Norwegian Jade has had the most unusual career of Norwegian Cruise Line's Jewel class ships. Built in the same German shipyard as her sisters, she was nonetheless authorized to fly the flag of the United States and entered service as Pride Of Hawaii in 2006. She then cruised around Hawaii for two years as part of Norwegian's NCL America operation.
When Norwegian decided to scale back NCL America, the ship was brought into the main Norwegian fleet, renamed Norwegian Jade and given a Bahamas registration. However, the ship was based in the Mediterranean and did not sail out of the mainland U.S. until 2015. Thus, while the other Jewels are familiar to North American cruisers, Norwegian Jade has been something of a a connoisseurs' ship
We spoke with Captain Kim Karlson and Hotel Director Mirsad Bucuk to find out more about the Jade.
As noted above, the Jade is a Jewel class ship. Her close sisters are Norwegian Jewel, Norwegian Pearl and Norwegian Gem. Norwegian Dawn and Norwegian Star were built on the same hull design but are slightly smaller in terms of gross tonnage.
The Jewel class ships are medium size ships. They are not small but are not as big as the most recent Norwegian ships such as Norwegian Escape. “This is a fabulous ship, not too big, not too small,” commented Captain Karlson.
This class of ship enjoys a high reputation for their nautical qualities. “In this class, we probably have more power than we have on the bigger ones. These are probably easier to handle and take more wind. I can't really say because I haven't been on the big ones.”
The ships have a top speed of over 25 knots. However, “normally, we are running with three engines and that gives anywhere up to 21 knots. That's a pretty comfortable and economical speed.”
An extensive refit
In early 2017, the Jade underwent a refit in a dry dock in the Bahamas. The goal was to give her a more contemporary look and to make her more like her Jewel class sister ships.
“The Jade had a 100 percent Hawaiian look decor. We went into drydock for three weeks and removed all the Hawaiian décor from the chandeliers, the lights, the carpets, the paintings. She is totally different now, inside.” explained Mr. Bucuk.
Almost all of the public rooms received a facelift. “Only the casino was not touched.”
In addition to the cosmetic changes, several of the public areas were significantly altered. For example, the mezzanine area overlooking the main atrium used to have the Blue Lagoon fast food restaurant on the port side and the Moderno specialty restaurant on the starboard side. During the refit, Moderno was moved to Deck 13 and the entire mezzanine area converted into O'Sheehan's Bar and Grill. “This is working very good when we are in the States.”
“We used to have in three karaoke rooms the Bliss Lounge,. They removed them and now it is looking bigger.”
“In the Spinnaker, we removed all the blinds New furniture, new carpets, new bar design.”
“The Photo Gallery is new with digital screens. The Atrium is new. The stairways, forward, midships and aft, new paintings in each landing area”
“ The Garden Cafe, we removed everything, the tiles, the carpets, the seats so everything is new.” The other restaurants also received new furniture, carpet and decoration.
In addition to the public areas, the accommodations were refurbished. “Each cabin, we changed the carpet, Each cabin, they put in a new TV. New beds and above the beds, new lights. And the [backboard] of the bed as well. Next to the bed, USB, next to the lights. New curtains in the rooms. New furnishings on the beds. All the [old] furniture in the rooms was destroyed. New furniture in the rooms. So many things that were done in the rooms.”
“In the Haven, we removed the little gym and it is now a sitting, relaxation area. On Deck 15, we put in for the Haven, new cabanas.”
While this work was going on the ship was being upgraded technologically. “We got a totally new bridge upgrade. The latest [features] that you can ask for..” the captain said. “It is also interesting, what you see on many other companies is that the ship is done the way she is built, that's the way she stays. But here, they are continuing to monitor and upgrade, not only the public areas but also the technical side, bridge and engines.”
Jade's hull was re-painted, not for aesthetic purposes but to improve her efficiency. “You can actually fee the difference before and after. She is picking up speed much faster, the top speed goes up.”
As a result, the Jade is much more similar to her Jewel class sisters. “We are pretty much trying to give our guests the same guest experience as all the other ships in the fleet.”
Still, there are enough difference between the various Jewel class ships to give them a degree of individuality. To, illustrate, Mr. Bucuk noted: “On the Gem, the shop is forward. Here, it is aft. The Bliss is aft there. Here, Bliss is in the middle. Inside, some areas are a little different.”
Exploring new frontiers
As Pride of Hawaii, the ship only did Hawaiian cruises. After the ship became Norwegian Jade, “she was pretty much in the Mediterranean until now. We did this winter and the previous one in the U.S “ Captain Karlson said.
In the Spring of 2017, Jade moved to Northern Europe for the first time, doing cruises out of Southampton, England and Hamburg, Germany - - a much different cruise experience than what she had been doing in the Caribbean.
In the Caribbean, the guests “want sun, they want warm weather, that's pretty much it. People are there for the beaches. People are there to relax. In Europe, there is more history. You are talking thousands of years. People want to see and explore more in Europe. than in the Caribbean.”
“This demographic is over 60 overall.” Mr. Bucuk added. “They are not people who run around. The people like to be in a quiet area, watching, taking pictures, playing games, being quiet. We adjust the music in the corridors. In the fjords, we shut down the music outside so that people can hear the nature. The nighttime is not busy. Everybody eats and goes to sleep to enjoy the day tomorrow.”
The nationalities are also different. “In winter in the Caribbean, it is almost 100 percent U.S.” Captain Karlson noted. In Europe, it is an international mix. On cruises out of Southampton, British guests may be in the majority whereas in cruises out of Hamburg, there may be a majority of German guests. However, on some cruises such as cruises around the British Isles, North American guests may dominate.
“This is a different crowd for us.” Mr. Buuck continued. "We have to have training for our teams, especially in the dining rooms and restaurants about the needs of these guests. We have to adjust the service to them. Americans and English are totally two different ways of service. So we have to adjust our training for the crew to the people.”
“When we are sailing here, we have a British menu, British buffet. We are adding little things here and there.”
Another challenge is that the ship's itinerary changes throughout her European season. “Every cruise is a different one. Different ports. And the guests are coming with us for longer, nine day, 11 day cruises.”
The captain added: “Every cruise is different. In the Caribbean, you do the same seven day run week after week. Here, every week are new routes, new ports. It requires a little bit more planning but it makes it more interesting also.”
Cruise ship interview - Norwegian Cruise Line - Norwegian Jade - captain and hotel director