We flew to Barcelona a day prior to our departure on 11/1/08. The embarkation was smooth & quick and we were on the ship by around noon. We went up to the Windjammer Cafe for a lunch buffet as our cabin would be ready at 1pm. We found the food to be good, plentiful & selections of all types. I cruise for a living & found the food much better than NCL. Our cabin was an oceanview on Deck2, Forward. It was so quiet & not alot of rooms on this deck. Our steward was Dusko and he was incredible.
I have to disagree that the ship is showing her age....I believe it has been well maintained and I did not experience trash anywhere onboard. I was a little disappointed that hand sanitizers were not available, especially when using the buffet. The entertainment was ok, the illusionist was great and the ice skating performances were ok given the size of the rink they have to contend with. The hot tubs in the solarium were great after hours of walking streets during shore trips. I did not see many children on this ship due to the time of year, so not much going on in terms of pool activity. Yes, the drinks have gotten truly expensive, $24.00 for 2 margaritas is a little extreme. We did enjoy going up to the High Notes bar to have a drink before dinner & watch the ship depart the port of call. I did find that unlike Carnival, RCCL is now giving the soups/salads & appetizers as a first course, the main course, then dessert. Carnival does give you choices to have both & appetizer & soup or salad. But our waiter, (was just ok) did offer extra shrimp & certain main courses on a couple of nights. We had a late seating (9pm) it I will go back to early in the future, just too late to eat that large of a dinner.
Sunday was our day in Villefranche, France & be warned you will need to be tendered here, was a chance due to our swells we might not, but Captain Frank got us there. A nice day there and we took the train to Monaco, saw it & returned back to Villefranche. Please, US citizens, take a little time to learn French when buying tickets! The lines were long due to Americans expecting the French to know our language. A small shower in the afternoon was all we encountered here, the shops are ok and there is an antiques market in Villefranche on Sundays.
Monday we traveled by train to Lucca, a small medieval town with great shopping & cathedrals. We changed trains in Pisa but were so tired from a great day walking & eating at a sidewalk cafe in Lucca we didn't travel to the leaning tower. On our last trip we visited Florence & it is definitely not to be missed but since the main gallery to view David is closed it makes it somewhat anticlimactic. Next time I will travel to a vineyard for food & wine.
Tuesday we visited Rome & went to our favorite location in Trasavere, an incredible area in Rome that has one of the oldest churches in Italy. We walked through Vatican City, and found the lines to subside during lunch & siesta. We ate incredible food & found the train trip easy from the port to Rome. We saved $$$ by not buying the shore excursions but heading out on our own, great shopping at where the locals shop and experiencing food where the locals eat, not the tourists!
Wed. was our day in Naples & we traveled to our fave town Sorrento by train, cheap & we made the trip in about an hour. Great shopping & views here, we ate at Pizza Aurora and it was great but pricey. Check out the Christmas store on the main blvd there. Sample the Limocello for a treat! The street vendors come out by lunchtime in Naples so our walk back from the train station was entertaining in the afternoon when many shops close.
Thursday was Palermo & it has a good HOHO bus as well as it is easy to walk to the markets & a great archaeological museum behind the post office. Lots of street vendors here and easy walking. You dock directly in the city & are close to many sights there.
This was a good cruise & you can see many sights, but despite the cheap cruise fare, the shore excursions are pricey, so go on your own & use the trains and you will save & experience true Italian culture. I am traveling on this same ship in March 2009 on a Caribbean itinerary and I look forward to it, RCCL does it right.