Norwegian Cruise Line European Cruise, RCL Jewel- Barcelona to Barcelona - 8/13/06 - 8/21/06
Overview - wonderful trip, 5 ½ stars, highly recommend Weather was beautiful during the entire trip: High 84, low 60, Sunny. We flew on NCL-arranged Iberia Airlines from Chicago. We stayed at a free-park, Country Inn, in Bensenville, IL that provided a nice room, overlooking a beautiful golf green , free breakfast and a free shuttle to O'Hare airport. Iberia, the airline is not well known. The shuttle driver, when we announced our departing airline, said where's that? We got to O'Hare early because of the British terrorist threat . Fortunately, every thing went smoothly, so we had time for a late lunch in the O'Hare airport. We found a great Wolfgang Puck Restaurant! Tasty. We did have a great flight with Iberia - English was the second language. Left O'Hare at 4:45 pm, on 8/12/06. Got into Madrid at 6 AM, on 8/13/06. (7 hour time difference.) Had to run the longest distance possible in the Madrid airport to get the Barcelona flight. Arrived in Barcelona at 10 AM. Immediately met by NCL; they took all the luggage. We were transported to the Jewel by 11 AM.
Embarkation speedy - many, many people checking you in; very courteous and friendly. Went right to the cabin.
Ship beautiful, clean, stable. Cabin 9662 was in extreme AFT portion of ship, but close to the Garden Cafe and the Outdoors Cafe for breakfast and Tsar's Palace for dinner. It was a long trip to the bow of the ship and Bingo and the shows. The cabin was big enough for two and had a nice balcony that overlooked the water. First thing to do is get your dinner reservations. Went to Tango restaurant on 6th floor. (Can also use 050 on telephone.) . Recommend to eat at Tsar's MONDAY night for the Steak & Lobster. The dining reservation system is wonderful with computer. When we changed reservations over the phone (Special button on telephone for dinner reservations), they "see" all your reservations immediately and tell your times. You can cancel your reservations any time before 5 PM.any day. We took a nap Sunday pm due to jet lag, but went to the announced Barbeque (chicken, burgers, hot dogs and fixins - good) on deck 12 that evening. Saw the Welcoming Show - thought it was very good. The first day (Monday) is a Sea day, so there were no excursions. That was great timing for us, for we were tired from the jet lag. Fortunately, in the morning, I hit a Bingo for $167. (There are new amazing Bingo machines. I had 36 cards, and the machine took care of all of the numbers. When I had 5 out of 6 numbers needed, I stood up , and when they called my number I said bingo. That was it.) At 2:15 PM Monday they had the putting contest, and I won the craziest contest I was ever in - for the finals of the contest the two of us had to putt from the top stair, down a long flight of stairs, to a plastic "hole" at the bottom.. It took 6 times before I could hit it. (Two of us had both holed long 24 feet putts to get into the finals.) After the Bingo and the putting contest, I really knew it was "my day". That evening we went to Tsar's Palace at 5:30pm and had a wonderful window table for lobster and filet. Very good.
On Tuesday we went to Sicily and took the Toarmina and Vineyards tour. Toarmina was a little stone village on a side of hill that had many little shops, an imposing view of the sea and Mt. Etna, and an ancient Greek theatre. After that, we visited the wonderful estate in the Vineyard. The Sicilian hostess poured as much wine as you could drink (7 different varieties) and the Sicilian dinner was marvelous. The weather was clear and we could see the top of Mt. Etna all day. The cost of the excursion was $142 pp but well worth it. We bought some very good wine for 11 Euros. On Wednesday, we went into Naples in the morning by ourselves. Be sure not to wear your jewelry. A friendly waiter in a coffee shop actually took my gold chain off my neck and handed it to me, and said, This is Naples! The police were very accommodating and helped us get across the street. Both August 15 & August 16 were special religious holidays, so about only half of the stores were open. Most of the shops were on Toledo Via. It was about 4 blocks directly up hill from the ship berth. We had good Italian coffee (thick) - ask for sugar. We found a nice department store, called "la Rinascente" on Toledo Via and shopped a lot. At lunch we had a wonderful pizza at the Vera Pizzaria. Pizza was invented in Naples and is very good - the most famous is "Marghereta Pizza" The Italian draft beer was very good. They say you should make certain that you go to a pizzaria with a wood burning stove. On Wednesday afternoon, we took a short ship's excursion: "Views of Naples". Saw some of the beautiful residential areas around the city. Very pleasant. (tour included another Italian beer) That night we went to the Japanese Teppanyaki restaurant - excellent. Very much like the best Benihana I have ever been to.
On Thursday, we went on the "Rome and Vatican" tour. Very nice, but huge line to get into the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel (2 ½ hours). They had been closed to the public for the two prior days because of the religious holiday, so "everyone" wanted to get into the place on Thursday. Both the Sistine Chapel and St Peters are marvelous. It was incredible to see the size of St Peters - those who climb up to the top railing inside look little ants way up there. Had a mediocre lunch with the tour. It was a huge walk from and to the bus. I didn't think I could do it - but I did! The only reason I made it with my poor circulation legs, was that I took along a Sports Seat. (It is like a cane with a seat that flips down, so I could rest a little when we stopped.) Also, we had a wonderful ship crew member, Jose Montezandro ( bald, from the Philippines) who helped me during the entire walk (run?). We next took a bus tour around Rome, and stopped at the Coliseum. That night I went to the Garden Cafe and brought chicken caesar salad and individually cooked pasta (they have a pasta chef) back into the room for us. Both of us were too tired to go the show
On Friday we went to Florence. It was even more impressive than Rome. Of course, the trip to Florence from Livorno (the port) was spectacular. The hills, mountains, vineyards, and farms were all beautiful. We went on the "Splendor of Florence" tour. Better pace. Had one hour to view David with the very finest tour guide imaginable. His lectures about David and Michelangelo's sculpture were very vivid. He had gone to school for four years at the Accademie(?) where David was shown. His name is Bernardo Randelli, via Stefano Tur, 10 50137 Firenze - Italia +39 333 269 9744. After David, we walked to the beautiful Cathedral and Duomo and onto the Ponte Vecchio (old bridge), and then to a wonderful lunch.. Then we went to the Santa Croce where most the celebrities of Renaissance were buried. Then we had about ½ hour to shop. Beth loved the Gold Corner shop and I bought Florentine leather billfolds. Because two ladies were 20 minutes late, we had to RUN to our bus to get back to the ship in time. The same ladies had also missed the bus in the morning !
That Friday night we went to Cirques Bijou. Best show I ever saw!! It's is a MUST SEE. Then we went to the Le Bistro restaurant. It was very good food , but our waiter must have had a bad day. .
Saturday morning we went to Villefrance. Beautiful area on the French Riviera. Took a local tour ourselves around the town on a little train. Very pleasant. Then we took the real train to Monte Carlo, only 20 minutes away. What a magnificent area that is! Just bought T-shirts and souvenirs, and had a beer overlooking all the yachts. Took the train back to Villefrance, and tendered back onto the ship. Tender was very quick both ways. Ate at Tsar's Palace at 6 PM because we were packing.
Sunday morning we left the ship at 6:15 AM, because an early flight from Barcelona to Madrid. Very quick disembarkation . However, on the Barcelona runway, Iberia discovered they had a flat tire, which made us 2 hours late to Madrid. Fortunately Iberia held its flight to Chicago for us in Madrid. Very good airline. Very good food - two full meals both coming and going, and all the free wine you wanted. Happy, even though late, flight home!
Country Inn's shuttle met us right outside the International Terminal within 15 minutes after telephoning them and we stayed another night in the room overlooking the golf course.