In sum, our cruise was wonderful. We had no complaints and no major mishaps until our final night. More about that later.
This review will be more of a cautionary tale than anything else because our experience was so positive. We did encounter a few things that could be improved, especially as newer and larger cruise ships are coming out. None of what I will describe will keep us from cruising in the future.
First, we were a group of six: two senior citizens, three adults, and a teenager. The seniors were in their own Junior Suite cabin (expansive!) on Deck 9, and the rest of us were in two separate Balcony cabins on deck 8. This cruise was chosen by the teenager who is a history/mythology buff and it was in celebration of her 13th birthday (her sister's 13th birthday was celebrated by cruising to Alaska).
Traveling to Rome was lengthy but uneventful.
We enjoyed two days of touring Rome before our cruise. I highly recommend the tour company we used and a PM on the boards will get you their name. They arranged our Rome tours and meals, tour of Mt. Etna in Sicily, and tour of Kusadasi in Turkey all for about 1/2 of the cost of what those tours arranged by the cruise line would have cost.
Embarkation was a breeze, the trip to Civitavecchia was scenic and speedy. We breezed through check-in and were on board the Navigator and in the Windjammer in record time for a very nice meal. We headed to our cabins afterward, mustered for the safety drill and were sipping pina coladas by the pool as we sailed away.
We loved Sicily, touring Mt. Etna and Taormina. We loved the Acropolis and the Acropolis museum, however, we did not really enjoy Athens itself. Our tour was arranged by taking private cars arranged on the street just outside the port area who drove us through some not-so-great neighborhoods to arrive just down the hill from the Acropolis area. We never felt unsafe, just not as well protected as we would have been taking an arranged tour. Other folks have walked to the subway or taken other public transportation, don't do what we did. Kusadasi was the real highlight. Our tour was arranged with a private guide a mini bus and a lunch stop with a side trip to Sirinice village. We loved our guide's descriptions of the ancient ruins along with her enthusiasm as another minibus pulled up along side us with her husband guiding other tourists. Very cute moment. Crete was nice, but a bit of a disapointment as we wanted to visit a beach for a swim in the Med, but, the beach tours were sold out. So we settled for a bus ride into Chania and a walk around the town.
Return to Civitavecchia and the US was also uneventful, with one exception: the teenager came down with food poisoning on the final night of the cruise. How do we know it was not Noro? No one else in our group came down with it and we were sharing everything. However, after a quick visit to the ship's infirmary, the girl was confined to the cabin, her picture was circulated around the ship, and we were told that she could order toast to be delivered for breakfast the next morning. She wound up sleeping from about 5 pm Saturday until we landed in NYC Sunday evening.
All in all, a very wonderful time was had by all.
So, as the title indicated, what are my wishes for the future?
First, smoking needs to be better controlled. Not in the private areas like cabins and balconies, but, in the public areas like bars and the casino. The Navigator has a wine bar and a pub located on the promenade and at night smoke from these areas can be somewhat overwhelming. Further, there were times when the smoke from the casino wafted up the stairs connecting to the promenade. My wish is that cruise ships ventilate these areas with exhaust fans.
My second wish is that the My Time Dining be looked at again with an eye toward refining it a bit. On a prior cruise on another line my wife and I used My Time Dining and we never waited more than about 10 minutes for a table to become available. However, on this cruise, for some reason, you could not just walk up whenever you wanted and be seated, the dining staff was really pushing for reservations to be made ahead of time. But even this didn't guarantee a table at a time you wanted; one night we could not make a reservation at all. Once we figured this out, we never had a problem, but, on formal night, we were turned away and wound up having a wonderful meal in Windjammer albeit overdressed for the venue. If making a reservation ensures that you have a table, how is this different than using the regular seating times? I think MTD needs to be reformulated, even if MTD diners are relegated to a separate dining room.
One final wish: As cruise ships are designed to being larger and larger, it seems to me that they can be designed so that one can walk from public spaces in the bow to public spaces in the stern without having to change decks. If this means that a venue (like an ice rink) needs to be made smaller to accommodate a hallway around it, I think that's valuable. Many times we were blocked from reaching a bar or performance venue because there was another bar, dining room, or night club in the way.
In conclusion we had a wonderful time and after we finish paying for this trip, we will definitely be going back to Italy and cruising again somewhere special.