My partner and I booked a 14-day cruise on the Emerald Princess last October. Cruising out of Athens, the itinerary was to include Odessa and Yalta, Ukraine. Unfortunately those two stops were replaced with stops in Bulgaria and Romania, ... Read More
My partner and I booked a 14-day cruise on the Emerald Princess last October. Cruising out of Athens, the itinerary was to include Odessa and Yalta, Ukraine. Unfortunately those two stops were replaced with stops in Bulgaria and Romania, but they both turned out to be very interesting. After spending 5 wonderful days in Athens, we boarded the Emerald for our 30th cruise. Embarkation was fast and easy. The Princess Representatives were courteous and efficient and we were onboard within 30 minutes. The ship was fresh and beautifully decorated.
We went to our balcony cabin on the Lido deck and were greeted by our steward, Jesada. He was wonderful throughout the cruise and took care of all of our requests.
Our next stop was the Crown Grill to make reservations for dinner one evening. We had late seating in the Botticelli Dining Room (traditional dining), so we checked out our table which was near the front of the dining room, yet in a quiet location. After lunch, we went back to our cabin and our luggage had already been delivered, so we unpacked and were set for the cruise. After Muster Drill, we met some of our fellow Cruise Critic members at the Tradewinds Bar overlooking the pool for a Sail Away Party. We were a bit disappointed that more members did not show up for either of the two Sail Away parties (in Athens and Istanbul). Almost 100 people had signed up, but it was very nice meeting all of those that did turn out.
We were fortunate to have a nice table for 6 with Tanya as our Waiter and Osbert as our Assistant Waiter (Table #66). They did an excellent job and were happy to bring you whatever you wanted. The food in the dining room was very good to excellent. They had Prime Rib, Medallions of Beef, Lobster Tails, Lamb Chops, as well as fish and chicken dishes etc. Don't miss out on the Goat Cheese Soufflé, Fettuccini Alfredo (with extra Alfredo sauce), Wild Mushroom Soup, or the Pasta with Fresh Clams (ask for extra clams in the shell). Also, the Head Waiter Missimo was fantastic. He stopped by our table every night and assisted the Waiters and Assistants. On several evenings Missimo also brought our table special appetizers, which was a very nice touch.
If you are going to make a reservation for Crown Grill or Sabatini's, the specialty restaurants, do it as soon as you get onboard. There is a $25 cover, but well worth the experience. We dined in the Crown Grill during the first week and highly recommend it. The food was excellent, and the service was very good. You can select whatever you like. In the Crown Grill, we shared several appetizers, but the Spicy Shrimp with the Thai Chili Sauce was outstanding and we had the Scallop appetizer and a half portion of the mussel entree – both very good. My partner and I both had the Filet Mignon and added a lobster tail (no add’l charge) and did have several of the side dishes, which were properly portioned for two. I had the S’mores dessert and my partner had a Molten Chocolate dessert – both excellent.
The Horizon Buffet was generally good to very good. The buffet area at the back was only open on sea days. There are different items on the back buffet area that are not on the main buffet area, so always check it out before you make your final dining decisions. We never went away hungry as there was a variable selection of food. Pizza and burgers at the outside grills were very good. Soft ice cream is available mid-deck.
The production shows were adequate, but not exciting. The shows “I Got the Music, “ “Disco…Blame it on the Boogie,” “What a Swell Party” and “ Boogie Shoes” tend to have musical numbers linked together with little rhyme or reason. The singers and dancers were talented, but they deserve better productions. Ventriloquist Kieran Powell was quite entertaining with an amazing closing. Nik Page, actor-singer from London’s West End was enjoyable.
Many activities took place in the Piazza --The Champagne Fountain, The Captain's Welcome Party, various entertainers throughout the day, etc. The Officers were not as visible and mingling with guests as we always see on the Ruby Princess, with the exception of Roy Harley-Kelly, the Food and Beverage Director. Roy was always available to assist passengers. He printed out some information for us prior to arriving in Istanbul, since it was our first time there….very thoughtful and much appreciated. Captain Marco Fortezze was at the helm and Tim Donovan was Cruise Director.
There were several other venues for entertainment-- the Crooners Bar was a wonderful Martini Bar in a great location. A bartender we met on the Caribbean Princess last summer, Vladamir, was at the Calypso Bar on the Lido Deck. It was good to see him again. He also was part of the Martini Demonstration in the Piazza. The Skywalkers Disco was active every night and the DJ played a nice selection of music. We have been on some ships where it was Hip Hop most of the time which turns off middle-aged guests and leaves the disco practically empty.
At Skywalkers, our favorite bartenders were Jigs and Fidel. Fernando was a very good Bar Manager. They all did a wonderful job. They were also there at Elite/Platinum Cocktail Hour. The waiters were warm and personable; all were sad to say goodbye on our last night. Other lounges had piano players and smaller ensembles, which was nice.
Casino staff was also quite welcoming, especially Akshwan who always greeted us with a friendly handshake and a big smile every night. Black Jack tables were busy and amounts to play were generally $5 - $10 per hand. They also had Three Card Poker, Caribbean Stud, Let It Ride, Dice, etc. My partner enjoyed the slots and I was a very happy camper at the Three Card Poker table.
Athens - Too many sights to mention, but we saw most of them. The food was outstanding wherever we went. Try restaurants in Monastiraki. Though a bit touristy try Tabpena - excellent. Shop in the Plaka, but look around as prices vary widely for the same items. We found the subway safe and convenient and quite nice. We bought a 5 day pass for 10 Euros PP. It was a great deal.
Volos, Greece- Took an independent tour of Meteora monasteries. DO NOT MISS. This was one of the highlights of the trip.
Khios, Greece- Explored the port village and spent the afternoon at a local beach.
Constanta, Romania- Booked a 12-hour excursion to Bucharest. We toured the People’s Palace, 2nd largest building in the world (Pentagon in Washington is largest); Parliament was in session at the time; toured the city and major sights. We had a lovely lunch through the ships’ tour. Pleasantly surprised and would like to go back sometime.
Nessebar, Bulgaria- A charming resort on the Black Sea. The city had many historic buildings and ruins, shops with local arts and crafts, and sidewalk cafes.
Istanbul, Turkey- It was our first time here. On the 1st day, we took the Princess shuttle bus to the Grand Bazaar-- 4,000 amazing shops to choose from; be careful to mind your entry point, as it is easy to get lost inside. The next day, we took a tour which included the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sofia, and back to the Grand Bazaar for more shopping. A word of warning—Avoid taxis. Drivers are ruthless and will rip you off. We were out 100 Euros, and so were the folks in the taxi behind us. They are poor representatives of the city. This was our only bad experience on the entire trip.
Mykonos, Greece- Our favorite island. Take the water taxi to Village center across from the ship docking area. The water taxi is much less expensive than the ships’ bus that you must buy on the ship before exiting. From there, we took the bus to Elia Beach (clothing optional). Other popular beaches are Paradise and Super Paradise (clothing optional). Buses go to all (2 Euros each way PP).
Valletta, Malta- Keep your camera ready as you approach Valletta; lots of photo opportunities. Once docked, we took the elevator up to the city (1 Euro RT). It was a truly charming city.
Messina, Italy- We took the ship’s excursion to Taormina, a mountaintop village and site of a partially restored Greek/Roman theatre; fantastic view of the coastline and Mt. Etna which, when we were there, was spewing smoke; excellent tour.
Naples, Italy- Had been to Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast before (both great excursions), so we took the Princess excursion to Capri via hydrofoil. It was an all day trip and do not recommend doing on your own, as we were late coming back (90 minutes) and the ship had to wait for us because it was their excursion.
Rome, Italy- The end of our journey. We took Princess’ transfers (which we highly recommend and have used previously as well) to the Rome airport, stayed at an airport hotel and flew home the next morning.
The Princess Gem Series of ships is our favorite. We have been on the Ruby four times and Crown and Caribbean 1 time each prior to this cruise. The service on Emerald overall was very good to excellent. There were some wonderful standouts on the ship, as noted above, and they were rewarded accordingly, beyond the daily automatic tips. Overall it was a wonderful trip and we highly recommend the Emerald Princess. Read Less