This was our first cruise on NCL and we will be back! Overall, it was a good experience - wonderful staff, good food and pretty good entertainment.
Staff: The staff in the main dining rooms and cabin attendants were great. Majority of the staff were from the Philippines and India.
Food: We did not try any of the specialty restaurants. Although, had the cruise been a few days longer, I'm sure we would have paid the cover charge and tried the Teppanyaki (seemed very popular). The food at the Grand Pacific and Aliazar was generally very good - good selection too. The only disappointing entree I had was the steak. The desserts were awesome. Again, great selection. The Grand Cafe was okay if you're into buffets. On port days, there was no seating and it got very crowded at breakfast. However, you can sit in the Italian restaurant across the hall when seating is full.
Entertainment: I saw Nicola Loud (violinist), the British singer (forgot her name) who impersonates More
famous singers - both were good; Flash and Fever (variety entertainment show) - good; and the two folkloric shows (Turkey and Greece) -the Turkish show was much better than the Greek group. My husband saw the British comedian and the magic show. He said they were okay. Unfortunately, we missed Elements, which I heard was the best. The crew show on the last day was okay. Some acts were definitely better than others. Given how many Indian staff are on the ship, it was very disappointing that there wasn't a single Indian act.
The pitfalls: The cruise director staff are putting too much time and energy into "Bingo time." Yes, I'm sure this is a big money maker for the ship, but it was overdone, over-announced - just, plain annoying and too much of a hard sell. We went to one Bingo game and they dragged it out for so long. The only game that is worth playing is the very last game on the last day. The rest of the time, the winnings were around $45 to $90. Bingo tickets were also sold before each of the shows every evening as well.
We were very disappointed that there was no live commentary when we sailed through the Dardanelles, Strait of Messina, around the Greek Islands etc. During the Dardanelles sailing, there was a recorded commentary by the cruise director, but this just didn't cut it because it didn't sync with what we were passing. I think a live commentary would add a lot of value to the sail throughs.
There was no self service laundry on the ship. Be prepared to pay $2.50 to wash a pair of socks. NCL did offer a couple of laundry specials - stuff a small bag for $25. We took advantage of one of those offers. The problem was that it took two days to have the laundry returned.
Very little or no informational resources available for the ports at the Guest Relations Desk and Show Excursions Desk. We asked for a map of Rome, Athens and Valletta and received photo copied maps that were impossible to read. Be sure to take your own maps. NCL is only interested in selling their shore excursions - not helping the folks who want to do it on their own. I guess that's understandable, but at least have some good maps and general information on the main sights available for the people who are not interested in attending the port shopping talks.
I ran out of body lotion and asked if they had a small bottle. The Guest Relations desk pointed me to the shops onboard. That's NCL for ya!
Stuff happens: Electrical problems on the mid-ship. Power had to be turned off for an hour one the last sea day (I think) but NLC compensated with a complimentary glass of wine at dinner.
Overall, we had a wonderful time. Thanks NCL Jade! Less
Norwegian Jade Cruises to the Eastern Mediterranean
Taxi drivers at the dock were really aggressive and pushy. We felt very uncomfortable. We wanted a taxi ride to the train station, which was a 30-minute walk. Most taxi drivers were not interested and wanted us to take a tour of Athens with them. Finally, we found a driver who agreed to drop us off at the train station. The entire trip was a hard sell for an Athens tour. We had already been to Athens before and our young son wanted to ride the train (we don't have trains where we live!) Finding a taxi driver to bring us back from the train station to Piraeus dock was no problem.
We stayed for three days and explored on our own. Watch out for pickpockets - they are very slick and professional. Someone tried to walk off with our camera bag. We had put it down for just one second to take a photo. Fortunately, my husband chased him and the thief dropped the bag in a puddle of water and ran.
Istanbul port itself was disappointing - run down, very basic. We took the tram to the Grand Bazaar, Blue Mosque/ Hagia Sofia. It took some figuring out how and where to purchase the tickets for the tram. The tram can be very crowded and the people push to get in and out. From the Hagia Sofia, we walked to Topkapi Palace.
We organized a custom, private tour of Ephesus (the Ancient City and House of Artemis) and Kusadasi with About Ephesus for our family of three people. The main reason we didn't join a larger tour group was that we have a young son and didn't think too much time at the ruins would work for him. Anyway, the guide was waiting for us when we arrived at Izmir port. She was very friendly, helpful and informative. The driver and vehicle were great too. The only pitfall was that I had specifically told the tour company that we did not want to stop at a carpet shop. A traditional lunch was included with the tour and guess where the lunch stop was? Yup, at a carpet making factory and shop. We wasted about 40 minutes listening to a "carpet specialist's" pitch. Didn't work - we walked out without purchasing a silk carpet. The tour guide was from Kusadasi and she gave us a nice tour of her hometown as well. We had initially requested an English speaking driver and a car, but we were told that a professional tour guide is mandatory. Anyway, we were glad to have the guide as she was very knowledgeable and she was great with our son! Thank you, Gonca!
We took the train to Rome and explored on our own. You can purchase a ticket immediately outside the port entrance that is valid for a day on the train, subway and bus. It's a good deal. I think it was about 9 Euro per person. The trains arrived on time and it was no problem. We got off at the Colosseum and then took a bus to the Pantheon. From there, we walked to the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps and Borghese Gardens. We also stopped at the Vatican but did not take a tour (we had done that on a prior trip).