Most of the passengers that we spoke with, like ourselves, chose this cruise based on the outstanding itinerary - Rome-Naples-Alexandria-Port Said-Ashdod-Haifa-Ephesus-Patmos-Santorini-Athens. We could not fault the itinerary - where else can you take in the ancient civilizations of Rome, Egypt,the Holy Land, Turkey and Greece all in one trip.
We spent the 3 days prior to the cruise touring on our own in Venice and Rome using the rail system for transportation between cities and the metro for transportation Rome. We also used the railway for our transfer to the port. The port is a short walk from the railway station however there were no taxis to be found. Not a major problem unless you have lots of luggage. Once you reach the port (about 1000 yards) there is a shuttle bus to the ship. Embarkation went smoothly. We arrived about midway through the allotted time and walked straight up to the desk and were onboard within 10 minutes.
We were greeted by a staff member on arrival and given directions to our cabin. We were not escorted to our cabin as we have been on some other lines. Cabin was as expected however proved to be very noisy. This particular cabin has a door to the adjoining cabin. Not sure if this was the problem but it was almost like being in the same room as our relatives who were in the adjoining cabin. Note to self - no more connecting cabins!
Food onboard was average to good. I have had better on Princess in the past. The menu was not as rich as on past voyages on larger ships. We did try the Sabatinis Italian and it was up to the usual high standards and was surprisingly almost empty. We did not try the Steakhouse. Royal Princess is not your typical Princess ship. She is considerably smaller (around 670 passengers) and hails from the Renaissance Cruise lines R series of ships of which Princess has 3 (Royal and Tahitian being the other 2 with Tahitian being renamed Ocean in 2009). The ship is small and intimate with almost no lines other than for tenders. This also translates into not a lot to do when on sea days unless you like bingo, trivia etc. In fairness we had not so great weather (rather cold) so that pretty much eliminated any poolside activities or use in general. Entertainment was average at best. Due to small size, there is no Theater but rather a cabaret lounge. Entertainment troupe was very small (8 members). They were very good but you get tired of the same faces! Orchestra is a quartet who were also very good. Not much opportunity for dancing (ballroom). We did check out the disco a couple of nights. Music left a lot to be desired, I think in part as the DJ was not western (probably Filipino) and did not seem to be in touch with western tastes. We left the village people etc in the 70s. Not what we want to listen to today. They did cater to requests which my wife kept them busy with! Other entertainers were mixed in quality.
Ports of call
Naples: we took the ships excursion to Pompeii which was very good other than the rain!. Note that this as is common with most excursions on this voyage has a lot of walking over uneven surfaces and a lot of stairs and small hills. Not handicap friendly at all. This was not a problem for my wife and I but grandma had some trouble with this but did very well overall. Be careful to check this out before spending a lot of $$ on these excursions.
Alexandria: we organized our own excursion with www.temotours.com and were delighted. We did an overnight to cairo including hotel for under $300 per person, rejoining the ship the next day in Port Said. Good thing because there were no excursions offered in Port Said by Princess and those who did not book overnights were very disappointed in Port Said. We saw the Pyramids, Sphinx, Step Pyramid Mohammed Ali mosque, light show, Egyptian Museum, bazaar and had a Nile dinner cruise. All went well. Don't be alarmed at the armed police escort that joins the convoy of buses part way on the trip to Port Said. This is normal.
Ashodod: we took the Princess Grand Overland excursion and stayed overnight in Jerusalem. We entered the West Bank uneventfully to visit Jerusalem and also took in all of the major Holy Land sites in Jerusalem, Galilee and Nazareth, returning to the ship in Haifa.
Ephesus: we did the Best of Ephesus excursion through Princess which was very good although very similar to Pompeii.
Patmos: we did the Best of Patmos excursion which was good but probably not worth the money as there is really not much to see.
Santorini: we passed on the organized excursions and spent the day wandering in the quaint villages. We took a cab up to Oia where the views are magnificent.
Athens: we booked with Georges Taxis for transfers and an 8 hour tour by taxi. Service was excellent and we were able to see all that we wanted in one day. We stayed two days in Athens but could have seen what we wanted to in one.
All in all a vacation to remember and one that we would highly recommend.