I had always wanted to go on a cruise to the Greek Islands and finally my wife and I decided to celebrate our anniversary by taking this 12 day cruise from Venice to Rome aboard the Grand Princess. We flew to Venice two days early to stay in one of our favorite cities. It was great to roam around Venice and get over jet lag before boarding the ship.
EMBARKATION Getting to the port in Venice is really pretty easy. You can either take a bus or a water taxi. We took the water taxi from St Marks and were delivered right to the port area. You have to walk about 500 yards to the baggage drop off area. Venice is a bit different than other ports in that the baggage drop off area is some distance from the actual place you get on the ship. It is not marked well, but if you keep asking you will get directed to the right area. After you drop off your bags you walk back over to the actual embarkation terminal. Check in was pretty easy and we were allowed on the ship after about a 30 minute wait.
SHIP I had read some reviews that the Grand Princess was getting old and a little long in the tooth. I completely disagree. Yes, she is 10 years old, but was in great shape and she is a really well designed ship. We never felt crowded, even though the ship was full. There is plenty of space on deck and the public areas are really nice. The only suggestion would be to have a card room for use in the evening. We loved the movies under the stars. Played on the putting green and never had a problem getting a deck chair around the pool or in the covered pool area. I could go on and on about how well I think this ship is designed. Our cabin was an inside room and was just fine. The only thing I could wish, was that they had more drawer space. Storage was good, but could have used a couple more drawers. Had a desk,chair and table and the space was fine. Bed was comfortable and the room service was fine. Not great, but adequate. The only area that Princess needs to work on is the service at the Purser's Desk. Staff was friendly, but often gave out wrong information. It was like this was their first cruise to the area. Loved the internet service.
FOOD Loved the anytime dinning. Never a problem and we actually were seated at the same table most of the cruise. Always was able to find something I like loved the Pina Colada soup! Buffet service was very good as was the pizza. Did not try the room service. Ate at the steak house and it was exceptional. Well worth the extra charge.
PORTS AND SHORE EXCURSIONS This is why you take this cruise. We actually had 10 ports of call. You get to overnight in Venice and get off in Rome. In between you get to visit Dubrovnik, Corfu, Katakolon, Athens, Mykonos, Kusadasi, Rhodes, Santorini, Naples and get off in Rome. Dubrovnik and Corfu were nice visits I would not care if I went there again, but we had a pleasant time. In both places were just went into town and wondered around. Took a boat excursion in Dubrovnik which was great to see the city from the water. Katakolon is the stop for Olympia. We were going to take the train there, but missed the early one and then decided to just shop and enjoy the town. People who went to Olympia said it was nice. In Athens we took a Princess tour to the Parthenon. Great tour, good guide a not miss attraction. After leaving Athens, you stop at Mykonos, one of the magical Greek Islands. We took the shuttle into town and just wondered around. Found a great bakery. Then we rented a car and drove all over the island. It was easy to rent a car and the roads and directions are not bad at all. Next stop was Kusadasi. This is the stop to enable you to go to Ephesus. This was one of the places I was really looking forward to and I was not disappointed. Took the Princess tour and it was great. Our guide was fantastic and also was our guide at Ephesus. he was one of the best guides I have ever had. Enjoyed the shopping when we returned to the ship. Great port of call. From here you go to Rhodes. Great walled city to walk around and just enjoy. No need for a tour. Easy walk from the ship. Then it was off to Santorini. Probably one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. We spent about half the day just walking around and then hired a cab to tour the island. Worked out great. As great as Santorini was, Naples is the opposite. Take a tour and get out of the port area. Just a depressing port and dirty city. The countryside is great and if you haven't been to Pompeii, do go there. One of the reasons were chose this cruise was we were in every port at least a full day. No half day stops as some of the Greek Isle cruises. Great cruise.
ACTIVITIES ON BOARD Since you are in port almost every day, the daytime activities are limited. We found that fine. The evening entertainment is typical cruise line fare. Some good, some not so good. We did enjoy the shows, especially the Beatles tribute band. Cruise director gave good port talks and they were repeated on the TV, if you didn't want to go in person.
SERVICE Overall good. In the dining room our servers were excellent. Room steward adequate. Purser's desk needs work. Captain's Circle rep very helpful. Guys in the computer could not have been more helpful and friendly. As others have said the coffee in the buffet is terrible.
DISEMBARKATION Probably the best I have ever had. The ship gets into port at about 4 am. We were off the ship and in our waiting car, by 8:00 am and some friends were off and took the train and got to the airport to catch a 10:30 am flight. They got off the ship a 6:45am! Could not have been smoother or easier.
SUMMARY This is a great cruise. Great ports, very nice ship. I have been on probably 30 cruise and this may be the best ever!