Got into Barcelona about 9:30 Sat. and was able to get on the ship by noon. We had intended to go back into Barcelona and see some sights but crashed and missed it all. Next time we will fly in a day or two before so we can enjoy the port.
Toulon: Sunday in Toulon was very quiet. I don't think they are prepared for cruise ships. Take note that the Ruby did not dock where the port guides all say the ships dock, "a 5 min. walk into town". We had to take a shuttle boat ($15) but it docked right on the main strip and was convenient. We managed to hit the street market and easily walked around town hitting the sights. Ended up in a little bar for a glass of wine to people watch
Florence and Pisa: Florence is 1 1/2 hrs. from port and then an hour back to Pisa so this was not a port we wanted to do on our own. The ship excursions would only take you to Florence OR Pisa so we went with an independent, Driver Guide Service. We saw everything we wanted to see and the driver was very careful to get us back to the ship in time. If you want to go to both cities, this is the only way to go. Note that the Museums are closed on Mondays.
Rome: The port is one hour out of Rome and the traffic is terrible. Again we went with our independent tour company. The four of us in a van and the driver parked right next to the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain, one block away from Colosseum and Vatican City. The driver walked with us thru the Colosseum and Roman Forum. A quick Panini in the car on the way to Vatican City and we saw everything again that we wanted.
Naples: We wanted to see Sorrento and Pompeii and heard that the traffic along the coast can be tricky so we decided to take a ship excursion. We had a very good guide but it should be noted that in Sorrento we were herded into an inlaid wood shop to use the bathrooms. DO NOT buy anything in that shop. The same thing down the block is half the price. Someone is making a commission on it I am sure. Again in Pompeii, we stopped at a Cameo "factory" which was also overpriced.
Day at Sea: Much appreciated after three full days in ports we were ready for a rest and wash some clothes. Princess has nice laundry facilities.
Mykonos: We were tendered into port and Princess did a good job keeping the lines short both ways. This was appreciated because it rained all morning. We walked around this quaint little town until we were soaked to the bone. Would like to go back on a sunny day.
Istanbul: All the port guides told us that we could do this port on our own. Our first hangup was getting to the main road. We docked about as far away as we could get and it was very confusing when we got off the ship. Everything was fenced off and there weren't signs showing us where to go. I guess they just take for granted that everyone takes excursions. Once we made it to the main road we had to find an ATM to get Lira (the ship did have Lira) in order to ride the tram into town. ATMs were plentiful, however, they only gave us large bills and the tram machines only would take small bills. It was Sat. and the banks were closed so we had to stop and buy something. We had our first taste of Turkish coffee, and our last! Once on the tram we had no problem reaching Sultanahmet, the tourist area. We were walking to the Blue Mosque when a young man approached us. He introduced himself and offered to guide us thru the site. There was a huge line into the mosque so we agreed and he got us right in and did a great job describing everything to us. Of course everything has its price. Now we had to go to his uncle's rug shop. It was close by and was a very nice shop. After some apple tea and discussing our families he showed us his beautiful rugs. We thanked him but assured him we were not in the market for a rug. He thanked us for looking and we were on our way. We had spent less time than if we had stood in the long line at the mosque. Some more sites and an expensive lunch (don't eat in the palace) and we were ready to go back to the ship. We found the tram stop, asked advice as to what train to take and we were off. Please note that just because the tram is going the direction you want to go doesn't mean you will get to your destination. The one we were on went to the bridge we were supposed to cross to get to the ship but it reversed directions and we were across town before we knew it.
Ephesus: Transportation is not reliable here so we took another ship excursion. We saw and learned alot but our only gripe was EVERY tour ended at a rug weaving demonstration. We ducked out and did some shopping as this was the first chance we have had to shop. There is lots of good shopping right close to the docks and a short walk to the ship. Security is tight here so don't do anything suspicious. One person in our group pulled something out of his bag to show us and he was stopped and searched.
Athens: Afraid we were really "ruined" out by the time we arrived here but took an 8 couple excursion organized by our CruiseCritic friends. We knew exactly what we wanted to see and after an hour we knew we were not going to get to half of it. Make sure you all agree ahead of time where you want to go and communicate this to the guide. Actually the ruins in Athens were not as well preserved as other places and were a bit disappointing. Especially the Parthenon which is being dismantled so they can reconstruct and stabilize it.
Day at Sea: Another welcome rest. Princess does a good job of having something for everyone on the itinerary. If you are board it is your own fault.
Venice: NOT ENOUGH TIME! Why on earth would you arrange to get into such a wonderful port in the middle of the day? However, the ride into port was spectacular. You have to be on deck with the Italian opera playing on the ship speakers. It gives you goose bumps. We docked at noon but could not disembark until 1:00. Disembarkation was very unorganized. Usually you would get a number and sit down to wait until your group was called. Here there was just a long line running up and down the halls with people cutting in everywhere. When you finally got off the ship you had to wait for an elevator, wait for a bus and wait for a boat shuttle ($15). It was 3:00 before we got to St. Marks Square. St. Marks closes at 5:00 so we had to hustle plus it gets dark by six so you had to make tracks to see anything. Make sure you take note where the shuttle boat docks because it is not lit well and finding it in the dark was difficult.
Going over our pictures I realized just how much we did see on this cruise. I would highly recommend this to those who have never been to the Mediterranean before. You must realize that you cannot see everything with only one day in port but you get a taste of it and can see the rest next time.
Princess always does a nice job with food and service. If I had to find a fault it would be there weren't enough vegetables offered. The only port I think they could have done better was Venice with disembarking that afternoon. Also, they should have made it clear in the cruise description that there would be a need for tendering in Mykonos and the boat shuttles which we would be charged for. No one likes surprises.