There is no doubt that the ship is beautiful with gleaming wood everywhere. our category 3 cabin was very attractive. The main flaw in the bathroom design is that the shower curtain is too short, so that the floor of the bathroom is flooded whenever the shower is used unless extreme care is taken to keep the water from the shower nozzle from pushing the curtain outside the metal lip that encloses the shower.
The air conditioning in our cabin did not appear to be working when we arrived (not much air from the vents and the air flow itself was not very cool). We inquired about this and a crew person appeared quickly, equipped with a laptop computer, who made a series of adjustments that produced plenty of cool air.
We picked this cruise for the itinerary. We enjoyed all the ports except Capri and the evening cruising of Stromboli(featured in the literature) was very poorly handled. The stop in Capri is in the evening, so there is no time to visit the Blue Grotto or to take a tour. There is time to take a bus or taxi from Capri to Anacapri, but both are excessively touristy with expensive shops.
The evening cruising by Stromboli conflicted with the Captain's dinner. Few passengers saw any lava, because to see the best lava you had to leave before the dinner was over and stay past the long past the end to the posted time. I had thought that we sailed around Stromboli, but we merely motored (as opposed to sailed) past. If we had hung around for a while, we could have seen more lava. I skipped desert and saw some lava before the viewing window and stayed long past the 30 minute viewing window and saw 4 more small eruptions as Stromboli faded into the distance.
The evening of the Captain's Dinner was also when we encountered the most amazingly bad service. Recognizing that the time for viewing Stromboli would be tight, we showed up at dinner just as the dining room opened. We told the Maitre D' that we had come early because we wanted to finish in time to see Stromboli and explained that was why I brought my binoculars and polar fleece to the dinner. We asked to be seated with other English speaking passengers.
Forty minutes later we were still sitting alone at a table for 6 at the entrance to the dining room. The waiters serving other tables that had been filled, three times swiped wine glasses from the unused places at our table. The third time, I got up and complained to the nurse, who served as the assistant Maitre D', telling her that I had never had such humiliating service. The wine glasses on our table were replaced and a solo German (but with good English) woman was seated at our table. The wine glasses from our table were soon being swiped by the waiters again even though I had stopped one and explained to him, why that was disturbing to us.
Finally, they seated the Italian marine biology lecturer, Mariano with us (We had met him at the start of the cruise, and he turned out to be the most interesting and entertaining member of the crew/expedition staff) . When the main course still had not arrived after 75 minutes, I went back to the assistant Maitre D' (since the Maitre D' had vanished after my prior complaint and never apologized) to request if my food did not arrive in the next 15 minutes that it be sent to my cabin (since there was no alternative source of food). We were finally served about 5 minutes later.
I quickly ate, so that I could go out and watch Stromboli and indeed I saw the first and best of the small eruptions prior to the end of the Captain's Dinner. The next day, several of the waiters apologized to us, but the Maitre D' never spoke to us again.
Our favorite stop was Lipari, where we took the optional excursion to Vulcano. The cruise around Lipari on the way to Vulcano was very beautiful, as well as the cruise around Vulcano itself. On Vulcano, a visit to the mud baths was included. It is a natural mud bath, so you need to watch out for occasional spurts of scalding water. You wash off in the adjacent area of the ocean, which is warmed by the volcanic activity to a comfortable, but not hot temperature. You can see bubbles rising through the ocean water.
Our second favorite stop was Taormina, Sicily, where we took the optional tour to Mt. Etna, which did not leave time to visit Taormina. It was a beautiful drive up the mountain with a long cable car ride to close to the summit. (The cable car was replaced after an eruption destroyed the previous one two years ago.) We walked around a steaming crater and saw the roof of a two story building that was buried in the last eruption just barely above the surface. Two Italian fighter aircraft did a high speed flyby just over the summit while we were on top.
There appears to be a culture of not being honest with the passengers. In Amalfi we took a wonderful, optional excursion to Ravello and decided to return to the Royal Clipper for the offered local rides (in the printed program sheet for that day)on the ship's Zodiacs. When we got back to the the Royal Clipper, we were told that we needed to check after lunch to see when the rides would be given. When we followed up, as instructed, after lunch, we were told that the boat rides could not be done because of water traffic. We later heard from fellow passengers that the motors of both Zodiacs had broken.
In Lipari, after the excursion we were explicitly told by the Cruise Director that the tenders would run on demand. When we showed up to go back to Lipari after cleaning up from the mud bath, we were told that the tender was running on a schedule and we had to wait 25 minutes. The switch cost us a third of the time we had on our own in Lipari. The Cruise Director later denied that she had said the tenders would run on demand, but there was no mistaking what we had been told earlier. There appeared to be a conflict on this issue between the Cruise Director and the Second Officer, the officer in charge of the tenders that day.