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Exhausting but great
Europe - Western Mediterranean
Started with two nights in Barcelona (Hotel Continental), ended with three nights in Venice(Hotel Ponte Mocenigo). Pre-booked private tours in Villefranche and Naples, Transportation only in Florence and Pisa, DIY in Athens, Istanbul, Split and Venice(with pre-booked excursions in each port) We took a Celebrity tour from Mykonos to Delos. Everything went beautifully except the Celebrity Delos tour, which was a dis-organized exercise in frustration. Because of our arrival time in Mykonos, we had no choice, other than Celebrity, in getting to Delos. This being our sixth cruise, I knew better than putting ourselves at the mercy of ship excursion people. This tour re-confirmed that belief.
The overall appearance of the ship was excellent, a few rust spots and worn upholstery, but nothing to distract from the overall excellence.
Our sweet sixteen cabin was perfect, and our room steward Nyak, was the best we have had in six cruises.
The main dining More
room food and service was outstanding. One meal in Normandy, which was everything it was hyped to be. Variety, service, and convenience in the buffet was very good.
We only went to shows on two evenings, both were excellent.
The only negative on board experience was with "guest relations" ...wrong information, tone and attitude very offensive...needs adjusting.
This was a fantastic cruise, the itinerary, the ship, most of the ship personnel, we met some very good people who we hope to cruise and tour with again. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
Booked Athens Walking Tour. Took bus 843 from port entrance to Metro. Due to construction had to take bus, last half of trip into Athens. No problems. Met tour guide and walked through Plaka and up to top of Acropolis, a sight every tourist should see, and would not have missed it. But...a very hard climb for a overweight, out of shape, 63 year old with a artificial knee. Had planned on lunch in the Plaka, but after climb down decided to taxi back to ship. Bargained with Athens taxi driver, settled on 35 Euros back to ship. At port I gave driver two Twenties...Quick as a flash, the two twenties go behind front seat, and up comes a twenty and a five. He says common mistake fives look like twenties...I say BS, my wife says don't argue, so I give him another ten...35 euro ride cost 50. As far as I know, the only rip off of trip....And I knew about all the warnings about Athens Taxi drivers...
Off ship and walked past Port entrance to main street, 50 yds to left was ATM, got 300 Liras($205), 200 would have been enough.Back 150 yds from the way we came was tram stop. Bought 8 Jetons(tokens)2x2round trips x 2 days. A bit crowed at times, but fast, easy and cheap.(don't let Celebrity tell you tram is not working),in our two half days we saw the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, the Cistern, Grand Bazaar, Spice Market had a beer at the Pudding shop a great lunch at the Hammish(sp) Restaurant. Had reservations for a dance and dinner show at "The Sultans Dinner Club" They were supposed to pick us up at port entrance at 8pm, we waited til 8:35, they were a no show....bought lots of spices for Son and DIL We loved Istanbul as well as any port we visited, will come back sometime for a longer stay.
Here we booked Marcello with SeeSorrentoTours, We didn't think it could get better than Michel in Villefranche, but it did. What a day, the Almalfi coast with stops at a 3 acre "farm" right in Sorrento (the way this area was, when Marcello was a boy) another stop to taste figs, grapes and other produce. Then a lunch at a trattoria high above Ravello, great food, wine, Lemoncello and a view to remember always. With a final stop at Pompeii with a private guide for the six of us. On a 1 to 5 scale, rate this a 6.
Took train into Rome...easy....we bought a round trip ticket(9 Euros pp). We did not use the BIRG ticket, as we stayed the night in Rome, and the BIRG is only good for 24 hours. Took Metro to Coliseum...had bought 10am tickets on line. Saw Coliseum, Forum and Palatine Hill all on our own, worked out great. Took taxi to Hotel Casa Valdese(a perfect little, clean hotel, on a tree lined lined street, walking distance to Vatican), breakfast included 125 Euros. Walked to Vatican for a 1:45 Scavi tour. Tour was fine, but most other people were lost or confused with narration. We had read "The Bones of St Peter" at home and knew the history and story. Highly recommend reading this book ahead of time(found our copy on E Bay). That evening took the "Rick Steves" walk across Rome from Campo Fiori to the Spanish Steps. Then Metro'ed to Hotel. The walk was the high-light of our Rome visit. Dinner at Restaurante in the Campo Fiori, great meal and litre of house red for 50euros.Tossed coins in the fountain, walked on to the Steps, perfect night. Next morning checked out and walked to Vatican for a pre-booked Vatican Museum tour at 9:30...crowded madness...at the Sistine Chapel we made our escape from the tour(thinking we could head for exit...wrong...we ended up in a single file line that went up & down, round & round) after 45 mins of this we came out of the building and right in front of us(coming out another door) was our tour. Metro'ed to train station and back to ship.
Off ship at 8am, know that there are cheaper ways, but paid 20 euros for land taxi to Pizzale Roma. Picked up pre purchased 72 hr Vaperetto passes. Vaperetto'ed to St Stae stop, waked 100 yds to our hotel"Hotel Ponte Mocenigo" rated #2 on Trip Advisor. A wonderful hotel, and at 165euros per night a Venice bargain. Left luggage and went for our first of three booked tours this first day. Went to St Marks Square to meet tour, it was beginning to flood(high tide) as it did for the three days we were there. Walk across Venice tour was a good introduction, back to hotel to check into our room,(#6 overlooking small canal)I had several places to eat all mapped out, with copies of Internet pages, We ate at several different places. none of which I had pre-selected. From full meals to pizza, all were good to fantastic, and none seemed overpriced. We did not eat in any of the main tourist areas. That afternoon we went on a Grand Canal Tour, if you do no other tour in Venice, do this one.. at 8pm we had a Ghost Walk tour booked. Save your money, it is geared to 12 year old girls, followed the same ground as the Walk Across Venice tour, we ducked out on it about half way through. Next morning did Doge Palace Secret Tour. Afternoon Vaperetto'ed to Murano. Next day walked and shopped all over Venice. Next morning splurged on 95 euro taxi to airport. Glad we did it because next 23 hours were pure torture....3 different aircraft in economy.
We booked with Revelation Tours and had Michel as our guide. In addition to seeing all the standard sights, he took us to some "secret" spots including a point high above the whole area "Dogs Head" what a memorable view. I would recommend Michel and Revelation Tours and give them a 5+++