Wonderful itinerary, good ship
Europe - Eastern Mediterranean
Having sailed on Norwegian Gem last year, we were confident we would have another great cruise with NCL.
The ship is beautiful and well maintained. Inside staterooms are on the small side, especially when the third bed is open, but we really stay there only to sleep.
We were on deck 11 and loved to be so close to the buffet and the pool. However we could hear noises from Deck 12 (apparently the kitchen was above us, as I would hear carts being dragged in the early hours), so next time it'd go back to deck 9 or 10 for a quieter sleep.
Our overall experience was very satisfactory but, compared to our previous experience, a couple of things did not work as good as they did last year. The first is the kids' club: this year the staff was composed of South Americans that were not as enthousiastic as they should have been. My daughter went there once and they were watching Toy Story 3. Not feeling like sitting there silently, she wanted to leave after 30 minutes. More
The second try was for the Sponge Bob breakfast: but again, it consisted of watching Sponge Bob and eating sandwiches, so she regused to go in again. We also went to the cupcake decoration but they were not expecting so many people: the coloured creams had almost run out, so our cupcake did not look very appetizing...
The second minus was the quality of food. We are vegeterians, so we mostly opt for the buffet to make sure we find plenty of choice. This year the choice was much smaller than last year, so on day 3 we were a bit tired of having stir-fry vegetables and decided to try the Alizar. The service was exceptional but the food quality was really below average. On Thursday night, the Garden Buffet was closed for dinner to host the Chocaholic buffet, so once again we were forced to choose the main dining room. This time the food was really horrible: we opted for rice with prawns and the rice came out to be overboiled and sticky and really tasteless.
I understand having to squeeze costs imply lowering quality and variety of food but it was quite a sudden change in only 12 months' time.
However, cruising with NCL is a wonderful experience and we look forward to our next cruise! Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
We only visited Corfu town: we took a free bus from the ship to the main terminal and then a public bus from the port to the old city (it costs 1.60 euro pp, tickets are sold by the driver). You can walk but the road is quite busy and not that scenic, so I'd recommend using either a taxi or a bus (it a 10 minutes ride anyway). We walked around the old city as far as the old fortress, saw the Liston and the Spianada but nothing really worth taking pictures of.
In Katakolon we rented a car from Avis: I had booked the car online before departure but once there we found out that they have plenty of white Fiat Puntos to rent there at a cheaper rate! First of all we drove to Ancient Olympia: it is a very easy drive with no traffic, it takes approx. 40 minutes and you get to see beautiful olive groves and greenery on the way. Parking at the site is free but not that easy to find as the lot was already full of buses that had arrived before we did. As most people were on a prepaid tour, there was almost no line at the ticket booth and that was great! Unfortunately they don't provide you with a map of the site, so do your homework beforehand. In any case, the site is quite small and there are boards displaying info on the main ruins, so I guess you can easily find your way around even without a map. The visit took us approx. 2 hours. Afterwards we headed to the beach at Skafidia. It was not easy to find but after a few pleasant detours in the countryside we made it. Sakfidia beach is a little bay surrounded by green bushes; it is sandy and the water is gorgeous, crystal clear and warm. It is a free beach, so you can't rent umbrellas and chair but there is a restaurant that provides shaded chairs where you can take a drink if the sun gets too hot. After a great afternoon at the sea, we drove back to the port of Katakolon (about 20 minutes).
Being Mykonos so well-known for its beaches, we had great expectations...unfortunately the beach we went to (Platis Gialos) did not live up to them! Before taking the public bus to the beach, we walked around the old time and we almost got lost. We then managed to find the bus stop, stayed in the line for some 15 minutes and got onboard. The bus was really packed, people were literally squeezed inside. Having arrived early we luckily managed to sit! The ride takes approx. 15 minutes and Platis Gialos is the last stop. The bus goes 30 minutes and the ticket costs 1.60 (you can buy tickets onboard or at the machine). The bay is beautiful, the water is crystal clear but very cold. The beach was said to be sandy but it is actually a mix of sand and small pebbles. It was quite crowded as people from Star Princess had arrived on an excursion before we did and took all the chairs in the first rows. We rented 3 deckchairs and an umbrella in the last row for only 8 euros. The toilet is located inside the minimarket behind the chairs (no shower facility). The minimarket also sells cold drinks and snacks at very reasonable prices. We had planned to stay there until 3.30 but the sky suddenly became cloudy and the water was too cold to play, so after a couple of hours we headed back to Mykonos town where we visited the windmills and Little Venice and bought a few souvenirs.
What an amazing island! After reading CC reviews and posts, we opted for Charming Oia Village NCL excursion: we hate tour buses and the costs of such shore tours but this was definitely a good decision. The main reason for choosing the tour was that we wanted to skip the line to go up to Fira. Once on the bus, we also realized that roads are narrows and winding, so it was a relief not having to drive ourselves. Another plus of the excursion is that a more than the Fira-Oia road. Port Athinos (where you go ashore) is east of Fira, so you drive something like 30 minutes through a beautiful rocky scenery with amazing views of the caldera before you reach Fira. From there another 20 minutes drive and you are in Oia, where we were given 1 hour and a half to visit on our own. As other said, this time is quite short, Oia deserves more but it is enough to take wonderful pictures! On the way back to Fira, the bus goes to the low side of the island and you see windmills and beaches before being left on your own in Fira. Travelling with a child and not having the intention to rush to the last tender, we prefered to descend by cableway before dinner (no queue at all at this time) and see the sunset from Deck 13. As the ship leaves Santorini, there is a pool party (with buffet dinner) so you can enjoy the last sights of Santorini by night.
Venice is a must-see for everyone. It is magical, nowhere else you can see such charming buildings and feel the history behind them. The best thing you can do in Venice is strolling around with no precise destination. Start from San Marco Square and walk to the Ghetto, through the small alleys (calle) and on and off bridges.