We sailed on the Ruby Princess in September 2010 from Venice and enjoyed the cruise and ship, there was one big problem - where our cabin was located. When we found out the cabin number, we checked the deck plans and found a blank space above the cabin. We mistakenly assumed it was a storage area or equipment room. It turned out to be the galley and the banging and noise from above us started in the middle of the night and made it impossible to get a good night's sleep. We complained several times to the purser but it didn't do much good. One of the people at the purser's desk did let it slip that Princess knows which ones are the noisy cabins, but books them anyway. This was obvious because Princess offered us a $400 credit for our inconvenience. Lesson learned. Never, never book a cabin under an empty space or any of the public areas, including restaurants, theaters, bars, pools, etc. You will be sorry. If you do get stuck with a noisy cabin, complain often and loudly and maybe the cruise line will offer you some sort of compensation.
I also noticed that the new Princess ships have smaller cabins. The older ships had more space per passenger. We always used to like Princess because they didn't try to cram as many people on the same size ship as some of the other lines, but not any more.
One more observation. If you are taking a cruise with a lot of ports you have never seen before, don't bother paying the extra money for a balcony. You won't have time to use it. Oh, and be aware Princess is now charging $3 to deliver your room service order -- it used to be free. What next, a charge for food!
We were facinated by the Acropolis and the history of this area. You can probably take a private taxi or arrange for a cheaper tour rather than taking the ship's tour. It's about a half hour drive from the dock to the ruins. It does help to have a guide to explain the history of the buildings. The old part of Athens is filled with shops and we enjoyed walking around and having a bite at one of the cafes. I would rather have gone to the museum instead, but it wasn't offered. I suggest research what you want to see then investigate how to do it on your own. I rate this tour as only average.
About an hour and a half drive from Florence is the Cinque Terre, so named for the five small villages along the Italian coast. A path connects the towns if you have time to walk it. We took the ship's tour which went through the famous Tuscan countryside on the way to the coast. The little towns looked like they were still in the seventeenth century. No pictures could do them justice. We walked the half mile path from Manarolo (second town) back to Riomaggiore (first town). The views along the sea were so lovely, it made us want to come back when we had more time to enjoy this lovely area. Then we took a boat to the fourth town of Vernazza where we had about a hour to explore. Back on the boat to the last town of Monterossa where we had about two hours to enjoy one last Italian Pizza and buy some authetic pasta to take home. One day just wasn't enough time here.
The old city or Sultanahmet is very fascinating. In this case, the ship's tour included all the major attractions with a very knowledgeable guide. The blue mosque and Topkapi palace are a must to see. The only problem is the tour stops in the old city for a rug demonstration. The rugs were very expensive and this wasted a lot of time. We left and walked around the neighborhood which is a shopping area. There are many tour agencies on the net which might be a better choice. Next time, we would book a local tour operator. Since it was Sunday, the Grand Bazaar was closed which was a disappointment. If you want to see it, make sure you don't go to Istanbul on a Sunday.
This port has a nice bazaar that is walking distance from where the ship docks. Walk out of the dock area thorough the first building of shops and go across the street. Just be mindful of the pickpockets and the pushy vendors. Firmly say no thank you and walk away. You can take a taxi to Ephasus ruins which are only 5 miles from the ship. Once there, buy a guide book and do a self-guided tour. Just make sure you have a taxi back and you agree on the fare before you leave. It is very interesting.
Monaco was a very modern city. There is an old town that is in walking distance from the docks. A map is available on the web if you want to walk around on your own. If you have time, there is a beach right out of the main part of town which looked inviting. The casino charges E. $10 just to get in and we just didn't have time to see if it was worth it. Lots of expensive yachts and cars in the harbor to admire.
Pompeii is right near Naples and it is easy to get to. The ruins are much bigger than I expected and not all of them are uncovered yet. A guide is really needed here because they know all the details about how the buildings were used and who lived in them. Not to be missed. Don't bother with the tour up Mt. Vesuvius. It was hazy at the top and the view wasn't worth they trip.
The ships tour was really worth taking even though it was $199 per person. We saw the Michelangelo statue of Moses; the Forum; the Colosseum; St. Peter's in the Vatican; and a tour around downtown Rome. We walked right up to the front of the long lines and were let in ahead of anyone else at every site. This is the practice for tours in Europe. Even if you have tickets ahead of time, you will wait in line if you aren't on a tour. The line in from of St. Peter's was an hour and a half long, but not for us. We also had lunch at a lovely hotel which was a nice break. The traffic in Rome is bumper to bumper which made the tour almost a hour late returning to the ship. No problem. The ship waits for its tours. This was the best tour we have ever been on.
Venice is very easy to walk to just about anywhere you need to go. You can get tickets before you leave home for the attractions in St. Mark's square which is advisable. The water bus (vaporetto) is a good, cheap way to cruise around the island and you can get on and off at the stops for one fee. Read the signs or ask at the ticket counters. The back streets behind the Rialto bridge are the real Venice. They are filled with little shops and cafes to explore. There are some good bargains on leather and Murano glass in these shops. There is a lot of information on a website called: www.europeforvisitors.com which is very helpful. There is transportation from the airport via either a bus to the Plaza Roma transportation center or the vaporetto. Just a word of caution. The streets are cobblestone so it takes some effort to wheel your luggage to your hotel if it is not right off one of the canals. Venice has a rainy season and it rains so hard it floods the sidewalks and the people have to walk across them on wooden planks so check on what time of year you are visiting. We were in Venice in the middle of September and the weather was perfect.