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This is a video of the 7-day repositioning cruise we took on the Norwegian Jade from Barcelona to Venice in April of 2012. We spent a few days prior exploring Barcelona and a few days in Milan, Italy at the end of the voyage. We met several other LGBT people on this cruise and made many new friends. Bon Voyage and Happy Cruising!
See our cruise photos:
Mediterranean Cruise | April 2012
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For me, the last day on a cruise can be very depressing. I know that I will once again have to return to my 9 – 5 workday, plan the meals for the week and say ‘goodbye’ to new friends. For Dale and I, this trip was full of positive experiences that can only be felt on a cruise. We had our last meal with our new friend Gilles and his partner Gord where we shared our many memories over a few bottles of wine. We both agreed that cruising is about the community we build on board and the new friendships that we make. Since our experiences were so similar, I asked Gilles if he would share his thoughts. I will soon be writing about our trip and posting it in ‘News & Expert Advice’.
by Gilles Marchildon*
To paraphrase Maya Angelou, people will forget what you say and what you do but never how you made them feel. Norwegian Cruise Line seems to have payed particular attention to Angelou’s words.
Travel provides opportunities to see incredible, breath-taking sights but there are only so many mountain ranges, ocean sunsets, church spires and castle dungeons one can absorb within a short period of time. These are often best revisited through pictures to prompt our recall.
It’s funny, though, that we don’t need pictures to recall the people or stories of a particular trip. For the vast majority of travelers, the bedrock foundation of a truly enjoyable and memorable trip are the people we encounter and the experiences we share. Humans are social animals and nowhere is this more obvious than on a cruise.
Cruises are often used to celebrate special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries. They’re also opportunities for people to cut loose during the many zany on-board game-shows as well as trivia and dance contests, not to mention make friends at the bars.
Our Barcelona to Venice cruise (with stops in Sicily, Croatia and Slovenia) was our “in-between-birthdays” trip. My spouse and I celebrate our respective birthdays in mid-April and early May so travel between these dates is our annual gift to each other. We find a trip so much more meaningful and fun instead of splurging on extravagant gifts for each other. No gift-wrapping required!
Prior to our trip, we had put in a special request for birthday cake at one of our dinners. Except we got caught up in their “free-style” approach, forgetting to book a specific night. So it was that on our second-last evening, we finally remembered our request. We were at a table of fellow gay men whom we’d met (thanks to Norwegian’s promotion of a nightly “Friends of Dorothy” LGBT meeting). Near the end of the meal, a tentative enquiry was made with our cute Indian waiter. We weren’t really expecting that a cake could be produced on such short notice and at this late hour. Indeed, our chatty group, aided by 3 different bottles of wine on the table, was practically the last one in the grand dining room.
Well, about as fast as Dorothy could click her heels together and be swept back to Kansas, our table was surrounded by close to a dozen staff singing “Happy Birthdays” (yes – plural) and a jumbo cake landed among the wine bottles and first round of desserts. We had foolishly ordered desserts from the menu, not thinking that a birthday cake was realistic. Round two of desserts. Such is the hardship. We did our best, particularly aided by the ferocious appetite of one of our sweet-toothed fairies. Complementary digestifs helped us wash it down.
See? Norwegian’s efforts ended up being just as memorable as the splendours of the Adriatic cities through which we’d walked during the previous two days. Maya Angelou would just smile knowingly.
* Gilles Marchildon is the former Executive Director of Egale Canada, the country’s main LGBT advocacy group. He was also director of Winnipeg’s Reel Pride gay and lesbian film festival and editor of the city’s monthly queer publication, Swerve
Dubrovnik, Croatia is a spectacular city in an amazing natural setting. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, It is an ideal port stop. A day in the old city gave us a good exposure to this unique part of the Adriatic.
It was heartbreaking to see the damage to this beautiful walled city done as a result of shelling and incendiary bombs during the war in the early 1990′s. For those of us untouched by war on our own soil, it makes us grateful. It also makes us think of the thousands of people who are in the midst of war and conflict today.
We’ve met a great group of LGBT folks aboard. The first night of the LGBT get together in the Star Bar, we had to rearrange the furniture to accommodate our large group. The second night our little corner of the bar was all ready for the large group. Nice work, Norwegian Cruise Line, we appreciate it.
Once again I have to say how much we’ve enjoyed the food on this trip. The buffet line food is not only plentiful, but high quality. The fact that I’ve been eating quite a healthy diet so far is more a testament to Norwegian than to my will-power. I go out of my way to pretend the dessert table doesn’t exist! Mark admits that he’s had his first ice cream at what I call “gluttony central.” He doesn’t know I’ve been there twice already today while he was napping!
We’ve only been on the Jade now for 3 days and already we’ve met so many other wonderful LGBT sailors. Dale and I thought it would be a good idea to form a small group so we could all enjoy a fine dinner together and to share our stories from the day. Again, the staff on the Jade went out of their way to make sure this was a memorable event. After a wonder day in Messina, Italy (Sicily) the ship departed at 6:00 p.m. and we we all met for dinner at 7:00 p.m. Smiles, hugs and laughs were shared by all. Kelly and Franklin from from Fort Lauderdale were celebrating their 2nd anniversary and the chocolate cake that was delivered for this occasion was divine!
After a full stomach, it was time to call it a day. Tomorrow is another sea day as we continue sailing to Dubrovnik.
Before we even entered the terminal we knew this would be a great cruise. The check-in was quick, smooth and well-organized. The hospitality started with the baggage handlers and continued all the way to the personal escort to our cabin. Airlines should take notice.
The remodeled JADE is a fine ship with good flow and nice tasteful decor. She used to sail exclusively in Hawaii so there is a lot of art and decor from that earlier positioning, especially a theme of blown glass flowers.
One major improvement over other ships is the buffet line. The organization of that space if much more user friendly than we’ve seen in the past. We’ve been extremely pleased with the food, and the Norwegian staff is already calling us by name. Could that be because we buy so many drinks?
Norwegian Cruise Line sponsors an LGBT gathering every night. Interestingly, we were originally scheduled for the Star Bar. When we noticed hoards of elderly Germans in the room we thought we were in the wrong place. Indeed the room was double booked, but Norwegian had the courtesy to have a staff member from the group cruising department meet us there and direct us to another space. The new location gave us each a drink on the house. Thanks, Norwegian, this shows that you recognize we are a significant and important portion of your market.
July in the Mediterranean is a hot and very busy season indeed. I was one of 2600 passengers on Norwegian Cruise Lines 94,000 ton Norwegian Jade which just celebrated her 5th birthday. She was purpose-built as Pride of Hawaii but this was a disastrous short lived venture as NCL could not keep America Staff onboard the ship due to U.S. politics and bureaucracy. After the Hawaii venture failed, this magnificent ship was converted into Norwegian Jade and sent off to service in Europe year-round.
The Jade is a well maintained and spotlessly clean ship done in rich colors and lots of dark rich wood paneling (faux of course, due to fire at sea regulations). She is a ship built for the contemporary market and is far more appealing than any Carnival ship and while her other competitor, Royal Caribbean, has more interesting maritime architecture, I prefer the NCL Jade (part of a 4-sister ship “Jewel Class” fleet). She’s going into dry-dock in November and I hope NCL tones down and upgrades some of the child-like décor to a more sophisticated look as they have created on their newest ship the Epic.
Some of the ships décor is just too kitschy and done up like a little boys bedroom but some elements are quite well done. Nonetheless, this is a contemporary product and not a premium experience.
The ship offers a non-stop cornucopia of dining venues that range from Sushi, Steak house, Asian fusion, Tepanyaki, French, Italian, and so forth. There is a fee of $10-$30pp for these alternative venues and this is where I choose to dine as it creates more of a resort like fee and makes the cruise experience more interesting than eating in the main dining room. In this venue, it is a bit redundant and large dining halls do nothing for me personally. NCL offers Freestyle onboard where one can pick when, where, and with whom they choose to dine. I personally prefer this although there is sometimes a wait of 10-15 minutes during peak hours. The food in all of the alternative dining venues was very good to excellent while meals in the main dining rooms was okay to good.
NCL offers a fun and lively ship where there is constant entertainment in the evening ranging from piano bar performers, live rock band, disco with professional DJ (most ships use cruise staff that play crap from their own Ipods)-not on NCL!, lively variety acts, comedians, and full musical Broadway style shows. They excel compared to many cruise lines in the breadth of entertainment offered. The pool side performances by a Romanian singer was not quite up-to-par with her heavy accent singing American pop songs and she became ridiculed. This was the only poor choice of entertainment on my cruise.
The staff were always friendly except in a couple of instances where training of who goes first Passenger or Crew were not yet ingrained but when vacuuming in the corridors took place, staff stopped, turned them off, and greeted me on every occasion. The dining, cabin, and pool staff were always friendly. NCL continues to offer the best bar staff and while their cocktail prices are higher than their competitors, they make excellent drinks!
I was fortunate to stay in one of the forward Penthouses where the cabin was just around 300 square feet and my balcony was as big as the room adding almost another 300 square feet. The views were amazing especially coming in and out of port. Guests in Penthouses are given extra privileges from Butler Service, to private dining in Cagney’s (the ships steak house) for daily breakfast and lunch. This is always a treat! We also had access to a lovely Concierge, Florentina, a Croatian woman who is professional, delightful, and as courteous as one could possibly want. She is a true asset to NCL.
I think NCL Penthouses offer a far superior experience than her competition, and in some ways more than some higher class premium lines. Many elements of traveling in an NCL Penthouse border on a luxury experience. This class of ship also offers a private Courtyard Area just renamed The Haven. This area is a card access area of suites that share their own private pool, spa, sauna, gym, and sunning area. These accommodations have become so popular that many Hollywood celebrities and pop stars (most notably Reba McIntyre) have booked these for their families. The Royal family of Kuwait was on my sailing and had many of these magnificent suites booked. I have stayed in The Haven on several occasions and must tell you it is quite special. My favorite is the single Black Diamond Suite perched at the very top of the ship overlooking the pool and offering a panoramic view unparalleled. This suite is nearly 600 square feet in size and has 2 balconies on either side of it (his and his).
I have talked many times about the Jade but the itinerary was also quite nice. We sailed from Venice to Corfu, Santorini, Mykonos, Izmir, and 2 days at sea before arriving back in Venice. The handling of embarkation and disembarkation by NCL was downright spectacular. It was among the easiest I have ever encountered.
While I truly enjoyed the cruise, I was disappointed by the lack of supervision of nearly 1000 children of various ages. 1600 Europeans were onboard and the kids mostly did not participate in the programs offered by NCL so they overran the ship. They took over the disco and drank alcohol freely and openly (not sure how this happens). I am told that if they are 18 or older (16 for Europeans), and the parents sign a waiver, they can drink-no bueno! It was appalling to go to the dance club and see hundreds of 11-16 year olds out of control. Kids took over the adults pool and NCL security had zero control over this issue. Kids took over elevators by pushing all the floor buttons thinking it was cute, and were constantly running. I will likely not travel again in the Summer for this reason. From what I hear, Summertime on most cruises-especially contemporary brands, kids rule the roost. Sorry, this kids rule experience is not for me …
What I Liked About Norwegian Jade
• The many dining venues with high quality of dining in paid-for venues
• The cruise price compared to other brands
• Freestyle Cruising
• The cleanliness of the ship
• The overall friendliness of the crew
• Great entertainment
• Superb embarkation and disembarkation
• Wonderful array of suites and penthouses
• Florentina, the ships Concierge-she is a TREASURE!
• Excellent cocktails!
What I disliked About Norwegian Jade
• Unsupervised children and teens and kids taking over the adults-only pool
• Teens drinking in the dance club
• Little boy décor in corridors and many cabins-this can be easily remedied to make the ship look more sophisticated
• TV programming was pedestrian “E” Channel for your main viewing is just dull and common-NCL can do better!
• Main dining room food and service can use improvement. This is the weakest link for NCL.
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