-If there is a 'must see' sight on your tour, double check what day of the week you will be in that city, and see what hours the sight is open that day. We were in Istanbul on Sunday, and the Grand Bazzar was closed. I was so very disappointed that my wife couldn't go shopping ;-)
-Raffles (deck 12 aft) frequently opens early. This is especially important on days where the port is far away from the destination (Florence, Rome, Athens)
-Raffles has milk in cartons, cereal in boxes, fruit, and single serving yogurt that you can take back to your room. This can be used to snack, or as a breakfast replacement.
-Blue Lagoon's (deck 7) 24 hour menu is complementary, but limited to "Comfort Food", such as burgers, hot dogs, panini, wings, fish & chips, chef's salad. They also have cookies in the afternoon.
-Mini-Bar sample pricing in US$ + 15% VAT, Vodka $6.75, Rum & Scotch $5.75, Whiskey $5.25, Beer $5.25, Pepsi $2.10, Red Bull $4.50.
-Laundry. They do have specials, such as $27.99 pricing for everything you can jam into their bag. Otherwise, typical pricing is: Underwear or Socks $1.95, Jeans $5.95 or $3.95 for press only, T-shirt / Polo shirt $4.95 or $2.95 for press only, Formal shirt / blouse $5.95 or $3.95 for press only.
-Dry Cleaning. Suit $11.95 or $5.95 for pressing only, Pants / Slacks $7.95 or $3.95 press only.
-They do have an iron and ironing board that you can borrow, either to save money, or to reduce the time your clothes are at the laundry.
-Boarding time is thirty minutes before the time that the ship sails. Somewhere on the website it mentions that 'all guests must be on board two hours before sailing', but that only applies to the port you board the ship at.
-The ship phone number is +1 732 335 3280
-The ship's cell phone service won't do data. If you want to use your phone providers data plan, you have to wait until you are within sight of land. The ship can do WiFi, but of course, there is an extra charge for that.
-Weather reports given by the ship are vague ("Partly Cloudy, 65F/18C") and there is no passenger access to ship's weather radar. You will have to use the Internet to get a better idea of the weather in your next port.
-The ship holds sales towards the end of the cruise. If you wait until then to buy ship items (pictures, T-shirts etc.), you can have some good savings.
-Our cabin had one 110V electrical outlet in it. That saves you from having to take a heavy transformer and adapter plugs in your luggage. You might want to take a small power bar instead, so you can charge a few things at once (500W limit).
-Wake up calls are available.
-Tourist season is in full swing in mid May. The number of tourists in some of the ports was a complete surprise to me. In Athens, we were told that the cruise ships had deposited 11 thousand of us there for one day visits. No wonder things were so crowded.
-Sea days are good for resting, but you may want to pack a good book in your luggage.
-The ship provided a bus service from Livorno to the train station. $12 round trip.
-The ship provided a water bus service from the Venice port to St. Marks $20 round trip.
-There is airport style security every time you return to the ship, however, you don't have to remove your belt, or coins from your pockets.
-Taking plastic clothes hangers makes drying clothes much easier. The shower has a clothes line built into it.
-If your cruise is Barcelona to Venice, then starboard cabins are preferred. The port side cabins were only an advantage when approaching Istanbul.
-At Athens cruise ship terminal 'A', exit the building and stay to the left on the sidewalk.
-If you are going to tour Istanbul on your own, you might want to have Turkish Lira so you can ride the tram. While most vendors in town take Euros, the tram token machines want Turkish Lira. The tram is a great way to get from the port area to the major sites.
-At Istanbul's Salispan (sp?) cruise ship terminal, exit the terminal building and go left to the gatehouse. It's a short walk to the street, and the tram line that runs down the middle of it, and up towards the Blue Mosque and Aya Sophia. .
-There may be a long delay between the time you press the button to flush the toilet, and the time it actually flushes. You don't have to keep pressing the button, it will flush eventually.
-The 'service charge' is optional. If you don't get appropriate service, you go to the front desk on the last day and fill in a form to eliminate the service charge.
2 Ship announcements and navigation. Have this channel on and volume up on days when you want to go ashore.
3 Ship activities
9 BBC news
10 Sky News (think Fox news)
14 English movie channel
If you have already booked your cruise, you may want to stop reading here. I wasn't impressed with the ship or it's hotel staff, and in hopes that Norwegian is listening, provide this critique.
When we first came onto the ship, two of three elevators in the mid elevator lobby were out of service, with yellow tape labeled "Accident Scene". The third elevator treated us to a view of some very very dirty glass between the elevator and the fountain. That glass was never cleaned during the entire cruise.
The purpose of this specific cruise is to transport guests to some of the world's most significant cities for one day each. With that in mind, the most important thing to all guests, is to get ashore as quickly as possible. The ship was thirty minutes late in Athens, and ten minutes late in Rome. In other ports, they were just barely in time. This was the third cruise of the season, and if the ship expected problems with government officials, they should have arrived earlier. The cruise staff had no idea of how to organize people. One female cruise staffer seemed to have the job of organizing guests, but had no idea of how to do it. She had no plan for people to line up to leave, so people tried to find a plan for themselves. That resulted in absolute chaos. She yelled at guests, which is completely unacceptable. She wanted us to go backup from level 4 to level 7, but couldn't understand that we couldn't go back up stairs that were already crowded with other guests waiting to leave. You need to unravel that knot from the end, not the middle.
The cruise director and staff either need to be replaced, or sent from the Miami head office to Orlando. The various Disney parks show an absolute genius for organizing crowds of people, many of whom don't speak English, and getting them all where to their destination. Staff and multi lingual color coded signs are the keys to managing this. Norwegian desperately needs to learn those lessons to organize shore excursions.
In Venice, they did manage to organize the disembarkation appropriately, even if they were late again. Why can't they use a similar system for the cruise ports??
FOOD and BEVERAGE
Raffles is a reasonable cafeteria, without the convenience of trays. The ambiance of the room is not improved by the pounding of the basketball on the court directly above.
They had a reasonable base menu for most meals, and then added different unusual foods at each meal. However, staffing is a problem. In one case, a crew member dropped a broom so that it hit our table, startling my wife, and nearly hitting her. That same crew member made another guest jump when she dropped dirty cutlery and almost hit him with that. Another day, the coffee machine was broken. When I mentioned it to a crew member, she showed me a pot of luke-warm coffee, and then she walked away. While I was grateful for the coffee, it would have been more appropriate for her to report the "Error 75" message on the coffee maker to her manager. I was left to do that myself.
Given the ship schedule, I would suggest that Raffles open earlier on days that the ship stops at significant cities. Nobody cares about Toulon and Kasadasi, so there's no rush getting off. However, it was almost standing room only at breakfast on the day we wanted to tour Rome.
Garden Restaurant. There were three opening times. One time was posted in the ships "Freestyle Daily" newsletter. A second opening time was shown on the ship's television system. The resteraunt didn't open at either of these times. We were there when the it did finally open, and were seated within a few minutes. The bread was very good, which was useful because it took a long time to get our dinner served. We saw people who arrived fifteen minutes after we did, finishing dinner and leaving before we had been served. We almost missed the 7:30 PM show because of the very slow dinner service.
Windows Restaurant. We were first in line, and again, the opening time was an issue. Staff knew we were outside, waiting by a desk, because various servers kept coming out to see what the daily special was. Fifteen minutes after the posted opening time, someone finally went into the restaurant, and asked when they would open. The hostess said they had been open for a while, and then had the nerve to ask why we hadn't come in. I was so angry with that treatment that I spoke to a manager immediately. We were seated in the bright and blinding sunlight (even with the shades drawn), and our orders were taken. However, they couldn't get the orders right, and my pot roast became a bowl of spaghetti.
After these restaurant experiences, I ate at Raffles, because I knew what I could expect. While I recognize that this is very unscientific measurement of weight loss, it should be noted that I purchased a new belt on day four of the voyage. By the end of the cruise, I had to tighten it by four notches.
In a surperb example of poor customer service, while we were leaving the ship at one port, security stopped disembarkation so that two loads of pool towels could move down the corridor. This proves that towels are more important than guests at Norwegian.
In general, I found that the staff at the front desk never had a consistent story for any given question. If you asked two of them the same question, they had completely different answers. The various answers we got about the final day were a perfect example of that. There were also problems understanding the English that several of them spoke.
When I checked with the accounting person, she outright lied and told me that the service charge couldn't be changed. There is a form that you can get and fill out to say that you are refusing to pay a service charge, given the level of service you received. As a suggestion, hand out the form whenever a guest directly asks for it. If I knew I didn't have to argue the issue on the last day, I might have calmed down and only wanted to reduce the amount, rather than leave zero. Also, you will get a much better explanation of what happened from me immediately, rather than having me fill in a form at 5 AM on the last day! Leaving me to fume for almost two weeks didn't help either of us.
Norwegian changed the ship's route to bypass Turkey's third largest city, Izmir, and land at Kusadasi instead. Izmir had a Grand Bazaar to rival the one in Istanbul that was closed the previous day. It also had it's own historic sites, as well as a hop on/off bus tour of town. Izmir is bidding to host the 2020 World's Fair, so there has to be something to see there. Kusadasi was described on the Tom's Ports website as a "sleepy beach town". With all my wife's shopping, it only took an hour and a half to see 'everything' in town. This was a completely wasted day. Reading the mayor's English language website suggests that the only reason this schedule change happened, is that the town offered inducements to Norwegian to change the schedule.
While we were waiting in Venice for instructions on disembarkation, the 7th floor lobby was full of people waiting for announcements. Was it really necessary for a crew member to begin playing the piano to make it more difficult to hear those instructions?