This was a 1st cruise for my Mom and I and we couldn't have had a better experience.
We stayed 3 days in Rome at Peace of Rome and thought that may be the highlight of our whole trip but little did we know what was waiting for us! We booked a private car through Rome Cabs to the port with 2 other couples we "met" on the roll call boards and had a seamless 1hr drive to Civitavecchia. The boarding process was smooth and took less than 20 minutes. The ship itself was wonderful with amazing artwork and tons of fun areas to explore. My personal favorite was the Library. The crew is super friendly and very eager to help in anyway they can. With over 70 nationalities on board it was wonderful to chat with everyone and hear about their homes and families. Meeting so many interesting other cruisers and crew was a definite highlight of the trip.
We boarded around lunch time and enjoyed the wonderful food at Bistro on 5 while waiting for our staterooms to become available. We enjoyed it so much we went once more near the end of the cruise. Frankly, all the food was amazing. We had select dining and never had a problem with seating and will definitely choose it again in the future. We found that 6:15 was too early and 8:45 too late. We generally went to the dining room around 7-7:30 and found that was perfect. Our first dinner was an experience as we sat at a sharing table but did not realize that the meal was 4 courses and only selected 3 so had to sit through a course that everyone else had but us. The courses are great sizes though so 4 never made me feel overly full. Unlike Qsine which was so amazing, I almost had to be rolled out. In fact, after Qsine, I didn't eat until a late lunch the next day....so plan accordingly.
Our stateroom was much larger than we were expecting and the bathroom was actually larger than the one on our Rome hotel which was a happy surprise. We loved having a balcony and will never go with an inside stateroom. I loved waking up each morning and opening the curtains to see what fantastic view we had today. We spent quite a bit of time reading and drinking tea on the balcony so well worth the extra cost for us. Next time, I would like a stateroom higher up or further away from the Grand Foyer as it was quite loud with the entertainment nightly.
All the ports were great:
Santorini - we docked at 2 and then tendered to the Island., This was the port with the most issues. You need a tender ticket which were available starting at 9am the day before. I headed down around 8 and got into a line already 20+ people deep. By 9, the line was huge. I ended up with in tender group 9 which would some of the first off the ship. The tender ticket process was ok but the actually process of calling the tender groups was chaos. There has to be a better way. The pushing and shoving was shocking. I can definitely see why people take the cruise tour here simply to skip this process.
Anyway, we were on the Island by 2:30 and grabbed the speedboat (actually just a regular tender boat) to Oia for 15E. Great deal as it included a bus ride back to Fira and the port. Santorini is pretty and as touristy as they come. Basically and island of great views and shops.
Istanbul - This was the port I was most looking forward to. In the end I was disappointed but acknowledge that only more time would allow you to really get a sense of the city. We spent our day and half hitting all the key tourist spots (Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topaki Palace, Underground Cistern etc) which are all on the smaller part of the city. If I had the chance I would have liked to visit the Asia side and see the real Istanbul. The real challenge here is the traffic. We grabbed the Cruise transfer to the Grand Bazar on the 1/2 day and it took over 1hr to get there. In comparison it took 15 minutes on the return trip. If I had to do it again, the tram, is faster and cheaper. Buyer beware in the Spice Market and Grand Bazar as I found the vendors tend to jump between currencies and it can be quite confusing. It is OK to take a minute of ask to use their calculator to work everything out in your head. I also recommend having a set price in your head for any items prior to start bargaining. We used Private Ephesus Tours for both Istanbul and Ephesus and could not have been happier.
Ephesus - This was my favorite port as I found the ruins of Ephesus to be some of the best we saw. The extra fee for the Terrace Houses is well worth it as the mosaics are beautiful and comparable to Pompeii. this was also the nicest port we were at with tons of shops before returning to the ship. My only complaint is the gauntlet of vendors to need to run exiting Ephesus. They were the most aggressive we encountered.
Mykonos - Another beautiful island. We were supposed to tender here but instead go to dock which was sooo much better. This was a great island to simply wander again great views and shops.
Athens - Another good port. We spent the morning touring the city - Acropolis, Parliament (must see the changing of the guards if possible) etc. before heading out along the coast to Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon. We used Private Greece Tours and they were fabulous.
Naples - We had booked a private tour with 3 couples but 2 cancelled due to illness so we switched to the cruise tour that best matched what we had planned before; a visit to Sorrento and Amalfi. This drive was breathtaking and should only be taken with an experienced driver. I still can't believe that a huge bus made it. In the end, I would have preferred the smaller tour but the cruise tour was ok.
Sea days - As this was our first cruise, we had no idea what to expect on Sea Days and were amazed by the sheer amount of things to do. I though I reviewed the guide closely but I still missed things. My favorite was the Iron Chef style cooking competition. The gym on sea days is packed so I recommend after lunch as the best time to go. We also purchased passes to the Persian Gardens (included with AquaClass) and really enjoyed this area, although it would have been nice to know the cold room was broken beforehand. Still the saunas and steam room were fantastic and you can't beat those heated beds after a long days at port.
I only went to 2 shows as they really weren't up my alley but my mother went to more and enjoyed them a great deal.
We self-disembarked and it was quick and easy.
Overall, we had an amazing time and are thrilled with Celebrity and the Reflection!