Odyssey of the Seas Live Blog – Day 1 – Civitavecchia, Italy

Ciao from Rome, Italy! Our next live blog comes daily from Europe aboard the Odyssey of the Seas.

I am pleased to announce that for the next 12 nights I will be sailing to the Holy Land on a highly anticipated cruise; This cruise includes three days in Israel, along with stops in Limmasol (Cyprus), Santorini (Greece), Rhodes (Greece) and Chania (Greece).

During our time in Israel, Odyssey will dock overnight in Jerusalem (Ashdod) for two days and end with one day in Haifa.

This is a special cruise as it has been on my father’s wish list for years. We have had to postpone this many times due to the pandemic, but we are very excited to be on board and traveling to Israel!

On this cruise, I’m sailing with Angie, my sister and social media manager for the Royal Caribbean Blog. We will also be accompanied by our parents but we will not make them work too hard during this cruise!

Europe is my absolute favorite place in the world to cruise; European itineraries are packed with so many culturally rich destinations. This is my eighth cruise in Europe and my third time aboard a Quantum class ship.

Travel to Rome

Cruising Europe is a great cruise choice for many reasons, but one of my favorites is the opportunity to explore new cities and countries before the cruise begins.

My sister and I traveled from Florida to Paris, France last week for a few days in the city of love. We met up with my dear friend Rosina who I met on a teen club cruise more than 14 years ago! Although I have cruised to Paris before, having four full days to see this incredible city was the perfect way to start our cruise vacation.

Yesterday we flew on a cheap EasyJet flight from Paris to Rome, 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 in advance. This gives you more time to adjust to the time zone and accounts for any delays you might encounter. Plus, you’ll have a full day to explore your cruise’s departure city!

After meeting up with our jet-lagged parents, we made our way to Rome and enjoyed dinner before visiting the Trevi Fountain, Colosseum and Spanish Steps.

We stayed at the Crowne Plaza – St. Peters as it is close to the city, airport and cruise port. I would highly recommend staying in this area.

Arrival to the port

After a good night’s sleep, we took a private transfer, which we arranged through Viator, from our hotel to the port city of Civitavecchia.

There are several options 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 at $50 each while the hotel charged $70 each for a large shuttle bus transfer. We saw the lobby filled with other cruisers waiting in a long line for the shuttles and taxis.

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The drive to Civitavecchia took about an hour and got us to the port around 11:00 am. Although we were scheduled for a 12pm boarding time, there was no problem boarding early.

Embarkation was an absolute breeze – much smoother than any embarkation I’ve experienced in the US! As this cruise is 12 nights, we had to take a self-supervised Covid-19 test and provide negative results prior to boarding. When boarding we were not asked to show our vaccination cards.

Angie and I both brought Covid-19 tests to Paris and did them at our hotel before flying to Rome.

Become known

Once aboard Odyssey of the Seas, we went straight to Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen to plan dinner, which allows us to take advantage of our BOGO Diamond Specialty Dining benefit.

We also made reservations at Chops Grille for tonight to take advantage of all the BOGO offerings between the four of us.

Although the perk says you must dine on day 1 or 2, we found that most of the time you can prepay on day 1 or 2 and then dine at a later time.

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 eaten at Coastal Kitchen, so we’re curious to see what the hype is about.

Lunch started at the Solarium Bistro but everything we tried was cold so we made our way to El Loco Fresh. I’ve never sailed on a ship with this dining option, so I was ready to give it a try!

I really enjoyed my chicken burrito and Angie also liked her quesadilla.

We finished the meal with a creamy mudslide cocktail made with ice fresh off the machine on the pool deck. It was divine!

The suite life

You may know me as the cheap cruise expert, but sometimes I like to spend money. Although we originally booked a cheap inside cabin (as usual), we upgraded our room twice during the pre-cruise process.

We booked our inside cabin direct when this itinerary was announced in 2020. Back in February we re-evaluated our staterooms and saved $1,400 on our inside stateroom, while my parents saved $2,400 on their balcony stateroom.

Book early and change the price often, that’s always the way to go!

Just a few months ago I upgraded us to a balcony guarantee for free as the price was a little less than what we paid. When we had the opportunity to bid on a suite during the royal-up process, we bid $300 each and were awarded a mid-ship junior suite!

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I’m curious if the suite life is worth the price. For this cruise, we pay approximately $100 per person per day before tips.

Our room is as beautiful as it is spacious. After sailing almost exclusively in inside cabins, it 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 extremely positive – maybe I need to upgrade more often!

The North Star

After making dinner reservations and finding our stateroom, we made our way to deck 14 to make our North Star reservation.

I’ve heard before about making a reservation on day one to try North Star – so glad we did! We were able to get a reservation for 3:30pm and were able to see the port and ship from above.

With a small group, we were blasted into the air and given some really cool views of the ship and port area. Although I have sailed both Spectrum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas, this was my first time trying North Star!

While it was once a cool thing, I wouldn’t say it’s an absolute must, and I don’t know if I’d pay for it. While in port you cannot step off the side of the ship like you can at sea; Therefore, the free ride (available on port days) is shorter.

Right next to the North Star launch pad was the Lime & Coconut Bar. We opted for the signature Lime & Coconut cocktail, served in a small Malibu bucket. The cocktail was sweet with creamy coconut. It was so good that Angie and I ordered a second round!

Chop Grill

Since my father prefers to have dinner very early, I was not on the upper deck to watch us sail away. Instead, we had a 5:45pm reservation at Chops Grille.

I tend to order the same thing every time I eat 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 restaurant bonus and also keeps me away from the main dining room for the first night.

I’ve 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 desk, but couldn’t place it exactly. We asked what ships the Lord had worked on; He listed a variety of ships, but nothing helped ring a bell.

Eventually he performed “Spectrum of the Seas” at the end of his long list and we all cheered. He was our waiter on our recent family cruise from Shanghai to Japan in 2019 where we had dinner every night in the Silver Lounge. It’s always fun to see familiar faces on board and make cruise memories!

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For dinner, we enjoyed thick-cut bacon and crab cakes for starters, followed by a creamy wild mushroom soup. Angie doesn’t like steak so she chooses the chicken while the rest of us enjoyed tender fillets and flavorful ribeyes.

We finished with a choice of desserts including key lime pie, chocolate cake and red velvet cake. Everything was wonderful and tasted great. The Key Lime Pie is an eye-catcher for us at Chops Grille!

I ended the evening with a quiet, relaxing night at the cabin working on this blog and editing photos. Today’s entertainment was a 50’s and 60’s tribute show which I have observed caters to the general demographic of this itinerary.

Angie attended the evening show with my parents and said she enjoyed listening to the music. Our parents have yet to return to their cabin for the night – how the tables turned!

Tomorrow is a sea day, much needed after five busy days of exploring, touring and walking all over Paris and Rome. I plan on getting plenty of sleep and naps along with some catching up on work.

scatter observations

One of the biggest observations we all made was the sheer number of guests wearing Pinnacle charms. For those who don’t know, this is the highest level of loyalty available with Royal Caribbean, and these exclusive guests receive an engraved name tag. These are worn with great pride by Pinnacle members – at least that’s what I’m told!

I’ve honestly never seen so many people wearing Pinnacles on a cruise. Our server confirmed tonight that there is said to be a “record-breaking” number of Pinnacle guests on board, which explains this unique observation.

This could make it difficult for us to get reservations for the Coastal Kitchen as Junior Suite guests have the lowest priority and can only dine in for dinner upon availability.

As I mentioned earlier, the demographics on this cruise are certainly on the older side – a stark contrast to my last cruise on Carnival Ecstasy, which was a wild weekend cruise from Mobile, Alabama to Mexico for Cruise.Blog.

My parents are in their 60’s and we estimate that is the average age of most cruise lines onboard. Based on my experience cruising in Europe, this tends to be more common, especially on longer itineraries.

My dad tried to order a Miami Vice twice and apparently the ship is from the strawberry mix! We will see in the next few days whether this will remain the case.

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