If you haven't booked it yet, book it! The ship itself isn't great but the ports of call make this a trip of a lifetime! And....spend a little more and get a PORT SIDE balcony. Opening your sliding door and looking at a new country every other day is spectacular. Especially sailing out of Venice, that we'll never forget!
Now, if you have already booked and are looking for details on the ship, ports of call and excursion, here are full details on everything;
Conditions of the ship:
In short... The ship is old, dirty and outdated. However, we didn't choose this cruise for the ship experience, we chose it for the ports of call and easy travel between them. However, if you are used to nice and clean hotels, newer ships, or if you have sailed before on Carnival of Princess, lower your expectations...but really it feels horrible to complain, because the ports of call make this a trip of a lifetime!!! I would absolutely recommend this trip to anyone. It was amazing! Will be hard to top.
Outdated décor is synonymous with cruising, so I won't get into that really. The floor to ceiling yellow tile bathroom (yes, YELLOW TILE) was disgustingly dirty and BLACK with mold. Our toilet seat was covered in stains! Our sheets were stained and there was hair all over the stateroom carpet. It was a huge disappointment for such a long cruise with a balcony room that we paid a good amount of money for. They replaced the toilet seat cover the first day. They attempted to take care of the mold during our first excursion day. It was better than before, although not completely resolved. We dropped it after that, nothing more could be done and they did apologize several times and tried to make it up in a few ways.
The main dining rooms weren't that great but much better than the buffet, look into the specialty dining if you are a picky eater. We went to Cagney's one night and it was very good! It is good to make reservations for dinner so that you don't have to wait but the main dining rooms only had a long line the first night or 2.
Ports of call:
Venice: Beautiful and romantic as expected! I don't know why so many people say to stay away from Venice. We stayed at the Hotel Moresco the nigh before we boarded the ship. The hotel was really nice. The service was wonderful, the rooms were clean and ample in size. It was close to the ship port, maybe less than 10 minutes walking. 30 min walking from Plaza San Marco and 20 min walking from Rialto. We took a beautiful gondola ride in Rialto which I recommend, it was about 80 Euros total for a private, 30 minute ride.
-Bring insect repellant, the Mosquitos were eating us all alive at night. It was the only place on this trip where we had Mosquitos.
-visit the St. Marks Basilica and the tower right when they open at 9a, to avoid the heat and lines! Women must cover their knees and shoulders in the basilica....if you aren't covered, it's ok, they sell disposable covers for your knees and shoulders.
- In July it is extremely hot and humid (if you are familiar with the Caribbean in the summer...think that kind of weather)
(Piraeus) Athens: The ancient ruins are breath taking! No excursion is needed. Just take a 10 min cab ride to the area (around 20-30 euros each way). You can buy your tickets for the ruins there, 12 euros for adults. They open at 8a. The museum is down the way (2 minutes walking) and it's 6 Euros each and they have free wifi. Plaka is the main center for shopping and eating, it was down the same street as the ruins (5 min walking).
Go to the ruins first thing in the morning when the open (8a) to avoid crowds and heat. You get much nicer pictures at that time too when the sun isn't so harsh and there aren't as many people in your way.
We were surprised by how modern the town is. We took a ship excursion to see the house of the Virgin Mary and Ephesus. Both were inspiring. The tour itself was pretty fast paced, but didn't feel rushed...we liked it. The tour guide spoke English very well, was respectable and knowledgeable. We had plenty of time afterwards to shop and relax right next to the port.
Tip: Easy travel here, they accept just about any type of currency (is dollars, Canadian, Euro, Pounds, etc.) everywhere from restaurants to small outdoor kiosk/shops!
The town that is modern and bustling, yet still filled with mosques from as early as the 4th century... It is breathtaking! We took the City of 2 Empires ship excursion to the blue mosque, hypoderm, Hagia Sophia and the bazaar. It was worth it! The only downfall was that we didn't have enough free time to enjoy a nice lunch and shop at the bazaar but I was a little underwhelmed with the bazaar anyway. I was expecting it to be exotic and sell more handcrafted item but instead was mostly filled with a lot of imitation brand clothing, perfume and handbags. But it is obviously still a must, some shops have great jewelry and spices! We ate lunch at a beautiful restaurant called Nar, on the same street that leads you to the bazaar we definitely recommend that for a nice sit-down meal!
-Easy travel here, they accept just about any type of currency everywhere from restaurants to the bazaar! So we got to use dollars and save our Euros.
-For the blue mosque, women must cover their knees, shoulders and head. If you don't have anything to cover yourself with, they let you borrow full body covers and head scarfs right at the entrance, free! Street vendors in the area are also selling beautiful shawls.
- your bargaining skills will come in handy here, from what we saw, they can come down to half of the very high prices that they sometimes start with.
This was one of out favorites, we did not want to leave. The day (1p-9p) definitely felt too short here. You get off the ship at port (you _do not_ tender, as I thought I read on another review) and take a complimentary bus ride to town (about 5 min driving) from there you walk another 5 minutes to get into the heart of the town. We then took yet another bus to Paradise Beach which was about a 25 minute ride but longer including the wait (this form of transportation is a hot mess, so give yourself ample time to get to and from the beach because waiting for the bus and waiting for them to fill it up until you are all sitting and standing on top of each other with no air takes forever and almost feels unbearable). Paradise Beach is on the other side of the island. It was worth the trek. Nice clear water (although cold). Definitely a party beach, although still plenty of beach chairs and umbrellas to just lounge and relax. They sell wifi, food and drinks which they bring to your spot. It's topless and...bottomless? I guess...
-If you want to enjoy your full stay there, try to get off the ship right away, there are lines for the bus to town.
-if your going to Paradise beach, the bus ride is only 20 min but keep in mind that it really takes an hour each way to buy the ticket, wait for the bus, load the bus packed, make stops along the way.
-Out of all the ports, the shops there are superb. So if you're a shopper, leave plenty of time to do so! I didn't feel like we had enough time after Paradise Beach and dinner and before making your way back to the bus for port.
We didn't actually spend time in Naples. We did a cruise excursion to Pompeii, Sorrento and Capri. The excursion was very rushed. We felt like cattle being herded constantly. The group was much too big for the amount of traveling we had to do. First stop was Pompeii, which was maybe a 30 min bus ride. Pompeii was just fine...it wasn't that impressive, since a lot of the excavations are in a traveling exhibition. So consider it a reference point, for whenever you visit the traveling exhibition or simply hear about Pompeii. Then we were off to Sorrento, it was about an hour bus ride. Sorrento was nice, although we didn't have much time there at all. Lunch was included...it was not good. Think TV dinner. Then by the time the whole group waited in line to use the restroom, we walked over to the meeting point, where they had yet another selling presentation (each cruise excursion has a least one of these, that's how they allow us to use the restrooms in these places, sometimes get free water bottles and stand there to queue up for the bus).then we had about 45 minutes on your own to walk around, which sounds reasonable but it's pretty much a glance at the area with 1 or 2 quick stops and then figuring out how to get back to the meeting point. Then we had to get going to Capri. To get to Capri you take a water ferry (about 30 min) then a cable car ride (5 min of so). Both were extremely packed. Capri was gorgeous, but again didn't have much time there at all. The perfumeries leave a wonderful scent thought the island. If you fall in love with the scent like I did, go inside the many, same brand perfumeries and take a look. The prices aren't too bad.
From Capri it's almost an hour (very packed) boat ride back to the ship.
If we were to do it again, we would probably look into an independent excursion company for a private excursion. We would probably skip Pompeii. Spend a bit more time and eat freely in Sorrento and spend most of the time in Capri.
Rome is spectacular. We expected it to be beautiful with lots to see but it far exceeded our expectations. After looking at reviews we decided to go with a private excursion with an independent company, ShoreExcursionsinItaly.net, so that we could be on our own, do as much as possible, and pay less than the cruise excursion. We are glad we did! Being on a private excursion was a nice break from the pack! We booked the 9 1/2 hr Civitavecchia Shore Excursion to Rome. Our driver, Angelo, was waiting for us at the port with a name sign and a Mercedes. He took us to town (about 1 hr from port) and took us around town to all if the major sites. FYI, the Trevi Fountain was closed for renovations, it was a huge disappointment. I suggest coming back once it's reopened. Angelo took us to lunch at a place he already had set up. We were a little skeptical about that, but the food ended up being delicious! Our last stop was the Vatican we strolled around at the beginning and then decided to start heading to the Basilica. I wish we would have started that a bit sooner because it was quite a ways and by the end we could have used a bit more time. We basically ran through Vatican City and it still took us about 3 hours. The basilica is so much bigger than what it appears to be on the outside. We saw a lot of beautiful and grand cathedrals and basilicas on this trip...this one obviously has them all beat!
Angelo was waiting for us outside on time, he took us back to the ship and dropped us off right in front of where we had to embark.
We organized a cruise excursion that took us to Florence and Pisa and allowed us to climb to the top of the leaning tower. It was well worth it. Very organized and not so rushed. We first went to Florence. Our first stop was the David which is such a familiar and iconic picture but to see it in person was quite an experience. It was so much bigger than we thought it would be. It was beautiful. Be prepared for a line to get in. I think we waited 30-45 minutes and went there first thing in the morning. The good thing is that the street you are waiting in line at had cafés and a book shop and if you had someone waiting in line for you, you were able to quickly leave your group to use the restroom, buy a coffee or pastry, take a quick browse at a shop and then head back to line.
after the David, our very knowledgeable guide took us on a walking tour of Florence up to the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge, then let us loose for I think about an hour or more of free time. We met back at the meeting point and headed to Pisa (I believe the trip was 1 hr). He took us on a walking tour of Pisa. gave us almost 2 hours of free time, then we met at the tower to climb. He had a reservation and we didn't have to wait to climb. The climb was interesting. The steps are uneven and slippery. You definitely feel the lean which was cool! After the climb we went back to the ship which I believe was a 1 hour trip as well.
We booked an excursion to the famous St. Tropez through the cruise. The tour guide although very sweet, everyone had a hard time understanding. The bus ride was rough and took almost 2 hrs to get to St. Tropez. They even had us put our seat belts on. It was a small and windy road and I believe we nearly escaped a couple of accidents on the way to and from. I think we even caused an accident because the cars going the opposite way had a fender bender right next to us. I don't think such a large bus should take that route! It was scary. Once we got there, she took us on a walking tour then let us loose for I believe 2 hours of free time. St. Tropez is definitely pretty but I think I expected a little more, considering it's were all the high rollers and celebrities vacation. I thought it would be a little more picturesque but the port is filled with yachts so you can't see the water from the ocean front main street where the cafés are.... But I guess that's the point? The shops were very cute but of course very expensive. We stopped at El Tarte Tropizienne (there are a few of them) and got some pastries that were incredible. Particularly the one that looks like a long donut filled with custard.
After St. Tropez we went to Port Grimaud which was like 20 min away. It was definitely more picturesque but not a whole lot to do and see and the local people there were so rude!
Overall, I've heard so much about St. Tropez that I'm glad we did it. Would I go back? Probably not...
Our final cruise day we disembarked in Barcelona. You could still book excursions through the cruise for this day, although we didn't. We were staying for a few days and had a family friend there that took us around. The ship was about 25 min from the center of town were our hotel was. We stayed at Catalonia Catedral Hotel and it was wonderful!!! If you are looking for a place to stay post cruise, look into this one! It was a very central location and the hotel was very nice, modern and clean. We were in gothic quarter, close to shopping, cafés and walking distance to las ramblas. While we were in Barcelona we went to the famous Cathedral Sagrada Familia but didn't get to go in, the line was 5 1/2 hours long so we didn't go in. You need to reserve it ahead of time.
As far as where to eat or something fun and local to try out, go to Can Paixano. It was so cool! Meats and cheeses hanging everywhere! There is only room to stand. We went for lunch which was a good idea, from what we hear the tiny place gets beyond packed! You can get little plates of meats and cheeses to pick on to start and then get the amazing sandwiches! Also, the Rosat that they produce is great and cheap! We got a bottle! It's like strawberry sparkling wine.
If you can extend your trip even more, you can consider going to Paris like we did (only 2 hour plane ride from Barcelona). Then take the Chunnel from Paris to London, only about 2 hours as well. It was amazing!!!!!