Background.We met a lovely couple from the USA 2 years previously on a Baltics cruise and kept in touch.When they told us they had booked this cruise we decided to tag along.Husband has walking difficulties so spent nearly a year researching private tours on cruise critic to make life easier for him[Well that's my story and I'm sticking to it even though he thinks it's a case of OCPD[obsessive cruise planning disorder]
We spent 2 days pre cruise in Venice itself and chose Hotel Santa Chiara for its central location in P Roma with no bridges to cross with luggage and has a small elevator.Transport from the airport was a simple 30 minute transfer on the no1 express ATVO bus-7 euros.
The hotel is lovely with marble floors high ceilings with chandeliers.There is a 2 night minimum stay-first night 159 euros 2nd 179 with local tourist tax of 6 euros per night payable in cash
The hotel is also right by the Vaparetto stop to get down to St Marks via the grand canal.Individual trips are 7 euros-we got a 36 hour pass for 25 euros.
We took the 1 euro people mover monorail from P Roma to the port.However this is a total waste of time as depending upon where your ship is docked you are still in for a very long walk with your luggage.Disabled elderly or young children will struggle as will able bodied in rain or hot weather.
We checked in lunchtime and many people took the chance to go back out into Venice without luggage as sailaway was not till 1am [note that was a complete non event-a few people braved the cool windy night to stay up but all bars were closed and took ages to get to pass St Marks lit up at night]
It is the oldest ship in the fleet [14 years] but had a refurbishment last year.I liked it-it was very pretty and small enough to be sure of bumping into someone you knew.
The most frequented bars for us were Henrys Pub and Champagne Charlies
Henrys pub was a small enclosed area which hosted both live music with singing guitarist and then karaoke several nights
Champagne Charlies was a more open area overlooking the atrium which also hosted live music and was also the area where if you sat there someone you knew was bound to pass by
Drinks-the wine package worked out better value than buying by the glass.Beer there were several bottles beers on offer-buy 5 get 1 free.Heinekin and Bass were available on draught.
MEET AND GREET
I co ordinated this and had a whale of a time doing so
Our roll call attracted 60 interested people so the ship moved the venue from the smaller venue of Nenrys pub to Shogun Asian restaurant.That was done in time to inform people before the cruise via the roll call.Unfortunately on reaching our cabin there was a letter informing that the meet and greet had been moved forwards 24 hours!!!
TIP Get cabin numbers when compiling the meet and greet list-without half the people on the list providing these the meet and greet would have been a disaster!
As it happened 24 people turned up and after the initial awkward greetings turned out to be a really social event.We were supposed to meet from 10-11 but were still going at 12[despite NCL calling a catch up muster drill at 10-30 which several people had to leave to attend[we were still going when they returned!]
several of us returned to the same venue the next day[at the original meet time ]and met up with a further 10 people we hadnt been able to contact as didnt have their cabin numbers
we booked private tours in minivans in most ports and filled with people from the roll call-they were
Athens-Greek taxi,also known as Athens by taxi run by Paul Kalomiris
Izmir[ephesus] and Istanbul-KSG tours run by Kagan Kosagan
Naples/Rome/Livorno-rome-car-tours or Rudys touring [as known on trip advisor]
dont bother with "easy off" disembarkation where you carry your own luggage off]unless you want to be off the ship at crack of dawn
Around 9 am everyone else has the same idea and the elevators are full.It's also a long hike down to the end of the terminal with luggage.
There are port buses costing 2 euros taking from pier to port gates but they run very infrequently and it's a scrum to get on.
The taxi line may look long but it moves quickly.It cost 4 of us 18 euros total to get from port to city centre and 8 euros of that was the charge for 4 cases of luggage