Well What can I say!? We finally were able to get to our destination after a long awaited passport fiasco! Thank goodness, we arrived in Rome on Tuesday morning to start our adventure with our 3 daughters (21, 18, and 11). So to start, we arrived around 8:30 am in the Leonardo DaVinci airport to a massive crowd also waiting to get thru customs. We were scheduled to go on the Holy Rome tour with Carnival and thank goodness we booked it thru the cruise line. After an exhausting and hot day, but a lovely tour (not to mention we didn't get to eat or drink anything, or even go to the bathroom until after our 6 hour tour. Our tour guides were ok, except for when a few of the older women fell walking to the Vatican and there was no place for ice or anywhere to stop for help. Everyone ended up being ok and we all kind of looked out for eachother and helped them out. After the long tour we finally arrived to the ship, hot, tired and HUNGRY at 6:00 pm, just in time to get ready to said at 7pm. Dinner was lovely and our waiters were wonderful and very attentive to our requests. My oldest daughter is lactose-intolerant and Carnival even sent over a menu advisor each evening to help her with her menu choices and requests that the chef would specially make for her! I would have to say all of our dining experience was great! The food was very good and we really didn't have any complaints in that respect.
Well, now about the ship......... It was very nice but there was one confusing part. Our dining room was lower Posh and for the first few evenings we would find ourselves going up and down stairways to try to get there. Our staterooms were forward on the ship and the dining room was located completely aft, past another dining room, which made it confusing until we finally figured out that going all the way across the ship on the Promenade deck would make it the easiest to get there! This meant going thru the shopping mall, the casino and past all of the popular photo spots, so getting to dinner was a challenge, especially arriving on time. We always found something that caught our attention and delayed our trip. But it was never negative, except for some of the lines waiting for popular backgrounds for photos. Our staterooms were as we expected them, since we a frequent flyers on Carnival Cruise lines. It was also fun to watch all of the guests lining up for the special of the evening at the jewelry shop, especially the tug of war and arguing during the watch sale! Nonetheless, it was always a wonderful evening especially capping off the night with a late-night showing of a feature film under the stars or the show in the Victoriana Lounge with John, our cruise director, having fun with fellow cruisers or a big stage production. Our daughter even got to be part of one of the shows on the stage! I think the ship is wonderful, colorful and full of excitement just like all of the other Carnival ships!
My only complaint would come with the excursion department. We were a family of five in 2 cabins and after pricing the excursions online prior to sailing, we decided to give it a go on our own. With a good computer and a few books about Europe, we were comfortably able to book just about all of our excursions on our own or we researched and utilized public transportation at the ports of call and traveled on our own to see the sights. This we found was the best part of our trip! being able to see the sights as the Europeans do, by using trains and buses was wonderful. We were able to see things at our own pace and actually, after speaking to others on the ship, we were able to see more and weren't so worn out after a day of sightseeing. Most Italians, French and Spanish were English speaking and if you asked the right person, were more than happy to lend a hand and tell you about the area and point in the right direction. We had no problems with pick-pocketing, only the occasional rude person who didn't believe in waiting in a line. probably the most challenging was going into a local pharmacy to purchase cold medicine. Sudafed is not available in Europe and trying to describe the need for a sinus medication was always fun and usually involved a game of charades! Another somewhat challenging event was the use of the ATM's or Bankomat, as they are called in Italy. The Italians surely didn't appreciate us holding up a line to get euros when they weren't used to having to wait behind people. All in all, it was a wonderful experience and we actually saved our family about $3000 in touring on our own, and probably got more out of it, after seeing the looks of people walking in those endless tour groups with ear buds handing to walkie talkies! I would definitely recommend this 12 day adventure for anyone who wants a taste of Europe and is apprehensive about traveling on their own. I don't know if I would do any driving myself, since it was pretty crazy, but public transportation, walking and bicycles were a great way to see the countries and decide where we would like to go back and spend more time in the future.