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  1. Use an ATM at a bank in Venice, not just any ATM such as at a convenience store. They usually have a better exchange rate and lower fees.
  2. Crete we were only in port from 7 to noon. They had shuttle buses from the port to the center of town. I think it was 2 euro each way. We did a little shopping had some Greek yogurt and headed back to the ship. Malta The sail into Malta is very beautiful. Definitely be on deck for that. Again we hired a tour guide, this time thru Malta private guide. Very knowledgeable guide who loved her island very much. Malta is very beautiful and I am glad we toured the island and didn’t just stay in the city of Valletta. There were many festivals going on and many decorations all over the island. We also had a stop in MDina which was very pretty. After the tour we had dinner at the port. There are multiple restaurants right next to the port and we had a lovely dinner. Messina We hired a driver through Sicily for you. We basically just needed a drive to get us to Taormina. We have been there before and just wanted to do some shopping and have lunch. Also a stop at the Greek theatre. Naples We have also been here before and been to the almafi coast. This time because this so port intensive we decided to not schedule anything for Naples. My husband and children decided to do the Pompeii on your own tour thru the ship. My sister and I went into the city. To the left of the port there are some swimming areas and restaurants, we had the best pizza I have ever had here. I enjoyed the city more than I thought I would. Livorno We hired a driver through Tuscany tours. We wanted to go to the Cinque Terre. Very crowded area. We hired a boat to bring us on the water and see the villages. The tour driver dropped us at one village and picked us up at the end of the boat ride at another village. I had arranged this all in advance. The boat we hired through portovenere taxi boat. We had a lovely lunch in the last village and then headed back to the ship to pack. We did have a good vacation and saw many beautiful things. We had done a similar cruise to this in 2015 and thought then it would be a trip of a lifetime. It just got us hooked on doing a trip like this annually! I hope this trip trip report was helpful!
  3. Athens We did a half day tour with H P tours. The van they had was very spacious and comfortable. Half of our group went to the acropolis and museums and the other half went shopping. The guide was very accommodating and made sure we all got back together at the end to get back to the ship. Athens was not very crowded because of a holiday in Greece. I found I enjoyed Athens much more than I thought I would. Mykonos We booked a resort for the day pass at Saint John hotel. This included breakfast and lunch. We did this because of the holiday in Greece was actually that day so the island was very busy, which we knew ahead of time it would be. The resort is very beautiful. They picked us up at the port and returned us there at the end of the day. Rhodes We booked a tour with manosgoing. We had the best time in Rhodes. It was my favorite Greek island. We did a short tour of the old town, a stop at a ceramic factory and then onto the beach. Across from the beach was a restaurant we were going to have lunch at. Before going to the beach we picked out a sea bass they grilled for us while at the beach. We had chairs, umbrellas and waiter service on the beach. This was the best meal of our trip. After the beach we did some shopping in the old town, I wish I had more time to spend there it was bigger than I realized.
  4. Thank you everyone for your replies regarding the butler and concierge. After having it consume my time for the first three days I just gave up trying to fix it and enjoyed the cruise. I debated even discussing it but many times people ask what to expect of a butler and concierge and hopefully someone finds this helpful. For me I would not book another garden villa because of this. If I had wanted to spend the first few days of my vacation in line at guest services, in line a restaurant reservations, at the internet desk, I would have just booked a balcony. One last thing about the drink package and I will move on to ports. My sister was able to find a wine she liked for a $4 up-charge, no problem. At least half of the bars told her she would need to order it by the bottle if she wanted it. The menu said it was by the glass. She went to the martini bar and ordered a drink but because her card did not say the drink package, it was switched to her at this point, the bartender refused to apply it to the package and said he was not going to be responsible for it. Again we were in the garden villa, this should not have been an issue three days into the cruise. On MSC I was offered drinks before I would even walk up to the bar. They would offer what they thought I might like based on past experience. World of difference in service. Ports: Santorini We had booked a half day tour with Santorini day tours. Our guide was Ted and he was very knowledgeable about the island. He was also very accommodating when we realized my mother was not going to be able to navigate the hilly streets. Santorini is very beautiful but also very crowded. Ted gave us a tour of the island and brought us to a beautiful restaurant in a fishing village away from all the crowds. With a final stop in Oia he then took us back to Thira to wait in line for the cable car. The line does move pretty fast. Once off the cable car there is then another line for the tender, no haven priority access. I went to front of the line to ask and they said no. I am glad we went to Santorini, it is kind of like the Grand Canyon, you need to see it but I didn’t fall in love with it.
  5. We also had some meals in the villa. My mother wanted all meals in the villa. We would have to call everyday and ask for the mdr menu. Again a butler should anticipate this need and just provide after a day or two. 11 nights and every day had to ask for the menu.
  6. Our experience was not even remotely close. The concierge came to our room once only because I asked for him, and he seemed like it was not the norm for him to come to a room/villa. That is why I compared it to MSC. We were in a regular balcony in the yacht club on MSc and had that kind of service. If we ever asked how to be escorted off the ship we where basically told we needed to hunt them down when it was convenient for them. I believe this is partially due to the fact the jade is not that big of a ship and priority embarkation and disembarkation, as well as port is not always necessary but when it is and it is not there it makes a huge difference.
  7. Trip report We were a group of 8. Myself 47, husband 48, mother 73, mother in law 77, sister 48, my children 15, 17, 20. I planned this vacation for over a year. We are from the Boston area and have been on a few European cruises. I hope to touch on a few topics I have seen numberous question about. We were on an 11 night Italy Greece cruise which began in civitavecchia. We arrived on Thursday for an embarkation on Sunday. We spent 3 nights at hotel Santa Maria which was located in the trastevere area of Rome. I love Rome and find it to be a very walkable city if it was not extremely hot. I have never understood the need for a siesta in the middle of the day until this trip. We would walk out of our hotel and within 5 minutes needed to stop. Never mind the fact that everything is closed from 12-4. Now I know why. The hard part is getting myself accustomed to this. Regardless we enjoyed our time in Rome. The first night I had skip the line tickets for the colosseum. We really wanted to do the upper levels but they were closed for maintenance for the summer. The basic admission ticket actually included the third level and we able to see quite a bit. The second day some of us had a cooking class plan, which they loved. The rest of us were just going to explore but the heat got the best of us and we had a great siesta. On Saturday we had tickets for the Vatican train ride to the popes summer villa in castel Gandolfo. We enjoyed this excursion and it is a great way to see the Vatican but again the heat was a major factor in us enjoying the day. Sunday: embarkation day! We hired Rome in Limo to take us to the port. Reasonably priced and comfortable van for 8 with luggage. It was 200 euro. We arrived at the port about 10:30. We had brought a case of wine with us we wanted to pay corkage for because we had viewed wine list in advance and found we did not like many of the offerings. Because we were so early the table to pay corkage at was not open. We had no problem paying the price for corkage and we were a group of 8 in the garden villa. Only the first 2 received the drink package. I would rather pay corkage for a good bottle of wine than for a drink package I won’t use. So I will now get into a little of the drink package issues I have as well a suite issues compared to MSC yacht club. We were a diverse group. Three of us were “drinkers”. The rest were not. In the yacht club all passengers in a cabin got the perks of the cabin. Not just the first 2. My husband and myself were listed as passengers 1 and 2. So we got the drink package. I wanted to have my sister be passenger 1 so she would have the drink package. I should have done this before we boarded. I assumed because we were in the garden villa it would have been an easy transition. I think to them it was a trivial issue and not worth their time. Basically what happened was I had the drink package on my card the first few days, if my sister wanted a drink I would put it on my card because she was ultimately going to be the passenger on the drink package. Three days later and she finally obtained the drink package and all of the drinks I had put on my card for her were charged to my account. It was about $150 dollars. During that time we had been to guest services multiple times and had multiple cards issued to us. At one point, two days into the cruise, we were at guest service and ran into the assistant concierge and he gave us new cards and said your are in the garden villa so you don’t have to deal with this, I said thank you I agree. The new cards he gave use didn’t work in our room and we had to go back to quest services. I want to believe it was just a comedy of errors but there were a lot of them. Many people ask about butlers and what you would use them for. This is another area were I will compare to MSC. You can have a great butler and a bad butler. To me a good butler takes initiative. This is our second time in the haven but not our first time in a suite. We are not demanding people. My kids even commented when they went to the buffet for ice cream and it was closed how another passage stated “that’s ok I will just get my butler to get it for me”. They knew this was something I would not allow. But..... we were in the garden villa! On MSC. Every time we went near our room were asked if we needed anything. Unless we called our butler and asked we got nothing. When we first got to the room we asked about the bar set up, in the garden villa you receive 6 bottles of alcohol. I did not take care of this ahead of time because we really only wanted a good bottle of scotch and were hoping for better options onboard. A good butler would have been able to understand this. By the second day when the bar still was not set up I ask can we get the bar set up and within the hour it was done. Again initiative. As far as snacks went it seemed if we ate everything he brought he would not bring it again. He would bring multiple of things we did not eat or ask for. In the garden villa you have soda, water mixers included. A few days in I asked for Diet Pepsi for my mother in law. Great we got 50 Diet Pepsi, nobody drank any of this I only wanted a couple. I also asked for bottled water. We got some. A couple of days later I again asked for bottle water. Just a couple! Towards the end of the trip no bottled water available. To me a good butler would have an understanding of what we drink and eat and made sure we had more of it. We also sent out laundry. I asked the butler is the laundry back yet, he said don’t worry they will let me know when it is done. To me a good butler would say let me check on that. Also on disembarkation we went to moderno for breakfast to let them clean the suite. When we left the restaurant and went to get on the elevator it took us 20 minutes to get an elevator. The butler on MSc would have been waiting with a sign to get us on the elevator. Let me just say, we had a good vacation, I am only discussing this because many people want an understanding of what a butler does and what makes a good one. Now onto the concierge, The jade is a different kind of ship. They don’t have a dedicated concierge area. So I believe it is a different kind of concierge. In the beginning the concierge asked all suite passengers to go to a meeting on the morning after embarkation, a sea day. I went to the meeting because I had issues I needed to addresses, ie sister with the drink package and unlimited internet. The meeting was for all suite guest, probably about 50 people. I am sorry but I am not spending my only sea day in a meeting so we left before it began. I should have stayed but I just couldn’t. For other suites this is probably very helpful, and in the end it probably would have been helpful to us but I felt being in the garden villa should have had more personalized information. I will say the concierge is very helpful for things I would not have thought to use him for. After reading many comments and reviews regarding concierges I was very underwhelmed at what their service might be. To me in a hotel a concierge can tell you about a city, suggest a tour, make dinner/show reservation anywhere. These services I find useful. Depending on the cruise the concierge on a ship is just for things on a ship, dinner/show reservations, spa reservations, especially in the bigger ships. While I found the concierge somewhat lacking in onboard services, we had to use guest services when needed, I was surprised at the knowledge he had of port stops. We had prebooked most of our excursions with private companies. For the few ports we had nothing planned he was very helpful. In Europe with a group of 8 it is cheaper to plan ahead but in a pinch the concierge is more helpful with this that I thought. That is all for now, i feel like I am rambling and need to regroup in the morning. I will have lots of ports info then!
  8. We didn’t change anything on our reservation and it was on my edocs. We are set to sail August 11, so are well past final payment.
  9. I would have your TA call and find out if you can change your flight times. Others have report they have been successful in doing this. I think there is a specific department that handles air.
  10. If their parents are not traveling with you I would also have a notarized letter from the parents saying you can travel with them. Especially if they have a different last name. My sister took my 10 year old daughter to Florida and the TSA agent gave her a hard time.
  11. Thanks for the review. How far of a walk was it from the restaurant to the cable car, concerned my mother will have trouble walking and climbing lots of stairs. We have hired a car to bring us around the island but wondering if we can easily be dropped at the restaurant and walk to the cable car. At that time of night was there still a line for the cable car? Thanks!
  12. Doing this trip in August, thanks for the review. Did you find the ship crowded and were you able to chairs by the pool.
  13. Not all of them will but if they do pick euro, if they don’t ask we have found it is exchanged in euro. Also in restaurants in Europe when you pay with a credit card they will bring the machine to the table and we have found more and more machines will ask if you want it billed in euro or US dollar. We always chose euro because we have found our bank usually has the best exchange rate. This is all relatively new so not all machines do it. I think it is a way for the restaurants and banks to make money on the exchange.
  14. Another thing to keep in mind when using a bank atm often it will ask if you want the exchange done in US dollar or euro. If your card does not have a foreign transaction fee chose the exchange in euro. I have found my bank offers a better exchange rate than the European bank atm I am using. I completely agree it is best to use atms in bank lobbies. Also if your bank has a chip card I would make sure to use that. We use capital one for a credit card and td bank for atm. Both have no foreign transaction fees and have good exchange rates.
  15. I am going in August, I might do I live report depending on the WiFi on the ship. I will at the least do a review when I return.
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