I'll start by saying we had a great time. We were a large group so that made it even better. The weather was 72 almost every day. We left on Oct. 15. The food was very good throughout the ship and the service was outstanding - absolutely first class. We had a mini-suite on Dolphin Deck. Loved the extra room and two televisions, not to mention the bathtub. However, I would never recommend the Dolphin Deck as there is no privacy, no shade, no protection from the elements and everyone peers down at you. I really hated it. So, if you can, get a mini-suite, just don't get Dolphin Deck, you'll be very happy you did. We had starboard side (right side of ship)which we really enjoyed, as we seemed to be in the shade a lot when we docked.
Alcohol - what a pleasant surprise. You can buy alcohol right in the Venice terminal after you get your number and go through security. They have a small store. The Proseco (Italian Champagne) was delicious and only cost $10. The Baccardi Dark Reserve Rum and Black Label Scotch were cheap too. Then you pay for it and carry it on the boat with you. No problem. They really did not seem to have an issue with passengers bringing alcohol on from port stops either. In many cases, you did not even have to go through the security machines upon return.
There are many white haired seniors on this cruise, so that took some getting used to. Everything, in my opinion, was geared toward seniors. The house band "Lots of Fun" was the biggest disappointment for me as they just were not that good and they had a lead singer with a Eastern European accent which just grated an on nerves. So I avoided them whenever I could. They basically played 50's, 60's and 70's music. The rest of the music throughout the ship was just too old for me. The Atrium entertainment was especially bad. I never sat there at all.
We went to a few shows and especially loved Diane Cousins who has a fantastic voice and is also hysterically funny. We saw both of her shows and I suggest not missing her. Another great performer was Lenny Windsor - he was really funny too. The audience participation shows were very entertaining, try not to miss them. Bingo was fun and the special Fish-N-Chips lunch was worth the line to get in.
Loved our cruise Director Sam, she really was adorable and sweet. She's doing a great job. Colin, her side-kick, has such a heavy Scottish accent I basically never understood him and for the life of us, could not figure out why Princess would put someone with such a heavy accent in this position.
Ports - loved them. Please keep in mind, this is a rigorous trip. There are many, many steps everywhere and lots of climbing involved in different areas. So, if you have bad knees or hips this cruise is going to be a problem. We had someone with us who "had not yet gotten around" to having her knees done and wound up in tears on a few day trips just trying to keep up. So please be aware of this as I am not exaggerating this point.
We did our own tours. We shared a taxi with my sister and brother-in-law at each port and saved a fortune.
Venice - we got to Venice two days before the cruise and purchased the three day water taxi pass and took those things everywhere. The taxi stands are bright yellow and are all along the grand canal. You can't miss them. A great and easy way to travel around. I can't tell you how beautiful Venice is. We only encountered flooding in the square. It was actually fun. We purchased these silly yellow plastic boots and waded through the water. We learned the flooding got really bad after we left so we were very lucky.
Dubrovnik - beautiful walled city. We walked the wall. It took about and hour and a half and was exhausting. We were sorry we did it, because once you're up, you're stuck. But the views were spectacular. We came down and had a wonderful lunch in one of the alleyways hawking lunch specials. The floor of this city is white marble - quite a sight, but very slippery, so be careful. We walked to the waterfront and sat in the sun. What a special place.
Corfu - went to one of the fortresses then walked the city and had our feet cleaned by tiny fishes in some new store. You sit above fish tanks, put your feet in for fifteen minutes and they nibble on your toes. Weird. Sorry we did not do Ceci's Mansion. I heard it was beautiful. We ate at one of the seaside restaurants. The Greek salad was delicious and the fried calamari was fresh as could be. The gigantic beers were only 3 Euros. A real bargain.
Olympia - Went to the ruins of the Olympics. Enjoyed it. Also went to the museum right next door. Great statuary rooms. Enjoyed it.
Athens - if he'll agree, get your taxi driver to take you to the top where you buy the tickets. There was no line when we got there in the morning. Lots and lots of uneven stairs here. The ground is very slippery. Be prepared to climb and hold on tight. The Acropolis is something to behold. Make sure your camera is fully charged as you will be taking a lot of pictures here.
Mykonos - pretty white town with narrow streets. We ate at the restaurant on the water near the windmills. Had a great day.
Kusadasi - Ephesus - Spectacular. Go for the extra few Euros once inside and visit the newly excavated Terrace Houses - well worth it, but again lots and lots of staircases. This was the most crowded of all sites because of tour groups.
Santorini - a no-brainer here. We took the little boat that you see as soon as the tender docks at the shoreline. It literally is face to face with the tender, so you can't miss it. You buy the tickets right there. The boat takes about 15 minutes. You get off and get into an air conditioned van to the top. This is the town of Oia - it's GORGEOUS. Here is where the honeymooners go. The view is breathtaking. This is also where all the brochure pictures come from. Then you get back on a big air-conditioned bus and they take you into town. (There are three departure times 1:00, 2:00 or 3:00 PM) In town you'll find one after the other of great cliff restaurants to choose from. If you happen to come across it, stop into the church, it's so tiny and pretty.
Naples - we took the ferry to Ishca. Had a great lunch and walked around. A fun day.
Rome - got our hotel to send a van (180 Euros for two couples and he met us right at the cruise terminal exit door). Spent two nights in Rome. Got to see the Colosseum, Forum, Palantine Hill, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Pantheon, Loyola Church and National Museum of Rome. We also saw the Pope in the Vatican square. What an incredible experience - one We'll never forget.
Anyway, back to the cruise. The boat is the prettiest of any we've sailed on. We never did get used to the layout. We got lost every day, but so what. The elevators were slow. The shops didn't have much to offer. But the casino was terrific. We especially liked the "Smoke Free" nights. It was never crowded and our friend won $1,000 on the machine where you have to maneuver the arm just right to "grab" it.
Strongly suggest buying an Email package from the boat to communicate with loved ones via the internet. Wi-fi service throughout Europe was a joke. Spent hours and hours trying to connect with our smart phones. It was really terrible. The cheapest package on the boat was $99. Believe me, it would be worth it. In retrospect we were very sorry we didn't take advantage of it.
That's it for now...until next time. Enjoy your trip.
D 615 - Lovely and spacious. Easy access to back elevators and stairs. A breeze to get to the Botticelli Dining Room. I would never, however, stay on Dolphin deck again. No covering on balcony. No privacy whatsoever. People peer down at you. No shelter from rain or sun. Do get a mini-suite, just not on this deck. Mini-suites offer much more room, two televisions,an extra long couch and a great big closet. The vanity area is tucked to the side so you can do your hair and your partner can still walk around. You'll never want a regular balcony again.