31st Mar 2024 | 7 nights | Norwegian Cruise Line | Norwegian Jade
Launched in 2006, Norwegian Jade isn't Norwegian Cruise Line's newest vessel, but via the Norwegian Edge project, the cruise line has made it look and feel new throughout. Cabins have been refurbished; carpeting and furniture have been replaced; some existing restaurants have been moved (Moderno Churrascaria) or expanded (Cagney's), while new ones were added (O'Sheehan's); and the formerly garish orange, purple and pink colour palette has largely been replaced with more subdued tones.
What first greets you at embarkation is the vessel's revamped atrium area on Deck 7. It sports modern furniture in subdued hues of black, tan and cream. The neutrality of it all is nicely offset by a funky custom chandelier, which hangs overhead and features colour-changing lights.
Although Norwegian has a reputation for nickel-and-diming its customers, we found the number and cost of for-fee offerings comparable to those of other lines. There were also plenty of free options, the quality and variety of which were above average. To boot, service was some of the best we've had at sea, with crew seeming to genuinely enjoy their jobs.
Entertainment on Norwegian Jade is in a category all its own. Shows included a comedian, a magician, a country music medley and an absolutely phenomenal Cirque du Soleil-type performance that included acrobats, aerialists, dancing and magic.
Above all, despite its age, Norwegian Jade holds its own among some of the newer, larger, more flashy ships in the fleet.
Daytime: Norwegian Jade's dress code is relaxed, with many people adopting a casual style -- bathing suits, T-shirts, shorts and jeans -- during the day.
Evening: At night, passengers tend to dress smartly but comfortably, with most opting for slacks and blouses or collared shirts. Norwegian ships don't have formal nights, but each sailing offers at least one "Dress Up or Not Night," on which passengers can dress up if they want to. Few on our Caribbean sailing chose to do so; Europe voyages tend to be a bit dressier.
Not permitted: The only prohibitions are tank tops for men, flip-flops, baseball caps, visors, overly ripped-up jeans and swimwear. These are permitted in the Garden Cafe, though cover-ups or shirts and shorts must be worn over swimsuits and bare feet are not allowed.
As Norwegian's fleet has evolved, so has its entertainment, and Norwegian Jade's is no exception. Presenting a nice blend of magic, comedy, singing, dancing, acrobatics, trivia, game shows, bingo and other diversions, there's a lot to keep cruisers busy.
The Stardust Theater (decks 6 and 7 forward) is the ship's main theatre, which hosts twice-daily production shows at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. On our sailing, acts included a magician, a comedian and a Whitney Houston tribute, as well as Blazin' Boots, a country music medley, and Showdown, which pits four singers against one another in what the line describes as an "American Idol meets Motown X-Factor" performance where the audience chooses the winner.
However, the most notable onboard performance by far is Elements, a Cirque du Soleil-type show that incorporates dancing, magic, acrobatics and aerialists, as well as stunning costumes that highlight earth, air, fire and water.
Daily events include dance classes, painting, casino gaming lessons, Ping-Pong tournaments, bingo, Deal or No Deal, and chocolate and wine pairings, as well as game shows like Jeopardy, goofy golf, martini tastings and afternoon karaoke; most are free but some incur an additional charge. Additionally, meetings of various groups (solo travellers, LGBT, Friends of Bill W.) are held throughout the day, as are various seminars that seem educational but which are really designed to get you to spend money. (Think "Introduction to Acupuncture," "The Art of Collecting Art," "Walking in Comfort," "Detox for Health and Weight Loss," "Go Home Looking 10 Years Younger," "Secrets to a Flatter Stomach" and diamond and gemstone seminars.) Minimal enrichment offerings are available, but they include arts and crafts (journal making on our sailing) and digital photo seminars, as well as a question and answer session with some of the ship's officers. Trivia is also a huge favorite among cruisers, and it's held several times each day on topics ranging from Broadway tunes and company logos to Disney and "Game of Thrones."
Apart from shows in the Stardust Theater, events at night are mostly those involving music, whether it be live, DJ-spun or karaoke-style. On one night during our sailing, there was a Caribbean dance party, and on another, Norwegian's well-known White Hot Party was hosted in the Spinnaker Lounge. Occasionally, there are also game shows, such as the Newlywed/Not-So-Newlywed game show and Battle of the Sexes.
The Jade Club Casino, open when the ship is in international waters -- mostly at night -- houses dozens of slot machines, games of chance and tables for blackjack, baccarat, poker, craps and roulette, as well as a high-roller room with a couple of tables. Various tournaments, slot pulls and gaming lessons are held during each sailing.
With a dozen bars specializing in everything from beer, whiskey and sake to mojitos, martinis and alcoholic coffee beverages, there's no shortage of watering holes on Norwegian Jade.
Java Cafe (Deck 7, midship): This centrally located coffee bar, found in the ship's atrium, serves up for-fee speciality cups of joe, along with a standard bar menu. Prices for caffeinated beverages range from $1.95 for a single shot of espresso or a cafe Americano to $4.45 for a large chai latte or mocha.
Casino Bar (Deck 6, forward): This bar serves those placing their bets in the Jade Club Casino.
Tankards/Shakers/Magnum's/Cigar Lounge (Deck 6, midship): Tankards is the place to be for beer and whiskey, and Shakers mixes up libations for martini connoisseurs. Meanwhile, Magnum's specializes in wine and Champagne. Located in succession along Deck 6's main drag, this trifecta of bars gives way to an enclosed cigar lounge and a more open lounge area with seating where trivia often takes place. (We found it a terrible location for audio-based trivia, due to the noise filtering down from Jasmine Garden and the busy thoroughfare leading to Bliss and the Stardust Theater one deck above.)
Sake (Deck 7, midship): This bar takes its name from the strong rice wine that hails from Japan. Order some with your meal at Jasmine Garden or the Sushi Bar. Speciality sake concoctions can also be had if you'd rather not drink it straight up.
Bliss (Deck 7, forward): Replacing the former Medusa lounge, Bliss is a hip, swanky Miami-themed bar and lounge area, often hosting trivia, dance lessons and movies. The three private karaoke rooms that used to reside there have been turned into comfortable seating enclaves, shrouded in metallic curtains and offset with tables and funky black and raspberry-coloured chairs that give the space a pop of colour.
O'Sheehan's Bar (Deck 8, midship): Found in O'Sheehan's restaurant, stop at this bar to pick up a pint that will complement your fries and fajitas.
Topsiders Bar (Deck 12, midship): Located next to Topsiders grill, this is the ship's main pool bar.
Great Outdoors Bar (Deck 12, aft): The Great Outdoors Bar offers plenty of outdoor seating with terrific views of the ship's wake. It's the perfect spot to grab a drink to go with your between-meals snack from the Great Outdoors buffet eatery.
The Pit Stop (Deck 13, forward): Themed after a 1950s-style diner, The Pit Stop functions mainly as a bar but also occasionally offers burgers and fries to accompany your drink of choice. Belly up to the bar to check out jugs of specially mixed drinks with refreshing, fruity ingredients.
Spinnaker Lounge (Deck 13, forward): Spinnaker Lounge functions as Norwegian Jade's nightclub and secondary theatre, hosting game shows, trivia and musical performances, as well as the White Hot Party and a Q&A session with the ship's officers, held once per cruise.
Sugarcane (Deck 13, midship): This trendy mojito bar takes up residence in Moderno Churrascaria. It's the ideal spot to grab a pre-dinner drink while killing time before a meal at Moderno or Cagney's, which is just across the hall.
There's just one full-sized pool on Norwegian Jade, and on our April sailing, it was overrun with children, as were the three hot tubs flanking it. An additional small pool and hot tub are found in The Haven, but they're reserved for Haven passengers only. A kiddie pool -- the Sapphire Pool -- is available for use by the youngest cruisers on Deck 12, just outside the Guppies play area, but we hardly ever saw it in use. (Kids must be potty trained to use any of the pools.) A tiny wading pool that looks like a giant cartoon version of a shower is hidden on the Deck 13 sun deck; it's so forgotten that it didn't even have water in it.
In addition to shuffleboard courts, Deck 7 is ringed by a promenade that's great for walking; 2 2/3 laps equal 1 mile. If running is more to your liking, check out the jogging track on the outer edges of the aft section of Deck 13. Up there, you'll have to do 5.5 laps for a mile. If you're feeling sporty, follow the jogging track to the ship's basketball court, which also doubles as a spot to play tennis and volleyball. Two giant chessboards and two golf driving nets can also be found on either side of Deck 13.
One floor below on the pool deck, travellers can join in the fun with Ping-Pong tournaments and contests like Mr. Sexy Legs and Miss Biceps. (Check your Freestyle Daily for days and times.)
The pool deck offers ample sun loungers, but on sea days, you might find yourself having to venture up to Deck 13 to find space. However, if you really want some alone time or relatively quiet, poke around some of the rarely visited areas on Deck 14, which is so secluded there might not even be chairs available to use. Not to worry: You can drag your own up there or ask a crew member for help.
Found on Deck 7, midship, the guest services desk is where passengers can make restaurant reservations, obtain daily schedules, ask questions about their onboard accounts and obtain new keycards if lost or deactivated.
To the right of guest services are the shore excursions desk and future cruise office, where passengers can go to inquire about ship-sponsored port tours or booking their next voyage. Excursions on our Western Caribbean sailing ranged from kayaking, snorkelling, sightseeing and shopping to swimming with dolphins and tours of Mayan ruins. There are options for a variety of budgets.
Located farther aft on Deck 7 are the photo gallery, art gallery and internet cafe. The photo gallery is where passengers can go to find the photos professional photographers have taken of them throughout each sailing. They can be looked up by cabin number and purchased if desired. In the art gallery, cruisers can peruse works for sale and bid on them at the art auction held on each voyage.
The internet cafe consists of eight desktop computers with headphones. A single printer is available for use; the cost to print is 50 cents per document. The area is manned by an IT professional daily between the hours of 9 a.m. and noon. This is also where cruisers can purchase internet packages, which are 100 minutes for $75 or 250 minutes for $125. Passengers can also purchase unlimited access plans for $29.99 per day; this option is only available for purchase until 10 p.m. on the first day of each sailing, and the fee is charged every day for the duration of the cruise. There's also a pay-as-you-go option that costs 95 cents per minute. We found the speeds to be impressive for a ship, and the connection was reliable, with just a few minor hiccups while we were at sea. A one-time activation fee of $3.95 applies to all internet use, with the exception of the unlimited plan.
Still, further aft on Deck 7 is the large onboard shop, which sells duty-free watches and jewellery, cigarettes, perfume and alcohol in addition to logo items, clothing and a small selection of toiletries and snacks.
On Deck 12 forward, just inside off the pool deck, is where the ship's photo studio, game room and library are located. The photography studio is where passengers can make appointments to have professional photos taken. The game room provides several tables and chairs, as well as card and board games for cruisers to use. Unfortunately, the S.S. United States Library is located right next door, and the sounds of raucous fun often bleed over into it from the game room. Due to its proximity to the pool deck down the hall and jogging track above, the library is probably one of the least ideal places to read or work if you're hoping to do either in peace and quiet. A fairly impressive selection of book titles is available for checkout from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on sea days and 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. on port days; otherwise, they're locked inside glass cases. Should you find yourself bookless and bored, the library is also the place to grab a sudoku puzzle or trivia sheet. There are two desktop computers in the library for passenger use.
Norwegian Jade offers no self-service laundry, but laundry services are available for a fee: $1.95 for underwear, bras and socks; $4.95 for shorts and short-sleeved shirts; $7.95 for jeans. Dry-cleaning is also provided: $19.95 for a two-piece suit or an evening gown; $11.95 for pants, skirts or jackets (men's or women's); $6.95 for dress shirts and blouses. Specials are generally announced on each sailing and might include 50 percent off pressing services or bundled laundry service for a flat fee of $19.95 per bag.
The ship's medical facility is on Deck 4, and three conference rooms can be found on Deck 6. Each holds 20 people, but two of them can be combined to form a larger meeting space. A small chapel is located on Deck 13 forward, just outside of the port side entrance to Spinnaker Lounge. It's used for onboard weddings, but most often it hosts passenger-led prayer services and Friends of Bill W. meetings.
The Mandara Spa, Deck 12 forward, encompasses changing facilities; 22 treatment rooms for both singles and couples; a thermal suite with sauna and steam rooms, a hot tub and a thalassotherapy pool; and a salon that offers hair and nail services.
Treatments are on the pricey side and run the gamut from facials ($119), massages ($119 for 50 minutes) and acupuncture ($150 per 50-minute session) to upstyling (from $49), manicures ($29) and teeth whitening ($149 per session).
Deals are often advertised and might include discounted services on port days, packages that offer several abridged services for one price or a percentage savings for booking multiple treatments at the same time.
The salon also offers a retail section, where passengers can buy products from Elemis, La Therapie and Bliss. If you have a treatment, know that there will be a product pitch at the end unless you specifically request not to have one.
Pulse, the onboard fitness centre, Deck 12 forward, is outfitted with TechnoGym equipment and comprises two regular exercise bikes, two recumbent bikes, 11 ellipticals, 14 treadmills, two rowers, various weight machines (shoulder press, quad and glute machines, fixed squat/bench press bar, leg press) and free weights up to 50 pounds.
There's also a small studio with yoga mats, balance balls and foam rollers available for passenger use when for-fee spin ($12), yoga ($12), Pilates ($12), TRX ($20) and boot camp ($35) classes aren't in session. Personal training is also offered at a cost of $45 per 30-minute session.
Free classes are posted, as well, and they include group ab workouts and 1-mile sea-day morning walks.
The facility also encompasses a water fountain, a cooler with chilled towels and men's and women's changing facilities, each with lockers, one shower, one toilet stall and a steam room.
Dining options abound on Norwegian Jade, with cuisine to fit just about any palate: Asian, Italian, French, steak, burgers, pizza, pub grub, salads and everything in between.
Norwegian is known for upcharges, but we didn't find them to be overkill, and there was plenty of variety to be had at the ship's fantastic free venues.
Despite the ship's Freestyle dining concept -- which means you eat dinner where you want, when you want and with whom you want, without set dining times or waiters -- service was friendly and attentive across the board. Although reservations aren't required, they're encouraged, particularly if you plan to eat during peak times.
The staff is happy to accommodate special dietary needs -- gluten-free, vegetarian, low sodium, etc. -- with advance notice. (Gluten-free pasta and bread options are available.)
Alizar (Deck 6 mid): Colorful and casual, Alizar is one of Norwegian Jade's two main dining rooms. It's on the small side, and the primary colour scheme is a bit overwhelming, with red and blue as the predominant hues. Colourful artwork adorns the walls. Tables can be rearranged to seat large groups, and tables for two are also available.
Alizar is open for dinner only; the menu consists of appetizers like French onion soup, smoked salmon tartare and shrimp; entrees like grilled salmon with shrimp, sirloin steak with peppercorn sauce, and ricotta and leek cannelloni; and desserts that include warm chocolate volcano cake, citrus cheesecake, ice cream and spiced poached pear.
Grand Pacific (Deck 6 aft): The second of the ship's two main dining rooms, Grand Pacific can be hard to find at first. Because galley space separates Grand Pacific from the rest of Deck 6, passengers will have to go up to Deck 7 and back down the aft stairs to reach it. Although getting there can be a challenge, the payoff is a 1920s Gatsby vibe and a slightly more upscale atmosphere than you'll find at Alizar, with which Grand Pacific shares a dinner menu.
Grand Pacific is also open daily for breakfast (eggs, bacon, pancakes, waffles, fruit) and on sea days for lunch. The lunch menu might include duck pate, shrimp mojito ceviche, beef sliders and cream of tomato soup for appetizers; lemon-pepper tilapia, Asian sweet and sour pork, crab and fish cakes, rotisserie chicken, and beef lasagna as entrees; and bread pudding, tiramisu and carrot cake for dessert.
Garden Cafe (Deck 12 mid): Although its separate island-like stations make the traffic flow somewhat chaotic, Garden Cafe boasts some of the most variety we've ever seen at a cruise ship buffet. Stations change throughout the day, but they include things like pizza, a carvery, made-to-order pasta and omelettes, Asian, soups, salads, hot entrees, a bakery area, fruit and desserts.
At breakfast, diners will find scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, pancakes, waffles, cereal, yoghurt and fruit, as well as made-to-order omelettes, a make-your-own-parfait area and a for-fee juice bar with ingredients that include carrot, celery, orange, melon, grapefruit and apple ($3.25 for a regular, $3.75 for a large).
For lunch, there's an array of options like soups, salads, sandwiches, meats and cheeses, as well as hot dishes like pizza, burgers and hot dogs, meat from a carving station, Asian selections and sides like potato salad and coleslaw.
Dinner might consist of soups, salads, a carvery, made-to-order pastas, jerk salmon, meatballs, okra stew, Caribbean dumplings, a selection of sides like mashed potatoes and green beans and desserts like a chocolate fountain, sweet yam pie and coconut orange cake. Another stellar offering is a made-to-order crepe station, where you can choose your fillings.
Toward the aft end of the buffet, just before you step outside, you'll find a free soft-serve ice cream machine that offers do-it-yourself vanilla, chocolate and twist cups and cones from early until late.
Unfortunately, there's not much seating. If you can't find a spot inside, dine on the pool deck or all the way aft, near Great Outdoors. (One morning, a crew member even sat us in La Cucina due to lack of space.)
Great Outdoors (Deck 12 aft): This outdoor buffet offers breathtaking views of the ship's wake, as well as tasty nibbles to squash your hunger between regular meals. We stopped by one afternoon to snag delicious slices of thin-crust pizza and mini-fajitas. It opens early and stays open late.
O'Sheehan's (Deck 8 mid): O'Sheehan's is Norwegian's 24-hour Irish sports bar and restaurant, where you can order pub grub like shepherd's pie, fish 'n' chips, chicken wings and spinach-artichoke dip around the clock. This venue also serves light breakfast fare for those wanting a quick bite outside of the buffet.
Jasmine Garden (Deck 7 mid): Jasmine Garden is Norwegian's fee-free Asian eatery, serving a selection of soups, rice and noodle dishes, and desserts. Speciality items like sushi and seafood can be ordered for a fee. (Rolls range from $5 to $7.50, ginger steamed Chilean sea bass is $15.99, and shrimp Cantonese is $24.99.) We stuck to the free food; although the menu doesn't have much choice for vegetarians and it took a while for us to get our food, the service was great and the meal tasty. It's open for dinner only and located between Teppanyaki, the Sushi Bar and Sake, making for an entire enclave of Asian food and drink.
Topsiders Grill (Deck 12 mid): This lunch-only pool deck grill serves up hot dogs and hamburgers with condiments and toppings like lettuce, tomato, onions and cheese. There are also sides from which to choose, including coleslaw and potato salad. Try the brownies for dessert; they're to die for.
Pit Stop Grill (Deck 13 forward): The Pit Stop, new to Norwegian's fleet, is a 1950s-style diner venue with black and white checkered flooring, red vinyl chairs and tables with license plates screen printed on the top. It serves mainly as a bar, but, on select sea days at lunchtime, it also provides sustenance in the form of hot dogs and burgers.
Room Service: Free Continental breakfast is available via room service by filling out a paper order form and hanging it on the outside of your cabin door before bed the night before. You'll choose a time and the items you'd like to order. Choices include fruit, muffins, croissants, Danishes, yoghurt and cold cereal, as well as juice, coffee, hot chocolate, tea and milk. Although it's free, it's polite to tip a dollar or two to the person who delivers it to your room.
Moderno Churrascaria (Deck 13 mid, $24.95): Moderno Churrascaria, Norwegian's Brazilian steakhouse concept, has relocated on Norwegian Jade from Deck 8 to Deck 13, where it now resides across from Cagney's and offers ocean views. A flat fee gains you access to all-you-can-eat meat (beef, pork, lamb, chicken and fish) in addition to sides (rice, black beans, garlic mashed potatoes, fried plantains and Brazilian cheese bread) and items from the salad bar. Desserts include papaya ice cream, coconut flan and mango rice pudding. The food is excellent, and there's a lot of it, so come hungry. This is not the place for vegetarians. Reservations are highly recommended.
Moderno is only open for dinner, but it also serves as a breakfast venue for cruisers booked in suites. For those passengers, breakfast menu items include pancakes and waffles, eggs Benedict, crab cakes Benedict, smoked salmon frittata, lobster and scallops in toasted brioche with a poached egg, omelettes, and steak and eggs. Note: The Tahitian vanilla challah French toast with berries and mascarpone is simply outstanding.
Teppanyaki (Deck 7 mid, $29.95): Those who enjoy hibachi-style Asian food shouldn't miss a trip to Teppanyaki. All meals start with miso soup and seaweed salad, followed by a show put on by a chef who does tricks and cracks jokes while cooking up your choice of entree tableside. Select from chicken and noodles; veggies with noodles; shrimp, scallops and calamari; filet mignon; veggies with tofu; or a combination thereof. All are served with garlic fried rice, teppanyaki vegetables and two sauces: onion and creamy mustard. Dessert is your choice of green tea cake with cashew nut brittle or fresh exotic fruit sashimi. Seating is extremely limited, so reservations are essential. Note: Don't miss your chance to become an origami expert by following the directions on your menu to fold it into fun creatures like whales, swans and insanely complicated seahorses.
Sushi Bar (Deck 7 mid, a la carte): Located in the same area as Teppanyaki, Jasmine Garden and Sake, the Sushi Bar offers individually priced rolls that range from $5 for a spicy tuna roll to $6 for a California roll to $7.50 for a sashimi himachi poblano roll.
Le Bistro (Deck 6 mid, a la carte): Le Bistro is Norwegian Jade's outpost for French cuisine. Five courses are offered with items priced a la carte. Examples of appetizer selections are grilled asparagus with shiitake mushrooms, escargot, and steamed mussels. A soup and salad course follows, offering French onion or cream of mushroom soup, or salad with smoked duck and walnuts. Next is shrimp, scallops and fennel in puff pastry; a 32-ounce rib-eye steak for two; or shrimp with artichokes and potatoes. Entrees include grilled swordfish, Atlantic salmon, fish soup, beef tenderloin, lamb, Burgundy chicken or duck breast. For dessert, pick from vanilla creme brulee, chocolate Napoleon, chocolate fondue, a cheese plate or caramel, lemon and vanilla profiteroles. Reservations are recommended.
La Cucina (Deck 12 aft, a la carte): This rustic-looking Italian restaurant specializes in a la carte pasta (gluten-free options available with advance notice) and pizza, as well as soup, salad and appetizers like fried calamari, beef carpaccio, bruschetta and caprese salad. Entrees feature mouthwatering items like grilled shrimp with Italian vegetables, chicken Parmesan and pork scaloppini. Tiramisu, chocolate tarts, lemon curd ricotta cheesecake and rhubarb panna cotta are on the list of desserts. There's also an extensive collection of wine, showcased by a wine display case that takes up an entire wall of the restaurant. Reservations are recommended.
Cagney's (Deck 13 mid, a la carte): As the ship's steakhouse, Cagney's is a favourite among meat-eaters. The a la carte menu is broken up into starters, soups and salads, featured selections, seafood and sides. Choices might feature chicken drumsticks, wagyu beef sliders, lump crab salad and shrimp cocktail for starters; baked potato or split pea soup, or a wedge salad; smoked ribs, grilled bison steak, lamb chops or beef (porterhouse, rib eye, filet mignon, New York strip) for mains; shrimp or sea bass in the seafood category; and sides like garlic mashed potatoes, onion rings, truffle fries with Parmesan cheese, mac 'n' cheese or coleslaw. Reservations are recommended.
Cagney's is open to everyone for dinner and to suite passengers only for lunch. Standouts on the lunch menu include the beef sliders, filet mignon and a side of orzo.
Room Service ($9.95): With the exception of Continental breakfast, all room service orders incur a flat fee of $9.95, regardless of what is ordered. Breakfast items include French toast and omelettes. The non-breakfast room service menu selections are extensive and include salads, sandwiches (BLT, tuna salad, subs, burgers), pizza (cheese, vegetarian, pepperoni, supreme), spaghetti Bolognese, roasted chicken, skirt steak, grilled salmon, fish 'n' chips, a selection of cakes and a special menu for kids (grilled cheese, PB&J, chicken fingers, mac 'n' cheese). Beverages (free and for-fee) are also available. Gratuity is not included in the room service charge; it's customary to tip a dollar or two to the person who delivers your order.
Cruisers are spoiled for choice on Norwegian Jade, with cabins ranging from entry-level insides to $20,000-a-week Garden Villas that seem more like something you'd find at a five-star resort than on a mainstream mega-ship. Sixty percent of the 1,080 standard cabins are outsides, and of those, 54 percent have balconies. Best of all, for families, interconnecting cabins are available in a range of categories from standard insides to suites. And it's not just apples to apples: Different grades of cabins can be interconnected -- balcony to suite or suite to penthouse, for example -- to create two- to five-bedroom combos for small or large clans.
All cabins have a richer feel due to cherry wood finishes, and they boast mini-fridges (you can have it customized or emptied -- $2.95 for a soda, $9.50 for a small bottle of wine), code-operated safes and in-cabin coffee facilities. Staterooms have also been updated with new flat-screen TVs, artwork, furniture, bedding and carpeting in a modern colour scheme that features cream, grey and teal. Reading lamps now include USB outlets for bedside cell phone charging, which we thought was a great touch.
TV programming includes a selection of movies and TV shows, plus a music channel, MSNBC, CNBC, BBC Worldwide, FOX News and ship-related channels that show location, general information and the view from a bridge cam.
On the downside, standard cabins on Norwegian Jade are smaller than the industry average. On our sailing, we found ourselves scrounging for enough space to store clothes for two people in our balcony cabin, which had the capacity to sleep four. Drawer space is limited, and we had to ask our room steward to remove some things (coffee maker, a tray of glasses, etc.) in order to use some of the shelves. Closets are tiny, with a bar for hanging clothes. We ran out of hangers and asked our room steward for more, which he happily provided. Standard closets each have a large top shelf (overtaken by life jacket storage) and one small shelf, which folds down from the wall and, unfortunately, cuts off about half of the available space for hanging clothes.
We also were sad that there wasn't a real desk/vanity; instead, there was a mirror and a small shelf built into the wall next to the closet at an odd angle. There was also a small ottoman that served as both a stool and storage.
Interior: Standard inside cabins (143 square feet) are small, but they're functional, with a sitting area, two twin beds that convert to a queen, and partitioned bathrooms with sliding-door shower stalls on one side, a separate toilet compartment on the other and a central sink area. All bathrooms feature in-shower wall-mounted dispensers for shower gel and a shampoo/conditioner combo. Passenger consensus seems to be that water pressure throughout the ship is fantastic. (Personally, we think it's the best we've ever experienced -- at sea or on land.)
Oceanview: Ocean-view cabins (161 square feet) are set up almost identically to the inside cabins but with either a picture window or a porthole for sea views.
Balcony: Balcony cabins are slightly roomier (167 square feet, with a 38-square-foot balcony) but with the same general layout as insides and ocean-views, but there are also pullout sofas for sleeping one or two extra passengers. Starting at this level, Norwegian adds small touches like bathrobes, slippers and Bulgari toiletries. Balconies each include two metal and mesh upright chairs and a small table for drinks.
Mini-suite: Mini-suites are larger still (231 square feet, with a 54-square-foot balcony), and each includes a full-sized pullout sofa and a small bathtub.
Suite: Those looking to splurge should consider booking one of the 48 suites, which include pillow-top mattresses and down comforters. Suite passengers receive a free bottle of Champagne, evening canapes, private breakfast in Moderno Churrascaria and lunch at Cagney's Steakhouse. Balconies in these cabins feature wicker sun loungers and tables.
The four 375-square-foot Romance Suites each feature a balcony, full tub and shower, and living and dining areas. The 24 341-square-foot Penthouse Suites each provide a living area, balcony, dining area, separate bedroom with queen-sized bed, and bath and separate shower with massaging heads. Most also have a "spare" bedroom (slightly bigger than a big closet and outfitted with two twin beds -- great for kids). The living and dining areas are equipped with a mini-fridge (stocked with complimentary water and soda). There are three flat-screen TVs -- one in the living area, one in the main bedroom and one above the tub; the first two have CD/DVD players.
The exclusive 14th deck is where you'll find the 10 440- to 572-square-foot Courtyard Villas that are part of Norwegian's The Haven "ship within a ship" enclave -- a concept introduced on sister ship Norwegian Jewel. They are essentially larger versions of the Penthouse Suites (save for the fabulous tub set against a window with a bird's-eye view) with 60-square-foot balconies, but what's extra special is that they surround a private courtyard shared by all Courtyard Villa, Owner's Suites and Garden Villa passengers. The space is gorgeous, with a sleek but small pool, a hot tub, Balinese beds, sun loungers and tables and chairs at which passengers can enjoy a daily spread of fruit and other small bites. It's all covered by a retractable roof. One deck up is an exclusive sun deck with sun loungers and four cabanas with Balinese beds. Included in the mix are 572-square-foot (85-square-foot balconies) Family Villas, which add another bedroom and accommodate five.
The only categories above Courtyard Villas are the five 791- to 824-square-foot (151- to 248-square-foot balconies) Owner's Suites on Decks 9 and 10 and the two 4,719-square-foot (2,142-square-foot balconies) Garden Villas on Deck 14; cruisers booked in these cabins are also granted access to the courtyard. The Owner's Suites offer king beds, Bose entertainment centres, a whirlpool tub and walk-in closets.
But the kings of all cabins are the Garden Villas, each with a private roof terrace for open-air dining, hot tubbing and sunning. These complexes each include three separate bedrooms -- one with a whirlpool tub -- a baby grand piano, a bar, a dining room and a living room with Bose accoutrements.
All suite passengers (including the Penthouse and Romance suites) also have a concierge and butler at their disposal to arrange restaurant reservations, expedite room service orders, stock mini-fridges, etc. Elemis products in the bathrooms are replenished daily. The in-cabin coffee makers are also upgraded to fancy espresso and cappuccino machines, and balcony furniture improves from the plastic found elsewhere to teak.
The ship offers 27 accessible cabins in a variety of categories for hearing or sight-impaired and wheelchair-bound passengers.
Active families, picky eaters, and couples/groups who love to bar hop
People who can't stand crowds, or those seeking a relaxed onboard environment
Norwegian cruise ships draw a diverse crowd, though the majority of passengers on ships sailing to the Caribbean and in Alaska and Hawaii hail from North America. You'll find a decent number of people from other English-speaking countries, and smaller numbers from South America and Europe. On European cruises, North Americans still dominate but you'll find more people from the United Kingdom and other European countries. You'll find plenty of young families onboard Norwegian ships, especially during holidays and school breaks. However, the line's newest ship, Norwegian Bliss, is less family-friendly than the line's other ships, with all the kids clubs on the lowest levels of the ship and onboard entertainment that is decidedly adult. Generally speaking, Norwegian Cruise Line attracts mostly middle-aged and older couples, as well as groups of friends of all ages.
Norwegian Cruise Line maintains a casual atmosphere onboard; during the day, casual wear is the norm. There's no formal dress code at night either, though most people do change into something slightly less casual for dinner. Additionally, some of the speciality extra-fee restaurants do require long pants, collared shirts and closed-toe shoes. Most evenings you'll see men in dark jeans or khakis and collared shirts, and women in blouses with slacks or skirts, or sundresses. Don't be surprised if you see people in shorts in the main dining rooms. Norwegian doesn't have any formal nights, but there is an optional Norwegian's Night Out at least once per sailing, for which passengers are encouraged to dress up. You'll rarely see a tux or gown, but suits and cocktail dresses are not unheard of. Norwegian ships also typically hold several themed nights (glow party, '70s or '80s, etc.) during a typical sailing. You might want to bring a few appropriate items, such as white clothing for the glow and white parties or bell bottoms for '70s night.
No. Unless you have an all-inclusive dining or beverage package (which you can buy), you'll have to pay extra for most gratuities, speciality dining, room service, all drinks (alcoholic and non, except water, select juices at breakfast, and coffee and tea), shore excursions, visits to the spa and any retail purchases, including photos. On the newest ships, you'll also have to pay for some of the entertainment options and even some of the top-deck fun: On Norwegian Bliss, for example, the laser tag and go-karts cost extra.
On warm-weather cruises, the main pool is the line's most popular spot onboard. On ships with water slides, ropes courses, go-kart tracks and laser tag, these are also popular and often require a wait of up to 30 minutes or more. Inside, you'll find activities that range from trivia, bingo and Deal or No Deal during the day to song-and-dance revues or Broadway shows in the theatre and live music or cabaret shows in the evening. Norwegian ships also have a lively bar nightlife. There's also an always-busy casino, which opens when the ship is out to sea.
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NCL offer two simple price models. The base fare is available on all stateroom categories and includes:
NCL's Free at Sea option allows to you add on your choice of perks. Usually, you can choose two but during selected promotions, you may receive all perks. Prices vary by duration but start at just £149pp for a 7-night cruise. You can choose the following:
Suites & The Haven Suites
Guests staying in Suites and The Haven accommodation can enjoy a host of upgraded services and amenities including: