We booked this cruise far in advance...almost 18 months ahead, I spent a great deal of time obsessively researching the ports, what to see, do, etc. DH spent a great deal of time worrying about the $ a time off of work (we own our own business) We flew into Rome 3 days before cruise, left LAX on Thanksgiving flew ANZ premium Economy, upper deck into LHR thanks for heads up from Cruise Critic people! Flew BA business class into Rome, delayed by baggage strike by several hours, 1 missing bag (delivered bright & early to hotel next morning) Figured you haven't experienced Italy till you've traveled during a strike...
Embarkation: We traveled by train (took the express) to the port, did you know that you can buy a first class ticket without actually being assigned a first class seat? Lovely views of the Italian countryside & lots of fresh air in the vestibule which is where we stood all the way to Civ. (plenty of room for our bags though) we walked to the the ship's shuttle (about 5 minutes) within 10 minutes the shuttle took off, & we were on our way. Very fast easy boarding procedure, we were on the ship by 12 & sipping our cold champagne, we dropped off our carry on bags at our room which was not yet ready, so we put them on the balcony to keep them out of the way of the steward & headed to find a bar.
Ship Impression: It's gorgeous, almost never felt crowded, plenty of choices for food, & a bar around every corner.
Pools: spent a great deal of time on the 6 crossing days lying in the shade, reading my kindle & drinking beer. Pool areas are beautiful & peaceful, never had a problem finding a nice place to sit.
Spa: Had 3 massages, did the pkg. deal, wonderful service, no pushing of the products, I really appreciated that.
Food: we had a table for 2 on the main floor with a great view of the staircase & wine refrig. I'll be honest, the food on the right side of the menu was nothing to write home about, not bad, but not good either, we learned to stick with the classic menu, or we used alternative dining. The service was excellent, the MDR beautiful. We ate in the buffet for most of the first half of the cruise due to late ports, nice selection, enjoyed not having to change for dinner. We ate in the Bistro at least 5 times, mainly for the quiet atmosphere & A1 service, I cannot rave enough about our server, she was wonderful, attentive without hovering, & had a great sense of humour.
We ate at the Tuscan Grill, & Murano, preferred the Tuscan Grill, the view of the wake was incomparable, (Murano has no view & Tuscan is more casual) Cabin: we had a C2 on the hump, very nice over sized balcony, steward was ok,(he may have been overworked) the assistant steward was FANTASTIC Bathroom very nice, no nasty shower curtain, room bed comfortable, not enough drawer space.
Entertainment: first half of cruise we were in bed by 10 & up at 5:30 for ports, second half we went to 1 comedy show (crickets chirping) & the talent show (woman from our roll call was a terrific singer) Best entertainment for us was sitting in the bars, lounges & watching the dancers, having no skills myself, it was inspiring.
Favorite moments: the Captains noon announcements, & sitting in the sunset bar as we sailed away from Funchal, knowing we were headed for 6 days of relaxation on the open sea. Such a happy, festive feeling!
Overall, we loved this cruise, hit a bit of rough seas, which I actually enjoy, were diverted from livorno to La Spezia instead, (what an adventure getting to Florence) to anyone who is always thinking next year, someday, I say go for it & make it happen, life is too short to miss out on exploring the world. We already booked another one for fall 2011 (yes we like to plan ahead; as well as save up the $) I will review ports separately.