Norwegian Updates Smoking Policy

Hot off the presses…

Norwegian Cruise Line has just released the following update to their shipboard smoking policy:

As the health and well–being of our guests and crew is of the utmost importance, Norwegian Cruise Line will institute changes to its smoking policy for all sailings on or after November 1, 2014. The specific changes prohibit smoking on stateroom balconies and limit smoking in the casino to players. On Norwegian Getaway and Norwegian Breakaway, smoking on The Waterfront will be permitted on the starboard side, except by the outdoor dining areas. 

They are following in the footsteps of other cruiselines, such as Carnival, who have a very similar smoking policy aboard its fleet of ships.

Does this policy change have an impact on your choice of cruise line?

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BVB Travel Does Europe Part 5: Sea Day, Naples/Amalfi, Rome, and London

Hello Again!

When I last wrote, we had just finished up an action packed stretch of port days in Turkey and were preparing for the second sea day of our 10 Day journey. The waters had become just a little rocky, which made for a very interesting (but FUN) White Hot Party as we sailed back east toward Italy.

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BVB Does Europe!!

Hello Everyone!! It’s been a few weeks since you’ve seen a post from me, and for good reason: we were traveling! I don’t feel that I can be a very effective travel agent if I don’t travel myself, so I spent two weeks getting acquainted with Europe (and a bit of Asia).  This post will be the first of several, providing a comprehensive review of our trip, along with photos and some tips. So I hope you like to read. Here we go!

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Trip Details:

10 Day Eastern Mediterranean Cruise

Ship:

Norwegian Jade

Ports of Call:

Rome/Civitavecchia (port of origin/return); Katakolon/Olympia, Greece; Piraeus/Athens, Greece; Izmir/Ephesus, Turkey; Istanbul, Turkey; Naples, Italy

Additional Days:

1 Night Pre-Cruise in Rome, Italy

1 night Post-Cruise in London, England (flight stopover)

Day 1: Flight and Pre-Cruise

Mr. B and I had a 7:45pm British Airways flight from Tampa International to London Gatwick Airport, and after a two hour morning layover, connected to our flight to Rome.  This nearly 8 hour flight was the longest ever for both of us, so were concerned about staying entertained in the air. Fortunately, British Airways had their Highlife Entertainment On-Demand Screens installed on the 777, so we were both able to watch 2 movies before falling into the always uncomfortable airplane sleep. (I still regret not watching Magic Mike…). BA provided two meals on our flight – dinner and breakfast – and have a completely open bar on their international flights. So if your desire is to drink the flight away, you can do just that!

We had a layover at Gatwick and quickly learned that your gate isn’t announced until 30 minutes before boarding begins. Which led to us sitting, bleary-eyed, in the main terminal trying not to purchase every snack available. They’re very strategic with this, I think.

Finally, our flight boarded and we were off to Rome!!

Note: you do not need to complete a U.K. Landing Card if you’re merely connecting through the airport. If you leave the airport, you’ll need to supply one to Passport Control.  Seems common sense, but trust me… there was some confusion about this.

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Upon landing at Fiumicino Airport in Rome, we went through Passport Control and collected our bag from baggage claim. (Once we found the right baggage claim….we were SO sleepy). Our plan was to hop on the Leonardo Express train straight to Termini, however we passed about 1,000 advertisements for the Terravision Bus that was only 4 Euros..so guess what we did instead? Right.

The bus ride took about 40 minutes and dropped us off right outside of Termini Train Station. From there, we walked about 10 minutes to Aberdeen Hotel, located on Via Firenze. Even with our baggage, the walk was not bad at all. We made sure to keep our important belongings close to us and walked like we knew where we were going, and no one bothered us.

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Aberdeen Hotel

After checking into the hotel, we freshened up and prepared for our evening in Rome. Although we were dog-tired, we knew that a “nap” would turn into “sleep” and we’d have a more difficult time with the jet lag. And how right we were; we had absolutely NO issues adjusting to the new time zone, which was 6 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.

We obtained a dinner recommendation from the front desk clerk (who spoke perfect English), and headed out on foot to explore Rome. In the 6 hours we spent walking, we managed to see the Piazza della Repubblica, Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, Palentine Hill (in passing), the Arch of Constatine and the Colosseum. We were completely lost trying to find our way from the Pantheon to the Colosseum, but thanks to our handy map, we managed to get there. The streets of Rome can get very confusing. Not to mention, motor vehicles have no regard for pedestrians and..well..vice versa. It was a free-for-all. Definitely keep an eye out for the mopeds. They’re everywhere and have no regard for human life.

Because we walked for SO long, we never made it to the restaurant. We picked up some gelato (which I fell in love with. Stracciatella? Marry Me) and sat down for a quickie spaghetti dinner. (When in Rome…)

GELATO!!!!
GELATO!!!!

BVB Travel Tip: Rome is very easy to do on your own, IF you have a good sense of direction, a good map and/or a great data plan on your phone (for the GPS services). If that’s not your style, there are Hop-On, Hop-Off buses you can utilize instead. They pick up and drop off at specific locations, which will save you the time of walking between sites. However, you will pay a price (approximately 25 Euros per person for 48 hour pass) and..well..have you SEEN the traffic in Rome? No? You’ll spend a lot of time sitting in it on these buses. If all else fails, there are a plethora of guided tours available, which can be booked online. Check TripAdvisor to see what’s available, or talk with your super nice, gelato-loving travel agent!

Coming Soon: Rome Day 2 and Cruise Embarkation!!!

Travel Tuesday: When Your Cruise Itinerary Changes!

For the past 10.5 months, Mr. B and I have been extremely excited about our 10 Day Mediterranean Cruise booked on the Norwegian Jade. We chose this vacation based on the price and itinerary; it embarks from Rome – which is one of my top 5 places I want to visit – and had an overnight port-of-call scheduled in Alexandria, Egypt. Mr. B has been fascinated by Egyptian culture as long as I’ve known him, and seeing the Pyramids is a dream of his. I wasn’t arguing with the idea either. We had a great overnight tour planned with Ramses Tours that would take us to the Giza Plateau to see the Sphinx and Pyramids, along with a dinner cruise down the Nile River. I was also determined to get a pic on top of a camel in front of a Pyramid, no matter how much they may stink or spit.

Well, if you’ve watched the news in the past few months, you’ll recall that there was a lot of unrest in Egypt, Libya and other predominately Muslim countries in September, all of which stemmed from a viral video that made a mockery of the Prophet Muhammad. (this is a no no). The video led to an outbreak of violence in the region and, unfortunately, the loss of several American lives due to misguided Anti-American rage.
We kept a close eye on the situation, as our cruise was rapidly approaching. Royal Caribbean ended up cancelling their scheduled stop in Alexandia for Mariner of the Seas as a direct result of the protests and violence. That was probably a good call, as it was in the heat of the protests. In the meantime, my fellow cruisers and I remained in communication. Once it appeared the worst had passed, we all breathed a collective sigh of relief and continued our Cairo planning.

But not so fast. In early October, one of my fellow cruisers received an email from Norwegian that included the following statement:

We believe the ports in Egypt remain viable ports of call at the present time. However, because of the situation in the region and the feedback from guests, the company is cancelling Norwegian Jade’s scheduled stops in Egypt from November 21, 2012 to April 17, 2013 and will call in Istanbul, Turkey and Naples, Italy instead.

Upon reading this, I may or may not have collapsed onto the floor via a well-executed “wall slide”…

This is a Wall Slide

We understood that Norwegian did what they felt was in the best interest of its passengers. We understand that Egypt is unstable. We also understand that we are getting two new ports instead of the one we are missing. But we didn’t LIKE it. Especially since three earlier sailings are still docking in Alexandria.

While chatting with Mr. B and my fellow cruisers, I realized that we were all coping with this sudden change very similarly; we were all experiencing the Five Stages of Grief, as identified by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. (and yes, I used Wikipedia as a resource. Please don’t judge)

1. Denial

When I first saw that email, I refused to believe its authenticity. In spite of how detailed the information was – complete with a new itinerary – and the option to switch to one of those earlier sailings, I couldn’t accept that it was real. I checked NCL.com the next morning and our online itinerary still showed us going to Egypt. It wasn’t until I actually called and spoke with a human that I understood that we were no longer going to Alexandria.

It took Mr. B about two more days to realize that we were no longer going to Egypt.

2. Anger

Oh we were MAD. Some of my fellow cruisers cancelled their trip, either having been to or having no interest in our new ports of call. Others wrote strongly-worded letters to Norwegian or posted on their Facebook page. Others promised to never cruise NCL again. We just skulked about, really. I couldn’t see anything shaped like a pyramid without getting mad. When our Welcome Aboard kit arrived in the mail, Mr. B. smacked it to the floor. Just angry.

3. Bargaining

At this point, I attempted to change our sailing. Once Norwegian ensured that we could swap to one of the earlier dates, we spent the next several hours emailing our supervisors to confirm that we could get the earlier dates off instead. However, once we checked the cost of changing our flights, we realized that we couldn’t handle the $1300 increase in our fare (which didn’t include change fees). So much for that plan. (I’m a travel agent not a miracle worker!)

4. Depression

This stage didn’t last long. We were bummed for a minute, before realizing that we still had an AMAZING opportunity to cruise the Mediterranean, which is not an experience afforded to many. What was there to be sad about?

5. Acceptance

I’m here…I don’t know if Mr. B is just yet. I finally began researching our new ports of call, and you know what? We may not be going to Egypt, but we ARE going to some pretty interesting places! I’m looking forward to exploring Sultanahmet in Istanbul and taking pictures of the Amalfi Coast. Cairo isn’t going anywhere (God Willing), and hopefully we will have a chance to get there some day. We WILL enjoy our vacation, no matter what!

Traveling Abroad: Avoiding Pickpockets

In a few short months, I will be taking my first trip across the pond for a Mediterranean cruise. As excited as I am, horror stories about the pervasiveness of pickpockets and thieves in our ports of call – Rome, specifically- has me a little on edge.

I am active in our Cruise “Roll Call” on Cruise Critic, and one of the fellow posters shared some valuable safety tips that I felt compelled to pass along (with her permission, of course). Naturally, these tips would apply to you no matter where you’re traveling, but since Rome has one of the highest rates of pickpocketing in the world, I’m paying extra close attention to this information.
Before leaving for the cruise make copies of the back of your credit cards and passport. Leave a copy at home with somebody you trust and take 2 copies with you. If lost/stolen you will have handy the 1-800 to call for CCs as well as the CC info. The person at home could make the calls for you.

When abroad, leave passport in the cruise safe and bring the copy, unless required to have with you; i.e. Egypt where they clip/stamp the Visa to the passport and you HAVE TO have in your posession, specially if in an overnight (hotel check-in security process requires you present your official passport and Visa).

CONCEAL, CONCEAL, CONCEAL you valuables inside your clothing, even in an inner chest level pocket in front of your coat/jacket. Handbags and fanny packs are a horrendous idea. A sturdy shoulder bag with the strap worn across your chest and an inner money belt are somewhat safer.

I usually take 2 credit cards and place them in different pockets/places. This saved my 2010 cruise from Barcelona. The pickpocketers stole my wallet from my purse. I had place a second CC in another pocket in the purse. Same with passport; only saved because it was in a separate pocket (an American passport in the Black Market is worth $20K !)

Call your credit card company and tell them you will be using your credit card overseas. This could save you a horrendous headache when the CC calls you AT HOME to notify you they are shutting down your CC because of an overseas transaction. True story.

If you need to use an ATM while abroad, try to use the ones that are inside banks. Latest scam (Venice!) is a devide placed in ATMs that captures your card numbers and pins. The crooks use the captured information to access your bank at home.

If you wear glasses, pack an extra pair. Pack them and any medicines you need in your carry-on luggage.

The advice to pack light is critical to follow. Busy hands, unattended bags, and overpreoccupied minds are windows of golden opportunities for crooks. Times are tough and traveling American cruisers have zero simpathy from thieves.