We booked the flights ourselves through Easyjet and the money we saved on this paid for a hotel for 2 nights in Barcelona pre-cruise and a night in Venice post-cruise, both of which made the trip even more memorable. We stayed at Hotel Ramblas in Barcelona and Hotel Olimpia in Venice, both of which were perfectly situated for getting around the cities.
Embarkation was absolutely amazing. We literally arrived at the port, our baggage was taken from us, we spent 5 minutes at the checking-in desk and then we were on board where a glass of champagne/mimosa/orange juice was waiting for us.
Our cabin was quite large and there was just about enough wardrobe space, considering there were 4 of us. We had a balcony, for the first time, which was a real luxury and I loved sitting out on it having a glass of wine, wearing my Celebrity Cruises bathrobe! There is a pitcher of water on the dresser with an ice bucket which is filled each day. Our cabin steward, Sandy, was fantastic and if he saw us approaching our cabin he would instantly get his key out and open the door for us.
The entertainment was OK, but not brilliant. The comedian was good and the female singer was quite good, but the rest, although obviously very talented, weren't really our cup of tea. The 3 shows by the celebrity singers and dancers were quite good, although in the last one, which was songs from Broadway shows, I only knew a handful of the songs. Even most of the songs they sang from the Lion King weren't songs from the film, so if you haven't seen the show you wouldn't know them. What was a shame was the fact that the theatre was hardly ever more than 50% full. The Cruise Director, Gary, was excellent and worked really hard.
The food in the Cosmopolitan Restaurant was excellent. Our daughter has a nut allergy so she was shown the following nights menu every night and told that if there was something she wanted but it had nuts in, then they would prepare it for her without nuts. Our waiters, Owenn and Dennis, were fantastic and very attentive and soon got to know what sort of salad my other daughter wanted as an appetiser. The drinks waiter, Anthony, was also fantastic and some nights our drinks were waiting on our table before we even got there. My only complaint about the restaurant is that the 4 of us were put on a table for 12 (after requesting a table for 8) and no-one else turned up, so we were on the table on our own. The food in the buffet was good, but sometimes there were quite long queues.
My daughters, aged 13 and 15, joined the teenage club on the first night and made loads of friends from several different countries, who they are still keeping in touch with.
We didn't do any of the Celebrity excursion as, with 4 of us, they were just too expensive, so we did everything ourselves. I have never used public transport so much in my life! Here's a quick run down of what we did:
Barcelona: Because we had so much time here we saw everything we wanted to. We bought a metro ticket that allowed you 10 journeys which cost €7.70 and this covered all the journeys we made. If you're there at night don't miss the magic fountains - they were spectacular.
Villefrance: We tendered into the port and then caught the train to Monte Carlo. Unfortunately the train we wanted was delayed and then never turned up at all so we ended up waiting on the station in the roasting sun for an hour. Monte Carlo was pretty but me and the kids couldn't face walking up to the old town as it was so hot, so my husband went on his own, took loads of pictures and met us back at the station. We then went back to the ship for lunch, then went to the beach in Villefranche for an hour or two before going back to the ship.
Livorno: We caught a taxi to the station in Livorno for €20 fixed price. Then we caught the train to Pisa (actually the train to Florence, but it stopped at Pisa on the way), looked around the Field of Miracles, watched everyone having their photos taken holding the tower up, then caught the train to Florence. It was a Monday so all of the museums were closed, so we looked around and then caught the train back to Livorno. We then had to wait for a little while for a taxi to arrive at the station to take us back to the ship, but we got talking to another couple who were on our cruise so they shared the taxi with us. In Florence don't miss all the padlocks on the Ponte Vecchio which lovers have put there and thrown the keys into the river to seal their love for ever!
Civitavecchia: We walked to the station and caught the train into Rome, buying a BIRG ticket which covers you for the metro as well. We got off at Ostiense Metro Station and walked to the forum to buy tickets which get you into the Colosseum as well. The queues were much smaller here and it was great to walk straight past all the people queueing at the Colosseum when we went there! We then used the metro a couple of times to get from one place to another, but on the whole we walked everywhere and got to see everything we wanted. Unfortunately, we hadn't booked tickets to the Vatican thinking that we wouldn't have time, but we would have in the end. We then walked to ? San Pietro station and caught the train back to Civitavecchia.
Naples: We walked to the station, through some very iffy areas, and caught the Circumvesuvian train to Pompeii Scavi. We spent a few hours looking around Pompeii, which is amazing, and then got back on the train to Sorrento. From there we caught the hydrofoil back to the ship.
Santorini: We caught the cable car up to Fira and looked around. Then we caught the bus to Oia. Be warned, when the bus doors open it is a complete free-for-all with everyone pushing and shoving. In Oia we walked down over 200 steps to try to find the beach, but only found an area where people were swimming off the rocks, so we had a swim there instead which was lovely. Walking back up the steps I thought I was going to have a heart attack! We then caught the bus back to Fira and the cable car back to the ship.
Piraeus: We walked to the metro station and caught the metro to Athens. Unfortunately, there were works on the line and we had to get off half way along and get onto a bus to take us the rest of the way, but we still managed to find our way around. We walked everywhere in Athens which was really easy to do. Don't miss the changing of the guard every hour outside the parliament building.
Dubrovnik: We bought a bus ticket from the newsstand opposite the port entrance and caught the bus to the old town. We walked through the middle of the old town and climbed the walls at the Ploce Gate where the queues were smaller. After walking around the walls we had lunch and then went to the beach not far from the Ploce Gate. I have never seen water as clear as it was there. We sailed away from Dubrovnik at 5 pm and people were able to go onto the helipad to watch the sailaway.
Venice: Sailing into Venice was absolutely amazing, with Pavarotti blasting out of the speakers on the ship. A sight not to be missed. We walked to St Mark's Square, taking it slowly and having a good look around on the 1st day then went back to the ship for dinner. The following day we disembarked at 9 am so caught a taxi to Piazzale Roma and lugged our cases over just 1 bridge to the hotel. We then bought a 36 hour ticket for the vaporettos for €23, which was definitely well worth it as we used it so much. We then proceeded to see as much of Venice as possible before catching the ATVO bus to the airport the following day for our flight home.
Sorry for such a lengthy review, but the holiday was fantastic and I just wanted to let everyone know that the ship is in really good shape, the staff are all fantastic and it is really easy to do your own thing in all the ports. I also wanted to say thank you to everyone on CruiseCritic.co.uk who gave such helpful advice before we went.