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Sail Date: November 2009
We sailed from Istanbul to Barcelona in November 2009, visiting 8 ports, with two overnights--one in Istanbul and one in Venice. The itinerary and time in ports was fantastic, and is what made us sign up for a cruise in not the best time ... Read More
We sailed from Istanbul to Barcelona in November 2009, visiting 8 ports, with two overnights--one in Istanbul and one in Venice. The itinerary and time in ports was fantastic, and is what made us sign up for a cruise in not the best time of the year to expect good weather. This was our second cruise on the Jade. The ship's overall design is great, making it easy to navigate onboard. The two main pools are both large and water temperature good for swimming in November, although a bit too cold early in the morning. I am a lap swimmer, and was able to do flip turns and get a decent workout because the pools are rectangular and do not have steps at the ends. Crew members are all extremely helpful, friendly and efficient. The ship is kept in spotless condition at all times, including restrooms in public areas. Our balcony cabin was a good size, with a nice sitting area at one end that housed a small convertible sofa, small desk and the TV plus shelves. The closet area is well located and provides adequate hanging space, shelves and drawers. I think the desk in the sitting space could be modified to provide a few more drawers. The bathrooms in the balcony cabins are compartmentalized, with opaque glass doors for toilet and shower, so more than one person can use the space at the same time. Shower is large for a cruise ship, and there is a nice clothesline with plenty of hanging space for hand washed items. My only complaint about the cabin is that the lighting is inadequate, especially if you are trying to put on makeup. Since this was our second cruise on the Jade, we were able to see what may or may not have changed since the western Mediterranean cruise we took in August 08. The most obvious differences were the quality of entertainment and the average age of the passengers. The shows were not as elaborate or as professional as those we attended on our previous cruise in August 2008. Since we were pretty tired from our time in all the ports, it was not an important issue for us. The best shows were Smokey Joe's Cafe and the crew show, which was hilarious. The dance venue seemed aimed at an older audience, which probably was appropriate, since most of the passengers were of retirement age or older. It was a bit stodgy for our taste. The fact that there were fewer young people made the atmosphere seem a bit like a retirement village, but early November is a difficult time for young families with children to take time off for such a lengthy trip, and young singles usually want to cruise in warmer months. On the flip side, not having tons of children in the pool area made it possible to swim and enjoy a bit more peace and quiet when you wanted to relax. The two main dining rooms are well staffed and provide very good menu choices. The food the first two nights was not quite as good as was served to us during the rest of the voyage, for some reason. We ate at three specialty restaurants--the French Bistro, which was fantastic, the Asian-fusion restaurant which was good, but not fantastic and the Tex-Mex restaurant that is billed as a Tapas place with southwestern touches. The latter restaurant was way below par. My skewered shrimp were overcooked, kind of tasteless and the rice that was served with it was actually too spicy for me, a person of spanish heritage, who enjoys good Tex-Mex cuisine. The menu seemed all over the place, and certainly did not reflect true Spanish or southwestern American cuisine. I think this restaurant should be axed and replaced with a true Tapas bar similar to the one we enjoyed on the Norwegian Sun with no upcharge. We often stopped there to have wine and some tapas before we ate dinner a bit later in the evening, thus spending more money for drinks than we did onboard the jade. The buffet was as good or better than our last experience on the Jade, but it would be nice to have the Indian bar that we enjoyed either on the Jade or the Sun, can't remember which ship had this little spot, where a crew member actually cooked hot flatbread before your eyes, plus there were several great Indian dishes at the station. True, there were one or two Indian entrees available most of the time, but not quite up to the quality we experienced previously. A little disappointment was the scaling down of the Chocolate Buffet. It was not held in the main dining room as before, certainly not as elaborate, and there were not nearly the number of choices. We understand that this may be due in part to the economy, and we were informed that the cruise line was doing a bit of scaling back here and there in order to keep their present well trained hospitality staff, which is commendable. We would rather have the good service and well prepared food that we enjoyed during the cruise, than lots of chocolate any day. We signed up for only one tour with NCL--the tour of the Old City in Dubrovnik that included a visit to a local farm with lunch and entertainment. This tour is a definite 10! We had a great guide, who gave us a bit of history of the old city and surrounding area, along with some insight into the Serbian-Croatian conflict. The visit to the farm was one of the highlights of our cruise. The food was wonderful, wine was plentiful, dessert was great and we even were offered brandy to end the meal. We were treated to continual entertainment by a trio playing and singing typical Croatian music, with the ever present and charming host chiming in from time to time. It was great fun and well worth the paltry sum we ponied up for the tour. The only other tour we took at any of the ports was with a local tour company in Izmir to visit the ruins in Ephesus, which was very enjoyable. The rest of the time, we just toured on our own, using trains, metro lines and buses. Since we had toured Naples, Rome and Barcelona via public transportation on our previous cruise, we had no problem doing so again, plus using the train to get from the port of Piraeus to the Acropolis in Athens. We did have a run in with a couple of very aggressive pickpockets onboard the train returning to the port from Athens, but did not lose anything, as we keep our money and passports well secured inside our clothing. Several passengers experienced similar problems in Athens, but we later were told such activity had heretofore never been a problem for NCL passengers there. By the way, taking the train from the port of Civitavecchia into Rome and touring on your own is a very simple and inexpensive way to see the city. The roundtrip ticket from the port on the express train is only 9 euros (called a BIRG), and is a faster way to get into the city than taking a tour bus or taxi. The train station in Civitavecchia is easy to get to from the port entrance where the bus from the ship drops passengers off. The 9 euro BIRG ticket also gets you access to the metro and local buses in Rome. You just have to make sure you validate your tickets every time you are about to board the train and metro, or as you board local buses. Most of the important tourist sites are within walking distance or are accessible by metro lines. The tours severely limit your time in such places as the Pantheon, etc. By touring on your own, it is quite feasible to get to the Coliseum, the Forum, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps, plus have a nice lunch at a local restaurant in the time you will have in Rome. Granted, you need to be in decent physical condition. It is also easy to take a boat or train to Sorrento and also Pompeii while visiting Naples. The boat trip across the bay of Naples is lovely and the walk up into the village of Sorrento is spectacular--a must do. One can stroll around the small village of Sorrento, shop and have lunch there and then easily walk to the train station that takes you to Pompeii (station just outside the entrance to the ruins). After spending lots of time in Pompeii (huge), you can hop on the train that returns you to Naples and then easily walk or take the bus from the station back to the ship. Cost for all the tickes is just a few euros. You just need to do a little research into time tables and locations before you tour on your own during a cruise. All in all, our cruise on the NCL Jade was terrific, even though we experienced lots of rain on our first day in Venice, plus had a bit of rain in Istanbul before we boarded the ship. Also had a big downpour at the end of our tour in Ephesus, but were able to see most of the ruins there before the storm hit. The weather was fairly good to great for the most part, however, with especially warm temps for November in Athens, Naples, Rome and Barcelona, where we spent three days following disembarkation. All in all, our cruise was a 10, with only a little glitch here and there. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2009
We chose the Jade because of the ports visited. The freestyle dining was ideal because of so many ports and never knowing when you would return from the tours and sightseeing or how tired you would be as far as your choice of dining. The ... Read More
We chose the Jade because of the ports visited. The freestyle dining was ideal because of so many ports and never knowing when you would return from the tours and sightseeing or how tired you would be as far as your choice of dining. The times we dined in the main dining we had approximately 30 minute waits until the beeper went off but once seated we, again felt the service was slow and the food was mostly average. The buffet had a large selection with a pasta and asia station cooked on the spot and because of no waits we ate there many nights. My favorite would be The Bistro which was french dining for an additional $15 per couple but was well worth the price and service. We stayed on the 11th floor in a mini suite which was very nice. It had a nice balcony, small refrigerator, coffee maker, desk area, couch and a bathtub with shower. It also had nice warm bathrobes which came in handy on the balcony. Room service and the room stewart were very efficient. The ship was very nice and had plenty of choices for lounges, activities, nice casino (I won over $8,000 on the penny machine!!)art shows, spa,pool table, sports bar, etc. It was too chilly to use the pool area but we stayed so busy with the ports, etc that we would not have had much time anyway. Getting on and off the boat was fast and easy. We did not attend all the shows but the ones we attended were average for ship entertainment. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2009
We were traveling with a group and our travel agent made all the arrangements for us, including tours at our ports of call, so I can't comment on the quality or price of NCL tours. After touring Istanbul all day, the embarkation ... Read More
We were traveling with a group and our travel agent made all the arrangements for us, including tours at our ports of call, so I can't comment on the quality or price of NCL tours. After touring Istanbul all day, the embarkation process was smooth and efficient, and we were able to unpack and dine without feeling stressed. Disembarkation at ports of call was very efficient, especially when we were tendered ashore...the swipe card ID is a great idea and enhances security. On our last day, disembarking in Athens was very easy as we had the option of taking our luggage off instead of being caught up in what seemed like a colour code nightmare. Moving about the ship was relatively easy via elevators, stairs, and outer decks, with good signage everywhere...just figuring out which end is which was the trick! The crew aboard the Jade is friendly and for the most part very efficient and well-trained. Our cabin was so well tended to, twice daily, that we felt pampered! I also really liked receiving the newsletter in the evening, outlining the next day's activities aboard ship. This cruise was classified as "freestyle cruising" meaning eat when you want, where you want, allowing you to stick to your budget or splurge. Although the brochure says jeans can be worn throughout the ship, on your first visit to the Grand Pacific dining room you'll be turned away if it looks like you're wearing denim, so you learn pretty fast that you can really only dress casually for dinner in the Garden Cafe (cafeteria style dining). I cannot fault the food served in any of the venues we visited (Grand Pacific, Alizar, Garden Cafe, Topsiders Grill, Papa's Italian Kitchen), although the fish entrees were usually overcooked. The variety and menu rotation were very good. Having been forewarned about the potential weight gain on a cruise, I was vigilant in making the right choices for me (having recently lost 20 lbs, I wasn't about to regain any of it!) and found it was easy to eat wholesome foods aboard the Jade...I especially loved having their Muesli with slice almonds in the morning. For health reasons, we obviously didn't over imbibe, although the 3 Martini Tasting events, with "Marcello" their very entertaining bartender, were lots of fun and delicious! A few negatives I feel I must address include: (1) the poor INTERNET service ...I found it very frustrating to see minutes disappear while getting nowhere online, making it very difficult to take care of business while on board! I was charged $58 to access and read my email twice and send 3 short email responses! Not good service for anyone who needs to stay connected to their company. (2) the cigarette SMOKE in the Casino, which made it impossible for me to participate anywhere in that area, and I love playing roulette! (3) SELLING BOTTLED WATER to passengers instead of offering them a complimentary bottle seemed tacky... Overall, my husband and I had a very "first cruise" aboard the NCL Jade, and we'll probably take another cruise as a result of this positive experience. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
My husband and I are 38 years old, and this is only our second cruise. Our first was on RCI to Alaska. I had researched NCL extensively before booking so we had few surprises. We chose this cruise because of the itinerary (Istanbul, ... Read More
My husband and I are 38 years old, and this is only our second cruise. Our first was on RCI to Alaska. I had researched NCL extensively before booking so we had few surprises. We chose this cruise because of the itinerary (Istanbul, Izmir, Dubrovnik, Athens, Venice, Naples, Rome, Barcelona)and the price. RCI was the only other line to come close to the price of NCL, but we couldn't get quite the same ports or the dates we needed. We made our own air travel arrangements since we don't live near a major airport. We flew through Chicago O'Hare to London Heathrow to Istanbul on American Airlines. Everything went smoothly although we did have a very tight connection in London and had to run. AA fed us several times and it was all palatable - on the leg from London to Istanbul it was actually quite good. We arrived in Istanbul on time after 18 hours. We found NCL reps at the airport and could have taken the ship's shuttle and had it charged to our account, but we chose to take a taxi. Quite an experience! As good as a roller coaster ride! We made it to the port and were able to embark quickly and easily. I had filled out all our paperwork on the NCL website beforehand. No one helped us after we boarded, but we really didn't pause to ask. We knew where our stateroom was and went straight to it. It was neatly made up and ready for us. We had a balcony stateroom on Deck 10. Compared to RCI, it was smaller. However it was perfectly adequate for our needs. We had plenty of room to put away our things and stow our luggage. The ship was originally built to cruise in Hawaii and still has tropical colors and decorations. We had a king-size bed with a duvet and lots of pillows, a loveseat, small coffeetable, corner unit with TV above and small desk below, a dressing table area with lighted mirror and blow dryer, fridge, shelves, safe, lighted closet, and bathroom with shower, sink, and toilet. The bathroom was a little too cramped for us. When sitting on the toilet, your knees almost touched the wall. The shower was rectangular and had no bench or seat, so it was impossible for me to shave my legs in it. I did like the showerhead with removable sprayer. One other complaint or suggestion - on RCI they had an interactive channel on the TV where you could check your shipboard account balance and details. NCL didn't offer anything like this, and we did miss it. It's easy to run up your tab without realizing it. We explored the ship that evening. I really enjoyed the layout and decor of the Jade. It has all these little nooks and crannies, and rooms with different atmospheres. No matter if you want to socialize, lurk, or be alone there's somewhere suited for it. I loved the crazy furniture in the lounges. There are two main dining rooms, Alizar and Grand Pacific, and multiple specialty restaurants, as well as the buffet and Blue Lagoon. The ship did not usually seem crowded at all, until about 6:00. Then everyone was trying to get into one of the free dining areas at once. We found the activities to be plentiful. I heard some people complaining about not having enough to do, but I can't imagine what else they wanted. There was live music all over the ship every afternoon and evening. All the lounge singers that we heard were high quality. There were classes and lectures, trivia games and bingo, tennis, basketball, and pingpong, Wii games somewhere (I never did find them). There was a room for playing board games and cards, a very well stocked library, pools and hot tubs - and if you were feeling really lazy, there was usually a pretty good movie on the TV. We left our kids at home on this trip, so I can't say anything about the kids' activities. However, there was a special area just for kids in the buffet room, with small tables and chairs, and kid favorites on a separate buffet. We had our son with us on the RCI cruise (he was 2 1/2) and this would have been great. I don't think there were a lot of children on board the Jade, due to the time of year. The shows that we saw were pretty good. We especially enjoyed a husband and wife acrobatic team that had been with Cirque yds. There was a British comedian that cracked me up. The final show with crew members showing their talents ended with a really funny skit which paid homage to all the lovely Greek and Roman statues and fountains we had seen. I saw Second City twice; the first time they were really "on", the next time was a little dull. Service all over the ship was a bit slow. The bar staff were the quickest and most helpful. However, there seemed to be more of them per guest than there were restaurant servers. The dining rooms were always backed up and it took an hour and a half to get through a meal once you were able to get seated. NCL needs to work on getting diners in and out more efficiently. The waitstaff seemed to have too many tables to tend at once. One guest commented that too much square footage was spent on restaurants with service charges, which few people were making use of. Perhaps NCL should reexamine the use of space for free dining since the majority of passengers go that route. Our cabin stewards kept our room cleaned, but you could tell they had too many rooms to make up. They seldom had time for the little extra touches, like towel creatures. We didn't take any shore excursions with NCL - they were simply too expensive. We were able to sightsee on our own much cheaper. One major complaint here is that NCL did not provide any port information for people who wanted to go out on their own. It seemed like they were trying to herd us into their shore excursions. They didn't have maps, or directions to public transportation, or information about sights in the various ports. For instance, at Piraeus the Freestyle Daily plainly said the ship would provide a free shuttle to the Metro station. However, they only shuttled us to the port entrance and abandoned us. It was another two miles to the Metro station, and then we had to figure out which train to take to get into Athens from Piraeus. To be fair, this was a new itinerary for the Jade. It may have been that they just hadn't gathered the info yet and will have it in the future. It would certainly be helpful to be able to pick up a detailed map and a train and bus schedule before hitting port, so you could plan your day. Thank goodness for Rick Steves! The food onboard was from good to mediocre. The best thing I had the entire cruise was the escargot appetizer in Les Bistro. Cagney's was good, but no better than, say, Outback Steakhouse. The entrees I had at Papa's Italian were extremely bland. Paniolo's was good, but we have better Tex-Mex at home. The main dining rooms tended towards blandness as well, with food sometimes being overcooked - my lobster tail was completely inedible. The buffet always had something I liked, and Blue Lagoon was good too. We didn't try any of the Asian restaurants. The iced tea was twice too strong and I pretty much drank water with my meals. It would be nice if they offered lemonade or fruit punch as an alternative at lunch and dinner. The coffee was quite good. The sailing was smooth for most of the trip, but from Rome to Barcelona we hit rough seas with 12-18 foot waves and high winds. I thought the ship rode pretty smoothly, but even so we were rocking and rolling. Quite a few people got seasick the last sea day. We were getting spray on our tenth floor balcony. Exhilarating! When we disembarked in Barcelona, we had to make our own way to the airport for an early flight. One of the crew voluntarily hauled our luggage to a taxi for us and helped us get loaded. The taxi driver seriously over charged us, but that's another story! Overall, we had tremendous fun. The weather was beautiful at every port except Venice, the ship was lovely, we had more than we needed to eat and drink, and plenty to do. It was hard to come home and go back to cooking and cleaning - with no room service or midnight buffet! There are some areas NCL needs to improve - primarily service and food. But we actually have few complaints. We knew what we were getting when we picked this cruise, and we don't require being waited on hand and foot. I hope we get the chance to review another cruise soon. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
We found the Norwegian Jade to be a clean and nicely furnished ship Except for it's huge size, which did make it a bit unmanageable for our slightly handicapped companion,it was well equipped, the staterooms were lovely and clean, the ... Read More
We found the Norwegian Jade to be a clean and nicely furnished ship Except for it's huge size, which did make it a bit unmanageable for our slightly handicapped companion,it was well equipped, the staterooms were lovely and clean, the bathrooms were very nice and we were only in the standard ocean view rooms. However, everything included a service charge/gratuity even the bottle of water in the stateroom. The amount added was 18%. As a warning 18% is also added to all spa services and all drinks in the bar. This in addition to $10 per day service charge seems excessive. We were told (too late) by other cruisers that you are allowed to refuse the $10 charge and that the service charge is not divided amongst crew members. Had we known this we would have tipped our room steward more generously. In addition we did not like not having assigned dinner times and seatings. Instead the lines for the dining rooms are long (except for the ones with additional cover charges and those rooms were pretty empty) and you are handed a pager just like your last experience at Applebees...and it can take just as long to be seated. The dining room staff seems overwhelmed and are unsmiling and unfriendly. The destinations on this cruise were wonderful although the offered shore excursions were very pricey. It was easy enough to arrange a duplicate tour at the dock for 1/4th the price. We had experienced a transatlantic cruise on the Fred Olsen, Balmoral in April 08 and the difference between a smaller ship and a large one was incredible. Bigger is not always better. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2008
We booked our cruise via Cruise Direct after having seen an advertisement in the Sunday papers. The price that we actually paid was a little more than the price that had been advertised, and did not include flights as there were none still ... Read More
We booked our cruise via Cruise Direct after having seen an advertisement in the Sunday papers. The price that we actually paid was a little more than the price that had been advertised, and did not include flights as there were none still available via the cruise line. But we managed to get very reasonable flights from our local airport to Istanbul via Easyjet and from Athens for our return journey. On landing at Istanbul airport we managed to find a shuttle company who were also taking other Norwegian Jade passengers (who had also arrived via Easyjet) to the ship at a reasonable rate. The journey to the port took approximately 1 hour. On arrival it was difficult to actually find the correct area to deposit our luggage. The embarkation process was speedy and efficient but somewhat low key with very little sense of occasion or anticipation. Once we arrived on board we were directed rather than taken to our cabin - which was on the embarkation level. Our was an outside cabin with a porthole which was adequate in size and well equipped. The bathroom was larger than average, and well appointed for a ship of this class. We were disappointed that we did not have a window as opposed to a porthole as this was what we had expected, and meant that lights always needed to be switched on when we were in the cabin On the very first evening we were tired from a long day of travelling and so did not disembark the ship to experience the night life of Istanbul. Food onboard was good, with the meals in the 2 main dining rooms being of good quality if somewhat bland, and never piping hot On one particular evening I requested an omelette as I was not feeling like a large meal, my request did cause some issues but the Maitre D (Eugene) granted my request and the omelette when it eventually came was not very good - but the staff were obliging and had done their best to fulfill my request. We had excellent meals in some of the speciality restaurants particularly Cagney's, and the sushi and chines restaurant. I was somewhat disappointed in the Hibachi style dining experience which did not live up to other similar places I had been to. Overall we particularly enjoyed the Freestyle dining experience as we particularly hate the 2 sitting at pre booked times that is used on other cruise lines - for this reason we would definitely travel again on NCL and Princess which we have experienced on 2-3 other cruises. The buffet was also of good quality, but we and several other passengers were frustrated that we were not allowed to serve ourselves from the buffet (and had to rely on being served from it) once we had been to Egypt and until the end of the cruise. Staff told us this was to protect us from viruses that were often picked up in Egypt. It did however spoil the last few days of our cruise, as we had to wait in line, the seating area was full of uncleared plates as there were insufficient staff to clear them, and food became cold as you waited in line or found a clear place to sit. We only took one of the ship's excursions - Pyramids and Nile in Style. This was not quite as good as we had hoped. Particularly the promised visit to a bazaar, which turned out to be a very touristy department store in a seedy area of the city. However the lunchtime Nile Cruise was very nice and the food far better than expected. Ports of call were all enjoyable although the short stay in Katakolon was a complete waste of time, and of no cultural value at all unless you took a ships excursion. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2008
On this cruise from Istanbul to Athens it was just my wife and I. As we wanted to get the most out of our cruise we thoroughly researched both the Jade and our port itinerary before sailing. By doing so I truly think we were able to ... Read More
On this cruise from Istanbul to Athens it was just my wife and I. As we wanted to get the most out of our cruise we thoroughly researched both the Jade and our port itinerary before sailing. By doing so I truly think we were able to optimize our NCL cruise experience in as much as it was possible to do so. Throughout the review I will try to consolidate what we learned from earlier reviews along with our own live experiences so that those of you taking this trip in the months to come can also get as much value out of your cruise as we did. SHIP - The Jade still retains its bold Hawaiian theme throughout and management gave us no hint that they are planning to change that anytime soon. The wild colors used in many of the public spaces onboard may remind some cruisers of Las Vegas. When NCL does eventually update the Jade we personally hope they do so with a more elegant, understated design and also choose one that is geographically neutral. Overall the ship looks and feels exactly its age at about 5 years old... not the newest, but also not old yet by any means. CABIN - We booked a standard cabin with outside window view. Unfortunately, our window was quite dirty with sea spray when we first boarded in Istanbul and was not cleaned until mid-cruise in Iraklion. Overall we found the cabin to be adequate as a floating hotel. Cabin service by our stewards was both consistent and friendly throughout the cruise. The shower had sufficient water flow and consistent temperature. We counted three available US power sockets in the cabin including the one the coffee machine is attached to which was sufficient for our camera chargers, etc. There was also plenty of space to store our empty luggage between the wall and bed. A definite negative, however, is the toilet placement. It was so poorly situated inside the tiny bathroom area that it was literally impossible to sit on it at anything other than an angle. TV channel service was also very limited. We were only able to get Fox News, a handful of foreign language stations, and a lot of constantly repeating NCL promotional channels. The reason given by the Jade for this was that the satellite signal in this part of the world is limited to those few channels, but in this day and age I'm personally a bit skeptical about that. CABIN TIPS: Bring along some extra wire hangers and a travel alarm clock as you'll likely want more hangers and the ability to set your wake up time on this cruise. You might also want to bring along a couple of bars of soap and your own bottle of shampoo as the Jade only provides liquid soap & shampoo dispensers in the bathroom. There is also no mouthwash provided, but if you don't want to pack your own you can buy a very small bottle of it for $7.25 in the gift shop. There are no self-serve Laundromats onboard anymore, so either bring two weeks worth of clothing or be prepared to pay hotel laundry rates for the Jade to do it for you. FOOD - We are both early diners so we personally never faced a wait to be seated at 5:30pm when the restaurants first opened. However, we did notice long waiting lines at virtually all of the free restaurants between 7pm to 9pm. Cover-charge restaurants always seemed to have plenty of seating capacity and a few, like the Teppanyaki, went empty most of the cruise. We ate our dinners in the Grand Pacific and Alizar, the free dining rooms that some of our fellow passengers had jokingly renamed as "Grand Pathetic" and "AllisSubPar". The food here was certainly edible but don't expect commercial restaurant dining quality. It clearly falls into the mass produced food category and the entrEes are quite similar in quality to an average catered wedding dinner. There was only one meal, the Teriyaki stir-fried beef at the Alizar, that I could honestly say was delicious. Everything else generally looked much better on the menu and plate than it actually tasted. Although the service was not necessarily the fastest in the world, it was always friendly and we made a point to have fun with our waiters. For breakfasts and the occasional lunch we primarily used the Garden Cafe buffet. Not only was this much faster than going to a restaurant, but we found it also was the only way for us to get enough daily vegetable and green salad. This is because the meals in the restaurants tend to be heavy on starches but lean on veggie (unless two asparagus sticks leaning against your dinner entree qualifies as sufficient veggie these days). In any case, the Garden Cafe offered enough fresh greens albeit prepared largely the same way every day. Ice tea, water, orange juice, tea and coffee are all available at the buffet beverage stations. Sadly, NCL does not brew coffee in advance for you. Instead they make you refill your own tiny cup at one of three automated coffee machines located in the Garden Cafe. Unfortunately that's hardly efficient because these are very slow and take numerous button presses just to fill up a small cup. Consequently there is often a line for them. A nicer touch would be for NCL to provide a roaming coffee service. DINING ROOM TIPS - If you are not either an early or late diner, make dinner reservations for the restaurant you want as early as possible every day as the Jade only allows 50% of the restaurant to be reserved in advance. On the "at sea" days reservations fill up especially fast. Otherwise be prepared to wait 15-30 minutes just to be seated. Be sure to eat as early as possible on the nights you want to catch the first show of the evening because serving times onboard are slower than at a commercial restaurant. A meal that normally takes 45 minutes onshore can take a full 30 minutes longer here. BUFFET TIPS - If you are a big coffee drinker consider packing a lightweight coffee mug along for the cruise so you can fill a proper sized cup. We brought our own and were told by numerous coffee junkies like us what a good idea that was. Be advised, however, this tip only works for half the cruise because after visiting Egypt the buffet method will switch from self-serve to the crew serving you from the buffet stations. ENTERTAINMENT - We only had time to see Smokey Joe's Cafe, Showdown LIVE!, the Jade crew show, comedian Tony Stevens, and magic with Tim & Tom. We also sat through part of a Second City improvisation. As a point of reference if you consider Broadway show quality as "A" level and high school productions as "E" level, then the entertainment onboard would be generally fall in either the "C" or "D" category. They were professional performances to be sure, but generally we found ourselves clapping politely rather than enthusiastically. Let's discuss the production shows first. These are staged by a fair group of singers accompanied by a pretty good live band. Although they can all sing in tune, there are clearly no undiscovered pop stars among the performers. And to put it gently, many of the singers could also afford to spend a little more time at the gym than at the buffet. The female performers in particular look like they had all developed a serious "cruise body," you know, the type that has no waist curve. But what about the shows? Despite its name Showdown LIVE! was actually just a scripted and uninspired "American Idol" style plot that simply rotated through a standard set of 60's songs. Smokey Joe's Cafe dispensed with having a plot altogether and seemed little more than just a Cafe stage set used to take the same singers through a similar list of songs. Since the music selections here were chosen to appeal to older audiences your entertainment mileage will vary by your age. The only show we personally enjoyed was the talent show put on by the Jade crew. The guitarist who played "Samba Pa Ti," the female juggler, and the "Fountains" skit all stood out in particular. If you decide to catch only one show, this is the one to see. Next, we have the stage acts. Although I found the comedian Tony Stevens mildly humorous to watch, it was merely chuckle-worthy but not laugh-out-loud funny. As far as magic, Tim & Tom were easily the most "flamboyant" magicians we've ever seen, but the magic tricks themselves seemed routine and unambitious. We both like improvisational comedy and count the Canadian comedy troupe "The Kids in the Hall" among our favorite comedians. Since Second City also hails from Canada we had high hopes for them as well. The troupe started their show on the Jade with a few stock skits whose punch lines were largely groaners. Perhaps it was just old material we wondered? Unfortunately our fears were confirmed when they decided to do a live improv with the audience. A female improvisationist chose two people in the first row as her "Mom" and "Dad" and tried desperately to come up with funny dialogue in between throwing a football back and forth to them. In a revealing twist the two audience members themselves proved to be much funnier than the Second City girl running the improv. At this point we realized that the only talent SC can afford to send onboard cruise ships must be their third and fourth string players. ACTIVITIES - In addition to formal entertainment the Jade also had the standard cruise leisure activities some free and some not. For example, the darts in the Spinnaker Lounge were free but the pool table next to them was not. Similarly the Wii video game rooms were free but the arcade games were not. These kinds of activities should all be free in our view. Given the tiny profit that they could possibly generate for the ship, why would NCL want to risk having bored passengers onboard or be thought of as a nickel-and-dime cruise line? Some of the activity hardware clearly needed attention. The sole ping-pong table onboard was oddly placed on a slant and next to a water drain that had deadened the ping-pong balls floating in it. The two dart boards on the Jade only had three measly darts between them both. Surely darts can't be that expensive or impossible to find in the next port of call. And on a ship made to hold thousands there really ought to be more than one pool table aboard. EMBARKATION - We decided to fly into Istanbul the day before the start of the cruise and so arrived Sunday evening. US citizens can get their Turkish visa upon arrival for $20 cash by stopping at the visa window right before passport control. Interestingly the Turkish Currency Exchange window was still in operation at 11PM on Sunday night and offered better conversion rates than those we saw in the US. Since it was very late at night we simply grabbed a taxi to the Hilton in the Beyoglu district which turned out to be ideal as it was very close to the port area. We checked out in the late morning and took a 5-minute taxi drive to the port arriving at the Jade slightly before noon. NCL had been vague on which pier in Istanbul the Jade would be docked at saying only it would be either the Salipazari or Karakoy pier in the Beyoglu district. Well which one exactly, NCL? Fortunately we had spotted the Jade from the taxi as we rode in from the airport the night before and so were able to manually direct our taxi driver to the correct pier the next morning. In the end I think it was the Salpazari pier because we were docked well north of the Galata bridge where Karakoy starts... but who knows. In any case it took only 30 minutes after arriving at the terminal to check in our luggage, clear security, get our ID cards, and get onboard. You have to surrender your passport to NCL upon check in and they hold onto it until the day before arriving in Egypt. We immediately headed for lunch at the Grand Pacific. By 2pm our cabin was ready so we quickly checked it out and then prepared to go sight-seeing in Istanbul. Overall I would rate embarkation procedures for the Jade as very well done. PORT OF ISTANBUL - We had already decided earlier to see Istanbul on our own but this proved to be even easier than we imagined. This is because all the important tourist sights are concentrated right next to each other in the heart of the city and connected to the port via an inexpensive tram. To get to the nearest tram station simply walk outside of the port entrance up to the main road and take a left. A few blocks down you will see a Tram station in the center of the road by which a tram runs directly into town every 20 minutes or so. A one way ticket was only 1.60 Turkish Lira making further taxi service in Istanbul unnecessary. The Haghia Sophia mosque it is not open on Mondays but as we arrived in the mid-afternoon the lighting was perfect at that time of day for photographing it from afar. We started our solo tour by visiting the inside of Blue Mosque instead which sits just across the street from the Haghia Sophia. The history of the mosques was well covered in our tour book and we never felt ourselves at a loss without a tour guide. Next we walked over to see the obelisks standing in the old Hippodrome area alongside the Blue Mosque. Then it was off to see the Topkapi Palace and finally a visit to the underground Basilica Cistern. The light was starting to fade after we finished the cisterns so we caught the tram back to the ship in time for dinner and got ourselves to bed early that night as we were still a bit jet-lagged. The following morning we jumped on the tram again to head back into the city. First we got great photos of the Blue Mosque which is always best lit in the mornings. Then we finally bought tickets to see the inside of the Haghia Sophia. Sadly we found it to be under some interior reconstruction with scaffolding that reached all the way to its highest dome, but even so it was still beautiful to behold. After taking our fill of pictures, we refueled with some simit bread from a local pastry shop and then jumped on the tram again to head further west to the Turkish Bazaar. The bazaar wasn't what we consider to be a must-see sight for Istanbul but with having to be back on board at by 2pm there was just the right amount of time to get there, walk through it leisurely, and sit down for a Turkish coffee. We returned to the port via the tram right on time. PORT OF IZMIR - Izmir is unfortunately quite a distance from Ephesus, the principal archeological site to see. As there is no fast public transportation to and from Ephesus the only choice we had was to take either an NCL tour bus or private tour. In the end we had read good things on this forum about Ekol Travel and decided to book a private tour with them on a customized itinerary to see Ephesus, the Terrace Houses there, and the House of the Virgin Mary. We paid $120 per person which bought us a comfortable private van, private tour guide, and allowed us to see the Terrace Houses at Ephesus (which the NCL tours all missed). Because we custom defined our tour itinerary with Ekol we were also able to avoid being dragged to any tourist shopping stops. With the beautiful restoration of its library, amphitheatre, and terrace houses, Ephesus is a must -see site that will make other ancient archeological sites on this cruise seem relatively unexcavated in comparison. We also found that it seeing it in person reinforced how much the Turkish coastline was a part of Mediterranean civilization in ancient times. Both of us also enjoyed the visit to the House of The Virgin Mary even though the historical certainty of this site obviously can't be archeologically proven. PORT OF MYKONOS - This was our first tender port. For those unfamiliar with the term "tender" this means a port where the Jade is unable to dock at a connecting pier and must use ferry boats to get passengers ashore. Our main objective was to see the ruins on the ancient island of Delos. Not being able to research options to get there in advance we decided to simply book the NCL tour for it. The only real advantage that gave us was the ability to get on one of the first tender boats into port... not so critical for this port because we were not scheduled to depart Mykonos until midnight. Once on Mykonos we were handed off to our tour guide who put us immediately onto the standard Delos ferry for a 20 minute ride to the historic island. After ten minutes on Delos we could see that our guide was going way too slow for us and so we went independent and saw everything else on the island for ourselves. This included climbing to the top of the mountain to see the spectacular views of Mykonos, something those who stuck with the tour guide missed out on completely. We rejoined the tour group at the port right on schedule and were brought back via ferry around noon to spend the rest of our day in Mykonos. Here is also where I saw one of the few generous acts extended by NCL to its passengers during the cruise... at the tender ship point they had setup an NCL tent with a free cold water station which provided a nice relief after hiking most of the morning. In retrospect taking the NCL Tour of Delos turned out to be the only thing we would have done differently on this cruise. I would advise anyone wanting to see Delos on future NCL cruises to simply take the tender boat into Mykonos and once there buy a Delos ferry ticket. As soon as you get onto Delos go directly to the museum to get a free map and site guide. Then set out on foot to see what interests you. Touring the island solo can easily be done in 2-3 hours. We also noticed that another cruise line docking at Mykonos managed to shuttle their passengers directly to Delos via their own tender boats without going through Mykonos and feel that NCL should consider this service. PORT OF SANTORINI - This was also a tender port. Santorini is actually one of the most picturesque Greek islands because of its spectacular views. On this short visit, however, we found it far too swamped with tourists from the three cruise ships in port that day to truly enjoy. Congestion is usually a problem anywhere on holiday, but Santorini has an additional bottleneck because steep cliffs separate the city from the port below. There is a cable car that connects the port to the city but it can't handle 3,000 cruise passengers all trying to get back to their ship at the same time. My only advice here is to get onto Santorini as early as possible in the morning and then be ready to head back earlier than necessary in the afternoon. Very long lines (800 meters+) start forming in the early afternoon for the cable car ride back down to the port. Carefully gauge how many cruise ships are in port to decide when you need to get in line. We found the Jade leaves port right on schedule and you usually have to be back one hour before departure. PORT OF IRAKLION - The Palace of Knossos is the main thing to see in Iraklion and luckily there is convenient public transportation to get to it. A shuttle bus will take you from the ship to the terminal and from there you only need walk right past the taxi stand to eventually get out to the busy main road. Cross to the other side at the stoplight and take a right. After walking about 800 meters you will see a public bus terminal on the left. The ticket office for it is actually on the far outside of the building (not on the inside) and the ticket guy knows just enough English to sell you a ticket for Bus #2 to Knossos. I think it cost 2 Euros. The Palace of Knossos itself is somewhat controversial because some feel it is too reconstructed with new materials to be true to the actual ruins, but the bold colors of the reconstructions made for some striking photos. Make sure to buy a combo ticket here for both the palace and the museum in town, it's cheaper than buying separate tickets. After touring the site solo for an hour or two we caught the same Bus #2 back into town. The bus driver was primed to let the tourists know which stop to get off on to see the Archeological Museum, but pay attention. The museum was less than 5 minutes walk from the stop. Unfortunately the bulk of it was closed for remodeling through the remainder of 2008 but they have wisely put their key Minoan exhibits on display in a small concentrated gallery. At least you will not feel like you missed out completely. PORT OF ALEXANDRIA - NCL flew in an Egyptian immigration officer to join the ship in Iraklion which allowed him to stamp regular US passports with an entry visa wile en route to Egypt. The passports were then returned to us ready-to-go the day before arrival. Time in Egypt is severely limited so obviously the sights near Cairo have to trump anything to be seen in Alexandria. We chose to take our overnight excursion with De Castro Tours as at $215 per person (on a tour group of 6 other people from the Jade) as it was less than half the cost of the NCL overnight excursion. On the first day we drove to Cairo and saw the Egyptian Museum, the Citadel, and the Giza Sound & Light show. If there is time, try to get your tour guide to take you to the Giza observation point in the late afternoon. That is when the pyramids are best lit by the setting sun for photographs. I also have a recommendation for the Sound & Light show. Try to get there as early as possible so you can sit in the front row (or as close to the front as you can). The reason for this is that there is no stadium seating at the show and there will inevitably be plenty of idiots in front of you blocking your view with their raised cameras. On the second day we visited the Giza pyramids first thing in the morning as the tickets to get inside the Pyramids are limited and sell out almost immediately after opening. Per day the Egyptians only sell 100 tickets for the Pyramid of Cheops and 300 for the Pyramid of Khafre. We were lucky to get tickets to go inside the Pyramid of Khafre and thought it was one of those once in a lifetime experiences that should not be missed. After that we saw the pyramids at Saqarra before returning to Alexandria. Overall I would say we had a definite advantage in being able to ride in a private air conditioned van that allowed for much more interaction with the tour guide. The only disadvantage was that we had a bit more driving to do because our hotel was the Novotel in the 6th Of October City instead of the Le Meridian directly at Giza. PORT OF CORFU - Thanks to its strong Venetian influences this picturesque port is perhaps the most Western city of the Greek islands. There is just enough time in port to walk through the city, tour the forts, enjoy a nice lunch, and then make it back to the ship. Those who rented a car or took a tour to visit the deeper parts of the island did so only at the expense of enjoying the main city itself. For us it was certainly a relaxing stop. PORT OF KATAKOLON - This port was specifically built for public transport to and from Olympia and has small train station within 10 minutes walking distance from the ship. Simply walk out of the port up to the main road that runs through Katakolon and then take a right. Once you get to the edge of the village look out for an inconspicuous yellow cottage alongside an empty track and wait there for the train. We took the 8:36AM train to Olympia and it got us there at 9:18AM. After spending more than enough time to tour the site we returned to the station to catch the 12:05PM which arrived back at Katakolon at 12:48PM. The total round trip cost per person was 3 Euros... hard to beat. A ticket into Olympia will cost you 6 Euros and the museum was 3 Euros. DISEMBARKATION - The Jade arrived in Piraeus at 4AM. We had decided to hold onto our luggage overnight so we could self-disembark and get into Athens as early as possible. After a final breakfast in the Garden Cafe we rolled our baggage off the ship at 5 AM and tried to figure out where we were. It turns out that the Jade was docked at a far pier of Terminal B. This terminal had no taxi service so the port authority provided some free shuttle buses that were waiting right outside the ship to take passengers to Terminal A. Once there we grabbed a taxi for 15 Euros into the city. NCL had advertised a bus service into the same area of Athens for $25 per person so managing your own transfer can save you quite a bit. ATHENS - As it was in Istanbul, all of the key sites in Athens are concentrated in the city center and can easily be toured in one full day's time. We had reservations to stay overnight at the Ledra Marriott in Athens before flying back to the US the next morning so that gave us the perfect amount of time. We were able to drop off our luggage at the Marriott by 6 AM and then took off after that to see the sights. Our first stop was the Temple of Olympian Zeus followed in order by the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora, the Roman Forum, and finally the Plaka. The Acropolis was an overall disappointment for us as it was wrapped on all four sides by scaffolding and hardly photogenic in that state. Perhaps even worse, it was unbelievably congested with other tourists despite the shoulder holiday season. It took nearly 15 minutes to get both into and out of the Acropolis as the entrance and exits were packed like sardines with visitors only able to move forward at a snail's pace. In retrospect the better plan is to get to the Acropolis first and as early as possible in order to beat the tour groups that inevitably swarm it by mid-morning. IN SUMMARY - When it was all said and done, we obviously enjoyed our cruise. They key for us was to have the correct expectation of what we were buying before we ever went. We had read all the reviews for the Jade in advance and because of that we did not expect to see Broadway quality shows nor eat gourmet quality food. And when it turned out to be exactly like that, we were not surprised. Ultimately what we did get in spades, however, was the chance to see a large number of stunning archeological sites within a two week period. As such our main cruise goal was accomplished. Hopefully our review gives you more information to also get the most out of your future cruise. Good sailing! Read Less
Sail Date: September 2008
Norwegian Jade Review Sept 19th to Oct 1st 2008 Just to start with I'd like to say that we had a fantastic 12 night cruise on the Norwegian Jade from Istanbul to Athens and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves! Background A ... Read More
Norwegian Jade Review Sept 19th to Oct 1st 2008 Just to start with I'd like to say that we had a fantastic 12 night cruise on the Norwegian Jade from Istanbul to Athens and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves! Background A brief introduction. We are a family of 4 from Australia, living near Sydney. I cruised with DH and our 2 teenage daughters aged 12 and 15. This was our second cruise, the first being in Sept 2007 with Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas which was a 7 night Western Med cruise out of Barcelona which we also really enjoyed. Pre-cruise We flew Sydney to Istanbul with Emirates via Dubai. We had 8 hours between flights in Dubai so I organized a private 4 hour tour which I booked through Viator. We saw the Jumeirah Mosque, the Burj Al Arab ( the 7 star "sail hotel), " Palm Island ", and Ski Dubai ( an indoor ski slope inside a shopping mall). I shall be posting a more detailed review of our Dubai experiences on the "Africa and Middle East" boards but I will just mention a few points here. Firstly, Dubai is very very hot!! Secondly, there is so much construction going on that Dubai looks like one giant construction site! And it seems to me that the constructions have to be bigger and better than anything before. For example they are planning a huge theme park called Dubailand (like Disneyland but much larger). It will have life size replicas of the Eiffel Tower ( which will house luxury apartments), the Taj Mahal ( housing restaurants and hotels) and the Giza Pyramids (containing offices and retail outlets) amongst others!! Anyway, thirdly, we were there during Ramadan and our guide informed us that there are very strict laws prohibiting eating and drinking and chewing gum in public during fasting hours which are enforced with large fines (1000 dihrams = $350) even for non -Muslims. She advised us we could drink water in the van, but not when out sightseeing. Anyway , we stayed one night pre-cruise at the Hotel Hippodrome in the Sultanahmet area in Istanbul. The area around the Blue Mosque is quite magical in the evening after the fast is broken. There is music, food stalls, fairy lights -lovely for a picnic. As we walked up the street from our hotel to the Blue Mosque we came across the Whirling Dervish dancer at the Cafe Mescale at the Arasta Bazaar behind the Blue Mosque and stopped to watch for a while and listen to the traditional music. ( I believe he dances from about 8-9 pm). The following morning we had a lovely breakfast on the rooftop overlooking the Bosphorous, then visited Topkapi Palace, Aya Sophia , and the Basilica Cistern on our own, taking about 4 hours. All the sites are very close by and easily walkable. You do need Turkish Lira for entry to Topkapi Palace ( 20 lira entry fee and 15 lira for the harem - well worth it IMHO) and for Aya Sophia(20 lira). Don't miss the Treasury section of Topkapi Palace housing many amazing treasures including the Topkapi Diamond. The Basilica Cistern entry fee was 10 lira or 7 euros- we really enjoyed the atmosphere and lighting here. I shall post a more detailed port of call review on the Mediterranean boards otherwise this will end up a thesis! Here I shall try to focus more on the cruise with just a brief overview of what we did in each port. Our hotel called us a taxi to the port which cost 13 Euros and there we were at the cruise ship!! The Norwegian Jade On arrival at the port we were given blank white luggage tags to attach to our bags after writing our stateroom number on them. So don't worry if you don't have luggage tags ahead of time. Embarkation was very smooth and before we knew it we had eaten lunch at the buffet and were relaxing in our lovely balcony stateroom with a glass of bubbly! Our bed was exceedingly comfortable and there was a sofa bed for one daughter and a Pullman bed which pulled from the ceiling for our other daughter, forming a set up like bunk beds for them. If you wanted to access the balcony when the beds were assembled, a minor contortionist act was required but it was possible! Overall the Jade is in excellent condition , clean and beautifully maintained. I cannot speak highly enough of the staff. Every person we encountered was welcoming, smiling and helpful. We felt very welcomed and spoilt. Our room steward Micheal was unfailingly polite and attentive and made us cute towel animals and chocolates on our pillows. Our room was always clean and made up beautifully. Dining We ate dinner almost every night at the Grand Pacific and thoroughly enjoyed all our meals there. We would usually go down for dinner between 6 - 7.30 pm and we were always seated immediately at a table for 4 with no wait. However, I did notice some people waiting with beepers as we would leave after dinner later in the evening. We found the waiters and waitresses to be friendly and efficient and polite. One night we ate with some Cruise Critic friends at the Teppanyaki restaurant which was great fun. Those chefs are so fast and clever. We went to the 5.30 pm sitting and so the cost was 2 for the price of 1. We ate one night at the buffet - they put tablecloths and candles on the tables so it's a bit nicer. One tip - at night there is a crepe station and chocolate fountain - yum! Breakfasts and lunches - we ate all at the Garden Cafe Buffet and found this to be fine for us. Yes, it was often quite crowded but if you walk towards the back of the ship it was more peaceful and we always found a table for the 4 of us. When it is very busy they open up Papa's for extra seating. My favorite part of the buffet was the Indian food at lunch/dinner. Being of Indian origin, we do enjoy our curries and I have to say these were fantastic. Very authentic Indian food- rice, roti, very tasty vegetable curries, dahl, a meat or fish curry, raita and mango chutney. Apparently the chef is Indian. The soft serve ice cream machines are great too - try the chocolate ice cream with butterscotch topping and caramel buds - yum! Now to the issue of hand sanitizing. Every time you board the ship or enter a dining space you sanitize your hands which is fine. Now prior to Egypt we were able to help ourselves at the buffet, but after we left Egypt suddenly we found everything was served to us at the buffet, including plates, cutlery, drinks, food , tea and coffee. This is a lot of extra work for the staff , and I did ask one staff member who replied that they were merely taking precautions and being safe, but I suspect there must have been some cases of "mummy tummy" on board to account for the increased infection control measures. Entertainment For us a definite highlight was the comedy of the Second City Comedy Troupe in the Spinnaker Lounge on 5 nights of the cruise. They are absolutely hilarious (or maybe that's just our Aussie sense of humor) - improvised comedy. Other musical shows were good such as Shout and Smokey Joe's cafe, and we loved the British comedian Tony and the Russian juggling/ balancing show. We were not so impressed by the David Maclean music show. Internet The ship's internet is slow and expensive. Try to work out a couple of ports where you have some free time and locate some local internet cafes. For example for us, on Mykonos we used an internet cafe called Stairs ( just to the left of you past the beach as you walk from where the shuttle bus drops you). For a cost of a drink (3 euros for a coke), you can use their internet for 30 minutes. Just ask the locals- they'll point out nearest internet cafes. In Corfu, we used a cafe called Netoikos (?sp) between the Church of Agios Spyridon and the Liston just around the corner from the Alpha Bank. Cost was 1 Euro for 20 mins or 3 euros for an hour. Ports of Call This cruise has an amazing itinerary. Here is a brief overview of what we did. As previously stated I shall post a more detailed port of call review on the Mediterranean boards. Day 2 Istanbul- took a taxi to the Grand Bazaar for 10 Euros and really enjoyed wandering around. We did not find the vendors to be too pushy at all. There was a barbeque poolside for sailaway and then we met up with our wonderful cruise critic group which was great. Day 3 Izmir- private tour with Nejat Incedogan to Ephesus with a group from Cruise Critic. The ruins at Ephesus are quite amazing, especially the Terrace Houses. Day 4 Mykonos- took the ship's free shuttle to town and then just walked around enjoying the scenery, the windmills, and we saw Pelican Pete. We found a quiet spot just past the windmills to dip our feet into the Mediterranean. Day 5 Santorini- lucky to be able to hop on an early tender at 8.20 and we were able to go up the Cable car with no wait at all. Walked to the bus stop and took the local bus to Oia(1.20 Euros)at 9.15 - what a wonderful village-white cube houses with blue dome roofs and picture postcard views wherever you look. We took a cab back to Fira for 10 Euros as we had just missed the 11.35 bus and the next was not till 12.20. Around 1pm there was about a ½ hour wait in line for the cable car and we were back on board around 2 pm. Day 6 Iraklion- took the local bus to Knossos, had a look around then back again on the bus. Day 7 At sea. Nice to just relax. At 11 am we had our formal Cruise Critic meeting at Papa's. The ship's captain, hotel director, director of entertainment etc all came and spoke to us which was lovely and they were happy to answer any questions. Refreshments were provided. Day 8 and 9 Egypt -The highlight of this trip! Wonderful overnight tour with De Castro organized by a fellow Cruise Critic member (thanks Cindi!) for a group of 10. Our guide was Dahlia who was just fantastic. We visited the Egyptian Museum, the Pyramids and Sphinx ( and did not feel hassled by vendors at all!) At night we watched the Sound and Light show which I thought was just magical, especially when a shooting star shot across above the middle pyramid ! We stayed at Le Meridian Pyramids which was lovely, and after breakfast we drove back to Alexandria and toured the major sites there including the Catacombs, Pompey's pillar, the Palace, Fort Quaitbay etc before returning to port. Apart from Dahlia we were also accompanied by the driver, and an armed guard and we felt extremely safe at all times. In fact the guard was very helpful and looked after us very nicely. We had a wonderful 2 days with De Castro and especially Dahlia our guide. Day 10 Sea Day- another relaxing day. We made use of some of the ship's facilities such as the karaoke room and games room. Both are very good. The karaoke room cannot be booked ahead of time but if it is available when you want it you can have the room for an hour. Day 11 Corfu - we walked into town - about a ½ hour walk and found Liston Square and the Church of Agios Spyridon and used the Internet cafe near the Alpha Bank there before walking back to the ship. Day 12 Katakolon - we did our only NCL shore excursion here - Ancient Treasures to Olympia and the Museum. It was quite good, but I must say I much prefer the smaller private tours. Day 13 Athens- organized Paul from Athens Taxi to meet a group of 9 of us at the port at 9 am. Disembarkation was easy - we just walked off with our luggage. The elevators were busy that morning. Paul was on time (in fact he said he had arrived at 7.30 am ) and loaded us and our luggage into his lovely Mercedes van and off we went for a ½ day tour of Athens including the Acropolis, Parthenon, Temple of Zeus and Syntagma station ( the excavations there are really quite amazing - you can see all the different layers of the various civilizations represented there). We also saw the Changing of the Guards at Parliament house and went to Lycevitus Hill to enjoy the views from this highest point in Athens. Paul dropped us at the airport at 2 pm and we flew home, spending a night at Dubai on route. In conclusion, we had a fantastic trip visiting some amazing places and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We were blessed with beautiful weather throughout. I would like to thank my cruise critic group for helping to make this a truly awesome trip and all the previous posters from whom I gained such a lot of useful information. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2008
ARRIVAL - PRECRUISE INFO We are a 60ish couple from Texas. Having been to Istanbul a couple of times, we arrived two days early to look around on our own. We stayed at the Hotel Niles and used the hotel's taxi service which was ... Read More
ARRIVAL - PRECRUISE INFO We are a 60ish couple from Texas. Having been to Istanbul a couple of times, we arrived two days early to look around on our own. We stayed at the Hotel Niles and used the hotel's taxi service which was efficient and pleasant. The hotel is not fancy, but the price is good and everything was as advertised, and as reviewed on Tripadvisor. The rooftop restaurant was good (breakfast included) and we were able to take our own drinks up there in the evening. It was enjoyable to meet a number other travellers there. The hotel staff was particularly helpful. The hotel is located very near the Grand Bazaar and within close walking distance of Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. It is also very close to the Tram. We spent time in the market, and since it was Ramadan, we spent both evenings we were there around the stalls set up for breaking the fast. We ate at the stalls. EMBARKATION Embarkation would have been fine had our taxi driver taken us to the right port entrance... Since he didn't we got to haul our luggage (on wheels) about 3/4 mile to the Jade, then exit the port and get in line for the Jade. NCL embarkation was fine. We got there about noon and our aft minisuite was ready, so we dropped off our bags and ate lunch in the buffet. The next day in Istanbul, we took the friends we were meeting for the cruise to the Taksim area and just looked around and shopped. The DH in our friend couple is disabled and in a motorized wheelchair, so we had to make sure that the places we went were relatively barrier free. In Taksim,it was no problem at all. Later in the trip the lack of curb cuts and the sudden appearance of stairs in a sidewalk did make things a little inconvenient. IZMIR We booked a private tour (for two)of Ephesus with Ekol Travel and were very pleased with the whole thing. I have not found the name of our female guide, but will keep looking. She was an independent guide and excellent, able to converse about world affairs, the economy (had a finance degree) and, of course Ephesus. Because of our small group, we were able to breeze around the larger crowded tours. We were fortunate on this day and every other day to have beautiful weather. MYKONOS The four of us took the shuttle to town and really just looked around. I did get some great pelican photos, and we had a beer and eventually grilled calamari at one of the seaside restaurants. We wandered through the alleys and also got some good photos there. SANTORINI Took a later tender our disabled friend stayed on board. The place was mobbed. We spent an hour in the line for the cable car, then followed our friend as she seriously shopped for gold earrings. Had there been no other ships in port, I can imagine it would be fun, but it was pretty much of a hassle. We stopped in one of the cliffside restaurants for a drink, and got in the long line back to the cable car. As for NCL and the tendering, everything was very smooth. IRAKLION, CRETE We took the buss to the passenger terminal and a cab into town. The walk streets near the plaza were interesting and we did some shopping. Prices seemed pretty reasonable. Had lunch in an outdoor restaurant near a fountain fried calamari and french fries, greek meatballs, tzaziki (all to share). ALEXANDRIA/CAIRO We have been to Egypt a number of times and have good friends there. The people we were cruising with have never been to Egypt, so we arranged a tour (through our Egyptian friends) to the Pyramids and Sphinx, then to the Khan al Khalili. We stayed at the Cairo Marriott as we have before. The rooms have recently been remodeled and very nice. The eight of us had dinner in the Egyptian Nights Restaurant which is outdoors and very nice. The food is very good as it was in the past. The next day we went back to Alex and boarded the ship. CORFU, GREECE Took a taxi into town and soaked up the local culture. A nice port with some interesting scenery, museums and churches. KATAKALON, GREECE Walked into town which was very crowded. We split up with our friends since it was impossible to keep a group of four together in the crowds. Did manage to find a cheap internet bar by the water. ATHENS Self disembarkment was easy and we met up with our Cruise Critic tour group for great short, but comprehensive, tour through Athens. Guide Paul was good and interesting a Greek from Brooklyn. He dropped us off at the Athens Airport. We did not take any NCL tours. POST CRUISE BA to London Heathrow, overnight at the Holiday Inn, Bath Road - West Drayton. Perfectly serviceable. We paid with points since the lowest priced room was 239 pounds plus 17.5 service!! On to DFW on AA51 the next morning. Had an uneventful (that's good!) trip home. PUBLIC ROOMS We thought the public rooms were fine and the ship overall was lovely. There were always many people in the reception area, but other than that, we really weren't on the ship during the day that much except in port. That aft cabin balcony will keep you happy when you are on the ship. SERVICE Service in all the dining rooms and bars was excellent. Our room staff was attentive and we constantly had our ice bucket full. Our room was made up early and quickly, and our bed was turned down every night (I saw another reviewer had a problem with this). VALUE FOR THE MONEY We did feel that charging for almost every restaurant, the price of drinks, the corkage, etc. was a bit much after already having paid for the cruise. We did bring on wine from one port and vodka another time with no problem. FYI, the house white wine is good. It can be bought by the glass or the bottle and is about $27/bottle plus gratuity. OVERALL EXPERIENCE We had a great time and had chosen the cruise for its itinerary. Our cruising companions are Greek and they had just celebrated their anniversary, so the cruise served our purpose very well. We had a great time. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2008
Embarkation..slow and long time standing in line in the rain On ship.. first impression was very gaudy and wild..colors were for a Disney cruise Cabin these terrible colors were repeated and there wasn't enough room between the ... Read More
Embarkation..slow and long time standing in line in the rain On ship.. first impression was very gaudy and wild..colors were for a Disney cruise Cabin these terrible colors were repeated and there wasn't enough room between the bottom of bed and the wall to roll the suitcases ..we had a mini suite Sometimes the bed was made and sometimes not.. sometimes chocolate and most times not... the dust was unbelievable!!!Each steward has 28 staterooms what can we expect??? Food The garden cafe doesn't even qualify for a school cafeteria,no trays,no place to sit.. you walk around with your plate until you find a seat put it on the table at your own risk and stand in line for coffee or juice the coffee is TERRIBLE and we asked one of the waiters if there was any better coffee and he said sure at the Aloha where it is 4.95 a cup since we drink three a day each that is 24.00 per day over 360.dollars for the trip..this is highway robbery. We drank tea for twelve days I do not understand,they still pay for coffee why can't they buy decent blends?There was always a good variety of food and fruit and veggies there if you stood in line long enough. Blue Lagoon.. we ate there twice... same as the garden only with service ..if you can find a seat Dining rooms if you can find a seat.. we were always with beepers the food is sooo basic that it is funny..the descriptions of the food had nothing to do with the final meal Factouche tiny bits of tomato and onions no sauce no parsley no sumac,we took a picture of the Greek salad and we are still laughing,,,basmati rice is Chinese rice etc it is actually pathetic.. The Bistro ,however was superb and Cagney's wasn't great.. but decent Our friends got sick at the Japanese and one of the waiters asked a guest if she knew how to make guacamole at the Mexican...what a mess! Entertainment...third rate there were two musicians Tom and John and during one stupid act they threw balls and asked whoever caught the ball questions.. to the many kids names of kids and to the ladies what color is your underwear I was so embarrassed.. a 58 year old woman being asked such a question in front of a full theatre I didn't answer and he said 'I guess you aren't wearing any" many people came up to me in the following days and mentioned the incident that I made a complaint and the response was..they are really nice guys and they didn't mean anything bad..go figure.. Staff..VERY inexperienced and the dining rooms are chaos,the last morning they refused to serve poached eggs and the waiter took over an hour to bring the food.. then we couldn't find him ..the good mornings were gone on the last day..very sad Overall, for three hundred dollars each daily,it was disgusting and Norwegian Free Style will not be part of our future voyages..and after talking to many people on board,the basic feeling was the same... Read Less
Sail Date: May 2008
Having been on another Norwegian ship for 2007 New Year's eve cruise with friends, we decided to go on the Jade with our granddaughters. Although the places where the ship stopped were wonderful ... Istanbul,Izmir, Dubrovnik, Venice, ... Read More
Having been on another Norwegian ship for 2007 New Year's eve cruise with friends, we decided to go on the Jade with our granddaughters. Although the places where the ship stopped were wonderful ... Istanbul,Izmir, Dubrovnik, Venice, Athens, Rome, Barcelona, the tours for those cities were not as carefully chosen. We had a problem with the "show" outing in Istanbul, the people there wanted us to sit behind a big pillar, where we would not have been able to see the show. They more or less told us we could sit there or leave. We left accompanied by our granddaughters and a couple of friends who were having the same problem. Half the room was empty but the people there told us they were held for "possible guests who would be coming" and not for cruise ship guests. We left and immediately infomed the ship's tour desk, and wrote a letter to Norwegian, and to date we have not heard a word from them as they take the attitude once off the ship, they are not responsible. In general the tours were outrageously expensive, probably because the euro was high against the dollar. The food in the main restaurants was good, though not exceptional, probably to push people to go to their other restaurants at a cost of $15,$20 or more. The shows on board were not great either. We liked our New Year's eve cruise, but this one is at best barely acceptable. We will await this New Year in Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Seas. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2008
Our parents have taken numerous cruises in the past and have raved about the sites they got to see and the experience of travelling to several different countries during one trip. It began as a bit of a joke, teasing our parents about ... Read More
Our parents have taken numerous cruises in the past and have raved about the sites they got to see and the experience of travelling to several different countries during one trip. It began as a bit of a joke, teasing our parents about taking a big trip before their daughters got too old, but it worked! Our parents have loved taking NCL cruises in the past because they don't like to be tied to a dining schedule. In their experience, the "freestyle" way of cruising worked best. We decided to take the 12-day Mediterranean cruise travelling from Istanbul, Turkey and ended in Barcelona, Spain. The big attractions to making that decision resided with Greece and Croatia. The rest of it, truthfully, was going to just be new places none of us had seen. We arrived in Istanbul after a VERY cramped and uncomfortable flight aboard American Airlines and stayed for one evening in a little hotel in the old part of Istanbul. Surprisingly, Istanbul quickly became one of our favorite places! The people were extremely friendly, everything was affordable thanks to Turkey retaining their own currency, the city was very clean, and the food was wonderful. The only downside? The extremely sudden calls to prayer throughout the day. Make sure your hotel isn't located next to a minaret that carries the calls to prayer over the loud speakers attached. It can be quite startling to wake up to early in the morning! After touring the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace and the Grand Bazaar on our own, we caught a taxi from our hotel to the port for boarding of the Norwegian Jade. It was a little confusing trying to determine where you placed your bags for transportation onto the Jade due to a lack of signs posted. However, upon inquiring with the staff, they were extremely helpful and assisted our family in getting the bags to the correct doorway. Queuing up to get onto the ship was long, however, it wasn't NCL's part that caused the delay. In the port of call entrance, there was only one security station through which everybody had to pass with their overnight bag. How quickly some people forget that you can't wear belts, some jewelry, or your sunglasses through a security gate!!! After going through security, we were amazed at how well-prepared the NCL staff were. There must have been 15 stations of "operators" checking everyone onto the Jade. Once onboard, we found our room and were quickly impressed with the size of our cabins. Since we knew we would be spending most of our time outside of our cabins, we decided not to pay extra for balconies or suites. We decided on a cabin on Deck 5, in the middle of the boat and were very happy with our decision! The cabins were extremely clean, the beds were incredibly comfortable and we were all surprised at how roomy the bathrooms were. I had heard nightmare stories from friends who had travelled on other cruise lines about the miniscule amount of space given for the shower, so I was prepared. However, even though I am six-feet tall, I even had plenty of room to shave my legs in the shower! Instead of eating in the buffet dining area with most of the people on the cruise ship, my family decided to eat in the formal dining room for every meal we could. First, it was a very nice place to sit and relax. The staff were, for the most part, extremely nice and pleasant to deal with. There was an incident we had with a woman that did not speak very good english and it was creating some communication problems. However, upon advising the gentleman that was in charge of the room, he changed servers for us and all was wonderful from then on. Another wonderful perk to the "formal" dining room is that they do not allow jeans after 5:00 p.m. How wonderful to actually be around people that were dressed nicely! We did try the steak restaurant, Casey's, as well as Teppanyaki. Although both of those were an extra cost, it didn't deter our decision. With everything else on the boat we had access to at no additional charge, it wasn't that big of a deal to pay for something different. The service in the steak restaurant definitely left something to be desired. Not sure if the gentleman was just having a bad evening or not, but he wasn't too attentive to us, and his tip (or lack thereof), reflected that. The chef in the Teppanyaki restaurant was entertaining, as was expected, and the food was wonderful... definitely try the shrimp! Everyday there were at least 30 different activities from which to choose: everything from bridge tournaments in the card room, Wii bowling tournaments in the Medusa Lounge, shopping specials in the gallery, to art auctions. Most of our free time, however, was spent reading on the pool deck, eating or sleeping. Our family decided to take advantage of our time off the ship in each port of call with excursions chosen for all but one of our destinations. Overall, our excursions were wonderful. The main critique about the excursions actually stemmed from the NCL staff. Whomever was in charge of the excursions did not time anything right at all. For each of our excursions, our ticket told us what time we were to meet and where. For every excursion we had, the tickets told us to meet in the Stardust Theater. We would arrive in the theater and find it almost full everyday. No problem with that, but the problem came in when you looked at everyone's meeting times: 7:45 a.m., 8:00 a.m., 8:00 a.m., 8:15 a.m.,etc... Not only could they not get everyone to leave the theater for any of the excursions on time, but then you had to listen to the young lady in the front of the theater repeating instructions over and over and over again. It got very annoying by the time we departed for our third excursion. In Venice, we had to take water taxis to get from the Jade to shore. Rather than figuring out how many people each of the taxis could hold, how long it took a taxi to do a full round trip, and how many passengers wanted to take an excursion, it was just a hodgepodge of making us gather, stand and wait. That part of the service definitely needs some work! Overall, however, our experience on the NCL Norwegian Jade was very positive. We have even chosen our next cruise itinerary and will be taking it with NCL again.... Read Less
Sail Date: April 2008
Itinerary: A cruise is probably one of the best ways to visit mediterranean countries, specially the countries on the eastern side. In the span of a few days you can visit many places with very different cultures and catch a glimpse of ... Read More
Itinerary: A cruise is probably one of the best ways to visit mediterranean countries, specially the countries on the eastern side. In the span of a few days you can visit many places with very different cultures and catch a glimpse of many ancient civilizations. Time travel on a cruise ship. We chose this cruise because of the itinerary, which took us to Turkey, the Greek isles, Egypt and the Greek mainland. It was a fascinating experience. Getting there: We booked our own flights to Istanbul and arrived the day before embarkation. This would give us time to go on a tour to the Spice Market followed by a cruise on the Bosphorus. We stayed at Hotel Poem in the Sultanahmet area, within easy walking distance of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. The staff was very helpful: they booked the tour for us, directed us to a nice "local" restaurant -as opposed to a tourist trap- where the clientele was indeed mostly turkish and the food simple but very tasty. They also arranged our transfer to the ship. Embarkation: We were expecting line-ups to board the ship in Istanbul. There were none. Check-in was very efficient and we were on board about ten minutes after arriving at the terminal. Staterooms: Four members of our group had balcony staterooms while the other four had ocean-view staterooms with a large porthole. The staterooms were nice and well-appointed. The ocean-view staterooms gave the impression of being slightly larger than the balcony staterooms. Compared to the balcony staterooms they had a small desk and additional drawers. Food: We tried the Alizar dining room as well as the Grand Pacific dining room for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We also tried some of the specialty restaurants: Paniolo Tapas and Salsa (tex-mex, free), Cagney's (steak house, cover charge) and Le Bistro (french, cover charge). Our group's unanimous favorite was the Grand Pacific dining room. The menu was varied and the food excellent. One of the waiters told us that the entrEes are not prepared ahead of time and are always cooked to order. Grand Pacific was also our favorite in terms of decor. The service was always impeccable. NCL's Freestyle dining means that you can go to the dining room for dinner at any time between 5:30 and 10:00. You are not bound to a preset time. This is very convenient as it allows you to adjust dinner time based on your schedule for the day. Reservations are recommended -but not necessary- for larger parties. On two occasions we went without reservations and there was no undue delay. We also tried the Garden Cafe (buffet) and found that it had a fairly wide selection. In fact, it is a good idea to check all the stations before you make your choice. Shore excursions: We booked shore excursions through NCL in every port. It kept things simple and we were sure to see the main historical sites. The shore excursion staff did a commendable job of getting everyone off the ship and on to their buses reasonably quickly. No small feat when you consider the number of passengers involved. The shore excursions were well run, with very competent guides. The only glitch occurred during our excursion in Santorini and NCL resolved the matter to our satisfaction. The souvenir vendors were omnipresent in Istanbul but a simple "No, thank you" with a smile was enough to ward them off. Not so in Egypt at the pyramids. The vendors there were very aggressive and persistent, to say the least. You have to say a curt "No" and keep walking. They will offer to take your picture in front of a camel, to let you go close and touch the pyramid. In the end they will always ask for money. Visiting the pyramids and the Sphinx was one of the highlights of this trip. The vendors managed to make it less than entirely pleasant. Disembarkation: The disembarkation process was quite painless. We had booked a transfer to downtown Athens through NCL and again the process of getting off the ship and on to the buses was smooth and efficient. The ship: Everyone in our group liked the Jade. Before being reflagged and moved to Europe it used to be known as the "Pride of Hawaii" and was sailing in Hawaii. That explains the hawaiian theme of the ship's decor. Apparently NCL will change this over time, but this is not a big issue. The only exception may be the fake "palm trees" around the pool area, which I found very ugly. I hope this is the first thing they remodel. Post-cruise: Since our flights only left the next day we stayed at Hotel Exarchion, within walking distance of the National Archaeological Museum in Athens and only a mile from the Acropolis. Here also the staff was very helpful and directed us to an excellent local restaurant and helped us with directions to the places we wanted to see. Everyone in our group enjoyed this cruise tremendously. It was the first cruise for most members of the group. I think they are now "hooked". We enjoyed NCL's Freestyle and our next cruise will likely be again with NCL. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2008
I'll begin my review with our perspective on cruising/ vacationing. I think that one can find fault in anything, and we fully expect to have disappointments" during vacation. We had some on this trip, but in no way did it detract ... Read More
I'll begin my review with our perspective on cruising/ vacationing. I think that one can find fault in anything, and we fully expect to have disappointments" during vacation. We had some on this trip, but in no way did it detract from the enjoyment of our vacation. We take things in stride, and if something frustrates us, we remember that we are on vacation, and not working, so things are good! We had a wonderful vacation. This is our third experience with NCL, and they are not our favorite cruise line, but they have made some improvements. We had good, and not so good experiences, and I'll list them below. Again, don't let my comments deter you from expecting only the best vacation. Vacations are what you make them. We arrived in Istanbul at 4:30 pm, and had traveled since the previous morning, so we weren't planning much for our first day. We dropped our things at the hotel, and went to Cerberlitas Hamam for a Turkish bath. That was an experience we were glad we didn't miss. It was wonderful! We were a little hesitant because we had heard some stories that made the whole experience sound a little scary. We were certainly glad that we knew what to expect, and thoroughly enjoyed our "bath"! We spent one night at Hotel Nena (in the Sulten.... area). It was a nice location (about 25 minutes from the airport), and near many of the sites. Nice lobby and common areas, and breakfast included. Rooms are a typical small European room, but clean and adequate (that is what we wanted). Would definitely recommend the hotel. It would probably be very easy to do Istanbul on your own, but we decided to use Ekol Travel because they could show us the sites, give us the history, and drop us off at the cruise ship at the end of the day for a reasonable price. Our first day tour in Istanbul was with Ekol travel, and they did a wonderful job. We saw the usual sites - Topkapi Palace, The Blue Mosque, the Hippodome, spice market, and the grand bazaar. Our guide also took us for a "demonstration" at the carpet store. We agreed, but said very clearly up front that we had no interest in purchasing a carpet, and didn't want to waste their time for a demo, and he said it was no big deal - there's no pressure to buy. The demonstration was simply pulling out about 20 different carpets - I thought it was going to be demo of how they make them. We felt very awkward since it was just the two of us - knowing that they were wasting their time, and going to have to roll up all these carpets and put them away without a sale. I would definitely not do that again. Loved the rest of the day - Istanbul is a wonderful place to visit. Our guide was courteous and knowledgeable, and spoke perfect English. Embarkation could not have been easier since we arrived late. We had called and emailed to let NCL know that we would be arriving a couple of hours past embarkation time. We walked right on, and carried our luggage with us - which was great because you don't have that fear of whether the luggage will show up and when. The ship is nice, but all still Hawaii motif, and they've decided to keep it. Our second day tour in Istanbul was also with Ekol travel (same tour guide and driver). Went to St. Sophia, the Cistern, and then spent a couple of hours seeing the rest of the city. We definitely had a very nice experience, and would not have wanted to maneuver those streets - crazy drivers! And our driver was one of them - each time we got back in the car, it smelled of pot (I guess he was passing the time), but he still did a great job driving! We also used Ekol travel for our tour in Ephesus -this time our guide was Oktay, and he was an excellent tour guide. We saw the House of the Virgin Mary, and stayed for a Mass service - that was really nice! We also saw St. John Basilica, and the Terrace Houses. I would highly recommend Ekol travel for tours in Turkey - they are very responsive, professional, courteous, and hire only the best guides. In Mykonos, we did the ship tour to Delos since it was Monday, and Delos was closed to everyone else. It was a good tour. The guide was pleasant and knowledgeable, and the tour groups were spaced in a way that only about 20 people were in any one area. We walked around town a little, and headed back to the ship. We enjoyed Delos, but I didn't know what else to do in Mykonos. We talked to a couple of people that rented scooters, and went to paradise beach, and said they really enjoyed it. Santorini was a tender port, and there was about an hour delay in letting us off the ship due to some winds, and then NCL tours got to go first. I opted for the cable car, and my husband walked, and he beat me to the top by about 10 minutes. We went directly to the bus station to go to Oia, but just missed the 11:15 bus, so we chose to take a taxi instead of waiting another 1 1/2 hours for the next bus. Oia was beautiful! We spent a couple of hours walking around Oia, and then caught the 1:05 bus back to Fira/ Thira. We had lunch at Fira and did a little shopping. Santorini is very beautiful. Iraklion was our least favorite port. I guess we've seen lots of amazing ruins, so the Palace of Knosses were just "more ruins", but not really because they were all recreated to look like what they probably looked like at the time. NCL provided a free shuttle that goes from the ship to the terminal. From the terminal, we walked through the gates, and took a right turn on the main road (highway), and went 1/3-1/2 mile to the bus station. It was on the left side of the road. We took the #2 bus there and back. We welcomed our first sea day - a chance to sleep in just a little, rest the feet a bit, and get in a little pool (poolside) time. Egypt - We used Decastro for our overnight tour in Cairo, and they were wonderful. We had a group of 12, which was a nice size (I can't imagine a ship bus of 40-50 people!). In addition to our tour guide, we had a driver, and a government assigned security guard. There was no danger whatsoever, but it was nice to have the security of the guard (the Egyptians say the guards are there to make more money for the government). Egypt was everything we hoped it would be! Our first day we had a 3 hour ride into Cairo, and our guide talked the whole way about the history of Egypt - it was very nice - we went first to the Egyptian Museum, and then had lunch on the Nile River. After lunch went stopped for a papyrus demonstration, and then spent a couple of hours at the pyramids (rode a camel), and sphinx, and went to a perfume factory. We saw the sound and light show, which was kind of nice, had dinner, and stayed at the Meridian Hotel with a view of the pyramids from our balcony - it was very cool! (they have wi-fi, but like everything else in Egypt, it's not free!) Decastro did a wonderful job with the arrangements. I know everyone is hesitant to wire the deposit, and I was too, but they are reputable, and it's their security that people don't cancel at the last minute. On our second day, we had a very nice breakfast at the Meridian, and then went to the step pyramid, and the Citadel, and Mosque of Mohammed Ali. My only disappointments in Egypt was that we didn't get to do any shopping at places where we could get bargains. I have a friend from Egypt, and she had told me what great deals you can get on jewelry and things. But like every other tour, the guide seems to take you to the places where they get "kickbacks". We heard this same thing from absolutely everyone we talked to. It's frustrating, but I suppose that's how they make a living. And unfortunately, the locals just drive you absolutely crazy - following you everywhere, and asking you over and over and over to buy something. And then they will say it's free, but if you take what they gave you, they ask for money. It was a 3 hour drive back, but we enjoyed the ride - looking at the scenery. Egypt was definitely one of the most exciting places we've ever been - we loved it! Our second sea day was another lazy day recuperating from our 2 exciting days in Egypt. The weather has been just perfect! And this day was probably mid 70s with a very slight breeze, so we spent some time at the pool. In Corfu we rented a car, and saw the island on our own. We used Nova car rental (40 euros for an economy car), and were very pleased. We were at the gate about 10 minutes early, and the representative was there to meet us, and walked us to our car which was just outside the door. He gave us directions, and we paid for the car before we left, so there was no check out when we returned - we just left the car. We saw the usual tourist sites - we went first to Paleokastritsa bay, and saw the views, the Monastery of the Virgin Mary, and the St. Spyridon Church. Then we drove to Golden Fox restaurant in Lacones - amazing views! Then we went to Kassiopi, and down the coast through the town of Corfu, and ended at the Archilles Palace. The gardens at Archilles Palace were the most beautiful we've ever seen - definitely worth the stop. Also rented a car in Katakalon, but would have done the train had we known that we an option. Rented the car from Diplas which is immediately outside the gates of the port, and they gave us priority since we had a reservation (40 euros for an economy car). Had no problems navigating because Olympia is the only place to see, and we just followed all the buses and taxis. It was nice to see the place of the first olympics, and it was a short day - we were back on the ship at 12:30. We had a great tour in Athens with Paul, and saw all the usual sites. He picked us up at the ship, and dropped us at our hotel at the end of the day. Certainly recommend Paul for a tour of Athens! We stayed at the Amazon hotel - which was "okay" at best. The beds were horrible, but it was a nice central location. Dining: Our first dinner was at Teppanyaki, and was excellent, but I guess I'm cheap - I don't like paying for my meals on a cruise. I know - that was my choice, so I shouldn't complain. And NCL is also now charging for Papa's. So the only "unique" restaurant remaining without a fee is the Mexican restaurant. And we found that there are also entrees on the menu that carry an extra surcharge. We went to Papa's a couple of times, and it was half price since we went before 7:00 (they run these specials in some of the restaurants), but we walked away saying it wasn't worth the half price. Papas was one of our favorites on our previous 2 cruises, but they've changed the menu a bit, and took away our favorite dessert. The main dining room had a decent variety, and the food was average to above average. Very much unlike any other cruise we've been on, we ate most often at the buffet. The buffet at the Garden Cafe was good, and had lots to choose from. Entertainment: We usually enjoy the entertainment - we love the comedians, magicians, and the occasional broadway show, but not so much on this cruise. We saw Stephen Garcia (magician/ comedian), and it was painful. We felt sorry for the guy, and felt obligated to stay and applaud. We went to an interactive movie that was kind of fun. We heard an opera singer that was really good. And then there was another really painful show - a husband and wife duo. The wife did acrobats, and the husband was a comedian. Definitely not a duo that worked well together, and the comedy would have been appropriate for a child. They had Second City Comedy which was good, but a different style of comedy that not everyone will like. Service: Our room steward was definitely "stealth-like" - not that that is necessarily bad, but an introduction would have been nice, and if we wanted anything, we'd have to track down someone. Our room steward improved after a few days. One of the downsides with freestyle dining is that you don't get to know the waiters - which is okay, but the dinner service we experienced was average, at best. Visas, money & phone: When you arrive in Istanbul, you need to get in the line to get your Visa as soon as you get off the plane. The line is long, but goes fast. They ask no questions, and usually don't even speak to you. They just want $20 for a visa. Next you move to the customs line, show them your passport with the visa stamp, and then go for your luggage. Outside of the baggage area you will find a HSBC ATM that gives euros. We took 2 different credit cards, and one worked most of the time, and the other one only worked a couple of times. We had called our bank ahead of time (Citibank) to give them our schedule of travel, and they still put a freeze on my card. So be sure to have a number to call your bank. When we called, they said a lot of times, the freeze just goes on automatically, and they have to take it off. We did run into limits - the ATM would only give 300 euros per day. We purchased an international phone from, and it worked great. Once I learned that I did not have to put every country code in to dial, it was easy. You simply dial + and then the full number you want to call. The plus is the zero key - just hold it until a + shows up, and that automatically adds the country code. Reception was good, and the signal was always strong - except on the boat, and then there was no signal at all. You have to surrender your passport to the NCL (which made me uncomfortable - especially when renting a car). For the Greece stops, you get a piece of paper when you leave the ship that says you are in port legally for the day. They did give the passport back to you for Egypt, and NCL had already stamped the passport with the Visa stamp for Egypt, so we did not have to get a visa in Egypt. I had called NCL ahead of time to ask about this, and they told me that they only provide a visa for passengers that do a NCL tour, but that was NOT the case - they stamped them all. Good: cabin is well organized and adequate Bedding is nice Breakfast buffet - they have 4 stations with the same stuff so the lines are not too bad Drink flags on the lounge chairs No cheesy pool games Plenty of staff in the buffet area to help carry food and drinks to the table (since all cruise lines have eliminated trays for fear that we'll eat more!) Sun deck on the 13th floor - nice and quiet Not so good: They did not offer a church service Service was very often only "average" Entertainment - several shows were not good. They had the production of Tony & Tina's Wedding which would have been fun to see (although I heard they charged for it!), but they had it on the night we stayed in Cairo. All the surcharges - 6 dining rooms, some entrees, exercise programs, sauna, fresh squeezed juice, some lectures, etc The television in our room had bad sound and reception (they "fixed" it, but nothing changed) We had a high-pitched whistle in our room that was just mind-bending! Warm milk - never found cold milk on the ship NCL needs to go electronic - so you can order shore excursions and see your bill from your room Slow internet service at 75 cents per minute Overall: Had a great vacation. The itinerary was perfect, and so was the weather. NCL was "okay" - don't like all the extra expenses when you're on the ship (maybe this is where the industry is moving, but we didn't like it). Read Less
Sail Date: April 2008
This was our 6th cruise, and the first one with NCL. I was not sure if we would like the freestyle dinning. We have always enjoyed formal nights and our seat mates on other cruises. We did for the most part enjoy it greatly. Dinning ... Read More
This was our 6th cruise, and the first one with NCL. I was not sure if we would like the freestyle dinning. We have always enjoyed formal nights and our seat mates on other cruises. We did for the most part enjoy it greatly. Dinning rooms. Our favorite was the Grand Pacific. The food and service where usually very good. The Bistro was very good. We ate at Papa's Italian Kitchen one night. Would NOT recommend that. The lobster ravioli, could have came out of a can, rubber and tasteless. State room. We had a mini suite on the 11th floor. Loved it! Didn't want to leave it! We slept with the door open every night. It was great to hear the waves. We felt very little motion, even though we where near the front of the ship. Our state room attendant was the worst we have had on a cruise (only because we have had such great service in the past) The first day the room wasn't clean until dinner time. We had to repeatedly ask for coffee, lotion, etc. He seemed to have to many rooms to clean. It did seem to get better later in the trip though, and I expect it will continue to improve. Shows. We though most of them where pretty good. Ports. IZIMIR - we had a private tour in a mini bus, with 4 other couples. One of the other couples booked it over the internet. Private tours are absolutely the way to go. MYKONONS - We rented a 4wheeler for 15 euro for the day (near the bus stop) and off we went! It was great. No traffic to speak of, and easy to get around. SANTORINI - beware of the donkeys! They are very stubborn and difficult to get moving. However 2/3rds of the way up my husband's donkey turned around and started racing down the hill. The saddle came off and he was thrown from it. Luckily he was only bruised, and not thrown over the cliff. EGYPT - Again we had a private tour with 3 other couples. We used Nile Blue, and where very satisfied with them. We spent the first long day in Cario, went back to the ship overnight, and the second day in Alexandria. I was glad we did that, as we really enjoyed the scenery and thought the catacombs where really interesting. KATAKOLON - we took the train into Olympia. It cost 3euro round trip and was a very short walk to and from the tiny little train station. Would highly recommend the train. We spent 3 days in Istanbul. We stayed near the Blue Mosque, and walked to everything. really enjoyed it. We also spent 3 days in Athens, and really enjoyed that. We stayed at the Amazon hotel. Great location, very basic room. I would definitely go on an NCL cruise in the future. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2008
With the value of the US Dollar declining, we chose an Eastern Med cruise as a way to tour several interesting cities while keeping costs reasonable. We enjoy traveling independently throughout Europe but thought the idea of unpacking a ... Read More
With the value of the US Dollar declining, we chose an Eastern Med cruise as a way to tour several interesting cities while keeping costs reasonable. We enjoy traveling independently throughout Europe but thought the idea of unpacking a suitcase only once in 12 days might be nice. This cruise aboard the Jade was selected primarily because of the itinerary. It was our second cruise and first aboard an NCL ship (first was a Baltic Cruise aboard the Star Princess in June 07). Our vacation began in April 2008 with an independently booked stay at a small hotel in the Sultanhamet Square area of Istanbul, where we stayed for four nights prior to the cruise. This provided ample time to visit the main historic and cultural sights including the Blue Mosque, Hayia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and more. Using local transportation & walking to the main sights was very easy, and to reach the ship we took a cab from the hotel to the dock for about 12 euros. EMBARKATION & SHIP LAYOUT: With only one small suitcase each plus a carryon, embarkation was relatively smooth and took only 20 minutes from arrival at the port to our room. However, it seemed that some staff members were either new, untrained, or unorganized regarding embarkation procedures and general layout of the ship. There were several occasions on the first afternoon when we felt that no one seemed to be in charge and directing guests on how to find their assigned room, or providing information or directions to specific locations for activities. This lack of organization would later affect shore excursions as well. Overall ship layout was ok, although not as good as the Star Princess. There were quiet areas and public areas such as the library (which we used frequently) where they offered tea & coffee, and books available for check-out. It was a nice space for reading & relaxing, but at times became very crowded with people and no chairs were available. There was a card/game room next door although we did not use this. There were two public atriums/music areas where you could listen to music, socialize, get a coffee or drink, chit-chat, and people watch in the afternoons (near the Bar City area & near the coffee bar/across from Shore Excursion desk). Other public rooms and bars became trivia rooms and lecture rooms on sea days. At certain times, dining rooms and pool areas were extremely crowded and it was difficult to find a place to sit unless you went to more remote areas of the ship (i.e. away from the pool, up three decks), which defeated the purpose of trying to go sit by the pool. We don't mind walking but certain decks had awkward layouts and hallways, in which you were forced to frequently walk the distance of the ship to get to a restaurant or nightclub for entertainment. Some hallways ended & twisted round; we seemed to do a lot more walking throughout this ship than on our first ship. POOL/SPA: We did not use the spa services. There is a special hot tub, steam room, heated chairs, and other services available for a daily fee of approximately $15/day, and although we were tempted to escape from some of the children around the other hot tubs, we decided the additional $300+ charge for having a quiet area was just a little too high, especially when there is NO guarantee that it will be child free. There are two hot tubs on the main pool deck designated "adults only" but those are so popular that many times, there simply isn't room for any other people inside them! The pool area is nice, but overcrowded unless it's a port day when most everyone is sightseeing. Otherwise, you must arrive early to secure a chair, and expect to be hounded every 15 minutes by waiters asking if you would like a drink. While this could be considered service, after having 3 or 4 staff members solicit me repeatedly for several hours, it got to be way too much. I began to wonder how much of their pay consists of tips or a contest to see who can sell the most in poolside drinks. FOOD: Overall the quality of the food aboard the ship was good to above average. Was it the most spectacular food, and something you would find at a high-end restaurant in the US? Definitely not. I would not spend $100/person for what we received in their main dining room. However, it was fine and satisfactory. Bottled wine prices were avg to slight above avg, but not as high as you might imagine. By the glass, expect $7-9. I did notice that halfway thru the cruise, some of the under $70 bottles disappeared and a whole new list appeared in some of the restaurants, which seemed odd. So they ran out of wine by the bottle, except wine that costs over $100? I don't think so. Freestyle means you can choose the time you dine, and which restaurant. We prefer the casual & country-club casual dress options as opposed to the formal dress nights, so we enjoyed NOT having to wear a tux or cocktail dress. However, out of 13 dining options, 7 require an upcharge. I would have preferred to pay a higher rate for the cruise than be nickeled & dimed for every single thing, which over time became a consistent theme with this cruise and apparently this company. There was a charge for the Asian-themed restaurant, which we went to several times and had wonderful meals, but even there, you also paid extra "plate charges" for sushi and other items. Same at the steakhouse. $15/person and then an extra $10-20 per cut of certain types of beef. It all got to be too much. We paid the extra for the steakhouse and had a great meal, but it was just extra here, extra there, throughout all the restaurants. The only way to avoid spending nearly $100 extra at one of the specialty restaurants by the time you had drinks & the upcharge was to go to the main dining venues, and good luck with that. You either had to go at 5:30pm upon opening, or wait until 10pm closing time, otherwise there was a 30-45 minute wait and you rec'd a beeper as at restaurants back in the US. Otherwise, you must call ahead for reservations around 7-8am, which defeated the Freestyle concept. The ship had electronic wait boards showing the various restaurants, but these rarely seemed accurate. CABIN: Our goal with this vacation was to visit the ports, not spend a lot of time in our cabin, thus we selected a simple inside cabin with the intention of using it only for sleeping and storage of our clothes. The bathroom was quite large, offering a nicely sized shower with great water pressure & hand-held shower massage, toiletries, full sink & counter but little storage space for personal items. Closet and drawer space were adequate, but overall the cabin seemed awkwardly laid out and smaller due to its center walkway and lack of mirrors, compared with our similar inside cabin on the Star Princess (which felt & appeared much larger inside). The bed & linens were very comfortable. Service by our cabin steward was excellent, warm, and very professional. She provided anything we requested and the room was always prompted prepared. PORTS/SHORE EXCURSIONS: We booked a mix of shore excursions for Cairo, Olympia, Crete (Palace of Knossos) and local travel on our own since we enjoy independent travel rather than being part of a herd. Printed "Port Guides" were totally useless except as advertisements, and Paula the staff member was equally useless. I asked her about local travel in Alexandria, since we brought some but did not bring guide books for every single country. She either had never been to that port before, or had no willingness to seek out an answer as to how to get from point A to B. Yet, she was supposed to be the Port & Shopping Expert. All Paula knew was where to buy gold. The Cruise Director on the Star Princess last year was excellent, and gave a talk each day prior to our docking about the history of that city, key sights, and how to travel independently. We realized what a treasure he had been, and have now booked another cruise here in July 08 on a Princess ship which I hope will provide the same service. The shore excursions in Cairo & Crete were ok. Morning organizational meetings in the theater prior to disembarkation were a disaster. Were the staff members doing this for the first time? They had no idea how to get people physically into the theater, seated, and then organize the groups for departing on time. The cities were fascinating, while the value & services rec'd on the tour were fair to avg (i.e at Crete, read carefully to know whether you are visiting an actual small town or a fake, re-created village). Maybe we should have researched more & taken a private tour. In fairness, I learned too late after we booked that this was a new itinerary for the Jade's staff, so perhaps none of the staff members had ever been to these ports before. But frankly, I am paying for service, and for their expertise in coordinating my shore excursions. If they can't do that smoothly, then what am I paying for? I'm better off doing my own travel in the ports, and that's what I'll do from now on, only I'll do it on another ship, because these folks just don't have the knowledge and experience to get it right and I don't want to pay for their learning curve with my valuable vacation dollars. We did not use the Children's program, Casino, or shops except for minor browsing. We did attend several programs and activities, including some that had minor ($10-15/person) charges. Again, we were willing to pay these charges for activities, and many of the activities are free, but some do include charges. There is a gym with good up-to-date equipment, but many of the classes incur a charge (pilates, yoga) as well as wine tastings & other educational offerings which incur a cost of $10-25/person. DISEMBARKATION: As we are light packers, this went very smoothly for us and we had an enjoyable breakfast in the main dining room of the ship. The only difficulty was jostling with the hundreds of other passengers waiting in line for taxis. We were originally planning to take the Athens local metro to our hotel in Plaka for a 3-night stay, but the metro appeared to be quite a long walk. So, we kept our eyes open and when taxis began to appear, dropping off passengers for the next departing voyage on the Jade, we grabbed one and negotiated a decent fair. Overall, we paid a reasonable price for visiting such an amazing list of places, but the upcharges on the Jade and the waiting lists at the restaurants, the overall disorganized service, and the crowded spaces in some public areas made us decide that we will not return to the Jade. Freestyle is a nice concept but it did not always work smoothly for us. Perhaps NCL would be a better option for travelers who would not incur many "upcharges." Read Less
Sail Date: April 2008
Istanbul to Athens Norweigian Jade - Friday April 11th - Wednesday April 23th Outbound Flights We live in Fairburn, GA. which is about 25 miles southwest of Atlanta. We flew on a Delta 767-300 to New York's JFK, and then on ... Read More
Istanbul to Athens Norweigian Jade - Friday April 11th - Wednesday April 23th Outbound Flights We live in Fairburn, GA. which is about 25 miles southwest of Atlanta. We flew on a Delta 767-300 to New York's JFK, and then on another 767-300 on to Istanbul. The flight to JFK experienced minor delays, but was otherwise uneventful. It's been awhile since I've been to JFK, but this airport is bursting at the seams. We had about an hour before our next flight and wanted to grab some lunch. The lines at all of the restaurants were so long that I had to settle for Burger King, and my wife just passed altogether. In retrospect, she had the right idea. Burger King is not for me, even in a crisis. The Istanbul flight sat at the gate for over an hour past its scheduled departure time. They said this was due to a broken baggage loader. When we finally did get to the tarmac, we waited another 30 minutes or so before finally taking off. This flight was notably bumpy for the first couple of hours, but nothing too severe. Delta's fleet is embarrassingly out of date. Both of our flights were on older planes which lacked the individual video displays in the coach section. While that's OK for a 2 or 3 hour domestic flight, it is not OK, in my opinion, when you know your passengers will be captive for over 10 hours. The meals were also sub par. Being an Atlanta resident, I would like to see Delta improve their service and update their fleet, so that they can thrive in the international market. They have more or less already conceded the domestic market to the discounters. Embarkation We landed in Istanbul at about 10:30 AM local time. We were roughly 90 minutes late because of the delays in New York. Customs in Turkey was by far the easiest such experience I have ever had. You simply purchase your Visa, and then get an arrival stamp in your passport. That's it! No declaration forms or baggage inspections. Just remember to get your Visa first [20 USD as of this writing and exact change is required], before waiting in the line for arrival stamps. There were no signs or employees to explain this beforehand, so we waited in the arrival line only to be turned away. Even with this mistake, however, the entire process took less than 20 minutes. Sadly enough, my worst customs experience was in my home city of Atlanta Georgia, but that's another story. We purchased the NCL transfer from airport to the ship. I highly recommend this service because they take care of your luggage and you don't have to worry about transportation issues. Who wants to worry about such things after 12 hours of flying. An added benefit of the transfer package was the actual drive to the ship. The bus driver seemed to purposely take "the scenic route." We were able to get a really good preview of Istanbul with some limited narration. The drive took about 30 - 45 minutes. Embarkation was what we've come to expect from the cruise industry. NCL seems to do a better job than Princess in this area. There was the appearance of chaos and confusion with all of these people standing in all of these lines, but as long as you have your paperwork in order, you should breeze through it pretty quickly. We did everything online well in advance, and were on the ship within 30 minutes. Do not show up at the ship without having completed your pre-registration forms [NCL calls them E-Docs] online. Ship - First Impressions Originally launched in May of 2006, the Norwegian Jade may be the newest cruise ship we have experienced. We cruised Hawaii on the Pride of Aloha in November of 2004, which may have been newer at the time. The Jade was formerly a sister ship of the Aloha, and was called Pride of Hawaii, but has recently been redeployed [earlier this year] as the only major cruise ship permanently based in Europe. With this repositioning came a new name. We've only visited a few decks at this point, but everything on the Jade appears, well, ship shape. One thing I am surprised to see are ample remnants of the ships Hawaiian roots. It was my understanding that these would be removed in dry dock prior to our sailing. We are in stateroom 8588, which is deck 8 midship. Our cabin is what the industry calls an "obstructed ocean view." My wife and I are both pretty bargain savvy, so this is actually the first time we have ever had anything other than the standard "inside cabin," even though we have logged over 20 cruises between us. When we are done working and ready to retire, we may spring for a balcony. Maybe... This stateroom is nicer than what we are accustomed to from other cruises. Not only does it have an acceptable view of the ocean as promised, it also seems to have some other upgrades, like nicer bathroom amenities and a bit more storage space. We can also see some of what NCL calls its Freestyle 2.0 upgrades, such as a fully stocked mini bar [which we'll never touch] and very nice bedding. So far NCL is doing a great job. Food - First Impressions I don't know why you cruise, but I do it for the food and the ports, or the ports and the food. I can't decide. But you get the point, I like good food and I like it to be easily accessible. I chose deck 8, in part, because it has both the 24 hour Blue Lagoon and the Paniolo Tapas & Salsa Restaurant in close proximity. After getting settled into our stateroom, we were ready for some real food. For now we didn't want to bother with a restaurant, so we visited the Garden Cafe Buffet on deck 12. Food was tasteful, but we expected a bit more variety than what was provided. It is also obvious that NCL is serious about maintaining health standards onboard. Most of the food was safely behind Plexiglas and proper hand sanitizing was encouraged throughout. One thing I have noticed that may be unique to NCL is the concept of an additional charge for certain entree's in the specialty restaurants. In other words, you pay the main cover charge, but if you order certain items, a separate charge is added. I find this disturbing, but it doesn't really affect me personally, since we don't eat in the specialty restaurants. We may try one on this cruise, but it would be our first. Entertainment - First Impressions To be honest, I don't usually find most of the entertainment offered on cruise ships to be all that interesting. If I go to a show, it's usually because my wife "asked" me to go. When this happens, I do sometimes end up enjoying myself. As I write this, I have not attended any of the shows on this cruise, [but that is certain to change] and even my wife has only attended one. This is primarily because there just isn't very much being offered in the category of entertainment. My wife attended a show on Sunday featuring a comedian/musician named Stephan Garcia, which she found quite entertaining. We have noticed two things of interest on this ship regarding entertainment. The first is the incredibly low profile the Cruise Director [and his staff] seem to be maintaining. We had actually concluded that there was no cruise director, since we have not seen or heard any mention of one, either in person, or in the Freestyle Daily since the cruise began. During dinner yesterday evening, I mentioned this to a bar waitress we have become friendly with. She said there definitely is a cruise director onboard, but even she had to confer with another staff member to get his name. I think this is an area where NCL could use some improvement. Even as an experienced cruiser, I believe a good cruise director to be a great benefit, but for first time cruisers, they are absolutely essential. I have also noticed on this cruise, what I believe to be a first in the entire mainstream cruise industry. An evening show that actually carries a cover charge. NCL is at it again, with their production of "Tony N Tina's Wedding." As explained to us, this is an interactive show where the audience actually participates, similar to The Rock Horror Picture Show for those who are familiar with that. Dinner is included. I don't know what the cover is, but the precedent is clear. Cruising is changing for the worse. If this is both tolerated by passengers and deemed profitable, I am sure other cruise lines will quickly follow suit. Ports: Day 1 - Istanbul As stated above, we got into Istanbul around 10:30 AM and onto the ship shortly after noon. After lunch and a quick nap, we took a taxi into town. We paid 15 USD for the ride and were dropped off at the entrance to the Blue Mosque. We spent some time taking in the surrounding area, but we were constantly bothered by overzealous street vendors with everything from ornamental hats to postcards. We're experienced travelers so we're used to this, but Istanbul is worse than most other places we've visited in this regard. You pretty much have to raise your voice to make them go away. When we approached the actual Mosque we were approached by another man. An older gentleman who offered some interesting historical perspective. He was very nice, but he followed us into the actual Mosque [no shoes allowed and women should have their heads covered] and kept on talking until it was obvious that he would ultimately expect to be paid. He did seem very knowledgeable and was not as overbearing as other people we encountered. We were happy to give him a few dollars for his time and trouble. There are also many shops in this area. We were interested in a tapestry rug for our living room wall, so we visited several of the famed Turkish carpet shops. We found some very nice designs, but thought the prices a bit high. Since the Jade is overnighting in Istanbul, we will be able to use the ships Internet service to do some quick research, and then return tomorrow to buy a rug if we want. After shopping around some more, we were ready to return to the ship. We saw a taxi driver and asked him how much it would cost. He was very reluctant to agree on a price and just kept saying "meter." We got in and he drove us close to the entrance to the ship and then asked if we would mind if he let us out here. We agreed and prepared to pay. He pointed to the meter, which we had not been able to see before then, even though we were looking for it. It said 49.50. I calculated this to be about $35 USD, which would already have been twice what we paid to get there from the ship. I handed the man two $20.00 bills. He immediately handed me back two $1.00 bills and acted as if I had originally given him the $1.00 bills instead of $20's. We argued for awhile and he eventually abandoned that ruse. Now he claimed that the meter was reading US dollars, and so I owed him another $10.00. I gave him the same two $20.00 bills as before [he had magically found them by now] and told my wife to get out of the car. I told him to call the police if he had a problem with it, but I wouldn't pay anymore. I went on my way, and I'm sure he went looking for the next unsuspecting tourist to rip off. All that to say, beware of cab drivers in Turkey. Don't get into a cab without first agreeing on the price and the currency it will be paid in. Also, don't allow a driver to drop you off outside of the cruise ship area. We believe this was his way of avoiding a confrontation with the police. Back on the ship, we headed up to the Garden Buffet again, but found even less variety this time. There are a lot of restaurants on this ship, so perhaps this is why the buffet is so basic. In any case, we ate a little at the buffet, but eventually went back to deck 8 and got some hot wings from The 24 hour Blue Lagoon. That brings this day to a close. Day 2 - Istanbul - At Sea Today started at about 08:00 for us. We decided to have breakfast in the Garden Cafe buffet area since we wanted to get a start on the short day. Breakfast in the Garden Cafe was typical, food-wise, but seats were difficult to find. We finally did find seats by sharing a table with another couple. After breakfast we headed ashore and were greeted by costumed locals playing a variety of percussion instruments. We took a few pictures of this spectacle and then headed out to find a cab. After yesterday, we were quite wary of Turkish cab drivers, but today we were fortunate enough to meet a very savvy Chinese couple. The husband demonstrated the art of negotiating a taxi [or taksi as it is called here] ride in excellent fashion. The process is basically as described above, but he also said to always show and announce the exact currency before it exchanges hands, and to pay only after you have physically exited the cab. We ended up splitting a cab with this couple and went to the famed Grand Bazaar. This bazaar is situated in a Mosque, which I found a bit perplexing. There are reputedly over 4000 shops in and around the bazaar. We had been looking for a large tapestry rug for our living room and were able to find one here for what my research [yesterday and pre-cruise] indicated to be an excellent price. I also bought some decorative knives that I am hoping I'll be able to get back home. The merchant said it would not be a problem because they are not at all sharp. I hope I wasn't naive in believing him. We bought some other trinkets and headed back to where our driver had agreed to meet us. He was right on time and very friendly, a sharp contrast to yesterdays experience. We arrived back at the ship in time for a quick late lunch. We ate light because the sail away party and barbecue was scheduled to begin at 14:30 [2:30 PM]. The sail away party was very nice and the weather in Istanbul was beautiful. I would estimate about 75 degrees and mostly sunny. The menu was steak and chicken, as well as burgers and hot dogs. We thought it strange that ribs were not offered, but it didn't stop us from enjoying ourselves. I Almost forgot, the lifeboat drill was held at 14:00. They actually closed the buffet at 13:45 in anticipation of this. I approached the desert bar to grab a cookie and was told I could not have one until after the drill! NCL is serious about guests attending the drill. We have skipped it on other ships without consequence. As they go, this one was pretty well organized and brief. So we are now officially at sea for the first time in this cruise. Tonight is a "dress up, or not" night, NCL parlance for formal night. On this ship, it simply means the photographers will be prowling about. Next stop, Izmur. We have booked a tour for this port, since we want to visit Ephesus and it is not walkable from port. We are going to relax for the remainder of this day, or at least until dinner. Day 3 - Izmur We started out today with breakfast in the Grand Pacific dining room on deck 7. We are saddened by the apparent decline of the food product across the board on mainstream cruise ships. We noted this on our last cruise with Princess, and it seems Norwegian has managed to further this impression. Breakfast consisted of what appeared to be powdered eggs and coaster sized pancakes you might expect to find in a military kitchen. I believe Norwegian has decided that what used to be a standard restaurant will now be a "specialty" one. That would explain the larger than usual number of them on this ship. Unless you eat in one of these, the food quality will be mediocre by design. I believe this will continue in the industry until passengers demand better with their wallets. We have a tour booked today with the ship. We will be visiting Ephesus. We're excited about this tour because of the historical and Biblical significance of this port. We mustered in the Stardust Theater at 09:00 for what was advertised as a 4 hour tour. I don't generally care for ship tours, but my wife was still a bit unnerved about the Turkish taksi drivers. We were on the bus and on our way by maybe 09:30. The trip from Izmur to Ephesus took about an hour. This hour was made interesting by our guide, Ahmet. He was a wealth of knowledge concerning life in Turkey and the history of both Izmur and Ephesus. When we arrived I immediately noticed the extreme crowds. This was the only bad part of a truly unique experience. Ephesus is only about 13% excavated, according to our guide. The rest remains underground. Being here and hearing the guide discuss the history brought to life for me what I had read about for years in scripture. They even had some actors dressed as Ephesians who did a few performances while we were there. I could have done without that part, but the ruins are special. As we left the area our guide allowed us to visit the nearby site of the Temple of Artemis. On our way back to the ship, we were told we would be stopping for refreshments and a "demonstration." By now it was already 14:00 and we hadn't even had lunch. The demonstration turned out to be a modeling show complete with a runway and about 6 thin and sculpted Turks showing various leather jackets and suede blazers. I sat through that, but when they tried to herd us all into their shop next door, I returned to the bus. About 10 minutes later, the rest of our passengers started streaming out. I noticed a couple of them had bags in hand. I later learned that the least expensive item was $300.00. I can't understand how anyone would make such an impulse purchase, but as long as they do, the cruise lines will continue to push the limits of decorum with these forced stops on "tours." By the time we got back to the ship, it was about 16:30, so our 4 hour tour actually took closer to 7 hours. We had a very late lunch at the Topsiders Grill and then went to our stateroom to rest. Later we had dinner at the Grand Pacific Dining Room. Actually, my wife did. I wasn't ready for dinner yet, but sat with her as she ate. I ended up getting some buffalo wings from the 24 hour Blue Lagoon which is just outside of our stateroom. My wife took in a comedy/magic show, while I opted to stay in. That's it for day 3. Tomorrow we're scheduled to visit the Greek Island of Mykonos. Day 4 - Mykonos To be honest, I wasn't expecting much from Mykonos. I was pleasantly surprised. This is a beautiful and serene island. Americans may be reminded of Hilton Head, SC, as Mykonos has the same uniformity in it's building decor, although the color of choice here is white. We started with breakfast in the Garden Cafe and then caught the free shuttle into town. The ride is only a few miles, but this island is a pleasure to walk anyway. There are beautiful homes high atop the hills, all sharing the common decor, as well as shop after shop selling everything from high end "jewelry" as it is spelled here, to the more mundane such as T-shirts. Since Greece is a EU nation, the Euro is the official currency, and it is quite expensive for Americans. We spent about 4 hours taking in Mykonos. We walked along the cobblestone streets and the shoreline. We visited a very small "beach," but did not venture out to where a local said the nicer beaches were. We sat on the numerous giant stones and stared into the crystal clear waters. We headed back to the ship at around 13:00 to grab some lunch and continue enjoying Mykonos from the vantage point of deck 13. This was a welcome break from the chaos and aggressive street merchants of Istanbul and Izmur. In Mykonos, no one will pressure you to buy anything and everyone is friendly and respectful. Add to that, picture perfect weather, [probably in the high 70's with plenty of sun,] and you have about as perfect a day as one could hope for. Day 5 - Santorini Again. I wasn't expecting much from Santorini or any of the Greek islands. I had basically considered them trivial waypoints between Istanbul and Egypt. For the 2nd day in a row I have been pleasantly surprised. Not only is Santorini a wonderful island, it is completely different than Mykonos, and thus a unique experience in its own right. The ship has to tender at this port, and the winds were strong enough where the staff felt the need to allow departures from only one side of the ship. This made getting ashore take quite awhile. By the time we were up, fed, and ready to go ashore it was already about 09:00. It took another hour to actually find ourselves in the tender craft heading to Santorini island. I was surprised that NCL appeared to have contracted with a local company to provide the tenders, as previous cruises I have been on typically used their own life boats. Once on the island, we had a decision to make. The donkey, the cable car, or our own two feet. You see, Santorini is perched high atop the mountains and it's about a 45 minute walk to the top. We opted for the donkey, which cost us 4 Euros each. At the time of this writing, that's about 7.50 USD. The folks who chose the cable cars had the easiest time, and those who chose to walk, well, they will probably not be making that mistake again. If you walk, you have to do so on the same path that the donkeys use, and where there are 20 or so donkeys, there is also... Well, you get the point. Lots of it. I'm glad we made the choice we did. It took about 30 minutes or so, and was an interesting experience. I was quite proud of my wife as she braved this adventure. Once atop the island [still another 15 minutes or so on foot after the donkey ride] you are treated to some spectacular views of the ocean below, as well as the island itself, which is basically a semi-circle. I cannot believe people actually live up here, but they do. Just as with Mykonos, the people of Santorini are friendly and courteous. There are a myriad of shops and restaurants to try, and for the brave, cars and motorcycles are available for rent. We spent only a few hours touring Santorini once we reached the top, before beginning the long journey back down to catch the tender back to the ship. On the way down, we chose the cable cars, which took less than 10 minutes. We were back on the Jade by around13:45 and had a late lunch in the Garden Cafe buffet on deck 12. After that we returned to our stateroom for an afternoon nap. My wife will have a spa treatment later, and I will have some free time to , as NCL says, do "whatever." Day 6 - Araklion Today we are visiting yet another Greek island. Araklion [ancient Crete] looks more like a modern US city than an island. We met up for breakfast with our new friends Yvonne and Henry from my old home of Bay Area, CA. When we discovered this commonality yesterday, we had some interesting conversation, but that is another story. We decided to journey onto Iraklion together. There's not much to see here without venturing off the beaten path. If you're game for this, then there are some ruins called Knosses [I think] that you may want to see. Something to do with bulls and mazes or labyrinths as they are called here. Yvonne had been to Iraklion before and felt comfortable doing this. Since we got a late start today, and had seen our fill of ruins for awhile, we decided to split off here. We continued our general sight-seeing tour and soon returned to the ship via the free shuttle busses which drive you no more than a few miles. You don't really need a shuttle here, but the local port authority provided them anyway. They were brand spanking new busses too. Nice. Greece is one of the most hospitable places I have ever visited, and Iraklion only strengthened this impression. I have heard contrasting stories about Athens, but we'll find out soon enough whether or not they are true. Back onboard, we had lunch at the Grand Pacific Dining Room again. It's usually your best bet outside of the Garden Cafe buffet and 24 hour Blue Lagoon, which has a very limited menu. While we were dining, we were approached by a senior waiter. We thought he might want to know how we were enjoying the meal, except we hadn't actually gotten any food yet. Instead, he handed us a menu advertising one of their specialty restaurants called Le Bistro. They were having brunch there tomorrow. These are the types of things were are seeing that seem to be exclusive to Norwegian. They are very persistent in trying to up sell. More so than other cruise lines I have patronized. Not a big deal to me, but worth noting. We have begun to see better food choices in the regular restaurants too. The rest of our day should be typical. Just an afternoon nap and probably another visit to the Internet Cafe. Actually, with my laptop, I can access the Internet in most common areas of the ship, so no need to visit the actual Cafe. Tomorrow is our first of only 2 sea days as we prepare for the "big boy" port of Alexandria Egypt. That's why we're here. I've always wanted to visit Egypt. I can hardly believe it's only a day away! Day 7 - At Sea I just wasted away. Plain and simple. Day 8 - Cairo We have a ships tour booked for today. The ship is in Alexandria, but we will be going directly to Cairo. Since the ship will be here overnight, we can see Alexandria tomorrow if we want. The tour left at about 08:00. The drive into Cairo takes about 3 hours. Not a whole lot to see along the way. When we did arrive we went straight to the pyramids. They are awesome sights to behold, but the area is littered with debris, as is most of Cairo from what we saw. I won't spend a lot of time describing it, but let's just say the trinket merchants in Cairo are about the worst anywhere I've been. They will lie to you, and you practically have to hit them to make them go away. Worse than roaches. All joking aside, I almost did have to hit one because he kept tugging on my wife's clothing. I don't think they have much regard for women here. Anyway, we were able to spend about 45 minutes exploring the pyramids, which was more than enough for me. I also opted for the optional camel ride, which cost an additional 10 Euros. The entire ride lasted about 3 minutes, but we got the picture I wanted. Next we visited the Sphinx, which is in easy walking distance from the pyramids. For security reasons, we were still required to ride the bus there. We started to go inside this area, but the lines were so long we gave up on that idea, since we only had a little while and the merchants also loomed. Next we went to the riverboat we would be taking for out lunchtime Nile cruise. The boat was very nice and there was a decent buffet lunch served. Along with the cruise, we were treated to a belly dancing performance and some other performances by the onboard band. It was as good or better than any of the entertainment on the Jade to date. The cruise lasted about 90 minutes and the staff of the boat were extremely nice. I enjoyed this very much, although I was very stressed out because of the earlier incident with the merchant at the Giza Pyramids. After lunch we visited the Mohammed Aly, or Alabaster, Mosque. This is a magnificent structure, but like everywhere else we went, it was fraught with "we don't take no for an answer" vermin merchants. I know they're trying to make a living, but that does not excuse their behavior. In my case, I would buy much more if I were allowed to actually browse the merchandise without their constant and insipid sales pitches. By the time we finished our Nile cruise, it was 15:00. We made another stop at a department store where people we allowed to claim cartouches and custom T shirts they had ordered from our tour guide, "Norma," earlier. Of course, the idea was to encourage general shopping as well. This stop chewed up another 45 minutes, and then we were on our way back to Alexandria. By the time we got back to the ship it was about 20:30. 12 hours. Just as advertised. The tour we took is called Pyramids and the Nile in Style. I think it's a pretty good value for the money. Some people we know onboard took a private car for over $500.00. Money aside, I wouldn't recommend this option in Cairo, [unless you contract through the ship as they did] because it is such a potentially dangerous and corrupt place. So much so that Cairo has what they call Tourist Police. All tour busses travel in these long convoys and some busses have armed guards onboard. In summary, Cairo is a beautiful place which I think everyone should see, but all of the sacred sites are completely over run with the dishonest peddlers who are virtually impossible to get rid of. Even though we're docked here overnight, I don't know yet if I will even attempt to see Alexandria. That's how put off I was after today. Day 9 - Alexandria We cancelled our ships tour several days ago because we thought it would be too much too soon after Cairo. This assumption was correct , but it still left us with nothing planned for today. I was OK with this, but my wife had her heart set on seeing the Corniche area and the Qaitbay Fort, so we ventured off the ship and approached the waiting taxi drivers. English was not a problem here [or in Cairo for that matter] but when we told them to take us to the Fish Market [a popular restaurant we learned was in the heart of the main attractions] we were met with solicitations for an all out tour. Most of these guys simply will not listen to reason and insist on ripping off tourists. At this, we decided to just stick to the shops situated right at the port, because we just didn't feel we could trust any of the taxi drivers. They were so pushy and disingenuous that my concerns moved from simply being overcharged to possibly being forced to pay a mercenary ransom to be returned to the ship. Finally, as we sat discussing the thought of staying at the port, one man approached us and simply said "if you change your mind, I'll be over there." At that, he retreated to a spot across the street. I kept an eye on him as my wife and I talked and noticed that he didn't harass tourists as the others did. He would ask once and then leave people alone. We approached this driver and discussed what we wanted to accomplish. He also tried to suggest a tour, but when we made it clear that this was not what we wanted, he let it go. We were driven to the Fish Market restaurant and our driver agreed to pick us up in an hour. We did our sightseeing and shopping and were ready to go. Despite what you may have read elsewhere, the Corniche area is not a place you'll want to spend too much time. It is extremely dirty and the beautiful beach is just littered with all manner of trash. There is also an ominous smell of dead fish. Once you get to the fort, things are better, but you'll still have to deal with the merchants. They weren't quite as bad here, as this area is not quite as touristy as others. We got back a little late, but our driver was there waiting. He promptly drove us back to the port. All of this for 20 USD. I gave him an extra $10.00 because he was honest and friendly. I believe in rewarding the behavior you want to encourage and punishing that you wish to discourage. Back on the ship, my wife is enjoying a "stretch and relax" class, while I am enjoying NCL's excellent Bridge Viewing Room on deck 11 forward. We anticipate a relaxing evening as we prepare to head to the island of Curfu. Day 10 - Sea Day We started out today with a wonderful lecture on Alexander the Great. The lecture was delivered by Dawn Brown, who, although not a historian, has a remarkable and diverse grasp on matters of the ancient world. Dawn gave other lectures on the ancient Egyptians and Socrates, which I sadly missed. I am looking forward to her final lecture on Esop, of Esops fables. I had the pleasure of speaking to Dawn and her wonderful sister Gail [who is also on board] after her lecture today. She is a very approachable person who is equally comfortable whether delivering lofty lectures or speaking to a commoner such as myself. Our next stop was an early lunch since my wife had an upcoming salsa class. I wasn't quite ready for lunch, but I sat with her as she ate. During this time, our friends Henry and Yvonne approached. Yvonne and I quickly resumed our political back and forth from the other day. This went on for over an hour, and my wife was off to her class. I finally decided to have some lunch and then returned to our stateroom. The rest of this day is slated for relaxation. With the cruise approaching an end, we will be having a farewell dinner with Henry and Yvonne. Day 11 - Corfu Corfu was one of the ports on this cruise that I wasn't expecting much from. As it turns out, it appears to be a nice and laid back island, but there aren't any major attractions here that I am aware of. There are attractions though, and you might want to research them to see if they interest you. As for me, I didn't go too far from the ship. I found a nice area of shops maybe 1/4 mile away and bought a nice hat and some other gifts for relatives. My wife ventured further into the center of town, but I returned to the ship to enjoy Corfu from my favorite vantage point, deck 13. The taxi drivers and merchants on Corfu are nice enough, but a bit more aggressive than the ones on Mykonos, Araklion or Santorini. I expect this trend to continue and culminate in Athens where I have heard all manner of stories about how rude and dishonest the locals can be. Day 12 - Katakalon This is our final port of call. Katakalon is the site of the original Olympics in ancient Greece. To this today the Olympic torch begins its journey here. The city of Olympia contains the ruins of the ancient site, and this is the main tourist attraction. The ship does not spend much time in this port for some reason. Departure time is 14:30. I must have eaten something that didn't agree with me at last nights "chocoholics buffet" because I barely slept and woke up not feeling very well. I've already seen my share of ruins and could have happily skipped this port, but my wife wanted to disembark. We went out into town at around 09:00 after a quick breakfast. When we reached the row of taxis about 1/4 mile away from the ship [they don't appear to allow taxis in the port here] and asked for the fare to Olympia, we were told 100 Euros by every driver we asked. They all seem to be working together here. They were very friendly and polite, but they all said the same thing. When I finally found one who spoke some English, he explained that this price was for an hour at Olympia and then 30 minutes somewhere else. I couldn't understand him that well, so I don't know where the other stop would have been, but in any case, the ships tour to Olympia is only 80 USD, far less than 100 Euros. At this, I decided to just return to the ship and convalesce, but my wife stayed out for another hour before returning herself. Some folks from the ship said they would go to Olympia via public transit, a somewhat risky decision in my view, since we all need to be back onboard by 13:00. As for me, I will spend the bulk of today preparing for a smooth departure tomorrow morning. We're scheduled to be in Piraeus at 04:00 and be off the ship by around 10:00. I eventually found out that my sickness was a cold virus that was going around. Disembarkation - Piraeus Disembarkation was very smooth on the Jade. Princess ships have an annoying habit of forcing you to remain in designated public areas on disembarkation day, but NCL allowed us more or less full run of the ship. This makes for a more comfortable experience in my view. Since I was suffering from a pretty severe cold virus of some sort, I got absolutely no sleep the night before. I was therefore able to watch the Jade pull into the port of Piraeus at about 02:30 AM, albeit in a semi-comatose state. By about 04:30, those with early flights were already getting off. Since we were staying in Athens overnight, we were last off the ship, which translated to about 10:00 as promised. By 11:30, we were at our hotel in Athens, the Ledra Marriott. This hotel is located a bit outside of town, but they provided a free shuttle to the center of town every hour. This saved us from ever having to deal with a taxi driver. Very nice. The Ledra doesn't look like much from the outside and the lobby is a bit dull, but the rooms are very nice and thoroughly equipped for the traveler. Internet access is available for as low as 9 Euros for 3 hours. A lot better than the ships price for their inferior Internet service, but I thought this should have been included for NCL sponsored guests. Once in our room, we got cleaned up and hopped on the 12:15 shuttle into town. Once there, we walked to the Monastiraki shopping square, did some preliminary shopping, and then had lunch at a nice little sidewalk cafe. This is where I discovered a noteworthy surprise. For some reason, the Athenians seem to frown on credit cards. I had to make an unscheduled stop at a nearby ATM to pay for our meal. If you are in a high end shop such as a jewelry store, credit cards will likely be OK, otherwise, make sure you have Euros. US dollars are absolutely not accepted. Interestingly enough, credit cards and US dollars were happily accepted on all of the Greek islands. We finished our shopping and then boarded what they call the "Happy Train" which is a slow moving trolley that will take you to all of the main attractions, including the Acropolis area. It runs about every hour, so you can get off whenever you like. We got off at the Acropolis and began the walk to the Parthenon. When we got there, we were again foiled by our lack of Euros. We had spent the Euros we got earlier. We felt sure the Parthenon would accept a credit card. We ere wrong. Cash only. Euros only. So we did not get to go inside, but I was actually OK with that. We still had an excellent view of the city from the Acropolis, and being near the Parthenon is good enough for me. We got back to our hotel around 20:00 and called it a day after getting some fast food at the nearby Goody's restaurant. My cold virus somewhat hampered my ability to enjoy Athens. Things would have been better had I known where to get some basic meds. At home any supermarket would have supplied everything I required, but in Athens, you pretty much need to find a pharmacy for drugs, and their hours of operation are not predictable. Therefore, my recommendation is to bring every medication you think you might possibly need in your checked luggage. Of course, the everyday meds should be in your carry on bag. Athens is a fun and vibrant city, full of culture. The people are basically nice and friendly. Aside from the obvious attraction of the Parthenon and Acropolis, it's also a great place to shop and dine. I would recommend adding at least one day to the end of your cruise to see this world class city. Return Flights The return flights were fine, save the unavoidable nightmare that is Customs at JFK. We flew Delta there, and then on to Atlanta. By now, my cold virus had escalated to a severe level, so this was a very long 14 hours [including a 2 hour layover at JFK] for me. We were home by about 20:30 and I went promptly to bed. Final Thoughts We had not been on an NCL ship since 2004 when we cruised Hawaii on the Pride of Aloha. We enjoyed that cruise very much. Since then, we had been using either Princess or Royal Caribbean, mainly because of the itineraries offered. While we had a wonderful time overall, it is clear that NCL has made some changes to their strategy, centered mainly around growing revenue. First. The number of specialty restaurants on the ship exceeds the non-specialty ones. Strange in my view, and only a couple of them really appear worth the cover. We didn't try any of them, but spoke to many people who did. On some days senior waiters would come to our table in the main dining room and try to convince us to try a specialty restaurant at some point. They would hand you the menu and expect you to look it over. We also found that certain items at the non-specialty restaurants carried a cover charge, as well as certain items at the specialty restaurants carrying an additional charge on top of the cover you already paid. I could go on, but the point is clear enough. The cruise industry has become so heavily commoditized that they are looking for every possible way to squeeze out more profit. It is to the point where it is difficult to really enjoy your vacation if you don't want to play along. The cruise lines all do this in some form, and I don't expect it to change anytime soon. On the other hand, the Jade is an awesome ship. By far the best NCL ship I have ever seen. It is ultra-modern in every way. Our stateroom shower was actually better than the one we have at home, and the bridge viewing room was a favorite place for me. The Stardust Theater is also an engineering marvel and rivals many smaller land based venues. Sadly, the entertainment onboard made mostly poor use of this marvelous facility. NCL has a long way to go in the entertainment category. Most shows were very basic and the cruise director was nowhere to be found. I am very glad that this cruise had only 2 sea days. NCL excels at keeping things simple and non-pretentious. We had no problems with any of our tours or transfers. If you are OK with the general decline of quality and service in the cruise industry, then I think Norwegian deserves a look. Otherwise, you may want to consider a high-end line such as Oceana. We heard good things about them and actually saw one of their ships ported with us at several of our stops. Happy Cruising. Gunny Read Less
Norwegian Jade Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.5 4.2
Dining 4.0 3.8
Entertainment 5.0 3.8
Public Rooms 4.0 4.1
Fitness Recreation 3.0 3.8
Family 4.0 3.8
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.5
Enrichment 3.0 3.3
Service 5.0 4.0
Value For Money 4.0 3.8
Rates 4.0 3.9

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