Our 2nd Med cruise (first was eons ago on Sun Lines' Stella Solaris!) was a very lovely cruise, although quite intense due to so many great ports of call, and it was a cruise that ended very badly.
The Princess transfer from Rome to the port was fine, and embarkation was the best we've ever experienced! It was a breeze - took only a few minutes, literally! We were quite impressed.
This was our first time on Ruby, and we've heard such nice things about her, we were anxious to experience this ship. It is indeed a very lovely ship - almost identical to the Emerald, with only a few slight changes, so we felt quite at home. We treated ourselves to a mini-suite this time around, and it was terrific! Very roomy, with tons of storage, and the extra sitting room was great for those port day room service breakfasts. Why not the balcony? Yep ---- waaayyy too public! (Plus the weather was a tad on the cool side early each morning.) You really felt like all eyes were on you, and consequently, we only set foot out there to take port pix and for the AWESOME Venice sail-in. We can't wait to try the nesw Royal, which apprently does not have this inconvenient lack of privacy issue.
I must say at this point, that our beloved BLUE BALCONY MATS ARE BACK!!!!! Either that, or Ruby never had them removed. Long live the Princes blue mats!!!! A balcony without them is the pits - just hard cold dirty metal - these mats make a HUGE difference in enjoyment of the balcony, and I strongly disagree with the "Cunard" poster who hated the mat --- I say "Keep your Cunard - we'll take Princess any day!"
We loved the choice of ports, and enjoyed most all of them, although there is a definite lack of down-time on a cruise of this nature - 10 ports in 12 days leaves little time to chill out on board. But this was not unexpected, and it was worth it to see the sights we did.
The entertainment on board was among the best we've ever seen! We had a terrific CD (Dan Styne - awesomely funny fellow) and the new feature of having the singers & dancers entertain in the piazza was terrif --- but little chance of actually seeing them due to the crowds. And the new exclusive show, "Dreams", presented on final formal night was INCREDIBLE! Excellent staging and presentation - I hope it's offered cruise-wide so we can enjoy it over and over again!!!
Shore-wise, we did 3 ships excursions (plus 4 other private ones), and I must say - Princess all-day excursions offer THE best lunch stops of any cruise line! We enjoyed marvelous buffet lunches on all 3 excursions and were very impressed. Two of the 3 trips were very well done (Corfu is fabulous, and Dubrovnic is not to be missed!) But our Santorini trip was only marred by the lack of professionalism of our tour guide. She must have been new - a tour host is supposed to be a "mother-hen" and keeps her "chicks" in sight at all times....but our gal chose not to use a flag or umbrella to identify herself, never did a sound check so 50% of the group could not hear her, and she marched off at high speed and left many of us in her dust! But this was only 1 person of many many guides, and it did not by any means "spoil" our enjoyment of the overall day. That said --- I would suggest that Santorini is a must-do via the ship's tours, as the alternate options seem strenuous and even dangerous (we saw one lady who broke her leg when a donkey pushed her over, and she had to leave the cruise.)
Food on board --- first, we are die-hard traditional dining fans, and we LOVE formal nights. We had lovely table companions, and a good wait staff. But the food, as it did on the Grand six months ago, seems to lack any flavor. This new dining "experience" that Princess rolled out last November is not working --- gone are the tasty sauces and gravies that we enjoyed in the past, and that's really too bad. (I wonder if it's meant to encourage use of the speciatly venues?) IMHO - I'm spending a good deal of my cruise dollar on the food, and it should be outstanding regardless of whether it's in the dining room, or Crown Grill! I had heard Ruby was the mostly highly recommended food at sea --- so this was a real disappointment. There was nothing special, no special pasta prepared by the maitre'd as in years past, and DH's beloved lobster was offered only one night in 12! Even the escargot was not properly seasoned and was bland. Here's hoping PCL brings back the flavor in the dining venues!!!
As to formal nights, in my mind, what can be more formal than the Med?!! (Picture strolling into the casino in Monte Carlo in tux and ballgown, ala James Bond - if that were on the port list! LOL) But apparently alot of cruisers opted not the add the formalwear to the limited luggage alottments! Sadly - as it would have made the two formal nights so much more special...oh well......to each his own.
Overall - it was all quite enjoyable, and we were sad to be leaving, especially since we enjoyed such amazingly perfect weather all along --- until day 2 in Venice - departure day...a "day that will live in infamy forever" - to coin a phrase! We vacated our cabin by 9-ish and spent a decent few hours in Explorers lounge, watching TV and relaxing as we waited for our PCL transfer to the airport. Then the rains hit --- just as we were being led from lounge 15 minutes early for our bus ride.
By the time we hit the "warehouse" of the port, it was a deluge of torrential rain, but we naturally assumed we'd be secure in the port bullding until our PCL bus arrived. HA! Think again!!! We no sooner entered the huge empty warehouse building, than we were promptly escorted out into the rain to supposedly board a bus --- that in fact, did not exist!...and neither did any kind of decent shelter from the rain! We tried to "herd" into a small enlongateded mini-roof at the taxi stand, but people would not move in to allow others under the semi-cover. Why? BECAUSE THERE WAS OVER 8 INCHES OF STANDING WATER already accumulated that no one wanted to breach. But breach it we all had to - and some of us ended up standing in that cold wet water over our ankles for a good 30 minutes, as the buses did not exist!!!
Upshot is --- the first bus arrived and was already full. We were informed we had to walk in the pouring rain to another bus a block away (!!), which we did NOT attempt, and when an available bus finally arrived over 30 minutes late, he did not even want us to board because we were at a taxi stand area!!!
Now I realize PCL is likley not soley to blame for this - I'm sure the local port "hosting company" had alot to do with it --- but surely someone in authority at Princess should have known better, and seen to it that our PREPAID transfer not leave us stranded in 50 degree temps in the pouring rain and 8 inches of cold water!!!! My shoes are totalled, and we spent 18 hours in transit home in total discomfort of soaking wet clothes and shoes. NOT the way to end a lovely cruise, I assure you!
So there you have it --- we still love cruising, we love PCL (and those blue mats!), but we have a neagtive final memory of this trip - we only have to look at our expensive new leather shoes that are now only good as garden shoes!