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Wonderful itinerary for first time Med Cruiser
Europe - Western Mediterranean
We spent a night pre and post in Barcelona, giving us the chance to explore this beautiful city. We were cautious, but saw no pickpocking or robberies. In fact, as an experienced traveler, I felt quite safe, but I am careful when I travel to any large city.
From Barcelona, the boarding was easy and the port easily accessible, but don't try walking to the port. Boarding went fast and our large suitcase was in the room within 2 hrs of boarding. The ship was very clean and nicely maintained with newer, upgraded bedding. We missed not having a coffee pot in the cabin, and even though room service will bring coffee in the morning, we prefer to brew in cabin when we are ready.
Monte Carlo and the casino can be accessed easily by harbor taxi for 1 euro. Getting taxis to the french riviera cities out of Monaco is difficult. The bus was too confusing to try to take to Eze or Nice, France. The prices of the ship excursion were, as others have commented, quite too costly. As a More
frequent NCL cruiser, I commented to the staff about this. I bought the Fodor's "European Ports of Call" paperback, and used it to find directions to the main attractions. Be prepared for lots of walking uphill and on cobblestone paths.
In Livorno, we took the expensive excursion, but could have easily done without, and used the train. Florence is easy to find your way around. In Rome, we did the excursion again and was glad to have the bus and tourguide. The sites are spread out and the streets are not as easy to navigate.
In Naples, we docked close to town, but did not bother to visit the city itself, as we preferred to see the sights of the Amalfi coast. We found Antonio, a wonderful taxi driver, who took us on the tour, stopping 2+ hrs with us in Pompeii, driving us through Sorrento and the beautiful Amalfi coast. He even took the time to put us on the right hydrofoil, heading us to the island of Capri. (All this for 200 euros for 4 of us; only 50 each) Capri is beautiful and a must see! Take the cable car up to Capri Town and wear good walking shoes.
From Capri, we took a second hydrofoil for the 40 minute ride back to it's port, just 5 minutes from the ship. The day of rest before our last port was desperately needed for our exciting day in Palma, Mallorca. The beaches there were nice and walking distance to the Palma Aquarium, a short taxi ride from the port.
Overall, this was an exciting cruise and gave us a "sampling" of these European ports. Now, we know where we want to return and spend more time! Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
The port is very clean, and quite new. Don't try to walk there! Way too far...There is a few gifts shops at the port AFTER you have already gone through security. There you can buy liquor, wine, beer and sodas, but you have to hide them while boarding. We went to our cabin and unloaded our carry-on bag. I filled it up when I went back off the ship and visited the stores. I had no problems, but the other guests who just tried to carry a bag of these products were told "NO". We heard about pick-pocking as a problem, especially on the touristy "La Rambla", but saw no problems here. Take the Hop-on, Hop-Off tourist bus at 22 euros for the entire day to see the sites. It is a full day to catch all three tourists routes, but the best way to see the sites. There are headphones with tours given in 8 languages. We stayed at a wonderful hotel, the "Hotel Avenidas Palace", just 2 blocks off the quieter, north end of La Ramblas. It was nice to stay pre and post cruise, so we did not have the stress of missing the ship sailing or flights. Watch closely going through European Airports as there are black-market demands for passports, so keep your passport on you at all times, not letting it out of your sight.
From the port in Livorno, you need to take a 1 & 1/2 hr bus or train ride into Florence, but once there it's easy to find your way around this exciting city. Bring water, and good walking shoes. The maps in the Fodor's "European Ports of Call" paperback were priceless, as was the advice on places to visit.
It is easy to visit the casino and walk the streets of Monte Carlo. Just take the water-taxi for 1 euro from the cruise ship. Bring your camera to take pictures of the most expensive cars in the world, all gathered in one place! The casino does not open until 2 or 3 pm and shorts are not permitted. There is an entrance fee of 12 euros to walk into the casino, and you will not find 5 euro tables to play Black-Jack. While playing the tables, cocktails will be served to you for tips, but you must know to ask for them; they are not offered. It is difficult to take public transportation to the French Riviera. We aimed for Eze and Nice, but found the buses ran only every 2 hrs, so chose not to risk missing the ship sailing.
Since you dock right near the city center of Naples, it is an easy shuttle ride from the ship. But we chose to completely skip Naples, and spend our time on the Amalfi Coast, Pompeii, Sorrento, and Capri. This was the most beautiful day of the week. In late May and early June, it is still not so incredibly hot that you can enjoy the ports of call. Visit Pompeii first thing in the morning, as it gets really hot by noon. In the states, we get excited about an antebellum home that is 200 years old. We were awe-struck on construction in Pompeii that was over 2,000 years old and how advanced the construction was. With the new high-speed hydrofoil boats it is possible to visit Capri from Sorrento and make it back for sailing time in Naples.
This was my favorite port of call. Two couples shared a taxi for 25 euros to the Palma Aquarium, and to the Palma beaches where we took the "tourist train" to see the beach area. The 19 euro entrance fee to the Aquarium was well worth it, and you could spend half your day just there. In Palma, we bought beautiful pearl necklaces and bracelets at very realistic prices. From downtown, take a taxi back to the ship, as it is too far to walk after walking and sightseeing all day.
It is easy to take the train to Rome, but a good walk from the port. Take a taxi to the train line. We did pay for the expensive ship excursion and found it handy to have the bus. Rome is spread out and lots of walking. We were lucky enough to be in Vacatin City on Wednesdays. At 11am, the Pope addresses the crowds in St Peter's Square. You can only catch a sampling of what Rome has to offer. As the saying goes, "Rome was not built in a day", nor can you begin to see it all in one day! This is definately a place where we would want to return to spend 5-7 days.