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A fun trip for a large family group
Europe - Eastern Mediterranean
My parents organized this trip to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. My husband and I brought our two children, ages 9 and 12, and my brother and his wife brought their two children, ages 3 and 5. Some aunts and uncles came, and my 21-year-old cousin, for a group of 15 people.
This cruise turned out to be a great way to entertain all those people of different generations. We had opportunities to do things together, but it was also easy to split up and do things in small groups or individually. Our kids did not use the children's program a lot, but when they did go they enjoyed it. The staff seemed to do a good job of making the kids feel comfortable and have fun. My 12-year-old could have joined the teen club, which concerned me a bit because the 12- to 17-year-olds were all combined for this trip. She preferred to be with her family or read on a deck chair, so she never joined the teen club.
Our room, a balcony room on deck seven, was bigger than I expected, More
clean, and fairly quiet (we were about halfway down the hall from the Centrum.) One relative on deck eight was annoyed by noises from the pool deck above late at night. I loved having a balcony and spent a lot of time sitting out there, reading or enjoying the view. We also brought a travel clothesline and used the balcony to dry laundry and swimsuits. We splurged and put our kids in a separate room across the hall. If all four of us had been in the same room, it would have been very crowded. The interior room seemed to be a mirror image of the balcony room, only a tiny bit smaller.
The food was good and there was plenty of variety. I only had one dish that I disliked (greek salad) and one dessert that I didn't like enough to eat the extra calories (I think it was the savarin.) My brother and I shared the platinum wine package and we enjoyed all the wines that we tried. It was $225 for seven bottles. My husband and I tried the main dining room for breakfast once, but the service was ridiculously slow. I didn't mind waiting for my food, but 20 minutes to get my tea is not okay. After that we ate breakfast and lunch in the Windjammer and all dinners in the main dining room. We occasionally had snacks from the hot dog stand or the Park Cafe.
The entertainment varied a lot. I found the music in the Centrum to be pretty awful, both in choice of music and in level of performance. The singers and dancers in the theater were very talented, doing acts that were cheesy but fun. I was very disappointed in the aerial show in the Centrum because they did not use aerialists, just the dancers from the theater. Mostly they were strapped into harnesses and waved their arms and legs gracefully while the stage crew moved them up and down, or they bounced around on bungee cords.
The gym was a decent size, with a nice mix of equipment. I never used the spa, but my mom had her hair done one day and it looked great. The pool areas could get crowded but the only day we had trouble finding chairs was the at-sea day. In general the ship was very clean and the staff was friendly and helpful.
I'll review the port separately but they were great!
Sailing in and out of Venice was wonderful. Such gorgeous views! Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
We grabbed a cab right outside the ship for 20 euros. He tried to convince us to pay 70 euros for a panoramic tour of the city, but I really just wanted to see the Acropolis, so we declined. The Acropolis was amazing. I was really glad we brought water bottles and very sad that I forgot my hat. The next day I was also sad that I had not applied enough sunscreen. It was hot, dry, dusty, windy, and I wouldn't have missed it for anything.
After walking through the Acropolis and climbing up the big rock nearby, we went to the Acropolis museum. We enjoyed a nice lunch in the restaurant (decent food, slow service, nice cool air-conditioning) and then explored the museum. For kids, you can get a backpack at the information desk that includes some games and a scavenger hunt. The kids get a map of the museum and a page of stickers that show different versions of the goddess Athena, which they put on the appropriate place on the map. My 12-year old daughter liked the scavenger hunt, and my 9-year-old son enjoyed playing the Athena memory game while waiting for lunch. You have to give the information desk a picture I.D. to borrow the backpack. The coolest part of the museum is looking down through the glass floor at excavations going on right underneath your feet.
Outside the museum, we found my brother and his family on a little sight-seeing train parked outside. We decided to join them and enjoyed seeing the Parliament building, Tower of the Winds, the Agora, and other places that we had seen at a distance from the Acropolis. After one circuit around the area, we caught a taxi back to the port.
I was sorry not to convince my family to walk a few blocks to see the Arch of Hadrian and the Temple of Zeus, but otherwise very satisfied with my day.
My husband and daughter stayed on board, so my son and I went to Bari alone. As it was quite hot, we took the shuttle bus into town and then walked back. We visited the castello, which was a cool old castle. Then we walked through town, stopping briefly at the cathedral and the church of St. Nicholas. Then we felt like we were done with the town and ready to return to the ship. A short stop for us, but we enjoyed it. If it had been less hot or my son a little older, I wouldn't have bothered with the shuttle (which I think is $10 each) as the old town is right next to the port.
Corfu is gorgeous! My husband, kids and I took the shuttle bus, which drops you off right by the old fort. This is a big complex with multiple buildings and fantastic views. We climbed up the hill for even better views. It was well worth the climb, but be warned that it is steep and the steps can be very slippery. We stopped at the cafe for drinks and enjoyed the lovely view and the shade. Then we left the old fort, intending to walk across the old town to the "new" fort. A few blocks in, my son decided he was hot and tired and wanted to return to the shuttle bus and the ship. So we did not see a lot of Corfu, but we really enjoyed our few hours there anyway.
My mother and some other relatives rented two taxis to take them all around the island for a three-hour tour. They loved it. They paid 50 euros each, which seems like too much to me, but they felt it was worth the cost. I can't wait to see their photos.
Wow, Dubrovnik has to be the most fantastic-looking place I have ever been. This is the one port I really want to go back to.
We took a cab into town for 10 euros, then stopped at an ATM to get Croatian kuna. I'm not sure I needed to. I could have used a credit card to get tickets to the wall and to the cable car. The snack carts on the wall had prices in both euros and kuna. The gift shops were willing to convert their prices to euros (probably not at the best rate of exchange - but it is convenient for shoppers).
We walked the wall from the Pile gate to the Ploce gate, then climbed down to go outside the wall and ride the cable car up the mountain. There was free wi-fi at the bottom cable car station, so I was able to get email on my phone. The view is fantastic on the cable car, and at the top. We rode back down, and then walked through the old town. We wanted to find one of the restaurants that are between the wall and the water, which we could see from the top of the wall. We went past the cathedral, walked through streets to the inside of the wall, and turned right. The first one is through an unmarked doorway in the wall. It was a bar with tables and chairs perched on rocks by the water, and it was a wonderful place to sit and have a drink while watching the boats go by. My kids were very sorry that they had not worn their swimsuits, as people were jumping off the rocks and into the water, and it looked fabulous. When we left we walked along the inside of the wall, and saw the entrance to the other bar on the water, but didn't go in.
We easily got another cab outside the Pile gate, and were brought back to the ship for another 10 euros. We still had some kuna, so did some souvenir shopping at the carts outside the ship. Another great day!
Mykonos is a beautiful little island. Because of wind, our ship had to anchor off the new port instead of the old port, so RCI provided free shuttle buses from the tenders to the old port. We walked around the old town, taking photos and buying souvenirs. We had lunch at Niko's Taverna, picking a fresh fish out of the ice bucket and having it grilled for us. It was delicious. The kids enjoyed chasing around the "pet" pelican, Petros, and I have photos of my daughter patting his head in the kitchen. We thought about taking a cab to one of the famous beaches, but instead let the kids splash around at the little bit of beach in town, and then headed back to the ship. It was a fun and relaxing day.