Norwegian cruises take a two day all-inclusive trip to Hamburg
It’s a blistering 32C degrees and I’m contemplating a dip in one of two rippling turquoise pools.
You’d be forgiven for thinking I’m sunning it in St Barts or St Tropez, but I’m not. I’m overlooking the rather less glamorous Southampton docks from the deck of Norwegian Jade, the first Norwegian Cruise Line ship to depart from the UK since 2010.
As the afternoon’s live music reaches its crescendo I watch a pair of cheery, ruddy-faced men dancing along with an elaborate cocktail in each hand and notice the vibe on board seems rather lively for 3pm on a Tuesday.
This may or may not have something to do with Norwegian’s latest offering, the premium all-inclusive package which all UK cruisers now receive as standard.
According to Nick Wilkinson, NCL’s general manager for Northern Europe, the Middle East and African regions, around 18 per cent of the holiday market are booking an all-inclusive trip each summer. “Some people like to know that once the holiday is paid for there’s no further expense,” explains Nick.
“We want to compete with all-inclusive resorts and attract the new-to-cruise market.
“By offering our new premium all-inclusive package as standard, we’re bridging the gap between land and sea.”
Norwegian Jade has recently undergone a multi-million-pound bow-to-stern refurbishment
And judging by the cheerful crowd, it’s been very well received.
Norwegian Jade – formerly known as the Pride of Hawaii – has recently undergone a multi-million-pound bow-to-stern refurbishment.
It’s a blistering 32C degrees and I’m contemplating a dip in one of two rippling turquoise pools
The once garish décor has been replaced with a more neutral palette of warm creams and soft greys, light wood panelling and modernist artworks. The jewel-class vessel (NCL’s largest ships) carries up to 2,402 passengers and 1,037 crew and offers several exciting itineraries departing from Southampton including Western Europe, the North Cape, Iceland and the Norwegian fjords.
There’s also a two-night taster cruise from Southampton to Hamburg, which is the one I’m testing out.
The ship sets sail at 8pm without the horn-tooting pomp and ceremony I was expecting. In fact, I barely notice the lights of Southampton falling away as I tuck into pan-fried scallops and rare rib of beef in the elegant, wood-panelled Grand Pacific dining room.
Despite her modern facelift, it’s nice to see an element of old-school cruising. NCL’s “feel free” concept loosens the reins of formal dining and allows smart jeans and casual dress in all restaurants.
The revamp has also brought in two new dining options.
O’Sheehan’s, a 24-hour Irish themed bar and grill, is great for midnight hunger pangs, while the poolside American-style Pit Stop diner offers an all-day snack menu of burgers and hot dogs.
There’s also a brace of new bars, which I selflessly try out.
The sleek Bliss Ultra Lounge is a popular spot, not least because of the nightly karaoke, while the stylish Sugercane mojito bar next to Moderno Churrascaria on Deck 13 attracts a young, thirsty crowd. There’s so much to do onboard, I fear two days is not nearly long enough. There are 12 dining options and 15 bars to choose from, a full casino and the Stardust Theatre, which has twice-nightly shows including the brilliant Pampas Devils, an entrancing (and loud) gaucho show hailing from Buenos Aires.
But two nights is a great option if you’re new to cruising. For joiners there are plenty of activities throughout the day, from big-money bingo in the Spinnaker Bar to oil painting, napkin folding and line-dancing workshops in various bars and lounges.
If you’re on a longer cruise, there’s also a full gym and daily fitness classes and the swish Mandara Spa to try out, which has 22 treatment rooms, two thermal suites and a beauty salon.
After plodding about the ship, I make the most of the sun and hunker down with a good book on the pool deck. Unlike the Caribbean, a brisk wind whips off the English Channel so myself and my fellow passengers stay bravely fortified by the cocktail of the day.
If you want a more exclusive adventure or for a special occasion, you can upgrade to The Haven, NCL’s signature “ship within a ship” experience, which has larger, villa-style suites, 24-hour butlers, private dining and an exclusive spa area.
The once garish décor has been replaced with a more neutral palette of warm creams and soft greys
After dinner in Le Bistro, the ship’s French-inspired fine dining option, I head to Spinnaker’s Bar to road-test their cocktail list.
I’m shaking up the dance floor to Taylor Swift when I see the twinkling lights of land as we sail into Hamburg in the early hours of Thursday, a sure sign I should head to bed.
Disembarking starts early, which gives passengers time to explore Hamburg’s museums and historic old town before flying home. A two-night taster cruise has been enormous fun. For some, it’s little more than a posh booze cruise but it’s given me a real taste for life on the ocean waves.
Norwegian Cruise Lines (0333 2412319/ncl.com) offers a two-night cruise from SouthamptonHamburg June 29 – July 1, 2018, from £319, (two sharing an inside stateroom).
Price includes alcoholic drinks up to $15 (£12), soft drinks, meals and gratuities.
Eurowings (0330 365 1918/eurowings.com) offers flights from Hamburg to London Heathrow from £35 (one way).
Hamburg tourism: hamburg. com