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Grand Voyage to start our marriage
Europe - Western Mediterranean
Our embarkation was on 9-13-08 out of Barcelona, Spain. We spent the night before in Barcelona (Hotel Diagonal) and had a great time dining and viewing the show at a Flamenco Palace. I'm so glad we flew a day early to adjust to the time change and would recommend it to any future cruises with this itinerary. We weren't that impressed with the hotel but it was a place to sleep for the night and that was all.
The cruise was wonderful. We had transportation from the hotel to the dock and it was very timely. I found the ship we were on to be much better for a young couple like we are as far as activities. We took full advantage of the offerings on the ship including the bars/clubs, a couples treatment at the spa, the adult pool and hottub, the sports deck (Basketball, ping pong, mini golf, rock climbing wall), the Johnny Rockets restaurant on board (the waitstaff actually dances for you!), the main dining hall, room service, the entertainment (ice show, comedians, RC More
dancer productions), shore excursions (we hesitated to buy through an independent tour group due to our international destinations and unfamiliarity with all of the local languages), clothes pressing delivered straight to your cabin, the library (internet access), and ice skating during our day at sea.
My only complaints: no midnight buffet (unless we just missed it on the schedule?!), the ATMs on board were short of cash on some port days in Italy (Rome & Naples), the internet was miserably slow most of the voyage, and the food on the lido deck wasn't as good as the main dining hall (lunch and breakfast foods were ok, but the desserts looked good and tasted awful). I also know quite a few cruisers lost their luggage...I think it had more to due with airline difficulties for those that flew in the day the cruise disembarked rather then a RC issue. Most cruisers got their luggage at the next port-of-call.
Overall, our cruise was fantastic. The boat was clean, our cabin was spacious and spotless, and the ports-of-call were everything we had hoped for. We've already booked our 1st anniversary cruise aboard another Royal ship to the Southern Caribbean! Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
This port is actually more towards the coast and is about a 30 minute drive away from Florence/Pisa. We took a tour to the Michi Estate Winery for a tour and tasting. The countryside of Tuscany was beautiful on our drive there (about 40 minutes) and our tour guide was sure to point out famous land marks and points along the way. The wines at the Michi estate were delicious and they provided a delicious spread of snacks to accompany them. We purched 3 bottles to take home with us! On the way back to the port we were able to drive through Pisa and get a glimpse of the leaning tower from a distance.
This port was the most beautiful stop we had in Italy. Naples is a gorgeous city. For this port-of-call we took a tour that spent the morning hiking Mt. Vesuvius and then the afternoon touring the City of Pompeii destroyed by the volcano. This trip was also overwhelming and required a LOT of walking but was worth it. The view on top of Mt. Vesuvius was incredible but the trail up it was VERY steep and it was freezing! We ended up having to buy sweatshirts at a hefty premium before hiking the mountain as we didn't dress for the weather. DOH! Before we hiked Mt. Vesuvius we stopped at a Cameo factory for a bathroom break and quick shopping opportunity. The roads up the mountain to the drop-off point for hiking were very narrow and scary to navigate in a tour bus but we made it! In the afternoon we toured the city of Pompeii after we had a chance to eat some lunch (on our own dime) and do some shopping. The city of Pompeii was overwhelming...there is so much history there and it was a lot larger then I thought. I was amazed at how advanced their civilization really was. After our tour of the city we had more time to shop and have a bathroom break before boarding the bus back to the port.
We did not partake on a tour on this port. The city was rather dirty and overcrowded and we really were not impressed. Most of the landmarks had graffiti on them and it was really no different then NYC if you take out the sky scrapers. We've heard since that other ports in Sicily are much nicer then this one. We did, however, have the BEST pizza I've ever tasted at a little local sidewalk restaurant! Also, the gelato we found here was the best we had in Italy.
This was by far our longest/most tiring/overwhelming stop on our trip. There is just so much to see in Rome I think doing it all in one day is tough. It doesn't help that the port is actually in a town called Civitavecchia which is over an hour outside of Rome. Our tour guide was fantastic, though! In the morning, we saw the Trevi Fountain, walked the Roman Forum, and went into the Roman Coliseum. After a busy morning seeing all the sites of ancient Rome we had lunch at a local hotel (the veal was gross but the pasta was delicious!) and then spent the afternoon at St. Peter's Basilica. After waiting in the lines for 15-20 minutes we entered the Basilica. It was absolutely breathtaking and by far my favorite stop in Rome. I never imagined it would be so big in person. We wish we had more time in Rome and weren't so rushed...there is just so much to see there it's hard to take it all in and comprehend the history behind the sites in one day. The city is VERY crowded (even in mid-September) that waiting in traffic took quite a bit of time. We were allotted ample time to shop, take a bathroom break, or explore a bit on our own. We also had individual head phones that linked us up to our tour guide as we walked so we could hear him describe the history behind the sites we saw as long as we stayed in range of the group.
Villefranche was by far the most beautiful stop on our trip. The French Riviera is gorgeous. We took a RC tour that took us through Monaco, Monte Carlo, a stop in the medieval village of Eze, and through Nice. We had several stops along the way to take pictures, buy some gelato or souvenirs, and restroom breaks. Our tour guide spoke pretty good english and was easy to understand.
For this port we were tendered.