I was really looking forward to this cruise, having cruised with other lines and always really enjoyed it. I was even more excited when my friend and I (each booked into separate inside cabins) were upgraded to a balcony cabin each. I had never had a balcony cabin before so it was such a pleasant surprise. Thank you Princess Upgrade Fairy! The ship was much bigger than I had been on before and I think in hindsite maybe too big for me personally, however it never felt crowded.
We stayed in Rome for a couple of days prior at Hotel Accademia. I had been to Rome before but my friend hadn't. Lovely as usual but the heat and crowds were a taste of things to come. We had a private transfer to the port which went smoothly apart from my friend leaving her jacket in the hotel lobby. She was upset to lose it but has been in touch and they will post it back if she pays the postage which was good service.
Embarkation went smoothly. We went up on deck for sailaway but there had been some light rain and the sailaway party was adjourned to the piazza. We stayed on deck expecting at least some recorded music for the sailaway but there was nothing so it was a bit of an anticlimax.
We were thrilled with our cabins, clean, spacious and certainly the nicest I have ever had. The balcony was great however for much of the cruise the heat was so intense it was too hot to be out there. My fault for picking probably the hottest week of the year! Our cabins were at opposite ends of the ship so we got lots of exercise and had different cabin stewards but they were both delightful and did little extra things for us. No towel animals but I knew that doesn't happen on Princess and that is OK. Chocolates on our bed every night instead.
Daytime activities were varied, mostly we were too tired from going ashore to do much but my friend intoduced me to bingo and trivia and that was fun. My good intentions of doing Zumba, Bollywood and Line dancing were forgotten in my exhaustion but there was certainly something for everyone.
The entertainment shows were a bit lacking, the singers and dancers were not the greatest and the shows just lacked a bit of pizzaz. We loved the night in Venice when the Venetian Chamber Orchestra did a show. I would not normally go to a classical concert but these performers were exquisite. The other outstanding performer was Daniel Oliver, the pianist/singer in Crooners Bar. His voice gave me goosebumps and we ended up in Crooners most nights. An amazing talent.
We did most ports on our own except we did Florence on your Own where we were dropped off in Florence for the day which let us do our own thing. It worked out well but was pretty expensive for what it was. We also did the half day in Pompeii. The guide was very good and I really enjoyed it, although I do wish they wouldn't make you visit cameo factories etc.
The food was a bit boring and not to my personal taste most of the time, however my friend enjoyed it and I know I am a bit of a fussy eater. I would have enjoyed a bit more ethnic food with some spice - mexican, thai, indian etc but it was not to be. Any dish that sounded a bit spicy always seemed to be seafood which I don't eat. We did traditional dining at the late sitting and I am glad we did this. We sat with interesting people and looked forward to discussing our day with them each night.
Sailing into Venice I was looking forward to the Italian music they said they would play. This always adds to the atmosphere. Well they played two songs while we were quite a long way out and then it was silent for the rest and going past the grand canal etc. Now maybe this was because of noise restrictions? but it was another anticlimax.
All in all a great cruise, the staff were all (without exception) pleasant and helpful but there were just a few things that I felt let down the atmosphere. One of my favourite things on other ships has been the Baked Alaska on formal night. On MSC it was a full blown baked alaska on fire, with "Funiculee, funicular" playing - quite outstanding. On HAL it was perhaps more safety conscious with sparklers and the singing waiters. Well on Princess the two formal nights came and went without the baked alaska and I was quite disappointed. Then on the final night (when many people went ashore for dinner in Venice so the dining room was half empty)out went the lights and I waited with baited breath. Oh dear, out they came with some strange little torch light on the top of the baked alaska and not much audible music to speak of. I know it seems a silly thing to whinge about but they would be better not to do it at all than to do such a half hearted effort. That and the lack of atmosphere on deck for sailaways etc just took some of the excitement away.
However the good certainly outweighed any minor disappointments and we really did have a good holiday.