As a first time cruiser, I've got to say, we made the right choice in choosing the Celebrity Reflection and the Eastern Med. Cruise. Lets say I got many bonus points for selecting this cruise for our 20th anniversary.
This will be my step by step attempt to point out some of the key items of our cruising adventure.
Arrived in Rome the day before and we chose to use the American Express Travel service in hooking us up with a very posh hotel in Rome. Hotel Caverelli (Waldorf Astoria). What an incredible hotel and the service was AWESOME. If you book it through American Express, the hotel rates are lower, plus you receive an upgraded room. We also booked a night-time Segway tour of the city. That was a great way to get around the city and see many sites. I would say some were not worth seeing... some we were very appreciative to see. It gives you a great way to get around and pick the sites you may want to see the next day.
The next morning, we scheduled a breakfast at the Vatican through Trip Advisor. Awesome and completely worth every penny!! We got there about 1-1/2 hours before the Vatican opened, ate breakfast in the Pinecone Courtyard inside the Vatican. Next we did the tour of the Museum and the Sistine Chapel before the rest of the crowd arrived. Breath taking and one of the most enjoyable tours we had. Lets say... everything (artwork, pillars, statues) that was missing out of Rome was found within the Vatican.
Trip to Civitavecchia... is about 1 hour way from Rome. So be prepared. The dock is located in a secure area. Most taxi's drop you off at the front gate, so be prepared to huff it to the port, which is quite a walk. We chose to get a cab service from hired personal driver... this guy had the credentials to drop us right off at the luggage drop off area. Way worth the money in my mind. 110 Euros each way.
If you are so lucky to have the Aqua Suites... you end up skipping most of the lines inside the terminal, it is mass confusion there. Passports and the travel document from the cruise line is what you will need as well as the credit card you used to book the package. They issue you your onboard access cards and off onto the ship you go.
On board the ship....
Eating areas.... Main dinning hall is where you can go to grab a quick bite to eat without having to dress up too much, shorts/flip flops are allowed. The other areas are special dinning areas where the dress code is enforced and you stuff yourself with items from the menus brought to you in courses. Be prepared to gain 1 lb per day on the cruise.
Get yourself a drink package. I got the premium non alcoholic drink package. Bought all the lattes I wanted. Plus waters, cokes and non alcoholic colata's. Wife bought the full drink package for $695... I think she used 1/2 of it on drinks to be honest.
Lodging... the suite was very nice. The beds and pillows were comfy. If something like the pillows were wrong for you... just ask. They will fix it. The suite was located on Deck 12. I would rethink this since the live music and party was always held on Deck 14 which is right above. Many nights... I listened to kids running up and down the deck. Annoying to say the least. Get you room on Deck 11 and under the spa area if you can, they shut down at 10 PM.
Our package included 2 speciality nights at the fine restaurants. I really enjoyed the Qsine. AWESOME experience. Blu was fine for what we got free with the package. The Tuscan and Morano, were so so in my opinion. Get your coffee on deck 5. You will not regret it. The pastries there are also free with the drink package.
Excursions... Mixed feelings about this one. Some were great like Santorini's walk to the volcano and swim in the sulfur bath. But be prepared... it is a very demanding walk up the volcano and you need to be able to swim to the sulfur bath area from the ship and back.
We were blown away by beauty of Istanbul. That is one thing I completely did not anticipate before visiting the area. The City is beautiful and the people extremely friendly. I have to say, the most friendliest of all of the ports. We got a private tour guide Erkan Karakose. I can not thank him enough for the most breath taking views were have every seen from the top of the grand bazar. Nobody from our ship saw what we experienced that day. His English was very good and his historical knowledge superb.
Athens was just OK. I expected more from our visit.
Mykonos was off the hook beautiful. Complete day of relaxation at the beach. We arranged a day at the Saint John's resort. Worth every penny. They have a private beach that is AWESOME.
Ephesus was one of our most enjoyable port visits... talk about shopping till you drop dead. Knock offs like you can not believe. Loved every minute of the ruins and shopping. Just grab a cap... and don't pay more than 60 euros for the round trip. Our taxi driver was the nicest old man. Gave him a 20 euro tip at the end because he made the trip completely worth it.
I think that is about it. Loved every minute of the cruise!!! Thank you Celebrity and my new friends on board the ship! I will be back.