Norwegian Gem Cruise Review by LindaVap: The Mediterranean is the only way to GO!!
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The Mediterranean is the only way to GO!!
Our plane landed about 7:30 AM. By the time we went through customs, got our money exchanged it was nearly 8:15. One interesting thing was that they had us fill out the Immigration forms before we arrived. I had left ours in the pocket of the plane so figured I would have to refill them out. The custom agent looked at our passports and said to go ahead. Real security, huh!! We then went out front of the airport to find a taxi. We kept asking for a driver who spoke some English. We had a very nice taxi driver and asked him to take us on a tour of the city. We drove around for over an hour, went by the Olympic stadium, the Castill, plus some monuments and other buildings. He took us to a very high point overlooking the harbor and we were able to see our ship. He offered to take us to the big cathedrals plus another special site but we decided to opt out. We had seen enough and just wanted to be taken to the port. Our fee for this was 50 euros plus whatever my More husband tipped him. I forgot to ask him. Arrived at the port about 9:30 AM and were able to check out luggage in right away. We then just went and sat down. They told us that they would begin embarkation about 10:30 AM. The shops in the port opened about 10:00 AM and had some interesting things available.
A little after 10:30, over 50 people (most of them in their 20's) came out the door and lined up to start checking the people in. I had never seen this many people checking passengers in and they were quick about it. Fortunately most of them spoke very good English. We then were told to wait until the ship was cleared and then we could board. They had people taking your boarding pictures while you waited. We boarded a little after 11:00 AM. Before boarding the ship an employee met us with hand sanitizer spray. One of the things I appreciate about NCL is they have hand sanitizer everywhere. They had two men up in the Grill they would meet you at the door with the spray and say, "Washy, washy, happy, happy, smiley, smiley." You would hear passengers on the ship throughout the week saying it and laughing but everyone appreciated the sanitary ways of the ship. We ate in the Grill while waiting to get in to our room. This ship is only two years old and the nicest ship we have been on it. We loved the Grill. The food was awesome and so many choices. They make it seem so personal and not like a big cafeteria. Our room was ready about 2:00 and was very nice. It probably had more drawer space than we have ever had. It had cubbies everywhere and very roomy. We loved the location which was forward. You have to remember to tell your room steward that you want ice or you won't get it. The Muster Drill was at 4:30 although we didn't set sail until 7:00 PM. They had a make-up drill the next day. It was a little rough seas the first night and day but then calmed down. The next day was a sea day so it was a great day to just get caught up on the sleep we had lost on the airplane trip over.
Left the ship and were going to walk to Valleta the city centre. On the way we were stopped by a girl asking us to take a sightseeing bus tour. (15 euros each) We had already passed up taxis and horse drawn carriages but decided to try the bus. It was a great decision. Just as we got our tickets it started to rain. We had not even thought of bringing our umbrellas. They were still on the ship. So we were grateful to get on the bus. It was a double decker that you could get on and off if you wanted. The bus took us on a tour of the island which included headphones telling all about what we were seeing. It is a walled city for the most part and so many stone walls everywhere dividing properties. We stopped at a glass blowing factory in the area called Mdina. It was awesome watching them blow the glass and bought a few pieces. We left there and headed out to the former capital city of Mdina. It is so beautiful and quaint. The beautiful stone buildings were amazing. Walked around the museum area and took lots of pictures. Boarded the bus and headed back to the port. It was such a wonderful drive. He stopped at Valetta Centre for those who wanted to shop but we decided to opt out of shopping. Then he took the rest of us to the port where we did do some shopping in the terminal shops before boarding the ship. We will be setting sail in less than an hour. We will be going by Sicily on our way to Naples. The scenery is unbelievable.
Naples and Pompeii
Got off the ship about 9:00 AM and bought bus tickets to Pompeii (9 euros round trip for the two of us). Then we walked the two blocks to the bus. We waited about 25 minutes on the bus. While waiting we met a young lady who was from Naples who was a tour guide in Pompeii. She speaks four languages and is very fluent in English. Naples is a very busy and chaotic city so we were glad we were on the bus. It was about a 30 minute drive to Pompeii. Upon getting off the bus another couple approached Teressa (the tour guide) about how much she would charge for a tour of Pompeii. She said if we could find another couple (making it 6 of us) she could do it for 15 euros each. We found another couple who were from Holland so we proceeded to the entrance to Pompeii and purchased our entrance tickets for 11 euros each. She showed us the ladies room and then we headed out on our tour. Pompeii is an amazing place to visit. She was a young woman of 33 yr old and had been doing this for ten years. We were so thrilled to have found someone who was so well informed and so knowledgeable. It was a beautiful day and she made the day more interesting. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and glad we had decided to go this route. We could have gone on to Sorrento or Capri but that would have been for shopping or looking at scenery. We had to wait nearly an hour for the return bus but had allowed ourselves plenty of time. We also had taken some zip-loc baggies with us and had put cheese and bread in to the bags plus carried our own water with us. That was a real help while we were waiting on the bus. The bus trip back took us through the city of Napoli. It was very interesting and again we were thrilled we were not driving. The drivers have no respect for people walking. This city is also known for its thieves so we were told to beware. Many on our ship took the train or bus on to Sorrento and then on to Capri or you can take a hydrofoil boat to Capri from near the ship. I do not know the cost on these. Tomorrow we are headed to Rome. Should be an interesting day.
We got off the ship about 8:15 AM and you have to take a shuttle to the entrance to the port. It is against the law to walk to the entrance and it is a distance. We walked about 10 minutes along the waterfront to the train station. We purchased the B.I.R.G. ticket for 9 euros each to Rome. This ticket is good for the round trip ticket plus any bus or underground in Rome. The train ride was about 45 minutes and we got off at Roma St. Pietro. We caught bus #64 right outside the station and took it to St. Peter's Square. It is not easily navigated since no entrance signs. Don't hesitate to ask questions. We did purchase a tour ticket for 25.00 euro each that included our Vatican Museum ticket plus ticket in to see St. Peter's Basilica. This is to keep you from being held up in lines. Although going at this time of the year was awesome. There wasn't the heat or the real long lines. If we had it to do over we would have just paid the 14 euros to get in to the museum since we did not have time for the Basilica. The ticket we bought was also good for on and off of their busses and tours. The walk to the museum is nearly a mile. Fortunately there weren't any lines so we were able to go right in and not wait. Upon entering we showed our tour pass and were given a radio with the information corresponding to the rooms you were entering. It was very helpful since the museum is LARGE and the frescas and paintings are unbelievable. I could not believe how long it took us to walk through the museum before we got to the Sistine Chapel. Upon entering the chapel I was overwhelmed with how many people were in there all looking up at the ceiling at the paintings of Michelangelo. It is amazing all the paintings and how large that ceiling was. Be sure if you are going to the museum, chapel or Basilica that no shorts on men or women be worn. Also women must have their shoulders covered. Also if you need to use the restroom this is the place to do it. After leaving the museum we walked back toward the square but met a young man who was a tour guide and he guided us to the local bus #84 which would take us to the Forum and the Coliseum. On the bus we met a couple from South Dakota who were vacationing for the week in Rome. They were very helpful in telling us where to get off. We got off the bus at the Forum and the buildings surrounding it are awesome. We walked alongside that road to the Coliseum which can be seen when getting off the bus. While walking to the Coliseum we decided to take a break and eat the lunch that I had packed for us. Someone on Cruise Critic had recommended packing a lunch if you didn't want to pay to eat in the city. I had taken zip lock baggies with me so we filled them with cheese and bread plus we had brought peanut butter crackers with us from home. We also had bought two bottles of water before getting on the ship and filled them every night and put them in the refrigerator. We then took bananas with us also each day. It was a beautiful day in Rome and a wonderful place to have a "picnic." After eating we walked on down to the Coliseum. We decided against doing the inside tour since we were not too sure of train times, etc. Plus remember that the Coliseum closes at 3:30 P.M. Taking pictures of the Coliseum is easy plus there are people dressed as Roman Soldiers outside to take your picture with. Directly across the street from the Coliseum is the Colossee underground station. We went there and caught the underground to the main Rome terminal. It can be very confusing so ask questions and watch signs. The couple from South Dakota met up with us in the underground and helped direct us to the correct underground and trains. We found where the trains were loading and of course ours was on one of the last tracks. A lot more walking to get on the train. We only had to wait about 20 minutes for our train. The return trip took longer since we had left from the main terminal which is on the other side of the city from the square. The trains are nice and comfortable. One thing I forgot was that you are suppose to get your tickets validated upon purchasing them and before boarding the train, bus or underground but on all the different modes of transportation we were on our three days in Italy we only had one person ask to check our tickets. Arriving at Civitacheccia we walked back to the port entrance. Right at the entrance is an internet cafe which is very reasonable. It cost me 1 euro for 10 minutes which of course is cheap compared to the ship. Across the street from there is the local McDonald's for those who need their America fix. The shuttle busses were waiting to load people. There were six ships in port so they moved us along quite quickly. We arrived back at the ship about 4:30 PM. We could have spent a little bit more time in Rome but we did not want to be late back to the ship. There is no way you can do justice to the city in one day. It is a little bit overwhelming when you realize what all there is to see.
FLORENCE, PISA (LIVORNO)
When you get off the ship you have to pay 5 euros each to take the shuttle to the city center. There are taxis there if you have a few people who would like to share a taxi with you to the train station. They also have rental cars available at the gangway. The bus ride takes you to the center where you get off and purchase bus tickets for 2 euros each round trip to the train station. Then you walk just a couple blocks (in front of the McDonalds) to catch bus #1 to the Livorno Station. The train tickets to Florence cost 13.50 euro each round trip. We caught the 9:20 AM train for Florence. It was a more express train since it only made a few stops. The trip took an hour and 20 minutes. When you get to Florence you get off at the Santa Maria Novella station which is the last stop. Upon exiting the station can be confusing. We stopped and purchase a map of Florence so we knew which direction to go. We wanted to go to the Museum Accademia. Since it was not their busy season we did not have to prepurchase tickets. It is a very unassuming building and can be missed if you are not looking for it. It cost 10 euros each to enter the Accademia. We were very surprised that upon entering the museum you are at the statue of David within minutes. It is definitely worth seeing. To think Michelangelo carved this out of marble so many years ago. The paintings on the wall are awesome also. The details he put into this carving is amazing. This is another good spot to use the restroom. Very clean and this one even had a toilet seat!!! I had purchased a post card in the Accademia and had to go to a Tobacco shop to purchase a post card stamp. We then continued walking down the streets which are fascinating. Be very careful walking since the sidewalks and streets are somewhat uneven at times. We followed one of the streets and ended up at the Duomo which is absolutely beautiful. Directly across from it is the bronze doors of the Baptistry and the cathedral is directly next to it. The dome is beautiful. This is a very interesting area to walk around, shop and there are street vendors all over the place. We stopped at a pizzeria and got fresh pizza. Stood on the street and ate it. It was delicious. It was a straight walk back to the train station. Upon arriving at the station we located our train leaving in about 10 minutes. This was a slower train that made stops all along the way. It was a little over an hour ride to the city of Pisa. We got off at Pisa and outside the station, in front of the hotel across the street; we caught the Lam Rosa bus to the leaning tower area. You can walk it but we didn't want to take the time. The bus stops right at the entrance to the Duomo and Leaning Tower. It is quite an amazing sight and of course had to take the pictures with us trying to hold up the tower. We walked around the area for about 30 minutes taking pictures and just enjoying the sights. There are many vendors in this area also if you are in need of souvenirs. Walked back to the entrance and crossed the street to catch the Lam Rosa bus back to the station. Only had to wait about 10 minutes for the bus, maybe less, and then we were right at the station. Upon arriving at the station we found that the next train to Livorno was leaving in 10 minutes so we headed to our spot and caught the train. Livonro is the next stop so it only took about 20 minutes. We came out of the station and caught bus #1 back to the center of town (in front of the McDonalds), got off this bus and walked the two blocks to the shuttle bus to the ship. Be sure you have kept your round trip ticket stub. Arrived back at the ship about 5:00 PM. It was a great day even though the weather was cooler and overcast.
Today was a very relaxing and enjoyable day. Since it was Saturday it was market day in the city. We got off the tender boat about 10:00 AM and walked about four or five blocks to the market. On the walk there we were walking along the harbor with many beautiful sailboats and yachts. The market is an amazing place. There are fresh flowers, fruits, vegetables, cheeses, breads, fish and just about everything else you can think of. It was so much fun just walking among the people and sampling their foods. It is a shame you cannot bring them back on the ship. We left the market and walked down the "shopping street". It was amazing being among the French people. We did some Christmas shopping and then walked to the big open wares market and ate the lunch that we packed. After our lunch we went back to the "shopping street" and found one of the many bakeries and bought French pastries. It was at Pauls and was absolutely delicious. Along all these streets there are numerous outdoor cafes. They are everywhere. The food looked delicious. But expect to pay an average of 15 or more euros for your lunch. Walked back to the ship, took many pictures and then boarded about 2:00 PM. Went to the grill to eat lunch and since the weather so beautiful we ate outside. Since this was our last night we decided to eat in the Grand Pacific again for dinner. We loved eating in that dining room. My husband had two entrees - lamb and a surf sampler platter. I had the sirloin steak which was delicious. Went back to the room and started packing. Tried to get to bed early since we had an early flight and wanted to be early off the ship. We like to take our own luggage with us. We were off the ship by 7:00 AM. Caught a taxi and were at the airport in about 20 minutes. Taxi ride cost 40 eruos plus tip. The transports from the ship to airport are $40.00 per person which with the exchange rate only about $15.00 difference.
The trip was an awesome trip and we would love to do it again but it will be a long time before we can do that. Less
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