Tuesday, 3 November 2015

NCL Norwegian Jade - Oct 2015

A few weeks after leaving the EPIC were heading to Venice for a short -ish cruise on the JADE. We arrive nice and early the day before sailing and have a lovely private teak taxi to take us directly to the hotel. There is no better way to arrive in Venice.

After much searching we had settled on the small hotel AI Mori D'Oriente Hotel set on a quiet canal about 15mins from the station and 20mins from Rialto/St Marks. It was a beautiful hotel with lushly decorated rooms (we had a canal view suite) and wonderful service. Highly recommended

 We strolled in the direction of St Marks (slowly as it was already getting warm) stopping for a seafood lunch midway. Venice was as busy as usual (when is it not) so it was good to just wander about slowly all day.

Stopping for Pistachio Gellato

After a good nights sleep and a superb breakfast in the hotel we spent the following morning  soaking up more of Venice,  wandering around the markets and crossing the Grand Canal standing in a Traghetto .

Then we returned to pick up our suitcases and headed towards the Railway Station to crossover to the people mover (I'm not sure if this serves any purpose whatsoever on reflection as it doesn't exactly drop you that near to the cruise terminal than if you walked). Think I would take a water taxi next time.
People mover to cruise terminal

Checking in was efficient (we just had time for a coffee before they announced we could board). Our room was available immediately (aft mini suite). If I was to compare like for like with the EPIC I think in general I preferred EPIC's  cabin layout as you seemed to have much more wardrobe/closet space. However it was good to have a bath tub this time.

Then it was up to the "outside dining area" for lunch. Quite a few ships were in the terminal including NCLs "Spirit" , RCs "Serenade of the Seas",  HALs ms Rotterdam and an MSC ship. I still think HAL have the classier looking paintjob (speaking of which Serenade was not looking in the best of condition with its white hull streaked with rust)

A quick look around to grab a sunbed and we passed the afternoon with a cpl of drinks (Our loyalty perks this time were Ultimate Dining Plan and Ultimate Beverage Pack = free booze!).

Back in the room Lloyd our steward introduced himself and he did a great job all week. Very impressed with the cleanliness and his tidying up after us. And the masses of mints were good too.

Spot the Serenade of the Seas
After a cpl of hours Serenade of the Seas departed (oddly as it seemed to be facing the wrong way and trapped in by us but somehow managed to slide out  backwards between  ourselves and the Rotterdam). It was quite strange watching it slip beyond the Venice horizon. Then it was time for a very quick Muster demo.

Tug boats then arrived and it was our turn. A well timed departure to see us departing just as the sun began to set.

If arriving into Venice in your own water taxi is the only way to arrive, then slipping away from it on a Cruise Liner is surely the only way to depart.

We ate that night in Cagney's- if I have one slight criticism or wish-list it would be that some form of identity and variety could be added to these speciality restaurants menus between ships (or just have nightly specials). It doesn't help that we were only on the EPIC a few weeks ago  but looking at the menu was a bit deja vu. Still the food was excellent and the intimate restaurant really does make you feel like you have gone out for the night and are no longer on a ship.

We had a sea day next and glorious weather to go with it. There's a good range of entertainment either from small bands around the pool area (all of which were good) or the usual evening shows - which I must admit are not really our thing - they seem a bit dated and cabaret for today's market - I think the new trend for showing West End musicals is probably the right way to go. Dinner that evening was in Le Bistro which was as excellent as usual - though my thoughts on Menus still stand.

Malta -port buildings which are now bars/restaurants, just beautiful.

We arrived into the port of Valletta and disembarked. With no trip booked we wanted to get to Medina and thought we may as well use the red bus, but we waited an hour as no buses turned up or were full, then got our money refunded.

We then did what we should have done in the first place and hired a taxi driver for a few hours. Excellent value - he took us wherever we wanted to go and had suggestions of his own (we would have missed the Presidents Gardens otherwise, very tranquil)

Presidents Gardens

President garden/Palace
Medina is a beautiful Medieval city oozing in history.  We strolled around the beautiful cobbled streets, visited the Cathedral and found a lovely little cafe for coffee up on the city walls. You soon realise as you take in the history why Malta has been such an important strategical Island throughout the centuries. And all those influences are reflected in the architecture. Our driver drove us around the hill first for us to take some photos but a bank of cloud decided to roll in at that time. In the sun it seems to glow as the light reflects of the local stone.


Medina Gateway

Medina Streets
Next we drove into Valletta - our driver getting us as close as possible to the Cathedral. Again Valletta surprised us with its grand buildings (especially in the government area where they had mixed new with old quite successfully). 

St Johns Cathedral is home to the Knights and Grand Masters of Malta and the (included) audio tour is well presented and extremely interesting.. Its also home to two of Caravaggio's Masterpieces "The beheading of St John the Baptist" and "St Jerome writing"

We departed Malta in the evening and took dinner in the Main Dining Room. Food was good but I personally feel these places are too big - to impersonal - but at least its one storey so you don't have to think you're having dinner in a shopping mall . Service was quick and attentive but in some ways it felt too fast and not a place to relax.

Another sea day followed and we were still lucky with the weather. Not too sure though about the water-slide on the Jade. It looked like it had a major design flaw (ie; not steep enough) with most people having to push themselves along it. Dinner was Cagneys again (interesting to note that in any restaurant the supplements on the menu such as Lobster were not being charged on the UDP - nice)

The following morning we have docked in Palma, Majorca where we caught the local bus from right outside the terminal for 1.5 Euro.  We enjoyed our time wandering around the old town and visiting the Cathedral Santa Maria.  After being in Barcelona a few weeks ago at the start of the Epic cruise I was quite surprised to see just how much of this cathedral is also under the influence of Gaudi's style. He was brought in to help re design and open up the original structure.

We sipped a lovely coffee and some sublime apple tart in a sunny little square watching life go by before returning to the ship.

Town Hall Palma
The Jades Aft - our cabins a couple down in the middle
Leaving Palma.

That evening we took dinner in Le Bistro again and had the same comical waitress.

To conclude another excellent cruise from NCL. Loved the Jade - it felt more like a real ship with a proper promenade deck than the Epic though bizarrely it didn't feel much smaller in the public areas. What I did miss on the Jade were the numerous night time entertainment  venues.  
Food was fantastic, as usual, as was the service. I felt the lunch time self service area was better on the Jade than the Epic. However the Epic's outdoor seating seemed more spacious. 
I still really miss the real teak decks though from the HAL ships (if I wasn't going with NCL again I would probably look to HAL just for the loyalty perks). 
I'm still not a great fan of the entertainment but that's just me. White Night gets dull pretty quickly and all of the Main Theatre Shows felt a bit old school. Be interesting to see how the new shows on the Epic take off ( I just wish they would dump that god awful Spiegel Tent overboard though). What I did enjoy on the Jade were the music performers - the NZ led swing band and Ironics stand out - though I felt spoilt by the Beatles tribute ban and Crystal Blue from the Epic.
I read in the forums someone talking about the menu issue before and may take up the advice given if we were to use NCL for the next cruise (Fingers ready to book). Their advice was to try the places you have dismissed - you may not like Chinese for example but actually there's probably enough variety there to find something to make the night different and enjoyable and you get a free knife show! ; and don't discard La Cucina as it seems a waste of money as an upgrade venue - if you got the Dining Plan as a perk its no loss. I still cant really imagine myself wanting to eat in Moderno though - looks like a meat Fest.

Disembarkation was a breeze (compared to the farce at Southampton last time on the Epic) unfortunately the flight home was delayed by almost three hours meaning we arrived home in the dark just in time for rush hour. Nice one Monarch Airlines - remind me never to use you again.

1 comment:

  1. I was on the same cruise, Venice to Houston and will save you a bit of time. Skip the Chinese restaurant except for the potstickers and calamari on the starter menu. The rest was some of the blandest and worst chinese food I ever had. They only have like 8 entrees that never change, so you'd think they must be really good at doing them - wrong! The Chinese takeout on any street in America does it better. :-(