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  #31 (permalink)  
Old May 12th, 2007, 05:59 PM
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Default Re: Smoking?

Thanks for so much for so much detailed information. We are booked on the same cruise this September leaving from Istanbul and your post is of great help.
After reading your comments on the shore excursion from Alexandria, we may book a private tour to Cairo. Have you heard any comments from groups who used a private tour company and whom they hired? Again, thanks for taking the time to inform us fellow cruisers.
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Old May 12th, 2007, 06:03 PM
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Default Egypt

NCL Jewel - Virtual Cruise
May 11 & 12 - Egypt.

We arrived at the Star Dust Theater this morning, at the time stated on our excursion tickets (8:30 A.M.), to find that our excursion had already begun to disembark the ship, and head out to board the tour buses. We boarded our assigned bus, and shortly afterwards the buses pulled out and our tour began.
Today’s tour was a scheduled 5 ½ hrs. dubbed “Highlights of Alexandria?.

Fortunately on today’s tour we had a much better combination of guide, driver and bus-mates. Our driver for yesterday’s tour seemed to be the only driver in this hemisphere who was wanted to go the same speed as the camels.

Our guide for yesterday’s tour warned us repeatedly to be VERY careful of the people who would accost us at all the sights we were going to be visiting, and be very careful making any purchases from them as we were sure to be ripped off in one way or another. He then proceeded to spend half the time of the 3 hr. ride to Cairo trying to sell things to people on the bus. “For our convenience? the “special people? on his bus could pre-order merchandise from catalogues, that they could pick up later at the Bazaar, which was going to be our last stop of the day. The purchases would be from suppliers at the Bazaar who he knew to be “trustworthy? (and amazingly he said this with a straight face <wink>).

As well, while traveling on the bus, he tried to sell us books and DVDs on Egypt. When he chose to share actual information about the sights with us he was quite informative. However I felt like I had been captured and held captive by an infomercial, and it made me more uncomfortable than the small space between rows of seats on the bus.

Once we approached Cairo I was amazed and shocked. I’m not sure what I expected, but our guide told us Cairo is a city of 18 Million people. It’s of course a sprawling city, but what shocked me the most as we traveled through the city towards the Pyramids, is the incredible number of unfinished, and seemingly abandoned buildings. They are everywhere, and anywhere… good areas, or bad areas, it didn’t seem to matter.

The guide explained that normally when getting married it is the responsibility of the male (or his family) to supply the “flat? or home for the bride. And these flats (apartment/condominiums in “western? terms), can be very expensive in relation to what the average Egyptian earns. Therefore, a family may start out building a one storey “flat? or home on a small piece of land in the city, then as the years pass, and the families grow they build another “flat? above their own, then another above that, and another, and so on. In many instances this process can go on for a very long time, so many of these buildings can stand unfinished for 20 years or more. The differences between the standards of living here, as compared to the western world, are obvious, and quite startling.

There are satellite dishes atop most of the structures, even the unfinished, or barely standing residences, and that type of access may help explain how some people in this part of the world may feel “hard done by?, or resentful of the western world.

As we arrived at the Pyramids, some of the depressing thoughts that had been running through my mind while seeing the city and it’s people disappeared, at least for a short while. The sight of these structures is nothing short of spectacular!

The hucksters and local thieves are evident all over the sight… though the Tourist Police are present to try and watch over them. We got to witness police on camels chasing after suspected thieves who were also on camels.

The guides took us to three different areas to view the Pyramids from different perspectives, and then we moved on to visit the Sphinx. To get a more up close view of the Sphinx requires going along with large crowds through some narrow passageways. I had become a bit friendly with the “security officer? from our bus (the one with the machine gun) <G>, and he offered to speed our way through the crowd. Somehow, with a man in suit, who everyone in the area was armed, the crowds got quite passable. We had a fair bit of free time at the Pyramids and Sphinx to explore.

From there we moved into downtown Cairo and boarded very nice river cruise boats to “cruise? the Nile for about an hour. They served a buffet lunch onboard that was very, very tasty. So good, in fact, that it surprised me. I guess my expectations were low. The lunch service was friendly and efficient, and the experience quite enjoyable. During our time onboard we were entertained by a belly dancer (who interacted with the crowd) as well as a “Tangora dancer? ( a mid eastern male dancer doing a traditional dance).

After our Nile River cruise we were taken to the Citadel of Cairo, and the large Mosque, which sit high on a hill with panoramic views of the city. This is the Mosque containing the tomb of Muhammed Ali (not the boxer). We were allowed to tour the Mosque freely, and take pictures freely as well.

Once outside, on the grounds, the views of the city, the skyline, and the Pyramids in the distance are breathtaking.


Our last stop for the day was at the “Bazaar? our guide talked about early in the day. This was not what would come to mind when one thinks of a mid-eastern Bazaar. It was a high priced three storey high shopping center. We were given a short explanation/demonstration of the ancient process of making Papyrus, and then time to shop.

Our bus was late leaving here as some of our bus mates just had to hold up everyone else on the tour to save another $10 off their purchase, and then, at the end yet more time as the guide had to go back in to get his “commission? on all the sales for our bus.

Today’s tour of Alexandria went much more smoothly, and was much more relaxing. Alexandria is a much larger city than I had expected as well; over 6 Million citizens. While there’s no doubt it shares some of the same problems as Cairo, there’s also some very beautiful areas, and upscale hotels, as well as beautiful beaches. A very long road, the Corniche, runs for a very lengthy stretch along the ocean, with no traffic lights. There are underground cross walks for pedestrians to get from one side of the road to the other.

As it’s getting quite late, I’ll begin another post on the Alexandria portion of our visit tomorrow.

Here’s a link to a photo gallery of our Cairo visit.
http://www.cruisemates.com/gallery/view.php?id=3420
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Old May 12th, 2007, 06:32 PM
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When we boarded the ship NCL took everyone's passports. Before arriving in Egypt everyone had to pick up their passports, and they were already stamoed with the Egypt tourist visa.

There was no mention made of cost, though I had heard the visas were $20 PP. If they are going to bill it to our shipboard accounts there was no mention made of it.

After returning to the ship from Egypt, we had to again hand in our passports, and were told we'll get them back before arriving in Turkey... and again, with the visa stamps in them. Once again, no mention made of costs.
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Old May 12th, 2007, 06:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hinkley
Kuki, Thank you for a very enjoyable & imformative report . You looked great on the camel !!! The problems that arose at Alexandria for the ships tour make me glad that we have booked a private tour , mainlty because of experience we have had with latecomers. Would you advise getting some Egyptian Pounds for small purchases & tips ? does the casino allow you to buy chips etc & charge it to your account ? We are on the May 31 cruise .

Jean
You can put up to $2000 a day on your shipboard account for casino chips or tokens. If you want a cash advance instead there is a service fee.

I don't think you need any Egyptian Pounds, dollars are readily accepted.. the exchange is $1 US - 5.7 Egyptial Pounds.

For Greece ports you'll need Euros. ATMs are not difficicult to find.
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Old May 12th, 2007, 06:41 PM
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yes,,, I saw you found the synagogue in Corfu. You said Old Town.. is that where the ship leaves you off or do you have a more specific address? Did you notice if it was open everyday (except Shabbat, of course) and what times? I did send them an email and haven't heard back.

If you tell your drivefr u want to stop at the Synagogue,he can drop you within abot 5r0 meters. It;s not sort of a nain sidsreet, and worth visiting.
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Old May 13th, 2007, 12:11 AM
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kuki- thanks for the information on the visas.... nice to know NCL is taking care of these issues even if they didn't tell everyone ahead of time.
We are driving with another couple in a rental car in Corfu that's why i was interested in a location for the synagogue. Will try to check it out.

Keep the reports coming... can't wait for the next one...

When are the formal nights planned and can you tell us when it happens what % of the guest do get dressed up?

Jef
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Old May 13th, 2007, 08:11 AM
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Default Fantastic live reports!

I can't thank you enough for your detailed blog, its great to read along with your trip! We are taking the same cruise on May 31st and are new to NCL, so its really nice to get a preview of what's to come!

The on deck BBQ sounds nice do they do that for every sail-away? Also what time to the evening shows in the theater usually run? It would be great to see copies of the daily cruise program!!

Looking forward to the next post!

-Cruiser2007
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Old May 13th, 2007, 09:13 AM
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Default Catching up on Alexandria

NCL Virtual Report
May 12 Alexandria, Egypt

You’re going to have to excuse some of my ramblings, grammar and spelling mistakes along the way. I’m writing these reports at the end of the day. In some cases that means VERY late, and with many port days in a row, occasionally the lateness of the hour doesn’t find mind working very well.

Guess that’s a hazard of attempting actual “live? reports.

Just before I talk about our day yesterday in Alexandria, I wanted to back track to relate a story about an incident that occurred during our bus ride back from Cairo the night prior.

As described earlier we were at the tail end of a very long day, and the bus seating was quite cramped. After about 2 ½ hrs of sitting in cramped quarters and trying to nap a bit, I just had to stand and stretch out my back. I stood up in the aisle way, and did a few stretching exercises. Less than 5 minutes had passed and the woman in the seat behind me tapped me on the back and asked me to sit down, as she couldn’t see anything. This could have been very understandable EXCEPT we were in the desert between Cairo and Alexandria, and IT WAS NIGHT TIME, and DARK.

Even my overly mild-mannered Mrs. Kuki couldn’t bit her tongue. She turned to hear and said: What the heck can you see? It’s DARK OUTSIDE! From the configuration of the seating, when I sat down, I noticed that one would have to lean well into the aisle even to get a view of the front window of the bus, and the darkness of the highway in front of us. I guess it’s true; there’s no limit to how dumb people can get.

OK…I’ve vented. Now it’s time to move on to discuss our day in Alexandria. As I stated already Alexandria is aesthetically a prettier city than Cairo, with some more well maintained buildings in tourist areas, but as we drove those streets, if you looked up any of the side streets, there was plenty of squalor evident. It was evident the life of an average Egyptian is not an easy one.

We visited a part of the beach area that is considered public beaches, though everyone must pay a small fee to for use of the facilities at these beaches the costs are minimal.

After the stop at the beach, we were taken through what was originally created as the Royal Gardens and two palaces. These used to be for the exclusive use of the Royal family. Now one of the Palaces, called the Harem Like (spelling???), is still used for dignitaries visiting (we were told the King of Sudan was in residence the day we visited). The other palace is now very high end hotel. Visitor, other than guests in the hotel are discouraged from visiting, by a cover charge to enter the premises. We didn’t pay it!

As the King of Sudan was in residence at the Harem Lik Palac oe, the palace was surrounded by armed guards, and for some strange reason those on tour were not allowed to stand on the narrow sidewalks surrounding the Palace; those who tried were chased off by the President Guard.

From the Palaces our tour took us to the Alexandria National Museum, featuring some interesting artifacts, and we got some brief descriptions of the history of the area.

After about an hour at the Museum, our buses headed over for us to visit the Catacombs. The Catacombs were the only place that photography or video was strictly forbidden. Therefore I got no photographs. Of course there people on our tour who knew the rules didn’t apply to them, and snuck their cameras in. I guess it didn’t matter to them if they were insulting the customs of the country they were visiting and the dead resting in the catacombs.

This was the last stop on the tour and we were returned to the ship. There’s a small row of kiosk style shops at the pier, but the prices here were about double that of the hucksters and shops near the earlier visits.

Interestingly, on the day we arrived in Egypt the buffet self service systems on the ship were changed. One could no longer help themselves to anything at the buffet. Staff sprayed everyone entering any dining venue with sanitizer, and staff also handed out everything - from plates and napkins, to glasses and cups. They also served all food evens at all the stations; even filling ice cream cones, and coffee, teas or juices.

At first I suspected there may be an outbreak of Noro Virus onboard, but talking to some senior staff later I learned that this was being done as a routine because of previous NCL ship visits to Egypt.

There must have been a psychological influence, because after returning from our day in Alexandria I did not feel well, and I was showing early signs of gastrointestinal problems. So much so that I decided to skip our dinner reservations at Chin Chin, the ship’s Asian restaurant. I stayed in the cabin, and laid down in bed, to see what, if anything, would develop. Fortunately it was just a case of my mind playing tricks on me, and after a nap I miraculously recovered. Unfortunately I missed out on an apparently sensationally meal at Chin Chin (a $10 cover charge - with apparently huge portions).

In an effort to “catch up? on this daily report, I am presently sitting on the pool deck, by the Sky High Bar, where I just finished watching last night’s magician, do a “Houdini like? escape trick in the ship’s pool…. Which was very unusual and entertaining. I shot some video, which we can hopefully share with you at a later date.

Now it’s time to quit typing, and go enjoy some time in the sun! We have reservations for this dinner this evening in Le Bistro, again, to celebrate Mothers Day. BTW…. Happy Mother’s Day to all the CruiseMates Mothers.

I’ll be loading pictures of Alexandria in the galleries later this evening if you want to get more of the visual picture.
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Old May 13th, 2007, 09:19 AM
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Default Re: Fantastic live reports!

Quote:
Originally Posted by cruiser2007
I can't thank you enough for your detailed blog, its great to read along with your trip! We are taking the same cruise on May 31st and are new to NCL, so its really nice to get a preview of what's to come!

The on deck BBQ sounds nice do they do that for every sail-away? Also what time to the evening shows in the theater usually run? It would be great to see copies of the daily cruise program!!

Looking forward to the next post!

-Cruiser2007
Glad to be of help! I am now a BIG fan of NCL's Freestyle. I think it's the perfect system for this type of "exotic' cruise at least. The deck bar b q is held on every first day of a cruise, then several times on the days with early afternoon sail-a-ways.

There's only one Welcome Aboard Show, but each other night shows are at 7:30 and 9:30 PM.

The alternate restaurants, where there's a charge, are half price for the "early bird specials - from 5:30 - 6:30 P.M. The only restaurant were reservations may be necessary early is the Tepannyaki, because seating is so limited there.
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Old May 13th, 2007, 11:02 AM
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Thank you for the live reports. I truly enjoy reading them everyday. I was wondering if you could address safety and if you feel safe when you are in port. I would probably feel uncomfortable with the guard with the gun who is accompanying your tours. We are going to plan a Mediterranean cruise for 2008 so I am curious about safety.
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Old May 13th, 2007, 12:44 PM
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http://www.cruisemates.com/gallery/view.php?id=3422

I've now uploaded some of the pictures from Alexandria. The link above will take you that gallery.
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Old May 13th, 2007, 12:49 PM
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I don't think I'd feel comfortable going out and galavanting around Egypt without some form of tour group. And while it's a bit eery having armed security around, it also gives and odd feeling of safety.

This part of the world is much to amazing to pass up a visit because of those types of fears.

Any big city can be dangerous, if you're not aware of your surroundings... Cairo, Rome, Barcelona, New York, etc.

I did see some private tour buses at the port, but I haven't talked to anyone who arranged one. We normally do that in many ports of call (have pre-arranged that for Turkey), but thought in Egypt we'd do the ship's tours.

I actually think the cruise lines should offer more of the smaller van tours as options for ship's excursions.
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Old May 13th, 2007, 03:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Papillon
Thanks for so much for so much detailed information. We are booked on the same cruise this September leaving from Istanbul and your post is of great help.
After reading your comments on the shore excursion from Alexandria, we may book a private tour to Cairo. Have you heard any comments from groups who used a private tour company and whom they hired? Again, thanks for taking the time to inform us fellow cruisers.
We are on the May 31 cruise & have booked with Nile blue tours you can tailor your own tour if you want the price is a lot less than the ship & you stay at the same hotel !! they don.t require a deposit & are very good at getting back to you . I researched them on cruise critic also. The website is www.nilebluetours.com. Hazem is our contact . you can e,mail me www,margaret_hinkley@yahoo.com.

Jean.
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Old May 13th, 2007, 06:56 PM
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Default Jewel Virtual Report - May 13

NCL Virtual Cruise
May 13 - Day at Sea

We’ve been maintaining a fairly hectic schedule, with all the ports of call. Now it’s probably time for me to catch up a bit in talking about the ship once again, especially since we’re now half way through the cruise.

Earlier I mentioned the mostly higher limit blackjack tables in the casino. I have noticed now, deeper into the cruise, that there are indeed table games with $5 minimum bets. However the lower limit tables are using automatic continuous dealers. Today they even had a couple of table games from the casino open out by the central pool area… with $5 minimum bets. Though there weren’t many people playing, I thought this was a pretty good idea. The pool area is large enough that the tables were relatively unobtrusive, which wouldn’t work with the design of pool decks on many other ships I’ve sailed.

The interiors of this ship have a very interesting design. There are no grand atriums or centrums stretching 9 or 10 decks high, but the lack of them seems to allow space to create some nice open and large public rooms. The central core of the Jewel is Bar City, a largely open area, where one bar theme simply flows into another, each with its own unique furnishings, but all sharing the same space and corridor on Deck 6. It’s a very comfortable gathering area, that’s great for people watching.

I’ll be writing a full review for CruiseMates on my return, so I won’t go into all the interior design features of the ship here. What is somewhat different about this ship, compared to those of other cruise lines I’ve sailed of similar size is that on the decks with public room there is only one hallway or passageway, rather than one on each side of the ship. While one might think this is somewhat restrictive, again it seems to allow for the creation of nice open public areas.

Our cabin is a standard balcony cabin. It’s nicely decorated. Even though the orange and pink color scheme may sound garish, it doesn’t come off that way in reality. It’s lively but comfortable. The bed is very comfortable, and high enough that luggage fits under the bed easily. The bedding is of nice quality, topped off with a comfortable duvet. There’s a love seat next to the bed, and opposite that there’s a table, which I use as a desktop, thought it’s not a desk. There is also a make up table, with mirror, and hairdryer in another corner. On one side of the bed there’s a night table, but it’s just a table top. There are no drawers in the table. The other side of the bed does not have a table next to it, only the love seat. Closet space is ample, but there is a shortage of drawers… though there’s several open shelves next to the closet, with a personal safe above them.

The bathroom is oddly very well designed, and space limited at the same time. The toilet is separated from the rest of the washroom by a sliding glass door, a sink and some shelving serve as the central portion, and on the other side, a large rectangular shower with sliding door. The size of the shower and the sliding door, rather than shower curtain, combine to a great shower space. However when you step out of the shower space is very cramped and even a bit difficult to move around in. There are no bars of soap provided in the cabins, only wall mounted liquid soap dispensers in both the wash basin area and the shower. The shower also had a wall mounted shampoo dispenser. Though the cabin design is not perfect, we have settled in nicely, adjusted to its limitations, and are comfortable enough that I could stay on for a few more cruises.

The feature I like best about the Jewel cabin is actually just outside the cabin door. It’s a sign, with a wheel built into it, which passengers simply turn to tell the cabin stewards the “state of the cabin?; either welcome, do not disturb, make up room, or turn down service. Though it seems a very simple idea, I think it’s tremendously effective.

Since the beginning of the cruise we’ve dined in Cagney’s twice, the Tsar’s Palace once, Mama’s Kitchen once, Chin Chin once (which I missed last night), and La Bistro twice (we returned tonight for a second time since it was Mother’s Day). Tomorrow night we have reservations at Teppanyaki.

All the food and service has been very good, but I think our second trip to Cagney’s was my favorite. That meal was close to perfection.

With today being a sea day there was a full schedule of activities on tap, however after the pace we’ve kept the past few days, I didn’t do much but relax. It was a gorgeous day, with warm but not overly hot temperatures. The perfect day to sun tan, socialize and enjoy.

By the time we left dinner in La Bistro tonight it was late to make the production show in the showroom, so we went and spent some time in the casino. Probably because of the itinerary, and another port tomorrow, the casino was quite quiet, as it has been most of the cruise.

Speaking of ports of call; it’s time for me to retire for the night. Tomorrow we’re in Crete.
Pictures to go with this article can be found using this linke
http://www.cruisemates.com/gallery/view.php?id=3423
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Old May 13th, 2007, 07:05 PM
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Quote:
What's the situation with smoking onboard? Is it allowed in the cabins, public areas, etc.?
Rita,

Smoking is allowed in smoking sections of all the lounges onboard, and in the casino, as well as one side of outside decks, as well as the outdoor "patio" area on the stern outside of the Garden Cafe buffet.

No smoking is allowed in any of the restaurants, dining rooms , buffet, or theater.

Though the non smoking sections of the lounges seems to be much larger than I remember from our sailing on the Dawn.
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Old May 14th, 2007, 03:12 AM
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Kuki thank you for another great report , you have certainlly given us somtihng to think about our tours from Alexandria!!! we had booked a private overngiht tour with Nile blue tours but are thinking about changing to a similar Itinary that you did, , that way we do not have the worry of getting back to the ship on time. your photos are really good , regarding being able to buy chips on your account can you change them back to cash to play the machines? we really appreciate you taking time from your vacation to do the report and answer our questions . I have been folowing the chip on the Cruise Cam , enjoy the rest of the cruise .

Jean.
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Old May 14th, 2007, 04:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kuki
Smoking is allowed in smoking sections of all the lounges onboard, and in the casino, as well as one side of outside decks, as well as the outdoor "patio" area on the stern outside of the Garden Cafe buffet.
Thanks for the info, Kuki. Sounds like I'll be trying NCL at some point in the next year. I'm kinda leaning toward the freestyle dining too ... after my experience last month on HAL, where dinners usually took two hours. That's way too long for my liking ... especially in a non-smoking dining room where the nearest smoking venue is the Ocean Bar ... clear to the other end of the ship.

Blue skies ...

--rita
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Old May 14th, 2007, 08:59 AM
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regarding being able to buy chips on your account can you change them back to cash to play the machines?
You use your card at the cashier's cage, and they'll ask if you want chips for the table games, or tokens for the machines. Sorry.. should have mentioned that earlier.

I haven't talked to anyone who did the overnight in Cairo, so I can't say how they enjoyed it, though I knew they got to see the light and sound show at the Sphinx in the evening.
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Old May 14th, 2007, 09:02 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kryos
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kuki
Smoking is allowed in smoking sections of all the lounges onboard, and in the casino, as well as one side of outside decks, as well as the outdoor "patio" area on the stern outside of the Garden Cafe buffet.
Thanks for the info, Kuki. Sounds like I'll be trying NCL at some point in the next year. I'm kinda leaning toward the freestyle dining too ... after my experience last month on HAL, where dinners usually took two hours. That's way too long for my liking ... especially in a non-smoking dining room where the nearest smoking venue is the Ocean Bar ... clear to the other end of the ship.

Blue skies ...

--rita
Hi Rita,

I happen to be an "evil smoker" too However, I really don't mind the occassional two hour dinner if the food, service, and company is good.
The only non smoking "bar" on the ship, that I've noticed, is the coffee bar area in the lobby by guest relations. Some of the smoking sections are small, but you can find one relatively close to most of the dining areas.
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Old May 14th, 2007, 02:56 PM
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Do you remember what time the lifeboat drill was when you left Athens? I want to plan to meet someone for diner but don't want it interupted for the drill. I think the sailing is scheduled for 6pm.
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Old May 14th, 2007, 06:01 PM
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Default May 14 Crete

NCL Jewel Virtual Cruise Report
May 14- Iraklion, Greece (Crete)

It goes to show you how little I researched some of the Greek Islands on this itinerary in advance, as it wasn’t until last night I found out Iraklion is a city on the Island of Crete. This is not a tiny, quaint Greek Island. Rather it is 400 kilometers wide, and 80 Kilometers long.

Once I found out we would be visiting Crete, I joked with Mrs. Kuki; wondering if they had a place we could go see the cretans. OK, it was a bad joke, but Mrs. Kuki still laughs at my lousy jokes, and it’s probably why we’re still married. That and the fact she is such an excellent packer.

Without the advance research, from the port area the place didn’t look all that impressive, but at least from our prospective taken from the parts of the island we visited today, it’s quite beautiful, very clean, and seemingly the locals have quite a reasonable standard of living. Our guide told us there are 45 million olive trees on Crete, and exporting of olive products is quite a significant industry. There are also numerous vineyards around the island, and tourism rounds out the basics of the island economy.

NCL offers a free shuttle to the port building, which is a fair distance from where the ship is docked. There you’ll find set taxi rates posted, and we had no difficulty finding an English speaking taxi driver, and had him suggest a nice tour that would combine visits to some more typical Greek villages, outside of the urban area, as well as must see sites. The car was a modern air conditioned Mercedes Benz (which seemed the vehicle of choice for all the taxis), and the rate was $80 Euro for 4 of us for a 3 hr tour. With our stops we spent over 4 ½ hrs. together, and the driver asked for $100 Euro. At $25 Euro per person we felt it was a bargain.

All the villages we went to were clean, and very well kept. We stopped to stroll through several towns, checked out some of the local stores, including the local grocery store, and had an all together very enjoyable day, and felt perfectly safe the entire time.


Our driver George explained that Crete is a wonderful place to live, with a superb climate, good education and health care, and virtually no crime… and no problems for tourists, like pick pockets etc.

As we strolled in one town, I took a picture of an older local woman walking on a side street near her home.
She was so sweet; she walked up to a fruit tree in front of her home, picked some fruit off the tree, and handed it to the friend I was walking with.


It reminded me of a story from the last time I visited Greece in 1972. I was young and backpacking, with very little money. We were near the Port of Pireus, awaiting a ferry, and we stopped in at a café for a drink. The owners asked us if we wanted food, but we thanked them and said no (mainly because we couldn’t really afford restaurant food at that time. We were mostly living off fresh bread and cheese bought in marketplaces). We obviously must have looked hungry, because the owners brought out several platters packed with food, and assured us there would be NO charge! Ever since that day I’ve had a warm spot in my heart for the Greek people. And today’s simple incident with this little old lady clearly demonstrated that nothing had changed; the Greeks are a warm, friendly and hospitable people!!



Aside from our stops in towns, we stopped several times for photo ops at a few locations with panoramic views. And of course, you can’t visit this area without the obligatory visit to the ruins of the Knossos Palace. At one time this was a 22,000 square meter (you’ll have to do the match conversion to square feet, as I don‘t have a calculator handy, but it‘s BIG) Palace that sat about 3 ½ miles from the ocean. With changes due to nearby volcanic activity, over time, the palace location is now closer to 10 miles from the sea.

The cost to get into the Palace grounds is $6 Euro per person. Once inside the gates there are well trained guides available at $10 Euro per person. They accumulate groups from those entering to make 15 or 16 person groups for each guide. There were guides available for tours in several languages; we saw English, French, and German groups touring the site.

Much of the Palace grounds and ruins are a recreation, done in the 1930’s, with many of the original artifacts now in the museums, but some portions remain as they were originally. The ruins of the Palace were discovered through archeological digs under a regular looking hillside using old tales and stories about the place, and it’s inhabitants as a guide.





From the Palace grounds we were taken for some time in the town market in Old Town. And it was a fun market to stroll in, and dicker with shop keepers.


We found everything there from fresh fish and meat stands to the Cretan equivalent of the “Dollar Stores?. We bought souvenirs for gifts, and I got a huge bag of great tasting pistachios, so there’s going to be little shells left all over the ship for the next several days.



More pictures of our day on Crete can be found here:
http://www.cruisemates.com/gallery/view.php?id=3424

There most certainly seems to be a minor outbreak of some sort of little virus on the ship. It’s NOT Norwalk Virus, but it does seem to be some mild form of gastrointestinal disease. I had it the other night, when I had to stay in and miss the Chinese dinner at Chin Chin, and I’ve heard of several cases of it since then. And since the very diligent sanitizing of passengers at all food service stations continues, I’m assuming it’s likely still around. My own case lasted only a few hours, and I’m hoping it was the same for anyone else who happened to come down with it as well. I wasn’t vomiting at all, but I did feel a bit uncomfortable for a few hours.

I did hear some passengers complaining at having to have their hands sprayed with the sanitizer at every turn, which I thought was plain silly. It only took an extra second or two, and yes the staff handling all food and service items at the buffet did slow down the process a bit, but that’s so much better than being sick, you’d think they would appreciate the preventative treatment path chosen. As a wise friend once told me “ some folks just want to show they have dumb they haven’t used yet?.

After returning to the ship from our tour I went up on deck to the Sky High Bar, on Deck 13, overlooking the pool, and just sat and enjoyed a drink. The sun was shining brightly, the pool deck below was bustling, the band was playing, and everyone I looked at had broad smiles on their faces. I thought to myself just what a wonderful day we had, what an unbelievable cruise it’s been, and how blessed I am to be sitting where I was enjoying it.

For dinner this evening we had reservations for 6 of us at Teppanyaki, the Japanese-style restaurant, where the chefs are part of the entertainment while they cook your meals at the table.


I’m personally not a big fan of this type cuisine, but the others in the group are, and I went for the fun more than the food. The restaurant has 4 cooking grills and seating for 8 at each. They squeezed in 10 at our table, but basically the room is set for a total of 32 guests at each seating. As the space is so limited, if you want reservations here, make them early. There are 4 chefs. The chef for our table arrived about 10 minutes after the others. We joked that he was delayed getting appendages reattached after the earlier seating.

The meal preparation is fun, and if you’re a seafood fan, no doubt you’ll enjoy the food as well. I did find the space to be quite noisy, so the crowd needs to be a bit boisterous to be heard, but that’s probably also part of the fun of it.

With an early morning arrival in Santorini on tap for tomorrow we didn’t attend the song stylist’s performance in the showroom. Mrs. Kuki and I both played in the casino for about an hour, and called it a night
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Old May 14th, 2007, 06:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jefarl
Do you remember what time the lifeboat drill was when you left Athens? I want to plan to meet someone for diner but don't want it interupted for the drill. I think the sailing is scheduled for 6pm.
My mind is a bit mushy after all this fun, but I believe the life boat drill was at 4:30 P.M., so your meeting time should be fine.
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Old May 14th, 2007, 11:01 PM
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the lifeboat drill was at 4:30pm BEFORE the sailing at 6PM??/ what about all the people who had not boarded the ship yet?? Did they do anything for those passengers who missed it, not that the drill is anything but a waste of time... if the bells actually did sound in an emergency, noone is going to run back to their room, get the preservers and then remember where and how to get to the muster station... its going to be a free for all for the life boat stations!!!!

No seriously, they did it before everyone was on board?? Wow.
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Old May 15th, 2007, 09:46 AM
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Default camel riding

Was it hard to find a camel to ride? I had heard they were discouraging that now but I guess not? How much did it cost?
Thanks!
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Old May 15th, 2007, 02:19 PM
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Default Weather and visas

What temperatures has the weather been? I'm really struggling with what to pack and wear in the ports. Is it warm enough to go in the pools or ocean? We are on the May 31st sailing.

Any word on the visas (Egypt and Turkey) and what the ship charges? We are a family of 5 so that adds up quick
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Old May 15th, 2007, 02:48 PM
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That picture of the open market personifies Europe and beyond to me, that picture was awesome.

Since I know you both, I can say....Ya know that old saying that the longer you are married the more you look alike? That cute picture of the two of you says its true

Keep on having a ball, for all of us seeing this great trip through your eyes!
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Old May 15th, 2007, 05:14 PM
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Kuki, reading about your cruise and seeing the pictures has absolutely made my day. Folks at work are laughing at me cause I'm oooh'ing and ahhh'ing (they came running over here to see what the heck is going on) and I was about to break out in tears at the picture of that camel and the pyramids (they all know I'm planning to go next year). I have to re-read this when I get home so I can turn Shrek green with envy. Thank you for the wonderful posts.
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Old May 15th, 2007, 07:46 PM
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NCL Jewel - Virtual Cruise Report
May 15 - Santorini, Greece

The Jewel was scheduled to arrive to anchor off Santorini at 8 A.M. I woke up for a minute at 6:30, and saw we had already arrived, and we were just getting into position at anchor. We had not booked a tour here, and those in tour groups were tendered to shore first. They had been told when and where to meet on their tour tickets, and it was pleasant not having to listen to announcements about disembarking tours on deck. The entire process seemed to have gone very smoothly, because by 8:30 they were already announcing calls for those with tender tickets not on tours, and by 9 A.M. they announced open tenders.

(Santorini from the aft deck in the morning)

We left the ship shortly after 9, and it worked out perfectly. As we reached the dock there was a very short wait for the cable car to take us up the mountain, to the town of Fira. The Cable Car costs $4 Euro per person, and they do not sell return tickets.
One can also do the climb on the famous donkeys for the same $4 Euro per person.
I took video of the ride up in the cable car, but will have to wait until I get home to share it, as the file is too large to send from here.

Holland America’s Veendam and Westerdam arrived after us, but the Jewel seemed to have the superior anchor position, closer to the docks, and the exit from the tenders was right at the base of the cable car entry/exit. We were told once the passengers from the HAL ships began landing the cable car got quite lined up.


Later in the day, as we were set to return to the ship, the lines to get on the cable car for the trip down were extremely long. I had thought we should ride the donkeys down anyway, just for the experience, and earlier Mrs. Kuki had hesitated. Now, rather than walk down, she relented. The ride down was actually fun, and a bit of an adventure, as you trusted the burrows to climb down the slick stairs with slipping. They were surprisingly obedient to the man leading them down. At the bottom, looking back up the mountain to town, it was amazing to see how smoothly our descent had gone.

(This is me getting off at the end of the ride down)

The only thing is the donkey’s REALLY stink. No one wanted to sit near us on the tender back to the ship. We arrived back, and headed directly to the shower.

Later we did overhear conversation amongst other passengers about having to walk down the long winding steps to the dock because the cable car lines were so long, and some weren’t really in condition to be doing so.

But.. Back to the beginning of the day. As we exited the cable car, we began to stroll down the first side street we came across, and stopped at the first car rental spot we saw. With full insurance a 4 door automatic costs us $60 Euro for the day. The system all the rental car companies here us, is the vehicles only have the amount of gasoline in them that the previous renter left. After walking over to where the cars were actually kept, and signing the paper work, we saw the gas tank was almost empty. They told us there was a gas station just 2 Kilometers in either direction. So, we chose a direction and put in $10 Euros worth of gasoline. Therefore, the cost of the vehicle for the day was $70 Euro for the four of us.
If we had walked a few blocks farther there was many rental agencies along the street, and we may have found a less expensive agency.

Almost by accident we found the longer route to Oia (pronounced Eya), the town we wanted to visit. But the routes are quite well marked, so it would be tough to get lost. Taking the longer route worked out well as we got to see some of the countryside. Here’s some of my favorite pictures from the Oia. More can be found in the photo galleries.









Santorini is an amazing volcanic island. The entire center of the island sank during an enormous eruption 3500 years ago, and smaller islands consisting of black volcanic rock are visible just off the shores of today’s Santorini.
At the time of the eruption a tidal wave was created that virtually wiped out the Minoan Civilization on Crete. Aside from Fira and Oia there are 9 other villages on Santorini. The beaches and resorts of Santorini are located on the opposite end of the island, from Oia, and with our limited time in port we didn’t make it down that way.

By the way, Santorini is the only port on this itinerary where tendering is required.

Mrs. Kuki and I got a VERY special treat this evening as Captain Constantine Fafalios invited us to visit the bridge during the sail-a-away from Santorini. This Master of the Vessel is an Athenian, and truly a delightful personality. He most certainly demonstrates the wonderful hospitable Greek spirit I spoke about in yesterday’s report. And ladies with plans to sail the Jewel, he’s single!


Being on the bridge as they hoisted the anchor, and sailing past the tall walls of volcanic layers, with white buildings hanging on the edges of the cliffs offered us visually stunning views.


Captain Fafalios explained that there is only one anchor position at Santorini, and the other ships in today couldn’t drop anchor because there locations had seas to deep, therefore they had to maintain their positions all day by using the ship’s engines. The Jewel got access to the anchor position because the Master of the Vessel is Greek.

While on the bridge Captain Fafalios and I discussed the recent sinking of the “cruise ship? off of Santorini. He pointed out the location of the incident, and gave me binoculars to get a better look at the site, relatively close by. He then showed me the depth and position charts on the bridges computers, and explained why this incident occurred. Basically it seemed to me from the explanation that the small Greek owned ship got much too close to the shore, in an area that was simply not deep enough for it to transit safely. The Captain said the ship now lies at the bottom of 140 meters of sea.


As we spoke, and I was busy taking pictures, the Captain offered to take a picture of Mrs. Kuki and I, as we sailed past the hills, with Oia (the village we visited earlier in the day), on the edge of Santorini. It was a really nice offer, and we were chuckling as he took the picture taking assignment very seriously; getting down on his knees to get just the right angle. There was obviously no pretentiousness in this Captain. He really is, simply put, a nice guy!

We were also joined on the bridge by the Jewel’s Hotel Director, Armando De Silva, from Madeira Island. We loved stopping at Madeira on two previous transatlantic sailings we’ve done, so we had lots to talk about, and Armando told some great stories, and gave us some interesting history on the island. It really I a hidden gem on Mediterranean itineraries, and if you every get a chance to visit, no doubt you’ll agree.

Later in the evening we dined with Armando, and the Food & Beverage Director, Denis Prugda (who we’d previously sailed with on the Dawn). We met in the Star Bar before dinner, and had such delightful and animated conversation that I think our 8 PM reservation at Cagneys got closer to 9:00. But, dining with these two, I knew our table wouldn’t disappear. Dinner, was of course, outstanding, and the staff actually remembered our preferences from our previous two visits. Though tonight I crossed them up, and had an excellent Veal Chop instead of the steak. We lingered over dinner for quite some time, until both Armando and Denis had to go to work to check on the late night deck party.

Bridge tours are unfortunately not part of the “normal? cruise experience these days. We were allowed on the bridge because of CruiseMates relationship with NCL, and I’d previously done a “behind the scenes story? with Denis Prugda, not because we’re anyone special. We’re just known not to be any type of security risk.

I wanted to share the story with you because I think it’s important to know how very nice these people are, how dedicated they are to their professions, and how friendly and approachable they are. If you’re fortunate enough to sail on the Jewel with any of them, don’t be shy about walking up and saying hello!! They’ll most certainly be happy to take the time to talk to you. Tell them you’ve read all about them at CruiseMates. And if you’re onboard, I won’t be, so tell them I miss them, and look forward to the next time we can sail together.
Tomorrow is the last Greek port of call on this cruise, Mykonos. Captain Fafalios tells me it’s one of his favorite islands, and we should check out Paradise Beach, so that’s on our agenda.
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Old May 15th, 2007, 07:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jefarl
the lifeboat drill was at 4:30pm BEFORE the sailing at 6PM??/ what about all the people who had not boarded the ship yet?? Did they do anything for those passengers who missed it, not that the drill is anything but a waste of time... if the bells actually did sound in an emergency, noone is going to run back to their room, get the preservers and then remember where and how to get to the muster station... its going to be a free for all for the life boat stations!!!!

No seriously, they did it before everyone was on board?? Wow.
Most everyone is onboard by that time. If they're not they are really cutting it short.
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Old May 15th, 2007, 07:58 PM
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Default Re: camel riding

Quote:
Originally Posted by jbm375
Was it hard to find a camel to ride? I had heard they were discouraging that now but I guess not? How much did it cost?
Thanks!
One of the tours offered by NCL in Cairo is a camel ride and jeep safari, which I heard was alot of fun.

Mine was not a camel ride per se. But a quick jaunt above one of the view points by the Pyramids. The cost was $5 Euro.
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