I have done UK to Rome a few times in recent years & like you I prefer to fly from my local airport. For Europe I fly a day early on 'Cheapy Jet' & a low cost hotel overnight or two & spend time sightseeing prior to embarkation. If you've not seen Rome, this is an option worthy of consideration, as the sites are 'spread' out & can be fairly arduous in one day. I would be reluctant to fly the same day of cruise on an Unscheduled Airline as they generally only operate one or two flights a day, so you've got no back up. If your take the fly/cruise option, should anything go wrong, they have to get you to the ship, or the ship may wait for late flights. The ship will not wait however if your your traveling DIY. Myself I always arrange my own flights & transfers, be it Europe, USA or the Far East as unless your fly/cruising on a very late deal, the cost is lower, I can choose my airline & airport & be met by private taxi van & out of the airport before the coach transfers have even started loading. Whatever you choose, Enjoy it.
Whilst agreeing in the main with Brian if this is your first cruise you may be better to get used to the system first. You may even be able to arrange flights from Newcastle as part of the fly/cruise deal. The main problem is Rome airport to Civitavecchia, trains are cheap and frequent but it means travelling to Rome and changing for Civitavecchia and then getting your luggage to the shuttle bus half a mile away and then the ship. A taxi will cost about €120 each way. The way to do things is relatively easy once you have done them but if you haven't tried anything like this before it can be a challenge and a very nerve-wracking start to a holiday. .... Good luck ... Neil.
Yes I did wonder afterwards if it was their first!!
Having just returned from from Rome (my first cruise), I endorse Wilba's suggestions. In my case, Gatwick - Ciampino by easyJet cost £60 per person return (all in) and the efficient 45 min Terravision coach transfer to Roma Termini (the modern central railway station) a further e10 return (pre-booked via easyJet). The straightforward onward train journey (70 mins) to Civitavecchia cost e4.50 each way. The only potentially awkward bit is the walk from the station to the port entrance but there are taxis and a few locals with luggage barrows. I certainly endorse the advantages of a pre-cruise overnight stay in Rome; a cheap hotel near Termini can be had for £50+. A good sightseeing option is the '110' hop-on/off sightseeing bus; e16 and ticket valid for 24 hours from first use. If a further break in Rome is needed (or desired) on the return journey, luggage can be stored near Termini (at facility recommended by Terravision)at only e2 per item. All in all, a simple (and much cheaper) alternative to the all-inclusive fly-cruise, with no pitfalls apart from the need for some luggage handling.
Just wondering if you were any closer booking that Med cruise on Solstice ?
We booked the 17 Aug 09 - the only one that is 12 nights (has an extra stop in Scicily) - was originally listed as 11 nights, but they changed the itinery a few months back - luckily after we booked, so were getting 12 nights for the price of 11.
Seems to me that if you are able to / and dont mind the heat / children in August then this sailing is a better option.
This is to be our 1st ever cruise and SSSOOooooo looking forward to it. Maybe see you there !