I'm an experienced traveler, having traveled to Europe about a dozen times, but have never cruised the Mediterranean and have only ever been on one cruise before. That being said, when asked to go on this trip with a friend, I was at first skeptical. If I was going to be in Europe, I wanted to be on land. I didn't want to waste time on a cruise ship when I could be soaking up the culture and sights of the wonderful places in Europe.
Needless to say - I was blown away by one of the most fabulous vacations that I have ever taken.
To begin with - we stayed in Barcelona for one night both pre and post cruise. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who could do it. This gave us a chance to see a wonderful city full of sights and charm and to catch our breath before and after a very busy cruise. Recommendation: the Hotel Montecarlo on La Rambla - excellent hotel and excellent location - right in the heart of everything. We did the HOHO bus, walked La Rambla, visited the Gaudi sights, walked the Barri Gotic, saw a flamenco show, and went to the Picasso museum - all fabulous. Stop in Escriba at 83 La Rambla for hot chocolate and a pastry.
Embarkation was smooth and easy. From the time we arrived to boarding the ship was about 30 minutes. Cabins wouldn't be available until 1:30 so we headed to the Sunset Bar for drinks.
The cabins are spacious and elegant (as is the whole ship). We had a hump cabin on deck 6 - cabin 6156 - a HUGE balcony and a great room. The cabin steward was excellent.
We originally booked this cruise when the 2 sea days were at the end. This would have been a better itinerary as the Italy and France leg of the cruise is port intensive and tiring.
BUT we are travelers that make the most of any situation and figured that we would sleep when we got home. We wanted to take in everything that we could.
We chose to book most of our excursions through the ship and they were excellent. I had been on land tours of the Italian cities before and the ship's tours did a fabulous job. I recommend - Murano and Burano morning tour. There is just enough time to get the flavor of these two places. The time in Murano is not long enough (there never is on these tours) but it was a great overview. Burano is a wonderful gem and worth the visit.
If you want to take a gondola ride - just find a gondolier on one of the canals or at the gondola stands and take a ride there. The cost is only 80 euros (for up to 6 people). We also recommend an evening of opera at Palazzo Musica (look on tripadvisor).
Rome - we did the Discover Renaissance Rome tour. We did quite a bit of walking but got to see the sights. The Colosseum isn't included but during the 2 free hours, you could take a taxi over. It was a holiday the day we were there so we didn't get to go into the Vatican Museums but we did have plenty of time in St. Peter's. We spent free time in Piazza Navona at a cafe, did some shopping, went in the Pantheon, and had some pizza in a nice litte restaurant near the Pantheon.
In Naples we chose the Capri, Sorrento, and Pompeii tour. Again, another wonderful tour that included lunch in Sorrento. We had enough time in Capri and Pompeii and the guided tour was excellent.
In France, we took the 1/2 day tour to Aix. The ship was to dock in Marseille but due to high winds, we docked in Toulon. This made for a little longer journey to Aix and we had 2 hours there. It was a market day, so we skipped the narrated tour and just explored the market and shopped, then stopped in a cafe for a coffee. A nice time to get a little French flavor.
We were originally scheduled for the tour to Cinque Terre but due to the landslides there the week we were sailing, we changed to a tour of Florence. We opted for the full-day in Florence with the two hour walking tour. The guide did a great job showing us the highlights of the city. We then opted to go into Santa Croce, have lunch in a quaint cafe, and do some shopping.
Two surprisingly wonderful trips were in Kotor and Dubrovnik. Sail in to Kotor was breathtaking. We opted for the Montenegro highlights with cuisine. After a beautiful bus ride up the side of the mountain - yes, 25 hairpin turns (not for those prone to motion sickness) we were treated to some breathtaking views of the port and countryside. We stopped in a village for a glass of wine and some shopping (yes...there were too many tour buses here for the time scheduled) and then on to lunch and visits to the Imperial Palace, Budva, and back to Kotor. We did run out of time on this tour and didn't get to spend enough time in Kotor - but overall, we had a great time. The lunch that we had was fantastic.
In Dubrovnik, we took the Best of the Adriatic. We had plenty of time to explore Dubrovnik after a walking tour. We then drove through the countryside for a great lunch of fresh trout and then a stop at the seaside village of Cavtat. We ended up back at the port 2 hours before sail away and could have used some extra time in the old town, but overall a great day.
We had select dining and thought that the staff was terrific. The food was excellent. We did not dine in the specialty restaurants but did enjoy 2 dinners in Bistro on 5. The crepes are out of this world. The gelato on the ship is excellent as well...we definitely recommend it.
We enjoyed the solarium - the pool water is quite warm. The shows were pretty good...entertaining. We did do one of the wine tastings - the 12 wines from around the world. These were all excellent and it was a great experience.
Overall- this was a terrific way to see some of Europe. I found out that I loved the sea days and was wishing for one more at the end of the cruise. That being said, we were glad to get back to the ship around 1:30 on our last port day (France) to have some time to unwind.
I feel that to be able to go on a vacation like this - is a truly special event - and I knew what to expect. There is never enough time in the ports or in the cities or towns visited, so choose what you want to see and do and make the most of it. Enjoy the food and the wine...if you don't like a dish, they'll bring you another. :) There are some terrific crew members on board. Getting to know them made the trip that much more special.
All in all, it was a magical trip, filled with lasting memories. I'll definitely be back - both to Europe and to Celebrity.