Where do I start? I researched the different cruse lines and itineraries a long time before deciding on the Grand Mediterranean cruise on the Ruby Princess. I had sailed on Princess (the Crown) before and had no complaints. My other favorite cruise line is Norwegian, but I didn't like their Mediterranean itinerary. I booked a balcony stateroom on the starboard side (R605) which was the same one I had on the Crown earlier. It's convenient to eating being one deck below the buffets and close to the mid elevators to take me to the main dining rooms. We decided to book the May 28th cruise from Venice to Barcelona because we thought the weather would be a little cooler at that time. We planned for a couple of days pre-cruise in Venice (probably should have done 3) and a couple of days post-cruise in Paris, before flying home. After seeing some of the sites in Barcelona on the way to the airport post-cruise, we should have planned on a couple of days there as well.
In a nutshell, this was a wonderful cruise and I look forward to sailing on the Ruby again! I have absolutely no complaints about the food or the crew. There was food available somewhere around the clock, lots of options, and very tasty. We ate primarily in the Michelangelo dining room, but also frequented both the Horizon and Caribe buffets, the International Cafe, the Trident Grill (for hotdogs), Sabatini's ($20 service charge), and the Crown Grill ($25 service charge). We are early eaters and tried to be in the dining room when it opened. No problem getting a table for 2 by the window at that time.
The ship is practically new and is beautifully decorated! Always something going on in the Piazza. We only attended 2 shows at the Theater, but they were enjoyable, especially the Venice Chamber Orchestra the night we were on the ship in Venice. Our stateroom was comfortable and had plenty of room for our needs. After hanging up our clothes in the closet and putting clothes on the shelves, the luggage slipped out of the way under the bed. There are 3 US 115 volt outlets in the room, one in the bathroom, one on the desk, and another behind the TV. The TV worked great and had several news and movie channels. We never had a chance to watch a movie under the stars because after some of the excursions, we were too tired to stay up for a movie (we are in our mid to upper 60's).
Ports and Excursions:
Venice is a place we never expected to visit in our lifetime but had always dreamed about. It exceeded our expectations and we would love to go back again. We stayed at the Saturnia Hotel booked thru Princess which was within easy walking to St Marks Square and the Rialto Bridge.
Athens was disappointing. The city is dirty with grafitti written on every surface you can see. The crowds are huge around the Acropolis and climbing the many steps to reach it was treacherous. I would hate to try it when it is wet. The Temple of Poseidon is also treacherous to walk around, but the views from there are some of the most stunning of the cruise. By the way, all of our excursions were Princess excursions.
Kusadasi (Ephesus) was enjoyable. Visiting the Virgin Mary Shrine should not be missed.
Istanbul is a beautiful city. It was not what we were expecting. People were friendly and the mosques were beautiful.
Mykonos is a quiet, pretty island with lots of shops to visit. We didn't do an excursion there. We tendered onto the island and walked around some of the shops and sat on the sea wall to enjoy the beautiful clear waters.
Naples - we took the Amalfi Coast drive and a visit to Pompeii. The Amalfi drive was a great experience with beautiful views of the sea and all kinds of flowers along the route. Pompeii was another ruin, but interesting because it had been so well preserved.
Rome is a must see if you haven't been there. We visited the Colosseum, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peters Basilica, all of which were majestic and beautiful. However, the crowds were huge and we were exhausted at the end of the day.
Livorno - we opted to just visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa, since that is a place we've always seen pictures of is is a very famous landmark. It's still leaning. And after the long day in Rome, we needed a little relaxation time that afternoon.
We didn't go ashore in Monte Carlo, but we enjoyed looking at it from our balcony.
Barcelona we visited with a tour from the ship to the airport. Many beautiful and interesting sights there. And by the way, the Barcelona airport is the nicest one we've ever been in.
Flying is a pain! The next time we fly across the ocean, we're going business or first class, no matter what it costs. The bigger the plane, the smaller the seats in coach and less leg room. And the anxiety concerning making connections and wondering whether your luggage will be there when you are is huge on a person of our age. We made all of our connections, but one only by seconds after a flight was delayed. One of our bags didn't make it on the plane with us from Barcelona to Paris and we didn't see it for about 24 hours.
This was a great cruise and I can't say enough about how much we enjoyed it. We got to see so much and visit so many countries and cities. It's hard to come up with any complaints. I guess the only problem we had was with fellow passengers who insist on smoking. I think smoking should be banned from cruise ships unless there can be an isolated area away from other passengers where smokers can only pollute themselves and not cause health issues to others. Our forward neighbor would come out on his balcony frequently and light up, causing us to have to go back inside and not enjoy the use of our balcony.