The ports of call on this cruise were great. Our experience on the ship was just ok. This was the first cruise for my husband and me, so perhaps our expectations were too high, but we both thought some things could have been so much better.
To begin with, whenever we passed a crew member on the ship, they completely ignored us, giving us not so much as a nod or greeting of any kind. Only the greeters at the buffet and our cabin steward were cheerful. The captain was not personable at all and bordered on rude. On the one formal evening where he was supposed to "meet and greet" the passengers, he hid near an elevator speaking only to his officers and studiously kept his back to all passengers. When one lady asked if she could have her picture taken with him, he rolled his eyes, stood there while his picture was taken, and then turned his back again to his guests. His welcome speech literally consisted of "Welcome to the Island Princess. I hope you have a nice voyage." and then he left the room. Needless to say, we did not feel very welcome.
The Passenger Services desk was staffed only occasionally, and not at all when most passengers were on shore excursions, so if you had a question, you had to wait until it was open and then stand in a long line to get help. Sometimes you got a cheerful answer, sometimes not. We reported a problem of no hot water in our stateroom bathroom; they said it would be addressed, but it was not. Only once was I able to get a helpful answer from someone on the Shore Excursions desk (also only open a couple of hours a day, usually during dinnertime). We had booked a Princess excursion to Cinque Terre, but they cancelled it more than 24 hours in advance due to "high seas." The day it was supposed to take place dawned with calm waters, but the excursion remained cancelled. We tried to book a Princess excursion in Venice, but 5 out of about 8 were cancelled (including the one we wanted), so we went ashore on our own. (Most of our excursions were booked through another shore excursions company for the same tours at about half the price. They were very good, but required walking a little further to reach the van or bus.)
The night before disembarkation, we had to have our luggage outside our door by 9pm. That early requirement made our last night on the ship very inconvenient, not having access to everything we would normally need for the night. A time requirement of 11pm or midnight would have been so much better and still given the staff an entire night to collect and sort luggage for our pickup at the port.
We chose Anytime Dining. The food was reasonably good (although I would not recommend any of the beef dishes -- too tough), and often the food in the buffet was better, or at least as good as, the food in the dining room. The wait staff was excellent, meals were delivered correctly and hot, and only occasionally slow. We often were seated with other passengers and enjoyed talking with them over dinner.
We would go on another cruise if it was the best way to get from port to port, as this cruise was. We would not, however, choose to cruise again if we just planned to stay on the ship.
Very comfortable, nice bathroom (even if we could not get hot water at the sink). We were at the back of the ship, Deck 6. We experienced some vibration, but we both found it rather relaxing. Not too much motion except for one night during very rough seas. Other areas of the ship were worse, though. Being located at the back, we experienced no hall foot traffic, so it was very quiet in the evenings, but it also meant we had the farthest to walk to get to most venues.
We arrived in Barcelona several days in advance of the start of our cruise, and we're glad we did! A great city in which to be a tourist -- much to see and do both in and around the city. Don't miss Sagrada Familia, inside and out. The Ramblas is also a must-do, but be especially aware of pickpockets -- they tried to get us twice in 2 days (though our pockets had nothing valuable in them). We do not recommend the Hop-on Hop-Off unless it's a sunny day and you sit up top. Otherwise view is obstructed by bus stairs or ads covering the windows.
Had booked a Princess excursion to Cinque Terre. They cancelled it more than 24 hours in advance due to high seas, but the day of the excursion dawned clear and calm. Most other excursions were already full, so we could not reschedule. We ended up staying on the ship.
Having already been to Rome, we chose a 1/2 day tour of Tuscania and Lake Bolsena. Very enjoyable and interesting. So much more relaxing than fighting the crowds in Rome.View All 157 Private Tour Reviews
Wow! Wonderful drive along the cliffs. Not for the feint of heart, but definitely worth seeing the beautiful coastline.
Another "must see" set of ruins. Very difficult walking on uneven pavement and large steps to negotiate. If you have any balance issues, you might need to skip it; otherwise it is worth the effort. Too bad they haven't done more to preserve and protect this site.View All 505 Pompeii Walking Tour Reviews
Very nice, if very touristy, walkable town. Lots of interesting shops and good restaurants. We only had a few hours there, but it was enough to get the flavor of the place.View All 165 Sorrento Reviews
We were rushed through the tiny streets with all the interesting shops; no time to peek in or take pictures. Then driven to the monastery in the hills (ok, but not worth the time it took to get there), and then around the island. I would recommend skipping the tour and just wander the little streets on your own.View All 48 City Tour Reviews
I was not expecting to, but I fell in love with Istanbul! Our tour included all the must-see sights: Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia, Topkapi, Hippodrome Square, and the Grand Bazaar. We had lunch on our own near the Mosque. The lines for all the sights were long, but moved reasonably quickly, and they worth the wait. Words cannot express -- just go see them all! We wished we had more time in this wonderful city.View All 52 City Tour Reviews
Sooo much better than Pompeii! This is a wondrous site, indeed. Don't miss this.View All 257 Ephesus Reviews
The actual house is very small and plain -- as would be expected. The drive there and back is as interesting as the destination, making the trip worthwhile.View All 81 House of the Virgin Mary Reviews
We went to the NEW Archeological Museum where all the originals are now displayed. A wonderful, modern building. Our guide managed to make history come to life through the stories of the urns, vases, and statues. Beautiful view of the Acropolis from the top floor of the building -- just too bad much of it is under scaffolding.
We got to see all the important sites in a matter of an hour or so. Much easier than walking or public transportation. We certainly saw the signs of Greece's economic problems -- buildings are looking quite neglected and graffiti is everywhere.
It's Venice -- what more needs to be said? We had done the must-see sites on a prior trip, so we just wandered the streets on our own. There's nowhere in Venice that isn't picturesque, so just enjoy! We went to the old Jewish Ghetto, which was a little less tourist-packed and enjoyed a wonderful dinner outside in one of the smaller squares.