BACKGROUND: My husband and I are in our mid to late 20s, and this is our 6th cruise, the second (kinda) with Celebrity. We tried this same cruise in June 2007 on the Millennium, when we had a disastrous incident with the known bad-actor ... Read More
BACKGROUND: My husband and I are in our mid to late 20s, and this is our 6th cruise, the second (kinda) with Celebrity. We tried this same cruise in June 2007 on the Millennium, when we had a disastrous incident with the known bad-actor pod propulsion system. The cruise was cancelled early, and we were given vouchers for the full value of the cruise. This Nov 2008 trip is the "do-over". Our vouchers from high season bought us a Concierge Class room on midship deck 8. We picked this cruise for the itinerary, not the cruise line.
We departed out of the midwest over 2 hrs late because Philadelphia International routinely overbooks their flights. They would not allow us to take off as scheduled because there were no gates available. We missed our connection to Frankfurt, and luckily caught a flight to Munich instead (there goes the luggage). From there we flew directly to Venice, after a 7-hr layover. We told the airline about our (obviously) lost luggage, and they assured us it would arrive to us before we left Venice. We checked into the Carlton and Grand Canal hotel at about 6 pm, walked down the canal to this great pizzeria and got a Prosciutto and mushroom pizza for 10E. The hotel also told us they would keep an eye out for our luggage. They were very patient with my Italian and even switched to English when I got stuck. Something to be aware of in Venice; if you are a light sleeper, bring earplugs. You are never too far away from a church, and they ring their bells every hour.
We checked into the ship the next day. Our luggage had not been delivered, and the airline (Lufthansa) said they would deliver it straight to the ship. We grabbed the free shuttle from Piazzale Roma to the ship, and there were a lot of people there to show us where to go. We checked into through the Captain's Club line with no waiting. They confirmed for me that we had been upgraded! (more on the stateroom at the end). Then we went and talked to Sebastian at Guest Relations (awesome) and told him about our luggage. I had seen a tip on CC to take a picture of your luggage in case you lose it, and then you don't have to try and explain what they look like. I gave him the picture and he said it would help his team a lot!
After we got comfy in our room, we bought water taxi vouchers through the ship ($20 each) and headed out to the city. We figured that we were so jet lagged we didn't want to worry about someone charging us too much or having to walk back to the ship. They dropped us off just to the North of St Marks Square. We wandered around the Hotel Daniele, St Marks, and then had the best time getting lost in the city. We ended up by the Rialto Bridge and we found the most beautiful masks and bought them right there. Weather was a little chilly, but clear and sunny. We wandered back to the ship for open dinner seating and sat with a wonderful WWII vet and his wife. When we got back to the room, our luggage was there! YAY!
VENICE EXCURSION: St Marks, the Doge's Palace and Glass Blowing. A boat picked us up at the pier and dropped us off at the same place as the day prior. Our guide gave us Whisper systems, and she spoke very good English. She took us inside the Doge's Palace, which was surprisingly beautiful and intriguing. The largest room in Europe was the grandest thing I have ever seen- almost better than Versailles. I would've liked to stay in the palace longer. The tour then took us to either a glass-blowing shop or we could peel off and do what we liked. We wanted to see inside the Cathedral, so we went inside. There was Mass going on, so no pictures and we had to be silent. I actually think the outside is prettier than the inside... it's all early Byzantine decorations inside. But the sound of the choir in that church was heavenly. Upstairs we paid 4E each and walked around a museum they have on the top floor. Gives a great view of all of St Marks Square. Great pictures; we saw where Indiana Jones comes up out of the sewers in the Last Crusade! Then we met up with the tour group and headed back to the ship for the sail away. Everyone is right. Sailing out of Venice is fantastic!! Even the Italians paused to see us sail out. And you are higher than everything... the rule was nothing was allowed to be built higher than St Marks Campanile, so we could see ALL of Venice. We sat on our balcony and had cookies and cappuccino that our butler brought us. We will definitely go back.
DUBROVNIK: Croatia is beautiful. Never would have expected it. We had breakfast in our suite and then went to our coach. We went to a restaurant/winery in the Konvale Valley (which looked a lot like California) and had wonderful bite-sized snacks and wine. We wanted to stay there all day. Then our coach took us to the Dubrovnik city center. It was very small, clean, and VERY expensive. It really turned us off from the city. My husband wanted a tie, but they were charging 100E!! It soured the day after that.
SEA DAY: Very smooth on the way to Athens. Checked out the spa and lost at bingo.
ATHENS: Rain, rain, rain. We had brought the umbrellas that were in our stateroom, thank goodness! We met our coach and our guide took us up a very slippery walkway to the top of the Acropolis. She started to give us a very detailed history lesson through our whispers, but hubby and I got bored and wandered off on our own taking pictures. Like Venice, they had a similar building rule in Athens that nothing could be built higher than the Acropolis, so we could see everything. They are working on restoration, and the buildings look wonderful. Stayed up at the top for 30 min, then she took us to a little shop, then back to the coach for a tour around the city center, parliament and the original Olympic stadium. Then we drove 30 min down the coast to the Aegon Hotel for lunch. They fed us a LOT of good food. Cape Sounion was very nice, but windy. I like the story around the ruins, and they are in great shape for being very old. Then a nice drive back to our ship. In hindsight, we would have preferred to stay and check out more of Athens.
KUSADASI, DAY 1: Stayed on the ship. Got massages. Checked out a few free movies from Guest Relations to watch in our DVD player in our stateroom. KUSADASI Day 2: No excursion. We just wandered into town. There was a high-volume of sales people, but they weren't too pushy. Not impressed though, and won't be going back. The Queen Victoria docked next to us—that was neat. At this point the Cruise Director came on the loud speaker and said that they were anticipating rough sailing into Naples and we would be wise to take precautions to avoid seasickness. Uh oh.
SEA DAY #2- WOW. It started at around 2am and went all day long. We ended up with 15-17ft seas and wind gusts up to 60 knots. Hubby was queasy- I was ok. It was formal night, but I couldn't wear my nice shoes, so I was in a long gown and flip flops! The Captain slowed down to put out the stabilizers so we only felt the rocking in one direction, but it did delay us even further from getting into Naples. So, they decided to cancel the second day in Rome to make sure we got to see Naples. We ended up spending a day and ½ at sea, getting into Naples at 2pm on the 23d. We wandered to the castle off the shore, and to the Theater and big Piazze el Vicctorio Emanuel. Not impressed. Naples is dirty and it was very cold.
NAPLES: Got up early for our hydrofoil ride out to Capri. It was raining; the storm we went through on the way up was following us. We took the crazy mini-buses up to Anacapri and we toured the home of Dr. Axel Munthe and his Villa San Michele, which I HIGHLY recommend. It was so beautiful. I also got my Carthusia perfume and a beautiful Chantecler bell. Then we had lunch at La Pigna. If I ever go back to Capri, I will eat here... fabulous food!! Then we went to the Garden of Augustus and wandered around the main square before taking the funicular back down the mountain to catch our hydrofoil back. The waves were bumpy by then... it got pretty sporty by the end. Back on the ship, we heard that the Naples harbormaster had closed the port due to high winds. We were supposed to sail at 7pm; we ended up staying in port until 12 midnight.
ROME: Got into Rome about 2 hours late and it was cloudy and rainy again. We planned to spend the whole day in the Vatican. We took our coach into Rome and were dropped off in the Vatican's parking structure. There was no line to get into the Vatican Museum at about 12:30, and we walked right in. Tickets were about 12E each. There were times when my husband and I were the only ones in a particular wing of the museum. It was very special. We spent approximately 4 hours in the museum, and then walked through the Sistine Chapel. Always a thrill, I just wish we could take pictures. Then we took the walkway to St Peters' Basilica. It was so empty, we were really able to savor and enjoy the church. I would love to visit again. From there, we walked down the street for some tiramisu and cappuccinos. Because we got into port late, it had delayed most people's shore excursions significantly, so the ship had an open seating casual dinner. I, for one, really appreciated not having to shower and change to be allowed to eat in the main dining room. We were so exhausted.
FLORENCE: By now, the temperature had really dropped. It never got above 45 degrees and we had a 30mph "breeze" most of the day. Very uncomfortable. Nice guide out of Livorno. We stopped at a leather factory- very disappointing. I would prefer they not make this stop. They dropped us off in Florence at Santa Croce Square. We walked to the Uffizi Gallery in 10 minutes and there was no line to get in. Tickets were 10E each. The set-up is interesting they funnel you upstairs to the main gallery and then downstairs. It is all renaissance art from the 14-16th Centuries. I saw firsthand the Caravaggio, Branzione and Botticelli masterworks I saw in school books. The Botticelli's were especially wonderful. You could tell which paintings were his because they were just better than the one next to it. I went through the small gallery in about 2 hours- my husband was VERY bored. No pictures were allowed... what's the deal Florence? Then we walked out to the Ponte Vecchio and I looked at very expensive jewelry. We walked to the Pitti Palace, but did not go in. Then we walked to the Baptistery at the Santa Fiore Church (Duomo). We had lunch at a place called the Black Bar, just to the North of the Baptistery. Hot food, free bathroom and a respite from the wind, plus we only spent 17E on lunch for both of us. Walked through the church and saw how big and beautiful it is. Really, the inside is as pretty as the famous outside. We didn't go upstairs. Then we walked back to Santa Croce Square and the Gold Corner with some cappuccinos. After a quick birds-eye view of Florence from Piazza Michelangelo, we headed back to Livorno.
VILLEFRANCHE: We were very tired. At this point we were tired of traveling. ? We took a tender to the shore, then a bus to the center of Nice. It was very pretty and we saw a guy walking a cat on the beach... no lie. Wandered around for an hour or two, and then got back on the bus to go up to Monaco via the Middle Corniche. They dropped us in the Rock parking structure and we walked to the one thing we wanted to see—the Oceanographic Museum. Tickets were about 8E each. It was small, but wonderful. The full-scale model of the humpback whale and the bones of the sperm whale in the confines of one floor were awesome in addition to the live fish. We also saw a lobster as big as a German shepherd! And the building itself is a treasure. You can see all of Monaco from the top! Then we walked through the Exotic Garden to the actual palace grounds and had lunch at a lovely little cafe. Our last stop was to walk through the Cathedral where all the past royalty of Monaco are buried. Very beautiful little chapel. Then the bus took us back to the ship.
SEA DAY #3: We just couldn't get a break. We had 12-14 foot seas and 45 knot winds. The Captain altered course to try and avoid the weather, but we didn't see clear skies until around 3pm. It really got to me by this time, because I was showing the first signs of a cold as well. We took it easy and tried to get all our packing done and settle our onboard account. Last formal night—we took pictures with our table mates... best table we've ever had!
BARCELONA/DISEMBARKATION: Arrived in Barcelona on time, in the rain. We had the option to wait for our number to be called in the Suite guest lounge or the regular lounge, and we opted for the regular one. We barely sat down and we were called. It was about 0830. We disembarked and said farewell to the ship. The Barcelona Pier has an airport-like conveyer belt system in their terminal. Wonderful! All you had to do it wait for your bag to float past and pick it up. No searching or hunting. We got in the taxi line and they took us to our hotel, Gran Havana, for about 25E. We got there and found out our room was ready (meaning the hotel was nowhere near capacity). We checked in, took a break and then headed out to the city. We wanted to see the Sagrada de Familia once more and it did not disappoint (entrance was about 8E each). It was so wonderful-even in the rain. We spent about 2 hours in the church and the museum, and then walked back to the hotel, which is a short 15 min walk from the church. We took a break, using the provided hot pot and tea they had provided. By now I had a cold 100% and was glad for the break from the weather. Then we walked to Las Ramblas and followed it all the way to La Boqueria. THAT is an experience! La Boqueria is a giant open-air market. The crab and lobster were still alive on the ice! It was a very fragrant but wonderful experience. We had originally planned to go to the Barcelona Aquarium, but we were so tired, we headed back to the Hotel. At the top of Las Ramblas is a big square, and at the south end of the square is the Hard Rock Cafe, Barcelona. We went there and had a hearty dinner. From there we crashed at the hotel- ready for the journey home the next morning at 5 am.
FLIGHTS: Flights home were uneventful, except that airports in Spain are not allowed to sell medicine, so I had to fly overseas with a sinus infection, which turned out to be pretty painful. Medicate before you fly! No luggage lost. Thank you US Air!
SHIP: Condition of the ship was nice, clean and tidy. There was only one instance of an elevator not working and it was for less than a day. It was usually too cold in every compartment of the ship. I had to buy a sweatshirt to say warm. STATEROOM: We had been moved across the hall on deck 8 to a Sky Suite! So exciting for a 14-day cruise. Then we checked out our suite... wow . I've rarely been in a suite on land, so this was fabulous. I had room to do yoga in the morning, a very large closet and an actual bathtub and a wonderful showerhead. We also had toiletries and lots of pillows. Our butler was fantastic and even fixed my hubby's sunglasses when they broke. We opted for the cheese and crackers instead of canapEs (they were nasty). The cabin steward was ok. Always said hi to my hubby, never to me, and he always moved my things. We did notice mold in our bathroom, which makes me wonder why I didn't get sick sooner. We also had the bedside phone that did not work, and one of our closet doors opened on its own, spilling light on us at 2 am. Minor irritations if we were at home, but we paid a lot of money for this room- everything should work. That, and I turned the thermostat ALL the way up, and it was still never warm enough for us.
SPA: Tried many different things with mixed results. The regular Swedish and hot stone massages were wonderful with a mild sales pitch at the end. I had a skin consultation with a very nice lady named Jamie. My husband used the Persian Garden as a place to relax, but said it was nothing special. I got my hair done for one formal night and was not pleased. She didn't listen to me when I told her my hair would not curl with hot rollers, but did it anyway. Plus, she was helping another client while I was under the drier watching time tick away until I had 15 minutes to change and get ready for dinner! And wouldn't you know it, as soon as I hit the breezy outside, no curl. I wasted my $40. The gym was good, but usually packed when we all got back from our excursions. Plus, there is nowhere to do pushups/sit ups except a hardwood floor in front of everyone. I also got a Coconut milk bath treatment... don't do it! The "light" exfoliation tore at my skin and I felt like I had a sunburn for the next week. It was very painful. Because I got the treatment the day before disembarkation, I never gave them the feedback... so I'm telling you! I spent a fair amount of time in the spa... stick with the gym and massages.
FOOD: The food in the main dining room was generally ok. Our waiter was wonderful about telling us what was "good" or "bad" on the menu. Chilled soups and most meat dishes were spot on. Generally happy with the quality of the food, but it wasn't worth the silverware they used on us nightly! The assistant Maitre D and our main server Vedran were fabulous. Everybody else was ok. We ate at the specialty restaurant, the Olympic, once and it was TOP NOTCH. Well worth the cover charge. Wish I had skipped the cheese course, because it gave me crazy dreams! I loved the restaurant and wished we had gotten to eat there a second time. Pizza was always nice, and the Waterfall cafe was consistent. Nothing special, but consistently good food. I liked the popcorn in the movie theater.
OVERALL: I enjoyed the itinerary. I enjoyed the company of now-friends. But I do not think we will sail with Celebrity again. There is another company that we sail with that has given us a truly wonderful and unique experience and Celebrity couldn't match that experience. Florence, Monaco and Venice did, but not Celebrity. To be fair, this cruise was well handled, with lots of communication from the staff and crew and working hard to make us happy. But we felt very out of place demographically. We are a little young for Celebrity's target audience. That, coupled with the very bad experience from last years' cruise, we were just glad to have it concluded successfully. We shouldn't be ready to leave the ship... we should be crying to want to stay...but Celebrity is a brand, and it did not draw us in emotionally. For that major reason, we bid adieu to Celebrity and the Summit. Read Less