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Travelling with my parents and children aged 8 & 10, we set off for our first cruise. My parents had booked separately from us so had different flights and did their own transfers (Romecabs - very smooth). We booked air with RCI and had flights with BA from London (very generous on hand luggage allowance - no weight restriction, 2 bags one of which is suit carrier sized, the other being a small rucksack plus 23kg check in luggage). Although there were plenty of RCI staff at the airport, the process of transferring to the coach and in particular waiting for everyone to produce their coach vouchers was a tedious one, and despite landing at the same time as my parents it took an extra hour to get to the port.

Check in at the port seemed very straightforward - small queue for the xray but plenty of check in staff so no queue there. The boys got wristbands as soon as they stepped on. We went for a quick explore of the ship, bumping into my parents. Rooms were quickly available (about 1:30?), and we checked dining rooms etc out.

Pleased with the storage space in our stateroom. Downside of it being a connecting stateroom meant that there was no sofa, just a single chair, so seating was very limited. Our boys were in a PR across the corridor and they had a window seat and a sofa, so more seating! But less drawer space. Balcony was nice enough but probably unnecessary on this trip - too much time in port and it wasn't really warm enough to sit out in the evenings.

Kids: Only about 30 or so primary age kids on this cruise as it was early for most schools, but the boys loved Adventure Ocean. Sessions usually ran 9-12, 2-5 and 7-10 each day but on port days the club opened when the ship docked and stayed open until 5 or "All aboard" whichever was later. Although My family Time dining was advertised for this cruise, it was not available. We went for My Time Dining but in practice the maitre D was trying to get us to eat as early as possible (which in the end suited, but just to warn anyone else - no chance of say getting a 7:45 table each night). Nightly shows were 7:30 and 9:30 which meant that the only way to get in dinner and a show before the kids finished was to eat at 6 and try to get to the 7:30. The AO program seemed good, and both the boys declared this to be their best holiday ever. Even though AO was situated through the video arcade neither boys used more than $10 over the 13 nights. Under 11s are not allowed int he lifts without an adult so we did have to leave dinner to get them to club.

Food: The quality was OK rather than good. Chops and Portofinos were far better quality though our server in Portofinos seemed to want to choose our meal for us, and failed to inform us of the meals which were not available. Service in Main Dining room was great with nice attention to detail.

The Itinerary for this cruise is fantastic - so much to see and do. As it happens my children had an early Easter school holiday, but I wouldn't have had any qualms about taking the out of schools for this one!

The entertainment was good - we saw several of the shows, enjoyed the ice show, love and marriage and the Quest, as well as some of the trivia games.

We'd definitely cruise again, and would probably do so again with RCCL, though would budget for Chops and Portofinos next time.

Port reviews:

Messina Sicily: Via our rollcall we did a tour to Etna and Taormina with Sicily Life. The drive to Etna was voer 2 hours along some fairly windy roads, with a comfort stop at a shop selling honey and olive oil (with loads of samples!) We didn't get right to the top of Etna but there was snow/ice on the ground! Then to Taormina where we stopped for Pizza and then went to see the Greek theatre - fabulously sited with great views. Only thing that I would have preferred to know is that we wouldn't stop for lunch until 2:30 (from an 8am start!)

Ashdod: We were with Moti Barness from Guided Tours Israel. Very entertaining guide he gave us plenty of history on our drive to Jerusalem. We saw the city formt he Mount of Olives and then drove thorough the Judean desert to the Dead Sea stopping to see St George's monastery and fitting in a camel ride. Very weird to float in the Dead Sea! Then back to Jerusalem for a walk through the Old City, including the Wailing Wall, the Via Dolorosa and of course the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Ephesus: Through our rollcall we shared a tour with Hello Ephesus taking in the Basilica, Temple of Artemis, The house of the Virgin Mary, the Museum and The terrace Houses. Our guide was very good. The tour did include a tour of a rug making co-operative including some heavy sell, but they still gave us lunch even though no-one purchased. We missed the terrace houses due to a torrential rainstorm. Although we brought Turkish Lira there seemed to be no problem in using Euros in most places that I saw.

First family cruise - Eastern Med and Holy Land

Mariner of the Seas Cruise Review by Suedonim

Trip Details
  • Sail Date: April 2011
  • Destination: Eastern Mediterranean
  • Cabin Type: Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with Balcony
Travelling with my parents and children aged 8 & 10, we set off for our first cruise. My parents had booked separately from us so had different flights and did their own transfers (Romecabs - very smooth). We booked air with RCI and had flights with BA from London (very generous on hand luggage allowance - no weight restriction, 2 bags one of which is suit carrier sized, the other being a small rucksack plus 23kg check in luggage). Although there were plenty of RCI staff at the airport, the process of transferring to the coach and in particular waiting for everyone to produce their coach vouchers was a tedious one, and despite landing at the same time as my parents it took an extra hour to get to the port.

Check in at the port seemed very straightforward - small queue for the xray but plenty of check in staff so no queue there. The boys got wristbands as soon as they stepped on. We went for a quick explore of the ship, bumping into my parents. Rooms were quickly available (about 1:30?), and we checked dining rooms etc out.

Pleased with the storage space in our stateroom. Downside of it being a connecting stateroom meant that there was no sofa, just a single chair, so seating was very limited. Our boys were in a PR across the corridor and they had a window seat and a sofa, so more seating! But less drawer space. Balcony was nice enough but probably unnecessary on this trip - too much time in port and it wasn't really warm enough to sit out in the evenings.

Kids: Only about 30 or so primary age kids on this cruise as it was early for most schools, but the boys loved Adventure Ocean. Sessions usually ran 9-12, 2-5 and 7-10 each day but on port days the club opened when the ship docked and stayed open until 5 or "All aboard" whichever was later. Although My family Time dining was advertised for this cruise, it was not available. We went for My Time Dining but in practice the maitre D was trying to get us to eat as early as possible (which in the end suited, but just to warn anyone else - no chance of say getting a 7:45 table each night). Nightly shows were 7:30 and 9:30 which meant that the only way to get in dinner and a show before the kids finished was to eat at 6 and try to get to the 7:30. The AO program seemed good, and both the boys declared this to be their best holiday ever. Even though AO was situated through the video arcade neither boys used more than $10 over the 13 nights. Under 11s are not allowed int he lifts without an adult so we did have to leave dinner to get them to club.

Food: The quality was OK rather than good. Chops and Portofinos were far better quality though our server in Portofinos seemed to want to choose our meal for us, and failed to inform us of the meals which were not available. Service in Main Dining room was great with nice attention to detail.

The Itinerary for this cruise is fantastic - so much to see and do. As it happens my children had an early Easter school holiday, but I wouldn't have had any qualms about taking the out of schools for this one!

The entertainment was good - we saw several of the shows, enjoyed the ice show, love and marriage and the Quest, as well as some of the trivia games.

We'd definitely cruise again, and would probably do so again with RCCL, though would budget for Chops and Portofinos next time.

Port reviews:

Messina Sicily: Via our rollcall we did a tour to Etna and Taormina with Sicily Life. The drive to Etna was voer 2 hours along some fairly windy roads, with a comfort stop at a shop selling honey and olive oil (with loads of samples!) We didn't get right to the top of Etna but there was snow/ice on the ground! Then to Taormina where we stopped for Pizza and then went to see the Greek theatre - fabulously sited with great views. Only thing that I would have preferred to know is that we wouldn't stop for lunch until 2:30 (from an 8am start!)

Ashdod: We were with Moti Barness from Guided Tours Israel. Very entertaining guide he gave us plenty of history on our drive to Jerusalem. We saw the city formt he Mount of Olives and then drove thorough the Judean desert to the Dead Sea stopping to see St George's monastery and fitting in a camel ride. Very weird to float in the Dead Sea! Then back to Jerusalem for a walk through the Old City, including the Wailing Wall, the Via Dolorosa and of course the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Ephesus: Through our rollcall we shared a tour with Hello Ephesus taking in the Basilica, Temple of Artemis, The house of the Virgin Mary, the Museum and The terrace Houses. Our guide was very good. The tour did include a tour of a rug making co-operative including some heavy sell, but they still gave us lunch even though no-one purchased. We missed the terrace houses due to a torrential rainstorm. Although we brought Turkish Lira there seemed to be no problem in using Euros in most places that I saw.

Suedonim’s Full Rating Summary
Enrichment Activities
Value For Money
Embarkation
Dining
Public Rooms
Entertainment
Cabin
Fitness & Recreation
Rates
Ages 7 to 9
Ages 10 to 12
Service

Cabin Review

Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with Balcony
Cabin E1 7554
Pleased with the storage space in our stateroom. Downside of it being a connecting stateroom meant that there was no sofa, just a single chair, so seating was very limited.
Deck 8 Inside Cabins, Outside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Athens (Piraeus)
    We DIYed this port. Firstly we had to get through the taxi drivers who were both numerous and very persistant - we had to walk for about 5 minutes before we got rid of the last of them. We walked to the Metro (wishing we had caught the 843 bus!) and took the metro to Syntagma and then caught the Happy Train which stops beside McDonalds for a tour around Athens. The commentary was very brief, but it helped us to find everywhere and we could then use the train as hop on/hop off transport. We then toured the Panatheniac Stadium and the Acropolis, and there were plenty of English-speaking guides available for the latter. The audio guide for the former is also to be recommended. Grabbed a taxi back to the port - 29 Euros though probably higher than expected given eldest son threw up out of the window... Free wifi throughout Athens was a nice bonus!

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  • Crete (Heraklion)
    Got the general impression that there wasn't much special to see nearby, so we treated this as an at sea day and enjoyed the ship being relatively quiet. The local bus company was doing shuttles to the town for 1.50 Euro each way from just outside the ship. The journey took about 30 minutes.

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  • Haifa
    We booked a private tour with Guided Tours Israel covering the main Christian sites in Northern Israel. Good clean vehicle, and our guide was very informative. Topped for a "St Peter's fish" lunch near Capernaum. He also took us to see the view from the top of Mount Carmel over the Baha'i shrine

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  • Naples
    We walked to the train station - not the prettiest of walks, and Naples seems to have a refuse problem. i was going to buy bus tickets from the newsagent across fromt he port entrance, but theere was a queue and i assumed that I would pass another one, which turned out to be a mistake! Again all the taxi drivers at the port were only interested in taking us all the way to Pompeii, but the far fromt he station ont he way back was 8.50 for 4 of us. Train ticket was 4:50 return and we were pleased to find that entrance to Pompeii, Herculaneum and the museum was free all day! We used the audio guides at Pompeii (5 Euro adult, 3:50 Euro child) and these were very good - note that you do have to produce ID as a deposit.

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