Booked this Cruise over a year ago to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. Travelled with Continental Air - Great service! Arrived in Barcelona on New Years Eve and stayed at the AC VilaMari Hotel. Loved our two days in this city, which is clean and friendly. Walked the Ramblas on New Years Eve, a different experience for sure!! Would not hesitate to return to Barcelona. Went with another couple which made a big difference compared to our last cruise, especially on Board.
We thoroughly enjoyed visiting the Jewels of the Mediteranean. Malta was our most pleasant experience, and the only place we did not go on one of the Ship's orchestrated tours. The locals were friendly, quite civilizrd and the lack of visability of police was quite refreshing after the over-abundance of same in the UAR (Egypt). It is picturesque and laid back - they seista in the afternoons!! The Cat Hotel was different, and speaks to their love of pets!!
Egypt was our least favored stop, but by no means a total disappointment. We travelled by caravan to Giza and had armed security with us - This was unnerving. Poverty was quite evident and around Giza the lack of sanitation was apparent. The local merchants were unrelenting when we toured the Pyramids and Sphinx. The Dining arranged for the tour was poor, and the bus rides long. However, we thoroughly enjoyed the camel and jeep safari, and touring the pyramids. They were awesome as was the Sphynx. We sere reluctant to venture far from the Jade into Alexandria on our second day, but did thoroughly enjoy the characters who sold their wares mear the ships birth. They were comical and accommodating!!
Turkey was the X factor of the trip. We were guided by a Bob Vila type character for the tour. He was a knowledgeable archeologist and an excellent communicator whose English was exceptional. The countryside was pristine. The tour started at House of the Virgin Mary. The site was interesting but not designed to accommodate the numbers of visitors we encountered. Ephesus however was an outstanding site. We were overwhelmed by the completeness of the ruins of this ancient city, and the Guides abundance of factual information tidbits enabled us to envision what the city must have been like. (The hospital would refuse near death patients so as to preserve its reputation) We enjoyed lunch at the Pine tree ?? Resort and would have preferred to skip the Carpet Mill.
Rome and Athens were nice but didn't measure up to our experience in Turkey. Graffitti was too prevalent in Rome, and it was not as clean as we had hoped. The Vatican and St Peter's were very impressive, as were the Coloseum and other Ruins.The rural areas were much more attractive. Athens seemed to have less problems with cleanliness, but poverty was evident. The Acropolis is a Magnificent feature of the city and we liked the orange trees that dotted our route from the ship.
The Crew on the Jade were top notch. The Captain was visible and likeable, as was the Mustached Bavarian Head Chef. The Hotel crew were primarily from the Philipines, and I have yet to meet someone from there who wasn't friendly. The Rooms were clean and comfortable, as was the entire ship. We had a Balcony which we did not use much as it was January. The Food was very good. We ate exclusively at the Garden Cafe Buffet, except for some late nite snacks. Not much into the formal dining experience. The variety of shows was good. We are not serious music afficiandos so we did not partake of all of the shows. Very talented performers. Liked the comedian and Fountains the most.
The Cruise director's crew were very very good. They were international in flavour. Mr Hardware, Gary et al spiced up the shows and gave rheir all - this was quite evident, and they must truly enjoy their work!!
Our fellow Cruisers were a mixed lot. We met people from all over. Canada, Mexico, Spain, Austrailia, the Isle of Wight and of course the US. The Kareoke Crew were talented. We most enjoyed the Spanish Senorita who sang Derroche with such passion, we were truly inspired, even though we speak no Spanish!! except Ola (private joke).
This was our best experience ever in terms of a vacation or cruise. We heard others complain about the food, etc., but are not of the same mind.
Special commendations to Evangaline, the spray bottle lady at the cafe and our buddy Effram who was a bar server at the Spinaker Lounge!!!