We left St. Louis on Fri. Sept. 6th, and arrived in Venice on Sat.,at 9 a.m. and proceeded to our mainland hotel, the Marco Polo in Mestre, where our room was already waiting for us. We had arranged for the hotel shuttle to pick us up at the airport for 20 Euros. Very reasonable when the price of a taxi would have exceeded that amount, and dragging our luggage on and off the airport bus didn't appeal to us. The Marco Polo is a very nice, clean hotel which offers a continental breakfast (quite adequate) for a mere $115. Euros total (about $159. US dollars)for our triple room. It was nothing fancy, and in fact, sort of looked like a dorm room with 3 beds lined up. Prior to our trip, we had also reserved their shuttle to take us to the pier on Sunday morning. Another wise decision as it turns out, because we were driven directly to the embarkation entrance to the ship, whereas had we taken the bus, we would have had to drag our own luggage from the Pizzali Roma (last place for vehicles when entering Venice proper)and then onto the People Mover which takes you to the pier, but then you have a long walk down to where your ship is moored.
Embarkation was professional, smooth and we were on the ship in less than 15 min. Less I forget later on in this review, debarkation in Barcelona was the same. We opted for the Carnival shuttle to the airport upon leaving the ship, and our luggage was waiting curbside when we got off the bus.
Now for the ship itself: Carnival did a beautiful job of "reconstructing" many parts of the vessel, and "refurbishing" others. The only complaint I heard was from those who had cabins underneath or over the newly redesigned "Liquid Lounge" which took the place of the main theater. The concept was good, but in my estimation, not thoroughly thought out. Whereas with the old theater, when shows were over, the space was mainly unused, and now after the shows, the new Liquid Lounge becomes a disco which goes well into the early hours, and the boom, boom, boom is heard by all in the aforementioned cabins. They still have some minor plumbing problems which seem to stem from the addition of the 3 story Serenity spa and waterfall. At any given time there was a bucket in the middle of this hall or that catching drippings from the fire extinguisher apppendage. But these were the only visible signs of age in an otherwise beautifully redesigned ship.
We loved the caribbean theme throughout the ship, and the new cabinetry in the cabins was beautiful. We were 3 seniors in our 70's and were it not for the fact that none of us could master the ladder that went up to the pull-down bunkbed, and had to use the couch-bed, there would have been plenty of room in our cabin. But with 1/2 of the couch made into a single bed (which stayed day and night) it was just a trifle tight. But the cruise was so very port intensive,we didn't spend much time in our cabin anyway. I've heard people complain about the hair dryer. We found no fault with it whatsoever, but perhaps the location could have been better had it not been in the top drawer of an already limited drawer space cabin. But there was plenty of space for foldable t'shirts, capris, etc. on shelves everywhere. Special thanks to Reno our cabin steward and his attendant who kept everything immaculate for us. And we loved our towel animals (especially the hanging monkey)Reno even managed to get us an extra deck chair for our balcony. Wonderfully comfortable beds. Thank's again Carnival!
Food was more than adequate with many choices. Carnival still has the best deli and omelet stations at sea!!!! The Guy Feiri burger bar was terrific, and of course, who can find fault with a menu favorite, their signature chocolate melting cake. We had early seating in the "middle" dining room located on deck 3. My only complaint is that the music accompanying the beautiful voice of our Mater'de (an Irish tenor) was much too loud because it is not the traditional 2-story dining room and the ceilings are much lower. In that main dining room there were always optional offerings of "comfort foods" on the menu for those who didn't like the more opulant offerings and were more of a "meat and taters" sort of diner. And the food on the Lido deck was very good as well. In lieu of the original "taste of the Nations" kiosk, they now have Cucina Del Capitano (hope I spelled that right)where one can get a custom made burrito, taco, wrap or anything else that might be pleasing to one's pallet. There is also an Asian themed restaurant, which we didn't try, and there's always the 24 hr. pizza station and deli. They also offered a daily "taste bar" serving samples from the individual restaurants. And a Malt shop for Pete's sake! What's not to like?
The shows were very professionally done, but much louder because of the smaller space in the liquid lounge, and perhaps lower ceilings. We didn't care for the Epic Rock show, but the younger crowd cheered madly, as we old farts did for the other productions. So there was, indeed, something for everyone. Seth at the piano bar was wonderfully knowledgeable of so many of the old songs. We didn't partake of the comedic shows, but heard that most were pretty good, with a few hits and misses. We also never made it to the top deck for Movies Under the Stars, a really neat feature. The movies just didn't appeal to us. The casino is as casino's everywhere do! The givith and they takith away. they mainly takith it away, LOL.
As for the ports: Venice, absolutely wonderfully beautiful and a most romantic city for lovers. We took the evening gondola ride with a serenade and were not disappointed. We booked that through Viator, as well as the guided boat ride through the narrow channels. So informative, and a little over half the price of the ships tours. But beware! Bathrooms are very sparce and hard to find. You pay 1 Euro to use the public restroom at St. Mark's square, and if like us, you were far removed from the square and waiting to go on a gondola ride, you must find a bar. Most bars will let you use their restrooms. But we felt funny, so we bought 3 wines in a "to go" plastic cup. So here we were, 3 old broads running up and down the alleyways trying to find a bar. One passing by would think we were lushes!
Dubrovnik, we just stayed in the city itself. No need to book a tour as it can be covered by foot quite easily. Beautiful city with one of the oldest operating pharmacies located in the so very ancient Franciscan monastery.
Athens, Greece: Did the obligatory climb to the top of the Acropolis and went through the new museum (12 Euros) very beautiful. Were very surprised at the vastness of the city proper. I don't know what we expected, but it's a whole lot more than ruins. We booked this 1/2 day tour through PK Taxi Tours, and were not disappointed. We were 5 people to a Mercedes van, and the driver (also the owner of the company), though not a licensed tour guide, was extremely informative. He also took us to see the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier. Wonderful day in Athens!
Izmir Turkey: One of my favorite stops was at the House of the Virgin Mary. You don't have to be Catholic to realize the spirituality of the place and it's significance in the history of Christiandom. Then on to the ruins of Ancient
Ephesus. This is the one that almost killed us! It was 3 hours in 96 degrees, which played a huge part in our utter exhaustion. But it is not for the person with any sort of mobility problems, I've had complete knee and hip replacement on my left side, but it was my good knee which started to give me trouble. It was completely do-able were it not for the fact that we opted to see the "terrace houses" where it was 210 steps to the top and back down again with no hand rail. That seemed to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. Thank you David for your assistance in getting down those final steps!
In Sicily we did the Godfather tour, but the accoustics in the van were not the best and with no amplification, not a lot was learned about the actual shooting of the movies. But the scenery was spectacular and the villages visited were quaint and full of history. I might mention that all tours in Italy and Marseilles, France were booked independently through Smart Cruise Tours.com and we were very satisfied with both the rides (new comfortable vans) and the service.
We hired a private guide (also through Smart Cruise Tours) while in Rome, and pre-purchased our Skip the Line tickets for both the Vatican and the Colosseum. and it was worth every penny. Pietro was a darling, and you could tell that he really enjoyed his work, as he became so animated while explaining with great detail, every thing we took in. The Sistine chapel was not a disappointment, but St. Peter's Basilica was the icing on the cake. I've never been in such a magnificent structure! There was so much to see and take in. And Pietro also took us into the colisseum for an in-depth visit and explanation of the "how and why" everything was done. It was not merely a "drive-by" introduction to this most famous of places! and then on to the Forum and Trevi fountain for an all-inclusive and wonderful day in this great and ancient city. Rome was magnificent!!!!!
In Livorno (Florence) we did the Leaning tower of Pisa, (unbelievable structure) and while standing there looking up, it's hard to believe that you are really there, looking at something you've only seen on a documentary from the history channel. And then on to the drive along the Amalfi coast. The snake-like hairpin turns were mind boggling, but the view was something of which poets write! We ate at a seaside restaurant, where I had my first taste of a genuine Italian pizza. (Give me a Red Baron anytime!) And were very surprised when we got the bill and there was a $3.50 Euro surcharge per person for the use of their knife fork and spoon. Paleeze!!! Can you imagine eating pasta or tiramisu with your fingers? A complete rip off. Oh well, we only pass this way once in our lifetime, and don't they know it, lol!
In Naples we just did the tour of Pompeii (unbelievable and one of my favorite stops on the entire trip)It's remarkably well preserved, and whenever you get to go there, be sure to purchase the book "Pompeii, before and after" in their gift shop. It shows exactly what we see as far as the ruins go, with a vinyl overlay on each picture to show you what it looked like back in the day when it was a flourishing, vibrant city of affluent people. And then on to Florence for a tour of that very pretty city. It was there that we ran into gypsies at one of the town's many beautiful squares.
In Marseilles, we had a French speaking guide (Vanessa) who was a darling and took us to the top of a hill in the city to the Cathedral Notre Damn De La Guarde (or Mother Mary guardian of the city) To say it was windy would be a vast understatement. We had to hold onto each other just to stay on our feet, but there again the view was nothing short of spectacular.
When our cruise ended in Barcelona, we were off the ship and onto the Carnival shuttle and it was one of the easiest debarkations I have ever experienced. Carnival has this one down pat.
All in all I would have to rate this cruise a 5 out of 5. We had nothing but good experiences with both our cabin and wait staff. They saw to our every need and vere unobtrusive but attentive. My only regret is that they did away with the original theater and stage and replaced it with the Liquid Lounge. And I miss the larger than life stage productions, but I know that all cruislines are now cutting corners by hiring their "Playlist" performers, but I miss the old ways! I guess I'm just getting old and set in my ways!