This was our 10th cruise (third with Celebrity), and our second to the Mediterranean. We were traveling with another couple, and it was their first time in Europe, so we did mostly private excursions that we pre-arranged with other CruiseCritic members.
We traveled in Italy by train for 10 days pre-cruise, and spent 2 nights in Rome prior to boarding the ship. We stayed at Suite Dreams, which was a great location, just a few blocks from the train station and close to many of the main attractions. We explored a bit on our own the first day, then used Rudy's Touring Service for an all-day tour of Rome. Rudy was excellent, getting us to the sites before the crowds, and providing great commentary on all that we saw. He is an art history major, so his insight really brought Rome to life for us. We took the train to the port, which wasn't bad since we were traveling light (we each had a carry-on and one rolling backpack between us).
Embarkation was very quick and efficient. We went to the buffet for lunch, which was not overly crowded. They have a nice, wide selection to choose from. The cabins were open surprisingly early, by about 1:00pm.
We loved the ship. Even though we heard it was pretty much full, we never felt any of the areas were crowded, even at the breakfast buffet on early port days. There are lots of small gathering areas, so everyone seems to spread out throughout the ship. They had a lot of bars and areas with a variety of music. My only complaint was that there was a band playing most of the time in the 3rd deck atrium, which was right next to Customer Service. It was very difficult to have any discussion with the Customer Service staff with the usually loud music playing right behind you.
The staff on the ship was fantastic. Everyone was very warm, friendly and helpful.
We had a Concierge Class cabin, and it was as roomy as any typical cabin, with ample storage space (we almost missed the flip-up storage cabinets above the bed). The balcony was quite sizable, with 2 chairs, 2 footrests, and a nice big table. The only problem with our room location was a door across the hall that the staff used to access their stairs -- in the late afternoon, it would slam shut frequently (we were in Cabin 1066). Otherwise, the location was a great mid-ship location.
We did use the laundry service, which was very good.
Both of the men in our group had reserved tuxedos, and my husband's pants wound up being about 6" too short, even though we had used the same measurements from a previous Celebrity cruise that had been fine. Our friend received his tux, but no studs, cufflinks, or shoes. They told him they had run out. Unfortunately, he was too embarrassed to wear other shoes, so they missed 3 nights in the dining room.
We had the 8:45 seating for dinner. We usually like this late dinner, but with such a port-intensive itinerary and a lot of early morning departures, it was a little late for us this time. Several people we met did the anytime dining, and they did not have any problems with getting a table when they wanted, so I would try this next time. The food in the main dining room was very good.
Most of the shows for the late seating were scheduled for after dinner, making for a late night. So, we only went to a few of the shows. This is another reason we'd try the anytime dining next time.
We went to Qsine once, and really enjoyed it. The menus are on IPads, and you select as many dishes as you'd like to try, sharing with your table-mates, and the waiter takes your selections and makes a meal. You tell him to stop when you get too full. Most of the dishes were delicious, except I'd skip the vegie course-it was pureed vegies, and tasted much like baby food. The service was fantastic, the waiter very friendly and attentive. It was a very unique experience.
We also went to the Lawn Grill. It is a great idea, but the night we went was very windy and cold, and it is open-air. There are some partitions that we thought would block the weather, but they did nothing. They had heat lamps, but with the wind, they were pretty much useless. The staff did give blankets out to everyone, but by the time they got to us, we got what looked like tablecloths! Gave us a good laugh. The food, however, was fabulous. Two in our group tried to shape the dough for our pizza, which was a lot of fun, and turned out delicious. We didn't cook our own steaks due to the weather, and there was no pressure from the staff to do so. I'd go there again, but only if it were a pleasant evening weather-wise.
We ate breakfast in the Buffet every day, and the food was very good, with lots of choices. We had lunch there on sea days, and enjoyed the food then, too. We ate dinner once, but 3 of us felt the food had been sitting too long and was dried up. The pasta bar and salad bar were very good, though.
Naples: We booked a private tour with Vito of See Amalfi Coast with 3 other CC members. Vito was fun, knowledgeable, and passionate, and we had an excellent day with him. We went to Ravello and Amalfi, and had a wonderful family-style lunch at a restaurant above Positano, then went to Pompeii. This was one of our favorite tours of the whole trip.
Sicily: We booked a private tour with Sicily Limousine Service, with 2 other CC members. We went up to Mt Etna, and walked around one of the cinder cones partway, but it was incredibly windy and cold, so cut the walk short. It was still very interesting to see. We went to our driver's favorite restaurant for some good local food. We then went to Taormina and wandered around the beautiful village. It was a good itinerary, but our guide was a bit reserved.
Malta: We had a wonderful private guide through Touring Malta, and had 4 other CC members join us (8 of us total). She took us to Mdina for a walking tour, to a beautiful fishing village for lunch, and we had pre-arranged to see the Hypogeum, a 5,000 year old underground burial site. They only allow in 80 people a day in, so tickets have to be reserved in advance, which the tour company did for us. We then went to Valletta, for another walking tour and visit to St John's Co-Cathedral, which is probably the most unique church we've ever seen. Our guide was very knowledgeable about the history of Malta and the artwork at all the sites. Highly recommended. An added bonus, since this was the first time the Silhouette was in Malta, they gave us a cannon salute as we sailed away.
Day at Sea
Mykonos: This was supposed to be a tendered port, but we got to dock instead. Celebrity had a shuttle, but we walked to the old town instead - it wasn't a long walk. We meandered around through the many shops, and also back a bit off the beaten path. Mykonos is very touristy, but pretty nonetheless. We thought about going to Delos, but it was really windy, so decided not to. We stopped at two restaurant/bars, and ordered sampler platters to share amongst the four of us, with beer. This was a fun and inexpensive way to try various Greek specialties, and it was plenty of food to make a lunch.
Athens: We joined other CC members (12 of us total) on a tour with Private Greece Tours. He took us to the Acropolis and a temple, we had lunch on our own, then went to the Parliament for the changing of the guards, and to the Acropolis Museum. We did Athens on our own on a previous trip, using public transportation, and wouldn't mind doing that again. That time, we hired a guide at the Acropolis, which helps us to understand what we're looking at. This tour was ok, and it made it less stressful than trying to find our way, but I'm not sure we gained that much from it, and it gave us much less flexibility in terms of how much time we spent at the sites. We also drove past a very interesting-looking market place that we all would have liked to have spent time at, but did not have the opportunity.
Kusadasi, Turkey: We arranged a private tour through Samyeli Tours for just the 4 of us, and had a fabulous day. We didn't really know what to expect in Turkey, but wound up loving it. Our guide was very personable and knowledgeable, and we also had a driver. The van was the most luxurious we had on any of our tours. We went to Ephesus, which was amazing, and had prearranged to see the Terrace Houses. Absolutely loved it. Our guide accompanied us the whole time, explaining everything as we went. We then had a lovely drive through the green, hilly countryside, up to the village of Sirince, which was very picturesque, with a quaint market. She took us to a family-style restaurant for lunch, where they brought a multitude of plates for us to share. It was very inexpensive, and one of our favorite meals of the entire trip. We had time to wander through the shops, then stopped at a carpet factory and leather factory, which we had chosen to do. The carpet factory was interesting, and they weren't overly high-pressure to buy. The leather factory's prices weren't that reasonable, even when we bartered, and they followed us out into the parking lot trying to get us to buy a jacket. I'd skip that stop in the future.
Rhodes: We hired Themis, of VIP Taxi Tours, for an all-day tour for the four of us. This was a more rustic tour, but we had a very interesting day. Throughout the day, Themis pulled over to the side of the road and picked wild herbs, showed us the plants capers grow on, broke off a piece of a grapevine for us to eat, took us to an orange grove and let us eat the sweetest, juiciest oranges we've ever had, etc. He picked up some fresh goat cheese from a friend, bought bread and tomatoes, and made simple sandwiches for us, which we ate at a taxi stand near a beach. He talked of getting some gyros, but I think the place might have been closed on Sunday. He dropped us off in a village with lots of shops, and we wandered around for an hour or so, then he took us to a beautiful beach for a short visit. This tour was different than most, but gave us more of an inside look into the life in Rhodes than most tours would. Themis's car is a smaller Mercedes, so it was a bit crowded with 4 adults for a whole day. I would say I recommend him, but just be aware that it's a bit different than most tours.
Santorini: This was a tendered port, which we did on our own. We heard lots of stories of long waits to get a tender to go ashore, but we went to get our tickets fairly early in the morning, and were told to go straight to the tender boats. We then took the funicular up to Fira, and had no wait at all. We took the bus to Oia, and wandered around this beautiful town, and did a little shopping. We had lunch, and then caught the bus back to Fira around 2:30. There was a pretty long line for the bus, so I'd plan to allow plenty of time. They run about every 1/2 hr. (Make a note of the return bus times when you arrive in Oia -- I took a picture of the schedule so we could plan accordingly.) We started to look around the shops in Fira a bit, but were pretty tired and it was getting hot, so decided to head back to the ship. The line for the funicular was very long, so we were glad we hadn't waited any later. It probably took close to an hour to get through the line. But, we heard it took an hour for people to walk down the donkey path, so I'd stick with the funicular.
Crete: We arranged a private tour with Diktynna Travel; there were 12 of us on this tour. Our guide took us through the Old Town area of Chania, and gave us time to stroll through an interesting market. Then we drove up to a restaurant in the hills for a family-style meal. Some felt it was a long drive just to have lunch and then drive back, but the scenery was beautiful. The guide was good, but not the most enthusiastic we had.
Day at Sea
Venice: We watched the arrival in Venice from the 12th deck, which was spectacular. We bought the all-day pass offered by Celebrity ($22 per person) for a shuttle boat ride that takes you close to St Mark's. We got off the ship fairly early, and found the line for the shuttle boats very long, and slow-moving. Probably could have done better with local transportation.
Once we got to St Mark's, we just wandered around and shopped a bit, then had a nice lunch at a restaurant on the Grand Canal -- not the best food, and pricey, but watching all the activity on the canal made it worthwhile for us.
Since we were going to be taking the train to Milan the next morning, we decided to find the train station, and walk back to the ship from the train station, to preview what the next day would be like for us. It was a longer walk than we'd expected, and the new bridge has many short steps, which some people were able to roll their luggage over; others carried theirs. Then we got on the People-Mover, which is essentially a very short train ride, but the cars are basically a large room with a few seats. Once off the People-Mover, we still had a pretty long walk back to the ship.The whole trip took us about 25 minutes, at a pretty steady pace. Other ships had shuttle buses running from the People-Mover, but not Celebrity, as far as we could tell.
Disembarking: This was very efficient, and our group got called earlier than we had requested.
Two of us still had light luggage, but the other couple had made quite a few purchases, so the walk to the train station seemed more than they wanted to handle. We had also made friends with another couple, who had a lot of luggage and some mobility problems, so we were all looking for other options. They had heard of a luggage transport service, but no one on Celebrity could offer any information on this. We considered taking a water taxi, but heard it would be about 100 euros. We also considered taking a taxi to the Mestre station. As it turned out, when the four of us got off the ship, a taxi driver overheard us talking about trying to get to the train station. He said he could take 6 people for 10 euros per person. He said only 3 taxi drivers had access to the gate. After verifying that it was the nearby Santa Lucia station, we agreed. Another couple overheard the conversation, and quickly joined us. He was true to his word. He went in a back way, and dropped us off right outside the door to the station. The other couple (who disembarked later that us) did find the luggage transport service, and then were able to take their time walking to the station unencumbered.
All in all, we loved this cruise. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.