Saturday, September 10, 2011

Trip Summary: Mediterranean Cruise

Beautiful Amalfi Coast

We both really enjoyed the cruise, the ports and the excursions. Cruise is a great and easy way to travel with families since there were not a lot of planning needed. All the room, board, food are included. The "hotel" moves with you so there is less packing and unpacking. The downside with cruising is that you really don't get to spend much time at each port, but it is a great way to see a lot in a short time.

Here are some overall tips and recommendations. Note that some of the cruise related tips may only apply to Norwegian Epic.
  • When booking a cruise, do not book the rack rate from the cruise ship's website--this is most likely not the best deal - travel agents can typically get you better rates (or at least include perks such as on-board credit, free wine, etc). 
  • If you are traveling with a large group (we had 8 people), definitely look into booking private shore excursions instead of booking through the cruise ship. In most cases the total actually came out cheaper doing it private.
    • We highly recommend Joe Banana Limos tour--we had a great time on all our shore excursions with them!
  • Pre-book on-board entertainment beforehand so you get guaranteed seats for the shows you want. We heard that some people didn't get to watch some of the more popular shows because they didn't pre-book.
  • Try some of the specialty restaurants on board. It's good to have something different than the standard meals which were pretty much the same every day.
  • For the more popular shows on board (e.g., Blue Man Group, Cirque) try to come early so that you can get good seats.
  • We recommend getting the weekly Spa Pass (on NCL Epic) if they offer a similar deal! 
    • They offer spa raffle if you tour the Spa facility on the first day - we put our names in and Dan actually won one of the prizes which was a free acupuncture treatment. So if you do the tour, try to show up for the raffle. Who knows you might win something!
  • Definitely pre-book transfers from the port to your hotel/airport. There was a HUGE line of people waiting for taxis at the final port at the end of our cruise. The wait could have easily been 1-2 hours. We're glad our driver was already there waiting for us!
  • You should budget 1-2 days before your cruise as a buffer, in case your incoming flight is delayed, so you will have time to catch your cruise.
  • Beware that in Spain, Sundays mean most stores are closed. Plan accordingly if you plan on doing some shopping and it happens to be a Sunday. We found one of the few shopping malls that are open on Sundays called Maremagnum - at the end of the Las Ramblas pedestrian street in the Port Vell area.
  • Some of the food highlights from our trip:
    • Pesto lasagna and Gnocchi pesto - Cucina Aperta Tutto Il Giorno - Cinque Terre
    • Fried camembert - Cerveceria Catalana - Barcelona
    • Lemon granita - small shop in Corniglia and a random stand in Positano
    • Freshly made crepes - topped with soft serve vanilla ice cream from Garden Cafe on board the Epic. I had this almost every day :)
Phew, what a long series of blog posts! We really enjoyed our family cruise to the Mediterranean and we hoped you enjoyed the posts :)

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