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We've been with both Princess, P&O and Jade-loved them all but slightly preferred Jade, for the informality, mix of ages and nationalities. We never once had to book for a meal nor were given a pager, but if we thought somewhere was full we'd stroll on to the next place. Obviously more people dine around 7pm, so queues build at that time. We are older and are childless so cannot say much about 3 in a cabin, but our balcony cabin was the same as Sea Princess or Aurora in size and facilities. We stored our bottles on the shelf above the safe, but agree there could be better shelving in the bathroom-there are only 2 shelves and the sink surround. We found no problems with this cabin on a 12 night cruise, and are sailing for the same length of time in 3 weeks.
Sorry I replied twice-my first reply seemed to disappear into the ether, so wrote it out again as the house slowly filled with people! Obviously Mr/s. Bradbury has a good point about the inside cabins, and Wilba has much more experience than I, so if he says Princess is a league above NCL, then he's sure to be right.-Jo.
Just bear in mind that NCL is freestlye. If you wish to eat in the main dining room you have to book a table each day. You cannot book it days in advance. Its a daily chore and if you decide to leave it and go on spec they always tell you to come back 1/2 hr later and issue you with a pager to bleep you when a table is available. Having said that there are plenty of dining options. Personally I found it lacking in venues, there did not seem to be many bars lounges, indeed it looked like one of the original lounges had been converted to a Casino. We had the highest grade inside for 3 of us. The cabin was one of the smallest I have ever been in and Storage space was minimal, we were only on for a weekend and I could barely fit all our belonginings in the wardrobe and shelves. Defineately no good for a longer cruise! Also there was no shelving or storage in the bathroom - nowhere to store your sunlotions, shampoos, bottles etc. Princess is a totally different kettle of fish, more formal, lovely spacious cabins, better food. need I say more. Just look at the reviews on this site and make up your mind which suits you best.
Our Jade cabin was the same size as Sea Princess and Aurora, but it was a balcony. I agree the bathroom could have more storage-2 shelves and the basin surround, but our other bottles fitted on the shelf by the safe, and we had ample storage for our 12 day cruise. Agreed, we are older and childless, so cannot say what it would be like with one using the bed settee, but it was fine for a 12 day cruise. The shower is in its own cubicle with a door, which is a plus. We never once waited for a meal nor were given a pager, and only booked for the speciality ones. We have enjoyed every cruise we've ever been on, buy slightly prefer Jade and are on her again in 3 weeks. Remember it is not British run, has a mix of ages, has none Brits on board and is completely informal. Enjoy your planning!-Jo.
Mr/Mrs Billing was enquiring about cheapest (insides) on Jade: the insides are 15 sq. metres but like you say (and I did have a peek in some) the Balcony cabins are much more spacious at 19 sq. metres.
The insides did not even have a sofa just a single normal upright desk chair and hence due to the size far less storage space.
To add further to my answer below: personally I would recommend RCI - you say they seem to be booked for August, guess you were looking at Independance. Have you looked at the alternatives on Legend or Brilliance. Just tested one out on Brilliance in Aug from Barcelona- this has availability for around £1000 less that Princess CRUISE ONLY. If you are brave enough to book you own flights on one of the cheap airlines and make your own way there. Didnt check out price with flights but you can go to RCI site and do this yourself - you have a choice click; with air or cruise only.
RCI have some good deals in August, Splendour out of Venice on this very site with OBC/additional overnight stays in Venice is a further option to Mrs B's suggestions & by adding your own cheapo flights a good saving could be made. Princess are a league above NCL in my opinion, particularly the Grand & it's sister's.......Wilba