We booked this cruise direct with Princess UK 16 months previously so had a long time to look forward and plan!
I travelled with my DS (16) and my parents. It was our first time cruising in the Summer holidays in the Med so was a bit worried about the crowds but these worries were unfounded.
We initially flew into Barcelona on British Airways 2 nights prior to embarkation. Barcelona was amazing and we found it a easy city to explore with a fantastic public transport system and a very good taxi service. We stayed at Hotel Vilamari which we found to be a lovely hotel and would stay here again. This Hotel has a cruise stay rate which includes early check-in if you are staying post cruise and a free small bottle of cava.
We asked the Hotel to order us a taxi to take us to the port and they made sure it was a larger taxi that could take 4 adults with 4 suitcases and hand luggage. We booked a taxi for 1130 and were checking in by 1145hrs. From check -in we were in our cabin by 1205 so check -in was fast and efficient (my parents are elite status so we bypassed a small queue).
We were in a BY partially obstructed balcony E701 which honestly I would say had no obstruction unless you looked forward and you could see a lifeboat. The 3 other BY cat next to me would have had more of an obstruction as the lifeboat was in front of the cabins - but others I'm sure can report on that.
The ship was amazing - I had read various things on cruise critic and must admit I was a bit worried about people's comments. I can say that I found this cruise near perfect. I found no problem with the balcony - yes it's not large but it is perfectly adequate and I often sat out on it reading my book while having my morning cup of tea. I do concede that if there were 4 people in the cabin you could not all sit out but as this was not the case for me it was not a problem. Promenade deck - again I did not find it a problem not having a wrap around promenade and I enjoyed the area where you could sit on comfortable loungers or chairs either mid-ship or Aft.
On the first sea day we did queue up and manage to get a lounger in The Sanctuary which was amazing, we knew it would be busy so we started queuing at 0740hrs and still only just managed to a lounger (it did not open for bookings until 0830). We discussed that it would be tempting in the future to buy a cheap inside cabin and then just buy the sanctuary for the cruise but only if you knew you would get a place - possibly a risk I'd be willing to take.
Considering there were 4000+ on-board it surprised me that it never felt it. There were never queues for anything.theatre we were able to get a seat 5 mins prior to show start, Horizon court was amazing and because it was so good I think a lot of people used this as their main dining area, we had any-time dining and the only time we had get get a beeper was the first formal night but it was only a 10 minute wait. Food was wonderful and we had no complaints at all, we did not eat in any of the extra charge restaurants no cannot review them. We enjoyed the outrigger bar at the back of the ship and the views were amazing.
The new TV's in the staterooms with on-demand programming were great but I think a few problems still need to be ironed out as the system kept crashing which was annoying if you were watching a movie.
Did not notice any smoke coming from the casino as I know people were worried about smoke drifting up to the shops.
This itinerary was port intensive and the two sea days were much appreciated but it was an outstanding cruise. It was very hot and the ports were crowded but we did expect this at this time of year.
The sail in to Venice was amazing and we stayed on the ship overnight before disembarking the next day. We walked with our suitcases to the people mover and then bought 48hr vaporetto passes and took the vaporetto straight to our hotel. We had checked the route the day before when we wandered into the Venice. Our hotel was the Carnival Palace hotel which had a vaporetto stop just outside the hotel. We loved Venice, not a cheap place but also not as expensive as I was expecting. We stayed for 2 more nights in Venice and we also took the Vaporetto to Murano which was lovely and we thought was well worth the visit.
We also got the Aliluguna to the airport and the was a stop for this less than 5 mins walk from the Hotel - this was a lovely way to leave Venice and I would recommend it.
We have been back for two weeks now and I am still in my post cruise blues wishing I was back on the wonderful Royal Princess - Thank you Princess you made a dream holiday come true!
We got a taxi from the port direct to the Acropolis which cost 25 Euros. To get back to the ship we used the train which was 2 Euros each and very easy to use. LOVED Athens, beautiful place and wonderful people.
First stop with the ships tour and we arrived at 0800hrs and were there for just over an hour. Wonderful as we got there before a lot of other tour groups so was quite peaceful.
Amazing town but so packed and at the end of a very busy day we just found a cafe and people watched!
The worse thing about the whole tour was the poorly maintained coach - air conditioning was not working well and the suspension was not that apparent!
Part of the Ships tour was to visit a vineyard and experience wine tasting and local meats and cheeses. We had expected a couple of sips of wine and a hard sell for wine but it was actually just under two hours of a sit down wine tasting where we tasted 8 different wines (and they were not stingy) and a olive oil and a balsamic vinegar. Yes there was the usual sales pitch but no hard sell and you never felt obliged to buy. Quite funny as they kept pouring my DS the same amount of wine where he did have a small taste of each luckily there was a spit bucket on the table that he could pour the rest into - if I'd also drunk his he would've had to carry me back to the bus!!
Loved this port. We took the tram into town and visited the blue mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topiaka Palace and the Spice market. We walked easily everywhere and we walked back to the ship. Easy to navigate by yourself and never felt threatened or uneasy.
With 6 others from our roll call we booked a tour with "Rome in limo" and it was the highlight of all our port excursions!
We had arranged to see the underground tour of the Colosseum but opted not to go to the Vatican.
We saw all the major sights but I stress if you can pre-book to go on the underground tour of the Colosseum it is truly amazing!!