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mdsgu

Jade from Rome, 5/23/19

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Thanks for sharing your excellent review.  I’m simply marveling at your family’s stamina.  I’d have been reporting on major family meltdowns at your pace! 

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7 hours ago, LuvKruzn said:

 

😎OUTSTANDING REVIEW😎

We will be doing same cruise on Jun 20 with family group and your review is very helpful.

Santorini Tender Ticket Question:  

We have a group of 15 in 5 cabins that desire an early departure together. 

Do we all have to get in line for tickets, or just one from each cabin, or can one member get tickets for all 5 cabins?

Look forward to more tips.  Thanks so very much.

 

Only one person per cabin has to get in line.  You don't get to pick a time or tender number -- it's first-come first-serve.  When they are cleared by the port authority and ready to start disembarking passengers, they will call all the NCL excursion people first, then they will start with tender #1, then tender #2, and so on.  Honestly, it went very quickly.  I was sure we would be late, but we got up to Fira before our excursion time.  When they announce the time to pick up tender tickets, I would get in line 30 minutes in advance if you want a lower number.

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6 hours ago, littlelulu01 said:

Thanks for sharing your excellent review.  I’m simply marveling at your family’s stamina.  I’d have been reporting on major family meltdowns at your pace! 

 

We had exactly zero meltdowns.  I was concerned before we left, both because the kids, while good travelers, are still young and because it was the longest vacation we've ever taken.  Fortunately, it worked out so very well.

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Messina in Sicily.  A beautiful little island only 12 miles from the mainland.  We found our private tour guide, Chiara, quite easily and set out -- again, in a Mercedes van -- to explore.  The first stop was a beautiful old church.  It dates back several hundred years but had to be put back together a little over 100 years ago after an earthquake.  The fountain, also many hundreds of years old, was spared by the same earthquake.

 

We then headed up to Taormina.  This is an obviously ancient town, and there is a Greek theatre to visit if you are interested (we skipped that, having just been in Greece).  Charming cobblestone streets with bustling shops abound.  Overlooking the town, a Norman castle is perched on a hill.  If you are looking for little souvenirs, this is the place.  Just inside the gate, to the right, is a small bakery (L'Arco, I think) with food to die for.  You have to stop in -- spend 20 euros and you'll be stuffed!

 

We left Taormina to head to the Bay of Naxos.  Our guide had arranged for a boat trip, about 2 hours, some grottos and along the coast.  Well worth it!  The grottos are beautiful and the coast view is tranquil.  Before heading back, the captain pulled out fresh fruit -- cantaloupe, pineapple, strawberries -- and wine for the adults.  Just soda for the kids; they were so disappointed.  🙂  He did let the kids pilot the boat for a short time on the way back, though.

 

We stopped at a little shop.  Honestly, we all needed a restroom break, but we wound up with gelato (kids) and beer (adults).  We told our guide we wanted some local food before we got back to the ship.  She had the driver stop at Ragusa's, across from the port, so we could get cannoli.  (Remember: cannolo is single, cannoli is plural.)  They stuff them when they are ordered, so it took a few minutes, but it was well worth it.  They were absolutely delicious.  We had to eat them before getting on the ship, but NCL, at every port, has a couple of tailgating tents set up with a few chairs underneath and cool washcloths to welcome you back.  Made the perfect spot to enjoy our cannoli.

 

You guessed it -- it was then nap time and on to a late dinner!

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On to Naples.  We had a private tour set up with Best Rome Driver, and Paolo picked us up promptly in the ubiquitous Mercedes.  We headed to Positano and Sorrento and got some great pictures of the Amalfi Coast.  We toured Sorrento and had a fabulous lunch at Fauno Bar, complete with wine, cheese, meats, and pizza (for which the Napoli area is famous, and for good reason).  Paulo picked us up exactly on time and we headed to Pompeii, where our guide was waiting.

 

Pompeii was awesome.  There are just ruins there now, but with the amount of excavation and preservation, it is easy to imagine how it must have looked almost 2000 years ago when it was frozen in time.  Our guide was hilarious and very much into her work.  As we started into the site, she scolded a man for smoking and told him he better put it out, he could be fined 500 euros for smoking there, and he better not throw the butt on the ground.  She would tell other tourists to move when we were trying to take pictures, and she excoriated a small group of younger people who were literally trying to sneak in the exit so they didn't have to pay.  As it was about to rain, she took us to the most important areas and explained them in detail.  We loved Francesca.  She delivered us back to Paolo exactly on time, who got us to the ship literally 5 minutes before a torrential downpour.

 

We sat in O'Sheehan's for some afternoon drinks and snacks for a bit.  My daughter wanted to go to Splash Academy and we "encouraged" my son to go.  The rest of us had a few more drinks and then a nap because we had reservations at Le Bistro for 8:30pm (thank you American Express Platinum Travel!).  Le Bistro was, as it has been every time we've sailed NCL, wonderful.  We actually did have a tab when dinner was over because we ordered champagne (Veuve Cliquot) and we did not upgrade from the "Free at Sea" drink package to the super-duper-all-inclusive-even-Veuve package.  Regardless, dinner was quite nice, even if the kids, whom we had retrieved from kids' camp, fell asleep halfway through.

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On 6/10/2019 at 11:26 AM, mdsgu said:

 

We used PK Travel.  I highly recommend them both for their prices and their professionalism.

Great to hear.  We do this cruise on June 20 and we are using PK in Athens!  Loving your review and you are my kind of traveler-see and do and enjoy as much as you can!

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On 6/10/2019 at 4:39 AM, mdsgu said:

 

The next day, Saturday, was Santorini!  We all met for breakfast, and then my father-in-law and I headed up to Lido about 15 minutes before they were to start handing out tender tickets (if you have an NCL excursion, you don't need a tender ticket, but we had a private tour arranged).  The ticket station was in one corner of Lido, and before the line started moving, it had snaked all the way around the perimeter of the deck and back into the ship.  lights.

 

What deck number is the Lido deck?

Where on Lido was the ticket station located?

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Doing this trip in August, thanks for the review.  Did you find the ship crowded and were you able to chairs by the pool. 

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Thank you so much for your detailed reviews. We're heading off on the identical trip  on Jade next Thursday, the 20th. Can't wait!

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11 hours ago, LuvKruzn said:

 

What deck number is the Lido deck?

Where on Lido was the ticket station located?

 

I believe it was 12.  The ticket station -- no more than just a folding table with 2 attendants -- was located on the starboard side, forward, near the stairs to deck 13.

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10 hours ago, Hampton99 said:

Doing this trip in August, thanks for the review.  Did you find the ship crowded and were you able to chairs by the pool. 

 

The ship never felt crowded.  As with any ship, loungers were at a premium, but we never had to look too long to find somewhere to sit.

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Saturday, our last full day on the ship.  So sad....but we arrived in Livorno!  We met Tony, our Best Rome Driver, on shore and he drove us to Pisa, which is not terribly far.  Of course we went straight to the Piazza dei Miracoli to see the beautiful cathedral, baptistry, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa -- really just the bell tower for the cathedral.  We took the obligatory pictures trying to hold the tower up or kick it over.  Tony helped us get tickets (for 5:15pm) to climb the tower.  Most monuments and museums in Europe allow children in for free, but not the Leaning Tower!  My parents-in-law weren't interesting in climbing to the top, and the ticket office threw in a couple of free tickets to the cathedral for them.  Our tower tickets also included the cathedral. 

 

Since it wasn't even noon yet, we headed off for Tuscany.  We had reservations at Castello Sonnino in Montespertoli for a tour and lunch.  They were so accommodating and just genuinely nice.  We had a private guided tour of the grounds and a crash course in how to make Chianti.  We were then led back to the main building and out onto a grassy terrace overlooking the vineyard.  Lunch was, of course, a leisurely affair.  We started with bruschetta and prosciutto (with wine).  We then had antipasti consisting of polenta wrapped in eggplant, goat cheese, and bread (with wine).  The main course was a delicious pasta with red meat sauce (with wine).  Biscotti was served for dessert (with a dessert wine).  It was close to 4:30 before we left!

 

Tony got us back to Pisa for our 5:15 tower climb, which was interesting.  The tower may only be leaning 5 degrees, but try walking up 800 year old marble steps.  It takes some coordination.  On one side, you feel like you are pulled to the exterior wall and on the opposite side you are pulled to the interior wall of the staircase.  You can climb all the way to the tip top, but once you emerge at what you think is the top, you have to walk halfway around to another tiny circular staircase to take you to the level with the bells.  Don't get in a hurry going up or down -- the marble is slick even on sunny days!  We also visited the cathedral, which is stunning.

 

We didn't have time to do Florence (so we missed David), but we thought Pisa would hold the kids' interest more easily.  And they did enjoy it!

 

Tony took us back to the ship at around 7:30.  All that walking and climbing left us ready for dinner around 9.  Prior to dinner, we had to pack, only to find that usual phenomenon that our clothes had inexplicably expanded while on the ship.  It's the same story every time we cruise.  What fit with room to spare before leaving home requires a Herculean effort to stuff in a suitcase when it's time to go.  Amazing.  I thought it was just a Caribbean humidity thing; apparently it happens in the Med, too!  We were doing self-assist disembarkation, so we didn't have to put our suitcases out in the hall.

Edited by mdsgu

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mdsgu, sounds like you enjoyed your jaunt around the Med. The one overriding factor that I have picked up from your many shore excursions is the amount you must have spent on arranging for somebody always there to pick you up and the amount spent in meals away from the ship at various restaurants along the way and also your flight and train costs and all that excluding what the cruise itself must have cost. You must have spent thousands of dollars/euros on this cruise, much more than I could ever imagine spending on a cruise even for a family, but I guess it's all down to wealth.

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3 hours ago, JOHNHOWARTH2 said:

mdsgu, sounds like you enjoyed your jaunt around the Med. The one overriding factor that I have picked up from your many shore excursions is the amount you must have spent on arranging for somebody always there to pick you up and the amount spent in meals away from the ship at various restaurants along the way and also your flight and train costs and all that excluding what the cruise itself must have cost. You must have spent thousands of dollars/euros on this cruise, much more than I could ever imagine spending on a cruise even for a family, but I guess it's all down to wealth.

 

We did spend more on this vacation than normal; that is just an unavoidable fact.  However, we planned this trip for 18 months.  It allowed us to do comparison shopping and spread the cost over a longer period of time; most of the trip was paid before we ever left the United States.  The private tours we scheduled (mostly with Best Rome Driver but also the ones in Athens, Malta, and Messina) were actually more reasonable in cost than I expected -- and certainly less than the excursions sold by Norwegian.  There were a few rather expensive meals -- 2 in particular come to mind -- but the others were not.  We ate breakfast and dinner on the boat, except for the breakfast in Crete.  The cost of the cruise was not bad -- we booked it so early that the kids sailed free.  The trains were very reasonable, in my opinion.  The single biggest cost we had were the flights to and from Europe.

 

Wealth really has little to do with it.  If we were rich, we would have sailed Oceania, Regent Seven Seas, or chartered a private yacht.  I think planning ahead (in this case, 18 months) made a big difference.  It also allowed us to come home without credit card debt!

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On 6/10/2019 at 11:25 AM, mdsgu said:

Next up: Mykonos.

 

We walked out of the cruise ship terminal and almost ran right over our little tour guide (again, ToursbyLocals), Ervin.  He gives tours of his home island, works in the Mayor's office with tourism, and plays semi-professional soccer.  He had a little van that fit all of us and we drove a short distance from the port before we stopped to walk through Little Venice.  It is similar to Venice, but not quite.  We could have walked back, but due to my mother-in-law's poor knees, he left us to get the van and picked us up from the other end.  There are little chapels dotted all over; Ervin says there are over 700 on the island.  Apparently, there is a law that if you build one on your property that can hold at least 4 people, you get a 70% reduction in your property taxes.  We did some sight-seeing (there are a few old windmills at the end of Little Venice) and visited a small monastery with absolutely gorgeous icons.  We went to the lighthouse for some photos and picturesque views of the sea.

 

Then, it was beach time.  He gave us a choice between two beach clubs.  The first looked nice and so did the second.  Since we were already at the second, we decided to stay there.  The loungers were a bit pricey, as was the alcohol, but the service was outstanding.  My wife ordered white wine, and the server literally stood there and swirled an ice cube in her wine glass to chill it!  There is a restaurant there, in a cave overlooking the sea, that he recommended.  We called and got reservations, and, when we were done on the beach, we strolled over.  It has some tasty dishes and some rather high prices -- lobster was 190 euros per kilo.  Needless to say, we didn't have lobster, but we did have fresh sea urchin, grilled octopus, prawns, oysters, wine, beer -- it was fabulous.

 

Afterward, Ervin showed up exactly on time and dropped us back to the ship.  Another nap, and another late dinner!

 

Tomorrow -- Crete.  Our only island without a pre-planned excursion.

Do you happen to remember the name of the two beach clubs or at least the one you ended up staying with?  Thanks again for the review and info!

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1 hour ago, mdsgu said:

 

We did spend more on this vacation than normal; that is just an unavoidable fact.  However, we planned this trip for 18 months.  It allowed us to do comparison shopping and spread the cost over a longer period of time; most of the trip was paid before we ever left the United States.  The private tours we scheduled (mostly with Best Rome Driver but also the ones in Athens, Malta, and Messina) were actually more reasonable in cost than I expected -- and certainly less than the excursions sold by Norwegian.  There were a few rather expensive meals -- 2 in particular come to mind -- but the others were not.  We ate breakfast and dinner on the boat, except for the breakfast in Crete.  The cost of the cruise was not bad -- we booked it so early that the kids sailed free.  The trains were very reasonable, in my opinion.  The single biggest cost we had were the flights to and from Europe.

 

Wealth really has little to do with it.  If we were rich, we would have sailed Oceania, Regent Seven Seas, or chartered a private yacht.  I think planning ahead (in this case, 18 months) made a big difference.  It also allowed us to come home without credit card debt!

Thank you again for your review.  You make me feel fantastic about having picked this ship and itinerary.  

 

I totally agree with your analysis.  Everything comes down to priorities.  For us our upcoming cruise is costing us quite a bit and btw there are 4 couples joining us.  That said, we are spending more because unlike the typical Caribbean cruise it is more than just a vacation it is a "bucket list" trip.  It is a chance to see a region drenched in history.  That is the reason for the involved shore excursions, not just going to sit on a beach or shop the stores.  

 

As you mentioned the cruise itself is very reasonable.  Maybe that is because there is only one sea day and they probably not serving as much in the way of meals.  Our flights to Rome however, are way more expensive than I expected.  Our group is coming from two different regions and none of us found what could be considered a deal.  We are doing extra days in Rome, mostly for that reason, I don't see us flying back anytime soon.  

 

I think wealth is different for different people, but NCL was one of the most reasonable. JOHNHOWARTH2, being in the UK you should be able to cut down some of the transportation costs.

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2 hours ago, kidstwo2 said:

Do you happen to remember the name of the two beach clubs or at least the one you ended up staying with?  Thanks again for the review and info!

 

It was Agia Anna. 

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Sunday. Disembarkation. Ugh. The worst part of any cruise. We were up and going by 7. Grand Pacific's breakfast service would close at 8am, so we trudged all the way aft with our luggage (remember, it was only a carry-on and a backpack per person). We had breakfast and by the time we finished, it was time to leave. 😔

 

Giuliano (the same Giuliano who ushered us around Rome!) met us and we found our accomodations in Civitavecchia. We checked in, and then we headed out for our excursion. We had to squeeze in one more before leaving!

 

First up was Civita dei Bagnoregio. This is an old old town situated on a volcanic tuff. Erosion has caused some areas to fall off into the surrounding valley. It can only be accessed on foot, by walking about a kilometer on a purpose-built footbridge. Its history traces back 2500 years to the Etruscans. 

 

It was then off to Orvieto. Our main purpose for visiting was to see the Corporal of Bolsena, the relic of a Eucharistic miracle some 800 years ago. Giuliano had set up lunch for us at a restaurant in sight of the Cathedral of Orvieto. He dropped us off about 1:30 and said he would pick us up at 4:00. Lunch turned out to be one heck of an affair!  Meats and cheeses and wine and 65-year-old balsamic vinegar. Bruschetta with truffle spread and mozzarella. Pasta with black truffles. We were quite stuffed!  Lunch didn't end until almost 4, but we did manage to visit the Cathedral and the holy relic. 

 

Back to our apartment in Civitavecchia. The next day, Paolo picked us up and drove us to Leonardo da Vinci airport and we commenced our journey home. 23 hours after waking up in Italy, we went to bed in Baton Rouge. 

 

By our count, it was 7 countries, 24 cities, 18 days, and countless memories. A truly epic journey. 

 

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Edited by mdsgu

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Excellent review and information. I have found a great person through ToursbyLocals for Santorini. Thank you! We went to the Hilltop towns last year when we were on the Epic, just beautiful! 

 

I agree with your discussion on cost. It comes down to planning, paying what you can ahead of time, and realizing it is a BIG trip and one that is going to be that forever memory.  I am reading Mediterranean reviews like a maniac. 

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I know Santorini is a tender port - how about Mykonos?  We're doing this same itinerary on Jade August 1.

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2 hours ago, flahagan said:

I know Santorini is a tender port - how about Mykonos?  We're doing this same itinerary on Jade August 1.

Most of the time no

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On 6/11/2019 at 1:54 PM, mdsgu said:

Messina in Sicily.  A beautiful little island only 12 miles from the mainland.  We found our private tour guide, Chiara, quite easily and set out -- again, in a Mercedes van -- to explore.  The first stop was a beautiful old church.  It dates back several hundred years but had to be put back together a little over 100 years ago after an earthquake.  The fountain, also many hundreds of years old, was spared by the same earthquake.

 

We then headed up to Taormina.  This is an obviously ancient town, and there is a Greek theatre to visit if you are interested (we skipped that, having just been in Greece).  Charming cobblestone streets with bustling shops abound.  Overlooking the town, a Norman castle is perched on a hill.  If you are looking for little souvenirs, this is the place.  Just inside the gate, to the right, is a small bakery (L'Arco, I think) with food to die for.  You have to stop in -- spend 20 euros and you'll be stuffed!

 

We left Taormina to head to the Bay of Naxos.  Our guide had arranged for a boat trip, about 2 hours, some grottos and along the coast.  Well worth it!  The grottos are beautiful and the coast view is tranquil.  Before heading back, the captain pulled out fresh fruit -- cantaloupe, pineapple, strawberries -- and wine for the adults.  Just soda for the kids; they were so disappointed.  🙂  He did let the kids pilot the boat for a short time on the way back, though.

 

We stopped at a little shop.  Honestly, we all needed a restroom break, but we wound up with gelato (kids) and beer (adults).  We told our guide we wanted some local food before we got back to the ship.  She had the driver stop at Ragusa's, across from the port, so we could get cannoli.  (Remember: cannolo is single, cannoli is plural.)  They stuff them when they are ordered, so it took a few minutes, but it was well worth it.  They were absolutely delicious.  We had to eat them before getting on the ship, but NCL, at every port, has a couple of tailgating tents set up with a few chairs underneath and cool washcloths to welcome you back.  Made the perfect spot to enjoy our cannoli.

 

You guessed it -- it was then nap time and on to a late dinner!

Can you please share what tour company you used in Messina?  We sail 11 August and haven't booked that tour yet.  

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54 minutes ago, ctnurse said:

Can you please share what tour company you used in Messina?  We sail 11 August and haven't booked that tour yet.  

 

We booked with Sicily4you. 

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