Awesome Italy on Voyager
Europe - Western Mediterranean
My husband and I are both in our early fifties and this was our first European cruise. We flew from Chicago to Barcelona with a change in planes in Madrid. Royal Caribbean booked our flights for us and they did a wonderful job. Flights were great. We flew in a day early and spent one night at the Hotel Diagonal in Barcelona. The hotel was beautiful and the room was spacious with a wonderful view. The only problem we had here was that the room should have been ready by 2:00 and we couldn't get in until about 3:30. We walked to the famous Sagrada Familia Church. It is a MUST see, the church is breathtaking. We didn't go inside but just looking at the outside is fantastic. Our pick-up time from RCCL was 10:15 the next morning and we were on the ship by 11:10 a.m. - very quick and easy. We didn't explore the ship too much because the Voyager class is our favorite class of ship and we have been on a few of them. The ship is beautiful but she is starting to show her age. The windows really More
needed to be cleaned and the glass on our balcony needed to be cleaned also. It could be that the ship had just come off of a transatlantic cruise - but still. She also needs to have some rust scraped and painted. The crew was very friendly. Doc at the pool bar was funny and Robert in the casino bar was wonderful. He is actually the type of employee that RCCL needs to have all over the ship. Our waiter was Nicholas and our assistant waiter was Andrew. Although they were friendly and a joy to talk to - the service was VERY slow and the head waiter only made things worse by screwing things up. Peter, the dining room bartender is a fun guy also. Food was good and the choices were good. We were a bit upset that we didn't have a "lobster night". We really missed it and we feel that RCCL has made a huge mistake by getting rid of it. We ate at Portofino's right when the ship was departing Barcelona - as usual - it was GREAT! The only other thing I wish RCCL would do is enforce the dining room dress code - it's amazing what some people will wear to dinner much less formal night! Wow!
Entertainment on the ship was very good. Our headliner show was a group called the East Coast Boys. They are a Frankie Valli knock off and they are fantastic. Do not miss this show if it's offered. We also saw the ice show on board - it was wonderful - also not to be missed! The singer in the piano bar was good as well as the guy in the pub. I just wish they would get rid of the whole karaoke thing - it's getting old and most of the people cannot sing at all.
Activities on the ship were good - they kept everyone busy, although with long touring days - they could of done some of the nighttime parties a bit earlier so you could enjoy them. Having to get up at 6:00 for a 10 hour tour, kind of makes you not want to go to a 70's street party at 11:30. We disembarked in Venice. RCCL took care of our transfers to our hotel. It was quick and easy and we were off the ship by 8:45 a.m., grabbed our luggage and breezed thru the customs booth. They basically just checked our passports and nodded us thru. We spent one night at the Hotel Carlton on the Grand Canal. This was a wonderful place to stay. Close to the water buses and taxis and gondola rides. Shopping was right across the canal along with many cafes to choose from. Just a fantastic and convenient place to stay. Breakfast was included so we ate well before being taken to the airport. The Venice airport has very long lines, so plan on standing in one for an hour or so. We flew from Venice to Frankfurt and then on to Chicago. Good flights.
So in summary, it was a truly magical cruise on a great ship. Great service, smiling crew members and an all out enjoyable experience. Less
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Cabin review: Voyager of the Seas Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom Deck 6 7634
We were on deck 7 in cabin 7634. Room was spacious but the balcony seemed smaller than we have seen on Voyager class ships. Ample closet and drawer space. Seemed like a pretty quiet location and very convenient for elevators and stairs. We were across from a crew storage space but we never saw the door open. Some rust showing on the balcony and balcony glass was never cleaned, although the glass doors were always clean. Big C was our stateroom attendant and did a wonderful job. Lighting was great in this cabin.
Port and Shore Excursions
Day two was the port of Livorno which led us to Florence and Pisa. We booked a tour called Florence and Pisa on your own. We boarded the bus for about a 45 minute ride to Pisa. We had close to an hour to spend here, which is really enough time unless you want to climb the steps in the tower (I think there are 226 stairs. In the square you'll see the Baptistry, Church, School and the tower. They are all beautiful. Make sure you walk all around this area and closely look at things like the doors to the buildings, etc. There are many vendors in the area to buy souvenirs. Not too expensive. Then we boarded the bus for about an hours ride to Florence. We were dropped off in Santa Croce Square. This is the church where Michelangelo and Galileo are buried. Once again - look at the panels on the door. We had almost four hours in Florence. We went to the leather school connected to the back of the church and shopped there. Prices were good and they shipped our items home. After that, we walked toward the Ponte Vecchio bridge. This is an awesome site. Don't miss it. We then wandered into Palazzo Vecchio to see the statues and fountains. They were truly amazing. We wanted to go into this plaza to see the copy of the Statue of David. We had reservations to see the real statue but because they flopped the tour and went to Pisa before Florence, we missed our time and the line was over two hours to get in. Florence is a great place to just wander the streets. You don't need a tour here unless you want to be on a bus and see the historical sites fly by. We met our group back in the plaza and walked to the bus for an hour and a half ride back to the pier. It was a truly awesome day!
Our day in Rome was incredible. We booked a private tour with Romeinlimo. It was just us and a driver/guide in a Mercedes for 10 1/2 hours. Vinny was great. He lives in Rome and before we would go to the different sites he would give us the history. We went to the Colosseum, Forum, Palatine Hill, Circus Maximus, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Vatican Museums, St. Peters and a few other places. Truly an information overload day but fantastic. It's just hard to take Rome all in one day. You really need some time there. Being in a car and not a bus cut down the walking by miles. We had a private tour guide for the Vatican Museums and I would definitely recommend doing the same. It is a huge place and if you only have a couple hours - you need someone that can show you the best of the best. I would have to say that this was the best "port day" we have ever had in all of our cruises, and I thank Vinny for that.
Our last major port was Sicily. We booked a tour called the Taste of Sicily. We boarded a bus for Mt. Etna, the volcano. It took us about an hour and a half to get to the volcano. We were about 6600 feet up and were able to walk around the craters from a 1986 eruption. What a great experience. It is cold up there so you need a coat or at least a sweater. Once we explored the volcano, we boarded the bus and in about 45 minutes - we were in the mountain town of Taormina. This is truly a town to see. It is high up in the mountains overlooking the sea. It is so beautiful there you won't want to leave. Plenty of shops to explore but you really need to just walk the streets and look at all of the cafes on the slopes, etc. On a clear day you can see Mt. Etna and get some great pictures. We had about one and a half hours here. Too bad it wasn't longer.
We disembarked in Venice but there are a few things I wanted to let you know about. We took a water-bus from our hotel area to St. Mark's Square. We did the Secret Itinerary tour at the Doges Palace. The palace is beautiful and worth taking a look. This is also where you will find the Bridge of Sighs. We walked around the square and had lunch in a little cafe before heading back towards our hotel. The square is extremely crowded so you need to hang on to your bags. Also - don't sit on the ground in the square - there is a fine of 80 euros. Just an FYI. The water buses are cheaper than taxis and it's easy to grasp the schedules. They run about every 15-20 minutes so you never have to wait long. It's also a great way to see things on the Grand Canal. It was 26 euros round trip for the two of us. We took a gondola ride before dinner, expensive (120 euros for 35 minutes)but since it was our first time in Venice -we had to do it. It was romantic - and no they don't sing. One gondola behind us paid for a singer and accordion player, they also had champagne (I can't even imagine what they paid)- but we could hear the singer behind us so we got serenaded for free. The best way to see Venice is simply to walk around and get lost. And one more thing you must do - get up early and be on deck or on your balcony and watch the ship come into Venice. It's an experience all its own and not to be missed. We were up and on the balcony at 4:30 - but oh so worth it. Another tip - if you are looking for Murano glass items or jewelry - buy it in Venice not on the island of Murano where the glass factory is. If you want to see the factory - fine - but the prices are higher there and you get pressured by salesmen. All in all - Venice is expensive, just a warning.