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Mel&Ken

Long Review: 9/9/13 - Reflection 11 Day Eastern Med plus Rome

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I have waited to write this review because as some of you may know; our cruise didn’t end on a very positive note. I wanted to wait until I thought I could be fair and honest with my review and not let the negativity influence my thoughts. I will do my best to tell it like it is! :rolleyes:

 

To start, here is a bit about us – we are in our 40’s, travel 3-4 times a year and this is our second trip together to Europe. In 2011 we went to Paris/Madrid/Rome and stayed in each city for a week, renting an apartment and really experiencing each city as much as possible.

 

This was our third cruise. Our first was a Celebrity cruise out of Miami in January 2012 only 2 weeks after my mother passed away unexpectedly – in all honesty that cruise is a blur - but we did take away from it that Celebrity was a great fit for us and only 6 months later we booked our second cruise with Celebrity on the new Reflection for an 11 Day Mediterranean cruise. The draw for us was the overnight in Istanbul, the departure port of Rome and the opportunity to see Athens as well as 2 Greek Isles. We immediately added 3 vacation days pre/post cruise and as a result added 6 days in Rome to an already exiting itinerary.

 

Where to begin…..

 

We live on the border of Canada and the USA so it’s much cheaper and easier for us to fly out of Detroit, Michigan than our home town. We normally fly Delta but this time Ken wanted to try Lufthansa and we were able to book our flights from Detroit to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to Rome for just over $1000 each. I worried I had bought too early but I never did see that particular flight any cheaper before we left – in fact it went up quite a bit. We prepaid for airport parking at $8 a day vs. $10-12 a few months earlier at the Qwik Park lot so that helped saved us about $60 or so.

 

Check-in with Lufthansa was a breeze and the agents were very professional and courteous – a slight change from what we are used to with Delta. As we waited in the boarding area we watched all the crew arrive and it looked like a fashion show walking through the terminal – the crew was dressed to the nines, hair, makeup, high heels – I instantly felt undressed! J Ken was thrilled with the boarding process as they load from the back of the plane which on every flight he insists would make more sense then standing there waiting as people try to cram in their carry-on. We were on our way.

 

The food and service for the flight was excellent. It was happily an uneventful flight and neither of us slept a wink as we were just too excited. We landed in Frankfurt and as one of the largest airports in Europe our plane just parked out in the middle of nowhere and buses were sent to pick us up. Then we drove for what seemed like forever to a terminal where the fun began. I had given us 3 hours for our connection. First, I thought we’d have to get our bags, go through customs and then check it again – we did not. I also thought after the long flight it would be nice to sit and have lunch at a restaurant in the airport and finally – I had read about how large the airport was and was worried about the connection and how long it would take.

 

Once the bus dropped us off at the actual terminal we had quite a hike to passport control which we breezed through and then another security check with our carry-on and that was it. They only post the gate assignments in the last 1-2 hours before a flight so we had NO idea what gate to go to. An employee was able to make a call and tell us at least the terminal and we made our way there.

 

My plan for a nice lunch backfired – we didn’t see a single restaurant where we could sit at a table, order off a menu and have a nice lunch. Instead we bought Bavarian sausage from a kiosk in the center of the terminal and had that instead. A nice thing about Lufthansa, they have free coffee stations at the gates – so you can get a cappuccino, hot chocolate or tea for free which was a nice touch.

 

By now the long night is catching up to me and I am falling asleep waiting for our flight. We boarded and it was just the two of us in our row of three seats so we stretched out and immediately fell asleep for the 90 minute flight to Rome. They did serve a snack and drink which would be unheard of on such a short flight at home – I believe it was a tuna salad with crackers and cookies. One note about Lufthansa, the plugs for your headphones are the two prong ones like Delta so for a standard set of earphones you will only get sound in one ear unless you have the adapter. The headset they hand out starts off fine but soon starts to feel like sandpaper on your ears – not good for a 9 hour flight for sure! :confused:

 

We landed in Rome at FCO right on time and quickly grabbed our bags, no customs or passport control which is really strange for us. We had booked Rome Cabs again as we had great service on our last trip and our driver Giuliano was waiting for us exactly where the instructions said he would be. He grabbed our bags and we were off. It’s about a 30 minute drive into the city and to our apartment near the Pantheon and it turns out he has friends that live in our city – such a small world sometimes. He was kind enough to call the owner of the apartment for us and say we were on our way and we only had to wait about 5 minutes before he arrived to let us in.

 

We booked both apartments in Rome through Sleep in Italy – the same company we used in 2011. The first three days we stayed a few blocks from the Pantheon. The apartment was “fine”. It had a washer/dryer which we wanted so all our clothes would be clean for the cruise. Well sadly the instructions left for us did not match our unit and we could never get the clothes dry. So we dried them on the towel rack and never did wash any more clothes. I also chose this unit as it said there was a safe. I liked this idea as the first 3 days we would be carrying a lot of money and I liked the idea of it being locked away. Well, there was no safe either. There also were no drawers in the bedroom but luckily I had bought 6 fabric cubes for above the bed in our cabin and they worked out well as makeshift drawers for our undies, socks, etc. Was there anything “wrong” with this apartment, no. Would I book it again next time I travel to Rome, no. Location was great though.

 

We unpacked as best we could and we had an early dinner reservation at Armando al Pantheon as I knew we’d be tired. This was a restaurant we ate at last time on a Friday and we really enjoyed their Friday specials so it worked out well that we could eat here on our first night. We walked over to the square and went through the Pantheon again – my third time now and still amazes me every time! Finally it was time for dinner. I had reserved a table for their opening time of 7 and we were the first ones there. As with last time, every table was reserved and we watched couple after couple turned away as they didn’t have a reservation. We started with Bruschetta and then I had A’Matraciana and Ken had Carbonara. Then I had the Baccala (cod) and Ken had Osso Bucco, all of it delicious. Then we finished with some lemoncello before heading out. The only negative of this meal was the A/C breaking down for about an hour and it getting very warm in the restaurant. At first I thought it was just me but then I saw someone playing with the unit so I knew it wasn’t working. They ended up getting it fixed and we were comfortable again in no time.

 

There were several gelato stores on our walk home so of course we had to have some gelato for dessert. Then it was early to bed for us – I think we made it to about 11pm before we finally crashed for the night. Aside from a few cat naps on the plane we had been up 34 hours. We’re getting too old for this! ;)

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We woke up our first full day in Rome and it feels so good to be back!!! I just love it here. Today we have a tour booked with Katie Parla to visit Ostia Antica – the old port of Rome. We met Katie on our last trip to Rome and just love her. She is a food blogger, tour guide and is a wealth of information. Her blog; Parla Food is a huge source of data and she has two food apps for I-phone, one for Rome and one for Istanbul which are great. Just yesterday I saw she has an article in Bon Appetite magazine so she really is everywhere! As soon as we booked this cruise I reached out to Katie as we knew we wanted to spend some time with her.

 

Being our first morning we slept in a bit and when it came time to leave we just walked to the taxi stand at the Pantheon and caught a cab to the Pyramid Metro station to meet Katie – the ride was less than 10 Euros. It is very helpful to know where the nearest taxi stand is as cabs do NOT stop to pick you up as they are driving by – I guess it’s a law in Rome and we can attest that they won’t. We were a bit early so we had just enough time to grab a coffee and pastry at the bar next door. Katie met us at 10 and we grabbed our train tickets to the coast.

 

The great thing about a private tour is you get so much information – about the site you’re visiting of course, but about other things as well. We talked politics, food, wine and you name it. It was an amazing 4 hours. The port used to be a huge epicenter of about 100,000 people but as the river changed course and the silt blocked the mouth of the port, it was ultimately abandoned – that is my 2 second version of the tour. ;) You have to really see it for yourself. The site is huge and very quiet, not crowded at all. The ruins are quite impressive and there are some beautiful mosaics and frescos. It really was worth taking a trip, especially if you’ve been to Rome before and are looking to see something new. When we told any locals that we went there they were always very pleasantly surprised – I guess it’s not top of most people’s list. The cafeteria there had a surprisingly good lunch selection and we had a great lunch of roasted fennel and stuffed zucchini as well as a frittata – delicious!

 

We headed home after a very hot day in the sun and Katie put us in a cab to our apartment where I believe I napped before dinner. Dinner tonight is at Roscioli – another repeat of our last trip that we look forward to replicating.

 

Roscioli is famous for a few things; the burratta is one and the poor service is the other! We actually had great service last time so we weren’t too worried until a friend I made on our Roll Call mentioned it. She was correct. We were seated immediately with our reservation and then sat for a good 10-15 minutes before anyone even acknowledged us. I mean not so much as a nod, let alone a glass of water. If it weren’t for the burratta – we would have left. Finally we got some attention and we ordered a bottle of wine (they have a huge selection) and our dinner. We started with the burratta of course which is outstanding – so creamy and fresh – we have been advised that all others in Rome will pale in comparison. Then I had Carbonara while Ken had his favourite dish in Rome, Cacio e Pepe, the simplest dish of all. I followed with Polpette (meatballs) and Ken had a veal dish. We passed on dessert but they still bring you cookies with chocolate fondue, so you leave EXTRA full!!! I was so full I actually said no to gelato tonight and broke our streak – Ken still indulged and I admit I stole a few bites of his raspberry.

 

A long day in Rome and lots of walking means another early night and a great night’s sleep!

 

Tomorrow is our last day in Rome before we leave for our cruise! :D

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Amuse Bouche which I forget completely!

 

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The famous and amazing burratta.....

 

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Ken's Veal.....

 

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Polpette....

 

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Looking forward to the review and taking notes - we'll be on this cruise next June. And that burrata does look amazing.

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I'm glad you're enjoying it so far. I really debated whether to include the 3 days in Rome or not but then I figured most people come early for a Med cruise right?

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Sunday in Rome - we were so busy our last trip to Rome and tomorrow we leave for a port heavy cruise that we have decided to leave both our Sundays in Rome to chance this time. Meaning, no tours or plans aside from dinner reservations. We slept in today and started out about 11ish.

 

It’s very hot here. I expected weather to be in the 70’s but it’s more like the 90’s and a lot of humidity too. I am used to this at home but here they don’t like air conditioning so even if it’s on, I find it too warm for my liking.

 

We just start wandering around and end up close to the Spanish Steps. We stopped for a cappuccino and ended up with a slice of pizza as well – not a typical breakfast for us! Next we head off towards the Crypt of the Capuchin Monks – or the bone crypts. I saw them back in 1997 and Ken decided he would like to go.

 

A lot has changed since 97. Now it’s a tour through a museum before you get to the crypts. We walked through pretty quickly and there were only maybe 6-8 people in there with us. We got to the crypts which sadly you can not photograph and Ken was blown away. As much as I can describe it you really don’t expect it to be as intricate and out there as it really is. He said he never imagined it to be like that. We were in and out in maybe 30 minutes and he was glad he finally got to see it.

 

Next we walked past the Trevi fountain which is way too busy for me – we have each done the token coin toss so we kept on walking to Piazza Navona for a much need snack and glass of wine. We love to people watch so happily sat on the square watching the crowd and enjoying our wine and bruschetta before heading to the apartment to change for dinner.

 

Dinner tonight is a new one for us – Ad Hoc. It’s known for tasting menus and truffles and I was excited to see what they had in store for us. They start by offering you a free glass of sparkling wine which is a nice start while you select from the menu. We started by selecting a bottle of wine that they didn’t have and they were kind enough to suggest a very comparable replacement.

 

Ken had the tuna tartar and I started with a trio of apps; polenta crouton, fried pumpkin flower and a ricotta filled pastry. All was delicious.

 

Next Ken had a pasta course with lobster and asparagus while I went with another trio – this time “Carbonara Cubed” and it was fantastic. The pace and portions of the food are great so it’s not as filling as it sounds.

 

We finished off with stuffed rabbit for Ken and veal for me and we were both very pleased with our choices. Not surprising we were too stuffed for dessert but the restaurant serves a lovely plate of truffles and treats to satisfy even the smallest sweet tooth and they also send you off with a gift bag containing a bottle of wine. Overall a great dining experience.

 

We had a 10 minute walk home and again no gelato – what is this world coming to?! :eek: Our driver picks us up at 10am tomorrow to take us to the port and we are very excited to start our next adventure. As someone who plans out every day it was quite different to just wander around and stop whenever and where ever you want to. I wouldn’t do it every day as we really didn’t see or do much but it was nice to just experience the city and the people at a slow pace and feel relaxed. I will add more days like this to our vacations going forward.

 

Tomorrow….what you really want to read about – our cruise! :p

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Just love your review, and looking forward to much more.

 

Your photos are amazing. Do you mind sharing with us what camera you used?

 

Thanks!

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Loving this review...always fun to live travels through others.

 

And I think your second day in Rome sounded perfect. Sometimes it's just best to experience a city rather than rush around it. We may do the same if we get there again next year pre-cruise.

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Massive crowds at Trevi Fountain

 

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Wine, Beer, bruschetta and people watching at Piazza Navona...

 

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My trio of apps....

 

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Ken's tartar

 

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Followed by my Carbonara Cubed....OMG this was heavenly!

 

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Ken's pasta with lobster

 

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Ken's stuffed rabbit

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My Veal....

 

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Thanks so much for posting about your trip to Rome. We are planning our second trip to Rome and I'm always looking for things to do and recommended restaurants!! :):)

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Today is cruise day!!! I had arranged for Rome Cabs to drive us to the port and I had read it was about 90 minutes or so to the port. Our driver picked us up at 10 am and we were off. We had all our bags tagged with the sticky luggage tags I ordered through Celebrity which was really convenient.

 

The drive ended up being only an hour and we arrived much earlier than I expected at 11am. The last stretch of road, maybe 5 minutes or so of driving, all we saw was people walking and pulling their luggage behind them. I was very glad we had opted for a transfer and were being dropped at the ship as that did not look like fun at all!

 

We pulled up right next to the ship and suddenly about 4-5 porters surrounded the car and started opening doors, shaking hands, hugging.....I didn’t mention that our driver was a beautiful Italian woman so apparently she gets lots of attention here! Our bags were whisked away and we walked right into the boarding area where we filled out our medical slip and walked right up to the check in counter. From the time we left the car to walking on the ship was easily less than 10 minutes.

 

Now we are aboard and what else comes to mind but food! We went straight to Bistro on Five for breakfast and a much needed cappuccino. Our server was Carmen who was from Peru and we would see her quite often throughout the cruise. She was here during the day, Tuscan Grill at night and everywhere else during the day. There was only one other couple in there so we pretty much had the place to ourselves. I started with a salad and Ken the tomato soup, followed by an Italian sausage crepe for me and a breakfast crepe for Ken. He also added a nutella and pistachio crepe at the end which looked good but I was too full!

 

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While there a manager approached us about specialty restaurants. We got the offer for 30% off the first night and we said we were interested in Tuscan Grill so he was kind enough to book us a table by the window right then for 8pm. That was one thing crossed off our list!

 

Next we headed to the internet cafe for our wifi package. We went just in time as it got busier and busier the whole time we were there. We signed up for the 200 minute package for $99 and left with our password etc. A note about this – you have to have your laptop or tablet when you sign up as they do it right on your system. Ours was in our carry on but had it been in our cabin or something that would have been nice to know.

 

While we were waiting for our number to be called we got talking to a gentleman next to us. Turns out he is from the neighbouring town to us – about 20 minutes away! What are the odds???

 

Next stop was a bar to upgrade our drink package to the premium which took only a few minutes and with our first drink in hand we were called to our cabins.

 

We had room 9155 – first hump cabin on the forward hump. Not our original room but somehow while playing on the website one day they "claimed" I changed rooms. I would never have done that as we specifically chose that room in July 2012 but by the time I noticed, our old room was booked and this was the closest to a replacement. We wanted the larger balcony and we got it. Having travelled on Celebrity Eclipse last year, the cabin was exactly as expected. We saw our room steward and I asked for an extra pillow, a third large towel and the fridge to be emptied and all were done during turn down service.

 

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By now it was time for the muster drill which is pretty standard. They said no drinks allowed but everyone had drinks with them anyway. That was over quickly and next thing you know we were off. We watched the sail away from our balcony and soon we had a knock at our door and our bags were there. We unpacked, stowed the luggage under the bed and our home away from home was now in order. I did bring 6 fabric cubes for above the bed and they worked out great. Ken’s three held his underwear, socks and t-shirts while mine held bathing suits, scarves, purses and lots of little items. Between those and the drawers and the closet space we had lots of room. I wish I had brought a collapsible laundry bag as we used the paper bags in the closet and it was a little sloppy for my taste. Plenty of storage in the bathroom for us – we had no need for any over the door hanging systems.

 

Dinner was at 8 and we decided to try the Molecular Bar for drinks at about 6:30 so we changed our clothes, freshened up and we were off. I didn’t take a lot of pictures of the ship itself. To be honest Library Lady did such a good job with pics that I couldn’t have taken anything new to offer you! As I walked around the ship I honestly felt like I had been on it already!

 

The Molecular Bar...aka....our new favourite place to be! The concept is Liquid Chef, it’s all natural, all concocted drinks with special and delicious ingredients – nothing artificial or processed – fresh herbs, veggies, fruits, and nuts – you name it. If you have one drink here a night it pays for the upgrade to the premium package and we personally think it’s worth it.

 

Our server is Sergey from Russia and we don’t know it now, but we will see him every night for the next 11 nights! We start with our first two drinks, a ginger mojito for Ken and a drink made for Oprah called Coming up Roses. Both were good, but Ken’s was AMAZING and would become a part of my nightly routine from then on. Next I had a Tanned Russian and Ken another mojito before it was time for dinner at the Tuscan Grill.

 

We love Italian food and this was easily our favourite meal on our last cruise. We were seated at the window which offers a great view of where you’ve been. We didn’t get Carmen as our server but Ali from Turkey and he was great.

 

We started with ordering our wine. Next they come around with a huge platter of anti pasta with a selection of prosciutto, tomatoes, peppers, hunks or fresh parmesan, olives....so delicious.

 

For appetizers we stick with our favs from last year – calamari for Ken and Onion Soup for me. I then ask for a ½ portion of risotto and Ken gets the pasta Bolognese followed by the filet for me and a branzino for Ken. I could barely touch my steak. It’s not like Rome where the portions are small enough to eat like this - we really should have split some items. Having said all that, we still opt to share a pistachio crème brulee and get too small glasses of lemoncello and we wait awhile before attempting to move again.

 

We caught the 10:45 show which wasn’t memorable but I think it was just a preview where you meet the singers and dancers – it doesn’t stand out in any case. The theatre was never packed and you could always find a seat. To be fair – we only ever attending the late show.

 

Lastly we mad e final stop at the Molecular Bar (MB from now on) where Ken tried the Black Mamba and I had another mojito. Then it was off to the cabin for the night. It was a long and busy day and we both fall asleep quickly – it doesn’t hurt that the beds are great too!

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