Barcelona: We arrived in Barcelona 2 days before the cruise. and stayed at the Atlantis Hotel which is in a great location. Our room was very small and needed some TLC but the bathroom was relatively spacious. The breakfast was quite varied and very good.
Our main goal was to see the inside of Sagrada Familia. We took a taxi from Placa Catalunya, about 6 â‚¬. Although the line was long when we arrived, it moved quickly and we were inside in about 15 minutes. We also took the elevator to the top. Apparently, there are 2 types of tickets -one way (climb down) or elevator both ways. There are some spiral concrete stair to be negotiated but the view was worth the slight climb.
We also visited Park Guell, which was filled with many students on school trips. There were some interesting structures and I would be interested to know if there were flowers later in the season.
We met up with 10 people from our Roll Call for a fun dinner near the hotel. Most of the group was staying within about 10 minutes of the restaurant.
Embarkation: We took a taxi to the port (15â‚¬). Our luggage was whisked away and we joined the line which moved quite quickly once a 2nd x-ray machine was opened. We went directly to our cabin 6113 (we took the upsellHAL offered) and then to the Lido for lunch, all within 45 minutes of arriving at the port.
Ship Related: The Nieuw Amsterdam is a beautiful ship. The crew was always smiling and always greeted you in the halls. Our stewards, Denny and Ari, did a great job in taking care of us and we were delighted with the towel animals which greeted us after dinner.
The Cruise Critic Meet and Greet was well attended and we could finally put faces to the names. The Cruise Director, Dan Bernbach spoke to the group and stayed quite a while to answer questions. Thanks Dan!
We opted for As you Wish Dining and it worked out well. They did ask for your room number every night. Food was good, not always what was expected. The Canaletto was a nice change from the Manhattan Dining Room -quiet and with a view of the passing scenery.
Entertainment: A variety of entertainment was found throughout the ship -Adagio Strings, DJ Mario, Michael in the Piano Bar - to name just a few. Show times in the Showtime at Sea theatre were 8 and 10:15 pm. ( a slight change from the Transatlantic times) My favourite was Cantare (Il Divo style singing). The Queen's Lounge featured a variety of fun entertainment at 9 each evening. The venue was usually standing room only.
Excursions: Our 4 private excursions worked out extremely well. I had arranged a transfer from Livorno to Florence with Share a Shore Excursion. They met us promptly and drove us to Florence. Equally as important is that they picked us up and returned us to the ship in a timely fashion. Everyone in the group wanted to do their own thing so this option worked well. Share a Shore also made reservations fro those who wanted to go to the Uffizzi and Accademia.
In Rome, 14 of us toured the Eternal City with Nikki of Rome in Limo. She was vey knowledgeable and passionate about her city and was thrilled to be able to show it to us. Unfortunately, the day we were there was Rome's birthday (and a Saturday) so it was very busy. I had ordered Vatican tickets for the group as soon as they were available on line and we were among the first groups to enter.
We enjoyed our tour from Naples with Giovanni of Joe Banana Limo. Again we were met promptly and it was off to Pompeii where we were among the first to enter. I really appreciated the quietness of the site after the busyness of Rome. Joe had arranged for a guide, Alphonso, who shared his vast knowledge and led us about the ruins. We were leaving just as some of the HAL tours were arriving. Because there was a change in our departure time, Joe adjusted our itinerary so we would get the most from our visit. He was instrumental in helping one of our party retrieve a forgotten camera.
We were in Italy during Cultural Week. Admission to most museums and archaeological sites was waived. For some reason, the Coliseum would not waive our admission.
Catania; 15 minute walk to Main Square
HOHO bus and tourist train; 5â‚¬ + 2â‚¬ for headphones
Out of this world Cannoli from a little shop, Andrea Gattana, on the street of arches between the port the main square.
Nauphlion: HOHO bus 5â‚¬; noticed bus was very crowded at fortress
We shared a taxi (30 â‚¬ which included a 20 minute wait at fortress) with another couple Admission to fortress is 4 â‚¬.
A supermarket and Post Office were about a 5 minute walk from the tender port. Be sure to get a ticket in the Post Office in order to be served.
It was wonderful just to sit by the waterfront and enjoy a fabulous Greek salad and gaze at the turquoise water.
Katakolon: The Port expert compared this port to Skagway -basically just one street of shops. We could see the train to Olympia from our balcony. Those who took it were pleased. Horse and buggy rides and a tourist were available to "tour" the town. Taxis were available for more extensive touring..
Corfu: Here we did our only ship's tour Achillion Palace, Kanoni and a short city tour.
Ship shuttle to the city was $8 per person each way. Taxi was 10 â‚¬ and the city bus which stopped near the ship was 1.5 â‚¬
Dubrovnik: Another member of our Roll Call arranged this private tour. We went to a picturesque little village Cavtat and then drove back to Dubrovnik. There were 5 or 6 ships in port that day so it was very busy. After our city tour, 6 of us took the cable car where the view was fantastic. We bought our tickets at a little shop where they took Euros but not credit cards. There was some stair climbing involved to get to the ticket place. The HAL shuttle to town was $7.50 per person each way.
Venice: We enjoyed the sail-in (something I had always wanted to do) and could hear some of the commentary from our port-side balcony. It was a Sunday and St. Mark's was wall to wall people. We took the Alilaguna to San Marco (20 minute non-stop ride; 13 â‚¬ return). Our hotel in Venice was A Tribute to Music. The staff was very friendly and helpful. The next day we bought a 36 hour ACTV pass for 23 â‚¬ (one ride was 6.50 â‚¬) so it proved a great deal. We thoroughly enjoyed the evening cruise along the Grand Canal -lots of lights on the patios and chandeliers in the homes.
We had tickets for the Secret Itinerary of the Doges Palace and were very happy we did. The lines for both the Doge's Palace and St. Mark's began very early.
Arrivedirci: It was fun to watch the Nieuw Amsterdam, 2 old-time friends, and many new friends sail out of Venice and begin the next leg of the Mediterranean cruise.
For Canadians; Coming back into Canada, we were asked for our tickets, our itinerary, immigration form and passport. It took us almost 1.5 hours to clear customs.