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13 Istanbul to Europe - Western Mediterranean Cruise Reviews

This was our first cruise and aside from a few minor complaints, it was amazing. We booked a transfer from the airport directly with Celebrity and it went very smoothly with the Celebrity representatives at the airport extremely easy to ... Read More
This was our first cruise and aside from a few minor complaints, it was amazing. We booked a transfer from the airport directly with Celebrity and it went very smoothly with the Celebrity representatives at the airport extremely easy to find. Embarkation took maybe 5 minutes at most and we were on the ship. The concierge class room we were in was a great size and the balcony with chairs and foot stools was perfect. The bathroom had all the amenities you'd need and the shower was especially nice. One of the perks with concierge is the afternoon snacks and we managed to get both a fruit and cheese plate every day which were nice touches. Our stateroom attendants did an excellent job making up and turning down our room and it was always spotless. The only real minor complaint we had was with some of the dining options. On the first day, we were hounded at every meal about drink packages but thankfully that stopped after the first day. The buffet was slightly inconsistent in that some days they had an amazing selection but then on other days it offered plain, bland and boring food. However, the dessert selection was always amazing and I'm surprised I didn't put on more weight than I did. We also tried the Tuscan Grill which was pretty good overall but they brought my steak out well done when I ordered it medium and service was a little on the slow side. The other issue we had is that we were billed at full price but were supposed to get 20% off which took a couple days to get corrected but it was corrected in the end. The dining wasn't terrible by any means but Celebrity is supposed to be known for having amazing food and we were just let down somewhat on a couple days. The entertainment was well done overall. We only ended up seeing two shows but both were excellent. Especially the Tenors of Rock. The hot glass show was also very interesting and I managed to win a bowl that they give away after every show. We didn't use the spa or fitness area but took a walk through and they looked nice. The pools were almost empty pretty much every day after 5 or 6 PM which was nice if you wanted to take a dip when it wasn't crowded. However, it was pretty chaotic after 9 or 10 AM on sea days. The ports were very good overall. Mykonos was beautiful and the ruins on Delos were very cool. Everything about Malta was gorgeous and I'd go back there in a heartbeat. We did the Taormina on your own Celebrity excursion and were slightly disappointed but that was mostly because we aren't big shoppers and that's almost exclusively what you do in that town. The Mt. Vesuvius hike and Pompeii tour was amazing and we were glad we did that. The only downside was the stop at the cameo factory which wasn't that interesting at all. I'd rather have the extra 30 mins at Pompeii than get stuck there. The only downside is that the guide we had during our Vesuvius and Pompeii excursion was somewhat lazy and didn't even count everyone all the time. I'm surprised we didn't leave anyone behind at one of the stops. Disembarkation was fairly smooth. There was just a slight wait after getting off the ship at Civitivecchia for the shuttle to the port entrance but overall we were very happy and would do it again in a heartbeat. Read Less
Sail Date June 2016
The interior designers of the ship deserve an A+ rating. They really gave great thought in details. Tastefully decorated decor, many secluded comfortable areas to relax and enjoy the surrounding, read a book or take a snooze. Never over ... Read More
The interior designers of the ship deserve an A+ rating. They really gave great thought in details. Tastefully decorated decor, many secluded comfortable areas to relax and enjoy the surrounding, read a book or take a snooze. Never over crowded. The ship had a smooth, steady sailing motion, even during fairly rough waters. However, the shipbuilders must have underestimated the negative affect of the huge "ducktail" added aft of the ship. Although it supposedly helps the efficiency of the ship, it developed a terrible "bouncing" vibration, possibly created by waves from the propelling force hitting underneath the ducktail. Especially annoying when dining on the Aquavit Terrace or World Cafe or trying to sleep at night. Why wasn't this design defect noticed and corrected during the trial runs? Noticeably in most areas, Viking is going through a learning curve to become a leader in ocean cruises. We felt many times that we were the Guinea pigs helping the crew improve their areas of responsibility. Viking should have offered an "introductory price" to their maiden voyage passengers to first learn and improve from their initial mishaps. Viking is known for serving regional specialties when arriving at a new port. Dubrovnik, known for oysters, or offering at dinner time Sangria and Papaya in Barcelona or even a shot of Uso or Raki in Greece and Turkey would have been the icing on the cake. Mentioning this suggestion to the restaurant director for future reference fell on deaf ears with no response given. Every visit to the Chef's Table was a delight and we were pleased being served by Michael who definitely belongs to the most knowledgeable servers there. In general, the "working crew" was more attentative to the passengers and gave their full attention to individual needs than most of their supervisors. I found some supervisors arrogant and non committal (NOT all of them). At busy dining moments when waiters were scrabbling taking new orders cleaning off tables and resetting the service, a helping hand from the stripped supervisors would have been useful instead of wondering around in circles looking tense! At one point only plastic wine glasses were available in the restaurant. Agreed, for outdoor use around the pools they are practical and necessary. However, during lunch and dinner we prefer to drink our wines from real glasses. We were assured the glasses would be replenished from their storage, but it never happened and the excuse was too many broke or got lost. The Viking catalogue description of land tours was often misleading. We normally booked all the "included" tours and just wanted to get a general overview of the ports of call listed on the cruise. Stopping at Athens we surely expected to get a close view of the pinnacle Acropolis. Instead the bus traveled through busy, narrow downtown streets (we could have also done in NYC!) pointing out a few attractions, but the view blocked by parking busses, until finally stopping at a parking lot 5-700 yards below the Acropolis. The guide gave us 30 minutes to walk up the hill, look around, take pictures and return if we wanted a closer view. I think a marathon runner would have had problems meeting that requirement. We come to Athens to SEE the Acropolis, but not through a telescope and trees blocking our view. Total disappointment and waste of time. The included tour of Naples was a disgrace of Italy. A dirty, rundown, graffiti ladened city. Had we been informed earlier about the city conditions (by Viking?), we would have definitely opted to visit Pompeii instead. The French Riviera offers so many other beautiful small towns, Nice, Antibes, St. Tropes, Cannes, but Viking opted to stop at Toulon, which didn't seem too appealing to most passengers. In Vikings defense the smaller Riviera towns may not allow or be capable of docking and handling cruise ships? The absolute joyful stops we made in our opinion were, ancient Ephesus, Santorini (more time would have been nice when visiting Oia), Kotor, Dubrovnic, Venice, Split, Corfu, Rom, Pisa (although many passengers assumed Florence was included too on the tour after reading the Viking catalogue), Monaco (absolutely spotless and beautiful and the tour perfectly organized) and Barcelona. The Barcelona Disembarking Instructions were delivered to the cabins 5-6 days in advance. Most passengers read the instruction details only a few days before disembarking then noticed a discrepancy in the departing date, resulting in confusion and discussions. To clarify the date I talked to one of the kind ladies at the Explorer desk who said they were fully aware of the mistake "that an old lady wrote!" The lady called her cabin supervisor to clarify the situation. His response to me was "don't you also make mistakes?" YES, everyone does, but why wasn't a correction memo sent out to everyone as soon as Viking discovered the mistake? The supervisor looked befuddled at me and shook his shoulders? Furthermore, passengers were to meet at terminal "10", however the busses were staged at terminal "C"! Terminal 10 is non-existent! In closing, I have always found Viking to be fair in their dealings. Therefore, I was hoping and waiting for Viking to come through with something special after saving a tremendous amount of fuel costs from initial booking date in 2013 vs. actual sailing date late 2015. During this time period gas prices dropped an easy $1.25/gal. I'm sure, had it been the opposite way, passengers would have been confronted with a fuel surcharge fee. Read Less
Sail Date October 2015
This was a very lovely cruise with wonderful attentive staff. The entertainment was not great. It was Broadway reviews almost every night. It would have been nice to have comic or magic night thrown in one of the nights. We made use of the ... Read More
This was a very lovely cruise with wonderful attentive staff. The entertainment was not great. It was Broadway reviews almost every night. It would have been nice to have comic or magic night thrown in one of the nights. We made use of the gym which was very nice. There is a deck for running which is the best and the largest running/ walking deck for a cruise line I have seen. Food and cabin were perfect...except for the coffee. Cruise coffee is always bad. Shore excursion to Ephesus Turkey is a must. We choose the "Ephesus Ancient city/ Mother Mary's house." We enjoyed the lectures on board. There was a great library with movie rentals. Our only complaint was the disembark from the ship. We used the Crystal transportation company to the airport. It felt very rushed and disorganized. We arrived at airport with only 45 minutes to spare for boarding. There was a fight between passengers. Poor staff did know how to handle these rude people. We barely made it through two different security screening check points. We were told that if we had not made it Crystal would pay the cost. I never saw that in writing anywhere. Ship is a little dated but is very clean and beautiful flowers everywhere. The food is the best part and it 4.5 at the worst nights and 5 star on the best nights. Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
It's really all about what kind of traveler you are and what your expectations are for a good trip. In May we took a 7 night Western Med Cruise (our third with Princess) from Istanbul to Rome. Our ports of call were Mykonos, ... Read More
It's really all about what kind of traveler you are and what your expectations are for a good trip. In May we took a 7 night Western Med Cruise (our third with Princess) from Istanbul to Rome. Our ports of call were Mykonos, Valletta, Messina and Salerno. Embarkation: was a bit of a bummer. We got an email the day before saying that due to a lot of cruise ships in port and Turkey's lengthy immigration clearance procedures, they needed to stagger passengers and asked us not to come until 4PM. When we got there, we were the only passengers there! The terminal was empty except for us and the ship's reps! Pretty annoying to get on the ship that late and go straight to muster. Cabin: Our Penthouse, R412, on the Riviera Deck, was larger than our last PH on the Ruby Princess but standard other than the general wear and tear others have noted. I liked the spaciousness and the layout of the bathroom. But as others have noted here, we heard the scraping of deck chairs on the Lido deck early in the morning. Overall it was fine and didn't disturb us too much. A fun quirk was the Love Boat A Thon running on television. A bummer was the lack of slippers (our attendant said they didn't have any) and the cheap recycled bag (three years ago we got a nice canvas tote). Also, Princess eliminated free internet for PH suite passengers, replacing it instead with complimentary specialty dining on embarkation night. I preferred the free internet. And this is the second time we've used their complimentary dry cleaning service where a garment was damaged when it was returned. Dining: We had late seating in the Botticelli dining room and both our head waitress and her assistant were terrific, friendly and on the ball. The maitre d' was also lovely. Food overall on this cruise was better than what we experienced on the Island Princess during our Alaska Cruise or the Ruby Princess, which we sailed three years ago. That being said, beef of any kind in the main dining room is poor. Even when they recommend it -- don't do it! We had the toughest prime rib of our lives on the first night, after waitress' enthusiastic recommendation. They did serve both lobster and escargots on this cruise on our second formal night, and it was delicious. Really surprising how good the lobster was on a mainstream cruise line. I can't comment on desert other than the fresh fruit, which I always ordered -- cold and refreshing. As usual, coffee is weak and you must buy a coffee card if you want a decent brew or an espresso drink. Overall, the food and variety/options on the Emerald Princess were better than either of the past two trips I've taken on Princess. I always like the Sabatini breakfast, un-rushed, serene and cooked to order. On mornings we had super early excursions, we got takeaway from the international cafe: egg mcmuffin sandwiches! Horizon court had enough fresh fruits and simply cooked vegetables for me to enjoy healthy dinners when we opted out of main dining, but the entrees were always the weakest link (poor protein quality, lots of sauces and cheese) in the buffet. Crown Grill: I wish the filet mignon had been better, but they served us a huge plate of complimentary lobster tails, which were sensational. Still, both previous Crown Grill experiences on Princess were better in terms of the quality of the beef served. Information: The Princess Patter is very comprehensive. I didn't care for the morning show because, to be honest, I didn't care for the cruise director or her deputy and their banter. It's a matter of personal preference and I'm sure she was great at her job but I would have preferred a smarter morning show led by grown ups (and ship's officers in addition to the cruise directors). Activities: Dance lessons were a lot of fun. My partner and his daughter played bingo and had a ball. I think cruise ship activities are a hallmark of the cruise tradition and even when I don't participate, I love reading about them or hearing about others' experiences. I never go to the shows since I live in NY and see a lot of Broadway theater. My partner went to one comic's performance and reported that the poor guy was a nervous wreck. Service: Most people were friendly and helpful, particularly in dining venues. I did feel like the level of interaction with customers was on the cutesy and overly familiar side, but appreciated their general warmth. Customer service desk was uneven; the reps were either harried and inexperienced or cold and put out. The guy at the internet cafe was the coldest, most unhelpful guy on the ship. Good thing I'm pretty tech savvy and my dealings with him were a minimum! One more thing I noticed was the general lack of visibility of crew officers throughout the ship. Except for the welcome evening, I never saw the Commodore. Interestingly, he'd also been our Captain on our Ruby Princess cruise 3 years ago and on that voyage he was always on the gangway greeting guests as they came 'home.' Up-selling: I have to make a note of this here because all of the flyers for art auctions, gold by the yard, watches, Greek gods popping out of the gangway door imploring you to take a picture with them, bric a brac specials, spa specials, hard sell for wine tastings, etc, etc, is wearying. Moreover, it cheapens the experience. End of my rant on that topic... Port Excursions: All of the port excursions we booked through Princess were good except the Valletta excursion. A guide can make or break the visit and our guide in Malta simply wasn't up to par. Moreover, the meal included there was bottom of the barrel dreadful (as it was on our Amalfi Coast excursion, too). Disembarkation was smooth and painless. In summary, while I think the Princess experience is solid and we enjoyed ourselves, I think we want to try a more upscale line for our next cruise. Princess doesn't line up with how we otherwise live and travel and that is probably why I take issue with uneven or overly familiar service, boisterous cruise directors, and hordes of people milling around tables of watches and costume jewelry. While I have a certain level of comfort in knowing what to expect with a Princess cruise, there are too many variables from ship to ship, too much cost cutting and too much up-selling, and I'm ready to branch out and see what line(s) might be a better fit for us. Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
The cabin was as advertised and as expected. The bedding was luxurious. The bathroom was spacious by ship standards. The food was good, not great, which was disappointing, since we expected great. The cheese selection was outstanding. The ... Read More
The cabin was as advertised and as expected. The bedding was luxurious. The bathroom was spacious by ship standards. The food was good, not great, which was disappointing, since we expected great. The cheese selection was outstanding. The "included" red wines were not good; the included white wines were acceptable, but no better; there were a couple of sparkling wines that were very good, and one very good champagne---but they ran out of the latter before the cruise ended and didn't replenish, although we were in France at the time. (And the sommeliers didn't want you to order it anyway. They were, on the whole, not helpful. They pushed the wines which cost extra, and those wines were expensive.) If you were lucky and got a good maitre d', he steered you towards the better-prepared food choices. The specialty restaurants were good if you knew what to order (one night the Italian restaurant had linguini made with fresh clams from that day's port, and it was outstanding.)Room service was good.The shore excursions were outrageously overpriced. A $635 Grand Prix ticket (plus a mediocre boxed lunch, ear phones, a thin seat cushion and a guide per 20 people to walk you from the ship to the grandstand) cost $829. I agree that a mark-up is appropriate, but 30% is too much. We booked the cruise at the last minute, so had no choice but to purchase from Crystal. We were told that other shore excursions also had astronomical mark-ups.Crystal's representatives told us that wi-fi was free; it was not, which was very disappointing. Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
Air booked by Swan=Excellent:Phx-Istanbul--Rome-Phx & transfers to/from Minerva. Speakers=Excellent.Itinerary=Excellent.Staff=Excellent.Library=Excellent. Entertainment=Passable.Public Rooms=Excellent.Pool=Passable,not heated. ... Read More
Air booked by Swan=Excellent:Phx-Istanbul--Rome-Phx & transfers to/from Minerva. Speakers=Excellent.Itinerary=Excellent.Staff=Excellent.Library=Excellent. Entertainment=Passable.Public Rooms=Excellent.Pool=Passable,not heated. Needs Improvement: Stateroom-A70-inside behind Reception.Very noisy,constant heavy vibration.Felt like we were clacking on an old train track the entire time.Cleanness-Excellent.Size-Passable.Storage-Passable. Closet-not enough hanging space for two. Bed-Comfortable. ClimateControl-None.There's a Ceiling vent you open or close. Lighting-Passable. Bathroom-tiny but Passable. FOOD=Passable.Not high quality & very bland, usually barely warm.The same food served on veranda as dinning room. Food availability limited to dinning hours only-Breakfast & dinner 7-9,lunch 12-2,tea 4-5. Limited flexibility w/ menu foods. Coffee & hot water machine in veranda available 24/7.There should at least be crackers available 24/7:There's no vending machine & very limited items in ships store with very limited hours.If you require food, plan to keep some in your room. We probably will not sail Minerva again until/unless major repairs are done on this ship or they use another.Many passengers complained about the constant vibration & occasional loud "booming" noise coming from under ship which was observed in all areas of ship,not just rear lower decks where it was the worst. Passengers discussing the problem said they think there's a definite problem with the ship's propulsion. The seas were very calm;but Minerva struggled to sail on them. Having sailed over 50 cruises,some in storm-like conditions,I've never been concerned about the integrity of a ship;but,I definitely was very concerned about this one. Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
Sorry about the length of this but we have a lot to say! It was clear from the start that the ship has medical problems - and not brought on in Istanbul by the current passengers as was suggested. Gel being dispensed everywhere, all food ... Read More
Sorry about the length of this but we have a lot to say! It was clear from the start that the ship has medical problems - and not brought on in Istanbul by the current passengers as was suggested. Gel being dispensed everywhere, all food and drink being served, continual hand washing instructions,no library books, cushions glasses ice buckets info folder all gradually disappearing from the cabins, etc. In spite of this many passengers and crew came down with the virus throughout the cruise - people did throw up pretty much everywhere - pool, busses, dining room, lifts, but the crew worked very hard continually cleaning and clearing up so the ship did stay clean.I did wonder about the instructions that if you got it you had to make your way through the whole ship to the medical centre on deck 1 - surely they should have stayed in their cabins and been visited by the doctor? We didn't get it (noro) but it felt like the sword of Damocles was hanging over us all the time. A couple of points - The hard working but "brassy" CD Sue Denning gave a daily briefing, but it was really the same every day, "Thank you and keep washing your hands". She continually said that she would tell us the truth, but the one thing wouldn't tell us was how many people were affected. We understood that it was 400 - 500 people. Also I wonder how much the crew are involved in spreading problems. I saw one of the panini servers wearing plastic gloves pick up a handful of crisps, put them in his mouth and then go on serving, cutting and spreading the bread. I immediately reported this to a manager but don't know what action was taken. To be fair I also saw an idiot passenger use the restroom and then go out without washing his hands! Ok, on to the rest. If you take trips in Israel my advice is to arrange your own. If you take ship tours it may say "shopping time" but you won't get it at the many interesting little shops you will walking by, no, you'll get it at the end in a very large isolated store where the tour guide gets 35% of everything you buy (and it's not cheap!)- get the picture? This happened on all 3 trips for us and we didn't like it - so no tip for the guide, they get quite enough!! Finally the best for us was the variety and quality of the music / entertainment. This was the best we have ever experienced on a cruise. There was music happening all over the ship including - The ships Song and Dance company - It was the last 2 weeks of their service and they were great. The shows were fantastic. Ship's Orchestra - they were excellent performing and backing other acts. Jefferson Ang - Guitar and singing in the coffee bar. 545 Express - acapella group and very good. Arabesque Trio - 2 violins and piano. Lovely classical music in one of the lounges. Great Ideas Party Band - fantastic atmosphere every night. To see the boy and girl singer both perform footloose (?) was really amazing. Pity they didn't have a CD to sell - I would have bought it! Perry Grant - singing and piano. Very entertaining, but I couldn't face seeing the same performance and comedy every night although quite a few did! The visiting entertainers - were all good but the absolute highlight for us was SAMANTHA JAY. What a talented lady this girl is. She plays the oboe, violin, saxophone and piano in a wonderful fast moving show with popular and classical music. She also seems a genuine and modest person - a real star! If you get the chance go and see her. So we did enjoy the cruise in spite of everything and hope that the deep clean (again)in Barcelona where they made everyone leave the ship (including back to back passengers)will do the trick. I think they are worried about not being allowed to dock in USA. I somehow doubt it will be enough though. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
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
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, (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

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