This was our first small ship after 4 cruises on ships at least twice its size. We were wary, particularly since we'd only done Anytime Dining previously and tended to like to keep to ourselves, but we shouldn't have worried. We loved it. We regularly participated in shore excursions with other passengers we'd corresponded with before the cruise and enjoyed making friends we might not have made on a larger ship.
Unfortunately, the weather was not our friend. The cruise started in Venice and our first stop was in Korcula. Although the Princess tour we took was basically a good one, it was our first introduction to travel so late in the season in which a good portion of the shops and sights in each of the ports we visited were closed. From Korcula we went to Kotor, Montenegro, which was one of the ports larger ships are unable to visit. It was cold, foggy, and rainy but we had a fabulous 5 hour tour with Jovan Vukotic (firstname.lastname@example.org) who took us and another couple on a day trip, first above Kotor to an old native village, then to the old royal capital, and to the coastal town of Budva. By the time we returned to Kotor, it was pouring rain but we were still able to wander around on our own. In Corfu we spent 8 hours with a SpirosBus tour, and in Malta we participated in the surprise port of our trip (where we'd had no expectations but our experienced guide, Joan Sheridan (TouringMalta.com), brought the city and its history to life). The next day in Messina, we spent an enjoyable day with Tours by Mario, visiting the Godfather region and Taormina. This was our last day of semi-decent weather.
As we headed up the west side of Italy, the sea became rough. On our last cruise in Asia we'd had gale force winds but on the much larger ship, we didn't feel much. On the Pacific Princess, a large number of passengers and crew ended up seasick but, fortunately, most of the really rough sea travel was confined to one night so we were successful in more or less sleeping it off. But the rough water meant the next 3 ports we were unable to visit as scheduled, and the captain had to substitute Naples for Sorrento, Villefranche for Nice, and Genoa for Portofino. We planned to roam on our own around Sorrento so did the same in Naples. Our tour in Nice (RivieraTogetherTours) picked us up in Villefranche instead, where we headed into Provence. We highly recommend visiting Tourrette Sur Loup and St Paul de Vence. (We'd visited Monte Carlo on a previous cruise and had no interest in returning.) From Genoa we participated in a Cinque Terre Tour (cinqueterretour.it) for which the small size of our group (6) made it easy to get around despite the rain and cold.
The trip ended in Civitavecchia, and we participated in the Etruscan Mystery Tour thru Rome Cabs, traveling to Tarquinia and Tuscania, after which we were dropped at our hotel in Rome to get ready for our very early morning flight the next day. It was a wonderful ending to our trip.
There is no ignoring that the ship is old (by ship standards) but that didn't bother us at all. The library is beautiful and comfortable and was probably the one room onboard that we frequented regularly. The ship's crew, many of whom were from eastern Europe, were friendly and provided great service. Because the ship is smaller than we had previously experienced, we found that the buffet was not as varied but the food was quite good. (And my husband says he doesn't care how good it is; we don't have to prepare it or clean it up, and it's always available.) The wait help in the main dining room was always helpful and provided efficient and friendly service. The food there was quite good, never leading us to feel that we needed to have dinner in a specialty restaurant or at the buffet. We spent a little bit of time in the casino (which is very small with limited numbers of video poker machines, my husband's game of choice, and no craps table) but since this cruise had only 2 days at sea, the size wasn't a detriment. There are only limited shops on board (better for my pocketbook vs the larger ships), and we didn't participate in any of the spa activities and only went to one show (at which the male vocalist was great).
We did miss the Italian arias that had been played on a previous cruise as we sailed down the Grand Canal upon leaving Venice (one of the passengers indicated that there had been previous complaints, from shore, I guess, that the Princess embarkation down the Grand Canal was too noisy but we'd loved it on a previous Grand Princess cruise). And the rainy weather forced the cancellation of the "On Deck for the Cure" run that I've always participated in on Princess cruises (tho contributions were appreciated, anyway). Nevertheless, we hope to eventually repeat this cruise if it is offered on the Pacific Princess in the late spring or early fall so that we can make it to the ports we missed.