A little information about us. We are both 62, my husband is a retired Police Officer, I just retired from BellSouth/ATT. We have been on 20+ cruises, 3 with Princess, 2 with Royal Caribbean, and the rest with Carnival.
Left Orlando on Aer Lingus May 31st arriving in Rome June 1st, thru Dublin. Nice flights. We were picked up at FCO by Romecabs and taken to Hotel Sallecchia which I booked thru Venere.com. Very lovely room, small but newly renovated, included a light breakfast,100 euros a night. Close to Termini, easy walk to all the major sights, Coliseum, Trevi Fountain, Forum, etc. Went out at night, felt very safe.
Took the regional train from Termini to Civitavecchia, 9 euros for the two of us, it was so easy to do, even though it was raining on the morning we left, just used those 3 euro umbrellas we had bought the day before!! Ask the ticket attendant at the station for the regional train that ends in Civitavecchia, and then you don't have to worry about getting off in a hurry.
Embarkation was a breeze, got to the ship about 12:30PM .
We had a inside room 7311 on the Empress deck, we have had balconies, outside and inside, but other than the Panama Canal and Alaska, we just prefer inside. Eva was our room steward, the best we have had.
Food is pretty subjective, we are not real picky, never went hungry. Didn't send back that one over cooked steak, have done that on my own grill!! Never saw any pushing or shoving or rude behavior in the buffet lines by my fellow cruisemates. I can truthfully say we were more than satisfied with the menus.
Entertainment: definitely lacking for us. We are used to the Caribbean atmosphere, bands playing on deck, disco hopping, etc. We did enjoy the band Lifeline, and the shows are always top notch. We properly relaxed a little more on sea days than usual for us, which was a good thing because a Europe cruise is port intensive.
Not having been to Europe before, we did choose to go on 4 Carnival tours, we were not disappointed.
Naples- We did Sorrento & Amalfi Coast. The ride along the Amalfi coast is incredible. Our tour guide was so informative. We stopped in Sorrento and had more than sufficient time by ourselves before meeting up with our group for lunch. Lunch was fabulous and the wine was flowing. Everyone on this tour was on time.
Dubrovnik- Did this on our own, no need for a tour if you are just seeing the city. Breathtaking scenery from on top of the wall. A few sprinkle of rain but again had those 3 euro umbrellas handy.
Venice- What can I say!! Venice and Dublin (the post stay) were the reasons for the trip. Again certainly no need for a tour. It is such a magical place, after the 1st evening I threw away the map. Just walk and walk. We stayed out the 1st night until midnight, no problems. We walked to Piazzle Roma from the ship, about a 15 minute walk. Bought a 24 hour vapporetta pass and we did use it. I don't think you can go up and down the Grand Canal enough times. Found a quaint cafe in one of the many alley ways, had some beer, bruschetta and cheese. Just a wonderful day and a half.
Messina- Took the "Taormina On Your Own" tour we took this mainly for the transportation, but were pleasantly surprised that we received so much information on the bus. Toured the Greek Theater, shopped and again sat down for a great lunch, beer and people watching.
Barcelona- My least favorite stop. Did the Hop/On Hop/Off bus, both the red and blue routes. We did enjoy ourselves however. There is a great market right off Las Ramblas, very interesting, loved watching the live statues.
Cannes- We took a half day tour to nice " Nice Highlights". Very enjoyable, the Flower Marker was so cool. Again lots of information about the area. Found a small cafe with view of the harbor when we got back to Cannes and had a nice lunch.
Livorno- Took the "Beautiful Tuscany" and that it was. The countryside was so beautiful. We stopped in San Gimignano, such a picturesque town. We did climb the bell tower, a little intense if you don't like heights, but he views were worth it. Had plenty of time for ourselves. Also made a stop in Volterra, a similar town. Lunch at a vineyard was also included in this tour. The vineyard owner explained the process of growing the grapes, and making the wine. We sampled 3 that he made on the property with our great lunch. We had a wonderful day.
Just as a side note. I know a lot of people hate taking cruise sponsored tours, and we very rarely do. We did not find that we had to wait for anyone, everyone was on time. We picked the ones we new we would have a lot of our own control on. The buses were clean and easy to see out of and the guides on them were great. We felt we got more than our moneys worth.
We brought a few hundred euro with us and then used our ATM card, very easy, maybe a little to easy, a little painful when you get home!! We both used a money belt, husband's money clip with euros for the day in his front pocket. I think all the worrying about pick-pockets is a little over the top. Just be aware of your surroundings. I felt safer in Europe than I do on many of the streets of Orlando!
Also ,about the dress code. Sore subject I know. Everyone looked great, unfortunately some 70 people didn't get their luggage until Venice. I was standing by the entrance to the dining room waiting for my husband the 2nd night and a man came up to the Maitre d to complain to him that he had let someone in, in shorts and a t-shirt. Much to his surprise the Maitre d told him that the man's luggage hadn't arrived and that he shouldn't have to miss the dining room experience because of that. I don't normally tip the Maitre d unless I've requested something of him, but because of that he did get an envelope from me.
Post cruise- Took the ship transfer to FCO. Had a 11:55AM flight to Dublin. Just didn't want to take the chance with the train. No problems, had #4 got off the ship onto the waiting bus and off to the airport. Airport was a bit of a zoo, but went straight to the info desk asked where to go for Aer Lingus. Got in line and off to Dublin.
All in all it was a wonderful vacation. Met lots of wonderful and patient people. The people of Europe and our fellow cruisers couldn't have been nicer!!
Paul and Marcia