This was our second Celebrity cruise. Our first left us a little underwhelmed, so our TA had to convince me this was going to be a good cruise. She was more than right.
Let me start by saying we are the world's "worse" cruisers. We don't go to the shows or activities. We don't do ship excursions. This was such a port intensive cruise, we did not use the facilities on the ship as much as we would have liked.
We originally wanted to do a land vacation in Italy, but through circumstances decided to do a cruise instead. Our TA suggested this cruise for its great itinerary. She also felt we would like the Celebrity product.
We decided to sign up for an inside cabin, and we knew we wouldn't be on the ship that much, but with price drops, we kept upgrading until we had a Suite Guarantee. I expected a Sky Suite, but we were assigned a Celebrity Suite. It was a fabulous cabin. I don't think I would pay the going rate for this cabin, but we sure enjoyed it.
We got to Rome 2 days before the cruise and did some exploring and getting over our jet lag. We stayed at the Nardizzi American Hotel near the Termini Train Station. It was a nice basic hotel. We decided to do this trip with only a carry on each, and were able to take the train to the port. It took about 50 minutes and only cost us 9 Euro total. It was just a few blocks to the shuttle buses then off to the ship.
We filled out our health form and zipped to the front of the Suite line to board. I had made little earrings out of our luggage tags, and they were quite the hit with the staff. We had left Rome at 10:50 and were on the ship by noon.
Since the cabins were not ready, we went to the Bistro on Five for lunch (thanks to the advice from CC!). We had to convince the elevator guy to let us off at 5, he was going to take us straight to the buffet on 14. Our lunch was fabulous there, very relaxed and in a beautiful setting.
We then snuck to our cabin, even though it was early. We meet our Room Stewart. He assured us our Cabin was ready and invited us to drop our bags.
The staff on the ship was fabulous. Our room Steward Menino and Butler Sebatian were ready to provide us with anything we needed. Our waiter Varun and assistant waiter Zico were great and fun. Everywhere we went on the ship, we were greeted warmly.
The cabin was roomy. It had a hallway the opens to a living room with a TV, large sofa and chair. There is a desk and a closet. The bedroom is just big enough for the bed, which was fine. It also had a TV. We also had a walk in closet with a dresser. Our few clothes were lost in the closet!
The bathroom was nice. It had a door that opened to the hall and another that opened to the bedroom. There was a tub with a shower. The cabinet in the bathroom held all our toiletries with room to spare.
Our dislikes about the bathroom were the large step we had to take to get into the shower. The water knob for the tub is at chest level, so it made it awkward to fill the tub or adjust the water. But nothing we couldn't live with.
Our biggest surprise was to find we were granted Elite status for this trip, since we were in a Suite. We didn't use most of the perks, but it was nice to have them available. We did go to some of the cocktail parties and used the wine coupons. We used the internet coupon, but would have probably done without, if we didn't have it. We talked about using the laundry coupon, but I had a routine of rinsing out our clothes, so never got around to it.
We did go the the Elegant Elite Tea, which was nice and the Elite Wine Tasting, which was very informative.
We had internet in our cabin, but it was dismal. It took forever to login or get to any websites. The internet lounge felt like a big Apple commercial, but worked better. Unfortunately it was closed most of our 2 sea days, since it was such a port intensive cruise, this is when they held classes.
We had the 8:45 seating for dinner. This was a little late for our taste, but we made it work. Most days we had a snack when we got back from port to tide us over. There was a fruit basket in our room and our butler would leave us treats, or we would go up to the buffet for a snack.
The food in the main dining room was good. Only one dish was sent back the whole trip, and that was because it wasn't to our table-mate's taste. The waiter's recommendations were normally right one.
On our last Celebrity cruise, the wine list was very sparse. We were very pleased with the selection and variety on this cruise. We enjoyed the Wine bar and tasting glasses of some special wines.
We went to Murano twice. It was very nice and elegant. We loved the Sommelier there, he was really sharp. It was way too much food, so we were smarter the second time, and didn't eat all the first courses.
We went to the Tuscan Grille once. It was fabulous. The waitstaff was so much fun, and we had a great meal. Again, we really hit it off with the Sommelier.
We had one more specialty restaurant entry to use, so we decided to go to the Lawn Grill. We did this with great reluctance, we didn't want to be harassed to make our own food. Well, it was fabulous. The fisrt time we went, it was a really windy night. The Maitr'd didn't want us to have a bad experience, so he re-booked us for the following night. He offered to get us a table at Murano's or the Tuscan Grille, but we went to the main dining room. When we went back the next night, we were met with smiles and a big welcome. The wait team was fabulous. We only had to tell them once, we didn't want to cook our own food, and it was fine. (this was our day in Venice and my feet hurt from all the walking!) The food was great and we are really glad we went.
The food in the Buffet for breakfast was very good. The scrambled eggs and bacon were undercooked for my taste, but there were certainly enough other choices. Loved the waffles, and I am not a big waffle fan. We ate in the MDR a couple of times for breakfast, but it was quicker to go to the buffet for our early port days.
We enjoyed the cool towels and cold drinks that met us at the pier each day when we got back to the ship. We had very nice weather, not too hot, so I imagine those towels feel really nice on a hot day!
The only real disappointment on this cruise was with the tux we rented for my husband. We've rented tuxes on Carnival in the past with no problem. Since we were packing light, we did not want to bring his tux with us. The tux was not in our room when we arrived. Our butler fetched it for us. The pants were in really bad shape and the clasp was unusable. We let the butler know and he replaced the pants. The new pants were a different size and did not fit well. The quality of the tux was very poor and the shirts were dreadful! Overall, next time we will figure out how to bring a plain sports jacket for formal nights.
This was our 17th cruise, so we decided we didn't want to do Ship's excursions. Some of the ports are quite a way from the historical areas, but we managed with a combination of public transportation and private tours.
I used the Rick Steves Mediterranean Cruise port book and DK Eyewitness Traveler Greek Isles and Malta books.
Naples: This port has a bad reputation of being dangerous. While caution is certainly a good idea, we had no trouble navigating this port. There are a lot of excursion options here. We decided to go to Herculaneum. This is a town that was destroyed in the same eruption as Pompeii. Only 20% of the town is excavated, since it is closer into Naples, but it is much better preserved than Pompeii. We got off the ship and took the city bus to the train station. We then got the train (Circumvesuia) to the Herculaneum stop. We walked a few blocks to the site and paid our entrance fee. There was a guide gathering a group for a tour, so we joined in. For about 10 Euro, we had a great tour of the site. It is really spectacular how well these people lived 2,000 years ago.
We then took the train back to Naples and walked through town to the Victor Emmanuel Gallery. It is a big open elegant shopping area. Since it was Sunday, most of the shops were closed, but we did have an authentic pizza in Naples.
We then strolled back to the ship.
Sicily: We booked a private tour with Sicily with Mario. We had his brother Ignazio who was fabulous. It was a clear day, so we had fabulous views of Mt Etna. He offered to take us there, but it wasn't worth the extra for such a short visit. We went to Taormina and wandered around the beautiful Village. We then went to Castlemola for a great lunch with Mama Maria at Gallo Cedrone. It was very authentic food in a very friendly setting. We met Mario and his group there. We toured the town. The entire trip we were giving the history and description of the area. It was one of the best tours we have ever taken.
Malta; Through CC I heard about the Hypogeum. It is a 5,000 year old underground burial site. They only allow 80 people a day in, so it has to be preplanned. I got our tickets, and we were really excited about this stop. Since we got into port at 8 and our tour time was 10, we got off the ship quickly. There was a band playing "Yellow submarine" at the port, which was a nice touch. We found the information desk and got directions to the bus. The clerk did make sure we had tickets before she sent us out there. We found the bus and a nice attendant assisted us with our tickets and got us on the right bus. A couple of our fellow passengers made sure we got off at the right stop and gave us directions to the site. It is in a regular house, so can be confusing to find. Our tour had a guide and 6 people. It was a very impressive and moving site.
We then took the bus back to Valetta. We went to the Archeology Museum to see the artifacts from the Hypogeum. We also toured the Cathedral and the Palace of the Grand Master. Both were quite impressive. We had read a book about the siege of Malta in the 1500's and were very interested to see what we read about. We stopped for a nice snack in a cafe and enjoyed some people watching. We then wandered to Fort St Elmo and back around to the port. We watched the Princess ship that was in port with us sail out. There were a troop of soldiers in costume when we got back to the ship, putting on a parade and firearm demonstration. Since this was the first visit of the Silhouette to Malta, they gave us a cannon salute as we sailed away.
We were very impressed with Malta.
Day at Sea: We relaxed and sat in the sun. It was a little too cool in the shade on our balcony, so we found a pair of loungers on the deck. It was nice to rest our feet after all the walking we had been doing.
Mykonos: We decided to make this our relaxing port. It was supposed to be a tender port, but we docked. We paid the ship's price for the shuttle (sorry we did, we could have walked it). We then found a cab out to Paradise Beach. We got a couple of loungers and an umbrella and enjoyed the beautiful views. They did not charge us for the chairs, but we ordered an ice tea, water, and beer. After a few hours, we went to the reception desk and they got us a cab back. We wandered around the village and did some shopping and then headed back to the ship.
We got off the ship and took the bus to the train station. The same ticket works for both, so it is a really inexpensive way to get to town. Athens is a big sprawly city, but most of the sites are in a small area, so it is a great cruise port. We walked around the acropolis hill and went to the Archeology Museum. It was nice, but we thought it could have been better labeled. It was built over an excavation, so the floors are plexiglass and you can see the dig.
When we left the museum, we saw the line for the Acropolis was huge, so we wandered around the Plaka to do some shopping. We looked at some of the other historical sites from outside the fence and decided not to go in. We then faced the climb to the top of the Acropolis. It wasn't that bad. The Parthenon was amazing to see in person, even though they are working on it. The views from the hill and the other sites are great to see also.
We then decided to chance Syntagma Square. This is where there will be protest, if there are any. There was no problems there. We watched the changing of the guard, which was impressive. We then caught the subway back to the ship.
We had arranged for a private tour here. We used Ephesus Deluxe and it was a fabulous tour. Our guide was a lovely gentleman, who was very interesting to talk to and very dynamic. Our driver was a very pleasant young man.
We went to the House of the Virgin Mary first, and got there before the tour buses. The guide told us the history on the way. It was a very moving and spiritual place. We then went to the Ephesus site, which is really impressive. Our guide had some good insights to what we were seeing. We also went into the Terrace Houses. If you are at Ephesus, make sure you pay the extra admission here, it is worth it.
We went to the Archeology Museum and saw many of the artifacts from Ephesus.
We then went to the Basilica of St John and saw the Temple of Artemis in the distance.
We had a lovely lunch and discussion with our tour guide and went to the obligatory carpet factory. The carpets are beautiful, but we have not place in our house for them. The sales pitch was actually not too much pressure.
Our tour guide dropped us off in town and we did our shopping at the grand bazaar (with a whole lot of "no, thank yous" to the pushy vendors.
We were in Rhodes on a Sunday and were concerned things would not be open. It was not a problem. It was very easy to stroll from the ship to the city. We walked through town to the Grand Masters Palace. The original had been destroyed and this was a recreation done for the King of Italy and then Mussolini to use as a vacation place. They had very impressive mosaics on the floors and some copies of famous statues. We then walked down the Street of Knights. There were some very interesting looking buildings. We stopped at a cafe for a snack and ordered a traditional Greek appetizer plate, very yummy! We did some shopping in the stores. In all our Greece and the one Turkey stop, we felt we saw the same merchandise in all the stores, with some local flavor at each. The prices at Rhodes struck us as about the best.
We then wandered back to the ship and watched the other passengers walk on back.
This was the only port we planned on taking a ship excursion on. We were going to do the volcano hike and hot spring swim. When we went to book this, the shore excursion person told us he did not recommend this tour because the water was cold at the hot springs. The one thing we've learned in our prior cruises was that if the ship is not recommending it, don't do it. So we were left at loose ends. We decided to take advantage of our Elite Priority Tender tickets and got off the ship early in the morning. We were on one of the first non-tour tenders. We got to the port, then to the cable cars and went right up.
There wasn't much open yet, so we wandered the streets a little. Then my DH got the idea to rent a car. We noticed signs for a place called Tony's Rental Cars and followed them. They weren't quite open yet, but greeted us warmly. A lovely elderly lady took our information while waiting for Tony. She didn't speak much English, but showed us some of the best places on the map to go. Just a note: most cars in Europe are manual transmissions. We are fine with them, but be prepared if you don't know how to drive one. We got into a cute red car and headed out to Oia. Since we left the ship so quickly, we didn't have breakfast, so we stopped at a cute little cafe, Anemomilos and had what we felt was a very British breakfast. We then wandered the town and took some great shots. We left as the tour buses were pouring in.
We then drove around the other side of the island, through little towns. We stopped at the Wine Museum to see how wine was made in Santorini. It was a little cheesy, but informative. We went to Red Beach and past the Archeology dig.
We returned the car and spend some time exploring Fira. Really bargain and look around before you buy anything. I found a little silver donkey charm for my bracelet at several stores for 25, 22, and 18 Euro. I finally bought it for 9.
This was one of our hotter days, and when we went to the cable car, the line was over an hour long. We decided to walk down the donkey path. The donkeys were taking passengers both up and down the trail, so we had to avoid them. The path is very slick and full of donkey bombs. We went pretty slow and it took us almost an hour. Then it was in line for the tender and back to the ship. We did joke with the Cruise Director about having our hands sanitized but being covered with Donkey Poo!
We docked near Chania and not Herkaklion, so we were disappointed we didn't get to see Knossos. Since this was one of our shorter days, and the site is a couple of hours or more from the ship, it wasn't worth trying. We met up with another couple from CC and took a tour of the area. We saw the British WWII cemetery, a monastery, some small hill towns in the area and had some snacks at a cafe by a pleasant stream. It was a nice low key day. Our driver wasn't very dynamic and didn't give us much information about the area.
I was amazed to see all the snow on the mountains. They are 6 -- 7.000 feet tall.
Day at Sea:
Since we had done so much walking over the last 2 weeks, we took our last sea day nice and easy. It was a nice morning, so we sat in the sun. As it started to cloud over, we went and sat in the solarium. We also did some packing and getting ready to get off the ship. The afternoon and evening were pretty blustery, so we watched a movie in our cabin.
We arrived at the port in Venice at 10 am. So we got up early and watched the trip in. It was spectacular to see our large ship coming into this port with all the smaller boats zipping around. They offered an all day pass on the ship to take you back and forth to St Marks for $22. We decided to do this on our own. Once we were docked, we got off the ship and followed the signs to the People Mover. It cost 1 Euro and takes you to Piazza Roma. We then got on a Vaporetto and listened to Rick Steves Grand Canal tour as we sailed down the Grand Canal. We got off at St Mark's Square and did some window shopping at the vendors lined up.
Since we were staying in Venice an extra night, we decided to find our hotel while we were unburdened with luggage. We were staying the the Hotel Centauro just a couple of bridges away from St Marks, so it was easy to find. We had a nice lunch in a little restaurant near the hotel (ironically, they were playing Bruce Springstein the whole time we were there.)
We then went to the Accademia Museum. There was room after room of gorgeous art from Venetian artists. When then just wandered around and stuck our heads in some other fabulous churches. We went back to the ship for dinner.
The next day, we walked right off the ship, as we were carrying all of our luggage and took the M vaporetto to St Marks Square. We were too early to check into our hotel, so we dropped our bags and went out to explore. The line for St Marks was too long while we were there, so we never got inside. We did notice the line for the Doge's palace was short, so we went in. There was a gentleman giving a tour to 2 tourists, so we kind of followed him and listened in to what he was saying.
After another day of wandering around, we placed ourselves at St Marks Square to watch the Silhouette sail back out of Venice. It was an impressive site.
The next day we rented a car and traveled around Italy for a week. We had such a great time, we booked a 10 day Caribbean cruise for 2014 while on board.