|# of Nights:||11-14 Nights|
This trip included two adults celebrating our 50th birthdays, our 18 year old son celebrating his high school graduation, his girlfriend who also just graduated high school, and our pre-teen daughter. Our itinerary made port stops at: Cannes, Livorno (near Pisa and Florence), Citavecchia (Rome), Piraeus (Athens), Kusadasi (Ephesus), Santorini, and Salerno (near Naples.) We booked adjoining staterooms with balconies. We put the girls in one room and kept my son in our room, where we could keep an eye on him.
Here are some of the positive and not so positive impressions of our trip:
++ BARCELONA: We flew to Barcelona two-days early to adjust to the 8-hour time difference and also see some of Barcelona. The conclusion was unanimous: Everyone loved Barcelona! It was so easy to get around, the prices were very inexpensive, the people were friendly, the weather was perfect, and there was so much to do. We stayed at the Apartaments Restaurant Hispanos 7 Suiza, which provided a two bedroom suite with kitchenette and balcony. Our lodging was about two blocks from Gaudi’s church La Sagrada Familia, which we could see from our balcony. We spent the first day viewing the church, a nearby park, and the local area, eating lunch at a nearby tapas restaurant and buying groceries for supper. Unfortunately, Sharon tripped on uneven sidewalk and bruised her knee and nose. The next day (Sunday) we bought rail passes and visited other areas of Barcelona, including the Passeig de Gracia, Gaudi’s La Pedrera apartment building, La Rambla, Plaza de Catalona, Bari Gotic - the old Gothic part of the city, and Barceloneta along the man-made beach. We doubled back to the Gothic part of town to eat supper at a small café with very good Sangria. On Monday, we took a taxi to the port and boarded our ship, which went very quickly.
++ CANNES: We had to take a tender to get ashore, but once there, Cannes was very walkable. We made our way up to the top of a hill, with a beautiful panoramic view of Cannes. There was a museum located there, which happened to be free on the day we arrived. We later toured the Perfumerie Galimard in Grasse and the medieval village of St. Paul de Vence, where we ate lunch and enjoyed a very good bottle of local wine. The consensus was that we would rather have spent more time in the medieval village, and skipped the perfumerie tour.
+ EPHESUS: On Salingrose's recommendation, we booked a private tour through Ephesustours.biz. Our tour guide was excellent, and made this the best of all the tours we had arranged. Also, Turkey was mountainous and green, which we had not expected.
- - The Serenade of the Sea's "Centrum." This was only our second Royal Caribbean cruise, the first being on the Adventure of the Seas. We loved the central promenade of the Voyager-class ships. The Serenade did not have a central promenade, but rather a central atrium known as the Centrum. The problem is that this was a very busy area, with every activity amped up to ear-splitting volume. Other venues that surrounded the Centrum (like Vines) could not be enjoyed, unless you are a fan of loud noise. Guest Services, which was right next to the Centrum ground floor was nearly impossible to use. The Guest Services officers and customers were literally yelling at one another just to be heard over the the noise during one activity that we had to endure, which seemed to be some kind of horse race being acted out by the Cruise Director and staff. There were very few people at the event, and the microphone was not necessary.
- - - The ship's alcohol policy. Royal Caribbean allows two bottles of wine per stateroom on boarding day. On port days, they confiscate the wine, and return it on the last night. The problem was that they lost my wine. I had purchased two bottles on the island of Santorini, which they apparently sent to the wrong stateroom. Whoever received my bottles packed them up with their own purchases. By 11PM on the last night of the cruise, long after I had planned on being awake, I finally asked the Bar Manager to just send me two bottles of his best red wines and we'd call it good. He sent me a couple bottles of Italian wines, which can't replace the local wines I purchased on Santorini, but at least offset the loss. My feeling is that guests should be allowed to keep their purchases. I even bought one of their on-board packages, which included 7 bottles, so they still made their money off me without confiscating my port purchase.
Overall, the cruise was a great way to visit 5 countries, and 8 ports in such a short time-frame. We did ALOT of walking. My wife wore her jawbone device to keep track of her daily step count. We never logged less than 10,000 steps; and the highest was Rome, where she logged over 30,000 steps. Jackie (Zebra) had warned us that we'd be doing alot of walking, so we were prepared.