We were curious about the cruising experience, and now, having completed a 12 day cruise, our curiosity is satisfied. In many respects the experience matched out expectations. Cruising is a very comfortable way to travel, with many of the comforts of home, and limited hassles. It is an inexpensive way to go, too, as food in Europe is very expensive, and a cruise ship provides unlimited food as part of the price.
There were a few surprises. Because the cruise industry has the capacity to dump huge loads of tourists into port at one time, some of the smaller ports were simply overwhelmed with a crush of people, and one could not escape the feeling, from time to time, of being part of a cattle-call. It was rather un-nerving to be part of such a large crowd, and one couldn't help but wonder how we hoards of tourists were perceived by the locals.
I expected, because I'd heard, that shore excursions booked through a cruise line are not a good value (e.g. marked up quite a More
bit over what one can negotiate independently). We'd done some research on this, and personally felt that what the cruise line tours offered was quite competitive. We were very satisfied.
We would probably not try to negotiate train travel in Italy on our own. We attempted to take the train instead of land transportation offered by the cruise line in two ports; Livorno and Naples. In both instances we found that negotiating train stations is a daunting task, made even more so by the fact that few Italians seem to speak much English. And, if you don't know to validate your train ticket before boarding (this is NOT made clear when purchasing your tickets, or clearly explained along the platforms, you may well be fined!
All in all, we felt we got what we paid for. A modestly priced European vacation, with lots of good food and ease of travel. And speaking of food; there is a LOT of food. Perhaps for that reason alone many fat people are attracted to cruises. Certainly there were a lot of fat folks on our cruise, so much that it was discomforting to see and a definite turn-off at meal times.
I wouldn't recommend one-port-a-day cruising for those who want more than a brief sample of what Europe has to offer. Nor would I recommend it for people who are uncomfortable being part of a LARGE crowd. Less
Carnival Breeze Cruises to the Western Mediterranean
We really liked our room, which had a balcony. The room had a spacious feel to it, and was so well laid out that we were not at all pressed to find places for all our belongings. The bathroom was generous, and the shower just wonderful.
We did not take a tour, instead traveling by ourselves, by train, to Lucca. By the time we'd managed the multiple connections it took to get to Lucca, we had only two hours there before we had to return. We wouldn't attempt this again.
We were told we could easily reach the train station on our own. Not true. It took nearly 45 minutes of hard walking through the dirty streets of Naples to find the station, and then some more time to figure out where and how to catch the train to Pompeii. I would take an excursion and be transported by bus.
I liked the comfort of being transported to Rome and back by bus. Rome was bursting at the seams with visitors, and although I enjoyed being able to see some sights I'd not yet seen in the city (I'd spent a week there years ago), I was dismayed with the size of the crowds.