Sailing on a small ship (784 people) is good and bad and noted by many people before me. Rarely do you have a crowd anywhere. We almost never shared an elevator with others. The ride was very smooth and that surprised me a lot.
The down side is that there is not too much to do. No movies; some entertainment which was ok; no place to avoid the children--and there were a bunch.
The Princess is old and in serious need of a rehab. The rooms are ok and have very good storage even though they are a bit on the small side. There are not nearly enough 115v plugs. There were too many international outlets so I strongly suggest bringing some universal adaptors for all your electronic gear.
There were two entertainment duos who were just plain awful. They made e feel like I could get a job singing in the future and that would just be awful. One female didn't hit a single identifiable note that I have ever heard on a scale. In fact, they ripped their backgrounds from many of the groups and tried to use them as chorus backgrounds and then do some harmony, The Eagles are in great pain!
The service on the pool deck and buffet were both mediocre. The staff just never appeared to want to work. They would just stroll around pretending to be busy. The ping pong table was right above our room and the sign that said it was useable from 9 to 9 was always ignored. Calls didn't help.
The dining was also very average. The service was ok but the variety was poor and very tasteless. The buffet was better than some of the larger Princess ships but, again, was very average. Of particular note for me was that it was not until the last day that a flavor of ice cream I might like was available. It was always some combo of crap that did not work for me (but might for you). I like vanilla and chocolate. I know I have boring tastes.
The best part was that you could always get information or business taken care of at the main desk. I never once had to wait more than 30 seconds. They also did not stand on ceremony when it came to things like passing out passports or collecting them outside of the advertised times.
We arrived in Athens 3 days prior to departure. I never saw any where that there was a pre-cruise package. We noticed the Princess "un-welcome" representative and told her we were there. Her reaction was basically so what. We inquired about the package and were informed it was on the cruise site. But we stiff haven't found it.
I read about George's Taxi service on the Athens, Greece survival site. They were great. We used them from the airport to the hotel and again to the port. On time and professional.
We stayed at the Intercontinental Athenian. It was pretty nice. Same issue with plugs. But hey loaned us a couple of adaptors. Very nice! They had a free shuttle to the main square from which you could head off in lots of directions. We walked for awhile and then decided to hike up to the Parthenon. Aside from the fact that it was about 100 degrees and 90 % humidity, it was a pretty stupid idea. But we did it and were certainly not disappointed. For my money, it is about the most beautiful building I have ever seen. It made the hike worthwhile. There was a local selling cold bottled water about two thirds of the way up. He could have charged $100 for the small bottle and would have paid it. Fortunately, they were 1 euro each. And they were ice cold. Priceless!
Over the years, Athens has changed into one giant graffiti mess. It was worse than even New York and L.A. by a long shot. It's truly a shame what they have done to this city.
When we arrived at the terminal for departure, we were the only 2 in the terminal. For real! It was beautiful. It really got things off on the right foot.
The first stop was Patmos and we did not tender into port.
Next was Ephesus. What a grand site. We did the short cruise tour to the site, the rug demo and the shopping mall. As I said, Ephesus is spectacular. The rug demo is interesting and the sales pitch is a hard push. They are beautiful but expensive considering they are marked up a bunch. Other shops are cheaper. The venders are very aggressive and just don't let up. The constant question is, do you know how much? If you basically say anything, you're in for a visit for the next 30 minutes. Prices are high but negotiable. The store vendors get very annoying after a while. They just don't let up. It is very probable that visitors would probably buy more if the harassment let up some. As it is, you won't look because it's just not worth the hassle.
We had a sea day prior to Israel. Israel was spectacular for us. It was the reason we were on the cruise along with the visit to the pyramids (more later). We did a private tour with folks we hooked up with in the Cruise Critic board. They were fun and we toured with them for 4 days. We did all that we could including a visit to the first Kibbutz which is still in operation. I'd have to say the highlights were the Wailing Wall and Yad Vashem. I really did not want to do the Holocaust Museum but the Valley of the Communities was just awesome! The museum is amazing as well. The longer I stayed in there the angrier I got. That's why I never go there. But it certainly is educational.
After two, and not nearly enough days of beauty in Israel, it was off to the squalor that is called Egypt. Our stop in Port Said was cancelled and we spent two days in Alexandria. We were probably the last cruise ship that would be in port for a very long time to come. We left the day prior to the demonstrations.
We took a private tour here as well. as we left the port area, our guide said that they had a system for driving. You bet they do. The first afternoon was spend at the huge library in Alexandria -- nice, but so what? It's supposed to be the worlds largest library but is not. I could hold 8 million volumes but has less than 2 million. The Library of Congress has about 22 million. A little calculation error. Maybe someone missed a decimal point somewhere. We also went to the sight of the Light house but it hasn't been there for a very long time. The sight was nice but the area was very scuzzy. We had dinner at what was billed as a 5 star restaurant that was maybe a 1/2 star. It was included in our tour. We had no choice of menu and we got to eat mullet. Yuk! You could also see that things were getting tense in preparation for the demonstration set for the following week. They started the day after we departed fortunately.
As we left on day two at 5 am, we headed for Cairo and the pyramids. The drive took almost 4 hours and stopped first at the museum of antiquities. Pretty spectacular stuff. The King Tut exhibit is amazing.
We then headed for the pyramids. It is only a thousand times better in person than any picture can show. For over 4500 years, these incredible edifices are still standing. Not to burst anyone's bubble, but Cairo goes all the way to the pyramids. The infrastructure around the pyramids is awful. That they allow vendors to be there, camels to wander about, and let people climb on the pyramids is a certain recipe for ensuring that do not last another 4500+ years or not even 40 years. The venders were just awful pests that were hard to get rid of.
Egypt has its issues for sure. High unemployment, gas shortages, and soon food shortages. The infrastructure is non existent. Roads are all but impassible. If you think you can drive here, guess again. The system is just drive any where you want in any direction. In 2 days, we saw 3 traffic lights. They were merely advisories because cars just sailed through them no matter what the color. Lanes were not marked so if you didn't like the general area you were driving in, just shift a little and start a new lane. Cars just stop to pick up people, or stop at a fruit or veggy stand--on the road. They do not pull off. Just stop. Cars were line up for miles to get gas -- on the main roads. Closing you eyes was a very good idea.
After 4 days of 12 hour tours, two days at sea was a great change. We went to Dubrovnik and Ravina and they were ok. The trip ended in Venice, truly a beautiful city. We stayed an extra day at the Hilton Milano Stuckey. It's a beautiful hotel but located on the wrong side of the canal. After our flight was changed, getting out early made it more difficult to get to the airport. Ultimately we hired a private water taxi for 110 euro. that is just ridiculous. But it was about the only option.
At the airport, the folks at the Air France counter sat and stared at this growing line of people for 20 or so minutes before they helped anyone. I suppose the line was just not long enough. Then once they started, one computer went down, one person handle first class, and one person was left t deal with the rest of us. Gotta love the French! I wanted to check our bags but they told me would have to go back to the machines to pay and could bring my receipt and not wait in more lines. I took my bag back and carried it on.
Was it all worth it? Absolutely!