Archive for August 2012

The clock is ticking…   Leave a comment

Five and a half weeks on the clock until we wing our way to Barcelona to board the Norwegian Epic for our seven-day Western Med cruise.

At 45 days out, NCL.com opens up the booking window so you can make dinner and show reservations.

I took advantage and booked Moderno for our first night (a Brazilian-style churrascaria).  There probably wasn’t a real need to do so if our last few cruises are anything to go by.  It seems that the pay restaurants are often nearly empty, even at what we consider prime dining time (around 7:00).  That said, we wanted to eat there our first night, and as making the reservation on-line (and paying for it!) saved me the 8% Spanish VAT, it made sense to book.

I will wait until we board to deal with other restaurant reservations.  DH and I are both Platinum cruisers on NCL which means we each get a free dinner at Le Bistro, NCL’s French restaurant.  Actually I’ve read that has changed and you now get vouchers entitling you to $15 off per person for the restaurant of your choice.  If that’s the case I like being able to choose where we want to eat, BUT as Le Bistro is $20 pp, the $15 (if true) is a bit of a gyp.  We shall see!

You can also book entertainment ahead of time (important when the theater holds around 1400 passengers and there are 4,000 passengers on board).  Entertainment is free (except for the dinner-show, Cirque Dreams) so there’s no risk booking somthing then changing your mind later.  I booked Blue Man Group (although we did see this show the last time we were on the Epic) and the comedy show (not Second City as the ship is in Europe).  We’ll see if we actually go to either!

It’s nice that NCL lets the anal-retentive planner, well, plan ahead.  🙂

Now it’s onto some minor purchases that need to be made…want to get a few more Euros before we leave…need batteries for the camera…you know.  Little details…

Soon the piles will begin to form in the room we use for packing, then I’ll really know the cruise is almost here!!!

Posted August 27, 2012 by cubechick in Western Med Cruise!

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60 Days until the Western Med!   Leave a comment

I think the time has come for me to begin a Western Mediterranean cruise section.  Our cruise aboard the Norwegian Epic has been paid-in-full and the edocs printed (that’s the cruise ticket and excursions list).  At 60 days until we fly to Barcelona, Spain, this cruise is no longer qualifies for “General Cruise Planning”!  It’s the real deal!

I booked our final excursion with NCL yesterday:  A trip to Aix-en-Provence while we are in Marseilles, France.

Our itinerary is looking like this:

A private ½ day tour of Barcelona upon our arrival.  This is Barcelona for dummies, with Barcelona Day Tours picking us up at the airport and taking us around Barcelona before dropping us at our hotel.  I figure the expense of this tour is far outweighed by the personalized service.  As I anticipate being awake for over 24 hours by the time we arrive in Barcelona (can’t sleep on planes to save my life!), I think being led around by the nose sounds like a great idea!

As for the excursions on the cruise, we booked them all through NCL.  Yes, this is more expensive, but it’s easy and with most of the destinations being at least an hour from the port, we won’t have to worry about an unexpected traffic jam keeping us from the ship (the ship will wait for all ship-sponsored excursions).  Plus, unless you can get in with a group, many of the private tours are actually more expensive than those offered by the cruise line!

In Naples we’re going to hike Mt. Vesuvius and visit Pompeii.

In Rome we’re doing the “Classical City Tour” which will take us around the highlights of ancient Rome, concluding at St. Peter’s Basilica.  We also get a (hopefully!) tasty lunch with a little vino thrown in there!

In Livorno we’re visiting Pisa followed by a wine tasting and lunch at a Tuscan vineyard.

We plan on giving ourselves a bit of a day off and just walking around Cannes on our own.  (With the only sea day being the first day of the cruise, this is going to be a bit of an exhausting trip!)

We’ll wrap up with the aforementioned tour of Aix-en-Provence.

I mentioned before that NCL does charge you for your tours at the time of booking.  I wasn’t too keen on this concept when it was introduced last year, but have found I rather like it as it allows me to space out the cost of the excursions (I’ve booked one excursion per month) rather than getting walloped with a huge bill at the end of the cruise.

However there’s an extra bonus because this is a Western Med cruise.  Booking (and paying for!) your excursions (and specialty restaurant reservations!) in advance, eliminates you paying Spanish VAT tax!  As the ship never leaves the European Union, you are subject to Spanish VAT for the entire length of the cruise!  That’s (currently) 8% on all food and drink and 18% on goods and services!  That’s non-refundable (except for merchandise…and there are restrictions there) VAT!  Yikes!

So we’re fully booked and ready to go!  Okay.  Not ready to go.  I think it’s about time to print out the packing list and start thinking about what we’re bringing…DH mentioned bringing just ONE suitecase!  I see some “practice packing” in my near future to see if that’s even feasible!  🙂

Posted August 6, 2012 by cubechick in Western Med Cruise!

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