A Great Introduction
Europe - Eastern Mediterranean
We had a very enjoyable trip aboard the NCL Spirit, boarding October 25, 2012 for a 12 night cruise. We considered this a great introduction to a part of the world we hadn't seen. Our friends had taken several trips in thes area and wanted to go back and revisit. So we were 2 novices and 2 experienced Mediterannean travelers. All had taken a number of cruise prior to this.
We enjoyed the NCL Spirit. It was well maintained and had a very accomodating crew. We were well taken care of. We enjoyed all the pay restaurants, particularly The Bistro. We ate there twice, Cagney's twice and also Teppanyaki and the Trattatoria. All were good and worth the surcharge. We also very much enjoyed the Windows Dining Room. We dined in Windows for breakfast, lunch, and dinner as our schedule allowed. We thought the lido was hectic and rarely ate there.
The entertainment was the best we've ever seen on a ship. It ranged from singers and acrobats to illusionists and full musical More
productions. We were very impressed.
Our stateroom was smaller than we were used to and was the only negative. I knew it would be small, but we were hardly there. This was a very port intensive trip.
We went on this cruise for the ports. I found lots of info on CC and really appreciate all the helpful tips.
Venice- We stayed 2 nights at the Hilton Molino Stuckey. It was a spectacular location overlooking the main shipping canal. It had a free private water shuttle to St. Marks Square.We took the Alleguna water shuttle directly from the hotel dock to the port and were on board very easily. There was a shuttle that took anyone who needed a lift from the water shuttle. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
We weree met at the port by Nick of Athens By Txi, a company I found on Cruise Critic posts. It was a great choice. We booked the Athens and Cape Sounion full tour and saw the highlights of Athens in the morning and then traveled to Cape Sounion and the temple of Poseidon in the afternoon. We finished the day with fabulous giros that we asked nick to order as the menu was only in Greek. We enjoyed everything about our day. The Temple of Poseidan was a short uphill walk on a mostly newly paved walkway. The ruins were beautiful overlooking the sea.
We disembarked in Barcelona and explored on our own. We stayed on Las Ramblas at Le Meridien and it was a great location. We spent a day riding the Hop On Hop Off Bus. We especially enjoyed the food market at Las Ramblas.
We took a ship's tour. The tour was as stated, Florence on Your own and the guide was informative on the bus. We had a stop at a leather store and then were dropped off in a square. We made our way to the Medici Palace and looked around. In retrospect, we wished we'd hired the company we had in Rome, Rudy's Touring Service, as we'd have had a car and driver and seen more. But, the tour was as described and we saw as much as we could.
We booked a private tour for the 4 of us with Daily Istanbul Tours. Our guide, Emaneme, met us at the port and with a driver we visited the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Cistern, Spice Market, City Walls, Pierre Loti Lookout, and the special high point for us the Chora Museum. The Chora had been a church, a mosque and now was a museum. The mosaics were spectacular. We also had lunch at a really nice restaurant next door to the Chora, the Asitane. We enjoyed our entire day and we were happy to have our excellent guide.
Archaeological Site of Ephesus
We were in port from 7am to 1pm so we booked a ship's tour. We went to the ruins of Ephesus and were impressed. Our guide was good and we had headsets to hear her. Because of the limited time we felt the ship's tour was the way to go.
We hired a cab with another couple and drove to Pompeii. We used Rick Steeves guide and wandered independently. It was a good introduction for a short visit.
We hired Rudy's Touring Service who picked 6 of us up at the gangway. This was great, because we didn't need to take the shuttle to the port entrance. Our day in Rome was a wonderful morning drive around Rome with many stops to walk about and take photos. Then we had a lunch reserved for us and entered the Vatican Museum with a second guide, Valaria. We had timed tickets. Without them we'd never have gotten in! The lines were incredible! Our goal was the Sistine Chapel and it was well worth seeing. Then we toured St. Peters and back to the ship. it was a long whirlwind day and we loved every minute. Without a car and driver we'd have wasted a lot of time and we felt we made the most of our short time in Rome.