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Overall – Very Good cruise. • High marks for itinerary, room comfort and steward’s service, specialty restaurants. The weather was great. • Low marks for several of the tours, dining room service, too much emphasis on shopping, slow Wi-Fi Room (mini-suite) was very nice. Plenty of room, very nicely furnished and well equipped. The bed seemed larger than a queen and was very comfortable. The large sitting area, with sofa bed and coffee table, and balcony were especially nice. Negatives - poor lighting for makeup preparation and weak hair dryer. Our room steward was excellent - very clean room and prompt and polite service. Room location had pluses and minuses – the mini-suites are on the 9th deck – fairly stable ride, relatively quiet and close to many public areas. A free upgrade resulted in a room assignment in the middle section – more convenient location but more hall and service cart noise The food ranged from good to excellent. It was noticeably better in terms of variety and taste, than on our last cruise to Alaska. Service in the dining areas was disappointing on several occasions. Food quality and service in the Crown Room was exceptional. The itinerary was the best part of the cruise for us. The four Greek islands and two days in Istanbul were a great match for our high priority travel plans. Each proved a wonderful experience. The same for Malta and Messina, Sicily. A revisit to the Amalfi region was most enjoyable. With this said, we were not happy with many of the tours – excess wait times, large groups, photographers slowing the disembarkation, uninteresting commercial centered stops, difficulty hearing the tour guides and pricey tours. One might find better tours at lower prices at many of the ports, but take care to research times, places visited, group size etc. Some of the alternate tours could easily have been booked on our own after arriving in town or earlier via the web.

Greece, Turkey & Italy Medley - Emerald Princess Cruise May 2015

Emerald Princess Cruise Review by SoCal Cruise Critic User

Trip Details
Overall – Very Good cruise.

• High marks for itinerary, room comfort and steward’s service, specialty restaurants. The weather was great.

• Low marks for several of the tours, dining room service, too much emphasis on shopping, slow Wi-Fi

Room (mini-suite) was very nice. Plenty of room, very nicely furnished and well equipped. The bed seemed larger than a queen and was very comfortable. The large sitting area, with sofa bed and coffee table, and balcony were especially nice. Negatives - poor lighting for makeup preparation and weak hair dryer.

Our room steward was excellent - very clean room and prompt and polite service.

Room location had pluses and minuses – the mini-suites are on the 9th deck – fairly stable ride, relatively quiet and close to many public areas. A free upgrade resulted in a room assignment in the middle section – more convenient location but more hall and service cart noise

The food ranged from good to excellent. It was noticeably better in terms of variety and taste, than on our last cruise to Alaska. Service in the dining areas was disappointing on several occasions. Food quality and service in the Crown Room was exceptional.

The itinerary was the best part of the cruise for us. The four Greek islands and two days in Istanbul were a great match for our high priority travel plans. Each proved a wonderful experience. The same for Malta and Messina, Sicily. A revisit to the Amalfi region was most enjoyable.

With this said, we were not happy with many of the tours – excess wait times, large groups, photographers slowing the disembarkation, uninteresting commercial centered stops, difficulty hearing the tour guides and pricey tours. One might find better tours at lower prices at many of the ports, but take care to research times, places visited, group size etc. Some of the alternate tours could easily have been booked on our own after arriving in town or earlier via the web.
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Cabin Review

Cabin D421
Our room was a mini suite. These were blocked off for travel agents, which has advantages, including cost savings and ease of coordination, and disadvantages. The main one for us is that you do not know your room at the time of booking nor early enough to change room assignments. We specifically asked for a room away from the stairs and elevators, but in the free upgrade process we were assigned a room right near the stairs in the middle of the ship rather than mid-aft or mid-forward. Luckily, it turned out not to be too noisy. The only noticeable noise occurred one or two evenings before midnight due to people talking loudly in the halls and in nearly every morning around 6 o’clock when they would bring the cleaning carts to an area near our room. Most mornings, we were getting up for tours anyway

The room was spacious, well equipped and quite livable. We felt that the mini-suite is the ideal room arrangement as it provides adequate space to stretch out and rest, a large bathroom with plenty of counter-space, and a sliding door for fresh air and private balcony access. There were some signs of needed maintenance such as wear on the furniture and carpet and rust on the balcony, but overall was in nice condition. Another negative was the ineffective hair dryer provided in the room.
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Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Athens (Piraeus)
    We arrived early and toured Athens on our own. Stayed in the King George hotel on Syntagma square. The hotel is a lovely older hotel very upscale part of the luxury collection from Starwood and well located for sightseeing and shopping. Probably the best feature about this location was that it was at the beginning of the hop-on hop-off bus I route. I purchased in advance two days of sightseeing by the hop on hop off bus, which turned out to be a very good a very good idea, as we use the bus for transportation within the city as well as sightseeing.

    Highlights of three top sites: The Acropolis museum is in stunning new multi-story building and has numerous beautiful arranged displays of artifacts from the Acropolis, including sculptures, statues and several of the frieze panels from the buildings. Outside the museum, one can view the excavations of an ancient Athenian neighborhood and an early Christian settlement.

    It was a fairly long climb up from the bus stop to the Acropolis, but well worth the effort. In addition to the Parthenon there are several other noteworthy temples and structures that are in various degrees of completeness. It is easy to see why this is a World Heritage site.

    National Archaeological Museum is in older, classical styled facility and houses a comprehensive collection of ancient vases, bronze statues, Mycenaean gold, marble reliefs of gods and goddesses, and frescoes from Akrotiri.
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  • Knossos Palace
    At the dock, we boarded a motor coach for a drive along the island's rugged north coast to Knossos, once the political, social and spiritual center of Minoan culture. During the approximately 1.5 hour walking tour of the Knossos Palace, we explored the Minoan Houses, the Little Palace, and the Royal Villa with some amazing mosaics. The ruins were only partially restored, but there was still plenty to see. About half way through the tour it became very crowded and the wait times for some areas was quite long.

    After visiting the site of Knossos the motor coach stopped in Heraklion for some free time to discover part of the city. Heraklion is the largest urban centre, the capital of the region, and the economic centre of Crete, Our guide took us down a couple of main walking streets and pointed out some of the important structures, as well as places to shop.

    There were many independent tours to Knossos and it might be worthwhile to check them out. Our group was fairly large and one needed to be near the guide to hear the presentation
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  • Best of Istanbul - included the Bosphorous cruise
    Suleymaniye Mosque instead as our first stop, He frequently stated that the Blue mosque was overrated and thought that this mosque was a viable alternative. It was not. Next stop was Sultanahmet Park and the Hagia Sophia, also known as St. Sophia, the Church of Holy Wisdom. It was not only huge but beautifully decorated. It is considered one of the greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture, with impressive mosaics and marble pillars. Lunch was spent on a motorboat with a cruise up and down parts of the Straits of Bosphorus. The traditional Turkish lunch was decent, but the sights were outstanding. After lunch a drive to the Grand Bazaar, the largest market in the world with over 4,000 shops, but first - another carpet demonstration. We did not go, but instead headed to the bazaar to explore the shops filled with jewelry, carpets, leather ware, and copper goods. It was indeed enormous but also very crowded and smoke filled. Interesting but grew old quickly. Last stop was the Topkapi Palace Museum, a large walled complex The former main attractions of the palace are the ground and the museums displaying an extraordinary collection of art, artifacts, and jewels.

    Suggestions - there's a lot to see in Istanbul and a full day tour can be very tiring. One could consider taking a shorter tour first day and doing some of the sightseeing on their own later. In fact, one could tour many of the sites on their own, by taking the trolley, subway and/or cab or signing up for small group tour or opt for a sightseeing tram to see many parts of the city. For the large group tour that we participated in, there were headsets for the radio pieces, but it was still hard to hear the guide sometimes and also to follow along. We do highly recommend the boat ride up the Bosphorus.
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  • Ephesus
    We had signed up for the small group tour, paying the $20 extra per person and hoping to get a better tour. Our motor coach was one of the last to leave, but our tour guide was wise enough to change the order of visits and we went to Ephesus first. The extra cost paid off quickly as we had a knowledgeable guide and we could easily hear the presentations. Ephesus was truly impressive in terms of size and condition of the ruins. The terraced houses were the main highlight, but the Odeum, Celsus Library, Temple of Hadrian, Fountain of Trajan and Great Theater were also noteworthy. It started to get very crowded about 1/3 of the way through our tour.

    For there, we traveled to The House of the Virgin Mary, which included scenic views of the Byzantine fortress in Selcuk and the Temple of Artemis. The grounds were very nice and the house had been restored. Our next stop was the remains of the vast Basilica of St. John, which included large columns, frescos and mosaics. Probably not worth the trip, except for religious reasons.

    From there, we had a scenic drive through Kusadasi and then lunch at a luxury hotel. There were busloads of people there and of course the food was typical of large group lunches. We did have an opportunity to taste some different local foods. A local folkloric dance group provided entertainment. After lunch, we were taken to a Turkish carpet-weaving demonstration and sales pitch (which we found distasteful).

    Suggestions – See Ephesus with another prearranged (small) tour group early before the crowds and definitely see the Terraced houses. Then explore the port town of Kusadasi on your own. If you are interested in the other sites and want to stay with Princess tours, then pay extra for the small group tour and avoid the carpet demo, unless you are really interested in a rug.
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  • Mdnina and City Tour
    We boarded a coach for a short drive to the historic part of Valletta. The walking tour started at the City Gate and continued through the historic streets of the town. Next was the Upper Barrakka Gardens, with its fantastic views over the Grand Harbor, often described as the most beautiful in the Mediterranean area. Of course, a visit to St. John's Co-Cathedral was included with its surprising nice interior of gilded tracery and marble inlaid mosaic floor and ceilings painted with scenes from the life of St. John the Baptist. Next was the nearby Grand Master's Palace with its famous Council Chamber, adorned with valuable tapestries woven in France and furnishings of art and old coat of arms and armor. We also had some free time to explore the quaint streets and cafes and wine bars. It was easy to become a fan of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its Baroque in style architecture combined with elements of Mannerist, Neo-Classical and Modern, plus friendly people and interesting shops. The only negative was the crowds of tourists.

    The 2nd part of the tour was a trip to Mdina, another medieval city that was Malta's capital before Valletta. Even from a distance, the city is impressive as it has retained its original appearance and stands by itself on a high plateau (built there for protection). Our tour included a visit to the baroque Cathedral of St. Paul. Mdina seemed like a smaller older version of Valletta.

    The Princess tour hit the important sights, our guide gave a very good tour, and the cost was reasonable, even though the group size was a little too large again. The drive in the countryside and visit to Mdina were also a good choice for us.
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  • Island of Delos
    After arriving at the Mikonos port, we then had to board one of the local ferries to the island of Delos. This UNESCO world heritage site is uninhabited today, but it was once a hub of Greek activity and an important site of religious significance - the birthplace of Apollo. Our two-hour walking tour covered the Agora of the Competialists, the Sacred Way, which leads to the Sanctuary of Apollo (the heart of Delos) and the Lion District. The site contains many marble ruins of temples, statues and sanctuaries. At the end of the tour, we visited the Delos Museum, which contained more artifacts, mosaics, and statues.

    Enjoy Mykonos town. There is a reason that “it is considered by many as one of the top tourist destinations in the world” - memorable landscapes, charming streets, houses and churches, as well as beautiful sandy beaches. Delos is worth visiting if you are an ancient history buff but it is not as impressive as some of the other famous sites. The Princess tour was good, but you can also arrange a Delos tour and/or take the ferry on your own.
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  • Akrotiri
    The first stop was the ancient site of Akrotiri, the well-preserved Minoan village believed to be part of the legendary lost Atlantis. The facility was not crowded and it was easy to understand our tour guide who gave a very informative presentation on the island's ancient history. The site included multi-level buildings with elaborate plumbing systems and an array of pottery, clay vessels, furniture, and home furnishings from this once prosperous seaside village.

    Next stop was a photo-op at Mt. Prophet Elijah. It did have very nice panoramic views, but was very crowded with tourists and buses. The tour then concluded with our exiting in Fira, the island's largest town and capital. Perched on the edge of a cliff, there were plenty of outstanding views, along with lovely whitewashed houses and narrow cobblestone lanes.

    this is one tour that made sense to arrange through Princess, especially if one wants to visit Akrotiri. Our tour guide was quite good, the group size was reasonable and the price was reasonable.
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  • Taormina
    We chose the half-day Taormina, which departed the docks at Messina for a motor coach ride along Sicily's mountainous eastern coast on your way to the historic Greek and Roman town of Taormina. Since Taormina is 700 feet above the sea, there are spectacular views from many locations. Our guided walk covered many of Taormina's sites including the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, the main street of Corso Umberto, the medieval quarter and castle ruins. The highlight is the 3rd century B.C Greek theater, which is still used for concerts and offers excellent views of Mt. Etna weather permitting.

    Taormina, was a must see recommendation from several of our friends and they were right. The Princess tour was good and, with the radios provided, we understood our tour guide quite well. Also take in Mount Etna someway as it is a world heritage site. It is a very easy walk into Messina and you might explore the town on your own. There were several local tours and sightseeing hop-on/hop-off type buses/trams extremely close to the dock.
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