This is post 1 of 4, the remaining posts will be sent out over the rest of this week. Thanks for joining us!
So What’s It Like to Cruise on Norwegian Cruise Lines?
Prior to last week’s trip, I had no idea. I’m not a complete newbie to cruising, as I have experience with Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Princess Cruise Lines – names that seem to come up in conversation more often and appear in more ads.
But what was Norwegian like?
It was like a mystery to me that I had to find out for myself – and not just to satisfy my own personal curiosity (and of course love for travel!), but I also want to make sure that I’m able to match the perfect ship or vacation for my clients. No one likes getting stuck on a booze cruise if you want to just kick back and relax, and vice versa.
Many people don’t understand how different a cruise experience can be based on your vacation style and preferences – everything from the size of the ship, the restaurants, entertainment, amenities and itinerary can make or break a dream vacation; and while there is a ship for everyone, it takes a little digging to find out exactly what will be perfect for you (this is where I come in to play as your travel professional!)
Jeremy and I decided on the 8 day Western Caribbean itinerary because of the distinct itinerary. Over the next few days I’ll be sharing more details about our experience on the Norwegian Jade, including specific areas of the boat, the food, the entertainment and what Freestyle Cruising is all about.
First let’s take a look at some basic details of the boat:
The Norwegian Jade was built in 2006 and launched in 2007 originally as the Pride of Hawaii (you’ll see in pictures throughout these posts where Hawaii plays a role in the décor), she underwent a minor transformation in 2008 and was rechristened as the Norwegian Jade as the third vessel to enter the Jewel class (alongside the Pearl and Gem). It was most recently refurbished in 2011 and is planned to go under another transformation in March 2017 (where, fingers crossed the Hawaii motif will be sailing off into the sunset).
It has a guest capacity of 2,042 and ship crew of 1,037, which means at full capacity it is roughly a 2:1 ratio of guests to staff. Something to consider anytime you cruise to understand what level of service you’ll receive on board (kind of like student to teacher ratio – the lower the number, the more one-on-one attention a guest can receive). Being that we were on a cruise over the holidays – a very popular time to cruise – our ship was at capacity with all staterooms booked and yet we still felt like the boat was hardly crowded – more to come on that.
Standard staterooms are comfortable, decorated in bright fabrics and wood paneling and accents. Overall, the rooms are pleasant and livable, with TVs, minibars, and well-designed bathrooms.
The Jade does offer different categories of suites, including a select 11 cabins that comprise “The Haven by Norwegian” first-class section. This area is accessed by key card only, and exclusive to only those with a room booked in this category – you’ll get the sneak peak in one of the next featured posts.
The ship was unlike every other cruise we’ve been on and not in a over the top, massive ship kind of way, it was the smallest ship we’ve sailed, with the least wow factors that you typically see on the newer “mega” ships. We didn’t have a surf board simulator, ropes course or ice skating rink on board – which for some, the flashy attractions are what draws them to book specific cruise lines or ships.
We fell in love with the simplicity and size of this ship for a few main reasons:
- Open lounge chairs by the pool everywhere – and yes we found more than just two in the sun at any given time, by the pool everyday without needing to wake up at 5am to put down a towel and book to save a spot. Having less “stuff” on board meant more space for everyone to spread out.
- Less pressure to “fill up” the day. No matter what cruise ship you sail on, there is ALWAYS something going on from dawn until the wee hours of the morning – from trivia, to karaoke, bingo, the library, card room, dance lessons, basketball courts, live music, and the list goes on and on and on. It can get to be daunting to feel like you need to be doing something all the time. I was non-stop on our first cruises and I was exhausted, ultimately needing a vacation from my vacation. And while I absolutely loved that feeling when I was younger and that was my preferred way of vacationing – years later into my 30’s, I’m liking things a little more relaxed and little less on the go. This is the first cruise I’ve felt completely refreshed, relaxed and rejuvenated once I returned home – and I didn’t need to spend a single moment at the spa to get that feeling.
- Freestyle Cruising. I honestly didn’t know what this really meant until our first night on the boat, but it has everything to do with a free flowing style of cruising that is the end of dress codes and rigid dining guidelines. We are more of traditionalists when it comes to cruise ships and resorts where typically dinner venues have a dress code (Remind me to tell you about Jeremy and his Costa Rican pants situation…). There are only two restaurants on the boat that have dress requirements, and that’s if you want to call having a collared shirt and pants a dress code, to many experienced cruisers that is considered casual wear.
Jeremy still packed his suits, I packed nice cocktail dresses and while we genuinely enjoy dressing up for dinner each night (its part of the fun for us on vacations!), I feel like guests on the boat appeared happy and comfortable in whatever and they wore and it really made no impact to the experience or ambiance in any of the restaurants. At least knowing that if we really didn’t want to get dressed up one night, we had the option to still have a great meal and feel relaxed, the way we want to vacation. In addition to wearing what you want, freestyle cruising also involves no set dining times and no reservations needed. We also weren’t forced to sit with people we didn’t know (another personal preference for the introvert in me). I love to meet and talk to people on boats, but at the intimacy of a dinner table, I would rather not feel like I’m on a blind date. When Norwegian says you’re free to do what you want, they truly mean it.
There was one designated “Dress Up or Dress Down” night to keep the tradition of a formal night in place, but again, there was no requirement to actually dress up.
And whether you were dressed up or dressed down, everyone was encouraged (but not required) to take part in the photo studios each evening starting around 5:30pm. In addition to the backdrops set up throughout the main promenade area, the boat offered dedicated time in a portrait studio, where you could set up a free, no obligation portrait studio appointment with no sitting fee – something that is unheard of off of a boat and is fantastic for couples or families. This is the first cruise we didn’t purchase pictures, but that doesn’t mean we still didn’t have some fun taking pictures every night – we got quite a few laughs with our photographer!
I haven’t even begun to share other highlights from this boat – the food, the entertainment, or THE HAVEN! Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post to see what else made the Norwegian Jade a fantastic cruise ship and vacation choice.