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The Ship: My sister and I shared an interior stateroom on deck 6 (6583). My parents had an oceanview on deck 3 (3000). Our stateroom was really comfortable and we hardly missed the window, except it was a little hard to get up in the morning without seeing any sun. Our room was larger than we had anticipated so we were pleasantly surprised. There is also lots of storage space in the closet, drawers, under the beds, even in the bathroom. Im not a frequent cruiser so I cant really comment on how the ship compares to others (our last cruise was in 2000 on the Viking Serenade). It did not look old at all to me, but it did not look brand new either. Service: We had a wonderful stateroom attendant, Jairo. He was really jolly and always left our room spotless. We loved the towel animals too! The service onboard the ship was extremely friendly all around. We loved the waiter we had on the first night but they changed him after one night. The dining staff always seemed to be trying their best and working so hard at it, and while it wasnt what I would call 5-star service, it was competent and efficient. Food: The food in the dining room was just okay on most nights. Im picky about the types of food I eat and the cleanliness but am not that hard to please. I enjoy eating but not in huge quantities, and I didnt book the cruise because of the food. Most nights I found the food adequate, never terrible, but nothing to rave about either. Some exceptions were the pork chops, the lamb chops we had the night the ship sailed from Rome and the lobster on the night we sailed from Naples. The lobster was rather small, but the waitress got our tablemate an extra order. We often ate in the Windjammer for breakfast and the selection was pretty good. Despite the large number of people, the staff kept it reasonably neat. One night we also had dinner there, which was more relaxing than dressing up and eating in the dining room. On the last day we also took advantage of the pizza and burgers at the solarium. Again, while they didnt taste fantastic, they werent horrible either. Ports of Call/Shore Excursions Marseille: We wanted to take a taxi to the bus station to catch the bus to Aix-En-Provence. The taxi driver pretended not to understand my French (I know he did because later on he was already conversing with me). Anyway, they strong-armed us into the taking the taxi all the way to Aix for a fixed rate of 50E one way. This isnt bad at all since we didnt have to walk anymore nor wait for the bus, and especially if we had gotten others to share the taxi with us (it could fit 6). He dropped us off at the rotunda at 10:45. We attended mass at Eglise de la Madeleine at 11:00 and did a little souvenir shopping along the Cours Mirabeau. Because it was Sunday there wasnt much to do. We didnt see the bus that went to the Atelier Cezanne, in fact we only saw 2 buses the whole time we were there. We decided to walk to the bus station to go back to Marseille. Its about a 5 minute walk from the main rotonde. The bus comes about every 5  10 minutes and stops in front of Quai # 1. Its blue and clearly marked. However, when we got to the bus station in Marseille there were no cabs to be found. Because we didnt plan on going around Marseille, we didnt have a good map of the city  only holding the RCCL provided map which did not show where the bus station was so we could not figure out where we were in relation to the ship shuttle that goes to Vieux Port. Anyway, we waited about 10 minutes before we saw a cab  the driver was actually on his day off and was bringing his son to the bus station to send him back to his mother. He told us if we could wait for him about 20 minutes until the bus left he would drive us but if we found another taxi before then we should take it. Well, we didnt see any other cab at all so after his son left, he drove us to the cruise terminal with his girlfriend sitting in the front seat. They were both very nice and spoke great English. At the dock they have a couple of souvenir stands where we were able to do a lot of shopping. They had lavender soaps and sachets and Herbes de Provence. They were very reasonably priced and made great gifts to take back home. Villefrance-Sur-Mer: The ship was tendered today so we had to line up and take tender boats. We made our way to the train station (from the tourist office turn right and just walk along the water until you see the SNCF sign on the stone wall to your left). They have a special ticket for cruisers RT Villefranche-Monaco or Villefranche-Nice. As we got off in Monaco we took the exit on the right side of the station and walked down where we saw the bus stop of Place Sainte Devote. Before your trip, write to the tourist office of Monaco and request for a map. They send a great one which is very informative about the bus routes and is also a very accurate and easy to read street map. We caught the #2 bus to go to Monaco Ville and bought the tourist day pass from the driver. I think it is good for 8 rides which is more than enough. We got down in Monaco Ville, right in front of the Chocolaterie de Monaco. Of course we had to go inside and take a look. They had some wonderful and delicious looking chocolate (also quite expensive). We just bought a box of 4 small pieces. We walked down the street on the left of the Chocolaterie making our way down to the Palace. We got there just in time for the changing of the guard. I barely saw anything though since everyone had staked out their place earlier and they were all taller than me! I still got a beautiful view of the sea and the mountains at the lookout point to the right of the palace. From the palace it was a short walk to the Cathedral. With your back facing the palace, I believe it is down the rightmost street. Spent some time at the Cathedral then walked down past the aquarium and the small tourist train station to go back to the bus stop and catch the bus to the Casino. At the casino we took a few pictures but all the restaurants looked expensive so we decided to catch another bus and head to the Fontevielle commercial center. There was a McDonalds but I refused to eat there because I was not going to Europe to eat food I could easily get back home. We happened upon a stand serving pastas in the courtyard. It was really cheap and although I saw that it was just heated up frozen food, it tasted pretty good. At around 3pm we took another bus. I asked the driver if there was indeed bus service to Nice and he told us there was and to catch it at Place Sainte Devote, the bus stop outside the train station. The driver took us another route so we were able to see another part of Monaco. We were glad we decided not to pay the 6 E each for the small tourist train because taking the bus was much cheaper and we got to go all over. We waited at Place Sainte Devote for about 10 minutes for the bus. We saw a #100 bus but the driver didnt allow us to get on. It turns out that when the #100 bus stops there with a Monaco sign on the front it is dropping off passengers from Nice on the way to the last stop. After another 5 minutes we saw the #100 bus with a Nice sign and got on. The ride to Nice went through the winding mountains with great views. At Nice, we got off at the Le Port stop by the water. Stopped at another chocolate place called Confisserie Florian. You can tour the workshop and watch them make the chocolate before going upstairs to buy some of the chocolates. Most were quite pricey but I did buy chocolate covered caramelized orange slices which were heavenly! By this time my Dad was already tired and quite antsy to get back to the ship so we did not get to walk all the way to the Promenade des Anglais. We found a taxi stand and took a taxi back to Villefranche. Florence: We booked a tour with Tuscany By Taxi for today with Ricardo as our driver, sharing with a couple we met on Cruise Critic. The 6 of us fit comfortably in the van. It was a holiday (Nov. 1) so there was no traffic. We got to Florence in about an hour. We first stopped at Piazzale Michelangelo for great views of the city. After Piazzale Michelangelo we drove down into the center and stopped at Santa Croce square to see the church. Because it was All Saints Day we could only stay at the back part of the church since there was mass going on. Found small jewelry or pill boxes with Florentine designs at a souvenir stall. 2 E each or 5 pieces for 8 E. I also found nice postcards for 0.25 E each. Got one of the interior of Santa Croce since it was too dark to take good photos (the guard told us no flash allowed). We told Ricardo that we had reservations for the Accademia at 11am. He drove us through the city and showed us the meeting place  Piazza della Republica  before going to the Accademia. He parked on the street and came with us to the entrance. It was pretty chaotic outside even by the side marked for those with reservations. We still had to wait about 10 minutes to get in. I think they only let a limited number of people inside at a time. Spent about an hour in the Accademia. Its not that big so you get to see everything. The statue of David is amazing and a must-see! Its really the work of a genius. They also have good and free restrooms so use them here if you need to. As we exited the Accademia we saw the line for those without reservations  it was a few blocks long. If you are in Florence on a cruise, I suggest calling ahead and getting reservations or else youll spend the whole day in line. There is also a photo store across the entrance to the Accademia. They had a sign that says they transfer photos from memory cards to CDs in half an hour. Since you cant take photos inside the Accademia anyway, you can give them your memory card, go into the museum and pick up the CD when you are done. I didnt do this but I regretted that I didnt when I found out later that night how much it cost on the ship! Anyway, once you exit the Accademia turn left and walk straight down and youll hit The Duomo. We stopped for lunch at a restaurant near the Duomo  Bucca Nicolini. After lunch we lined up for the Duomo. We thought it would take long but it moved really quickly. Spent about half an hour inside. They have audio guide booths that you drop 1 E in and two people can listen to it at the same time. We found this to be a pretty good deal. As we exited the Duomo it started pouring! This was the only time in the two weeks we were in Europe that it rained. We had smartly left our umbrellas in the taxi so we waited it out at the doorway to the Duomo. It stopped after about 10 minutes. We crossed the street and looked at the baptistery doors then walked down the road between the Duomo and the baptistery toward Piazza Signoria where we took some great photos. The Florence tourist office also mails out a great map if you ask them. And while things looked far from each other on the map, they are not. Its so easy to walk around Florence, probably much quicker than taking a taxi or bus since a lot of zones are pedestrian-only ones. Left Florence at 3:30 pm and drove for about an hour to Pisa. The others are right  there is not much to see or do in Pisa aside from the leaning tower. We missed going into the church but took some photos of the outside. There were only a few people lined up to climb the tower but I didnt know how long it would take and we only had 30 minutes in Pisa. We left Pisa at 5:15pm and made it back to the ship before 6pm. Rome: We left the ship at 7:30am and caught the free port shuttle. It says Navetta Gratuita on the front. We bought a BIRG ticket for 9E that includes RT train, and unlimited metro and buses. Dont forget to validate it in the yellow boxes before riding. No one actually came through to check our tickets though. We caught the 8:12 train. If you plan on visiting the Vatican, get off in Roma San Pietro  its about another 10 minutes maybe from Roma San Pietro to Roma Termini and youll be closer to the Vatican from the San Pietro station. We got to Termini around 9:40. Termini is really huge. If you want to go out of the main entrance to Termini, from where the train stops go straight until you reach the main gallery, dont go down the stairs nearest to the platform, although that will take you to where all the taxis wait. We had hired a driver to meet us in Termini and take us around for the day. We asked her to take us straight to the Vatican so we could line up for the museums. I had faxed for a reservation a month before but did not get any reply (actually they had e-mailed me my reservation after I had already left home but I did not get to check my mail until the ships day at sea  I hope my name doesnt get put on some blacklist since I didnt show up for the reserved guided tour). The line was several blocks long so we spent another 20 minutes arguing whether or not line up. Talk about how to waste your time in Rome. Finally at 11am we decided to give it a shot and fell in line. We made it to the entrance in about 30-40 minutes. Turns out the line is actually just to x-ray the bags. Buying tickets once you are inside is no problem. Since it was already November, the museum closes at 1:45pm so we cruised through the museum to get to the Sistine chapel, which is what we really wanted to see. We did stop at the Raphael rooms though. Its a really long walk to the Sistine chapel from the entrance  it took us a good 40 minutes maybe. We spent about 15 minutes in the chapel. I saw the exit that leads to St. Peters Basilica that is supposed to be reserved for guides However, it was still closed since the Basilica itself was not yet open We later regretted not waiting for it to open because we spent another hour in St. Peters square lining up for the Basilica versus waiting maybe 20 minutes for that exit to open. Our guide drove us to St. Peters Square where we lined up for the Basilica. This line seemed to take much longer and was much much more disorganized than the line for the museums. The line is also the x-ray the bags. People cut in line on more than one occasion. We even saw a guide from one of the ship tours from the Millennium even tell off some of those people in Italian but they didnt seem to care. People were pushing and squeezing like crazy. We were glad we got in line when we did though because after about 20 minutes, the line grew exponentially with all the tour groups coming in after lunch. We finally made it into the Basilica. Its really amazing. However, I expected I would be able to sit and pray for awhile but because there are a lot of people, it is not exactly quiet inside. They also remove all the benches except for the ones in front and its closed off to the public. We spent about half an hour inside. After the Vatican we went to Piazza Navona where we ate lunch in one of the cafes. From Piazza Navona we dashed to the Pantheon and had a quick look inside. There are lots of people but thankfully no line and no admission fee. Our guide then drove us to the Fontana di Trevi, through lots of traffic. Its probably better to walk since on the map, the Pantheon and Fontana dont look too far away. We dashed to the fountain took a few quick pictures and tossed the coins over our shoulders. We were there for only about 5 minutes, maybe less. By now it was already 4pm. The train back to Civitavecchia left at 4:35. No time to see the Spanish Steps and the Colosseo. We got to Termini at 4:20. Its a long walk from the entrance to the platform (I think its #27). We ran almost all the way and made it, out of breath but with about 5 minutes to spare. At least we got seats on the train. Saw a couple of other cruisers barely make it. I think they stood all the way to Civitavecchia. The trains in Italy do not have a list of stops posted inside the train, nor are there any announcements about which stop is next. While Civitavecchia is logically the last stop, I still wanted to make sure. You can barely see the station names as you are pulling in since it was already dark. If you are unsure just ask the other people on the train. Better safe than sorry. Once we got off in Civitavecchia, we bought some things at the convenience store at the station before walking back to the port gates for the free shuttle. Made it back to the Splendour around 6:15. Naples: For this tour, I booked Giovanni Lerusce based on the recommendations I got from Cruise Critic. We again shared this tour with a couple we met on Cruise Critic. Anyway, when we got off the ship, Giovanni was already waiting for us with his absolutely lovely Mercedes van. We all kept complimenting his van that I think at one point he was already embarrassed. The 6 of us fit comfortably inside. We drove to Pompeii first, catching a glimpse of the infamous traffic on the other side of the highway. It did look terrible and Im so used to horrible traffic back home. It was a beautiful clear day, not a cloud in the sky so we had great views of Vesuvius. We arrived at Pompeii just after it opened at 8:45 am. We saw a lot of guides gathering groups but we decided earlier that we were comfortable exploring on our own. We rented one audio guide and grabbed some of the free maps. We all enjoyed Pompeii. It was really cool to imagine the people living there 2,000 years ago. It is rather difficult for older people to walk around though because the paths are stony and uneven. We saw an elderly gentleman on what I think was a shore excursion lose his footing and fall. I think he hit the side of his head but he got up and seemed ok, especially for someone his age. I hope he had nothing more than bruises. We did not make it to the amphitheater because it was too far from the entrance we used (Port Marina entrance). We did see highlights like the baths and the house of the faun though. At 10:45 we met Giovanni outside the entrance. We also bought some orange granitas in the stand while waiting for him. They were delicious! Giovanni said that there was a protest going on the road to the Amalfi coast so he would take us through the back way through the mountains, first stopping at Ravello. Half-way up, we stopped at a lookout point to take some photos and get a nice view of the Bay of Salerno. In Ravello, we visited the church of San Pantaleone, an old church from the 11th century where the saints blood miraculously liquefies each year during his feast day. We bought some souvenirs and paid 0.50E to use the bathroom at the bottom of the stairs on the left side of the square. At least it was a clean and well-supplied bathroom. We walked into the Ravello tourist office who told us the best place to eat was Villa Maria, at the top of the town. It was about a 5-10 minute walk up the mountain on paved roads/stairways but quite difficult to get to still. The place was beautiful though. It had a great view and fantastic pasta and risotto, probably the best meal we had on the whole trip. It took longer than we anticipated though including the walk up and down the mountain. After Ravello, we then made our way to Amalfi where Giovanni had to make some tricky moves on the narrow road when we came face to face with a large truck. He is a good and safe driver so we werent nervous at all. In Amalfi he dropped us off near the parking area by the beach. We bought some gelato for 2E per cup, took some photos and went into the main square where we bought some limoncello to take home. They had small bottles in funky glass containers shaped like guitars or shoes for only 2.5E. The church was closed so we took photos from the outside and stopped to buy some souvenir dishtowels (also 2.5E each). We spent about half an hour in Amalfi but it wouldve been nicer to get to explore a little bit more. After Amalfi we drove through Praiano on the way to Positano. Giovanni parked along the main road and we had to walk down to the village. We only had 30 minutes and after taking some pictures of the great view, we only had enough time to walk down, browse in a few shops then walk back up the steep road. We did not even go all the way down. It wouldve been nice to spend some more time here as well. The view here was fantastic! By the time we got back to the car Giovanni said it was time to make our way back to Napoli. It seemed pretty early to me but of course we did not want to get stuck in traffic. We didnt go to Sorrento but we caught a glimpse of it from the road. It seems to be a bigger town than the others we visited. We also drove through Castellamare di Stabia and Giovanni pointed out the gates of his house to us. We did not hit any traffic on the way back to Naples. We were back on the ship at 5pm. The Amalfi coast is so beautiful and the towns all so charming. It was rather relaxing compared to the harried pace we had in Florence and Rome where there is so much to see. It was a nice change to just ride along and enjoy the scenery. Summary: The whole family enjoyed this cruise immensely. Yes, it was very tiring, but it was also a great way to see many different places in a short amount of time. My parents found it stressful worrying about whether we would get left behind by the ship every day and also didnt enjoy constantly having to figure out what bus to take or where we were going. For people who are like my parents, perhaps an itinerary of ship-sponsored tours would have been more appropriate. As for myself, I like the independent sightseeing. The private tours were wonderful though, and quite economical if shared with Cruise Critic friends. I wouldnt mind going on the same itinerary again on the same ship. This cruise is good value for money, especially, if like me, you are in Europe for the first time.

Splendour of the Seas - Western Mediterranean

Splendour of the Seas Cruise Review by pc21214

Trip Details
The Ship: My sister and I shared an interior stateroom on deck 6 (6583). My parents had an oceanview on deck 3 (3000). Our stateroom was really comfortable and we hardly missed the window, except it was a little hard to get up in the morning without seeing any sun.
Our room was larger than we had anticipated so we were pleasantly surprised. There is also lots of storage space in the closet, drawers, under the beds, even in the bathroom.
Im not a frequent cruiser so I cant really comment on how the ship compares to others (our last cruise was in 2000 on the Viking Serenade). It did not look old at all to me, but it did not look brand new either.
Service: We had a wonderful stateroom attendant, Jairo. He was really jolly and always left our room spotless. We loved the towel animals too! The service onboard the ship was extremely friendly all around. We loved the waiter we had on the first night but they changed him after one night. The dining staff always seemed to be trying their best and working so hard at it, and while it wasnt what I would call 5-star service, it was competent and efficient.
Food: The food in the dining room was just okay on most nights. Im picky about the types of food I eat and the cleanliness but am not that hard to please. I enjoy eating but not in huge quantities, and I didnt book the cruise because of the food. Most nights I found the food adequate, never terrible, but nothing to rave about either. Some exceptions were the pork chops, the lamb chops we had the night the ship sailed from Rome and the lobster on the night we sailed from Naples. The lobster was rather small, but the waitress got our tablemate an extra order. We often ate in the Windjammer for breakfast and the selection was pretty good. Despite the large number of people, the staff kept it reasonably neat. One night we also had dinner there, which was more relaxing than dressing up and eating in the dining room. On the last day we also took advantage of the pizza and burgers at the solarium. Again, while they didnt taste fantastic, they werent horrible either.
Ports of Call/Shore Excursions Marseille: We wanted to take a taxi to the bus station to catch the bus to Aix-En-Provence. The taxi driver pretended not to understand my French (I know he did because later on he was already conversing with me). Anyway, they strong-armed us into the taking the taxi all the way to Aix for a fixed rate of 50E one way. This isnt bad at all since we didnt have to walk anymore nor wait for the bus, and especially if we had gotten others to share the taxi with us (it could fit 6). He dropped us off at the rotunda at 10:45. We attended mass at Eglise de la Madeleine at 11:00 and did a little souvenir shopping along the Cours Mirabeau. Because it was Sunday there wasnt much to do. We didnt see the bus that went to the Atelier Cezanne, in fact we only saw 2 buses the whole time we were there. We decided to walk to the bus station to go back to Marseille. Its about a 5 minute walk from the main rotonde. The bus comes about every 5  10 minutes and stops in front of Quai # 1. Its blue and clearly marked. However, when we got to the bus station in Marseille there were no cabs to be found. Because we didnt plan on going around Marseille, we didnt have a good map of the city  only holding the RCCL provided map which did not show where the bus station was so we could not figure out where we were in relation to the ship shuttle that goes to Vieux Port. Anyway, we waited about 10 minutes before we saw a cab  the driver was actually on his day off and was bringing his son to the bus station to send him back to his mother. He told us if we could wait for him about 20 minutes until the bus left he would drive us but if we found another taxi before then we should take it. Well, we didnt see any other cab at all so after his son left, he drove us to the cruise terminal with his girlfriend sitting in the front seat. They were both very nice and spoke great English. At the dock they have a couple of souvenir stands where we were able to do a lot of shopping. They had lavender soaps and sachets and Herbes de Provence. They were very reasonably priced and made great gifts to take back home.
Villefrance-Sur-Mer: The ship was tendered today so we had to line up and take tender boats. We made our way to the train station (from the tourist office turn right and just walk along the water until you see the SNCF sign on the stone wall to your left). They have a special ticket for cruisers RT Villefranche-Monaco or Villefranche-Nice. As we got off in Monaco we took the exit on the right side of the station and walked down where we saw the bus stop of Place Sainte Devote. Before your trip, write to the tourist office of Monaco and request for a map. They send a great one which is very informative about the bus routes and is also a very accurate and easy to read street map. We caught the #2 bus to go to Monaco Ville and bought the tourist day pass from the driver. I think it is good for 8 rides which is more than enough. We got down in Monaco Ville, right in front of the Chocolaterie de Monaco. Of course we had to go inside and take a look. They had some wonderful and delicious looking chocolate (also quite expensive). We just bought a box of 4 small pieces. We walked down the street on the left of the Chocolaterie making our way down to the Palace. We got there just in time for the changing of the guard. I barely saw anything though since everyone had staked out their place earlier and they were all taller than me! I still got a beautiful view of the sea and the mountains at the lookout point to the right of the palace. From the palace it was a short walk to the Cathedral. With your back facing the palace, I believe it is down the rightmost street. Spent some time at the Cathedral then walked down past the aquarium and the small tourist train station to go back to the bus stop and catch the bus to the Casino. At the casino we took a few pictures but all the restaurants looked expensive so we decided to catch another bus and head to the Fontevielle commercial center. There was a McDonalds but I refused to eat there because I was not going to Europe to eat food I could easily get back home. We happened upon a stand serving pastas in the courtyard. It was really cheap and although I saw that it was just heated up frozen food, it tasted pretty good. At around 3pm we took another bus. I asked the driver if there was indeed bus service to Nice and he told us there was and to catch it at Place Sainte Devote, the bus stop outside the train station. The driver took us another route so we were able to see another part of Monaco. We were glad we decided not to pay the 6 E each for the small tourist train because taking the bus was much cheaper and we got to go all over. We waited at Place Sainte Devote for about 10 minutes for the bus. We saw a #100 bus but the driver didnt allow us to get on. It turns out that when the #100 bus stops there with a Monaco sign on the front it is dropping off passengers from Nice on the way to the last stop. After another 5 minutes we saw the #100 bus with a Nice sign and got on. The ride to Nice went through the winding mountains with great views. At Nice, we got off at the Le Port stop by the water. Stopped at another chocolate place called Confisserie Florian. You can tour the workshop and watch them make the chocolate before going upstairs to buy some of the chocolates. Most were quite pricey but I did buy chocolate covered caramelized orange slices which were heavenly! By this time my Dad was already tired and quite antsy to get back to the ship so we did not get to walk all the way to the Promenade des Anglais. We found a taxi stand and took a taxi back to Villefranche.
Florence: We booked a tour with Tuscany By Taxi for today with Ricardo as our driver, sharing with a couple we met on Cruise Critic. The 6 of us fit comfortably in the van. It was a holiday (Nov. 1) so there was no traffic. We got to Florence in about an hour. We first stopped at Piazzale Michelangelo for great views of the city. After Piazzale Michelangelo we drove down into the center and stopped at Santa Croce square to see the church. Because it was All Saints Day we could only stay at the back part of the church since there was mass going on. Found small jewelry or pill boxes with Florentine designs at a souvenir stall. 2 E each or 5 pieces for 8 E. I also found nice postcards for 0.25 E each. Got one of the interior of Santa Croce since it was too dark to take good photos (the guard told us no flash allowed). We told Ricardo that we had reservations for the Accademia at 11am. He drove us through the city and showed us the meeting place  Piazza della Republica  before going to the Accademia. He parked on the street and came with us to the entrance. It was pretty chaotic outside even by the side marked for those with reservations. We still had to wait about 10 minutes to get in. I think they only let a limited number of people inside at a time. Spent about an hour in the Accademia. Its not that big so you get to see everything. The statue of David is amazing and a must-see! Its really the work of a genius. They also have good and free restrooms so use them here if you need to. As we exited the Accademia we saw the line for those without reservations  it was a few blocks long. If you are in Florence on a cruise, I suggest calling ahead and getting reservations or else youll spend the whole day in line. There is also a photo store across the entrance to the Accademia. They had a sign that says they transfer photos from memory cards to CDs in half an hour. Since you cant take photos inside the Accademia anyway, you can give them your memory card, go into the museum and pick up the CD when you are done. I didnt do this but I regretted that I didnt when I found out later that night how much it cost on the ship! Anyway, once you exit the Accademia turn left and walk straight down and youll hit The Duomo. We stopped for lunch at a restaurant near the Duomo  Bucca Nicolini. After lunch we lined up for the Duomo. We thought it would take long but it moved really quickly. Spent about half an hour inside. They have audio guide booths that you drop 1 E in and two people can listen to it at the same time. We found this to be a pretty good deal. As we exited the Duomo it started pouring! This was the only time in the two weeks we were in Europe that it rained. We had smartly left our umbrellas in the taxi so we waited it out at the doorway to the Duomo. It stopped after about 10 minutes. We crossed the street and looked at the baptistery doors then walked down the road between the Duomo and the baptistery toward Piazza Signoria where we took some great photos. The Florence tourist office also mails out a great map if you ask them. And while things looked far from each other on the map, they are not. Its so easy to walk around Florence, probably much quicker than taking a taxi or bus since a lot of zones are pedestrian-only ones. Left Florence at 3:30 pm and drove for about an hour to Pisa. The others are right  there is not much to see or do in Pisa aside from the leaning tower. We missed going into the church but took some photos of the outside. There were only a few people lined up to climb the tower but I didnt know how long it would take and we only had 30 minutes in Pisa. We left Pisa at 5:15pm and made it back to the ship before 6pm. Rome: We left the ship at 7:30am and caught the free port shuttle. It says Navetta Gratuita on the front. We bought a BIRG ticket for 9E that includes RT train, and unlimited metro and buses. Dont forget to validate it in the yellow boxes before riding. No one actually came through to check our tickets though. We caught the 8:12 train. If you plan on visiting the Vatican, get off in Roma San Pietro  its about another 10 minutes maybe from Roma San Pietro to Roma Termini and youll be closer to the Vatican from the San Pietro station. We got to Termini around 9:40. Termini is really huge. If you want to go out of the main entrance to Termini, from where the train stops go straight until you reach the main gallery, dont go down the stairs nearest to the platform, although that will take you to where all the taxis wait. We had hired a driver to meet us in Termini and take us around for the day. We asked her to take us straight to the Vatican so we could line up for the museums. I had faxed for a reservation a month before but did not get any reply (actually they had e-mailed me my reservation after I had already left home but I did not get to check my mail until the ships day at sea  I hope my name doesnt get put on some blacklist since I didnt show up for the reserved guided tour). The line was several blocks long so we spent another 20 minutes arguing whether or not line up. Talk about how to waste your time in Rome. Finally at 11am we decided to give it a shot and fell in line. We made it to the entrance in about 30-40 minutes. Turns out the line is actually just to x-ray the bags. Buying tickets once you are inside is no problem. Since it was already November, the museum closes at 1:45pm so we cruised through the museum to get to the Sistine chapel, which is what we really wanted to see. We did stop at the Raphael rooms though. Its a really long walk to the Sistine chapel from the entrance  it took us a good 40 minutes maybe. We spent about 15 minutes in the chapel. I saw the exit that leads to St. Peters Basilica that is supposed to be reserved for guides However, it was still closed since the Basilica itself was not yet open We later regretted not waiting for it to open because we spent another hour in St. Peters square lining up for the Basilica versus waiting maybe 20 minutes for that exit to open. Our guide drove us to St. Peters Square where we lined up for the Basilica. This line seemed to take much longer and was much much more disorganized than the line for the museums. The line is also the x-ray the bags. People cut in line on more than one occasion. We even saw a guide from one of the ship tours from the Millennium even tell off some of those people in Italian but they didnt seem to care. People were pushing and squeezing like crazy. We were glad we got in line when we did though because after about 20 minutes, the line grew exponentially with all the tour groups coming in after lunch. We finally made it into the Basilica. Its really amazing. However, I expected I would be able to sit and pray for awhile but because there are a lot of people, it is not exactly quiet inside. They also remove all the benches except for the ones in front and its closed off to the public. We spent about half an hour inside. After the Vatican we went to Piazza Navona where we ate lunch in one of the cafes. From Piazza Navona we dashed to the Pantheon and had a quick look inside. There are lots of people but thankfully no line and no admission fee. Our guide then drove us to the Fontana di Trevi, through lots of traffic. Its probably better to walk since on the map, the Pantheon and Fontana dont look too far away. We dashed to the fountain took a few quick pictures and tossed the coins over our shoulders. We were there for only about 5 minutes, maybe less.
By now it was already 4pm. The train back to Civitavecchia left at 4:35. No time to see the Spanish Steps and the Colosseo. We got to Termini at 4:20. Its a long walk from the entrance to the platform (I think its #27). We ran almost all the way and made it, out of breath but with about 5 minutes to spare. At least we got seats on the train. Saw a couple of other cruisers barely make it. I think they stood all the way to Civitavecchia. The trains in Italy do not have a list of stops posted inside the train, nor are there any announcements about which stop is next. While Civitavecchia is logically the last stop, I still wanted to make sure. You can barely see the station names as you are pulling in since it was already dark. If you are unsure just ask the other people on the train. Better safe than sorry. Once we got off in Civitavecchia, we bought some things at the convenience store at the station before walking back to the port gates for the free shuttle. Made it back to the Splendour around 6:15.
Naples: For this tour, I booked Giovanni Lerusce based on the recommendations I got from Cruise Critic. We again shared this tour with a couple we met on Cruise Critic. Anyway, when we got off the ship, Giovanni was already waiting for us with his absolutely lovely Mercedes van. We all kept complimenting his van that I think at one point he was already embarrassed. The 6 of us fit comfortably inside. We drove to Pompeii first, catching a glimpse of the infamous traffic on the other side of the highway. It did look terrible and Im so used to horrible traffic back home. It was a beautiful clear day, not a cloud in the sky so we had great views of Vesuvius. We arrived at Pompeii just after it opened at 8:45 am. We saw a lot of guides gathering groups but we decided earlier that we were comfortable exploring on our own. We rented one audio guide and grabbed some of the free maps. We all enjoyed Pompeii. It was really cool to imagine the people living there 2,000 years ago. It is rather difficult for older people to walk around though because the paths are stony and uneven. We saw an elderly gentleman on what I think was a shore excursion lose his footing and fall. I think he hit the side of his head but he got up and seemed ok, especially for someone his age. I hope he had nothing more than bruises. We did not make it to the amphitheater because it was too far from the entrance we used (Port Marina entrance). We did see highlights like the baths and the house of the faun though. At 10:45 we met Giovanni outside the entrance. We also bought some orange granitas in the stand while waiting for him. They were delicious! Giovanni said that there was a protest going on the road to the Amalfi coast so he would take us through the back way through the mountains, first stopping at Ravello. Half-way up, we stopped at a lookout point to take some photos and get a nice view of the Bay of Salerno. In Ravello, we visited the church of San Pantaleone, an old church from the 11th century where the saints blood miraculously liquefies each year during his feast day. We bought some souvenirs and paid 0.50E to use the bathroom at the bottom of the stairs on the left side of the square. At least it was a clean and well-supplied bathroom. We walked into the Ravello tourist office who told us the best place to eat was Villa Maria, at the top of the town. It was about a 5-10 minute walk up the mountain on paved roads/stairways but quite difficult to get to still. The place was beautiful though. It had a great view and fantastic pasta and risotto, probably the best meal we had on the whole trip. It took longer than we anticipated though including the walk up and down the mountain.
After Ravello, we then made our way to Amalfi where Giovanni had to make some tricky moves on the narrow road when we came face to face with a large truck. He is a good and safe driver so we werent nervous at all. In Amalfi he dropped us off near the parking area by the beach. We bought some gelato for 2E per cup, took some photos and went into the main square where we bought some limoncello to take home. They had small bottles in funky glass containers shaped like guitars or shoes for only 2.5E. The church was closed so we took photos from the outside and stopped to buy some souvenir dishtowels (also 2.5E each). We spent about half an hour in Amalfi but it wouldve been nicer to get to explore a little bit more. After Amalfi we drove through Praiano on the way to Positano. Giovanni parked along the main road and we had to walk down to the village. We only had 30 minutes and after taking some pictures of the great view, we only had enough time to walk down, browse in a few shops then walk back up the steep road. We did not even go all the way down. It wouldve been nice to spend some more time here as well. The view here was fantastic! By the time we got back to the car Giovanni said it was time to make our way back to Napoli. It seemed pretty early to me but of course we did not want to get stuck in traffic. We didnt go to Sorrento but we caught a glimpse of it from the road. It seems to be a bigger town than the others we visited. We also drove through Castellamare di Stabia and Giovanni pointed out the gates of his house to us. We did not hit any traffic on the way back to Naples.
We were back on the ship at 5pm. The Amalfi coast is so beautiful and the towns all so charming. It was rather relaxing compared to the harried pace we had in Florence and Rome where there is so much to see. It was a nice change to just ride along and enjoy the scenery. Summary: The whole family enjoyed this cruise immensely. Yes, it was very tiring, but it was also a great way to see many different places in a short amount of time. My parents found it stressful worrying about whether we would get left behind by the ship every day and also didnt enjoy constantly having to figure out what bus to take or where we were going. For people who are like my parents, perhaps an itinerary of ship-sponsored tours would have been more appropriate. As for myself, I like the independent sightseeing. The private tours were wonderful though, and quite economical if shared with Cruise Critic friends.
I wouldnt mind going on the same itinerary again on the same ship. This cruise is good value for money, especially, if like me, you are in Europe for the first time.
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