Star Princess Venice to Rome July 5, 2011: Star Princess Cruise Review by Baby Traveler

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Star Princess Venice to Rome July 5, 2011

Sail Date: July 2011
Destination: Europe - Eastern Mediterranean
Embarkation: Venice
Our Mediterranean cruise aboard the Star Princess was an amazing experience! We are an active, healthy couple in our early sixties and this trip was our first cruise and visit to Europe. We have waited 40 years to visit Europe, and the Star Princess cruise and our European adventure were both as great as we hoped!

The Star Princess experience was excellent in every respect! The attentiveness and high level of customer exhibited by each crew member was actually astounding to me since customer service is so dismal and decining in the US, at least! Our Steward in balcony stateroom C209 and our Traditional Seating waiter and assistant were the best! Our requests were consistently and quickly granted. For example, ice was in our room every day without a reminder and our room cleaned quickly and promptly. And unfailingly cheerful in the face of a lot of banter from our table of 6. Ignacio always gave us excellent menu tips and recommendations and frequently brought us extra tastes More of various menu items, particularly chocolate since we expressed our addiction often!

The ship was in excellent condition and the common areas kept sparkling. Although the two main pool areas were usually crowded during the day, I always could find a deck chair facing the sea,, my preference, in the sun or shade. The embarkation, disembarkation and land tour off-loading processes were amazingly easy - very well organized and did not take much time at all, considering the 2600 plus passengers! Since this cruise stopped each morning for the day at a different Med port with popular excursion options, there were hundreds of us taking tours each day. The passenger demographics were probably more in the older age range, but just barely - plenty of families with young children and teen-agers - and plenty for them to do too. More passengers from Great Britain and Canada then US -many from Australia as well -overall a nice mix and it was very easy to find "child-free" locations aboard ship for quiet relaxation.

Since we picked a Med cruise to see the historical sites on the Greek Islands and Italy, we took a Princess tour almost every day and each one was excellent - (we walked the wall in Dubrovnik ourselves) The disembarking process were smooth each time with no confusion or long waits. Other US companies could learn how to handle crowds and lines from Princess! Each tour guide was pleasant and extremely knowledgeable - and of course the historical sites - Olympic Stadium, Acropolis, Delos, Pompeii, not to mention all of Venice and Rome are must-see places to visit. Of course everyplace was really crowded since this was July - but the only place that the crowds really got in the way was Santorini - the narrow little streets in Fia were just choked with visitors from several cruise lines. But the Santorini views are not to be missed! Outlined below are some specific comments prompted by my first time cruiser experience and my reading of past Cruise Critic comments. While we each have our own particular likes and dislikes, I'll add my two-cents worth to some of the popular topics discussed on CC.

Princess vs private excursions - we went with Princess because as a first timer I felt they would be more reliable and certainly easier to arrange! We were not disappointed - the guides were extremely knowledgeable of the sites and ancient history, the buses were air-conditioned and comfortable, and we arrived back on time for our evening sailing every day! This is not a small detail, since several times the Captain commented as we were leaving port that some passengers were not yet aboard! Since the "Port Review" section does not allow for more then 8 ports I will add here that Santorini and Pompeii are also not to be missed - Pompeii is truly incredible - and the Princess tours are excellent!! As noted elswhere, Santorini was really crowded and the line for the cable car down to the tender was a 40 minute wait so I walked those 700 steps - very hot and crowded with donkeys and their droppings - but beat my companions who waited in line! I would book Princess excursions again - I guess if you are a very experienced traveler private tours or going in on your own might be preferable, however. We did use RomeInLimo for a one day Rome tour, where we stayed for 3 days after the cruise. RIL is an excellent as advertised - our driver Mauro and Vatican guide Aurora were excellent - make sure to book Vatican guide through RIL and purchase your Coliseum and Vatican tickets via internet before you go - you really do avoid the line this way! In Venice we walked around on our own and loved Venice - however I did a walking tour of St. Marks which was great and avoided lines - and we did a gondola tour booked though our hotel which was also great - at first I thought it would be too cheesy - but you get too experience the smaller, back canals and gondolier expertise is amazing! (Hotel Bartolomeo - small, inexpensive, great staff)

What to Bring - we each packed one large bag and one carryon - the latter more as a safeguard against lost luggage or delayed bag delivery. The latter did happen because our room was upgraded and changed last minute and I forgot to change the number on the luggage tags provided by Princess. So because we had carryons with a few changes of clothes, including "smart casual" clothes for dinner - we were fine. In general I probably packed about 5 or 6 more outfits then I needed because I didn't wear everything twice- but that's what women do! I thought the 2 formal nights were a great chance to dress up and a couple of cocktail /shoes and coat/slacks and couple of dress shirts do not take up that much room! Since we went off the ship for each of the 10 ports, we needed more "touring" clothes (capris/shorts/tee shirts, etc.) then one would need for a stay on the ship type of cruise. Dining/Food - we chose the early traditional seating in the Capri dining room and it was fine - a little early at 5:30 pm, but not crowded on the other hand, and we were done early enough to catch the 8 pm shows! Plus we had a window table and enjoyed the sail-away each evening! I might try anytime dining next time, but I did notice that after about 6:30 pm there was a wait for a table. The food was consistently above average to excellent and there are so many choices it was easy to find something delicious every night! We tried both Sabatini's and the Crown Grill and they were both worth an extra $20 if you want to spend the $$- personally I liked the Crown Grill better - great steaks! For breakfast we got room service since we left on tours at 7 or 8 am every morning! It was simple (fruit/cereal/pastries) but satisfying and promptly delivered! For lunch if we were on board we went to the Horizon Ct. which was excellent for a buffet - a million choices it seemed - hot and cold. The dreaded "syrup" coffee isn't that bad - but we got the coffee card so we could have brewed at dinner. I was worried about eating too much, of course, and lost 5 lbs before the cruise in preparation! I ate very light at breakfast and lunch (salad bar!) so I could pig out at dinner and at the couple of lunches during tours (great Greek food everywhere!). My scheme worked better then expected - I came back half a pound lighter! Guess all that walking on tours paid off! Less

Published 08/05/11

Cabin review: BBC209 Balcony

Balcony cabin C209 is an excellent choice - very near front of ship - great views from balcony - so now I am hooked on a balcony room - and quiet location, in part due to a bit of walk from central elevators. Good strategy from Princess - received 2 upgrades from partially obstructed to balcony and a $400 price drop from the time we made our deposit in early 2011. Although the non-smoking policy hasn't kicked in yet (kudos for Princess for the new policy) I hardly noticed smoke from those on nearby balconies.

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Port and Shore Excursions

So of course visiting the Acropolis outside of Athens was as amazing as visiting the Olympic village! This Princess tour was also excellent and included a visit to the National Museum and the Plaka shopping district. We were a little apprehensive about our visit since there had been major demonstrations at Constitution Sq near the Plaka just a few days before. But our visit was on a Sunday and all was quiet and not too crowded - in town at least. The Acropolis site was quite crowded - as all the famous sites are during the summer - but our guide was adept at leading us to the least crowded areas. The lunch included with this tour was in downtown Athens and was also quite good!

We took our fist Princess excursion in Corfu and it was a great start to our touring experience- a friendly and knowledgeable guide. We visited the Old Town, the village of Paleokatstritsa and a 13th cent monastery. Incredible views and a great introduction to the history of the region. This was our fist Princess tour experience and it set the standard for efficiency in disembarking and in tour quality. The tour included lunch at a local restaurant and the food was plentiful and excellent!

Read 509 Corfu Reviews

I must admit I knew little about Croatia or Dubrovnik, despite my Masters Degree - I'm sad to say! One of the reasons we chose a Med cruise was to see and learn more about this part of world and it's history - and visiting Dubrovnik was a perfect start to the trip! We took the advice of many posters and our travel agent and just walked the old city wall ourselves - I rented an audio tour headset right at the wall so I could learn about what I was looking at! It was delightful, easy, great exercise (mile and half with lots of steps!)and with views to die for! We also walked around the old city a bit and ate a nice lunch at a local restaurant.

Katakalon is the port from which you visit the astounding, original Olympic village ruins. (Of course I learned all this while studying up on our itinerary prior to the cruise!) We took the Princess Tour that includes the Olympic site and the Archeological Museum, since we wanted to learn about the history of this amazing region. Particularly since we are from California, where the oldest "ruins" are about 150-200 years old, exploring ancient sites and their history is extremely impressive! As in many of our stops, I could not believe that we were allowed to walk around on artifacts that are 1500 years old!! Being in the middle of the Olympic site among the columns, temples and the stadium was the experience of a lifetime! The exhibits in the museum were incredible - the jewelry and sculptures were astonishing for their workmanship - must be seen in person!! And once again we had a knowledgeable guide who enriched the experience.

Kusadasi is the port for Ephesus - yet another amazing site of antiquity we toured on our Princess excursion. Of course I don't know much about Turkey either (must go back to school and major world history!)so it was icing on the cake to see a bit of the shopping district too. The library, theater and temple ruins of Ephesus - a Roman provincial capital - are not to be missed. However, we did miss the terrace houses so we could spend the afternoon back on the ship. The "carpet" demonstration at the end of the tour was actually a sales pitch at a carpet cooperative - however, the building was cool, the showroom comfortable, the refreshments welcome, and the sales pitch low key. Not to mention the incredible workmanship. Just had to stop my husband from buying a gorgeous carpet that would be perfect in our living room - even at $2000 reduced from $4000 (when "no" means no the price really does go down!) I held my ground!
Read 614 Kusadasi Reviews

We chose the Delos tour offered by Princess for Myknonos and thus did not spend time in the town. We intentionally went on tours that were mostly just half a day so we could enjoy the shipboard experience- but the downside was that we did not see everything everyplace!! Delos is an uninhabited island that is entirely devoted to unearthing and studying the remains of the once thriving birthplace of Apollo. We were ferried to Delos - a 25 minute trip on slightly rough water - the only real swells of the trip. However, despite the wind and a little chop it was a scenic and refreshing trip - especially from the outside decks - although a few people got wet on the return trip. Delos was incredible -and made more enjoyable since it was closed to the public on Mondays and not crowded at all. This was our first chance to see mosaics in tact on the floor of ruins - another amazing sight for a Californian! Another example of incredible workmanship by ancient civilizations! Once again our guide and the Princess tour logistics were outstanding!

Read 840 Mykonos Reviews

We took yet another excellent Princess tour of Mt. Philerimos (Church of Our Lady built on ruins of a temple to Athena), 14th Century Grand Masters Palace, and the old town of Rhodes (shopping! good restaurants!) Mt. Philerimos also offers breath-taking views of Rhodes and the bus tour up the mountain enabled us to see a bit of the island and the contemporary seaside resorts - and again our guide provided excellent historical information!
Read 391 Rhodes Reviews

Venice is not to be missed and I recommend spending a few extra days here as we did before the cruise. Venice is so charmingly and historically different then any place in the US it is a wonder to experience. We did not do a Princess tour but walked around on our own - which is the best way to experience Venice - as most other travelers advise. All the food was great in the various restaurants we picked by chance. Our hotel, Bartolomeo, was small, clean, low priced ($120 US per nite) with a great staff. I booked a tour of St. Marks and a Gondola tour through our hotel and was very glad we did this! The St. Marks walking tour allowed you to miss the line, go upstairs and see the famed gold alter - and also included a brief walking tour of the city. The tour guide commentary really enhanced the experience of visiting St. Marks and seeing the Venice sites.

Read 1149 Venice Reviews

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