A Mediterranean Cruise by Norwegian Jade
August 15–22, 2015
Prologue on What Kindled it!
During June 3–9, 2012 Lalitha and I were visiting Turkey (More about Turkey visit in my Travelogue of Summer of 2012). By late evening on June 5th we checked into Hotel Ilayda at Kusadasi. On June 6th 2012 we sat down for breakfast on the terrace restaurant and saw a cruise ship that had berthed. My camera on full zoom revealed 100s of tourists dis-embarking from the ship. My dream for going on a cruise took shape on that day.
On August 19, 2015 (3 years, 2 months, 14 days later) we sat down for breakfast on the open deck Garden Restaurant of our NCL cruise ship and I saw Hotel Ilayda through my binoculars. But even with full zoom I could not get a good picture due to foggy conditions.
About the Cruise Line, Cruise Liner (Ship) and Cruise Route
We chose Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) for our cruise, for no particular reason other than that one of Sharon’s (my daughter) acquaintances had just completed a cruise with NCL and was extremely happy with the experience.
The route for our cruise was Venice-Dubrovnik (Croatia)-Piraeus (Greece)-Kusadasi (Turkey)-Split (Croatia)-Venice with a schedule and route details as given in the Tables.
The ship for the cruise was Norwegian Jade. The Jade belongs to Jewel class (93,550 GT) and was built by Meyer Werft of Germany. The Jewel was the largest ship in use, until the construction of Epic, at 153,000-GT class, built in 2009 at STX Europe.
Picture below gives an idea of different decks, key to decipher symbols, some gross statistics about Norwegian Jade and the deck 09, and floor plan of deck 09 on which we stayed in Rooms 9521 & 9523.
Norwegian Jade dwarfs any transport vehicle I have seen or boarded. Apart from impressive statistics like “it can carry close to 4000 people” (including crew) other details on what it offers inside can be mind blowing!
There are 17 dining options on board. Of the 17 places 8 are freestyle and whatever you eat at these 8 places, any number of times a day, is included in the Cruise fare. Out of the 8 places one (Blue Lagoon) is open 24 hrs! The Garden Café seats close to 1500 people and offers cuisine from across the world and is open from early in the morning to late at night! Other places are A-la Carte and require you to book your seat.
There are 15 Bars & lounges sprinkled across decks. Drinks are not included in the cruise fare and one has to pay for drinks. Luggage check at boarding is strict regarding carrying drinks on board. Guests must either surrender their bottle at the time of boarding and claim it back at the time of disembarking OR pays corkage!
Swimming pools (2 pools and a kid’s pool) are favorites of many tourists with pool side grill. One can slip out of the pool to pick what you wish to eat/drink and slip back into the pool!
Sports and fitness enthusiasts have a basketball, volleyball & tennis court, a fitness center and jogging/walking track and also a Spa and Salon.
Young guests have ‘Entourage Teen Club’ and ‘Splash Academy’ for still younger crowd and baby-sitting facility for tiny-tots.
Star Dust Theater is like any theater one may have seen on shore and can seat close to 1500; and puts up 2 shows each night. Star Dust is at the bow and occupies decks 6 & 7. We enjoyed the musical, magic show and circus show at Star Dust.
There is a lending library on board, shopping center, Casino, Internet Cafe, Meeting Rooms, an ATM, etc.
For the devout there is a Chapel right at the bow on Deck 13.
One can take a deck chair on the port or starboard side of the Jade to relax and watch the infinite expanse of the sea or read a book. One can also go to Deck-11 to the Bridge View and relax on any of enormously comfortable chairs and fall asleep!
Before and After the Cruise
Cruise was to start and end at Venice, Italy. This choice was on purpose. During our trip to Italy in 2012 we had skipped Venice in favor of Chinque Tera (More about this stunning place in my travelogue of Summer of 2012). This choice of cruise was a good way to see Venice.
Sharon had compared various options to reach Venice and we decided on driving down. A hired car, driven by Ashraf will take us to Venice and will be parked at the harbour for 8 days and will bring us back. We will drive through Innsbruck, Austria, Lake Garda Se known for its serene beauty and one night’s stay at Padua on the way up. On our drive back we will visit Verona (Romeo & Juliet fame).
Actual Cruise was a great travel experience and narrated only briefly here.
August 15, 2015
We were at the passenger port at Venice by 11:50 hrs. We parked the car and handed over our bags to Norwegian Jade and took the water-bus to St Marks Square. The Square was a great expanse of a place. Walked around till 14:30 hrs and took the return leg by the water-bus and headed straight to the boarding point ‘107–108’. We checked in and were finally on the boarding bridge and into the ship. We let ourselves to be awed by size of the ship (whatever we could see of it) and headed to the Garden Restaurant for some refreshments.
Announcements followed requesting all to assemble at the Star Dust theater on Deck-06/07 for a demonstration of the emergency procedure. After that formality we headed for our state rooms (a bit cramped). Dinner followed. The Star Dust theater hosted ‘SHOUT’ a Musical play. Ahaan was sleepy by 22:30 hrs and we all retired for the day.
August 16, 2015
We woke up to see “Freestyle Daily” under the door. This 4 (or 8 on some days) pager will find its way to each room early each morning and gave a peep into what that day had to offer to guests on board.
By 13:00 hrs we could spot Dubrovnik. But heavy storm had gathered and rain lashed and the ship kept a safe distance from the shore. All access to passages leading to port and starboard side railings was blocked for safety reasons. There were other ships similarly lying in wait for weather to calm. Finally the storm passed and sea became calm. Passengers assembled on port side for a view of Dubrovnik. Finally we berthed at 15:30 hrs (delayed by 90 minutes).
We rushed to the old city by a local bus. Strong winds and heavy rains resumed. We hurriedly bought new umbrellas and raincoats but failed to keep ourselves dry! Lalitha, Sharon and kids took the bus back to the ship. Ashraf and I walked the streets within the walled old city, drank hot coffee, walked some more and finally headed back.
As we approached the ship Lalitha and others joined us on the wharf. We took pictures with the ship as a backdrop, shopped for souvenirs and boarded.
Star Dust theater put up a show — ‘Angels’ that packaged a spectacular acrobatic show. After the show we stayed awake till midnight exploring the ship. Stepped into a 24 hrs restaurant at midnight for a snack and finally hit the bed by 01:30 hrs.
August 17, 2015
Norwegian Jade had set course from Dubrovnik at 21:00 hrs on 16th and had to cover the 1080 km of sea route taking 33 hrs to reach its next port of call. Jade will be at sea whole of August 17th and will arrive at Pireaus port, Athens, Greece by 07:00 am on 18th morning.
We had slept late last night and hence woke up late. We stepped out of our rooms after setting our watches forward by 1 hour (we had crossed time zones). We seated ourselves at the stern part of ship for a leisurely breakfast . The ship-trail was visible as far as eyes could see.
Today was one of two days fully at sea. This is when we planned to explore the ship.
We visited “Splash Academy” for kids and enrolled Ahaan for a 2 hours painting lesson.
We then visited the library, walked aimlessly the length and breadth of couple of decks.
We walked up to the viewing room near the bridge at the bow (Deck 11) and slumped onto cushioned sofa. The unchanging visual that stretched up to the horizon was relaxing and the vastness of the sea was a thing to behold and internalize.
We stopped by the pool to watch the Officers Vs Guests Pool Volleyball competition and the “Mr Sexy Legs Competition” that followed. We stretched on poolside chairs sipping fresh juice and biting into crisp cookies.
Anytime, any of us felt like snacking we stumbled into Garden Cafe to pick our favorite items from rows and rows of food!
There were many guests who were aboard as a group. There was one large family that had come together on this cruise to celebrate the birthday of their patriarch. They were out wearing identical, custom made T-shirts that announced the event.
The true pleasure of being on a cruise seeped into us.
Night fell. We were at Garden Cafe looking for good seating. Splash Academy put up a show of tiny tots all dressed as angels who walked through the cafe to loud cheers from diners.
We slowly walked from the Garden cafe at the stern to Star Dust at the bow. Hains put up a grand magic show. Ahaan was mighty thrilled and got himself photographed with the leading couple of the magic show.
We called it day and walked back to the room. As we reach our room Ahaan’s curiosity would hit the roof. Housekeeping would has cleaned up the rooms and done the beds. One of the towels will be folded into an animal shape and left on the bed. Tonight it was an Elephant.
August 18, 2015. Tuesday. Day-4.
We were up early morning for a quick breakfast and ready to disembark at Piraeus and a sightseeing trip of historic city of Athens. This write up is on the Cruise and hence I am not detailing the shore excursions.
We got into a Hop-on-Hop-Off bus and headed for Athenian Acropolis. Huge amphitheater and the remains (450 BC) of Parthenon, a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena, whom the people of Athens considered their patron stood majestically.
One more hop and we were at the Temple of Olympian Zeus, dedicated to Olympian Zeus, head of the Olympian gods (6th Century BC).
Another hop and we were at the city centre, walking the streets and tasting local fare.
Last hop took us back to the wharf. We boarded, showered and chose to eat at an A-la-carte restaurant instead of at the Garden Cafe.
Start Dust put up a follow-on Magic Show.
Finally we headed for our rooms. Ashraf found an envelope by their bedside. Sanjana was the youngest on board and the Captian will meet her along with parents (and we assumed that the grand parents are included too) in his office on 20th August 2015.
August 19, 2015. Wednesday. Day-5
Jade berthed at Kusadasi by 08:00 hrs. We were ready having finished breakfast. Ship had berthed with its stern towards the shore where Hotel Ilyada stood. It is from Ilyada’s roof restaurant that I had spotted the cruise ship on June 6, 2012.
We had spent 2 days at Kusadasi in 2012 (that travelogue is yet to be uploaded to Medium) and had seen Ephesus and all sights in and around. So Sharon and Ashraf took a shore excursion while Lalitha and I took charge of Sanjana and Ahaan and walked the streets near the wharf. Later during the day Sharon and Ashraf returned and we walked to the nearby fort.
Star Dust had announced a Rock show. We decided to skip it and instead lay on deck chairs watching the waves below and night sky above.
August 20, 2015. Thursday. Day-6
Norwegian Jade had set course from Kusadasi at 17:00 hrs on 19th and had to cover the 1450 km of sea route taking 43 hrs to reach its next port of call. Jade will be at sea whole of August 20th and will arrive at Split, Croatia by 11:00 am on 21st morning.
It was another day for exploring the ship. We pick up souvenirs from the gift shops.
At 11:00 hrs we reported to Captain’s office. Captain Stefan Norberg is commanding the Norwegian Jade. We enjoy his hospitality. Sanjana gets her plaque for being the youngest member on board the Jade. We step out to explore more of the ship.
Star Dust put up a spectacular show ‘Elements’. Dance, music and finally special show by officers and staff of Jade.
August 21, 2015. Thursday. Day-6
By 11:00 hrs we berthed at Split, a Croatian port city. The old historic port was just a short walk away from where we had berthed. The old, walled city lay in ruins just across the old port.
We explored the place on foot. First the old city, then the beach and finally did some shopping for souvenirs.
We ran into Mr Uzeir Basic, a Croatian Collector. He had on display hand-held coffee grinder in brass. Coming from Wayanad that prides itself as a Coffee producing place we bought one.
Back in the ship we spent the final hours on board walking around.
August 22, 2015. Friday. Day 7.
We woke up early. Had our last breakfast on board. Packed our bags and were ready to disembark. Jade berthed by 08:00 hrs. A unique travel experience came to an end.
On our drive back we stopped by Verona, the city that provided the backdrop for the romantic and tragic story of ‘Romeo & Juliet’ by Shakespeare. One of the attractions was Juliet’s window that jutted out of the building. The passage to the building had its wall filled with graffiti. Couples scrambled to leave their own messages on the wall. I saw men lift their partners on their shoulders so that their scribble can go above the heavily overwritten parts of the wall. It was great fun. There was clear declaration that there is no historic record of the story and not even a clear idea which building or window Shakespeare had in mind when he wrote Romeo & Juliet. An enterprising local had created a balcony that fitted the description in the play and over the years crowds did not seem to care that it is NOT THE BALCONY!
We finally reached home! As we ate dinner we relived the moments we had spent on board the Jade. Before we said good night we had already promised ourselves another cruise!