We flew to Barcelona via Lufthansa which allows 2 bags per person free of charge up to 44 lbs. It is an hour flight so we did not have to deal with jetlag and were energetic when we landed. We wanted to check into our hotel first thing to unload our bags. We rode the blue Aerobus from Airport Terminal 1 to Plaza Catalunya, buying a ticket with a small bill from the driver. We asked the driver who spoke a little English, where to get off for our hotel's address and it turned out to be a short ride.
The Plaza Catalunya is a major connection point to the Metro subway and in the direction for our hotel. We purchased our subway ticket from a machine downstairs which had an English language option. We bought a couple single tickets with euros, but you can use credit card. It was mid day and we did not see any one lingering around underground.
We reserved our hotel online from the Lufthansa's HRS hotel site as it gave a deep discount. We read Trip Advisor reviews for The Silken Diagonal Hotel and liked the area it was in, Eixample. This area is Rick Steves' recommendation and not too far from the Ramblas avenue. We got directions from the hotel website to take the Metro to Glories stop and the hotel is a short walk away.
The hotel is a modern hotel and we planned one night stay. After check in we were out the door to go see the famous Gaudi cathedral, La Sagrada which is within walking distance of the hotel. (We much prefer the Milano Cathedral). We walked the Ramblas to find an eatery and enjoyed dinner in a Sports Bar.
The next day we walked across the street to the mall for breakfast. And then using our Barcelona map headed to the port on foot down the Ramblas to Christopher Columbus monument, where a blue cruiseline ship came to take us to the terminal. There was a helpful cruiseline guide there who showed us where the bus would pick up.
Our stateroom was on deck 5 inside and we hoped I would not have motion sickness. One night was rough and I ate green apples and took a Benadryl which seemed to help. The next day I felt like a zombie, but by evening the seas calmed and I was fine for most of the cruise. We would have liked to have a coffee-maker in our cabin but other than that the bed and pillows were heavenly!
The NCL Jade is an easy to navigate ship with plenty of signs at elevators and on corridors. We followed the dolphins swimming forward to get to the front of the ship.
Dining is casual for us and we enjoyed the cafeteria for breakfasts and lunches in the Garden Cafe. Sometimes we ate at the 24 hr eatery, Blue Lagoon, and it was ok. We ate dinners in the Alizar and loved the sit down service. It was so delicious to have so many options of where to eat, what to eat and to try new foods.
We watched all the shows, danced, listened to Pablo, played bridge, laughed at passenger participation games and used the Spa near the end of the cruise. I got my hair colored, a facial including derma-abrasion and quick polish on my nails. My husband said I looked "all-dolled up" and I felt very pampered.
We were disappointed at the workers strike in Athens. Messina Sicily was not a good substitute - but what can you do? We're there now and enjoy, right? But Malta was a really great surprise - we loved it! We bought tickets online to see the Hypogeum, which was reviewed on Trip Advisor. We love ancient history and this prehistoric site might have been better than Pompeii!
We did not get sick on the Jade probably because of the stringent hand spraying and cleaning by the crew. Thanks go to the crew and passengers who kept a good sense of humor throughout the cruise. We laughed so hard the last show with Jill, the cruise director's group. There were many talented people showcased and much care given to us, that we would be hard-pressed to find major complaints onboard. The weather was fickle as it is right before spring comes. We got some sunshine days but even Egypt was not that hot - YEAH! We loved meeting and talking to fellow passengers about life and their home towns.
We returned home rested and with great memories and photos of our cruise. We would cruise again, longer or shorter trips. We would probably continue to get an inside cabin and for the best price possible. We spent most of our time out of the cabin so it works for us. Happy Cruising!
We completed our Cairo and Alexandria tours with Nile Blue Excursions. You can reach them online at www.nileblueexcursions.com or through the Executive Manager, Ghada Kamal, by email email@example.com.
The 2 day tour in Egypt was uneventful as far as any unpleasantries. We paid at the end of the tour in US dollars too. We are completely satisfied and would highly recommend them.
They customized our tour to sights we requested. We noticed that they had good strategies for our agenda to work thinking of the time of day for traffic as well as heat. We were very comfortable in their hands and found they didn't leave our side when we were on sites. They ran interference so that salesmen did not pester us and yet they were available to negotiate a better price for us. They took a lot of care to make sure we enjoyed ourselves.
The driver stayed with the locked up bus at all times allowing us to leave our cameras and bags onboard knowing they were protected. The guide provided clear directions and information about the sites, both before and after our visit. It was absolutely worth every penny -- a high value for the dollar! They also passed along the savings to us by reducing our price because we had added more passengers making it very affordable. We in turn gave back in the tips to the driver and guide.
Worth mentioning is that the Egyptologist guide was easily understood with her perfect English. Her presentations were very scholarly and she raised questions for us to think about and then provided plausible answers based on evidence. She used photos and maps to explain the history behind the sites we visited and explained the culture as it was and how it influences them now.
There were no air conditioning wars on our bus. We had a mini-bus with AC controls at each passenger's seat. They provided and encouraged us to drink bottled water often.
The bus was a new Toyota mini-bus, looked very clean, and was very comfortable even for my husband who gets sciatic pain from sitting long periods of time. We didn't feel any bumpy, potholed roads other than the occasional speed bump. We attribute the good ride to our experienced driver who selected the better roads for our commute and the fact that the bus was not too big to maneuver through traffic and get to these roads.
I don't usually write up critiques because someone else usually does that. It is just that we were so uncertain about our safety for going to Cairo like everyone else, but didn't want to stay overnight or pay NCL excursion prices. The Nile Blue Excursions Tour group offered us a smaller entourage, with the same sites, and no unexpected surprises happened. We enjoyed shopping at the end of our day at a government approved papyrus, jewelry and cartouche shop that had authentication rights -- so no made-in-China junk. Check them out if you are interested in paying a lot less but not sacrificing quality. They really represent a hard working, caring tour group and will not regret it!