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Sail Date: April 2007
This is my first review. We have been on four other cruises including Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, and MSC. Forgive my blunt and concise nature, but I read USA Today. Our cruise was from Venice to Rome aboard Emerald Princess We flew into ... Read More
This is my first review. We have been on four other cruises including Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, and MSC. Forgive my blunt and concise nature, but I read USA Today. Our cruise was from Venice to Rome aboard Emerald Princess We flew into Rome, stayed the night (Hotel Aberdeen - recommended by Rick Steves was overpriced, dirty, but conveniently located. Best Western Hotel Universo was a better bet as long as expectations are low since they promote themselves as a 4 star hotel) and then took the Eurostar to Venice and stayed the night there before boarding the following day. Do not pay extra for 1st class on the Eurostar for this trip since that only gets you a plastic cup of Fanta served by an irritated steward. I do not recommend the Venice hotel, "Locanda Sturion" as it is overpriced at 260 euro (if you use Venere.com you will be tempted by the offer of 180 euro, but if you are taller than 5 feet, you will not be able to stand upright in the "attic room" that is covertly attached to that price) We did not utilize porters since we packed lightly with only one carry on sized bag each. We walked to the port. There is no signage directing one to the port. Hindsight being 20/20, we learned of a free shuttle to the port. Princess should make this known to future passengers. I doubt this will happen. The Room: (Deck 11 - balcony #B306 port side) was nice because it was new. The steward, "Niphon" was very much on the ball and should move to a better cruise line. The flat screen TV would be more remarkable if there were other stations besides the blue and black generic princess screens for every other channel. The only live feed was CNN. Commentary from the port expert could not be heard through the TV speakers when departing from each port because of a volume limiting problem. The hallway noise heard in our room was irritating and unacceptable for a new ship. We complained about the constant slamming of the service door across from our room. The Princess solution was to tape a towel to the door latch of that door. It did help, but made the hallway look like a Motel 6 under renovation. The Food: Breakfast: Be prepared for zero variety in both buffet and dining room. If you like steam trays full of runny scrambled eggs, Dolly Madison quality pastries, milk in juice boxes with the straw attached, pancakes like hockey pucks, maple syrup in a "7-11 nacho cheese pump", and Folgers coffee served from a "tap"...then you will love the buffet! The juice options include orange and cranberry. A request for grapefruit, apple, or tomato will set you back at least 15 minutes, but you can always drink it on your way out. The dining room is the exact same food with longer waits but different plating style. Lunch: Ate lunch in port all but once (at sea day) so I cannot give an honest review here. Dinner: Princess promotes their two premium restaurants daily in the Princess Patter. We ate at both Sabitini's ($20 extra per person) and Crown Grill ($25 extra per person). Yes, by paying extra you can eat dinner in less than 3 hours (since there are no other people in these restaurants) but you get pretty much the same food!!! The only advantage is that you can actually order an overcooked 4 ounce lobster tail rather than wait for it to be on the dining room menu two days later. The coffee in the dining room is as bad as the buffet. Even the pay-per-cup coffee at the coffee bar($1.75 per cup) is poor quality. Yes, I live in Seattle, but I'm not that picky about coffee! Snacks: Burgers at the Trident grill were decent. I am unsure what to make of the practice of "refrying" the french fries after being under the heat lamp - but they actually tasted good and extra crispy! Pizza is not worth your time unless you have no other option. The sauce is tomato paste with water. The ice cream bar is a rip off considering you can get a nice gelato for less money in any port. Entertainment: Quite disappointing. Having been on MSC (great entertainment, horrible food) perhaps I am biased. Norwegian and RCCL had better entertainment and food than Princess. When the venue/theater is more interesting than the entertainment, it's a problem. We walked out on one show and two comedians. Two comedians doubled up on material almost verbatim. Customer Service: - What is that? Bring quarters for the laundry room if you wish to wash clothes as the change machines are just a tease. Don't bother calling from the phone in the laundry room to have the machine restocked with quarters. Don't even bother calling 7 (yes seven) times. After the 4th call I was just amusing myself. Just go wash your clothes in the sink and save yourself $3. If you choose "any time dining" and are told the room is full, don't take the pager. Just go to the other dining room or step back in line and wait for another host/hostess. Don't expect the front desk to be forthcoming with information about where you disembark. If you disembark in Civitavecchia DO NOT BE SUCKERED INTO BUYING A PRINCESS TRANSFER TO ROME. Take the train. If you don't want to walk to the station, spit a cab with fellow passengers. Princess will tell you that there is limited taxi service. Bull! Ports: Do not take a Princess sponsored shore excursion in Kusadasi. Shame on Princess for turning it into a "hard sell Turkish rug bonanza" at the end of the excursion. They should PAY passengers to go on ANY tour in Kusadasi that includes an unexpected and unwelcome herding into a rug store. Get to Ephesus on your own by taxi and hop on one of the cruise ship charter buses on the way back but step out of line when they try to herd you in a rug store at the end. Don't let Princess nickel and dime you to death when you get to a port. They always want extra money to actually get you to where they say they are docked - Venice, Olympia, Mykonos, Rome, Dubrovnik, etc. Do your own research. You can get to Rome for 4.50 euro by train if you are willing to walk 15 minutes to the train station in Civitavecchia (free shuttle from ship to edge of port). Princess wants $75. The local taxi wants 20 euro just to get you to the train station. Room Service: If you fill out the form for daily fresh fruit, expect it about 2 days later. Run of the mill orange, kiwi, and banana. Pears were quite good. Room service was timely despite VERY limited menu selection. Internet: Never worked so it was "free". Flights: Avoid Air Canada if you are over 5 feet tall or not a contortionist - especially if you fly Toronto to Rome as they have packed more seats into a Boeing 767 like no other airline I have been on. My wife is 5 feet 4 inches (I am 6 feet 4 inches) and have NEVER heard her complain about leg room on an airline flight until Air Canada. I stood most of the flight as did the 6 foot 9 inch basketball player who plays in the Italian leagues. Be aware that it is habit for Air Canada flight attendants to restock/unload the beverage/trash cart while it is lodged between the lavatory doors in the rear of the plane. Be prepared for an argument if you have no choice but to use the first class lavatory because of this. Or, be prepared to squat in the isle and do your business. Also, if there happens to be a row of empty seats on the way from Rome to Toronto, don't expect to be able to use them. Instead, expect the flight attendants to be napping there. Best Values: 1 - Scooter rental in Mykonos (10 Euro for the day) 2 - Jeep in Santorini (35 Euro for the day) 3 - Metro in Rome (1 Euro will get you anywhere) 4 - Public water bus in Venice (1.20 Euro will get you anywhere) 5 - Knock off belts in every port (2-3 Euro) 6 - Wine tasting in Santorini 7 - Pay toilet in Ephesus (worth the 0.50 Euro just for the photo of the sign) 8 - Kumquat and Pomegranate liquor in Rhodes 9 - Local wines (when purchased at supermarkets) Biggest Rip-Offs: 1 - Princess shuttles (especially Civitavecchia to Rome transfer but second only to Venice water shuttle service) 2 - Venice "Tourist Pass" 3 - Princess "Sanctuary" 4 - Rugs in Turkey 5 - Lemonade in Capri (hydrofoil from Naples) at 6 Euros (i.e. always inquire about price before ordering ANYTHING. 6 - Art auction 7 - Dubrovnik city walls entrance fee 8 - Pay restaurants on board, food in Dubrovnik Biggest Pleasant Surprise: 1 - Despite trying, never was pick-pocketed (though watching them in action at the Spanish Steps in Rome was a hoot!) Biggest Disappointment: 1 - Ruins in Olympia Biggest pain in the butt: 1 - Public bus in Capri Overall: For the money paid this was a horrible cruise value. Tips for Future Passengers: 1 - Request a room far from the service door 2 - Avoid Princess shore excursions - buddy up with fellow passengers - FUN! 3 - Ask for the "good" robes 4 - Avoid the pay restaurants Read Less
Sail Date: April 2007
Review: 4/23/07 We sailed on the 4/23 Venice to Rome, 2nd trip. We made our own flight arrangements because my friends had never been to Venice before and so we spent a few days prior to the cruise there. We choose this cruise over ... Read More
Review: 4/23/07 We sailed on the 4/23 Venice to Rome, 2nd trip. We made our own flight arrangements because my friends had never been to Venice before and so we spent a few days prior to the cruise there. We choose this cruise over others because ship was in port for full days instead of ½ days. We were told there would be a shuttle from Pizza Roma to the ship. There was not, nor was there any sign of Princess there PERIOD. At first I thought I had made a mistake but we discovered several others on the lookout for shuttle. The walk with cases from the Pizza Roma was a killer up and down to the ship. When we arrived at check in we had to deposit bags around the corner from ship then walk along a building to terminal. When checking in I told them about the shuttle and that several older persons were standing there waiting they said, "Well there is no shuttle". So much for that, boarding was quick and simple, as we had come late to avoid the crowds. Rooms: were fine IMHO. My friends had a suite and it was large and spacious, flat screen TV, room for 4 chairs and table on balcony. My room a single had queen bed and lots of closet and other storage space. TV daily program did not match what was on a lot of times, and several of the channels were Princess related but there is always the forward switch. The movie channel had a good mix, not always to my taste but in general a good mix. Staff: Were great, my room steward was right on hand to help me get settled, asked if I wanted anything, showed me how things worked etc and gave that kind of service throughout the trip. Dinning staff was also great both in buffet area and dinning room. So no complaints about staff service. Food: What can I say? We had seated dining. I thought the food was totally uninspired. It was just there. I thought some dishes of the ports or countries would be served with some of the local wines, wrong! Standard fare for any good restaurant or not so good one in states. Biggest disappointment was order of King Crab legs only to have them served boiling hot which totally killed the flavor of the meat. The fare was just standard stuff. One diner at our table had been on over 50 cruises and agreed that she was shocked there was not more variety. Buffets: Ate breakfast there, as I am early riser. Standard breakfast fare but totally acceptable and good. Had standard English, Chinese, and Japanese breakfast dishes as well. Coffee was that surrey stuff. Free Ice Cream I only had some once and it was not at the afternoon serving time. Sabitinis: Did not eat there. Crown Grill: ate there twice. They have a great onion soup and the meat was fine. Never a crowd I think the service charge puts people off. Pool Area Food: Hamburgers and Pizza acceptable I saw no problem with them. The international cafe had some great treats most of them free. Did not eat in buffets for lunch as we were on shore most days, day were at sea we ate at pool area. Entertainment: There was certainly enough to do if you wanted to do it. The bars and lounges are very nice however in line with Princess's policy the drinks were not cheap. I guess I am living in the dark ages, my friend ordered a gray goose martini and it was $15.00. We are not into the ear splitting shows so did not go to any, however our fellow diners did each night and said they were very good and a couple of nights went again to the 2nd shows. The Mutts movies had a problem but is was cool at night so I don't think it made a big difference. We gambled a little but that was it for nighttime entertainment for us. We spent all day in ports and frankly were tired when we came back to ship. But they did offer a huge variety all one had to do was take advantage of it. The Internet worked from 3am to about 6am and so ended up being free, the charge of .75cents a min is a total rip off. On shore net cafes ranged in fees from 1e to 3e (1.45-4.35) for an hour if you were on Princess Internet and it was working that same hour would cost you $45.00. Most of the time it took 20 min just to get one line. 25 computers are not enough for 3000+ people, hookups in room for laptops would be nice and cut down on the traffic in Internet lounge area. Pool etc: The pool area was never crowded and there were always free hot tubs, and loungers. My only gripe is the loud pounding music they play in the pool area. I could not even hear my mp3 player. There were tons of loungers, so a person saving them etc was not a problem, and service in the pool area was good. The golf course and other area were great and usually one never had to wait. Another thing I didn't like was the promenade deck. I like to walk and be on deck coming into or leaving ports, after dinner etc. It was fine during the day you walked around then went up flight of stairs to have a great view from the bow. However after dark if you wanted to walk you had to take your chances on the stairs and bow area of the walk as they were totally unlit. Tours: I did two ships tours. Both were good value for the price, some of the tours are not, do your homework. The first was a simple countryside drive and then stop in town to be on your own. The second was to Delos and the only suggestion I would make is after the tour let people have an hour or so to explore some of the areas not covered, there were several area tours did not cover. We were rushed back to the ship with heavy hints that for 16e we could get a bus into town. There were no free shuttles to anywhere offered by Princess. Sometimes it was a rather long walk from the ship into the town or end of port where you could get bus, taxi etc to do what you wanted to do. Also in some ports it was the attack of the approved merchants before you get out of or back into port terminal. Princess kept pushing approved merchants and had some kind of sale of its shops everyday. Shopping was pushed to the point that sometimes you just wished they would stop talking about it. I booked my own tours for the other places and they were all good and I enjoyed them. Another thing that I would like to see is that if you are in a port on a Holiday, that people are advised of that fact. At one port we hiked to the town only to find everything closed for national holiday. Port Lecturer: Talks were informational and the daily ones held in theater also had a lot of good information. Each day a special flyer was on the door with map and information needed for that port. It would be nice if you could get port lecturer as you sail away while on your balcony, they are able to blast music all over the ship they should be able to get that. Negatives\Things I would change if I were the Queen: Cut the loud music around the pool area Need more staff at busy times on Pursers desk. People working the desk were subject to long lines, and not enough staff to move the line quickly it reminded me of the bank on Friday afternoon 2 tellers, 40 people in line. That said the people behind the desk did a great job and were very helpful. Sales: Cut down on them, people will buy, I realize its part of the overall profit picture but it was taken to extremes with 2-3 flyers daily, several announcements and makes it hard to get around all the people. Have a shuttle even if you have to have a small fee from the Pizza Roma. Become realistic about your transfer fees they are way way way way out of line. Rethink the menu for the dinning room. Consider regional dishes and wines. Over all I had a great time and I would rate the ship a 4. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2007
My husband and I booked the maiden voyage Emerald Princess cruise without realizing it was the ship's first sailing. This was our fifth cruise and our second on a Princess ship. Overall the trip exceeded our expectations. We booked ... Read More
My husband and I booked the maiden voyage Emerald Princess cruise without realizing it was the ship's first sailing. This was our fifth cruise and our second on a Princess ship. Overall the trip exceeded our expectations. We booked relatively late and ended up with a cabin described as "fully obstructed). We were pleasantly surprised when the "obstruction" was a life boat hung below the window - lots of light and view available at a very low price. The cabin was just fine. I particularly liked the very large closet area which gave you place for suitcases etc. keeping the main cabin area uncluttered. The cabin stewart was efficient and attentive and and the few small problems we had (burned out light bulbs and dead outlet) were quickly fixed. We chose freestyle dining and just loved it. The food was the freshest tasting I've had on a cruise. I tried some of the vegetarian options even though I'm a sworn carnivore just because they looked so interesting. I was not disappointed. The waiters were professional and we enjoyed dining with new people each night. We never had to wait for table even though we generally ate around 8:00 pm. The freestyle dining also allowed us to enjoy more of the entertainment than we have on previous cruises. We could chose our dining time around the shows we wanted to see. We did try Sabitini's one night and I was disappointed. The service was less attentive than we received in the dining room and I found it was just too much food. I was also less than impressed with the Horizon Court. The layout of the buffet was just bizarre. People kept bumping into each other and they often had half the area closed which made it difficult to get a table. We began eating breakfast and lunch (if we weren't on shore) in the dining rooms where we again got excellent food and service. great food and service. I enjoyed tea in the afternoon as well. It was a nice substitute for lunch after a day in port. We saw more of the entertainment on this cruise than we usually have and thought it was really very good. The young actors in the production numbers were talented and enthusiastic, Beatlemania brought back lots of memories of the 60's, Phillipa Gregory put on a dazzling performance and we found all of comedians funny, although some of our fellow cruisers from the British Isles thought the comedy "too American". My only entertainment complaint concerned our last night when the Venice Chamber Orchestra played under the stars. Their beautiful performance was drowned out by noise from the bar on deck. Surely they could have stopped shaking martini's at that particular bar for an hour. The cruise director and assistant cruise director were at the bar talking, laughing and adding to the general noise. This was a concert performance, not a night club act and it would have been nice to be able to hear it. Another area in need of improvement was the passenger service desk. Severely understaffed, there was always a long line and they generally were too busy to answer the phone. If Princess can effectively staff three dining rooms, numerous buffets and countless bars, they can surely provide a few more people trained to take care of problems and answer questions. Our spa experience was also somewhat disappointing. The thermal suite was littered with dirty towels and empty water bottles and the shower in the treatment room had only cold water. Not exactly a relaxing, pampering experience when you are trying to rinse off your sea salt scrub. I'm sure other reviewers will also comment that the internet service was just abysmal. They offered it at no cost, basically because it just didn't work. Hopefully, this will be fixed on future cruises. We did not take Princess shore excursions having arranged private trips with others through cruise critic. Other passengers I spoke with were generally pleased with their excursions, although some complained of long waits in the Princess Theater before their trip was announced. The disembarkation process, on the other hand, was very efficient. We were off the ship almost an hour earlier than expected, which gave us just that much more time to enjoy beautiful Venice. Despite the small negatives, our overall experience was terrific. The ship is beautiful. It was a great itinerary and excellent food, drink and entertainment. We came home relaxed, refreshed and ready to book another cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2007
This ship is a giant step up from the original "love boat"..and doing it with my wife's sisters and husbands on the inaugural cruise from italy for 11 ports in 12 days was nothing short of outstanding! A van ride direct from ... Read More
This ship is a giant step up from the original "love boat"..and doing it with my wife's sisters and husbands on the inaugural cruise from italy for 11 ports in 12 days was nothing short of outstanding! A van ride direct from Rome airport to Viterbo $50.00 pp to Best Western was well worth it. Two days to drink in the history etc, local bus station half block and about $15.00 scenic ride w/one easy trans to Civitavecchia. Police lady directed us down an open staircase from street level to waiting bus, safer than the bus/truck ramp. Easy on this beautiful ship,warm,welcoming staff,soft decor,not in your face design, great lay out. Our inside room have an open closet,safe eyelevel open shelving w/bathroom door in that area,more user friendly than doors and drawers in hall. this megaship never felt crowded..open dining option helps alot. Did you ever have lambchops . .or coldwater lobster claws, crablegs at a Lido buffet? Princess has put an upscale area Lido linen, stemware,special dishes that we savored in the evening rather than the formal dining. THIS WAS A PLUS .PLUS .WITH ALL 6 OF US. weather was to cool most days or windy to splash in out door pools or watch a movie. we miss the sliding sky-roofs! Weather outstanding for mid-april. 11 ports in 12 days were busy but that's way we picked this cruise. Every stop has its highlights, the galleria,view from top of old fort in Naples,easy walk from port. EPHESUS IS NOT TO BE MISSED ONE OF THE WONDERS OF THE WORLD.I got the surprise of my travels.a cousin of mine spotted me at the gate of Achilleion Palace.."where's your wife" she quizzed me!!4,000.miles from home,I've been found in Miami,cancun,Halifax,now in Corfu Greece! Olympia,Santorini,Naples,Dubrovnik,bring special memories We ended with 3 days in Rome visiting a young priest friend from Milwaukee. We celebrated my dear wife's 70th birthday in the air back to Ord safely and thankfully home. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2007
My husband and I, along with 9 other people, sailed on the Emerald Princess on its maiden voyage from Rome (Civitavecchia) to Venice. We picked this cruise because we were very interested in cruising the Greek Isles and this itinerary ... Read More
My husband and I, along with 9 other people, sailed on the Emerald Princess on its maiden voyage from Rome (Civitavecchia) to Venice. We picked this cruise because we were very interested in cruising the Greek Isles and this itinerary offered absolutely the best itinerary we had seen. None of the people in our party chose to fly through the cruise line, as we all found that we could do much better on our own. Those who booked independently found that they saved about $500/person on the flights offered by the cruise line. We found the embarkation process extremely easy and were looking forward to an equally satisfying cruising experience. Our outside cabins were wonderful - fresh and new. By comparison to our many other cruises, they were spacious and amenity-filled, even the bathroom which seemed positively huge compared to most cruise lines. The closet had plenty of space for everything we had brought. Our cabin steward was fantastic and was always at our beck and call quickly and with a smile. After settling in, we made our way up top for the sail-away, which was nothing special - considering that this was the first voyage of the Emerald Princess. No free specialty cocktails, no free glasses of champagne. We were surprised, considering what we have been treated to on other sailings which were ordinary and not a major event, as this voyage was touted. We were not able to enjoy the beautiful sail away from the port, as we had reservations in the main dining room at the early seating and we anticipated a wonderful meal. Were we ever wrong!! This was just the first of many MAJOR disappointments in the cruise and I must say that I don't believe I was sailing on the same ship as the other reviewers. This was the most awful dining experience we have ever had on a cruise ship and it continued that way for 12 days straight. Food arrived cold, over or under-cooked, and one time as a blob of pasta, hard as a rock. There were major problems in the kitchen and these were never addressed. Our waiter and his assistant were highly embarrassed but there was nothing they could do. They couldn't get the food out quickly enough or hot enough and on more than one occasion, the Captain visited our table and all the other tables in our area to apologize for the problems and to see what the major complaint of the night was. We heard from many passengers that they experienced the same thing, night after night. The buffets didn't offer much better, as the food was uninspired on the entire ship. Those who did the dining at any time found the restaurants crowded and the food poorly prepared. The specialty restaurants were poorly rated by those in our party who went. To put it mildly, the food was absolutely HORRID, all the time. We loved every port we visited and had marvelous weather. We arranged our own private tours and these were exceptional in every way. Our private tours were cheaper than the ship's offerings and from talking to other passengers, we got a much better feel for all ports and were not subjected to large buses and herd mentality. I highly recommend private tours. The entertainment was OK but not phenomenal. The first night's comedian was abominable and not fit for children. We were worried that the other nights would only get worse. That was not the case. The big review nights (tributeto Motown and the Beatles night) were fabulous. A comedian brought onmid-cruise was hilariously funny and totally clean. A magician was right up there with the best of them. Of the 12 nights of entertainment, there were really good ones, 3 mediocre ones and 3 real snorers. All in all, the itinerary was outstanding, with amazingly beautiful and interesting ports of call. We toured Pompeii and climbed Vesuvius, two things not to miss. We had a fabulous tour of Santorini that left us breathless with the beauty of this tiny island. Ephesus was another highlight and boggled our minds beyond belief. We rented a car in Kotokolon and drove to the ancient site of the Olympics and those in our party who did not, missed a gorgeous place. Dubrovnik sparkled and was full of history both ancient and modern. I would repeat this itinerary in a heartbeat but NOT on board a Princess cruise. In summary, we will never sail Princess again because we found it to be disappointing in so many major ways. The ship was beautiful but the dining experience ruined it for all in our party. The service was good but not exemplary. The parade of Baked Alaska was a joke (fake cakes with electric candles – come on!!!) and the tower of champagne was another big bore. These two nights were so highly promoted that we couldn’t believe we had been so shortchanged. In addition, every time we turned around, they were charging for something. There was no free ice cream in the ice cream bar – how did that happen? The only time ice cream was free was from 3:00-4:00 PM and then you couldn’t get close to it to get any. Never was a free drink offered (except at the Captain’s Cocktail Party) and that was another joke. The internet didn’t work EVER and they finally gave up and refunded all the charges they had written to the passengers’ accounts the first 2 days. We ended up finding internet cafes at each port. Horrendous in every way to treat passengers like this – maiden voyage or not. Did I sail on a different ship? Read Less
Sail Date: May 2007
This cruise was planned as a trip of a life time and it was. It was a very port intensive cruise and we were going to see Santorini which was the main reason for the cruise. We have been on 3 other cruises but nothing in Europe. We ... Read More
This cruise was planned as a trip of a life time and it was. It was a very port intensive cruise and we were going to see Santorini which was the main reason for the cruise. We have been on 3 other cruises but nothing in Europe. We traveled with another couple who have never been on a cruise before. We opted to fly direct to the ship and not stay at any hotels prior to sailing. The options were just too expensive. The minimum $650/person/night was just a little over the top not to mention the additional charges from Princess to make any changes. The flight was from San Diego to L.A. to Frankfurt to Rome. All separate connections. All eight pieces of luggage from our group made it to Rome. We had not seen them since checking them in at San Diego. The Princess staff was great and met us at the luggage claim and helped to minimize the confusion to get on the bus and off to the ship. They even had someone on the bus to describe some of the sites and we headed to Civitavecchia. We arrived at the port about an hour before sailing. No crowds, no hassle. I don't think it was any more than 15 minutes from the time we got off the bus and entered the ship. The only problem we had was that the cards for identification and charging didn't work for me and Blake. We were sent to the front desk and within a couple a minutes we had new cards and were able to start the process of adding/charging to those final bills. The Emerald Princess is huge. Capable of cruising almost 3100 passengers. During the 12 day cruise we never felt like we in a mix of that many people. There are plenty of elevators and really didn't have to wait too long to get one. The only exception was when we in a port that required "tendering". A lot of people getting off the tender at one time can jam up the best of intentions. The ship is designed so that crowding feeling is non- existent. The atrium was decorated nicely but isn't much bigger than on ships I have been on that are ¾ the size. The size and numbers of shops are lacking but again I think that is part of the design to keep the crowded feeling down. The only time I felt the size of the ship was when we came up to our deck on the forward elevators and looked down the hallway. Our cabins were in the aft section and 300 yards away. We keep our activities to a minimum during the day because as I have said this was a port intensive cruise. The evenings were a different story and we spent a lot of time at the piano bar after dinner. The music was great. In fact, the entertainment at any of the lounges was great. We didn't see any the big production shows. I'm sure that isn't what those hard working dancers and entertainers want to hear. We snuck into a rehearsal and if what we saw is any sampling of the real thing, we did miss something. I can't say enough about our cabin steward. He anticipated our every need. My wife is very picky about her pillows and somehow someway he found one not being used in the upper suites and brought it to her. It made her day. We did find out on other cruises that if you find out that your cabin steward isn't going ashore, you look for some little thing to bring back for him, not spending more than a couple of bucks each time. It can make your life a lot easier when there is something you want that he can provide. Dinner was in the Botticelli dinning room at the late seating. We had very nice table for four. The only complaint I would have about the table was a painting on the wall of a young lady maybe from the Medici family. It looked like one of those paintings at the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. You know the type that the eyes follow you around the room. All the other artwork in the room was marvelous other then that one. The entire room is deigned in the Renaissance Period.The food and presentation of every course was perfect. The timing of the food could have been better. The first three nights was an exercise in patience. Two and half hours was a little much. This was the third cruise this ship had ever made and there was some process gremlins that had to be worked out. We made a couple of inquiries to a few people in charge and the dinner time improved. We booked only four excursions through Princess. Each and every one was great. Princess has a policy of sending out a "secret tourist" out with each excursion to ensure the quality that excursion. In fact one of them turned out to be the drummer at one of lounges we had been at the night before. The excursions were Florence/Pisa, Sorrento outside Naples and Pompeii, cooking class in Corfu, and Ephesus which included a great lunch. Each was a gem. Corfu was a very pleasant surprise. Get away from the port there and see the town. It is Greek but has a lot of Italian flavor. We chose to do Santorini on our own. We took the tram up and the donkeys down. While the donkeys were a real adventure, I think we'll take them up next time and the tram down. Mykonos was the same and we rented quads and scooters to get around. The beaches are beautiful there and not to be missed. This was the also the christening cruise for the Emerald. It was to happen in Santorini but was postponed until Athens out of respect for the cruise ship that had sunk the month earlier and there was a loss of life. The christening was done on Mother's Day so there was a Mother's theme. Marion Ross (Happy Days) and Florence Henderson (Brady Bunch) along with two of the daughters on the shows were the godmothers of the ship. I thought the ceremony was a little long but I guess this is a big thing for a cruise company like Princess. There were speeches by every person in the Princess top offices, a prayer from the Archbishop of Athens and what seemed to me, a last minute, put together dance group that was suppose to be authentic Greek dancers. They were in everyday street clothes. Anyhow the bottle was broken and the ship named. Disembarkation was way too early in the morning. 4 am. We had to make 7 am flights out of Venice. Again we opted out of hotels in Venice because of the cost. We docked in Venice about 7 pm the evening before and dashed out to see Venice. We took the last water taxi back to the ship about midnight. Two hours sleep and on to the airport. In all this was a cruise of a life time. The lecturer on board made every port special. Sure there was some minor problems but they happen on every cruise. Make lemonade out of those lemons. I'm still looking for a copy of that painting at our diner table. I think it will make a great Christmas gift for our cruising buddies. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2007
Where do I begin? This was our BEST Cruise Vacation ever! The ship was perfect, the service and Food were A-1. The itinerary and tours (mostly private) were excellent. The people we met from Cruise Critics helped make this such a memorable ... Read More
Where do I begin? This was our BEST Cruise Vacation ever! The ship was perfect, the service and Food were A-1. The itinerary and tours (mostly private) were excellent. The people we met from Cruise Critics helped make this such a memorable experience for our 18th cruise. We stayed at the Hotel Continental Palacete in Barcelona for 2 nights pre-cruise. It was 2 blocks from the Plaza Catalonia on the North of LaRambla Catalonia (quieter section). The main shopping street lines with trees, restaurants and stores were really close by. We utilized the Hop On Hop Off bus to see all of Barcelona. We did not get off, unless we had to change buses. We arrived on a Sunday and the lines were tremendous at each major stop. Although we bought a 2 day pass, we only used it one day. Our special treat was attending a concert performance of the London Symphony Orchestra performed at the Palace de la Musica. What a beautiful historic concert hall and wonderful show. Embarkation Day: When we got out of the taxi at the Terminal B in Barcelona, we proceeded to check-in and were on-board before noon. Our stateroom C 743, last starboard aft cabin, had a "larger balcony" as it continued to the side. Even the Room Service Waiter mentioned how large it was with table & chairs plus 2 semi-lounge chairs! Our steward, Dante greeted us shortly after arrival and he was the most efficient steward that we have ever had. He always seemed to be available. We utilized Room Service Breakfast on many mornings as our private tours were booked for full day excursions. We were off ship very early (about 15 minutes after docking in each port) to take advantage of many sites without traffic and lines. Ship: Spacious, obviously clean although I was surprised that they manually clean the balcony glass! Doors between balconies could be opened upon request for adjoining cabins. Entertainment was great. We took in at least 5 shows including Tony Pace and Tommy Tilman from Las Vegas. Both were excellent, plus the Princess Dancers and Singers performances were great. Crooners had Brett Cove, pianist, who was a real hit with all ages. What a performer - he packed them in every night! Anytime dining is a perfect option for this port intensive itinerary. (This was our first experience with an alternate dining program.) We never had a problem waiting for seating in either the DaVinci or Michelangelo dining rooms. We joined others or were invited to join a table each evening with fabulous service 99% of the time. Hector in Michelangelo's was our favorite waiter, who we did request a few evenings. Buffets were good with lots of variety including fresh cooked eggs and omelets. It was a little congested at breakfast times, but finding a table was not a problem. Servers helped carry your tray plate and find a table plus they brought you coffee, juice and water. Please note the Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice severed from a strolling cart is not FREE. Many people were taken, as this is not announced but there is a placard on the cart with the charge noted. The Cafe Caribe area is the best place to sit IMHO. Self-serve Laundry is a definite plus for this itinerary also. I used it twice at 5 PM which worked out great. Bring quarters. To access the aft adult pool area, you must walk through the Cafe Caribe. When it is closed, this is confusing as they have gates and a sign which says Closed. You just walk through the gates and exit the aft door! We never tried the ice cream but the pizza was great - large slices. I understand the Room Service Pizza was well worth the $3. We did try a snack at the International Cafe and enjoyed Cappuccino there on many relaxing occasions. We did not have an opportunity to enjoy MUTS. It was quite cool in the evenings. However, the volume is very loud, even in the daytime. Not a relaxing pool side area. Ports: Marseilles: Catherine owner of Provence Tour Designer took 8 of us to Aix en Provence where she detailed the historic value of this capitol town during our extensive walk. We shopped at a street side marketplace for lavender, herbs and I bought local French wine. After a refreshment break, we walked on to a main broad street lined with trees and settled in at a local restaurant which was glass enclosed but in a garden area. This was a perfect French bistro with wonderful food and wine. Our tour continued onto the Lourmarin mountain area. We walked the narrow streets and had time on our own for shopping or stopping for refreshments. Some climbed the Castle fortress. Florence: we took the Princess On Your Own Transportation to Santa Croce Church Square. The guide was very knowledgeable talking all the way, but only spoke about Florence moments before we arrived. She loved Pisa! The only negative comment on this mode of transfer is that the return time is 3:15 PM not 5:15 PM as posted on the tour forms. We had made advanced reservations at the Accademia to see David. Once finding the queue, it was about a half hour wait in the reservations line. You could definitely see that there was local favoritism as others would be allowed in not having stood in the long line. No Pictures were allowed in the gallery. We walked and saw the Duomo, baptistery, Giotti’s Bell Tower, and strolled through the Marketplace for leather and souvenir bargains. Note: Knock Off leather pocketbooks are sold everywhere, especially outside the Real stores. However, it is illegal to buy them. YOU can get arrested and fined heavily! We lunched at a sidewalk café near the Arno River and the Ponte Vecchio Bridge (Frommer’s recommended spot). We walked over the Ponte Vecchio bridge and went into many jewelry shops. Our final enjoyment was our first delicious Gelato bought on the bridge. Our last stop before leaving was to Piazza Michelangelo on the hill overlooking this beautiful renaissance city. Rome: we took the Princess On Your Own Transportation to the garage under St. Peter’s Square. Again, this tour left Rome at 3:45 not 5:15 as noted. The queue to clear security to enter St. Peter’s Basilica took about a half hour. They were preparing the church for a Republic Celebration on Saturday, thus the center was cordoned off for workers setting up chairs. We walked all the way up to the Naïve and had a wonderful experience absorbing all the art and statues of this opulent Basilica. We continued to walk to the San Angelo Castle and over the bridge to find Piazza Navona. Well this proved to be very frustrating as the map we were given from the bus tour was in English and not very helpful! We encountered more narrow streets and ally ways, but not our destination. After going around in circles, we returned to the main street and I found a HOHO bus stop! There was a sign for the Piazza. We followed the crowds and found the square. From there it was more of the same getting lost. Finally at San Lorenzo square and marketplace, I found a taxi and he took us to the Spanish Steps. We passed the Victor Emmanuel Monument (which I would never have been able to walk to nor to the Spanish Steps). From there we walked and stopped for a local lunch in a neighborhood café. Asking directions from American tourists, we found our way to the Trevi Fountain. After walking many blocks back towards our meeting point, I gave up and took a taxi back to the St. Peter’s Square area. We shopped for religious and Italian souvenirs plus stopped for another delicious Gelato. Naples: Our wonderful Italian tour guide and driver was Francesco Marrapese who now is like family to all six of us! We headed out of Naples to the Amalfi Coast including Sorrento, Amalfi, Positano and Ravello. We made stops for photo opportunities; walked down the stairs (no cars allowed) to the beach at Positano; saw a wedding procession; sampled Limoncello in a quaint boutique shop and dined on the hillside overlooking the bay at Ravello. This was my favorite day as we celebrated my birthday with new friends in the most picturesque setting. We drove onto Pompeii where our private guide was waiting for us. His narration of this historic site was perfect. Although it does entail lots of walking on uneven marble stones and uphill on occasion, the weather was perfect and not too hot. Days at Sea; we enjoyed the Champagne Balcony Breakfast. My dear friend ordered this for me to help celebrate my birthday. What a great present. Later we meet with about 50 of our Cruise Critic new friends in Skywalkers for our Meet & Mingle. This was a great place and an unforgettable occasion. Organizers please be aware, Princess waiters started serving drinks what looked like complementary drinks on platters. However, they were “going” to be charged to our Organizer’s account! This was quickly stopped as a cash bar had been requested. The Future Sales hostess did attend and mingled with the crowd. Second sea day it rained, so we were forced to pack! Mykonos: We took the Princess free shuttle into town and walked, and walked and walked. Going Up stairs (streets) to the windmills and picturesque vistas was challenging, it was well worth it for the views and experience. The narrow streets are lined with shops and a few cafes. We stopped for great Baklava and drinks before returning to the ship nearby the shuttle bus stop on the bay. It was a fantastic and relaxing way to spend this short time in port. Istanbul: EKOL travel sent a wonderful and knowledgeable guide to greet us. She took us to the Dolmabache Palace which we toured along the Bosporus Sea. We then drove to Hippodrome where the Obelisks and statues, which were centuries old, were explained in detail. Next we walked to and toured the Santa Sophia and Blue Mosque. We enjoyed a local lunch at the Pudding Shop where we dined on the 2nd Floor overlooking the pedestrian street. One couple continued on to visit an Underground Cistern. After lunch, we drove to the Grand Bazaar area where we had free time for shopping. This was over whelming to say the least. Haggling is difficult at times but I was able to buy leather handbags, gold charm, plus just outside the bazaar are more street vendors with better bargain prices and more Knock Offs. Colorful stalls with fruits, vegetables, spices and fish & meats were great photo opportunities. Ephesus: EKOL travel provided a wonderful guide for our day in this ancient and historic location. This was the biggest surprise historically and the most unexpected site for touring and religious experiences. We visited the House of the Virgin Mary where she died at about age 62 to 65. Next, we toured The Temple of Artemis, the ruins at Ephesus where an amphitheater is still utilized for concerts today, this including a Terrace House with tile floors. We drove to ancient ruins of St. John’s Basilica where we climbed the hill to view the restoration of these historic buildings. As our day started shortly after noon, we did not stop for lunch and returned by 5:30 PM to our ship. Athens: Our private tour guide and taxi/Limo driver was Dennis Kokkotos, son of George the Great Greek Taxi Driver. A skilled driver was he on these crowded and traffic jammed city streets. We visited the Acropolis including the Propylaeae, Temple of Athena Nike, Parthenon, and Erechitheion. We drove past the Parliament, Prime Ministers residence where we got to watch the Changing of the Guard. We stopped for a photo opportunity at the old Olympic Stadium. Our tour took us out of the city to the Saronic Coast where we stopped for refreshments along the bay for a scenic vista and relaxing break. Venice: Princess provided a $15 two day water bus shuttle ticket per passenger which is charged to your sign & sail card. This leaves you off at San Mark’s Square and a schedule is provided. We choose to take off 2 large pieces of luggage since we would be staying in Venice for 2 additional days. This was confirmed possible at the purser’s desk. However, once in the shuttle boat line, the Princess Representative said no luggage on the shuttle! Then she said to ask the Security; I questioned the Police officer who said it was OK. Once back in Line, she marked our passes, but then proceeded to say NO LUGGAGE! Not wanting to argue, she instructed us to walk to the other end of the terminal building and take an Alliguna Water bus to St. Mark’s, which cost us $18; $6 per passenger and $3 per piece of luggage. This wasn’t too bad as the boat driver assisted with the luggage both getting on and off the boat. We walked to our hotel through San Marc’s crowded square. Our directions to the Locanda Orseolo on the Orseolo Canal were perfect. We were warmly greeted by Francesco who helped store our luggage for the duration of our stay. We choose to walk to the Rialto Bridge area and explore Venice on our own. The streets of Venice are narrow and meander everywhere. It is known that you will get lost. We found many interesting sites and enjoyed drinks on the rooftop at the Danelli Hotel café. After exploring further, we stopped for a late lunch at a canal side café. In the evening, we headed to the Gritti Palace area to join our pre-paid Sunset Grand Canal Gondola ride @ $50US per person. We arrived early which was a good thing as I couldn’t walk any more! The line grew long by 7PM. We were fortunate to get into the gondola with the Musician (an accordion player) and the soloist. There were at least 8 ornately decorated boats which hold 6 to 8 passengers each. We returned to the ship for our last “great meal” and night onboard. Disembarkation was very smooth with passengers allowed off for early flights as early as 3 AM. You are given color coded tags and advised approximately what time you will leave the ship. They were about 15 minutes late, but it was easy to find the remaining luggage once you were shuttled by bus to the Luggage terminal. We found the Venizia Water Taxi booth within the terminal and a private taxi was called for 4 of use with 6 pieces of luggage for $90, which took us directly to the Locanda Orseolo. It was fun climbing in their Window door from the boat. We also used this service arranged by the wonderful Peruch family and staff to return to the airport. With luggage (8) bags, it was $120 for 4 of us. At the airport water taxi dock, which is quite a distance from the terminal, there is porter service or luggage carts. We opted for the porter which took us in a van to the check in area for $25. The Locanda was a perfect location and a great way to end our fabulous European Vacation. We took the Secret Itinerary Tour in English which I had pre-reserved on Sunday at 11:30 a.m. which lasted about 2 hours. We saw and entered the Bridge of Sighs, prison chambers and the historic and well preserved chambers of the law officials and Dukes of Venice. On Monday, we visited Murano Island by going on a private water taxi arranged by our hotel and experienced a tour of the Marco Polo Glass factory. On this island, I bought some beautiful pieces of glass and jewelry. We took the water bus to Burano Island and had lunch at a canal side café finally trying some local pizza. We enjoy local wines at all or our lunch time stops as well. This is a very colorful and quaint island. We returned to the F. Noto vaparretto stop and proceeded to try to find our way back to the Orseolo but again, found ourselves often going in the wrong directions. Do bring comfortable walking shoes or sneakers. We dined each evening at local restaurants where our hosts were glad to make reservations for us. Princess and the Mediterranean ports of call exceeded our every expectation. Grazia! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2007
We just returned from 5/13 sailing on Princess' Emerald Princess.Found booking flights with Princess for Business Class less expensive than internet rates. Be sure and do Princess' bus transport. It's much easier to transfer ... Read More
We just returned from 5/13 sailing on Princess' Emerald Princess.Found booking flights with Princess for Business Class less expensive than internet rates. Be sure and do Princess' bus transport. It's much easier to transfer to ship that way. Venice airport full of Princess staff to help collect luggage for shuttle bus. Quick embarkation, than onto ship to find a beautiful suite in midship. It is smaller than most ship suites, but very comfortable, with love seat sofa and 2 chairs. Good closet space with lots of drawer space through out cabin. We had larger balcony(4 chairs/small round table and 2 cushioned lounge chairs), but space is tight. Had flower arrangement, corsage/boutonniere(formal night),chilled champagne,canapes, and fruit bowl awaiting us. Cabin stewart, Aurajon, immediately introduced self and was an excellent stewart and so very helpful. Ship is beautiful and smaller pool areas, dining rooms, really helps lend to a more intimate atmosphere. Never felt overcrowded with people. "Movies Under the Stars" is really fun with covered lounge chairs, warm blankets, and bags of popcorn. Later on, warm chocolate chip cookies/milk are passed out. We enjoyed most of the entertainment, especially the specialty acts. Opera singers, string orchestras, especially The Venice orchestra were superb. Comedian, Carlos Oscar was hilarious and G-rated ! Food was better than expected, with Caribe Cafe serving different cuisine nightly, as well as the main dining rooms. Sabitini's was an event. Our waiter was excellent as he served cold and hot appetizers, pasta dishes, entree(scallops were wonderful),and dessert. Alot of food, so come hungary. Enjoyed sunset with this leisurely dinner. The port lecturers really help prepare you for each port, with lots of history, things to see, best ways to get places, and even suggestions on the best priced souvenirs. If you miss a lecture, you can watch it on your TV. Port lecturer David Toulson made the sail aways special, as he commented on points of interest/historical facts. A dramatic sail away from Venice, as David lectured followed by music of Andre Boticelli. Awesome ! Also on board was astronaut, Walter Cunningham, who lectured on Space. Wonderful ! Shore excursions were almost all good experiences. They gave you flavors of each port visited. If it's your 1st visit to The Mediterranean, you'll see the highlights only. The guides were very knowledgeable, except for our guide in Rome. The tour with the lunch at a villa in Tuscany (Florence)is not to be missed;beautiful location and wonderful food. You can do Mykonos on your own. Just take the shuttle bus to Mykonos Town. Be sure and have lunch at one of the restaurants on the waterfronts. Good shopping there also. Embarkation was well organized and Princess took such good care of us, helping us get our bags onto the shuttle to the airport,. Then they escorted us into the airport, with porters taking luggage in, and directing us where our flight counter was in Barcelona. They made everything easy. To sum up, this was a wonderful cruise, on a beautiful new ship. Not many children on board, as the itinerary would interest teens and up. We did have to watch out for pickpockets in Rome, Naples, and Florence. Saw pickpockets at work in Rome. Be prepared for crowds at Vatican City, but The Sistene Chapel is worth it ! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2007
We booked the second voyage of the Emerald Princess with the cruise line only several weeks before departure. We have taken over 20 cruises but this was only our second cruise on Princess. Bottom line is we LOVED the ship and the line and ... Read More
We booked the second voyage of the Emerald Princess with the cruise line only several weeks before departure. We have taken over 20 cruises but this was only our second cruise on Princess. Bottom line is we LOVED the ship and the line and will be back soon. We were attracted by the itinerary, the anytime dining and the newness of the ship. (This also was a concern but we were on the second voyage so we hoped the bugs would be gone and they were) All the balcony cabins were sold out and we had only a limited choice of outside staterooms to choose from. We chose deck 8 portside aft near the laundry room and it turned out to be a fine location, very quiet despite our concern about the laundry crowd. The rooms are standard size; I think about 180 Sq Ft but well laid out. The open closet space works well and the bathroom seemed spacious compared with other lines. Room insulation is excellent. The ship lives like a much smaller ship than its capacity and size. We always found seats and quiet spots for reading or relaxing. The layout of the public areas contributed to the feeling of "intimacy", despite the size This was our first experience with anytime dining and we are total converts. We loved the flexibility to eat when and where you wished and have a table for two. Usually we have to use the alternative restaurants to get the flexibility of time and the privacy of a table for two. We thought the food was terrific and we are very fussy when it comes to cuisine. I understand this ship was introducing a new menu for Princess and we often were torn between excellent choices. The food was so good we only went one night to an alternative restaurant, the steakhouse. It was good but portions are very large. We only tried room service once for breakfast and the service was prompt. Drinks are expensive by ship standards and we bought wine locally to consume before dinner. No problem bringing wine on board but I believe the rules are different for hard alcohol. The service on the ship was exceptional. I believe the staff were all fired up about a new ship and their enthusiasm showed. Most of them were veterans and this greatly helped any launch issues. We did not book any ship tours. We try to handle our own land tours and avoid the "herding" that occurs on large ship tours. Also, we had been to a number of ports previously. For those interested, a summary of our land activities follows. We spent the first night on board in Venice, then sailed east for Dubrovnik, Croatia. We hired a taxi driver, Miko, who fought in the 90s Croatian war. He told us how sad the war had been for his family and drove us around the area for some lovely hillside views and then to a charming town at the tip of a peninsula, where we had espresso and enjoyed the seaside atmosphere. Our next stop was Katakolon, Greece, a port so dull that we didn't even leave the ship. We skipped the trip to Olympia as we had been there. That evening we headed south to Athens, our least favorite Greek city, where at least we made the effort to get off the ship. We hailed a taxi and headed to the marina area in Piraeus to look at the yachts. From there it was onto to Mykonos, where we strolled the narrow streets, admired the white cube houses and windmills, and enjoyed coffee and baklava on the waterfront. On the last day of April, we sailed into Kusadasi, where we hired a private car and driver, Otay, to take us to Ephesus for a personal tour. This was prearranged with a tour Company we found on Cruise Critic boards. One of the most well-preserved archeological sites in the world, Ephesus continues to astound us. It's so hard to imagine that in 200 AD, there was a town with as many as 250,000 people, with marble-lined streets, storefronts, oil lamps, an amphitheater, public baths and more, and all of it absolutely beautiful! From Turkey, the ship sailed to the island of Rhodes, where we toured the ancient walled city and the beautifully restored Palace of the Knights. The Knights protected the city and offered medical aid to the citizenry until they were eventually run out of town by conquering kings and became the Knights of Malta. Next stop, Santorini, where we took the funicular to the top. John arranged for a taxi (gorgeous Mercedes) and a driver to take us to beautiful Oia (pronounced ee-ah). We shared the trip with two darling girls from Australian and New Zealand. With brilliant white cube houses and blue-domed churches, both Oia and Santorini sparkle like melting snow on the top of the caldera or volcano. We loved prowling the streets, shopping for glass, a gauzy white cotton outfit, a silk wrap and a T-shirt for John. We had a nice day at sea following our departure from the Greek Isles and headed north westerly to Naples through the Straits of Messina, which separates mainland Italy from Sicily. We could see Mount Etna in the distance, but no activity. By the next morning, we were in Naples, Italy, the unimpressive gateway to Capri, the Amalfi coast and Pompeii. We talked to several fellow cruisers who actually endured the 11-hour tour to all three. Since we planned to spend the following four days there, we passed on the tour and spent our time in port braving the terrifying traffic and dinginess of the city to tour the Old Town. I'm not sure we ever found it; it all looked like a very unloved and grimy Old Town. Thanks to local police officer, we were finally able to cross the 8-lane traffic nightmare and return to our ship. On our final night aboard the Emerald Princess, we sailed north to Civitavecchia, the port of Rome, where we bid farewell to the largest cruise ship we've ever been on. Dragging our suitcases behind us, we walked two blocks from the port shuttle bus drop off to the nearby Hertz location and rented a tiny blue Ford Fusion SUV for the 3 ½ hours to the Amalfi coast. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2007
This was our sixth cruise. We enjoy cruising. It's a great way to see a lot of territory in a short time with no need to pack and unpack. We realize that we do not get to see anything in depth, but the experience is still well ... Read More
This was our sixth cruise. We enjoy cruising. It's a great way to see a lot of territory in a short time with no need to pack and unpack. We realize that we do not get to see anything in depth, but the experience is still well worthwhile. This was our first cruise on Princess and we were disappointed, especially with the food service. We felt like there were additional charges for a number of things that had been free on other cruises. We will not cruise on Princess again unless it is an itinerary we can't get anywhere else. The itinerary, however, was outstanding. The ports were amazing. We saw so many wonderful things. We had originally scheduled a middle of May departure, but Princess offered us an upgrade to balcony cabins and cash to delay our departure. We took their offer - the only problem was that it was very hot in June. They called again a couple of days before we were scheduled to leave to try to get us to reschedule again. We declined. We heard that they called some passengers the day they were leaving. We used Princess air. The schedule was not the greatest, but we have found that with most cruise lines. We flew from Denver to Montreal to Frankfurt and then to Barcelona. The Frankfurt airport is difficult to navigate. We didn't have enough time between our flights so we missed our flight to Barcelona. We were rescheduled and got on the next flight. I was very glad that we were flying into Barcelona two days early. We later heard that some people scheduled on the direct flight from Denver to Frankfurt on the day of sailing missed their flight to Barcelona and missed the ship. Some people didn't have their luggage for the whole cruise. Princess seemed to provide no assistance for their problem. We had booked the hotel through Princess and stayed at the Princess Sofia which was fine, but a long way from the tourist area. It was close to a metro stop so it was easy to get around and it was in a nice area. There were restaurants close by. We were traveling with my parents and they stayed around the hotel in the evening and found good places to eat. We had breakfast at a little bar in the area. It is near the University so there were lots of students around. We enjoyed Barcelona. The first night, I booked a Flamenco show at Tablao de Carmen in the Poble Espanyol on Montjuic. We took the Metro to get there and had a great experience. We didn't have the dinner, but were able to purchase tapas which were very good. The dinner looked good, but was a lot of food. I booked a tour to the Freixenet Cava Winery and Monsterrat for the next day which we enjoyed. We returned from the tour mid-afternoon and then took the Metro to the Sagrada Familia and walked back through the Eixample, stopping for drinks and tapas on the way back. We had a lot of fun. The next morning Princess picked us up and took us to the ship. Things went smoothly for check in, although we had to find our cabin on our own. We had lunch in the buffet and then took the shuttle into the old city. We walked up Las Ramblas and then back through the Gothic Quarter. Barcelona is a very interesting city. We enjoyed it and would love to go back to see more. The Emerald Princess is a beautiful ship and seems to be pretty well organized. Our cabin steward, Leo, was very good. We were in a handicapped cabin so it was very spacious. Princess assigned us to it - there must not have been any handicapped passengers who requested it. The balcony was bigger than normal, also. My parents were in the cabin next to us and we were able to get the door between the balconies opened. They didn't put much emphasis on the safety drill. They scheduled it while some people were at dinner. I used the spa for a manicure and pedicure (my first ever). The service was very nice. The pool in the spa is small but quiet. The food service really disappointed us. The buffet was poorly arranged. It was jammed in a very small space and did not flow at all well. I was always running into people and having to reach over and around. It wasn't bad if it wasn't crowded, but when it was crowded it was very difficult. You could not get your own drinks and the wait staff in the buffet was not at all helpful. They were all trying to take orders for the bar or sell fresh squeezed orange juice and were not interested in clearing tables or getting the complimentary drinks. I was used to Celebrity and Royal Caribbean where the wait staff in the buffet was there to clear tables and help find places to sit. It was very unpleasant. We also had very bad experiences with anytime seating in the dining rooms. We ate in a different place every night and found the service to be very poor. One evening my Dad sent back a too rare steak and the waiter was downright rude about it. Everyone at the table was just aghast. The food was fine. I really enjoyed the hot dessert soufflEs. We were disappointed with the extra charge for ice cream. They had a champagne waterfall one evening that was pretty lame - mostly just an opportunity to sell pictures of women pouring the champagne with the Maitre d'. The production shows were good with elaborate sets and costumes. There was a wide variety of music available in different bars each evening with dancing. We particularly enjoyed Amante, a group that played in the Explorer Lounge most of the time. We also liked the pianists in the Adagio bar. The ports were wonderful. We had record high temperatures in every port which made touring difficult. We took Princess excursions everywhere except Venice. They were all well organized. Some of the guides were very good and some were just okay. We had no problems with pickpockets, but we were very careful with our money - hidden pockets and money belts under our clothes. We ate lots of gelato. In Marseille we took an excursion to Avignon and Pont du Gard. We had a short introduction at each place and then had time on our own. They were both beautiful. We saw the castle of the Popes in Avignon and then wandered around town. Pont du Gard is a Roman Aqueduct. In Livorno we took an excursion that provided transportation into Florence and then left us on our own. It was a good option. We weren't tied to a tour group, but we didn't have to worry about getting ourselves back to the ship on time. I had scheduled a visit to the Accademia to see Michelangelo's David which worked out well. Then we spent the rest of our time wandering around the city. We had a sandwich from a takeaway shop and gelato. We took a tour to Rome for the Colosseum, the Vatican, and the Sistine Chapel. It was fine, but hot, exhausting, and crowded. I think Rome should be visited in the spring or fall. We took a bus into Rome which took about an hour and a half. It was a beautiful drive. The Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel were wall to wall people. Our guide did a good job of getting us through. The Sistine Chapel is amazing even with all the people and the heat. St. Peter's is a beautiful cathedral. We saw the Pieta and other artwork. We took the bus to a hotel for lunch. The food was fine - not outstanding. Then we took the bus to the Colosseum - another amazing sight. The next day we docked in Naples. We took a half day tour to Pompeii in the morning and a half day to Herculean in the afternoon. Both sites were interesting. Since I had heard about Pompeii since I was in grade school, it was really interesting to finally see it. We stopped at a cameo factory. We saw a 72 year old man who had been carving since he was 14. Herculean is smaller than Pompeii and in some ways more interesting. Our guide there was better. We had a little time when we got back to the ship, so we walked into Naples - the traffic is unbelievable. We felt like we took our lives in our hands crossing the street. We didn't have time to do much - walk around and buy a pastry. We docked in Mykonos and took the ferry on an excursion to Delos. Delos is an island covered with Greek ruins. No one lives there except the archaeologists who are studying it. It was very interesting. I had hoped to be able to walk around Mykonos, but we were docked away from town and didn't have enough time. If we went again I would skip Delos. I was getting overwhelmed with ruins. Mykonos looks like a lovely island. Istanbul was amazing. We were a little unsure about it since it is a truly "foreign" port. We had a wonderful time. We took an excursion again and had a great guide, who tried to give us an insight into Turkish culture, politics, and life. We visited the Topkapi Palace, The Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, The Byzantine Cistern, and the Grand Bazaar. We also stopped at a rug shop which was an interesting experience. We had a good Turkish lunch at the Green House, an old Turkish home. We docked at Kusadasi and took an excursion to Ephesus. It was an Elite tour which is a smaller group than the other tours we had been on. We were able to see the recently excavated Terrace Houses which were amazing. We had a little time to walk around Kusadasi and visit their bazaar. We had very good ice cream and bought some great baklava. The next port was Piraeus for Athens. For our excursion, we took a bus through the city to the Acropolis. We walked up the hill to the Parthenon and other ruins. Again, we had an absolutely amazing experience. We then walked down the hill into the old city to the museum located in the Roman Agora which was an interesting museum. Next stop was lunch at a Greek restaurant. The food was great - one of the best meals we had. We had a little time for shopping in the Plaka. Our last port was Venice. We arrived around noon and were there overnight. We did not do an excursion. We used the ship's shuttle and then following Rick Steve's guidebook did our own walking tour. We had pizza as we walked and gelato. It was a fun day. It was nice to be on our own and just wander. We stopped at a bar and had wine and beer and watched people. Leaving the ship was another bad experience. We had an early flight so we had to be at our meeting place at 3:45 am, but it was another 30 minutes before we left. The situation at the airport was a disaster. The airline desks weren't open for at least 30 minutes after we got there and the area was totally disorganized. People were really rude about the lines and waiting. The flights were fine all the way home Read Less
Sail Date: June 2007
Arrived two days early in Barcelona. Rented Segways for tour of city (highly recommended). We also rented these Segways in Florence and Rome which was a great way to tour many places in a short period of time. Stayed at the highly rated ... Read More
Arrived two days early in Barcelona. Rented Segways for tour of city (highly recommended). We also rented these Segways in Florence and Rome which was a great way to tour many places in a short period of time. Stayed at the highly rated (tripadvisor.com) Casa Camper hotel. Perfect for us due to the 100% non-smoking hotel room policy, a rare thing in Europe. Boarded quickly at noon with a organized group numbering boarding system. Only worthy disappointment, which was not in our control, was our balcony cabin was right next door to a chain-smoking couple. The smoke actually leaked into our room and the use of the balcony was limited due to the smoke drift. We have been on many cruises, but this was terrible. The hallway even smelled of their smoke for the entire cruise. Requests to "cut back" went unanswered and there was no empty cabins on the ship to move to. Marseilles: Just walked around town by following a tourist red line path painted for that purpose to visit the sites. Florence: Had private car transport ($350) take us to Pisa and Florence for our Segway tour. Plan accordingly as beach traffic can be an unexpected nightmare on the weekends. Rome: Had crazy private driver (drove 95 MPH) take us into Rome in 1 hour but was late picking up at the ship. Tried to take train from Rome back to ship which was a mistake. Train was delayed due to protesting and we took a last minute cab back to port or we would miss the ship. Regardless of what all other posters say about rail transport, don't do it if you are on a tight timeline. Its not worth the stress. Naples: Took private driver to local attractions. I think Pompeii is boring as it is the same ruins over and over again especially after also visiting Herculean. Advice: Do one or the other. Istanbul: Took private guide. Best port for us. Athens: Arrived on a Sunday which is a good day to be driving in Athens. Other items: Casino has two NON-SMOKING nights and this was great otherwise casino smoke makes it hard for a non-smoker to be there. Shows were good but they needed more production shows and less singer shows. Internet worked well but computers did lock-up on some sites which requires you to run around the ship looking for crew help if there is no one at the internet room and your timer is running. Disembarkation: A rip-off if you take the ship to airport transportation and they scare you that there is very little transportation at the port. There actually were private shuttles waiting for disembarking passengers as early as 6:45am. Just book a private transfer and they can pick you up at the port. Overall: Great ship, great service, food was good. Will be on her again in December. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2007
Summary This was a trip of a lifetime and the best vacation ever. Just like the VISA commercial... family time priceless. After we returned, my 7 yr old was walking by a random painting at a doctor's office, and he said, "mom, ... Read More
Summary This was a trip of a lifetime and the best vacation ever. Just like the VISA commercial... family time priceless. After we returned, my 7 yr old was walking by a random painting at a doctor's office, and he said, "mom, look, it's the Parthenon!" We have family memories that no one can ever take away from us. Background Information We are a family of 4 with 2 children ages 12 and 7. Two parents have traveled extensively in Europe, but it was the first time in Europe for the children. First cruise for dad and 2 kids. Itinerary was Barcelona, Marseilles, Livorno (Florence), Civitavecchia (Rome), Naples, Mykonos, Istanbul, Ephesus, Athens, and Venice, with 2 sea days. It was very port intensive, and we were happy to see each sea day. Formal nights were held at the end of each sea day. Travel to Port of Embarkation We flew from Denver to Barcelona on Lufthansa. Used frequent flier miles to upgrade to business class, and it was great, especially with the children. Of course, since they are picky eaters, they wouldn't eat anything, but the crew could not have been nicer. The lay flat beds were an added plus, and it was wonderful. We made sure to tell the kids that they might not see b-class again until they were 40. The Denver-Lufthansa flight is never never late, but because of thunderstorms in Frankfurt, our flight was 2.5 hours late into Frankfurt. We had our kids give the gate agent their most pitifully sad faces, and we were able to make it onto the next flight to Frankfurt. We did make the boat. I couldn't believe it, but all 6 suitcases made it through to Barcelona! Wow. We chose to take a taxi from the airport to the ship. After standing in line at the taxi stand for about 10 minutes, we got a mini-van, and were able to fit the 4 of us, 4 back-packs + 6 suitcases, no problem. The price was about 20 euros. Much cheaper than Princess transfers, and very comfortable. We made it to the ship by 7:30 PM, and embarkation was a breeze. We were the only people there. The ship left just after 10PM. Ship Info We loved the Emerald Princess. It is a new ship, and everything is new, clean, and in good repair. The staff is willing and anxious to please, and service was fantastic. As promised, we never felt crowded by people. Although the ship sailed at capacity, it is well designed, and we never felt overwhelmed by people. The swimming pools were great, clean, and we spent a lot of time by the pool at the end of the day after returning from the ports. The Emerald Princess is beautiful, and one of our favorite activities was watching the ship leave each port. The sail into Venice was beautiful, and looked difficult. Stateroom We had E520, which was an obstructed view window cabin for 4 people. The position was exactly what was advertised on the deck plans. We were between two lifeboats. We were able to see outside very well, and it was great. I would call this a partially obstructed view. For four people, we fit snugly but well into the room. We brought a power strip which was very important. We also brought an over-the-door shoe rack for storage, a shoe shelf for the closet, and a collapsible laundry hamper. We had all the room we needed, but we just needed to be efficient. Thanks to Cruise Critic for all of those helpful hints. The closet was very large, and we had enough room for all of our things. Our 6 suitcases fit under the beds. Please note that we were not allowed to make the 2 beds on the bottom into a queen bed for safety reasons. In the end, it wasn't a big deal, and it made sense. Our cabin steward Enrique was great, and was very willing to help us. For the 4 of us, I would pick this room again. We saved a lot of money, and it was a great family teambuilding opportunity. We are still talking about it. Activities - Fitness Center Since the itinerary was so port intensive, we didn't do very many of the activities. We did spend time in the fitness center, and it was state of the art with treadmills, bikes, arc trainers, and weight equipment. All cardio equipment had attached tv sets, and headphones were available if you didn't bring your own. Exercise classes were few but well attended... just pilates, yoga, and spin classes with daily stretching sessions. Fitness center was at the front of the ship, so we had a great view. Entertainment Movies were always available, either on TV or MUTS. They were all movies that had just finished first run, and some classics. They were great. We didn't go to any of the shows. My husband spent a lot of time in the casinos, and almost always came back a winner from the roulette table. It came in handy! Children's Clubs Our children chose not to go to the kids club because we were having such a great time together. Dining We had the second seating, traditional dining, at 8:30PM. Our waiters Radtko and Robbie were fantastic. They knew our preferences, were great with the kids, and we really looked forward to seeing them at dinner every day. We were seated at a table for 4 by the window, and we so enjoyed being alone. The 8:30 seating was great, especially since it gave us time to relax after being in port. A couple of times our children were so tired they chose to order room service and eat in the cabin and watch a movie. Otherwise, they enjoyed dinner as much as we did. The food was great. We did not miss one dining room dinner. All steaks were cooked to perfection. When we requested medium rare that was exactly what we got. Low fat salad dressings were excellent, and the chef did a great job. The fettucine alfredo was a recipe for a heart attack it was so outstanding. We only had 2 minor complaints about the dinners... the croutons for the Caesar salad were not fresh, and 2 or 3 times the chef substituted krab (fake crab) for regular crab. We had breakfast and dinner at the buffets, and they were great. Omelets made to order, lox, all kinds of foods every day. At the pool, my very skinny daughter ate 2 hamburgers one day they were so good. I have never seen her eat so much. The pizza was delicious and full of wonderful flavor. Room service was limited but came quickly and we were happy with it. We didn't try the specialty restaurants... why would we? The dining room was great. Shore Excursions We didn't choose to do the Princess Shore Excursions, but many others did, and they seemed happy with them. They appeared to be well organized, and I never heard any complaints. We didn't choose them because of cost, and the fact that we had traveled to most of the ports already. I won't detail the ports, because others have done that already. Most of the port shuttles were free of charge. I will say that even as an independent traveler, I wish that we had chosen to use the Princess issued transfers in Venice to St. Mark's Square. We declined them, and then used public transportation. It was crowded, and we didn't save that much money. I wish that we would have kept them. We had to walk about .5 km to the Piazzale Roma to catch the public trains. I think that in this case Princess is doing their passengers a favor. Disembarkation Check-out from the ship could not have been easier. We received our folio the evening before we left, and all was in order. We then just checked out with our card, and were on our way. We chose to walk to the Piazzale Roma to take the public buses to the train station, about 0.5 km. If it would have been just adults, it would have been fine, but with kids it would have been worth the $240 to get the transfers. Final Summary This was a trip we will always remember, and I wish anyone that chooses this journey as much happiness and adventure as we experienced. We will choose Princess in the future. Safe and happy travels! Read Less
Sail Date: June 2007
My husband and I took our two daughters, aged 23 and 17. Since we were paying for two rooms, we opted for the lowest price, and had two neighboring interior rooms on Riviera deck. I think it was a good move, there is ample deck space to ... Read More
My husband and I took our two daughters, aged 23 and 17. Since we were paying for two rooms, we opted for the lowest price, and had two neighboring interior rooms on Riviera deck. I think it was a good move, there is ample deck space to watch the comings and goings at ports. Also, we are not "sun" people, and found that free time at sea was comfortable on deck 7 in the shade, plenty of deck chairs, and we could choose the shady side of the boat. Air - we initially opted for Princess to book our air, but even though I requested that they send us on the same flights (our oldest lives in Philadelphia, the other three of us were coming from Pittsburgh), they sent our Philly daughter on a direct flight to Barcelona, while the rest of us had to make two connections (I think it was Ottawa and Frankfurt). Needless to say, I canceled the Princess Air and booked us all on the direct Philadelphia to BCN flight. By that time, it was hard to get decent seats, we actually were lucky to even get the flight, there were only a few seats left. Barcelona - We flew a day early and stayed at Hotel 1898 right on Las Ramblas. Great hotel, the best thing was that we got there about 10:30 am and they had our two rooms ready. We checked in, took a short nap to get over our jet lag, and headed out. We didn't use the hop on bus, as we like to walk the city streets. You definitely want to see the Gaudi buildings, especially La Sagrada Familia, also the food market along Las Ramblas, and the Cathedral in the Gothic Quarter. Great city, I would go back there in a second. Packing - make sure you take a small carryon with essential clothes, especially your walking shoes. We had a substantial number of people on our cruise who didn't get their luggage until Athens, the next to last port! If you're not a dress-up kind of person, be aware that the buffets on Lido deck have no dress code. We usually got our dinner there, then carried it outside to the pool area at the rear and enjoyed a wonderful view with dinner. We overpacked on the dress-up clothes. But don't miss the two formal nights - great food. Ports - We mixed being on our own with guides. We used Rome in Limo for Livorno, Rome and Naples. They gave us a discount for booking three days. With four of us, it was less expensive than the Princess tours, and so nice to have our own schedule. Never could have seen Rome the way we did without our driver. Definitely ask for Carlo if you use Rome in Limo at Rome. He knew the history and the best ways to get to everything. Also, he arranged a Vatican guide named Pierra for us. She was also outstanding. Not only did she have a wealth of knowledge about all we saw, but she knew how to maneuver us through the crowds and make sure we saw the major items. We used Ekol Travel for the two Turkish ports. Getting to the highlights in Istanbul is easier than Rome, the main attractions are within walking distance of each other, but it was more meaningful with the guide. Pay the extra fee to see the Harem at Topkapi Palace, it is pretty awesome. At Ephesus, our guide was named Yelda (not sure of the spelling) and she was excellent, gave us the history and a lot of local lore that added to the experience. Make sure you pay the extra admission to see the terrace houses at Ephesus. The mosaics are amazing. We were about the first people off the boat in Istanbul, and our guide said that that saved us at least an hour in time since we were ahead of all the crowds. At Athens we walked a short distance from the ship then hailed a taxi to take us to the Acropolis at half the price they wanted right at the ship. Took the metro back, which was very easy. We were there on a Sunday which avoided the workday commuter traffic. Venice is easy to do on your own. It's great to walk, and the Vaporetto's are easy to travel on. It can take a while though if you grab one that makes all the stops. We put our luggage out when we left the ship at about noon. They requested it to be out at dinner time, and we wanted to stay in Venice for dinner. We didn't return to the ship until almost midnight. Disembarkation - We used the Princess transfer, more expensive, but sure kept the stress level down. They were very organized, and made it easy. No problems at the airport retrieving our luggage, but the lines were pretty long at USAir. Plenty of time though. Complaints - our only complaint was the internet service. We needed to keep in touch with our business, and the Princess computers were soooo slow, seemed more like dial up speed. I would spend $5.00 just getting to my gmail account to see if the office e-mailed me anything. Also, Princess blocks you from opening attachments, so I could not review things the office sent to me. The wireless did not work for about the first five days. When it worked, it was about three times faster than the Princess computers. Overall - Great itinerary, great ship. Would definitely do a Princess cruise again. We had done Royal Caribbean in the past and really didn't enjoy the experience, but were delighted with Princess. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2007
This was our first cruise with Princess. Previous cruises were on much smaller ships - 500 passengers, so we were a little apprehensive about the large ship experience. Overall we were very impressed and comments should be viewed against ... Read More
This was our first cruise with Princess. Previous cruises were on much smaller ships - 500 passengers, so we were a little apprehensive about the large ship experience. Overall we were very impressed and comments should be viewed against that backcloth. The ship has been cleverly broken down into many smaller intimate spaces so the size is not really apparent. Our cruise started in Venice which must be one of the greatest ports in the world to depart from. Sailing past the Grand Canal, St Marks Square, and the assorted palazzos in the early evening light is magical and certainly starts the whole thing off very well. For the benefit of London passengers, the flight to Venice was with Titan Airways. And here was the first surprise. Instead of the usual airline charter fare of barely edible food and plastic cutlery the offering was imaginative and the cutlery was steel. Small point but it makes a big difference. Transfer from the airport in Venice to the ship was very easy with luggage being taken straight from the aircraft to your cabin. No hanging around at the baggage carousels. It does, however seem to take a long time to arrive, ours didn't show up for 2-3 hours after getting on, which seems long when you're wanting to change from travelling clothes into something fresh. Cabin on top accommodation deck with balcony was very well appointed and the balcony made an enormous difference to the cruising experience. Cabin service was prompt and unobtrusive. We elected for the Anytime Dining option, both for the convenience of changing schedules according to how we felt each day and previous experience on other cruises of being saddled with incompatible dining companions. For some this is a risk worth taking but as there is ample opportunity to meet people on other occasions we just feel the choice should be your own. If you want to ensure a table in one of the two main Anytime Dining locations it is best to call as early in the day as possible to make reservation. This can be done on dedicated line from cabin. On two occasions we didn't do this and could not get in to eat when we wanted. They do have paging devices which will alert you when table is available but it's a bit uncertain. Could not fault the variety or quality of food. It was excellent. And the service was exemplary. There are two upscale restaurants - the Grill and Sabatini's. Both have additional cover charge and were frankly disappointing. As dining experiences they did not match up to the hype accorded them and were somewhat pretentious. But, hey, with so much else on offer from outstanding buffets to open deck service there really is no need to feel hard done by. One element well worth the additional charge is The Sanctuary, a limited capacity area at the front of the ship. This has a peaceful and relaxed feel with no piped or live music and very comfortable loungers and good service, again unobtrusive but you do feel pampered. Especially good for the two days at sea where the other deck areas can get very crowded. Much is made of the Movies under the Stars feature, the large screen film entertainment. This is a good idea but does it have to put out loud cartoons and minor movies - Herbie for heaven's sake, throughout the day? Should really reflect its title where enjoying a really good movie late at night, with free popcorn and blankets, can be good way of ending the day. The entertainment is varied and of really high quality. Of particular note was the piano player/singer each night in Crooners bar, a real hit with passengers, so much so that he was given a larger venue at one point during the cruise. Tricky to single out individuals for comment but some of the entertainment staff were somewhat irritating. May be our European psyche but we don't take to being told constantly how everything is 'truly amazing, great, fantastic, brilliant'. Even worse when it's prefaced with "As I'm sure you'll agree with me". We're quite capable of making our own judgements. Try to locate the deck above the bridge wings. It's not signposted but can be found through an unmarked door at the bow end of Lido Deck. From this vantage point the views, particularly when leaving stunning ports like Venice, Athens, Istanbul and Naples are outstanding. And the experience is complemented by the comments of the Port Lecturer who, despite an idiosyncratic approach, is both knowledgeable and amusing. Shore trips are extremely varied to suit all tastes and pockets. The logistics of getting a large number of people off the ship onto tour buses seems an overwhelming prospect but it is done without any fuss or lengthy waiting times. The cruise ended in Barcelona, and although blame could not really be placed at the door of Princess, the return journey to London was tortuous. We left the ship at around 08.00 for a 12.00 flight. On arrival at the Airport we stood in line for around an hour until the check-in desks were opened. There were then further lengthy queues for Passport Controls and Security. On being called to the gate we were informed that the flight was delayed and had to stand for another 45 minutes. When taken to the aircraft the bus waited at the foot of the steps for a good 10 minutes until we were allowed to board. The airport seemed to be in turmoil which made us wonder whether it would be better to leave from Barcelona and return to Venice. But then you'd miss that glorious Venice departure! Be aware that currency on board is US Dollars. In some ways good news for Europeans as if you think you're spending Euros you'll be pleasantly surprised when you get your final account. Hard to see, however, if you take advantage of all the ship has to offer, that you'll come away with much less than 1500 to 2000 Euros additional spend. There is a $10 per day per passenger 'discretionary' service charge. Would we cruise with Princess again? Most certainly. On Emerald Princess? Absolutely. The niggles are small compared to the excellence of the ship, the staff and the service. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2007
This was our first cruise and first time in Europe. We traveled with another couple, celebrating our 25th anniversary and his 50th birthday. We were very impressed by the Emerald Princess. It was so clean and new. The ship was huge. Lots ... Read More
This was our first cruise and first time in Europe. We traveled with another couple, celebrating our 25th anniversary and his 50th birthday. We were very impressed by the Emerald Princess. It was so clean and new. The ship was huge. Lots of activities. There were more children on the ship at this time of the year than we had expected. Would consider another time of year to avoid so many. Not really a problem except for a couple of tours. The food was good to excellent. Our steward was good, very nice but not excellent. Our cabins were very nice. Good size with lots of room to unpack and put the luggage away. We did not try any of the alternative dining. The balcony was a real luxury. Made lots of use of this. Opened the door between the two balconies. Our itinerary was wonderful. Missed Mykonos due to weather - could not dock safely, was very disappointed. The Tours through Princess were expensive however we found the tour guides knowledgeable and interesting. Spoke English very well. There were lots of little extras such as the sparkling wine with the gondola ride. Cooled face wipes to relieve us of the heat. Enjoyable lunches. Walking by long lines to get into an attraction. Our only complaint regarding the tours is the young children being dragged along on these too long tours for their ages. Some were crying and made it hard to hear the tour guides. A bit ridiculous when you have paid so much and they will never remember the experience! The tours allowed us to see much more than we would have ever been able to see on our own. The sail a way from Venice was extra special - we used the tip from a earlier cruise critic about the unmarked door to get on the front of the ship. Wonderful view and not very crowded. Note that the E tours mean that the group is smaller and you go to more exclusive restaurant for lunch. Used this one in Rome and it was excellent due to the crowds. Much easier to manage a smaller group. We watched 4 shows, all very good. Earlier show always the more popular and therefore you need to be there early to get a good seat. Did not enjoy the comedians at all. The entertainment in the centre of the ship was very enjoyable. We avoided most of the extra charged food. The icecream is available at the buffet from time to time. We bought water bottles off shore and then used the buffet to fill and kept them in the fridge for our tours. The listed drinks are more expensive(and stronger) than asking for your favorite from home. Juice in only available during breakfast. For fresh squeezed orange juice there is a charge. Many items in the stores are reasonable however if you forget anything drug store related - the items are very expensive. In Barcelona we used one of the Princess hotels however we booked on the internet ourselves and got it for 1/4 of the price. Fira Palace. Nice hotel and good location. Used the hop on and off bus to see the sights for two days. No problem disembarking from the ship. Very organized. Did not use the Princess transfer - lots of taxis available and cost $20 Euros to get to the hotel (4 adults and 6 bags). Overall we have not got anything to compare too, however, we enjoyed this holiday extremely. Would definitely cruise again. May try a different cruise line to have another experience. Wonderful way to see many ports in a short time and take in the main sites. Would just try at a different time of year if we were traveling without the children. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2007
Emerald Princess- brand new ship, lots of hype and a huge disappointment! This was our fourth cruise and we thought a switch to this "elite" cruise line would be a nice change . Big mistake. The ship itself was nice although it ... Read More
Emerald Princess- brand new ship, lots of hype and a huge disappointment! This was our fourth cruise and we thought a switch to this "elite" cruise line would be a nice change . Big mistake. The ship itself was nice although it had none of the "wow" factor of Royal Caribbean. Promenade very small-nice but not impressive. Very few shops. Nice library and bars. Outdoor movie screen fun. Pools small and not fun for kids-no slide, shallow areas, etc. Food service and the buffet lunches and dinners were extremely mediocre. We travelled with some vegetarians and the menu selection in this department was extremely poor. Veteran cruisers would especially notice the meager fare at the midnight buffet! Anytime dining was the one feature we did appreciate as regards dining-nice not to be locked down to a particular time . The shipboard entertainment and activities also fell short. Very few dancing classes-just ballroom and country. No huge outdoor party by poolside. Music and bands were definitely geared towards the taste of the older crowd. Dance revues fair, again old time artists like Tom Jones don't really do it for the under 40 crowd. At least two nights the main entertainment was orchestra or piano-again not for most of the young people in our group. One of the comedian acts was excellent but the cruise director needs to bring in a lot more high caliber performers to even compete with other cruiselines. The worse part of this 12 day Mediterranean cruise was by far the shore excursions. The tours were extremely expensive and gave very little value for the fees charged. We had several guides who spoke such poor English it was impossible to understand them. The temperature during our time in Europe was well over 100 F almost every day, and reached a high of 113F when we visited the Acropolis. The guides just raced us through making no concessions for the fact that it was hot, there were small children and some of us had difficulty keeping up under these conditions. Imagine 40 people racing through the busy streets of Florence chasing after the tour guide and stressing about being left behind. Arranging a meeting point up front would have allowed the weaker of our group some respite and maybe we could have actually enjoyed the excursion! Smaller groups would also have helped. The included meals were terrible and not at all reflective of the nice food available in the countries we visited. These all day excursions cost from $150-200 a person. The cruise operators and ship made a lot of money at the expense of us poor naive tourists who were too afraid to make arrangements of our own to tour the ports. When we tried to complain the staff at the tour desk were extremely rude-to them it was all about money not customer satisfaction or improving the tours so we would actually have fun. Bottom line-I would NOT recommend this cruiseline. Very expensive and very mediocre!!! Read Less
Sail Date: August 2007
We were on our second cruise, starting in Venice and travelling around the Greek isles, mainly. I'll start with the conclusion for those who don't want to read what ended up being a lengthy one: The conclusion A lovely ship, ... Read More
We were on our second cruise, starting in Venice and travelling around the Greek isles, mainly. I'll start with the conclusion for those who don't want to read what ended up being a lengthy one: The conclusion A lovely ship, beautiful stateroom, great ports of call but sadly offset by memories of being treated like we were poor country cousins when all we wanted was to not be over-charged... Princess - if you are listening - change your business model and operating practices before this gets worse! The room We had a balcony stateroom on the Aloha deck and it was a great size with a queen size bed, small fridge and the balcony was lovely. The linens on the bed were beautiful - white and soft! However, the bathroom was very small and we started off with a moldy shower curtain (took them a couple days to change it after we requested a new one). Our steward was a friendly, courteous fellow but it seemed that perhaps 18 cabins was too much to service - we found articles on the floor from the prior occupant at the side of the desk - clearly no one had gone there to clean up. In addition, we were surprised to read in the materials in the room of all the things that were supposed to be in the room (bottled water, laundry bag/list, recycling bin (which is really really needed given the amount of printed materials you get)) but we never saw... The ship Given that this was the first year of operation, the ship was in good shape. Compared to the other ship we have been on, this one did not have as nice/as large public spaces - the piazza was moderate. The pools were generally small and very crowded with screaming, kicking children. It was often difficult to find a deck chair - although they said "don't reserve" seats people often did and there was no sign of reinforcement. One great feature was the movies "under the stars" which they wisely also showed during the day. It was wonderful to relax by the pool and watch whatever movie was showing (didn't really matter what it was). It was impressive that the sound really did not travel to the next pool. At the end of the day, however, it seemed that the deck staff tried to prepare earlier and earlier for the evening movie (they would cover the deck chairs and re-arrange them). If you were still enjoying the sunshine (at ~5pm) then it made you feel very uncomfortable - somewhat like when you are still eating and people are clearing up the dishes around you... Some of the public washrooms were in need of more attention - pretty stinky given the age of the ship! The gym was a disappointment - it was small, not well ventilated and there seemed to be no supervision of machines (enforcing the rules with the fanatic that wanted to work out on the elliptical machine for +60 minutes when there were people waiting...). The people Overall, we found the service adequate for the most part - sometimes good and sometimes (at best) indifferent. The system used of automatic gratuity (an oxymoron!) where each guest is charged US$10 per day for gratuity automatically unless you tell them otherwise is a great idea for taking care of all those that don't normally get a tip. However, as anyone can see, promotes the wrong behavior in people. The wait staff in the buffets was generally part of the "indifferent" group - they knew they'd get a tip at the end no matter what they did. A couple staff carried the rest of the freeloaders (we noted that the freeloaders tended to be the ones in the corners chatting with the bosses...). The whole concept of "service" seemed to be foreign - we witnessed an example where they had run out of cutlery at the buffet line. A young man brought his food to the table and asked one of the waiters for cutlery. The response "you should have picked it up at the buffet line." Finally, one of the harder workers did run off the find the clean cutlery and bring it to the guests. Quite a sad display of how NOT to offer good service! We did witness exemplary behavior in one of the dining rooms where two ladies next to us had purchased a bottle of wine the previous night and insisted it was in the same dining room. The waiters asked probably 5-6 times to ensure that they were sure that they were in the same place - the answer was: of course. Well, in the end they found the bottle of wine in the OTHER dining room and the ladies were embarrassed but the wine steward/waiter never batted an eye and were very gracious about it! The ship engaged a "port instructor" who appeared quite knowledgeable (and he certainly acted like he felt that he was). We did not listen to him that often, but the 2 times we did, we found errors in his information so you can only imagine... He would often narrate as we sailed out of port and when he was providing good information that was great but he often just liked to hear the sound of his voice over the PA system and just natter on about nothing in particular. In addition, I went to him one day to ask a question about getting to a beach. He had just patiently answered several other questions of others and rather than getting a similar tone of reply he said to me "did you just get up?" I said, honestly, "yes" and he said, "I've just been talking about this all morning!" So I said thank you and left. I can only conclude that I did not get the same treatment as the other folks as, being an Asian female, I did not look like him and other guests around me... I dropped by the highly advertised (I think we received a flyer in our room ~5 times about this place) Lotus Spa to "borrow" a couple cotton balls with nail polish remover on them as my nails were looking messy at the end of the trip. One of the ladies got up to get this for me when the other fellow at the desk said "Uh we don't have any left... we've run out. But you can buy some at the store on deck 6." Kudos to him that even he was uncomfortable with saying this statement out loud, to a guest. So, the next day I bought some remover and left it in my stateroom with a note to deliver it to the Lotus Spa so they would be able to provide the manicures and pedicures that they were advertising! The entertainment We went to see three of the four Princess Theatre productions. While we did not know all the music all the time we found the singers very talented, the sets fantastic, and the costumes fabulous. Congratulations on pulling together such great productions! We visited the casino several times ("donated" some funds!!) and had a nice time. We were especially grateful for the "smoke free" nights - we know you have to cater to several types of folks so can't make it all smoke free but wanted to let you know that several people were pleased with this option. The food We chose the "anytime" dining - great concept! We only dressed up for the dining room a couple times and spent most time in the buffet restaurants which generally had a good selection of decent food (breakfast got a little wearisome but let's face it - if it is cooked and cleaned for you it's not bad). The dining room food was decent enough as well. There were a couple of "specialty" restaurants for which you would have to pay extra - we did not attend these as frankly, looking at the menus, it was a bit offensive as this was the type of food that we would have expected to have in the "regular" restaurants at this "level" of cruise. A couple times we swore that the coffee was instant... Pizza was good (and greasy) and available oh-too-often for the waistline. However, other cruise staples like ice cream was extra charge. There were other cafe-like places in the Piazza which were also sadly extra charge. Wine, beer, alcohol were priced very high. We heard that about half way through they ran out of Fosters beer - a bit of the blow for the Aussies on board and a bit puzzling for a ship like this which should be able to plan a bit better... The Ports of Call The cruise visited many lovely ports of call. We took four of the organized ship tours and while they were pricey, it seemed that, for the most part, the premiums charged for the "safety" factor were not outlandish (the only exception would be the day trip to Rome plus drop off at the airport - you knew they were gouging you with the fear associated with getting to the airport on time and intact!) A couple notables: We loved Santorini - we would recommend the donkeys on the way up (only 5 euros). Walking (if you are fit) would have been fine except for the fact that, to donkeys, the whole world is their bathroom! Kusadasi was primarily a shopping stop; if you don't like aggressive salesmen then stay away! Each store tries to get you to come in "just to look" and a couple got nasty when you did not. We could not tell if this was better/worse at the stores recommended by Princess. Corfu was disappointing - the town itself is quite touristy so if there was a tour that took you to the country side, we'd recommend that instead. We were some of the crazies that walked from the ship to the subway at Athens but there is plenty of English to navigate yourselves to the Parthenon and the Plaka. Just as a laugh for you possible cruisers - we missed the port of Rhodes due to high winds. We were disappointed but recognize that this is always a risk. However, to add insult to injury, we found a credit of 42 cents on our bill for this missed port. I'm sure there is some legal reason to do this but ... come on!! The bill Overall, we must say, the billing and other money matters left such a bad taste in our mouth it has tainted the entire memory of our vacation. As soon as we arrived, we noticed how Princess was continuously trying to wrest another dollar out of its guests. We are not wealthy but we just spent a good amount of money on a cruise so we were not expecting to be treated in this way. Everyone we spoke to about this (different nationalities, age groups, stages in life) felt the same way. People noted how they felt pressure to buy alcohol and were treated with light contempt if they did not. There was also pressure to buy the "all you can drink soda pop" package (we did not) but when people did, they told us how the waiter would be disappointed if they didn't order anything else! Even worse, as I noted above, we did not purchase the package but lo and behold when we were checking out our bill partway through the trip, we noted a charge that we did not recognize and were advised it was the pop package. So when we pointed out we did not purchase it we were told that they'd have to investigate. Four days later (and 6-7 visits to the reception later) the "investigation" continued. So much for the "customer is always right". They could not locate the slip that we would have had to sign to buy this but rather than treat this as evidence that we did NOT make the purchase, they treated us like the shysters that we clearly are and continued their search for the evidence that we had indeed subversively purchased the package and were reveling in our soda pop con scheme... Interestingly enough, as the days wore on and we noted that we did not want to spend our time at reception we were continuously advised that it would taken care of, someone would call us with a resolution and basically, "don't come back". In the end, no one from the purser's desk ever called (let alone took care of things) and it required our presence to resolve it so perhaps they were hoping we'd just forget about it! The other billing issue we had was around Internet usage. The fact that the Internet service was very slow (taking five minutes to load a page which normally takes ~15 seconds) was painful but not the biggest issue. We purchased the "package" where you get 100 minutes for $55 (yes, pretty pricey for bad service!). However, our bill reflected "by minute charges" as well. Now, even the least technical person should be able to understand that this is not logical. The reception folks refused to reverse the by-the-minute charges. We spoke to the technical Internet folks, they agreed that since we had purchased the package that the by-the-minute charges were not valid, they advised the purser's desk and yet it still took 2 more personal visits to reception to get the charges reversed. The other billing issue was not ours but we heard about from fellow cruisers. For the water taxi from the ship to Venice, Princess provided 2 tickets in the stateroom. There was a note that said "if you do not return these by x date, you will be charged". We used the tickets and were fine with the charge. Others did not receive the tickets (with this many passengers that is an understandable error) and did not go into Venice but then found the charge. They also had to argue with reception to get this reversed. It was not the actual dollar amount which was not significant, it was the attitude received as if we were "guilty first". We agreed that we felt that it was if someone was trying to take advantage of us and made us all feel that we need to be on guard. All the errors noted in billing were not high dollar amounts. Perhaps others would have ignored them and perhaps we should have just accepted the over-charging as well. However, the final outcome is that 1) we recall this unpleasantness more than say, the beauty of Venice 2) we (along with other passengers) felt that, true or not, we were deliberately being taken advantage of and 3) we wasted precious hours of our vacation, standing at reception, following up on errors that were not ours. The conclusion A lovely ship, beautiful stateroom, great ports of call but sadly offset by memories of being treated like we were poor country cousins when all we wanted was to not be over-charged... Princess - if you are listening - change your business model and operating practices before this gets worse! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2007
We just returned from 12 wonderful days on the Emerald Princess cruising the Mediterranean and Greek isles so I thought I would provide a few comments about this new ship. We thoroughly enjoyed the Emerald Princess which is the same as the ... Read More
We just returned from 12 wonderful days on the Emerald Princess cruising the Mediterranean and Greek isles so I thought I would provide a few comments about this new ship. We thoroughly enjoyed the Emerald Princess which is the same as the Crown Princess. These two new ships are much nicer than the other Grand Class Princess ships. The public areas are decorated in soft colors and are easily accessible and the only time we felt crowded was if we had to tender into an island. You just do not get a sense of the large number of people that are on the ship because of the way they have designed the public areas. The staff was great and our cabin steward was very helpful supplying us with everything we needed. Princess allows passengers to bring wine on board and since we were in Italy we brought 6 bottles on from Rome and then also brought more on from a couple of the stops. Every evening we enjoyed a glass or sometimes a bottle of wine on our balcony before dinner and then also frequently would have a glass or two on the balcony around midnight at the end of the evening's shipboard activities. We told our cabin steward that we would like wine glasses in our cabin every night and they were there every day. If you decide to bring wine aboard don't forget your corkscrew. Princess has totally revised their menus since we cruised last spring and they are new and exciting with lots of great new dishes to sample. Lounge chairs around to pools for the days at sea may be a little difficult to come by but if you get out early there should be no problem. One area that I really enjoyed was the Cafe International which is located in the Piazza on deck 4 mid-ship, where during the day they have a wonderful selection of small lunch foods and wonderful pastries all at not charge. Also the pizza on the Lido deck was very good.All in all this ship offers a lot of great new areas. Entertainment: In general the entertainment was very good, the production shows were all new since we cruised last spring on the Crown Princess and they were we produced and the singer and dancers were very good. They had two different comedians both of which were very funny. The lounge entertainment was very satisfactory and played music that everybody including the older crowd could dance to. The cruise director and staff were very accommodating and helped make for a great cruise. Shore excursions: We did several ship arranged shore excursions and most were good and well organized with good guides. Some of the all day tours were long and very tiring. However, some left to much time alone for shopping which I could have care less about and many of the areas which we were left for shopping simply were junk stores that were selling trinkets probably made in China for the particular city or country. However that being said a lot of people we talked to like the time for shopping. If you stop in Kusadasi, Turkey be advised that you are apt to be dropped off to see rugs being made and you will be met by extremely aggressive salesmen, much like timeshare salesman, and if you were not interested they could get a little nasty. In Katakolon (Olympia), Greece we took a tour to the ancient site of the original Olympics and it was one the highlights of our trip and was much better than we thought it would be. The tour of Corfu city was a waste of time and again 2 to 3 hours for shopping was simply too much for what there was to offer. We did not do a tour on Mykonos and it was very easy to just walk around, and get lost, but it was most interesting. Princess indicated that in many of the places walking was difficult and many people didn't pay any attention to Princess's guidelines and then when they were on the tour found it too difficult for them. They were very much up front about the degree of difficulty and you need to pay attention to their guidelines if you have difficulty walking because at many of the archeological sites walking was on very rough uneven surfaces and particularly at the Acropolis there were a very large number of stairs to climb. There in general was no accommodation for handicapped access to most of the sites. Princess had a wonderful 'historian' named David on board who gave very good information about the site to see at each stop and was very helpful in telling people how to get to many sites without taking expensive shore excursions. He was great and a wealth of knowledge. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2007
We were met at Venice airport and shown to our coach then taken to the Pier. Queues moved quite smoothly and told to sit and wait for embarkation which took about 1 1/2 hours. Eventually our numbers were called and off we went - the ship ... Read More
We were met at Venice airport and shown to our coach then taken to the Pier. Queues moved quite smoothly and told to sit and wait for embarkation which took about 1 1/2 hours. Eventually our numbers were called and off we went - the ship is huge and like most others we got lost several times. Cases were delivered to our cabin after a couple of hours and our cabin steward came to introduce himself to us. A very nice young man who was always helpful and pleasant as were all the staff and none of them would pass you without saying hello. We went on all the trips and we had to gather at our designated places on board, these went very smoothly and can't fault any of the trips, although hurried sometimes but found this was necessary for good timekeeping. After all most of the trips were tasters for future visits. We cannot praise the food, shows and everything on board enough. So I will comment on disembarkation.We had to get our cases outside our cabins before 9pm and there are so many restrictions on what you can carry on as hand luggage on a flight, this was difficult. All our toiletries had to be packed the night before etc. We had to be down in our designated areas by 7.45am and this went smoothly. Once off the ship and at the port we had to find our cases and get them to the coach we were to travel on. Things were a bit messy here and we feel this can be improved upon. We were given a sticker with our trip number, as we had been before, but unfortunately the coach we needed did not have this number on, so we had no idea which coach to get on. We did a trip around Barcelona so put them on the appropriate coach eventually. At this point I would advise putting plenty of home address labels on to your cases as some had come off ours. After our trip around Barcelona we were taken to the airport and found the desk. This is a huge airport and we the staff there to be most unfriendly. We did not hear our announcement and found out by watching others on our flight who found out from somewhere what was happening. We flew with Titan airways and there was extra leg room and the meals were excellent. We would certainly cruise with Princess again as we found it to be 5 star. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2007
Background Information This was our first cruise for 30 years and we had great expectations, being a new ship and also our anniversary. Hotel Info (if any) We stayed at our own accommodation, so cannot comment on Princess Ship Info ... Read More
Background Information This was our first cruise for 30 years and we had great expectations, being a new ship and also our anniversary. Hotel Info (if any) We stayed at our own accommodation, so cannot comment on Princess Ship Info great ship, great staff, big winds. The ship has excellent facilities and we rarely felt overrun by people. The only negative was for a ship of this size it seemed to be relatively unstable (but I haven't been in Force 6 -7 gales before either). The ship missed two ports Marseilles and Mykonos due to high winds. Activities Always a range of activities for all walks of life going on, always a choice, very well run program of events. Even with short notice caused by "country drive bys", captain left till last minute to decide on the danger of the port versus the strength of the winds. The crew quickly provided a schedule of events at very short notice. Service Very good, and very consistent. A quality and experience to be proud off. Additional charges. Why charge ice cream for $1? Exchange rates. Our biggest concern was that the exchange rate was set at the start of the cruise and did not vary. In these days of technology and with the ship docking each day these rates should vary with the market and be current. Rate variation was unusual as the USD/AUD rate moved some 10% during the 2 weeks in the AUD favor but Princess didn't change the rate, the effect by the end of the cruise was that all those non US passengers we were in conversation with were complaining about the rip off. Princess needs to fix this. Shore Excursions We went on 3 excursions to Florence, Naples and Athens. Each were very good. Unfortunately due to high winds we had to dock at another port for Florence and this added 45 minutes to the bus tour, which made it very tiring. Naples and Pompeii were great as was Athens and the museum tour. We went local at Istanbul and that was an experience but enjoyable. if you like haggling then you'll like Istanbul. Summary A very relaxing and enjoyable cruise with good service, good staff culture and great range of activities. Travel To Port of Embarkation We made our own way to Barcelona and embarkation was easy once we arrived at the ship. Stateroom We had a balcony stateroom on the Lido deck forward, we didn't mind the rocking and rolling during the cruise (there was a lot on this one). The room was adequate in size and the balcony made for easy freshening of the room particularly during rough seas. Two instances were noted that had minor inconvenience. Our TV was playing up and took 9 days for the fault to be fixed. Secondly, on one rough night the pool on the SPA deck (Level 16 above) emptied itself and water ran through into a couple of the Lido deck staterooms near us, I am sure those people were impacted. Dining A extensive range of food for all. Special requests were handled with ease. Volume and quality varied a little but was usual very good. Wine on board was limited but provided a range from various countries around the world. We did partake in the speciality dinner on one night and had an excellent meal at Sabatini's'. Anytime dining was a bonus and provided flexibility that we enjoyed. SPA We treated ourselves to a spa service which was good value for money, each day a new service was offered with daily specials. I am however critical of the "sell" done after the spa of "product" I don't think this is necessary, suggest a product sheet be given rather than a hard sell to buy their oils. Entertainment The couple of shows we went too were good and kept our interest. The street entertainment theme was fantastic and was a highlight every day from 4.30 to 6pm. The tenor signing on the Rome night was great. Disembarkation Quick and easy, even when we forgot a bag, they opened back up for us and we were able to collect it without too much hassle. Casino Not too bad, some of the feature were innovative and easy to use. One particular punter was very happy wining the cruise wide jackpot of $443000 (yes' its true) Ship Board Shopping The range of goods was broad and interesting, my wife made full use of these facilities. Other Suggestions for Princess Being a non US person, and being based around the Rugby World Cup, some screening of that would have been appreciated. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2007
My mother always warned me that you only have one chance to make a first impression. Later in life, I learned for these impressions are often not about what has actually happened but, rather, about what has happened in comparison to what ... Read More
My mother always warned me that you only have one chance to make a first impression. Later in life, I learned for these impressions are often not about what has actually happened but, rather, about what has happened in comparison to what you expected. Over the Bounding Main... My wife and I love cruising and we're Princess Cruise Line "loyalists." We've gone to sea on Princess ships so often that we have "Elite" status (basically, that means we get free laundry, an Internet discount, and a copy of the company's Cruise Atlas). So, when we arrived in Barcelona last September, we were primed for another great adventure, this time a month-long Mediterranean and Transatlantic voyage aboard the brand new and much-hyped Emerald Princess. And, inevitably, we were also primed to form first impressions. Princess agents were right on the spot to meet those cruisers who were arriving at the Barcelona airport. However, for some reason, our names were not on their list of those who had prepaid reservations for the bus trip to the marine terminal. Fortunately, after some luggage rummaging, we found the paper showing we really had paid our $38 and were allowed to join the group. An oversight, surely, but not a good impression. The Barcelona marine terminal is new, attractive, and staffed by efficient, if bland, clerks who quickly checked us in and directed us toward the ship's entryway where we passed through security and were greeted by— no one! No crew member with the usual cheery "Welcome aboard" and "Can I direct you to your cabin?" Nobody and nothing! Not a good impression but not a real problem either because, as I said, we're Princess veterans and easily found our way to Dolphin 307. Need I Remind You? My mother also cautioned me about "tooting my own horn," saying that others recognize it when you're really good so you don't have to tell them. Mom came to mind a lot before a single day passed because we must have heard or read "the beautiful Emerald Princess" or "the magnificent Emerald Princess" least a twice an hour. "Why is it necessary for them to keep telling us that?" we asked ourselves. Did they consider us unable to recognize beauty on our own or determine for ourselves that the ship is (or isn't) magnificent? Good Lord, Princess, we paid our money, we're here, we're not blind, quit selling! Toot, toot, toot, not a good impression. Things That Go Bump in the Night... Night noises on the Emerald weren't actually scary but they were really annoying. Heavy winds turned our balcony door into a whistling demon and we soon learned it was impossible to latch it securely enough to "seal out the wind." On top of this, the cabin walls creaked, squeaked, and moaned in a manner to rival the best of Halloween haunted houses! The Emerald, only a few months into service, sounded as if it was coming apart, like it was a vintage tramp steamer ready for the salvage yard. Of course, we knew we weren't going to have to abandon ship but all those structurally related noises---- not a good impression. For Your Dining Pleasure (Not!) One part of our daily shipboard routine--- developed during the course of past Princess voyages--- is to order a hot breakfast from Room Service. We weren't happy, therefore, to learn this wasn't an option on the Emerald as it had been on the Sapphire and Coral some months earlier. They will not serve you a hot breakfast unless you opt for the $25 per person champagne balcony indulgence. "Sorry, only Continental breakfast is available in your room," we were told. When we asked why, were we told there were too many people on the Emerald for the staff to provide this service! Duh, increase the staff, don't cut back on the great services available on other ships in the Princess fleet. Oh man, Emerald, a really lousy impression! Attention Walmart Shoppers... Sixteen thousand dollars for the twenty-nine day Mediterranean and Transatlantic voyage breaks down to about $550 a day and it was with that in mind that we had expectations for a luxurious "everything you might want" holiday at sea. But what we got was more like Walmart, albeit a pretty nice Walmart. The grasping hand of unfettered, unsubtle commerce was present everywhere on the Emerald. Over the many years we have been sailing with Princess, the company's operational philosophy has clearly shifted from the customer to the balance sheet. Want some solitude? Try The Sanctuary , but remember it costs an extra $10 for half a day. Enjoy ice cream? Not a problem, but bring your credit card (a.k.a. Cabin Key) because that banana split will be added to your bill. Ditto coffee in the International Bar , a session with the golf simulator, an arts and crafts class, etc., etc., etc. It is almost impossible to move on the Emerald without coming across something for sale--- and blatantly so. For example, a simple walk around the fifth deck Piazza area starts off at the Internet Cafe ($.75 a minute charge) and then takes you past the Future Cruise Sales office where you are invited to pre-enroll for another $16,000 (or so) voyage. Next on your walk is the spendy Vines Wine and Seafood Bar, followed immediately by the Princess Fine Arts Gallery with its inventory of paintings and sculpture for sale. Then on to the International Cafe where, although a sandwich and piece of cake are free, you must again use your cruise card to get a dish of ice cream or, believe it or not, a cup of regular coffee! (There is a free WC tucked into one corner of the area but who knows how long it will be until Princess recognizes this facility as an additional stream of revenue and makes it a pay potty?) The same thing holds true on the Promenade Deck during the day. Starting at the starboard aft Club Fusion, you find Bingo cards, Scratch-It lottery tickets, a camera-to-CD machine, Photo Shop sales, the Crown Cafe (pay extra to eat their "premium" food), Memories at Sea DVD sales, tables loaded with T-shirts, Gold-By-the-Inch chain, watches, booze and sundries, the Shore Excursions sales desk, boutiques with high end clothing, jewelry, and crystal. You name it, Princess will sell it to you at the drop of the captain's gold braid cap. In addition, if you should miss something on as you stroll around about the ship, never fear, the Emerald delivers an ungodly amount of "Spam" to your cabin, sheet after sheet of paper reminding you of all the different places and ways you can spend more money. (Amazingly, this paper blizzard is on the ship where printing a single page in the Internet Cafe will cost you $.50!) In a real sense, Gatsby's Casino is reflective of the entire Emerald experience--- people know they are being is "mined," so to speak, but as long as they think they're having a good time while its happening, they don't really object too much. However, it's a tricky business, this commercializing of fun and fantasy--- once customers recognize what that heavy hand in their pocket really is, they may well disappear. Expectations and realities--- often quite disparate. Why They Call This a Liner... Looking at Emerald Princess, you get the impression that it has lots and lots of room for everyone. Wrong! Dinner in the Michelangelo Dining Room? Wait in line. Breakfast in the Horizon Court? Wait in line. Want to ask about a future cruise? Wait in line. Want to book a shore excursion? Wait in line. Looking forward to the Princess Theater show? Wait in line. Want to buy a photograph or a Bingo card? Wait in line. Want to use the Ladies Room? Wait in line. Want to ask a question at the Customer Service desk? Wait in Line. Want to get on or off the ship? Wait in line, wait in line, wait in line, just like the old USSR! Not a good impression. Moon, June, Croon... We like to spend our evenings in the piano bar listening to pleasant music. After reading some on-line reviews written by past passengers, we had the impression that the Emerald's Crooners Bar would be one of our favorite places on the ship. David Williams, the entertainer, definitely met our expectations but Crooner's fell short, mainly because of the way it is set up. Long and narrow with the piano at one far end, the room layout worked against the development of the sense of community among "Crooners Regulars" we have enjoyed on other Princess ships. For the four or five couples sitting right next to the piano, Crooners is fine, but everyone else in the lounge hears nothing but noisy bar chatter with loudspeakers issuing forth almost incidental "elevator music" in the background. The Cruise Director claims to have an extensive entertainment background so how he hasn't recognized this shortfall and moved the piano to the middle of the room where it could be the focus instead of an afterthought? This is a mystery to us. David was great but he worked under quite a handicap. Not a good impression. Incidentally, the Crooners bar staff, just about the only crew members that displayed any spark of personality and real interest in passengers, made a very, very favorable impression on us. You Are What You Eat... The worst possible impression that a cruise ship can make on its passengers is to make them feel they are something other than first class. That, in our mind, is exactly what happens when some of the Princess Line's dining areas--- in this case the Diamond's Crown Grill and Sabatini's restaurants with their add-on surcharges--- are referred to as "premium." By simple deduction, the ship's other eating areas must be "non-premium." We figure that the same $550 a day referenced above ought to get us a better than average product! By saying, in effect, "You have to pay more for our best meals," Princess is putting a second class label its Botticelli, Da Vinci, and Michelangelo dining rooms. Once more, not a good impression nor a signal that promotes future cruise sales. By Demographics We Mean... It shouldn't take a PhD to recognize that the passengers on the Diamond's longer cruises are on the downhill side of the "age curve." If nothing else, just walk into the Princess Theater and check out the crowd right before an evening show. You'll see so much white hair that you think you are looking at a cotton field! This is not a fan base for rap music yet Princess claims it spent a million bucks for the rights to "Boogie Shoes," a production that had the 65+ bunch getting up and leaving by the minute. Princess planners should be aware that what might be a great showtime production for a short Caribbean cruise that attracts the 25-55 crowd is probably going to be a loser on the two and three week voyages that bring the older folks aboard. (On the other hand, "What a Swell Party," a production geared to the tastes of the 90+ crowd, brought on a near epidemic of yawns.) There has to be a happy medium between the music our grandparents loved and that which the grandchildren think is hot. "Boogie Shoes" was a disaster, "Swell Party" was boring, boring, and "Motor City" was just maybe OK. That left "I Got the Music," not much of crown jewel but at least it kept our attention. We felt sorry for the young singers and dancers who were given such poor vehicles for showing off their talents. Knowing your clientele is a cardinal rule in business. Not recognizing this makes a poor impression. And Finally... We are not parsimonious people but have given considerable thought to the question of tipping aboard Princess ships. We've come to the conclusion that we like neither the "wages are low and the crew members depend on tips" rational for gratuities (pay them more!) nor the policy of adding an automatic daily $10 surcharge to each passenger's bill. (This automatic charge seems to be based on the supposition that we won't tip unless we are forced to, an almost insulting attitude for the cruise line to take.) Best case, we would prefer to pay more for our tickets up front and have all tipping eliminated (ala Regent Seven Seas). In the future, therefore, we will tell the Customer Service desk not to add gratuities to our final bill and make our own decisions as to who and how much we tip. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2007
This site was invaluable to me in planning our cruise... I hope some of you can benefit from my thoughts on the entire trip we just returned from. It should be said that this is our second cruise, and we don't have lots of basis to ... Read More
This site was invaluable to me in planning our cruise... I hope some of you can benefit from my thoughts on the entire trip we just returned from. It should be said that this is our second cruise, and we don't have lots of basis to compare... but we know what we like. We had networked with a group of people here on this site to organize a lot of private tours, and we all (35 of us) got together in the Adagio bar on sailaway day to meet and greet. September is an excellent time to sail the Mediterranean. The summer weather has cooled, but on our voyage every day was sunny...no day over 90 degrees (Athens), but most in the high 70's. The Ship Emerald Princess is huge. You can burn off most of the calories from the food simply by walking a few times end to end. The ship is well appointed and has a wonderful staff, all of which attempt to learn your name if they see you regularly. We had Anytime Dining and chose to utilize the Da Vinci dining room most evenings. The food was in our opinion, wonderful...the portions were not large, but more than adequate. The wine list was long, but compared to local restaurants in our home town, by no means overpriced. Most evenings we had a great bottle of wine for under $30. The staff occasionally tried to sell after dinner drinks in a souvenir glass, but were not obtrusive about it. We were in Cabin B748, which I have seen written up as a choice corner balcony cabin off the back of the ship. Room size was great, and the balcony was spacious... ideal for the Venice sailaway where we didn't have to fight the crowds on the upper decks. The person in the cabin below asked the staff to move two of the 4 chairs off and replace it with a recliner from the pool deck, which they did... she still had plenty of room. We did have two occasions on this trip where we had 8-12 foot swells, and you definitely do feel that in the back of the ship more than in the mid ship. However, the normal propeller vibration is not a problem at all. No problems bringing in wine from the shore to have in your room. A great find for quiet poolside resting? The terrace pool in the back on level 14/15. Its right near the buffet, a hot tub is nearby, and no children allowed. Especially convenient to our rear cabin. Claim your chair early. The only negatives on the ship overall? I noticed while walking down our corridor that there was a lot of vibration somewhere near where I think the stacks went up through the ship, even on Baja deck. I cant help but think that even the balcony cabins near that would have felt that...it was very pronounced. Also, the elevators in the back of the ship don't go all the way down to the dining level...kind of a pain. We went to two evening shows. Skip the Motown tribute show... nothing interesting about a group of marginally talented white people attempting to cover Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross or the Temptations. The other show we attended was a Elton John imitator, and he was spot on... make sure you go. One disadvantage to being in the back is that when the ship is docking early in the morning, the thrusters used to manipulate the ship create such a vibration that you feel you are in the midst of a 3.5 to 4.0 earthquake. Not pleasant at 6 in the morning. Probably the biggest weakness was the port lecturer, David Toulson. Using slides from the ports that had to be 20 plus years old, he was basically a joke when he had a microphone in his hand. While he did have some useful suggestions on shopping, his commentary during sailaways was nothing short of ridiculous most of the time. And he apparently had a problem holding down the microphone button because he would cut out mid sentence. All in all, an embarrassment. Shore Excursions/Ports/Activities This is a port intensive cruise, and if you take a tour each day, you are a tired puppy by the end of the cruise. Whether you use a private guide or the ships tours, mix it up... after a while you can only look at just so many ruins and churches. Go visit some of the scenic areas and small towns. Besides, the level of crowds in the cities can really be frustrating after a while. Starting in Venice, we spent a few days ahead of time in the Hotel D'agoressa, a little hotel near the train station, which I would recommend highly. It was a long walk to St. Marks, but it was also far away from the daytime crowds there, which were incredible. We booked our own tours at the Doge's palace (Secret Itineraries Tour...do it early), St. Marks (tickets are free to help avoid lines...go between 1130 and 1230 when all the mosaics are lit) and bought tickets to Musica a Pallazo...40 Euros to hear a chamber group and two singers perform opera in a pallazo alongside the Grand Canal, and it was great, although a bit warm (no A/C). We took a gondola ride...50 minutes for 100 euros. Water taxi from the hotel to the ship, 75 Euros, but the Princess people are right there to get your bags. The morning of the sailaway we took a Princess Tour to Murano (glass blowing) and Burano (lace and great scenery)...my advice would be to skip this tour unless you could just go to Burano, as Murano was 15 minutes with the glass blower and 45 minutes for selling. No complaints about check in and embarking ... it was easy. Chefs Table We signed up for this as soon as we got on the ship...calling the dining staff at extension 6219, and they put you on the list. We are not "foodies", but we were intrigued to see a kitchen and exec chef at work. Its $75 per person, but I have to say it was an incredible evening...it was run 3 times on our cruise for 10 each night. Cruise critic folks were the entire group my night and at least one of the other two. We all donned white coats and went in to the kitchen for a quick tour, some Champagne and hors d'oeuvres. The Maitre D'hotel, Silvio is a real pro, as is Michell, the exec chef... but the fun part was waving at all the staff, most of whom probably never see their customers... we have some great pix. We then paraded out to our specially decorated table and had a five course dinner, most with their own specially matched wine. Michell flambeyed the meat at the table for us, and the pastry chef made us an out of this world mousse for dessert. We all agreed this was an extraordinary evening...and it was different for each group. As this is rolled out to other Princess ships, I would recommend this experience highly. Athens We used the driving services of Paul (Athens Taxi) who has been discussed on this site. He met us on time and took 16 of us in a very comfortable van to the Acropolis (get there early, the crowds are overwhelming), but did not guide us himself... you can hire there. One guide quoted us 10 Euro a person, which we turned down in favor of guiding ourselves. We went to the Temple of Jupiter, Archeological museum, Shopping at La Placa (lunch there on our own), Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the unknown soldier. He did what he was hired to do, and was very personable. Would have been nice to have a guide in this city though... we feel in retrospect we could have benefited from this. Grade for Paul is an A- Ephesus/Istanbul 8 of us were guided by Kagan Kosagan (TourGuidesinturkey) at both locations, and I have to say that he made this the highlight of the trip. His enthusiasm for his country, his knowledge of history and his storytelling ability brought this location to life. We went to all the major sites in these two locations (ruins, temples, palaces, bazaars, spice markets), and I have to say that the only place I personally would have skipped was the Virgin Mary's house... I know this probably has significance for some, but this place has "tourist trap" all over it, and I sense that Kagan felt the same way. Grade for Kagan A++. PS... don't miss the Terrace Houses in Ephesus! Mykonos We took the ships tour to the Platis Gialos beach ($19 for a 10 minute bus ride), and enjoyed the beach very much... was about 2/3 full, water a bit cool, salty and the beach a bit rocky but very clear and a great setting. We wandered around the town upon return and it was very pretty. If you wanted to skip the beach, most could navigate the town on their own. Some in our group rented scooters and had a great time. Naples We hired Salvatore and Roberto (two eight passenger vans) from DriveAmalfi for a morning ride down the Amalfi coast, lunch at a restaurant overlooking the coastline, and the afternoon in Pompeii. Roberto was great... his english was very good and he was a great driver on some difficult roads. We were there on a Saturday which helped a bit with traffic. There was a bit of selling going on... we stopped at a hotel for a view of the coast and were handed a brochure... but it was not a problem. They had gotten us a guide for Pompeii named Franco, and we all became part of the "Franco family" for two hours. It was a great day and I recommend them highly. Grade A+ Rome We were with Stefano of Rome Cabs. What a driver...this guy could navigate really narrow streets and park right next to major monuments so we didn't have to waste time and energy walking a long way. We were scheduled to see a lot of the major stops, and did in fact see them (Colosseum, Catacombs, Trevi, Spanish Steps, Pantheon, Roman Forum, St. Peters), but also stopped at St. Pauls outside the Walls, the supposed burial site of St. Paul. This was an added treat and I recommend it highly. Grade A+ PS Vatican Museum is closed on Sundays except the last Sunday of the month. Livorno/Florence We went with Marco of Tuscany Tours as a driver here...spent the morning in San Gimingiano, just a spectacular hilltop town in Tuscany, and then Florence in the afternoon, where we got a quick driving tour of the major sites of the city, and then dropped off to visit them in the 3 hours we had there. Marco spent most of the time on his cell phone, and it became a bit of a joke. The baptistry near the Duomo is spectacular, as was the church of Santa Croce. But I think you could find a more engaged driver than Marco. Grade A for the locations, but a C for the driver. Marseilles Catherine D'Antuono of Provence Travel took a group of 16 of us to 4 hilltop villages in the Luberon region of France...took a while to get there...about 1.25 hours, but was definitely worth the ride. We went to Gordes, Rousillon, Lourmarin, and Bonnieux for lunch. The lavender had been harvested a while ago, but these villages are each something very special, and were a great break from all the ruins at other stops. Gordes had a morning market that day, so shopping was done there. I think Catherine would be better suited for a smaller active group, but she was certainly very capable. Grade A. Barcelona Disembark, while early, was trouble free, and getting a cab was a 10 minute wait. We stayed at the H10 Raco Del Pi, right in the middle of the Gothic District. Room was very nice, but the bed was like a slab. Still would recommend it though. We took the Bus Turistic and went to Parc Guell and the Sagrada Familia which were most interesting...the next day was a day trip on our own to Monserrat monastery, which was a wonderful location on a beautiful day, and can be done easily without a guide. Barcelona is a big active city, and they have a great subway. Flew out the next day. Overall, this is a great cruise... but leave yourself a few days afterwards to recover, because you will be tired...but very happy! The Taxman Read Less
Sail Date: September 2007
Having sailed on much smaller ships, we were apprehensive about our cruise on this very large one, but I must say that with few exceptions, our fears were unfounded. The length of the passageways (which seemed to stretch interminably) was ... Read More
Having sailed on much smaller ships, we were apprehensive about our cruise on this very large one, but I must say that with few exceptions, our fears were unfounded. The length of the passageways (which seemed to stretch interminably) was a bit daunting at first but we soon got used to navigating our way around and were never conscious of being part of a group of over 3000 passengers. The cabin size was perfectly adequate and we were delighted to find that our balcony (on Caribe deck) was much larger than comparable ones on Holland America and Oceania. One problem though with larger balconies is that it may encourage partying and we were bothered by quite a bit of noise from the adjoining balcony where our neighbors seemed to be out partying every night. The shower was much too small and it was very difficult to have a decent shower in the space. We are not large people and I can only imagine how difficult it would be for some people. Closet space (not enclosed) was very generous and we had no problem hanging all our clothes. We liked most of the public areas in he ship - and really liked the piazza area where we often found good entertainment e.g. a string quartet or a pianist. We also LOVED the Sanctuary where we were able to escape for a quiet read and to listen to some music using the Bose headsets which are available on request. Our only peeve was that on one occasion there were very noisy people in the swimming pool below (just outside the Spa). There is a sign saying that it is a quiet area but it was completely ignored by the noisy chatterers in the whirlpool. I also found that the Spa staff who were giving treatments in the tent within the Sanctuary were often loud and seemed to be unaware that people in the Sanctuary were there to escape noise. We opted for Anytime Dining. In general it worked quite well but we were annoyed to find that many people were permitted to book tables at the same time every night which seems quite contrary to the concept of Anytime Dining. Princess needs to look into this and to see how many fixed-time diners are opting to go to Anytime dining. We found the food was very good - just as good as Holland America but not quite up to the standard of Oceania. There was a pretty good selection of reasonably priced wines - much better than on Holland America. On the negative side we encountered quite a few wait -staff who seemed rather rough and ready. Often the interaction verged on rudeness and I think Princess needs to do more to make sure that its wait staff is properly trained. We took only one ship's excursion and instead opted to join a private group for most of our excursions. The one ship's excursion we took to Cinque Terre was excellent but it arrived back late. Thankfully we had taken a ship's excursion or the ship would have left without us! Entertainment is very low on our list of priorities. We don't like Vegas shows and so we didn't really pay much heed to the shows. Those we tried we didn't like very much and left early. However we did like the opera singer who sang on our first night and one of the highlights was a film about Pavarotti which was also shown on our first night. We used the Adagio and Crooners bars once each and found them very pleasant but with such a packed itinerary there really isn't much time or inclination to sit around drinking in the evening. With the notable exception of our cabin steward, Henry, who was simply wonderful, we didn't find the staff particularly pleasant or helpful. I think this may be due to the automatic tipping policy and we would prefer to tip individually. The future cruise director was condescending and unhelpful and I would expect Princess to do a better job of choosing someone for this important position. One thing I really quibble about is the policy of not allowing passengers to bring liquor on board. One can bring liquor to an hotel room and there is no reason (other than profit motive) to have a different rule on the ship. Of course no-one wants to encourage drunken behavior but why not allow each passenger to bring one bottle of liquor on board? I certainly missed having a gin and tonic on our balcony! Overall impressions? We loved the itinerary (even though it was packed) and the only regret was not including Santorini. Barcelona is a wonderful destination (it was our first time there)and is highly recommended. We loved all the amenities on this larger ship and we would have no hesitation in recommending the cruise to our friends. One final point. We love Venice and stayed there for a few days before the cruise. Although our hotel was only a few minutes from the Princess dock we still had to pay 90 euros for a water taxi... Sheer daylight robbery....so be prepared - if you have a few suitcases it's the only way to go. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2007
Emerald Princess - Eastern Med/Greek Isle Cruise - September 2, 2007 Rome to Venice The following review is about our experiences with airlines, airports, hotels (pre and post cruise), private tours and independent touring. We enjoyed ... Read More
Emerald Princess - Eastern Med/Greek Isle Cruise - September 2, 2007 Rome to Venice The following review is about our experiences with airlines, airports, hotels (pre and post cruise), private tours and independent touring. We enjoyed meeting everyone on the roll call and sharing tours with them. For each of the private tours I arranged, I emailed to each participant who was sharing a particular tour with us the meeting place on board the ship (usually the Piazza on Plaza deck (Deck #5) since most of the time we would be disembarking from midship Deck#4 , time to meet, cost and recap of the tour prior to our leaving the US. I collected the monies for the tour (excluding any tips or lunch costs) each day at the meeting place prior to disembarking the ship. Precruise: Rome - 2 days Airline: We booked in early March our open jaw tickets through US Airways online. I thought we were going to have electronic ticketing and to my surprise they sent us paper tickets. Reason: We had a codeshare ticket as the flights we choose from US Airways would have us departing Venice on Lufthansa for a flight to Frankfurt and then changing to US Airways in Frankfurt to fly to Philadelphia and then onward to Ithaca -our final destination. I'll provide some feedback on the return flights further in the review and our experience with Frankfurt and Philadelphia airports on the return. No problems with the flights to Rome. Immigration in Rome was a breeze. No long lines as they quickly moved everyone through. Baggage was slightly delayed but perhaps a good thing as we had time to chat and meet some of the members from the Cruise Critic roll call. Luggage carts were either 1 or 2 euros. Transportation: We prebooked a shuttle service for our transport from the airport to the hotel in Rome using RomaShuttle (www.romashuttle.com ). As we exited the baggage claim area, the driver was waiting for us with our name on the sign. We ended up with a private car service for the price of the shuttle. Nice. Hotel: Hotel dei Mellini - Rome (www.hotelmellini.com) . One of the best finds for us. This was our third visit to Rome and we like to try different hotels in different areas. Knowing that the central area of Rome is great for the "first time" visitor, we opted for a hotel across the Tiber River. After researching on TripAdvisor and seeing both good and bad reviews we decided the negatives were not that strong. Glad we booked as the hotel is a gem. Staff, service and room accommodations exceeded our expectations. I had contacted the hotel in 2006 to inquire about pricing and found they gave us a great rate which included room, taxes and breakfast in the pricing. As a tip, try emailing hotels directly to see what pricing you will get rather than booking through their website or third party companies. Be sure to have them quote for the room, ALL taxes/fees and breakfast to be included. Tour in Rome: After much consideration, we decided to book a private full day tour in Rome visiting some of the familiar places and including a few new ones. After researching companies to use, we decided on LimoinRome - Claudio Caponera (www.limoinrome.com) as our driver/guide for the day. We shared this tour with 3 couples from our roll call. Since we were all staying at different hotels in Rome, Claudio arranged to pick each of us up at our hotels and drop off without increasing our tour costs. Our itinerary included The Roman Forum, Coliseum, Mouth of Truth, Circus Maximums, the Key Hole (Sov Mil Ordine Di Malta), Palatine Hill, Baths of Caracalla, The Catacombs, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Capitol Hill, and Gianicolo (great views of Rome from this spot) and Borghese Gallery. Claudio arranged for our lunch stop at Ristorante Massenzio. Good meal. If we could have eliminated one thing in the itinerary it would, in our opinion, have been the Borghese Gallery. After a full day of sightseeing, I for one was on "information overload". I would suggest that the Borghese Gallery be done by itself or perhaps along with a walk through the garden areas. Transportation to Port Embarkation Day: I had organized shared transport with several of the roll call members for the port using RomaShuttle service. We had 1 bus (several people were staying at the same hotel) plus 2 vans (3 couples to each van). They made all the necessary stops at the hotels for the pickups. No need to lug the luggage to a central place. I was told by those who were picked up by the bus that the driver reversed the order of the pickups and was 30 minutes late. No issues with the vans pickups. Embarkation: Smooth and easy. The ship: Large and beautiful. Stateroom and service were terrific. Purser's desk still needs some additional staff for those peak times but overall I think they do great job. We had opted for Personal Choice/Anytime dining this time around. Glad we did. With a port intensive cruise the ability to decide where and when you want to dine is a great option. Never had to wait for a table for two or if we decided to join others. We tried both anytime/personal choice dining rooms - DaVinci and Michelangelo and service in both were equal. Food and service were good. On several occasions we did go to the Cafe Caribe for our dinner meal. At times we thought the food choices in the Cafe Caribe were better than in the dining room. Excellent service by the waitstaff in Cafe Caribe. For breakfast we would either go to the dining room (if we didn't have a very early tour) or the Horizon Court. Both were good. Cruise Critic Get Together: On embarkation day we arranged on our roll call to meet at the Outrigger bar after the muster drill. I think we may have taken over the whole area since so many of us showed up. Marion from the roll call had provided name tags for all the participants which was a great way to put faces with names from the roll call. It was great to meet everyone. Since we would all be touring over the next several days it was a great opportunity to meet those we would also be touring with throughout the cruise. Port: Monte Carlo - Tender port - Arranged a private full day tour with Michel Legrand of Revelation Tours (www.revelation-tours.com). Our itinerary included Monte Carlo, Eze, La Turbie, Roquebrune, and Menton. Michel uses a microphone in the van which helps greatly for everyone to hear what he is saying as we drove from place to place. At each stop we would go by ourselves and then meet back up with Michel at a predetermined location and time. We stopped for lunch where we all choose to eat where we wanted to, do some shopping/browsing and then meet back at the van at a given time. We shared this tour with 3 couples from the roll call. Bought two bottles of wine. No problem with bringing it onboard the ship and can report that both came home in the checked luggage okay. Michel met all our expectations for a fabulous tour. Would highly recommend him to others. Port: Livorno - Florence/Pisa - Arranged a private tour through LimoinRome - Claudio Caponera (www.limoinrome.com)for two vans which would hold 8 passengers each. The tour was shared with 7 couples from the roll call. Drivers were Daniele and Maurizio. Both drivers were on the dock with the signs waiting for us as we disembarked the ship. Dressed in suits, I found them both quite friendly and easy to speak with. The itinerary included Pisa to view the Leaning Tower, Piazzale Michelangelo, Accademia Museum, S.Maria del Fiore: the Cathedral, the Giotto bell tower, the Baptistry, S. Lorenzo leather market and Church of Santa Croce. We had a couple of hours of rain when we traveled from Pisa to Florence. When arriving in Florence at the overlook, it was pouring and the wind made it less than desirable to be outside taking pictures. After lunch the sun was shining and it was beautiful weather. I requested if we could go back at the end of the tour to the overlook and get those much wanted photo shots we had missed earlier in the day before we headed back to the ship. One thing about private tours, you can adjust your scheduling and your driver can drive through the streets to the sites where the hordes of people are walking. It was a sea of people moving through the streets and it's amazing how the drivers can get through without anyone getting hurt. We had time to go to the outdoor market for some shopping/browsing. This was our third visit to Florence and never a disappointment to revisit one of our favorite cities. One point on this tour is that we could have benefited from the driver having a microphone so it would be easier for those in the back of the van to hear what he was saying. Port: Naples - Arranged for a private tour through DriveAmalfi with Salvatore (driveamalfi@hotmail.com) to tour the Amalfi Coast. Unfortunately our ship was late docking in Naples due to some shipping traffic and so we did not get off the ship and start our tour for several hours. The positive side to a late docking was our ship delayed leaving the port for 1 hour so we did get to see all that we had planned for the day. We shared this tour with 3 couples from our roll call. We stopped for lunch at a restaurant called S.Giovanni. Great spot and the food was good. Had a sample taste of lemoncello and meloncello as well. Purchased a bottle of lemoncello in Amalfi and had no problems with it in the checked luggage back home. This was our third visit to Naples and have visited Pompeii twice so choosing just to do the Amalfi coast was a good decision for us. Sea Day: Time to sleep in, do some laundry and just relax. Port: Santorini - Tender Port - We decided to do a day on our own for this port stop. Tendering ashore was quite a thrill as the tender boat and the docking areas (off the ship and also on the island) were not always in sync. Quite a few times they had to stop people from boarding or disembarking the tender since the boat was moving too far away from the step off point. We took the tram up to the top - 4 euros each one way. Spectacular view when you're going up or down. Lots of donkey poo on the streets. Ventured out through the narrow streets and donkey poo to find the famous blue doom church. Spent time at the archeological museum, did some shopping/browsing and then headed back to the ship around 1:00pm and have lunch on board the ship for a change. Port: Kusadasi - Arranged a private tour through Meander Travel. I can't begin to describe what a great tour this is and the company was just wonderful. Our guide for the day was Rika Akyuz who took us to all the sites and described for us what we definitely would not have gotten from any book we bought. We shared this tour with 5 couples from the roll call. The tour included Ephesus, Ephesus Museum, Basilica of St John, House of the Virgin Mary and the Terrace Houses. Note: Terrace houses for those with walking issues may want to skip this as the steps inside the site do have hand rails but when you exit the excavation site you have to walk down (no other way to exit) many steep stone steps where there are no hand rails. The guide had warned the group before she purchased the entrance tickets that this may be an issue and if anyone wished to wait outside for the group to return. A couple of people opted to wait and not go in. If your tour does not separate out the cost for entrance to the Terrace Houses you may wish to request they do this as it would save some money for those who decide they can't do the stairs. We had lunch included with our tour which was at a rug company. Don't worry, there was no pressure to buy a carpet but you will find the demonstration on how they make carpets interesting. Food was very good and a great selection to try. Drinks other than bottled water were extra. Port: Mykonos - Did this port stop on our own. Took the shuttle to the drop off place and walked into town to find the famous windmills and Pablo. Now, we had read about a Petros but we thought the port speaker on the ship was saying Pablo. We got some great photos of the windmills from different points on the walk up. Then while sitting in a cafe we saw Pablo (or is it known as Petros?)who everyone was treating like a rock star. Hordes of people following him, taking his photo and getting a photo posing with him and quite frankly, I think Pablo enjoyed all the attention. Pablo (Petros) is a pelican. Port: Athens - Arranged a full day private tour with Athens Taxi - Paul (www.athenstaxi.org) Paul was waiting for us as we exited the cruise terminal. Our itinerary included Acropolis, The National Archaeological Museum, The Tower of Winds, The Old Palace, The Greek and Roman Agora, The Temple of Zeus, Olympic Stadium, and the Plaka. We shared this tour with 7 couples from the roll call. Paul hired a licensed guide for a half day at our request to do the visits of the Acropolis, Greek and Roman Agora, Changing of the Guards at the Palace, Olympic Stadium, Temple of Zeus. Our licensed guide was excellent. Her name was Efi and she paced the tour at the right pace. She gave an excellent background on the sites we visited with her. We ended the tour with her on the Plaka. Most of the group ate together at a restaurant and then went about to shop/browse on our own and then meet at a predetermined location for pickup by Paul. Overall the day was excellent and glad we had the guide. Would highly recommend Paul and the licensed guide. Port: Katakolon - Tender Port - Arranged half day private tour of Olympia and the Museum with Gemma Economopoulou (geconom@otenet.gr) who is a licensed guide. We shared this tour with 6 other couples from the roll call. Gemma is a wonderful guide and paced the tour and kept us as much as possible in the shaded areas and someplace to sit while she gave us background on what we were seeing. The damage from the fires can be seen on the roadside and hillsides and the smell of burning wood is still evident. She is a very impressive guide and we would highly recommend her. Note: We had a tender on this port so not sure if this was due to the previous issues with the fires as we had expected to be docked per our itinerary. Port: Corfu - Arranged a 3 hour private taxi tour with Corfu Private Tours - Dimitris Dafnis (www.corfutaxitours.com) The itinerary I set up with him prior to our arrival was to go to the hilltop villages of Lakones or Bella Vista which would offer us views of the Bay of Paleokastritsa, Monastery founded in 1225, scenic drive to village of Makrades, Troumbetta Pass, the village of Scripero, Kanoni to view Mouse Island and a visit to a small church in Corfu town. Dimitris is very passionate about giving you the best tour possible and following the program you wish but he will make suggestions to help maximize your time. He can at times seem to be very intense on following the program but I think it could have just been his way of communicating. Not offense in anyway and at times we found him to be quite funny and providing a good insight into family life on Corfu. We shared this tour with another person from our roll call. As promised he was waiting for us outside the cruise terminal building which is also has the Duty Free shop. The tour was okay. The Duty Free shop provided free shuttle service from and to the ship all day. Since we walked back from Corfu town to the cruise terminal it was a nice relief to hop on the shuttle to the ship even if it was for just 5 minutes. The ship was expecting to sail away from Corfu at 4:00 pm and get an early start for Venice so we could arrive earlier in the day in Venice. But alas, there was a couple who was missing and so the ship did not sail on time. I'm not sure why the ship waited since the warning is always be back on board or else the ship leaves without you. Announcements for so and so to please call the pursers desk went unanswered so then they started to announce in another foreign language Quite a show watching from the outside deck the port authority running back and forth to the Duty Free shop and then the arrival of one of the missing passengers being driven on a motor cycle and right behind was a port car with the other person in it. Maybe they were the rock stars...... Port: Venice - We started our sail into Venice at 2:00pm. Get ready to pick a spot before the crowds start to crush you at the railings. Spectacular sail in. This was our second visit to Venice having previously visited on an overnight cruise port stop. Once the ship had docked and we had been cleared to disembark we headed over to the ACTV to purchase our waterbus tickets to be used over the next couple of days. Got on the waterbus to St Marks Square to check out the hotel location we would be staying at post cruise and then back to the ship to pack up our luggage as we disembark the following day to start our post cruise stay for 2 days. Since we had been to Venice before, we decided to spend more time in Murano and Burano and just wander the streets of Venice. Disembarkation: Princess runs a very smooth process. Once we disembarked the ship, Princess bused us over to the terminal building where you will easily find your luggage. Exiting the terminal building the private Venezia Water Taxi service desk is on the right hand side. Check the signs as there are two water taxi services near the exit. Once they verify a water taxi pickup, you pay and they give you a slip with the water taxi number on it. Since we were staying at the Locando Orseoleo and not wanting to drag our luggage to the hotel we ordered the private water taxi and specifically asked the attendant that we needed to go to the water window of the hotel. We then proceed back outside with our luggage to an area just in front of the cruiseship where the water taxis were coming in to pickup passengers. We waited about 30 minutes for our water taxi to arrive and finally we were on our way to the hotel. Note here that we hired a private water taxi that was suppose to be just for the 4 of us with our luggage. We then find that the water taxi company had taken two additional people on with their luggage and charged them 80 euros for the two of them and charged us 100 euros for the 4 of us. When I asked the water taxi driver about not taking on additional passengers he said he would give us 10 euros back on the cost. I asked the driver if we would be going to the water window at the hotel. Yes, he said. Well, no we didn't. He docked near St. Marks square and proceeded to tell us that the water level was too high and they couldn't go any further. So here we are dragging our luggage to the hotel. Lesson learned: Don't count on using the water window if you have alot of luggage. Make sure you can pull your luggage several blocks over a small bridge with steps to the hotel. Post Cruise Hotel: Locanda Orseoleo (www.locandaorseolo.com) - It's just as described by many other travelers who have used this hotel. Perfect location. Warm and very friendly owner and staff and the hotel has character and a certain ambience that you don't find in the larger hotels. No elevator which isn't a problem as the staff at the hotel takes your luggage up to your room for you and also helps to bring it down when you leave. Great location. Non smoking. We had room 14 which had a small sitting area with balcony type windows and then the bedroom area with windows and a bath. Ample space in the room. We could view the canal with the gondoliers below from our windows. We enjoyed our two days in Venice as we got to do the city at our pace and not worry about the cruiseship leaving and watching the time. We did go to Murano and Burano and found the leisure time we spent walking on both a great benefit. We did attend a glass blowing demonstration on Murano which lasted about 15 minutes, did some shopping/browsing. On Burano, we walked around to take photos of the many painted houses, shopped/browsed and ate at this great restaurant called Riva Rosa. We had hired a private water taxi with another couple for our return to the airport which was very interesting navigating out the water window into the water taxi and then going through the water canals in the darkness until you reach the open waterway to get to the airport. You dock at the airport and we had arranged for a van to pick us up and take us to the terminal building from the dock. It was worth the money to do this. Luggage carts at the terminal building cost .50 euros. The airport was easy to navigate to get to the check-in as it's not a huge airport. Lufthansa staff was great. We then just had to sit and wait for our flight to be called for boarding. Luggage was checked through to our final destination and got boarding passes for each of our connecting flights. When we arrived in Frankfurt - Terminal 1 A for our connection on US Airways, we followed the signs to C (Terminal 1). Note: Before you go through the security area to reach your gate if you want any food get it here as there is limited availability once you go through the security checkpoint. After security you then have passport control to exit the country. As we followed the signs to C8 gate area we had another checkpoint where they ask to see our boarding passes. If your flight is not due to leave within a certain time frame they will not allow you to go through as we saw them turn several people away. Once at the boarding area they then did another security check of who packed our bags, etc etc and told us to go to the desk area to have new boarding passes reissued. We have no idea why they needed to redo all the boarding passes. They verified how many pieces of luggage we had checked when we left Venice and then reissued all new boarding passes. Note: Once you enter the seating area for C8, there are no restrooms. Flight on US Airways went without any problems to Philadelphia. Arrived on time. Breezed through passport control, picked up our luggage and went through customs - no problems or wait time. Note: Luggage carts at PHL costs US$3.00. Put the luggage back on the connecting flight luggage belt (signs are clearly marked as to where to go) and headed for our connecting gate. Here is where there was a complete bottleneck as you have to go through a security check for the connections and met a sea of wall to wall people waiting and moving very slow. I would estimate it took us over 1 hour to get through the security. Once past this point, and if your connection flight is out of terminal F as ours was, we took the shuttle bus from gate A1 which drops you off at terminal F. I'm not sure if the security backup is a common issue but definitely allow at least 2 to 2 1/2 hours for connections through Philadelphia airport. Overall this is one of the best cruises we've done and we highly recommend others to give it a try if you like to visit many ports with less sea days. Weather was great throughout the trip and glad we choose early September to do this cruise. The members of our roll call were a pleasure to meet and share tours with. We have great memories of this adventure. Would definitely do this trip again. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2007
This was my wife's and I 6th cruise and was our first one on Princess. We have done 4 RCL and one Carnival. We are both in our early 30's along with the other couple who came along with us. Embarkation: We live only 30 minutes ... Read More
This was my wife's and I 6th cruise and was our first one on Princess. We have done 4 RCL and one Carnival. We are both in our early 30's along with the other couple who came along with us. Embarkation: We live only 30 minutes from the port so getting to the port was no issue at all. Arrived at around 1130 and found there was a line already extending out the door. This is where we got a taste of how the rest of the cruise was going to go. Standing in line we felt as we were out of place because of the big age difference between us and the rest of the passengers. This does not bother us at all because we like to do our own things and we had friends along our age to keep us company. But I think it bothered others because we received countless number of looks as if we did not belong here and actually overheard a couple behind us whisper to another couple that "oh, they must be lost, Carnival is parked over there...hope there's not more". As much as I wanted to say something I just bit my tongue and just realized that some people are like that. Well, I would say we were on probably around 1245 to 1pm about an hour and a half or since we got there..not impressive. Ship/Cabin: We stayed in cabin B748 which is an aft facing cabin. We loved the room as we really like the view from the back. The room had plenty of space with plenty of room under the bed for your luggage. The balcony was very spacious with 4 chairs and a table. Our room steward introduced himself right away and was very nice. The ship in general was very nice but everything felt confined because of the low ceilings everywhere you went..it just felt small compared to the public rooms on the voyager class for example on RCL. Dining/Service: This is where the Emerald was lacking. We chose to do anytime dining which at the end we decided next time we would do traditional. Honestly, we maybe enjoyed one dinner out of what 10 or so we had onboard. Not all of it was because of the food but rather more because of the service or should I say lack of it. On several nights we were sat and waited for several minutes before anyone would even come over and ask for our drink orders. I'm not talking about 5 or 10 minutes folks, I mean like 20 minutes. We are very patient people and understand that these waiters are busy but at least come by and say something and introduce yourself. Out of all the waiters we had only one actually introduced themselves to us. It actually became a running joke between the four of us on how long we would wait every night. Food orders would come out wrong and instead of them saying I'm sorry I will get you what your ordered it was more like getting an attitude from them. Enough of that because I can complain all night about the service. Food wise like I said was just ok. Nothing really caught our attention on most nights and on two nights we actually had to get different dishes because what we ordered was not very good at all (Halibut tasted and felt like a hockey puck). The buffets were pretty good..good variety on some things. They really, really need to add more seats in the buffet area's. You honestly had to circle around the tables for like 20 min to find somewhere to sit for breakfast. Half the time we brought the food back to our rooms to eat on the balcony because there was just not enough room up there. The most annoying thing is people would not even be eating at half of those tables. They would just sit there and socialize as others circle looking for somewhere to put their food down. Bar service was great at Crooners and at the Wheelhouse Bar.(Tom at Crooner's is awesome). Entertainment: We went to most of the shows..I think we only missed one. Most of them were really good..didn't really understand the Boogie Shoe's show. Started out about being shoes then kind of drifted off into something else. I really wish they had more activities top side by the pool like RCL. Most of the activities were inside and marketed towards an older crowd. The CD was pretty much nonexistent and would maybe hear from him only about twice a day. Just a very boring atmosphere. Would also be nice to hear from the captain once in a while. Ports: Did not book any excursions through Princess. We just go ashore and get tours and all that stuff from the vendors there. We enjoyed most of the ports in exception of Grenada. We took about 10 steps off the ship and got right back on. You could not take a single step without some cab driver hounding you for a tour. The first one would not even be finished before another one would come up and ask you the same thing. Just flat out annoying. Everything else was pretty much standard with the cruise. Honestly, to us this cruise was not what we expected and we got off really disappointed with the Emerald and with Princess. The biggest reason the service..just flat out bad. Maybe it would make a difference if they had to work for their tips instead of getting the automatic tips which Princess does. This was just one persons review but I'm sure others had a flawless cruise and I'm glad they did. All in all we had a good time because any cruise is better then work but we wont be sailing Emerald or Princess anytime soon. Maybe in the future..BIG maybe... Read Less
Emerald Princess Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.2
Dining 4.5 3.8
Entertainment 4.0 3.5
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.9
Family 4.0 3.9
Shore Excursion 5.0 3.7
Enrichment 4.0 3.4
Service 4.0 4.2
Value For Money 4.5 3.8
Rates 4.0 4.0

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