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Bottom line up front: would I do this cruise again? Not these ports, necessarily, and not with NCL (unless my beloved live-in travel arranger insisted, and who can resist that face?) Embarkation Airport pickup was straightforward and easy, and check-in was smooth. As this is a small port, the waiting area was quite small and crowds soon congested the small shopping area. However, once they began boarding, the process went smoothly. The ship’s common areas are attractive, but the layout is a maze, typical of many small ships where you must go up and back/forward, then down to a dining room, but you must do this in correct sequence. Muster drill was straightforward and well run. One nice point: rooms were accessible right away if you wanted to drop off backpacks or any small luggage you carried on. Day 4: I had my eye on a bracelet and it was offered at 40% off the first day. Today they had a “big sale” on that line, so we went to the shop and it was gone. We asked if this was all there was of their stock and he said yes. I said, oh, I had seen a bracelet. Oh, he said, it’s probably on the table downstairs for the sale. I guess this ISN’T all your stock then, eh? We found the bracelet, but the lighting for the “big sale” was awful. Plus it was still the same 40% off as the first day. On-board events: I am used to being on cruises and missing events I want to attend because of schedule conflicts. NCL seems to expect you to be ashore or have your Kindle. The activities are widely spaced out and seem very targeted (like to kids, or bingo players, etc). I expected more activity on sea day but the activities are still sparse and geared toward gambling, spas and kids (and spending money!!) I missed having port talks (and not the Shop HERE ones) which we’ve had on many ships, giving us info about the ports/area. There were no Shop Here ones either due to the lack of ship-centric shopping areas, but I didn’t miss that! Someone pointed out (I am oblivious) that there is no alcohol duty free on board. Food: Does your daily routine include checking out the day’s lunch and dinner menus? They don’t put out the dessert menu on this ship! At least, not where we could find it easily. Also, there are computer generated boards around the ship showing the reservation status of the dining areas, including Shogun, the no-extra-cost specialty dining area. We saw nothing but green, so we tried to book in around 2 pm for 7 pm. Sorry, all booked except for 5:30 and after 9 pm. But, said my husband, all the boards show green. Yeah, well, we don’t update that one… . Breakfast music so far has been jazz. Now I like jazz as much as the next person, which is to say not very much. But there is nothing that sets your teeth on edge early in the morning like a sax player or singer who can hold a high pitched note forever. I tried so many times to fill out a comment card giving props to the servicing team but each meal had so many issues that I struggled. Someone else commented that it seemed like a training cruise but I was not sure any training was going on. Embarkation: we had lunch in Windows and the food was nice, with a slight edge to very good. Coffee was surprisingly good. Dinner 2: mixed reviews: duck pasta was very nice but Thai curry chicken was dry. For dessert I had pistachio crème brulee which was really pudding with a brulee crust. I always expect more of a custard than a pudding. Coffee was strong but not too bad. We ate at the Garden and it was very quiet. Day 1: breakfast. First ship I’ve ever been on that advertised pastries and breads but no one was walking around offering them, and the waiter never mentioned it. I ordered fruit and oatmeal. The oatmeal arrived just after the fruit. The waiter put in the sugar, raisins and milk but set the bowl almost where another diner would have been sitting next to me. By the time I finished my fruit, the oatmeal was cold. Maybe they were trying to be helpful, knowing that people had to meet for excursions? Dinner 3: Windows restaurant. My husband had the lasagna. I had a bite and said something tastes moldy! About then he took a bite and said, I just got the moldy bit too. We notified the wait staff. Noisier than the Garden. Breakfast 2: they did wait until after I finished the fruit to bring the oatmeal, so that was good. Dinner 4: no coffee offered. Same as last night. Guess you have to ask. We ate at the Garden and found it a little quieter than Windows. It is a large U-shaped dining room which helps dampen the noise. I had the steak salad which was a smallish portion compared to the pot roast and roast chicken others had, but it was really the perfect size dish. Tasty. The pot roast was nice, according to other diners. Breakfast 4: Every day an adventure. Dinner 5: Garden restaurant. Tried to get two appetizers on one plate for dinner but got two largish plates instead. At least tonight we were asked if we wanted coffee, unlike last night. We noticed the server using a table scraper to clean the table next to us (and then ours), which we hadn’t seen until tonight. Noisy tonight Breakfast 5: breakfast comes with a game of “how will they do it this time?” Today we both ordered fruit and oatmeal. I got oatmeal and my husband got his fruit, and as we finished that, I got fruit and he got oatmeal. Dinner 6: After a big lunch, we opted for appetizers and dessert only (never skip dessert!) No table scrapers evident at any tables around us. My husband had to ask for coffee as they took our dessert order and started to leave. They seemed startled but then asked if we wanted our coffee white. First time we’ve been asked that, as they usually bring milk (and sometimes set a bowl of individual UHT half and half containers on the table). Minor points but just to mention how inconsistent the service has been. Breakfast 6: Again, fruit and oatmeal brought together. We said we’d share a table so were seated at a 4-top, but ended up on our own. The place was nearly empty yet they sat us next to the busing station. I finished my fruit and because no one else was at our table had room to set the plate aside where it sat until we left. I was offered hot milk for the oatmeal but had to ask for brown sugar and raisins, but he brought only the sugar. My husband had cold cereal and asked for sugar so was offered the rest of my brown sugar. The melon is much less ripe than before, and about a third is too hard to cut so I leave it. Dinner 7: appetizer: prosciutto and melon which was very nice. Steak Diane. Diane was a tough old lady, apparently. Dessert for me was papaya, melon and mango in a vinaigrette which was lovely and refreshing. I would be happy having this every night. Breakfast 7. Opted for prunes since the melon gets harder and less sweet every day. People, prunes are quite sweet. There is no need to preserve them in pounds of sugar. More insipid oats which he at least offered to bring at the same time as the fruit. So it got cold at the waiters station instead of under my care. The people next to us were seated at 0820, 20 minutes after breakfast opened. They were told the waiter was in a meeting and would be delayed. Ok, it’s a sea day and not many people are in the main dining room but that seemed like poor planning. Lunch, Sea Day 1: Greek salad. No, those are not the Kalamata olives in the description. These are bog-standard black olives from a large can. Having said that, the red and green bell peppers in the salad must have been what Eve tasted in the Garden of Eden. Dinner Sea Day: We both had Hungarian goulash. The people next to us got steak and something else and both left half, saying it was a huge portion they couldn’t possibly eat. We got a huge plate of spätzle and a small (actually, reasonable) portion of meat and gravy. Although, as my husband pointed out, if you really liked the noodles, there was only enough gravy for the meat and the noodles under the meat. The meat was pretty dry, just like I make it. Confession: I am a bad cook. I don’t go out hoping to eat the same mediocre food I make at home. Desserts: I had the tropical fruit in lime syrup (heavy on syrup, and small chunks of watermelon with LOTS of seeds). My husband had clafouti. I’ve never had it before—is it supposed to taste like a hunk of underdone pancake batter? Breakfast, Day 9: asked for tea instead of coffee, specifically PG Tips. The waiter brought it and asked, you LIKE PG Tips? Um, yeah. He poured it and asked again. Yes, we really do. What are you recommending instead? Lipton? Or just double checking because Americans ask for it and then don’t like it? Dinner, Day 9: Husband had the steak. Ordered medium and got medium well but he said it was nice. I had shrimp pot stickers (pot weights, really—skip these) and lamb curry which was good. Breakfast, Day 10: not feeling well (sinus infection) so went to the buffet. Husband got cream of wheat. It was more like soup, and I thought he had added salt instead of sugar until he said it was brown sugar. Inedible salt lick. Lunch in main dining room, Day 10 (sea day). I ordered two appetizers: pho and chicken nachos. The pho was great. The nachos were soggy and it was a very large plate. Larger than the portion I got for dinner. Dinner Day 10: Very slow service, but it is a sea day and more people are at the sit-down restaurants. We were seated (yet again) by the prep and bus station, and noticed there is a single door, so wait staff were constantly dodging to miss each other. Incredibly inefficient and dangerous too. I had the General Tso’s chicken and the write up had the name, followed by “shrimp toast” (which was awful) and fried rice with pork and shrimp. We joked that there was no mention of chicken in the chicken dish other than the title. Turned out to be pretty good, but it seemed odd. Desserts (mango “cake” which was more mousse with a thin bit of cake as the base and hazelnut soufflé) were insipid. I was surprised that they included the crème for the soufflé in a separate container and didn’t break open the soufflé and pour it in – they had done that previously. Breakfast day 11: mostly attentive servers with lovely attitudes. Dinner 12: Garden restaurant. Slow service despite it being less crowded than normal. We both had salad and then sausage sampler. Quite salty. Not bad but not special. Breakfast debarkation day. One egg please with grits instead of hash browns. Got the grits served when my husband got his cold cereal. I said, they go with the eggs. Blank look. Grits, I said, are a kind of hot cereal but you don’t eat them like oatmeal. You eat them with eggs. Blank look. Comes back with the menu. Shows me where grits are listed under hot cereals. Lady, chef says this is hot cereal. I explained again so she said she would take them and get me new grits to go with my eggs. I said no, leave….whisk. Gone. So of course I got two eggs and despite waiting, was halfway through before the grits came. I showed her how we eat them in the South and I got a look of, whatever you say. Excursions Every tour guide but one (and I forget which) gave us bottled water. The ship’s instructions were adamant: do not bring bottled water on the ship or it will be confiscated. We brought back one full one every day and they never batted an eye. Day 2: Les Baux de Provence, Marseilles: 4.5 hours, level 2. We went to Les Baux, which is a charming little town that was nearly devoid of tourists due to the cold, windy, rainy March day. The tour guide assured us that in summer this place is overrun with tourists, meaning you can barely move through the narrow, steep streets. The town is pretty with lovely scenic views. There are few shops but the guide told us this was the best place for local textiles. We bought a couple of things for the toddlers in our family. The tour operator offered us bottles of water as we boarded the bus, which was nice. I think I would have been annoyed had I bought the ship’s bottled water. Reboarding after the tour was a mess. The ship’s instructions are adamant that you cannot debark with ANY beverages or food, even packaged food, and then had bottles of water for sale. I bought some confections and no one batted an eye at those or the bottled water I brought back from the tour. However, it was a raw, windy, rainy and cold day. The line to reboard moved very slowly with frequent stops. The issue seemed to be that everyone funneled through one metal detector where everything stopped every time someone had to empty all pockets of coins, etc. The guy in front of me had a zillion pockets filled with coins. And he still set off the detector. Fortunately one crew member told another to simply search him and not send him back through as the line was backing up. Overall, not well organized. Side note: our tour guide said to take the free shuttle into the city center, then walk less than 10 minutes to the “train on wheels” that would take you to several sites including the Notre Dame de la Garda. Cost about 7€. She said the city has been cleaning up its crime and this is a safe thing to do, not in the higher crime area. No shopping at port. Day 3: Monaco We opted to wander on our own. Everything seemed to be reasonable distance from the docks. The Hop-on-Hop-off buses were popular and the line seemed to be long all morning. Cost 22€. We talked to several people who said it was a nice way to look around. No shopping at portside and a 10-15 min walk to town to shop. We walked around early and nothing was open. Day 4: Livorno (Florence). 10 hour excursion?! Long day in Florence and Pisa but we broke it up by having lunch in one of the Borgea family’s homes. Opulent room. Good lunch but not something you’d swoon over, although elements were quite good. Probably should have gone into the baptistry in Pisa to hear the acoustics. Tour guide samtheguide.com was funny and informative, and kept everyone together and on schedule. He alerted us to possible pickpockets and told us who wasn’t a danger even though they might look it, and who to keep an eye on in Florence. Water was provided. Day 5: Civitavecchia (Rome). A Taste of Italy. Level 2. Listed as level 2, this tour pushed the envelope. We started off with a bus ride and a rest stop. Restrooms were down steep steps. We had a person using a walker who managed but it wasn’t easy. The guide encouraged us to get a cappuccino or espresso while here, and we were astounded to discover it was a McDonalds. Their McCafe had the most amazing pastries and real Italian coffee. My husband and I split a pastry that was as far from anything a stateside McDonalds had to offer as Italy is from the US. Then we stopped for the tour of Castel Gandolfo, previous papal residence. From the parking lot to street level was a set of steep stairs. We got to the landing only to find another set of stairs, which was frustrating to the woman using the walker. From there we crossed the road but the sidewalk was only a few feet long before ending with a bit of a curb where we need to turn the corner, necessitating a step into the street. Again, not friendly to people with mobility issues. From there, we faced a very steep cobblestone street. The woman with the walker struggled quite a bit as did some of the other people who were not in the best of shape. The guide assured us it was all flat from there but as we got to the crest we found a short level part followed by two more steep climbs. So if you have mobility issues, think twice about this excursion. Having said all that, we once again got to view the outside of a museum, assured that you can get in only with tickets bought months in advance. We strolled around the small square and then made our way down the back road which was also steep. The back way was a narrower road so we had to use the cobblestone sidewalk, which was quite uneven. The bus parking area has some gorgeous murals painted on the retaining walls. And the town square had intriguing barcode squares done in mosaic tile. From there we drove to the restaurant for the cooking demonstration with the matriarch of the farm. The drive itself was interesting because the usual route was now off limits to buses and neither the driver nor tour guide seemed to know that, or the best route to take. I wanted to offer then my GPS. Finally, at the farm/restaurant. “Nonna” was delightful. We had been told she talked slowly and the guide would translate. Well, perhaps she spoke slowly for an Italian, but she chattered away and the guide gave us a bit of translation. We were served slices of bread that had been grilled with olive oil, and plates of bacon. Most of us awkwardly waited to see if we should begin eating or wait to eat (or pour wine) but finally just dug in. The cooking demo was short. We then moved into the dining area and were served more wine and plates of lasagna and gnocchi, which hit your senses like a day of Tuscan summer and sun-washed love. However, we were a tour group and as they were serving espresso (asking if we really wanted any), the group was given the cue to leave. To end the tour, we did a drive-by tour of Rome, with one quick photo stop, followed by a restroom stop at another McDonalds. Day 6: Naples. Ruins of Herculaneum. Level 3, 3.5 hours I talked my husband into this tour, thinking Pompeii would be crowded. I had been here about 25 years ago and was quite impressed. Either my memory is embellishing the past (hush, you) or things have changed. Many areas were roped off where they hadn’t been years ago, and I got the impression some mosaics had been moved to the museum. It’s a nice quick tour but perhaps Pompeii would have been better. We had the obligatory stop at a cameo factory. One woman was demonstrating the technique which was amazing because of the detail and steady hand required. Since they called it a factory and not studio I had this mental image of hundreds of people at small desks in another building, carving away and waiting for the whistle to blow so they could go home. Lots of shopping at port. Day 8: Knossos and Iraklion City (Greece). Level 3. 4 hours We chose to see Knossos and Iraklion City. The ruins were quite interesting from a historical perspective, and our guide was good. She did mention the local delicacy, a pastry filled with cheese and covered with sugar. We got one but ditched half of it. She did say most people found it odd to cover a savory cheese pastry with sugar, and we agreed with that. (Bottled water provided). Day 9: Temple of Poseidon and Its Scenic Coast (Athens). Level 2, 4.5 hours. We’ve done the requisite Athens sites on a previous visit, so opted instead for the scenic drive to Poseidon’s temple. I found it powerful, but my husband said it was interesting and mostly, it wasn’t Athens. Easy enough walk with some steps, uneven terrain around the temple. Although the temple is not as ornate or huge as the Parthenon, I liked that you could get a bit closer without huge crowds. We had an hour’s stop at a luxury resort for coffee and pastries, which were all lovely, as one would expect. The water is breathtaking. (Bottled water provided). Some shopping at port. Day 11: Croatia. Best of Dalmatia. Level 2, 7 hours Sibenik has little to offer. A long drive to this pretty-enough town with a nice cathedral/church with some interesting aspects, followed by more than hour of free time to explore two small shopping streets that required about 25 minutes if one explores every store. OK, maybe 35 minutes. Croatians earn on average about 500 Euro a year, yet several of the shops refused to take Euro or credit cards, and most of us did not want the hassle of changing out 10E to buy postcards or trinkets. Seems like poor business sense to me, but perhaps there are things I don’t understand. We saddled up and went another 30 minutes out into the countryside, to Draga, where a villa, clinging to a mountainside with a gorgeous view, laid on an agritourism spread for us. We were told this is a centuries-old “castle” but not really a castle, but more like the bunkhouse (my term) where the farm hands stayed during the, um, work week or season. The food was very good. We were greeted with dried figs and two kinds of aperitif (slivovic might have been one). From there we went to the dining room where we had baskets of amazing bread, soon accompanied by bowls of barley/lentil/chickpea soup, and then by platters of grilled meat (ham maybe and beef, but we were told to expect pork and lamb), parsley potatoes and a very mild sauerkraut. Dessert was fried dough balls. The food was simple but luscious in its locavore origins and freshness. One person said she could eat little of the food due to some medical issues, but found even the soup and potatoes bland. If you are not an adventurous eater or have multiple restrictions, I suggest finding out about the fare before booking one of these agritourism excursions. No water offered, no shopping at the port. Day 12 Padua and Airport Transfer Level 2 Chaotic. We did hear this was the first time this tour or a pre-airport tour was offered. One person was working the theater, trying to give out tickets, and being constantly hassled by someone on shore. Or somewhere. We were led out as a group (we were group 2 but passed many in group 1 who had gone out 15 minutes earlier). Once on the bus, our guide reiterated that only people with flights after 3 should be on the tour, which panicked a woman with a flight at 2:50. They told her she might not make it, and she got off the bus, got her bags and walked back to the ship. Venice airport is quite small and even though we arrived around 1:30 (and had a long schlep from the bus parking area), she could have made that. The tour ate up time, which is mostly what we were after. We got a bit of narrative on the drive, and were met by a “local” guide in Padua. Guide union thing? The new guide was bubbly and excited to show off her town. We went to St Anthony’s Cathedral which was interesting, especially for the newer outbuilding used solely for confession because the multitude of confessional nooks in the cathedral were not enough. Oh my. Maybe it had to do with all the students. Frustratingly, as we left, we passed a number of small shops selling interesting looking things connected to the church, but we didn’t stop. We walked about 20 minutes to the university, which was also interesting, and another few minutes to the famous coffee shop without doors which was our meeting place. Then we got an hour of free time to explore—the usual mall-type shops in the area, like H&M and Gucci. No way to get back to the cathedral to shop and get back in time. So, a good idea to have an hour of free time but the wrong area of town to do any (unless you just wanted the high-end or mall-type shops you can find most anywhere). Our first guide said, well, people who wanted church stuff would have known they did and said something. Well, had we known we would be doing a high-speed march across town, we might have! Some steps and broken pavement and a lot of walking. No bottled water.

Good itinerary

Norwegian Spirit Cruise Review by Barefoot&Brit

7 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: April 2017
  • Destination: Mediterranean
  • Cabin Type: Mid-Ship Oceanview Picture Window
Bottom line up front: would I do this cruise again? Not these ports, necessarily, and not with NCL (unless my beloved live-in travel arranger insisted, and who can resist that face?)

Embarkation

Airport pickup was straightforward and easy, and check-in was smooth. As this is a small port, the waiting area was quite small and crowds soon congested the small shopping area. However, once they began boarding, the process went smoothly.

The ship’s common areas are attractive, but the layout is a maze, typical of many small ships where you must go up and back/forward, then down to a dining room, but you must do this in correct sequence.

Muster drill was straightforward and well run.

One nice point: rooms were accessible right away if you wanted to drop off backpacks or any small luggage you carried on.

Day 4: I had my eye on a bracelet and it was offered at 40% off the first day. Today they had a “big sale” on that line, so we went to the shop and it was gone. We asked if this was all there was of their stock and he said yes. I said, oh, I had seen a bracelet. Oh, he said, it’s probably on the table downstairs for the sale. I guess this ISN’T all your stock then, eh? We found the bracelet, but the lighting for the “big sale” was awful. Plus it was still the same 40% off as the first day.

On-board events: I am used to being on cruises and missing events I want to attend because of schedule conflicts. NCL seems to expect you to be ashore or have your Kindle. The activities are widely spaced out and seem very targeted (like to kids, or bingo players, etc). I expected more activity on sea day but the activities are still sparse and geared toward gambling, spas and kids (and spending money!!)

I missed having port talks (and not the Shop HERE ones) which we’ve had on many ships, giving us info about the ports/area. There were no Shop Here ones either due to the lack of ship-centric shopping areas, but I didn’t miss that!

Someone pointed out (I am oblivious) that there is no alcohol duty free on board.

Food:

Does your daily routine include checking out the day’s lunch and dinner menus? They don’t put out the dessert menu on this ship! At least, not where we could find it easily. Also, there are computer generated boards around the ship showing the reservation status of the dining areas, including Shogun, the no-extra-cost specialty dining area. We saw nothing but green, so we tried to book in around 2 pm for 7 pm. Sorry, all booked except for 5:30 and after 9 pm. But, said my husband, all the boards show green. Yeah, well, we don’t update that one… .

Breakfast music so far has been jazz. Now I like jazz as much as the next person, which is to say not very much. But there is nothing that sets your teeth on edge early in the morning like a sax player or singer who can hold a high pitched note forever.

I tried so many times to fill out a comment card giving props to the servicing team but each meal had so many issues that I struggled. Someone else commented that it seemed like a training cruise but I was not sure any training was going on.

Embarkation: we had lunch in Windows and the food was nice, with a slight edge to very good. Coffee was surprisingly good.

Dinner 2: mixed reviews: duck pasta was very nice but Thai curry chicken was dry. For dessert I had pistachio crème brulee which was really pudding with a brulee crust. I always expect more of a custard than a pudding. Coffee was strong but not too bad. We ate at the Garden and it was very quiet.

Day 1: breakfast. First ship I’ve ever been on that advertised pastries and breads but no one was walking around offering them, and the waiter never mentioned it. I ordered fruit and oatmeal. The oatmeal arrived just after the fruit. The waiter put in the sugar, raisins and milk but set the bowl almost where another diner would have been sitting next to me. By the time I finished my fruit, the oatmeal was cold. Maybe they were trying to be helpful, knowing that people had to meet for excursions?

Dinner 3: Windows restaurant. My husband had the lasagna. I had a bite and said something tastes moldy! About then he took a bite and said, I just got the moldy bit too. We notified the wait staff. Noisier than the Garden.

Breakfast 2: they did wait until after I finished the fruit to bring the oatmeal, so that was good.

Dinner 4: no coffee offered. Same as last night. Guess you have to ask. We ate at the Garden and found it a little quieter than Windows. It is a large U-shaped dining room which helps dampen the noise. I had the steak salad which was a smallish portion compared to the pot roast and roast chicken others had, but it was really the perfect size dish. Tasty. The pot roast was nice, according to other diners.

Breakfast 4: Every day an adventure.

Dinner 5: Garden restaurant. Tried to get two appetizers on one plate for dinner but got two largish plates instead. At least tonight we were asked if we wanted coffee, unlike last night. We noticed the server using a table scraper to clean the table next to us (and then ours), which we hadn’t seen until tonight. Noisy tonight

Breakfast 5: breakfast comes with a game of “how will they do it this time?” Today we both ordered fruit and oatmeal. I got oatmeal and my husband got his fruit, and as we finished that, I got fruit and he got oatmeal.

Dinner 6: After a big lunch, we opted for appetizers and dessert only (never skip dessert!) No table scrapers evident at any tables around us. My husband had to ask for coffee as they took our dessert order and started to leave. They seemed startled but then asked if we wanted our coffee white. First time we’ve been asked that, as they usually bring milk (and sometimes set a bowl of individual UHT half and half containers on the table). Minor points but just to mention how inconsistent the service has been.

Breakfast 6: Again, fruit and oatmeal brought together. We said we’d share a table so were seated at a 4-top, but ended up on our own. The place was nearly empty yet they sat us next to the busing station. I finished my fruit and because no one else was at our table had room to set the plate aside where it sat until we left. I was offered hot milk for the oatmeal but had to ask for brown sugar and raisins, but he brought only the sugar. My husband had cold cereal and asked for sugar so was offered the rest of my brown sugar. The melon is much less ripe than before, and about a third is too hard to cut so I leave it.

Dinner 7: appetizer: prosciutto and melon which was very nice. Steak Diane. Diane was a tough old lady, apparently. Dessert for me was papaya, melon and mango in a vinaigrette which was lovely and refreshing. I would be happy having this every night.

Breakfast 7. Opted for prunes since the melon gets harder and less sweet every day. People, prunes are quite sweet. There is no need to preserve them in pounds of sugar. More insipid oats which he at least offered to bring at the same time as the fruit. So it got cold at the waiters station instead of under my care. The people next to us were seated at 0820, 20 minutes after breakfast opened. They were told the waiter was in a meeting and would be delayed. Ok, it’s a sea day and not many people are in the main dining room but that seemed like poor planning.

Lunch, Sea Day 1: Greek salad. No, those are not the Kalamata olives in the description. These are bog-standard black olives from a large can. Having said that, the red and green bell peppers in the salad must have been what Eve tasted in the Garden of Eden.

Dinner Sea Day: We both had Hungarian goulash. The people next to us got steak and something else and both left half, saying it was a huge portion they couldn’t possibly eat. We got a huge plate of spätzle and a small (actually, reasonable) portion of meat and gravy. Although, as my husband pointed out, if you really liked the noodles, there was only enough gravy for the meat and the noodles under the meat. The meat was pretty dry, just like I make it. Confession: I am a bad cook. I don’t go out hoping to eat the same mediocre food I make at home. Desserts: I had the tropical fruit in lime syrup (heavy on syrup, and small chunks of watermelon with LOTS of seeds). My husband had clafouti. I’ve never had it before—is it supposed to taste like a hunk of underdone pancake batter?

Breakfast, Day 9: asked for tea instead of coffee, specifically PG Tips. The waiter brought it and asked, you LIKE PG Tips? Um, yeah. He poured it and asked again. Yes, we really do. What are you recommending instead? Lipton? Or just double checking because Americans ask for it and then don’t like it?

Dinner, Day 9: Husband had the steak. Ordered medium and got medium well but he said it was nice. I had shrimp pot stickers (pot weights, really—skip these) and lamb curry which was good.

Breakfast, Day 10: not feeling well (sinus infection) so went to the buffet. Husband got cream of wheat. It was more like soup, and I thought he had added salt instead of sugar until he said it was brown sugar. Inedible salt lick.

Lunch in main dining room, Day 10 (sea day). I ordered two appetizers: pho and chicken nachos. The pho was great. The nachos were soggy and it was a very large plate. Larger than the portion I got for dinner.

Dinner Day 10: Very slow service, but it is a sea day and more people are at the sit-down restaurants. We were seated (yet again) by the prep and bus station, and noticed there is a single door, so wait staff were constantly dodging to miss each other. Incredibly inefficient and dangerous too. I had the General Tso’s chicken and the write up had the name, followed by “shrimp toast” (which was awful) and fried rice with pork and shrimp. We joked that there was no mention of chicken in the chicken dish other than the title. Turned out to be pretty good, but it seemed odd. Desserts (mango “cake” which was more mousse with a thin bit of cake as the base and hazelnut soufflé) were insipid. I was surprised that they included the crème for the soufflé in a separate container and didn’t break open the soufflé and pour it in – they had done that previously.

Breakfast day 11: mostly attentive servers with lovely attitudes.

Dinner 12: Garden restaurant. Slow service despite it being less crowded than normal. We both had salad and then sausage sampler. Quite salty. Not bad but not special.

Breakfast debarkation day. One egg please with grits instead of hash browns. Got the grits served when my husband got his cold cereal. I said, they go with the eggs. Blank look. Grits, I said, are a kind of hot cereal but you don’t eat them like oatmeal. You eat them with eggs. Blank look. Comes back with the menu. Shows me where grits are listed under hot cereals. Lady, chef says this is hot cereal. I explained again so she said she would take them and get me new grits to go with my eggs. I said no, leave….whisk. Gone. So of course I got two eggs and despite waiting, was halfway through before the grits came. I showed her how we eat them in the South and I got a look of, whatever you say.

Excursions

Every tour guide but one (and I forget which) gave us bottled water. The ship’s instructions were adamant: do not bring bottled water on the ship or it will be confiscated. We brought back one full one every day and they never batted an eye.

Day 2: Les Baux de Provence, Marseilles: 4.5 hours, level 2.

We went to Les Baux, which is a charming little town that was nearly devoid of tourists due to the cold, windy, rainy March day. The tour guide assured us that in summer this place is overrun with tourists, meaning you can barely move through the narrow, steep streets. The town is pretty with lovely scenic views. There are few shops but the guide told us this was the best place for local textiles. We bought a couple of things for the toddlers in our family. The tour operator offered us bottles of water as we boarded the bus, which was nice. I think I would have been annoyed had I bought the ship’s bottled water.

Reboarding after the tour was a mess. The ship’s instructions are adamant that you cannot debark with ANY beverages or food, even packaged food, and then had bottles of water for sale. I bought some confections and no one batted an eye at those or the bottled water I brought back from the tour.

However, it was a raw, windy, rainy and cold day. The line to reboard moved very slowly with frequent stops. The issue seemed to be that everyone funneled through one metal detector where everything stopped every time someone had to empty all pockets of coins, etc. The guy in front of me had a zillion pockets filled with coins. And he still set off the detector. Fortunately one crew member told another to simply search him and not send him back through as the line was backing up. Overall, not well organized.

Side note: our tour guide said to take the free shuttle into the city center, then walk less than 10 minutes to the “train on wheels” that would take you to several sites including the Notre Dame de la Garda. Cost about 7€. She said the city has been cleaning up its crime and this is a safe thing to do, not in the higher crime area.

No shopping at port.

Day 3: Monaco

We opted to wander on our own. Everything seemed to be reasonable distance from the docks. The Hop-on-Hop-off buses were popular and the line seemed to be long all morning. Cost 22€. We talked to several people who said it was a nice way to look around. No shopping at portside and a 10-15 min walk to town to shop. We walked around early and nothing was open.

Day 4: Livorno (Florence).

10 hour excursion?! Long day in Florence and Pisa but we broke it up by having lunch in one of the Borgea family’s homes. Opulent room. Good lunch but not something you’d swoon over, although elements were quite good. Probably should have gone into the baptistry in Pisa to hear the acoustics.

Tour guide samtheguide.com was funny and informative, and kept everyone together and on schedule. He alerted us to possible pickpockets and told us who wasn’t a danger even though they might look it, and who to keep an eye on in Florence. Water was provided.

Day 5: Civitavecchia (Rome). A Taste of Italy. Level 2.

Listed as level 2, this tour pushed the envelope. We started off with a bus ride and a rest stop. Restrooms were down steep steps. We had a person using a walker who managed but it wasn’t easy. The guide encouraged us to get a cappuccino or espresso while here, and we were astounded to discover it was a McDonalds. Their McCafe had the most amazing pastries and real Italian coffee. My husband and I split a pastry that was as far from anything a stateside McDonalds had to offer as Italy is from the US.

Then we stopped for the tour of Castel Gandolfo, previous papal residence. From the parking lot to street level was a set of steep stairs. We got to the landing only to find another set of stairs, which was frustrating to the woman using the walker. From there we crossed the road but the sidewalk was only a few feet long before ending with a bit of a curb where we need to turn the corner, necessitating a step into the street. Again, not friendly to people with mobility issues. From there, we faced a very steep cobblestone street. The woman with the walker struggled quite a bit as did some of the other people who were not in the best of shape. The guide assured us it was all flat from there but as we got to the crest we found a short level part followed by two more steep climbs. So if you have mobility issues, think twice about this excursion.

Having said all that, we once again got to view the outside of a museum, assured that you can get in only with tickets bought months in advance. We strolled around the small square and then made our way down the back road which was also steep. The back way was a narrower road so we had to use the cobblestone sidewalk, which was quite uneven. The bus parking area has some gorgeous murals painted on the retaining walls. And the town square had intriguing barcode squares done in mosaic tile.

From there we drove to the restaurant for the cooking demonstration with the matriarch of the farm. The drive itself was interesting because the usual route was now off limits to buses and neither the driver nor tour guide seemed to know that, or the best route to take. I wanted to offer then my GPS.

Finally, at the farm/restaurant. “Nonna” was delightful. We had been told she talked slowly and the guide would translate. Well, perhaps she spoke slowly for an Italian, but she chattered away and the guide gave us a bit of translation. We were served slices of bread that had been grilled with olive oil, and plates of bacon. Most of us awkwardly waited to see if we should begin eating or wait to eat (or pour wine) but finally just dug in. The cooking demo was short.

We then moved into the dining area and were served more wine and plates of lasagna and gnocchi, which hit your senses like a day of Tuscan summer and sun-washed love.

However, we were a tour group and as they were serving espresso (asking if we really wanted any), the group was given the cue to leave.

To end the tour, we did a drive-by tour of Rome, with one quick photo stop, followed by a restroom stop at another McDonalds.

Day 6: Naples. Ruins of Herculaneum. Level 3, 3.5 hours

I talked my husband into this tour, thinking Pompeii would be crowded. I had been here about 25 years ago and was quite impressed. Either my memory is embellishing the past (hush, you) or things have changed. Many areas were roped off where they hadn’t been years ago, and I got the impression some mosaics had been moved to the museum. It’s a nice quick tour but perhaps Pompeii would have been better. We had the obligatory stop at a cameo factory. One woman was demonstrating the technique which was amazing because of the detail and steady hand required. Since they called it a factory and not studio I had this mental image of hundreds of people at small desks in another building, carving away and waiting for the whistle to blow so they could go home. Lots of shopping at port.

Day 8: Knossos and Iraklion City (Greece). Level 3. 4 hours

We chose to see Knossos and Iraklion City. The ruins were quite interesting from a historical perspective, and our guide was good. She did mention the local delicacy, a pastry filled with cheese and covered with sugar. We got one but ditched half of it. She did say most people found it odd to cover a savory cheese pastry with sugar, and we agreed with that. (Bottled water provided).

Day 9: Temple of Poseidon and Its Scenic Coast (Athens). Level 2, 4.5 hours.

We’ve done the requisite Athens sites on a previous visit, so opted instead for the scenic drive to Poseidon’s temple. I found it powerful, but my husband said it was interesting and mostly, it wasn’t Athens. Easy enough walk with some steps, uneven terrain around the temple. Although the temple is not as ornate or huge as the Parthenon, I liked that you could get a bit closer without huge crowds. We had an hour’s stop at a luxury resort for coffee and pastries, which were all lovely, as one would expect. The water is breathtaking. (Bottled water provided). Some shopping at port.

Day 11: Croatia. Best of Dalmatia. Level 2, 7 hours

Sibenik has little to offer. A long drive to this pretty-enough town with a nice cathedral/church with some interesting aspects, followed by more than hour of free time to explore two small shopping streets that required about 25 minutes if one explores every store. OK, maybe 35 minutes. Croatians earn on average about 500 Euro a year, yet several of the shops refused to take Euro or credit cards, and most of us did not want the hassle of changing out 10E to buy postcards or trinkets. Seems like poor business sense to me, but perhaps there are things I don’t understand.

We saddled up and went another 30 minutes out into the countryside, to Draga, where a villa, clinging to a mountainside with a gorgeous view, laid on an agritourism spread for us. We were told this is a centuries-old “castle” but not really a castle, but more like the bunkhouse (my term) where the farm hands stayed during the, um, work week or season. The food was very good. We were greeted with dried figs and two kinds of aperitif (slivovic might have been one). From there we went to the dining room where we had baskets of amazing bread, soon accompanied by bowls of barley/lentil/chickpea soup, and then by platters of grilled meat (ham maybe and beef, but we were told to expect pork and lamb), parsley potatoes and a very mild sauerkraut. Dessert was fried dough balls. The food was simple but luscious in its locavore origins and freshness.

One person said she could eat little of the food due to some medical issues, but found even the soup and potatoes bland. If you are not an adventurous eater or have multiple restrictions, I suggest finding out about the fare before booking one of these agritourism excursions.

No water offered, no shopping at the port.

Day 12 Padua and Airport Transfer Level 2

Chaotic. We did hear this was the first time this tour or a pre-airport tour was offered. One person was working the theater, trying to give out tickets, and being constantly hassled by someone on shore. Or somewhere. We were led out as a group (we were group 2 but passed many in group 1 who had gone out 15 minutes earlier). Once on the bus, our guide reiterated that only people with flights after 3 should be on the tour, which panicked a woman with a flight at 2:50. They told her she might not make it, and she got off the bus, got her bags and walked back to the ship. Venice airport is quite small and even though we arrived around 1:30 (and had a long schlep from the bus parking area), she could have made that.

The tour ate up time, which is mostly what we were after. We got a bit of narrative on the drive, and were met by a “local” guide in Padua. Guide union thing? The new guide was bubbly and excited to show off her town. We went to St Anthony’s Cathedral which was interesting, especially for the newer outbuilding used solely for confession because the multitude of confessional nooks in the cathedral were not enough. Oh my. Maybe it had to do with all the students. Frustratingly, as we left, we passed a number of small shops selling interesting looking things connected to the church, but we didn’t stop. We walked about 20 minutes to the university, which was also interesting, and another few minutes to the famous coffee shop without doors which was our meeting place. Then we got an hour of free time to explore—the usual mall-type shops in the area, like H&M and Gucci. No way to get back to the cathedral to shop and get back in time. So, a good idea to have an hour of free time but the wrong area of town to do any (unless you just wanted the high-end or mall-type shops you can find most anywhere). Our first guide said, well, people who wanted church stuff would have known they did and said something. Well, had we known we would be doing a high-speed march across town, we might have!

Some steps and broken pavement and a lot of walking. No bottled water.
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Cabin Review

Mid-Ship Oceanview Picture Window
Cabin OB 5082
Cabin: 5082.
Small, reasonably well laid out. We had two twins pushed together, and one settee that doubled as a fold-out bed. I cannot imagine having a third person in the cabin and anyone being able to access the toilet in the middle of the night. Nice to have a separate WC with a sliding door to separate you from the sink and shower.
Shower: don’t expect to get the temp “just so” as it will change often in the course of even a short shower.
Odd features: We found one UK and one US electrical outlet by the desk, making it difficult to set up my husband’s C-PAP machine. If we needed a second one, we’d have to work that one outlet pretty hard and have cords in the walkway. Valuable real estate is taken up by a large mini-fridge which is stocked with drinks. Probably a money-maker for the company but a space hog in a small cabin. At least we had a lot of hangers.
This cabin is a short walk and a dogleg from the elevators/stairs closest to the main dining areas. As you make the dogleg, you pass in front of the door to a very busy crew area, and are in danger of being run into. Also, they look at you in horror thinking you are trying to sneak into the crew area when all you are doing is trying to leap out of the way of the rushing crew.
Deck 6 Inside Cabins, Outside Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Temple of Poseidon
    Temple of Poseidon and Its Scenic Coast (Athens). Level 2, 4.5 hours.
    We’ve done the requisite Athens sites on a previous visit, so opted instead for the scenic drive to Poseidon’s temple. I found it powerful, but my husband said it was interesting and mostly, it wasn’t Athens. Easy enough walk with some steps, uneven terrain around the temple. Although the temple is not as ornate or huge as the Parthenon, I liked that you could get a bit closer without huge crowds. We had an hour’s stop at a luxury resort for coffee and pastries, which were all lovely, as one would expect. The water is breathtaking. (Bottled water provided). Some shopping at port.
    View All 38 Temple of Poseidon Reviews
  • Knossos Palace
    Knossos and Iraklion City Level 3. 4 hours
    We chose to see Knossos and Iraklion City. The ruins were quite interesting from a historical perspective, and our guide was good. She did mention the local delicacy, a pastry filled with cheese and covered with sugar. We got one but ditched half of it. She did say most people found it odd to cover a savory cheese pastry with sugar, and we agreed with that. (Bottled water provided).
    (options for tour name do not match official tour title)
    View All 50 Knossos Palace Reviews
  • Florence & Pisa Tour
    10 hour excursion?! Long day in Florence and Pisa but we broke it up by having lunch in one of the Borgia family’s homes. Opulent room. Good lunch but not something you’d swoon over, although elements were quite good. Probably should have gone into the baptistry in Pisa to hear the acoustics.
    Tour guide samtheguide.com was funny and informative, and kept everyone together and on schedule. He alerted us to possible pickpockets and told us who wasn’t a danger even though they might look it, and who to keep an eye on in Florence. Water was provided.
    View All 246 Florence & Pisa Tour Reviews
  • Les Baux de Provence
    4.5 hours, level 2.
    We went to Les Baux, which is a charming little town that was nearly devoid of tourists due to the cold, windy, rainy March day. The tour guide assured us that in summer this place is overrun with tourists, meaning you can barely move through the narrow, steep streets. The town is pretty with lovely scenic views. There are few shops but the guide told us this was the best place for local textiles. We bought a couple of things for the toddlers in our family. The tour operator offered us bottles of water as we boarded the bus, which was nice. I think I would have been annoyed had I bought the ship’s bottled water.
    Reboarding after the tour was a mess. The ship’s instructions are adamant that you cannot debark with ANY beverages or food, even packaged food, and then had bottles of water for sale. I bought some confections and no one batted an eye at those or the bottled water I brought back from the tour.
    However, it was a raw, windy, rainy and cold day. The line to reboard moved very slowly with frequent stops. The issue seemed to be that everyone funneled through one metal detector where everything stopped every time someone had to empty all pockets of coins, etc. The guy in front of me had a zillion pockets filled with coins. And he still set off the detector. Fortunately one crew member told another to simply search him and not send him back through as the line was backing up. Overall, not well organized.
    Side note: our tour guide said to take the free shuttle into the city center, then walk less than 10 minutes to the “train on wheels” that would take you to several sites including the Notre Dame de la Garda. Cost about 7€. She said the city has been cleaning up its crime and this is a safe thing to do, not in the higher crime area.
    No shopping at port.
    View All 14 Les Baux de Provence Reviews
  • Monaco (Monte Carlo)
    We opted to wander on our own. Everything seemed to be reasonable distance from the docks. The Hop-on-Hop-off buses were popular and the line seemed to be long all morning. Cost 22€. We talked to several people who said it was a nice way to look around. No shopping at portside and a 10-15 min walk to town to shop. We walked around early and nothing was open.
    View All 490 Monaco (Monte Carlo) Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Monaco (Monte Carlo) Cruise Port Review
  • Herculaneum
    Level 3, 3.5 hours
    I talked my husband into this tour, thinking Pompeii would be crowded. I had been here about 25 years ago and was quite impressed. Either my memory is embellishing the past (hush, you) or things have changed. Many areas were roped off where they hadn’t been years ago, and I got the impression some mosaics had been moved to the museum. It’s a nice quick tour but perhaps Pompeii would have been better. We had the obligatory stop at a cameo factory. One woman was demonstrating the technique which was amazing because of the detail and steady hand required. Since they called it a factory and not studio I had this mental image of hundreds of people at small desks in another building, carving away and waiting for the whistle to blow so they could go home. Lots of shopping at port.
    View All 76 Herculaneum Reviews
  • Culinary tour
    A Taste of Italy. Level 2.
    Listed as level 2, this tour pushed the envelope. We started off with a bus ride and a rest stop. Restrooms were down steep steps. We had a person using a walker who managed but it wasn’t easy. The guide encouraged us to get a cappuccino or espresso while here, and we were astounded to discover it was a McDonalds. Their McCafe had the most amazing pastries and real Italian coffee. My husband and I split a pastry that was as far from anything a stateside McDonalds had to offer as Italy is from the US.
    Then we stopped for the tour of Castel Gandolfo, previous papal residence. From the parking lot to street level was a set of steep stairs. We got to the landing only to find another set of stairs, which was frustrating to the woman using the walker. From there we crossed the road but the sidewalk was only a few feet long before ending with a bit of a curb where we need to turn the corner, necessitating a step into the street. Again, not friendly to people with mobility issues. From there, we faced a very steep cobblestone street. The woman with the walker struggled quite a bit as did some of the other people who were not in the best of shape. The guide assured us it was all flat from there but as we got to the crest we found a short level part followed by two more steep climbs. So if you have mobility issues, think twice about this excursion.
    Having said all that, we once again got to view the outside of a museum, assured that you can get in only with tickets bought months in advance. We strolled around the small square and then made our way down the back road which was also steep. The back way was a narrower road so we had to use the cobblestone sidewalk, which was quite uneven. The bus parking area has some gorgeous murals painted on the retaining walls. And the town square had intriguing barcode squares done in mosaic tile.
    From there we drove to the restaurant for the cooking demonstration with the matriarch of the farm. The drive itself was interesting because the usual route was now off limits to buses and neither the driver nor tour guide seemed to know that, or the best route to take. I wanted to offer then my GPS.
    Finally, at the farm/restaurant. “Nonna” was delightful. We had been told she talked slowly and the guide would translate. Well, perhaps she spoke slowly for an Italian, but she chattered away and the guide gave us a bit of translation. We were served slices of bread that had been grilled with olive oil, and plates of bacon. Most of us awkwardly waited to see if we should begin eating or wait to eat (or pour wine) but finally just dug in. The cooking demo was short.
    We then moved into the dining area and were served more wine and plates of lasagna and gnocchi, which hit your senses like a day of Tuscan summer and sun-washed love.
    However, we were a tour group and as they were serving espresso (asking if we really wanted any), the group was given the cue to leave.
    To end the tour, we did a drive-by tour of Rome, with one quick photo stop, followed by a restroom stop at another McDonalds.
    View All 23 Culinary tour Reviews
  • Zadar
    Best of Dalmatia. Level 2, 7 hours
    Sibenik has little to offer. A long drive to this pretty-enough town with a nice cathedral/church with some interesting aspects, followed by more than hour of free time to explore two small shopping streets that required about 25 minutes if one explores every store. OK, maybe 35 minutes. Croatians earn on average about 500 Euro a year, yet several of the shops refused to take Euro or credit cards, and most of us did not want the hassle of changing out 10E to buy postcards or trinkets. Seems like poor business sense to me, but perhaps there are things I don’t understand.
    We saddled up and went another 30 minutes out into the countryside, to Draga, where a villa, clinging to a mountainside with a gorgeous view, laid on an agritourism spread for us. We were told this is a centuries-old “castle” but not really a castle, but more like the bunkhouse (my term) where the farm hands stayed during the, um, work week or season. The food was very good. We were greeted with dried figs and two kinds of aperitif (slivovic seems to have been one but I didn't try both). From there we went to the dining room where we had baskets of amazing bread, soon accompanied by bowls of barley/lentil/chickpea soup, and then by platters of grilled meat (ham maybe and beef, but we were told to expect pork and lamb), parsley potatoes and a very mild sauerkraut. Dessert was fried dough balls. The food was simple but luscious in its locavore origins and freshness.
    One person said she could eat little of the food due to some medical issues, but found even the soup and potatoes bland. If you are not an adventurous eater or have multiple restrictions, I suggest finding out about the fare before booking one of these agritourism excursions.
    No water offered, no shopping at the port.
    View All 13,150 Zadar Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Zadar Cruise Port Review