Embarkation at Southampton To be honest it was not a great start to the cruise we had to wait 90 minutes to embark on the ship. The reason was a coastguard safety check which we could see from the terminal. Although it was a pain to be kept waiting we were lucky as some people with later check ins were there for 3 hours!
Although princess said it was a twin room and could not be changed they made it up as a double which is what we booked in the first place. We had plenty of storage for our 3 suitcases. We were on the caribe deck (10) and the balconies on this level and the one below (dolphin - 9) were much larger than the ones on deck 11 and 12. To give you an idea we could recline fully on the chair and footstool whereas the people above had to sit in their chairs. They were painting the balconies on this cruise while in port but it wasn't a big issue and I did not smell any fumes.
The tv was in a strange place, behind the bed in the corner so you couldnt More
watch it comfortably.
We are in our early 30s and the entertainment was mixed for us. The day entertainment was a mixture of port or shipping lectures, crafts at sea, quizzes or game shows and films either on deck or in one of the theatres. There was occasional wine and rum tastings and lots of $10 shopping events.
Over a two week cruise we had 4 shows performed by the princess dancers and singers. It was a theme show such as Brit invasion rather than telling a story as we had seen in the past. It was ok, no real wow factor which strangely came on the last sea day when the dining staff did a show although why that was on first thing in the morning was a mystery. Other evening entertainment included a ventriloquist (very very funny) a juggler (awful) the McDonald brothers (very good) and a violinist and a female comedy singer which we missed as they didn't appeal. The movies under the stars experience was good as long as the weather is warm enough.
We dined in the Botticelli restaurant on the late sitting. The food was generally good, starter, salad/soup course, main and desert. Only criticism would be that there was not enough variety. There was a fixed portion of the menu that did not change and the part that did seemed to be very similar but with a different sauce each night.
The steaks in the Crown Grill were fabulous, cooked to perfection. I didn't really understand the different salts (yes salts!) they gave us to try but maybe I have a simpler palette!
Sabattinis was also very good. Delicious cheese board selection.
With both of the upgraded restaurants, do not eat lunch as you will be rolled back to your cabin later due to the amount of food you are given! Far more than the traditional dining room.
International cafe was good for sandwiches and cakes. They also do hot bacon and egg breakfast muffins, croissants, granola and muesli in the morning. This is much easier than the buffet when you have an early start as there was only a few people there.
Alfredos pizzeria was delicious, only 5 types of pizza but they tasted very good.
Horizon court is a buffet restaurant, we only ate there once and were surprised to find they had a theme Indian evening. I'm not sure if this was a regular thing as it was not advertised. They offered a couple of sandwiches at lunch time but not as many as the cafe.
Trident grill had nice burgers, we did not try the poolside pizza but it looked like a plate sized slice!
Drink prices ranged between $5 - $7 dollars for a beer, $6-$7 for spirits and a mixer $8 for wine or cocktails. 15% service charge on top of this. We did see a lot of people drinking on their balcony before dinner. No cocktail of the day which was disappointing.
The 1-5 club has its own range of cocktails not available elsewhere on the ship. It is generally not very busy but it is a nice place for a late drink with a bit of music.
We did decide to do the princess trips in rome and florence as you are at least an hours drive from both of these places to the port. The trips are well organised and the guides are well informed but they are very very expensive. Worth the money? It was our first time to these places and I would prefer to spend time sight seeing than lost and worrying about getting back to the ship. Next time I would probably do it myself.
We missed our stop in Cannes/Monaco due to the windy weather. It is a tender stop and the way the ship was rocking later in the day I can understand why we didnt stop!
Someone did walk off with our clearly labelled suitcase but luckily it was returned when they got outside and realised. It was an irritating end to the holiday but all of the suitcases are placed in a hangar with a queue of people separating them in the middle, people see the queue panic and grab a case. Bear a thought for the people who waited an hour because of your panic!!! Please check the label! Less
Grand Princess Cruises to the Western Mediterranean
We booked the Sagrada familia online before the cruise. It is the same price but we got there at 10.30 and the queue was estimated at an hour long already. It is worth getting the headphone tour as you do learn a lot about the church.
We also took the subway, there is a station at the bottom of the Ramblas (close to shuttle drop off)and a journey costs 2 euros each which is better than a taxi, much quicker too.
Pisa was a bit disappointing although it was nice to see the tower there is not a lot there.
Florence was amazing, the guide was very good. We had a lovely lunch next to Dantes statue outside the church. Try the dumplings with ham and cream cheese. We did not go into any museums as we did not have enough time to do them justice.
We took the cable car up the rock and walked down. We definitely earned our dinner that day as we could barely walk the next day! It is a hard way to do it but you do see a lot. It costs Â£18 each which included entry to the caves and battlements. The caves were vast but no different to any others but the battlements were interesting.
The apes were not an issue, one jumped on hubby's shoulder for a ride but we didn't bother him so it just sat there until it was ready to jump off again when we had walked down the road!
The main reason people seem to like Gibraltar is booze and cigarettes. We didn't buy either but your bags get scanned by the port authorities when leaving Gib and a lot of cases were opened on return to Southampton. We saw customs with 3 clear bin bags full of cigarettes taken from our ship alone. Cosmetics and perfumes were very cheap as well.
The leather shops did seem better in Spain.
The trip went to the Colosseum, the Vatican museums, the Sistine chapel and st peters basilica. All breathtaking and definitely worth a visit. You only see a small part of the museum.
The queues were non existent and it was world tourism day which meant that entry was free.
Trip included lunch at a hotel, pasta dish, meat dish and ice cream then coffee. Better than expected so we enjoyed it.
Someone from the ship did have their purse stolen in the Vatican so be careful.
We went to the top pepe sherry bodega and had a short tour of Jerez. The guide was a bit annoying as she did not stop talking from the minute we got on the coach to the return to the ship. The bodega was good, not busy it only seemed to open for tour groups.