This was our 5th cruise with RCI, the third one sailing from the UK as a group of 3, myself, hubby and teenage daughter. We arrived in Southampton at 9.45am and were guided to park the car right under the front of the ship. Our luggage ... Read More
This was our 5th cruise with RCI, the third one sailing from the UK as a group of 3, myself, hubby and teenage daughter. We arrived in Southampton at 9.45am and were guided to park the car right under the front of the ship. Our luggage was collected immediately, so we had time to visit the shops in the city centre before returning to the terminal. Embarkation was very well organised, and we were called to board as soon as the ship was ready. Disembarkation in Southampton was smooth, with timed departures and luggage was easy to find.
Access to cabins was at 2pm. Our cabin (inside on deck 10) was immaculately clean, and was well maintained throughout our cruise. The furniture and bathroom are starting to show their age and look at bit dated but everything worked, the beds were comfortable and there was sufficient storage space for our clothes etc. We had plenty of fluffy white towels and extra pillows.
We had dinner iat 8.30 pm in the main dining room for 13 out of the 14 nights. Service was excellent, and the meals were always hot, well presented and tasted great. Having read reviews about the quality of the food before sailing I was a little apprehensive, but can honestly say the food was fine. We ate in the Windjammer when we returned from our day in Florence/Pisa but preferred the service of the MDR. Breakfast and lunch was in the Windjammer. As usual, the WJ was very busy at peak times and there are too many tables in the space at the back of the ship, which makes it difficult to move around. We found it easier to sit at a table along the side of the buffet rather than in the main dining area at the back of the ship. There was a good selection of hot and cold meals, and desserts. Wait staff were happy to bring any drinks to the table and cleared tables quickly. Cafe Promenade had a great selection of snacks/pizzas/sandwiches etc each day. Bar service was generally ok. Some bar staff were very pleasant, others less so. The poolside bars were very busy and understaffed at peak times.
Entertainment in the theatre was great, we enjoyed all of the headliner shows and the ice show was excellent. The RC singers, dancers and musicians performing in the theatre were great but the musicians and singers in the bars around the ship were not so good. They were lacking in lots of ways, poor vocals from tired looking performers, following the same RC script - time for a change! We had seen the ventriloquist in 2015 on a different RC ship and his act was exactly the same in 2017. We had also seen the same promenade shows on the Brilliance and Independence (70s dance party and Rock Britannia). Although the cruise compass had a lot of activities listed each day, there were a number of things that were really sales presentations. There were poolside competitions, plenty of open climbing and skating sessions, and quizzes. Empty sunbeds on the pool decks were hard to find, lots of towels on beds but no occupants! We could usually find somewhere quiet to sit as we weren't wanting to sunbathe during the day and our late dinner time meant we could enjoy the evening sunshine when there were fewer people by the pool.
We left Southampton at 4.30pm Saturday, and arrived in Gibraltar at around midday on Tuesday.
Gibraltar was a disappointment. I had prebooked tickets for the cable car and nature reserve, but wasted my money. The ship docked late morning, so by the time we got to the cable car station it was very busy. We queued for about an hour (prebook does not mean fast track, you just don't have to wait in the first long queue to buy your tickets, but still have to wait in the next long queue to get in the cable car) before deciding to abandon our visit or risk missing the ship sail! A taxi from the ship to the top of the rock would have been far better in the limited time we had in port.
After leaving Gibraltar at around 5pm, we had another full day at sea before our next port of call on Thursday. With hindsight I realised that we had spent a lot of the first week of the trip at sea as Gibraltar was only a short afternoon stop.
Villefranche required tender boat tickets which were timed. We were told not to get tickets until we were ready to leave the ship so had breakfast then went to get our tickets. We then had a wait of 1.5 hours before our slot at 11 am. The ticket process did prevent massive queues for the tender boats but meant leaving the ship later than we would have liked. We were happy to wander around the very scenic town, and visited the Citadel, but it would have been tricky to travel independently outside of Villefranche with the limited time window ashore.
Civitavecchia for Rome: We have been to Rome before so knew exactly what we wanted to see and do. I had booked train tickets on the fast train from Civitavecchia to Termini in the UK. We arrived in Rome just before 10am, spent 4 hours visiting the places we wanted to see, and were back in Civitavecchia before 3pm. We took the shuttle bus from the ship to the drop off point, then the public bus (2 euros each per journey) to the station. I think we left the ship at 7.45am for a train at 9.16am and had about 20 mins to wait on the platform for our train.
Livorno: I had booked an excursion to Florence and Pisa with TuscanyBus for 38 euros each. We took the shuttle to the centre of Livorno where we met our guide and driver. The trip was excellent. We had enough time to explore Florence and see the tower in Pisa and were back at the shuttle stop for transfer to the ship at the stated time.
Genoa: Another port with an early sail time (all aboard at 3.30pm), which limited what you could do independently. We walked along to the harbour, took a land train tour of the city (8 euros each) and then visited the aquarium (25 euros each).
Another sea day then
Malaga: We walked from the ship, past the beach, along the waterfront to the shopping area and walked back through the gardens to the port entrance. Malaga was a pleasant stop.
Last stop was Lisbon. The ship docked at around midday so another late start! We enjoyed exploring Lisbon on our own, visited the Castle and had great views of the city. There were lots of people offering trips by taxi or tuk tuk as we left the terminal so plenty of choice.
Overall, we enjoyed our trip and thought it represented good value for money. We will travel with RC again, but would look more carefully at the timings before booking our next trip. This was a long trip (in total we travelled over 6,000 miles) but the route had a lot of time at sea and the ship was crowded in places on those sea days, especially the pool areas. Also, the RC entertainment format for a UK sailing seems to be very much the same, so we are probably ready for a change! Read Less