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113 Princess Europe - Eastern Mediterranean Cruise Reviews

This was our second Princess Cruise, the first being a Panama Canal cruise a few years ago. We chose this cruise primarily because we wanted to visit Istanbul and because we had enjoyed cruising with Princess previously. Here are some ... Read More
This was our second Princess Cruise, the first being a Panama Canal cruise a few years ago. We chose this cruise primarily because we wanted to visit Istanbul and because we had enjoyed cruising with Princess previously. Here are some comments about the specific things I rated: Embarkation: This was super-easy because we didn't get to Civitiveccia until after 4pm. There was nobody else at the terminal checking in, so it could not have been faster for us to get checked-in and on board. Note: Using public transportation from Rome to get to the port is easy and cheap. The train leaves every 30 minutes from Rome's Termini Station and takes just over 1 hour to get to the port. The fare is only 5 euros. Once you get off the train, there is a short walk of a few blocks to the port entrance and there you will find a free shuttle bus that will take you to the Princess terminal. Public Rooms This is a small ship with around 650 passengers. Even on sea days, the ship never seemed crowded. (The pool area was the most crowded area, particularly on sea days, but you could still always find a place to lay by the pool.) The lounges on Deck 5 were the best (wooden with comfortable cushions) and there were always plenty of them. There was also nice indoor seating in the Library, the Casino Bar and bar next to the dining room. We found the ship to have a classy dEcor (no "glitz" on the Pacific Princess!) and it was well-maintained. Although this may be an older ship, she did not show her age. Cabin: Our cabin was a mini-suite and we loved the size of both the room and the balcony. It was located on the port side which we found to be the best side for seeing the sights such as Gallipoli and the city of Istanbul. We especially enjoyed the very comfortable bed and the bathtub (which is found only in the suites and mini-suites). The mini-suite had a sitting area with a sofa (which converted into a bed for those traveling with 3 passengers in the room), two chairs, and a table. There was also a writing desk in the cabin, lots of drawer and closet space and a mini-fridge. Fitness and Recreation: I went to the gym on most days. There was a variety of workout machines stationery bikes, stairsteppers and treadmills which clearly were not new, but were in good working order. Each machine had an individual TV screen and you'll need to bring earphones to hear the programs. There were also some free weights and a separate area for classes. Dining: We ate all but one of our breakfasts in the Panorama Buffet. There was a large variety of food and I found the food in the buffet to be quite tasty. There was also a "cook-to-order" omelette station. It was never particularly crowded for breakfast in the Panorama Buffet and we were almost always able to find seating outdoors on the aft deck to enjoy our meal al fresco. The Pub Lunch on sea days was a favorite of ours (fish-and-chips, shepherd pie, etc.) This British fare was well prepared and quickly served in the Steakhouse. Other lunch choices were the buffet, grill, pizza station and dining room (on sea days). The pizzas were good; the food from the grill was great. The evening dining menus were not particularly memorable. I was able to find something different each evening for dinner, but none of the meals "wow'd" me. I found the food somewhat bland---even the Thai lemongrass soup (a dish which normally takes my head off) was not particularly spicy. Perhaps the food is aimed for the palate of older passengers. Entertainment: Because this is such a small ship, the Princess Dancers also worked during the day as assistant cruise directors running the various games and activities which were numerable, but not always well-attended. I found they performed exceptionally well in both jobs. The two vocalists, Rosemary and Joe, were excellent singers. There was a comic that we heard only on the "Welcome Aboard Night", a very good magician that even did an afternoon programs showing how he did a couple of his tricks and a talented vocalist named Christopher Riggins. In the evenings, we enjoyed Alan Shear at the piano. (The singing duo of Chico and Dawn was the only entertainment that we didn't particularly enjoy.) Service The service could not be better on the Pacific Princess. Everyone greeted us wherever we went and several of the staff recognized us after only a few days. The wait staff at the buffet kept your drinks filled and the tables cleared. I found the front desk staff to be knowledgeable and helpful. We were definitely spoiled by the attentive service on this ship. Shore Excursions We did only 3 Princess shore excursions and they were a day trip to Varna (from Nessabar); a tour of Constanta with the Zamfira Wedding Show and the tour of Sevastopol from Yalta. We chose the first two tours because my research did not come up with much to see and do in either Nessabar or Constanta. The tours of Varna and Constanta were OK; the Zamfira Wedding Show was a lot of fun. It was hard to skip Lavidia Palace in Yalta for Sevastopol, but I think we made the right decision. It was an interesting tour with a great lunch. The only problem with this tour is that they don't make a stop at any of the memorials/monuments commemorating "The Charge of the Light Brigade". There is only a quick drive-by with a chance to take a photo of the Valley of Death (if you are lucky, quick, and sitting on the correct side of the bus.) There is a new monument recently unveiled by Prince Michael of Kent which the bus drove by twice going to/from the submarine facility in Balaclava. Princess should include it as a quick stop on this tour along with a quick photo stop for the Valley of Death. One thing I noticed was Princess's failure to describe public transportation as an option in their port information. We took public transportation in Rome (to Civitiveccia); Sorrento (to Herculaneum and Pompeii); Istanbul (the tram is right outside the port area); and Athens (the Metro is about a 20-minute walk from the dock and we had no problem finding it.) The fares on the trains, Metro and trams are significantly cheaper than cabs and we had no problem using fare machines. We really enjoyed travelling like a local! Just be sure to validate your tickets before boarding any public transportation and watch your belongings carefully particularly in Athens. Debarkation Since we were staying for an extra day and night in Athens, we were able to be in one of the last groups to disembark. We had time for a leisurely breakfast after clearing our room at 8am. We went to the Cabaret Lounge to wait for our group debarkation at 9:30 am, but everything was running so smoothly that we didn't even have to wait a member of the cruise director's staff escorted us to the gangplank and we were on our way. I have never encountered such a smoothly-run debarkation. Non-EU passport holders are pre-cleared with Immigration before arrival, so we just collected our luggage and walked out of the cruise terminal in Piraeas on our way to the Metro to Athens. There was a Princess representative available in the cruise terminal to answer any final questions. (Note: One reason we stayed an extra day in Athens is that we were concerned that we could not make an 11:30 am flight, the latest available for our home destination. It would have absolutely been no problem since we did not have to deal with Greek immigration and customs. In fact, acquaintances of ours made a flight that left before 9am!)   Read Less
Sail Date July 2013
We have been on over 20 Princess cruises but I have never felt this way getting off the ship. I think I am still trying to get my head around what the Royal Princess had to offer. The ship is impressive - it is done up very nicely and is ... Read More
We have been on over 20 Princess cruises but I have never felt this way getting off the ship. I think I am still trying to get my head around what the Royal Princess had to offer. The ship is impressive - it is done up very nicely and is lovely but something just seemed to be missing. The first thing I missed was a promenade deck for those nice afternoon walks. There were 2 spaces outside the door that looked like a promenade deck but it was only for sitting and relaxing. And the sitting part wasn't easy either because it had very few chairs that were always taken. I could imagine it to be a nice place if it was a whole promenade for the whole ship. The second area we missed was a better Club 6. We have been on the Ruby 5 times. The special area they had in the evening for elite members is Skywalkers. It was a great place to sit and unwind - there was always great service. But somehow Club 6 was a dark almost dreary place with loud music playing and limited attention to service. If you wanted to talk to friends, the music didn't help. We didn't get off the ship in Athens so we thought it would be a good day to sit by the pool without it being on overflow. The first thing I noticed was a group of young boys running, jumping and splashing water all over. It didn't help to be sitting close to the pool. Next thing I noticed was security giving notice not to run or jump in the pool. Of course when security left, they were right back to doing the same thing. Suddenly security was back and ordered the boys out of the pool. It was obvious they weren't going to move as then the mothers got into the argument. Next thing a father comes out and joins in the defense of the boys. FORTUNATELY they did get out of the pool and the few people sitting around could enjoy a little of the pool. Yes, it is amazing how little pool space there is. I did go back to the adult only area but the area didn't seem hospitable. No one came and asked if I wanted a drink the half hour I was there. And yes we were told there were 900 children on this cruise. I've taken my children and grandchildren on cruises so I'm not opposed to children. But I couldn't believe the antics of running and screaming down the halls late at night. A Princess employee said a 4 year old was running the halls too. Fortunately the captain did come on over the PA system and make an announcement about the behavior of "some" children. He said that if the children weren't controlled, they couldn't come back on a cruise. But the announcement was the night before we were to disembark. I wish he had said that about 4 nights into the cruise. We were satisfied with the food. I had the best Fettuccine Alfredo I've ever had. We liked the outdoor space that was available for eating off the Bistro/Horizon Court. There was plenty of food. Plenty of tables for 2 but when my husband asked about sharing a table one evening, we were told he didn't have any share tables set up. We had trouble with the laundry service. Had sent clothes to be laundered and they came back not pressed (shirts, a jacket etc). When someone came to take them back to be pressed he told us "I think they look OK." It did improve though but have had much better service. Entertainment felt almost the same as it had been before - especially in the Princess Theater. It is a beautiful theater but for some reason they think that everyone is hard of hearing and the music is pumped up full amp. We did several tours - the Night Tour of St Marks Basilica was the best. We also took a tour to Capri but had a very inadequate tour guide. Stood in the hot sun for over an hour when we arrived as there was no bus to take us to Anacapri. When we arrived there, he only told us where to meet and he disappeared. We had the same experience when we went to Capri - waiting in the hot sun longer than he told us and he disappeared. Our tour in Rome - Colosseum, Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, St Peter's - was also excellent. Barbara, our tour guide, made sure we all stayed together and explained everything. There was confusion about the tour in Florence. We were charged for Florence on our own but instead had a morning walking tour and afternoon on our own. Princess needs to clean up the titles so there is no confusion when you book. 16 people left our group because they thought we would be on our own in Florence the whole time. Unfortunately it was HOT HOT HOT in Italy so that didn't help the mood - especially in Florence. We booked a room with a small sofa. Found we didn't use it much. And there was less space for storage. My first thought upon entering room was claustrophobia as it seemed so much smaller with the sofa but I got used to it. Was nice to have a large TV in front of the bed but could hear the TV next door too. And several times the TV worked less than optimal. Husband did sit on the balcony to read but not much room either if I wanted to join him. Liked the bigger sink in the bathroom. Would I sail again on the Royal? - well, we are booked for a Caribbean cruise in January with friends so will have to see if I come away with a better feeling. I guess I expected to feel more enthusiasm about the ship and it wasn't quite there. Read Less
Sail Date July 2013
My wife and I have just returned from our first real cruise (did a 5 day out of Florida previously). PROS: The staff excelent nothing was too much trouble and all well trained, The facilities, food etc all excellent. Even got pizza ... Read More
My wife and I have just returned from our first real cruise (did a 5 day out of Florida previously). PROS: The staff excelent nothing was too much trouble and all well trained, The facilities, food etc all excellent. Even got pizza served to us watching a film in the cinema under the stars! Great mix of fellow guests from all over the world and the average age must have been about 40. Only 1 small wheel chair in sight! CONS: Disappointed with the costs of the internet (to be expected) but the HORRENDOUS COST OF DRINKS on board. We had freedom dining and used both the allocated restaurants at various times, electing to share a table. We had super people from USA, Canada, Australia, Israel, New Zealand, Mexico and Chile and some Brits - share our table throughout the cruise BUT NOT ONE PERSON BOUGHT A DRINK WITH DINNER - TOO EXPENSIVE!! Surely Princess 10% of something is better than 100% of nothing. For example the basic cost of a glass of wine was $8 plus 15% service charge for a SMALL glass - I worked as a hotel inspector for over 20 years and i know that the bottle of wine was costing less than that - if not their buyers need replacing. Yes I know us Brits are known for being tight (its just that we do not like being mugged - we like value for money) but the Australasians, Canadians and even the Americans we were with, decided it was too expensive. Also extra for cappucino or latte coffee - why? FINALLY - yes I would recommend Princess cruises but with the proviso you could remain t'total for the voyage! Read Less
Sail Date July 2013
We got a taxi to the port,cheaper than the charge for parking,and more convenient.Arrived about 1pm as we were told,different times depending on which deck you are on.It was very busy,long queues,took about an hour to get on the ship.Once ... Read More
We got a taxi to the port,cheaper than the charge for parking,and more convenient.Arrived about 1pm as we were told,different times depending on which deck you are on.It was very busy,long queues,took about an hour to get on the ship.Once aboard it was fine I knew where the cabin was from the online deck plans.The cabin was as we expected,adequate size,shower a bit cramped unless you are skinny.We were not very lucky with weather,the first couple of days were overcast,with choppy seas,some people were sick.We always use the self service restaurants,as we like to see what is on offer before choosing.The choice and quality generally quite good,some of the meat a bit tough. All the staff we met were cheerful and helpful,apart from one sour faced barman,who never smiled or spoke.we took the soft drinks package,which covers sodas and non alcoholic cocktails.Alcoholic drinks are very expensive,(in my opinion),for example a US pint of draught lager is $7.76 (including tip),this equates to about £6.20 per.UK pint or about £11 per. litre.It might be duty free but certainly not profit free.By comparison I bought 2 litres of scotch in Gibraltar for £11. There was a good mix of activities and entertainment,most people would find something they enjoyed,tastes vary and you can never please all the people,all the time.My personal favorite a musical duo that played in the Wheelhouse bar,called Allan and La Donna,the place was often packed,there are some videos of them on you tube,worth a look. There were 7 ports of call,Cadiz and gibraltar I have been to before,but Malta,Venice,Koper,dubrovnik,and corfu were new to me.We did not take any of the Princess excursions,preferring to do our own thing.In cadiz and malta we took open top bus tours,on sale right by the ship,they give headphones to plug in for a commentary,choice of languages and volume.You can hop on and off the bus where you like,and rejoin it later.We did a similar tour in Koper but not open top,lovely place,very clean,pretty,cheap drinks and food.Venice is beautiful but it was very hot,humid and crowded,long queues at places of interest,food and drinks expensive.I was looking forward to dubrovnik people had told me how nice it was.On the day it was a big disappointment,an example of how mass tourism can spoil things.There were 3 large ships moored where we were,and more nearby,the old town,with narrow streets and high walls was swamped,lots of coaches,shuttle buses,bad tempered drivers,the police were getting angry trying to keep things moving without success.With thousands of people milling about, many hot and irritable,we got on a shuttle bus back to the ship,and drowned our disappointment in the bar on the quay next to the ship,(drinks about 1/3 rd of ship prices. Next was Corfu,spent an hour or two walking round the old town,and up to the top of the old fort,then took a boat trip for an hour,enjoyable. The final stop was gibraltar,I have been here before so just did a bit of shopping,few beers and back to the ship.the weather was a bit overcast and stayed that way till we got near Southampton. One issue which princess needs resolve is a problem towards the rear of the ship with vibration,if I had been in a cabin that was affected by this,I would have insisted on being moved,and if this was not possible I would got off at the first port of call,and flown home. To sum up,reasonable value for money if you do not drink. Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
My wife and I were on the maiden 12 day Mediterranean voyage of the Royal Princess, cruising from Barcelona to Venice from June 23 to July 5. This was our seventh Princess cruise having sailed previously on the Caribbean Princess (twice), ... Read More
My wife and I were on the maiden 12 day Mediterranean voyage of the Royal Princess, cruising from Barcelona to Venice from June 23 to July 5. This was our seventh Princess cruise having sailed previously on the Caribbean Princess (twice), the Crown Princess (twice), the Star Princess and the Sun Princess. The Royal Princess had some hits and misses as compared to the Grand class of Princess ships. Stateroom - We had an extended balcony stateroom on Caribe deck. The extended stateroom seemed to be about 18 inches longer than a regular stateroom allowing enough room for a small sofa. We didn’t think there was any more usable space than a balcony stateroom on the other Princess ships, so we were disappointed. The balcony was only about 42 inches wide, comparing unfavorably to the balconies on the Caribe and Dolphin decks of the Caribbean and Crown Princess. The cabin had a 40" flat screen TV on the wall with an nice selection of video on demand which generally worked well, although was slow to startup. My wife thought the shower was significantly larger than on previous Princess ships. The shower has dispensers for shampoo/conditioner and body wash which pumped out small amounts at a time. As others have noted, the toilet paper holder couldn’t have been placed more inconveniently, but moving the spare roll to the counter worked as a substitute. Entering the stateroom requires putting a cruise card or similarly sized item in a slot inside the door in order for the lights to work. The bed was comfortable and the air conditioning worked well. One irritation - TV noise from the adjoining cabin, probably because of the mounting of the TV on the wall. Elevators and Stairs - Yet another deck was added, the Marina deck, but no additional elevators were added. The Royal Princess has elevator banks forward, mid-ship and aft. Oddly, though, there are no stairs mid-ship above the seventh deck. We found that omission to be a major design flaw and made the elevators mid-ship slow and overcrowded. We often walked aft in order to take the stairs, especially down. I would suggest that those who are able bodied should avoid cabins mid-ship and my personal preference would be to choose an aft cabin where stairs are available and elevators easier to snag. Promenade Deck - In order to offer balconies on Emerald deck 8, the lifeboats and related equipment were moved lower to deck 7, the Promenade deck which is now inappropriately named because there is no way to walk around the ship. Deck 7 outdoors only has small sunning areas on the sides - no deck at all front or rear, a real disappointment. Piazza - The piazza or atrium area is greatly expanded on the Royal Princess. The International Café on deck 5 is larger. The area had frequent entertainment, mostly classical music. The piazza was a nice place to relax. Sports and Recreation - The pool areas are relatively small, although there are lots of hot tubs. In my opinion, the music in the main pool area was far too loud in the afternoon and early evening. There is a retreat pool area which was much quieter, but far too small. Deck 18 had a nice walking/running track and a large basketball/volleyball court. While I did not use it, the indoor gym area was large and nicely equipped. The Movies Under the Stars screen had good contrast even on a bright day. Food and Dining - The Horizon Court/Bistro area is much larger and spread out than on the Grand class ships - much less crowded, although the food selections were often repeated station to station. Seating on the Lido deck dining area was far easier to find. The dessert area was a nice addition. While I am not a coffee drinker, my wife is and the regular coffee served on board was a big improvement over the Grand class ships. There is a specialty coffee area at the dessert buffet. For breakfast, omelets are cooked to order and I suggest requesting an omelet made with fresh eggs instead of the stuff they pour from a carton. For dinner, the dining room service was good and the food variable. On the first night, we had the best fish meal (a basa filet) we have ever had on a cruise ship. Another night, though, I had the worst fish meal (a small bland cod filet on a large bed of lentils) I have had on a cruise ship. But if I didn’t like something, I felt free to order something else. The International Café is a no additional cost dining alternative as is Alfredo’s Pizzeria in the Piazza, Deck 6. One additional note - the Outrigger Bar on Deck 16 aft has an accessible place to fill water bottles and provides the best place to watch the back of the ship. Entertainment - Generally, there is something for everybody. I am not a fan of Princess’s production shows - there is a reason why song and dance variety programs have largely disappeared from TV - I prefer shows with a storyline. (A “pub” themed show by the performers and staff was more to our liking.) The Princess theater was a nice place to watch a show, but omission of side aisles made entering and exiting the theater much less convenient. The new show venue, Princess Live, was more intimate, but was too small for some of the events that were held there. On the plus side, the last evening the Venice Chamber Orchestra performed in the Princess Theater, a wonderful experience for the few of us that were on board. What’s the Point? - There are some features of the Royal Princess which sounded neat beforehand, but are really misses in the execution. The water show in the main pool area was always late in the evening (about 11 PM), a disappointment for us since we go to bed earlier. The additional cost fondue or crab experience was only occasionally available and required a reservation in a narrow time window. The additional cost Ocean Terrace Seafood Bar, Piazza Deck 7 appeared greatly underutilized. The Seawalk, Deck 16, is a curiosity, but beyond a single look, really didn’t add anything to the ship. Ship wide announcements were often difficult to hear. Ship’s Crew and Staff - Generally magnificent. Thank you. Excursions - We used a service we found on the internet, cruisingexcursions.com. Basically, they offered the same excursions offered by Princess at about half the cost. We bought a seven port package of tours. While you have to be a bit more adventurous to trust that excursions from an outside service will actually work as advertised, I strongly recommend this service and hope that it catches on. The excursions were at least as good as I have experienced using Princess in the past and the cost much less. While some of my comments are negative, the Royal Princess is quite a nice ship. We certainly enjoyed our cruise experience. However, the ship really didn’t live up to the hype. My wife and I are planning a Caribbean cruise over the New Year’s holiday and while the Royal Princess is one of our choices, there is no compelling reason to choose the Royal over one of the Grand class of ships. Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
Pros,We loved the size of this boat, big enough to have a selection of everything on larger ships (entertainment, fitness etc.), great back deck, and much easier to move around ship and meet people.We loved the itinerary, Israel and Egypt ... Read More
Pros,We loved the size of this boat, big enough to have a selection of everything on larger ships (entertainment, fitness etc.), great back deck, and much easier to move around ship and meet people.We loved the itinerary, Israel and Egypt were the highlights, nice amount of relaxing sea days, food was good.Food and beverage and stateroom staff were very good. Security was good.Princess tries hard to please.Cons, - the boat is getting old and badly needs an update, particularly in staterooms where beds were very marginal, balcony door didn't work well etc..- the front desk and excursion desk staff were terrible (just wanted to get rid of you, no port knowledge) there was obviously a management problem in this area.- wifi outdated and slow and expensive (I get better wifi flying on airplanes in the US), this seems to be a problem throughout the industry.- we stopped in our first Israel port on the sabbath, everything closed, not good planning, plus it would have been better to stay in Ashdod for 2 days to let us access Tel Aviv, Haifa is not a great place to see. If you were not on a Princess tour the staff were not helpful at all.Conclusion,I would look for this ship size in a more updated ship, with modern electronics.Cruise lines need to cater a bit more to passengers getting off on their own in ports of call, better advice and maps, not just leave us to using Rick Steves (which is good but not always the best if you have only one day). Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
The Princess Holy Land/Egypt Mediterranean cruise this year was exceptional in that we actually docked in Egypt (although in Alexandria instead of Port Said). Luckily we chose an off-ship tour or we would not have seen half the sights we ... Read More
The Princess Holy Land/Egypt Mediterranean cruise this year was exceptional in that we actually docked in Egypt (although in Alexandria instead of Port Said). Luckily we chose an off-ship tour or we would not have seen half the sights we did. The ship tours cut way back on their stops and did not offer an overnight. It was a little surreal watching the news from Cairo a couple weeks later though. When things calm down again, I highly recommend this cruise. Ephesus in Turkey and 2-days in Israel were great ports not to mention Sorrento Italy. Sadly, rough seas prevented tender service and scuttled our stop on Santorini. Patmos is nice, but doesn't deserve or need a full day (whereas the scheduled time in Santorini should be lengthened) This was our 7th trip on Princess cruises and it is so obvious that they are applying cost cutting measures. Service and food quality can be sorely lacking on what is classified as an upper scale cruise line. This was our third cruise in a year so for us the cutbacks have been very obvious. One of the most obvious is the lack of diversity in the dinner menu (along with the cutbacks in waitstaff.) For the most part, it seemed like the same menu we had on our Caribbean cruise in November on the Emerald. And why is it such a big deal to ask for a proper red wine glass at dinner??? One thing we missed on this small ship was the late night services such as the International Cafe and Coffee Bar. These all seemed to close quite early (11:00 pm). That said, Princess is still one of the better cruise lines. And, being Platinum does have a few advantages. Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
This cruise was a last minute booking for us. We were delighted that it ended in Athens, Greece where we live. The Crown Princess is an absolutely gorgeous ship and many fine touches are there to make you feel special. I don't like ... Read More
This cruise was a last minute booking for us. We were delighted that it ended in Athens, Greece where we live. The Crown Princess is an absolutely gorgeous ship and many fine touches are there to make you feel special. I don't like the fact that there is no indoor pool though. That would have been very nice because the weather in November in the Med is not pool weather. The kids program was very nice and our son enjoyed his time there. We have been to all of the ports before so our goal with this cruise was to enjoy the ship, service and family time. I'm the one who ventured out on my own for most of the ports and that was ok. Dining on the ship was lovely and Thanksgiving was absolutely terrific. We loved the outstanding service in the dining room. The food was very good though I wouldn't recommend fish other than salmon. The desserts were always wonderful as was the bread. The cruise director Sam tried hard but really needs to get some new material. She told a set of jokes I've heard at least four other times about the "dumb questions cruisers ask." Our cabin was very nice but the only problem was that the cabin steward had such a huge load that our cabin often was not done up until late in the afternoon and late in the evening. This did not work well for us. But, I give him credit for getting our mattress changed out for us. It was in horrible shape and I can't believe wasn't changed before. I know Princess is supposed to have the best onboard shopping but I didn't think so. Their sales weren't very good and I really didn't find much that I wanted or needed. I'm really into onboard shopping so this was unusual. Carnival Breeze had much better shopping in my opinion. I like the Piazza idea but not the fact that seating is limited to those who buy beverages. It is therefore not easy to enjoy the entertainment there unless you are willing to pay for drinks. Well, you can stand. Also, we had our teeth whitened and just to warn you... it is a bit of a gimmick. Yes, our teeth were a bit lighter but the technician tried to sell us $400 worth of capsules so that the results would stick. We were disappointed and would not recommend it. Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
Whilst not critical of the Captain and crew on this Crown Princess Cruise Ship who were all excellent. I am critical of the Princess Cruise Line for scheduling a complete deck replacement of deck 15 Lido Deck for the whole cruise trip from ... Read More
Whilst not critical of the Captain and crew on this Crown Princess Cruise Ship who were all excellent. I am critical of the Princess Cruise Line for scheduling a complete deck replacement of deck 15 Lido Deck for the whole cruise trip from embarkation in Rome to when we disembarked 12 days later in Venice. From day one all passengers had to endure continuous deck replacement with workers sawing, chiseling and sanding this deck with debris being continually being blown across the whole deck and even into the cabin hallways. The deck became almost unusable for passengers even though the maintenance workers tried to limit the extent of the blown around debris by wetting down the deck area, it became almost impossible because of the high winds across the ship. I am concerned that this Cruise Line can think that this is an acceptable condition for Cruise passengers to accept as part of their Princess cruise experience. If Princess Cruises had known that maintenance was scheduled for this Cruise at this time, It should have pre-warned intending passengers booking on this cruise of the maintenance schedule giving them the option of opting out. Will we be taking another Princess Cruise? Only if we want another Dry Dock experience! Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
my first cruise was on the grand princess in 2009 since then I have cruised six times mostly with royal Caribbean. the grand had under gone a make over since my first cruise it was ok but not spectacular the main thing that stuck out was ... Read More
my first cruise was on the grand princess in 2009 since then I have cruised six times mostly with royal Caribbean. the grand had under gone a make over since my first cruise it was ok but not spectacular the main thing that stuck out was the lack of hygiene, on rci you cannot move for handwash stations and staff encouraging you to wash your hands, when boarding the ship and entering food area which is no bad thing as the norovirus is the last thing you want on a cruise the food varied from excellent to good to quite poor, overall it was good but compared to rci not as good nor was the selection, breakfast became a bit boring the entertainment was a bit patchy to be honest compared to rci, I have no other lines to compare to, the entertainment was not as good the pub meal at lunch time was excellent and princess ought to make more of this I have to say that I did thoroughly enjoy the cruise but it was not perfect but then I didn't pay a perfect price first port was cadiz a lovely place   Read Less
Sail Date October 2012
We go away in August every year to celebrate our anniversary - next year we will go somewhere cool! Last year we were on 7 day med cruise with RCI and was not too happy. There were many eastern european first time cruisers who obviously ... Read More
We go away in August every year to celebrate our anniversary - next year we will go somewhere cool! Last year we were on 7 day med cruise with RCI and was not too happy. There were many eastern european first time cruisers who obviously did not understand the ways of cruising. Was it a coincidence that we went on code red for norovirus? This year we were away for 12 nights and had many more established cruisers and no overall health issue. Lots of kids though so it was not unusual to find all the buttons in the lift pressed. For the first time we used anytime dining and it worked very well for us. Every morning we would check the entertainment and book a table so were able to avoid the queues that built up. Cabin was standard bit I had to request an egg crate for the bed. The entertainment was fairly typical except that the 'humour' of the American comediens that the US passengers found hilarious completely passed us by. There was music everywhere in the ship - more than we have experienced elsewhere and it was of high standard and good variety. I thought that there was a slight reduction in the quality/variety of food since our last trip with Princess. There was also no farewell party - could not remember whether this was a new development. The first couple of days it looked as if it was all 'no'. No more coffee mugs with coffee card, no more wine packages, no more towel sculptures - not a great loss but the occasional one was pleasant. No compaints about general presentation of ship. Usual problem with chairs in prime position on deck being reserved. For some reason one of the ports of call had been deleted from the itinerary - another cost saving feature? The port shuttles all appeared to be run by outside companies and were very expensive indeed - I remember when they used to be included. Our main gripe was the transfer to the airport at the end. Again it was very expensive - more for the 2 of us than a private taxi but we decided that the convenience might have been worth it. We ended up arriving at chaotic Rome airport more than 1.5 hours before the check in opened and, there being nowhere to sit had, literally to stand around for the duration - never again! In summary a middle of the road ship, the large number of pax were not evident except that the theatre filled up a couple of times so there were no seats for the late show. We will continue to sail with Princess when the itinerary is appropriate but would always prefer the smaller ships. Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
This was a first cruise on Princess having always previously been with Cunard. We did not get off to a good start when we arrived in Venice but our luggage did not. The Princess team at the airport did what they could but a few tense hours ... Read More
This was a first cruise on Princess having always previously been with Cunard. We did not get off to a good start when we arrived in Venice but our luggage did not. The Princess team at the airport did what they could but a few tense hours followed before the luggage arrived on a later flight and was delivered to our stateroom about midnight. It would not have seemed so bad had it not been for the could not care less attitude of the front desk on the ship. However we did get a $50.00 refund for lost luggage even though we did get it on the same day as embarkation. After the lack of care of the front desk I was not going to tell them it had in fact arrived!! The rest of the cruise was excellent, our stateroom, a Vista suite at the stern of the ship, was superb with a fantastic large and very private balcony. The room was kept spotlessly clean as was the rest of the ship. Apart from the front desk the crew were excellent and always friendly and helpful. We were on anytime dining and never had a problem reserving a table at the time we wanted to eat. The food in the main dining rooms was just OK so we did eat in the Crown Grill and the Italian Sabatini's quite a few times and I would say they were of a similar excellent standard as the Grill resturants on Cunard. Both of these have a supplement of $25.00 and $20.00 PP respt and are worth it in my view. The excursions were in our view very expensive for what they were. For example our excursion in Duborvnik was a walk around the walls and a snack. The snack turned out to be a glass of orange squash and a dry biscuit. The entertainment was distinctly average and barely worth a mention. Overall we had a great time and would consider Princess in future. The only aspect of Princess we did not like in comparison to Cunard was the constant attempts to up sell everything, but I guess this is typical of most American cruise ships Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
Previously cruised with Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, and Regent. We were very Happy with the service, staff, restaurants, food quality, ambiance, and cabin on the Ruby. Movies under the stars was nice and unique to Princess. Great mix of ... Read More
Previously cruised with Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, and Regent. We were very Happy with the service, staff, restaurants, food quality, ambiance, and cabin on the Ruby. Movies under the stars was nice and unique to Princess. Great mix of passengers of all ages and nationalities, many families, and would say the median age was 45 because of the summer season. Alot of teens aboard and there were plenty of activities if they wanted to participate. However,with few exceptions, live entertainment was designed (in all venues) for passengers older than 70 (1950s sock hop, Stardust hits of 1957, ballroom music reviews). On the big stage, a predictable magician performed twice, Headliner vocalists each performed twice, and 2 "broadway" stage shows (1 good one - One Upon a Dream, and 1 dance review, bleh). Scott Harris (comedian) was very funny so we made sure to see him twice, although 1 of his shows was entirely a "back in the old days" set. Therefore, a combination of long port days and a lack of entertainment relevant to the past 40 years meant that most people were in their cabins by 10 pm. Many conversations with other passengers ages 35-50 and all agreed that their bar bills were low because there was nothing to keep them out at night. Short-sighted of Princess to ignore the interests of passengers who are willing to pay $9 for a drink, and I believe this dismissal of a large demographic is something they should revisit. But this is a cruise about the Destinations. Every port was fantastic and worth seeing. Myself (48), Husband (49) and teenage son (14) each liked different ports although they got pretty tired of "and that pile of rocks used to be the ____ temple!" So much history, cultural and art to take in. Princess gives you lots of time in each port compared to other cruise lines which is important for the stops where the main attraction (Florence, Rome) is still an hour away by bus or train. Since it was mid-August, Florence, Rome, and Athens were vacant and therefore no traffic! Venice and Istanbul were very crowded. and it was unbelievably HOT in every, single port. Stayed 1 night in Barcelona pre-cruise at the Hotel Continental on Las Ramblas which was well located and comfortable. Some weird door locking/security system and strangely pink room (even the ceiling!) but good for 1 night. Embarkation easy - people were allowed to check in prior to the posted 1 pm time so we were on-board by 12:45. Ruby is a big ship but well laid out. Very little movement felt while underway. Port disembarkation was easy every time. Smiling faces on crew everywhere. All crew members (stewards, waiters, bar staff, pool staff, etc.) all willing to take a few minutes to chat and we got to know several. Dining rooms were great and very attentive for my gluten-free diet needs. Went to Crown Grill and Sabatini's which was a nice change to dining rooms. Used the buffet a few times when we were too tired for a sit-down dinner. We had a wonderful 12 nights visiting amazing places, then spent 2 additional nights in Venice which was the icing on the cake -what an incredible city to roam around in. Will need the weekend to rest from this amazing vacation! Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
This was my first cruise - Ruby Princess. My father treated us to a cruise for his wedding. This was definitely the way to be initiated into cruising. Transfers. As there were 8 of us converging all from around the world all at ... Read More
This was my first cruise - Ruby Princess. My father treated us to a cruise for his wedding. This was definitely the way to be initiated into cruising. Transfers. As there were 8 of us converging all from around the world all at different times. The reliability, friendliness and amount of organization was great at the airport. The only thing that could have been improved, as a first time cruiser, was maybe a quick briefing of what to expect once we arrived at the port. Embarkation. As they had decided to board by different groups, there was about a 45 minute delay in getting the journey started. I feel that more security staff to increase the rate of passengers boarding would benefit everyone! Although a little lengthy, was a good experience as all the staff were incredibly friendly and willing to assist with any questions or concerns. The Room. The room was great. My brother and I were lodging together in a balcony room closer to the aft of the ship. The room included a safe (punch code), a mini-fridge (very useful), small desk, a chair, nice balcony, and a full washroom. Amenities were included and were refreshed daily - all great (for hotel soaps and shampoos). The room was always clean and comfortable. An incredible experience. The ship itself was huge. I'm happy that the trip took 12 days as it took the first 4 just to become familiar with it. The entire ship was a palace on the water. The restaurants were the most luxurious however it was a little too much (I can take care of my own napkin on my lap, thanks!). The schedule / ports of call were amazing, although I do have to say that as the population on the cruise was more for the 50+ generation, there were very few people on board close to our ages and few activities geared to the younger generation. The staff was phenomenal. Every aspect was incredible. Rod Goodman (the cruise director who is now on the Royal Princess), was amazing as were all of his staff. Friendly, knowledgeable, and fun. The food. The food and culinary staff were exceptional. Throughout the trip, the standards never changed. Although it was a 12 day trip, and some of the fruit and produce was starting to show signs of mold, the taste and presentation was amazing. At the restaurants, the service and food was beyond compare. The steakhouse on the ship was also incredible. With many different special requests from our group, it was so well done. Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
I was really looking forward to this cruise, having cruised with other lines and always really enjoyed it. I was even more excited when my friend and I (each booked into separate inside cabins) were upgraded to a balcony cabin each. I had ... Read More
I was really looking forward to this cruise, having cruised with other lines and always really enjoyed it. I was even more excited when my friend and I (each booked into separate inside cabins) were upgraded to a balcony cabin each. I had never had a balcony cabin before so it was such a pleasant surprise. Thank you Princess Upgrade Fairy! The ship was much bigger than I had been on before and I think in hindsite maybe too big for me personally, however it never felt crowded. We stayed in Rome for a couple of days prior at Hotel Accademia. I had been to Rome before but my friend hadn't. Lovely as usual but the heat and crowds were a taste of things to come. We had a private transfer to the port which went smoothly apart from my friend leaving her jacket in the hotel lobby. She was upset to lose it but has been in touch and they will post it back if she pays the postage which was good service. Embarkation went smoothly. We went up on deck for sailaway but there had been some light rain and the sailaway party was adjourned to the piazza. We stayed on deck expecting at least some recorded music for the sailaway but there was nothing so it was a bit of an anticlimax. We were thrilled with our cabins, clean, spacious and certainly the nicest I have ever had. The balcony was great however for much of the cruise the heat was so intense it was too hot to be out there. My fault for picking probably the hottest week of the year! Our cabins were at opposite ends of the ship so we got lots of exercise and had different cabin stewards but they were both delightful and did little extra things for us. No towel animals but I knew that doesn't happen on Princess and that is OK. Chocolates on our bed every night instead. Daytime activities were varied, mostly we were too tired from going ashore to do much but my friend intoduced me to bingo and trivia and that was fun. My good intentions of doing Zumba, Bollywood and Line dancing were forgotten in my exhaustion but there was certainly something for everyone. The entertainment shows were a bit lacking, the singers and dancers were not the greatest and the shows just lacked a bit of pizzaz. We loved the night in Venice when the Venetian Chamber Orchestra did a show. I would not normally go to a classical concert but these performers were exquisite. The other outstanding performer was Daniel Oliver, the pianist/singer in Crooners Bar. His voice gave me goosebumps and we ended up in Crooners most nights. An amazing talent. We did most ports on our own except we did Florence on your Own where we were dropped off in Florence for the day which let us do our own thing. It worked out well but was pretty expensive for what it was. We also did the half day in Pompeii. The guide was very good and I really enjoyed it, although I do wish they wouldn't make you visit cameo factories etc. The food was a bit boring and not to my personal taste most of the time, however my friend enjoyed it and I know I am a bit of a fussy eater. I would have enjoyed a bit more ethnic food with some spice - mexican, thai, indian etc but it was not to be. Any dish that sounded a bit spicy always seemed to be seafood which I don't eat. We did traditional dining at the late sitting and I am glad we did this. We sat with interesting people and looked forward to discussing our day with them each night. Sailing into Venice I was looking forward to the Italian music they said they would play. This always adds to the atmosphere. Well they played two songs while we were quite a long way out and then it was silent for the rest and going past the grand canal etc. Now maybe this was because of noise restrictions? but it was another anticlimax. All in all a great cruise, the staff were all (without exception) pleasant and helpful but there were just a few things that I felt let down the atmosphere. One of my favourite things on other ships has been the Baked Alaska on formal night. On MSC it was a full blown baked alaska on fire, with "Funiculee, funicular" playing - quite outstanding. On HAL it was perhaps more safety conscious with sparklers and the singing waiters. Well on Princess the two formal nights came and went without the baked alaska and I was quite disappointed. Then on the final night (when many people went ashore for dinner in Venice so the dining room was half empty)out went the lights and I waited with baited breath. Oh dear, out they came with some strange little torch light on the top of the baked alaska and not much audible music to speak of. I know it seems a silly thing to whinge about but they would be better not to do it at all than to do such a half hearted effort. That and the lack of atmosphere on deck for sailaways etc just took some of the excitement away. However the good certainly outweighed any minor disappointments and we really did have a good holiday. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
Julies Birthday bash continued after 4 days in Rome visiting all the attractions it had to offer. We arrived in Civitavecchia and to see the look on Julies excited face was a picture in its self. Our room B234 was awaiting us and not long ... Read More
Julies Birthday bash continued after 4 days in Rome visiting all the attractions it had to offer. We arrived in Civitavecchia and to see the look on Julies excited face was a picture in its self. Our room B234 was awaiting us and not long after our cabin steward Makie arrived introduced him and was gracious throughout. The room was what it said on the tin. The cruise liner was immaculately clean which was a constant process. The food was plentiful even for the vast Americans on board. The restaurants were well run by totally respectful and attentive staff. They looked after our every needs. Julie and I went to Sabatini's restaurant on the last evening/50th birthday. We were treated to a wonderful meal over a 2 1/2 hr period with fine champagne. The 6 star service was fantastic and Julie was treated to a fine dinning experience. The ports of call were all different but beautiful in their own right. Athens is steeped in history but sadly I couldn't see through the graffiti. Most buildings and hotels were affected. Pisa, Sorrento, Corfu, Naples, Santorina, Mykonos, Split were brilliant but Venice was extra special because it was Julies 50th. Up at 6am sailed towards St Marks Sq followed by a wonderful day. Fantastic Cruise, weather very hot each day, met lots of nice people both from the UK and America. A truly memorable holiday and one to savour. Thank you Princess Cruises. Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
General comments: We are in our late 20s and this was our first cruise. We chose to do a cruise as a low stress way to fit in several destinations over a short period of time, and it was a great decision. We stopped in several beautiful ... Read More
General comments: We are in our late 20s and this was our first cruise. We chose to do a cruise as a low stress way to fit in several destinations over a short period of time, and it was a great decision. We stopped in several beautiful ports (Venice, Dubrovnik, Corfu, Katakolon, Athens, Mykonos, Kusadasi, Santorini, Naples, Rome), more than we would have been able to cover on our own over 12 days. After a busy day it was great to be able to come back to the ship to relax. I did feel a bit trapped on the two sea days and found some areas of the ship quite noisy. It was much easier to find a quite spot to relax near the front of the ship just outside the sanctuary. Room: We had a balcony cabin on the caribe deck (deck 10). Balconies on this deck seemed to be the largest, and were half covered, half exposed. Because we booked a balcony and not a mini suite, we only had two rather uncomfortable chairs and a small side table. I had read some reviews saying the chairs were uncomfortable and was surprised that it was as noticeable as it was (I thought people may have been exaggerating). We asked for stools thinking that it might help and were provided smaller side tables to use as stools (real stools are apparently only for the minisuites). Anyways, fairly minor issue but did impact the amount of time we spent on the balcony. Because of this, I would probably look at another cruise line that offered more spacious rooms (i.e. with a couch or living space) and better balcony furniture before sailing with Princess again. The room otherwise was great. Flat screen tv, efficient bathroom, large closet with room to store everything. Our room steward Jerry was excellent and refreshed our room several times a day. Restaurants: Buffet was good with new items daily. Most things were pretty good and only a few misses. I enjoyed the smoked salmon for breakfast and the different scrambled egg combinations each morning. Pizza was very good and we often had it as an afternoon snack. Dinner in the main dinning room was also quite good. I really enjoyed the clam linguini as well as the lobster tail on the second formal night. They had some really creative soups as well. Cheesecake and princess love boat dream desserts were delicious. Portions are small enough that you can order all 3 courses. Wine selection was good and reasonably priced, especially coming from Canada. We got a seven bottle wine card that cost around $140 (I don't remember the exact cost). On one of the sea days, there was a free cooking demonstration led by the chef and the head maitre D, followed by a tour of one of the kitchens. Highly recommend. We didn't pay to try the specialty restaurants, as we were very satisfied with the main dinning rooms. Coffee, tea, iced tea, lemonade, and juices at breakfast all free. The sushi at the vines wine bar was decent (complementary with wine order), about what I expected on a cruise ship. Public spaces/entertainment: The restaurants, buffet, etc were all very clean and nice spaces. The main atrium area was also very nice, as were the lounges on flours 5-7. I didn't really think they were dated. There were hardly ever any people in the lounges or bars after dinner, but maybe because it was a port intensive cruise and there weren't that many younger people. As mentioned, I found the areas around the pools very noisy with loud music and movies going all day. Pools were always very crowded on sea days. The best spot we found to read and relax was at the front of the ship, just outside the sanctuary (anyone can use the pool outside of the spa, which was generally much less busy, especially at the beginning of the cruise before people discovered it). The bars we enjoyed most were tradewinds and the aft bar (great place to watch the sunset). We also enjoyed walking around the promenade deck. It looked like a nice place to read during the day if you wanted to avoid the sun. Other: We didn't do any princess tours, because once we did a bit of research, we found better options with private tours or using public transit. Highly recommend rick steves book for do-it yourselfers. Note that Princess sometimes omitted info or provided false info to sell their transfers. In particular, they advised people that there were 50 stairs and no escalators if they decided to take the train to Rome instead of paying for a transfer, and we didn't encounter any stairs at all after a quick 10 min walk from the port terminal. Also, there was a public bus for I think $1.60 euro in Mykonos, but they were pushing people to buy bus tickets for a shuttle to town for $15 dollars to avoid a dangerous walk along the road. On a positive note, the crew was flexible in terms of what you could bring on board at each port. Overall, it was a great experience and a great way to see a lot of different places in a short period of time. We came home feeling relaxed, which may not have been the case if we had tried to visit the same places in the same period of time on our own Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
My husband and I had the please of sailing on the Crown Princess from 6/29-7/11 for a Mediterranean and Greek Isles cruise. This was my fourth cruise and my husband's second, and our first experience with Princess. This cruise was ... Read More
My husband and I had the please of sailing on the Crown Princess from 6/29-7/11 for a Mediterranean and Greek Isles cruise. This was my fourth cruise and my husband's second, and our first experience with Princess. This cruise was part of an overall three week tour of Europe for us. We are both in our late 20's and childless...for now. We chose to use the cruise transfers through Princess as we had same day flights on embarkation and disembarkation days. Embarkation was in Civitavecchia, which was approximately 60 minutes from the airport in Rome. It happened to be a holiday weekend for Romans the day our cruise began, so I was very happy we used the transfer through Princess, as the traffic could have created difficulty with a private transfer. Transportation to the airport in Venice was also very efficient and smooth. Both embarkation and disembarkation were both very smooth and quick. The ship itself is absolutely beautiful and in great shape. I did not see any signs of the ship "aging" as I've seen on other reviews. We did see crew members engaged in maintenance on port days, which I think has helped to maintain the beauty of the ship. We had a beautiful balcony cabin on the Aloha deck towards the front elevators port side. We never had any noise issues, and we had smooth sailing the whole itinerary. My husband and I would sometimes forget that we were sailing, as the trip was so smooth. Our cabin steward was very friendly and would always find us to see how our trip was going and to give recommendations for upcoming days. He also kept the room tidy and comfortable. We were somewhat disappointed by the food on the ship in comparison to other cruises we have taken, particularly in the dining room. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't fantastic either. We ended up eating at the buffet as much as the dining room for dinner. We also ate at the Crown Grill one night, where the food was extraordinary. Of course, this is extra. The staff in all dining locations were very attentive and friendly. As for activities, we enjoyed Movies Under the Stars a few nights, which had very recent films showing. We also participated in a few activities and were even chosen to participate in the "Love and Marriage" game, which was hysterical (somewhat at our expense!) Mostly though, we relaxed at the pool or enjoyed our balcony after a long day in port. Again, all staff that we encountered were nothing short of friendly and helpful. The itinerary of this cruise was the main reason we booked this trip, and we were not disappointed. Back in March, we were informed that Monaco had been dropped from the itinerary and were pretty disappointed. Even though the first sea day was a welcome day of relaxation following our week of traveling prior to this cruise (we were in London and Amsterdam), we still probably would rather have had the opportunity to explore this port. We used Princess excursions to visit Florence, Naples, and Athens, as these required some traveling away from the ship in port. We thoroughly enjoyed our excursions in Naples and Athens. We took an Amalfi Coast sail by followed by lunch in an old fortress overlooking Salerno, and topped off with the afternoon in Pompeii...this was out of this world gorgeous and a day we will never forget! Athens was wonderful too, as we went to the Acropolis and explored the Plaka on our own. We were so looking forward to our excursion to Florence, which included wine tasting in Chianti. However, this excursion was cancelled the night before and Princess informed us the day of the excursion. We received no prior notice of this cancellation (no letter, no phone message) even though Princess insisted they had sent us notice. We were not pleased, but they incorporated us into another tour to Florence later in the day (where my husband and I had to sit separately on the bus for the 3 hours of driving total...it just wasn't our day!) As for the other stops on the itinerary, we were able to explore these places on our own with very little hassle. This may take some research on your own, as Princess does tend to push their own tours and withhold some information that is easily learned when you're actually in port. Santorini and Mykonos are so beyond gorgeous that I can't even find the words...these alone made the trip so worth it. Some advice - In Santorini, after getting off the tender, there is a boat transfer to Oia for 20 euros that includes bus transportation back to Fira. This is a great way to bypass the lines for the cable cars and donkeys, which were up to an hour the day we were there. Of course, ending the trip in Venice was extraordinary and made for a special end to a very special trip. Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our cruise and our first trip to Europe. We are so happy we chose this itinerary and would sail with Princess again...a boost to the food would be welcomed though! Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
We did back to back sailings on the Grand in April/May -- an 11 day Canary Islands and a 17 day Mediterranean & Adriatic. This review covers the Mediterranean & Adriatic cruise. This was our 56th cruise on Princess, and 13th on ... Read More
We did back to back sailings on the Grand in April/May -- an 11 day Canary Islands and a 17 day Mediterranean & Adriatic. This review covers the Mediterranean & Adriatic cruise. This was our 56th cruise on Princess, and 13th on the Grand. Overall it was a very good cruise although it started with an "issue." Embarkation This was the second of our b2b sailings this time on the Grand so no embarkation was involved, we were just told to meet at Alfredo's at 9:45 am to get new pictures taken for our new cruise cards. So we were there at 9:45 am but nothing happened until about 10:30 am when they showed up to take our pictures. The Ship The Grand is an older ship and is showing her age -- even with the drydock facelift. But there seems to be much less rock and roll than on the newer ships. On the warm and sunny days on this cruise all the deck loungers were occupied early. Also, trying to find any place where you could sit and read in the inside public areas was almost impossible, seemed very common that passengers would get up and dress, find a chair in a public area, and then spend the rest of the day there. The bars had more card players and readers and snoozers than drinkers. Skywalkers used to be a good place to watch the sea and read -- the One5 is dark with few windows. Needless to say this ship can feel and actually be extremely crowded in public areas especially on sea days. While Princess seems to be extremely proud of the redecorated piazza it now looks to us more and more like a multi-story outlet mall with a food court and street vendors and street performers and photographers, in other words it has really lost its elegance and charm. The Itinerary and Ports We picked this itinerary because it went to some ports on our bucket list (as well as old favorites) and we could do a b2b with our Canary Islands cruise. Doing b2bs does help spread the cost of airfare over multiple cruises but sailing the Med out of Southampton does add two sea days each way where the weather can be questionable and the seas rocky. So next time we do the Med it will probably be sailing in and out of a Med port, especially if we are doing b2b sailings. But on the other hand, most of the Princess Med cruises just go back and forth between the same ports with the same itinerary so non-repeating b2b opportunities are limited. We've been to Cadiz, Venice, Split, Corfu and Gibraltar before but Malta and Dubrovnik were new for us. In Cadiz we had planned to walk through the old town -- had done the hop on hop off bus with beautiful sunny weather last time we were there -- but this time it was so cold and rainy that we never left the ship. The next port was Valletta Malta and we took a ship's tour to a fishing village, a stop at a vineyard for wine tasting, a stop at a glass blower shop, and scenic drives in between. Malta is beautiful and the tour was good, we will definitely come back to Malta. We have been to Venice before and done all the touristy things you must do in Venice like ride in a gondola so we strolled leisurely to St Marks (a very long circuitous route) and took the vapporetta boat almost the full length of the Grand Canal to the people mover and then back to the ship for a very enjoyable day. Last time in Split we did a ship's tour to a Roman historical site and a medieval village so this time we just walked around the Old Town and saw the major historical sites. Dubrovnik was a delight, even more so than we had anticipated. We did the ship's tour of the city walls with a very funny, knowledgeable and entertaining tour guide -- and the weather was beautiful. At the end of our tour the guide told us we had been up and down 600 steps! We've done a full day tour of Corfu before so have seen the major sights, so this time opted for a visit to the Koum Quat liqueur distillery and island tour. Again the weather was superb and the tour enjoyable. In Gibraltar we walked through town and the botanical gardens since we have already visited the caves and seen the apes. The Cabin We had booked a guarantee and received a cabin assignment a few months later. We were assigned P208 -- deck 5 forward, actually way forward and across from the laundry! So we anticipated that it might be very bouncy but it also might smell laundry fresh. Surprisingly we only had a few nights (in the Atlantic) when the waves were large enough to cause creaks and groans and bangs and booms when the waves hit the bow -- other than that it was rather smooth. It also proved to be a very convenient location with easy access to the International Cafe for morning coffee and we often saw the paintings we bought on board as we walked through the art gallery frequently. The cabin did seem a little smaller than others and had a very unusual floor with bumps and ridges, felt like there was a manhole cover or something under the carpet. There seemed to be very little going on in the laundry so that was not a problem at first -- but late in the cruise there was a strong sewer like odor in the hallway for a few days. Internet access in this cabin was not dependable as the signal quality was poor and the connection when possible was often dropped. But as usual on Princess our stateroom steward Bibiana was excellent! The Food and Service We had an unusual surprise (the "issue") this trip using anytime dining. We have gotten very used to anytime dining and treasure it's flexibility to be able to eat at different times in the different dining rooms, to have a table for two or eat with new friends, and to be able to make a reservation for a specific time so we can plan our evening's entertainment knowing when we would be finished with dinner. But this time on the Grand we were informed that there would be no dinner reservations -- none would be taken! For each night we would have to stand in line and if we did not want to share a table with strangers and wanted to have a table for two we would probably be given a pager and have to wait until summoned. The first night we got in line at 8:15, got a pager and waited 20 minutes to be summoned, so since dinner took longer than expected we were late to the theatre and all the seats were taken -- so we missed the show we wanted to see. Since this was a huge change from what we had experienced since anytime dining started we asked for clarification -- was this policy change for just this cruise, or would it be permanent on the Grand, or was it yet another negative change in Princess service levels that would be implemented fleet wide? The only explanation we received was that too many people wanted tables for two so they decided not to take any reservations. Now at that time we had nine cruises booked with Princess for the future -- and the possibility of cruising under the new policy of "you can dine whenever it is convenient for us and we really don't care how it affects you" didn't sit well with us. We had already expressed our disappointment with the new policy of closing the dining room for lunch on port days, of the changes in menus to cheaper dishes (goodbye to the rack of lamb), and the greeting when you enter the dining room becoming "do you want to share?" -- or the short form which is just a blurted out "share?" If you listen to Princess marketing you would expect something more genteel like perhaps "Good evening, welcome to your personal choice dining experience, how can we as your "Consummate Hosts" serve you tonight and help you "escape completely?" As it turned out we were told the "no reservations" situation was for this cruise only so it wasn't another fleet wide change, but were also told it might happen again at any time. We did end up with a definite seating time but the experience has us thinking again about doing traditional dining since "personal choice" really isn't about your personal choice except for when you want to start standing in line. And it is yet another reason we are more seriously thinking about cruising other lines more often. For the most part the food in the dining room was very good and the service was as well. We also met up with some of the waiters we had sailed with before whom we were really glad to see again. We found the Michelangelo much more enjoyable than the DaVinci this cruise. The Horizon Court was good for breakfast (great omelets made to order) and OK for lunch but the lights over the food are so hot they can make some of the serving spoons almost too hot to handle, and they dry out the food as well -- it can get to look very unappetizing and not taste as well as it might when fresh. The Trident Grill still has great cheeseburgers and hot dogs, and if you like specialty pizzas Alfredo's was generally available. The Entertainment Entertainment was the usual you would expect on a cruise, varied and good. The production song and dance shows were enjoyable (even though they haven't changed for years) and the guest performers were supplemented by performances by ship staff members. Andrew (one of the production show singers) and Melissa (one of the cruise director's staff) did great solo performances. Ron Steta (a superb guitarist in the Grand Princess Orchestra) performed often in the piazza and even did a fantastic matinee in the Princess Theatre on the last day -- talk about saving the best for last! Siobhan Phillips has an unbelievable voice and was extremely funny as well. We also enjoyed the MacDonald Brothers and ventriloquist Jimmy Tamley -- probably the best ventriloquist we have ever seen. There were some British comedians we saw but we didn't quite get some of the jokes that most of the audience found extremely funny -- must have been the cultural difference... Disembarkation Disembarkation was quick and easy, and we took Princess transportation to Heathrow and arrived in plenty of time for our flight. Closing Thoughts Princess seems to be suffering from an organizational dysfunction -- marketing promises customers more and more at the same time that accounting is cutting costs and converting costs into revenue opportunities. The end result can be a huge expectation gap for the passengers -- fueled by exorbitant claims such as the current Princess "We Are The Consummate Host" advertising campaign at the same time that service levels are noticeably being reduced. We wish they would either actually be "The Consummate Host" they claim or adopt a more believable slogan. If you believe that everything on your cruise will be "perfect" you will probably be disappointed. The best cruising slogan we found is -- "It Is What It Is." So get past the "issues" quickly and get on to enjoying! Happy Cruising! Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
Arrived in Rome airport about 10:30 and caught cruise transfer bus without any problems. Check In at port went smoothly and in an efficient manner. Went to cabin straight away as it was a little after 13:00 and dropped of carry-on luggage ... Read More
Arrived in Rome airport about 10:30 and caught cruise transfer bus without any problems. Check In at port went smoothly and in an efficient manner. Went to cabin straight away as it was a little after 13:00 and dropped of carry-on luggage and went to buffet. Dinner on the first night meet a lovely couple Rob and Susan and attempted to have a conversation but kept getting interrupted at least 10 times by the wait staff. I understand that the goal is try to push packages and get people to spend money...but at least let us get our bearing. Out of this we purchase a wine tasting package. The wine tasting...well all the wines only one was any good...but we had a hard time hearing the staff giving the instructions because a table of Italian Ladies talked the whole time. And not until the instructor for the class battery to his microphone went out did he ask people not to talk or have side bars so everyone could hear. Thank you for making the overhead announcement in English! The food in the main dinning room was fantastic! And the food on the buffet was fine if not a little limited in selections. The apples on the ship where bad...bitter, and mealy. The bananas where just nasty. The pineapple and cantaloupe was fantastic and sweet. Thank you for restricting the areas where smoking can be done. I got to enjoy my balcony without the stench of cigarette smoke.How Crown Princess can Improve: They need to update their entertainment...it is all very dated. Although I appreciate the lack of small children running wild on the ship and no animated characters bouncing around...YOU NEED TO UPDATE YOUR ENTERTAINMENT! Most of the time the Princess Theatre was 1/2 empty because the entertainment was not that good. Get out of the 60's and 70's entertainment. Another thing: YOUR INTERNET CHARGES ARE OUTRAGIOUS! I understand as we become more frequent users of Princess cruises that free Internet is offered...but 79 cents is ridiculous...get a reasonable daily rate going. The shopping on the ship could have more selection...felt the options where limited and clothing was dated. Do you really have to carry all of the perfume? Get more options in there. Lastly, sent some cloths down to the laundry and two of my husband shirts came back stained. One shirt my husband was going to wear to dinner and I noticed what looked like an oil stain on the silk shirt. Got with the cabin steward and he returned them to laundry to be taken care of...they came back still with stains and discoloring. Laundry tried to say that they did not launder the silk shirt because there was no laundry tag on it. The tag had been pulled off when my husband was going to wear the shirt and why would weleave it on to scratch the back of his neck. Now I have to submit to the company for the damage shirts. In the future I will use the pay washing machines on the ship instead of paying over $70 to get laundry done. Lession learned. Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
My wife and I flew in a day early and took a tour through Greenline to the Isle of Capri. It was a great day trip with wonderful wonderful weather! On embarkation day, we took a city tour of Rome in the morning before heading to ... Read More
My wife and I flew in a day early and took a tour through Greenline to the Isle of Capri. It was a great day trip with wonderful wonderful weather! On embarkation day, we took a city tour of Rome in the morning before heading to Civitavecchia in the afternoon; a little rushed, but really enjoyable. Embarkation was a breeze thanks to our Elite status and our luggage arrived minutes after we got into the stateroom. The room was spacious and not having a roof on the balcony was no problem as we enjoyed the sunshine. We were a little concerned with the norovirus that had gone through the ship on the Trans Atlantic leg, but we never had a problem with it. They worked very hard at nipping it the bud. Our stateroom attendant, Eric Bautista, was very efficient, friendly and took care of our extra requests quickly. Our waiter, Manuel, and assistant waiter, Raquel were very good and personable. We really enjoyed the ship, especially the Sanctuary and Movies Under the Stars. The dining room meals were very good, the buffet was average, but all in all we were satisfied. As with all ships, they seem to try to nickel and dime you for everything, but it wasn't unreasonable. For the most part, the ports were great. We took the one-day Princess excursion to the Pyramids, Sphinx and Sakarra Step Pyramids. The vendors at the Pyramids wrecked that leg of the excursion. They were like a swarm of locusts that you could never get rid of. We arrived late at the Sphinx and were unable to get through the gate to get closer, so there was a lot of frustration there (but we had lots of time to 'shop' at the recommended Papyrus store). Istanbul, Kusadasi and Mykonos were wonderful (except for the rain in Mykonos) and would recommend any of these places for a holiday. In Istanbul we saw the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace and went on the Bosphorus Cruise....very good! We went to Ephesus while in Kusadasi and it was great; our tour guide was very passionate and it made the trip enjoyable. The trip in Athens to the Parthenon was good as well. The tour of the Doges Palace and prison and the gondola ride in Venice was great and we enjoyed wandering the streets. We had great company in the Botticelli dining room (table for 8) and met some really interesting people on the cruise. The Cruise Critic Meet and Greet at the start of the trip was really educational for me (I am a part-time travel agent). The worst part of the trip was disembarkation (not the getting off the ship, that was easy). I felt I should have been getting ready for a new port, not the plane back to Alberta. Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
Started our holiday 1 day early by staying overnight in hotel at Southampton which relieved stress driving down on day. Boarding was a doddle luggage taken off us and car driven away leaving us with just carry on.There was a slight delay ... Read More
Started our holiday 1 day early by staying overnight in hotel at Southampton which relieved stress driving down on day. Boarding was a doddle luggage taken off us and car driven away leaving us with just carry on.There was a slight delay in boarding owing to trouble with air bridge but this was minimal.Found boarding simple. Went to our cabin to await luggage which arrived about 2pm.Unpacked, plenty of space and hangers cabin was well appointed towels etc good quality, beds large a bit hard but comfortable enough. Off up top for sail-away had cocktail while slipping away down solent. We were 2nd sitting in Bottocelli.Dining was a pleasure with our two waiters Dennis & violetta, choice was varied and catered for all tastes found the soups to be excellent main coures sometimes bit fussy with sauces but on whole good. Settled down for our cruise to first port Cadiz. Did not do much for first two days just used it to chill and find way around used Horizon for lunch always good selection, had breakfast in room after 1st day as it was bit crowded at that time of day.Arrived Cadiz had excursion to Sevilla, then off to malta(or so we thought) in the night we hit a force9/10 with 12ft waves we were on deck 9 and some of the wave spray hit our balcony door,about 4.30am huge thump heard captain calling for containment teams,the thump was a rogue wave hitting the ship and breaking two of the windows on deck 5 in the interational cafe allowing some seawater in. The captain had to go off course heading for north African coast while crew did superb job of fitting metal plates to broken windows cafe out of action for most of day while clean-up and fitting of new carpets carried out. Storm carried on for next two days and was too rough to enter Valleta(which was my main reason for booking this cruise0 so headed straight to Venice so of first 7 days spent 6 at sea which was bit boring as some of the time captains advice to stay in cabin and all outside decks were out of bounds once we rounded heel of Italy things calmed down and entered Venice the evening before we were due found Venice ok but there were tatty street traders in St Marks Square and bridges adourned with advertising banners, totally out of place.Then Split Dubrovnik and Corfu. Split very clean and interesting as was Dubrovnik.Corfu did not get much chance to see as it poured with rain all day. then to Gib another two days at sea. Gib was best port of call. On sea days we did take part in quizzes,video horse racing and occaisional bingo, Pub lunches were excellent.My wife found the Library very good too.Did not use Spa etc as expensive($20 just to sit in Sanctuary)Evenings were spent after dinner in casino or the one5 nightclub which was very good. Main dislikes were photographers, wheelchairs & zimmer frames with wheels they thought the lifts were there for their private use pushing in front to get on and sometimes one wheelchair filled lift,on rough days people with sticks had difficulty getting around.The main concern with all these wheelchairs zimmers etc was if we had to board Lifeboats for real at Split these were used at tenders and it took 15 minutes to get everyone on.I say might do it again but you are at the mercy of weather to get into ports so if you want to go somewhere specific you take a chance. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
Flew to Rome 2 days before cruise. We stayed at Hotel Artorius near the Coliseum. Great small hotel, walking distance to many sites and good restaurants (2 Columns is recommended). Hired a driver from FCO (40 Euro) and from Rome to ... Read More
Flew to Rome 2 days before cruise. We stayed at Hotel Artorius near the Coliseum. Great small hotel, walking distance to many sites and good restaurants (2 Columns is recommended). Hired a driver from FCO (40 Euro) and from Rome to Civitavecchia (taxiaroma 120 Euro) again highly recommended. Jet lag tip: we landed in Rome from SFO the morning. We toured all day and did not rest until about 8 pm. Did not have much problem with jet lag with this method and were able to get up early the next day for our Vatican tour. Embarkation was smooth and we were on ship around noon. Ship impressions: Star Princess is going into drydock later in November. We thought the ship was adequately clean and laid out. Our cabin was Caribe 315 extended balcony was nice and used often. Plenty of storage but no dresser. Carpet was a bit worn but I am sure that will be changed in drydock. Cabin Steward John was very attentive and friendly. This sailing was not sold out and as a result we did not find too much problem in finding loungers near the pool. Pools were really too cool to swim in. Dining: Luck out with great tablemates and great servers in Yoana and Rhoderick early seating in Capri Dining room. The head waiter was very involved in helping the crew- first time I had seen a head waiter so active. Food was OK, nothing to complain about but nothing to especially cheer. Most evenings meals were relaxed and fun. I do have one complaint about Princess dining: Their morning dining the the MDR is ends at 9 am. On sea days we would like not to rush to breakfast. Not much a fan of buffets, so really did not visit Horizon Court except on disembarkation day. Entertainment: early in cruise we did not do much in the evening, later we enjoyed the comedy shows. The magician was just OK. We enjoyed the Halloween party and dance. We briefly watched a movie outside but start time was not the same as what was listed in Patter so we missed the beginning. Casino was dead for most of the cruise. Activities on Sea Days seem a bit light compared to other cruise lines. I did enjoy the Zumba, Line Dancing and Ballroom classes. Ports: Frankly a great itinerary- only disappointment was Khios was cancelled due to rough seas (our only tendered port). The weather gods were with us. No rain, a little cool and cloudy but great for touring. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
We are seasoned cruisers, mostly with P&O but chose this one for the itinerary because it included Istanbul and Pompeii. We flew from Manchester to Rome. Oh dear, our experiences at Rome both arriving and departing from put this ... Read More
We are seasoned cruisers, mostly with P&O but chose this one for the itinerary because it included Istanbul and Pompeii. We flew from Manchester to Rome. Oh dear, our experiences at Rome both arriving and departing from put this airport at second worst one on our list. Never mind, check in at the port to board ship was very efficient and we discovered we had an upgrade to a balcony cabin. Things were improving. Star Princess is a lovely ship, a bit worn in parts but we understand it is going for a refit after the next cruise. The staff were very friendly and helpful. In particular, Johanna and Roderick who looked after our table of 8 in Amalfi dining room 2nd sitting with great enthusiasm and professionalism. We had a pre-dinner drink each evening in Wheelhouse Bar and were entertained by Noelia and Ash with their bar tricks and puzzles. I emphasize ONE drink. The drinks were so expensive that we refused to be ripped off by drinking more. (16 dollars for a small can of beer and a small glass of wine)We did complain about the prices, as did many other passengers. I guess the powers that be realised that the bars were empty and 4 days into the cruise a specials price list appeared. Apart from that, the food was lovely and we were impressed with the choice at breakfast and lunch. Evening meal was mostly ok 4 days into the cruise we also got upgraded to a mini-suite after a problem with the shower plumbing. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
STAR PRINCESS REVIEW  MED & GREEK ISLES CRUISE  SEPTEMBER 3-15, 2011  PRE-CRUISE STAY IN ROME After a great business class flight on US Air from PHL, we arrived in Rome 3 days prior to the cruise. We reserved a Rome In Limo ... Read More
STAR PRINCESS REVIEW  MED & GREEK ISLES CRUISE  SEPTEMBER 3-15, 2011  PRE-CRUISE STAY IN ROME After a great business class flight on US Air from PHL, we arrived in Rome 3 days prior to the cruise. We reserved a Rome In Limo transfer from the airport to our hotel, The Albergo Del Senato. We reserved other tours with Rome In Limo, so we decided to also use them for our transfer to the hotel in Rome & our transfer to the pier on 9/3/11. We picked up our luggage and left the baggage area to look for our driver with a sign with our name on it. We were happy to see him and he quickly took our luggage and off we went to our hotel. We arrived at the Albergo Del Senato in the morning and we were able to check in quickly. We didn't plan much for this day because we thought we would be so tired from the long flight. Our hotel was right next to the Pantheon and within walking distance to many of the sights. Our room was quiet even though it faced the Piazza area. Unfortunately, the air conditioning was not as cool as we would have liked it to be. We called the desk each day to have the temperature lowered, but it never got cool enough for us. Our room was on the second floor with a view of the Pantheon and we walked up the stairs many times rather than waiting for the elevator. We were surprised that the carpeting on the stairs looked like it hadn't been cleaned in quite some time. The service was excellent at this hotel and they made excellent recommendations & reservations for dinner during our stay. We also enjoyed the rooftop bar and our chats with Joseph, the bartender there. This bar had magnificent views of the city and was a great place to have a pre &/or post dinner drink. At the Albergo Del Senato, breakfast was included, but we were disappointed in what was offered. We weren't looking for an American breakfast, but we thought that this highly rated and expensive hotel would have offered a small assortment of hot items too. They served pastries, cereal, juice, cold meats/cheese and very watery scrambled eggs that guests were staying away from. Guests had to toast their own bread in the toaster on the buffet table & all items were served buffet style. The next day, we had a full day tour of the highlights of Rome reserved with Rome In Limo. Maurizio, our driver/guide, picked us up at our hotel right on time. We then picked up another CC family at their hotel and off we went on our tour. Maurizio had a great personality and drove us right up to each site. We visited the Coliseum, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, the Forum, the Jewish Ghetto, the Pantheon, etc. We never waited on any lines because our Coliseum tickets were purchased before we left home. Maurizio took us to a wonderful restaurant filled with locals for lunch. After lunch, he took us to his favorite Gelato store. Thanks to Maurizio, it was a terrific day. He shared his knowledge of Rome and we saw many of the sites in a short time. The next day, we reserved a 3 hour Vatican tour with Rome In Limo. Massimo/our private guide, arrived at our hotel along with 2 other CC couples who were sharing the tour. We took 2 taxis (our cost) to the Vatican and we never waited on any lines because our Vatican tickets were purchased on line before we left home. Massimo was an excellent guide and he seemed to know everyone who worked in the Vatican. His knowledge of the Vatican was unbelievable & he used his iPhone to display pictures of the artwork that he was discussing. His tour was very interesting and he too had a terrific personality. We visited the museums, Sistene Chapel, and St. Peters, and never waited on any lines. Massimo was great at weaving his small group of 6 in and out of the larger tour groups. This was a wonderful tour and we were so glad that we reserved our own guide...Massimo was great! DAY #1-ROME The next day, Mauro from Rome In Limo transferred us to the pier. Mauro picked us up at our hotel, took our luggage, and then we picked up another CC couple at their hotel to share the transfer. Everything went as planned and we arrived at the pier at 10:30 AM. The porters took our bags and we went inside to board. We boarded at 11:15 AM and went directly to our cabin to drop off our carry on bags and wine that we purchased in Rome. We like to begin our cruise by eating lunch in the Main Dining Room and we were able to do so. We had a nice relaxing lunch and it set the tone for a great cruise! We booked an Oceanview Guarantee and when we received our cabin assignment we were concerned about the bunk beds in P305 causing an obstruction. This cabin was fine and its location was terrific...we were close to the International Cafe for our morning coffee & the bunk beds never caused any problems. The location of this cabin was also great for this itinerary because we were off the ship 11 out of 12 days. Our Meet & Greet was held in Skywalkers after dinner on the first night and was well attended. We had a large Cruise Critic group who arranged to share private tours together and it gave us the opportunity to put names to faces. Great friendships began at this Meet & Greet. DAY #2-MONTE CARLO, MONACO: We went on a full day tour with Revelation Tours to St. Paul de Vence, Eze, Nice, & Monaco. We shared the tour with 3 other CC couples that we prearranged through our Roll Call. Michel, our driver, was very knowledgeable about the areas we visited and we were glad to be able to see everything in one day. When we arrived in St. Paul de Vence the shops were closed because it was so early, but I was able to purchase 2 paintings before we left. St. Paul de Vence is gorgeous, with winding stone walkways, and little quaint shops selling art and other items. We were able to visit Chagall's grave in the local cemetery. Next, we drove to Eze and we were dropped off near the top of the hill so we didn't have to walk so far. Eze is a beautiful medieval village with winding pathways, shops, and restaurants. We had a lovely lunch there in an outdoor cafe...very scenic! Next, we drove to Nice and stopped at the famous outdoor flower market. Gorgeous flowers, fresh fruits, & vegetables were sold in the market. After that, we went to Monaco, but we decided to go back to the ship because we were exhausted. It was another great day...loved St. Paul de Vence & Eze. DAY #3-FLORENCE/PISA/SAN GIMIGNANO (LIVORNO): Vinny, our driver from Rome In Limo, picked us up in Livorno for our full day tour to Pisa, Florence, San Gimignano, and the Tuscany Region. First, we drove to Pisa in the rain and were able to see the famous leaning tower and take some quick photos. After that, we drove to beautiful Florence. Vinny continued to share his knowledge of the area with us. He stopped at an overlook area of the city of Florence and it was breathtaking. We drove down into the city and he dropped us off and we planned to meet at a specific time. We shopped in the leather shops and walked around this beautiful city. Today was Monday and unfortunately, the museums were closed, but we were able to see the copy of the David statue in the Piazza. Next, we drove to San Gimignano where we had free time to shop and have lunch. Vinny called the restaurant so they would be ready for us when we arrived...another wonderful lunch! I purchased some photographs in San Gimignano of Tuscany by award winning photographer Claudio Calvani...they are beautiful! Vinny also recommended an award winning gelato shop to us. After that, we drove through the Tuscany Region on small two lane roads. The views were unbelievable and Vinny pointed out wineries and shared his knowledge and love of the Tuscany region. This tour was also shared with 3 other CC couples and a great time was had by all. DAY #4-NAPLES: POMPEII, SORRENTO, AND POSITANO Giovanni, our driver from Rome In Limo, picked us up and drove us to Pompeii. We hired a private guide there and our tour lasted 2 hours. Our guide was very interesting and she walked us through Pompeii explaining everything. Our group of 8 (Cruise Critic members), were all glad we hired the guide because she made everything so interesting. After Pompeii, we drove to Sorrento, but we stopped at an overlook above Sorrento on a coastal road. Giovanni had us pose for pictures and he was the cameraman. After pictures, Giovanni told us to stay there and he went to the van and came back with champagne and glasses to celebrate. We all toasted our day! We drove into Sorrento and Giovanni played Italian songs in the van and then he took us to a great restaurant for lunch. After that, we had free time to walk around beautiful Sorrento. Then, we met at a prearranged spot for our drive to Positano on the Amalfi Coast. In Positano, we had time to walk around and shop. At the end of this wonderful day, Giovanni gave us a bottle of Limoncello to share. We all decided to have a Limoncello Party at the pool tomorrow (our 1 and only sea day)! DAY #5-AT SEA Since this itinerary had 11 port days, everyone was happy to have a sea day. We slept late and got some well-needed rest. We went to the hot tub and had a nice relaxing lunch in the Main Dining Room. In the afternoon, I called room service to get 8 Limoncello glasses delivered for our party. Eight "shooter" glasses were promptly delivered to our cabin. We walked to the pool with a tray of glasses and our bottle of Limoncello. Our CC group was there and everyone had a great time. DAY #6-SANTORINI We took a private 5 hour tour with Ocean Wave Tours to see the highlights of Santorini. After 7 of us rode up on the cable car, Dimitrius, our driver/guide was waiting for us. He drove us all around and took us to a waterfront restaurant for lunch. We also had free time to walk around in beautiful Santorini. If we visit there again, we would not take a tour...this is a very walkable port. DAY #7-MYKONOS Mykonos was filled with art galleries and interesting shops...a great place to wander around. We had a Greek lunch in town and walked back to the ship later in the day. DAY #8-ATHENS We booked a full day private tour (with 8 CC members) with Private Greece Tours. Our driver picked us up in a van and we visited all the highlights of Athens. We spent the afternoon at the Plaka and everyone ate lunch there. We enjoyed our time wandering around the Plaka area. DAY #9-OLYMPIA We took a taxi from the pier to the beach...about a 5 minute ride. We arranged for the taxi to pick us up in a few hours and we didn't have to pay until we returned to the ship. We felt sure we would get back on board with no problems. We relaxed on the beach and ate Greek appetizers for lunch at an outdoor cafe overlooking the water. A very relaxing day! DAY #10-CORFU We prearranged and shared a 4 hour taxi tour with another CC couple. The tour was with Corfu Taxi Tours and our driver, Cristos, was there to meet us. He drove us all around Corfu, up in the mountains, with stops for photos. We purchased homemade wine from a local stand and tasted some local foods there. Our driver was excellent...he shared his love of Corfu with us and showed us all the highlights. DAY #11-SPLIT We walked around beautiful Split and spent much time looking at the beautiful artwork in the shops there. The Cruise Critic port guide recommended a restaurant called Sperun. We had a delicious lunch there and a great house wine. Sperun was about a 15 minute walk from the ship. DAY #12-VENICE We planned to meet 4 CC friends to share a gondola ride. We all agreed that the gondolier had to be wearing a striped shirt (with matching hat) and he must agree to sing during our ride. I was bringing wine, another couple was bringing glasses and ice. We all met and went on our search for the "right" gondolier. We found him and corny as it was...we will always have fond memories of that afternoon in our gondola. Venice was magical and getting lost was half the fun. Every street corner you turned the views were more beautiful than the last. We tried our best to get away from the San Marco area because the crowds were unbelievable. We had prepurchased Vaporetto tickets for our stay in Venice & that is how we got around. One day we went to Murano, but we ended up buying a Murano glass vase in Venice because it was cheaper than in Murano. POST CRUISE STAY IN VENICE Princess had a package where passengers could pay $39.00 per person to have their bags shipped to their hotel in Venice. Unfortunately, this was not advertised before the cruise. We wish it had been because it would have made our plans easier. We purchased the luggage package from Princess and sent our large bags ahead to our hotel, the Locanda Orseolo. Getting to the Locanda Orseolo was an adventure in itself. We rolled our carry on bags there using the directions from the hotel. It was a short walk from San Marco and we were glad to be away from the crowds there. When we entered the hotel, Igor greeted us by our first names. The staff came out and introduced themselves and we felt as if we were staying in someone's home. They carried our bags up to our lovely room on the second floor. The room temperature was comfortably cool and we were very happy to be there. Our breakfast was served each morning in the breakfast room overlooking the canal. A buffet table of meats, cheese, pastries, Italian quiches, and juices were set up each morning. In addition to these items, guests special ordered different kinds of crepes and eggs...everything was delicious! The shutters were kept open on the windows and we were serenaded with music and songs every morning from the gondolas passing by. Each day we were given great restaurant recommendations for dinner by one of the staff members. We were continuously told that this was our "home"for the next few days. Staying at the Locanda Orseolo was a wonderful experience and if we ever visit Venice again we hope to stay there again. STAR PRINCESS Since this was such a port intensive cruise, we spent little time on board during the day. The ports were wonderful, but the meals on the Star Princess didn't live up to our 2 previous cruises on this ship. The Portofino Dining Room seemed chaotic and the service was spotty there too. There was a noticeable decline in the quality of the meals served. Since we didn't bring formal wear, we ate at the Crown Grill & Sabatinis on both formal nights. Both of the alternative restaurants were excellent. On the last morning we always look forward to the James Beard French Toast that is served. Our french toast was so cold & hard that it was like a concrete slab. We sent it back and we left the dining room. The headwaiter that greeted guests at the dining room always seemed to be stressed, and many times we felt as if it would be better if we didn't ask for a table. We didn't attend any shows on this cruise, but we did go to the Platinum/Elite Happy Hours in Skywalkers. The waitstaff during these happy hours was terrific...some sang and played music. We had some great evenings there before dinner. Excluding the dining room issues and the decline in the quality of the food, the service on the Star was quite good everywhere else. Unfortunately, our on board dining experience in the Portofino Dining Room wasn't anywhere near what our previous experiences had been. Our room steward was terrific...he kept our room clean and we always had ice and everything else we needed. This cruise was all about visiting some wonderful ports and what we did in those ports was unforgettable. Cruise Critic was a great resource in planning these private tours and the Roll Call was a terrific way to connect with others who wanted to share the tours. Most of the private tours we took were exceptional and the guides made this a trip of a lifetime! Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
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