We cruised the Mediterranean Legacies itinerary on Celebrity's Summit sailing October 17-30, 2009. With it being our first time in Europe, we were greedy for as many ports of call as possible, and we booked the ship's shore excursions at many of the ports. By the end of the second week, we were exhausted, and WHEN we do this sailing again, will be a bit less adventurous in the ports and may stay on the ship on some of the port days. By the way, we are a couple aged 47 in pretty good physical shape, but 5 extensive port days in a row later, we needed a rest! When we landed after our red-eye from JFK, which offered very little sleep time as we were delayed on the runway for almost two hours and weren't fed until 10 pm by the flustered crew on our Delta flight which had newly installed lie-flat beds (the seating arrangement seemed to give them fits)Anyway, after only 3 hours of sleep, we arrived in the Venice airport with no transfer arrangements since we had used frequent flier points for air travel. The Celebrity people hooked us up with a local taxi, and 50 Euros later, we were at the ship well ahead of the other people on our flight. Embarkation was a breeze, and when we boarded the ship, we went to our cabin first thing and were allowed access, so we did a quick unpack, then off to explore the ship. We had hoped to explore Venice that day/night since we were over-nighting, but were too tired, so we opted to sleep for 4 hours. Smart move- we awoke refreshed and ready to meet our dinner companions, which is always an anxious part of cruising, but we were very lucky. Seated at a table for 8, we met a couple in their mid-fifties from Chicago, and honeymooners 25 and 32 from Toronto. The 4th couple never showed up at the table, and the dynamics between the rest of us were great. We made fast friends, closing down the restaurant most nights (8:45 pm seating). The food was really good on some nights, not so great on others, but I would say overall very enjoyable. Our Sommelier Sheldon was terrific, and our head waiter Hernan and assistant Ishmael were the best we've ever had. Our cabin was nice and roomy compared to most we have had, with a balcony large enough to accommodate a large table, 2 upright chairs and a small table - we enjoyed breakfast most mornings on our balcony - in late October! The best thing I packed for the trip was a cheap hanging shoe bag which I cut to fit the bathroom door and held all of our necessary toiletries nicely. Our friends had one of the cc cabins at the back of the ship with a HUGE balcony, which I will definitely try for the next time I book ( I think it was #7203)- seriously, the balcony was as big as the room! The ship constantly had tastings and workshops and lectures and other activities - plenty to do on board. The shows were pretty good, and there is a disco for the young and young at heart - although we enjoyed Katie Guglielmo in Michael's Club as much as anything. We loved the wine tastings, and especially loved the Riedel Workshop. 2 weeks of constantly going in ports goes by way too quickly, and we hated for the cruise to end. I packed way too much clothing going for the layered thing I thought we would need in October's climate. We had their version of Indian Summer most of the trip, and a few more short sleeve shirts would have been nice! My advice: stick to one basic color, pack for one week and just launder the repeats. Travel packets of laundry detergent will do most of the job, and the ship's laundry service can do the rest... We ended up in Barcelona, and took the Shore Excursion transfer tour which was a great way to hit the Highlights of Barcelona, and they dropped us off at our hotel Casa Fuster which was very nice. We didn't think to bring a European adaptor for our phones/curling iron, but the front desk happily supplied us with one. I need to address 3 ports here as I only have options for six ports below. Venice: Rating: 5+ - We just walked off the ship and rambled around for the day, doing some shopping and sightseeing and cafe stopping. Had a blast! Very beautiful city and one of our faves - 1.50 euros for very nasty public toilets the only downside. Just go to a cafe and sit and enjoy a cappuccino to take advantage of their bathrooms - it is what we did in every port thereafter and had fun people watching. Barcelona: Rating: 4 - They have a hop-on hop-off bus which hits all the major sights and is a very good value. Gaudi architecture is really something to see. Las Ramblas is hopping and vibrant, but we really enjoyed having dinner in the Gothic quarter (and getting lost trying to get to the restaurant). Alfresco tapas at a little place called "Taller de Tapas" was excellent - especially the shaved artichokes and sauteed mushrooms polished off with a very good wine - Yummy! Athens: Rating: 1 - A very large and modern city- not really to our taste. Graffiti and zooming traffic everywhere. We took the ship's tour which took us to The Acropolis exterior, then on to the Plaka for shopping. Was glad to get to see the Acropolis and Plaka, but after a while all the shops seem the same. We found a little restaurant off the beaten path, ordered Gyros (slightly different from what we know here in the states) and good wine.
Nice size cabin - bathroom pretty tight and always hot with the lights. Can't get into the closets easily when the bathroom door is open. Pretty good drawer and closet space. Bed very comfortable. Switched to the memory foam pillows, as I have had neck problems - best my neck has felt in 4 years! The fruit and petits fours nightly were a nice touch, as was the Sparkling Wine. Being able to order nice breakfast in the room was great. Balcony was fine for 2 people - no room to lay out in nicer climates, but we didn't need that for a fall cruise. Pretty quiet part of the ship. Nice proximity to the library. Middle of the ship is great for getting to various places easily. Our Cabin Steward, Kusawara, was excellent. Concierge class definitely worth the extra money.
It was cold and raining sideways in Dubrovnik, and all of the people we met who went to the old walled city were pretty miserable. We got lucky by having signed up for the Dalmation Coastline and Wine tasting Shore Excursion $92 per person. We went to the village of Orasac and watched olive oil being produced in an old mill, where the farmer, his wife, and his 84 year old neighbor showed us how to cold press and hot press the olives, then gave us a wonderful meal of homemade cheese, smoked ham and homemade wine.. We then went to the walled town of Ston for a few minutes of rambling. By this time the rain had subsided for us, and it was still cool, but bearable. We then left for the village of Ponikve to a small winery owned by the Milos family for a wine tasting. My husband and I enjoyed the wine so much that we bought a bottle and 2 glasses, had the vintner open it for us, and enjoyed it on the bus for the rest of the afternoon. (Boy did we get a couple of dirty looks by some of our fellow travelers of an older generation!) The tour finished in the village of Mali Ston at a very quaint and boisterous restaurant with more wine and seafood risotto and pasta. Also one of the best things I had the entire cruise- which was a simple cabbage salad dressed only in olive oil and salt - ummmmmmmmm One of the top shore excursions we bought!
I had been greatly anticipating the shore excursion we bought for Naples. We splurged and paid $345 per person for the "Exclusive Amalfi Coast, Positano, Sorrento and Pompeii" . In a word, WOW. About 12 of us were driven down to Heaven on Earth, Positano, where it is even better than it looks in the pictures I have been collecting for years. What an incredibly quaint and beautiful place. We sat at an outdoor cafe on the beach and had gelato in coffee - sheer decadence. I did not want to leave there. Our next stop was Sorrento, where we were also blown away by the beauty and charm of this seaside village. We had lunch at a very nice hotel right on the water. Very good meal of chicken or fish, huge salad and dessert with free-flowing wine and good company. Met a nice couple from Kauai. I could definitely vacation here. The Italian people are so fashionable and beautiful here - quite friendly too. We ended our tour with a private tour of Pompeii - which was incredible to see and experience. I hated to see this day end, and this tour was worth every single penny. We ran out of room on our cameras!
Day 1 in Rome - We bought the "Renaissance Rome" shore excursion ($110 per person), which started at the famous Spanish Steps, then took us to the Trevi Fountain. When we arrived at the fountain, it was being cleaned, so we had to wait 5 minutes to throw our coins in, then we found a cafe and sat with gelato in hand just watching the hoards of people. Rome is amazing. It is huge, with crazy traffic, but they got it right here in maintaining the Old World charm and beauty that is to be seen in every corner. We walked to the Pantheon, then on to the Piazza Navonna. Beautiful square where we had free time to lunch on our own. We found a pizzeria and had pizza while people watching, then rejoined our group. Final stop was St. Peter's Basilica. The outside is amazing enough, but inside is a truly moving experience. The sheer beauty aside, the magnificence of this place is jaw dropping. The Bernini pulpit is outstanding, and Michelangelo's "Pieta" is gorgeous. We could have stayed much longer than the time we had, but after being walked all over the place, we were pretty tired! The only downside to this tour was the very cramped bus we had to ride the 1 1/2 hours it takes to get into Rome. We are not large people, but thank goodness the bus was not full and we were in the back, so the 2 of us spread out over 4 seats just TRYING to get comfortable.
Day 2 in Rome - We took the private train into Rome which only takes about an hour. Much better way to travel into Rome. Once in Rome, we bought tickets for the hop-on hop-off bus which is a terrific way to get around the city. We rode the entire 2 hour route to just sight-see, then we jumped off to visit the coliseum (which is amazing), then we took the bus up to Vatican City. Our tour guide had told us that in order to avoid the long lines at the Museum, to go at around 12:30 or 1:00pm. We got there at 12:35 and walked right in to the museum, looked at some wonderful art, then breezed on up to the Sistine Chapel. This is magnificent beyond words. If we could only have laid down to stare up, we could have spent hours there...Found a cute trattoria in an alley and had excellent mussels and clam soup and had great fun watching the priests and nuns walking by....hated to see Rome come to an end. We will definitely be back.
Love, love, love Florence! We did this on our own, and just got lost on purpose. This is what we expected Italy to be. Lots of pedestrian areas, very fashionable, but full of Old World charm. A truly beautiful place to be. I only wish we had 2 days here. We hit most of the sights, did some shopping, ate lunch while looking at the copy of The David in a marvelous square, and just thoroughly enjoyed ourselves...We want to live here. :)
The actual port of Villefranche is one of the prettiest ports we have been in, but we didn't get to explore it because we purchased an all-day tour of Nice, Eze, and Monaco($160 per person). We arrived in Nice early in the morning - seems a little run down on the outskirts, but the old section of town is very pretty. We stopped at the Cours Saleya for some free time. The market is very cool, and we sat at an outdoor cafe for a Creme Cafe. After cruising through the market, we were back on the coach headed to Eze. Eze is a vertical medieval village on a craggy cliff. Very strenuous climb, but one of the more beautiful places we have seen, and the views from the top!!! Had a very nice salad nicoise, then chicken with champagne sauce and plenty of wine! Our next stop on this tour was Monaco, which is very beautiful and much larger than we had imagined. And then we ended up in Monte Carlo - we have never seen such a concentration of wealth and beautiful people in our lives. The casino is amazing, but my husband was especially fascinated by the cars parked out front - Rolls Royce, Maserati, Lamborghini, Porsche, Mercedes, to name a few. I thought I would not be able to pull him away long enough to get a cappuccino at the restaurant outside of the casino. I did, and we had 30 minutes to watch the parade of diamonds and Gucci and Prada walking by. Glad we dressed up for this port of call, even though this was probably the most strenuous of all the shore excursions we took. In fact, several of the older people were complaining about the hiking we did. Read the brochures, people, if it says strenuous, then it probably won't be a moderate stroll! Would love to vacation here...