Our fourth RCI cruise, the ship is a great size, 1900. Everything is easy to find. Service, food quality and presentation excellent. A few of the nice Celebrity touches (white gloves, buffet trays, extra service etc) were nice, but RCI was excellent. This voyage, had about 840 US, 350 Canadians, 250 British, 200 Spanish and a mix of others, I think around 20 children, which we rarely saw. US passengers make up about 75% of most cruises, even higher in North America. Weather was pleasant, 18-35 C (65-90) 35 in Cairo, 18 in Rome. We had a group of 16 Canadians. Spend 2 nights pre-cruise in Rome at the Hotel Sistina, close to Spagna (Spanish steps) very nice, 4* would recommend it. After a flight delay with a med emergency on board, we arrived in Rome 8 hours late, fortunately our bus transfer was still waiting (thanks to CIT Tours and Mappamundo) Did a 14 hour walking tour of Rome, bring good shoes, get lots of exercise before embarking on this trip. Instead you can use the Metro to get around easily. Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, down Via Corso to the Foro area (now 1 admission gets you into the Forum, Palatine Hill and the Coliseum) Metro back to Vatican City, St. Peter's (others took a private tour of the Vatican museum-very congested they said, but still impressive-then they did a hop on hop off tour bus)Spanish steps, nice Italian dinner at Sistina diner. A good night;'s sleep then off to the port. Always recommend going to Europe a few days prior to adjust to jet lag better.
Efficient transfer to the port, 5 ships embarking. Had about 50 people at the Meet/Mingle party, I slept through the intros, a good group. We did only ship tours due to reliability and group size. Others did private tours which are also fine. Had an excellent enrichment lecturer, Harvard U employee. Art Auctioneer was weak, his first gig, lots of free champagne, we won a few free prints, with $65 shipping (can hold 5 posters) Lobster is gone (price and availability) but lots of other seafood options to make up for it, no midnight buffet, that's fine as we were too tired anyways. Sail past the Straits of Messina, between Sicily and the mainland, is a must see, on the return trip we saw Stromboli (volcanic island) shooting up some fire. Mykonos, were to tender, but then docked, walked along the harbour, about 30 min, watch out for traffic, shuttle bus back. Walked through the town, dry island, beautiful white washed homes, cheap internet cafe, windmills, beer/snacks along the water-very nice, Saw Costa tender and the masses come off. You can taxi over to Paradise and other beaches if you wish. Others went to Delos and enjoyed it. You can take a boat, book right in town and go on your own. Rhodes, been before, can easily walk around town, Palace of the Grand masters a must, walled city, very interesting. We took a shorex to Lindos-this was more impressive than we first expected, drove along interesting topography, very nice beach resorts along the way, walked up to the Acropolis, get there early as big crowds start coming around 11. The highlight of the Island Cyprus, Limmasol, took a shorex to a few ruins, Ommodos, nice spot, dry island as well, some went to a great beach. You must do a shorex, as in downtown Limmasol there isn't much, we were there on a Sunday and the nice castle in town was closed.
Alexandria, almost the whole ship took the shorex to Cairo. I knew some did Decastro tours and Memphis tours privately and had no issue, we prefer the ship tour, a sure thing, armed suited guard on the bus, a nice fellow, showed us a few sights at the pyramids and a tomb entrance under a smaller pyramid. He was tipped properly, he also made the peddlers disappear quickly, flashing his UZI. 2.5 hours ride to Cairo, guide was excellent, promoted cartouches (jewelry necklaces, with your name in Egyptian) also tshirts, picked up at the end, also stopped at the obligatory Papyrus institute (interesting, art, buy if you wish) Drive was good, a bumpy interstate type of highway with a few interesting toll booths, Lots of oil refineries in Alexandria, fairly fertile land close to the Nile, but desert on the right. Last day of Ramadan, so everything was quiet, unusually easy traffic in Alex and Cairo, as people were preparing for feasting the next day. Many farms, homes along the way, have large pigeon houses (popular meal) Saw some wealthy, areas, malls, BMW dealers and then abject poverty. Nothing will prepare you for the first view of the Pyramids, they are on the Giza Plateau, right on the edge of Cairo. Absolutely amazing, read the history, how could they even been built 2000 years ago. Incredible bus traffic, lots of armed tourist police (in white uniforms) everywhere, Egypt wants to be careful, so as not to lose the tourist trade. We never felt threatened anywhere, except by the persistent beggars and peddlers at the pyramids and Sphinx, just ignore them, no means maybe and they will velcro themselves to you. Drive back for a wide pyramid view, then parked beside the 2 great pyramids, for close-ups, go in the fall, spring or best yet the winter for our summer the temps are unbearable. We went under a pyramid into a tomb, just like a sauna, tight space, no headroom, interesting, some went to the Solar boat museum, recovered wooden boat. Don't take a camel ride, they will tell you it is free, but how much to get off? You can pay for them elsewhere and other shorex's, Then the Sphinx, also fantastic. Cairo has encroached to the edge of the pyramids, a shame, McDonalds a few hundred yards away. Homes up close, Cairo should have stopped it. But everything is out of control. Lunch at the Menai Palace hotel (5*) beautiful place, great bar with Pyramid view, most ate the food, others didn't touch anything due to food concerns, but we never heard anyone get sick, if you have a queasy stomach, then don't partake, no ice, no salads, eat cooked only. Bottled water, only buy from reputable people, ensure there is a cap seal. Then to the Egyptian Museum, very busy, no A/C, a new one is being built, 1 million artifacts, 300k on display, Mummy rooms are A/C, worth the extra price, incredibly well-preserved persons. Nile is impressive, many bridges, top hotels and embassies along one side, but the city needs a major clean-up, which will never happen. Extreme poverty in areas, no garbage collection, dumped into canals dug parallel to the Nile, 18 million people, not much sewage treatment and collection, so the air and harbour at Alex have an odor. Housing out of control, many unfinished apartments, sheep/goats herded in the middle of the city, beside opulent mansions. Pyramids are a must see, but be ready for major culture shock in Egypt. Want to return to the southern Nile, Luxor etc in the future though.
Kusadasi, Ephesus tour, awesome ruins, Library is incredible. We didn't stop, but you can visit some well-preserved wealthy Terrace houses in the ruins, extra admission, we took a peak in, Turkish tourism really wants you here. Kusadasi is a resort town, summer homes, lots of condos, water parks. Lots of vendors at the ruins, negotiate, great Turkish delight jelly/nut candy-yum! Went to Didyma, Miletus, very interesting, Temple of Apollo, very impressive. Buffet lunch, very good, good shopping in the port, carpet factory tour, free drinks, soft sales pitch, not many buyers. nice harbour, to walk along the water.
Piraeus for Athens, a group walked along the harbour, to the Metro, easy ride into Athens, about a 30 min walk to the metro, toured Parthenon, Plaka, Sytgama Sq, with the changing of the guard, various sights, temples. Others took guided tours, heavy bus congestion, can take a bus to drop off in town. If you are able, do the Metro in.
Naples. a little cloudy/rainy that day, very impressive Amalfi Drive, lunch at Maiori on the coast, excellent meal. We took the mountain route then came into Amalfi, stopped there. Past years took the Amalfi Drive close to Salerno, a few more miles of twisty ocean road. Some went to Capri, we were going to, but weather was forecast bumpy, get ferry schedule from the shopping desk, or go the ship tour, a very bumpy hydrofoil ride to Capri, but heard the isle was incredible,. Next time!
Overall, excellent entertainment on board, Elton John impersonator, very energetic young show cast. A little too much art auctioning, but no overbearing activities announcements. Would go RCI again.