We spent a delightful three nights in Venice before our cruise. We stayed at the Hotel Olimpa. Good location near water taxis. Great breakfast and nice canal side location. The ship was older but recently redone and nice enough. We chose this over a river cruise as we were traveling with another couple who are platinum with princess. We are gold level Disney cruise,line and vacation club members. I have also done carnival with our daughters for spring breaks from college. That is a whole other deal.
We enjoyed the cruise...food was good and we liked the opportunity to see a lot of ports in a short time. We did a private tour in Istanbul which was a great idea. It was a religious holiday so the Grand Bazaar was not open and the other sights did not open until 1. Our private, local guide was able to bypass the lines so we got to see a lot in a short amount of time. We also had a private driver in Rome with a guide through the Vatican. A bit pricy but worth it.
In general, we felt the the excursions that were offered by princess to be just okay. We liked the Cinque Terre day, but felt it was a bit disorganized, Toulon wine and olive tasting with a small village tour was nice as was a beach day in Mykonos. The Pompeii tour was good but we felt we were oversold at Cellini gallery a cameo store approved by princess. After we negotiated on the cameos and paid we were given a VAT form that needed to be stamped at the airport or we will be charged another 198 euros. Well we left from Barcelona and there was no where to get the form stamped. I have been back and forth with the gallery and princess to no avail. So just make sure you are willing to buy at the price that includes the VAT. I would have made a different buying decision with the full disclosure.
Nice 10th floor port side balcony room