with a price tag. Speciality Restaurants ranged from $10 to $25 per head with additional charges on top for some of the dishes Some items on the Room Service Menu were at extra charge, a day pass for the spa was about $20 Tony and Tina’s Wedding ( a show) had a cover price too a lot of people complained about the food served there We‘d already eaten at Cagney‘s so can‘t comment.
Traditional Cruising Events seemed to not to be happening, at least, not in the traditional way we know and enjoy. Someone said that the Captain’s Cocktail party cost $19.95 per head, but I didn’t see it advertised at all. Singing waiters were a lot less evident than usual, and if there was a baked Alaska procession or midnight buffet we weren’t aware of either one. The crew show was whittled down to a procession onto the stage and one song about the Jade. Which was very disappointing for anyone who has ever seen the one on the Marco Polo which was also owned by NCL.
There were quite a few Freestyle 2 teething problems , especially when it came to dinner. There were enormous queues at the Grand Pacific and Alizar Dining rooms. I think partly because people weren’t booking the speciality restaurants in any great numbers, they seemed to be half empty much of the time. Walking past the Teppanyaki I only ever saw one or two of the four tables in use. The plasma information screens weren’t giving an accurate guide to restaurant availability, meaning that we’d turn up at the Alizar when the screen was showing as less than half full only to find a queue and no table available for more than an hour. They gave us pagers, which were a mixed blessing as we were told we had to come immediately they sounded. They wouldn’t work in the cabins, so we had to hang around the bars ready to jump up when summonsed. We found we had to go to dinner earlier and earlier, eventually we’d arrive at opening time in order to get a table, and hoped to be served in time to see a show, although service could be very slow indeed so there were no guarantees. It seemed that many others had the same idea so it was a bit chaotic at times.
After a lot of complaints, NCL introduced a ‘Happy Hour’ two-for-one at the speciality restaurants, and began asking people going into the main dining rooms whether they would be happy to share a table. It meant that if we wanted to eat at a particular time we’d have to book a table, or eat in the self service restaurant, both of which seemed to be against the ‘Freestyle’ concept. We felt we’d have been better off with the traditional two sitting dining option where we would know when and where we would be sitting, or we could choose the buffet instead.
Mattress toppers and fruit selection arrived in Rome, but we were never to see the Elemis toiletries or bathrobes or final night cookies promised for balcony cabins, nor the steak breakfasts with unlimited bloody mary and mimosas. I didn’t see the chocolate fountain, but it might have been there. The soft ice cream broke down mid cruise, as did the TV navigation and information channel.
Smoking is allowed in the casino which could have used much better ventilation, your cabin (but not in bed) and your balcony. Decks away from the jogging track, sports, eating and children’s areas. The Cigar Bar was moved away from it’s original location adjacent to the Champagne Bar, and is now at the open air Bali Hai bar on Deck 13, which also serves food. It was OK in reasonable weather, but we had our share of high winds, rain and cold, which made it fairly hazardous to even get there. There weren’t a lot of takers.
Cabin. We had a balcony cabin on deck 9 with mini bar/fridge, coffee maker and efficient hairdryer. The bed was comfortable there was also a huge mirror, plenty of shelf and wardrobe space and of course, the balcony. We liked that there was a separate curtain and ‘black out’ liner to the window. The complimentary fruit took a few days to arrive, but then regularly replaced as it was eaten. Good sized shower room had a great detachable head power shower shampoo and shower gel dispenser.
Cons. Very dim lighting.
Entertainment was mostly fantastic. The Jade has set a very high benchmark which other lines will struggle to match with some really great singers, Second City an improvise and interactive act was really great. Smokey Joe’s Café was really good, although most of the songs were totally unfamiliar to us. Others included a film evening, a classical night with ballet then there were some quizzes and game shows dance classes etc. Tony and Tina’s Wedding (extra charge) was on during our evening in Venice, which I thought was a real shame, as a lot of people missed seeing it. Having unwillingly spent a long time over dinner, we missed the first half of SHOUT the Mod Musical, but crept into the back of the theatre to see what it was like. It didn’t appeal to us so we left soon afterwards. Outside I heard someone remark that it sounded as though someone had stood on the cat’s tail, and in all honesty, we couldn’t disagree. Other entertainment as provided by a very good pianist singer in one bar, a guitarist in another and the Skyline Band, Guys and Dolls and another pianist.
The Food was fantastic during the first part of the cruise, but tapered off a bit in the latter stages. Portion sizes were variable. Some quite small, and others twice what you’d expect. There was a good selection in the Garden Restaurant, with a special children’s area with hot dogs, burgers and chips. A salad bar, a hot food. Stir fry and griddle selection, as well as deserts and ice cream. Strangely there was no hot pudding. What you might expect to be a hot pudding like bread and butter pudding was served cold.
I found the soups a bit exotic. There was always a Chinese soup, a cold soup and one other which was usually made with some kind of seafood base, like bisques and chowders, presumably a result of the stock made from the remains of all the seafood in the speciality areas. Unable to eat shell fish in any form, I sometimes had to go to the Blue Lagoon the 24 hour eatery, which was waiter service, for plain old tomato soup. We had several very long waits of around an hour after ordering there, I think it may have been caused by one particular waiter rather than general.
Cons. Restaurants were crowded and often required booking. It often took a long time to get served. Except for that served in the Aloha Bar, or made in our cabin coffee maker the coffee ranged from just about drinkable to revolting. Very, very strong, not nearly hot enough, and often with a bitter taste. It seemed to me that it had been made for hours. From time to time, I’d order one in the hope that it was just about drinkable, and sometimes I was lucky. We were never served the free cappuccino that people raved about in past reviews in the restaurants which was a bit of a disappointment.
Room Service The first thing we ordered was great. Our last order never turned up. In between things were about ok except for our one and only breakfast order which was very late, and when it arrived we got two pots of dreadfully stewed coffee instead of the tea.
Children’s Facilities. We didn’t have children, but the children we saw with the play leaders around the ship, and the ones we spoke to all seemed to be having a whale of a time, and being very well entertained.
Internet Facilities. We didn’t use this service either, but we heard a lot of complaints that the minute by minute charge was very high and connection very slow.
A lot of fellow passengers where critical of the crew, mostly their inexperience. Nearly all those I chatted to were very long serving NCL crew members, who were brilliant. Generally the staff were good to excellent. Service at meals was often very slow but whether that was due to the waiters or the kitchen staff, I couldn\'t say. We had a very long wait in Cagney\'s and several in the Blue Lagoon. The entertainments staff were excellent. I noticed that many of the officers walked around with their noses in the air, very unlike the friendly greetings we\'d become used to. I never saw the captain at all.
Laundry Facilities. Don’t go looking for the launderettes, they had to go to make way for ‘Freestyle’. What could be more ‘Freestyle’ than having the opportunity to launder your own underwear, I can’t imagine, but NCL have the opposing view. Laundry and pressing facilities are available. As a guide to the price, T shirts were $3 each. Towards the end of the week they offered laundry at 15$ a bag so it would be a good idea to take clothes that can be tumble dried which will be returned clean and folded ready for packing.
Never Again Having booked early and paid a lot of money for the holiday including flights, transfers and a pre cruise stay through NCL via an agent. we were unprepared for the totally unacceptable ending to our cruise. They could have chosen an earlier flight that day NCL booked us on one that left Istanbul in the early evening which coincidentally was less expensive than the early flight which would have had us home by lunchtime. It was only towards the end of the cruise that we realised that we were required to leave the ship for transfer to the airport at 8.00 am. We were used to vacating our cabin at that sort of time, but not being told to leave the ship. This arrangement required a wait of something like seven unnecessary hours hanging around the airport, and meant a total journey time of 20 hours from Istanbul. The only alternative on offer was a 4 hour tour of the Spice Market and Chora Museum at an additional $59 each no refunds for the transfer we’d already booked and paid.
We know that they have to get ready for the next lot of passengers, but there are alternatives. We asked if we could be transferred to an earlier flight or even the same flight a day earlier, but were referred back to our agent. Not an easy option at sea, considering the cost of telephone calls. In any case, the flights had been booked by NCL not our agent. In the event we paid the extra money, took the tour, then spent another 5 hours at the airport, more than two more at our connection airport where the shops and snack bars were all shut, waiting for our (delayed) flight, before finally arriving home exhausted and fed up, ankles the size of footballs and some very nasty thoughts about what we‘d like to do to the NCL executive!
Overview. We loved the ship and the crew but we didn’t love all the extra charges, and certainly not the travel arrangements.
Tour Operator: CruiseCo