My Grandson wanted to see the ruins in Greece so we booked this cruise, while we were on FOS last summer, then transferred it to our Travel Agent. This was the first trip to Europe for 4 of the 5 of us. We decided to spend 3 nights in Rome pre-cruise and 1 night post-cruise, just to cover our bases and make sure we got to see everything possible. We booked a double room and a triple room at the Hotel Sant' Angelo, near the Vatican. The price of the hotel averaged around $44 per person, per night. The rooms were tiny, but the beds were great and since we needed two twin beds in one room and 3 twins in another, this was perfect for the small amount of time we spent at the hotel. We added the breakfast for 7.50 euros each day. They had a buffet with scrambled eggs, english-style bacon, cheeses, fruits, pastries and baked goods, cereals, yogurt, juice, coffee and capuccina. It's tucked away on a quiet street. We arrived early, but the the hotel had one of our rooms ready and after we stowed our luggage, the manager gave us a map and a few suggestions for lunch at restaurants within a couple of blocks of the hotel. We used Aer Lingus to get from NY to Rome, with a plane change in Dublin. Aer Lingus was on time, had in-flight movies at no cost and the price of the ticket was $801, so it was too good to believe. We had arranged for Bob's Limo for the airport (FCO) to the hotel, the hotel to the cruise ship, the cruise ship back to the hotel and the hotel back to the airport. They were prompt, professional, on-time and waiting patiently for us at each transfer. We couldn't have asked for better service.
The embarkation process at Civitavecchia was the fastest, most efficient we've ever experienced. The driver dropped us off at the tented area, we walked straight to the clerks, got our seapass card and were listening to the first ping of the seapass card before we had time to catch our breath. The ship was clean, and the only place we saw any signs of age or disrepair was the paint was chipping overhead on the balcony ceiling in a few places. Before we could finish our lunch, the announcement was made that the cabins were ready. The muster drill was quick and painless and then we were off to the upper deck to enjoy the first frozen drink and watch the sail-away.
We chose first dining in the MDR because we knew that some of us would be tired at the end of a day of excursions and some of us would want to be interested in other things after dinner each night. Our waiter, Sean, was one of the best we've ever had. In fact, after hearing that escargot was a favorite of my Grandson, the last night of the cruise, 4 servings of escargot suddenly appeared on our table, in spite of the fact that it wasn't on the menu. What a nice surprise! We didn't use the Specialty Restaurants on this cruise and we had wonderful meals every night.
We had been on the sister ships of Navigator so there were not surprises with our balcony cabin. Our cabin steward was great. He always made sure we had ice, kept the cabin immaculately clean and was extremely nice. I used the Wash and Fold special. After having spent 3 days in Rome, we were in need of some clean clothes. Because we are Diamond C&A, we had 2 coupons and were able to get a bag of laundry done for $15 each. Everything came back neatly folded with very few wrinkles and we were very grateful. I was able to fit an unbelievable amount of laundry into the bag. I was able to send underwear, t-shirts and capris and they all came back in good enough shape to wear on the tours without any pressing...just a sprint or two with the trusty Downey Wrinkle Release and I was back in business.
We used private cars at all the ports except Crete, and it was the best decision ever. At each port, we had a driver who made sure we got out ahead of the lines of buses. It was more economical than the RCI excursions, we saw more in less time and there was no time wasted waiting on everyone to go to the bathroom, shop, or return to the bus..and we had the ability to change the itinerary if we were enjoying ourselves at any particular spot. In Turkey we used Ephesus Deluxe and they were great. I can't say a negative thing about them. In Sicily we used New Travel Services. The driver went above and beyond to make our trip to Taormina easy, fun and made special stops along the way, making sure we were able to stop at any spot we pointed out. In Athens we used Dennis Private Tours and not only did the driver greet us, but Dennis was there as well. It was the first trip to Europe for all of us but one and the first time we've used the private car route, but we were absolutely blown away with the cost, the professional manner and had absolutely the best of each port. In Crete, we only wanted to do a little shopping. We didn't have any plans so we just used the free shuttle provided by RCI. The only complaint would be that they waited not only until the shuttles were full, but packed with people standing and hanging on for dear life from the overhead straps before they would budge from the lot.
I would without doubt use these companies again and wouldn't hesitate to recommend them to anyone. You get a nice air-conditioned car or mini-van, a driver who is familiar with the country and takes good care of you in a way you can't get with a crowd. I listened to others complaining about the waiting time, the places they didn't enjoy and felt a little guilty because we had been having the time of our lives. Each company, in fact, had ice-cold water and juice for us which truly helped with the heat.
We didn't see all of the shows, but we did see the ice show and it was great, as usual. The only negative on the entertainment was that the parades were at odd times and we missed them both times. One of our group had never seen the parade and we were a little disappointed that we missed them. This itinerary is very port intensive when compared with a caribbean cruise so I guess we should have paid more attention to the Compass.
We loved every port. This was truly a wonderful trip. I wouldn't hesitate to repeat this trip on the Navigator again.