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113 Princess Europe - Eastern Mediterranean Cruise Reviews

What a whirlwind! We sailed the Ruby Princess September 25 to October 7, 2011 from Venice to Civitavecchia, with stops in Croatia, Greece and Turkey along the way. This itinerary is not for you if you like sea days - there was only one! ... Read More
What a whirlwind! We sailed the Ruby Princess September 25 to October 7, 2011 from Venice to Civitavecchia, with stops in Croatia, Greece and Turkey along the way. This itinerary is not for you if you like sea days - there was only one! We wanted to see as much as possible, so consequently we were out all day, every day, on tour. This didn't leave time for much else. So, it didn't really feel like a cruise. We spent more time off the ship than on it, using the Ruby more like a floating hotel that deposited us somewhere new each morning. This was our eighth Princess cruise, and altogether I've sailed fifteen times. Although we'd never flown internationally to begin a cruise, we reached Venice without incident and boarded the ship easily. We utilized the Princess transfer from the airport, which makes things very convenient. We were booked in a balcony cabin on Caribe deck amidships. We'd previously sailed on the Emerald Princess, the Ruby's sister, so we knew our way around and felt right at home. However, there was a period of adjustment. Our most recent cruise was on the Royal Princess, which has since been retired and which carried a far lighter passenger load. Although the larger ships are able to offer more choices in almost every category of amenity, I missed the small ship ambience. There is no way other than a cruise to cover as much travel territory in as short a time. Our cruise began with an overnight stay in Venice, followed by calls in Dubrovnik, Croatia, Corfu, Katakolon, Mykonos and Piraeus in Greece, Kusadasi in Turkey, then back to Greece for Rhodes and Santorini, followed by our welcome day at sea. The final call was Naples, Italy with disembarkation the next day in Civitavecchia on Friday, October 7 - the start of the Columbus Day holiday weekend back home, which allowed us a three-night post-cruise stay in Rome to wrap things up with bang. Come to this itinerary well rested! It was a grind, with a lot of walking and hill-climbing. Each day we were up early for a tour, out all day and returned to the ship just in time for all-aboard. That left time only for a shower, dinner and to get ready for the next day. My comments on life aboard the Ruby are limited to what we experienced during the short time each day that we were aboard and awake. I'll take them one by one, starting with our cabin steward. He deserves special mention, because even though he performed all of the expected duties, he had a giant chip on his shoulder, and wore it with pride. Some might call it an attitude problem. He started out on embarkation day by telling us how he was so good that they'd asked him to serve on all the newest ships, about how passengers usually make unreasonable requests and, that because we were Platinum members of the Captain's Circle we must be rich and own stock in the company. He then proceeded to give us the cold shoulder for the rest of the cruise. One night, we ran out of shampoo, so we left a note the next morning asking for more. He left us twelve bottles of shampoo. I won't waste time on details, but his behavior was odd. And the shortcuts he took in taking care of our cabin were consistent and obvious. Dining was very good in the dining room at dinner but very bad at breakfast from room service. We had a table for the second traditional dinner seating each night at 8:30, and our waiter and his assistant were friendly, helpful and efficient. The food was what we've come to expect after many Princess cruises. My favorite was the night they served a Greek and Turkish menu. The choices ranged from Chicken Braised in Peloponnesian Wine, Warm Dill Scented Oysters over Wilted Greens to Hearty Red Lentil Soup with Potatoes and Leeks. I really enjoyed my Avgolemono Soup with Chicken, Lemon and Mint and Trilogy of minced Veal Kofte, Chicken Shish Kebab and Lamb Chops. They really should do more of this -â€" tying the menus for the cruise into the areas being visited. Superb. Because we were often in a rush to get out the door in the morning we ordered quite a few light breakfasts from room service via the provided hang-tag. We've done this on every cruise we've taken, and it's usually a no muss, no fuss affair. So I couldn't quite believe how bad it was on the Ruby. I'm talking about orders that arrived 20 minutes early or a half-hour late. Coffee with no cups, or cups but no coffee. Warm milk -â€" it was almost hot. And in a glass. I prefer nice, fresh cartons, which evidently have been cut as a cost-saving measure. Warm juice too, with lots of water cutting the orange juice. Cold toast. It was amazing. We'd save juice and milk to put in the fridge for use the next day when it would be cold. We then replaced what we used with the warm glasses delivered that day. We made it work, but it wasn't pleasant. The onboard entertainment that we sampled was limited to magician David Cats, who was from Venice and who showed some promise, but his act was all "sizzle" and no "steak". There was a lot of dramatic music, flashing lights, drumrolls, strobes and lasers but when he threw up his hands and waited for applause, no one clapped. I wondered if we all missed something. When it came time to make his assistant disappear, one could clearly see her jump in and out of the box, which was quite obviously jostled as she did. Card tricks are difficult to perform from the stage, and David tried to get around the problem by -â€" supposedly -â€" having his movements televised on a big screen above the stage. But it was clear that what he was actually doing was performing in sync with a pre-recorded video. His show was disappointing. Another night we sampled Eric Stone's act, the lounge singer in Crooners Bar. He used way too much reverb. It was painful to listen to and sounded quite silly. He had an odd repertoire. I honestly never thought I'd hear Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" in a piano bar. I actually looked closer to assure myself that it wasn't Bill Murray up there doing his old Nick the Lounge Singer act. We stayed about five minutes. We booked an all-day tour in each of the ten ports we visited over twelve days. Actually, there were eleven tours, because the cruise began with an overnight stay in Venice, and we had something planned for both days. In Venice there are no cars, no taxis, and no buses. Everything is done by water. Princess operated a Water Shuttle between the ship and Saint Mark's Square, which ran continuously and took about twenty minutes each way. Tickets were left in the stateroom and a $15 charge for each was applied to your onboard account. The ship's tours included transportation, so we returned them for credit. We started off with a bang the first night with a gondola ride. The old saying is that if you're planning a gondola ride in Venice and you don't think that it's outrageously expensive, perhaps you misunderstood the gondolier. Well, expensive it was, but also quite memorable. We arrived in town at dusk, and it was nearly dark by the time we boarded the boat, four to a gondola. We were given a bottle of Prosecco to enjoy as we set off down the quiet, narrow, dimly lit canals. Every few minutes we passed under a bridge, and the camera-toting tourists looking down snapped photos. The experience was somewhat surreal. Although it was just like I'd always imagined it and everything was just as I'd seen on TV or in the movies, it reminded me of a ride at Disney World - it was so downright cool that it just had to be artificial! I wondered for a second if the gondolas were actually operating on tracks just below the surface. As we entered the Grand Canal with a view of the famous Rialto Bridge to our right, we joined up with several other gondolas full of Ruby passengers and, as the gondoliers propelled the boats parallel to each other and only inches apart, our serenade began. The singer was standing in the middle gondola as his voice rang out in the night, accompanied by Italian accordion. Sure, it's a little corny -â€" but the night would have been incomplete without it. The next day was busy with a tour of Saint Mark's Square and Basilica and the incomparable Doge's Palace before the early afternoon sailaway from Venice, with commentary provided by Port Lecturer Deborah, accompanied by music and broadcast throughout the ship by TV and loudspeaker. This has to be one of the most beautiful and unique experiences in the cruising world -â€" it brought tears to my eyes. Leaving Venice behind, we began the daily routine of a short, leisurely overnight sail to the next port and a new world outside our window each morning. The weather was spectacular the whole way, with not a drop of rain and plenty of warm sunshine. We saw so much, in so many places, that it's all a bit jumbled in my mind even now. I'll mention only the highlights. Dubrovnik's Old Town is a fun place for a stroll, but Cavtat, about 15 km to the south is a gem by the sea, with many shops and restaurants along the waterfront. It's popular with tourists, including the owners of more than a few luxury yachts. Corfu is two miles off the coast of Albania at the closest, and you're sure to meet a few Albanians who've come to Corfu seeking work in the shops of the Old Town. There are examples of Venetian, French, British and Greek styles of architecture on Corfu due to the influence of these rulers through the centuries. Ten kilometers outside town is Achilleion Palace, built by Empress Elisabeth of Austria in 1890 on a hilltop with majestic views of the surrounding hills and valleys and the sea below. The palace and the gardens house many paintings and statues of Achilles. German Kaiser Wilhelm II purchased Achilleion in 1907 after Elisabeth's death and used it as a summer residence. By the 1960's the upper level of the palace had become a casino, and a scene in the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only was filmed there. From Katakalon we easily reached Olympia and the site of the ancient Olympic Games in the morning, leaving the afternoon free for a leisurely visit to Kourouta beach. We soaked up the abundant sunshine, along with a couple of bottles of Mythos beer. Dips in the warm water at this long, sandy beach -â€" quite quiet in late September, kept us relaxed. The waters around Mykonos were churned up by the strong wind -â€" typical almost anytime, we were told. This made the ferryboat ride to the neighboring island of Delos quite a rollercoaster ride. Delos is known as the birthplace of the mythological twin brothers Apollo and Artemis, and, today, as an important archaeological site with extensive excavations dating back to thousands of years before Christ. Our guide led us past the remains of temples and statues, a theater, and the residential area where many of the mansions and villas had mosaic floors, portions of which have survived the passage of centuries. After our tour, we had to wait close to an hour for the next boat back to Mykonos, which put us in danger of missing the meeting time for our afternoon tour. We made it, though -â€" but just barely -â€" and saw Panagia Tourliani Monastery, Kalafatis Beach and a glimpse of the famous windmills of the island, some which were built by the Venetians in the 16th century. In the labyrinthine Old Town, Petros the Pelican, the official mascot of Mykonos, posed for pictures with his admirers along the waterfront. We snuck away from the tour to enjoy a bite to eat at a small restaurant. A gyro -â€" hot and tasty pork and chicken for me, and some spinach pie for my wife. We asked if that was homemade. Our server pointed to his mama, who was finishing her own lunch in a corner of the shop. Our tour of Athens was a highlight of the cruise. How do you top the Parthenon at the Acropolis? It seems like it sits on top of the world -â€" you can take in the entire city at a glance. The rocky slope to the top was very slippery -â€" I saw three older ladies fall, hard, to the ground. The wind was very strong, and as it howled we were sandblasted by the fine dust swept up from the ground. And we were told that the crowds never die down. But taking it all in is worth the effort, and you can understand why the ancients built their temple to Athena in this place. I was surprised at how little of it actually remains, and of that, not much is original -â€" much has been restored. Somewhat ignorantly, I had imagined that it had been sitting peaceably on the hilltop for millennia, undisturbed but for the passage of time. When you learn of its history, though, you find that the truth is quite a different story. The Parthenon had been used as a treasury, a Christian church, a mosque and an ammunition dump. It had been bombed, burned, scavenged, pillaged, and all but destroyed. Our visit to the new Acropolis Museum nearby helped to set the record straight. Open since 2009, the goal of the new museum is to house every artifact from the site. The museum itself sits over an extensive archaeological site. The floor is, in places, made of glass, allowing visitors to see the excavations below. Forget about taking photos of anything inside, though. There were more security guards and cameras than I'd ever seen before in one place -â€" including airports -â€" all to make certain that you do not get too close to anything or to take a picture. For lunch in Athens, we visited a restaurant called Ancient Tastes, where they serve only dishes that might have been eaten by Greeks long ago. So, no potatoes or tomatoes, which came later from the New World, and no forks -â€" the ancients used only knife and spoon. The entrees featured ingredients such as honey, pomegranate and thickly ground barley. Between courses we were entertained by a dancer in traditional costume. The meal was a welcome departure from the usual hotel-style buffet typically served to tour groups. The day concluded in the Plaka, the oldest neighborhood in Athens, with narrow twisting streets of shops, bars, homes and few cars, which are not allowed in most areas. We were given 45 minutes of free time for shopping and exploration. The majority of the stores sell tourist junk, and after we'd perused a handful of nearly identical stores we quickened our pace and went off in search of something more meaningful. The streets were narrow and the buildings tall and plentiful enough to block the big-picture view, but I figured that my innate sense of direction would lead us back to the meeting point in plenty of time. My wife, ever the worrier, began to get nervous the first time a street didn't take us where I thought it would. As we walked, I glanced at my watch from time to time and soon I had to admit that our time was running out, and that I had no idea where we were. Armed with a simple map showing the meeting point and without the ability to speak Greek, our pace ever quickening, I had to do something most guys do only reluctantly: ask for directions. Then ask someone else. Then, to start running -â€" and to ask yet a third person. We came, trotting and out of breath, into the square where the rest of the group waited -â€" with a minute or two to spare. As it turned out, we waited another ten minutes for two ladies who had misunderstood the meeting time and who were slowly strolling up the street, oblivious. Our call in Kusadasi showed me why we try to get as far away from the pier as possible when selecting a tour, for the area around the dock and the surrounding countryside could not be more different. When you step off the ship, you are greeted with shops aplenty and their aggressive proprietors, hawking everything from Turkish carpets to "genuine fake" watches to Turkish Delight and "saffron" - heavy on the quotes - because it is not the famously expensive spice painstakingly collected from the crocus but dried safflower. But as our motor coach headed out to Mt. Koressos to visit The House of the Virgin Mary, a shrine believed to be the last earthly home of the Mother of Jesus, our impressions of the place changed. Enroute, the plains give way to rolling hills and while it looked a bit dry, it reminded me of southern California. Visiting the shrine was an obviously moving experience for many as they walked silently through the building and continued past a wall where prayers, written on slips of paper, were tied into knots and packed tightly together to form a mural of human hope, love and devotion. Then it was down the hill again and out to Ephesus, which in the 1st century BC was the second largest city in the Empire and in the world, with a population of more than a quarter-million. Ephesus is in Asia, but just barely -â€" still, it meant we could check off another on our continents visited list. Ephesus is sprawling, but 85% of the site remains to be uncovered. The highlight was the magnificent Library of Celsus. Next, our tour visited the Basilica of St. John, built over what may have been the apostle's tomb. The past has an almost palpable presence here. Rhodes is not often on cruise ship itineraries so we were lucky to be able to see this rare gem of the Dodecanese islands. Rhodes is best known for something which no longer exists, but our guide pointed out the place where the Colossus may have once stood. That was about all she did right -â€" for many reasons we thought of her as the worst guide we've ever been stuck with, and I will specifically name the Princess tour entitled "Rhodes, Grand Masters Palace & Lindos" as one to be avoided. Why? Lindos is spectacular, and worth the trip, but the rest is either not -â€" or easily within walking distance of the ship. The tour featured a stop at a "gold museum", which was actually simply a store. You can tour the Grand Masters Palace on your own -â€" it's a 10-minute walk from the dock, and by the way, it was never used as a palace. And the "old town" was, once again, a warren of tourist traps. Lindos, though, on the east coast south of the port, is home to the acropolis of Lindos, an ancient fortress high on a hill with spectacular views of the surrounding harbor on one side and the town on the other. If the steep, sloping path up the hill discourages you, there are donkeys for hire that seemed to know the way. Then, Santorini. The weather was perfect. Yes, it was crowded with five or six cruise ships anchored that day, but somehow this beautiful island made me forget about that. It was amazing how alone we could feel just by veering off the heavily congested main shopping street and heading down a small lane or staircase, where we could take in the breathtaking view of the caldera in near solitude. I held up my camera and the pictures practically took themselves. We stopped at Santo Wines, where the samples were generous and the view was unbelievable. Their best wines were made from Assyrtiko grapes, which have adapted to the unique conditions in Santorini, by growing low to the ground to best collect the morning dews, which are often the only moisture available for months at a time. We'd love to come back to this island for a longer stay, and I scouted around and collected a few business cards from hotels with stunning views, but it will have to wait until Greece gets its economy straightened out and the surprise protests and airport closings stop. The day ended with an hour-long wait for the aerial tram back down the hill to the tender dock. Sailaway from Santorini was especially sweet, not only for the views, but also because we had nowhere to go the next day! Our one sea day of the twelve gave us a welcome break and we spent a few hours on the balcony with the wine we'd bought the day before. We had an ambitious day planned for our final port before disembarkation, Naples. When we booked the tour, I wondered how anyone could possibly fit Capri, Sorrento and Pompeii into a single day. But the Princess excursion covering all three was tempting. In the end, we sacrificed quality for quantity -â€" and opted for shorter stays in more places. Visiting the ruins of Pompeii, buried in 79 A.D. when Mount Vesuvius erupted, had been a lifelong goal for us, and we'd have been satisfied if that was all we saw. Of course, you could spend an entire day at Pompeii, but we did catch all the highlights. Ironically, while we were at the site, an exhibit of artifacts from Pompeii opened in a museum back home. It's eerie to visit the excavations with the volcano in view on the horizon. Vesuvius has erupted many times through the centuries, most recently in 1944. Earlier, we'd begun our day with a hydrofoil ride to Capri, which has served as a resort since Roman times. As we strolled along the narrow pedestrian lanes, we realized that in Capri it would be handy to be wealthy. The crowds boarding the ferries back to the mainland were incredible - I thought someone would end up in the water as we struggled along the pier to the boats -â€" but we survived and arrived in Sorrento, in time for a disappointing lunch. The portions were small, which was perhaps for the best as the tastes and textures were nothing special. Afterward, we had a short time to explore the nearby streets and to pick up a few souvenirs. We disembarked the next morning in Civitavecchia and began a three-night visit to Rome, and we kept up a frantic pace right through the weekend. We walked mile after mile through the city, from the Colosseum, to the Parthenon, to the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps, to Saint Peter's Basilica where we climbed the dome and admired the view of the Eternal City from the top. One day, we visited Ostia Antica, the ancient port of Rome, reached easily by train, and spent an afternoon wandering excavations at least as extensive as those in Pompeii. We found some wonderful restaurants, loved the hotel where we stayed, were thrilled with the private transfers that we'd booked, and flew home directly from Rome without problems. It was hard to believe that our long-awaited, fifteen night European odyssey was over. If we had it to do over again, we'd only make a few minor changes, so I'd guess that's a sign of successful planning. If you like history, if you can tolerate crowds, if you don't mind doing some waiting and standing in line, if you can remember that you're there to see some of the most memorable and beautiful sights in all the world, then you'll enjoy every moment. We may never pass that way again, so we made the most of it all, and brought home memories to keep and to treasure. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
We were on the Star Princess Eastern Med, Greek Isles cruise from June 23-July 5, 2011. I was traveling with my teenager and tween, and another friend and her daughter. The route was from Civitavecchia near Rome to Venice. 12 day itinerary ... Read More
We were on the Star Princess Eastern Med, Greek Isles cruise from June 23-July 5, 2011. I was traveling with my teenager and tween, and another friend and her daughter. The route was from Civitavecchia near Rome to Venice. 12 day itinerary with 11 days in port, one day at sea. Summary: We loved the cruise, and it was especially fun for the kids. We found this to be a great way to travel with kids and see many ports without a lot of stress. The staff of the ship were always courteous. Although it's a large ship-I believe we had 2,700 passengers on our cruise-it doesn't feel overly crowded. Food was pretty good and the kids enjoyed the availability of the buffet and snack bars. The itinerary was fantastic. The ship was beautiful and fun to explore. All in all a very positive experience. Pros: Mini-suite was perfect for our family, ship's design makes it feel less crowded, kids programs were wonderful. Staff was amazing and friendly. Also wanted to note the private guided tours we loved so much: Unforgettable Tuscany for Florence/Pisa (info@unforgettabletuscany.com), Pleasant Travel in Naples (www.pleasantravel.com), and Spiros Tours in Athens (spirostours@yahoo.com). Cons: Felt like I was being nickel and dimed for things which should be included in price of cruise like: sodas, coffee, some of the transfers to shore etc. In Rome we stayed in the mini-apartment suite at Albergo del Senato right next to the Pantheon. Loved this hotel and our room. Embarkation was a breeze, but we arrived later than most people, about 3:30 to 4:00pm.Our transfers were through Limo in Rome and they did a great job. We also took a tour with Limo in Rome and it was very good except for the ac was broken in our car. After getting settled in the room we went to explore the ship and get some food at the Horizon Court buffet. We checked out the swimming pools and giant movie screen then got the kids checked in to the kids programs. The cruise was delayed 6 hours while waiting for a plane that was delayed getting into Rome. We arrived late at our 1st port, but after that it was pretty much on time. The mini-suite: We had a mini suite for myself and 2 kids. It was roomy with just enough separation between the sleeping area and the sitting area. My son had a pull down bunk above the sofa, my daughter stayed in the bed w/ me. Great deck outside with a table and 2 chairs. Bathroom had a bath and shower. There was a mini fridge, a desk area and closet space enough for my daughter and I. My son lived out of his suitcase. Our room steward was wonderful, Alberto from the Philippines. We were on Dolphin deck rm. 702. The ship: The design of the ship is great, loved the atrium with all the shops and cafe around it. There are so many discreet spaces to find privacy or for gatherings of smaller groups that it really didn't feel crowded most of the time. There was even a pool at the back of the ship for adults only that was less crowded than the 2 pools for families. The kids programs were right above the buffet and this was a great idea. The food: The food was a step up from our previous experience with Disney cruises food, but was not an amazing experience like I was expecting. We did eat at the Steakhouse 1 night and it was very good, but I'm not sure if it was worth the extra cost. (we had coupons so we went for free) I noticed that the specialty restaurants were never crowded. We ate frequently at the buffet and several times in the dining rooms. We had anytime dining and found that we never had to wait, if we were willing to sit with people we didn't know. We met some great people this way. Service in the dining rooms was very good. The buffet gets a bit repetitive but we still liked it for the convenience. Kids programs: My daughter and her friend were just old enough to check themselves in and out of the kids club, but only when the ship was at sea. This made it more of a choice on their part so it didn't feel like babysitting and they loved that. My daughter always wanted to go to the kids programs, her friend was not so inclined. Her friend could go with her up to the kids area and then check herself out when she got bored. My son loved the teen lounge and he was there all the time he was allowed to be. The kids made friends from all over the U.S. and from all over the world. The itinerary & excursions: This is the reason we booked the cruise-the itinerary was perfect for our family. Ports were: Civitavecchia, Monte Carlo, Florence & Pisa (Livorno), Naples, at sea, Santorini, Mykonos, Athens, Olympia (Katakolon), Corfu, Split and overnight in Venice. We did a combination of private tours and ships excursions. I would have to say that we enjoyed the private tours the most. Florence/Pisa-We had a private tour with Unforgettable Tuscany and the owner/driver was Paolo. This was a wonderful way to see the countryside and tour the sights with the least amount of hassle. All of our tickets were reserved in advance so we by passed the 2-3 hour lines at the Uffizi and Accademia. We stopped briefly in Pisa and then stopped on the way to Florence at a castle. The owner of the castle is a friend of Paolo's. We did a quick tour of the castle and then stopped at Piazzele Michelangelo overlooking Florence. After lunch we went to the church square, then to the Accademia and then to the Uffizi. Made it back to the ship in plenty of time. Mykonos-shore excursion to Platis Yialos beach. Loved the beach, had 3 hours to enjoy ourselves here. After the shore excursion the kids stayed on the boat while my friend and I walked around Mykonos Town. Mykonos Town is very picturesque and fun to explore-lots of winding alleyways. Katakolon-I went into town to shop, the rest of my party stayed on the ship and took a day off. We debarked the boat at 2 p.m. and got on a bus which took us to the airport. The airport was on strike so we were actually lucky our plane took off at all. We flew to Barcelona, Spain and stayed there for a week and then flew home. We all enjoyed the Princess Cruise very much and the kids can't wait to take another one. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
This was our first cruise and we're sold. Princess had the whole process well organized from beginning to end. We booked our own flights and stayed a day or two at each end (Barcelona and Venice). The transfers to/from the ship were ... Read More
This was our first cruise and we're sold. Princess had the whole process well organized from beginning to end. We booked our own flights and stayed a day or two at each end (Barcelona and Venice). The transfers to/from the ship were easy. We took a combination of ship's tours and independent tours of ports. The ship's tours were very well organized (especially considering that over 2000 passengers take tours at each port). However, we felt that the time involved in gathering, waiting, following the group, waiting for stragglers, etc. was too great compared to the actual touring time. The independent tours allowed more flexibility without the administrative time. Our cabin (a mini-suite) was great and the steward was very responsive. We were amazed that the ship never seemed crowded. There was always some place to go that was relaxing. We were on the ship for 12 days and were discovering places up to the last day. We highly recommend the eastern Med cruise. The ports were interesting. If anything, there are too many. We kept wondering when we would be able to sleep late and do nothing all day. This was our first cruise and it was a great experience. We already considering others. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
I try to visit Europe once or twice a year and this was my first European cruise. I relied a lot on these boards for advice so I want to pay-it-forward. Dining: We had an 8:30 seating for dinner. We were a group of 35 and depending ... Read More
I try to visit Europe once or twice a year and this was my first European cruise. I relied a lot on these boards for advice so I want to pay-it-forward. Dining: We had an 8:30 seating for dinner. We were a group of 35 and depending on what table you sat at, your waiters varied. They all aimed to please but as always, some were better than others but the service was what I would expect in a nice restaurant at home. The food was above good - and some things like the lamb chops and the passion fruit souffle - rocked my world. The one time I ordered something that I wasn't satisfied with, it was taken away without judgement and replaced by another dish. Buffet/Food Options: I only did the buffet for breakfast and it was fine. I did get tired of serving myself towards the end of the cruise and took advantage of doing the sit-down dinning at breakfast in the Davinci dinning room. It was nice but the food was the same as the buffet but the coffee was MUCH better : )I did the Fish-n-Chips at the Wheelhouse Bar on one sea day - it was good and I would recommend it. I also did the cheese burger a couple days after returning to the ship and that too was enjoyable. The International Cafe did have very good chicken salad and a shrimp salad that I would frequently pick up and snack on before dinner. I tried the gelato everyone raves about - it is $1.50 extra - and in all honesty, I would not waste my money. I did not think it was worth it; it was more like ice cream than gelato. Vines Wine Bar: Being our seating was so late I would stop at the Vines and have a glass of wine and either a plate of cheese or tapas. The cheese plate was awesome and the tapas were not anything to write home about. I do not like sushi so I can not review it but a couple I met there came every night for sushi and said it was fabulous - they used to own a sushi bar in Boston. What I really enjoy about the wine bar was Cyril the bartender. He was very professional and knowledgeable about wines. He took the time to learn my taste and recommended some perfect wines. I never planned on purchasing a bottle but ended up buying 3 or 4. He also did not suggest the most expensive wines - which I appreciated. As far as pricing for the wine, beer, and cocktails - I thought the prices were fair and what I would typically pay at a chain restaurant in Minnesota. A bucket of domestic beer was $22 for 5, happy hours for a pina coladas was $3.99 (3 - 6 pm) and an Amaretto Sour at the night club was $6.84 including gratuity. Stateroom: I was sharing a room with a friend's cousin whom I never met. We had an inside stateroom on the Caribe deck. Our room was the last room on the port side, right before the suites. The ride was smooth and I liked the hum of the engines. I was surprised how large the space was. They do a nice job laying out the room to make it the most efficient and I liked that the bathroom was separated by the closet from the sleeping area. I did take the advice and brought a "shoe rack" to hang over the bathroom door to store things. I am glad I did. There was plenty of space (drawers, shelves) to put stuff in/on but I do not like clutter and like the feeling of being organized. I was able to put everything I did not immediately need for the shower in the shoe rack so I did not have to wait for the bathroom to be empty before I could get ready. I also stored all my chargers, shoes, lotions, curling irons, camera, and many other misc. things in it. As for the hair dryer - it is bad. I have fine hair and even my hair took a long time to dry. If it is important to you to dry your hair, I would recommend bringing your dryer from home. I did bring the power strip. It did come in handy when I was charging my camera battery because my charger is larger and the strip just made it easier. Activities: I am not much for group activities but I did do Movies Under the Stars and went to the Galley Tour/Cooking Class - I really enjoyed both. I spent most of my free time by the pool and I never had a problem finding a chair. Tours: I did the Ephesus tour with the Terrace Houses in Kusadasi. It was wonderful and the up charge to visit the Terrace Houses was TOTALLY worth it. That was the only tour I took from the ship. Others in my party regularly did tours through the ship - they enjoyed the tours but they had MANY complaints about the staff who worked the excursion desk. They found them rude, short, and uncaring. The people I was with are the most low-maintenance people who never have a harsh word to say so I believe that they were treated badly. Boarding/Leaving: Both processes were painless. I would highly recommend logging on and entering all your information on Princess website before going and checking prior to leaving that everything you requested is correct. I also got a copy of my bill the day before we left to check it against my receipts. It was correct. I am not a cruiser and I probably won't do another one for awhile because I do like more freedom and staying in cities longer to really feel the culture - but this was a great way to see so many countries in only 12 days. It also made me more comfortable with Turkey and Greece (this was my first time there) and I now know that I will definitely go back to Istanbul and Mykonos and skip Athens and Kusadasi. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
We took this cruise because it was our Pearl wedding anniversary and we wanted a short get away to celebrate. Star Princess was perfect for us, we were able to get a table for 2 every evening in the Portofino restaurant with no trouble at ... Read More
We took this cruise because it was our Pearl wedding anniversary and we wanted a short get away to celebrate. Star Princess was perfect for us, we were able to get a table for 2 every evening in the Portofino restaurant with no trouble at all. With the exception of one evening the menu was excellent, the only poor menu was the "Chef's Menu" which was the worst menu we hae seen on any Princess ship, the usual regular alternative choices were not listed and since I had not had need to look at them previously I didn't know what they were and the waiters at our table didn't know either. I requested a small portion of a pasta dish as a starter because there were only 2 starters on the menu and I disliked both dishes, the waiter brought out a very large portion of gnocchi and when I said that I had requested pasta she replied that gnocchi was same thing (not in my opinion as I don't like gnocchi). My only other problem with the food was that quite often I thought that it was over salted but this maybe because I don't use salt at home so I notice it when it is present in food. With the exception of the one female waiter who thinks that gnocchi is pasta the restaurant staff were wonderful and our cabin steward was second to none. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
We started our vacation in Rome, and needed transportation from the airport to our hotel in Rome (and later to and from the port of Civitavecchia). We picked Rome Shuttle Limousine, as they had one of the least expensive services, with a ... Read More
We started our vacation in Rome, and needed transportation from the airport to our hotel in Rome (and later to and from the port of Civitavecchia). We picked Rome Shuttle Limousine, as they had one of the least expensive services, with a useful website (romeshuttlelimousine.com), excellent responses to my emails, and good reviews on CruiseCritic and TripAdvisor. We're very glad we picked them as they were reliable; had large, clean vans; spoke acceptable to very good English; and were exceptionally helpful. This was especially true of our driver for the port to the airport where my friend needed a wheelchair and assistance; his help really made a difference when it was most needed. Our hotel in Rome was the Hotel del Corso (website: www.hoteldelcorsoroma.com), based on location (near the Spanish Steps) and reviews. Once again, the reviews were on target, because we found the hotel's location perfect, the rooms relatively large (for Europe), clean, and with a staff that could not be more helpful. The downside is that both of our rooms faced the Via del Corso, which made it pretty noisy until between midnight and 1 AM or so. The included breakfast was also better than the standard continental, with fruit, yogurt, hard boiled eggs, and excellent cappuccino. Internet service was also available. We had been in Rome before, but still wanted to get the most out of our short stay, so we did two free tours (Spanish Steps to the Vatican, ditto to the Coliseum) from RomeFreeTours.com. Both were excellent; the guides work for tips, so plan accordingly. We also did an excellent paid tour of the Vatican Museum through MaximusTours.com (also known as VaticanTour.com). We (re) did the Pantheon with their excellent AudioGuides, strolled in the Piazza Navona and Trastevere section, and overall enjoyed the Eternal City. The Star Princess is very similar to the Sapphire Princess, the ship we previously cruised on. The cabins are very well laid out, which gives as much usable space as you're likely to get in a moderate cost cabin. I thought the temperature control was not very good, with both our cabin (set at the lowest temperature setting) and the common areas sometimes very warm. The food is still very good (especially the International Cafe for snacks or light lunches), but service is beginning to suffer now that most people just go with the ship-imposed (recommended?) daily gratuity charges instead of tipping actual individuals. Several times we needed to ask to get our water glasses refilled or have more wine poured. Service at the purser's desk was another source of irritation: there were almost always moderately long lines, partly because of understaffing, but mostly because you needed the purser's desk for almost any problem that might arise. Want another copy of the Princess Patter? Stand on line. Want to get a copy of your current room charges? Stand on line because there's no terminal where you could request that. Need foreign currency? Stand on line because all the on-board machines to do that were out of service. Still, the staff was always friendly and willing to help when they could. The ship offers the usual activities, such as trivia once or more daily, galley tours, art auctions (free champagne!), generally decent entertainment, and an almost unlimited number of activities that get you to spend money (wine tastings, spa treatments, teeth whitening demos, and lots more). This constant nickel-and-diming, though, is no different than any other ship we've sailed with, and rather than be turned off by it we were able to accept it as the way we were able to get a very inexpensive cruise. Some of these extra charges, especially drinks, wine, and boutique merchandise, seemed very reasonably priced; other profit centers (think photographs and Internet connectivity) seemed overly expensive. For coffee lovers, the coffee card (15 cups of cappuccino, latte, espresso, and more) was a good buy at $24, especially if your travel agent is able to get you the coupon booklet which includes a buy-one-get-one-free offer. That lets you get an ice-blended mocha caramel coffee for under a buck. With the card, premium fresh brewed coffee, hot chocolate, and premium tea are always available for free. A final note: we are very pleased with Princess's policy of allowing each of us to bring a bottle of wine on board for personal consumption (the three of us actually brought on a 3 liter box -- no breakage on the flight overseas). It was especially useful when we made friends with fellow passengers upgraded to a balcony cabin. We opted to use RamsesTours.com for our overnight stay in Cairo. We were met promptly at the port and taken to a large, clean van. I was raised in NYC where driving is considered a contact sport, but I'd perhaps rather stuff hot pokers into my eyes than try and negotiate a car in Egypt. Nevertheless, our driver made driving (safely) in Egypt look almost simple! Our guide, Islam Said, was knowledgeable about all of the places we visited, giving us good history and advice throughout the long trip from Alexandria to the pyramids and at the various sites we visited, even those that we added that were not on their regular tour. Our only problem was the Nile Dinner Cruise, which everyone thought was a waste of money (institutional quality food, high prices for drinks, overly loud music, hokey belly dancer and "Whirling Dervish"-type dancer). The Cairo Museum had some fantastic displays, especially the King Tut exhibit, but also had its downside, namely many exhibits without any clarifying information about what was displayed. Hopefully this will change when the new museum is built. Ramses booked us at the Mercure Cairo Le Sphinx hotel (formerly the Sofitel). A few reviews to the contrary, we found the hotel to be clean, spacious, with a view of the pyramids and with an excellent included breakfast. Khios was the big problem in terms of setting up a tour. All three of the tour companies I found wanted some to full pre-payment in advance, which is a real problem when there's a substantial chance that the weather will not let you tender in. After a lot of emails, our tour company (SunriseTours.gr) accepted a reservation for a full day tour for 7 without requiring any deposit. Due to a tour guide strike in Greece, and some communications problems in emails between our group and Sunrise, this tour fell apart at the last minute, but Sunrise was very flexible in putting together an alternative that covered what we wanted for a very good price. I'm glad we could work so well with Sunrise, because we did enjoy our tour of the island, the monastery perhaps more than the Mastic villages, although both were fairly interesting. We were to Istanbul a year before this cruise, and it is a very easy city in which to get around on your own, so we took the tram to the Sultanahmet stop (the heart of the city) and toured the Basilica cistern (okay, but not as good as we expected); the Grand Bazaar (shopping on steroids, with haggling over price the thing to do); and the Sulemaniye mosque (not as impressive as last year's stop at the Blue Mosque, but worth seeing in its own right). For a city that is relatively inexpensive, though, we found it easy to spend way too much money for what you get at lunch. Grabbing something on the go is a better idea here. This review doesn't talk about the Blue Mosque, Topkapi, or Hagia Sophia, because we did that last year on a land tour, but all of those sites should be on your MUST SEE list. We were in Kusadasi/Ephesus a year ago, but the area was worth a return visit, especially because we hadn't done the optional terrace houses in Ephesus last time. This is a definite "Don't Miss" attraction. Ephesus itself is an ancient city, possibly as well preserved as Pompeii, and a more important, wealthier city in its time. We went with HelloEphesus.com, which has an easy to navigate web site that includes prices that are actually listed (no need to request them via email) and very reasonable. Like the other companies we used, Hello Ephesus was waiting for us when we got off the ship with a clean and large van. Our guide, Yigit, was excellent; although we had been there a year ago, Yigit found much to talk about in Ephesus that we hadn't previously covered. He not only knew his history but was also pleasant and friendly. Our driver, Mustafa, was also professional and an asset to our trip. We did not revisit the Virgin Mary house this trip, but recommend it to those who haven't been there before. In Athens, we used Paul Kalomiris, owner of GreekTaxi.gr. Paul responded quickly to our emails and provided an excellent running commentary (in near-perfect English) as we drove through Athens to the various sites. Licensed guides are required for the Acropolis, but we hooked up with one and got information overload. The guidebook Paul provided would probably have been all we needed for a good overview of the site, which is really what we wanted. Paul was good about watching the time and got us back to the ship without any time concerns. Athens, as a city, has a lot to recommend it. The Acropolis is the main focus for tourists, and is certainly worth an extended visit, considering how much there is to see and do at that site alone. Related to that is another important site, the New Acropolis Museum, which contains many artifacts from the Acropolis (replaced, on-site, by reproductions such as the friezes from the Parthenon). The museum's construction, however, left a lot of open space inside, so it can be gone through perhaps quicker than one might expect. There are good descriptions in English and a recommended short movie (subtitled and English) talking about the Parthenon and Acropolis. The ticket for the Acropolis includes many other sites in Athens (although the museum is an additional 5 E), and includes something like an additional 10-12 sites including Hadrian's Library, the Ancient Agora, the Roman Agora, and the Temple of Zeus. Our final port of call was Naples, where AmedeoAvellino.com had been recommended. Although we knew that his company could not act as a guide at Pompeii, we did think the driver or another person would give us background information about Pompeii and the other sites on our itinerary. There was some misunderstanding, as all we got was a car and driver. Our driver, Nicola, spoke minimal English, but directed us to a wonderful restaurant for lunch and was very helpful when one of us fell on a step and tore a ligament in her ankle. Naples itself is the port not for Pompeii and also the Amalfi coast drive. We had been in Pompeii previously, which was good because we got very little out of it this time, having found the AudioGuides not very useful. We think the cost of a licensed guide, shared among several people, is a much better deal, but no one showed up until after we rented the AudioGuides (we were there early and off-season). The drive to Amalfi, however, was wonderful, and Ravello was an excellent place to stop, visit, and have lunch. Although the coastal drive is really the main attraction, Amalfi itself is also an interesting town worth the time. Be sure to visit the church. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
We wrote this review as events happened, almost like a blog. We are Christians, but we are not going to the Holyland for a pilgrimage. We took this trip to see the "old" world: Athens, Rome, Jerusalem and the Pyramids. By and ... Read More
We wrote this review as events happened, almost like a blog. We are Christians, but we are not going to the Holyland for a pilgrimage. We took this trip to see the "old" world: Athens, Rome, Jerusalem and the Pyramids. By and large, mission accomplished, and we had a great time. Everything else were bonuses. Athens Arrived at Athens and stayed at the Classic Baby Grand Hotel, part of the SLH group (Small Luxury Hotel of the world) The hotel is as advertised ... unique. Front desk is made from a pair of cut up Austin Minis, and the walls, well, it is different. You either liked it or hated it. You really have to see it in person (or you can look at their web page pictures). All the rooms are nicely decorated with "art" painted on the wall. You have to put the key card in a slot before the lights will work. You pull the card out, all the powers are off. Good energy saving feature. On the drive from airport to hotel, saw a lot of solar panels on roof tops. Gasoline is 1.50 Euro a litre, which is like $10 a gallon. The reception/lobby/front desk is on the second level. The staffs are friendly and speak some English! The elevator is tiny. Barely enough to hold 4 people and only if you are really skinny. We crowded 4 people in it and the door won't close as my back pack is in the way. It said the weight limit is 450 Kg which is only 900 pounds. After checking in, we walked to Plaka, passing the city market, the various squares, the flea market etc. Stopped in a few old churches along the way and at the square by Plaka, saw the Acropolis up top. We are going to Delphi tomorrow. I think it is 2 hours bus ride there. We joined a tour and will be picked up at and returned to the hotel. Food is expensive. 18 euros for breakfast at the hotel. Food is very good. 2 euros for coffee (no refills) Plan to spend 50 euros per person per day on 3 meals. Great choices of cheaper restaurants along Adrianou. Portions larger and prices more reasonable. Lots of tourists and local. Loved the traditional Greek coffee. Kept me and DW up all day, making it easier to adjust to time zone difference. Tomorrow, Acropolis, city tour and embarkation. Delphi /Arachova Took about 3 hours to get to Delphi from Athens. It was bumper to bumper traffic in Athens, almost an hour just to get out of town. Drivers are suicidal. I'm glad I am not driving. Saw a lot of white boxes with cross on top, looks like mini churches or shrines, along the side of the highway. Tour guide said they are shrines for people who were killed in accidents. Stopped and looked at some of them, very interesting. The Apollo's Oracle is not what I have expected. Guide is knowledgeable and talked about both history and mythology at the site. Place not busy at all with only a handful of groups. View at the valley below is spectacular. I can see why the ancient Greeks look at the place as the center of their universe. Made an unscheduled stop at Arachova, a ski village along the way. Interesting place built on the side of the mountain. They are selling snowboards and the weather is 25C (82F?). The streets are very narrow. There are some carpet stores. Unfortunately, carpets not made in Greece. Acropolis The place is jammed pack with people and we were told that this is actually a slow day. On the way up the hill, it is wall to wall people. Reminded me of Boxing Day in a mall. Can't imagine what it would be like if it is any busier. The view is breath taking. You can see for miles. The new museum opened last year and it is very interesting. They ran out of certain English souvenir books already and they won't sell me the beat up worn out tattered demo copy. The restoration is on-going. It is much more impressive than Delphi. My recommendation, if you are press for time, skips Delphi. There are a whole lot more interesting things to do in Athens. We would have loved to spend more time in Plaka and the surrounding areas. We stopped by the temple of Zeus. The Hadrian's Arch is right there as well. The national Garden and the Parliament are along the way. We missed the changing of the guard at the Parliament. We also stopped at the original Olympics stadium; nothing to see there except a big empty stadium. The academy of learning and all the old buildings are impressive. The guide said lots of things have been looted in the past and a lot of them are taken to Rome and other places. Pireas The port is in Pireas and with only 680 passengers, checking in were easy with practically zero line up. We walked up, they took the luggage at curb side, we walked inside, get the cruise card, go through security, that's it. They kept your passport and give you a passport receipt. Make sure you made photocopies of your passport before you go and keep the copy some place safe just in case. It is not necessary but just in case. We made a photocopy of our passport, laminated it and kept in our wallet. Our first impression of the ship? We have mixed feelings as this is our first "small ship" cruise. DW was disappointed at first. This is an old Renaissance ship converted by Princess so it is missing a few of the Princess features that we have come to expect. I love the ship's library and the piano bar. I can spend hours there. The artwork that adorned the Pacific Princess was disappointing; the Princess mega ships' artwork collections are much more impressive. The Pacific Princess actually had mirrors instead of art work on the back staircase. If you keep comparing it to the mega ships, you will definitely be disappointed. DW also commented that the ship reminded her of the old Queen Mary with the old style dEcor. She missed those big atriums of the mega ships. The stair cases, they are narrow. One thing that we really missed: anytime dining. It is not available at all. The cabin decor is fine with a flat panel TV and a few modern features. There are 4 plug-ins with 2 for 110 and 2 for 220. All the things you needed are there. The closet is smaller than what we are used to. There is still plenty of space, just not as roomy. We travelled light with 1 suitcase each. For those who travels with 2 or more pieces each. You may run out of space. Empty suitcases can fit under the bed. We have never needed to do that on the other Princess ships but have to do it here to make room. Although the decor in general is "old style", it is not "old". For a twenty year old ship, it looked great! Almost like a vintage car at a vintage car show. It is shiny, it looks new, but you knew it is not new. It grows on you. We ended up enjoying it more than we will ever admit. We can get from point A to point B real quick. Forgot to bring a camera? No problem! It took no time at all to get back to the cabin and retrieve it; on a mega ship, it will take a while. Since we are not gamblers so we are not disappointed at the very small Casino, there were never more than 20 people in there. We love to explorer the ship when we first get onboard. It didn't take long this time. DW didn't even get lost once and we found all the places and we walked everywhere. Our cabin is on Deck 7. The pool, the buffet, spa, fitness center and the usual stuff are on deck 9. Library, internet cafe and Sabatini are on deck 10. The cabaret, the dining room, casinos, shops are on Deck 5. Speaking of internet, the satellite system they have is older and the connection speed is much slower than the other Princess ships. Took a long time just to send a couple emails. My connection to the office doesn't work at all. Good excuse for me to not checking in on work stuff. The ship is supposed to get new internet equipment in a month's time. Spoke to the manager of the internet cafe; it is interesting that he had his training on a Carnival ship. This is his first contract with Princess but he had his "test run" on a Carnival ship that do weekend cruises. Santorini Everything is great except for the light rain in the early afternoon which we don't mind at all. We were tendered ashore on a three mast sailing boat. No, they didn't run up the sail. This is the most impressive tender that I have been on. The tender took us to Athinos and the bus took us to Pyrgos, the first stop. The way up is interesting and the road zigzags along the cliff. Some sections of guard rails are missing. Guide joked with the driver commenting that there must the place the driver missed the turn last time and took a tumble. The tour took us all over including the black sand (and gravel?) beach at Kamari, which is on the other side of the island. Water is very warm and this is October. There are tiny churches all over. There is a small village with a population of 250 and they have 42 churches! Oia (pronounced as (ee-ah) is interesting, located at the tip of the island. Last stop was Thira, the capital. There are 3 ways to go to Skala, where the tender will take you back to the ship. You can walk down the 800 steps (20 minutes) or take the donkey ride. We walked down the path for about a minute for the view and headed back up. We also decided against the donkey ride and took the third option down, which is the cable car. As a rained a bit earlier on, the pathway was wet and slippery and brown. The brown stuff is from the donkeys as donkeys in general are not toilet trained. The brown stuff got mushy after the animal and people stepped on it. Some people had walked up the steps from Skala. Definitely not recommended for people not in good physical shape. People in Santorini were very friendly. Most shop would have someone who spoke some English. The pre-historic museum was closed due to staff strike. Patmos Patmos' claim to fame is St. John and the cave where he received the visions that resulted in the book of Revelations. Most tours would stop at the St. John Grotto and the Monastery of St. John the Theologian. If you are deeply religious, the sights are inspiring. In the Monastery, the Christodoulous chapel holds a lot of artefacts and wall paintings. They are also very strict about no photography, and not even polite about it. The same goes for the treasury, which is now a museum. I guess one can say that they want to protect the treasures from deterioration from the light (camera flash), or they just want to sell you the books and the DVDs. We have also visited a 300 year old house in Hora. The owner of the house is 9th generation on the island and is very gracious in showing her home. We have always heard story about poor plumbing that you are not allowed to throw toilet paper in the toilet. You wipe and then you put the toilet paper in a basket next to the you know what. Well, I have experienced it first-hand. I was impressed as it is less messy than I thought, but smelly just the same. We saw some people lined up to use the facilities, read the sign, and decided against going. The market around the tender dock is quite clean and safe. We walked around for quite a bit and DW finally found a genuine Kourbella, which made her very happy. She had been looking for one since Santorini. The weather was okay but it was very windy. We were warmed by several staff at the ship that the sea would be rough on the way to Kusadasi. We felt a bit of side to side motion, but overall, it wasn't bad. We have been in much rougher water than this and no one warned us. I wonder if it is because it is on a smaller ship. Kusadasi We decided on the last minute to cancel the tour to St. John's Basilica and Virgin Mary Shrine. We opted for the Terrace Houses instead. We have been told all kinds of things about the Terrace Houses and there are lots of rumors about the costs, limiting the number of people visiting etc.; none of them were true. The cost of entrance is 15 TL, which is about $10. They give you a 2 part ticket. One for you and one for your guide. The Terrace Houses is actually located inside the ruins of Ephesus, and you have to pay admission to Ephesus to get to the Terrace Houses. We met some people who were in Turkey earlier in the year and they were refused entry to the Terrace Houses without a guide. They have restored only a handful of houses but what we saw were impressive, even by today's standard. Imagine a house built around 5th century with central heating, running water, functioning toilets, (with separate toilet for women), mosaic floors and wall paintings, marbled walls, you really have to see it to believe it. We made the right choice to go see the Terrace Houses instead of Virgin Mary Shrine. We thought Ephesus is better preserved than Delphi. The Amphitheatre can sit 25,000. The city itself is huge and although less than 10% has been excavated, it looks massive. The library features an underground tunnel to the brothel, or at least that's what the guide said. It is certainly a worthwhile stop. It is disappointing that the ship's excursion doesn't offer a package that takes you to St. John's Basilica, the Virgin Mary Shrine, and ancient Ephesus including the Terrace Houses. You can see them all in about 6 hours if rushed, and 8 hours if you like a slower pace. Maybe they wanted to leave some time for you to shop at the carpet stores. Booking your own qualified and accredited guide and go outside of the ship's excursion is the way to go if you want to see them all. The ship's excursion is far too short and you are rushed from site to site. The flea market outside ancient Ephesus is interesting as well. There is a stall that sells "genuine fake watches". You know what you are buying ... the real fake, not a phony fake. You really have to bargain hard. The price they asked for is ridiculous. A store by the harbor wanted 25 Euros for a nice cotton sweater. I thought I did well by getting the price down to 18 Euros but no further. We decided to walk away. 4 or 5 blocks later, the same merchandise, DW had the price down to 15 Euros, and the final price was 3 for 40 Euros. The handmade carpets are gorgeous. Do not go inside any carpet store for a carpet making demonstration. I repeat. Do not enter! The sales pitch is soft but the pressure to buy is there. At least they are not as bad as those selling time-shares in Florida. Complimentary beverages and pastries were offered, and of course, the price for the free beverages is to sit through their sales pitch. If you have never experienced it, by all means, go see it. The silk carpets are really nice. We decided to try local food and beverages and headed to a local open air cafe. If you enjoy a strong coffee, make sure you ask for a Turkish coffee. DW ordered an Apple Tea. Both are famous local beverages. Sea Days The entertainment on a small ship is very limiting. They don't have a theatre and the shows are done at the Cabaret. The seating arrangement is not bad, but if you are short, you better sit at the first few rows or you won't see much as the floor is not slanted. The comedian magician is forgettable. I was never big on them anyway. One show featured a vocalist, Kaitlyn Carr, from Scotland. I thought she was passable and DW said she was off key a few times. She also played the traditional flute. Maybe it was her rendition of the Lord of the dance that did it. At the end of the show, Kaitlyn received a standing ovation from the crowd. The staged shows are similar to what we have seen at other Princess ships. Since we were on another Princess ship recently, we have seen the "Dance-Dance-Dance" before. The music was familiar with a twist. First off, without the stage, there were only 2 singers and 6 dancers instead of the full compliments of 4 singers and 12 dancers of their mega ship. The stage sets were missing and the costumes were also less elaborate. Sections disappeared and were replaced (the Indian dance was missing). The singers and the dancers performed well enough and they performed all the crowd pleasers. We noticed that at least 2 of the dancers are also assistant cruise directors. So the question is: are they dancers training to be cruise directors? Or are they cruise directors learning to be dancers? We have also noticed that there are quite a few people on their first contract. The young fellow who was selling the shore excursions is on his first contract. He is extremely knowledgeable on the shore excursions being offered. He said that part of his training was that he had to go to all the shore excursions and experienced them first-hand. What a tough job! It does appear that this small ship is being used as a training ground. This could be both good and bad. The good is that they are all trying very hard, going the extra mile. The bad is if you are on the ship while they just completed a crew rotation, you may get stuck with some freshly trained newbies. The ship's roaming photographer definitely falls under the later category. Although this is his first contract, it could be his last (I certainly hope so). He lacks customer service skills and was rather rude when passengers turned down his offer to take pictures in the dining room. This is only day 4 and so far, the food quality is impressive, much better than the other Princess ships we have experienced, except for Ruby's maiden voyage in 2008. Not that the food on the other Princess ships were bad. As it turns out, there is a reason for it. The Princess corporate executive chef Alfredo Marzi who holds the title of "Master Chef Commendatore" is on board. He travels from ship to ship for inspection and training (here is that word again!) purposes to ensure things are up to snuff. We knew about him because we attended his cooking demonstration and special dinner at the Ruby's maiden voyage. If you like your special coffees like espresso and latte, buy the "coffee card". It is $24 now but you get 15 premium coffees. Since we have a 2 for one coupon, for $24, we get 2 cards, good for 30 drinks - a very good deal and much cheaper than Starbucks. More on Food and Entertainment The show called "Shake Rattle and Roll" is new, featuring songs from the 50s and 60s, including Buddy Holly, Elvis, Monkee, Beatles, Sonny & Cher etc. The Sonny and Cher skit was funny. Since this is the "light" version for a smaller ship, I am looking forward to see the full version on the Mega ships. "Tribute" is also new. Featuring music from Beatles, Beach Boys and the Rat pack. With only 2 singers, the 2 fill-ins are a bit weak. The second female singer just didn't have the voice needed. The female lead is good. Again, I am looking forward to the full version. Went to Sabatini, one of the two extra charge restaurants available. The portions are big. We were stuffed long before main entrEe arrives. DW ordered lobster tail and 2 full tails showed up on the plate. My veal chop was almost 2 inches thick. Asked for doggy bag and waiter was miffed by the request. Guess he didn't have a dog at home. Alfredo Marzi did a cooking demonstration. It was a very similar show from 2 years ago and the same pitch for his cook book. He preached to the audience not to waste any food, there are hungry people in the world etc. etc. Of course you don't want to waste any food. It is called money and their profit margin. He was funny at times. He took off his chef hat to show us that there is no "rat" under his hat when he was preparing the ratatouille. The internet service is getting worst. Skype was working a couple of days ago and now it doesn't work at all. It worked on the other ships. Maybe the problem was not the equipment but they tried to lock it down so tight that it became unusable. I really don't care what works and what doesn't as long as it is consistent across the board so that I can plan for it. Haifa Funny how information flows quite freely on the ship. The cruise director mentioned that 90 passengers had booked the Israel overnight tour and a total of 580 passengers had booked the excursions, leaving only a handful who booked tours on their own. We were given passport receipts when we boarded the ship in Pireas. We will have to go through "immigration" and redeem our passports and the "landing cards" before you can go ashore. A couple of passengers were not allowed to go ashore. I guess it must have happened before as no one seemed surprised by it. The port itself is in an industrial area. There were no duty free shops or anything like that. Once you got your passport and landing card, you disembark and go straight to the bus, or the waiting car and leave the dock. The Pacific Princess was docked next to a freighter. The security is really not as tight as I thought it would be. No one is carrying assault rifles standing at the gangway (like in Mexico) or anything like that. But, there were many check points to go through. The IDF had asked the tour guide for her cell phone number ... maybe for emergency contact? On our return to the ship, the bus stopped at the check point, a security person come on board and asked a series of silly questions. Are you carrying things on board for people? Did you see them package your purchases? Are you carrying guns? We reached the ship's gangway finally, cold towel from the ship and passport inspection once more before boarding. Despite being October, and supposed to be cool, it didn't feel that way. The temperature approached 90F and it was humid. From Haifa, we travelled to the Sea of Galilee, which is a big lake. I didn't know it is below sea level, and it supplies the majority of the water to the whole country. We were at the shore and the water is brownish and looks dirty. People are bottling it and drinking it as if it is holy water. We also stopped at Mount of Beatitudes. Nothing really too exciting there. The Church of Multiplication and Tabgha is next. Again, nothing exciting there either. This is the place where Jesus supposedly performed his miracle of multiplication with the fish and the bread. Everyone is taking picture of the rock where he supposed had sat on while performing the miracle. Up next is the River Jordon, Capernaum and Nazareth. This is the Holyland tour so you are supposed to see and know your religious stuff. If you are not religious or don't know the bible stories, you will be bored. The Yardenit site is not the place where Jesus was baptised. Apparently the real place is too close to the border so they built this place (shrine?) with a big souvenir shop selling, you guessed it, water jugs ($5 each) to fill your own water from the River Jordon to take home. There is a place where you can go and "touch" the water. If you want the full "experience", you must buy a white gown ($25), go change and then you can soak in the river. When you came out, it is like a wet t-shirt contest so one should try to be modest and bring towel or wear bathing suit beneath. There were many embarrassing moments for the soakers. The Yardenit gift shop carries dates and honey among other things, including mud pack for moisturising. Of course they have books and maps and religious artefacts. Other than the honey and mud pack, you can buy the rest of the stuff elsewhere. (okay, not the water jugs and water) We kept running into a Korean church youth group. They were singing hymns and chanting while we were inside the churches. It really added to the atmosphere. Some people were downright emotional to the point that they cried. By the way, toilets (WC) are not free and typically they will charge ½ Euro or $1 to use the facilities. Make sure you have loose change as they do not give any change back. One more thing: no bare shoulders and bare knees on any Holy Sites. Show some respect and dress appropriately. Ashdod/Jerusalem Ashdod is another industrial port. Both Ashdod and Haifa claimed to be Israel's largest port. Again, there is nothing nearby. The temperature is cooler, but not by much, still mid-80s. Since we kept the passport, we just meet the tour bus and headed out. The cheapest souvenir shopping is inside the old city of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. But, you may not want to go to Bethlehem after reading what I have to say. We thought Acropolis was crowded. Well, we were wrong. The "attractions" (or Holy sites) were jammed pack with wall to wall people. Drivers and people in general are aggressive. Drivers lean on the horn to voice their displeasure when the tour bus is loading or unloading passengers, blocking their way or slowing them down. Patience is not in their vocabulary. First stop at Mount Olive with a great view of the old city, Next stop was Garden of Gethsemane. Some nuns were hand picking the olives from the tree. I thought shaking the tree and let the olives drop would be more efficient but that is not the way. You may do that on the field but not here. The Garden's claim to fame is this is the place where Judas betrayed Jesus. A church was built there and the inside, of course, was packed. We entered the old city through the Dung Gate, so named because there used to piles of dung there in the olden days. Huh? I was very surprised by the gender segregation. Men went through security on the left and women on the right. They check your bags and you walk through a metal detector before you enter into the open space (or square) in front of the Western Wall. There were armed soldiers patrolling with big guns. When approaching the western Walls, again, men to the left, ladies to the right. There is a prayer hall on the men's side but you must cover your head to go in. Obviously, no females allowed although the hall was donated by a female. Go figure. If you need to go to bathroom, here is the place, by the Western Wall. It's free and it's clean. Next up was the walk along the "Via Dolorosa", following the path that Jesus took on his way to the crucifixion. We walked through the alley ways of the old city, stopping at all the stops and ended at the Church of Holy Sepulcher. We have never been with so many people in the same place all at once. Let's just say that you don't have to walk anywhere within the Church of Holy Sepulcher. You get pushed. You are allowed to take pictures but it is almost impossible as everyone else was trying to do the same. They would be in front of you, next to you, behind you. All you see is a sea of people. The last few stops for Via Dolorosa are inside the Church of Holy Sepulcher and were considered the most Holy of Holy sites. They (priests?) would hurry you along or would tell you that you cannot take pictures of certain things, or that you are not properly dressed and boot you out. Here is a reminder again: no bare shoulders and bare knees on any Holy Sites. I didn't know the Armenians hold the majority of the space inside the Church of All Nations. Trivia question for you. Which faith (or factions) holds the key to the place? The answer is none of them. It is held by a Muslim as they own the place. At least that's what the guide told us. Bethlehem is most interesting. Jewish guide get off the bus. Driver took us down to check point (border?) After we drove past the checkpoint, Palestine guide joined the group. We saw the "security barrier" first hand. Just look at the old pictures of the Berlin wall and you will get the idea. It goes for miles. We knew that time allotted to visit churches and souvenir market is dictated by the guide, who will make his money from the purchases. First stop at BSC (Bethlehem Souvenir Company) was supposed to be half hour but ended up much longer. Some people decided to spend more time shopping and the guide, of course, won't rush them. Price is okay but the best deal is outside the stores by the street vendors. Bags are 4 for $10. Scarfs are between 3 to 5 for $10 depending on your bargaining skills. Quality is cheap too but as souvenirs for give away, you can't beat the price. The Church of Nativity is the only Holy site stop. Even more crowded than Church of All Nations. People are pushing each other to go down the stairs to see the "manger". It was noisy and it is inside the church. A priest used the microphone to shh everyone. Noise gone for about a minute and it started again. The crowd were 50 deep or more trying to go down the staircase that maybe only 2 wide. Needless to say, many disappointed and upset people as they came all the way to Bethlehem and didn't even get to see the manger. Close, but no cigars. I heard the group that went to the site of the last supper fared better. On the way back, more check points and more check points after leaving Palestine. Port Said/Cairo Egyptian Museum Port Said is the northern gateway to the Suez Canal. It is about 200 Kms away from Cairo. We have been told to expect a three hour journey, two on the highway and an hour in the city. The Pyramid of Giza is an extra half hour away with the ring road. There is one thing that I should mention now about the road trip from Port Said to Cairo. There were NO pit stops. None. Zero. Zilch. If you got to go, well, you can't. You've got to be able to hold it, or wear diapers for your relief, as simple as that. The ship docked early. Went through immigration with no issues. Next thing you know, we were at the dock, walking among venders and their stalls inside the controlled area. Many stalls were not even open yet. We proceed to the meeting point where all the buses, vans, were parked and ready to go. We boarded our bus early but we can't leave until all the vehicles were filled and ready to go. So we sat in our bus for 20 minutes, waiting for the last bus to finish loading. The people in the private tours did not fare any better. They have to wait too. The convoy must leave together, as a single unit. At least the buses were running on cheap gasoline, only $2 a gallon. It was an impressive convoy, police cars and a police motorcycle at the front of the convoy, and a police truck at the back. We sped through Port Said at a great pace, seeing policemen at all the major intersections, stopping traffic to let us go straight through. Police cars were also blocking on ramps so that no one can merge into the highway and cut in. I was impressed. Maybe the police escort was a way to get us out of the city quick, beating morning traffic and has nothing to do with security and safety. I was only partially right. The police escort stayed with us all the way through 3 checkpoints, the police escorts were probably changed along the way as when the last police escort waved us ahead, and it wasn't the same vehicle that led us out of the port. We were going fast, it was only an hour and a half and we were less than 50 Kms from Cairo, half an hour at highway speed. Without the police escort, the convoy disintegrated and it was every bus for itself. It was a race, buses passing each other, cutting each other off, three buses were side by side on a two lane highway with a forth one trying to pass on the non-existing shoulder. It appeared that they were all trying to get ahead of each other in a mad race to the finish line: the Cairo Museum. It really doesn't matter as 15 minutes later, we ran straight into traffic and the pace quickly came to a crawl. The bus driver skilfully manoeuvred the bus as if it is a subcompact, weaving in and out of traffic. We are now in city traffic. Vehicles everywhere: 4 cars, sometimes 5, side by side on a 3 lane road, all jockeying for position. The guide said if you can drive in Cairo, you can drive anywhere, and she was right. Many times we thought there would be fender benders but nothing happened. Pedestrian ran across the streets dodging cars like a real life game of Frogger. We also notice the absence of traffic lights. The convoy left Port Said around 7:15 a.m. We should have arrived at the Egyptian Museum by 10:15 a.m. At 10:30 a.m., the museum was not even in sight. Good thing the bus was equipped with an emergency washroom as DW can't hold it any longer. No one on the bus knew it was there (by the back exit, below the seats) as it was well hidden. After DW used it, the line up to use it began to form. The guide said it is for emergency only so please don't use it unless you have to as it will stink up the bus on the way home (and she probably had to clean it). No one was listening or care. The choice is a smelly toilet or wetting yourself and the floor. At 11 a.m., the guide was on the cell phone trying to figure out what's going on. The bus was moving ever so slowly and we were getting nowhere. Finally at 11:30 a.m., 4 hours and 15 minutes later, we arrived, more than an hour behind schedule. We stopped at a back alley across from the museum. We jumped out from the slow moving bus and ran across the street to the line-up to get in. The line-up was to go through the first security check point outside the main gate through the guard house. The line-up was 3 to 4 people wide and almost all the way around the block. We finally got to the guard house. It was set up like an airport security. We had to go through a metal detector and put the bags through the x-ray machine. The problem was that there was only 1 detector and 1 machine. We finally get inside the compound. After the last of our group got in (people were cutting in line, jumping over fences and pushing people away) we go through the second check point which is the gate outside the building collect admission tickets. We have been told not to bring any cameras as it is not allowed in the museum so we left our cameras in the bus. Even if we can sneak the camera in, you can't take pictures with it anyway unless you want to take pictures of the crowds as it was wall to wall people. Once we went through the ticket turnstile, we walked up the main steps and into the building. Here, another line formed and there was another line for a bag check, this time for cameras. By now, it is getting close to 12 noon and we were told that the museum will close in an hour. What!? What do you mean it will close at 1 p.m.? Yes. The museum will indeed close at 1 p.m., only on Wednesday. On any other day, it will close at 7 p.m. So, that why it is so crowded. Everyone in town wants to visit the museum. There were 5 cruise ships in port, some were mega ships, add on other tour groups and you will have 10,000 to 15,000 shoehorned into a small building with no air conditioning. Did I mention that the building was built more than 100 years ago and there is no air conditioning? That explained the bottle of water given to us by the driver when we left the bus. The guide started leading the group through the building and straight to the second floor where the "good stuff" were located. We had to hurry; no time to waste. Sorry, no time for wash room break. Besides, the washrooms were lined up all the way outside the door anyway. We were told the line to use the facilities is about half an hour. The guide kept talking and walking and we followed like sheep. She would have better luck herding cats. We had the head set on which was a good thing. We can't see her but we can hear her so at least we knew where she was heading. Finally caught up to her and we decided not to let her out of our sight. It proved to be difficult. It was wall to wall people. You have to push through. You have to physically push people away from you to get through. The guide was pushing people away from her to get through. If we wanted to follow her, we will have to push too. Those failed to push through were left behind. There was no politeness about all this. You pushed, you moved on. No one got knock down. No one got upset. It's a fact of life here in a crowded city. People were shoulder to shoulder. There was no personal space. We North Americans are so spoiled. The guide was determined to go through her routine. She did. She finished the 2 hour tour in 45 minutes. Those who failed to keep up to her saw nothing. At least they heard about it. Short people saw other people's heads. She said if we stop at every item in the museum for 1 minute, it will take 9 months to see everything. We were given 15 minutes of free time to explore on our own before the museum close. We were to meet back outside of the building by the main fountain and wait for the bus. DW seeks out the "temple of relief", aka the washrooms. The line was still there but thinning. There were signs outside the washrooms in 3 languages that said "no tipping please". The washrooms were staffed by people in uniform. They were handing out sheets of toilet papers at the door and had their hands out. I said "no change" and the man said "I give change". Paid the guy, use the facilities and washed my hands. Walked towards the door and he handed me toilet paper to dry hands. I took the paper, and he asked for money again. I told him no money and walked away. I thought I heard some faint swearing on the background. The toilets were overflowing, dirty and smelly. DW fared a bit better. She told me that a lady in front of her gave the staff a coin and she was directed towards a line to the right. DW gave the staff a dollar and was directed to the left where there was an empty cubicle waiting. DW was in and out at no time. We made our way back outside the fountain. It was still wall to wall people. There was even more people than in Jerusalem. Everyone was trying to leave the museum and go to the next stop. There was no line up to get in now but only half a gate was open to let people out. Groups were formed around their tour guides waiting for the battle to get out of the place. Men were in the front, with their women immediately behind. The weak and the meek were left behind. Groups were pushing through other groups to get out. It was an ugly scene. The guide assembled us by the gate, to the side and in the shade. She battled her way out the gate to look for our bus. She ordered us to stay as a group and inside the gate. Don't come out yet until the bus is in front. Groups pushed past us towards the gate. It was utterly chaos. In all my years of travel, I have never witness anything like this. Not even the Shanghai Expo in China where the crowd were aggressive and pushed through and broke the plated glass doors to get inside the Italian pavilion come close. The bus arrived. Someone yelled "I saw it!" Before the guide could say anything, we charged as a group towards the crowd and through the gate. Damn the traffic and crossed the street, reaching our safe refuge inside the bus. We did a head count. Someone new had joined our group. We nick named him "AK" and he sat at the front of the bus behind the driver by himself. Nobody knew who he was. The outside temperature was 90 degrees. He wore a brown suit with a shirt and tie. Next stop was lunch. We went to the Mena House Oberoi Hotel by the Pyramid. This hotel was originally built as a palace for Napoleons' wife's visit to Cairo. We were told it is the most exclusive hotel in Cairo. The bus went through a guard house controlled and gated entrance. We were dropped off in front and we walked through a metal detector and security guards as we entered the building. They must think we (the cheap tourists) were terrorists. The temple of relief at the hotel was clean, and no lines. There were attendants in uniform. No tip bowls, no hands were out and no requests for money. It was a refreshing change. I gave the man a dollar and he bowed and thanked me. I felt good paying to use the toilet this time instead of disgust. I paid because I wanted to and not because I had to. So far, in three days, we must have spent at least $20 in donations worshiping at the various temples of relief. When you are old, you got to go more often. Giza Pyramids It was a surprise for us to see the Pyramids so close to the city. We could see the Pyramids very close to us from the hotel. Although we took the bus, we could probably walk to the Pyramid. It was that close. When we took pictures of the Pyramids, the city skyline is behind them. The pyramids are now being encroached on both sides by the expanding city. The government had wisely stopped issuing development permits around the Pyramids. Although there were lots of buses and people, because of the open space, it did not feel crowded. The guide had taught us a few short phrases ("no thank you") in Egyptian and warned us about the local merchants. Camel rides are $3. Taking a picture with it is $1. Beware of venders who charge you $1 to get on the camel, and then another $1 before they will let you get off. Don't make eye contacts with the venders. Don't touch anything that you do not intend to buy. Don't let people put things on your head. Don't take free gifts. Don't let them take pictures for you as they will ransom your camera. In another word, totally avoid the vendors or anyone approaches you for anything. AK, the nice fellow in the brown suit who joined us earlier, must be cooking under the hot sun, but he was determined to hang out with us. Before he left the bus, we noticed that he took the safety off the semi-automatic that he was carrying under his jacket. He stayed close but was never intrusive. He even smiled and offered to take pictures for us. He was a very gracious host. The Sphinx is right where we thought it would be except it is a lot smaller than I thought it would be. Blame it on the media and the promotional shots. The sun was over head and it was very hot! The temperature must be well over 90. The trip back to the port was less eventful. Darkness fell quickly and most were asleep, including AK and the guide. Did I mention that they don't like to drive with their head lights on even when it is pitch dark outside? After we went through the toll booth (or was that a check point?), we were pulled over by a half ton with some armed men. Since it was pitch dark, we didn't know if they were policemen or bandits. The bus driver got off and walked towards the darkness. AK, who realised that the bus had stopped, woke up, and decided to investigate. He got off and disappeared in the darkness as well. The guide also woke up by this time and she too left the bus without saying anything. Some passengers were very nervous, what's going on? I joked that it was coffee break. No one was laughing. Shortly after, a bus pulled up and stopped behind us. A few more minutes had passed and a bus sped by us. But soon it signalled and pulled off to the side of the road and stopped a short distance ahead of us. In about 10 minutes, a convoy was formed, everyone was back on the bus and we went on our merry way. We were back at the dock by 7:30 p.m. The ship was supposed to leave at that time. DW and I lost track of time and decided to bargain with the natives over some t-shirts. The vendors offered $4 each, good Egyptian cotton. We picked out 2. The vendors said 2 for $10. I told him his math was wrong. He must have meant 3 for $10. He shoved a bunch of things into a bag and said $20. We said no. He shoved a whole bunch more stuff in and said $30. By now, we have no clue what's in the bag. We moved on. We arrived at the security check point. We heard the ship's fog horn sounded. A Princess employee was at the other end of the hall waving at us. The Egyptian security guards took a casual look at our bags and let us through, without going through the metal detector. We slowly walked towards to the Princess employee. She said "hurry". We ran. The terrorists must be behind us. We ran towards the gangway. She was right behind us and I heard her said "that's the last two" over her radio. We were still on the gangway when I saw the staff unhooking everything, including the safety net below us. What happens if I slip? 5 minutes later, we were safe (but tired) at our cabin. We felt movement and the ship departed. Later on, we found out that a bus was missing on the way back from Cairo. It had followed the wrong convoy and ended up at another dock. To say the least, it has been a most entertaining day. Alexandria Comparing to the ordeal and excitement in Cairo, Alexandria was downright boring. It was hot and humid when we left and it got worse by the hour. We visited the Roman catacombs of Kom El Shugafa, took the 83 spiral steps down 115 feet into the wet burial chambers. Next we stopped at the ruins of Serapis, also known as Pompey's Pillar, or Alexandria's Acropolis. After that, we moved on to the new Alexandria museum. The museum tour was interesting. DW picked this tour. I would have preferred Fort Qait Bey and the Library. Cameras are not allowed into the catacombs and the museum. You have to go through security check points to enter any of the sites. Policemen were sitting behind metal plates with semi-automatic weapons on the ready. We saw them all over the place. As usual, the buses formed a convoy before leaving the dock. It stayed as a convoy for the entire day with police escorts at both ends and a motorcycle cop who raced back and forth. The buses departed as a group from point to point. We also had someone wearing a suit in the sweltering heat stayed with us, sitting alone at the front of the bus, and accompanied us everywhere. He was very serious looking and never cracked a smile. We never got to know him like we did with AK. The port building at Alexandria is absolutely beautiful and cavernous but it was full of totally empty store fronts. There was a row of flea market style stalls just outside the building selling the usual stuff. Obviously, no one is willing to pay the big bucks and move their business inside. Bargaining is part of the process. We paid $1 for a $5 key chain and $6 for a $12 mug. You have to determine what you are willing to pay for the item and be prepared to walk away. DW fell in love with a beautiful Egyptian cotton blouse. She tried on several sizes, style and colors before she decided on one. I had zero bargaining power. At least the vendor took pity and was reasonable with the asking price. I knew I had over paid. In all likelihood, we won't be returning to Egypt on a "normal" cruise. We may consider flying into Aswan for a Nile River cruise through Luxor etc. The existing Cairo Egyptian museum will be converted to an art museum for 2012 and the replacement museum will be located at Giza, very close to the Pyramid. It will be bigger and more modern, and hopefully, air conditioned. With it so close to the Pyramid, I don't know if the congestion would be better. As an aside, we heard that Acropolis in Athens was closed earlier in the week due to riots. It's a good thing that we've been there already. This is truly uncertain times. Sorrento It was a rough ride on the tender towards Sorrento. Some passengers decided to get off the tender and stayed on board instead. We travelled to Pompeii's ruin, which is not too far away. After seeing Delphi, Acropolis, Ephesus, Israel and Egypt, there is no expectation and we were pleasantly surprised. It was large, clean and quite well restored. We could have spent several days there if we wanted to explore the place in detail. This place dated back to 1st century BC and the guide told us that the Forum in Pompeii is better preserved and older than the one in Rome. I guess we will have to find out for ourselves. We were impressed with Apollo's temple, the forum and the central square. I could just imagine what it would have looked like more than 2000 years ago with the multi-story buildings, the tall marbled pillars and statues. The busiest building with a long line-up to go inside to view was the brothel. It was very well preserved and is one of their top attractions inside the Pompeii ruins. I was wondering how they knew that was the brothel. After going inside the building, there is no doubt that they are right. The Karma Sutra type wall paintings were well preserved, quite graphic and it told the story. People of all ages were inside of the building looking at everything, which I find most interesting. I can't help but keep comparing the Pompeii's ruins to Ephesus. The Terrace houses in Ephesus are more impressive and better "restored" but the Pompeii's Forum and the amphitheatre is better preserved. After a quick tour of the ruin, we returned to Sorrento. With our luck, it was Sunday and quite a few shops were closed despite 3 ships in port. We walked around town a bit but didn't find anything interesting. It was nice weather for walking around and the streets were not too crowded. This is a shopping stop if you wanted to buy Cameo. Instead of taking the shuttle bus back to the tender pier, we walked down the stairs and along the winding road. It was an easy walk, took about 5 minutes and is well worth it. I wouldn't walk up those stairs though. The tender ride back to the ship was much nicer as the sea had calmed down. The view from the ship on the shoreline was absolutely gorgeous. A few words about passport: They took our passport when we board the ship in Athens and we were given receipts. We have to claim our passport with the landing cards from Israel immigration/security before going ashore in Israel. We kept our passports with us for the 2 days in Israel. They took the landing cards away when we returned to the ship. We were not told that we have to return our passports to the purser's desk but you have to return them prior to arrival in Egypt. Best time to do it is right after you finish your excursions in Israel. The line-up at the purser's desk is shorter. The Egyptian official will come on board and stamp the passports. You pick up the passport from the ship's staff when you gather for the excursions. When you disembark for shore excursions, the Egyptian official will look for the "stamp" so it will be easier if you keep your passport open to that page. It'll make the process faster. After your Egyptian excursions, you have to return your passport to the purser's desk again and you pick it up the night before disembarking for good. Civitavecchia/Rome There is not much to say except that we had a great time in Rome. There are so much to see and so much to do that we quickly ran out of time. Everything is as everyone had told us. In Rome, anything 400 years old is new. We could spend weeks there. We learned that Michelangelo had a great sense of humor. If you have visited the Vatican museum and the Sistine Chapel, you will understand. We visited a lot of places in a very short time, unfortunately, we didn't stayed too long on some so I guess we will have to get back there again. With a proper tour map, you can do a self-guided tour either by walking, or travel by cab. Cabs were readily available and the cost was reasonable. We did take some guided tour though. You will definitely need one for the Vatican museum and one for the Coliseum and Forum. We were lucky to have found a couple of great tour companies. Dark Rome Tours for the Vatican was one of them. We had the front of the line tickets and we were there at 8 a.m. The private guide was very knowledgeable. She kept us ahead of the general crowd all day, as well as taking us to some areas where the general public won't know about. We were amazed by the amount of modern art in the Vatican museum. The cost however, is quite expensive if you wanted a small group private tour, but I think it's worth it. We stayed at the Hotel Quirinale Rome and what a beautiful hotel it was. It is centrally located and walking distance to a lot of attractions. Trevi fountain was only 5 blocks from the hotel. The Coliseum maybe about 10 blocks, half an hour to 45 minutes' walk. There are plenty of restaurants and shops within a few blocks, plus only a block from the Metro. Spanish steps and all those shops were 2 stops away on the Metro, or about 35 to 45 minutes' walk. The Food and beverage service at the hotel was first class but pricy, and our room, was nicely decorated. We will definitely consider returning to this hotel if we go back to Rome. The Final Words This was our first trip on a small ship. In this beginning, DW and I were worried that there is not enough amenities on board. As it turned out, all the necessities of day to day luxury were there. The spa, the shows, the afternoon tea, the sports activities, the piano bar, there were enough activities to keep us busy on the sea days. With the smaller ship, we can get from point A to point B really quick, DW did not get lost even once. The setting is more intimate. We also noticed the average age of the passengers on this cruise was much older than what we have seen on the other Princess cruises. The service was wonderful. The food was excellent, probably due to the fact that there are less passengers and it is easier to produce quality food. Being on a small ship, we kept running into the same people that we have met on board. It was cozy. It was intimate. We felt a connection to the staff and fellow passengers, more so than the mega ships. I was on a first name basis with the music director. He was assigned as an escort on our Haifa tour and we chatted on the bus. With all that said, we missed some of the things that we enjoyed most on the Princess Mega ships. We knew they were not offered due to space considerations. We really missed any time dining. We missed the international cafe. Our favourite past time on sea day was sitting at the atrium, sipping a coffee and listen to the piano player, trios or quartets throughout the day. We missed the Princess theatre. The shows were there, but the seating in the Cabaret Lounge is just not suitable. We also missed the guest lecturer. Princess has a naturalist on board Alaskan cruise and guest speakers on most of the other cruises we were on, with topics like the Construction of the Canal, pirates of the Caribbean, volcanoes, earth quakes and tsunami. A guest lecturer talking about the culture, mythology and history on ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptians would greatly add to the experience. People cruises mainly for two reasons. Enjoying the itinerary (and ports of call); or the amenities offered by the ship. For those seeking adventures on exotic places, this is a good compromise; with long days ashore, and just enough activities at night and on sea days. For those who seek adventure on board, where they would enjoy the ship more than the destinations, they will be sorely disappointed. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
I've been waiting for a while before writing this review, just to cool down - I didn't wanted to write upset and biased with the facts. So, more than a month after cruising, I think it's time to share our experience aboard ... Read More
I've been waiting for a while before writing this review, just to cool down - I didn't wanted to write upset and biased with the facts. So, more than a month after cruising, I think it's time to share our experience aboard the Star Princess, who left Venice October, 5th, to the Eastern Mediterranean. Service is fair, restaurants are good, overall cleanness is good, shore excursions are well organized, so what's the point? The point is, some days, you don't have any activity in the morning; some days, you don't have any activity in the afternoon - or you just returned from your morning shore excursion. Time for a nap, uh? No, not aboard this ship, not with this Captain. Every day, every afternoon - I said EVERY - Mr. William Kent, the Master of the Ship, will wake you up with all sort of navigation and weather data - JUST THRU YOUR STATEROOM SPEAKER SYSTEM!!!! OK, I've been cruising every year, over the last 10 years. I've been cruising with Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Carnival, Celebrity, Costa - even with Princess, and I've NEVER seen such an abuse, such an invasion to my privacy and rest!!!!! The only time I've heard something thru the stateroom speaker was during the safety drill - never more. Of course, we complained to the Purser's Desk. I'm sure the Captain received the message, because he said he was worried with this complain, during the Captain's Cocktail. The next day, he kept silent - but, the day after, things went back. This demonstrated that they CAN address to the passengers only thru the public areas PA system, if they WANT TO. In every ship I cruised before, this kind of announcement and information was made thru the PA system in public areas, only. But this sir - the Captain - seems to be in desperate need for audience, so he has to bother every passenger inside their staterooms. And, of course, for safety reasons, you can't turn the stateroom speaker off. You can't even adjust the volume - it's always high. Unfortunately, I've booked another cruise aboard the Star Princess to 2011, in the very first day of the cruise. If I only knew..... Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
We are an English couple in our late 50s. This is our 34th cruise and our 7th on Princess. We booked the cruise for the itinerary and the small ship. The cruise started on Sunday but we flew to Athens on Friday and stayed two days at the ... Read More
We are an English couple in our late 50s. This is our 34th cruise and our 7th on Princess. We booked the cruise for the itinerary and the small ship. The cruise started on Sunday but we flew to Athens on Friday and stayed two days at the Hotel Astor - very central and with great views of the Acropolis from the top floor restaurant used for breakfast. No problems with the Greek industrial action, everyone very friendly, went around on the hop-on hop-off bus and had some great meals in the Plaka. On Sunday afternoon took a taxi to the port and walked straight on at 3pm. There were more Princess staff than cruisers! We had booked a balcony state room on the 7th level which was fine - it had a decent couch and was better than some we have had on larger ships. Our room steward was good, he found us a decent hair drier as the one in the bathroom got very hot and looked set to explode - he did everything that was required. Food - it was fixed seating on this ship, which we have not had for a while, but it was OK as our table companions were very pleasant. Food was good with some effort made by the chef to reflect the countries we were going though/past. Waiters very good though service could sometimes have been quicker. Excellent Maitre D (Carlos) who we saw dealing with some tricky situations - he was unflappable. Entertainment - hmmm! We thought the cruise director and his team were lack lustre and unenthusiastic. We enjoy trivia and quizzes and were disappointed not to have much variety (eg only one name that tune) and the staff members doing them were not very enthusiastic. The sea day programmes were really uninspired. The dancing shows were OK and the smaller theatre a change. The comedian was fair (and we thought funny), he certainly worked at it - but I'm not sure how popular he was, and that was the same for the other acts, an OK singer and a magician - both not our cup of tea. The best entertainment was the music duo in the Pacific lounge, Jumari and Gabrielle who played 60s ands 70s stuff for dancing - unfortunately not many people seemed to venture up there. Our usual cruise complaint is that there is never enough going on between 5:00 and 7:00pm and the Pacific Princess was no different. The Casino was empty most of the time and the shops were poor (we tried to buy alcohol gel/wipes and they did not have any) - I thought art auctions had finally disappeared (they have on some other lines) - and they fill a space that might have been used as a sitting area. There was also a lot of wasted space around the reception area on the fourth level. Tours -they are always expensive but the two we did, the Volos Monasteries and Sevastopol were good value -interesting sites, informative guides, but with quite long bus rides and both included a reasonable lunch. Odessa was very pleasant - we walked up and down the famous steps and over the 'mother-in-law' bridge, and did much the same in Varna and Constantia though the places themselves were not that interesting. Istanbul, as ever was great - we did our own thing on the hop on/hop off bus - and sailing through the Bosphorus in the late afternoon earlier in the cruise was a great bonus. The captain was very personable and you saw him out and about - he also came on the PA to tell us about ships/islands we were passing. There were port lectures but no 'enrichment' programme - this was an itinerary that cried out for in depth talks on the Greek myths and the Crimea - not just basic histories. Overall a good cruise - we really liked the small ship, the staff were very good, but it needs a more proactive entertainment programme. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
Overall, the ship was very good. The Amalfi dining room food and service were very good with some excellent nights. The specialty dining rooms are a waste of time with the food not even as good as the main dining room. waiters have a long ... Read More
Overall, the ship was very good. The Amalfi dining room food and service were very good with some excellent nights. The specialty dining rooms are a waste of time with the food not even as good as the main dining room. waiters have a long way to walk for anything -- bad design of the dining services. The deck plan is terrible. Getting from our room on Deck 14 forward to our dining room in the rear on deck 6 was always a challenge as very few of the decks allow you to walk through the entire length of the ship. The main dining room is serviced by only two elevators at the rear of the ship and there are no restrooms near the dining room. Finding a restroom is a challenge as they seem to go out of their way to hide them. I really don't like having the tip included in each purchase you make. After all, TIP means "To Insure Promptness" and if it is automatic, what control do you have? The ship was clean and they went out of their way to assure that you sanitized your hands prior to entry to a dining area. There was little pool deck festivity and very little dancing around the pool area; Fun didn't seem to be in their vocabulary. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
We boarded the ship in Rome and it was surprisingly smooth. No hold ups, The weather in every port was a dream. The only rain was in Venice. The ports we visited were: Naples, Santorini, Rhodes, Kkusadasi, Mykonos, Athens, Katakalon, ... Read More
We boarded the ship in Rome and it was surprisingly smooth. No hold ups, The weather in every port was a dream. The only rain was in Venice. The ports we visited were: Naples, Santorini, Rhodes, Kkusadasi, Mykonos, Athens, Katakalon, Corfu, Split and Venice. In Naples, if you can skip it. It's very dirty,nasty just go to the amalfi coast or pompeii. Santorini it was beautiful, we rode the donkeys up to the town. ($5EU) for one way ride. It was an adventure, the old men who herd them are not nice at all, they rush you because they want to make more $$$. We had arranged a private tour on alot of the stops because i HATE overpaying and would rather skip the middle man (aka:princess) In santorini we contacted www.anothertour.net and had a private bus tour (5hrs) for 3 adults. It was very good. I would use them again. In Rhodes we went to the Lindos acropolis. I must tell you if you are an animal lover; you will be very sad at alot of these stops. After seeing all the emaciated dogs suffering I went to a local market and bought some dog food and fed alot of dogs. You can easily do the same if you take ziploc bags on your cruise and fill them up with all kinds of goodies from the breakfast buffet. Trust me they will eat mostly anything. I fed a couple of dogs in Mykonos at the Delos tour some granola bars. They ate them up soo quick. There are also alot of cats. In ephesus there is alot of religious sites to tour, for us we had so much of that and also history that we did an "easy ephesus tour" and it was suffice. The sales people in Turkey are VERY pushy, i suggest to not even touch something unless you want to buy it. They will not back off, they come off quite offensive. In Katakalon there is NOTHING to do unless you go to the olympic ruins. You can stay on ship. Corfu was quite beautiful. We rented a car for $40 Eu and drove everywhere, went to the beach (glyfeda) it was quite cold but we still got in. Visited a monastery at the top of a mountain with the most wonderful views. We also went to the beach in Rhodes. Just walk from the pier to the right and you will run in to it. (about a 20 min walk) Don't take taxis. They will rip you off! Everything in Europe is sooo overpriced! In Croatia (split) we walked around, paid for a tour which was not interesting but quite boring. Skip it and go on your own then go to the mall, it's very nice, large and very entertaining. Athens you must go to the acropolis. It's just something you have to do, but go EARLY. IF you go after 10 am there will be hundreds of people there. Very hectic and theres no chance of a good photo. I personally found Venice somewhere that you must go only once. IT's something of a novelty. It wears off very quickly. We docked there at 1pm on MOnday and disembarked on Tuesday. My husband and I opted to spend an extra night there. (there's NO need) It sooo hectic, overpriced, crowded, hard to get around and the people are not nice! YEs it was a beautiful place, I am not being a "hater" I just feel people tend to fantasize that it's this magical romantic place. I was very happy to return home to the United states of America, I think you come back with a deeper appreciation for what you have back at home. Especially when you take $2,000 us dollars and only get $1237 EUROS!!! :( The ship was average. Most of the food was bland the best night was Italian night. The spicy sauce with the meatball was the best! The souffles were awesome. The $20 steak house should be closed down. It totally NOT worth it.  Great movies on board, shows cannot really comment on, other than the comedians, They were NOT funny; only to really older folks who don't get out much. Hope this helps! Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
This was our first experience with Princess Cruises. We appreciated the beauty of the ship but decided that smaller ships are more to our liking. When we first arrived our bathroom was not truly clean and needed a second going over by our ... Read More
This was our first experience with Princess Cruises. We appreciated the beauty of the ship but decided that smaller ships are more to our liking. When we first arrived our bathroom was not truly clean and needed a second going over by our steward. We do appreciate the effort between cruises and our steward did a fine job thereafter. The port lectures were VERY well attended and very informative but sadly 3/4 of the audience slept through most of them. Personally, hard as I tried, I couldn't keep my eyes open. I agree with another review that I read, the ship was too warm as was the theater and our stateroom. We slept with our veranda door open. The biggest disappointment was the food. It was repetitive, and not very creative unless you consider how many ways to serve the same thing. The desserts lacked any variety. They were pretty much the same five or six selections each night. A few more toasters at the buffet would be such a bonus! Perhaps we are old fashioned but when we eat in the dining room we tend to eat more slowly than others at our table. This resulted in the two of us being the only ones with plates in front of us. It would have been very nice had the waiter waited until all had finished eating before removing plates. We felt rushed every night. On the last night of the cruise the shore excursion didn't return to the ship until 7 PM so no doubt the dining room had to be pretty empty for the first seating. Since our waiter didn't really bother to get to know any of the six of us and rushed us through dinner, we were not impressed by the service at OUR table. Without the usual temptation to over eat and all the walking, we actually lost weight! The tours were exhausting but well organized and worth the effort and cost. We did have a wonderful time and very much enjoyed the experience and the great people we met and hope to see again. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
This was our fourth cruise, though the first aboard a smaller ship (680 ish passengers vs 2,500+ on the first 3 cruises with Costa and Celebrity). We are a family of 3, parents in the mid-40s with a six year old daughter. We embarked out ... Read More
This was our fourth cruise, though the first aboard a smaller ship (680 ish passengers vs 2,500+ on the first 3 cruises with Costa and Celebrity). We are a family of 3, parents in the mid-40s with a six year old daughter. We embarked out of Athens (Piraeus) flying in the night before. Having been to Athens previously, that removed the need to visit Athens prior to embarking. This enabled us to enjoy a nice dinner with a friend on Friday night and the hotel services (with a rooftop view of the Acropolis) as well (Athens Imperial - Eur 99 for a triple which we thought was a good deal. Embarking - We had heard that the embarkation process on a smaller ship would be quite easy. We even arrived during the recommended time (after 2pm). However, the "check-in" and security lines were longer than expected and we did not receive the expedited service treatment we received from other lines for having a younger child. Then the power shorted out while in line to board the ship resulting in an additional wait while that was sorted out. Other than that.... Passengers - Being a longer cruise (12 nights) visiting a non-standard area (Black Sea), the passenger make up was a bit more mature than we were used to (as the comedian joked, it gave 70s night at the lounge a whole new meaning). Median age was probably 65 or so, reduced by a large contingent from the Dominican Republic. Crew - Overall very friendly. Helped by the small size of the ship plus what I assume is Princess's policy of allowing the crew to mingle with passengers, we got to know a few of them pretty well. Our waitstaff was quite attentive making our daughter feel like the center of attention (thanks Ronald and Jeffrey). Our cabin steward (Nat) was also quite helpful keeping track of our varied schedules. Food - Overall, we were somewhat disappointed as the food quality was mixed. Sometimes quite good, other times quite bland. While not a huge pepper fan, I would ask for a lot to be sprinkled on to add some flavor to certain dishes. Would have liked to see more themed meals tied to our port as well, though the Mexican themed lunch was quite good. Kids Club - As a word of warning, this ship (as well as probably other smaller ships at least in the Princess line) only has Kids Club when there are more than 20 kids on board. A number that was not reached until about our month prior to sailing (adding a bit of stress). The Kids Club also did not operate while we were in port. So she was disappointed to learn that she needed to accompany us for all port excursions definitely impacted the tours we signed up for to keep flexibility). Otherwise, our daughter loved it and cried when we left the ship because she was going to miss it so much. Entertainment - One positive about a small ship is that the shows are a lot more intimate for the audience, a definite plus. However, we also noticed that the quality of the shows themselves were definitely mixed. The comedian and magician were pretty good, but we found ourselves leaving a couple of the other shows early. Also, alternative entertainment besides Sammy, the piano player, was either non-existent or non-attended (bearing in mind the mature nature of the passengers). Besides at times the slot machines, the casino was a very sparsely utilized area. Activities - We were impressed with the number of activities on "At Sea" days as there always seemed like there was something to do, should one choose to do so (from bingo, port lectures, pool volleyball, dance lessons, etc.) Other Items - Kudos to Peter the Port/Excursion guide. Very helpful, though his desk hours should be expanded. However, this was more than offset by his volunteering to stay later and did not seem to mind our interrupting multiple meals and one workout of his. He was a wealth of information, willing even to follow up for us and call our stateroom when he found out the answer to a question. One annoyance was the Captain's announcements. On our first At Sea day (while we were planning to sleep in) he provided at least a 20 minute dissertation on the Dardanelles crossing. While I would imagine some folks who were up quite early appreciated it, this information at 8am was not welcome in our cabin. At least on other days, the announcements did not start until after 9am. Was also somewhat disappointed by the Princess Patter. In some cases, the information was quite dated (FX rates, for example). Quality control, in terms of spell check, was also a bit lacking. On other cruises, we have been accustomed to receive daily news updates. While I realize the Pacific Princess is a smaller ship, would think that a standard news page could be generated across the fleet for distribution to passengers. Ports - As these are not listed in the toggle boxes below.... Constanta - One of the reasons we selected this cruise was the opportunity to visit many new countries, including Romania. That said, this has to be the least interesting port of any we have been to. Not tourist friendly. Not much of anything to see in town and was dangerous to get around due to the lack of sidewalks, windy streets and somewhat maniacal drivers. The beach was okay (actually water was nice, but beach itself was hard, wet sand and pretty dirty). "Splurge" for the rickety beach chairs so you do not have to sit directly on it. While we were definitely charged tourist prices, 3 chairs and 2 umbrellas were still only 10 Eur or so. Mamaia (sp?) is supposed to be a much nicer resort beach, but requires a taxi and was wall to wall people (we were told). As for the ship excursions, we did not hear that we missed much. Odessa - Very pretty town. Again, we did this on our own. Very walkable as long as in reasonable shape. Long,tree-lined boulevards, nice architecture and parks. Again, with our 6 year old, went to the "beach" in town (go to Arcadia, not the local beach as nothing to speak of). Otherwise, a very enjoyable day. Yalta - Did Livadia and Alupka palaces on a ship excursion. Livadia is very worthwhile if you are interested in history. As I am, I enjoyed it. My wife, less so and our daughter, not at all. Alupka on the other hand was very worthwhile, with absolutely stunning views (could have spent the whole day here as there is a big park, with walking trails, shopping, and the requisite beach). As this was only a half day tour, I was able to spend a few hours wandering around Yalta, a very enjoyable town with a nice cathedral, lot of shopping and long promenade by the sea with all sorts of vendors, games, food, etc. Disembarkation - Was a breeze. We showed up about 4 minutes late, were informed our group had already left, so were free to go. Walked right off the ship, immediately found our luggage and were on our way. Overall, we enjoyed the cruise. However, we did notice the 1/2 star (vs Costa Concordia/Magica) and 1 star difference (vs Celebrity Equinox) Read Less
Sail Date August 2010
Our family of four (teen daugher and pre-teen son) just returned from the 12 day Eastern Mediterranean on the Ruby Princess, Venice to Rome. Overall, it was excellent but mainly because of the itinerary. The weather was unseasonably hot, ... Read More
Our family of four (teen daugher and pre-teen son) just returned from the 12 day Eastern Mediterranean on the Ruby Princess, Venice to Rome. Overall, it was excellent but mainly because of the itinerary. The weather was unseasonably hot, but nothing Princess can do about that -- just make sure to wear lots of sunscreen and drink a lot of water. As for each area: Embarkation - excellent. We selected the Princess transfer so as to not have to worry about it ourselves while seriously jet lagged, we got on a bus with many others and were checked into the stateroom just a little over an hour after landing, which is awesome. Cabin - we had a mini-suite with balcony, one double bed for my husband and I, the couch pulled out into a bed for our daughter and they pulled down a bed from the ceiling for our son, with a ladder, which he totally loved. It was roomy enough, and I can't imagine ever going on a cruise without a balcony. The bathroom was significantly larger than bathrooms we have had in the mini-suites on Royal Caribbean, and we had a large closet, so high marks here as well. Dining - we chose anytime dining, which I highly recommend for flexibility. Some nights we went to the dining room, other nights the buffet, room service one night, bottom line - whatever we felt like, when we felt like it. We never ate lunch on the ship except the one day at sea, but ate in the port stops. Thank goodness, otherwise we would never have had Greek food on this Greek island cruise, which is one of our main areas of complaint. On the ship, there was no link whatsoever with where you actually were, a few Greek dinners and desserts would have been nice. An Indian curry buffet? When you are in Athens? Is simply wrong. In other words, I really missed the fact that there was no attept to tie the meals and the entertainment in with the ports of call and think this would have greatly improved the cruise. As for the meals, they were just OK. Not great food, not bad food. We ate at both Sabatini's and the Crown Grill for a change of pace. Crown Grill was great, Sabatini's food was good but the service was ATROCIOUS. We seemed to be repeatedly "forgotten" and, no exaggeration, our dinner took 2 1/2 hrs. without any lingering. And the few times we reminded our waitress that we were still waiting for our pasta course for example, or our main dishes, she was brusque and made excuses about it being busy. Waiters in the main dining rooms were much more pleasant and although this was only one bad service experience in the 12 days of the cruise, it did leave a bad taste in our mouths. Entertainment and public spaces - another caveat here, we aren't big on the entertainment and nightlife aspects of a cruise. We view a cruise as a very convenient method of transporting us from one stop to another, with a pool and areas for relaxation, but we don't get into the deck parties and formal nights and that sort of thing, and never stepped foot on the casino or made significant purchases in the shops. So I won't say much except to say that I LOVED that they had a Venice orchestra perform the first night, great and very unique and that got my hopes up. But they were later dashed, as a few nights later the headliner was one of the cheesiest, corniest, cruise-lounge-singer type of entertainers I have ever seen, almost like a parody of cruise entertainment with the snapping fingers and shuffling around while crooning. The British comedian, British magician, and British opera/showtune singer were all good but, obviously, British -- on a cruise through Italy, Turkey and Greece. More local entertainment and music would have made this far more enriching. I don't mean to beat this point like a dead horse but it was almost bipolar, getting off at these stops stepped in certain cultures and music and foods and history and then getting back on the boat which seemed to be in a completely different place. Pools were nice but I wish Princess would actually enforce the "don't save a seat with your towel all day" rule, as there were some times we couldn't get seats by the pool together as a family yet each seat on the deck was "occupied" by a towel and we never saw an actual person go anywhere near it the hours were were there. A pet peeve of mine - the first cruise line that actually does something about this obnoxious behavior will get my future business, it is that simple. Ports of call - this is why I chose this cruise and this ship, for no other reason than that it went to many different stops, including Athens and Santorini (many other lines do one or the other but not both). The only thing that could be better is if we stayed in some a bit longer than late afternoon so you could see the location lit up for the evening. The write-ups on this site allowed me to determine when we should sign up for a shore excursion and when we could go it on our own, which was very helpful. In short: Venice - can easily be done on your own, I highly recommend splurging for a water taxi ride down the Grand Canal, it was one of the best experiences of the whole trip for us, also toured St. Marks' and the Doge's Palace on our own and had a wonderful pasta dinner at a restaurant we stumbled across as this is a wonderful city for just wandering. Split, Croatia - can easily do on your own, the old palace is a 5 min. walk from the ship. Corfu -also manageable on own, excellent archaelogical museum and can tour both the old and new forts, very short cab ride from port to town and cabs easily available to get back to ship. Katalakon - we did a shore excursion to Olympia, which you need because it is an hour or so drive from port and you really need someone to give you the background on what you are seeing, followed by an afternoon at the beach which was great, umbrellas, sand, lunch service to your beach chair, woo-hoo! Athens - here too we did a short excursion to the Parthenon, but could have done with more time there and less at the Plaka, as we aren't big shoppers, and then a drive to the Temple of Poseidon which was interesting but not a must see. If I did it again, I would have done the afternoon on my own after a guided tour of the Acropolis. Mykonos - we took a shore excursion to Delos, also necessary to understand what you are seeing, and then spent the rest of the day exploring Mykonos town on our own, which is very easy and close to the port. We had the best gyro lunch ever there, the kids still talk about it. Kusadasi - here too we took a shore excursion to Ephesus, also necessary as it is a bit of a ride from the port, had a very informative guide. We also saw the House of the Virgin Mary which was very moving and a highlight for us. The included lunch would have been much better had it not been served outdoors, in almost 100 degree weather with no breeze whatsoever. Shopping at the bazaar was fun and we actually bought a beautiful Turkish rug which I never thought I would actually have done but the quality was fantastic and we decided we didn't know if/when we would ever be in Turkey again Rhodes - did it on our own, also very easy to do, the main city is right next to the port, and easily walkable, had a fantastic Greek lunch in a garden restaraunt off the main drag. Here I highly recommend getting off the tourist streets and walking around the side streets which gave us a great view of authentic Greek island life. Santorini - took a shore excursion just up to Oia, which was worth it to get up there for the fantastic views, spend some time up there and then down to Fira, which can easily be done on your own with a return to the boat whenever is convenient for you. Naples - we did this on our own and stayed in Naples, only because we toured Italy last year and spent a few days in Sorrento, and saw Capri, the Amalfi Coast, and Pompeii then. So this time we headed for the archaeological museum in Naples and saw much of the materials found in the homes at Pompeii, so it made a nice coda to last year's trip and is a really great museum. You must have pizza in Naples, it was everything we hoped it would be, then we explored the city on our own. Rome - had to get back to work so didn't tour Rome this time, just went right from the port to the airport, but Rome is, of course, fantastic and in the past, a guided tour of the Vatican was worth every penny. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
Beautiful ship with a port intensive 12 days - only one day at sea. The itinerary however was difficult to accomplish- too much each day we found out due to the weather constraints of heat and then more heat. Even with starting out each ... Read More
Beautiful ship with a port intensive 12 days - only one day at sea. The itinerary however was difficult to accomplish- too much each day we found out due to the weather constraints of heat and then more heat. Even with starting out each day early, the hot weather usually slowed us down a bit in our perhaps overly ambitious desire to see as much as possible. Our eight year old did her best the last 2 days of the cruise in Capri/ Naples and then Rome because the cooler air prevailed. Our total experience was weighed against however 2 other recent cruises in the past 16 months- one in the Caribbean, the other Alaska- both on the NCL Jewel and NCL Pearl respectively. I will use bullet type points as my best method of summary. Venice Hotel: Flew Delta, DFW to Atlanta to Venice; Antony Hotel (Airport): 3 or 4 star - worked great for us due to flight/ jet lag - helpful staff- Embarkation: taxi next day to port- Princess was like precision clockwork. Cabin: very nice size interior- rarely in room except to sleep. Activities: Well equipped ship - daughter enjoyed swimming, miniature golf every sail away, bingo with me (Dad), ping pong, (when Princess rarely had the tables set up for use). Service: the usual quirks of great and not so great- but so was NCL. Juan our Cabin Steward was superb. The Captain decided to wake the entire (every cabin intercom) vessel at 3am around the 3rd night at sea with a 45 second non emergency search for an employee. Princess at the gangplank gave me incorrect info in Athens on which pier terminal would be open after our DIY trip. Seemed the gate was locked at 1pm costing us a 13 Euro taxi go around and a family squabble. Many crew members had no idea where a lot of features were on the ship like the ping pong, etc. I had a similar experience on other ships, but this seemed worse. How can you work on a boat and not know where the features are that passengers want? Entertainment: Weak compared to NCL. It had an understandable European bent to it. Movies under the stars was nice sometimes- other times annoying the areas around it. Classical Gypsy style group playing on Promenade lobby was excellent however. Dining: Very good and sometimes great. Dining rooms were nice in ambiance, but I give Norwegian Cruise Lines the nod here with a superior buffet for breakfast especially and better overall food, in particular meats, salads and fruits. Specialty restaurants were limited. We ate ashore some also. Daughter missed hand dip NCL ice cream vs. bland soft serve. Children clubs: it appears Princess does not attract many children - they had programs but it always appeared empty. The teen center had a few every time we went by there. We always went ashore as a family. Disembarkation at 7:30 was flawless, Romepickup.com limo took us to our Hotel 'Sant Anna in Vatican Roma area on time. Rome was cool and inviting. Summary: This was a port intensive trip (we did a lot on our own as we had studied quite a bit months before the trip and visited each port) which I will review OUR experiences separate, so the ship was somewhat secondary. It was very hot 10 of the 12 days but the itinerary Princess set up was why we chose the Ruby. All said and done, it is hard to believe that cruisers in the know choose them over the newer NCL ships where service, food and entertainment were a tad better in my opinion. The Ruby Princess is overall a good experience.   Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
This being our first cruise, perhaps our expectations were too high. We are a Canadian couple in our early 30s used to doing backpack and resort types of vacations, but wanted to experience something different and a bit more luxurious. ... Read More
This being our first cruise, perhaps our expectations were too high. We are a Canadian couple in our early 30s used to doing backpack and resort types of vacations, but wanted to experience something different and a bit more luxurious. We started our vacation a week early and went to London, Marseille and then on to Barcelona. We spent 2 days in Barcelona before the cruise and absolutely adored the city. We used a service called Homelidays, staying in an individual's apartment instead of a traditional hotel. Helped save costs and was a very nice place overall. Embarkation Since we're used to walking, we trekked - luggage in tow - from the Drassanes metro stop to the pier. It was long (about 45 minutes), but good exercise! We finally got to the pier at about 2:30 and it was packed. So much for Princess suggesting we arrive after 2 p.m. to avoid the lineups; we waited almost an hour, but only because there was only one security scanner open when we got there and it takes time to get everyone through! Once through security though, the actual check in process was smooth and easy. Stateroom We took an obstructed OV cabin to get at least a little light in. Surprisingly, we still had a great view from our room. The cabin was spacious and kept very clean by our steward Enrique, who was very helpful and friendly. Dining Our first meal once on board was quite good, and we were in high spirits as well as in awe over how beautiful all the common areas were. Within a few minutes though, the very annoying trend started... and continued throughout the cruise. We were asked 8 times (I counted) whether we wanted to buy something to drink. We bought two coffee cards and signed up for wine tasting, but that was it. We drink little alcohol and do not like pop, so other than coffee, all we typically drink is water. Got the impression that the wait staff did not like this as I think they get some kind of commission on their sales. Questions like "How come you don't want alcohol?" were really improper and made us feel like we HAD to buy something. We had signed up for anytime dining, and ordered a bottle of wine. As we didn't finish it the first night, we asked for it the second and the waiter looked annoyed that we were asking for the previous night's bottle rather than ordering another one. Service was rushed and impersonal the first two nights so we decided to switch to traditional dining. Really cannot compare the service we received those first two nights from the wait staff (including the snobby and rude Maitre D in the Da Vinci dining room) to all the staff we encountered in the traditional dining Botticelli the rest of the cruise. In traditional, everyone really is much more service oriented, friendly and go out of their way to assist. We were seated with two Chilean couples who were extremely nice, but given the fact our Spanish is limited, discussion was a bit rough. Since it was the third night, we did not think it appropriate to ask to change tables so we made due. It was still an enriching experience and made us practice another language so can't complain on that front. On to the food. On the positive side, I have a somewhat weak stomach and can proudly say that it was the first time I was on a trip and did not get some sort of stomach ailment. On the negative side, food was pretty bland and typically looked a lot better than it tasted. Food was my biggest disappointment on the ship. We are not picky eaters, but I guess we were expecting something better. Vegetables in particular were so salty I couldn't eat them half the time (and I love salt!) Meat was always perfectly cooked though, but oftentimes the cuts weren't the best. We went to Sabatini's one night and very much enjoyed, but realized that the quality of the food we got there was what we had been expecting throughout the ship. There was a major "mass produced" feel to everything that was served everywhere else. We typically had lunch off the ship or skipped it altogether depending on when we had breakfast. However the buffets seemed pretty limited most of the time (we've had better selection in Cuba!) but certainly sufficient and great for salads. Breakfast buffets were similar, but again, there is no way anyone can go hungry on this ship. You will always find something at least somewhat decent. The only annoying part about breakfast was the wait staff constantly coming by asking if you wanted to buy a bottle of water for your excursions. Given how much we pay for a cruise, I would expect one bottle of water per stateroom at least would be included each day. So not the case. Activities and entertainment We did trivia a few times (we're not too good!), I played bingo once (and won!), watched a couple of movies and attended the beginning of a couple of shows, but that's pretty much it. Because we had selected the 2nd seating, we were usually too tired to take in much of the entertainment. Of what we did see, everything seemed good, not spectacular, but certainly entertaining. Excursions We did not do any Princess excursions as we had already been to a number of the ports and typically prefer to do everything on our own. We found the prices way too expensive overall (in our opinion), but if it had been our first time in Italy for example, we probably would have done a couple of tours. Disembarkation Very stress free, probably because we did the express walk off with our luggage. We left the ship in Venice at about 7:45 and headed to the "People Mover" - essentially a tram that doesn't go very far - to Piazzale Roma (1 euro), then bought bus tickets to the airport (3.8 euros per person). The bus ride was quick, only about 20 minutes, and uneventful. Summary We enjoyed our first experience on board a ship, but think any other cruise will be on a smaller ship. We felt too much like we were just a number most of the time on the Ruby. We had selected this cruise based on the itinerary, and on that side, we were quite pleased, but would have liked more time in certain ports. Given that we like to immerse ourselves in a culture and city when we visit new places, we realized that a Mediterranean cruise was perhaps not the best option for us due to the short amount of time you spend in port. It is, however, excellent if all you want is a taste of a city or to see just a few key sites you've always wanted to go to. We preferred the places where we got to spend more time (i.e. Barcelona and Venice)... as well as our favorite city in Italy: Naples. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
Shore Excursions: I spent months researching the ports for this cruise. I focused on art, architecture, history, and gelato for my daughter. I downloaded the shore excursion brochure from Princess to compare costs and places to visit with ... Read More
Shore Excursions: I spent months researching the ports for this cruise. I focused on art, architecture, history, and gelato for my daughter. I downloaded the shore excursion brochure from Princess to compare costs and places to visit with what I could get from a private tour. Without exception, private tours were the way to go; they were always cheaper (there were four of us, me(42), my husband (41), my daughter (9), and my mother-in-law (72)). I contacted the companies by email several months before, and asked for prices and itinerary. This is what we came up with: Florence: We hired a driver for Florence (the difference between a driver and a guide in Italy is that a driver just takes you places, a guide is licensed by Italy to take you into places and describe them to you.); we hired a driver because some dork at Princess decided it would be okay to descend in Florence on the one day the museums are closed. We didn't need a guide. We went with Guido at Tuscany in my pocket. It was 490Euro, not including tip, and I have to say that I have never met anyone who loved their job and their city more. He picked us up at the dock and drove us into Florence; he also drove into the city, which the tour buses could not do, and it saved us hours and hours of walking. He drove us right up to places. I actually joked that he had reserved parking and I started calling him The King of Florence. He was just a delight. info@tuscanyinmypocket.com Rome: We walked to the train station from the pier and bought our own train ticket into Rome. The tickets were 9Euro each - that was for round trip, and unlimited use of the metro while in Rome. Princess was selling train tickets for 79 dollars each! For the train, you can get off at St. Peter's and see the Vatican first thing, or you can go to the heart of Rome and get off at Termini. Termini was very crowded and very busy and if you don't need to go there, then don't. I would suggest getting off at St. Peter's. We hired a local company to give us a tour while in Rome. Even after copious research, the tour was a bust: the guide was excellent and knew a staggering amount of history but we had a serious miscommunication with the front office and I would not use them again. And I would not recommend them. Naples: My favorite day. This day is the closest to heaven I've ever been. We by-passed Naples altogether and hired a driver to take us to Sorrento and Positano. Everything about this tour was perfect. Our driver Fabrizio Fiorinelli was perfect; he knew when to talk and when to let us enjoy the view, he knew when to leave us to shop and how long we needed, and the personal touches just brought tears to my eyes. Once when we were taking pictures, he disappeared. Turns out he was buying a bag of cherries for us - and having them washed - just because he overheard my daughter wonder if Italian cherries were as good as Washington state cherries (they are!). He gave us time to dip our feet in the Mediterranean, and allowed time for my daughter to look for sea glass. The restaurant he took us to for lunch was ..... I can't even describe it well. All I can say is we had a table by the window, the window was open - no screens, no bugs - there were tera cota pots filled with red geraniums on the window sill, and the table cloths were starched white. The house wine was the best I've ever had and the food was ..... so amazing. The name of the restaurant was da Costantino. It was so amazing it will make you weep with joy. I don't know the address, but it's right on the main curvy road. . We paid 20 Euro each for .. probably 8 courses, including wine, lemoncello, espresso, and tears at the door when we had to leave. I was seriously asking the owner if I could stay and work for him if he would just feed me. I lost my mind and didn't want to leave. The Cruise in General: The Good Stuff: Movies Under The Stars: A warm blanket, a huuuuge screen, really good popcorn, and the deck attendant comes by later with warm cookies and milk. One night - my birthday - we went to the 24 hour buffet and brought back a dinner plate of desserts and three forks. My husband, my daughter, and I had a dessert feast. The movies were well selected, nothing overly violent. Wine: You can order a bottle of wine in any restaurant and if you don't finish it, they will store it for you until you want it again - in any other restaurant. That was way cool. We ordered wine in Michelangelo and the next night we drank the rest at DaVinci. Sometimes we wanted wine, sometimes not, but the waiters always managed to find whatever it was we'd ordered. Afternoon Tea: The tea was really strong and hot. Really good. The music was weird but the whole experience was very civilized. The mini croissant filled with ham is really good, and my husband loved the scones. The Pools/Unpacking Once/Meals on Demand: We were able to see so much more because the boat traveled when we were sleeping. We didn't have to navigate train stations, didn't have to book hotels, didn't waste time getting from place to place. When we were done with a port, we jumped in the pool for a while, and had dinner when we were ready. In the morning, we were refreshed and ready to see something new. That is Very Awesome. (Of course, the price for this is that you have to travel on their schedule. I could have spent a week in Sorrento/Positano, Florence, and Venice and could have skipped Turkey and Monoco altogether.) The Bad Stuff: Photographers: Seriously: I don't need a picture of me getting off the gangplank at every port. What is it that the photographers are trying so hard to capture? When you think about it, it's a gangplank. It's always a gangplank. It looks the same all the time. Shore Excursions: We took two from the boat, one in Athens and one in Istanbul (along with everyone else who was afraid to be on their own in Istanbul). Both were wretched. Picture a hostile tour guide, a very crowded bus, narrow streets with heavy traffic, and 15 other busses, some from other cruise ships, going exactly where you going, and doing exactly what you are doing. Princess does not make it easy to go on your own; they don't give you enough information to get into town on your own, and they don't provide any maps. My advice is to do your research before you go. Book a private tour if you need to, take a taxi or public transportation, but get away from the crowds and explore on your own. Seriously. The What-Were-You-Thinking-Stuff: First, and it has to be said, what moron decided that it would be a good idea to schedule a port call in Florence on a Monday when all the museums are closed?? Yes, we figured a way around it and there are other things to see: art is really everywhere in Florence. But seriously, why should you have to "work around it"? Why not arrange the schedule so we get into port on a Tuesday? Monte Carlo wasn't all that great - we could have skipped that. And oh my goodness, the coffee on board is the worst I've ever had. Boxes of "coffee concentrate" are stored under the counter and whatever that is mixed with hot water and spit into a very small cup. I have never - ever - had worse. Not in an airport, not in a hospital waiting room, not in a college dorm, not anywhere. Even mixing it with an obscene amount of cream didn't fix it; that just made it taste like hot coffee ice cream. Seriously gross. Diet coke: There isn't any. What they have is Coke Light and it is nothing like diet coke. I suggest you try it before shelling out 54 bucks for a soda card because their other selections, too, are severely limited. What I learned on board: Bring a travel alarm clock. There isn't one in the room. Bring a travel mug for tea. Mornings at port are kind of rushed so if you need to relax with tea - or that nasty, nasty coffee - you're going to want a travel mug. Also, the coffee mugs on board are really small. You don't need to buy bottled water, the water from the tap is fine and if you drink that, you save the 4 bucks Princess charges for 1.5 liter of water. The tap water tastes like tap, so if you can't abide that, bring a water bottle that has a portable filter inside. But really, it's fine. Also, at every meal, the waiters will present a bottle of still water and a bottle of carbonated; they are not free. They are presented in such a way as to appear that they are free, and if you want to buy them, that's fine, just know that you are buying them. We stuck with iced tap. If possible, book a room high up with an odd-numbered cabin. The odd-numbered cabins are starboard side and they get a breath-taking view of Venice when the boat enters the Grand Canal. Also, on the last night, they unload the luggage on the Port side and it bangs all night. You don't get as much time in Venice as they say. We arrived at 12:30 or so, and they wanted us off the boat by 8am the next morning. Luggage was supposed to be packed and put outside your door by 7pm. People who had flights out that morning were hustled out even earlier - like pre-dawn, 4 am. Luckily we booked a hotel in Venice and the room was ready early. (I loved that hotel...) Food. Overall, I'd say Princess really tries hard with the food, but they have a lot of people to feed and most of them are eating all the time. The presentation is well done: despite the number of people, the buffets are always clean and the food isn't left to sit out. When a tray is half-empty, it's usually refilled. At breakfast there is a really good fruit selection, and at lunch the salad bar is outstanding. Dinner in the restaurants is well-presented and service is usually pretty fast. (My daughter fell in love with the caesar salad and fettuccini alfredo and had it for dinner for 12 nights.) There were exceptions, however: the beef burgundy served at dinner was gross and the meat was hard and overcooked. The pastries/bread/muffins at breakfast were never flakey, they always seemed a bit damp. Usually, the food was well done and tasted good. Good but not over-the-top outstanding. If you want over-the-top great, eat a meal at port in a good restaurant. The scrambled eggs really are as bad as people say. I didn't think it was possible to mess up scrambled eggs, but they do. They have a weird texture: like a combination of tapioca and sponges. Really gross. Really. Another weird thing was Sabitini's. I was anxious to try it, based on reviews here but I was very disappointed. It wasn't an Italian restaurant were you go in and order off the menu - they had a tasting menu were they brought you a tablespoon of everything they had. Some of it was revolting and after 3 incredible meals in Italy, I really wonder what the chef was thinking. The food at Sabitini's was overdone and fussy; the waiters served everyone in the restaurant from one platter and that was pretty off-putting. I really don't want the leftovers from "table 9". And we didn't have the opportunity to order what we did like, so we left not happy. We ate a lot of bread and wished we were some place else. To sum up, we liked the cruise because it made visiting many places effortless. On our own, our days would have been spent catching trains, checking into hotels, and finding restaurants. On a cruise, that's taken care of. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
Our arrival into Rome was flawless and our B&B had arranged transportation from the airport. As we exited the baggage area the driver was there waiting and our trip was uneventful except for the Rome traffic. The B&B we chose was ... Read More
Our arrival into Rome was flawless and our B&B had arranged transportation from the airport. As we exited the baggage area the driver was there waiting and our trip was uneventful except for the Rome traffic. The B&B we chose was located close to the Vatican and our hostess met us at the door and helped us get settled. Our accommodations were excellent but small. Breakfast was served daily in our room and consisted of sweet rolls and yogurt. There was free Wi-Fi which was a terrific bonus in staying in touch with those back home. Our travel agent did a great job with all the arrangements. Embarkation was flawless, we arrived at the ship around 2pm and were in our cabin 45 minutes later. The cabin was clean and our luggage arrived within an hour. No complaints at this point! The lifeboat drill was the easiest I have ever experienced so no complaints here. The Grand Princess is old and is showing her age in lots of ways. The venues for entertainment were dated and the public areas were small. I understand what happens with age though so I am willing to be a little forgiving in this area. Crew. This was the first ship I've ever been on where the crew went through the buffet line with the passengers and sat in the passenger areas to eat. There were several times I saw crew members sitting in a bar, smoking a cigarette and drinking a drink. I knew they were crew members because they were wearing uniforms and or name tags. There was no professionalism! We were in one of the theaters waiting for a show to begin and a waiter approached the passengers in front of us. He was wearing jeans, a casual shirt and a name tag. I would have been a little hesitant to give him my cruise card to order a drink. The cruise director and staff were less than friendly and it seemed that anytime you were participating in an activity you were imposing on them. They were also quite sarcastic and offensive at times. The staff in the Horizon Court were acceptable but there were many times that you couldn't get anyone to stop and help you. They would walk by with eyes downcast to avoid making eye contact. Our waiter and his assistant in the dining room were acceptable but didn't make you feel special as I am used to. Food. The food choices at Horizon court never did improve. I can't really complain about the quality here, but I will say it was nothing special. The choices for free drinks were tea, coffee and water. We did ask about lemonade after the second day and found out that they have it but you have to find a server in the dining area to go get it for you. I asked once and watched the server go pour a glass of water and squeeze lemon slices into it. Needless to say this wasn't lemonade and I could have done this myself. The food in the dining room was just OK, nothing remarkable. I will recommend the pub lunch in The Painted Desert, one of the specialty restaurants. The lunch doesn't require a cover fee and the food was consistently good. The service here was the best we had experienced the entire cruise. Entertainment. The guest entertainers were good and the ships entertainers were also very good. The production shows were flawless but the venues need updating. No complaints here. Ports. We chose this cruise based on itinerary and we had no complaints here at all. I wish we had more time in each port but then we wouldn't have been able to visit as many great places. Tours/excursions. Because these ports were all unfamiliar we decided to book excursion through Princess. As always they were quite expensive but we were assured we would make it back to the ship in time for departure. The day we visited Istanbul the Eurasian marathon was being held and streets were closed to traffic. This resulted in much more walking than originally anticipated but we were notified ahead of time and the day was still great. We had wonderful guides on all of our excursions as well. Disembarkation. No problems and baggage was just where it was supposed to be. I wish I had more good things to say but overall I was disappointed. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
My husband and I just got back from 12 days on the Ruby Princess. We left from Venice and cruised to Athens, Kusadasi, Istanbul, Monte Carlo, Naples, Rome, Florence, Mykonos, and ended in Barcelona. Overall we had a great time on the ... Read More
My husband and I just got back from 12 days on the Ruby Princess. We left from Venice and cruised to Athens, Kusadasi, Istanbul, Monte Carlo, Naples, Rome, Florence, Mykonos, and ended in Barcelona. Overall we had a great time on the ship. We had a balcony cabin on the Lido Deck due to a last minute upgrade from Princess. Cabin and staff: The cabin was small but very comfortable with a nice balcony with two chairs and a table which we spent a lot of time outside on. The bed was very comfortable and the bathroom was standard (great shower pressure). There was two dressers and a chair and a TV on top of a cabinet with a refrigerator. A complimentary robe was provided. The walls were a bit thin but overall we enjoyed the cabin and had no complaints. Boarding and disembarking the ship was very easy and Princess has it down pat. They are very organized with regard to tours and getting on and off the ship. Most of the staff was extremely helpful and nice (especially our cabin steward). Food: The food was okay. We ate breakfast in the buffet and it was large and full of hot and cold items. We avoided lunch at the buffet and dinner after the first night. Food wasn't so great. Service at the buffet was hit or miss. The anytime dining was great as we were not hungry the same time each day due to all the ports we visited. The main dining rooms was very organized and the food was good. I would say not outstanding but we didn't expect 5 star food. Most of the food was good and you had a lot of choices. We had pizza and a hamburger at the grill which was very good. We did not pay the extra to eat at their signature restaurants. Entertainment: We are not into the typical cruise shows and spend many nights up on deck watching movies under the stars which were great. I think we watched 6 of 8 movies including Star Trek, Terminator, The Proposal, Angels and Demons, etc. Something for everyone. There was plenty of room and the lounge chairs were cushioned and comfortable. The staff handed out blankets and popcorn and then came by at the end with milk and cookies (a very nice touch). Other than that I cannot comment on the larger shows. Tours: The cruise tours were very expensive and I researched options and we booked private tours at less money. There were a lot of complaints about the tours among fellow passengers (too many people and could not keep up with the guide). I would suggest if you are able to book private tours or find you own company in lieu of Princess. That was you save money and get a much better and more personal experience. For example we paid 350 euro/$500 (4 of us) for a tour of Pisa/Florence and the same tour on princess (only difference was lunch included) was $369 a person. Spa: I did have a massage as there were a lot of special deals. I didn't see that many people using the gym facilities which were clean and very nice. I used the treadmill and stair stepper a few times and there was no wait. The spa staff was very nice and helpful. Overall, the Ruby Princess was a great ship (very large) and comfortable with lots of choices for entertainment and food. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
The Ruby Princess is a beautiful ship. Likes and dislikes of food is subjective so I will not review this subject in length. I do want to say that for those past time cruisers you can see little ways they have cut corners such as the ... Read More
The Ruby Princess is a beautiful ship. Likes and dislikes of food is subjective so I will not review this subject in length. I do want to say that for those past time cruisers you can see little ways they have cut corners such as the desserts are not as varied, etc. The food at the International Cafe was very good and it is free for most items. Vines also has free food and the Wheel House Pub will have free British lunches at different times during the cruise. There is no obvious omelet station in the buffet area, but if you ask one of the cooks, they will make you an omelet. The tours were definitely not for the physically challenged. I am in pretty good shape and every night I was exhausted. Please be aware that everywhere except Venice and Pisa is an uphill challenge. Lots of stairs. At all ruins you are walking on very uneven ground. I think we walked at least 4 of the 7 hills in Rome. Even the Vatican/ Sistine Chapel has an upward spiral staircase. I suggest if you go to Ephesus you wear sneakers and not open shoes. Surprise, someone was stung by a scorpion while we were there. If you sit at a sidewalk cafe in Italy, make sure you know the price before you buy. Sitting down and standing up to eat may reflect 2 different prices. We paid 32euros for a pizza pie and 3 waters in Amalfi. It was delicious and we did not argue over the price, but we saw the price in other restaurants and we know we were ripped off. Also, always bargain at the sidewalk souvenir booths and the bazaars. In Venice you can take a water bus from St. Marks to the Piazza Roma on the Grand Canal. We took a water taxi for a negotiated price of 80 euros because we were exhausted and did not want to stand on the water bus.It is the number 1 bus. On arriving at Piazza Roma it is a good 20 minute hike to the ship, especially when you are already tired. The ship usually left the port when stated on the Patter so make sure you are back to the ship on time. If you did not book a tour, at different ports there was sometimes a free shuttle to the main part of the city or train station. Other times there was a minimal charge. The guide shown on the ship's TV told you how to get around each city independently of a tour. We had a balcony cabin and was very glad we did. We used our balcony more than on any other cruise, so were grateful we spent the extra money. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
Having very much enjoyed our first Princess cruise last summer to the western Med on Sea Princess, my wife and I responded to a bargain offer from Princess to go to the Aegean this summer on its newest ship, Ruby Princess. The itinerary ... Read More
Having very much enjoyed our first Princess cruise last summer to the western Med on Sea Princess, my wife and I responded to a bargain offer from Princess to go to the Aegean this summer on its newest ship, Ruby Princess. The itinerary was a history teacher's (that's me) dream, calling at Naples, Santorini, Ephesus, Athens, and Venice, all of which have some connection to the curriculum I teach. The cruise departed from Civitavecchia, the port of Rome. We had four days in Rome beforehand and took the train from Rome's Termini Station to the port. It was an easy trip, as we had purchased reserved seats for a direct train the day before. I would strongly advise doing so, as many passengers who hadn't were unable to sit together. From the Civitavecchia station, it was an easy four-block walk to a free shuttle that took us to the ship. Embarkation went smoothly and efficiently. It is our experience that Princess is very good at moving people on and off. We were in a minisuite forward on the port side. It was spotless, spacious, with plenty of storage. However, when we went out onto the balcony we experienced the first of a number of annoyances we had with the design of the ship. Dolphin deck (Deck 9) is made up entirely of minisuites, and its balconies look down directly onto the sea, which is good. However, its balconies also are looked down on by all the other balconies above, which is stupid. You have absolutely no privacy. Because our balcony extended farther out than those above us, on four separate occasions we found ourselves dealing with rubbish that had fallen on our balcony from those above. Once an orange peel, once a sodden newspaper, and twice cigarette ash. The first problem with ash required cleaning of two of the balcony chairs, and on the second occasion a chunk of still-burning ash fell on my wife's bare arm. The orange peel, newspaper, and first problem with ash occurred during the night, so finding them on the balcony does not at all reflect badly on our room steward, who was excellent. The problem is with the ship's design. Considering that Ruby Princess is the last member of this class of ship, you have to wonder why Princess didn't deal with this obvious design flaw. Food. We don't do formal nights. On Sea Princess last year we found that our favorite place to eat was the Horizon Court Buffet, so we looked forward to doing the same on Ruby Princess. Our experience this time was not so good. Where last year the buffet included a terrific variety of fresh and nutritionally dense salad ingredients, the salad bar area of Ruby Princess's buffet was comparable to that of an American corporate cafeteria, and not a particularly good one. This lack of variety may have been a budget-cutting response to the economy of the last year, but it made for a less than wonderful experience. Also, the design of the buffet area, which included both the Horizon Court and the Cafe Caribe aft of it, is very poor. The Horizon Court buffet has entrances both fore and aft. While the line is intended to be entered forward and exited aft, the "Exit Only" signs were almost universally ignored. This led to confusion and traffic jams at almost every meal. Further, seating in Horizon Court is simply inadequate to the demand, so we frequently found ourselves going through the buffet in Horizon Court only to have to find seating in the Cafe Caribe. Sometimes, however, the Cafe Caribe was closed, so we (and many others) would have to use the aft elevator lobby to go to the other side of the ship. Why? Because only one side of the Horizon Court would be open at a time. The Cafe Caribe buffet was another study in strangeness. You would enter, and there would be the bread. Fine. Then a choice of two salads, already plated. One was always a Caesar, already dressed, and the other was a very ordinary mixed green, with a limited choice of dressings in bottles. Next you'd get to the pastas (always two kinds), and then the potatoes. This emphasis on starch again makes me suspect budget-concerns. Next you would get to the meats and fish, with still no sign of a vegetable. If you kept going, which many didn't because by that time their plates were full, you'd eventually find soups and a vegetable dish or two. Desserts were varied, and always good. The meats were always well prepared, as were the pastas. The vegetables were scanty and pretty hit-and-miss. Compared to the well oiled machine that was last year's buffet on the Sea Princess, however, this one has a long way to go. We never once went to our dining room. However, we did eat at Sabatini's. The service was excellent, but we did not particularly like their approach of serving every single menu item until you get to the main course. By the time the main courses arrived, we were pretty full, even though we had skipped the soup. And my main course, stuffed chicken, was simply not very good. Our Sabatini's experience actually caused us to cancel our planned dinner in the Crown Grill. One aspect of the Sabatini's evening did prepare us for the Cafe Florian in Venice (renowned for its expense) - our one bottle of mineral water, a regular coffee, and a double espresso cost about $35 (including tip) in addition to the $40 cover commanded by Sabatini's. The International Cafe was a nice place for a snack, and my wife and I both purchased Coffee Cards so we could get some real coffee or espresso. This was necessary, as the coffee served in the buffets is made up of some kind of coffee syrup mixed with hot water. Its caffeine content seems to be negligible, so we wound up drinking tea instead in the buffet. My only previous experience with ships aside from Sea Princess has been on honest-to-God ocean liners (United States, France, Lurline, QE2, QM2) with lots of deck space open directly to the elements. I found Ruby Princess to have almost no such deck space. There was plenty of outdoor space on various upper decks, but it was almost all behind glass. Deck space aft is very limited, and open deck space forward is almost non-existent. There is an observation area on Lido Deck above the bridge, but it was blocked off with obviously bogus "wet paint" signs for the first eleven days of the cruise. The Promenade Deck is not only very narrow compared to every other ship I've been on, its surface is some kind of synthetic with a wood pattern painted on it. Very slippery when wet. One very nice feature is that the Promenade Deck does extend all the way to the bow of the ship, although the most forward area was blocked off frequently due to wind and always after dark. There was always music playing in the various public spaces, and the most enjoyable for me was a pickup band of orchestra guys who like to play jazz. They were terrific. We frequently used the laundromats on board. Aside from the fact that the change machines in almost all of them ran out and were allowed to remain empty for days, they were fine. However, the ship was at bottom a port-of-call delivery vehicle. As mentioned earlier, the itinerary was of great interest to us. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
Sail Date: July 15-27, 2009 This was our 9th sailing with Princess, first to Europe. Trying to keep excursion costs down, we did quite a bit of our own homework ahead of time, learning about the ports and sights to see.  Lots of info ... Read More
Sail Date: July 15-27, 2009 This was our 9th sailing with Princess, first to Europe. Trying to keep excursion costs down, we did quite a bit of our own homework ahead of time, learning about the ports and sights to see.  Lots of info online and in Rick Steve's "Italy" tour book.Ports: MONTE CARLO: Can either dock or tender in by boat. You can see nearly everything on foot. It's a nice way to ease into the trip, especially if you just had a travel day. Husband got off the ship when we docked at 11am and had a good run through the city, along the "Grand Prix" route. LIVORNO: Expecting that Rome the following day would be exhausting, we opted to just visit Pisa by local bus and train. Princess has arranged for independent shuttles to drive you to the center of town (Piazza Grande) for €8, round trip unlimited rides. From there you can go to a Tabacchi shop to buy a bus ticket and the Pisa train ticket. There is a small surcharge but worth it not to have to stand in that line at the train station. If you want to forgo the adventure of the crowded public bus, there's a shuttle also at the pier for €15 round trip directly to the train station. Cash only. CIVITAVECCHIA: Much to our surprise and dismay, we got an uexpected sea day as our stop in Civitavecchia was cancelled due to strong winds, preventing docking. Princess refunded their excursions, but those of us with pre-paid independent tours lost out big time. NAPLES: Docked on a Sunday which meant lots of stores & restaurants were closed. We opted for the HopOn-HopOff bus which met us at the end of the dock. For €22 p/p, you can ride in the open top to see the sites of Naples on three different loops of the city. Of course you can get off and visit the Archeological Museum or any number of sites, but most people just stayed on the bus. I wish I would have visited some grocery stores that were open to buy olive oil as this was the last Italian stop before Venice, which just sold junk and jewelry. Husband ran at this stop as well first thing in the a.m. MYKONOS: Ship may either dock or tender by boat, which we did and was much more convenient for getting in to town. This is a good walking-around stop. We sent our daughters (adult) on the Platis Yialos beach excursion, which they loved. Book the earlier time slot to get a better spot on the beach and before it gets too hot. Time is allowed for walking the town upon return. There is a small public beach in the center of town, windy but a nice place to dip your toes in the water. ISTANBUL: We booked "Easy Istanbul" which was very reasonable for all we did and saw. The Grand Bazaar was suffocating and overwhelming. Be prepared with abundant online info. Starbuck's near GB. Princess offers a shuttle service to the GB for $12 round trip. From there, you can also walk to the Blue Mosque and St. Sophia. KUSADASI: Enjoyed "Ancient Ephesus". Take at least 32oz. of water with you (mostly ice), a hat or umbrella and a washcloth for mopping sweat. Really. Temp. was a little over 100°F. Before entering the ruins, there are souvenir stalls to buy straw hats, post cards and a great book on Ephesus for €2. If you saw carpet weaving demo and sales pitch in Istanbul, skip the same in Kusadasi and shop their bazaar area instead. Starbuck's here also near the terminal. PIRAEUS: Would recommend "Acropolis, Ancient Corinth & Canal" excursion. Wear good walking shoes (dusty marble is slick), bring water and hat/umbrella. Another 100°F. day. Greek buffet lunch was in a hotel; simple salads, chicken, pasta, potatoes and so-so desserts. Wine is free but you have to pay for soda. Usually several tours converge there so it gets a little crazy. If you want to buy postcards, get them from the vendors at the Acropolis as shopping on this excursion is "high end". There are some stalls at the canal, which is just a potty/soda/picture stop. VENICE: Get up to the starboard side of the ship by 9am for taking spectacular photos of your entry into Venice. Words cannot describe. We came in on a Sunday and bells were pealing, as if on cue. Princess delivers water shuttle tickets to your room and charges you $15 unless you return them. We did not book any excursions so we kept the tickets, which made it convenient for returning after dinner, which I strongly recommend. I booked a free reservation time at St. Mark's Basilica (skip the line) http://www.alata.it:80/eng/BOOKING/sanmarco.asp but didn't make it because it took one hour to get off the ship (checked every passenger's temp. for H1N1). Souvenirs here are double what you'd pay in Pisa for the same thing. MONEY: Rather than getting cash from an ATM, we used the currency exchange machine on the ship. For $3.50 fee, we felt safe and secure and didn't risk not finding a working ATM at port. But get money early as the machine does run out of euros. If you end up with extra bills at the end of the trip, you can exchange it back for USD. Kusadasi and Istanbul use Turkish Lira (TRY) but will accept Euro and USD. If you plan to use the commuter trolley, you probably need to have TRY. I recommend carrying a little conversion chart for both currencies so you can quickly see how much it would be in USD http://www.oanda.com/convert/cheatsheet . Before leaving, check with your bank to see what they charge for ATM withdrawals and if your credit card has a conversion fee for purchases. Capital One Visa does not while AMEX has 2.7% surcharge. Let your bank know of your travel plans. LAUNDRY: Wash and Dry is $1.50 each. Bring a roll of quarters. Powdered ALL in vending machine for $1. Sea Days are busy laundry days. If your last stop is Venice, don't plan on washing clothes that day as there's "gray water restrictions" so the Laundry Room is closed. DISEMBARKATION: Expect long lines at the Purser's Desk the day before Disembarkation. Also, we had a 3:45 a.m. Disembarkation time and our room steward had but did not deliver our final statement so we left without being able to confirm all charges. You can print boarding passes at the Internet cafe for 50 cents a page. DON'T FORGET: Travel clock, extension cord if you need electricity at the bedside (outlets are limited), binoculars, reusable water bottles and 2 oz. of dish soap for cleaning, hand sanitizer for ports, quarters for laundry, sun protection., white clothes if you want to go to the "White Hot Deck Party", your own wi-fi enabled laptop for convenience. They provide soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion and blow dryer. Also have a copy of your passport as they are collected for your days in Turkey. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
About the reviewer I am a 49 Y/O married man with 2 kids ages 11 and 12.   This was our 5th cruise and 2nd with Princess.  I am a Naval Officer.   I selected this cruise due to the itinerary and the brand new ship, Ruby Princess. ... Read More
About the reviewer I am a 49 Y/O married man with 2 kids ages 11 and 12.   This was our 5th cruise and 2nd with Princess.  I am a Naval Officer.   I selected this cruise due to the itinerary and the brand new ship, Ruby Princess.   Embarkation / Disembarkation Embarkation was flawless and fast.  We arrived at the Port of Venice at 1130.  From entrance to the terminal to boarding the ship, total time elapsed was 30 minutes.  Disembarkation did not fare as well.  Specifically, we opted for the "self disembarkation" status since we had our own arrangements to get to our hotel in Rome.  We were off the ship by 0730 only to discover our luggage had been placed in an outdoor tent way too small for all the luggage in pouring rain.  Upon entering the chaos in the tent, we found our luggage sitting in 4 inches of water!   To add insult, everyone and their luggage was so jammed packed under the tent, I had to carry each back at waist level tippy toeing around passengers to get out.  With all our clothes wet, it meant wearing the same clothes for another 2 days.   Service   As in the past with Sea Princess, room and restaurant service was top notch.   Our steward and waiter would do anything to ensure our satisfaction.   One note of difference, the servers in the buffet area were exceptional.   From the moment you sat down till the moment you left, someone was always ensuring your coffee was hot and your juice glasses filled.   If however, you tried to get a drink using your free refill card in any show lounge, FORGET IT, servers avoided us like the plague.    Ruby Princess gets failing grades with the pursers' desk, the two Brazilian individuals in particular were no less than awful, acting annoyed if your needs were not simple and quick.  In addition, another area terribly concerning was the level of response to a legitimate health concern within the room.  Immediately upon initial arrival in our stateroom (235 Aloha Deck) we noticed an overpowering smell of volatile organic compounds (VOC's) like varnish or paint thinner.  My wife was experiencing an immediate reaction of headache, nausea and dizziness.  Princess staff acted as if there was no smell.  It was not until I identified myself as someone with a Masters in Occupational Health they began taking action.  It took 4 hours to get a response to our concern whereby we were offered a temporary alternate cabin for the night.  Needless to say, our port day in Venice was ruined.   Itinerary   This particular cruise was very port intensive, calling on 10 ports in 12 days including Venice where we were docked a day and a half before leaving.   Each stop was very beautiful.  What was very disappointing was how early we were required to pull out each afternoon (4:30-5:30).  Trips between ports of call taking 3-4 hours by regional ferries (such as Athens to Mykonos) required we take 12-14 hours, crawling at 10 knots.   We can only assume Princess wanted us on board to spend money or they were too cheap to burn fuel a higher rate.  With excursions getting back at 3:30 or 4:30, it left little or no time to legitimately explore on your own.   Also of note, when 3080 passengers plus some crew descend upon quaint ports such as Mykonos or Santorini, you will find yourself dodging massive crowds and tour groups of 30- 40 people, not exactly relaxing.   Food   Food was hit or miss, overall I would rate is 3.5 out of five.   In general, we found the food in the buffet area for dinner to be bland and lacking.  I offer some details of foods not to be missed and foods better left alone.   Foods not to be missed -Pizza (YUM!) -Fettuccini Alfredo in main dinning room (best I have ever had anywhere) -Chocolate cake in main piazza pastry shop -Pork Belly in main dining room -NY cheese cake   Foods better left alone -Steaks (any and all) in main dining area, they were bland and tough -mousse -they tasted like eating grease -chocolate cakes in buffet area (bland) -Scrambled eggs in buffet, powered, YUCK.   On board experience   Overall Princess get high marks for keeping 3000 passengers apart using clever tactics such as two show rooms offering the same shows twice in a row so passengers can view both shows over two separate nights.   One feature that really really jumped out at us was how Princess constantly marketed to us. The "Welcome Aboard Show" featured 45 minutes of Princess hocking their wares, showing all the places you could spend additional $$ such as the optional dinning rooms, very disappointing.  If you are planning a cruise on Ruby, skip the opening show unless you like be shaken down to spend money.   On the first formal night there were no less than six photography stations set up, two blocking main passage way. I made no apologies for waling right through a photo shoot taking place directly in the path of passenger along the main Promenade deck.    Spirits, beer and wine are reasonably priced from 3.50-7.00.   Concluding remarks   Overall, the trip was nice, but I would caution expecting rest and relaxation.   With more time in each port and less being marketing to, the experience might have been more enjoyable and relaxing.   Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
Our Mediterranean cruise was chosen primarily for its itinerary, and taken by mom & dad (late 40's) and daughter (15) along with another family of similar configuration from the Puget Sound area in Washington, USA; for most all of ... Read More
Our Mediterranean cruise was chosen primarily for its itinerary, and taken by mom & dad (late 40's) and daughter (15) along with another family of similar configuration from the Puget Sound area in Washington, USA; for most all of our extended group, this was our first trip to Europe and was our first cruise with Princess Cruises and our 7th cruise overall.  The cruise was booked through a local travel agent, with our air arrangements booked separately with frequent flier miles (by mom).  It should be noted that a fair amount of planning went into this whole trip (mostly by mom) which should not be under emphasized as important. At the outset, it should be said that the main purpose of the trip was to get a 'taste' of what these great regions of Europe have to offer; it is really tough to more than scratch the surface on a trip of this nature.  Given our limited time, and tastes, we also were not specifically looking to 'dive deep' into the wines, foods and museums of the region and this review probably reflects that. We flew into Rome via London with no major problems (thank you British Air) with enough time to spend a full day and a half in Rome prior to leaving for Civitavecchia to meet the ship.  We had arranged our transfers and touring (through most of the Italian stops) through 'Rome in Limo'  who did a fantastic job of meeting us, getting us to and from sites and to the ship on time (thank you Vincenzo).  We could not recommend them highly enough (www.romeinlimo.com).   In Rome we were able to see the Coliseum, Trevi  Fountain, Forum, the Vatican, Sistine Chapel and St Peters Basilica; we had also arranged a private guide through the Vatican which was well worth the added cost.   I'll leave specific descriptions to others; there is obviously a reason it is called the Eternal City.  There were also a number of other stops which are probably too many to list here; suffice it to say Rome in Limo was able to coordinate just about anything and tell us what could fit into the time we had; they also directed us to some nice quick, affordable and tasty dining establishments; here is where doing your research pays off: know what you want to see and it can be coordinated so there are no disappointments.  We had none. We were dropped off at the ship with plenty of time for embarkation; Civitavecchia appears to be a busy port that seemed somewhat complicated with several cruise ships docked and a number of routes to them; we saw several people rolling their luggage a long way to get to the correct ship.  Embarkation went pretty smoothly other than after you drop you bags off and go into the tent, there isn't really much direction to 'get a number' to proceed in order to the formal registration.  A loudspeaker would have been welcomed. We had done most of the pre-registration before hand and had no problems; and were in our room in about a half hour. The Ruby Princess is a pretty handsome vessel; sometimes cruise ships come off as a cross between a palace and a bordello; this ship was just right in decoration and theme for the Mediterranean as well as being clean and reasonably efficient.  We were in a BE class cabin with an outdoor balcony on the Baja deck, which was of average size for a cruise ship, and efficiently laid out; the closet configuration made it seem a little bigger than cabins on past cruises.  Our travelling companions had an adjoining cabin and we were able to have the balcony divider opened which made everything seem bigger.  Our cabin steward was probably the best that we have had on any cruise (thank you Piotr); and made our stay most comfortable and entertaining. Most of the facts about the ship concerning accommodations, amenities, size and capacity can be gathered better elsewhere; let's just go forward with the following observations:  For carrying about 3000 people, it never really seemed crowded, even on sea days.  While there were lounge hogs, it still seemed possible to find a place.  For all this space, it seemed like the arrangement of things didn't flow as well as other ships; it isn't really symmetrical and there seemed to be a number of dead ends that we found ourselves in. It was very clean and the staff/crew were very hospitable. Other negatives (to us): The large movie screen at the main pool; for the most part we thought it was really annoying at sea and hear some movie with loud car crashes (why are we going to sea again?).  There also seemed to be a lack of shade on public deck areas.  The one place they had it was in an area called "The Sanctuary"; this appeared to be a nice quiet comfortable area, though it cost about $ 10-$ 20 per day to use it.  Excuse me Princess but haven't we paid enough for this already?  I'm sure Princess has done their demographics on these items but they missed the boat as far as we were concerned. The entertainment was not a real big deal to us.  I don't think I could remember more than a few messages from the cruise director (which is a good thing to us); no constant annoying contests and announcements.  They had a reasonable deck band during the days and some at the clubs at night that we didn't really check out too much.  The ship shows in the evenings were poor; really, really poor; though after seeing one or two we did not go back. The food and drink aboard was fairly good by our standards, considering the number of people served.  We did not try any of the specialty restaurants and ate mostly in the dining room for dinner and lido deck cafe's for breakfast and lunch.  Due to a miscommunication with our travel agent, we were stuck with Anytime Dinning which stunk for us; the last thing I want to be doing at 6:00AM in the morning before a shore excursion is coordinating dinner reservations for 6 people.  We finally got that changed on the second day and had a consistent time being served by Luisto and Bruce who were excellent for the whole trip (Thank You). Dinners were OK from a variety standpoint with the best foods, to us, being sea food (salmon, crab legs, lobster) and pasta; steaks were OK though they looked like they came from cows about the size of a big Labrador Retriever.   Breakfasts and lunches were commercial though they did seem to have a variety that might appeal to travelers with a more adventuresome palate than ours; unfortunately, when something new and good appeared it only seemed to last a day in the cafe.   The drinks aboard were typical by cruise standards (to us); fairly expensive.  Beers about $ 6.00 including tip; didn't try mixed drinks as they never seem to get it right to me.  There didn't seem to be a lot of 'hustling ' to buy the drink of the day on this cruise.  We had soda cards (about $ 51.00 each for the cruise) which were worth it to us.  Getting juices, lemonade or tea seemed tougher to come by as it seemed the wait staff handled that as opposed to a self serve dispenser. Our first stop was Monte Carlo; we had not arranged any formal tour but decided to go out on foot by ourselves.  This was a tender port and we got ashore mid morning and decided to walk up to the palace area.  If you stay to the left going up, around the tunnel, you can catch escalators that make the trip easier by foot; going around towards the city and up is a much more difficult walk.  At the top there is a palace guard, beautiful views on both sides and a small shopping restaurant area that you can find any number of souvenirs and food/beverage.  Towards the sea, on this plateau, are a beautiful church and the oceanographic institute.  Our next port was Livorno; we had arranged a private tour through Rome in Limo which was fantastic (thank you John).  We started out early and headed to Pisa with the Leaning Tower being the main 'attraction'; while this is interesting and shouldn't be missed it was just as interesting to see the whole area around it; the former walls of the city in their various layers, the architecture of the compound and the view from atop the tower is one not to be forgotten; we also learned that the leaning tower of Pisa is not the only leaning tower in Pisa!  From Pisa, we went to Florence, taking a route through Tuscany which was much more interesting than a typical highway drive, arriving at a great vantage point to see an overview of the city including the Ponte Vecchio bridge over the Arno river, and remnants of the old city walls against the background of Florence.  We also took in seeing il Duomo, the Baptistry, as well as Michelangelo's David;  Rome in Limo had arranged admission so the wait to get in was minimal, which should not be missed.  There was even some time for shopping before the trip back to the ship. John also found us some great gelato. The next stop was Naples; again a private tour arranged through Rome in Limo which was great (thank you Raphaelo).  This tour included a trip down the Amalfi Coast with a stop in Positano and Sorrento; the road along the coast that we took was one of the most picturesque that you could imagine; we were able to stop several times for pictures of this beautiful Mediterranean coast line.  In Positano we had time to wander some of the narrow streets for shopping as well as in Sorrento on the way back.  Raphaelo found us a restaurant for lunch, Antico Frantio, which had fantastic, fresh local food in a setting overlooking Sorrento and the Gulf of Naples, that was 'priceless'. On the way back to the ship we stopped for a tour of Pompeii; surprisingly this is just about 5 minutes off the freeway, just next to a commercial district.  We had arranged (through Rome in Limo) for a private guide who was fantastic; Alphonso (Thank You) guided us through an informative/entertaining two hour walk through some of the ruins, giving us probably more information than we could have gathered in a whole day or two on our own; again, these guides are well worth the cost when they are as knowledgeable and passionate about their subject as Alphonso was.  Following this trip, we were driven back to the ship to a chorus of 'That's Amore' led by Raphaelo; a great way to end the day. The next stop was in Santorini Greece.  Our tour here was arranged through Princess; which while not necessarily the best value, was very well organized (Princess seems to do this well), especially  for departure.  Our tour started with a tender ride to busses that took us to a winery (at 8:30 AM); a little early for a trip to the 'magic kingdom'.   The tour then went to the village of Oia, which has nice shopping and some of the most beautiful views and buildings that you could imagine.  After that, we were taken on a short trip of the island and taken to Fira for shopping and snacks; from here you could catch the tender back to the ship.  Fira had some great  view restaurants; it is worth taking the time to stop and have bite and a beverage overlooking the sea.  Be sure to allow enough time to catch the tram down to the tender area; this can be a long wait in hot sun. Next in line is Kusadasi, Turkey where the main attraction for us was Ephesus.  Arranged through Princess, this bus tour took us from the ship for a 40 minute drive to Ephesus; throughout this drive the tour guide gave an informative and interesting history of the region from both an archeological and geological point of view; the Ephesus site was a real surprise (positive) as we had not heard much about it but it was well worth the trip; we also saw the ruins of St John's Basilica and the house of the Virgin Mary.  The final stop was at a rug/carpet store which was pretty useless unless you were in the market for such, which we were not.  A final note, the shopping areas around the ship are much like the streets of Tijuana; a lot of hard sell and negotiating.  This area of Turkey is far more beautiful than we thought, when we think of Asia minor. Mykonos was the next port; here we had scheduled a beach day, through Princess Cruises. This was swimming at Platis Yialos.  This trip was a disappointment as we didn't get much history of the area on the bus ride, were sort of 'dumped off' and left to figure out where to go.  This wasn't too difficult, though.  The water was a little dirty (seaweed) at one end; go to the far end of the beach where it seemed cleaner and a nicer beach though the lounge/umbrella rental was slightly more expensive; the water there was divine. Athens was the next stop and probably the most anticipated for our group.  We had tagged on to a tour arranged by someone we met on the Cruise Critic roll call for this cruise (Thank you, Luvz2run2000).  This tour included a first stop at the Acropolis to see the Parthenon and other sites; for this part of the excursion, we had a private guide who, while probably very knowledgeable, did not have a real good command of English; as such, it was tough to get as much out of this tour as we would have liked.  I suspect there is not much point in describing this site too much other than to say, it looks as much like a modern construction site as it does an archeological ruin; also, try to get there early in the morning (heat and crowds). Also on our Athens tour we were able to see the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown, do a little shopping at the Placa, and take a leisurely drive to Sounion to see the Temple of Poseidon ruins.  We had not thought too much about this before our trip but found this to be very enjoyable; the ruins are  in pretty good shape (for ruins, that is), not near as many crowds and there is a nice restaurant for a drink and a rest in the open and shaded air. Katakolon, Greece was the next stop, where our primary destination was to see Olympia; this tour was arranged through Princess and was very good.  It was about a 40 minute bus ride from the ship to Olympia on which our guide gave a great description of the area and history surrounding Olympia.  The site itself, while in more of a state of ruin that some others, was more than worth seeing given the history surrounding it; again a good tour guide made this better than we could have hoped.  Near the ship in Katakolon, there is also a main street within walking distance for typical shopping opportunities. Corfu, Greece was our penultimate stop, here we did a morning beach excursion to a local beach/hotel which was nice but all too short (this was arranged through Princess).  In the afternoon we walked along the waterfront on our own, past the fort to a shopping/restaurant areas and spent some time there; a very relaxing day all things considered. The final stop of our cruise was Venice.  The ship itinerary puts the arrival time at 10:00PM; we were able to get in earlier and sailed in about 7:00PM in time to see the city as sunset neared.  With the music of Andrei Bocelli playing it was a dramatic entrance that should not be missed; make sure you get to starboard early enough to get a spot on the rail to take in the view and great pictures.  Princess had arranged for transportation via vaporetto ($ 15.00 per person)that evening so we went in and looked around a little during the evening.  The next day, after disembarkation, we had arranged for pick-up and bag storage for the day and transportation to the airport at the end of the day, which worked well. Disembarkation went pretty well; probably better than any other cruise we have been on.  Generally, they give you a time to get off rather than call your area; make sure if you have a connection to meet that you see the pursers desk to change your time if you need to; this was handled for us very easily. We spent the day in Venice travelling around mostly by vaporetto which is basically a water bus but works pretty efficiently (16 euros per person for a day pass).  Most of our time was spent taking in the area around the Piazza San Marco; fantastic sights (with the exception of the bridge of sighs being mostly covered for restoration with shrouding that basically looked like a commercial).  We also did the typical gondola ride (100 euros for all six of us lasting 40 minutes) and had a leisurely snack and drink at a cafe right on the Piazza; you could also go for some American food at the Hard Rock cafe which isn't too far away. The transfer to the airport was not too eventful; the airport itself is rather unremarkable until you get through security and it looks very upscale and remodeled; if you can't check in early you sit and wait in an area more akin to a bus station than and airport.  After leaving Venice, we spent two days in London which is another subject but, well worth the visit there.In summation, this was a great trip; you could call it a trip of a lifetime, though we all hope to return again someday.  While we chose this cruise mostly for the itinerary, Princess was a pleasant surprise.  We would definitely use them again though probably not this same cruise (we just did it, of course!)   the weather we had was great; we only had a couple instances of rain (Rome) that didn't last too long.  Being from the Pacific Northwest, we couldn't imagine doing this trip in the dead of summer; it was pretty hot and humid as it was in late June (Keep Hydrated!!).   The only other thing to re-emphasize is planning; mom did a fantastic job on this and used a number of resources including the CC roll call for this trip; while we didn't meet many from the roll call, the duscussions were of much value (Thank you Mr Shy, though we never got to meet).  The sights were largely unforgettable and coming from an area where a 100 year old building is a rarity; seeing a 100 year old building that is, by relative standards, a new building is eye opening.  Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
First of all, let me preface this review by stating I am not a cruise fan.After much input from my wife, I reluctantly agreed to a 12 day 11 port Mediterranean cruise with Princess. We boarded the Crown Princess in Civitavecchia Italy ... Read More
First of all, let me preface this review by stating I am not a cruise fan.After much input from my wife, I reluctantly agreed to a 12 day 11 port Mediterranean cruise with Princess. We boarded the Crown Princess in Civitavecchia Italy after spending two days in Rome. Check in was very smooth and organized as we arrived to our stateroom on board the Crown Princess. Our balcony stateroom was larger than I thought it would be and the amenities better than expected. The employees on board were consistenly pleasant, always willing to help and engage in conversation with the passengers. The cruise line employees represent over 30 countries and speaking with most of them was a joy. Prior to leaving for the cruise, I read many reviews most good, but some very bad.First the good: 1. Food. The buffets were typical buffets with a large selection of entrees, salads, sides etc. The quality of the food was average to good. As one fellow passenger noted, "average food dressed up". We typically visited the buffet for breakfast only and found it to be fine. The dining rooms, DaVinci and Michelangelo serve the same menu and each night a different theme was featured. The quality of the food and service in the dining rooms was very good. There are 2 other options for dining on board: Sabatini's (Italian) and the Crown Grill (steakhouse) which requires an additional charge of $25 per person. We dined at both and found the upcharge to be well worth it. The dinner we had in the Crown Grill was one of the 10 best meals I have ever had. In addition, several other areas offer sushi, pastry, etc for an upcharge. 2. Entertainment: We really didn't go to shows, but we did see one comedian that was ok, and went to the onboard karoke night, that was pretty typical, mostly bad singers with too much confidence fueled by too much alcohol.Movies under the stars was a nice thing, in which we enjoyed on more than one occasion 3. Activities: Again, didn't really participate much other than poolside, so I can't comment here.4. Fitness: Gym is well stocked with all the amenities you would expect and very well done. If you're into fitness, shows, comedy, I'm sure you can find something to pass the time on board if that's what you're looking for. 5. Shore Excursions: Again, great variety of stuff to see and do. In Italy, we toured the Amalfi coast, Positano, Sorrento, that was expensive ($379 per person) but included a beautiful lunch at a 5 star hotel that was worth the cost. We also toured Florence that allowed us to not wait in line to see Michelangleo's David. The line was an hour and a half. We opted for the Vatican tour as well which was well worth it. The Greek islands, Santorini, Mykonos, Corfu, etc are very small with not much to see, so I would advise not to spend good money here on a tour. You can do it on your own.6.Spa: I'm not a spa guy so I didn't go, but, there seemed to be a good variety of spa treatments if that's what you're into. The morning show with the cruise director Ron and the information provided by Rusty were very helpful regarding the ports visited. Make sure to check them out.Now the bad.1.Extra Charges: The cruise line charges for soda, bottled water and ice cream. On the way to the gangway to go on tours, the cruise line sets up a station in which they push bottled water sales telling you that you won't find water on shore. They charge you $3.00 for water, which you can find everywhere on shore wherever you are for about 1 Euro. We even found it in Athens for .50 Euro. The staff photographer was somewhat annoying snapping your picture at every opportunity, leaving the ship, dinner, etc and the overpriced photos are on display everywhere.Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the cruise and would consider it again. The benefit of seeing a good number of ports and only unpacking once was nice. It gave me a taste of places I would like to return and spend more time. The highlight of the cruise for me was Florence and sailing into Venice at dusk with Vivaldi blasting over the ships PA system. If you have an interest in cruising on the Crown Princess in the Mediterranean and Greek Isles, remember one thing, if you read reviews you will find people who find fault with almost anything. I have traveled all over the world and I think I know good from bad, so from this skeptic, go for it, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised too. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
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