Let me first preface this paragraph by saying that I was born, raised, and live in the United States. I love it and I think it's the greatest country on Earth.
Now, then. If you are an American who has somehow become accustomed to never waiting in a line, never paying for a drink, and not having to follow simple, clear instructions -- or, indeed, if you are put off by listening to announcements in foreign languages or experiencing people whose cultures are unfamiliar to you -- then please, by all means, do NOT take this cruise. In fact, please consider not traveling internationally at all.
There are plenty of places you can go in our own country where people are accustomed to dealing with your me-first attitude. Overseas, we do not need our reputation further sullied by your need to be spoiled.
I was appalled by the number of Americans I saw elbowing others and nearly diving over tables to get a better spot in line; or who yelled "ENGLISH!" to a wonderful, bi-lingual tour guide who was addressing the Italians in a bus consisting of half English speaking people and half Italian; or who constantly held up everyone because they were making a scene and demanding to see a manager; or who took as a personal affront being subjected to scenes of poverty or pushy street vendors. I mean it: next time, please stay home.
However, if you approach it with the appropriate attitude, you will LOVE this cruise. The ports of call were fantastic, the service was top-notch, our cabin was excellent, the ship was clean, well-maintained, and offered lots to do.
The times when many passengers are engaged in one task, such as passport collection, embarkation and debarkation do need some work. Management should work on better organizing these measures so that we don't see the best come out in all of the passengers.
This was our first cruise and our honeymoon. I would do it all over again.
Food and Dining
3 out of 5
Just good. Nothing spectacular worthy of comment, and nothing awful either. Just about everything we had was solid, and there was plenty of it. Before my cruise, a friend warned me to keep cookies in my cabin. Frankly, I don't know where that advice comes from because I was stuffed from the second day onward. Later in the cruise, we skipped several meals because we just didn't need as much free food to eat as they were offering.
Also, my wife eats a gluten-free diet, and I was pleased to see that they offered her a fully-prepared gluten-free menu at dinner every night and had many gluten-free options on the breakfast and lunch buffets.
I'm sure you've read this comment before now, but yes, you do have to pay for water and soda. I can't believe how many people treat this as a horrible affront to humanity. I'm not sure if this was a special or not, but Americans were receiving a free booklet of coupons for bottles of water. We also bought 28 soft drink coupons.
5 out of 5
We went to four of the shows and attended many of the on-board activities such as karaoke, trivia, bingo, and other games.
The large shows have to navigate the problem of putting on a show that appeals to a wide range of cultural backgrounds and doesn't depend too heavily on language because of the number of different ones being spoken on the boat. They solved this problem with acrobats, jugglers, magicians, and one particularly awesome hand puppet artist. There was singing, mostly of American and British songs that everyone knew, although there were also Italian opera songs, which I appreciated.
As for the other activities, the entertainment staff was enthusiastic and did a great job of communicating the games to everyone in different languages; even the trivia quizzes, which are particularly difficult to do without cultural bias.
Service and Staff
5 out of 5
Everyone, and I mean everyone I dealt with was professional, kind, and courteous in the extreme, even when faced with spoiled, cranky customers. I encountered no staff who were native English speakers, but also no one who had significant trouble communicating with me.
5 out of 5
The ship is very clean, and workers can be seen at all hours of the day and night cleaning glass, polishing railings and vacuuming floors. The decor was nice and avoided tackiness in all of its different, variously appointed areas. Finding a few areas was a bit of a challenge, but we had 12 days to discover everything on the ship and kind of enjoyed finding new spaces to while away the hours. We did find that taking the stairs was faster than the cramped elevators, so during busy times, like embarkation and debarkation (and the massive rush to the buffet line), those with mobility issues could find it difficult.
Cabin / Stateroom
5 out of 5
No complaints whatsoever. Our room was reasonable for the price, clean, large enough, and appointed in an efficient, economical way. The cleaning staff was excellent, professional and polite. The floors were not loud (except for the occasional group of kids running down the hallways).
This port is the reason we did the trip. My low rating reflects our experience alone and you shouldn't let it dissuade you.
The problem in Egypt for our entire cruise ship was twofold: a very late departure from Israel the previous night and heavy traffic on the way to Cairo.
We tried to pack 18 hours of things into a 12-hour excursion, and in the end it turned out to be hours on a bus coupled with, "hurry-up-and-get-off-you've-only-got-five-minutes."
On the upside, they did leave the great pyramids and the Sphinx open an extra hour to accommodate our tour buses. On the downside, it was dark when we arrived there and we only got a matter of a couple of minutes.
Still, they did everything they could -- even gave 25% refunds to everyone who had an excursion -- and didn't deserve the amount of griping I heard.
The sights of driving in Cairo and the squalor surrounding the Nile aren't for the faint-hearted. But Egypt's wonders absolutely shouldn't be missed in a lifetime.
We chose not to do the excursion here and venture out on our own. At first, I thought that this was a terrible decision because you can't really even book your own tour. Only one cab company is allowed into the port, and you're not allowed out of the port on your own. So DON'T book an independent tour company; they can't even get to your boat! The one cab company that is allowed near the boat wants to charge you outrageous sums if you just want to go somewhere and be dropped off. What they want is for you to set up an all-day tour with the cabbie.
In the end, that's exactly what we did, and boy am I glad. We found another terrific couple to split it with, and we did everything: Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Dead Sea, shopping, lunch... we fit it all in all while getting a real tour of Israel during a tough time... not the tour guide version.
Don't Miss: The whole thing. You never know when/if you'll get to do it again
We did not do the excursion here either, opting instead to do a walking tour around this working-class town. I enjoyed it thoroughly, although Naples has gotten dirtier over the years and there was much trash in the streets. It was nice to see a gritty, blue-collar town, though, rather than just the souvenir shops I'd become accustomed to seeing.
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