Now that I’ve gone through all of the things we did while in port (Venice, Dubrovnik, Athens, Ephesus, and Split), it’s time to talk about what there is to do while on the Norwegian Jade itself. After all, that’s where we spent most of our time! I’ll divide this one into sections since there’s so much info. You can check out the full plan of the ship on Norwegian Cruise Line’s website here.
The Norwegian Jade
The Norwegian Jade definitely didn’t give off a “Mediterranean Cruise” vibe. It, oddly enough, gave off a Hawaiian vibe. The entire ship was decorated in Hawaiian garb, including a map of Hawaii, Hawaiian flowers made of glass, and giant Tiki statues. Clearly the ship was made for Hawaiian cruises, but they brought it halfway around the world for our Eastern Mediterranean cruise. Why? I’m not sure.
There were 14 decks on the ship, four of which we couldn’t get to. Decks 1-3 were behind-the-scenes things (mostly the engine), and deck 14 was The Haven: the really expensive rooms with private decks.
We mostly stuck to decks 5, 6 and 7, where the theater, help desks, and casino were; 9 and 10, where our staterooms were; and 12 and 13, where the food, pool, and sun decks were.
Sean and I had an internal room, meaning there were no portholes, no windows, and no balcony; Sean’s parents had a room with a balcony. At first I was kinda bummed out, but I’m glad we went with an internal room; it was about $1,000 cheaper per person than the room with the balcony, and we didn’t spend enough time in our room for the balcony to be worth it. There were plenty of places to sit and eat on the boat that had ocean views (both indoor and outdoor).
The only thing that threw us off was the fact that, if we turned the lights off, we had no idea what time of the day it was. We were used to having light come through the windows in the morning, and that obviously can’t happen when there isn’t a window. This only caused us a problem once: my alarm didn’t go off (accidentally set it for p.m. rather than a.m.), so we almost missed our Athens excursion. Luckily Sean’s mom called us just in time!
The darkness was advantageous for one thing: naps. We were able to take naps in the middle of the day without being woken up by the sun. It was splendid.
Also, a word of warning: the bathrooms are quite small, and it was impossible to sit on the toilet while facing forward. The toilet seat was too close to the wall, so you have to sit sideways unless you’re a child.
We also only got three towel animals, two of which were pretty much the same.
Needless to say, I was heartbroken.
The best part about staying on a cruise ship? So. Much. Free. Food. And you don’t have to cook any of it!
There were three main places to eat complimentary meals: the Garden Café, the Grand Pacific, and Alizar.
The Garden Café was cafeteria-style (as the name implies) and had a ton of food: salad bar, burgers, pasta, deserts, and entrées that changed every night. This is where we ate when we first got on the ship, and it was great for quick meals. The downside: the workers who stood at the door with hand sanitizer saying “Washy washy! Happy happy!” every time people walked in. It was really annoying.
We only went to the Alizar once (and I was feeling really sick, so my opinion might be a little biased). The decor was very modern and the food was delicious. I ended up leaving the meal early to get some rest so I didn’t spend much time there, but overall I liked it.
However, my favorite place to eat was the Grand Pacific, which is where we went for most meals. The decor was beautiful, the food was delicious, and we never had to wait for a place to sit. There were specials every day, but the meals that were always available were delicious as well. If nothing on the specials menu jumped out at me, I could always fall back on the New York Strip Steak. And if I wanted to try something on the specials but wasn’t sure if I would like it, I could order two entrées at once. Along with an appetizer and dessert. For free. It was marvelous.
We had to pay for any drinks we wanted (including soda, which meant we didn’t get soda), and we went to a sushi restaurant where we had to pay. I was never disappointed. Sean got a sushi that was basically dessert, and I got some California rolls. Sean’s dad got something that had raw fish on the top, so I passed on it, and Sean’s mom hates fish, so she didn’t get anything. The important thing to remember, especially when paying for drinks at the bar, is that the tip is included. There’s still a line for a tip in case you’re feeling overly generous (or overly confused), but it’s already included, so you don’t have to add another one.
We went to the on-board entertainment every night. Some nights it was awesome, and others it was absolutely horrendous.
There were some aerial artists who were wonderful; they did acrobatics in the air while hanging from hoops, ropes, and silks. It was breathtaking.
The “magician” on the other hand, was awful. He had props that looked like the kind you can buy for $50 at a magic shop, and all of the tricks were incredibly transparent. At one point, when his assistant “disappeared,” we could see her dancing in the background trying to blend in with the backup dancers. I was embarrassed for them.
There were other acts that were entertaining, but I didn’t feel either way about them. I’m definitely glad I went to all of them, though. It was a fun excuse to get dressed up, and it was better than sitting in my room reading! (Not that reading isn’t fun; I can just read in my room anywhere.)
We went to the casino a few times, and I was surprised how underutilized it was. I was expecting it to be crowded, but it never was.
I mostly just watched Sean and his dad play card games, but there was one game I really liked. Sean and I called it “the shiny lights game,” because it definitely played to the rewards-center part of the brain, but it was still fun. Imagine the coin bulldozer game you can play at Chuck E. Cheese, but instead of getting more tokens / tickets to win a giant stuffed animal that looks really cool but you don’t actually need, you get money. It. Was. Awesome.
The only entertainment I wish we had utilized more was the Spinnaker Lounge. They had fun trivia and game-show-style entertainment every night, and we didn’t go until the final night on the ship. It was a really fun battle of the sexes contest, and I wish we would have gone to more of them! (It also would have been a great place to read on our cloudy day at sea, but we didn’t know it was there.)
Pool / Decks
Being from Michigan, I’m not used to salt water. The pools, ponds, and lakes here are all fresh water, so salt water always bothers me. Who wants their eyes to burn every time they go under water, or have salt crystals all over your bathing suit when you dry off? Crazy people, that’s who.
So I was quite bummed when I learned that the pools on board are salt water. Sean and I basically only swam enough to say we used the pool, and then got out and dried off.
The decks were quite nice, but got quite chilly because of all of the wind. Luckily on the second of our two days at sea (meaning we wouldn’t be stopping at a port), we found the one section of the boat that blocked the wind, on the back of the boat above the sports courts on Deck 13. Man, was that a great find. It was an 85° day, and almost everyone was inside or under a towel because it was so windy. We, on the other hand, were enjoying the nice weather.
Sean’s mom and I went to the spa on our second day at sea, and it was wonderful. It was a splurge, but I’m glad I did it. I got to look out giant windows at the Mediterranean in a comfortable chair while getting a facial, scalp massage, and hand and foot massage. If you have the time and can afford it, I recommend you treat yo’ self.
tl;dr – Norwegian Jade
- If the balcony isn’t important to you, don’t splurge on it; you won’t be spending much time in your room anyway
- Try all of the complimentary restaurants, and go to the sit-down ones as much as possible
- Don’t tip when you buy food and drinks, because it’s already included in the bill
- Utilize as much of the on-board entertainment as you can; don’t sit in your stateroom all vacation long!
- Explore the ship as much as you can the first day; we thought we had, and we still didn’t see some of the rooms until the last day
- Find a spot on the boat that is blocked from the wind
- Treat yo’ self at the spa if you have the time and money for it