The following document is a short outline of our experiences on our European Cruise and what we learned.
Date: 05 and 06 October (Monday and Tuesday)
We flew direct from Detroit to Rome.
Flying direct is more convenient than changing planes. However, if you have the option, it is easier if you land in Europe later in the day. We landed in Rome at about 9:00 AM. We got to our hotel in Rome around noon. Our rooms were not ready, so we did not have the opportunity to freshen up. We have learned that the best way to defeat jet lag is to have a small meal and go for a walk. You do not want to sleep until later in the day.
We had contacted the hotel and asked them to arrange for a van to take us from the airport to the hotel. Using a taxi will save time and minimize moving luggage. If you are traveling with another couple, you will also save a little money. The hotel told us that the taxi driver would meet us at the "Meeting Point" in the airport. I Googled "Meeting Point" and pictures and descriptions of a building column popped up. When we got off the airplane and got our luggage, we walked into the main airport and there was the "Meeting Point" building column with taxi drivers standing around it, all holding signs with customers names on them. We met our taxi driver and he drove us to our hotel in Rome.
We stayed at the Hotel Modigliani in Rome. It is located on a quiet street and is close to a subway station and restaurants. The hotel is clean and we would highly recommend it. They have a restaurant that serves good meals in the daytime. The restaurant menu does not have many selections. The cook makes what is available. However, if you want a meal at night, we think the night clerk reheats the daily special in a microwave. The hotel also had a very nice breakfast buffet with pastries that were very tasty.
Date: 07 October (Wednesday)
We went on a guided tour of the Vatican Museum and St. Peters Basilica.
We arranged for a guided tour with Carla Zaia. She told us before we left for Italy that we should purchase our tickets for the Vatican Museum on the web site. We purchased the tickets from the Vatican web site without any problems. We also confirmed our reservation with her the day we left for Italy.
Carla told us that we should meet her at a cafe that was across the street from the Vatican Museum entrance. Because our tour was scheduled to start at 1:00 PM, we decided that we should eat a light lunch before meeting Carla. I did some investigation of the cafe, and discovered that the only good thing that visitors said was that the air conditioning worked good. Food, service and prices were very bad.
We decided that we would find a restaurant a few blocks away from the Vatican, hoping that we would not get gouged too badly. We found a restaurant that was OK (we just ordered Panini's) and somewhat reasonably priced considering the location. (I think it was Giuly's Café)
When we left the restaurant, it started raining hard. We did not have umbrellas and purchased plastic rain suits from a vendor. Carla sent us an E Mail and asked if we would meet her inside the Vatican Museum. When we got to the museum, the lines to purchase tickets were very long. I was glad that we had tickets and would not have to wait in the long lines. Inside the museum, the crowd was huge. We played phone tag with Carla, she found us and we proceeded on our tour.
We went on our tour of the Vatican Museum and St Peters with Carla. She is an excellent guide and we would recommend her to anyone who wants a guide. I don't know how we would have learned about the history of the Vatican and St. Peters without her. Her tour was from 1:30 PM to 4:30 PM.
When we left the Vatican, the women wanted to sit down and have a cold drink. This is when we really screwed up and did not take our time investigating a restaurant. We went into a restaurant, sat down and told the waiter that we just wanted a few drinks and snacks. After getting two smoothies, two wine aperitifs, a bottle of water and a few trays of chips and pretzels, we almost had a heart attack when we got the bill. It came to almost 80 Euros! Again, the customer should beware. We should have done some homework. And unfortunately, I don't remember the name of this restaurant.
Date: 08 October (Thursday)
We traveled to our cruise ship, the RCL ship "Allure of the Seas".
We had arranged for a taxi van to take us to our cruise ship that was going to be docked in Civitavecchia. We left Rome around 1:00 PM and got to the cruise ship around 3:00 PM. I was glad that we had arranged for a taxi. The driver knew where the ship was docked. RCL did not provide any information about where their facilities are located in Civitavecchia, Italy. There are port authority buses, but I did not see any bus stops.
Checking into the cruise ship was very easy. There were not many people checking in, It was not crowded and everything went smoothly.
Date: 09 October (Friday)
We arrived in Naples and went on an excursion to the Amalfi Coast and Pompeii.
We had decided to use an independent local company to show us the Amalfi Coast and Pompeii. We looked at the various RCL excursions, but decided they did not offer us enough information about what was included.
I wanted to see the Amalfi Coast, and had read that tour buses are not allowed on many of the roads because the roads are very narrow. And there were negative reviews on "Cruise Critic" about the RCL shore excursions.
We contacted "Monetti Taxi 17" to take us on an excursion. Their prices were slightly cheaper than RCL excursions because we had four people going. They told us that their driver would meet us at the passenger pier and that he would have a sign with our names on it. I was worried because I could not find any information about the passenger pier in Naples from RCL. Their driver met us at the pier. He had a sign with our names on it. We had no problem finding him. The driver had a newer Mercedes van that was in good shape and had a good a/c system.
The driver took us to the Amalfi Coast. The scenery along the roads on the Amalfi coast is spectacular. The driver took us to Positano for a bathroom and shopping break.
After the shopping break, our driver made a reservation for us at a restaurant in Ravello. The view from this restaurant was fantastic. It was overlooking the Mediterranean and the town of Minori. And the meal was excellent. We had mozzarella cheese from Paestum, which, according to our driver, is supposed to make the best mozzarella in Italy. A warning to travelers. If you are in Italy and having a meal in a restaurant that is located next to an ocean, expect fish on the menu. There are generally not many other meal options.
After lunch, we went to Pompeii and spent a few hours walking thru the ruins.
Date: 10 October (Saturday)
We had a day at sea while we traveled from Naples to Barcelona. The weather started out being overcast and cold. Later in the day, the wind picked up to over 50 MPH. The captain told guests that he would not allow anyone to be outside. The ship has excellent stabilizers. You did not know that the seas were rough.
Date: 11 October (Sunday)
We arrived in Barcelona and went on a Gaudi tour.
We had decided to use a independent local company to show us the Famalia Segrada and an example of the architect, Antoni Gaudís work. We looked at the various RCL excursions, but decided they did not offer us enough information about what was included. I wanted to see the inside of the Famalia Segrada and the RCL excursions did not offer that.
We made a reservation with "Barcelona Guide Bureau" to take us on their "Gaudi Tour". We had to meet the tour bus at the Plaça Catalunya, in front of Deutsche Bank & Hotel Olivia Plaza, at 9:00 AM. I was not comfortable with making this reservation, because I could not figure out the timing and how to get to the Plaça Catalunya. I knew that the cruise ship was supposed to dock at 5:00 AM, and that generally it takes about 30 minutes to get the passenger gangways set up.
I looked on the map, and figured out that it would take about 20 minutes to get from the cruise ship to the Plaça Catalunya. So, in theory, if we could get a cab, we would have no problem.
We arranged for a wakeup call and room service for breakfast. We got off the ship at 7:00 AM, walked thru the excellent port facilities and quickly found a cab. Since it was Sunday, there was no traffic and our cab dropped us off at Plaça Catalunya at around 8:00 AM.
At about 8:45 AM, the Barcelona Guide Bureau bus pulled up. We gave Laura, the tour guide, our tickets. She gave us headsets and we got on the bus. The bus took us down the Passeig de Gràcia where we looked at some examples of Gaudís architecture. We then stopped at Passeig de Gràcia, were we went on a guided tour of this house. Our tour guide showed us many of the features and details of the house. After the tour, we got back on the bus and went for a short ride to the Famalia Segrada. We got off the bus and our tour guide gave us our entrance tickets. As we walked to the church, our guide explained to us many of the architectural details in the exterior of the church. Once we got inside, we were almost speechless. The inside of the Famalia Segrada has to be seen in person.
After we left the Famalia Segrada, we took the tour bus back to the Plaça Catalunya. The Plaça Catalunya is at the end of the Ramblas, the main tourist and shopping street in Barcelona. Before we got off the bus, our tour guide told us that half of the people on the Ramblas are tourists and that the other half are pickpockets!
We decided to stop and get some lunch. We decided to stop at the Restaurante Nuria. We made a mistake when we ordered food. This was a typical problem we have in Europe, because we don't know if you are going to get a small portion or a large portion of food. At Restaurante Nuria, we received large portions of food. And the quality was good.
After we left the restaurant, we walked down the Ramblas. Our wives bought souvenirs from street vendors. When we got about halfway down the Ramblas, we found a cab and had it take us back to our cruise ship.
Date: 12 October (Monday)
We arrived in La Palma, Majorca and took a port bus to downtown La Palma.
Today we decided to sleep in and just take it easy. We took the port authority bus from our cruise ship to La Palma. I think the cost was 3.50 Euros. We walked around La Palma for a few hours and my wife did some souvenir shopping. We then took a Port Authority bus back to the ship. La Palma is a resort town and I wish we had taken the opportunity to look around more.
Date: 13 October (Tuesday)
We arrived in Marseille, France and went on a shore excursion to Cassis, France.
We had decided to take the RCL excursion to Cassis. I had read that Cassis was a small resort and fishing village a few mile from Marseille.
The RCL excursion information sounded like your basic excursion. The description was meet your group and tour director, take a tour bus to the destination, walk around on your own for a few hours and take the bus back to the ship.
We got on the bus that took us through the old harbor part of Marseille and then on to Cap Canaille. Our RCL tour director gave us an interesting narrative about Marseille and southern France. When we got to Cap Canaille, we got off the bus and walked to the edge of a very high cliff that overlooked the harbor outside of Cassis. The seeing it was fantastic. I read that the vertical drop is around 1200 feet. I would recommend it to anyone that is going to Cassis.
After we left Cap Canaille, we took the bus to Cassis. Because of the narrow roads, the bus had to drop us off a few blocks from the center of town. The RCL tour guide was very helpful. She told us about where to shop and eat. She also told us not to use the town's public restroom. Using the recommendation from our guide book, we walked down to the Hotel Le Golfe, a local hotel and restaurant, had a couple of cups of coffee and used their restroom. We then walked down some side streets and along the town marina.
We then decided that we should stop and eat some lunch. We decided to stop at Café de France where we had a light lunch. I had the "Blue Plate Special" and was happy with the meal. I don't remember any negative comments from my traveling companions, so the restaurant must have been ok.
We left the restaurant and our wives bought souvenirs. I walked into a wine and cheese shop, and could not figure out what to buy. I bought a bottle of wine and did not purchase any cheese. I was told later that RCL probably would not let me take any cheese back onto the ship. We returned to our tour bus and were taken back to our cruise ship.
During the trip back to our cruise ship, we talked to other people that went on the excursion. These people had taken a short boat ride to the calanques. Calanques resemble a fjord. These people really liked the boat ride and scenery. They said the boat ride took about an hour and cost 50 euro each.
We all thought that RCL had provided a great shore excursion. If I had any criticism, they just did not tell customers what to expect. With some additional pictures, RCL could sell this excursion.
Date: 14 October (Wednesday)
We arrived in La Spezia and went on a shore excursion to Florence and Pisa or visited the Cinque Terre.
We decide to take an independent tour of the Cinque Terre and our friends decided to take a RCL tour of Naples and Pisa.
We had decided to use an independent local company to show us the towns of the Cinque Terre. We looked at the various RCL excursions, but decided they did not offer us enough information about what was included.
I wanted to see the Cinque Terre, and had read that tour buses are not allowed on many of the roads because the roads are very narrow. And there were negative reviews on "Cruise Critic" about the RCL shore excursions.
We contacted "Cinque Terre Tours" to take us on an excursion. Their prices were more expensive than RCL excursions because we only had two people going. They told us that their driver would meet us at the passenger pier and that he would have a sign with our names on it. I was worried because I could not find any information about the passenger pier in La Spezia from RCL. When we got to La Spezia, we were told that we had to ride a port authority bus to get to the passenger pier. Cristian, out driver met us at the pier. He had a sign with our names on it. Because of the large crowds of people, we did have a problem finding him. Cristian had a older Mercedes van (2006) that was in good shape and had a good a/c system.
Cristian took us to Portoverne, Vernazza and Corniglia. The scenery along the roads of the Cinque Terre is spectacular. Cristian stopped at several places so that we could look at various sites and take pictures. He made a reservation for us at the Gambero Rosso, a restaurant in Vernazza. The view from the restaurant was overlooking the harbor and was the best seat in the facility And the meal was excellent. We had the local pasta and prawns.
Our friends wanted to see Florence and Pisa. They went on a RCL excursion that stopped in Florence for sightseeing, lunch and then stopped in Pisa. They enjoyed the excursion and would recommend it. Lunch was in a very ornate dining room and the food was good.
Date: 15 October (Thursday)
We arrived in Rome and took the train to Venice or visited Rome.
We had purchased train tickets before we left on our trip. The train was scheduled to leave Rome at 1:00 PM. We wanted to leave our ship and meet a taxi at 9:00 AM. We arranged with RCL to leave the ship and get our luggage at 8:30 AM. We left the ship, got our luggage and immediately walked into a huge crowd. The crowd was looking for shore excursion buses, port transport buses or independent transportation vendors. There was absolutely no organization to it. I don't know who was in charge. RCL just kept dumping passengers off into the mess. We had a real difficult time trying to find our taxi driver because to the confusion. Fortunately, we met our taxi driver and he drove us to Rome.
Cabin was good. We had no real complaints. Cabin steward did a great job. We gave him an extra tip.
We arrived at the ship around 3:00 PM. There were no crowds. Everything went very smoothly. Only complaint is that RCL does not provide good information about the location of their dock.
I described this experience with our cruise review.
I described this experience with our cruise review.View All 37 Cassis Walking Tour Reviews
I described this experience with our cruise review.
I described this experience with our cruise review.View All undefined undefined Reviews
I described this experience with our cruise review.View All undefined undefined Reviews