Pre-Cruise info: We flew into Barcelona on Sunday (a couple of days early). We didn't want to have to worry about flight problems, wanted to have some time to get acclimated to the time difference, and have some time to explore Barcelona.
Hotel: We stayed at the Husa Oriente. The only good thing about this hotel was the location, right off Las Ramblas. The location was also part of the problem. It was VERY loud at night, from the street and from the neighboring rooms. The room was clean, but spend the money to stay elsewhere.
Groundlink transportation: I booked them to take us from the airport to the hotel and also from the hotel to the ship. I'm not very impressed with them. They were not organized at all. Upon landing our driver was no where to be found. Finally called them and was told that the driver was parking and would be there shortly. Finally, an hour and 3 phone calls later he showed up. He forgot where he parked his car, we walked around until he remembered he parked elsewhere, etc... He missed our hotel, we had to get out and walk back 3 blocks. Had issues with the driver that took us to the ship as well. Not worth the money.
Barcelona: What a fantastic city! We arrived Sunday morning and dropped off our luggage at the hotel. Our rooms were not ready but I didn't expect them to be. We decided to walk down Las Ramblas and stop somewhere for brunch. The weather was great and we really enjoyed walking around and exploring. Some shops were closed because of it being Sunday, but the streets were uncrowded and we had a great time. I was prepared for pickpockets and such but at no point felt uncomfortable or unsafe. We loved the food and the Sangria. We just ordered a selection of tapas and enjoyed! Went back to the hotel around 3:30 when our room was ready and took about an hour nap, then headed out to explore again. We walked down to the port area, where they had art stands set up. Enjoyed walking around and stopped at a place called Tapas for some more great food and Sangria.
On Monday I had arranged the Barcelona & Montserrat full day Private Tour through Barcelona Day Tours. Fantastic tour, highly recommended. Our driver/guide was excellent. We spend part of the morning exploring different sections of Barcelona. The Barcelona Cathedral was magnificent! Then we drove up to Montserrat. What a beautiful drive! We stopped a few times along the way for photos. We had free time to tour the basilica, the museum, and walked around the shops and trails. We were able to hear the famous boys choir sing and it was definately worth hearing, even though people tended to shove each other a little trying to get a view. We took the funicular down the mountain and met our guide. He took us to a local restaurant which served fabulous food. Then we drove back to Barcelona and ended the day doing a very quick tour of some of the Gaudi buildings. We were able to walk around Park Guell quickly. My only dissapointment is that were were not really able to get out of the car and truly explore some of the Gaudi buildings, but we ran out of time. After we were dropped off at the Hotel we walked across the street to a little square and ate at a restaurant called Les Quince. We had noticed the night before and observed that it was quite popular, with long lines. We arrived around 7:30 and avoided the long lines that appeared around 8. Amazing food! Worth going to! I understand why they had long lines.
Tuesday: Embarkation day. We decided to sleep in a little. Had a late breakfast around 9:30 and then repacked, checked out and headed to the port to board. We had booked a Penthouse Suite so we had priority check-in. Check-in was very quick. They did take our passports.
The suite waiting room was nice and we were greeted by our concierge Karabi (who is fabulous by the way). They had a lot of food and drinks there, and I wished we had skipped breakfast. Karabi explained a few things to us and then we were escorted onto the ship and directly to our room. We dropped off our cary ons and headed to Cagney's for lunch. After that, we just lounged around until the drill. Following the drill we headed off to the Cruise Critic meet and greet which was fantastic. We really enjoyed meeting everyone. We ate in Windows that night, which was good, and then called it an early night since we had an early shore excursion the next morning.
My son however, went on to the teens program which had events. At 9pm they had icebreaker games. At 10:30 they had boys vs. girls games and at 11:30 - 12:55 they had a teen kick off party.
Thought I'd mentions some of the activities they had going on during the embarkation day:
They had the group Latin Express playing by the pool during the afternoon. They were pretty good. The lifeboat drill was at 4:30. The show was the Welcome Aboard show (which we did not attend).
Wednesday: We were docked at Toulon, France. We booked the Marseille & Aix En Provence tour through Norwegian. Good tour and great weather! I put more information on the port review.
That evening we had dinner reservations at La Trattoria. I'm not impressed with this place. The food wasn't bad, but the same stuff I can order at a general, mid-range Italian place back home. I wouldn't eat there again.
My son went to the Teens program that evening. here's a sample of what they did. They had a cupcake eating contest, Freaks of Nature Hunt (I have no idea what that is), A clown hunt, A DJ party where the kids learned how to DJ, and a Wild for the Night party where the teens had to wear the brightest and craziest clothes possible. My son had a blast.
For the adults: The show was Soul Rockin' Nights (we didn't go), Salsa Dance Class, and a Beatles Tribute. We didn't make any of these beacuse our dinner ran late and we were tired.
Thursday: The ship docked at Livorno. We booked the Ultimate Florence & Pisa with David and Tower Climb. Great tour and great weather! I put more information on the port review.
We ate dinner in Windows that night. Sat with two other couples, one from England and one from New Mexico. Great meal and great conversations! I think I had the Salmon special that night and it was amazing!
My son once again ditched us for the teen program as soon as we boarded (the teens all have a time that they eat together). Some of their activities involved playing games on the sports court, Alphabet hunt, Teen Dares, and Beat the buzzer. Not sure what all that is but he once again had a great time and came back to the cabin around 1 am (which is the curfew for the teens under 17 years of age)
Adults: Show was a musical act Michelle Montouri ( we were so wrapped up in our dinner conversation that we missed the show), Cha Cha dance Class, and a 50's & 60's Rock N' Roll Hop. We didn't do anything after dinner.
Friday: The ship docked at Civitavecchia, Italy. We booked the ship tour Ultimate Rome. Fantasitc tour. I put more in the port review.
Enjoyed another amazing dinner in Windows with a couple from Russia and a couple from Scotland. Unfortunately we were so wrapped up in our dinner conversation that we missed the show (and it was one I had really wanted to see).
My son had all sorts of energy left so he was off to the teens program. Some of their activities were Hide and Seek Sardines style, Dress the Jester (of which they came an borrowed some of my clothes for- I don't want to know), Teens Quest and a Mardi Gras Festival Party.
Saturday - The ship docked in Naples. We booked the Capri, Sorrento & Pompeii tour through the ship. Another fantastic tour. More info in my port review.
That evening we were so tired that we opted to have dinner in our room. Our Butler, Mary Jane (who was fantastic) brought us menus from all the restaurants for us to choose from. The food was great and we enjoyed watching the sunset as we pulled out of port.
My son went yet again to the teens program. Their activities included Giant Jenga, Photo hunt, Teen Circus Tricks and the teen Movie Night.
Adult options were: A Ballet performance by Duo Amaury, Modern Line dance class, Newlywed Game show, and Dancing with the Spirit Stars. We sat on our balcony and enjoyed a quiet evening.
Sunday: A very much needed Day at Sea! We slept in. Enjoyed a late breakfast (BTW we ate breakfast at Cagney's every day since it was part of the suite perks-- food and service was very good) And then slipped up to find some chairs around the pool deck. We met up with some of the people we had met throughout the cruise and enjoyed a nice and relaxing day. My husband had the Swedish Message at 2p, which he said was fine.
My son spent the entire day hanging with his new buddies in the teen program. Some of the activities were: Brunch with the gang, Teens sports choice, Circus Workshop, Planking challenge and Dodge ball.
Some of the adult activities: Awesome Abs, Shuffleboard Tournament, Latin cardio Class, Art of making Sushi, Napkin Folding class, Wine and Food in Balance tasting, International Beer Tasting, Circus Workshop, Martini Tasting
There was a special meet and Greet with the Captain and officers for the Suite guests at 6p. We went, talked to the captain and some of the officers for a little bit and then headed on to dinner. They alos took a photo of us with the Captain, which we did not buy.
We had dinner arrangements that night at Le Bistro. Fantastic meal! Enjoyed every minute of it!
Dinner was long so we did not make any shows. The shows were On Broadway, Elton John Tribute, 70's Disco Inferno Dance party.
Monday: We were at Mykonos Greece. This is a tender port. However, since we were in a suite we had priority tendering service which was nice. We didn't book anything for this day. Mykonos is small and easily explored. Just a note, most of the shops do not open up until around 10 or 11, so if you want to sleep in you can. We got up early so I could get photos before it became too crowded. It is a beautiful little island. We wondered around and then sat down at a shop for some homemade Baklava and great coffee. Yum! This is also a great place to get some Greek jewelry if you are interested. We enjoyed wandering through the shops and picked up some great little gifts to bring home to family. Finally around 1:30 we stopped at a place on the water to eat lunch. We ended up ordering some amazing Calamari and some starters to eat. Then sat back and enjoyed a good meal, with great views and good Greek Beer.
The all aboard was 3pm so we wondered back around 2:15 to avid the tender crowds.
You can probably already guess where my son went-- Here are some the the teen activities for that afternoon & evening: Circus Sail Away Party, Bigger and Better Trade up Challenge, Spoons, Teen dares, Toga Party.
My husband and I had booked the Chef's Table for that evening. We met everyone at Champagne Charlies at 5:45 for some sparkling wine _-Schramsburg, Blanc de Blancs, North Coast California and a meet and greet. We then took a group photo and We were then escorted to a private room in Cagney's for this amazing meal! They also took a photo of each couple with the chef. You are given these photos at the end along with a signed menu. The menu was as follows:
First course : Wine- Matua Valley, Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand ( one of my favorite wines)
Food- Amuse Bouche Molecular Gastronome- mango, vodka & Jalapeno ravioli
Tomato, Basil, Curry, Lavender Lavosh
Ahi Tuna Tartare
Second course: Wine: Silverado Vineyards, Chardonnay, Napa Valley
Food: Asparagus Cream with Cauliflower flan, crispy beetroot & Saffron (yum)
Short Crust Tartlet with goat cheese, sun dried tomato and Olive Tapenade
Granite with grapefruit & Muscato
Pan Seared Plantain crusted Bass with Mango chutney and lobster veloute
Third Course: Wine: Franciscan, Cab Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Food: Milk Fed Veal Chop with anna potatoes, sauteed spinach and truffle veal jus
Fourth Course: Cheese platter
Yogurt Mousse Dome with lychee raspberry creme, hazle sablee, lime vanilla reduction
Chocoholic's Delight spiced dark rum infused banana cocoa mousse
We finished back at Champagne Charlies with specialty coffee drinks. Wonderful experience! It does take about 4 hours start to finish.
Tuesday: We were docked at Istanbul. Loved Istanbul! Traffic is horrific!. We booked the Exclusive Classical Istanbul tour through Norwegian. See port reviews for more info.
Yes, my son ditched us again for the teen program once we were back on board. Activities included: Celebrity Who Am I?, Teen Formal Dinner- which my son was eager to dress up and go to-- must have had something to do with the cute blonde girl from Colorado ;), Poker & Black Jack tournament
Adults: show was Stars on Strings (marionette show) . Sing It if you Know It, Miss Norwegian Spirit show, and Latin Fiesta dance party.
We enjoyed a quiet dinner with just ourselves in Windows. We were actually seated by a window and enjoyed the views as we ate our dinner.
Wednesday: Ship docked at Izmir Turkey. It was a late docking time ( 11:30a) so we actually slept in a little bit. We booked the Ultimate Ephesus Tour. Loved the first half of the tour! Hated the last hour. See my port review for more info.
Yup- my teen went to the teens program: BTW Axe, who runs the program, is amazing! Activities: Circus workshop, Air Hockey Tournament, Pool Party.
Adults: We went to Windows and enjoyed a very good meal. We wanted to see the show which was the Evolution of Magic, so we ate early. The show was a mixed bag. Loved his up close slight of hand tricks, the other tricks fell a little short for us. You do have to realize that my husband loves magic shows, so we have seen some of the best out there. Your other options for the night were 55 to stay alive game show and the Big Band Cabaret.
Thursday: We were supposed to go to Athens. However, they had a big labor strike and so the port was closed along with all the big attractions. I am disappointed about missing Athens. Instead we did a Day at Sea and the rescheduled a stop for Croatia the next day.
Once again, we slept in and then went up to the pool deck to hang out. My husband had a Hot Stone Message at 2 which he said was fantastic! We ate lunch in Cagneys, which was very good.
My son hung out in the teens program. They had a pool party, and then some teens choice times where they could choose the activities. They also had the White Hot Party.
Dinner was again at Windows and was very good
Adults: the show was violinist jacob Konviser (which I heard was very good, I'm sorry we missed him) and the White Hot Party
Friday: Was disappointed with missing Athens. However, we went to Dubrovnik, Croatia instead. Beautiful port. It is a tender. And because we were not expecting to be there, the tender process seemed a little disorganized. We ended up booking the Dubrovnik & Village Life tour, which was good. See my port review for more info.
Teen program activities: Ping Pong Tournament, Dice game, Teen Scavenger Hunt, W
We enjoyed a late dinner at Windows once again.
Signature Chocolate Buffet event was tonight. As suite guests, we were supposed to get in early and have a few minutes at the event to ourselves. We did get in early, howe3ver, they were not ready. So we sat there. We were first in line, but that was all. It was kind of neat and they had some interesting food, However, I do have to say that people were pushing and shoving their way through. You would think that they hadn't had a chance to have dessert on the whole cruise. We finally gathered just a few items and went back to our room to eat in peace. I was truly amazed at how people behaved.
Adult activities: Show Elements ( we went. Mostly pretty good. Kind of like a Cirque event) Other options were the Big Band Tribute ( I would have like to have gone to that, but it clashed with other activities), Karaoke.
Saturday: Venice! The sail into Venice is not to be missed! We sat on our Balcony and enjoyed the view! It was a late sail in time, so we slept in, got everything packed up and ready to sit out for debarkation. The tender off of the boat here was a little chaotic. We booked the Walk Through the Heart of Venice & Gondola Ride tour. Worst tour we booked. The only redeeming part of the tour was the gondola ride. However, we really enjoyed Venice once we were done with the tour. See port review for more info.
Since the cruise stays in Venice overnight, we decided to stay in port and eat dinner there. Fantastic way to sped our time. A lot of the other ships left (along with all of their passengers) around 4pm so it was less crowded. We enjoyed walking around and ended up eating at a local restaurant off the tourist path called La Teatro. Amazing food! Amazing service! We stayed out until 10:30pm when we finally headed over to the shuttle boat.
One thing to note, the shuttle back has to drop you off at the starting point of the port where the ships dock. It is easily a good 15 to 20 minute walk back to your boat ( and it isn't a scenic one).
Sunday: We disembarked as late as we could. 10am. This process was very chaotic. They could't tell us where to catch a taxi (in fact they told us to go to the wrong place), no one seemed to know what was happening. However, I saw a man with a taxi service shirt on and he was enormously helpful. We went straight to the airport. Unfortunately we didn't have enough time to explore the city yet we were way early for our airplane. We sat in the airport for a while, However, I can say that they have good, fresh food upstairs.
The Ship: The ship is clean and in good repair. We loved our cabin, which was a Penthouse suite. Room 10018. Our Concierge Karabi and Butler Mary Jane were fabulous! The service all round the ship was fantastic! The suite perks were amazing and I loved the itinerary!