REVIEW: Norwegian Jade – Fresh & Friendly

In the past twelve months I’ve been lucky enough to sail twice on Norwegian Jade, and for a smaller ship she certainly delivers big time on style and service.

The cruises

Both sailings I made on the Norwegian Jade were last minute two-night cruises. NCL has a habit of offering last minute well priced sailings, and both times I caved instantly.

Both cruises started in Southampton and ended in Hamburg, with the whole time being spent at sea – followed by a short flight back to London. The perfect weekend getaway.

This review will be focusing on our first cruise, in June.

Embarkation in Southampton

Prosecco & Productivity en route to Southampton

We took the train from London Waterloo to Southampton Central station, the journey time is approximately 90 minutes. Naturally this necessitates train bubbly and gives you plenty of time to tie-up loose ends before you board and turn-off.

Once you get to Southampton Central you’ve one of two options. If you’re feeling fit and have time to spare you can walk it – it takes about 15-20 minutes. On the other hand if you’re running late, or feeling lazy, it’s around five minutes and £8 in a taxi.

Once at the cruise terminal we dropped our bags with the porters and headed to check in. The whole check in and security process took less than thirty minutes and then we were on the boat – we never felt like we were being kept waiting or crowded.

One thing I’d highlight, which I think is pertinent to UK & European cruisers, is the way NCL handle debit cards.

It’s quite common for people in the UK to not have a credit card, but use only a debit card – it’s how we operate, whereas in the US it’s more common for folks to use a credit card over a debit card. This is all well and good, but we were surprised to see NCL place a £300 hold on our debit cards, which can last as long as 30 days. We’re lucky enough that we could handle that but it’s something to consider if you’re thinking about using a debit card over a credit card for your onboard account.

First impressions of Norwegian Jade

The Norwegian Jade is a mid-sized cruise ship. She weighs in at 93,558 gross tonnes, is 294 metres long, has 15 decks and a passenger capacity of 2,402.

You board the ship via a sky bridge onto the Promenade Deck which then leads into the Jade’s Atrium on Deck 7.

Now, whilst this was my 11th cruise it was my partner, Jimmy’s, first cruise so seeing the look on his face was really quite priceless. We grabbed a glass of champagne and relaxed in the atrium for a while, soaking up the atmosphere.

Norwegian Jade was christened in 2006, so she’s coming up to 13 years old, but thanks to a complete bow-to-stern renovation thanks to the Norwegian Edge programme she was looking brand new.

Gone are the bright primary colours and garish ‘Hawaiian theme prints’ and in are muted neutral tones of jade, sandstone, and dark wood – a theme throughout the ship.

Before and After Jade’s 2017 Norwegian Edge make-over.

Our Stateroom

At the time of booking we selected a Balcony Guarantee (Bx) stateroom with the ‘All-Inclusive At Sea’ package. We don’t mind where we’re placed on a ship too much as long as we get a good view.

A couple of days before we sailed we were allocated our room, an Accessible Balcony on Deck 10. Neither of us have accessibility requirements, so I wasn’t sure what to expect but a balcony is a balcony right?

This room was HUGE. I’ve had apartments smaller than the accessible stateroom we were allocated.

The main cabin was big enough to comfortable have a king-size bed, a sofa, and still room to host a disco. Again the decor was tasteful, muted earth tones and jade accents. The balcony was standard depth, but wider than usual to match the size of the stateroom.

Accessible Balcony Cabin – (click the above images to enlarge)

The bathroom, again being designed for accessibility, was also vast. The shower was the curtain variety, but this makes sense for being able to get a wheelchair in and out. There was plenty of room and light for us both to get ready at the same time.

Accessible Balcony bathroom – (click the above images to enlarge)

Nice touches in the stateroom included USB sockets built into the wall lights for charging your devices at night, ice buckets topped up each day, a bottle of sparkling wine on arrival and a coffee machine within reach of the bed.

Bars and Lounges

You won’t be left thirsty on the Norwegian Jade, with more than a dozen bars. We had the all-inclusive drinks package included in our cruise fare, so we did the responsible thing and checked out all the bars…

If you want to know more about drinks packages be sure to check out my article breaking them down here.

The Atrium Bar serves up cocktails, wine, barista coffee and beautiful snacks around the clock. There was always something going on here.

Further along Deck 7 you pass through the Asian inspired dining and drinking area with a Sake bar outside the Sushi bar and Chinese restaurant, Jasmine Garden.

Walk another few metres along and you’ll get to the Bliss Ultra Lounge – which is the Jade’s night club. In the 2017 refit this become an ultra sleek place to hang out in the evenings.

Bliss Ultra Lounge on Deck 7 – (click to enlarge images)

Down on Deck 6 you have entertainment central with Mixers Martini Bar, Magnums Champagne Bar and Maltings Beer & Whiskey Bar. These are three separate bars but share a foyer for seating.

Mixers Martini Bar on Deck 7 – (click to enlarge images)

One of our favourite places to hang out was the Spinnaker Lounge up on Deck 13 all the way forward, we enjoyed the quiet but refined atmosphere, the ample seating, perfectly hand-crafted cocktails and most of all the stunning 180° sea views.

Other places you can get a drink include the ‘Sugarcane Mojito bar’ which is part of the Moderno Brazilian steakhouse , ‘Topsiders’ pool bar, ‘Pit Stop’ bar overlooking the pool deck, ‘Great Outdoors’ bar, and the ‘Jade Club’ casino bar.

Dining Options

The places to eat are just as numerous as the bars on Norwegian Jade, and even between both our two night cruises we still haven’t had chance to try them all out.

Your complimentary dining options are

  • The Alizar Main Dining Room. This is the more casual of the two main dining rooms with bright contemporary colours and modern art on display. We didn’t get chance to dine here, but it serves the same food as the other main dining room – Grand Pacific.
  • The Grand Pacific Dining Room. The more formal of the two main dining rooms. Decked out with wooden panelling, art deco lighting features and classical art on the wall. This dining room also has a panoramic view over the wake of the ship.
  • The Garden Cafe – Jade’s buffet. Once again this area of the ship received a complete makeover with simpler, more neutral colour tones, and a improved seating. The Garden Cafe has additional outdoor seating all the way rear at The Great Outdoors Bar.
  • Jasmine Garden. A complimentary Chinese restaurant, with attached Sake Bar. We didn’t eat here but the menu looked great.
  • O’Sheehan’s Bar & Grill. An Irish themed pub, which also serves quick favourites such as burgers, nachos, hot dogs etc. We stopped here for breakfast one day and found it a quick & easy alternative to the buffet or main dining room.

(click to enlarge images – credit: Norwegian Cruise Lines)

The speciality dining options are:

  • Moderno – Norwegian Cruise Line’s “Authentic Brazilian churrascaria”. Your cover fee gets you unlimited salad and sides from the well stocked salad bar, as well as unlimited grilled meats served table side with skewer and sword. The quality of the sides and the meats was exceptional, our only error was eating here on the last night of our cruise – we were already full when we arrived!
  • Sushi Bar – a contemporary take on a traditional sushi and sashimi bar. Items are priced a la carte. We didn’t eat here but it looked incredible.
  • La Cucina – Norwegian’s Italian restaurant. Fresh made pasta and puttanesca sauce served family style. We stopped here for lunch one day and ate probably for more than we should have done! A cover fee applies.
  • Cagney’s Steakhouse – Norwegian’s signature steakhouse. The small intimate restaurant feels simply, but expensively decorated. An open kitchen allows you to watch your steaks being prepared. I highly recommend the ribeye and the truffle fries. We had to be rolled back to our stateroom. A cover fee applies.
  • Le Bistro – An upscale French restaurant serving the very finest in French and modern European cuisine such as Escargots, Bouef bourguignon, and fondue. A cover fee applies.
  • Teppanyaki – An authentic hibachi restaurant, where dinner is equal parts performance art and food. Steak and seafood are tossed on a hot grill as your chef performs acrobatic feats and magic tricks. We didn’t visit here this trip – but look out for our thoughts in our upcoming Epic review. A cover fee applies.

If you want to know more about Speciality Dining be sure to check out my article explaining the concept here.

(click to enlarge images – credit: Norwegian Cruise Lines)

Leisure facilities

Our cruise was only short so we didn’t get time to use many of the facilities, but the Norwegian Jade has plenty to keep everyone entertained.

There’s a full spa with thermal suite, basketball court, gym & fitness centre, running track, video games arcade, art gallery, card games room, library and a theatre.

The Stardust Theatre aboard Norwegian Jade – home to nightly performances from acts such as Blazing Boots, Elements and Palace of lights.
The Norwegian Jade pool deck on one of our sea days. (click to enlarge)

As we were blessed with great weather we did make full use of the pool deck however.

The Jade’s wood-lined pool deck is home to two swimming pools, with lifeguards, and four hot tubs.

There were always plenty of loungers available either here or on the upper deck – and pool towels were collected and returned free of charge at the pool deck counter.

Final thoughts

Although we might have not been expecting much from a cheap last minute mini-cruise we were completely bowled over by the Norwegian Jade.

The ship looked incredible, everything was beautifully finished and immaculately clean. Our stateroom was incredible, we really lucked out with that one. The staff were super friendly and couldn’t have tried harder to please.

The food offering didn’t disappoint. Whilst the food in the main dining rooms definitely played it safe everything we received was well made, fresh and hot. The speciality restaurants all certainly felt that they were worth their up-charge also.

The only area we felt Norwegian Jade could use some room for improvement was the bar and drinks service. We found it odd that many of the bars didn’t open until 5pm on a sea day – which left everyone queuing for the few bars that were open. This seems like an odd choice and one that would be easy to fix. We also were a little disappointed that some of the more frequently ordered cocktails such as the Long Island Iced Tea were in pre-made jugs, I don’t think they tasted any less delicious it just made them feel a little less… special.

We really loved both our trips on NCL’s Norwegian Jade, it’s earned a very special place in our hearts – especially as it was Jimmy’s first ever cruise. I know at the time of writing this she’s off enjoying the Caribbean but I hope she comes back to Europe soon.

If this was helpful to you consider sharing it using the buttons below. Have you been on Norwegian Jade? What did you think? Do you have a favourite NCL ship? What was your first ship and does it hold a special place in your heart? Got a question I haven’t answered here? Feel free to leave a comment, or contact me on twitter at @CruisingWithTom or Instagram at @TomLovesCruising

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