We booked our cruise and travel plus hotel stay in Rome through Carnival. We flew into Rome two days before the cruise so we could sightsee in Rome. We greeted at airport by Carnival representatives and they helped us to the bus waiting outside to take us to the hotel. We had a rather long wait in a hot bus until we were on our way into Rome. We stayed at the Hotel Ciccerone. It was a fairly decent hotel. Surprised that only the front desk spoke english. We had e-mailed the Vatican through Vatican.va for an appointment time to tour the Vatican with a tour guide. Received a confirmation several days before we left. This was great and we didn't have to wait on any long lines to get in. Saw the major sights of Rome. Carnival reps were in the lobby while we were at the hotel. They seemed anxious to sell tours and weren't too friendly in answering questions that we had.
We left Rome on May 25th around 10:30 a.m. and were brought to the pier in Civitavecchia. The ride took a little over an hour. We had filled out our fun pass and so embarkation was a breeze. Went aboard in no time and started looking around the ship. Ship is very lovely and similar to other Conquest size ships of this fleet. (we had sailed on the Glory in the past and were familiar with layout). Went up to Lido deck for some lunch. I would say the food on the lido deck was just okay. There is a large variety but taste wise - nothing special. Waited for our friends from New York to arrive and showed them around the ship.
Our cabin was on the empress deck with a balcony view. It was almost in the center of the ship and quite convenient to elevators and laundry room. We had more than enough space for our clothes and personal items. Our cabin steward Ovie was very accommodating in every way. Whatever we asked for, he was right there.
The service on the ship was terrific. We had two excellent waiters. Vinod and Assag. We couldn't have asked for better help. Our assistant maitre'd Jogi was so helpful in every way. I wanted a platter of fresh fruit every morning at breakfast and he made sure I had that delivered to whatever table I was taken to in the a.m. Breakfast and days at sea was open seating but dinner every night was at the same table. We were in the Chic dining room. The food was excellent some nights and just okay other nights. If we didn't like something we ordered, we did find another dish that was suitable. We had a wonderful table of people to dine with and this made dining a pleasure.
We dined at the special restaurant one night - The Sun King. It is $30. extra a person but well worth it. There is a two piece band playing lovely background music. If you want to dance, you can. The selections on the menu were terrific and our dining partners all enjoyed their choices. Dinner took a little over 3 hours...
I will say that overall the ship was wonderful with a few negative comments. They ran out of tissues on the ship which I found to be quite strange. I heard this happens each cruise. They were expecting a shipment when we sailed into Barcelona. The Lido deck needs more people to clear and wipe tables when big crowds are there for breakfast or lunch. We complained about this on the ship and it seemed to get better.
The gym was quite large and I always seemed to be able to get a treadmill when I wanted one. My friend used the elliptical machine and weights with no waiting time either.
It is very convenient to have washing machines and dryers on the cabin floors. One does not have to pack every piece of clothing since the laundry rooms are open 24 hours a day. We used the ship's pressing service as well for our formal attire.
The shows were great and especially when John Heald (cruise director) used people from the audience for some skits. The tears were running down our faces and we were belly laughing. The regular shows were very entertaining and the dancers and singers work very hard to please.
I didn't book any tours through Carnival. All were booked through cruise reviews from Cruise Critic. We were very lucky because we had great people taking us around and their prices were quite reasonable. In Naples we went through parts of the Amalfi Coast and Positano which was absolutely beautiful. Then on to Capri. (booked through Capitime.com) Rebecca Brooks - very nice lady to deal with.
Venice we did on our own. Unfortunately it rained about an hour after we arrived and so we had no choice but to return to the ship. It was cold,wet and windy. Sailing into Venice was amazing.
Dubrovik - We did this on our own too. Hired a young man named Robert who owned his own taxi and he took us around for 10 euros each (we were four) for a tour of his beautiful land. Then he dropped us in town and we had time on our own for sightseeing and some shopping. Had lunch at a restaurant named the Arsenal.
Sicily - Hired an excellent company named www.sicilylife.com. Contact Sebastiano. He arranged for Antonio to meet us (six people) in a van and take us to Mt. Etna and then to Taormina where we had time to browse by ourselves. We saw much of the beautiful countryside too. It was E360 euros or $120. each couple. This was for the entire day from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00. Antonio was charming and so helpful in pointing out all the sights.
Barcelona we did on our own too. There is a bus you pay one price and can get on and off as much as you want. Had a great lunch at a Tappas restaurant. Went to the church "Segrada Familia" and walked Las Ramblas.
Cannes - HIred Yves from "Provence Riviera Tours. The tender took us to the pier and he was waiting for us. He was a charming frenchman and was eager and willing to show us his lovely Cannes, Nice, St. Paul de Vence, Eze, Monaco and Monte Carlo. He charged 483 euros which was divided by 3 couples. Each place was so different and had it's own charm. We had lunch in Eze.
Livorno - Our final port. Waiting for us was Daniel (Claudio@limoinrome.com). Daniel drove us to Florence which was about one and half hours from Livorno. We had a tour of this magnificent city. Saw David at the Accademie museum and the duomo. Spent not enough time there but will definitely return one day.
Debarkation was very smooth. We had an early flight so we left the ship by 7:30. We were driven to the airport by Carnival and checked in without a problem.
All in all it was a wonderful trip and one we will never forget. We have some terrific photos and great memories.