Background: We are American expats in our low 40's and had been on week-long cruises before with children, but never one this long, never by ourselves, and had never been to the Mediterranean.
Hotel: Stayed at the Hotel Denit in Barcelona, which was surprisingly cheap, elegantly if sparsely equipped, and superbly located at the top of La Rambla (a very pleasant 30min walk with luggage to cruise docks, and close to the must-see Gaudi cathedral).
Ship: I was surprised at the lack of a central glass sculpture in the open atrium, but the mystery was made clear by the astounding Cirque du Soleil-esque ariel performances later in the cruise. My one real nit: no proper library. A 12-day cruise with 3 days "at sea" deserves a sizable dedicated library, and this ship had more than enough under-utilized space to have squeezed one in. I was also disappointed at the lack of the traditional curving grand staircases for photo-ops, meaning that photographers tended to cluster in More
jams at the landings of the "functional" staircases used by passengers to access major decks.
Activities: All the usual (trivia, dance lessons, spas, swimming, movies, drinking, eating...) The rock-wall was nice, as was the putt-putt course (took awhile to find it). The water slide in the children's pool was nicely done.
Service: No complaints. I personally much prefer Royal Caribbean's deliberately eclectic crew mix to the racially and ethnically homogenous groups encouraged by Holland America, but that's my own opinion. I was grateful they weren't fascist about hand sanitizer, as some can be.
Port & Shore Excursions: (going backwards through my memory...)
Dubrovnik was a surprising gem at the end of the cruise, with an excellent wine-tasting trip around Ston. Croatia ended up being an unexpected favorite part of the trip.
Ravenna: Don't bother with the wine-tasting in Dossa, just hit the beach.
Venice was awesome...wish we'd traded the Murano Glassworks for St. Mark's and the Doge's Palace; also, the "secret paths" walking tour of Venice included a depressing number of laundry- and garbage-strewn back alleys covered in graffiti. Recommend saving your money from the 2-seater gondola and going for the 6-seater...it's really not that great a trip (though might be better at night).
In Naples, we opted for the Capri, Sorrento and Pompeii excursion, which I fully recommend. Capri is beyond gorgeous, and Pompeii was fascinating.
We did a mixed-tour that included both Florence and Pisa, which I'd recommend to others. You don't get to climb the Leaning Tower, but we had a good hour to examine it and surrounding buildings from the ground. The walk through Florence started a little weak, but the Duomo, Bapistry and Tower were so cool I completely forgive it. Also, the statues in the Piazza della Signoria are breathtaking. Highly recommended.
Our first stop was in Cannes, which wasn't quite as interesting as I'd hoped. The walking tour around Cannes was okay, but next time I might try the trip to Monaco, if only for a change.
Finally, and to begin, there is Barcelona itself. It's nice to walk around La Rambla and see the Gaudi. I wish I'd had a chance to visit MontjuÃ¯c, the cemetary-on-a-hill; I'd never heard about it before, but saw it as we were driving out and it looked quite dramatic.
Travel to Embarkation Port: We flew from the States via KLM, and other than being uncomfortable and cramped, at least the trip was mercifully short.
State Room: Suite 7654 was most excellent. I was genuinely surprised by the spacious 9' x 9' private balcony, which was big enough to host a barbeque for friends (not that you would ever have need to cook on a cruise ship...) The views from the room were uniformly spectacular, and the ability to kick our feet up and watch the sunset from a secluded alcove was a special treat. Best stateroom I've ever booked.
Dining: Usual cruise fair, for good or ill. You know what you're getting on a cruise, and this had no surprises.
Children's Clubs: Did Not Utilize (which made it an altogether unique vacation for us!)
Entertainment: The theater shows were okay, but few stand-outs. I much preferred the three ariel shows in the atrium, especially their interpretation of Jack and the Beanstalk.
Disembarkation: smooth, efficient, and professional to the last. RCI runs a tight ship, and I was consistently impressed as a customer, engineer, and operations analyst. I'd be proud to work for those guys...they do a proper job of it. Less
Cabin review: Deluxe Ocean View Stateroom with Balcony
Outstanding balcony, a good 9' x 9' (big enough for a barbeque with guests...if there were ever any reason to cook upon a cruise ship). Excellent views, very comfortable (for 2 adults).If I were ever to find myself on this ship again, I would request the very same room, because it was outstanding.
Make sure to visit the Gaudi cathedral. I wish I'd had a chance to visit MontjuÃ¯c, the cemetary-on-a-hill; I'd never heard about it before, but saw it as we were driving out and it looked quite dramatic.