Ahh yes where does one begin? Trip: June 20 to July 6th 2010 --- 12 Night Greek Isles & Mediterranean (Rome to Venice)
First, it was my wife (45), son (16) and my nephew (17) who is buds with my sonn and I (46). All of us in pretty good health; we are on the adventorous side. Wife and I have been on about five cruises but none in the past seven years
KIDS VS NO KIDS: We brought our son but not our 7 year old daughter. we ;made the right decision in our opinion.... it would not have worked considering our temperaments and our dear daughters, regardless of the kids care. She had a blast staying with an assortment of family and friends...and going to amusement parks.
CELL PHONES: We purchased two internations cell phones..... When you have a group more than four you definately want to be able to communicate when on shore. We used the "national geographic international cell phones".... they were at best OK... two key ports.... Athens and Venice they weren't able to send calls all day.... all other places they worked.... It's good to have.
On ship INTERNET ACCESS: Still a ways away from working well... unless you go around 2 am at night and want to wait another 20 plus minutes to get access...you aren't going to like it. This service just isn't yet really functioning well... fYI
PRE AND POST VACATIONS ARE A MUST: Extra day night in Rome; extra two nights in Venice:You definately want to spend extra time...if I had to choose one over the other I would go Venice.. although personally both is the way to go.
PRIVATE NON-CRUISE TOURS ARE A MUST: We actually only did one... Naples/Capr ... but it was just great... a great contrast to our other days... (we used the recommend tour (Pleasant Travel)
DON'T OVER DO IT: There is so much to do on these Mediterranean Cruises... so, so cool... just understand that if you are doing an 11 port trip like this don't over book each day.
IF NON-FAMILY TEEN IS COMING... Make sure you follow the guidelines for doing such. Our cruise trip company said "don't worry about the signed documents" they rarely check... well they did! Very closely! Be sure to read up on this.
RUBY PRINCESS WAS FANTASTIC: Granted we haven't been on another cruise line since around 2003, everything about the Ruby Princess was just great. Food was great! (yes we had lobster and steak and all other great meals). Service was great! The ship was great, great ship. OK Let's begin:
Rome/Venice/Barcelonia CRUISE ITINERARIES:
After carefully looking at all the choices we went with the Rome to Venice. Glad we did. (Note: there are no Barcelonia embarkment Cruises that included Rome and Venice. Personally, you want Venice at the end... it was so fun to look forward to Venice and to us Rome is not an "end of cruise" type distination.... by the end of this cruise Rome would have been too much for us.
FLIGHTS: We did a direct Flight from Newark Airport to Rome's International Airport. We tried to do the train, but the lady there talked us out of it... She said it was the same price to for her taxi guys to drive us there and much easier. I didn't fight so we did it. All worked nicely. We flew the Venice to Frankfurt Germany, then to Newark. It was the cheapest for us at the time.
GET TICKETS: before you go for certain key things: Vatican, Colosseum, stuff like that.... go to the websites of the specific site and away you go!
CLIFF JUMPING!? Black beach in Santorini and a bar/restaurant paradise called La Grotta Beach Bar in Carfu Greece
(I wrote Port Reviews on most of the islands... however they only gave me six! I must speak about Venice!
VENICE: You must spend at least two days in Venice. We went around July 4th it is was just tremendous. IT was very warm, but the streets are so narrow that there is a fair amount of shade. Read below about disembarkment!
Compass? Get lost is a fun thing in Venice-- apparently GPS's don't work... a good large sized map and a compass did the trick! The compass is very useful in giving a general direction... it worked great for me. However I was quite surprise to see no one doing the same... hmm.
Favorite Restaurant in Venice: My wife found such a winner! It is the restaurant just below the Hotel Al Gazzettino in San Marco.... It is nothing too much too look at but when you come in meet the owners and try their food.... it is amazing. Here is our suggestion: tell them to treat you to their recommended meal... it was such a delight... cannot describe.
WARNING! Disembarkment in Venice... Wow.. it was quite a mess. Here is the scoop... somewhat different than what the Cruise seems to communicate. When you get off the boat hoping to get a water taxi to take you to the approximate hotel destination.. look out! It is just a total mess. Ticket booths that make no sense.. .long lines everywhere...hot, hot in mid day... luggage.. yuck. There are many costly ways to excape this.. I suggest this... Apparently you can get off the boat first thing if you leave very, very early.. .if so do it! If you wait for the normal disembarkment times and you hope to get on a water bus... you are in for a chaotic, long wait. Naturally you can do the taxis that cost a lot but even that is choatic. Try to get off early!