We originally booked this cruise because John Heald was supposed to be the cruise director. Much to our chagrin he left the ship a few weeks early. We were quite disappointed and this set us up to be very disappointed in his replacement. But other than that, this was a great cruise. The ship is by far the nicest of those we have been on previously. We found the decor to be less gaudy and more tasteful and our stateroom was great. While we were disappointed with the CD, we found the rest of the entertainment staff to be great, better than any we had experienced before. In fact, there were several we felt would make a more entertaining CD than the one we had.
We were also a bit disappointed with the evening shows. The ones we had were great but they seemed to be fewer in number than we had experienced in the past.
My port ratings are really not for the port but rather for the tours we took at the port. We took tours at each port and only saw a bit of the port itself. One thing I saw on this trip was that the European tour companies know their business much better than I have experienced elsewhere.
Marseilles (4 out of 5)
This tour took us to Avignon and stopped at a winery and a candy shop. The winery gave us a very nice tasting experience, great wine and sizable samples to taste. Avignon was very interesting, especially for a Catholic who has a modicum of knowledge of church history.
Savona (4 out of 5)
At this port we took a tour to Monaco and Monte Carlo. Although it was a bit of long bus ride it was worth the time to see Monaco. We toured the palace, saw the changing of the guards (not as impressive as I have seen at a Marine base) and went into the cathedral where Princess Grace is entombed.
Rome (Civitavecchia) (4.5 out of 5)
Our tour took us to the Vatican, St. Peters, and the Sistine Chapel, what more can I say. I do drop the score a bit because Rome is not the most pleasant place to visit due to crowding and traffic.
Naples (5 out of 5)
We had booked a boat tour of the Amalfi coast to be followed by a tour of Pompei. The boat tour was cancelled due to expected rough seas so we took the bus tour instead. The bus drive along the coast was beautiful and eyeopening. Just experiencing the bus ride on those narrow roads and switchbacks plus narrow streets in the villages was a treat.
Dubrovnik (4 out of 5)
I probably would have given this a 5 if it had not been for the rain. Again we had booked a boat tour that was cancelled and replaced it with a bus tour into the country side. It was interesting but would have been much better if the weather had cooperated. After the cruise we walked the wall around Dubrovnik. This was a great experience.
Venice (5 out of 5 and 4.5 out of 5 two tours)
Ah Venice. This is the one port we did see up close and personal. The ship arrived about 1 pm and stayed overnight. The first day we went into Venice on our own in the afternoon and took a gondola ride in the evening. Fantastic evening! The next day we took a boat tour of 3 islands, Murano, Burano, and Torcello. This was quite interesting. The three islands are quite different from one another.
Messina (4.5 out of 5)
Here we went to Mt. Etna. Our tour took us as high as you can safely go (2900 meters or 9500 feet). We went into craters that had erupted within the past few years and that were still releasing steam.