Now that I'm back home I can describe this as a comedy of errors, but at the time it felt like an utter fiasco. Our adventures begin at the Port of Barcelona, which really was about the worst port experience imaginable. We were met at the airport by delightful (truly, they were cool) representatives of Royal Caribbean (RCI) who conveyed us to the port. From there, God help us.
We were supposed to board at Teminal C. Without us or our driver realizing it, terminal C had been closed (no explanation) and so we were brought back to terminal B. Getting off the bus we noticed our bags were still under the (open) bus compartment. My husband mentioned this to the driver who assured us that our bags would be put on the boat for us. This conversation actually happened twice as my husband was dubious. Turns out he was right. We met our bags again three days later in Marseilles. Then the security agent dumps (literally dumps) out the tray containing my son's cell phone, and almost crashes it to the floor in her carelessness. Finally, because terminal C was closed, our boarding took almost an hour from the time we reached the desk because nobody could manage to print, create, or find our sea pass cards. When we got them two of the six were not properly magnetized.
And as I said, we found later that night, quite underway on our trip, that we had NONE of our family's bags. We're a family of five, including two teen boys and a nine year old. We were given four tee shirts, a handful of toothbrushes and told if we needed more to ask. When we went back to attempt to procure contact lens cases and solution, we were told that money would be deposited (which turned out to be $200 for the loss of three bags and to take care of FIVE PEOPLE) in our onboard account only after our bags had been gone for 24 hours. We had a cruddy first night on board. Eventually, after a very long encounter with Guest Services, we managed to procure contact lens solution, a case, and some excuse for something for me to sleep in. The next day I spent the entire $200 deposited in our account in the overpriced specialty shops for something to wear to fancy dinner (although they did loan me a skirt, which turned out to be a nice one) and the guys were given tuxedoes from the rental place. At least I have awesome pictures of my men in tuxes. Nothing could be offered for the nine year old, so he wore shorts to fancy dinner. They also washed whatever laundry we could manage to scrape together out of what we had in our carry on bags.
However, we almost didn't make it to fancy dinner because the laundry was late being delivered back to us, despite being told it would be delivered by 5:00 "at the latest." The laundry contained some rather essential items, like the nine year old's shorts.
I don't want to just complain, so let me tell you some things that went right (aside from getting pictures of my boys in tuxes.) The ship is HUGE and has a lovely central park area for quiet walks or café style dining. My youngest took a super cup-cake decorating class on board. The food was unfailingly delicious (though for a cruise ship menu it was somewhat uninspired) and the staff was (with a few exceptions in the luggage negotiation department) unfailingly helpful and friendly.
If you shop (I don't but one member of our party does) the shopping was lacking. This was my third RCI cruise and the first that I didn't thoroughly enjoy, but on the whole it was a typical RCI experience. Many attempts to separate you from a dollar/Euro, but mostly those can be avoided if you are watching money. If you like RCI and can keep your bags about you, then you likely will enjoy the cruise.
Adventures continued on our return to the Port of Barcelona. We had a debarkation tour to Monteserrat that was cancelled without notifying us. We *think* we were put on the city tour instead, again without consultation, and that was kind of fine by us. We had hoped for the city tour (cheaper!) but had been told it was full. Unfortunately, the city tour left earlier than our meeting time for the tour we thought we were taking, so we just happened to stumble into the right place (yes, we had also been assigned a different meeting place for our tour) at a few minutes past when the previous tour left (thanks to directions from some helpful crew members who talk to one another on walkie-talkies to keep folks moving along in the right direction). More walkie-talkies and they held the bus, and we debarked quickly since we had our luggage with us, no longer trusting the cruise line with our bags. Sorry to all the fellow travelers who were held up by our late appearance; they must think we're slackers.
Excursions (the good, the bad and the ugly):
We took the Palma City Sites tour and it was awful. Guide did not speak English well and often made little sense. We were told (ON OUR TICKETS) to dress in a way that we could have access to the religious sites, but were not allowed to go into any sites on our tour except the bull ring (which is surprisingly cool).
Part of our party took the Palma Beach transfer and loved it. Great beach, a little city tour on the way.
We took the Luberon and Lavender tour and loved that. Great guide, beautiful scenery and not too crowded during high season. Lavender part of the tour is clearly meant to encourage spending money, but the products were quality, so I did buy a little.
Part of our party took the Aix-En-Province tour and it was the highlight of her trip. Another great tour.
Panoramic Pisa was a great tour including the town as well as the tower. The guide was a stitch, seemed at first like he was on dope but warmed up once we got close to the tower and led a solid tour.
Part of our party took the Tuscan Wine Tasting tour and hated it. The farmhouse where the wine tasting was done was dirty and the guide was not very helpful. Huge disappointment.
All of us took the Imperial Rome tour, which was incredible, even though the heat was brutal. However, this tour was labeled strenuous and for once they weren't joking. My husband is a master instructor in taekwondo and he was complaining about how rough it was. Very hot and a lot of walking. Sites were amazing though. Trevi fountain was too crowded to be enjoyable but the rest was awesome.
Naples, the port city itself, was filthy and nobody felt safe there. Don't go ashore on your own, not worth it. We took the Sorrento and Pompeii tour with a cheese making demonstration at a charming farm house. Loved the farmhouse and Pompeii (despite another long trudge through excessive heat, but not as long as Rome) but Sorrento was not much to see. If you are into woodworking, though, Sorrento is very cool. Several sales pitches on this tour made us feel like marketing targets.
Standard cruise ship cabin. We had two adjoining. Very nice for our family.
A nice little bus ride around the city. Good guide. A few stops. Some walking to see the Gothic Cathedral. We were staying one night in Barcelona (a fantastic city and very tourist-friendly) and this was a fine orientation to the city.View All 284 City Tour Reviews
Oh gosh I wish I had done anything else with my time in Palma. I will never get that day back.View All 77 City Tour Reviews
Lovely scenery. Great guide. Prepare to walk a bit, but worth it. Don't forget your camera.View All undefined undefined Reviews
Panoramic Pisa. Good guide, great sites. Would do again.View All 141 Leaning Tower of Pisa Reviews
All of Rome and the Vatican in a day. Very fast paced and hard to absorb but incredible tour. Brutal heat and lots of walking. Not for the faint of heart, short of leg (kids), or less than perfectly fit! They really mean strenuous here!View All undefined undefined Reviews
Pompeii was strenuous in the heat of the day but worth it. Our guide was amazing. Not nearly as crowded as I had expected.View All 505 Pompeii Walking Tour Reviews
Sorrento is not much to see. If I had it to do again I would have chosen another excursion. Our guide was amazing.View All 165 Sorrento Reviews