I chose this cruise because of their ports of call. Istanbul and Athens are always a good option. I have cruised before with Princess and know the drill. Big crowded ships. I traveled with my wife and teen (16) boy. We found this cruise to be very familiar and full of activities.
We flew Atlanta Venice on Delta. Old Boeing 767 crowded airplane. Multimedia did not work but since it was an overnight flight, you don't need it. We stayed in an hotel close to Piazzola di Roma which is close to the port. People mover from this piazza to port makes it easy. Since there were like 8 bid ships departing Venice, I would have appreciated more signs from Princess. I found many big and clear from Royal Caribbean. Princess uses small ones with people that are chatting with signs down. After we asked, walked at 90F and pushed crowds found the right way, check in was easy. The Welcome entrance photo was all sweaty for most people. Nice reminder.
Crew was warm and welcoming. Since we More
knew our way to our cabin, it was ok and fast. Since we would touch many ports and many had activities one ship, we chose and inside cabin. Very few time spent inside. Cabin is nice. Nothing special.
The overnight on ship at Venice is a good option since you get to have night views of the city. Transportation from the ship is US$15.00 per person. Using Vaporetto is $17 Euro per three. You find that fee is already charged and departs just from side of ship, so use it.
Depart from Venice is early in the morning and 2 days of sailing to Athens. Arriving to Athens we were told that since there was a Taxi Drivers strike, no disembark was going to happen. This was very frustrated. There were about 10 cruise ships at Piraeus port. Only American companies did not allow disembark. All the European companies disembarked and some American companies left the port to other cities. Princess just stayed on port with all passengers on board. This meant a 3rd day on ship. I think this was a wrong decision from the captain/commodore. He should have given a Waiver and let us go down. We you travel to other countries, you confront social unrest. Athens is bigger than a Taxi drivers strike. There is subway, walking, etc.. After meeting other cruise passengers at different ports they did not tell any problems at Athens. This is my second port cancellation with Princess. I think they lack decision speed to change ports. We are sad.
This was the major trouble we had on the cruise. On the other hand, ship was good and crew was friendly. The most rude are the Maitres at the dinning rooms. They think they own the ship. We chose any time dinner since we are late dinners and arriving from tours at 6-7 pm leaves you little time to change for dinner.
Ship was full of families from all ages. Big noisy families from Latin America and Russia. This made a Happy Cruise. Since ship is big, crowds were only at upper pool decks. The rest was OK. Crooner's bar is my favorite at this ship. As for night shows at the Theatre, nothing new or impressing. The same ones that you will see at big cruise lines.
For big cities we chose tours on our own. You get much to see this way but have to do some before research in order to make the most of time.
At Istanbul (beautiful, friendly City) we used the Tram to Sultanahmet. Two more stops is Grand Bazaar. Tram is just outside from ship terminal. Most museum entrances can be paid using debit/credit card so you don´t need many Turkish Lira. Just for tram. At the Bazaar they accept any currency.
Rome we used the ship transport from Civitavecchia to Rome (1:30hrs). They leave you at the Vatican. Close is Metro station (Ottaviano). You can purchase a 1 day use for Subway and buses ($6 Euro per pax) or buy the Rome Pass for 24 hours that will let you use subway, buses and entrance to two museums/ruins avoiding lines $21 Euro. Since we had just 6 hours, we chose the first option. There are Subway stations to any landmark at Rome.
Note that on Sundays, Vatican Museums are closed. On Monday, Florence Museums are closed and on Fridays at Istanbul many things are closed. Use this to plan your cruise.
Mykonos was so-so. My personal opinion is that Princess can avoid this port and spend more time at big cities like Istanbul and/or Rome. Kushadasi very interesting going to Ephesus and Mary's Shrine.
Expect crowds in all the main points of interest at all ports. By crowds I mean big ones. This was expected since it was summer time. August is worst.
At Barcelona we disembarked on our own. At ship they try to sell you transportation scaring you about crowds at port. The truth is that cabs are outside of ship and many. Wait is just 5-10 mnts and you don't disembark at 6am. Can wait until 9-10am. Fare to any downtown hotel is $8-$10 Euro per ride 3-4 pax. We used this option and are happy to have made it. We had a quiet breakfast and disembarked OK.