Having decided to finally return to Europe after many years, it was a cruise that came to mind. We had already done two Princess cruises in the past year to the Caribbean so I knew that Princess was the way to go. The itinerary was what finalized the decision..they offerd the most time in the most interesting places on a cruise that is very port intensive.
We flew from Houston to Newark to Frankfurt to Venice...lucky to go first class in the new lie down seats on Continental...all was great until we got to Frankfurt.....terrible place to connect. They post inaccurate gate info and the airport is huge; we almost missed the Lufthansa connection to Venice and that was also a joke....no boarding order. just cattle rushing the gate...really funny.
Spent two days in Venice prior to boarding the ship. Stayed in Mestre at the Hotel Tritone strictly for thr convenience of not hving to haul all the luggage over the bridges and canals...worked out well as Venice was extremely hot and humid. Mestre is not exactly a tourist attraction but has the easiest access to the port.
Boarding the Ruby was simple. Princess has this process down to a science and it is always easy....very little waiting. Checked out the cabin and then headed for lunch and then the shuttle back into Venice. The shuttle is easy and convenient..took the people mover back over to Piazza Roma to buy some wine and then just settled in to watch the water taxis hurrying passengers to the ship.
We always get a mini suite midship and this was no exception. Our only complaint was the cabin steward ( Edgardo ). He was very lax and almost disinterested in his job...Previous Princess stewards have been fantastic
We asked Edgardo for an extra ice bucket and he asked " why"? Well, that is not his place to ask...maybe we like a lot of ice. The only other request during our trip was for him to bring some lotion. We use mainly our own toiletries and had run out of lotion....had to ask twice. There were several nights that we told him to skip the turn down as it was late and still not done...had to ask repeatedly for a room service morning ticket for the door. Other than that the dining room staff is very attentive .
We took the Ultimate Ship Tour on the last sea day. It is $150.per person and worth every penny. It was great to meet Commodore Romano and spend time on the Bridge having him answer so many questions. Met all the ship officers of each division...loved going throught the galley and seeing how they organize all the food, bakery, etc. It is quite amazing. In return, we got a lovely album of 8x10 photos posed with the various ship officers, the big thick Princess robes, a Pricess chef jacket, personalized stationary and a wonderful experience.
The itinerary was busy...our favorite place was Turkey. Kusadasi and Istanbul need to be revisited. In Livorno, we did our own trip to Pisa and then on to Lucca via train. It is easy and Lucca is a great alternative to Florence if you have already been there..we rented bikes and biked arond the city and the walled enclosure. Visiting Pompeii was a real highlight of the trip. It was overcast and a bit drizzly, so it was cool and the photos came out perfectly.
The only downside to our itinerary was AThens...ther was a taxi strike that day and we were not allowed to leave the ship. Costa lines right next to us allowed their passengers to disembark. It was frustrating having to stay onboard and miss the great sights. What was puzzling to me was that they knew about the strike ahead of time and should have made a different stop as I know the Celebrity line did that. My taxi driver that we had booked in Athens sent me an email the previous day telling me that our tour was cancelled because of the strike so I am certain that the ship also knew.
All in all, a fantastic itinerary and wonderful trip.
We visited the casino and met our old friend, Marek, who works in the casino..had met him on the Caribbean Princess earlier this year. What a nice coincidence.
We never made it to the shows because we had such busy active days..In the evening, there was dinner and then enjoying wine on our balcony as we sailed away to a different place.
Anytime dining is our favorite way to go....we enjoyed one formal night but the other one we just dined at the Cafe Caribe...usually going outside to watch the ships wake..the water is so blue and clear , it is a totally relaxing way to end the day.
So I give Pricess a gold star for another wonderful trip.
We will be looking to the Caribbean in the next few months as those are our favorites for the great beaches.
Highly recommend Princess!!!
In closing, if you are adults and do not wish to be bothered with a lot of noise from kids running around, then do this cruise anytime but the summer. There were so many children and the parents do not discipline them..constant running in the cabin over head and we heard this from so many other cruisers.