We were on the Star Princess Eastern Med, Greek Isles cruise from June 23-July 5, 2011. I was traveling with my teenager and tween, and another friend and her daughter. The route was from Civitavecchia near Rome to Venice. 12 day itinerary with 11 days in port, one day at sea.
Summary: We loved the cruise, and it was especially fun for the kids. We found this to be a great way to travel with kids and see many ports without a lot of stress. The staff of the ship were always courteous. Although it's a large ship-I believe we had 2,700 passengers on our cruise-it doesn't feel overly crowded. Food was pretty good and the kids enjoyed the availability of the buffet and snack bars. The itinerary was fantastic. The ship was beautiful and fun to explore. All in all a very positive experience.
Pros: Mini-suite was perfect for our family, ship's design makes it feel less crowded, kids programs were wonderful. Staff was amazing and friendly. Also wanted to note the private guided tours we loved so much: Unforgettable Tuscany for Florence/Pisa (email@example.com), Pleasant Travel in Naples (www.pleasantravel.com), and Spiros Tours in Athens (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Cons: Felt like I was being nickel and dimed for things which should be included in price of cruise like: sodas, coffee, some of the transfers to shore etc.
In Rome we stayed in the mini-apartment suite at Albergo del Senato right next to the Pantheon. Loved this hotel and our room. Embarkation was a breeze, but we arrived later than most people, about 3:30 to 4:00pm.Our transfers were through Limo in Rome and they did a great job. We also took a tour with Limo in Rome and it was very good except for the ac was broken in our car. After getting settled in the room we went to explore the ship and get some food at the Horizon Court buffet. We checked out the swimming pools and giant movie screen then got the kids checked in to the kids programs. The cruise was delayed 6 hours while waiting for a plane that was delayed getting into Rome. We arrived late at our 1st port, but after that it was pretty much on time.
The mini-suite: We had a mini suite for myself and 2 kids. It was roomy with just enough separation between the sleeping area and the sitting area. My son had a pull down bunk above the sofa, my daughter stayed in the bed w/ me. Great deck outside with a table and 2 chairs. Bathroom had a bath and shower. There was a mini fridge, a desk area and closet space enough for my daughter and I. My son lived out of his suitcase. Our room steward was wonderful, Alberto from the Philippines. We were on Dolphin deck rm. 702.
The ship: The design of the ship is great, loved the atrium with all the shops and cafe around it. There are so many discreet spaces to find privacy or for gatherings of smaller groups that it really didn't feel crowded most of the time. There was even a pool at the back of the ship for adults only that was less crowded than the 2 pools for families. The kids programs were right above the buffet and this was a great idea.
The food: The food was a step up from our previous experience with Disney cruises food, but was not an amazing experience like I was expecting. We did eat at the Steakhouse 1 night and it was very good, but I'm not sure if it was worth the extra cost. (we had coupons so we went for free) I noticed that the specialty restaurants were never crowded. We ate frequently at the buffet and several times in the dining rooms. We had anytime dining and found that we never had to wait, if we were willing to sit with people we didn't know. We met some great people this way. Service in the dining rooms was very good. The buffet gets a bit repetitive but we still liked it for the convenience.
Kids programs: My daughter and her friend were just old enough to check themselves in and out of the kids club, but only when the ship was at sea. This made it more of a choice on their part so it didn't feel like babysitting and they loved that. My daughter always wanted to go to the kids programs, her friend was not so inclined. Her friend could go with her up to the kids area and then check herself out when she got bored. My son loved the teen lounge and he was there all the time he was allowed to be. The kids made friends from all over the U.S. and from all over the world.
The itinerary & excursions: This is the reason we booked the cruise-the itinerary was perfect for our family. Ports were: Civitavecchia, Monte Carlo, Florence & Pisa (Livorno), Naples, at sea, Santorini, Mykonos, Athens, Olympia (Katakolon), Corfu, Split and overnight in Venice. We did a combination of private tours and ships excursions. I would have to say that we enjoyed the private tours the most.
Florence/Pisa-We had a private tour with Unforgettable Tuscany and the owner/driver was Paolo. This was a wonderful way to see the countryside and tour the sights with the least amount of hassle. All of our tickets were reserved in advance so we by passed the 2-3 hour lines at the Uffizi and Accademia. We stopped briefly in Pisa and then stopped on the way to Florence at a castle. The owner of the castle is a friend of Paolo's. We did a quick tour of the castle and then stopped at Piazzele Michelangelo overlooking Florence. After lunch we went to the church square, then to the Accademia and then to the Uffizi. Made it back to the ship in plenty of time.
Mykonos-shore excursion to Platis Yialos beach. Loved the beach, had 3 hours to enjoy ourselves here. After the shore excursion the kids stayed on the boat while my friend and I walked around Mykonos Town. Mykonos Town is very picturesque and fun to explore-lots of winding alleyways.
Katakolon-I went into town to shop, the rest of my party stayed on the ship and took a day off.
We debarked the boat at 2 p.m. and got on a bus which took us to the airport. The airport was on strike so we were actually lucky our plane took off at all. We flew to Barcelona, Spain and stayed there for a week and then flew home. We all enjoyed the Princess Cruise very much and the kids can't wait to take another one.