This was our 7th X cruise and we had sailed on the Solstice so was very familiar with the ship layout. We flew into FCO the day before the cruise planning on meeting an arranged cab to take us and another couple to the port but the driver did not show up. After waiting for 45 minutes, we carted our luggage over to the train station,and shlepped our bags thru the train transfer. The train was packed as the RCL ship was about to leave and folks were coming from Rome to board so we stood all the way to the port. We finally arrived and walked to the San Georgio Hotel and checked in. In hindsight, I would not stay at the port but rather in Rome as it is so much easier to get to Rome from the airport and also finding rooms in Rome. It's also much easier and cheaper to get to the port from Rome.
We took the hotel shuttle to the port and got to our veranda cabin which was on deck 9 on the "hump". We were traveling with friends who had the adjoining room and had partition on our balcony moved back so we could cross between the 2 balconies which was nice.
I am always very active on the Cruise Critic message boards and highly recommend them to anyone cruising. We had a huge group, about 180 people for our Cruise Connection get together. You can gather so much information on these message boards; can join tours, get travel tips and best of all, meet some really nice people who sometimes become lasting friends (our companions on this cruise were friends we met from a previous trip).
Our first port was Santorini. We did not schedule a tour here but we and our friends, walked into town and over to the bus stop where we took the bus over to Oia. It was a nice scenic ride, we had lunch and and then we walked around viewing all the shops and famous blue domed churches. We later took the bus back and boarded the ship.
The 4 of us are Elite members so we took advantage of free cocktails and canapes in Michaels club before dinner. On several days when we had an early tour, we also went to Michaels club for specialty coffees and a light breakfast before leaving the ship. I can't say enough about the quality of the staff in Michaels Club...top notch!
I had arranged an Viator Tour in Istanbul and our guide, Talga, was exceptional. After pointing out the lines at the major sites he said he'd like to reverse the order of our tour with our permission. We did so, and when we got to the major sites, (The Blue Mosque, Topkapi, etc), we walked right in with no waiting. We had a delightful, included lunch. The next day we went over to the Spice Market on our own which I liked much better than the bazaar which I found to be overwhelming and much more expensive.
This night was our 50th Anniversary so we had dinner in Murano with our friends. The ambience and service was lovely but I really can't say that the food was any better than what we were getting in the main dining room and certainly not worth $40 each extra. We were disappointed.
Our next port was Kusadasi/Ephesus where again I had arranged an all day tour to see the ruins in Ephesus. Our friends are Catholic and were fortunate to get to the home of the Virgin Mary at the time Sunday mass was being held so they were thrilled to be able to participate. We had never previously known of Ephesus so were thrilled with the sites, restoration and especially interested in the terrace houses and how modern they were. It was a fascinating tour. NOTE: wear a hat and sunscreen and take water...it is really hot there.
At this point I would say, I wish we had a sea day here to rest up as adding another more intensive touring site and then another port was exhausting.
Athens was another arranged tour and walking up to the Acropolis is exhausting and slippery. Make sure you wear rubber soled shoes and be careful. It was also unusually hot for early May (in the 90's)which made the climb even worse. Our tour and guide were excellent but we were ready to return to the ship when it was over. Even the much younger people in our group were beat.
On to Mykonos where we did not have a planned tour. The ship offered a shuttle to town for $10/ea.(which we took) I would NOT take this shuttle as it drops you off outside of town and you still have a long walk ahead of you and BACK. I would rent a scooter or ATV for 2 for the day for $15 or $25E and you can ride all the way in and around the island and see much more without all the walking because after the 3 previous ports, you are tired.
At last a much needed sea day...I will add here that our message board group had a Cabin Crawl on this day where we were able to walk thru the many different types of cabins that people in our group graciously volunteered to let us see. Also on other sea days, we had a group luncheon, a croquet match, and a slot pull. Many thanks to the organizers and our fearless "roll call tender" who kept our humongous roll call up to date.
Last port was Capri/Sorrento/Amalfi. We had another organized tour in a van for the 4 of us to drive up the Amalfi Coast which is breathtaking. We went to Pompeii, saw the vast and well preserved ruins first which is huge (which was a surprise to me), then Positano, Amalfi, had a delightful lunch in an out of the way family restaurant in Ravello. If you go in the summer, I would recommend taking the boat to Amalfi from Naples as the traffic on this 2 lane road is horrid.(In the summer you will sit in traffic for hours) Then arrange a drive to Ravello which is delightful.
A few comments about the ship before we leave it. The Equinox was probably the best maintained X ship I've been on and this staff the best I've experienced. I also thought the singers and dancers in the variety shows were the best I've seen of all the production shows on previous X cruises. The wait staff we had in Select dining could not have been better. We had made a couple special added requests that first night and those requests were met every night from then on without asking.
We disembarked in about 15 minutes although we were seated in the Tuscan grille with coffee and pastries for Elite guests although I believe that others got off fairly quickly as well.
We were touring Rome after our cruise for 3 days. While waiting for our driver, my carry-on bag was mistakenly taken by another passenger and my husband had to go back to the port after we had arrived in Rome before the ship left again. Because of the distance to the port, the trip cost us $300E to go back to the port and back to Rome again to retrieve that bag. :(
We toured Rome with a really great 15 hour Expedia tour incl lunch and saw many sites, but the last day there while on our HOHO tour, my husband began to feel ill and weak. When I got him on the plane, it was necessary to get a wheelchair to assist him off. It turned out he had contracted bacterial pneumonia. I also had somehow gotten an intense rash with unbearable itching all over my body due to an allergic reaction to something?????
So, our great cruise vacation, ended on a sour note but that certainly won't keep us from planning our next trip. In fact we put down a deposit for our next X cruise sometime in the near future. :)