Sailing from Venice was pretty easy. The Venice Marco Polo airport is a 15-20 minute cab ride to the port. This will run you around 35 euros. There is a bus conveniently located outside the baggage terminal that will take you to the Piazzale Roma for 3 euros. This ride might take you 30-35 minutes. Look for the express bus. And try to get right hand side window seat on your way to Venice.
If you take the bus and you are dropped at the Piazzale Roma, then your choice is to go to a hotel or to the port. The Vaporetto o water taxi is right there. Figure out before hand what is the stop for your hotel. The ride is 6.50eu. There are also taxis in this big bus terminal. But do not let it frightened you. Right across the street you will find the "people mover". It has only three stops including this one, with the port (terminale) being the middle stop. Is only one euro. It only takes three minutes to the port, and I never waited more than five for it.
If you were more adventurous and took the train into town, the terminal is very close to the Piazzale Roma. As long as you can lug your baggage up and down the steps of the bridge connecting both places, it should not be more than a 10 minute walk.
Venice is Venice; like it or leave it, it is simply a once in a million city. It should be on every one's bucket list. Do not expect much from the hotels by the airport or just outside the city. The same might be said for those in Venice itself, but then again, chances are you will be next to some canal and within walking distance of everything enhancing the experience.
Like in most places in Italy, the Pizza and Coffee were extraordinary! Learn how to ask for your favorite coffee before you go; black is expresso, Latte is with milk, and Cappuccino just with a froth of milk on the top.
The city of Dubrovnik is just beautiful. Old Town is the original walled city. If your ship docks off-shore, it will most likely be in front of Old Town, and you will be in luck. Do not pay for a tour in this town. The walled city might be confusing at first, just do your homework and get ready for an afternoon walk! You might want to start by climbing the wall, and walking around the city. The views are just gorgeous. The cost was 70 Kunas, or around $12.00 dollars.
If you are planning on spending money make sure you have your Kunas available, while the euro might seem to be a popular currency on this side on the world, Croatians are very strict about only using their currency. And if you plan to use credit cards, American Express is not the widely accepted choice.
The HOP ON HOP OFF bus is just outside and to the left of the port. Go to their website http://www.toursingreece.net/?event=offer.detail&offerId=2124 to take a look at the stops and buy your ticket online to save a few bucks! The bus that goes to the pier is on the blue line. The Athens Hop On Hop Off tour is on the red line. The transfer is conveniently located across the Zeus Monument, and the entrance to Plaka, the cute shopping and cafe area of Athens.
The driving time approximately about 30 minutes.
What can be said about Athens? A visit to the Acropolis is a must. Wear comfortable shoes and be careful not to slip on those marble rocks. Athens over the summer gets hot. Bring your hat and your sunscreen. The cost of the ticket is 12 euros. The Acropolis should be your first stop as the morning sun will be softer on you than later in the afternoon.
There are several shops in Plaka and lots of Cafes. The blue eye (nazar) or amulet to ward off "evil eye" is the popular souvenir and can be found on almost everything from bracelets to key chains.
I guess this port was my biggest question going in. But this is the third biggest city in Turkey. Modern and cosmopolitan. I did choose to take a tour in Izmir to Ephesus and the last known house of the Virgin Mary because of the driving time (hour and a half) and of course a possible language barrier. Our tour guide spoke English very well, and it was interesting to hear all sorts of history tidbits from Turkey.
The place of the House of Mary is simply beautiful and peaceful. The house is very small and possibly less than 75 steps from the moment you walk in to the moment you walk out. Cameras are not allowed inside. Your tour might provide you with a little clay bottle to grab some holy water on the way out. If not, there is a store at the entrance/exit that sells the water in different small containers.
The ancient city of Ephesus is more interesting if you read about it before hand so that you know what to look for.
Chances are very good that you will be taken to a place where they make carpets. Watch the demonstration but if you are not interested do not show interest. These are Turkish people, they have made their living throughout the years by selling stuff.
Like Dubrovnik, Split is very small. No tour needed either. It looks like a little Nice, or any other beautiful mediterranean city on the sea. The Riva is just off the docks and is a long street lined by palm trees and cafes. Behind it you will find a charming and more traditional look of the town. Once again, do your homework so you know where to go once you get tendered in.
One thing I needed to do was to get in the waters of the Adriatic Sea. Do not ask me why but these waters are a different blue color. Whether in Dubrovnik or Split, find a beach (they are within walking distance)and a little time to appreciate the nice temperature of these waters!
NCL's Jade did not compare in size to Royal Caribbeans Voyager of the Seas, which I took to the western mediterranean, or Carnival's Spirit which I took to Alaska. I do not know if a smaller ship is needed into some of these ports, but the ship felt a little crowded with 2000+ passengers. On the second day at sea my traveling partner got up at 0800 to secure us a chair by the pool. Finding a place to sit in the Garden Cafe (the buffet style on your own eatery) was hard to come by. The "freestyle dining" seems to be a hit since you pretty much choose when to go in for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Honestly, there did not seem to be difference between the food served by the staff at the dinning rooms or the one at the Garden Cafe or the Great Outdoors. One highlight was the 24 hour Blue Lagoon and its Chicken wings! The entertainment at the ship was very good, especially their "Elements" show, and the show on the last night featuring the staff members of the Jade. There is also a HOT NCL White Party... but how do they expect for everyone to bring a combination of white clothes if they are not told before hand is beyond me.
While small, the Jade is elegant and its cabins are comfortable.