7/3/13 - 7/20/13
Update: All new posts can be found at http://thewanderingmind.net.
The day had finally arrived. Despite having already spent time in the incredible cities of Berlin and Rome, the main component of my graduation trip had not even begun - an 11-night Eastern Mediterranean cruise on the Celebrity Reflection. And this, a sunny summer Monday in Rome, was when the cruise would finally embark. We had several hours and one train ride before we would be at the port of Civitavecchia, which is considered the port of Rome, but is really about 45 minutes to an hour away from the city. Obviously, I couldn't leave Rome without one final cappuccino, so off to a cafe we went. And then I perhaps got a bit distracted by a shop window. Thirty minutes, 30 pairs of gloves, and well more than €30 later, I owned a beautiful pair of Italian leather gloves and Clay had managed to purchase a couple of ties.
To prevent spending all of our money before we even stepped foot on the cruise ship, we checked out of our hotel and caught a taxi to Rome's Termini Station. We had purchased 1st class Trenitalia tickets for a non-stop train between Rome and Civitavecchia. They cost a total of €30, which is much less than we would have paid for any other form of transportation to the port. However, booking the tickets prior to our trip was quite the hassle - the Trenitalia website only seemed to work intermittently and was somewhat confusing, especially when trying to figure out which type of ticket to buy. To sum up all of the complicated advice that I found online, my strategy when choosing which tickets to book was to narrow it down to trips that lasted between 40 and 50 minutes (which meant there were no stops between Termini and the port... I think) and then compare price, time, and availability. This was much more complex than it sounds, so I printed our tickets and crossed my fingers that we wouldn't have to end up paying ridiculous amounts of money for a last-minute taxi ride to the port. I decided on 1st class tickets to ensure there would be plenty of room for our luggage. Plus, there was not a significant price difference between 1st and 2nd class tickets. Not that I ever overcompensate due to anxiety.
With all of the hassle of booking the tickets, I was somewhat concerned that the day-of would be a hassle and/or disaster. Fortunately, it was as easy as could be. We arrived at Termini Station and waited for our platform to show up on the impossible-to-miss schedule board.
One important thing to keep in mind is that trains are primarily identified by their first and last destinations. In this case, our train was continuing on to Milan, so we needed to know the specific name and number of the train in order to be directed to the correct platform. We easily loaded our stuff - I had picked seats at the back of the car, so our big suitcases easily fit behind us (and no one could have moved them without our knowledge) and our small bags could fit either overhead or at our feet.
I was so excited. I hadn't been on a train trip since our honeymoon and this time I was on a train in Italy of all places!
Although I had been somewhat nervous about this form of transportation, I was ultimately glad that we chose to take the train. It was straightforward and relaxing once we were on board. And there was something so Italian about riding a train through fields of sunflowers as we approached the sea. But let's be honest, by this point I was mostly just really excited about the cruise. After a quick taxi from the train station to the port and a relatively painless check-in (aided by the fact that we were in Aqua Class - more to come on that - and had a designated line), we were officially on the cruise.
I couldn't wait to start exploring - starting with our BALCONY CABIN!!!! For real, I should get a PhD every year if I get to experience this... On second thought, maybe not.
The room was spacious, comfortable, and had plenty of storage.
That was not even the best part. Clay had booked an Aqua Class cabin. This meant we had upgraded bathroom amenities like a shower with multiple shower heads and spa quality bath products.
We also enjoyed extra benefits like in-room canapes in the afternoons. Because we needed more food than the seemingly endless options already available.
But really, one of the primary reasons to book an Aqua Class cabin is access to the truly gorgeous Aqua Spa.
Throughout the cruise, we could use the Relaxation Room or the Persian Garden at any time we wanted.
In case that was not clear, for 11 days, I had access to heated tile loungers with a view of the Mediterranean. Or I could sit in the sauna. Or cool off in an icy room. Or take a scented rain shower. Or call my spa concierge to book a priority access appointment. I'm still pinching myself!
As if all of this wasn't exciting enough, in our cabin we were greeted by champagne and the first piece of paper to ever be addressed to Dr. Platt, that is if you don't count the notepaper doodles reminiscent of the I heart so-and-so drawings from the middle school years (I needed something to get me through psychophysiology).
And there was a balcony!! There are no words that can express my excitement about this aspect of our cruise! Sadly, our first view from the balcony was this:
But it wasn't too long until the view changed to this:
All of this and we had not even left our room (well, except the spa part, but it was practically across the hall from us, so it doesn't count). When we did get out to explore, I continued to be so impressed. We grabbed lunch at the buffet restaurant - the Oceanside Cafe. Throughout the cruise, the options were varied and for the most part quite good.
We checked out various areas around the ship before finding a spot for the sailaway.
And then I won a spa treatment. We had entered the giveaway during an earlier tour of the spa and then later returned for the drawing. It was basically an opportunity for spa and fitness center staff to share the various treatments and classes available (mostly for a price, of course), but they were also giving away prizes. Of course, winners had to dance in front of everyone to get the prize, so needless to say I was moderately mortified. And thanks to Clay there is video evidence of said mortification, but it will not be making it to this blog. However, I think dancing (with a hot fitness instructor, by the way) is a small price to pay for a facial.
That evening, we got to enjoy yet another benefit of Celebrity Aqua Class. That would be the speciality restaurant Blu. Blu is included for guests in Aqua Class, although others can make reservations and pay for the restaurant based upon availability. The restaurant was certainly beautiful, but we were even more pleased to learn that the food lived up to our expectations. Throughout the cruise, we ate a variety of delicious dishes. Considered to be perhaps the best restaurant on the Reflection, we were never disappointed.
The caramel creme brulee was pretty spectacular.
Following dinner, we decided to take advantage of embarkation spa specials. We both booked 75 minute treatments for the price of 50 minute treatments.
After modeling the luxurious robe, I experienced the hot stone massage and Clay went with a bamboo massage. My massage was fantastic. It was much needed after several days of extensive traveling and walking. The relaxation continued with some time in the Persian Garden following our massages. Not wanting to ruin the blissed out state I was in, I ended our embarkation day sitting on our balcony watching the stars and listening to the ocean.