We have been planning this trip for 2 years, and had to postpone it from May to Sept when my mother had complicated cancer surgery in April. Norwegian was great when we had to change our plans. I don't know how we rated the offer, but we were given a chance to upgrade from our balcony to a penthouse suite with butler, etc. I had to pull off the side of the road to finish the call from the cruise line. We booked our own flights on Delta to have more time to make the time change, and get the max in frequent flyer miles. I cannot say enough about the care and attention everyone gave us, from the check in in Barcelona, until our departure in Venice. We stayed at the Montblanc Hotel thru NCL including the transfer program.The VIP service was so amazing. We were in the Taurus suite. We splurged on a deal for reservations in the specialty restaurants as soon as we got on board, which scored us a nice bottle of wine too. During the 12 days we tried out every specialty restaurant, the sushi bar, the Aisan fusion place (not the Hibachi- the noise gives my husband a migraine). We did 3 nights in the main dining room. You don't have to be a foodie to enjoy the dining experience of a Chef's Table. The food was spectacular, and the company fun. We did not go to much of the entertainment on board- not really our thing. The DVD selection was good. The onboard movies were pretty good.
Excursions: After reading reviews of the excursions, balancing the cost, and reviews on the Rick Steves websites and Cruise Critics, we decided to try private guides in Rome and Istanbul. The DriversinRome people were fabulous and we saw as much as we could see, with just the 2 of us. They even set up a private guide for us at the Vatican. Our guide in Istanbul was excellent but we got sucked into the carpet and pottery hard sells. We thoroughly enjoyed the Spice Market and chose to spend our money there. I walked around Mykonos on my own- easy to do leisurely. The Marseilles/Aix-en-Provance tour was good and worth the money. The lack of public restrooms was brutal (and none on the bus). In Florence we chose the Florence on your own option. I had no appreciation of how long the drive was so I overbooked us at the the museums for the actual time that we had. We therefore never used the 35 euro/pp tickets to one of them. We did make it to the Academia to see David. We will have to go back sometime on our own. We were glad we did the afternoon Pompeii guided tour in Milan- we would not have gotten as much out of it on our own without a guide. We opted to to the VIP small group NCL tour for Athens. We were happy with our guide and driver. The food at the restaurant was included and amazing. We had plenty of time to wander around the Acropolis Museum and shopping (not much shopping however). Ephesus has to be done on a guided tour. We did it via NCL and were happy with our guide. For Venice, we took an overview tour to get our bearings on day one. The "drive" into port was fabulous from both the deck and our balcony. While getting off the ship was easy, getting to our rental apartment was not fun. I definitely overpacked (but I wore everything and we had serious souveneirs) and did not fully appreciate the vaporetto and bridges issue. We used Cross Pollinate to make our apartment reservations and they were great about the changes we had to make for Sept from May. The apartment was just what we wanted in a perfect location.
We are sold on the VIP experience and will save up to do it again for the Panama Canal in 2015.