I chose this cruise for the itinerary, timing and availability of the Guppies program for our 2-year-old grandson. It was a great family bonding experience, but Norwegian really falls short once you step out of your suite. This is not a criticism of the Norwegian spirit crew and staff who do everything they can to make your cruise go well, but to the Norwegian concept of free-style cruising and their nickle and dime pricing program.
There are lots of dining options, but many are mediocre at best and the main dining room suffers from a lack of caring. And the many dining options really force a cruiser to purchase a dining package....and even then there are extras....like bottled water and after-dinner coffee beverages. Cagneys Steakhouse and Le Bistro were good, but really not more than that...just hotter food than elsewhere and a little more attention to quality. The Raffles Buffet has lots of choice, but most of them are not well-prepared (like really runny eggs and uncrisp bacon) and not hot. Plus the place is an absolute madhouse for breakfast as everyone has to avoid the slowness in the main dining room. The highlight of our dining experience was Cagneys Steakhouse for breakfast which is available to suite guests, but again there are issues because it does not open until 8 and we were usually off the ship by then.
As for the Ultimate Beverage Package, I was really surprised to find that it did not cover coffee beverages. It was "included" in our cruise package, but really did not add much as none of us are alcoholics and, at most, could drink a beer or a couple of glasses of wine a day. The iced tea on board is not available at breakfast and is clearly made with instant tea, even in the better dining venues.
The internet service was very poor and so expensive (basically $1 a minute) that it was not very useful. Many cruisers seemed to hang out in the cruise terminal where available in order to go on-line. We spent the first few minutes of every meal off the ship checking e-mails.
We did like the Guppies space for our toddler, and it is open for 12 hours every day, but toy choices are very limited each day and locked away unless it their "day" to be out. But one of us spent about an hour there every day and our grandson did like it. The daily Guppies programs (like Bugs, Butterflies, etc.) were OK, but not great. I think that the older children had better programs.
Our suite was nicely appointed, if a little run-down in the living room area. And it adjoined to a stateroom for our son and his wife. So we liked the space. We had nice snacks left every day by the butler (high tea type of sandwiches, cookies, chocolates, fruit). And the towel animal construction was the best that I have seen.....our grandson loved them.
Wow, when did bingo get so expensive? It has been a number of years since our last cruise that had bingo. I think $49 per person per game is a little steep....but they add raffle tickets and lottery-type tickets to soften the blow. We preferred trivia which cost nothing and was held several times a day.
We did not go on the ship's shore excursions except I went to Delos on the Mykonos day (as we docked after the last ferry to Delos...sigh). Since there were five of us and a car seat, it was more economical to arrange private tours.....and also more flexible, and we could cover more ground on our own. The Delos excursion was so-so.
The itinerary was good for our purposes, Mykonos, Piraeus for Athens, Santorini, Rhodes, Messina (for Taormina and Castelmola) and Naples. For some bizarre and unknown reason, we stopped in Chania, Crete for 5 hours (starting at 7:00 a.m.!!!). A waste of time IMHO. Plus the winds were against us the next day, so the Captain skipped Malta (one of the 2 stops that I had not already visited and was really looking forward to) and we went straight to Messina, arriving at 3:00 p.m. and spent the night there. We headed to the ship's library to look at a guide book on Italy to see if there was something to do in Messina....oops....the library books were locked up until 6:00 p.m. HAHAHAHA. Oh, we could look on the internet....HAHAHAHA..... Norwegian does not even provide maps of its port cities....I loved those maps.
Anyway, we liked our accommodations and we had great private tours once we were off the ship.
P.S. Getting off the ship on the last day was crazy! Norwegian lets all the passengers keep their bags and carry them off whenever they want. The elevators were impossible.....every one of them packed to the gills. I think that Norwegian should rethink this idea.
P.S. the balcony is really normal size, not large....two chairs facing each other and little table.
We stayed in Rome for several days before the cruise as some of our party had not been. So we did the Vatican and Ancient Rome with Emiliano of Aldo Monti's Your Tour in Italy. Emiliano was fantastic as were our guides. Definitely must purchase the highest level of ticket that you can to skip the lines.
As our cruise ship docked near Mykonos after the ferries quit running for Delos, I did the ship's tour. A very average experience.View All 97 Island of Delos Reviews
We covered a lot of ground with a two-year-old. We had a driver for the full day and a guide only for the morning at the Temple of Zeus, the Acropolis, the Agora and the Plaka. We then had lunch and visited the Archeological Museum at the Acropolis on our own. Driver was excellent as was guide.View All 390 Acropolis Reviews
Others in the family enjoyed this a lot. I had already been so kept the napping baby in a cafe.View All 6 Ancient Agora Reviews
We went on our own to museum, dropped off and pick up by PK's driver. The museum completes the Acropolis experience in Athens, but you need to go to the British Museum.View All 65 Archeological Museum Reviews
We did not have a lot of time, but saw the changing of the guard and the Temple of Zeus. The driver was really fantastic and we were able to just park right in front of the changing of the guard so I could stay in the car with the sleeping baby.View All 164 City Tour Reviews
Thank goodness the Palace of the Grand Masters was open even though it was a Monday. A great visit. The old city is wonderful although full of tourists and shops.
Amazing how much we could see in such a short time. Fortunately, we were able to take the first tender and hopped right on the funicular, meeting our guide and driver at the top. We were whisked to Oia so beat all the crowds.....absolutely critical as the hoards were there as we left. Chara Abelioti took us all over the island including her home village for lunch and to a fantastic cliffside winery for wine-tasting. Could not have been better.View All 255 Oia Village Reviews
We skipped Malta as "winds were too high and we would be delayed in getting there." Major bummer.
Really just driven there and left to see on our own. We went to the Piazza di 9 Aprile and had granita a mandorla and walked from one city gate to the other. I love Taormina, but fortunately had been there before for a couple of days. Although Nina was really nice, I expected a guide. We also went to Castelmola which was new to me. Quite a view. Average meal at the restaurant recommended by Nina.View All 101 City Tour Reviews
Actually Nina just dropped us off in Taormina and we toured the theater alone. A magnificent ruin.View All 19 Teatro Greco Reviews
Raffaele has driven me many times before. Herculaneum is small so can be done without a guide.View All 79 Herculaneum Reviews
Raffaele Vespoli arranged for a guide to meet us a Pompeii. Alessandra spent two hours showing us the highlights. With a two-year-old, you cannot push it. After, Raffaele drove us to a winery on Vesuvius where we had a wine-tasting lunch. The lunch was better the last time I was there, but still OK.View All 504 Pompeii Walking Tour Reviews