September 1st marked the auspicious debut of the first Norwegian Cruise Line ship ever to visit Newcastle’s Port of Tyne. The 93,558 ton Norwegian Jade- originally built in 2006 as the Pride of Hawaii- arrived in port on the penultimate leg of a round Britain cruise. As her 2,400 passengers poured ashore to visit such stellar local attractions as Alnwick Castle and the historic city of Durham, the ship played host to a small number of media, there to witness the formal exchange of visiting plaques between ship and port authority.
As well as the welcome news that the Norwegian Jade will be making a return to the UK next year (including three calls at Port of Tyne), there was also the chance to tour the ship (though not the cabins, which were all occupied by fare paying passengers) and sample a fine, three course lunch pared with some fulsome red wine in the ship’s beautiful Grand Pacific main dining room.
In the course of a recent, extensive refurbishment, the Norwegian Jade shrugged off many of her original colourful, slightly frantic decor elements. Now the ship is suffused with an aura of muted greys enhanced by a wash of sunlight from rows of floor to ceiling windows. The older, more funky style of furniture that once exploded around the ship like multi coloured mushrooms has been largely eschewed. In it’s place there now exists a calmer, more restrained palette that still has warmth but, at the same time, does much more to emphasise the scale and sweep of the ship.
Gone, too, are the upper deck, multi coloured water slides that resembled so many hallucinogenic spaghetti strands. This really is going against all current mainstream trends, and seems part of a more obvious resolve to raise the tone of the overall product. Though I doubt that other lines will follow soon, it’s still a pretty bold statement of intent. It fits the whole ‘pared back’ vibe of the ship quite nicely.
As always with Norwegian, a staple of in house, extra tariff dining venues take centre stage. Among them are the fabulous, French themed Le Bistro, the upper deck, American accented Cagney’s Steakhouse, and the Brazilian themed Moderno. Even the two main dining rooms continue to showcase the company’s signature ‘Freestyle Dining’; a concept that has more or less completely revolutionised the entire concept of cruise ship dining since it’s full scale introduction back in 2001.
But the Norwegian Jade is not some headlong rush into the future; parts of the ship showcase the Art Deco ocean liners of the past to near perfection. The Grand Pacific dining room is an out and out homage to the venerable old Queen Mary of 1936, with burled wood sheathing and evocative ceiling light fixtures. Meanwhile, the central, two storey ‘Bar Street’ has touches of Egyptian style lacquered panelling, and floor mounted ‘light fountains’ that are almost perfect copies of those once seen on the incomparable Normandie. And the large, upper deck SS. United States library pretty much speaks for itself.
Norwegian Jade left Port of Tyne for Southampton, there to embark on one last Scandinavia cruise before the ship returns to New York, sailing via Iceland. From there, the ship will showcase a brace of stunning fall cruises to Canada and New England, before redeploying to Miami to offer a full season of seven day Caribbean cruises from the Florida port.
With next year’s deployment of the Norwegian Jade aimed squarely at the British and German market, Norwegian Cruise Line will have a formidable competitor in place to fight for the best of the mainstream holiday family trade. And, with her on board prices now featuring all inclusive drinks as well, this stylish, thoughtfully redesigned ship offers a smart, elegant fun venue for all ages and tastes.