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  1. as title says, trying to find out there locations on Symphony of the Seas. we have booked one for on out port day since we don't plan to leave ship that day. we are sailing with 2 younger kids ages 4 and 6 at time of sailing. so we are looking for one close to the splashaway bay area so we can relax on the chairs while kids have fun (being able to keep a eye on them)
  2. I am hoping someone can shed some light on the 3 night dining package. I am sailing for the first time ever on Symphony in October and am debating buying the 3 night dining package. I am just a bit confused as to what it actually includes. We were hoping to visit Chops grill, Jamie's Italian and maybe izumi or hooked. It says the below on the website when trying to book - does this mean that if I choose an A la carte restaurant I only receive $20 to spend and then would have to pay the rest? And the same with Izumi - $39.99 food credit and if the check is anything more we have to pay? Just trying to work out if its better to book the restaurants seperatly or together. Apologies if this sounds like a silly question, im just not 100% sure how this works. Thanks for any help you can offer. Ash What's Included Dining at three specialty restaurants. For restaurants with a la carte pricing, you’ll receive a $20 food credit, which can only be used once a day. For ships with this venue, Izumi Sushi is a prix fixe menu or $39.99 food credit. For ships with these venues, Teppanyaki/Izumi Hibachi is included, with a $15 surcharge
  3. Sailing on Symphony of the seas June 18th. Does anyone know the bourbon situation? I know they have buffalo trace, my personal favorite. I'm hoping they have other offerings from the Buffalo Trace family. I found Blanton's on my 2018 honeymoon cruise. There is nothing better than drinking Blanton's neat out of a plastic cup on the pool deck. FOR FREE!!!!! If anyone knows shops in St. Thomas or St. Martin let me know. I will update my findings once I'm back. Cheers.
  4. You ever wake up and have stuff on your mind you want to get accomplished for the day? You know, something like deciding whether or not to work on a live vacation blog. That's been me for a while, trying to make the decision on if I wanted to blog our upcoming trip or not. It's taken some time convince myself to start writing and I think I'll make the attempt to create some type of blog for our upcoming trip. Oh, yeah - we leave this Friday. #Late I know I'm a little late starting this and probably have a ton of writing that needs to be done, but we'll see if I can't get this thing started. I'm sure there are some new faces around here and some 'old' faces around here @CruisingKat(Kathy) @Lovetocruise2002 @WAAAYTOOO Our last cruise was in 2019 and we had one booked in 2020. I don't think the year 2020 happened, so we moved our cruise to 2021. That year didn't happen either, so we just got our cruise money back and waiting for 2022 to show up. Ya'll know what I'm talking about for 2020/2021 - those years didn't even seem to exists. Fast forward four years and here we are ... heading to Italy for two weeks. Oh, I didn't mention that part huh? Yeah, so we fly out Friday June 2nd heading to Venice, Italy, then to Rome and then the cruise for a week. Let's see if I can get ya'll caught up to speed. About five or six years ago (do I have to count 2020/2021?), the kids where in middle school. They seemed a little jealous of the 'parent' cruising and we felt bad about not taking them, so we took them on two star class (SC) cruises and spoiled them. Somewhere around here might be my old blogs about those. Anyway, at that point we started talking about taking them on a cruise for their high school graduation. Doesn't seem that bad, eh? Yeah - look where we are now. Our daughter just graduated from high school o_0 I blame those 'years-we-don't-talk-about' for time going by so fast. This trip has been in the planning and talking phases for the past 4-6 years. Oh, yeah - our son graduates in 2 years - so, we'll be doing this again. Funny to think that some of ya'll might be in the same boat - kids graduating high school and all. Ok, we can reminisce about that later - back to this trip. After some conversations within our little family group (my, wife, daughter, son) it was our daughters turn coming up to pick our what she wanted to do for her big high school graduation trip. She picked Italy. We wanted to make sure if we went on this trip, it would be worth it. Thus, we blocked out a two-week vacation. Part of that was traveling to different places followed by a week long cruise. Just to give anyone planning this type of trip - start working on it WAY in advance. It's a ton of planning and I credit my wife for doing the most of it. You'll have to bear with me as I try to get everyone up to speed on what it takes to plan a trip like this, so be prepared for multiple posts ... Yeah, I'm a little older now and a little slower - lol I crossed the 'big' hill a couple years ago during the 'years-we-don't-talk-about'. btw - let me just vent on that #GetOnSoapBox... that was going to the the kids 3rd SC cruise, my 50th and 10yr anniversary all on one cruise. That didn't happen. #GetOffSoapBox So the summary goes something like this: Fly to Venice (13hrs), take the train to Rome (4hrs) and then cruise the western Mediterranean (Rome, Naples, Barcelona, Palma, Marseille, La Spezia). A couple of quick notes while I'm thinking about it. If anyone has questions about some of these quick notes, I'll try to respond during this thread to give more information. 1) flights are stoopid expensive to get over there (about $8k for the 4 of us) 2) you have to take EUROs with you (figure about 15% to get this converted from your bank due to fees/exchange rate) It's better to pay in EUROs for things, rather than a credit card. It's a different way of thinking compared to how we do it here in the US. 3) prepay for whatever you can on your credit card (check with your card about foreign transaction fees - if you going over there, you'll have to grin-and-bear-it, unless your card doesn't charge for those) 4) find a good travel planning app (I don't want to push any specific one, but we found one we like that we are using - if you want to know, DM me) 5) be prepared to add the international plan to your phone (this was a little more unexpected - I figured $100 based on initial reading of our wireless carrier to have international during our trip. Yeah, that turned out to be $100 PER LINE ... it took me a bit to 'really' understand how they have it instead of just reading it at first. Oh well ... cheaper than just letting the kids run wild across the social platforms while in another country, eh?) 6) for those of you with those fruity phones, invest in the air tags (funny, in our house the girls have the iphones and the boys have the galaxys. The air tags will help you sorta keep track of your bags. Just 'hid' it somewhere in your luggage. No, don't mix it with your clothes but put it somewhere else. Maybe even tape it to the inside. Either way - worth the piece of mind) I think one of the most important things for a trip like this is the budget - at least for me. But, if you plan far enough in advance then things should be ok. Oh, make sure to budget casino money in there ... #Disclaimer: Only budget casino money on what you can afford to lose. Have to put that in here cause we all know how they work. Um, let's see - since it's been some time since I blogged, trying to remember how to do this - right now just seems like a brain dump as I think of stuff. The Cruise: No SC for us this round - blame the flight costs, so we have two large balconies. The girls and the boys. It's sobering to not have SC and realize all the 'extras' you have to remember to book/pay for, right @Lovetocruise2002? lol Everything from drink packages, to the internet, to restaurant reservation and show reservations ... Yeah, I'm spoiled with the SC. If you have never cruise using the SC (star class), you really need to try it once. Check out my SC Anthem 2019: Packing started a month or so ago. Well, not the 'actual' packing but getting the suitcases down and all the shopping for Italy clothes. Oh wait - that started after the first of the year. Once the 'reality' of the trip started to hit, the shopping started. Even us boys didn't realize we didn't have enough of the right kind of clothes to take on the trip. Yeah, so shorts, pants, nicer shirts (not t-shirts with a Venom logo), shoes without holes ... yeah and the counting if we had enough socks and underwear, which we didn't - so off to the store we went. The past couple of months seem to be a blur with a lot going on, primarily all the planning around the actual graduation for our daughter. Part of all this also included the whole - she's going to college in New York. That's a whole 'nuther 'trip' planning in itself that we have been juggling with this one. Sorry, back to this trip. Let's see. Overview, check. Itinerary, check. Rambling, check. Budget, yall-send-me-a-check (ha). Cruise, check. For those that were familiar with the Periscope app, sorry to have seen that close down back in 2021. I don't know if there will be anything posted here from a live streaming process, but will toss some pictures out here and try to stay on top of the daily blogging. Bear with me as I try to get back to remembering how to blog.
  5. Hello there! Thanks for taking the time to click on this thread. My wife and I are going on the 14th of May 2023 trip and had a few questions regarding shore excursions. I am a second time cruiser but last time was back in 2011 or so on the Liberty of the Seas. Same itinerary different ship. Among the things Ive learned from the first trip, is the fact that the prices of shore excursions you book from the ship are way more expensive than if you book from a 3rd party provider. The port stops that are scheduled are: Palma de Mallorca, Spain Provence (Marseille), France Florence/Pisa (La Spezia), Italy Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy Naples, Italy Can anyone recommend a tour operator or activities we can do on a budget? All your input will be very much appreciated.
  6. Hello! We're a large family taking our first cruise together on Symphony of the Seas in June. My elderly dad has never been out of the country and is able-bodied - he just gets anxious in crowds. I'm trying to make it as seamless and happy as possible for him. Questions: How long does it take to get off the ship in the port cities? Is it a crowded scene and are there any tips for making it less chaotic? Is it worth purchasing the "key pass" so we can get off a little early with him? Is it early enough to matter? Thank you. None of us have been on a ship this large, so I'm having trouble visualizing the process.
  7. Unfortunately, We were part of a Covid outbreak last week on our April 30th - May 7th Symphony of The Seas cruise. If you're curious to see how that went, here's the video of what all when on behind the scenes and how Royal Caribbean handled it. https://youtu.be/lErcDoCMZ44
  8. Note: Page one is Symphony of the Seas. I start Celebrity Reflection tomorrow on page 2 Just took my Covid test and it came back negative. Now is the hard part, packing for 14 days at sea on two different ships. If you would like to follow me that would be great; I am no writer and my thought often get scattered but we will have fun. In the past I have done this for my friends and coworkers but I have started using Royal Caribbean Blog and thought this was a great medium to post my thoughts and experiences. I will be like a bad penny and my posts will keep showing up here. Introduction: Name: Michael, Mike, Traveling Mike, Dad, Coach.. Age: 61 … Still trying to figure out if I am old enough for the adults table at Thanksgiving Home Town: Fresno California … I have to say I also have been from Kingsburg CA and Paris Texas Traveling With: Solo.. I have been a single father for 24 years traveling with my son and now he stays at home and works so my traveling partner is myself now. Occupation: I spent 16 years driving truck, went back to school and now I drive a Computer (computer programmer) Spare Time: I coach water polo. I coach elementary kids and high school varsity Cruising Experience: as close as I can figure I have been on 20 cruises (5 with 1st wife, 12 with my son & 3 solo) (5 Disney, 6 Carnival, 1 RCL, 4 NCL, 3 Princes, 1 Celebrity) 2 days before my cruise: I am setting at work and do not want to work. I have lots of thing to do but nothing I want to do. I work for a School District and they have free testing every day. Because I coach water polo and am around lots of kids I test every Thursday. This worked great because today I just walked across the street and took the test. Fifteen minutes later, I got the results, printed them and saved them on my one drive (some place in the computer world that keeps my files so I can get them later). I have printed and saved everything on the cloud so as long as I have phone service or internet I can retrieve them. I have been told to print everything because they will ask multiple times at the port. .... I have to stop for now because someone is wanting me to do my job
  9. I've read conflicting reports on kids menus at wonderland. Cruise critic says an adventurous kids menu but other places said they dont offer any. Any recent travellers have any info?
  10. Any thoughts as to when these sailings will be released to book? I am wanting the Symphony to round out my Oasis class ships tour. My first Royal goal was all of the Oasis girls, Symphony is my elusive one. The Covid cancelations messed with my fantastic plan!
  11. I am not going to sugar coat anything. I am here on the Symphony of the Seas, for my 3rd week, with three (3) more to go! The ship is beautiful and for the most part, staff & guests wear masks. However, there are occassional anti-maskers who would rather fight than mask up! Staff always thank me, after I try to nicely ask guests when they are violating my space, especial when I am eating or trying to board an elevator. But there were a couple of close calls. One big guy at the Spa found it important to yell at me after I asked him to mask his 2 year old where I was eating in the Vitality Cafe. He screamed at me to stay inside my cabin and to have a kid! Which made me realize the poor guy was probably pretty stressed on his vacation & he thought I should be punished too. (?). Another time a young girl with a hot boyfriend walked past me while I was talking in the Art Gallery about a painting and I looked her way & laughed as we noticed her wearing her mask on her chin. The curator walked over to her & asked her to put her mask on and with that, she ran over to me, screaming that I could have asked her to wear her mask. I informed her that I wasn't her babysitter and to just "wear your mask" and suddenly her boyfriend was holding her back while she squirmed and looked as if she wanted to fight me. I just laughed. She was obviously drunk and couldn't read me properly, cuz I don't play. She tried coming back at me and her best shot was walking passed me, minutes later, blowing her nose in the air with no hanky. Classy!!! LoL (Coincidentally, it was Formal Night.). I wonder if she kisses her boyfriend with that nasty mouth?!) Should we talk about the casino now?! They have a new pilot program. Regular gamblers may not care or notice, but high rollers may be or will get pissed off. I have addressed this several times over 3 weeks and FINALLY believe I have the full scoop, although they say NOTHING is in writing, but that their rules & promotions can change at any time! Sure, change, but give me what you have NOW, in WRITING!!! (Nope, they won't!) Let me know, if you would like the scoop on what I learned from MY mistake!!!
  12. Hello again, I am traveling on Symphony of the Seas on April 14th and I have some issues with my dining reservations. Crown & Anchor told me to contact the concierge or the diamond ambassador ahead of time to resolve my issues but they had no contact info for them, so my question is does anyone know the email address will be for the concierge or diamond ambassador on Symphony?
  13. I'm going on Symphony of the seas in March 2022. I looked at the port schedule for CocoCay and it looks like the day I'm visiting (March 18, 2022), both Symphony and Mariner are docking. How crowded would that be with 2 ships, especially the waterpark? I know Royal frequently docks 2 voyager class ships (ex. Navigator and Mariner), but I don't know about an Oasis class + Mariner.
  14. My MEI guru the lovely Sharla navigated my funky FCC for the three of us and booked for me Symphony of the Seas in May 2021. She performed her magic and my invoice reflects cruise fare paid just taxes and fees due in cash. FYI my hubby still has over 3,000 FCC while my daughter and I we believe are at zero left, she took from hubby and his highest fare at the 125%. All good. Now I want to peruse the Cruise Planner to gage pricing, not purchasing anything until I am returned my taxes, fees and cruise planner purchases from April. The sailing is not there, it's been almost a week. The cabin is missing from the sailing, I have an invoice but it is not reflected anywhere, yet I sadly see my two future previously cancelled count down sailings still reflected. Are FCC sailings different? Will I not be able to access it ? Does anyone experience this? Thanks so much!
  15. Anyone else sailing on January 4th, 2020 and starting the new year right!? I guess this will be the unofficial group chat (unless there is already a thread for this, i apologize) Would love to coordinate to meet up with people for activities or excursions!
  16. 1st time cruisers! We are looking to book a group of 8 family holiday on symphony of the seas and my brother is worried about losing his kids. Is there any way of keeping track of children whilst on board? Also what are the queues like for different activities and getting on/ of the ship?
  17. Sorry to report folks but your eyes aren't playing tricks. Starting tomorrow I'll be coming to you somewhat live from on board the Symphony of the Seas. This has been a cruise with right around 620 days of waiting. Booked the night reports had started to leak out that Symphony booking had opened up. Little did I know at the time of booking it would be a very short wait to learn this sailing would be part of something much bigger, an official Royal Caribbean Blog Group Cruise. Itinerary is somewhat port heavy, but still has time to relax. Day 1 - Miami Day 2 - Sea Day Day 3 - Roatan Day 4 - Costa Maya Day 5 - Cozumel Day 6 - Sea Day Day 7 - Nassau Day 8 - Eviction in Miami For those that are new to reading my LIVEish. Check out my previous one to get an idea of what fine quality work I produce: Finally, I'll leave this image for fun...
  18. Hi everyone! We are scheduled for Symphony on 2/16/2019. I was looking at pre-purchasing a shore excursion - does onboard credit only show up once you're physically "on board"? Our TA gave us some and we have some from our credit card. I'm just curious and if so - do any of you wait until you're on board to schedule excursions? We've never had credit before so I'm clueless! Thank you!
  19. I'm going to make my first attempt at this and as I say in the title, this is not even remotely live. We booked this cruise the day that Symphony sailings became available. The plan all along was for our 25th wedding anniversary, although in out family we refer to February celebrations as Annivaleirthday as both my wife and I as well as one son have our birthdays in the month along with our anniversary and Valentines. We mash them into one main celebration. The cruise itself was just prior to our anniversary but did encompass my birthday. The itinerary when we booked was out of Miami with 2 sea days, followed by St Kitts, St Thomas, a sea Day, and finally Nassau before returning. Somewhere alon the line it changed to be Nassau followed by a sea day, St Thomas, St Kitts and 2 sea days. Part of the reason this is so late is I didn't bring a computer with me and managed to take nearly 800 photos not counting those on my phone. It is quite a daunting task to cull that many photots while getting back to regular life and work. I will leave it there for now with a photo from the Toronto airport on the day we left.
  20. Hi everyone! I know that Symphony has a cupcake making class, but I wanted to know if they actually sell cupcakes on board (maybe at Sugar Beach?). Does anyone know? I have a cruise in about a month (counting down the seconds at work haha). Thanks!
  21. Hey all, I am going to be going on a 7 night Western Caribbean cruise April 6th - 13th out of Miami. Super excited about it! I have been on a ton of cruises, but am particularly excited to be on Royal Caribbean's new ship "Symphony of the Seas" . I wanted to post here to see if anyone had any tips, suggestions on dining, what bars are cool, or just any information they wanted to pass along, much appreciated!
  22. After more than a year of lurking in the forum, vacation time has finally arrived! With all the help I got from this board and all the live blogs I read to live vicariously through, I decided to return the favor. This will not rival Twangster’s quality live blog, but we’ll try our best and offer a new-to-Royal perspective. I’ll do the typing and hubby will provide the pictures. If you’ve got any questions, I’ll do my best to find the answer. So without further ado... Who are we and why this cruise? Kerstin and Michael, in our mid-thirties, from Germany (Bavaria to be exact) and on our first TA, first Royal cruise – and first time out of Europe. We’ve cruised before – 3 times with TUI Cruises (German cruise line, joint venture with RCI), once with AIDA. We usually cruise for the itinerary, but made an exception for this cruise. After a brilliant video of Harmony from our favourite German Youtuber – the Schiffstester – we knew we wanted to try Oasis class – and that really experiencing it would take more than 7 days. We’d originally planned to book a Med B2B and not leave the ship, but the price on the TA was just too good – YOLO! I hate flying so to make it worthwhile, we added a 14 night Caribbean cruise on Caribbean Princess (RCI itineraries just weren’t to our liking). Cruise preview – Barcelona to Miami Ports of call: Malaga (Day 2) – not sure if we’ll get off the ship, maybe just for a stroll; Port Canaveral (Day 12) – Kennedy Space Center Guided Tour with Royal to avoid the long lines for immigration Food & Beverage: we both got the deluxe drinking package and 5 night dining package. Additionally reserved Izumi Hibachi and Jamie’s as we plan to check out all the options. Entertainment: all shows reserved, we’ll participate in a few CC events (Meet & Mingle, mini golf tournament, pub crawl, scavenger hunt). We’re also planning to book the all access tour. Cabin: 8411 - inside stateroom at the fore Pre-cruise & post-cruise We’ve already prepared everything we want to pack and will pack tomorrow. Friday morning, we’ll drop off the boys (our five coonies) at the cat hotel, rush home, throw the luggage in the car and drive to my parents. They’ll drop us off at the airport Duesseldorf for our evening check-in, we’ll stay at the airport hotel as our flight is at 6.45am on Saturday. We’ll stay at Hotel Catedral in Barcelona and have booked a walking tour of Barri Gótic for the afternoon. Post-cruise we’ll stay at Sense Beach House in South Beach until we board Caribbean Princess on 11th. It’s our first time in Miami, so we rented a car to get a good overview and do the essential shopping – I might pillage the Disney store as my sister is expecting her first child on November 23rd.
  23. Hello I currently have booked a 1 bed room aqua theatre suite on Symphony of the seas but I just found out for the same price I can get a grand panoramic suite on Allure of the seas. I would like to experience star class but there are currently available on the date of my sailing. 1. Is there a drastic difference between the symphony of the seas and allure of the seas and which room should I choose.
  24. I want to start my review by discussing purchasing airfare to Europe. We started monitoring prices several months in advance of the trip and found prices to fluctuate daily and finally settled on a decent price about 6 weeks before the cruise. We continued to monitor the prices after booking and luckily never saw a significant shift below the price we booked. The moral of the story was start tracking early and don’t be afraid to wait until it is within the two month window. We rented a TEP wireless hotspot (https://www.tepwireless.com) to use for international phone coverage and were pleasantly surprised to see how well it worked as soon as we left the airport in Barcelona. Our family of four (kids aged 9 and 11) was meeting up with another family of five (kids aged 8 and 12) and had rented an apartment near the gothic quarter. Our flight arrived at 9:00 and check in at the apartment was not until 3:00. To help us stay awake we took advantage of rental lockers near the apartment to stow the luggage and took a Devour Barcelona Tastes and Traditions food tour (https://devourbarcelonafoodtours.com/tours/tour/tastes-tapas-traditions-barcelona-food-tour/). We had an amazing tour guide named Paulina that took us through the Santa Caterina Market along with several other stops including an introduction to la hora de vermut (the hour of vermouth) and some delicious paella. This was enough to get us into the early afternoon and check into the apartment. We also had planned a walking tour of the gothic quarter (https://runnerbeantours.com/tours/free-tours-barcelona-gothic-quarter/) that was excellent and very informative. This was a great way to help us learn more about the city and make sure we stayed up to adjust to our new bedtime in Barcelona! On day two in Barcelona, we had arranged a tour of Montserrat through Castle experience (https://www.castlexperience.com/barcelona-wine-tours/montserrat-food-wine-tour/). Our tour guide Angus was the best and was very informative. She was amazing with the kids especially for the winery portion of the tour which included wine tasting (secretly grape juice for the kids). The winery itself (https://ollerdelmas.com/en/) was an amazing experience and we got to tour the vineyards, cellar and grounds concluding with the wine tasting and delicious tapas to go with it. We bought a couple bottles of wine from the vineyard along with their vermutand a couple of beers. We closed out the night with a dinner of pinchos. For our final full day in Barcelona, we went for a nice long walk up the hill to Park Guell (https://www.parkguell.cat/en/) followed by a walk to Sagrada Familia(http://www.sagradafamilia.org/en/). Travel to the port and embarkation couldn’t have been easier. We grabbed a taxi near the apartment and we were at the port in less than 20 minutes. It was a little confusing as there were two terminals feeding into Symphony and our taxi delivered us to one terminal and our friends to the other but we easily met inside on the gangway. We had a crown loft suite and the entire process from curb to stepping onto the ship could not have taken more than 20 minutes. Stepping onto the ship was as amazing as we expected and Symphony did not disappoint for the entire trip. We explored the ship and the kids changed into suits for the pool and flowrider. We got into our room not long after 1:00 and were very impressed by the space and views from our room. The entire staff of the suite lounge went above and beyond for all aspects of our stay. After the muster drill in the aqua theater we started to settle into our routine on the cruise. The number of port days had made the drink package seem like a bad idea until a sale had popped up not long before the cruise. We had concerns that we would not take full advantage of the drink package due to the number of port days (this ended up being a nonissue). We saw the aquatheater show on the first night. The performers were very good but it was less clear what the story was actually about. We managed to stay up until midnight to see the balloon drop party on the promenade led by the cruise director Miguel. Day two started with an early morning approach to Palma de Maorca and we awoke to an amazing view of the cathedral in the city. We had hoped to be able to walk to the cathedral but the walk was going to be over three miles so we opted for the RC shuttle instead. After exploring the cathedral and the area immediately around it we took the shuttle back to the ship to enjoy some time on the ship. After falling in love with gintonicsin Barcelona, we were enjoying them on the ship and asked the suite lounge bartender Johanna to make us a new gin drink. She informed us of a drink called an elderphire! This became a favorite drink for the rest of the trip. It’s no longer on the menus in the RC bars but experienced bartenders will know how to make it. We went to the 4:30 early show of Hairspray and were blown away but how good the performance was. This night was also the first of our meals at the coastal kitchen. The filet was very good and we knew we would try to arrange dinners for the 9 of us here for the rest of the nights that we had not already booked precruise. Day three was a stop in France at the port of Marseille. We made an important stop at a grocery for comte potato chips! Again, we planned a shorter time ashore to enjoy the ship with very busy port days planned in Italy for the following three days. The ice skating show that night was a lot like the aqua theater show. Clearly all the performers were amazing at what they do but the story was not very clear. There was a sailawayparty on the helipad with several members of crew present that was a great experience for the suite guests. For all three of the Italy ports of call we had arranged a driver from Rome Private Excursions (www.romeprivateexcursions.com). After a quick breakfast at the Windjammer we left the ship at the port of La Spezia. Since there were 9 of use, two cars picked us up at the port and our drivers David and David took us for a quick stop at Pisa. My wife and I had been there over 10 years ago and knew that it was not a sight to miss but was not worth more than short visit. We then headed to Florence to see the Duomo, Ponte Vechio and see David. We had specifically requested lunch at I Fratallini (http://www.iduefratellini.it/) which is an amazing hole in the wall place to get a sandwich and glass of Brunello. My wife and I had grabbed lunch here on an earlier trip and knew the simplicity of great cured meats on delicious bread with a glass of Brunello while sitting on the curb was an experience we wanted to share with our kids and friends. Day five was a stop in Rome which is not close to the port of Civitavecchia where we docked. After almost two hours our drivers Luca and Maximo had us to Rome for a quick walk around the Coliseum. This was another example of how we could craft our schedule with our drivers. We could have taken the time to go inside the coliseum but we chose to spend more time later in the day at the Vatican. We grabbed an amazing lunch near a market of paninis and beer (some of us got pizza that was sold by the pound). This market was right by the Parthenon which was not crowded that day so we were able to spend time inside this amazing building. We then headed to the Vatican and met our tour guide. Having a guide was a great way to focus the time we were there and maximize a short amount of time. Day six was Naples and we woke up to start the day. My wife noticed that the floor was wet on the second floor by the desk. Water had leaked from above and had gotten into the drawers and left a significant amount of clothing inside wet. We informed Jesus our steward and the concierge and immediately things went into motion to correct the situation. They took all the wet clothes for laundering and maintenance was in the room as we left to fix the problem. We left the ship to meet our drivers Aldo and Salvatore to take us on our tour. The port parking lot was a nightmare and we did not get anywhere fast for almost 60 minutes! This was one of the great advantages of using Rome Private Excursions. We changed our plans as we drove and decided to not go all the way to Sorrento and instead enjoyed some limonchello at a distillery and then went to the coastal town of Positano. We walked the streets of this beautiful town for 60 minutes before meeting up with our drivers again to take us to a new lunch destination that was different from our original plans. They suggested a lunch and wine tasting that sounded too good to pass up. We approached Mount Vesuvius and stopped at a vineyard that was literally the last stop on the road headed up to the volcano. Cantina Del Vesuvio(www.cantinadelvesuvio.it) gave us a quick tour of the vineyards and then we had a multi course meal with wine tastings to match each one. The pasta course was what I dream about from previous trips to Italy, simple, perfectly cooked pasta with a perfectly cooked tomato sauce. Before we left we bought two bottles of wine and a bottle of their olive oil. We then went to meet our tour guide at Pompeii. Our time was limited and that was the great benefit of having a guide. 90 minutes is probably not enough time to spend at Pompeii but he kept us focused and was extremely knowledgeable so our time was just enough to immerse us and leave us wishing we could stay. A quick trip back to port and we were back on the ship. All the wet clothes from earlier in the day were freshly cleaned and returned to our room. Finally, a sea day! We started the morning with room service which was delivered on time and was rather tasty. I made a quick trip to get a bloody Mary (another great use of the drink package early in the day!). All the kids wanted to skate so we got down to the rink early to sign up for the first slot of the day. Drinks, swimming and lounging by the pool were status quo for the rest of the day. The solarium bar had been partially blocked off by scaffolding that was being used to fix the sculpture above the bar that was finally removed on this day. We wanted to bar but it was very rowdy back there (and we are not a shy group) and order a gin and tonic that had become a standard of the trip was very disappointing at the solarium bar. It tasted sour and off compared to what we had had at other bars on the ship. Disembarkation was every bit as smooth as embarkation. We ate at coastal kitchen for breakfast for the first time of the trip. Mostly the early mornings had kept us from doing this but we regretted that we had not been here before for breakfast! A taxi to the airport and we were on our way. Unfortunately, we ran into trouble in Newark on the way back that made for a very long day but we were all very flexible and found ourselves home much sooner than we would have liked. Some overall impressions of the ship and sailing, the suite and everyone in the lounge were out of this world and constantly working to make sure our trip was everything it could be. Especially Raj and Rahul the concierges helped arrange a bridge tour. Johanna always made sure we never had an empty glass and she introduced us to the elderphire! Amalia was our server almost every meal and was amazing. Shetty in coastal kitchen not only got us lasagna from the main dining room the night it was on the menu but the next night brought us even better lasagna (I assume from Jamie’s) without us even asking, it was incredible!! We realized we should have also asked for them to bring us curry as that is one of our favorites. Even though drinks were included in the lounge, we got a great deal on the drink package and made great use of it! It was easy to have two glasses of wine with dinner and have a coffee with Baileys and already be close to breaking even! The suite deck was also a great perk that I wish we had another day to take advantage of that space.
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