Just the Facts:
Cruise: Voyager of the Seas--Western Mediterranean
Date: January 22-January 29, 2009
Captain: Frank Martinsen
Cruise Director: Mercedes LaFuente
Ports: Barcelona, Spain - Naples, Italy - Civitavecchia, Italy - Livorno, Italy - Villefranche, France - Toulon, France - Barcelona, Spain
Weather: Very nice all week for late November
This was my 13th Royal Caribbean cruise and 4th cruise on the Voyager of the Seas.
Day One--Sunday-Embarkation-Barcelona Spain
We took a taxi (€20) from our Barcelona hotel to the cruise terminal arriving about 1:15 pm. It was a good time to arrive as there was only a short line at security and a short line for the Diamond check-in area. We could then go directly on board the ship and it was then only 5 minutes until the cabins were opened to passengers. We stored our carry bags right away then went to the Windjammer and enjoyed a nice lunch. DW had a nice Salad, Vegetables, & Mashed Potatoes and I had the Roast Beef from the carving station, Mashed Potatoes, and Grilled Corn on the Cob. We walked around the ship and refamiliarized ourselves with the public areas and decks. We had a rest in the cabin and decided to eat in the Windjammer in lieu of the dining room as we have a late dining time. The Buffet Dinner in the Windjammer is very nice. They have waiter service for drinks and to take care of your needs. The food was very good as well. I had a large Salad, Prime Rib from the carving station, Mashed Potatoes, a 'made to order' soup, and a Pork Tornado. For dessert a Viennese Strawberry Meringue, Key Lime Pie, and a Sponge Cake soaked in liquor. All very good and it will be hard to get DW into the dining room. They have added a Taste of Nations area and today it was Indian Food. It was available for both lunch and dinner. The Welcome Aboard Show for both dinner seatings featured aerialists Adagio Hunnia, a comedian/juggler Kirk Marsh, and Mercedes LaFuente the Cruise Director. It was a good show and a good start to the cruise. After the show we retired to the cabin for a movie.
Day Two--Monday--at Sea
A beautiful morning and the sea was fairly calm. I had a very nice breakfast of Eggs Benedict in the Carmen (main) dining room and then picked up tickets for the afternoon Ice Skating Show. We attended the Cruise Critic Meet & Mingle at 11:00 a.m. in the High Notes Lounge. There was a good crowd and it's always great to put real names to screen names. They had small finger sandwiches, water, coffee, and lemonade. The Activities Manager from the ships cruise staff attended. I did some Internet time in the ship library. We had lunch in the Carmen dining room as they have the wonderful salad bar. I had a Salad, Steak Sandwich, and Carrot Cake for dessert. DW still prefers the Windjammer salad bar as they do have more specialty salad items such as sunflower seeds. The seas have picked up and there is a big wind across the decks. We went up to the upper decks to watch us sail through the straits separating the Mediterranean islands of Corsica and Sardinia, but the winds were too much. As it turned out our aft balcony was the ideal place to watch as we were protected from the wind. It was pleasant on the balcony as well with the sun warming us while observing the coastline of the two island. A very short nap before we went to the 3:30 ice show Ice Odyssey. It was the same show we have seen previously, but an excellent show and not to be missed. Following the show they had a meeting of the B2B cruisers at 4:30 in the La Scala theater. It seems we have set a new RCCL record for most repeat guests ever on a B2B cruise with 600 doing this cruise and then the transatlantic back to Galveston. We will not have to clear customs nor check-in, nor go through security again as they will do everything for us. BTW-the most repeaters by far are from Texas. They had delivered Chocolate Covered Strawberries to the cabin when we returned and they were great for an afternoon snack. The Captains reception was held in the Grand Promenade this evening and they had a special 10th anniversary cake for the ship as it was it was the Voyager of the Seas tenth birthday. We went to Cleopatra's Needle, the new designated Diamond members lounge, for wine before dinner. As it was the Captain's reception they had a very nice dance band performing. Dinner was at 9:00 and we have a very nice six top table in the middle of the main dining room. The Captains Dinner menu was very good. I had the Escargot, Shrimp Cocktail, Beef Filet, and Grand Mariner Soufflé as my selections. There was a headwaiter brought me a plate of sliced Hearts of Palm (one of my favorites) that were fantastic. The primary entertainment was one of the production shows, Music in Motion, but having seen it and the lateness of the evening we retired to prepare for our first day in Italy.
Day Three-Tuesday-Naples, Italy
We slept very well and when we awoke and looked out our aft balcony we were docked at Naples. The ship was aft to the town so we had a great view of all the activities around the piers and a great view of Castel Nuovo. The weather was cloudy in the early morning, but would later become a beautiful day. We had room service breakfast delivered about 7:30 am as a wake up call to get out and see Italy. Our only plan for today was to see Pompeii, but we arranged for a nice private tour at the pier. Maximo was our driver and our first stop was Pompeii. It is really a spectacular place and not to be missed if ever in Naples. We spent 3 hours walking among the Roman ruins and seeing most of the major sites and restorations. Photo at right is typical Roman street. Our next stop was Sorrento which is located across the bay from Naples. It is a beautiful town with a great view, nice shops, and great restaurants. We ate at a restaurant formerly in an old church, the Basilica, and really enjoyed the food. I had the Cannelloni Sorrento and DW had a Capri style pizza (Mozzarella cheese & tomato). We also sampled the LimonCello the drink of Sorrento. We spent about two hours in Sorrento and then returned to Naples for a tour of the city highlights. The Old gate, Old (1st) Castle, and Church Square are interesting, all dating in the 13th and 14th centuries. Naples has very old sites and interesting buildings; however, it was not a clean city nor appears to have a positive spirit about it. It's a shame to see graffiti everywhere including fountains. Not as nice as Sorrento or Barcelona. We had Fruit and Cheese plates delivered by room service as a nice balcony snack and enjoyed some sangria wine we brought aboard in Barcelona. The Crown & Anchor Past Guest party was tonight and the feature production show this evening in the La Scala Theater was Knight Magic, but we skipped both for rest from all the walking today. Dinner was good although hard to go so late. DW had the Cheese Tortalini. I had the Maryland Crab cake, Shrimp Cocktail, Black Angus Sirloin Steak, with a Dulce De Leche Cheesecake for dessert.
Day Four--Wednesday-Civitavecchia, Italy
The weather was very nice today perfect for the tours we were taking. We again had room service breakfast and met our group of eight for a private tour of Rome. We used Rome-in-Limo Company (€90 pp) and they were perfect for seeing as much as possible with only one day in Rome. We were picked up at the dock and made the 1+ hour drive to Rome getting a history lesson on the way. The first major stop was the Colosseum. It is very impressive as is the area around the Colosseum and Arch of Constantine. We had about an hour to visit the Colosseum and area and then it was off to the location of the Circus Maximus (think chariot race in Ben Hur). Next stop was locations of the Roman Forums. Almost all ruins now, but there are columns of the various original buildings. Fortunately we had a guidebook that compared the existing ruins with what the original buildings looked like by using an overleaf in the book. It really helps to get an idea of what it looked like in early Roman times (Caesar and Augustus). There is really so much to take in in such a brief time. There were so many Temples, Forums, Arches, Columns, etc. to see. The Capital Hill area was also impressive especially the Pantheon. We drove by several other notable sites such as the Spanish Steps, Tiber Island, and so many more. We did stop at the famous and beautiful Trevi Fountain. We tossed some coins in the fountain as well as get an Italian ice crème from a local shop. This was a very busy morning and the Vatican area was scheduled for the afternoon, but now it was time for a lunch at a non-tourist family trattoria recommended by our guide. We stopped at Osteria dei Pontefici located near St. Peters and it was a wonderful experience and must be well thought of by the locals as there were two Cardinals and two priests at the next table We had a table for the eight in our group and were served family style. They brought bread and antipastos: Salami, Prosciutto, Bruchetta, Marinated Carrots, Eggplant, Zucchini, and an Egg dish. For entrees we were served a meat Ravioli and Penne Pasta in meat sauce. For dessert we had a small Tiramisu and Banana crème cake. Now it was time for the Vatican. The guide knew the time to drop us in order to avoid the larger tour groups and there was a very short line for admission. In order to save time we stayed in the main rooms of the Vatican Museum and a shortcut into the Sistine Chapel. The art and tapestries were numerous and beautiful, but of course Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel is the most impressive. After leaving the Museum area we entered the Basilica of Saint Peter. Wow, what can one say? Perhaps the most impressive building I have ever seen, it was both awe inspiring and impressive. We stayed as long as possible, but had to meet our guide and driver at 4:00 pm. for the return trip to Civitavecchia. We made it to the ship by 5:30 and time to rest. Dinner this evening was very good, I had the Stuffed Pasta appetizer, Jalipeno Potato Soup, the Turkey Tenderloin, and BBB for dessert. Then cabin time and rest for another big day.
Day Five- Thanksgiving-Thursday, Livirno, Italy
The weather was again pleasant and good for touring the Tuscan area of Italy. We shared a local taxi service with 6 others that would allow us to tour both Florence and Pisa on our own. This was a bargain (€40 pp) and also allowed us to be dropped in the best locations to tour each city. We first went to Florence passing the beautiful countryside and observing grape vineyards and olive trees. You could see the rolling hills and mountains in the distance. After an hour we arrived in Florence near the main cathedral piazza and first visited the Baptistery of St. Giovanni (4th-5th century and 1128), the Cathedral of Florence (1296-1375), and then the Academy Gallery that contains the original statue of David by Michelangelo. We then walked the several blocks to Piazza Della Signoria the location of the Palazzo Vecchio (1294), Neptune Fountain (1563), and the Loggia dei Lonzi (1376). The Loggia contains the original Rape of the Sabine Women (1583) a particular favorite as DW's family has a bronze that has passed through three generations. We then crossed over the famous Ponte Vecchio Bridge (1345) and stopped in a beautiful restaurant. For lunch we had pizza, spaghetti, and the local chianti wine. We walked through the Uffizi that contains many masterpieces of the old master artists but knew we did not have time to see them with the limited amount of time we had left. We met the taxi for the trip to Pisa and the taxi dropped us just a block from the Piazza del Duomo. The Cathedral (1063) and Leaning (Bell) Tower (1172 & finished in 14th century) are very impressive. Our visit is at a good time as the recent renovations and repairs are completed and the Tower has also been cleaned. This is a must see for tourists to this part of Italy. It was also fun watching tourists pose for photos holding up the tower. As you can see from the photo at top, there was a Voyager ship photographer there. I found that to be very convenient. The driver had us back to the ship in good time and dropped us right at the gangway. This being Thanksgiving the ship had a special Thanksgiving Dinner with Turkey, Dressing, Potatoes, Cranberries, and Pumpkin pie for dessert. The waiters ended Thanksgiving night by singing America the Beautiful.
Day Six--Friday-Villafranche, France
The day was very pleasant. Villafranche has a beautiful natural harbor and the Voyager anchors in the middle. The port has nice tenders and you get ashore in just 10-15 minutes. Our plan was to go to Monaco for the day. We tendered over about 9:00 am and took the short walk to the Villafranche train station. We bought return tickets (€5 pp) to Monaco and the train came straightway. It was only a 15 minutes trip on the train and we got off in the station in central Monaco. We walked to the famous Monte Carlo Casino visiting the gardens along the way. We then took the bus to the Royal Palace arriving in time to watch the Changing of the Guards ceremony. The palace museum was closed for the season, but we did visit the Cathedral and the graves of Princess Grace and Rainier. We found a fantastic Crêpe restaurant, Creperie du Rocher, just below the Palace in the Old Town area. I had a ham & cheese crepe, DW a cheese crepe, and we shared a carafe of wine and a dessert crepe. This was an excellent lunch. We were both very impressed with how all of Monaco is clean and well manicured with lots of flowers, especially in the palace area. We found the underground Train Station and had to wait a while for the next train, but we made it back to Villafranche harbor well before the last tender. DW stayed and shopped a bit at some stalls set up in the town as I returned directly to the ship. We attended the production show Broadway Rhythm & Rhyme before dinner and enjoyed the show. This was the final formal dinner and the menu was very good. My selections were the Shrimp Cocktail, Soup, Garden Salad, Fisherman's Platter (Lobster & shrimp) and the assorted dessert selection with vanilla ice crème.
Day Seven-Saturday-Toulon, France
We were scheduled to dock in Marseilles, but due to a potential dock strike we called on the port of Toulon. Toulon was the headquarters of the French navy and has a wonderful natural harbor. We had to take a shuttle into town as the Voyager is too large for the city piers and we docked across the harbor in La Seyne-Sir-Mer. Toulon is not one of the primary tourist destinations (although it will be a regular port of call for the Voyager next year) so it was fun walking around town and taking in the sites without lots of tourists. This was market day (photo at right) and there were hundreds of open air stalls set up with fresh vegetables, fish, olives, fruits, flowers, etc. It was beautiful and the olives and red peppers were most impressive. We had a wonderful crepe at a local stall as a morning snack as we didn't have breakfast on board. I really enjoyed the visit to the Muse National de la Marine, the National Naval Museum, located in the 18th century naval arsenal. They had a good display of items from the 18th-19th century and transition into modern navy. We saw some traditional Provence fabrics and pottery in the shops in old town and along the promenade of the harbor. We visited the local Saint-Louis church that was rebuilt after W.W.II. We shuttled back to the ship in the afternoon early enough to get a salad and made to order frittatas in the Windjammer as a late lunch. We had much needed cabin time to rest from all the walking we have done this week. We went to the Diamond lounge for wine before another good dinner.
No debarkation as we are staying aboard ship.
The Voyager has had a dry dock update since we last sailed in January, but I haven't noticed any major difference or update. Since this cruise was so port intensive we have not really explored the ship that well, but will do so on the next leg as we have more time.
The staff and crew are very good. The staff is very friendly, but I look for that to even improve once they again begin sailing form Galveston. Our waiter and assistant waiter were excellent. Our Stateroom Attendant, Norris, was good and kept the cooler in ice.
We had cabin 9692 an aft balcony on deck nine. It is an average sized cabin and a nice balcony. The safe has a button keypad and there is a hair dryer. The TV's were not upgraded during dry dock, they are the same old TV's. There are now two electrical plugs on the vanity/desk. BTW-you can check the status of your on board account using the RC-TV. We never used the cabin refrigerator. Norris didn't leave any mints on the bed at turn down as RCCL has eliminated them, but did some weak towel animals most nights.
We had second or late seating for dinner and it is even later on the Med cruises: 9:00 pm. Our dining room was the Carmen, deck three (lower level) of the 3 level restaurant. It was a six top table and it below the beautiful main chandelier. We enjoyed all the dinners in the dining room. We never ate at Johnny Rockets or Portifino. Lunch in the dining room has the same menu each day with one special item that does change daily. All the bread selections are very good on board. The Windjammer usually had a fresh frittata and a carving station for nice meat selections. We enjoyed the green salads and specialty items. The desserts are very good. There are several ice cream machines with vanilla and chocolate flavors. We do use Room Service more when we have a balcony cabin. You can order room service on the RC-TV, but I recommend calling room service. DW used it for light breakfast every morning. We also used it a few times in the afternoon for Fruit plates & Cheese plates. Service was very good when used.
The weather was very nice especially considering that we are sailing in late November. The days are short, but we usually got an early start on tours so we were back on board when Sundown came about 5:00 p.m. It never rained and a light jacket is all that was needed during the day.
The new C&A Diamond members lounge was located in Cleopatra's Needle. We visited a few times, but were limited on drink selections. Taking away benefits earned under the loyalty program is not good. Benefits fairly earned should never have been reduced. The coupon book they now have has NO free items, only credits for very expensive items or small percentage off some more useful purchases. I know RCCL had to make some changes in the program, it was the way that it was handled is what I have been upset and concerned about. Believe me I want success for the company as I own stock beyond what is needed for a shareholder discount.
The five ports were by far the highlight of this cruise. We really enjoyed each and everyone. So much history and culture to absorb. Our favorite port was Rome our least favorite was Naples. We really enjoyed this cruise! A LOT!
I usually 'hang out' on the Cruisemates.com message boards.