Venice to Rome -- 12 night cruise September 17th 2012
Apologies for the delayed review but I have been ill and only really just getting back to normality.
This was our 4th cruise and the 1st on Celebrity, so my expectations were quite high. As the trip was to celebrate our Silver Wedding Anniversary, I decided to book a Sky suite (9301) aft corner.
Arrived into Venice airport from Glasgow and caught a pre-booked shared shuttle (about Â£44 for 2 of us) with another 4 couples. Fortunately 2 couples were staying on the Grand Canal so we had a wonderful boat ride down the canal and around to the bottom of the island where we were staying which was a great way to start the holiday.
We stayed one night pre-cruise at the Hotel San Sebastiano Garden, good location in Dorsoduro area, good facilities and for Venice reasonable value. Had a lovely evening meal alongside the water and watched 2 cruise ships sail past, knowing that would be us the following night. The following day we joined the ship. The cruise terminal was just a short boat ride away. We were dropped off at then caught the people mover to the terminal, but the escalators weren't working so we all struggled with cases down stairs, then a 5/10 minute walk around to the ship. Embarkation was straightforward although the drop off area for suitcases wasn't particularly well organised, and we were welcomed onto the ship with a welcome glass of fizz.
Although it was only about midday we went straight to the cabin which was fantastic, better and bigger than I thought and with being a corner suite had a huge balcony. Expensive, but for a special treat well worthwhile.
We went back into Venice by boat, such a wonderful city, a photographers dream. Queues at the Doges palace were very quiet at about 15:30 so it seems like this was a good time to visit.
FOOD & DRINK
We were very pleased with lunches and the organisation of different tasting stations in a large area, far better the 2 Princess ships we'd been on.
We'd booked late dining with a table of 8. Food was good, but the seats were appalling, great for lounging in a bar, but were too heavy and with no back support, I had to ask for a cushion every night. The sommelier service was poor, firstly they had no record of the prepaid wine package I'd bought, then she rarely came around to top up the glasses -- yes I know I can pour it myself by I expect to be looked after, even if the waiter pours it (as they do on Princess)
We had 3 breakfasts on the balcony, our butler Jesus doing a wonderful job, with making it look and feel special. In addition to keeping the room very neat and tidy, he polished our shoes, brought afternoon canapes and arranged some lovely extras when we invited some newly made shipmates for drinks and nibbles.
Drinks were very expensive which we already knew about, especially when you get a taste for the wonderful Martini bar @ $12 a glass plus the annoying 15% so called gratuity.
There were only a couple of evening dinners that were slightly disappointing, but that was more to personal taste than poor ingredients/cooking. Our waiter another Jesus was very attentive and accommodating.
We ate at the Murano for our anniversary, well worth the extra cost, service brilliant as was the food, parts of which were cooked at the table, with a full explanation into what was going into the process.
We also tried Qsine, very unique and quirky, well worth a visit. We actually went twice, I don't think it was being used very much as they were touting for business throughout the bars, so I haggled and got the 2nd visit for half price and went along with our new friends
We didn't really make use of the entertainment, we had a stroll around after dinner then went to bed but did listen to some great live music around the various bars.
Venice: What a fantastic place and when you see it from the ship you will be amazed. Try to get as high as possible on the portside and grab a cocktail. I doubt if there are many better sailaway venues anywhere, so don't miss it. You don't realise how tall the ship is until you see Venice beneath you.
Koper: Just a short walk to the small town. We caught the local bus to Pirana which was lovely drive to a quaint little place and worth a visit.
Ravenna: Don't try to get to the town on your own, you can't walk it and it's a horribly industrialised place. Take the shuttle, even though they do charge alot, $14 each I think. Personally I think there should not be a charge for ANY port to downtown areas by the ship. Do see inside the churches.
Split: A tender in to a charming place, great for photographs and exploring the wonderful little side streets. Make sure you visit the underground market with some local crafts, you can't really miss it. The fruit and cheese market is also worth a wander up to.
Dubrovnik: We pre purchased cable car tickets on line to save queuing and got on the 1st shuttle then made our way up to the cable car area before it opened, it was good to get right the way up before main crowds arrived. We then walked the whole wall (very hot and tiring) and had a lovely lunch down by the marina.
Kotor: Make sure you are up early to marvel at the wonderful scenery as you cruise in. This is also a tendered port but a very quick transfer. Another lovely place for just wandering having a coffee and taking some photos.
Valletta: It's a hot and hilly stroll to the main town in some ways it felt very English but in other ways it was very old-fashioned. I was a hot day and the hills did take it out of you. Make sure you visit the main church.
Catania: We caught a hop-on-hop-off bus at the end of the pier though frankly it wasn't very good, it's not a great place to visit so next time I thing we'd take an organised trip out.
Naples: As we were docked overnight we took a privately organised trip to Pompeii and the Amalfi coast with 3 other couples. This was brilliant. We got to Pompeii before the main crowds and while the light was good for photography. We had a brilliant driver/guide who dropped us off in Sorrento to catch the ferry back. We walked into Naples the next day, but it was nothing special
Rome: We booked a trip back to the airport with the ship which I was against due to the high price but actually I was quite impressed. It included tickets into the Vatican (with no waiting, and a guide with personalised head sets for the group) We then went onto the Colossuem, again with no waiting. Then a visit to the ongoing archaeological dig then back to the airport in plenty of time.
Fairly easy to find your way around, generally good service, clean and tidy. Pool area could be busy with the normal bed hoggers who you never see, and the pool butlers really need to police this a bit better. Embarkation/debarkation was well organised. Happily use the ship again, it had a good 'feel' to it
Badly designed dining chairs
Poor Sommelier service