Embarked in Venice. A bit of a hike from the case drop-off area to the ship. The thought of having to retrace our steps - and then add yet more - made us stay put instead of having a look round the city. Cabin was clean and tidy with everything we needed. Our steward, Jonathan, kept it immaculate. It was lovely to see some of the crew we had met on our Canary Islands cruise in January. As usual, all the crew were very friendly and helpful.
Now to the ports.
Two 'sea days' from Venice meant that we arrived refreshed in Piraeus. Had booked with Piraeus Express. €25 and worth it! Great tour guide and very comfortable new Mercedes mini-bus. Only 11 of us.The Acropolis however was a total nightmare. Huge queues! We gave up and returned to the bus. Rest of the tour was great and I thoroughly recommend this small company. It was real value for money. Warning --- when you return to the port make SURE that you leave yourself plenty of time. You have to go through a full embarkation process! The hall was totally packed with passengers from the three large cruise ships that were in port. It was hot and airless and some people were panicking in case they didn't make it back to their ship on time. The officials looked at the mayhem and went back into their office. Shocking!!
Izmir. Can't comment as we stayed on board and enjoyed having the ship virtually to ourselves.
Istanbul. Traffic is absolutely horrendous!! Queues at Blue Mosque etc were so long - 50 mins - that we just looked at the outside of the buildings and then found a cafe for a snack. Wandered through a lovely, peaceful park alongside the Topkapi. Back to ship. Delayed departure due to tour buses being stuck in traffic jams. Other passengers told us that there had been a major police incident in the New Town - tear gas, guns drawn. Frightening!
Mykonos. Pretty - and busy. Just took tender from ship into port - very well organised - and wandered along the promenade.
One sea day and then Naples. Took a ship organised morning tour of Pompeii. ($89.99) Excellent guide. Pompeii is a huge site, lots of walking over very rough streets. Some high steps too and a long walk to the tour bus park at the end. Very tiring but well worth doing. Glad we took the morning tour as the site was really filling up when we left.
Civitavecchia Stayed on board as ankles swollen from all the tramping around the day before.
Livorno. Took ship organised morning tour to see Leaning Tower etc in Pisa. ($89.99) Bus from quayside to Pisa and then a little trolley to Miracle Square. Hordes everywhere but found a nice small cafe bar in a fairly quiet side street. Bottle of chilled local white wine was €7 - can't moan about that!
Toulon. Little tour trolley right on the quayside. €6 for a round trip. Two drop off/hop on stops. Good value.
Barcelona. Have already 'done' B so had booked a morning flight home. Disembarkation very well organised and we were in a taxi and e route to the airport very quickly.
As to our overall experience of the voyage.
Food on board was excellent! Loads of choice in Raffles Buffet. Garden and Windows were our chosen venues for dinner. Lovely choice of dishes and exemplary service! Who needs the speciality restaurants? Not us!
Crew were great!! Shows in the Stardust were ok on the whole. There's not a great choice of onboard entertainment when the ship is in port as the majority of passengers are off doing their trips. Suited us as we were there for a relaxing holiday so we just sat in the sun, read our books and enjoyed more than a few (!) glasses of vino. With cheap air fares from the UK, we are in the fortunate position of being able to visit sites all over Europe as and when we choose so there was no need for us to tire ourselves out seeing and doing.
As I did the last time, I purchased a voucher for a future cruise. $250. You get an immediate $100 off your onboard account plus a voucher for $250 (£160) to use towards your next NCL cruise. It is valid for 4 years and fully transferable. Makes good sense to me as we are now 'hooked' on cruising and more than satisfied with NCL. Plan to book again early next year.
Happy cruising folks!!