In 2006, we attended the christening and inaugural sailing of the
Pride of Hawaii. At 93,500 tons, she was the largest and most expensive
cruise ship ever to sail under the U.S. flag. The ship also completed
Norwegian Cruise Line's program of new ships purposely built to sail
Hawaiian waters.

Two years later, due to unanticipated problems operating under the
U.S. flag -- they are required by law to have a crew with 90 percent
U.S. citizens -- Norwegian Cruise Lines has just one ship, The Pride of
Aloha, remaining in Hawaiian waters under the NCL America brand.

The former Pride Of Hawaii, originally intended to be the
flagship of the NCL America fleet, has been repositioned to sail Europe
itineraries year round, and has been renamed the NCL Jade.

During her dry-dock, and the repainting of her hull artwork (an NCL
signature), she went through typical updating like replacing worn
carpeting and upholstery. A massive Jade Club Casino was also added
(replacing what were previously cabins), but the balance of the ship's
interior remains unchanged.

Other than the addition of the casino and an international crew,
little has changed in the appearance of the ship's interior. The décor
designed to reflect the Aloha Spirit of the Hawaiian Islands remains
intact, along with the island-themed Waikiki Beach Pool and Bali Hai
Bar & Grill.

What was once the Aloha Nui Café (the ship's casual buffet) has been
renamed the Garden Café (though the elevator still lists it as the
Aloha Nui Café), and the décor retains its old Hawaiian theme.

Norwegian Cruise Lines representatives confirm that the interior
décor remained unchanged in the hope that the ship might one day return
to sailing the Hawaiian Islands.

Best For People Who Want: To cruise European itineraries with dining flexibility, and an international passenger mix.

Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer: A traditional cruise experience with formal nights and a specific dress code.

Onboard Experience

While the Jade continues to sail in Europe, expect an International passenger mix, including a wide age demographic.

In April 2008 the Jade became the first NCL ship to implement an
ambitious program of upgrades referred to as Freestyle 2.0 (which is
being rolled out fleet-wide). Read the full details of the 2.0 upgrades

Immediately upon boarding, guests are greeted with champagne -- the
first step in experiencing Freestyle 2.0. Aside from new cabin
amenities, the most noticeable change is NCL's $55 million commitment
over the next two years to upgrading the ship's food with higher
quality ingredients and the addition of signature dishes to each of the
specialty restaurants.

Some other significantly upgraded amenities are focused on the
mini-suite and above cabin categories, but there are some interesting
initiatives available to guests booked into the most basic cabins.

During our sailing, NCL was experimenting with a new entertainment
program as well, which, when refined, will no doubt be expanded
fleet-wide as part of the Freestyle 2.0 project.

This ship features 10 restaurants, three swimming pools, a large spa
and beautiful public rooms. It also has a new style of accommodations:
10 Courtyard Villas, which -- along with the two Garden Villas -- make
up the largest, grandest, most luxurious, most innovative suite
complexes at sea (the entire Jewel Class of ships has similar
accommodations). The suite complex boasts a private courtyard and
sundeck with private pool, and both Courtyard and Garden Villa guests
have a concierge lounge available to them. Freestyle 2.0 has added
butler service to the exclusive amenities for Courtyard Villa

Additionally, The Jade features Bar Central -- a complex where a
martini bar, a champagne and wine bar, and a beer and whisky pub all
share a large area, but with three distinct personalities. There are
also nine other bars and lounges on the ship.


ship's interior design is vibrant -- luxurious in some areas, whimsical
in others; eclectic in some, daring in others. As a package, it comes
together beautifully to establish a comfortable and welcoming Aloha
Spirit. How well that translates for Mediterranean sailings, though,
I'm not sure. The colors of Hawaii are everywhere: fuchsia, sea blues,
greens, yellows and vivid reds abound in everything from carpet and
wall treatments to elaborate glass ceilings and light fixtures. You
won't be wowed with understated elegance on this ship, but it does
exude an energy, a feeling of coming to life.

Public Rooms

Stardust Theater, the main entertainment venue, features dramatic masks
inspired by Greek theater, though they look more Venetian. The mask
theme is carried throughout the room from the stage curtains to the
carpet. The royal blue and gold theater-style seats bedazzle the eye.
The Spinnaker Lounge's aquatic theme has carpet of oceanic waves
complete with swimming fish, white egg-cup barstools, and maple
cocktail tables topped with green tinted glass. Medusa's Lounge has
vivid purple couches and orange chairs atop a starfish carpet, and
enormous jellyfish glass decorations confuse the design even further.
Medusa's is the ship's venue for Karaoke as well as various game days
including Wii. Just off of Medusa's are several private rooms,
originally designed for private Karaoke parties, now free for private
gatherings to sing Karaoke or play Wii games on large flat-screen TVs.

Bar City is a collection of lounges, featuring Magnum's Champagne
and Wine Bar, Mixer's Martinis and Cocktail Bar, and Tankards Beer and
Whiskey Bar. Bar City has a very uptown atmosphere, and is a central
drawing point for late-evening nightlife. All the bars share the
entertainment, provided by a sole piano player.

In the central lobby area opposite the guest relations desk, the
Aloha Bar features comfortable wicker style chairs and tables; guests
can purchase premium brand coffees and pastries as well as drinks. In
the evenings, a classical quartet soothes guests.

Chairs & Loungers in Spinnakers Nightclub
Plush queen-size loungers in Medusas A king-size lounge-bed in Medusas


no doubt the food quality, variety, and taste is better in the
restaurants that carry a cover charge. However, the line's $55 million
dollar commitment to the food department is already beginning to show
improvement to cuisine throughout the ship, including the main dining

The key to fully enjoying your NCL cruise is Freestyle Dining. To
get the most out of the experience, that should include trying out the
surcharge restaurants. When you price your Jade cruise, add
approximately $100 -- $120 per person to the quote. If that deal is
still attractive, book and enjoy all that Jade has to offer.


two main dining rooms are the Grand Pacific and the Alizar. Other
options include the French restaurant, Le Bistro; the Asian Fusion
restaurant, Jasmine Garden; Teppanyaki, with Benihana-style Japanese
tabletop cooking, where the theatre of the preparation is a large part
of the meal; the Steakhouse, Cagney's; a casual Italian trattoria,
Papa's Italian Kitchen; a Tex-Mex, tapas, and salsa restaurant,
Paniolo; the buffet restaurant, Garden Cafe (and its outdoor portion,
Great Outdoor Café); as well as a 24-hour restaurant featuring American
comfort foods, the Blue Lagoon.

Grand Pacific is inspired by first-class dining rooms from the
Matson Line ships that sailed from San Francisco to Honolulu. Artwork
around the room -- paintings of traditional Polynesian life -- is
derived from the menu covers from the Matson Line. The Alizar is
smaller and simpler in decor, but features the same menu.

Garden Court Carving Station Outdoor Grill near Garden Cafe

Teppenaki Japanese Restaurant Le Bistro

The reservations-only restaurants that impose a cover charge include
Cagney's Steakhouse, decorated with palomino-style leather chairs in
yellow and black; Paniolo Tapas Bar & Restaurant, which takes its
name from the Hawaiian cattle ranchers, or paniolos, at Parker Ranch on
the island of Hawaii; Jasmine Garden Asian Restaurant, the ship's Asian
Fusion venue, with a good variety of seafood selections and teriyaki
meats; and Papa's Italian Kitchen, offering custom pizzas and a wide
selection of Italian pastas and meats, as well as a delightful
antipasto cart brought to the table.

If something lighter than a full menu in the dining room is more
your style, there is the buffet-style Garden Cafe on the Lido deck,
which also serves as an evening casual restaurant, adding tablecloths
and tables set with cutlery. Food is served fresh from action
stations as part of the Freestyle 2.0 program. Weather permitting,
there are frequent barbecues on deck, particularly in the afternoon
when passengers return from port visits. The ice cream bar dishes up
sundaes, sherbets, and plain old ice cream.

NCL is presently evaluating a change in the costs of the various
surcharge restaurants As a result, pricing information could be
inaccurate. Surcharges at the moment vary between $10 and $30 per
person, depending on which restaurant you choose.

Electronic boards at all restaurant entrances display which
facilities have tables available, and are full. If you have to wait,
you'll get a pager that will flash when your table is ready. On our
sailing, I rarely saw a line for any restaurants.


the change from Pride of Hawaii's American crew to the Jade's more
traditional international crew, service is very much in line with what
one would expect on any of the mass market lines. I found the crew
friendly and eager to please, in both the public rooms and the dining
rooms and restaurants.


our cruise, the Jade was experimenting with a new entertainment program
that will be tweaked and adjusted until it's ready to be expanded

Gone are the familiar pool-side activities, replaced by a program of
almost non-stop events throughout the day, including a program of
seminars dubbed NCL U. These cover a variety of topics, like Beers,
Margaritas, and Martinis; digital photography; or how to use
improvisation techniques in everyday life, taight by the Second City
Comedy Troupe onboard.

The new entertainment program includes having the Second City Comedy
Troupe appear in a variety of forms almost every night in the Spinnaker
Lounge, now dubbed the Spinnaker Cabaret.

On evenings when Second City isn't performing, there's an
interactive production of Tony and Tina's Wedding, and another night
NCL hosts a new White Hot Party Night. The White Hot Party will soon
be found throughout the fleet. Even with Jade's busy, port-intensive
itinerary, the cabaret was filled with passengers dressed in white
(with White Hot T-shirts available for sale in the hallway in case you
didn't pack white), led by the energetic cruise staff in a frenzied
disco party.

Another initiative, Monte Carlo Night in the casino, was promoted
quite extensively, and though the cruise staff attended, dressed as
showgirls, jokers, etc, to try and energize the place, I think it
struck most as simply an attempt to draw people into the casino.

With all the NCL U programs, production shows and headliners, the
entertainment action is almost continuous throughout the day and
evening. The intent is to make certain guests are Free to Whatever
and whenever.

Over time, I'm sure they'll determine which activities are popular
with passengers and which are not, and then try some new things to
replace the latter. But inevitably this program will spread throughout
the fleet, as it builds on the Freestyle idea. There was so much
going on around the ship that there was no way I could even get a peek
at everything, let alone participate in it all.

Those who want to stay busy all the time won't be disappointed with
the Jade, and those who want to enjoy the sun and the ship without
getting involved certainly won't have trouble doing so.


upscale luxury, check out the ship's two Garden Villas. Each one offers
more than 4,390 sq. ft. of luxury living, complete with butler and
concierge service. Each villa has three bedrooms, each with a king or
queen-size bed and private luxury bath; and access to a private
courtyard with pool, hot tub and sundeck. The villas also feature
cappuccino machines.

There are two Owner's Suites and 10 Courtyard Villas, whose
occupants share a beautiful courtyard area with pool, hot tub and

Also available are Penthouse Suites, Romance Suites, Mini-suites
with private balconies, Ocean View cabins with balconies, standard
Ocean View staterooms, and inside staterooms. The ship also offers 27
state-of-the-art wheelchair and handicapped-accessible cabins. The top
suites come with their own espresso machines, and all staterooms have
in-cabin coffee makers (which I found surprisingly handy, even though
free room service was available).

The Freestyle 2.0 upgrades shine through in the top 48 suites. They
have been furnished with the Bliss Collection of new bedding, which
includes Euro-top mattresses, a full pillow menu, and down-filled

As well as the private courtyard, the Courtyard Villa occupants now
have butler service during the day, and also can take advantage of
small versions of the buffet's action stations and snacks.

These suites' guests also have access to a private area, formerly an
overflow room for Cagney's steakhouse, accessed electronically by
inserting a cabin entry card. Here suite passengers can get breakfast
and lunch, either made-to-order from a menu, or from a small buffet.
Morning breakfast portions seemed small, but the staff was happy to
double them up on request.

Owner's Suite Owner's Suite Dining Area

Bar and Bedroom Entrance Master Bedroom

Private Pool Deck View from other end

Outdoor Balinese Beds Cabanas surround the pool

There are plenty of choices in standard cabin categories. The
standard cabins are a bit small by industry norms, but well designed,
decorated in cherrywood veneers, and bright colors. I particularly
liked the bathroom design, with a toilet separated from the sink by a
sliding glass door, and the shower with a sliding glass door opposite.
The Jade also has quite a selection of family-friendly connecting
staterooms including a category of family suites.

The mattresses in the standard cabins, while not furnished with the
Bliss Collection, had upgraded bedding and duvets, and a foam cover
above the mattresses.

I did have two issues with the cabins -- at least my standard
balcony cabin. The lighting was lacking, making the cabin interior very
dim; and there didn't seem to be (at least I never found it) one switch
to turn off the various lights. My other problem was with the tables.
Both the night stands and the desk were more like simple table tops
on chrome stands. None had any drawers or storage space, and the desk
chair is really more like a kitchen chair.

The ship's public rooms have WiFi access, but for in-cabin computer use you'll need to bring along a cable.


Pool Deck, Sports Deck and Sun Deck are expansive and sheltered from
the wind. You'll enjoy the views they offer as you sail into a
spectacular port. Forward on the Pool Deck, the fitness center has one
room filled with up-to-date equipment, and another for aerobics
classes. The free weights area can accommodate only one person at a
time. A full-size basketball/volleyball/tennis court on the Sports
Deck, two golf driving ranges, a batting cage, jogging track and
aerobics classes scheduled throughout the day round out the program.

The Steiner-run Ying & Yang Health Spa & Beauty Salon
includes massage and steam rooms. Some of the traditional massage
treatments they offer are derivatives and may not be as authentic as
those provided by authentic therapists who practice the disciplines in
their native habitat. Also note that service fees in the Spa include a
space for an additional tip, but it does not go to your therapist -- it
is pooled -- so if you want to tip your therapist personally, take


charges $10 per day per passenger to your shipboard account, an amount
that is commensurate with other cruise lines. However, on NCL the
charge is referred to as a service fee and unlike other lines, NCL
guests cannot have the charge removed.


Cruising means you can get as dressed up -- or down -- as you please.
But it doesn't mean that you're free to wear shorts in restaurants or
public areas after 6 p.m.

There are several nights designated as formal, though dressing
formally is entirely at the option of the passenger. I was indeed
surprised that perhaps 30 percent of the passengers on our cruise did
wear suits or even tuxedos on formal nights.