We chose this cruise for the Itinerary, lots of interesting Ports of Call.
Embarkation was very smooth and easy.
We had opted for an inside cabin as this was a winter cruise and views of ports were not that important. Plus we had not long been back from a 28 day cruise through the Panama Canal on The Vision of the Seas where we had an inside cabin on the first leg then upgraded to a balcony for the more interesting segment and the cabins were fine.
The first thing we noticed on arrival in our cabin was that the refurbishment of this ship included a change of bed shape! The ends have now been curved, presumably to give slightly more room in the cabin but this has resulted in the bed being smaller, be warned, if you are tall, as is my husband, your feet hang off the end! This resulted in him not being able to get a good nights sleep for the entire cruise. Had we known this, we would have booked an oceanview which still have the wider beds so the loss of the corners would not have been so apparent.
My only other grumble about this ship was that the TV/Movie screen on the Pool Deck showed only sports programmes and at a very loud volume, thus discouraging any conversation at a reasonable level. As a result, hardly anyone used this deck. It was in fact quite difficult to find any 'quiet' areas on this ship.
Amazingly, this ship has a Pool Table! It is fitted with some form of stabiliser which keeps the table absolutely flat, the balls do not move an inch. The floor however does move, this makes for very interesting and comical games of Pool!! Such fun!
OK so now onto the Ports of Call and tips for getting around :
Palma, Mallorca - note that The Soller Train does not run in the winter months, shame as this is a great way to see the island. We took a cab (there were 4 of us) to Placa Espana, cost 14 euros between us all, then took the bus from the bus station to Valdemossa, 3.50 euros return each. A beautiful little town and well worth a visit, the bus takes a very scenic route so you see quite a lot. Check out the return times though as they run about every hour. The tourist information office in the town is very helpful, they gave us a great walking route through Palma for when got back to town.
Valletta, Malta - absolutely stunning. Walk off the ship, there is a bus stop opposite. Buy a ticket for 2.60 euros, this will entitle you to ride the buses all day long, so keep your ticket to show on other buses.. We took the bus 130 to the Post Office which you cannot miss, it is on a roundabout. Get off there and wait for the Circular Bus number 133, this takes you all around Valletta, you can then go around again and just get on and off where you want. Make sure you visit St Johns Cathedral, it is amazing, costs 6 euros entrance but well worth it. You get the audio guide included.
Messina, Sicily - we hired a car for the day, booked it before we went and only paid 20 euros. Between 4 of us that was very cheap! We drove down to Taormina which is built on a natural terrace sheer above the sea, then carried on up to Castelmosa which is absolutely beautiful, very quaint and peaceful, then up to Mount Etna, it was a fabulous day, there was snow on the volcano and we watched the smoke pouring out of the crater. Stopped at a Mountain Refuge for coffee where they had a roaring fire, it was cool up the mountain!
Naples (Pompeii)- the courtesy bus drops you in town, we bought bus and train ticket from the paper kiosk, this is cheaper than buying them on the bus, it was 8 euros each return to Pompeii. Take the bus or tram to Circumvesuviana Station, the tram stops directly outside, takes about 10 to 15 minutes. Use the same ticket for the train to Pompeii, don't forget to activate your ticket both on the buses and the trains before the journey. The trams have little machines inside, at the train station they are usually on the platforms. There is a heavy fine for not doing this! The train takes about half an hour to get to Pompeii, entrance to the ruins is 11 euros. This is definitely a MUST, what an awesome place. Trains run about every half an hour. Naples is just a dirty busy city with lots of pickpockets etc.
Civitavecchia (Rome) - Exit the port entrance and cross the street, again you buy your train ticket from the Newspaper Kiosk, it is a 5/10 minute walk to the train station. I think the train was 12 euros return to Termini Station in Rome. My advice would be to get off at St Pietro which is the stop for The Vatican, it only takes about half an hour to this stop. We then got the bus no.81 to Via del Corso where we could then walk to all the main sites such as The Pantheon, Spanish Steps, Piazza di Spagna, Trevi Fountain and The Colosseum. Termini Train station is just 1 or 2 metro stops from The Colosseum. Train back from here takes about an hour.
Livorno (Pisa) - the ship shuttle drops you at Piazza Grande, buy your ticket from the kiosk again, take bus 1 or R1 to Livorno Centrale Station cost 1.20 euros each way. At the station buy your return ticket for Pisa, costs 5 euro return. It is about a 15/20 minute walk from the station to the leaning tower, follow the signs for Torre Pendente. Livorno itself is a lovely town and well worth exploring too.
I hope this information helps anyone planning to explore these Ports on a budget!