May daughter (30) and I (50) took this cruise to celebrate our milestone birthdays. This was my 20th Princess and probably my 40th cruise overall. It was my daughters 2nd Princess, and perhaps 10th cruise overall.
Embarkation/Disembarkation and transport was well done, easy and quick.
Cabin/Ship - This ship, like all Princess ships has a similar design in decks and cabins. We had a mini suite. The furnishings were fine, some updates to the décor would be nice. The bed in the cabins had been changed to a new Princess brand. We found the beds to be spectacularly comfortable.
Bars/Service - The serving staff was fantastic. We really enjoyed the wine bar, and found ourselves migrating there most nights pre and post dinner. Thank you to Ryan and Sydney.
Ports - We could not get off the ship in Santorini or in Montenegro. We enjoyed Naples and Sicily and did our own thing on the end points of Athens and Barcelona. The itinerary was Athens to Barcelona, and a good way to see more by extending on ends. My daughter took a Princess tour in Sicily, and found it enjoyable, even if a bit pricey.
Food and Dining - This experience was detrimental to our overall enjoyment of the cruise. The concerns and issues we had on dining were across all venues in the ship, with the exception of the Crown Grill. We spend 3 nights purchasing dinner there, due to the poor presentation, flavor and choices in the other venues. Here is more detail (which we provided in writing directly to the Chef de Cuisine, and in person to him when he visited the Crown Grill on the later evenings. The Chef asked me what specifically was the problem, and I provided him the following. He walked away mid conversation, my daughter and I had already detailed these items in a specific written complaint to him, to which he said he had not received. (The complaint was provided to the front desk folks addressed to the "Chef de Cuisine".
1. Bread/Rolls - Hard, not in a crusty good way, but as if they had been reheated several times or were older baked items from earlier in the day or prior days.
2. Butter - appeared to be mixed with oil or margarine (if they do this normally, this was to a degree to make it tasteless
3. Plating temperature was cold. Hot meals were lukewarm at best.
4. Soups tasted like salty water, and were not hot. (This is usually an area of good flavor on cruises)
5. Fish was advertised as one type of sea bass, however, when we received the meal it had a very dirty flavor to it. The fish appeared to be either a different type (like Tilapia perhaps), or was cleaned very poorly, or perhaps old.
6. Fried items were undercooked and not edible.
7. Salad items, any fresh items were wilted. The salads appeared like those that you purchase in bags and leave in the refrigerator too long. They were not only wilted but particularly slimy and not edible. (This was true throughout the venues including Crown Grill)
8. Beef (outside the Crown Grill) did not seem to be the cuts advertised nor the quality expected
9. Buffet (venue) was dark, very crowded, and it didn't seem like there were any themes to the offerings. Curry right next to Beef Stew, Asian next to Baked Potatoes.
10. Grill - those folks work hard, ordered the Ernesto burger on deck, confused people because you need to pay and wait for that, but it was good. Fries were nicely cooked on deck as well.
What was equally disappointing was the reaction we received when we gave this feedback. The waiter after we expressed the food challenges at Sabattini's called over the head water, who chastised us for not complaining harder. There was no offer to comp, or come back tomorrow and we'll amaze you, or even an apology for the experience. Essentially he very clearly said had we complained louder they would have replaced, and proceeded to chastise the waiter in front of us.
Additionally, when we had the opportunity to advise the Chef de Cuisine, to which I did similar to the items above, as well as in writing he walked away mid sentence.
My gut says that there was something fishy about the sourcing of the food on this cruise. It was of such poor quality that I wondered whether someone was skimming the till on that item. OR, it was just such a hot summer in Europe that the food was impacted...I thought this until my next cruise a week later on Princess (another ship).
I would like to say that the Head Waiter at the Crown Grill was very amazing, we'd expressed our concerns with him about the other venues, and he did his best to find us seats at the crown grill for our last 3 remaining nights.
Now interestingly, when I parted with my daughter, I boarded the Sapphire princess shortly after this cruise. This was also a Mediterranean cruise.
The food on the Sapphire was 100 percent better, even though it was the same ports at times. Sapphire was just as consistent as the other 20 Princess cruises I've been on, without any of the aforementioned problems.
That said, I still like Princess, although I will choose another line such as Cunard, P & O or outside the Carnival Family for any large special occasions. I would strongly recommend Princess looks into the purchasing records for this particular itinerary and/or staff to see if there was something "fishy" with the food sourcing.
Great size of cabin. Wonderful beds. Princess needs to deep clean their bathrooms a bit. the tile is grimy, just needs a little elbow grease.
Also, the towels, they are tiny and barely accomplish their job. Slightly bigger, and fluffier would enhance the experience.
We stayed right between the Acropolis and Zeus temples. Great location, lots to see and do without going far. Need at least an extra day or more in Athens.
I loved walking the winding streets up to the churches, and getting lost. Fun.
Wonderful, lots to do just right off the ship. Veer left after disembarking past the fort at the pier, there is a lovely area, plenty of shops and food and sights. All very close to the port.
Barcelona is huge. We spent 4 days there, and barely saw everything. If your only there for a short time, then pick something and do that. The markets on the Ramblas are worth a trip. Make sure you get tickets to the Famiglia or you'll only see the outside. The hopon/hopoff bus takes 2 hours per segment...you might want to skip if this is just a port visit.