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Europe - Western Mediterranean
We flew from Phoenix to Barcelona via London. Too bad our flight was late and we missed our connection. We had to stay in London, dead tired and frustrated. We arrived in Barcelona at 12:30 Sunday, collected our luggage and got a taxi right away. My wife had written the name of the port on a piece of paper and handed it to the driver. The fare was about 31 Euro. Check in was very easy and quick, they snapped a horrifying photo of the two of us and we did a brief tour of the ship before being notified our room was ready. Royal treatment upon arrival! Handed a glass of champagne and roamed around a bit. The ship was clean and very well staffed. We didn't have much trouble finding our room and found it to be very cozy, attractive and clean! We both took showers and collapsed for a nap. An announcement was made regarding an embarkation bbq party so we got ready and headed up for that. One thing that threw us a bit was that there was a table full of drinks on deck as we entered the pool More
area and wait staff handed each of us a drink with an umbrella in it. I thought," oh boy, more free drinks"! But, I was then asked for my room number and to sign a slip for $9 each. Had I not taken a sip immediately, I would have handed them back! I also did not realize until I had a drink later on that there was a %15 gratuity added "for my convenience", yet it sure seemed like the staff expected you to leave a little more... Our experience on the ship was great, everything was kept very clean, plenty of staff available and plenty to keep us entertained.
The food overall was good but the buffet food was usually a little cool temperature wise. One night in the Grand Pacific, the wine service was terribly slow but aside from that the service was usually very prompt. I think our only real complaint for the week was that on Friday night, they had someone performing a show called "The power of music". I'll tell you, that show was very powerful! So powerful that we could not stand to be in our room during the show! There were two shows that night and we ended up staying up later than usual until the show was over before going to bed. All I can say is, if you want the quietest part of the ship DO NOT get a room in the front and especially not under the Stardust theatre! We were in room 4022.
Overall, we had a great time! We overall liked the ship better than the MSC Musica we sailed on last year. (Our first cruise) I think the Freestyle Eating was the biggest benefit we saw other than the much larger number of Americans on the ship. It was nice, but I wonder if maybe the people watching would have been better on a more European saturated cruise.... I got a final statement Saturday night late and there were no mistakes, so that was good! Disembarkation was a breeze, we just opted to carry our luggage off, got into a taxi and away we were to the airport. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
We took a ship excursion this day as well to Eze and Monaco. Really neat trip, we had a French guide named David who was very good. The drive to Eze was fairly short distance-wise, but time consuming because of the winding roads and slow speeds. We got a nice tour of this very small village and then a very short time to explore on our own. Most of the shops didn’t open until we were about to leave. Monaco was a short drive away and was very neat to see. We got another great tour of the area around the casino and about 45 minutes to shop then we went over to what David called “the rock”, which was an elevated older part of the city. After some more tour guiding, we were released for about an hour to shop on our own. Again, we were disappointed with the amount of free time we had to shop and do whatever but this was a very short day and even with the small amount of time we were given, we just barely got back at the time she ship required us to be at the last tender boat.
We took a ship excursion to the Cinque Terra. There were only about 20 of us so it was quite nice. Our guide was Bennedetta, a young red haired girl from Livorno. She was great and very funny. We picked up a guide close to the first city that gave us some history about the 5 cities and led us from town to town. A really neat place to visit and we had a little time to shop although they told us that the souvenirs were the same in all the villages-WHICH WAS NOT TRUE! I can’t remember the order we went to each village, but the bus dropped us off at one, we walked to another and took a boat to Monta Rossa where we had about an hour and 10 minutes to shop. I have to say the shopping opportunities were very limited there and we were bummed out! It was a great tour, but with the travel time and all there is to see, we would have liked to have more free time to shop and eat but it has to be tough for them to fit all of it into a day.
We got up early enough to be able to see the very scenic entry into Valletta. Getting off the ship was quick and easy and we made our way out of the port to look for the bus stop. NOTE: when you come to the first street, look to your left. There's a small sign that says "Bus Stop" and we walked right by it into the gauntlet of taxi drivers! If you get mobbed by taxi drivers, you have gone too far! The bus is only 1 Euro per person and it covers you round trip. It's a neat little ride around the island and doesn't take long. We got dropped off at the main square by an impressive fountain when hundreds of buses come in and out constantly. We just walked around town and did some shopping at the street market before we went to "The Malta Experience". It's a 45 minute movie about the history of Malta and it was 9 Euro ea. Well worth it. That little country was taken over by everyone and their brother at some point! We decided to walk down to the port on our own and I chose a bad route and we had to back track. If you walk down, go towards the traffic circle to the right of the garden and skirt the edge of the gardens until you see steps going down, turn left at the first main street and you will end up by the bus stop.
We had planned to do Naples on our own and met up with some people from the roll-call who had the same idea. It was raining really hard when about 8 of us left to walk to the train station. The taxi drivers at the port followed us half way there trying to coax us into a personal tour! The walk was a little scary because the sidewalks were mostly torn up and the traffic was heavy. Not to mention that the area of town closest to the port was not the nicest looking neighborhood! We found the station according to plan, bought umbrellas and got on the train. It wasn’t very crowded and it arrived on time at the Pompeii Scavi stop. It was still raining very hard when we arrived to we hung out at the station coffee shop for a while. After the rain let up, we walked about 500 yards to an entrance to Pompeii. A little confusing going in, there was a lot of tour guides trying to wrangle up some business and they are very pushy. Just walk past them to the line at the ticket counters. When we went, we were told the bathrooms were closed for renovation, so after an hour or so there, we had to make the trek back to the entrance to use the bathrooms. When we went back in, we noticed a sign that said “No re-entry with ticket” We acted dumb, kind of without trying:) and the man looked at our ticket and showed us around the turnstile and allowed us in. After a few hours walking around, we were hungry and needed the bathroom again so, we went back and walked across the street from the entrance and got some lunch at the diner there. It was o.k. When we went back in, a different woman was there at the ticket gate and she looked at our tickets and yelled at us that she did not see us come out and that we needed to tell someone we were coming out to use the bathroom.(like they would have remembered us amongst the hundreds of people!) We pleaded ignorance and she finally let us in, shaking her head the whole time. I only mention this in case the bathrooms are still closed when you visit. By the way, we came across two different bathrooms hidden in the maze of ruins that were functional, but I could not tell you how to get to them! Pompeii was amazing to visit and I would say it must not be missed when visiting Napoli. If you want to see Mt. Vesuvius, walk down the hill past the entrance until you see a large yellow building on your left on the edge of a market square. There’s a little sign in the doorway pointing you to the place to buy bus tickets. We didn’t go because it was so foggy and we spent so much time in Pompeii.
We teamed up with a bunch of people looking for the train station when leaving the ship.* You have to take a bus to leave the port and believe me; you would not want to walk anyway! The ship provides them and when you go to get back on the bus at the end of the day, you will see a little tag in the front window with the ship’s name on it. It is about a 10 block walk, when you exit the port, go to the right. (sea on your right) You will be on a very wide brick sidewalk that kind of runs into a group of buildings. When you see that, look to your left and you will see the station. We bought passes that are good for the day that covers the train, metro and an electric bus which we never saw! There are little flyers posted in the station ticket area with info on them. We had reserved a time of 11:00 to tour the Borghese Gallery and had to check in by 10:30. We got off the train at Termini and found the Metro to the Spagna station. My wife brought her Rick Steves book that had directions in it from that station. (thank God for Rick Steves!) It was probably a 20 minute walk or so and we barely made it. I’m glad I booked the museum because it was amazing. My only gripe was the amount of time it took away from the other activities we had planned. We attempted to find this “electric bus’ so we could take it to the Pantheon but we could not find it. My wife, always prepared brought a map of Rome and we walked to the Pantheon, making a stop at the Triton fountain along the way. Rome was very crowded with heavy traffic but seemed clean and safe in the areas we walked. From the Pantheon, we walked to the Coliseum and ate lunch outside the Metro station right in front of the coliseum. We had pizza with salami on it and it was excellent! We caught the metro to the station just South of Termini and caught our train. The metro was extremely crowded and we were very suspicious of pick pockets but nothing happened. We lucked out because the train was about 5 minutes late and we caught it just in time. It was a great day but we missed so much!