We are a family of four and we started our Mediterranean cruise in Barcelona. We stayed a few days there before boarding the ship and it was fabulous. Our favorite part of Barcelona was the Park Guell, which featured Gaudi-designs. We also liked the Boqueria (Marketplace) Take advantage of this stop if you can.
We paid a taxi from our hotel to get on the ship and we were able to get on board with no long lines or hassles. Traveling with an 8 and 10yr old can be hard but the kids saw this as an adventure and embarkation was a breeze.
Once on board, our luggage arrived with no problems. Since we had been in Barcelona a few days it would have been nice to have a laundry facility instead of laundry service. Hard to justify paying $1.50 for cleaning a pair of boy's underwear!
We explored the ship and made our way to the Fun Factory to register the kids. Our first impression of the ship is that it did not have a "WOW" feeling. We have traveled on several Princess Cruises to Alaska and Europe and all the boats had a "WOW" look and feeling. We decided not to let this spoil the fun as we knew it was a "refurbished" boat when we booked the cruise. The kids were happy to play at the Fun Factory and meet the new kids and coordinators, so we ventured on the boat alone. Stop one was for coffee (it was a disappointment) we were told by our Stateroom Attendant Sam that this was a 5 star hotel but we did not feel we had 5 star coffee - we hoped by the end of the cruise it would get better.
Off to sea! The kids LOVE the Fun Factory, we are off for a morning jog! It was wonderful, other than a few cruisers who would leave there flip flops in the way of the runners it was fantastic. The coffee is still not very good. We were disappointed that we were not able to find many people enjoying the "pass port to Europe" activities on the boat. We went to a few brain teaser and trivia events and we were the only ones there. We had first seating and had a table with a nice family who was traveling with 2 kids older than ours. Our waiter and assistant are very nice but we appear to have the slowest table. We seem to wait a long time in-between courses and well the coffee is still poor.
Villefranche and Monaco were fantastic!! We decided to see Villefranche on our own and without the kids - we would then follow the morning with the cruise excursion to Monaco and Monte-Carlo. We had pizza and pasta (with an excellent cappuccino) in Villefranche and took tons of pictures and then did some shopping. Other than the Euros we lost in Monte Carlo we had a wonderful time. The tour did run long, it was supposed to be finished at 6:30, but we didn't get back onboard until past 7:30, which wasn't cool because our children were expecting us. You could easily visit Monaco and Monte Carlo without the tour. Be aware that Monte Carlo only has roulette in the afternoons and smart dress is expected.
Our room was located by the elevator and it was loud - but during the cruise we were so tired from our busy days we did not notice again until we disembarked (tell you that later).
Livorno - we booked the Celebrity 1/2 day in Pisa with the kids and initially regretted not going to Florence that morning. Our plan for excursions was to only have 1/2 days in Livorno and Naples so we could have a full 10 hour day in Rome. We were worried about the kids getting crabby if we had full days for three straight excursions. We had a wonderful bus driver and guide (Ricardo) (worth every penny!) We had such a good time and learned so much about the area that we could not have imagined cutting our trip short to enjoy Florence. We wished we had more time at Pisa to shop,enter all the buildings and enjoy a cappuccino or gelato. So we hope to enjoy Florence and Tuscany another time and we plan on visiting Pisa again.
Civitavecchia, for this wonderful stop we hired a car "Discovery Tours" to take us into Rome. It was expensive but again worth every penny. They met us at 7:30 right as we got off the ship. Our driver Marco was wonderful as was our guide, Serena. Her accent was a bit thick, but she has a degree in archeology and she works for the Vatican museum and had incredible knowledge about all things Roman. We were able to by-pass the lines and they were wonderful with the kids making sure they understood the eras and events that occurred in that time. We did ancient and religious Rome and it was so much information but presented in such a way that we all came away with fond memories. We also had an absolute feast at La Barca for lunch. Our waiter was from Sardinia and he brought us some of the best food (pastas, fresh fruits and meats) that we have ever had. All-in-all, getting the private guide and driver worked extremely well as the driver was able to drop us off very close to the sights and we spent less time walking/standing in line with this approach. We are only in day 4 of the cruise and we have taken over 200 pictures (I am still on FILM!)
We lost our table buddies due to conflict with excursions. The dinning service is not much faster for our table. We notice all the other waiters running around so quickly - but we never seem to see our waiters. The kids are not happy as they want to be back at the Fun Factory at 8pm and they miss the first half of their games. We started eating in the buffet just to keep peace and ensure the kids ate.
Our excursion in Naples was canceled so we decided to see Naples on our own. We did not get far into the city - it was dirty and well we just got nervous so we enjoyed a cappuccino at a local cafe and rushed back to the ship. We took this day to lounge by the pool. The ship should put timers on the lounge chairs when you leave them. It was impossible to tell which chairs were occupied as they were all with towels. If you sat on a chair someone would appear from no where saying it belonged to them. When we got up the chairs were empty again. Also, some parents DO NOT monitor their kids. Kids were playing with soccer balls and running wild (mine are not perfect - but they were not wild). This was our last day at the pool. We were also a little disappointed to learn that unlike Princess, the dining rooms on Celebrity were not open for lunch on port days.
Off to Greece, we have really enjoyed the photographers. Our best family pictures have been taken on cruises. They never rush and take more pictures than us!
Santorini!! We took the cruise excursion to Nea Kameni Volcano and hot springs swim. It was like walking on the moon! The scenery was so picturesque. Be prepared to walk uphill for about 30 min and wear sneakers! I saw people in sandals and felt like they had to be in pain. Also a hat, sunscreen and light clothing are a must. We took the morning excursion, the afternoon trip must be quite toasty. After the volcano adventure we were off to the hot springs. The boat had life vests and my daughter used one. It was not a long swim to the hot springs but it was harder to swim in the cold ocean (it didn't get warm until closer to shore) vs a pool. We had a water dispo camera and it was fun to take pictures of the area from the water. After the swim our excursion provided us with cable car tickets to shop and enjoy lunch in Fira (we took the cable car tickets and by-passed the donkey ride. Fira is the town atop high cliffs over-looking the harbor). This was the most beautiful place! We enjoyed browsing through the narrow alleyways and found a nice restaurant with authentic Greek food for lunch. I think this would be a great place for a honeymoon. OK - how about a second honeymoon! The food, coffee and beer and adventure will not be forgotten.
What a trip so far - the weather gods have been good to us. Perfect weather at every port but today in Athens we are feeling the heat. We took the cruise excursion, Ancient Athens, Plaka and shopping excursion. I think the kids are tired and the heat is not helping. The bus was comfortable and the sites were fantastic but I think everyone was glad when we got back to the ship. We saw the Acropolis from afar, but the view was a bit ruined by scaffolding. The Plaka was a fun area, lots of great shops and little cafes.
I think my favorite moment on the ship was the "Flava" night as we sailed from Athens. Everyone dressed in white and the outside decks were set up with outdoor seating, live music and a large Mediterranean buffet. It was a magical evening with the music, dancing, food and wine.
The kids have asked if they can stay on the ship today. They have decided to forgo Dubrovnik so that they have the energy to spend the day in Venice. So it is just a romantic day for the two of us. We just got the Cruise bus shuttle day pass to enjoy Dubrovnik on our own in the Old Town. We had such a lovely day! What a unique city - it was truly a surprise. We went to a fruit/farmers market and enjoyed fresh nuts, peaches and local orange liquor. I think it was the best peach we had ever had! Not sure if it was the location, the fruit or the company but take the time to try the local fruit!! All the people in Dubrovnik were very nice. We did have to exchange some of Euros for the local currency (kunas) as this was our only non-Euro port. We did some shopping and ended the day with ice cream before boarding the bus back to the ship.
Venice was so exciting! Get out of that cabin and enjoy the cruise into this fabulous place. Sleep in on another day! The only thing missing was a good cup of coffee. Room service was OK, you only get one tea bag for a large carafe of water and the food was OK. By-pass room service on this ship. We opted for the Gondola ride, Murano glass and the San Giorgio church through the cruise excursion. It was fantastic! It was amazing to watch the master glass craftsman make beautiful pieces right before your eyes. We were more than a little nervous walking our young children through the glass showroom as some of the pieces cost as much as our cruise. After we got back to the ship, we left the kids and walked over the the Piazzale Roma. It was only about 10 minutes from the ship and well worth the time. We have put Venice on our list of places in which to return. We have to fly home and we wished we had just a few more hours.
We were a little disappointed with our disembarkation. Celebrity charged $30 a person for a transfer to the airport and in hindsight that seems a bit steep. Our bus was over loaded and my wife and I ended up having to stand for the entire trip to the airport while the kids shared a single seat. For $120 that didn't seem right.