Europe - Western Mediterranean
My wife and I were traveling with another couple. We stayed at the Confortel Barcelona Hotel the night before the 7 day cruise and also the night after the cruise ended. The room was clean but looked more like a dorm room than a hotel room - very austere. We took a taxi from the hotel to the dock on day of embarkation.
The embarkation went smoothly accompanied by a glass of champagne upon entry into the lounge area on deck 7. Our luggage arrived earlier than some cruises we have been on. The staff and service was superb during the complete cruise. The food served was better than average and a wider selection than on other cruise lines. We especially liked the "freestyling" concept where you do not have to dress up for a formal night. The staff paid great attention to having cruisers use hand sanitizers upon re-entry to the ship and into food service areas - a big positive! The layout of the ship was very logical and easy to find your way around, which can't be said More
for some ships we have been on. We would highly recommend this cruise line if all the ships in their fleet (and staff) were like this ship.
WE took advantage of NCL's shore excursion on 4 of the five ports. Our experiences were not bad but, in my opinion, a customized tour from reputable local guides at each of the ports would provide a more memorable and pleasant experience and for roughly the same price. Buses do not maneuver as easily as a van in some of the bigger cities and there is no waiting for stragglers to get on the bus. You can also take in more and spend more time at a particular location if desired, which is not an option on the cruise line's canned excursion. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
Our guide was very knowledgeable and personable. We did not spend any time in Cannes. This excursion was the shortest time wise. We drove to Monaco and Monte Carlo first. Monte Carlo was pristine and serene. While there we were fortunate to see Prince Albert who was on hand for a sponsored charity relay race. This place is the epitome of luxury (Yachts, expensive autos, plush hotels, etc.). The scenery on this tour was awesome. However, the majority of time on this tour was spent on the bus traveling to Monte Carlo and Nice. We were allow about one hour at each of those two locations - very little time to shop.
The lines were long at all the museums we saw so we decided to peruse the shops and take advantage of the local color. It did rain while we were there (the only bad weather during our trip). It no more than started to sprinkle and we were inundated with numerous people hawking umbrellas. It was so quick that I do believe that if the sun had come out, there would be quite a few immediately trying to sell sunscreen. The leather and gold shops were something to behold. The ladies were on there own and so were we guys. The ladies shared a pizza (8.50 Euros) and each had a Pepsi. When the bill came each of the Pepsis was 8.75 Euros (amazing) - wine is cheap and sodas expensive.
The tour guide was very knowledgeable and we took in the usual tourist sites.
WE saw very little of Naples - just the drive thru it to get to our destination and then return to the ship. Our shore excursion took us to Pompeii, then to Sorrento, and finally to the Isle of Capri before returning to Naples. Our tour guide was good and so was the food in Sorrento. Our wives did have a chance to shop at several of the stops and they enjoyed the Lemonchella. Sorrento and Capri were great and worthy of another future extended visit. There was quite a bit of walking on this excursion and we slept well that night due to exhaustion - but it was worth it!
We enjoyed this port the most. We had a custom tour from a company run by Aldo Monti. We read about his company here on "CruiseCritic" from a posted review and we were not disappointed. You can review his offerings at "www.yourtourinitaly.com". We were met at the dock at the agreed upon time (7:45am) by Allen, our driver and guide. We also met Aldo who was cordial and introduced himself. Allen's heritage is English and Italian and speaks very good English with a great sense of humor. The transportation was a Mercedes Benz van/SUV in immaculate condition. It could seat 7 people comfortable and have room for luggage. No deposit was required to make the reservation and payment was at the end of the tour. We did not have to stand in line at the colosseum or the Vatican since they made advance reservations for us. We took in the Colosseum, Pantheon, Forum, passed by the area where the Circus Maximus was originally, stopped at the Trevi fountain, and had lunch at a cozy bistro close to the Piazza Navona. The Pizza at the bistro was great and so was the wine. We saw all the various places listed on the company's website. We had a personal guide for our tour of the Vatican museum and Sistine Chapel (2 hours). Allen took us to a hill overlooking the City which was well worth the view and great for picture taking. We were definitely able to see and experience more that if we had been on NCL's bus excursion. We were able to maneuver down narrow streets and stop at locations not easily accessible to buses. We would highly recommend this company and especially Allen, our guide and friend.