This was our first trip to Europe and finally decided we wanted to see a lot of different places and for that gave up time in any one place. We chose the Ruby because of our past satisfaction with Princess and we thought it had the best itinerary. The trip for us was fantastic and it exceeded our expectations. We knew the ship would be fine and it was in good shape and the service was good.
We did a lot of the ship’s excursions knowing that we would be herded about at all of the most touristy parts of each port. The crowds in the ports were immense, especially in Rome since there were 10 Mega Ships in port on our visit day. In Monte Carlo we went on our own and were quite happy with that as we found our way up to the Old Town area. The scenery was wonderful, and we got a good dose of life on the ritzy side. In Florence, we took the “Best of Florence and Pisa” tour and we did a lot of walking and looking at most sites from the outside. The weather was a bit iffy and we had umbrellas, but if you forgot yours the local vendors were quick to pull out weather gear for you. We did get to go inside the Academia and saw “David”, but again it was very crowded and we were kind of herded through. All in all we did get a good flavor of Florence but one would need a week to really see all the wonders of that town. In Rome we had a great tour guide named Max, he was really into his craft and seemed to enjoy telling us about what we saw. We did the Coliseum and the Vatican. We got into the museum and the Sistine Chapel and then the wonders of wonders, St. Peter’s Basilica. One thing about the organized tours, you have tickets to get inside, and get to go to a separate admission gate. That was good. In Naples we chose to take a bus to Sorrento for a couple of hours, and then to Pompeii. It was a good day and had a nice tour of Pompeii. The sea day that followed was welcomed, and along with a bunch of our new friends, we did some laundry. A lot of other cruisers had the same idea. With a 12 day cruise it was nice that the Ruby has a Laundromat.
Our next stop was Mykonos, and we did it on our own. We saw the organized tours in town and were glad we chose to see the sites on our own. The ladies did some shopping, too.
One of the problems with the tours is that there is never enough time for shopping. Not that we wanted to do a lot of it, but we had almost zero time except when they herd you into a shop for the privilege of using the restrooms. Our next stop was Istanbul, and we did it with a tour too. Lots of people at the Blue Mosque, the Hippodrome, the Aya Sophia, the Palace, and the Cistern. We were in awe of all these places except the Palace was a little less than we hoped for. us a bit. Next the ship goes to Kusadasi, and we went to Mary’s Shrine and Ephesus. People had told us that there wasn’t much at Kusadasi, but we found it to be on a building boom, with a huge marketplace, and a lot of new housing. They even have a brand new themed water park. In Athens we got a tour to the Acropolis and we were very lucky as we were the first group to walk through the gates that morning. For about a half hour we basically had the place to ourselves. The float into the harbor of Venice is thrilling. We did no tour, and if we would have understood the water buses better we would not have bought the Princess shuttle passes. They actually give every one on ship a pass for $15 and charge your account. You can turn them in prior to arrival if you want, and if we would have known how close the Pia Roma is to the ship we would have just gone there and gotten a two day pass since we stayed an extra night.
One more comment about the excursions, the tour director was wonderful. I wish I would have his name. He managed the groups in the Princess Theater with ease and humor. He made you feel like it was going to go off well, and they did. If we ever go back to a Med cruise, we will be doing shore trips on our own, but in general we are glad we did it the way we did. I know a lot of cruise critic people disdain ship tours, but in general we saw a little of a lot.
We found the dining to be fine. We did anytime dining and maybe because so many people skipped the main dining room because of busy days in port, we had no trouble getting in and getting a table for 4 and not having to share. The food was fine, and the service very good. We like the Princess system of the buffet since you can just go and get what you want, and do not have to wait in a line if all you want is something at the end of the line.
We are Platinum and enjoyed that they gave us 500 free internet minutes. We didn’t even use them all. We try to avoid all the up charge places on a cruise ship. It is getting harder to do that as they up charge so much nowadays. Not sure if we would ever even consider the “Serenity” place on the Ruby.
All in all, if anyone is considering the Med Cruises, be sure you are prepared for hectic days if you are new to Europe and want to see as much as you can. The days begin at 7:00am and end at 6:00pm and you are going to be busy the whole time. You can ease this up if you focus your port time, I guess, but so many sites are a ways from the ship’s dock that transportation time will be extensive and traffic in these cities is quite hectic.