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Cruise Ratings
Sail Date: April 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.

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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 ... 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.

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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.

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Sail Date: November 2007
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.

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Sail Date: September 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.

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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 destinations, ... 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.

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Sail Date: May 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.

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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.

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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.

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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!!

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