Duncan and I returned home from our 9 day Mediterranean cruise about a week and a half ago, and I am still experiencing the post vacation blues. Never in my life would I have imagined I would be a cruise girl, but we have already started looking at options for another one. This was my second cruise, and just like my last one everything on this ship was down to a science. Amazingly organized and I did little to no decision making other than what I wanted to eat each meal.
Don’t get me wrong, I will forever enjoy being on my own schedule, planning everything myself, and getting off the beaten track – but sometimes it feels nice to let other people take the wheel.
For those of you who don’t know, in December of 2022 (five months ago) I was advised I had a credit for Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) from a cruise my dad had booked back in 2020. The 2020 cruise was cancelled, but no one knew about the credits until recently. I was also advised in order to receive the full credit I had to book a cruise by the end of December 2022 (the same month I found out.)
I had about two weeks to choose a cruise and mentally digest what was happening.
I managed to wrangle Duncan into this fiasco with me, and I was thankful he was interested in the same cruise destinations I was: Israel, Cyprus, Greece, and Turkey. I had been wanting to see Turkey for years, and Israel also intrigued me. I was truthfully indifferent to Greece and Cyprus, but they were added bonus locations. I figured for someone with anxiety, the safety net of an organized group (a cruise) was a great way to first experience Israel and Turkey.
This trip was fantastic, and the destinations were awe worthy, but this post is going to focus on the ship itself and how we entertained ourselves. My future posts will give respect to each destination we visited in full. The planning process for this cruise was fairly simple, I had a point of contact I worked with and he took care of all the logistics. Then a few weeks before we left I did an online check in with further instructions, and before I knew it we were off.
Our flight left at 0600 on our day of departure, which is only slightly better than getting shocked by an electric fence. I slept maybe 45 minutes total the night before we left, which made for a very long 30+ hours of being awake before I made it to the bed on the cruise ship. I don’t sleep on planes, and our travel day was very long. The silver lining was that by the time I made it to sleep I was immediately on track with the local time. No jet lag.
A win is a win.
We arrived in Athens where handfuls of NCL staff herded us like cattle onto a bus, and drove us to the cruise port. We settled in easily, ate some dinner, and slept until 0900 the following morning. Our first day was an “at sea” day, which was perfect for acclimating to the time zone as well as resting after a long day of travel. This was also perfect for exploring the entirety of the ship. Our ship was moderate, with a 2400 passenger capacity it was easy to find pockets of solace aside from our stateroom.
We started our first day eating breakfast at the buffet, the spot we would eat every meal on board for the remainder of the trip. It was quick, it was easy, and overall it was good. It took me a few days to settle into which foods sat well with me, but ultimately I found a way to ensure I felt my best the entire trip. My one main complaint on this ship was the water. It was foul. I’m talking sewer water slightly filtered foul. It tasted so bad I eventually stopped drinking it.
I relied on watermelon and kiwi each morning to bring me back to life.
The free coffee was bad too, so I went against my rule of not spending any extra money (what can I say, I’m cheap) and I splurged on three venti Starbucks coffees for the 9 days ($10 total.) I only drink a small cup each morning, and I always have to cut the coffee with hot water, so I was able to stretch the coffees over multiple days. A worthy investment for a guaranteed expulsion of the previous nights dinner, as well as a bit of anti inflammatory assistance for my swollen face each morning.
After breakfast I went for a jog on the outdoor running track, which was a bit frustrating on day one. Too many people were using the track to stop and take photos which made it difficult to jog on. I managed my miles and calmed down with regard to gatekeeping the track the remainder of the trip. Later, Duncan tried to teach me chess on a large outdoor chess board, but if you asked me right now what each piece does I couldn’t tell you.
The ship had endless entertainment options, from the pool deck with live music, to cigar lounges, to live shows. We spent most of our first day lounging, listening to live music, eating food, and getting excited for the days to come.
Most of our days on the ship after our at sea day were spent eating quick meals at the buffet (there were also 4 complimentary restaurants, but neither of us wanted to sit down and wait), going to live performances in the theater after our daily excursions, lounging on the pool deck, walking laps on the promenade, and sleeping.
Our room was small, but neither of us complained. I chose the cheapest option and other than the shower not fully draining, and the toilets proximity to the wall (Duncan is over 6 feet tall and had to sit sideways), it was perfect. I’m not one to care much about my accommodations. As long as they are safe, clean, and the bed is comfortable I am set.
My main tips for anyone worried about being around too many people would be to choose a ship with a lower max capacity. Wash your hands AFTER you touch the buffet utensils to prevent germ spreading, and eat either right when the buffet opens, or close to when it closes. Duncan ended up getting a little bug towards the end of our trip and I guarantee it’s because he ate more foods from the buffet that required his hands to eat.
It’s absolutely possible to eat at a buffet and stay healthy, but washing hands multiple times is a must as well as using utensils. I managed to get by without getting sick, even sleeping next to him. There were a few times we ate when the entire ship seemed to be eating, and it felt like a fish swimming upstream. I was content eating at the buffet, but if this isn’t your cup of tea you can dine at restaurants where they seat you.
We also ate outside for each meal providing fresh air and less people.
So how much did it all cost? I’m a sucker for the numbers, let’s break it down.
The cost of this vacation was definitely higher than most of my travels when I sat down and did the calculations, but it was also nearly effortless. The cruise and airfare for two people was $4776, and that’s including port fees, mandatory tipping, travel insurance, and transfers to and from the airport. Divide that by two, $2388 for one person to pay for flights, all accommodations, all food, PLUS travel between four different counties.
The additional expenses for this trip were the shore excursions. I normally wouldn’t spend extra for these, I would find local guides on my own, or just wander, but ultimately I wanted the security of booking through the cruise ship to ensure I didn’t get left behind. We booked six shore excursions costing an additional $1660 for two people. Most of these excursions were worth the cost, a few were not, but overall it was nice to have everything planned and not have to think twice.
The shore excursion process was well organized each day, we would meet in the theatre and when our tour was called we would make our way to the gangway where our numbered bus was waiting. This was a wonderful experience with very little stress.
$4776 for cruise/flight + $1660 for (optional) excursions put us at $6436 before we left Washington. $3218 per person to fly, see four countries, have all the guess work taken out, go on excursions, and so on, and so on, and food, and a bed, and entertainment…I also spent $272 (I’m not calculating this into any of these numbers, just making note of it) for myself while on the trip and that included $60 of tips for tour guides, a few souvenirs, and some food.
BUT, if you remember what I said at the beginning of the post I had a credit. So this $6436 did not all come out of my own pocket. When it was all done and dusted I spent a total of $2617 for two. Split that in half and we each paid $1308 for a 9 day cruise around the Mediterranean. I would absolutely call that a win, and when it was all said and done I would have paid the full cost without a credit if I had to do it again. Absolutely worth it.
Had I paid full price this would have been my most expensive vacation to date. I am typically one frugal traveler.
Final thoughts: We traveled light because we wanted to. This meant no waiting for baggage claim and no worrying about lost luggage. We washed a few outfits in the shower (I brought liquid detergent) which worked surprisingly well. We did not buy any drink packages or specialty meals, we had plenty to eat with the free options. Entertainment was free, I did not leave extra tips (everything was included in mandatory pre tip payments), we took zinc, vitamin D, and magnesium daily to help prevent sickness, wifi was extra money and that felt icky to me (I did not pay for wifi, my package included 150 min for each of us and we rationed those like each minute was our last meal), and we both slept well in our small cave.
For any future cruises I do I will likely go on them for vacation rather than for travel. Vacations are meant to be lazy, to move at slower paces and soak up the immediate surroundings. Travel is for fast paced, non stop exploring to see as much as possible. A cruise is different than traditional travel. There are comforts on a cruise that might rob you of experiences you might have if you’re on your own schedule. There is always a trade off.
There were moments I felt myself wishing I had more time to explore certain areas, but I tend to feel that way regardless. I like to have control over my time and maximize what I see. Ultimately these types of adventures are always what you make of them, we had a blast, and I need to get better at living in the moment! Stay tuned for a week of travel, starting with a day at the Dead Sea and Masada National Park!
Q: Have you been on a cruise? If yes where, if no would you?
27 thoughts on “Norwegian Cruise Line”
Oh my gosh, I absolutely loved this post and CANNOT wait to read your upcoming ones!! We booked a Canadian cruise for next year and will be bringing the kids. (Kids under 12 sail free, so it was a no- brainer). 🙂 My husband and I both adore crusing, but we haven’t gone since we had the kiddos. This makes me that much more excited to go!!
HOW DO I PASS MYSELF AS UNDER 12!?!? Amazing they can sail for free, absolute no brainer. What an exciting upcoming adventure for you all, I cannot wait to read about it!
Right??? We’re paying about $2,500 for all 4 of us to do a 7 night, Canadian cruise. It’s not until next year (but we already had a Florida trip planned for January). So we have 2 upcoming trips planned, which feels AMAZING. We haven’t traveled in years, so this is a big deal. 🙂 Can’t wait for the rest of your cruise posts!!
$2500!?! Amazing. I am hoping our next cruise is around that price. I think this was more $$$ because of our destinations for sure, but I would love to see what we could do for less.
Yes, probably! And it sounds like it was WORTH every penny! My husband and I would LOVE to do a cruise like you did one day. 🙂 We also lucked out with the cruise leaving Boston, so we can drive to the port… instead of flying. That saved us money too. I’m sure we’ll add a few excursions, so the price will go up a bit. 😉 But still – overall – you can’t beat the price for 7 nights, especially since food is included. I’m SO excited!!
Never been on a cruise. When on vacation my wife and kids usually handle itineraries. My daughter is especially good at finding places that are off the beaten path.
Otherwise, I am content to point a bike that-a-way and see what happens. Cheap. A bit arduous. Yet, surprisingly comforting for the soul.
Ohh how nice it is to have someone else do the itinerary. I say this, and yet I don’t think I could ever give up control. Although when I went on my previous cruise my dad planned it all and boy was it nice to just show up.
I hope one day I can get to a place where I do not fear riding my bike in one direction and stopping when I am across the country.
Never been on cruise, I have a great need to be on solid ground….small boat , with land close by and limited number of people, might be able to do that, ferry ride I’m good with that .
Kudos to the two of You.
I’ve only taken a few guided excursions, I think it serves me well to do every now and then to slow me down and allow for a different experience . Looking forward to the rest of Yours and Duncan’s cruise vacation.
I’m with you usually, I do not like open water. I would be more afraid of smaller boats though. A ferry I can do too, but somehow I make the cruise stuff work. Anytime I would peek over the edge of the ship I would get scared.
I also am trying to embrace more of the guided tours. Sometimes they turn out to be unbelievable, but sometimes a tour guide can be awful.
I’ve never been on a cruise and never thought I’d enjoy one, but as every vacation day I use turns into a true travel experience of no rest (but lots of memeories), a cruise sounds better and better.
I didn’t think I’d enjoy them either. Second one down and I very much do. 🤣 Even despite having a fear of open water. It’s so hard to actually “vacation.”
Some Small Things
Really enjoyed reading this and excited for your next post about Dead Sea and Masada. I was there in 09.
I had a near-death experience on a cruise to Bermuda in 1991. We sailed directly through Hurricane Bob. 65 foot waves for 12 hours. Rolling on the floor of the ship back and forth, furniture and slot machines slamming everywhere. It was unreal, and we didn’t expect to survive. I was a teenager, and it definitely affected the course of my life. I became irrationally fearful of worst case scenarios — the things that technically could happen but never would.
Coincidentally, I was with my family today and we talked about the cruise for the first time in years! Such a ridiculous experience that never ever happens — except once in 1991!
Oh…my…gosh. This would have absolutely ruined it for me. I already have a fear of open water, it takes me a bit to acclimate when I’m on the cruise ships, but this would have been game over. I cannot imagine how terrifying this was.
What do you even do after that’s over, or while it’s happening!? Like as the people who run the cruise? Did everyone just disappear into their own survival hole for 12 hours? Did everyone survive? No one thrown overboard? I have so many questions…
When the storm was over did the ship just find the closest port for everyone to get the hell off and go home?? Did you manage to stay with your family the entire 12 hours clinging for dear life to things?
Wow. Thank God you are all ok.
Some Small Things
It’s such a one in a million thing. Even more probably.
We couldn’t stay in the cabins. Everyone went to the middle of the ship because it’s the most stable and we were all lying on the floor rolling from one side to another as things came crashing down. Everyone survived to my knowledge, but I did hear there were two injuries. This was before Internet and everyone had those huge home video cameras, and I was able to find one video on YouTube years ago, but it was just showing the damage to the ship.
A lot of folks flew home, but my parents were adamant about getting back on the horse so to speak. The cruise line was able to repair the damage, and we actually went back home on the ship. And then my parents made me go again the following year — the cruise line gave everyone a free cruise as payment for damages. Ha!
Such a crazy story and really set me up for silly anxiety for the rest of my life!
I’m here to tell you your anxiety is not silly! I would absolutely be the same way. And to some extent I already am, without even having this experience. What an intense thing to live through. Your parents getting back on to go horse is wild to me. I would not have stepped foot back on a boat for many years likely.
But you’re right, it’s so unlikely to happen again so I suppose you have to trust the climate not to get crazy twice in a row.
Haha the cheesy handguiding photo!! I loved reading through this post in it’s entirety! Excited for the other recaps.
Thank you for appreciating that corny photo, I have one more of those photos with more of a purpose we decided on. I can’t wait to share. LOLOL.
What an incredible experience!! I went on a short three-day (ish??) cruise in 2008… But that’s it for me. Based on that one and only experience, your room looks really spacious and luxurious. Mine was a school trip, so we had four girls crammed into a room like sardines. I think a camping or backpacking tent would’ve been bigger than the room we had. 😉 I can’t wait to hear more about your trip!!
OHHNOOO! A cruise for a school trip sounds amazing, but four girls in one room does not. I hope you at least got you choose your roommates. LOL. Where did you go?
We did get to choose — thank goodness!! We just went from LA to Vancouver with zero stops along the way. Definitely shorter than your vacation! (The school trip continued in Vancouver though, just on land where we stayed at a regular hotel! 😉)
That’s pretty fun for a school trip. I hear all these stories of school trips from people I meet, and my school had none. 🤣
…this one was for our band. But I was a little afraid to mention the whole “marching band” thing, for somewhat obvious reasons. 😜🙈 Honestly, though, our band director organized some incredible trips for us! Disneyland basically every year, Hawaii, the cruise… We had a lot of fun!
Girrrrrl don’t be afraid to mention that. Honestly I think marching band would have been a great experience (said as an adult who no longer cares about external opinions as much.) Either way you had some amazing trips!
When I was 12 I participated in safety patrol for the year. When asked why we wanted to do it on our “application” I wrote some bogus lines followed by “and going to wild waves would be nice.” We got a free field trip to a water park over an hour away with our fellow safety patrol pals. 🤣
Oh my gosh, it totally was!!! No shame or anything whatsoever… Those were four of the best years of my life — with even better memories (and friendships) than college! I’ve just had more than enough people say to me, “Oh, this one time, at band camp…” 🙄
I LOVE your safety patrol application — you had the courage to be honest! Hopefully the field trip at the end of the year was totally worth it! 😉
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Very well described but only reinforces my belief that a cruise would be my personal Hell – and it doesn’t look like yours was one of the cheaper, nastier ones either. Was there no bottled water on board? Looking forward to your destination reports 🙂
HAH! I totally get it. Cruise ships are not for everyone and that’s ok. Truthfully I am surprised how much I enjoyed it. This was certainly not a cheap nasty one, it was clean and comfortable, just the water sucked. No bottles of water, not sure why.