A great family cruise
Europe - Western Mediterranean
First let me start with the few complaints I have to get them out of the way. Then I can go on and on about the things I loved about this cruise.
I sailed with my husband and six year old son. We are experienced cruisers and have sailed with RCL,Disney and HAL. This was our seventh cruise.
1) There is not one channel on TV for children. 2) The cabins are not equipped with DVD players- too bad we brought DVDS with us.
3) There is no indoor swimming area for children- so on cold days our son was out of luck.
4) Paying an additional 18% Spanish VAT on charges was painful. Not Celebrity's fault but perhaps there is a way around this like using different departure ports in the future. We've been on two other cruises from Barcelona but this was the first one that charged the VAT.
5) Would have enjoyed destination lectures more than lectures about astronomy.
NOTE: For our son, swimming is among the most important More
bonuses of being on a ship and being able to chill in the room with cartoons is also very important to him. Please Celebrity, think about keeping the kids happy outside of the kid's club. This makes parents happy too!!
Now on to the many praises I have for my new favorite cruise line.
Their supervised youth program is by far the best we have seen. Kudos to the staff first of all. All were friendly to parents, liked kids, were energetic and attentive. They made the program a success. The facilities were terrific! The ball pit, climbing aparatus, art center, toys, etc. all first class. The only negative was having to pay extra for hours on port days. Both the 12-2pm and 4-6pm time frames had to be paid for. Almost $15 for two hours with the Spainish VAT of 18% that was charged to nearly EVERYTHING! It would be nice if we didn't have to pay extra for port days. We gave them a tip at the end.
Dining was outstanding! The MDR was superb and Ocean Liners was truly amazing. Our Sky Suite was fabulous though we didn't have much for the butler to do but still tipped. The service everywhere on the ship was first class. We were pampered and treated nicely at all times. Our fellow guests were also polite and enjoyable to cruise with. We met great people through Cruise Critic. We got a tour of the bridge in addition to our meet and greet which was great! The shore excursions were excellent.
The evening shows were not as good as I was hoping. I walked out of one of the shows as the dancing got to the point that I considered it X rated. The pianist in the Cafe was superb. The band that played by the pool was so-so. They could use some updated repertoire.
The ship itself is incredibly beautiful despite some of the strange modern art pieces that make you think "how much did they pay for that one?"
If you haven't tried Celebrity you really should. While there is a lot of up-sell to get you to spend more, the cruise experience on Celebrity is truly the best our family has experienced. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
My third time to Florence was great but I made the mistake of leaving my sweater and gloves on the bus because I thought it had warmed up. I just had a thin leather jacket on and was miserably cold the entire day. The wind made it much colder than it was. My husband and I took the Celebrity bus to Florence for the day. We stopped at a very expensive leather factory where most jackets were 500 Euros and up. This was a waste of our time! The ticket included a walking tour of the city but we decided to go to the Archaeological Museum instead. It was fabulous! We spent nearly two hours in there. Their collection of Etruscan, Greek and Egyptian finds was superb. I highly recommend this overlooked museum. Entrance was only 4 Euros and there were few people there. No line of course. We ate some delicious pizza and did a little walking and shopping and then met up with our group. The day went by too quickly. Florence is such a fabulous city and I wish we hadn't wasted an hour at the leather factory before arriving. Next time we stop in Livorno we will likely go to Sienna or Lucca.
I printed up info about the highlights of this city before the cruise. I don't recommend taking the shuttle boat the cruise line sells. Just walk to the old center. It is much easier. We ended up walking into the city and it took only about 15 min. The boat runs infrequently and on the return journey we had to circle around waiting for another boat to leave our "parking spot." The port isn't that easy to walk through but for sure I would do it again rather than wait around for the bus boat.
We encountered rain and cold winds. My feet got wet and that made me a little unhappy but Genoa is really a charming and interesting place with lots to see. There are many museums and several palaces to tour so we need at least two or three more trips there.
I bought some lovely leather boots there at a store called Bata. We saw the home of Christopher Columbus, the famous Duomo, the Palace, city walls, Piazza Ferrari etc. There is a famous Aquarium there and an old ship you can tour. Of course eating in Italy is always a great option for you.
Naples is an interesting city with many great excursions to choose from. Our family had the good fortune to live there for two and a half years, so there is not much I haven't seen. I went out shopping with a cruise critic friend and then she gave me a ticket to Herculaneum tour with Celebrity since she and her family decided to stay on the ship. I had visited before but it was a pleasure to return. The tour stopped in Torre del Greco at a Cameo and Coral store. I loathe these forced shopping stops but there wasn't too much pressure to buy. I just told the sales woman that I already own an entire set of cameos (which I adore) and was just looking. I was troubled to see they are selling turtle shell and coral jewelry which is outlawed. I know the mafia is strong in this area so perhaps that is how they get around the law, but it is something I plan to complain to Celebrity about. If you haven't been to Naples before I recommend seeing Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast. Hire a cab or pay for the ship's excursion. If you don't want to spend big bucks just get off the ship and tour the castle and royal palace that are within easy walking distance. Also, the Archaeological museum is a must see and you can walk to that if you are in good shape.
My husband has been to Rome so many times for work that he decided to stay on the ship. I have also been to Rome at number of times (four or five) so I decided to take the Celebrity tour to Orvieto. We were delayed leaving as we had to wait for guests from a RCL ship parked behind ours. The scenery was fabulous. The guide in Orvieto was pretty good although the tour of the church did not include the famous frescoes which I found quite odd. We were on our own for that and had to buy an additional ticket. There were several groups in line so I got fed up with waiting to see the frescoes and went to the archaeological museum across the Piazza. The $132 tour ticket included a fabulous lunch of home-made pasta and chicken or rabbit. I had the rabbit and it was delicious. Dessert was so-so. We did a little bit of shopping but soon it was time to get back on the bus. Orvieto is a special place and I highly recommend seeing it if you have already been to Rome.
This was my third time to Villefranche and I hope to return at least three more times. We took bus #100 into Nice, toured a museum called Palais Lascaris (free) and enjoyed lunch on the beach. Then we took bus 81 into St. Jean Cap Ferrat to tour the Rothschild mansion and gardens. I wish we had been able to spend more time there. We took the bus back to Villefranche and tendered back to the ship. Next time we want to tour St. Paul de Vance. There so much to see from this port. It is easy to do on your own. The welcome center provides helpful maps and bus info. Villefranche itself is quite charming, so if you don't want to take a bus or train somewhere- just stay in Villefranche.