Norwegian Cruise Line – Transatlantic /Greek Islands Cruise

Well, that was the plan anyway.

New York

We flew into New York the day before the cruise was to depart. Because covid was still lingering, we had to jump through all kinds of hoops to board the ship (Norwegian Cruise Line – Escape). After arriving in New York, we took a cab to the Courtyard by Marriott in Manhattan. It was a great little hotel but “little” was the best description for the hotel room that I can come up with. The size rivaled some of the smaller rooms we stayed at in Europe.

We explored the area around the hotel and found a few decent places to eat as the hotel restaurant was still not operating at full capacity and only offering what appeared to be reheated meals.

All Aboard

The next day we headed to the ship at the designated time. To say check-in was chaos would be an understatement. The ship was late arriving, and Bermuda had additional paperwork that had to be done and approved, which we did in advance but many people did not, and you had to show your covid vaccine card as well as your negative test results. When we finished with all that we sat and waited for the actual boarding to begin.

It was well after dark once everyone was onboard and we set sail. This did result in some very pretty pictures of New York at night.

Bermuda

After a day at sea, we docked in Bermuda. We had not been before, it’s a very pretty place and one that we think we’ll have to go back to as we only had one day there. The people were friendly and there was plenty to do within walking distance from the port.

Ponta Delgada, Portugal

After four, sometimes bumpy, days at sea we arrived in Ponta Delgada. It’s a lovely little island off the coast of Portugal. We took a bus tour to Sete Cidades Crater Lake, saw its beautiful sights, and learned about its history. There were shops and a town within walking distance of the port.

Cadiz, Spain

Two more sea days and we arrived at Cadiz, Spain. We loved Cadiz! We took a hop-on hop-off bus tour and then explored the narrow streets and coastline by ourselves.

Malaga, Spain

Next stop, Malaga, Spain. The city is pretty big so we took another hop-on hop-off bus tour as it is a good way to explore a larger area and learn of the town’s history. We “hopped off” at several areas to explore, shop, eat, and rest in their beautiful local parks.

Alicante, Spain

After Malaga, the ship stopped in Alicante, Spain. We took a shuttle bus from the ship to the edge of town where we were able to explore freely. My favorite stop in this town was the central market, it was huge and teeming with all types of food vendors. After we left the market, we stopped at a local pharmacy as my throat was getting scratchy. We were able to purchase some throat lozenges and continue on our way.

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona is where our trip took an unexpected turn. I woke up and was not feeling well; I was coughing and generally felt like I had been hit by a truck. We decided Jim would explore Barcelona by himself using the plan we had laid out and I would stay on the boat and sleep, hoping I would feel better by the time he returned.

Unfortunately, that was not the case. I felt worse as the day progressed until finally, in the evening when Jim was back on the boat, I took a covid test that I had brought with me. It was positive.

We had tried very hard to stay away from people who were coughing on the ship, and there were many, to no avail. We went to the medical center to report our suspicions and they sent us back to our room telling us someone would be in touch. A tech came up shortly thereafter and administered another covid test which also came back positive. Jim’s test came back negative. I was told to pack my bags as I was going to be taken to an isolation room for quarantine.

NCL staff showed up about an hour later dressed in full Haz-Mat gear. I was escorted to the employee elevator and taken to a room on the 5th floor. I was told I would have free wifi (I had already purchased wifi) and movies (which didn’t work) and that I had to stay in isolation for 8-10 days and I had to test negative twice before I would be released. Menus were dropped off and I was to call room service for meals.

Jim was able to stay in our nice balcony room and explore the remaining ports. At least my quarantine room had a window in it. I watched Cannes, France, and Livorno, Italy from my room window.

Since I had only partially completed quarantine when the first cruise (transatlantic) was to finish, I was told we could stay on the ship for the second cruise (greek islands) or cancel the second cruise. We decided we would cancel the second cruise. Jim would fly home, I would complete my quarantine wherever the Italian government told me to, and then I would fly home. We were concerned that if Jim got sick (he was exposed to the same people I was) we would totally miss the greek cruise while he served his isolation he has some underlying health issues so we would rather have him in the US if he did get sick. We advised the guest services representative of our decision and asked them to cancel the second cruise. They assured me it was taken care of.

Jim continued to test negative and was able to disembark the ship and fly back to the US.

I was told that I would be handed over to the Italian Authorities at the port (Civitavecchia, Italy) and they would take me to a hotel to finish out my quarantine.

At this time in the pandemic, you still have to have a negative covid test to fly back to the US. NCL offered free testing to those who required it. They tested everyone the night before we ported and a whole bunch of people tested positive (I would guess close to 200). The medical staff on the Escape was overwhelmed.

On May 11th, while ported in Civitavecchia, I was told to be packed and ready to get off the ship by 9:30AM; I was ready. The day flew by but no one came to get me. I called guest services several times and they told me to just stay put; someone would be there. They also told me to go ahead and order lunch.

At 4:30 PM there was a knock on my door and I was met by a team in full hazmat gear once again. They took me to a staging area in one of the theaters along with about 150 other people. This was not what I expected. After waiting patiently for almost two hours, an officer came in and told us there were not enough hotel rooms so we were going to be kept on the ship at no charge, to finish our quartine. We were taken to new isolation rooms on the 5th floor. The first room they took me to had no window, the TV didn’t work and neither did the toilet. I was moved to another room down the hall. The TV didn’t work in that room either but it had a window so I wasn’t going to complain.

It was pretty chaotic, none of the staff seemed to know what was going on and there didn’t appear to be any processes in place for something like this. I stayed in my room as I was told, reading books and watching the world go by outside my window.

I was released from quarantine on May 16th and taken to a balcony room to finish out the cruise. Although I could have gotten off the ship at any point after that, my flights were out of Rome and I would have had to pay a substantial price to change them. It felt good to be able to walk around the ship.

Malta

I got off the ship in Malta and walked around the town. To be honest, it really wasn’t much fun to explore by myself; I’m used to having the hubster to explore with. The town was like many of the others but they also had this nice little park at the top of a bluff that had beautiful views.

Waiting to go home…

The rest of the stops were viewed from my balcony; I was ready to go home.

The day finally arrived, we ported in Civitavecchia, and I carried my own bags off (so I could leave the ship as soon as it was cleared) and headed to the airport for my flight home.

Side note – Jim started feeling unwell the day he arrived home and tested positive for covid the next day.

Conclusion

Although the trip was not what we had planned, the parts we were able to participate in were great. The world was still at the tail end of the pandemic and even though the cruise line had some processes in place, they were definitely not ready for so many people to get sick.

I spoke to several people on the ship who said that they were not feeling well but they refused to report it to the medical center because they didn’t want to leave their expensive suite or miss out on any of the ports. This really bothered me at first; it’s probably why so many of us got sick. We can’t control others however and I think I did the right thing by reporting it.

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