We left home from Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada and travelled to Barcelona via Vancouver & Frankfurt (22 hrs), we arrived in Barcelona very tired, but the the excitement of being there and meeting up with our Family members from Halifax, Edmonton and Whitehorse (via Madrid)washed away the exhaustion and it was game on.
Had booked rooms at the Continental Hotel at the top of La Rambla and could not have been more pleased with the property and location, It is not a 5 star hotel but with good rates (112.00 euro)a balcony over looking La Rambla a 24 hour buffet, free beer, wine, coffee, and soft drinks and a most friendly staff how can you not like it.
After 2 days of exploring Barcelona which I will not detail here as it has been described by much better writers than I, but I will say it was all you read about and more, what a city! On Sunday it was grab some taxis and off to the Ship.
Embarkation - It was so easy and quick, we arrived gave the luggage to the porters and found the appropriate wicket to go to. Received Identification/Key Cards met the Concierge were assigned an escort and on to ship total time approx. 10 minutes and we were standing in the Atrium drinking champagne. It was then off to our stateroom.
We had booked a AB penthouse on deck 11 forward starboard side under the library and close to the forward elevators which turned out to be a brilliant location, handy to get around and no noise at all. My sister and sister in law had a adjoining AF to us and that worked out very well.
I cannot say enough about our suite, it was large, well appointed and attended to very professionally by Maurice our Butler and Myla the cabin attendant. It is a 2 bedroom suite and worked well as our daughter had the second bedroom with private washroom, TV etc. The Master Bathroom is outstanding with double sink vanity, soaker tub, separate toilet, shower (the best ever),makeup station and huge amounts of closets and drawers The living / dining area is large enough to entertain a small group and the coffee maker is first class, we had ordered a bar set-up and Maurice kept us in ice and snacks throughout the cruise.
Food - We found the food on the Jade to be above average or better in every venue we ate at including room service. The regular dining rooms and buffet are very good with the Grand Pacific being our favorite but nothing bad about The Alizar dining room either. The tomato soup,fish and chips or chicken wings at the blue lagoon would hit the spot anytime day or night. We always found something to our liking and if a dish was not what you were expecting, simple, order something else, you should not go away dissatisfied or hungry. We dined at the following surcharge venues, Cagney's - Very Good Steaks, Le Bistro - My Favorite (might have been the escargot or foie gras) Jasmine Garden - Wife's Favorite Paniolos Tapas & Salsa - Very Good One of the perks being in a suite is to have breakfast and lunch a Cagney's this is a good one. Great Breakfast Menu, Excellent service level, and lovely location.
Staff - We cannot say enough about the entire ships company from the Captain on down everyone had a smile and were always willing to accommodate whatever we requested. This needs to be recognized as they work very long hard shifts for 10 months or so with hardly any days off and for people to adjust the automatic gratuity downwards seems wrong to me. If someone had a problem with service or staff an appropriate word in someones ear would correct the issue.
Summary - The Jade is a Beautiful, clean, well maintained ship with lots to do or not, whatever your Style may be.
Great Suite, Quiet Location, Handy to Elevators,
We spent two days in barcelona pre-cruise and just ambled and toured about on our own. The city has it all - Arts, Culture, Nightlife, Great Food, Colorful People and yes pickpockets and grifters. Keep your mind open and your belongings close and enjoy it.
Booked a day tour with Romeinlimo - Vincenzo our driver/guide met us at ship side and we spent a great day in the city with him. He was very knowledgeable about the history and current affairs in his city. It was our itinerary and we wanted to see what we could in the too short time we had in port. We were able to cover all the biggies, Coloseum, Pantheon, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Vatican, etc. etc. and had time for a great lunch at a real Rome Eatery that Vicenzo took us to and arranged a table. We were back to the port in good time. I would rate Romeinlimo very high and do not hesitate to recommend them.
Napfleon - Because of a National Transportation Strike in Athens our Itinerary was changed to Napfleon Greece, We arrived and were tendered in to shore, this caused a bit of a delay in getting off the ship but hey we are on holidays. It would have been nice to get to Athens but I can honestly say we were not disappointed with Napfleon, it is a beautiful small city. We got ashore went for a stroll around the town area took a tram ride to see some more of the sights and had a Great Greek Lunch on the waterfront. It is the kind of place we could come back to and spend a week or two just hanging out and enjoying the climate, food, people, history and culture. Loved it.
4 of us were able to book a city tour with NCL at the last minute thanks to Monique our concierge. And 3 hired a taxi to go to Ephesus which they said was the best display of ancient ruins they had ever experienced. I am sorry we didn't join them but our City Tour was very well done and informative, Got to see the museums, visit the bazaar (wow factor)the old Agora and learned that Turkey is a place I would go to again.
Egypt - This was it, for us and I think most people on the ship. We, all 7 of us had booked a private Overnight tour to Cairo with Nile Blue Tours and were not disappointed. We were met at the Port Entrance by the Nile Blue Staff, Hazem his wife Ghada and Amr our Egyptologist/Guide as well as Mahmoud our driver. Ghada Traveled with us throughout the two days as well as Amr and of course Mahmoud the driver. We got settled in to our roomy and comfortable van and were off to Cairo. It is a 2 1/2 - 3 Hour drive to Giza with a rest stop on the way. Our first stop was (pinch me)the Pyramids and Sphinx, well here I was standing in the footprints of the people who built these magnificent Tombs 5000 years ago they truly are wonders of the world. Amr gave us a brief history and introduction and we were able to walk about and marvel on our own for a while. All the stories I had read about the Vendors harassing you prepared me for the onslaught that never really happened. There are a lot of vendors selling tourist items and camel rides to be sure but a firm no thank you and keep walking was all it took to discourage them and overall they never really distracted us from what we were there to see and do.
Then it was back in the van and a short drive down the hill to the viewing area for the Sphinx another true wonder of the world. As you view the Sphinx with the Pyramids as a back drop and try in vain to capture it on film which you know you probably can't do justice to, you turn around and there is a great neon sign advertising Pizza Hut and KFC After the Sphinx it was off to a lovely lunch in a nice restaurant with views of the Pyramids. Then a stop to pick up the Cartouches and Bracelets the Ladies had ordered and of course a Papyrus Making Shop where we bought some paintings to bring home. These are made from real papyrus not like the Vendors sell on the street which are actually made from Banana Leaves and will not stand the test of time.
We had booked a Nile River Dinner Cruise and now it was time to set out for downtown Cairo. Let me try to explain traffic in Cairo, If you have a 3 lane road then it must be large enough for 6 lanes of vehicles the lane markers have no apparent reason for being there other than to use up paint then the 6 lanes of traffic try to merge into 2 lanes add to this people crossing the streets when and wherever and scooters taking up any other available space then throw in a couple of donkey carts for the variety, the traffic for the most part travels at about 5 miles per hour and strangely enough never seems to stop except when you take all of the above and force it into a traffic circle I cannot conceive of any one from North America being able to drive there.
The Dinner cruise arranged by Nile Blue was first class the food was very good. The entertainment was great and all in all a very enjoyable time.
We were then Taken to the Le Meridian Hotel in Giza, checked in and off to the light & sound show at the Sphinx which was ok but I could have missed it as it had been along day and the Bed at the hotel was very comfortable.
Up Early, great breakfast at the hotel and off again. First stop was the Palace and Mosque of Saladin where we sat in the Mosque and Amr explained the 5 pillars of Islam and the history of the Mosque and Palace very enjoyable and educational.
The to the Egyptian Museum - You could spend a lifetime there studying Egyptian History and artifacts it is overwhelming. But we came to see King Tut and the treasures from his tomb - breathtaking - The Mummy room has a extra charge but you will not see anything like it in the world.
Then it was time to head back to Alexandria - Summary - A Truly unforgettable tour NileBlue Tours provided us a professional and high quality experience for what I consider a Bargain at $325.00 US all in plus well deserved gratuities. Many thanks to Hazem, Ghada, Amr and the best driver ever - Mahmoud
Valleta, Malta - Who knew, The Jewel of the Mediterranean Our only complaint is that NCL should give you more time there. What a wonderful Island, City, People, Food, Drink everything. We did it on our own Taxi, Bus, HOHO, Walk you can't seem to wrong any where you go. We all Want to return.