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Civita

Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) Jade ~ Europe

We took a 13 night cruise with NCL in May 2008 in the Western Mediterranean. Click this link or the photo for our full cruise review on the NCL Jade. Ten Cruise Tips included.

 

 

Cruise report and Ten Tips from our May 2008 cruise on the Norwegian Jade. The itinerary was amazing but the NCL service onboard left much to be desired. This was the first voyage for the Jade on her new Mediterranean itinerary. The crew was new. We have had reports that they have greatly improved the service on the ship.

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NCL Jade Cruise Report. We took a 13 night cruise from Barcelona to Southampton (London) from May 17-30, 2008.

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The NCL Jade used to be the NCL Pride of Hawaii. In February 2008, NCL moved the ship from Hawaii to the Mediterranean and renamed the ship the Jade.

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We have always maintained that any cruise is a wonderful experience.  This NCL Jade cruise challenged that assertion, but we’re sticking to our guns – it was a wonderful experience in spite of the service issues onboard and a bout with a stomach virus.

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This was our longest cruise and it was booked in the highest cabin category we’ve had – a mini suite.  It was our first NCL cruise (others with better service have followed).

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This cruise was our most anticipated and yet somewhat disappointing.  This NCL cruise on the Jade was not typical for an NCL cruise.  We think we hit the early growing pains since this was only the second Mediterranean cruise for the Jade and her new crew.

Great customer service. Many of the employees on the NCL Jade care, smile and provide great service.  In the Top Side bar, Denver and Botham were charmers – they made our afternoons in their bar delightful!  Danilo our room steward was the ultimate professional – covering all our needs stealthily.  On day 1 of our cruise, Mayra from Peru met us in the pool side bar.  She remembered our names and greeted us many times by name throughout the next 2 weeks.   The Internet Manager Githesh (Mr. G) was incredibly helpful.  Dan’s new laptop uses Windows Vista and had 2 layers of network security that blocked connection to the ship’s internet.  Mr. G took Dan’s computer and set it up so it would work correctly with the ship’s internet.  He also assisted Dan with printing of this very report.  Mr. G is competent, service-oriented and a great asset to customers on the Jade.

Unfortunately some of the new crew members on the Jade ignored customers.  The young lady serving toast in the Garden Buffet ignored customers waiting for toast – she focused instead on keeping her assembly line of toast moving through the machine.  I saw one frustrated passenger reach for an available piece of toast.  She was severely chastised by the toast girl.  On this cruise, guests were ignored sometimes when they needed assistance.  We witnessed the same attitude toward passengers by some dining room staff and shore excursion staff.

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There were definitely many good parts to this cruise – a spectacular Mediterranean itinerary with 12 different European ports, a great ship and cabin service, good food and entertainment onboard.  Pictured here is Denver. He is one of the few employees onboard who really showed he cared and who truly made our cruise a personalized experience.

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Batham at the Topsiders Bar & Grill also did a great job at making our afternoons fun.

The concern we had on this cruise - poor customer service – at reception, at shore excursions and in dining rooms; limited choices offered for onboard entertainment; and a cruise vacation interruption of a gastrointestinal virus contracted on the ship about half-way through the cruise – along with the enforced cabin isolation. But enough about that... the amazing ports on this cruise made for a wonderful itinerary.

The ship. The Jade will accommodate 2400 guests.  It is easy to find your way around this ship.  Public areas: The large shows are in the Stardust Theatre – decks 6-7 forward.  Deck 12 is another hub for public areas.  Starting aft on deck 12 is the Great Outdoors – alfresco buffet dining – very nice wake view in good weather!  Moving forward, the Garden Café buffet takes up most of deck 12 from the Great Outdoors to midship.  Forward of the Garden Café is the Star Bar and Topsiders Bar & Grill area with  2 swimming pools, a water slide and 4  hot tubs.  We were actually able to find a hot tub spot during this cruise which was nice.  Just above the pool deck with a view of the pool is the Bali Hi Bar & Grill.   The Ying Yang Spa and the Fitness Center round out deck 12 forward.  Nestled between the Ying Yang Spa and the pool area are the library and the card rooms.  The Grand Pacific main dining room is on decks 5-6 aft.  The Alizar Dining room is deck 6 midship.  On deck 8 midship are the other public dining areas: the Blue Lagoon (24 hour dining) and Paniolo Tapas & Salsa.

Private (Extra Charge) areas: There are many “freestyle” dining options on the Jade.  Freestyle is synonymous with “Not-Free” dining options: Cagney’s Steakhouse, deck 13 midship; Jasmine Garden Restaurants, deck 7 midship; Le Bistro French Restaurant, deck 6 midship; Papa’s Italian Kitchen, deck 12 aft.

TIP 1: Take an early morning exploration stroll around the public areas of the ship and stop for a quiet cup of tea or coffee which is served every morning in the library on deck 12 forward near the Ying Yang spa.

Laundry Facilities.  There are none.  They were removed from this ship when it was renamed the Jade.  On a 2 week cruise, one would expect some sort of laundry facilities.  There were 2 “laundry bag” sales during the cruise – stuff a small bag to the brim with your dirty clothes and they will be cleaned for $19.95 – drawback: it took over 3 days to get our cleaned clothes returned.

TIP 2:  If you don’t have 2-weeks of undies, bring laundry soap because there are no facilities and you can’t buy laundry soap from the Galleria.

The entertainment. Entertainment choices on this cruise were somewhat unappealing but the quality was excellent.  Our favorite onboard entertainment was WT Greer who performs in the Bar City Piano Bar below Jasmine Garden Restaurant.  His piano playing is great and his vocals are amazing.  The Showtime – Showdown vocalist competition show was excellent.  The Moscow Magic show was well-done and left us scratching our heads several times wondering how’d he do that??  We went to the 2 Opera Tenor shows with Lawrence Robinson.  The performances were OK for us and very well received by others in the audience.  If you like Opera tenors – you will probably enjoy these shows.   The Mimusen Comedy Duo wasn’t our cup of tea – we think it would have been ideal for children though.  The Jade Crew Show had a variety of performances by staff from the Jade.  They are a talented and fun bunch – we thoroughly enjoyed this show, especially the “Fountain” tribute finale.  We went to the Elizabeth: The Golden Age movie in the Stardust Movie theatre – it was just a movie – but we hadn’t seen it yet.  We missed these shows: Moscow Circus Acrobatics, Showtime: And the World Goes Round, Shout MOD Musical, Sound of Music Interactive Musical Sing along,  Tony & Tina’s Wedding (another “not free” freestyle choice).

TIP 3: Do NOT miss an hour or two listening to WT Greer.  He is NCL’s key entertainer on all new ships – definitely worth seeing!

The dining. The heart of NCL’s Freestyle Cruising is the dining plan and options.  We love the casual attire option, although a backup hostess in the Grand Pacific dining room challenged Dan’s green Levi’s 501s as not being dressy enough for the main sit down dining room one evening.  After a few tense moments, the main hostess apologized and sat us for dinner.  Whew – that was the best he had brought!  There were two other times when we were very disappointed in the Grand Pacific dining staff.  One morning we asked for a window seat and we were told there were none available.  We were seated next to two empty window seats.  On another occasion we had dinner in the Grand Pacific and were forgotten by our waiter and then again by the backup waiter.  We were there so long waiting that the evening manager finally came over and asked us why we were still there.  We had to wait for our blue wine bottle receipt and had been forgotten by all.

TIP 4:  Definitely try the Paniolo.  It’s a free dining option with excellent service and fresh choices.  Dan loved the IL Popo - it is a grilled southwestern marvel – not too filling and very tasty!

There are free dining options and “pay extra” dining options.  The free dining options are:  The Great Outdoors & Garden Café buffet on deck 12; The Topsiders Bar & Grill on deck 12; The Bali Hi Bar & Grill above the pool on deck 13.  The Grand Pacific main dining room is on decks 5-6 aft.  The Alizar Dining room is on deck 6 midship.  On deck 8 midship are the other public dining areas: the Blue Lagoon (24 hour dining) and Paniolo Tapas & Salsa.

The Extra Charge restaurants: There are many “freestyle” dining options on the Jade.  Some freestyle options mean “not-free” dining options: Cagney’s Steakhouse, deck 13 midship; Jasmine Garden Restaurants, deck 7 midship; Le Bistro French Restaurant, deck 6 midship; Papa’s Italian Kitchen, deck 12 aft. We didn’t try any of the extra cost specialty restaurants.  We tried several times to get reservations between 5:30-6:30 PM when the extra cost is 2-1 (half off).  But we were never able to get reservations at those times.  We found the restaurants and the buffet to be very busy and overcrowded.  We also found the dining service on this ship to be lacking in the non-specialty restaurants.  Dining on the Jade was quite often a frantic, frustrating and disappointing experience with little or no helpful attention available from dining room staff and attendants.

TIP 5:  The extra cost specialty restaurants offer 2-1 deals from 5:30-6:30 PM.  If you think you want to try a specialty restaurant, book an early dinner on the 2-1 deal as a test drive.  If you like it, you can return for other dinners during the cruise.

Embarkation at Barcelona.

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Barcelona. Our flight arrived at the Barcelona airport.  We stayed at a very small hotel named La Ciudadela.  It is located on the waterfront side of the Ciudadela Park in Barcelona and is just a few miles from the Cruise Terminal.

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It was small but a great location and the price was only 73 Euros per night.  The taxi ride from the airport to the hotel was 35 Euros.  The taxi ride from the hotel to the cruise terminal was 15 Euros.

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This amazing Roman Arched gate is in the Ciudadela Park just outside the room where we stayed. There is a metro (subway) stop just on the other side of the arch.

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And if you need a bike in Barcelona - grab one and ride it for free! This pedestrian friendly town also offers free public bikes in the downtown tourist areas.

Of course, when in Barcelona, you must see Gaudi's unfinished cathedral - La Sagrada Familia.

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TIP 6: For any cruise involving international travel either purchase your airfare through the cruise line or arrange to arrive a day early so you know you’ll make the cruise.

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Barcelona Cruise Terminal.  We arrived at the dock at about 2 PM, and the lines were longer than we expected. We dropped our bags with baggage handlers outdoors and then stood in line outside the terminal in the rain for about 10 minutes before we made it into the shelter of the terminal.  Inside, the lines were still very long.  We were asked in very broken English whether this was our first cruise with NCL, we said yes, this was our first NCL cruise.  We were then shuttled to the longest line where we continued our wait.  On one of our “turn-backs” in queue, Dan noticed that there was a sign for mini-suite check in with a much shorter line.  We headed there wondering why that option wasn’t offered up-front since our printed boarding pass and check in documents clearly showed we had a mini suite.  It was the first sign of poor service right at check in from NCL.  We cleared the check in desk and security quickly in the shorter line and arrived at our cabin around 3 PM.

TIP 7: Have your passport & printed boarding passes from the cruise line when you arrive at the terminal and ASK if you qualify for a shorter line – you might just get onboard quicker!

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Cabin. By 3 PM we were onboard and found our cabin was not quite ready.  We took a walk around the ship and returned less than an hour later.  We found the cabin ready on the second visit.  Our mini suite was 11510 – deck 11 which is the highest deck with passenger cabins.  Our cabin was port side forward. The cabin is large.  The bathroom is spacious with a separate toilet enclosure, a sink and a full-size bathtub.  There is a large queen bed with 4 pillows.  The extra pillows are nice.  There was also a sofa, plenty of drawers and closet space and a small balcony.  The balcony included a very small table and 2 lounge chairs.  Our cabin steward was Danilo from the Philippines.  He was quick and efficient and available when we needed him, invisible when we didn’t. We love having a balcony and will select a balcony cabin for future cruises.  We’re not as convinced on the suite although the bathtub is nice.  The 2 advantages of the suite compared to a balcony are the bathtub and the extra storage space.  We brought plenty with us, but there was so much room, we didn’t use all the storage space provided.

TIP 8: If you can live without a bathtub and a lot of extra storage space, save some money and reserve a balcony cabin.  If you love a nice bath – then spring for the mini suite on this ship.

Wine & Spirits onboard. We like wine, so we wanted to see our wine options as soon as we boarded.  NCL doesn’t offer a house wine or wine discounts.  You just pick your label and purchase either by the glass or by the bottle.  Right after embarking, we found a good Pinot Grigio and White Zinfandel and ordered a bottle of each on the deck 12 Star Bar.  After a glass to celebrate the start of our cruise we asked the bar server to store our bottles.  He was surprised at our request and we were surprised by his reply.  He said we could just take the wine to our cabin.  We explained that it was more wine that we would drink in several days and we would prefer to have it stored.  That wasn’t an option, so we hauled the wine bucket back to our cabin.  We re-corked the bottles and managed to fit them into the mini fridge after removing some of the other items.  We had a much better experience with our wine purchases at the restaurants.  You just have to make sure you get your blue card before you leave the restaurant so that you can have your remaining wine brought to your table at the next meal.

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We brought wine back from a few of our shore trips.  We were asked only once at security if we had alcohol.  We said yes and had to have the bottle checked until the end of the cruise.  On most shore excursions, we breezed through security on the ship with alcohol and no questions asked.

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If asked, NCL will allow you to bring wine onboard and they will charge you a $15 corking fee to open it and serve it to you or they will store it for you until the end of the cruise.  We consumed 2 bottles from shore excursions that we uncorked ourselves for no fee.

TIP 9: On this itinerary enjoy your wine on the shore excursions.  The house wines in most local restaurants are outstanding and you can enjoy a great glass of wine for around 2 Euros on shore.

Shore Excursions. Wow, were we disappointed with the Shore Excursion process and desk on this cruise.  This particular cruise is  port-intensive with many wonderful opportunities for shore excursions.  We would expect NCL to put the best foot forward to promote and sell these wonderful assets on this cruise itinerary.  Nope.  The lines are long and the hours are short at the Shore Excursion desk. 
One employee in particular was outright rude to us and to other customers – her name was Raluca and she proudly spelled it out for me when I told her I wasn’t happy with the Shore Excursion desk or her assistance.  Several other passengers commented about how rude the blonde at Shore Excursions had been with them – that’s our Raluca.  People are herded like sheep on the shore excursions and that treatment continues onboard at the shore excursion desk.  Raluca and others get so used to “herding” the mass of people that they treat everyone like children who have to be chastised when they don’t follow the rigid NCL way of doing things for shore excursions.  Even simple questions are met with harsh and rigid replies.

Our first problem was a system glitch.  We booked the Salisbury & Stonehenge tour that starts at the Southampton cruise terminal and ends in London.  We booked this online before the cruise.  Unfortunately, before we left there were not any hotel options listed on the London end of this excursion.  We went ahead and booked our own room in London.  Once onboard, we were offered 2 hotel options that weren’t anywhere close to the hotel we had booked.  We said OK, please book us a room at one of your hotels.  Shore Excursions sent us to Reception to have the booking made.  Reception said it would take a day or two.  We didn’t hear back.  We went through this circle of confusion 2 more times and finally 5 days after the initial conversation, were told they couldn’t book a room for us – we would have to do it ourselves.  Or we could just pick where they could drop us at the end of their excursion – and it had to be one of their 2 hotels.  They were both nearly an hour away from our hotel, but we picked one any way and assumed the transportation cost from there on to our hotel.

We had pre-booked 10 shore excursions before coming onboard at a cost of nearly $2000.  Yet we had to stand in line just to get simple questions answered during the 1 hour each day the shore excursion desk was staffed.  On a cruise with ports like these, it’s just silly to staff the shore excursion desk for an hour or so per day.  NCL needs more staff at that desk for more hours during the day.  Also, there is no direct phone or message line for Shore Excursions.  Reception told us they could transfer, but they probably wouldn’t answer.  They were right.  When we finally reached a human by waiting in line, they were rude and disinterested in helping us.  After our treatment by Raluca and her peers, we ended up canceling most of our remaining shore excursions – it saved nearly a thousand dollars and we no longer felt like sheep in the herd.


TIP 10: Save money and arrange your own shore excursions.  We ended up doing our own thing in most ports.  You can get started earlier in each port – you don’t have to wait for the designated shore excursion time.  Just get off the ship and find the local tourist representatives and explain what you want to see or ask for options.  They’re cheaper, less crowded and you won’t have to stand in line to discuss options.

This was an Incredible Itinerary - These were our Ports of Call:

  • Barcelona (Embarkation Port)
  • Nice
  • Livorno (Florence, Lucca, Pisa)
  • Civitavecchia (Rome)
  • Naples (Pompeii, Sorrento, Capri)
  • Cagliari
  • Malaga
  • Cadiz
  • Gibralter
  • Lisbon
  • Vigo
  • Southampton (London)

Conveniently, you can walk off the ship for all ports on this itinerary except Nice.

Pick-pockets. All these ports require care with your personal effects because pick-pockets abound.  Watch your wallets everywhere.  Dan’s cell phone was stolen in Pisa.  On this cruise, we heard story after story of cruise passengers losing their wallets in ports.  We were on 2 different buses at 2 different ports where 3-4 men lost their wallets on the same bus (Pisa & Lisbon).  Even front pockets were picked – be careful! But enough on that, let's see the ports!!

Nice, France.

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Nice. This was our first port of the cruise.  The stop was on Sunday.  We had to be tendered at this port.  It was a beautiful sunny day.  We did the NCL shore excursion “Nice & the View from Eze”.

 

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Our bus took a brief drive around Nice and then we stopped in the old city and walked on Cours Saleya, the promenade of Old Nice with the famous flower and vegetable market.

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After an hour or so in the market our bus took us to the medieval village of Eze, perched on a craggy peak above the Mediterranean.

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The views were stunning.  We had a brief visit in Eze where we barely had time to walk up to the top of the village along the narrow stone streets before returning to the ship on the bus.

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Livorno, Italy - Pisa & Lucca.

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Livorno. This was our 2nd port with a stop on Monday.  It is the port for Florence, Lucca and Pisa. It was a very rainy day for us.

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Most museums in Florence were closed on the day we visited, so we chose to do the NCL shore excursion “The Wonders of Lucca & Pisa”.  Our bus first took us to Lucca, which is less than an hour from the port.

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Lucca is a walled city with a history back to days of ancient Etruscans.  There is an impressive duomo and Romanesque cathedral dating from 12th century.

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The gothic interior features an image of Christ on the cross, supposedly carved by Nicodemus, a purported witness of the crucifixion. The duomo boasts Tintoretto's painting of Last Supper.

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Then we went on to Pisa to see the Field of Miracles, the cathedral, the baptistery, and the Leaning Tower. The tower began leaning during construction, the foundation settling unevenly as builders reached the fourth story.

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Today, the tower leans 14-degrees from perpendicular. The walking distance between the Field of Miracles in Pisa and the bus parking area is about 15 minutes each way.  Crowds were hectic at Pisa and pick-pockets abound.

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Rome, Italy.

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Civitavecchia (Rome - the Ancient City). This was our 3rd port and the port for Rome. It was a very rainy day.  But we managed to see all our target locations - the collosseum, the forum, the pantheon, trevi fountain and the Spanish steps.

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We spent $109 each for the NCL “Rome on Your Own” tour which is nothing more than bus fare from the ship to Rome and back.  The  drawbacks with this tour are that it leaves about an hour after other passengers have left on their own and you can buy a round-trip train ticket for much less money.  I’m not sure why paying customers on NCL shore excursions are made to wait and get late starts on most of the shore excursions.  We would have started earlier and saved money if we had just bought the round-trip train ticket from the dock to Rome for about 10 Euros each.

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We did our own thing in the rain at Rome.  We started at the Coliseum – just viewing from the outside.  We continued on past the forum into town.

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We walked past the capital building and then on to the Pantheon, the biggest temple built by the Emperor Adriano and the best-preserved ancient Roman building.

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We made our stop at the Trevi Fountain.

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Then we went on to the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps.  All these sites are very easy walking distance – probably a 30 minute walk from the Coliseum to the Spanish steps (with no pauses in-between).

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Naples, Italy - Sorrento & Pompeii.

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Napoli. This is the port for Capri, Sorrento, and Pompeii. We had some rain our day in port.  We did the NCL excursion titled “Flavors of Sorrento & Pompeii”.

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The Pompeii part of this excursion would be easier and more rewarding to do on your own – Pompeii is very close to the port.  The NCL tour has a mandatory and unnecessary stop at a cameo factory.  The stop wastes time and subjects passengers to the sales pitch for cameos at the “factory tour”.

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After nearly 45 minutes wasted at that stop, we went to the beautiful cliff-top town of Sorrento, a village with splendid views of the sea and the colorful marina below.

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We had about an hour of free time to explore the main streets and shops.

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Then our bus took us to a family-owned farm above Sorrento where they produce olive oil, mozzarella cheese, limoncello and wine.

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We had lunch and a very informal tour the farm and lemon and olive trees.

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The lemons are as big as grapefruits!!

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In the afternoon, we went to Pompeii, the city buried for 1,700 years under 20 feet of ash and pumice.

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Pompeii was extremely crowded with some intermittent rain.  Our guide left out the part of the tour that showed the plaster casts of the human and animal victims at Pompeii – we were disappointed by this omission on the tour.  But we were amazed at the size of Pompeii – it is a very extensive area which would literally require days to see it all.

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Cagliari, Sardinia.

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Cagliari. We had a very relaxing, nice and sunny day for a day on our own in Cagliari.

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We enjoyed a street-side café in the morning.  We explored the town on foot and found the local market and shops.

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We had another street-side table for a tasty baguette of mozzarella and tomato and then some gelato in the afternoon.

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Days at Sea. There are only 2 days at sea on this itinerary.  The sea days are very nice breaks since this is such a port-intensive itinerary.  You can use these days to sleep and do some serious relaxing that you miss on the port days.

 

Malaga, Spain.

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Malaga. This was a sunny and beautiful day in port.  We very much enjoyed the freedom of doing our own thing in Malaga and were amazed at how much there is to do within easy walking distance of the pier.

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We were going to catch a taxi to Mijas, but after we saw how much there was in Malaga, we spent the entire day in Malaga.  We splurged on a horse carriage ride from the ship to the downtown Malaga area.  The ride includes a tour of Malaga highlights.  Our cost was 40 Euros, but we discovered later that we probably could have gotten this horse carriage ride for 30 Euros if we had dickered a little – fuel costs haven’t hit the horses that hard yet!

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We hiked up to the top of the 14th century Gibralfaro Castle – it is a steep hike of about 30 minutes up the hill.

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The views are spectacular.  The hike back down was hard on joints and calves.

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We then hiked up and toured the Alcazaba castle which is older and below the Gibralfaro castle.

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The Alcazaba was built in 1057 and shows more Moorish influence.  Even older still and just outside the Alcazaba are the ruins of a Roman theatre from about 2000 years ago.  We also found Picasso’s birthplace and toured the Picasso museum.

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We found the cathedral, but chose not to enter because Dan was wearing shorts and there was an entrance fee.  We did however witness a colorful Corpus Christi religious procession to the cathedral.

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Cadiz, Spain.

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Cadiz. We had another beautiful and sunny day in Cadiz on our own.  The city tour office just off the cruise terminal offers maps and brochures.

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There are 4 color-coded walking tours you can complete of Cadiz.  You follow the color for your selected tour along the sidewalks and streets – they are actually painted to keep you heading in the right direction on your tour of choice.  Each walking tour takes 1-2 hours (or longer depending on your pace and stops).  You can complete as many of the walking tours as you like for no cost.  Cadiz is the oldest continually inhabited city in western Europe.

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Gibralter.

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Gibralter. We stayed on the ship all day at Gibraltar due to rain. We were glad that we hadn’t paid for a soaking wet shore excursion on this day.

Lisbon, Portugal.

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Lisbon. Dan was confined to his cabin with a stomach virus at the ship doctor’s orders and could not leave the cabin, let alone the ship for this shore excursion.  Janean went into Lisbon on her own and explored the shopping district and markets close to the dock.  We had intermittent rain for our day in Lisbon.

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Vigo, Spain.

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Vigo. We had intermittent rain for our day in Vigo.  We did our tour of Vigo on our own.  Right at the cruise terminal, there are tourist representatives who will provide you a map and a suggested walking route to tour the city.

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We used the map and walked into the old town – with its centuries-old cathedral and narrow, steep and winding streets.  We enjoyed a café and churros with chocolate in a square by the cathedral.

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Vigo is very pedestrian friendly.  From old town, we walked downtown and then hiked up to the Mirador de la Guia for spectacular views of the city and bay.

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We finished our day back in the plaza in the old town square near the cathedral.  It was wonderfully relaxing and liberating to be in Vigo on our own and at our own pace.

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Vigo has a Merman - not a mermaid, but a mer-man!

 

Southampton, Salisbury, Stonehenge, London, England.

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Disembarkation and Southampton, Salisbury, Stonehenge, London. We did the NCL shore excursion named “Salisbury & Stonehenge”.  This is the one shore excursion that helps you get off the ship earlier because this is the debarkation date on this cruise.

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Our bus took us first to Salisbury, where we saw the 13th century medieval cathedral with the tallest spire in England.

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The spire soars to over 400 feet.  The cathedral also house one of England’s 2 copies of the Magna Carta signed in 1215.

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After an hour or so on our own in Salisbury we returned to the bus and headed for Stonehenge.  This was a great way to get to see the 5000 year old monument at Stonehenge and to also have transportation back to London.

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It is very important to confirm with NCL where this tour ends.  For our cruise, there were only 2 hotel options at the end of the tour – the Holiday Inn at Kensington or the Crowne Plaza at St. James.  The NCL website did not list these hotel options.  We ended up booking the Crowne Plaza at Heathrow, which was a great hotel option.  Unfortunately, due to the confusion with NCL, we had to pay for a 40 pound taxi ride ($80 US) to get from the closest of those 2 hotel options to our own hotel.

Overall, this was an amazing itinerary. If NCL can get the service problems fixed, this would be a wonderful cruise all-around.

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