We decided to try a cruise for the occasion of our 30th anniversary. We chose Norwegian based on the itinerary, dates, & recommendation from our travel agent.
We sailed May 17-24 aboard the Jade stopping in Dubrovnik, Athens, Kusadasi, & Split.
Overnight flight from Toronto to Venice was as expected, couldn't sleep, very washed out & tired during transfer from airport & embarkation, which went smoothly. One surprise was having to hand in our passports, which apparently the Greek authorities required of all non EU citizens. We got a receipt & got them back a few days later.
We thought the ship was just the right size, well laid out, very clean & the crew was exceptional in their focus on excellence in customer service.
We went to the buffet for lunch after dropping our carry-on bags in our balcony cabin # 9076. It was well laid out, with lots of storage space built in. The buffet at the Garden Café was very good, with a wide selection of hot & cold options & even a carving station. I was pleasantly surprised as I had read a spate of negative reviews about the food on the Jade, but honestly I had no complaints about the food for the whole cruise. We ate well every day. We usually did breakfast in the buffet "organized chaos" as someone else said, but despite the crowding at peak times, the selection was fantastic.
For dinner we ate in both dining rooms, the Alizar & more formal Grand Pacific. Bothe were good-very good in terms of selection & service. We also ate in some of the premium restaurants, the Bistro as part of our Anniversary package ( sparkling wine, a dozen roses, chocolate covered strawberries, canapés delivered one night, dinner in Le Bistro with wine & an 8x10 picture). On our last night we ate in the Japanese & had sabu sabu, a kind of do it yourself hot pot/ fondue kind of thing. We also went to the jazz brunch in the Bistro, great music, great food.
The entertainment was good-very good, Shout 60's musical review was OK, the music was good, but I thought the jokes fell kind of flat. The Elements show was an impressive circe-du soliel kind of thing, but I thought the magic bits were corny.
I really liked the daily newsletter outlining the events of the next day delivered each evening to your cabin.
I also liked that there always seemed to be some small thing to stumble upon, such as the Trivia games, Jewelry lectures, etc. The art gallery was impressive, if a little out of our league.
The Quest game show was a hilarious adults only event Emcee'd by the cruise director where teams had to compete to complete ever more risqué tasks.
The captains daily announcements were hilarious to listen to "We've got to sail around this island. If the ship had wheels we could drive across, but they didn't build her like that..." or "I've never been to the place we're going tomorrow; hopefully the first mate can find it"
The service in the Spinnaker lounge was lackluster to say the least. After sitting for 20 min I went to the bar myself to fetch drinks for us. When I complained, I was comp'd a beer. I guess that's the downside to the automatic 15 % gratuity, they don't have to go out of their way to do anything for it. This however was the only flaw in the otherwise truly impressive service ship wide.
We didn't book any Norwegian excursions in an effort to save some money & go with smaller groups. In Dubrovnik we went with some people from the meet & greet & got a taxi for 50Euro (split with another couple) to take us on a 1 hour scenic ride up the mountain to where the cable car goes, with several photo op stops on the way. The cab driver (& almost everyone we encountered on the whole trip) spoke English (which had been a concern of mine) & told us about the war in the 90's & pointed out where the city had been shelled. Back in town we paid (~$18) to climb the wall & walk around the old town. We had lunch in a café by the harbor & wandered about for some shopping before heading back to the ship.
In Athens we had booked via cruiseexcursions.com for the scenic Athens & Acropolis tour. There were about 47 of us on the bus, so it wasn't as small a group as I had hoped for, but the guide was very knowledgeable & her commentary really added value to the trip. The Acropolis was crowded, which is apparently always the case. They actually had Marshalls with whistles along the way to keep the crowds moving & hustle folks along. I'm just glad we didn't go in July with twice the crowds & 40 degree temps.
We went down to the Palaka for lunch & some shopping, for about an hour & a half before heading back to the bus & the ship. As someone else said, we could have used more time in this place.
In Turkey the next day we had booked with the same company, & we were expecting another full bus but were pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be just the 2 of us, our guide & driver. Private tour! Scores !
The house of Mary & Ephesus were the highlights of this tour which included stops at the remains of the temple of Artemus , a carpet making shop (some beautiful works of art) & a leather "outlet" that featured a private fashion show! Then back to the Port for some lunch by the docks & some shopping, including real hand made Turkish delight !
Another leisurely at sea day gave us back the hour we jumped ahead on our way to Greece & brought us to Split for our excursion. We read up about the town in a tourist book of Mediterranean ports & went on our own & found a walking tour to take around the palace/ old town. Then we stumbled on a wine tasting event in the basement of the palace! A very pleasant time was spent there & we even bought a couple of bottles to bring home.
Up early the next day to see the sail in to Venice. I had missed the sail out as I was napping after the long night/ day of travel on embarkation day. Venice is beautiful & there's nothing like watching it slide past your balcony! Disembarkation was smooth & orderly.
The airport was not so much. Air Transat who we flew with were 45 min late leaving each way, & when we boarded in Venice, as there weren't enough gates, they board you on to a bus (standing room only) which sat on the tarmac for 30 min before driving us out to the plane. When we arrived there were stairs at the front & rear of the aircraft. They proceeded to load us rear-row passengers via the front stairs & as we were getting on a second bus with passengers in the front rows arrived & was loaded * via the rear stairs at the same time* so we were trying to get to the back of the plane while they tried to get to the front at the same time! Not sure what genius was responsible for this but it was something.
Just a slight off note at the end to contrast the wonderful 7 days we just spent sailing aboard the Jade !!