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437 Princess Europe - Eastern Mediterranean Cruise Reviews

I'd read quite a few reviews and some negative comments, but I have to say that the Ruby Princess gets top marks in almost every category. Check-In was very smooth. We were booked on Traditional dining but because a ... Read More
I'd read quite a few reviews and some negative comments, but I have to say that the Ruby Princess gets top marks in almost every category. Check-In was very smooth. We were booked on Traditional dining but because a number of our shore excursions ran into making us late for the early sitting, we were still welcomed at our table in DaVinci's when we could get there. The food was excellent and the staff went out of their way to make sure we were pleased. We had some senior ladies at our table and the waiter or assistant waiter even cut up the meat for one. Our balcony stateroom was very clean and the steward friendly and attentive to our needs. The steward collected our passports after we were at sea, so there was no problem that had been mentioned in another review. We tried Sabatini's and the Crown Grill and the food was delicious. Sabatini's artichoke souffle was outstanding. The only complaints we had about the shore excursions were minor. One guide had a bit of a shrill voice. The region was having a heat wave and it seemed that every port had temperatures in the 90F range, so it made the walking to the buses seem long. Disembarking at ports went smoothly. Internet was (naturally) a bit slower than at home, but really not a problem. There was usually entertainment in the Piazza and some of it was exceptionally good. There always seemed to be something of interest going on when we returned from our shore excursions (at every stop) I would like to see smoking banned entirely from the casino, but maybe that's coming. We only went to one stage show and it was very good. It helps to know that the hall carpet is bordered with red on one side of the ship and blue on the other side. I think that the curls in the wave pattern point to the front of the ship but am not sure so will check that out next cruise. Lots of staterooms had balloons and a sign on their door...Happy Birthday or Happy Anniversary. Made it look festive. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
I have been on probably 30 cruises on heaven knows how many lines and this was one of the best ever. Embarkation-- Got on board the Ruby in Venice. Since we were spending the night in Venice, embarkation was spread out over the ... Read More
I have been on probably 30 cruises on heaven knows how many lines and this was one of the best ever. Embarkation-- Got on board the Ruby in Venice. Since we were spending the night in Venice, embarkation was spread out over the whole day and was as painless as it could possibly be. We arrived by water taxi and our bags were off loaded and we were told to just leave them there and we would see them again on board. Nice touch to not have to tote them over to the warehouse, as we had to with Holland America. Breezed through the check in and found our room on Emerald Deck with no problem. It was an obstructed view room, but we could see the water. Room-- Like I said, we booked a guaranteed obstructed view room and were give E226. Great location toward the front of the ship and I really liked the they arranged the room. In the past I have had inside room and they always had the bed against the outside wall. This room had the bed against a side wall and the desk and TV on either side of the window. While I think the room was the same size as the inside room, it seemed bigger and worked much better. I would suggest you try this category of room. It was very located to the main decks for entertainment. There was no noise from he Princess theater or noise from people on the promenade deck. Food-- Princess has really improved the dining room and buffet food. Everything I had was well prepared and served hot. The International Cafe has some of the best shrimp salad I have ever had! they have even improved their coffee at the buffet! The Horizon Cafe served a wide variety of food and there was always something good to eat. The pizza and hamburgers are well prepared and they have the best french fries on the high seas! Another note on the Horizon Cafe and Caribe cafe, they were never overly crowded. I am not sure why, but even with 3,000 people on board there was seldom a long wait or big crowd, not matter what the time of day. This is an improvement over some of the recent cruises I have taken on large ships. Ship layout- Fantastic! I am not sure what they did when they built the Ruby. My understanding was it was the same as the Emerald, which I have sailed on, but somehow they have increased deck space so that there was never a problem finding a deck chair or table to sit at. It was really nice to be able to come on deck at any time and have no problem finding a place in the sun or shade. Lots of pools and hot tubs. I really enjoyed the layout of the ship. It is a big ship and you can get lost, but there are places to do whatever you want. Movies under the Stars is still fun and the weather was perfect for it. Entertainment- Again, Fantastic. After sailing transatlantic on the Westerdam and having singers that could not sing and dancers that could not dance and terrible music in the lounges and pool area,the Ruby did everything right. The shows were well done. The singers and dancers were first rate. The band Temperature which was by the pool and in the Explores lounge were among the best I have heard. The guest entertainers were all very enjoyable. It was first rate all around. Ports of Call -- I have visited some of the ports before, but it is a great itinerary if you love history. Athens, Ephesus, Istanbul, Rome, Naples, Florence. How can you have a bad time? We had my 86 year old mother in law with us, so we took a lot of Princess Shore Excursions and they were all well done and enjoyable. They do move you on and off the ship and you are headed around, but you don't have to worry about making your own arrangements or getting back to the ship on time. We did our own thing to get to Capri-- that is not a hard thing to do. I would suggest that you take the cruise from Venice to Barcelona, not the other way around. You have two days at sea to get over jet lag and get ready for a strenuous number of port days. Whereas, if you sail from Barcelona, you hit 4 ports in a row and they are long days and long trips into Rome and Florence. We did the Rome and Florence "on your own" and that worked out very well. They bus you to Rome and give you 5 hours on your own, so you can pick and choose. We did the same thing out of Leverno and did Pisa and Florence. Pisa was a pleasant surprise. We really enjoyed it. All the ports were crowded and I would suggest you cruise in May. We did that several years ago and the places were not as crowded. Service-- Top notch. Everyone was friendly and did a great job. Our room steward could not have been better and the service in the dining room and on deck was great. In the Horizon they will bring you your drinks and take care of you after you are seated so you don't have to try to juggle a drink and plates of food. One night we went up to get a couple of cookies for the next day and there were none out. A steward asked what we were looking for and we told him and he rushed back to get us some. Nice touch. Disembarkation- We had Princess transfers to the airport for a 10:30 am flight and they got us off and onto the bus and at the airport by 7:45 am. One nice touch was after the bus got to the airport, they had porters waiting to take your luggage inside. You did not have to drag yous suitcase into the airport across traffic. The little things are what make a cruise a 10 instead of an 8 and Princess was able to do all the little things right this cruise. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
This was my 7th cruise. My motto is "the newer, the bigger, the better" and some of my previous ships include RCCL's Freedom of the Seas, Cunard's Queen Mary 2, Holland America's Eurodam , Celebrity's Equinox ... Read More
This was my 7th cruise. My motto is "the newer, the bigger, the better" and some of my previous ships include RCCL's Freedom of the Seas, Cunard's Queen Mary 2, Holland America's Eurodam , Celebrity's Equinox and NCL's Epic. I've wanted to try Ruby Princess since it hit the seas in 2008 and I was happy to finally get the chance. This particular cruise sails Venice-Barcelona and Barcelona-Venice all Summer long with some amazing ports in between. We decided to do the Venice-Barcelona cruise because, as we are from Canada, getting to and from Venice and their port is a little more complicated than getting to and from Barcelona and their port so we thought we'd deal with the challenging stuff at the beginning rather than the end of our cruise. Also, we wondered if spending a night on the ship in Venice when the cruise was essentially over might be a wee bit anti-climactic. In hindsight, although we don't regret our decision, I imagine sailing into the Venice harbour would probably be more breathtaking than sailing out of it! Embarkation was a breeze - it was efficient and quick. You are allowed to go straight to your cabin upon boarding. While Princess says embarkation begins at 1 PM I noted many people on board before then and, in fact, the Princess Patter (i.e. the daily schedule that's delivered to your stateroom every evening) had activities starting as early as 11 AM. Those boarding in Venice, however, should take note that it is not entirely clear how to get to the port. For those arriving directly from the airport, a taxi can be taken and for those arriving directly from the train station, you need only walk a short distance. For those who spend a day or so in Venice before the cruise, it can be tricky. I know now, however, that you have only 2 options. One option is take a public water taxi and get off at the port or train station and simply walk to the People Mover. However, if walking over cobblestone roads and getting in and out of crowded boats with your luggage is a challenge for you, the second option is to hire a private water taxi that will take you right to the ship - while much more relaxing, this method is also pricey at about 60 to 80 Euros (it'd be great for a group of people as you could share the cost). Princess does have a shuttle that goes between St. Mark's Square and the ship (it's $15 return) but this is ONLY for those who have already boarded - you can't use this to get to the ship to embark with your luggage...although many try! The ship itself is just shy of 3 years old but is impeccably maintained and very clean. It still looks new. Ruby will not win any beauty contests as, with the exception of the dramatic piazza which spans several decks, the dEcor is rather bland...especially the pastel greens in the staterooms. The 3 dining rooms are all single-floored so lack the spiral staircases and grand chandeliers. However, it is perhaps the most functional ship I have ever been on. There is ample deck space (never a problem getting a chair) and 5 large swimming pools (6 if you count the 1 for the staff). The deck is very exposed and you can walk all around the ship on several levels. If you wish you can go right to the nose of the ship and pretend you're Leonardo DiCaprio and be The King of the World! In the rear, open space spans several decks...which is awesome for sailaways. The passengers on this cruise were of all ages but were mostly older couples. This may not be typical of Princess cruises, however, as a bartender told me that, in the Summer, they often had close to 1,000 kids on board. There were only a handful of kids on this particular cruise. We had a mini-suite and it was plenty big with loads of storage space. The bathroom was also large and private. The food was excellent but there is so much of it that you just can't get hungry enough to eat as much as you'd like. Aside from the main dining rooms there's the cafeteria-like Horizon Court as well as the grill and pizzeria on deck. There are 2 specialty restaurants, Sabatini's (Italian) and the Crown Grill (beef) - we tried both and enjoyed them. We did find that the menu in the main dining rooms did lack imagination on some nights so it was rare that you were torn choosing between many options...it was actually the opposite and, on several nights, we simply selected from the side of the menu that offered the traditional standbys that were available every night (pasta, beef, etc.). This may have been because we are not fish lovers...if you like fish, you will be in heaven as there are lots of fish choices every night. The service was always great in the dining rooms with the wait staff always eager to please. I did buy an Ultimate Kids Pack that allowed unlimited sodas, juices and smoothies all cruise long. I shared this with my travelling companion and the staff didn't seem to mind. Contrary to what others have said, I ordered countless Cokes, juices and smoothies and never once did it seem like an inconvenience to anyone. Ruby offers traditional or "any time" dining. My guess is that about two-thirds of the ship opted for the latter. Again, contrary to what others have said, we never had trouble getting a table for two - we usually were escorted immediately to a table or, at most, had to wait only a few minutes. Regarding entertainment, Princess is yet to get into the modern age and do things like NCL with the Blue Man Group or RCCL with Broadway shows. The guest entertainers on this cruise were, as Simon Cowell used to say on American Idol, "very cruise ship". However, the Ruby Princess "singers and dancers" were absolutely spectacular (and easy on the eyes too!) and the 3 shows they did were amazing. I only wish they could have entertained every night! Note that the theatre only seats 850 so, for some shows, you need to arrive early to get a seat. The service on Ruby is very good - on par with NCL and RCCL but perhaps not quite as sophisticated as HAL or Celebrity. With the exception of a handful of employees who were somewhat indifferent, the vast majority can't do enough for you. Princess is a little light on "extras", however - you have to ask for bathrobes and beach towels, there are no cold drinks at the gangway when you return from a long day ashore, etc.. In addition, "accuracy" is not their strong point - pre-ordered flowers were not delivered, laundry was mixed up with other passengers, room service order was wrong 3 out of 5 times, white wine was served in the Crown Grill when we ordered white, USD-CAD currency conversion was used when we clearly said we didn't want it, etc., etc.. HOWEVER, none of these were "deal-breakers" and the staff always happily corrected any errors. Our cabin steward was nice and did a good job but was not a star by any means. I had heard that Princess was #1 in shore excursions and they did not disappoint. While most cruise lines excel in this area, Princess was exceptionally good. The ports on this cruise were outstanding (kudos to whoever designed this itinerary) and there were numerous options for excursions at every port. The tours I took (5 of them) all ran as per schedule and it was always clear where you were supposed to be and when. The guides were all great and had good knowledge and senses of humour. Like all ships, Ruby offers numerous opportunities to get your photo taken. While pricey, the quality is excellent. If you buy a number of photos you can get some for free. Finally, for the true ship-lover, Princess offers the Ultimate Ship Tour. They only take the first 12 to sign up and the tour is done on a sea day. You get to see backstage at the theatre, the engine control room, the kitchen, the medical clinic (including the morgue!), the laundry room, the anchor room, the photo shop, the printing room and the smoke stacks. The tour concludes with a photo-op and glass of champagne with the Captain on the bridge. At $150 it is expensive but it lasts 3 hours and is very interesting. You also end the tour with numerous professional photos, a bathrobe (which sells for $90 in the gift shop), a chef's coat and a pad of paper with your name on it! In the end, we had a wonderful time. I would not hesitate to cruise with Princess in the future or to recommend Ruby to anyone. I hope you found this review helpful. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
Hi Everyone, We just returned from a wonderful 12 days aboard Ruby Princess. Excellent Cruise. Great Itinerary, Superb food, Amazing Guest Entertainers. Itinerary: Simply great. We never been in Europe, so this was our first time. ... Read More
Hi Everyone, We just returned from a wonderful 12 days aboard Ruby Princess. Excellent Cruise. Great Itinerary, Superb food, Amazing Guest Entertainers. Itinerary: Simply great. We never been in Europe, so this was our first time. The itinerary is simply perfect for someone who wants to see a little bit of everything. We went to Venice, Istanbul, Mykonos, Kusadasi, Naples, Rome, Livorno (Florence), MONTECARLO and Barcelona. Great. Unique places. Cabin: we had a suite ;) so, it was perfect. Our cabin Steward was such a nice guy. Very Very prof. Food: during this cruise they organized 4 different Chef's Tables. It's a sort of special menu for who wants to have something different. OMG, everything was so fresh and delicious. The Metre'D Generoso Mazzone is a great guy. Very friendly, superb. Good good job there. Entertainment: we love shows! Every time we have a couple of days we fly to Vegas to enjoy some shows..and casinos as well. During this cruise we had the chance to see every night something different. The welcome on board show was fun, the productions show all first class, Once Upon a Dream..unique. The Magician David Cats was terrific. One of the best magic show I've ever seen. It's really original, funny and amazing at the same time. The bands were all top class. Good Job Princess. I definitely recommend Princess Cruise. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
12 Days on Mediterranean on board Ruby Princess. My Evaluations: Ship: 5 stars The Ruby is the newest ship of the fleet. It's everything perfect, new, the style is classic and elegant, very nice. Cabin: 4 stars We had a ... Read More
12 Days on Mediterranean on board Ruby Princess. My Evaluations: Ship: 5 stars The Ruby is the newest ship of the fleet. It's everything perfect, new, the style is classic and elegant, very nice. Cabin: 4 stars We had a interior cabin, it was nice. We did 7 cruises in the past, we knew the kind of cabin we booked. Food: 4 stars Everything fresh, good, nice service. The Sabatini and Crown Grill are great. They changed the Sabatini's Menu. really nice. Entertainment: 5 stars Entertainment was great. Lisa Ball is a great Cruise Director. Good production shows, excellent Dancers. Princess did a good job there. The Magician Illusionist David Cats amazing, superb - Great Shows. Ports: 5 stars Great Itinerary. All Europe in 12 days. Venice, Rome, Florence, Istambul. Gorgeous. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
Star princess, in,our experience did not compare well with all the other Princess ships we have sailed on. It certainly is not as good as P& O We would not travel on the Star Princess again and doubtful about another Princess ... Read More
Star princess, in,our experience did not compare well with all the other Princess ships we have sailed on. It certainly is not as good as P& O We would not travel on the Star Princess again and doubtful about another Princess Cruise. We are not people prone to complaining but unfortunately our experience in some areas led us to complain Our cabin steward Howard was great and could not have done more for us.Our luggage did not arrive in time for the sailing,( KLM problem) along with 30 other cabins and we did not receive it until 4 days into the cruise. We met with Passengers services management and advised them of our disappointment in their handling of this. Although not the ships fault it became apparent that there appeared to be insufficient resources allocated to dealing with the problem and communications suffered as a result. We had anytime dining and it appeared very disorganised at peak time with queues forming . One night we could not get a table until after 9. This meant we were unable to get to shows. When we did eat the food was superb best on any ship we have been on. Beware to check what the coke offer really entails as if travelling as a couple it only gives 1 person sticker for a coke for themselves !! Staff were inconsistent in their handling/ understanding of this. Our friends cancelled theirs as a result and did not get a warm response from Passenger Servioces for this and as a result an apology was given to them by phone in their cabin. Entertainment was not great. Best show was the best of British. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
This was my ninth cruise, and my Mother's first. Seeing a cruise ship through the eyes of a first time cruiser helped with a few of the disappointments that were based on prior cruising experience, such as long waits for a table for ... Read More
This was my ninth cruise, and my Mother's first. Seeing a cruise ship through the eyes of a first time cruiser helped with a few of the disappointments that were based on prior cruising experience, such as long waits for a table for two in the main dining room, and one very poorly run shore excursion. Overall, the minor inconveniences were just that, minor, and I had a fantastic time. We stayed in Venice for two nights pre-cruise and with a 48 hour Vaporetto pass managed to see quite a bit. The overnight on the ship gave us that third day to finish exploring and even though we didn't depart until 2pm, we opted to not go ashore that last morning and just relax on board. Embarkation was a breeze. We arrived at the port quite early but that allowed us to be in group #5 to board and once they called our number we were on the ship in just a few minutes time. We found our cabin, an AC mini-suite almost at the very back of the ship. Our cabin steward was friendly and helpful and got us egg-crate mattress toppers and robes when requested. The first night on the mattress I though I was sleeping in one of those stone beds in Pompeii, but the mattress topper worked wonders and I slept very well the rest of the cruise. The mini-suite was nice and roomy, and it was a nice change to have a tub size shower instead of those tiny little showers in my usual outside cabin. The food was so-so, but I don't expect gourmet food on a mass-market cruise line with well over 2,000 people to feed at each meal. We never made it to any of the specialty restaurants, although we did go to the afternoon tea (fabulous) and the pub lunch (blah). Service in the dining room was MUCH better when we had a table for two than when we opted to share. We didn't see too many of the shows, but my Mom seemed to enjoy the ship's singers and dancers. The one show we saw that I didn't like at all, my Mom loved - must be a generational thing :) All the ports were absolutely fabulous. We did some on our own (Athens, Rhodes, Dubrovnik) and did ship's tours at the rest. The only "bad" day was in Santorini when we were there with eight other ships. It was awful, in fact this was the only tour ever where I have complained and received a partial refund. Unless you are in Santorini with only one or two other ships, do not get off the ship. The port itself was beautiful, but I have never witnessed crowds like that anywhere before. Passengers services could have been better. We dealt with lukewarm water for almost two days. It took multiple phone calls and visits to passenger services before it got fixed, and even then we endured a maintenance guy in our cabin for several hours changing out the thermostat in the shower. I loved having self-service laundry on board, and our cabin was just steps away from it. Very nice and convenient. Disembarkation in Civitavecchia could not have been easier. We were scheduled to leave the ship (according to our luggage tag color) at 7:45. We could have left earlier, but weren't quite ready. So at 7:45 we left the ship, found our luggage, our driver and were on our way to Rome by about 8:00. We had arranged to share a private cab (Rome Cabs) with two people we met through our CC roll call. It worked perfectly and I highly recommend this option for getting into Rome. We paid 75 Euros per couple (150 total) and got dropped off right at our hotel door. We happened to be staying at one of the Princess hotels but it was pure coincidence. We arrived well before the bus load of Princess post-cruise passengers. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
Embarkation was a nightmare at Venice. Apparently, we later found out, there had been some problems with computers. This meant that we were held in a hot hall with insufficient seating for about 2 hours - not good on top of a 4.00 a.m. ... Read More
Embarkation was a nightmare at Venice. Apparently, we later found out, there had been some problems with computers. This meant that we were held in a hot hall with insufficient seating for about 2 hours - not good on top of a 4.00 a.m. start in the morning!! We were provided with no information about the reason for the hold up, which we would have found useful. Problem or not, we should have been provided with food and drinks after a long journey. However, that's the only real beef we have. Our cabin was c701 - the cabins on Caribe deck have a much larger balcony than those on other decks - probably about double the size. It means that you usually have both shade and sun on the balcony as well as comfortable seating for six people. The cabin was adequate in size and it was nice to have a fridge which was actually cold. There was plenty of storage space for our twelve night cruise. The bathroom was very compact but everything was there. The cabin was very close to the lifts so provided good access. We took the Princess tours. The ones which included lunch and a tour guide were pretty pricey we thought. $249 for Rome but we felt it was the only way to ensure that we got into the sites. How right we were! Queues at the Vatican etc were hours long and we just wouldn't have got in without a pre-paid ticket. However, Princess also offered 'on your own' tours - these got you to the site, let you have several hours to explore and then got you back to the ship. Much more reasonable and allowed us to go at a faster pace than if we'd been on an organised tour. The tours were well organised and to interesting destinations. Entertainment - we were rather put off by the first night production in the theatre which included a comedian who still thought that humour comes from smutty jokes and stereotyping. Having said that, there was plenty of variety during the day and evening. The food was excellent in all restaurants. The Boticelli restaurant offered silver service and a good variety of menus. We tended to eat more in the self-service Caribe and Horizon restaurants. These were more relaxed and offered a wide range of extremely well prepared and presented food. The service was good too. We spent most of our time aboard ship on the balcony or at one of the bars - we're not great swimmers. We never felt crowded or overwhelmed by numbers of people. However, space did seem to be at rather a premium around the main pools but then it was the hight of the school holidays so there were a lot of children around. The fitness centre was well equipped although there were a large number of treadmills out of action most of the time. All in all, we were well satisfied with Princess and would use them again. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
When we booked, we used Princess EZ-Air as it was cheaper than booking on our own. It was very easy to use, and the ability to pick our flights and departure date was great. The cruise boarded in Venice on August 8. We were late ... Read More
When we booked, we used Princess EZ-Air as it was cheaper than booking on our own. It was very easy to use, and the ability to pick our flights and departure date was great. The cruise boarded in Venice on August 8. We were late getting on board due to some type of techinal program. However, we were in our cabin by 1:00. Part of the problem was they collected passports as you boarded. This really slowed down the process. They need to rethink this process. The cabin was wonderful. We actually had booked a guaranty mini-suite AE cabin, but we were upgraded to a penthouse suite. It came with a lot of additional perks like free Internet, free laundry, and priority tender embarkation in tender ports. Our cabin steward was wonderful. He fully explained all the suite perks and answered all our questions. The ports were wonderful. We took shore excursions through Princess in all but two ports. The tours where well organized. The only one that we really had a problem with with the Pisa and Florence on your own. The guide took off at Pisa and never stopped to make sure everyone was with her. It wasn't just that she walked too fast, there were other groups arriving and mixing in with our group. She did a better job at Florence, but she talked way too much on the bus. The guides in Rome were amazing. This was our most crowded port, and they both did a great job keeping everyone together. The food was good. We never went hungry, but I do think the quality was slightly lower than on previous cruises. We did anytime dining, and with the exception of the last night, we had very good service. The last night, the waiter seemed to have some type of attitude and wasn't very friendly. It was the first time we'd had this waiter so I don't know if he was just having a bad night or if he was always that way. We did eat at the Crown Grill one night. The food was good, but in my opinion, not worth the money. The steak was only slightly better than the one I had in the main dining room. The other options on the menu are pretty limited and most were not items I cared for. Sea days did not seem to have as many activities as normal. There were things here and there, but overall, there were pockets with very little going on. It is a Med cruise so I know many people just like hanging out at the pool. We're not pool people so that wasn't an option for us. The evening entertainment was hit and miss. The Welcome aboard show was basically a commercial for the ship. The only exception was a couple of numbers by the Princess dancers and singers and a juggler (who was not very good). However, later in the week, the show Broadway Ballroom and Once Upon a Dream were excellent. I thoroughly enjoyed both of them. There was also a comedian and a magician. I didn't really care for either of them either. There was someone on board that talked about the different ports. These were recorded sessions shown on TV. However, Hutch was great! He was a wealth of knowledge about each port. And, he wasn't annoying! The overall look of the ship was good. They did a great job of keeping it very clean. I didn't see any areas that looked like they needed updating. Overall, it was a great cruise. I'd recommend the cruise line and ship to anyone. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
We like cruising on smaller ships,having already cruised on the Royal Princess twice, and were really attracted by this itinerary. Our Princess arranged flight to Venice(BA)was on time and Princess reps met us & the transfer to the ... Read More
We like cruising on smaller ships,having already cruised on the Royal Princess twice, and were really attracted by this itinerary. Our Princess arranged flight to Venice(BA)was on time and Princess reps met us & the transfer to the ship was quick,as was embarkation. For a charge of 15$ each there was an unlimited ship's shuttle to St Mark's Square. This was very convenient as we had an overnight in Venice. The ship was what we had expected--our stateroom very comfortable,I like the sofa ,the flat screen TV & ample storage. The balcony to me is invaluable & this was quite private. The ship has a wonderful library with games,jig saws etc as well as a large number of non fiction & fiction books. The food in the Dining Room was very good & the Maitre D',Bruno, excellent. Upstairs the food was really good,the breakfast buffets especially so,& nothing was too much trouble for the crew there. There were always plenty of tables available both inside & on deck. We took 4 Princess excursions-Malta,to Taormina & MtEtna in Sicily (a wonderful trip),to Capri and to Monaco/Monte Carlo.All were good to excellent & the included lunches in Capri & on Etna were excellent. Overall this was a great cruise--the crew on this ship are so friendly in a respectful way. The itinerary exceptional-the call at Kotor-is very special. The only downside to this holiday was the number of children,that can't really be catered for on a smaller ship like the Pacific Princess. Embarkation was very smooth as was our airport transfer. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
BACKGROUND...This was our 26th cruise. We did three 12-day cruise's back-to-back. STATEROOM...Outside window, average size cabin with plenty of storage, clean new carpet in room, bathroom looked almost new. SHIP INFO...Small ... Read More
BACKGROUND...This was our 26th cruise. We did three 12-day cruise's back-to-back. STATEROOM...Outside window, average size cabin with plenty of storage, clean new carpet in room, bathroom looked almost new. SHIP INFO...Small intimate ship where some of the crew even learn your name. Ship stability was not a factor even-though it was small. Excellent crew who really want to please you. No lines anywhere, no need to save a deck chair. DINING...Better food in the dining room than bigger ships. ACTIVITIES...Plenty of activities available although not as many as on bigger ships. SERVICE...Best service I have seen in 26 cruises, simply outstanding! ENTERTAINMENT...The five production shows were EXCELLENT, presented in a theater in the round type setting. The other entertainers were average. SHORE EXCURSIONS...Typical shore excursions but with only 675 passengers on-board you did not get the cattle-call feeling you often get on the big ships. Two of our tours only had 12-15 people. DISEMBARKATION...Smooth and well done. SUMMARY...Really enjoyed our first small ship experience. In the future we plan to do many more. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
We are loyal RCL crusiers, before this summer we have complete 7 cruise with RCL. In Europe and Carribean on various ships. Well it was time to try something new. Not really a good idea, you just compare what is in front of you to what ... Read More
We are loyal RCL crusiers, before this summer we have complete 7 cruise with RCL. In Europe and Carribean on various ships. Well it was time to try something new. Not really a good idea, you just compare what is in front of you to what you have had, really not fair to the ship. But it is also good to see what another cruise liner is offering. I would breakdown our cruise into three parts; ship, food&wine, activities/shore start with the good Food excellent, why lots of variety, always available, very good, bad, we had anytime dining which was more like line-up and wait. most nights it was an hour long wait to get seated, whether you had reservation or not...and the Matilde was very very rude. I complained multiple times to just be left standing even longer. If I want a buzzer ed and wait in line, I'd rather go to the cheese cake factory.. Wine, if you like American wine, sure lots of variety, no wine deals like on RCL, only on expensive wines they cant sell...did we drink lots of wine, yes was it good yes but hell to get! Ship, small, tight closterfobic, it felt crowded at the time, our room had double hanging bunks. we were only 2, why. i broke my shoulder, head on them daily, never again. room was also smaller than RCL.getting off the ship was a nightmare, it was the most poorly organized group ever...they just dont gett eh fact that we are on vacation and they should be taking care of us. We may try another Princess cruise, but the Star is not for us.... Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
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 ... Read More
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 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! Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
This was our 11th cruise, but first with Princess. I was fairly excited about trying this new line as I'd read several things which sounded fun. After the cruise I have mixed feelings about the experience and in the end have decided ... Read More
This was our 11th cruise, but first with Princess. I was fairly excited about trying this new line as I'd read several things which sounded fun. After the cruise I have mixed feelings about the experience and in the end have decided not to cruise Princess again. Below is my review to explain. As per Cruise Critic's Guidelines, I will try and structure my review into categories... BACKGROUND INFORMATION As mentioned, I have cruised 11 times. Mostly Royal Caribbean and Carnival with one cruise on Celebrity and now this one on Princess. We are from Calgary Canada and mostly cruise the Caribbean, although we have done one Alaska cruise and 3 cruises in Europe. This cruise started the same day as we debarked a Royal Caribbean cruise so it was easy to compare several things while it was fresh in our minds. TRAVEL TO PORT OF EMBARKATION We took the train from Rome Termini to Civitavecchia. Easy sneezy. HOTEL INFO We stayed at the Buonanotte Garibaldi B&B in the "blue room". Wonderful private terrace, great service. In the heart of the quaint restaurant district. STATEROOM We were in E201, which is a rather unique balcony cabin (there are only 8 like it on the ship) in which the promenade deck actually steps up and in front of the balcony. So while you were on your balcony people would periodically walk by. For privacy they have a tinting film on the glass and at night (if the ship is underway) they shut off the lights to aid in Navigation and thus close that portion of the walkway for safety reasons. The balconies themselves are huge and easily the deepest on the ship and have a table, chairs and loungers. The problem is that the tinting impedes your view when sitting or lounging on the deck. We found the lack of view while lounging so annoying that we would not book this type of cabin again. The other aspects of the cabin which are worth mentioning is the bathroom. The shower did not have a hand wand. I have never experienced this on any other cruise line and it is a real pain. The safe was wonderful with a knob instead of an electric locking mechanism. The cabin layout was quite nice with the wall between the bed and bathroom forming a pseudo walk-in closet. SHIP INFO Having walked onto this ship about 1 hour after disembarking Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas made us notice several things about the ship that seemed better or worse by comparison. First off, the artwork on Star Princess was wonderful by comparison and we felt like we were on a much classier vessel. The layout of the ship however was dreadful. There are no public stairwells at the very front and rear of the ship so you must always walk a bit further than it seems like you should have to. Many public spaces have access only from one side of the ship or the other, so until you have memorized the layout you are constantly turning around and retracing your steps to get where you want. The Sanctuary looked nice, but really wasn't much of an option on an itinerary which with 12 nights had just one sea day. On that sea day it was sold out by 10am. The fitness area was completely inadequate. DINING This more than anything killed the experience for us. While the dining room food and overall experience was fine and comparable to other ships, the other dining options ranged from disappointing to down right unacceptable. The buffet was in a crowded space and was below acceptable in my opinion. Very limited variety and tray after tray were empty. The pizza place had decent pizza but closed very early. One of the things I had looked forward to was room service pizza, but late at night when I would have wanted it, the place was closed. The room service was prompt, but did not accommodate any request which was off menu and occasionally brought dirty dishes. The buffet though is a key part of the cruising experience. It is the most used venue for breakfasts for us and it was just awful. So much so that we have since cancelled another Princess cruise which we had booked. ACTIVITIES We found the activities on board to be adequate and nothing more. For being a supposedly upscale line we anticipated more lecture type activities but there were none. Other activities seemed on par with other lines. SERVICE With the exception of our room steward, service was surprisingly good. I enjoyed the dedicated and staff operated elevators at embarkation, a nice touch. Any interaction I had was for the most part very pleasant. ENTERTAINMENT Typical cruise entertainment but a big focus on movies which we found quite enjoyable especially those late night movies on deck. Their movies under the stars program is top notch. My only complaint is that they should leave the hot tubs open so you can watch the movies from there when it rains. This is the only ship I've ever been on which didn't have pay per view movies or TV based room service ordering capabilities on the stateroom TV. PORT & SHORE EXCURSIONS Something I think Princess does better than any other line is their excursions. The information they make available for excursions is top notch and even when we had an alternate port due to bad weather, the way in which the excursions were re-booked was wonderfully communicated and was seamless. DISEMBARKATION Typical disembarkation. We cruise only with carry on bags so disembarkation from the ship is always a breeze. There were no customs lines at all at the Venice terminal, we just walked out. SUMMARY While Princess had some wonderful aspects to their ship, and good overall service, the casual dining experience was just too shoddy to overlook. Especially when compared to other lines like Royal Caribbean's wonderful Windjammer Buffet. Princess is supposed to be a step up from Carnival, but I found this only seems to apply to the decor and perhaps the afternoon tea service. Everything else seemed like an entry level line on par with Carnival and absolutely no comparison to Royal's "step up" line, Celebrity. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
As parents, my DH and I have recognized that time was passing by so quickly when our beautiful 15 year old twin daughters where standing in line for their driver's permits 4 months ago. We were in a complete dilemma as to how to spend ... Read More
As parents, my DH and I have recognized that time was passing by so quickly when our beautiful 15 year old twin daughters where standing in line for their driver's permits 4 months ago. We were in a complete dilemma as to how to spend the summer. A little more background, we are a avid travelers both born with wanderlust in our genes. In October, my DH and I spent 2 weeks exploring China on our own. As for our kids, they have traveled to the Middle East, London, the Caribbean and the US extensively. This cruise was to be a great introduction for them, an opportunity for them to see a few highlights of each location and for us, to share their excitement. We booked the Ruby Princess, departure July 27 out of Barcelona with stops in Monte Carlo, Florence, Rome, Naples, @ sea, Mykonos, Istanbul, Athens, Kusadasi (Ephesus), @ sea and ending in the magical city of Venice, solely because of the itinerary. My expectations for the ship, meals, entertainment and accommodations were not very high as I really didn't care too much about those elements. We booked the trip through an on line Travel Agency about 2 months prior to the trip after ensuring we got flights that worked well for us (out the Miami area) in both timing and price. I would not use the Travel Agency again as they did not provide information in a prompt and adequate manner. Our flights, on paper, looked great but US Airways really let us down (that is a WHOLE other review!). We booked 2 guarantee obstructed cabins and that was exactly what we got, rooms E517 and E519 which were assigned within 2 weeks of us booking. Our flights, Miami to Philadelphia, and Philadelphia to Barcelona with return on Vueling from Venice to Barcelona, Barcelona to Philadelphia and then back to Miami, were done in that we had a day before the cruise and a full day after to see more of Venice. Our flights were terrible, missing our connection in Philadelphia by less than 10 minutes and they sent us to Frankfort and then onto Barcelona. We met up with fellow cruisers in Philadelphia which made out trip easier as we worked together to find an earlier option to Barcelona. We are so ever grateful for their companionship and friendship. In Barcelona, we took a taxi with 4 large suitcases and 4 carry-ons for 35 euros to the Onix Liceo off of La Ramblas. It was a very quick trip from the airport and although we had lost the majority of the day (3:30pm vs 8am), we dropped our luggage at the hotel and spent the late afternoon exploring the La Ramblas area. We were exhausted but happy to be out of the airport. The next day, the hotel held our luggage while we went to La Sagrada Familia and Casa Mila. From there we went back to the Hotel and within a short walk, we were at the Port Shuttle from the Colombus statue. The wait for the shuttle was very long, more than 35 minutes but finally, the ship was within sight. Check in was fast, and we were on board within minutes. We found our rooms easily and were very happy with the location. Located on the Emerald deck, deck 8, we were right in the middle of the ship, very stable and very convenient. We met our Steward, Antonio, who within an hour had transformed our rooms into the configuration we wanted, twins in one room and a king in the other (with a mattress topper), bathrobes in the rooms, refrigerators cleaned out, ice buckets filled and a couple of extra towels. During that transition we got extra key cards so that we could have the girls with their own cards and ours done as well. We also grabbed late lunch at the Horizon Buffet. Lunch was lovely with a massive salad bar option. The kids got the unlimited soda/smoothie option sticker for their card right at the Buffet. They got nice To-Go cup and twisty straw. The To-Go mug was great for my DH's coffee in the morning. We explored the ship and although very nice, it appeared to us very basic and generic. After our trips on Royal Caribbean's amazing ships, we understood that this ship was transportation to amazing ports and not the destination, as it was on our Caribbean holidays. Nevertheless, it is a lovely ship, in excellent condition but with very small gathering spots. We signed our kids into the Teen Center and found out there were 363 kids between the ages of 13-17, PERFECT!!! The Teen Center was well stocked with the requisite video monitors and games. The staff was excellent, enthusiastic and made sure the kids were happy at all time. We are more than impressed with them. We continued to tour the ship. We LOVED the MUTS. We did not find it too loud, as a matter of fact on more than one occasion we found ourselves sitting out there conversing with new friends. They showed current film and music concerts. In the evenings, they covered the chairs with special towels, handed out blankets and popped popcorn. It is a wonderful option. We loved the multi-level viewing. We went deck by deck exploring the ship. We headed back to our cabins and were very pleased to see that our luggage was already in the rooms. I unpacked and then we headed up on deck for the sailaway. A few notes about our room. These 2 rooms have boats in front of the windows and are totally obstructed. The room itself is the smallest room we have ever sailed in but it was adequate. There is a lot of closet space (Antonio also brought us more hangers), drawers. We brought our own outlet strip and it was needed for our camera recharging and other items. We also could easily connect our computer laptop and dvd player to the tv for our own movie night. The bathroom is very small. The room was very quiet and very stable. We did the Anytime Dining and LOVED it!! With such a heavy itinerary, we loved having the option of dining when we wanted. We never had to wait for a table as we always said we were willing to share a table. We loved meeting new people, sharing experiences and getting hints for the next stops. It is one our favorite parts of sailing. We dressed for dinner for those evenings. We did not do formal tuxedos or gowns (although about 30% of the men wore black tie, we wore cocktail dresses and my husband, jacket and tie for the 2 formal nights. The rest of the evenings, I wore silk tops with a black skirt and he always wore a button down shirt in the dining room. No one wore shorts or tshirts. When we wanted a less dressy night, it was up to the Buffet for us. Two of the nights that food was poor, the rest of the time, it was very good. Desserts were fantastic, as was the service and presentations. We never felt rushed. The only part of the cruise that I felt that the ship needed real work was the Entertainment department. The shows, the comedians were so bad it was if they had created the shows with the most elderly audience in mind. The exception was the new "Dream " show. It was cleverly staged and performed. We were very disappointed in the shows. The art auctions were the same as every other ship. We were hoping for some real different educational experiences on board (glass blowing, art education, history lectures etc). Nothing like that. Loved Zumba classes! They were very well attended and were really fun! Great job Princess - we had people from 8-80 in the class and everyone was having fun. We checked out the Sanctuary but it was not really our thing. The Fitness area was really nice, had good equipment and we used it a couple of times. One area where we had a problem is with the Princess Tour desk. There was a tall young blonde representative there who had a really bad attitude, never willing to listen and just trying to upsell everything, there always is one person that will get under your skin and she was it for me. With the taxi drivers in Athens on strike, I wanted to figure out what other options would be good for our family. She interrupted me so many times, I requested someone else help me. The gentleman was great, got me on the perfect tour for us and as well , got me onto an Istanbul combo tour and DIY option that also worked great for us. I had 2 encounters with this woman and they were both the same. I wasn't the only one having an issue with her. The Sailaway was a letdown only because the Entertainment staff was so busy doing a raffle giveaway that they didn't notice that we had been moving more than 10 minutes - very anti climatic. The addition of a Tour Guide named Hutch was great. He gave us hints and directions of each port the day before each day. He was very informative and enjoyed his slides and presentation every day. They show it on the tv. Speaking of tv, programming was very good, there was something to watch almost all the time. The final stop into Venice was breathtaking with the sail into the city of Venice. The entire ship is up on deck and it is a party. Music is souring as we entered the port. Water taxi coupons are given to you in your cabin at the cost of $15 pp for the first day. You may return them, as we did and arrange your own transportation. We choose to use the vaporetti option for 36 hours for our 2 days in Venice. The People Mover at the port made departure very easy. We took our luggage off the ship ourselves and stored it at the Piazzale Roma and arranged for the ATVO express bus to the airport ourselves with ease. Many thanks to our Florida fellow sailors and to Rick Steve for the best Med Cruise tour book ever. Our Floridian friends were the gift of the trip providing companionship, comradery, guidance, comfort and a great time. Can't wait till the next cruise! Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
After reading a few reviews about Ruby Princess. I was ready for a 'so-so' experience. No so! The best vacation my wife and I ever had. The crew, the food, the cabin and the ship were all great. I have no complaints about any ... Read More
After reading a few reviews about Ruby Princess. I was ready for a 'so-so' experience. No so! The best vacation my wife and I ever had. The crew, the food, the cabin and the ship were all great. I have no complaints about any part of our vacation. You do get charged for almost all beverages. Coffee, tea, ice tea are free, but you pay for all alcohol. Since my wife and I do not drink, this was not an issue. We paid to use the 'Sanctuary' the quiet, no children section for sunning, which I was fine with. Paying for the few of Princess's 'add ons' works to my advantage. The staff was just wonderful; kind, professional, well groomed and helpful. Our wait staff in the dining room was also great. I'm a caterer and have been in the food service business my whole life. The food was excellent. The ship is feeding 3000+ guests 3 meals a day, a feat in itself, the food was well prepared, great selections and high quality. Don't miss the afternoon tea. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
After having cruised on a no-name line (first cruise), RCI and NCL, we were looking for a cruise that gave us good value. Because we do not seek the cheapest rate - our minimum requirement is a balcony - we want our money to go as far as ... Read More
After having cruised on a no-name line (first cruise), RCI and NCL, we were looking for a cruise that gave us good value. Because we do not seek the cheapest rate - our minimum requirement is a balcony - we want our money to go as far as possible. Our second requirement is that we are able to have dinner by ourselves, just the two of us. We found when we cruised with RCI several years ago that there was no option for that. Now they have introduced an any time dining option. We chose NCL because we felt that we could dine as we wished, but actually found that if we wanted top quality food, we had to pay a premium. On one cruise, our concierge even joked that if we tried the main dining room once, we would never return to it. We read reviews complaining about NCL food - our complaint was different - we always had great dinners, but we had to pay extra. When we did the math, we were dismayed. With what we paid for a suite, we should not have had to pay extra for dinner every night. We were delighted, therefore, that Princess easily allowed us Traditional Dining at a table for two. Then, when we experienced it, we were even more delighted. The quality, imagination and variety of food was excellent. It was difficult to find a night to try the premium restaurants, but when we did, we found Sabatini's even more incredible than the main dining room. Crown Grill was good too. One thing that no one mentions about the food on Princess is the fact that there are such healthy choices for dinner every night. I practically stayed with Lotus Spa choices - which were great - and I did not come home ten pounds heavier than when I left. The ship was more elegant and formal than NCL or RCI. I feel that Princess has managed a wonderful balance between mainstream appeal and refinement. It was very comfortable to be on the ship, whether you were casual or dressed up for a special night. What could be improved? The Internet! There was no WiFi available in my room and I could not access it on my laptop even in public spaces. Based on my previous shipboard experience, I overspent on the Internet package. Accessing the Internet was so constrained and difficult, we did not come close to using up our time. Also, coffee and orange juice in the buffet could be better. The coffee is not as horrible as some reviews say, but NCL does have espresso machines in the buffet - stocked with Lavazza beans! That is a food tip Princess could take from its competitor. The orange juice is also not up to the standard of the rest of the food on board. Best parts? The jazz piano of Ron Coleman in the Adagio Lounge every night before dinner. He is a sophisticated interpreter of standards and it was a joy to have a pre-dinner aperitif listening to him. Also, Hutch - the Port lecturer - gave excellent information that allowed people to get a lot out of going ashore without an excursion. By the way, the ship did offer a GLBT Get-Together every day at 5:15 p.m. My partner and I were the only passengers the first night. We were welcomed warmly by ship crew. We tried two more times, but no other passengers showed up. Kudos to Princess for persevering. We look forward, in the future, to meeting more GLBT cruisers on Princess. All in all, excellent value for the money. Our cabin steward Marlon was efficient and thoughtful and our waiters, Edgar and Marjoe were highly professional and made dinners in the main dining room a "special" enough experience that we did not feel "forced" to use premium dining rooms. When we did go to the premium dining rooms it was for an even more special experience and we were delighted with them. Would we cruise Princess again? Yes. Hopefully again and again. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
This was probably our thirtieth cruise and our first on the Ruby Princess (we have been on several other Princess ships). We arrived in Venice a day early to allow extra sightseeing and in case of travel problems. A water-taxi ride ... Read More
This was probably our thirtieth cruise and our first on the Ruby Princess (we have been on several other Princess ships). We arrived in Venice a day early to allow extra sightseeing and in case of travel problems. A water-taxi ride ($150USD) to our hotel was interesting, and though expensive, was not outrageous for the four of us and certainly easier then the vaporata(sic). Venice is pretty and we enjoyed St. Marks and the Doges Palace. The food in Venice is very expensive and just okay. Getting to the ship from our hotel was a pain. We took the vaporata to Plaza de Roma and then the people mover to the ship which was docked in the closest berth. It still was a fairly long walk over rough pavement to the actual terminal. It was very hot and they do not make it easy to find out where to leave your luggage. They will tell you in the terminal to drop your luggage about a city block away in a somewhat unmarked building. Once in the terminal the embarkation went very quickly and smoothly. With the exception of the "internet manager?", all of the princess employees we dealt with were friendly, helpful, and truly seemed concerned that we had a nice cruise. It was always very difficult to get connected on the internet as the "too many subscribers" notice kept popping up. The "internet manager" on duty could care less and made it clear that it wasn't his problem as "he only worked here". If I had paid for an internet package, I would have demanded my money back. Our cabins (balcony) were very clean and comfortable and our steward was very professional and always had a smile. We chose anytime dining, which was a good choice as we were always tired after the ports. The service in both dining rooms was very good, with some waiters being better than others, but, the better ones were truly outstanding. We had no complaints about the wait staff, whatsoever. Due to a taxi strike in Athens, the captain did not let anyone leave the ship, so Athens was a complete waste. Costa did allow their passengers off, apparently without incident. I personally disagreed with the captain's decision, but, as he is ultimately responsible for the ship, crew, staff, and passengers, I could not really fault him for playing it safe. We thought the food in the dining room was outstanding, consistently good. Breakfast and lunch were just okay, and we tried to have lunch on shore as much as we could. However, even if the lunches were very good, we would have eaten ashore anyway. Debarkation in Barcelona went smoothly and we spent the night in Barcelona, flying home the next day. Note that the airport bus from Cataluña Plaza was inexpensive and very easy to use. A highlight of Barcelona was watching the Gypsies hustle the tourists with the old pea under the three matchboxes game, it was truly educational. We enjoyed the cruise and felt it was money well spent. We have booked another Princess cruise in December in the Caribbean. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
Having decided to finally return to Europe after many years, it was a cruise that came to mind. We had already done two Princess cruises in the past year to the Caribbean so I knew that Princess was the way to go. The itinerary was what ... Read More
Having decided to finally return to Europe after many years, it was a cruise that came to mind. We had already done two Princess cruises in the past year to the Caribbean so I knew that Princess was the way to go. The itinerary was what finalized the decision..they offerd the most time in the most interesting places on a cruise that is very port intensive. We flew from Houston to Newark to Frankfurt to Venice...lucky to go first class in the new lie down seats on Continental...all was great until we got to Frankfurt.....terrible place to connect. They post inaccurate gate info and the airport is huge; we almost missed the Lufthansa connection to Venice and that was also a joke....no boarding order. just cattle rushing the gate...really funny. Spent two days in Venice prior to boarding the ship. Stayed in Mestre at the Hotel Tritone strictly for thr convenience of not hving to haul all the luggage over the bridges and canals...worked out well as Venice was extremely hot and humid. Mestre is not exactly a tourist attraction but has the easiest access to the port. Boarding the Ruby was simple. Princess has this process down to a science and it is always easy....very little waiting. Checked out the cabin and then headed for lunch and then the shuttle back into Venice. The shuttle is easy and convenient..took the people mover back over to Piazza Roma to buy some wine and then just settled in to watch the water taxis hurrying passengers to the ship. We always get a mini suite midship and this was no exception. Our only complaint was the cabin steward ( Edgardo ). He was very lax and almost disinterested in his job...Previous Princess stewards have been fantastic We asked Edgardo for an extra ice bucket and he asked " why"? Well, that is not his place to ask...maybe we like a lot of ice. The only other request during our trip was for him to bring some lotion. We use mainly our own toiletries and had run out of lotion....had to ask twice. There were several nights that we told him to skip the turn down as it was late and still not done...had to ask repeatedly for a room service morning ticket for the door. Other than that the dining room staff is very attentive . We took the Ultimate Ship Tour on the last sea day. It is $150.per person and worth every penny. It was great to meet Commodore Romano and spend time on the Bridge having him answer so many questions. Met all the ship officers of each division...loved going throught the galley and seeing how they organize all the food, bakery, etc. It is quite amazing. In return, we got a lovely album of 8x10 photos posed with the various ship officers, the big thick Princess robes, a Pricess chef jacket, personalized stationary and a wonderful experience. The itinerary was busy...our favorite place was Turkey. Kusadasi and Istanbul need to be revisited. In Livorno, we did our own trip to Pisa and then on to Lucca via train. It is easy and Lucca is a great alternative to Florence if you have already been there..we rented bikes and biked arond the city and the walled enclosure. Visiting Pompeii was a real highlight of the trip. It was overcast and a bit drizzly, so it was cool and the photos came out perfectly. The only downside to our itinerary was AThens...ther was a taxi strike that day and we were not allowed to leave the ship. Costa lines right next to us allowed their passengers to disembark. It was frustrating having to stay onboard and miss the great sights. What was puzzling to me was that they knew about the strike ahead of time and should have made a different stop as I know the Celebrity line did that. My taxi driver that we had booked in Athens sent me an email the previous day telling me that our tour was cancelled because of the strike so I am certain that the ship also knew. All in all, a fantastic itinerary and wonderful trip. We visited the casino and met our old friend, Marek, who works in the casino..had met him on the Caribbean Princess earlier this year. What a nice coincidence. We never made it to the shows because we had such busy active days..In the evening, there was dinner and then enjoying wine on our balcony as we sailed away to a different place. Anytime dining is our favorite way to go....we enjoyed one formal night but the other one we just dined at the Cafe Caribe...usually going outside to watch the ships wake..the water is so blue and clear , it is a totally relaxing way to end the day. So I give Pricess a gold star for another wonderful trip. We will be looking to the Caribbean in the next few months as those are our favorites for the great beaches. Highly recommend Princess!!! In closing, if you are adults and do not wish to be bothered with a lot of noise from kids running around, then do this cruise anytime but the summer. There were so many children and the parents do not discipline them..constant running in the cabin over head and we heard this from so many other cruisers. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
We were on the Grand last year in 2010 on a Med cruise, and again on this post dry dock trip. This cruise was different in that the majority of the fellow passengers were much older clientele and many had mbility issues. It was end ... Read More
We were on the Grand last year in 2010 on a Med cruise, and again on this post dry dock trip. This cruise was different in that the majority of the fellow passengers were much older clientele and many had mbility issues. It was end of June, so not all schools were closed here in the UK. This did not affect us, but was disappointing for out 18 and 17 year old boys, as there were very few of their age to congregate with. Having said that, by the end of the cruise they seemed to be having a good time! The main changes on the ship are in the Piazza and the casino. These areas have been transformed beautifully. The rest of the ship remains much the same. The cabins and balconies have not been refurbished, and I think these are the areas that some people may have issues with. The balconies are showing their age...rust is rife. Having said that, this did not affect our cruise in any way. The food was good (as always)....but I did think by the end of the cruise the quality waned a bit....the choices seemed repetitive. It was a 17 day cruise, so perhaps we just tired of the food?! Horizon court seemed less crowded, as they have added a separate dessert area (which also is the area where toast and pastries are served at breakfast) so no huge lines. The same old problem of finding tables still exists, as they have lost a few tables with the addition of this separate area. I think there were fewer choices of entries in the buffet this year (so did our sons) We only had a few breakfast here and a couple of lunches. The main dining room for breakfast and lunch is a far more pleasant experience. I had arranged a Meet and Greet...and very graciously, the Captain, Cruise Director and Head Maitre 'd turned up. Although we are not Platinum or Elite...the Maitre 'd sent canapes every night to our cabin for the duration of the cruise...nice touch! If you are looking for a pristine, high tech, glitzy ship, then the Grand will not be to your liking, but if you are looking for a solid, well run grand old ship, then you are in for a great time. We really enjoyed our time.... yet again on the ship....and would not hesitate booking again in the near future. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
We just got back from a 12 day Star Princess cruise through the Greek Isles. We had a great time. The embarkation procedure was very easy, once we arrived at the terminal. Getting from the Venice Train station to the port turned ... Read More
We just got back from a 12 day Star Princess cruise through the Greek Isles. We had a great time. The embarkation procedure was very easy, once we arrived at the terminal. Getting from the Venice Train station to the port turned out to be a bit of a pain. Word of Warning: I'm going to vent about the people we encountered in train stations in Italy. If you want to read the review, just skip the next few paragraphs... We tried to cross the constitution bridge from the train station to get to the people mover to the port. As we started to cross, an older man walked up and took my wife's luggage from her. He came back to me and took mine. I told him 'No' several times and he just grabbed and pulled harder on my bag. I was so taken aback that I let go and he just took off going across the bridge. He wasn't trying to steal them, but I didn't want him to take my bag and he took it anyway. I wasn't ready for how rude he would be about it. At the other end of the bridge he dropped our bags and stuck his hand out. I gave him the change in my pocket which was about 3 euros and he acted quite offended and wouldn't get out of our way when we tried to leave, still holding his hand out. We had a similar experience in the Rome Termini a week earlier. We were trying to get onto the First Class car and a man stood in our way and took our bags. He heaved them up the two steps onto the train and set them down. He then stuck out his hand. I gave him 2 euros and he started acting offended. He stood in our way so we couldn't continue into the seating area of the car. He was speaking loudly in Italian something about how hard is was to move our bags about 2 meters into the car and how offended he was at my offering of 2 euros. We had people behind us trying to get on. One of his cohorts was yelling loudly for us to move as this man stood in the way with his hand out wanting more. After what seemed like a long time, he grudgingly moved aside and gave me a dirty look and saying something I didn't understand. 30 seconds later he and his cohort started the same routine, this time the other man was standing in the way with his hand out and our beggar was behind him and his marks yelling for them to get out of the way. I just wanted to get that off my chest. I wasn't prepared for either case. We never had these kind of problems at any of the ship's ports. Be prepared to fight these guys off. I wasn't prepared for an older man to physically pull my bag away from me even though I told him no. They were both rude, counting on us not to make a scene. Be prepared to be rude back. OK, back to the review. We had bought our passage 6 months before the cruise and we paid what I thought was a decent price for an inside cabin. We knew we would be busy every day and we didn't want to spend extra money on a balcony that we would rarely use. The upgrade fairy visited us and gave us an obstructed view room. It was nice to see the port before we left the room. The room had plenty of storage and we never felt too cramped after 12 days. Having the fridge in the room was very handy too. The ship seems to be in pretty good shape. The food in the Anytime dining area was quite good. We never had to wait to get a table. It was the first time we tried Anytime dining and we really enjoyed it. Each night we met some new people and had some fun conversations. Two or three nights, we were all still talking when the restaurant closed and they were waiting for us to leave. They never once pressured us though. Very nice. The Horizon Court 24 hour cafeteria on the 14th floor was like an upgraded Golden Corral or any other All-You-Can-Eat restaurant. The food was OK. Not bad, but not great. It was nice to have a decent selection of fruits everyday. We tried the Crown Grill the second night of the cruise and it was very good. I considered it worth the extra $20 each. I've had better steaks, but overall it was a much nicer experience and the food was very good, including the steaks and the rack of lamb. The Hamburger/hot dog grill was pretty good and the fries were very good. The pizza place had some interesting specials of the day. Some were pretty good. The crew was very friendly. The shows were just OK. The British Invasion show and the Destination Anywhere shows were good, but the rest were fairly boring to me. The Movies-Under-The-Stars was fun and they had some pretty good movie selections in the evenings. We went to a few of the pools but for the most part, we were off of the ship during the day and getting some rest in the evenings. The Internet is dial-up speed slow and VERY expensive. We ended up using the Internet cafes at the various ports. Most of the restaurants have free Wifi if you eat lunch there. That's when we did most of our email checking and blog updates. The IPad came in very handy for that. In general we had a much better time with the private tours that were arranged by a friend we met on the Cruise Critic message boards (thanks again YaYa). The Princess tours were much more expensive and weren't nearly as much fun. Next time, we will do mostly private tours. We also picked this cruise because of the number of Greek Isles and ports that we would visit. It was great to see all of these places. Next time, I would pick a cruise with a couple more sea-days. We felt like if we were in a port, that we should be touring. We were exhausted by the end of the trip. Leaving Venice was fantastic. If you go, be sure to be on the port side deck as you leave to watch the city cruise by. It was a great way to start a cruise. Dubrovnik is an easy town to do on your own. Very much worth going to see. Corfu was much prettier than we thought it would be. Just get out of the town by the port. The island is beautiful. We had a private tour here with Dimitris with 4 people in each taxi. We had a blast. Olympia and the original Olympic sight was interesting, but I don't think I'd go back again. We did a private tour in Athens and it went very well. We were able to decide where and when we were going to see the sights. A very nice visit. My wife loved the fact that the bus had a fast Wifi connection and she took advantage of it by uploading pictures for our friends and family as we moved from sight to sight. Mykonos was another port that we did on our own. We didn't see all of the sights, but we did see the town and it was easy to do on our own. Little Venice is a lot of fun and the whole area is postcard beautiful. Ephasus in Turkey was an interesting tour. The Terrace Houses were especially interesting. Our Princess tour ended in a rug distributor shop with a demonstration. They said no one was obligated to buy, but they did put on the hard sell. Walking from that shop back to the ship was like running the gauntlet. We were approached by every vendor on the street, trying to get our attention. Kind of crazy. We decided to take the next day off in Rhodes and go to a beach. We went to a Golden Sand beach and had loungers and an umbrella we could use. It was a very welcome relaxing time and the beach was great. Santorini was beautiful. The Princess bus we were on did not have a working Air Conditioner and it was very hot in there. We were glad to be done with the tour and visit on our own. The town of Oia is just gorgeous. Again, this would have been much better on a non-Princess tour. In Naples, we went to Pompeii and Sorrento. Sorrento is a great little town to get lost in. Pompeii was very interesting and our last big 'pile of rocks' to look at. We didn't go to the museum and is sounds like the most interesting pieces found in Pompeii were in the museum. Next time... Overall, a very good trip. We would definitely suggest it. 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Sail Date June 2011
We were on the Star Princess Eastern Med, Greek Isles cruise from June 23-July 5, 2011. I was traveling with my teenager and tween, and another friend and her daughter. The route was from Civitavecchia near Rome to Venice. 12 day itinerary ... Read More
We were on the Star Princess Eastern Med, Greek Isles cruise from June 23-July 5, 2011. I was traveling with my teenager and tween, and another friend and her daughter. The route was from Civitavecchia near Rome to Venice. 12 day itinerary with 11 days in port, one day at sea. Summary: We loved the cruise, and it was especially fun for the kids. We found this to be a great way to travel with kids and see many ports without a lot of stress. The staff of the ship were always courteous. Although it's a large ship-I believe we had 2,700 passengers on our cruise-it doesn't feel overly crowded. Food was pretty good and the kids enjoyed the availability of the buffet and snack bars. The itinerary was fantastic. The ship was beautiful and fun to explore. All in all a very positive experience. Pros: Mini-suite was perfect for our family, ship's design makes it feel less crowded, kids programs were wonderful. Staff was amazing and friendly. Also wanted to note the private guided tours we loved so much: Unforgettable Tuscany for Florence/Pisa (info@unforgettabletuscany.com), Pleasant Travel in Naples (www.pleasantravel.com), and Spiros Tours in Athens (spirostours@yahoo.com). Cons: Felt like I was being nickel and dimed for things which should be included in price of cruise like: sodas, coffee, some of the transfers to shore etc. In Rome we stayed in the mini-apartment suite at Albergo del Senato right next to the Pantheon. Loved this hotel and our room. Embarkation was a breeze, but we arrived later than most people, about 3:30 to 4:00pm.Our transfers were through Limo in Rome and they did a great job. We also took a tour with Limo in Rome and it was very good except for the ac was broken in our car. After getting settled in the room we went to explore the ship and get some food at the Horizon Court buffet. We checked out the swimming pools and giant movie screen then got the kids checked in to the kids programs. The cruise was delayed 6 hours while waiting for a plane that was delayed getting into Rome. We arrived late at our 1st port, but after that it was pretty much on time. The mini-suite: We had a mini suite for myself and 2 kids. It was roomy with just enough separation between the sleeping area and the sitting area. My son had a pull down bunk above the sofa, my daughter stayed in the bed w/ me. Great deck outside with a table and 2 chairs. Bathroom had a bath and shower. There was a mini fridge, a desk area and closet space enough for my daughter and I. My son lived out of his suitcase. Our room steward was wonderful, Alberto from the Philippines. We were on Dolphin deck rm. 702. The ship: The design of the ship is great, loved the atrium with all the shops and cafe around it. There are so many discreet spaces to find privacy or for gatherings of smaller groups that it really didn't feel crowded most of the time. There was even a pool at the back of the ship for adults only that was less crowded than the 2 pools for families. The kids programs were right above the buffet and this was a great idea. The food: The food was a step up from our previous experience with Disney cruises food, but was not an amazing experience like I was expecting. We did eat at the Steakhouse 1 night and it was very good, but I'm not sure if it was worth the extra cost. (we had coupons so we went for free) I noticed that the specialty restaurants were never crowded. We ate frequently at the buffet and several times in the dining rooms. We had anytime dining and found that we never had to wait, if we were willing to sit with people we didn't know. We met some great people this way. Service in the dining rooms was very good. The buffet gets a bit repetitive but we still liked it for the convenience. Kids programs: My daughter and her friend were just old enough to check themselves in and out of the kids club, but only when the ship was at sea. This made it more of a choice on their part so it didn't feel like babysitting and they loved that. My daughter always wanted to go to the kids programs, her friend was not so inclined. Her friend could go with her up to the kids area and then check herself out when she got bored. My son loved the teen lounge and he was there all the time he was allowed to be. The kids made friends from all over the U.S. and from all over the world. The itinerary & excursions: This is the reason we booked the cruise-the itinerary was perfect for our family. Ports were: Civitavecchia, Monte Carlo, Florence & Pisa (Livorno), Naples, at sea, Santorini, Mykonos, Athens, Olympia (Katakolon), Corfu, Split and overnight in Venice. We did a combination of private tours and ships excursions. I would have to say that we enjoyed the private tours the most. Florence/Pisa-We had a private tour with Unforgettable Tuscany and the owner/driver was Paolo. This was a wonderful way to see the countryside and tour the sights with the least amount of hassle. All of our tickets were reserved in advance so we by passed the 2-3 hour lines at the Uffizi and Accademia. We stopped briefly in Pisa and then stopped on the way to Florence at a castle. The owner of the castle is a friend of Paolo's. We did a quick tour of the castle and then stopped at Piazzele Michelangelo overlooking Florence. After lunch we went to the church square, then to the Accademia and then to the Uffizi. Made it back to the ship in plenty of time. Mykonos-shore excursion to Platis Yialos beach. Loved the beach, had 3 hours to enjoy ourselves here. After the shore excursion the kids stayed on the boat while my friend and I walked around Mykonos Town. Mykonos Town is very picturesque and fun to explore-lots of winding alleyways. Katakolon-I went into town to shop, the rest of my party stayed on the ship and took a day off. We debarked the boat at 2 p.m. and got on a bus which took us to the airport. The airport was on strike so we were actually lucky our plane took off at all. We flew to Barcelona, Spain and stayed there for a week and then flew home. We all enjoyed the Princess Cruise very much and the kids can't wait to take another one. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
First review so please be kind! We've just returned from our 3rd Princess Cruise, this time a 12 night Med & Greek Isles port-splurge. All started well when the Upgrade Genie decided we deserved a break, and our inside ... Read More
First review so please be kind! We've just returned from our 3rd Princess Cruise, this time a 12 night Med & Greek Isles port-splurge. All started well when the Upgrade Genie decided we deserved a break, and our inside cabin became an outside double with balcony on Lido Deck was much appreciated. Being Port side it was spot on for Venice too. Embarkation was quick and efficient and by 3pm on day 1 we were enjoying cocktails and pizza by the pool. We opt for Fixed Dining as for us, dressing up and a little formality all add to the holiday occasion, and again, Princess came up trumps with terrific dinner companions. Food was OK, I do think the standard has dropped off a little in the Formal Dinning areas but as a compensation the casual buffet and snacks were much improved. First port was Monte Carlo - we opted for a ships tour to St Paul De Vence as we had been there previously and had a great time. Next day we took another tour, Pisa and Florence, purely because we wanted to see both places in 1 day and I didn't want to chance any travel mishap. Final tour was the next day, Mount Versuvius and then Pompeii. Versuvius was stunning (and windy!) but coming back down in sandals with sharp grit underfoot isn't recommended. My own fault, my idea of 'sensible footwear' is something with less than a 4 inch heel! Pompeii was truly stunning and a 'must see.' All of our guides were helpful and informative and whilst ships tours can sometimes be expensive, there are occasions when it's worth splashing out. All other ports we did ourselves - Santorini, truly beautiful and my favourite of this cruise, despite being accosted by a wayward donkey on the way back down. Mykonos was gorgeous and on both days we ate our meals overlooking the bay. Other ports were Katakolon, Corfu, Split and Athens. In each we used local transport to go where we needed without any problem, no need for taxis. The only port I did not enjoy was Athens, we arrived the day after local disturbances and I was affected by tear gas, plus the 'crowd control' at the Acropolis was a shambles and people were jostled and hurt. Final port was Venice and we had a superb view from our balcony - eating breakfast as we slowly sailed past St Marks Square. A place we've already decided to visit again. Entertainment on board wasn't great - but then again we weren't on board much (only 1 sea day) so it wasn't a problem. Journey South were very good. Staff on board were extremely friendly and really made the cruise, our cabin steward was excellent, as were the wait staff in Crooners bar. Captain William Kent was the highlight of the cruise, I loved his announcements and dry sense of humour. Fabulous cruise, well maintained ship, great staff. Recommended! Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
We are an American couple in our 60s, experienced travelers who have recently discovered cruises. The Star Princess Italy-Greece tour was our fifth cruise overall and our fifth with Princess. Previous cruises were to Alaska, Baltic, Black ... Read More
We are an American couple in our 60s, experienced travelers who have recently discovered cruises. The Star Princess Italy-Greece tour was our fifth cruise overall and our fifth with Princess. Previous cruises were to Alaska, Baltic, Black Sea and Panama Canal. Here are our thoughts about the Italy-Greece cruise. Rome (Civitavecchia) (Embarkation), June 23: We spent three days in Rome before the cruise and took a car service to the port for €150. The alternative would have been the train - cheaper but with baggage-schlepping. The driver, arranged by our hotel, took us directly to the ship, where we embarked almost without stopping. Left our Rome hotel at 11:30 & were onboard and in our cabin by 1:00. Wheeled our own baggage aboard, so there was no waiting for it to be delivered. Unpacked, hung everything up, toured the ship, got lunch in Horizon Court, reported for lifeboat drill at 4:45 and were prepared for sailaway, when the captain announced that a Princess charter plane from Manchester, England, with 186 people, was delayed indefinitely & we wouldn't sail till they were onboard. So we watched Civitavecchia's container cranes from our balcony, had dinner, watched some more from the balcony, cheered the late arrivals around 11:30 PM and set sail round midnight. Monaco, June 24: Because of the sailaway delay we were late getting to Monaco (which we'd visited before). Arrived mid-morning, but couldn't debark immediately, as it is a tender port & we had to await the boats. Princess organized this efficiently. Got ashore about noon, wandered the port, ascended to Old Monaco, had a drink with a hilarious Irish (!) family, walked back down the hill through the gardens to the port & ship. Many who took ship's tours found them shortened by last night's delay, and the palace and cathedral (two of the major attractions) closed for a royal wedding rehearsal. Nothing Princess could do about the delay, but the closings might have been announced in advance, giving people a chance to cancel and get a refund. Livorno (Cinque Terre), June 25: The ship made up all the lost time & we arrived on time at Livorno. Room service breakfast arrived promptly at 6:30AM & was just fine. Having been to Pisa and Florence before, we took the Princess Cinque Terre tour and were delighted. Five little towns within five kilometers on the peninsula between La Spezia and Portofino. Our guide Andreas, from the area, was well-informed and entertaining. The bus let us off at the top of Manarola, whence we walked downhill to the cliffside footpath (about 1 km.) to Riomaggiore, then a boat ride past perched Corniglia to Vernazza, for a noontime refresher, then another boat to the fifth town, Monterosso, where we lunched on pesto and stuffed anchovies at a place Andreas recommended. The group reassembled and walked along the beach, where we saw that Monterosso is the most Riviera-resortish of the five towns. From the far end, all five towns were visible to the south, each on its own peninsula. While we waited for the bus, two members of our group wandered off, never to return. Andreas walked all the way back to town looking for them, made phone calls to restaurants, shops, other tour operators and the police. After we all waited for them for over an hour, Andreas ordered the bus to return to the ship, to all our great delights. The police ultimately tracked the vagrants down in another town, where they blamed Andreas for abandoning them. We on the bus agreed to testify on his behalf should anyone blame him for their truancy. Although we shuddered for our shipmates who took ship's tours to the crowded places of Pisa AND Florence in one day, most of them came back happy. It was Saturday, so, although the towns were thronged as usual, most of the locals were off the streets, which made getting around much easier! Naples (Amalfi Coast), June 26: The ship was slightly late getting into Naples, because of headwinds overnight. Having already visited Sorrento, Capri and Pompeii, we took the Princess excursion to the Amalfi Coast, which we'd looked forward to for years. It was great. Tour guide Sebastiano was superb, but the real star was bus driver Pino, who found detours around Sunday traffic jams and negotiated the thousand hairpins on the Amalfi Coast with aplomb, while the rest of us alternately gasped at the vertiginous view down the cliffs and grasped our neighbors with white knuckles as the bus lurched round yet another curve and plunged into yet another tunnel. We teetered past Positano and Praiano, then fetched up at a cliffside hotel for lunch, which was standard Italian tourist fare, but with a view over the bay that made the food irrelevant. Back on the bus, then to the town of Amalfi, where we had about an hour on our own. Couldn't get lost - the town has a single street. Then back to Naples on the only straight road of the day. Whew! The only thing that made Amalfi slightly anticlimactic was Cinque Terre the day before, which was like a miniature Amalfi Drive, but with a footpath and boat ride thrown in. Ambitious shipmates who took the Capri-Sorrento-Pompeii tour (or any other Capri-plus tour) were disappointed at the short amount of time spent on Capri. An hour there by boat, a half-hour wait for the funicular to Capri town, 45 minutes in town, then another wait for the funicular down, then another boat ride to the mainland. This wasn't really Princess's fault. Anybody trying to hit so many spots in one day could have done the research to see how perfunctory each stop would be (though Princess might have advised that combining Capri with anything else would short-change Capri). For Capri, a Capri-only tour is the best. The Captain, exasperated with late returnees, set sail leaving some behind, to general applause. At Sea, June 27: To nobody's surprise, on this only at-sea day, many staterooms posted signs requesting "Privacy Please" till well after noon. It was formal night, with a Champagne waterfall in the Atrium. Star Princess Atrium is not as big as those on newer Princess ships, so crowd-smarts dictated staying in one place and grabbing Champagne from passing trays. Joe May is the shipboard tour guide. Most of his tour lectures are taped and televised, but today he was able to speak to us live in the Princess Theater. He's much more fun and engaging in person than on TV, where his slow delivery and random pauses are soporific. Unlike most Princess guides, who combine practical advice with a travelogue, Joe spends most of his time telling us how to get from place to place (ship-to-shore-to-town, for instance). For Santorini, his advice boiled down to: "Going ashore in the tenders can be difficult in high seas, so hang on and be careful. Once ashore, you can take the funicular up to town, but each car holds only six passengers, so be prepared for long lines going up and, particularly, going down. There is a road up, which is very steep and you shouldn't really walk up it. You can walk down it, but it can get slippery from all the horse and donkey dung. Oh, yes. You can take a horse or donkey up the road, but the horses are dangerous and several passengers have fallen off and been hospitalized. The donkeys are better, but they go where they want to go, not where you want to go." Santorini, June 28: After Joe May's dispiriting advice, we almost stayed on the ship. Instead, we took the tender ashore, found no line at the funicular, got whisked up to the main town, walked quickly north out of the souvenir and souvlaki area, and soon found ourselves on a sparsely traveled path past whitewashed churches with blue domes and heart-stopping views of the semi-circular harbor (Santorini is a submerged volcano). Watched some birds, watched some people, had early drinks, found a restaurant with a view of all three moored cruise ships, dodged some donkeys meandering through town with children aboard, found a slightly longer line for the down funicular, got on board in plenty of time, watched a brilliant sailaway past neighboring islands (the dawn arrival wasn't too shabby either). Mykonos, June 29: The ship docks an easy walk from town. Mykonos village is at sea level, as opposed to the Santorini towns, which are on the crest. Joe May, at his desk in the Tour Office, sketched out a good walking tour for us, along the beach, then the harbor, then a coastal walk to Little Venice and the famous windmills. Walked back through the maze of streets to a beach taverna, where we had earlier seen octopus drying in the sun. Ordered some. Ate it, joined by some shipmates. Ordered more. Drank ouzo. Delicious. Athens, June 30: The most exciting stop, for many reasons. We arrived the day after a 48-hour strike halted all municipal services, and the morning after police and demonstrators clashed in Syntagma Square, breaking shop windows and firing tear gas. (This was part of a month-long peaceful demonstration against the government's austerity budget.) We took Joe May's advice and avoided the train from Piraeus harbor to town, opting instead for the Princess bus-shuttle. To our guide's surprise, the road was clear all the way to Syntagma Square, and we were able to alight at the entrance to the Plaka and Acropolis. We had visited the Acropolis recently, so instead walked through modern Athens, starting with Syntagma Square, right in front of Parliament. All was peaceful, demonstrators camped in tent villages with signs in many languages. Police and civilians were collaborating in sweeping up broken glass. We poked around taking pictures until the lingering tear-gas fumes drove us away. Walked up to Kolonaki Square and the foot of Lycabettis Hill, then back down to the Plaka for late lunch. The bus group rendezvoused at 4PM for the drive back to the ship. Because the port had been closed for two days by the strike, at least two other cruise ships detoured and arrived today, with many passengers heading for the Acropolis all at once. The extra ships meant crowds of unusual proportions climbing up and down, shoving and jockeying, and order was hard to maintain. Those who took Acropolis tours had lots of complaints about the crowds, the waiting and the heat, but it's hard to know what the tour operators could have done about it. Skipping it was one option, but can anyone really go to Athens and NOT climb the Acropolis? The only significant remaining strike was by ferryboat operators, which left many ferryboats stuck in port. This made for a spectacularly crowded harbor and some exquisite maneuvering by the Captain to get us out. We and many others watched the drama from the Outrigger Bar and pool aft, which proved a great place to watch subsequent sailaways as well. Greek music played. People danced. Katakolon (Olympia), July 1: Canada Day, the ship draped with maple leaves. Although the ruins of Olympia were in easy reach, research had shown us there wasn't much there, so we just went for a walk through town. A really pleasant village, with horse-drawn carriages, shops and piney hills. Pretty much an at-sea day with a walk ashore. Corfu, July 2: The ship docks a little ways from town, but Joe May recommended the No. 16 bus, which plies the two miles from dock to town. Corfu town is a real municipality, capital of a former city-state, more substantial than the earlier island villages. At the esplanade, we took a little tourist train (which we're suckers for) out to the New Fortress on the point, past villas and swank hotels. Then lunch in Town Hall Square, where the proprietor picked fresh basil from the restaurant garden and made us penne al pesto! Of all the Greek towns and islands, we would return to Corfu first. Split, Croatia, July 3: Another tender port, but getting ashore was easy, and the boats landed right on the town waterfront. We who stuck to the old town center had no trouble touring on our own. The Roman emperor Diocletian laid the place out in a North-South-East-West square, with towers on each corner and a gate at the center of each wall. The streets are a grid. It's a delightful new town laid over an ancient one. Next door to a crumbling ruin is a glass-and-steel techno-bar advertising "Jack & Coke". People who took morning walking tours (offered both by the ship and local guides) were happy with the in-depth look at the city. This was the only non-Euro port, but despite Joe May's warnings that "only local currency" was acceptable, every shop and restaurant we encountered took "whatever you have - dollars, Euros, drachmas, dinars." Venice, July 4: Up at 7AM for the approach to the Lagoon and Venice. Our starboard cabin balcony was the perfect viewing spot for Piazza San Marco and other sights, so we ordered the Champagne brunch and just sat back and enjoyed it (actually, we were jumping up and down a lot too). Took the ship's shuttle into town & spent the day on our own, hitting the crowds only at the Rialto Bridge and San Marco. Those who took the ship's tours through the Basilica and Doge's Palace were wise, as the lines for both stretched endlessly. Venice isn't getting bigger, but the crowds are, and there is talk of limiting the number of cruise ships (two sailed in behind us and three left during the day). Venice (Debarkation), July 5: We had a 1PM flight, so exited our stateroom at 8AM, had a long breakfast in the Portofino room, then waited in the Wheelhouse Bar until our group was called at 10. Easy off the ship, easy onto bus, easy drive to Marco Polo Airport, where Princess had delivered our bags and sorted them by tag-colors, checked in easily for our return flight to NYC. We were lucky. Last night, after luggage had been collected from people's cabins for transport to the airport, came an announcement that, because of a strike, no flights to or through Germany (including many flights to the US) would depart from Marco Polo. This left people scrambling much of the night to make alternate arrangements. Princess staff were as helpful as possible, but the problem was not in their hands. In the morning, Princess staff were all-hands-on-deck for departure, both on the ship and at the airport. Shipmates we talked to whose flights were canceled had nothing but praise for Princess' efforts on their behalf. So, to tally it up, in the course of this cruise, the ship had to contend with: • Almost 200 passengers six hours late for departure • Delays getting ashore in Monaco and Naples • Late passengers at several ports making the whole ship wait for them. • Strikes in Athens • Flight cancellations from Venice The staff coped so well that all these potential catastrophes were just blips on an otherwise perfect cruise. But . . . a plea to fellow passengers: Get back to the ship on time! There is no excuse for making 4000 passengers and crew wait for you to straggle on board! Shipboard: We chose this cruise for the ports, not for the ship, and we tend to treat ships as floating hotels rather than destinations. That was particularly true for this port-intensive cruise. That said, we have a few observations about shipboard experiences. Fellow passengers: 2700 passengers, 1500 from US, about 700 from other Anglophone countries (UK, Canada, Australia, NZ), the others from 30 other countries. Many fit the typical cruise demographic (white people over 60), but there was a healthy selection of younger people, many with families. I think there were 300 "children" onboard, from toddlers to teenagers. Parents we talked to were happy with the Princess kids' programs, which let parents go ashore alone. Our 6-year-old neighbor Hannah pronounced the kids' program the best part of the cruise. Pools. Star Princess has two main pools on Deck 14, one roofed and one open. There is a smaller pool on the same deck aft, served by the Outrigger Bar, where we often ended the afternoon. This aft complex actually extends three decks high, with a couple of hot tubs as well. The small pool was posted "Adults Only," which generally discouraged children from using the whole area. It was a great place to watch sailaway (particularly from ferry-clogged Piraeus) and sunsets, with stools not only at the bar, but at railings further aft overlooking the pool. The only people who ignored the "Adults Only" designation appeared to be one family, who arrived daily with their children, who were daily kicked out of the pool by staff, only to return the next day to be kicked out again. This same family also arrived late for departure from Katakolon, earning jeers and catcalls from the balconies. They didn't seem to care much. Dining. Except for embarkation and the single at-sea day we skipped the Horizon Court buffet in favor of sit-down breakfast and lunch in the Portofino room. No lines, wait staff at the ready, good views from both sides. We chose late-seating dinner in the Capri room & were seated with six other people, who became our permanent tablemates. We got along pretty well, and it became fun to encounter each other on shore. Our waiters, both improbably named Joe, were attentive and efficient, remembering everyone's preferences from day to day (I asked for Tabasco on day #1 and it appeared at my place every day after.) Entertainment. We don't expect much of cruise entertainment and were not disappointed. The one show we dared to try, in the Princess Theater, was titled "Stardust," which led us to expect selections from Hoagy Carmichael, the Gershwins, Rogers & Hart, Cole Porter, etc. Instead we got what the cast described as "songs our parents and grandparents loved," which turned out to be non-rock 'n roll 50s schlock, such as "Que sera sera" and "Come-onna My House." We fled after ten minutes, followed by many other parents and grandparents. Bars and Lounges. The Wheelhouse Bar, Explorers Lounge and Promenade Bar are all on deck 7, close to each other. The Wheelhouse seemed most promising, with a combo and singer every night that played good dance music. But most nights nobody was there. We and one other couple danced a rumba and a foxtrot one night, then shrugged and quit. The Explorers Lounge seemed dedicated to nightly art auctions and versions of the Newlywed Game. The Promenade Bar in the Atrium, which is the after-dinner center of gravity on most Princess ships, was not so on this one. It was jammed in a corner, with a pianist-singer up against a wall in the dark. She sang and played fine, but wasn't much of an entertainer. There was no byplay with the audience, nothing to get folks up and singing and dancing. Most listened politely to a few numbers then drifted off. Captain and Crew. It may be that Star Princess's crew is a mirror of its Captain William Kent. The first few times we heard from Captain Kent, over the PA, he was all business, announcing departure delays, giving course headings, describing what the ship was doing and why. After a few days glints of humor emerged, as he described dropping anchor as "rattle-rattle-splash" and gave increasingly colorful descriptions of the fate awaiting those returning late to the ship. By the end of the cruise he was a laugh riot. Far better to begin the cruise with a no-nonsense Captain who turns out later to be a card, than to begin with a skipper who tells too many jokes before he gains your confidence. Same with the crew and staff - their jobs were their first priority - whether it was taking drink orders, responding to cabin requests, answering questions about money and postage, arranging shore excursions. Always business first, then time enough for jokes and good fellowship. We have tremendous admiration for the entire Princess staff. When emergencies arose, their professionalism from day #1 gave us all confidence they'd handle things fine. A complicated, port-intensive voyage with exciting landfalls and an enthusiastic, professional staff. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
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