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43 Istanbul to Europe - Western Mediterranean Cruise Reviews

My wife and I have sailed with Celebrity 15 or 20 times. In fact,for good quality at a reasonable cost, they have been our favorate.That was until a few weeks ago. At that time, we sailed on the Constellation from Istanbul, Turkey. ... Read More
My wife and I have sailed with Celebrity 15 or 20 times. In fact,for good quality at a reasonable cost, they have been our favorate.That was until a few weeks ago. At that time, we sailed on the Constellation from Istanbul, Turkey. Check-in at the pier was as poorly conducted as we have ever encountered. (leaving the ship, last day, was fine) First, the good news.The ship itself is new and well maintained. The staff and crew were wonderful, as was the entertainment, for the most part. The bad news is that dinners onboard were well below average. In the past, this was a Celebrity strong point. They seem to be "cutting corners" and it shows. An example, a few folks in our group ordered coconut shrimp. Plain old regular shrimp arrived, no coconut breading included. When this was questioned, we were told that the clear sauce over the shrimp had a coconut flavor. The fish served was not good, salmon excepted. Meats were not up to past Celebrity standards. One meal selection was so over-salted that everyone sent it back. Another negative was that on this cruise to Greece and Turkey, not once did the ship play Greek or Turkish music. In fact, they refused to when asked. We were told that headquarters dictated what music was to be played and they could not change. Nor was there any greek or Turkish entertainment. The captain homself told me that he did not think passengers wanted to enjoy local The average age of the passengers was about 60 years old and the pool entertainment was usually loud,music, was the type a 15 year old would listen to, and loud! On the other hand, in the gym, spa music was playing instaed of peppy music. I could go on but the point I am trying to make is that, at least as I see it,a quality line has dropped a notch or two, especially in the food area.Cost-cutting seems to be rearing it's ugly head. Too bad! Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
We are a professional couple, ages 52 and 61, and well traveled internationally. We have been 1000% anti-cruising, thinking that cruise boats were floating nursing homes, or floating buffets for drunken rednecks.We have been converted! ... Read More
We are a professional couple, ages 52 and 61, and well traveled internationally. We have been 1000% anti-cruising, thinking that cruise boats were floating nursing homes, or floating buffets for drunken rednecks.We have been converted! The same week we returned home, I booked the Paul Gauguin Society Islands for February, and The Baltics on Oceania for next July.We agreed to this cruise on impulse, because a professional friend asked us to join him. His wife is a travel agent and booked the cruise. I would guess that the Black Sea would not be a first cruiser's preferred destination, but the dates worked out for us.Embarkation:We flew into Istanbul a few days early to enjoy that fabulous city. Being terrified of Istanbul's dishonest cabbies, we were pleased that the Intercontinental Ceylan had a cadre of honest cab drivers at their disposal. The cruise port was very close to the hotel, and it cost less than $10 to get us to the terminal. We arrived at 3pm, and there was no line. We were serviced immediately, and quickly sent up the gang plank to the reception lobby, where our pictures were taken and we were given a glass of champagne.Room:We were in 8047, S1 Sky Suite with butler service. The room was attractively decorated in red and beige. There was a large bottle of vodka and scotch (which we don't drink and gave away), a bottle of champagne (which we also gave away) and a bowl of fruit. We were later given a bottle of wine, which suffered a similar fate. The mini bar was stocked with a variety of beer and soft drinks and water. We had the butler replace everything with Diet Coke. I booked this category because my husband is 6'3", and I wanted him to not feel claustrophobic. The only problem he had was in the shower. He had to step in the bathtub, and his head hit the ceiling, so he had to shower with his head to one side. The amenities were large size Elemis. Our cabin steward kept the room in immaculate condition, but annoyed us by knocking on our door several mornings to see if we had left the room. We promised to put the 'make up room now' card on the door when we were ready for him!Food:I thought the food was wonderful! We ate in Prime C three times, in Aqualina once, and in the main dining room twice. One night we just had a club sandwich in the room because we were stuffed! We never tried the buffet. We had room service breakfast once, then skipped breakfast the other days (again, because there was too much food!). The delivery person set up by bringing the table in from the veranda, but the coffee table could just as easily have been used.My favorite meal was.....the lunch time hamburger and french fries I had on the pool deck! That cook made the best french fries I have ever had in my entire life! Hot, light, thick and crispy; the perfect fry!Of the fancier places, Prime C was leagues above the other venues, at least to our taste. The little donuts with dipping fondues were to die for. I always had fish, and was very happy with the sea bass and salmon. It was all delicious. The best appetizer, however, was Aqualina's lobster salad with citrus. Perfect blend of citrus with light, non chewy lobster chunks. I could not taste the Cointreau in Aqualina's souffle.If you love to eat, there are plenty of opportunities: breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea with sweets, afternoon savories, dinner, and evening savories! One night we asked our butler if it was possible to order from the specialty restaurants for room service, as we were not able to get (another) reservation for Prime C and loved the little donuts. He said, no, but we later found a tray with the little donuts in our room! That's service that leaves one feeling pampered.Entertainment:We didn't go to any shows. We did play bingo once, to use up some of our on board ship credit from AMEX.Enrichment:We both are intellectually curious, and thoroughly enjoyed Dr. Richard Farkus's lectures on the area. He was an excellent speaker. His lectures were replayed on the TV system, and we listened to each at least twice.Ports:We did not do any of the ship's tours, rather hired a private guide with two other couples for Ukraine.Nessebar Bulgaria is a quaint town with souvenir vendor lined streets. Constanta Romania should be eliminated as a port. It is desolate and depressing. There is no economic activity, and skinny stray dogs roam the streets. Many buildings are rubble. When we were exploring, we ran into a group of Brits.I asked if it got any better where they had been, and he answered "no, in fact we have seen four suicides since we started our walk." So much for British humor, but he accurately described the area.Perhaps we should have gone on the bus trip to Budapest, but we didn't want to travel 3 hours each way to tour for 3 hours. The boat had to delay leaving for the next port because these buses were late.Ukraine- Odessa, Sevastopol, and Yalta was absolutely fascinating. Our private guide was well connected and we got into areas normal tourists aren't allowed, like the private areas of the Livadia Palace, where Stalin, Roosevelt, and Churchill divided up Europe in 1945. Bribe money is left under telephones.SummaryWe came to realize that cruising is an efficient way of seeing locations we would not want to spend a significant amount of time. No risk of encountering dreadful accommodations and even worse food.If Azamara had an itinerary we liked, we would not hesitate to travel with them again. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
I will start this review by sailing the year before on the Seadream II. Even though that ship is small and a little older, it was a remarkable cruise. The service was unbelievable and it left a lasting impression. I had assumed that ... Read More
I will start this review by sailing the year before on the Seadream II. Even though that ship is small and a little older, it was a remarkable cruise. The service was unbelievable and it left a lasting impression. I had assumed that because of the awards and the hype, that Seabourne would be better. I was sadly mistaken. I wished we had just gone back to the Seadream. I will tell where they fall very short: -There is very little attention paid to the details on Seabourne and this is their biggest problem: Whereas Seadream had nightly room amenities ranging from personalized Pajama's (with your first name on them!) to a CD and dessert to a beautiful red rose, Seabourne did not have nightly amenities. Huge disappointment. Another example is on the Seadream if a waiter saw that my ice had melted in my drink, he would rush over, make a small fuss and insist on me getting a new drink without melted ice. This kind of thing never happened on the Seabourne. I know it is over the top, but it is that service that had me going home and raving to everybody about it. --There is very little attention paid to the details on Seabourne: Whereas Seadream had a pool-boy walking around asking people if they would like him to personally spray, wipe and clean their sunglasses, Seaborne did not. I made this request one day in their "suggestion box" and the next day they had a pool boy walk around handing out sunglass wipes in paper packets. Just handing them out- not offering to do them. I think that really sums up their class of service right there. -They only had FAKE flowers on the dining tables. This one is so bad that it almost pains me to write about it. All of their flowers on board were fake. -Their watersports program was awful at best. We only had one day of watersports and being at the sign up area was a like catching the last helicopter out of Saigon. It was utter madness with guests pushing and yelling so they could sign up for spots. Since this was only offered for a few hours one day out of the whole week, this really created a very bad watersport experience. -Because they have so many nightly dining room options (4 plus room service) they all felt a bit empty (especially the formal dining room). This left a bad feeling and this was not what we had in mind. I would suggest that they keep it to two restaurant options at most. -The Special Restaurant which offers the 5 course meal was not good. This restaurant requires reservations and everyone on board commented that it was a disappointment. -One member of our group is a vegetarian, who cannot eat cheese. When we made the reservations for the cruise, we mentioned this. Then we put it on our cruise profile. Then we called a few weeks before departing and asked they they make note of this so there would be no confusion. However at our very first dinner, when we let the waiter know we had a vegetarian, his response was "Well we need 24 hours to make anything special!" His response was so deplorable that it really took us back. When we were on Seadream, every night they had a full vegetarian menu that was exciting, innovative and fun (not "pasta and salad"). The vegetarian selections throughout the trip remained unimpressive. -The waiters do not remember names and faces On Seadream, all I had to do was order my coffee or eggs one time and they knew for the rest of the trip how I liked them. This was never the case on Seabourne. Sadly, not once. Our vegetarian guest had to go through the whole "vegetarian spiel" the entire trip. -I overheard the concierge team on two occasions talking poorly about guests. The concierge team sits in the library and if you are using the internet, your back is facing their backs. On two occasions my husband and I heard them bad mouthing guests who had come up to their table to talk about problems. Very unprofessional. -While some of the private gym classes were really good, I was not particularly impressed with the spa. Very clean facilities but my facial was not anything special. She basically just rubbed products in. My massage however was good. I could talk about more points, but my review is probably long enough. I think this cruise is just ok. Had I not been on Seadream, my expectations would not have been high. At the end of the day, many of us on the cruise described it as "Being on Holland America with an all you can drink option." Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
Small ship with 450 passengers and about the same amount of crew. The staff were all excellent and nothing was too much trouble. The rooms are all suites and most have a balcony. The suites are furnished with subtle matching colours and ... Read More
Small ship with 450 passengers and about the same amount of crew. The staff were all excellent and nothing was too much trouble. The rooms are all suites and most have a balcony. The suites are furnished with subtle matching colours and all the bathrooms are marble and have a shower, separate bath, 2 hand basins and Molten brown amenities. A choice of 4 restaurants each night and one can dress formally or smart casual in the most formal of the restaurants. The code of dress is very relaxed on board. the food is excellent and the portions are on the smaller side which is good as you have so many places to go to eat throughout the day. The drinks are included and although there are no drinks lists, you can have any cocktail made that you want. The staff are always on hand and rather than wait to be called, they are always there wanting to serve.The excursions were very well run, with no waiting on buses or queuing. We got off the boat, into the coach and headed straight off on the tour. The tours were interesting and the guides were also very knowledgeable.The entertainment on board was excellent although not a lot of choice. The singing group did 3 shows during the week that were excellent, and after the shows there was dancing in another area, or you could go to the Observation Deck for a late night drink and listen to the lady singing and playing the piano. For us , the choice of entertainment was sufficient, and what we had, was very good.The amenities on board were excellent. I went to a few of the gym classes and also went to the gym once. Although the gym is small, it is quite adequate for the number of passengers on board. The pool area is well designed with 2 whirl pools but the pool itself could have been a little bigger. There was another pool aft of the 5th deck but this was even smaller and not utilised very much.Seabourn Square is a great place to relax and read the multiple choices of world newspapers available to passengers. In the Square there are is also access to internet , a coffee bar and also staff to make tour bookings etc.We did the Galley and the Bridge Tours which were very interesting, but need to be booked early on in the cruise. Restaurant 2 also needs to be booked early as it only holds 30 passengers and it can only be booked once in the week. It offers a degustation plate accompanied by selected wines.The staff are multi cultural and all are very friendly, and the cruise director John, was fantastic at organising the activities and keeping us all informed on the following days events.We would not hesitate to recommend Seabourn and look forward to returning next year!! Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
First off this is a beautiful ship. The wow factor is on offer in spades. The ship is beautifully furnished. The cabins, we had a balcony on level 7, were just fine. Even the tiny bathroom was adequate. We chose the cruise initially ... Read More
First off this is a beautiful ship. The wow factor is on offer in spades. The ship is beautifully furnished. The cabins, we had a balcony on level 7, were just fine. Even the tiny bathroom was adequate. We chose the cruise initially because of the ports of call in the Black sea and we were not disappointed. We benefited from a very knowledgeable guest lecturer who would stand on deck, with a mike, from time to time but especially in Gallipoli, telling the story of the area. However it was not all good!! First off the food. We tend to prefer to eat in the self service areas on ships. We find the food tends to be better than in the main restaurants, fresher and the choices are more obvious Having said that we decided to give the restaurant a go on the first night. I ordered turkey parmesan. This dish may or may not have ever seen a grain of parmesan but it was dry and inedible. I complained. They attempted to restore the dish, by adding cheese, with limited success. The following night as recompense, they made me, as a special, rack of lamb. It was great; they can do it right when they want. I did not feel I could ask for this special treatment every night so we went to the Windows cafe for the rest of the cruise. A lovely place to be with wonderful staff. The kitchen staff, however, had not been trained in how to preserve food once it had left the kitchen and before serving. This meant that high quality food was invariably cold or dry. I pointed this out and they improved but why didn't they know? So food quality was patchy. To say the least. The other disaster occurred around the pool. The pool area is adequate. I decided to give it a try. There must have been some kind of chemical imbalance in the water. My eyes started to stream, became painful and red. They are still a tad sore now, one week later, as with many large organisations they went into denial when told of a problem but others were also seen to be suffering. THIS WAS ABSOLUTELY UNFORGIVABLE. Special mention must be made of Richard, the food and beverage manager, and the Hotel Director. Two really nice guys who took personal ownership of problems and aimed to sort things out. Now Azamara, as many will know, have just completed a rebranding. Wines are now "free", gratuities are built into the price etc. etc. We were fortunate; we paid the price prior to the new rates being announced. The cruise may well have been worth the old price. I doubt that it was worth the new money. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
Azamura Club Cruises sell themselves as a Luxury Club Cruising option offering an interesting and slightly different itinerary, excellent food, luxury accommodation and a tip top crew offering a discreet and friendly service. Azamura get ... Read More
Azamura Club Cruises sell themselves as a Luxury Club Cruising option offering an interesting and slightly different itinerary, excellent food, luxury accommodation and a tip top crew offering a discreet and friendly service. Azamura get 2.5 out of 5 for this and 5 stars for selling an expectation!. Itinerary - The Black Sea itinerary is very worthwhile, the low points being the two V's Varna and Volos, but Odessa, Sevastopol and Yalta make up for those, as does the overnight in Istanbul - a superb starting point. Do try to get to the opera house in Odessa for a performance, the atmosphere and ambience is not to be missed. Excellent food - Sorry, not even 3 star overall and therefore very disappointing. Why, well they certainly try, but they concentrate more on quantity than quality. The food presentation is unimaginative, bordering on poor, the crockery very plain, and the whole dining experience lacks finesse. We dined in all the restaurant choices: Aqualina was by far the best - a lighter, more stylish option with better quality food and much better in presentation. Prime C, as the name suggests, concentrates on prime cuts of meat, and although the meat was good, it was unimaginative in preparation and there was far too much on the plate and therefore off putting. The daily buffet, we used for lunch and it was okay, limited in choice, with very little daily variation. We also had two on-shore evening buffets by the pool and they were okay, but I have to say limited. Breakfast in the stateroom on the verandah was a very good daily experience, all delivered on time and accurately, with high quality personal service. We did comment on the quality of food at the cruise critic reception and we were given very special treatment - treated like royalty actually for a couple of days and we could have taken this further, but who needs to be a moaning Minnie on holiday! Luxury accommodation - Well the towels, bathrobes and bedlinen are excellent. The stateroom furniture is tired, but adequate and the artwork around the ship is very basic. Some nice touches, at the pool - iced towels and cooling cucumber and the sun beds are very comfortable - although need re-varnishing. The ship is in need of refurbishment and I believe this is programmed. Perhaps they should have done this before selling as a luxury club cruise though? Service Levels - on board are without exception 5 star. All the crew are well trained and offer a friendly service. The Captain was the most approachable we have ever experienced and made a real and genuine effort to make sure his crew and guests were happy. Little touches like his personal farewell as we left the ship, and his invitation to the bridge and to join the staff captain for dinner were very special and we cannot fault the service at all. Top Likes: Including high quality house wine at lunch and dinner. Fantastic Itinerary. Friendly and well trained crew. Excellent dis/embarkation and port organisation. Top Dislikes: Quality of food, tired ship, overpriced for current service levels Would we travel with Azamura again: Not until they deliver on their aspirations, or unless the price reflects the real service levels currently on offer Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
We chose the Jade because of the ports visited. The freestyle dining was ideal because of so many ports and never knowing when you would return from the tours and sightseeing or how tired you would be as far as your choice of dining. The ... Read More
We chose the Jade because of the ports visited. The freestyle dining was ideal because of so many ports and never knowing when you would return from the tours and sightseeing or how tired you would be as far as your choice of dining. The times we dined in the main dining we had approximately 30 minute waits until the beeper went off but once seated we, again felt the service was slow and the food was mostly average. The buffet had a large selection with a pasta and asia station cooked on the spot and because of no waits we ate there many nights. My favorite would be The Bistro which was french dining for an additional $15 per couple but was well worth the price and service. We stayed on the 11th floor in a mini suite which was very nice. It had a nice balcony, small refrigerator, coffee maker, desk area, couch and a bathtub with shower. It also had nice warm bathrobes which came in handy on the balcony. Room service and the room stewart were very efficient. The ship was very nice and had plenty of choices for lounges, activities, nice casino (I won over $8,000 on the penny machine!!)art shows, spa,pool table, sports bar, etc. It was too chilly to use the pool area but we stayed so busy with the ports, etc that we would not have had much time anyway. Getting on and off the boat was fast and easy. We did not attend all the shows but the ones we attended were average for ship entertainment. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
Our ship was the best we have been on and the ports of call the most interesting. The ship although over 20 years old was fantastic. Very modern looking with lots of space for passengers to spread out. Two pools, one outdoor and the ... Read More
Our ship was the best we have been on and the ports of call the most interesting. The ship although over 20 years old was fantastic. Very modern looking with lots of space for passengers to spread out. Two pools, one outdoor and the other indoor. I counted 6 hot tubs. They are fairly small, with not very hot water and often crowded. You had to pick your time at the hot tub unless you wanted to rub legs with the hairy guy next to you. Deck lounges were plentiful outside on several decks and around the pools. There were two decks you could walk or jog entirely around the ship. The fitness center was excellent, although we did not spend much time there. We tried a seminar at the fitness center on controlling your metabolism that turned out to be a pitch for their detox service. This was very disappointing. We did not try the rock climbing wall but it looked like a lot of fun. The public spaces are excellent in their furnishings. The Masquerade Theater is very comfortable with great seating and a beautifully rich stage curtain. The food was very good and lots of variety. You could eat almost any time. The main dining room was OK but not great. The Windjammer buffet was excellent. They have a great environment and the food stations are spread out so you do not get large crowds in any one serving area. They had a carving station that was available at every meal service. For breakfast there is an omelet bar with omelets or eggs made to order. Coffee & tea is available 24 hours. The only disappointment here was the wait staff that seemed to be indifferent to passengers carrying plates. (They have no trays so you have to juggle numerous plates, silverware and cups, etc.) The staff would not step aside to let you pass. Most other ships I cruised on the wait staff always deferred to passengers. There was a soft serve, non-fat yogurt machine outside the buffet that we fell in love with. We spent too much time in front of it. The only food venue that we were disappointed in was their little cafe adjoining the indoor pool. It mostly served hot dogs, hamburgers, BLT's and pizza. The food there was not very appetizing. The only other disappointment was the high prices for drinks, in-room snacks and water and internet service. They even had a cigar bar in the evenings in the library. It was very cozy with mood lighting and lots of cognac. Our stateroom was very small as was the shower, but we had very little time in the cabin with the very long excursions. Linens & towels are a very good quality. The entertainment was a little better than all of our other cruises, but this was the most lively ship ever. Remember, probably 95 % of the passengers were over 50 years old but they partied until after mid-night almost every night, even with the long excursions. There just was a lot of energy on the ship. The casino & dance floors were full whenever they were open. There was always music somewhere, all of the time. All of the staff was very friendly and very helpful. Anytime we had a problem, they fixed it. Embarkation & disembarkation were a breeze. It was very efficient as were boarding for excursions. Extremely well organized. The wait staff could have been a little better but not much to complain about there. The tour companies the ship used were very good. Modern buses with some very good guides and other guides were just OK. It was the luck of the draw as always. Ports of call were very interesting, all presenting a tremendous history with lots to see an do. We toured every day except the two "at sea" days. The tours were at least 6 hours long and a few were 10 hours. We had 4 days straight of getting up at 5:30 AM and not getting to bed until after midnight. We used a travel agent to book this trip and were very pleased in dealing with them. They delivered as promised on everything. We had a problem with prepaid gratuities that were part of our bonus when we arranging the trip. When we arrived shipboard, they had no record of the prepaid gratuities. I e-mailed the agent and he fixed the problem immediately. I guess the bottom line is, it was an amazing trip. We loved seeing all of the history. The excursions put many historic events into context for me and filled in some gaps. Unfortunately our American standard & quality of life that we enjoy here led us to expect more, and for that reason we were a little disappointed to see such rich history, slightly tarnished by commercialism and lack of sensitivity to their environs. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
Istanbul to Civitavecchia (Rome) August 4th 2009 on board ms Nautica Without doubt Oceania Cruises is certainly among the "better" companies in the cruise sector. I read here several reviews, mostly positive but also ... Read More
Istanbul to Civitavecchia (Rome) August 4th 2009 on board ms Nautica Without doubt Oceania Cruises is certainly among the "better" companies in the cruise sector. I read here several reviews, mostly positive but also several pointing less or even negative point, and I believe that both are right! Lets try to put this somewhat together: Let's start with the positive points: - With only 680 passengers for this size of ship and 400 crew members, these ships are absolutely in a good midsize and they have an exceptional ratio of passenger / crew of 1.71 to 1. - The vessels are clean, well maintained, even when you are looking for garbage, dirty floors etc... you will have difficulties to pin them down! - Their major asset is of course the high quality cuisine. The Grand Dining room can accommodate serious quantity of guests and there is enough well trained staff. You have free seating and plenty of choice in the daily menu. The food is excellent, very presented: simply delicious. Jacques Pepin who is giving a certain imprint of the high French cuisine has adapted also at a certain point to some American tastes. We had French Chief Pâtissier on board and the desserts and pastry were really a top. The image of Jacques Pepin is somewhat overdone perhaps, when you find on the menu every under his ... a New York Sirloin Steak! Also the Toscana and the Polo Grill much smaller are worth a visit. They are "unofficially" restrained in practise to the higher-level staterooms. But at least once a trip you can make a reservation in each. To get a second one is more as complicated! Cuisine is indeed more sophisticated and excellent. However I had the feeling that the staff was less trained and certainly fewer in number as in the Grand Dining room. Terrace Cafe combined with Tapas on the Terrace is a self - service restaurant having an opportunity to have your meal outside (if space is available of course). We used it mostly for breakfast ; At night they offer basically the same dishes as in the Grand Dining room but with some extra of different items. The Waves grill is "basic" for a small snack at noon. - There are several bars but only the spacious Horizons at the front and Martinis offer a "happy hour" between 5pm and 6pm. - The staterooms are nice and well maintained ... unless you are in the top layer, you do not have a fridge in your room. The bathroom is rather small of size. - Very useful for passengers who are arranging shore visits themselves is the fact that at arrival in the different ports, a local person from the tourist offices is at board to give useful information and maps. Also the daily information on your television screen about the next ports are quite interesting. - Excellent pre-voyage documents in a personalised booklet. Never seen such!! - Check in at the terminal is well done and even if you are earlier, you can get your stateroom if available. - The cruise ports and stops mostly good. Arrival and sailing hours are reasonably good. In our specific cruise there was only one worthless port: Olbia. Even the local church was not a pixel worth for a photo! What I do not understand is that even last year people found it bad. Simply changing this port with Bonifacio in Corsica (70 km) would be wonderful! These are strong point, however there are a few shadows: - Oceania seems to be building up rather hierarchic and bureaucratic when something is not within the book of the "company policy". Argument used each time the staff cannot scope with your question. It goes from even small items where some are close to a "comedy caper" up to more complicated such as the use of Fitness by adolescent teens from 15 - 18 even accompanied by their parent. As rather irritant and later comedy caper, not very "bad as such" I give you the "water problem". When checking is at the room there 2 complimentary bottles of still water. I simply ask to have sprinkling water in stead of it as we prefer this. Last year on board of Windstar, it took perhaps 15 minutes and the bottle was changed for a bottle of Perrier. You cannot believe it, but the same on Oceania took 3 to 4 days! I had the visit in my stateroom of 2 managers, before the 4th day there were 2 bottles of Perrier with a personal note of the General Manager!! I still question myself if authorisation has been asked in Miami! On the other hand in each restaurant they spoil still water with hundred litre a day when you see the number of full glasses that people do not drink. We had the difficulty to ... refuse the water! But if you want sprinkling they will charge you! - If the ship is at anchor you needs the tender. Another person pointed the same problem. You have to go to the 5th floor, taking a coloured ticket , in theory wait in the lounge to be conducted as "cattle" down the stairs to the 3rd floor! Again on Windstar you simply go and take the first available place! Even Dottie was standing on the 4th floor to stop people (mostly non Americans, a little less disciplined)! - A major item is the rates and prices charged on board. Even when the USD is less as the EUR, they are simply high and even outrageous: a. excursions are simply outrageous expensive! We arrange them ourselves but when you that even a the less expensive tour in small places are charged between 80 and 100 usd and some other simply at usd 109 or 139 per person. In many cases you arrange it for 10 pct of the rates if not less! b. Wines and drinks are expensive. The "cheapest" red wine is a Rioja at USD 29 plus 18 pct service charge!!!. On Windstar you found several at usd 21 / 23 plus 15 pct. c. Another overcharge is the Internet connection. It is not the rate as such, which is the problem but the incredible low very low extremely low speed! To get in my web mail it takes normally even abroad at an internet cafe not even a minute! On board it took more than 8 minutes (yes 8!) to only get in... and then you did not read even the first message! At the rate of the first volume package it cost already usd 6.40! To get into your web mail! Same applies to all sites! Before you printed your boarding pass of your airline, be sure that you will have paid between 15 and 20 usd! - Television is mainly destined for American public. On my remark on the mid voyage questionnaire, I mentioned that with satellite they could easily add a few other language chains such a French, Italian and Spanish ones. Received a phone call from Dottie in person that 85 pct are US, so it is not necessary to put other language chains. If they want to attract to the European market in such a way ?? - Disembarkation is quite different. Suitcases have to be put already at night outside the room. Convenient if you know that items you use in the morning such as shaving cream and other liquids are prohibited ... in your hand luggage on the plane. Nice to see in the terminal people kneeling on the ground opening their suitcases to transfer all the forbidden items! Class!!! Also breakfast before 08AM otherwise nothing! Conclusion: Overall the cruise was excellent and Oceania is certainly a good cruise line. The negative remarks should not be a "showstopper", except perhaps the extra charges that are expensive. The problem is that the small things mentioned are irritating and there is really no reason to be so narrow minded with "company policy" . Perhaps I compare too much with Windstar (180° different) much more flexible. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
Nautica Black Sea Serenade Review July 2009   We joined Nautica in Istanbul having organised our own flights from London and a private transfer from the airport with Istanbul Airport Shuttle (22 euros). It was our second Oceania ... Read More
Nautica Black Sea Serenade Review July 2009   We joined Nautica in Istanbul having organised our own flights from London and a private transfer from the airport with Istanbul Airport Shuttle (22 euros). It was our second Oceania cruise out of about 25 in total, and as expected was thoroughly enjoyable. The food and service were as good as we had experienced on Insignia last year. Rather than adding to all the existing good reviews of Oceania ships I intend to focus on the Black Sea ports.   I always try to do a lot of research before a cruise as we prefer to explore on our own than on organised tours and this is especially important for us in recent years as my husband uses a wheelchair for any distance more than a couple of hundred yards. Some of the ports on this itinerary were quite difficult to research as there was very little information available. I hope the following may be of help to future visitors.   Istanbul, Turkey   Our third visit to one of my favourite cities and we had the luxury of starting the cruise with an overnight stay. We had visited the main attractions before and, being a Sunday, the Grand Bazaar was closed so we decided to start with a look around the new part of the city. Leaving the port we turned right and walked along to the tram stop, bought "jetons" (1.5 Turkish Lira each = 60p = $1US) and took the tram one stop to Kabatas. This is the end of the tram line and from there we used the  underground funicular (well signposted, disabled access lifts and uses the same "jetons") to take us up to Taksim Square. There was a large military parade in progress, something like remembrance day it seemed, with hundreds of soldiers, military bands etc, but once they left the square was quite deserted.   From there we walked along the main street of Istaki Kadesi (follow the old trams to find the right street). Most of the shops were open and there were a few street vendors too. Our plan had been to take the "Tunel" funicular back down but we seemed to miss it at the other end of the main street (there was a Metro station which I think was probably the place) but we kept walking down, found the Galata Tower, and continued along a steep downhill street which brought us out by the Karakoy tram stop at the Galata Bridge. From there we took a tram up to Sultanhamet, the central part of the old city. The Blue Mosque, Cistern & Hagar Sophia are all easy to find within this area as is the Grand Bazaar.   However, this time we wanted to visit Topkapi Palace, as we had neer previouslly been there. From the map it looked as though we had to walk down the hill to get in, but in fact from that entrance we had to push back up a steep hill to get in (entrance 20 Turkish Lira = 8 GBP = $12US each). The palace is huge, they have tried hard to give wheelchair access wherever possible but of course by the nature of an old building some parts were difficult. but we enjoyed a couple of hours wandering around and looking at several exhibitions (did not visit the Harem which would have been 15 lira extra). On leaving we found an exit which led to a gate just behind Hagar Sophia - a much easier route for anyone else who wants to visit ! Just follow the road with Hagar Sophia on your immediate left and you will arrive by the Topkapi wall.   We then walked down the hill to the Spice Bazaar at the bottom of the hill near the Galata Bridge, which was open and very busy even though it was Sunday, and some internet sites had said that it would be closed.   From here it would be walkable back to the ship but we opted for the tram again, as we find them so convenient and easy to use in Istanbul. Getting on at the Emminunou stop almost outside the Spice Bazaar involves quite a lot of steps down to an underpass and, surprisingly, there is no disabled access lift at this stop. Fortunately husband can manage the steps and I can carry the wheelchair ! We got off at the Tophane stop, to the old city side of the port and waked back - there is very little difference between the  distances of the 2 tram stops to the port - just a few minutes walk either way.   Nessebur/Nessebar, Bulgaria   The old town  is on an island linked to the mainland by a causeway and we tendered into a harbour close to the old city. I had been nervous about the accessibility here due to the hills and cobbled streets and Oeania's daily newsletter "strongly discourages the use of wheelchairs in this port". We decided to try with the backup plan of going to the beach if it was impossible to see the town. The cruise terminal itself was very hard work, numerous steps up and down into the customs building etc and from there we were immediately greeted with a huge flight of stone steps up to the town. However, there were some shops along a flat road to our left and passing those we arrived at the bus terminal, from where there was a nice gently sloping smooth tarmac slope up to the main square of the town. I would recommend this route for anyone other than the most active.   The old town of Nessebur/bar (the spellings seem to be interchangeable) is lovely, full of wooden houses and pretty little churches made from small bricks (in various states of repair). These days it is really a giant bazaar of several streets and squares (only about a quarter o f it cobbled, the rest is easily accessible for wheelchairs)  and the tourists flock in from the nearby beach resorts for a day of shopping. By lunchtime there were.hundreds of people waiting for buses back to Sunny Beach (fare 1 lei, I was told) and there was also a little train that cost 3 lei. We had bought a few Bulgarian Lei from home (1  lei = 50p) but there were plenty of ATMs in town. There we also a lot of money changing shops, although one shopkeeper told us not to use them as they sometimes give out fake money.   We debated a trip to Sunny Beach but the weather was not wonderful, it was cloudy and cooler than expected, so instead we walked across the causeway to have a look at new Nessebur. There are some hotels there and a few shops but nothing much. Further along the coast we could see some large hotels on a nice-looking beach but we did not walk that far, returning instead to the old town to use up our last few lei.   Constanta, Romania   The cruise terminal here is modern and bright but located in the middle of a large commercial port. There is a shuttle bus to Ovida square in the old town of Constanta about a mile or so away for $20 (yes $20 US for a maximum 3 mile round trip on  bus  - a rare black mark for Oceania!) but it was not a hard walk, even though it was hotter today. To begin with there is a long, flat, straight road to the port gate, which must be close to a mile. On the left just before the gate was a large bank with an ATM where we drew some Romanian Levs as we had been unable to buy any before leaving UK. We got 100 levs which was just over 20 GBP (so 1 lev = 20p = 30c US) but in fact the minimum withdrawal of 50 lev would have been plenty.   Once out of the port the casino building (no longer operating but an attraction of the city) is on your right and there is a short hill which leads up to some Roman ruins (less than impressive but work a quick look) just in front of the cathedral. The cathedral was quite nice - the entrance is on the left coming from the port, and continuing up that same street for a few minutes brings you to Ovida square. This square (actually more like a triangle) is home to a large archeological museum, which we did not visit but it looked very busy. Next to the museum is a smaller glass building housing the Roman mosaiacs (entrance 5 lev) and this was worth seeing, we thought. Beware of the toilet attendant on the square - she refused our offfer of a euros each but nearly frogmarched us to the museum cash desk to get change for her 1 lev fee !!!   There seemed little else of interest in the old city - as generally reported it is quite grotty and most of the buildings are in a serious state of disrepair. I had read on the internet about a double decker city tour bus aand had asked the local tourist representative about this when she came aboard Nautica that morning. I do like the availability of a local representative most port days on Oceania but on this particular trip found several of them to be quite negative and unhelpful. The Romanian lady first denied the existence of a tourist bus but when I persisted and showed her the internet pages I had printed out she 'remembered' and marked on a map where we could get it - on the corner of Tomo Boulevard and Ferdinand St (on some old maps still called Republikki). So we walked up Tomo Boulevard from the old sqaure towards the new part of the city, which was slightly nicer but nothing special. We found the bus stop then walked a couple of blocks beyond to the pedestrian shopping street (Stefan St) (found a free wifi connection outside Western Union which was useful) but soon returned to catch the bus.   The 'City Tour' bus is in fact a shuttle service to the nearby beach resort of Mamaia, but the advantage is that it runs right up the beach strip to serve the hotels whereas the local bus to Mamaia seemed to terminate at the very beginning. We got off the bus (fare3 lev - very reasonable) at the central stop of the beach strip by the casino and this seemed to be the main part of a typical beach resort - shops, fairground rides, cafes, bars and a cablecar stretching for miles along a nice sandy beach..   I enjoyed a swim in the sea at last, although it was not as warm as expected, and we sat in one of th beach front bars for a while (about 5-7 Levs for a beer or soft drink) before catching the bus back to the station. Tired by then, and still having 30 Levs to spare, we decided to get a taxi back to the port rather than try to work out the local bus. We told the driver to stop when his meter got to 30 Levs and in fact that took us just to the port gate (but I don't think he went the most direct route !). In any event taxis are  not allowed into the port so we had to walk the last mile back along the straight road. So for anyone unable or unwilling to do that walk both ways the only options here are a tour or the $20 shuttle -  and to be honest there is very little within easy walking distance of the shuttle drop off, so a tour might be preferable if you are not up for the walk. Constanta is certainly not my favourite port, but I must say we had a nice day, especially on the beach at Mamaia.   Odessa, Ukraine   As expected, Odessa was a beautiful city full of amazing buildings, the opera house being the best of the lot. The cruise port is widely reported as being "right at the bottom of the Potemkin steps" which is it but there is quite a walk out of the terminal and across a long bridge over several railway lines then down some stairs (or sloping road, as we did) to the bottom of the famous steps. Fortunately there is a free funicular that runs just to the left of it and saves climbing 200 steps. At the top you find yourself in Primorsky Boulevard, a nice park  along the top of the cliff. Turning left leads to the City Hall and several museums, from where the Opera House comes into sight. Nearby we found a Bank of Piraeus which had an ATM with English instructions and withdrew some local currency (12 hryvnia = 1 GBP  so 1 hryvnia = 8p = 12c US). This was another currecny that seemed to go a long way - in all 3 Ukrainian ports a soft drink or beer  or ice cream was about 5/6 hryvnia from a stall or about double that in a cafe, public toilets cost 1 or 1.5 (and the attendants always seemed to have change).   After looking around the outside of the fantastic opera house we wandered down a road to the side of the large Mozart hotel and came to a park which turned out to be the city garden. Now, I am not usually a bad map-reader but I never did get my bearings in Odessa. The layout of the streets did not seem to correspond with either the map I had printed from the internet or the ones given out by the tourist information lady - but it did not seem to matter much as we found lovely things to look at just by wandering around.   Leaving the city gardens at the other end we turned left and soon arrived at an impressive building called the Vorontsov Monument - not sure what it was but it was surrounded by another nice park and a reasonable sized art & crafts market.   Continuing down the same street eventually lead to the Cathedral - it was further thn it looked on the map and when we got there only the crypt was open, but it was nice enough.   We made our way back to the funicular by a slightly different route (found free wifi near McDonalds in one of the main streets) and again enjoyed our day. Do be aware that maps are of little use here unless you have one with the street names printed with the cyrilic alphabet as well as English, as only the cyrilic ones are used on street signs and hardly anyone seemed to speak English.     Sevastopol, Ukraine   Sevastopol was another nice city and the map here seemed far easier to follow. From the port there is a road leading the short distance up to a square from where we walked along a very nice seafront park to the main  sqaure of the town, Lazarev Square (according to the map - again the street names were unrecognisable). Turning right at the roundabout (just past McDonalds) brought us into the central market. Later we followed the main street heading towards the famous Panorama Museum, visiting one of the catherdrals on the way. Unfortunately the Panorama is on top of a hill far too steep for us to climb with the wheelchair, but people who had visited al seemed impressed.   We walked back towards the ship along the seafront (Lenin) street which looked more direct but was not a very interesting walk, I think the other route was much nicer and did not seem much further. The tourist information lady had said 45 minutes to walk from the ship to the Panorama and I think that would be about right, it must be about a mile and a half to the bottom of the hill. There were horses there to take people up to the museum (husband declined this !!).   Apart from the Panorama there are monuments all over the city, mostly military I think, but it made it an interesting city to explore, nicer than I had expected,   Sochi, Russia   Russia can only be visited independently if you hold a Russian visa, which are difficult and expensive to obtain, which is a shame as Sochi looked like a nice resort town and we docked right on the promenade between 2 busy pebble beaches. However, one of our Cruise Critic group was kind enough to put together a tour with Sochi Holidays (www.sochi-holi.ru). It cost $70 US each for 10 of us for 5 hours with a driver and excellent English-speaking guide. We visited an Orthadox church, walked along the lovely seafront park then drove up Akhun Mount, 600 metres above sea level, to climb the observation tower for amazing views of the surrounding city, sea and mountains. From there we drove to Stalin's Dacha (holiday villa) which was interesting, visited a glorious old Spa Hotel from the Soviet era, sadly somewhat decayed now, and enjoyed a sightseeing drive around the city before returning to the ship at 2pm. This was considerably cheaper than the ship's tours and we saw much more. Also, all of the ship's tours stated that they were unsuitable for passengers with wheelchairs or walking difficulties, whereas our driver and guide really put themselves out to help - the only thing Paul could not do was the tower climb, everywhere else was fine. It was a very interesting day and highly recommended for anyone visiting Sochi.   All cruise lines like to encourage the belief that any guests not on one of their own tours needs a visa to be able to get off the ship, but I can confirm that (as in St Petersburg when we toured with Red Oktober a few years ago) there was absolutely no problem or query- our tour leader had given our names to the immigration officers in advance and we simply walked through with everyone else and were met by our guide outside immigration, where we paid cash for the tour on the day.   Yalta, Ukraine   Yalta is a beautiful resort city located in a bay surrounded by huge mountains, a really stunning view. Even though it was a hot, sunny day the mist never quite cleared from the mountain tops. Again the port is right in the centre of town and there is a nice promenade with many cafes, stalls and designed outlet shops (but not particularly cheap from what I saw).   The tourist info lady gave out good maps on board and was informative about public transport - bus 5 or 11 goes from next to the cathedral to Livadia Palace (of Yalta Conference fame) and there is a ferry from the jetty about half way along the seafront that goes to the pretty Swallows Nest Castle. We decided against Livadia as it was very hot and we didn't fancy getting on a crowded bus. There were also taxis offering tours for $20 per hour to both of these main sights. We investigated the ferry but there were no English timetables and the Swallows Nest ticket booth wasw closed when we walked past fairly early. We intended to go back later but time went on as we explored the city, visited the Alexander Nevsky cathedral (the nicest on this trip) and the huge market area near the port (shown as a 'shopping area' on the map - follow the pedestrian street behind the Kodak centre) so we did not get around to it, and with anearly sailaway of 4pm we found plenty to do in Yalta itself. There are several grey pebble beaches but they were completely packed with people enjoying the weather - there was hardly room to stand on the beach, let alone lay down a towel, but the whole place had a nice family fun atmosphere. (Free wifi outside a large hotel at the far end of the beach, near a small tourist craft market) And as we left port we could see the Swallows Nest castle in the distance.   The following day was at sea but an interesting one as we sailed through the Bosphorus, passing Istanbul in the morning and the Dardanelles in the afternoon, passing quite close to the Galipoli monument early evening. the cruise director gave commentary at the points of interest.   Kusadasi, Turkey   Since our last visit about 8 years ago the cruise port has developed enormously and in fact the whole town has cleaned up a lot to the extent that the bazaar is now more like a shopping mall. But it is still a nice place to visit and wander around the shops within a few steps of the port.   When we tired of shopping we went to the city beach a short walk to the left from the port. It was nice to have a swim and cool off,  but the water was not very clear or, probably, very clean. But it is handy and you can rent a sunbed & umbrella for 5 lira if you want to stay longer. Maybe another time I would get on one of the many minibuses that pass the port every few minutes going to Ladies Beach a couple of miles away.   Santorini, Greece   We broke the habit of a lifetime and stayed on the ship - Paul hates heights and would not go up the cablecar, on our last visit I had taken the cablecar up and walked down.   Athens, Greece   We had to vacate our cabin by 8am and leave the ship by 9am, breakfast was available until 8.30am so it was not too early a start. Our flight home was not until 7pm and from internet research had found that we were able to leave our cases at the Student and Traveller's Inn in the Plaka District for 2 euros per bag for the day.   It was our 4th time in Athens and in the past we had been rather unlucky, delayed by general strikes and overcharged by argumentative taxi drivers, and my impressions of the city have never been that good. But I must say that this time everything worked smoothly, the taxi driver had quoted 20-25 euros for the journey and although I could not persuade him to switch on his meter he asked for 25 at the end which was fine by us.   We duly left our bags in the luggage room at the Students Inn and paid our 4 euros. No receipts were issued for either our money or cases, receptionist assured me he would recognise me and it was not necessary. We had already made sure that my jewellery, laptop etc were in our day bag and nothing of major value in the cases, but there was no problem, they were there safely waiting for me when we went back later in the day.   Having focussed on the Acropolis on previous visits we decided to do something different this time, walked first through the (wonderfully wheelchair accessible) Plaka to the flea market at Monastiraki then from there to Syntagma Square, mainly to check out the airport bus departure point but while there we saw the changing of the guard at the Parliament building. Later we walked through the lovely  National Gardens, where is was much cooler than in the city, to visit the Temple of Olympian Zeus (2 euros each to go in but nearly as visible from the road really) and Hadrian's Arch. From there we wandered back through the Plaka to collect our suitcases then returned to Syntagma Square to catch the 4pm airport bus (X95 - runs every 15-20 minutes, costs 3.20 euros each).   Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
An Historical Voyage First of all, let me begin by telling you that I select my cruises on the basis of itinerary, so I have no loyalty to any one company. Thus, my review will be objective. I have taken more than 30 cruises and this is ... Read More
An Historical Voyage First of all, let me begin by telling you that I select my cruises on the basis of itinerary, so I have no loyalty to any one company. Thus, my review will be objective. I have taken more than 30 cruises and this is my second on the 'Nautica'. The appeal of this particular cruise was the ports of call, as 6 would be new to me. I booked my own flights, on line, and managed to obtain a better deal than the agents were quoting. The ordered taxi was waiting at Istanbul airport, and I would like to say that I was whisked away to the port, but we crawled along in the rush hour traffic, with the consequence that I didn't embark until 6.30 pm. Fortunately, we had an overnight in Istanbul, otherwise I would have flown in the day before. Registration was handled efficiently and I was on board quickly, but my late arrival meant I had missed the 'Singles Get Together', and I never did find the rest of the solo passengers. This was my third visit to Istanbul, so I had 'done' the mosques and Topkapi Palace and all the other 'must dos'. So, the following day, I decided to take the funicular to Taksim Square and walk back down Iskilal Cadessi, but many of the shops remained closed, as it was Sunday. I went to the top of the Galata Tower again, as I never tire of the view of this wonderful city. Folkloric dancers came on to the ship in the evening, and gave a live performance. I went to a CC meeting at 10 and met my fellow Cruise Critics and together we all watched the ship sail away, under the illuminated Bosphorus Bridge. The Ship The Oceania ships all flow well, and are easy to negotiate. Most of the evening activities are all on Deck 5 and, sooner or later, everyone passes through the piano (martini) bar, and usually stays to hear the pianist, Jerry Blaine, or join in one of his music quizzes. It's a very tastefully decorated ship and the library is one of the best afloat; certainly the only one I've come across that operates an honour system. Happy Hour is held there every afternoon, between 5 and 6 when drinks are sold at '2 for 1'. I think this should be changed to half-price, if they're going to have it at all, as it requires two people to order the same drink, at the same time; not ideal if you're travelling alone and fancy an occasional libation. There's a well-appointed fitness centre and (overpriced) spa. Pilates and Yoga are charged at $11 (+ 18% service charge) which probably why I saw only one person in the Pilates Class I looked in on. There are ample sun beds - some doubles - and private cabanas for hire, for those who want complete privacy. The standard cabins are fairly compact, but well-appointed. I would like to see the addition of a mirror on the inside of the bathroom door, or cabinet, so that one can see the back of one's head prior to stepping into the lift for a further inspection. I did attend a party in an Owner's Suite and it was spacious, and very luxurious. One thing I love about Oceania is their restricted smoking policy; I wish Crystal would adopt it. Food There are multifarious locations for piling on the calories. Apart from Room Service, breakfast is served every morning in the 'Grand' Dining Room (their word, not mine). I intended to try it, but couldn't tear myself away from the Terrace Cafe, with it's huge choice of fresh fruits and berries plus freshly squeezed orange juice. The coffee was a bit hit and miss, depending on the timing and location, so I preferred to make my own pot of tea each morning. The teabags stocked included Twinings English Breakfast - my favourite. Sometimes my teapot turned into a tug-of-war, as the attentive crew are horrified to see passengers lifting a finger. I tried lunch in the 'Grand' Dining Room once, but it was speedier and more convenient to eat on deck at Terrace Cafe or Waves Grill, both of which carried a good selection of ice creams. Highlight of the day was afternoon tea. The string quartet played while you chose from a selection of dainty sandwiches, scones and miniature pastries and tartlets. There was also some fruit being flambEed in alcohol each day. Dinner in the 'Grand' Dining Room was a fairly slow affair and if I particularly wanted to make an activity at 9 I had to be sure to get in early. It is nice, though, to have a drink with some new acquaintances and then toddle along to dinner with them, without the convention of a set time and table. I ate once in the two alternative restaurants, "Toscana" and "Polo Grill" and was disappointed on both occasions. I remember raving about the food on my last Nautica cruise but, since then, they have had a change of chef, and not for the better. There also seems to be a lack of communication between the wait staff and the kitchen, although all requests are written down. Some of the food was still terrific, (the carpaccio in Toscana, for instance) but I had tough calves' liver, duck and ostrich, which I can only think had been overcooked. Some of the vegetables were overcooked as well, in spite of being requested ' al dente'. And the creme brulee had only a passing acquaintance with the blow torch. Entertainment and Activities Oceania is not known for entertainment and, quite frankly, most of the people I spoke to were happy to do without the cheesy production shows. The Cruise Director, Dottie Kulasa, worked very hard, but would be well advised to dress in a more relaxed way. Her corporate trouser suits in stiff fabrics made it look as if she was about the attend a board meeting, and put a barrier between her and the passengers. Coincidentally, she was married to the resident comedian, Tom Drake, which no doubt saved on cabins. Tom appeared twice and, after the first appearance he admitted he was told to slow down his delivery, as the British audience couldn't follow his fast New Jersey patter. Consequently, he was better received on the second occasion. There was one appearance from a magician, Harry Maurer, who, while entertaining, did nothing original. Best of the bunch was Vincenzo Martinelli, a virtuoso of the Spanish/Classical guitar, who also appeared twice. His music was over-amplified, but I think this was a deliberate ploy to keep the soporific audience awake after dinner. Game shows were run by Dottie's sidekick, Ian, (Shane Ritchie on speed), and his deputy Dan. Lucy-Jo and Joanne completed this quartet. They played a silly version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" one evening, where clues were offered to artificially get the contestants to $1 million. This meant that there were only two participants and no suspense. When I've played it in the past, a wrong answer meant that the contestant was out of the game. Dottie was in charge of trivia each afternoon, with some fierce competition. My own team (which comprised eminent lawyers and doctors) erupted into a victory dance, on being told we were the overall winners. The "O" points collected for our efforts are a total waste of time - they might as well tell us it's for fun, not prizes. The minimum required is 30 points for a mouse mat. Who wants a mouse mat these days? They should invest in decent prizes, or abandon it altogether. Ports Nessebur, Bulgaria: This is a tender port. Do not bother with a tour here, as you can walk it quite easily yourself. There are an amazing number of churches and remains from the Hellenistic period. It's also interesting to see the wooden houses in the Eastern Rumelian style typical of the Bulgarian coast in the 19th century. It's very close to the resort town of Sunny Beach and you can take a boat or bus in fairly cheaply. Unfortunately, this resort has influenced Nessebur and the overall impression is of a small town full of little shops and stalls, all selling the same tat. Constanta, Rumania: I had pre-booked a private tour with other CC members with Modes. Our guide, Anneliese, was waiting promptly at 9, as arranged. We walked to the Peter and Pavel Cathedral, then the casino, along the esplanade. We then drove to Ovid Square, the centre of town. We were surprised to meet other passengers there who had come via the Oceania shuttle bus, and had been charged $20 for the privilege. We were escorted into the Archaeological Museum. Anneliese had words with the curator and told us the fee for photography and video would be waived. There were many interesting exhibits here which had been discovered during excavations. We went next door, to a public building which contains the remains of one of the longest mosaic pavements in the world.  Again, we were allowed to photograph. We drove out of the City to the beach resorts of Eforie and Neptun and had a wander around there, laughing at the menu translations - "crap" meat for crabmeat, for instance. We stopped at the Murfatlar Cellar for wine tasting with nibbles, and we were all so impressed that several bottles were purchased (and consumed). We had lunch there (and more wine) at the Crama Neptun, sitting at a long table on the shaded terrace. We drove back to Constanza, arriving at the ship around 3.30. Odessa, Ukraine: Here again, I had pre-arranged a private "Jewish Heritage" tour with ten other CC members with Intourist. Our lovely young guide, Natasha, was waiting and we drove the five minutes to the top of the Potemkin Steps. We strolled down Primorsky Boulevard, admiring the architecture, to the Opera House, where we reboarded the bus and drove to Shomrei Shabbat synagogue. There was a video conference taking place downstairs, so we were ushered up to the gallery, where a young man explained the history of the synagogue. We were fortunate to have Natasha, who conducted a simultaneous translation. We went on to the Holocaust memorial and then to the Jewish Museum (which was not part of the ship's tour.) We were scheduled to lunch at a kosher restaurant but we asked Natasha to take us to a typical Ukranian restaurant, which she did. We were entertained there by typical Ukranian folk singers and joined in the dancing. Fortunately, Natasha was able to provide translations of the menu, as we were concerned at eating 'Crazy Sheep' or 'Rabbit on the Lawn'. After lunch we walked through the park and shopping area, before returning to the ship at 4. Sevastapol, Ukraine: Another private tour with Intourist. Our guide, Eugenia, was every bit as good as Natasha, articulate and with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the city. We drove to the park and watched a naval exercise taking place in the harbour, then viewed the theatre, one of the few remaining original buildings. From there, we drove to Chersonesus to see the excavations of the ancient city and St. Vladimir Cathedral. We then drove to Balaclava, where we visited the Panarama museum at Malakhov Hill. It's a huge 360 degree re-creaction of the defence of Sevastopol, merging painting and models which draws one into the action. We had lunch on the terrace of the Balaclava restaurant, overlooking the harbour, full of luxury Russian-owned yachts. After lunch we visited a secret underground submarine depot, created by the Soviet Black Sea Fleet, carved out of a mountain and concealed behind huge camouflaged bomb-proof steel doors. Built in 1956 it now accommodates a Cold War museum filled with naval exhibits. It was amazing to discover this had been used until 1991. As we drove back to Sevastopol I read "The Charge of the Light Brigade" and we all felt we had learned more about the Crimean and Second World Wars. When we learned that Eugenia lived in Yalta, we begged her to try and arrange to be our guide there. The next day was, thankfully, a sea day. Sochi, Russia: This was the only port at which I booked a ship's tour - and lived to regret it. It was entitled "Sochi Highlights and Stalin's Dacha", but the highlights were few and far between. Although one needs a visa to visit Russia, any reputable tour guide will arrange this for you. We had 34 passengers on our bus and I counted at least 17 buses. We stopped at the Winter Theatre and strolled through a park. We then drove to the Matseta Springs and saw the sulphur springs, but the toilet stop took longer than the viewing. We then drove on the Stalin's Dacha which was, in fact, quite interesting, but very crowded. Returned to the ship at 2 pm, for a late lunch, after a disappointing morning. Yalta, Ukraine: We left the ship at 8.30 for a pre-arranged full-day tour and were delighted to see that Eugenia was once again our guide. She had asked the agency to switch her assignments as she had so enjoyed our company in Sevastapol. First stop was the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, then on to the Livadia Palace. It was built in 1911 as a summer residence for Czar Nicholas II and Alexandra and their children but, sadly, they were only able to visit on four occasions before they were assassinated. However, it is full of photographs and drawings from their time there. In February 1945 it was used as the site of the Yalta Conference, attended by Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill. Roosevelt was, by then, a sick man, and was allowed to stay at the palace. From there we drove to the Vorontsov Palace, where Churchill stayed during the conference. This is a beautiful palace, built in the English style, with wood panelling. The gardens, extending down to the sea, are breathtaking. We continued on to the Swallow's Nest, a spectacular neo-Gothic castle perched high on a cliff overlooking the Black Sea. We stopped at a restaurant there, "Elena", where lunch on the terrace presented a perfect photo opportunity. We arrived back at the port at 3 and paid for all our tours at the office there. The next day was spent cruising the Bosphorus in the morning and the Dardanelles in the afternoon. The Cruise Director, Dottie, provided a live commentary as we passed sites, such as the Anzac memorial at Gallipolli. Kusadasi, Turkey: I had visited Ephesus before, so was happy to join others on a private tour from Sisan Tours to two villages in the hills. Our first stop was to Kirazli, where we visited the mosque and private houses, about 150 years old. The village children were attending Koran school and we were allowed to enter and became part of a lesson. The children were delighted to practice their limited English and ask questions about our respective countries. We, in turn, were able to have the opportunity to learn more about their village life, through our interpreter. We stopped for tea/coffee at a typical "Men only" cafe, then drove on to a Locomotive Museum. This was more interesting than I had expected, as it was a train graveyard for all the original 100 year old locomotives  (Stephenson and others) all set out in beautifully landscaped gardens. 'Health and Safety' hadn't reached here yet, and we were able to clamber all over these amazing engines, like kids. We continued to Sirince Village, visiting the orthodox church, before enjoying a meze-style lunch, being cooked, while we waited, over an open fire. We also sampled the local yogurt-based drink Ayran, which is an acquired taste. After lunch we browsed in the local market and sampled the local fruit wines. While we drove back to the ship, our lovely young guide serenaded us with Turkish folk songs. Santorini, Greece: This was a tender port and, unfortunately, there were four ships anchored that day. Who arranges these things? The wait for the cable car took 45 minutes, so I abandoned my plans to take a bus to Oia. The last tender left at 3.30 so I thought it safer to stay in Fira but the attractive little town was packed solid. I met others from the ship and, together, we walked to the next village, Firastefani, which was very pretty and afforded many photo opportunities. The queue for the cable car on our return was just as bad, so we decided to walk down. This was not easy, as one had to concentrate on avoiding the 'presents' the donkeys had left us, as well as the donkeys themselves, while staying upright. The aroma wasn't Chanel, either. We bought some souvenirs and returned to the ship. The next day we docked in Piraeus. I have visited Athens before, so decided to share a minivan to the airport, immediately upon disembarkation. There were 9 of us and it worked out at only $18 per person. We were the last to leave the ship at 9 am, so it was quick and easy to locate our suitcases. Unfortunately, the British Airways desks were not opening until 11 am, so there was a lot of hanging around. By then, of course, we were all one big jolly family, so it didn't matter too much. Summary: This was a fascinating itinerary and I would recommend anyone who is interested in European history to try it. Everyone has their favourite lines, and I don't think it would make much difference with whom you chose to travel. I, personally, prefer the small ships as I find them more conducive to forming friendships. Obviously, if you're travelling with a partner or friends, this is less of an issue. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
My husband and I are 38 years old, and this is only our second cruise. Our first was on RCI to Alaska. I had researched NCL extensively before booking so we had few surprises. We chose this cruise because of the itinerary (Istanbul, ... Read More
My husband and I are 38 years old, and this is only our second cruise. Our first was on RCI to Alaska. I had researched NCL extensively before booking so we had few surprises. We chose this cruise because of the itinerary (Istanbul, Izmir, Dubrovnik, Athens, Venice, Naples, Rome, Barcelona)and the price. RCI was the only other line to come close to the price of NCL, but we couldn't get quite the same ports or the dates we needed. We made our own air travel arrangements since we don't live near a major airport. We flew through Chicago O'Hare to London Heathrow to Istanbul on American Airlines. Everything went smoothly although we did have a very tight connection in London and had to run. AA fed us several times and it was all palatable - on the leg from London to Istanbul it was actually quite good. We arrived in Istanbul on time after 18 hours. We found NCL reps at the airport and could have taken the ship's shuttle and had it charged to our account, but we chose to take a taxi. Quite an experience! As good as a roller coaster ride! We made it to the port and were able to embark quickly and easily. I had filled out all our paperwork on the NCL website beforehand. No one helped us after we boarded, but we really didn't pause to ask. We knew where our stateroom was and went straight to it. It was neatly made up and ready for us. We had a balcony stateroom on Deck 10. Compared to RCI, it was smaller. However it was perfectly adequate for our needs. We had plenty of room to put away our things and stow our luggage. The ship was originally built to cruise in Hawaii and still has tropical colors and decorations. We had a king-size bed with a duvet and lots of pillows, a loveseat, small coffeetable, corner unit with TV above and small desk below, a dressing table area with lighted mirror and blow dryer, fridge, shelves, safe, lighted closet, and bathroom with shower, sink, and toilet. The bathroom was a little too cramped for us. When sitting on the toilet, your knees almost touched the wall. The shower was rectangular and had no bench or seat, so it was impossible for me to shave my legs in it. I did like the showerhead with removable sprayer. One other complaint or suggestion - on RCI they had an interactive channel on the TV where you could check your shipboard account balance and details. NCL didn't offer anything like this, and we did miss it. It's easy to run up your tab without realizing it. We explored the ship that evening. I really enjoyed the layout and decor of the Jade. It has all these little nooks and crannies, and rooms with different atmospheres. No matter if you want to socialize, lurk, or be alone there's somewhere suited for it. I loved the crazy furniture in the lounges. There are two main dining rooms, Alizar and Grand Pacific, and multiple specialty restaurants, as well as the buffet and Blue Lagoon. The ship did not usually seem crowded at all, until about 6:00. Then everyone was trying to get into one of the free dining areas at once. We found the activities to be plentiful. I heard some people complaining about not having enough to do, but I can't imagine what else they wanted. There was live music all over the ship every afternoon and evening. All the lounge singers that we heard were high quality. There were classes and lectures, trivia games and bingo, tennis, basketball, and pingpong, Wii games somewhere (I never did find them). There was a room for playing board games and cards, a very well stocked library, pools and hot tubs - and if you were feeling really lazy, there was usually a pretty good movie on the TV. We left our kids at home on this trip, so I can't say anything about the kids' activities. However, there was a special area just for kids in the buffet room, with small tables and chairs, and kid favorites on a separate buffet. We had our son with us on the RCI cruise (he was 2 1/2) and this would have been great. I don't think there were a lot of children on board the Jade, due to the time of year. The shows that we saw were pretty good. We especially enjoyed a husband and wife acrobatic team that had been with Cirque yds. There was a British comedian that cracked me up. The final show with crew members showing their talents ended with a really funny skit which paid homage to all the lovely Greek and Roman statues and fountains we had seen. I saw Second City twice; the first time they were really "on", the next time was a little dull. Service all over the ship was a bit slow. The bar staff were the quickest and most helpful. However, there seemed to be more of them per guest than there were restaurant servers. The dining rooms were always backed up and it took an hour and a half to get through a meal once you were able to get seated. NCL needs to work on getting diners in and out more efficiently. The waitstaff seemed to have too many tables to tend at once. One guest commented that too much square footage was spent on restaurants with service charges, which few people were making use of. Perhaps NCL should reexamine the use of space for free dining since the majority of passengers go that route. Our cabin stewards kept our room cleaned, but you could tell they had too many rooms to make up. They seldom had time for the little extra touches, like towel creatures. We didn't take any shore excursions with NCL - they were simply too expensive. We were able to sightsee on our own much cheaper. One major complaint here is that NCL did not provide any port information for people who wanted to go out on their own. It seemed like they were trying to herd us into their shore excursions. They didn't have maps, or directions to public transportation, or information about sights in the various ports. For instance, at Piraeus the Freestyle Daily plainly said the ship would provide a free shuttle to the Metro station. However, they only shuttled us to the port entrance and abandoned us. It was another two miles to the Metro station, and then we had to figure out which train to take to get into Athens from Piraeus. To be fair, this was a new itinerary for the Jade. It may have been that they just hadn't gathered the info yet and will have it in the future. It would certainly be helpful to be able to pick up a detailed map and a train and bus schedule before hitting port, so you could plan your day. Thank goodness for Rick Steves! The food onboard was from good to mediocre. The best thing I had the entire cruise was the escargot appetizer in Les Bistro. Cagney's was good, but no better than, say, Outback Steakhouse. The entrees I had at Papa's Italian were extremely bland. Paniolo's was good, but we have better Tex-Mex at home. The main dining rooms tended towards blandness as well, with food sometimes being overcooked - my lobster tail was completely inedible. The buffet always had something I liked, and Blue Lagoon was good too. We didn't try any of the Asian restaurants. The iced tea was twice too strong and I pretty much drank water with my meals. It would be nice if they offered lemonade or fruit punch as an alternative at lunch and dinner. The coffee was quite good. The sailing was smooth for most of the trip, but from Rome to Barcelona we hit rough seas with 12-18 foot waves and high winds. I thought the ship rode pretty smoothly, but even so we were rocking and rolling. Quite a few people got seasick the last sea day. We were getting spray on our tenth floor balcony. Exhilarating! When we disembarked in Barcelona, we had to make our own way to the airport for an early flight. One of the crew voluntarily hauled our luggage to a taxi for us and helped us get loaded. The taxi driver seriously over charged us, but that's another story! Overall, we had tremendous fun. The weather was beautiful at every port except Venice, the ship was lovely, we had more than we needed to eat and drink, and plenty to do. It was hard to come home and go back to cooking and cleaning - with no room service or midnight buffet! There are some areas NCL needs to improve - primarily service and food. But we actually have few complaints. We knew what we were getting when we picked this cruise, and we don't require being waited on hand and foot. I hope we get the chance to review another cruise soon. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
We found the Norwegian Jade to be a clean and nicely furnished ship Except for it's huge size, which did make it a bit unmanageable for our slightly handicapped companion,it was well equipped, the staterooms were lovely and clean, the ... Read More
We found the Norwegian Jade to be a clean and nicely furnished ship Except for it's huge size, which did make it a bit unmanageable for our slightly handicapped companion,it was well equipped, the staterooms were lovely and clean, the bathrooms were very nice and we were only in the standard ocean view rooms. However, everything included a service charge/gratuity even the bottle of water in the stateroom. The amount added was 18%. As a warning 18% is also added to all spa services and all drinks in the bar. This in addition to $10 per day service charge seems excessive. We were told (too late) by other cruisers that you are allowed to refuse the $10 charge and that the service charge is not divided amongst crew members. Had we known this we would have tipped our room steward more generously. In addition we did not like not having assigned dinner times and seatings. Instead the lines for the dining rooms are long (except for the ones with additional cover charges and those rooms were pretty empty) and you are handed a pager just like your last experience at Applebees...and it can take just as long to be seated. The dining room staff seems overwhelmed and are unsmiling and unfriendly. The destinations on this cruise were wonderful although the offered shore excursions were very pricey. It was easy enough to arrange a duplicate tour at the dock for 1/4th the price. We had experienced a transatlantic cruise on the Fred Olsen, Balmoral in April 08 and the difference between a smaller ship and a large one was incredible. Bigger is not always better. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
This was our 6th cruise, and the first one with NCL. I was not sure if we would like the freestyle dinning. We have always enjoyed formal nights and our seat mates on other cruises. We did for the most part enjoy it greatly. Dinning ... Read More
This was our 6th cruise, and the first one with NCL. I was not sure if we would like the freestyle dinning. We have always enjoyed formal nights and our seat mates on other cruises. We did for the most part enjoy it greatly. Dinning rooms. Our favorite was the Grand Pacific. The food and service where usually very good. The Bistro was very good. We ate at Papa's Italian Kitchen one night. Would NOT recommend that. The lobster ravioli, could have came out of a can, rubber and tasteless. State room. We had a mini suite on the 11th floor. Loved it! Didn't want to leave it! We slept with the door open every night. It was great to hear the waves. We felt very little motion, even though we where near the front of the ship. Our state room attendant was the worst we have had on a cruise (only because we have had such great service in the past) The first day the room wasn't clean until dinner time. We had to repeatedly ask for coffee, lotion, etc. He seemed to have to many rooms to clean. It did seem to get better later in the trip though, and I expect it will continue to improve. Shows. We though most of them where pretty good. Ports. IZIMIR - we had a private tour in a mini bus, with 4 other couples. One of the other couples booked it over the internet. Private tours are absolutely the way to go. MYKONONS - We rented a 4wheeler for 15 euro for the day (near the bus stop) and off we went! It was great. No traffic to speak of, and easy to get around. SANTORINI - beware of the donkeys! They are very stubborn and difficult to get moving. However 2/3rds of the way up my husband's donkey turned around and started racing down the hill. The saddle came off and he was thrown from it. Luckily he was only bruised, and not thrown over the cliff. EGYPT - Again we had a private tour with 3 other couples. We used Nile Blue, and where very satisfied with them. We spent the first long day in Cario, went back to the ship overnight, and the second day in Alexandria. I was glad we did that, as we really enjoyed the scenery and thought the catacombs where really interesting. KATAKOLON - we took the train into Olympia. It cost 3euro round trip and was a very short walk to and from the tiny little train station. Would highly recommend the train. We spent 3 days in Istanbul. We stayed near the Blue Mosque, and walked to everything. really enjoyed it. We also spent 3 days in Athens, and really enjoyed that. We stayed at the Amazon hotel. Great location, very basic room. I would definitely go on an NCL cruise in the future. Read Less
Sail Date April 2008
We flew into Frankfurt from San Francisco and then to Istanbul. We stayed at the Four Seasons for one night and loved the hotel. The girls hired a professional shopper gal for about 5 hrs. in the morning and took us on a wonderful walking ... Read More
We flew into Frankfurt from San Francisco and then to Istanbul. We stayed at the Four Seasons for one night and loved the hotel. The girls hired a professional shopper gal for about 5 hrs. in the morning and took us on a wonderful walking tour through the bazaar and other areas. It had been 8 years since we have been on the Wind Star so we kinda new what to expect. We did a 14 day double cruise this time rather than the 7 days as before. Upon arrival everything went well and the check in went rather smoothly even though we got there the same time a "tuck" group got there at the same time. Our cabin was what we expected as have been there before but still it is so small when compared to other lines we have been on like Crystal and Oceania. As we set sail we were surprised at how run down the ship was. They were getting ready to completely remodel the ship and it was very obvious that they were not going to spend any money and keeping the appearance in first class manor. All the woodwork needed re-finishing and rust was very apparent throughout the ship. Our first port was Kusadasi, then in order Rhodes, Bodrum, Santonrini, Mykonos, and then Athens. We loved all these ports. WE did Kusadasi, Rodes, Bodrum, and Santorini on our own. We rented a car in Santorini and toured the whole island. My advise would be to get off the ship as early as possible as it is a nightmare to get on the tram with all the other cruise ship passengers. Took well over an hour standing in line. Our first tour from the ship was in Mykonos to the island of Delos. We had a great guide and loved the trip. Very windy so bring a wind breaker. About 80% of ship passengers got off at the port in Athens. We rented a taxi to take us into Athens and would recommend that rather than the train as it is so much faster and worth the extra money. We had been in Athens 3 times before so we shopped and had a great lunch. Would recommend having lunch in all the ports of call as you can go to small local restaurants and pubs and experience the local food and wines. Our next week our stopping ports were Nalplion, Gythion, Messina, Amalfi,Ponza, and the ending in Rome. We have been to these ports before and loved them. Recommend going to the Diros Caves in Gythion. It is NOT on the cruise line agenda, don't even mention them, and they are truly unbelievable. Took a local taxi to the caves and recommend using them not the bus. The bus stays for ever and the taxi again is well worth the extra money. Had a great local fish lunch after the caves. You can Google the Diros Caves. Out of Messina we took the tour to Taormina and loved the little city. The tour was only 4 hours and we could have spent the day as it is a great little city and did not have time to see it after the touring the Ruins. We loved Amalfi and would go back and use the city as a base. The ship advertised boats going to Capri at 9:30, 10:30, and 11:30 so we thought we would walk the little town in the morning and take a later boat. When we got to the dock we found out that they cancelled the later boats 2 weeks ago as the season had ended. The ship should have known this. So no Capri. The last port, Ponza, was not worth the stop. Nothing and I mean nothing there. It would have been much better to stop in Capri. Have no idea why they stop there and all the other passengers agreed. Over all the ports were great and the couple of sea days were wonderful. Now for the cruising experience. Wind Star advertises as a 4 and 5 star cruise line. They are anything but that. The ship is run down, the rooms are small, and the food barely pass's as average. The breakfast buffet is good and the lunch's are very good but who has time to eat lunch when in port. We love to eat lunch at the local ports. The dinner's were truly bad. I could go into more detail but it would take way to much time. They were just bad. The wine list barely pass's as being a "fair" rating. We ended up buying some very good local wines and took advantage of the $15 corkage charge. What made this trip truly enjoyable was the service and help. They are all well trained and truly great. I cannot emphasize enough how wonderful the service is. The tipping policy is $22.00 per day per couple and then an additional 18% added on for bar drinks and wine service. We did additional tipping to the help as the employees and service were the best of the best. It will be a long time until we do another Wind Star. Fourteen days in that small room was just a little to much and then looking forward to a poor dinner was not much fun after the first week. Read Less
Sail Date September 2007
We, (my husband and I aged 56 and 55 respectively) originally booked the NCL Jewel cruise because we liked the itinerary. We have previously sailed on the QE2 and so were unsure how "Freestyle" cruising would suit us. From ... Read More
We, (my husband and I aged 56 and 55 respectively) originally booked the NCL Jewel cruise because we liked the itinerary. We have previously sailed on the QE2 and so were unsure how "Freestyle" cruising would suit us. From Heathrow to Istanbul (remind me never to fly from HR again!) onward to Izmir for Ephesus, Dubrovnik, Venice, Naples, Rome and Barcelona. We flew back to the UK from Barcelona. First impressions were good - the ship looked colorful and huge. Embarkation was fine and our cabin (inside on deck 9) though quite small, was adequate and clean. The bed was comfortable and suited us although we had to request additional softer pillows. The shower was powerful and spacious and although other critiques had said the hairdryers on the ship were powerful, I was not convinced they would be - I thought they would be those silly little piped in dyers you get in some hotel rooms. However, the dryer was great - almost professional!! Small things make me happy...... There was also a launderette on our floor and I think, a couple more dotted about on the ship. Four quarters for soap powder and then free use of washing machine and dryer - there were also 2 x irons and boards. The launderette rooms are small and always busy - pick a shore day to use. Customer base ranged from families - there were quite a few teenagers and a couple of dozen younger children - to couples of all ages. I was really quite surprised by the average age profile - younger than I expected. There seemed to be many different nationalities on board but mainly Americans and Brits. Staff - fantastic. Friendly, efficient, professional. Lounges and bars - Bar City was a nice place for pre dinner drinks. Quiet and in a position to watch the comings and goings of our fellow passengers. It got a bit more buzzy after dinner and when the shows were finished. Never went to Fizz, the Karaoke bar but the Star Bar was OK. The Spinnaker lounge seemed to be where it all happened later in the evening. We went a couple of times and enjoyed the 60's music night. Entertainment - We never went to the theater to see the shows. Not our kind of thing - reports ranged from excellent to abysmal - personal taste I suppose. The individual entertainers and bands dotted around the ship in other lounges were professional and very good. Restaurants - There's always more to restaurants than the food but the main free restaurants, Tsars Palace and Azura were fine. Tsars was impressive in a Hollywood sort of way - lots of glitz, big and noisy. Azura was more contemporary, smaller and noisy. We tried a few of the optional restaurants. I felt The Bistro was pretentious, nicely fitted but kidding itself on that it was a quality restaurant. Cagneys - we had the best steak ever there and went back a second time. Sushi was good and the chefs were happy to advise. Tepannyaki, the Japanese restaurant is worth a visit to enjoy the entertainment provided by the chefs. Mama's Italian place always seemed to be busy but we managed to get in one night and it was disappointing. We couldn't get in the main restaurant and so sat on the deck outside at what was The Great Outdoors through the day so maybe we didn't get the full experience and atmosphere. Speaking of The Great Outdoors - it was, for us, the best place for lunch and/or afternoon tea. The Food - apart from Cagney's, Teppanyaki and Sushi, was average - up-market canteen food of which there was a huge quantity, which is not a bad thing necessarily - they are catering for thousands of people after all but don't expect haute cuisine. Most of the food was pre-processed - for instance in the majority of the restaurants, all the chicken, veal, lamb, steaks etc came with those stripes on them that are supposed to be barbecue grill marks. Yeah right. I was looking forward to some great puddings - New York cheesecake etc, again all was pre-prepared and the cheesecake was like marshmallow with sponge base. - not my taste. However, all were nicely presented with drizzles of coulis and flakes of chocolate. Breakfast, however, in The Garden Cafe was superb. Lots of fresh fruit, cereals, freshly made to order omelettes, waffles, pastries, bacon, sausages, hash browns, beans, cream cheese, pickled herring. You say it - the buffet probably had it! Something for everyone and well presented. Drinks - Iced water on the ship was free at cafes and restaurants. Half liter bottles of water were around $3.60. Some drinks were expensive - cheapest wine for instance was around $7.50 a glass for, I think, 125ml. The cheapest bottle of wine averaged $32 and rose to $00's. Cocktails could work out cheaper but not many were mixed by the barman - many came from pre packed cartons. The champagne cocktails were good! Spa - I only went once - on a ship day when there was a special on offer - 3 x treatments for $99. Hot stone massage, neck and shoulder massage and foot and ankle massage. It was very relaxing. The spa treatment rooms are great. Lots of aromatherapy candles, tinkling music and birdsong, plants, low lighting and fluffy towels. Elemis products. Summary - we had a great value for money holiday with no real complaints, but not necessarily one we would repeat soon. Lots of comments on board about NCL trying to get you to part with ever more money (soft drinks, cost of excursions, photos, extra cost for certain restaurants) and I would agree to a certain extent, but you don't need to spend it. Read Less
Sail Date July 2007
We just got off the ship today for the 12 day cruise from Istanbul to Barcelona. I had done quite a bit of research before the cruise on this website, so I thought I´d return the favor and write this review. It is our second cruise with ... Read More
We just got off the ship today for the 12 day cruise from Istanbul to Barcelona. I had done quite a bit of research before the cruise on this website, so I thought I´d return the favor and write this review. It is our second cruise with NCL. We first cruised with the Majesty in the Caribbean quite a few years ago. We booked our cruise only a few days before the sailing date. Embarkation was a breeze. No line ups for us as we are Latitude members. We opt to use the ´Express Debarkation´ option (aka with minimum luggage) and carried our own luggage off the ship. That was really nice, as we had until 9:30 am to do so. The ship is huge, and very new. We had a balcony stateroom on deck 9 forward. We loved the room. We felt the engine vibration when dining at the Cagney´s steakhouse which is located on deck 13 Aft. But in our room, we felt nothing. Things we liked about the ship: - Specialty restaurant booking system has changed. 48 hour advanced booking is the system, with free cancellation by 5pm at the day of the reservation. This includes the specialty restaurants that impose no fee (Mama´s, Tango, Blue Lagoon) as well. We normally did the reservation the day before, and we did not have any trouble making the reservations on the day we wanted. Happy hours on Cagney´s, Le Bistro, and Chin Chin still exist. - Fitness center is great. There are free ´Healthy Abs´ classes once in a while, and Kirsty is a great instructor. - There are Launderettes on decks 5, 9, 10, and 11. Free of charge, except it costs U$1 for a box of soap. The capacity is a bit small though, but there are three of them on each floor. - They were happy to remove the content out of our minibar in the stateroom, so we can use it for cold water and drinks. - There were vegetarian Indian food available at the Garden Cafe. Only two selections per meal, but pretty tasty. - They never took away the wine we bought from the ports, regardless if the X-ray machines were used or not! So it was quite nice to have a glass of Italian wine on our balcony without paying the expensive prices. Things that could have been better: - There were two rowing machines in the center. One was under maintenance the whole trip, while the second one went into maintenance mode half way through the trip. - Food Tango is really a Tex Mex restaurant. And it is the restaurant we enjoyed the most for the closeness to the cuisine it advertised. Mama´s is the worst restaurant we went to. We were expecting a somewhat true Italian cuisine but Mama´s is a true American Italian roadhouse food, with thick sauces and heavily salted. Cagney´s has got nice steak. Do try the Mocha Creme Brulee. Awesome! Avoid any hot soup offered at the Garden Cafe, or at the main dining rooms. Or expect to get a soup that doesn´t taste like what it sound. For example, chicken broth tasted more like mass marketed beef broth made from cheap beef cubes, Tom Yum soup had no fish sauce or lemongrass taste to them.. and the list goes on. They do have fresh jalapeno chilis offered during lunch at the sandwich station. They also have tobasco sauce. The majority of the food is really not spicy at all. We heard other passengers commenting that they thought the quality of the food went down hill from their previous NCL cruises. Minor annoyances Italian trains were on strike on the day we arrived in Civitavecchia, which is 1 hour by train to Rome, or 1 hour 40 minutes by bus. We went to Tarquinia which is 15 minutes by bus north of the port, and it was a great visit. Check it out if you want to avoid the crowds in Rome. All in all, it was a nice cruise. Be prepared to pay some money for specialty restaurants, and don´t have your expectation too high for the main dining room food. Read Less
Sail Date June 2007
NCL Jewel 9/15-27/2006 We arrived in Istanbul 2 days prior to sailing. We stayed in the lovely Sari Konak and enjoyed the breakfast spread that was included with the room. The inn was well maintained, clean , excellent and very helpful ... Read More
NCL Jewel 9/15-27/2006 We arrived in Istanbul 2 days prior to sailing. We stayed in the lovely Sari Konak and enjoyed the breakfast spread that was included with the room. The inn was well maintained, clean , excellent and very helpful staff and the best location for seeing the area attractions. We walked everywhere and found the historic Sultanahmet to be safe and easy to navigate with some help and a map. The Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace are not to be missed. We didn't stop for 2 days! The harbor is one of the busiest and most exciting we have ever seen. Just mesmerizing to watch the heavy traffic pass majestically by. We enjoyed every minute of Istanbul. Boarding was set to start at 1:00, but we arrived around noon. The lines hadn't really started to form at check in so we breezed thru and were in our Penthouse, #9000, in minutes. Soon after, we met our butler, Karan. A very nice person who was available to take care of the little things that make a cruise really special. I'm missing him now and the appetizers delivered around 5:30 each day. We had been on the Jewel last Sept.2005, we are happy to report that she looks just as beautiful now as she did a year ago. In fact , we decided to just stay on that day to enjoy and relax and watch the harbor rather than try to go back into Istanbul. The Jewel was in port over night. We ate dinner at La Bistro. One of our favorites! We had a wonderful Cruise Critic gathering with 26 in attendance and 6 of the ship's staff including our captain. We met in Maltings after sail away. It was fun to put faces with screen names! Thanks to all who attended. The next morning we were docked at Izmir and soon on the tour bus to Ephesus. It's a fairly compact site and the day we were there extremely crowded. We had a guide who enlightened us on the way of life and history of the area. The biggest challenge was to take pictures that were not filled with the hoards of people. In spite of that, we enjoyed the site and had a great time. At Mykonos we opted for the tour to Delos. This site was more open and spread out so the crowds didn't seem to bother us as much. Our guide was able to steer us away from some of the rush and that made it so much nicer. A not to be missed site but be warned&the museum is not open on Monday and the cave of Hercules is probably going to be too far to hike in the time you are there. We were disappointed by that! And, wear a hat and sunscreen and carry water. Santorini is beautiful. Again we encountered many ships at anchor with us and too many people. This day we did not take a ship tour. We opted to hire a guide upon arrival with some CC friends. The town of Fira is 1,000 feet up from the base where the tender drops you off. There are 3 options for reaching the top: cable car, donkey or walking. Don't walk if you aren't in really good shape! I need to also mention that the donkeys also use this cobble stone walk so lots of droppings to avoid and smells to endure¬ to mention dodging donkeys!!! We used the cable car to go up and no line since we were among the first off the ship. Coming down was a different story. Seems everyone wanted to leave at the same time and the line for the cable was huge. We walked. It took about 20-30 minutes of moving pretty fast and being careful of our footing. It was not something I'd want to do again. We decided that it would be impossible to take a bad picture of Santorini. Just a wonderful place, beautiful towns and even some nice red wine. We enjoyed the island in spite of the crowds and would do it all again. Next we were docking at Iraklion, the capitol of Crete. Again we opted not to take a ship tour. Mainly because this cruise itinerary was so active we felt we'd need a down day. We negotiated a taxi and went straight to the museum. It's not a huge one but very well done. We ran into The History Chanel's team filming a segment for Digging for the Truth with Josh Bernstein. Since we were about the only people who recognized him, and we stood there to watch for quite a while, he came over to talk with us and give us autographed pictures. Nice man and easy to look at! The show should air late Jan 2007. From there we walked to the shopping area and wandered up and down the streets full of small shops and markets. Then, found a taxi and returned back to the ship. A day at sea!!! Finally! Yea! The port of Alexandria is really beautiful. It's all new. The circle drive was filled with busses and taxis were waiting. Again, we opted to hire a private tour for Cairo, the first day and Alexandria, the second. We did this prior to leaving home. There are lots of registered tour companies to choose from. We were met by our driver and Egyptologist and headed out for the 3 hour drive to Cairo. We were stunned by the conditions of the city, the crowded living conditions and the trash in the streets. Do go to see the pyramids, the museum and several other sites of interest. We had tried to go to the bazaar but were turned away by police due to some danger in the area. With such unsettled times don't try to do anything in Egypt without a guide. We were boarded on the first class train for our return to the ship. In Alexandria we were met by our driver and taken back to the port. The next morning we were met by our driver and a different Egyptologist. We toured the Catacombs, Roman Amphitheater and new library. All of these are not to be missed. We lunched at the Fish Market and had a great view of the old harbor where the Great Lighthouse once stood at the opening. A very enjoyable day. The popular opinion was glad we came to Egypt but probably won't return. Another well deserved day at sea to relax and enjoy the ship! We docked in Corfu and walked to town. Again let me warn you that the museum wasn't open on Monday! We found out the hard way. Several ship tours are offered we opted not to do them. We just spent the day taking in the sites of the town. A nice way to spend any day! We docked in Katakolon. It would be easy to walk to the small town and enjoy the shopping but this day we did take a ship tour. We visited the site of the Olympic Games. We arrived after a 40 minute bus ride thru the countryside. Again we were met by lots of busses from other ships and large crowds. Once inside the site groups dispersed and it was easy to move around thru the ruins and enjoy the area. Since it's spread out and not easy to know what you are viewing, we thought a guide was important. She talked all the way to the site and part of the way back. That was before most of us dozed off. With an itinerary this intense it's hard not to get worn down. Sadly the cruise came to an end at Piraeus (Athens) Greece. We felt this trip was a once in a lifetime itinerary. We enjoyed every minute! I noticed it will be offered again next year on the Jewel. You won't be disappointed if you decide to book it. We spent 2 days in Athens and stayed at the Electra Palace and just loved the place and the location. The Acropolis is under serious restoration. You have to work to get good photos and no cranes. The museum on the property is lovely. We toured on our own here and were glad we did. We arrived about 8:30 and as we were leaving the tours were arriving. It's much nicer to see it all without the crowds. Things I learned:2 times laundry was offered for $ 25 a bag - rolling allows for more room in the bag. Washers & dryers & irons are available on several floors. Butler and Concierge services are wonderful! Freestyle is the best way to travel! Reading the CC boards is essential! Read Less
Sail Date September 2006

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