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Just booked RC Med cruise for the summer, never cruised before

(18 Posts)
Drywhitethanks Thu 28-Jan-16 22:57:40

I have a few questions:

Some people have said not to go on the organised excursions because they're expensive. Approx how much are we talking? Others have said you risk missing the ship if you DIY.

Is it a good idea to pay tips up front and if we do will we look tight during the holiday if we don't tip?

How formal are formal nights? I love a gown BTW full length or cocktail?

Any other tips would be really welcome.

Thank you. smile

WhoKn0wsWhereTheMistletoes Thu 28-Jan-16 23:12:52

We've been twice with RC and throughly enjoyed ourselves

Excursions - the ships own ones are easy but definitely on the expensive side. If you DIY you do risk missing the ship, but, there are private excursion operators out there who will guarantee to get you back on time. They get booked up early though, start looking now. Also, in some places you literally dock in the city centre so you can just get off and walk to the beach, or hop on a local bus tour, things would have to go badly wrong for you not to get back on time if you allow enough time. It's harder in places which are a long way from the docks, eg Rome. Which cities are you going to?

Formal nights are not all that formal, anything from cocktail dress, smart trousers and top to full on gown for women, shirt and tie to black tie for men.

It's easier to pay the tips up front, we did, but we did tip our cabin attendant and waiter a bit extra in cash at the end, there is an envelope system that you post at reception rather than handing it over in person (they all have namebadges so you know who they are).

Best thing to do for advice is join the Cruise Critic Forum, they have thread areas for each line, each ship and each actual cruise, they organise meet-ups on board if you are into that sort of thing.

To be honest, the one tip that I think is important above all is researching your ports, it's not easy to find out much once you are on the ship and you don't want to waste a minute when you get off. Whether you want to pack in lots of sightseeing or just wander round the beach or shops, do your homework first.

chicaguapa Thu 28-Jan-16 23:21:55

Excursions - proper expensive. shock It depends what you want to do really. We did a DIY trip to Herculaneum from Naples. There was no stress at all about not getting back on the ship in time. You just have to allow enough time. But in Casablanca we wouldn't have considered DIY to Marrakech as the forums all said the traffic was unpredictable and ship's excursion was often late back itself. So we didn't go at all as the ship's prices were astronomical. My mum was in Barcelona earlier this week and it was $249 each for a walking tour of the Gothic quarter, some cava and tapas tasting.

The tips issue is very divisive. It's poor form to not tip but equally tipping the way Americans do, ie extensively, is not part of our culture. It's easier to pay tips up front and not think of it again. I've still given a little extra to the waiter and steward though if they've been friendly.

Dressing up - I'd say cocktail dresses but floor length is fine too. Some people wont be dressed up at all. Tbh everyone's concentrating on their own night and don't notice what anyone else is wearing unless it's shorts and flip flops.

Definitely look at the cruise forums for tips specific to your ship too. You can find out where the quiet places are or the best cabins to book. Joining a roll call is fun as you meet other people on the ship and can often arrange DIY excursions to save on costs.

Happy to answer more questions. I had loads before I went for the first time.

MPP81 Thu 28-Jan-16 23:37:05

Which ship are you on and when OP? DP and I are on an RC med cruise for our honeymoon this summer and it's our first time too, so I'm very interested in the replies you get here smile

Drywhitethanks Fri 29-Jan-16 07:52:35

Thanks so much. We go to Rome, Cannes, Florence and Piza, Santorini, Athens, Valletta. Can't wait ! I'll go on the forum too. Want to do my homework before.

WhoKn0wsWhereTheMistletoes Fri 29-Jan-16 09:05:45

Of those I've been to Rome, Cannes, Florence/Piza on RC cruises.

Rome is a considerable distance from the port (90 minutes drive or train), we did a RC excursion for that one and Florence/Pisa (we chose Pisa and although you can get there by train, you have to do a bit of changing etc, we opted for the easy life). Cannes is a tender port, that is one where the ship has to dock out on the harbour and transfer everyone in by small boats, which is a bit of a palava, you need to listen to the announcements and check the newsletter for ticketing arrangements. We went on the sightseeing road-train from the quayside and then just pottered around by ourselves there, pretended we were rich and famous.

You get a newsletter left in your cabin (sorry stateroom!) every evening with all the details of what's going on the next day, there really is something for everyone, although it depends a bit what ship you are on. My DCs loved the kids clubs and DH and I spent a lot of time on deck relaxing with cocktails and books.

Another thing with shore days is that you don't have to get off, or you can come back early, the advantage of this is that the ship is lovely and quiet and they often do offers on things like spa treatments. You can also leave your DCs in kids club and go on shore yourself if that suits you, we did that in Cadiz as they were a bit sightseeing-ed out by the time we got there and we just wanted to potter quietly round the old town by ourselves.

clippityclop Fri 29-Jan-16 09:15:43

We've travelled several times with RC. It's great, lovely food and entertainment. Don't worry about the dress code, formal does n' t mean full blown ball gowns as Whoknows says. We pay tips up front. With regard to the trips join Cruise Critic and read up. If you just want to potter about in the port there may be hoho buses waiting. Just pay attention to the schedule. The organised trips are a fantastic way to visit special sites, RC get really great local guides.

WhoKn0wsWhereTheMistletoes Fri 29-Jan-16 09:23:02

Yes, when we have been on the RC excursions they have been exceptionally well organised and with very good guides.

DurhamDurham Fri 29-Jan-16 09:38:44

We went on our first cruise last year, we went to the Norwegian Fjords and we loved every minute. I had my reservations, my husband was much keener than I was about out first cruise but all reservations went as soon as we got on board.

We didn't go on any of the organised excursions, they did ramp the prices up and we also enjoy doing our own thing. You are told wheat time to be back on ship and it's never just five minutes before they are due to leave grin
We usually had to be back on board by four pm even if it wasn't setting sail until late evening.

We are going on another cruise, this time around the Canaries, Madeira and Morocco. Just seven nights again. My husband would like to do a longer one but seven is long enough for me. I ate healthily last time but still put on weight because there is food every where you turn, and I consumed far too many cocktails.

WhoKn0wsWhereTheMistletoes Fri 29-Jan-16 13:28:43

We'd like to do a 7 night one (DS found 14 nights too long, he has SNs), but we are restricted to school holidays and my DH doesn't like flying so we are restricted to UK departures, it narrows it down a lot. I must look at what's still available this summer....

WhoKn0wsWhereTheMistletoes Fri 29-Jan-16 13:29:17

Yes, that's another tip, save your looser clothing for the last few days!

Drywhitethanks Sat 30-Jan-16 00:49:50

So I won't bother taking gym kit then wink. Cocktails on deck sounds blissful!

honeyrider Sun 10-Apr-16 20:34:55

I went on a cruise this time last year and we didn't bother with the ship's own excursions but did the local ones and saved a lot of money. Most of the excursions cost €10pp. We sailed from Barcelona to Marseille, Genoa, Rome (outside it) Palermo, Valletta instead of Tunis due to the terrorist attack 3 weeks earlier then back to Barcelona where we had the full day before our flight home.

This is my review of our cruise on the MSC Splendida, hopefully it will be helpful to anyone going to any of the ports mentioned.

We arrived around 10.30am at the port by taxi (cost €40 from airport) and the porters were there to take our luggage which was great. I had visions of having to walk some distance with the luggage before we could check in but the terminal is beside the ship. They started checking in passengers just after 11am, they were only a small number of desks open and they were slow but that was fine. Once on board we were sent to the buffet.

Marseille: We followed the green footpath and got the free port shuttle into the old part of the town. MSC charge €16.80 for this. We just pottered about and did some shopping. It was lovely and sunny but there was a strong breeze down by the port.

Genoa: we liked Genoa and when you exit the terminal and take the escalator up to street level there were tour buses so we did the tour, it was €10 each. There was a large market that we spent some time browsing, there was even a Guinness stall.

Rome: Easter Monday's not a good day to visit Rome as it's mobbed. We got the free shuttle to the edge of the port then got the bus to the train station, that cost 80c each way. We got our train ticket in the newsagents beside the train station as advised by an Italian so it cut out having to queue in the station. We got a €12 ticket that covered the train to Rome, buses, metro and tram etc. We got off near the Vatican but just had a look in St. Peter's Square as the queues were very long. We walked over to the Coliseum, that was a long walk in the heat. We didn't stay too long in Rome, the amount of hawkers was awful, they just blocked your way and were very persistent, in fact they were very intimidating. We were back onboard just after 4pm.

Palermo: The ship berths right in the town and the first thing you see is the sea of hawkers, they'd follow you up the streets. We did a tour on the tourist train that goes from outside where the ship has docked, it was €10 each. We enjoyed that, the architecture is lovely but it's so dilapidated, most of the buildings need painting. We were told that most people cannot afford the maintenance.

Malta: Malta was lovely, very friendly people, cheap and no hawkers. The ship berths in Valletta so didn't need a bus to get to the main thoroughfare. We went on the open top tour bus, there are 2 routes, red and blue, we only did one of them, it was €10 each.

When we disembarked at Barcelona we went to collect our luggage from the conveyer belt and spotted a man at a portable desk taking passengers luggage to mind for the day and deliver it to their hotel, train station or airport. We left our luggage with him, it was €10 per bag and meant we were luggage free to spend the day sightseeing in Barcelona as our flight wasn't until 10.45pm. We got the T3 post bus into the Christopher Columbus statue and then did the hop on hop off tour of Barcelona (around €26 each) and a tour of the Nou Camp. We got the airport bus out to the airport and collected our luggage which was already on a trolley ready for us.

It was a great holiday and everything was so well organised.

Any of the ports where the ship is berthed some distance from the city or town centre have free shuttle buses provided by the port authorities.

I'm off on another cruise with MSC Orchestra at the end of next week. I'm flying to Venice then heading to Bari, Katakolon, Santorini, Piraeus/Athens, Corfu, Kotor and back to Venice where we'll stay a night in Venice as the flights are early in the day. I've got to research excursions from each port this week.

AnneElliott Sun 10-Apr-16 20:41:46

We've only gone with P&O but the excursions are expensive. Worth doing in Rome as the port is do far out but probably not in Cannes. When we went to Cannes it was the lifeboats that took us into shore. It was the highlight of the trip for DS!

For formal nights, P&O insist on jackets for men unless it's a casual night, although there are the non formal restaurants that you can go to.

On our Fred Olsen cruise there was a couple of women with tiaras shockbut P&O wasn't as formal as that.

dazzlingdeborahrose Wed 27-Apr-16 13:33:18

We've sailed several times with RC and will be going again this summer. Alas not on your cruise it seems. We've been to most of the places on your itinerary. Cannes, you're literally in the port and there'll be tenders running back and forth all day. We did book a walking tour of Cannes and it was interesting and added to the trip. Again, Santorini will be tenders. It's stunning but you can easily do it on your own. Rome, we organised our own guide who picked us up at the port. We saw far more in Rome than the organised tours and there was no issue about getting back to port on time. I can pass on the details if you're interested. Pisa - we did a half day excursion including river trip which was lovely. Again you can do it by train, Pisa is compact. Athens, we also did an organised tour. With regard to the ship. If you were late then they would hold it for a certain period but it's not guaranteed and eventually they have to leave but loads of people do their own thing and I don't think anyone's ever missed the ship (famous last words).
RC formal nights are as formal as you make them. We do the full black tie, some people do suits, some wear their usual dinner clothes and some people decamp to the Windjammer in their shorts and t shirts and avoid it all together.
If you're in a tender port, you need to get your tickets which tell you what time to go down to the exit. If you're in a suite, you don't need to do this. Your concierge will sort it all for you and escort you down.
We don't do the upfront tipping but usually add something when we're signing off the bill. We add something extra on the last evening for everyone who's looked after us. You'll be left envelopes for this particular purpose on the last night. Don't forget your room steward. The year my daughter got seasick and upchucked all over the state room, she got well tipped.
If you're bringing children, the kids clubs are excellent and you can leave the children on board with them even if you're going into the port. It's free but watch out for late pick up charges. When the ship's at sea they open the Pets at Sea stall which is like build a bear.
I think I've waffled enough!! Let me know if you've any other questions. What ship are you on by the way?

ChoccyJules Mon 13-Jun-16 11:38:33

Hi, I assume there's a charge for Pets at Sea? (Though if DD sees this happening, we'll be doomed....!)

LinzerTorte Sat 18-Jun-16 17:25:52

Yes, there is a charge for Pets at Sea (we were also doomed as soon as DS had spotted it!). I can't remember the exact price we paid but it wasn't cheap - maybe around $30 but they forgot to charge us for the outfit.

GinandJag Thu 28-Jul-16 22:08:12

Have you been yet, OP?

For Florence/Pisa, you dock in Livorno. We went to Pisa on this day and just took a local taxi. He waited for us in Pisa for the time it took us to climb the tower and look around (1.5 hours). The taxi had superfast wifi which was a very memorable thing for my teens.

We were back in Livorno before noon, so had lunch there and a mooch around the market and shops before an early return to the ship.

If you are going to Florence, it is a good idea to do a ship's excursion.

For Rome, you dock in Civitavecchia, which is about 90 minutes from the centre, depending on traffic. I researched public transport options for this but in the end opted for a coach. The coach came with a guide who gave lots of useful info. We were dropped off near the Vatican at 10am, so did St Peter's Square and the Basilica (about 5 minutes of queues), and skipped the Sistine Chapel as we didn't want to queue. We then wandered towards the Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps, then up the Corso. We jumped on a metro to the Coliseum, before heading back for our 4pm departure.

We haven't been to your other ports, but generally in a smallish place, we just have a wander and settle on a beach. If we pay for an excursion, it is purely transport rather than following a guide.

It is good to know if your port is a full-on cruise terminal, or whether you dock in centre of town, and then if you dock or have to use a tender.

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