Barcelona – Monte Carlo – Livorno (Florence) – Civitavecchia (Rome) – Naples (Sorrento)
– Palma, Majorca - Barcelona
April 18-25, 2010
By Lisa Plotnick
A Mediterranean cruise was on our wish list for a long time, and we finally got the
opportunity to fulfill this dream in April 2010. As my husband is a teacher, and
we have a school-aged son, our vacation time is usually limited to the summer—and,
as I do not fancy hot weather, a cruise to the Mediterranean seemed unlikely. Fortunately,
we found a cruise that not only departed in the spring, but was just seven nights
long, enabling us to see part of the Mediterranean in relatively cool weather within
the confines of our weeklong spring break.
The cruise was on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Jade, a ship that is based in
the Mediterranean year-round. We were on the first cruise of her 2010 Summer Season,
that runs from mid-April to November and consists of 7-night cruises round trip from
Barcelona to Monte Carlo, western Italy, and Palma de Mallorca. From November through
early April, she makes longer cruises of various lengths and itineraries throughout
the Mediterranean. In all honesty, we would have gone on any ship, given the timing
and that this type of cruise is more about the ports than the ship. We considered
it a grand bonus that the ship exceeded expectations in many ways, adding to a spectacular
PROLOGUE. Before I begin, I do need to point out two factors that, admittedly, impacted
our enjoyment of the cruise in a positive manner. First, as I will describe later,
we were upsold (upgraded with an additional fee) from our originally selected mini-suite
accommodations to a two-bedroom Courtyard Villa. Second, the passenger load on our
cruise was reduced by approximately 20%-25% due to a volcanic eruption in Iceland
that necessitated the shutdown of most of the airspace in northern Europe in the
week leading to our cruise. Our flight to Barcelona took us through Madrid, both
of which were unaffected at the time of our travel.
SHIP HISTORY. Norwegian Jade debuted in 2006 as Norwegian Cruise Line America’s (NCLA)
Pride of Hawai’i. Like her sisters in the Jewel-class of ships, she was built at
the Meyer Werft Shipyard in Papenburg, Germany. After serving the Hawai’ian market
for two years, along with NCLA’s Pride of Aloha (now Norwegian Sky) and Pride of
America, she was transferred to sister company Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) to offer
a year-round presence in Europe, targeting the local market. A relatively quick wet-dock
resulted in the addition of a casino (eliminating 44 cabins) and new artwork on the
hull; however, her interior design retained its Hawai’ian theme. Her vital statistics,
courtesy of NCL’s Web site, are as follows:
ARRIVAL AND EMBARKATION. Our arrival into Barcelona was somewhat chaotic as our luggage
did not make our connecting flight in Madrid despite a nearly four-hour layover.
After filing a report, along with dozens of other parties, we took a taxi to our
hotel, the Hilton Diagonal Mar. The fare came to €40, the equivalent of US$54 at
the time. It was a very strange experience to take a taxi from the airport with just
a couple of carry-on bags. We learned from talking with the front desk staff at the
hotel that this is a common occurrence, and they were correct in their prediction
that our luggage would be delivered to the hotel later that evening. In the meantime,
we were worried, as our cruise left the following day. We would have liked to have
spent an additional night in Barcelona pre-cruise, but our schedule didn’t allow
The Hilton Diagonal Mar was quite nice, located outside the hustle-and-bustle tourist
area of Las Ramblas near the convention center. We booked it partially for the quiet
location and because rooms that sleep three comfortably are scarce in Europe. Our
room was spacious and comfortable. It was about 400 square feet and had a queen-size
bed, sofabed, and a modern bath with bidet. We overlooked the Mediterranean on one
side, and central Barcelona off in the distance. We had not planned to see Barcelona
given our limited time here, yet it appeared very easy to get into town via Hop-On-Hop-Off
bus or public transit. I would recommend this hotel for those like us who just wanted
a comfortable place to spend a night. A mall was located across the street, where
we had a couple of meals and did some shopping for some wardrobe staples in the event
our luggage was further delayed.
The following morning, we arrived at the Barcelona cruise terminal at 11:15. Boarding
was a breeze. There were numerous check-in stations—including those for each of the
various Latitudes levels, casino club players, suites, and Villas. After the quick
check-in process during which our photographs were taken for our key cards, we were
directed to a VIP room, from where were escorted onto the ship and to our cabin,
a Courtyard Villa, 15 minutes later. From what I observed, the check-in process was
quick for other passengers, as well.
EARLY IMPRESSIONS. Our first impressions were very positive. I was somewhat familiar
with the layout of Norwegian Jade as I toured near-sister ship Norwegian Jewel a
few years ago, yet this was my first time as a passenger on a Jewel-class vessel.
To say this is a nice ship is an understatement. Norwegian Jade is well-laid out
with plenty of spaces to eat, drink, and hang out. Given her history, her décor screams
Hawai’i—sometimes very loudly—yet I was able to look past it. Some places were more
muted, such as the dining room, designed to recall the Matson liners that serviced
Hawai’i in the 1940s and 1950s, and even the photo gallery, where the closed panels
depict old travel posters of Hawai’i. While it may seem out of place on a ship that
services the Mediterranean year-round, I considered it a very nice nod to her history.
CABIN. As we are a family of three, and our son was 16 at the time of sailing, we
opted for a cabin with a lot of space, and booked a mini-suite. A few days prior
to sailing, we accepted an upsell—a paid upgrade—to a Courtyard Villa suite that
had likely become available due to cancelations attributable to the aftermath of
the volcano in northern Europe. Without a doubt, this was the best accommodation
we have ever had at sea, and the suite benefits easily eclipsed those we’ve enjoyed
on HAL and earlier NCL ships.
A separate bedroom and bathroom for our son was on the left after entering the cabin.
Actually, it was its own cabin in itself, perhaps 100 square feet total, and included
its own closet, drawer space, and television. Our son slept on a converted sofabed,
and an upper berth was also available.
Continuing down the hall led to a large living/dining area with access to small (but
sufficient) balcony. This area was roughly the size of a standard cabin. On the left-hand
wall, a pocket door led to the master bedroom, consisting of an alcove with a queen-sized
bed on the left, and the bath area is on the right. The separate shower had a variety
of jets, and also had its own window with privacy shade. There was even a television
above the tub. There was little privacy in the bathroom—the doors to the shower and
commode were frosted glass—yet we learned to live with it.
Courtyard and Garden Villa passengers also have access to a private courtyard that
had abundant seating, a small pool, exercise equipment, and a large outdoor seating
area one deck above.
Access to our deck was by key card, whether arriving by elevator or stairs. Additionally,
a portion of one of the smaller dining venues, Cagney’s, was available to all suite
passengers for breakfast and lunch. As this was likely to be our only time in such
accommodations, we were certain to partake in these amenities, and they were certainly
worth the price we paid for the upsell.
SHIP LAYOUT AND DÉCOR. I like the layout of the Jewel-class ships, and Norwegian
Jade was no exception. Passenger decks are numbered 4-15 (twelve decks in all) and
are smartly configured, for the most part. Most of the interior public spaces are
on Decks 6, 7, and 11, making getting around fairly easy. Outdoor areas are also
plentiful, including the Lido pools (Deck 12 midships), nearly all of Deck 13, and
Decks 14 and 15 forward. There are also several other sunning areas on decks 14 and
15, so there is ample space for those who desire. The sunning area Deck 14 is rather
large, while the one on deck 15 is designated a quiet area. There is also an outdoor
walkaround promenade on Deck 7. The aft portions of Decks 14 and 15 are part of the
I had several favorite areas on this ship. One was Deck 7 amidships, where I often
enjoyed an indoor window seat overlooking the promenade and the sea. The view of
the promenade did not detract from the view. Similar window seats were located one
deck below, and I enjoyed those, as well.
Also in this area were three of Norwegian Jade’s specialty restaurants—Jasmine Garden
(Asian Fusion, $15 per person), Teppanyaki (very popular, even at $25), and the sushi
bar ($15, all-you-can-eat). There was also an open staircase leading down one deck
to Le Bistro (NCL’s signature French restaurant ($20 per person) and an area dubbed
Bar City. Three separate bars are located here (champagne/wine, martini/cocktail,
beer/whiskey), and share two large, comfortable seating areas. There is also a cigar
club located further forward on this deck, just outside Le Bistro. It’s nice to have
so much in one place.
The two-deck high atrium (Decks 7 and 8, amidships) made for a nice gathering spot,
and was used for several events, such as musical performances, throughout the cruise.
In fact, there was live music here quite often. It offered a bar and ample seating,
and easy access to two additional dining venues that overlooked it. And, lest we
not forget we are on the former Pride of Hawai’i, the ceiling is adorned with lights
that resemble flowers in bloom. I truly liked this space.
To my surprise, I also enjoyed the whimsically decorated Medusa Lounge, located between
the Jasmine Garden Restaurant and the main show lounge. I nicknamed this lounge the
“SpongeBob Lounge’ due to its décor that evoked the fictional cartoon character’s
home of Bikini Bottom. I am not really a fan of whimsical design, so giving it a
cute name was possibly my way of dealing with it. The bar in the corner depicts underwater
plants, the mirror behind the bar is etched with jellyfish, the carpeting is adorned
with starfish (actually, that’s kind of cute), and the chairs are orange and resemble
starfish (but, are they ever comfortable). Columns in this room are green with red
and yellow jellyfish appearing atop, and overhead pastel lights on a blue and silver
ceiling look like seashells. There is dancing here in the evenings, and gatherings
such as art auctions and club meetings during the day.
Not surprisingly, the ship’s library was a favorite spot. Not only do I enjoy ship
libraries in general, the one on Norwegian Jade pays homage to a favorite liner,
SS United States. This is one of the better tributes I’ve seen, including posters,
framed newspaper articles, artifacts, and a ship model. (At the time, NCL owned the
classic liner, and has since sold it to the SS United States Conservancy for less
than scrap value.)
Yet, my favorite public room was the Grand Pacific Dining Room, the larger of the
two main dining rooms. There is no charge for this venue, and the menu changes daily.
I love everything about this dining room, starting with its entrance. The aft stairtower
leads directly to its main doors. From there, there are more stairs to descend within
the dining room—reminiscent of the Windward Restaurant on SS Norway. The room itself
is beautifully decorated in dark wood tones and murals that depict moments in Hawai’ian
history (that were also replicas of covers from Matson Line menus).
Outdoor areas were also nice. The main outdoor area outside the Lido restaurant included
two swimming pools (one is adults only), a winding slide, lots of deck chairs, and
four hot tubs. Keeping with the Hawai’ian décor, the pool area is flanked by lights
that resemble palm trees, and tropical flowers are painted on the wall just forward
of the pools. The ship also boasted a basketball court, and a promenade deck that
included shuffleboard and a large chess set. (I had to make a correction to the setup
of the latter.)
Finally, I had to smile at the various carpet design choices throughout the public
areas. Here are a few examples:
DINING. Unlike most mainstream cruise lines, NCL utilizes open seating dinner for
all passengers, part of its Freestyle Dining program rolled out about a decade ago.
Passengers may have dinner in one of two main dining rooms, or opt for smaller, specialty
restaurants (some of which assess an additional charge). The specialty restaurant
offerings on Norwegian Jade included a steakhouse, tapas bar, and Asian, Italian,
and French-themed venues. Of our seven dinners, we enjoyed three in the Grand Pacific
Dining Room (main dining room), one in Jasmine Garden, one in Papa’s Italian Kitchen,
one at the buffet, and one in a non-fee sit-down restaurant that offered comfort
food around the clock. Reservations to some of the smaller venues are recommended;
however, if you choose to be less regimented, numerous panels throughout the public
areas give real-time updates as to the wait for tables.
Dinners in the main dining rooms were, for the most part, consistently excellent.
Among the standouts for us were beef wellington, chicken piccata, and scallops. And,
as described in the previous section, the ambiance was wonderful.
Papa’s Italian Kitchen was a major highlight for us. The meal, service, and atmosphere
were superb. We were immediately presented with olives, several oils, balsamic vinegar,
bread, and diced tomato. This was followed by an antipasto platter. We then were
offered a choice of appetizers—I selected the Caesar salad and Neil had carpaccio.
I ordered veal marsala as an entrée, and it was delectable. For dessert, I ordered
the cheese selection, which was rolled in on a cart and sliced to my liking. The
surcharge for this restaurant was just $10 per person, and well worth it.
Our other specialty restaurant meal was in Jasmine Garden Restaurant, where we indulged
in Shabu-Shabu. Also known as hot pot, Shabu-Shabu is a large boiling pot of broth
to which diners add raw meat and vegetables to cook to taste. The meat and vegetables
are then removed from the pot with a slotted spoon and dipped into sauce, or eaten
with the soup. By the end of the meal, the broth has taken on the flavors of the
meats and vegetables, and is marvelous. I have often enjoyed this meal at home in
our local Chinatown, and it was just as wonderful aboard ship. The per-person surcharge
was $15—and the ingredients were replenished for no additional fee. We also had
seaweed salad appetizer and a choice of green tea ice cream or fresh fruit for dessert.
I suggest that those wanting to try Shabu-Shabu make a reservation as there are only
two tables that can accommodate the hot pot. Also, while Shabu-Shabu requires a minimum
of two guests, additional guests at the same table can order off the Asian Fusion
menu, as our son did.
We had two meals—one lunch and one dinner—in the Garden Café buffet. As I generally
don’t enjoy buffets, we don’t do this too often. Yet, I liked the various stand-alone
islands—no need to stand in line when I didn’t want to eat much. I enjoyed a shrimp
stir-fry and onion soup for dinner, which was plenty for me. We also enjoyed the
one lunch we had in the main dining room. The Grand Pacific Restaurant was open from
12:00 noon to 1:30 pm every day, including port days, which we found impressive.
The meal, again, was terrific. Neil raved about his lamb kabobs, and rated it among
the culinary highlights of the cruise. We also enjoyed the opportunity to linger
over the mid-day meal.
We took breakfast on most days in the Cagney Restaurant. This room served as an alternate
breakfast and lunch venue for passengers sailing in suites, and we made great use
of it in the morning. Both table service and a continental buffet are offered. The
highlight was poached eggs with scallop and lobster on salmon brioche—out of this
Another highlight was NCL’s Chocoholic Buffet. NCL has certainly not lost its touch
in this area. Treats included fondue, black forest cake, chocolate dipped bananas,
flourless chocolate cake, imaginative sugar-free selections, and a large, white chocolate
depiction of the Leaning Tower of Pisa! Unlike previous Chocoholic Buffets I’ve attended,
it was held at a reasonably early hour (10:00 pm) as well as in the buffet area –
and also, unfortunately, coincided with the Crew Show (that we later caught on the
SERVICE. Service was very good to excellent for the most part. Most of the crew members
we encountered were very helpful, often without being asked for anything. As one
example, when my husband ordered scallops for dinner one evening, he was asked by
our waiter if he’d like a double portion as it typically consisted of just three
pieces. To be certain that our treatment was independent of our level of accommodation,
I often made our dining reservations in person without giving our cabin number until
the very end. All of the hosts and hostesses were quite gracious and pleasant. When
reserving a dinner in the Italian restaurant, the maitre d’ offered to set up a table
for three by the window, in an area where there were typically tables for two.
Our concierge and butler were superb, particularly the latter. He took care of all
of our in-cabin dining needs, which included everything from the delivery of our
Latitudes treats to room service. We ordered room service for breakfast one morning,
and it was delivered promptly at our requested time of 6:45 am. Our butler arrived
a couple of minutes prior to set down a white tablecloth on our table and arrange
the place settings, a very nice touch indeed.
DAYTIME ACTIVITIES. As we were off the ship for long stretches of time, daytime activities
were not an important part of this cruise for us. We had just one sea day, which
I spent getting photographs of the ship, yet we also participated in several organized
activities. One of these was a presentation in the main Atrium called “Can’t Cook,
Won’t Cook.” The Executive Chef was instructing the Cruise Director and Hotel Director
on how to bake a cake, and it looked like they were having a lot of fun. This was
very well attended, as was the subsequent sushi making presentation.
We also attended two events for Latitudes members. (Latitudes is NCL’s repeaters’
club.) The main Latitudes party, hosted by our Captain after lunch on our sea day,
was very nice. There was live music, the usual introduction of key officers and department
heads, free drinks, hors d’oeuvres, and prize drawings (no luck for us this time).
In contrast, though, the so-called Exclusive Gathering for the higher-tier Latitudes
members, was held the last night of the cruise (earlier in the cruise would have
been nicer) and had us all pretty much standing or sitting around waiting for something
EVENING ACTIVITIES AND ENTERTAINMENT. As this was a port-intensive cruise with early
wake-up calls, we didn’t avail ourselves of much of the evening entertainment. Yet,
what we saw was very good.
The highlight was the cast of the Norwegian Jade Production Company, who performed
in both full production shows and smaller-scale settings. Our introduction to this
talented group of performers was on the fourth evening of the cruise in a performance
called “Broadway in the Atrium.” Each took turns singing a favorite song from Broadway
musicals, accompanied by piano only. Most of the selections were obscure, which made
it even more special and unique, and included pieces from “Thoroughly Modern Millie”
and “Wicked,” among others. It was clear that the performers were very supportive
of each other and enjoyed working together. On the last night of the cruise, we skipped
the production show in favor of another intimate show by this group, this time in
the sitting area outside of Le Bistro, near Bar City. They are a talented group of
performers, and I wish them well on their next endeavors. (This cruise marked the
end of their contracts.)
We also saw this talented troupe in two production shows. “Night of Enchantment,”
was well-performed (by both the company and live band), although the musical selections
were not cohesive. Still, we enjoyed it, and it was enhanced by our previous meeting
of the production company members during the “Broadway in the Atrium” show the prior
evening. And, their production of the former off-Broadway show, “SHOUT!”—a tribute
to the lives and music of women in the 1960s—was sensational. Only the females of
the Norwegian Jade Production Company were featured, and they sang, danced, and acted
wonderfully. They were accompanied by the Jade Orchestra, and the show was further
enhanced by special, albeit simple, lighting effects. I very highly recommend this
The only other show we saw was a performance of the Maestranza Spanish Ballet. This
was a group from Barcelona, I believe, that performed a variety of Spanish dances,
and we all enjoyed it.
PORTS OF CALL. This cruise was booked solely for its itinerary, and we made the most
of our long days in port. We opted for the cruise line’s shore excursions in nearly
all of our ports, given the distance from the piers, and journeyed on our own at
our last port of call, located a short shuttle bus ride away from the ship.
Monte Carlo, Monaco
10:00 am – 7:00 pm
The approach into Monte Carlo was absolutely magnificent, creating a very nice introduction
to our nearly weeklong visit to the Western Mediterranean. The city, with its various
architectural styles, unfolded on many levels on a backdrop of jagged mountains.
Our tour was called, simply, Nice, Eze, & Monaco. Although we traveled less than
30 miles roundtrip, there was so much to see in each place that the tour was scheduled
for—and lasted—just under 8 hours.
The tour was exactly as advertised. After obtaining our tour stickers in the main
show lounge, we exited the ship and boarded our bus. We traveled along the coast
on our way to our first stop, Nice, France, where we had time to explore Old Nice
on our own. We saw beautiful architecture, including the Opera House, walked by an
outdoor market, and strolled along the promenade along the Mediterranean. The narrow
streets were charming, as well as very steep in some places, yet we all handled them
well. We discovered a bakery on one of these streets, where we enjoyed a fabulous
After reboarding our bus at the appointed time, it was off to the restored Medieval
city of Eze, France. It was a trek getting up the stairs, yet well worth it for the
beautiful views that awaited. There were plenty of stores on the way up (and down),
mainly art galleries and perfume stores. This is the one location of the tour that
I would say we were glad to visit, yet see little reason for a return trip as there’s
very little to do.
From there, it was back to the principality of Monaco, where we had an extensive
tour. We walked along part of the Formula 1 race route in Monte Carlo, where they
were already setting up for the event that was one month away. The way people drive
around here was as if the race was already in progress! We walked up steep hills
to the Casino and its plaza, beautiful architecture, yet a lot of effort to get here
unless one plans to spend time in the Casino (which we didn’t). Our final stop was
Old Monaco, or “The Rock,” where we saw the royal palace, the cathedral where Grace
Kelly and Prince Rainier married (although we didn’t go inside either), and more
narrow streets with lots of shops. There were beautiful gardens here, as well. Thankfully,
there were elevators and escalators to take us up to this level. I highly suggest
comfortable shoes for this tour!
8:00 am – 7:00 pm
It was an early call for our shore excursion, The Splendor of Florence, for which
we were to meet in the show lounge at 8:00 am. We checked in, received our tour stickers,
and were on the bus shortly thereafter for the 90-minute ride from Livorno to Florence.
Aside from the bus ride, this was a sightseeing tour that was mainly on foot, and
lasted (including bus transit) 10 hours including an hour and a half each way between
Livorno and Florence by motorcoach.
Our first stop was an overlook at Michelangelo Park, across the Arno River from the
old city. Other than terrific views, this park also offered a nice collection of
statues honing some of Michaelangelo’s famous works.
Once in town, we went to the Galleria dell’Accademia to see the actual statue of
David. Photos do not do it justice—it is impressive and imposing up close. Our guide
provided explanation as we looked at the statue from various angles, interpreting
the oversized hands (strength), feet (grounding), and head (intellect). The Statue
of David is at the far end of a large room that is flanked by other Michelangelo
sculptures, most notably some of his works in progress. It was interesting to see
how he made this art form come to life. I know that gave me a greater appreciation
for the masterpiece we came to see that morning.
The rest of the day was spent walking from one square to another, enjoying the various
architectural styles the city had to offer. Our tour centered on three areas of the
city: the Piazza del Duomo (Florence’s religious center), the expansive Piazza della
Signoria (with its many beautiful statues), and Santa Croce (featuring an extensive
tour of the Gothic-styled church and its tombs, including those of Michelangelo,
Galileo, and Rossini).
Our guide provided superb narrative that enhanced this excursion greatly. The tour
also included a walk to the Ponte Vecchio, an interesting bridge that has been lined
with shops since at least the 12th century, and a three-course lunch at a restaurant
near Piazza del Duomo. We felt this was an excellent tour for first-time visitors
(as we were), yet I could easily spend an entire day in the Galleria dell’Accademia
and have made mental note of this for a subsequent visit.
8:00 am – 8:00 pm
When planning this trip a few months ago, we were well aware that the enormity of
Rome—both in size and history—would make it impossible to do more than a few sites
in our allotted time. The tour that best fit our needs was called Roman Highlights,
a walking tour that focused on the Pantheon and Piazza Navona in the morning (and
billed as seeing the city’s famous Baroque monuments), and St. Peter’s Square in
the afternoon. This was another long day—nine hours in all, including an hour and
a half each way between Civitavecchia and Rome by motorcoach.
After driving past the Colosseum (with a location that was a great surprise—right
in the middle of a busy roads), we traveled a bit further to where we parted company
with our bus for the remainder of the morning. Among our stops was Trevi Fountain
(very crowded; I was surprised at how small its square was), the Pantheon (beautiful
domed structure with many statues and other works of art honoring ancient Roman gods),
and Piazza Navona (a vibrant area with street vendors and artists, surrounded by
a collection of beautiful buildings in various styles). Lunch was on our own, and
we found a great pizzeria around the corner from Piazza Navona, where we talked with
both locals and other tourists.
From there, we walked a few blocks to our bus for a quick trip across the Tiber to
Vatican City, where we had an extensive tour of St. Peter’s Basilica. Although I
am of a different religious background, I could not help but be enchanted, amazed,
and even moved by so much of what I saw. St. Peter’s Square was, of course, very
familiar having seen it so many times on television, yet being there in person was
breathtaking. We entered St. Peter’s Basilica by way of a separate line reserved
for tours. Our guide stayed us the entire time, describing much of the interior in
great and fabulous detail. The first key piece was my favorite—Michelangelo’s Pietà.
What an intricate, wonderful work, particularly the face of Mary and the folds in
her skirt. Our tour continued throughout the immense and impressive interior of St.
Peter’s Basilica, marked by soaring arches, ornate columns, mosaics, statues, and
crypts. Its beauty is indescribable to any reasonable degree.
Although this was just a sample of what Rome has to offer, the tour was extensive
and quite informative. It was also exhausting, although this was likely influenced
by the build-up of three consecutive days of long walking tours—yet was very well
7:00 am – 7:00 pm
We greatly enjoyed today’s excursion, Flavors of Sorrento and Pompeii, a full day
tour that took us beyond the port city of Naples south to the Sorrentine Peninsula
(to visit the coastal village of Sorrento and a family-owned farm in the hills above
the village), the ruins of Pompeii, and a cameo factory. The one-hour drive to Sorrento
along the Bay of Naples was absolutely gorgeous. We made a photo stop along this
route to capture the scenery.
Sorrento is a small and pretty village consisting mainly of Medieval-era buildings
converted to shops and restaurants, and some more recently constructed hotels. Our
tour took us to a showroom where we learned about locally made inlaid wood items,
after which we had about an hour to walk around Sorrento on our own. I could have
easily spent a day here soaking in the atmosphere.
Our next stop was a family farm a few miles away, where we had a lovely lunch of
antipasti, pasta with tomato sauce and ricotta, cream-filled pastry, and limoncello.
During the meal, one of the family members showed us how they make the mozzarella
and other cheeses we had just enjoyed. This was followed by a stroll down a steep
hill to the farm, where we saw horses, roosters, peacocks, and other animals kept
for educational purposes. All of this was in the shadow of trees bearing lemons,
oranges, or olives…an absolutely beautiful setting that was a nice change of pace
from the big cities we had visited the past three days.
Bidding our hosts farewell, we returned to the bus for the trip to Pompeii. I had
done a fair amount of research before our visit, and was still greeted with numerous,
wondrous, surprises. The first was how tall the structures were—up on a hill, indicating
how deep the ash and pumice covered the old town. The second was its immense footprint.
It’s one thing to read about it, but quite another to be there, gazing into the remains
of houses that once lined busy streets, walking across these same streets upon stepping
stones, viewing the outdoor theatres, admiring the marble floors of some of the buildings,
and looking across the vast landscape of the Temples. In many places, it is easy
to imagine neighborhoods and vibrant street life. There is, of course, a lot of sadness.
Plaster casts of several victims, including a dog, caught at the time of the devastation
was very moving. I’ll never forget the facial expressions. So full of fear.
Before returning to the ship, we made a quick stop at a cameo factory. By this time,
we were tired from our long day, yet confident that we had made an excellent shore
excursion selection for a first visit.
Palma, Majorca, Spain
6:00 am – 6:00 pm
Our final port of call was Palma, in the Balearic Islands of Spain. After extensive,
guided excursions in our other ports, we did not plan a tour here – instead, we thought
we’d spend a few hours walking around on our own in the morning, returning long before
the ship’s early evening departure.
I had done some research on Palma de Mallorca, and mapped out a walking route through
the main part of town. Had it been later in the year, we might have opted for the
beach, yet we were very glad with our decision to stay in the main part of town.
NCL offered a shuttle bus for $10 per person for unlimited trips (payable on the
ship), although we decided to use it for just one round trip. The bus dropped us
off at the promenade by the sea across the street from the landmark Almudaina Palace
and Catedral La Seu. We did not go inside the Palace, yet admired the public grounds
that included a manmade lake, fountain, and beautiful archways. We also admired the
beauty of the Catedral from the outside, as we wanted to make this a quick trip today.
It was absolutely stunning.
We went further into town by foot, passing several town squares and government buildings
on both main streets and narrow passageways. Architectural styles were varied, adding
tremendous visual interest. A highlight was a stroll down the Passeig des Born, with
its combination of modern restaurants and old buildings along a wide, paved pedestrian
We all enjoyed what we little we saw of Palma de Mallorca and hope to return one
day, perhaps for an extended vacation. We did note that some passengers embarked
the ship here, while others disembarked, so perhaps this is a future option.
DISEMBARKATION. The process of leaving the ship was exceptionally smooth. As Villa
passengers, we were able to select the hour we wished to leave the ship. We choose
8:00, were escorted off by our concierge, and were at the airport via taxi by 8:30
am. Luggage retrieval at the Barcelona cruise terminal was easy—passengers were directed
to the appropriate conveyer belt—and taxis were plentiful outside the building. Although
our experience was snag-free, I still recommend that disembarking passengers select
an afternoon flight, as suggested by the cruise line. Recall that we had an early
disembarkation due to our accommodation, and that the ship was at less than 80% capacity.
Our flight was scheduled for 1:25 pm, and we easily passed the time in the airport.
It was nice to not have to rush that final morning. I do applaud Barcelona for running
such an efficient facility, among the better ones I’ve seen in my years of cruising.
IN CLOSING. In summary, this was a spectacular vacation. Amazing historical sites
and wonderful pampering made for a special and memorable combination that will be
difficult to beat. As I wrote in my journal, I am truly going to miss this ship.
The layout is good, the food was excellent, the service excellent, décor fabulous,
and suite amenities impeccable. The itinerary was amazing, offering a lot in a short
period of time. The sites we saw on land were incredible—from the awe of the Vatican,
David, the Pietà, and Pompeii to the simple enjoyment of a bakery in Nice, gelato
in Florence, and a stroll down a beautiful path in Palma de Mallorca. We highly recommend
this trip to first-time visitors to this part of the world, and were very pleased
with Norwegian Jade as our home for this memorable week.