Wow. I didn't realize how long I'd been away from this thread. Real life took over in a way that needed some attention. (Still does, actually, yet I've got to have some fun, too.) My apologies.
I'll get to Penny's questions first, then the ports.
Sticky buns -- Yes, we did have them and you are right in that they are so good! Our general routine in the morning was for my husband to pick up a few pastries in the Courtyard buffet, make tea and cappuccino in our stateroom, and then head for a real breakfast. I thought of you when I saw the plate, and made a note to myself to comment on them in the review.
Courtyard Villa -- Courtyard, you say? We had access to this area on N. Jade as we had, a few days before sailing, accepted an upsell to a Courtyard Villa from our originally booked mini-suite. The CV was fabulous. Separate bedroom and bathroom for our son was on the left after entering the cabin. Actually, it was its own cabin in itself. Continue down the hall to a large living/dining area, and to the left of that was the entrance to the sleeping area. An alcove with a queen-sized bed was on the left, and the bath area was on the right, complete with the glass lack-of-privacy doors discussed in this thread
. I didn't get a chance to peek into the mini-suite or balcony cabins, yet I did glance into an oceanview cabin on the same deck as the gangway as we went by and it was more spacious than I had expected. I did, though, walk through the huge Garden Villa the last morning. I think I even got lost in there... wow.
Favorite port -- Enjoyed them all, yet, if I had to select one, our favorite was Naples. Not for Naples itself, but for the excursions we did from there to Sorrento and Pompeii. Next time, we will also include Capri. I'll elaborate more in the next post.
Local cuisine -- We sampled it just about everywhere. My husband enjoyed espresso in all of our ports in Italy, and said it was sensational. Same goes for gelato. Other standouts were a small pizza place in Rome and quiche in a small bakery in Nice. One of our excursions (Sorrento) included a nice lunch of antipasti, homemade cheeses, and pasta. With the main attractions so far away from the ports in most places, we had no choice but to have lunch in town, yet this is something we always try to do, anyway.
Flights -- We were very lucky in that the volcanic ash did not disrupt our flights. We flew Boston to Madrid on a Friday night, arriving Saturday morning, then a quick flight to Barcelona. Slept through most of the first flight, which was 7 hours. We flew through London Heathrow on the way back, which was fully operational after closing for a few days earlier in the week. Barcelona to London was 2 hours, I believe, and the London-Boston leg was around 7-and-a-half hours. For those flying Iberia through Madrid, expect to be separated from your luggage until they decide to deliver it to your hotel some 12 hours later. I now have a new least-favorite airport. (Move over, Atlanta.)
Barcelona -- Arrived a day early, but didn't have any plans to see the city. Past experience made it clear to me that my guys would hit the sack as soon as we got to our hotel, and that's what happened. We stayed at the Hilton Diagonal Mar, which we enjoyed. Had a nice dinner near the convention center across the street. Unfortunately, the school break schedule didn't allow for more time pre- or post-cruise.
Ports to follow...