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Norwegian Jade-Italy And Greek Isles review 6/20-6/30/19 sailing


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Hi all! Since CruiseCritic was so helpful to me in planning this trip, I wanted to share our experience as well for those planning. Day 1 and day 2 we were in Rome on our own and scheduled our own tours. I highly recommend this as it was so educational and efficient. We were harassed so badly at the Colosseum by tour and skip the line peddlers since we did NOT have a tour, that we left. The people were RELENTLESS. Even after saying no multiple times, they followed us around until my husband finally had to get loud with them to leave us alone. 

 

I had a lot of questions about spending money before we left so I wanted to share our spending. We barely spent anything on the ship except for laundry and Starbucks and in port usually spent €50-€150 per day EXCLUDING tours because I had already prepaid all of that. We have 4 people, 2 adults and 2 daughters, ages 11 and 13. We ate at sit-down restaurants so you could spend less if you wanted to eat differently. We spent about $2000 USD in 14 days (in Rome pre-cruise, on ship and in port, and last final day in Rome post-cruise. This includes what I withdrew in euros.

 

I didn’t think pickpocketing was nearly as much of an issue as you read online, or finding bathrooms (except in Greece, the metro had no readily available bathrooms which I found surprising). I didn’t have to pay for any restrooms except in Naples and Florence area. It was €.50-€1 to use the restrooms (Pompei and Leaning Tower of Pisa area both charged so you will need cash for this).

 

Also, most DID expect tips in Greece. Santorini #1 industry is tourism and I have no problem tipping. I ended up tipping 10% at most restaurants and tours in Greece. In Rome at restaurants, we just rounded up. 

 

Restaurants asked me if I wanted to add tip to my credit card charge as there is no line for it be added after transaction is complete. In Italy, tipping was less expected, except in Florence. Florence restaurant had line for tip and gelato stands as well had tip jars. As I state below, Florence city center seems like a tourist trap and I did not feel this way in other areas we visited.

 

I find it interesting that people see tipping as unnecessary in Italy due to people being paid living wages, yet our guides told us people in this region make on average €17,000 per year and tourism is a lot of these places #1-#2 industry. Maybe someone on these boards from Italy knows why? I’m genuinely just curious. 

 

Rome cabs took us to hotel from airport (we tipped €5 due to baggage handling) and we tipped our Rome cabs drivers hotel to cruise port €10. It is a personal preference of course, just wanted to share my personal experience. 

 

The language barrier was not an issue in most places we visited, probably because we were on tours. Most people we interacted with at tours and our pasta making class told us they liked doing things in English so their English gets stronger. We learned a few key phrases to be respectful although it was not necessary, most immediately started speaking to us in English. Most people we have interacted with have been so wonderful and friendly! Naples and Florence I would say less people spoke English than the Greek islands, Malta, Rome and Sicily. 

 

I am so glad we did a cruise to see this beautiful region because the minimal use of air conditioning in Europe with 90-97 degree days was rough for us used to daily AC use in the summer :)

 

The Norwegian Jade was a great ship with the exception of limited activities. I felt there was much more to do on our Disney cruises. The actual ship, service and food was great. My family are all great cooks (not me; but the others I was traveling with) and they had NO complaints which is extremely rare. The service in main dining rooms (Alizar, Grand Pacific and O’Sheehan’s pub) was pretty slow so we only ate at Alizar twice and O’Sheehan’s twice. Garden cafe buffet was great and always had high quality food. The coffee isn’t great so if you’re used to strong coffee, you may have to frequent starbucks! Java Cafe brews Starbucks so I frequented there (extra charge plus gratuity. Prices were completely fair and same as Starbucks at home. 

 

Mandara Spa facilities were mediocre (massage room had fluorescent lighting on the whole massage and a hand towel to cover where your face goes which was pretty rough in texture). The massage itself was great though. 

 

The kids clubs aren’t great and my kids didn’t really want to go. This is a port intensive cruise so it wasn’t a big deal, but if you had a lot of sea days it would be tough. On the days we were back on the ship early (2p-8p) there was not much to do activity-wise. 

 

Laundry days were days 4 and 8 on the ship and back by the next day or the day after (one of my loads came back next day and one came back 2 days later) and it was $19.95 for an entire bag. The bags are paper so they rip easily. Also, I would not put any delicates in even with a mesh laundry bag (I did the mesh bag I brought from home and my stuff came back fuzzy). 

 

Day 1-Rome

-checked into The K Boutique hotel. AC did not work in our room at all for our 2 night stay. 

-Went to colosseum (not inside, skip the line tickets too expensive and too hot)

-Dinner in Rome

 

Day 2-Rome

-City Wonders Extended Vatican tour with Bramante Staircase

-Pasta making class with Walks of Italy (our chefs were Luca and Francesco) where we made homemade ravioli and fettuccini with two different sauces, and homemade gelato was made by them while we ate the delicious food they taught us to make. HIGHLY recommend! They taught us a lot about Italian food and authentic vs American version 

 

Day 3-Took Rome cabs to Civitavecchia and boarded Norwegian Jade

 

Day 4-Sea day

 

Day 5-Santorini, Greece-NCL excursion to Perivolos Beach. Black lava rock “sand”. I would definitely recommend water shoes to wear at this beach as the sand is very hot. Mera Beach bar serves food and drinks 

 

Day 6-Athens, Greece-We had a tour planned with Athens Walks for 9a-11a of the Acropolis. We had planned to take metro to the meeting point of “Acropolis metro station”. Unfortunately; unbeknownst to us, the metro was a good 20 min walk from where Norwegian Jade docked and I had originally read on someone else’s review that metro was “right near metro and just a few steps away” from port. Well, it was not in our situation so we ended up missing the tour. The metro required getting off one line and onto another and took us one hour to get from where we docked, to the Acropolis metro station. Our tour had left by that point although a man from Athens Walks stayed behind to sell us our “skip the line” entrance tickets to Acropolis for €20. We hiked up the top on our own and never did catch up with our tour which was fine because it was incredibly hot and crowded. I would recommend doing a skip the line Acropolis and then not doing a formal tour. It’s easy enough to do on your own. Then, we walked around to a place to eat, walked to Temple of Zeus and town of Plaka; we took a cab back to the port around 1:30p due to extreme heat, we were all tired. 

 

Day 7-Mykonos, Greece-Kalaftis Beach transfer (NCL excursion 9a-12:30p)-€20 euros for one umbrella near back of beach (our umbrella had 3 chairs under it and the girl told us it would only be €20 even though bus who drove us here said it would be €30 for 2 chairs so always ask the actual people working the beach), and €50 euros for 2 chairs near water in front of restaurant/bar (quite expensive since Santorini chairs and umbrellas were free with purchases of drinks and food from Mera Beach bar). You are able to use Aphrodite Hotel bathroom which is directly behind beach, across the street. The area closer to the restaurant has showers, changing rooms and bathrooms. The sand here is much more forgiving. It’s still more pebbly than sandy, but less rough than Santorini. The water here is absolutely beautiful and clear. Mykonos was more developed than Santorini and very beautiful. 

 

Since we were on an NCL excursion, the bus gave us option to be dropped off in town and then take NCL shuttle back to ship.

 

Day 8-Chania (Crete), Greece-this was an extremely short port day (7a-12p) and we didn’t feel like getting up early so I stayed on ship. My husband and family got off and it looks like a really beautiful area. 

 

Day 9-Valletta, Malta-We did the hop on hop off Malta bus NCL excursion just so we could get around easily and see what we wanted. We docked at Laboratory Wharf Berth and boat shuttle was offered to cross over to Valletta cruise port although since we had our excursion we didn’t need to do that until the way back since the Hop On Hop off ends in Valletta. We got off the bus at San Anton Gardens and got back on until the stop for Mosta. The Mosta costs 2 euros to enter. (we skipped a couple stops that weren’t interesting to us). Next, we went to Mdina. We took a horse drawn tour for 35 euros and it was well worth it. The driver gave us the history and it was a nice breezy ride. Then, back on the bus to Valletta and back to the ship via water shuttle! Make sure to get off at bus stop for “port” instead of city center (our driver told us to get off at city center, and yes you can walk to the Port of Valletta but it is about 15-20 minutes and my grandmother has mobility issues which made it a challenge)

 

 

Day 10-Messina, Sicily-We did an NCL excursion “Italy Taormina & Sicilian Vineyard” which took us to the town of Taormina first to walk around and see the sights with our tour guide, Renata. It included the Greek theater and entrance fees were included in tour price. We then had one hour to walk around on our own until meeting back at the bus at 11:50am. Then, off to the Sicilian vineyard (Gambino vineyard) for lunch and wine tasting. The educational part was about 30 min with tour of wine cellar. Then, onto food! The appetizer was a plate of different cheeses, a few olives, 3 red peppers and a portobello mushroom. They also had hard boiled eggs and bread on the table. The second course was cured meats. Luckily, we ate some Sicilian pizza in Taormina!! I don’t drink, so luckily one of my family members took my samples that were given :) There were 4 different types of wine and the family says they were very good. It is an hour 20 minute ride back to the port from the vineyard. This excursion is well worth it IMO.

 

Day 10-Naples, Italy-Pompeii Excavations NCL excursion. It’s about a 48 minute ride from cruise port to Pompeii and it’s a 4 1/2 hour excursion including travel time. It includes a guided tour of the excavations. Our guide was Marcello and he was great (degree in archaeology). We stopped at a cameo factory on the way to Pompeii because apparently it is a requirement for certain tours (some said it’s required by government?). We were able to use the restrooms though so that was nice. There are also restrooms outside the entrance and inside the entrance (outside cost €.50-this was first time I had to pay for restroom entire trip). It was an absolutely amazing sight to see and well worth having a tour guide to know what everything is. It was brutally hot the day we went (98 Fahrenheit), but overall worth it to see this historical archaeological site.

 

Day 11-Livorno, Italy-Florence and Pisa-We did a private van tour for 8 hrs to take us to Leaning Tower of Pisa, Michelangelo Square in Florence as well as going to see Accademia Gallery to see statue of David. We went to Florence city center. Florence city center was a tourist trap IMO. There were no posted prices for gelato and we paid €18 for 2 gelato!!! This is the only place we’ve experienced some “tourist pricing”. We have bought gelato almost every day and it is €2-3. Lots of high end shops here such as Gucci, Prada, etc., as well as many people selling souvenir and leather goods. 

 

We used “Nicola Scovenna Travel Experiences to Italy” (Diego and Maria were our guides). Highly recommend!

 

Day 12-tomorrow we disembark-Rome Cabs back to Rome for the day and fly home the next day, day 13 from FCO

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Thanks for your detailed cruise/tours/and general comments.  We'll be taking the NCL Jade 12 days Italy and Greek Isles cruise (although not all the same ports) in April 2020 and starting to research private small tours.  I made note of the tour groups you used.

Thanks for sharing.

Rita & Michael Lee

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7 hours ago, VacationLove15 said:

 

Rome cabs took us to hotel from airport (we tipped €5 due to baggage handling) and we tipped our Rome cabs drivers hotel to cruise port €10. It is a personal preference of course, just wanted to share my personal experience. 

 

 

Thank you for your review.  We are doing this cruise in September, I hope it isn't quite that hot then.   Can you tell me how much you paid for the cab from the airport to the hotel, and the hotel to the port?  We are getting quotes that seem to be a bit high. 

 

Darla 

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1 hour ago, joejoe 59 said:

Great review  thank you.

Didn't  realise it would be that hot, sounds like an Australian  summer. 

We cruise next May flying from Australia, soo much to learn.

From what I have been seeing on the news/weather, Europe is experiencing unusually hot weather.  Hoping when we are there in September it is their normal temps.  

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7 hours ago, Dar & Bob said:

Thank you for your review.  We are doing this cruise in September, I hope it isn't quite that hot then.   Can you tell me how much you paid for the cab from the airport to the hotel, and the hotel to the port?  We are getting quotes that seem to be a bit high. 

 

Darla 

Taxi seems to be quite expensive here in Italy although they are professional drivers with nice, air conditioned vehicles. We paid €55 FCO to hotel, and €150 to cruise port (it is a little over one hour) BUT we needed a van as we are a large party of 5 with 5+ suitcases. If you have less people than that, it would probably be less for a smaller vehicle. I prepaid everything via PayPal before we left. 

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2 hours ago, Dar & Bob said:

From what I have been seeing on the news/weather, Europe is experiencing unusually hot weather.  Hoping when we are there in September it is their normal temps.  

Yes; lots of our tour guides have said it’s more hot than usual, although always hot. Our guide in Pompei said October is when the cooler weather starts although you might get lucky in September! 

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7 hours ago, Dar & Bob said:

Thank you for your review.  We are doing this cruise in September, I hope it isn't quite that hot then.   Can you tell me how much you paid for the cab from the airport to the hotel, and the hotel to the port?  We are getting quotes that seem to be a bit high. 

 

Darla 

I should also add that we looked at Uber when we were at FCO just to see what the cost would be to get to our hotel, and it was $91!!!  Uber is not common here at all, but it was almost double what the cost of the cab was

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9 hours ago, Dar & Bob said:

From what I have been seeing on the news/weather, Europe is experiencing unusually hot weather.  Hoping when we are there in September it is their normal temps.  

Depends on when in September you're going. Early September is usually pretty hot still - especially Greece! 

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Thank you for your review. We are going for an Amalfi Greek isle cruise on board celebrity cruise Aug 2019 and staying 3 days in Rome and 5 days Paris. Scared of possibility of having no aircon  on in the 90  - 97 degrees nights. Cancelled 2 excursions because if the heat 

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9 hours ago, bilgeboyPa said:

Thank you for the review. We are doing a family cruise in August on the same itinerary. Sounds like it will be a nice time. Can't wait. Any other tips?

Jeff

I recommend getting off the ship as early as you can and then getting back on 1-2 hrs before all aboard to avoid long lines in the heat. At Malta, we had to do a shuttle boat back to ship and lines were long. Santorini, same thing. There is a cable car that takes you down to the tender boats and it took us 45-50 min to get back to the ship. Then, once you’re back on the ship, the restaurants aren’t as crazy busy if you’re back an hour or two before everyone else 🙂 we had a party of 9

so it was better to get everywhere earlier.

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Thanks for posting this.  We are doing the same cruise August 1 and I have a few questions.  In Malta, do you know why you docked at the Laboratory dock instead of the one for cruise ships?  The day we visit there will be 3 cruise ships in port - us, the HAL Koningsdam and the MSC Bellissima.  Also, In Mykonos, did you dock or did you tender?  I've read that NCL can do either.  The day we visit, it will be the Jade, Vision of the Seas and Wind Star in port.  Since we're doing both of these islands on our own, it would be helpful to know ahead of time where we will dock.

Thanks so much for your review.

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7 hours ago, flahagan said:

Thanks for posting this.  We are doing the same cruise August 1 and I have a few questions.  In Malta, do you know why you docked at the Laboratory dock instead of the one for cruise ships?  The day we visit there will be 3 cruise ships in port - us, the HAL Koningsdam and the MSC Bellissima.  Also, In Mykonos, did you dock or did you tender?  I've read that NCL can do either.  The day we visit, it will be the Jade, Vision of the Seas and Wind Star in port.  Since we're doing both of these islands on our own, it would be helpful to know ahead of time where we will dock.

Thanks so much for your review.

Hi, they didn't say why we docked there. It seemed planned because it was in our daily guide. In Mykonos, we got to dock. We were 1 of 2 ships it looked like (I say this because I saw one floating out where we were floating the day before in Santorini). Not sure if you will get to dock if there are 3 ships, but it seemed there was room for more than one ship to dock. 

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  • 2 years later...

For day 11, how much time did you have in Pisa? Did you go up the Leaning Tower of Pisa? Is there any fear of selling out tickets or not having enough time if there is a huge lineup to climb up?

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10 hours ago, Robbie555 said:

For day 11, how much time did you have in Pisa? Did you go up the Leaning Tower of Pisa? Is there any fear of selling out tickets or not having enough time if there is a huge lineup to climb up?

Having done the tower, I would never do it again.  

Its not that beautiful thing you see on the outside.  Its like a grain silo inside. Nothing!  You climb up a narrow interior totally bland stairway hoping no one is coming down on tiny worn steps. The view from the top is OK. 

 When we went, we bought tickets and we had to wait 90 minutes till our time slot.

Steve

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11 hours ago, Robbie555 said:

For day 11, how much time did you have in Pisa? Did you go up the Leaning Tower of Pisa? Is there any fear of selling out tickets or not having enough time if there is a huge lineup to climb up?

 

The OP says they used Nicola Scovena for this tour, so go to Nicola's web site for details on the schedule.  ( From what I recall in my research, most tours allow 1 hr for Pisa. )

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5 hours ago, mscdivina2016 said:

Having done the tower, I would never do it again.  

Its not that beautiful thing you see on the outside.  Its like a grain silo inside. Nothing!  You climb up a narrow interior totally bland stairway hoping no one is coming down on tiny worn steps. The view from the top is OK. 

 When we went, we bought tickets and we had to wait 90 minutes till our time slot.

Steve

Thanks for your response. There are several shore excursions that involve day trip to both Pisa and Florence. My fear is that when arriving in Pisa, the tickets for the Leaning Tower have all been sold out, or that there's a long wait to enter and the tour must then depart to Florence. I suppose timed tickets in advance might work, but then you may not be completely certain on when the tour will take you to Pisa and how long you can stay.

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4 hours ago, mapleleaves said:

 

The OP says they used Nicola Scovena for this tour, so go to Nicola's web site for details on the schedule.  ( From what I recall in my research, most tours allow 1 hr for Pisa. )

Thanks for your response. There are several shore excursions that involve day trip to both Pisa and Florence. My fear is that when arriving in Pisa, the tickets for the Leaning Tower have all been sold out, or that there's a long wait to enter and the tour must then depart to Florence. I suppose timed tickets in advance might work, but then you may not be completely certain on when the tour will take you to Pisa and how long you can stay. 

 

Or....I wonder if there's an excursion which includes tickets to the Leaning Tower upon arrival.

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The tickets are timed ... small groups enter every 15 minutes and it's typically a 30 minute visit.

Opera della Primaziale Pisana: sito ufficiale (opapisa.it)

 

If you are going with a small tour like italytours.eu or nicola scovena, the drivers do the route every day and stick with the schedule, give or take 15-20 minutes.   Such as NicolaScovena's itinerary for Pisa/Florence

  • 08:00 - Pick up
  • 08:45 - Arrival in Pisa
  • 09:30 - Departure for Florence
  • 10:45 - Piazzale Michelangelo
  • 11:15 - Piazza S. Croce
  • 12:00 - Florence Center
  • 16:00 - Departure for Livorno
  • 17:00 - Drop off

The problem with this specific itinerary is that you only have 45 minutes in Pisa, 8:45-9:30, so there's not much wiggle room if there's a delay.

The Pisa stop needs to be at least 90 minutes so you need to research the various vendors to see how much time they provide for Pisa. 

Tuscany Bus is a economical  transportation option but even they only provide 1 hr.

 

Your best option would be to hire one of these vendors for the day as a private tour, so that you have control of the schedule. Then you can buy your timed ticket and be assured that you'll make it.   I hired a driver in Naples... I think it was 400E for the day.  Get a few people from your roll call to join you and split the cost to make it affordable. 

 

We didn't climb the Tower so we had no schedule constraints.  We took the train to Pisa, took a cab back to the station and caught another train to Florence.

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Hello, thanks for your review. Were you traveling from the USA for this trip? If so, did the cruise line provide you the test on the ship required by the CDC to reenter the uSA or did you have to find a place to have that test done on your own?

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2 hours ago, cfelbab said:

Hello, thanks for your review. Were you traveling from the USA for this trip? If so, did the cruise line provide you the test on the ship required by the CDC to reenter the uSA or did you have to find a place to have that test done on your own?

This cruise review is from June 2019 , before Covid.

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