We are a family of five who all enjoy cruising, and to date have tried the major cruise lines but only on Caribbean itineraries. Though this was our first time to Europe, we had come to expect a certain level of service with RCI and they did not disappoint.
We flew into Rome the day before embarkation and spent a whirlwind 24 hrs exploring as much as the city as we could in a jet-lagged state. We chose to save some euros by taking the regional train from our hotel near the Vatican to the port of Civitavecchia and everything went extremely smoothly. We met some crew from the ship at the train station and they stayed with us, even helping us with our luggage up and down the steep stairs at the train station. Thank you Francis!!!!
We did the easy walk from the train station to the shuttle busses to the ship, arriving about 2 p.m. Embarkation was a breeze. The ship is required to keep your passports until you leave the last port of call. We dropped our carry-ons in the stateroom and headed to the Windjammer along with hundreds of other starving and excited passengers.
Our 7-nights went by so fast! Our children loved the Kids' Program, leaving DH and I to fully relax and take in all the amenities around the ship. One of the highlights of our onboard experience was ice-skating! We also took advantage of the activities on the Sports Desk--DH took in several really good volleyball games--as well as the rock-climbing wall, the inline skating track and the mini-golf. We didn't use the pool much as it was a little breezy, but took advantage of the hottubs a couple of times.
Dining on board was really good. Usually we love the dining room and avoid the Windjammer as it can be such a zoo. The Windjammer was always a zoo but I must say that the variety of food, and the quality of food was exceptional. Loved the dining room for breakfast, especially the mini-buffet. Lunch was always in the Windjammer and dinner was with our waiter Rey in the dining room. The dinner menu was varied and the food was okay (good, but not mouthwatering) but for some reason, it was a little too slow to be really enjoyable. The kids almost always ditched us after the soup course to escape to the kids' playroom.
The evening entertainment is the only area where we felt let down. There was something every night, but I could have easily passed and not missed a thing. We did feel that the cruise director (Ciao, Bella!) was very good at her role. The one exception to the blah entertainment was the ice-skating show. It's worth attending.
We had one issue with customer service at the front desk. I had made a point of going to the desk early on the last day to settle my account in cash and avoid the long line ups that would crowd the area for the rest of the day. On our morning of departure, the paper statement that came to our room had no indication that I had made a cash payment and showed the full balance owing. I had to return to the desk, delaying our disembarkation, and wait in line again to clear up the error. The only explanation they offered was a computer glitch??? Come on! At least I had kept my receipt, otherwise I would have had a nasty surprise on my credit card when returning home.
Disembarkation was smooth. Royal Caribbean did not disappoint. The only thing that seemed to be lacking was a place to get a quick bite or snack, such as a poolside grill or Solarium cafe that we've seen on other ships. All of the staff we met were friendly and outgoing and you got a sense that they were happy employees. I must mention again that Francis in the Schooner Bar deserves to be recognized for his exceptional friendliness and helpfulness.
Our ports: In Sicily, we arranged a group tour on the Cruise critic roll call to Taormina and Castelmola with a private company. The tour was okay; the views were breathtaking. In Athens, we took the metro/subway to the Acropolis and met up with the group Athens Free Walking Tour, which was fabulous! Lots of reviews mentioned how easy it was to take the metro to the Acropolis and I just want to say that while it wasn't complicated, it wasn't exactly simple, especially since the walk from the ship to the metro station was about 2 km. and we arrived at Thissio station to face another long, hot, uphill walk to the meeting point. After the tour, we had time to walk around the acropolis. Kusadasi, Turkey was our best port day. We took a half day tour with Ephesus Plus and they were A1. My goal in Crete was to swim in the Mediterranean but unfortunately mother nature did not cooperate, imposing high winds and rain during our brief stay on the island, so we just took the bus into the town and walked around a bit before returning to the ship.
We chose to carry our own bags off the ship, and after breakfast and one last game of minigolf, we left the ship and headed straight to the FCO airport by pre-arranged cab to fly home.
This was definitely one big tick off the bucket list, but unfortunately for my hard working DH, it just whet my appetite to plan another European cruise adventure!