Background DH and I from the Midwest travelling with cousin and DH from Canada. Primary reason for booking this cruise was Israel and Egypt, so goes w/o saying we were extremely disappointed Egypt was dropped from the itinerary. Had an opportunity to cancel but decided to keep our booking and don't regret it. We spent many hours researching our ports of call and decided to book our tours privately. The tour companies we worked with came highly recommended both by Trip Advisor members as well as Cruise Critic members, and would highly recommend any one of them.
We booked our cruise 8 months out ... cousin booked through an online cruise site and I used a local TA. From the time we booked to final payment, the price went down several times. Airfare was expensive. The cruise was departing from Civitavecchia, Italy on Saturday and we spent a couple of pre-cruise days exploring Rome. We left the States on Wednesday, and arrived in Rome on Thursday. Our Philadelphia/Rome flight departed late and arrived late, but we were happy to see the limousine company we booked had a driver there waiting for us.
Rome Transfer and Hotel
Used Bob's Limousine service 3 times on this trip and would highly recommend them. Our driver was at the airport waiting for us, transferred us to our hotel in Rome and provided a narrative about the countryside along the way. We booked a room at Hotel Italia, which we all enjoyed very much. Small, quaint and within walking distance to all the sites we wanted to cover while in Rome. The hotel lobby was on the 1st floor which we North Americans would call the 2nd floor. The elevator was an old cage style elevator, very tiny and old world. It would only hold 2 people and 2 bags so we had to make a couple of trips. This could present a problem for some people and would recommend taking this into consideration before booking this hotel. Know before you go.
Lovely little hotel with a friendly English speaking staff. Our cost was $74 US a night which included a European style continental breakfast. The rate also included WiFi and the rooms did have coffee makers. Although the rooms were a little on the small side, that is to be expected in Europe. Our room was spotlessly clean and had a lot of ambiance.
Exploring Rome Day 1
Once unpacked the 4 of us went out with cameras in hand to explore as much as we could before dinner time.
We had a walking map, with points of interest highlight. Our first stop was the Spanish Steps (Scalinata della Trinit dei Monti). As we got close we heard a lot of loud singing and chanting and figured it had to do with the political election due within a few days. When we arrived at the top of the steps the singing got louder and we saw a sea of green. The air was electric and although it would have been nice to be able to have a photo op on the Steps without such a crowd we were happy to be caught in the middle of all this excitement. We took in the beauty of the steps ... all 135 of them and the surrounding area. The Steps connect the Spanish Square (Piazza de Spagna) at the bottom to the French church (Trint dei Monti) at the top. Also at the top of the steps is the Trint dei Monti Obelisk and at the bottom is the Fountain of the Old Boat (Fontana della Carcaccia), which is a fresh-water fountain. BTW for anyone unaware, we learned that all fountains in Rome are fresh-water and it's safe to take a drink from any one of them.
Again with map in hand we continued on to the famous Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi). It was extremely crowded at the fountain making it difficult for a good photo op, but we did our best to get a "throw a coin in the fountain" picture and continued on our travels. We found a lovely little restaurant and stopped for pizza. Then on we went in search of the Pantheon.
Building was commissioned in 126 AD. The Pantheon is circular with a portico of large granite columns. A vestibule links the porch to the rotunda under a coffered concrete dome with a central opening. To date the Pantheon has the largest unreinforced concrete dome.
Next stop is Fountain of the Four Rivers (Piazza Navona), a public square with many beautiful fountains, monuments and local artisans and vendors selling their wares.
Last stop for the day before heading back to the hotel was the Piazza Venezia. The Square is the central hub of Rome where many streets intersect. It was fun just standing there watching rush hour traffic make it's way, at relatively high speed, through this area. The square is at the foot of the Capitoline Hill and next to Trajan's Forum. It is dominated by the Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II, the first King of Italy and is also known as Altare della Patria. It's an enormous white marble structure with huge sculptures, large stairways, pillars and fountains.
Next stop ... our hotel for a rest and then back out to find a restaurant for dinner and to take in a few more sights at night. At this point let me mention that Rome is NOT very pedestrian friendly. Even with a map, road signs are hard to distinguish and the streets seem to go in all directions making it difficult to determine the direction you're walking in. We did manage to get lost on more than one occasion.
After a well needed rest we went back out at dark and passed by a few of the sights we saw during the day, but they looked even more beautiful all lit up at night. The Ruins of the Forum of Caesar, which is a work in progress was particularly intriguing at night. We found a little pub on our way back to the hotel and stopped in for a nice cold local beer and a delicious dinner. Our first day in Rome was a very exhausting day and it was time to get back to the hotel and call it a night. The next day we had a Vatican tour booked along with a little more of our own walking exploration so we needed to rest up.
Exploring Rome Day 2
Up bright and early, enjoyed our continental breakfast in the hotel and prepared to spend the day in the city. Took a cab from our hotel to Ponte Umberto at the Tiber River. Directly across the bridge was the Palazzo di Giustizia (Hall of Justice). Walking along Via della Conciliazione we passed Castel Sant'Angelo which was started in 135AD as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian, then turned into a fortress and a refuge of the Popes during the citizens battles. It is now a museum. Here we had a great view of the beautiful Ponte Sant'Angelo (Bridge of Hadrian). From there we walked to the office of "When in Rome Tours" which is just around the corner from the Vatican. We got to our tour office at 10:45 and when our tour guide Chiarra arrived to gather up the group we walked over to the Vatican museum. Hundreds of tourists were lined up in the rain waiting to gain entry. When you go with a tour group you get immediate entrance. Once inside we got fitted with our transmitters and headsets and off we went.
First stop was the Vatican Courtyard where our guide Chiarra educated us with the help of large picture boards about the works of art we would see inside the Sistine Chapel. She really wanted to make sure we understood some of the art before getting into the chapel. Once inside the Sistine Chapel there is no talking and no photography. From the courtyard we walked through many sections of the museum. The collection inside is overwhelming and you could literally spend several days just going through all the sections of the museum. The age and history of some of the artwork, the sculptures, the mosaics, ceiling frescoes and wall tapestries left me in awe.
From the Museum we went to St.Peter's Basilica, the beauty of which was amazing. Here we viewed the "Piet by Michelangelo, 1499-1500, the Altar of St.Jerome, and The Papal Altar among other things. We were then taken down through the Vatacombs and here no photography was allowed. Our last stop was the Sistine Chapel. Again no photography allowed and once inside we noted the many security guards who made sure there was no photography and that people were silent in the Chapel. Our 3-hour tour ended up taking 4 hours, which thrilled us as our guide was so enthusiastic and passionate about the information she shared with us ... we really didn't want the tour to end. As we left the Vatican the lineup of people still waiting in line for their turn to enter the Museum was extremely long ... probably a 2 to 3 hour wait. The Vatican Square was being prepared with chairs and large screen monitors for Pope Benedict's final blessing that he would give on Sunday.
Upon completion of our tour we grabbed a bite to eat at a little restaurant near the Vatican and then continued on our self-guided tour. Next stop the Coliseum. I've heard some people say they were underwhelmed by the Coliseum, but just the opposite for me. It was one of my favorite of all the ruins we saw during this vacation. We passed by the Arch of Constantine and continued walking back toward Piazza Venezia where we climbed the stairs to the top of Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II and entered the museum where we made our way to the exit at the bottom of the building and continued on our way.
En route back to the hotel we stopped at Ristorante la Taverna dei Monti, a lovely restaurant on a side street. We enjoyed the ambiance, a nice cold local beer and the food was delicious. Then back to our hotel where we enjoyed a glass of wine as we discussed all the wonderful sites we had seen today. And then off to bed as tomorrow Bob's Limousine was scheduled to pick us up at 11:30 am to transfer us to the Port of Civitavecchia.
Saturday, February 23 Embarkation Day
Following breakfast we checked out of the hotel and made our way downstairs to await our driver. Turned out the driver was early and along with 4 other passengers we were off to Civitavecchia to board the Jade. Once we got to the port the driver unloaded our bags in the wind and rain and we headed into the cruise terminal to sign in. The regular check-in line was very long while the Lattitudes line had just a couple of people in it. We headed right for Lattitudes line and registration moved very quickly. Within 20 minutes we were on board the Jade. It was now 1:30 and our plan was to enjoy an unrushed lunch in the Grand Pacific dining room. Although ship staff was trying to guide us to the buffet, we insisted on the dining room. We enjoyed a relaxing lunch and from there we went on to find our rooms.
We had a balcony room on the 9th floor port side while our friends were just down the hall. Our balcony cabin was comfortable with a coffee maker, ample closet and storage space, fridge and a good-sized bathroom with sliding door to the WC and a sliding door to the shower. I felt the balcony was perhaps a bit smaller than other ships we've been on. Oh, and the 4 bottles of wine I pre-ordered were right there waiting for us ... with a white chilled on ice in a wine bucket. Our ship pins and our invitation to the Lattitudes party were also there for us. Our room steward Brian stopped by to introduce himself and we found him very accommodating throughout the week. He always made it a point to ask if there was anything we needed when we saw him in the hall.
After unpacking our bags we met our friends to explore the ship until it was time for the lifeboat drill. After the drill we headed up to the open deck to watch the sail away. That was challenging as the weather had gotten worse and the sea was quite rough ... it was cold and windy. The skies were cloudy and dark at sail away and we new it was going to be a rough night. That would not be a problem as neither one of us experience motion sickness and I rather enjoy the rocking.
We decided on the Grand Pacific for dinner and got there at 7:30. There was a waiting line and people were given beepers. So with beeper in hand we headed to the Galleria shops up one floor and just around the corner and did a little window-shopping. Before we knew it, it was 8:00 and our beeper went off. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner and although I don't quite remember who had what, my pictures tell me we enjoyed salmon tartare, Caesar salad, surf and turf, prime rib, key lime pie and chocolate raspberry mousse cake. The first 2 times we went to the Grand Pacific for dinner there was a lineup and beepers were required. After that we found the line was quite short and were seated within minutes.
Due to the fact there was only one show scheduled for 9:00 pm on embarkation day, we missed it. We explored the ship a little more, checked out the Garden Cafe and tasted a few items from the buffet, checked out the locations of all the bars and different pay restaurants and then headed back to our rooms to call it a night. The next 2 days would be sea days and would give us a chance to recover from the miles we walked in Rome.
Cruise Day 2 -- Sea Day
Enjoyed breakfast at the Great Outdoors on the back deck and then headed up to Spinnakers Lounge to take in the views as the Jade sailed through the Straight of Messina. Mother Nature provided us with a beautiful rainbow.
Our Cruise Critic Roll Call Meet & Greet was held in La Bistro restaurant at 11:00 am. The M&G organized by Rochelle had a great turnout. I've been to prior M&G's where only half the people that signed up, actually showed up. I would say there were 40 people or so with 9 ship officers in attendance to speak to the group. I have never seen such a great representation of officers on any other line. NCL provided coffee, juices, water and a variety of pastries. It was nice to meet some of the CC members that I had communicated with on line. Thanks again Rochelle for all the work you put into pulling this together. At 1:00 pm we attended the Lattitudes members cocktail party in Spinnakers Lounge. This was also nicely done by NCL with wine, beer, cocktails and appetizers being offered.
At lunch today the Jade hosted a Beerfest at the Great Outdoors. Lots of delicious German foods and desserts, German beers and the Jade band played "Oompah" music on the deck outside the Great Outdoors buffet. It was such a fun and unexpected experience. The rest of the day was spent relaxing and enjoying the ship. Weather was a little on the cool side, but sunny so we were able to enjoy the outdoors with a jacket on.
Tonight was Dress up or Not Night and we decided on Alizar for dinner. Our meals were wonderful, however we didn't quite enjoy the Alizar as much as the Grand Pacific. The low ceilings made it feel dark and a little claustrophobic. Tonight's entertainment in the Stardust Lounge was Jeremie & Eleonore "Angels". It was a beautiful show and when it ended at 10:30 we went for an evening walk around the deck and then back to our cabin for a little quiet time. Brian our room steward had prepared our cabin for the evening and left us a nice little towel animal. We checked out the Freestyle Daily for the following day and called it a night.
Cruise Day 3 -- Sea Day
Another relaxing day at sea, started with a delicious breakfast in the Grand Pacific. It was most enjoyable as the dining room was almost empty. Not sure why people would choose to get pushed, shoved and reached in front of in the Garden Cafe only to find very limited seating. Personal choice I guess ... personally, I'd rather relax in the dining room.
Today we had to turn in our Passports to Israeli Immigration services. In turn we received a Landing Permit that would be required for our travel in Israel. It was a relaxing day of reading, playing cards, people-watching and enjoying some of the yummy meals on board. For lunch today we enjoyed some comfort foods at the Blue Lagoon. Lucky to snag a table along the railing, overlooking the Atrium and Atrium Bar. We enjoyed a Cobb salad, potato skins, and Buffalo wings. Again decided to have dinner in the Grand Pacific and among other items on the menu tried the sirloin steak and jacket potatoes (a British term for baked potatoes). Tonight's show in the Stardust Lounge was SHOUT! The Mod Musical. It was a great show following which we headed back to our cabin to get our belongings ready for our all day tour in Turkey the following day.
Cruise Day 4 -- Alanya, Turkey 6-hour tour with Cruising Excursions.com
We woke to the rising sun lighting our room through the balcony window. Was a beautiful clear morning as the Jade entered the Port of Alanya. After watching the pilot boat guide the ship to the pier, we got showered, ready for the day, had a quick breakfast and met our tour group outside for our 9:00 am tour start. We had a 6-hour tour booked with "Cruising Excursions.com" and I would highly recommend using them. Their booking process was very user friendly and prices reasonable. Our guide was very enthusiastic about showing us his country.
Port of Alanya was quite beautiful and we were surprised to see snow-covered mountains in the distance. First stop was the ancient city of Side, a picturesque harbor town once occupied by Alexander the Great in around 3rd century BC. Walked down the little side streets of shops and restaurants and made our way to the harbor and the Athena temple. Were given enough time here to shop, explore the temple and ruins. Back on the bus we were on our way to the Manavgat Waterfall with it's surrounding tea gardens. Unfortunately it was off-season and the gift shops and gardens were closed.
Next stop, back to Alanya to visit the Damlatas Caves near the shores of Cleopatra's Beach. After touring the caves, we were given time to explore the shore side cafes and shops and grab lunch before heading off to our next point of interest.
Found a Turkish restaurant with an open-air patio right on the main street overlooking Cleopatra's Beach. We ordered a local Turkish beer with lunch, which everyone agreed was delicious. With full bellies and our thirst quenched we headed back to the bus and our tour continued up the mountain to the Fortress of Alanya. This is the walled fort that we saw as the Jade sailed into the harbor. It's a 13th century medieval castle built on top of the original foundations left when used by the ancient Romans. From the top of the Fortress -- at a height of 250 meters the breathtaking panoramic views of the Mediterranean coast provided a spectacular photo op. When our visit was over and we descended the winding road back to the bottom our driver stopped to allow us a photo op of the beautiful Jade sitting in the harbor.
Were taken back into the Port area where we stopped for a Turkish coffee and enjoy the sights of this beautiful little fishing harbor. Then we dragged our weary selves back to the ship after a tiring but impressive day.
Dinner tonight was again in the Grand Pacific with tonight's show in the Stardust being "4Ever in Concert" ... 4 male singers with sensational voices accompanied by the Jade Orchestra. This really was a wonderful show. We had another full tour booked for Limassol on the next day and decided to make it an early night.
Cruise Day 5 -- Limassol, Cyprus 7-8 hour tour with Ascot Rent-a-Car.com
Following breakfast we met our travel group at our tour bus and were off for the day. Once again we had an amazing guide who was passionate about introducing us to his country. We had quite a long drive to the ruins of Kourion, but the countryside of Cyprus was absolutely beautiful ... mountains, hillsides, farms and of course ocean all around. The archeological site of Kourion includes private houses of the late Roman period like residences of gladiators, the house of Achilles, and early Christian Basilicas dating to the beginning of the 5th century AD.
Next stop Petra tou Romou (Aphrodite's Rock), a sea stack in Paphos where according to mytholog, the Goddess of Love and Beauty Aphrodite was born from the foam of the sea. The sea in this region is generally rough, persuading tourists not to swim there. It is not permitted to climb the rock. A restaurant, a tourist pavilion and the Aphrodite Hills resort are nearby.
Next stop was the Solomonis Catacombs where Christians were forced to worship in hiding in the 12th century. Next was St.Paul's Catholic Parish built on the grounds of the original church of the 4th Century AD. Beautiful original mosaics remain and are clearly visible.
From here we went to the old port area of Paphos. We found a lovely restaurant with an outdoor patio overlooking the seaside where we enjoyed lunch and another local beer. Our pita sandwich, fries and salad hit the spot before we continued on to some of the shops along the waterfront. We found the restaurant and bar prices to be quite reasonable. Then back to our bus and we returned to Port.
Once on board the Jade we enjoyed a lovely sunset as the ship sailed quietly out of the Port of Limassol. We made our regular 5:00 stop at Tankards and at 7:00 pm we headed to the Star Bar outside Cagney's Steak House for Happy Hour Martinis before going to dinner. Some of the items we chose at dinner tonight were endive salad with apples and walnuts, tomato basil soup, prime rib with jacket potatoes and grilled tilapia. Tonight's show in the Stardust was "Stars on Strings" which I did not attend.
Day 6 -- Haifa, Israel 9-10 hour tour with "Guided Tours Israel"
The Jade arrived in the Port of Haifa ahead of time. I stepped onto the balcony to see it was still dark which gave the city a beautiful glow. We got ourselves ready for the day, had breakfast and went to the top deck to get some photos as the sun was rising. We met our tour bus and guide outside the Passenger Terminal. Our guide Jonathon who we had for both tour days was just fabulous. He was passionate about showing us his country and educating us on traditions. On both days he provided us with local treats.
Our first stop was the Mount of Olives just outside the walls of Old Jerusalem. There was a lookout at a park here where we had a fabulous view of Old Jerusalem and an enormous cemetery. From here we walked through an olive tree garden outside the Basilica of Agony (Church of Nations). A Catholic Franciscan church, built in 1924 at the foothill of Mount of Olives and is said to be the site where Jesus had his last prayer before he was betrayed and arrested by the Romans.
Next our guide took us to Old Jerusalem where we were taken inside the walls of the old city by foot. One of our stops was at the Western Wall, sometimes referred to as the Wailing Wall. The wall has 2 sections, one for men and one for women. The men must have covered heads to approach the wall and anyone who wanted to leave a note or prayer on a piece of paper could place it into one of the cracks in the wall.
Next we made our way through the tiny streets lined with small shops to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This church is absolutely beautiful and once inside we went up a steep narrow staircase representing the Hill of Calvary where Jesus was crucified. The church is also said to contain the place where Jesus was buried.
From Old Jerusalem we headed through the desert to the Dead Sea. We were very surprised at how green and lush the outer area of the desert area actually was with farms of many different kinds of fruit including dates. As we got closer to the Dead Sea the landscape did get drier but it was surprisingly mountainous. Just outside the sea we stopped at a little tourist area for lunch and then it was back on the bus. Once we arrived at the tourist area of the Dead Sea, it was nicely set up with a restaurant, bar, rest rooms with showers and change rooms, a gift shop and an area with tables, chairs and sun umbrellas to watch people as they floated in the sea. This was our last stop for the day as it was a long drive back to the Port.
Upon return to the ship we made our daily pilgrimage to Tankard's Beer & Whiskey Bar for Happy Hour. Then back to our rooms to freshen up and we decided not to dress for the dining room tonight. Instead we enjoyed the comfort food of the Blue Lagoon. Tonight's show at the Stardust was Sander & Alison "Magika". Again I cannot comment on this show as I did not attend.
Cruise Day 7 -- Haifa, Israel 8 hour tour with "Guided Tours Israel"
Up early, got ourselves ready for the day, had breakfast and met our tour group for another full day in Israel. First stop today was in front of the Bahai Gardens for a photo op. These impressive gardens were donated by Germany. This was a drive by only b/c touring the park is by appointment only.
Next stop was the Basilica of the Annunciation and The Church of Saint Joseph's Carpentry in Nazareth. The current church is a two-story building constructed in 1969 over the site of an earlier Byzantine-era and then Crusader-era church. Some of the excavation is still visible and preserved.
On our way back to the bus our tour guide stopped at a bakery and treated us to a traditional and delicious Taboon bread.
Back on the bus and heading toward the Sea of Galilee. We stopped to visit The Church of the Beatitudes, a Roman Catholic Church located by the Sea of Galilee near Tabgha and Capernaum. Located on a small hill overlooking the Sea, and built on the traditional site of Jesus' delivery of the Sermon on the Mount, pilgrims are known to have commemorated this site since at least the 4th century.
Then on to Capernaum, which was a fishing village in the time of 140 -- 116 BC. Archaeological excavations show two ancient synagogues built one on top of the other.
Back on the bus and our next stop was the Church of Multiplication. Also known as the Church of the Loaves and Fishes this church also rests on the site of 2 earlier churches.
These venues are all on the shores of the Sea of Galilee The Sea of Galilee is the largest freshwater lake in Israel and is below sea level. It is the lowest freshwater lake on Earth. The lake is fed by underground springs though its main source is the Jordan River. On the other side of the Sea is the Golan Heights.
At this point everyone was hungry and we stopped for lunch before continuing on to the Jordan River. We were very surprised when we arrived at the Jordan River to find it very small and to be honest, a little underwhelming. Visitors do have an opportunity to be baptized in the river and we were witness to quite a few people in the river and some waiting their turn. This was our last stop for the day and our bus headed back to the Port of Haifa. It was another great day with a tour guide who was incredibly passionate about his country and his job.
When we returned to the Jade, we returned to our cabins, freshened up and headed to Tankards for Happy Hour. Our bartender Jose made sure there was always a supply of nuts and often brought out chicken tenders to accompany our drinks. Thank you Jose for making our time spent at Tankards so much fun. As usual tonight's dinner was great and the show at the Stardust was the Jade International Crew Show. Looking forward to tomorrow ... at last another sea day ... an opportunity to relax after all the touring we've done.
Cruise Day 8 -- Sea Day
Bright, sunny morning as we went for breakfast at the Great Outdoors ... a little chilly but we wanted to sit outside to enjoy the sun. This would be a day of total relaxation. Before lunch we headed up to the Bali Hai outdoor bar where we played some cards and watched swim suit clad people lounging around the pool deck as we sat with jackets on. Decided to grab lunch at Topsider's poolside bar today. On the grill were burgers, brats and chicken. There was a variety of beautiful fresh breads and rolls and several salads. It was a nice change from the dining room and we enjoyed the casual fare very much.
Following lunch we headed up to the back deck overlooking the basketball courts ... it was protected from the wind and made the sunshine a little more enjoyable. We relaxed here for the afternoon reading, chatting and just watching families enjoy a little 1 on 1 basketball.
Passports were once again collected for inspection by Greek customs and immigration for our visit the following day.
We met friends at Tankards at 5:00 for Happy Hour and enjoyed the nuts and chicken strips Jose supplied us with. Following our usual couple of beers or dinks we headed back to our rooms for a little more reading or relaxing (aka napping) and later got ourselves ready for the evening. Met our friends again at the Star Bar for Martini Happy Hour before heading to the dining room. Then it was off to the Stardust for tonight's show which was "Showdown" with 14 professional performers who sang hits by Aretha Franklin, The Supremes, The Temptations, Gloria Gaynor and more. It was kind of an American Idol type presentation. We ended the evening with a walk around the deck before heading back to our cabin. It would not be a late night as tomorrow would be another tour day in Iraklion (Heraklion) Greece.
Cruise Day 9 -- Sea Day Iraklion (Heraklion) Greece Self-guided tour of Knossos ruins
After breakfast with our friends we left the ship to explore Iraklion (Heraklion) on our own. We had read here on Cruise Critic that it was very easy to get to the Archeological ruins of Knossos by bus. We made our way by foot to the bus terminal (there are a couple), but it was very easy to find the location and ticket booth for our bus to Knossos. Our tickets were E1.50/person each way. That was extremely reasonable. It was a very short wait before the bus arrived and off we went. It was maybe a 10-15 minute ride uphill to the site. Don't recall what the cost was to get into the site, but it is free on Sundays so there was no charge on this day.
Knossos was inhabited for several thousand years, beginning sometime in the 7th millennium BC and was abandoned after it's destruction in 1375 BC. Arthur Evans, the British Archaeologist who excavated the site in 1900 AD restored large parts of the palace.
After we felt we'd had enough time in the ruins we waited for the bus and headed back into town. We walked through some of the side streets and did a little window-shopping as we tried to find a nice little restaurant to have lunch. Again we were looking for something authentic to Greece and managed to find a cute little place that looked inviting. We all enjoyed our meal accompanied by a nice cold local beer and then continued on our way to explore a little more.
The town is not large so it really didn't take too long. On the way back to the Jade we stopped for a Greek coffee and a little dessert.
Back on board we freshened up and relaxed a little before meeting our friends at ... yes, that's right ... Tankards. I think people finally caught on to Happy Hour toward the end of the week. Early on during our cruise both Tankards and the Star Bar were quite empty during Happy Hour. But now it was becoming difficult to find a seat ... hmmmm, I guess the secret got out. I haven't mentioned the Happy Hour special in detail but for anyone interested, here's the deal. Tankards Beer & Whiskey Bar, 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm offered 2 for 1 domestic beer, house brand regular cocktails and house wine. The Star Bar across from Cagney's Steak House, 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm offered 2 for 1 martinis on house brand liquors.
The Stardust Lounge presented Graffiti Classics. You may have gathered by now that we are not gamblers as I have not mentioned the casino. We did not indulge but did notice when walking through the Casino that it never seemed busy. We didn't walk through late at night so I could be wrong. Compared to other ships we've been on, the casino on the Jade appeared to be a good size.
Cruise Day 10 -- Sea Day
Today was another beautiful, bright, sunny morning. A bit chilly, but again we wanted to enjoy the beautiful sunshine and decided to grab breakfast at the Great Outdoors. Following breakfast we went to the card room and played a few rounds of cards before going to Moderno at 10:00 am for passport distribution. After that we headed back out to the Great Outdoors to enjoy a beer and a few goodies as we sat along the rail enjoying the sight and sound of the beautiful wake. We relaxed for a while in different locations around the ship and before we knew it, it was time for lunch. We chose the Grand Pacific for lunch where I enjoyed a Cobb salad and DH had penne pasta with meat sauce.
Later in the day following refreshments at Tankards we headed back to our cabins to clean up and get ready for dinner. And as usual we stopped at the Star Bar for our 2 for 1 martinis before going to dinner.
Tonight was Dress Up or Not Night, so we surprised our relatives with a reservation for dinner at Moderno, the Brazilian Churrascaria. The restaurant was not very busy and let me take this opportunity to say that none of the "pay restaurants" other than Teppanyaki were very busy. And Teppanyaki I would chalk up to the fact it doesn't hold many people. In my opinion ... if NCL decreased the cover charge to the pay restaurants, I think they might be filled to capacity. As I said that's just my opinion.
Dinner started with a salad bar with an amazing variety of items. Following our salad, our 4 sides were delivered to the table. We ordered a bottle of house red wine which we found quite satisfactory considering the price was only $22 plus the 15% gratuity for the bottle.
When we were ready for the meat courses, we turned our little cards to green, giving the meat server the go ahead to start delivering the meat courses. The meat courses just kept coming and they were all absolutely delicious and perfectly prepared. We all left there feeling ready to burst, but it was absolutely worth it. This pay restaurant is $20/person.
Tonight was also the Chocoholic buffet. It was underwhelming, not much different than any other cruise line. We snagged a couple of cookies to take back to our room for later but that was it.
Tonight's Stardust show was Flash & Fever, a combination of magic, comedy and acrobatics and it was just fabulous.
After the show we invited our friends back to our cabin for a nightcap and to enjoy the evening on the balcony. Suddenly in the distance we could see a bright reddish-orange colored light in the sky and it then died out. We couldn't tell what it was, at first thinking fireworks. I grabbed the binoculars, but they weren't powerful enough to confirm what it might have been. It happened several more times and DH suggested perhaps it was a volcano erupting.
Cruise Day 11 -- Naples, Italy 8 hour tour with Cruising Excursions.cm
After watching the Jade slowly make her way into port during sunrise, the 4 of us had a nice leisurely breakfast before leaving the Jade for our tour. One of the first things we asked our tour guide was whether he had heard any news of a volcano erupting and to our surprise ... that is exactly what we witnessed the night before on our balcony. It was Mt. Stromboli erupting. That was exciting news to know we witnessed it.
We had an approximate 45 minute to 1 hour drive to the archaeological site of Pompeii. The cost to enter the site was E11 and well worth every penny ... or should I say Euro. We were all in awe as to the size of the city of Pompeii and the state of preservation.
These were the most amazing ruins on our trip so far. Everything had been so well preserved by the ash of the exploding Mt. Vesuvius that you could plainly distinguish important parts of the city. We walked through the amphitheater, the smaller theater, the spa and steam baths, buildings that were at one time stores or restaurants and brothels.
Even the cobblestone streets still contain the ruts created by chariot wheels. At the very end we could see thousands of amazing artifacts that have been uncovered. Also on display were the casts of bodies recovered from under the ash. This was definitely my favorite experience of our trip. Well maybe it's a tie with the Vatican.
After a little free time at Pompeii we were on our way to experience our journey along the Amalfi Coast. On our way to the city of Sorrento we stopped along the coast at a couple of lookouts for photo ops of both Positano and Sorrento. Just before Positano our bus stopped at a little fruit stand where it had to turn around b/c buses are too large to continue into the town. Here we took in the beautiful views of Positano.
Then back down the mountain toward Sorrento where we stopped for about an hour for some shopping and lunch. One of the first things we saw as we all got off the bus was a pizza vending machine. That was neat. On we went looking through some of the shops as we looked for a restaurant to stop for lunch. We came upon a little place with so much character we stopped and enjoyed a wonderful Italian lunch. On our way back to the bus we treated ourselves to a gelato.
Then back to our bus and our 1-hour drive back to the Port of Naples. One of the things that really impressed me about the mountains was the fact that almost every inch of the mountainside is utilized for fruit growth ... oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, lemons, dates, pomegranates and more. The Port city of Naples is a different story. We really were not impressed with the city ... from what we saw it was very dirty, congested and run down. Our tour guide did tell us to be careful and watch our belongings if we were going to walk around the city before going back to the ship. We chose not to.
Once back on board we relaxed on deck until it was time for the Jade to leave port and we took advantage of the beautiful sunset for a photo op. When the Jade was well underway and the sun was down, we headed back to our cabin to relax for a while and freshen up before saying goodbye to our favorite bartender Jose, at Tankards. Then it was back to our room to pack our bags for our departure tomorrow. Because we were being picked up by Bob's Limousine service at 8:00 am, we decided we would carry our bags off rather than search for them in the warehouse in the morning.
On our way to our last dinner we stopped for our last 2 for 1 Happy Hour martinis at the Star Bar. Rochelle from Cruise Critic was kind enough to give us a bottle of wine, which we brought to the dining room and savored with our last dinner. Thank you Rochelle. Then it was back to our cabin to put the finishing touches on our packing and call it a night.
Embarkation and our Trip Home
We grabbed breakfast at the Great Outdoors buffet and took it into Pappa's Italian Kitchen to eat. After breakfast we had one last walk around, went back to our cabins to pick up our bags and walked off the Jade. We were off the ship 30 minutes early and to our surprise our driver was there waiting for us. He loaded up the van and off we went to the airport.
We arrived at the airport with lots of time before our 11:50 flight, but let me take this opportunity to say Fiumicino airport has to be one of the worst airports I have ever experienced ... both arriving and departing. For such a large international airport, they really need to get organized ... I've never seen anything like it. So for any of you who might be travelling into Rome in the future ... please be sure to pack your PATIENCE.
Of course, as is to be expected in today's world, all flights were delayed to some degree ... but we made it back to Kansas safe and sound with a world full of wonderful memories. My cousin and DH were held up in Philadelphia for the night due to weather along the east coast. They arrived back in Toronto the next morning.
Overall Personal Thoughts
Dining -- No complaints about the quality of the food ... we enjoyed all our meals. DH and I don't really care for the buffet. We find it too hectic and would rather enjoy a relaxed meal in the dining room with table service. I did find however, this being an 11-day cruise ... toward the end of the week the dining room menu did become a little repetitive. Other than 1 dinner in Moderno we did not utilize any of the other pay restaurants. I personally find the prices a bit on the high side.
Cabins -- No complaints. Our balcony cabin had plenty of storage and I didn't find the size of the cabin any larger or smaller than balcony cabins on other cruise lines we've been on. We did however find the bathroom was larger and liked the idea of the sliding door to the WC and to the shower. It was nice having a coffee maker in the room. This is something not all cruise lines offer in their balcony cabins.
Public Rooms -- No complaints. The public areas including the bars, library, card rooms etc. were all of a good size. The ship didn't feel congested to us at all. My only complaint is the same one so many have, and that's the chair hogs around the pool area. Yes people still put their towels, flip flops, books etc. on a deck chair and then not show up for half the day. We spent no time around the pool area so we weren't directly affected, but it was interesting to sit at the Bali Hai bar and watch the antics.
Entertainment -- Some shows were better than others, but overall the shows we saw were enjoyable and I think there was something for everyone.
Spa/Fitness -- Did not utilize, but did check out the fitness center and it was considerably larger than some of the other ships we've been on.
Embarkation -- Top notch. NCL has it down pat. We arrived just after 1:00 pm and the entire process took about 20 minutes and we were on board.
Service -- OMG I think NCL has some of the best staff in the industry. Never passed an employee that didn't look up with a smile and greet us. I hate to say it but some of the passengers could take a lesson.
Value for the Money -- From the time we booked our cruise to final payment, the price went down several times. Final price was a very good value for the dollar.
Tours -- All our tours were booked privately b/c we just found the NCL excursions to be overpriced. Private tours usually consist of smaller more personalized groups. Our tours were anywhere from 12 to 18 people. Here again, I think NCL would sell more land excursions if their prices were a little more competitive. There are so many excellent cruise excursion companies out there now that are extremely professional and make sure they get their customers back to port at least an hour prior to departure. We were impressed with all of the companies we booked tours with and would not hesitate to do so again.