My husband, parents and I flew in to Rome via Charlotte,Detroit, Amsterdam on Northwest/KLM airlines. Sister airlines but KLM was the best, no complaints there. Very attentive to passenger needs. Every flight on time. We stayed 3 nights at Anne's Place, a small B&B on the outskirts of Rome in Palestrina. David picked us up from the airport and they also delivered us to the cruise port hassle free and great rates. The first afternoon we rested and Anne took us to dinner at Papa's in town. Great food, wine and ambiance. We ate under a grape arbor under the stars!! The next day we toured the italian countryside (provided by the B&B again great rates),Monte Cassino and the monastery, the pope's summer residence and Lake Albano and other stops. Absolutely beautiful!! Dinner was again at another great restaurant and they allowed us to celebrate their 10th anniversary with them and their family, just like being a part of their family. The 3rd day we had a tour scheduled with cruise critic friends in Rome. David drove us to the train station and gave us a cell phone in case we needed anything. We were picked up at the station and saw all of Romes sights, my favorite being a toss up between the Vatican (made possible by our great guide Walter) and the Trevi fountain beautiful, but crowded. And the Coliseum, just awesome. We hated to leave, the rooms were comfortable(ours had a terrace)breakfast was plentiful, there was free wifi, you were able to call home for .50 a minute and as I said before you felt like family. I highly recommend Anne's Place, your home away from home.
Now for the cruise: Carnival Freedom is a beautiful ship, what we come to expect from Carnival. This was our 5th cruise with them and we don't have a reason to change. Embarkation was smooth, didn't wait too long at all to board. The cabin was in a great location midship, around the corner from elevators and just up the hall from laundry. We are hooked on a balcony room from now on. Plenty of space, great beds, we had wonderful team of stewards. The room was always clean and any request was taken care of immediately. That goes for all the services on the ship, the dining room service was excellent from the table staff on up. We ate at the Supper Club twice it is not to be missed!! Well worth the money. The entertainment was great my favorite being the "Ticket to Ride" it had the whole audience joined in by the end singing Beatles songs to the top of their lungs and screaming for more. The big screen outside at the pool area is a nice way to see your favorite movies!
Tours: We did most of our tours thru Carnival and 2 private tours. The carnival tours we enjoyed my favorite being the Burano, Murano and Torecello tour from Venice. There were only 30 people on this tour making it more personal. I especially like Torecello, the old church and the wonderful restaurant where we ate lunch. But I am getting ahead of myself, our first stop was Naples. We had a cruise critic group of 17 that went on a tour of Capri,Sorrento and Pompeii with Amalfi Drive. Our guide was Guiseppi and he was very knowledgeable and fun!! Pompeii was unbelievable and I would have like to have spent longer in Sorrento, lots of great little shops. I would definitely recommend this company and guide to anyone. Easy to deal with, reasonable prices and at the myself and another organizer were presented with a beautiful personalized plate to remember the tour. Capri was beautiful, one of the places I want to go back and revisit.
Dubrovnik we did on our own and took the shuttle into the old town. We walked the wall of the old city and the sights, my pictures don't do them justice!! The 2 mile or so walk around the city was plenty for us, go in the morning, as late in the day it gets very warm up there. We really enjoyed this city with its marble streets, We bought Kunas from an atm in town but I believe that the shops took the euro or dollar too.
Venice was very crowded. We did the ships tour of St.Marks Square and it was the only tour that I was a little disappointed in. The tour guides seemed short tempered but in their defense the passengers were too, it was hot, I guess we'll blame it on that. We couldn't leave Venice without a gondola ride, I was worried that they wouldn't take us, the ships tour mentioned a weight restriction and we are good sized people, but my husband not to be deterred asked one of the gondoliers for a price. It was high but...I was so glad we did. It was magical, and we did get a gondolier that was very friendly, he even sang a little for us and provided information about his city.
Sicily we did the ships tour of Messina and Mt Etna. Messina was pretty, I wished we had more time there. The volcano area was impressive and much cooler, I was glad that I had brought that jacket I didn't think I would need. The umbrellas we bought came in handy too, we had light rain an hail!! Would have been nice to go on top and see the crater but there just wasn't enough time. The lunch at this stop was great too!! Fresh pasta and sauces. My first cannolli too. Lots of first on this trip!!
Barcelona was huge! I am glad we had a ships tour here, we went to the Hard Rock cafe and saw highlights of this massive city. The Gothic church where we stopped for pictures was unbelievable!! The HOHO buses looked like fun some of the other cruise critic members did this and loved it.
Monaco was the last of our private tours. There were 8 of us cruise critic members in a mini van and our guide was Frederick`from Dream tours, he was great, funny and very knowledgeable!! The Monaco area is beautiful!! We toured Nice, Eze and visited the medieval village of St Paul De Vence. It was amazing, the old city had small shops all thru it. We had the freshest ravioli I have ever tasted here. Frederick also took us to a small village that no tour buses can get to because of the roads, the names escapes me but it was so worth the visit. We also passed the spot where Princess Grace died on our way back to Monaco. We left at dusk watching the lights of Monaco disappear from our balcony!! This was a great tour company great rates, I recommend them and ask for Frederick!!
Livorno was our last stop. We toured Pisa and a winery. Pisa was unbelievable!! So massive was the square it didn't seem crowded and there were thousands of people there. We did the compulsory picture of my husband holding the tower up all by himself!! The winery was the highlight of this tour. I wish the airlines would ease the 3oz liquid restriction for carryon's. I wanted to buy wine but was afraid to put in our checked luggage. I know of several others that did and it made it fine. The winery would ship it for you but it was expensive. Oh well, it was great wine and everyone sang all the way back to the ship!!
Finally to the end. On the whole the ships tours were fine, some great!! The private tours were more personable because of smaller groups. Dream Tours (Frederick) for Monaco and Amalfi Drive(Gueiseppe) for Naples. Book early, highly sought after tours!! As you can tell from my description I was awe struck most of the time as you will be. don't wait for a better time, go now, you will not regret it. And I didn't even mention gelato!!! Go just for the gelato!!