372 Barcelona Senior Cruise Reviews

Our third cruise on Holland American ships. First to Alaska, next a Holiday cruise thru the Panama Canal and this voyage to ports in Spain, Italy and Portugal before the Atlantic crossing to Fort Lauderdale. It was a near perfect ... Read More
Our third cruise on Holland American ships. First to Alaska, next a Holiday cruise thru the Panama Canal and this voyage to ports in Spain, Italy and Portugal before the Atlantic crossing to Fort Lauderdale. It was a near perfect experience. The ports of call and tours offered are hard to match. What an experience to see the ancient sights blended with the new Europe. We booked a Veranda suite and where totally pleased. It was great to sit out on the veranda and enjoy the scene. Our room was very quite. Never heard an outside sound. On deck 8 at mid ship. Highly recommend it. We had near perfect weather at all of the ports of call. Mid 60's to low 70's, calm and sunny. Thought crossing would be less smooth, but it was very calm. We were just very blessed with good weather. Once we neared Half Moon Cay, Tomas stirred up to sea and made it necessary to skip that port. We had been there before, so it didn't bother us. The ship is absolutely pristine (new ship) and it is outfitted in a modern motif which wome veteran cruiser did not particuly like. Our favorite spot on the ship was the library area which has numerous ultra comfortable lounges and chairs around the room to enjoy the vistas thru huge glass windows around the bow of the ship. Only compaint here was the annoying (and expensive) computers. They eat dollars like candy. For seniors like my wife and I, we would highly recommend Holland American ships if you like to cruise with many other seniors from all over the globe. We especially enjoyed Warren Salinger's lecture series on globalizing giving us an in depth look at emerging countries and world trade in our changing world. We took most of our meals in the Manhattan Dining Room. The food was almost always great and service was excellent from a very friendly staff. I zeroed in on the New York Strip Steak which I found to be near perfect time after time. Other dishes were equally tasty but I kept returning to the steaks. No need to dine in Pinnacle with equal quality and service in the Manhattan. I say go Holland America. You won't regret it. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
Overall, my wife and I enjoyed this cruise very much. We flew US Airlines and were scheduled to arrive in Barcelona three days prior to cruise departure. Unfortunately, our US Air connecting flight was delayed causing us to miss the ... Read More
Overall, my wife and I enjoyed this cruise very much. We flew US Airlines and were scheduled to arrive in Barcelona three days prior to cruise departure. Unfortunately, our US Air connecting flight was delayed causing us to miss the international flight from Philadelphia to Barcelona. US Air customer service could not have been more uncaring and bumbling in trying to assist us. We ended up staying overnight in Philly, at our expense, and arriving in Barcelona via Frankfurt Germany, a day late. WE WONT FLY US AIR AGAIN! Barcelona is a wonderful city and we enjoyed our shortened pre-cruise visit there immensely. Hotel Suggestion: Hotel Continental Barcelona is right on Las Ramblas and very reasonable at about 115 Euros per night for a balcony room. Boarding the ship in Barcelona was easy. The ports of call were great. We booked one land tour using Royal Caribbean but booked the other tours with tour companies using the internet. The private tour companies offered comprehensive small group tours at prices more reasonable than RCI did. By the way...it wont take long to realize how expensive Europe really is. The Euro does not go far, bring lots of 'em. A few comments on the ship: Good: Great crew, friendly and attentive. Ship is well laid out and easy to navigate after the first day. The use of food islands in Windjammer Cafe made food and drink selection much easier and faster than on other ships we have been on. Bad: Ship is showing signs of age and is in need of a refurbishing. Wood railings on cabin balconies and other outside areas of the ship are not maintained and look awful. Balcony door outside metal handle was extremely corroded. Outside glass windows and doors throughout the ship were dirty and not cleaned regularly. The typical cost of a glass of wine aboard ship was excessive at $10 per glass. Suggestion: smuggle your own on board. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
The whole experience was excellent- having been used to smaller lines like Seaborne we were worried about Celebrity. The cabin was spacious enough - no bath only a shower but spotlessly clean. We paid a little extra for the Concierge Deck ... Read More
The whole experience was excellent- having been used to smaller lines like Seaborne we were worried about Celebrity. The cabin was spacious enough - no bath only a shower but spotlessly clean. We paid a little extra for the Concierge Deck where we received capanes and fresh fruit daily - luxury robes and plentiful toiletries, personal stationery etc. The cabin attendant was excellent and the cabin was spotless every day. Breakfast was taken in the restaurant rather than the buffet and was freshly cooked and well served. The buffet lunch was great - the only problem we had we lukewarm food in the restaurant at night, but after a word withe the maitre d' this was soon solved and the rest of the meals were piping hot. We did not take the tours as having cruised many times before we found it much, much cheaper to 'go alone' using local trains. ferries etc. All in all an excellent cruise, very well organised and well recommended. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
We arrived after a good flight with Easyjet from Luton and cleared through the modern terminal at Barcelona. A rapid taxi drive by a relation of Fernando Alonso took us to the harbour terminal in around 20 minutes and relieved me ... Read More
We arrived after a good flight with Easyjet from Luton and cleared through the modern terminal at Barcelona. A rapid taxi drive by a relation of Fernando Alonso took us to the harbour terminal in around 20 minutes and relieved me of around 40 euros. I had not been looking forward to the boarding procedure as a previous cruise on Constellation from Miami had been chaotic in the cruise terminal, however this was not to be the case on this cruise and literally with no queue we were on board within minutes. Our previous cruise on board this ship had been in the Caribbean a year earlier so we wee keen to see the changes made. Firstly our cabin where we had travelled Concierge class last time and I thought the difference was hardly worth the excess. We were not disappointed with our 1B balcony cabin. Some of the changes were;- A flat screen television with sky services and a few other channels was welcome to keep in touch with the world, our bill and where we were. Some furniture changes and no doubt some of the soft furnishings. Eating was much the same and the main and self service restaurants are serving the same good quality food with very pleasant waiters but a couple of the speciality restaurants had changed. We did not visit Tuscan Grill which was new but heard good reports. We had enjoyed Ocean liners on our last cruise and although it was of very high quality it did not quite seem to be as outstanding as my last visit,maybe to be fair it was the lack of novelty to me. We did visit the Crepe Bar which seemed to be very quiet throughout the cruise and it was extremely good. We were served by the most delightful waitress and all the staff were extremely pleasant. We were treated like old friends every time we passed the venue on the rest of the cruise. One of the biggest changes that we found on this cruise was the entertainment and the shows that were put on by a troupe of dancers and singers were just excellent. A magician was fairly good however a Welsh singer comedienne was hilarious although some of her humour may not of amused our American travellers as much! We also visited Michaels Club were our American cruisers were in hysterics over Perry Grant but I am afraid he failed to tickle my fancy! Our docking into Villefrance was cancelled due to bad weather and we had to divert to Monte Carlo, everybody say shame! Very much appreciated and quite a tight fit for Constellation on her first visit however the heavens had arranged a constant downpour and we were soaked nearly as much as the elderly lady who fell in the harbour. Next visit to Genoa was poor due to the many lowlife that hang around this harbour. Livorno and Cittevechia were good as was Naples(watch out for pickpockets!) as the sun was shining after all but the Italians have euro signs flashing in their eyeballs as soon as they see a cruise ship. This ship is still a beautiful cruiser mainly because of the staff who put in heart and soul into their jobs. Well done Celebrity but just keep an eye on the cost of port transfers, excursions and wine. We know you have to make money but don't spoil the ship by overpricing. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
Travel to Embarkation: Train from Sheffield to Manchester airport and overnight stay in Travelodge, using the hotel shuttle to the airport for an early flight next morning. We had to change planes at Amsterdam before arriving at Barcelona, ... Read More
Travel to Embarkation: Train from Sheffield to Manchester airport and overnight stay in Travelodge, using the hotel shuttle to the airport for an early flight next morning. We had to change planes at Amsterdam before arriving at Barcelona, where we were met by NCL reps and taken by coach to the port. We were very impressed by the huge entrance hall, organisation and free soft drinks. This was 3.45pm and within half an hour we were on board. Ship: It was love at first sight as we thought the Jade was a beautiful ship and so huge! Inside was very clean and well appointed, if a little bit gaudy, due to the ship's past history, we were told. Cabin: We were in the inside disabled 4604, as it was the only one left in our category, and we were pleasantly surprised as to how spacious it was, with plenty of storage space and with a large bathroom. There was a sofa, table and two chairs (very handy for room service) and the twin beds were so comfortable that I slept better than I did at home. It was situated at the end of a corridor, near the lifts, stairs and medical room and was very quiet. We appreciated the TV with outside web camera channel as our cabin was inside. Our cabin staff were very pleasant and helpful, as were all the staff and crew all over the ship. A nice touch was the champagne and cake, for my friend's birthday, which welcomed us in our cabin. Dining: We ate in the 'free' restaurants, and had no complaints with the food, or any trouble waiting for tables. The Garden Cafe was great when we were rushed and for more variety, while the Alizar and Grand Pacific were perfect when we had more time or wanted to dress up a bit more. We enjoyed the food in them all and even liked the fish, chips and mushy peas in the Blue Lagoon, the 'comfort food' restaurant. The Ice Sculpture and Chocolate Buffets were very impressive. Activities: The activities and amenities were far too numerous to mention and we couldn't possibly use them all. We did love the history lectures, which tied in nicely with the shore excursions, also the theatre, shops, art gallery, art seminar, line dancing and just walking round the decks. It was a bit cool for sitting, but we did go in the pool, although it was too deep for me and I couldn't leave the side! My friend used the Spa and thought the treatment and equipment was very good. Entertainment: We loved the marvellous, full size theatre and thought the performers were all very talented, liking the tenor, the violinist and the Flamenco Dancers the best. We found the musical content not to our taste as a lot of it was too obscure and unknown to us. Perhaps this was better for the American travellers as the majority on board were from the USA or Canada. We also liked the piano bar, the Spanish guitarist and the comedian. Our main complaint was that the air con in the theatre was turned up too high and it was very cold in there. Every night we had to take warm fleeces in to put on our legs and on the air vents that were on the back of the seats in front of us. Port Shore Excursions: We went on the Jade's own excursions, because we were two women first timers and a bit nervous. Although they were very expensive, especially the Egyptian one, they were marvellous and very well organised, and we loved them all. Disembarkation. We collected our cases on the dock at 9.30am and caught the ship's coach to the airport. There were no problems and everything went smoothly. Although we had to wait a long time for our flights we didn't mind as we were safely at the airport. After two flights, a train and the last tram we were home for midnight, tired but happy. Summary: For us it was the trip of a lifetime, taken for the excursions but we thoroughly enjoyed the cruising and the sea days. They gave a much needed break from the hectic but wonderful excursions that we did. We thought the ship's own excursions were unbeatable, if only they were not so expensive! We spent a lot on the trips we took, so had to cut down elsewhere, such as alcohol. This meant that we didn't go in any bars or nightclubs and only to free events and restaurants but this in no way spoilt our cruise as we wanted to be up early for the excursions and prefer the theatre to the bars. We love the Freestyle on the Jade and the dress code and food suited us. We disagreed with the enforced gratuities and would have preferred to have done our own tipping but the queues were always too long when we tried to alter this so in the end we gave up. It was so nice to be looked after and the daily newsletter and chocolate were a welcome treat. Our cabin was better than we expected, we loved the ship, staff and wide choice of activities and entertainment. I have booked another cruise on the Jade and this time I'm taking my husband along. Ports of call: Rome. We were picked up at the ship and escorted throughout the day. On to a coach, for a 90 minute drive to Rome, with a short toilet/drink stop along the way. We had a very good, informative guide and soon we were seeing the sights of Rome all around us. The first stop was the Coliseum from outside, followed by a walking tour of ancient Rome to see fabulous ruins. We had a lovely 3 course lunch plus wine, in an Italian restaurant, followed by an afternoon at the Vatican City with St Peter's Square, magnificent Cathedral, with its breathtaking works of art. We had a little shopping time to ourselves and then were taken by coach back to the Jade. Athens. This one was an afternoon half day, so we didn't have to rush for an early start and were taken by coach from the ship to the Acropolis. There was a steep climb up to the Pantheon, with magnificent views all around. I just loved this place too and when the sky went black in the distance and it started thundering and lightening, it was like a message from the Greek Gods! It was so atmospheric and made for some dramatic photos, the lovely white ruins against the dark sky. Later we were taken on a coach tour of Athens and saw the Greek soldiers marching and had a stop at the Olympic Stadium before being taken back to the Jade. Izmir for Ephesus. This excursion was my big surprise as I am ashamed to say that I had never even heard of Ephesus. After an interesting coach drive through Turkey, we first went to the Virgin Mary's House, which was strangely moving, as it was not the original one, we were told. Lunch was in a Turkish restaurant and it was very good to try the Turkish food. On to Ephesus a huge ruined Roman city. It is truly awesome and the quality and beauty of the ruins are stunning. An outdoor Roman play was performed for us, with audience participation. As well as being entertaining it was a welcome chance to sit down. On the way back to the ship we called at a carpet workshop and museum and took more colourful photos. After being thoroughly charmed by Turkey it was back to the Jade once more. Egypt. This was the true purpose of the cruise, to see the other part of Egypt that I didn't get too before. We opted for the overnight stay in a Cairo hotel so this was our most expensive trip but I really wanted to do this. It was a three hour drive from Alexandria to Cairo and we went straight to the magnificent Citadel of Saladin and the Alabaster Mosque. The Cairo Museum was next and it was truly packed with many treasures including, Tutankhamun's Golden Mask, beautiful jewels and artefacts from his tomb. It was very emotional, gazing on the world famous mask, which looked as though it was made yesterday. I could spend a month, just in the museum alone. We lunched at the 5 star Grand Hotel and checked into our very sumptuous room. Later we went to a sound and light show and saw our first magical glimpse of the Pyramids and Sphinx. This was an experience not to be missed. It was so atmospheric that it made goose bumps on our arms. Even later, we went on a Nile Cruise, for dinner and cabaret, which was very entertaining, and included, singing, dancing, Belly Dancer and Whirling Dervish. After a very long but wonderful day, it was off to our fabulous hotel and a good nights sleep. Next day, after a lovely breakfast, we were taken to see more wonderful, Egyptian monuments including the Step Pyramid, Temple of Ptah, Rameses Statue at Memphis and the Sphinx and the Great Pyramid at Giza, up close. All of it was truly magical, especially Giza, and I wouldn't have missed it for anything. I was so enchanted that I even had a camel ride, very unlikely event for me! Shopping in Egypt was a delight, bartering with the stall holders, who are so friendly and chatty, it is such fun. One of my best memories is of being chased across the sand by a young man swinging a beautiful turquoise necklace, all the way back to the coach, where I finally gave in and bought it, even though at the start I had no intention of buying it. Now I love the necklace and its fun memories! None of this was in any way threatening and my friend & I ended up with five Cleopatra wigs and three Cleopatra bags amongst other things. Such fun! I love Egypt! Eventually it was time for the long drive back to the coach and the Jade before she sailed. Malta. Valletta is a very beautiful harbour to sail into and we were up on deck to view the mellow stone of the impressive, huge Bastions of Valletta as we sailed in. Once again we took the ship's tour and enjoyed walking in Valletta and hearing the history of the Island and Knights of Malta from our guide. We also went in the Magisterial Palace, St John's Cathedral, St Paul's Cathedral and to Mdina the Silent City. We really loved seeing the works of art and many historical artefacts in these places as well as seeing the beautiful buildings. It could have been a let down after Egypt but it wasn't and we really enjoyed our time spent there. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
This was our first trip to Europe and finally decided we wanted to see a lot of different places and for that gave up time in any one place. We chose the Ruby because of our past satisfaction with Princess and we thought it had the best ... Read More
This was our first trip to Europe and finally decided we wanted to see a lot of different places and for that gave up time in any one place. We chose the Ruby because of our past satisfaction with Princess and we thought it had the best itinerary. The trip for us was fantastic and it exceeded our expectations. We knew the ship would be fine and it was in good shape and the service was good. We did a lot of the ship's excursions knowing that we would be herded about at all of the most touristy parts of each port. The crowds in the ports were immense, especially in Rome since there were 10 Mega Ships in port on our visit day. In Monte Carlo we went on our own and were quite happy with that as we found our way up to the Old Town area. The scenery was wonderful, and we got a good dose of life on the ritzy side. In Florence, we took the "Best of Florence and Pisa" tour and we did a lot of walking and looking at most sites from the outside. The weather was a bit iffy and we had umbrellas, but if you forgot yours the local vendors were quick to pull out weather gear for you. We did get to go inside the Academia and saw "David", but again it was very crowded and we were kind of herded through. All in all we did get a good flavor of Florence but one would need a week to really see all the wonders of that town. In Rome we had a great tour guide named Max, he was really into his craft and seemed to enjoy telling us about what we saw. We did the Coliseum and the Vatican. We got into the museum and the Sistine Chapel and then the wonders of wonders, St. Peter's Basilica. One thing about the organized tours, you have tickets to get inside, and get to go to a separate admission gate. That was good. In Naples we chose to take a bus to Sorrento for a couple of hours, and then to Pompeii. It was a good day and had a nice tour of Pompeii. The sea day that followed was welcomed, and along with a bunch of our new friends, we did some laundry. A lot of other cruisers had the same idea. With a 12 day cruise it was nice that the Ruby has a Laundromat. Our next stop was Mykonos, and we did it on our own. We saw the organized tours in town and were glad we chose to see the sites on our own. The ladies did some shopping, too. One of the problems with the tours is that there is never enough time for shopping. Not that we wanted to do a lot of it, but we had almost zero time except when they herd you into a shop for the privilege of using the restrooms. Our next stop was Istanbul, and we did it with a tour too. Lots of people at the Blue Mosque, the Hippodrome, the Aya Sophia, the Palace, and the Cistern. We were in awe of all these places except the Palace was a little less than we hoped for. us a bit. Next the ship goes to Kusadasi, and we went to Mary's Shrine and Ephesus. People had told us that there wasn't much at Kusadasi, but we found it to be on a building boom, with a huge marketplace, and a lot of new housing. They even have a brand new themed water park. In Athens we got a tour to the Acropolis and we were very lucky as we were the first group to walk through the gates that morning. For about a half hour we basically had the place to ourselves. The float into the harbor of Venice is thrilling. We did no tour, and if we would have understood the water buses better we would not have bought the Princess shuttle passes. They actually give every one on ship a pass for $15 and charge your account. You can turn them in prior to arrival if you want, and if we would have known how close the Pia Roma is to the ship we would have just gone there and gotten a two day pass since we stayed an extra night. One more comment about the excursions, the tour director was wonderful. I wish I would have his name. He managed the groups in the Princess Theater with ease and humor. He made you feel like it was going to go off well, and they did. If we ever go back to a Med cruise, we will be doing shore trips on our own, but in general we are glad we did it the way we did. I know a lot of cruise critic people disdain ship tours, but in general we saw a little of a lot. We found the dining to be fine. We did anytime dining and maybe because so many people skipped the main dining room because of busy days in port, we had no trouble getting in and getting a table for 4 and not having to share. The food was fine, and the service very good. We like the Princess system of the buffet since you can just go and get what you want, and do not have to wait in a line if all you want is something at the end of the line. We are Platinum and enjoyed that they gave us 500 free internet minutes. We didn't even use them all. We try to avoid all the up charge places on a cruise ship. It is getting harder to do that as they up charge so much nowadays. Not sure if we would ever even consider the "Serenity" place on the Ruby. All in all, if anyone is considering the Med Cruises, be sure you are prepared for hectic days if you are new to Europe and want to see as much as you can. The days begin at 7:00am and end at 6:00pm and you are going to be busy the whole time. You can ease this up if you focus your port time, I guess, but so many sites are a ways from the ship's dock that transportation time will be extensive and traffic in these cities is quite hectic. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
This was our first cruise since 2007,the last one being Canada/NE on the Constellation. This was our 3rd cruise on this ship, and we've loved the ship, and the ambiance. On arrival at the port, we had a short wait, and were allowed on ... Read More
This was our first cruise since 2007,the last one being Canada/NE on the Constellation. This was our 3rd cruise on this ship, and we've loved the ship, and the ambiance. On arrival at the port, we had a short wait, and were allowed on board about noon, but the staterooms weren't ready until about 1pm. Our stateroom attendant, Schubert, was excellent, looking after every detail, and responding immediately to whatever question we had. We also enjoyed the special little touches offered to elite travelers. Some have said the appetizer bread was stale, but it doesn't take long for those little squares to dry out. The champagne was cold, and the coupons were much appreciated. Our waiter, Augusto, was also excellent, and his assistant..Lorena? was very good, as well. They were both very personable, and made dining a pleasure. The food....not so much. It was OK, but I noted that the dinner served on our return flight had more flavor than any of the meals in the dining room. Little things seemed s bit "off",such as the shrimp cocktails being served in a small dessert dish, rather than the cocktail dishes used previously. Nothing big to complain about, just a slight feeling of cut-backs. My husband has difficulty walking very far, so we can't comment on the entertainment, and we only did one tour, but it was great. A lady on the Cruise Critic roll call arranged a tour of the Amalfi Coast with Sorrento limousine service and it was very enjoyable. Our driver/guide, Girardo was very accommodating and informative. There were just 7 of us on the tour, and after an unexpected hour spent in Sorrento, and a visit to beautiful Positano, Girardo took us to a charming, noisy, delicious tratorria, Where we tasted various Italian dishes, and wines. It was a highlight of our tour. Because of time constraints, we didn't have much time to spend in Amalfi or Rapallo, but it was a splendid day. Rapallo, but it was a lovely, memorable day. As an added note, the refurbishing was well done. All in all, we enjoyed the cruise very much. The disembarkation was smooth and efficient, in spite of a long wait in line for boarding passes. We had a 10am flight, and made it with time to spare. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
We took two back-to-back cruises, 12 days each, from Barcelona to Venice and then from Venice to Istanbul and back to Venice. 16 ports, only four sea days, and a couple of overnights (Barcelona, Venice and Istanbul). We're glad we had ... Read More
We took two back-to-back cruises, 12 days each, from Barcelona to Venice and then from Venice to Istanbul and back to Venice. 16 ports, only four sea days, and a couple of overnights (Barcelona, Venice and Istanbul). We're glad we had 24 days on this beautiful ship, because we would not have been ready to leave after the first two weeks. This was our 26th cruise, so we have a basis for comparison. EMBARKATION DAY: We flew from Florida to Barcelona, arriving at 8 a.m. and taking a taxi to the port. Three big ships were in the same dock area, including ours, so traffic was at a stand-still over the bridge to the dock, driving up our taxi price. Check-in was quick and easy, but then we had to wait until 11:30 while passengers disembarked and we could get on. We were tired and jet-lagged, but the hall was comfortable and food and drink were available for purchase at a bar. When we got on board, we headed for the Lido for lunch and by 1 p.m. our cabin was ready for us to "crash" and nap for a couple of hours. Our luggage arrived promptly. Around 4 p.m. we took the free shuttle to the Columbus statue at the foot of Barcelona's Las Ramblas walking zone and enjoyed a pleasant stroll into the Old Quarter. Shuttled back to the ship for dinner in the Lido and early to bed. CABIN: We had asked for a "partially obstructed" oceanview and were not disappointed. Our cabin was mid-ship on Deck 4, right off the center elevator. It was the quietest cabin we've ever had and we never felt any ship motion. We had a large double window, floor to ceiling, with clear view out of one side and part of a lifeboat on the other. The wonderful HAL beds lulled us to sleep comfortably each night. We found plenty of storage space, including under the bed, several adjustable shelves and lots of hangers. It took a while to get used to putting your room card in the slot by the door in order to turn on the lights. We could have used more hooks on the wall and a desk drawer. We had a roomy bathroom and tub which was really nice for soaking tired bones after shore trips. DINING: Overall the food was excellent and service fast and efficient. We opted for Anytime Dining because we like to watch sail-aways and don't want to be tied to a specific dining time. We never had to wait more than a few minutes at the Main Dining Room, and found the food in the Lido full of variety to suit just about every taste. Food problems or complaints were quickly rectified. Several times we ate in the Canaletto, the Italian dinner venue where there is no extra charge. The service is pleasant and personal, and the Limoncello dessert to die for. We also had a free dinner in the Tamarind Asian restaurant courtesy of Capt. Mercer, which was elegantly served. Sometimes the Lido got very crowded, but usually the lines moved quickly. We miss not having trays and don't really understand why they're no longer being used. The first two days there was no self-service of food or drink, it was handled by the staff for health reasons. Lido hours should also be extended, as people are used to having food available just about any time on a ship. ENTERTAINMENT: The singers and dancers put on amazingly professional shows. We had good magicians and comedians and the main theater had plenty of room. During the day and evening there were the usual trivia games, hilarious game shows like the Marriage Game, Match Game, Liars Club, etc. Bingo had some good payouts, but the casino seemed very tight. Movies were shown daily, free internet classes, cooking classes, games around the pool. GYM, SPA, POOLS: The two nice-sized pools were seldom used because the water was too cold. Lots of pool side chairs were available for relaxation. We did not see many people use the private Sanctuary cabanas or the enclosed cabanas on the pool deck, probably because of the cost. We didn't use the Gym or Spa but understand there was plenty of exercise equipment and a small heated pool and sauna just for Spa guests. We appreciated the fact that waiters didn't bug you constantly to buy drinks when we were trying to relax. LIBRARY AND INTERNET: Usually on HAL ships these two facilities are midship at one of the lower levels, but here they are right outside the Vista Lounge at the top front on the ship. The Vista Lounge was always freezing cold, which didn't make for comfortable reading. There are several small bar areas where one could relax with a book or conversation with friends. We heard the usual complaints about the Internet: too expensive, slow service even when in port, wasting precious minutes waiting for "high speed internet". We usually looked for internet cafes on shore, very inexpensive. SHORE EXCURSIONS: Most were pretty expensive and with 16 ports we had to be selective. We took some private tours we had pre-arranged on Cruise Critic roll calls, several ship excursions which were well handled, and sometimes we just walked on our own. Shuttles to town were sometimes too expensive for such a short distance. Next time we'll check on local buses ahead of time. Every port has taxis handy, but they are not cheap and sometimes language is a problem. We had to be tendered in several ports, which went amazingly well for a ship with 2000 passengers. The Shore Information talks were informative and did not push shopping as much as some cruise lines do. The Shorex office needs to be open more hours to answer questions, as you could not reach them by phone. Docking in Venice after the first 12 days, the ship's computer malfunctioned and Captain Mercer announced we would stay an extra night docked in Venice. A computer expert had to be flown in from Germany with the proper parts. As a result we missed Split, Croatia, which was disappointing. But the extra night in Venice was enjoyable, as the ship had moved to a dock very close to St. Mark's Square. DISEMBARKATION: After 24 days, we arrived back in Venice while it was still dark out. We docked close to the Peoplemover, so after fairly easy disembarkation we rolled our luggage a few hundred feet to the Peoplemover and for 1 Euro we arrived in Piazzale Roma in minutes. From there we took the No. 5 bus to the airport hotel we had pre-arranged and flew home the next day. OVERALL we really enjoyed the whole 24 days. There were a few minor irritations, but when someone else cooks our meals, cleans up afterwards, makes our beds and puts out clean towels daily, provides 24-hour service and entertainment, what is there to complain about? Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
First of all I'm a Dutch resident, so if my English sometimes is not correct, you know why. We were travelling as a couple ages 50-60. The cabin Our first cruise with Carnival. We took an inside cabin while the cruising ... Read More
First of all I'm a Dutch resident, so if my English sometimes is not correct, you know why. We were travelling as a couple ages 50-60. The cabin Our first cruise with Carnival. We took an inside cabin while the cruising is mostly at night and with one sea day, far away from land, there was no need for a balcony. The cabin space was sufficient, the beds were good. There are three closets that are a good size and a dresser with three small usable drawers. The bathroom small but efficient. Located mid-ships you're in the middle with everything. The beds are high enough to slide a good size suitcase under them. The cabin stewards were excellent, which we had aimed for since deck 7 is the deck with the most expensive cabins and the best staff is working there. We didn't miss the balcony at all. Pool deck The pools are rather small. But the music at the Seaside Theatre is sometimes that loud that after one hour we relocated to the side boards of the ship, where always was plenty of room. For a cool down you could use the showers at the spot. In general there were always loungers available. The band playing Blood Power was good. Entertainment I found the entertainment, with exception of the comedians in the Spotlight Lounge, a big disappointment. But why have one comedian perform for 30 minutes, pause 30 minutes, and than the second one. By the time you finally had gotten your drink the show was over! Some of the musicians playing at the ship were not up to level, sometimes really lousy, with a repertoire that is very limited. I guess that Carnival can do way better at this. Food The food was OK. Except for the day at sea there were hardly no queues. The Lido buffet is large but could do with a bit more variation in the food offered. Both Tandoori and Mongolion Wok were good. The dinner in the Southern Lights was in general good. Disappointment was that after purchasing a wine package we were informed that only half of the wines were available! So there was a very limited choice. Excursions The excursions offered are a rip off! So we organized everything, except for Naples, ourselves and that went perfectly. A Birg ticket to Rome that includes public transport in Rome, for example is about $ 5! The shuttle bus in Marseille, which you really need to avoid a more than 1 hour walk, costs € 12,00 rt. Also here Carnival could do much better. In Livorno we stayed aboard, since public transportation was on strike. Livorno has nothing to offer, it's a dirty city with pidgins everywhere. The advantage is that you have the ship for yourselves. Embarkation and debarkation went very smooth. Annoying Going from the Southern Lights dining room to the Spotlight Lounge you had to pass at least 6 or 7 photographers, all of them stepping in your way trying to push their photo's. Every night again! Well that is becoming really annoying. Conclusion Looking at the price/value this cruise in general met our expectations and sometimes exceeded it. Sure, there were some flaws, and some niggles need to be sorted out, but we would not hesitate to book another Carnival cruise. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
My wife and I just returned from a 12 night Mediterranean cruise on Celebrity's Century. We departed from Barcelona and finished at the same location. We've sailed with Celebrity once before and chose this company because we were ... Read More
My wife and I just returned from a 12 night Mediterranean cruise on Celebrity's Century. We departed from Barcelona and finished at the same location. We've sailed with Celebrity once before and chose this company because we were pleased with our first experience and because of it's good reputation. We were not disappointed. Our first Celebrity cruise was on the Infinity. While the Century is 15 years old and not as shiny new as some ships, it's still a beautiful way to cruise. About 5 years ago it underwent a 50 million dollar upgrade and, although it is a bit bit worn in some areas, I'd definitely sail on her again. We found the cruise well organized and the crew attentive to every need. Our cabin attendant was great as was the dinner wait staff. We had many questions and guest relations was extremely helpful and kind. We always enjoy the nightly entertainment and were just a bit disappointed this time around. The young dancers and singers were good but tended to lip sync a bit too much for our tastes. There were a couple of other acts that were not up to the level we'd expected. Still, we enjoyed the shows. This was our first trip to Europe and we enjoyed the countries we visited immensely. If I had to change anything on the itinerary, I would probably make port in Napoli instead of Salerno. We felt that Salerno was simply a place to park the ship so you take an excursion to Pompeii, Sorrento, etc. The city itself left a lot to be desired. We made several great friends and enjoyed the cruise very very much. We would not hesitate to cruise with Celebrity and on the Century again. Read Less
Sail Date August 2010
This was my 12th or so cruise, my second cruise on the Jade, and it was quite wonderful. I shop for my cruises by destination and price, and so usually cruise with Norwegian or Princess. This cruise was selected also for climate. My wife ... Read More
This was my 12th or so cruise, my second cruise on the Jade, and it was quite wonderful. I shop for my cruises by destination and price, and so usually cruise with Norwegian or Princess. This cruise was selected also for climate. My wife does not tolerate heat well and wanted to see Egypt, so mid-winter was the only possible period in which she had a good chance of a pleasant visit. She got our neighbor and her daughter to join us and we looked forward to a pleasant time with the 4 of us. But my wife got the flu shortly before leaving our home in California, and due to complications was never able to join us. I hope to repeat the cruise on the Jade in January, 2011 with her. Embarkation was quick and easy, we zoomed through it. The cruise port in Barcelona is well located, not far from the southern end of the famous La Rambla. We got a hotel at the northern end and spent New Year's Eve and a couple more days recovering from jet lag and exploring the city. The cab ride from the hotel to the ship was inexpensive; luggage porters met us as we got out of the cab. Quick and easy. We were on board almost as quickly as we could walk over to the gangplank. I had a mid-ship balcony cabin on the 10th deck and it was small. My companions had a nearby inside cabin, also quite small. I suppose I was spoiled by having had a handicap accessible cabin last cruise on the Jade, which was quite large. The size was not a problem, just something I noticed. The balconies on the Jade all are at the edge of the ship, not stepped back as on the last Princess vessel I was on. I much prefer looking down at the sea to looking down at my neighbors below. The bed was very comfortable, the toilet and shower were compact. I always wish for a tub but no ship seems to have the space for one. I really enjoyed the food on the Jade. I read cruise reviews and I know that food is one of the primary sources of complaints people have about cruises. I thought the Jade's food was noticeably better than that on my last cruise (on Princess), and had no complaints at all. After the cruise was over I learned from my two companions, both of whom cook, that the menu writer had taken some definite liberties in describing the dishes, as often the ingredients were not what was expected in the dish. I always eat a room service breakfast of cereal and milk, often a sit down lunch, and always a dining room dinner - at the insistence of my companions, it was always the Grand Dining room for dinner. We normally ate at 8, and seldom were in line waiting for a seat. I normally skip shipboard entertainment, but Smokey Joe's Cafe was being presented one evening, and being a long-time fan of the writers, Lieber & Stoller, and having seen the New York production, I wasn't going to miss it. Readers of my travel blog will recall I saw a rehearsal of this show about a year ago. The performance was quite good - how can you miss with songs like that? By now a seasoned traveler, I long ago learned to avoid booking the tours offered by the ship, unless something really special is offered. The destinations on this cruise were extraordinary, if you like looking at piles of rock which have been in the same place since someone put them there centuries ago - in other words ancient ruins - and I do. In Rome the port is some distance from the city and the ship's bus runs about $70. My Italian-speaking companion showed me how to use the Italian train system to get into the city, there was a station about 3 blocks from the ship, and we visited the Coliseum and the Museum of Modern Art, hopped back on a train and made the departure easily for very little money. In Athens we grabbed a cab to the Acropolis District, hiked up the hill and saw the Parthenon, had lunch, and rode the metro back to port. In Izmir we took the official ship tour of Ephesus. It was good, the partly restored ruins are spectacular, and one of my companions bought a carpet. I was astonished. It was beautiful and this was not my first carpet shop stop, but to actually buy one.... In Egypt I took the ship's overnight tour to the pyramids and did not regret it - especially as the return trip encountered traffic delays. The ship will await the return of tours booked on board, but if you are on your own, you are on your own and they'll sail away, so they say. The stop at Valletta was, by contrast, unspectacular, but the port is within an easy walk of the town and we toured a cathedral and an art museum, had a very pleasant lunch where we met an Irishwoman on a walking tour of Malta. A squall burst upon us as we returned to the ship. We had a box of cokes (the ship has gone all Pepsi, a cost cutting plan which lost them my soda business) and it got soaked. Worse, even with two gangways, the security slowed things down so that hundreds of us stood in the wind, rain, and cold for at least 15 minutes trying to get on board. The internet is accessible in the cabins with an ethernet cable which the ship will supply. It is expensive, and I am a heavy user. Here Princess has the advantage as they offer a 35 cents per minute plan, while NCL is still offering nothing better than 40 cents per minute. I got a free hour by judicious timing of my plan purchases, but since I spent more money on the internet than even on tours, it would be nice if NCL could knock the price down a bit. Internet was a bit slow, as is the case on all ships, but one of my companions was able to do video conferencing with her family. It was a bit clunky, but she did it. I'm impressed. Wish I knew how to do that. There was a virus outbreak, which I believe was acknowledged to have spread to 8% of the passengers before it subsided. The ship went to extraordinary measures to prevent the virus from spreading - some other reviewers complain about some of these, but I was happy because I did not want to get ill. Finally we had the excitement of a man overboard off the coast of Egypt. Someone, we are told, put on a life jacket and jumped. Bit nuts, if you ask me. The ship circled back for him and just before dark pulled him from the water. Since the conclusion was successful, the event was exciting. I am hoping to be on the Jade for this same cruise in 2011, but this time with my wife joining me. Read Less
Sail Date January 2010
The cruise began on November 6th in Barcelona but I flew to Barcelona a day early so I could have time to rest up and adjust to the six hour time difference. I stayed in a hotel, the Vincci Maritimo, that we had stayed in once before. Its ... Read More
The cruise began on November 6th in Barcelona but I flew to Barcelona a day early so I could have time to rest up and adjust to the six hour time difference. I stayed in a hotel, the Vincci Maritimo, that we had stayed in once before. Its away from tourist areas and next to a shopping mall with plenty of eating places. I spent the day of arrival mostly napping and trying to rest up. Checkin was quick and easy but cabins were not ready until 1:00 PM. The cruise itinerary included port stops in Valletta, Malta; 2 days in Alexandria, Egypt; Limassol, Cyprus; Rhodes, Greece; Piraeus (Athens), Greece; Palermo (Sicily), Italy and back to Barcelona. A total of 12 days. The only one of these places I had visited before was Athens, Greece and the highlight of the trip for me and most people on the ship was the time in Egypt. Cruises in Europe and the Mediterranean are not like Caribbean cruises in that you don't have water sports, and zip lines, and horseback riding, and off-road vehicle stuff. Its mostly visiting historical and archaeological sites, viewing ruins, especially a lot of churches, and lots of walking. The first stop was Valletta, Malta. You don't need a tour here as you can walk into town, but its uphill to the city level. That city is an ancient walled city that is pedestrian only and very hilly. The city is on a peninsula with a wall and mote all around it. Its significance is that archaeological ruins there have been dated to 3600 BC. The tour that I took walked through the city, visited the royal palace and then proceeded by bus to another walled city called Mdina. It was a good tour to see city and countryside. After an at sea day we stopped in Alexandria, Egypt. I had a tour which was 12 to 13 hours; 3 hours each way on a bus to and back from Cairo, Egypt. The cruise ship terminal in Alexandria is fabulous but not yet populated with the stores and restaurants that it will accommodate. There were no worries of terrorists because the terminal building had an armed security guard on the roof and police and guards all over the port. Each bus or convoy which left the port was accompanies by a police escort. The convoys had a motorcycle leading and another vehicle following. I didn't realize it until we were in Cairo at the Pyramids but we had an armed plain clothed security guard on the bus. And he followed us as we walked around the pyramids and Spinx. The bus was a comfortable 45 passenger bus with a rest room. The ride was wild as people pass on the left, right, and middle. It was great to see the countryside; the ride was about 180 km. Our first stop on the Cairo tour was the Great Pyramids of Giza and the Spinx. The first shock that I had was the city is right next to the pyramids. Most photos of them that you see you get the impression that they are way off out in the desert. The city is just a block or so away. And the Spinx is fronted by a market with a KFC prominently in the middle. I was just a little disappointed in the pyramids; they just didn't awe me. Their main significance is their age, completed about 2540 BC. When you think of them in terms of age they are over 4500 years old and that's hard to comprehend; unless you think about it for a while. At about 480 feet tall they are not as tall as the Washington Monument in DC. The Spinx is right next to the pyramids and its rather small; our tour guide said this to us before we got there. Again, I thought from all of the photos of it that it was way out on the desert also and certainly not facing a KFC barely a hundred yards away. We had about an hour and a half at the Great Pyramids and Spinx. The next stop in Cairo was for lunch at a 5-Star hotel that was just about 2 blocks from the Great Pyramids. You could see them from the hotel grounds. The hotel was fabulous and so was the buffet lunch. We had about an hour for lunch. Our next stop was a what they called a Papyrus Institute. It was actually a place where they first demonstrated how papyrus is made and then you have an opportunity to buy papyrus paintings of various sized. Most of the smaller ones, about 11 inches by 15 inches, were very reasonably priced at about $15 US. I bought two photos. They rolled them and packed them in a tube. Then we went through Cairo and across the Nile River to the Cairo Museum where all of King Tut's treasures and a lot more is kept. It was nice to see the King Tut stuff but I didn't like the museum because it was rather dark inside; I guess to protect the artifacts from light. No photography of any type allowed and you could not even bring your camera inside; everyone left them on the bus. We spend about an hour or so at the museum and it was dark when we left there headed by to Alexandria. We got back to Alexandria about 9:00 PM; it was a long day. That's why the next day I did not do a tour at all. I got off the ship and browsed the market right at the port. I later walked outside the secured port area and was swamped by people trying to sell me a taxi ride, a carriage ride, and one dude who said, "come to my shop and see what I sell". There was not really anything interesting to see in that area so I quickly went back into the secured area. The next day we arrived in Limassol, Cyprus, an island nation. I didn't do a tour here but took the shuttle bus into town and browsed some shops and the shopping area. The shuttle was $2.50 each way. The next day we arrived in Rhodes, Greece, another island and I had a tour that went to the ancient city and ruins of Lindos. The ride to Lindos through the countryside was about an hour. Then we got off the bus and took a shuttle down a road about half a mile where we got off . Then we had to walk through the city of Lindos to get to the pathway up the mountain to the Acropolis. It seemed like on this cruise I was always walking uphill. This city was very Greek with white buildings and lots of blue contrast colors. The walk uphill took about 10 minutes and then there were steps to go up to get into the fort and castle. But the views were worth the walk. After touring Lindos we went back to Rhodes and I went into that walled city. It was full of shops and restaurants and lots of people because there were 4 cruise ships in port that day. Piraeus, Greece is the port city for Athens and that was the next stop. Since I had been to Athens before I didn't need to see that city and the Parthenon and Acropolis there. So I took a tour going to the ancient city of Corinth (as in the city to which Paul in the Bible wrote his letters) and a cruise on the Corinth Canal. The Canal was the first stop and its a man made canal kinda like the Panama Canal only shorter at about 2 miles and not in a jungle area like Panama. The cruise was a very pleasant experience. They served a Greek lunch on the small ship we were on but I didn't eat much of it since I didn't know what stuff was. Then we were on to the city of Corinth. The area of the old city covers about 4 or 5 football fields, wide and long. Most of the city is on the ground, no buildings standing but one set of columns. The grounds is controlled and has an admission and also a museum. Having read Corinthians this for me was a chilling experience to be there. After Athens we had an at sea day and then arrived the next day at Palermo (Sicily), Italy. I took a tour in Sicily that went to ancient sites again, Segesta and Erice. Segesta required quite an uphill walk and there we saw the remains of a temple that dated to 430 BC. There were other sites on the ground of this monument that we did not visit and they had few ruins. Then we went on to Erice and that required a bus ride up a mountain. Up there was a complete walled city called Erice. We spent about an hour touring it and then went a short way back down the mountain to a restaurant for lunch. Then we took a different route down the mountain and had a brief stop at a pottery place before we went back to the ship. Back in Palermo we had the worse traffic jam I have ever seen and were late getting back to the ship. We re boarded the ship about 5:45 PM and it was underway by 6:00 PM. At this point I was about tired of seeing ancient walled cities ... LOL. After another at sea day we arrived back in Barcelona. I had one more tour booked to Montserrat to see the Black Madonna. That was a good and very scenic tour. Montserrat is a monastery on the top of a mountain that is visited by and revered by the local population. After this tour I was dropped at the airport and caught a taxi back to the same hotel I stayed at before. My trip home the next day was not without events. I arrived at the Barcelona airport 2 hours before my flight and was told that it was delayed at least 2 hours. I knew then that I would miss my connecting flight at JFK. The scheduled 11:00 AM flight finally took off at 1:45 PM. At JFK they tried to put me on a flight the next morning but I begged for something better. So they sent me by shuttle to Laguardia for a 7:45 PM flight. That flight finally took off about 9:00 PM. I didn't get home until about 11:00 PM, tired as hell but safe and sound There were several new things for RC on this cruise. Its no longer required to get your life vest from your cabin for the safety/muster drill. They line now has a "rent-a-towel" policy where you must present your cruise card to the towel desk to get towels and you will be charged $20 each if they are not returned. We had to surrender passports at check-in and then retrieve them twice; once before Egypt and again before Barcelona. There were no chocolates on pillows in the cabin and I never got any goodies from the Crown & Anchor Society as in the past, not even a bag or pen. The discount booklet had little that I was interested in using; they may as well not have this any more. The bathrobe provided was too small event though it said one size fits all. Maybe I had a female version. I never got any information about the location or hours of the Diamond lounge. I attended the Cruise Critic Meet & Mingle but it was a bust as far as I am concerned. There was no effort to have folks introduce themselves by screen name and first name and city so that you actually met some new people. So when it was over I had met only one person whom I had chatted with on the boards. I did not attend any of the shows mainly because I have seen most on the many cruises I have done before and also because it was about 2 hours after dinner when the show started each night. I found rest in the cabin after a brief visit to the casino a better option. I visited the casino several times but I found the slots very tight (not paying off) and most were dated and not up to date with current slots in US gambling casinos/towns. The casino was also very smokey and the worse place for smoke was the sports bar. The smoke was so bad one evening that it ran me out of the casino. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
Brilliance of the Seas - November 18 -30, 2009 We arrived in Barcelona mid-morning, (local time), on November 16. I would recommend that anyone dealing with a significant time change, as we did coming from Canada, allow at least a ... Read More
Brilliance of the Seas - November 18 -30, 2009 We arrived in Barcelona mid-morning, (local time), on November 16. I would recommend that anyone dealing with a significant time change, as we did coming from Canada, allow at least a day to re-adjust your "inner clock". We built in a second day in Barcelona to see the sights and weren't disappointed. If you only have a full day before your cruise, then the hop-on hop-off Tourist Bus is a perfect way to see the highlights of Barcelona. For about 20 Euro/person, you can ride all around the city, and get on and off to see the sights as it suits you. The boarding process was relatively smooth and efficient, and we boarded "Brilliance" around noon on November 18. We had lunch and a drink in the Windjammer Cafe while waiting for our stateroom to become available at 1:00 P.M. We had been upgraded from an outside to a balcony stateroom, and will probably book a balcony for all future cruises. Never having had a balcony room before, I didn't realize how nice it is being able to sit outside, watching the ocean go by, when the weather is pleasant. I cannot begin to adequately describe the overwhelming courtesy and helpfulness of all of the staff we encountered on the Brilliance. Every request was met quickly, courteously, and with a smile. The way in which we were treated by all of the staff, made us feel like we had been welcomed into their family. The quality of the meals was certainly adequate. In the Windjammer, as with most buffet type arrangements, sometimes the hot food could have been a little hotter. However, most days I was pleasantly surprised at how good some of the dishes tasted. And the variety at both breakfast and lunch was exceptional. I'm not certain whether or not I like the "island" buffet set-up. On the one hand, it certainly had the effect of allowing one to "zero in" on what you wanted rather than waiting in a long line to pick-up one or two items. On the other hand, at prime meal times, it seemed very busy with many people moving in every direction. For dinner we ate in the main dining room. The variety offered each night was more than satisfactory, and there were usually enough different items on the menu that everyone was able to select something they enjoyed. One got a sense that there was some economizing in that some of the better cuts of meat were not offered. Lobster, of course, wasn't on the menu. But to me it was no great loss, as the lobster I've had on most cruises just didn't compare to the fresh Atlantic lobster I can get at home. Overall, the meals served in the main dining room were not of "five star restaurant" quality, but they were certainly as good. or better, than one can get in any mid priced North American restaurant. The service provided by the waiter and assistant waiter was excellent; courteous and professional, friendly but not fawning. There was no denying the talent of all of the entertainers who performed nightly in the theater. Not all of the performances were to my liking, however all of them were presented and performed in a professional manner. One word of caution. Since I had not received a hard copy statement of my Shipboard Account on the final morning, I checked my balance using the interactive feature on the stateroom television. Mysteriously, $40. had been added overnight. RCCL eventually removed the charge, but as former U.S. President Ronald Reagan said many years ago; "Trust but verify." Disembarkation was organized and relatively quick. I particularly liked the airport style luggage carousels in the Port of Barcelona building. It was certainly much better than having two thousand people fight their way through piles of luggage on the floor of huge hall. Barcelona airport, however was another story. In addition to all of the normal Monday morning passengers trying to fly out, we added two thousand passengers from the "Brilliance". The airlines could have, and should have opened more check-in counters, but they didn't, so we all stood in a line that at times stretched for over a hundred yards. I think we spent the better part of two and a half hours standing in various lines before finally reaching our boarding gate, which of course, was as far as it could be from where we entered the airport terminal. I won't review the various ports, but would recommend that if it can be arranged, hire a local taxi and/or guide. We booked two tours through the cruise line, where we shared a bus with up to forty others. It was not an ideal way to see the sites. The bus seats were cramped and seemed designed for much smaller people. At the various stops, those at the back usually missed much of the guide's commentary. Before leaving home, we and another couple, (who I met through Cruise Critic), hired Ramses Tours for a day long trip from Alexandria to Cairo. With only four of us in a van, along with our driver and our Egyptologist guide, the experience was so much more informative and fulfilling. Having a private guide with few people in the party allows one to change the itinerary "on the fly", eliminating some planned sights, while stopping at others that appear more interesting. A few comments on Egypt. Both Alexandria and Cairo are polluted and dirty, with garbage of every description littering the streets. There are usually four lanes of traffic fighting for three lanes of roadway, and I am still trying to understand why Egyptian drivers turn off their headlights after dark! Despite the above, the area is rich in history. It is literally a meeting point of the ancient and the modern, where a donkey cart shares the road with a BMW. Camels run in herds on the periphery of a modern airbase. Where women in chadors share the sidewalk with those wearing contemporary, stylish western dress. There is poverty and there is wealth. One visit is not enough, we can't wait to go back! Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
This was our 10th cruise with Celebrity. Being cruisers we did a back-to-back cruise (Western Med. for 7 days and Transatlantic for 14 days). The service for dining staff to stateroom attendants was the best we have had. I have ... Read More
This was our 10th cruise with Celebrity. Being cruisers we did a back-to-back cruise (Western Med. for 7 days and Transatlantic for 14 days). The service for dining staff to stateroom attendants was the best we have had. I have nothing but praise for these people. Although I will be mentioning some negatives, overall the cruise was outstanding. We truly enjoyed the buffets and the Aqua Spa Cafe for healthy eating. The food was well prepared and definitely hot. A few people complained they line is using insulated containers and at times the coffee is cold. Our travel companions were outstanding, and we agreed that except foritems such as New York Sirloin Strip Steak (red meat), which was tough, the entrees were great. Our suggestions on evaluation rated everything about the dining experience as excellent, except for standard red meats, which we rated as tough. By staying on Deck 5 near guest relations, the cabin halls are extra wide, which is really great for using a wheelchair. My mom has to use the wheelchair, because of her balance. Everyone treated us like Royalty and the staff knew our names by the end of the first week. Entertain would be what one would expect on a ship of this size. For the most part we were interested in the ports and relaxing -- not in the entertainment. Our stateroom attendants as mentioned were unbelievable. Although the stateroom was only 160 sq. feet, the layout is excellent. We had more than enough storage for two individuals. With the airlines charging for overweight and extra bags, we packed light and instead used the laundry service on board. My mother had to see the ship's doctor. Nothing serious. We were impressed on how everything was handled, and the price is about what you pay for in the states. Because we have trip insurance, we of course will be able to get this money back. Supposedly there was suppose to be Valet Service at Miami. Since my mom uses a wheelchair, we did everything with Celebrity. Our reasoning was that all we would have to do is place the luggage outside the stateroom on the last night and it would eventually arrive in Milwaukee our destination. We were informed on the ship it was not available for that cruise. We were not happy as my travel agent checked with Celebrity a week before we left, and we were told it was available. In addition some of the ports are not great for wheelchairs, but that was to be expected. On the excursions, I wish there would be more detailed information on disabilities and wheelchair use. Because I had been at some of the ports, I knew which would work out with a wheelchair such as Pisa and Gibraltar. The guest speakers during the Transatlantic were first rate. I would definitely go with Celebrity again and am planning another back-to-back cruise (Israel and Egypt followed by a Transatlantic). Considering the cost of airfare, I figure cruising across the Atlantic is the way to go. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
We are a couple in our 70's, both widowed and retired, going together for nearly a year. It was my first cruise for ~30 years, while my girlfriend (GF) has taken an NCL cruise down the Mexico coast within the past 3. She had never ... Read More
We are a couple in our 70's, both widowed and retired, going together for nearly a year. It was my first cruise for ~30 years, while my girlfriend (GF) has taken an NCL cruise down the Mexico coast within the past 3. She had never been to Europe, I had been to Italy twice before, but a long time ago. Our intent was to have a great time, see the sights, without overspending too much. The results were mixed. I had read all the reviews I could find about the Norwegian Gem by others who had taken the same cruise, and gained a lot of useful information beforehand. First of all, the Gem is a huge, great ship. It was clean. You couldn't finish a dish without an attendant taking it away almost instantly. The idea of being sprayed with hand sanitizer every time you go into a restaurant makes a lot of sense. GF found the Gem to be quite similar to the one she had taken before, I believe it was the Star. Freestyle cruising is great. It makes for a relaxed, happy atmosphere. On my first cruise in the dim distant past, we dressed for dinner, ate in time slots, sat at the same table each meal. We had great weather for the last week in October, never a wave over a foot high, always cool, even in Malta. I think I felt a drop of rain, once. Not quite sure. Remember, as a miser, my intent was to minimize cost, and the GF left the details up to me. This was probably a mistake on her part. I chose the lowest cost airfare, which turned out to be American to Chicago, Iberia to Madrid, Iberia to Barcelona, leaving the night before, arriving on the day of the cruise. In retrospect, I shouldn't have taken Iberia, didn't do enough research. They had a two-day demonstration strike scheduled for the day after we flew, and that was worrisome. The overseas flight was OK, although the TV screens were overhead, about 3 or 4 to a cabin. In economy class, the seats were only 17" wide, knee room was almost non-existent. GF had looked up their website and discovered they only sell food, and it's expensive. There was nothing to say it was different on overseas flights, and we disagreed on whether that would happen. I thought no airline could be so cheap as to sell food on an overseas flight, and fortunately I was right. The meals were good. But she brought a lot of snack stuff, which came in handy on the Madrid to Barcelona legs, where they did indeed only offer food and drink for Euros. Arriving at the new Madrid airport was an amazingly awful experience. Walk, walk, escalator up 3 floors, escalator down 3 floors, passport control, more escalators, much more walking, full inspection, take the train to the correct terminal without knowing the gate, a constant stream of Spanish babble over the loudspeaker but almost no English, and a board that displays the flight number and terminal but not the gate. We had to find an information desk to learn the gate. When we got to the gate, we saw a list of flight numbers rotate through the display but ours wasn't among 'em. Asking a desk attendant got us an answer of "wait." Yet, after a while, our flight number joined the others on the display. It was confusing to have multiple flight numbers show on one gate. I believe the others were some of the favored connecting flights on from Barcelona. I'll never know for certain. The announcements were only in Spanish. IMO, the US should retaliate and drop all Spanish announcements. Evidently they haven't discovered seating by rows in Spain; they just turned the mob loose and as a result, boarding the flight to Barcelona was painfully slow. At least Iberia aircraft were fairly new Airbus types. I probably should have taken us to Barcelona a day or two early and sprung for a hotel, because in our cab ride to the port, 40 Euros, we saw what looked to be a very interesting city. But we arrived a bit before noon, and sat in the port terminal waiting, until the desks were manned (they parade in like Swiss Guards and man the many desks at the same time), then checked in and boarded just after 12:00. All our luggage was carry-on. A sad note: before leaving Chicago, we pooled our money and changed dollars to Euros at O'Hare and got totally screwed there. Of course, they're going to take a cut, but it was more like a bite from a T-Rex. I was a math major (which is no guarantee of accuracy), so I'll lay it out: the exchange rate for a Euro was about $1.50. Our price was effectively about $1.69, which doesn't sound like much but on $1500 turned out to be a difference of $172, the amount of money I figured we paid to convert. ($1500 got us 885 E and change, should have been much closer to 1000 E.) As soon as it hit us how badly we had been taken, we were sick. All numbers are approximate. Next time, if there is one, we'll try to find a better way, probably go to a bank in the destination city in Europe. We spent the afternoon exploring the ship. The ship sailed promptly at 7:00 PM and we sat on the deck and watched the scenery flow by - it takes a long time to leave the Barcelona port area. That was great. Monday was entirely at sea and that's good. It takes time to adjust. Monday night, we attended Colorz, a song and dance revue. Excellent singing and dancing, lots of talent on the cast, but I hated it, because the amplification level was about 4000 decibels. There was never a change of pace, only frenetic singing and dancing. The GF didn't seem to mind the volume as much. The other revue show by the same cast, forgot the name, was just as bad. Other shows we saw were by Second City, a comedy troupe - hilarious, loved it. I'm terrible with names: a lady singer from Australia and her husband, a base guitar player, excellent, sound levels OK. Another show was a musician who played many instruments, mostly marimba and pan pipe, and he was very good (not nearly as much amplification.) A magician who did sleight of hand with cards and foam balls, was not great. His continuous vocal patter was in about 4 different languages, English, Spanish, German and I believe French, and it was distracting. Tuesday morning, arrival in Malta. Very interesting and picturesque, great views. I had cleverly figured that we would just take a cab up to the city, mess around aimlessly there until about 1 PM, then walk back down to the ship. However, after walking off the ship, we fell into the evil clutches of a cab driver who offered to take us around the island for more than two hours for 50 E. We bit. What he did was take us to 4 places we really didn't want to see, then turn us loose for a few minutes and wait for us: a garden, beautiful plants - GF liked that, it was pleasant enough. A cathedral, never learned the name, but it was miles from Valletta and reputedly had a replica of an unexploded German bomb which had landed there, but which we didn't find. The problem with cathedrals in Europe is there are so many of them, and they're all beautiful, but in the same way. We walked in on a funeral. Next was a glass factory, where we watched them shape molten glass into useless multicolored items, bottles and such, then went through the inescapable shop, where a water tumbler was 12 E, and the prices went way up from there. I tend to buy my water tumblers at K-mart, so I wasn't totally impressed. Finally, we went to a medieval castle/town called Mdina (the spelling is correct, no e) and had all of 15 minutes to walk around, and that was 14 too many. On our cab ride we had seen a lot of Malta, but at high maniac-cabdriver speeds and no coastal views, for which Malta is famous. We did enjoy his point of view and information, and he was the only driver we encountered on the cruise who spoke English well. Once back in Valletta, he let us off near the gardens, which is the correct end of the peninsula from which to walk down to the ship. Not knowing much about Valletta, I had suggested the Co-Cathedral, then the War Museum. We found the cathedral, but there was an enormous line to buy tickets, so we passed. The War Museum was next; Malta took an incredible pounding during WWII so I thought it would be impressive. It wasn't very. Also, it was down a long, steep hill, so steep the sidewalk was laid out in steps for a long stretch. We walked. My GF is part superwoman, part mountain goat, so she had no trouble. Every now and then she would kindly stop and wait for me. Along the way, we discovered a McDonalds, so I ordered a small milkshake and she had a coke. They did small to a ridiculous extreme: perhaps 4-6 ounces, and almost 2 E. We did the War Museum, hot and stuffy, largely unimpressive, then asked a guard how to get back down to the ship, and learned we had to go back to the gardens. It was now uphill. The GF danced up the hill while I painfully labored but finally made it. I figure it's about 2 miles each way. The cruise out at 3 PM was gorgeous. Grading myself for Malta planning: F-. Tuesday morning, we arrived in Napoli at 8 AM. I had planned to be flexible. We took the jet ferry to Capri for about 17 E per person. It is a beautiful island, and the ride there was good. Once unloaded, we found ourselves in an area of shops and restaurants around the harbor. The GF's eyes glazed over as they always do around shops, but she didn't find anything she wanted to buy, so we took the rail car up the hill (called the funicular, I believe) to Anacapri, but it was only about halfway up the mountain. More shops, more robotic shopping behavior by the GF. She finally finished after about and hour, and we took a bus back down to the harbor. The road must have been constructed during Capri's donkey cart days, and the width of it took up almost the entire lane. It wound it's way down the mountain, and pedestrians and motor-scooter riders looked as it they would be crushed against walls, but somehow the driver missed them. The exciting part came when we met another bus coming up. Both drivers stopped, and then we passed each other slowly, and I doubt if you could have slipped a sheet of typing paper between them or between our bus and the stone wall on the other side. Scary. We had a nice lunch in one of the harbor restaurants, then took the ferry over to Sorrento, where we wanted to take the train to Pompeii. Inevitably, it was a long way to the train station, and all uphill. I believe all of Italy is that way on purpose. We spent no time in Sorrento, and even though there were shops, the GF knew we didn't have a whole lot of time and wasn't distracted. We found the train, which runs back to Napoli, stopping at Pompeii Scavi, and I remember the cost as 2.40 E per person. The trains are by far the cheapest mode of transportation in Italy. We went though several tunnels and finally got there, but not before being joined by a huge crowd of kids getting out of school. Evidently they commute on the train. They were like kids anywhere: cute, happy, and constantly jabbering and kidding each other. I figured we had an hour in Pompeii, the entrance to which was a steep climb, naturally. By then I regarded any steep climb with great horror. It's a mistake to go there without a guide, it's too spread out. However, mistakes have become my way of life. We therefore had a very superficial encounter. We saw some of the temples and the forum, some of the petrified casts of people, but never did find any of the well-preserved villas of wealthy residents. I had been there twice before, with guides, but many years before. We wanted to make the 4:15 train back to Napoli because we wanted a cushion, and we made it. (We later talked to folks who told us the train after ours was very late, and they almost missed the ship.) The train eventually made it to the Garibaldi station, which according to the Google map, was where all the tracks ended, but they must go on underground, and it confused us when people stayed on the train at the point we thought was the last stop. We got off anyway, figuring we could get back on, and asked someone how to get to the port. We got the same story: Bus One. We finally managed to find our way out of the Garibaldi station, not easy, it's huge. We kept coming to side corridors leading to more trains. Outside, there was a huge open square with lots of streets leading into and out of it. We asked a policeman how to get to the ship, and he said Bus One and pointed. We walked that way, found a place where buses stopped, and the numbers were listed, but no Bus One. We asked someone else, who said Bus One and pointed. The procedure continued again and again, and there was never a Bus One. By now I had decided, the truth was that Bus One is a practical joke they play on tourista; much like a snipe hunt. I had also determined there are no English-speaking Italians. So, I decided we needed to hop a cab to the port. We did so. It wasn't easy telling the driver how to get there. I finally wrote NCL on a slip of paper and he got it. My grade for planning the day: D-. The next day, our luck took a turn for the better. I had put out a feeler on the NCL Gem's Roll Call for our cruise date, and had connected with a nice group from Paris, and a mother of one of the ladies, from Montana. We shared the cost of a (Rudi's) van and driver for about 200 E all together, about a third of what he charged. The driver was great, had tickets for the Colliseum and the Vatican so we didn't have to stand in long lines, knew where to take us, and was flexible. We saw the forum, the Trevi Fountain, drove by the Spanish Steps. I had wanted the GF to have a great Rome experience, and she did. My grade for planning: A+. Had we not connected, it would have been the train for 9 E, with a much shallower experience. The only flaw was that we whizzed through the Vatican Museum, with a guide, with almost no stops. But we spend more time in St. Peters and the Sistine Chapel, and that was good. Walking on the Rome streets is a great way to get run over, because cars and motor-scooters are always coming, and the streets are narrow. The favorite driving game is chicken, and it's almost fun to see which driver will give way. Our driver never did, but it was close at times. Now and then he would mercifully slow up for a pedestrian. The pedestrians would pretend cars didn't exist, and weren't approaching at 50 mph, and stepped into the street right in front of us. The motor-scooter riders weaved in and out of traffic constantly. The driver said only about 200 of them are killed annually in traffic, a figure which I found incredible. I would have figured 200 a day. Or maybe even per hour. Friday was Livorno. This time I had signed us up for a ship's excursion: Pisa and Tuscany, $179 pp. Wise choice. I hadn't been particularly attracted to Firenze (Florence, as we call it, doesn't exist.) I know there are some attractions there, but there just isn't enough time to do anything well on a cruise. Pisa is very interesting. By now both the GF and I were in full shopping mode, and I suppose my eyes glazed over too. We found some good gifts in the shops there. After Pisa we were driven to a grape and olive farm where they made wine and olive oil, and we had a great lunch, with six or seven bottles of wine for every 8 people, and we finished them, with everyone becoming very friendly and cheerful during the meal, for some reason. The meal was served backwards, salad last. As a bonus, we learned more than anyone would ever want to know about olive oil and how it is made, and the various qualities of it. It was a nice drive as well. My grade for planning, another A+ Saturday, a half hour late getting off the ship. The ship was late several times, which could screw up precise planning. It was even late leaving the night before, but arrived on time. We took the tenders, really ship's lifeboats, to the port of Cannes, as the ship remained offshore. It really gives you confidence in the lifeboats. They are neat little boats which can rev up pretty well and hold more people than I ever imagined. The Titanic could have used some. To do more than Cannes means no shopping, and the short time there doesn't leave a lot of wiggle room. I had wanted to go to Monte Carlo but must have been struck by an attack of wisdom. The GF and I decided to merely spend the day in Cannes and shop. Unfortunately Cannes is closed until 10 AM, except for the bars, which were open when we arrived there just before 9 AM. There were few people on the streets until 10, at which point they magically became crowded. The streets facing the harbor are lined with restaurants, the shops begin the next street over. As an officially old man, I need to go about every 15 minutes, so not long after we arrived, I felt the urge. There were signs leading to public toilets. Locked. I went into a McDonald's located at the harbor. Knowing the loos are always on the right side as you face the front, I confidently proceeded through a door, and they got really excited, no doubt thinking I was a terrorist. I was in the kitchen area. They directed me to the other side, almost getting physical in the process. Locked. The sign on the door said it could be opened by passing your receipt, but on principle I didn't buy anything. By now the shops were beginning to open, so I held it somehow, and we shopped. There are good shops in Cannes. Just after eleven I persuaded the GF it was time to eat, and we found a restaurant on the second tier of streets (We had walked the first tier, only bars were open.) I asked if they had a restroom before committing to sitting down. The French really have style. I went into the restroom, and there were no lights, and I had to stoop over. I had to hold the door partly open to see how to flush and redress, and when I got back to the GF she pointed out I was unzipped. I was lucky to even have my pants up to my waist. So ended that particular adventure - she has an embarrassing tale to tell about me if she ever chooses to use it. About 2 PM we got on a tender and went back to the ship. My grade for planning, D. It might have been C but I never managed to get us to any topless beaches. We departed the next morning. Plenty of cabs waited, like vultures, as we debarked about 6:30, and the driver wanted 45 E to take us to the airport. This cab had a meter, and it clicked .05 E about every two revolutions of the rear wheels. Nevertheless, it was only at about 28 E when we got there. I figured the 45 E was mostly gravy for the driver so I didn't leave a tip, unfeeling clod that I am. Flying back the same day, cheap style, is long and exhausting. Barcelona to Madrid to Dallas and then home. Madrid just as confusing as before. I don't plan to come through Madrid again, if I can avoid it. A great cruise. Spent more than intended, darn it. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
Just returned from our first cruise with Celebrity Century - one word - EXCELLENT. Prior to our trip, I had read and re-read all sorts of reviews and in fact I was approaching the trip with a little trepidation - such was the negativity ... Read More
Just returned from our first cruise with Celebrity Century - one word - EXCELLENT. Prior to our trip, I had read and re-read all sorts of reviews and in fact I was approaching the trip with a little trepidation - such was the negativity and subjectivity that I had found. My fears were totally allayed- from the moment we arrived at the Embarkation Point to the moment we caught the Airport Transfer bus - I was more than impressed with the organisation, smooth running and friendly attitude of ALL the staff with whom we came in contact. The ship was sparkling clean, the main restaurant dining was fabulous - it makes othr five star restaurants that I have dined in look like 'Smokey Joes Greasy Spoon Cafe'. The Island Cafe and its Pizza/Pasta station- I add in the factor that it is mass production of food and for mass production and serving of that scale it is excellent. My meals were never cool/cold, the filet/tenderloin were the most tender and tasty I have ever experienced, the service from Reymond and Ritchie at Table 602 was exemplary and made the cruise for me. I have read about people complaining about engine noise in the dining room - what do they expect ? They are on a SHIP!! There is not a lot that can be done about that - it needs engines to make it sail! Our stateroom was immaculate, well designed with plenty of storage space. Ramesh and his assistant (I'm sorry I didnt get his name) kept it immaculate also. Enough room to shower etc and towels replaced constantly. I felt pampered. I have cruised previoously with different lines so it is not as if I am unaccustomed to this level of experience. We organised our own excursions and found this easy enough to do. We met up with some other couples and went ashore together. The highlight of the trip for me was the Isle of Capri - absolutely beautiful. Marred slightly by the hordes of Eastern Europeans crowding round the ticket booths and begging and the very rude man behind the till!! Not very tourist friendly - but then how would I feel sat behind a till all day, every day dealing with people who didnt speak my language?? Another way of looking at that is to say' if you don't like it then move on and get another job'!! I like the size of the ship - not too may people, plenty of space and never crowded. The Martini Bar is where I was to be found on most evenings - in fact I bought 8 of those martini glasses!! I can't spell the name of the young lady who was such a good hostess - began with a V I think. I'm a great people watcher and noticed that anyone who was heard to complain about anything was North American. I can understand this - their standards of service etc are extremely high - but I honestly feel that anyone finding fault with this cruise was simply just looking for something to complain about. Maybe its because most of the cruisers were over 55's and there were a few 'grumpy old men' on board!! By the way, we are over 55's too-but not grumpy - just a white haired husband who won £1000 in the casino and thinks that Celebrity is wonderful. He treasures his 'Winner' T-shirt. How do the staff remember so many peoples names??? From dining, to casino, to cabin staff and people we passed on the way - they all remembered our names!! I have only a couple of suggestions which I think might make things a bit smoother - my husband was for ever looking for a loo!! Maybe larger, clearer sign posting would be good? At the Island Buffet, which, again, I cannot fault - some people queued from the end of the line and some just went straight in to the food that they wanted even though it might have been half way up the line - to the consternation of some. The two formal evenings were exceptional - the ladies were all beautifully attired, as they were most nights, formal or not. Most men wore suits but about 40 per cent wore dinner suits. (Very nice) and everyone seemed to enjoy the opportunity to dress up for the evening. On the first night I noticed a couple of men who weren't dressed appropriately - no jacket, T-shirt - but by the second night they had come to heel. Peer pressure - everyone else was dressed up and they had probably been told off by their better halves. In conclusion - I would definitely do it again, it was a fabulous experience made all the better by the staff on board.All the disembarking arrangements, as usual were very well organised. We left it a bit later to disembark and got the train from Cita... to Rome. Or should I say cattle train?? Standing room only++++ Have never experienced over crowding like it in my life. Got to Rome - rainy, cold, lots of beggars and really poor people. Graffitti- buses with peoples' faces pressed against the windows - how they got on or off I don't know. Got a tour bus, sat on top, got frozen, saw the sights. Some very nice statues, but I preferred Barcelona in the city league. Signposting atrocious, back to Cita.... and the ship, thank goodness. Home again!! Welcoming smiles from Century crew - Welcome home Miss Joan, Mr George - what more could you want? Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
Azamara was easy to book.  I booked direct because they promised to match any prices decreases. Booked our own air directly with USAirways.  We also booked our own hotels for our stays before and after the cruise.  We took taxis to/from ... Read More
Azamara was easy to book.  I booked direct because they promised to match any prices decreases. Booked our own air directly with USAirways.  We also booked our own hotels for our stays before and after the cruise.  We took taxis to/from the ship.  The cruise line charges for these services seemed too high for us.  For example, we stayed at Le Meridien in Barcelona for 179E including breakfast.  They even threw in museum passes and coupons for coffee. I got a great deal and I knew it.  I booked an guarantee cabin on the ship.  I got an assigned cabin about 2 months prior to sailing.  It did not include an upgrade.  I was a bit dissappointed that we did not get any upgrade.  Not even one cat.  Captains Club advanced standing got us nothing.  However, our balcony cabin was fine.  Certainly enough space for storage.  Our butler stored out larger luggage.  We put our carryons under the beds. The storage space was good.  The bathroom was a bit small, but okay.  We got used to taking showers sideways.  The shampoo/conditioner/soap were excellent quality.  Towels were big and heavy.Hairdryer was good. Bathrobes and slippers were provided.  Also, a cloth totebag, umbrella, binoculars, hairdryer were in the cabin. We brought a plastic waterbottle which we had our butler fill with ice and water.  It was great on excursions. Beds were okay. We really enjoyed the deck area  when we were able to use it.What we did in ports:  Gibraltar  ....took a shared taxi to town.  Took a taxi to top of the rock, went inside the caves, saw the  apes.    La Coruna...walked in the old town  St. Malo.....walked the ramparts, enjoyed the stores and quaint streets, ate lunch at a cafe  Rouen........took the express train to Paris (1 hr), ate lunch at Pompeii ( a nice cafe near Madeline which we had found a previous trip), took the metro to Muse D'Orsay, walked in the Tulleries gardens, metro to St. Lazarre train station where we went back to Rouen, ate dinner at a cafe in the old market square in Rouen  Antwerp..... took the ship excursion to Ghent for a canal ride and tour (very good tour)  London.......took the ship excursion London Panorama and Pub Lunch( very good tour)  Amsterdam.... tram to flower market, tram to Riijksmuseum, walked to the Van Loon House ( a find), walked through the antique district, tram to ship  Kiel Canal.....enjoyed watching the process of going through the locks.  The scenery along the canal was beautiful.  We wanted to sit on our balcony and enjoy.  However, on that day we were shocked to find 2 Azamara workers on our deck scraping, painting, etc.  We had not been told that this was to happen.  The smell was awful and we were not able to enjoy our balcony that day.  Be aware that the cabins balconies connect ..a key is needed to open them.  We were not happy.  Copenhagen...disembarkment was a breeze.  Taxis were easy to get.  Taxis took credit cards.  Stayed at Hilton.  It was an excellent hotel and a short walk to the airport.   I liked the open seating, the casual dress, no lines.  The food was good, but not gourmet.  The coffee was poor.  The choices could have been better. On a 14 night cruise, the desserts were repeated too often.  Most entrees were good, but portions were very large. Specialty restaurants were a nice option.  Liked Prime C better than Aquilina.  Service was excellent. I missed the therapy pools on Celebrity....the outdoor pool on the front deck of the spa wasn't very good. Would I cruise again on Azamara?  Most likely....if I like the intinery and the price was right.  The service was very good. Philip, the hotel director seems to really care.  John Howell makes the cruise fun.  Everyone smiles.  People are happy.  Sign up for the CruiseCritcs party.  We had 4 get togthers with our group.       Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
Several priorities led us to select this particular cruise: 1. TIMING was to coincide with our 40th anniversary. 2. DURATION since we prefer cruises of ten or more days. 3. COST, or perhaps I should say value. 4. ITINERARY, which proved to ... Read More
Several priorities led us to select this particular cruise: 1. TIMING was to coincide with our 40th anniversary. 2. DURATION since we prefer cruises of ten or more days. 3. COST, or perhaps I should say value. 4. ITINERARY, which proved to be the bonus element for this cruise.  5. CLIMATE, we would be escaping summer heat and wanted moderate to cool weather.This particular sailing of AZAMARA Journey fulfilled all of our requirements in a spectacular fashion.  The only thing I would change about this entire trip would be to allow another day in Barcelona. Flying in from California only one day ahead was not really sufficient. We had to choose to either see Barcelona or catch up on sleep. Sadly, sleep won. After nearly falling off the top level of the hop on hop off bus, we gave in and returned to Hotel Colon for a "nap" that lasted until the next morning. If you want a hotel that puts you in the middle of the Cathedral square, adjacent to shopping and at the hub of the city, Hotel Colon will fit your criteria. Their strength is the premier location and the very nice breakfast that is included with your room. If you need the comfort of a plush room with high end bedding, you might want to look elsewhere, but we would choose this hotel again based entirely on location. Embarkation was a complete breeze. We waltzed through the whole process without lines or delay. The ship is lovely. Public rooms are comfortable and the veranda suite seemed very similar to the same category suite on the Celebrity ships we've used in the past. ***AFTER THE ROOM SWITCH... More storage than we could possibly fill. We started the cruise in a standard veranda suite, and moved on the second day to the sky suite. I would estimate that the sky suite provides approximately triple the closet space, drawers and cupboards, and there is no comparison of the counter space, both in the suite and in the bathroom. The shower over the bathtub provides a generous amount of space compared to the tiny stall shower (with its clinging shower curtain) of our original suite. Simply cannot say enough about the luxury of having such a large suite, especially for a cruise as long as this one. The Sky Suite provided space and storage comparable to the Marriott Hotel we used in Copenhagen and it was larger than the Hotel Colon, which we used in Barcelona for the night before embarkation. In the dining room on the first evening, we ordered a couple of bottles of wine; a white and a red. I'd read from previous reviews that the bottles would be stored and returned to our table on the following night. Since we had demonstrated an interest in the wine list, we were immediately introduced to Boris, the very capable sommelier. He mentioned a wine tasting event being planned on board the ship and inquired about our interest. We were enthusiastic about adding that to our agenda and Boris promised to let us know about the details. I have to tell you, attending that first wine tasting was to be one of our best, all time decisions! Subsequent to that first event, we were privileged to enjoy two entire wine dinners, with specialty dishes and individually paired wines served in an intimate setting for eight to ten guests and attended by ship's officers, Ryszard Gusmann, and Philip Herbert. These proved to be a highlight of the cruise. During the second dinner, which was held in a beautifully adorned Michaels Club, each course was prepared and presented with table side comments from Chef Kyle. We were absolutely treated like royalty at these dinners, and the friendships forged, plus the wonderful company of Ryszard and Philip, all enriched our whole experience. Specialty dining experiences were, as intended, superior to the dining room, though the dining room was quite good. We generally had excellent service and, as promised, any left over wine was promptly delivered to our table each night, regardless where we dined. We did notice that the main dining room seemed to consistently cook a little "to the done" so for you who prefer your beef or lamb on the rare side, don't hesitate to ask for RARE.Another note about the wine and corkage issue, we did take a couple of special birthday and anniversary bottles on board. We knew we would be charged $25. corkage but what we didn't know was how it would be received... The wine staff could not have been more accomodating. They were gracious about accepting our private bottles and even complimentary of our choices. No hint of a negative attitude from anyone. If you have special bottles you really want to take with you, something you care enough about to drag it half way around the world in your luggage, don't worry about being given the cold shoulder from the wine staff. Ports of call and stateroom details are covered separately, but if you are "big people" like we are, and you can afford the extra money, pay for the upgrade to the sky suite. Overall, this was a wonderful itinerary. We were blessed with fabulous weather at each port. Paris and London were both enjoying extraordinarily fine, sunny days during our visit. The alternating sea days and exhausting port excursions proved a perfect balance. The cities like La Coruna, or St Malo, which were meaningless to us before this trip, are now cherished memories with fun stories to accompany our photos. You are reading this review to make a determination of whether you would like to travel on this ship or this itinerary. If you have children traveling with you, you should probably select a different ship. The AZAMARA line does not pretend to cater to children, though there was one family with teenage children on our ship and they seemed to have a great time. If you are a fan of the great big stage shows, you should probably select a different ship. If you need a golf simulator or a climbing wall, this is obviously not your ship. But if you enjoy exceptional service, fine dining, comfortable accomodations and not being faced with standing in line for everything you want to do, by all means, book AZAMARA as soon as you can.As for itinerary, this trip served as a great introduction to Western Europe. We saw places we'd always dreamed of visiting and we also discovered places we'd never heard of before. Sort of a "box of assorted chocolates" approach to visiting Europe.We can't say enough good things about the staff on this ship. As mentioned before, the wait staff, Boris and the entire wine staff, and the chefs were all first rate. We were impressed with a tour of the kitchens and recognize the "unsung heros" who do all the prep work to keep those meals coming endlessly throughout the days and nights. Butler, Soobash, kept our ice bucket filled and learned our preferences. He also decorated for my birthday (without being tipped off by anyone). The tone of hospitality is set by Philip Herbert, Ryszard Gusmann and Boris. They went to great lengths to do anything and everything possible to enhance our experience. We will look forward to sailing with this ship again, partially to renew friendships with these wonderful men. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
It seems that we were planning this trip for AGES! Actually, we booked both halves of this cruise in late April 2008 and began serious planning in May. We had originally been looking for a cruise that included a two day stop in Egypt ... Read More
It seems that we were planning this trip for AGES! Actually, we booked both halves of this cruise in late April 2008 and began serious planning in May. We had originally been looking for a cruise that included a two day stop in Egypt and were only planning on doing the 12 day cruise, so booked that cruise first. We were fortunate to have saved up Sky Miles for our flights, and when we started investigating and booking our Delta flights discovered it would be very feasible to add the 9 day cruise to our agenda and be able to use the same (almost) free flights. Due to the availability of our award flights, we added one night pre cruise and two nights post in Barcelona. The morning we were at the airport ready to begin our flight to Barcelona I kept having to pinch myself, checking to make sure I was truly awake and finally embarking on our dream-come-true voyage! We tried hard not to have overly high expectations for this Jade cruise. We had been reading all the reviews over the months of planning, but we were so excited by the itinerary, and as it turned out, most pleasantly surprised by the wonderful staff and crew of the Jade. These B2B cruises far exceeded any of our expectations. Originally we had booked a guarantee inside cabin, but as the cruise date approached and there were more and more price reductions, we moved up to a partially obstructed oceanview stateroom mid-ship that we were able to book for both legs, plus we had more onboard credit than we had ever received on a cruise before. We proved up to the task, and spent every cent of it, however, and a few dollars besides. The refund of the fuel supplements was a wonderful bonus that paid almost all our service charges. We arrived in Barcelona very early the morning before embarkation.We purchased a T-10 ticket and caught the Renfre train all the way to Franca Station where it was a short walk to the Hotel Oasis. Enjoyed touring the Barri Gotic, visiting the Picasso Museum, enjoying a late afternoon repast of tapas and wine, and then walking to Barcelona's Park of the Ciutadella and seeing their version of the Arc de Triomf which was built for the 1888 Universal Exposition. Since we had booked a hotel not very far from the Colon Monument (that is Christopher Columbus' name there), on the morning of embarkation we got up early to scout out our exact route to the ship. We actually talked to folks disembarking from the previous Jade cruise to learn exactly where the port bus picked up, and how they had liked the Jade and the ports. Lots of thumbs up, so we took that for a great sign! We spent a couple hours that morning enjoying Las Ramblas and its wonderful market, La Boqueria, before going to our hotel to collect our luggage and head to the Jade. We were within walking distance so rolled our bags along the wide walk to the place where the port bus picked up. While we were riding to the port we met some guys we had been talking to on our Cruise Critic roll call that were also going to be on both legs of the Jade with us. We were all chatting away, not paying close attention, so when the bus stopped the four of us all got off. Porters rushed up to take our bags and we were all excited to be starting our adventure. However... a few moments later it dawned on us that we were getting in line to go on the Brilliance of the Seas at Terminal A - not the JADE at Terminal B!! All four of us had to go get our bags back from the porters (they were in the process of being loaded on the Brilliance!) and then drag them down the LONG block to Terminal B. Finally, we met the correct porters, got in the lines we needed to be in, and our adventure began in earnest. After a speedy check-in we boarded the Jade, received our welcoming glass of champagne, deposited our hand luggage in the Medusa Lounge and headed to the grand Pacific for a sit down lunch. There were very few tables occupied and we got one right by the back windows. Delicious start to our days on the Jade! Just as we finished dessert the announcement was made that the cabins were available for occupancy. We collected our hand luggage and headed to our stateroom on deck 8. Except that we had a window and not a balcony it was very like the cabin we had a few years before on the Pride of America. Love the wood details in the cabins, gives a very "rich" look. We were prepared for the Hawaiian decor, since we had seen her as the Pride of Hawaii on one of her first voyages over in Hawaii while we were on the Pride of America. The beautiful glass flowers on the ceiling in the atrium and over some of the elevators is very reminiscent of the Murano glass ceiling in the lobby of the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas. The new duvets are really a nice addition, and we both knew we would enjoy sleeping on the comfy bed. We also liked the extra partition in the bathroom, so that the toilet area is separate. Not long after we got to our room our luggage arrived. Lots of storage space - even though we had packed enough clothing for all of our 21 days on board - plus pre and post days. I did not want to have to wash more than a couple items in the sink and we did not have to use the ship's laundry service. This took some careful planning and a printed wardrobe chart for me, plus I vacuum packed four or five complete outfits in space bags and then stacked them in my suitcases. I ended up wearing the same black pair of dress sandals every single night for dinner (VERY unlike my usual!) but I had plenty of variety in my planned-in-advance wardrobe. More importantly, all our bags came in under the required weight for the airline, and we did not have to pay anything extra. I almost finished putting everything away before the life boat drill. The drill went by fairly quickly, we returned to our cabin, finished unpacking and then walked around the ship for awhile before heading to dinner, also in the Grand Pacific. After dinner at the Welcome Aboard Show we met our Cruise Director, Julie Valerian, and sampled some of the entertainers and their acts. We were very impressed with the quality of the entertainment all cruise long. The production shows were very well done and there was great variety with magicians, jugglers, comedians, an opera singer, violinist and a trio of Spanish flamenco dancers. OLE! We found the food to be good to excellent in both the main dining rooms, Grand Pacific and Alizar, The Blue Lagoon, and the Garden Buffet for breakfast, lunches and late night snacks, with only a few dishes which fell flat. But there were always plenty more choices, and we certainly never went hungry! We especially liked the Blue Lagoon for breakfast because our cabin was located very near it. Just steer clear if there are lots of people there, as the service can be poor when they are too crowded. That only happened to us once, and I was glad we gave the place another chance because perhaps it was just that one server. A great "secret" on the Jade is that Papas is used as overflow seating for the Garden Buffet during breakfast and lunch times, and we loved taking our food to a window seat there where it is much less hectic and free from noise. We also enjoyed dinners at several of the specialty restaurants: Salsa's (enjoyed the free margaritas!), Teppanyaki (fun times, good cooking with a "show"), Le Bistro and Cagney's. We took advantage of the 2/1 offer during one port night at Le Bistro. For us, our night at Cagney's was the absolute BEST! Service was top-notch, the jumbo shrimp cocktail divine, perfect caesar salad, our filet mignons cooked to perfection, and the bite of Larry's chocolate dessert (all I could fit in after the great meal) - incredible! We also enjoyed a delightful Australian wine with our meal. Right before the start of the second leg we were offered a move to a mini suite for an extra $400., but we declined as we were very comfortable and did not want to incur the extra expense or the hassle of changing staterooms, especially since we had planned an all day excursion to Montserrat for the changeover day. We were very fortunate to have excellent stateroom attendants who took extra good care of us during our stay. We had chocolate mints on our pillows each and every night, as well as towel creatures several nights. Our cabin was kept spick and span and well-supplied with everything we needed for a very comfortable stay. Absolutely no complaints about service from us. We also rarely experienced any delays in dining room service, and most every dinner was completed in one hour or less. I believe there might have been a few nights it went longer, but we usually dined with at least one other couple and had wonderful company and conversation, so it was not a problem. We ate between 6 and 6:30 most evenings and were always able to attend the 7:30 show in the Stardust Theater. The hotel director, Armando Silver, was especially kind and helpful to us. I asked our cabin attendant and we were given bathrobes to use for both legs of the cruise. At the start of the second cruise we were given a menu asking us to pick a choice of treats to be delivered to our stateroom every evening. (I am not sure why we warranted these in our lowly window cabin on deck 8, probably because of the Meet & Greet sign-up and organization we undertook, but I DO know that the extra treats helped contribute to the five pounds I gained on this trip!) We also were offered the services of two concierges, Ruth and Danielle. We ended up only using Danielle to reserve tables by the window in the Grand Pacific for dinner a few times, and a special table for 12 for the last night of our cruise. We tipped her separately the last night for all her help. We did not use the VIP disembarkation as we just walked off the ship at the end of our cruise with all our luggage and caught the port bus to Colon monument and then walked to our hotel on Las Ramblas. The Meet & Greets for both legs of our cruise that I organized through the Jade's Event Coordinator at Le Bistro on the first Sea Day were very well attended and informative. For the first cruise we had almost 60 Cruise Critic folks in attendance and the captain, hotel director, cruise director and several other staff members greeted folks, spoke to us, and answered questions. For the second cruise we had participation of over 130 people and were definitely overflowing our venue at Le Bistro! The captain could not attend this time, but we had even more other staff present. People who had planned tours together finally got a chance to chat, face-to face, and it was great to finally put faces to names. We took advantage of several of the lectures being offered. I particularly enjoyed Lenny Windsor's talk on Benny Hill and the series on philosophers, like Aristotle, Socrates and Plato. We both really enjoyed Second City and the various lounge musicians, especially the pianist in the main lobby. My husband and I participated in the Murder Mystery Dinner and had a blast! Larry ended up being the 'murderer', and he fooled me completely (and all but one lady next to him who SAW his script when he first got it!). I just thought he was being a bad actor and flubbing up his part! You have to look sharp at the daily activities in the Freestyle Daily so you don't miss the sign-up in the Library for this fun event. You should never be at a loss of something to do if you just plan out your time using a highlighter to mark your Freestyle Daily. We also enjoyed using the library and the Latitudes lounge for quiet reading time and to get a cup of coffee or tea and a cookie or pastry. I used the gym regularly for the elliptical trainer and had some great workouts with an ocean view! Our three weeks on the Jade just flew by, and we were sad to have to say farewell. PORTS - We visited a total of 10 in our 21 days: CASABLANCA, MOROCCO - Larry and I planned to just do this port on our own, walking to the Hassan II Mosque and to see Rick's American Cafe, but ended up joining a pre-arranged tour, Jamal Tours, with six other folks from our roll call at the very last minute. That morning someone got sick and there were two openings so we took the spots. It was more like just a taxi than a real tour because the young man, although very nice, did not have the greatest command of English - or else he just didn't like to talk much. At the Mosque we paid our own admission charges with our Capital One credit card (requesting to be charged in Moroccan dirhans). Very expensive, by Moroccan standards- a true tourist trap at 120 dh pp! The mosque provides their own tour guides. Gorgeous place, built right next to the sea, but we were a bit turned off when they showed us the Hamman (steam baths) and the guide told us they were were never used and built just to show the tourists!  I believe the cost for our 4 or 5 hour taxi tour around Casablanca was about €45 pp. We drove quite a ways up the coast to a little village on the sea there, then drove through the wealthier section where the big homes are located. Here is a tour description for the rest of the tour: MarchE CENTRAL-SOUKS and HABBOUS QUARTER( Markets for Shopping) and the ROYAL PALACE . ANFA's residential quarters and the CORNICHE of AIN DIAB . The ARAB LEAGUE PARK and both the magnificent MOHAMMED 5 TH and UNITED NATIONS Squares. Visit the CHURCH OF Our LADIES OF LOURDES, the SYNAGOGUE, and to top it off, the imposing HASSAN 2ND MOSQUE , built in a breathtaking setting on the Shores of the Atlantic Ocean (did this first) . We ended our day with a stop to visit RICK 'S AMERICAN CAFE."  While we were on our tour near United Nations' Square we witnessed a pro-Palestinian protest march that Larry went and videoed up close! We stopped for lunch at a downtown restaurant but Larry and I chose not to eat and just walked around, buying sodas and candy bars from a street vendor, first finding a bank ATM to get dirhans to use that day and also for our excursion in Agadir the next day. We again saw the protesters being bussed back to the main part of town and took more photos. We also had a nice long stop at Rick's Cafe. Some folks got drinks there and others bought some souvenirs, like bar glasses etched with Rick's Cafe logo. AGADIR (TAROUDANT & OASIS of TIUD TOUR), MOROCCO - Our guides with Saharitours were waiting for us with two vans. Unfortunately we were short one couple, the same two from yesterday, as he was still ill that morning. Nine of us ended up making up the tour group. We had pre-contracted a price of 400 dirhans (approx. $49.) per person for the full day tour which included lunch on the kasbar at Tiout. First we set out for the drive to Taroudant stopping to see the tree climbing goats with the picturesque background of the snow-capped Atlas mountains. Amazing sight to see those goats climbing the Argan trees to eat the nuts. Because of how precariously some of the goats seemed perched on the upper branches, it made us wonder a bit if they had been 'planted' up there by the handlers! We continued on to the medieval walled city of Taroudant, touring the souk and markets. We had a rug demonstration while being served apple tea. No rugs were purchased by anyone in our group, but we all enjoyed the experience as they threw out a wide selection of styles and colors. Then we visited a business run by women that produced beauty and health products made from Argan nuts. They had two women in the front of the shop grinding the nuts into a paste (for tourist purposes, I am sure!), and then we had a demonstration of the products in a room in the back. Most folks purchased 1 or 2 items, like hand creams and massage lotions. I bought some black eye kohl (that I can not figure out how to apply!) The streets in Taroudant have to be seen to believed. First of all so many of the people look like they are dressed in costumes for a movie set, but this is what they really wear every day! The younger folks tend to favor western style dress: jeans, t-shirts, and ball-caps. But they were many in the traditional Berber robes with the peaked hood, called a djellaba. Shop keepers throw dishes of water out the door to keep the dust down. Produce and other food stuffs, like butchered meats, are offered for sale openly beside the dusty streets which are teaming with pedestrians, donkeys and carts, bicycles, motor cycles, cars, trucks and tour buses - all at the same time! Our van driver had to be very skilled to negotiate though the streets there. One time a young man on a bike actually ran into the side of our moving vehicle. Our driver just kept going. Just outside the gates of Taroudant we had prearranged a stop at the Palais Salam. It was once a sultan's palace and is now a lovely resort with cool tranquil gardens, fountains. and lovely mosaic tile work. Then we drove 40 mile further to the Oasis of Tiout. Tiout boasts of an ancient Kasbah which was used as a decor in 1952 for the Hollywood film, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. This has been turned into a restaurant now, where we had lunch. Before lunch donkey rides were 'offered' (actually we had little say in the matter - by a local guide who attached himself to our group of nine. It was soon evident that giving these donkey ride in the palmaraie is a major source of income for the village families who offer their donkeys for hire by the visitors. Half the group chose to ride the donkeys, the other half to walk. One gal in our group took a fall and twisted her ankle on the walk down. She continued on for a donkey ride and lunch, but after we returned to the ship she was unable to go ashore for the next two ports as her ankle was black and blue and she needed to stay off it for several days and use a cane. Lunch at the kasbah was truly delicious. We were served Tagine (pronounced: tay-jean) cooked chicken and couscous with flat bread. Tagine is a special clay cooking vessel similar to a wok. The chicken was deliciously cooked with olives and the meat was falling off the bones so we were not concerned about getting ill from the food. Most of us purchased sealed bottled water to drink, although they had a mint tea available as part of the meal. For dessert we had some incredibly sweet and juicy tangerines (or clementines). Delightful day, with the only misstep being the one twisted ankle, and the fact that the ride back to the pier was longer than we thought and our two van loads arrived back with very little time to spare before the all-aboard was called! LAS PALMAS, GRAN CANARIA, SPAIN - Enjoyed NCL's NATIVE GRAN CANARIA tour. After a short bus ride we began a walking tour of the historic district of the old town of Vegueta where we first walked to Pilar Nuevo Square to see and tour Columbus' house on the island. The museum commemorates America's connection with the city. After a fascinating hour or so there we walked on to view the facades of the buildings around Santa Ana Square -.the cathedral, the Bishop's House, and the Town Hall. Also learned from a statue in the square where Gran Canaria get its name. Not from the birds as most think, but wild dogs - perhaps an extinct type of sea dog. But the original canary birds are also from these islands. Next we visited the Canarian Museum which had exhibits designed to explain the way the early Aboriginal inhabitants lived over a period of time from 500 B.C. to the 15th century, when the Spaniards conquered and colonized the island. The skull and mummy exhibits were amazing to see. Very little is known of these people as they had no written language. After a wonderful repast at a local restaurant of wine (from Monte?), potatoes with a special garlic dipping sauce,  and cheese we reboarded our tour bus traveling along roads that crossed vineyards where the famous Wine of Monte grapes are grown. We then arrived at the amazing Crater of Bandama, which is 1.867 feet in altitude. At the top the views were amazing, but I was chilled to see a fresh spray painted wall of graffiti in English that had not been painted over yet stating: "Israel is a criminal organization. Must be destroyed and Judaism manifestation extinct if we want future for humanity." All I could think was that this was the kind of garbage spouted forth in Hitler's Germany. It is really scary to have this kind of anti-semetic speech reemerging in Europe again... That kind of took away some of the beauty of this spot for me, so got back on the bus where we proceeded to the Jardin Canario, the largest botanical gardens in Spain to admire a vast variety of tropical plants and cactus of all varieties. FUNCHAL, MADEIRA, PORTUGAL - Here on the capital of the Madeira Islands eight of us had pre-planned a tour with Madeira Seekers to see the western part of the island. Madeira reminded us so much of Hawaii! Gorgeous cliff views, waterfalls, green mountains, and black sand volcanic beaches. Began with the amazing view from the majestic sea cliffs of Cabo Girão. This absolutely amazing sea cliff is the highest in Europe and second highest in the world (589m). We drove all the way across the island to Porto Muniz known for its natural swimming pools on the coast. The sea was in full turmoil that day and the waves were splashing clear up onto the sea walls! Visited several small idyllic villages, sampled some Madeira wine, purchased a few souvenirs on the return trip where we went a different way back through the mountains to Funchal. Excellent day tour and we are looking forward to returning to Funchal on our May transatlantic cruise. MALAGA (GRANADA) SPAIN - We had a sudden change of plans for this port. Six of us had pre-booked a private excursion to Granada to see the Alhambra and several other sites, including a couple of the white villages and the Caves of Nerja, if time permitted. The day before one of our group received an email from the man in Spain who was to give us the tour that he had to fly to the USA because his father was dying. So, we had an impromptu meeting and all decided to take the ship tour to Granada. Twice the cost, but at that late date we did not have any assurance of any other way to see Granada or to be able to procure timed tickets for the Alhambra once we got there. The tour of the Alhambra was excellent, but the long stop the bus made at a souvenir shop with restrooms on the way to Granada was such a waste of time. As was the L-O-N-G lunch at a buffet restaurant after our Alhambra tour, plus the annoying noise from several old men snoring on the bus ride back to the ship! As you can tell, I am not a big fan of most bus tours. However, this was an extenuating circumstance, and the Alhambra built by the Moors with a sultan's palace complete with rooms for the harem was an incredible site filed with rich mosaics tile work and beautiful interior architectual flourishes. However we did NOT get to see the Capilla Real, the chapel with the graves of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella that we had planned to see on the private tour, so that was a disappointment as it is considered by many to be the highlight of a visit to Granada. Wedid get to see the caves, with facades that make them appear just like regular houses, where the gypsies in the region have lived for many generations. MONTSERRAT, SPAIN - This was disembarkation day for the January 16-25, 9-night Morocco & Canary Islands Cruise. Because we had scheduled B2B cruises in the same cabin we completed all our paperwork and got new keys the night before, Therefore, we were free to leave the ship anytime we pleased in the morning. We ate breakfast and left the ship, watching all the disembarking passengers getting into taxis with their luggage. Since it was a nice crisp morning and too early for the port bus, we decided to walk to the closest Metro station, Dressanes, to catch the Metro to Placa Espanya. Once there we finally figured out how to use the ticket machines, thanks to a kind Spanish gentleman, to purchase our 8:36am R5 train and then cable car tickets to Montserrat. We had heard in advance that the rack railroad was closed due to needing repairs after a landslide, but also found out that morning both funiculars at Montserrat were not operating. So we saved a few €s on the necessary tickets. The train ride to Montserrat, 30 miles from Barcelona, took about an hour and was very interesting. Very few other tourists were on that train. It was a Sunday morning and there were mainly locals about. The cable car up the cliffs to the monastery at Montserrat was a thrilling adventure. Once we got to the top I was the very first person off the car, and I believe it was the first carload for visitors that morning. We immediately made our way to the Basilica and had a look, first outside. As we faced the doors to the sanctuary looking high we saw that Mary is the centerpiece of the church's facade. St. Benedict is below her to the left. There are five arches that line the base of the church. The far right one is where we walked along the ornate passageway on the right side of the church to get our first glimpse of the Black Madonna. We appeared to be the very first visitors to her that day and had several minutes alone with her for photographs, etc. before anyone else showed up. She sits high above the main altar. While called 'black' in English, the Spanish call her La Moreneta which means 'tanning'. The statue was originally lighter, but tanned over the centuries - perhaps from candle smoke, humidity, or the original varnish darkening with age. Mary is in a protective glass case, but we were able to touch the exposed royal orb. The tradition, and I did this, is to touch the orb with one hand and hold the other hand up to show acceptance of Jesus. Newlyweds particularly seek this blessing, but it is for "oldy" weds, too. Then we went into the lovely prayer chapel behind the virgin for continued prayer. The ceiling paintings in the chapel are very sumptuous and done in the Modernist style in 1898 by John Limona. We then walked along the Ava Maria path on the other side from where we entered, viewing thousands of votive candles, personal objects and messages left by pilgrims seeking healing and other prayer requests. Since the funiculars were all shut down for the season we took several long hikes around the cliffs. The first hike led us to a huge wooden cross on a promotory point. After walking uphill there (phew!) we walked back downhill in time to join the mass in progress in the Basilica. Unfortunately the Boys' choir did not perform that morning due to the big windstorm that had blown through Barcelona the day before. We had seen some of the wind damage to buildings, roofs and solar panels, as we were riding there on the train. The boys were home with their families until the 6:30 Mass that night. Unfortunately we had to be back onboard the Jade before 5 PM, so missed their performance. After another long invigorating hike up into the cliffs, and a visit to the gift shop, we caught the cable car back down to the train and headed back to Barcelona to begin the second half of our Jade adventures. ROME, ITALY (CIVITAVECCHIA) - We got to Rome on a rainy day (the ONLY rainy day of our 27 day Med trip!) by using the local train from Civitivecchia. This was our second time using trains to Rome on our own from that port, as we had our first Med cruise in 2007. Unfortunately, this morning the train was late and we (plus many others from the Jade) had to catch a slower one, and then ended up being passed by the train we were supposed to be on! We had to make some alternate plans due to timing and got a bit confused as to which train station to exit at and directions within that station, so wasted some time before first going to see Michelangelo's Moses, his unfinished Leah and Rachel statues, and Peter's chains at San Petro in Vincoli church. Next we took a walking tour with a podcast we had downloaded of the Circus Maximus, then listened to another free podcast at the Mouth of Truth (happy to report neither of us lost our hands there!) Actually, before we got to Cosmedin Church to see the Mouth of Truth, we walked to and photographed St. Peter's Basilica through the keyhole at the Maltese embassy. By then we already knew and had resigned ourselves to the fact that we would have to forgo our reserved times at the Borghese Gallery due to the train being late and our very full agenda for the day. Oh well...we will just have to get back to Rome a THIRD time! As we were leaving Cosmedin Church it started drizzling a bit more, but we kept walking toward the Vatican. Foolishly, we were walking on the left of the Tiber River facing oncoming traffic. A simple walk across a bridge and we could easily have caught a bus, but for some reason we just kept walking.One reason is I really wanted to have a closeup look at the Vittorio Emmanuel II Bridge with statues all along it and a good look and photographs of the Castel Sant'Angelo. As we neared the Vatican we lost sight of it! That was a scary feeling, and the map we had was just confusing us at that point. At just the right moment a man wearing a clerical collar (I kid you not - it was like something out of a dream sequence...) appeared in our path and asked if he could help. We told him of our Scavi Tour appointment and asked him to show us the quickest way to Vatican Square and he kindly directed us through a parking garage.We were so close, but we never would have found the way without his assistance! At that point we basically started running. It was almost the time we needed to be there for the Scavi Tour and I still had my big black leather backpack on. We found the Swiss Guards, showed them our reservation slip, and they just pointed us to where the rest of the group was already assembled. This is where it got dicey. No problem with the backpack, BUT when we went to get our tickets using the reservation number I had been given over the phone by the Vatican office, as well as the receipt from our credit card company showing payment for the tour, the man at the desk kept insisting that OUR tour had been scheduled for November 2008! We kept cool heads and showed the man at the desk that we had not paid for the tour until December 8, 2008, so how was that possible? This had already been a very long saga pre-cruise, as I never heard back by email confirming we even HAD a Scavi tour, so had telephoned the Vatican Scavi office directly in early December, and sure enough, our name was on the list for this date, January 27, 2009.  Finally, he just let us join the tour. PHEW!! The tour guide asked me to put my backpack on the front or hold it by the handle. I gladly complied, although both Larry and I found it incredible that I was allowed to bring an unscanned backpack under and into the most sacred venue of the Roman Catholic faith! The Scavi tour was absolutely incredible. One thing I had not read about and that we saw was described to us by our tour guide as the very earliest pictorial depiction of Jesus Christ EVER found! It showed a very young, clean shaven man with a halo painted inside a known Christian tomb, and it is widely believed by church experts to represent Jesus Christ because he is surrounded by fishermen, fish, and other early Christian symbols. We were blown away as this would have been painted only 100-200 years after Christ's death and resurrection. Viewing a portion of St. Peter's purported original tomb that had been incorporated into the first St. Peter's church by the emperor Constantine was a treat too. At the end of the tour we came up in St. Peter's right at the tomb of John Paul II, which is right by the last resting place of St. Peter. Absolutely amazing! We spent an hour or so seeing and marveling at the treasures of St. Peter's again, this time making sure to visit the breathtaking Monstrance at the Adoration Chapel (long velvet curtains and no photos allowed). Then we got in a very short line to go up in the dome. We chose to pay the €7 pp to take the elevator part way as opposed to €5 pp to climb the stars all the way. Smart decision as there are STILL 300+ stairs beyond the elevator to get to the rooftop and fabulous views!!! After spending a glorious few hours at the Vatican (our second time as we had done the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel tours in 2007), we caught a very crowded #64 bus heading back to Termini station. First we got off to go see Bernini's magnificant fountain at Piazza Navone - the Fountain of the Four Rivers. It had been covered up for cleaning when we were there in 2007, and was JUST uncovered in Dec 08! Then back on the bus to Termini to catch the train back to Civitivecchia. We walked from the station back to the port entrance and were there a few minutes before 7 pm.  Only bummer there was that the port bus had quit running at 7 pm (and we heard from others waiting there that the last bus had come about five minutes before we arrived, so they were sure there must be another tio come...  Alll aboard was not until 7:30 (and actually ended up being considerably later), so eight of us chose to hire a ridiculously priced taxi for €20 for the one mile trip to the ship in the rain. But we were rather exhausted by that time already soaked and it was raining again, so the ride was real nice. We told the folks at the gangway that there were still over 50 folks back at the port entrance waiting for a bus that was not going to come, so they did actually send a vehicle to pick up the stragglers before sail-away, although many chose to just walk or get ripped off by a taxi driver like we did! ATHENS, GREECE (PIRAEUS) - We had determined beforehand that we would do this port on our own using the Metro. After an invigorating 20 minute walk around the harbor of Piraeus we found the train station and purchased all day passes for €3 each. We exited the Metro at Monistraki station and walked through the Plaka area and purchased our €12 entry tickets for the Acropolis and Agora sites at the ticket office, also asking for an English brochure. We saw the Tower of the Four Winds, the Ancient Agora, and the Roman Agora first, the excavation of Hadrian's library, then passed Mars Hill where the Apostle Paul preached. We continued climbing up through the scenic hillside village of Anafiotika to the Acropolis. There is much construction on the sites, and unfortunately that day the new Acropolis Museum was closed. The Erectheion, Parthenon, and other sites were amazing to behold and photograph. Rain threatened, but held off. There was one loud clap of thunder while we were up on the Acropolis (perhaps Zeus expressing his displeasure at all the gawking tourists?) After filling our eyes and memory cards we headed down to see the stadiums and the Temple of Zeus area, Hadrian's Arch, and then heading to Syntagma Square in front of the Parliament Building and their Tomb of the Unknown Warrior to watch the changing of the guard (evzones) ceremony. These guards change every hour on the hour, and it was really a treat to see it up close and personal with very few people in attendance that day. This ceremony is truly not to missed, as it is a complicated intricate ceremony with much symbolism in the guards' outfits, like the 400 pleats in their skirts representing the 400 years of Turkish rule, and the pompoms on their oversized shoes representing tears shed. Then we caught the metro at Syntagma (interesting  exhibits in the walls underground of ancient artifacts uncovered during construction) to go one stop further, exiting at the Evangelismos stop where we planned  to go up Lykkabettus Hill for even more incredible views of Athens. However, Larry and I never did find the funicular to the top, so WALKED the whole way up to the little church where the views were incredible. Then after walking all the way back down, we retraced our way back to Syntagma and slowly walked back to the Plaka area, following Rick Steves' directions and his walking tour guide to the churches, like the Greek Orthodox Cathedral and other sites. We did some shopping at the Central Market for souvenirs including a shot glass and a small bottle of Ouzo - which tastes like licorice - and then we stopped to get our delicious €1.80 souvlaki (gyros) at the little shop right near the Monistraki train station before heading back on the Metro and walking from the station to the ship. EPHESUS (IZMIR), TURKEY - Twelve members of our roll call met our guide, Nejat Incedogan and his driver, right at the port of Izmir. Arriving in Ephesus we headed first to the Virgin Mary House. Enjoyed the lovely setting and Nejat treated us to a cup of delicious apple tea before we walked through Mary's House and drank some sips of water from the spring there. There were three spigots: for health, wealth and wisdom. I tried a taste from each! Visitors have left notes asking for healings, etc. and photos pinned to a wall at the site. There were vendors at the site and we purchased a nice full color guide on Ephesus as a souvenir. Then we headed to the ancient ruins of Ephesus. Nejat's tour was truly wonderful. We learned so much about the history of the area and how advanced their civilization was at the time in Turkey. The library at Ephesus restoration is such an amazing photo op. We had a visit to the Terrace Houses included in our tour. Nejat could not accompany us inside the Terrace House, as he was in a bad car accident several years ago and walks with the aid of two sticks. He is a wonder, however, and knows how to maneuver and position himself at each stop we made. The Terrace House really opened our eyes. These incredible restorations were only opened to the public a few years ago and there are workers still painstakingly reassembling mosaic floor and wall tiles. The ones they have completed are absolutely incredible! These homes were complete with indoor plumbing and many of the pipes from then are still able to carry water. After our Terrace House visit we rejoined Nejat where he explained about the library and how some believe there was a secret passage to the brothels so the men could say to their wives, "I'm going down to the library for a few hours, dear."  The public toilets for the men were a very "cozy" arrangement to say the least.  Then we saw where the market had been, quite near to the road that had led to the port of Ephesus. Over the years the port silted over and the current port is seven miles from the original location. We saw the spot where the market had been,  the very same market where the Apostle Paul would have set up shop for his sail-making trade. At the amphitheater it was so great to stand on the stage where Paul used to preach and realize the place has such perfect acoustics that he would not have had to shout to be heard by folks seated in the top row of seats. As we were leaving Ephesus I purchased a couple boxes of Turkish Delight candy and got a free sample of saffron. After we left the ancient city we headed to the present-day town of Selcuk. Half the group decided to have lunch at a little cafe with Nejat, the rest of us just walked around the village. It was interesting observing the people going about their day to day lives and checking out their shops and produce stands. unfortunately, they would accept neither Euros or US dollars and we had no Turkish lira and couldn't find an ATM so couldn't try any of the yummy looking baked goods from a local street vendor. . Larry did talk one shop keeper into selling him a small chocolate ice cream cone for $1 USD. We ended up trying one bite each and throwing it away, as it did not taste right - might have been made from goat's milk. After the other group finished their leisurely lunch we got back in Nejat's van and headed to a ceramics studio. Nejat had asked if we would rather see a rug weaving demonstration or the ceramics place (no pressure). We all chose ceramics. One member of our group tried her hand at a potter's wheel. The technique must be harder then the experienced potter made it look, because her little jar did not come out so well! We had a short tour of the studio and watched some ladies hand painting the designs on the pieces. Most of us bought at least a small souvenir piece from the shop. We bought a "shot glass" - shaped more like a mini chalice - made of hand-painted pottery with a fish motif to remind us of the early Christian church in Ephesus. It is signed on the bottom. Our last stop was at the site of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World - the Temple of Artemis. Nothing left except for one lone column and some rubble in a field, but it was a don't miss for us. On a hill overlooking the Temple of Artemis site are the ruins of the Basilica of St. John, which stands over the purported burial site of St. John. We only saw the site from a distance. The basilica is on the slopes of Ayasoluk Hill near the center of Selçuk, just below the fortress and about 3.5 km (2 miles) from Ephesus. According to tradition John took Mary, the mother of Jesus, and came to Ephesus .He wrote his Gospel in Ephesus and the Revelation in the Greek Island, Patmos in 96AD. The basilica - built in the shape of a cross and covered with six domes - had been completely destroyed by muslim raiders and the building materials carted off over the ages, so what stands is a complete recreation started in 1973. We headed back to our ship following a most incredible day in Turkey. CAIRO/GIZA (ALEXANDRIA) EGYPT - Met our private bus from Temo Tours at the dock in Alexandria. We had two incredibly knowledgeable young guides, Abdoulsaid and Ala Din, who took turns narrating at the various venues in excellent English, our own armed security guard, and a driver (ready for Nascar!). Our total price including room was less than half of what the NCL tours charged, and we did both the evening Sound and Light Show and went on a wonderful Nile dinner cruise - good food, fantastic belly dancer, whirling dervish, 'stick' dancers plus two bands - all included in our pre-negotiated price.Besides the pyramid and sphinx visits - even a climb down into a pyramid and an optional visit to the Solar Boat Museum , we also went to see the overall view from high up at Giza plateau for photos and then on to Memphis and Sakkara to see the Ramses statue and the Step pyramid, a tour inside some richly decorated tombs by the step pyramid, and good views of the Red and Bent pyramids before transferring to our pyramid view hotel rooms and then on to our two night activities. When I walked into our room with a balcony, I was blown away by the amazing view of the Great Pyramid! After just a short stop at the hotel we reboarded our bus for the Sound & Light Show, followed by our Nile dinner cruise on the Nile Crystal. We were definitely tired by the time we returned to our hotel, and had absolutely no problem falling immediately to sleep. Only noise I heard in our room at Le Meridian was the 5:30AM call to prayer, and I had left the curtains open all night for the great view. After a tasty and filling breakfast at the hotel's buffet it was time to head to the Egyptian Museum for our guided tour inside. King Tut's treasure were absolutely incredible - and to think those were all in a relatively small room in his tomb! A visit to the Mummy Room was included for us also. We could have spent a week in the Museum, but it was soon time to head to see Saladin's Citadel, Mohammed Ali Mosque and then half an hour or so time at the Khan Khalili bazaar to bargain for souvenirs. Mugs, papyrus bookmarks, t-shirts for our grandboys, a shot glass for Larry's collection and a small mother-of-pearl box were the items for which we successfully bargained at the Bazaar. We skipped lunch stops both days so we could see more. Some of us brought food and water from the ship, others had our guides stop at "safe" convenience stores or bought some foods items from a shop at our hotel. Traffic in Cairo is beyond anything I have ever experienced, very few traffic lights and lane lines are just a "suggestion". If there is room to squeeze a vehicle, no matter how close, it becomes a 'lane'. After our stop at the Khan Kahilili Bazaar we made a detour to pick up cartouche orders that some of our group had placed the day before. It took us more than 4 hours to get back to the ship from the bazaar area. I had asked in our original contract for a stop to take photos on the ride back to the ship of where the great lighthouse of Alexandria (another of the 7 Ancient Wonders) had stood. We only had time to drive past slowly, and Larry, to keep me happy, did get some good shots for our album.  We made it back "BARELY" in time not to have our names read as being late over the ship's loud-speaker! As it turned out our ship was delayed from sailing a full two hours. At least one man's name kept being read over and over, but we never learned what the hold-up at the port had been. We had completed almost our entire dinner at Le Bistro before we finally set sail. MALTA - The entry into the port of Valletta has to be experienced at least once in your life. It was a gorgeous clear day and every square inch of good viewing area on the front decks was completely covered by passengers. Ten of us from our roll call had 1 PM tickets for the tour at the Hypogeum. We caught the bus the city provided (for a € or so) that was roundtrip from the port to the center of Valletta. We could easily have walked, and actually ended up doing so on the return trip, but the bus was a nice intro to the city sites. From the center of Malta, where many many buses start their routes, we took one going near the Hypogeum. The local people in Malta are extremely friendly and helpful, and many speak excellent English. We had one lady tirelessly search for a bus that would take us to the Hypogeum, another walked us from the bus to exactly where the Hypogeum entrance is located, and a gentleman on our return bus trip to Valletta from the Hypogeum give us tips about the rest of Valletta and tell us of his one visit to NYC to see a relative. The Hypogeum tour was completely fascinating. Afterward in Valletta we bought a book on it that has some great photos since photography was forbidden at the site (due to the effects of flashes on still-original paint in the caves.) We also walked to see the entrance to the Tarxien Temples, but did not take a tour there. We then headed on a city bus back to see Valletta. Toured the Co-cathedrals of St. John. The Knights of the Malta, otherwise known as the Knights Hospitaller, built the cathedral between 1573 and 1578. The cathedral is a most glorious and magnificent artistic expression of the High Baroque era. Priceless art treasures abound and include Caravaggio's, The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist, one of the finest paintings in the world. The cathedral also houses vast collections of sacred vestments, Flemish tapestries, a magnificent gilt bronze monstrance intended to hold the relic of the Baptist's forearm, and an important collection of illuminated choral books, plus many more priceless treasures. From the exterior it looks like a fortress and is very austere. Inside - the place is dazzling, covered in gold, every wall is intricately carved with flowers and garlands, and the vaulted ceiling is splendidly painted with frescoes by Mattia Preti. The marble floor is covered with richly inlaid tombstones. We wondered at what the skull and crossbones found on many of the knight's stones really meant back then. Now of course we link that symbol with piracy,and some of the latter day knight's may indeed have been pirates, but the legends go even deeper then that - back to the Search for the Holy Grail. According to some sources there is a direct link between the creation or use of the skull and crossbones by the Knights Templar and our modern day idea of it being a symbol of piracy. Our next stop was close by at Paul's Shipwreck Church. Again, it looked very humble and unassuming from the exterior. Inside it is sumptuously decorated and filled with priceless relics, most notably the treasured relic of the right wrist-bone of St. Paul, and part of the column on which the saint was beheaded in Rome. We had planned to go see The Grand Master's Palace, but it was closed to the public that day, as was The Armory. I read some online comments that these are tourist traps anyway as only five rooms in the palace can be seen and there is no guided tour. We shopped a bit for M'dina glass and a shot glass for Larry's collection and then walked to see the Upper Barrakka Gardens for a beautiful view out over the harbor. I had notice the arched colonnades as we sailed into Malta and I was so pleased to actually get to see the place. Barcelona, Spain - Pre-cruise - we explored the Gothic quarter (Barri Gotic), visiting Santa Maria del Mar (Cathedral of the Sea), the Gothic Cathedral where we took the elevator to the top for wonderful views of Barcelona, and our first look at the Sagrada Familia.We also enjoyed the cathedral's cloister which always has 13 geese. Then we explored the streets and alleys of the Quarter, finding the Temple d'Augustus with its four magnificent Corinthian columns which are all that remain of Roman Barcelona's main temple. It was once the most prominent feature of the Roman forum. Took in the Picasso Museum, which was fascinating. Enjoyed tapas and wine and then walked in the early evening to the Park of the Ciutadella and saw Barcelona's Arc de Triomf built for the 1888 Universal Exhibition. Our room at the Oasis Hotel, although quite small, had been newly redone. The bath had granite countertop and a raise bowl sink. In the morning, after a delicious breakfast which was included in our room cost, and before boarding our ship, we visited the Colon Monument and took an audio tour of the entire length of Las Ramblas. Post-cruise - We took our own bags off the ship and caught the port bus to Colon Monument. Because it was so early in the morning we decided to just walk and roll our bags down Las Ramblas to the Hotel Continental for our two night stay. To our surprise our room was ready and so we stashed our luggage and set out to explore more of Barcelona.We decided to walk to Sagrada Familia - Antonio Gaudi's still incomplete very modernistic cathedral. One side of the cathedral represents Christ's nativity, the other his Passion and death. There is a glaring contrast in the two styles. We purchased tickets to go inside and one audio-tour headset, which we took turns listening to. The interior of the cathedral is a long way from completion. Lots of workers and not a whole lot to see. In my opinion, a little Gaudi goes a long way.. We skipped the roof-top lift as we had done the one at the Gothic Cathedral pre-cruise and read that the views were far better from up there. There is a small Gaudi museum in the cathedral which had some interesting information. We walked from Sagrada Familia until we found a city bus to take us to the Montjuic area. Found out the funicular and the cable car were both shut down, but there was a special bus to the top, so boarded it. We got off opposite the Miro Museum and then just kept walking and walking, exploring some gardens along the way, until we reached the site of the 1992 Summer Olympics. Saw all the different venues, the stadium, the Olympic torch cauldron, the Olympic swimming venue, and so forth. From there we decided to walk to the Pueblo Español (Spanish village). Admission was rather steep, €8,50 pp(found out I had discount coupons someone had given me but forgot to bring them along) and there were very few visitors that day and mostly just shops and restaurants were open. Did enjoy the Collection of Contemporary Art museum and the nice sculpture garden. I also bought a small authentic hand-painted Spanish fan at a fan shop in the Village. Afterward we continued walking, first to view The Palau Nacional which was built for the 1888 InternationExhibition and now houses the National Art Museum of Catalonia Art. We were disappointed to find that the Magic Fountain was not operating as we had hoped to view it that evening. We did not stop to see the inside of the Catalonian museum, but continued on and walked all the way - UP - to Castell de Montjuïc which first was a fort and then became a castle. It is now a owned by the city and the admission is free. The views of the rest of Barcelona and the Mediterranean Sea from up there are amazing. We took the bus back to our hotel. The Hotel Continental has a wonderful 24/7 tapas buffet, ice milk and toppings, free soda, juice, coffee, tea, cappuccino, white and rosa wine - and at breakfast time there were cereals, hard boiled eggs, pastries, cookies, dried fruit and nuts, even sausage,. The hotel has free WIFI access and one computer near the food area for everyone to use. We found this hotel so convenient and our balcony overlooking Las Ramblas with two chairs and a table was so enjoyable. I loved taking a glass of wine out there and just "people watch". After eating we headed out the door acouple blocks to Placa Real, noting the Gaudi lampposts. We enjoyed an 8 pm Flamenco show for €6pp at Las Tarantos - the oldest Flamenco Bar in Barcelona. Loved the show which featured five Flamenco musicians, a singer, and an excellent female Flamendo dancer. The next morning we headed to Parc Guell on a city bus to see this fairy-tale park and buildings designed by Antonio Gaudi. Very interesting and so different from anything we had ever seen before. Bought a Gaudi book to take home at one of the park shops, and then we headed back to the closest Metro station. That afternoon we made a trip to see the Hospital de Sant Pau. It originates from 1401, with the merger of the six hospitals that existed in Barcelona. With the growth of the city in the 19th century, the construction of a new building was planned. The new hospital is one of the most important civil buildings of Catalan Modernism. The building was planned and constructed by the architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner. Afterward we saw several more of Gaudi's buildings from the outside, Palau Guell (off of Las Ramblas) which is under renovation at this time, then onto the elegant street Passeig de Gracia where are located the Casa Batlo (designed to look like St. George's dragon or skull and bones), and Casa Mila (La Pedrera). We went into a gift shop in the building where at the back there was a window where you could see the roofline and the interior courtyard, plus a staircase. Very impressive afternoon viewing these famous examples of Art Noveau Architecture. That evening we again wandered through the Barri Gotic district, hoping to find folks dancing the Sardana Dance at 6 pm. We found a couple crowds, but they were for a juggler, and then some couples dancing, but wearing modern clothes so not the Sardana We wandered into an art shop and found a nice print of Picasso's Don Quixote that we took home in a tube and had framed as a wonderful souvenir of our time in Barcelona. Spent a few more hours on Las Ramblas, saying good-bye to a new favorite city.. We had scouted out where the Aeroporto Bus picks up on Catalonia Square, and so it was easy to roll our bags around the corner from our hotel the next morning with our heads and hearts full of the memories of an absolutely incredible trip.   Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
Our party both female: me, aged 64, and Pam, aged 80 and who uses a walking stick. Our main interests in travel are art, history, architecture, and good food. We booked our cruise from the UK and our price included flights and ... Read More
Our party both female: me, aged 64, and Pam, aged 80 and who uses a walking stick. Our main interests in travel are art, history, architecture, and good food. We booked our cruise from the UK and our price included flights and transfers from Heathrow to Barcelona. We were met by RCCL in Barcelona and put aboard buses for transfer to the ship. We had done our check-in forms on line, so our boarding procedure was really quick. Since we had been up since 0400 to catch our 0720 flight at Heathrow, we were very happy to be allowed to board the ship right away. It was not long until we were allowed to go to our stateroom at 1300. We were on deck 8, in a balcony suite. I had cruised once before (to Alaska on Holland America) and learned then that the extra private accommodation available with a balcony suite was worth the extra money. The bathroom was smaller than on my previous cruise with only a VERY small shower, no tub, but we prefer a shower anyway. The beds were very comfortable. There was plenty of storage space and the safe was easy to use and roomy. We did not touch anything in the fridge. We had superb weather, even though it was November (and warmer than we had expected), so we had plenty of opportunities to sit out on the balcony and read or snooze. Our room steward, Michelle, was a sweetheart. We always had a bucket of ice in the room (a fresh one after the room was made up and another at night after the beds were turned down). We loved the towel animals! FOOD: We opted for late seating in the dining room. We had thought we would be put at a table for 8, but on our first night we found that it was a table for 12 with the space between settings very tight little elbow room. We asked to be moved to a smaller table and were immediately accommodated. Our waiters were Adolph and William, both from the Caribbean. They were very attentive and helpful. Adolph had an extra platter of vegetables for our dinner companions every meal, once it was requested. (Another reviewer thought the vegetables were undercooked we found them done just right but we do prefer ours on the crunchier side, not soft.) Pam and I had pre-ordered the 5-bottle wine package, so if there was wine left over (we only drank half a bottle between us each meal), the bottle was at the table for us at the next dinner. We prepaid our tips, but we put extra in for both Adolph and William. Since I had cruised before, I did not have super-high expectations for the quality of the food. After all, the kitchens are cooking thousands of meals a day, so it is really institutional food. Keeping that it mind, some things are good, some things are not (I had a couple of desserts that were inedible, but Adolph was always ready to produce something else.) The breads at dinner were very good. My prime rib the first night was nice and pink, as I like it, and it was a nice big slab. One of our companions ordered the steak, which was disappointing small and tough so I never ordered it. We did not try the up-market Portofino or Chops Grille, so we cannot comment on that. The Windjammer buffet restaurant had lots of choice, so we managed to find things that we liked. At breakfast, the egg cooks were great at doing them over easy (something you cannot get in the UK closest thing is poached eggs). The toast was disappointing hard and thin, more like roof shingles so I made do with English muffins, and Pam liked the German-style bread available near the pastries. I liked the cream gravy for the biscuits, BUT the biscuits themselves were VERY sweet, so I put the gravy over corned beef hash (one day, quite nice and it helped cut the saltiness of the hash), or English muffins. A good thing at lunch (maybe at dinner, too, we did not eat there at night) the Windjammer provides glasses of excellent lemonade for free. Shops: Shops were okay. We bought a few things. The photography shop was very good (we each bought a digital camera to slip into our pockets when we did not want to take our big digital SLRs). We found that the price for the cameras was fair (after checking on the web after our return). Casino: The casino was my thing (Pam thought she jinxed me!). On our first sea day gambling lessons were available, so I refreshed my Blackjack skills and also checked out 3-card poker. I liked both. One dealer, Sylvana from South America (Chile?), was very friendly and her boyfriend, Mickey, who tended the bar in the Casino was very nice as well. Mickey also made a mean Margarita (on the rocks for us). GOOD POINT we are non-smokers, so we really appreciated that the Casino was NO SMOKING on formal nights! I had great luck at the slots and tables. First night I was down to my last spin on $10 in a 9-line slot when I heard "ding ding ding ding ..." all the way to a $90 jackpot. I cashed out the bucket of quarters and got bills, so I was bankrolled for my next visit to the Blackjack and 3-card poker tables. I hit it lucky at 3-card poker, too, (Sylvana was my lucky dealer) and left after the first formal night with a couple of $100. Actually, until our last sea day on the way back to Barcelona, my luck was great. RCCL practically paid me to gamble! I had over $500, but on my last visit my luck dried up, and after losing about $80 (still RCCL's money, mind you) I cashed out and took most of my winnings to pay down our on-board cruise bill got about 1/3 off! And I saved some to give Michelle and our waiters something extra in their envelopes. Ship: We liked it. Very roomy, lots of options (most of which we did not use). The most popular sport on board was something I dubbed "elevator tag". There are six elevators in the Centrum (the central core of the ship), and when a music group was playing it was hard to hear that an elevator had arrived. We were not the only ones yelling out "There's one" and dashing for the door (usually the furthest away) only to have it close without us, or be full. We had three formal nights. Ladies, even though the code says dresses for formal night, trousers are FINE. Pam and I had our best black pant suits and some bling to dress them up, and we were not underdressed nor did we stand out like sore thumbs. Entertainment we did not go to a show or a film. We did hear some of the music groups because they performed in public rooms as we passed through. Some were good, some were pretty mediocre (flat singing, violin off key), some were pretty good (the girl singers in particular). Shopping advice Sandra (I will call her Sandra Shopper from now on) was the ship's shopping guru. She gave two talks about the shopping in our ports of call. We did not attend the first talk because we were not that interested in shopping, but I wish we had. We did go to her second one, and she gave a lot of good advice about the ports apart from just shopping, so DO NOT MISS HER TALKS. Also, the shopping brochures available for each port are different from the port information in the Compass, and the maps are different, too, so BOTH are valuable resources. Ports: Naples We decided to do our own thing at Naples. We had planned to go to Capri, but we got off the ship a bit late in the morning to avoid crowds. An enterprising cabbie named Salvatore managed to convince us that the season was over on Capri and that there would not be another boat for about an hour (we had just missed one). He could show us Naples and the Amalfi coast. So we bit. Salvatore, the singing cab driver, was a character! He had lived in Buffalo, NY, for 20 years working in a pizzeria. He came back to Naples and married. He loved to sing Dean Martin songs, and TOOK HIS HANDS OFF THE WHEEL when he sang. Pam admonished him once, and his reply was that he had 30 years driving experience and waving his hands about would be no problem. (He was NOT a good listener!) We did see some sights (a church near the dock, the monastery at the top of the hill, a stop on the hillside where he pointed out the Amalfi coast and Capri that was the extent of our coast drive). He also took us to a place that made cameos where we did buy something. He was okay, but we learned more about HIM than about Naples. Given another chance, we would go to the Archaeological Museum and Duomo on our own, and find a good place to try Neapolitan pizza! Athens We took the "Ancient Athens, Plaka, & Shopping" tour as it was not too strenuous for Pam. This was a little disappointing. We had a good view of the Acropolis at our first stop, and we also stopped at the 1896 Olympic Stadium (not a highlight, IMO); the other sights mentioned were strictly from the bus as we drove by them. The Plaka was interesting, and it has a lovely Greek Orthodox church and ancient Byzantine church there (the ancient church was not open for visiting, but the architecture was very interesting). We had a Greek lunch at one of the restaurants recommended by Sandra Shopper, but we were not overly impressed with the place or the food. Not sure what we would do given another chance maybe "Athens on your Own" excursion? Kusadasai/Ephesus We loved this stop. Pam and I split up for our excursions; she took Easy Ephesus, and I took the Ancient Ephesus tour. We were both pleased she got to see some of the ancient ruins and the museum; I got to walk Ephesus from one end to the other and got to see a silly costume show of a procession of dignitaries and citizens (in ancient dress, of course), a very good juggler, musicians, and a gladiator fight it was fun! Our guide, Sarah, was very good. Both tours ended up at a rug demonstration and sales pitch, but at different venues. I fell in love with the carpets, and went into Mister Toad mode (you know, Wind in the Willows, "Look a motor car" as eyes whiz, and "Beep beep, beep beep"). This was at Faberce, and my salesman was Ibo (short for Ibrahim Bo... Turkish last name). I was led into a smaller room and showed various samples of carpet that had interested me. I narrowed the field down to three rugs, then said I would be back in the afternoon with Pam (we live together, so she had a say in what would become dEcor in our home). Here, the pitch switched from "no pressure, no pressure" to "decide now or lose the special cruise price". Well, I would not buy that one! Anyway, we did return and ended up with a beautiful silk wall hanging in a 1,001 Nights design of panels. It was expensive, but never mind. I signed the back of the carpet, and Ibo had hanging rings mounted at the back they will even frame the carpet for you if you want that! He wrapped it for shipping in front of us, as well. (It has arrived, and yes, it is still a beautiful thing!) SURPRISE SHIP POLICY After my tour I found a pastry shop in the shopping mall on the way to the ship and bought two pieces of pistachio baklava to have later on board with our afternoon coffee. When I handed over my boarding pass, the crew member asked "Is that food?" I said it was, and he said "no foreign food allowed" and I had to either eat it before boarding or throw it out! I knew about the liquor ban, but a couple of pieces of pastry? Luckily I had not bought a box of 6 or 12! They were delicious, by the way. TURKISH SHOPPING I disliked it, overall. Sandra Shopper tried to give us advice about Turkish sales methods, but we cruisers are only there one day. I think that the Turkish shop keepers should learn a little about American/Brit ways of shopping! Personally, I like to BROWSE, then if I find something interesting, I will ask about it. As we strolled through the market, we felt we could not browse at all, because once we looked interested in ANYTHING, we were bombarded with "no pressure" "what do you like?" "let me show you" YES, WE FELT PRESSURED! We asked to see a lovely ring a double sided ancient coin that could be swiveled to either side, in silver and gold. The seller kept coming down in price, but when he finally believed that even his lowest was too much for our pocket books, he wanted us to name a price range so he could show us things within our budget. That may not sound unreasonable, BUT we had no real price in mind and felt like we could not simply look for something else to catch our eye. So we left the shop, feeling very pressured indeed, hoping we had not insulted him. Overall, their tactics made our shopping experience uncomfortable and quite complicated. Santorini BEAUTIFUL! We did our own thing, hooking up with our dinner companions, a mother and daughter from Miami. Be aware, the access to Fira at the top of the volcano rim is via either a long, steep climb up a donkey trail, or on top of one of the donkeys, or via a cable car, which is reached by a lot of very steep steps. Once up in the town, the streets are narrow, cobbled and uneven, with more steps sometime. One other disadvantage for us during our stop there were TWO other cruise liners in port, so the town was pretty crowded! We had a nice walk around, found a shop selling gorgeous pottery (we bought a an amphora-shaped pot with an iron tripod stand), and ate lunch at a restaurant called Dionysus. Although we were seated before the restaurant became too crowded, it seemed to us that most of the other customers were being served before us! However, the food was good Greek salad, tzatziki (yoghurt, garlic, & cucumber dip), an eggplant dish in tomato sauce with feta cheese, and fried squid rings. After lunch, we decided we had better line for the cable cars and to our horror, the line seemed to stretch what seemed a mile (well, maybe a kilometer) back down the town! Our friend's mother, who was 88 and a dear, tripped as we arrived to queue, so someone up front in the line kindly let them cut in with them. Luckily for Pam and me, although the line seemed horrendously long, it did move very quickly and we only waited 30-45 minutes before we were in a cable car and heading down. A lot of folks decided to walk down the smelly (yes, it was SMELLY) donkey trail rather than wait for the cable cars. I told Pam that walking through Ephesus was a doddle compared to walking around Fira. She did say the Fira was a bit of a struggle for her, though. Overall, we thought that Santorini was worth investigating as a destination on its own maybe for a 5-7 day stay. (Subsequent research on the web shows that it is a fairly EXPENSIVE place to stay, though.) Civitavecchia Our intention when we planned our cruise experience was to go to the Vatican Museum and see the Sistine Chapel post-cleaning. Bad news our cruise hit this port on Sunday, and the Vatican was closed tight! We were interested in taking the excursion that toured the Jewish quarter of Rome (we had both been to Rome before and knew that the main sites had not changed much, even in the 50 years since we had been), but we decided that it would be too much for Pam to handle. So we opted instead for the "Olive Oil Tasting and Scenic Drive" excursion. It took us by bus to Tuscania, a lovely ancient town where we were given a guided walk about. The views over the countryside here were gorgeous! Then we stopped at a farm and tasted their wines and their oils, jams, and honey, with bruschetta and tomatoes. Our guides were very good on this tour. Livorno We had spent several days in Florence, so I had prebooked the "Tuscan Countryside San Gimignano and Volterra" excursion. THIS WAS THE HIGHLIGHT OF OUR WHOLE TRIP! Both towns and the surrounding countryside are absolutely GORGEOUS! Our first stop was Volterra, the center for alabaster carving. We had a very good local guide there, and enjoyed our walking tour immensely. Our next stop was the Fattoria Lischetto, a working farm that makes its own sheep's milk cheeses and olive oils. The views from the farm were sensational, the farm dogs loved attention and having their tummies scratched, and the lovely donkey Orazio (Horace in English) was a very aloof photo model. The lunch provided here was absolutely DELICIOUS. We started with platters of three kinds of cheese (the sheep's cheeses in various stages of aging), prosciutto, and salami that was probably boar, a local specialty, with platters of green salad and crusty bread. Next came squares of excellent lasagna. THEN came more salad, bowls of cooked barley mixed with pickled vegetables like artichoke hearts, mushrooms, and cornichons tossed with olive oil (WONDERFUL), bowls of a cold tomato sauce with roasted red peppers that was beautifully flavored. We ended with small sliced of a spongy cake with apple cooked on top. There were bottles of water and raffia-covered bottles of chianti on the table, too. This was the BEST meal we had had since leaving home! Then we went to San Gimignano, the town of the towers, for more walking and shopping and stunning views. There was a gelato shop doing great business in the town square, and once we realized that this was our last stop in Italy, therefore our last chance for gelato, we decided to indulge. I had the chocolate fondant very dark and luscious; Pam had the chocolate hazelnut lighter chocolate with hazelnut flavoring and a hazelnut on top. Both were scrumptious. Villefranche We had our own plans for this port. We would go by taxi straight to the Matisse Museum in Nice, then go back to Villefranche to explore the colorful port. I insisted on the cab as we did not know exactly where we were going, and I did not want to waste time or energy trying to get there, as museums are tiring for both of us. Well, the first taxi in the queue was a people van and the driver was deep in negotiations for a group fare, so we went to the next taxi in the rank. This man, rather grumpy, indicated that we had to wait for the other cab to go first. Then he decided to go for a toilet break. By the time he came back, the other cabbie was finishing off his transaction, so Grumpy decided he would provide us a ride for 50 Euros! Gulp. Luckily, a German couple who did not speak much English or French but wanted to go to Nice, decided to share the cab with us, so we all piled in. We let the Germans off in the center of town and they paid me their share. Then the cabbie took us to the top of the town and let us off at the park entrance where the Matisse Museum was situated. We strolled into the park and asked directions, which were provided along with the warning that they thought the museum was closed on Tuesday. We found the entrance, and lo and behold, the museum was closed Tuesdays and Holidays and this was Tuesday, 11 November, also a holiday in France. Don't tell me our cabbie did not know this! Oh, well. We walked around the outside of the house, then through the Roman ruins next door. We started walking down the hill toward the sea front, then caught a bus down to the central bus station 1 Euro for each of us. At the bus station, we got another bus back to Villefranche 1 Euro each. So TAKE THE BUS at this port, it is easy and CHEAP! Villefranche was a delight. We strolled around looking for the chapel decorated by Jean Cocteau (while he was drying out at the Welcome Hotel in the village). We found the main church, which has a very interesting wood carving of Christ removed from the cross the carving was done by an artist who had been sentenced to the galleys. It was dark and rather dingy in the church, with not a touch of Cocteau in sight. When we reached the port, we suddenly caught sight of the Chapelle St Pierre, and it was open. If you are interested in art, do NOT miss this treat. Entry was 2 Euro, in aid of the local fishermen, and the wall paintings inside are delightful. The lady taking our money inside also gave us a talk about the various murals. It made our day! We then had a beautiful meal at L'Oursin Bleu (the blue sea urchin) on the waterfront. My mussels and clams in a saffron sauce were delicious, though the sauce was a little salty. Pam's lamb chunks on skewers were lovely and pink and came on a bed of tabbouleh. I indulged in a caramel eclair for dessert, which was very good, but held no candle to the petit fours that came with the coffee. These were a tiny, bite-sized tarte tatin (apple tart), a little puff pastry filled with delicious pistachio cream, and a sort of Florentine of toasted crispy yummy slivered almonds fabulous. End of the cruise all pretty efficient, actually. We had transfers to our 1130 flight back to Heathrow, so we were packed into buses at the airport in plenty of time. Unfortunately, on the flight home we realized that we both were coming down with colds. There had been no incidence of novovirus on the ship, thank goodness, thanks to RCCL's hand washing policy (many signs WASH HANDS FOR AT LEAST 20 SECONDS), but being around so many people and hauled about in crowded buses exposed us to more germs than usual, and we did not get off lightly. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
The November 30, 2008 Norwegian Jade cruise from Barcelona to Rome, Athens (missed due to weather), Ephesus, Cairo/Alexandria, Malta and return to Barcelona. We booked thru Online Vacation Center with all flights from/to SFO and a two ... Read More
The November 30, 2008 Norwegian Jade cruise from Barcelona to Rome, Athens (missed due to weather), Ephesus, Cairo/Alexandria, Malta and return to Barcelona. We booked thru Online Vacation Center with all flights from/to SFO and a two night pre-cruise NCL package. All transfers from airport to hotel, to ship, and to the airport were included and were on time and waiting for our arrival and departures. I wish I had thought more about upgrading to Business Class! Lufthansa economy was tight and the non-stop SFO to Frankfurt was barely tolerable, saved by the seat next to my wife being empty. The connection to Barcelona was also economy but only an hour or so. The return was on Delta, Barcelona to Atlanta, ATL to SFO. Delta economy was a bit roomier but still long flights (10 and 5 hours). Customs at Atlanta was almost non-existent. Lots of lines, baggage, customs, security to re-enter for the domestic leg, but patience and lots of standing got us thru. Keep your connection times at two hours or more for the return. Embarkation was reasonably fast with only a small amount of waiting in line, Latitudes membership does seem to count for something. A glass of bubbly when on board and a quick visit to our cabin then off to the Grand Pacific for a lunch with some of our Cruise Critic folk. Note that you will be directed to the Buffet for lunch but the sit down dining room is open if you ask for it. Our luggage made it to our room by about 2 PM. We had the Anniversary package so had a bottle of Champagne and chocolate-dipped strawberries in the room waiting for us. We saved the berries for later but never did get around to eating them. We had the bottle on a later night with the canapes served as part of the Anniversary package. The Mini-suite had a bowl of fresh fruit which was refilled each day by our steward. I'm not sure if this was a room feature or a Latitudes perk but it was very nice. We did not have to remember to grab fruit off the buffet and had a nite-time nibble if needed. The shows in the Stardust Theater were very entertaining. We went to the Welcome Aboard show which had a little bit of several productions from later in the cruise. A good sampler to help you decide if you wanted to see more. We went to see the tenor Lawrence Robinson the next night, very good. We skipped the show Shout! -The Mod Musical not our style. We were too tired to see the Magician, the comedian, the musical collection of opera, jazz, and big band, and the Showdown vocal-idol-style competition on their nights. We did go to And the World Goes Round (a broadway revue) and Smokey Joe's Cafe. Both were first class productions with reasonably good singers who also danced and moved about the stage sets. Maybe not New York or Vegas but fun and entertaining. The shows in the lounge were mixed attempts at humor and fun. Not our style but many went and seemed to enjoy them. The performers in the bar areas, piano or guitar with singing sometimes, were good. You could hear them while you dined in the Jasmine Garden and some of the other surrounding restaurants. The drinks are expensive and we only bought one round at a bingo/drawing session. Lots of chances to dance to the wee hours if you wanted, we enjoyed our balcony and crashed early most nights after walking way more than we are used to doing. After Rome, a rough day and night at sea, the ship had to slow down to 11 knots, so we were four hours late getting to Athens. We had to cancel our private taxi arranged for the day. There was a hope for a two hour drive around the city but the Captain said the Harbor Pilot would not board in the rough seas so we turned around and headed to Turkey. After a good day at Izmir/Ephesus, we headed for a day at sea and to Alexandria/Cairo. We went to several one hour presentations on the history of Greece, a sales pitch for pre-purchasing a future trip package (we bought one), I played some Duplicate Bridge and got a couple of short lessons, my wife browsed the library and read. Educational and relaxing and sometimes one had to pick what to do over another. Not boring, always food if you wanted it, ice cream, snacks, we never did get to the 4 PM tea in the buffet and missed the chocolate party. Food was generally average to very good. The Garden Cafe buffet is long and stretched out and usually crowded. We chose the Grand Pacific or Alizar most meals. Service there is generally slow, certainly no rush, sometimes uneven and spotty. Remember to order as many desserts, soups, appetizers as you want. The Baby shrimp cocktails were small but tasty. Desserts were mostly good but not great. entrees were good to very good. A small steak was available every night and the one I had was tender and tasty. The Le Bistro French pay-extra restaurant was good but a bit pretentious I think. The Jasmine Gardens was very good, we went back a second time with another couple so we could try more dishes. The Blue Lagoon is always open and has simple food like wings (yum!) and soups(hot and sour -very spicy!) and burgers. Even a good breakfast plate with great views if you can get a window seat. Cagney's seemed pricey for an OUTBack steak house, many liked their dinners and desserts there however. Did not try the Italian, Spanish, Japanese, or sushi places. Oh! The Great Outdoors on the back of the ship is sometimes a better choice than the regular buffet if weather permits sitting on the back veranda. The last day was an early breakfast and disembarkation as we had a early flight. The bus to the airport was a bit confusing as where to go and what to do with our luggage (the tag system was mostly for later departures). We had to stand in a long line at the Delta terminal, perhaps should have looked into pre-boarding via the internet but I had opted out of staying in touch via the Net. A crowded flight to Atlanta as per above, finally home to SFO and a brother-in-law that picked us up and drove us home. A very Good trip, some disappointments but many good memories and a desire for more cruises on NCL (the Black Sea maybe next Sept 09??) Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
We sailed on the Century from November 21st to December 15th . The first segment left Barcelona with the first stop in Marseilles, France. We had stops at Nice, port for Florence, port for Rome, port for Naples, Tunis, Casablanca, ... Read More
We sailed on the Century from November 21st to December 15th . The first segment left Barcelona with the first stop in Marseilles, France. We had stops at Nice, port for Florence, port for Rome, port for Naples, Tunis, Casablanca, Cartegena, Gibraltar, Canary Islands. We favor back to back cruises. The port selection was excellent for us. We favor and inside cabin, which of course is extremely cost effective since you use your cabin to sleep in. The beds were firm to our liking. Although the cabin is only 175 sq. feet, the space is used effectively. We had more than enough room. Instead of having a large bed, we choose the single bed option, which allowed for plenty of room in the center. The stateroom staff truly met all of our needs. The Grand Restaurant is beautiful, and the staff and service is truly exceptional. The entrEe selection is above average, but nicely presented. It appears the company is attempting to reduce costs by changing the entree selection based on previous cruises with Celebrity. The traditional lobster meal was replaced with a seafood entree, which consisted of a half tail. The soups are very good. We really enjoyed the deserts. Service is excellent. The Island Cafe food is exceptional for breakfast and very good for lunch. We would recommend the healthy food found in the Aqua-Spa Cafe. Truly healthy to eat. We eat most of our lunches there. The hamburgers and onion rings served by the pool are also exceptional. The Murano Restaurant, in our opinion, is not worth an additional cost of $30. The alcoholic drinks are expensive between $6 - $10 per drink. On deck 12 there is the beautiful Hemispheric Lounge. The problem is they allow smoking on one side. It is actually a wonderful place to read a book and view the ocean while you are sailing. We also enjoyed the bridge tours that were given on both sailings while we were on see. The evening entertainment is typical and definitely in need of improvement - the usual young singers and dancers, average comedian, average solo singers and instrumentalists. Movies were also shown some nights in the show lounge. The projector in the movie theater was new, but had a blue cast in the middle. The exercise facilities were extremely busy at times. I found; however, that around 10:00 a.m., I could easily get on any of the machines I desired. The staff and crew are truly some of the best - extremely helpful, friendly and courteous; always greeting you with a smile and giving assistance where required. My mother uses a travel wheelchair, and the staff went out of their way to be helpful to her. This time getting embarkation and disembarking from the ship in Miami was one of the best. We especially liked the luggage area in Miami. We noticed that by hiring a porter, we definitely went to the head of the line as our transportation to the Miami airport was arranged through Celebrity. Although we got exactly what we paid for, we were extremely pleased, and our looking forward to our next cruise with Celebrity. The Western Med. kept us busy with various tours, and I missed the sea days. Nothing beats a transatlantic cruise if you want to relax and not have any worries. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008

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