We (myself, husband, and two children: son, 15 and daughter, 12) just returned from a fabulous experience aboard the Celebrity Summit. We had no problems (miracle in itself!) getting to Venice. Boarding the ship went so smooth, we were in our cabin within minutes, without any waiting around time (we experienced that with other cruises). Our ship was docked in Venice for 2 days which gave us an opportunity to have dinner in Venice (definitely do that, no matter how tired you may feel).
We enjoyed each port...it was our first time visiting all of these countries. Our ports were Dubrovnik, Croatia ; Athens, Greece; Rome, Florence, Naples, Italy; Santorini, Greece; Nice, France; and ended up in Barcelona, Spain where we spent a couple of extra days. The bonus of seeing all of these places on a cruise is that you get a good taste of the flavor of these areas. The unfortunate part is you will hunger for more of some of the places, but that just helps you with future planning ;).
Our kids were fully engaged, we were able to break up the tours with plenty of gelato, local entertaining, shopping and eating. We booked most of our excursions through the ship, while expensive, they were worth the price of just leaving all the details up to them. Their tour guides were very friendly, knowledgeable, local, and familiar with handling groups through crowded venues.
We did decide to hire private drivers in Athens and Naples. There was just so much we wanted to pack into these areas, that we wanted to make up our own itinerary for those days and we were not sorry. We hired George's Taxi Tours in Athens and had a wonderful, intelligent, sweet guide named Spiros. He knew so much history, and he was able to tell us what was worth spending time at and what we should cut out. I wanted to have a gyro, and try local specialties (he helped with proper pronunciation!) and he sent us to the best place in Athens, bustling with activity, not a rip off, complete with musicians! Our tour guide in Naples, was Rino Ramono (roll those rrrr's).....just awesome!!! He was hired through a wonderful service called Italy Car Service, headed by a kind woman named Josephine. He entertained every whim we had, knew so much about each beautiful place, every great picture stop, the perfect restaurant...even where to find a particular soccer jersey my son wanted to find for a friend. We loved him so much that we almost wanted to miss our ship and join his family for a "lovey barbecuer" (his pronunciation and invitation!).
While on the ship we enjoyed dinner in a variety of ways. Most nights we ate in the dining room at the late seating, 8:45p.m....sounds late (for us early bird Americans), but with the excursions, was not. We were seated with a wonderful family... many nights we were one of the last tables to leave the dining room. We loved having other options for dining though. One night we were tired and just went to go to the always plentiful buffet. Another night we "fine dined" at the Normandie Restaurant which was full of excellent service, great food choices, beautifully prepared. Another night we ate at the waiter end of the "buffet" area, that offered a menu and closer views of the water. There was an open deck that we were able to enjoy drinks at before dinner for the sail away....loved this area...just a few tables, more casual than fine dining, but cozier feel.
The entertainment was varied, which was great. We enjoyed cabaret dancers a few nights, a beautiful talented violinist another night, a funny comedian/magician yet another. There were plenty of opportunities to do group games (bingo, newlywed game, karoake, theme), but we chose not to. Our kids could not get enough of the teen club. They were seperated into appropriate age groups and couldn't wait until dinner was over to join their groups. The martini club had a very talented bar tender, Michael, that left us in awe of his special magical talents. We all enjoyed the Cova Cafe for different reasons. My husband loved the coffee offerings, my son and daugter adored the incredible edibles (beautiful little desserts), and I loved the ambience and the string quartet that was there nightly. I appreciated the fact that the ship did not pressure you to attend events with constant reminders of offerings. They had a daily newsletter and complimented your intelligence by not making annoying announcements reiterating what was already in print. The ship had interactive tv if you needed help with absolutely any information. I enjoyed taking a couple of computer classes, and many other offerings were available, including just sitting by the pool, soaking in the sun, and reading a good book....yep, did that too.
Disembarking couldn't have been easier. We were prepared to get up early, and sit around waiting to get off, but found ourself, out of our cabin and off the ship in 5 minutes....no that's not a typo, just a great port to disembark to, and great organization.