This was a Mediterranean + Transatlantic cruise -- we started in Venice and ended up at Fort Lauderdale for a total of 19 nights. At the outset of this review we should say that we were very appreciative that Princess corporation and the Ruby's Captain successfully kept us away from hurricane Rafael and navigated the ship around Sandy so that we only experienced some roughness the last night of the cruise. Keeping the passengers safe was their first priority and they performed excellently. Any other comments and criticisms are minor in comparison.
The main problem with the Italian ports Venice, Naples, Rome, Florence and Pisa was that they were swarming with tourists even in mid-October which was nearly low season. For example, during our visit to Florence the crowds were so thick we could hardly move. Cannes is a nice place but not really all that interesting to visit -- Nice would have been much better. Barcelona now has a very pleasant new cruise ship port and we spent hours just walking around and enjoying the Ramblas. Casablanca was very much a third world city but trying hard to develop there wasn't much to see and it was a shame that some on the Princess sponsored tours to Marrakech apparently got food poisoning. We were pleased that we stopped at Madeira instead of Ponto Delgado - it was just a lovely place to visit.
Generally the food was good but not great. We ate at the Crown Grill for dinner one night and found it to be excellent. Since we were in a suite we often ate breakfast at Sabatini's which again was excellent. Generally the food at the Horizon was reasonable but the self service restrictions imposed after the Norovirus appeared made it a much less attractive place to eat. The Trident Grill had good hamburgers and hot dogs and we thought the Pizzeria was very good. The International Cafe in the Atrium was very pleasant but no one we met could understand what the Vines concept was intended to be. Sushi plus tapas with wine wasn't an appealing combination and after it seemed to be implicated in the Norovirus outbreak it was pretty dead at Vines. It needs to be repurposed or dumped. Mostly the dining room was OK but like others we grew tired of it after a couple of weeks. How many of us eat out at restaurant every night at home? We took the "Anytime" dining option but found we still needed reservations which took away some of the flexibility it was supposed to have.
The cruise lecturers were very good and we thought that making up a program guide and having an introductory session were really good ideas. Mr. Scott's talks on aspects of the NASA space program were authoritative and interesting because he had personally participated in many of the events he talked about. Mr. Dalton's "adventures" were a bit tame in the sense that the hype was more than the actual content deserved but somewhat interesting. The best talks were from Dr. Detrich particularly on ports. He was honest and forthright in his comments and certainly wasn't selling tours. We took particular note of his negative view of Casablanca (turned out to be true) and his prediction of the long lineups for St. Peter's in Rome (also true). This information was very helpful in making our choices of shore excursions.
Poor old Naples is a bit of a dump with grafitti and garbage all over. We had an interesting visit there in 2007 and didn't particularly want to see more. We'd already visited Sorrento, Pompei and Capri and a rainy morning gave us no incentive to go again to these places.
We'd been in Rome several times before and we originally had the idea to hop a train from Civitavecchia to Rome and visit St. Peter's. However, we heard about the two to three hour line-ups just to enter St. Peter's and decided not to go. Instead one of us took a wine tour to Lake Bracciano which was relaxing and interesting.
Venice is a magical city and we'd spent a wonderful week there 8 years ago. It was too rainy and crowded this time we didn't go ashore.