Cruise Review NCL Jade Norway Cruise

I sailed on NCL’s Jade, cruising Norway from Southampton to the North Cape June 29-July 11, 2008. Here is my day by day diary.

Note: At the time of travel 1.00 USD = 5.09180 NOK

United States Dollars = Norway Kroner.

There are a lot of sightseeing ideas on the official tourism site: visitnorway.com

Day 0 We took Delta to London Heathrow. A very smooth on time flight.

Day 1 When we arrived at Heathrow, we looked for the coach terminal to take our pre-booked bus to Southampton (National Express) at 1150. Since we arrived at 9AM, this was plenty of time to get our luggage and walk to the terminal. The directional signs were not quite the overly precise way you an expect in Britain, so we wound up in Terminal 5, where we waited. Unfortunately, the coach terminal is nowhere near Terminal 5, something we did not find out until 1145, when we asked the bus dispatcher.

We missed out 1150 bus, despite the best efforts of the bus dispatcher from terminal 5, who called ahead to stop of bus from departing. She arranged another bus to take us to the proper coach terminal, where we waited for the 1250 bus, which would have brought us to Southampton just an hour before the scheduled departure time of 4PM for the Jade. We were wait listed for the 1250 and told to come back just before departure. Fortunately, an understanding bus driver allowed us on board, with the wrong tickets. He was masterful at avoiding the traffic pile up on the motorway, and by taking side roads through pretty towns, we were able to get into Southampton early! A taxi, readily available at the coach station took us to the ship in 5 minutes. One advantage of arriving so late was that there were no lines to board, and we were soon on the ship, just in time for the muster call. Before we knew it, we were on our way. The cruise left from City Cruise Terminal

A good long nap (we had been up for what seemed like days) meant we had a very late dinner, and missed the shows. Oh well!

Day 2: A day at sea with so many activities in the daily that we had trouble accommodating what we wanted to do in one day. Breakfast, a stretch class, learning to play bridge, entertainment, and more. I am so confused by bridge. I had always thought it was a game played by ladies with too much time on their hands. I have since discovered that it takes a lot of brain power to know all of the tricks.

Day 3: Alesund, a lovely small port with Art Noveau architecture and shops. A walking tour on our own included the stone church, and many nicely decorated shops and houses around the harbor. Very manageable on foot. Trolls are important here, and every one of them appears in the carved ornamentation of the buildings. Spend some time finding the trolls hidden in the buildings around Ålesund.

Day 4: Kristiansund – another nice small harbour. We strolled the area, although there was quite a bit to do in the vicinity if you wanted a shore excursion. Close to Kristiansund, you’ll find the island of Averoy, a fishing and farming society for generations. You may choose to visit the Milnbrygga – Norway’s National Klippfish Museum. Klippfish is salted and dried cod, which, exported to the Mediterranean countries, laid the foundation of Kristiansund’s growth.

Day 4 Svartsien Glacier – our first glacier was spectacular! Clear skies and clear blue waters. There was very little snow on the mountaintops – quite a bit less than in Alaska.

Day 5 Honningsvag is the stop for Nordkapp (North Cape) most northerly point of Europe. It was cold, even in July. The Arctic Ice Bar – made completely of ice – is a short walk from the cruise ship dock. Sjogata 1A (by the sea, alongside the taxi station). A modern design made by Laila Kolostyák, it can be visited in summer. All you will see in the inside is made on natural ice from the lakes of Lapland. Bar, walls, seats, tables, ramp with sledge, a map of the Artic, a life-size igloo where you can get in. In the shops in Honningsvag, you meet the local Sami people and their reindeer. If you go to the North Cape by bus, There is a huge hall here where you can see a film about the area have something to eat and drink and buy your souvenirs, and see a film. Another warning it was around this northern part of Norway that we had the roughest seas, although they were not bad.

Day 6 Cruise The Barents Sea

Day 7 Trondheim

Trondheim was the old capital of Norway, and the cathedral is where all the monarchs are crowned and if you go to Kristiansten Fort you get one of the best views across the city. After a catastrophic fire in 1681 destroyed most of the houses in the city, a new city was planned in the Baroque style. The streets were made wide to prevent fires from spreading. Some of the narrow alleys and narrow streets, many from the Middle Ages, nevertheless still. Even today Trondheim is spoken of as one of the typical wooden cities of Europe, and the city center has many special wooden buildings, some built as far back as the 1700s. Trondheim is filled with historical sights, museums, and art galleries.

Some highlights:

Crossing the Blomsterbrua (Flower Bridge) over the River

You can walk along the salmon river Nidelven in the city’s downtown district and the old wharves along the mouth of the river

The majestic Nidaros cathedral, the largest in Scandinavia. The Viking King, Olav Trygvason,was buried here in 997. The King was known as St. Olav, the holy king and the Patron Saint of Norway. Pilgrimages to the shrine of St. Olav started soon after his death and grew to great dimensions in the Middle Ages. Work on what was to become the Nidaros cathedral started in 1070 over the grave of St. Olav.

-The bright red old town bridge (“Gamle Bybro”) with its carved gate – The Gate of Fortune

– The picturesque, wooden houses painted in vivid colors in the downtown and old part of the city – Bakklandet districts

If you want an organized tour, take a sightseeing tour of Trondheim and its outskirts by bus. Daily departures at 11am.You will visit the Haltdalen Stave church at the Trøndelag Folk Museum, pass the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Kristiansten Fortress, the Royal Residence and the Cathedral. Duration 2 hours. Departure from McDonald’s next to the shopping centre Trondheim Torg. (Crossing Market Square with its colourful stalls, the statue of the Viking king who founded the city looks down on you from a great height. ) Tickets are sold by the guide and at the Tourist Information Office.

Day 8 Hellesylt A 3 hour stop was made here to let passengers take the overland tour to Geiranger, but we sailed instead to Geiranger, passing magnificent waterfalls.

Geiranger

Geiranger Fjord is known as “the most beautiful fjord in the world.”. From the village of Geiranger, your first visit is the Norwegian Fjord Centre, describing the daily life in Geiranger from the past and present. From here, you can see the winding, switchback roads to the top of the mountains. Sod roofed houses, and souvenir shops and beautiful views of the hills are the main draw if you do not take an organized tour.

Day 9 Bergen 8:00 AM 7:00 PM

Bergen is the second largest city in Norway, yet it’s got a great small-town feel. It is easily walkable, but we also took the tourist train for a 1 hour ride through the area and up over the city, Bergen of course is famous for its fish market, with UNESCO world heritage status The Wharf / Bryggen is characterized by its wooden buildings with pointed gables facing the harbor You can also take a trip on the Floibanen (funicular) for amazing views over the whole of Bergen and the surrounding hills.

Edvard Hagerup Grieg is from Bergen. (15 June 1843 – 4 September 1907) He was a Norwegian composer and pianist who composed in the romantic period. He is best known for his Piano Concerto in A minor, for his incidental music to Henrik Ibsen’s play Peer Gynt (which includes In the Hall of the Mountain King), and for his collection of piano miniatures Lyric Pieces.

Day 10 Stavanger European Capital of Culture in 2008.

Your exploration begins in ‘Old Stavanger’, a lively area that consisting of more than 150 houses – well-preserved 18th and 19th century wooden houses, mostly built for seafarers, craftsmen and traders. An important rehabilitation project has meant that this is now northern Europe’s largest and best-preserved ‘wooden house’ settlement. Your stroll through Stavanger continues to the market square at the head of the harbour bay. A colourful scene greets you where fruit and vegetables, flowers and seafood are laid out on sale. There are lots of shops to explore, too. The impressive Cathedral forms a backdrop; built in 1125.

Day 11Thu Cruise The North Sea – –

Day 12 Fri London (Southampton)

The Ship: NCL Jade – Beautifully designed and maintained. Built in 2006

Crew: Unfortunately, this ship was just recently repositioned to Europe. It had been in Hawaii, with an all American crew, as required by law. When it was deployed to Europe, a mostly new crew boarded, although some are from other NCL ships. The lack or coordination and absence of team spirit was clear. I hope they will get better.

The daily newsletter was often wrong, even telling us to turn our clocks back on the wrong day. The activities were mis-timed. The announcements from the activities director ranged from silly to stupid young girl musings.

Our cabin was not made up on the first night, but things improved after that.

The Food: The Buffet had generous, always varied offerings and was nearly always open. The main dining room had slow service when we sampled it. Teppenyaki, one of the premium restaurants was good. The Italian Kitchen, though was inconsistent, being unable to reproduce the same dish on two successive nights. Different chef, different recipe perhaps.

Entertainment: The shows were aimed at the mainly English passengers on this cruise, which left from Southampton. I missed most of the jokes of the famous comedian, and could not understand why he made fun of anyone who walked in late. The dancers were just okay. The singers were mainly good, particularly the gospel singers. The crew show was foolish and required not a bit of talent.

Shore Excursions: We did not take any ship sponsored shore excursions. Since this was the Jade’s first visit to Norway, it seemed that no one bothered to do any shore excursion research in advance, and I found more information on the internet than at the shore excursion desk.

What to wear: Layers, including a fleece of some sort. It was not warm enough for summer shorts, although we sailed in July. It was sunny, and we never needed raingear or umbrellas.

Overall: We did have a good time, and I attribute the problems listed above to the inexperienced staff. I would try the Jade again, but at a much later date. after the staff has time to assimilate into a team.

World Cruise Industry Review

As per the world cruise industry review for cruise operators, 2009 was a challenging year. However, the industry worked well despite the economic slowdown bringing in business, keeping costs low, and finding new market areas. The number of ships and passengers grew despite the customers being affected with the economic downturn.

U.S accounts for roughly three quarters of the global shipping industry. Here, the cruise industry more than held its own during the worst of the downturn. 11% of travel agents polled by CLIA expect this year to be better for the global cruise business, as cruising continues to rank number one on many counts, with the value for money.

World cruise industry review indicates that for 2010 there are confirming signs of increase in demand although it is too early to say if we are returning to total wellness. While consumers are starting to show more assurance, they are still holding up their decision to book.

The cruise sector is a significant part of the European marine industry and has made an important contribution to the European economy: 21.7 million passengers called in the European ports during 2008, with the industry bringing in 311,512 jobs, a 66% increase compared with 2005. The entire value of goods and services generated has increased by an astounding 69% in the last three years to more than €32bn.

Europe has been drawing in cruise ships from the U.S., which, conjointly with European fleets, led to a commendable increase in the number of passengers – 4.7 million – joining their cruises in 2008 from a European port, a 68% growth on 2005. The European cruise industry has added €14.2bn in direct expenditure, with cruise lines expending €5.1bn on services, supplies and equipment.

The projection is that the overall cruise passengers are to rise by 6.4% to 14.3 million in 2010. Nevertheless, passenger growth hinges on locations other than the North America or Canada should be threefold to what CLIA expects in North America, at 14.3% against 7%. International passengers will include one third of the global cruise business, from one quarter last year, and less than one tenth in 2000.

Considering the present scenario, it is clear that Europe’s entire potential has not been attained: it has a population of around 500 million likened with 300 million in the US, and most Europeans have more holiday time than their US holidayers. There are also fantabulous and easily reachable cruise destinations.

According to world cruise industry review Asia and Latin America are the future markets which offer excellent long-term business possibilities and it’s impressive to witness the rising economies and individual wealth being generated there. As investments in infrastructure are brought in, these markets will become important world cruise destinations in the times to come.

Carnival Paradise Grand Cayman/Cozumel Review

There were 4 days at sea along with two days at port; making stops in the Grand Cayman and Cozumel, Mexico. Before booking the trip, I checked out reviews on Cruise Critic. Of the 442 reviews this boat has, 75% were positive. Here are some highlights of my experience on the ship.

Food: The food was plentiful (as expected) and tasty. The buffet was very good and the evening dining hall had a good variety of food. We had a table for four all to ourselves the entire week, so that was a treat! “After hours” there is a 24 hour pizza bar and ice-cream station, and the room service was quick. I wouldn’t classify this ship as a culinary dream, but it certainly was ample.

Drinks: The wait staff were very attentive and it was never a long wait to get a drink. As expected, the drinks were expensive. But if you stick to lemonade, water, tea, juice, etc, you don’t need to spend extra to stay hydrated. If you’re planning on drinking a lot, you might want to get one of their drink packages. You can save on cocktails, wine, and soda by purchasing these. There are a lot of rules and fine print, so read up before you go.

Pools: I was not impressed by the swimming pools on the ship. There is one main pool with a water slide going into it, which eats up some of the space. There were also a few whirlpool-sized swimming pools (with cool water) but not of the size for actual swimming.

Deck Space: There were always plenty of lounge chairs available on deck. They didn’t seem to have the usual “reserved chair” issues that many ships have. As the week went by, I think more people were hanging out inside so there were even more chairs available.

Rooms: We had an ocean view room with two twin size beds converted to a king size. The noise from the ship was at reasonable levels and besides some noisy neighbors a couple of nights, there were no noise issues. The bathroom was sufficient and overall there were no issues with the room.

Entertainment: Admittedly this trip was more about relaxing than it was the nightlife. But we did take in a few song and dance shows. While the theater is smaller than a lot of other boats, the entertainers were very talented and the shows were great. We also took in a few comedy shows, which were awesome. Just make sure that you’re leaving the kids at home if you’re going to an adults-only show. They aren’t kidding when they say they’re not family friendly!

Time at Port: The time at port in the Grand Cayman was short. We paid $5 per person to take a shuttle to the nearby public beach. The water was warm, clear, and refreshing. Drinks nearby cost a fortune, so be prepared.

We were in Cozumel, Mexico for about 8 hours. We arranged an excursion through Carnival to go to a nearby all-inclusive, Chankanaab Resort. There they had snorkeling, a Mayan tour, sea-lion show, lots of lounge chairs on the beach, and a swim up bar. Even though this was a self-guided day at the resort, they insisted on giving you an hour-long tour of the place and organizing all sorts of group activities. The guide seemed more concerned with occupying you so you didn’t spend too much time at the bar. The resort itself was great, but I’d opt out of this next time.

Overall, I think the Carnival Paradise was a great value for the money. Coming up soon will be a post about the travel gadgets you must have on your next cruise!

Review: Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas From Galveston

I had planned this cruise for seven months. A friend and I who had previously cruised with Carnival and Celebrity were eager to try Royal Caribbean after hearing so many positive things about the beauty of the ship, quality of food and service, etc. For the second time, I surprised my retired parents by taking them with us (the previous year I had surprised them with an Alaskan cruise which I will review later), and they were absolutely giddy with excitement when they found out that they would once again be traveling aboard Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas, which they claimed was their favorite ship of 13 other cruises they had taken. With the ship fresh out of dry dock for upgrades, were set to go to some brand-new destinations none of us had ever visited: Roatan Island, Honduras and Belize City. Expectations were high.

Then cruise time came. While I am not prepared to say that we had a BAD time on this cruise, I think it is fair to say that our expectations were a bit deflated, pretty much from the minute we arrived at the Port of Galveston. Allow me to take you through the high and low lights of life on the high seas aboard Navigator of the Seas.

The Highs

Our dining experience– Most definitely the best service we received on the ship was in the main Sapphire Dining Room, which is without a doubt the most gorgeous dining room I have seen on a cruise ship. Walking into the dining room is like entering a regal opera house complete with grand stair case and three levels of dining with windows on each side. Our two servers were extremely attentive, noting my step-mother’s preference of making her own ice tea with two glasses of ice, 2 tea bags and some hot water, which was waiting for her every night after night one. I could fault her for being a “tea snob,” but then I’d have to look at myself in the mirror with my Starbucks in hand turning my nose up at Folgers. All of us enjoyed the variety of meal choices and thought the food was of very high quality, with service running like clock work. It was truly a pleasure to dine each evening.

Here we are at dinner. I am the goof-ball in blue.

The Cabin– Inside cabin 7667 (Aft Port) was home sweet home for our week at sea. My parents were right next door in 7669. For an inside cabin, there was plenty of room to stow all of our stuff and have a completely clear space to move in. I would say the bed was a bit hard, but it’s all about your preference as my friend and traveling partner Jay (the guy in purple) said his was just right. Ample closet and drawer space allowed us to each have sufficient space to unpack. Our steward service was also top-notch, re-stocking and tidying up twice daily.

The ship– Navigator is definitely a beautiful ship. Of note is the Royal Promenade, a series of shops, restaurants and bars running aft to forward giving cruisers the feel of strolling down a cobblestone street while at sea. I recommend the Two Poets Pub for some nice ambiance and people-watching. The main atrium is gorgeous, and the various lounges and bars are designed with a very classy yet comfortable feel. The pool deck is also impressive, featuring two main pools flanked by several hot tubs, some of which are shaded. For the most part there are plenty of chairs both in and out of the shade, but if your cruise is full you had better get there early to snag one. We also thought the nightclub overlooking the pool deck with its floor-to-ceiling windows added a nice touch to the ship’s offerings. The ship’s casino is also pretty decent, but since smoking is allowed in there, you may come out smelling like an ash tray.

Overlooking the Royal Promenade

The Grand Atrium

Beverage Package–Three of us on this cruise had the premium package for $55 per day, but since my dad only drinks beer, we got him the basic package. At first glance, this package might seem a bit pricey (Royal Caribbean’s beverage packages are some of the most expensive at sea), but overall we got our money’s worth. What I especially liked was that basically nothing on the drink menu was off limits short of the super premium stuff. You could even opt for Grey Goose vodka at no extra charge. The flip side here is the bar service (see below).

Theatre Entertainment–If you ever find yourself on Navigator of the Seas, don’t miss the ice-skating show. It is fantastic and was much better than I thought it was going to be. We also enjoyed the Elton John impersonator, the bar flair show and the adult game show.

The Lows

Embarkation/Debarkation–The words fiasco, nightmare, eternity and disorganization come to mind for both. This was hands-down the WORST embarkation/debarkation process I have ever experienced, and my parents who had been on 13 previous cruises agreed. We should have expected this when Royal Caribbean sent us out an e-mail prior to the cruise instructing us to arrive at certain times based on the deck on which our cabin was located. As it happened, we had flown into Houston, and our transfer dropped us off right at the time we were supposed to be there, which was 12:30 p.m. We did not step foot on the ship until almost 2 p.m, as we were stuck two different lines, both of which were extremely slow-moving. This is definitely not the way you want to start your vacation, and very few smiles were to be found in the security and check-in lines. Mind you, I totally expect a bit of a wait checking in, but this was just ridiculous. I think the longest wait I have ever experienced prior to this was 30 minutes tops. I definitely expressed my dissatisfaction to the check-in lady.

Debarkation was practically just as bad. Since we had a driver waiting for us, we opted for the self check-out and were given a specific time and place to meet. We have done this on other cruises with minimal waiting, with customs officers boarding the ship to collect forms. In the past, we have basically just walked off the ship. Not this time. When we arrived at the appointed spot we then waited another good 45 minutes just to be allowed to disembark. Once off the ship, guess what? Another line, another 45 minutes to pass through customs. I ended up being a charged an additional wait fee by my driver, thanks to Royal Caribbean and the Port of Galveston.

Bottom line–I will never cruise from Galveston, Texas again as they clearly do not have the ability to handle the volume of people that cruise ships have. Basically, Royal Caribbean left a negative first impression and a negative last impression.

Service–Aside from our servers at dinner, service in the bars and lounges on this ship was average at best and certainly not what I am accustomed to on a cruise. While some bartenders were standouts, it generally took forever to get a drink and often you felt as if you were a bother to the bartender or server. The worst service was probably at the pool bar. Some might say that I am too demanding, but when I spend my hard-earned money on vacation I want decent service. Period. I didn’t really get it on this cruise. My parents also commented that “things just weren’t the same on this cruise” as their previous experience on Navigator of the Seas.

Kids, kids, kids– OK, I am probably going to get some eye-rolls for this, and maybe for some it wouldn’t be a negative, but there were just too many kids taking over the main pool area on this ship. As with anyplace else, parents are partially to blame here, allowing their little monsters to run amuck and splash others in the main pool, but I fault Royal Caribbean for not enforcing pool rules. On past cruises, kids weren’t even allowed in hot tubs, but they were in this one. Granted, there is an adults-only pool and hot tub, but the problem is that there isn’t any entertainment there (not that the entertainment at the main pool was anything to write home about).

We did not participate in any excursions on this cruise, so I can’t speak to their quality. We did hear various comments that the excursions were over-priced and not worth the money. One excursion was even over an hour late and had to be delivered to the ship by boat as it was departing Honduras.

The verdict–If I had to choose between Royal Caribbean and Carnival, I would probably go with Carnival based on past experiences. I am not totally closed to giving Royal Caribbean another chance, but they would have to completely WOW me to keep me coming back.

A Review of Princess Cruises

The Princess Cruises is a cruise line based out of California in the United States of America. The company was founded way back in the year 1965 and has been offering its passengers with some of the most memorable journeys and vacations ever since. The main rise to popularity for the Princess Cruises came with the launch of The Love Boat TV series which featured two of its cruise liners, the Pacific Princess and the Island Princess.

Embarking on a cruise with the Princess Cruises can be extremely exciting and scintillating. Moreover, the company offers its travellers with award-winning service and features which ensure that each of its guests have a great time while on board. One of the main charms of the Princess Cruises is its excellent cruise itineraries which cover some of the most exotic locales of the world. With over 1000 cruise itineraries and 300 ports to choose from, tourists are also spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing a journey aboard the Princess. Moreover, each of the ships sailing under the Princess flag boasts of world-class service, sumptuous food and Maharaja style luxury. Voted as the Best Cruise Line Itineraries for 7 straight years, the Princess Cruises are second to none when it comes to sailing and luxury cruise liners.

The popular Cruise ships

The Princess Cruises also boast of a huge fleet which sail all over the world on various itineraries. Some of its most popular cruise ships are the Caribbean Princess (Sailing in the Caribbean Islands), the Coral Princess (Specifically built to sail in the Panama Canal), the Crown Princess (Sailing in the Caribbean Islands), the Golden Princess (Sailing in Alaska and Hawaii) and the Diamond Princess (Sailing in Alaska and the Mexican Riviera).

Great On-Board Experience

Another reason for the immense popularity of the Princess Cruises is its magnificent on-board experience. The ship is packed with activities and things to do for tourists of all ages to keep them content and occupied from sun rise up till sunset and beyond. One of the most popular sights aboard the Princess is its piazza styled atrium which becomes the stunning centrepiece on each of the ships. These atriums are spread over several decks and feature panoramic views of the ship, the signature Vines Bar and International Café and a breathtaking spiral staircase.

Other popular activities aboard the Princess Cruise Ships are poolside activities, cooking demonstrations, digital photography workshops, a variety of sports such as golf and ping-pong, vast libraries, mesmerizing nightlife, grand casinos, designer boutiques, art auctions, youth centres and teen lounges and pampering spas. A few of the most popular innovations aboard the Princess are anytime dining options and Movie Under the Stars. The latter is extremely popular amongst couples and lovers since they offer an extremely romantic opportunity to watch a movie with loved ones in a 300 square foot, 69000 watt poolside movie theatre. This experience is made even better with personalized touches such as cosy blankets, chaise lounges, complimentary popcorn and cookies and milk.

One can also experience a behind the scenes ship tour which allows passengers to get a glimpse of how the ship runs and functions. The tour is offered once or twice each day and allows passengers to catch a glimpse of the control room, print shop, medical centre, photo lab, bridge, laundry room and other areas which are typically visited only by the ship’s crew.

Heavenly living accommodations

The living accommodations which are offered by the Princess Cruises are also amongst the best. Passengers can choose from a range of accommodation options which include basic interior cabins, Ocean view cabins, cabins with balconies, mini suites with balconies, suites with balconies and grand suites. Irrespective of the choice of accommodation taken, passengers can expect to be treated to a range of excellent amenities and in room luxuries. The large and extremely comfortable beds, beautifully made bathrooms, pleasant décor and in-room entertainment options ensure that guests have a great time not only on board but in the rooms and cabins as well.

Lastly, the Princess Cruises is also one of the few cruise liners which still follow the century old traditions of Bon Voyage where family members and friends can board the ship to say goodbye to their loved ones before the ship embarks on its journey.