This is my 3rd cruise with Norwegian. I previously sailed on the Norwegian Dawn from Baltimore to Bermuda and the Norwegian Sun from Copenhagen-Warnemunde-Tallinn-St Petersburg-Stockholm-Helsinki.
I'm a medical officer in the Air Force, currently living and working in Germany. For both the Norwegian Sun and Norwegian Jade cruises, I worked directly with an NCL agent who gave me a military discount for the Sun and an upgraded room for the Jade. We were in Cabin 8096, mid-ship right next to Blue Lagoon Cafe and Modern Churasseria, perfect location, easy access to the lobby, guest services, gallery, restaurants.
We spent a few days in Rome prior to sailing. There are fast and local trains from Roma Termini to Civitavecchia. The fast train is significantly more expensive, although I had booked online weeks ahead for only 9â‚¬ per person. Once you arrive at Civitavecchia train station, there will be a few cab drivers offering to take you to the port at a fixed price. My parents and I walked down the street to the port gate. This is a manageable walk, about 1/2 km, and everyone else was walking with their bags that were much heavier than ours. As soon as you arrive at the port gate, there are friendly NCL drivers ready to help you load your bags and get you to the cruise ship.
Once you drop off your bags to the porters, you wait in line to check in. They issue you an id/key card, offer to take your photo, put your credit card in their system (so you don't have to deal with paying your bill at the end of the cruise, they just automatically charge your card w/ no hassle), everything was so easy and the process took about 10 mins from arrival. We got there close to noon and decided to have our first meal at the Grand Pacific Dining room where there was a section reserved for CruiseCritic members. At that time, I only met Jacques et Roland, John & Cynthia, Mindy & her husband. We bumped into each other many times throughout the cruise and it was lovely to meet them!
Our bags weren't delivered to our cabin until after 8pm the first night. Our housekeeper apologized, stating that there were so many bags to sort through for over 2.5k passengers. We could care less, we were on a cruise! We were pleasantly surprised at the size of our cabin. Our NCL agent booked us a handicapped room, which apparently has the largest bathrooms on the ship, similar to the suites. My parents shared a queen bed, I had a separate twin, the view was hardly obstructed. TV was a nice flatscreen and closet and makeup counter was very large.
I have always been impressed by the NCL crew and staff. I really loved the food at the Grand Pacific, never had any issues or wait getting a seat for 2, they always honored my request to be seated close to a window. The food was impressive and I loved dressing nice to dinner service. My father preferred the buffet so we would separate for our meals and then meet up for dessert. The Grand Pacific staff was always extremely attentive, would notice if we liked particular dishes and ask if we wanted more. My mom really enjoyed the medium NY steak from our first lunch and ordered it for dinner every other night. One time it was cooked rubbery well, but the server will take it back and get you another one.
I was NOT impressed by the entertainment. My Cruise Director on the Sun was so impressive, knew every guest by their first name, was interested in getting to know our backgrounds, would build in Veteran's social or 30's meetup upon request. The musical cast on this Jade cruise was bland. The male singers were amazing and the tall female singer was magnificient. Everyone else gave lukewarm performances. We hated the puppet show and the crazy sweaty comedian. We LOVED the talented violinists/cellist, the aerialists, the Espanoles/Uruguay singers, the magicians. Some of these shows I actually went and watched 2x in one night. Everyone else was bleh. They didn't have as many activities as I've seen on other cruises. We loved the fruit/vegetable/pastry decoration demo, napkin folding, origami, but that was about it. Even the art auction and presentations were bland and less than stellar. On my last cruise, some friends bought $20k, even up to $60k worth of paintings. They didn't invest so much time giving art history lessons or displaying all the pieces for sale throughout this ship. Fitness center was ok and there were always machines available. It was too cold and windy outside for outdoor activities. The winds were strong, the boat was constantly rocking, thanks goodness Guest Services issued free motion sickness pills each day for my poor mother.
I've been backpacking since I was 19 and have lived/worked all across the world in France, Hungary, Slovakia, Morocco, Yemen, Korea, Djibouti, Tanzania, Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya. I never choose to do group tours or excursions. I did one tour with the Norwegian Sun when I was in St Petersburg as it was required if we didn't have a separate visa to enter Russia. I did not book any tours with NCL Jade. I would like to share some travel tips:
Katakolon/Olympia: When you get off the ship, there is an info kiosk. They provide you with train times, but the number of trains going to and from Olympia are limited. As soon as you pass the info kiosk, there is a CHEAP 10â‚¬ roundtrip bus! The company drives you to Olympia, drops you off right at the entrance, gives you two hours to sightsee and brings you right back to port. We left Katakolon around 10:30am, arrived in Olympia at noon. The Greeks were on strike 8 Mar, so we hiked the perimeter and even had time to look through the shops. Olympia is slightly larger than Katakolon and has a better selection of souvenirs. We left Olympia around 2pm and were back to Katakolon port around 3:30pm. We grabbed a bite and headed back to the ship. I noticed the businesses were really hurting and hardly anyone sat down for food or drink at the local restaurants. I would recommend enjoying the local flare and the peace and quiet as Athens is the polar opposite!!
Athens: My 4th visit to Athens, I would have rather skipped Katakolon and spent two days in this magnificent city. There is way too much to do and see in Athens and we only had time to hike the Acropolis (without even seeing the new museum), have lunch and head back to the boat. When you exit the cruise terminal, there will be enthusiastic cab drivers ready to take you into the city. I've backpacked all over Greece and everyone is kind and very fair. The prices they offer are not to rip you off. The city center is 40 mins or so from Piraeus port. We were walking to the Piraeus metro. It was quite a hike so I stopped at a magazine kiosk, bought a transportation ticket for 1.8â‚¬ per person, hopped on bus 834 which dropped us off at Line 1 Piraeus metro stop (first stop on line 1). It is a straight shot to the city center but very slow. You must get off Monastiraki and hike to the top of the Acropolis. I recommend hiking down the opposite way to get the full Acropolis experience. Have a frappe (traditional Greek Iced Coffee) and walk around Plaka for some awesome souvenir shopping (Greek magnets, olive oil soap, key chains, many stores selling for as cheap as 1â‚¬). You can visit the Mitropoli on your way back to the Monastiriki metro Line 1. After we got off at the last stop Piraeus, the Bus line 843 was running behind. My parents and I hopped in a cab for 5â‚¬ which dropped us off at the door to the cruise terminal. Remember to ask the price before you hop in a cab.
Izmir: My mom and I backpacked through Greece and Turkey during summer 2002 and already have seen the magnificent Kusadasi and Efes. We elected to stay back and explore Izmir. Once you walk out the cruise terminal, you will have to walk outside the fenced terminal perimeter to grab a cab. There was no public transportation running on Sunday, so that was the only option presented to us by the info kiosk, 20â‚¬ cab to the city center. Right outside the cruise terminal is the Izmir hop on/hop off bus which was a great option at 10â‚¬ per person. It was very beautiful outside and we went with this option. Izmir is the 3rd largest city in Turkey. We covered the Agora, 2 Mosques, Clock tower, Fruit-Vegetable market, Train stations, KulturPark. Stores and Kemeralti Bazaar were closed. It was a nice beach town but there was not much to see and buy here. All the stores that were open only sold knockoff clothes and purses, no traditional Turkish pottery, foods, etc. You won't have to wait more than 10 mins to be picked back up from one of the official route stops.
Istanbul: This is my 2nd visit to Istanbul. After exiting the cruise terminal, go left. You will walk 1/2 km to get to the nearest tram stop. This was not clearly marked, so we kept walking and sightseeing until we saw the stop. There are several Turkish banks and ATMs along this route, so be sure to withdraw Turkish Lira asap. You feed the metro machine Lira for the number of tickets you need and it will spit out one token per person. You can also buy a tram ticket from a magazine kiosk and they issue you a magnetic paper ticket. The Hagia Sophia is closed on Mondays; Topkapi Palace is closed on Tuesdays. The tram will drop you off in the center of all the sites as they are lumped together (Topkapi, Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar all at the same tram stop). We went to Topkapi our first afternoon and it was as magnificent as I remembered. However, admission was equivalent to $15USD per person (only $3 in 2002). They only accept Turkish Lira, hence my advice to withdraw local currency from an ATM as soon as you get off the boat on the way to the tram stop. Topkapi can take all day to walk through. We arrived around 2pm and the site closed at 5pm. From there you can walk across to the Blue Mosque. The tourist entrance is in the back of the mosque. You will have to place your shoes in a plastic bag and they may offer women a skirt. Please respect tradition, take a seat on the carpet inside, look up and marvel at the architecture. They are closed at certain times throughout the day due to prayer hour. From the Blue Mosque, it is an easy walk to the Grand Bazaar (to the right of the Mosque). When I visited Istanbul in 2002, the Bazaar was open at all hours of the night, even 3am in the morning. This was a very different experience as the lights went dark around 7pm and they were kicking everyone out for prayer hour and dinner. We grabbed a Tavuk Sis at one of the stands and bargained on some pottery. The next day (Tue), we spent time at the Hagia Sophia and back at the Bazaar. Since we had more time to walk around the Bazaar, we found stores that clearly labeled their prices. I didn't have to spend an hour bargaining down the pottery I wanted to $20USD as it was clearly marked for cheaper at some of the stores. The stores that clearly mark their prices won't pressure you. I highly recommend this to save time and hassle.
The two days at sea back to Napoli were very rough and the entertainment was mediocre. It is a good time to book your Spa days or work out.
Napoli/Pompeii: I've never heard anything nice about Napoli from all my peers. Once we docked, we walked out to the main street. There is a magazine kiosk and you can buy an all day round trip ticket to Pompeii for 8â‚¬ per person which includes the tram to the train station, and local train to Pompeii. It was very easy; the tram dropped us off at Piazza Garibaldi and from there, a straight shot to Pompeii. Pompeii was magnificent and after being tired from the all day hike, we decided to grab a quick bite at 1 of 3 cafes across from the entrance. Food was DISGUSTING and an insult to Italian cuisine, expensive, and they charged a 15% service fee. The train we took back to Napoli dropped us off at the main Napoli train station, so it was a little confusing how to get back to Tram Line 1 back to 'Porto.' An older Napoli local explained that we were on the right tram, but then followed us to the port, all the way to the cruise terminal door. This was unusual, so I alerted a security guard who told me this was strange and to not trust the old man. Overall, Pompeii was a gem and highlight of our trip. For Napoli, I wouldn't know what to recommend seeing there except that it is a large, bustling city!
Civitavecchia: Check out was easy. Everyone had breakfast or lunch before having to say goodbye to the Jade. We walked out carrying our own bags without any hassle or lines. We bought an expandable bag at the NCL Gallery shop for our souvenirs, so we were going back a little heavier than we started. The buses transported us from the cruise ship back to the port gate. Did we want to lug our 4 bags a half kilometer back to the train station and risk breaking our wheels with heavier loads? NOT really when there was a 12â‚¬ bus waiting for us right there ready to take us straight back to Roma Termini in a nice air-conditioned bus. Bus dropped us off at Termini, we hiked and checked into our hotel. It was a Saturday so all the main sights (Trevi Fountain, Colosseo, Spanish Steps, Vatican City) were significantly more crowded. We ended up at the Palazzo Quirinale where they did a spectacular changing of the palace guards at 2pm. You do not want to miss this if you are in Rome on a Saturday as they only do this once a week, not every day. Please walk with a purpose and keep situational awareness of the Gypsies. They are everywhere targeting tourists and my father was surrounded by 8 female Gypsies who were unzipping his pockets and had their hands in his jacket. He had no idea what was going on and had nothing valuable on him, but I screamed and cursed at them causing everyone at the intersection to stop in their tracks and stare. DO draw attention to yourself if you find yourself being pickpocketed. That is the only way to scare off the Gypsies, otherwise they will not leave you alone.