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Moondawgie

Splendour Review June 19, 2004 Part I

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I am writing a review with the hope that I can help someone as I looked so desperately for information before I left.

 

I loved Italy, but not Alitalia! Suffice it to say that they did a lousy job of getting me to and from Barcelona (via Milan).

 

Barcelona, I did not spend much time there as I did not do precruise or postcruise, but from what I saw it was a big, crowded, lovely, modern city. The cruisers who stayed before said all good things about it. I don’t have many details to tell you other than everyone said they stayed around Las Ramblas. The ride to and from the airport is approximately 30 minutes. Interesting mausoleum on the way also some nice statues and architecture. I shared a taxi and it cost E25.

 

General Comments comparing RCI to Carnival. Although I realize there are Carnival and RCI fans, I have to say that in my opinion after several trips on both, they are very comparable lines with Carnival being better at some things and RCI better at others. I was anxious to see the difference after being away from RCI for over 10 years. Carnival cabins are bigger (much bigger). I thought my cabin 7119 was a storage area when I walked in. I did like the location, though. I was so exhausted I broke one of my cardinal rules – I skipped the lifeboat drill in favor of taking a nap. I told my cabin steward that I could not make it under any circumstances. He told me he was off at 6 p.m. and could I be out at that time for turn down! I was flabbergasted by this request, as I have never heard this in 18 cruises. I politely explained that my dinner was at 9 and there was no way I could be out early due to resting time and shower/changing. I told him I would probably be out closer to 8 or 9. He was ok with that – and I tipped extra for his cooperation. Carnival gives robes to every cabin (inside or out). I had to ask for a robe and he was hesitant to give it to me as I was not a “platinum” member or in an outside cabin, but he did give me one after the second day. The food was comparable with RCI getting good grades for dessert.

 

Embarkation and ship – upon arriving at the terminal, this is one area where RCI has it down pat. The entrance was completely hassle free and check in was painless and quick. The ship is very pretty and subdued. My favorite room was the Solarium, which was totally pretty and serves hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza and fresh cold water. It has 2 hot tubs and a pool and advises against children. I have to say that RCI is very good at enforcing rules like that and also removing towels from unoccupied lounge chairs at the pool. Carnival is more lax about this. This itinerary is so port intensive and busy that I did not attend any shows or activities at all! Others said the Flamenco Show was terrific. The CD, Rico, was wonderful. He kept everyone occupied and entertained. He was also extremely CUTE! Dinner was at 9 and although I thought this might be a problem, I was so glad that it was since I toured from 8-6 and needed time to leisurely unwind and change. The food was very good IMO. I have to comment that RCI has cut down considerably on staff. Years ago the DR was full of waiters and assistants. Now I could hardly see that many and the ones who were there were totally overworked. My Waiter and Assistant were excellent even though they ran around like maniacs trying to please everyone. RCI is not fair to their staff in my opinion. So I tipped them extra. Internet use was $.50/min but was inoperable a lot of the time, so some cruisers including me got credit from our account.

 

Marseilles– It is very easy to take the RCI shuttle for E10 (round trip) into Marseilles. I did not do the wine tours that I heard were pretty good. The town is a marina-like town with cafes and shops. I walked the 3-mile uphill trek to see Notre Dame de Garde, well worth the walk – gorgeous Basilica overlooking the city. I spoke to someone who said there is also a tram that will take you up the mountain. It was strenuous but not impossible to climb. I survived and was very happy I went there. Then shuttle back to the ship to unwind and get ready for Formal Night. This is the first cruise where I was sorry that I had to dress up. After the busy days I just didn’t feel like dressing to the 9s. Others on the ship did both – gowns to slacks and tops. I liked this stop although not my favorite of the 5 ports. Some didn’t like it at all and some stayed on the ship.

 

Villefrance –Tender to very nice port. From here everyone took different routes. I heard everyone was impressed with the French Rivera and the Cote d’Azure (Blue Coast) in general. I went to Nice, which was just great, and the medieval village of Eze. Nice is a beautiful beach, town, area and Eze is another walk up a hill to a church with nice shops. Guide pointed out Elton John’s house high up on a mountain several times. Due to lack of time I did not visit Monaco, Cannes, St. Paul de Vence or any other place. Everyone was more than pleased with this port of call. Back on the ship for casual dress dinner at 9, so glad about that as I wanted to be comfortable and my feet did also. I took a short RCI tour for this stop (4 hours) was impressed with this area and would return with more time. It is easy to take trains in this stop and I would do that instead if I were to return. I bought some lavender soap, which is big in the whole Cote d’Azure area.

 

Livorno – Port of Livorno is the pits! I took the Florence on Your Own and was glad I did after comparing to the tour people. Bus trip with guide took about 2 hrs with traffic leaving 5 hours in Florence. I just love Florence and this was the 2nd time I was there, so I chose to see the Uffizi Gallery after buying tickets on the Internet. I had a 12:30 appointment had plenty of time to arrive in Florence, walk around and get to the gallery (skipping the very long line) to walk right in. Highlights were Boticelli’s Birth of Venus and Michaelangelo’s Familia Sacria. I heard the Piti Palace (other side of Ponte Vecchio) is another wonderful museum and easier to get into. I had seen David before, so did not wait in line at L’Accademia. Another wonderful place is the Museo del Duomo (which I saw last time and definitely worth a look). I walked on to the Ponte Vecchio and did not buy any of the $trillion gold, however, it’s a great place to see. You will pay extra for the box (Ponte Vecchio name) than other shops in the city. Florence is such a lovely city. Although I was at the meeting place in plenty of time, the tour guide left without 2 of us. We caught the next tour bus. If you miss your tour return, the guide will call another guide leaving later and try to get you on their bus. If you miss all of them, there is a train (cheap) or taxi (expensive). One note about the train – I planned on taking these in all stops due to inexpensive fare, however, I decided not to be so adventurous and others who took the trains said they were fine. We heard there was a train strike in Livorno, however, I don’t know anyone who had a problem getting into Florence another way.

 

Research for this trip is a MUST. There are others who get off the ship and want to hook up with taxis, etc. So this should not be a concern to anyone.

 

(See Part II)

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Hi Moonie,

Sorry that you didn't enjoy Marseilles as much as I did. Notre Dame de la Garde was awesome, but the side streets and restaurants were the best ever.

How can I say it, but if you only have a few hours in a port, you have to really be proactive. Florence on your own is not the way to go. Sorry, but a guided tour is the only way to see the great cities of the world.

Guess you didn't try the boullabaise in Marseilles.

In Nice did you see the flower market?

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Making this easier to find.....Isabel

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JB, everything is subjective. Several passengers did not like Marseilles - that is not just my opinion. Notre Dame de la Garde was the best part and the shops and cafes were nice. I thoroughly enjoyed Nice and the short tour and would return for more time there.

 

I agree that a tour may be the way to go if you have not been to the city before. I did those when I first came to Rome and Florence. That gave me the information I needed (plus research and a map) to do both on my own and I am perfectly glad that I did what I did because I saw what I wanted in my own timeframe and skipped what I saw before or did not want to spend time on. Other passengers did it on their own and were glad and had no problem walking around Florence (again, with research as to what they wanted). I bought tickets ahead of time for Uffizi and that was my main destination and the rest was just lovely walking and enjoying at my own pace. May passengers took tours with mixed results. Again, my opinion is that I don't care for them.

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