Getting to port: Don't listen to whoever says it's not so bad dragging your luggage from the Civitavecchia train station. Btw, getting to Civitavecchia by train from Rome Termini station was very straightforward. We paid the 20 Euros per person for first class. Next time we'll probably opt to save the money since it was such a short trip (40 min) - it's about 5 Euros for coach class. So... to get from the train station to the port, take the shuttle bus!!! It's free! To avoid the line, we decided to walk it since someone had posted that it's not that far. It's far, even for this marathon walker, especially while wheeling luggage. We survived but avoiding the line for the shuttle wasn't worth the hassle. So... unless you want to burn the extra calories (good reason to binge when you get on the ship), take the shuttle.
Embarkation: was pretty straight forward, long line but lemonade/water was provided, a nice touch. And the line moved quickly as there were many agents. They take your passport away for this itinerary. I don't really like that. Something about clearance process being complicated for non-EU residents. There were piles of passports sitting on a table which was roped off but anyone could have leaned over and grabbed them. One person collecting them and no one to monitor the table... doesn't instill much peace of mind...
Day 2, Messina, Sicily: Breakfast on day two at Windjammer was insane. We've never experienced such crowding, and people were so rude, cutting in line, nudging, elbowing... it was difficult to find a seat. And there was no one walking around serving coffee, which we're accustomed to, with 4 RCI trips under our belts. The crowding was likely due to the fact that the first port day was the day after embarkation. Next time that happens, we'll definitely use the main dining room or room service for breakfast.
Sicily fire and water excursion: not recommended. Information about preparation was poor. If you do choose to do this excursion, dress in layers, long pants. Mt. Etna is cold and windy. And then you're taken to a river park which is warm and humid, with lots of mosquitoes. The bus ride was loooong (I slept most of the time consequently) and the sights weren't worth it, at least to me. I wish I could get my money back. We should have been properly informed about the conditions and how to dress and prepare appropriately. While water was provided, there weren't enough toilet breaks. The only highlight was the farmer's market at the "water" portion of the excursion. They sampled/sold wonderful olive oil, pestos, dessert spreads. I wish we had brought more cash... I'll definitely be googling for these products...
Athens: Make sure you wear proper shoes (sneakers) if you're visiting the Acropolis (Parthenon). The steps up to it are marble, uneven and slippery. Especially when wet. Excursion was worth it.
Ephesus: Great shopping town. I found the salespeople were not too pushy. If you like shopping, no need for an excursion here. To see the ruins you will need one, or at least a ride.
Chania: Beautiful little town with winding alleyways and cafes and arts and crafts at every turn. No need for an excursion here really.
Other impressions of the ship: Compared to the other RCI experiences (Liberty, Allure)... not as great. There was no lobster night (has this changed across all RCI?). Hardly any coffee service at breakfast. Not enough areas to get free beverages (coffee/tea were only available 24/7 at Cafe Promenade). No one ever approached us for drink service at the hot tubs. Also at the main dining, there were a couple of nights where we had to ask for bread / drink orders, after waiting at least 15 minutes.
Overall: The trip itself was great. The ship definitely needs the reburb in Jan 2014. And service could be improved too. Excursion descriptions were lacking in prep information (clothing required) and indications re: time that you'll be on the bus vs. time spent at the destination(s).