Hey all. Just wanted to share my review of the Jade cruise to Greece and Croatia. I submitted it for review but don't see it for some reason, but try again later.
It may be odd visiting Europe on a cruise ship decorated for Hawai'i, but it didn’t bother us too much on an overall great cruise. This was my 5th cruise, but my first in about 10 years. I’m also in my early twenties now, so my perspective has changes a lot on cruises. Some of my love for this trip might stem from being so happy to be on a cruise again, but that doesn’t take away for the good and bad of the ship.
Highlight: The Elements show. Best show I’ve seen at sea.
All aspects of the ship are important to me, but probably the main 4 are dining, entertainment, itinerary, and cost.
Dining could be summed up by what my family and I said a lot during the cruise: “It’s not bad.” That doesn’t mean it was amazing either. Nothing tasted bad for me, and quite a bit of the food was good, but nothing was out of this world. Let me say we don’t drink alcohol, or eat any land meats (beef, chicken, pork, veal, lamb, goat, duck, etc.)
The buffet was enough to satisfy us most days. We’d have breakfast there, and a couple days dinner or lunch when we were at sea days. On port days we made it a point to have lunch off the ship to see what the local cuisine was like and support their businesses. What I didn’t like was how breakfast was EXACTLY the same every morning. Some variety like I had on previous cruises would have been nice, but I don’t know how common that truly is these days.
We went to Alizar twice and Jasmine Garden once, both great places for dinner. We went to Cagney’s as well, and it was not worth the $150 whatsoever. The food and sides were good, but not worth a la cart prices.
One tip is that the buffet at the aft of the ship opens up after lunch when the main buffet closes. It has special things sometimes like cookies and egg salad if you want that.
I went to every show at the theater, and some performances of singers and musicians. Overall I would have given it 4/5 stars, but then the Elements show is what knocked it up to 5/5. It was a very nice performance of magic, dancing, acrobatics, and more, that used the whole theater. It’s an NCL production, and it was so good it makes me want to go back on an NCL just for that show alone. The music was a highlight of the show, from the live music the the song filling the halls. Lots of Sara Bareilles playing.
Itinerary and Excursions
The itinerary is the whole reason we picked this cruise. It included: Dubrovnik, Athens, Santorini, and Split. Split was a pleasant surprise. The days were packed with 4 ports of call. I felt we didn’t have enough time in Dubrovnik, which was my favorite out of the five cities I visited this trip. Other than that, they seem to give you as much time as other major cruise lines. The excursions seemed overpriced in my opinion. The one in Dubrovnik was worth it, but the other one in Athens was not worth the price, and those were the cheaper excursions. I definitely do not recommend excursions with food or wine, as it drives the price up. Our Athens excursion for four was $400, but if we got ones with food it would range from $800-1000.
Tip for Santorini: avoid waiting to the last minute to get back to the ship, or take a boat from Oia to the port of Fira. People said the cable car down would take a while, I assumed 30-40 minutes of waiting. The wait was over 150 minutes long! With so many cruisers it gets packed. Thus, we had to take an hour long trek down the donkey trail. It was very hot and smelly. No fault on the cruise, just get to the town early, focus on Oia, and head back to the ship from Fira.
Another reason this cruise worked was the 3rd and 4th person sail free NCL sometimes has. The whole cruise with that, extra charges, and nearly $1000 is excursions was still only around $3500 for 4. However, they do charge you for everything it seems. Laundry was like $30 for a bag on one day of the cruise, and there was no self-service. Pool tables cost $2. There were more specialty dining options than included ones.
The ship looks nicer than in videos or pictures. Still, it’s an older looking ship. Everything is Hawai'i themed and it doesn’t suit the locale well. The areas are decent, but the layout is awkward. The entire buffet is on one side of the ship, whereas on previous cruise ships it ran from one side to the other. The main dining rooms are kind of odd to get to and they don’t have a good spot for photography. Deck 8 can be particularly confusing. Still, it’s comfortable and active with things going on.
Our room was a mini-suite with balcony. Small, and splitting the bed into twins leads to someone having their head lean against a light, which is uncomfortable and unsafe. But the balcony was huge, and the bathroom was spacious and very clean. The public bathrooms on the ship were some of the nicest I’ve seen. More of a European style with long stall doors.
Service was pretty decent. I felt like the crew was nice, but didn’t really go the extra step of saying hello or something like I felt on other ships. Still, people are nice, and one crew member offered to play shuffleboard with me. I also love how at ports they are waiting for you with drinks. They also have their signature washy-washy thing which is nice. I loved that they honored the crew on stage after the Elements show. I will say our cabin steward was amazing and always called us by name.
This is something most cruisers don't think about, and it's hard to do as a cruiser, but I like to think about the environmental impact the ship has (both on the physical environment and the communities it visits). NCL did win the Venice Port Authority Blue Flag Award, though I can't find much about it outside the NCL site other than it's given for low-sulfur fuel emmisons. The ship is older and that hinders it, but it has good measures you'd expect, like using your key card to turn the power on and having the towel reuse system. They are constantly cleaning so I didn't worry about sanitation, especially since they have hand sanitizer everywhere and have their washy-washy system. I did notice them draining the soft-serve ice cream, which I never seen before. Maybe it's a sanitation thing since it's dairy, or maybe the thing was jammed. Maybe someone can enlighten me on that.
Overall a nice cruise, and I’d recommend it for those looking for a southern or eastern European cruise (though I think next year it goes to the Norwegian Fjords) who want a good deal.