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The cruising public had its first taste of Norwegian Cruise Line’s (NCL) Freestyle 2.0 enhancements on a Mediterranean cruise aboard the Norwegian Jade this spring. The upgrades take Freestyle Cruising to the next level with a series of improvements that include upgraded stateroom amenities and services across all categories; new, expanded restaurant menus; and an increase in the variety and quality of onboard activities for guests of all ages. The entire NCL fleet is expected to have the new 2.0 features by the end of the summer.
The Norwegian Jade
The 2.0 initiative was driven by guest and travel partner feedback and was funded by a $1 billion investment by Apollo Management, which has taken a 50 percent stake in NCL.
It didn’t take long to get a taste of the new 2.0, as all guests aboard the Norwegian Jade were greeted with a complimentary glass of champagne before heading to their staterooms. Inside, they found beds outfitted with upgraded linens, duvets and new euro pillows, atop Bliss Memory beds with pillow-top mattresses. Bathrooms now feature Elemis amenities, while the minibar is customized accordingly to the requests of each guest onboard.
Clients who book a balcony stateroom or mini-suite are entitled to dedicated check-in and priority disembarkation, personal escort to their stateroom and use of a priority restaurant reservations hotline. Those who reserve top-of-the line suites and villas receive several extra privileges, including concierge and butler service, a daily selection of canapes and entry to private breakfast and lunch at Cagney’s Restaurant.
Since it was introduced in 2000, Freestyle dining has been key to the appeal of the NCL guest experience. There are 11 restaurants on the Jade, and 2.0 dining enhancements begin with newer and bigger menus in every eatery. Clients who crave lobster will be especially pleased with Lobster Galore, a new dining option offered on multiple days in the main restaurant and served in all specialty restaurants every night of the cruise. There’s also a new steak and eggs breakfast feast with unlimited Bloody Marys and mimosas served in the Teppanyaki restaurant.
Other meal enhancements include a signature specialty dish in every restaurant, such as Gold Angus Rib Eye Steak (cote de boeuf) in Le Bistro French Restaurant; osso bucco in Papa’s Italian Restaurant and a 48-ounce Porterhouse in Cagney’s Steakhouse. There are also better buffets built around action stations and a new, very elaborate salad bar open for lunch on days at sea.
The enhanced dining experience on the Jade and the rest of the NCL fleet represents an investment of more than $50 million over the next two years, which equates to a 20 percent increase in food expenditures for each guest.
A host of 2.0 onboard activities introduced on the Jade add pizzazz to the daily agenda. A major highlight is NCL-U — a series of programs and classes grouped into four categories: Digital Age and Technology; Destination Education; Food Wine and Spirits; and Comedy and Humor, which features instruction in improvisational comedy led by members of the Second City comedy troupe. Classes include lectures on digital photography; lessons in organic cooking; bartending and French pastry making; and wine and spirits education/participation classes.
Freestyle 2.0 has also transformed the pool deck experience by introducing a more relaxed, less hectic atmosphere. Now, guests can bask in the sun to the soothing sounds of ambient music, enjoy peace and tranquility in designated quiet zones and be refreshed with cold towels and Evian spritzers provided by crew members throughout the day.
Evening entertainment includes four new, off-Broadway musicals, an expanded Second City comedy show, a dance production by award-winning choreographer Twyla Tharp and a staging of the hit audience participation show, "Tony ‘n’ Tina’s Wedding." The 2.0 features also include a Seaday Jazz Brunch with cool jazz and hot Belgian waffles or Eggs Benedict and guests can party until dawn at two new themed parties — a White Hot Night and Monte Carlo Night.www.ncl.com
Entering service in April 2006 as the Pride of Hawaii, the 2,400-passenger vessel was reflagged and renamed the Norwegian Jade on Feb. 10. After the renaming, NCL repositioned the ship to Europe where it began its inaugural year of European cruises on March 30.
The move into Europe has certainly diversified he Jade’s passenger mix, with a much larger share — nearly half on our cruise — from different countries.
The biggest change to the ship has been the addition of a casino, which was prohibited in Hawaii service. The Jade Club casino, which has a traveling circus theme, is now in full operation.
The Jewel-class ship had its hull art changed and soft goods renewed. The former Aloha Nui buffet is now the garden cafe and, of course, the Hawaiian cultural display from the Bishop Museum is gone; however, Hawaiian historic images have been left aboard.
There are also changes in the back of the house. With the competitive nature of employment sourcing today, NCL also upgraded crew facilities. In an effort to battle the state of the dollar compared to landside wages in other currencies and cruise industry competition for experienced crew, all cruise lines are offering more comfortable leisure facilities and upgraded meals. NCL’s 2.0 is a definitive move in that direction.
The first ship in NCL’s 41-year history to homeport in Europe year-round, Norwegian Jade will remain in Europe through spring 2010. The Jade’s schedule of 2008 sailings includes a series of 12-day Eastern Mediterranean itineraries with stops in Rome; Athens; Ephesus, Greece; Alexandria, Greece; and Valletta, Malta. There are also nine-day Canary Islands/Morocco cruises that include calls at Casablanca and Agadir, Morocco; Las Palmas in the Canary Islands; the island of Madeira, Portugal; and Granada, Spain.