We took the train from Rome to the port thanks to advice from fellow CruiseCritic.com members and find it to be a relatively easy process. Be prepared for the 10 minute from train station to the port entrance.
The check-in process at Civitavecchia was quick. Our room was ready when we got there at 1:30. Our room steward was very efficient and he also made us towel animals for the last 5 nights. Room was spacious enough for 3 people and we were able to hang up or store most of our clothes. The location on Deck 2 turned out to be great since it was quiet and close to the disembarking area located at Deck 1 below. The only thing to be aware of is that you can't walk through the whole ship on decks 2 and 3.
We had the early 6:15 seating but we were able to show up as late as 7 pm. Our waiters (Tirencio and Valentin)were very friendly and helpful. We got our food delivered very quickly and can finish dinner in about an hour if we wanted to. Food was plentiful and generally good. The Indian menu is very authentic. We especially love the chocolate desserts, cheesecakes and parfaits. The Windjammer Cafe can be crowded during breakfast time, especially on the last day but has a good variety of food selections.
Loved the activities on board. We did rock climbing, ping pong, miniature golf, shuffleboard and inline skating. Enjoyed watching the 2 ice shows and many of the nightly entertainment. The comedian acrobat and magician were very entertaining.
We explored Palermo on our own. Really loved the architecture at Monreale Cathedral which we took a bus to get to. Also saw the Norman Palace inside Palermo. Many sights and stores were closed for afternoon siesta unfortunately.
Since we've been to Athens before, we chose to hire a taxi to take us to the lovely Vouliagmeni beach, about 30 minutes away. Did have to haggle with many taxi drivers before settling on a reasonable rate. Also visited the spa lake nearby that had therapeutic waters. Had trouble buying bus tokens to take the bus back to the port but otherwise, it was a great escape from the heat in Athens.
We hired a private guide from Sammy's Travel to visit Ephesus and it was a great experience. We got to see the ruins, Terrace Houses, Mary's House, St. John's Cathedral and a local mosque. Had lunch with our lovely tour guide. Still had about 1.5 hour to shop at stores in Kusadasi which is a very lovely city.
Hired another private guide in Istanbul through Ekol travel and was disappointed in the guide. He was not very informative so we didn't feel as if we got our money's work. Got to see the Blue Mosque, Haghia Sophia and Topkapi Palace. Only got to spend 30 minutes in the Grand Bazaar which is not nearly enough time.
We walked from the port to the White Tower in Thessaloniki. Saw many cafes along the waterfront. Visited the nice Byzantine and Archaeological Museums before heading back to ship. No time for local churches.
Booked a private car through Malta Travel Net for Malta which was great. The driver was friendly and informative and allowed us to change the itinerary at the last minute. We saw the ruins of Hagar Qim, fishing village of Marsaxlokk and the marvelous medieval city of Mdina. Wished the ship will dock for longer period so we'll have more time for sightseeing and shopping.
Joined the ship's excursion to see ruins at Nora in Sardinia. The guide was very informative. The beach nearby was beautiful and clean. Too bad we didn't have time to stay. The city of Cagliari is hilly but interesting to see. We visited the local cathedral, tried the local gelatos and did some shopping in the old town area.
The departure at Barcelona was not too bad. Had to wait in the Ixtapa lounge for about an hour for our tour to Montserrat. The rock formations at Montserrat is very interesting. Couldn't really visit the cathedral since services were taking place but did get a view of the Black Virgin statue from afar. We were then driven to the airport for our flight to Granada.
We spent an extra day in Granada and Barcelona to visit the local sights and had a great time as well. Alhambra is amazing as usual with the fine detailed carvings of walls and ceilings. Got to see it at night from the vista point in Albacin.
Visited Gaudi's Batllo House and Sacred Family Temple which were very interesting.
All in all, we really enjoyed our RCL cruise. Would definitely take it again for the right itinerary!
The passenger were a mix of Americans, British, Spaniard, Italians and some Germans. Mostly older people since it's not school vacation time.
09-07-2008 ROME (CIVITAVECCHIA), ITALY 09-08-2008 SICILY (PALERMO),ITALY 09-09-2008 CRUISING 09-10-2008 ATHENS (PIRAEUS), GREECE 09-11-2008 EPHESUS (KUSADASI), TURKEY 09-12-2008 ISTANBUL, TURKEY 09-13-2008 ISTANBUL, TURKEY 09-14-2008 THESSALONIKI, GREECE 09-15-2008 CRUISING 09-16-2008 VALLETTA, MALTA 09-17-2008 CAGLIARI,SARDINIA,ITALY 09-18-2008 CRUISING 09-19-2008 BARCELONA, SPAIN