I am from Asia and planning a trip to Europe coupled with a first time cruise experience to the Mediterranean. Yet I am quite puzzled by a few major questions. Hope you guys can help:
(1) I am looking for a 7 day cruise and greatly attracted by NCL's freestyle (My wife and I are totally relaxed and leisure people, and scared by the idea of wearing suit, chating with strangers and behaving like in a business dinner). However NCL's 7 day cruise does not combine Italy & Greece (West Med), the 2 places I want to go mostly, while other cruiseliners like RCL/Costa do have such itinerary. NCL goes to places like Valetta, Naples instead. Do you think it's worth to swap charming Greece Islands for an NCL experience. Are Valetta/Naples etc. great places to visit?
(2) I plan to go either in May or Sep (2008). Do you think which month will be better in terms of weather and crowd?
(3) Normally how early should I book the cruise before the planned trip date? Is it better to book through those online travel/cruise sites (e.g. www.cruise.com), who seems cheaper, or NCL official site directly? (travel agents at my place do not do many cruise holidays)
(4) What is the latest embarkation time normally - I have quite a tight schedule and plan to depart from Liverpool in UK in the morning (7am) to arrive at Barcelona (the embarkation port) at around 10am - if I am to choose NCL - is it possible to catch the boarding time (scheduled sailing time at 7pm departing from Barcelona, according to NCL's website)?
(5) Any other special point to note/reminder for a first timer like me?
I would have a look at Oceania they do both areas you are interested in
They have open dining, no suits required.
They may be a bit more than NCL but well worth the extra price.
Most of their cruises are 10+ days and very port intensive.
As long as you check in at least 1 hour prior to sailing time you should be ok but earlier is better.
May, June & Sept, October are good months for the Med