Remember the advertisement where you feel like a king or queen on board? Those days are over. I guess the economy and rise of popularity have made it diffcult for cruise ships to maintain those standards. While the Emerald Princess was ... Read More
Remember the advertisement where you feel like a king or queen on board? Those days are over. I guess the economy and rise of popularity have made it diffcult for cruise ships to maintain those standards. While the Emerald Princess was beautiful and well maintained, with many entertainment venues, service was slow and not so enthusiastic, and automatic gratuities or upcharges seemed excessive.
After a wonderful visit in Barcelona, (avoid the Famiglia church, it is under MAJOR construction and the entry fee is not worth it, simply walk around the church on the outside.)Check in to the ship was fast and simple, our rooms were good size with plenty of storage. the bathroom was very tight, our sons laughed they could us the toilet while showering!!! Our room steward introduced himself and was on his way. I think it was this first day that sushi was at the buffet, the kids were so excited, but returned with much chagrin as it was almost inedible, as were the salty dumplings. Dinner that night took almost two hours, with incredibly slow service, the food was good, but nothing inspiring. We were seated within 15 minutes of putting our name in for the freestyle dining.
Aux Provence was just stunning, it was storybook like and we purchased cheeses and tapenade to take back to the ship. We returned to the ship in the afternoon and now had a chance to explore it a little better. The pizza was fantastic, however, ice cream, milkshakes, sundaes, etc. were an extra charge. The REAL Sushi was an up charge, tapas were an upcharge, and we learned that although we had paid for a soda sticker, (free unlimited sticker.) a 15% gratuity was charged even if you got it yourself. 15% was automatically charged on to everything!!!! We were seated again in about 15 minutes for dinner, once again, dinner was a long undertaking with slow service and we often went with empty water glasses and simply poured our own wine. About the third day our daughters asked, "where are the towel animals on our bed?" While the beds were made and toiletries most often replaced, (not always, we once ran out of toilet paper!!!) Turn down with chocolates involved removing a pillow and small coverlet placed strategically where you feet would be on the bed while lying there during the day. Much more cost effective and efficient.
We did Florence on our own. Beautiful, the bus ride was expensive, but so was all of Europe. In Rome we booked a private tour separate from Princess and less expensive. What an amazing day, Bit of a bummer that Trevi fountain was not full of water at 11AM, they clean it every Monday morning. (something the ship could have mentioned.) Our tour guide said it was usually full by 11 AM. We saw so many things from the comfort of our air conditioned van with a courteous knowledgeable driver. Walked right into Vatican city past all the lines, and the same at the coliseum. Had lunch in a gorgeous uncrowded piazza and drank the fresh cold water from the various public fountains of Rome. We had a AMAZING personal tour guide at the Vatican. He did not just lecture but asked questions and our sons traded phone numbers and addresses with him to further discuss religions and history. We used the same tour company in Naples and toured the amalfi coast, enjoying Pompei, limoncello, and the beauty of Sorrento (lunch) and Swimming at the beach in Positano. Oh by the way, leaving each port the ship Historian (or something of that nature) did a narrative and played music associated with each port. It was very romantic and informative. One of our favorite parts of leaving each interesting place, wondering what you had missed while there. A much needed recharge day at sea was wonderful. We tired of the dining room food and tried the buffet, each nite is a theme and it was all ok, we often had to get our own drinks and silver ware. By this time, I would simply get up go on deck and poor my own coffee located at the bar end. Occasionally my second or third cup would be filled. As a party of six, it was difficult to justify the upcharge for the nicer restaurants, so we never tried them, most people liked Sabatini's but felt the steak house was not at all worth it. Mykonos was spectacular and as other have said in their review, eat at the waterfront, the food was delicious and the view spectacular. On to Istanbul, we were so excite to see this sprawling city. Our tour guide told us many interesting facts, one in particular stood out, 13 million people live in Istanbul with only 17 million in the whole country of Turkey. We visited the Blue Mosque and St.Catherines, then on the Topkapi We had an interesting lunch here, and then had much more time to see the jewels and arms, etc. Most of our tour thought we were here too long. We then boarded the bus for our carpet demonstration and the grand Bazaar. We were told not to purchase things at the grand bazaar as our tour guide bought her wedding ring here and it turned her finger green after a few months, she told us everyone here was dishonest. Our carpet demonstration involved laying many carpets out on the floor showing us the difference between silk and wool and cotton, it was the most blatant sales pitch. As it ended an apple tea was served, one tea server (salesman) sat next to me, he asked which people are the Rich people? we were held captive, Out of curiosity, I asked how much the 24x24 silk square rug was. $1000 American. Ok see ya later. We entered the Bazaar with 40 minutes to look around. Never even reached the spice market or the fish market. What a disappointment to travel half way around the world to see a city famed for its bazaar and to have your tour virtually eliminate it from your trip, while trying to sell you overpriced carpets. I do not recommend this tour not do I recommend the tour guide while we were an hour late returning to the ship mostly due to traffic, she informed us she could be fired for this on many occasions via microphone. I was particularly dismayed when I learned the entire population of Turkey was 71 million, it makes you wonder what our tour guide really did know.
Kusadasi was beautiful, once again, we saw some amazing ruins, and exceptional sights and views.
Athens was extremely hot and humid, the acropolyse was packed, our tour guide droned on and on, while she was informative she had no inflection in her voice. Great views again.
A day at sea was definitely needed to recharge. We had paid for a tour in Venice and yet we were automatically charged $15 for a water taxi.Turns our we got to Venice late, (a spectacular entry into Venice, make sure you are all packed so you can watch.) We sat in the Princess theatre for over an hour waiting to depart and then were rushed past St. Marks Square, bridge of sighs, etc. to get to the GLASS FACTO RY, a one minute show and on to shop there for 20 minutes, our tour guide rushed so much some of the elderly could not keep up with her. We were rushed into Doges Palace and then the tour was leaving Venice, we had to use the water taxi tickets if we wanted to see any more of Venice on our own. HMMMMMM, once again, gimme more money. Be careful Venice was the only place a coke cost 15 euros for a liter. The police were at the trattoria we ate at, as two parties were refusing to pay the bill, one had ordered pizza and 4 cokes as a snack, it was $120 American, $80 just for the cokes!!!!
By now we had learned that the ship was somewhat understaffed as part of the crew was pulled to train staff of the new Princess ship. As we requested our bill to review charges, we were somewhat chagrined to pay the automated gratuities. We certainly did not feel like kings or queens, I felt more like we had been to a medium class buffet. The boogie shoes show was great, comedians ok, Russian hoola hoopa and gymnasts, (in the atrium) great, but sometimes so crowded you couldn't see them, but most productions shows were just so so. The outside theatre was pretty neat, you could watch the sun set on one side of the ship and the moon rise on the other while watching a movie. Of course you had to miss dinner to do this!!!!
We had paid for a tour in Venice and yet we were automatically charged $15 for a water taxi. WE were also told no transportation would be provided before 8 am on the docks, however if you chose to transport yourself at 8 am, you would also be responsible for all your own luggage, and no porters would be available. For a mere $55 per per person, they will take your luggage and motorcoach you for your flight. Out of fear we paid the $330. It was very hot on the bus we had to ask the bus driver to turn on the ac. We met another large family whom were not intimidated by Princess and they said the taxi's were lined up on the docks, they arrived at the airport before us. It was wonderful to see so many places, and so many cultures. We would do it all again, but would try to use outside tours and transports more. If you are going enjoy and have a wonderful trip. Read Less