As a couple that has traveled extensively and usually in way off the main road "adventure mode", the thought of being trapped on a large ship with thousands of other people was enough to make the blood run cold. I also get seasick so the entire idea seemed dreadfully unappealing. We have friends who love cruising and kept telling us to try it. One day a brochure arrived in the mail with a very good offer for a 6 day Mediterranean luxury cruise aboard the Sojourn complete with complimentary veranda upgrade. We thought that six days wasn't bad if it turned out to be insufferable agony and that location would not lend itself to a lot of rocking and rolling of the ship so we signed up. We also decided to spend three days in Provence and the night before sailing in Beaulieu-Sur-Mer as well as two nights in Rome post-cruise. We got a taxi to take us to the embarkation area and our bags were whisked away. It took not even fifteen minutes to get checked in and get our photo IDs and we then proceeded to our suite where our room stewardess was waiting with champagne and appetizers. She was very efficient in showing us everything about our suite, offering an assortment of soaps and other amenities and making sure that our mini-bar preferences were correct. Shortly thereafter there was a mandatory safety drill and we immediately began meeting other passengers. After the drill we were having cocktails al fresco with some new friends and enjoying the beginning of this adventure. One of my very few complaints is that the band was a bit too loud as we were in a far corner and still had a bit of difficulty conversing over the noise. We proceeded back to check out our suite more thoroughly and to dress for dinner. The suite was spacious and well decorated with a huge walk in closet and a safe. The wide screen TV offered a large selection of entertainment from movies and news to educational programs given on the ship. The bed was extremely comfortable but the couch....not so much. As we rarely used it, this was not an issue. The veranda was roomy enough for a table and two chairs with some extra room and was a lovely addition to the suite.
We have dined in many fine establishments in our travels and felt that the food in all of the restaurants was of extremely high quality. We never once had trouble getting seated and we truly enjoyed the variety of cuisine from the classic offerings of The Restaurant to the quirky and innovative tasting menu of Restaurant 2. For buffets as well as food cooked to order, the Colonnade and the Patio were ideal. I have to say that the service in every one of these restaurants was spot on at all times. We never found ourselves waiting for anything and the staff was always friendly and outgoing without being obtrusive. The house wines that were poured were quite nice and to be honest, better than what we had expected.
The ports visited were quite fun and we were happy that we could walk on and off the ship without having to wait for a tender. ( As you can tell, we are very novice when it comes to cruising ). There was plenty of time to hike around and explore and then get back to the ship for a bit of relaxation before moving on. I have to admit that I did not care for the one day at sea and as it was a dreary spring day, I spent it in the gym which was quite well equipped. Perhaps the larger ships are better for offering more activities but I do not see any sort of trans-Atlantic type cruise in the cards for us.
As far as the entertainment went we did like the comedian fellow even though we came in halfway through the act. To be honest, we don't usually join in group entertainment activities so we didn't spend any time dancing to the live band or that sort of thing. After dinner, we generally headed up to the lovely observation bar and had champagne with new friends and listened to the lovely piano and singing of Simon. A perfectly relaxing end to what were usually very active and full days on shore.
I must also say that I have read of "cruise snobbery" where some people are quite rude to others they consider "newcomers". We did not observe any such thing during our cruise and we met many people who had cruised many, many times. Even my black, purple and green highlighted hair didn't seem to put anyone off. ;-)
Thankfully we were told that taxis can be difficult to get at Civitavecchia so we chose to book a private car through Seabourn. Once again, this was handled with ease and efficiency and it literally took less than five minutes to get our bags and get in the car and be off to Rome.
In summary, we had a wonderful first time cruising experience and will definitely do it again. We enjoyed the all-inclusive aspect and never once felt any kind of pressure to pay added gratuities to any of the staff. The ship was spotlessly clean, the crew was completely and always professional and now we are spoiled. Everyone that we told this was our first cruise told us that we had set the bar pretty high and we could not agree more.