We are a late-fifties couple who cruised with 3 couples who are friends from California and Indiana. Our flights and hotel were not booked through Celebrity and our hotel in Barcelona was Le Meridien for 2 nights pre-cruise. One of the other couples stayed in Hotel 1898 which I liked even more than Le Meridien. We traveled by taxi from the airport to our hotel for about 25 Euros plus tip.
While in Barcelona we mostly walked around the city and saw some of the sights. Shopping at Plaza Catalunya was fun and there were numerous shops in which to browse. Las Ramblas is a busy boulevard with lots of amazingly costumed street performers.
On Saturday, we took a taxi to the port and arrived around noon and were on board and in our rooms by 12:30 pm. There were earlier boarders but not by much. It was an easy and quick embarkation, you could purchase wine and liquor in a store right at the terminal and no one seemed to be counting bottles, etc. I am not sure about bottled water because I did not pay attention to others purchasing this.
We dropped off our carry-ons and met our friends on deck 10. I purchased the sommelier wine package and my husband got the premium liquor package which includes all cocktails, wines to $12 a glass, sodas, smoothies and premium coffees. We felt these were worth the money for us.
Ocean Liners was our restaurant for the first night and was lovely, on the last night we ate at the Tuscan Grill which had a menu more to my liking. The service was wonderful at both specialty restaurants. The remainder of the evenings we had opening dining with reserved times varying from 7:15 to 8:00 pm. There was maybe a 5 minute wait on a few occasions. The food was good in the main dining room for the most part but if you want good beef, go to the specialty restaurants. Hassan, our head waiter was efficient and very personable, we requested to be seated in his area for the remainder of the cruise.
Villefranche-Our group walked to the bus station and purchased tickets to Nice. Make sure you validate by punching into a machine your tickets for busses and trains or you will be assessed a big fine. In Nice we walked around the town and along the waterfront where we had lunch. I wish we had gone to Eze as well but did not this trip.
Genoa-Our group walked to the train station (quite a hike up hill) and purchased tickets for around 5 euros to St. Margherita (here we were fined 10 euros for not validating our tickets by the conductor). Look for the express train when purchasing tickets or this trip will take one hour. The village on the coast has some wonderful shops and is very picturesque. We then took the ferry to Portofino for 7 euros each round trip (it leaves on the quarter past hour and returns on the hour). It was a beautiful view by water and Portofino has cute shops and restaurants at which to have lunch.
Florence, Rome and Naples: At these ports we had secured a private tour company, Romeinlimo, for all three days with different drivers meeting us at 8 am at each port. This worked out very well and cost about 150 euros per couple each day which included tip. I can't say enough about the professionalism, information and efficiency of their drivers. They want you to have a great experience and to provide you with the opportunities to see and do what you want with the limited time in port. This was most important for Rome and Salvatore (Civitavecchia) was excellent. Rome was my favorite city but they all left me wanting to return to Italy for a more leisurely exploration. Highlights were Pisa, Florence and its monuments, the Coliseum, the Vatican museum and Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's Church and the Pantheon. In Naples, we left immediately to meet a private tour guide, Patricia, for a tour of Pompeii. She made Pompeii come alive for us. Go first thing in the morning (it gets too crowded and hot later) and wear shoes for walking on stones. It is a rigorous hike. We had lunch in Sorrento and then toured the coast to Positano where we walked down to the Mediterranean and shopped in cute shops. We were back to the ship at approximately 5-5:30 pm each day after these ports. Gian (Livorno) and Vito (Naples) were our other two guides and did an excellent job as well!
By the time the day at sea came, we were ready to slow down! It was a lovely cruise with a great itinerary on a beautiful ship. I would go again tomorrow.
We carried our own luggage off the ship and left by 6:30 am for the airport arriving at 7 am. It cost 35 euros plus tip due to weekend-holiday extras. Our flight wasn't until 11:20 am so we had plenty of time.
Enjoy your cruise!