- The Mail On Sunday’s Bridget McGrouther enjoyed a 48-hour journey on the liner
- She was impressed with the all-inclusive package, which includes casual dining
- Guests can also splash out on the Haven area, which offers greater privacy
There was a definite buzz as I stepped aboard NCL Norwegian Jade in Southampton for a two-day mini-voyage to Hamburg.
There’s usually quite a reserved feel at the start of a cruise, but the 2,400 passengers thronged into the cafes, bars, restaurants and decks seemed full of life from the off.
Now this may just have been because a rare British heatwave had brought passengers out in their droves around the beach pools and hot tubs on deck.
Setting sail: NCL Norwegian Jade departed Southampton for a two-day mini-voyage
At the outdoor cocktail and snack bar – the Pit Stop – drinks of every colour were flying out at breakneck speed.
But this heady vibe continued long after the sun had gone down – through dinner, beyond the karaoke annihilation of many a good song and into early hours dancing in the Spinnaker Lounge.
I reckoned there was a clear reason for all this joie de vivre: the new Premium All Inclusive package. When such a wide choice of premium alcoholic beverages, gratuities, casual dining 24/7, junior and youth programmes, soft drinks, coffees and entertainment is included in the cost of your cruise, staying awake as long as possible and having a good time makes perfect sense.
The word ‘Freedom’ is banded about on Norwegian Cruise Line ships. You’re urged to ‘feel free’ to get more from your holiday.
As there are no fixed dining times or pre-assigned seating, you can eat almost anywhere you want at any time of day. Well, within reason – the dining rooms have to be open and speciality restaurants sometimes cost extra, although O’Sheehan’s bar and grill never turns away round-the-clock guzzlers.
As it was such a warm day, I decided to have lunch alfresco in the Great Outdoors aft.
Making a splash: One of the pools on Norwegian Jade
Eat your heart out: Inside one of the liner’s dining rooms
I helped myself at the buffet, found the last free table in the sun and looked around for a waiter to ask for a drink. But there was no waiter service available – I was free to order a drink at the bar myself. Afterwards, I wandered up on deck to search for a free sunbed in a quiet corner, which proved more difficult.
But I was more than happy with my Balcony Stateroom, with its sunny ocean view and en suite shower room.
I enjoyed dinner in the speciality Le Bistro French restaurant as well as the quirky live Argentinian entertainment afterwards at the packed Stardust Theatre.
After trying out more of the 15 bars and lounges, and once again dancing until the early hours, I was grateful that the fish on the carpet swimming towards the front of the ship gave me a good indication of the way back to my stateroom.
NCL (ncl.com/uk/en, 0333 2412319) offers a two-day cruise on Norwegian Jade from Southampton to Hamburg with all-inclusive prices starting from £219pp. Return flight is not included.
A nine-day, all-inclusive Norwegian Fjord round-trip cruise from Southampton costs from £1,299pp.
By morning, I was relieved that recent renovations had changed the previous psychedelic Hawaiian colour themes to much more muted and contemporary shades, meaning I was free to enjoy my hangover in rather more convivial surroundings.
Later, a guided tour of the ship revealed that some guests were enjoying far more ‘free’ perks than the rest of us.
For those who splash some extra cash, the Haven area offers the intimacy of a small ship within the larger ship.
This exclusive enclave boasts the most luxurious and spacious suites, penthouses and a lavish, three-bedroom garden villa. Haven guests enjoy ‘uncompromising’ levels of service from a 24-hour butler, concierge and private restaurant.
Peeking through the keyhole at how the privileged few live revealed a quiet, central sundeck with curtained cabanas, plunge pool and retractable roof.
But hey, we were as completely free to have as big or as little a hangover as the Haven guests…
Courtesy: Daily Mail Online