1. Home
  2. Cruise Lines
  3. Princess Cruises
  4. Golden Princess Review
  5. Golden Princess Cruise Reviews

9 Princess Golden Princess Europe - Eastern Mediterranean Cruise Reviews

I noticed that someone recently sent a review for the same time period as we did and the report made negative comments. I have to disagree. Embarkation: No problem as it went very smoothly Dining: Excellent dining. I loved the choices ... Read More
I noticed that someone recently sent a review for the same time period as we did and the report made negative comments. I have to disagree. Embarkation: No problem as it went very smoothly Dining: Excellent dining. I loved the choices with the buffet and the fine dining especially with the choice of open dining versus dining with required times. We liked the open diving. The food was great. The chocolate desert was the best we have ever seen anywhere. I recently read a review which stated the buffet was bland. This is not true. It is an excellent buffet. I think the problem is that people are subject to so much food that they become easily critical. There is nothing to criticize here. Entertainment: I loved the singers and dancers and wish there could have been a few more evenings with their shows. There are side entertainment presentations as well such as string quartets which we also enjoyed. Staff: Someone on the same cruise mentioned that the staff were unfriendly and appeared not to enjoy their jobs. I cannot believe this comment. Our experience is quite the opposite. All staff, especially those in the dining areas and those associated with room service were most pleasant, courteous and constantly showing concern that our cruise experience was a pleasant one. They were friendly and in no way did they appear to not enjoy their jobs. The theater under the stars was a nice feature especially with popcorn served. i would definitely sail with Princess again. Read Less
Sail Date May 2007
Overall we were extremely pleased with this cruise, as was everyone else we spoke with on the ship. Princess delivers a quality experience with very good food, excellent entertainment and a good value and absolutely no one I spoke with had ... Read More
Overall we were extremely pleased with this cruise, as was everyone else we spoke with on the ship. Princess delivers a quality experience with very good food, excellent entertainment and a good value and absolutely no one I spoke with had any complaints. Embarkation for our Greek Isles and Eastern Mediterranean was in Venice, Italy. We booked our air through Princess, and were pleased that the flights we were given flights involved only one connection in each direction. Arriving early in the morning in Venice we were bused over to the ship and had to wait two hours in a lounge before boarding, as it was too early to get on. Being Platinum status on Princess, we were in the first group to board, and we went directly to our cabin to freshen up and then up to the Horizon Court for a buffet lunch. Our cabin, an outside cabin with verandah on Aloha Deck #12 was very nice and clean. There was plenty of storage and it was efficiently laid out, but the bathroom was quite small, especially the shower stall. We loved the balcony and this was definitely an itinerary where a balcony is enjoyed, well worth the money and was used each evening as you pull away from one great port after another! The food on this cruise in the dining room bears mention as it was very good. Personal choice dining is one of our favorite things about Princess, as it gives you the flexibility to dine when you want and at a table for two or a group table-whatever you want! However, there were considerable lines to get into the Personal Choice dining rooms beginning around 7:45 or so each evening. The wait staff was for the most part excellent, considering that you don't have a regular waiter since you are at a different table each evening. They really try to please. I try to avoid buffets, whenever possible, and the food in the Horizon Court was average. We ate there only when the dining room was not an option due to the time we had to be off the ship for a tour. The pizzeria was a favorite of ours as was the Desert Rose steakhouse ($15 surcharge-worth it) The entertainment on this ship was the best we have seen in 20+ cruises. The singers and dancers were top notch, and the shows were excellent. You had to arrive at least 20 minutes prior to showtime or there was not a seat to be had, which says it all! I won't review each port, but will say that this is an excellent itinerary for those who like to do as much as they can on their own without having to take too many organized tours. Many of the docking places for the ship were within an easy walk of the town and sights and it was very easy to get around. We did take some very good half day tours offered through the ship, then returned for lunch and then went out on our own to explore. HIghly recommended itinerary and cruise on Princess. You won't be disappointed with this one! Read Less
Sail Date October 2006
Well, here I am finally writing this review, and 3 months ago I was in Venice and our most fabulous trip was coming to an end. I really wanted to write an extensive review with lots of detail, but honestly - I was having such a good time ... Read More
Well, here I am finally writing this review, and 3 months ago I was in Venice and our most fabulous trip was coming to an end. I really wanted to write an extensive review with lots of detail, but honestly - I was having such a good time on the trip that I just couldn't be bothered with a journal or writing everything down. Sorry about that, but I hope I can share some good stuff with all of you. This was the BEST trip of my life and I am still dreaming about every minute of it. I am 52 years old, and I honestly do not know why I waited so long to do this... My good friend Connie and I were on a girl's Panama Canal cruise in 2005 and decided to book a future cruise onboard. Connie said - "Let's go to Europe." This sounded good to me - so when we got home we booked the 9/23/06 Med/Greek Isle cruise on the Golden Princess. Of course, I could not venture to Europe for the first time in my life without taking my DH Rod, so this would not be a "girl's trip". Our group grew and changed a bit by the time we finally left and there ended up being 8 of us sharing hotels and tours. My husband Rod and I were joined by friends Tom & Kelly and Connie - all from Northern California. Our friend Lori (who we met on a Grand Princess Cruise in 2003) from Canada came along and was Connie's roommate. I met another couple from Southern California on Cruise Critic - Kathy & Jerry, and they joined us too. Kathy and I met on our Cruise Critic roll call thread over a year before the actual trip. We both did a lot of research on sights to see, guides, hotels, etc. and shared information along the way. I truly think that we ended up with a trip that was varied and interesting - and a lot of fun!! We depended on information from Cruise Critic, Rick Steve's books, and travel shows to choose our hotels, guides and trips  and it worked out very well for us. So, enough of the background - here is how it went: ROME Pre-Cruise 9/20-9/23/2006 Connie, Rod and I flew Business First on Continental - SFO to Newark, Newark to Rome. Not bad at all. I pretty much saved my AMEX points for years to get a reward ticket to Europe, and Rod and Connie got a great deal too because Continental was having a sale. Anyway, it was great! They feed you a couple of times and the food really is good, drinks are flowing, movies to watch, etc. - and next thing you know - you are in Italy. I don't think we could have handled flying coach. I'm 5'10 and Rod is over 6' and a big guy - I'm pretty sure that coach would not have worked for us. Our group booked Stefano from ROMECABS (www.romecabs.com) for airport pickup, a Rome tour, and transportation to the ship. Rod, Connie and I arrived in Rome together and Kathy & Jerry arrived a few minutes later. The 5 of us were met at the arrival gate by Stefano's partner Marco. Marco was so pleasant, very cute in his nice suit - obviously sweating away due to the humidity. It was warm and humid in Rome; I can't imagine how it is in the summer! I liked Marco immediately and he drove us to the hotel while giving us a mini-tour of the sights of Rome on the way. My first impression of Rome was - WOW. I loved it. You are driving along (don't try this at home) with scooters weaving in and out of traffic, little smart cars, vans, buses, etc. - very hustle & bustle - I don't think I would want to drive there. I've never seen so many scooters - even with women and men in business attire with high heels and suits. Immediately I was amazed at the sights - everything was so BIG and OLD and beautiful. I honestly didn't expect much from Rome and it ended up being one of my very favorite places on the trip. We stayed on Via Firenze at a Rick Steve's recommended hotel, the Hotel Oceania (Very nice, clean & quiet for 148 Euros a night). It was a bit of chore getting all of us up to the 3rd floor with luggage, but it was fun getting in the little elevator one at a time with a couple of suitcases. We arrived early and our rooms were not ready, but they gave us a key to one room to put our luggage in. I had read about jet lag and everything I read said to keep going and be active when you first arrive in Europe. So, with this in mind we changed into comfy clothes and headed out on foot to the nearby Trevi Fountain. It was still pretty early in the day and we got to enjoy the Trevi Fountain before the large tour groups arrived. It is a beautiful sight and especially remarkable to see in your first few hours in Rome. We decided to find a Cafe and ended up at a place called Caffe' Cecere on a side street to the right of the Trevi Fountain. It was pricey and just OK for our first pizza in Italy, but sitting outside and watching the big tour groups ramble by after us was fun. After lunch we headed back to the hotel to settle into our rooms and wait for Tom & Kelly to arrive. We had decided to meet friends that were in Rome and heading home the next day for dinner our first night in Rome. It worked out to be really great because they were staying over near the Spanish Steps. Tom and Kelly arrived in the afternoon and all of us headed out on foot to the Intercontinental to meet up with our friends Gina & Bill. When we arrived at the hotel, Gina was waiting for us and invited us to come up to the rooftop terrace for drinks. Another WOW, the sunset view from the terrace of the IC in Rome was awesome!!! We proceeded to have a couple of rounds of expensive yummy drinks with appetizers served by our waiter who said that everything was Fantastico! He was a real hoot. After our enjoyable time at the IC, our group of 9 headed out on foot to Edy's for dinner. A good friend of mine from home had highly recommended this restaurant to me, and it was very good. I had a pasta dish with artichokes and others had a foil wrapped fish with pasta that was to die for. Definitely check this place out; it's on a quiet side street with lots of charm. After dinner we headed back to the hotel, to finally fall into bed for some sleep before our all day Rome tour the next day. The next morning we had a delicious continental breakfast at our hotel and then Stefano showed up for our Rome Tour. I had read on Cruise Critic that Stefano loves the candy red hots so I brought him a red hot coffee mug with a bag of candies. I gave the gift to Stefano right when we met and then we were off for our big day in Rome. Our Rome tour included Plaza de Capitolo, Circus Maximus, The Forum, The Coliseum, The Pantheon, lunch near the Vatican, The Vatican (with a private guide, Tom Shaker)  including the Sistine Chapel & St. Peter's, a few hours at Piazza Navona for gelato & local scenery, and ended at a hilltop viewpoint of the city. We skipped the Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps since we had been there the day before. Stefano proved to be a wonderful guide, very familiar with the history of Rome and anxious to share information with us (while munching away on red hots). It was a perfect day and I feel we had a great overview of the city. After our tour we cleaned up at the hotel and decided to have dinner at a small place nearby. At dinner I discovered that my passport was missing! In a panic I called Stefano and asked him to search his van to see if I had dropped it there. He called me back and said he did not find it but not to worry he would come the next morning and personally escort me to the Embassy to get a new passport. Talk about above and beyond! The next morning Stefano showed up bright and early (on his DAY OFF) and made sure we found our way to the Embassy. Fortunately I had a copy of my passport and the procedure to replace it only took a little over an hour. I really don't know if it would have gone as smoothly as it did if it wasn't for Stefano! I recommend him to anyone heading to Rome. On our second full day in Rome we took the train to visit Florence. We bought our tickets in advance of the trip and also had reservations for the Accademia Museum in Florence (to see David). The rest of our group made it to the Museum, but Rod and I were delayed because of my passport incident. We missed seeing David, but we made our way to the train station and caught a later train to Florence to hook up with our friends. Florence is a beautiful city whose architecture is not to be missed! The Duomo, Baptistery of St. Giovanni and the Santa Maria del Fiore are incredible. We had a nice lunch at an outdoor cafe and spent the rest of the day shopping by the Ponte Vecchio Bridge and just taking it all in. For our last night in Rome we went back to Piazza Navona to a restaurant called La Montecarlo Pizzeria. This is a fun and lively place with mostly locals and a very good menu. We ate and drank everything in sight that night and had a fabulous time! Day three arrived and our transportation to the ship arrived promptly at 10:30 AM. Stefano was going to take us personally, but we decided it would be a tight squeeze for 8 of us with LOTS of luggage to fit in his touring van. So, he got a nice lady driver (I can't recall her name) who had a bigger van. She was very nice and made a wine stop for us at a neat little wine shop on the way to the Port at Civitavecchia. I think the little old man that ran the shop was surprised to be overrun by 5 women buys lots of bottles of wine! We carried all of the wine right onto the ship with us no problem at all. Embarkation was smooth as could be, and I had no problems with my new passport! We were on the ship and in our cabins in 15 minutes - normal Princess style! The Cruise - Golden Princess Med/Greek Isles 9/23 - 10/5/2006 Rod and I were in Aft Balcony, C753 which proved to be a great choice. I love minisuites, but opted for the aft balcony for this trip so we could enjoy the wake and beautiful sail aways from the European ports on our balcony. We were not disappointed in this decision. The Med is so port intensive - this really is one cruise that you spend very little time in your cabin. Our group gathered in our cabin almost every evening for pre-dinner drinks and to enjoy the balcony views. I'm not going to go into a lot of detail about the ship itself, as that has been done many times. I will say that the Golden is in good shape with a few signs of age, but nothing that hampered the elegant feel of the ship. Our cabin steward and our waiters were very good. We had traditional dining and our waiters were not real friendly at first, but they really warmed up to our group as the days went on we had them wearing togas with us at dinner by the time the night of the toga party arrived! I missed Personal Choice dining and we found that the 8:15 dinner was just too late for us on this cruise. We ended up at the buffet a couple of nights and skipped the dining room all together because we didn't want to eat so late. Lesson learned - I really do like Personal Choice dining much more when we are on a busy schedule. We enjoyed the spa, the aft pool & bar in the late afternoon and went to bingo, the casino and a couple of shows which were just OK. In Europe I found that the ship was more for transportation and rest than for entertainment, we were pretty bushed by the end of each busy touring day. Port of Call  Monte Carlo Skipped this port due to weather  couldn't tender in due to rough seas. Bummer  I had to have a spa day (Boo Hoo). I was disappointed because we wanted to visit Monaco, but oh well, we will just have to go back! :) Port of Call  Florence/Pisa, Italy (Livorno) We booked a private tour for our group with Papillon Service- www.papillonservice.com. Since we visited Florence pre-cruise, we planned a trip into Tuscany including San Gimignano, Monteriggioni Castle and the Sienna Countryside with lunch at a winery. Words cannot describe this day in my memory. It was rainy and a bit gloomy, so not the best for photography, but it was absolutely one of the best days of my life. We live very close to Napa Valley in California and Rod and I kept looking out at the vineyards and saying Wow, we could be in Napa or Sonoma right now and then, we would see a Castle  Nope, we are definitely in Italy!!! San Gimignano had the best Italian ceramics and we all bought some great souvenirs. The highlight of the day was our stop for lunch at a quaint little winery called San Donato. The owner's godfather bought this small medieval village back in the 1930s and made it into a winery. It is one of the most beautiful spots that we have ever visited. The lunch consisted of local fava beans, breads, cheeses, olive oil, and wine  all local and made by our hosts. It was so delicious! We bought some wonderful olive oil, dessert wine and Chianti to bring home  and we are still enjoying it. Port of Call  Naples/Capri, Italy Our group hired Salvatore from www.driveamalfi.com for a tour of the Amalfi Coast and a visit to Pompeii. The Amalfi Coast is breathtakingly beautiful and we had an awesome day sightseeing. Salvatore was an efficient guide, took us to a great spot for lunch in Pantone (Pizzeria San Giovanni) and got us back to the ship on time  but we didn't find him as friendly as our other guides. He was on his cell phone a lot and seemed a bit distracted. Our group really liked Positano and Pantone, Almafi was pretty but the shopping there was quite pricey and it felt very touristy (which it is) We decided to spend an extra $100 for a private archeological English speaking guide for our time in Pompeii. This ended up being a bit of a waste of money because the guide gave us a speed tour and I personally couldn't understand a word he said. I think Salvatore was a little concerned about time and we didn't really have long enough at Pompeii. It was interesting though, and we bought some souvenir books that explain things a little better. Port of Call  Santorini, Greece Sailing into Santorini at sunrise is absolutely beautiful  the crystal blue water with bobbing little fishing boats, the hilltops dotted with white washed homes and the zig zag donkey trail winding up the steep hill to Fira. Quite a sight! Our group opted to ride the cable car up to Fira and took a local bus to the nearby town of Oia to shop and have lunch. This is a very unusual place  not much foliage, sort of desert like, but beautiful in its own way. We saw a garbage donkey climbing the steep streets laden down with garbage bags. We had lunch in Oia at one of the local cliffside cafes where we could take in the spectacular views. It was fun walking around the little village and just getting the feel of the locals. When we got back to Fira the cable car line was so long, we decided to WALK down the donkey path back to the ship. What an experience this was!! You had to dodge the teams of donkeys that were heading down  and pretty much ignoring that you were possibly in the way  and you had to walk VERY carefully  because believe me you did NOT want to slip and fall in the fragrant droppings that dotted the path!!! Well, I can say I did it  and thank goodness I did not slip!  Port of Call  Kusadasi, Turkey (Ephesus) We loved Turkey  very beautiful place and the people are extremely friendly. For Ephesus we opted to take the Princess Elite Tour The Terrace Houses and Ephesus. Our guide was a woman and I really liked her, she was funny, interesting and easy to understand. Ephesus is by far the best ruins that I have ever visited and the Terrace Houses were incredible. The mosaic tile floors, frescos, etc.  restored in unbelievably good condition were beautiful. You could really get a feel for how they lived and the history of the place gives you chills when you think about it. Our tour ended at a local rug factory and we had tea and a demonstration of all of the beautiful rugs. It was really interesting. Our friends bought a beautiful rug and Kelly was able to bargain with them for a pretty good price. It wasn't high pressure at all, we told them we weren't interested and they were cool about it. We spent a few hours in the local bizarre before heading back to the ship and did some power shopping here. The prices were the best in Turkey and I bought some really nice scarves, shawls and hand beaded pillowcases. Kelly bought some knockoff luggage for a good price  but it ended up falling apart before the trip was over. Port of Call  Mykonos, Greece This was a beach day for us. We rented a jeep and drove around the island to a small beach called Ai Giannis  where the movie Shirley Valentine was filmed. Anyway, it was practically deserted. A waitress did eventually show up and brought us drinks and charged us a few Euros each to use the beach loungers. It was pretty, but the water was not very warm. After a few hours lounging, we drove around the island a bit and saw the windmills. Mykonos was not as impressive as Santorini. Port of Call  Athens, Greece We arranged for a tour with Paul from www.greecebytaxi.com. Paul is a REALLY nice guy who lived in the USA for quite awhile, so his English is perfect. We did a Full Day Athens & Cape Sounion Tour. In the morning we drove way out along the coast to Cape Sounion to the Temple of Poseidon. This is absolutely beautiful, very picturesque with the columns rising against the beautiful blue of the Aegean Sea. Next we visited the Acropolis  which is huge and amazing and sits on top of the hill making you realize how HUGE Athens is! After the Acropolis, Paul dropped us off downtown at a local taverna for an authentic Greek lunch. We had some yummy gyros and big beers and topped it off with a little shopping in the heart of the city. Paul picked us back up and we drove by a few other sights, including the Temple of Zeus and the Olympic Stadium - but Athens is so congested with traffic, it's really difficult to park anywhere. We had a fun day, but Athens proved to be a bit too crowded and busy for my taste. Port of Call  Katakolon, Greece (Olympia) Our group decided to spend this day on our own. We were pretty much ruined out by this point of the trip so we did not take a tour to Olympia. Rod and I got off of the ship for a couple of hours and walked around the small little area by the dock. The shops had the same stuff we had come across in the other Greek ports, so we didn't spend much time here. It was a pretty little town and there were some colorful fishing boats that made some nice pictures. Port of Call  Corfu, Greece We originally had planned to take a Princess tour here, but we ended up canceling it. Some of us took a cab into the town and did some shopping in the morning. Rod and I decided to walk to the old fort (there's a new fort and an old fort) and take some pictures. We ran into Tom and Kelly and walked along the shoreline back to the ship. This was our last stop in Greece  and honestly 5 Greek Islands were enough for me. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that I visited Greece and saw the historic sights, but I doubt that I will go back. Personally  I LOVED Italy and the people there and will go back, but Greece just didn't leave the same impression. Port of Call & Post-cruise  Venice, Italy (Ahhh Venezia) Venice is everything you have ever heard and more. There are several reasons why we had a perfect stay in Venice. The first was that we got to experience sailing into the city at night, past St. Mark's Square with the beautiful waterways and sparkling lights. It really is magical. Secondly, we stayed at the Locanda Orseolo San Marco right on the Orseolo Canal where the Gondolas drifted by our hotel window. The location of the hotel is perfect walking distance to St. Mark's Square and in the heart of the city. We did Rick Steve's walking tour of Venice, had lunch at Vino Vino and ended up at the Rialto Bridge for shopping. Venice is beautiful, charming, and mysterious and absolutely my favorite place ever. We went on the Secret Itineraries tour of the Doge's Palace and got to visit the cell that Casanova escaped from. If you ever make it to Venice, definitely splurge and stay at the Locanda Orseolo it is worth it for the chocolate crepes alone!!! The trip home We didn't want to fly out of Venice at the crack of dawn, so we flew from Venice to Amsterdam on KLM and then home the next day. I thought it would be fun to see Amsterdam (even for one night). Well, we didn't have a very good experience - KLM left our luggage in Venice, our hotel was in the boonies and not very nice, and we spent most of the time worrying about our luggage instead of enjoying Amsterdam. We did manage a canal tour, dinner and a brief visit to the famous red light district (had to see that). It was OK, but I think I will need to go back under better circumstances and when the tulips are in bloom. All in all, this truly was the trip of a lifetime (so far) for us. I wish that we hadn't waited so long to visit Europe  now that we have been, we can't wait to go again. It was an expensive trip for us, but worth every penny. As a cruiser, I felt that going on Princess for the first trip to Europe was the perfect way to go. We felt at home on the ship, didn't have to pack and unpack and we were able to see a LOT of sights and still relax on the ship at night. It really was a perfect vacation!!! Read Less
Sail Date September 2006
Golden Princess, British Isles July 11, 2006 About us: 26th cruise, 4th with Princess 53/58 year old married couple, seasoned travellers, not especially picky. Pre-cruise. Tried to book our hotel through Princess and was told repeatedly ... Read More
Golden Princess, British Isles July 11, 2006 About us: 26th cruise, 4th with Princess 53/58 year old married couple, seasoned travellers, not especially picky. Pre-cruise. Tried to book our hotel through Princess and was told repeatedly "call back six months out". So, I called at 6 1/2 months out - "too early", called the next week -same line, called the next week, "sold out, you should have called earlier". We did however find a decent rate (as London goes) at the Airport Hilton and decided to stay there since we really did not want to "do" London again - just rest. The shuttle left from the airport the next day so it was a good choice. Shuttle: Got down to the greeting area about 8:30 and was on the first bus out by 9:30 or so. Two hour drive to the pier. No problems. NOTE: If you are flying in early and will meet the shuttle back at the airport: you cannot meet the shuttle at baggage claim as your voucher says, you meet at the "passenger greeting" area outside customs. No telling how long I would have wandered around baggage claim if I had not run into a Crystal Cruise employee at breakfast and asked her for the exact location. Embarkation: Arrived at the pier about noon, which should have been about boarding time but the ship had been an hour late arriving due to fog so we did not board til 1:00. Check-in itself took all of 3 minutes then we were off to the waiting area. Large room, plenty of seating although only a water cooler was available. Not a biggy but it struck me odd since some of the other lines have food service staff there with tea, coffee and cookies. Cabin: We had an inside cabin on deck 10. Typical inside cabin. Contents were a refrigerator, hair dryer, safe, TV. There was plenty of closet space and loads of hangers. Soap and shampoo are of the old fashioned variety and not the wall mounted liquids. Ship: We had been on the Grand in April so orientation did not take long. The ship was in very good repair and had a pleasing decor. No neon like Carnival and not quite as stark as NCL. There is an enclosed pool area, with retractable canopy, which was nice for the cooler days and evenings. This is a family pool as is the main pool midship. There is an adult only pool at the rear of the ship and outside of the spa. Those two areas were not highly used and made great get aways. Skywalkers Lounge is at the top of the "shopping cart handle" and seemed to be the most underutilized place onboard. The disco did not open until 10 p.m. and it was occasionally used for private group parties but other than that you can grab a drink and head up there to have the whole place to yourself for sailaway. Dining: I'm not going to say alot about the food because it is such a subjective matter. I found it fine. Not gourmet, but none of the ships with thousands of passengers can offer fabulous food so I was not disappointed. There are two dining rooms for any time dining (our preference) and one for traditional. I was told there was a waiting list for traditional dining but I think that is typical. Service was friendly and efficient. Wine service is by the waiter, not a wine steward. We typically dined between 6:00 and 7:00 and chose to share a table with others so we never waited at all. We ate one night at the steak house and food and service were superb. The buffet was actually a little better than usual, I thought. There were two omelet stations each morning which fortunately were not in the middle of the serving line. My only beef with the buffet is that Princess offers only coffee and tea. Lemonade would be a nice addition. And yes, the coffee is wretched, horrid, yuk. We only used room service for morning coffee. It comes from the dining room rather than buffet and is marginally better . You will have a door hanger menu you can put out each evening and ours was always delivered promptly. Room service tipping should be done when delivered. Ice cream is served at the buffet each afternoon for free, but if you want it otherwise it's $3.95 at the ice cream shop. Don't know why this bugs me but it does. I was told there is a pre-paid punch card program for the shop that was buy 10 get 1 free, but that didn't seem like much of a deal to me. Grill: They had hamburgers, vegetarian hamburgers, hot dogs, Bratwurst, knockwurst and chicken breasts available. There were always fries and occasionally onion rings. My husband was thrilled that they had hot sauerkraut for his hot dogs and if they'd have only had chile he'd have been in heaven. And the hot dogs were the nice big fat ones not those anorexic little skinny things. Pizza was pretty good and they usually had three varieties. The grill and pizzeria are only open until 7:00 which was a bit disappointing for days when our excursions didn't get in until 6:30 and we just wanted a simple little dose of junk food. Entertainment: We did not make any of the regular shows as we prefer to dance and gamble. The one we did make in Dublin was a local dance troupe and band. The early show was a group of young people doing Irish folk dance and they were cute. The band was good and the show enjoyable. I believe the late show was a more professional group of dancers but I can't speak to that personally. There were two very good dance bands. One played in the Explorer's Lounge and the other just down the way at the Wheelhouse Bar. The atrium each evening was filled with music from either the string quartet or pianist. Very nice. Later the piano man showed up at the martini bar and he had quite a following. It was a bit loud for me, but if you sat on the floor below it was enjoyable. Oh, I should clarify that this bar borders the atrium, it's not really loud enough to hear on an adjoining deck! Casino: Good variety of slots penny through $5. layout seemed about typical and I came out about $50 down which wasn't bad for the amount of time I spent there. Usual table games. Hubby plays blackjack and pretty well paid for the cruise, so certainly can't complain there. Friendly and efficient staff. Unfortunately the slots still pay out in coins and haven't gone to the paper tickets yet. The casino was closed for Dublin as we did not depart there until after midnight. Bar service: There was the usual drink of the day although I must say, Princess seems to push their fruitful drinks less than any other line. Being a simple woman, I just drink simple things. Prices for a single dears and soda was $3.85, signoff martinis were about the same. I know some have complained about the high price of drinks on cruises but I didn't see it on the Golden, unless of course you were drinking doubles, premium brands or forkfuls. Room set ups were available but we didn't avail ourselves of them this time so don't know what the prices were. There was not a wine program such as NCL s buy 5 get a sixth free program. Soda cards were available at about $4/day. Guinness is available onboard but only canned, not draught. Spa: Didn't partake of services but the usual array are to be had at what seem to be ever escalating prices. There is a steam room and sauna for both males and females (separate, in case that isn't clear) but they are not inside, they are poolside. So much for wearing just a towel in the sauna. The spa showers are the same size as those in the room which was disappointing because that's my husband's trick - showering in the spa where they have normal size showers. Oh well - suck in that gut and get in the shower! Odds and Ends: Changing money can be done by two machines on decks 5 and 6. One will convert various currencies to British pounds, the other to Eros, or vice versa. There was a $3.50 service fee which isn't bad if you're doing a lot, so do all your money at once. You can always change it back. You will need pounds in every port except Dublin where you will need Eros. Everywhere we went took plastic so we only used cash for incidental items. Laundromats: What a disaster. I don't usually do laundry onboard but I did need to do one little load. Between decks 8, 9 and 10 there were 8 irons. 2 worked and 1 had a bad hot spot. The money changers and soap dispensers had lower pay out odds than the slot machines and the dryers are not very warm. Took two cycles (30 minutes each) to get 1 small load of whites to the damp stage. Every woman who came into the laundry picked up the phone to call and complain but to no avail. They did send one poor little guy up to face the angry horde and all he did was fiddle with things and left them no better than when he arrived. Moral: do not count on having an iron to use. Plan on bringing either a steamer, de-wrinkle spray or both. Better yet, do what I did, call from the laundry and ask the purser's desk to send up a round of drinks. Captain's party: pretty well done in the atrium. They had the usual assortment of beverages plus beer and in case you don't know, you can always ask them for a special drink and they will get it for your. I don't think the captain showed for the early party which made no difference to me. Captain's Circle party: Was in the Vista Lounge and had the typical band, and drinks. See above comments. The captain was busy taking us out of port so could not be there but did address us by the PA system. They said this set a record for the Golden - 1,600 repeaters on board and three couples doing a triple back to back. Wow. Fellow cruisers: Primarily white Americans middle aged and slightly older. Less than 20 wheelchairs and 3 of those were children. There were maybe 100 children under 18 on board. All of them were well behaved. This is not an itinerary for those with disabilities due to lack of handicap accessibility in castles, palaces and many of the coaches. Most of these people were seasoned cruisers and were more interested in the ports than partying. By 10:30 most evenings the place was pretty quiet. But of course, the excursions were pretty tiring and many began early. Tendering: we tendered at 3 ports (or was it 4?) and each time it was done with the ship's life boats. Each day they used 3 boats which did not seem adequate for early morn and late afternoon. regarding: Terrible. Although they used two gangways to disembark folks in the morning for excursions they only used 1 for regarding each afternoon. In Inverness there was a line of 450-500 people at one time waiting to board. Took over an hour for some folks since they likewise were only running 1 scanner.. not happy campers. They didn't seem to learn from this experience as the cruise went on either. Photos: Very few, which is fine with me but unlike many cruise lines you had to search out the photographers if you wanted photos. They did however clog up numerous stairways on formal nights which I found aggravating. At least they weren't in your face every time you had a mouthful of cheesecake. Who needs the evidence - I have my thighs! Meetings on board: There was a combined meeting of Friends of Dr. Bob and Bill Mw. each day. Not every day but frequently was a gilt Rainbow meeting as well. There was a Masonic meeting one day and a service club meeting. My hubby's favorite is always the Veteran's meeting and this time there were two gentlemen who were POWs from the Bata death march. They told amazing tales and everyone there was deeply touched. Internet service is 35 cents per minute. There are about 18 computers in the cafe and 3 more in the library. Frequently one third would be out of order. Golf: First night out we had dinner with a rabid golfer. He told us all the golf tours had been cancelled and two weeks prior to sailing he had scrambled to arrange his own games. There was a group of 8 who seemed to play almost daily as I'd see them lugging their clubs past the bar. So, if you are taking this cruise to golf your way through Scotland and legendary courses you may want to double check with Princess as there were some mighty disappointed people on this cruise. Religious Services: Friday evening services were held for those of Jewish faith. A Roman Catholic group was onboard and their priest held Mass several times and all were invited. I do not know what provisions, if any, would have been made for Mass otherwise and I do not recall seeing any notice about protestant services. Excursions: Let me do the ports we did on our own first. Edinburgh - we hopped a cab (18 pounds per cab which seated 5) to the castle. Our delightful cabby dropped us near the ticket office. Tickets to the castle were about $20 each and they take Visa and master. We toured the castle, walked down the main drag to the palace. Several cruisers who were exiting the palace said it wasn't worth the admission price and since we were tired we grabbed a cab back to the ship. Lots of interesting places to eat and drink along the Miracle Mile (although it is a bit longer than a mile) and very, very easy to do on your own. The castle is well worth seeing and you could easily spend the entire day there. Belfast - a free shuttle is available at the pier and drops you downtown at the tourist information center. There we bought tickets (with plastic) for the hop on/off bus. You can buy your tickets from the driver at any stop but then you must pay cash. We had a lively guide who talked extensively about the troubles and while the tour was interesting, let's just say, nobody was pulling the call cord to hop off until we were nearly done and arrived at the botanical garden of Queen's College. I was astounded by the Peace Wall and how divided, literally, the city still is.. The gardens are beautiful and it was a nice respite to wander about them. Back onboard to the beginning and a sampling of a few pubs, where we met one of our favorite bartenders from the ship having a Guinness on tap! Tickets for the bus were $18 I think. diverged - Highland Castles and Loch Ness. This is a very long trip. Covers 1 castle with beautiful gardens, lunch (which took AAA too long) and tours of castle ruins on the banks of Loch Ness. Lots of walking, steep incline at the ruins, Very tight squeezes on the road to the ruins which was an excursion in of itself. Glasgow - The Scottish Experience, Landscapes, Lochs & Sheepdogs. Another very long trip.. Hour and a half or more trip to Loch Katrina where we boarded a steam powered boat to cruise the loch - very pretty. The boat was 45 minutes late so we stood on the dock waiting without a working vending machine or bathroom to be had. Cruise was about 45 minutes and we were back on the bus off to lunch. Didn't take quite as long as the day before but still too long by my standards. I think the cruise lines would be better off sending nice box lunches rather than doing formal sit down affairs that drag on forever. anyway . . . off to the Wool Center for a demonstration of sheep dogs. This was hugely disappointing. We have always had Shetland Sheepdogs and while this was nice it was not what I expected. Most of it was in an auditorium and the only herding that we saw was a very brief demo outside where the border collie herded six Chinese ducks into a pen. Local law will not allow them to transport sheep for the exhibit like in the past, because of the epidemic of hoof and mouth disease several years ago. There was nice shopping I suppose, but I'm not a shopper so we wandered about eating ice cream. hothead - carnation Castle. This was my husband's favorite castle. This is a warrior's castle. No girly tapestries on the wall, no sissified petit point chairs, just dungeons and tunnels and turrets and well - you get the point.. Nice tour, but once again, you spend a lot of time getting there. Dublin - malachite Castle and Irish Pub. malachite was a very nice castle, although one fully furnished and made liveable. Then we were on to a pub for an Irish Coffee. You could actually order something else if you wanted. This was a neat place and there were fabulous flowers all over the little village. We had a good time but again. . . . long way there and back. Do you see a pattern emerging here? So, that's it. We had a jolly good time and would do it again. Oh - if you have an outside cabin be prepared for sunsets at 10:00 p.m. and sunrises at 5:00 a.m. Read Less
Sail Date July 2006
Golden Princess British Isles, August 10-20 2005 Wherein you will learn about *Sticker shock in London*The meat that could not be cut*A Welsh joke*Poor information*A registered complaint*Smooth seas*Surprising Belfast*Mysterious ... Read More
Golden Princess British Isles, August 10-20 2005 Wherein you will learn about *Sticker shock in London*The meat that could not be cut*A Welsh joke*Poor information*A registered complaint*Smooth seas*Surprising Belfast*Mysterious Orkney*and much much more About us: We are a couple in our very early 40's. Writing that is tough, by the way. No way are we Middle-Aged! This was our 9th cruise on Princess, and our second visit to Golden Princess. Our previous cruise on Golden Princess ranked as the best cruise we had ever been on, even surpassing our experience on Royal Princess. We have also sailed Sea, Grand, and Caribbean Princess. We have two future cruises booked with Princess. Why we chose this cruise: This cruise visited several ports in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland, and gave us an opportunity to visit London and southern England prior to the cruise. My wife likes history that includes royalty, castles, and medieval life; I was interested in pubs, and the golf program that was going to be offered on board. Regrettably, the operator organizing the golf outings backed out of the deal. This did not result in any disappointment; in fact, it allowed me to appreciate more of the history and probably saved a lot of money in the process. Pre-Cruise: We flew to London via American Airlines, coach class. The experience wasn't nearly as bad as I feared it might be, though it seems coach has gotten a little cozier since the last time I flew overseas. Heathrow turned out to be a real zoo, and it took a long time to get through the entry process. One hint is to get ahead of as many people with oddly-colored passports as possible, since you all go through the same line and people with red and green passports seem to take much longer than people with blue passports. It took over an hour to get through and collect our bags. Fortunately, the car service driver we had hired was patiently waiting for us once we got through the formalities to take us to our hotel. You can avoid this hassle by flying in upgraded seats and getting access to FasTrack, which gets you in and out of Heathrow more quickly. London: Lodging in London is expensive. Dining in London is expensive. Everything else is London is expensive. Be prepared for sticker shock. We used the Tube to get around which turned out to be very handy. In an ironic twist, the Underground passes we pre-ordered arrived in the mail the same day that terrorists chose to attack several trains. Security was in evidence at the stations and on the trains. London's subway system is surprisingly easy to navigate and has a very helpful website that can assist in selecting the best trains and stations to put you close to major attractions in the city. To save money, we lived on "pub grub" while in London. Sit-down restaurants of average quality will cost at least twice what you might expect to pay in the US. I made a major blunder by not asking for a refund form for the 17.5% Value Added Tax (VAT) that was applied to the cost of our hotel room. Be sure to ask for a form, which you must hand in upon departure from the UK, any time you make a large purchase. I am not sure that hotels are included in the refund. If they are, I contributed unnecessarily to the UK's tax man. When in doubt, ask if you can get a refund form. Transfer to Southampton: We hired a driver from Woodford Chauffeurs to pick us up at our Hyde Park hotel. Much has already been posted about Woodford Chauffeurs, and I will echo the statements made by many that their service is professional, friendly, and without peer. Our driver, Robert, was precisely on time and managed to load all our luggage into the Mercedes. We had purchased smaller suitcases than what we normally use for travel in the US, and they were still a bit of a problem to manage. One bag had to go in the front passenger seat. We had use of the car for the entire day, so we visited Windsor Castle, ate lunch at a county pub where we had probably the best meal we would have the entire trip with the exception of the Ultimate Balcony Breakfast described below, visited the Naval Museum at Portsmouth, and still had time to freshen up at our hotel in Southampton before going out for dinner with the owners of Woodford Chauffeurs and another couple we had met previously on Golden Princess. It was a lovely evening with good company, good food, and good wine, followed by cocktails at the DeVere Grand hotel. Prior to checking out of the hotel the following morning, we had some fun going to a nearby shopping center and stocking up on some supplies for our cabin. I also had discovered Sudoku, a type of puzzle that is extremely popular in the UK and is printed in the daily papers. With a book of Sudoku puzzles, some shortbread, and a few cans of beer, we were ready to head to the ship. Embarkation: Almost the entire complement of Woodford Chauffeurs' drivers and vehicles had been provided gratis to help get to the ship. The terminal at Southampton is the most efficient cruise facility I have ever seen. All we did was pull up, turn our bags over to the shoreside workers, and wait in a fast-moving line for just a few minutes before we were carded, photographed, and on board. Our bags were delivered to our cabin within ten minutes of our arrival. We were unpacked and ready to head topside for a snack before our welcome champagne arrived. I made no attempt to hide the fact that I had some beer with me, and no one even hinted that there was a problem bringing it on board. Sailaway: We had a very large Cruise Critic roll call group for this cruise. We met in Skywalker's for cocktails prior to departing Southampton. Usually this lounge is not open when leaving out of FLL, for example, but in this case the Outrigger Bar was closed. The weather turned out to be warm and sunny as we cast off our ropes and headed into the Solent on our way to the English Channel, so many of us procured re-fills and headed downstairs to enjoy the lovely weather and views. We passed the dock where Titanic departed Southampton. Ultimate Balcony Breakfast: Our first day was at sea. We chose to enjoy the Ultimate Balcony Breakfast this day, which was an extremely thoughtful, completely unexpected, and impossible to repay properly gift from a friend back home. The delivery time was arranged ahead of time by a call from Guest Services. At exactly the moment scheduled, a waiter arrived with what I thought were breakfasts for several cabins. Wrong-O! We asked the waiter set everything up inside because it was too chilly to sit outside. He brought in two large plates of crab quiche and cracked crab, then returned with smoked salmon, fresh fruit, coffee, tea, and a large tray of pastries. We tried to call anyone we knew to see if they could provide assistance. It is really enough food for at least 4 people. Everything was fresh, hot if it was supposed to be hot, and utterly delicious. This was to be the highlight of our dining experience during the entire time we were on board. Ports of Call Dublin, Republic of Ireland: We had a very long port call in Dublin, arriving early in the morning with scheduled departure around midnight. Docking in Dublin involved some complicated maneuvering on the part of the ship's captain with the assistance of a tugboat to help guide the ship's stern. The entrance to the dock is narrow. The dock itself is located in a container port and ferry loading area. It would be difficult it not impossible to walk to the city of Dublin itself. For a morning wake-up, we toured the St. James Gate Brewery, home of Guinness. It is the only brand brewed at St. James Gate. They have an elaborate visitors' center that is six stories tall, topped off by a hospitality room that has floor to ceiling glass and gives you the impression you are floating above the city. The pints of Guinness on offer only serve to heighten that experience. After the brewery tour, we explored some of the sites in the city on our own before boarding the shuttle back to the ship. The late departure made it possible for those who wished to book an evening dinner show that featured Irish dancing, singing, music, and comedy. We decided before we left home to book this tour so that we could accompany friends that we hadn't seen in a very long time. There were about 300 people from the ship that joined us. It didn't take long to realize that we had all made a terrible mistake. The venue was a hotel ballroom, packed to the rafters with all sorts of holiday bus tours, not just people from the ship. The room itself would probably be restricted to no more than 500 people by any judicious fire marshall, but was packed with a conservative estimate of twice that number. It was very hot inside, the food was awful (example - the beef could be cut only with difficulty), the servers were rude and would pointedly ignore people who asked for something (our friend asked to have our water pitcher refilled, and when full pitchers were eventually brought out, we did NOT get one). The Princess group was seated in the very back of the room, so only those of above-average height could see anything. By the end of the show, which lasted more than 2 hours, a large portion of the Princess tour group was in the hotel lobby or had gone outside to try and cool off. Even my wife who is ALWAYS cold was sweating profusely. Well, that's not nice, I was sweating, she was perspiring. The show itself was great, what I could see of it. The majority of people who were on this excursion headed to Horizon Court upon returning to the ship for some nourishment. Apparently, we were not alone in our assessment of the food served to us that evening. I later submitted a written complaint about this tour, and after a rather snotty acknowledgement from the excursions desk staffer, was eventually contacted with an apologetic letter and was credited back half of what we spent that evening. It was the first time I have ever had reason to make a formal complaint during a cruise, and the first time I have received a rude response from any crew member. In the end, it was resolved out to my satisfaction. Dublin is a crowded and bustling city. If I were to advise anyone visiting in the future, I would suggest a tour of the countryside in the morning, and use any time in the afternoon to visit the Temple Bar area of Dublin for a refreshing pint of Guinness or two. Guinness just tastes better in Dublin. Holyhead, Wales: This is a tender port, and one where the ship anchors quite a long way from shore. I was a bit surprised that tendering was permitted the morning we called at Holyhead. The wind and rain were both quite strong, and wave heights were high enough to make the trip in the tender quite rough. I presume that had the forecast not called for improved weather later in the day, we might have skipped this stop. Most, if not all the excursions to sites in northern Wales require about an hour of travel to cross the Anglesey peninsula. This makes for an early start and potentially a long day. Many of the tours were of the sightseeing type that involved plenty of seat time looking out a motor coach window. The countryside is spectacular, particularly Snowdonia. We learned the importance of proper rain gear that day, since it turned out our tour of Caernarfon Castle was mostly exposed to the elements. We eventually left the escorted tour of the grounds, and found a tiny tea shop where we could warm up and dry a little. The rains stopped about the time the driving portion of the tour began. Lucky us! Ordinarily we do not book these types of tours, but the availability of private tour operators in Wales is limited leaving us with few options. In retrospect, I wished we had gone to Conwy instead for a castle visit. It was just too miserable a day to be outside at Caernarfon, which is mostly in ruins. All tours in Wales must be required by law to stop at Llanfairpwllgwyngogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, which is Welsh for "Big -Ass Gift Shop And Tour Bus Parking Lot, Restrooms In The Rear". The locals will try to tell you the name has something to do with a tree and a creek and a chapel, among other things, but don't believe them. This is an example of Welsh humor. Belfast, Northern Ireland. Once again, the ship docked at a commercial seaport. Belfast is emerging from The Troubles, of which there are still signs aplenty and the occasional flare-up of sectarian violence. There is no tourist cruise terminal, so you take what you can get. We met John Collins, a local resident, through Cruise Critic and arranged with him to meet at the ship for a private tour of Belfast. We were in port on a Sunday, so traffic was light and we were able to visit most of the city including murals and memorials in several Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods, downtown and City Hall, Belfast Castle, the old dock sites where Titanic was built, take a river tour with Lagan Boats, and enjoy a Sunday Carvery feast at a friendly pub. The day was fully seized. We were able to honor the veterans of the Burma Campaign who were memorializing the 60th anniversary of the end of hostilities in the Pacific in 1945, and had a brief tour of the interior of City Hall complete with photos with the Lord Mayor of Belfast and Lady Mayoress. John was a friendly and knowledgeable guide who seemed to know EVERYONE in the city. Belfast was an unexpected treat that helped put our vacation back on an enjoyable footing after the disappointments in Dublin and soaking in Wales. Belfast Sidebar: Emotions still run high between Unionists and Nationalists in spite of the peace process. Like gangs in the US, each have their own neighborhoods with their own customs. I had put on a red shirt and blue pants that day, which unwittingly made me look like a Unionist supporter, whose colors are red and blue. I was a little uncomfortable in Nationalist neighborhoods, whose colors are the Irish green and gold. Fortunately there were few people about and no one said anything, and we certainly were in no danger. One does not want to cause offense, so neutral dress is probably advised. Greenock, Scotland: We were welcomed to Greenock by pipers playing a selection of Scottish tunes, just the right thing to stir the blood on a damp, chilly morning. Others might have differing opinions. Some porridge and a wee dram would have gone nicely too, to counteract the weather that had suddenly become traditionally Scottish. I love the pipes and can't get enough of them. We took advantage of the Greenock Tourist Boards free tours in the morning and visited Newark Castle. It is a small castle that is in excellent condition. You can explore most of the castle without much difficulty as long as you can get around easily. It probably is not a good site for those with disabilities of any kind, and most certainly not for those with wheelchairs. The local guides were all very nice. In one of the few moments where I was disappointed with my fellow travelers, most studiously ignored the donation box following the tour. All the local guides are volunteers. Our guide dropped us near a shopping center so we could go in search of better rain gear in case the weather remained poor for the Military Tattoo in Edinburgh in the evening. We found some cheap full-length rain coats, then had lunch in town at the James Watt pub, to pay homage to one of the greats of mechanical engineering. Later, we toured the local museum which had an interesting if somewhat mis-matched collection of shipbuilding, Egyptian, and natural history exhibits. The same evening, we boarded buses to drive across Scotland to Edinburgh for the Military Tattoo. This is an annual event held at Edinburgh Castle, and sells out well in advance. Some 900 people from Golden Princess made the trip. Some didn't, after receiving a letter from the Tour Desk stating that there would be no restroom facilities on the buses or stops on the way to and from Edinburgh, and extremely limited facilities at the Tattoo itself. Some cancelled their trip, only to find out later that the buses did have restrooms that could be used in emergency, and that a rest stop was made on the way. I remain unsure about the reason for the dire nature of the letter and the reality we experienced. Someone at the tour desk has egg on their face over this fiasco. The Tattoo was marvelous, worth the effort to get there. This is a great tour for people in wheelchairs, because they get to bypass the several thousand people lined up for the security checkpoint on the Royal Mile and are dropped off at the entrance. Somehow our guides kept us together throughout the entire event. Our group from Golden Princess was introduced prior to show, while the smaller group that was attending from Queen Elizabeth II did not get even a tiny mention. Neener neener, Cunarders! We returned to the ship around 1 AM, and had a very late supper in Horizon Court. It turned out that I had missed French Onion Soup and Escargot night in the dining room, much to my horror and much to my wife's relief. She has nightmares every time she has to watch me eating snails. I ALWAYS order seconds. Heh heh. Not this night. After 4 long and tiring days in port, a sea day was a welcome change. We sailed through surprisingly calm seas to Kirkwall in Orkney. During the day I enjoyed the Maitre d's wine tasting and had a chance to visit with Rui Pereira, Maitre D'Hotel for Golden Princess. Rui is an extremely approachable individual who clearly knows his wine. I also attended Richard Joseph's "Where Are They Now?" lecture on cruise ships and liners from days gone by. His knowledge of cruising history is extensive. It is worth going just to learn the history of Princess Cruise Lines and the fates of many of the great ships from the glory days of cruise and ocean liner travel. It makes one wonder if all the changes in recent years have really been for the better. The answer is both yes and no, I suspect. Kirkwall, Orkney: I was first off the ship at Orkney, and spent some time on the tender with the local pilot who gave me a brief education of all his duties. One thing I was surprised to find was that he inspected the complete passenger manifest. I made it to shore, only to find that my guide was NOT at the spot I thought we had agreed upon. Of course, it was raining. Frantically I used my rented UK-configured cell phone to call the guide. After a few confusing moments trying to figure out where each other were standing, we figured out that we were about 10 feet from one another and looked rather silly speaking on cell phones when all that was really needed was a slightly raised voice to be heard. The rest of the tour group made it to shore, and off we went with Wildabout Orkney Tours to visit the Neolithic and Norse historic sites for which Orkney is famous. Again, the reality of the tour exceeded any expectations. We were able to visit sites that pre-date the Pyramids in Egypt by a thousand years, yet look like they were abandoned only yesterday. Orkney must be seen to be fully appreciated, and I suspect one could spend many days there without becoming tired or seeing the same thing twice. After the tour, a few of us stopped at a local pub for a pint. Like most small bars everywhere, conversation ceased when we entered, but the local people soon welcomed us and thanked us for visiting their little establishment. Edinburgh, Scotland: Haven't we been here already? Golden Princess anchored within sight of the Forth Rail Bridge, a marvel of 19th-century engineering. I had arranged a private guide through the Scottish Tour Guide Association, who require that all their Blue Badge guides be accredited through their program before being permitted to conduct tours. As much as we wanted to re-visit Edinburgh, which is a beautiful city, we decided that we would just have to return by land to do the city justice, and went north to visit St. Andrews. We visited the Old Course, bought the requisite St. Andrews Links souvenirs to show off at my local golf club, toured St. Andrews Castle and Cathedral, visited the College, and then it was time for lunch. There is a lot to see in St. Andrews. I had to rein in our energetic guide. After several days of touring, and the continuing rain, we and the couple with us were just tired out and ready to relax in the snug of a welcoming pub. We enjoyed another great pub lunch washed down with a selection of local beers, and decided to head back to South Queensferry via the slow road through the coastal villages of East Neuk. Before we knew it, because we were all fast asleep, we were back at the tender dock and heading back to the ship for our final day of cruising before disembarking. Observations About the Ship and Service On Board We boarded Golden Princess with high expectations, given that our previous experience on the ship had been as close to a perfect cruise as one could get. It was unreasonable to expect a repeat performance, and that being the case, we were not surprised to run into a few problems. Our cabin steward was obviously very new, and seemed reluctant to speak with us. We figured out after a couple days that he was uncomfortable speaking English. He did a good job taking care of the cabin. After a few days, he relaxed a little and became more comfortable interacting with us. Some cabins on board had already received the new, upgraded bedding. Not us. Everything, from mattresses to pillows, needs to be discarded and replaced. Hopefully this has been done. Another thing I learned was that some of the AB minisuites located above the ship's tenders have the drive mechanisms for the launching gear directly underneath. There is a lot of noise when the booms that suspend the boats are being pushed out and retracted, and while the boats are being lowered or raised. It startled us the first time. Fortunately we were already awake. I'm not sure how we might have reacted had we still been asleep while the tenders were being readied. We normally do not attend many shows. I was chagrined to discover that performers from the same group we went to see in Dublin came on board and put on a great show while we suffered through their in-house version. We did see a couple of performers, Bob Tuck and Philippa Hayne, both of whom we thought were incredible. The topic of food quality onboard Golden Princess has been the subject of some recent energetic threads. I have to agree with those who said that the overall quality of food and service was not up to the level we normally take for granted on Princess. There were a few shining moments. We had breakfast on successive mornings at the same table in the dining room, with the same waiter, Rado from Poland. He remembered everything we liked on the second visit, and we didn't have to ask for anything. Outstanding service. I filled in a comment card the second day, and he said he would turn it in for us. After reading my comments, he gave it back and told me to turn it in myself. He said no one would believe the card if he turned it in. He was that good. Our lunchtime visits to the dining room were also quite pleasing. In the evening, it was a different story. We had 2nd seating, and felt bad because we planned to miss at least 3 evenings (one for Dublin, one for the Tattoo, and one to go to Stirling with our friends). The dining room was incredibly noisy, and our waiter seemed very rushed. We rarely saw the assistant; she seemed to be continuously running back and forth to the galley. Our team had a 10, 8, and 6-top to deal with. It was too much for them. The other two tables appeared to be ordering many extra dishes. The assistant was having to carry the equivalent load for twice as many tables. Most of the meals were good, but nothing really stood out as being excellent. Perhaps we have just gotten too used to the menu. I spoke to the Maitre d' (Rui) about my impressions, and he was apologetic. He then procured a bottle of wine for me. It was VERY good. I looked later to see what the price might be, but it did not appear on either the regular of Maitre d's wine lists. Private stock? Rui also brought out the nice Reidel glasses, opened, and served the wine for us. Service and food quality seemed to improve somewhat after that, but poor Patrizia was still running back and forth to the galley with heavy loads of food orders. We were forced to eat at Horizon Court twice during the cruise. I thought it was okay the night they were surprised by a large number of people from the Dublin dinner show. The meal that was ready for us after the Tattoo was, and get ready for this, little better than a school cafeteria. At 1:30 AM, I was too hungry and tired to complain. I suspect that the galley staff were unhappy about having to be up so late, and it showed. We ended up eating twice at Desert Rose, a.k.a. Sterling. The service and food quality were so good the first time we had to go back. It was even better the second time. We had requested the same waitress we had on our first visit. Margarett requested a special order from that evening's main dining room menu (chilled strawberry soup) and it was delivered without problem. I was highly impressed with Desert Rose/Sterling. The chocolate pecan pie is still To Die For. I discovered a new trick with room service. We ordered some tea and croissants to be delivered one morning where we had an early start for a tour. I didn't try to order anything extra. We had plenty of leftovers from the UBB. Although the first time on the card for delivery is 7 AM, I wrote in 6:30 because we expected to be off the ship shortly after 7. Our order was delivered at the time I requested, and as an added nice touch, the room service person called our cabin from the elevator lobby to alert us that he was on the way. No fumbling for robes or hiding out in the bathroom were required. It was a very thoughtful touch. The casino started out with its usual very tight reputation. Several people complained that the machines were so tight that there was no point in even trying to play. Someone must have gotten the message, and I had a couple of large winners on the poker machines, in addition to doing well at the table games. The dealers were quite friendly. There was almost no smoke in the casino, even when it was crowded. Either we were on a non-smoking cruise, or something has been improved. Personally, I think very few people were smoking and most of those who did went outside. We had great sailing conditions throughout the cruise. The Irish Sea and English Channel both have reputations for being quite rough. Not this time. We felt a little motion on the last day of the cruise, otherwise, we might as well have been sailing on a mill pond. Most everyone we met on board was pleasant, polite, and appropriately dressed for the evening. I had only one instance of excessively rude behavior, and that occurred while disembarking. All the bags were lined up by group, making it very easy to find your luggage. Carts are provided at no charge. A gentleman behind me insisted upon using his cart to ram the back of my ankles, I guess to get me to move forward in spite of the fact that there were people stopped in front of me. I asked him to stop, and he persisted. I finally turned around and made it clear where I intended to shove that cart if he hit me with it again. I don't think he understood precisely what I said, but got the message. And they say Americans can be rude... All the comments listed in this review, good and bad, were included in some way on my cruise evaluation form. I don't think I have ever been as critical about the service on board a Princess cruise, and that includes Caribbean Princess where my comments were pointed and extensive. Of course, credit was given where it was due. Somehow, life on board just didn't seem the same as we are used to. I am not sure if it was the fault of the itinerary with a couple long nights in port that probably messed up the crews' schedules, or if there were other forces at work. The crew members seemed friendly enough, yet there wasn't the sense that everyone was hitting all their marks properly. Fortunately, the port visits made up for any deficiencies on board. Almost every day was memorable, some are going to be hard to beat. Every port we visited was worthy of a longer visit on land. Next summer, this same itinerary will have Falmouth added as an additional port on the first day, which was a sea day for us. Therefore, it will be an even busier cruise than we experienced. I heartily recommend this itinerary, but would caution anyone considering it to pace themselves. We were worn out by the time we hit our last port call. I think we got our value out of this cruise due to having so many great days in the various ports; the on-board experience maybe less so. Finally, I would like to thank Globaliser for all her outstanding assistance and advice on these message boards. Her contributions helped us have a great time in London and during the cruise. Also, thanks very much to Beth (Calikak) and many other CC members who came home from the July version of the British Isles cruise with so much good information. My thanks also, to those who have read all this and remain awake. Read Less
Sail Date August 2005
A beautiful sight awaited us in this early morning arrival in Southampton. The Queen Mary 2 had arrived. We had just completed the first leg of our B2B cruises, the first being the British Isles. This second leg would take us to Western ... Read More
A beautiful sight awaited us in this early morning arrival in Southampton. The Queen Mary 2 had arrived. We had just completed the first leg of our B2B cruises, the first being the British Isles. This second leg would take us to Western Europe. The comments contained in this review are ours alone. Other passengers on this same cruise may have different opinions. There are many reviews on the Golden Princess so we will not go into details of the ship at this time. We were looking forward to sailing past QM2 on our way out of port however we were delayed by an hour and a half and she had set sail already. Our first port and one of biggest surprises was Zeebrugge, Belgium. We took the walking and canal boat tour of Brugges. What a wonderful city this was. Brugges is a very old city with canals, cobblestone streets, narrow alleyways and tons of history. Our tour guide was a delightful lady who loved to show off her city. The ride through the canals was beautiful. Just a note here. If you have problems walking this tour is not for you. The walk is long over uneven terrain. Now the real good part. Belgian Chocolates and fresh made Belgian Waffles with a large scoop of ice cream on top. All of this low cal of course. Do not miss touring this city. It is marvelous. After a day at sea and a beautiful sail up the 57 mile Fjord we arrived in Oslo Norway. The arrival in this picture perfect port was a sight we will never forget. Oslo is very very expensive, even more so than London. We can describe our day in Oslo in three words, "got really lost"!. We did not signup for a ship tour. It was chaos at the city sightseeing bus and they we charging $28 each for the hop on hop off. We wanted to see Vigeland, it was a beautiful day and they told us just to follow the trolley tracks and it's an easy 20 minute walk. Sounds easy right ? Wrong ! We did follow the trolley track until a point they merged with a bunch of other trolley tracks, went left, went right, went in a circle and I swear up the side of a building. Ask directions ? Not a chance ! After about and hour and a half we put two and two together and figured we were lost. We found our way back to the ship and now we laugh at our adventure in the beautiful town of Oslo. Another surprise port was Copenhagen. We loved it. The Golden Princess docks in an area of small shops very close to where the Little Mermaid sits. It is a beautiful walk along the waterfront into the city. We had a Coke, a local beer which paralyzed my legs and three of the worst open face sandwiches we have ever tasted. The cost, 70DKK. Still haven't figured that one out. Along the canal is a multitude of eating and drinking places. Copenhagen has a good shopping area with blocks and blocks of shops. We walked back to the ship and stopped for photo's at the Mermaid. I took a nap and my wife still had to visit all the waterfront shops. Another wonderful day ! The next day at sea we encountered force 9 gale force winds. Golden Princess handled the seas very well. I am sorry to say Hamburg Germany was not one of our favorite stops. This could possibly be because it was Sunday and everything was closed. We talked to people who went to Berlin and found the same situation. Sunday in Germany is spent with the family. Good for them ! We took the city tour and although our guide was good we were not impressed with anything we saw. Again this was just our opinion and other passengers may feel different. We left Hamburg at 6am the following morning. A highlight was sailing down the Elbe, it is a ship watchers paradise. Tons of river traffic and beautiful country side scenery. Next stop Rotterdam, another beautiful city. The ship docks downtown and there was a shuttle into town. Again we opted for the city tour and harbor cruise. Many passengers opted for the trip to Amsterdam. The reports we heard was that it was a beautiful city but as most tours not enough time to really enjoy it. Rotterdam was another nice surprise. We will put this wonderful city in our memory bank and think about it often. Princess saved the best for last. The port of LeHarve. From LeHarve many passengers took the long trip to Paris but I had to live a dream and we headed for Normandy and the landing beaches. It was a very long drive but worth every long mile. Enroute we stopped at a farm house converted to a saw the beaches where the Canadian and British forces landed but the highlight was Omaha Beach. When we arrived at Omaha Beach the guide said we have 10 minutes and be back on the bus. You should have heard the comments from the people. 10 minutes it was but we stood , tears in eyes and both feet in the sand of Omaha Beach. I swear you could see the landing and hear the sounds of battle. We have not felt like that since we stood on the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. The peak emotional experience was still to come. We then visited the American Cemetery on the bluff overlooking Omaha Beach. We walked among the 9300 graves and could only say "God, don't ever let this happen again"! The grounds are beautiful and maintained by the United States Government. Our last stop was on a bluff where in the fortified bunkers the Germans had the 155 mm canons placed. They took a great toll on ships and men. It was a long and exhausting day but what we saw we will never forget. We arrived back at Southampton at 5am and after an easy debarkation was off on the two hour trip to Heathrow. We cleared security with ease, boarded the cattlecar section of British Air and suffered through the nearly 8 hour flight to Detroit. The memories of this adventure will last a lifetime.   Read Less
Sail Date July 2005
My husband and I sailed on the June 11 cruise of the British Isles to Ireland, Wales and Scotland to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary (the kids stayed home with grandparents). This was our 4th cruise but our first on Princess. ... Read More
My husband and I sailed on the June 11 cruise of the British Isles to Ireland, Wales and Scotland to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary (the kids stayed home with grandparents). This was our 4th cruise but our first on Princess. Getting on the ship was very easy and quick. We took a train from the airport to Southampton and then a brief cab ride to the ship. The ship was beautiful and large with many different activities to choose from. It seemed like we didn't have time to try all of the amenities on board and I would love to sail on this ship again. There were plenty of heated swimming pools, hot tubs, ping pong tables and sitting areas. There weren't many children on our cruise (about 145 total) but they looked to be having fun. The teens we talked to were very nice and said they were having a great time. We had an inside room at the back of the ship. The room was nicely furnished with a large closet and the bed was very comfortable. We also enjoyed having a refrigerator in the room. Our cabin steward was great. We loved the location of our cabin for the great views from the back of the ship and easy access to the pools and buffet. We used the ship's laundry room several times. It was always busy but worked well. We had the flexible dinner seating. We were apprehensive about this at first but soon loved it for the flexibility and meeting new people each meal. The downside was that we never got to know the waiters very well. I really liked the food, especially the fish and seafood choices and the desserts. We ate in the Southwest dining room one night. My husband really liked the steak but I was not as impressed with the food (especially not being a steak lover). The service and atmosphere were extremely nice. We didn't like the buffet food very much but ate breakfast there most of the time since we didn't get up early enough to make the dining room before our tour. The pizza and hamburger grill were good. We didn't try the ice cream bar but heard some complaints about having to pay extra for it. The alcohol prices seemed reasonable, especially since they were in dollars and not pounds. At the ports we explored Dublin and Edinburgh on our own and took ship tours at the other ports. In retrospect we shouldn't have taken three ship tours in a row as we got thoroughly tired of riding in coaches all day. I usually fell asleep as soon as I got on board. Our favorite tour was to the Giant's Causeway. Our least favorite was the wool center/sheepdog/boat ride excursion in Scotland. The wool center was just a gift shop and the dogs didn't do very much except sit and look cute. The boat ride was nice but pretty boring. All of our tour guides were very knowledgeable about the history of the area and seemed to really enjoy their jobs. The Orkney Islands stop proved to be a positive surprise of the trip. The town was lovely with nice reasonably priced shops and cafes. The people were very friendly and seemed thrilled to have our ship nearby. Edinburgh was also a wonderful city and we were blessed with good weather the day of our visit. During the evenings on the ship we went to at least one and usually two of the shows offered. I enjoyed the comedians, the Irish dancers/singers and the opera singer the most. The cruise director's talk about the history of cruise ships was a highlight of our trip and we talked about it for the rest of the trip. We visited the casino a few times but promptly lost a few dollars and left. We didn't go to any of the movies in the theater for lack of time but the offerings were all recent and sounded good. The theater was very nice with no pillars blocking views. The only downside of the cruise was that there was no connection at all between life on the ship and the ports we visited. There were no talks about the ports. The live entertainment was generically American other than one performance of Irish dancers/singers. The tour desk staff seemed to know absolutely nothing about the ports we were visiting. They had no information on local transportation or activities that would be available. All they could do was process forms and tickets. This contrasted with other cruises we had been on which featured a lot of local entertainers and educational talks about the history and attractions of the area we were visiting. My advice to future travelers would be to do as much research on your own as possible about the ports to be visited. In general the ship food and activities was pretty generic and the same from day to day. There were no theme celebrations in the dining rooms or baked Alaska on parade or midnight buffets. Also, just a warning that departure times getting off the ship the last day may be much earlier than published. We were on the last color scheduled to depart at 9 a.m. but were called at 8 a.m. We ended up waiting a long time at the bus station and several people we were eating breakfast with in the dining room had to abandon their food when their color was called an hour early. All in all I had a very fun time and enjoyed having someone else cooking, cleaning and making the bed. i really enjoyed the live entertainment, the swimming pools and the dining rooms. I hope to sail the Golden Princess again on a different itinerary, hopefully someplace warm where I can enjoy the pools and outdoor activities on the ship. Read Less
Sail Date June 2005
This is PART 2 of a Two Part Review Read Part 1. Day 13 - Barcelona, Gerona, Stanstead We decided that 7am was a good time to get off the ship. Enough things would be open in town by the time we got there. We collected our luggage ... Read More
This is PART 2 of a Two Part Review Read Part 1. Day 13 - Barcelona, Gerona, Stanstead We decided that 7am was a good time to get off the ship. Enough things would be open in town by the time we got there. We collected our luggage from the terminal, then dragged it to the front of the taxi rank - which most inconveniently was located at the opposite end to the exit doors. We started off up the road across the draw bridge that exited the terminal area, only to have to wait for 20 min as the bridge went up to let another Princess ship come in to berth. And yes you know the taxi meter was running... Eventually we got to the rail station, after negotiating the road works in town that our taxi driver seemed to be drawn to. A 10Euro trip cost us 19.80 Euros. Needless to say we did not tip him. Taxi drivers will be the first against the wall come the revolution! At the train station we stowed the luggage then stopped for coffee. The underground station was right there, so we did not rush ourselves. Hubby was still a wee bit fragile, so it was a matter of knowing where all the loos were...The Purser on the ship had said that Ryan Air did a bus to Gerona. but her wasn't sure where it would leave from. I intended to call them. But their offices did not open until 9am. We talked about this option. It would be 10 Euros each, and we were not sure if the vehicle would have a/c. The train would cost 5.50 each and we figured it had a/c, if the station did. Also, we did not relish having to lug suitcases across the city, or, being at the mercy of another ^**&*!# taxi driver. There was his stomach to consider too - the train would definitely have a toilet. We decided to stay with out first plan. We wanted to buy tickets for our train now, rather than later. We were not sure how to use the automatic machines, they were a bit more complex than the ones we had used for other things. So we q'd at the info to find out if this was possible - the q here was much smaller than those to the ticket booths. Finally we spoke to a woman who gave us a time table, and said we would not be able to buy tickets until about 30 min before the departure of the train. Oh well. We checked the platform info again, and this is when I noticed a sign saying that there was track maintenance going on between two of the stops on our route, which was slowing trains by between 30 - 45 min. We were glad we saw this, as it affected the time we turned up at the station - we decided to get the earlier train. We went down into the subterranean transport system. Tickets were purchased from automatic machines, and the platform had screens advising when the next train would be along - 3 min I think was what was said when we got there. It was stiflingly hot, which surprised me, I had expected it to be a bit cooler. The paper fan got a beating this day. The train arrived as advertised, and we were on our way to the Barrio Gothic. At the exit there was a large covered food market on the Ramblais, a wide tree lined avenue. We decided to have a look around it. All that fresh fish. Huge mounds of shrimp and sardines. The market was divided into food types, fish, meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts and sweets, dairy. I would have liked to have picked up some cheese, but it was not practical. We walked on into the the Barrio proper and wandered into the Plaza St. Joseph Oriol, where we found a nice cafe. We settled down to watch the setting up of an art market. We watched the family at the table next to us, and those at the tables around us. We must have sat there for nearly 2 hours, we really just wanted to do the Mediterranean sitting and watching thing. I did a bit more to the diary, and ran the pen dry. Earl popped into a 'Hallmark' shop and got me another. The cafe was getting busy, so we decide to look further into the area. We wandered around the art market, seemed it was being put on by the local art club. Wed then came up around the cathedral from the rear. The streets were narrow to the point were four people had difficulty walking abreast. We saw street musicians, and a flamenco group performing. We finally got to the in front of the cathedral, and the main sq. in front of that. We selected a cafe and topped up on water and beer. We sat for a while then decided to select another for lunch - a sort of cafe crawl. Opposite the cafe we were at, were two others and we checked out their menus. Deciding on one with a modern decor and design feel. I started with a fruit and veg salad, then we both had the mixed grill, very filling. It was about 2:30 so we decided to head back to the rail station for the earlier train. We took the underground again and arrived in time for the 15:50 train. The terminal has a large board displaying the out/in bound trains and what platforms they are on. You need to know this as the terminal has stairs to each platform, and machines to put your ticket into as you go down. At that point the platform information was not showing. We had another look at the automatic ticket machines and decided we would give them a try, pressed destination, then pressed the train type (there are a couple of different companies running trains), then insert the correct money, out pops the ticket - that wasn't so hard. We kept checking the sign, still no luck. 15:50 came and went. The next train would be 16:20. I took a ticket at the info booth - #331, now serving 285...we were not the only ones. A mass of people had grouped in the vicinity of platform 4, the one that had been posted on the printed schedule. I waited in line to find out what was going on. By now it was 16:10. Then they flipped the sign to show the platform number (4), and the herds began to move. We shuffled towards the ticket validating machines with everyone else. To find that our tickets did not fit in the machine! We were causing a bottle neck so we moved to the side, and I spotted a platform official. Holding up the ticket I inquired "Where?!" He pointed us around the corner "Ticket Controller". We hurried around to the area he had pointed to. More validation machines. But there was a glass fronted office and I shoved the ticket up against the glass and inquired "Where?!!" The guy in the office (with his feet up on the desk as a fag hanging out of his mouth) waved us to go through the gate by the office front. We went, I said that if this wasn't right the ticket collector could sort it out on the train. Hubby grabbed the two big cases, I had the carry on and we ran down the stairs to the platform. The train was there, we got on at the nearest door dragged the bags into the nearest four seater. As we sat, the train began to move, that was what is called cutting it fine. We consulted the time table the info woman had given us to make sure we were going in the right direction - seemed we were, so we sat back and relaxed. The train was delayed for about 30 min at one point, then the ticket collector came down the isle. I put our tickets on the edge of the table, he looked, and walked on. Seems that automatic ticket machines dispense tickets that do not need to be validated. Eventually we arrived at Gerona, and got into one of the many taxis waiting outside the station. The airport is about 12 miles from the train station. At the airport it seemed the plane was on time, so we had a couple of hours to relax. I changed clothes in the toilets. Then we sat and waited. Everything went smoothly until we were loaded up on the plane. That was when the pilot chose to tell us we would be delayed (again - remember the outward flight?) for about 45m in. So we sat some more. When we did get under way, the pilot was definitely trying to make up the time. We taxied at about 70 mph, and did not bother with that little pause they usually do at the end of the runway, no sir, he just got it turned and lined up, then gunned the engines. Off we went. The flight was uneventful (thank goodness, we were definitely ready to be home now). At Stanstead we got through customs and collected the bags in about 40 min. I called the car park people and told them we were at the pick up point (the one they had told us to wait at when they had dropped us off). He said it would be about 10 min. After 20 I wondered where they were, I noticed folks walking into the car park we had been dropped off at, I followed them, curious as to who was collecting them. Seems it was the folks we were waiting for. I asked the driver why they were collecting here and not in the area we had been told to wait. He said that this was the area we had been told to wait at. I did not argue with him, but called the 'controller' again. "You will be on the next one down", says he. There was a rather irate woman who now joined our little group, she had been standing at the 'designated area' for an hour. I said, "So that was were they told you too?" Another van pulled up, but his was for "RUSSEL". By now hubby had joined the party. The irate woman was about to burst a blood vessel. I sympathized with her. She got into the van, "I don't care who this is for, they are not here, this is ours", says she. The driver did not seemed inclined to argue. Another came along. The driver was very apologetic, diffusing what could have become an ugly riot. Tired stressed people have a tendency to violence first, talk later. He loaded up our bags. More folks were moving around from the 'pick up point' to join the melee. We had our seats and were not going to give them up. At the car park we were offloaded and I collected the keys. I said to the controller, "you might want to tell people when they call in that you have moved the pick up point, it will only get worse out there, and you are not doing the company reputation any good", I don't think he cared. So at last and at long last, we were on our way home. I had the fleeting thought that we would break down on the way back, the way our luck with transport had been going. As a final insult. We ran the CD copied from our memory sticks by Princess, at that vastly over priced fee, into the DVD player, and discovered that none of the mini-movies had made it through the copying process. So no gondolas, no pigeons in St. Marks Sq. no Bridge of Sighs, no Grand Bazaar, no Blue Mosque courtyard, no Sparrows eating peanuts from our fingers...I was REALLY annoyed. And this was not due to being tired either. -------------------------------- This has been an experience we would not have missed, despite all the stressful situations. If this had been our first cruising experience, we would have considered it acceptable. However, we have both experienced higher levels of quality, I would rate this on a par with Carnival (not surprising as they have taken over the Princess line), fine for a 3 day, but becomes hell after 7 days. We have cruised, Carnival, Royal Carribean, Princess and hubby has experienced Costa too. Of these I would rate Princess after Costa and Royal Caribbean This may be due to our cruising at the height of the season, I will compare between RC (Royal Caribbean) and Princess. Princess have the extra wide terraced balconies, which means that from Caribe deck down to Emerald the balconies are half exposed to those above. OK if you don't mind the goldfish bowl lifestyle... Also, if you are in a cabin near to the front you will also be under the scrutiny of the bridge crew as well. RC, are smaller balconies, but, they have real wood decks, rather than the plastic tiles (rather hard on the feet), and they are private. The rooms. Princess have reasonable sized rooms, plenty of mirrors to make them look bigger. However, in the room we had the walk in wardrobe (actually it is an open rail, no doors) is right in front of the bathroom, so when the door to the bathroom is open it blocks the wardrobe and shelving area. RC have sliding doors to the wardrobe and enough space between the bathroom door, to use both areas comfortably. The bathroom decor of RC, in my opinion is nicer to look at, Princess have gone all out with the cream tile and corrian with pale blue accents, a bit old fashioned. The bed. Princess take the two twin mattresses and push them together, RC make the bed with a queen mattress, very much more comfortable. The TV/bill process. RC enable you to check your on board account using the room tv and remote, Princess make you go to the Pursers desk to get your bill printed out - none of that delivery to the room before you sign to pay up. Also, the tips are automatically added to each days bill - per person, so if you have any question with the service, you will not have the option to set the tip yourself, you will have to contest the tip at the end. RC still allow you to pay the tip separately from the room bill. Room Service. Princess definitely get first place here. Room service was punctual, and accurate, also the food arrived fresh. Public areas. Princess seem to think that all public areas should have musak playing, so don't expect to hear the sound of the waves or the wind - unless you are confined to your balcony. Also, the promenade deck on Princess is metal, painted to look like wood planks, how tacky. The interior areas are smaller on the Princess ship, they have devoted more space to the shops and trying to part you from your money. RC is not as mercenary, they do not have 'art' auctions every day they can, nor, keep the ship at sea to do this (really, it does not take a whole day and a half to go from Monaco to Barcelona, unless you want to fit yet another auction in). There is an adult only pool and sitting area specified on Princess. But, as it is not an enforced rule, do expect to have to listen to unattended children running amok in this area, as well as every other. Again, this could have been due to the time of year we went - won't make that mistake again. Food. Princess have the 'personal choice' dinning option. Convenient on a port intensive cruise, but, the two specialist dinning rooms serve the same menu throughout the cruise. The main dinning rooms are fair, to middli'n, nothing spectacular, both lines offer 'seconds' or if you want to eat just desert, go for it... The buffet was not consistent, some items were very good, others were bad. Bit hit and miss. Public facilities. Yes, the jacuzzies are open 24/7 on the Princess ship, except the day of our anniversary (!) Apparently the ship prepares for the next herd's arrival, 3 days before, and as a result they close all the jacuzzi's at once for 'maintenance' (or as one of the crew stated, 'We have so many kids on board...') The casino on any cruise ship is tight, don't expect to win the cost of your cruise here. After all if you don't like it, what are you to do? We don't normally do the shows, so I can't comment on the Princess versions. Safety. We did get to see the Princess theater, as this was the area we were taken to for the safety briefing - they told us where we should muster and let us try on the life jackets - the idea being that unless it is a sinking emergency, this will be the muster area. Of course that's if you survive the trampling that will happen should there be a for real emergency. I felt safer with the more traditional approach from R C. At least they took a roll call, rather than the princess idea of sending people to check the rooms - somehow I can't see members of the crew volunteering to check rooms as the ship gradually slides below the waves! Port dock locations. Princess seem to favor the cheaper berths (the one furthest away from the town area) that then enable them to charge you to use a coach to get into the port town itself. They even charged to use the tender service to get into Monaco. RC are able to dock either close enough to town to walk in, or, they provide FREE shuttle buses, and tenders to get into the port. Princess do provide a representative in the port town to answer questions as you get off the coach. On the Med cruise we took this year, we did notice that in every location RC had prime locations for their berths. Tours. Normally we prefer to go independent, but we did opt to take one tour with Princess in Istanbul, which was a reasonable value for money, although the guide had rather a thick accent and the group was rather large, so there was much jostling to get close enough to hear him. Beware, the 'carpet demonstration' is actually a carpet selling 'demonstration', don't expect to see weaving or dying on this, I think the guides uncle owns the shop... Emarkation/Disembarkation. Both companies offered comparable queuing experiences to get on, despite the 'express check in' we had requested from Princess (along with everyone else, makes a mockery of the idea really.) The disembarkation was smooth on both cruises. The Golden Princess is only 2 years old, but is looking a little worn - carpets with bare areas, cracked marble tiles, worn brass trim, and the spa pool needed a good steam cleaning. Fair enough, this was towards the end of the summer cruising, but, the ship should be presented in the same state for every cruise, after all we are paying the same, if not more for that to be the case. The Voyager of the Seas our RC cruise was less obviously worn, although the ship was at that point in its life of a similar age. The time of year can only be blamed so much, there comes a point when it is up to the cruise company to ensure the consistency of the product regardless of the time of year the product is being offered. Of course it could be the fact that Princess has been taken over by Carnival Cruises... Read Less
Sail Date July 2003
Below is a day by day of our recent GOLDEN PRINCESS TRIP ROUND THE WESTERN MED. I have also included my answer to a question, comparing princess to another cruise line (in this case Royal Caribbean) i posted on another chat board. Hope ... Read More
Below is a day by day of our recent GOLDEN PRINCESS TRIP ROUND THE WESTERN MED. I have also included my answer to a question, comparing princess to another cruise line (in this case Royal Caribbean) i posted on another chat board. Hope this is helpful to other cruisers. Carole Davis Day 1, Stanstead to Treviso and Venice Our flight was at 6:25am, so we had to get up at 2am to get to Stanstead for 4:30am. We had the car booked in at the car park so got to them, and they then took us to the terminal, so far so good. The check in lines were quite long, and Ryan Air did not open them until 6:45. However, the boarding started on time, and we got seats about 5 rows from the front. Then we sat there, and sat there. Then the Capt. told us all that the luggage carousel had broken down and we were waiting for it to be fixed so the remaining luggage could be delivered. In the meantime we had missed the take off slot, so would not be getting another for 50 min. I just hoped the buses that were supposed to take us to Venice from Treviso would still be there. Finally we took off, and the remainder of the flight was without incident. We got to Treviso, (about 30 miles north of Venice) and collected our luggage. The terminal building was small and had a bureau de change, car hire offices, and a ticket office in the foyer. I left hubby with the luggage while I went to find out where the buses were. Found 2 of them and established that we had to buy tickets at the terminal office. So I queued for those. Finally got loaded up on to the bus, hubby had to stand as they were full, the buses A/C was also broken, and the temp was around 95°... so needless to say this was not the most comfortable trip we had ever taken, I think they poured us off in Venice... So, there we were in the Piazzale Roma, the center for buses and vaporettos (the water buses) of Venice. The place was crawling with folks all dragging luggage, or staring at maps or queuing for tickets. I went to get the Venice Blue Ticket I had ordered on line. The ticket official looked at me as if I had 2 heads when I gave her the email reservation sheet. After about 15 min it was established that I still had to pay for the ticket, sort of useless ordering it on line really. Anyway, we had been told that there was a free shuttle to the harbor terminal from the bus station, but could we find it? We stood in the blazing heat for a while in the hope that it would drive past us. Husband went to ask at an info booth, and they said we could walk from that location in about 10 min. So, off we went, dragging a large suite case and a carry on each. We discovered that the '10 min' walk included crossing the railway tracks by a metal bridge. The heat was stifling, and the cases got heavier and heavier. We got to the ship dock, only to be told that we could drop off our luggage there, but we would have to go to the terminal to check in. Off we slogged around the harbor to the other side. The terminal building was beside the docking berth for the Costa Ship, and was signed for their embarkation. We hunted around for Princess signs and were told to follow the Costa signs to the upper floor at the end. We had requested 'express check in' and completed all the paperwork before leaving. Seems of the 200 people there at that time 198 of them had also requested this option, and as there were about 12 check in desks you can imagine that we found ourselves queuing yet again. Finally we had our keys, and made our way to the ship. The room was ok, not fabulous but clean (despite the rather nasty stain on the carpet), with enough space for us. The 'walk-in' closet was right outside the bathroom door, which meant if one of us was selecting clothes, the other could not come out of the bathroom until they had moved. The bed was two singles pushed together. There were plenty of mirrors to increase the light and make the space look bigger. The balcony was large with 2 reclining chairs, 2 regular chairs, a table and foot stool. The deck was covered in hard plastic tiles with a rather uncomfortable non-slip surface which I ended up using the interior mat to cover in front of my chair when I sat out. However, the ships balconies were terraced, which meant that half of the balcony area was exposed to the floors above, and the same to those below. Our room was about 5 from the very front of the ship, so we were also overlooked by the bridge facilities which stick out from the side of the ship, somewhat like a hammer head shark. We showered ( the shower was small but the head was powerful and easy to operate) changed and refilled our water bottles. We headed back to Venice and found our first vaporetto down the Grand Canal to the Rialto bridge. Then changed to the one that took us to Murano the glass making center. We ended up in the second studio from the harbor. I found a glass bowl to replace one that had been broken in one of the moves, some glass beads for Mum, 2 Miafiori medallions for hubbie's Mum and Grandmother. So we did very well there! We took the vaporetto around the island of Venice to St Marcs Sq. Where we joined the throngs looking at the amazing architecture. It wasn't too long before we decided to revisit the square early in the morning of the next day, to see it without all the people. We then walked to the super market, so we could stock up on wine. We also needed washing tablets for the laundry on board, (but I forgot them this trip and had to return the next day). So it was about 6pm and we were completely exhausted by now. We made our way back to the ship via the vaporetto picked up again at the Rialto bridge. The Venice Blue Card had paid for itself already. Back on board we decided to eat in the southwestern style Desert Rose, one of the cover charge restaurants ($8 each). As we were anytime dining we could eat when it suited us, very convenient, especially with the port intensive trip we were on. The restaurant only had 4 other people in it, so where did they sit us...? yes you guessed it, right beside them. There was a duo singing - they had both kinds, Country and Western...so loud that I could not hear what hubby was saying on the other side of the table. The food was tasty, but the portions were small, later in the cruise we realized we could have asked for 2 of the things we liked. We strolled around the Promenade deck, then went back to the room. Thus ended the first full day. Day 2 - Venice This may sound crazy, but we had breakfast delivered at 5:45am so we could eat it on the balcony without rushing, then be at St Marcs Sq. by 7am or as close as. What they don't tell you is that you can order what you want for breakfast, not just what is on the door card. So we had scrambled eggs and omelets, toast, croissant and orange juice. A good set up for the day. We took the vaporetto to St. Marcs Sq. and I took lots of pictures - in the process discovering that the camera has a video capture facility with sound! Magic! So I did video of the sq. and the pigeons, the gondolas, the Bridge of Sighs with a boat going under, etc. etc. took the vaporetto across the Grand Canal to the Academia gallery. It is just as well we got there early (8:15am) as there was no air conditioning, or electric lights - everything had to be viewed by natural light. Many Tintoretto's, Giotto's, Bellini's, and of course the Titan's. We spent 3 hours there then spent an hour or so in the cafe in the sq. outside watching the world go by - mainly sweating across the Academia Bridge over the Canal, we got video of a sparrow eating peanuts out of my hand. We crossed back over the canal then made our way through the streets to the supermarket again (for washing tablets, remember?) On the way we stopped in a masque shop and picked up a black and gold cat masque. We then proceeded to get HOPLESSLY lost. In and out of the narrow streets. The trouble is you have to plan your route to the bridges - and not every street has a bridge. We did go through this one square 3 times, basically we took every street out of it there was. Eventually we found our way to the street with the supermarket and got the washing tabs - next time I think I'll just pack enough for about 4 washes. Unfortunately the time we spent looking was the time we could have had in a restaurant. So we never did end up trying Venetian cuisine. Instead we headed back to the ship, a/c and showers. We did laundry and ironing (all my clothes had become crushed in the getting there, so this was the best opportunity to fix that. Also as there was no ironing board in the room, I figured this was a good idea). We then had to do the safety drill. This had to be the biggest waste of time. They herded us into the theater at the front of the ship, then told us where we would have to go if there was an honest to god 'abandon ship' emergency going on. Otherwise we would just stay in the theater. There was no roll call. Instead they sent people to check the rooms - yeah right, I can see that happening as the ship slides beneath the waves... We then changed and went to eat in the Donatello restaurant. There are 2 'anytime' eating restaurants - Donatello and Bellini. It seemed that folks did not realize that they had the same menu. Everyone was crowding to get into the Bellini, upstairs and completely ignoring the Donatello beneath it. We decided to check both out, and of course picked the one with no q's. So, we had 6 waiters hovering around us practicing their English and whipping the plates away as the last mouthful was being consumed. Then a large party of Orientals sat in the same area as our table, and all the chatting stopped. Quite nice not to be asked a question every time you put something in your mouth! We then walked the Prom deck again and then returned to our balcony to watch the ship leave Venice. As usual, our balcony was on the wrong side. ( Must remember for future to book a right side cabin) But never the less we had a very good view of Guiddecca Island as we left. We polished off a bottle of Asti while we took pics, and wondered why they had Andrea Botchelli singing his greatest 'musak' hits. Rather than Verdi, Puccini, Vivaldi, or any of the great opera arias, which would have been SO much more appropriate. (little did we know what was in store for Istanbul...) We cleared the harbor and immediately noticed the wind pick up and the white caps on the waves. The weather was choppy the whole night, and I discovered that the ship 'sounded' as it rose and fell onto the water, so the booming echoing through the hull kept me awake most of the night. I was glad the next day was a day at sea. So here we were all at sea at the end of day 2. Day 3 - All at sea. We slept in until 9am. Then had breakfast on the balcony before strolling through the casino to Sabatini's. ($15 cover charge each here). The slots are very tight on the ship, forget winning your trip expenses. As we progressed, we could not help but notice all the ads for the art auctions that afternoon - and the next day. A very heavy sell. We were the only ones taking 'brunch' in Sabatini's, which we found out later only serves the one menu through out the cruise. The meal was nice, we did a bottle of Asti with it. Which the waiters seemed to find amusing. (So what if it is cheap!). We were there about 1 1/2 hours to do the full 5 courses. Then we changed into swim gear and decided to try out the Terrace pool, which was supposed to be for adults only. Of course by this time it was 2pm, and the place was swarming. There were no loungers left, and a multitude of empty ones with towels left on them, despite the signs saying not to 'reserve' them. We sat on the wooden steps at the one side of the pool, which was about 6ft deep and about 18ft across. The Horizon Court buffet was near here and there was a pool bar. Both areas playing their own musak. So between the sound of hundreds of people talking, the two types of musak and the water churning from the props below, it was not a quiet place to be. Still we swore we would get a good spot the next day... We returned to the room to change for the formal night, and meet with the folks I had been emailing prior to the trip. We were a little late but 3 other couples showed. Funny, about 30 people replied to the email Laura sent out. Amongst those that did not show were our neighbors on the left side of our room. I had received an email from them a week before saying they were in the cabin beside us, and hoping that we did not party too who knew... I had hoped they would come to the gathering so we could say hello and decide if we wanted to associate with them further. We had seen each other from our balconies, but they had not seemed too concerned with doing the 'over the garden fence thing', which suited us. So, as they did not show, we were glad we had not made contact. We stayed with the group for a couple of hours then promenaded the atrium area looking at the other dressed up folks. Then we made our way to the Bellini restaurant for dinner, retiring to the room after that. Day 4 - also at sea. We rose at 6am, for breakfast, determined to secure a slab of real estate at the terrace pool. This we did, and found a small spot on the level over looking the pool just large enough for 4 loungers. We had a nice unobstructed view of the Greek Islands as we passed, in the shade. Basically we stayed there all day, reading, writing and eating. We had copious amounts of the fresh pineapple and cantaloupe, which were very good, then pizza and burgers form the other pool area snack bar. The Horizon Court buffet was patchy at best for the food. The pasta tended on the rubbery side, but that is the nature of buffet. There was no smoked salmon, or fresh shrimp on offer, but the pate was excellent as were the fresh bread rolls. Around 4pm we decided to take a couple of platefuls of grub back to the room. Seems the people on the balcony below/right had thrown food overboard which had been blown back on to the surrounding balconies, including ours. Seems cruises are too accessible today, and the class of folk you have to live with are definitely below par. I am definitely not in favor of the semi-exposed balcony either, you feel as if you are being watched ALL the time. Our cabins, while being comfortable were 20 rooms from the lift, so you had to plan to leave the room, none of this 'popping back' to get stuff. Well, day 4 ended quietly we had a bottle of wine and watched the water scud by. The sea was calmer than the previous night. We watched the info channel on Istanbul, then watched a movie, which can't have been too interesting as I forgot to say which one it was in the diary... Day 5 - Istanbul Again we found ourselves on the wrong side of the ship to fully appreciate the Bospherus skyline. So contented ourselves with the thought that we would get to see it at sun set instead. This was the only day of we took a ship organized tour. We got off in good time and sat on the a/c coach waiting for the rest of our party to get aboard. Things seemed relatively well organized, so we were optimistic that this was money well spent. The first stop was the entrance to the Blue Mosque/Old City area. We stood like cattle in the shade of the obelisk for about 3/4 hour while the guide spoke about the 30 names for Istanbul, and the founding of the city. Seemed that the thick accent was not of a help, and the tour group was too large, there was a certain amount of elbowing going on as folks jostled to get close enough to hear what the hell he was saying. It was about 9am, but already the day was warming up. From this area we walked to the Blue Mosque, to be shepherded into the inner courtyard while other tours were taken into the mosque itself. Here the guide talked about the use of the mosque (it is mainly used as a community center - not a church as such) I have to admit I found the information quite interesting and was surprised at how much of it came as a 'well I never know that'. He related that the black attire Muslim women wear is based on the costume of Greek nuns (blame it on the Greeks), and that the Koran does not instruct them to dress so, merely that the head and shoulders and knees should be covered. He also told us that there are no official priests, or that prayer has to be done in a specific place. The concept being that religion is between the individual and God, there does not have to be an intermediary. Nice idea on paper, shame the reality is so different. He also stated that Muslims have to believe in all the previous prophets, Moses, Jesus, etc. That was news to me. One wonders what they are fighting for on the West bank other than control of the power... We then moved from the shade of the courtyard to the q for the mosque itself. That took about 30 min. During the wait they distributed plastic bags for you to put your shoes in. I had wondered how they were going to deal with all those pairs of shoes. The interior was quite gloomy, and at first seemed cooler than outside. However as the contents of the 10 coaches gradually filled the room it got rather clammy again. Still we got to see the inside of a mosque, which for many non-Muslims is the only time that will happen. I took pics. despite the darkness, just to say we was there. Then we took a short ride to Agia Sophia, which was once a Byzantine church, but is now a museum. (Since we got back we have watched From Russia With Love, which features shots in this church, and around the Grand Bazaar - hasn't changed much) We shuffled through the twilight interior and listened to the guide tell us what we could be seeing if the restoration scaffolding was not there... Then again we were loaded up for a very short trip up the hill to the street leading to the Bazaar. We had been told we could attend a carpet demonstration in the shop near where we stopped. I had visions of seeing the weaving, and dying process. Silly me. It was a carpet selling demonstration. I had intended to purchase a rug/wall hanging on this trip, so I inquired after a hanging I noticed during the 'demonstration'. We were ushered up another flight of stairs to an upper show room, in other words separated from the herd. It is a little disconcerting. A bit like the process of buying a car - the guy on the forecourt gets you in and assesses your interest, then hands you off to the guy in the show room who establishes your needs and wants then shows you the thing you can't afford. Then you haggle and barter the extras and when you are ready to sign they hand you over to the finance guy who checks your credibility, draws up the documents, watches you sign, then passes you back to the inside showroom guy who gets your coat and shoves you out the door... It was sort of like that. But I made them show us about 8" (height stacked on the floor) of carpets before I saw the one I liked. It's a Sumak wall hanging from the Mt. Ararat area. So we signed the papers, and they said they would pack it and have it ready when we returned from our trip to the Bazaar. I also asked if they would be able to tell the taxi driver where to take us in the harbor area to get us back to the ship, they agreed. So hubby and I set off into the seething masses of the Bazaar. We never experienced any problems with pick pockets on any of our shore excursions. We think this was down to the routine we established of hubby walking a little behind me and I keeping the shoulder bag on the inside of us. This arrangement allowed me to dart about looking at stuff, and him keep tabs on me, it also, we thought put off any would be miscreants. So, we started in the Gold section of the bazaar (it is divided by product - leather, clothes, gold, silver, souvenirs, food, spices). Then we walked through part of the clothes section on the outer walls of the building to the far corner. We had been given a map by a couple on the coach, who had two, so that was very helpful. Then we walked back and decided to have a spot of lunch. The guy outside the restaurant assured us they had a/c. So we walked in to the back and up the very steep stairs to the 2nd floor. Yes they had a/c. One window unit, struggling to create even a breath of slightly cooler air in the room. The tables were 3 long trestles set side by side. The middle one, right under the a/c unit was filled with Turkish locals. We sat at the one on the left, and ordered what the waiter assured us was a mixed kebab. Which was true - what we didn't know yet was it was the most expensive thing on the menu, it did not feature the prices for food...we figured we could afford it. Anyway there we sat. Then the waiter came back and assured us that it was cooler on the next floor. You think we would have learnt our lesson from the a/c assurances. So we upped and moved. To discover that the 3rd floor was where they stuck the tourists. And the a/c there consisted of open windows. Hey ho. As a last minute thought I had packed a Chinese fold-up paper fan. That certainly paid for itself, over and over. The food arrived, the pita bread was rather interesting, as it had tomato and herbs baked into the surface, very tasty. We ate and sat for about an hour just re-grouping. Then we set off into the bazaar again this time using another of the many entrances. I had noted the hanging lanterns, but decided that we could shop or those in Kusadasi. We made our way back to the carpet shop and picked up our wall hanging. As they had agreed, they had packed the rug. Then they got a taxi from the rank outside the shop and told him where we needed to go. Then began the taxi ride of a lifetime! The Turks don't drive on one side or the other, but where there is a space big enough to fit the car into. I spent much of the trip with my eyes closed - and I have a fairly high tolerance for this sort of thing. The last part of the journey was through a very narrow street, filled with folks crossing and vehicles parked unloading. As with the rest of the trip it was taken at about 70mph, and with it seemed, a complete lack of regard for normal road rules. Still, we did notice that the cars were not trashed as you would expect with this sort of driving. It seems that if everyone is following the same 'rule book' accidents are avoided. When we had got in, the driver had asked for 10Euros, I said 5, and we settled on 7Euros. It seems that haggling for EVERYTHING is the norm. So we got back to the ship in one piece. We stopped at one of the multitude of bars and ordered a large Sprite with the soft drinks voucher. This was an item that was also paying for itself quite quickly. We then took a glass back to the room and showered and changed. We then watched the huge city of Istanbul slide buy as we departed. Apparently there are 15 MILLION people there...and they all commute from the Asia side to the European side every day. What a nightmare. The ship wide tannoy had chosen to play Enya, as the 'musical tribute', as we progressed. I wondered whose bright idea that was...as we consumed a bottle of wine and decided to give dinner a miss. We retired, and fell asleep watching the Athens info video. Day 6 - Kusadasi NB pronounced 'Kushadasi'. The ship was not due to arrive in port until 12pm, so we had a 9am breakfast on the balcony, and hung out in the room, then the Atrium bar until we decided that the herds had left for Ephasus. I had visited Kusadasi back in 1987, and had visited Ephasus then. There is absolutely no shade there, and all the ruins are white marble, so it is not pleasant in the heat. I decided that shopping in town would be nicer. Earl did his usual 'sure', so we strolled along the harbor into town. The Camel/Caravan Seri (Seri means palace) was just there, so we went in to the courtyard that I remembered was rather nice. The building is now a hotel and the courtyard had the various stages of making a carpet being demonstrated, from the unwinding of the silk cocoons to dying to the actual weaving of the carpets. THIS was more the sort of thing I had imagined when we heard about the 'carpet demonstration' in Istanbul. So that was an interesting interlude. Kusadasi has quadrupled since '87, and the bazaar area now has tarps over the streets, and many of the smaller side streets are blocked off. The stalls on both sides have goods spilling over onto the street, so we watched with interest as 2 cars attempted to pass each other in this environment. We had definite things in mind as we started to shop. 2 gold chains and 2 hanging glass lanterns and a couple of the souvenir machine made rugs. We ran the jewelry shop gauntlet and ended up in a store where the employees had decided NOT to hassle the passing tourists. As an added bonus the store had REAL a/c. We haggled for about 30 min for chains finally settling on figures we were all happy with. Then we wondered further into town and I saw a lantern I liked the look of. Unfortunately the shop owner had to go to another store to be able to get me 2 of them so we hung about in the shop for about 15 min. Finally stopped at a shabby cafe for beers. The waiter gave us a small plate of kebab meat, hubby wasn't interested and only had a tiny piece, I snacked as we drank. We must have sat there about an hour. We watched the goings on of the street that ran past the alley where we sat, and the occupants of the other tables, and the construction that was going on in the buildings to the side. We then strolled back to the ship in plenty of time to get ready and have dinner in Donatello's. The Maitre'd was reluctant to have us sit by the window as all the tables were for 4 or more. However as we were the ONLY people sitting down to eat at that point he relented. So we got to watching the sweaty hordes returning from their trips to Ephasus and the Virgin Mary's house, and finally the ship slipping her moorings in the a/c comfort of the dinning room. We then went to Sabatini's to book dinner for the 7th (the anniversary), and a foot massage for the afternoon of the same day. The wind had picked up again, but despite the ship's 'sounding' I managed to sleep through it. So ended our brief sojourn into Asia. Day 7 - Athens We booked breakfast for 5:30am. Hubby complained of an upset tum, I wondered if this was due to the apple tea we had while we were haggling for the gold chains in Kusadasi. He said it wasn't bad enough to halt the days events. We were on deck by 7am, and as the ship had docked in Piraeus while we awaited breakfast, we expected to be getting off fairly quickly. Silly us. The staff down by the gang plank did not know when disembarkation would happen, or which plank would be open first. So we hovered on deck watching the dock for signs of movement. At 7:45, we saw folks getting off, there was no announcement, so we made our way down and asked for directions to the metro. We then used the map sent to us by the Greek tourism board. The walk took us around the harbor area for about a mile. Finally we found the metro building, bought tickets to 'Akropoli', for .70c each. A bargain. However... The journey should have been 6 stops. The train was full of folks who had got off the ferries in Piraeus from the Greek Islands, so lots of rucksacks and suitcases. At the second stop, everyone got off. We were herded off too, and shepherded over the bridge out of the metro station on to a bus. Talk about packed in. I got talking to a chap from Bolton who said the bus would stop in Omonia Square in the center of the city, not too far from the Acropolis, guess he knew enough Greek to know what the announcement we had heard on the train had been about. So we get off in Omonia Square, fortunately we could see the Acropolis at the end of the long street ahead of us. We set off, thankful that it was still early in the am and not too hot yet. The station we would have come out at had, the metro been functioning, was at the end of the street we walked. So I oriented us on the map and we set off up the rear of the Acropolis hill. This was fortunate as it was in the shade. This side of the hill also overlooked the Agora ruins so I got a shot of those too. Bonus. We reached the ticket area and found about 3 coach parties already milling about, but we were able to go straight in to the Parthenon complex. Although we had to do the slow shuffle through the crowds that bottlenecked in the gate way to the Parthenon. Then we were out in the open and in the shadow of the most famous classical building in the world. It was just as memorable as I remembered from my school cruise in 1977. I had hubby take a shot of me by the same boulder I had posed by back then. We were very glad we had come up early, it was getting warm, and we could see how busy it was going to get. We wondered about listening to the guides, and taking pics for about an hour before deciding to head down into the Plaka (Old Town/Market area). We stopped for water (3Euros a bottle! What a rip off!) then set off down the back path again (it was still in the shade). The path would around the Acropolis and got narrower and narrower, until it was blocked by a fence. I realized that the map I was looking at showed paths coming down from the hill that had been drawn to look much wider and more accessible than they were in reality. We found what looked like a path into some ones garden...we took it and surprisingly, it cam out on a main road. We made our way into the Plaka. The shops were still opening, and we realized that if we wanted to see the changing of the guard at 11am, we would have to set of at that time (10:30). We found a gate into the city park and I navigated us through that, rather than walking along the busy main road, which looked rather boring. We got to the area where we needed an exit and I saw a small gate standing open. We headed for it through the bushes, to be stopped by a couple of cops, who pointed us further up the path. So we thrashed our way back to the path and finally found the main gate - just as the palace guards were marching by. Very fortuitous. So we followed the crowd following the band around into Syntagma Square where there were about 10 coaches lined up so there had to be a 1000 folks there. Hubby went as far forward in the crowd as he could and took pics. I had to delete a couple of shots from the docking in Piraeus and Kusadasi so we could take shots of this event. Time to get the data transferred to disc. The whole event took about 30 min. We were glad we had taken time to visit it. It is a very strange affair. The costumes seem to hark back to classical tunics, but much more ornate, can't imagine the soldiers fighting in them. The cloggs had pom-poms on them...it's anyone's guess what their symbolism is. I cannot recall seeing any classical images that show anything like them, but that doesn't mean much. We then crossed over the busy road outside the Parliament building back into the Plaka. I was trying to remember any of these areas from the trip I was on so long ago. I recalled the Parliament building from the coach trip they gave us, but I could not recall where they let us roam about. Of course, that large crowd of people were now heading in the same direction, we broke away from the herd, searching for a lunch place. We checked out a couple of places, many of them packed with tourists, their screaming kids and bags of souvenirs. We selected a quiet cafe on the Metropoli Square, with half a dozen locals sitting under the umbrellas. Hubby was still feeling a bit rough so declined food, opting for beer. I said he should be drinking water...I had the 'Russian' salad (veggies in mayo) the olives were VERY tasty. We sat for about an hour or so, then set off to find transport back to Piraeus We strolled back to Monistariki, the metro station we had originally intended to arrive at. The square outside the station was holding a rather odd event. Greek guys dressed as North American Indians miming to music played over their amp system...The Greek N. American Indian convention?? We walked back up the street Atheneas where we saw the buses lined up. However we were unable to read the destinations, and rather than get on a bus with no idea where it would take us, we opted to try to get a taxi. Back in Omonia Sq. we tried to get a taxi to stop. That took about 15 min. Finally one stopped and I asked "Piraeus?" his reply? "No". It then occurred to me that we may have difficulty getting back, as the taxi drivers would not be able to get a return trip to the city very easily. Hmmm. We decided to buy a metro ticket (we needed that to travel the bus) and try again to sort out which one would take us to Piraeus We stood with others and asked, but it seemed that the answer was that the bus would take us to Piraeus, 'eventually', I did not feel comfortable with this. We set off again to Monistariki Sq. where there were tourists gathered. As we entered the sq. we saw a taxi draw up. I asked him and he said "Yes, 25 Euros", at that point he could have said 100 Euros and we still would have jumped in! His a/c even worked...we gave him the unvalidated metro tickets, I figured he was lucky to get a tip, the taxi ride should only have cost us about 10 Euros, so he made money on us. We hit the bar on the way back to the room. It is seeming that every time we ask for soda, there is a problem with the soda fountain, no CO2, no power, broken button/valve etc. I am beginning to think they are realizing that the drinks voucher is loosing them money (they charge $1.50 per soda). We then paid a visit to the digital photo studio to have the digital pics put on disc. They would be ready the next day after 6, but cost us $24 per stick (128mg, we had 2), I requested that both be put onto one CD rather than the 2 they usually did (a CD is 600mg). We then changed and made our way to the Terrace pool. We found a couple of loungers and settled down to read and write, then watch the ship leave Piraeus, a very busy harbor. We could still see the Acropolis in the distance. We decided to have dinner in the room this evening. We ordered from the Donatello room menu, at 7:15. Then called to check at 8:30. To be told it would be another 15 min...guess someone dropped the order. It eventually arrived, except for one starter (we had ordered 3 as I couldn't decide which to have - just as well as I was not able to eat everything that did make it, anyway). We ended the evening star gazing as the sky was very clear. Day 8 - At sea I had been trying without any luck to get the cell phone to work, as I wanted to confirm the tours we had organized for Naples. Tried all sorts but it just would not receive anything. Even the room phone would not work. We called in at the pursers desk on our way to the Horizon Court for breakfast with the herd. I also asked about paying the room bill with one of the convenience checks I had received from the credit card just before we left - nice low interest rate. They said they would have to take a copy and fax it to head office to have it cleared, ahead of time. I'm glad I thought to do this early rather than the day we needed it. The Purser gave us the ship to shore number we should have been using and I was then able to confirm the tours start time and that they would collect us from the ship. (A 2 min call that cost $9.00). We decided to watch movies and lay about the cabin that day. We were going to go to the Horizon Court for dinner too - it is not the best food but it is the most convenient way to get food. We were waiting at the lifts on our floor and realized that folks were all dressed up - could this be the 2nd formal night?? We went back to the room to check the Princess Patter, the ship's rag that tells you all the art auction times...sure enough it was so. I trotted up to the laundry to iron the dress. I was intending to alter the lining somewhat as it had split. So I took Earl's Swiss Army knife and cut the lining to knee level. The outer layer of material was now rather thin but as the dress came with a short jacket with semi-transparent sleeves, I figured I could get away with it. We then sat in the Promenade bar watching the folks go by, then decided to q for dinner. They gave us a beeper, but it beeped continuously, so hubby took it back and we got another. After about 30 min we were seated. This was the only time we had to wait for food. It was our own fault as we left it rather late. The place was packed, sounded like a school canteen and the service was quick almost to the point of being perfunctory...we retired as soon as we were through, hubby was still feeling a bit off color. Day 9 - Naples Day dawned with himself not looking too good at all, he was running a fever. So we went down to the Med center. I was glad our tour was not due to set off until 10:30. They took his temperature which was a bit high then the Doc saw him and recommended an anti-inflammatory injection. This was administered by a nurse from Kings Lynne - about 30 miles from here - of all places. He was sat in reception for 15 min to make sure there were no adverse reactions, his temperature went up t 104°, and he got the shakes, but they considered this a normal sort of thing. We went back to the cabin and he took paracetamol and laid down. This hour of 'attention', cost $140.00, charged to the room account. At 10:00 the sainted hubby decided he felt well enough to tackle the tours. So we got our kit together to meet the guide. We walked though the terminal building keeping our eyes peeled for someone with a sign with our name on it. Then we stood at the entrance in a similar state of readiness, for about 15 min...I decide dot go back into the terminal in case we had missed them. I had just negotiated the large flight of stairs by the entrance when hubby appeared behind me saying the guide had just arrived. The guide walked us to the mini bus. On the way explained the sights that could be seen from the area we walked across, the monastery on the hill, the palace in front of it and the vineyards to the side. The mini bus had about10 people already in it, we were the last, so I sat up front with the guide hubby sitting behind me. We drove for about 40 min to get to Pompeii through the outskirts of Naples. All I remembered from my first visit here was the coach trip from the airport to the harbor, at night, and what a dirty city Naples was...it has not changed in 26 years. At the area of Pompeii we were off loaded at a hotel cafe to wait for another bus load to meet us. It was explained that our guide would see us through Pompeii then hubby and I would be handed off to another guide for our trip to Vesuvius. We were the only ones on that part of the trip. Finally we were all assembled and we obediently followed our guide around the sights of Pompeii - we clung to the shade, again like cattle. Fortunately the guide was relatively easy to understand, and she took us at a fair clip around the site. Our party had 2 'characters', one we dubbed 'Waldorf Salad', after the Fawlty Towers episode with the pushy American. The other 'Look at me", for obvious reasons...So they were the comedic relief for us as we moved around. Pompeii is a more substantial ruin that Ephesus. There are fresco's, and 2 story buildings to walk between. It really is not a hard thing to imagine the streets alive with Romans going about the daily business, carts and chariots rumbling down the streets filled with sound and smell. I wondered if they had had the same problem with the ash blowing in their eyes as we were having. It was very warm, as were all the ports we visited. Neither of us had ever sweat as much for so long, dehydration was always an issue, so I was loaded down with water bottles most of the time. The heat did make the tours and visiting we did a matter of determination. It would have been all too easy to just stay in the cabin in the a/c, and then regret it as soon as the ship left port. We did enjoy the port visits, but would recommend not going in August (we should have thought of that when we set the wedding date...!) Anyway, back to the tale. Finally we were lead back to the hotel cafe. The rest of our party were shepherded off to some other venue. Hubby and I were given a whole Margarita Pizza each. Needless to say he pecked a small amount of his. I ate the outer couple of inches, the inner was a little underdone for my liking. We drank plenty of water, then took up with our new guide, but the same driver, to go to Vesuvius. Don't ask me what I expected this to consist of...bus drives us up to the crater, we get out, guide talks about volcano, we take pics buy souvenirs and leave...the reality was somewhat different. The bus wound it's way up a road somewhat like that leading to the top of Mt. Lemon in Tucson, switch back galore. Hubby was wishing we were on the motor bike, I thought about all that black metal baking under the 100° sun... Then we got to the car park. The guide pointed to the top, saying we would walk the remaining distance, 800m. That's the vertical measurement. Unfortunately you achieve this distance by a zigzagging path made from volcanic ash, which strangely enough shared the same optically irritating habits as the stuff in Pompeii. I wondered if hubby would manage this. At the start of the path they give you a walking stick. We did not go too far before we realized that this was a VERY useful tool. Off we trudged. We rounded the first bend and half way to the second I stopped to ask about the lava flow we could see in the valley. Actually I was about to have a coronary, but was damned if I was going to let the guide know that, or all the old fogies that were blithely tripping up the hill ahead of us! It seemed this was a good place for hubby to take a breather too. We set off again. This time we found a good pace for us all, and did not need to stop until the entrance booth. Very smart that, make you walk half the distance THEN charge you to get in! Folks are not as inclined to say 'forget it' if they have already done half the work! We paused for water and to admire the view, then set off again. Paused again for more water at the lip of the crater. Which was when the guide decided to tell us that the tour included walking about 2/3 way round the crater rim...we girded our loins and gritted our teeth (not to hard to do with all that ash in the air). The path had no rail on the down slope side, and I could tell hubby was holding his breath as we walked single file past people coming in the other direction. Pompeii was pointed out, as was Capri and the far side of the Bay of Naples. Nothing was very clear as there was a lot of haze around. But we were oh so thankful for that breeze. I do not think either of us would have made the trip otherwise. The guide was clock watching for us, and we turned and headed back I took pics of the haze and the crater walls, which sort of look like textured back drops, I was not able to get far enough away to really show the size of the crater. Oh well. Needless to say the trip down hill was much easier than the one up. We stopped at all the watering holes. I think the pizza made me even thirstier than usual. I must have guzzled at least 4L of water that day. Finally we handed back the walking sticks (with a small tip), and gratefully sagged into the seats of the a/c bus. The drive back took about 40 min again. They delivered us back to the ship at about 4:50. Well timed. We showered and decided to watch the port recede from the buffet dinning room. Our balcony was so hot the plastic tiles on the floor burnt my feet, so we retired and watched 'Simone'. Day 10 - Livorno The ships info rag stated that the shuttles into town would not start to leave the docks until 9am. Florence was a 2 hour drive or train journey from Livorno, then you had to get from town back to the ship. They also charged $4 each to take the shuttle. It occurred again that as the ship had the berth furthest away, not only was this cheaper, but they could also make more money (2600 people at $4 each, given that the coach co. would probably want $2 each, that is still $5200 for doing nothing). We noticed with envy the Crystal Serenity berthed right in the city center, and wondered to ourselves if their passengers would have been charged for a shuttle, had they needed it... The up shot of all this being that we decided that Florence would be too risky to attempt. After the trouble we had getting to and from Athens - and that was only 10miles from Piraeus - we did not want to end up stranded in Florence. So we opted on Piza as the more comfortable option. We paid our $8 and got into town. As we left the coach I asked the ship rep (a good idea that, having a rep to answer questions as people leave the bus) how to ask for our ships berth on the return, she wrote it down in the back of my trusty notebook/diary. Thus armed we walked around the corner to the newsagents and purchased a map. Then we stood around waiting for taxis to appear. The first one wanted 110 Euros to go to Piza. It's about a 30 min drive. We said no. Then we realized most of the taxis were going to Florence and wanted to take folks 'for the day' for 350 Euros! We even started looking at the bus stops to see where they went. At this point we got talking to a couple from Ireland, who also wanted to go to Piza. We decided to share a taxi (what a concept). We got one to agree to 50Euros for 4 of us and figured 25 per couple was good enough. The driver seemed to think there was an emergency so we set off at breakneck speed. Past camp Derby (where hubby's Dad had been stationed) and on into Piza. We said thanks to the couple and headed into the Field of Miracles complex where the tower was situated. It is an amazing sight. TV does not do that angle justice. But we were not inclined to haul our sweaty carcasses to the top, thank you. The right side of the road around the square is thick with souvenir stalls. The other side is laid to grass - do not: sit, lay, walk the dog or yourself on it. Needless to say there were those ignoring this as there were those ignoring the dress codes for the churches. We strolled to the end where the tower is located, took pics. Then realized that if we wanted to go into the church we would have to buy tickets from the office on the other side of the square. We q'd for about 20 min in stifling heat. I have never had sweat running down my arms before - not even when I exercise. Then we shuffled through the doors to the church. There were many fresco's, but poorly lit and with no descriptions near - guess we should have bought the guide book... We cracked open the map in the shade of the church and decided to head off into the old town for lunch. We walked down to the river, then cut back into town. Many old buildings and elegant squares. We found a piazza with a cafe in the shade and had beer and expresso. I was not keen on their 'sandwiches only' menu, and the fact that they had pictures of the food - too touristy. We wandered further back towards the Tower and found a restaurant that was relatively quiet. Well, apart from the couple with the baby who got thorough the door first, and who then decided that they just had to sit RIGHT next to us. So we got to witness them feeding a kid that wasn't interested at all in food (probably too hot). We realized about then that we had done our usual 'rent-a-crowd' thing, and the place had filled with folks with kids. There was only one other couple sans kids. They looked fed up too. BTW, I had spinach salad with parmigiano shavings, followed by gnocchi bolongnase, then we had glace's for dessert. We headed back to the tower complex, purchasing more wine on the way. We hung about outside the main complex gate trying to catch the eye of a taxi, to no avail. So we decided to head for the train station and try there. So we walked this way and that way (amazing how two folks can read a map and come up with completely different rationales for the way they want to go...) Anyway, in the blistering heat tempers got frayed, so we finally settled for stony silence - it was too hot to argue. Hubby maintains that I got us lost, he extracted us. I figure if we had just gone the way I said in the first place we would not have had the extra walk... We got to the station to find that it was not the one we needed (Centrale) but the provincial station (San Rossario), so no taxis, no trains. We sat for 15 mins to take stock, and peel our pants from off our bums. We decided to try at the tower gate again. Fortunately, this time we found the taxi rank and flagged a guy down. I have to say here that this was the most comfortable taxi ride. It was the only one we did not feel we had been ripped off on. The a/c was going full blast, it was not a ride of death, and his meter was running - that was a first. We got back to the ship for 32 Euros, Earl gave him 40 and said keep the change, I would have given him a 5 tip, oh well. We did our ritual stop for a soda or two at the atrium bar then watched a bit of a movie, then decided to go to the Terrace pool again. You know this is supposed to be an adult only area. No kids in the pool, and kids under supervision around the pool. As no one was enforcing this, of course no one took any notice. So guess where the woman with the 2 kids sits? Yup right in front of us. Guess we just look like we want to put up with other folks kids - yet again. It was here, in Livorno harbor, a most unromantic setting, that we decided that we would not cruise again until we could afford the non-working class variety - Crystal, Costa, Cunard. We decided to change and eat at the buffet again - seems convenience wins out yet again. We q'd with the swarming hoards, then took our food to the other side of the restaurant - we were the only ones who had thought to do this, thank goodness. Then we strolled the upper decks and watched the ship going through the departure process. We had to wait for another cruise ship to leave first, but eventually we got our turn. We checked out the jacuzzis and decided the best view of Monaco, the next day, from up top. I had this idea that it would be a very nice start to the Anniversary watching sunrise and the advent of Monte Carlo while sipping champers, immersed in one of the jacuzzis. With that planned out we retired for the day. Day 12 - Monaco So, our vaunted 10th Anniversary dawned. We set the alarm for 6am, hubby grumbled a little at this. I had ordered breakfast for 8am giving us plenty of time to do the jacuzzi thing then get back and shower. We got to the selected deck to find that the jacuzzi we wanted to use had a net over it with a sign saying they were doing 'maintenance'. I was a bit annoyed, so we moved to the lower deck. To discover that those too were undergoing 'maintenance'. It seems the ship was preparing for the next invasion before our own was out of the way. I asked about this when I was having my foot massage, and was told this was due to "All the kids on the ship". Yummy. We returned to await breakfast. We ate on the balcony as usual, but there were members of the crew on the bridge which as you recall overlooked the balcony. They were intent on the lifeboats that were shuttling folks to shore. We were glad we had decided not to go ashore. There were forest fires on the mountains behind Monaco, so not only was it hot, but acrid with smoke. BTW they charged $5 each to go ashore...talk about mercenary. We watched a couple of movies then it was time for my foot massage. After that we changed to go sit at the Spa pool and put on a couple of loads of washing while we were there. Hubby took on the task of popping back to secure a dryer. The Spa pool had also been allocated an adult only usage after 3pm. Unfortunately, as with everywhere else on board, the kids were running wild, unattended by adults. We did note that during the Captains televised interview, that Princess had been taken over by Carnival, which itself was part of Disney. That explains the general atmosphere. We sat at the Spa pool until 6pm, then changed for dinner at Sabatini's. This time at least we were not the only ones in there. We took a bottle of wine with us ($10 corkage fee). I asked for 2 of the caviar starters, well, two of the small lumps of cheese with the tiny scoop of caviar on, not two of the scoops of egg yolk, egg white and onion that went with it. Basically we had the same menu to choose from, as the first time we ate there. That was a little disappointing, you think they would have at least had a couple of changes of menu during the cruise. By the time we were done we did not feel up to the champagne we had in the room. We watched them up anchor and sail away from Monaco. Day 12 - Barcelona The ship was not due into Barcelona until 12pm. This enabled the organization to hold the last of the annoying art auctions that took up so much of the central bar/walk space. We took the time to pack as much stuff as possible. Amazing how much more space the un ironed clothes take up. We decided to carry all the souvenirs and jewelry, everything else went into the suitcase. We had received labels for the luggage showing our disembarkation color and number, and instruction on when we could expect to collect our luggage from the terminal the following day. We were not due to fly until the evening of that day (the 13th of the trip), so we were not too concerned. However, we did want to spend more time in the city, so we planned to get off as soon as was expedient). So, we watched the docking process. Of course we were in the furthest berth yet again. And yet again they had laid on coaches at $4 each to get us into town. So we sucked it up and got to the Columbus Monument near the Ramblais. I had done internet research prior, and asked the Princess rep where we were to find the tourist buses, as we got off the coach. Fortunately it was just around the corner across the road, and what was more, there was a bus loading up with folks as we got there. The buses are similar to those that run in London, Oxford and Cambridge. You pay a one time fee (in this case 15 Euros) and you can go round and round to your hearts content, getting off and on as you want. We wanted to go to the Guardi Cathedral first, so sat and listened in the heat to the guide. Yet again the weather was in the high 90's and as the seats on top were taken we sat inside and sweated in situ. We had been given coupons as we got on the bus, one of which gave 2 Euros off the entry to the cathedral. So we made use of that. The Sangrada de Familia is a pretty amazing construction. No roof yet, but a pretty complete frontage. The column tops inside looked more like oil rig drill bits. We shuffled through the 'interior'. They had displays at intervals that showed what element of the construction was happening at that time. We visited the museum too, which had more explanatory displays and models of the finished article. Quite interesting, the site is worth the visit. We took pics from outside the site, then jumped back on the bus. We intended to travel by train to Gerona, where we would fly back from. So I wanted to reckie the train station, and find out where the left luggage area was, what platform the train would be leaving from, and reconfirm the price. Eventually the bus brought us to the train station. In the process we saw the Olympic stadium, the botanic gardens, and some pretty good views of the city from the hills to the north. The train station was a/c, that was something of a surprise. It was also very busy. Back packers, folks with luggage, and long lines of people q'ing for info and tickets. We wondered about and finally found the left luggage. We would need 4.50 Euros for each compartment. We would need two as our cases were too big to fit them in one. Then we hunted down the platform info, and stood scratching our heads in front of the automatic ticket machines. Finally we were satisfied that the area would not surprise us the following day, when we were burdened by luggage, so we got back on the bus, this time with the aim of going into the Barrio Gothica and food. The buses are cheap and a good idea, but, they are not the quickest way to get about. 70min. later we got off in the Barrio area. I had a list of tapas bars and we headed for one of them. We eventually found it after about 20 min of hunting down narrow streets. We got in, ordered beer and inquired about tapas, to be told that they did not do those until 8pm. Damn. It was only 6:30 and we were hungry NOW. Shame the tapas bar list omitted this vital bit of information. So we crossed the road and said we would eat in the first one that we came to. Which we did. It was a relatively small cafe/bar, we sat at the back at one of the 5 tables there. 4 or 5 folks sat at the bar, which had the food in chillers in front of the seats at the bar. We ordered in all 9 tapas, eating them as dinner, rather than as appetizers - we could not be bothered to hunt down a restaurant, we were just too hot and tired. So we left, sated, and hailed a taxi. We had the printed sheet that described the berth of the ship and I showed it to the taxi driver. This did not prevent him from taking us to the wrong terminal, and having to charge us about 1/3 more than it should have by the time we got to the ship. On board we discovered that to get a printout of the room bill, we had to go to the Pursers desk - I imagined huge lines - but as we were thinking ahead we got there before the herd arrived. We sat in the atrium bar and went through the bill. It was at this point that we found out that the tips for the room service and chamber service were automatically added to the bill every day - just as well we were not unhappy with the service. Wonder what evidence we would have to have brought forward to support a claim against paying the whole tip... We returned to the room and consumed that bottle of champagne as we watched folks coming and going from the ship. We worked out that we were in the wrong business. Adding up the room service thus - $3.50 + $6.50 x 2 (2 people) x 10 cabins (approximate number serviced by each chamber person) x 13 days = $2600 per cruise! Good grief. Day 13 - Barcelona, Gerona, Stanstead We decided that 7am was a good time to get off. Enough things would be open in town by the time we got there. We collected our luggage from the terminal, then dragged it to the front of the taxi rank - which most inconveniently was located at the opposite end to the exit doors. We started off up the road across the draw bridge that exited the terminal area, only to have to wait for 20 min as the bridge went up to let another Princess ship come in to berth. And yes you know the taxi meter was running... Eventually we got to the rail station, after negotiating the road works in town that our taxi driver seemed to be drawn to. A 10Euro trip cost us 19.80 Euros. Needless to say we did not tip him. Taxi drivers will be the first against the wall come the revolution! At the train station we stowed the luggage then stopped for coffee. The underground station was right there, so we did not rush ourselves. Hubby was still a wee bit fragile, so it was a matter of knowing where all the loos were...The Purser on the ship had said that Ryan Air did a bus to Gerona. but her wasn't sure where it would leave from. I intended to call them. But their offices did not open until 9am. We talked about this option. It would be 10 Euros each, and we were not sure if the vehicle would have a/c. The train would cost 5.50 each and we figured it had a/c, if the station did. Also, we did not relish having to lug suitcases across the city, or, being at the mercy of another ^**&*!# taxi driver. There was his stomach to consider too - the train would definitely have a toilet. We decided to stay with out first plan. We wanted to buy tickets for our train now, rather than later. We were not sure how to use the automatic machines, they were a bit more complex than the ones we had used for other things. So we q'd at the info to find out if this was possible - the q here was much smaller than those to the ticket booths. Finally we spoke to a woman who gave us a time table, and said we would not be able to buy tickets until about 30 min before the departure of the train. Oh well. We checked the platform info again, and this is when I noticed a sign saying that there was track maintenance going on between two of the stops on our route, which was slowing trains by between 30 - 45 min. We were glad we saw this, as it affected the time we turned up at the station - we decided to get the earlier train. We went down into the subterranean transport system. Tickets were purchased from automatic machines, and the platform had screens advising when the next train would be along - 3 min I think was what was said when we got there. It was stiflingly hot, which surprised me, I had expected it to be a bit cooler. The paper fan got a beating this day. The train arrived as advertised, and we were on our way to the Barrio Gothic. At the exit there was a large covered food market on the Ramblais, a wide tree lined avenue. We decided to have a look around it. All that fresh fish. Huge mounds of shrimp and sardines. The market was divided into food types, fish, meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts and sweets, dairy. I would have liked to have picked up some cheese, but it was not practical. We walked on into the the Barrio proper and wandered into the Plaza St. Joseph Oriol, where we found a nice cafe. We settled down to watch the setting up of an art market. We watched the family at the table next to us, and those at the tables around us. We must have sat there for nearly 2 hours, we really just wanted to do the Mediterranean sitting and watching thing. I did a bit more to the diary, and ran the pen dry. Earl popped into a 'Hallmark' shop and got me another. The cafe was getting busy, so we decide to look further into the area. We wandered around the art market, seemed it was being put on by the local art club. Wed then came up around the cathedral from the rear. The streets were narrow to the point were four people had difficulty walking abreast. We saw street musicians, and a flamenco group performing. We finally got to the in front of the cathedral Read Less
Sail Date July 2003
Golden Princess Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.0 4.1
Dining 4.0 3.9
Entertainment 4.0 3.6
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 3.0 3.7
Family 4.0 3.7
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.8
Enrichment 4.0 3.6
Service 5.0 4.2
Value For Money 4.0 3.8
Rates 3.0 4.1

Find a Golden Princess Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click