Ready for a GRAND (Princess) time! August 18, 2009

The long weekend with a time change and a lack of sleep is catching up with everyone, and having to be awake at 4:45 this morning is not helping anyone’s mood.  Manilo is there right on time at 5:30 to take us to Fiumicino, and it’s like leaving a good friend or family member – there are kisses and hugs and handshakes.  I so hope we see him again.

Jim almost got himself beaten to death with one of the chairs at the gate when he started stuff with me.  We were looking for a place to grab something to eat and a place to exchange money, but nothing was open once we got to the gate.  Jim started his nonsense about not wanting to ask for help, so I left and walked back to the gate where everyone else was waiting.  He came back in a miserable mood, demanded Eilis go with him, and he left again.  He’s lucky he made it out of Italy alive.

One thing that was consistent throughout the trip – no wheelchair 🙁  But that’s not even half of the story.  Not only was there no wheelchair, but they changed our gate.  We had to go down a flight of steps, out to the tarmac, onto a bus, and we were bused over to the plane.  We then had to climb the steps up to the plane.  All of that was fine for us, but it was murder on poor Dot!  They didn’t make her ride the bus – they drove her over to the plane – but she had to climb the steps, and by the time she got to her seat, she looked as if she might pass out.  They were very quick to bring her a drink, but it was really a stressful way to begin the day.

Again, the wheelchair people were busy prepping meals on the plane, and they came around with breakfast sandwiches, coffee, tea and juice.  Not too many in our party liked the breakfast sandwiches – I thought they were okay – but the tea was popular.  The flight was quick, and we were soon at Heathrow. 

Now where is that darn fly?  The one that gets in the ointment?  Oh yes – Jim – here he is.  Remember back a couple of days ago when we checked our bags at the baggage storage facility at Heathrow?  Well, Jim has lost our claim ticket, so now we have to pay a penalty.  No matter – at least we can get our bags out of storage.  Jim and Russell wait while I hit Starbucks for some cold water, juice, a latte, and some breakfast items.  I figure we’re all hungry and tired, so if I feed everyone, they’ll all fall asleep on the 3 hour ride to Southampton.

With our bags in hand, we go out to meet our driver – who had graciously driven us over to this terminal so we could avoid the whole planes, trains, and automobiles fiasco that is Heathrow.  He loaded the bags for us, and informed us that our trip is only an hour and a half.  WHAT?  You have NO idea how excited I am that we are not going to be in the car for three hours.  This is, so far, the best part of the trip.  I am beyond thrilled that this trip is so much shorter than I had thought.

Jim chats happily with the driver the entire trip, and once we are there, my stomach just starts jumping with excitement!  I can’t wait for the little kids to see the ship, see all there is to do, get underway – I’m excited for them!!

The line to check in is LONG.  Dot and Russ can go to a different line that allows handicapped access, and they take Brighid with them, since she is checking into their cabin.  We take the two littles and wait in the line.  It moves pretty quickly, and they are both getting lots of attention from the other people in line.  We are soon up at the front, room cards in hand, embarkation photo taken.

Once inside, we quickly look at our staterooms, and decide to get some lunch.  We head up to the buffet, which is, as expected, mobbed.  We have a hard time finding a table, and we end up at a table outside, which is freezing.  The wind is blowing, it’s drizzly rainy – very typical English weather.  I wander around inside and come across a big enough table for all of us, and we move, but we are all so tired and crabby, it’s not even a good meal.  I can’t even remember what we ate.

After lunch, Jim and I headed up with Eilis and Granuaile to sign them in at the kids’ club, which they love, and then we headed back to start unpacking.  There is an issue with beds.  There are two lower bunks and two upper bunks, but they do not have the extra guard rails as they said they would when I spoke with Princess.  To further complicate things, if they push the beds together for Jim and I, we can only pull one bed down anyway.  Granuaile sleeps with us.

It is soon time to get ready for dinner, and it feels good to be out of the clothes we traveled in, washed up and ready to go eat.  We are in the Botticelli dining room, which is very nice, but the table we are assigned is right beneath the air conditioning vent and it’s quite chilly as we sit there.  The waitstaff is very nice, and the meal is good. 

As soon as dinner is over, we decide to go back to the stateroom to finish with the unpacking and organizing.  We soon realize how tired we are, so we decide to skip the show and turn in early.  We have an early morning tour tomorrow, so there is really no rest for the weary!

Review Rome Marriott Park Hotel

  • via Colonnello Tommaso Masala, 54
  • Rome, 00148 Italy
  • Phone:  39 06 658821
  • When we initially booked our trip to Rome, we booked at the Courtyard near the airport.  We had an early morning flight out of Rome on our last morning, and it seemed like a good idea to be close to the airport.  When we contacted Manilo Tranquilli, our driver from Limousine Service in Rome, he told us how far the hotel actually was from Rome.  That had us rethinking some of our original plans, and after checking on line, we booked the Rome Marriott Park Hotel. 

    The hotel itself is located about midway between Fiumicino Airport and the Rome city center.  If you are coming here without renting a car and without hiring a private car to take you around, this is probably not a good option for you in terms of location.  Nothing seemed very far away when we were driving, but this is certainly not the place where you walk out the door and hop into a taxi to take you where you want to go.  There is a shuttle bus from the hotel to downtown.  Because we had a driver, we did not utilize this service, but there is a per person fee to use the shuttle. 

    The hotel itself definitely stands out in it’s location.  Surrounded by light industry and apartments, the building is enormous and easily spotted from a distance.  It’s distinct shape adds to the uniqueness of the hotel, especially when compared to the other non-descript architecture in the area.  When you enter, you are greeted by a massive space, warmly decorated, with beautiful marble everywhere.  The wall at the far end of the lobby is all windows, which brings in light to give the whole lobby a warm glow.  This hotel was built as a convention facility, and while it is not heavily occupied right now, it still seems that it would be plenty big for a good sized convention crowd.

    We were grateful that the front desk attendants were fluent in English, because we are certainly not fluent in Italian.  We booked three rooms, because there is a two person per room limit.  They did, however, bring a roll away bed into our room for the baby.  The only really bad thing about the whole deal was we had hoped to get connecting rooms.  As it was, we ended up in a room on one floor, and the other two rooms were on another floor.  In figuring out who was to go where, we ended up putting Brighid and Eilis in one room next door to Dot and Russ, and we took Granuaile. 

    The rooms are beautifully appointed, large, and comfortable.  The bathroom is all done in Italian marble – although our bathroom was a bit odd.  The other two rooms had a separate shower and bath tub.  Our room did not, but the tub had no shower curtain or door, so you showered with the water spraying all over the bathroom.  Weird. 

    Granuaile quickly adapted to the bidet – it was the perfect height for her to use to wash her hands.  Yep.  She did.

    The restaurant, La Brasserie, was completely open, as if it were an extension of the lobby.  They featured a full breakfast buffet as well as a dinner buffet, which could be ordered as an alternate to the menu items.  The restaurant was bright – as it was up against the wall of windows – and clean; and the meals we ate here were just fine – not great, but good. 

    As a platinum member, Jim gets a gift each time he checks into the Marriott.  We got a gift in each room here, so we ordered bruschetta for two rooms – Dot and Russ’ room and our room – and gelato for the third room, which actually came to our room, where the kids sat and ate.  They thought it was awesome.  The bruschetta was very good, but a little different than what we get in the states.

    We also had access to the executive lounge during our stay, which was nice to grab a cup of tea or a cappucino.  There were sodas, cold water, nuts, juices, Pringles, fruit, biscotti, and a few other things to snack on.

    One odd thing – the place really invites you to walk around.  You can go out at the restaurant and over to the pool, walk all around the outside, check out the views.  But then you can’t get in!  There is only one door – which takes you back into the restaurant – that lets you back in.  Coming in from the pool, it was a little awkward walking in wet suits through the restaurant area to the elevators.  Fortunately, we had cover ups.

    The staff we encountered were all friendly and helpful, and we had none of the problems with attitude I’ve seen other people report in other reviews of the hotel. 

    We would definitely stay here again in the future.