After many hours trying to plan a land trip to Italy, I finally took a friend's advice and booked a cruise with Celebrity. We have a 9 year old and wanted both a very nice ship that was also kid friendly. Celebrity delivered.
We flew in to Barcelona 4 days before the cruise and stayed at The Casa Fuster Hotel. It was perfect. Great location and the city of Barcelona is fabulous. We hooked up with other cruisers through cruise critic and went on a day excursion to Costa Brava and Girona through spanish-trails.com What a great day. Met new friends, and had one of the best, most affordable tours on our vacation. I can't say enough about Derek, our Guide. The whole Barcelona experience is unforgettable. The tapas bars: especially Catalana Creveseria were amazing as well as Moniel Gastronimic in the Borne district. Wonderful.
Getting on and off the ship was very easy, no problems. The port in Barcelona is close to the airport and I was given the advice to not pay extra for transports, taxis are everywhere. So true and saved $75. each way.
We were upgraded to concierge class and given a new room that was on a higher floor. All appreciated. The room was perfect. It had plenty of storage and is beautiful. Very clean as well.
Kid's club was good for my son. We had an issue on the last night that was unfortunate, the Director could have- or rather SHOULD have handled much better, but other than that, it was a good experience.
Meals were all good. Some better than others. Given the number of people they are preparing food for, they did a good job. We ate at all the specialty restaurants more than once. We enjoyed the more uncommon much more than the usual; the beef tartar was so good at Tuscan Grille, but the fried calamari was just average at best. The arugula salad was great, the ceasar salad was not. We chose select dining, which for us was perfect. You are so tired when you get in from a port that you may or may not need wind down time.
General Port Advice: Make solid plans prior to getting on the ship. Internet is expensive and a bit slow on the ship. Do all of your homework prior to going. Utilize trip advisor to the fullest. Book excursions- we used RomeInLimo for the big 3- Naples, Rome and Florence and tell them your personality, what you like to do and what is important to you and ask them to match a driver to that. We had 2 Rock Star drivers and 1 just OK, not because he was just OK, but because he would have been more well suited with a bit older history buffs. Carmine in Naples created memories for us that we will have forever. He took us to an amazing restaurant on the Amalfi Coast and it was breathtaking! La Tagliata, what a day with RomeinLimo and Carmine!
Make reservations in each Country if food is important to you prior to going. The good restaurants are booked and you can't just walk in. Get off the beaten path! Crowds can be overwhelming. Do the big attractions first thing in the morning and then go somewhere amazing for lunch or strolling & swimming and leisure for the afternoon. We swam everywhere possible which was great on warm days and the water was clean and beautiful. We brought towels and a change of clothes and enjoyed ourselves. Getting out of the crowds and having a personal experience will be where memories are made in my opinion. This would be my advice for everywhere but Rome. Rome is a beast, and you will spend the whole day seeing everything you can. A driver or ship excursion in these 3 places; Naples, Rome and Florence, I found critical. Otherwise, you can plan your own days and have fun without spending the extra on an excursion.
The beverage package debate: This can be costly. I found it good for us to do the premium non-alcoholic bev package. We almost only drink red wine and they allowed us to bring a couple of great bottles on the ship. In addition, other than sea days, you are in a port, drinking wine with lunch, not on the ship. We bought a package for 5 dinners at specialty restaurants and that came with 5 bottles of wine. This for us was perfect.
The spa was nice, got a massage and a manicure. Both very, very expensive. Bring your own polish girls unless you have a big budget!
We did not see any shows.
Speaking of budget, make sure and get euros before going.
This trip was a 10 of 10. I look forward to going again some day.