October 8, 2011
by Keith Henderson
We sailed on the Norwegian Jade leaving out of Venice, Italy on
October 8th, 2011. It was a unique 7-day repositioning cruise to
Civitavecchia, Italy which is the closest port to Rome. The ship
left Venice and we followed the Dalmatian coast in the Adriatic Sea
with stops in Koper, Split, and Dubrovnik before sailing around the
“boot” of Italy with stops in Messina and Naples before ending our
cruise in Civitavecchia.
It was our 13th NCL cruise (17th overall). We have sailed three
times on Carnival and once with Royal Caribbean. It was our third
time on the Jade as we had sailed on her a year earlier on a 7-day
cruise out of Barcelona to Italy and two years earlier on a 5-day
cruise from Southampton, England to Ireland. We are rated as
Platinum Latitudes members with NCL.
This was our second Mediterranean cruise and our first visit to each
of the ports except for Naples and Civitavecchia. We were intrigued
by the itinerary as we prefer DIY exploring and there seemed to be a
lot to see and do in the immediate areas of the various ports we
would be visiting.
Arrival in Venice
We arrived in Venice in the afternoon the day before our
sailing on the Jade. We had delays with our connection in Frankfurt,
Germany, so we arrived a few hours later than planned. Our landing
path took us right over the city so we could see how the city is
small and compact. At the airport, we went to the Venice Connected
Desk to pick up 24-hour Tourist Travel Cards that we had ordered on
line (15.30€ each). The passes would let us use the local
transportation for the 24 hours after we picked up the tickets. To
get to Venice, we took an ATVO bus for the 25 minute ride from the
Marco Polo Airport to the Piazzale Roma bus terminal in Venice (5€
We had purchased Euros at the airport in the States prior to our
takeoff. All of our port stops would allow us to use Euros except
for the two in Croatia as they have their own currency. Once we were
at the Venice airport, we purchase a small amount of Crotian Kunas.
Our hotel, the Dalla Mora, was located just a short 15 minute walk
from Piazzale Roma. We chose to stay there because the cruise
terminal is located a short distance from Piazzale Roma. Our rate
was 100€ for a superior double with a private bath and shower and
included a continental breakfast for us. The hotel is located in the
Santa Croce neighborhood of Venice with many of its rooms
overlooking a canal. It is a small hotel, but it served the purpose
for our one night stay in Venice. Thankfully, we only had one piece
of luggage and a carry-on bag for our trip as we had to walk up and
over 4 bridges to get to the hotel from the bus stop.
After checking in, we set off to discover some of Venice. Because of
our late arrival, we just walked back to Piazzale Roma and jumped on
the number 1 vaporetto (water bus) that went up the Grand Canal
before finally reaching the stop for the Basilica of St. Mark and
the plaza there with the Campanile tower and the Doge’s Palace. It
was after 5:00 pm, so St. Mark’s was closed to the public. We walked
around the area to look at the Bridge of Sighs (surrounded by
advertising) and the piazza area. After 6:00 pm we went to a side
door at St. Mark’s and asked if we could go to the scheduled mass at
06:45 pm (every weekday) and we were guided into a small chapel on
one side of the cathedral for prayers and then the mass. Even with
the waning sunlight, we could catch a glimpse of the magnificent
mosaics around rest of the Basilica.
After the mass, we returned to the hotel using the number 2
vaparetto. For dinner, we went to Trattoria Antico Gafaro, which was
across the street from where the hotel was located. We had a good
meal that was moderate in price for Venice restaurants. I had a
Venetian specialty, spaghetti with black ink from cuttlefish, which
was very tasty.
Day 1 – Embarkation Day Venice, Italy
It was a partly sunny day with temps in the high 60’s F. But,
it was windy and felt colder. We woke up and had a quick breakfast
at the hotel before taking off to see more of Venice before we would
be heading to the cruise terminal. Check out time was 11:00 am, but
they let us keep our luggage there until we returned to go to the
As we left the hotel, we walked over to visit a church only a few
blocks away called the Chiesa San Pantalon. I had read about the
incredible painted ceiling and had wanted to see it. We were not
disappointed as it was the most jaw dropping thing we had ever seen.
They would not allow photos, but I did buy a postcard. After that we
walked a few more blocks to the second largest church in Venice
called San Maria Gloriosa dei Frari which was only a few blocks from
our hotel. The artwork there, including works by Titian (who is
buried there) and Donatello, was amazing. Across from the church is
the Scuola Grande di San Rocco which is filled with huge artwork
pieces including several by Tintoretto. Also across from the church
and the Scuola was the Chiesa de San Rocco which had terrific
artwork as well. Next, we walked over to a nearby vaporetto stop on
the Grand Canal and took the number 2 vaparetto to take a
mini-cruise from there which went back through the Grand Canal and
circled around the cruise port and over to St. Mark’s before
returning to Piazzale Roma. It was a great way to see the city and
all the cruise ships in port that day. The round trip took about one
hour. The Number 41 and 42 vaparettos circle the outside of Venice’s
main neighborhoods which is another great way to see different parts
of Venice. These take about two hours for a round trip. But, we were
happy with the route of the Number 2.
We ended our vaparetto cruise at the stop by Piazzale Roma around
01:30 pm. From there we went back to our hotel to gather our luggage
before walking back to the Piazzale Roma bus terminal to get the
ship. It is about a mile walk from Piazzale Roma to the cruise ship
terminals. At Piazzale Roma, they have a people mover (monorail)
that takes you most of the way to the cruise terminal for 1€ per
person. As we came off the people mover, it was about a half mile
walk to the cruise terminal for our ship.
There were 6 other cruise ships in port as well, so you could
imagine how much activity was to be found in the cruise port area.
We saw the Happy Dolphin, Costa Victoria, Voyager of the Seas, The
World, MSC Opera, and MSC Magnifica there along with the Jade at the
cruise port along with the Star Princess that was docked just north
of St. Mark’s square.
When we walked into the terminal at 2:30 pm, there were no lines for
checking in. We just walked up to a clerk in the gold and platinum
Latitudes line, received our docs and keycards, and were ready to go
to the ship in less than 20 minutes from the time we arrived in
front of the terminal. As we boarded the ship we found out that the
cabins were cleared as of 02:00 pm, so we headed to our cabin to
drop off our carry-on before going up to deck 12 to get a little
something to eat in the Great Outdoors buffet. Our cabin was an
inside cabin (room 10579) which was midship on deck 10.
All announcements were made in English, German, French, and Spanish.
The muster drill was scheduled for 4:00 pm, so we headed down to
deck 6 to our muster station in the bar city lounge area. We did not
need to bring our life jackets with us for the muster. After the
drill, we went to up to the deck 13 Sundeck to stake out a spot to
watch the sail away.
The Jade pulled away from the pier at around 5:15 pm. The two MSC
ships had pulled out previous to us. The ship sailed past the city
of Venice and reached St. Mark’s Square by 6:00 pm before heading
out to sea. It was a wonderful sight to see. We had terrific
unobstructed views of the Venice skyline. With the setting sun and
cold winds, everyone was bundled up with sweatshirts and coats.
Venice is one city we hope to have the chance to re-visit in the
After the sail away, we went back to our cabin to unpack and change
before going to dinner in the buffet on deck 12. We dined while
watching a beautiful red sunset. The show for the evening was the
“Welcome Aboard Showtime” show in the Stardust Theater at 09:00 pm.
The Stardust Theater has a variety of seating and most have good
views with seating for about 1,000 people. The show was hosted by
the Cruise director, Jill Tasker who did a good job of welcoming us
and introducing some of the entertainment acts that would be
performing on other evenings. They included “Duo Volgyi” which was a
couple that combined powerful acrobatics and dance for their
performance as well as a few numbers from the production cast
singers. Jill spoke in both English and Spanish. After the show, we
went to the Spinnaker Lounge to listen to Ocean Vibe, a quartet,
play songs from the 50’s and 60’s.
Day 2 – Koper, Slovenia
It was a partly cloudy day with temps that started in the mid
50’s and only warmed up to the mid 60’s F. We arrived on the port of
Koper shortly before 7:00 am and docked at a pier close to the
center of town. Koper is located in western Slovenia only 12 miles
south of Trieste, Italy.
There was one other cruise ship in port that day; the Voyager of the
Seas, which arrived around 07:30 am after following us from Venice.
They announced that the ship was cleared and we could
disembark at 7:50 am. All non-EU passengers had to have their
passports with them as they left the ship.
Koper is the main port for Slovenia and is only 40 miles from the
Italian city of Trieste. In the Bay of Trieste this day, the
Barcolana Regatta was being held. It is one of the world’s largest
sailing races with over 2,000 participants. At the last minute, we
had decided to take an excursion from Koper to the seaside town of
Piran. We met up with other passengers that had decided to take
tours to the capital city of Slovenia, Ljubljana and/or Lake Bled.
Those tours required about 3 or so hours of driving and we did not
feel we wanted to spend that much time in a vehicle, especially with
the sail away time of 4:00 pm for this port.
When we got off the ship, we had a tour bus waiting to take us on
our 4 hour tour at 08:45 am. The 10 mile ride to Piran took about 30
minutes as we passed along the coast through the towns of Izola and
Portorož on the way. The bus stopped at a parking lot just outside
of Piran’s old town section. You could spot the Church of St. George
as it stood out on a hill over the rest of this small town located
on a peninsula filled with buildings and their red roofs. We walked
around Piran for an hour or so visiting the church, a monastery,
small medieval streets, the old square, the Punta (point) with its
lighthouse and church, and Tartini Square before returning to Koper.
Before heading back to Koper, we had a free hour to explore the town
on our own. We went back to the St. George church to climb up the
bell tower. It was built as a copy of the Campanile of St. Mark’s in
Venice. We had about 150 wooden steps to climb to the top. The bell
in the tower rings every 15 minutes and it was loud as it rang while
we were up there. We had wonderful views of Piran and the area. We
could see the Bay of Trieste and all of the sailing ships in the
Piran was very quaint. The ride back to Koper gave us some terrific
views of the countryside and the Adriatic Sea as we returned to
Koper. Just at the edge of the city, we stopped by a Koper wine
exhibit building for tasting and purchasing (if one desired).
After returning to the dock in Koper, we walked up the hill
overlooking the dock to visit the center of Koper and its Tito
Square. There, we found a small cathedral with a bell tower you
could walk up to get great views of Koper. The tourist office for
Koper was located in the Praetorian Palace building located near the
cathedral. Both Koper and Piran had a real Italian feel to them. All
signage was in Slovene and Italian and you could hear locals
speaking Italian. To get back to the ship, we had to go through a
long line to have our IDs checked and passports stamped.
Sail away from Koper was 4:00 pm. The evening’s entertainment in the
Stardust was a violinist named Gary Lovini who played classical and
pop songs along with the Jade Orchestra band. We went up to listen
to Ocean Vibe again in the Spinnaker lounge after the show. The
Spinnaker Lounge had the Super 70’s Disco Dance Party later on,
which was lightly attended.
Day 3 – Split, Croatia
It was a sunny day that started with temps in the mid 50’s F
before getting up to the mid 60’s F by the afternoon. We arrived in
Split (Croatia’s second largest city) before 07:00 am. We were
anchored just outside the harbor. They announced that the ship was
cleared and we could disembark using tenders at 07:50 am. We were
the only cruise ship in the harbor that day.
Croatia has its own currency, the Kuna. While most places accepted
Euros and/or charge cards, a few places would only accept Kunas.
There were plenty of ATM machines and currency exchange shops in
Off in the distance, we could see that there must have been a forest
fire behind a large hill. As we were having breakfast, we could see
3 fire fighting planes repeatedly diving down to skim water in the
bay and then fly back over the fire. We had a late breakfast before
heading off the ship. Our plan was to only go into Split and check
out its main attraction, Diocletian’s Palace (which is a Unesco
World Heritage site) on our own. There were a lot of tours offered
for this location with some visiting the countryside and/or the
nearby ancient ruins in Salonae which is where the Roman Emperor
Diocletian came from.
After a 10 minute tender ride, we walked from the dock area towards
the old city section of Split (called Stari Grad). It was a very
short walk from the pier where the tenders docked to the south gate
entrance to the old city. The gate led us into the cellars under the
palace. Diocletian’s palace/fortress was built around 400 AD and
takes up almost half of the old city. As I have always been
interested in Roman history, I found this area to be fascinating.
There was so much to see as we walked around.
There are many gates that lead in and out of the old city. The
Bronze Gate faces south to the harbor. To the east, you can take the
Silver Gate which leads to an open air market area. To the west, you
take the Iron Gate which leads to the main square (Narodni Trg) of
Split which has their city hall building and the Ethnographic Museum
near there. To the north, is the Golden Gate which leads to the
Strosmajerov Park. Just outside the Golden gate, we found the large
statue of Gregory of Nin (Grgur Ninski) by a local sculptor named
Ivan Meštrović. It is said that rubbing the toe on the statue will
bring you good luck. The toe of his right foot is a bright golden
color from the constant rubbing by people over the 80 or so years
since the statue was unveiled.
We also stopped by the Cathedral of St. Dominus which was originally
built as a mausoleum for the Roman Emperor Diocletian. It has a bell
tower with wonderful views of the old city (after walking up 186
steps). After the cathedral we walked west to visit Jupiter’s
Temple, a Roman temple converted to a baptistery.
Just outside the Silver Gate and next to the market area, we found
the church and monastery of St. Catherine of Alexandria. It had a
simple church with some nice paintings and statues. As we were
leaving, we found that the doors had been shut. One of the two nuns
in the church came over to unlock the door as they had closed the
church at noon without our realizing it, but they did not want to
The Marjan hill (mar-yan) is a park area that overlooks the city and
gives great views of the city of Split and the harbor below. Facing
the harbor as we left the old city, we took a right (away from the
ship) and walked along the harbor to the park which was about a half
mile away from the old city. There were over 300 steps to take you
up to the top. Along the water by the old city area is a boardwalk
area known as Riva. This is a wonderful place to sit back, relax,
and have a drink or just admire the sights.
The ship left Split at 5:00 pm. The main show in the Stardust was a
production show called “Showdown”. The show was a type of American
Idol singing contest with the audience voting for the best singer.
In the Spinnaker Lounge, they had a “Perfect Couple” game show
hosted by Alp of the CD staff that was very funny to watch. Later on
in the Spinnaker Lounge, they had a musical game show called “If You
Know It, Sing It”.
Day 4 – Dubrovnik, Croatia
It was an overcast morning in the 60’s F that cleared up and
temps rose to the mid 70’s F. We arrived at the port for Dubrovnik
before 07:00 am. They announced that the ship was cleared and we
could disembark at 07:50 am. The Jade was anchored near the old city
part of Dubrovnik, close to the island of Lokrum. We would have to
tender to shore at this port. Other cruise ships were docked at the
other end of the city in Gruz Harbor, including the Star Princess,
Ocean Majesty, and Astor. The tender docked in the old city harbor
near the main square and its clock tower. Again, it only a 10 minute
tender ride from the ship.
Dubrovnik is known for its old city area which is a Unesco World
Heritage site. It is surrounded by famous fortified walls that were
started in the 8th century. The entire perimeter of the walls is
about 2 kilometers with lots of steps especially on the side facing
the city and hills. Entrances (with a fee) to the walls can be found
at both ends of the city. The Ploce (plo-cha) gate is the one
closest to the harbor where the ship tenders dock. This entrance
tends to be less crowded than the Pile (pee-la) Gate which is the
main gate at the other end of the old city that leads to the rest of
Dubrovnik. We found long lines at both gates. As you walk along the
walls, you pass through a few small forts. The views from the walls
were spectacular. They will only accept Croatian Kunas or charge
cards to enter the walls. It takes about 2 hours to leisurely walk
the entire length and for the walls along the water, they have
everyone walking in the same direction from the Pile Gate to the old
harbor. There is no shade while you are up there.
The main pedestrian thoroughfare from the docks to the Pile Gate is
called the Stradun Placa. It is lined with shops and cafes. At the
end of the Stradun, just before the Pile Gate, is the large Onofrio
fountain, a famous landmark and meeting place. We found it more
interesting to explore the side streets found on both sides of the
Stradun. There are a lot of buildings and landmarks to see and visit
in the old town area besides the walls and forts. There are a few
monasteries, The Church of St. Blaise (patron saint of Dubrovnik),
and the Rector’s Palace.
Near the Jesuit church, along the outside walls facing the water, we
found an opening that led to a bar situated on the rocks at the
water’s edge with wonderful views. It was called the Cafe Buža. You
can spot this bar from above when you walk along the ocean side of
There are very few public toilets in the old town area, so one had
to go into one of the cafes to order a drink and use their
Outside the walls by the Ploce Gate is a station for a high speed
cable car gondola that takes you up to the top of Srd Hill (serge)
which offers incredible views of the old city and the surrounding
area. The cable car station at the top is 1,324 feet above sea level
and it only takes 4 minutes to go up from the station below. The
cost was 80 Croatian Kuna per adult (about $15). They would not
accept Euros, only Kunas and/or charge cards. At the top are viewing
stations, a restaurant, and a souvenir stand.
We also visited the Cathedral (Katedrala) which was at the East end
of the city towards the old harbor before heading back to the old
city harbor docks to take a tender back to the ship.
We arrived at the ship by 3:00 pm and the ship sailed away at 5:00
pm. For the main show in the Stardust, they had a vocalist named
Marcus Jefferson performing a musical tribute to Lionel Richie. In
the Spinnaker they had a “The Weakest Link” game show. Later that
night in the Spinnaker they had the White Hot Dance Party with the
Day 5 – Day at Sea
It was a partly cloudy day with temps in the low 70’s F. This
was a day to sit back and relax as we sailed out of the Adriatic Sea
and into the Ionian Sea as we went around the “boot” of Italy on our
way to Messina. The pool area was busy, but not entirely full. You
could find lounge chairs if you wanted to sit in the shade.
The main show for the evening was another production company show.
This one was called “Elements” and was Cirque Soleil type show that
had dancing, singing, and included the couple called “Duo Volgyi”
soaring over the audience as they swung around on silk ropes as well
as others coming down from the ceiling on ropes. After the show, we
went up to the Spinnaker to listen to the Jade Orchestra play Big
Band Ballroom music. The band was very good. Later on in the
Spinnaker, they had the “Dancing with the Jade Stars” where guests
teamed up with the production show dancers for a contest that was
Day 6 – Messina, Sicily, Italy
The day was sunny with temps were in the 70’s F with a nice
breeze. We arrived at the port of Messina before 8:00 am. They
announced that the ship was cleared and we could disembark at 08:00
am. Besides the Jade, the MSC Fantasia was in port as well. The
cruise ship docks are right next to the city. A lot of passengers
were taking tours to visit the nearby resort town of Taormina or to
see Mt. Etna. We had planned to stay in town.
We walked off the ship and headed south about a half mile to stop by
the ruins of a church called Santa Maria Alemanna (St. Mary of the
Germans). It was built in the 1200’s by Normans and was once visited
by Richard the Lion Hearted on his way to a Crusade. We then headed
north on Via Garibaldi to visit the Duomo (which has the largest
organ in Italy) of Messina and view the astrological clock found in
the Duomo’s bell tower. There is a daily show by the clock at noon
with moving figures and music. The piazza was filled with people
watching the 12 minute show. The beautiful Fountain of Orione is
found in the Duomo’s piazza as well. After that, we walked east up
the hill to two churches. The first was called the Santuario di
Montalto and the second was called Christo Re. Cristo Re is now a
memorial. Both buildings offered a wonderful view of the Messina
harbor and the Italian mainland from an esplanade in front of them.
The churches themselves are very visible from the harbor. We then
headed down the hill and returned to the ship. There is an art
museum in Messina that was further away from the ship going north,
but we decided to just head back to the ship.
As we were spending the rest of the afternoon relaxing topside
playing cards, we watched as a MSC cruise ship and then a Costa
cruise ship sail past Messina through the strait of Messina on their
way north. Sail away was 6:00 pm where we left the harbor and passed
through the Straits of Messina into the Tyrrhenian Sea on our way to
For dinner, we went to the Le Bistro. In the Stardust Theater they
had a juggling show with someone named Hilby, the Skinny German
Juggle Boy. The Ocean Vibe band was in the Spinnaker playing Buddy
Holly and other music from the 50’s while the Jade Orchestra was in
the Atrium playing Dixieland Jazz. They had a “Quest” Adult Game
show in the Spinnaker lounge at 10:30 pm.
Day 7 – Naples, Italy
It was dark overcast morning with temps in the 60’s F and
very windy. The forecast said partly cloudy, but we had a surprise
waiting for us later that morning. We arrived in Naples before 7:00
am. They announced that the ship was cleared and we could disembark
at 7:30 am. The cruise terminal is located in the heart of Naples
with Mount Vesuvius off in the distance. In port, along with the
Jade, were three other cruise ships; the Celebrity Solstice, MSC
Sinfonia, and the Island Escape.
Visiting Naples, there are many things to do and see both near and
far. You can go to visit Pompeii, Herculaneum, the Amalfi Coast, Mt.
Vesuvius, or the Isle of Capri. In Naples itself, there are quite a
few interesting sites to explore. This is one port I would not mind
visiting several times just to get the chance to see it all. We had
been to Naples before, so we had decided to go off into Naples to
visit just a few sights in the city. The cruise ship terminal is
located opposite the Castel Nuovo fort. Our main plan in Naples was
to visit the Duomo di San Gennaro and some other churches in that
area before taking a funicular up to the top of the Vomero district
that overlooks the entire city to visit the monastery and castle
there before returning to the ship.
As we walked out of the terminal, we stopped at a tabacchi shop that
was to the left of the exit. We purchased all day transportation
passes (biglietto giornaliero) for 3.10€ each. On our previous visit
to Naples, I had picked up a local bus map that showed all of the
routes for buses as well as funiculars and subway trains. We had
taken the HOHO bus in Naples before and had a terrible experience
with them, so we were determined not to use them. We wanted to only
use the public transportation system instead. We started walking to
the Duomo di San Gennaro. About 10 minutes along in the planned 30
minute walk, it started pouring as a thunderstorm came over the
city. Even though we had raincoats on, our pants and shoes were
soaked thoroughly by the time we reached the Duomo. The Duomo is
located at 147 Via Duomo. Please note that the Duomo is closed from
12:30 pm to 4:30 pm. We found out the hard way on our last trip to
Naples as it was closed when we went there in the mid-afternoon.
After walking around the large church, we left the Duomo and walked
down Via dei Tribunali towards Piazza Dante. Along the way we
stopped by a church called Purgatorio ad Arco. This church had
wonderful paintings and sculptures, but they did not allow photos.
Next, we walked to the Sansevero Chapel which has an incredible
collection of marble sculptures with the most amazing being one
called the “Veiled Christ”. Again, we were not allowed to use our
After leaving that church it was still raining with no signs of
letting up. Wet and cold, we decided to head back to the ship
instead of going to the Vomero hill. So we have a reason to come
back to Naples again, hopefully. We did talk with other passengers
that had gone to see Pompei and they said that while it did not
rain, it was cold and windy. Tours to Mt. Vesuvius were cancelled
due to the strong winds.
Walking across streets in Naples is nerve wracking. The drivers
there are very aggressive and stop lights are only a suggestion. You
just have to pick your moment and go, do not hesitate!
There were plenty of pizza shops to be found, especially
along Vie de Tribunali. We are spoiled with several terrific
Neapolitan style pizza shops near our home in Connecticut and the
ones in Naples looked and smelled just as good.
Sail away was at 7:00 pm. In the Stardust Theater, instead of a
production cast show, they had the Jade Crew Show that included a
performance of “Fountains”. They had a Karaoke contest in the
Spinnaker Lounge that night.
We were given luggage tags and information on disembarking the
ship:if you wanted to have your luggage brought down by the ship’s
porters, you had to have your luggage outside your cabin with the
luggage tags attached by 11:00 pm.
Disembarkation Day – Civitavecchia, Italy
We were scheduled to arrive in Civitavecchia by 5:00 am.
It was a real ship parade at the cruise ship docks this day as there
were seven ships in port: The Jade along with the Queen Victoria,
Costa Magica, Noordam, Ocean Princess, Seabourn Pride, and Costa
By 05:45 am you could start to walk off the Jade if you carried your
entire luggage yourself. By 06:30 am, passengers with specific
colors of tags could start to walk off. They would not make
announcements until 07:30 am, so it was up to you to head down on
your own. All passengers were to be off the ship by 09:45 am that
We got up early for breakfast before heading off the ship to pick up
our luggage in the terminal at 09:30am. They had shuttle buses (no
charge) to take us to the gates at the end of the port area (5
minute ride). From there, we walked across the street, turned right,
and walked a few blocks along Viale Garibaldi. We then headed
leftward where the road sloped uphill; the train station is on the
Viale della Repubblica. There were long lines of cruisers already
there waiting inside to buy train tickets at the Trenitalia windows,
so I went past the lines to the right inside the building, passed by
a Tabacchi shop and bought BIRG tickets at a coffee shop inside the
station for €9.50 without having to wait. (Reminder: be sure to
validate your tickets with a time stamp at the yellow boxes you will
find on the platforms before you board the train) We caught the
10:56 am train and arrived at the Roma San Pietro station in Rome at
Our plan was to stay in Rome for two nights before flying home. We
had been to Rome the previous year as a port stop on our Jade cruise
out of Barcelona, so we had already seen all of the major sights
(albeit briefly) in the day we had spent there. We wanted to go back
to spend time enjoying just a few locations of what Rome has to
offer for visitors. We had booked a room at a B&B called “A Casa di
Nannali” that was located just a few blocks (100 meters) from
Vatican City for 80€ a night. It is located halfway between the Roma
San Pietro train station and the Vatican. From our room’s balcony,
we could see the Dome of St. Peter’s.
After we walked the short distance from the Roma San Pietro train
station to the hotel, we checked in and then spent the rest of our
first day in Rome visiting the Vatican museums which included the
Sistine Chapel and then St. Peter’s. We had booked tickets for the
Vatican Museums online prior to our trip, so we did not have to wait
in a long line for tickets. The museums were incredible and we ended
the visit to the museums in the Sistine Chapel. At the advice of
other people, we followed a tour group through a side door that led
us into St. Peter’s without having to exit the Museum and then
having to go into a line to enter the Cathedral. A third of the
church was blocked off and they would let anyone go to the crypts or
up to the dome that day. But, we did stay long enough to be able to
attend mass in the side chapel there before leaving. For dinner, we
went to “Il Bacio” on the recommendation of the B&B owner, Annalisa.
It was near the Castel San Angelo.
The next day, we headed into the old part of Rome by bus to spend
the afternoon at the forum area and the Colosseum. We stopped by a
Tabacchi shop to get our one day transportation passes before
catching a bus to Piazza Venezia. We had booked a guided tour of the
Colosseum online. The same tickets gave us admission to the Palatine
Hills and the Forum. When we got to the Colosseum at 11:30 am, the
lines for the ticket window were a third the way around the building
and moving very slowly. But, we were able to go to the very short
line for on-line tickets to make our way into the building and wait
for the guided tour which was informational.
After leaving the Colosseum, we walked past the Arch of Constantine
and entered the gate that led us to both the Palatine Hill and the
Forum areas which we toured on our own for an hour. We then caught a
bus to take a short ride to visit the Area Sacra Argentina which has
Roman ruins (supposedly where Julius Caesar was murdered) and is
also used as a cat sanctuary. We spotted at least 20 cats around the
From there we walked north to visit a church called S. Maria sopra
Minerva and then the Pantheon before walking over to the Piazza
Novana to grab an early dinner. We ended up at a sidewalk café just
outside the piazza called “Sale Miele”. We had a wonderful meal
there at half the price of the cafes in the Piazza. After the meal,
we took a bus back to the Vatican area and our room.
Our flight to go home on Monday morning was not until noon. We just
walked back to the Roma San Pietro station and took one train (FM3)
for the short ride to the Roma Trastevere station and caught another
train (FM1) that took us to the Fiumicino airport. The cost was 8€
each. Altogether, it took about 45 minutes to get from the San
Pietro station to the airport. A fitting end to our visit to Italy
was the flight from Rome to Munich for our connection to the States.
We flew over Venice as we approached the Italian Alps prior to our
arrival in Munich.
The Jade was built for “freestyle” dining. The ship has
several restaurants which include two main dining rooms (Grand
Pacific and the Alizar) that are free of charge along with the
buffet areas (Garden Café and the Great Outdoors), Topsider and Bali
Hai poolside bar grills, and the Blue Lagoon (comfort food). Grand
Pacific and the Alizar have the same menus each night and because
the Grand Pacific is larger, the wait times were shorter. The other
restaurants had a fee, which we chose not to go to. They have
Cagney’s (Steakhouse), Jasmine Garden (Asian), Le Bistro (French),
Papa’s Kitchen (Italian), Tapas & Salsa (Tapas), Sushi Bar, and
Teppanyaki. We are not too picky about food, so we never felt the
need to go to any one restaurant over another.
The Garden Café buffet area is set up very well with plenty of
stations offering various foods. So you do not have to wait in line
while everyone passes by the same items before you can select
something. For example, they have a separate station for salads,
then one for fruits & desserts, then another for hamburgers & hot
dogs, etc. There are no trays, so you have to take a plate and then
find a table before going back to get a drink. In the early mornings
where we were in port, it was very hectic due to everyone wanting to
grab a bite before heading off the ship. We found that the Italian
restaurant next to the buffet had its doors open during breakfast
and lunch to handle the overflow of diners. It was quieter eating in
there as well.
For most nights, we went to the buffet as if was faster than sitting
down in the dining rooms which usually took about an hour and a half
for the full meal (appetizer, entrée, and dessert). We just
preferred going to a see a show in the Stardust Theater or to a
lounge to listen to music instead of sitting down for dinner.
We enjoy the convenience of freestyle and the fact that we did not
have to bring an extensive wardrobe for dining. We wore business
casual attire the evenings we went to Le Bistro. We saw other
passengers that did take advantage of dressing in more formal wear
and others that were dressed even more relaxed than we were. To each
their own, which is what freestyle is all about.
Bar Service –
We are beer drinkers and we took advantage of the beer bucket
specials where you would get 6 beers for the price of 5 that was
offered throughout the cruise. Since the Jade had been in Europe,
their selection of beer was much better than any other NCL cruise
ship we had been on. I wish they could bring some of those
selections over to the States. They allowed us to mix the beers we
ordered. The free beer would be the cheapest of the ones you
selected. I preferred the German wheat beers to most of the
selections offered on the ship.
Also, in Le Bistro we were entitled to a free bottle of wine (see
Latitudes). When we explained that we do not drink wine, they
allowed us to order beers of any variety we preferred.
We are rated as Platinum Latitudes members and were invited
to the two Latitudes parties. We also received a welcome aboard
package with fruit. But we did not get any snacks delivered to our
cabin as on previous cruises.The party for all of the Latitudes
members was held on the afternoon of the sea day in the Spinnaker
lounge. They gave away a small variety of gifts for the Latitudes
guests and plenty of drinks.
We were also invited to a separate party for Silver, Gold, and
Platinum Latitudes members in the Medusa lounge and it was lightly
attended. It was held the evening we sailed from Split and was for a
half hour with only wine and a variety of cheese offered.
As platinum members, we received some additional perks. The guided
tour of the ship was free (held on the sea day), which we did not
attend as we had taken a tour on a previous cruise. We did receive
two invitations to Le Bistro for a free meal and bottle of wine. We
were given priority tender tickets on the day we were in Split which
allowed us to take any tender we chose into the city. We were given
VIP luggage tags which allowed us to disembark at any time we wanted
and have our luggage waiting in a designated area away from the
other color luggage tags. They did offer laundry service that was
free of charge (it was normally $25 to fill the small bag) on
There were plenty of things to do on aboard for all
interests. They had the usual plethora of bingo games and art
auctions. Every night, we would receive a copy of the next day’s
“Freestyle Daily” which listed all of the activities and their
times. This was helpful in planning.
We took advantage of the several trivia games (which we enjoy) they
offered during the cruise. We met up with several friendly people
and we enjoyed their company and conversations. We did win one time
with our team and came close on several others.
The casino was open during times at sea. We do not gamble, but
sometimes we would walk through to watch fellow passengers give
donations to the ship.
They had plenty of talented musicians on board to entertain
people at various locations and times. The Jade Show band was great
playing big band jazz. In the bar city area and atrium they either
had a piano/singer and/or a single guitarist playing mellow easy
listening music. In the Medusa Lounge, they had a trio called Guys
and Doll playing dance music. The Spinnaker lounge band called Ocean
Vibes was our favorite band to listen to on all of our cruises.
Their mix of songs was very strong with songs from the 60’s, but
they also played songs from the 50’s, 70’s and even some
contemporary tunes. It was refreshing to hear so many up tempo and
For the majority of times, we were always met by a smile and a hello
when we walked by any of the crew members. Jill Tasker (England),
the cruise director was always at the production shows and Latitudes
parties. However, other than scheduled events, you never really saw
her. The rest of the cruise staff were very friendly, especially Alp
(Turkey), Juan (Mexico), and Gabrielle (Gabby) (West Va. U.S.A.). We
had met Alp and Gabby on several other cruises.
The ship –
The ship was originally built and named as the “Pride of
Hawaii” in 2006. It was to be used for the Hawaii only cruises by
NCLA. Even though the ship has since been renamed the Jade, other
than the hull artwork being changed, the rest of the ship’s decor
still has Hawaiian themes.
The fitness center is found on deck 12 forward and had a wide
variety of treadmills, ellipticals, stationary bikes, and other
pieces of equipment available at all times at no extra charge. They
even had a punching bag and free weights. They offered pilates and
spinning classes for a fee. The running track is found on deck 13
and goes from midship (in front of the Star Bar) around to the aft
and past both sides of the basketball court. It is very narrow on
the sides around the court and walkers can get in your way. It takes
5 ½ laps to complete a mile. The promenade deck is for walking only
and it takes 2 2/3 laps to walk a mile.
On deck 12, there are two pools midship with one designated as adult
only and the other having a slide. In cool weather, the pools are
heated. There are two hot tubs next to each pool. In addition to
these, there is a small kid’s pool tucked away in a corner of the
pool deck under the overhand of deck 13 by the Topsiders Bar.
The Ying & Yang Health Spa has several treatment rooms and a
relaxation area with heated ceramic lounge chairs and a large
lie-down hot tub. It is on deck 12 forward. In the spa, they have
segregated areas for men and women; each one has saunas and a hot
tub. Since these were segregated, we decided to not use them as we
like to relax together. You can buy spa passes for the day ($20) or
the entire cruise ($99). They offered spa treatment specials during
port days. Also on deck 12 in the hallway leading to the spas and
fitness rooms are the library and card rooms.
There is a bridge viewing room on deck 11 forward on the port side.
You can view the bridge and see the various plaques the ship has
accumulated from each of the ports it has visited since being
One trick we learned was that the carpeting on the decks with cabins
had dolphins in the print. The dolphins face forward in all of the
hallways, so you can use that to help navigate around the ship. The
breaks in the Dolphin patterns signaled a stairway.
Our cabin was on deck 10. This was a great location for us as it was
only a few decks up to the pools and buffet and a few decks below to
the promenade deck, the Stardust Theater, and dining rooms. We tried
to use the stairs as often as possible. In the mornings, I would
head up to the buffet with insulated mugs to bring hot tea back to
the cabin while my wife was getting ready.
We always book an inside cabin. We are only in our cabin to sleep
or shower, so we prefer to save money in order to cruise twice a
year versus once or less with a balcony or suite type cabin. Our
cabin had more than enough room for the two of us. There are two
small twin beds that you can have next to each other or separated.
We had them separated in order to free up a little more usable
There is a safe and a small fridge in the cabin. In the bathroom,
there is a toilet, sink, hair dryer, and a shower with a sliding
glass door. The European-style shower head is height adjustable and
can be hand held.The closet had about 20 hangers. We easily
stored our 4 pieces of luggage under the beds.
With freestyle and the relaxed dress code, we were able to limit our
luggage to one check-in and one carry-on bag for our 11 day trip.
You gotta love that.
We found out that the Jade is scheduled for a dry dock refurbishment
in November which would include replacing the Tapas and Salsa
restaurant with a churrascia style restaurant. In addition to
replacing all of the bedding and TVs, they will also give her a new
coat of paint on the hull.
This turned out to be an exciting and exhausting trip as most
of days were filled with a lot of walking around wonderful
locations. We had smooth seas for every day except the last night as
we left Naples into rough waters and wind. We had beautiful sunsets
every night except for the night in Naples. The full moon over the
water on some evenings was special. We hope NCL can add more unique
itineraries to their offerings in the future.
Hard Rock Café – I make it a point to visit Hard Rock Cafes around
the world when traveling. Prior to this cruise, I have been to 61
different HRC locations. We were able to visit the local HRC in
Venice for number 62 on my list. It was located just outside the
Piazza San Marco at the Bacino Orseolo where a lot of gondolas can
be found. We had already visited the Rome HRC which is near the
Spanish Steps and American Embassy while on our previous cruise to