Our group was 6 adults staying in 3 adjacent rooms: me (34 years old), my wife (31), her sister (36), our friend (31), and my in-laws (58, 59). Our two-week vacation to Italy involved this cruise in the early portion of the trip. For convenience, the cruise ship review will appear first, followed by our Italy tour information for those planning to stay there longer that just the cruise trip. The Cruise's ports of call descriptions are separate per the format of this site. We arrived in Rome on Saturday morning (red-eye flight), stayed one day, and headed to the port on Sunday. After the cruise returned to Civitavecchia the following Sunday, we toured Italy until the following Sunday and then returned to the US.
The Navigator of the Seas was a very nice ship. The room (Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with Balcony) was nice; plenty of room for the two of us. We were on the Starboard side which I recommend for the best views of the ports of call.
Messina, Sicily (Italy)
We selected the "Sicilian Nature: Fire & Water - MY28" tour from RCCL. It was purely a nature-driven excursion with a trip to an active volcano, Mt. Etna (which had erupted 3 days prior to our arrival no less) and a trip to a nature center with access to a clear river canyon.
RCCL's description online is good so I won't go on about that. I will say that I probably would recommend the Tourmina and Mt. Etna trip over this one. Don't miss Mt. Etna for sure though. There are very few places in the world to get this close to an active volcano and this is one. The other portion of the trip did show us a beautiful rock formations carved by the local river. BUT, from what I heard back on the boat, the Tourmina portion was outstanding. Should have picked that one. Oh well.
Lastly, be prepared as the trip to Mt. Etna is long and our tour guide was not very entertaining... = sleep.
This was our favorite stop of the cruise. We hired a private tour prior to leaving the US. He was AWESOME and his information is below:
Nikos Loukas, the owner, was also our personal guide/driver. His English is near perfect, he's entertaining and completely knowledgeable about the area as he grew up there. He responds quickly via email and book him ASAP as his tours can fill up fast. The URL above should take you directly to his 1-day shore excursion tour plan; if not, find it on his site. He will take your group wherever you want to go, however, we trusted his plan as described online and
wouldn't change a thing. Again, we were a group of 6 adults so his cost was just about even with the cost of RCCL tours, plus, we were not in a group with 20-30 other people. You will be much happier taking a private tour in Athens than anything RCCL offers.
This was our least favorite port of call. We took the RCCL Tour "Ultimate Ephesus - KD78". I would recommend this tour as the history involved is really interesting. The tour is described in detail on RCCL's site and is accurate. Particularly, the house tours are incredible. The final part of the excursion (as well as just about every excursion at this stop) is the Turkish rug demonstration. This is the worst part of any tour unless you are actually interested in getting a rug. And when the rugs start at $2,000 for a 6x10 foot rug, I'll pass. Yes, the quality is second to none, but like pretty much ALL the other cruisers in the room with our group, we weren't interested in buying. The Turks LOVE to haggle, it's pretty much expected. But, they are relentless and you will have to fight your way out of the store. BTW, RCCL uses the same store/company for all their tours. If you are interested in a rug, at least you can trust the place. Their prices did not seem to be higher than other shops.
After the tour ended, we had 2-3 hrs before having to return to the ship. The shops are at the port, so you pretty much have that whole amount of time. We ate lunch at a local restaurant which was exceptional. All local food is the way to really experience the country.
Chania, Crete, Greece
This was a short stop but really nice port of call (although the actual port is pretty industrial and not picturesque). We did the RCCL tour "Taste of Crete - IQ07". The best part of this tour was the winery stop. A family-run place with really good fruit wines and homemade olive oil like no other. Highly recommended. Tour guide here was probably the best of those hired through RCCL.