We are a 60's age couple from Phoenix, AZ. We planned this trip for almost a year. We used Cruise Critic, Trip Advisor, Rick Steves book as well as friends/family who had taken a similar trip.
We were 18 hours plus of flying to reach Rome. Everyone said stay up, don't go to bed and you will be on the right time zone. That was good information and it worked well. We took Romeinlimo from the FCO Airport. We had been very specific about luggage but the car was smaller and the driver was not that friendly in regards to our bags being bigger. We did get them fit in and he took us to our hotel. We had also requested just to drop our luggage and another drop but that did not happen. Was this our miscommunication or theirs, we aren't sure. Not sure I would use them again with so many out there. The price is all about the same.
We did have tickets for the Vatican museum, Sistine Chapel and St Peter's Basilica. Bypassed the lines, went right in and did a self tour with Rick Steves book and iPhone app. We were even able to take the short cut out of the chapel! We did go back to our hotel and slept 4 hours, then dinner. Next day we did a tour at the Coliseum, Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum. We did an evening walking tour which was phenomenal!
Sunday and it is raining. We are able to catch a taxi to the Termini train station. It is a very long walk to the track for the port train. At least 10-15 minutes pulling luggage. Then the train changed tracks with 10 minutes to departure. Thank goodness for the wonderful people we met who assisted me with my luggage down stairs and then upstairs. The train is not for taking large luggage! There are about 15 very steep stairs at the port station, then through the station and back up stairs. Again, another wonderful group helped me get my luggage up/down/up! You then have another walk of about 20 minutes from the time you get out of the station to the bus pickup for the ship. People were throwing their luggage on and it was very unorganized. We had to take on bag off and wait for the next bus so we could both arrive at the same time with all our luggage. We did not have tags but this is very easy when you arrive at the ship. There was never an opportunity to tip the staff. Filled out the we are well form and to the check in. This was a breeze, right up to the desk as we are Emerald and in a Jr Suite for this cruise. We then went to Windjammer for lunch and when finished to our room!
We took time to meet our room steward, Anthony, who was an extremely nice well educated young man. He said changes have stopped with chocolates and you have to ask if you want a robe. He got us robes and kept ice for us daily! Even worked to save us some dollars on cleaning!
We had set a time for Meet & Mingle roll call to meet but alas there was just 4 of use who showed up and had a great time! So we did a sail away, then checked back in our room and all our luggage had arrived.
We had late dining at 8:30, Swan Dining on 5, table for 2 with Rey as waiter and Jermaine as assistant. We were well cared for and always had all we needed. We did not eat at Chops or Portafino's this cruise. The main dining room menu was good and we were not unhappy with the choices. Rey was great to tell us what he felt the best choices were and we usually took his advise. Sometimes he brought us "extras" so we could try new things. The head waiter stopped nearly every evening. Great team, good food and more than enough!
Messina Sicily: our tour of the God Father filming location was cancelled. So we decided to do Messina on our own. Glad we did! Walked out of the port area and up about a block to find a horse drawn carriage! This was a great deal tour: a carriage ride or a "train" ride (they go different places), walking tour which we really enjoyed and a food tasting which is only for one item not several places. Still a great deal and worth the price which ever transportation you take carriage or train.
Day at sea: we walked the track and it was cool with wind. We kept busy on this day with a great Meet & Mingle. We traded gifts from our home areas and it helped us get to know each other better. You don't want to be late to these M&M meetings! We had breakfast in the Main Dining room, enjoying Eggs Benedict! This is also formal night. An enjoyable day!
Athens: We took the ship tour, A Taste of Athens, and were not disappointed. We did get to the Parthenon early and enjoyed several hours of shopping. We had lunch at a great sidewalk cafe and thus a perfect birthday for me!
Ephesus: We were with a group from the Roll Call M&M on a private tour. We did Mary's house and Ephesus ruins with time at the rug factory, who provided a delicious lunch, time for shopping & back to the ship. It was not less money than the ship but it was a very nice group of about 12 versus 50.
Crete: By this day, we were pretty toured out. We slept in, took the city bus to the city center. Walked around, used free WiFi at a coffee shop, back to the ship. This was the second formal night and the upper level Crown & Anchor member party.
Last Day at Sea and it was way windy which made it near impossible to walk the track on deck. I was blown against the railing and so decided to quit after walking a mile. We had to pack so we could disembark the ship the next morning. Always a sad time.
We got the information and we were to disembark at 6:45. We could meet in the Main Dining room for coffee and pastries. We were off the ship with our luggage by 7:30! We took a van back to our hotel in Rome and spent another phenomenal day seeing a few things that were had to see. We had stayed another day as American Airlines flight is 9:35 a.m. Hard to make from a cruise ship with the immigration check in.
We spent 3 days 2 nights in New York. It is never disappointing!
We booked NOS out of Galveston for late next year! Am looking forward to being on her with the new upgrades. She was not in bad shape. The staff would be out painting, even at night, doing maintenance to ensure she looks good!
We caught part of the ice show but having seen it before, did not feel the need to stay. We caught the first show but nothing rang bells for us to get to go. Meeting new friends and enjoying the trip was enough for us. We did win a shopping spree, jewelry and a nice back pack full of items at the M&M.