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Old May 6th, 2007, 04:51 PM
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Default Revisit my May 5-19 Virtual Cruise on NCL Jewel

Pre Cruise - Athens

Getting There Isn’t Half The Fun:
You really DON'T want to fly with me!! My trials and tribulations, getting anywhere continues.... each time there's a new twist.

It was raining in Calgary, and then it turned to a very light snow on Thurs. afternoon. No big deal I thought; the snow wasn't even sticking on the ground.

We loaded the car and headed to the airport 2 1/2 hrs before our flight.. for a 20-25 minute drive. EVERY major roadway was a parking lot. I had never seen our city traffic in such a mess... and couldn't figure out why (the light snow and rain seemed to be minimal). Which ever route I tried wasn't moving any faster than the last. After an hour and half we finally made it to the airport, ran to check in, and they told us the flight was CLOSED (we missed the closing time by 3 minutes).

I went just a wee bit ballistic... told them I had already printed out my boarding passes.... and begged them, and they must have seen tears welling in my eyes, as they reneged, and checked our bags, and notified the airplane. (I almost felt like I was in The Amazing Race).

The lines at security were HUGE, so Mrs. Kuki and I bypassed everyone, and begged the people at the front of the line to let us butt in, as an airplane was being held for us, and they were very kind to let us through.
We ran to the gate ala old OJ ads, only to find they hadn't even started boarding the airplane yet. I was angry and relieved at the same time. And once we did board, they said they were holding the airplane due to unexpected delays at security. And with a short layover in Frankfurt, I began to think we had to start worrying about making our connection to Athens.

The good news... we made our connection, flights were relatively smooth, our prearranged driver met us at the airport... and we made it to our hotel.

It's a lovely hotel, with a view of the Acropolis, called the Electra Palace. It was 288 Euro a night, but for a 4 star hotel in Europe, it’s truly not that expensive, and in an excellent location in the Plaka neighborhood.

It began to get dark as we checked in, so we decided to have dinner (even though it was our lunch time) an the roof top garden restaurant of the hotel, staring over to the Acropolis... and turn in early (or try), so hopefully we'll be on Athens time when we wake up.

Athens is an enormous city (well over 4 Million residents now), and most guide books you’d have read in the past would tell you it was a city that many people avoided, with a reputations for being dirty, and difficult to get around. A huge turning point came when Athens hosted the 2004 Olympic Games. The government and the people made a huge commitment, and spend huge amounts of money upgrading the infrastructure, the attitude and the ambiance that reflects Athens to those visiting the city.

Most everything you want to see is in the center of the city, and it’s truly a walking area. If you have the energy, your feet can carry you to most of the important tourist sites. If you desire to visit some of the sites built for the Olympics your hotel desk or concierge can arrange reasonably priced tours.

After getting a very good nights sleep, we awoke to our first full day in Athens, and the Acropolis hadn’t moved; still an amazingly beautiful site outside our window. The Electra Palace featured a very nice buffet breakfast, with freshly squeezed orange juice, “american��? coffee, and quite an extensive selection of breakfast foods; fresh breads and pastries, eggs prepared several ways, breakfast meats, potatoes, fruits, cheeses, etc.

Following breakfast we took our Lonely Planet Guide Book, and a map (a good map is essential), and set out on our walking tour of the area. As we had more CruiseMates meeting us in Athens this evening, we decided we’d save the Acropolis for the next day, to visit together, rather than do it twice. Instead we just set out to explore, using the suggested walking tour from Lonely Planet as a bit of guide.

I, of course, can’t resist adding an extra turn or twist to the recommended route every now and again, and of course that never fails to get us slightly lost; but that’s part of the fun. With the Acropolis high above you it’s pretty difficult to get totally lost for too long.

We managed to find Syntagma Square and the Parliament Building, the lovely central park area just to the east of it, and marched down past Hadrian’s Arch. From there we walked off the beaten path for awhile, just enjoying the warm temperatures and the new sites; eventually stumbling across the Athens Flea Market. After some time in the sizeable flea market, we made our way slowly back in the direction of the hotel. There’s numerous “tavernas“, shops, and bakeries, lining the streets of this area to stop for a drink, classic Greek lunch and desserts, or take away suvlaki stands.

As we’d returned up the pedestrian promenade and found ourselves back in Syntagma Square by late afternoon, we had lunch at an outdoor café right in the square. I thought $14 Euro, for lunch for two including soft drinks and bottled water, was quite a reasonable price…and the location made for excellent people watching.

After enjoying our people watching and lunch, and being a bit acclimatized to the neighborhood, we walked the 5 minutes back to our hotel to have an afternoon nap, and await the arrival of two of our CruiseMates.

Once they arrived safely, we made arrangements to meet in the lobby, at 8 P.M and go strolling, and just stumble across a choice from one of the local taverna to enjoy dinner. We examined some menus as we went, and found one with a large menu selection, and pricing not at all too costly, and we enjoyed a very tasty meal for $35 Euro per couple… but with no wine.

Day 2 - Athens

Another very pleasant breakfast this morning, in the hotel’s dining room, and then the 4 of us headed off on foot to wander, and make our way up to the Acropolis. After about an hour walking we came across the walkway to climb up to visit the Acropolis. It’s a fairly steep walk up to the top, and not an easy task for anyone with walking difficulties (though apparently on the other side than we used they do have a handicap entrance… some sort of elevator I assume).

Interestingly, as we made our way to the top, we saw staff talking to visitors on the pathway explaining that sitting to rest on historic rocks along the pathway was not allowed, only bottled water (no soft drinks) are allowed, and…. No smoking is allowed on the site (it’s about the ONLY place in all of Greece that smoking isn’t allowed. Greek’s are huge smokers, and smoking is allowed almost everywhere, including indoor restaurants and bars).

The views from above are quite spectacular, as is the history of the Acropolis itself. There’s currently significant restoration work being done around the site. We spent several hours just wandering around, while reading our guide book, before working our way down to street level again, on the opposite side of where we’d entered. We also found out that on Sunday’s entrance to the site was free, rather than the normal $12 Euro fee.

From there we explored more the city squares and a few of the shops that were open, even though most were closed because it was Sunday. Along the way we stopped for a drink at an outdoor café, and checked out menus and settings at others, looking for somewhere to have dinner tonight.

After returning to the hotel for a rest, and to clean up, we headed out for dinner at the Café we’d chosen; a very authentic Greek venue, with a guitar/singer soloist entertaining all evening… but not with traditional Greek songs… which would have been nice. Following dinner we returned to the Electra Palace Hotel, and sat outdoors, in the garden area, just off the lobby, talking, and enjoying our last evening in Athens.

Pictures of our visit are available in the CruiseMates Photo Galleries here:
http://www.cruisemates.com/gallery/view.php?id=3413

We’ve pre-arranged a driver for pick up tomorrow morning at 11:15 A.M. for our transport to the Port of Pireus, to board the Jewel for our newest adventure. Hopefully, if the ship’s internet cooperates we’ll start reporting back daily from the ship. Hoping you’ll join us to cruise along!
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Old May 7th, 2007, 05:47 PM
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Default MAY 7 - Day 1

Virtual Cruise Report - NCL Jewel
May 7 - The Cruise Begins

At precisely the time we’d pre-arranged, 11:15 A.M, our limo ride to the Port of Pireus arrived at the hotel.

I honestly hadn’t researched enough, and from a very faded memory - from my last visit to this area in 1972 - I thought it was a much longer ride to the port, than the 15 minutes it took. I was thinking it was an hour or longer ride, so chose to book the limo ( 90 Euro for 4 of us). In fact, we could have taken two taxis for 11 Euro per couple, plus a couple of extra Euros for the luggage, and a tip. In any event we had a very comfortable, fun, and luxurious ride to the port, even if it was considerably more than we needed to spend.

The driver did say that he’s been at the port earlier this morning, and things were a mess. The Jewel didn’t dock at her scheduled cruise terminal, as that spot was taken when she arrived. The result was there were no taxis waiting at the pier she did berth in, and apparently the wait for taxis for the disembarking passengers got very long until they could get all the taxis moved to the correct terminal building.


As our car arrived at the terminal we were greeted immediately by a porter who took all our bags, and an NCL representative showed us to the entrance of the terminal. The line up was quite short, as was the wait to check in, as we had filled in our guest registration forms online. By half past Noon we were relaxing on the pool deck, and thinking about lunch. The guest cabins were not going to be ready until 1 P.M. - which is pretty darn good because NCL allows disembarking passengers to stay in their cabins until they are called to leave the ship.

The Jewel is jewel! The thought of understated décor doesn’t enter one’s mind on this ship, yet somehow the upbeat, bold color schemes, and occasionally odd art work and public room furnishing all come together to form a nice “cruise energy?.

We had truly been looking forward to sailing the Jewel, offering NCL’s “Freestyle? on this itinerary. Aside from the fact that it’s a dreamy port intensive itinerary, we felt NCL’s “Freestyle? would be perfect with no set dining times, as well as no suggested dress codes and formal nights. Anticipating this, our packing was so much simpler for this trip, and even though we were going to be gone a total of 25 days, we only need 2 pieces of luggage for both Mrs. Kuki and me.

After lunch, and settling into our cabin, I called and got reservations for Cagney’s Steak House for this evening at 7:00 P.M., with no difficulty, and without the assistance of the Concierge (which is available to us).
Shortly after I got a call from a couple of CruiseMates who are on this cruise with us, but we haven’t met yet. They had just arrived from San Diego, Ca. this afternoon (flying SanDiego - Rome - Athens). Unfortunately their luggage did not make it to Athens, and at the time we spoke the airline had not yet located it, let alone be able to predict when it could be delivered. Guest relations was in contact with the airlines to try and locate the luggage, and assist in getting it to the ship, once it was found, even though their air was booked independently.

Tomorrow is a very short port stay (until 2:30 P.M in Katakolon) so it appears the earliest they may be able to get their luggage is Wed. when we stop in Corfu. It turns out the male member of this couple wears the same size clothing as I do… so if for some reason the luggage doesn’t arrive by Wed. I’ve offered him some of my clothing… but his wife is quite a small size, and may have some problems. We all certainly hope this situation gets resolved quickly and satisfactorily!!! Sadly it’s a dramatic demonstration inherent in problems that can arise by arriving the day of sailing from such a far away port. We’ll definitely be staying in touch with them to see if we can help in any way.

The sail-a-way this afternoon felt very much like a Caribbean sail-a-way party. A Caribbean band was playing, a hot sun was shining, and NCL’s traditional deck barbeque was in full swing. Even though dinner time is coming soon enough, on NCL these barbeques always pack the house.



As I watched some of the action at the party, I ran into Denis Prguda, the Food and Beverage Manager who I’d “worked? with for a day on the NCL Dawn, as well as Slada Stankic (who just came to the Jewel, after having brought out the Pearl), and some of the other management staff I’d become friendly with on our Dawn sailing. It was great seeing some familiar and friendly faces… and if time allows I’ll catch up with them a bit during the cruise, and share some of those stories with you.


Dinner in Cagney’s this evening was excellent. I’m a steak lover, and Cagney’s fit’s the bill! This is one of the surcharge restaurants (Cagney’s is $20 per per son), but as I’ve always said, in preparing for an NCL cruise if you add about $100 per person to the cost of your cruise fare right off the top - knowing you’re going to want to try some of the surcharge restaurants - you’re still getting great value, and normally even if with the extras, a good dining experience.

As we moved about the ship after dinner, and I passed other dining venues, I never saw lines anywhere, so I’m assuming most people got to dine pretty close to the times they wanted to.

Mrs. Kuki and our friends attended the single seating Welcome Aboard show, but I went to visit the Internet Café manager to get some assistance setting up my account, and came back to the cabin to get myself “up and running?, so I could begin sending in these daily reports.

The ship does have wireless hot spots, but not in the guest cabins. However, if you bring an Ethernet cable with you, you can connect your own laptop to the Internet in your cabin… as I’ve done.

There are some pictures of today available in our Photo Galleries.
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Old May 7th, 2007, 08:25 PM
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Thanks for all the quick reports, Kuki. It sounds wonderful so far. I'm going to go check out the pictures, and I look forward to the continuing story.

Phyll
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Old May 7th, 2007, 10:03 PM
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Wonderful so far...... Thanks for taking the time for us.
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Old May 8th, 2007, 12:41 PM
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Thanks for taking us along Kuki. I've been map questing your trip to see exactly where you are! Learning as much from you as Matt Lauer! Where in the world is Mr. and Mrs. Kuki? Has a nice ring to it................
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Old May 8th, 2007, 02:27 PM
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Kuki,
Great job, and fab pics!!!
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Old May 8th, 2007, 04:33 PM
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Default May 8 - Day 2

Virtual Cruise Report - NCL Jewel
Day 2 - May 8

Today’s Port of Call was Katakolon, Greece. Katakolon is a seaside town on the western coast of mainland Greece, and linked to nearby Olympia, the city chosen by Zeus to promote his culture among the Greeks. Most everyone touring today did visit Olympia, to see what’s left of the ancient ruins, and visit the museum there. That was our plan today, though we were going to simply find a taxi, rather than do an organized ship’s tour. However, Mrs. Kuki wasn’t feeling well this morning, and though she kept insisting I go on without her, I felt more comfortable staying close to see how she progressed.

The ship did offer continuous and free shuttles down the fairly long pier to town, though it was certainly also a walk able distance.

It was also a very short port visit today (with the ship sailing at 2:30 P.M.), so I didn’t mind staying onboard, and settling in a bit; getting all my tech equipment, cameras, chargers, etc. in some semblance of order in the cabin. A power strip is a must, if you’re at all like me, traveling with all the “gizmos?.

By the time everyone was back onboard and the ship was readying to sail, there was another pool-side barbeque, this time offering steaks as well as the burgers, hot dogs, and chicken to chose from.

The one thing I absolutely love about this ship is the multitude of tables and chairs both pool-side and on the stern aft of the Garden Café (the buffet area).
The Garden Café is also stretched over a large area with a tremendous number of “island stations?, each offering different theme items. The variety offered cumulatively at these various stations is most impressive, and the food quality of every item I’ve tried so far has been very good.

I had my lunch pool-side, and then strolled through the Garden Café, to the aft outdoor seating area (my favorite place on the ship), and I immediately made a mental note to myself; there were people everywhere, but there were waiting lines nowhere. These food areas are set up so well that traffic of the masses just seemed so easily absorbed by the space; better than any other ship I’ve sailed on.

While sitting on the aft deck I ran into the friends we’re traveling with, who did get off to visit Olympia. They had easily found a taxi, and shared it with another couple from the ship, and had paid $60 Euro per couple for the ride to Olympia, (about a 25 mile ride), and the driver waited for them, and brought them back to the ship after their visit.

During the course of my morning I also called Mama’s Kitchen (did you guess it was the Italian Restaurant onboard?) and made reservations for dinner this evening. I also decided that our first sea day (the day after tomorrow) might be a nice evening to dine in Le Bistro, so I called and booked that as well. In both cases I had no problem getting the reservation for the times I requested… without even going through the concierge service which is available to us.

I also ran into my old friend Slada Stankic this afternoon, and got a chance to chat for a bit. I noticed his name tag said Assistant Food & Beverage Director. When we met last on the Dawn he was the Restaurant Manager, so I noticed and mentioned his promotion. It turned out he had brought the Pearl out of the shipyard as her Restaurant Manager, and then had gone home to Australia for his vacation. After having done such a good job “bringing out? the Pearl, he got notice of his promotion and move to the Jewel. He’ll remain onboard now until November. It’s a long stretch, but on this contract his wife is onboard as well as the Future Cruise Consultant. We offered sincere congratulations on the promotion to a delightful young man.

Speaking of Australia; there’s close to 150 Australians on this cruise. G’Dy Mate! Slada tells me that’s 25 hrs. travel time getting from Sidney to Athens. That’s quite the trek! There are also 400 fellow Canadians onboard, and over 1000 Americans - plus smatterings of other nationalities from around the world.

Sticking around the ship today I also managed to hear some “rumors? about a couple of new ships in the planning for NCL. I personally don’t recall seeing any press releases on this… so it could be “hot off the presses?… 2 new ships to be built for NCL, at the moment called F 1 and F 2., with plans for 17 different restaurants onboard to chose for. NCL’s is soon going to claim the title of owning the youngest fleet in the industry, and the expansion and extension of the “FreeStyle experience? also makes it quite unique in the industry.

Except for some of the unfortunate problems they are having with the NCL America division, created almost entirely by the employment standards they have to abide by because they chose to flag those ships in the United States, in my view NCL is also one of the leading innovators in the industry.

By this evening Mrs. Kuki was thankfully feeling much better, and we dined at Mama’s Kitchen. It was another delightful meal, and though this restaurant has no cover charge, the service was every bit as good as we’d experienced last night at Cagney’s. Mama’s features a menu beginning with a trolley cart of antipasto choices brought tableside, salads, soups, mix and match choices for pizzas and pastas, as well as a number of entrée choices and desserts.
Mama’s also offers outdoor seating, on the stern. Though we didn’t sit out there, it looked quite lovely, and I think we may have to go back and request that location for dinner one evening…. Even if it’s only to get another dozen or so of those excellent breadsticks.

This evening’s show in the StarDust Theater was billed as “The Evolution of Manipulation? - action comedy by Edge. While the title certainly sounded interesting, it was a juggling/comedy show, without much “edge?. Though the appreciative reaction from the audience certainly seemed to differ from my opinion.

Tomorrow we spend the full day in Corfu, and I’m really looking forward to it. We’re planning to simply rent a car and go touring. I’m hoping the roadside signage is better than the guide books I’ve been looking at because from the reading I’ve done it appears our plan is to drive to Pancreatitis and climb to the top of Mount Colonoscopy. It’s all Greek to me!

BTW.. Internet service has been wonderful and quick.

Any questions anyone has feel free to ask, and I'll do my best to respond.
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Old May 8th, 2007, 08:23 PM
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Thanks Kuki,
I think we may want to give NCL another try after reading your posts. We were on the Dream in 2000 for the Baltic capitals.
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Old May 9th, 2007, 03:47 PM
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Kuki:

Great Job!!!!!

I enjoy reading your cruise reports and I'm not just kissing your moose rear.

I am also becoming a convert to Freestyle cruising. You made two quotes that I have concur with:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kuki
I had my lunch pool-side, and then strolled through the Garden Café, to the aft outdoor seating area (my favorite place on the ship), and I immediately made a mental note to myself; there were people everywhere, but there were waiting lines nowhere. These food areas are set up so well that traffic of the masses just seemed so easily absorbed by the space; better than any other ship I’ve sailed on.
I totally agree: NCL does the best at managing traffic flow. The only exception was in main dining room on the Norwegian Star. The people who wanted to be the first to be there when it opened backed up into the pub area.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kuki
if you add about $100 per person to the cost of your cruise fare right off the top - knowing you’re going to want to try some of the surcharge restaurants - you’re still getting great value, and normally even if with the extras, a good dining experience.
This is the same advice I give everyone sailing on NCL. It is the best way to get the maximum enjoyment out of the cruise. If you do this you will have a cruise experience that will rival the cruising on a luxury line at mass market prices.

I hope you enjoy your Testicularion excursion. I'm looking forward to more reports.

Take care,
Mike
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Old May 9th, 2007, 05:08 PM
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Ya know, Kukala.I think you broke some law, only having 2 suitcases...I am going to check

I am starving, and looking at the barbeque pictures, has me drooling.

Keep up this tough assignment, we are all green with envy You keep us riveted, waiting for the next chapter....have some fun for us!
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Old May 9th, 2007, 06:41 PM
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I called my TA today to have him start looking for a NCL cruise for my wife and I. We have cruised them before years ago on one of the ships they had stretched...we were not that impressed, however after reading this report I'm ready to try again on a two week cruise. Thanks for the reports and looking forward to more!!
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Old May 9th, 2007, 10:02 PM
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Default visa?

Hi Kuki, I love your virtual cruises. Can you find out if I need a visa for Egypt? I am a US citizen and will be doing a ship tour. Thanks
Karrie
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Old May 10th, 2007, 03:30 AM
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Quote:
I hope you enjoy your Testicularion excursion. I'm looking forward to more reports.
Mike.. good to see at least SOMEONE caught that joke.
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Old May 10th, 2007, 03:32 AM
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Default Re: visa?

Quote:
Originally Posted by karrie
Hi Kuki, I love your virtual cruises. Can you find out if I need a visa for Egypt? I am a US citizen and will be doing a ship tour. Thanks
Karrie
I did see a note about anyone with Cairo in their tour plans needing to get a "travel stamp" in their passport. However it's handled onboard, and not something you need to do in advance. I'll find out more details today, and reread the notice on it.
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Old May 10th, 2007, 03:37 AM
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Default May 9 - Virtual Report - Corfu, Greece

Virtual Cruise - NCL Jewel
May 9 - Day 2 - Corfu

We woke up this morning docked at the pier in Corfu, Greece, and a short time after our arrival the Oceania Nautica pulled into her berth.


Once again we had our breakfast from the buffet, out on the stern, aft of the Garden Café. Aside from the various buffet stations indoors at the Garden Café, as well as a station mid-ship by the pools, there is a buffet area out by the stern as well. There’s simply no waiting anywhere, and it truly is impressive how well these buffets handle the traffic.

In the terminal there is one car rental outlet (though there are others down the street outside of the terminal gates). A decision was made my Mrs. Kuki, and our cruise companions, that the people of Corfu would remain safe, if I wasn’t behind the wheel of a vehicle on their island. There are plenty of taxis available at the pier offering tours for the day, half day, etc. Each seemed to be offering very similar rates of $40 -$50 Euros per hour (for the car, not per person), so this is the route we chose to go. We talked to several drivers and chose one who seemed personable, and negotiated a rate of $150 Euros for a tour of at least 3 hours, and to be dropped in Old Town afterwards. The tour actually took almost 4 hours, but the driver asked only for the $150 Euros we’d agreed to.

By the end of the tour we were very glad we had chosen this option, rather than the rental car. The island didn’t appear that difficult to get around, as signage was good, but with a rental we’d have most assuredly stuck to the main routes, and missed many of the “side areas? that only someone with knowledge of the island could have taken us to. Many of the roadways are narrow, particularly through some of the mountain villages, and it’s surprising how some of these trucks and tour buses navigate the areas. But climbing through the mountains we were treated to some spectacular views of the seas and the countryside.


ht[img]tp://www.cruisemates.com/gallery/galleries/3418/63276.jpg[/img]



Tourism is the main industry of Corfu, and Greek Olives and the products derived from them,(even Olive soaps and lotions… not just oil) are also a large part of the economy here. Many of the locals have olive trees in their yards, as well as quite a number we saw who grow grapes to make their own wine - mainly for their own consumption, not for resale.

After touring through several mountain villages with multiple stops for photo ops of the breathtaking vistas, we made our way to Paleokastrista - a high traffic tourist beach area. From here boat trips to tour the caves are available for $3 Euros per person, but we didn’t go there. Did talk to some others on the ship later who did go see the caves and enjoyed it.
http://www.cruisemates.com/gallery/g...3418/63284.jpg

From Paleokastrista our driver made his way back to town, and dropped us in Old Town as we requested. We had the opportunity to stroll the narrow streets, do some window shopping, and I bought some of the wonderful Greek pistachios to take back to the ship to snack on later (like you need to bring food back to a ship.. Duh), and we stopped at café for a drink.

While In Old Town we visited a 300 year old synagogue which still has an active congregation of 60 Jewish people living on Corfu. The attendant explained that prior to World War II Corfu had approx. 3000 Jewish people amongst its population. By the end of the war there were none left alive on the island, though 150, who had been freed from interment camps in Germany and Poland did return to Corfu after the war. Today there are 60 Jewish people left on the island, and they are the ones maintaining the synagogue as an active congregation.





From Old Town it’s about a 25 minute walk back to the cruise terminal, or one can get a taxi for $10 Euro. We chose the stroll to see a few of the sites along the way.

Once back to the ship, there was yet another pool-side barbeque, and combining the food with a hot sunny day, the pool deck was definitely active once again.

People watching by the pool while snacking on the barbequed chicken I noted that there is a wide cross section of age demographic onboard. On longer itineraries I’ve come to expect a bit of an older crowd, but on this cruise that’s not the case. There’s even a surprising number of children onboard. It’s just a guess but I’d put the average age of passengers onboard to be in the mid 50s.

When I returned to the cabin, and we prepared to shower and get ready for dinner, to our surprise we had no water- in the toilet, sink, or shower. After about an hour the water service was restored, and we continued to clean up and get prepared for dinner. Talking to our friends, who are staying one deck below us, we knew they had no water either. I don’t know if the outage was ship wide, but I presumed it was. During the outage we did wonder how the galleys could operate if the water problem persisted. Thankfully we didn’t have to find out.

This evening we decided to dine in one of the ship’s two “main? (cost included) dining room; Tsars Palace. This is the larger of the two dining rooms, and unlike the ship’s alternate restaurants, the menus change nightly, and both these dining rooms do not accept advance reservations. There was a bit of wait to get in just after 8 P.M., when we arrived, but within minutes the line was gone and everyone seated. Tsar’s Palace seats over 500 passengers, and it is somewhat noticeable in the noise level within the restaurant.

Once again dining service was very good. For entrees tonight, my pork loin was very tasty. Mrs. Kuki enjoyed a New York Strip steak, and we shared a truly tasty Spaghetti Carbonnera. One of our tablemates ordered the salmon, which was tonight’s “chef’s recommendation?, but our companion said the fish turned out to be quite dry. After 3 days this was the first dish that any of the four of us felt there was anything at all to complain about, so that’s actually a pretty good satisfaction rating, considering we haven’t missed a meal yet! The waiter noticed, and immediately offered to replace the meal with another choice but our cruisemate refused the request, for some reason.

With the water issue we got to dinner a bit later than planned, and got done with dinner a bit to late to attend the comedy show in the Star Dust Theater. Instead we went to spend some time in the casino. I was really surprised to find several blackjack tables with $100 minimum bets, and the lowest minimum we saw was one $10 table. On the other major cruise lines I’ve found you may come across one table with a minimum bet of $ 25, but generally any higher limits must be requested. NCL must assume they have some high rollers on this cruise, but so far I’ve only seen one person playing at either of $100 tables.

I am a member of NCL’s “Players Program? - Casinos at Sea - so I do earn some perks throughout the cruise with my casino time. So you can get a little bit of your money back, even if you lose.

I spent about an hour or so in the casino, and then decided to make it an early night, and returned to the cabin before midnight. The staff throughout the ship’s public areas have been wonderful. They are friendly, seemingly happy, and helpful to a fault. A couple of quirky things have occurred with our cabin service, which have left me more stumped than displeased. The last couple of nights when returning to the cabin we’ve found those cute towel animals waiting on the bed to greet us. But oddly, the cabin staff seem to be using one of the two clean bath towels they leave to make them, leaving only one towel in the bathroom. It’s certainly not a huge issue, but I wanted to ask them about it, since it doesn’t make much sense, but I didn’t see them in the hallway tonight to satisfy my curiosity.
On the other hand I can’t complain about the way they’ve cleaned the cabin. That aspect has been just fine.

Tomorrow is our first sea day (one of only two on the entire cruise), as we sail our way to Alexandria, Egypt. We’re very excited about visiting the Pyramids, but also eager to enjoy a day to sleep in, and relax.
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Old May 10th, 2007, 06:27 AM
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I'd forgot to mention... when we returned to the ship in Corfu, there was a considerable amount of luggage that had caught up to the ship.
Talking to our cruisemates who's luggage hadn't arrived, did make it to the ship. Hopefully everyone's did!
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Old May 10th, 2007, 04:22 PM
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Default Ma7 10 - NCL Jewel - Day 4

Virtual Cruise Report - NCL Jewel
Day 4 - Day at Sea

I got a bit of an update on NCL’s upcoming plans for the F3 ships which I’d mentioned in a prior report - from a friend at NCL (Yup, I guess they are reading along)… I understand now, the contracts for these were announced in Nov. ‘06 (and I just forgot about it) but not many details have been announced yet, other than the contract for three 150,000 ton ships to be built by the Aker Yards in France is worth 2.17 BILLION Euros. That’s A LOT of Euros… approx. 2.8 Billion US dollars.
-- but the rumor of 17 different restaurants onboard sounds superb to me!

My plans for a morning to sleep in went slightly astray, when our telephone rang at 9 A.M. , with our cruisemate Bill Fairchild calling to share the news that they had indeed received their lost luggage in Corfu yesterday; which was wonderful news.

I’d had a slight problem with Internet service last night, so I had to go see the Internet Café manager Tom anyway, so I didn’t try and go back to bed. Got my problem sorted out, and headed up to the Garden Café for my coffee and Danish. As it turned out I’d missed the Destination Lecture: The Nile, Pharaohs, and Ancient Egyptians, at 9:15 A.M. - which I had wanted to see. I’ll just have to remember to check out the T.V. later, as it’s sure to be repeated.

After consuming enough coffee to at least gain consciousness I returned to the cabin to send in last night’s virtual report, which I hadn’t been able to send, then headed to the outdoor decks to catch some sun and relax.

While on deck today, I noticed on the edges of the overhang, near the covered seating areas, the ship is equipped with misters, ejecting a nice cool misty spray towards the sun decks. Very similar to what you’d find pool-side at luxury resorts, but I’ve never seen them on a mass market ship before. Nice touch!

Shortly after 12 Noon I decided it was time for some lunch, and I spent more time examining all the various island stations in the Garden Café, and the variety in offerings is truly quite astounding. Having just cruised another line a month prior, and commenting on a somewhat disappointing buffet, I now find myself at the other end of the spectrum. Personally, in my experience I’ve always thought of Holland America as the “champions? when it comes to buffets, but the Jewel has changed that opinion. NCL ‘s buffet areas are certainly deserving of being at least in an equivalent ranking.

Today, almost everything appealed to me. The variety at the sandwich bar was superb, with all sorts of selection and with an enormous selection of different freshly made breads, baguettes, and buns, with varying fillings. I chose a delicious crusty baguette filled with veggies and proccuito ham, then moved on to the pizza station for NCL’s very tasty version of pizza. To demonstrate some self control I stopped there, but I could have easily filled a couple of plates with items that appealed to my eyes.

I noticed in today's daily, scheduled meetings for various affinity groups, ie Military meetings, Police and Firefighters meetings, Friends of Dorothy. So now it’s time for NCL to offer CruiseMates Internet Connections????

We need to make a BIG pitch to NCL to get them to commit to CruiseMates Internet Connectors functions. NCL is PERFECTLY suited to this, and
particularly because of Freestyle it would be a GREAT fit.

Many people traveling on NCL likely don't know more than a few others going
on their cruise, and without traditional assigned tables and dining times, for some it's somewhat more difficult to meet people, or find others to dine with, if you’re not an outgoing type of personality.

I think on NCL they could make this concept very effective! There are numerous possibilities… like having a "connections concierge" available at the meetings, to
facilitate dining reservations for those who attend the meetings, and possibly meet others they'd like to try to arrange to dine with or enable we Internet junkies to plan on joint shore excursions in advance of getting on the ship, etc.

There's all kinds of angles that come to mind that could build this up
pretty easily, and successfully, that would bear little cost, but could enhance the cruise experience for the ever growing community of cruisers who search, use, and share so much of their cruise information on the “net?.

This evening at 6 we arranged to meet for drinks with some CruiseMates friends we’d never previously met. Bill and Sandy from San Diego, and Judy from British Columbia, and her daughter Suzanne, who by coincidence also lives in Calgary, Alberta. I’d forgotten my camera in the cabin, but we’ve agreed to get together again later in the cruise for dinner, so we’ll get pics then.

After drinks with them we left to attend a cocktail party with the Captain, and senior staff in the Spinnaker Lounge. As we passed the reception line, and introduced ourselves to the Captain, I extended my hand for a handshake and was told they don’t shake hands. I quickly drew back my hand and stuck it in my pants, and apologized. This policy to not shake hands in the reception line is not due to etiquette, but rather sanitation prevention policies.

They are very careful on this ship about this. Not only do they have the hand sanitizing dispensers at the entries to all public food facilities, these dispensers are manned by staff requesting guests use the dispensers. They are very diligent about this, and even returning to ship from ports of call, staff stand there with spray bottles and spray everyone’s hands. I think it’s a good idea.

After the reception line broke up, Armando Da Silva, the Hotel Director, who I’d met earlier in the cruise brought the Captain over to me, and the first thing he did was extend his hand for a hand shake. It was either to make me feel more comfortable for my earlier faux pas, or he’d seen the video of my using the hand sanitizer as I entered the room.

We had reservations at La Bistro immediately after the cocktail party, and though this restaurant carries a $20 per person surcharge, it’s most certainly worth the money. The food was outstanding, as was the service, as was the ambience which accompanies the experience.

The Jean Ryan production company were tonight’s entertainment, with a show called Band on the Run, and everyone raved about the show! I headed to the cabin early, skipping the show, to write tonight’s report, and try to get to be early.

Tomorrow we arrive in Alexandria, Egypt for an overnight stay. We’ve booked a full 12 hour tour for tomorrow, called “The Pyramids & The Nile in Style?. This will be our first ever visit to Egypt, and I hope to bring back lots of pictures as well as video to share.
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Old May 10th, 2007, 04:34 PM
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Quote:
I extended my hand for a handshake and was told they don’t shake hands. I quickly drew back my hand and stuck it in my pants, and apologized. This policy to not shake hands in the reception line is not due to etiquette, but rather sanitation prevention policies.
On our last three cruises on the Grand and the Golden, the captain wore white gloves for the very same reason. However, they did shake hands.
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Old May 10th, 2007, 04:49 PM
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Default Loving your posts

Thanks so much for the virtual experience. I am on this same cruise next week- though we are doing it in reverse Reading your posts has made me so much more excited. I'm so happy to hear the great things about the ship as I've read some less than positive reviews on other (older) reviews.
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Old May 10th, 2007, 07:43 PM
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I am so ready for your cruise! I have to figure a way to get my DH as excited as I am! He is soooooo worried about traveling abroad........He has never done it before.......any suggestions will be happily received.............Egypt is going to be soooooo interesting............ 8)
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Old May 10th, 2007, 11:07 PM
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Would it be possible to have more description of the cabins?

Are they simelar to DAWN and what would you say are the differences.

On the New Years Eve cruise on DAWN there were about 600 Canadians, mainly from Ontario and Quebec. This is because it leaves from NEW YORK, saving air fare and a ton of hassle. On Spirit, there were also ALOT of Canadians. I remember this past cruise staff said there seeems to be more and more Canadians leaving from New York. The Pier Parking lot is for sure full when we leave. We are booked on GEM, which will be the sister ship to Jewel, so I am curious about the differances and similarities between DAWN and JEWEL.

On all our NCL cruises, none of the staff did the hand shake thing and because of my background and knowing why, I was real glad they didn't. They also used far more hand sanitizer than any other cruise and were very strict about using it before entering dinniong area's, even in the buffet line, they wopuld not hand us the cuttlery till they saw us wash.

I understand there is internet connections in the cabin with ethernet cabel. How is the wireless in the wifi parts of the ship? What is the internet area like on this ship? Have they gone to a smaller internet area ( as compared to Dawn and Spirit) because of the cabin hookups? I also always liked NCL's internet area's - which are actual area's, where you can relax and take your time, as compared to Carnivals hallway conversion internet area

Laundry facillities on board...what are they like?

I was told when I noticed they used our fresh towel to make towel animal that they do this to help save on laundry.

Thank you for your consideration to answer my questions.
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Old May 11th, 2007, 10:18 AM
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Default Fitness Center?

Have you had a chance to check out the fitness center yet? I'm curious as to how many machines there are (mostly weights) and how crowded it gets. Thanks!
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Old May 11th, 2007, 05:29 PM
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Quote:
Would it be possible to have more description of the cabins?

Are they simelar to DAWN and what would you say are the differences.
Quote:
Have you had a chance to check out the fitness center yet?
It's a very port intensive itinerary.. but on the next sea day I'll report some on the cabins, and the ship itself.
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Old May 11th, 2007, 05:32 PM
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Default May 11 Virtual Cruise - Egypt

Virtual Cruise Report - NCL Jewel
May 11 - Day 5 - Alexandria, Egypt


Today reminded me again why I really dislike the big, ship’s organized shore excursions; the problem- your tour only moves as fast as the slowest person, and any disorganization has a tendency to snow ball because of that.

With a port of call like Alexandria, Egypt I was a bit unsure about booking private more intimate tours, so we booked the ship’s tour called “The Pyramids and The Nile in Style?.

It would be really difficult to screw up the actual spots we visited on this tour; after all it’s tough to mess with the magnificence of the pyramids, the Sphinx, The Citadel and Mosque, and an afternoon cruise along the Nile.

However the delivery of the product could have made the day even more pleasurable. I’m sure nearly everyone on the ship was going out on tour today, and it seemed everyone of those tours was assigned to meet in the Star Dust Theater. Our tour was to be a long one, from 8 A.M. to 8 P.M., and our tickets asked us to report to the Star Dust Theater at 7:45 A.M. We arrived promptly to find the theater packed with tour passengers lined up down the hall. As we slowly moved into the theater, we found they were still calling passengers for tours which should have already left. They were still searching out ticketed passengers for those tours, and thus delaying later tours. Our tour was finally called to leave the theater at 8:30 P.M, and made our way to our bus by 9 A.M.
We then found out we would be waiting until all the buses for this tour would be waiting until every bus going was full in order to form a convoy to Cairo. They said there were 600 people from the ship on this tour, so that is a “ship load? of buses. By 9:30 A.M. the convoy finally departed the port. By 10 A.M. every bus in the convoy had passed ours, and even a tailing escort had left us behind. No more convoy, that we’d waited around to travel in… though aside from the convoy, each bus, including ours, had a well armed (machine gun under the suit) security guard onboard.

We left the port late this morning, and then at several stops we were delayed further by passengers in the tour ignoring instructions on when to be back to the bus to move on the next sight. We were all reminded several times that we were trying to fit a lot sight-seeing into one day, so timing was an issue. Unfortunately there are always those who think rules don’t apply to them… and on these tours they are the ones who end up controlling the timetable for everyone.

The end result was a VERY long day, where we didn’t end up returning back to the ship until 9:30 P.M. Later this evening I spoke to some passengers, on the same tour, but on a different bus, and they returned to the ship by 7:30 P.M.
Frankly that extra 2 hours on a cramped bus, where some people wanted the air-conditioning on, and some wanted it off, left me pretty cranky.

A combination of a better system of disembarking the tours, and more considerate bus-mates could have made this a much smoother tour.

As I mentioned above, the sights our tour visited were quite fantastic and breathtaking. And because of the long day today, and early tour again tomorrow morning, I’m going to have combine the details of our two days in Egypt into tomorrow’s report. As tomorrow we’re only doing a half day tour, if it doesn’t turn into a full day tour by accident, I’ll be posting some very interesting photos and some fun stories to share, tomorrow afternoon on our return.

I really have to get some sleep now!
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Old May 11th, 2007, 05:39 PM
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Dear "Mr." Kuki;

I am new to this site, but I have been following your adventure since I stumbled upon it several days ago. We are taking the Western Med. cruise this July. This is a fairly ambitious leap for us as we are traveling withour 10 yr old boy/girl twins. I have a question, and you seem to be the resident expert, so I thought I would pose it to you. We want to see Rome and Florence on our own and we thought it would be an interesting adventure to take the train into both those cities, but I have read that it can be difficult to get from port to train station into the city and back. Our other option is to take the motor coach transfer offered by NCL. Setting cost aside what is your advice? Would it be a thrilling treat for the kids to ride the train....or more of a hassle and we should just take the transfer?? Thanks so much for any input you can offer. I am really enjoying reading your posts!!
Sincerely;
jordygirl
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Old May 11th, 2007, 09:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kuki
Quote:
Would it be possible to have more description of the cabins?

Are they simelar to DAWN and what would you say are the differences.
Quote:
Have you had a chance to check out the fitness center yet?
It's a very port intensive itinerary.. but on the next sea day I'll report some on the cabins, and the ship itself.
Thank you. That is another reason actually why we now prefere NCL. We prefere port intensive cruises.
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Old May 11th, 2007, 09:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by "jordygirl
am new to this site, but I have been following your adventure since I stumbled upon it several days ago. We are taking the Western Med. cruise this July. This is a fairly ambitious leap for us as we are traveling withour 10 yr old boy/girl twins. I have a question, and you seem to be the resident expert, so I thought I would pose it to you. We want to see Rome and Florence on our own and we thought it would be an interesting adventure to take the train into both those cities, but I have read that it can be difficult to get from port to train station into the city and back. Our other option is to take the motor coach transfer offered by NCL. Setting cost aside what is your advice? Would it be a thrilling treat for the kids to ride the train....or more of a hassle and we should just take the transfer?? Thanks so much for any input you can offer. I am really enjoying reading your posts!!
Sincerely;
jordygirl
Jordygirl,
I'm not Kuki but I am part of the Cruisemates staff. If you are not an experienced traveler and especially with two 10 yr. old children, I would opt for the transfers. This will make the logistics of your tour less of a problem. Also, if you go off on your own and arrive back late to the ship you will be on your own and the ship will not wait for you. If this occurs you will be responsible for getting yourself and the rest of your family to the next port or back home, not the cruise line.

The other option would be to arrange a private tour and guide to pick you up at the ship and return you to the ship with time to spare. Allowing a buffer of time and going with a reliable tour company and guide is critical for a safe and worry free private tour. This is what I do in most ports.

Take care,
Mike
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Old May 12th, 2007, 12:14 AM
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This is a great service! We are leaving on the Jewel on May 31st with the same itineray and having fun reading your updates. Just found the site tonight and will pass it on to my roll-call too.
Can you tell me what the situation on visa's for those not on the ship's overnight tours in Egypt? NCL won't give us a straight answer but I was told they do arrange the visa stamps the day you are at sea and just charge $20 or so. Can you ask around and let me know. Also wanted to confrim the visa situation if someone is staying in Istanbul another day. Does the ship arrange the visa or does one get it at the dock?

As for the ship, glad that the specialty resturants are easy enought to reserve. We love to use them and agree its worth the few extra bucks especially considering the total cost of the vacation.

I was surprised that you said the minimum bet on the blackjack tables was $10. Every ship we have been on has had $5 tables, even if only 1 or 2. Did that change during the daytime or have they changed to $5 since the first couple of days?

I am sure I will have more questions as the days and ports go by... oh 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.

one more quesiton for the night... which ports are you tendering and which have docks?

Again... great service...can't wait for my criuse!!!

jef
Bensalem, PA, USA
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Old May 12th, 2007, 02:24 AM
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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
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Old May 12th, 2007, 06:17 AM
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Default Smoking?

Thank you so much, Kuki, for taking us along on this wonderful cruise. You definitely have me interested in trying an NCL sailing.

What's the situation with smoking onboard? Is it allowed in the cabins, public areas, etc.?

Inquiring minds would like to know.

Blue skies ...

--rita
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