Review; Carnival Freedom / Western Mediterranean Cruise October 1st thru 13th, 2008
GROUP: Five seniors with past cruise experience (2 to 6 cruises each).
SHIP: Outside cabins were comfortable and spacious, plenty of storage space and decent size bathroom. Food was good (average) at all eating venues which includes the dining room, buffet and specialty food bars. Staff for the most part was courteous and accommodating. Entertainment in the main theater and the lounges was enjoyable. Fitness Center has a decent amount of equipment and not overly crowded but wondered why the spin bikes are off limits. Casino was never overly crowded, staff was friendly and odds & payouts were equivalent to Vegas.
We all agreed there were some things that could have been improved upon but overall the positives definitely outweighed the negatives. I recommend this cruise ship.
TRANSFERS: Used Roma Shuttle at (www.romashuttle.com) for travel; airport/hotel, hotel/port, port/hotel, hotel/airport. Always on time and courteous. The four transfers for five people cost 68 euros (E 68,00) per person plus tip. I recommend and would use again.
HOTELS: Stayed in Rome for 1 day prior to the cruise and 1 day after. Day prior reserved rooms at the Crowne Plaza St. Peter Roma (www.crowneplaza.com). The rooms were equivalent to U.S. hotels in size and service (E 162,00) and provided shuttle service to & from Rome sites. That day we visited the Colosseum, Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain. Day after, reserved rooms at the Hotel Alimandi Tunisi (www.alimandi.it). Rooms with bath were of good size and the complimentary breakfast was excellent (E 172,00). Located 1 ½ blocks from the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel and a 2 mile walk to St. Peters Basilica. Each hotel offered free shuttle service to and from airport but their scheduling did not match our own. I recommend each and would use again. TOURS/ GUIDES: Booked tour guides (recommended by cruise critic members) via internet at 3 ports and being in a private van made the trips more personal with an itinerary tailored to our wishes. The other 5 ports were done on our own. Naples; (www.driveamalfi.com), e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) Roberto di Palma was filled with area info as we drove along the Amalfi coastline and through towns of Positano, Sorrento, Amalfi and Ravello. Don't miss the lunch and limoncello at a family owned restaurant near Ravello. We stopped to take a 2 hour tour of Pompeii before returning to the ship. Cost per person; tour (E 110,00), Pompeii entrance & private guide (E 31,00). I recommend highly and would book again.
Monaco; (Alpes Guides Interpretes), e-mail (email@example.com) Sylvie was so informative as we drove through and made stops in Monaco, Eze and Nice. She knew the best points of interest and where you could get the best views of the countryside. A stop at a local restaurant in a quaint enclave in Eze for a lunch of crepes is a must. On this tour we agreed to invite another couple to join us making a group of 7. Cost per person; tour (E 90,00). I would not hesitate to recommend this tour and would book it again.
Livorno; (www.tuscanyinmypocket.com), e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) Guido Sarzani was a great guide and historian of the area, plus very entertaining. He showed us around Florence, pre-purchased tickets for the Accademia (Michelangelo's David), drove us through the countryside of Tuscany and then on to Pisa. We stopped for another good lunch at a family owned olive grove/vineyard restaurant in Tuscany, toured their cellar and tasting bar. Before returning to the ship we visited the leaning tower. Cost per person; tour (E 94,00), Accademia (E 14.00). I very highly recommend and would book again. OTHER PORTS: Rome; stayed 2 days and used the hop on / hop off bus for the city sites and walked to the Vatican. The traffic is incredible and something to be experienced. Saint Peters Basilica is a must see.
Dubrovnik; took the bus in the dock area into town and then walked the wall. Strolled around town ate some pastry from a local bakery and enjoyed the city.
Venice; used the water bus (Vapporetta), to get around including going to St. Marks Square to tour the sites. We had a good time in Murano, watching the glass blowing, walking the residential areas and sitting at a cafe along the canal. Ship dock to the nearest Vapporetta station is about a 25 minute walk. Use the DM water bus when possible (it's the express).
Messina; walked to the bus station (20 minutes) and took the local to Taormina. It was interesting riding with the locals but it turned out to be a 2 ¼ hour drive. This left very little time to tour this gem of a town or enjoy any of the local cafes. Although the round trip bus fare was only E 6,50, I think it might be better to use the ship excursion or deal with a cabbie just outside the dock area. In Taormina, visit the restaurant across from the bus station for a scenic view.
Barcelona; caught the shuttle bus in dock area to Columbus Square. From here used the Hop On / Hop Off bus to Las Ramblas with its vendors, living statues and open market. Used the bus again to the La Sagrada Familia and enjoyed some very tasty sangria at a cafe across the street. The waiting lines for the bus can get long, if in a hurry there are many cabs running throughout the city.
This was a first time visit to Europe and I think it was the ideal way to get a taste (glimpse) of what is offered in the way of history, art, architecture and the personality of these countries. We were told by each of our guides plus others that October is one of the best times to vacation in the area because of the ideal weather and although somewhat crowded, it is nothing compared to the enormous crowds of the summer months. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and I would definitely recommend this cruise for the first time visitor to Europe.