This was our 8th cruise, 4th with Princess and first time aboard the Ruby. We chose this cruise because of the itinerary, which was port intensive but fantastic.
Embarkation in Venice was the easiest we ever experienced. We arrived at the check in desk at 1pm, there was no line, we showed our passports, got our cards and right on the ship. This didn't take more than ten minutes.
We booked an interior JJ category stateroom (B508, Baja deck 11), since we would hardly be in the cabin. No complaints about the cabin, except that there was a steward working area next to us and we heard some clanging from time to time, but not at night and our sleep was not disturbed.
The ship left port the following morning, and sailing out of Venice was wonderful. They did play the epic opera music other passengers have mentions and the port guide gave commentary on the city. That day and the next were sea days, so you had a nice rest before hitting the first 4 ports.
FOOD: Overall the food was very good in both the buffet areas and the main dining room. The only areas that could use improvement were the soups which were not very good at all. We ate all dinners in the dining room with Anytime Dining and breakfast in the buffet. The pastries and cakes were excellent. We enjoyed the pub lunch on sea days, afternoon tea and the chocolate themed breakfast one morning in the buffet.
ENTERTAINMENT: It seems that this area has been scaled back considerably over the last 10 years or so. There was repetition in acts over the course of the 12 days. They did have a solo violinist, Chris Hawkins, that was very good. Otherwise it was the normal production shows you can expect on most ships.
CREW: Extremely helpful and polite. On the entire 12 day voyage, we only walked past 1 crew member that did not greet us. They stepped right up and found us seats at the crowded buffets in the morning. Our room steward did a great job.
GRATUITY: We found that many other passengers we spoke with weren't aware about the optional tipping, so just want to mention that Princess automatically adds gratuity to your account of $11.50 per day. Some people like this option since they don't have to tip staff individually. We prefer to tip individually, so we go the the purser's desk and have them remove the gratuity. If you choose the anytime dining option, you will have different waiters each day, although you can choose a specific table if you find one you really like. That's part of the reason we go with personal tipping.
EXCURSIONS: As previously mentioned, we only booked the Athens excursion through Princess, mainly because we were uncertain about how things would be there with all the recent problems. In both Turkey ports we booked private tours through cruisingexcursions.com and were extremely pleased with the guides. They were very knowledgeable about the sites and so polite. Istanbul and Kusadasi were probably our favorite places out of all we visited.
RECAP: This cruise involves a LOT of walking to really see the sites, most in hilly areas and many with uneven surfaces and steps. Bring a good pair of closed toe walking shoes. There are some excursions offered by the cruise line that are ride -through some places on a bus, but these seemed to sell out quickly, as there were a number of retired persons on this cruise.
Overall, it was a great cruise and the most interesting itinerary so far.