First the good news- the ship is elegantly appointed...badly designed in many ways (but you've read all of that in other reviews). It is as clean and well maintained as many operating rooms I've seen !. The staff is hard working and well trained. Princess' embarkation and debarkation logistics are FABULOUS....well organized and uncomplicated for a huge ship. Port intensive with a fairly good selection for both newbies and seasoned travelers,
Now the bad news: Be prepared to spend half again your ticket price on "options". You get nickled and dimed at every turn. Bar cocktails are in the $10 range...wine is overpriced. Princess' tours are outragiously priced and can be easily duplicated with hundreds of independent operators in every port. The web is great for finding them. Princess does it's best to discourage you from using anyone other than their "preferred" provider with fear instilled that you run the risk of missing the ship's departure if you don't use their tours. Baloney! These operators know that they are doing and charge a third to half of what Princess charges...smaller groups, nice vehicles. When considering a Med cruise, don't be scared off by higher prices from more upscale lines like Oceania...the price may seem higher, but the inclusions often make it less expensive overall. We take the hop-on, hop off bus in many ports and find them to be excellent values and fun experiences.
One thing that has cost Princess my business is that they park the ship inconveniently (I'm not talking about Rome (Civetivechia) and Florence(Livorno) where everyone knows that transportation to the city is far and involved. I'm talking about Toulon...where the ship gets birthed 6 miles from Toulon and Princess charges $25 a person (no I am not kidding)to get you into town. We found the public water taxi 500 yards from the ship for 2 Euros a person...1/5 of what Princess charged. Princess did not mention that that service was an available option. Ditto in Ravenna...$16 a person to get you into town. Ditto in Mykonos...Princess' bus was $10 a person...literally a 25 yard walk from the gangway was the public water taxi for 2 Euros a person which took you to a much better location in town. Continuing in the "how much can we rip" department...they offer a private train into Rome from Civettichia for $100. Walk to the station(or cab it it you're lazy) and you'll find a train that takes exactly as long with similar equipment at multiple convenient schedule times for about 9 Euros. What really frosted my cookies was that when we complained, it was akin to talking to a chair. We were told that nobody aboard had the authority to waive any charges. They listened to our politely offer complaints and showed an extremely apparent disinterest. I'm talking about the front desk...even their Captain's Circle representative.We're not new at this....we've sailed dozens of times- 16 with Princess....the Elite pin should count for something other than just a referral to "Customer Relations" when we get home.
Automatic tips are another RIP...seemingly they do not all go to the service personnel. You CAN and should request that they be removed (which Princess will do reluctanly) and tip as you see fit for explemplary service(cabin stewards,waiters, etc) which you will find and they will really appreciate it.
There is not so much as a bottle of water at the gangways...even for purchase.
The entertainment is trite and contrived. More pyrotechnics and loud recorded/lip synced music than talent. The ancilliary talent, comedians especially should seek other work.I must however mention a better choice of the Movies under the stars which offer a huge "jumbotron" screen on the pool deck with popcorn(free, can you believe it?) and even cookies and milk mid show.
Food is elegantly presented in the dining rooms (the result of inexpensive labor) - but the quality just is not there.If you come from a town where they don't have a restaurant other than a diner...you might think it very good. If you are bigger city folks, you've had better. New cruisers love the entire ambiance of Princess...more seasoned passengers have noted declines.
Princess USED to be a a fine quality line in the mid-price category. Since it's purchase by Carnival, we've noticed a subtle decline in everything but the "glitz" factor. While I respect that they are in business to make money, their fares warrant inclusion of certain mandatory services which have fallen precipitously. And...complaints and commentary from customers need to be addressed, with some authority, on board. Middle management on board needs the authority to offer adjustments to quell a legitimate complaint...not just saying...yes..."we hear that a lot" "I'll pass it along to our head office". Had I run my business that way, I would not have been able to comfortably retire and afford to travel.
One last thought....Princess offers 2 formal nights on a 12 day cruise. Hey guys...get with the program. This is passe. With the costs and complications of larger luggage to accomodate formal wear when flying these days...who needs a formal night. On the two formal nights aboard, I roughly counted less than 10% of the men were wearing tuxedos, another 20% wearing suits, another 20% with jackets (no tie)...and the rest dressed casually like every other night. Laides can get away with a pair of nice black slacks and a blouse and not feel out of place. Then...there's always the buffet which will serve you in any attire on those nights. Of course, you have to deal with the cafeteria format and the college-dorm food.
So we'll take a break from Princess for a while. I won't say forever....that is counterproductive.
Cabins are small but who cares....you're on this cruise to see the ports. The bedding (it's new afterall) is comfortable, the baths offer sufficient space and are kept impeccibly clean.Location doesn't matter...on a ship this size it's always a hike to somewhere you want to go. Opt for the cheapest outside cabin with a balcony..where it is is just not that important. Just stay away from the last 10 cabins aft...there is significant vibration there.We prefer mid-level- around Deck 10 seems to be a reasonable compromise.
We have travelled to Florence several times and chose to spend the day in Livorno and used the hop-on, hop off bus. What an inexpensive,informative treat.
If you've never visited Rome...of course you must. However, we spent this day in Livorno having travelled to Rome many times in the past. A delightful day in this beautiful, very Italian-feeling town.
A complicated, expensive city but one you just must do. It's a walking town and the inexpensive "vaparetto" service is easy to use.You can literally fall into a restaurant for a cappacino or nice lunch or dinner. The ship overnights there giving you the dinner option.
This jewel of a destination was by far the most impressive of the cruiseView All 58 Walking the Walls Reviews
This is the one exception where I recommend Princess' tour. For $59 it was a good value in this VERY hot, VERY crowded - NOT TO BE MISSED destination. Warning...we were unable to get into Kusadasi on a previous cruise...it's often windy and the bigger ships sometimes miss this port.View All 257 Ephesus Reviews