We have sailed with Celebrity before and will definitely do so again. We are in our early 60s and are experienced cruisers. We chose this itinerary mostly for the Greek island stops, but we had not been to Naples or Malta either. It was a port-intensive cruise: 10 ports on a 12-day cruise.
Pre-Cruise - We flew Turkish Airlines (very impressive airline) to Venice, having secured a terrific r/t fare. Unfortunately, the layovers each way in Istanbul were long and almost negated the savings. Were we to repeat this trip, we would stay in Istanbul a couple of days. We spent a full day sightseeing in Venice, pre-cruise, staying at the Best Western Hotel Bologna in Mestre, which we highly recommend. We were only a 7-minute, $1.25 train ride into Venice. On Sunday, May 3, we took the high speed train to Rome (3.5 hours) and walked around the historical sites with seemingly millions of others; it was Free Museum Sunday! We stayed at Hotel Italia near Termini (highly recommend), walked and walked, sampled our favorite gelato, had a delicious dinner at Ricci Est Est (near our hotel), and went back to see the sites lit up. The next morning we took the high speed train to Civitavecchia (40 minutes, non-stop) and walked to the port gate to catch the free shuttle to our ship.
Embarkation – We were off the train at 12:40 and in our room, champagne in hand, before 2pm. From the friendly welcome we had until we left the ship, it is easy to say this was the friendliest crew (and officers) we have ever encountered. We were pleased and impressed.
Rome is easy to do on your own. Get a good guide book; we default to Rick Steves. Our day there was Free Sunday, so all sites were, umm, free and massively crowded. I learned later, however, you could still use advanced reservation tickets to skip these lines.
We had a 1pm arrival; be on deck for arrival for this amazing walled city. It is a bit of a walk, but it is an easy walk to the elevator; buy your E1 ticket at the automated kiosk. If you have a late arrival into Malta, get to St. John’s Co-Cathedral before it closes at 4pm. The cathedral offered more to see than we anticipated. If you are waiting in a long line, check to be sure you are not in the Group Line. We were and quickly noticed the Individual Line and walked right up the ticket office. Entry fee (even USA citizens can ask for and receive a senior discount, E4.60) will include a headset; be sure to use it. Also, be sure to go into the room where the only signed Caravaggio is. This room was marked “Museum” when we were there; it isn’t the museum, so be sure to go in. But also do go into the museum for an impressive collection of clerical robes, illuminated manuscripts, and more. We had planned to get the local bus to Mdina before walking around Valletta, but with so much time spent in the cathedral, we sadly had to nix that. I had downloaded a good walking tour of Valletta, so we used that, went back to the ship for dinner, and returned to walk around some more after sunset. Beware! The elevator stops working at 9pm, which we did not know. We got lost looking for it, found a policeman and asked directions, and he then pointed us the way to walk down (it is a significant but not difficult walk) to the ship. We had a bit of a panic there!
we had a 12 hour port stop. We walked from Terminal A to the metro; you can find plenty of helpful directions on CC how to do this. A short way into our walk, we found a bus ticket office fronting the sidewalk and bought all day bus/metro passes for E4 each. The metro is between Gates E6 and E7; watch the gate signs on your left, and also watch to your right. When you see the pedestrian bridge and a yellow building a block down, cross the street, and head to that building. Validate your ticket, and take the first metro that arrives. We downloaded Rick Steves’ walking tour, so we got off Omonia, near Syntagma Square. We wandered the botanical gardens before starting the tour. Steves’ tour includes Syntagma Sq., Ermou St (stop at the McDonald’s for free wifi [we didn’t buy anything but we did pay for the WC downstairs], the Plaka shopping area (try a frappe, Greek iced coffee with foam), Hadrian's Gate and Temple of Zeus, the Acropolis, the Anakofitia neighborhood, Roman Agora, and Hadrian's Library (ruins). Before the Acropolis, we paid E5 each for the Acropolis Museum; it is fantastic, especially the third floor. At the end of the RS tour, we bought cheap, cheap gyros at a stand in Monastiraki Square, wandered the flea market right there, caught the metro back to Piraeus, and walked back to the port and Terminal A.
Santorini – we had an 11-hour port stop here, unfortunately leaving before sunset, but still a terrific amount of time. We took the cable car up (now E5), hiked the six miles to Oia along the caldera rim (a repeat hike for us, just amazing), and walked all around Oia and out to the turret viewpoint. Had we not just hiked for 3 hours, we would have taken the 200 steps down to the Amoudi port and beach, but we just gazed at it from the overlook. We took the E1.60 bus back to Fira. Allow plenty of time to get back to Fira if you’re going back by bus, as it only comes twice an hour, and the lines will be long. The driver does, however, let people ride standing in the aisles. While your travel companion is waiting, walk two blocks down the street to a small bakery. The owner is Greek, but you can pantomime what you want, and what you want is a selection of baklava in the glass case by the front window. It is amazing! She’s had this shop at least 6 years. Once back in Fira, we walked the town, shopped some, bought a frappe, and walked down the donkey trail. This was not as fraught with “danger” as some CC posts will lead you to believe. No donkeys approached us, and steps were not filthy.
We had downloaded a walking tour of Old Mykonos. Whether you do that or not, conduct a little research to find out some history of the Crusades and the Knights of St. John. We paid the entry fee for the Palace of the Grand Masters (€6) but not the Hospital (€6 & we didn't see a combo ticket). We asked at the Palace to pay the entry fee for walking the walls but, sadly, they were not open yet. We wandered the Turkish section of Rhodes as well as the back streets; this was just delightful! After a quick lunch on the ship, we entered Rhodes by a different gate – go to the left as you head toward the walls. On this “back side,” we found a charming café with E1.50 frappe, E2 wine, and free wifi! We then wandered more back streets, shopped, found an entry to the moat, and walked it halfway around the entire town. This offered a striking view of the walls, from the outside.
We had our first inclement weather of the cruise here; it was very cool and extremely windy! The ship offered a shuttle into Mykonos Town ($10 all-day pass), but we took the E2 water taxi (right by the ship, bus stop, and shuttle bus) with the advantage of being let off right in town vs. at the bus station. We walked to the ticket office on this dock to buy 9am tickets to Delos, but evidently, the ship had booked that entire ferry. So we bought E18 tickets for the 10am ferry and wandered the town. Not much was open yet, so we headed toward the bus depot in hopes of wifi somewhere – no luck. The ferry takes 20 minutes, and it’s too bad the ferry office doesn’t sell the E5 Delos entry, for once there, we stood in a very long line. We did not see any tour guides for hire, but many guide books have a do-it-yourself walking tours. We wandered the ruins and museum for 1.5 hours. If you’re feeling up to it, climb the “sacred” hill for amazing views. We took the ferry back, which now took 30 minutes, for the seas were quite choppy (I even wondered what would happen had the winds really kicked up the waves and the ferry couldn’t go back to Mykonos – glad we didn’t have to find out ). With everything now open, we wandered the charmingly narrow and windy streets, shopping and seeing the famous church, the windmills, and Little Venice. If you enjoy walking, you can continue around past Little Venice and eventually get to the beaches. Had it not been so cold and windy, we would have done this. We took the water taxi back to ship.
– be on deck for sail in, and you won’t have to pay to go atop the Campanile or St. Mark’s Basilica, for you will have already had the best view around!! We arrived at 2pm in light rain, got off to buy tickets for the People Mover (but it had sold out??!!), so we followed others and walked into Piazzale Roma. We then discovered why the People Mover wasn’t working: transportation employees were on strike, so no buses or vaporettos were running. You can get tons of information on CC and Trip Advisor as well as excellent guidebooks (I default to Rick Steves) about what to see in Venice. We made the most of our one day pre-cruise and the day and a half (we overnighted in Venice on the ship) at the end of our cruise with walks, museums, a Grand Canal cruise on Vaporetto #1 (download Rick Steves!), and trips to Murano and Burano. Venice will charm you, unless you get annoyingly lost which seemed charming at first and then grew not-so-charming!