NCL Jade Cruise Sneak Peek

by Gray Cargill on April 29, 2015

Post image for NCL Jade Cruise Sneak Peek

As of the writing of this post, I am less than 2 weeks out from my trip to Venice and my cruise aboard the Norwegian Jade. I’m really excited about seeing all the ports on my itinerary, and relaxing about the ship. But the amount of hours I’ve put into preparations for this trip is staggering. I forgot how much is involved getting ready for a week-long cruise!

I’ve been planning for this trip for almost a year (it took me that long to save the money, but the trip is almost entirely paid for, so–yay!), but I waited until after my Vegas trip in January to do the bulk of the preparations. What did I need to do?

  • Figure out my ground (and water) transportation options for my stay in Mestre/Venice before and after my cruise.
  • Find a hotel that would allow me to book just one night before the cruise and one night after (that was no easy feat on a weekend, and is how I wound up booking a hotel in Mestre instead of Venice).
  • I’ve never been aboard the Jade before, so I needed to review what’s available aboard the ship in terms of dining, entertainment, and other facilities.
  • I researched each cruise port (5 total) I’ll be visiting to determine what might be of interest to me in each port.
  • Then I researched all 60 shore excursions available on this cruise to determine which, if any, would allow me to do most of what I wanted to do.
  • I also had to research the “do it yourself” options for each port, just in case I didn’t see any shore excursions I liked, or I wanted to save money.
  • I created cheat sheets of language basics (please, thank you, where’s the bathroom, etc.) in Italian, Croatian, and Greek. (Croatian and Greek were so difficult, I gave up on Turkey. I’ll be lucky if I can remember the Italian.)
  • Figured out what currency is used in each country I’m visiting, and how much I might need based on what I plan to do.
  • Downloaded maps and instructions from online websites that will help me find everything I need to find.
  • Bought a map of Venice.
  • Researched where to find public bathrooms in each city (for obvious reasons).
  • Signed up for my Roll Call on Cruise Critic to “meet” other travelers ahead of time and sign up for some onboard activities with the group.
  • Researched whether or not I’d need a visa for Turkey (no, since we stop there in the middle of the cruise).
  • Stocked up on Bonine.

It’s been time-consuming and exhausting, but I finally feel prepared. If I hadn’t done all this research and planning, I’d have been a quivering, neurotic mess right now. (Believe me, 2 weeks ago, I was.)

So, what do my days look like?

Gondolas in Venice Italy

Gondolas in Venice, Italy by Boss Tweed, Creative Commons

Venice, Italy

I’ll be leaving Vermont on a Thursday and arriving Friday morning in Italy. I’ll get a ticket for the ATVO Fly Bus and take that to the train station in Mestre, which is conveniently across the street from my hotel. I’ll check into the hotel and buy an ACTV tourist card that will allow me unlimited 24-hour access to the public bus into Venice as well as the vaporettos in Venice. I’ll spend Friday seeing the sights in Venice.

On Saturday, I’ll check out of the hotel and catch a taxi to the cruise terminal, where I’ll board the ship around noon and start exploring it. There’s a Cruise Critic Sail Away at 6pm, a solo traveler meetup organized by the cruise line at 6:30pm (I believe, though I won’t know for sure until I’m aboard the ship), and dinner with some members of Cruise Critic at 7:30pm.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

I’ll get to sleep in on Sunday, since we don’t arrive in Dubrovnik until 2pm. I’m doing Dubrovnik on my own. My first stop will be the Tourist Information Office near where we dock in Gruz. One of the other ladies on the roll call tipped me off to the Dubrovnik Tourist Card, which will allow me to take the public bus from the cruise port into Old Town and also admits me to various museums and to walk the Old Town wall. I’ll walk the wall and the Stradun and just explore Old Town. I’ll probably grab dinner here, since we’re in port until 9pm.

Old Town Dubrovnik

Map of Old Town Dubrovnik. (That blue line is the Stradun. “A” is Pile Gate, and “B” is Ploce Gate.)

Sea Day

Monday is a sea day, so I get to relax a bit. There’s a Cruise Critic Meet and Greet scheduled in the late morning I’ll attend, but otherwise, my day is wide open. I’ll be sure to peruse the daily list of activities they leave in my cabin the night before to figure out what I might want to do.

Athens, Greece

Tuesday, we arrive bright and early in Athens. I’ve signed up for a Norwegian shore excursion called “Acropolis and Leisure”. I really wanted to make sure I had a guide to explain the history and significance what I was looking at while touring the Acropolis, since this is one of the most important stops of the week for me. The tour includes a couple of hours to tour the neighborhood of Plaka on our own. Please pray that I don’t get lost and miss the bus back to the ship. Heh. #JokingNotjoking

Kusadasi (Ephesus), Turkey

Wednesday brings us to the port of Kusadasi, Turkey, where I’ll be joining another Norwegian shore excursion, this time a half day to the ruins at Ephesus, including the Library of Celsus and the Terrace Houses (the houses of the rich). Again, I wanted a guide to explain the significance of what I’ll be looking at. The unfortunate part of Norwegian’s excursions in the port of Kusadasi is all of the ones in my price range involve a mandatory stop at something known as “Ephesus Theme Park” (which sounds kind of like Colonial Williamsburg for ancient Ephesus) and then a stop near port for a rug-making demonstration (which will no doubt involve a high-pressure pitch to buy Turkish rugs). From what I understand, I can get out of the demonstration, and just walk back to the ship or explore Kusadasi for a little while instead. No such luck on the “theme park”. Oh well. I like Epcot, so maybe I’ll like it more than most people do.

Sea Day

Thursday is another sea day, and I’m so glad, because I have a feeling Athens and Turkey are going to wear me out. It’ll be good to rest. There’s a Cruise Critic luncheon on this day that I’ll attend, but the rest of my day is wide open.

Split, Croatia

On our last day, Friday, we arrive in Split, Croatia. This is another port I planned on doing on my own, but another member of my Cruise Critic roll call put together a small private walking tour that covers all the sights I want to see (Diocletian’s Palace, the statue of Gregory of Nin, the Golden Gate, the Riva, etc.) for a very reasonable price , so I signed up for that. Might as well hear the history behind these places instead of just looking at them, right?

Venice, Italy

We disembark back in Venice on Saturday morning, and I’ll have the rest of the day to tour Venice some more. If I made good time on the previous Friday, I might even have time to take a boat over to Murano, the island famous for its glass blowers. (Keep your fingers crossed!) Then I fly home on Sunday.

It sounds like a whirlwind trip, doesn’t it? I bet it will feel like that, too. But what a great way to visit 5 places at the top of my travel list all in one week! I will probably purchase an Internet package aboard the ship to stay in touch with folks back home. If I have time, I’ll try to upload some photos to Facebook and Twitter during the cruise.

Catch you on the flip side!


Photo credits: Aerial photo of Norwegian Jade from Norwegian Cruise Line; Gondolas in Venice, Italy by Boss Tweed, Creative Commons.

Rae Morgan May 25, 2015 at 7:29 am

I’m thinking about doing a cruise myself. Honestly your list was so helpful, because I wouldn’t have though to research public bathrooms, despite it being VERY important info! I think it’s cool that you get to visit some of your top places, and that will help you get a list together on what you think is important to do in the future, but doesn’t it somewhat defeat the purpose of a cruise? I’ve only been on one, but is it hard to relax with all the stuff you are going to be doing?

Gray Cargill May 26, 2015 at 7:23 pm

Hi, Rae – Depends on the cruise and your personal goals for it. I’ve never been on a Caribbean cruise, but my impression of them is that they’re far more relaxation-based than a European cruise. And you don’t even have to go into port if you don’t want to. If all you want to do is relax by the pool every day on your cruise, you can. (But if that’s the case, I’d pick the cheapest cruise you can find.) The reason I select a cruise rather than a land-based trip is so that I can visit more places in a short amount of time (because the ship is doing the traveling between cities for me while I sleep). It’s so much easier that way. Of course, that means it’s a much busier itinerary. Luckily, we had 2 sea days and one port where we didn’t arrive until mid-afternoon, so I was able to sleep in a bit and relax a couple of days.

Melissa | Suitcase and Heels May 8, 2015 at 9:03 pm

When you’re in Dubrovnik be sure to check out one of the cliff bars. They’re a bit hidden but you’ll be able to see where they are from above on the walls. They’re a cool place to have a drink.

Gray Cargill May 18, 2015 at 4:05 pm

I tried, Melissa! I walked the wall with a couple of women from my cruise and all 3 of us were looking for the entrance to Buzas and couldn’t find it. We saw it over the side of the wall, we just couldn’t figure out how to get down there. We were bummed.

Harry Connor May 7, 2015 at 3:27 am

WOW great list and amazing photos!!! Italy is a beautiful place! My wife and I are planning a trip to Venice, Italy. Thanks for sharing

Gray Cargill May 18, 2015 at 4:06 pm

Venice is a beautiful city, Harry. Very crowded, as you can imagine, and not cheap. But beautiful.

Jeff April 30, 2015 at 6:48 pm

Sounds like a great trip. A lot of place I still want to to to. From what I remember that map of Venice will not be of much use. There are only two directions. To the square (San Marco) and To the Bridge (Rialto)

Gray Cargill May 1, 2015 at 5:46 am

LOL, Jeff. Maybe, but there are also lots of winding little streets in between, and I get lost very easily. 🙂

Shelly April 30, 2015 at 7:42 am

Hi Gray – sounds a great little holiday! Remember my tip about the cruise possibly delivering your luggage to your hotel after the cruise; if my MSC cruise did it, I’m sure yours will. NCL is a very nice line. It is pretty easy also getting from Venice main station to the cruise terminal by light rail, you just need some coins to buy a ticket at the machine – so maybe save you a taxi fare. You won’t have long in Dubrovnik – so yes make sure you walk around the wall. In the late afternoon is good for light for photos rather than middle of the day. We took two hours to walk around the wall, left around 4pm (in October) – every turn is a photo op, so can be slow going – especially if the cruise ships are in. If you get a chance/have time, you should take the cable car ride up the mountain, you can take it just outside the old town, a spectacular view from up there (and an interesting little museum). Back in Venice it is easy to take the vaporetto to Murano, but try and get to Burano as well – it has those great colourful houses. Safe travels – and have a great time!

Gray Cargill April 30, 2015 at 12:01 pm

Believe me, I wrote down your advice about the cruise line delivering luggage immediately after I read it, Shelly. I’ll definitely be asking them about that. Thanks for the suggestion about Burano. I haven’t done any research on the differences between the 2 islands; I guess I should do that in case I can only visit one. At this point, I don’t believe I’ll have time to both walk the wall and go up in the cable car in Dubrovnik (which is a crying shame, because I really did want to do both). Technically we’re in port for 7 hours, but I need to get back an hour before we sail and I have to factor in time for bus transport to and from port plus dinner, walking the wall, etc. We’ll see how it goes once I get there, but I don’t think I can squeeze in the cable car. Did you happen to have a large suitcase with you on the train to Venice? I can figure it out once I’m there, but I’ve sort of mentally prepared myself for taxi fare just in case it’s a hassle taking a large suitcase onto the train, but certainly I’d rather take the train since it’s cheaper.

Shelly May 1, 2015 at 6:53 am

Yes, I had a large-ish suitcase but with wheels, and a day backpack – was traveling for 10 weeks – came from Florence on the train. You can always suss out the space on the train from Mestre to the main Venice train station when you explore on Friday – and check out the price for the tram. The only trap with the tram that it only had a ticket machine, no person selling tickets and I didn’t have correct coins – so a kind American gave me the “loan” – but it was only 2 Euros or something. For memory it was a little bit of a walk from the tram stop to the ship, but still walkable distance. Here’s some more info –

Gray Cargill May 3, 2015 at 12:03 pm

Thanks, Shelly!

De'Jav April 29, 2015 at 7:32 pm

I like cruises think you’ll definitely enjoy it. I’ve heard the Jade is pretty nice.

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