Lot to be said for the Eastern Med!
Europe - Eastern Mediterranean
The ship - just what you'd expect from RCI. Very good. No complaints. Plenty of loungers due to 'no reserving' policy working. Drink prices high - ave. $8 for a drink (though they were all doubles).Plus 15% added on as a tip! Not allowed to bring alcohol on board but we took a bottle of vodka in our case without a problem. Many people did. Plenty to do on ship, too much to do everything each day. A must see - the Ice Show. Gym is excellent and never too busy. Entertainment in main theatre at night was dire tho' - a classical violinist one night, a virtuoso concert pianist another 'production shows' no where near the standard I've seen from RCI in the past. All very talented people but not to my taste at all. Without exception, the crew were hard-working, courteous,and helpful. Activities staff (esp Carlos, Richard, Alison and Aubrey) were stars! Any activities involving them - go to! You're guaranteed fun! Abundance of food choices in Windjammer for breakfast and lunch. Everything More
very good and tasty. Busy in Windjammer at times but always got a table. Dining room menu - less choice than on previous cruises and definately slightly smaller portions, though the food was delicious. We were at 2nd sitting and felt the service was a bit slow. Note - most nighta the 'second meal sitting' theatre show took place before the sitting, not after, as was always the case in the past. Also, ask for 'medium/rare' steak and it will be raw! Went to Chops Grille - worth the 'cover charge' but take a drink in with you from one of the bars - $14 (+15% tip!) for the cheapest glass of wine in Chops Grille! As the ship was sailing from Rome, we knew there would be many Italians aboard and had read on review sites how rude they were. They were very, very, very rude. Never heard of queues and were constantly barging in front of you to get on lifts, get to seats, get to anywhere! Smoking in some of the bars and almost anywhere on the decks ('no smoking' area signs were not enforced)was really annoying.
Messina - Ship docks literally 50 years from main road. Nothing to see in town Didn't do any tour. Only spent about 2 hours in Messina. Disembarking was orderly at the end of the cruise,with different cabins being alloted different times to leave - varied from 5.45 am to 10.45 am. If yours is too early, go to the Pursers desk and get a set of different colour-coded luggage labels ( the colour indicates the disembarkation time)to attach to your cases. Just make sure that you don't leave the ship too late to make your connections elsewhere!
Overall, there is little to complain about with regards to the ship, the service, the food, the activities on board, and the ports of call. Only criticism is the high on-board prices, the pressure to 'tip' attendants too much (surely some of the high price we pay for the Cruise must go to the wages of these hard-working people without RCI putting pressure on US to pay them! I'd tip anyway, but not to the extent of the $240 RCI said we should!)
I would cruise with RCI again, and would highly recommend this cruise for the ports of call alone. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
Ship docked in Alexandria for 2 days (first day was when we did the Cairo trip). Second day we walked into Alexandria. DO NOT GO IN TO ALEXANDRIA!. It was the filthiest place I have ever been in - rubbish all over the streets, sewage underfoot, run-down shops, extreme hassle from taxi drivers etc. Really scary. Everyone back on board was talking about it - even staff!.
Athens - took tour to Acropolis. It was OK, - bit busy due to other tours. Bit of a climb up to the Acropolis, but not too steep and not hurried. After listening to the tour guide, you have little time left to wander about yourself.After the tour you can get dropped off in Athens shopping area and taxi it back to ship. We didn't as there was a public transport strike that day and didn't risk not getting a taxi on time. Glad we took the tour tho' as the ship is not in dock for too long and were feared missing it if we did it ourselves. Athens City looked nice tho' from what we saw.
Cairo - Loads of tours on offer - we took 'Classic Cairo' £120 a head. 2 and a half hour drive to Cairo in comfy air-con bus. Guide excellent. Got to Cairo museum - chaos ensued. No car park, - so dropped at the entrance with 10million other people. Queued to get in (price included in tour), all the while trying to keep site of the rest of the group/tour guide. Given audio guide to hear the tour guide as she walked us throught the museum. Absolutely PACKED - could hardly see the tour guide never mind what exhibit she was talking about. No fun. After an hour in the very hot (no air con) museum, we were given 20 mins to ourselves to go in and see Tutenkamun's face mask and coffins. Absolutely amazing to see - made up for the previous hour. Then a mad dash to find out way back to the meeting point to then exit and wait for our bus to arrive for us all to jump on. Note - you must leave cameras and video equipment on the bus, as not allowed in museum - very strict (metal detectors, armed guards). Driver stays on bus while you are in the museum so your stuff is safe with him. Then drove to a 'posh' hotel for lunch - buffet style. Very nice, just don't eat anything raw like salad. Then drove to Giza Pyramids, 5 mins away. Highlight of the holiday for us - absolutely amazing. About 1 hour free time to wander about and take photos. All on the flat - no climbing. Local 'arabs' will offer to stand beside you for a photo - hunt them as they will expect a tip. Although busy, not too crowded. Bus then moved you (2 mins) to another side of the Pyramids for another hour of free time. Then a 5 min journey to the Sphynx. 1/2 hour there, then back on the bus. At some point, the bus will take you for a 45 min stop at a 'Papyrus' shop for a 'demonstration'. Extortinate. Note - the Cruise ship will strongly advise you to buy their bottled water before you go on the tour as you will die a horrific slow painful death if you buy the local bottled water. Costs $4.54 a litre bottle on board. Rip-off - the buses have a supply of chilled sealed bottled water and cans of coke (both free). Plenty to go round. Then 2 and a half hour drive back to ship. Although expensive, really glad we did it. No way could you do it on your own. Others took the Cairo trip that included a sail on the nile. They all thought it was rubbish.
Kusadasi - Walked into town (2mins). Negotiated a taxi to Ephesus . Taxi cost 40 euros - guy takes you there (20 mins), drops you off at entrance, local vendor shows you map showing where exit is - at the other end of Ephesus, and you make your way through the ruins and meet the taxi at the other end at the agreed time. All on the level, - no climbing.Costs 20(?) euros to get in. Taxi waiting at other end, - easily spotted. 20 mins back to town, then spent 3 hours in Kusadasi. You will be offered a taxi to Ephesus as soon as you set foot in Kusadasi for 100 euros. The further you walk the cheaper it gets - we eventually got offered 60 euros for a taxi (ie not per person) and talked him down to 40. Felt very confident doing it this way as the ship is in dock for so long that you have plenty of time to do Ephesus/Kusadasi with hours to spare.Town centre of little pedestrianised streets with LOADS of shops - little hassle from vendors. They were all good natured and took no for an answer. Prices good but you must barter - never pay full price. Ship always within sight and walking distance. When you start to walk throught the port back to the ship, there are loads of shops inside the port area- we found out too late to spend time there. Really liked Kusadasi. We saved about £60 doing it ourselves as opposed to doing a 'tour'.
Naples - 2 min walk from dock to town. Tour to Pompeii cost about £43.50 each, and lasted 3 hours. We did it ourselves for £12.50 each and were not tied to the 'tour' regime. We spent 20/30 mins walking to the train station - Buy a ticket to 'Pompeii Scavi' at 4.80 euro return, go to platform 7 and board train. Train is a busy grotty commuter train that takes 30 mins and stops at about 20 stations. Get off at Pompeii Scavi, turn right and Pompeii entrance is 50 yeard in front of you. Queued 30 mins to get in. 11 euros to get in. Once you pay, show your ticket at another window (no queue) and get a free map and tour guide booklet. These are good and would save you buying the rip-off guides outside Pompeii. Pompeii is huge - tho' there were lots of tours, we had plenty of room as its so big. All on the level though hard on the feet as it is all cobble stones and high kerbs. My feet ached for a full day afterwards. We spent 3 hours there before the heat beat us. Reckon we saw just over half of it. We loved it, - you felt the history of the place especially as Mount Vesuvious loomed large over the whole town. Train back to Naples then walked back to ship with hours to spare.Never saw much of Naples as by the time we got back there it was afternoon siesta time and the shops were shut.
Rhodes - again, docked right beside town, so no point in taking a tour. 10 min walk to the Old Town - lots of lovely narrow streets/lanes in a walled 'town' to wander about in. Prices not expensive, and little hassle from vendors. All on the level - no hills.We plan to go to Rhodes for a week next year as we liked it so much.