My sister had previously done two land tours of Europe and this Norwegian Western Med cruise. She recommended the cruise for a few reasons: most traveling is done while sleeping during the night (instead of during the day on a bus), food is included on the cruise, and chances of finding clean public restrooms are much better! This was our first cruise, my boyfriend and I. We're in our early 50s. We booked our airfare on our own, but booked a pre-night stay in Barcelona with the cruiseline. When we arrived in Barcelona, we did the hop-on, hop-off bus tour of the city, which was fun. When we checked into our hotel, a person from the cruiseline was there to tell us exactly when to be downstairs in the morning for our transfer to the port. She was there again in the morning.
Embarking was very easy and fast. We had a balcony room and luckily had beautiful warm weather and calm seas for the entire trip. I was fascinated by the navigation channel and loved trying to figure out what land mass we were seeing. We did a Norwegian excursion in every port, basically because we didn't know what to expect and didn't want to worry about finding our way around on our own. In Malta, we did the jeep safari, where we hopped onto the back of a jeep and rode around the island, stopping for pictures of the beautiful cliffs and blue sea. In Naples, we went to Pompeii, on a guided tour that I found very interesting.
In Rome, we took the Vatican and Rome tour, where most of the day was dedicated to the Vatican, lunch at a restaurant in Rome, then a short drive around Rome with a stop at the coliseum. Always wanted to see the Vatican and our tour guide, Giuseppi, did not disappoint - he knew every detail. At the port for Florence, we did the Pisa/Tuscany tour, which was and not as "educational" and more relaxing. Would have loved to have seen Florence - maybe next time. At Nice, we went to an ancient village fortress in the mountains overlooking the sea - another relaxing trip. I was amazed at how smoothly the excursions were handled by the ship's crew and the tour contractors. It's a no-brainer - they give you a ticket with a time and place to show up, put a sticker on you, send you to your bus and take care of you all day. There are so many choices for excursions, I could probably take the same exact cruise three or four times and never get bored. If I do that, I will probably choose tours that include more free time. In fact, I discovered that I loved cruising so much I could probably have stayed on the ship and been perfectly happy.
The crew was wonderful. I thought the food was wonderful - and if you don't like something you can always order something else. Debarking the ship was simple, we had a transfer but there's no need for one - taxis were lined up early at the port. Early May is probably a very good time to do this cruise - although the Vatican was crowded, it wasn't really that bad. Our ship seemed to be full of people our age, so there wasn't any noise at night to deal with. We were both very happy with the trip and plan to cruise again....maybe Alaska next time.