26 Barcelona to Europe - Eastern Mediterranean Princess Ruby Princess Cruise Reviews

This was our third Princess Cruise, but the first once since they were bought by Carnival. We felt that there was a decline. The food was more like Home Town Buffet. During our other cruises the food was high quality, really wonderful, ... Read More
This was our third Princess Cruise, but the first once since they were bought by Carnival. We felt that there was a decline. The food was more like Home Town Buffet. During our other cruises the food was high quality, really wonderful, fresh with lots of variety and great taste. We got to laughing, a little , on how can you make desserts that have no taste or sweetness? The Horizon Cafe was congested and there was not enough seating. Secondly, how do the Carnival folks treat their employees because there seemed to be a morale problem. We had people snapping at us sometimes. The woman working at the xray and card check area ,where we would get off and on the ship at ports , treated people like cattle, speaking very disrespectfully every time I saw her. I think that because our first two cruises were almost perfect , that this was a letdown. Thirdly, the cabins need updating and need freshening. The carpet was worn out, faded and the throw pillows on the bed looked faded too and like they needed to be sterilized! On the positive side....The itinerary was wonderful , we loved all the ports! Check -in was very smooth and organized. We loved our balcony and sleeping at night with the sound of the ocean and the sea breeze. We enjoyed having a breakfast tray in the mornings. The lounge areas were pretty. We really enjoyed the movies under the stars and watched a NFL game up there! Sometimes people don't realize how important their job is! I worked with the public for many years , while most people are lovable and reasonably easy to take care of, when that is not the case, be professional and do the right thing....fake it!!!! We will be checking out new options for our next cruise. If we cruise Princess again, at least our expectations will be more accurate.   Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
Our expectations were mixed before embarking on our first cruise but after 24 hours we were pretty much converts. At first sight the ship was looked amazing and embarkation was easy. The cabin was about the size we expected but because ... Read More
Our expectations were mixed before embarking on our first cruise but after 24 hours we were pretty much converts. At first sight the ship was looked amazing and embarkation was easy. The cabin was about the size we expected but because we opted for a balcony it seemed much bigger and it suited our needs perfectly. We were on the eleventh deck (BAJA)which was an ideal height and pretty much mid ship which after venturing both aft and rear was definitely the right location. The rear of the ship in particular was quite noisy and the motion of the sea was quite noticeable. The room was also well appointed and clean which is all you could expect. Even though we didn't watch much television what was available was good and the on board channel (WAKE)was very informative and quite fun to watch. Our cabin Stewart was very good as well but nothing less that we expected. As far as the ship itself was concerned you'd hardly believe there were 3,100 passengers on board as we had very little trouble getting into most of the onboard venues. There was more than enough entertainment, if fact we found at times we couldn't get to everything. The shows were very good and the food was amazing. Obviously too much to choice from but we weren't complaining. Some of the passengers we spoke with who'd been on other Princess cruises said the food was below that of other the cruises. If that was the case then I can't imagine how good that food must have been! We took a few on shore tours and must admit were disappointed. Mainly with what we paid for what we got. At half the price they would have been worth it but not for what we paid. In fact the best day trips we had were the free one's where we just went a shore on our own. We would look seriously at organising our own on shore excursions in the future. Probably our biggest bug bear was the charging of gratuities. Coming from Australia we're of the belief that gratuities are paid for a job well done and over and above what is expected. Even though the staff on board were excellent they did nothing more than we expected from a cruise which cost us over $A7,500. There's nothing worse than paying for something and then finding yourself having to dip into you pocket over and over again. We weren't the only one's who felt this way and even some Americans agreed with us and their the champions of gratuities. Some advice to Princess... charge an all inclusive fee. An extra $300 would have fazed us at all! All in all though we loved the cruise and are looking forward to our next one. Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
Previously cruised with Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, and Regent. We were very Happy with the service, staff, restaurants, food quality, ambiance, and cabin on the Ruby. Movies under the stars was nice and unique to Princess. Great mix of ... Read More
Previously cruised with Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, and Regent. We were very Happy with the service, staff, restaurants, food quality, ambiance, and cabin on the Ruby. Movies under the stars was nice and unique to Princess. Great mix of passengers of all ages and nationalities, many families, and would say the median age was 45 because of the summer season. Alot of teens aboard and there were plenty of activities if they wanted to participate. However,with few exceptions, live entertainment was designed (in all venues) for passengers older than 70 (1950s sock hop, Stardust hits of 1957, ballroom music reviews). On the big stage, a predictable magician performed twice, Headliner vocalists each performed twice, and 2 "broadway" stage shows (1 good one - One Upon a Dream, and 1 dance review, bleh). Scott Harris (comedian) was very funny so we made sure to see him twice, although 1 of his shows was entirely a "back in the old days" set. Therefore, a combination of long port days and a lack of entertainment relevant to the past 40 years meant that most people were in their cabins by 10 pm. Many conversations with other passengers ages 35-50 and all agreed that their bar bills were low because there was nothing to keep them out at night. Short-sighted of Princess to ignore the interests of passengers who are willing to pay $9 for a drink, and I believe this dismissal of a large demographic is something they should revisit. But this is a cruise about the Destinations. Every port was fantastic and worth seeing. Myself (48), Husband (49) and teenage son (14) each liked different ports although they got pretty tired of "and that pile of rocks used to be the ____ temple!" So much history, cultural and art to take in. Princess gives you lots of time in each port compared to other cruise lines which is important for the stops where the main attraction (Florence, Rome) is still an hour away by bus or train. Since it was mid-August, Florence, Rome, and Athens were vacant and therefore no traffic! Venice and Istanbul were very crowded. and it was unbelievably HOT in every, single port. Stayed 1 night in Barcelona pre-cruise at the Hotel Continental on Las Ramblas which was well located and comfortable. Some weird door locking/security system and strangely pink room (even the ceiling!) but good for 1 night. Embarkation easy - people were allowed to check in prior to the posted 1 pm time so we were on-board by 12:45. Ruby is a big ship but well laid out. Very little movement felt while underway. Port disembarkation was easy every time. Smiling faces on crew everywhere. All crew members (stewards, waiters, bar staff, pool staff, etc.) all willing to take a few minutes to chat and we got to know several. Dining rooms were great and very attentive for my gluten-free diet needs. Went to Crown Grill and Sabatini's which was a nice change to dining rooms. Used the buffet a few times when we were too tired for a sit-down dinner. We had a wonderful 12 nights visiting amazing places, then spent 2 additional nights in Venice which was the icing on the cake -what an incredible city to roam around in. Will need the weekend to rest from this amazing vacation! Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
My wife and I recently returned from a 12 day Barcelona to Venice cruise on the Ruby Princess from 10th August to 22nd August. This was our first cruise and we absolutely loved it (more of that later!). As this was our first cruise we ... Read More
My wife and I recently returned from a 12 day Barcelona to Venice cruise on the Ruby Princess from 10th August to 22nd August. This was our first cruise and we absolutely loved it (more of that later!). As this was our first cruise we used this website a great deal to find things out about the ship, ports and a whole lot more. As someone that doesn't usually write posts on forums, I felt compelled to write a post about our cruise because reading other people's posts helped us so much. Hopefully I can add some additional valuable information that might assist others! Before I start, I should mention that the Ruby Princess is a wonderful ship, as a couple in their mid thirties who have travelled a great deal and experienced many different holidays, this cruise was up there on our best holidays list. Cruising wasn't something that we had thought about really, and it was only when we saw a good deal we thought, hey why not. And boy are we glad we did! It was a great experience and I think the first of what, will most likely be, many cruises. The cruise overall was brilliant and I wouldn't hesitate in recommending a cruise with Princess. We utilized private tours in 1 port which was good. We utilized two Princess ship tours -- 1 was ok the other not so much. Ports. This cruise visited Barcelona, Monaco, Florence/Pisa, Rome, Naples, Mykonos, Istanbul, Ephesus, Athens, and Venice. The Ship. Ok, so, as per the photos, it's a big ship. Lots to do, lots to explore. To get the most out of it you need to be organised and work out just what sort of a cruise you want. Whilst this cruise is very port intensive, we found you can still have a relaxing time in-between visiting some amazing places. We found the ship very clean, with everything open & working well. We didn't find it crowded, even when at sea when the 3,000 passengers and 1,100 crew were all onboard (and I think the ship was full with no spare cabins). We always had seats at both Movies Under the Stars and in the Princess Theatre. We saw all three production numbers and enjoyed them all. We also saw the illusionist who was great (and my wife usually hates magicians), we saw the crew show which I thought was soooo funny. We also saw a couple of comedians who were good. When we visit hotels if I am honest we don't usually sit through the entertainment laid on as they are not usually that good. However, we were both really impressed with the entertainment onboard Ruby Princess. We also saw 3 or 4 films at Movies Under the Stars which was great. We usually got there 10 mins before the film started and always found a lounger. We were also always offered Pizza, popcorn and milk and cookies during the films which we found was a nice touch. Embarkation/Disembarkation. We embarked at 3pm in Barcelona and witnessed no queues, walking straight on once we had our cards. After a little look around the ship and a bit of food we returned to our cabin to find our cases outside our room. Disembarkation was a little more complex due to our flights being late in the evening (9.40pm). We had to check out the room by 8am and our bags had already been picked up the night before. However, we were allowed to stay on board all day, leaving the ship at 6pm to take our transfers. Everyone was great, we had food and drink onboard all day (and a nice 3 course lunch in the di Vinci restaurant). It did feel slightly strange as more and more new passengers came aboard but it was funny as many of the staff recognised us and asked when our flights were. Top tips if you are getting off late. The tables in Piazza on deck 5 all have power sockets by the side of them if you need to charge devices. Room. We were at the back of the boat in room B739. I expected the room to be relatively small but actually it was more spacious than I thought it would be. Plenty of places to store clothes and belongings. The only major problem we had was sockets. I had read somewhere (incorrectly as it turns out) that the room had UK, EU and US sockets. It doesn't, its US only and whilst I thought I a US adapter, I actually had everything but. By the time I realised the shop had none left, neither did our room steward or customer services. In the end we got one in a port a few days later. A great tip though is to take a cheap extension lead. We plugged it in and then had 4 sockets to charge multiple items at once which was very handy. There is also a spare socket behind the TV that many people miss. The room had a safe (with no additional fee) and the bed was really good. At home we have a huge expensive and very comfortable bed so I often joking complain on holiday about the bed but no complaints on the Cruise, the bed was ace. The room has a lot of hangers but if you need more, just ask your steward and a large hanging rail for clothes. Drinks. Not a great deal to report, drink prices were as expected, $5 for a beer, $8 for cocktails and always 15% added on service charge. We got the soda package and were glad we did, it seemed quite good value ($45 for the cruise / $4 a day) and included coke, diet coke, sprite, tonic water etc. You get an insulated drink holder included and we filled up and took these out on excursions (although be careful as they are not completely water tight). Water is free and available at the drink stations located at the horizon cafe and cafe caribe. We took a couple of 0.5l water bottles with us and filled up with ice and water when we needed to, all free and useful on trips where the weather gets hot. The drink stations also have tea, ice tea and coffee facilities and it's all free and help yourself (inc milk, sugar etc). I love a cup of tea before bed and so always stopped here before retiring to bed and the tea was ok, English breakfast, earl grey and Darjeeling (the supposed champagne of teas -- really?!) I had taken a few of my own as well. One tip if you feel like splashing out $1.50 is the pot of tea you can get at the international cafe, it was premium and you could get a good 3 cups out of it and it was very good tea. During mealtimes lemonade is also offered for free and was good. I'd heard that bringing alcohol was limited to one bottle of wine but a few people id spoken to had managed to get other stuff onboard. I only saw one person get booze confiscated and this is returned at the end of the cruise. Wine wasn't too badly priced as well, when ordered with the meal the dining staff keep the rest of the bottle if you don't finish it and bring it out the next meal for you. Restaurants. We opted for anytime dinning and after trying both the Michelangelo and di-vinci, found the service in the service in the Michelangelo to be the best. We only had to wait twice to be seated on our own and both times it was formal nights when we were at sea for the day. On these days people seemed to go early for dinner and we had a 30 minute wait only. You can also book times in the anytime restaurant by calling them up on the day and we did this a few times. The staff were incredible, so attentive and the service was amazing. The food was also of an exceptionally high standard, so very tasty. One tip (for free drinks) is order anything on the menu that has alcohol in it. There was a peach Daiquiri soup on the menu one day and it was simply a free cocktail. The Di-Vinci restaurant was good for breakfast as the Horizon breakfast buffets on deck 15 can get very busy and you feel very rushed there. When we did eat the breakfast buffets I found it very stressful, where as nobody uses the Di-Vinci restaurant for breakfast, the food seemed warmer and cooked to order and the atmosphere was much better and not so rushed. The same goes for lunch, Di-Vinci is open for lunch and not many people seemed to know this. We had a couple of amazing lunches. Don't get me wrong, the food in the Horizon cafe is lovely, but it's just more hustle and bustle. The burgers were also very good by the pool and the pizza was too. Ice cream is also fee and I highly recommend the international cafe, serving up lovely desserts 24 hours a day as well as great salads and toasted sandwiches, all included at no additional cost. I would also recommend going to the cooking show in the princess theatre which includes a tour of the kitchens after, that was a great hour and very funny. How they managed to create 250,000 meals per cruise and retain such high quality food is simply staggering to me. With regards to the other supplement restaurants (crown grill, Sabertini's etc) we didn't use them because the food was so good in the main restaurants. We meant to, but just didn't get around to it and were not bothered that we didn't. Room service. Great service, all included, no extra charge, and very useful for tea and coffee in the mornings! You could also order fruit in the room which was nice. Trips This is a tricky one as everyone has different ideas. We had visited quite a few of the ports already and had invested £10 in Rick Steve's Mediterranean cruise ports book which was absolutely invaluable. I think a new version is out in September. It gave great information on all places included where the boats dock, what the options were regarding transport and great coverage on what to see and what to miss. For each port, my tips would be as follows, noting we always docked in harbour and had no tenders:- Monaco -- Boat docked on the Marina and all places can be reached in short walking distance. We had been to Monaco before so knew where we were going and didn't book any trips. In all we covered 7 miles walking but it was a great day and relatively cheap. Seeing the changing of the guard at 11.55 was great. Florence -- for this one we booked a Princess excursion to Florence which was part tour, part own time and this worked well for us. We had the book and saw what we wanted in the time. It's a bit of a drive to Florence so it was good to have that part taken care of. Some people we spoke to had done Pisa only or Pisa & Florence and generally they wished they had done the same as us. Most people said there wasn't a great deal in Pisa and doing both meant much more time on the coach and not as much time in Florence. Naples (Pompeii, Sorrento, Amalfi Coast) -- For this one we took a tour with an external company, cruising excursions. This was considerably less than the equivalent Princess tour and just as easy. We had a great day although I did feel a little green at the end of it driving up and down and round all the mountain bends. I've read a few other similar comments about tours driving around the Amalfi coast, especially around Positano. Don't get me wrong, the views are incredible, it's just that the local drivers seem to drive so very fast and it's not something I think I would do again (unless I was driving at a far slower speed!) A lot of people on our tour said the same- amazing views but scary journey. Pompeii was so interesting and out guide took us in the back entrance which wasn't as busy as the main entrance. Think we paid £45 each for the day cruise and although we were back an hour later than planned (roads were busy as it was a national day holiday in Italy) we were still back 2 hours before the boat left. As Rome -- We stayed onboard this day as we had spent a week in Rome a few years ago. We were pleased we did as the itinerary until this point had been quite full on. Mykonos - We got the Princess coach transfer from port to beach which seemed to take 5 minutes and cost 7 euros each I think. A little pricy for what it was and you could have walked it in 20 mins but I'd still take the coach again for ease. A great little place and we didn't feel the need to take a tour, we just explored the lovely back alleys and coastline. Istanbul -- For this one we again didn't take a tour, just the Princess bus to the Grand Bazaar. We did think about it but didn't get around to booking it. I was worried we wouldn't get to see all the things we wanted to but actually, it turned out great, we saw them all, toured around using the Rick Steves book and saved a lot of money over the princess tour which was $199 each for the same. It cost us 60 euros. The Grand Bazaar was both gigantic and interesting to walk through -- supposed to be over 2,000 shops (many of which sell the same items). You are required to remove shoes and have proper clothing to enter Blue Mosque. Women are given shawls to cover shoulders and head. And my advice, have a little decency and respect this by keeping them on whilst in the Mosque. Seeing people remove these was completely disrespectful in my eyes. Kusadasi -- For this one we booked a Princess excursion -- Ephasus and Terraced houses which was absolutely great. We loved it, a great trip. The only downside was that it was supposed to be 5 hours yet we were back in Kusadasi in just over 3 hours before our guide then wanted to take us on a carpet tour. We were not interested and declined and returned to ship before then doing some shopping. I felt a little short changed with this one given it was supposed to be 5 hours and complained onboard and got some of the money back. We bought a few items, a lamp and a pair of shoes. Haggling is good but you have to walk into the shops knowing what you would be prepared to pay for something. I saw some nice shoes and the owner started at 120 euros. I started at 20 knowing I would be prepared to pay 35 euros. It took a while but we got there in the end. Like I said to my wife, they are probably only worth 15 but hey, it's all about what you think something it worth and what you are willing to pay. For the light my wife bought, they started off at 30 euros and without her even saying anything it came down to 12 euros after about 5 minutes. Athens -- We decided to get the hop on hop off (HOHO) bus from the port that was 20 Euros each. There are two routes, the blue route from the port around a few harbours and into central Athens and then a Red route around Athens. The 2 routes cross at the Acropolis. I had been to Athens before but my wife hadn't. Visiting the ruins was amazing, the views from the top are breathtaking and we had a few audio guides (podcasts by Rick Steves) to help us understand it all. It was hot but very worthwhile. The tour of Athens itself (on the red bus line) was, to be frank, rubbish. I found Athens to be the same as it was the last time I visited 10 years ago, dirty and smelly with not much to see. Ok, it was a Sunday so perhaps a lot was closed. But we couldn't wait to get back onboard. Central Athens is very run down, graffiti is everywhere and apart from the main historic ruins, there is very little else to see. The audio guide on the bus only proved this when it started to point out the heart hospital, I mean really, is an old hospital specialising in heart conditions and point of note on a tour? Bonkers. If we did this cruise again, I wouldn't get off here. Venice -- sailing in was incredible and we decided to go up to deck 15 as music and commentary was playing. Get their early as it was very busy by the time we got close to the grand canal, 4 people deep in some places. Again we had been here before for a week so didn't feel the need to take a tour. Princess gave us tickets for a boat trip from the port to St Mark's square for $17 each which seemed to me like a con. It's also automatically added to your account unless you return them. We did return them and instead we took the people mover from the port to the station (1 euro each) and then walked to St Marks Square, taking in all the sights on the way, including the Rialto Bridge. We spent a lot of time on the way down, stopping in shops, down alleyways and taking lots of pics, getting lost etc so it took us a few hours. But the way back, directly from St Marks to the ship was 50 minutes and 2 miles. We did consider using the local boats which cost 20 euros I think for 24 hours use but walking and exploring was what we wanted to do. Couple of tips. On the main street, just off Rialto Bridge is a McDonalds which has free wifi. Along from there is a supermarket which was drinks and food much cheaper than anywhere else (we'd heard rumours of 20 euros for a coffee in St Marks which wouldn't surprise me and 10 euros for a drink of coke). Other points to note. Laundry -- there is a room with all facilities to do it yourself but it didn't seem that expensive to me, $2.20 for t-shirts I think so that was good. In before 9am and returned next day with same day service costing 50% more. Phone / Internet access -- I am with the UK provider 3 who currently have an unlimited internet use deal within the EU for £5 a day. I used this a few times so didn't need the ships internet which is apparently expensive and incredibly slow. Regarding phone service, I found that we got a good signal probably 95% of the time with mostly 3G and occasionally GPRS service when 3G wasn't available. TV -- We didn't really watch any TV other than to see the daily Wake Show which we found really useful. It's filmed onboard at 6am daily by the entertainment team and gives you a heads up on the places we are visiting that day and what's happening onboard the ship. 10/10 for this, I thought it was excellent. Views - The outside Deck 7 was quiet and very pleasant to watch arrivals/departures and you can walk the entire ship at this level. 2.5 times round = 1 mile so we saw a few people using this to exercise. For sail-aways we always went to the platform above the bridge. Not many people either knew about this or could find it. There is a secret door that leads out that isn't marked. To find it just go to the Lido deck and go all the way forward. You will see a door on either side. Go through those doors to another door that leads to a few steps leading to this deck. However, these doors are locked while at sea I believe. There are some great views from the stern on different deck levels. Up on deck 18 was a club with a spectacular view looking aft. The primary (Lido) deck has the obligatory pools; hot tubs; bars; MUTS; and entrance into the buffets. So in summary, we had a fantastic time and I think I can saw we are now cruise converts. I would most definitely recommend this cruise and princess and were now thinking about looking into another cruise for next year so any suggestions would be much appreciated! Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
June 23 sailing on Ruby from Barcelona, family of 4 with daughters 13 and 12 yrs. Had the best time, perfect weather, good service, food, ports etc on our 4th cruise and first with Princess. Big ship with 3200 on board and 700 kids we were ... Read More
June 23 sailing on Ruby from Barcelona, family of 4 with daughters 13 and 12 yrs. Had the best time, perfect weather, good service, food, ports etc on our 4th cruise and first with Princess. Big ship with 3200 on board and 700 kids we were told, many multi generation families and from all parts of the globe though the Americans take the majority. Ship layouts seem similar to us but the Ruby seems to be partitioned off with many different areas to avoid any feeling of crowding and we could always find deck chairs. Embarkation well organized and flawless, as was any movement on or off the ship for the port stops. We did our own port excursions and while we didn't save much we seemed to get so much more by hiring local guides and traveling in a small group which allowed for flexibility and little advantages by beating crowds by entering through exits thanks to the guides and hitting more stops. Although the best value of all was Athens where we hired a taxi for 140 euros for all four of us to see all major attractions, if we were braver we'd have done that more often in other ports to lower the bill. Did Venice on our own and found a gondola in the backchannels to take us all for 70 euros for a 2 km ride, we weren't even considering it until they approached us and it was a big highlight. This cruise is port intensive but we saw so much, many historical headliners and had such a great time we would highly recommend it. Two cautions: the weather will get really hot in this region and two, many ports are dominated by jewelry stores and souvenir shops so get away from the ship whenever possible to get the most out of it. Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
Overall impressions of this cruise:1. It was a great itinerary. Only 2 sea days, but the port locations were fabulous. About half of the stops we had never been to before. We can't complain about any of the stops.2. The Ruby ... Read More
Overall impressions of this cruise:1. It was a great itinerary. Only 2 sea days, but the port locations were fabulous. About half of the stops we had never been to before. We can't complain about any of the stops.2. The Ruby Princess is a great ship. We've sailed on several Princess ships, and while we enjoy some of the smaller ships in the line, we never felt really crowded on this cruise. We're used to taking books with us to the Theater 30 minutes before a show to get good seats, this cruise we could walk in a few minutes before showtime (usually early shows) and get good seats.3. Our cabin was P247 (Cat. EE, unobstructed oceanview) located near the art gallery. It's a good location and was not noisy at all.4. Really enjoyed the Cruise Director Ron Goodman. He was very personable and was very visible around the ship. He's also not bashful about telling passengers where his office is and if you have a complaint, to stop in anytime (don't let it fester until the end of the cruise).5. Our cabin steward Noel was excellent. He was very attentive to our cabin, and got our laundry back to us very quickly whenever we sent some out to be cleaned.6. Art Director Chris has a personality that is always on the go. He tries to make everyone feel welcome.7. Elite Perks -- first cruise since we got Elite status and we really enjoyed these perks. It's amazing what people will do to get free laundry service!8. Dining Rooms -- we did anytime dining. We didn't do any specialty dining this cruise. Thought it was easy getting in at 6pm for dinner each night and we had very good wait staff. Service at dinner was good. Breakfast and lunch service was hit or miss. One morning for breakfast they never did bring around the pastry tray that we saw going thru other sections of the dining room. And it was sometimes difficult to get coffee at lunch to have with dessert.Below are daily details of our cruise.We flew in to Barcelona a day early and arrived about 8:30 am. We claimed our luggage and went to the Hotel Continental Barcelona, which is located on La Rambla. The hotel is reasonably priced and in a very good location. We dropped our luggage off and left to catch the Barcelona Bus Turistic, which offers a Hop On/Hop Off bus service around the city. We ended up doing all 3 routes on Saturday. This is a good way to see a large area of Barcelona.On Sunday (June 6) we took a taxi over to the port. Check-in was extremely easy. We dropped our bags off, went thru the Platinum/Elite check-in line, and were on board within 20 minutes of our arrival. When we got on board, we called room service for some wine glasses so we could enjoy some of the wine we bought in Barcelona and carried on board. We had lunch at the Horizon Court and explored the Ruby for a while. When we got back to the cabin, our luggage had shown up so we got unpacked. Muster drill was at 1715 hrs, so we went to our location in the casino. When we got back to our cabin, we were surprised to find a platter of chocolate dipped strawberries from the Art Director (Chris) to welcome us back on board. We do enjoy the nice touches from Princess!That night we went to the Princess Theater for the welcome aboard show. Best part of the show was comedian Tom Drake, who we enjoyed at other shows that upcoming week.Monday we arrived in Monte Carlo. We were fortunate to be able to dock and not have to use the tender service that was originally scheduled. We ended up this cruise using the Princess tours. In Monte Carlo we did the Old Monaco, Royal Palace & St. Nicholas Cathedral half-day tour. The tour was very enjoyable, and we saw them setting up for the Grand Prix race that was the next weekend. The tour was not too physical, which was good considering what was coming up the next few days. On board ship that night, we saw comedian Tom Drake's full show in Explorers Lounge. Definitely worth seeing.Tuesday we arrived in Livorno for tours in and around Florence. We booked the Florence, The Chianti Region & Wine Tasting tour. Since we had been to Florence a few years ago, we thought this would be a good chance to catch a few areas we had not seen in Florence during the morning. The morning in Florence was mostly free time, so we did some souvenir shopping and toured the Basilica of Santa Croce where Michelangelo and Galileo are buried (we missed this somehow 5 years ago). By lunchtime we had taken the bus up to Tuscany, where we had a nice lunch featuring some good Chianti wine. After lunch we went to a wine tasting. We were able to sample about 10 wines, and purchased some bottles to take back to the ship (Over the 15 cruises we've been on, we have bought wine in several ports and have never had any trouble taking it back on board to our cabins). That night, the first production show Stardust was in the Princess Theater. We hadn't seen this one before so we went and did enjoy it. The singers and dancers always do a good show on the Princess ships.Wednesday was another full day after we arrived in Civitavecchia. This is the port for going in to Rome. We did the Forum, Trevi Fountain & Time On Your Own tour. The morning part of the tour is a walking tour thru Rome that started at the Trevi Fountain (where we did throw coins in so that we would get to return to Rome again) and went around to the Coliseum and Forum areas. Very physical tour just as Princess described. The afternoon we were dropped off near the Vatican for a few hours of free time. We ended up doing the Vatican Museum tour and got to see the Sistine Chapel this trip. Allow a few hours to visit this Museum. On board ship that night, we went to see Ventriloquist Damon Scott in the Princess Theater. Our opinion, find any other show or activity to go to. His show was very lame and judging from the comments we heard most everybody else that was there agreed with us.Thursday meant we arrived in Naples for another day of tours. We did the Pompeii & Amalfi Coastal Drive. This was a great tour. We enjoyed the drive up the Amalfi Coast that morning, there is a lot of scenic coastline to see. One word about this tour -- many of the towns have traffic control because some of the roads can't handle buses passing each other on some spots along the curving road. You'll see some vehicles a few inches from the bus as you're on the road. We had a nice lunch in Amalfi, then drove back to Pompeii. The ruins they've uncovered there are amazing. One of the people on the tour said he was there over 20 years ago, and that it was nowhere near as impressive as it is now. Touring Pompeii is over a lot of cobblestone streets and going up/down thru the city. Some areas are pretty congested where people are trying to see the wall decorations that are still visible after 2,000 years. On board ship entertainment that night was vocalist Michelle Montouri in the Princess Theater. Her show was definitely better than the ventriloquist, but was not very well attended. Theater was over half empty for the early show.Friday arrived which meant we finally got a day at sea! Time to rest after several busy port days. On board we did our usual -- played trivia, went to the art auction, and had some pictures made since this was the first formal night. That night the Captain's Welcome Aboard party was in the Atrium, and Princess has combined that with the Champagne waterfall (which used to be a separate event but which I guess has been combined to save costs). It's amazing how many people attend to get the free champagne they serve. One nice perk we enjoyed during our first cruise as Elite was ordering the chocolate dipped strawberries as the complementary Canapes before dinner. After dinner we saw the second production show of the cruise Broadway Ballroom which was also a very good show.Saturday meant we arrived in Mykonos. Contrary to what our itinerary said, we were able to dock and did not have to use tenders to get ashore. This day we decided to use the shuttle service into town (it was 7 euros/person roundtrip). I would definitely advice using this service instead of taking a tour. It is very easy walking through town and finding your way around. The white buildings with the blue or red trim are what you expect to see on this cruise. While in town, we saw the pelican which is the mascot of Mykonos. The pelican is very used to people -- you can get very close to make some great pictures. This is one of those ports where you get to set your own pace and enjoy the people and local cuisine while resting up for some more busy port days ahead. Sunday was Istanbul, Turkey. We did the St.Sophia, Topkapi, Blue Mosque & St Irene Church tour, which was a good all day tour. Being Sunday, the Great Bazaar was closed. It's too bad Princess couldn't have rearranged port calls so that we could have visited the Great Bazaar. In town, we also got to visit a Turkish rug factory. The demonstration and skill of the people is amazing and their creations are amazing. Be cautious outside the demo, the street vendors are selling LOW priced so-called Turkish rugs and items, and these vendors can be aggressive. One followed a lady to our bus and knocked on the windows trying to get her to come out and bargain. While many of the locations we toured were impressive, the area around the Blue Mosque is worth seeing. One site we had not expected to see were the boys in ornate gowns with their families near the Blue Mosque. Our guide told us these boys were celebrating going to be circumcised the next day and looked forward to the day they got to dress up and go around town. We also got to go in the Blue Mosque, which we were surprised to find allows pictures inside. It is a very beautiful building. Expect to see large crowds there. Monday we were in Kusadasi, Turkey. This is near the ancient city of Ephesus. However, we had seen so many ruins at earlier stops we decided to take it easy and just tour Kusadasi on our own. This town is definitely the place to shop for fake goods. As our cruise director said on the Wake Show, this is one of the best ports for buying good fakes. In town, they also advertise that. One shop had a sign with large lettering across the window "GENUINE FAKE WATCHES". You name the brand and they had it. Also had a lot of cheap RayBan sunglasses for sale. In town, there is also an information location where you can get information on using the city bus to get around town. The Ladies Beach (it's now open to men and women) was maybe a 10 minute ride from the center of town. Back on board ship, the entertainment that night was comedian Al Katz. We saw part of his show in the Princess Theater (we had to leave early so we could go play Country Music Trivia which my wife won easily) and thought he was very funny. Luckily he was going to be in Explorers the next night so we didn't feel too guilty about leaving early.Tuesday we arrived in Piraeus, Greece which was the port for Athens. This was definitely one of the highlights of the cruise for us. We had looked forward to seeing the Acropolis for years. We did the Acropolis, National Museum and Plaka tour. The tour starts with a bus ride to the Acropolis, where you have to climb the stairs to get to the Acropolis. Restoration work appears to be a very on-going activity. But the restored ruins are amazing and are the highlight of any cruise. We also got to visit the Olympic Stadium which was used the last time Greece hosted the Olympics. The National Museum has a large number of relics on display, including many beautiful statues and gold jewelry. The day ended in the Plaka, which is the opportunity to do some shopping for souvenirs on your own. That night we went to Explorers and caught Al Katz's comedy show. Glad we got to see his whole show.Wednesday and we're having our second sea day of the cruise. Sea days are meant to relax -- unfortunately with this itinerary you don't get very many of them. Besides playing trivia we got caught up on laundry. We sent off what dirty clothes we had to be laundered on board (yes, we do like the free laundry service we now get after becoming Elite) so we could pack clean clothes for the trip home. Also went to the Princess Grapevine wine tasting (another Elite perk). That night was the second formal night. We went to the Past Passengers reception that night. The statistics were interesting -- out of 2,960 passengers we had 1,100 Gold, 300 Platinum, and 87 Elite. That meant over half of the ship was first time passengers on Princess. The show that night was the Once Upon a Dream production show. Probably the best production show on the cruise. We also saw the Marriage Game Show -- it's funny watching some of the answers you get from the contestants.Thursday we arrived at our last stop, Venice. It's enjoyable standing along the rail listening to the music on the PA system as you cruise along and see the canals for the first time. We were the fifth ship to dock that day -- Venice was certainly hopping with tourists. After we got in town we found out that qualifying races for the America's Cup were scheduled thru the weekend in the canals. In town we did the Ca' Rezzonico, Doge's Palace & St. Mark's Basilica tour. St. Mark's Basilica and the Doge's Palace were definitely worth seeing, but much of the best sites in Venice can be found just wandering around thru the town on foot. This tour had a tour guide that was not our favorite -- she had an annoying habit of telling the group a description of a room or item, then asking a tour member if they understood what she said and asking them to repeat it back to her. Then she'd complain that she might have to repeat her speech. Once or twice was OK, but this went on for several hours.Friday we got off the ship and went to our hotel near the cruise terminal. Disembarkation was very smooth. Only took us a few minutes to find our bags and get the our bags dropped off for transfer to our hotel. We stayed at the Hotel Olimpia. This is a very nice hotel. Rooms are comfortable and the morning breakfast that is included was very good. When we got to the hotel we dropped our my backpack off and got water bus tickets for the entire day to ride any of the canal routes. We toured around the city that morning before going back to St. Mark's Basilica, where we had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe. Then we found out the water buses and taxis were shutting down due to the America's Cup quarterfinals from lunch until dinner. Talk about disrupting traffic on the water! We found a good viewing spot on the canal and watched the ships sailing up and down the canal. After a few hours we walked back about 1.5 miles to the hotel. The walk was enjoyable and we got to see some areas away from some of the big tourist areas.Saturday we got up and caught the airport shuttle bus about 300 yards from our hotel. Hotel was definitely in a good location and the shuttle bus is a cheap way to get to the airport. At the airport, expect to stand in line. Took us about 45 minutes to check in and drop our bags off. Then had to go thru security before we got to go to the gate. When we boarded, I got stopped for another security screening of my backpack and camera bag (full hand search which took several minutes). Finally got on board for our return home from a great vacation. Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
Boarding at Barcelona was easy, though crowded, and we had enough time to catch the port shuttle to wander Las Ramblas.Getting to know our way round was less easy - can't say we managed it over the 12 days. Cabin was a 3/4 person one, ... Read More
Boarding at Barcelona was easy, though crowded, and we had enough time to catch the port shuttle to wander Las Ramblas.Getting to know our way round was less easy - can't say we managed it over the 12 days. Cabin was a 3/4 person one, inside - bed awkwardly arranged, but dressing and wardrobe area very good, and shower room perfectly adequate, with shampoo, conditioner, shower gel,lotion and soap. Hairdryer was rather underpowered. Cabin steward brought us fruit on request and bathrobes. One of the delights of a cruise is the food, and the Horizon Court and Cafe Caribe on Lido deck were great for any meal(the British might object to the quality of the breakfast bacon, but that's a minor point). Lunch and dinner could be eaten there, and the variety and quality of food, especially the meat and fish, was more than acceptable. we didn't feel the need to book at Sabatini's or Crown Grill for our anniversary,plus it was a formal evening, so were able to get dressed up. The one pity was that many of the other passengers didn't feel the need to do likewise on the 2 formal evenings. The evening menu had more than enough variety, and the Lotus Spa selections were delicious. Again, meat and fish were excellent,though vegetables were lacking. Service, after the first evening was very good. For the rest of the facilities, I recommend the Movies under the stars; we stayed on board at Civitavecchia, and watched a film while sitting in the (too hot for me) jacuzzi and swimming. Apart from the dining options mentioned, we enjoyed the ice cream at the pizza bar and hamburger and hot dog at the Trident grill on deck. Excursions were a different matter. we found them to be grossly overpriced, and, having been to all the ports before, decided to go independent. It's easy to get to Florence, Pisa or(our choice)Lucca by train - take the ship shuttle to Piazza Grande, buy a bus ticket from a paper kiosk, get Bus No 1 to station and repeat on return from where you've been. It's equally easy to go to Rome or Capri(from Naples- the ferry terminal is 200yds from the berth), and Istanbul is very easy too - you can buy jetons at the end of the bridge near the berth, cost 2Lira, for the tram to the main sites and walk back to the ship. Don't bother with the shuttle in Mykonos, if you can walk - the town is only 25 minutes walk along a fairly level road. Venice has a "people mover" for 1 euro per journey to Piazzale Roma from the edge of the dock and from there you can follow the yellow wall signs to St Marks and the Rialto. If you like exploring, give it a go.probably changing to anytime dining and trying to find either a large table or one for two. Beware the portion size - they cater for American appetites, so you may find portions a bit large sometimes - I was given a 4 egg omelette for breakfast and had to leave half of it - shame. We found the constant sell, sell, sell, on board annoying. Bear in mind that you can avoid the service charge by filling in a form at reception on Deck 6, and can return your shuttle tickets for Venice if you don't want them(they cost $15, but only take you to St Marks- you're better off walking or getting single vaporetto tickets. If you do go on trips ashore, you can fill water bottles at the drinks stations in Horizon and Caribe (while you're there, try thr lemonade-it's sweet but delicious) Disembarcation for over 3000 was managed impeccably - the only delay was at Marco Polo airport, which wasn't Princess's fault. Select your onboard activities with care. Some of the lifestyle options are nothing more than a selling exercise, but the pottery painting can be fun, if you are so inclined. Entertainment was a good standard, some of the best we've encountered. The highlight was a Venetian chamber orchestra on the last night. We'd have liked to watch it on the big screen, but the sound wasn't good and there were some loud-voiced people chatting which spoiled the sound, so we went to the Theatre Wold we use Princess and the "Ruby Princess again? Yes, we would,but would probably ask for Anytime dining. All in all, it was a great way to celebrate(we even received a card, a cake and balloons on the day itself) and have the sort of memories that you should have from such a cruise Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
As parents, my DH and I have recognized that time was passing by so quickly when our beautiful 15 year old twin daughters where standing in line for their driver's permits 4 months ago. We were in a complete dilemma as to how to spend ... Read More
As parents, my DH and I have recognized that time was passing by so quickly when our beautiful 15 year old twin daughters where standing in line for their driver's permits 4 months ago. We were in a complete dilemma as to how to spend the summer. A little more background, we are a avid travelers both born with wanderlust in our genes. In October, my DH and I spent 2 weeks exploring China on our own. As for our kids, they have traveled to the Middle East, London, the Caribbean and the US extensively. This cruise was to be a great introduction for them, an opportunity for them to see a few highlights of each location and for us, to share their excitement. We booked the Ruby Princess, departure July 27 out of Barcelona with stops in Monte Carlo, Florence, Rome, Naples, @ sea, Mykonos, Istanbul, Athens, Kusadasi (Ephesus), @ sea and ending in the magical city of Venice, solely because of the itinerary. My expectations for the ship, meals, entertainment and accommodations were not very high as I really didn't care too much about those elements. We booked the trip through an on line Travel Agency about 2 months prior to the trip after ensuring we got flights that worked well for us (out the Miami area) in both timing and price. I would not use the Travel Agency again as they did not provide information in a prompt and adequate manner. Our flights, on paper, looked great but US Airways really let us down (that is a WHOLE other review!). We booked 2 guarantee obstructed cabins and that was exactly what we got, rooms E517 and E519 which were assigned within 2 weeks of us booking. Our flights, Miami to Philadelphia, and Philadelphia to Barcelona with return on Vueling from Venice to Barcelona, Barcelona to Philadelphia and then back to Miami, were done in that we had a day before the cruise and a full day after to see more of Venice. Our flights were terrible, missing our connection in Philadelphia by less than 10 minutes and they sent us to Frankfort and then onto Barcelona. We met up with fellow cruisers in Philadelphia which made out trip easier as we worked together to find an earlier option to Barcelona. We are so ever grateful for their companionship and friendship. In Barcelona, we took a taxi with 4 large suitcases and 4 carry-ons for 35 euros to the Onix Liceo off of La Ramblas. It was a very quick trip from the airport and although we had lost the majority of the day (3:30pm vs 8am), we dropped our luggage at the hotel and spent the late afternoon exploring the La Ramblas area. We were exhausted but happy to be out of the airport. The next day, the hotel held our luggage while we went to La Sagrada Familia and Casa Mila. From there we went back to the Hotel and within a short walk, we were at the Port Shuttle from the Colombus statue. The wait for the shuttle was very long, more than 35 minutes but finally, the ship was within sight. Check in was fast, and we were on board within minutes. We found our rooms easily and were very happy with the location. Located on the Emerald deck, deck 8, we were right in the middle of the ship, very stable and very convenient. We met our Steward, Antonio, who within an hour had transformed our rooms into the configuration we wanted, twins in one room and a king in the other (with a mattress topper), bathrobes in the rooms, refrigerators cleaned out, ice buckets filled and a couple of extra towels. During that transition we got extra key cards so that we could have the girls with their own cards and ours done as well. We also grabbed late lunch at the Horizon Buffet. Lunch was lovely with a massive salad bar option. The kids got the unlimited soda/smoothie option sticker for their card right at the Buffet. They got nice To-Go cup and twisty straw. The To-Go mug was great for my DH's coffee in the morning. We explored the ship and although very nice, it appeared to us very basic and generic. After our trips on Royal Caribbean's amazing ships, we understood that this ship was transportation to amazing ports and not the destination, as it was on our Caribbean holidays. Nevertheless, it is a lovely ship, in excellent condition but with very small gathering spots. We signed our kids into the Teen Center and found out there were 363 kids between the ages of 13-17, PERFECT!!! The Teen Center was well stocked with the requisite video monitors and games. The staff was excellent, enthusiastic and made sure the kids were happy at all time. We are more than impressed with them. We continued to tour the ship. We LOVED the MUTS. We did not find it too loud, as a matter of fact on more than one occasion we found ourselves sitting out there conversing with new friends. They showed current film and music concerts. In the evenings, they covered the chairs with special towels, handed out blankets and popped popcorn. It is a wonderful option. We loved the multi-level viewing. We went deck by deck exploring the ship. We headed back to our cabins and were very pleased to see that our luggage was already in the rooms. I unpacked and then we headed up on deck for the sailaway. A few notes about our room. These 2 rooms have boats in front of the windows and are totally obstructed. The room itself is the smallest room we have ever sailed in but it was adequate. There is a lot of closet space (Antonio also brought us more hangers), drawers. We brought our own outlet strip and it was needed for our camera recharging and other items. We also could easily connect our computer laptop and dvd player to the tv for our own movie night. The bathroom is very small. The room was very quiet and very stable. We did the Anytime Dining and LOVED it!! With such a heavy itinerary, we loved having the option of dining when we wanted. We never had to wait for a table as we always said we were willing to share a table. We loved meeting new people, sharing experiences and getting hints for the next stops. It is one our favorite parts of sailing. We dressed for dinner for those evenings. We did not do formal tuxedos or gowns (although about 30% of the men wore black tie, we wore cocktail dresses and my husband, jacket and tie for the 2 formal nights. The rest of the evenings, I wore silk tops with a black skirt and he always wore a button down shirt in the dining room. No one wore shorts or tshirts. When we wanted a less dressy night, it was up to the Buffet for us. Two of the nights that food was poor, the rest of the time, it was very good. Desserts were fantastic, as was the service and presentations. We never felt rushed. The only part of the cruise that I felt that the ship needed real work was the Entertainment department. The shows, the comedians were so bad it was if they had created the shows with the most elderly audience in mind. The exception was the new "Dream " show. It was cleverly staged and performed. We were very disappointed in the shows. The art auctions were the same as every other ship. We were hoping for some real different educational experiences on board (glass blowing, art education, history lectures etc). Nothing like that. Loved Zumba classes! They were very well attended and were really fun! Great job Princess - we had people from 8-80 in the class and everyone was having fun. We checked out the Sanctuary but it was not really our thing. The Fitness area was really nice, had good equipment and we used it a couple of times. One area where we had a problem is with the Princess Tour desk. There was a tall young blonde representative there who had a really bad attitude, never willing to listen and just trying to upsell everything, there always is one person that will get under your skin and she was it for me. With the taxi drivers in Athens on strike, I wanted to figure out what other options would be good for our family. She interrupted me so many times, I requested someone else help me. The gentleman was great, got me on the perfect tour for us and as well , got me onto an Istanbul combo tour and DIY option that also worked great for us. I had 2 encounters with this woman and they were both the same. I wasn't the only one having an issue with her. The Sailaway was a letdown only because the Entertainment staff was so busy doing a raffle giveaway that they didn't notice that we had been moving more than 10 minutes - very anti climatic. The addition of a Tour Guide named Hutch was great. He gave us hints and directions of each port the day before each day. He was very informative and enjoyed his slides and presentation every day. They show it on the tv. Speaking of tv, programming was very good, there was something to watch almost all the time. The final stop into Venice was breathtaking with the sail into the city of Venice. The entire ship is up on deck and it is a party. Music is souring as we entered the port. Water taxi coupons are given to you in your cabin at the cost of $15 pp for the first day. You may return them, as we did and arrange your own transportation. We choose to use the vaporetti option for 36 hours for our 2 days in Venice. The People Mover at the port made departure very easy. We took our luggage off the ship ourselves and stored it at the Piazzale Roma and arranged for the ATVO express bus to the airport ourselves with ease. Many thanks to our Florida fellow sailors and to Rick Steve for the best Med Cruise tour book ever. Our Floridian friends were the gift of the trip providing companionship, comradery, guidance, comfort and a great time. Can't wait till the next cruise! Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
This was our first cruise and we're sold. Princess had the whole process well organized from beginning to end. We booked our own flights and stayed a day or two at each end (Barcelona and Venice). The transfers to/from the ship were ... Read More
This was our first cruise and we're sold. Princess had the whole process well organized from beginning to end. We booked our own flights and stayed a day or two at each end (Barcelona and Venice). The transfers to/from the ship were easy. We took a combination of ship's tours and independent tours of ports. The ship's tours were very well organized (especially considering that over 2000 passengers take tours at each port). However, we felt that the time involved in gathering, waiting, following the group, waiting for stragglers, etc. was too great compared to the actual touring time. The independent tours allowed more flexibility without the administrative time. Our cabin (a mini-suite) was great and the steward was very responsive. We were amazed that the ship never seemed crowded. There was always some place to go that was relaxing. We were on the ship for 12 days and were discovering places up to the last day. We highly recommend the eastern Med cruise. The ports were interesting. If anything, there are too many. We kept wondering when we would be able to sleep late and do nothing all day. This was our first cruise and it was a great experience. We already considering others. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
I try to visit Europe once or twice a year and this was my first European cruise. I relied a lot on these boards for advice so I want to pay-it-forward. Dining: We had an 8:30 seating for dinner. We were a group of 35 and depending ... Read More
I try to visit Europe once or twice a year and this was my first European cruise. I relied a lot on these boards for advice so I want to pay-it-forward. Dining: We had an 8:30 seating for dinner. We were a group of 35 and depending on what table you sat at, your waiters varied. They all aimed to please but as always, some were better than others but the service was what I would expect in a nice restaurant at home. The food was above good - and some things like the lamb chops and the passion fruit souffle - rocked my world. The one time I ordered something that I wasn't satisfied with, it was taken away without judgement and replaced by another dish. Buffet/Food Options: I only did the buffet for breakfast and it was fine. I did get tired of serving myself towards the end of the cruise and took advantage of doing the sit-down dinning at breakfast in the Davinci dinning room. It was nice but the food was the same as the buffet but the coffee was MUCH better : )I did the Fish-n-Chips at the Wheelhouse Bar on one sea day - it was good and I would recommend it. I also did the cheese burger a couple days after returning to the ship and that too was enjoyable. The International Cafe did have very good chicken salad and a shrimp salad that I would frequently pick up and snack on before dinner. I tried the gelato everyone raves about - it is $1.50 extra - and in all honesty, I would not waste my money. I did not think it was worth it; it was more like ice cream than gelato. Vines Wine Bar: Being our seating was so late I would stop at the Vines and have a glass of wine and either a plate of cheese or tapas. The cheese plate was awesome and the tapas were not anything to write home about. I do not like sushi so I can not review it but a couple I met there came every night for sushi and said it was fabulous - they used to own a sushi bar in Boston. What I really enjoy about the wine bar was Cyril the bartender. He was very professional and knowledgeable about wines. He took the time to learn my taste and recommended some perfect wines. I never planned on purchasing a bottle but ended up buying 3 or 4. He also did not suggest the most expensive wines - which I appreciated. As far as pricing for the wine, beer, and cocktails - I thought the prices were fair and what I would typically pay at a chain restaurant in Minnesota. A bucket of domestic beer was $22 for 5, happy hours for a pina coladas was $3.99 (3 - 6 pm) and an Amaretto Sour at the night club was $6.84 including gratuity. Stateroom: I was sharing a room with a friend's cousin whom I never met. We had an inside stateroom on the Caribe deck. Our room was the last room on the port side, right before the suites. The ride was smooth and I liked the hum of the engines. I was surprised how large the space was. They do a nice job laying out the room to make it the most efficient and I liked that the bathroom was separated by the closet from the sleeping area. I did take the advice and brought a "shoe rack" to hang over the bathroom door to store things. I am glad I did. There was plenty of space (drawers, shelves) to put stuff in/on but I do not like clutter and like the feeling of being organized. I was able to put everything I did not immediately need for the shower in the shoe rack so I did not have to wait for the bathroom to be empty before I could get ready. I also stored all my chargers, shoes, lotions, curling irons, camera, and many other misc. things in it. As for the hair dryer - it is bad. I have fine hair and even my hair took a long time to dry. If it is important to you to dry your hair, I would recommend bringing your dryer from home. I did bring the power strip. It did come in handy when I was charging my camera battery because my charger is larger and the strip just made it easier. Activities: I am not much for group activities but I did do Movies Under the Stars and went to the Galley Tour/Cooking Class - I really enjoyed both. I spent most of my free time by the pool and I never had a problem finding a chair. Tours: I did the Ephesus tour with the Terrace Houses in Kusadasi. It was wonderful and the up charge to visit the Terrace Houses was TOTALLY worth it. That was the only tour I took from the ship. Others in my party regularly did tours through the ship - they enjoyed the tours but they had MANY complaints about the staff who worked the excursion desk. They found them rude, short, and uncaring. The people I was with are the most low-maintenance people who never have a harsh word to say so I believe that they were treated badly. Boarding/Leaving: Both processes were painless. I would highly recommend logging on and entering all your information on Princess website before going and checking prior to leaving that everything you requested is correct. I also got a copy of my bill the day before we left to check it against my receipts. It was correct. I am not a cruiser and I probably won't do another one for awhile because I do like more freedom and staying in cities longer to really feel the culture - but this was a great way to see so many countries in only 12 days. It also made me more comfortable with Turkey and Greece (this was my first time there) and I now know that I will definitely go back to Istanbul and Mykonos and skip Athens and Kusadasi. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
My wife and I cruised from Barcelona to Venice on the Ruby Princess in May, 2011 and just loved it. Neither of us had ever been on a cruise before and did not think it would be something we would enjoy mainly because we had heard about all ... Read More
My wife and I cruised from Barcelona to Venice on the Ruby Princess in May, 2011 and just loved it. Neither of us had ever been on a cruise before and did not think it would be something we would enjoy mainly because we had heard about all the food that is available 24 hour a day. We also imagined that your ship is sailing all the time and there would be nothing else to do. We were wrong! Another couple finally talked us into taking a cruise in September, 2010 with them but after flying to Venice and boarding the Ruby Princess, we had a death in the family and had to return home. We did not get to sail but we were glad we took out cruise insurance. We did arrive in Venice a day before checking in to board the ship and got to see St. Mark's Square, the Doge's Palace, St. Mark's Basilica, Bridge of Sighs and the Rialto Bridge. We stayed overnight at the Westin Europa & Regina Hotel in Venice which we fell in love with. It's only a quarter mile from St. Mark's Square and we enjoyed a great breakfast at their outside restaurant right on the Grand Canal. We finally got to take our cruise this year but without our friends. We chose the "any time" dining and we met some wonder people each time we ate. Usually all the table were taken but if there were two seats open at a table, the other passengers were happy to let others join them. We met other passengers when we took the excursions and everyone was happy to exchange cameras so that couples could be in pictures together. A few tips I would pass on to anyone taking a cruise are first to really consider taking out cruise insurance when you book your trip. It may cost a couple of hundred dollars more but it is worth it. Next, plan your itinerary so you know how much time you have in each port, what you most want to see in that time and read up on the different ports and attractions. I was able to find and tape shows on television about each port we were visiting by some travel advisers like Rick Steves, Rudy Maxa and Samantha Brown. Lastly, plan an extra day at the beginning and end of your trip. If flight delays occur, you will still be on time to the ship and catching your flight home after your cruise. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
This was our first trip to Europe and finally decided we wanted to see a lot of different places and for that gave up time in any one place. We chose the Ruby because of our past satisfaction with Princess and we thought it had the best ... Read More
This was our first trip to Europe and finally decided we wanted to see a lot of different places and for that gave up time in any one place. We chose the Ruby because of our past satisfaction with Princess and we thought it had the best itinerary. The trip for us was fantastic and it exceeded our expectations. We knew the ship would be fine and it was in good shape and the service was good. We did a lot of the ship's excursions knowing that we would be herded about at all of the most touristy parts of each port. The crowds in the ports were immense, especially in Rome since there were 10 Mega Ships in port on our visit day. In Monte Carlo we went on our own and were quite happy with that as we found our way up to the Old Town area. The scenery was wonderful, and we got a good dose of life on the ritzy side. In Florence, we took the "Best of Florence and Pisa" tour and we did a lot of walking and looking at most sites from the outside. The weather was a bit iffy and we had umbrellas, but if you forgot yours the local vendors were quick to pull out weather gear for you. We did get to go inside the Academia and saw "David", but again it was very crowded and we were kind of herded through. All in all we did get a good flavor of Florence but one would need a week to really see all the wonders of that town. In Rome we had a great tour guide named Max, he was really into his craft and seemed to enjoy telling us about what we saw. We did the Coliseum and the Vatican. We got into the museum and the Sistine Chapel and then the wonders of wonders, St. Peter's Basilica. One thing about the organized tours, you have tickets to get inside, and get to go to a separate admission gate. That was good. In Naples we chose to take a bus to Sorrento for a couple of hours, and then to Pompeii. It was a good day and had a nice tour of Pompeii. The sea day that followed was welcomed, and along with a bunch of our new friends, we did some laundry. A lot of other cruisers had the same idea. With a 12 day cruise it was nice that the Ruby has a Laundromat. Our next stop was Mykonos, and we did it on our own. We saw the organized tours in town and were glad we chose to see the sites on our own. The ladies did some shopping, too. One of the problems with the tours is that there is never enough time for shopping. Not that we wanted to do a lot of it, but we had almost zero time except when they herd you into a shop for the privilege of using the restrooms. Our next stop was Istanbul, and we did it with a tour too. Lots of people at the Blue Mosque, the Hippodrome, the Aya Sophia, the Palace, and the Cistern. We were in awe of all these places except the Palace was a little less than we hoped for. us a bit. Next the ship goes to Kusadasi, and we went to Mary's Shrine and Ephesus. People had told us that there wasn't much at Kusadasi, but we found it to be on a building boom, with a huge marketplace, and a lot of new housing. They even have a brand new themed water park. In Athens we got a tour to the Acropolis and we were very lucky as we were the first group to walk through the gates that morning. For about a half hour we basically had the place to ourselves. The float into the harbor of Venice is thrilling. We did no tour, and if we would have understood the water buses better we would not have bought the Princess shuttle passes. They actually give every one on ship a pass for $15 and charge your account. You can turn them in prior to arrival if you want, and if we would have known how close the Pia Roma is to the ship we would have just gone there and gotten a two day pass since we stayed an extra night. One more comment about the excursions, the tour director was wonderful. I wish I would have his name. He managed the groups in the Princess Theater with ease and humor. He made you feel like it was going to go off well, and they did. If we ever go back to a Med cruise, we will be doing shore trips on our own, but in general we are glad we did it the way we did. I know a lot of cruise critic people disdain ship tours, but in general we saw a little of a lot. We found the dining to be fine. We did anytime dining and maybe because so many people skipped the main dining room because of busy days in port, we had no trouble getting in and getting a table for 4 and not having to share. The food was fine, and the service very good. We like the Princess system of the buffet since you can just go and get what you want, and do not have to wait in a line if all you want is something at the end of the line. We are Platinum and enjoyed that they gave us 500 free internet minutes. We didn't even use them all. We try to avoid all the up charge places on a cruise ship. It is getting harder to do that as they up charge so much nowadays. Not sure if we would ever even consider the "Serenity" place on the Ruby. All in all, if anyone is considering the Med Cruises, be sure you are prepared for hectic days if you are new to Europe and want to see as much as you can. The days begin at 7:00am and end at 6:00pm and you are going to be busy the whole time. You can ease this up if you focus your port time, I guess, but so many sites are a ways from the ship's dock that transportation time will be extensive and traffic in these cities is quite hectic. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
We have cruised 9 times with Princess. This itinerary was exciting and fast paced. We did not know about CruiseCritic before we planned our excursions and many of them were so rushed, we were unable to savor many of the landmarks and sites ... Read More
We have cruised 9 times with Princess. This itinerary was exciting and fast paced. We did not know about CruiseCritic before we planned our excursions and many of them were so rushed, we were unable to savor many of the landmarks and sites we were interested in. We found the food was just "okay" and not great, not even in the specialty dining rooms. We tried the regular dining room food as well and it was not anything special at all. For us, the food is a big part of our cruising experience and enjoyment. We have raved about other cruise line cuisine but the last 5 or 6 Princess Cruises did not cause us to gain any weight! The Specialty Dining was overpriced in our opinion, although we chose to dine in them over the regular dining room. The ship was elegant and immaculately maintained. The cabin was roomy and quite comfortable. We found that the ship was warm, including our cabin, regardless of how low we set the thermostat. We were too tired after the long and demanding excursions to see any entertainment in the evenings. However, all in all, it was a very enjoyable cruise, less and except a number of the Princess sponsored excursions and the food that did not WOW us. Unless we can stay on for the restful journey to Miami after Venice, we will not choose this itinerary again. We booked a future cruise and will continue to enjoy this cruise line because of the staff, elegance, perks for Platinum cruisers. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
This was our first experience with Princess Cruises. We appreciated the beauty of the ship but decided that smaller ships are more to our liking. When we first arrived our bathroom was not truly clean and needed a second going over by our ... Read More
This was our first experience with Princess Cruises. We appreciated the beauty of the ship but decided that smaller ships are more to our liking. When we first arrived our bathroom was not truly clean and needed a second going over by our steward. We do appreciate the effort between cruises and our steward did a fine job thereafter. The port lectures were VERY well attended and very informative but sadly 3/4 of the audience slept through most of them. Personally, hard as I tried, I couldn't keep my eyes open. I agree with another review that I read, the ship was too warm as was the theater and our stateroom. We slept with our veranda door open. The biggest disappointment was the food. It was repetitive, and not very creative unless you consider how many ways to serve the same thing. The desserts lacked any variety. They were pretty much the same five or six selections each night. A few more toasters at the buffet would be such a bonus! Perhaps we are old fashioned but when we eat in the dining room we tend to eat more slowly than others at our table. This resulted in the two of us being the only ones with plates in front of us. It would have been very nice had the waiter waited until all had finished eating before removing plates. We felt rushed every night. On the last night of the cruise the shore excursion didn't return to the ship until 7 PM so no doubt the dining room had to be pretty empty for the first seating. Since our waiter didn't really bother to get to know any of the six of us and rushed us through dinner, we were not impressed by the service at OUR table. Without the usual temptation to over eat and all the walking, we actually lost weight! The tours were exhausting but well organized and worth the effort and cost. We did have a wonderful time and very much enjoyed the experience and the great people we met and hope to see again. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
We flew from Montreal to Barcelona direct with Air Transat. We paid extra for Club Class and this was well worth the extra dollars. We had bigger seats, nice meals and complimentary wine and cocktails. We arrived in Barcelona and took ... Read More
We flew from Montreal to Barcelona direct with Air Transat. We paid extra for Club Class and this was well worth the extra dollars. We had bigger seats, nice meals and complimentary wine and cocktails. We arrived in Barcelona and took a taxi to our the hotel - Hotel Miramar. The cost of the taxi was about 35 euros for 4 of us. I would highly recommend this hotel for the location. It is located on the hill overlooking the port. The hotel is away from the hustle and bustle of the city. We were there during their large festival Le Merce and the city was busy! We had a balcony and were able to view the fireworks that the city provided from the beach each evening during the festival. We toured the city on the Tourist /Hop on - Hop off bus. We purchased the tickets right at the hotel and got on the bus right outside the hotel. I loved Barcelona and definitely want to go back some day. We took a taxi to the port around 3pm, there were no line ups and we were in our cabins before 4pm. We were 2 couples in cabins side by side. Our cabin steward met us promptly and showed us around. He opened the door on our adjoining balconies. We were on the Caribe deck where the balconies are larger and have 4 chairs. The cabins were bigger than I expected with a large closet area. Emanuel was our steward. He was great, always around when we needed him. We loved the ship. This was a very busy itinerary so we didn't see any of the entertainment in the theatres. Our favourite places on the ship were Crooner's bar, the dining rooms for both breakfast and dinner as opposed to the buffet, American football on the big screen under the stars, and our balcony to relax. There were many activities that were offered on the ship that we didn't participate in such as the art auctions and the spa. We did however use the casino, the fitness room, and the shops. There is something for everyone on this ship if you have any free time. I am going to skip over the ports and excursions as I will do a port review. The cruise into Venice was a memory I will cherish for my life. We went to the highest part of the ship - 18th floor -- and what a view. Opera music was playing in the background and it was simply beautiful. Everyone is given boat shuttle tickets automatically and are charged $15 per person. We had pre-booked 48 hour water bus passes so we returned our shuttle passes and they refunded our account. We got off the ship to the people mover to the vaporetto stop and took that to St. Mark's Square. We walked back to the ship and arrived in good time to spend our last night on the ship. Disembarkment was very well organized -- you were given coloured baggage tags and assigned a time and a lounge to meet in. Everyone in the lounge walked out at the same time and you were directed to your baggage area of your colour. We took a water taxi to our hotel which was the Hotel Bisanzio. It was 80 euros for the water taxi for the 4 of us. Princess offered transportation to hotels for $39 per person. The Hotel Bisanzio was a nice hotel. The gentlemen at the front desk were very friendly. The location was great as it was close to St. Mark's square. We then took a water taxi again the next day to the airport. We really enjoyed this cruise. 12 days seems long but not when you are busy from 7am most mornings. Time does fly by. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
I wondered where to begin, and finally figured it should be from the beginning. Our cruise began on July 16 in Barcelona. We were with friends and decided to spend a few days prior in Barcelona to see the sights. We were not disappointed. ... Read More
I wondered where to begin, and finally figured it should be from the beginning. Our cruise began on July 16 in Barcelona. We were with friends and decided to spend a few days prior in Barcelona to see the sights. We were not disappointed. Barcelona is a wonderful, beautiful city full of friendly people. Except for the one who stole my camera from my bag while I was being pushed through a turnstile in the Metro. You can say you are aware, you can say you are prepared, but if they are targeting you, they usually win. Not more that an hour later, again on the Metro, a group came into the car and jostled our friends. My husband noticed the man had a newspaper over his hands and was attempting to get into my friend's bag. My husband yelled at the man, who in turn got upset that he had been caught and starting cursing at him. It was a very interesting day. So if I was going to give any advice about Barcelona, I would say avoid the Metro altogether. There is a hop-on hop-off bus available and we wished we would have done that...hindsight and all that. Back to the good stuff about Barcelona: We were booked at the H10 Montcada in the Gothic quarter. When our friends arrived before us, they found water problems at the hotel so the H10 moved us a little down the street to the Laietana Palace Hotel where we would receive free breakfast daily for our "trouble." The Laietana Palace was a wonderful hotel with lovely rooms and even lovelier bathrooms. Our room faced the rear of the hotel which overlooked the ancient Roman walls. These were softly lit at night and provided a beautiful view. The breakfast buffet was wonderful with a coffee machine that provided lattes, regular coffee, cappuccino and espresso. Wonderful! I won't go into all there is to see in Barcelona, but if your trip begins or ends here, make it a point to spend at least a day. You won't be disappointed. The Gothic Quarter is a great area, so full of things to see and some very nice hotels. The Picasso museum was very near as well as the Cathedral of Barcelona, Las Ramblas and other sights. Embarkation: The information tells you that embarkation begins at 1 PM but recommends you wait until at least 2 PM to get on the ship. Well, we had a cab available and thought even if we got there and it was crowded, it was better than just sitting around until 2. We arrived at the port at about 1:05, the porters took our luggage from the cab, we went in an filled out the card stating we weren't sick and got into line. We were checked in within 10 minutes. We stepped on the ship and were told our rooms were ready! Wow! We arrived at our room (Aloha 242) and found our luggage already there! Bonus! We unpacked and were in the Horizon restaurant eating lunch by 2:15! Room: We had a balcony room on the Aloha deck, port side. This room was at the front of the ship and seemed a little removed from the restaurants, etc. However, our friends' room was at the rear of the ship and they had some vibrations from the engines. The room was large and well appointed. Queen bed, 2 bedstands with 2 drawers and a shelf, a desk with a cabinet below with 2 shelves, a "bar" area above the fridge and a flat screen tv on top. A chair near the door, also. The closet was huge by cruise standards. At least 7 feet of hanging space (no door) and at least 30 wooden hangers. A large shelf above and floor space below for luggage and shoes. A floor to ceiling cabinet with several shelves, one that houses the safe at eye level. The bathroom was nice with 3 shelves above the counter, counter space on both sides of the sink and a shelf under the sink the width of the entire counter. Soap, shampoo, conditioner and lotion are provided. The hair dryer is located at the desk in the room. The deck had 2 chairs and a small table. The decks on Caribe and Dolphin were larger with 4 chairs, but could be viewed by anyone above them as they were out further than ours and had no cover. There are privacy walls between the decks, some of which can be opened if you are next to family/friends. We did host our friends on our deck and used the desk chair and other chair for them on the deck and it worked well! Our stateroom attendant was Ryan and he was very nice. We had asked for a large ice bucket in addition to the smaller one in the room and he made sure we had it. Our room was "freshened" twice a day and bed turned down at night with chocolates. Love not having to make beds and clean bathrooms!! You can leave a wake up call notice on the phone (there is no clock in the room). This worked perfectly until disembarkation day (of all days). Good thing our friends were up before us and did not get their call, either. They called to wake us up or we might have slept through our ride to the airport! Sail away was wonderful with lots of music, drinks, dancing and the usual merriment. After all the anticipation we were finally here! We dined in the Michelangelo dining room that evening and loved our meal and servers. Monaco: We arrived in Monaco the next morning. We had gone to breakfast before docking so when we returned to our room before disembarking we opened our door to have an unbelievable view of Monaco from our deck! If there is only one reason to have a port side room on this trip (Barcelona to Venice), this is it. Most of the other ports are not this scenic. We chose the Best of Monte Carlo excursion through Princess. While it got us up the hill to the palace area and back to the ship, if I had it to do over again, I would do this port on my own. The palace was amazing (head sets used) and St. Nicholas Cathedral was beautiful. We walked through beautiful gardens and past the aquarium. We also had plenty of time to shop in the shops across from the palace. Our guide was difficult to understand and we did not have head sets except in the palace and we had a hard time hearing everything she said. Due to time constraints, we did not have time to get to the casino as it was across town, down the hill. But we could see it from our balcony. We loved Monaco and felt like one of the rich and famous, if only for a few hours! Sail away was wonderful on our deck! Tonight we dined at the DaVinci dining room. We ended up staying here for the remainder of the cruise. Godwin the Maitre'D, and every wait staff we encountered, Esther, Hong, John, Kayan..were simply the best. No matter where we were seated the would see us and leave their area to come to say hello. I can't begin to tell you the fun we had with them. If you are lucky enough to have any of these fine folks, please tell them you read about them here. Hong was leaving for home the day we disembarked and will return in October. So happy for her! Livorno (Florence): We had visited Florence a few years ago so we opted for the Cinque Terre excursion through Princess. This was an amazing excursion! We had met other folks who did this on their own and admitted that they were sorry they didn't book through Princess as they worried the entire day about getting back to the ship on time. We started by bus to Manarola and walked through that city with our guide. The photos from this tour are amazing. We then walked along the "street of love" above the sea with more spectacular views to the next town of Maggiore. Again, we had time to see the town on our own before boarding a boat for the trip to Vernazza. Here we also had free time to see the town before boarding the next boat to Monterosso, the largest of the 5 towns (the 5th town is not accessible by boat or bus). Here we had time to shop and eat lunch and take more amazing photos. We boarded a bus here for the trip back to the ship. This is a place we have vowed to return. Absolutely wonderful! This is an intensive walking tour. Rome: Again, we toured Rome a few years ago so we opted to uses the Rome on Your Own tour through Princess that provided a ride into town letting us off in St. Peter's square. I'm sure transportation is available from the docks in the form of buses or trains. But Italy is famous for it's transportation strikes (our friends were left high and dry on their last trip when trains went on strike) so we went for the safe route. We enjoyed our day and got to see some things we didn't see before and some of the same. Lunch in the piazza at the Pantheon was wonderful! Who could get tired of Rome? If you want to do this on your own, invest in a really good map of Rome. We did and had no trouble finding our way. Met back at St. Peter's square after walking through St. Peters (not nearly as busy a it was in the morning when we arrived) and got the bus back to the ship. It is a fairly good drive (about an hour and 10 minutes). Fun, HOT day! Love all those fountains in the piazzas to refill the water bottles! Naples: We chose the Capri/Sorrento/Pompeii excursion through Princess. We bit off a bit more than we could chew on this one. Two of these places would have been plenty and afforded us more time to enjoy the areas. The three places were simply too much, especially because it was at least 95 degrees. We began with a boat ride to Capri. Of course this took up a good bit of time. We were seated below deck and the ride was a rough one. Some folks did get sick. Once we arrived, we had tickets to go up the funicular, but there was a line and we had to wait at the top for everyone to get there (more time). We were given a walk through the most amazing park with views you would not believe before we were given about 1 1/2 hours to ourselves. Shopping on this island is definitely for the rich! But it was fun to window shop and get lost in the maze of streets. Would love to spend more time here. The photos are amazing. We again did the funicular down and then caught the boat to Sorrento. Here is one place I could spend a week, easily. The shopping is amazing! Lunch was included in a local restaurant including wine and it was very good and we were given about 1 1/2 hours to shop. We shopped alot! We then boarded the bus for the ride to Pompeii. The drive is along the coast and beautiful. We arrived at Pompeii at the hottest part of the day. Walking on the uneven surfaces, the crowds and the heat made it very intense. It is unspeakably amazing to see Pompeii. Our guide was wonderful. We had head sets so we did not have to crowd around to hear. After touring for about 1 1/2 hours, we had a few minutes to get a drink outside the ruins before boarding the bus back to the ship. There is an excursion that does Capri and Pompeii and one that does Sorrento and Pompeii. I would recommend one of those over this tour simple because you cannot see as much as you should at these 3 places in this amount of time. Sea Day: After 4 intense days of touring, we had a sea day. We slept late and enjoyed the ship getting ready for the next 4 intense touring days! This was our first formal night and it was nice having the day to rest up! Lovely dinner and photos taken in the piazza. Mykonos: Wow, another place I could stay for a long time! We opted to do Mykonos on our own and I would recommend that. The view of the island from our deck was amazing. We docked early (7 AM) and found that the shops were opening for us. We were the only ship in port. We docked at the port that is about 1 1/2 miles from town. Walking to town is not recommended due to the winding road, no sidewalks and crazy drivers. We paid $7 per person for a round trip bus ticket and it was money well spent. We were dropped off at the beginning of "Little Venice." My suggestion is to walk along Little Venice and get to the windmills before the crowds, then walk back to town (down hill) and stay there until it's time to leave. We got some amazing photos of Little Venice and the windmills and it looks like we were the only ones on the island! The shopping here is great. Some suggestions for souvenirs: olive oil soaps with lemon and other herbs. I bought 7 for 5 Euros and they smell wonderful. Also, the jewelry stores are amazing. I purchased a Greek key pendant for a lot less then I expected. We had gyros is a small place that I could not find the name of on the front. The meat is actually cooking on the spit in the window. It was pork on a wonderful pita with lettuce, tomato, yogurt sauce and FRENCH FRIES! I'm from Pittsburgh and wondered if they had been to Primanti's!!! That with a Mythos beer sitting outside watching the world go by is probably one of our most fond memories! So much fun!The paths are winding and it seems like you can get lost, but you can't. There was a constant breeze even though it was very hot and buildings provided shade so it was a wonderful day. Everything is so white and the bright sun and blue sky made it even more beautiful. We had to board the ship by 1:30 and sailed away at about 2, which left a lot of the day to enjoy the ship! Istanbul Another wow. The arrival is so beautiful. On our port side we could see the Blue Mosque, St. Sophia and the palace from our deck. This was another early arrival and we did the Best of Istanbul with Harem excursion with Princess. We boarded a bus and were taken to the Blue Mosque. Our guide was wonderful. He is Muslim and gave us more information about his faith, his life and his city than we could have ever hoped for. It gave me new insight and respect. He explained about the bathing before entering the Mosque and also toured us inside the Mosque before we were give some time to take photos. You must remove your shoes (we were given a bag to put them in on the bus) and shoulders and knees should be covered. My husband had longer shorts on and that was fine. Very memorable. Without looking at my photos, I'm not certain of the order of what we say next so I'll just tell you what we saw at each stop: St. Sophia: is now a museum so you do not have to remove shoes or be covered. It started out as a Catholic Church and then became a Mosque. It is the only place in the world where you will see images of Mary and Christ with Muslim symbols. It is truly beautiful. Topkapi Palace with Harem: Another one of the places that you pinch yourself to make sure you are not dreaming. A very thorough tour. You can then visit the Museum and Treasury to see the jewels and other artifacts. Simply amazing. Photo Op. at the Hippodrome Grand Bazaar: Another place that I did not expect. I thought most of the items would be souvenir type items. Was I wrong. I have never seen jewelry stores like the ones in the Bazaar. It's a candy story for women! I must warn you, from the time we arrived in Istanbul until we left, we were bombarded with people trying to sell us guide books, fans, toys, postcards. While they are persistent, they do not touch you and when you say "no thank you" they move on to the next person. This is true on the streets and in the Bazaar. I bought a glass "evil eye" on a string to use as a Christmas ornament. This is not to give an evil eye, but to prevent evil! They pin small ones on newborns to protect them. I can use all the help I can get! Lunch: Lunch was included at a very nice hotel. If you are not adventurous, I would suggest you request a vegetarian meal and you will receive pasta. We started with Mezza's (little bites). A plate with stuffed grape leaf, stuffed pepper. hummus, olives and other spreads. I found it delicious. The main course was veal in a gravy type sauce over top of roasted eggplant with orzo. It, too, was wonderful. Dessert was rice pudding, which was also very good. Soft drinks and water were also included. Very nice. We also had a carpet demonstration at a very nice store. We were going to opt out of it but decided to give a try. I'm glad we did as I learned alot about the carpets. There was no pressure. Unfortunately we did not ask prices because we didn't want to act as though we were buying! Istanbul was everything I expected and so much more. What a busy, memorable day! Tonight was the White Hot Deck Party. Everyone wears white, lots of dancing and drinking. Fun! Ephesus: We booked the Best of Ephesus tour with Princess which included Ephesus, Basilica of St. John and the House of the Virgin Mary. We arrived in Ephesus at noon so we started our tour after lunch. The port surprised us as we did not think it would be such a large city. We began at the house of Mary. The bus ride to the house was beautiful and the area where the house is located is very lush. We walked from the bus on a path lined with trees and reached the house at the top. Inside are only 2 rooms and no photos are allowed. Inside the house are gifts from Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict. Outside the house is a spring where everyone was collecting water to take back. Also, there is a wall where people write prayers and requests to Mary and they are stuck into the wall. This whole area is very moving, even for non-Catholics like my friend's husband. There is a gift shop area below with beautiful souvenirs and small bottles of the water from the spring with a relief of Mary on the front (2 Euros). Perfect for someone back home who would appreciate it. From here we went to Ephesus. These ruins are probably the most impressive of all that we saw. The history of the place, the people who walked here before us and the condition of the ruins is breathtaking. The 24,000 seat Great Theater is where St. Paul preached. The acoustics are amazing. The library is another most impressive building. Walking is difficult over very uneven surfaces and again, it was HOT. Bring water! Most memorable! From here we went to the Basilica of St. John. Now this is the apostle John, not John the Baptist. He was asked by Jesus to take care of Mary after his death and that is the reason they know Mary was here in Ephesus. The ruins are beautiful and the views are also beautiful. At the end you could opt for another carpet demonstration (we did not). Instead we shopped a little buying Turkish delight and Turkish coffee to take home from a little shop on the main street. A very nice shop owner who kept giving us samples of the Turkish Delight. HE was a delight! Wonderful day! Athens: Another very early day. We booked the Acropolis, Plaka and Temple of Poseidon tour. In hindsight, we would do the Acropolis, Plaka and Museum tour instead. The drive to Poseidon took over an hour and we found the "Disney" version of the temple. Apparently all indications is this is where it was, but this temple is a recreation. The views are on the shoreline and are stunning, but it took up a good portion of our morning. From there we went to lunch back in town at a wonderful hotel. It was a buffet with many Greek dishes and also other items that would appeal to everyone. Wine was also included but since we had yet to get to the Acropolis, we held back on that. It was close to 100 degrees here! On to the Acropolis. Another "pinch me" moment. After all the years looking at photos of the Parthenon, I was finally here. Nothing can describe seeing this in person. My photos are beautiful because along with this 100 degree day came the bluest skies. That white marble against the blue sky is WOW! We had a good bit of time to explore on our own before walking down the hill. This walk is a killer. The marble is slippery and you must be careful. Our guide took pity on us going up and stopped a few times along the way to give us information. If she had walked straight up to the top some of us simply would not have made it! There were folks with canes and I was very worried that they would not make it! On the drive to the Plaka, we stopped at the Olympic stadium for a photo op. After the Acropolis, we were given time in the Plaka for shopping. This is a great area to either shop or stop at a cafe and have a drink. We had about an hour and after this very busy day, it was enough. We bought some things and headed back to the bus and back to the ship. Wonderful Athens! We were so happy their problems did not prevent us from coming into port. This would have been a great loss! Sea Day Let me tell you, to say this trip is "port intensive" is an understatement. We were exhausted. We're in our 50's and we say 20 somethings fading fast so we didn't feel too badly! We sat at the pool (the movies under the starts also shows movies during the day), then we went to afternoon tea, which was very nice because we met some lovely ladies from Chicago. It was our last formal night so we got ready for that and enjoyed our lobster and prawns dinner! Couldn't believe we only have a few more days! Venice: We arrived in Venice at about noon. You MUST be on deck (starboard side or front) to see this arrival! Hutch, the port expert, narrates what you are seeing and then you are serenaded with beautiful music until we are in port. The view of the canals, St. Marks and Doge's palace are wonderful from this vantage point. So memorable! We did not do any planned excursion as we had been in Venice before and even if you haven't, I would recommend you do it on your own. Princess provides transportation to St. Mark's Square for $15 per person and it is unlimited. This is charged to your account automatically and the tickets are delivered to your room the night before. If you do not want to use them, you can request they be removed from your account. So if you want to go into town right away and then come back for dinner and then go back in the evening, you can! The ticket is good until 1 AM so you have plenty of time to go back and forth. You may not take any luggage on this boat. Shopping in Venice is amazing. We stopped for a drink on the Grand Canal and there's nothing better than watching the world to by! Some notes: Venice is in a midst of what looks like major construction. The Bridge of Sighs is practically enclosed with drapes that have advertisements on them. St. Mark's has 1/2 of it's facade covered, and other areas throughout the square are also covered. Maybe if you haven't been here before you might not notice, but I'm very happy I have photos from my first trip as these will not compare. Also, there is a concert series in July and Aug. on Tues. and Thurs. The entire square is closed off at night and you cannot walk through. This means all those wonderful cafes and orchestras are not playing on these dates. VERY disappointing! There was one cafe and one orchestra playing on the side area and that was it. Again, if you haven't seen it before, maybe you wouldn't be disappointed. We went back to the ship around 6 PM for dinner planning to return to Venice in the evening. We had to get our luggage outside our room before 10 AM (all except our hand luggage). We then went to the dining room and NO ONE was there! It was wonderful! We had our favorite wait staff, Esther and Hong, all to ourselves and had a blast with them. Then Kayan saw us and joined in on the fun. We went back to Venice for the evening and enjoyed walking around again before returning to the ship. Disembarkation: We opted for the Princess transfer to Marco Polo airport. Our flight wasn't until 1:40 so we had to be in the dining room at 9:30 am. This gave us plenty of time to enjoy one last breakfast. We had to be out of the room by 8 AM so we left a little before and found the buffet very busy. We had our hand luggage so we took turns at the buffet and arrived at the dining room for our bus at about 9 AM. We were the first ones on the bus and the drive to the airport was about 1/2 hour. Marco Polo airport is absolutely crazy. It is not nearly large enough for the crowds. We were not permitted to check in until 2 hours before our flight, but the line started almost immediately so we were in line about 3 hours before we could actually check in. Staff there not very friendly or helpful. We flew British Airways (that is a story in itself) and the person at the desk hardly spoke any English and printed my ticket with "Mrs." in front of my husband's name instead of putting my first name on it. This caused all kinds of problems later as it did not match my passport! Another story for another time! Some random info. I would never arrive at the embarkation port the same day ship is leaving. Our flight to Barcelona was delayed, we missed a connection and did not arrive in the city until 8 PM instead of the 3 PM we should have. We would have missed the departure! One night hotel is a bargain compared with trying to catch up with the ship and possibly missing a night. Food: The Caribe Cafe is an amazing place for lunch. The theme changes daily. The International Cafe is also amazing whether it's for lunch or a snack. Coffee and other drinks served here are at an extra cost, but the wonderful salads (try the shrimp salad!) sandwiches and sweets are free! Also, they serve gelato here. Three HUGE scoops on a frozen glass plate for $1.50. The best bargain on the ship. Great for when you board the ship after a very hot day in port! The Botticelli dining room is for timed seatings (6:15 and 8:30) The Michelangelo and DaVinci dining rooms are anytime dining from 6 to 10 PM. The Horizon Court is open for breakfast and lunch and I believe dinner. We used this mainly for breakfast since it was open early and for lunch. Much variety and mostly good. Vines is a wine and seafood bar. If you order wine, you get free tapas. We did not try any of the premium dining rooms where you are charged a fee. We were so happy with the food and service in the DaVinci dining room we saw no reason. The coffee at the buffet is terrible! The dining rooms have better coffee. You can buy a "coffee card" where you pay a set price and can get many coffees, lattes, etc. We did not buy this. We can't believe that the large dining rooms could serve perfectly cooked seafood to so many people. We were waiting for rubbery shrimp and never got it! Every time it was perfect and we ate tons of seafood. Veges were perfectly done, desserts were special and delicous. We couldn't have been happier with the food. Pools and lounges: We only had 2 sea days and we had no trouble finding seats at the pool. There is an adults only pool. We did not see any shows. Usually we were so tired we ate dinner, went back to the room and enjoyed wine on our deck. You are permitted to bring one bottle of wine or champagne on board per person. We did just that. This is for drinking in your stateroom, although we did take it up to a rear deck to enjoy the night one time. We also brought on a bottle of limoncello from Cinque Terre and they never even opened our bag. Great, inexpensive wines in Barcelona, Mykonos, Cinque Terre. If you want to drink it at dinner, there is a $15 corkage fee. We purchased wine every night at dinner and drank our stash in our room! The was a Connoisseur Cruise where the ship was full of artists and many art auctions going on. An interesting group! Hutch, the port lecturer, gives information on each port. He does not push Princess tours, just gives very good info. on what you will see and what you should do. These are video taped and played on TV beginning at 5 PM the day before you get to that port. We only went to one "live" talk in the Princess lounge about Venice. He is full of very good info. and suggestions on how to enjoy each port. All the Princess excursions meet in the Princess Theater. You will receive your tickets for any booked excursions at the beginning of the cruise that will tell you what time to be there. We found if you are the first in the theater, you are the first bus to leave. This cruise is so intense that we were saying it was like work: get up early, "work" all day, get home, take a shower, eat dinner, go to sleep and start over again! I wish this were my job! The Princess Patter will be delivered to your room each night. It is full of important info. so read it! I kept mine as a reminder of the things we did and saw! We did not use the spa or the casino so cannot speak to those areas. The casino is pretty large and not really that busy. The Piazza is where everything happens. All the shops and information desks are on these few floors. It is very pretty and there always seems to be some kind of entertainment near the International cafe area. We chose the Barcelona to Venice route over the Venice to Barcelona route because we liked the idea of spending a few days in Barcelona first (so glad we didn't do it in reverse because we were exhausted!) and we liked touring for a few days before a sea day. The Venice to Barcelona has a sea day right away and the final sea day several days before the end of the cruise. There are laundries available on nearly every floor. $1.50 to wash and $1.50 to dry and detergent is available for sale. This was a life saver. Do not wait until a port day to wash if you can. It gets very busy. Cruise Crud: This is what we named the red rash on the ankles that so many folks had after several days of touring. One woman told us someone she knew went to the ship's doctor ($60) to find out what was wrong. She was told it's caused by a combination of heat, gravity and too much walking and all that can be done is elevate your feet (yeah, right) and put cold compresses on them. 3 out of 4 of us had it. There was some swelling, too, but it was not painful or itchy. And it disappeared after we weren't touring for a day or so. We loved crusing with Princess. We have cruised on other ships and found Princess to be at the top. The staff was very friendly and helpful, the rooms were great and the ship was very clean. We loved Princess and would cruise with them again. I know this is a long review but I know how I was looking for information before we went on this cruise and I got bits and pieces of info. here and there. I thought it would be good to get a lot in one place! If you have any questions, please let me know. I may have forgotten something...NOT!!! Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
This being our first cruise, perhaps our expectations were too high. We are a Canadian couple in our early 30s used to doing backpack and resort types of vacations, but wanted to experience something different and a bit more luxurious. ... Read More
This being our first cruise, perhaps our expectations were too high. We are a Canadian couple in our early 30s used to doing backpack and resort types of vacations, but wanted to experience something different and a bit more luxurious. We started our vacation a week early and went to London, Marseille and then on to Barcelona. We spent 2 days in Barcelona before the cruise and absolutely adored the city. We used a service called Homelidays, staying in an individual's apartment instead of a traditional hotel. Helped save costs and was a very nice place overall. Embarkation Since we're used to walking, we trekked - luggage in tow - from the Drassanes metro stop to the pier. It was long (about 45 minutes), but good exercise! We finally got to the pier at about 2:30 and it was packed. So much for Princess suggesting we arrive after 2 p.m. to avoid the lineups; we waited almost an hour, but only because there was only one security scanner open when we got there and it takes time to get everyone through! Once through security though, the actual check in process was smooth and easy. Stateroom We took an obstructed OV cabin to get at least a little light in. Surprisingly, we still had a great view from our room. The cabin was spacious and kept very clean by our steward Enrique, who was very helpful and friendly. Dining Our first meal once on board was quite good, and we were in high spirits as well as in awe over how beautiful all the common areas were. Within a few minutes though, the very annoying trend started... and continued throughout the cruise. We were asked 8 times (I counted) whether we wanted to buy something to drink. We bought two coffee cards and signed up for wine tasting, but that was it. We drink little alcohol and do not like pop, so other than coffee, all we typically drink is water. Got the impression that the wait staff did not like this as I think they get some kind of commission on their sales. Questions like "How come you don't want alcohol?" were really improper and made us feel like we HAD to buy something. We had signed up for anytime dining, and ordered a bottle of wine. As we didn't finish it the first night, we asked for it the second and the waiter looked annoyed that we were asking for the previous night's bottle rather than ordering another one. Service was rushed and impersonal the first two nights so we decided to switch to traditional dining. Really cannot compare the service we received those first two nights from the wait staff (including the snobby and rude Maitre D in the Da Vinci dining room) to all the staff we encountered in the traditional dining Botticelli the rest of the cruise. In traditional, everyone really is much more service oriented, friendly and go out of their way to assist. We were seated with two Chilean couples who were extremely nice, but given the fact our Spanish is limited, discussion was a bit rough. Since it was the third night, we did not think it appropriate to ask to change tables so we made due. It was still an enriching experience and made us practice another language so can't complain on that front. On to the food. On the positive side, I have a somewhat weak stomach and can proudly say that it was the first time I was on a trip and did not get some sort of stomach ailment. On the negative side, food was pretty bland and typically looked a lot better than it tasted. Food was my biggest disappointment on the ship. We are not picky eaters, but I guess we were expecting something better. Vegetables in particular were so salty I couldn't eat them half the time (and I love salt!) Meat was always perfectly cooked though, but oftentimes the cuts weren't the best. We went to Sabatini's one night and very much enjoyed, but realized that the quality of the food we got there was what we had been expecting throughout the ship. There was a major "mass produced" feel to everything that was served everywhere else. We typically had lunch off the ship or skipped it altogether depending on when we had breakfast. However the buffets seemed pretty limited most of the time (we've had better selection in Cuba!) but certainly sufficient and great for salads. Breakfast buffets were similar, but again, there is no way anyone can go hungry on this ship. You will always find something at least somewhat decent. The only annoying part about breakfast was the wait staff constantly coming by asking if you wanted to buy a bottle of water for your excursions. Given how much we pay for a cruise, I would expect one bottle of water per stateroom at least would be included each day. So not the case. Activities and entertainment We did trivia a few times (we're not too good!), I played bingo once (and won!), watched a couple of movies and attended the beginning of a couple of shows, but that's pretty much it. Because we had selected the 2nd seating, we were usually too tired to take in much of the entertainment. Of what we did see, everything seemed good, not spectacular, but certainly entertaining. Excursions We did not do any Princess excursions as we had already been to a number of the ports and typically prefer to do everything on our own. We found the prices way too expensive overall (in our opinion), but if it had been our first time in Italy for example, we probably would have done a couple of tours. Disembarkation Very stress free, probably because we did the express walk off with our luggage. We left the ship in Venice at about 7:45 and headed to the "People Mover" - essentially a tram that doesn't go very far - to Piazzale Roma (1 euro), then bought bus tickets to the airport (3.8 euros per person). The bus ride was quick, only about 20 minutes, and uneventful. Summary We enjoyed our first experience on board a ship, but think any other cruise will be on a smaller ship. We felt too much like we were just a number most of the time on the Ruby. We had selected this cruise based on the itinerary, and on that side, we were quite pleased, but would have liked more time in certain ports. Given that we like to immerse ourselves in a culture and city when we visit new places, we realized that a Mediterranean cruise was perhaps not the best option for us due to the short amount of time you spend in port. It is, however, excellent if all you want is a taste of a city or to see just a few key sites you've always wanted to go to. We preferred the places where we got to spend more time (i.e. Barcelona and Venice)... as well as our favorite city in Italy: Naples. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
Every good trip starts with your home away from home. We spent 12 wonderful days on the Ruby Princess with a group of friends (also made a few more along the way). The overall atmosphere was wonderful, with over 3000 people on the ship ... Read More
Every good trip starts with your home away from home. We spent 12 wonderful days on the Ruby Princess with a group of friends (also made a few more along the way). The overall atmosphere was wonderful, with over 3000 people on the ship (passengers and crew) - it never felt crowded. The itinerary was packed with history and wonderful sights and scenery (on and off the ship). We really appreciated the overview each day of the upcoming ports of call. The morning show provided a wealth of local information and allowed us to make the most of our days. Here are some of the highlights of the ship itself: For an interior room, we found that we had plenty of space for our clothes and luggage without stepping over each other. Our room steward was very attentive and no matter how hard a day we had of touring, we always returned to a clean room. One on occasion, we went to the pool and used the designated towels. The next day we came back to find new pool towels and a couple of robes to use. Our wait staff was outstanding. Miguel and Ulysses were very friendly and they both had a great sense of humor. Dinner was an entertaining experience every night. We also found the food to be so good in the main dining room that we did not find a need to try one of the specialized restaurants on board. Overall, we had a 5 star dining experience every night in the main dining room. You definitely did not go hungry on the ship as there were so many additional options to the main dining room. A grill, a pizzeria, the International Cafe and two main buffet lines gave you the option to eat at a different place every day. The main dining room along with the buffet line featured a different region of cuisine every night. In closure, we have to give credit to the entertainment staff and the many events that provided endless entertainment. The shows were excellent, with singing and dancing, not to mention a high tech stage with the "Once upon a Dream" show that rivals Broadway. The juggling comedian was also very funny. There was always something to do on board. We only scratched the surface: virtual golf, paddle tennis, ping pong, movies under the stars, a few dance lessons, and a massage. The days at sea provided a relaxing way to enjoy the ships amenities.   Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
This was by far, our best vacation. This is our second time on the Ruby Princess and we were not disappointed. We stayed pre-cruise one night in Barcelona at the Hotel Regencia Colon. Very nice hotel, in great area. We spent our day on the ... Read More
This was by far, our best vacation. This is our second time on the Ruby Princess and we were not disappointed. We stayed pre-cruise one night in Barcelona at the Hotel Regencia Colon. Very nice hotel, in great area. We spent our day on the Hop On Hop Off bus....saw so many things. Saturday morning, we had breakfast and headed over to the ship about 11:00, got right on and we were poolside by noon. Our cabin was E229 which was an obstructed view, between two lifeboats. This was fine for us as we just wanted a window and knew we would never be in the cabin. We didn't take any Princess tours, we joined two private tours with 6 other people from cruise critic. In Rome we used Rominlimo, which was excellent. The tour guide was great, the vehicle was very comfortable, and was able to get into places that the large tour buses cannot. The Vatican is amazing...I can't even describe how wonderful that was to see. The other private tour we took was in Ephesus...our tour guide was great there also....very knowlegeable. In Livorno, we got off the ship and grabbed a cab who took us to Florence, Pisa and Lucca. Cab driver spoke english and pointed out all the sights along the way. Here also, the taxi could get into places where the big tour buses couldn't go. In Naples, we also grabbed a taxi who took us down the Amalfi Coast....we stopped in Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi and Ravello. The taxi driver was more than happy to stop whenever we wanted to take pictures or shop. He also took us to a local restaurant that he goes to with his wife...no tourists, great food on the side of a mountain. Athens was our least favorite city...very conjested with traffic, but our taxi driver managed to get us to the sights we wanted to see and back to ship in 2 hours...another great day by the pool. Mykonos we did on our own, as well as, Monte Carlo and Istanbul....Grand Bazaar is amazing...shop till you drop. Venice was by far my favorite stop. We stayed post cruise one night at the Hotel Becher...the hotel was very nice, but the air conditioning was not working and they did not tell us until they brought us up to our room. It was on one of the smaller canals, and we sat outside on the boat dock of the hotel and watched the gondolas go by and drank wine. That was very nice. Of course, we took our own gondola ride, can't go to Venice and not ride in a gondola. As for Princess, the only complaint I have is the internet service. It's expensive, and very slow. I found no problem with the service on the ship, our room steward was great....the head waiter in the anytime dining room amazed me that he remembered our names every night and put us with great dining companions every single night. Yes, the dinners were longer than we were use to, but we had so much to talk about, the time flew. Normally I feel very rushed in the dining room, but this time I was not. The entertainment was okay, nothing great. All in all, it was a great cruise and we would like to do it again. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
Shore Excursions: I spent months researching the ports for this cruise. I focused on art, architecture, history, and gelato for my daughter. I downloaded the shore excursion brochure from Princess to compare costs and places to visit with ... Read More
Shore Excursions: I spent months researching the ports for this cruise. I focused on art, architecture, history, and gelato for my daughter. I downloaded the shore excursion brochure from Princess to compare costs and places to visit with what I could get from a private tour. Without exception, private tours were the way to go; they were always cheaper (there were four of us, me(42), my husband (41), my daughter (9), and my mother-in-law (72)). I contacted the companies by email several months before, and asked for prices and itinerary. This is what we came up with: Florence: We hired a driver for Florence (the difference between a driver and a guide in Italy is that a driver just takes you places, a guide is licensed by Italy to take you into places and describe them to you.); we hired a driver because some dork at Princess decided it would be okay to descend in Florence on the one day the museums are closed. We didn't need a guide. We went with Guido at Tuscany in my pocket. It was 490Euro, not including tip, and I have to say that I have never met anyone who loved their job and their city more. He picked us up at the dock and drove us into Florence; he also drove into the city, which the tour buses could not do, and it saved us hours and hours of walking. He drove us right up to places. I actually joked that he had reserved parking and I started calling him The King of Florence. He was just a delight. info@tuscanyinmypocket.com Rome: We walked to the train station from the pier and bought our own train ticket into Rome. The tickets were 9Euro each - that was for round trip, and unlimited use of the metro while in Rome. Princess was selling train tickets for 79 dollars each! For the train, you can get off at St. Peter's and see the Vatican first thing, or you can go to the heart of Rome and get off at Termini. Termini was very crowded and very busy and if you don't need to go there, then don't. I would suggest getting off at St. Peter's. We hired a local company to give us a tour while in Rome. Even after copious research, the tour was a bust: the guide was excellent and knew a staggering amount of history but we had a serious miscommunication with the front office and I would not use them again. And I would not recommend them. Naples: My favorite day. This day is the closest to heaven I've ever been. We by-passed Naples altogether and hired a driver to take us to Sorrento and Positano. Everything about this tour was perfect. Our driver Fabrizio Fiorinelli was perfect; he knew when to talk and when to let us enjoy the view, he knew when to leave us to shop and how long we needed, and the personal touches just brought tears to my eyes. Once when we were taking pictures, he disappeared. Turns out he was buying a bag of cherries for us - and having them washed - just because he overheard my daughter wonder if Italian cherries were as good as Washington state cherries (they are!). He gave us time to dip our feet in the Mediterranean, and allowed time for my daughter to look for sea glass. The restaurant he took us to for lunch was ..... I can't even describe it well. All I can say is we had a table by the window, the window was open - no screens, no bugs - there were tera cota pots filled with red geraniums on the window sill, and the table cloths were starched white. The house wine was the best I've ever had and the food was ..... so amazing. The name of the restaurant was da Costantino. It was so amazing it will make you weep with joy. I don't know the address, but it's right on the main curvy road. . We paid 20 Euro each for .. probably 8 courses, including wine, lemoncello, espresso, and tears at the door when we had to leave. I was seriously asking the owner if I could stay and work for him if he would just feed me. I lost my mind and didn't want to leave. The Cruise in General: The Good Stuff: Movies Under The Stars: A warm blanket, a huuuuge screen, really good popcorn, and the deck attendant comes by later with warm cookies and milk. One night - my birthday - we went to the 24 hour buffet and brought back a dinner plate of desserts and three forks. My husband, my daughter, and I had a dessert feast. The movies were well selected, nothing overly violent. Wine: You can order a bottle of wine in any restaurant and if you don't finish it, they will store it for you until you want it again - in any other restaurant. That was way cool. We ordered wine in Michelangelo and the next night we drank the rest at DaVinci. Sometimes we wanted wine, sometimes not, but the waiters always managed to find whatever it was we'd ordered. Afternoon Tea: The tea was really strong and hot. Really good. The music was weird but the whole experience was very civilized. The mini croissant filled with ham is really good, and my husband loved the scones. The Pools/Unpacking Once/Meals on Demand: We were able to see so much more because the boat traveled when we were sleeping. We didn't have to navigate train stations, didn't have to book hotels, didn't waste time getting from place to place. When we were done with a port, we jumped in the pool for a while, and had dinner when we were ready. In the morning, we were refreshed and ready to see something new. That is Very Awesome. (Of course, the price for this is that you have to travel on their schedule. I could have spent a week in Sorrento/Positano, Florence, and Venice and could have skipped Turkey and Monoco altogether.) The Bad Stuff: Photographers: Seriously: I don't need a picture of me getting off the gangplank at every port. What is it that the photographers are trying so hard to capture? When you think about it, it's a gangplank. It's always a gangplank. It looks the same all the time. Shore Excursions: We took two from the boat, one in Athens and one in Istanbul (along with everyone else who was afraid to be on their own in Istanbul). Both were wretched. Picture a hostile tour guide, a very crowded bus, narrow streets with heavy traffic, and 15 other busses, some from other cruise ships, going exactly where you going, and doing exactly what you are doing. Princess does not make it easy to go on your own; they don't give you enough information to get into town on your own, and they don't provide any maps. My advice is to do your research before you go. Book a private tour if you need to, take a taxi or public transportation, but get away from the crowds and explore on your own. Seriously. The What-Were-You-Thinking-Stuff: First, and it has to be said, what moron decided that it would be a good idea to schedule a port call in Florence on a Monday when all the museums are closed?? Yes, we figured a way around it and there are other things to see: art is really everywhere in Florence. But seriously, why should you have to "work around it"? Why not arrange the schedule so we get into port on a Tuesday? Monte Carlo wasn't all that great - we could have skipped that. And oh my goodness, the coffee on board is the worst I've ever had. Boxes of "coffee concentrate" are stored under the counter and whatever that is mixed with hot water and spit into a very small cup. I have never - ever - had worse. Not in an airport, not in a hospital waiting room, not in a college dorm, not anywhere. Even mixing it with an obscene amount of cream didn't fix it; that just made it taste like hot coffee ice cream. Seriously gross. Diet coke: There isn't any. What they have is Coke Light and it is nothing like diet coke. I suggest you try it before shelling out 54 bucks for a soda card because their other selections, too, are severely limited. What I learned on board: Bring a travel alarm clock. There isn't one in the room. Bring a travel mug for tea. Mornings at port are kind of rushed so if you need to relax with tea - or that nasty, nasty coffee - you're going to want a travel mug. Also, the coffee mugs on board are really small. You don't need to buy bottled water, the water from the tap is fine and if you drink that, you save the 4 bucks Princess charges for 1.5 liter of water. The tap water tastes like tap, so if you can't abide that, bring a water bottle that has a portable filter inside. But really, it's fine. Also, at every meal, the waiters will present a bottle of still water and a bottle of carbonated; they are not free. They are presented in such a way as to appear that they are free, and if you want to buy them, that's fine, just know that you are buying them. We stuck with iced tap. If possible, book a room high up with an odd-numbered cabin. The odd-numbered cabins are starboard side and they get a breath-taking view of Venice when the boat enters the Grand Canal. Also, on the last night, they unload the luggage on the Port side and it bangs all night. You don't get as much time in Venice as they say. We arrived at 12:30 or so, and they wanted us off the boat by 8am the next morning. Luggage was supposed to be packed and put outside your door by 7pm. People who had flights out that morning were hustled out even earlier - like pre-dawn, 4 am. Luckily we booked a hotel in Venice and the room was ready early. (I loved that hotel...) Food. Overall, I'd say Princess really tries hard with the food, but they have a lot of people to feed and most of them are eating all the time. The presentation is well done: despite the number of people, the buffets are always clean and the food isn't left to sit out. When a tray is half-empty, it's usually refilled. At breakfast there is a really good fruit selection, and at lunch the salad bar is outstanding. Dinner in the restaurants is well-presented and service is usually pretty fast. (My daughter fell in love with the caesar salad and fettuccini alfredo and had it for dinner for 12 nights.) There were exceptions, however: the beef burgundy served at dinner was gross and the meat was hard and overcooked. The pastries/bread/muffins at breakfast were never flakey, they always seemed a bit damp. Usually, the food was well done and tasted good. Good but not over-the-top outstanding. If you want over-the-top great, eat a meal at port in a good restaurant. The scrambled eggs really are as bad as people say. I didn't think it was possible to mess up scrambled eggs, but they do. They have a weird texture: like a combination of tapioca and sponges. Really gross. Really. Another weird thing was Sabitini's. I was anxious to try it, based on reviews here but I was very disappointed. It wasn't an Italian restaurant were you go in and order off the menu - they had a tasting menu were they brought you a tablespoon of everything they had. Some of it was revolting and after 3 incredible meals in Italy, I really wonder what the chef was thinking. The food at Sabitini's was overdone and fussy; the waiters served everyone in the restaurant from one platter and that was pretty off-putting. I really don't want the leftovers from "table 9". And we didn't have the opportunity to order what we did like, so we left not happy. We ate a lot of bread and wished we were some place else. To sum up, we liked the cruise because it made visiting many places effortless. On our own, our days would have been spent catching trains, checking into hotels, and finding restaurants. On a cruise, that's taken care of. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
As itineraries go, this by far was our best vacation ever. Every stop was an adventure. We did not take any shore excursions thru Princess. We have learned from past cruises that private tour guides are the best. This time we were not ... Read More
As itineraries go, this by far was our best vacation ever. Every stop was an adventure. We did not take any shore excursions thru Princess. We have learned from past cruises that private tour guides are the best. This time we were not disappointed. Our tour guides were the best and I would recommend them to anyone: In Italy, we used the same tour group-Tony in Pisa/Florence, Fabrizio in Rome, Adrien in Naples, all with All Around Italy Tours. In Turkey-Eren in Instabul, Emre in Ephesus, both with City of Sultrans Tours. They gave us wonderful experiences into their countries culture and history that a normal tour could not. Food experiences were excellent. Though we could have done without the overpriced Turkish carpets and pottery. We are just too smart to be taken in by all that, anyone doing their homework would know that- common sense. My sister even found a plate at the town market that was exact to the pottery one that was selling for much more. Just watch out and do not be taken. We have sailed many times but this was the first time ever sailed with Princess and we were looking forward to the ship. Our trip did not start without problems though. Our luggage was lost by the airlines and we didn't receive it for 5 days. Embarkation on the ship was very smooth- we came on early. The ship crew helped in locating our luggage but communication was slow and mixed up causing us more stress. Their solution was to tell us to buy clothes in their stores on board. They did end up giving us complimentary laundry of the clothes we had. In fact for every problem on the Ruby this cruise, the pursers desk was lacking. Everyone are Junior pursors and never do you see a Senior pursor. Service is bad. Many things on the ship are now charges, that on other lines have been free. Now, they are offering a coffee card- how ridiculous. Coffee is free in the dining room and the buffet but no where else can you find it on the ship without paying. It would be nice if they offered another free station closer to the promenade deck as some other ships do. As long as people pay for these extra services, the more pay services you will have. The Ruby has several restaurants with a charge. Free water, coffee, tea were turned off at the buffets early in the night making you search for something to drink without paying. Internet packages are overpriced and service is extremely slow racking in the minutes and driving the cost. Many trips and calls to the pursors desk to get a 42.00 charge for one little email sent. We opted for the anytime dining but was not happy with the service. The waiters do their best but they are understaffed and a normal dining experience would take 2 hours. If we didn't want to miss the show, we had to skip dessert. The food was good but nothing special in either dining room. The buffet is separated into 4 buffets- all the same but rarely all open at the same time, causing long lines. You can't access the other buffets without going out and coming back in. These were designed very poorly. The food was just mediocre, nothing special. The last night of the cruise, they had American night-poor excuse for a last supper in Italy. As an American, I love the food- but this was horrible and I am not a picky eater. It would have been nice to have more Italian foods on the menu- we did have 4 stops in Italy. There was a very evident difference and discrimination between the Titanic classes in the ship from different color sailing cards to special areas designed for only the elite. The entertainment was just ok- seen much better on other ships. The theater is little seats cramped together, if you are overweight, look out- you either will not fit or could get stuck. Must have had a small person to design this. Again poor design. Couldn't wait to get out of them. Our room was supposed to be a quiet area but we and especially another cabin C624 were very noisy cabins. Service areas are placed next to and behind these rooms making certain times noisy-3-4am in the morning. You can complain all you want but it doesn't matter to the ship. They will do nothing and I mean nothing. The ship was pretty and clean except the putt putt area. In need of remodeling there. One thing that was missing was the captain telling you what country or island that was in view and you were passing. That would have been nice. Also the map would have been nice closer to the lobby. We didn't even find it until half the cruise was over. It was between the buffets on the 15th floor. All in all, Princess was successful in cramming more rooms, suites and elite areas on this ship taking away from the ship experience. We would not go on a Princess cruise again. Too many other cruise much better. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
Sail Date: July 15-27, 2009 This was our 9th sailing with Princess, first to Europe. Trying to keep excursion costs down, we did quite a bit of our own homework ahead of time, learning about the ports and sights to see.  Lots of info ... Read More
Sail Date: July 15-27, 2009 This was our 9th sailing with Princess, first to Europe. Trying to keep excursion costs down, we did quite a bit of our own homework ahead of time, learning about the ports and sights to see.  Lots of info online and in Rick Steve's "Italy" tour book.Ports: MONTE CARLO: Can either dock or tender in by boat. You can see nearly everything on foot. It's a nice way to ease into the trip, especially if you just had a travel day. Husband got off the ship when we docked at 11am and had a good run through the city, along the "Grand Prix" route. LIVORNO: Expecting that Rome the following day would be exhausting, we opted to just visit Pisa by local bus and train. Princess has arranged for independent shuttles to drive you to the center of town (Piazza Grande) for €8, round trip unlimited rides. From there you can go to a Tabacchi shop to buy a bus ticket and the Pisa train ticket. There is a small surcharge but worth it not to have to stand in that line at the train station. If you want to forgo the adventure of the crowded public bus, there's a shuttle also at the pier for €15 round trip directly to the train station. Cash only. CIVITAVECCHIA: Much to our surprise and dismay, we got an uexpected sea day as our stop in Civitavecchia was cancelled due to strong winds, preventing docking. Princess refunded their excursions, but those of us with pre-paid independent tours lost out big time. NAPLES: Docked on a Sunday which meant lots of stores & restaurants were closed. We opted for the HopOn-HopOff bus which met us at the end of the dock. For €22 p/p, you can ride in the open top to see the sites of Naples on three different loops of the city. Of course you can get off and visit the Archeological Museum or any number of sites, but most people just stayed on the bus. I wish I would have visited some grocery stores that were open to buy olive oil as this was the last Italian stop before Venice, which just sold junk and jewelry. Husband ran at this stop as well first thing in the a.m. MYKONOS: Ship may either dock or tender by boat, which we did and was much more convenient for getting in to town. This is a good walking-around stop. We sent our daughters (adult) on the Platis Yialos beach excursion, which they loved. Book the earlier time slot to get a better spot on the beach and before it gets too hot. Time is allowed for walking the town upon return. There is a small public beach in the center of town, windy but a nice place to dip your toes in the water. ISTANBUL: We booked "Easy Istanbul" which was very reasonable for all we did and saw. The Grand Bazaar was suffocating and overwhelming. Be prepared with abundant online info. Starbuck's near GB. Princess offers a shuttle service to the GB for $12 round trip. From there, you can also walk to the Blue Mosque and St. Sophia. KUSADASI: Enjoyed "Ancient Ephesus". Take at least 32oz. of water with you (mostly ice), a hat or umbrella and a washcloth for mopping sweat. Really. Temp. was a little over 100°F. Before entering the ruins, there are souvenir stalls to buy straw hats, post cards and a great book on Ephesus for €2. If you saw carpet weaving demo and sales pitch in Istanbul, skip the same in Kusadasi and shop their bazaar area instead. Starbuck's here also near the terminal. PIRAEUS: Would recommend "Acropolis, Ancient Corinth & Canal" excursion. Wear good walking shoes (dusty marble is slick), bring water and hat/umbrella. Another 100°F. day. Greek buffet lunch was in a hotel; simple salads, chicken, pasta, potatoes and so-so desserts. Wine is free but you have to pay for soda. Usually several tours converge there so it gets a little crazy. If you want to buy postcards, get them from the vendors at the Acropolis as shopping on this excursion is "high end". There are some stalls at the canal, which is just a potty/soda/picture stop. VENICE: Get up to the starboard side of the ship by 9am for taking spectacular photos of your entry into Venice. Words cannot describe. We came in on a Sunday and bells were pealing, as if on cue. Princess delivers water shuttle tickets to your room and charges you $15 unless you return them. We did not book any excursions so we kept the tickets, which made it convenient for returning after dinner, which I strongly recommend. I booked a free reservation time at St. Mark's Basilica (skip the line) http://www.alata.it:80/eng/BOOKING/sanmarco.asp but didn't make it because it took one hour to get off the ship (checked every passenger's temp. for H1N1). Souvenirs here are double what you'd pay in Pisa for the same thing. MONEY: Rather than getting cash from an ATM, we used the currency exchange machine on the ship. For $3.50 fee, we felt safe and secure and didn't risk not finding a working ATM at port. But get money early as the machine does run out of euros. If you end up with extra bills at the end of the trip, you can exchange it back for USD. Kusadasi and Istanbul use Turkish Lira (TRY) but will accept Euro and USD. If you plan to use the commuter trolley, you probably need to have TRY. I recommend carrying a little conversion chart for both currencies so you can quickly see how much it would be in USD http://www.oanda.com/convert/cheatsheet . Before leaving, check with your bank to see what they charge for ATM withdrawals and if your credit card has a conversion fee for purchases. Capital One Visa does not while AMEX has 2.7% surcharge. Let your bank know of your travel plans. LAUNDRY: Wash and Dry is $1.50 each. Bring a roll of quarters. Powdered ALL in vending machine for $1. Sea Days are busy laundry days. If your last stop is Venice, don't plan on washing clothes that day as there's "gray water restrictions" so the Laundry Room is closed. DISEMBARKATION: Expect long lines at the Purser's Desk the day before Disembarkation. Also, we had a 3:45 a.m. Disembarkation time and our room steward had but did not deliver our final statement so we left without being able to confirm all charges. You can print boarding passes at the Internet cafe for 50 cents a page. DON'T FORGET: Travel clock, extension cord if you need electricity at the bedside (outlets are limited), binoculars, reusable water bottles and 2 oz. of dish soap for cleaning, hand sanitizer for ports, quarters for laundry, sun protection., white clothes if you want to go to the "White Hot Deck Party", your own wi-fi enabled laptop for convenience. They provide soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion and blow dryer. Also have a copy of your passport as they are collected for your days in Turkey. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Just returned from Ruby Princess Grand Med Barcelona to Venice 7/15 - 7/27. Exceeded our expectations....Pre-cruise - stayed in Hotel Mont Blanc in Barcelona. Great central location, minutes from Las Ramblas etc. Found a wonderful ... Read More
Just returned from Ruby Princess Grand Med Barcelona to Venice 7/15 - 7/27. Exceeded our expectations....Pre-cruise - stayed in Hotel Mont Blanc in Barcelona. Great central location, minutes from Las Ramblas etc. Found a wonderful restaurant on trip advisor locals use La Rita (http://www.laritarestaurant.com/). Food excellent and inexpensive.Arrived at pier about 12.30....busy, busy, thought we'd be in line ages, however we were on board and in cabin by 1pm. These guys are swift! Cabin - triple BA Caribe - loved the location and the balcony WOW!! So spacious, with 3 in cabin, we used it constantly. Loved the fact we could have sun or shade, the med was very hot so it was great to sit in the shade to recharge our batteries. Ship - interior stunning esp Piazza. So many bars, cosy/quiet areas etc that its easy to forget there's 3000+ passengers. We preferred to use the aft adult pool although after the first sea day, the lounger hoggers had found it! Defy anyone to say they need to reserve loungers, there are so many around the ship - okay you might need to walk 50yds to a pool, but if you're a hogger you probably need the exercise! We found it quite amusing that even at Champagne Waterfall & other events the hoggers reserved chairs.Entertainment - Because this was such a port intensive cruise, by end of dinner we were exhausted, managed to get to one show which was very good. MUTS was excellent - almost made it to end of one movie before I crashed! Vines & Crooners were great for a pre dinner drink. Explorers had varied entertainment, comedian, magician, group etc & we usually caught part of an act after dinner. So many venues we didn't get to.....Food - obviously food is subjective. We had trad. late seating & found food on the whole to be very good - couple evenings were disappointing. Fav place - International Cafe for lunches/cakes, icecream & coffee. Breakfast in Cafe Caribe (preferred that to Horizon Court). Hubbie & daughter tried pizza & burgers from pool area & said they were very good. Free lemonade was available all day at all locations on Lido (pools, buffet etc) Signed up for Chef's Table 1st day. SUPERB Worth every penny! A fantastic experience, even our 16yr old loved it. Ports - Won't review ports since many have done so better than I could. Fantastic itinerary & enjoyed all ports visited. Disappointed we didn't get to Rome however given the winds that day it was understandable. Staff - Our waiters in MDR , Woody & assistant Ray were wonderful. Pleasure to see them each evening. Maitre d' Generoso was superb, can't praise him enough. He is a delightful and charming man. Our cabin steward, hmmm... jury's out on that one. Whilst he was never rude he wasn't exactly friendly. All other staff we came across, in buffet; bars; even just passing in the corridors etc were very friendly & provided excellent service. Passenger Service Desk could learn a thing or two from other departments. On the one occasion we dealt with them (issue with ruined clothing) they were most unhelpful. To sum up, this was a wonderful introduction to cruising and we'd cruise again in a heartbeat. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Ruby Transatlantic 2009 Review: Barcelona to Venice 5/4 to 5/16 The Second lag of our journey started out with good weather, and I had heard that the ship would be full as of this sailing, the transatlantic was not completely ... Read More
Ruby Transatlantic 2009 Review: Barcelona to Venice 5/4 to 5/16 The Second lag of our journey started out with good weather, and I had heard that the ship would be full as of this sailing, the transatlantic was not completely full.  We were headed for Monaco again, hopefully we would not have too much wind to dock! The food got better if that is possible!  Generoso Mazzone joined us in Sardinia taking over as Maitre d Hotel, exceeding all our expectations of what it means to be the 'cream of the crop'.  Generoso became like family to us, he totally made our cruise incredible.  We are huge fans of Generoso; we will be following him around whatever ship he is on! Now that we were on the Port intensive leg of this cruise, we did not participate in many activities, although there were plenty offered.  On the sea days, we did laundry and tried to catch up with "all the reading" I thought I would do, and never did!  Trivia had been boring, there was one team that won every game and nobody could beat them, yes I felt sour grapes!  Its funny, I applaud their knowledge base of trivia (lots of cruises) but recognize the need to offer different, more challenging questions that are not repeats.  Hey I want a chance!  Speaking of which, I turned Elite on this cruise! We did the ultimate ship tour, it was awesome, it lasts 3-4 hours and you get to visit lots of behind the scene places. The best part was having time with the Captain Yeomans on the bridge. He is so friendly and personable and we talked with him for almost an hour. They only have 10 people on the tourthere were 60 people in the lottery for those 10 spots. We were lucky to get in.  The day after the tour we got two big fluffy bathrobes, two chef's jackets, personalized stationary, two beautiful frames and 4 large pictures each of various stops on the tour. Not only was it totally cool, it was the biggest bargain ever! You have to do this!We saw the new production "Once Upon a Dream" and it was fantastic!  It used the most advanced technology combined with talent and creativity to bring us something entirely new and refreshing, hooray Princess.   Songs included selections by Pink, Enya, Simon and Garfunkel, and a hefty serving of Beatles!  We all loved it, a real stand out for us.   You will love it.  We also saw "Stardust" another new production show developed for the Ruby Princess.  It was nice, the dancing was spectacular and the singing was great!  We all enjoyed the show and thought it was just a little better than the first show, which was a Broadway review.   We missed the Hypnotist, who I heard was great, because of the intensity of this itinerary we are often too pooped to party!  We were able to do less as the ports became more intensive. I got a chance to pour a bottle of Champagne at the waterfall with Generoso—my first—and it was simply a blast!   I adore this man, he is classy and sweet and very friendly.  Generoso really knows how to make us passengers feel like Kings and Queens, and we all love it!  Bless him for making this cruise so special for all of us. Our sail into Venice was fantastic and while we got to the port at 1 PM everybody was out on the top decks by 11-11:30.  We were so excited to finally get to Venice, although it was bittersweet because we were soon leaving the Ruby, our home for 28 days!  I loved this ship, the crew made all the difference they were all great.   Our last evening together they sang happy birthday to me, I turned 53!  Yikes!  I was spoiled again by Generoso who sent over the best desert wine I had ever tasted, along with good wishes and great recommendations.  He is the most charming man I have ever met!  Disembarkation was shaping up to be a nightmare—at first they said no self disembark (what?) and many people sleepless and worried about making their 6 am flights, needing to disembark at 4 am!  We blew it off, knowing that eventually you will get exactly what you need if you just wait.  Low and behold today we were all allowed to make self disembark plans to suit our needs.  Lesson learned, relax and wait because it always works out! We got off the ship without any major events and found our way to our hotels to drop our luggage off then we were all off to the "Secrets of the Doges Palace" tour which we had purchased several months before we came.  It was a great tour, and we had fun walking our feet off, so to speak!  We never even used the transportation passes we bought because walking was too delicious to miss.  May 8, 2009 Amalfi Coast and Herculaneum (Mama Mia, shut up your Face!) with Fabricio Naples was our last day with Fabricio; he took 14 of us in 2 vans along the Amalfi Coast to Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello where we ate a slow and delicious lunch that was the best meal we all had in Italy.   It was perfect weather, warm but not hot and with out a cloud in the sky.  We loved the hairpin turns and beautiful countryside.  This was another incredible day with Fabricio, by now it seemed like many people came running over to say goodbye to Fabricio in the morning and afternoon and for good reason.  Fabricio completely made our tours in Italy, whenever we had him we laughed, learned, and did it in quick time and always landing close to sights and way ahead of the large buses.  Fabricio did raise an umbrella a few times in the van to make us feel like tourists!  We all laughed so much we cried, you know how that goes.  Fabricio Wanted to get us on the Amalfi coast ASAP to avoid the crowds and buses, so we went there first and it was mind-blowing.  We stopped in Positano and walked, snacked, shopped, and then took off to Amalfi.   We loved the tour, we changed plans when we hit crowds and finally Fabricio took us to a lovely cliffside restaurant where we all (14) sat and ate the best meal of the whole trip—the freshest pasta, salads, and pizzas and more.  It was another highlight, we did not pay a fixed price and instead choose what we wanted and paid for that.  We ate and drank like Kings and Queens for under 30 E!  No cheese at all here! Next we went to Herculaneum and Fabricio had arranged for a professor to guide us through and we all really loved it.  It is smaller than Pompeii, more complete and better preserved, was home to the wealthiest people and therefore the nicest frescos and mosaics, and finally it is much less crowded than Pompeii!  Another hit with all the gang, we also bought more "then and now" overlay books.  Do buy them when you see then, you often never find them again later in the day.  One couple in the group decided to build another home based on the things they saw in this incredible town where the elite lived and prospered as a colony of the Roman Empire. It was so sad to say goodbye to Fabricio, he is the nicest guy, so polite and so funny and so many of us CC people had the privilege of using him and his associates and we all appreciated what a joyous man his is and how filled with life he is.   I enjoyed every moment with him as did all the people on my tours, he is a gem.  I had read some stuff about Fabricio taking advantage of people and forcing them to buy a thousand dollars in cheese but he never brought us to any cheese place, or any place where we were told to shop.  I am a giant pain in the rear, I am a researcher and I teach ancient civilizations so I brought checklists of places to see and Fabricio greeted each list with joy and pleasure—he loved that I found places that he had never been.   He even found the Museum of Walls for me, it was very cool.   Fabricio is the best I've had, I feel safe and know he will take good care of me and whoever is with me, always mindful of our time limits and always leaving a wide berth of time in case of emergencies that could impede our getting back to the ship on time.  Everywhere we went after Fabricio (except in Turkey with Kagan) we missed him so! I even had an opportunity to use a phrase Fabricio taught us all in the dining room!  The sun was blaring in my eyes and I asked for the shades to be pulled, mostly because I had a migraine in the morning and was sensitive to light.   Another man at another table started complaining about this and I stood up and shook my hands (like Fabricio in traffic) and said 'shut uppa your face'!  I know I'm so bad. May 10, 2009 Mykonos, Greece We pulled into Mykonos early in the morning, ready to disembark by 7am.  There was a shuttle bus that we were encouraged to take, no other alternatives to this but walking so we shelled out 6 E each for the ride.  We didn't walk because the port day was short and we were concerned that wasting a half hour walking (the bus took 3 minutes) would cut into our touring time.  Turns out it would not have mattered because nothing opened until 9 am and there was an island wide blackout.  So its was a cash only day, couldn't get money out of the cash machine, no credit cards taken either. The weather is perfect, once again.  It's warm but not hot and I am comfortable in shorts and a tank top.   The island is beautiful, covered in boxy white homes that have hilly uneven walls that are thick to insulate from the heat.  The water is so blue, except where it is shallow and then it is blue-green.  We walk through the quaint town via the waterfront which is called "little Venice" because the houses hang over the water in some places.   Despite the blackout, many shops were open and we managed to spend some money, they have beautiful woven clothing and some incredible one of a kind jewelry.  Yikes! We stopped and ate some Greek food at the waterfront, relaxing with friends and watching people.  I never imagined myself enjoying slowing down and eating some slow meals as much as this happened, I envisioned quick eat-on-the-go meals but hated this especially in fast paced placed like Rome.  I always feel like I need to cram as much as possible into sightseeing, even if I been there several times before.  This time I slowed down a little and really enjoyed it!  Less is more they say. May 11, 2009 Istanbul with Kagan Kosegan http://www.tourguidesinturkey.com/kagankosagan.html Woke up this morning to a perfect day again!  Sailing through the beginning of the Bosporus and  Golden Horn, I see Aya Sophia, Topkopki Palace, the fort, more Mosques, and more.  It is the best sail in I have had ever, the massive traffic in the water is intense, small ferries and boats come so close to the ship its is strange to see this happening.  I am mesmerized by all of this, wake up early and don't miss this. Kagan picked us up at 8am and had his driver drop us off at the Prison that was in Midnight Express; it is now a 5 star hotel!  From there we walk to the Blue Mosque, a beautiful temple where Kagan leads us in and we promptly sit cross legged on the floor in our own private section.  He begins to teach us about Islam and the traditions around praying and living.  Kagan is not Muslim, he is an Eastern Christian and he is clearly educated and compassionate, we learn a lot about this religion that we knew very little about.  I love this aspect of travel; it fosters tolerance through learning and 'being' in different cultures in a hand on way! Next we walk to the Palace, we head straight for the Harem; I am astounded by the beauty of the tiles and gardens.  The crowds are not too bad, we are trying to keep ahead of the large bus tours but this is almost impossible since most people are on bus tours; you can only get into Aya Sophia with a Princess bus tour. Kagan teaches us about the Harem, the way the women are chosen and how they are kept educated and wealthy, even if they are never picked to become a favorite.   We enjoy the Harem tour so much because Kagan is walking us through each room and showing us how the Sultan walked, how the girls tried to allure him, and how they were kept in safe, educated environments where they are provided opportunities to gain massive wealth even if they were never chosen!  I can see why families from all over the world wanted their daughters to become part of this Harem! Next we walked to the Basilica Cisterns which are under Aya Sophia, these are very interesting and even if I did not get into Aya Sophia, I got under it.  The Cisterns are still in use today, we learn about how there used to be a fish restaurant down here that closed and the owner filled the cistern waters with fish and they are still there today.  I got pictures of huge Carp swimming everywhere.  The Cisterns are fantastic, held up with ancient recycled columns (Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian) including some with statue reliefs.  Check out the upside down Medusa's at the end of the Cisterns, but men need to watch the eye contact, lol! Now we decide to eat lunch, we imagined no sit down meals (waste too much time) but have completely changed our notion of travel on this trip.  After a full morning of walking and touring, we need to slow down and relax and rejuvenate ourselves at lunchtime.  Kagan takes us to a local place, one of his favorites, and we sit and break bread together and enjoy an incredible meal and conversation.  As we eat we learn about the spices used in cooking, the different foods and ways of preparing them, and even the traditions surrounding meals and tea.  We have Turkish tea—not apple tea—as we finish the meal.  Wonderful food, this is a must do with Kagan1 After lunch, we hit the grand bazaar.  Kagan walks us through the market, starting at gate 1, and shows us where the leather is, the local crafts are, food, Jewelry, and junk!  He explained how we should pay about half the initial price offered, and how I should explain that 'my husband will only let me spend $___" to help the vender save face!  This is the polite way of bargaining, and everything here seems quite civil to me.  After he orients us, he sets us free to shop for about 45 minutes (our choice) and we love the vendors who are not nearly as aggressive as I expected.  In fact, it is an entirely pleasant experience and nothing like what I expected.  I got some great deals!  We meet back up with Kagan at the designated time and he takes us back into the bazaar and has a man draw my name in Calligraphy, It's gorgeous. Now we visit the markets where all the locals shop, out of the grand bazaar, and then to the Spice market where it smells divine.  I buy the freshest Turkish Delight, after sampling f course.  I found Rose tea (calming) and Rose jam, and in a small perfume shop I found the best Rose oil I have even had.  This is the real deal here, everything is of the highest quality, and I can't believe how a small drop of oil stays with me the entire day.   Finally, we find this Pomegranate sauce that we had on our salads at lunch, a must buy if you like pomegranate.   Next we walked through the old city, under the city streets through tunnels, and across the Golden horn to the Galata district in an old dinghy boat, very Turkish.  This part of town is much newer, only 500 years old!  We take the underground funicular to a wide pedestrian street and walk and talk about this area.  We walk through a street market with tools, hardware, and home improvement stuff, among ancient buildings and walkways.  We find "Venice in Istanbul" and learn the story of how a Venetian man fell in love with a woman from Istanbul whose family would not let her go to Venice, so he married her and brought Venice to Istanbul.   We visit another shop for the freshest Halva around and I buy a small chunk to bring to the ship.  Watch this; it is so good and so fattening, lol, not so good after all the great food on the Ruby! We never made it to the Galata Tower, not a biggie since I know I am coming back here, love this town.  We ended of walking 5-7 miles, had the best tour of our lives, and one of the best port days as well.  Istanbul was a wonderful surprise and gift to me, clean and sane and safe.  I fell in love with this city, its people, and especially the Islamic customs and practices of this Muslim country.   I loved seeing all the different religions and customs practiced everywhere.  Kagan was an awesome guide; I highly recommend him and suggest you book very early as he is popular.  We loved having him to ourselves on our walking tour, he charged us $150 E plus admissions and food, and we did tip him like 25%.  It was a great port day! May 12, 2009 Kusadasi—Ephesus with Yelda (Through Kagan) http://www.tourguidesinturkey.com/kagankosagan.html Kusadasi was quite surprising, I don't know why but we were not expecting such beautiful country with an immaculate city.   Our guide Yelda was incredible, she was a nice contrast to Kagan and also quite educated, knowledgeable, and charming.  She was a plethora of knowledge about the area, with a real passion for it and that makes such a difference in guides.  I hired Yelda through Kagan, we were all completely pleased.  First we went to Mary's house, it was lovely and moving and I found it quite touching as a Jew.   I bought some holey water and drank it up, it was delicious and I feel wonderful!  We beat the large buses by a half hour, but they were right on our heels from that point on. Next we went to Ephesus, an amazing place in beautiful country side, you sort of turn a corner in the country and suddenly Giant columns appear and you know you are in Ephesus.  Oh My Gosh pops Mama Mia!  This was an incredible experience; Yelda knew everything about the place including secret symbols and all sorts of secrets you never learn on larger bus tours.  Those tours kept passing us up quickly, we could see they were barely explaining the info Yelda was lavishing upon us!  We saw everything, walked the Marble road, visited the amazing Terrace houses, all guided expertly by Yelda.   Most of people I've talked to loved Ephesus better than any ruins they saw including Pompeii, Herculaneum, and the Acropolis complex in Athens.  I find it hard to top the Parthenon in Athens but it is the only thing left that is beautiful, Athens is a dirty city and the locals do not seem to take as much pride in their city and heritage and it is quite sad considering they were they greatest society that lived at one time. We had a tour for 6 although they brought a large bus for 16!  It was a perfect size tour, I highly recommend keeping them small at this kind of sight.  I also highly recommend Kagan and his guide Yelda in Ephesus; once again it was one of the highlight days on this cruise.  May 13, 2009 Athens Driver: Paul of Athens Taxi We are in Athensdocked at like 5amand its perfectly clear and warm but not hot (the weather theme this 28 day cruise).  Our guide picked us up from the ship at 7:30 and I wish I would have had him come at 7!  Do that if you canwe used Paul the driver and he was nice but did not compared to Kagan in Istanbul, Yelda is Ephesus, and Fabricio in Italy.  The Acropolis is incredible but Athens is filthy and it made me very sad to think that these people once produced the greatest minds in the world, and now its beautiful city is covered in Graffiti, it is worse than Los Angeles.   The sail away from Athens was very interesting, and the sunset was spectacular. May15/May16, 2009 Venice Sail into Venice was lovely, we were on deck by 11am and it was crowded so you should plan on scouting out your spot early!  On the Starboard side is St. Marks and all the sights of the Castillo district and St. Marks; on the Port side is Guidecca and Lido and they are darn scenic as well.  There is no bad side. We had a pre-arranged 4 hour tour with Avventure Bellissime for a combined one hour boat tour and 3 hour walking tour including a visit to St. Marks Basilica (no lines) and hidden Venice.  Our tour guide picked us up "at the ship" at 2 PM (we arrived at 1 pm) and thank goodness we had scouted out what this meant, in Venice a pick up "at the ship" means you need to walk off the ship and find the area where the taxi boats are and that's where you will be expected to meet your tours.  This is different than any other port we visited; glad we took the time to figure this out so it did not impinge on our touring time. Our boat tour of the Grand Canal was lovely; we enjoyed seeing the hustle and bustle of this busy canal in the later afternoon when the light was just perfect for photos.  At St. Marks square, we exited the boat and began out walking tour.  Our guide was very animated; she shared a lot of interesting stories which really brought the city alive for us.  We visited the basilica and then started a back street walking tour through narrow alleys and secret gardens of the Castillo and Canareggio districts of Venice.  It was a great walking tour, we all enjoyed it and we were able to customize it to our preferences.  We all wanted the tour to end at a good shopping location so we finished the tour at the Rialto Bridge.  It was a perfect introduction to Venice. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
General info I am late 30's, my husband is mid 40's. This trip was to celebrate our 15 year anniversary and it was our first time to Europe. The #1 piece of advice I would give to anyone on a trip like this is to do your ... Read More
General info I am late 30's, my husband is mid 40's. This trip was to celebrate our 15 year anniversary and it was our first time to Europe. The #1 piece of advice I would give to anyone on a trip like this is to do your research and plan very far ahead in order to make the most out of every day - one day in a major European city requires much advance planning and a decision making about what is important to you to see. We felt like this was a terrific way to see Europe for the first time and would recommend it to anyone. It was truly a trip of a lifetime and enabled us to get the flavor of a lot of different countries in one shot. We did private tours in every port but 1 and definitely feel this is the way to go to make the most out of your trip. We had impeccable weather - it was high 70's with a slight breeze and not a cloud in sight every day but one. We felt so fortunate to have this amazing weather in the beginning of May (the trip was May 2 - 18). Flights & pre cruise in Barcelona We flew Air France out of LAX via Paris to Barcelona and again via Paris back home from Venice. I had heard flying through Paris was a nightmare but that wasn't our experience - our flights coming and going were on time and comfortable and the service was outstanding and the food was even good and all luggage made it safely - phew! We stayed 2 nights at the Le Meridien Barcelona pre cruise. It was a perfect location on Las Ramblas and very comfortable and we had terrific service. We had 2 full days in Barcelona and feel like we barely scratched the surface. We could have easily spent a week there. Barcelona proved to be one of our favorite stops of the entire trip. The first day we took a 2 hours walking tour of the Gothic Quarter - this was an excellent way to start our time in the city and we learned a lot about the history of old Barcelona. Thoroughly enjoyed this tour and it was very inexpensive. After our walking tour we went to the Picasso Museum, then Citadel Park, then wandered through the Gothic Quarter on our own and of course stopped for tapas and sangria in the later afternoon to give our feet a break. Later that night we went to see the magic fountains at Montjuic. This was very, very special and a must see in Barcelona if you're there overnight! One of the highlights for us. Don't miss it! Day 2 in Barcelona was spent in the Eixample District. We saw all the Gaudi sights. All were very, very crowded so we just took pictures to them from the street and didn't get close up.  We did go into Parc Guell which was well worth it. Very unique area with beautiful city views. Also a must see! We had purchased a one day pass for the HOHO bus but every time we tried to get on it the wait was 30 to 60 minutes so we always ended up giving up and walking (we hate lines!!). If I were to go again I would probably just skip out on the HOHO bus and walk everywhere or hail a cab if I get too tired. I'm not sure if we just hit the HOHO bus on a bad day (there were lots of ships in port). Maybe its not always like that. Before heading to the ship we went to take out some cash at an ATM on the Ramblas. Our card was eaten up and we could not get it back. Thankfully we had a secondary ATM card. Make sure you have a backup plan for getting cash!  We boarded the ship at about 4 PM. Embarkation took about 10 minutes. We took a cab from the hotel and it was a snap. The ship - Ruby Princess Wow - what a beauty! This was our 6the Princess cruise and this ship was the most impressive so far. This cruise was so port intensive that we felt we barely got to enjoy all the wonderful amenities onboard. But what we did utilize we couldn't have been happier with. The staff was impeccable - the best service we've ever had onboard Princess (its always good but this was over the top). The matire d' hotel, Generoso Mazzione, was an absolute gem. He and his staff paid attention to every detail and went far and away beyond any service I would ever expect on a ship with 3,000 passengers. The food was overall the best food we have ever had on a cruise. Night after night, day after day, the food was impeccable. We had anytime dining and the head waiter, Godwin, had the same table for 2 reserved for us in the Da Vinci dining room every night regardless of what time we showed up. Our server, Grisana, became our friend. We were fortunate enough to enjoy the Chef's Table one night. It has been well reported on already so I won't be redundant but suffice it say it was one of the best meals we have ever had (and we're major foodies) and the VIP treatment that comes with the experience is so over the top that we just couldn't believe it. We will never, ever forget that special night! Truly a highlight of the trip. We didn't see as much entertainment as we normally do since we were so exhausted at night. We did manage to catch all 3 Broadway style shows and they were all very good - Once Upon a Dream was downright phenomenal. So innovative and unique - the best show we've ever seen on a cruise ship by far! Don't miss it!We had a balcony stateroom on the Baja deck. We originally had an inside cabin because we were thinking we'd barely be around enough to enjoy a balcony so why pay for it? We re-thought it a few months prior to the trip and I am so glad we did! At the end of each day we were so exhausted and drained we were so happy to have a nice room and balcony to relax in! Well worth the extra money - especially for a cruise this long. One other noteworthy item - Ultimate Balcony Dining. We did this the night after sailing away from Istanbul. Wow - what an experience! The biggest lobster tail we've ever had and the filet was great too. Neither of could finish our meal which almost never happens (we're big eaters!). I highly recommend this experience - truly special in every way. AS luck would have it we had an incredible sunset that night too. The 2 servers even came in and sang "Happy Anniversary to you" with a cake and a candle. They were so sweet! It was the perfect way to end an incredible day and we would do it again in a minute. The ports: Monaco We had a tour with Michele at: www.revelationtours.com We went to St. Paul de Vence, then drove through Nice on the way to Eze, then finished the day in Monte Carlo. We shared the tour with 6 other members of our roll call. Both SP de Vence & Eze were incredible - two villages that time seems to have just passed by. We thoroughly enjoyed them both but if you can only see one I think I would pick Eze - just slightly more charming and a little less crowded. But either one is fantastic and we were so happy we got to spend time in each of them. Nice was just OK - I'm glad we didn't spend any time there. We live in Southern CA and it felt a lot like home to us. We enjoyed our time in Monte Carlo. We went inside the cathedral and walked around the casino area and then through the park near the cathedral which is just lovely. Michele was terrific - very flexible with our schedule (we had some confusion with our ship's docking time) and he was also very informative - we learned a lot about the history of the area, etc. We really enjoyed having him as our guide. He also took us to a few lookout points with incredible views where we got some of our best pictures of the whole trip. Of all the ports, Monaco was the one we were least excited about prior to the trip - but after going there we felt differently. This was a very, very memorable day and we absolutely loved the area and it is truly unique in every way. We'd go there again in a heartbeat. Livorno We toured with Guido from: www.tuscanyinmypocket.com We cannot say enough about the day we had with Guido. I actually got emotional saying goodbye to him - that is how much he touched our heart. He made this day special and memorable in every way. He was born and raised in Florence and everywhere we went people we honking and waving at him like he owned the place. He would pull us up to the door of each major site - right into the square amidst crowds of people - and get is into the sites with no line. We felt like celebrities. It was crazy. His knowledge of the region is simply astounding, and his passion for his home comes through in everything he says. We spent the first half of the day in Florence. There's so much to see there - we needed 3 days! We did see the original David - a must see in my opinion. Absolutely mind blowing - the size, the detail. We will never forget it. We of course went to the duomo and spent a little time in the area around it. We also went to Santa Croce cathedral and saw the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo, etc. We loved everything about Florence. A big city with a small town feel. Definitely on our list of places to return to! After Florence we went to Chianti. Guido took us to a family owned winery called Montagliari. We sat outside overlooking the vineyards and had the best meal of the entire trip at the winery. Caprese w/ homemade mozzarella and home-grown tomatoes, homemade pasta with wild boar sauce, balls of spinach with gorgonzola sauce, and Italian apple pie, all accompanied by a bottle of Chianti of course! After lunch we toured the wine caves and the balsameria where they age the balsamic vinegar, then we finished with wine tasting in the tasting room.  The winery and surrounding area were incredibly beautiful - green and lush everywhere you looked. The hospitality at the winery was over the top - we felt like we were at someone's home. This day was one we will never forget. It was special in every way and meeting Guido was one of the highlights of the entire vacation. I cannot say enough about him and about this tour. Civitavecchia We used:www.limoinrome.com We joined someone else's tour from our roll call. There were 8 of us. Our driver was just OK. He was nice but never said a word after we got into the van as we were heading to Rome. I felt like I didn't learn nearly as much this day as we could have. He seemed more like a driver than a guide. He just kind of dropped us off at sites and we were left to figure it out on our own. We saw all the must-see sites: Circus Maximus, Palatine Hill, Colesseum, Pantheon Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Forum, etc. One place we went that is not as typical is the Basilica of Sao Paulo. This was probably the most beautiful church we saw in Italy. And because its slightly off the beaten path it wasn't crowded. I highly recommend visiting this church. It also has the remains of Peter and the actual chains that he wore when imprisoned. Very impressive building. After dashing from site to site we grabbed a quick sandwich and then met up with our licensed historian at the Vatican for a 2 hour tour. I cannot imagine visiting the Vatican without a guide. It is so enormous and there's so much to see and learn - we would have been lost without her. She was a terrific guide and this was definitely the highlight of the day. Everything we saw at the Vatican Museums blew our mind but the Sistine Chapel is in a class all its own. Do not miss this! Naples Our guide was Fabrizio Fiorinelli at: www.amalfi-drive.com This was an incredible day and a nice change in pace after running ragged all day in Rome. Fabrizio was so professional and sweet and gave us terrific background on the area without talking too much. We first went to Sorrento. Wow - what a place! The charm and the lemons everywhere - just a really special, unique little town. We went to the Limonoro Limoncello Factory for some tasting and of course walked out with 2 bags of purchases. They are so friendly in there and when I asked if I could take a picture of the guy making the limoncello he invited me to come in and be in the picture with him, holding the bottle as though I were making it. Just a fun, happy place! We had about 90 minutes to walk around and explore the nooks and crannies of this special place. From there we headed to Positano. All I can say is - WOW! You approach the town from above and the car can only go to the top of town. From there you can only walk as you wind through the shops and galleries and head towards the sea. There is a certain magic or mystique to this place that it is hard to describe - a definitely must see on the Amalfi Coast! We hope to go back someday and stay for a few days. After leaving Positano as we were winding along the road Fabrizio stops and there's a man standing on the road that hands him something. We are wondering what in the world is going on. Fabrizio them hands the package to me and tells me it's a gift. I open it and it's a plate with a hand painted design and lemons on it and it says "Amalfi Drive 2009" and has my name at the bottom. What a special, thoughtful touch. I will always cherish that plate and the memories of this special day. From there Fabrizio took us to La Tagliata for Lunch. It sits high up in the mountain, overlooking Positano and the sea. The minute we sat down (there were 6 in our group) - they started bringing food and wine. We had NONE - yes NINE - antipasti, then 5 different pastas and all the red or white wine we could drink. Then they brought 7 desserts and shots of limoncello for all. This was probably the 2nd best meal we had on our trip (after the Chianti winery) and we were shocked when the bill came and it was only $25 per person. At home a meal like that would have been at least $50 per person. This restaurant has amazing views and the service and attentiveness from the staff is top notch. What an incredible experience! Now it was time to head to Pompeii. We can't say enough about how impressed we were with Pompeii. We paid the additional fees for a licensed guide (I highly recommend this!!). He was also named Fabrizio and he was a delight. We learned so much and thoroughly enjoyed this peek into 1st century Roman life. Pompeii is not to be missed. It was great going tin the afternoon because it wasn't crowded at all. Our guide said the first half of the day you can barely get around its so crowded. When we got back to the car Fabrizio #1 had a pizza waiting for us. He had heard us talking earlier about how we wanted to be sure to try a pizza from Naples since that's where it was invented. This was another thoughtful, personal touch that really impressed us. I can't say enough about Fabrizio and his kind demeanor. He went out of his way to make our day special and he succeeded. I would hire him again without hesitation. Sea day Boy we were ready for this. The exhaustion was really setting in. We had read how tired you are on this trip but nothing could have prepared us for this level of exhaustion. I slept in til 10 AM, my husband slept till 1 PM. I got a pedicure (which was so-so, not nearly as good as the spa pedis I get at home). We sat by the pool for a couple of hours then took a nap. It was really nice to rejuvenate and catch up no rest. We needed it! Mykonos This port was a nice diversion - casual, beach-y, easy. We rented a quad from: www.okmykonos.com This was a terrific way to explore the island. We rode all over the place and finished the day at Stefanos Beach right in front of where the ship was docked. A lovely island and lots of beautiful beaches. I highly recommend renting a quad or moped so you can explore on your own. We got lost a couple of times which was half the fun. The island is small so its easy to find your way if you get turned around. We felt completely safe on the quad. We rented 1 and rode on it together. Istanbul Since we were in Istanbul on a Monday we had to take a ships tour if we wanted to see the Hagia Sofia. We reluctantly signed up for the "Best of Istanbul" tour and hoped for the best. We were pleasantly surprised. It was not bad at all. Our guide was terrific and we didn't feel like we were in a cattle herd like I had feared. I talked to other people who took this same tour on a different bus and they said it was an absolutely nightmare. I think that bottom line is - when you take a ships tour in a city like this it's a crap shoot. A lot depends on the guide and the timing of your landing at certain sites. We enjoyed our day very much and were so happy to be able to see the Hagia Sofia. I read somewhere else that someone was very "underwhelmed" by it - I guess everyone is different......because it was the highlight of the day for us. The history of that building is so impressive and to see the Muslim and Christian relics side by side is really something. I would classify this as a must-see. We also visited the Blue Mosque - wow - what a beautiful and unique place of worship. We then headed to Topkapi Palace where we toured the palace, then had a very delicious lunch in a lovely restaurant overlooking the water, then toured the Harem. Do not miss the Harem! It is a fascinating look into the life of the sultans and their families. After the Harem we had about an hour in the Grand Bazaar. A really fun experience - I felt an hour was plenty - its kind of the same 10 shops repeated over and over again. We were ready to go after an hour. We got a little lost and came out the wrong exit - the place is huge! We had some momentary panic as it was getting closer to the time to meet up with our group, but we found our way and met up with 2 minutes to spare. Close call!! This was a very memorable day - Istanbul is a fascinating city and absolutely beautiful! Just walking over to Topkapi Palace from the Hagia Sofia was lovely - beautiful boutique hotels, some newly renovated apartments - very, very charming. We are so happy we had the opportunity to visit such a unique and fascinating city. Ephesus Tour guides in Turkey are very affordable so we decided to do a private tour here with just the 2 of us. We used EKOL tours and had Ozgur as our guide. It was nice to have a private tour and Ozgur was a delight and was very knowledgeable. We were surprised to find that Kusadasi is an absolutely beautiful, modern port. We were able to wander around there for a couple of hours after out tour - we did some shopping and sat down for a beer at a waterside cafe. I highly recommend allowing time to spend in Kusadasi itself. It is beautiful and the people were very friendly. Our tour took us to Mary's house, Ephesus and the Terrace Houses, and the tomb of St. John. Ancient Ephesus was so impressive and we felt the Terrace Houses are a must see. They are still excavating there and you wouldn't believe how well preserved everything is! Ephesus overall was one of the most impressive sites from the whole trip. We are students of the Bible so it really meant a lot to us to see in person an area that is often mentioned in the Bible. Even if you aren't a Bible student, I cannot imagine anyone not being impressed with this ancient city. Having a private tour was the way to go - we arrived at every site about 30 minutes ahead of all the large buses so the crowds weren't too bad. It was great to get at our own pace since it was just the 2 of us. The geography in this area was beautiful - rolling green hills down to the sea - it reminded us a lot of home (southern CA). Athens We shared a tour with 8 other members of our roll call we used Paul from: www.athenstaxi.org Paul was very nice and was informative. We were surprised at how dirty Athens is - there was a lot of graffiti everywhere. This was one of least favorite cities. We visited the Acropolis and all its sites, then went to the National Archaeological Museum. Afterwards we had a few hours to wander the Plaka and we used that time to have lunch there too. After that we explored the ancient Roman & Greek agoras - both fascinating and lovely and worth seeing! The National Archaeological Museum was the highlight of the day for us. Very, very impressive collection. We only had an hour there and wished we had longer to explore the many treasures. The shopping in the Plaka was so-so - lots of junk and we could have used less time there. We did have a wonderful lunch there at one of the tavernas. We sat outside and enjoyed watching all the hussle and bussle. It was a welcome break because it was very hot that day! Sea Day Another welcome break to gear up for our 3 day Venice extravaganza! And more beautiful weather to boot. We spent the whole day on a lounge just outside the sanctuary - so peaceful and quiet! We napped on and off. A great, great day! Venice Sailing into Venice was quite a site to behold. This was the only cloudy day of our trip but even that didn't dampen the excitement of our sail-in. We stayed on or balcony - I heard it was very crowded on the upper decks. We were happy to be on the side of the ship that sailed by St. Marks. What a memorable way to see Venice for the first time - from the water! They had the Andrea Bocelli music paying up on deck and also had it piped in through the tv so we were able to turn it on I the cabin and hear it out on deck. It was truly magical and lived up to the hype! Our ship sailed in at 1 and we had a tour lined up at 2 PM along with 6 other roll call members. We were picked up by a water taxi and had a 1 hour Grand Canal tour followed by a 3 hour walking tour. We used: www.tours-italy.com Our guide, Sabine, was so passionate about Venice! Our land tour started at St. Mark's Basilica. After going inside we then began a tour of the off the beaten path areas .This was incredible! We saw where Venetians actually live and learned so much about the history of the city. We never would have found any of these places on our own. It was a terrific introduction to the city. After the tour we all went our separate ways. We shopped a little then headed towards the ship. We got lost and it took a couple of hours to finally make it there. We were wiped out! The next morning was disembarkation day. We opted to self-disembark and it was an absolute breeze! We were among the first off the ship and another member of our roll call had arranged for a private water taxi for 6 of us. The taxi dropped them off at their hotel with their luggage then dropped us and our luggage off. We stayed at the Hotel al Ponte Mocenigo, just a stone's throw from the St. Stae vaporetto stop. Loved everything about it - including the location and price! They welcomed us with open arms even though we arrived at the hotel at 8:30 AM. They invited us in for breakfast. We had some coffee and got our bearings and headed out for the Secret Itineraries tour at the Doge's Palace. We took our time getting there since it wasn't until after 11. We took the elevator to the top of the campanile at St. Mark's Square - great views! It was early enough in the morning so there was not wait to go up. Good timing! The Secret Itineraries tour was awesome! I highly recommend it. The Doge's Palace itself is really something too. After our tour we wandered around there a bit. We could have spent more time there but we were getting hungry. Off we went to Cafe Florian for lunch and of course champagne! Sitting there in St. Mark's Square with the music of the orchestras shipping champagne...WOW! Dreams to come true. It was amazing. We then headed to our hotel where our bags had already been delivered in our room. We chilled out for the afternoon and had dinner at a cafe near the Rialto Bridge. It was a memorable meal with great views and terrific people watching! The following day we visited the Accademia - very impressive! I had pre-reserved tickets with a specific entrance time. It turned out it wasn't needed - there was no line. But you never know. Afterwards we had pizza and beer at the pizza place alongside the Accademia bridge - YUM! We just kept saying :" I can't believe we're really here!" From there we toured Ca' Rezonnico - which we really enjoyed.....we paid the additional fee for the audio tour which was well worth it.  For dinner we went near the St. Mark's square area to a restaurant that Generoso had recommended to us - excellent meal and a terrific way to end our trip! It was called Centrale Bar and Lounge. Warning - its not cheap! Venice is such a magical place - we had very, very high expectations and they were exceeded. It ended up being our favorite city overall from the whole trip and we can't wait to go back. It is unlike any other place we've ever been, and I would imagine, unlike any place on earth. What a perfect place to end this vacation of a lifetime! Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
Ruby Princess Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.2
Dining 4.0 3.8
Entertainment 4.5 3.7
Public Rooms 4.0 4.3
Fitness Recreation 4.5 3.9
Family 5.0 3.9
Shore Excursion 5.0 3.9
Enrichment 4.0 3.6
Service 5.0 4.2
Value For Money 5.0 3.9
Rates 4.0 4.2

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