Ciao from Rome, Italy! Our next live blog will arrive daily from Europe aboard the Odyssey of the Seas.
I am delighted to share that I will be sailing for the next 12 nights on a much anticipated Holy Land cruise; this cruise includes three days in Israel, as well as stops in Limmasol (Cyprus), Santorini (Greece), Rhodes (Greece) and Chania (Greece)
While in Israel, Odyssey will dock for two days in Jerusalem (Ashdod) and end with a day in Haifa.
This is a special cruise as it has been on my dad’s wish list for years. We had to postpone this one several times due to the pandemic, but we’re excited to be on board and heading to Israel!
For this cruise, I’m sailing with Angie, my sister and social media manager for the Royal Caribbean blog. We are also joined by our parents, but we will not make them work too much during this cruise!
Europe is my favorite place to navigate the world; European itineraries are packed with so many culture-rich destinations. This is my eighth cruise to Europe and my third time aboard a Quantum class ship.
Traveling to Rome
A Europe cruise is a great cruise choice for many reasons, but one of my favorites is the ability to explore new cities and countries before the cruise departs.
My sister and I traveled from Florida to Paris, France last week to spend a few days in the city of love. We met my dear friend, Rosina, who I met at the teen club on a cruise over 14 years ago! Although I’ve been to Paris on a cruise once before, having four full days to see this incredible city was the perfect start to our cruise vacation.
Yesterday we flew from Paris to Rome on a cheap EasyJet flight where we met my parents at the airport. My parents’ flight landed on Tuesday morning, just in time for our cruise departure on Wednesday.
Personally, I would recommend arriving at an international cruise destination at least two days before. This gives you more time to adjust to the time zone and takes into account any potential delays you may encounter. Plus, it gives you a full day to explore your cruise departure city!
After meeting our jet lagged parents, we traveled to Rome and had dinner before visiting the Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum and the Spanish Steps.
We stayed overnight at the Crowne Plaza – St. Peters due to its proximity to the city, airport and cruise port. Highly recommend staying in this area.
Getting to the port
After a good night’s sleep, we took a private transfer that we arranged on Viator from our hotel to the port town of Civitavecchia.
There are several ways to get to the port from Rome, such as train, bus or taxi, but a scheduled transfer was both relaxing and convenient. Our private transfer was booked for $50 each while the hotel charged $70 each for a large shuttle transfer. We saw the lobby filled with other cruisers waiting in a long line for shuttles and taxis.
The drive to Civitavecchia took about an hour, bringing us to the port around 11:00am. Although we were scheduled for a noon boarding time, we had no problem getting on board earlier.
Boarding was an absolute breeze – much smoother than any boarding I’ve experienced in the US! As this cruise is 12 nights, we had to take a self-checked Covid-19 test and present negative results before boarding. We were not asked to show our vaccination records when boarding.
Angie and I both brought Covid-19 home tests to Paris and picked them up at our hotel before flying to Rome.
Get familiar with
Once aboard the Odyssey of the Seas, we went straight to Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen to plan dinner, allowing us to use our BOGO Diamond Specialty Dining benefit.
We also made a reservation for Chops Grille for tonight to use all the BOGO deals between the four of us.
Although the benefit states that you must have dinner on day 1 or 2, we have found that most of the time you can pre-pay on day 1 or 2 and then have dinner at a later date.
As we are staying in a Junior Suite for this cruise, I also went to Coastal Kitchen to make a reservation for tomorrow night. We’ve never dined at the Coastal Kitchen before, so we’re excited to see what it’s all about.
Lunch started at Solarium Bistro, but everything we tried was cold, so we headed to El Loco Fresh. I haven’t sailed a boat with this catering option, so I was willing to give it a try!
I really enjoyed my chicken burrito and Angie also liked her quesadilla.
We ended the meal with a creamy mudflow cocktail, made with ice cream fresh from the pool deck machine. It was divine!
You may know me as a budget cruise expert, but sometimes I like to splurge. Although we initially booked a cheap inside cabin (as usual), we upgraded our room twice during the pre-cruise process.
We booked our inside cabin just as this itinerary was announced in 2020. In February we reviewed our cabins and saved $1400 on our inside cabin while my parents saved $2400 on their balcony cabin.
Book early and reassess often is always the way to go!
Just a few months ago I upgraded us for free to a balcony guarantee as the price was slightly less than what we had paid. When we were lucky enough to bid on a suite during the Royal Up process, we bid $300 each and received a midship junior suite!
I can’t wait to see if the suite life is worth the price. For this cruise, we pay approximately $100 per person per day before gratuities.
Our room is just as beautiful as it is spacious. Having sailed almost exclusively in inside cabins, this feels like pure luxury.
We have a large balcony, a bath, a walk-in shower and (best of all) a separate area with a toilet and additional sink. Our first impressions of the cabin were overwhelmingly positive – maybe I should start upgrading more often!
The North star
After making dinner reservations and finding our cabin, we headed to deck 14 for our North Star reservation.
I’ve heard before that you have to make a reservation on day one to try North Star – so glad I did! We were able to get a reservation for 3:30pm and it allowed us to see the harbor and the boat from above.
With a small group we were launched into the air and had some really cool views of the ship and the harbor area. Although I have sailed Spectrum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas, this was my first time trying the North Star!
Although it was a cool thing to do once, I wouldn’t say it’s an absolute must and I don’t know if I would pay to do it. While in port, you cannot leave the ship as they can at sea; therefore, the free ride (available during port days) is shorter.
Just off the North Star’s launch pad was the Lime & Coconut bar. We decided to try the signature ‘Lime & Coconut’ cocktail, served in a small Malibu bucket. The cocktail was sweetened with creamy coconut. It was so good that Angie and I ordered a second round!
Grill of chops
As my father prefers to dine very early, I was not on the upper deck to watch our sail sail away. Instead, we had a 5:45 reservation at Chops Grille.
I tend to order the same thing every time I dine at Chops Grille – and it becomes my new routine to dine there on the first night of every cruise. This allows us to use our BOGO specialty dining perk and also prevents me from entering the main dining room for the first night.
I learned that Royal Caribbean serves the same Day 1 menu in the main dining room on virtually every cruise, no matter where I’m sailing – and it’s just not my favorite menu.
Upon entering Chops Grille, we saw a familiar face at the check-in counter, but couldn’t put our finger on it. We asked what ships the gentleman had worked on; he listed a variety of ships, but nothing helped ring a bell.
Finally he listed at the end of his long list “Spectrum of the Seas” and we all perked up. He was our server for our last family cruise from Shanghai to Japan in 2019 where we dined at the Silver Lounge each evening. It’s always fun to see familiar faces on board and reminisce about cruising!
For dinner, we enjoyed thick bacon and crab cakes as a starter, followed by a creamy wild mushroom soup. Angie doesn’t like steak so she chooses the chicken while the rest of us enjoyed the tender tenderloins and flavorful rib eye.
We finished dinner with an assortment of desserts including key lime pie, chocolate cake and red velvet cake. Everything was wonderful and tasted great. Key lime pie is a Chops Grille staple for us!
I ended the evening with a quiet, relaxing night in the cabin working on this blog and editing photos. The entertainment tonight was a 50s and 60s tribute show, which speaks to the general demographics of this route based on my observations.
Angie attended the evening show with my parents and said she liked listening to the music. Our parents haven’t returned to their cabin for the night yet – as the tables have turned!
Tomorrow is a day at sea, which is much needed after five busy days of exploring, sightseeing and cruising around Paris and Rome. I plan on getting lots of sleep and naps, as well as catching up on work.
One of the main observations we all made is the large number of guests wearing Pinnacle pins. For those unaware, this is the highest level of loyalty you can get with Royal Caribbean and these exclusive guests receive an engraved tag. These are worn with great pride by Pinnacle members – or so I’ve been told!
I truly have never seen so many people wear Pinnacle pins on a cruise. Our server confirmed tonight that there are a supposedly “record” number of Pinnacle guests on board, which explains this unique sighting.
This might make it difficult for us to get Coastal Kitchen reservations as Junior Suite guests are the lowest priority and can only dine if there is availability.
As I mentioned, the demographics for this cruise are definitely older – a stark contrast to my last cruise on Carnival Ecstasy, which was a wild weekend cruising in Mexico from Mobile, Alabama for Cruise.Blog.
My parents are in their 60s and we assume that is the average age for most cruisers on board. This tends to be more common based on my experiences cruising Europe, especially on the longer itineraries.
My dad tried to order a Miami Vice twice and apparently the ship is out of strawberry mix! We will see if this continues to be true in the days to come.