We had a truly amazing experience onboard the Carnival Freedom last month when my wife & I did a 12 day cruise around Italy & the western Med. We still haven't decided which we loved better, the cruise itself or the wonderful places we visited, it was all great. We are in our early 30's, from Australia & had only cruised once before, 9 years ago. We decided a few months ago that we wanted to see a little of Europe & to finally do another cruise. The Carnival Freedom ticked all the boxes. It was a very new ship with all the mod cons & was leaving on a departure date that suited our work schedules, etc. Through the internet I did a lot of research on various ships & cruising in Europe & when we were ready I had my local agent source me the best deal they could get me on the Freedom. We opted for an inside cabin on level 9 - Lido deck. We knew we would not spend a lot of time in our room & thus the inside cabin was a great saving & being on Lido deck was fantastic. We had the pools, decks & Buffet on our deck & we were near the glass elevators of the atrium which meant we never had to wait long for a lift. The cabin was also down a private little passage so it was very quiet. Furthermore in regards to the ship, we really did love everything about it, the look & decor, the food, the service, & especially the theatre & it's shows. Food: Great choices & variety & it was always in abundance. We really enjoyed our meal & excellent service at the supper club & was well worth the $30.00 U.S. +++++ We had the early sitting for Dinner even though we requested the later sitting. We did enjoy it, however some nights we did not get back to the ship in time to make the early dinner & we were just as happy to pick & choose at the buffet & a late night pizza was always a favorite. Cabin: as discussed was in a great position & would stay in it again. It was large enough & had a big bathroom & very comfy bed & a very friendly cabin steward. Entertainment: Fantastic, we loved the quality of the shows & always managed to get a great seat. We were also big fans of the late night piano show & shared a lot of laughs with the other regulars.
Day 1. Civitavecchia: We stayed in this port town of Rome the night before the cruise. It is a very pretty little town & lots to explore. We stayed at the very nice & fancy Hotel Da Ville where our room had a window overlooking the sea. The Hotel was only a 2 minute walk from the Civitavecchia train station & about a 5 minute walk from the entrance to the port where you pick up the shuttle bus to take you to your ship. Catching the train the day before from Rome Airport was easy & very inexpensive compared to other transfers. Embarkation at the port was very quick & easy. We were on the ship within minutes & received our luggage within the hour.
Day 2 : Naples, we had heard a lot about how dirty Naples could be & the huge level of crime there. We were in fact very surprised that we did not see any of this & would love to travel there again. We left the ship early & thanks to some prior research on the internet we headed off on our own for the day. Outside the port we caught a bus to the Circumsuviana (Porta Nolana) train station about 10 mins away & we then got a train to Sorrento about 50 mins away. Sorrento was very pretty & we did a quick tour bus ride there. We then jumped back on a train & headed back in the Naples direction & got off at Pompeii (pompeii scavi). After a few hours we made it back to Naples & walked back to the ship exploring a little of the city along the way.
Day 3: At Sea, We loved our 'at sea days' & wish there was more of them.
Day 4: Dubrovnik. This town was a real little hidden wonder. Within the greater township there is a little medieval city surrounded by large gothic walls & village inside. All the main streets are made of marble. Would recommend a walk along the walls for the amazing views & do lunch down by the little marina.
Day 5 : Venice overnight. You really have to see Venice to believe it. We set off on foot from the wharf & walked about 15 mins to where you actually get into city itself. Be prepared for a lot of walking & a lot of going up & down steps. A very exciting city but also extremely touristy & expensive. We walked back to the ship along the narrow pathways late at night but still felt very safe.
Day 6 : Venice, We booked a shore excursion through the ship to the town of Verona about an hour away. Another great medieval city & of course famous for the balcony of romeo & Juliet. It was not a very expensive excursion & we really enjoyed it. It was one of our favorite town's. Leaving Venice later that day we were on the small forward deck near our cabin & it was great sailing past all the landmarks & looking at them from a great height. The ship had a Venetian masked party later that night, it was fun but it didn't really have an Italian flavor about it, maybe the crew could have tried a little harder here.
Day 7: At sea. Another great day to relax those sore feet.
Day 8: Messina, Sicily. We were the first ones off the ship & went straight to the ferry terminal nearby. I have relatives that live across the small straight from Sicily in Reggio Calabria & we took a 20 minute ferry ride to there. We spent a few hours there with the relo's & found the city of Reggio very pretty & much nicer than Messina. Later that day we headed back to Messina & explored a bit of the city. It has a beautiful church & the best canoli's in Italy can be found in the many cafe's here. It was a little disappointing however that many grand old buildings in this city have been ruined by graffiti.
Day 9: last sea day, need more sea days!
Day 10: Barcelona. It was a very cold & wet day unfortunately; however we still made the most of it. We jumped on a hop on hop off bus & explored the city this way. It is a very easy & inexpensive way to see the sights. It is a very pretty city with wide boulevards & large trees & grand old buildings. Saw Gaudi's large church & although it was very unique felt the 10euro entrance fee was a bit over the top, especially as most of it was hidden under scaffolding. Up until the night we left Barcelona, the ship had travelled over very smooth & calm waters, but on this night the ship headed into a major storm & it did get very rough for a few hours. Some of the crew told me that this was the roughest seas they had seen since being on this ship.
Day 11: Monaco cancelled due to the continued bad weather. Sailed onto Genoa, Italy instead. Although we were initially disappointed that we did not get to go to Monaco, Genoa ended up being a real surprise. It was a very scenic city surrounded by large hills. We did another hop on- hop off bus which showed us all the main sights. We then took a taxi up to one of the old castles high in the hills. This castle was very old & gothic & in great condition & had great views of the city. We later walked back into town & explored the many old grand buildings & did some of the cheapest shopping we came across on our trip.
Day 12: Livorno, Italy. Once again due to some prior internet research we headed off on our own again. Livorno is a working port town & a lot of the better sights seem to be out of town. We took the cruise shuttle bus & a local bus to the train station, then took a train to the very old Tuscan town of Lucca. This place was another favorite. It was also very medieval with surrounding city walls. Lots of little old laneway's & old shops, etc. From here we took another train to Pisa & explored the sights there before catching another train back to Livorno. This was a busy day & involved a lot of public transport but it was an inexpensive way to see what we wanted to see. This night on the ship was unfortunately very quiet as many people had to be up early to catch planes home the next day.
Day 13: Got off the ship about 9am without any dramas whatsoever, walked back to Civitavecchia train station & took a train to Rome & stayed there one night before flying back to Oz. All in all it was an amazing adventure & was made a whole lot easier by the fabulous comfort, services, crew & amenities of the Carnival Freedom. Only small downside about the cruise is that it would have been nice to have had a few more people closer to our age group. Would not hesitate to sail on Carnival or the Freedom again. +++++++++++++++++++++++