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When and where: Star Princess -- Mediterranean 12 day Rome to Venice on April 22. Who: I'm Robin (R) single mom, pushing the big 50, my friend Beth (B), single, 40's. We've both cruised before but not together. We were joined by Beth's retired parents Pete (P) and Louise (L) who've cruised from the US, but have never been to Europe. Pre-cruise: Three nights in Rome at the bed and breakfast offered by Remo and Angela. Remo and Angela define gracious entertaining - they treated us like family and we got to know there's as well. Remo had his drivers pick us up at the airport on the 19th and deliver us to the ship on the 22nd. The extra charge was well worth the first-class treatment. (We had a fair amount of luggage). Though Remo's house is farther out in the suburbs than we'd hoped, it worked out well for us and they were always available for rides to the subway on our schedule. We were too tired from the flight to do any late sight-seeing. We took advantage of the optional dinner for the last night - Angela is a wonderful cook and it was the perfect ending to our stay -- much better than any restaurant (Even Remo's brother's pizza). We may not have seen all the touristy sights but we got to know the family culture of Italy as few do and for us, that was a better choice. For "in-town" sightseeing, we used the ACTV Line 110 double decker hop on/hop off bus and definitely got the most for our money!!! It's a great way to rest when you're tired and still see the sights. Even if you go around more than once, there's something new to see every time (We did make it to the Vatican for Mass and to see the Sistine chapel. Our "must do's). Ship: The Star Princess is gorgeous! Perfectly clean, you'd never know there were nearly 3,000 passengers on her (and we sailed FULL) at any given time. Passenger mix was mostly couples in the 50+ range, but I'll bet every possible demographic group was represented. Mostly US, with a large contingent from Vancouver, Toronto and Great Britain (where I understand this sailing was heavily discounted). I loved the two fresh water pools, one outside, one inside. No smell of smoke or anything else unpleasant anywhere. I love productions shows, so I saw Dance!, Give My Regards to Broadway (in Vista Lounge) and Da Beat twice each! The comedian Don Ware produced the Cosby show, and he was a Cosby-clone. Funny without being very controversial. Didn't like the lounge singer (forgettable name) but L loved the "all purpose" band Amante. Went to a few theme dances in the Explorer Lounge and had lots of fun. Didn't notice a lot of late night activity, but I was asleep by 10:30 most night myself. The CD Tim Donovan and staff (mostly British) were very spirited and I was surprised they were able to call me by name whenever they saw me, even though I only went to a few events. Did ceramics-at-sea one day and it was pricey, but fun to paint a ceramic cup as a souvenir! Food: Did early traditional for P and L's benefit. Ate mostly in the Horizon Court for lunches and breakfast. Our servers Joe and Monica were great fun and earned extra tips. Food was very good, but I think Carnival's food was a tad bit better. (After 12 days, I got sick of seeing the same pineapple.) My favorites: the Veal Chop and the Alaskan King Crab and the soufflEs for dessert. Loved having real eggs and eggs Florintine for breakfast even in the Horizon Court. Did a few dining room breakfasts, but this is such a port-intensive trip that we often didn't have time. Food was hotter there (it was pretty cold in the H/C by the time you found a good seat) but otherwise pretty much the same. But I didn't have to cook for over 2 weeks, so I'm not really complaining. I actually lost a pound on the trip so I must have done more walking than eating. Ports: We had different things scheduled in different sub-groups. We did some Princess tours and some just walking around ports. We never got around to booking tours on our own. Others on this cruise who post here did, and I hope they will chime in with their recommendations. Naples. Traffic is horrendous and needs to be accounted for if you're going on your own. Allow twice the time you think it will take, take the train, or book a ship tour. B did the Deluxe Amalfi tour, which was a bus for 15 only. She said it was very relaxing and the highlight of her trip. P and L did Princess tour to Sorrento and Pompeii. I did a 16 euro hop on/hop off tour of Naples and the Bay that I enjoyed as much as they did their tours, and I got to spend most of the afternoon watching the clouds gather around Mt. Vesuvias from the ship. We all thought we got the best tour of the day, so I guess you can't go wrong. Messina: B, P and L did the "Essence of Sicily" to Taomina. I got an excellent map of Messina from the info booth next to the ship. Walking is easy and fun, compared to Rome and Naples. If you do this, be sure to get to the Duomo (a church about 4 blocks from the ship) before noon for the "clock tower" show. Bring your video camera if you have one. It's sort of a big religious cuckoo clock that defies description! (They say it's the only one in the world.) Again, we all had a great time. Valetta Malta: R and B did the Panoramic Island drive, which we enjoyed very much. Our guide Doris was a riot and made the tour special. In the afternoon, I walked up to Valetta (it's easier than it looks) and just walked around the city. P and L took the Valletta and Mdina tour, which was way too much walking for them. They would have enjoyed our tour better and I'm not sure why we booked it this way. Santorini: We all took the village of Oia and Santorini Island tour. I think this is a good one to do on your own instead, though you'll have to arrange a taxi or rent a car to get to the end of the island. Akirtiki was closed for renovation or I would have enjoyed that - it was my original idea. The trip to the winery was boring and most of the rest of it was pretty much on your own anyway. Our guide had just returned from Athens and the tour was rather uninspired. But we had fun, nonetheless and the island itself is gorgeous! Kushadasi: B slept in. I went to the Market and bought two cashmere pashminas for less than 10 euros each and lovely little silk purses that look like miniature rugs for 1 euro each by bargaining hard. It was worth the hassling you get when you shop. If you want to shop with less hassling, try the wide street just outside the market. P and L took the standard tour to Mary's house, which they enjoyed but I think they were starting to suffer from too many tours starting to look alike. Athens: B took the tour that included the temple of Poseidon, which she enjoyed much more than our (R, P, L) tour of Athens and the Acropolis. We got delayed by a traffic jam and when we finally got there it was packed with school groups and we couldn't keep up with our guide who was trying to keep on schedule. B got to the Acropolis about 90 minutes later and the place was almost deserted. Timing is everything. I think this stop will be much better AFTER the Olympics. Now most sights are scaffolded and traffic is a nightmare as they reconstruct roads. If you're going for the Olympics, good luck!! Katakolon: We were getting a little cranky from over-scheduling, so we decided to call this "A sea day with shopping options." We slept late, had a leisurely breakfast in the dining room and just took it easy. After lunch, we walked into the tiny port town for a little more souvenir shopping (we hadn't done much in Athens itself.) L bought a great hat and I got some good T-shirts for about 10 euros. There's a couple small "all purpose" grocery-like markets there if you need something the ship can't supply. Corfu: A gorgeous island like a Greek version of Capri. I did the "Hidden Greece" tour. It was my favorite day because it included a stop at a restaurant for a folkloric show. EXCELLENT! P and L did "Leisurely Corfu" which was almost the same tour without the restaurant. B walked to the Old Fort - a long but easy walk. Want to retire there! Dubrovnik: The biggest surprise of our trip - it was stunningly beautiful. Princess offered a shuttle bus to the walled city for $10 round trip. Take it as taxis are scarce as hen's teeth. City is beautiful and can be done on your own pace rather than taking a tour. There is a charge to walk the wall - about 5 euros and another few if you want to rent an audioguide. I would because maps are scarce and not very descriptive. I wish I'd known more of what I was looking at. I'd go back on my own anytime! Venice: Be out on deck for the entrance into the port if you can. No matter how long you are in Venice, it isn't long enough. Now wish we had started there instead of ending there. Princess provided a water shuttle from the port to San Marco for $20, I think. Short walk to the vaparetto stop from there. The vaporetto is easy to ride and you see more than in a pricey Gondola - though it's not very romantic. Get a good map and dare to get lost. It's the best way to see the city. Never had time to see more than San Marco Square, though and I plan to go back to see more someday. (We did go back at night for a completely different view! Worth it!!!) That's all I can think of for now. Any questions I didn't answer? Robinzhere

Star Princess - Northern Europe

Star Princess Cruise Review by robinzhere

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Trip Details
When and where: Star Princess -- Mediterranean 12 day Rome to Venice on April 22.
Who: I'm Robin (R) single mom, pushing the big 50, my friend Beth (B), single, 40's. We've both cruised before but not together. We were joined by Beth's retired parents Pete (P) and Louise (L) who've cruised from the US, but have never been to Europe.
Pre-cruise: Three nights in Rome at the bed and breakfast offered by Remo and Angela. Remo and Angela define gracious entertaining - they treated us like family and we got to know there's as well. Remo had his drivers pick us up at the airport on the 19th and deliver us to the ship on the 22nd. The extra charge was well worth the first-class treatment. (We had a fair amount of luggage). Though Remo's house is farther out in the suburbs than we'd hoped, it worked out well for us and they were always available for rides to the subway on our schedule. We were too tired from the flight to do any late sight-seeing. We took advantage of the optional dinner for the last night - Angela is a wonderful cook and it was the perfect ending to our stay -- much better than any restaurant (Even Remo's brother's pizza). We may not have seen all the touristy sights but we got to know the family culture of Italy as few do and for us, that was a better choice. For "in-town" sightseeing, we used the ACTV Line 110 double decker hop on/hop off bus and definitely got the most for our money!!! It's a great way to rest when you're tired and still see the sights. Even if you go around more than once, there's something new to see every time (We did make it to the Vatican for Mass and to see the Sistine chapel. Our "must do's).
Ship: The Star Princess is gorgeous! Perfectly clean, you'd never know there were nearly 3,000 passengers on her (and we sailed FULL) at any given time. Passenger mix was mostly couples in the 50+ range, but I'll bet every possible demographic group was represented. Mostly US, with a large contingent from Vancouver, Toronto and Great Britain (where I understand this sailing was heavily discounted).
I loved the two fresh water pools, one outside, one inside. No smell of smoke or anything else unpleasant anywhere. I love productions shows, so I saw Dance!, Give My Regards to Broadway (in Vista Lounge) and Da Beat twice each! The comedian Don Ware produced the Cosby show, and he was a Cosby-clone. Funny without being very controversial. Didn't like the lounge singer (forgettable name) but L loved the "all purpose" band Amante. Went to a few theme dances in the Explorer Lounge and had lots of fun. Didn't notice a lot of late night activity, but I was asleep by 10:30 most night myself. The CD Tim Donovan and staff (mostly British) were very spirited and I was surprised they were able to call me by name whenever they saw me, even though I only went to a few events. Did ceramics-at-sea one day and it was pricey, but fun to paint a ceramic cup as a souvenir!
Food: Did early traditional for P and L's benefit. Ate mostly in the Horizon Court for lunches and breakfast. Our servers Joe and Monica were great fun and earned extra tips. Food was very good, but I think Carnival's food was a tad bit better. (After 12 days, I got sick of seeing the same pineapple.) My favorites: the Veal Chop and the Alaskan King Crab and the soufflEs for dessert. Loved having real eggs and eggs Florintine for breakfast even in the Horizon Court. Did a few dining room breakfasts, but this is such a port-intensive trip that we often didn't have time. Food was hotter there (it was pretty cold in the H/C by the time you found a good seat) but otherwise pretty much the same. But I didn't have to cook for over 2 weeks, so I'm not really complaining. I actually lost a pound on the trip so I must have done more walking than eating.
Ports: We had different things scheduled in different sub-groups. We did some Princess tours and some just walking around ports. We never got around to booking tours on our own. Others on this cruise who post here did, and I hope they will chime in with their recommendations.
Naples. Traffic is horrendous and needs to be accounted for if you're going on your own. Allow twice the time you think it will take, take the train, or book a ship tour. B did the Deluxe Amalfi tour, which was a bus for 15 only. She said it was very relaxing and the highlight of her trip. P and L did Princess tour to Sorrento and Pompeii. I did a 16 euro hop on/hop off tour of Naples and the Bay that I enjoyed as much as they did their tours, and I got to spend most of the afternoon watching the clouds gather around Mt. Vesuvias from the ship. We all thought we got the best tour of the day, so I guess you can't go wrong.
Messina: B, P and L did the "Essence of Sicily" to Taomina. I got an excellent map of Messina from the info booth next to the ship. Walking is easy and fun, compared to Rome and Naples. If you do this, be sure to get to the Duomo (a church about 4 blocks from the ship) before noon for the "clock tower" show. Bring your video camera if you have one. It's sort of a big religious cuckoo clock that defies description! (They say it's the only one in the world.) Again, we all had a great time.
Valetta Malta: R and B did the Panoramic Island drive, which we enjoyed very much. Our guide Doris was a riot and made the tour special. In the afternoon, I walked up to Valetta (it's easier than it looks) and just walked around the city. P and L took the Valletta and Mdina tour, which was way too much walking for them. They would have enjoyed our tour better and I'm not sure why we booked it this way.
Santorini: We all took the village of Oia and Santorini Island tour. I think this is a good one to do on your own instead, though you'll have to arrange a taxi or rent a car to get to the end of the island. Akirtiki was closed for renovation or I would have enjoyed that - it was my original idea. The trip to the winery was boring and most of the rest of it was pretty much on your own anyway. Our guide had just returned from Athens and the tour was rather uninspired. But we had fun, nonetheless and the island itself is gorgeous!
Kushadasi: B slept in. I went to the Market and bought two cashmere pashminas for less than 10 euros each and lovely little silk purses that look like miniature rugs for 1 euro each by bargaining hard. It was worth the hassling you get when you shop. If you want to shop with less hassling, try the wide street just outside the market. P and L took the standard tour to Mary's house, which they enjoyed but I think they were starting to suffer from too many tours starting to look alike.
Athens: B took the tour that included the temple of Poseidon, which she enjoyed much more than our (R, P, L) tour of Athens and the Acropolis. We got delayed by a traffic jam and when we finally got there it was packed with school groups and we couldn't keep up with our guide who was trying to keep on schedule. B got to the Acropolis about 90 minutes later and the place was almost deserted. Timing is everything. I think this stop will be much better AFTER the Olympics. Now most sights are scaffolded and traffic is a nightmare as they reconstruct roads. If you're going for the Olympics, good luck!!
Katakolon: We were getting a little cranky from over-scheduling, so we decided to call this "A sea day with shopping options." We slept late, had a leisurely breakfast in the dining room and just took it easy. After lunch, we walked into the tiny port town for a little more souvenir shopping (we hadn't done much in Athens itself.) L bought a great hat and I got some good T-shirts for about 10 euros. There's a couple small "all purpose" grocery-like markets there if you need something the ship can't supply.
Corfu: A gorgeous island like a Greek version of Capri. I did the "Hidden Greece" tour. It was my favorite day because it included a stop at a restaurant for a folkloric show. EXCELLENT! P and L did "Leisurely Corfu" which was almost the same tour without the restaurant. B walked to the Old Fort - a long but easy walk. Want to retire there!
Dubrovnik: The biggest surprise of our trip - it was stunningly beautiful. Princess offered a shuttle bus to the walled city for $10 round trip. Take it as taxis are scarce as hen's teeth. City is beautiful and can be done on your own pace rather than taking a tour. There is a charge to walk the wall - about 5 euros and another few if you want to rent an audioguide. I would because maps are scarce and not very descriptive. I wish I'd known more of what I was looking at. I'd go back on my own anytime!
Venice: Be out on deck for the entrance into the port if you can. No matter how long you are in Venice, it isn't long enough. Now wish we had started there instead of ending there. Princess provided a water shuttle from the port to San Marco for $20, I think. Short walk to the vaparetto stop from there. The vaporetto is easy to ride and you see more than in a pricey Gondola - though it's not very romantic. Get a good map and dare to get lost. It's the best way to see the city. Never had time to see more than San Marco Square, though and I plan to go back to see more someday. (We did go back at night for a completely different view! Worth it!!!)
That's all I can think of for now. Any questions I didn't answer?
Robinzhere
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