We went on the November 7-14, 2010 Norwegian Jade cruise to the Western Mediterranean. We arrived in Barcelona on November 5th and stayed a couple of nights at the Aparthotel Bertran on Calle Bertran which was about a 30 minute drive from the airport and cruise terminal. This was one of the few hotels we found that was able to accomodate five people.
On the 7th we took a taxi to the cruise terminal and arrived around noon. We were able to check in rather quickly and smoothly and were able to embark shortly thereafter. The wait was much shorter than we had expected so we were pleasantly surprised about their efficiency. Our cabin wasn't available until 2 pm so we decided to go to the Grand Pacific Dining Room for lunch. The kitchen and wait staff were very accommodating as Grandma has food allergies, therefore we experienced no problems. We were greeted the first day by the assistant maitre'd Furtoso Gonsalves who was extremely helpful and pleasant the entire trip taking the time to talk with us every time he saw us. He even went out of his way several times during our cruise varying from assisting us with calling card info to even specially placing a dinner order for us on Day 5 that was not on the menu that evening.
For Days 2, 3 and 4 we toured Italy. We cannot say enough about the company "YOUR TOUR IN ITALY" and all of the tour guides we had while we were there. At each port, for a tour for 5 people in a private van we spent 550 euros which was much, much cheaper than going through the ship excursion desk. In our opinion, we were able to see many more sights in the time allotted from a local expert who is from the area.
On Day 2 we arrived at the port of Livorno where we met our private tour guide Laura who took us throughout Florence & Pisa. She first took us to the famed Miracle Square where the Leaning Tower of Pisa is featured along with the Baptistery and the Duomo. As you come around the corner into the Square your jaw just drops from the amazing view and the size of the buildings. From there, Laura took us along the Tuscany countryside en route to Florence where we were able to see many olive groves and vineyards which were beautiful. She also took us to a real olive oil producing farm where we were able to see how olive oil is made and even got the chance to sample the oil on bread along with a taste of Chianti (but no fava beans, ha, ha). From there we headed towards Florence. Laura took us to a scenic lookout of Florence which was breathtaking and she pointed out many historical sites from there. We then ventured down into the city where Laura took us to the Cathedral Santa Croce which is the burial place of famous artist Michelangelo and famous astronomer Galileo. It was definitely a sight to see with all of the beautiful architecture and stained glass windows. Laura then took us to a small cafe nearby the Cathedral where we had the most delicious lasagna we have ever had!!!! Laura then took us to Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore where we were awestruck with architecture of all the buildings and in particular with the Duomo ceiling artwork. We then had free time to walk around the city of Florence and loved it all. Laura was very professional and made it a very lovely day.
On Day 3, we arrived in Civitavecchia, which is the port serving Rome, Italy. We met our guide, Octavio and he took us through one of the most historic and amazing cities in all the world. He first took us to the Colosseum,one of the world's most famous buildings and a symbol of the city. We were able to skip the line since they had booked a reservation for us prior to the tour. We then were able to see the Arch of Constantine, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish steps, and famous Roman Forum, the heart of ancient Rome before lunch. We ate lunch at a wonderful local restaurant by the Trevi Fountain. After lunch, we had a private tour guide take us through the Vatican museums, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica. Words can't describe how great all of the sites were and we were very appreciative of our tour guide taking us there.
On Day 4, we arrived in Naples, Italy where we met Dominico, "the smooth operator" tour guide. Dominico took us through a wonderful day of visiting the Amalfi Coastline with a stop for shopping in the village of Sorrento. We also had an amazing lunch in a restaurant with a view to die for. We had a private tour for the ancient ruins of the city of Pompeii. Our on-site private local licensed guide took us on a fascinating tour through this amazing place. Once a thriving empire, the city of Pompeii had about 20,000 inhabitants in 79 AD, when it was completely covered in 30 feet of volcanic ash by the deadly eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The city has been preserved over 1700 years and gave us a rare glimpse into ancient history.
We overall had a wonderful time on our cruise and highly recommend both the Jade and Your Tour in Italy.