Embarkation: Very fast. There was a long line (out the terminal door) at 10am when we arrived for our 9:30am check-in, but it moved very fast and we were on the ship within 40 minutes. There is no muster drill anymore, which is great.
Bars: Extremely slow service, especially by the pools, unless you are willing to be rude and push yourself into the bartenders attention (which I am not). I ended up only ordering drinks in Vibe and in restaurants.
Service: All staff on ship we’re ready with a smile and a hello in the hallways, restaurants, and buffet. Cabin steward was exceptionally friendly and accommodating.
We had 2 connecting balconies. Plenty of space, decent sized balcony with two chairs and a small table on each balcony. Standard sized (for a cruise ship!) bathroom with shower (no tub). There was adequate storage, if you placed your empty luggage under the beds - if your luggage doesn’t fit under the beds and needs to be placed in the closets then you may find storage space lacking.
We booked a 1/2 day semi-private tour of Athens through PKTours with members of our CruiseCritics Roll Call. They picked us up right outside the terminal, and took up in a van straight to the Acropolis, Parthenon, etc. We skipped a LOT of the crowds, but it was still fairly busy. By the time we were done it was insanely crowded! Then we drove to the Olympic stadium, and many other sites, and we also saw a changing of the guard ceremony at the palace. They also gave us free time at the Plaka for souvenir shopping and we ate gelato (I wanted a gyro, but it was too early for lunch!). Afterwards they drove us back to the ship. This was a fraction of the cost of the very similar NCL excursion, with a fraction of the participants!
Livorno would not allow anyone to walk from the port. They made everyone pay 5€/person for their shuttle (which used to be free) or pay 25€ for a taxi for city center. This shuttle bus then drove around in circles for almost 30 minutes to get to city center (which is at most a 10 minute drive!) and we almost missed our excursion!
We used TuscanyBus to book independent transfer to Florence. This cost 23€/person compared to $99/person NCL was charging! Luckily everyone had been stuck in the same shuttle scam that we were, and the bus waited for us! They drove us into Florence, gave us 5 hours free time, and then drove us back. We were supposed to go back to City Center and take the shuttle again to the port, but they guarantee arrival to the ship on time and we waited for a couple who never showed back up to the bus, so they drove us right back to the ship, to be safe!
While in Florence we went leather shopping, visited the Duomo, ate at our favorite sandwich shop, got gelato, and enjoyed walking along the River. It was a wonderful, relaxing day.
This was one of the highlights of our trip! We chartered a boat with members from our CruiseCritic roll call (we used Malta Speedboat Charter) $700 for up to 10 people for 7 hours. They picked us up right outside the pier, and took us all over for several spots of snorkeling and caves, we had a delicious lunch (not included in price) and they returned us right to the pier. It was wonderful! We even went over to Gozo.
Naples: We booked a SightseeingItaly transfer to Pompeii. This was less than half the price of NCLs transfer to Pompeii. It did require us to take the free shuttle bus from the port, which brings you to another port, closer to downtown, and then walk 0.5km to the meeting place. The bus to Pompeii also enforced the Italy requirement of a FFP2 mask (KN95 for Americans), so make sure you bring those. Even though we bought our entrance tickets online we still had to stand in line to exchange our online tickets for paper tickets, which seemed like a waste of time. It was VERY hot walking around Pompeii! Make sure to bring plenty of water. There is a few working fountains inside Pompeii, but the water coming out did not taste very fresh or cold (we drank ALL the water we brought and then drank from the fountains too!). Make SURE to get a map at the beginning! I had brought along a Rick Steves guide book from our last trip to Pompeii in 2012 - they now make you enter from the theater!!! This used to be the exit! It’s VERY hard to follow a guided walk backwards hahaha We wished we had gotten a map!
Sicily is wonderful! We booked a last minute excursion through TourMessina. They picked us up right outside the ship, took us in a van to Castelmola for a walking tour and then gave us ~40 minutes free time, then took us to Taormina for a walking tour and then gave us included lunch and ~3 hours free time before our drive back. It was a wonderful day for a fraction of the cost of NCLs similar excursion.
This port can’t be done without a planned excursion. We tried to do it without one and failed. We waited until everyone else was off the ship (enjoying the water slides without the lines - which was great!) to get a tender. The line for the cable car was still 30 minutes long? Where were all these people from?! When you get off the cable car you are in Fira - it’s just a town with overpriced restaurants and souvenir shops with a view of the ships in the bay (and some beggars thrown in). The Instagram beauty you are imagining is over in Oia - on the other side of the island - you need to book transportation to get there, hence the excursion that you should have booked! The line for the cable cars back down was at least 5 blocks long as we walked the donkey path down. It was smelly, slippery, dangerous, and hot - but it was certainly an adventure!!!
Rome is amazing! We stayed 3 days after the cruise. We booked private transport from the pier to our AirBNB. They picked us up right outside the pier so we didn’t have to deal with our luggage on the train. We toured the Vatican museums with Sistine Chapel (waaaay too crowded!), Colosseum Underground after dark (so amazing!!!), Trevi Fountain (great people watching!), Pantheon (you need reservations on the weekends now!), and are the most delicious food! Rome is a magical place!!!