We are a family of four. I am 46, and DH is 54. Our children are 14 and 12. Although I had been to Europe several times in my younger years, my husband had not. Note: VERY different returning to Europe middle-aged and with kids than carefree and in college..ha!
We had both a mini-suite and an interior room. We had originally booked a PH on Riviera but after reading reviews here, decided to save the $5,000 or so and "downgrade" to a mini-suite. We were very happy we did as our mini-suite on Dolphin was VERY comfortable with more than enough room.
We started our "dream vacation" with 4 nights in Rome. There, we hired private guides for the Vatican and St. Peter's as well as the Forum, Palantine Hill and Coloseum. The guides are invaluable as there is so much information. Certainly a guide is not necessary but was worthwhile to hold my kids attention if nothing else.
From Rome we took day trips to Florence (via More
train) and Pompeii/Naples. Although we would go to both these ports once on the ship, I did want to be rushed and wanted to see other sites when in those ports. Florence was wonderful as always, and my kids agreed it WAS the best Gelato in all of Italy. The "David" was amazing but the kids were a little tired of museums so we skipped the Uffuzi.
Pompeii/Naples was incredible. We hired Fabrizio from firstname.lastname@example.org and he was a true gem. He picked us up at our hotel and drove us to Pompeii to see the ruins, then to hike Mt. Vesuvius and finally to the Nat. Arch. Museum. It was a long but very enjoyable day and with the four of us, not much more expensive and MUCH easier than the train.
EMBARKATION: We arrived later in the afternoon, so there were very few standing in line. We found the process and staff to be very efficient. My son had purchased a replica Roman sword which security would not let us carry on board, however, they were very accomodating and after a few conversations Princess agreed to keep for us until we disembarked.
CABINS: As mentioned, we loved our mini-suite mid-ship Dolphin. We used the balcony for each sailaway as well as after long exhausting port days and to relax before dinner. It is true that Caribe and Dolphin have no privacy or covering for the balconies, but that did not bother us in the least and we preferred being on the deck closest to the water and not being able to see anything below us except the water. The bed and pillows were exceptionally comfortable and we used the long couch to "kick back" and watch TV (which unfortunately we did a lot with the breaking news of Michael Jackson's death).
SERVICE: Without exception, the service was superb in all areas. Our room steward, Jamie, and dining room waiter Christian and his assistant, were especially notable.
FOOD: I am not a fan of food served in mass, but the food was decent. The dining room and Horizon Buffet were certainly adequate and some dishes were very good, but food would never be my reason for taking a cruise. Plus, with all the incredible food in port, it is hard to compete. I will say that the specialty restaurants were very good (especially Crown Grill) and my kids were thrilled they could get all they could east sushi at Vines.
SPA/SANCTUARY: I rented a designated lounge chair for the entire cruise in the Sanctuary. It was well worth it. I looked forward to my alone time reading and relaxing after being with everyone in port all day. My husband and I signed up for the thermal suite which was a waste of money in my opinion. The other spa services (massage and manicure) were good, although pricey.
TEEN/KIDS CLUB: I had one in Remix (teen) and one in Shockwaves (8-12) My kids absolutely loved getting together at night with their newfound friends. They are both very social and made new friendships and are continuing to keep in touch via Facebook and email. They liked it so much in fact, that my husband and I ended up having dinner by ourselves more than I anticipated, which was a nice treat. Princess did a nice job with their choice of counselors and planned activities.
PORTS: There are many reviews on ports so I just highlighted a few with possibly noteworthy information. Less
Ruby Princess Cruises to the Western Mediterranean
R507 was VERY noisy. My kids had it but I tried to sleep in it one night and it was HORRIBLE. I had to take down all the hangers in the closet as they were banging into eachother. It is also right under the Lido deck and there is banging and dragging of chairs until about 2:30 each night. It is big for an interior room but the size does not make up for the noise. I would have insisted to be moved if I was sleeping in there.D411 was the antithesis. Quiet, and serene. We loved this room.
My favorite port. We had arranged for Paul's Taxi in Athens. Dimitri, our driver, was a kind, considerate and humerous man. He had so much fascinating information to convey. The Acropolis was amazing, we traveled to Cape Sounion and then to the Nat. Arch. Museum which I could have stayed three days in. This was my highlight.
We chose to take the train to Lucca (a short train ride) and ride bikes around the ramparts. This is a charming small city and 4-5 hours is more than enough. We did have difficulty getting to the train station. You cannot walk out of the port and contrary to what many had stated, there were not any taxis available. The few that were available, only wanted to take passengers to Pisa. We had to pay for the shuttle (8 euro each) to take us to the center of town and then to take the bus to the train station. I wished I would have hired a driver for this port or gone on a ship's tour. However, we wanted to ride bikes so we had to do it on our own.
Although I had always wanted to go to Santorini it was too hot and dry for my tastes. Again, we could not find a taxi to take us to Oai from Fira so we ended up on a VERY crowded and hot bus with many others from our cruise. It was a sight to see the white buildings and the blue domes, as well as to ride the donkeys, but the lack of taxis made the port more difficult.