On June 23, we arrived to Barcelona - a day prior to embarkation. We attempt to use public transportation when possible and due to the location of our Marriott Renaissance hotel, we opted to take the RENFE train from the airport. It all worked fine, however, note that we had to find the free green shuttle bus to the other terminal that connects to the train. As we were staying in Barcelona a day before and 3 days after the cruise, we knew to purchase the T10 ticket (10 rides that can be shared) for under 10 Euros. The RENFE train let us off at the new Passig de Gracia exit and our hotel was a few steps away. We arrived at the airport at 7:15 and were in the hotel by 9:15am. The other option, if our hotel had been just slightly closer to the plaza catalonya, is the airport bus. Very easy, but for us, we were worried we would not find a cab once getting off at the bus drop off.
The Renaissance was lovely, we used points and they gave us a quiet, small room. They were very kind and let us in immediately, so we showered, rested, and then headed out. Our goal was the Picasso Museum free on Sunday after 3 pm. The concierge provided a map and suggested walking tour to see some sights along the way. The line was 1 hour long, but the time went quickly in the old streets. We have been to lots of Picasso museums and we enjoyed wandering around the old palaces which house the art. From there, we walked the Gothic Quarter, back to the hotel and dinner near the hotel.
We decided to try to get to the port using public transportation - this time with a few mistakes. We easily walked to the Metro stop (Passig de gracia), however at this location, we did not see an escalator or an elevator. Being very careful not leave any luggage unattended, we bounced our bags along the steps down, used our T10 pass again, arrived at the Dressages stop (at the columbus statue), found the elevator up. Not really knowing where to find the port shuttle bus, we aimed for the dock - saw a blue bus marked port shuttle to the right and it was 2.50 Euro each. I will let you know right now, when we returned, we did this backwards, with less success as elevators were not operating (carrying 2 bags UP stairs). I would suggest taking a cab from the hotels for about 25 Euros.
Getting on the ship - very easy.
Our room - 8th floor, balcony on back of the ship - wonderful suggestion by our travel agent. The weather was gorgeous and we were out on this very large balcony all the time.
Cannes - we took the $59 4 hour ship tour to the Fraganard fragrance and then onto St. Paul de Vence. Lovely town - and my husband did buy aftershave.
Florence - it is a little difficult getting to the train station - so, we opted to take the ship's $99 all day tour that gives a 2 hour guided tour and 3 hours on your own. It was very nice - used headphones to hear the guide, she gave the highlights in a walking tour. She constantly warned everyone to watch their belongings.
Rome - we took the free port bus to the end of the docks, turned right, walked several blocks and on the left was the train station at 7:45 am for the 8:02 train to Termini Station in Rome. It was 12 euros per person and included using the metro and buses in Rome. It was a lovely 90 minute journey. If you are going to the Vatican, the stop is sooner, but we had decided we only had enough time to do the ancient parts. From Termini, we walked inside the giant station to the metro and took the one with 2 stops to the Colliseum. Knowing NOT to buy our 12 Euro tickets in the colliseum, but instead buying them at the Forum entrance, we immediately walked in. We traveled with our own guide book/map, so read as we walked through and then onto the Colliseum with no wait (walk past all the people hanging around, trying to buy tickets).
We then walked to the Pantheon, Pizza Navona, Trevi Fountain, and took the metro from the Spanish Steps (to the right of the steps) back to Termini station for a 2:42 pm departure. Lots of folks from the boats were on this return train.
Salerno - we took the ship $69 tour to Pompeii - very great. There was a strike in the morning, so we did not leave at 8, instead at 10:30. We did not get to go to Salerno (free shuttle), as there was not time.
Venice - wonderful sail in - everyone up on deck. After the boat docked, we decided to walk and attempt to find the Peggy Gugganheim museum. We walked over lots of little bridges and had fun - finding it about 40 minutes later. Wonderful museum - a real treat to also sit out on her deck on the Grand Canal.
Our second day, we had purchased tickets on-line - months before - for the Doge's Palace Secret Itinerary tour. I think it was about 20 Euros per person and included admission to the palace. We opted to find the Vaperetta at P. Roma - a walk from the ship and then over the street. The ticket was 8 euros. it was hot and crowded and we could have walked a quickly as the time it took to get to the Piazza San Marco - but, it was a funny experience. the tour highlighted Cassanov's time in prison there, we then walked through the palace. On to walking toward the Rialto bridge, jumped on a vaperetta again to get to the Jewish quarter and the interesting area on that side, then on the vaperetta again to the stop near the ship. The ship offered a $25 ticket for boats to and from the piazza san marco. this would not have worked for us as we were walking around.
Ravenna - we loved this town - we could have taken a ship tour of San Marino and ravenna, which i am sure would have been lovely. Instead, we took the $12 transportation to town (you MUST do this, as you cannot walk and it was a very long ride). Once there, we walked to the nearest mosaic's church (Sant appallinare Nuova) and bought the Opera di Religione ticket for 8.50 Euros (a 1 Euro discount with the map provided from a RCCL gal leading the bus. We did all 5 of the mosaic items on the ticket and dante's tomb along the way. I will suggest, at the first church, we purchased a 5 euro book about Ravenna and the churches. This was invaluable and described everything you would want to know.
Debrovnik - we purchased the $12 transportation from the boat. If there were more than 2 of us, a cab would have been cheaper, but this was easy. The old city is pretty, very touristy - we walked around, went to a museum which had an interesting photo exhibit about the war, shopped around and took the shuttle back.
2 great days at sea with trivia games, tango lessons (well, my husband gave into that), a 4th of july party, etc. On the ship, the entertainment was ok - a magician comedian we may have seen before, but the bands in the centrum were great as were the evening dance parties, high wire shows, etc.
Once back in bacelona for 3 days, we went to the fabulous Park Guell (T10 ticket)and walked an architectural tour we brought with us, purchased our tickets the next day for Montserrat - a wonderful day trip, and finally went to the Sagrida Familia and Las Romblas on our last day.