Voyager of the Seas
June 7, 2008
Before we start, a quick caveat. I have been on 14 RCL cruises and my wife has been on 7. We like Princess, then Celebrity, then RCL. I am in my late 30's and my wife is a tiny bit older. We live in South Florida. We enjoy RCL and overall this was a great cruise. Any negative comments contained hereunder are mostly nit-picking.
This trip was our first trip to Europe and we decided that a cruise would be a great way to travel and very cost-effective too, due to the strong Euro. This cruise was a seven day cruise round-trip from Barcelona. This trip was very "port intensive" with ports the first 6 days and only one day at sea at the end. Ports visted included Ville-Franche (and Monte Carlo), Florence (port city was Livorno), Rome (port city was Civitivecchia), Naples and Sicily. Needless to say we were very tired when we got off the ship.
Barcelona is a great city and we enjoyed touring it on our own as we arrived one day early. Barcelona airport is clean but can be confusing for baggage claim so be careful. Iberia lost 1 of our 3 pieces of luggage but delivered it 15 minutes before the cruise left! In Barcelona, they speak Catalonian Spanish and not Castillian Spanish as I know it. This caused a lot of confusion at times.
Barcelona just opened a new seaport terminal a few weeks before our arrival. The new terminal made things easy and quick even though 2 cruise ships were in port loading passengers. We got to the terminal at 11:15 a.m. and were on the ship by 11:30 though the staterooms were not available until 1:00 p.m. Our first stop was the spa, where my wife made a massage appointment for the only day at sea.
The ship was in excellent condition. In January, we took a 5 day cruise on the sister ship "Navigator of the Seas" so we were familar with the ship already. On Navigator we attended most of the shows and most of the activities on the ship. During this cruise, the significant port time left little time to use any ship facilities.
We had a superior balcony stateroom which is nestled among the junior suites. Our room had plenty of storage space and was very comfortable. Everything in the room worked well. Our room steward was excellent.
Our dining staff was also excellent and we received the small table we had requested. Even the head waiter was attentive. We had 6:30 seating out of the 5 available choices (6:00, 6:30, 8:00, 8:30 or 9:00). The most negative thing I can say about the cruise was that the menus were not catered towards the European cruise. The menus looked very similar to the menus we see when we cruise the Caribbean. The food in the dining room, although nothing special, was still very good. Not that my wife or I cared, but there was no lobster on the menu (waiter made a point of letting us know this). We did go to Portofino's one night only bacause our travel agent gave us free passes to do so. Food and service at Portofinos was excellent. This ship did not have a steakhouse.
Almost every night before dinner, we took advantage of the concierge room which is available to Diamond or higher level Crown and Anchor passengers and suite guests. Free drinks and hot and cold hors d'ouvres before dinner made dinner even more special. We used the conceirge to make reservations at Portofinos and to check our bill the last night of the cruise. He was very helpful.
We used very few amenities on the cruise. Even though we skipped it on this cruise, I highly recommend the ice show. The variety shows were what you would expect though we did not even attend one. I never heard of any of the performers who were aboard our cruise (a juggler and a singer, no comedian that I heard about). We never got to play shuffleboard or miniature golf or go ice skating or in-line skating, but we knew that we were using the ship as a hotel and less as an attraction on this cruise.
As we had never been to Europe and many of the sites are far from the port, we opted to book a shore excursion from RCL at every port. The shore excursions were all excellent and all lasted almost the entire time in port (9 to 11 hours). All of the guides spoke very good English and were very knowledgeable. The buses were all comfortable and air conditioned but none of them contained a rerstroom on board. When the tour warns you about spending a lot of time on the bus, they were telling the truth. In addition, wherever you sat the first time you got on the bus, that was your seat for the rest of the tour. In Livorno (port for Florence) and Civitivechhia (port for Rome), it truly was 1 to 2 hours into the main city from the port. All of our tours included lunch and the meals were excellent. All meals included wine, bottled water and at least three courses. The meals tended to be chicken or beef though a vegetarian option was avialable upon request, and of course a pasta course. Service at all of the meals was excellent.
I will not bore you with all of our shore excursions but will just try to highlight. In France, we chose to tour Monte Carlo and Eze. An excellent choice. We toured the royal palace in Monaco and the Grand Casino. In Florence, we skipped Pisa and the Florence museums and went to Tuscany, another excellent choice. We toured the ancient town of Volterra and San Gimignano and ate lunch at a Tuscan farmhouse and winery. The Tuscan countryside is gorgeous and reminded us of Napa Valley, California. In Naples, we originally chose Capri and the Amalfi Coast tour, but that tour was cancelled for lack of interest. We instead toured the Amalfi Coast and Sorrento. This was an especially great tour with a wonderful guide ("Stefano"). How the bus got through narrow winding cliff-side streets of the Amalfi Coast, I still am not sure. Positano and Amalfi are gorgeous. It really was a slice of heaven. In Sicily we chose to visit the North part of the Island including Segesta and Erice. This included a trip up a mountain in a cable car. Though Sicily was nice, there is no reason to go through the effort to return there now that we have seen it.
Disembarkation was a breeze. The port uses baggage carousels (like an airport) so you really have to wait until your color is called to get off or you will be waiting for your luggage a long time. We had booked a tour through RCL for the city of Barcelona ending at the airport. The tour was brief and did not include lunch but we did get to the airport at the promised time.
Overall, a great trip, though very tiring. I think I need a Carribbean cruise just to unwind.