Embarkation/Disembarkation: Arrived in Rome morning of cruise (I know - living on the edge), arranged for transportation through Romeinlimo. Had a wonderful driver and arrived at the port by 11:00, check in took less than 30 minutes total and we were eating in the Windjammer before noon. We choose to take our own bags off when we left the ship - again no problems and no long lines.
Cabins: We had three rooms - one balcony (8282) and two inside promenade rooms, directly across the hall. Cabins were a good location and very decent size with plenty of storage. Water pressure in showers was always great, though sometimes only hot water came out of the sink, which was really strange. Kids said the two late night parades through the promenade were a bit noisy and could be heard in their rooms, but overall they really liked having the window.
Ship: For cruising with 3000+ passengers it never felt too crowded (which really surprised me after cruising on Oceania last summer). Never a long wait for elevators and getting on and off the ship in ports was very quick and easy. The dining rooms were decorated very tastefully, though I thought the rest of the ship was kind of boring. I would have liked more areas to just sit and relax without being in a bar. The promenade is rather impressive but always seemed really dark. Overall I thought the ship decor was just okay.
Dining: We had the early seating and a very nice table near a window. We ate there 4 of the 7 nights, opting for the Windjammer the other 3 nights. Overall I really felt the food was rather ordinary. There really wasn't anything that I felt was outstanding. I had an artichoke tart that I liked and stuffed shells that were good and some of the kids said they really liked the shrimp dishes, but that's about it. Our family also tended to like the cold fruit soups. The seafood medley appetizer was just downright fishy and desserts seemed to be hit or miss. I was also surprised that the menu did not really change for the formal nights - I was expecting something a little special. The Windjammer could be crowded at peak times, but that is certainly to be expected. We all loved the Indian food, which always seems to be good on ships. Also on our last night they were making made to order crepes that were better than any dessert we had in the main dining room. There is enough variety and overall liked the food here better (for what it was - a buffet). We ate breakfast in both the Windjammer and main dining room, where they had a nice yogurt/fruit/granola buffet. We also liked the eggs benedict here. Our kids ordered room service and were happy with everything they ordered and it always arrived on time.
Messina, Sicily ~ I had arranged a private tour with Sicily Life. We chose the "Godfather" tour and went to the towns of Savoca, Forza D'Agro and Tamorina. We thoroughly enjoyed everything we saw and had a great day.
Athens, Greece ~ We used Athens Walking Tours (we used them last year as well for a food walking tour) and after having to walk from terminal B to terminal A because the free shuttles weren't running, all was well. We were told (by a kind taxi driver) that it was about a 8-9 minute walk. Turned out to be about 15 minutes, but it was thankfully not hot yet. There were 16 of us on the tour and it started at a subway station and then proceeded to the National Parliament building for the changing of the guards, then through the National Gardens (which aren't anything special), to the Temple of Zeus and then to the Acropolis. We then found a place to eat in the Plaka and wandered around to do a little shopping before getting picked back up and brought to the (correct) terminal.
Kusadasi, Turkey ~ We again used the same company we used last year - Ekol tours and even had the same tour guide, who we really liked. We went straight to Ephesus and spent two hours there, including the Terrace Houses. I love Ephesus and think it's impossible to take a bad picture there. From there we went to the Basilica of St. John. Next was to a rug/weaving place. I was not thrilled to go here but lunch was included at this location and I figured we could sit through it. The demonstration/explanation is really rather interesting and the rugs are truly beautiful, we just don't have any need for more rugs. The whole thing only lasted about 30 minutes or so and then we had an absolutely delicious lunch sitting outside under the shade of some trees. We ended the day by visiting the House of the Virgin Mary, which was very peaceful in the afternoon. We asked to be dropped off near the Grand Bazaar to do a little shopping and all found a few treasures before getting back on the ship. Also, all stores will give you prices in either Turkish Lira or Euros and are happy to take either.
Crete, Greece ~ There is nothing to do in the port, though there are city busses that run right from the port to Chania on a very regular basis for 3 euros (round trip). It took 20 minutes to get to Chania and there is lots and lots of shopping here. If you are are looking for olive oil or handmade leather sandals this is the place to buy them. Sandals tended to be around 20 euros and came in all sorts of styles and colors. You can also find a wide assortment of olive oil beauty products here. There is a cute harbor town with boats offering hour long tours. Unfortunately our time in port was fairly short, otherwise we would have taken one of the tours.
Sea days ~ We spent most of our sea days just relaxing on deck, reading and resting. Though on the second day it was a bit of challenge with 50 mph winds. There are lots of things to do during the day though we really weren't interested in bingo, dance contests, beauty secrets, etc. Three of the kids and myself, though did use the spa - choosing the pick 3 mini-spa package for $99. I had a mini facial, foot and ankle massage and deep hair conditioning treatment. I also had the keratin hair treatment and have been very happy with that. Though when our 21 year old daughter had her treatment the staff member who performed her treatments asked her to meet him on deck that night at 11:00 pm! She didn't go. We also enjoyed drinks in the Crow's Nest, which was never crowded and had great views.
Entertainment ~ I can't really comment on this because we only went to one evening show - with all Broadway songs. I enjoyed the show but none of the others sounded all that interesting and the first few nights we were so tired (from jet lag) so staying up for them was difficult. Our 17 year old daughter enjoyed the teen center and the planned activities they had there. We played mini golf in the whipping wind one day and thought the little course wasn't bad at all. Also, our 19 year old used the fitness center and played in a 3 on 3 basketball tournament and came in second place.
Rome ~ We again used Romeinlimo to take us from the port to the apartment we were renting for 3 nights in Rome. The apartment was very spacious and in a great location - just a 5 minute walk from the Piazza Navona. Rome is a walking city and we certainly did our share of walking! While there we had a tour of the Colosseum that included the dungeons and upper levels. It was great because we bypassed all the long lines and got to enter areas those with a regular ticket could not. We also took a food walking tour that was wonderful (through Viator), toured the Vatican Museums (reserving our time on line and again skipping the long lines), saw the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, St. Peter's, wonderful meals, lots of gelato, etc.
Overall ~ We chose this ship more for the itinerary/price than the ship/cruise line. For that reason it was well worth it. I can't say that I was overly impressed with RCI but also was not unhappy with anything in particular (other than the main dining room food). I just really prefer smaller ships in general, which is just a personal preference.