We left our local airport on May 26 at 6am, and arrived in Barcelona at 11:15 their time on May 27. Our flight was delayed 2 hours leaving Newark and thus 2 hrs late arriving in Barcelona. We opted to take NCL's transfers, which worked perfectly. My only complaint, and a very minute one, was that they told us we'd leave at 11:30 to go to the pier, and we ended up waiting until noon (which really wasn't a big deal, they were trying to fill the bus, but after a long day of travel, I wish they had just said "until we have more for a bus).
Once we got to the Pier, checkin was easy, except I didn't see the latitudes line (pushed into it by NCL rep) so got in the first timer line, which was long, but did move fast. Once done, I saw further down the latitudes line, which were short. We were able to board as soon as we checked in, and told our room would be ready for us between 1 and 1:30. We went to go find it and it was ready at 12:45! A nice surprise. We ate at O'Sheehans, and More
both enjoyed the meal. Our bags arrived at our room during the afternoon as we explored (our cabin steward, Eugene, was wonderful!) We had an aft balcony (8214, upgraded from mid-ship 8090), and we absolutely loved it! Again, thanks to those on here who suggested we do the upgrade Watching us sail away from ports, even the industrial ones, was fun. We got massages the first night at 8:15, and they were wonderful! VAT added on, which ended up added $21 to a 119 massage for each of us, which we knew about in advance, so not a huge deal.
Day at sea: we went to spice h20 right away in the morning at 9:45 and had no trouble finding a spot, but by about 10:30 it was filling up fast. Around 11, we decided to vacate to go on the waterslides (lots of fun, and not bad for lines), ate and then we were going to go back to Spice, but was full. Went up to Deck 18 (quiet area), and had no trouble finding a place. Ate at Teppanyaki for dinner which was delicious! Saw Blue Man Group--a must see! (I also got pulled on stage after another woman refused, and that was a fun experience!)
**We chose to do NCL excursions as we didn't feel up to planning transportation to/from ports, but with research, I'm sure they're all doable on your own as many have done so before and posted on here or w/a private tour company and save money. Most days, people were able to be off at 7:15-7:30.
Naples: Our excursion wasn't until the afternoon, so we chose to wander into town. We were able to be off the ship by 7:30am. We walked up to the Galleria Umberto I, and over to Piazza Pueblecito where the Royal Palace is, and then down along the shore to Castel Ovo (I think was the name??). I didn't believe reviews on here that Naples is dirty, but it is! Garbage all over and dog poop just left on the sidewalks. The walk along the road by the shore was clean, but the downtown area was not. Our afternoon excursion, we went to Herculaneum, and enjoyed it (we haven't been to Pompeii, but our guide said it's completely different, next time, we'll go to Pompeii). Our guide was very knowledgeable and the ruins were well preserved! This one I would do again with NCL if you're not up to planning on your own.
Rome: We did Rome and the Vatican Tour. We had a wonderful guide! I enjoyed this tour very much. It was a driving tour of the main Roman sites, and we had about a 45 minute stop at the Colosseum, which was enough time to walk around it and take pictures but not go inside. We stopped and ate lunch at a local place, where we had a delicious lunch. We were served penne pasta with a tomato/marinara sauce, veal, and a lettuce salad. After, we continued onto the Vatican. We added a Vatican Guide here as it is required for group tours. She was also very knowledgeable. The Vatican is amazing!! We wandered through the Vatican Museums, St. Peter's, and the Sistine Chapel--awe-inspiring! This was the reason I chose this tour and it was well worth it! Having enjoyed it, I will say, this would be one place that I would recommend looking into a private tour, not that NCL's was bad, just that we had about 35 people, and it was hard to keep track of all of us (she did a good job), but there was not time for us to stop and take pictures when we wanted (like after we exited the vatican to take one of St. Peter's). If you're not comfortable with a private tour, then this one was good.
Florence/Pisa: We did "Florence and Pisa on your Own" through NCL (being further away from the port, we wanted the transportation arranged for us, but felt comfortable walking on our own once there.) Our first stop was in Pisa, where the guide walked us to the Leaning Tower, we had about 45 minutes for a photo opportunity/bathroom break, and then walked back to the bus (about a 15 min walk). Then on to Florence, we were dropped off along the Arno by Piazza Piave, and then walked with the guide to Piazza Santa Croce, where we also met the guide to leave. We were given a map on the bus by the guide and he went over some sites to see and suggestions of his own (restaurants, gelateria, stores). DH and I walked up to Piazzale Michelangelo--what an incredible view!! It's a steep walk uphill, but so worth it if you're in shape! We then wandered down to Piazza della Signoria and ate at 'ino, a local panini shop behind the Uffizi--delicious. Then up to the Duomo, we probably could have gone in as the line wasn't long, but chose to go into Santa Croce instead and saw Michelangelo and Galileo's tombs, virtually no line to get in here. NCL has "partner" shops, and we did shop there, receiving 50% off and no tax, also allowed to use bathrooms free of charge (even if you don't purchase anything). People were actually on time for our meeting points, which was a nice surprise.
Cannes: We went to Nice and Monaco in Cannes. This day a migraine came out of nowhere during the tour, so I tried to enjoy as much as I could. We did stop at a market in Nice and bought some strawberries and croissants--both the best I've ever eaten! I don't remember much here as this was the height of my migraine. I know the guide pointed out some celebrity houses and facts. After, we went to Monaco to walk up to Monte Carlo, impressive! But I think DH was more impressed by the cars he saw than anything else. A good tour, but I wouldn't need to go back. I think I'd wander around Nice or Cannes the next time.
Marseille: This was the tour I liked the least. We went to Aix en Provence, a cute town, but for some reason the guide rubbed me the wrong way. I felt this was something we could/should have done on our own and probably would've enjoyed just as much. We got back to the ship around noon, and the pool deck was busy, but deck 18 hardly anyone.
We ate at Taste 3 nights, service not great, but food was good, We also ate at Moderno--service was fantastic and food amazing! For lunch, we did the buffet, which was okay--buffet food, so not expecting much, O'Sheehans, which was good.
I'd highly recommend catching Howl at the Moon--3 talented people, and hilarious. The other shows didn't interest us, so we didn't go. We spent some time in the atrium watching those shows and having a drink, we also caught the Newlywed Game Show in Bliss, which was fun.
Disembarkation went smoothly. We chose to stay at the Renaissance Barcelona Airport Hotel due to an early flight out the next morning. This is an NCL partner hotel, and the staff were friendly and helpful. However, I'm not sure I would chose to stay here again, poor draining shower, hard as a rock bed, and easily could here goings-on next door and in the hall. Good for a stay with an early flight (close to Airport and free shuttle) or late night flight in. It is about 20 minutes from Las Ramblas. The hotel offers a free shuttle at certain times, and pay at other peak times. There is also a public bus stop nearby. We chose their shuttle down, and used public transport (metro and bus) to get around and back to the hotel. We went up to Parc Guell, a neat park, La Sagrada Familia and Las Ramblas. I'd highly recommend purchasing tickets ahead of time for La Sagrada as the line was very long and it's so worth going inside to see! Las Ramblas, I was hoping to go to La Boqueria Market, but it was closed. I'm not sure if it was closed because it was Sunday, or closed because of the time (3pm). In any case, Barcelona is really easy to get around on the metro. Of course, be vigilant of pick pockets.
Overall, loved this cruise! Loved the ports! The ship was big, but I think very manageable to get around, really aside from the deck your on, you need decks 5-7, and 14(if working out or spa), along with 15 (pool deck)and 18 (quiet zone). Less
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