Daytripping to Rome on Royal Caribbean's 7 Night Eastern Mediterranean Cruise

Rome is picturesque from any angle.
Rome is picturesque from any angle.

To Rome

Day 1 and day 8 of your cruise you will board or disembark in Civitavecchia, the port closest to Rome. You might want to extend your vacation with some time in Rome before or after your cruise. Royal Caribbean has added a feature to their website that allows you to extend your vacation using packages that they offer. I chose to make our travel arrangements myself and will share what I learned here.

The first question I had to answer was "should I add Rome before or after the cruise"? I had two issues to consider:

  1. were there any festivals or other events that I wanted to attend
  2. when could I use my USAirways frequent flyer miles.

I saved my husband's frequent flyer miles for years and also bought miles to give us enough points for four free tickets. The tricky thing was finding a date for four people to fly free, because USAirways only designates certain seats as their frequent flyer seats and there aren't always any available, much less four. I also wanted us all to sit together, as my children were young and unaccustomed to flying. I was on the phone for hours, literally hours. Apparently, "when do you have x number of frequent flyer seats available between these dates to this destination" is not a question the designers of USAirways' scheduling software thought would ever be asked. So the conversation went like this "do you have four frequent flyer miles seats available on June 10th from Charlotte to Rome"? No? Okay, how about from Atlanta to Rome? No? From Greensboro to Rome? Let's try June 11th. From Charlotte? Atlanta? Greensboro? This took multiple calls, and each time, I didn't know whether seats had opened up on flights I had previously checked. Also, there are multiple connecting cities, and each one of those flights had to be checked as well. Then, of course, there was the return trip to consider.

It's interesting that the scheduling representatives had such varying opinions on whether or not they should spend so much time on the phone with me. One person said they simply couldn't keep checking for flights as it wasn't fair to other customers. The person with whom I was ultimately successful said she would stay on the phone with me as long as it took.

After the monumental task of scheduling four free tickets, seated together, on dates that gave me enough time to spend a week in Rome and make our cruise departure, I realized that I was extremely fortunate to have the reservations. By some quirk of fate, we didn't have any unreasonably long layovers.

I wanted to see Andrea Bocelli on concert while in Rome, but that didn't work out with our flights. I did find a Leonardo da Vinci traveling exhibit during the dates we were in Rome. So scheduling around events we wanted to see became secondary to getting the free flights.

Use the laundry service on the cruise ship for clean clothes on the cruise or in Rome, depending on whether you add your time in Rome to the beginning or end of your vacation.

Where to Stay

We stayed at a Comfort Inn in Rome, just like we did in Fiumichino, because we belong to the Choice Privileges hotel rewards program. Why not rack up some points if you can? The name of the hotel was Hotel Bolivar. It was expensive, 300 euros a night. I found that four people in a room exceeds a city regulation in Rome in many cases. In Fiumichino we ended up with two rooms. At the Bolivar, we were all in one room, but it had a double and two singles and was very cramped. Not enough room for suitcases, hard to manuever. No place to sit and relax.

However, this hotel had two fantastic advantages. The first advantage was free breakfast, delicious and served on china, on the top floor of the hotel. We always sat by the windows and had a great view of the city. The second advantage is location. You can walk to the Coliseum, Trevi Fountain, Trajan's Column, and many other sites easily from the hotel. Shopping, even for the leather handbags on my Roman bucket list, was literally around the corner from the hotel alley.

We bought water each day for 1 euro a bottle.  Don't forget to specify "still" if you don't want carbonated water. It was almost completely frozen and we had to wait to drink it. While you wait, use it to cool your forehead.
We bought water each day for 1 euro a bottle. Don't forget to specify "still" if you don't want carbonated water. It was almost completely frozen and we had to wait to drink it. While you wait, use it to cool your forehead.

The Roman Bucket List

Start googling "what to see in Rome" and make your list of must-see items and places. This was my list:

  • Coliseum
  • Sistine Chapel
  • the Forum
  • "Horned" Moses
  • the Capitoline Wolf
  • the Vatican
  • shopping for leather handbags.

Of course, I could've added items to that list all day, but I only had four whole days plus two to travel. I also wanted time to savor the city and just walk around.

We also wanted time to visit the da Vinci exhibit on big machines that I found while searching for events and festivals.

My son wanted to go to Hard Rock Cafe Roma. At first I wasn't on board with this idea, because I wanted us to eat "real" Italian food while we could. However, he really wanted to go and we did. We now have a family tradition of visiting Hard Rock Cafes wherever we go. To date, he has t-shirts from Rome, Denver, Myrtle Beach, Washington D.C. and Atlanta.

At Trajan's Column.
At Trajan's Column.
The Capitoline Wolf, nursing Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome. This picture was in my history book in elementary school. The statue is found in the Capitoline Museum.
The Capitoline Wolf, nursing Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome. This picture was in my history book in elementary school. The statue is found in the Capitoline Museum.
Gelato every day.
Gelato every day.

While in Rome

Okay, get your map and start walking or take a taxi. Just hold your breath in the taxi and pretend you travel at warp speed inches from other vehicles all the time. Tell yourself you are on an adventure and think positive thoughts. You don't need any other hints on getting around Rome, except that you'll be pleasantly surprised how many things you'll see that you didn't think you had time for, because they are on the way to a place your bucket list. We walked to the Coliseum and saw Trajan's Column and the Capitoline Museum along the way.

Don't miss pizza and gelato, of course.

The Coliseum

Buy your tickets in advance. You'll still have a very long wait in line. Don't worry, it's worth it. You might consider the Roma Pass, which allows you to visit several sites with one ticket.

I just have one hint about visiting the Coliseum. There are guys standing around in Roman gladiator and centurion garb. You might want a picture with them. We did. They are very helpful when it comes to taking the picture, which you do with your own camera. They will give you advice, like "turn the camera this way" and "this will be a better shot". Then they will tell you that every click of the camera cost some arbitrary amount. You could end up spending 30 euros if you aren't careful. Now I loved seeing them there at the Coliseum and I would pose with them again, but I remember worrying that I was going to be short of cash that day. Apparently there are changes in the works concerning these guys, according to this article in The Telegraph.

The Thinker and The Reader.
The Thinker and The Reader.

Vatican Museums

If you visit the Vatican Museums, and why would you miss them, go ahead and decide which day you are going and buy your tickets online. You don't want to stand in line, baking in the sun and wasting your time. Ladies, bring your scarf to cover your shoulders and guys, you have to watch what you wear as well. Click on my link to take you to the official website. You are going to see artwork that you've heard of all your life, but make sure you print information to take with you, because unbelievably, most items in the museums aren't labeled at all and if they are, it's not in English.

The Borgia Apartments are open to the public and are part of the exhibits in the Vatican Museums. Yes, as in "The Borgias" from Showtime.

Sistine Chapel

On your way through the Vatican Museums, you will find the Sistine Chapel. As you gaze at the wonder that is the Sistine Chapel, you will be serenaded with loud admonitions to be quiet. "SILENCIO!" will be shouted every three or four minutes. I know it's a chapel and you are supposed to be quiet, but that guy shouting at you to be quiet is more than a little ironic.

At the extreme end of the chapel, there are benches. If you are lucky enough to snag a seat, it's really worth it to take the time to sit and look closely at the ceiling. Every foot of it is amazing. My daughter sketches, so we packed her sketch pad and pencils in her day bag. She sat on that bench for an hour sketching a section of the ceiling. Seeing her happily communing with Michelangelo is one of the best experiences of my life.

Still sketching images she saw in the Sistine Chapel as we had lunch in the museum cafeteria.
Still sketching images she saw in the Sistine Chapel as we had lunch in the museum cafeteria.

Piazza Navonna

Not on my Roman bucket list, you might have noticed. I just didn't know to put it on there, but now I do. We took a taxi from our hotel. It's full of interesting things to do and see. There's an Egyptian obelisk, which is one of many Egyptian items you will find in Rome. Musicians, great food, beautiful fountains, street performers, sketch artists, painters. My ten-year-old daughter carefully watched each sketch artist until she found the one whose work she liked best. Then we paid 25 euros to have her drawn in charcoal. Best "souvenir" of the entire vacation.

Horned Moses

The San Pietro in Vincoli houses Michelangelo's Moses. When I was a little girl, I saw a picture of this "Horned Moses" and could not believe my eyes. Apparently conversing with the higher powers results in your very own set of horns! Or perhaps it's a translation error. Yes, that could be it. But as a child, I spent time wondering what Moses thought when he put his hand up on his head for the first time, if those horns kept growing so that Moses ended up looking like a moose and if other people went up on Mount Sinai trying to get their own set of horns. In any case, anything Michelangelo did is fine by me and this was a key item on my Roman bucket list.

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