When we had previously discussed going to Europe we talked about going to one region & possibly doing a 7 day cruise in addition.
However, on Aug. 30 (60 days prior to sailing) I was trolling the RCI Tues sale website & this 12 day Med cruise caught my eye. I was interested because it seemed an excellent itinerary (embark at Barcelona, Toulon, Livorno, Citivechia (Rome), Naples, overnight in Venice, Dubrovnik, Corfu & 3 sea days. In addition, the class of cabin on sale was an E-2 balcony and we always book balconies. I called my wife about it and we immediately put it on a 24 hr hold. We discussed it, called United as we were using miles to get there & arranged for dogsitting. With that accomplished we made payment on Wed. Our only qualm was the cabin available was pretty far forward and my wife suffers from motion sickness. Two days after we booked RCI had a massive Labor Day sale and an E-1 cabin on this sailing was a little less then our E-2. I called RCI & with more then a little effort I was able to get us upgraded to an E-1. this became vital because during the following weeks prior to sailing other E-1 cabins became available and we migrated several times eventually securing cabin 8102 which was a dead center hump cabin with a ginormous balcony. Oh, forgot to mention that another factor in deciding on this trip was the ship, Jewel of the Seas. Jewel is Radiance class, our favorite RCI vessel.
After booking we needed a hotel in Barcelona where we were staying for 3 nights precruise. based on a recommendation we chose the Hotel Regencia Colon. It had a tremendous location right next to the cathedral in Barcelona. We also connected with a group on the rollcall thread in Cruise Critic & booked a 7 person van for tours in Florence, Rome & Naples. We then immersed ourselves in Rick Steve's books & videos.
Flight over was on Continental from SFO to Newark & Newark to Barcelona. Small cramped seats & 3 hrs of sleep. we then spent 3 fabulous days of great weather & gorgeous sights in Barcelona. We walked the Ramblas, used the hop on, hop off tourist busses and visited Sagrada Familia, Park guell, Gaudi houses & Montjuic. we absolutely loved the vibrancy of Barcelona. Took a cab from the hotel & boarded ship on sat around noon. Beautiful ship. Only complaint was the cruise director, Cuddy, didn't seem up to par. No sailaway event at all, airball. Real lack of shipboard activites on those 3 limted sea days and out of 12 nights of entertainment we felt that only 2 shows (Motown singer) and Jersey Boys imitation were enjoyable. Food was good and service of both our stateroom attendant and dining staff was unfirormly excellent.
First port was Toulon where we did a ship's tour of Aix in Provence. Tt rained fairly heavily but we had a lot of fun and a great French lunch was provided.
Next day was the commencement of our 3 day blitz of Italy via 7 person van with guide. We met our Cruise Critic friends in Barcelona for a precruise tapas kickoff and it was a great group. First stop was Livorno where Argan our best guide was waiting to share Pisa & Florence with us. Fantastic would be an understatement for the next 3 days. Yes, it was drizzling or overcast in Florence and Rome but that didn't dampen our appreciation or enjoyment at all. We started with the Leaning Tower & an incredible church and then proceeded to an unbelieveable lookout point over Florence. 900 year old church, walking in Florence, great lunch, Michaelangelo's David, the duomo and finished with the Ponte Vechio. wow. Back to the ship by 5;45, dinner at 6, cabin by 9, sleep & meet at 7:45 in the lobby to do it again in Rome.
Felt like we were on rollerskates in Rome. 10 hrs to see the city, 3 hrs to drive there and back 45 minutes for lunch left 6 amazing hrs to visit. Started with visual overview, then the Forum, Parthenon, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Coliseum, lunch & at 2 the Vatican (St. Peter's & the Sistine chapel). Back to the ship, dinner, meet at 7:45 for Naples, man a sea day would have been nice here.
Got off at Naples, (beautiful blue sky, yea, into the van and off to Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast. Pompeii took your breath away it was so extensive and educational. The Amalfi coast was gorgeous, particularly Positano & Sorrento.
In summary, we had a great deal on this cruise, it was shoulder season and the weather was mixed but we had a fantastic time & we'd recommend this itinerary and ship to anyone.
Flight back was on Lufthansa (Barcelona to Munich, Munich to SFO). Their service kicks butt. We were economy and on the SF flight we were served 2 hot meals, 2 hot towels, complimentary alcoholic beverages were offered and they came around after dinner and offered Bailey's or cognac. I suspect they may have given foot massages in business class, lol.