My family just returned from the June 9, 2007 sailing of the Westerdam in the western Mediterranean. There were a total of nine of us on the cruise--my wife and I, my brother and his wife, my brother's three children (ages 21, 15 and 12), one other niece (age 21) and my mother. Overall, the trip was wonderful. My wife and I had been on six previous cruises (five with Holland America and one with Royal Caribbean) and found the Westerdam to be the most logically laid out ship, particularly given its size.
Pre-cruise: We flew Delta through Atlanta to Rome, arriving the Wednesday before our Saturday embarkation in order to enjoy Rome before the cruise. We booked four rooms at the Hotel Manfredi, a block or so from the Spanish Steps on the Via Margutta. The Manfredi is a small hotel on the third floor of a palazzo in a prime location. Rates included a continental breakfast (very good) and clean, comfortable rooms. We reserved three superior rooms and a junior suite for three in order to accommodate the nine of us as we had read reports that the regular rooms were somewhat cramped. The rooms were nice, well air conditioned and were exactly what we were looking for in the price range. Aside from the terrific, central location, the other benefit to the hotel was the friendly and helpful front desk staff. They were always available to give directions, arrange transportation and provide recommendations for restaurants. Following their recommendations we enjoyed great meals that were also affordable.
While in Rome we visited the Borghese Museum, the Colosseum, Forum, Palatine Hill, the Mouth of Truth, Pantheon, Piazza Navonna and the Trevi Fountain (all on our own). In addition, on Friday we had a private driver reserved from Driverinrome.com, Remo and Daniele Melaragno's company. Remo himself guided us that day. On a previous Mediterranean cruise in 2003 we had used Remo on tours in Livorno and Naples and felt fortunate to experience his unique knowledge and humor in his home town! We had planned to spend the morning in the catacombs, have lunch and then be dropped off for a trip through the Vatican Museum and Saint Peter's in the late afternoon. However, because the Vatican Museum had been closed on Thursday and President Bush was visiting the Pope on Saturday, the lines at the Vatican Museum were astronomical. Sensing our disappointment at missing an opportunity to see the Sistine Chapel, Remo worked his magic during lunch and was able to get us added to an existing tour already scheduled that afternoon. By the time lunch was over we were dropped off outside the Museum and were added to the group without delay. As this was the first time in Europe for my brother and his family, I was so happy they were able to experience the Vatican.