We had a wonderful cruise on the Millennium. There were 4 of us, in our 50's and 60's. This was the longest cruise any of us had ever taken.
We flew Alitalia, as we had heard great things about the airline and the price was right $800.00 from Miami to Milan, Milan to Venice and the return was Barcelona to Milan, Milan to Miami. We booked 10 months before the cruise. Our flight times did not change and we had uneventful flights. They did get our seat assignments mixed up, but were able to fix them for us at the airport. We were there the required 2 hours ahead. No problems at all. We were somewhat disappointed with the airline, as the seats were very close for an international flight and the attendants were not very friendly. The food was better than I have experienced with Delta etc, but airline food none the less. Wine was free with the meals, a nice little plus.
We arrived in Venice around 11am a day before we were to board the ship. I am so glad we gave ourselves that extra day. We stayed at Locanda Orseolo, a hotel we got from these boards. We booked with them 9 months before our trip and requested rooms with windows on the canal.
The airport is several miles from Venice. There are several ways to get out of the airport...by boat or land. You can go by bus to the Piazza Roma, which is kinda like the entrance to Venice...were cars can no longer go. The AVTO bus (blue) is 3 euros per person, including luggage. This bus takes you to Piazza Roma. (We are told there is luggage storage at Piazza Roma, next to Pullman Bar on the ground floor @ 5euro per piece per 24hrs). If you are going directly to the ship, and have not bought their transfers, you can take a land taxi to the ship OR this bus to Piazza Roma and then a land taxi to the ship (probably cheaper but more time intensive). There is a Vaporetto stop at Piazza Roma as well, so if you are going to a hotel, you can pick up one of these...but it would be real difficult to get a lot of luggage on one of the boats, as they are usually VERY crowded. At Piazza Roma, you could also get a private water taxi to your hotel. OR you can go by boat, right from the airport dock to Piazza Roma. Remember that if you take a Vaporetto to a hotel, you will then have to drag your luggage to the hotel, across cobble stones and over bridges. If you want to go by way of the water you must first get from the airport to the airport's dock. Unfortunately, the airport dock is a bit of a walk from the baggage area of the airport, and there is no longer a free bus shuttle from the airport to the dock. They have a walkway that you can take and it's very well marked. It is all flat, cement and easy to pull your luggage along. We were told it takes about 15 minutes to walk to the dock. There you get a boat to the Piazza Roma or a private water taxi to your hotel, if it is on a canal that is accessible.
Upon our arrival we used a water taxi company called Venezia Water Taxi. They were in the baggage area of the airport. They charged the 4 of us 10 euros to drive us and our luggage to the dock, and then 90 euros to take the four of us and all our luggage to the Locanda Orseolo. So the entire transfer from airport to our hotel was about 25 euros per person. It was a blast. It was about a 20 minute boat ride to the first small canal, then into the grand canal, under the Rialto Bridge and finally to a couple smaller canals to our hotel. The boat ride was a wonderful introduction to Venice...in our opinion much more fun than the gondola rides we observed. They were in groups of gondolas, with one singer on ONE of the gondola. The traffic in the canal was brutal...day and night, and not too romantic looking to us! The canals were full of boat traffic...very, very busy.
We arrived at our hotel and went in thru a window, luggage and all. The hotel was wonderful, the owners treated us like family that they were so happy to have visit. They cooked a made to order breakfast for us in the morning and gave us lots of advice about the area. If you stay here, my only suggestion is to have what you need for your hotel stay in ONE suitcase. They will keep the rest for you on the first floor, as there are no elevators. I can't tell you how much we enjoyed watching the action on the street/canal from our windows. The hotel also has a front door to the street and is a very short walk, less than 5 minutes to San Marco Square. Perfect location.
We had made advanced reservations for a tour of the San Marco Church for 4pm, so we had ample time to wander around the area. We walked to a restaurant that the hotel recommended, called Aqua Paza (spelling may be wrong!) I believe it was located in Campo S. Angelo, a rather large square. The food was incredible, 3 of us shared a huge fish...we got to pick it out! We ate outside, in the middle of the square and had a bottle of local wine...excellent! Cost was around 100 euros. We walked back via another way, toward the Accademia...easy to do but make sure you have a good map with you. The streets are well marked, and there are signs pointing to San Marco Square, Rialto Bridge and several other places. So you won't stay lost for too long!
We were back at San Marco Square in time for our reservations to tour the cathedral. These reservations are free and well worth it. We walked right in, past a VERY long line. The church was well worth the visit. At the end there is a small bar/snack bar, right before the gift shop. We stopped there and had a glass of local wine&.excellent! Here is the web site for the free reservations. http://www.alata.it/eng/booking/sanmarco.asp
After the church, we headed for Harry's bar for a Bellini. The place was packed and very small. The prices were outlandish! So we left there and had our Bellini on San Marco Square instead. We figured the price was probably the same, but at least we could people watch and enjoy the scenery. The square is very large, with tables lining both sides of the square. There is usually a live band playing music (mostly American music!!) on one side or the other. We each had a Bellini, while people watching, listening to the music, and writing post cards. Much nicer atmosphere than in Harry's bar! The guys drank the Bellini but hated it, they then ordered 2 Jack Daniels on the rocks...so our final bill for those 6 drinks was 103 euros! Just the 4 Bellini's were 73 euros! Of course, part of it was the service charge for sitting at the tables! It was around 7-8 pm by that time...and we had been up way over 24 hours. We decided that would be our dinner! We went back to the hotel and crashed. Next morning, after a huge breakfast made by the owner of Locanda Orseolo and served by his wife Barbara, we checked out of the hotel (they held our luggage for us).
We headed to the Doges Palace. We had made reservations there as well, for the Secret Itinerary Tour. Our tour was for 9:30. The line was huge when we got there, but we walked past everyone to the door, told them we had reservations for the tour, and we were let right in. Went to an office on the left, where we paid 16 euros each and went in for the tour. The SI tour is very good, we loved it. Took about 1 ½ hours and we were then able to go thru the rest of Doge's Palace, the areas that are open to everyone. We enjoyed it very much.
Got back to the hotel around 1 pm and took the same taxi company to the ship. This time it was 30 euros for the four of us and all our luggage, via the window again! What fun, we enjoyed our second taxi ride as much as the first. Down the Grand Canal, under the Rialto Bridge...great views and another hundred pictures!
The embarkation was simple and quick. We were taken to our rooms while sipping on our champagne. We had aft cabins on the 9th floor. They were perfect. Plenty of storage space, bed was comfortable. This was a CC cabin, so we had champagne in the room, our choice of several kinds of pillows etc. X web site has a list of the amenities of the CC cabins. We met our cabin attendants and I must say they were excellent. Most days, on arriving back on the ship, Mark would run ahead of us and have our 2 doors open for us! Little things, but it made us feel special. We were treated royally. Ice everyday, wine glasses when we needed. We never wanted for a thing.
After a VERY quick look over the ship, checking on our table in the dinning room (which was perfect) and having lunch, we headed back to Venice. We were quit surprised when they asked for 8 euros each for an all day pass to use Celebrity's water shuttle to San Marco Square. It used to be free! We had little choice...so we added $16 to our ship card and off we went. The dock the X shuttle lets you off is to the right of San Marco Square. Looking to the left, when getting off the shuttle is a hotel called Daneli (or something very close to that). Take a moment to walk thru the lobby. It's just beautiful and it has free bathrooms! After getting off the shuttle, we bought a 24 hour Vaporetto pass and took one of the Vaps to the island of Murano. The Murano stop was to the right of the dock that the X shuttle uses...looking at San Marco Square. The stops are all very well marked. Just make sure you get on the Vaporetto that is heading in the right direction. We had a great afternoon. Wandered around for hours, very little crowds, beautiful scenery, bought some Murano glass and stopped at a little bar and shared a bottle of local wine...excellent!
We headed back to San Marco when everything seemed to be closing on the island and avoided stopping for a drink on the square! We headed back to the ship via their shuttle, had dinner around 8:30. This first night was casual night and had open sitting. We went to the show that night, the singers and dancers are really very good. Enjoyed the music...then bed.
Next morning we took the X shuttle back to San Marco Square (another $8 per person!!) and then just started walking. We wandered all over Venice, stopping at a darling little local restaurant. We all had lunch and a bottle of local wine (excellent!) for 29 euros! Everything in Venice is NOT expensive, you just need to get away from the tourist areas. After visiting the Jewish Ghetto area, we grabbed a Vaporetto, using our 24 hour pass, and went back to San Marco Square, again enjoying the ride thru the Grand Canal. We made the last shuttle to the ship!
The sail away was amazing. It is a must see. Being as high as you are on the ship, it was a whole different vision. We were on our aft balcony, but we heard the rail space was very crowded. Dinner at 8:30. Informal night, most men were in sport coats or suits, with and without ties. Ladies all looked very nice.
Next day was Dubrovnik. A beautiful place. We tendered at this port, being dropped off at the dock right in the city. Apparently there were long waiting times to go ashore. We had priority boarding for the tenders (CC cabin) but it did not do us much good. Had a good 45 minute wait. Much complaining. But once we got there it was all forgotten. The place is so different, indescribable. If you want to climb the walls of the city, you must pay in Kuna. When you enter the city from the small port, go to the right. This will take you to their main street, where you will find some ATM's. Then walk back the way you came, as the entrance to the Wall is to the left of the port entrance, up several stairs. It's 50 Kuna per person to climb the walls. It's quite the walk! There are several, very clean bathrooms along the wall, as well as a couple different places for cold drinks and snacks. These are ON THE WALL, no need to climb back down. A stroller would be doable, but you would have to carry it up and down MANY steps. A wheelchair would be impossible.
It was very hot, bring water and wear a hat. The views are lovely. You can go down halfway around if you feel that you cannot continue. I was in sandals the entire trip..I don't own a pair of sneakers or closed toed casual shoes, and I did just fine. But if you have trouble walking or lose your balance easily, good walking shoes would be a must. After we completed the wall, we stopped at a little outside cafe for a bottle of local wine...excellent!
We then did some shopping and wandered around the town. Around 3pm, we decided to have lunch. Found an outside tavern down one of the little alleyways and had a great meal and a bottle of local wine (excellent) for 160,000 kunas! Gasp! Fortunately, they took euros. It was 34 euros. We then headed back to the ship as we left at 5pm. After the beautiful sail away, we enjoyed some time in the T pool and had a snack at the Aqua Spa Cafe. A must try. Every time we wandered down there they had great food choices, no line! Tonight was formal night, so we got all dressed up. We girls wore gowns and our husbands were in tuxes. Had a lovely dinner. Anytime I don't have to cook is a GREAT NIGHT!
Next day was a sea day. We lounged by the pool, enjoyed the music and had a very relaxing day. Dress was informal. I can't tell you what people wore to dinner. I just don't pay that much attention. Everyone seemed to look appropriately dressed in the dining room thru the entire cruise.
We were awake and on the balcony as we sailed in...it was breathtaking. Its pictures just can't do this island any justice. We had breakfast on our balcony and then went in search of the tender. This morning it was much better organized. Very little wait and on to the Island. We took the funicular up, forgoing the donkeys. It was a quick trip up, great view. Cost was 3.5 euros per person.
We wandered around Santorini for a few hours. Everyone was very friendly and helpful. We had planned to take a bus to Oia, but when we got to the bus station, we found that the next bus was in 45 minutes, so we took a cab instead. The taxi stand is right by the bus station. Cost was 20 euros. A lot more than the 1.5 euro bus. But the ride over was really nice, with great views. We arrived and wandered around the town. Very similar to Fira, but much smaller. We had been told about a restaurant at the foot of Oia, down in Ammoudi Bay, so we headed there for lunch. You go down steps similar to what you saw when going up to Fira, but not as long and no donkeys! Just keep asking how to get down to Ammoudi Bay and you will be directed to the right set of steps. We took a leisurely walk down the stairs; again the views were breath taking. Upon arriving at the bay, facing the water, the restaurant is to the left. You need to walk thru a couple other dinning areas to get to it. It's called Dimitris Ammoudi Taverna and has a yellow roof. It's the last restaurant in the row. Owned by Dimitris and his wife Joey. If you go there, make sure you ask to say hi to Joey. Tell her the 2 couples that she met at the taxi stand sent you! Well worth the walk! The food was great and the view was wonderful. We had a bottle of their local wine...excellent! Cost was not cheap, but we felt very reasonable.
After lunch, Joey called us a taxi to take us back to Fira. We took the funicular back down around 3pm (another 3.5 euros), as we had booked a trip on a sailing boat at 4pm. The sailing ship is an exact replica of a schooner. We sailed from the port of Fira (same place the ship tender lets you off) and cruised throughout the Caldera area. From around 4pm to 9pm. We went to the Nea Kameni Volcano, and we walked to the crater's rim. It's a long hike, up hill and it's hot. Took about 45 minutes. We brought water with us, you can also buy water and soda and beer on the sailboat. The guide that takes you up stops frequently for breaks, explaining the history of the area as well as telling different stories about the volcano etc. We enjoyed it, others remained on the sailboat, others walked around on their own.
We got back on the boat and sailed to the HOT Springs, where we swam for an hour or so (the springs are only warm, and the swim to get to them is cool to cold depending on what you're used to!!). Several folks on the sailboat chose to stay onboard and watch the others swim. To swim to the "hot springs" you must be a rather good swimmer...although they do offer life vests for those who want them. After that, we were served a free meal comprised of traditional Greek hor-d'oeuvres and Santorinian wine. We then sailed back to Fira listening to live music while the sun was setting into the sea. A truly wonderful way to end our day in Santorini.
Dress was casual that night, and we did not leave the port till around 11pm. We just ate around the ship that night. Some sushi, pasta, a desert from the spa cafe and ice cream. We enjoyed some local wine we had bought on shore on our balcony as we sailed away. Another perfect day!
We had decided to do Athens on our own. We had all our maps and plans all written down and we were ready to go! We got off the ship and started our walk to the metro/train station. We turned left and followed the port around. And we walked, and walked, and walked. We asked several times for directions, thinking we had passed it up, but no. The directions were correct. Eventually you come to a three way street area and you go to your right. The metro/train station is two stop lights ahead on the right. It was a good 20 minute walk. When we returned, we took the # 843 bus that drops you off right at the port. Would suggest looking for that bus stop when you leave the port instead of walking. Just remember that you want to go towards your left, with the port at your back. Almost everyone in Athens speaks some English, so don't hesitate to ask for directions. Anyway, we made it to the metro/train station. We bought all day tickets for 12 euro per person. When you enter the tracks area, be sure to have your ticket stamped...it's an auto machine that you walk thru. There are two sets of tracks, both pointing in the same direction. I wanted to make sure they both went towards Athens, so I stepped into one train to ask someone what direction it was going and the door closed on me!!! Leaving my husband and friends standing on the platform screaming! Well, that certainly was a oops! To make a very long story short, I prayed that my girlfriend was thinking the same thing I was. We had taught our children if we ever got separated, go to the last place we were all together and STAY there. Sooooooo I hoped and prayed that my girlfriend would stay put, and keep my husband from jumping on the next train after me. I then got off at the next stop, got on the next train going in the opposite direction and went back to Piraeus. There they were, waiting for me on the platform. Needless to say, we NEVER got on a metro/train without making sure we were all together. The doors close very quickly, so beware!
OK...we finally got our hearts started again and headed for Athens. By the way, both trains, on both sides of the platform go towards Athens. So you can hop on either train. This is the green line. You go about 8 stops to the Omonia and get off to transfer to the red line. There are huge metro maps on the walls. Check your next stop, which is Akropoli, and see what is the last stop on that line. I believe it's Panagoulis. That is the direction you want to go. Follow the signs to Panagoulis.
Get on that metro and get off at Akropoli. Again follow the signs to the Acropolis when leaving the metro station. When you leave the station, go to the left, up the hill. It's a very short walk. You will see the ticket booth. The cost is 12 euro per person and includes the Acropolis, Kerameikos cemetery, Temple of Zeus, Roman Agora and the Tower of the Winds, and the Ancient Agora. If you are doing Athens on your own, my advice is to decide ahead of time what you want to see and accomplish. We had a very good map of Athens and used it all day. Plan your day well; be very familiar with the map. And ask questions if you are not sure you are going in the right direction. It can get a bit confusing. We did everything we wanted, except the trip up to Lykavittos Hill. We were just too tired to do any more. Even if you are not using the Metro, if you have time, go down the Syntagma Square Metro station, it's like a mini museum, with all the artifacts they found when digging out for the Metro. Free. We saw: -Everything on the Acropolis, including the museum. Walk to the flag pole, the views are great and it gives you some idea of the layout! There is a very clean, free bathroom near the museum. -The Roman Agora, The Tower of the Winds. There is a fresh water fountain there&.free! We filled up all our water bottles. -Arios Pagos, a small rock or rock hill that St Paul preached from. Great views. -Ancient Agora. We did not walk thru the whole area. You reach it from a walkway to the right of the Ario Pagos. -Mitropoli Cathedral -Syntagma Square...saw the tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the guards -wandered thru the Plaka and had lunch at an outside dinner. We had a lovely bottle of local wine...excellent. Price was 26 euros and they gave us a "shot" of their local brandy free after lunch. -Walked thru the National gardens to the -Olympic Stadium, then walked on past the stadium to -Temple of Zeus and Hadrian's Arch. We were back by the Akrpoli metro station by that time, took it back to Omonia, switched to the green line toward Piraseus. This time we were smart and got the # 843 bus back to the port. The bus stop is across the street from the Metro station, just look for the number 843 on the signs on the poles. Whew, what a great day. We had a ball and saw everything we wanted to, with time to spare. That night was Informal night. We just managed to keep from falling asleep at our table...no shows that night for us!
Just relaxed and enjoyed the Mille that day. Spent some time in the T pool. Went to a lecture on Florence and Rome. That night we dressed up for Formal night. We did some dancing after dinner. Great day.
We docked here, but the port was not too accessible to the city. The ship charged $5 for a shuttle to take you out of the port area. If you had a ship excursion or a private excursion booked, you did not need to pay this. We had booked a private driver/guide for this port. At 8 am he was waiting on the dock with our name on a card. We used Francesco Marrapse -- he was perfect. We first drove thru Sorrento, then spent some time walking around in Positano. Then we enjoyed the drive thru the Amalfii coast, stopping in Ravello for a wonderful lunch on the patio of a restaurant on the top of a mountain. The food was great, very reasonably priced and we enjoyed a bottle of local wine...excellent! We then drove on to Pompeii, where Francesco had arranged a private guide to take us thru. It began raining at this point, but Francesco had umbrellas so off we went. We truly marveled at Pompeii, and felt the private guide was well worth the extra money. Francesco charged the 4 of us 550 with another 35 per person for Pompeii (10 euro per person to get in and 25 euro per person for the private guide.) An audio guide is available for 20 euro. I suggest you do one or the other, or you will not be able to really understand what you are looking at without some help. Another perfect day. Everyone else was saying how tired they were, but we felt we had done a lot in one day, but at a very leisurly pace. We had a casual dinner that night.
The shuttle from the ship out of the port in Rome was $8 per person. We had hired a private guide here as well, so we did not need the use of X's shuttle. Our guide, Carlos, was waiting for us at 7:10 am when we got off the ship. We had emailed back and forth about what we wanted to see. As the Vatican was high on our list, he suggested that if we were willing, we would start out VERY early and do it first. The Vatican Museum closes at 2pm on Saturdays and he felt it would get quite crowded. He also hired a private guide for the Vatican Museum. Her name was Domizia. She had gotten in line at the museum at 7:30am that morning! When we arrived around 8:10, Carlos took us up one of the many hills in Rome for a beautiful view of the city. He then dropped us off with our guide and we joined her in line. She sent us, a couple at a time, to a local bathroom before they opened the museum, as she said the lines in the museum would be really long. We were one of the first to enter the museum when it opened at 8:40. We had an incredible time. The guide was everything we could have asked for. She took us straight to the must sees and explained and educated us as we went along. She has been doing this for 7 yrs, so she knows the guards and we got thru some lines rather quickly!!! We also did the Sistine Chapel and St. Peters with her. She was wonderful. The guided tour was to be 2 ½ hours but she did not leave us till around noon. The place was packed by then. We learned later that Tony Blair was there.
When we returned to the ship, we learned that many of our fellow travelers never got into the Vatican due to the crowds. At around 12:30, Carlos was waiting for us outside in St. Peters Square and whisked us, via back roads and alleys, to other sites in Rome. I have never seen so many people in one place before in my life. Thank God we had Carlos! We entered the Coliseum, St. Peters in Chains Church to see Michelangelo's Moses.....wow! We made stops at the Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon. We saw the Spanish Steps, Circus Maximus, the baths of Caracalla, Piazza Noavoa, and Capitol Hill. We also had time for lunch at a little taverna by the Coliseum and a bottle of local wine...excellent! Carlos was 500 euros and we shared this tour with another couple we met on line. So the 6 of us split that...84 euro per person. The Vatican guide was another 120 euro...20 per person. The entrance to the Vatican museum was 12 euro per person and the Coliseum was 11 euro per person. Another very busy day, but because of Carlos, we were not nearly as exhausted as we thought we would be. Dress code that night was Casual.
Pisa Shuttle service at this port was $8 day. Again, not needed if you have a tour scheduled. We hired a taxi at this port. He was not a guide, just a taxi to take us to Pisa and then Florence and bring us back to the ship. We thought that we could handle Florence on our own as everything is so close. It worked out well for us. We knew what we wanted to see and had bought a very good map. Another couple joined us. The cost of the taxi, at our disposal all day, was 320 euros..about 53 euro per person. Cheaper than the ships "Florence on your own" package that we had considered, and this way we did not have to have the bathroom stops etc that you have when you are with a large group. We used Tuscany by Taxi and were very pleased. He even spoke a little English and gave us a run down of what we were seeing.
We were picked up at 8 am and he took us to Pisa first. We had the entire place to ourselves! We chose not to climb, but took many pictures. The square is really very pretty. I was pleasantly surprised, it was much nicer than I had expected??!! They do have very clean bathrooms for a slight charge...0.20 euros I think. We then were taken to Florence. First to Michelangelo Square for a breathtaking view of the city and a look at our first "David", in the Square (he's one of the fakes). After taking a few hundred pictures, the taxi dropped us off at the Accademia. We had 10:30 am appointment and we literally walked right in. Looking at the door, the line to the right (the really long one) is for people without tickets. The line to the left of the door is for those with reservations. We had called several months ahead for reservations. I strongly suggest you get reservations. You then pay the 15 euros at the door and walk in at your appointment time. If you make your reservations by phone, make sure you have your reservation number with you arrive about 15 minutes before your appointment time. What can I say about David...he is magnificent. The rest of the museum was very enjoyable as well. We spent an hour there. They have free, clean restrooms.
Next, the taxi driver drove us to the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral and dropped us off. We made arrangements for him to pick us up at 4-430 at the Santa Crocein Church. We were in awe of the Cathedral, the Duomo..its gold doors. We had attended a class on Florence on one of the sea days on the ship, so we knew a little about the doors of the Duomo. Since it was Sunday, the Cathedral was closed to the public till 2pm. However, we went to the noon mass. The Cathedral was beautiful, the organ was amazing, the service was very moving...even thou it was in Italian! We thought we might sneak out early, but we stayed to the very end...then wandered a bit thru the magnificent church. Next we headed down Dei Calzaiuloi...most stores were closed (our DH's were very happy about that!).
We stopped at a small outside restaurant down an alley for lunch, had a bottle of local wine...excellent! We had also made reservations for the Uffizi during the same phone call for the Accademia. They have a special door for reservation holders...door #3. Looking down the "U" that is the museum...door # 3 is on the right, the rest of the entrances are on the left. An hour is not enough time to see this museum. It's packed with people, confusing to navigate thru. You need days, maybe weeks to truly experience this museum. The number to make the reservations at the two museums is 011 39 055 294883. You can also get reservations on line, but you have to pay when you make the reservations, so if something happens and you can't make it or the ship's itinerary changes, you lose the money. It's a very cheap call; they will give you 2 separate reservation numbers, one for the Accademia and another for the Uffizi. You go to the museum about 15 minutes or so before your reservation time, WITH THE RESERVATION NUMBERS, pay in euros, and go right in.
We were not too impressed with the Ponte Vecchio Bridge, perhaps because it was shoulder to shoulder people! Prices seemed high at the many jewelry stores that were open. We crossed the bridge and turned to the left, just wandering thu the city. Out last stop was Santa Croce church and it was a real gem. It was 5 euro to enter but well worth it. Lorenzo, Leonardo de Vinci, Galileo, Michelangelo, Dante, Machievelli, to name a few, are all buried there. If you intend to do this city on your own, get reservations ahead of time, study the map and know what you want to see. It is very doable on your own, as everything is close together. I can't speak for shopping...most stores were closed and we were not there to shop anyway!
Tonight was formal/informal night. That's how it was stated in the daily. Needless to say we were tired that night. We enjoyed the sail away from our balcony, then had to get ready for dinner. We were happy to forego the tux and gowns. Our husbands put on their sport coats and we girls wore dresses.
We were looking forward to this port. We had our day planned to the minute, with bus and train schedules. Unfortunately, we woke up to rain. We had breakfast in our room, as it was too cold and damp on the balcony. Around 10-10:30 the rain slowed so we decided to make a go of it with our itinerary completely changed. We had planed on leaving Villefrance, first to Nice, Eze next, returning to the ship so the guys could change into long pants/sport coat. We had planned to spend the evening in Monte Carlo, entering the casino. Since we had such a late start, and it was cool and rainy, the guys wore pants anyway, so we decided that we would try and get to the Casino by 5pm, before jackets and ties were required. We took raincoats, umbrellas and back packs and headed out. The ship tendered here, and again there was some tender issues. We were sent back and forth several times to different areas on the ship...no one seemed to know what was gong on. Eventually we did get tendered into shore.
We knew that the bus station was up a hill, next to the Tourist Information Booth. However, the walk was quit the hike, uphill the whole way. We had no difficulty, but some folks were halfway up and not sure whether to continue or try and get back down. You could follow the winding road up hill, or take a short cut up some stairs. Just keep going up hill, and ask if you are going towards the Tourist Information Booth. There are many places on these boards that discuss the bus and train schedule, and how easy it is to do this port on your own. If you decide to do this area on your own, make sure you have all the schedules, a good map, and are willing to change itineraries as the day goes by.
The town of Villefrance is picturesque. Lots of little shops, restaurants. All built on terraces, on hills. If you're heading for the bus stop, just keep going up hill. We left Villefrance via the # 100 bus to Nice. This stop was on the other side of the street from the TI Booth. We had intended to purchase the all day bus pass, but the bus driver did not have any! So we just paid as we went. Most trips were less than 2-3 euros for the two of us. Wandered around Nice a while...we had a map and we walked from the bus stop to Hotel Negresco and went inside. Just a beautiful hotel...used the bathrooms!
Next we wandered down the Promenade Des Anglais ending up in old town. Lots of shops...very touristy. It was drizzling off and on. No one on the beach. We stopped for some pastry and coffee (no wine, too early, even for us) We did a circle, ending up back at the bus station. Took the # 82 bus to Eze. Again, a very picturesque city&but I thought very touristy and crowded. We did not walk down the Nietzsche Path, as we were afraid the rain had made it too muddy. We waited for the bus from Eze to Monte Carlo for 40 minutes, but it never came. So we took a taxi. We thought he told us 14 euros, but when we got there he said 40 euros...oh well. We paid the 10 euros each to enter the casino. We used our pictured drivers license for ID. Of course our guys were in pants, as we were told no shorts. However, we did see men in shorts in the casino, women in almost anything...capris, skirts, sandals. It was not very crowded and to be honest, I was a little disappointed. It's nothing special. We won around 60 euros and hi-tailed it out of there. After using the bathrooms, of course.
We went back to Villefrance via the # 100 bus. Had a bit of a time finding the bus stop. Asked many folks, but did not find the French quite as helpful as the Italians. There was a huge set of bleachers set up outside the casino, blocking the view of the park and fountain that we were looking for. That's where the bus stop was! Anyway, arrived back in Villefrance and did a little shopping, then back to the ship. Casual night.
It was great having the morning off, as we did not arrive until around 2 pm. We had time to start our packing and have a nice lunch. Another shuttle charge here, $8 for the day. We took our one and only ship excursion to Montserrat and loved it. We left the ship with our group at 3pm (so we did not have to pay the $8 shuttle fee) and drove thru the city...getting a little tour. Then we drove up the mountain towards Montserrat. What a climb. We had some folks on the bus literally sitting on the floor so they did not have to look out! The ride was incredible, beautiful, and a little frightening if you are afraid of heights. The Monastery is unbelievable and the Black Madonna gave me goose bumps. There is a funicular that you can take to go even higher up the mountain if you choose to. We had a guided tour thru the Monastery and then about an hour on our own. There is a restaurant there so we had a bite to eat and shared a local bottle of wine...excellent! We returned another way, so saw some different parts of Barcelona. Altogether, well worth the $40 per person. We got back to the ship around 8pm, just in time for our late seating. Casual that night, as suitcases had to be out by 11pm.
Next morning the disembarkation went very smoothly...at least what I saw. You received a color with your time to disembark, depending on how you filled out the form earlier in the cruise: ie people with early plane flights getting off first. We know that some folks left the ship at 4:45am due to an early flight, but for the most part we all departed between 7 and 9am. Barcelona has a beautiful port. The luggage comes out on a revolving baggage wheel, just like at the airport. We were off the ship by 8am and had our luggage and were out the door by 8:30.
I had made arrangements on line with Angie's taxi service to pick us up. The taxi was waiting for us when we exited. A van, large enough for the 4 of us and all our luggage cost 30 euros. He drove us to Hotel Continental on Los Rambla. The hotel rooms are small, not many amenities. On the good side, the air conditioning works very well, they have a continental type breakfast with free drinks available 24/7, and they are located right at the top of La Rambla, a perfect location. We had a room with a balcony, can't image one without...would feel pretty closed in. It was fine for one night, but I would not want to stay there longer than that. We asked for ice for the 4 of us and were given 4 ice cubes!!! Anyway, one of our rooms was ready, so we put all the luggage in there, had a bite to eat at their 24 hour breakfast bar, grabbed a few free bottles of water and headed out.
After walking the length of La Rambla, we bought tickets for the Bus Turistic...the off/on double decker bus. Cost was 18 euro per person. It worked well for us. We got off and on at all the sites we wanted to see.
The Barcelona Cathedral was beautiful; Sagrada Familia was really weird, but interesting. Park Guell is quite a walk, up hill from the bus stop or metro stop. Not sure it's worth the hike, if you don't like to walk. The bus was very crowded, sometimes full, so you had to wait for the next one, but they did come every 5-10 minutes. You cannot see much from the bottom floor. The top is the best, but can be very hot. At every stop, people on the bottom are able to take any vacant seats on the top level, before they let any new people on. It works well and is very orderly.
The other option is to use the Metro. An all day pass costs about 4 euros per person or a 10 ride pass (can be used by more than one person) is around 6 euros. The only down side to the Metro is that you can't see anything as you travel from place to place. The hotel made reservations for us to see a Flamenco Show. We went to the Tablao Flamenco for a great dinner and show. Cost was $60 per person and we felt it was worth it. The meal was a buffet with lots of Spanish type foods and free local wine...red, white or sangria. You already know that we have not met a local wine we did not like! The next morning I had made arrangements for Angie's taxi to take us to the airport. Cost was 46 euros for the 4 of us and all our luggage. The taxi driver was waiting in the lobby the next morning when we came down to check out. Very reliable.
We thought the Mille was in good shape. We were having a great time and certainly did not look at her chairs, carpet etc., but to us she seemed fine. Our cabin attendants were wonderful, very attentive to our every whim. Everyone was helpful, always a smile on their face.
We had most of our breakfasts in our rooms, on our balconies. Lunches were mostly on shore. Did use the pasta bar, the sushi was great, and we ate several times at the aqua spa cafe. We enjoyed our dinners, but cannot honestly say the food was consistently excellent. We had some very goods meals and some ok meals. But nothing that detracted from the entire cruise experience. Our waiters were very good, and we enjoyed our evenings with them.
We never noticed the infamous odor or black/brown water in the sink.
We enjoyed dancing several nights; saw a couple shows that we thought were entertaining. Unfortunately, I can't comment much further than that. I did hear good things about several of the shows we missed.
Our cabin was aft, on the 9th level. We loved it and would not hesitate to book it again. However, we did hear chairs being dragged overhead some mornings. We never experienced any water pouring down due to them cleaning the floor above. The evenings were lovely, with the music from the floor above drifting down for our listening pleasure. The televisions do not have ANY hook ups. We were not able to view our pictures via a slide show. We asked for a VCR/Disc player, but was told they do not have any. I had purchased a Roadstor (on eBay, really cheap) to copy my pictures from the digital picture card onto a disc. This worked very well. The ship offers this service at $15 per CD. I had also brought some music CDs to listen to thru the Roadstor, but was not able to listen to them as I could not hook the Roadstor to the TV (to use the speakers).
We used the T pool several times, and my black bathing suit is still quite black...did NOT fade.
Choice of clothes for this trip was something I kept reading about. If you get nothing else out of this review, please know that as long as you are dressed appropriately; wear what you are comfortable in and what you look good in. DO NOT stress out on your choice of wardrobe. We saw jeans everywhere, on locals as well as tourists. Capris were very popular, as were longish skirts. Lots of pants on women and shorts on men. Lots of sneakers...even white ones! The man that served us in Venice had on jeans, a t-shirt and white sneakers. He spoke very poor English, but was so very helpful. Did not see the baggy shorts/pants and "wife beaters" that we see so much of here. THANK GOD! The only ladies that were not carrying purses were tourists. That's how they pick us out before we even speak! Having said that, we still were very cautious with our money. We did not carry any valuables, the guys had their money in their front pockets and we girls used a waist pouch I found at AAA. We carried travel bags when we needed additional thing like water, rain gear, maps etc. While on buses and trains/metros we kept them in the front of our body. Never had a bit of trouble. Used the safe on the ship with complete confidence.
We had ordered 2 liquor packages from the Celebrity web site as a gift to ourselves before we left for our trip. They were $55 each (I understand this price has since gone up!). When we arrived in our cabin on the first day, the cabin attendant had a card noting that we had ordered the liquor. He asked us what kind we wanted, we told him Jack and Grey Goose. The package included a liter of booze along with a bag of nuts and a six pack of soda (we asked him for a six pack of water instead). By the time we returned to the ship, the 2 bottles were there, along with the nuts and 2 six packs of water. We also had ice and glasses waiting for us. This was a lot easier than trying to sneak the bottles on board in our luggage. We were able to enjoy a cocktail, some snacks that we ordered thru room service, and the view as we sailed away from each port.
We bought some local wine and never had any trouble bringing it back on the ship. It went thru the metal detectors and we took it to our rooms. No questions asked. We could drink it in our rooms, or take it to dinner with us and pay the $15 corkage fee...that was usually more than we paid for the wine! Do try the local vino, we found it consistently good.
Bathrooms were everywhere. I have no horror stories to tell. Most were very clean and I did not find one hole in the floor. I carried toilet paper but did not need it, not even once. We used them at restaurants, museums, bars, hotels, and there were many public WCss or toilets to be found. Occasionally we had to pay a very small amount, but most of the time they were free.
We brought a couple hundred euros with us, got the rest from ATM's without any difficulty. Just remember to let your bank and credit card companies know that you will be using your ATM card/credit card in Europe, so that they are not suspended due to possible theft or fraud.
I can't thank everyone on this board enough for all the great information, suggestions, and opinions. Our trip went off like clockwork. We had an absolutely wonderful time, and would not have changed a thing!