We hand-picked our cruise to visit Israel. NCL offered the same ship we had been on before, so there would be no surprises, or so we thought. As with last time, the ship was fine, the crew grand, the food tasty. We quickly made adjustments to the 'freestyle dining', and were treated royally.
We had upgraded to a mini-suite, to give us a bit more room. As soon as we boarded, we went to our cabin, and opened our door to the balcony....only to step into a cloud of cigarette smoke from the cabins on either side. We are decidedly non-smokers, being health care providers, and on our last voyage on the Jade, a plain balcony cabin, we much have just been lucky with no smoker on either side. Unfortunately, because this was deck 11, there was an overhang to protect from the deck above, and this just made the situation worse, trapping the smoke. When I asked the hotel manager about it, he said "We have just recently changed the smoking policy to not allow smoking in the cabins, but will need more time to implement anything further, such as non-smoking on the balconies."
We enjoyed all the other aspects of the cruise. The spa package, with the heated chaises, and the massaging whirlpool was just the ticket after a long day of seeing the sights. And the itinerary was a new delight at each of the ports!
On most cruises, we spend a goodly amount of time on our balcony, enjoying the privacy and the relaxing atmosphere. It was a shame we could not do this on our cruise this time. I must say, when I am considering future cruises, I will keep this smoking policy in mind, and more than likely if some other line offers the same itinerary, I will select them over NCL, even if the cost is higher.
If you travel off season, be sure to pack rain gear and a warm jacket. Visiting this part of the world in March can be cold, but the crowds in the summer can get quite large. So, the trade-off is possible (not all of the time) cold/wet weather and some venue closures for the wait in lines from the crowds during peak season.
On the port list below, Port 2 was Alanya, Turkey. Quite a surprise, we had heard it was a place to go to sit in the sun at one of the many 'all inclusive' resorts, and not much more. We heard wrong!
We took a local bus up to the castle on the top of the hill, and walked our way down to the ship. FANTASTIC! So many ruins and old town structures, it took most of our day. And, there are many caves to explore. Some of the caves are visited by boat...look for the small boats along the pier and negotiate a price.
Port 5 was Iraklion, Crete, Greece. Knossos, known as the oldest European city, was built in the Minoan times (1900 BC). Used the bus to take us there and then, on the way back, stopped at a shopping street and had a yummy lunch-Greek style! As with some other ports, because of the time of year, some things were not open. But it was nice to visit when the crowds were not there.