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22 Norwegian (NCL) Athens (Piraeus) Cruise Reviews

We had a good experience aboard the Nor. Jade. Very good shows every night (professional quality). The shows in Vegas would have cost us hundreds of dollars. The food was good in the buffet with very friendly staff (washy, washy- happy, ... Read More
We had a good experience aboard the Nor. Jade. Very good shows every night (professional quality). The shows in Vegas would have cost us hundreds of dollars. The food was good in the buffet with very friendly staff (washy, washy- happy, happy). The 3 restaurants compt. were very good, especially the French restaurant which I thought would be my least favorite but was my favorite. And last but not least, the Casino and casino bar. I play poker and they had live poker and some tournaments (not a video table). Also live blackjack. I also would like to add accolades to Carol Luchi and Joyce Samar our bartenders. Said they hadn't seen a Royal Flush on the video poker but I did hit one for a thousand dollars. They were great bartenders and friends to us. They called us by our first names after the second day of our cruise. They are now family to us. All in all, a great experience. Read Less
Sail Date February 2015
A sea of thousands of bra straps, singlets, tattoos and baseball caps worn back to front. Photographers flashing at you all the time. Music blaring in every public room all day long and even outside the ship. Swirly garish patterned ... Read More
A sea of thousands of bra straps, singlets, tattoos and baseball caps worn back to front. Photographers flashing at you all the time. Music blaring in every public room all day long and even outside the ship. Swirly garish patterned carpets everwhere, orange, purple, blue, fluorescent colours and plastic decorations and flowers assailing you.  Embarkation involved lots of queuing in the sun and carrying our own suitcases, until very nearly there at the ship, when they were removed and you had to wait for them to be delivered. YOU HAD TO PRINT YOUR OWN LUGGAGE LABELS AT HOME. Disembarkation meant another very long walk, queuing for coaches in the heat, and it took 40 minutes from ship exit to boarding the coach. The English of the woman who was announcing who in turn should disembark was so heavily accented as to be incomprehensible. The fares are relatively cheap, but, like Ryanair, once tempted by the low cost, the extras are exorbitant. Extra for fresh fruit juice in the morning, extra for any coffee except "regular", (which is not made plain on the menus, which give the impression that you have to pay for all coffees), extra for the specialty restaurants. We went to two of them, Jasmine Garden (Chinese)(extra $15 a head) and Cagneys,(extra $30 a head) and they were good, indeed very good, but really the rest of the food should have been more up to standard.   The main dining rooms - there was always a long queue to get in, in part because each group had to wait at the reception desk to show their cards and then for a waiter to seat them, instead of being able to walk into what was sometimes an empty restaurant. This created the impression that there were simply not enough dining spaces for the more than 2000 people aboard. If you went for dinner at 7.30, IT TOOK 45 MINUTES FOR THE FIRST COURSE TO BE SERVED AND WINE TO BE OFFERED, AND you would not emerge in time for the 9.30 show. The food was average. The steaks and fish were good, but the desserts were very artificial looking. The cheesecake tasted of nothing, the cheese likewise, and the sliced cheese on the buffet was warm and sweaty and unidentifiable. The menu in the main dining rooms, Grand Pacific and Alazar, was almost the same every night. Some variation on chicken, beef and lamb, and the dessert menu did seem to be identical every night.   Worst of all was the Garden Cafe, a giant buffet on the 12th floor, with all the atmosphere of a works canteen - those who were acquainted with works canteens told me that was not doing those canteens justice! A crowded scramble for the different dishes on display. Pushing and shoving around the coffee and tea machines; the coffee dispenser was frequently empty or out of order. The machine juice was watery. The patterned formica tables all displayed big plastic bottles of ketchup and mustard, and bottles of vinegar. There were no trays to serve yourself, so you had to take one plate at a time. If you were sitting on your own, you would then have to go back to the buffet for the next course and lose your place and cutlery. I surmised that trays were withheld in order to stop diners taking too much food. The breakfast pancakes were always hard and cold from having been left out too long before serving. Bottled water was $5.95, although you could buy it on shore for ABOUT $1. The first bottle was sitting in the cabin, not IN the MINIBAR, so I thought it was complimentary, but it wasn't.   The excursions were good but very pricy. For example, one could go to the Olympia site on one's own for about a 10 euro fare on the local bus WHILE the ship charged 22 euros FOR THE SAME TRIP. At one stop we were told that there were no taxis at the port and the only way into town was the ship shuttle at $12 a head - not so, there were lots of taxis at every port, and to be fair they did refund the $24 when I pointed this out. Because the ship appeared to be trying to get passengers to pay extras, and passengers were trying to avoid this, it felt like constant skirmish. $12 per head per day was added as a "discretionary" gratuity - in other words, jacking up the fare, but you could ask to have it removed, which involved paperwork and saying why. Long queues at reception most days; they could have done with more staff there.   Laundry - there was no self serve launderette, so one had to use the ship laundry: again, expensive and when I used it the clothes came back folded, not ironed, one pair of socks missing and a hole in a polo shirt (they did repair it when pointed out). I saw no ironing facilities, but one could get items ironed for an extra charge. THE CABINS WERE COMFORTABLE BUT SMALL; NO TOILETRIES OR CHOCOLATES ON THE PILLOW AT NIGHT!   Internet service was very intermittent and slow (maybe not the ship's fault, but I have had better on more faraway cruises), and it cost $100 for about 250 minutes. Entertainment - slot machines, casino etc., and many films, but they all seemed to be aimed at teenagers and were about sci-fi or future horror. Lots of towel folding demonstrations and karaoke. No lectures that I was aware of, not even port information lectures. Luckily I had printed off ample port information for each stop, otherwise it would have been sparse. The ship singers AND DANCERS were very good, so were the acrobats and their shows were worth going to, but most nights there was rather disjointed magic, crooning, clowning and so on, rather boring. ONE SHOW INVOLVED FOUR PRESUMED CLASSICALLY TRAINED MUSICIANS WHO HAD TO FOOL AROUND A LOT RATHER THAN JUST PLAY. Again, hardly enough places for the audience in the Stardust Theatre unless you got there early, and many people stood at the back. The library was small and the bookcases not unlocked that often. The shops were expensive - the usual Colombian emeralds and polyester pareos.   The sunloungers were hard, no cushions, just plastic or mesh seats and backs. The area round the pools was crowded but there were areas where they could have put more seats, for example on the deck 7 promenade. Smokers were out there. It was hard to find a quiet spot: no sooner had I settled down in a bar or lounge than bingo or line dancing would start.   Safety had me worried. When the usual drill was announced, my husband was asleep and slept right through - nobody checked, and when I mentioned this they said they would make him do the drill at the second opportunity the following day, but did not. Drill was carried out without us bringing our life jackets, so no chance to rehearse putting them on; nor were we passengers led to the lifeboat stations.   The staff were very willing to do whatever they could, and the ship was very clean. The ports of call were lovely but for a proper indulgent cruise experience, I would not go Norwegian Jade again.  The staff were very willing to do whatever they could, and the ship was very clean. The ports of call were lovely but for a proper indulgent cruise experience, I would not go Norwegian Jade again. Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
We are a retired couple seeking exciting travel destinations. The Eastern Mediterranean 12- day Jade cruise beginning in Athens was a great choice for us. The many ports of call, coupled with the October (nearly off-season) date was very ... Read More
We are a retired couple seeking exciting travel destinations. The Eastern Mediterranean 12- day Jade cruise beginning in Athens was a great choice for us. The many ports of call, coupled with the October (nearly off-season) date was very attractive. Having never been in Athens before, we chose to arrive four days before sailing. This gave us time to see the Acropolis, Parthenon, the Acropolis Museum, Plaka, Monastiraki Flea Market, Athens Archaeological Museum, Syntagma Metro Archaeological exhibit, and many views of other architectural sights within the city. We enjoyed using public transport and walking to see shops, people, and culture up close. We had booked an overnight outing to ancient Delphi and the monasteries of Meteora as well. This bus ride into Greece's central region gave us a view of life outside the city, including beautiful mountains, farmland, and a brief stop at the site of the Battle of Thermopylae. The site at Delphi was partially closed to tourists because of recent landslide activity. Despite this, it was an area full of wonders for anyone interested in history. We were able to tour two 15th century monasteries perched on the cliffs at Meteora, and this was breathtaking. We boarded the Jade Oct. 21, about 1:00 p.m., with no problems to embark. Immediately we were able to enjoy lunch in the Garden Cafe, and within the hour, cabins were ready for guests. We took a ship tour, on our own, beginning at the top & working our way down, to familiarize ourselves with the ship. We were guests on the Gem in the past, and this ship is very similar in layout. we chose an inside cabin, as we spend little time actually in the cabin and have found this to be adequate for our needs. Throughout our cruise, we found great attention to cleanliness, public areas are sparkling, and our cabin was always well attended. The disinfectant provided at all entries to dining venues is very much appreciated. The freestanding disinfectant dispenser in the elevators was constantly stepped on, in the way of passengers, and not working well, if one did try to use it. One of the joys of cruising should be the food service. The Jade has an abundance of offerings for meals. The Garden Cafe is available most of the day and has a great variety of buffet style food at "stations". There is no limit of choices and surely there is something for every taste. The Grand Pacific Dining Room and The Alizar are also free choices for dining and we were patrons at each several times. We did not care to pay extra at other dining restaurants and did not try these. The menu at the main dining rooms is somewhat repetitive-- choose chicken, steak, fish, pork. Tomorrow choose pork, steak, chicken. How about stir-fried steak, pork medallions, shrimp, the next. The portions are small and we noticed many people ordered 3 appetizers and 2 entrees. Shrimp cocktail is not jumbo shrimp, but miniature(microscopic) shrimp drowning in a large glass. Caesar salad is obviously prepared way ahead, as it is soggy, lifeless, and flavorless. But since there's so little of it, I ate it anyway. My husband ordered seafood over pasta, and requested "doubles" on the seafood. He was brought 2 complete pasta platters with a total of 2 shrimp, 2 mussels, 2 scallops, and a couple bites of fish. I ordered a soy-glazed duck dish one evening and received a large bone from some strange duck with no meat at all. It was totally inedible. Luckily, I had also ordered another entree, tortellini Alfredo, so I had something to eat. I am a small person and I never went away feeling full. The desserts tended toward whipped gelatin, variously named Bavarian, mousse, and napoleon. There was no fine pastry or elegant chef specials. Several times "flourless cake" was offered. Is that on the menu to appeal to the low carb crowd, I wondered? Entertainment on board was good. There was a show each evening, ranging from Broadway tunes, magic & illusion, retrospective music, a violinist, Spanish dancing, etc. There were late night games, parties, and comedy. The casino provided entertainment for many. There was a long list of Bingo games, fitness, spa specials, art auctions, trivia, etc., going on day & night. The main reason we took this cruise is for the ports of call it offered. This did not disappoint. Nafplion- We tendered to this port. It is a lovely city if you simply stay in port. We chose to take a city bus to the ruins of Mycenae, 45 minutes away. The "beehive" tombs of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra were exciting to see! Katakolon- Fun to walk through the souvenir shopping district. Then boarded a local train to go to the ruins of Olympia, 45 minute ride with a couple stops. Thrilling to imagine where Olympic sports began, mostly level walking over a large area. Alexandria, day 1- Boarded a bus for an independent tour with 17 guests, a licensed guide, and an armed guard. Rode through Alexandria to access the desert road to Cairo. After a 3-hour ride, arrived at Cairo. It is sad that a city with such a rich heritage has no pride and allows garbage to lay on the streets, accumulating into large fetid piles. The poor are clearly evident and it is not a place for tourists. However, the impressive view of the Pyramids is an unbelievable sight! At the Giza Plateau, got off the bus at two different pyramids and the Sphinx. Ever aware of the vulnerability of tourists, we hustled along, never straying from our guide and guard. Had lunch on a floating Nile boat, cautious regarding food & beverage. Went to the Egyptian Museum and saw King Tut's collection, truly amazing. Three hours drive, to return to the Jade for the night. Alexandria, day 2- Met the same bus again for part two of our tour, highlights of Alexandria. Saw the Roman catacombs, Pompey's Pillar, new Alexandria Library, Montazah Palace, Corniche, Qaitbay Fort, and a visit to a mosque. Had a little time for souvenir shopping at the dock. Crete- At Iraklion, rode the local bus to the ancient site of Knossos, about 20 minutes away. We did a self-guided tour of the remnants of the Minoan civilization, impressed by the paintings, frescoes, and architecture. In town, went to the temporary exhibit of Minoan treasures, while the large museum is being renovated. Santorini- Tendered to the land, took cable car to the city of Fira. While Fira is scenic, we took the local bus to the next town of Oia and were not sorry. A new vista unfolds around every corner, as you walk and see the whitewashed stucco structures, blue-domed roofs, and perfect blue water & sky. A picture taker's dream, including sunset from an overlook in Fira. Mykonos- Narrow stone paths wind through the small city, up & around the picturesque port. Option to go by boat to ancient Delos vetoed due to strong winds. Fishermen, pelicans, antique windmills, white stucco, friendly cats, surf-washed cafes, picture postcard perfect. Izmer- Met our independent tour operator for travel to Ephesus, 1 hour away by minibus. Ancient Ephesus is a huge city, loaded with tourists, and plenty of walking over uneven ground, but every step worth it. Each monument is special and the terrace houses are a treasure. Saw the museum, St. John's Basilica, Temple of Artemis, and Mary's House, as well as lunch at a carpet shop complete with apple tea and sales pitch. Istanbul- Arrived on the Jade at 12:30, giving us half a day to tour, followed by disembarkation the next day. We chose to stay at a hotel 2 additional nights. Took the 10 minute tram ride from the ship dock to the Sultanahmet and saw Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque the first afternoon. After a smooth disembarkation about 9 a.m., we continued touring on our own and saw the Grand Bazaar, Topkapi Palace, Spice Bazaar, Galata Tower, Galata Bridge, Basilica Cistern, and many other wonderful city sites over two days. I would take this trip just for Istanbul, it's a vibrant exciting city. We have been on four cruises now, on three different lines. Norwegian is tops for this itinerary. It is fine for amenities, services, and "Freestyle" choices. The food service comes in last, in my opinion, below Princess and Holland America. However, if the itinerary warranted it, I'm sure I would take Norwegian again in the future. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
My husband and I - who are seasoned cruisers -sailed on the NCL Jade departing October 21, 2009 from Athens, Greece for 12 nights with stops in 5 Greek Islands, Alexandira/Cairo, (Egypt), Izmir and disembarking in Istanbul, Turkey. I have ... Read More
My husband and I - who are seasoned cruisers -sailed on the NCL Jade departing October 21, 2009 from Athens, Greece for 12 nights with stops in 5 Greek Islands, Alexandira/Cairo, (Egypt), Izmir and disembarking in Istanbul, Turkey. I have taken my time in submitting a review as I wanted to be sure that I submit a clear and accurate one because we had chosen this ship for its itinerary only and not for the ship itself as we were very aware of the cruise line category. This ship is not for passengers expecting higher-end service at all. Embarkation in Athens (Pireaus) was surprisingly fast and easy - I could easily say it was a breeze! Our passports were "confiscated" upon check in order for the ship to obtain visas to Egpyt and Turkey. These were given back to us prior to disembarking in each of these ports. The ship does charge a $15.00pp surcharge in addition to the $20USD pp Visa fee for Turkey. The convenience is worth it. Because we only booked this ship for the ports, we decided on an inside cabin #10051 which was small as most inside cabins without a sofa. The bathroom was very roomy and the shower was quite large and comfortable with clear doors. This is where the good part ends. Although everyone is aware that liquor bottles are not to be brought onboard cruise ships, we always carry one on with us for our room on other higher-end cruiselines with no problem. Our usual "bar tab" - including bottled wine - on cruise ships reaches $900 so one bottle does not affect the ship's revenues and apparently other cruiselines recognize that. Our bottle was confiscated. Luggage is scrutinized and x rayed - not for weapons or other threatening objects - but strictly for liquor. The Jade has a designated room and permanent sign that directs passengers where to go if your luggage has been "halted" for liquor inspection. The sign reads that NCL has a Zero Tolerance for alcohol. Amazing! We were treated like criminals but that was ok. We did not spend one dime on liquor on this ship on purpose. We purchased drinks at each port daily and would bring in some in water bottles in my purse from each port. Although we were booked as "Mr. & Mrs." and requested our beds to be placed together prior to embarking, they were not. When we finally found our room steward - Joseph - we asked him to correct this. He replied if we could wait until tomorrow because he had no assistance for the evening. We frowned and let it go since we knew what to expect from NCL. However, the steward returned a few hours later and told us that he would put the beds together for us that same evening after all because he didn't want us to start on bad terms. So he found assistance and corrected the bed arrangement. His service during the remaining 11 nights was very poor. Our tissue box, amenities, toilet paper, glasses, ice and such were never replaced when emptied - days would go by and we would have to remind him. Our room did not have the usual binder with the room service menu, morning breakfast tags and other ship offerings so we called to request one on the third day. The front desk insisted we had one and ignored our request. Hours later we called our room steward and the front desk again regarding the binder with no results. A 1:00am - interrupting our sleep- the front desk called to advise us that someone will be sent to our cabin in a few minutes with the binder. This was unacceptable. Things like this continued during our cruise but we were more interested in the amazing itinerary than dealing with incompetent staff. Keep in mind that gratituities are automatically charged to your shipboard account and you have the option to adjust them at the end of the cuise. The food in the regular dining rooms was of very poor quality. I think they do this on purpose so you have to dine at their specialty restaurants - 11 of them - and spend more money. We refused to return to the main Alizar Dining room so we mostly ordered room service and ate at the Blue Lagoon. I recommend the Blue Lagoon for a quiet and cozy meal. Service there is excellent and is opened 24 hours. The Garden Cafe (buffet)was good but again the staff needs training in servicing their passengers. We dined in the Japanese Steakhouse ($25USDpp)one time which was very good. We also tried the Italian Restaurant ($15pp)once and the French Bistro twice($25pp). The food at the Italian was not good at all as it had no Italian taste. We let the server and manger know our concerns. We ordered the Chicken Parmigiana. The French Bistro is better but make sure you know "their" steak temperatures when ordering. We went twice and twice they got the temp wrong. The Jade has internet service available in each room via ethernet cable. If you forget yours they loan you one but remember to return it otherwise you will be charged $100USD. Internet packages are the usual 250Min for $100USD. The Jade's decor is mostly Hawaiian as it was originally Pride of Hawaii. The psychedelic decor throughout the ship may drive you crazy. The lounges have chairs shaped like man-eating flowers. The main corridors have gigantic multicolor acrylic flowers overhead. Very poor decor overall. Sanitizing is mandatory and you are required to use hand sanitizers whenever it is offered to you especially upon returning from a port or entering a dining area. They take good prevention against viruses. We attended only three shows - 2 of which we left before the end - cheesey productions on board. Only saw the illusionist show. The pool area is very bare and decorated in circus flag themes. Quite a sight! The ports were the best thing on this cruise. Our stops were Nafplion, Katakolon/Olympia, Crete, overnight in Cairo, Mykonos, Santorini, Izmir and overnight in beautiful Istanbul! (We stayed 4 more days in Istanbul after the cruise.) This itinerary had a minimum of 9 hours at each port- most were 10-12 with Cairo 48hours! This gave enough time to explore each port vigorously. Went on only two ship excursions, Izmir and the first day in Istanbul. The ship staff is well organized for this and those went well. For all other ports, we either went on our own or booked private tours which I highly recommend - especially in Cairo. The ship has a slogan that you can disembark on the final day whenever you please so you can sleep in, excercise, watch a movie, etc. - well the last disembark hour is 9:00am as most other ships. That doesn't give much time to participate in the suggested activities. Would I recommend NCL or the Jade?? - only if your interest is in the ports it will visit and you are willing to adhere to poor quality and service, otherwise, definitely another cruiseline. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
Sept. 29 to Oct. 9 was our 14th cruise with NCL. At first, we were not planning to do this cruise since we were going on the cruise that goes to Alexander, Egypt but our friend, whose pin name is "Heinbloed" on cc told us that ... Read More
Sept. 29 to Oct. 9 was our 14th cruise with NCL. At first, we were not planning to do this cruise since we were going on the cruise that goes to Alexander, Egypt but our friend, whose pin name is "Heinbloed" on cc told us that the Black Sea cruise would be better. And it was one of the best cruises we took because of the itinerary, meeting cc members from our roll call, the excursions and seeing crew members from our other cruises. Such as Mahmut Atar at the Le Bistro restaurant that we knew from the Star and also from the Star, Angelito Te. Was surprised to see Jose at the front desk who now has a "star" pin on his lapel. He was on the Spirit. We were also fortunate to have in our company, friends of "Heinbloed's" with us. Before going on this cruise, I went through our travel magazines and found 3 articles that interested me. First was about Regenburg, Germany. The 2nd about Sergo Tsakapora, a tour guide/historian in Yalta and 3rd Patrick who also is a guide but in Varna, Bulgaria. Before we met the Jade, we flew to Germany to visit Bad Tolz, Regensburg, Bamberg and Nuremberg. Then flew to Athens. To get to the Pireaus port, we used Andreas Kambas (a.kambas@taxidrives.gr) who is known in Germany as a taxi driver that does not cheat. He charged us 15 euros for 4 of us from the Athens Hilton. We had also used him while we were in Athens besides walking and using the metro. The day we were in Athens, the Acropolis and many other places were free. But we couldn't see everything that was free so we paid to see what we missed the following day. The one thing that I didn't like about the meal on the Jade, was the salad. When our green salad came, my first thought was "what". It was a disappointment because on the other NCL ships, we had beautiful fresh salad greens including cucumbers and tomatoes. Plus, this time, the serving was smaller. At first, we were going to Le Bistro only once because of Mahmut but then he asked us if we are coming again. How can we refuse him after he being so nice to us. Our favorite is the mushroom soup in the bread bowl which we order whenever we go to Le Bistro. A short summary of what we did at the ports: Rhodes: a couple invited us to join them on a private tour which included the old town, Lindos and we walked up to the Acropolis. We also stopped at various places. Our driver and guide was Nicholas from www.rhodesprivatetours.com Crete: we went to Knossos by public bus with others from our ship. At first we were on the wrong ticket line. Fortunately, someone from our ship could read Greek and told us where to go. Izmir: we were in Ephesus before the Terrace House was opened, therefore; wanted to see it. We had a group of 14. Yelda from Kagan (kosagan@hotmail.com) was our guide. She is a very knowledgeable person. I found out about Yelda and Kagan through cc. Yalta: we had wanted 10 cruisers to come with us so we can go to Yusupov palace with Sergo (sergo22yalta@gmail.com). We also visited other points of interest such as Livadia and Alupka palaces. At first hardly anyone was interested and a couple weeks 3 before we were leaving, it grew to 36 with 2 18 passenger vehicles. Odessa: We did a walking tour with our friends. Be sure to see the many love locks on the overpass. One had several locks. A Ukranian lady that was there told us that that person was divorced that many times. Varna: with a couple friends that we met through cc, we took a tour with Patrick (bulgariaprivateguide@gmail.com). We were very fortunate because he took us to a place were the ship excursions do not go to...the Romanian Queen Palace in Balchik. We also had a walking tour of Varna with him. Constanta: went by shuttle into Constanta and later on went by taxi to Mamaia resort. It was not what we expected. I would have preferred an extra day in Yalta, Odessa or Varna. Istanbul: to make it short, our friends and us went to the island of Buyukada by ferry. The dock is not very far from where our ship docked. For transportation once there, one must either walk, ride a bike or go by horse carriage. We used the horse carriage. A very unique place to visit. This is one of the best cruises we ever had but I must confess that all cruises were wonderful. The Jade is a wonderful ship mainly because of the crew who were all nice to us. We appreciate them very much. They have been most helpful to us. That includes our 2 room stewarts. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
Embarkation: Quick and Easy. Champagne and Orange Juice was a nice touch. Cabin: Nice layout. Lots of storage. Large bathroom. (Balcony on deck 9) Ship: Overall while very nice, there is no wow factor. The Hawaiian decor was a ... Read More
Embarkation: Quick and Easy. Champagne and Orange Juice was a nice touch. Cabin: Nice layout. Lots of storage. Large bathroom. (Balcony on deck 9) Ship: Overall while very nice, there is no wow factor. The Hawaiian decor was a disappointment, as it celebrated an area that had nothing to do with our itinerary. The ship was well cared for and extremely clean and in good repair. Staff: Our cabin attendants did a first rate job. As for many of the food servers, they seemed to be indifferently polite. This was the biggest disappoint on the ship. This was my 10th cruise and I am a very easy going person, not demanding, etc., and I couldn't quite put my finger on why the staff seemed somewhat cold. I had a feeling that either a lot of the staff were new and inexperienced, or that perhaps there was something going on that was upsetting the moral. Entertainment: Hmm. The 1st night was a talk show format with the "Master of Ceremonies" crew member ( not the cruise director, who by the way has some new title/role, and who I never saw in person), featuring interviews with the upcoming entertainers. Embarrassingly bad. The singers were ok, but no dancers. They really built up the show "Smokey Joe's Cafe"....and it was just songs with no story line. I didn't get it. There was a comedian whose name I don't recall, who used to write for the Benny Hill show. I thought it would be lame but he was funny! Food: I thought the food was very good. The Garden Cafe was actually one of the best I have had....except the seating was sometimes an issue. There were some waiting times for the Grand Pacific. I ate at 4 specialty restaurants and all were very good, especially Cagney's and Le Bistro. Room service was great. The Blue Lagoon by the way, was a great spot to get 24 hour sit down service, especially when you just miss the breakfast hours at the regular restaurants. Internet Cafe: Oh my. Good luck every getting a computer! There were only a few computers and everytime I tried to get one I was met with a long line of frustrated people. Perhaps they want us to rent laptops? I really felt for the girl who worked there, who by the way was very pleasant. Casino: I went quite often and the slots are very very tight. I only saw one person win anything the whole cruise. Good luck getting someone to bring you a drink. They do have a snack table in the evening that was very nice, and the servers were pleasant there. And bring a sweater as it was always freezing. Latitude members event at the Galleria: Don't arrive late at this One hour event as the champagne is gone in 15 minutes, and you are expected to mill around shopping until the hour is up for the chance to win a "prize". Spa: I didn't use any services but I did buy a one-day pass($20) to use the heated beds, whirlpools, sauna, etc. It was the best $20 I have ever spent on a ship. My friend and I practically had the place to ourselves and it was incredibly peaceful and relaxing. Fitness Center: Open 24 hours. Well used but never crowded. Ship Tours: I have to tell all of you who hate ship tours that the crew here did an amazing job getting people off the ship to the buses in a timely, orderly fashion. ( Cairo, Alexandria, Izmir and Istanbul). Ship board activities: Not very impressive. I recall being on the Norwegian Sun and there were too many to choose from. Disembarkation: A breeze. General impression: Good for 1st time cruisers who want to experience lots of variety in restaurants and who embrace the freestyle theme. Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
Ship: the ship is beautiful. Everything seems new and is well maintained and spotless. For the most part, even though a little "loud", the colors and designs work very well. A few places are just too "Hawaiian" and I ... Read More
Ship: the ship is beautiful. Everything seems new and is well maintained and spotless. For the most part, even though a little "loud", the colors and designs work very well. A few places are just too "Hawaiian" and I would have changed that design if I were NCL (ex, statue of famous Hawaiian warrior/leader in Grand Pacific), pictures on the walls in main staircases, all Aloha/Hawaii themed. The Grand Pacific dining room was amongst the prettiest I have seen on any ship. Cagney's, Le Bistro and Alizar were also stunning dining rooms. Pool decks were very nice as were the deck chairs. I think another pool is needed. Most ships I have been on have three (one usually covered)- this ship had two. It worked fine for this ship because the "kid's pool" only had about 2 kids in it at any given time so both pools were able to be fully used by adults. I liked the areas on either end of the pool where there is shallow water that you can just lie in on hot days. I think the ship itself was prettier than the Princess ships I have been on and the dining rooms were much more attractive. I thought the pool areas were slightly better on Princess. The sailing of the ship itself was very smooth and the seas were very calm for most of the trip. Ship Rating: 8/10 Spa/Health Club: The spa area was very big and nice. Lots of open space and glorious views from the lounging areas of the spa. They charge to use the spa area even if you have a treatment $10) which I think is wrong. If I have a treatment scheduled, I should have free use of the spa area during that time, IMO. I tried it the days I had a spa treatment, paying the $10 for those two visits. The use of the spa area was $150 for the 12 nt cruise. I personally did not think it was worth it. While nice, it was basically a hot tub, a sauna, a steam room and a few hot loungers. I had 4 treatments in total and for the most part, they were very good. My first one was a massage with someone who just seemed very inexperienced & bored. Then I had my hair done twice and the girl (Jade) was GREAT. I went back for a facial and massage and the therapist for those services was very good. I found the "specials" prices to be comparable with what we pay around here in NY/NJ area. If you go for one service, they will send you specials for another and they also offer daily specials which made the prices reasonable. My advice is to wait for the special pricing offers. I think the spa area, pricing and the services themselves were better on NCL than on my previous Princess cruises. Spa Rating: 7/10. Food: This is one if tough because it is subjective and also my reactions to it were so varied. Let's pick it apart piece by piece, in terms of the taste of the food, I would say it was very good. In terms of presentation, I would also say very good. In terms of selection and variety, I would say "fair". I had trouble finding things I liked on a few nights because of lack of selection. There were typically 5-6 "appetizers" in the main dining room. 3 of them were soup, 1 was usually a fruit and 1 was a salad. That left 1-2 offerings of a hot appetizer. Then there were usually 4-5 dinner choices. 2 were always meat (almost always a pork and/or veal) , one was a fish and the other vegetarian. The fish offering was usually very "cheap" (cod or tilapia). In terms of quality of the ingredients, I would also rate "fair". I found that cuts of meat/fish were usually very "cheap". Everything seemed to be designed to feed on a stringent budget. Lobster night was not really lobster tail night -they offered a ½ of a tail in a pasta dish and wouldn't serve just the lobster. Service in the common dining rooms was usually fine and occasionally very good. Willingness to accommodate special requests: I think again I'd say less than fair here. It always seemed a hassle whether a simple request (leave sauce off a steak or sandwich, extra order of fries) or a slightly more unusual request (order something off the kid's menu or get an appetizer from Blue Lagoon). Comparing dining on NCL to my other Princess cruises, I think Princess has the slighter edge on everything except the taste and presentation where I thin NCL had the edge. They were very close in all respects, though. Overall rating: 7/10. • Main Dining Room: We typically ate in the Grand Pacific main dining room and tried Alizar twice. Grand Pacific is a beautiful room; service was so-so. Alizar was pretty also and the service was much better here. Food from either was typically good with a range of fair - very good depending on the entrEe. Rating: 7/10 • Buffet: I found the food on the buffet to be very tasty and god. Great variety at breakfast, less so for lunch. Service was good. To keep germ-free, they don't let you touch anything. I understand why they do this but it got annoying having someone apply your ketchup to your burger or dressing to your salad ? Rating 7/10 • Cagney's: Excellent food & service. I found the food comparable to a Ruth's Chris. Presentation, service, taste of the food was all top notch here both for breakfast, lunch & dinner. Rating: 9/10 • Blue Lagoon: Had some snacks & a lunch here a few times. Food was good, service was quick, decent variety. Rating : 7/10 • Room Service: Often arrived cold, late and all the items were brought at the same time (even ice cream). However, having breakfast in the room on an itinerary like this was invaluable and saved a lot of time. Rating: 6/10 Casino: The casino was very big, new and had lots of the more up-to-date Atlantic City & Vegas games I like (for example, wheel of fortune slots, Cleopatra slots). They had a few fun slot, black jack & poker tournaments. However, I think the slots were VERY tight, the casinos at sea program VERY weak (it took forever to earn 1 point) and the overall manager was a jerk (not Adrian who was the visible presence- he was actually very nice. His boss was the jerk). One night, they advertised free house liquor, beer & wine at the casino. When we got there, we were told it was a "misprint". No apology and no attempt to make it right by passing out champagne or punch or something. I was shocked to find the casino so "stingy" when it is now part owned by a casino chain we frequent and have always had high praise for- Harrahs. Harrahs needs to extend its great land service to the casino. NCL wins for size of casino and variety of games but Princess wins for looseness of the slots & service in the casino. Casino Rating: 6/10 Crew: This was a very nice crew. All the way up the chain, these were the friendliest, most helpful crew members I have ever experienced on ANY cruise. Always a smile, always a friendly hello. The captain and his officers were warm and mingled with the guests and you could tell they loved their jobs & the people that worked for them. The majority of the crew is from the Philippines but there was a wide variety of nationalities represented including US and many parts of Europe. Some seemed a little "green" especially in the dining areas but they were almost always friendly and helpful. NCL wins over Princess here. Rating: 9/10 Entertainment: Paul was the master of ceremonies and he was a great, funny, nice guy. One show was very good: Shout was excellent. One or two other shows were decent: Smoky Joe's Cafe & the American Idol type show. Other than that, entertainment was a flop. Nighttime shows were weak and the daytime entertainment was non-existent. They had the same guitar player (he was good) over and over again, every day at the pool- playing the same boring songs over & over. The lounge acts were not great. The male piano player was good, the female one with the crazy hat was a decent piano player but a horrible singer and the female singer typically in Medusa also wasn't very good. The Stardust entertainment was weak and no one really went there. Karaoke one night was somewhat entertaining. Princess beats NCL in this area by a landslide. NCL U was a joke- the programs were the same over & over and involved basically trying to sell something (example: one on botox/restalin, one on camera equipment, all followed by sales pitches) etc Overall rating : 4/10 Room: We had an AB suite which was a wonderful room. Bedding and towels were great, layout of the room worked well for us, nice flat screen tvs, good bath amenities. The room was well serviced by our cabin steward, Roberto. The deck (11 forward) was great- very quiet up towards the bridge, not too many people walking by that way. Cabin seemed very sound proof- we rarely heard anything. We peeked in regular and mini-suite rooms and they all looked very nice and comparable to Princess rooms. We also had a chance to tour the Garden Villa which was truly an amazing, stunning room. The private courtyard area was also beautiful. Concierge & Butler Service: Concierge was great. We had Monika and she was a model of efficiency, professionalism & helpfulness. We had no problems making dining reservations for every night (even in main dining rooms). She answered every question immediately and nothing was too much of a bother. Our butler however was less than stellar. While a sweet man, he was utterly useless in his role. Everything we asked, he didn't know the answer to. All he did for us was bring food. To me, a waste of a position, just let room service bring the food! It was nice to be invited to the VIP parties (2 of them) and the escort to our room was nice. Disembark was fine and simple but not a private escort at any time as was promised. We also didn't receive some other perks that were advertised such as hors d'oeuvres or hot cookies last night. Not a big deal but don't advertise them if you aren't going to give them. Misc: Internet service was mixed. Some days it was great, others painfully slow. The internet manager was great and was always willing to credit your minutes if it was really slow or help you in any way she could. Alcohol. Drinks were good but I found them to be rather expensive on this cruise compared to other lines. Martinis were $9.50 plus a 15% tip, beers were $4.50 + tip, wines around $6 per glass. Not a huge difference but seemed slightly more expensive than on other lines. They were strict with the bringing on of alcohol but we had no issues with a box of wine and they never checked inside our cooler either when we boarded or at each port. They did not check our carry on bags. If you are bringing it on, I'd recommend carrying it rather than putting it in checked luggage. They did immediately spot wine at each port in the x-ray scanners & take it from you. Shops had a very limited selection and weren't anywhere you'd go back to browse in. Overall: I was worried about how NCL would stack up to Princess. No worried now at all. The lines are very comparable in every way. There were some things I liked better on each and the only area that I think was dramatically different was in service where NCL was significantly better and in entertainment where Princess was much better. We had a great time on this cruise and would not hesitate to book NCL again. I'd rate the overall cruise a 7 or 8 out of 10. Crew: This was a very nice crew. All the way up the chain, these were the friendliest, most helpful crew members I have ever experienced on ANY cruise. Always a smile, always a friendly hello. The captain and his officers were warm and mingled with the guests and you could tell they loved their jobs & the people that worked for them. The majority of the crew is from the Philippines but there was a wide variety of nationalities represented including US and many parts of Europe. Some seemed a little "green" especially in the dining areas but they were almost always friendly and helpful. NCL wins over Princess here. Rating: 9/10 Entertainment: Paul was the master of ceremonies and he was a great, funny, nice guy. One show was very good: Shout was excellent. One or two other shows were decent: Smoky Joe's Cafe & the American Idol type show. Other than that, entertainment was a flop. Nighttime shows were weak and the daytime entertainment was non-existent. They had the same guitar player (he was good) over and over again, every day at the pool- playing the same boring songs over & over. The lounge acts were not great. The male piano player was good, the female one with the crazy hat was a decent piano player but a horrible singer and the female singer typically in Medusa also wasn't very good. The Stardust entertainment was weak and no one really went there. Karaoke one night was somewhat entertaining. Princess beats NCL in this area by a landslide. NCL U was a joke- the programs were the same over & over and involved basically trying to sell something (example: one on botox/restalin, one on camera equipment, all followed by sales pitches) etc Overall rating : 4/10 Room: We had an AB suite which was a wonderful room. Bedding and towels were great, layout of the room worked well for us, nice flat screen tvs, good bath amenities. The room was well serviced by our cabin steward, Roberto. The deck (11 forward) was great- very quiet up towards the bridge, not too many people walking by that way. Cabin seemed very sound proof- we rarely heard anything. We peeked in regular and mini-suite rooms and they all looked very nice and comparable to Princess rooms. We also had a chance to tour the Garden Villa which was truly an amazing, stunning room. The private courtyard area was also beautiful. Concierge & Butler Service: Concierge was great. We had Monika and she was a model of efficiency, professionalism & helpfulness. We had no problems making dining reservations for every night (even in main dining rooms). She answered every question immediately and nothing was too much of a bother. Our butler however was less than stellar. While a sweet man, he was utterly useless in his role. Everything we asked, he didn't know the answer to. All he did for us was bring food. To me, a waste of a position, just let room service bring the food! It was nice to be invited to the VIP parties (2 of them) and the escort to our room was nice. Disembark was fine and simple but not a private escort at any time as was promised. We also didn't receive some other perks that were advertised such as hors d'oeuvres or hot cookies last night. Not a big deal but don't advertise them if you aren't going to give them. Misc: Internet service was mixed. Some days it was great, others painfully slow. The internet manager was great and was always willing to credit your minutes if it was really slow or help you in any way she could. Alcohol. Drinks were good but I found them to be rather expensive on this cruise compared to other lines. Martinis were $9.50 plus a 15% tip, beers were $4.50 + tip, wines around $6 per glass. Not a huge difference but seemed slightly more expensive than on other lines. They were strict with the bringing on of alcohol but we had no issues with a box of wine and they never checked inside our cooler either when we boarded or at each port. They did not check our carry on bags. If you are bringing it on, I'd recommend carrying it rather than putting it in checked luggage. They did immediately spot wine at each port in the x-ray scanners & take it from you. Shops had a very limited selection and weren't anywhere you'd go back to browse in. Overall: I was worried about how NCL would stack up to Princess. No worried now at all. The lines are very comparable in every way. There were some things I liked better on each and the only area that I think was dramatically different was in service where NCL was significantly better and in entertainment where Princess was much better. We had a great time on this cruise and would not hesitate to book NCL again. I'd rate the overall cruise a 7 or 8 out of 10. Ports/Itinerary: I will do a separate detailed review of each port in the right sections of cc but overall I thought this was a fantastic itinerary. Here's a little on each: • Katakolon/Olympia, Greece: Easy to rent a car here. We picked up our car right in town and it was basically one road the whole way there. Olympia was a very interesting site. Much bigger than I thought it would be and very moving to be where the first Olympics were held. We also stopped at a small beach. It was a simple and nice day. • Corfu, Greece: A beautiful little town to walk around. No need to do a tour or rent a car. City is entirely walkable. Take the #2 bus from the port or a taxi (10E) and then just walk around. • Alexandria, Egypt: No such a great place to walk around on your own or take a cab on your own. People were friendly but very aggressive. It was chaotic and dirty. We took a cab to the fort which was nice and then to a shopping street which was also okay but I wasn't 100% comfortable in that city. Either do a tour or be prepared to be sort of uncomfortable. I wasn't scared but more uneasy. Police presence is strong so good in a way but also unnerving to see all of the machine guns. • Cairo, Egypt: Definitely do this with a guided tour. Cairo was loud, chaotic and almost as unnerving as Alexandria (and dirtier). We did a private tour and it was great. I would not do Cairo on my own. Pyramids were amazing , everything they are supposed to be but are near ruined by the aggressive vendors and the swarms of tourists. We visited saqqarra which was a bit outside Cairo and it was great- very empty, few vendors and a great way to see the smaller pyramids and a few tombs. The museum was amazing- we did a quick 90 min there but you could easily spent the whole day. We also visited Khan el Khalil market which was really great. • Crete, Greece: beautiful island with wonderful beaches. We rented a car and drove to Agios Giordos which was a wonderful seaside town about on hour's drive east of the port. Many beautiful beaches to choose from. Iraklion town wasn't that pretty IMO- you are better off getting out of the city here. • Santorini: Heaven on earth. A magical place. Take the cable car (not so bad even for us people afraid of heights) or walk up. Be careful on timing of your return- could be lots of ship in port and you could get stuck on a long cable car line (1 hr +). At the port (before you go up the cable car), you can go on short boat excursions. We took a 2 hr tour to the volcano and a hot spring- this was very interesting and was around 22E pp). No need to book in advance. IMO, no need for a tour here. Just walk and use the local bus to get to Oia for the view. • Mykonos: A very easy town to do on your own. Beaches are easy to get to with a cheap public bus of taxi ride. Platis Yialis is my favorite and it is about 15 min away from downtown (6E for a cab or 1.40E for a bus). You can also easily walk from port to the town. Also no need for a tour here - just stroll around and enjoy the shops. If you do want to do a tour- Delos is a great tour to do. • Izmir, Turkey: Ephesus is a MUST DO! I was unsure because we saw so many ruins but this is the best example of what an actual Roman style town was like. It is huge and definitely warrants a guide. We used About Ephesus tours here and it was wonderful. After the site, we went to Selcuk town for a few hours which was a charming town. We were lucky enough to be there on Saturday- market day and it was amazing to see all the people with their fruits, vegetables, spices an cheeses. People were friendly to us and it was a great way to see real local life. We also visited the Virgin mary house which was very beautiful and very moving. • Istanbul, Turkey: Another great city. We just did this one on foot on our own using the trams (walk left out of the port, look for Jeten booth and buy ticket 1.2 YTL). We went inside the Blue Mosque which was amazing (and free!), Tokapi Palace (awesome- Harem worth every penny!) and the underground cistern (very eery but interesting and looked at Hagia Sophia from outside. The next day we went to the Grand Bazaar which was disappointing to me- it was all neat and commercial with prices quoted about 5-10x higher than we saw the day before at the local market in Selcuk. It wasn't the fun, chaotic atmosphere we were hoping for. Overall, Istanbul is a very nice , clean , cool city. 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Sail Date October 2008
Embarkation: Got to pier at noon, fastest ever experienced with tons of windows open and fast, fast, fast processing. They keep your passport at the counter. Didn't get pushy about taking boarding photograph. Met with glass of ... Read More
Embarkation: Got to pier at noon, fastest ever experienced with tons of windows open and fast, fast, fast processing. They keep your passport at the counter. Didn't get pushy about taking boarding photograph. Met with glass of champagne, found my cabin and went on usual exploration of ship. Ship: Being designed and decorated for sailing in Hawaii it still work OK for this market cause the decor is very tasteful and not tacky Hawaii, nice staircase murals-artwork, all decor in all areas work except the Altizar dining room is a total blah. No decor or theme, just nice tables and chairs. Public rooms all pleasant and tasteful, was impressed how the Hawaiian theme worked just fine. Food: Buffet very extensive with lots of specialty dishes and even a stir-fry and crepe section. Not enough places to sit when buffet gets busy which is quite often, I suspect this is because the two free fancy sit down restaurants are pretty skimpy on portions, whereas you can have your servers load you up at the buffet and selection is much more at the buffet than the menu restaurants. Food quality is OK, varies from dish to dish depending on how well a selection can be prepared or left sitting without getting soggy or goopy, salads where always great but some of the pre-made stir fry got really soggy quick. Everything is served up for you because of sanitation concerns which is just and proper. You do have to ask for a spoon tho when given your plate, and silver wrapped in a napkin. The Italian pay restaurant serves as overflow for the buffet for breakfast and lunch and is a very quiet place to seek out across the ship from the general seating area, but sometimes you have to walk a great distance to snag a table. Entertainment: The show lounge is beautiful but the entertainment is strictly third class. No real sets or costumes like broadway shows, just reviews with singers moseying the stage and then some magicians, etc doing third rate stuff and a comedian who is really funny, but overall its pretty embarrassingly amateurish. Attended about 4 shows, some I would just walk in and stand in back then walk out and rather just go watch TV. Cabin: I had an outside on the lowest deck which was great. Tons and tons of shelf and drawer space. Large shower and sink area, plenty of seating, small TV with cruddy channel selection (Fox News, UGH) and an oldies TCM channel that played the same 5-6 movies the entire trip. Tours: Didn't take any of the ship tours, arranged for more personal and private ones in which I was not part of a group of 40, but instead a group of one in Cairo and 3 in Izmir, Turkey. Ship tours are agonizing. Did not have to make one single stop to buy junk from ship tour vendors. Internet: Nine stations for over 2,000 people. Hey NCL, it's 2008, not 1988. Hilarious. This is a too big ship but its very intimately designed and if you didn't have to walk several miles from one end of it to the other, then you wouldn't know its so loooooooooong. Pool Area: Wouldn't know, never went there except to get from one one end of the ship to the top decks which were much better and private but it's lined on either side with plastic palm trees covered in xmas rope lights that actually look nice. And a curvy water slide. Two pools. All in all you'd think I'm bad mouthing the ship and the cruise but for a twelve dayer that started in Athens, hit Egypt, Greek Islands and ended in Istanbul on a very tastefully and immaculately clean vessel, I really have no business complaining. Recommended. Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
We were a little hesitant about booking a cruise with NCL, considering some negative reviews, but we were pleasantly surprised. This was our first time with freestyle cruising. As we are easy going travelers, we focused on the positive. ... Read More
We were a little hesitant about booking a cruise with NCL, considering some negative reviews, but we were pleasantly surprised. This was our first time with freestyle cruising. As we are easy going travelers, we focused on the positive. Read on.. We flew from Montreal Canada on KML to Athens via Amsterdam. Great service, good food, complimentary drinks, left and arrived on time. All in all, wonderful airline. Upon arrival in Athens, at door 4, you get in line for an assigned taxi. Cost was 30euros from airport to downtown hotel. Stayed at 3*Hotel Crystal City. Very clean, modern quaint hotel situated 2 minutes from metro (3 stops to Acropolis)(3euros all day all transportation). Day one in Athens, visited the Acropolis (12 euros) and ecological sites nearby and the Plaka area (shopping and restaurants). All very worth the visit. A five hour walk. Day 2 went up to Mount Lycabytus. Walked up (many steps)Ploutarchou Street to take the tram ( 6 euros) up the mount. Wonderful view and soooo peaceful...Returned to the hotel by Athinas street(Athens market) and the Syntagma square. Day of cruise: took a cab to the Piraeus pier. Make sure you get dropped at your designated cruise gate. The port is huge. Embarkation: We arrived at NCL gate at 11:30. Wonderful, warm, efficient welcome/embarkation with welcome champagne. 15 minutes later, we had changed and were in the hot tub. An amazing lunch buffet was already set. Staterooms were ready by 2 pm. Quick and painless muster drill at 4:30 At 5pm, had an informal meet and greet with cruise critic mates. It was nice meeting cruisemates and organizing tours together. The ship: It is beautiful, elegant and very clean. Bright colors, still a few Hawaiian decors. Lots to explore on our first day. Stateroom: 11086 (minisuite)on deck 11 aft. This is by far the best stateroom we have had. It was spacious, spotless and functional. The washroom, complete with tub was very spacious, lots of storage, quality hairdryer, make-up mirror, coffee maker, robes, the most comfortable bed and crisp linen. The patio was also spacious with comfortable chairs. We felt spoiled. We met our room steward only the next day. We were always out when he tended to our room. Every evening upon returning to our room, there was always a surprise: a towel animal, chocolate, free bingo cards, cookies etc...Our room was always well cleaned...You may want to consider an upgrade to a minisuite. Well worth it.  Note: there is a sign by the stateroom door where you indicate if you want your room cleaned or not. Food: We ate most of our meals in the Grand Pacific dining room. We found it elegant and cozy. We asked for a table for 2 and were always accommodated. A couple of times, we waited 15 minutes and used their beeper. We found the menu to have an adequate variety of appetizers, entrees and desserts ( best soufflEs ever). The food was tasty for the most part and well presented. Portions were adequate for us.My DH was disappointed about lobster night when he received half a lobster tail with other fish. Let's bring back the full lobster!! The dining staff was attentive, courteous (some staff were a little impersonal at first but talking and joking a bit tended to warm them up.) They made our dining experience very positive. We ate a couple of evenings at the buffet and were pleased with the variety of hot and cold foods. The crepes were delicious. We usually went for breakfast at the aft section of the Garden Cafe and ate outdoors-way more relaxing and not so hectic. There was even a cappuccino machine-yummy!! Cannot comment on the specialty restaurants. We especially enjoyed the freestyle experience. Eat when you want....much more relaxing than the usual formal setting. Also, we noted that guests mostly wore nice casual wear and very few men wore jackets to dinner.(Note: there is much emphasis on hand cleansing- at every restaurant entrance and at the gangway upon returning to the ship). After our visit to Egypt, the staff served everything for a few days.( So much work for them.) We would cut it down to two days. Entertainment: Fair We particularly enjoyed Showdown, Smokey Joe's Cafe and the music of singer/guitarist Eugene Villarino.There were no dance production shows. You be the judge of other shows venues....Show themes need updating to this millennium. People and things we appreciated and enjoyed: The staff: they are hard-working, courteous and friendly people who deserve nothing less than much respect and praise. And they DO appreciate praise. If we had to prepare omelets 7 days a week for 10 months, maybe we would find it difficult to smile and smile...Congratulations to all for work well done and for helping make our vacation fabulous.  The visibility/availability of the captain: He greeted us twice daily on the intercom, had a question/answer session and even attended our formal cruise critic meet and greet along with a few heads of department. Thank you, captain and your staff for doing your job so well and providing us with a beautiful ship and safe voyage. The jacuzzi opened till 10pm.This allows quiet relaxing time at the end of the day.  The pool area. Loved the return your towel policy. There was always somewhere to lounge quietly and the pools and the jacuzzis were warm and clean. Great!!! A well stocked library which I used. A very smooth ship cruise. The ocean was mostly calm- this was by far the smoothest cruise. Cannot comment on the casino, the spa and the various bars. Also, we did not do any of the ship's tours. We organized tours on our own. Ports: (THESE ARE OUR OPINIONS) Katakolon: A small port center. We walked around for a bit and returned to the ship. Corfu: We walked around this beautiful sea side city surrounded by castles- large squares and shopping boulevards. Really enjoyed this port. Cairo: huge city of 25 millions, crowded and dirty. We took a two day tour of Cairo and Alexandria with DeCastro-two days without overnight. Good experience. Tours are the only way to visit these ports- congested traffic, language, long distance between attractions. We would not have felt safe visiting this city on our own. We visited Sakkarra (the step pyramid) the Great Pyramids of Giza, the Sphinx, the archaeological museum. 13 hours long Note: About the camel ride: Get your guide to arrange a price before climbing up and think twice about handing out your camera to have pictures taken.... All in all, a wonderful learning experience. Totally happy to have visited here. Alexandria: Again, a huge bustling crowded city with beautiful beaches and large town squares. Again, it is well worth to take a tour of this city The library was amazingly grand and beautiful. We visited: Quiat bay fort, Montazah Palace,Catacomb of Kom El Shokafa, Pompeii's pillar. Iraklion (Crete):We walked around and appreciated the beautiful venetian buildings( churches castles and fountains).Interesting port. Santorini:The view of Fira up the cliffs of Santorini is fabulous. This is a tendered port, arrived early to use funicular up to the city. Once there, we took a local bus to Oia. What a delightful traditional village perched on the top of impressive cliffs. We walked around quite a bit and took in the local flavor. We advise you take a cab back to Fira as buses don't run very often We were enchanted with Fira as well. Lots of maze-like streets, great shopping and panoramic restaurants. Very clean village.We walked down the donkey trail ( thought it would be quicker than the queue at the funicular. (Think twice about doing this- it was long, slippery and smelly). We wouldn't advise it- unless you're in very good physical shape. Mykonos: This was one of our favorite ports. We walked up to the windmills and then through the winding streets to end downtown and stop for a drink in one of the many seaside restaurants. A beautiful setting. The ship provided a shuttle to the entrance of the town. We understand why celebrities would want to vacation here. It is beautiful, and the weather was perfect. Izmir: The third largest city in Istanbul and its port is second only to Istanbul. We thoroughly enjoyed this port. We took an Ephesus tour with travel@kusadasihotels.biz. Great tour. The visit to the ancient city of Ephesus and the terrace houses(a must to see), the temple of Artemis, the House of Virgin Mary and St John Basilica including lunch was one of the highlights of our vacation. Istanbul: We disembarked in this large city/port. Efficient disembarkation. Try to bargain a taxi price to your hotel(around 10$), some drivers can be brutal with the prices.We had booked a hotel for 3 days, so we went directly to our hotel, registered and then took off to visit the sights. The blue Mosque, Haga Sophia and the Grand Bazaar.(4000 shops of carpets, jewelry, leather and souvenirs. We had enough after an hour.) Day 2. We visited the Basilica Cisterns and the Topkapi Palace and walked along the seaside promenade. Here again, the street are all cobblestones and winding not to mention climbing... perfect to keep in shape. All the sights are worthwhile visiting. We enjoyed Istanbul and all that we saw and learned. For the most part, the areas in the old city were adequately clean and safe. The call to prayer begins at 5:30 am and is repeated all of 5 times a day. We did get asked to buy carpets quite a lot. You need liras to purchase most items in this city. We stayed at Hotel Azyiade, a charming 4* old city hotel 10 minutes walk to the tram and all the sights. Good value for the price. Check it out. This was a fabulous vacation, full of history and incredible sights. We walked so much, I do believe we lost weight even with the great food on board. And the weather was perfect during the entire vacation. We returned home with Air France via Paris (again a wonderful airline with superb service).While travelers tend to compare services offered on various cruise ships, we feel that they vary according to cruise lines. We enjoyed some new perks on this cruise and tried not to compare. We will not hesitate traveling with NCL again and we do recommend this cruiseline to future travelers. Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
The Norwegian Jade, October 25, 2008 Piraeus to Istanbul, 12 nights We were thrilled to have scored an aft cabin. I poured over previous cruisers' reviews of the spacious balcony, the enduring sunsets ... but they all forgot to ... Read More
The Norwegian Jade, October 25, 2008 Piraeus to Istanbul, 12 nights We were thrilled to have scored an aft cabin. I poured over previous cruisers' reviews of the spacious balcony, the enduring sunsets ... but they all forgot to mention the food dropping onto our heads from the 12th floor aft food area. We were on deck 10 and with a popular eating area just 2 floors above and our having the spacious deck that protruded below - caution became the rule. Our first night out of port, we sat enjoying the departure, leaning on the balcony rail when I felt something in my hair. It was a Splenda packet. A few minutes later my husband was brushing chocolate chip cookies off his shirt. I think the crowning blow was the next morning when we sat in our chairs and had goopy oatmeal (I think ... I hope ... eww!) plop onto our feet. SERVICE: Slow. At the risk of sounding like a chronic complainer here's my shower tale. I wear glasses. Nearsighted is an understatement. Close to legally blind is more accurate. After checking into our room, I decided to shower. Nice shower, room enough ... I grabbed a towel from the rack, opened it and FREAKED! There was something black and about 2 inches across smack dab in the center of the towel. Thinking it was a cockroach, I calmly shrieked and grabbed my glasses. Turned out to be a giant hairball that had somehow been laundered into the fresh towels. Happens I guess. Calling room service didn't yield much results. Calling the reception desk did. And while we're on the subject - the fresh fruit card I filled out never got acknowledged until I mentioned it to our steward in the hallway in front of other people. Overall, it seemed that the staff throughout the ship in all areas was a bit new to the service industry, i.e. not too quick with helping and seemingly confused that they should be. DINING: The included restaurants (Magenta and the Grand Pacific especially) were quite good. The buffet started out great and slipped as time went on (mummy tummy I was told). It is almost always crowded and chaotic and it was frustrating to stand in a line (that seemed to shift with the attitudes of the patrons) and wait for a server to plop some food onto your plate. The pay restaurants were good and the portions were gigantic (Cagney's). I was surprised at how good the Italian restaurant was - we had been on the Gem previously and it was average (of course there was no fee on the Gem for it either). ENTERTAINMENT: Did not do much of it as it seemed to conflict with our natural eating time (shows at 7:30 and 9:30). There was a new port every day and if you planned on getting up and out, early rising was mandatory (especially if you were to fight your way into a breakfast buffet line). The few we saw were certainly not Broadway caliber, but thankfully there was no charge for it. PORTS: The great ports of call were why we chose this ship. Things went smoothly and remarkably close to on time in each port. The only negative would be that time is so limited it's tough to see much, especially if you've done your homework and have a long list of must-see's in each port. More like a tasting menu of the eastern Mediterranean. KUDOS: A big kudos to the medical staff. My husband needed their services and they were top notch. That is something I never thought about in the past and it is comforting to know that someone in management has. OVERALL: A great cruise for seemingly not so much money. The price shockers in the end are the internet, drinks (with service charge and tax added on), the mandatory service charge (hey, Norwegian Jade - train your crew better!), and those expensive tours. They are great for older folks, but ... if you have the ability - make your own land itinerary. Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
Embarkation: We like to arrive early and get on board and orientated. Arrived around 1pm and on board within 40 minutes. After a brief walk around we were surprised to find that our room was available (previous cruise we had to wait a ... Read More
Embarkation: We like to arrive early and get on board and orientated. Arrived around 1pm and on board within 40 minutes. After a brief walk around we were surprised to find that our room was available (previous cruise we had to wait a couple of hours) Cabin: Set up as twin beds but was quickly converted to a queen bed on request. Inside cabin was quite small but sufficient as we didn't spend too much time there. Good storage space and bathroom tidy with good sized shower. Public Rooms: Being a relatively new vessel it is in very good condition with lots of nice public areas and spaces for some quiet hideaway. Try the big loungers in the Spinnaker lounge for a peaceful rest. The bars (which we used quite a bit!) were mostly very good with each set up in a different style to suit most tastes and give a bit of variety. I've got to say that some of the furnishings are quite gaudy and over the top but you quickly get used to it. Dining: Now this is where I believe Norwegian have hit on the secret of really making your cruise. Freestyle dining is great. Dine where you like, when you like. Previous cruise we went on we had to commit to a dining time which at times was inconvenient - like dining as the ship left port. With freestyle you could get back on the ship after a day on shore and have some lunch at 2 or 3 pm and not have to worry that you were booked in for dinner at 6pm. Flexibility to eat at 6pm or 9pm, if you wished was great. The only risk associated with this is you may find a queue at the particular restaurant you wish to dine at, particularly if a lot of excursion buses arrive back at the same time. We had 2 waits (they give you a pager), where they told us 30-40 minute delays but they turned out to be 10 & 15 minutes. No problem at all. All of the restaurant we used were very good - whether it was the standard (but very nice) dining room (Alizar), the more up-market dining room (Grand Pacific), the Tapas restaurant or any of the others. We did not use the surcharge restaurants, as we found the fare in the main restaurants to be very good. Don't miss the lobster night, check the menus each day! Grand Pacific was our favorite - very classy and special if you get a window seat. The Grand Cafe breakfast was a bit repetitive after 12 days and being a buffet at times was cold and unappetizing. Get up early and use the Grand Pacific. One thing NCL could improve on is being clear on what dress standard is required in each restaurants. Jeans are not allowed in the Grand Pacific but was not mentioned in any of the information sheets early on. I saw people being turned away because they had jeans on which could have been avoided if they had given better advice. It suddenly appeared in the daily newsletters near the end of the cruise so perhaps they learnt from it. Shore Excursions: We only did one Ship organized excursion, which was to Cairo. Whilst it was great to get to the pyramids and museums etc it was all a bit rushed. The reason became clear when we were taken to the "cruise - approved" shops where we were allowed as much time as we liked to buy over-priced souvenirs, which were obviously supplying a kick-back to our tour host. This time would have been much better spent at the sights that we had all come to see. This experience put us off later organized cruise excursions and I would highly recommend that you do your homework and do your own thing, especially if you are mobile. Ports of Call: Corfu - easy walk to town and takes not much longer than the bus trips, due to traffic congestion. Crete - Palace of Knossos is one place to see. Be careful of the taxis at the terminal. They want to charge you 50 Euros+. Go out of the terminal and turn right. About 50 meters away there is a bus terminal with buses going every 10 minutes for 1.20 Euros per person. Get the bus back to town and go the Archaeological museum. It is only very small but if you know your history they have some very significant pieces in there (although got to admit that I was all "historied" out by the end of the trip!). Santorini - now this place is special and probably my favorite on the cruise. Take the donkey to the top for 5 Euros. It may sound touristy but you don't get many chances to do this and it is fun. Fira is very nice but find the bus depot and go to Oia (about 3 Euros). This place is breathtaking. You could spend all day here taking photos. Buggy and 4 wheel drive hire was also very cheap and a good way to get around. Mykonos - similar to Santorini except not on a cliff face. Enjoy a traditional lunch in one of the many restaurants on the waterfront. Izmir - we were very keen to go to Ephesus (1 hour drive away) but reluctant to pay the US$129 each for the cruise organized one, with shopping included! So we took the risk of being able to find our own way there. Right outside the terminal there is a taxi stand with a range of set tourist routes with set prices. A visit to Ephesus and the Virgin Mary's house was 90 Euros (US$140) for the taxi. We shared this with another couple from the cruise so only had to pay US$35 each. We did have to pay the entrance fees on top of this but we were on our own time (the taxi driver just waits for you) and we didn't have to endure the shopping! Istanbul - get a taxi to the Blue Mosque and work your way back to the ship (as long as you have a good sense of direction) taking in all of the must-see sites. Be sure to get a price in advance for the taxi and for any restaurant, as they will ramp up the price if they can. We got fleeced at a restaurant for lunch but took it as a lesson. Last day of the cruise and we had to be off the ship by around 10.30am but our flight didn't leave until 7.30pm. We did a deal with a taxi driver to spend 3-4 hours to take us to the Grand Bazaar and a couple of other sites (which he recommended and were good) and then the airport. We were a bit concerned about leaving our bags in the taxi, but the driver walked everywhere with us so was quite safe. Service: I had read prior to the cruise that there were some service issues with the ship when it was the Pride of Hawaii. They have had a complete crew make-over and the service on this cruise was very good, from quick make-up of cabins to friendly efficient service in the bars and restaurants. Really hard to fault it. Entertainment: The entertainment was ok. Nothing outstanding but mostly a good way to spend an hour or so. I guess cruise ship shows are renowned for being average but I think if you don't have too higher an expectation then you will enjoy it. The casino is fun and the staff there very good. Make sure you join the Casino Club to get plenty of benefits. Complaints: Firstly I'll say that this was a very enjoyable cruise and it shouldn't be taken that the following should suggest otherwise but I think prospective cruisers like to know what the issues are and the cruise line needs the feedback too. - No self-serve laundry. Small issue but it was listed in the ship specs but they took it out during the refit. We bit the bullet and send a load to the laundry about day 7 only to have a note in the daily newsletter that night to say that there was a bag-load deal the following day for $20. This was somewhat annoying given that we had paid double that for only a few articles to be laundered. Advance notice of the special would have been good. - We couldn't find anywhere on the website what the currency on board was and our enquiry wasn't answered. We assumed that it would be Euros given it was the currency of the area but it turned out to be US$ and there exchange rates were ridiculous. Although you don't use much cash on board except for he casino.... - Information on things to do on shore and how to get there. I realize that they want you to use their organized excursions but the information they give you on the Ports of call is poor. Make sure that you do your research before arriving. Summary: Overall this was a great cruise experience with the freestyle the big hit with us. For this reason NCL will be high on our list for our next cruise, which hopefully won't be too far away! Happy cruising. Read Less
Sail Date April 2008
Norwegian Jade - April 23, 2008 Athens to Istanbul - 12 nights ATHENS: We spent three nights in Athens at Hotel Magna Grecia. Located in the Plaka area of the city, the hotel's right across from the main Cathedral and its square. ... Read More
Norwegian Jade - April 23, 2008 Athens to Istanbul - 12 nights ATHENS: We spent three nights in Athens at Hotel Magna Grecia. Located in the Plaka area of the city, the hotel's right across from the main Cathedral and its square. The Cathedral bells marked the hour and half hour. Our deluxe room overlooked the square and the huge shuttered windows opened to a marvelous view of The Acropolis. Breakfast (European-style buffet) was included in our rate, and the breakfast area was the rooftop garden of the hotel which offered a stunning view of The Acropolis. At precisely 8:00AM you could watch the Greek flag being raised, announcing that The Acropolis was open for the day. Hotel Magna Grecia offered free wifi internet in the rooms. The beds were very comfortable, and the room equipped with sufficient storage and a desk for the computer. We had two very large windows which opened to allow the cool springtime air in. The bathroom was spotlessly clean, although not brand new, and had a hairdryer. Front desk service at the Magna Grecia was excellent. Maria is Greek-American and has a wonderful personality. She answered all our questions and is a real asset to the hotel. Being in the Plaka, you could walk to shopping and sites from the hotel....great location. We and our group of eight used Paul at greektaxi.com for tours of Athens (including the Acropolis and Lycabettus Hill), Cape Sounion at Sunset, Ancient Corinth). He is highly recommended, and his English is fluent. NORWEGIAN JADE: Checking in at the Port of Piraeus was a challenge, since it was the first time Norwegian Jade had used the facility for a turnaround. There was no signage for the Jade. Our driver (one of Paul's associates) found the correct berth (Piraeus is a very large port) and we and the luggage were unloaded in a flash. We entered the terminal and met the concierge, Ruth, who escorted us to a private area to await checkin. This feature is offered to Suite passengers on all NCL sailings. We checked in and went through Port Security, and my husband and I were the first two passengers on the ship (amazing, but true). We were escorted onto the ship and to our cabin by one of the butlers. Our cabin, #10500, Category AC, is on the center bow of the ship, offering a view of where the ship's heading. It, as well as the rest of the ship, was immaculately clean. The cabin had lots of storage, a vanity area, bath with shower/tub and large 3.4 fl oz bottles of Elemis bath and hair products, and a separate toilet area with sliding door. There was a 32" flat panel TV with CNN, Fox News, local channels and movies, and a DVD player. There was also a wireless phone that reached anyone on the ship, including the butler, and worked for several hundred feet outside the ship as well. 10500 had lots of storage space, including feature a clothes closet that opened from two sides: entry hall and dressing area ... very convenient. There were also two in-closet safes. Note that there are four Category ACs on Deck 10. The two center cabins, 10000 and 10500, had significantly more spacious interiors, with a little bumpout on the front under the bridge with several huge windows. The other two ACs, 10002 and 10502, had smaller interiors, only one window and slightly larger verandahs. This distinction does NOT show on the deck plans. The cabin also had a cappuccino/espresso machine which the butler had to teach us how to use. The butler is available for suite passengers and his primary functions involve food service. He also would bring DVD's from the extensive DVD library, and return books to the library. The butler will deliver room service, and in addition to the suite room service menu, he will bring menus from any of the specialty restaurants to be served in the suite. NOTE: The surcharge for the specialty restaurant applies if you choose their food for room service. We had a card to select our favorite fruits for what was promoted as a never-ending in-cabin fruit bowl. I think the ship's provisioning was having some problems, since the fruit bowl got smaller as time went on, and strawberries disappeared from the selection. Guests could select a snack from about eight choices to be delivered either before dinner or before bedtime. We chose nuts and cheeses, and they were delivered (by the butler) every evening right at 10PM. We got back to the ship late (9PM) on the night we visited Cairo, and the line to board was long. We used our ship phone from the pier to call the butler and request room service. Shortly after we got to the cabin, the food arrived ... using the phone proved expedient and saved about 45 minutes of waiting. NCL removed a number of inside cabins on Deck 6 to create the Jade Club Casino (during the conversion of the ship from Pride of Hawaii in Cadiz, Spain). The casino offers lots of up-to-date slot machines and numerous table games. Most games were in US dollars, but the only roulette table accepted only Euros. NCL offers a Casino at Sea program (Players Club) where you insert your card in the slot machine while playing, or show it to the pit boss while at the tables. At the end of the cruise, your onboard account is credited money according to your betting time and level. Our credit was under $100. The library had a new Freestyle 2.0 feature: it was open 24 hours, with unlocked bookcases. You just signed out the book you wanted, and your account was charged I think $25 if the book was not returned by the end of the cruise. This open policy was great, and the library was usually full of people reading. The self-serve launderettes (from the ship's Pride of Hawaii days) have been removed. Items may be laundered or pressed at a per-item price, and once during the 12-day cruise they offered an "all you can stuff in a bag" laundry program for $19.99 per bag. Items came back laundered and somewhat folded....not pressed. The quality of the laundry left much to be desired; whites became grey. There are two main dining rooms (Alizar and Grand Pacific), the Garden Cafe (buffet), and Paniolo's Tex Mex Restaurant at no additional charge. Grand Pacific is the more formal of the two main dining rooms, and jeans are not permitted at dinner. There are also several specialty restaurants at cover charges ranging from $10-$25/pp. Consensus is that the food is good to very good. It was not rated excellent by anyone in our group. The concierge is used by suite guests for reservations and arrangements. We provided her with a list of requested Specialty Restaurant dates and times on the first day, and had confirmations that afternoon for the entire cruise. Non-suite guests can make Specialty Restaurant reservations 24-48 hours in advance. As part of Freestyle Cruising, reservations are said to not be required in restaurants. If you do make reservations in the specialty restaurants, however, you will be seated before those without reservations with no need to wait. Otherwise there can be wait times. Throughout the ship are large LCD panels listing the restaurants with a sliding bar showing how full each restaurant is at the time. This is a great way to decide which restaurant to patronize, and have an idea if there will be a wait time. Suite guests are offered breakfast and lunch in an area of Cagney's Steakhouse. This is a quiet, private way to start the day. Breakfast was delightful, and we were off the ship most days during lunch so we didn't experience the Cagney's luncheon. Onboard entertainment was good to very good in most cases. There were some production shows with singers and dancers, and music of various types in several lounges. Surprisingly, some of the entertainment was at extra charge: a production of "Tony & Tina's Wedding" was $25/pp to attend, with a paper-plate-pasta-dinner included. Norwegian Jade is a large ship (92,000 GRT, 965 ft long, 2400 passengers). Having our cabin right at the bow made for lots of extra walking. Although the view was wonderful while in port, we're not sure we'd choose a bow cabin again. We were under the bridge and had to keep our curtains closed or lights dimmed at night while underway. And the balcony was virtually unusable while underway because of the wind. We had an interior steel balcony door as well as a sea-door with hatch. The sea-door needed to be closed most of the time while underway due to the wind that came in under the interior door. Service: Must honestly say that it depended on the crew member. Our cabin steward was simply fantastic ... one of the best we've ever had. But we had spotty service from the internet manager, gift shop manager, casino staff and several wait staff. This may be due to the fact that the crew is still jelling ... we were on only the 3rd Med cruise of the Jade. ITINERARY: The 12-night itinerary was port-intensive, offering only two days at sea. It could easily become an exhausting cruise without sufficient stamina and rest. We visited: Katakalon (for Olympia) Corfu Day at sea Alexandria (overnight) Day at sea Iraklion Santorini Mykonos Izmir (for Ephesus) And ended in Istanbul. Just a couple of notes on the ports visited: We used DeCastro Tours for Egypt. First day was a 3-hour drive from Alexandria to Cairo where we visited the Cairo Museum., Pyramids and Sphinx; then visited a papyrus shop. We lunched on a boat on the Nile River. The second day of tours remained in Alexandria. Among the ship's shore excursion offerings was a choice of a day trip to Cairo, or an overnight trip. Ephesus was a high point of the itinerary. We used EKOL for tours of Ephesus & Istanbul and the guides were superb. For $10USD extra, you can visit the Terrace Houses in Ephesus, and it is highly recommended. They are excavated houses (now inside a building constructed around them) and the frescoes and mosaics are still clear after 2000 years. Amazing. There is LOTS of walking and climbing on the shore excursions of this itinerary. Passengers should be in good physical condition to participate fully. We probably averaged 5 miles a day walking. And destinations such as the Acropolis require a significant amount of stair-climbing. Disembarkation was quick and uneventful. The concierge had offered a set time to meet us and escort us off the ship, but we elected to make our own way. Our luggage was in the proper color-coded section of the terminal, and porters were easily available. The porter took us to a taxi and we handed the taxi driver the name and address of the hotel, written in Turkish. This helped, since we were heading for a small boutique hotel that was not widely known. ISTANBUL: Post-cruise we spent three nights at Hotel Sari Konak in Istanbul. It's located in the Sultanahmet district, walking distance to the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, shopping and dining. Our deluxe room was first floor (2nd US floor) and at the front of the hotel, so we had street noise, which didn't really bother us. Five times a day the imam of the Blue Mosque did the call to prayer over loudspeakers. Hauntingly beautiful, but it'll wake you up at 5AM if you're not prepared for it. Room was spotless, but nothing special. Bathroom was excellent, although the tub had high sides to climb over. The bed was hard and low. Breakfast was included in our rate at the Sari Konak, and again it was a solid European buffet. The rooftop garden offered a breathtaking view of the Blue Mosque on one side and the Bosporus on the other. You can't beat this hotel's location. And the three members of the front desk staff whom we met all spoke good to excellent English ... especially Mustafa. WEATHER: We were in Greece and Turkey between April 19 and May 8, and weather was excellent. Days in the high 50s to low 70s, and nights in the 50s. Egypt was warmer, with days approaching 80. We were told this was unusually cool. Guides in all three locations told us that weather in July and August is significantly hotter ... highs in the low 100s. Read Less
Sail Date April 2008
Thoroughly enjoyed cruise, and actually have deposit down for next cruise. Have cruised five times previous (Celebrity, Disney, Norwegian, and Carnival), and was impressed by cruise. SHIP/PUBLIC SPACES As others have noted the ship is in ... Read More
Thoroughly enjoyed cruise, and actually have deposit down for next cruise. Have cruised five times previous (Celebrity, Disney, Norwegian, and Carnival), and was impressed by cruise. SHIP/PUBLIC SPACES As others have noted the ship is in good shape, but still themed on the interior as if docked in Hawaii. ROOM Had outside room which was more than comfortable for two persons. The bathroom was actually larger than on ships taken previous. ENTERTAINMENT The entertainment in theatre varied from good to excellent (Smokey Joe's being the best show and 60s themed one being the next best - cant recall name of that show). Did not attend Tony and Tina's Wedding (the only pay show which includes a meal) as that was day we were docked late in Mykonos. Persons who saw thought it was good, but I'm not sure I would have paid for entertainment. Would have made more sense to have that show on a sea day. Lounge acts were so-so. FOOD Only pay restaurant we tried was the French one (tried twice and enjoyed both times). Of note, the restaurants are 1/2 price cover during the time frame of 5:30 to 6:30). The food in the non-pay restaurants was good, though not outstanding. No complaints, just nothing truly memorable. Some persons will complain of having to wait (free style), but we never waited longer than 15 minutes. Of note, if you go early or late, the waits were mostly nonexistent. However, we usually ate between 7:00 and 8:00 PM. Buffets - only ate at these at breakfast and lunch. On breakfast, the made to order omelets were very good. Only complaint regarding these would be that the selection was the same on all days of cruise (though it should be noted that there were a large number of different selections to be had -- something not always pointed out on other reviews). EXCURSIONS Took two excursions. Very much enjoyed the overnight Cairo excursion (which though pricey was worth it). Had issue with the Ephesus excursion in that I felt rushed through Ephesus in favor of visit to a carpet factory. This appeared to be an issue only with the guide we had as others that took this tour got a more comprehensive visit. I complained of this when returned to ship and obtained a partial refund which I felt to be fair. All in all, a very good cruise and looking forward to next cruise. Read Less
Sail Date April 2008
We joined our son and daughter in law on this cruise and other than being on Norwegian in Hawaii, we always have chosen to cruise with either Crystal and Celebrity. We were hesitant to take this cruise because of many negative comments ... Read More
We joined our son and daughter in law on this cruise and other than being on Norwegian in Hawaii, we always have chosen to cruise with either Crystal and Celebrity. We were hesitant to take this cruise because of many negative comments posted on the boards. As always a cruise experience is what you make it. Embarkation in Athens - We were approached by the concierge so our embarkation was ultra-smooth, but we noticed that there were very long lines for others. This was at approximately 2:30 P.M. We were very pleased that our butler materialized to take us to our room. We always travel in the top category on every ship and usually we have to fend for ourselves. This was a pleasant experience. Cabins - We had a Garden Villa as my husband is a large person and wants a lot of walking around room. It was beautiful, but very, very big--like 4200 sq ft. Easily would accommodate a large family. Great perks being in a Garden Villa--lots on concierge service,special meals in Cagneys, etc. Our son staying in a Courtyard Villa and I must say that for the money this was a very small cabin. Norwegian should have a bigger one bedroom cabin rather than take this small amount of space (Courtyard Villa) and try to make it a two bedroom suite. The plus side there is that there are two baths. Butler service - ours was horrible, his name was Henry. However, our son had another Henry and he was wonderful. Guess it depends on the employee. We receives hors d'oeuvres only after asking for them. Room Stewards--excellent, although in the beginning they did not do our room twice because they did not realize that we were early people and wanted early service. Concierge Service - We had Ruth Hagger who is being transferred to the Norwegian Jade and she absolutely made the cruise. Because of her wonderful care and attention we will consider Norwegian again in the future.] Freestyle dining - There are four restaurants where you don't have to pay. Then there are four for which you do pay a cover charge. We ate at Tangos (good); Chin Chin (way not too good) and almost every night at Cagneys (wonderful for this ship) Freestyle isn't as free as we would have liked as men had to wear long pants at night everywhere except the Garden Cafe. Quality of food - We are not big eaters and we are not particularly fussy, but the food is definitely substandard. Cagneys was the only good food we had. Cost of alcoholic beverages - High. It is a vacation though, so we feel that it should be factored in. Cleanliness - This ship is SOOOOO CLEAN. The staff are constantly polishing and cleaning and in all areas there are antibacterial hand washers and employees who spray your hands and this is a good thing. They do not let you drool over the buffet or touch the food, but serve it. This is a good, clean thing. They need more servers though as sometimes a person has a long wait while someone makes up their mind what they want to eat. Entertainment - This is the HORRIBLE WORST we have seen anywhere. Good thing we are not night owls. Casino - Although we are not high rollers, we stopped in and played slots twice, a little. Very tight slots! Great looking casino. Ships tours - We took some of these, especially the overnight to Cairo. They are comprehensive, have good guides and are well worth the money. We generally prefer private tours though. In some cases like in environments like Cairo, we felt that there was a definite advantage in going with a large food. The hotel they picked was very nice and clean and all places they stopped for food were good. The bus had a bathroom which is a real plus in Egypt. NCL definitely is in business to make money. Do not plan on anything being "cheap" and expect to pay for any extras you want. Incidentally, the photos are less costly than other ships. I think I have covered everything. This was a good cruise. Read Less
Sail Date November 2007
We just returned from the trip of a lifetime: aboard the Norwegian Jewel, Sept. 26-Oct. 8, Athens to Istanbul. We're a very active couple who enjoy independent travel, and chose this for its fabulous itinerary, which included ... Read More
We just returned from the trip of a lifetime: aboard the Norwegian Jewel, Sept. 26-Oct. 8, Athens to Istanbul. We're a very active couple who enjoy independent travel, and chose this for its fabulous itinerary, which included Alexandria, with enough time for the Giza pyramids. This is our second cruise, so some of our comparisons are to the Celebrity Summit, which we took to Alaska. We stayed in Athens three days in front and Istanbul one day after; that was about right unless we wanted to stretch further outside the cities. The Hotel Ava in Athens was superb; we got upgraded to an executive apartment with a balcony bookended by the Acropolis and Hadrian's Arch. The Sari Konak in Istanbul was European tight with no counter space at all but was in a great location with a fabulous rooftop view of the Blue Mosque. We also stayed at the Meridian Pyramids in Cairo, which was spectacular with a balcony view of the pyramids and the pool. Overall, we didn't think the Jewel was of the same quality as the Celebrity Summit in its staff, food, services or communication. The room was better designed, with terrific spaces and cabins. We wondered if the automatic daily gratuity spread among all the staff was actually a disincentive. Thanks much to cruising colleagues here and elsewhere who have shared so much useful information. I've compiled what I call important details for folks like myself who overly research to relieve our anxieties. (I've posted under Eastern Mediterranean as well.) Happy travels! IMPORTANT DETAIL TIPS 1. VISAS: o The ship takes your passports except when you go into a foreign country, at which point you pick them up with the appropriate stamp already in your passport. You also get a blank "landing pass" as you disembark, which looks kind of official but which no one ever checked. You hand it back when you return. o For Turkey, you get a visa stamp good for three months, and you're automatically charged $20 each for US citizens. No fuss, no muss. 2. FREE-STYLE DINING: o This means you can use the buffet and main dining rooms at any time, though there can be waits and lines. They attempt to help you with color-coded signs about wait times. The main dining room had a more limited menu than Celebrity had, with its fixed dining schedule. o There are 2 other restaurants you can dine at at no additional charge, but you need to make reservations. The line opens at 7 a.m. and will take reservations for two days out, so make a note to do so (which means you have to decide when you plan to eat two days out), otherwise you won't get in readily. The Italian restaurant, Mama's, was excellent. The Mexican restaurant, Tango's, was dreadful. o They had five or six other restaurants, all with a surcharge. We dined at Le Bistro, which was nice but not so amazing that we returned. The others were more pricey than we thought worthwhile—why would you have a surcharge for a Chinese restaurant? And the surcharge for the Teppanyaki restaurant was nearly what you would pay full price onshore. o There was a coffee bar in the reception area that had delicious looking desserts. I was told those were only for guests who purchased specialty coffees! What a disappointment; on the Celebrity, there was a wonderful pastry bar that was included. o The buffet was OK; for sanitary reasons, they're requiring handlers to dish out food rather than guests taking their own. This slows down the buffet considerably—just consider trying to make up a salad and having to point to each item. In addition, the waitstaff often seemed inattentive and distracted, chatting with each other even as you're standing there. o On the last day, the restaurants had a very limited menu so we opted for the buffet—it was a zoo. So, stick to the restaurant. o Because there is a guarantee tip charged automatically ($10 per guest for day), we felt it defused the level of service—because you're dining in different places, there seems to be little incentive for the waitstaff to go the extra mile. o We got a soda card, and felt a consistent sense of lower service due to the card (waitstaff presumes tips with alcohol each time). In fact over 12 days, only once did a waiter ask if we wanted to refill the soda—all other times, we had to practically plea for more. 3. ROOM SERVICE: o This was the best, most consistent service we found. You order coffee, juice, rolls, yogurt or fruit and they very punctually deliver it with a call about 5 minutes ahead of time. It's a more limited menu than we had on Celebrity, but it's great to get steaming coffee at the door. 4. DISEMBARKMENT: o They don't always go by the scheduled time listed. And, if you're eager to get off, you should go down at or before the scheduled time instead of patiently waiting for them to announce, by which time mobs will already be in line. o We were often earlier into port than scheduled. o They make a lot of money on excursions and independent travelers can get shortchanged. We nearly had a riot in Santorini, where we needed to tender ashore (that is, get into a smaller boat to be taken to port). Although the ship was in early, the water was very choppy, and they could not do duo tenders, so there were mobs waiting in a crowded space. They soon announced that "since the excursions had a schedule to keep," independent travelers should return to their rooms and wait to be called later. That didn't go over well with us; we didn't budge, and, eventually, they said we'll be on the next tender after the next excursion group. Fortunately, they did get another tender to dock and we all rushed aboard. ? As luck would have it, we were so delayed behind the excursions that when we got off at Santorini, there were no lines at the cable car to go up! o On the departure day, you're either assigned or pick a time when you are to get off, in about 15 minute increments. For independent travelers, they provide a stack of luggage tags color coded for different disembark times—you simply pick up your preferences unless they run out of your preferred time. HOWEVER, this is purely a trafficking system for the ship to keep the flow smooth. Your bags are not awaiting your departure time; they've long been ready for you overnight in the port, grouped by colors. 5. LOCATION: o Starboard was great for most ports and views. For Santorini and Istanbul, need to be on the port side. o We had an aft cabin previously, and this near aft one seemed a little more stable. 6. MISC SHIP: o Upon embarking, our neighbors were waiting and waiting for one of their bags. They finally learned that it had been detained and placed in a holding room awaiting them to reclaim it—because it had some bottled water in it. o You can get internet on your laptop in your stateroom for a relatively reasonable price. Just bring an Ethernet cable. o The fitness center was mediocre. The elliptical machines did not have heart monitors, which meant most of the programs couldn't be used. On Celebrity, there were several workers who came around to chat with guests, help answer questions. Here, I never saw anyone who acted like a host or knew anything about the equipment. The women's shower stall had no hooks anywhere near it for your towels or clothes! There were only a few classes to take; I went to two pilates, which were pretty good. o Beware that different countries deal with "lines" in different ways; there were many aggressive cruisers who went to the head of the line without any concerns; we kept our sense of humor mostly as time was usually on our side. But sometimes... 7. DRESS: o On the boat: Best thing about free-style is no need to dress up. Some people did but most didn't. They just require slacks for dinner (except for the buffet). Need light jackets for evening winds. o In ports: all manner of dress, including entertaining cruise chic. o In the religious buildings, they have cover-ups for those they deem need it. Basically you need your shoulders and knees covered. My travel mate was given a cover wrap and I wasn't even though we both were wearing light tops with sleeves. o At Istanbul's blue mosque, many women came prepared with scarves to cover their heads, but they waved me in without any covering. At a sultan's tomb, they had a box of scarves to be used by guests. o In Egypt and Turkey, natives do not wear shorts. 8. MONEY: o Greece is all Euros. o Egypt was Egyptian pounds, with many bills worth nearly nothing, plus US dollars. o Turkey is mostly Turkish Liras with some Euros. o Beware: the word Lira and Euro can sound slurred and similar. We had a taxi driver claim he quoted us Euros when we heard Liras; the same confusion occurred at customs upon return to the U.S. o You'll need some small change in Egypt and Turkey for restrooms; you can use Euros if you don't have local money. 9. PORTS TO TOWNS: (Huh; this is already getting fuzzy!) o Katakolon has about 4 blocks of tourist shops within easy walking. o Corfu is a good 20-30 minute hike and confusing to find unless you walk all the way around the port by the water. o Alexandria: you're just outside very busy city streets. o Iraklion: 20 minutes or so to town. Ship offers a shuttle bus. o Santorini: you have to tender, then take the cable car, donkeys or 600 steps. Then you're right in the heart of beautiful Fira. o Mykonos: Ship offers a shuttle bus, which goes right into the town. o Izmir: this is a gigantic city. Easy 10 minutes to major parts of town. o Istanbul: Where we were supposed to dock would have been a nice 20-minute stroll into the city. Another ship was there so we "parked" further away. You have to take a cab ($10E for four, I heard) or the tram ($1.40 lira each). 10. CAR RENTALS: o All were cheaper on site than they were via advance reservations. We paid $30-45E, which includes insurance and whatever gas is in the car. You just need to return it with some gas. (There is no self service so just wait for someone to fill your tank with however many Euros worth you want.) o Beware: the roads are very poorly marked, and, of course, in foreign languages! o You can't find any car rental agencies online for Katakolon, which is the gateway to Olympia. But right past the port is a nice car rental shop. This is so simple and easy and reasonable compared to hiring a cab. o At Corfu, we were told to leave the car at the port (making it easier for us), and just leave the car unlocked and the keys under the rug! o At Crete, we had to wait for the car rental person to find us at the port, which was a bit of a pain due to miscommunication. We were about to leave the car (unlocked, etc.) when we finally hooked up in the only "emergency" use of our cell phone during our trip. o We just drove around but hiring a cab may be worthwhile for Corfu or Crete to show you the "best views." o Digression to driving in Egypt. HOLY COW. These guys are nuts. There are no traffic rules; lights and lanes are meaningless; cars, vans, buses, pickups, wagons, donkeys, bikes and people all boldly march forth in the same space, creating lanes as they go. An ambulance siren was completely ignored as it inched along; police cars were just part of the circus. Terrifying. 11. BUSES: o They collect money and give out tickets aboard usually. o Beware the schedule may not be real. o We had a great bus ride from Athens out to Sounion to see the Poseidon Temple; it runs along the coast to the southernmost tip and took about 1 hour and 45 minutes each way. o We were more than a half hour off schedule in a jam packed bus back from Ia to Fira at around 1 p.m. 12. TOURS: o We heard mixed reports about the ship's excursions, from raving about a guide to mostly not enjoying the mobs. o We used Nile Blue for Egypt and Ekol for Turkey; they provide small group attention at lower rates than the ship. ? Nile Blue had a bad start with us. We got off bright-eyed, ready to go, met with them...then had to wait nearly an hour to get out of the port, while watching bus after bus rev away. They said they usually gather a few tour groups and leave in a caravan (which they did not tell us ahead of time). This time, security allegedly required them to wait for their entire party to leave. (We noticed some money exchanging hands with the guards when we finally left). We did not get an English speaking guide until we reached Cairo, so we had no background conversation coming or going. The delay meant we missed out on a lunch that was included in the tour; instead, they let us do quick snack shopping at a shop. • Aside from that, Nile Blue was GREAT. They took good care of us; gave good information, especially at the chaotic Egyptian museum; brought us to a couple of very nice buffets, including a dinner cruise that seemed filled with natives, not tourists; got us terrific accommodations at the Meridian Pyramids. • They wanted to take us to the papyrus factory, which is basically a shopping network, but we declined. • We had enough time to visit the Alexandria library on day two but it was closed, so they drove us through Alexandria markets and it was fascinating. ? Ekol was very good; Inan very punctual and professional. We went to Mary's house first and just beat hoards of busloads. One complaint: Ekols snuck in a visit to a carpet "coop" (actually a demonstration sales house), which they had not told us about. It was a good visit but annoying since it was not on our plans and they were supposed to be on our dime. • Our travel mates also used Ekol for Istanbul and were very complimentary. 13. SANTORINI HIKE: o Going from Fira to Ia is really a two-part hike of six miles or so. The first is gorgeous spectacular churches, hotels, villas, swimming pools. The second is more geologically interesting, with pumice, ash, layers of volcano all about, and was the steepest part of the hike. (So, it should be easier the other way!) o It wasn't intuitive to find the trail. We had found a very nice description ([url]www.cycladen.be/fira-calderaeng.htm[/url]) but even it was somewhat confusing. Basically, going this direction, you want the water on your left; if you pass the Nomikos Conference Center, which looks like an important building, you're in good shape. o It took us about 2 1/2 hours with many stops for pictures and a snack break. o There was really not a good place to eat after Imerovigli (which is spectacular), so either do it there or wait till Ia. 14. TRAM AT ISTANBUL: o This is a wonderful, easy transport that runs along the port area. You need to follow the tracks to find a "station," which has a ticket counter and turnstyles for putting in your tokens and for departing (even though you can get on and off the platform in other ways!) 15. TURKISH BATH: o I'm a Gene Juarez gal and I should have passed on the hammam. It was coarse and sloppy, with well-intentioned, weathered, saggy women slathering and mopping and tossing scoops of water on you. 16. SECURITY BETWEEN FLIGHTS: o If you are changing flights and changing countries (i.e. US to Paris to Athens), you will have to go through security again—meaning you can't take liquids on board. So don't waste money buying water thinking you'll have it for the long long flights home. They'll make you throw it away. o The customs line in Amsterdam was dreadfully disorganized. Then we were surprised that there were no customs check upon arrival in Athens. (Don't recall the same reaction traveling via Copenhagen.) o The security line in Paris was shockingly bad—we wondered if there had been recent incidents and/or new hires because we were checked numerous times, then went through remedial security—as if they've never done this before—including physical checks of each person. They took away our water, soda and a plastic knife. ? Don't forget at CDG in Paris you have take connecting buses to get to your planes, and buses to get to terminals as well. It's time consuming. Read Less
Sail Date September 2007
My husband and I decided to go on a kid-free vacation this year as the kids were old enough, and my parents young enough to look after them! We'd always wanted to go on Star Clippers, and since we've been to several Caribbean ... Read More
My husband and I decided to go on a kid-free vacation this year as the kids were old enough, and my parents young enough to look after them! We'd always wanted to go on Star Clippers, and since we've been to several Caribbean destinations, opted for the Mediterranean. We were mainly interested in Greece. However, our travel agent pointed out that for about the same price as a week with Star Clippers we could do two weeks with a regular cruise line, and since Europe's so far to go, it's better to make the most of it. We started looking at ships and like the 'Freestyle" concept. We looked at itineraries and were immediately excited about NCLs 12 night Athens to Istanbul which included all the main Greek ports, plus Ephesus, and a bonus of Istanbul AND EGYPT! What an opportunity to get to the the pyramids during a larger trip, and from the comfort of a cruise ship! So we booked in the spring. Our final payment was due in July. We'd paid in Canadian funds as that was how the travel agent had the cruise co. quote it. By July, the Canadian Dollar was gaining strength against the US dollar. Little did we know when we booked that the exchange rates the cruise cos. use are set late in the year for the following year, so the rate we were given was not as good as the current rate. Furthermore, since we'd booked in CDN$ they would not change to USD. We could have cancelled and rebooked, but we'd lose the early booking discounts so it would have cost more, and the cruise was almost full so we would not have got a very good cabin, or in the class we wanted. I was very disappointed! I was told it's just a gamble. The dollar 'could have 'dropped and then we'd have come out ahead. So, I had to deal with it. At least all onboard charges including excursions would be charged to my account in USD, which I'd pay at the rate my credit card company charged. We booked air through NCL so that we could cancel before full payment in July, and so there'd be more guarantee if there were delays (we didn't want to take any chances) so we arrived in Athens with Delta two days early. One hotel option was the Metropolitan hotel. It's a new hotel, likely built for the 2004 Olympics. It's halfway between the port and downtown but they run a free shuttle every hour. The Jewel is a new ship, only 2 years old. It will be the twin of the Gem when it's launched this year. I won't get into specs. as you can get that from the website, but we found it to be clean, have large common rooms, excellent service from the room porters (they introduced themselves the first day, and all of them were friendly and went out of their way to help in any way) and especially the wait staff, who practically fell over themselves. We used the spa and the fitness area. All were well appointed. We went to the Open House for the Spa on the first day and were given 50% of any one Spa treatment, which is good as they are pricey! I really have no complaints about the ship. We had some choppy seas and with the stabilizers out we only got a little jiggle. Our cabin was a mini-suite on deck 11, midships (under the pool deck). It had a good sized balcony, and lots of storage, a well-laid out bathroom, mini bar, TV and safe. We also got bath robes. The bed had only a duvet and we roasted the first night! We asked for a top sheet and blanket instead and were obliged. It was much better after that! The room was great, relaxing to come back to, and we enjoyed some room service breakfasts there on the days at sea. The pool area was usually very packed, but the deck hands remove towels from unused chairs after app. half an hour (I saw people leave with clearly no intention of coming back and not bother to put their towels in the laundry!). The pools were warm (31' C!!!) and both had a shallow area you could sit on surrounding the deeper part. This was great as you did not have to be swimming to enjoy the water, and it was better for kids. If you wanted more privacy, there are chairs on deck 13 and 14, and a Freestyle Sundeck (you can guess what THAT is for!) on deck 15! There are LOTS of bars, and as usual, alcoholic drinks are pricey! Hard to understand when the on-board duty-free shop has really cheap liquor. Too bad you cannot buy it and take it back to your room! Activities we didn't participate in any, although I herd things like Bingo announced. There wasn't really anything I thought was interesting. Dining -There were 12 restaurants, and we ate at all but the Sushi Bar and the French Bistro (we were not impressed with the menu). Teppanyaki is definitely neat to go to! There is a service charge but it is worth it as they cook the food in front of you. The Steakhouse is also great, and has a service charge. We seemed to like the Tex-Mex place the best, and there's no service charge. The buffet restaurant always had a good selection in including, my favorite, the breakfast omelette bar! We only had to wait to eat once, on the formal night. And our meals were always served promptly and were hot, and we weren't kept waiting between courses. The menus had such great selection it was often hard to choose! Good thing we would go back! One thing about the dining, and the Jewel in general, is that they are fanatic about germs! There are gel handwash dispensers everywhere! You can't board the ship or enter a restaurant without having your hands sprayed, and in the buffet restaurant, you can't even serve yourself! They have staff to put everything on your plate! It's impressive and I'm sure cuts down on GI outbreaks! Children's Clubs -we did not use them, but we had a look to see in case we bring our kids in the future. They were closed when we looked so no kids were there. I would not say the rooms for the kids clubs looked very impressive, but I will add that it would be the staff and activities that would determine how good the programs are, so I can't comment. Entertainment -this would be the one area of disappointment. Although there were musicians playing in several areas in the evening, the main shows at the theatre often seemed amateurish at best. Only a couple shows even interested us, and one was a crew member singing, and he sounded like am American Idol audition. Another was a comedian, Lenny Winsor. He was OK, used the audience a lot in his gags, but some material was old. That being said, we were impressed by the Cirque Bijou production. It was professionally done and choreographed, definitely a highlight! Shore Excursions -there was a huge line at the shore excursion desk the first day, one I'd hoped to avoid by booking online in advance, but we couldn't get into one so I called the desk and was initially told to come wait in line as there were now openings, but when I explained I'd tried to get in before, the girl promised to reserve spots for us, but we still had to go to the desk. The excursions were well chosen and well run. Unfortunately, being on a tour bus always has drawbacks, and everywhere we went was so busy, whether from other cruise ships or land-based tours. In Athens, Ephesus and Istanbul I booked private tours before hand and it was great as we had more time, and the latter two were private so we could stay away from the groups if needed. I thought the ship excursions were well organized and the process was speedy considering the number of people leaving! In Santorini we booked an excursion in the hopes it would get us to shore faster (you have to tender there) and it did, and also we were tendered to the old port where buses take you up, so we didn't have to wait for the cable car or take a donkey, AND we got to see more of the island. Disembarkation-We were very unhappy with our flight arrangements, as we had a 6am flight, which meant we were booked on a 2am bus to the airport (we were NOT alone!!) which meant we were up at 1am. I complained to the cruise line when this was booked but they said that unless you book 'custom air' you get what you get and that 'some' people want to get off and get going...WHO????? I ask????? People with later flights or private arrangements got to lounge around until, I believe, 9:30 was the latest disembarkation! Summary-I've pointed out the only negative things, but there were too many positive things to mention. All in all we were very happy with everything, the ship, the itinerary, even the weather co-operated! For such a large ship, we never felt crammed in, and found our way around quite easily. We would definitely cruise with NCL again if the itinerary suited us. Read Less
Sail Date September 2007
My husband and I thought the Jewel was a beautiful ship, though the same size as its sister ship the Dawn, it did seem smaller and not quite as luxurious. It was lovely none the less and we found the facilities fantastic and the crew a ... Read More
My husband and I thought the Jewel was a beautiful ship, though the same size as its sister ship the Dawn, it did seem smaller and not quite as luxurious. It was lovely none the less and we found the facilities fantastic and the crew a delight. Embarkation was extremely fast which was a pleasant surprise.(we waited 5 hours to board the Dawn, but there had been a blizzard in NY the day before) The Greek Isles were a piece of paradise and the weather was perfect from day 1 to day 13. We chose the cruise because of the ports and we weren't disappointed. Cairo was a culture shock but I wouldn't have missed it for the world. We disembarked in Istanbul, a very exciting city. It was also a very quick and easy process. We chose to carry our own bags off so once we were ready off we went, no waiting around at all. We found the food quite delicious with plenty of choice and we did enjoy the freestyle dining as we didn't have to dress up or be at dinner at any particular time. Im going to find it difficult on other lines now and I loved the freedom of it. We ate at Tangos, Mamas, the Teppanyaki restaurant and Le Bistro as well as the other dining rooms. I loved the Teppanyaki but wasn't really that impressed with Le Bistro but it just may have been my choice of dishes. We had a cruise critic meet & greet and was very impressed that the Captain and several of his officers took the time to come to it and have a chat with us all. The shows we went to were first class and enjoyed them immensely. Only negative was I always found the internet cafe busy so never got to use it. It could be larger. We highly recommend both the Jewel and the Eastern Med cruise, we had the time of our lives and met some great people. Average age was about late 50's to mid 60's but everyone seemed to be having a great time. Read Less
Sail Date May 2007
I just returned from a 12 night cruise in the Eastern Mediterranean (Greece, Egypt and Turkey). I am not a person who cruises often as I prefer to do things on my own schedule, rather than the dictates of the ship's schedule. So, I ... Read More
I just returned from a 12 night cruise in the Eastern Mediterranean (Greece, Egypt and Turkey). I am not a person who cruises often as I prefer to do things on my own schedule, rather than the dictates of the ship's schedule. So, I went into this trip a bit of trepidation. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the experience. Embarkation/debarkation - very smooth. When we arrived at the port in Athens, the waiting line was described to us as "terrible." When we asked what that meant, it meant about 1/2 hour . . . not terrible to me. Our luggage was not in the room when we got to it, as was the case for some, but it was there within 10 minutes of our arrival. Debarkation was a breeze, but we did the express debarkation. Judging by the massive piles of luggage outside of the ship as we left, the cruise organized debarkation may be a nightmare. If you can carry your luggage off and have arranged private airport transfers (which we were glad we did), I highly recommend using the express option. The ship - very nice. It is obviously new and has all modern conveniences. Our room, an inside stateroom, was small, but the storage was designed in a thoughtful manner that made the room quite functional despite its small size. The housekeeping staff were great - they quickly learned our preferences (extra pillows, blankets, etc) and made sure everything was just as we liked it each night. Highspeed internet was available, which was nice. However, the internet cafe is small - only about 10 computers. Nonetheless, the longest wait for a computer was about 10 minutes, and usually there was no wait. I suspect the cost of internet access (.40 - .75 per minute depending on package purchased) kept computer-hogging to a minimum. Food - was good, particularly at the specialty restaurants. We had very little trouble getting reservations, despite th ship's full capacity. The only negative was the "buffets", which were not really buffets as we know them here in the US. They were set up as buffets, but you did not serve yourself. Rather, you had to have the food placed on your plate by the staff, which were grossly understaffed for this function. I am certain that this set-up is for sanitation reasons (which they are obsessive with on this ship), but it made the dining experience frustrating and inefficient. Entertainment - I really did not do a lot of this, as it is not my thing. But I heard from other travelers that the entertainment on board was good. One note about the "informative" lectures (offered in regard to certain ports of call) - we attended the one on Cairo. It was not particularly informative . . . basically was a sales pitch for the cruise excursions. And they are broadcast in the rooms on a repeated basis, so do not waste your time sitting in the theater for this. Ports of call - this particular itinerary was excellent. There really is no comparable itinerary on any other ship that we could find. We enjoyed all of the ports of call. Excursions - good and bad. On the shorter stops, the cruise excursions were really the best option for timing reasons. However, if you have the time, privately arranged excursions are, in my opinion, the way to go. We did the cruise excursions in Corfu, Olympia, and Cairo. If I had it to do all over again, I would probably rent a car in Corfu and just explore the island. The cruise excursions in Olympia and Cairo were good and convenient. Particularly the "Cairo Overnight" package - from talking to other passengers who did not do this excursion, I would describe this one as a necessity. It was terrific, comprehensive, interesting, and well organized, including a lot of security which as nice under the circumstances. The only downside is limited time at the sights, particularly the pyramids, due to the amount of activity crammed into this one. But we heard that the other excursions were equally limited in time, unless you booked a private tour, which I personally would uncomfortable doing in this city. We did not do excursions in Crete, Santorini, and Mykonos, and were happy that we did not - they are easily explored on your own by bus or taxi (we made a last minute decision to rent a car in mykonos, which worked out well for exploring the beaches of the island). We booked private excursions through Ekol Travel in Turkey (Esphesus and Istanbul) and were very pleased that we did so - they were more informative and efficient than the cruise excursions, and in total, were less expensive that the cruise excursions. We also booked our airport transfer in Istanbul through this company - it was the same price as the cruise transfer, but was a private van rather than the craziness of a bus full of people that the cruise transfer involved. Overall atmosphere - very pleased. It was a good experience and I would go again. Read Less
Sail Date September 2006
Destination Eastern Med - Greece, Egypt, Turkey We left from San Francisco a couple of days early so we could explore Athens. We booked our own air & hotel arrangements. We flew Delta from San Francisco to JFK, and then onward to ... Read More
Destination Eastern Med - Greece, Egypt, Turkey We left from San Francisco a couple of days early so we could explore Athens. We booked our own air & hotel arrangements. We flew Delta from San Francisco to JFK, and then onward to Athens. My husband had read many favorable reviews about "George the Famous Taxi Driver in Greece" so we booked our transportation from the Athens airport to our hotel with him. After we collected our bags we went out the baggage doors to find a man holding a sign with our names on it. Turns out it was one of George's friend's,as George had a conflict. We were escorted in style in a yellow Mercedes cab. I was amazed to see how many Mercedes cars & SUV's as well as a ton of Mercedes cabs. It seems to be one of the most common brand of vehicle in Athens. My husband had booked us into the beautiful Magna Grecia Boutique Hotel with 12 guest rooms, which includes a full breakfast of cereal, eggs, rolls, juice, olives, coffee, tea, etc on the rooftop patio. The hotel was in the heart of the Plaka area which is the touristy part of the city. We loved our room. We had a great view of the Acropolis from our hotel window/balcony. The hotel is 110 years old and had been upgraded for the Olympics in 2004. We stayed in Room 104. It had a lovely comfortable bed, and huge bathroom. The location was excellent. We walked all around the Plaka, then one morning we saw a travel office that specialized in day trips, so we took a city tour which was quite interesting! I would highly recommend doing this as you can only see so much on foot. www.magnagreciahotel.com Two days later the hotel owner summoned a cab to take us to Piraeus where we would board the Jewel. The driver like most folks in Athens spoke broken English. It took about 40 minutes to get to the pier from our hotel. Our driver charged us $10 Euro's total for the trip. We spoke to others who were staying very close to the port, yet they paid $27 Euro's for 2 people. My suggestion would be to negotiate with the driver before getting into his vehicle. We easily boarded the Jewel and found our Inside stateroom 4543 which is in a very good location down a small hallway off of the main drag. The room was very quiet, with a good blowdryer, and nice shower door. Things to know: 1. Coke Card for 12 day cruise was $69 each. 2. There are self service laundry rooms, but they are not shown on ship map. The closest one to us was opposite stateroom 5072. There are 3 more on deck 9, 10 & 11, which are in the same location on each floor. The laundry room door has a very small plague at the top that says something like "launderette" it is very easy to miss the plague. The ship offers a "deal@ $25 per paper bag of dirty clothes." Washers and Dryers are FREE, but you do need 4 quarters to buy the small box of Tide in the machine. The box can do 2-3 loads of washing. There are only 3 washers & 2-3 Dryers per launderette. 3. There are 4 fee paying restaurants, Chin Chin, Teppanyaki, LeBistro, and Cagneys. If you make dinner reservations for either 5:30 or 6:00 at any of these restaurants you will pay half price or 2-for-1. 4. You will pay $9 for a Cocktail like a Margarita or Daiquiri unless you tell them you don't want a souvenir glass. Then I think the charge is $7 or $8. 5. For those on tour through the ship's excursion office do NOT need to get a Turkish Visa before embarkation. The ship takes your passports and adds and stamps the sticker, then the daily magazine will tell you when you can pick it up. 6. Play the FREE SLOT MACHINE in the Casino. The first night, we ran into a very Happy Lady in the hall stating she had just won a Free Cruise 7 day cruise for 2 on the free spin. Another night we were sitting in the theater when the man behind us said he won a free 7 day cruise as well (worth $1700) by playing Crackits, which is something new for the cruises. Basically you buy a packet of peel off cards, sort of like playing the lottery, except this has a guaranteed win of free drinks, money, etc. They sell the packets in the lounges before Bingo, before the shows etc. We have been on many cruises, but we enjoyed this itinerary the best of all. The weather was great between the high 70-s - 84. In Istanbul it was cooler at 69 degrees. We only had one day of rain. We booked all of our tours through the ship as we had never been to any of the cities before. Ports: Katakolon Greece - Archaeological Treasures Tour - we got rained out here. Like our guide mentioned it doesn't do anything but rain HARD here! We were soaked to the bone. The Olympia site is very old world of course. The museum is modern & informative. Corfu Greece - We did the Timeless Villages Tour. I would highly recommend it!This is one of the most beautiful places I have seen! Gorgeous! We saw all the country side, and pretty little fishing villages. In the fishing village of Kassiopi we had an excellent Greek lunch in a stunning venue. There was plenty of delicious bread, wine, and bottled water. We had Greek Salad which had some of the freshest vegetables I have ever tasted, along with French Fries, and their speciality meat dish, which was excellent pork with a tasty gravy. For dessert there was ice cream. I would love to go back to Corfu again. Alexandria & Cairo Egypt - We docked for 2 days in Alexandria. My husband was excited about seeing the Pyramids & Sphinx. For the Cairo portion we took the Pyramids & Nile in Style Excursion. It was a LONG 3 hour drive from Alexandria to Cairo. We visited the Great Pryamids, and the Citadel of Saladin Mosque. We then boarded a nice boat for a buffet lunch, and cruised the Nile. The cruise was fine, but the Nile is a muddy mess. Basically the boat went back and forth a couple of times. The last stop was at the Papyrus Institute. The following day we did the Alexandria Highlights Tour - It was okay, Alexandria is much cleaner than Cairo. Iraklion Greece - This is the island of Crete. Where the ship docks is industrial area. We took the Pottery & Vineyards Tour which took us out to the country side with rolling hills, vineyards, olive, and lemon trees. This island is nice once you get into the rural areas. Santorini Island Greece - A little slice of heaven! It is everything and more than all the postcards & photographs you have seen. We took the Donkeys, Scenery & Wine Tour. The ship docks & you use the local tenders to the bottom of the crater. We mounted our donkey's and rode for 1/2 hour or so up the steep hills, and switchbacks. This is the way too go if you are adventurous, or just want to see all the close-up beauty surrounding you! Everyone should see Santorini at least once in their lives! It is truly out of this world. If you love jewelry, and shopping this is the place! Mykonos Greece - The playground of the rich. We took the Scenic Views of Mykonos Tour. I would NOT recommend this tour. We were disappointed in the island after being in Santorini. Many of our fellow cruisemates went to the beaches on their own and really enjoyed it. The sand is gravel, and pebble, so it can be rough on the feet. The water is clear. Izmir Turkey - Magnificent Ephesus Tour - Turkey, what a spectacular country. It is clean, and scenic. We really enjoyed our tour here. The ship's photog's are not allowed to photograph here. However the park has their own crew, and boy are they proficient. Each person on tour is given a sticker to put on their clothes before entering the park. There are freelance photographers taking pictures. When we got back to our bus, they had candid pictures of us mounted on a board next to the bus. I didn't even realize they had taken a few of my pix until I saw them. We ended up buying 3 pictures of ourselves. They were a bargain at $4 USD each. I later found out that one of our fellow cruisers haggled down the price to $3 USD each. Istanbul Turkey - Bosphorus Cruise Tour - Take this tour!!! Billed as one of he most beautiful sights in the world this cruise takes you past old seaside mansions, mosques, palaces, little river cafe's. It was excellent. Istanbul is absolutely fabulous! Clean, again the scenery is jaw dropping. Because we were there on a Sunday, the Spice Market and World Famous Bazaar were closed. This was a huge disappointment for us. We would like to spend a few days here in the future. Regarding the Jewel- The ship is nice. The crew is great, very friendly. We had a lot of fun in the Casino where they have mutli-denominational machines, meaning the machines can convert from one penny, to a nickel, quarters, up to dollars. The entertainment was wonderful. Food: We found the selections offered in the dining room did not sound that appealing to us most nights. The soups were mostly cream based, like Cream of Celery, Cream of Asparagus, Cream of Mushroom. We had good Prawns Fajita's in Tapas, which is the freebie Tex-Mex Eatery. We also enjoyed Mama's Italian a couple of nights, which is another complimentary restaurant. As for the fee paying venues, my husband enjoyed Cagney's Steak House, and we both liked Teppanyaki & Chin Chin. The buffet is pretty good. I am a big connoisseur of Caesar Salads, and they had the best of any of all the cruise lines I have been on. Read Less
Sail Date September 2006
I am attorney 32 and my boyfriend, also 32, is in public relations. This was my 7th cruise, his 4th cruise. Previously, we have sailed princess, royal caribbean and Carnival. This was both our first time cruising NCL. we booked the cruise ... Read More
I am attorney 32 and my boyfriend, also 32, is in public relations. This was my 7th cruise, his 4th cruise. Previously, we have sailed princess, royal caribbean and Carnival. This was both our first time cruising NCL. we booked the cruise for the itinerary, which did not disappoint. We booked our own airfare after being told there was no cruiseline airfare offered from Miami, Florida. Our airfare was about $1000 per person and we flew Lufthansa. Great airline. We arrived the day before the cruise in Athens and did a precruise stay at Electra Palace. We got the recommendation from the cruise critic boards. The hotel was pricey, but worth it. Great location and nice breakfast, included. We were located right in the middle of Plaka, the tourist district and were within walking distance to the acropolis, shops and cafes. We got to the hotel midday and dropped out stuff and walked around Plaka. We shopped and ate at a cute cafe. Great food in Athens. The next day, we got up early, ate breakfast in the hotel and had the hotel store our luggage until we were ready to go to the port. We visited all of the ruins in athens, which were great and the day we went was 'tourist day' and entry to everything was free. We went back to the airport and got a cab to the port around 3pm. Embarkation was a breeze, took 5 minutes. Our cabin was an inside cabin. Actually quite roomy, nice bathroom. Love the glass shower door instead of the curtain, makes all the difference in the world. We tipped our room steward at the beginning for extra hangers and towels and for the rest of the cruise we got excellent service and wonderful towel animals :) The ship is beautiful. The staff is friendly and accommodating. The ship is kept spotless. We only went to 4 shows because of sheer exhaustion after each day in port, but the shows were good. The pool area is very nice. We had wonderful weather every day except for one, where we got rained out at Kataklon. We did all ship tours and found them to be great. As far as the food is concerned, I want to preface what I say by stating that my boyfriend did not get sick; however, everything that I ate on the cruise did make me sick. Not only was I sick, but many other people I ran into said the ship's food made them sick as well. Whether it was a roll or an actual meal, everything had me running to the bathroom. We ate at all of the specialty restaurants and they were mediocre at best. The food was really not good on the Jewel and the dining room was just horrible. The buffet was even worse. Also, the existence of the specialty restaurants has spread the dining staff really thin and the service is just not great in the dining rooms with the free style dining. I am not sure if the existence of the hand sanitizer and the fact that it was everywhere and they wanted you to use it all the time had anything to do with me getting sick. I often wonder if any of the overzealous cleaning and hand sanitizing got into the food, but something was not right and others on the cruise agreed with me. I also want to state that every meal I ate off the ship in Greece, Turkey and Egypt was fine. I was never sick from anything eaten off the ship. That being said, we went for itinerary, not for the food and the cruise was wonderful. Please feel free to email me about the tours and ports. Read Less
Sail Date September 2006
Athens: We did Acropolis on our own. Then We did the Mycenae tour booked from the Electra palace hotel. We are going to do the Archeological museum on the last day before we leave for the ship. There was a teacher strike and the front desk ... Read More
Athens: We did Acropolis on our own. Then We did the Mycenae tour booked from the Electra palace hotel. We are going to do the Archeological museum on the last day before we leave for the ship. There was a teacher strike and the front desk warned us not to go. Embarkation: We arrived the port around 12:30. The check in line was long but efficient. It took about 40 minutes and we were in our room. That 40 minutes includes the shopping time at the duty free shop. Make sure you sent in the advance-registration 14 days prior departure. Otherwise, they sent you to another line to line up all over again. The couple at the next counter said they did send it in but they were sent to another line anyway. Cabin: Our room was nice and clean, it was ready by the time we arrive. We had a standard outside cabin which was bigger than we expected. We were in Royal Caribbean and Carnival before. There are a lot of storage space. It took less than 2 hours for our luggage to arrive. Very impressive. Food: We ate at Azura when they had the lobster tail night. I thought I was going to ask for second serving, I did not order any appetizers. It took an hour for my lobster tail to arrive. What lobster tail? It was slight bigger than a shrimp tail and overcooked. It was hard and cool. The Chinese waitress was swearing in Mandarin that she had too many tables to serve. We left in 5 minutes, after an hour waiting in line, an hour waiting for food... After the horrible experience, we ate mostly in Le Bistro and Chin-Chin. You see, we are on vacation, if $20 can get me a table for 2 next to the window, serve me hot and quality food, then I am happy, that $20 is well spent. We were so happy with the service, my DH normally left a big tip. We also tried the teppanyaki. My shrimp was slight over cooked. But the service was again excellent. The lunch at Tzar Palace are generally good except the sea bass tempura. It was toward the end of the trip, and I thought I could afford to skip a meal after all the good food we had. But the Romanian assistance manager insisted to get me another dish. I just wanted something light, so I ordered a Caesar Salad. Guess what, they don't serve Caesar salad for lunch. So she asked the waitress to get it from the room service. That's service. Too bad I did not get her name. Entertainment: This is the weak part. We have been too many places. My DH has been sleeping in all the famous theatres/opera house you can name, including the Opera house in Vienna, Argentina, Moscow, and Royal Alexander theatre in London. So we have been spoiled. The only night I don't feel wasting my time was Chris Reggins. I hope I spell his name correctly. He should be in London on a broadway show. The crews' show "Fountain" should not have kids as audience. How did anyone come up with an idea like that? The ship is trying so hard to emphasis on the personal hygiene, the show is doing the contrary. Excursion: We did all the excursions with NCL except Cairo and Mykonos. A bit of advice on the trip in Cairo. Book it with NCL. Yes, it did not spend a lot of time in Museum (45 minutes), and yes, it spent too much time at shopping. But you will get back to the ship safely. Our Egyptian friend arranged a driver and a guide for us. Most of the time, our car was in between big buses and big trucks in a 2 lane highway/road. He told me he was the best driver in his company. But looked at his car, the driver side mirror was broker, there was a big bump on the back of the car... The good thing is we got to spend good two hours in the Egyptian museum and we had time to see all the mummy rooms, as well as the treasury. In addition, we had time to go down to the tomb in Saqqara. We saw everything we wanted to see in Cairo. NO RISK NO PLEASURE! We made a mistake by taking the Oia and Fira Museum excursion in Santorini. They drop you off and pick you up after 1 hour. They take you to an over crowded museum for 30 minutes in Fira. You can do it on you own. The bus ride is 2 Euro one way to Oia. The excursion to Ephesus in Izmir was the high light of our trip. It is a must. The house of Virgin Mary can be skipped if you are not a Catholic. But the Ephesus museum is a must see. Istanbul was our last stop. It should be the best if it's not Ramadam. People is everywhere. I would recommend people to tour Istanbul on their own and spend extra few days there. We did the Capital of two empires with NCL. Waste of money! We spent less the 10 minutes in Blue Mosque, 30 minutes Hagia Sofia museum, passed by Hippodrum (did not even stop for a picture). But we spent over 30 minutes in a carpet store (some smart people left on their own), and then 1 hours in the Grand Bazaar which was closed for Sunday. Only few over priced stores were opened. One thing is worth to mention, we had a handicap couple on this excursion, I was kind of worry at the beginning, then I realized: Life goes on no matter what. Enjoy life while you can. They are really nice people, and I am glad I have a chance to meet them. The next day, we did Topkapi palace on our own. We rented the audio guide and spent 4 hours there. It was wonderful. Don't miss the kitchen, my DH almost convinced me not to go in. The best collection of China I ever seen outside of China. I had such a good time with NCL, as soon I came back, I booked another cruise to Hawaii. I decide to take my mom and show her a good time. I am sailing again in November 6 on Pride of Hawaii. But guess what, there was an e~a~r~t~h~q~u~a~k~e!!! NO RISK NO PLEASURE!! Read Less
Sail Date September 2006
Background: Our first cruise in 10 years. We are from Australia and this cruise was part of a month long trip to Europe. Hotel Info: stayed at the Plaka in the Plaka district of Athens the night before embarkation: reasonably ... Read More
Background: Our first cruise in 10 years. We are from Australia and this cruise was part of a month long trip to Europe. Hotel Info: stayed at the Plaka in the Plaka district of Athens the night before embarkation: reasonably comfortable, air conditioned, old, needs renovation, average breakfast, staff don't care and don't want to help, absurdly tiny elevator. Do not recommend the Athens by Night Tour: lazy and disinterested tour guide, poor quality over-crowded restaurant with inedible food and undrinkable wine. A full scale rip off of the highest order. Do recommend the tours taking you to the main sites of Athens and the Acropolis even though the guide on that tour disappeared on us after having done her perfunctory and rudimentary overview. The Ship: outstanding in almost every way. Colourful and clean, but too cold. Had to wear sweaters for much of the time even though outside was warm. Casino: if Texas Hold'em is the most popular poker card in the universe, why only one table. Had to wait inordinately long time to get a place. Activities: plentiful and varied, although many were cancelled due to lack of numbers. Service: most of the time outstanding. A few exceptions with some staff barking commands at us as if we were small children. A couple of the wait staff in a couple of the restaurants were trying too hard and, as a result, were intrusive. However, on the whole, everyone was attentive, efficient and seemed to want to do a good job. Shore Excursions: we booked all of them in advance through NCL. At the time we did not know we were paying much more than you could get them locally. However, doing it in advance meant no waiting in lines, no hassles and no worries - that convenience and freedom from stress has to be worth something. Most of the guides were informative and interested. A couple were hard to understand and hear. Don't be afraid to tell your fellow bus travellers to shut up so you can listen to the guide. There were many rude, inconsiderate and offensive people on the buses. The main criticism is the lack of time available in each place. For example, the Pyramids was a highlight for us and to be told you have to be back in 20 minutes was disappointing. The could cut out aspects of the Cairo tour to allow more time at the Pyramids. You need to be patient as you will be harassed by very aggressive Egyptians trying to sell you post cards and souvenirs. One dollar, One dollar is the cry. Stateroom: well laid out and functional. Small bathroom, but that's to be expected. Good sound insulation. Enough wardrobe and drawer space to empty both our very full suitcases. Beds comfortable. Housekeeping staff kept the room clean at all times. Dining: we only had dinner once in Czars - it was fine and the staff did a good job in getting us fed so we could still get to the show. Dined at all the specialty restaurants except the Italian. All were good. Cagneys was exceptional, the French one was great, the Teppanyaki was outstanding, the Chinese/Malaysian one was very good. We had no problem at all getting bookings - but we are late diners. If you want to eat at 7 or 7:30 every night, expect to have problems. Entertainment: was OK. The Cirque de Bjiou was great, the rest were not outstanding, but good. In any event, we did not go on the cruise to expect top class entertainment. Cruise Director: she was fully over the top. Far too intent on promoting herself and showing off her body and wardrobe. She added nothing to the experience and told us nothing we could not read in the daily newsletter. When she tried to tell jokes, they always fell flat. An embarrassment. Assistant Cruise Director: does not understand what makes good humour. Very pushy and treated passengers as though they were imbeciles. Drinks: reasonably priced (we are from Australia, and drinks are more expensive here than in the US), but the 15% surcharge takes its toll. Wine list dominated by California. Other parts of the world also make wine! Disembarkation: smooth as silk. As we did not need help with our bags and were staying in Istanbul for a couple of days, we did not need to pack until the morning and could leave at our leisure. However, recommend booking a car to pick you up as the taxis are small, dirty and the driver is guaranteed to wreck your bags if he possibly can. Read Less
Sail Date September 2006
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