Take a train to Rome and see a plethora of astounding art and architecture ranging from the Ancient Roman Pantheon to the Renaissance frescoes of Michelangelo.
We have always been under the impression that if you are on an excursion that was offered by the ship, that the ship was responsible for you and would ensure you got back on time or would wait to depart until you had returned. This is not always the case, and was a very tough lesson for us to learn, so I'll tell you about our experience with the hopes that it might save someone else from having to go through what we did. When the ship docks in Civitavecchia, you are actually about 90 minutes away from Rome proper. So you have to take a transfer into Rome, and Celebrity offered either a Bus or a private train that would take us in to Rome and bring us back to the ship. We spent 5 days in Rome last year, so were already fairly familiar with Rome, and we chose to take the private train since it should be a little faster. The train ride was fine, and we were given a map that also had 3 numbers to call in case of emergency. The guide stressed this fact about having the 3 numbers to call in case of emergency. We got off the train and the guide was going to walk to the Vatican and then we would be on our own, to meet at a bar next to the train station at an appointed time for the ride back to the ship. Unfortunately, this guide was a very fast walker and had a large group of people following her. To top it off, she zig-zagged down different streets to get to the Vatican. To make a long story short, when it was time to head back, we could not find the train station and the map was completely useless - it wasn't a detailed, street-level map, and the photo representations of landmarks were not even close to being accurately oriented. The map showed that we came in behind and to the left of the Vatican. Unfortunately that was not correct. We tried calling all 3 emergency numbers, and 1 didn't work at all and the other 2 went straight to voice mail. We left several messages but no one called us back. We finally got in a taxi and he took us to the train station, and we arrived 5 minutes after we were told to meet. By that point, the group (and our train) had already left. We panicked since no one would answer the emergency phone numbers and our ride back to the ship had already left. Generally speaking, if you do not arrive back to the ship on time, it leaves without you and it is your responsibility to catch up to it at the next port of call. This would have been a disaster for us, however, as we had no clothes or passports with us since we were advised not to take our passports with us, and little money due to pickpocket concerns. We ended up buying train tickets at our own expense and just barely made it back to the ship with about 10 minutes to spare - the officers were literally there waiting to pull the gangway up. We went to a manager in the Shore Excursions department and showed them our receipts for the metro, the taxi and the train for all 4 of us, and showed them our phone and where we had been calling frantically with no return phone call. Celebrity took our information, said they would "file a report" and 2 days later we had a note left in our room that thanked us for our feedback and apologized for the disappointment we encountered. The appropriate response would have been to refund 1/2 of the excursion cost, as we did not get to ride the private train back to the ship, and we provided receipts proving that we had to pay our own way back and showed all of our attempts to reach someone with their emergency phone numbers.
Provider: Celebrity Cruises
Express train is the way to go
Provider: Regent Seven Seas Cruises
The problem with Rome on a cruise, is that it is a city with so much to do, at least a week worth, and you lose 90 minutes in transit each way from Civitavecchia. Plus, we booked a train, and were given a bus somehow instead, which got stuck in traffic. We only had 5-10 minutes at some places, like the Pantheon, and had to entirely skip the Castel San Angelo. It's a long trek from the Coliseum to the Vatican, and you need 3 hours for the whole Vatican at a minimum. So you're literally running past all sorts of cool things. There's really little time for lunch if you don't want to skip a major site like the Pantheon or the Vatican. And you still really need a tour guide for the Vatican, or you'll waste time. Overall, RCI handled this stop rather poorly.
Provider: Royal Caribbean International
Like Florence we were quite disappointed with Rome. Firstly we expected the private train to be a bit more luxurious but we found ourselves sitting knee to knee with the passengers opposite which was quite uncomfortable for an hour long trip. The train dropped us into Rome quite a distance from all the major sites which we didn't realise until we got int there so we ended up paying more for to go on the hop-on-hop-off bus. All in all $A250 which was very expensive for what we got. On top of that the bus wasn't worth the time. Rome itself is too over commercialised as is most cities of a similar nature. It definitely worth seeing and maybe even staying there for more than just a day but I doubt if we'd be rushing back again.
Provider: Princess Cruises