Jade in Winter
Europe - Eastern Mediterranean
We are a family of four (parents and 2 college age boys) who enjoyed all aspects of this cruise. The onboard activities were lots of fun and so was the shore excursions. We had inside rooms as we booked very late but still were happy with the arrangements. It is completely dark in the room when you turn off the light so we left the bathroom light on and the bathroom door slightly open to have a night light.
The food on board was very good and the variety was plenty to keep us well fed. We tried the Japanese restaurant at extra cost and really enjoyed watching the cooking show. Regarding shows, the nightly entertainment on the big stage was very good. I really liked the way many of the daily shows were weaved together for a grand finale on the last night. The cruise director Gary was the MC for most shows and also gave short lectures on our shore excursions. He is very knowledgeable and entertaining at the same time. The games for the cruisers such as karaoke, name More
that tune and trivia were lots of fun. The music programs at the bars were good and catered to all tastes. We do not gamble so can't comment about the casino on board except that it is a smoking zone and one has go trough that to get to the big theatre. With all those entertainment on board, we spent very little daytime hours in the room. The TV channels available in the room were very few and no US sports channels were available.
The embarkation and disembarkation at all the ports went very well. Luggage check in during embarkation and disembarking was also a breeze. Since there was a daily tip amount automatically added to our bill we did not have worry about tipping any of the crew except those who work in the specialty restaurants. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
The Acropolis was not as difficult to climb as some of the literature had indicated. One gets excellent view of the city and even the cruise ship from the top of the hill.
We took a tour package that we had booked independently as many private companies offer shore packages to meet cruise ships. The guide, bus and the tour was very good. There was even free wifi on the bus and the port terminal that was useful as the cruise ship wifi through satellite is very expensive.
Istanbul port is on the European side, very close to all the important sites. The tram line runs outside the port. One has to go about 300 feet to the right to get to the tram station. Tram tickets are dispensed through machines and then put through a turnstile to get onto the platform. There are no currency exchange places near the airport so your best option is to use an ATM to get local money. Taxi drivers charge you exorbitant amounts and that too in Euros! It snowed on both days that we were in port but we still managed to visit all the important sites.
Archaeological Site of Ephesus
We took a package tour that took us to Ephesus. It is a worthwhile excursion where they even reenact a scene from Cleopatra's life. The tour guide took us to a carpet store and also to a specialty turkish delight store. It is better to do shopping for both here rather than in the hustle and bustle of Istanbul.
This is a simple port with no customs or immigration checkpoints. We decided to go on our own to the olympic site as that was the primary tourist attraction here. There is a direct train tot he Olympic site but most people advised against taking it as there were so many strikes going on. We walked over to a bus operator and took a bus to the site. The Olympic village and the adjoining museum were really wonderful. Our bus driver left earlier than what he told us and so we had to wait for another bus to be arranged which still got us back to the ship well ahead of time. There are two parking lots in the Olympic village, one of them close to the museum and make sure to ask the driver as to the pick up point.
This port is a large complex with its own shuttle bis to take you to the ship from the main gate. The problem is that if you take the train from Rome, which is cheapest way, you have to walk a good 1000+ feet through city streets with luggage to get to the shuttle bus. Also if the train from Rome stops in one of the inner platforms, you haver to haul your luggage down up through a tunnel to get to the street as there are no lifts. We took the train from Termini to get to the port but on the way back we needed to got the airport. Instead of taking a train and changing to another train to get tot he airport, we bargained with a shuttle bus operator at the port gate and got a straight ride to the airport.