I had the pleasure of cruising on Norwegian Jade in October, 2022. I’m always excited about upcoming trips but because it had been cancelled a number of times due to the pandemic and was going to places I had never been before, on a scale of one to ten the anticipation of this cruise was cranked up to eleven. As I reflect on my week aboard Jade, expectation and reality lined up in some cases and not at all in others.
I’d been on seven cruises since the resumption of sailing but this was my first “post Covid” cruise with very limited pre-sailing requirements. A negative test was required (by Greece, not Norwegian) but other than a few health questions (just like before Covid) and a temperature scan, the boarding process was quick and easy. I was onboard in the blink of an eye and, as always, greeted by smiling crew members.
My boarding time was late in the afternoon because I had taken advantage of the Free at Sea second person flies free promotion. Having been on planes for a LONG time, I (and everyone standing near me) was grateful the stateroom was ready. I usually grab the earliest boarding time slot I can get but in this case, having my room ready and my luggage delivered quickly, boarding Jade later made the experience a positive one.
The Internet aboard Norwegian Jade was frustrating the entire week. Let me begin by reminding you (and myself!) that Internet at sea is a fickle product to begin with so it’s important to manage expectations. I’ll also mention at this point that even though I wrote an in depth article about the Free at Sea Internet promotion, I got some bad intel from the NCL call center and missed a line of fine print in the terms and conditions, so part of the frustration was my own fault.
With those disclaimers in mind, WiFi on Norwegian Jade was more temperamental than on other cruise lines. My phone dropped off the Internet randomly, way more often than it should, and sometimes for a few minutes, others for a few hours. When there was an internet connection it was slow, which has a lot to do with being at sea, so while it’s frustrating, I do understand the speed issues. So that was frustrating, especially since NCL (and many other cruise lines) ask passengers to use an app to see schedules, make reservations, and even use deck plans to find places onboard.
As an addendum of sorts to my original Free at Sea WiFi overview, the fine print I missed or misunderstood includes some phrases that make a big difference. First, only one person on the reservation can upgrade to unlimited wifi at a discounted price, and second, the upgraded packages remove the Free at Sea wifi minutes. The first one is weird but, OK, that’s the rule. The second one is a problem, and here’s why: if you upgrade the second person to anything less than unlimited WiFi, the packages are very specific about what is included.
To illustrate what that means, the call center representative explained that only one person can upgrade to unlimited WiFi at a discount and we could “spend around the same price as my upgrade” for my business partner, Jen. That package turned out to be for social media only. She couldn’t check email or view any websites. My logic wondered why she wouldn’t have her free minutes to check email and use the internet? I never did get an answer beyond, “you have the social media package, not the WiFi package.” Be aware what you’re purchasing. Ask for clarification.
One of my favorite activities on the first couple days of any cruise is visiting different bars. I always advise clients to take the time to find a favorite watering hole because having “a place” and a bartender who knows you (and what you like), makes all the difference in the world. Fortunately on Norwegian Jade there are plenty of great options.
In some cases, “your bar” will depend on where you spend most of your time. For example, if you plan to spend a lot of time around the pool, there are a hand full of options but the drinks you’ll find there are less “craft cocktail” and more “fun and sugary” so keep that in mind. If you’ll be spending a lot of time in the casino, there is a great bar, creatively named Jade Casino Bar — well done, NCL!
My bar on this cruise was Mixers Martini’s. The drinks were delicious (if you like martini’s), and if you don’t, the bartenders do make other drinks, but you could also stroll about 50 feet and pull up a chair at Magnum’s or go to nearby Tankards Beer and Whiskey bar. All in all, you can find a drink at about 12 different places spread out around the ship. Over all, the bars were a positive experience on Norwegian Jade.
Related to both the WiFi and bars, and probably related to staffing shortages due to the ongoing effect of the pandemic, the number of staff and the hours of operation for various things was much different than it had been before Covid. There was one person who was answering WiFi and Internet related questions and with virtually everyone upset about the Internet for one reason or another, the line was always longer than her scheduled hours. I noticed the crew shortage at the bars, too. It took longer to order and get a drink (which isn’t so bad, I was on vacation and not in a hurry most of the time) but one of the things I love about cruises is chatting with crew members and they just didn’t have time to do that this time on the Jade.
Other times I’ve cruised on Norwegian the food was a universal good experience. This time on Jade, the food in the dining room was hit and miss, sometimes good and others barely edible. The two specialty dining meals I had were not just very good, but excellent every step of the way.
One night I ate at Le Bistro, a French restaurant where the service was amazing and the food some of the best I’ve eaten on any ship. If you go, I recommend the French Onion Soup — it’s better than any I’ve had on or off a ship. Beyond that, you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. Moderno was the other specialty restaurant I tried on Jade. The staff suggests side dishes for the table then walk around with a variety of meats which they carve table side until you flip your coaster over to the red side. It was, without question, my favorite meal onboard. Save room for the pineapple they’re going to serve right before dessert. You can thank me later.
Of course, there are plenty of other places to find food, too, and the few that I visited were understaffed and slow, but the food was better than the main dining room. I particularly liked O’ Sheehan’s which I had enjoyed on other NCL cruises and had been looking forward to for a long time.
Everyone asks me about the buffet. This itinerary didn’t have any sea days so I wasn’t onboard for lunch, but I can tell you the breakfast got boring in a hurry (it’ll be a while before I eat scrambled eggs and roasted potatoes). To be fair, they did have a lot to choose from, but it was the same choices every day. I may be the exception to the rule but I’m not a fan of pastries or muesli for breakfast. I love eggs (whether they’re scrambled, fried, hard boiled, or in an omelette) but would have loved to taste different flavors. The buffet had about 6 or 7 stations but they all had exactly the same food.
Met me begin with a positive: the shows on Norwegian Jade were very good. Although the acts change, I’ve never been disappointed with the options. On my cruise we saw an illusionist and escape artist, Lord Nil, who had been on America’s Got Talent. He puts on a great show, made even better by bringing me on stage. I don’t want to brag, but I kinda stole the show. Sorry, Lord Nil. I also saw a juggling comedian and a musical. There were also a few game shows, bingo, and a variety of musicians on board. All in all, if your idea of vacation includes being busy, there was almost always something fun to do.
Stardust Theater is also where everyone went to join their excursion. It. Was. Chaos. It’s been a while since I’ve been on Norwegian, but at least on this cruise, everyone taking a cruise line excursion (an activity purchased through NCL) met in the theater. With no sea days and excursions that all left the ship around the same time, the crew members had their hands full getting everyone where they needed to go. To be fair, most of the confusion was a result of people not listening or coming late, but it was a frustrating experience every day.
To be clear, getting to the buses as a group was frustrating… the actual excursions were amazing and whatever itinerary you’re sailing, I highly recommend taking cruise line excursions.
My week aboard the Norwegian Jade was overall a positive experience. I wouldn’t hesitate to take another cruise on it and will continue to recommend my clients consider Jade as it is a beautiful ship sailing great itineraries.