The reason we chose Norwegian Jade was for the wonderful itinerary which included Rome, Athens, Izmir (Ephesus), Alexandria and Malta.
Overall we found the cruise very relaxing and apart from the days in port for excursions we really did not do much except relax.
Norwegian Jade is a beautiful ship with nicely appointed public areas. It is probably one the cleanest ships we have been on. You can even smell the antibacterial spray wherever you go!
As for eating there are many restaurants to choose from however many did have an extra cover charge. We ate in the main dining area however we did try some of the restaurants including Cagney's Steakhouse and the Grill. The daily selection of food was very good and the buffet islands worked very well to feed so many people. The buffet did however get jammed at peak times so it is wise to go early or even go late and definitely try to avoid the times when the tour buses return. The food in the Chinese restaurant Jasmine Garden was also very good.
As for entertainment there was a lot going on in terms of quantity however in terms of quality there is definitely room for improvement.
We found the staff attending to us very friendly and our cabin immaculate and very comfortable. The air conditioning worked extremely well and our bed was very comfortable.
Our conclusion: A good clean ship with a staff that was friendly, professional and very efficient. We will definitely recommend Norwegian Jade to friends.
Very clean and comfortable cabin
Rome - My last time to Rome was over 20 years ago and it was the first time for my wife so wanted to pack in as much as possible for our time in Rome. Prior to leaving for our cruise we had designed our itinerary for Rome and booked it through Aldo and his company your tour in Italy (www.yourtourinitaly.com).
We were met at the port by Aldo and taken to Rome. Although our driver was very careful I was reminded of some of the lunatic drivers I saw the last time I was in Rome and those memories came flooding back to me!
We packed a lot into the day with visits to: St. Peter's Basilica (the largest church in the world!) Michelangelo's "Pieta", Trevi Fountain (last time I was here I was told drop a coin in Trevi Fountain and you will surely come back to Rome; it worked!), Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel, but the highlight of the day for us was the Scavi tour. Reading through various forums we were advised to book this well in advance and we did, more than 90 days in advance through the official Vatican site!
The tour goes beneath St. Peter's Basilica to the tomb of Saint Peter. The tour lasted around 90 minutes and while the tour is not strenuous you do have to climb stairs and go through some narrow corridors. We both suffer from slight claustrophobia and did experience little difficulties because of some tight spots, narrow paths, no windows and dim lighting. Having said we both agreed this tour was the highlight of Rome for us!
As time was limited we grabbed some food quickly in between places but at the end of the tour Aldo took us to one of his favorite restaurants and we enjoyed probably the most delicious Italian meal I have had in along time. We would recommend Aldo and his company to anyone. His website is www.yourtourinitaly.com
Athens - For this port we had organized a private guide through www.viator.com and booked The Acropolis Walking Tour. The best way to discover all aspects of this interesting city is definitely on foot! We walked through the city and came to Plaka (the old town of Athens) where we visited a Byzantine church and other fascinating monuments like Lysicrates monument from the 4th century BC and the remnants of an old Christian Church.
Afterwards a 10 minute walk up the glorious Dionyssiou Areopagitou pedestrian walkway we came to the wonderful monument of the Acropolis built over 2500 years ago. On the way to the Acropolis we saw the Dionysus Sanctuary, the Philopapos Hill, the Herodion Theatre and the Mars Hill. The views of over the city from the Acropolis are spectacular.
All the walking and the fresh air had given us a good appetite so we found a nice restaurant and enjoyed a leisurely meal while soaking up the sounds and smells of this interesting historical city.
Izmir (Ephesus) - Our first time to Turkey and I have to admit our port of call Izmir was not what I expected. We were pleasantly surprised by Izmir. It is a beautiful and modern city with a European atmosphere and spirit. We were expecting to see women dressed in black and maybe the odd camel, but Izmir could be any modern city in Europe.
We had been recommended a private tour guide, Ertunga Ecir (www.ertungaecir.com) by friends who had visited Kusadasi last year who were very impressed with his service. Having spoken to him prior to booking the tour we were looking forward to meeting him and enjoying the day with him as we had heard a lot about him from our friends in California.
He was waiting for us right at the port of Izmir with a driver. We wasted no time and headed straight to the ancient ruins of Ephesus and learnt how advanced civilization was at that time in Turkey. Ertunga's knowledge of history and Ephesus was truly amazing! He was very excited and keen to show us the Terrace Houses which were recently opened to the public. The Terrace Houses really are incredible! These homes were complete with indoor plumbing and even to this day many of the pipes are still able to carry water. The mosaic floor and wall tiles in the Terrace Houses are truly incredible and we saw some workers painstakingly reassembling these mosaic tiles. After the Terrace Houses we headed for the library and took some amazing photos. Ertunga explained to us that some believe there was an underground secret passage from the library leading to the brothels. I guess the library gave men an excuse for their wives to get away for a few hours "to the library"!
Next we saw the toilets for the men. This is a large room with a long concrete slab with holes in it so men could sit side by side while doing their stuff!
Our next stop was the Amphitheatre. Standing there you can actually imagine thousands of people coming there for the entertainment or the preaching.
Next we headed for Virgin Mary House or Meryem Ana as it known as. The setting is truly wonderful at the top of the mountain and very peaceful. We were fortunate enough to be introduced to the top priest there Father Paulo and he showed us around the house and the surrounding areas. We saw and tasted the water from the spring. There are 3 taps; for health, wealth and wisdom. We took a sip from each and also bought some empty bottles from the shop there to take some of this holy water back with us.
Before leaving Virgin Mary House we saw a "Wish Wall" where people write their wishes and pin them to the board. Of course we made our "request" on the wish wall too!
We left Virgin Mary House and were feeling quite peckish so Ertunga suggested a special treat for us to go to Sirince (an old Greek Village not far from Ephesus) and have lunch in the house of one of the villagers. What an experience! The old lady had prepared many local dishes for us to enjoy. Her hospitality and kindness we will never forget. Sirince is also famous for wine tasting and we felt compelled to try as many wines as possible before buying a few bottles of Sirince wine to take back home.
Ertunga asked us if we would like to go to carpet factory and see the locals actually making carpets. We were not in the market for a carpet but felt this would be a good experience and went along. We did not buy a carpet and there was no pressure on us to buy one either. We enjoyed some apple tea and watched with fascination the workmanship being performed. The Turkish hospitality and friendliness of the Turkish people is something we can all learn from! We thanked Ertunga and felt the visit to the carpet factory was worth it even though we were not in the market for a carpet.
Overall this will remain in our minds as one of the most memorable and extremely enjoyable days. The price of the tour was competitive and Etrunga a most engaging, charming and kind man. We would definitely recommend Ertunga or Erti as we had started to call him by the end of the day, to anyone who asks. You can see his blog at www.ertungaecir.com
Alexandria - Again prior to leaving we had booked a private guide for our day in Egypt. We were met at the port by Abdul who drove us to Cairo in a modern air conditioned bus to meet our English speaking guide. The drive to Cairo took about 3 hours and it was pretty uneventful.
Cairo is a very busy city and also a very dirty city! I for one was very glad that we did not venture to do this on our own. Driving standards here are very poor and we even saw a couple of fights between drivers.Once in Cairo we met with Mohammed and started our excursion. Our first stop was a visit to The Three Pyramids, which are considered to be one of the Old Seven Wonders. This was an experience not be missed. After spending time to enjoy and appreciate the mighty pyramids our next stop was the Sphinx monument which is a mythical statue with the body of a lion and a human head. By now we were well and truly ready for our local Egyptian lunch and it was enjoyable even though some of the things I did not take to!
After lunch we continued with our Cairo tour and visited Egyptian Museum of Antiquities. Here we saw a rare collection of 5000 years of art. What an amazing collection!
We then got ready for the 3 hour drive back to the port totally exhausted but having had lots of fun.
Malta - Malta is a very interesting, clean and safe city. Here we had decided not to book a tour and do our own thing as we pretty much know this place having been here before. We walked around and felt very comfortable. Even took a horse and buggy ride around the city stopping of to see some of the sites. The local people of Malta are very friendly and helpful and the good thing is a lot of them speak English. We bought some souvenirs for the family and wonderful tablecloths for us. We noticed how cheaper the prices were in the city compared to the prices in the shops near the port.