Before our vacation we bought travel guides and a membership to Blockbuster online to preview what we wanted to see on our trip before reserving anything. Flew economy from Miami, FL to JFK because it's a short flight. Had a four hour lay over at JFK and was escorted to the Delta Crown Room where we sat, drank, ate, watched dvds, and played on the internet. Had a nice view of planes that kept our daughter entertained for hours. Our flight was suppose to depart at 7 p.m., but due to weather we sat on the tarmac until around 1 a.m. Thank God we flew business class because we were able to completely stretch out our legs in our seats. My daughter put on her headphones and watched Disney's Johnny and the Sprites without a care in the world. Delta's employees on that flight were outstanding. We wrote a complimentary letter regarding the expertise the crew and captain handled their passengers. The captain even came out and spoke to use a couple times to let us know about the weather problem. We would highly recommend that you book the first part of your transportation from the airport to the cruise line via Carnival. There were many people on the plane scrambling on their cell phones to contact their drivers to tell them they were late. When we got off the plane there were Carnival cruise line employees by the luggage escorting us to our waiting busses. At first the driver wasn't going to let us take our five in one stroller, car seat, high chair, etc. on the bus until we showed him how the wheels collapsed.
When we reached the port we had to re-do all our paper work again because Carnival's computer did not save any of our information when we registered on line. We were the last people to get on the ship, even though we were on the second to the last Carnival bus to arrive there. We had a balcony state room and our in-laws had a balcony state room one room over from us. We tried to get our rooms side by side, but they said there wasn't any available when we booked 8 months earlier. I felt bad for the people between us because if anyone was on their balcony they couldn't hear us knock on their door, or their phone ring, so we had to shout over the railing. We rented a Carnival stroller for the entirety of our cruise for $40 and a phone from Camp Carnival if we decided to put our daughter in there.
Naples,Italy-We hired a private chauffeur that came highly recommended by the Ritz-Carlton. We will use Giuseppe "Joseph" again in the future. If anyone is interested you can contact him at www.golisanocar.it or 368 491142. We went to Pompeii, Amalfi Coast, Sorrento, Mt.Vesuvius, Ravello, etc. I wanted to go to a lemoncello factory during their Siesta time and "Joseph" got a store owner and his family to re-open their shop (Ravello) to have us do a tasting. That is why it is so wonderful to have someone who knows the area very well. Having a private driver and a car to yourself is also wonderful because our daughter got a little car sick on the way back to the ship due to the curvy mountain roads. "Joseph" stopped at a famous gelateria where we had gelato and the store owner kept being out free things for my daughter to help curb her car sickness. It was a wonderful start to our adventure.
Marmaris,Turkey-The cruise director lied when he said the entire island takes any kind of money. The only thing we wanted to see was the nautical fort, but they would only accept Turkish liras and there wasn't an exchange booth nearby. I didn't want to buy some frivolous token to make change so we walked around the area, had some drinks, and went back on the ship. When you get off the ship just walk to your left and you're in town. However, the day we arrived it was 108 degrees and thank goodness I had my mister with me because it was a dry heat. There is nothing to do in Marmaris, except buy replicas of high end items. Many people who did a lot of sight seeing suffered from heat exhaustion. This made us late to our next port because so many people arrived late from their excursions.
Izmir, Turkey-We hired a private driver and guide through ephesustours.biz and had an excellent time. It is a long drive to get to Ephesus, but we loved our guide and driver. They knew we were limited ont time and yet they still took us to everything: St. Johns Basilica, House of the Virgin Mary, Ephesus, etc. We ended our day having a wonderful authentic Turkish lunch under a delightful green tent. My daughter loved running around the open field and picking the flowers. We might look into staying in this area longer next time.
Istanbul, Turkey-We hired a private driver and guide through ephesustours.biz again and had a great day. Istanbul's traffic problems is like being in downtown New York at noon. All the sights are within walking distance of downtown. We went to the Blue Mosque, St.Sophia, Hippodrome, Grand Bazaar, and Topkapi Palace. Many people go to the palace to look at the diamond, but the Harem's residence is amazing.
Athens, Greece-Got off the boat and negotiated a price with a cab driver. He took us to all the sights and showed us everything we wanted to see under 4 hours. The Acropolis is not a place for toddlers, wheelchairs, and strollers. When you get to the top it is very windy. We went to watch the changing of the guards and the Plaka.
Katakolon, Greece-Beautiful, quaint village. We had a nice day leisurely strolling through the town. We bought two pieces of art work and a bronze chess set.
Livorno, Italy-We took public transportation to Pisa. We stopped at a wonderful restaurant and walked around town. You definitely have to watch out for pick pockets. There were a bunch of young girls hanging out by the train terminal with babies. One girl got right up on my back as I was walking the stairs, I turned around quickly and hit her with my Prada backpack. She was completely stunned. I later found out from an elderly couple on the ship that they had their purses and wallet stolen from these young girls and there was nothing they could do about it because they would miss the ship. One girl pretended to faint and they went to help and that was when they were robbed.
Rome,Italy-We have an uncle who is a priest at the Vatican so we had the best time. He took us to his monastery and showed us special areas of Rome. That was definitely the highlight of our trip. We used Italy Cabs/Marco Cabs all day for our two day excursion. However, we would not hire them again because on our last leg of the trip they left us at the Trevi Fountain and claimed that they didn't have any working vehicles. We had to walk all over town to find a driver that would transport 4 adults and a child in a car seat back to our hotel. The vast majority of cabs in Rome only can transport 5 adults, but no car seats. That was not a good way to end our vacation.
Loved the cleanliness of the ship. The design of the ship reminds me of staying in a Las Vegas resort. The buffet is wonderful, the upstairs fish and chips station has the best food. We ate dinner every night in the main dining room. The food is a little on the bland side, but there isn't anything a little salt and pepper can't take care of. They had a children's menu for my daughter every night with crayons. She loved the dancing and would get up and dance with the wait staff.
My daughter never went to Camp Carnival, except to build a bear. We tried to take her twice for free time, but there seem to be a miscommunication with the staff, the first time I took her they said to bring her back for the 2 and under play time, when I came back they told me she was too old. Go figure! Emmanuelle is a great photographer of children and family. Alan is a wonderful waiter. Everyone on the ship wants to know what they can do to make you, and your child happy. I like that because as long as my daughter's happy, we're happy. We enjoyed the nightly entertainment and the pool side movie. The toddler pool needs to be resurfaced because it's red and black (very hot to stand or sit on) and the paint dyes itself to your clothes and body.
I wish they would show the previous evenings performance in the room for people who can't catch the shows because everything was repetitive on the state room television. Don't gamble because they use automated reshuffling decks. The guests on the ship were very friendly and nice. Strangers would come up and ask to take pictures with our daughter. Our daughter loved how our cabin steward made up her bed special for her every night so she couldn't roll off and hit the floor. We will be taking another European cruise with Carnival.