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Sea it all

15 October 2019
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Manoeuvring our multi-generation family of six from Christchurch around European highlights always seemed too momentous a task, and certainly out of budget, but this winter I was proved wrong when we managed to see it all aboard the Norwegian Cruise Line’s (NCL) Norwegian Jade. This method of holidaying not only exceeded expectations but alleviated all the usual stresses and strains of travelling in a group while fulfilling everyone’s individual needs. I cannot recommend enough how effective a cruise can be to bring families together to experience multiple destinations, with minimal dramas, in a short space of time. We unpacked once, travelled while we slept, and woke refreshed and excited in a different bucket-list destination daily. The adults didn’t have to worry about transport, time, itineraries, entertainment, excursions, or where to sleep or eat. What could we possibly argue about? Perhaps never being further than a few steps away from an alcoholic beverage was what made it all so amenable, but, nevertheless, the children never made so much as a whisper of the usual “I’m hungry/tired/bored” for the entire fortnight. Equipped to perfection, and with Wi-Fi on board, Norwegian Jade more than had everyone’s bases covered, making this trip a smooth and calm experience, just like the Mediterranean on which we sailed.

It goes without saying that food was high on everyone’s priorities. The array of 14 palate-pleasing dining options on board this ship made eating gratifying for all. The formal dining rooms served nightly à la carte menus and were far from ‘formal’ – instead a relaxed affair with casual dress code and ‘anytime’ dining. O’Sheehan’s Irish Pub served comfort food 24/7, so the kids took up residence there, chowing burgers, fries, nachos and soda to their hearts’ content – with not a dollar in their pocket. The oldies, pretty set in their routine, enjoyed ‘picking and choosing’ what they fancied at the Garden Café Buffet at 5pm sharp. As for my husband and I, we revelled in the time by ourselves to try four of the seven fine dining restaurants that were included in our ‘NCL Free At Sea Package’. (This perk, alongside a complimentary all-inclusive alcohol package, was available to those booking the ‘Free At Sea’ fare.) An evening all spent together in Cagney’s Steakhouse, however, was by far the highlight of our culinary escapades on board. The quality of food, wines, service and atmosphere was top notch and more than worth the modest cover-charge.

It goes without saying that food was high on everyone’s priorities. The array of 14 palate-pleasing dining options on board this ship made eating gratifying for all. The formal dining rooms served nightly à la carte menus and were far from ‘formal’ – instead a relaxed affair with casual dress code and ‘anytime’ dining. O’Sheehan’s Irish Pub served comfort food 24/7, so the kids took up residence there, chowing burgers, fries, nachos and soda to their hearts’ content
– with not a dollar in their pocket. The oldies, pretty set in their routine, enjoyed ‘picking and choosing’ what they fancied at the Garden Café Buffet at 5pm sharp. As for my husband and I, we revelled in the time by ourselves to try four of the seven fine dining restaurants that were included in our ‘NCL Free At Sea Package’. (This perk, alongside a complimentary all-inclusive alcohol package, was available to those booking the ‘Free At Sea’ fare.) An evening all spent together in Cagney’s Steakhouse, however, was by far the highlight of our culinary escapades on board. The quality of food, wines, service and atmosphere was top notch and more than worth the modest cover-charge.

Staterooms on Norwegian Jade come in all shapes and sizes (some inter-connecting) to suit all wallets, and we were all enthusiastic to find ours upon embarkation. We opted for balconies for the adults (the oldies liked sitting and “watching the view”) and a nearby inside option for the kids. Rooms are available that sleep four; however, I don’t suggest this unless you have small children, as it would otherwise be rather a squish. The cabins didn’t disappoint, and even the inside one was spacious; in fact, the bathroom was bigger! Although standard in facilities, what set this ship apart for us was the personalised level of service from 100 per cent of the staff. Our room attendants were advocates of this and always greeted us by name – quite a feat considering there were more than 2400 passengers on board. They went above and beyond, servicing the room twice a day, with a nightly turn-down as well. They even sorted, folded and put away my daughter’s clothes – a gesture beyond the call of duty!

When it comes to entertainment on Norwegian Jade, there’s never a dull moment. A diverse blend of comedy, singing, dancing, acrobatics, magic, game shows, discos, pools for relaxing, pools for partying and many other diversions… there was a lot that kept us busy. For the youngsters, there were complimentary supervised, age-appropriate kids’ clubs running from early morning until late at night, allowing parents freedom to relax and enjoy the facilities of the ship. My personal favourite was the spa, where I relished in an indulgent reflexology session. My husband was particularly smitten with the lengthy cocktail menu in the Spinnaker Lounge, which had a commanding view of the ocean. You could find the oldies conquering the trivia and bingo, or making new friends at the onboard Starbucks.
Although we mainly organised our own adventures, we did sample one ship-organised shore excursion to Pisa and Florence. For those whose priority is to know in advance what’s what, have a guide and eliminate any guesswork, these tours are invaluable. The oldies particularly appreciated being driven and escorted, and having no worries about missing the boat!

There is a lot more to tell about the ship, but the most memorable aspect of this cruise were its destinations. In the space of 12 days we visited 12 incredible ports, something that’s hard to match with any other means of transport. For me, the feeling while departing out of Venice, gliding past the rooftops and St Mark’s Square, was spine-tingling; sailing down the fjord into Kotor and seeing the city walls looming was thrillingly beautiful; watching the white houses perched on the cliffs of Santorini getting closer on the horizon was momentous. I had to pinch myself. What was so special was that we were experiencing it all together. The children benefitted from visiting such historical icons as Malta, Pompeii, Rome and Pisa. And as for the oldies, who may not have many trips left before health becomes a hindrance, it was truly priceless.

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