So, the long awaited Venice cruise happened and Venice wasn't the highlight !
Flew into Marco Polo airport and had no problems finding the RCI staff who escorted us to the waiting coach and off we went.
EMBARKATION : A bit of a scrum but was OK, no problems. We boarded just after noon I think and the cabins weren't quite ready so we headed off for some lunch.
CABIN : We pretty much always go for an inside cabin, that way we can cruise again for the same money as if we had a balcony... 2 cruises for the price of one is how I see it. Plus we like insides, I mean its DARK in there people... perfect for sleep, either at night or an afternoon siesta !
Cabin was standard really, large double bed, sofa, TV, blah blah.. However, one thing that did annoy us big time was the fact that the shower had NO SHOWER GEL ! Our cabin steward told us they had run out 3 or 4 weeks previously, but we think that's a puny excuse by RCI, who treat us 'poor' inside folks like More
2ND class citizens ! Our friends, in an outside, our friends in a balcony, ALL had shower gel and what is more, they had it replaced whilst cruising ! So, RCI : SORT YOURSELVES OUT, it's penny pinching at its worst. Good job I shave my head lol
Also, we found some leftover rubbish in the cabin, a paper coffee cup plus receipts inside it from August... not exactly welcoming.
One other thing, dont even think about making a phone call from your cabin..$7.95 per minute !
Overall, happy with the cabin.
DINING : We don't really like traditional dining, I wear a suit all day at work and am damned if I am wearing one on holiday, or worse still a tuxedo ! Not a chance. So, we were slightly concerned that we wouldn't be allowed in the main dining room for our 6.30pm sitting. However, it wasn't a problem. On formal nights, most had tuxedos or suits, I had a long sleeve shirt and trousers.
I did notice we had a poorly positioned table though, right at the entrance, wondering if that was because of our inside cabin ? Maybe a co-incidence.
Now here is how traditional dining can be the best ever, or the worst ever. Our table was for 6. On the first evening there were ourselves and a fantastic couple from California, who became our friends and hopefully will remain so for life... cheers facebook ! No-one else.
Same for nights 2, 3, on night 4 we were astonished to see a German couple there. Fine, new friends. However to say conversation was difficult would be an understatement. It was like going to the dentist and it ruined our dining experience.
Suffice to say we avoided them on future evenings, and to be fair they avoided us, it was funny to us four that we bumped into them in the Windjammer buffet the evening after... we went there to avoid them and evidentally they felt the same !
Jonny Rockets has a cover charge of $4.95 per person, fair enough we thought we would give it a try. However, ON PRINCIPLE, we refused as when we got there ( and it was deserted ! ) we found out that drinks were extra, as were shakes. NO DRINKS in a diner ! Ridiculous.
Dining, pretty good, was happy to get out of the main dining room though to get some 'real' food from time to time.. some of the meals were so posh I didn't know whether to eat them or frame them and have them mounted on my wall.
SHIP : Yes, liked the ship. But if you have cruised before you will understand she is similar to a lot of ships these days. Plenty of retail opportunities for those who choose it, 2 storey theatre, Gym, Spa, etc etc.
DRINKS : Oh my word. Some of the UK readers of this review may recall an advert on TV some time ago where a guy wanted to purchase something and he picked up the phone and called his bank manager to check he could afford it... well, he was on this cruise !!! Blimey, are drinks expensive or what !? That's not a question guys, trust me its the answer. For the UK drinker, alcohol is priced eye wateringly high. A Fosters 'oilcan', that's a pint to you and me, was about $9, including the outrageous 15% tip for the waiter to walk 100 yards and bring it to you.
Now I can sink a pint in roughly 5 seconds when I want to...and it doesn't take a genius to work out that I didn't do so on this occasion. I simply cannot understand the logic of charging so much for drinks onboard, half the passengers weren't drinking anything at all and I reckon that was due to ridiculous cost. RCI, lower the prices, lower the gratuity, more people will booze and your profits will rise.
Drinks, total extortion.
EXCURSIONS : Continuing my theme of total extortion ( lol )... RCI should re-brand their tours ' Tours for Millionaires '. Or maybe a more realistic, ' over priced, short on time tours for the stinkingly stupid '.. yeah, that would work.
Don't do them guys. As usual there are plenty of locals who work really hard to give you the day trip you deserve at half the price RCI want. If you are reading this then I assume you are quite familiar with the internet.. try a quick search. It's not hard ! Alternatively, wait til you dock, and grab someone standing there !
Cruise Critic doesn't list 2 of the places we visited so I will give a brief run down here.
KOPER : We booked a SUPERB local guide online with fellow roll call members from this website. Graham, he is English, picked us up at the dock and took 8 of us on one of the best trips I have been on recently. First stop was Ljubljana, capital city of this small country. Stayed there for a while and had time to explore.
Next up was Lake Bled, what a place, absolutely stunning. We visited the castle and took in the town.
Then onto Vintgar gorge, wow was all I could think of this place. Some brave folks had made a walkway down the gorge that is literally hanging off the cliff ! Amazing.
All in all the day was about 8 hours, back in good time for the ship. Thanks Graham !
RAVENNA : Ravenna is one of the few places I recommend cruisers to take the cruise line shuttle as it is a long way from port to town. The shuttle was $15. Nothing to do by port at all. Ravenna itself is home to several UNESCO World Heritage sites, namely the famous Mosaics from the Byzantine era. Very impressive.
ENTERTAINMENT : Night one was an excellent Argentinian duo with drums, it doesn't sound much but they were fantastic. Production shows we thought were not so good, they never sang any songs anyone had heard of and on the odd occasion they did they did their own versions that were so unrecognisable we didn't even realise til they almost finished what they were. Poor.
They had a Beach Boy tribute on and whilst not really my thing, I thought it was the best night of the cruise. Also that night was a fluorescent show, wow that was superb ! I was very hesitant about that initially but it turned out to be a real highlight.
The entertainment staff were pretty good, Abel was the cruise director and he was great.
SUMMARY : Enjoyed the cruise. But then again I have never NOT enjoyed a cruise. Would I cruise RCI again ? Well, we put down a deposit onboard with them for a future cruise so I guess that would say something.
There are a few things I think RCI should change, namely extortionate drinks prices, extortionate shuttle prices ( $14 to Bari, we WALKED in 10-15 mins along a totally flat promenade ) and expensive excursions.
But the savvy cruiser already knows that cruiselines do this and can take steps to avoid them. Less
Voyager of the Seas Cruises to the Western Mediterranean
Bari : WALK it people !
Its 10-15 mins tops along a flat promenade. Clear the port itself and turn left with the sea on your left, the city walls are to your right. When you see a gateway to the city, take it.
Shuttle price on RCI was $14 per person......
Alternatively we hopped onto a land train just outside the dock, we paid 10 Euro each ( but it was supposed to be 15, we haggled ).. then had a 2 hour tour of Bari, including stops and a guide, which was excellent. We left the land train at the final stop and walked back to the ship.
Bari is small, but we liked it.
We booked a local guide for Dubrovnik online whilst back at home and she was superb indeed.
Once again, shuttle to the town was a rip off, we got the local bus for 10 Kuna's each, that's Â£1.20 ! Sweet.
What can I say about Dubrovnik ? Fantastic. Walk the walls, visit the Franciscan Monastery ( Pharmacy ), see ' restaurant row ', maybe sit back and laze a while on a bench over looking the harbour.
We LOVED it.
Be warned though, they DO NOT TAKE EURO ON THE WALLS. Kuna only. From memory it is 70 Kuna.
Venice, over crowded, full of pigeons and damn well expensive.
But, its great.
Get into the Doge's Palace, try to book the secret itineraries tour at home before you go if possible, you get to go through a secret door in a wall and up to the offices and prison plus roofways of the 13th century building. Excellent.
Also, there is a people mover for 1 Euro to get you to the city from the Dock. Then get a water taxi for 6.50 Euro from there to St Mark's Square. Cruiseline shuttle price ? $25. Ahem......