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petersonwith3

5/26/04 12-day Brilliance MED Europe Review (long)

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5/26/04 RCCL Brilliance 12-day MED Europe Trip Review:

 

I am so grateful to Cruise Critic boards. A special note to Sarah, George, Al and Gert -- I met these wonderful people on these board 10/2003 and we began a post that lasted until our cruise. I was too exhaused to make it to the Meet and Mingle but on the first night but Sarah picked me out of the crowd. It was so nice to see these people around the ship, in the Concierge Lounge, and in various cities/countries. I will miss corresponding with them on the boards daily but somehow I think I may see them again someday on the Brilliance.

 

I have learned alot and I hope that this review will help others plan a trip of a lifetime. There really seems to be no 'right way' to do this so, I will review the ship first and then I will talk to the many shore excursions.

 

Group (from Arizona): Me (30+) along with my husband (40+), son (8) and step-daughter (14). Joining me was my father (60+), step-mother (40+) and their son (7). As you can see, we had quite a diverse age-group travelling and we picked RCCL because of the itnerary. We have cruised 5 times and this was my fathers first cruise.

 

Flight/Embarcation: Delta from Phoenix to Atlanta to Barcelona--completely uneventful (which was great) and we arrived on time at 11am in Barcelona. We retrieved our luggage (way too much) and made our way to the transportation area. This was a little confusing but we made our way to the busses and were on our way. Approximately 40 minutes on the bus and we made it to the terminal. This terminal is NOT organized by deck (meaning everyone uses the same line for check in) and so by 1:30 we were checked in. We were in a suite on the 10th floor with Concierge service. There was only 1 glitch. We tried to move rooms (which we did) but our luggage went to the 'old' room and by 6pm will still didnt have it so, we had to retrieve it ourselves. Sight bummer, but after more than 24 hours in the same clothes, we were motivated. Dreadful (but necessary) muster drill and we were off to dinner

 

Ship overall: this ship is beautiful, very subdued and loaded with beautiful art. Similar to the Star Princess in it elegance, the ship was always being cleaned and nothing was broken or unusable.

 

Our Suite: 1534--PERFECT and huge compared to others on other lines. A large granite mini-bar (which we used for all of our junk each day!) a large sofa bed (queen) and 2 large chairs in the living area. In the bed area was a large bed(with Down Duvet), 2 nightstands and a very large vanity--all designed perfectly. A very large (long, not wide) balcony with 2 chairs and a table. The bathroom was the best, two sinks, granite counters, and a large bathtub (the best ever on a ship) The only improvement would be additional cleaning of the tub area as black mildew spots were noticeable. We used the concierge lounge every day for 'happy hour', the computer and to check out DVD's for the kids. Chris (the Concierge) was EXCELLENT too, just named employee of the year, he always remembered our drink of choice, coke for me, Irish coffee for my husband. Very nice addition.

 

Cabin Steward: Excellent! Gregory was really great, room always done early and well. There were occassional towel animals to please the son and extra bath towels for the teenager. At night he always gave extra chocolate to my son. He was always cheerful (he had 10 suites to clean) and I never had any complaints. I used a home brought sticky pad to communicate with him and it worked well. I tipped him extra on the last day to show our appreciation. My fathers attendant Jemma was also very proficent and was tipped extra. I heard alot before leaving about the performance of the stewards due to heavy workloads, but no one that I talked to was complaining about the stewards on the Brilliance.

 

Food: Oh the food. There has been so much concern on the boards recently that I was very worried. After my first meal I realized that this is a very personal issue and there is no way to globalize my opinion for everyone. With that said, all 7 people at my table (with very different tastes) were pleased. From fish to meat we were happy. The breads (served by the waiter) and desserts were too good and I found the selection at dinner to be varied and interesting. Very similar to the food quantity and quality of a Marriott or Hyatt restaurant. They served tea, coffee and juices at no charge at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Our waiter (Saudi) and his assistant (Ozlem) were so fabulous that we have probably been spoiled for our future cruises. Upon arrival each night our kids had their favorite appetizer waiting for them. If we were at the dining room for lunch or breakfast, Saudi would take whatever table we were at on, so that he could serve us in addition to his section!

. The headwaiter, Allister, was al

so fabulous and at our tables multiple times nightly (mostly entertaining the kids). In the end, I am not sure if the food was great or if it was the service or a little of both, but our dining room experience was wonderful and the last night it was difficult to say goodby. The staff here was tipped way over guidline and we did bring a little something from home for them as a gift on the first night (as we did for the stewards-which I think helps)

 

The food in the Windjammer and the Seaview Cafe were just OK, but I hate fighting (lining up for) food. The place was packed in the early mornings before excursions, so plan accordingly. I did love the beverage bar (managed by waitstaff) rather than a serve-yourself mess! The coffee was great-- all across the ship, but I love starbucks (strong coffee). I had room service 1 time and it was just OK--pizza did not live up to 8 year old expectations. The only problem is that Windjammer doesnt open for dinner until 7pm so the kids were unable to just grab a quick bite at 6pm and then go to Adventure Ocean or anywhere else. Your only option for this type of thing is room service.

 

The food in Portofino and Chops (extra fee) was really good. Very rich so we just did them one time each, but a very nice experience. Chops, in my opinion, is a little bit better but I was getting a little tired of Italian food due to all of the Italy stops.

 

Adventure Ocean: GREAT. There were less than 30 kids on this sailing but the counselors still put their all into everything. The hours were great and even when I was on shore for 10 hours, the kids did great! The activities are based on science and art which keeps the kids interested. Every morning the kids would chant "kids club rocks" until we would let them go there! On sea days we mostly kept the kids with us and for all except one evening they stayed with us too, so I do not know much about the nighttime activities or hours. As for the teenager in the crowd, ours was not 'into the program' because there were really almost no other teenagers on board. She was fine hanging out with us.

 

Activities/Entertainment: Too many to do! Our group was really busy with 9 full port days with excursions but on sea days, we were in the spa (my husband says "rasual rocks!") and gym (yoga, pilates, weights etc) We usually tried to lounge by the pool and watch all of the crazy activities (one of us even joined the mens sexy legs competition!) The Cruise Director ( Bill B) and staff were excellent. Bill was contantly around the deck talking to everyone. His staff was very energetic. The planned activities were nice and were fun for everyone. No complaints. Due to so much time in port (often meeting our excursions at 7:45) we missed many of the evening activities to get a little sleep. From what we did see, it was really good. The violinist, singer and other shows in the Pacifica Theatre were very nice the only improvement would be with the magician. He was OK, but improved greatly at the end of the cruise when he invited our kids on stage. icon_smile.gif Both children will re!

member that forever and we really

cherish the memory. The groups in the individual bars were also good. Never went into the casino (unbelievable for me) and went to the disco once but no one was around. Bars seemed to be hopping every night. The last night Karaoke Idol contest was really good too--Andre's rendition of 'She Bangs' was so funny I almost died! We used the pool tables and ping pong tables alot and those areas were very nice and a great place to relax and watch the sea go by.

 

Pools: very nice, spas were semi-hot and there was not too much chair saving. The chair police were out in full force but due to the older crowd, not many were by the pool anyway. The older crowd mostly stayed in the Solarium.

 

Medical Center: I cant believe that I have to write about the medical center but I do. Half way into the trip I woke up with a fever, I went to the center and they took the temp (103 degrees) and determined that I had strep throat! UGH! They provided tylenol, cough drops and Amoxcilin (and a $79 charge) and I was back to my bed in less than 30 minutes. This is the first time I have purchased the trip insurance but either way, the staff was helpful, the dr. was professional and well worth the $79. I missed Santorini (big bummer) but was back in business in 24 hours later in Athens. Yes, I stayed in my room for the 24 hours (I slept) so as to not infect others. They didnt tell me to, I just did.

 

EXCURSIONS-Port Days

 

Day 2-Villefranche -- we had planned a rental car with Europecar rentals which is leass than 5 miles from the ships port. Upon arrival and tendering (a breeze) we were told by the cabs that they would charge $40euro one-way! We ditched that plan, walked around Villefrance, conteplated Monoco by train (easy and cheap) and then retired back to the ship for lunch and swimming with the kids. I was really dissappointed but with Florence and Rome coming on the next two days I wanted to rest up. I would recommend a ship excursion or Silve for a private excursion based on what others told me.

 

 

Day 3- Livorno (Florence) using Private Driver Marco Miniati-- After using private drivers for the entire cruise, I highly recommend them. Although they are expensive and book far in advance, the time is worth it. You are able to see so much. Marco was highly reccommended on these boards. His english is understandable and he is pleasant but he did not seem very happy the day we arrived. Dont get me wrong, we had a magical day but he was just good. We spent the first half day seeing Florence and Marco had made 10:30am reservations for us to see the Statue of David (which was worth the cost of the entire day.) In the afternoon we asked him to take us to Sienna. He suggested that we see San Giamanao instead and boy was he correct. This was one of my favorite places of the entire trip and the 2+ hours we spent there will never be forgotten. My pictures from here look like postcards. It was a very long day, arriving back at the port at 5:30 The only problem of the day w!

as money exchange in Florence. DO

NOT DO IT. They tried to charge us $70 as a service fee (for $300 worth of euros)--do all transactions in the US before you leave or use the ship or use a bank ATM, but do not go to one of these change outlets.

 

 

Day 4- Rome- using private driver. I made an appointment 10 months in advance with Danielle (Driver in Rome) and many times I confirmed that it would be either him or his father personally as our driver. When we arrived in port, we were switched (by Danielle) to another drive and I was very unhappy. Considering I paid top dollar for Danielle, I felt that I could have gotten another driver at a lower cost but at this point it was too late to complain so we got in the nice Mercedes van with our driver Nick Solipaca at romeprivatetours.it. After spending an amazing day with Nick (and no experience with Danielle) I would highly recommend him. He has driven for numerous celebrities and other notables and has great stories to tell. You can contact him directly. He was great, his english was perfect and he is an unbelieveable historian so you have an extra treat as you drive thru an amazing place. He has a great personality. The best part of the day happened while touring th!

e Colisem. We were leisurely stro

lling around knowing we had 30 minutes before we would meet him back at the designated area. We had split up when I see, from across the courtyard, my husband frantically waving his arms. We run to him only to see Nick running away. My husband starts running, following Nick, so we all start running after them. So you have 5 of us running toward the car and Nick for no apparent reason. When we get in the car, Nick tells us that it is Saturday (we had lost track by that point) and the Vatican closes for new visitors at 12:20! It was 12:05! Nick had forgotten that it was Sat and had not realized it until we were all in the Colesium scattered everywhere. Well, it was like a scene out of a movie. We were running at 70MPH down small alleys, nearly missing everything and everyone. We get to the Vatican at 12:18 and they literally shut the large metal doors right behind us! After that adventure we wanted lunch. This was the only slight problem. We told him that we wanted a!

n authentic place and we invited h

im to join us. The lunch ended up being almost 2 hours and $140 euros for 6 people with no alcohol. We should have been much more specific to avoid this large expense but it was a great lunch, a wonderful city, all shared with an amazing driver.

 

Day 5-Sea Day--relax and catch up on sleep!

 

Day 6-Mykonos- arrived at 1pm and walked the town. We absolutely adored this place. The people were friendly, the views were incredible and the shopping was a blast. We wandered the streets and basically threw money at the jewlers! On a little tiny out-of-the-way path there was an older woman sitting on a very small porch. We began to talk with her and she told us that her house was over 200 years old and that she was born and raised there and now lives with her children and grandchildren. It was classic. She then invited us in to tour her home. What a great experience. We all took a picture on the front proch and then walked on for a coffee, how nice.

 

 

Day 7- Santorini-- Sick and to the Medical Center!!! all day in bed....The others say that it is nice, they even walked up the steps all 600 plus! Beware of the donkeys, many ask for you to pay - then halfway up the mountian they stop (literally) until you pay the owners more money. I was so sad to miss this place but I was so sick that it was not an option.

 

Day 8--Athens-- Once again I hired a private driver Spiros Taxi Service and he gave my reservation to another driver -Mike-(Makis Xilagouras mobile phone +3.6932.325281-he prefers phone calls from the US rather than email)- Once again I think he was excellent and I would recommend that you go directly to him. We went to the Acropollis and hired a guide. The place was packed but really interesting. Saw all of the Olympic sites (past and present) He then took us to an out of the way marina and we ate a wonderful lunch (much more reasonable $50e for 4) it was one of our favorite lunches of the trip.

 

Day 9- Sea Day by the pool ---large BBQ by the pool with lots of choices,tried our luck with the rock wall and kids slide--great day

 

Day 10- Taormina--we were originally supposed to tender in Taormina but the ship changed and docked in Messina instead. We had planned to walk the day away but were required to hire a taxi $120e for 4 hours to take us to Taormina and back. This place was quaint and wonderful. We did some financial damage at a wonderful shop called Sugar and Spice (which was recommended to us before we left for Europe) We made it back to Messina by noon to sit in front of their famous church (with the giant cuckoo clock). It began to rain, so we walked back to the ship and napped in the room and watched movies.

 

Day 11- Naples and the Amalfi coast-- Magical! We hired Marcello marcellomaresca@tin.it (seesorrento.com) based on cc board recommendations and we found him to be talkative, professional, fun and efficient. Since we were seeing Pompei, we wanted to bring the children along. With this in mind, he planned a perfect day for us. Since it would be difficult to have a long (but wonderful) lunch experience which he usually offers his clients, he proposed a different itinerary with a more subdued (and slightly quicker) lunch experience. It was the most wonderful day. The drive was perfect, the lunch was fabulous (lost count of the numerous-tasty courses) with a great view and Pompei was educational and crowd-free. There has been much said recently about Marcello's services on these boards. I will not defend him--he doesnt need that. I will only say that when I told him the KIND of day that I wanted, he exceeded my expecations. When I tried to tell him specifcally WHAT to do,!

he would explain that he is more

experienced and would provide me with other, BETTER, solutions. I am a major control-freak and I would have ruined this day had we done what I thought and not left it to the person who was born and raised there. He is well worth the expense. He is definately a driver and not an historian but I was looking for a scenic day. He is NOT the person to pick if you are looking for a relaxing day of shopping all over the place. If you want to see the ENTIRE coast, have spirited conversation and get back to the boat on time, then he is your guy. He constantly was asking for feedback and suggestions along the way, so I did not find him to be the obstinent person that some describe on these boards. In addition, the reason he keeps the resturant (now two of them) secret is not for some sales ploy, it is so that if you come back and want to visit, they will still be the quaint, uncrowded places you enjoyed. We saw many places along the way that were so packed with people, only to !

be wisked away to almost empty (ex

cept for locals) villages. This is the kind of day we wanted.

 

Day 12 Sea Day-Pack and Sleep!

 

Day 13- Disembarcation-the end! We woke up at 6, to the dining room by 6:30 for our last breakfast. We retrieved our things and were off the ship at 7:45, getting our luggage was easy. We paid for RCCL ground transportation and I am glad that we did. There did not seem to be an abundance of taxis. We were at the airport by 9am but Delta would not let us check in for our flight until 10am. Bummer. All 7 of us in line for an hour! After check in we made it to the Delta (Air France) business lounge for snacks and 2 hours to sit around. We took turns watching the kids and walking thru the huge mall (70 stores) they have in the terminal. Not bad.

 

All in all this was a trip of a lifetime and I really do not have any complaints. Do your homework in advance, this will make for a much more enjoyable trip. I would be more that happy to answer any questions that you may have.

 

Tina

email address: petersonwith3@cox.net

 

Carnival Jubilee 5/94

Disney Magic 5/01

Star Princess 5/03

 

Carnival Conquest 12/03

RCCL Brilliance 5/04

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Wow, what a terrific review. We are sailing this itinerary next year, so I am always interested in reading people's opinions of their trips. Friends of ours were also on this cruise, and we just discussed the situation with the four seatings in the dining room, which they indicated were at 6, 6:30, 9 and 9:30. Their impression was that the reason for the multiple seating times was a decrease in wait staff. What was your impression? I know you were impressed with your waiter and his assistant, but I am curious about what you may have heard from others or how many tables your staff were covering.

 

We also have booked Daniele's company and I am anticipating that we may not be driven by his father (Daniele is committed to another group already). I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed your driver despite the switch. Would booking directly with Nick have resulted in a lower price or did you not discuss that? I would guess he wouldn't undercut the company who got him a job for the day!

 

Thanks for all the details and I'm glad to hear you enjoyed this cruise. We are anxiously awaiting this "cruise of a lifetime" and hope ours is as wonderful as yours.

 

Sorry to hear you were sick, but glad to hear you only missed one day. Too bad it wasn't an at-sea day. icon_frown.gif

 

Karen

 

6/5/05 Brilliance Mediterranean roll call

 

Infinity in... countdown.cgi?trgb=000000&srgb=00ff00&prgb=0000ff&cdt=2004;12;5;21;00;00&timezone=GMT-0800

 

Brilliance 6/05, Infinity 12/04, Brilliance 2/04, Adventure 11/03, Brilliance 2/03, Grand Princess 3/02, Dawn Princess 11/01, Ocean Princess 5/00

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Karen:

 

I specifically asked Danielle 3 times (in email) if he would guarantee either himself or his father. Everytime he said yes, even as recently as a week before the trip. I would make a quick email to Nick, just to check his prices. I got the impression that he was cheaper (by just a bit) when booked directly.

 

As for the waitstaff, I did not see a problem. In fact, many tables were half empty. The cruise was full but many people ate in Windjammer (go figure), the specialty restaurants or were just too darn tired to eat a full sit-down dinner. Our waiter had 2 large 10 tops, and that looked to be what most had. No one that I spoke to complained about the service in the dining room.

 

Tina

 

Carnival Jubilee 5/94

Disney Magic 5/01

Star Princess 5/03

 

Carnival Conquest 12/03

RCCL Brilliance 5/04

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Welcome back, and thank you for the review!

 

Fredrik

 

countdown.cgi?trgb=000000&srgb=00ff00&prgb=111111&cdt=2004;07;01;17;00;00&timezone=GMT+0100

Brilliance of the Seas West Med

countdown.cgi?trgb=000000&srgb=00ff00&prgb=111111&cdt=2004;09;28;17;0;00&timezone=GMT-0500

Jewel of the Seas NE-Canada

 

 

So far:

Jewel of the Seas Oslo May 2004

Splendour of the Seas Med Oct 2003

Navigator of the Seas East C. Jul 2003

 

Roll call Jewel 2004-09-28 click here

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icon_smile.gifWow Tina ,

A great review and thankyou for the kind words about us .

George has also posted a review with pics on our board but this time I forgot to sign out and it's in my name. Gert just knew it was NOT my review , I guess she got to know us pretty well in those 12 days . icon_biggrin.gif

 

countdown.cgi?trgb=000000&srgb=00ff00&prgb=191970&cdt=2004;5;26;19;0;00&timezone=GMT+0100

<marquee behaviour=alternate>till we sail Brilliance of the Seas Greek Isles etc

</marquee>

countdown.cgi?trgb=000000&srgb=00ff00&prgb=dc143c&cdt=2004;10;5;19;0;00&timezone=GMT+0100

<marquee behaviour=alternate>till we sail Brilliance of the Seas Venice etc

</marquee>

 

sarah.gif

 

Sovereign 96,Grandeur 97,

Grandeur 98 twice,

Enchantment 99 twice,

Voyager 00 twice,

Explorer 01 twice,

Millennium 01,

Explorer 02 thrice,

Brilliance 03 twice,

Navigator 03 twice,

Brilliance 5/04,

Brilliance 10/04,

dog-wagger.gif

 

Que Sarah Sarah

(Wherever there's sea, there's me)

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Welcome back. Sounds like you had a great time.

We did this cruise last year, and it was awesome. Sorry you were sick and missed Santorini, we loved it there. We rented a car and just drove around finding many things to see. We took the donkeys up and had no problem with the people asking for more money. It was a very nice experience, but once was enough(couldnt walk well after). So we took the trolley car on the way down.

 

We did not go to Taormina, we went to Malta instead. which was really nice. The cab drivers were worth the visit alone. People were litterally jumping from in front of the car. Also they were making the movie Troy when we were there.

 

15 Cruises since 1999

 

Jewel of the Seas.. Scandanavia/Russia

countdown.cgi?trgb=000000&srgb=00ff00&prgb=008080&cdt=2004;5;28;17;00;00&timezone=GMT+0000

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Thank you for your review. We are booked for next year and I am so intimidated by these ports and not knowing the best arrangements to make in advance of our getting there. This has been helpful.

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Guest NBestafka

Welcome bck Tina and I am glad that you enjoyed your trip!!!!! Also glad that your kids enjoyed AO as much as ours did!!!!! Sorry to hear that you were sick, but at least it was only for a day!!!! Great review.

 

Nancy

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Wow, thanks for such a great review! I am lucky enough to be touring on Brilliance with Sarah & George in October.

 

I have booked both Daniele and Marcello so I am glad to hear your positive reviews of those tours.

 

Kelly

 

Kelly

 

Brilliance of the Seas - 10/5/04 (my HONEYMOON!!)

Carnival Fascination - 5/03

Explorer of the Seas - 8/02

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Kelly---You will LOVE it! I can not imagine a better honeymoon.

 

Tina

 

Carnival Jubilee 5/94

Disney Magic 5/01

Star Princess 5/03

 

Carnival Conquest 12/03

RCCL Brilliance 5/04

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Thanks for that nice review. We are going in november to the Panama Canal. Can you give us any idea of the "little something" to give to the stewards and other personell. I will appreciate your sugestions. Thanks,

 

l999 Big Red Boat

2000 Sensation

2002 Century

2003 Pride

Brilliance of the Seas Count Down

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Hi there, just a quick question for you, we're trying to figure out whether to do Rome on our own or take a tour... Did you make it completely on foot from the Coliseum to St. Peter's in 13 minutes?

 

It's so hard to judge distances on the maps. We're interested in Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, Panthenon, Forum and the Coliseum and I think I can do it walking by ourselves.

 

Thanks

 

Some Ship, Some Itinerary, Somewhere in the Med.

countdown.cgi?trgb=000000&srgb=00ff00&prgb=008000&cdt=2006;5;12;17;0;00&timezone=GMT+0100

 

Mexican Riviera - Rhapsody of the Seas

11 Day Circle the Caribbean - Splendour of the Seas

Alaska - Dawn Princess

Coastal - Island Princess

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Thanks for your review, Tina. Sounds like everything was great....glad you enjoyed it. It's a very very far-distant dream to do that cruise...many others first on our list....thanks for posting.

 

BTW... where in Az? We are far western Phoenix area in Surprise.

 

 

***

 

Soveriegn 92 E. Caribbean

Majesty 95 W. Caribbean

Granduer 97 E. Caribbean

Rhapsody 00 Mexico

Vision 02 Alaska

Radiance 03 Panama Canal

Brilliance 3/29/04

 

 

 

Radiance of the Seas/Panama Canal 10/18/2003

countdown.cgi?trgb=000000&srgb=00ff00&prgb=ff00ff&cdt=2003;10;18;20;00;00&timezone=GMT-0800Are we there yet?

countdown.cgi?trgb=000000&srgb=00ff00&prgb=ff00ff&cdt=2003;10;18;20;00;00&timezone=GMT-0800

 

My bags are always packed!

countdown.cgi?trgb=000000&srgb=00ff00&prgb=800080&cdt=2004;3;29;17;00;00&timezone=GMT-0500 Brilliance 3/29/2004

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belin--we greeted all of our waiters, stewards and tour guides with a small gift from Arizona (cactus candy, a postcard and a pen) it was small but nice. Other things that help are phone cards...anything will be appreciated.

 

cruisejunky--we hired a driver in Rome and in my opinion, that is the ONLY way to go. It is very crowded and we went to all the places that you mention without issue. I am not sure how long it would take to walk but I am sure it would be more than 13 minutes!!!

 

justcruzin--we used our ff miles to get us to europe for free and booked the cruise a year in advance so it was not much more than our Alaska cruise last year. You have to experience Italy once in a lifetime! We live in Scottsdale.

 

Tina

 

Carnival Jubilee 5/94

Disney Magic 5/01

Star Princess 5/03

 

Carnival Conquest 12/03

RCCL Brilliance 5/04

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Great review! We are going on the Splendour so will have a shorter stay. I am talking with Marcello about his Amalfi coast tour right now. Did you go to his "secret restaurant" that there is so much talk about on these boards? If so, was the cost still $30e per person? Was it worth it? Or if you ate at another restaurant, what was the name?

Thanks!

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Still wondering if anyone can clue me in on the cost of lunch at the "secret" restauarant. Just trying to budget!

Thanks!

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