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2,085 Princess Romantic Cruise Reviews

We started off in Rome Italy for a few days before the embarktation. What a wonderful city, always bustling and way too many things to see in 3 days.  We set up our own transfer to the ship with 6 other people, we had learned that ... Read More
We started off in Rome Italy for a few days before the embarktation. What a wonderful city, always bustling and way too many things to see in 3 days.  We set up our own transfer to the ship with 6 other people, we had learned that Princess had a transfer from a central location in Rome but it was more expensive than we had already set up.  We had met some of the people we took the transfer with on the Roll Call board I highly recommend using this valuable tool to get to know your fellow cruisers and to set up transfers and private tours.The ship was beautiful, we have sailed on her before and since then the Pocket of Tranquility has been added: a nice touch though we did not get the opportunity to take advantage of it this time.  Room was nice and already had the tux my husband rented for formal nights all set up for us in the closet.  We had a cabin on the Aloha deck near the front of the ship.  The cabin steward Roberto was on top of our every request, he got us our robes we requested by the second morning of the cruise and remembered the rest of the cruise that I liked an extra towel for my showers.  Roberto even got to know when we would usually go to dinner or leave for the morning to to on shore and always had our room ready for us when we came back, he was wonderful!  The dining room took a few nights to find a waiter that we liked as we did anytime dining. We finally found Direk and Starsky in the Davinci dining room table 513.  The head waiter Taziano was very accommodating when we wanted a table for 2 then for the remainder of the cruise a table for 4 even giving us a table that was meant for another waiter and having Direk and Starsky take over service for it one night!  Direk was very helpful in recommending a course for dinner and always would mention if a particular dish might not be as good ( he was correct every time as one night I tried the pulled pork and it was less than delicious as he had said it might not be).  The food was mostly good with a few nights of us scratching our heads and not really finding something that stood out on the menu.Public areas were clean and bar staff always at the ready to take your order. International Cafe was wonderful for a smaller sandwich or salad for lunch. The coffee bar was a nice addition, highly recommend getting the coffee card! The ports we visited : Civitavecchia, Livorno, Genoa, Cannes, Barcelona, Gibraltar, Cadiz, Lisbon, Vigo, Cobh, Le Havre Zebrugge, and Southampton.We had the opportunity to meet the PSD James Deering through our CC Roll call meetings on board, he was very interesting and helpful answering our many questions about the ship and its workings, shore excursions etc, can't say enough good things about him. We watched as he tirelessly handled inquiries and complaints with tact and efficiency every day.  Thanks James!! We found out that in fact he reads these reviews and so does someone at Princess corporate offices.All in all a wonderful trip and a wonderful ship and crew. We have put down a deposit on another cruise with Princess  but haven't picked out a destination yet. Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
My husband and I are new to Princess.  We have cruised Carnival and Royal Caribbean before.  We were celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary on the Ruby Princess.  We picked Ruby Princess specifically for their ports.  We picked ... Read More
My husband and I are new to Princess.  We have cruised Carnival and Royal Caribbean before.  We were celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary on the Ruby Princess.  We picked Ruby Princess specifically for their ports.  We picked a balcony for this cruise.  We had B756 which was at the back of the ship.  We loved the position of our cabin because it allowed us to sit on the balcony each night and sip wine as we left each of the ports.  Our cabin steward was spectacular too!  Our cabin was always well taken care of.  We did notice though they didn't make any "towel animals" on this cruise.  The food was good too!  We did "Anytime Dining" and loved the flexibility.  We did make a standing dinner time in Da Vinci dining room each night at 8:30 with the head waiter, Gardwyn.  I loved each night being greeted by him!!  Our waiter, Antonio was extra special.  He paid attention to all the details and looked out for us each night.  We did try both specialty restaurants on the ship.  The Crown Grill was excellent.  The steaks were great and service was exceptional.  Our favorite specialty restaurant was Sabatini's.  They fed us a 16 course meal.  The service was exceptional too.  They sang at our table for our 25th anniversary.  Our view was out of this world and super romantic.  We were both happy with our experience with Princess.  Their way of getting 3000 passengers on board and off the ship is much better than any other cruise we have gone on.  We both were happy with the nightly entertainment, but felt Royal Caribbean had better nightly shows.  They were more "Vegas like" than Princess, but were still happy with what we did see.  The ship was mainly people/couples in their 40's and older.  We did see many families, but felt it was more of an older crowd.  We both loved the Ruby and are already looking at where else we can travel with Princess.  They treat you wonderfully on this cruise!!  Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
My husband and I traveled to Alaska this July with my sister and her husband; my second trip/cruise and their first. Our vacation started out in Anchorage on July 15th. We flew from Sacramento to Seattle then on to Anchorage and arrived in ... Read More
My husband and I traveled to Alaska this July with my sister and her husband; my second trip/cruise and their first. Our vacation started out in Anchorage on July 15th. We flew from Sacramento to Seattle then on to Anchorage and arrived in the early afternoon. The airport was quite busy as people were arriving for several different cruise lines and all checking-in close together. After a short wait, the Princess outfitters were very helpful and got us on the correct bus to the downtown hotels. We stayed at the Captain Cook hotel and were pleased with the accommodations. We had time to explore the city a little, see a film about the Northern Lights at the Community Center, and eat dinner at the Brew House. The next morning we took a one hour trolley tour of the city (very informative) and saw a mother moose with her calf off the side of the road. Around noon we left on a bus for the Kenai Princess Lodge. The two and a half hour coach trip was comfortable and scenic. We stayed two nights at the Kenai Princess Lodge. Our adjoining rooms were very comfortable. The wood burning stove is a quaint touch. We fired it up the first night but the fan was noisy and we were warmer than I prefer, so a fire for one night was enough. Our only complaint was that they did not provide coffee makers in the rooms; having said that, the staff was pleasant and accommodating. The lodge does provide, though, transportation around the grounds. All we had to do was to call the front desk for a van that would take us to/from our building (a little bit of a hike up a hill) or down to/up from the river (a rather steep road). Having the choice to either ride or walk was a nice luxury. The lodge itself is rustic and beautiful. We enjoyed the game and book selection, free internet, and the coffee bar. And we had dinner both nights at the informal bar (great music). We chose not to take any excursions at Kenai, but next time I would choose to take the Kenai Fjords tour because of the abundance of wildlife that can be seen from the boat. The two and a half hour coach ride to the ship (July 18th) was pretty and the tunnel was fun. Embarkation in Whittier was smooth and quick. There was no-one there taking embarkation photos which was fine with us since it was rainy and we were anxious to board and get settled. The Sapphire Princess is as beautiful as the Diamond (the sister ship), but I did notice a couple of small differences in the layout especially in the placement of the restaurants (dining rooms) and the casino. The similarity helped me keep my bearings (most of the time). We had side-by-side balcony rooms on the Caribe deck (10), mid-ship on the starboard side. We used our balconies a lot! Our room steward, Ronaldo, opened the door between our balconies, brought us fresh fruit, ice for our coolers, plush bathrobes and slippers, egg crates for the beds and deck blankets. He was attentive to our coming and going and made up the rooms while we were out. Our first full day out (College Fjord day), we met in the early afternoon with members of our Cruise Critic roll call at the Skywalkers Lounge. We talked for a couple of hours. Princess had set an area aside for us to sit and talk (with the bar handy for those who wanted to order drinks). The young people (teens through young 20s) formed their own "meet and greet" and forged friendships that lasted the rest of the cruise. We chose "anytime dining" and ate in a different restaurant every night. Each restaurant had its own "feel" and nearly all of our waiters were excellent and the rest were pretty good! On "Italian night" (Skagway) we had the Ultimate Balcony Dinner (for four) and it was fantastic! I highly recommend it. The dinner and service were worth much more than the $100/couple cost (plus $20 tip). Alphonso, the room service supervisor, is worth his weight in gold and Angel our server made our dinner a very special event. I have never felt so pampered! Formal nights are a little hectic but it is so fun to see everyone all dressed up. Portrait backdrops are set up all over the atrium area and with no sitting fees, we moved from backdrop to backdrop and had lots of pictures to choose from at the end of the cruise! We ate late (8ish) every night and only made reservations twice. It was difficult to get into the Vivaldi dining room without reservations because it opens late (it accommodates traditional dining for first seating), and the last night of the cruise the dining rooms were packed. I recommend reservations if you want window seating or specific waiters. We ordered room service for breakfast (I wrote in bagels and lox on the card), and went to the buffet, grill or pizzeria for lunch. Twice we had lunch in the dining room (International) and we only made it to tea once. I guess that was for the best, tea that day was not very relaxed. The doors opened at 3:30 to a small crowd of us, we were seated, served and cleaned up by 4:10. I felt guilty asking for another half cup of tea when they so obviously wanted to clear out the dining room. It was no problem since there were so many other areas on the ship where we could linger and visit and we did try tea only the one day. After much thought, we decided to forgo the soda cards and drink ice tea (and lemonade upon request) instead. This worked out well for us and a little cheaper (no charge for ice tea!). My sister and I did buy coffee cards and I was very glad that we did! The lattes were great. We were quite happy, but my husband never did get a good cup of coffee even when we asked for "brewed" with the coffee card. We found the room service coffee was the most drinkable. We purchased (in Anchorage) and brought on board, bloody mary mix (for virgin bloody marys), champagne (for mimosas), and Saint Pauli Girl non-alcoholic beer. This saved us a hefty bar tab for our non-alcoholic drinks. Our room steward brought us ice daily and we ordered orange juice and tomato juice daily with our breakfasts and kept them in the refrigerator. We went to a few shows and really enjoyed them. The dance production show was fun and the comedians were funny. We also enjoyed watching the finals of the Princess Idol competition especially since the winner was someone we had met through our cruise critic roll call! On our last sea day (inside passage), we met up again with our roll call group and went on a "cabin crawl." It was fun touring each different type of room and getting to know each other a little better and sharing our cruise experiences. (Maybe next time a suite!) Our excursions included the White Pass railroad in Skagway and shopping in town (the movie in the train station was fun also); Mendenhall Glacier and whale watching in Juneau (we saw humpbacks and orcas!); and in Ketchikan two went zip lining, one went on a Harley motorcycle tour and I stayed on board the ship and enjoyed the empty pools and hot tubs in the rain and read my library book! The consensus: zipline and motorcycle tour were great but would have been even greater in nicer weather—all-in-all, we got to see Ketchikan just like it is advertised—wet! The seven night cruise was too short! We disembarked in Vancouver on the 25th and stayed two nights at the Westin Bayshore. We had intended to buy a two day ticket for the Hop-on Hop-off trolley, but due to an unpleasant trolley experience, went with a HOHO coach company instead (combo driver narrative and video). It had a little different route, but restrooms on the bus, large windows, air conditioning, and cushy seats and a bus stopped right at our hotel every half hour. We had purchased the Vancouver entertainment book and got more than our $15 back on the horse drawn carriage tour through Stanley Park, the Lookout, and the IMAX theatre two-for-one tickets. We ate at Carderos (across the street), White Spot (up one block), the restaurant downstairs at our hotel, and The Spaghetti Factory in Gastown (only so-so food with not-so-good service—but a great setting). In Vancouver we heard that our ship had brought a whale into port. We saw it on the news but we were not aware of it on disembarkation. We were relieved to find out later that it was either sick/dying or already dead when the ship hit it. Since the weather was off and on, we used the HOHO to explore the city instead of going to Grouse Mountain and the Capilano Suspension Bridge like we had originally planned. That leaves those sights for a future trip. I was disappointed that the weather was poor and such huge crowds were expected for the Celebration of Lights fireworks show/competition on Saturday the 25th (South Africa). We had dinner at the hotel instead and went to our rooms. We were rewarded by a spectacular sunset and lightning storm that lasted for hours then crowned by the fireworks shooting up in the distance reflected in the glass skyscrapers all seen from the balcony of our room. A life memory to be sure. We spent the day coming home on the 27th. An early morning flight insured a fairly quick customs experience but flying home was not nearly as much fun as going. Oh well, back to reality. This review does not do our trip justice! This was my second trip to Alaska with Princess and I could do it many more times before running out of fun things to try and see. We were all thrilled with the service, the food, the entertainment and the accommodations. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
We were pleasantly surprised at the food, and level of service on the Emerald Princess after having just completed two cruises with NCL which we thought were ok. Princess was definitely ahead in many ways. We stayed at the Hilton in ... Read More
We were pleasantly surprised at the food, and level of service on the Emerald Princess after having just completed two cruises with NCL which we thought were ok. Princess was definitely ahead in many ways. We stayed at the Hilton in Copenhagen the night before we embarked and were very pleased with the comfort of our room and that we were able to check in at 9:30 am after rolling our bags over from the attached airport. Our room included complimentary snacks and drinks at night where we met several people who were on the same cruise. We also had a huge buffet breakfast that was included in the room rate. Embarkation was smooth. We arrived after sharing a taxi with another man we met at the hotel. The cost was 305 Danish kroner. We were in a mini-suite on Dolfin deck with an uncovered balcony which we liked because it let in as much sun as possible. We had no problem with any one above us.The only problem we had was the family that had rooms on both sides of us. The children were ramming between the rooms until after midnight. I spoke to the mother and it did stop.Our steward Pinyo was wonderful. The bed was great and I loved having a bathtub after the long days of touring. We ate most dinners in Michelangelo with George at a table for two. The food and service were perfect.We walked in about 6-6:30 each night and asked for a table for two in George's area and never waited at all. We did try the buffet on two nights and it was ok. We liked having drinks brought to us and the plates were as big as trays . Room service was on-time and accurate the mornings were ordered it. A big relief was that the wake-up service also worked perfectly. We disembarked on our own at about 7 am pulling our own bags and had no problem getting a taxi to the airport. We liked 3 of the shows a lot. We left after a few minutes of the Shoes Show, but the rest were good. The only problem we had is so preventable, it's amazing that Princess allows it to keep happening. That was their employees preventing the independent tour passengers from leaving the ship in St. Petersburg until all the Princess Excursion passengers were out. We had booked DenRus for the two days and went to deck 4 about 6:45 where we were rudely told to go to deck 5. We and many others were held there until about 7:40. We still saw more for less money even after their holding us in the ship. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
The Ruby Princess is a wonderful ship.  Staff were very attentive and friendly.  The common areas were very clean and well maintained.  Food was wonderful.  Don't miss the Crown Grill, well worth the $25 extra for a great ... Read More
The Ruby Princess is a wonderful ship.  Staff were very attentive and friendly.  The common areas were very clean and well maintained.  Food was wonderful.  Don't miss the Crown Grill, well worth the $25 extra for a great meal.  Those who get a balcony room and you want an unforgettable, romantic, "lifestyles of the rich and famous" meal, reserve a balcony dining experience.  They only offer four per night, so reserve early.   For a quiet after dinner drink find Adagio on the 16th deck aft!  Try their variety of olives!Unfortunately, wind prevented us from getting to Rome.  But the extra day at sea was a nice break.  This is a "marathon cruise", not for the "just relax" crowd.We visit more than 6 ports, but he pull down did not allow for more.  Athens and Ephesus were the two not reviewed below.  Visit the ruins at Ephesus and see the Acropolis, they are not to be missed.  Both days exceeded 100 degrees so bring an umbrella to creat your own shade! Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Since we are LI, NY residents, departure from Red Hook Brooklyn was great. We parked at the Pier and boarded the ship by noon. It was smooth and efficient. We proceeded to book a spot in the Santuary a great adults only area with plush ... Read More
Since we are LI, NY residents, departure from Red Hook Brooklyn was great. We parked at the Pier and boarded the ship by noon. It was smooth and efficient. We proceeded to book a spot in the Santuary a great adults only area with plush seats and lots of quiet and privacy- well worth the additional money- The cabin was ready and our cabin attendant Wilfred was great- the room was very clean and beds turned down each evening- no towel animals on princess. We had a mini suite which was very comfortable. Lots of closet space a decent bathroom that included a full sized tub. We originally wanted the anytime dining but after the first evening decided it wasn't for us- the waiters were like robots and the head waiter in that dining room not very warm or caring. We changed our dining to regular scheduled dining- that worked out great- our waiter Edgar and Isiodore his assistant were wonderful. We dined one evening in the Crown Grill- it was okay- not as good as the restaurants on Celebrity. The food also wasn't nearly as plentiful as the choices we had on Celebrity as we recently sailed on the Solstice. The public spaces on the ship were very crowded, many nights people would have to stand in the theatre as no seats were available for them- Guests would save seats and many children were sitting in the front of the theatre despite announcements saying "no saving seats or children in the first three rows". However no enforcement of the policies made the announcements silly and useless. I had heard that the Caribbean Princess had added cabins, but apparently not much though into increasing the size of all other areas to hold the large crowds. Seats at the regular pool and buffet were difficult to find if at all, That goodness we had reserved spots at the Sanctuary for the entire cruise. The entertainment was good. We especially enjoyed the piano playing and singing by Rose Winters in one of the lounges and would dash to the lounge most evening to enjoy her talent. The shops on the ship were mediocre. We typically purchase jewelry and many other items in the gift shops, but really couldn't find much of interest on this sailing. I had my hair done twice in the salon. The operators were great and very attentive. Drinks appeared to be more expensive then on most ships. Due to a Hurricane, our ports were changed, but it really didn't matter to us as we sailed into perfect weather, very smooth sailing and at the ports that we found not interesting stayed on board the ship. Despite the crowding and mediocre food- we had a great time. My husband lost weight and I stayed the same. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
This is a revised version of my "Live From the Ruby Princess." Accordingly, some of it is written in the present tense, as it was just happening. Before each cruise, I always learn so much from folks here on Cruise Critic. This ... Read More
This is a revised version of my "Live From the Ruby Princess." Accordingly, some of it is written in the present tense, as it was just happening. Before each cruise, I always learn so much from folks here on Cruise Critic. This time, however, I have to point out a particular member. If you are planning a trip that includes Italy, and plan to use the trains, you must search for GPSLover and read his or her information on Italian trains. No, do not read it. Study it. Print it all out and take it with you on your cruise. The information is invaluable to negotiating the trains, the ticketing and the schedules. I=ll add one thing that I learned about the trains. I tried to maneuver the English language version of the Italian Trenitalia website for quite some prior to this cruise. Then I discovered www.RailEurope.com It contains all the same information except its user friendly and all in English. I was even able to pre-order several of our tickets that I=ll discuss later, and have them shipped to our house prior to our trip. It really wasn=t necessary, as I=ll explain, but it was nice have them in hand prior to leaving the US. LAX to Rome We booked Continental after a great experience last February for our first trip on CO. This one was even better. We flew coach to Newark, and then cashed in a ton of AMEX points to do Business/First to Rome. It was well worth it. Excellent service. Incredible food. And we arrived in Rome at 7:30 a.m. ready to hit the streets on the Thursday prior to our cruise. We had planned to take the 30 minute train from FCO to the Termini Station, one Metro stop away from our hotel. However, as we were approaching the train station at FCO, a man approached us and offered transport directly to our hotel with some other people for $15 Eu per person. As the train was $11 Eu per person, this seemed like quite a deal and we felt safety in numbers (there were 6 of us). The trip into town was quite quick and scenic. We met another nice couple from Houston that had also flown in on our flight. Within 40 or so minutes, we were at our hotel, the Hotel Napoleon, which was recommended here on Cruise Critic. The Hotel Napoleon is a small (75 rooms) 3-star, family-owned hotel in an "ok" area of Rome. At $99 Eu per night, it was hard to complain. The rooms are nice. A little small, but you are not in them much other than to sleep. The bathroom was newly renovated and spotless. The A/C ... one of the best we had in Europe. The Metro Station for Vittorio Emanuelle is literally just outside the hotel's front door, and our room was ready at 10 a.m. (which may not always be the case) upon our arrival! All-in-all, a good choice. We heard from another couple that they had gotten a great deal at the St. George through priceline.com, which is a 5-star hotel. I've only started using Priceline, and will probably do that in the future. We have to plan our vacations so far in advance, it's hard to leave pre-cruise lodging up to chance, but in this economy, we probably could have done better hotel-wise by waiting. Nonetheless, the staff at the Hotel Napoleon is wonderful. Roberto the Managing Director greets you by name and hosted a little get-together with lots of wine, cheese and dried meets on Friday evening. Nice touch. Thursday - Rome The Rome sub-way system, while not the cleanest, is very easy to maneuver. There are two lines. Red and Blue. The self-service ticket machines are just before the turn-styles. Select English and it will walk you right through the process. You can purchase passes for single trips ($1 Eu each way), the day and I believe you can purchase a 3-day pass through the machine. Just don't lose that ticket. We purchased passes for each of the two days, which allows you to jump on and off the Metro and the city bus. We never felt our safety was compromised, as there are always people around. Just keep your wits about you, wear a money belt (got a great one from Magellan that attaches to the belt and tucks inside your shorts or pants) and you'll be fine. Just be sure to make sure which direction you're headed. You can print a quick map online of the subway system, and iPhone has an application for the major Metros of the world. After a quick post-flight shower, it was off to the Vatican. The Metro stop at the Vittorio Emmanuelle is on the Red line, and the trains on the Red Line are air-conditioned (yea!). The stop for the Vatican is Ottaviano - San Pietro. We made the mistake of going to the next stop, Cipro, as it is marked "Musei Vaticani." But the walk from this station is up a huge flight of stairs. The walk from the Ottaviano station is much easier. I had pre-reserved tickets to the Vatican Museum through a ticket broker, goporta.com. You may be able to book directly with the Vatican, but for a relatively small service charge, goporta arranged for the tickets, e-mailed the confirmation and we went straight to the head of the line at the Museum. When you approach the Museum, there is a long, long, long line to the left. At the right, we saw some official looking people in blue shirts. We approached them, showed them our vouchers and they showed us the line (or no line, that is) for entrance to the Museum. We literally walked right in. Be forewarned, signage in Italy is TERRIBLE. I think even if you read Italian, it would be hard to figure out. But do not be afraid to ask questions. We had stopped in the Gift Shop on the way in, made some purchases, and the ladies there were very helpful. They explained that the actual entrance was two more flights up. We had taken a self-guided tour, and they explained we could purchase listening devices just before the entrance, which we did. The Vatican Museum is extremely overwhelming. And if you have issue with crowds, August is not the time to go. There really is too much to see. I had purchased a book on Italy from the "Top 10" series, so it was good to have a point of reference to see the important works. Otherwise, especially with some jet lagged, it all starts running together. Obviously the big draw at the Museum is the Sistine Chapel. It was amazing. But the crowd in the room was overwhelming to me. You literally were shoulder to shoulder with very little room to even turn around. Not that I'm paranoid, but it did make me think, if there were an earthquake or fire, there would be a lot of dead people in the Sistine Chapel because of the inability to move anywhere close to an exit. I really would have appreciated a bit of a wait in line, if they had limited entrance to the Chapel and cleared it every 15 minutes or so. But we got to see it. Here's a trick we learned too late. After viewing the Chapel, go back the way you came in and there apparently is a door that will take you right into the Basilica. The person who informed us of this said she just asked a guard and they showed her right where to go. Apparently, it is for guided tours, but as long as you have your ticket to the Museum, you have access to the Basilica as well. We did not know this beforehand. So we exited the Chapel with everyone else, walked the remainder of the Museum, which is quite long. We exited the Museum into the hot sun, and walked the perimeter of the Vatican wall to the front to the square. The square is magnificent, but the line to St. Peter's was even longer than the one to the Vatican. We were simply too hot and too tired to endure that line. If only we had known that we could have exited the Sistine Chapel through the back and gone right into the Basilica. I hope that helps someone else. We went back to the hotel, took another shower (in this heat, you take about 3 a day) and took a nap for a couple of hours. We got up and back onto the Metro to go see Fontana di Trevi. The Metro took us to square very near the fountain at the Barberini Metro stop, which is also on the Red Line. We had to ask questions as to which way to head from the Metro stop. If you have an iPhone, download a compass or take a small one with you. Otherwise, maps are almost useless. Trevi Fountain was crowded in the hot summer evening, but that made it part of the fun. We sat and enjoyed the fountain for a while and of course threw a coin in before leaving. We strolled the streets nearby and found a small restaurant and had a great dinner. We crossed back to the Metro station walking by the Fountain, now lighted in the night. Back to the hotel for that 3rd shower and fell into bed. Friday - Old Rome I had to get up early to finishing a nagging work project. WiFi is free in the hotel and quite fast. Be sure to bring an adapter for your dual voltage appliances. Make sure they are dual voltage, otherwise you will also need a voltage regulator. Most laptops are dual voltage, but I probably should have brought a small power surge adaptor. But no problems at all. I sat in the Hotel's "parlor" for lack of a better word from about 6 a.m. to 7:30. It was very quiet and I did not disturb Glenn who was still sleeping. The Hotel Napoleon offers a nice breakfast in the morning, including some hot items. This is included in your room charge. We had breakfast there all three days. We headed down to the Metro to the Colosseum (Colosseo). The Colosseo is on the Blue Line, so you have to take the Red Line one stop over to the Termini and change trains. The Blue Line is one flight up from the Red Line, but the trains are not air-conditioned. However, you are not only the train but for a few minutes. We later learned that the Hotel is about a 10-minute walk to the Colosseo, but in the heat of August, I'd still do the Metro, even though it takes about 40 minutes. The Metro stop for the Colosseo is literally across the street from the monument. Again, we had pre-booked reservations through goporta for an English speaking tour. We were early, and walked around the grounds for a bit. Then we approached the entrance. We forewarned, there are "guides" outside that look like they're from the Colosseum Museum asking for tours. They are not with the Museum. They try to convince you that you check in with them and pay the entrance / tour fee to them. If you already have reservations, take your voucher straight to the ticket windows. We obtained our ticket, were given a 9:30 tour sticker to put on our shirts and were told to go to a waiting area under the "red"sign ...again, a signage problem. We went through the turn-style and walked toward what appeared (and was) the entrance to the tour. We waited with another gentlemen, and waited and waited. Finally, at 9:45, Glenn went back to the tour window to find out what was going on. Turns out the "red" sign which we and the other gentlemen had missed was really "brown" and was just past the turn-style and to the right. Had we not asked, we would never have seen it as it is tucked away behind a column. We were given new stickers for the 10:15 tour and settled in for a few more minutes late. Personally, the Colosseum was the highlight of Rome for me. I have dreamed of seeing it as a child and it is spellbinding. You cannot appreciate the size of it until you are standing on the second level looking down to the floor and across to the other side. The tour was very informative and the guide responded to all of our questions. Truly an excellent experience and for very little money. There is no reason to pay for a high-priced tour or excursion. The Colosseum sells itself. Your ticket to the Colosseum includes the Roman Forum. We left the Colosseum and studied the poor signage for a bit, figuring out where the entrance to the Forum was. Once there, we saw the huge line, but since you already have your ticket, you by-pass the line and go straight to the turn-styles ... and right in you go. (Probably could have done the same thing at St. Peter's, but didn't think about it until the Forum.) By this point, it was HOT! We took small totes umbrellas in our day packs, which really helps. There are parasols for sale all around, but a same-sex couple with parasols would have been a bit much. Nonetheless, many people commented what a good idea it was to have a small umbrella. A hat is a good idea too, as well as a bottle of water for the hike through the Forum. The Forum was very interesting. We had not rented an audio-tour, and that was just fine. Sometimes it's better to just walk, look and imagine what it was like. At the end of the Forum is a long staircase up to the Capitol building. There's a large piazza up there with a cold fountain to splash your face. The Capitol Museum is right there, but we were getting tired and wanted some lunch. I dug out the Top 10 book and saw that the Capitol Museum has a cafeteria on the second floor overlooking the city. What a find! We had a delicious lunch overlooking the city. Even in the cafeteria, signage was lacking. If you serve yourself, the seating is inside near these huge windows. If you want waiter service, it is on the covered deck outside. We had already gotten our food cafeteria-style, so we sat inside next to one of the large open windows where there was a great breeze. It was splendid. After lunch, we strolled out onto to the adjacent deck for some of the best views of the city. Rejuvenated after lunch, we struck out from the Capitol to the Pantheon. We had almost skipped it ... what a mistake that would have been. The building is magnificent. Words cannot describe it. Very near the Pantheon (on the side across the street) is a Minerva Cathedral. It is nothing to look at on the outside, and we basically stumbled into it. BE SURE TO GO IN IT. Stunning. And Michelangelo's "Risen Christ" is there, immediately left of the altar. The square in front of the Pantheon was packed, but there was literally NO ONE inside this beautiful church just next door off the square. From the Pantheon, it is a short walk to the Piazza Novano, one of the most beautiful piazzas in Rome. We took some pictures there and, as the heat of the day was increasing, we decided to head back to the Hotel for shower #2 and a nap. There is no Metro station near the Pantheon, so we grabbed a cab for about $5 Eu straight to the hotel. Later in the early evening, we stopped by Roberto's wine tasting party, which was very nice. Then we headed out to the Spanish Steps, which is also on the Red Line at the Spanga Metro stop. The Spanish Steps is in the heart of the high-end shopping district, and is quite a scene. It was fun just to sit there for a while and enjoy the sights. Some folks had gotten a bottle of wine, some cheese and bread and were enjoying it on the steps. After a while, we strolled down the streets and found an outdoor restaurant literally in an alley. The food, as usual, was wonderful. I had wanted to see the Colosseum at night. So we got back on the Metro, switched to the Blue Line at the Termini, and we were at the Colosseum in no time. What a sight all lit up. No crowds, and people just sitting along the wall across from the entrance quietly enjoying the view and the warm night air. I'm glad was saw the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel, but this was the Rome I had read about as a child. I'll never forget this day. Saturday -- Embarkation OK, despite GPSLover's excellent train advice, getting to Civitavecchia by train ... not so much. We got up early on Saturday, and wanted to get to the ship just shy of noon before the heat really set in. We checked out, took our bags down the Metro, got to the Termini (remember, one stop away) and got up to the train station with no problems whatsoever. I had pre-ordered our tickets to Civitavecchia online and they were delivered in a matter of days via UPS. Probably did not need to do that, as the automated ticket stations are everywhere, but I had them in hand before leaving Los Angeles, which I liked. At GPSLover's suggestion, we spent the extra few Euros for 1st Class, as there is more room for luggage. The scheduled platforms are listed, but they are changed often and the train to Civitavecchia was no different. When purchased, tickets are good for months, so in order that they are "valid" for travel, you MUST validate them in the little yellow machines you see everywhere on the train station. You put each ticket in, and you hear it print the date and time on the ticket. Make sure to validate your ticket at the little yellow machines, as there are ticket checks sometimes and the fine is hefty! (The Metro is different. The Metro tickets are only valid a short time (like 90 minutes) from purchase, and they do check from time to time to see that you have your tickets. The train was about 10 minutes late getting into the station, and it was difficult to figure out which compartment we had been assigned to. (Again, signage is TERRIBLE). We finally figured it out, and our compartment was at the very front of the train all the way at the end of the platform. We scurried down there through all of the smokers catching their last puff before getting on board (ugh) and finally found our compartment. No sooner had we gotten on board than the doors slammed shut. Thinking this was GPSLover's reference to the quick train stops, we thought, "Whew! We made it." (GPSLover really covers everything ... even how to get luggage on and off the train, which was helpful. One person gets on the train, the other hands the luggage up. Sounds silly, but it helped to visualize it before we got there.) What we hadn't yet realized, the slamming doors was due to the train losing power. We made our way into the so-called "first class" cabin, which was OK, save for the lack of A/C. We found our seats, which were not together, but made due with another woman who was traveling to the ship with her two small children. So we got settled and bought a couple of bottles of water from a boy who was obviously not an employee of Trenitalia. We sat in the heat. The A/C would come in intermittently, but would not stay on. Our train was due to leave at 9:35. At 10:30, people became quite upset. We had no word from anyone. Finally, a train conductor came through and announced in both Italian and English that the A/C in that compartment was not working. We would have to leave our luggage there, and stand in another compartment. Well, pandemonium broke out. Much screaming and yelling in Italian. There were no other trains left in the station, as all the morning trains had pulled out. We figured, by the time they got everyone off this car and onto another car, plus trying to get back into the car to get our luggage at the stop and then get off ... we quickly made the decision to get off the train now and get a cab. The other person from the ship agreed, so the 5 of use (3 adults and 2 small children) grabbed our luggage and dashed. We got the front of the station and negotiated a cab far for 2 cars at $150 Eu for each cab. Ok, so much for trying to save money and travel like an Italian. But, had the train gotten off, it would have been fine. Just another bump in the road. This was our driver's second day on the job and her first trip to Civitavecchia! But she was adorable and we actually have a fun time driving to the port. We got to the ship and were on board within minutes. We dropped our carry ons at the cabin and headed straight to the Sanctuary to purchase the cruise-long package. Much has been written about whether the Sanctuary is a "rip off," "waste of space," etc. For us, it is the best thing we've done on Princess second only perhaps to the Chef's Table. We used to get balcony cabins, but found we rarely used them. I know other people live on their balconies, but all it takes is a smoker nearby to ruin that experience (as has happened to us in the past). So we get a window cabin, and put the money into the Sanctuary without even thinking about it. We were there at 12:30, and there were already about 10 of the 20 or so cruise-long loungers available already booked. It is getting VERY popular. They only have 20 or so available for the whole cruise. The remainder are sold on a day-by-day, first come, first served basis. We then grabbed some lunch, and then headed back to the cabin. Our luggage arrived a short time later. We unpacked, and headed up to the Sanctuary. Being in port, it was quite warm, so just before sail-a-way we headed back to the cabin. Civitavecchia is a major commercial sea port, so sail-a-way is not particularly scenic. We thought we'd nap for a bit and then get ready for dinner. I guess jet lag and the bustle of Rome had set in b/c we woke up about 8:30, went to Horizon Court, and back to bed. Sunday - Monte Carlo We woke up about 4:30 a.m., so at 5 we went up and had breakfast. Being in the Horizon Court that early was new to us. Virtually no one there, and all the fresh food for breakfast was just set out. It was great! Back to the cabin. We cat-napped until 7 and went to the gym for a work out. Here's where things get a little dicey. Glenn finished his work out and wanted to grab a little nosh at the Horizon Court. I was still on the treadmill, so he went on his own. I got back to the cabin and he was not there. He came hobbling in a short time later, having fallen by the pool. Apparently, they wash the pool deck down around 7 (others have commented they have seen the same thing). Glenn slipped on the linoleum path immediately around the pool and went down. He did not hit his head, but badly wrenched and skinned up his knee and could not get up. Another passenger came to his aid, and security and the nurse were called. No need to go into it here, but Glenn reported that the nurse was basically scolding him for walking on the wet surface and inquiring whether he had a pre-existing knee condition. Huh? The nurse said he could see the doctor, but that, of course, there would be a charge. I understand that, but Glenn said she showed no compassion whatsoever, did not offer so much as a bandage for his bleeding knee cap, and it was the fellow passenger who went and got ice for his knee. Later we had to fill out an accident report, and a security office interviewed him. We're healthy and in our late 40s, but Glenn was and remains in significant pain, and I'm hoping he did not tear his ACL. The only person who has shown any concern was from the dining room (I think it must have been Generoso, the Maitre D' extraordinare), who called after we missed dinner that night and the next night and wanted to know if there was anything he could bring us. Oh well, another bump in the road. We tendered in Monte Carlo, but when we left the ship (probably around 9:30 a.m.), all of the tours were gone and we simply walked to the tender deck and got right on a tender to shore. We had planned on walking Monte Carlo, but that was now not possible. Even able bodied, I would not recommend it. So, off the cuff we rented a car directly across the street from the harbor. We got a cute, brand new Fiat 500 for about $100 Eu. Why we can't build cars like these in the U.S., I do not know. Fast, fun and sporty. We ended up driving to Eze, France. Getting up into Eze with a bum leg was probably not the best of ideas, but we took it very slowly and got to see some of it. It was amazing. We had lunch and just took in the views. We headed back to Monte Carlo and drove by the Casino (long line outside). We decided to go to the Palace grounds. Again, signage ... very confusing. We finally found a parking garage and escalators for the most part. One section we had to walk up, which was slow and difficult, only to later on find an unmarked elevator tucked back in an obscure corner. Boy, to be disabled in these countries must just be hell. (Since writing this in a "Live From" another Cruise Critic Member posted some GREAT information on Monte Carlo. Search under the Princess forum for "Live From Ruby Princess" and you should see the information on Monte Carlo added by another member.) The Palace grounds are incredible. The Cathedral where Grace and Rainier were married was exquisite. The Chapel just inside the front door to the left (which no one seemed to even see of stop by) with the Crucifix was unbelievable. Stunning. We saw Rainier's and Grace's tombs and then headed over to the Palace where the flag was flying indicating that Prince Albert was in residence. Very short line to tour the Palace. I'm not sure people even realized you could go in b/c it's not really marked. The tour is self-guided with a headset and is only 30 minutes. It is well worth it. You get to see the main courtyard where the Royal Family receives dignataries, as well as several of the Palace rooms. Well worth the time and nominal entrance fee. Unfortunately, no photos are allowed in the Palace. We would have liked to have spent more time on the Palace grounds, but time was running short. So we headed back down to the port, parked the car near the rental agency, and dropped the keys in the after-hours box. We got back to the ship, some more Advil into Glenn, showers and settled down. Glenn did not feel up to going to dinner yet, so we just got something from the Horizon Court and turned in early again. Once again, we were up early the next day for a fresh breakfast in the Horizon Court. Monday -- Livorno (Florence / Pisa) We docked in Livorno. Thanks to some other Cruise Critic members, we disregarded what was in the Patter, as to how the taxies outside the gate only ran to Pisa and/or Florence, and how you had to wait for the shuttle to get to town. Some misnomers ... some on Cruise Critic have chastised Princess for charging $8.50 Eu round trip on a shuttle to town. Princess makes it very clear in many places, it does not operate the shuttle. That being said, the Livorno port is a huge commercial port, and you cannot walk to the gate. So, you either have to take a ship tour, the shuttle or a taxi to get out of the port. However, we left the ship almost immediately after it docked at 7 a.m. We went out to where there was an army of taxies. For $20 Eu, instead of $17 Eu for the shuttle (which only takes you to the center of town), we were taken directly to the train station where we caught the 7:30 a.m. train to Florence. We were in Florence by 9 a.m. From the train station, we walked to a cafe and had some delicious pastries. Then we walked to the Duomo. As it was Monday, all of the museums were closed, so we basically walked around the Duomo and through the surrounding shops. We got in line to go into the Duomo, but the young lady who was just in front of us (who happens to live about 20 minutes from us in Los Angeles) informed us of the 486 steps, which was not possible with Glenn's leg. We got back to the train station and headed back to Pisa. We bought a ticket for the bus and finally figured out which bus to take (again, no signage!). (As walk out of the train station, walk across the street to the ROSA (red) bus line.) A short trip away, we were at the grounds of the leaning tower. It is very impressive. We walked the grounds for about an hour (no climbing the tower this trip). It was very exciting and the duomo, cathedral and tower are beautiful. We headed back to the bus stop, which was packed. So we grabbed a cab back to the train station for $7 Eu. Made the 2:30 train and we were back to the ship around 3. A quick but fun day. Napoli - Amalfi Coast Today we toured the Amalfi Coast. I had found Fabrizio's tour (info@allarounditaly.net) through Cruise Critic. If you search Cruise Critic, you will see that he has a good reputation here, and his company did not disappoint. We were met by Carlos promptly after the ship docked at just after 8 a.m. in Naples. I had met up with John and Joyce and Howard and Rachel (and Deb and John who had to cancel their cruise) here on Cruise Critic, and we embarked on what would turn to be a splendid day. At $500 Eu for the day's long tour, it was well worth it. Even though we were now down to 3 couples, it actually worked out better, as 8 in the van would have been tight. Eight would be doable, but 6 people is perfect in the mini-van. Carlos drove us in a Mercedes coach from the port in Naples to the Amalfi Coast. As we approached the coast, we stopped at a roadside market high above the first city, Positano, for pictures from an incredible vista and some fruit, where we found lemons the size of your fist and larger. It is this area of Italy where the finest lemon cello is made. We then visited the small town of Positano, which was beautiful. Tough for Glenn to walk, but he endured and was quite a trouper. We did some shopping there, indulging in a set of oil and vinegar glazed cruets with bright lemons on them, and tasted some of the local lemon cello. From there, we pressed on to Sorrento. Carlos recommended we eat lunch at a local establishment, the Ristorante Bangi il Delfino, which was a family owned restaurant on a pier over the water, with a view back towards Sorrento. It has a website, so do a search and you should find it. More of a local place, rather than tourists. The service was incredible, as was the food and wine. And, as a promise to our fellow tour members, I sang Torna A Surriento in Italian. We polished off the lunch with a good sized lemon cello. What a day. As Rachel said, the best day yet ... and many more to follow. We were so relaxed that time sort of got away from us, and we had very little time for shopping in Sorrento, but that was ok. Aside from the lemon cello stores, it was much of what we had seen before. We headed back towards Napoli, with a slight detour to Pompeii. We had pre-arranged with Fabrizio to have a guided tour of Pompeii. We were met at the entrance by a robust Italian woman who obviously enjoys her job. The guide was an extra $100 (split 3 ways) and I would recommend it. I had no idea how large Pompeii was. It was a fairly major city, and with a guide you get the highlights and an explanation of what you are seeing. My expectations were set a little too high for what we would see at Pompeii, but we still enjoyed it. We had heard that Herculean is actually a better preserved site, but did not have time to stop there. Nonetheless, the view of Vesuvius from what was the town square in Pompeii is daunting. What those poor people must have endured prior to their deaths. We were back at the ship in no time. After a long shower to wash off the dust / ash, which is still quite present when the wind blows, we got to the dining room for dinner for the first night (second seating). As a same-sex couple, the first night at dinner can be filled with a bit of anxiety. Turned out, we were assigned the exact same table we had on the Emerald in February of this year. We met our table mates for the first time and, as usual, ended up closing the place with very interesting conversation covering many different subjects, including religion as one of our dining companions is a obviously very intelligent and interesting pastor of a church in North Carolina who is in the midst of completing his PhD dissertation. We've yet to have a dud table on a cruise. Day at Sea Today's the first day we have had a large block of time to spend in the Sanctuary. I'm sitting here typing up this entry on my chaise lounge with the Mediterranean sea at my feet. I will not be leaving this chair for the day! Tonight is formal night. Santorini, Greece We had a beautiful day in Santorini. I had been here about15 years ago and it was everything I remembered. There were 3 ships in the caldera this morning, so the line for the cable car was so, so long. I finally convinced Glenn that at least once in life, everyone has to take a donkey up to Fira upon arriving on Santorini. At $5 Eu / person (the smell was no additional charge), we took to saddle .... with NO REINS! The donkeys know where they're going, though brushes with the walls can be a little scary. You just have to push them away from the walls when they get too close. We zipped by those that had chosen to walk up ... (Walk up?!!!!!). I felt sorry for the beasts (the donkeys, not the walkers), but they seem to be suited for the ordeal. We pretty much laughed the whole way up, despite the smell. For fun, I had rented us a convertible Smart Car for the day. The Smart Car was cute and fine. However, we did not need to spend the extra for the convertible. The sun was just too intense to enjoy it. And, we had 30 knot winds today, as well. We sort of struck out on our own with no plan. The island is not very big and we headed to see the black sand beaches. We got a little off track and ended upon driving up, rather than down to the beach. We got to the top of the island (Mountain of Prophet Elijah), and then found our way back down to the black sand beaches. We found a little local beach tavern for a great lunch overlooking the Sea of Crete. We then strolled the beach at Vlihada Bay, with the huge cliffs and dunes that were described as Dali-esque. They do appear like something out of a Dali painting, with the sagging and drooping edges carved out of the wind and blowing pumice sand from the beach. We sat on the beach for a while, but the wind was pretty intense. We headed back to Fira and walked around the shops, making a few purchases. We then found a restaurant that overlooked the town down to the shoreline. The view and pictures were amazing. We had a delicious Greek salad and just took in the view. We didn't make it up to Oia and that may have been a mistake. But we got to see much of the southern end of the island, and still had time for Fira. I never seem to have enough time in Santorini, and this trip was no different. It is such a special place, and we just had a wonderful day. Friday, Kusadasi, Turkey As if reliving my memories of Santorini could not be topped, Turkey remains my favorite country in the entire world that I have visited thus far (aside from the U.S. ?). I came here in 1997 with no expectations. I knew nothing about Turkey, and that was before the internet put so much information at our fingertips. And, I was blown away at such a beautiful country, with dear, kind people, as well as so many historical and archeological treasures. So, I was a little apprehensive that either I might have been romanticizing my memory of Turkey, or the past few years of conservative leaning government had changed her. I am happy to report, Turkey remains my favorite country to visit ... and Glenn agrees! We sailed into a bustling Kusadasi, which I had remembered as a sleepy little fishing village. But it has not lost its charm. Seemingly freshly scrubbed for our arrival, we docked at the pier and immediately found "Jingus" from Sammy's Travel for our tour. There were only 2 ships in port today, with the other being a much smaller (the "Ocean Queen") that appeared to be a former U.S. cruise ship. I'll have to look her up. Again, we had joined a tour organized by a Cruise Critic member who had to cancel her cruise at the last minute. So, instead of 16 of us, there were only 14 in our group. We boarded a newer motor-coach that was already chilled for a hot summer day and ready to go. We first drove to the House of the Virgin Mary, beating most of the tours from the ships, viewing the beautiful country-side along the way. Much like California, except without the clay-tiled developments everywhere. We were there for about an hour and were able to take our time through the beautiful grounds and the House of Mary. Next, we traveled to Ephesus, which is only a short distance from the House of the Virgin Mary. I tell everyone ever considering coming to Turkey that a trip to Ephesus cannot be missed. Sometimes I think I "over sell" it, but Glenn (his first trip) assured me that I had not. He agreed that Pompeii, while interesting pales by comparison. When you first arrive, the first ruins, while not much, are impressive. But it is that turn of the corner, when you are standing at the top of the hill staring down into the town of Ephesus to the library and the valley beyond that simply takes your breath away. For me, the presence of the former inhabitants of Ephesus is palpable b/c so much of it remains. The streets, the remnants of the buildings, and everyone's favorite, the public lew, which shows how advanced they were. New for me were the Terrace Houses, which have only been excavated in the last decade. The structure built to protect the Houses is an engineering marvel in and of itself. Viewing the mosaics, friezes and frescos is just incredible. Jingus did a great job and describing what we were seeing. Not to give short shrift, but it's difficult to describe Ephesus and do it justice. We walked to the library and then down to the amphitheatre that used to seat 25,000. We saw the agora (marketplace) and the street that used to lead to the sea. The river has since filled the valley with silt and debris, which was the downfall of Ephesus when the sea "moved" away from the town and destroyed its significance as a port city. I had forgotten this part from my last trip. The fall of Ephesus was the result of Mother Nature, more than anything else. After Ephesus, Jingus took us to a leather outlet ... "no obligation to buy." Ok, I know on every tour they take you somewhere to spend money. But this was pretty neat. We were treated to the customary sweet, apple tea upon arrival and then a New York-style fashion show with lights, music and live models of the latest leather fashions from the manufacturer there. The models even got a couple of the teenagers in our group to participate, which was fun. Then, they took us into the "show room," which was beautiful. It was hard not to get caught up in it, and Glenn and I are suckers for a good show. We each ended up purchasing leather jackets at "40% off just for us!" Yeah, right. And, they did throw in three leather baseball caps. Ok, did we get a good deal? I'm not sure. But working for Neiman Marcus, Glenn knows good stuff and we did get a substantial discount off the "list price" and have a great story, as well as beautiful coats. They're all leather, but the salesperson said this is new, New, NEW and is made from some part of the goat so soft and fine that they're calling it "silk leather." I'm not sure I want to know which part of the goat it's from, but it's water proof, wrinkle proof, and as my salesperson demonstrated on me with his lighter, fire proof. But is a lighter weight that is perfect for California. So, if you are soon seeing "silk leather," you read it here first. From there, Jingus took us to a local eatery for lunch. This for sure was a good deal. We shared a Turkish salad (which looked suspiciously like a Greek salad), meat balls and lamb kabobs, and we each had 2 beers -- $14 Eu. After lunch, we went to St. John's Basilica for more history from Jingus and finally we saw all that is left of the Temple of Artemis. We ended back in Kusadasi, just near the ship. Jingus guided us to a rug shop, if we wanted to go. Glenn had never seen them "throw" the carpets, so we went. Almost got hooked again ... (the last time I was here, I did come home with a carpet ... that my dogs ruined). The "show" was worth it, even if only a couple of us from our group went. I talked to one of the owners after they did their thing. He said they had been very busy, but few buyers. The economy's hitting them too. Even if you have no intention of buying a carpet when in Turkey, go to a demonstration. Show your interest and be nice and appreciative, and they will still give you a good show. And if you ever happen to buy one and carry it home, like I did, either hang it on the wall or keep the pets away from it! Saturday, Mykonos Upon leaving Kusadasi on Friday evening, Captain Tony announced that he would have the pedal to the metal because he wanted to get to Mykonos by 1 a.m. He said it was because he wanted to beat the morning winds (as they can prevent getting in), but I think it was because the crew knows where the late night places are to have a good time. Captain Tony cautioned that while we were free to leave the ship upon landing, he did not recommend it b/c the area is not well lit and one could get hit by cars. By the way, his warning had nothing to do with crime b/c people here just do not seem to be wired that way. I'm sure it exists, but it does not appear to even be prevalent. Nowhere in the Patters are their warnings about going ashore, as we have seen with ports in Mexico and the Caribbean. With a port intensive cruise, we have been early to bed and early to rise, so we did not partake of a late night outing in Mykonos. Though we did hear many of the crew were dragging their tails this morning. The town is actually quite nearby, though walking in the dark would have been treacherous. I assume, however, the local cabs know when the ship is making port early, and may have been available. Ah, to be that young again. We had scheduled a car rental with Kosmos Cars (on the internet and very near the ship) b/c I had read that much would be closed in Mykonos for the Day of Ascension (August 15). Not so. With 2 ships in town, I saw little closed for the day. For those not of the faint of heart, a scooter or a quad would also be fun, but in August the sirocco winds are intense. So we were glad to have a small car. I had my confirmation printed out from Kosmos and called them when we were ready to leave the ship. The shuttle to the rental office was there in minutes. It took a couple of tries to figure out the country code, which you must use for a U.S. cell phone. It might be a good idea to look up the country codes for all cities you are visiting and have them with you for Europe (and that calling the U.S. is 00 before the 1). We had planned for this to be a beach day, and had read about Elia beach. It was also the first beach the owner of car rental office suggested. It is on the south side of the island, and frequented by the locals, rather than tourists. We went out there for the day, rented an umbrella and two chairs and had a nice, relaxing day. We ate lunch on the beach, as there is beach service there. However, we should have walked into the restaurant and had lunch. We stopped there to use the restrooms upon leaving, and it was like something on South Beach in Miami. Everything in white, everyone in white linen, great music, etc., with an incredible view of the sea. You can get by without a car in Mykonos, if you're not planning to go far from the ship. There is a paid shuttle into town (I think it was $7 Eu roundtrip). Walking into town would be a pretty good hike. There are also shuttles to Paradise Beach, which I had also read is very nice. We came back into town after our beach day and walked around town for a bit. Glenn had some baklava and I had some gelato before heading back to the ship. We were so tired from our beach day, we decided to head up to the Cafe Caribe. We stopped by to tell Yani, our waiter, only to find that our tablemates had checked out on dinner too. Mykonos is a great day for relaxation in a port intensive cruise. In bed early for an early rise for Athens. Sunday, Piraeus / Athens Well, today was another lesson in mass transit. Having been to Athens before, I remembered the subway / train system as being fairly easy to maneuver, and it remains so. There are basically 3 lines: No 1 (Green), No. 2 (Red) and Line 3 (Blue). If I have not mentioned this before, iPhone has an excellent application for the Metros of the world, with maps and adjacent sites listed. Or, search the internet for a "map of Athens Metro" and you'll probably find one in color. I had a copy with us, and it was very helpful to pull out. If you are only going to the Acropolis and the Plaka, you really do not need to spend the money for a tour or a cab, unless you want commentary. The subway / train is quite fast and efficient, and cheap. $1 Eu each way. Captain Tony likes to get places early, as he did in Mykonos. So, we arrived in Piraeus sometime in the very early morning. I believe he said it would be around 4 a.m. There are a limited number of large passenger ship docks in Piraeus, and apparently he again wanted to get the best parking spot. If you look for a map online of the Piraeus port, we docked immediately adjacent to the Port Authority at E11. The Piraeus passenger terminal is very nice, but nothing was open when we left the ship. We decided to get in and out of Athens before the heat set in. We got up very early and left the ship before 7 a.m. We were at the gate to the Acropolis at about 8:15. The train / Metro station is located almost directly across the port from the passenger terminal between port gates E5 and E6. I had read it was about a 10 minute walk. It's more like 20-30. It was quite cool with a breeze, and the sun had not yet cleared the buildings so we were fine temperature-wise. And, since it is all flat surfaces, Glenn was ok, though still nursing his knee. He's still having issues with lateral movement, but going straight on a flat surface is not too bad. After having done the walk, we probably should have grabbed a cab to the Metro, though I'm not sure how much a driver would have appreciated getting out of line for those heading all the way into Athens only to drive us 5 minutes to the Metro. That early, however, a driver may not have minded zipping over to the Metro, and getting back into line. But in the early morning, walking it is not bad, and then taking a cab back from Metro in the afternoon ($5 Eu) worked well. The train stations in Athens are MUCH cleaner than those in Italy. They're actually quite nice. As in Italy, we again had no sense that we were compromising our safety. Even on a Sunday morning, the trains were bustling with people. And, if you get lost, ask questions. People are very nice. You can purchase a one-way ticket either from a machine or from a ticket booth. As in Italy, your ticket is not time stamped upon purchase, SO MAKE SURE TO GO TO ONE OF THE LITTLE VALIDATING MACHINES AND STICK YOUR TICKET IN BEFORE GETTING ON THE TRAIN. THE FINES ARE 60 TIMES THE FARE IF YOUR TICKET IS NOT VALIDATED. When you stick it in the validating machine, you will hear it print a date and time stamp on your ticket. We were never stopped today, but a couple of times in Rome there were ticket checks when you got off the train. Ok... I had read some older information, and hope to improve upon that here. From Piraeus to the Acropolis Metro stations, it is a short 20-25 minute train ride with 6-7 stops. The "old" way was to take the Green Line (No. 1) to the Monastiraki station. From the Monastiraki station, you walk south and approach the Acropolis from the north side, turning west to enter the gates near the Propylea. BE FOREWARNED - this is a very steep approach to the Acropolis with significant stairs near the base of the Acropolis to the entry gates. Thankfully, it's easy for Glenn to go up stairs than down. We were just a little worried about getting him down, but you'll see later the backside was much easier to negotiate. We were at the gate to the Acropolis at around 8:15. There was hardly anyone there (it opens at 8:00 a.m. in the summer). You purchase your tickets from the little ticket booth and head into the gate just below the Propylea. You can hire a guide at the entrance, if you're so inclined. However, a good tour book will tell you most of what you need to know to tour the Acropolis. It's a bit of a climb up from there, but once to the top, it's relatively flat. Wear good walking shoes. It never ceases to amaze me to see people in flip-flops and even women in wedge sandals. The marble up there is very slippery, even dry. We even saw a security guard slip on the marble and take a tumble. It was Sunday morning, and all the church bells started ringing in the city below as we walked the Acropolis. It was quite an experience. The weather was perfect. The sky was bright blue and the sun was still fairly low in the sky, with a good breeze. The views were magnificent. I had read that the New Acropolis Museum had recently opened, so we thought we'd walk down the South side of the Acropolis towards the Dionissiou Areopagitou. I had purchased a good, laminated street map of Athens before leaving the U.S., and it came in very handy. However, be aware that the Greek spell things differently from time to time, even on their own maps. So, you sometimes have to look at a street name a few times and interpolate what various spellings may look like on the map you have in your hand. A word about the dogs ...they're everywhere. I had forgotten about the dogs in Athens. But, they're all collared and tagged and quite sweet. I sort of remember that the government tags them and inoculates them, rather than rounding them up and exterminating them. Maybe I'm making that up in my head, but I sort of remember it. And, all the ones we saw were collared, well fed and tagged. At first Glenn was saying, don't touch them, they're mongrels. By the time we were on the Acropolis, we were petting them and taking pictures with them. Now, I'm pretty sure the last time I was here this street at the base of the Acropolis was open to traffic. Now, it is a pedestrian only walkway, and while at an incline, a much easier approach to the Acropolis than from the Monastriaki station. So, here's how I wished we had traveled to the Acropolis, especially for someone with walking difficulties: 1. Take the Green Line (No. 1) from Piraeus to the Omonia station (1 station past Monastiraki); 2. Transfer to the Red Line (No. 2) to the Arkropoli station. You should not need a new ticket, and more than likely will not even enter the train station. Just look for the signage (which is much better than Italy!). The Akropoli station is very near the New Acropolis Museum. So, from the Akropoli station, find the Dionissiou Areopagitou and walk west along the southern border below the Acropolis which will climb by grade rather than stairs. You'll walk past the Herodean Theater and turn to the right to find the same gates to the Acropolis we approached from the North. Much, much easier. After the Acropolis, re-trace your steps down to the Dionissiou Areopagitou and back to the New Acropolis Museum. We were at the Museum by 9:30, and again, no one in line. I thought we might need reservations, but we walked right in and bought tickets (an unbelievable $1 Eu) each. (Checking to see if they allow online reservations might still be a good idea. This was early Sunday morning, and another day might be more crowded). Be sure to walk over the glass walkway to the Museum and view the excavation underneath. The Museum itself is an amazingly modern structure, juxtaposed to the antiquities on display. Yet, it has an incredible use of light with homage to ancient times with giant cement pillars holding the roof up. On the second floor (Floor 1), there is a balcony that allows you to look down on the main exhibit area. It is quite spectacular interior view, in and of itself. The Museum is not that large, and you can spend a short period of time, or as much as you want for just $1 Eu. Amazing. Be sure, however, to see the original Caryatids (from the Porch of the Maidens) which were removed for protection and placed in the Museum (replaced by replicas at The Erecthion) due to the city's pollution destroying them over time. They are on the second floor (Floor 1). One of the original 5 was removed (stolen?) from The Erecthion by Lord Elgin in the 1800s and is now in the British Museum. Her place on the Museum stands present but empty, hopefully to be reunited with her other 4 sisters someday. (The Brits should really give her back!) From the New Museum, we headed into the Plaka, which again was an easier walk down than up. We stopped and had a light snack (having eaten at 5 a.m.) We walked around the Plaka for a while and were about to leave when one of the shop owners (barkers) said, "You must be from California." Boy, they're good here. He reeled us in, and before you know it, I had purchased a Greek necklace with the "long life" medallion on it. Glenn purchased a beautiful yellow gold on white gold crucifix for himself, and another one for his assistant. I told the shop owner that he was good at pulling people in. He said that folks from the U.S. are generally very nice, even when they do not want to come into the shop. He can usually tell when someone is from the U.S., and he knew a lot about California. I said that was nice to hear b/c we have a bad reputation around the world. That being said, there are a lot of other nationalities on this cruise, and the folks from the U.S., in general, are much more polite that the Europeans on this cruise. We walked back to Monastiraki Square and back to the Metro station. Within 30 minutes were back in Piraeus. By this point, even with the breeze, the Mediterranean sun was getting pretty intense. So, we grabbed a cab to the ship and were in the Sanctuary shortly thereafter. The breeze up here is much nicer than at street level. For those who have enjoyed the Sanctuary on the Ruby, Carlos just stopped by as I write this. I had previously told him what a celebrity he had become on Cruise Critic. He had not heard of Cruise Critic and was so embarrassed. The ship has connection problems in Piraeus, so I will bring my laptop up here tomorrow and let him read the greetings from those of you reading this. He asked me all about the Acropolis b/c he wanted to see it before the ship repositions back to Miami. He's seen a lot in Italy and in Turkey, but has not been to the Acropolis yet. He was shocked to hear that he could get there and back for $2 Eu. I showed him how to get there and gave him all of my maps and such that I have been writing this section on. He is very excited to schedule a day off for Athens before the repo cruise. Katakolon, Greece We chose to take it easy today and skip Olympia. I had read up on taking the train to Olympia and back and going to the little museum there, but we're getting a little tired and needed some R & R before returning home. We spent the morning in the Sanctuary and then walked into town for lunch. I have to say at this point, many of the Greeks and the Italians we have encountered on the ship are down-right rude. They refuse to wait in lines, cutting to the front without caring in the slightest. And, in port, service is lacking. We sat first in a beach front restaurant. When a waiter finally came over to us, he asked us for our order. We had yet to even see a menu. When I asked him if we could see the menu, he literally rolled his eyes and walked away. He returned only to literally fling one menu at us. We simply got up and left. The next place over was virtually empty. The waiter never even approached us. We continued down the stretch in front of the water and found one place that was completely empty. Presumably it was the owner who came out and greeted us and directed us to a table right by the water. We ordered and started to receive some decent service from him, but before we knew it a few more people sat down and he was overwhelmed. Mind you, there was the Ruby and an MSC ship in port both a stones throw away from these sea-front cafes, but they all seemed to have limited staff for the day. The couple that sat down next to us, also from the Ruby, eventually got up and left too, as they could not even get the owner's attention to place an order. Having said all that, however, we shared a Greek salad, mousaka, chicken souvlaky and some ouzo, and it was delicious. Getting the check, however, was another test of endurance and patience. We shopped in the little town with no intention of purchasing anything, but we came upon a little shop that made and sold olive wood sculptures, kitchen utensils, pepper grinders, and such. It was all fairly unique and beautifully made so we purchased some things there for ourselves and as gifts. They have a leather goods store as well, directly across the street, that had fine pieces at very reasonable prices. We saw several people with bags from the same store where they had purchased bags and purses. People seemed genuinely excited about their purchases, and I'm happy we got the olive-wood pieces we did. The name of the store escapes me, but I will post it later in the review if anyone is interested. Back on the ship, Glenn had a reflexology treatment and for reasons I won't go into here, the spa manager, Kirsty, got involved with Glenn's injury and arranged for Glenn to immediately see the doctor free of charge. Even though she is with Steiner, and technically not a Princess employee, she really took the bull by the horns and "Made a Difference." Shortly after Kirsty's entrEe into the fray, we also received a call from Princess Customer Service upon returning to the cabin wanting to make sure that everything was ok. The doctor examined Glenn's knee and took some x-rays (the equipment is all state of the art, digital developing with images on the screen - pretty impressive). By the way, security was hovering about the area the entire time Glenn was being examined. It is an ACL injury, but the doctor does not believe it's torn, for which we are thankful. He is going to do a full write up and give us everything today, and wants Glenn to get an MRI upon returning to LA, which we will do. Lesson learned, we're not complainers, but we really should have sought out assistance earlier in the cruise. There's nothing more that really can be done for his knee on board, other than an elastic brace which the doctor offered (we had already purchased the exact same brace while in Florence). But the ship's staff, other than security, is finally exhibiting some concern over his injury, which is appreciated. Another note, Generoso is truly a consummate professional. We see him all over the ship just stopping by and checking with everyone making sure there's anything they need. We've had good Maitre d's in the past (Silvio on the Emerald was wonderful), but now I really see why Generoso is so highly regarded. He's the perfect host. Corfu, Greece Another day of taking it easy. We walked into town to get some more Euros (we're going through them like water here) for extra tips for some of the staff. The town is pretty much the same as everything we have seen, but still quaint. We only spent about an hour in town. However, I have heard that the nearby beaches are beautiful. Got in to a bit of a tussle with some Italians from another MSC ship that is also in town. There is a taxi station at the edge of town where everyone lines up at to get a cab back to the ships. It was very hot and most people were waiting patiently. One family of four in particular (they were not the only ones) kept trying to cut in the front of the line. The folks in front of us were very vocal about it. Then the family just started waiting in the street, hoping to cut off a cab before it even got to the front of the line. When it came to be our turn, a cab pulled up and we started towards it. They cut us off (the 20-something son shoving Glenn) trying to get into the cab first. I made it clear to the father that we had been waiting for almost 20 minutes. None of us even noticed that the cab already had two people in it, so the cab driver said he was taking us with the other fare and the family would have to wait. They, of course, started shouting as we drove away. Amazing. Currently enjoying The Sanctuary, taking some time to write up a few "You Made a Difference" cards for crew members whom we have particularly enjoyed. I will probably do some packing today. May have to purchase another bag in Venice to get everything we hadn't planned to buy home! Tonight is our second and last formal night. The ladies are encouraged to wear their RUBY red gowns for this evening's formal night, in case anyone is interested in getting something in red for their upcoming cruise. There is also a New Year's Eve style party in the piazza starting at 11 or so. There was also a White Party on deck the night we left Turkey, but you can get some great white linen on this itinerary for that. No need to bring it. If I haven't mentioned earlier, this cruise is always scheduled to arrive in Venice at 10:00 p.m. However, Captain "Pedal to the Metal" Tony has announced that he will be getting us in at 6:00 p.m. so that we can see Venice from the sea and enjoy the evening ashore. I don't know if this is a one-time thing that Captain Tony had to negotiate with the local port, but it is a real unexpected treat to have another evening in Venice. The folks that are leaving early Saturday morning are particularly excited. I'm thrilled, if only to get the lay of the land before we start making our way to the Locanda Sturion near the Rialto Bridge with luggage. Wednesday, Venice, Italy Last night was our last time at dinner, as everyone at our table was planning to get off the ship and enjoy our first night in Venice. We said our farewells, exchanged e-mails, and gave Yani and Pavel an extra gratuity, as they had treated us all so well. Once again, we lucked out on tablemates. We also said good-bye to Generoso … again, what a lovely person. We saw the new show, Once Upon a Dream. This was really the first show we had seen on the ship, given how intensive the port schedule is. The show is a spectacle, incorporating high-tech screens as backdrops. The technology is amazing, and the costumes were fantastic. However, I was disappointed to see that they have completely abandoned live accompaniment (at least for this production show). As a musician, the "click track" is way over produced (in my opinion) for the venue, but the four lead singers were good. The belt-soprano in particular was excellent, though she really only had a couple of featured numbers. The alto is the featured singer for this show. Our last day was basically a sea day, which was nice. We packed most of our large bags early in the morning, and then headed to the Sanctuary after breakfast for one last day of relaxation. As we approached Venice, the excitement began to rise. Realizing things were getting hectic, we took the time to say good-bye to Carlos, Bosco and Tongpool, and give them their extra gratuities. We had also turned in "You Made a Difference" cards for them, as well. Sailing into Venice was basically unbelievable. They played Andre Boccelli on the loud speakers as we began our approach to the canal at approximately 4:15. Small boats were riding along with the ship, blowing their horns with people waiving. The ship sounded her horn a few times to announce our arrival along the canal. Given that the horn is directly above the Sanctuary, you can imagine the shock waves it sent through all of us, but it was a source of laughter for all of us and just added to the excitement. The Sanctuary (starboard) is an excellent place to see the approach to Venice, as is the top of the flying bridge (which can be accessed through a door on Deck 14 we were told). But, earlier in the morning, I had ventured up to Deck 19 AFT, which is the Star Deck. We had never gone up there once during the cruise. It has the Princess Links and the small jogging track. Take some time on a sea day and walk up there. You can only get up there on one specially marked aft elevator. The views are incredible. You are right next to the funnel and have a great view of the entire ship in front of you. Even though we had great seats in the Sanctuary, I could only imagine what the view from that deck aft looking forward to the bow as it sailed into the canal must have looked like. If you do not book the Sanctuary for this itinerary, the front of the ship is where everyone gathers for Venice, but Deck 19 aft (starboard) would be the place I would stake out. It really was a magical hour or so during which we passed the Piazza San Marco at about 5:15-5:30. A word about this itinerary … this is obviously a port intensive cruise. I personally could have done without Corfu and had another sea day to rest up. But we relaxed most of that day anyway. I am very happy that we did Rome to Venice, rather than Venice to Rome, as the "heavy lifting" sightseeing-wise is the first part of this cruise, in my opinion. Then you have Katakolon and Corfu to sort of rest up before Venice. Overall, it's a great itinerary, though I wish we could have stayed later in Santorini and/or Mykonos to experience some of the nightlife there. Back to Venice, as we pulled into the dock, we went back to the cabin and finished packing, got showered and changed for our evening in Venice. The ship offers a shuttle ($15 USD / person round trip) to St. Mark's Square. However, that shuttle takes a short cut around the island, rather than going through Venice. If you are willing to walk a bit, exit the ship and the port (past the very long line for the ship's shuttle). Walk to the Piazzalle Roma, which is probably a 10-15 minute walk from the ship. The signage is actually pretty good, and there are port agents around if you need to ask. We did not see any taxis, but the ship's arrival was early, so perhaps they did not know it was already in town. There is a large public parking garage at the base of the bridge connecting to the port. It is actually visible from the ship. Across the street from the garage is the Pia. Roma vaporetto station. Vaporetti are basically the bus system of Venice. You can purchase 1-way tickets or round-trip tickets, or you can purchase 24, 48, 72 hour passes for the vaporetto. I had pre-reserved / pre-paid for 72-hour passes at Venice's official website, veniceconnected.com, but I had arranged for the delivery date to be 8/20, as we thought we would be arriving late on 8/19 and not going ashore. This was a mistake, and you really do not need to do this. After paying on veniceconnected.com, you are given a PNR (Personal Number Reference) with your order (we also got the Museum Pass package) that allows you to obtain your passes from the ticket booths upon arrival. However, they could not advance the "delivery date" to 8/19. Sooooo, we reluctantly shelled out yet another $26 Eu for 2 roundtrip vaporetto tickets. We could have just as easily bought the 72 hour pass without a reservation at that time, though I think it is cheaper if you do so online beforehand. I should, however, have made the "delivery date" the date we arrived in Venice, no matter how late it was scheduled to be. The vaporetto runs at all hours, so even if you get in at 10:00 p.m., you may still want to get off the ship and enjoy Venice. Using the vaporetto requires some patience, but it is a fairly simple system to figure out. Note, water taxies are available, but at 80-100 Eu, we opted for the vaporetto. Again, make sure to validate your ticket before getting on the boat. The validating machines here are scanners, so you just waive your ticket in front of the scanner near the entrance to the boat docks. Despite the added expense, I am so glad we opted for this over the ship's shuttle. We sailed all the way from the start of the Grand Canal near the ship to the end of the canal at St. Mark's Square. This allowed us to really get the lay of the land, as well as see Venice just as the sun was beginning to set behind the buildings. We passed by our hotel near the Rialto Bridge (Locanda Sturion … more on that after we get there), and finally arrived at St. Mark's Square. The Piazza San Marco is spellbinding. We walked around for a while and then began looking for the restaurant Generoso had recommended to us, Centrale. We ended up having to ask a shop owner for directions, but she was more than happy to oblige. We found Centrale, which is very chic, very high-end, non-tourismo restaurant. I can see why Generoso says it's where he eats when he's in Venice. We had a lovely dinner with our table mates from the ship, Melissa and Leann, who also came upon Centrale. After dinner we strolled the Piazza again, to find that the small chamber orchestras had started playing. We will be coming back on Thursday night, as it's enchanting. Disembarkation As anyone who has sailed Princess knows, they have this down to a science. New to us was "Silent Disembarkation." You are sent to a particular lounge where you wait to be released from that lounge. There are no ship-wide announcements. Only those colors in your lounge are announced there. Being Platinum, we were in the Crown Grill and disembarked around 9:30. No lines, no waiting. Walked right off the ship and found our bags within seconds, literally. This time, there were cabs aplenty outside. We grabbed one and headed back to the Pia. Roma, where we were able to retrieve our vaporetto passes and board the vaporetto to our hotel. TRAVEL NOTE FOR THE FUTURE: We have yet to use the Princess Valet Luggage service. I believe it is rather expensive, and I do not know if they only do it one way or not, but we should have at least considered it for our arrival into Venice. It wasn't too bad getting the bags on to the vaporetto, but it sure would have been nice to send our large suitcases home with Valet Service, and just keep back our carryon rollaways for the next couple of days. It's not necessary for all disembarkation ports, but Venice is the one to at least look into it. Hotel Locanda Sturion The location could not be better. You are smack dab in the middle of Venice. No, you're not right at the Piazza San Marco, where the major hotels are. But you're only a few vaporetto stops from the Piazza and literally on top of the Rialto Market district. Be forewarned, the Locanda Sturion is four flights of stairs above the Canal with no elevator. It actually sits above another hotel. But, we have a post-card view of the Grand Canal and the Rialto Bridge from our hotel windows. The Sturion is very quaint with a nice sitting room, where I am currently writing this entry. Our bed chamber looks like something out of a period-piece movie, complete with fabric wall coverings, 12-foot ceilings and a Venetian chandelier hanging above the bed. The entrance to the building has a marker that it was built in 1290. The air-conditioning is not the best, but it's tolerable. We spent the morning before our room was ready looking around the Rialto Market. Lots and lots to see and buy. We stopped by a little trattoria off the canal. The prices looked reasonable, but before we knew it, our lunch (one caprese salad, one order of tortellini, one margherita pizza and two beers) came to $45 Eu … that included a $4.00 Eu service charge for sitting down. As we are so centrally located, we stopped by the Hotel and decided to wait until later afternoon to continue on, as it is very hot and obviously humid here. If you come in the summer months, try to get out in the morning and back to your hotel for a siesta. Then you can venture out into the early evening and well into the night. We're going to head out the Doge soon. I'll finish up later on. On the way to San Marco, we stopped at the basilica Santa Maria del Salute (last stop before San Marco). It is very beautiful. We then got back on the vaporetto and went over to San Marco again. We walked along the waterfront and then into the Doge Museum (the entrance is on the waterfront). We walked through the Doge Apartments, but that was about as far as we could get. The heat indoors was just too much. We sat at a cafe in San Marco with a view of the water and enjoyed the evening. Friday, Venice Ok, it is HOT here. Shame on us for coming in August, and the Locanda Sturion's air-conditioning is really not up to the task, at least in Room 2. Another time of year, where you could throw open the windows and enjoy the breeze high above the canal, would have been fine. Regardless, we have tried to see as much as possible, despite the heat. We got a lot of use out of our vaporetti passes, so I highly recommend purchasing a 24, 48 or 72 hour card upon arrival or through veniceconnected.com before you arrive. You can literally decide to jump off if there's something you want to see or stop at a museum, and then jump back on. You can even virtually circle the entire island. Last night we took the 41 line down from San Marco and there is a beautiful park at the Giardini Biennle stop (the Giardini della Biennale) well off the tourist strip of the Grand Canal. Don't be afraid to venture off … there is no sign of crime, and if you get a little lost (which is half the fun), just ask someone. Just be sure to keep your vaporetto pass in a safe place (like in your money belt). Glenn must have pulled something out of his pocket later in the day b/c he lost his (though I'm usually the culprit on these types of things). Luckily, by that point in the day, we only had one more trip from the hotel to the train station. The breakfast at the Locanda Sturion is fine. Cereals, fresh crescents, cheeses, juice, etc. Enough to quell the hunger before you venture out. We made a pass through the Rialto looking for last minute purchases. If you have time, definitely look around before buying the first thing you see or think you'll want. You will see much of the same thing everywhere, and a mixture of prices. We then decided to make one more trip back to San Marco, which turned out to be delightful. We walked the shops on the perimeter of the square hoping to find that one piece of Murano glass that we just had to have. We saw some amazing pieces, but none we could justify purchasing at this point. We decided to have a little lunch / snack, so we took at table at the Florian Cafe on the south side of the square, directly in front of the musician's stand. The Florian Cafe opened in the 1700s and the cafe is now also at Harrods in London. We spent about an hour in the shade enjoying the live music (violin, flute, clarinet, piano, upright bass and accordion) as well as a light lunch. Again, almost $50 Eu (which included a $6.00 / person Eu music charge) but it was worth it. It was simply wonderful to sit in San Marco Square with your significant other, people watch, enjoy beautiful music (the musicians were first rate) and some very good food. If only they didn't allow smokers! (or at least segregated them; sorry, but I had to say it). The time came that we had to head back to the Sturion to retrieve our luggage. Even though we had lunch, Glenn wanted one more slice of pizza. So, we grabbed the No. 2 vaporetto (fewer stops than the No. 1) to the Rialto stop (there are several, by the way, on either side of the canal before and after the bride). We stopped by the shop where Glenn had seen a mask (we must have looked at hundreds) that he finally decided on for one of his co-workers. If you are interested in masks, be sure to google the mask maker for "Eyes Wide Shut." His shop is off the Rialto and it is quite a place. We literally stumbled across it. The masks there are like no others you will see in Venice. Even if you're not in the market for one, it's worth walking through his shop. We grabbed a slice of pizza for Glenn and the "self-service" cafe on the north side of the Rialto Bridge. You are not charged a service charge to eat here. A quick note about Venice; it is against the law to sit on the ground say, on the steps of the canal, and grab a quick bite of pizza or rest. It is not like Rome in this regard. You have to either pay a service charge to sit at a restaurant or find a place like a self-serve cafe. We walked across the bridge and I stopped at a shop selling gondola shirts. The ones on the tourist kiosks have "Venice" written on them. If you want a real one, walk around the Rialto area. There are a couple of shops selling real ones there. I found a shop that had them, not logo wear from the carts. They come in various designs (boat neck, crew neck, with collars, sleeve-less) for $19 Eu. We made our way back to the Sturion and with Glenn's bad knee, I climbed the 4 flights of stairs 3 times to retrieve our luggage. It was much easier coming down with the luggage than going up, but it's still quite a work out. Oh well, there was no gym in Venice and my new shorts were getting tight around the waist. We went to the Rialto Mercado station and grabbed the No. 1 to the St. Lucia Train Station. For the first time, the vaporetto conductor asked for our tickets. He got off with me at the next stop to make sure they were still valid. He was very nice, but he was doing his job, so they do check from time to time. He checked everyone that came on board with luggage, so it is probably just something they do as people are leaving town and maybe getting a little lax in purchasing or validating tickets (as we never saw them do that until now). By the way, if you are booking a train out of Venice, make sure you are booking the Santa Lucia Station (if you are staying on the island), rather than the Venice Mestre Station on the mainland. If the Rome to Civitavecchia train episode was a bit of a disaster, the Venice to Rome leg is the complete opposite … so far, at least. We got our bags to the Santa Lucia Station (Princess Valet Service is looking even MORE interesting now). As an aside, we've constantly been astounded by some odd observations on this trip regarding movement through the cities. The Santa Lucia Station has a huge set of lovely marble stairs in front of it … perfect for lugging large pieces of over-filled luggage around in 99% humidity. We finally found a ramp up … well, almost … the ramp goes up to the last flight of steps just in front of the station at which point you have to take your luggage in hand and walk up the last flight of steps. But the EuroStar high-speed trains are beautiful. We booked first class tickets for our almost 4 hour train ride to Rome and so far it has been lovely. We arrived in Rome and walked to the Hilton at the airport through the multiple sky bridges. The FCO Hilton is quite a distance away from the train station, and if the enclosed connecting bridges were ventilated or air-conditioned, that would have made the trek a lot more comfortable. It's amazing how many places in Italy are enclosed with absolutely no ventilation … trains, buses, elevators. At the end of the bridges, we had to take an elevator down to the ground level as no stairs or escalator is available. Even though it was merely one floor, stepping into a small, heated, stifling box after walking 10 minutes even for a short period of time was mind-numbing. The common areas of the FCO Hilton are very nice. The rooms, however, are merely adequate, which is fine for one over-night stay. The air-conditioning, however, was again not up to par. The sheets … horrible. Very uncomfortable. (By the way, this reminds me, the mattress, sheets, pillows, duvet on the Ruby … excellent. Finally, Princess is listening to its customers!) The price for the Hilton was $168.00 USD guaranteed with an online booking. Again, I probably could have taken a chance with Priceline, but I pre-arranged all lodging early on. After two room service burgers and two beers (at $70 Eu!!! - ouch, and no live music), we re-organized and re-packed our over-stuffed bags and collapsed into bed. We checked out first thing in the morning. The desk clerk the night before had told us there is no airport shuttle and that the only way back to the airport was through the hotter than hell sky bridges. We asked the desk clerk in the morning, and sure enough, an air-conditioned shuttle was waiting just outside to whisk us to our terminal. When in doubt, ask someone else. One last travel bump in the road … our flight from Rome to Newark on Continental was delayed by 5 hours!!!!! Even though we were traveling Business/First, the check-in agent said there was nothing they could do for us and that we'd have to just wait with the folks that had checked in just before us. They did say that they would put us up overnight in Newark if need be. Turned out, back at the ticket counter, they were re-booking everyone else on other available flights. Well, it helps to have an ex-airline employee (Glenn) with you who knows the federal regulations regarding flight interruptions. He had to get a bit riled up and go through a couple of agents to supervisors (and luckily did not get thrown in jail in the process), he was successful in getting us and the couple in front of us booked on Alitalia to Newark and re-booked on a later flight on Continental to LAX, which happened to also be their final destination. And, since Alitalia does not have business class, we're in first class with the new pod seats that fully recline and individual "on demand" entertainment systems. Awesome! Just watched Star Trek …. TWICE. Great movie. Newark to LAX We tried to purchase an upgrade at the gate to first class, but no luck. Boy, those last 5 hours in coach were brutal. Not because it was coach, but we were in an exit row that doesn't recline. I love the extra leg room, but with absolutely no recline, there's not too much you can to do change your position. The good news was, the movie was Star Trek, which I had really wanted to see. ? And, you know, it gets better each time. Epilogue: It's been over a week since we returned from Europe. I'm already counting the days to the next cruise. Was the Ruby Princess perfect? No. But it was a great cruise, even if I don't feel rested. But that's due to the itinerary and jet lag. If I did not mention this before, we felt that the Ruby had "new ship-itis" in some respects. Everything on our prior cruise on the Emerald had just been about perfect, and the Ruby still has a ways to go. However, I'm sure Generoso will snap her into shape. I love looking at our pictures, and to some extent wish I had just taken a few extra moments here and there to just "take it all in." You kind of forget to do that when you're seeing so much and feel there is so much to see. So … just remember to take a deep breath and forget about taking pictures and just study what you're seeing from time to time. Fin. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
This was our first small ship experience (after several mega-ships) and it won't be our last! This was a trip to celebrate our 25th anniversary. Pre-cruise: We stayed two nights at the Hotel Renew in Honolulu, which was excellent! ... Read More
This was our first small ship experience (after several mega-ships) and it won't be our last! This was a trip to celebrate our 25th anniversary. Pre-cruise: We stayed two nights at the Hotel Renew in Honolulu, which was excellent! Small, no pool or restaurant, but free beach chairs, umbrellas, etc. free continental breakfast, pineapple juice and a cool washcloth on arrival. Small ship Vs. Big Ship: There were no waits for elevators, the buffet, disembarking, or anything else. Most of the time, it was easy to find chairs at the pool. The staff went out of their way to make us feel welcome. The people on this ship were older, but as I was there to spend time with my spouse, that didn't bother me at all. We did not see any wheelchairs and very few walkers. We saw only 4 children on the ship - this would not be my choice for a cruise with children. There was some motion, but not any worse than we've seen on the mega-ships (RCCL Freedom Class) Decor was understated, lots of wood. Stateroom: We were in an owner's suite, which we loved - huge balcony, plenty of space. For a cruise with 5 days in a row at sea, the extra space in the room and balcony was a big plus. The suite also came with free laundry and internet, and the ability to order off the regular menu, which we took advantage of several times. Spa: Small but nice. They were not pushy with selling products, which made it a more pleasurable experience. Pricey, like all ship's spas. Activities: One pool, ping-pong, shuffleboard. Some planned seminars, but none of them interested us. If you are looking for the ship to provide you with things to do, this is not the cruise for you. Service: EXCELLENT - both dining room and room stewards were great! We ate at all eating venues, and all of the staff we came in contact with was great. Dining: The food in the main dining room and buffet were comparable to RCCL, I thought. We had no complaints. The specialty restaurants were very nice and worth the extra $$. Teatime was a nice treat every day as well. Entertainment: We realized that a smaller ship would not have as many options, and we were right. We were somewhat disappointed with the entertainment - the comedian was older and his jokes were geared toward the 60 and older crowd. The opera singer was ok, but not what I was looking for. The Pacific Princess singers and dancers were very good. I would have liked more options for entertainment in the evenings. Travel: We used Princess Air because of the flight back from Tahiti being impossible to book w/o Princess Air - I would not use Princess Air again unless that was my only option. With our flight home, they gave us a very tight connection (which we missed) We had wanted to change our flights ahead of time, but could only do so for a $75 pp surcharge, so we took our chances. When we missed our connection, they changed us to the flight that we wanted in the first place! Disembarkation: Very smooth. Our flight didn't leave until 10:00 PM, so although we had to be out of our cabin by 8:00 AM, we were able to enjoy the amenities of the ship throughout the day. This was a fantastic cruise, perfect for a romantic getaway. I would do it again in a heartbeat. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
We've been on several Princess cruises, this was our second trip to Alaska, but have not gone this far north. The extra days to go to Whittier and Glacier Bay was a better Alaska experience. I say that because you just aren't ... Read More
We've been on several Princess cruises, this was our second trip to Alaska, but have not gone this far north. The extra days to go to Whittier and Glacier Bay was a better Alaska experience. I say that because you just aren't seeing the typical tourist town. You are seeing miles and miles of wilderness, we were so lucky to see a lot of sea life. This was our first time with a balcony. It was wonderful having the balcony, we had our ocean breezes and star gazing on demand. Getting away from the crowds and being able to enjoy fresh air and sunshine was great, even if you didn't feel like getting dressed. The six days crossing the Bering Sea was a very relaxing time and we loved being on the water. We both felt that the cruise directors office did a poor job of preparing the cruisers on what to expect on each port of call. We had days of talks on Japan, almost the entire 6 day crossing. Then on the day before Russia there was a very dry, read from script, talk of Russia. Albeit, history is fantastic for the most part, however, when you have a few short hours to see a port, speaking to that port and what it has to offer would have been a valuable asset. Instead we get a boring, monotone history lesson on what the Czars did and why. I wanted to know about the port, what it had to offer, what was significant, what should be avoided, like being in a bus all day because of traffic. Also, there should have been a seminar to cover all of the tours offered. It would have been great to know that the City Tour and the Historic Tour of Russia were almost exactly the same tour. Also, if we would have been informed that the traffic is so horrible in Russia, maybe it would be a good idea to take maybe one tour and do a walking tour for the rest of the day. There was no shopping talks, like we had on a previous Princess cruise to Hawaii. I don't know what I expected, fishing villages in So. Korea and China? It would have been great for someone to say, "Hey, these are big cities with everything to offer, shuttle buses, shopping, walking tours, and oh, here are the tours we are offering, pros and cons, if you are looking to see a Temple, these tours are fantastic, if you are looking to see the country side, these tours are great, etc. Since this was the first time to Asia it was a real shock to see that there are no western toilets! On the tour papers, in small print on the back, it stated you had to supply your own toilet paper and hand cleanser. No mention that you had to squat over a porcelain urinal. I never saw a local carrying a satchel with their toilet supplies, do we want to know that they have no need for toilet paper or hand cleanser? The air pollution in Russia and China was absolutely terrible. There should have been a warning by the ship if you had breathing problems or sensitive to air quality you should take notice and take precautions accordingly. After several days of terrible air, I got really sick when I got home. I guess the worst thing I have to say about this 22 day cruise was the ship did a very poor job of describing ports of call and preparing us with what was offered. Also, in the evening after So. Korea, the ocean was full of squid boats, with bright lights, some getting pretty close to our ship. Our neighbor was practically in hysterics thinking we were being invaded by North Korea or China. Putting a note in the Princess Patter to make sure you notice the fishing boats at night would have been a comfort and a bit of trivia for the cruisers. The diamond Princess is huge, good and bad. Good that there is a lot to do. Bad that there isn't really a quiet place to hang out and read. The library is tiny, the writing area outside of the library is out in the walkway area, not quiet at all. I was hard pressed to find a quiet place with like minded people. So, I spent a lot of time in our room, enjoying the ocean and fresh air, in peace. The staff was again great. One funny thing, A year and a half ago, in December, we went on a 15 day cruise to Hawaii, we met one of the photographers, we call Gorgy. He was fun and we had some banter back and forth, bought a few pictures. Then the next May we took a 10 day from San Francisco to Alaska, the same photographer was on ship. He remembered us and that was neat. Again, fun banter back and forth. So, this cruise, 22 days from Alaska to Asia, we were happy to run into Gorgy again! What are the chances? He was helpful in pointing us to local restaurants and things to see. Also, one evening I wasn't feeling well at dinner and had to leave the table. The waiter sent to our room a green apple, which he said would help and it did. The next evening, everyone, from the Hostess to the waiter, bus boy and Maitarde asked how I was feeling. At first I was a little embarrassed, but then I realized they were really concerned that I was not well. When I first got home, I was ill from the bad air for about 5 days, not sure what it was actually, just chest congestion and feeling like crap! Then when I was asked if I liked the cruise I was like, "Never want to go back there again." No toilets in Asia, Russia was dirty and traffic was horrible. Now, if we did take this cruise again. I would not take any tours with the ship. I'd take the shuttle in So. Korea and walk around the town, which I did a little in the morning but had to go back to the ship for a tour at noon. I would not take a tour in Russia. The ship is practically parked down town. I would walk around and see what there was to see. We had a great time in Japan. Muroran was awesome. I think Bolta was the bomb! I wish I had of bought more figurines. They are hilarious. China tours were so tight on time there was no time to shop, on any of the ports actually. No shopping unless you went on your own. Russia had some tables set up near the buses, Japan had tables set up, So. Korea did too, but if you don't buy post cards and such before your tours you may not have time to get anything. I ended up taking the addresses with me and writing cards on the bus. Oh yeah, it took one month for the Russia post cards to reach the USA west coast. So, it boils down to this. No shopping on any tours after Alaska. After Japan the air pollution is awful. People in Pusan, So. Korea and Muroran Japan were very nice. No toilets, like you are used to, in Asia. The Great Wall was a once in a life time event. Seeing the Water Cube and Bird's Nest, T Square, and the forbidden city are have to's. We saw the city stuff by cab. Also, one more thing they didn't tell us. The hotel room in Beijing electricity only comes on when you slide your room key into a slot on the wall next to the light switches. If you have two room keys you can go out and leave the AC on to cool the room. Oh yeah, don't be shocked by the gas mask in a can in your closet, next to the ironing board and slippers. If the tour guide on your bus wants to sell you a stamp with your name and your Chinese name, it's pricey at $20.00, buy one on the great wall for half as much. Mine was wrong and there was no getting another one. There are souvenir tables at the great wall and the prices are not bad, this maybe your only chance to get little tokens and post cards. That's it... Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
My Wife and I have never been on a cruise before and decided that this just might be an option for our honeymoon. How can I sum up our experience? In one word, WOW, or maybe Fantastic. I guess one a word description just might be a little ... Read More
My Wife and I have never been on a cruise before and decided that this just might be an option for our honeymoon. How can I sum up our experience? In one word, WOW, or maybe Fantastic. I guess one a word description just might be a little to hard to do. The first surprise we received was a complimentary upgrade. With having a limited budget, and really wanting to try the cruise, we booked ourselves into an class ee cabin "P208", which was an ocean view stateroom on the lowest stateroom level (5th or Plaza) on the ship. Upon checking in, we discovered that we had been assigned to stateroom A208 which was on the 12th or "Aloha" deck on the ship, with a balcony. I have no idea what class that is. We sailed from Vancouver, BC, Canada on the Sapphire Princess for a 3 night coastal to Los Angeles. We were "warned" that the coastals are not a great introduction to cruising as there are not any port stop overs, and the waters are generally rougher. Well, if this was a poor introduction to cruising, bring on the best. My wife and I were so impressed with the cruise, that we are already planning to take our next one with our kids next year. Not just a little 3 night either, we are thinking of a 17 day transit from Vancouver to Fort Lauderdale, or the 10 day Vancouver to Hawaii. The staff on the Sapphire Princess surprised us by posting balloons (that read "Honeymoon")outside our stateroom door, the first night. The second night we were sent a congratulations wish from the Maitre D' hotel with a gift certificate, which entitled us to a special dessert and serenade in the dining room, and a congratulation card from the Captain of the Ship. I could go on and on about how great the service, how friendly the staff, and everything else that we discovered on the cruise was. Instead, I would like to say Thank you for letting me tell you how much I enjoyed meeting so many nice people (especially the couple that told us about "Cruise Critic"), and I will be happily looking forward to next years "real" cruise. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
We had an aft balcony on our Sapphire cruisetour (Kenai Explorer). It was a quiet room, even despite the fact it was located directly above Club Fusion. Day one: We booked our cruise transfers directly through Princess according to our ... Read More
We had an aft balcony on our Sapphire cruisetour (Kenai Explorer). It was a quiet room, even despite the fact it was located directly above Club Fusion. Day one: We booked our cruise transfers directly through Princess according to our travel agent. However, once we arrived at the appropriate desk, we found that our names were not on the list and we had to go through Canadian customs, an extra 40-minute process. Throughout the airport, Princess Cruises personnel guided us through the twisting airport hallways and escalators to our bus transportation to the dock, which was nice and reassuring. At the bus, no one checked to see whether we had purchased our transfers or not. Is this included for all cruiselines? When we boarded the ship, we found the stewards and the staff very courteous. No foam mattress topper was present even though I had faxed in my request one week prior. We also had to ask for robes, even though I had specified my preference already on the Cruise Personalizer online. And by the way, it's a memory foam mattress, about 1 1/2 inches thick, which is a higher quality than the egg crate kind. My husband and I decided that we would have preferred a side balcony instead of the aft balcony. When passing by land, I would rather watch the land pass by than watching the wake. The shower was tiny, with just enough room to stand. And if you didn't pull the curtain over carefully, the water from the shower will drench the floor. I loved that there was a different variety of food every day at the buffets and the dining rooms for lunch and dinner. Moreover, there was pizza, soft serve vanilla and chocolate ice cream, and a grill serving hot dogs, hamburgers, etc. all of which was available every day from 11am to 6pm. At the buffet, we felt like the waiters almost never approached us, if we wanted something to drink. We discovered that, most of the time, when a waiter asks you if you would like something to drink, he actually meant alcoholic drinks, for which he would get a tip. He was, however, obliged to get you your coffee, ice tea, or water if that's what you wanted. Therefore, we hardly got table service for drinks because apparently we didn't look like the drinking type. Unlike our Carnival cruise 5 years ago, some of the shows repeated for 2 days, instead of a different singing/dancing show to watch every night. A fresh fruit basket (oranges, bananas, pears, kiwi, apples) can be requested to be brought to your room, to be refreshed daily on request. Wireless Internet: 500 Minutes for $175 $0.35/Minute 250 Minutes for $100 $0.40/Minute 150 Minutes for $75 $0.50/Minute 100 Minutes for $55 $0.55/Minute Day 2: I woke up to the ship bobbing back and forth, making me feel dizzy. This lasted for a few hours, then the ship became more steady. This was the only time the ship was not steady, which was different from our Mexican Riviera trip on Carnival, during which I would marvel that the dancers on the stage nightly did not fall frequently on stage as it rocked back and forth. The view from all around the ship was all ocean. We exercised in the fitness room. There were Arc walkers, treadmills, bicycles, free weights, and some stability balls, as well as machines. No refreshments were available there. Bottled water could be purchased for $2 each. Thankfully, there was a drinking fountain. A steam room and sauna could be found in the locker rooms. Our room is kept clean as housekeeping (our friendly Freddie) cleaned our room twice a day. That's all he does for 8 months, not being allowed to go on shore all that time, he told us. Waiters, we found, were not necessarily as friendly. The service was spotty as we had to ask for juice at the buffet for breakfast, and often had to get our own drinks, despite the waiters wandering around the room. Even in the more formal dining rooms, the waiter would offer something ("any coffee for you tonight?") and walk away before I could answer. In fact, I had to shout, "Yes, please!" Day3: We took a trip at the port of Kechikan to see the Misty Fjords via float plane. What we did not predict was how nauseous Peter and I would get. Day 4: In Juneau downtown we saw some town drunks and bearded folk. We watched the tram come up and down as we waited for our whale watching tour. Mind you, boats are not allowed more than 200 feet from the whales. Therefore, "seeing whales" means seeing lines of mist and specks from far away, necesitating binoculars and zoom lens of cameras. Day 5: Chilkoot charters took us up to meet the return trip of the White Pass train. We were in a van which had high seats and tinted windows, so it was not a good vehicle from which to sightsee or take pictures. Larry, however, did do frequent stops so we could take pictures. He was a jolly man who chatted with us about Juneau, where he grew up. We discovered later that the Princess bus had large high windows. This was because Chilkoot charters was not at the train depot to take us back to the dock, so we had to bum a ride from the Princess tour bus. Day 6: This was the day we were to cruise up to Glacier Bay. However, we only arrived at the entrance and were in front of the first glacier when at 9am the captain announced that we would be leaving due to a storm. Needless to say, we were disappointed to miss the best part of an Alaskan trip! On the way out of the Inland Passage, for the next 24 hours, the stormy waters caused the ship to rock violently back and forth, and that night I couldn't sleep. The dancing show was cancelled due to the danger of the dancers falling on stage. Day 7: College Fjord. We arrived at a glacier, in front of which were many sea lions lounging around. From as far as the cruise ship, they looked like slugs. This evening we were to pack and tag our luggage and place them outside the room from 6pm to 10pm to be collected by staff. We were only allowed one tote bag sized carry on to take along with us. Day 8: We were to vacate our room at 8am. The disembarkation procedure was easy and uncrowded due to different meeting times and places for different groups of passengers. CRUISETOUR: Kenai Princess Lodge is a small "resort", isolated on its own. There were two trails to explore the surrounding forest and river, where you had to be careful of bears as well as mosquitoes. I wished I had brought more insect repellant. The "lodges" were very nice on the outside. On the inside, the rooms were big. The floors were not as clean as we would expect for paying an average of $350 a night. There was plenty of dust in the corners as well as cobwebs in the bathroom corners, and it was obvious the floor was not cleaned during the days we were there. The shower curtain smelled as moldy as they looked. We did immensely enjoy the wood burning stove in our room. A small fitness room had 2 stationary bikes, a treadmill, and 2 ellipticals. Body lotion in the room was available only by request. We regretted not bringing our Princess cruise slippers along to use in the lodge. As Los Angeles food connoisseurs, we were even impressed by the food at the restaurant. There was a 3-course prix fixe menu from 5:30pm to 6:30pm for $24 dollars and we ordered prime rib for the main course. Instead of the steak being cooked "medium" in the middles, it was cooked medium through most of the steak, which was delicious. Two dollars for a refillable glass of coke was a bargain for Peter, who missed having his usual coke the past week on the cruise. The next morning we returned for breakfast. Even though it was half an hour until closing, there was no hostess in sight, and we waited for several minutes. Peter was hungry and tired. I looked around the entrance, and asked a nearby waitress, "Is there someone working at the front?" She replied as if she hadn't heard me,"The hostess will seat you." I said, "But there's no hostess here." She ignored me. Finally, the hostess appeared and made us wait several more minutes, saying, "sorry, we're preparing for lunch and we have to prepare the table back to breakfast." I looked at my watch. It was still going to be an hour and a half until their lunch hours opened. I looked out at the dining room, and there were no tables being changed in any way. After waiting a few minutes, the hostess led us to a table. What annoyed me further, was that another couple arrived 15 minutes before breakfast ended and got seated right away. They were not told there was a table that had to be prepared for them, while no tables were being altered in any way. On our way to the Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge, we stopped by Anchorage. we ate at the . The food was delicious. Peter had the blackened Alaskan halibut, and I had a rockfish po'boy sandwich, the bread was toasted crispy, the way I liked it. When we arrived at the Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge, there were two full-size beds, instead of one king bed for us. I had booked this vacation a year in advance! Our travel agent understood it was to be a honeymoon-type of vacation. I called to ask for a change of room, and when we arrived at the new room, it was again a couple of full size beds instead of the queen beds promised. By this time, we were too tired to ask for another change of room. Sure enough, six hours later, our luggage had not been delivered to our room. I called the front desk for the 3rd time after being reassured by the front desk several times earlier that day that the "bellman is taking care of it." Which I'd been dubious about since they had not actually called the bellman to check on it. Truly, it seemed that each time I called the front desk, no matter whom I spoke to, he or she would promise something without checking on it. So when I called the front desk yet again in the evening, the front desk person said, "The bellman will look for your luggage." I said, "You mean, is it lost, or what happened?" He said, "I'm talking to him right now," and I heard him in the background telling the bellman about our lost luggage. I had to explain to them that we changed rooms. Then I had to explain that I suspected our luggage had been delivered to our original room. Overall, Alaska was beautiful and the luggage transportation from ship, throughout the hotel hopping was seamless, as long as you don't request another room. So most of the time we had a relaxing vacation and felt worry-free. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
A little background, I'm in my mid 40s and DH is mid 50s. This was our 12th and 13th cruise, 7th and 8th on Princess. We have cruised RCL x2, Celebrity, HAL and NCL. We booked this as two separate cruises...a 3 day Coastal followed by ... Read More
A little background, I'm in my mid 40s and DH is mid 50s. This was our 12th and 13th cruise, 7th and 8th on Princess. We have cruised RCL x2, Celebrity, HAL and NCL. We booked this as two separate cruises...a 3 day Coastal followed by the first 7 day Mexican Riviera of the season. We were lucky to snag the aft corner BB Caribe 753 for both cruises. Embarkation: Nightmare! But nothing we can blame on Princess. Unfortunately the lady that committed suicide by jumping off the back of Sapphire was being searched for the morning of our embarkation so Princess Staff had stopped the line and prevented anyone from boarding. We stood in the Security line for about an hour without moving. Princess staff told passengers that the Coast Guard was doing a "Drill". Once we got through Security, boarding was a breeze. We found our cabin pretty easily and instantly fell in love with its location and balcony. Cabin: Wow - what can be said about those corner afts that hasn't already been said? We loved it! The view was incredible. We had a lot of sea days on this 10 day voyage and that balcony was perfect. The Cabin was laid out really well, tons of drawers and closet space. Suitcases fit under the bed no problem. The egg crate was already on the bed and robes were in the bathroom for us. Even the shower curtain didn't seem to hug the way it used to. Ship: The Sapphire Princess is beautiful - absolutely beautiful and not showing any aging at all. We were on the Zuiderdam in May and she was a disgrace. Sapphire was truly spotless. She has so many great hidden areas for reading and relaxing and an abundance of pools. The first couple of days out the pools where far too warm. It felt like you were being dipped in soup. They cooled down a bit towards the end. I think they must have been heated for Alaska and just took time to adjust the temp. Service: Another WOW - we've been on 5 cruise lines and about 11 different ships - Sapphire crew were the best - everyone that you ran into was friendly, happy and very helpful. Gerry our cabin steward was the best we've encountered on any ship. Bar Staff, waitstaff, officers, everyone was so nice. The staff in the Pacific Moon dining room were fantastic. I ordered a Cappuccino in Lobby Bar one morning and had a bit of a wait...just a couple of minutes, but I had three people apologize for the wait. Honestly, I can't say enough about the staff.....except... the pursers' desk...I'm not labeling them all as bad, but we certainly ran into our share. We had a problem with an internet credit that took 4 trips - over 4 days to the purser's desk to fix and you could tell she really didn't have a clue what she was talking about. The second instance was the billing on the ultimate balcony dinner. We did this with friends - in their cabin - and our cabin got charged for both couples. The men went down to fix it up and thought it had been done and sure enough on the final bill, it was still screwed up and charged to our cabin. The other couple just ended up giving us $100 cash as the Pursers desk was unable to fix it. Dining: We had Anytime Dining and I think ate in the dining room 3 times. Had reservations each time and no wait. We did the pub lunch which was good, but doing it in one of the fancier dining rooms is a bit strange. The wheelhouse pub is a much better location. Couldn't believe when our drinks server at the pub lunch clearly remembered what we were drinking the night before - great memory - I barely remembered ;) We had our anniversary dinner in Sabatini's - Fantastic! Alex our waiter was awesome as was the food except for the lobster which was overcooked - knew I should have had the Seabass. But the rest of the meal made up for it including the plethora of desserts he brought us. Last formal night we dined with our friends in Sterlings. My Filet was very good but hubby's Rib eye had a lot of fat on it. We also did the Ultimate Balcony Dinner which was superb. We did it for 4 on the other corner caribe balcony. 4 fit out there quite well. They brought a larger table. We had a Goat Cheese Salad, Crab Tart, then Steak/Lobster or both followed by dessert. They start you a cocktail of your choice then with dinner a ½ bottle of champagne per couple. I'd run down to a bar earlier and grabbed a bottle of red for dinner which they gladly served us. Service, food, ambience - all excellent. A photographer also comes up to take your pic and you get a free 8 x 10 per couple. We had about 4 shots to choose from. Cost was $100 per couple and well worth it in our opinion. Horizon Court was actually pretty good. Anytime they had seafood on the buffet it was excellent especially the breaded shrimp. Overall, I'd say the food everywhere was pretty impressive. Entertainment: This part is going to be short, other than Steve Morris, we didn't see any. He was good though. We also attended some of the Karaoke (oh my ears are still ringing) and we won Passenger Feud. The Ports: Well this was a 10 day cruise for us, with only LA, PV, Mazatlan and Cabo so a lot of sea days! Getting off the ship in LA as in "In Transit" passenger was very easy. We congregated in Club Fusion for about 20 minutes and where then led off. A short walk for someone to check your documents and you were back on board. We decided to leave the terminal and check out San Pedro...hmmm... don't bother. We were directed to "Ports of Call" there really wasn't anything there. We should have just stayed on board and enjoyed the solitude of the ship. Puerto Vallarta - we just took the white shuttle buses into town $3 each. Easy and quick. We were dropped off outside Diamonds International..of course! We wandered around a bit. There were a couple of nice Silver and Leather shops that the ship recommended. We then went for a beer and walked around a bit more. We ended up taking a taxi back to Walmart to replenish water and pop. We also went to the mall next door to Walmart which was very nice and just walked back to the ship. Mazatlan - we took a Ghetto Taxi (taxi driver's words not mine) down into the Golden Zone. Wow tons of construction going on and lots of stores added since the last time we were there. The cab driver asked if he could drop us off at Diamonds International as he gets $5 for doing so, we said sure and just walked straight through it. Taxi was $8 for the 4 of us. We walked around a bit, bought some silver jewelry and friends of ours bought some Pewter from a store we bought from 9 years ago - it was good to see they were still there. Went for a beer (starting to see a pattern?) walked around a bit more and then headed back to the ship. There are tons of stores in the port area to navigate through. Mazatlan runs a little shuttle in and out of the port area which is Mandatory and Complimentary. It's an industrial port area so they want you to be safe. Jewelry prices were pretty good in Mazatlan but watch your prices in the store sponsored silver store. They wanted about $160 for a bracelet that I found a few stores down for $72 Cabo - Cabo is a tender port. We got our tender tickets about 8:30 am and within about 5 minutes were being led to the Tenders. It was so hot in Cabo...it had actually been very hot and humid all cruise but Cabo seemed especially warm. We started walking around the Marina area and quickly ran into our friends who had done an earlier excursion... so even though it was only 9:30 am, we needed that beer to combat the heat ;) We shopped a little. Cabo prices were out of line compared to the other ports. Earrings that I had looked at in Mazatlan were starting price of $40 Cabo they were $70. I told him he was nuts and walked out the store. We ended up at Cabo Wabo for Margaritas a little later in the morning and wound our way back around the Marina back to the ship. We bought some Almond Tequila and some Pomegranate Tequila in Cabo and had no problem taking them back on the ship. Disembarkation: A breeze! No announcements which is nice. You just head to your designated public lounge/dining room and disembark at your time. We were in the Platinum lounge and disembarked on time. Highlights: Sea Days - we've never done a cruise with this many sea days before, we now know that we love them, so relaxing. We spent so much time on our balcony just watching the wake and the dolphins racing the ship. The Staff - can't say enough. We've never run into this much consistency of good service. The Ship - just beautiful and spotless The Food - shockingly good - especially the seafood on the buffet. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
Background- My husband and I are in our early 50's and love to go cruising more that any other type of vacation on earth! Our trip to New England was so very exciting, especially Newport, RI and Bar Harbor, ME. We have been to St ... Read More
Background- My husband and I are in our early 50's and love to go cruising more that any other type of vacation on earth! Our trip to New England was so very exciting, especially Newport, RI and Bar Harbor, ME. We have been to St John's, New Brunswick and Halifax, Nova Scotia before so those ports were for more quiet time. Embarkation- We flew into LGA from CLE and arrived at 10:00 A.M. By 10:25 A.M. we were in a Taxi headed for the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. Price for the taxi was 30.00 + tip, which I thought was a great price. We breezed right through security and check in and were on board by 11:30 A.M. We headed for our room to check it out and make any arrangements that needed to be made, like signing up for consideration for the Chef's Table one night during the cruise!!!! If any of you have not done this......NOW IS THE TIME to experience this wonderful evening with Chef Antonio Cereda. He prepares all new menu items for the 12 of you from appetizers to dessert along with many fine French champagnes and wines. You start your evening with a wonderful tour of the kitchen during rush hour and see the dynamics of the fine dining kitchen at sea!!!!! Appetizers are served with Champagne in the galley before heading to the VIP Chef's Table in the Dining Room for the rest of your multi-course extravaganza! Call 6219/ dining reservations to put yourselves on this list for this once in a life time treat. Accommodations- We like the Balcony Cabins on the Lido Deck Forward for a short cruise of 7 days or so. The hallways are quiet and there are only 25-30 outside cabins and 13 or so inside cabins. The Balcony Room is a good size, but we wish the shower/ bathroom were a little bit bigger!!!!! There are many drawers and plenty of hanging closet to fit all of your clothes for the 7 day cruise. One thing that I noticed was all the lightening was over head and it was hard to see well in the mirror for close up work.......like makeup!!!!! HA! I know next time I will bring my suction-cup 10x mirror and stick it on the window or mirror for better viewing for detail work. When I came home my eyebrows looked like electrical wires above my eyes!!!! Oh well, nobody really cared!!!! Ship- We have never been on this ship and it looked quite beautiful and elegant! We know it was in for remodeling and total revamp earlier this year!!!! They made some wonderful additions :The Vines Bar and International Cafe, Coffee Station, Casino smaller, new elegant inside large window cabins on the Fiesta deck right down from the Princess Theater port side, I think and the MUTS.If I am missing anything.....please let me know!!!! OH, new internet and library too. Navigating around the ship is a little confusing, but after day 2 we got it down!!!! Thanks to all of you who added your 2 cents that I read before I left. Dining- We chose Anytime dining. We ate in the Coral dining room 3 times, first night and found no wait at 7:45. The 2ND time was Formal night after Halifax and the last night of the cruise.....all times at 7:45 and no waiting!!!! Food was great, but I LOVE food, especially sea food and my husband loves any type of meat so we were happy!!!! Lobster and Crab were served on their traditional nights during formal dinners, even at Cafe Carib!!! I was in heaven that night and ate it in my casual clothes!!! Other times ( breakfast,lunch and some dinners ) we ate at the Horizon Court Buffet and Cafe Carib, when it was open. When both are open, go and see what they each have. Many times there are different food items at each place!!!!!!! Do not forget in the morning to get those delicious Belgian Waffles at the Ice Cream place on the Lido Deck, you can smell them a mile away.......that is how my NOSE found them!!! My husband still laughs at me running to find that wonderful smell of waffles. We were going to go to the Crown Grill ( I think that is what it was called), but that night was the Chef's Table and we were not going to miss that!!!!! Read about it on embarkation notes. We had 2 lovely CC members that joined us for this Chef's event and they were from England and they were some of the nicest people we had met...Kim and Shaun. Of course we met many new friends that night...we were together for 3.5 hours!!! But many passengers that I talked to loved both of the speciality restaurants!!!!!! Many had rave reviews!!!! Service- It was great and I have no complaints. I am in the service industry and I appreciate anything that anyone does for the both of us.....even if it takes a little time. There were 3,300 pax on this trip and at times the buffets were busy, but I found no one starving at any of my tables!!!!! Anna Maria from Romania was my favorite, she looks like Celine Dion (sp)she is in the Horizon in the morning and the Coral for dinner, she is a hoot!!!! Entertainment- We only had enough energy to see the comedian one night and it was packed. He was Phil Tag and was a riot.....a must see, but get there early it fills up fast. Casinos- My husband did o.k., but I just went to deposit my $$$$ and left!!!! MUTS- Didn't watch one movie, it was a little chilly but there were many pax.'s out there any time of the day......enjoying the big screen. Afternoon tea- In the dining room was lovely, but did not participate. Also in the afternoon they came around with cookies and milk...............I guess so you could make it until dinner!!!!! Bars- We didn't go to many of the bars on board, we were just happy to go to our rooms and drink our wine and relax on the balcony......even if we did have our coats on!!!!!!! Cruise Staff- Dan, the CD was wonderful and funny as well as Sam, his side kick.They were on T.V. every morning to share the drinks and the events of the day, very helpful. All of the staff were always willing to assist you with a smile! I have been up since 4 a.m. and my fingers are getting tired, so I will review the ports, etc on another day...... If you have any ?????? just e-mail me at s31ship@oh.rr.com Talk to you later....... Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
Although this was my 9th cruise it was my first time on Princess. Having sailed previously on Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian I wanted to see if what I'd heard/read about Princess being "a step above" those listed ... Read More
Although this was my 9th cruise it was my first time on Princess. Having sailed previously on Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian I wanted to see if what I'd heard/read about Princess being "a step above" those listed was really in fact true. My husband and I were on the September 5th sailing. We drove to the pier (about 3 hrs from MA) and parked in the long term lot. ($142 for the week) Embarkation: Arrived in the terminal at about 11:15...check-in was a breeze and they began boarding the ship at 12 noon. We were on by 12:30. Cabin: We had an inside cabin on the Lido deck (deck 15). The cabin was about the same size as any other interior cabin that we've had on other lines. There is a good sized closet with plenty of hangers. The bathroom is your typical small cruise ship bathroom. As noted in other reviews here they don't put a "top" sheet on the bed, just the comforter. We asked our steward for a top sheet and he quickly obliged. Ship: The Caribbean Princess is a beautiful spectacular vessel....she was definitely the prettiest ship in any of the ports we visited. Having read some negative reviews about the condition of this vessel I went aboard with a very critical eye. I didn't see any of the "wear and tear" that some folks complained about. I think they do a fantastic job with the upkeep....whenever we were in port the maintenance crew was always busy painting or varnishing something. The Caribbean Princess *sparkled* in my opinion. The only public room that I didn't care for was the Princess Theater. It's the main large theater on the ship and the layout is quite awkward. They outfitted the theater with individual "movie theater" style seats, so if there are empty seats in the middle of a row, everyone needs to stand to allow people to have access to those empty seats. There were always plenty of deck chairs available and the swimming pools were the largest I've seen on any other ship. The lounges and other public spaces on board were all very tastefully decorated and comfortable. Even though there were 3500 passengers on our sold out voyage, the ship never felt too small for all of us. Food: Lido deck buffets are pretty typical of the other cruise lines we've frequented. Cafeteria style food, pretty good selection, mediocre quality. The waitstaff at these buffets were very attentive and tried their best to keep the tables clean so that we could always find a place to sit. The staff really works very hard and my hat is off to them that they do it always with a smile....even when some of the passengers are less then cordial to them. I'll touch on that later. Main dining rooms: We had "Anytime" seating even though I booked 6 months in advance and requested "Formal" dining we were placed on the "waitlist". If we arrived early (before 6)our request for a table for 2 was almost always met. Between 7 and 8:30 there seemed to be a wait time for small tables. We like to dine early so it was not an issue for us and we actually enjoyed dining with other passengers a few times. The food in this dining room "Island" was just fair to good. This was the area that I had hoped would be "superior" to the other lines that we've cruised with and I was disappointed that they didn't deliver. I'd say I enjoyed 2 meals out of the 5 that I had there. One night I ordered the "veal scallopini" and it was tasteless, dry and tough. I was somewhat disappointed in the dessert selection although it probably was a good thing that I didn't over indulge in this area. Specialty restaurants: Sabatini's was very good. It is an Italian themed restaurant and they basically serve you a 17 course meal. Every appetizer that is on the menu ends up on your plate...then a pasta course and the main entree followed by dessert. We could hardly walk out of there when all was said and done. The service was EXCELLENT and I highly recommend this as an alternative to the main dining room. ($20 surcharge per person) Crowne Grille: also very good. We had fantastic service here. You pay $25 per person and can basically eat as much as you'd like. The strip steak was very well prepared as were the lobster tails....I enjoyed the "Black and Blue" soup although I wasn't as "awestruck" with it as some of the other reviewers were....it's basically French Onion Soup. I highly recommend this restaurant as well. Entertainment: The production shows are headlined with 4 singers which was a first for us (only ever seen 2 on other lines). After going on 8 previous cruises these shows get a little stale. I'm not trying to take anything away from the performers...they were all great...it's just again "typical" cruise ship entertainment. I saw 2 different comedians and 1 comedian/hypnotist. The first comedian (Roland) was fair with a lot of old jokes that we've all heard before. The female comedian/hypnotist was very enjoyable and engaged the audience throughout her performance. The last comedian (James Michael) was the "bad boy" of comedy and his show was funny and entertaining. The live music throughout the ship was all very good although I'm not getting the "hypnotizing amazement" of the crowd listening to that Bernie guy. Every time we walked past his lounge area there were passengers lined up along the walls with this hypnotic look on their face and my husband and I tried to listen to his *corny uninspiring* act and just couldn't get into it. Oh well, different strokes....... I would like to touch on the age of the passengers on this particular cruise. We are in our early 40's and if I had to take a guess I'd say that about 85% of the passengers were over 80 years old. We were most definitely in the minority as far as age goes. There were 11 kids on our voyage and the cruise director stated that the week before there were 600 kids. Of course since it was Labor Day week many schools were starting and that may explain the small number of little ones. So for those "younger" folks looking for a party type crowd I wouldn't recommend this particular itinerary. It didn't bother us much and the one positive about sailing with a much older crowd was that we never had to search for a deck chair and the pools were fairly empty most of the time. I was quite disappointed though in the way some of these *senior* passengers treated the crew. I witnessed quite a few people being outwardly rude for no good reason to this hard working staff. I only wish that people would remember that they should treat others as they themselves wish to be treated. I realize this is a very long winded review and I hope for those of you that are still reading that it was helpful in some way. I really wanted to touch on some of the negative things that I had read before I left, and to hopefully set your minds at ease. To those of you sailing on this magnificent vessel in the near future I'd like to wish you as wonderful a vacation as we experienced. It's what you make of it and if you go with a negative attitude then chances are you won't have a positive experience. Did I come away thinking that Princess is a "step above" the others I've sailed with? No I didn't....but that doesn't mean I didn't love our cruising experience with them. We had a very good time and yes I would recommend this ship to my family and friends, but we really couldn't see any discernible difference between them and the others (Carnival, RCCL, and NCL). Bon Voyage everyone! Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
What a fabulous honeymoon. Dw's 1st cruise and also celebrated her birthday. She loved all the singing by the waitstaff for her birthday and our honeymoon. Sailaways are spectacular from the secret deck above the bridge accessible ... Read More
What a fabulous honeymoon. Dw's 1st cruise and also celebrated her birthday. She loved all the singing by the waitstaff for her birthday and our honeymoon. Sailaways are spectacular from the secret deck above the bridge accessible from the lido deck. The view from Skywalkers is great for entering into port, played cards there during the afternoons and the view is something else. The shows are fabulous. The cruise director and his assistant are wonderful and very funny. We were selected as one of 3 couples to play the Marriage Game(takeoff of the Newlywed Game). Finished 2nd but should have won(lol) Makes you squirm a bit with some of the questions, but overall was a fun experience. The food is wonderful(shrimp cocktail every night and as much as you want). We had anytime dining and never had a long wait to be seated. We thoroughly enjoyed meeting other people in the dining room from all over the US and England. Really enjoyed the behind the scenes enrichment programs for the stage shows and the food preparation. We found the CB to be a very beautiful ship full of wonderful crew and delightful passengers. We never felt overly crowded on this big ship. We are so ready to go again. Thank you Princess for the unforgettable experience for our honeymoon!   Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
We spent a week in NYC prior to boarding (and it was hard to leave)!! Our cabin was a great surprise as it was stated an 'obstructed view' but there was NO obstruction! The cabin was room and the steward was more than helpful. ... Read More
We spent a week in NYC prior to boarding (and it was hard to leave)!! Our cabin was a great surprise as it was stated an 'obstructed view' but there was NO obstruction! The cabin was room and the steward was more than helpful. The ship (Crown Princess)is a beautiful ships with many public areas, restaurants and bars. Entertainment was coordinated so that you could see two outstanding shows in one evening or you could see one each night as they repeated the entertainment venues over two evenings. Great idea, which allowed us to see all the shows/entertainers we wanted to. The most outstanding thing about the cruise was the staff ~ which I consider to be one of the best (if no the best) cruise staff I have encountered in the 29 years I have been cruising. Always pleasant, helpful, professional and friendly! The only real shortfall was the food ..... we were completely unimpressed with the buffet area ~ and my husband is a buffet junkie! The food choices were a bit bizarre ..... at the small late-night buffet the sandwich choice was corned beef and tongue (combined)!! The dining room service was outstanding ~ we had a wonderful young woman server ... she and her assistant were the reason we ate in the dining room every single evening! The food - not so good. It was OK but I cannot remember one real outstanding meal and the biggest disappointment was 'lobster night'!! The lobster was overcooked and even though they brought us a platter full of tails, all we tried were tough! :( Be that as it may - we don't cruise for the food and it was good but not great. The ports of call were great......Newport, Boston, Bar Harbor, St. Johns, Halifax, Sydney, Saguenay and Quebec City. We did not get off in Saguenay and due to a medical emergency on-board we did not stop at Sydney. We did a combination of ship excursions and pre-arranged activities on our own. All were great - especially the independent tour we did with two other couples in Halifax - it was fabulous and the driver was superb. We connected with one of the other couples through the Cruise Critic boards- Yeah!! My husband and I agree this is one cruise we would do again .... even though we have a long 'bucket list' of other cruise! Read Less
Sail Date September 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
My wife and I cruised French Polynesia (aka Tahiti) on the Pacific Princess from 9 to 19 October 2009 for our 30th Anniversary. We loved Tahiti but did not enjoy the ship as much as other ships we'd been on (9 total cruises). But ... Read More
My wife and I cruised French Polynesia (aka Tahiti) on the Pacific Princess from 9 to 19 October 2009 for our 30th Anniversary. We loved Tahiti but did not enjoy the ship as much as other ships we'd been on (9 total cruises). But due to shallow waters and cost of getting to Tahiti, small ships are all that cruise there. We flew Air Tahiti Nui from Los Angeles to Papeete, Tahiti, to catch the ship. The ATN counter at LAX international terminal opened 3 hours prior to the flight and everything went smoothly. Food on ATN in coach is somewhat poor, especially the dinner - breakfast was OK. I recommend you eat prior to boarding - note the restaurants at LAX international terminal are before the security lines, there is only a coffee shop once you pass thru security. We arrived in Tahiti at 4:30 AM - the bank at the airport is open 24/7, it's the best place to exchange dollars to French pacific francs. I recommend you bring enough cash for what you want to exchange - my ATM card did not work at any banks I tried in Tahiti. Also, the Pacific Princess did not have an ATM machine. Most merchants took credit cards - visa & master card - the street vendors took only cash. Some islands, like Bora Bora and Moorea, took dollars, but don't always count on it. We stayed overnight at the Intercontinental Hotel in Papeete in an overwater bungalow - very nice room worth the exorbitant cost. Going to Tahiti is expensive so you might as well enjoy it. I highly recommend planning 1-day stops in LA and Tahiti before getting on ATN and the ship. We ran into several couples on the ship that had to divert to Tokyo or Hawaii to make connections to Tahiti and either missed the ship in Papeete (so flew to Huahine to board) or did not have their luggage. We stayed overnight in LA & Papeete and had no problems. Boarding on the Pacific Princess at 11:30 AM on 9 October was fast, we never saw much of a line the first day. Passengers arrived up to 5 PM on 10 October when we sailed. Although we felt the ship was small and dated, with not too much to do, we both thought the crew were very friendly and helpful. Having cruised on the RCCL "mega ships" before, the Pacific Princess seemed tiny. It's OK for Tahiti where you have a lot of stops, but I'd think an overwater cruise would be very boring. Also the ship pitched and rolled a lot, even in gentle seas, so plan ahead if you are prone to sea sickness. We stayed in a mini-suite, the cabin was roomy. Only complaint was they "upgraded" us to a wheelchair accessible room (#8044) which had a large shower in the bathroom instead of a tub - it took up way too much space plus the water flow was poor. We tried to get back to our reserved mini-suite (#8002) but were told the ship was full and room assignments were made at Princess HQ, not by the ship. Food onboard was adequate, not that tasty, but plentiful. Dinners had gourmet titles that often tasted strange. Best meal was the lobster on the second of two formal nights. Buffet was open 24/7 so you could usually find something there, like pizza, if still hungry. Best food was the fresh pineapple but they ran out halfway thru the cruise (in Tahiti?) until near the end. Room service menu is very limited, only a few sandwiches. We did the continental breakfast on our balcony, which included some basic egg dishes, a few times to watch the ship sail into ports. We ate at Steakhouse ($15 per) and had great filet mignons, worth the cost as you can't get good beef in the main restaurant. One tip - we chose late dining at 8:15 - this was too late as dinner was slow so we didn't finish until after 10 PM. Early dining at 6:15 is better choice although you may miss some island viewing. The one pool was pitiful, barely a large tub. So we bought passes to the spa deck in front of the gym/spa. Although slightly expensive, it was worth it! Had a large jacuzzi and was limited to 16 people the entire cruise, but you have to buy the passes at spa within first day or 2. We spent most of our deck time there as it's also the best view out the front. Gym had old equipment - we were told it was due to be replaced this winter. Exercise classes were great - the instructor, Arlene, was fantastic. But limited in size so sign up the first day. My wife enjoyed some of the spa treatments as well. Shows in lounge (no theater on Pacific) were OK, singers/dancers not great, but we enjoyed the comedy acts. Not very crowded as most people tended to go to their rooms after dinner, mostly due to the tropical sun & heat of the day. IMPORTANT! Take a lot of sun tan lotion, SPF 50 or higher - we went thru 2 bottles. We saw many red bodies in the beginning as the sunshine is brutal near the equator. We had great weather which was a mixed blessing as some days we hoped there would be clouds to keep sun off. Also take bug spray if you go inland as flies and mosquitoes abound away from the shoreline. Islands were fantastic and got better at each stop. Main island, Tahiti, is very crowded so we just took a ½ day trip sightseeing. We used Carl Emery for our tour, he speaks English and is very knowledgeable about the island - check out his website. Papeete is OK to shop before ship sails but I recommend you just browse and check prices, then look for better deals during the cruise. You are back in Papeete at end of the cruise so you can always make the last purchases there. First stop, Huahine, is OK. Pretty at first, but paled in comparison to later islands. We took bus to the small town and walked to the beach. I recommend you bring your own mask & snorkel and take them with you onshore wherever you go as there are always places to swim. Sea day to sail to Rangiroa, which is on east side of Polynesia. Rangiroa has best scuba diving, also good snorkeling & glass bottom boating. We did a drift dive along a gorgeous reef, most colorful fish I've seen! Saw one gray shark and many small barracuda. Sea day to sail back to Raiatea. Raiatea was only place we docked besides Papeete, rest was tenders which were pretty efficient. We did the pearl farm/snorkel and enjoyed it, the pearl farm is interesting and you snorkel right off the overwater farm so you can see their oyster beds plus the reef. Wife bought some Tahitian dark pearls there since they are authentic although pearl prices are pretty consistent throughout Polynesia. We also hiked up the 1,000 ft hill behind the ship to get a great view of Tahaa & Bora Bora - take water if you do as it's a hot hike. Good Polynesian dance show on ship that evening and a dessert/fruit buffet. Bora Bora was fantastic. We stayed 2 days and enjoyed both. Scuba dove the first day, reef was good but not as colorful as Rangiroa, but saw several 9 ft lemon sharks and many 4-5 ft black tip sharks. They are fed by local scuba divers so are docile and looking for hand outs (but I kept my hands in). Good shopping in Bora Bora - finally found some T-shirts and other tourist junk. Tahitians don't go in for tourist junk like they do in Caribbean so you have to hunt to find what you want. Also they are very friendly and not pushy. Second day we went wave runnering (aka jet ski) thru the local tour vendors by the pier. Went totally around Bora Bora in 2 hours, saw all the fancy resorts as well as the mountain from all sides - expensive but worth it. Had lunch at Bloody Mary's restaurant about 2 miles from the pier - apparently a well-known tourist stop, especially for Americans. Last island was the best, Moorea. Very beautiful, amazing mountains, not too crowded. We did a catamaran/snorkel trip, it was OK. Heard scuba diving was good also. But best tour was the whale watching as they found a pod of whales and were allowed to snorkel with them... so take your mask & snorkel if you do it. Good shopping there also. Only 3 hours from there to Papeete, we were docked by 8 PM on 18 October. As most of us had late flights on ATN the next evening, we did not have to leave the ship until 6 PM on 19 October. You have all-day in Papeete to finish shopping and take any last excursions. Princess was very gracious to let us stay on the ship using all facilities as the new passengers were arriving. We had to leave our cabin by 8 AM but gym/spa has good changing room with lockers and showers, so we swam & sunbathed most of the day. I recommend taking Princess transfer to airport as otherwise they want you off the ship by 3:30 PM. The lines to check-in, immigration, and security for ATN were slow but we got thru in 1 hour total. They provide carts for your luggage. Once inside terminal, the waiting room is great - comfortable couches and a small restaurant. I recommend you keep 2,000 francs (about $25) for last-minute snacks & drinks there. ATN flight back was OK - poor dinner and better breakfast. Tight seating in coach. I recommend going first or business if you can afford it - we will if we do it again. Once back in LA, it was nice to hear announcements only in English as everything on ATN and ship was repeated in French, Tahitian, sometimes Spanish, and English. To summarize, Tahiti was fantastic - expensive but a once-in-a-life trip for most. Ship was not great but it was OK. Crew was great and tried hard to please, given the small older ship. I think we're spoiled by the larger RCCL ships like Voyager & Independence but their destinations are limited. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
This voyage was our 4th with Princess out of about 30 cruises in total. However, at 30 days it was by far our longest. We liked the Star Princess as we had the Golden and Grand on earlier trips. We did feel there had been some ... Read More
This voyage was our 4th with Princess out of about 30 cruises in total. However, at 30 days it was by far our longest. We liked the Star Princess as we had the Golden and Grand on earlier trips. We did feel there had been some cutbacks, particularly in the Horizon Court buffet and possibly slight reductions in portion size and quality of the dining room meals, since our last Princess cruise 2 years before, but on the positive side the Lido deck ice cream bar is now free, an afternoon cookies and milk round has been instigated and the atrium has been brought alive by the addition of the International Cafe on deck 5., This operates a slightly strange system whereby sandwiches, salads, soups, cakes etc are free but coffee has to be paid for. This seemed odd when coffee is free in the buffet but I am reliably told by my husband and other coffee drinkers that the deck 5 fresh filter coffee was much nicer than the buffet version. The system (other than paying by the cup) was to buy a 'coffee card' for $24 which covers 15 speciality coffees and also unlimited filter coffee and hot chocolate for the entire cruise, so was a good deal even though DH only ever has black coffee. So no complaints at all about the ship, now on to the ports. We are not lovers of tours and prefer to do our research in advance and explore on our own wherever possible and I must say that the port guides provided by Princess were very good. My husband uses a wheelchair for longer distances so that is also a factor in our choice to 'do our own thing' - we don't like to have to request special arrangements or feel we are slowing others down. Sydney, Australia We arrived 4 days early flying in from London with Virgin and stayed at the Sheraton on the Park having got a good advance purchase deal through their own website of 205 Australian $ per night including breakfast. At the time we ere getting over $2 to the British pound but it had dropped to 1.6 by the time we travelled so we were pleased to have booked and paid for our room earlier in the year. The hotel was very nice, maybe a harbourside location would have been better than the city centre, where the Sheraton is located, but it was not too far, about 20 minutes walk to either Circular Quay or Darling Harbour. Some friends from Melbourne flew to Sydney to join us and we had a lovely few days doing all the tourist things and also saw 'The Mikado' at the Opera House which was fantastic, and as the wheelchair lift is in the centre of the building we got a free tour of the backstage area on our way to the accessible seats. We joined the ship on the Saturday, purposely not arriving at the cruise terminal until about 5pm by which time there was no queue and we walked straight on board. We had booked inside guarantee and been allocated L244 on Lido deck, the location was very convenient for the pool and theatre and we were very happy with it. New Zealand Fjordland The second day at sea en route to New Zealand was quite rough and the weather was generally cold and windy for most of our visit to NZ, unfortunately their spring was running late this year. We had to be up early for the sail through Milford Sound but it was worth it - really scenic with snow on the mountains and pretty waterfalls. It was a bright sunny day but really very cold. Later we sailed into Doubtful Sound, Thompson Sounds & Dusky Sound, all very beautiful but Milford was definitely my favourite. A local park ranger came on board to give commentary and was very interesting when we were listening from the cabin but sadly the PA system on deck was dreadful and he was completely muffled - a shame as he spoke for several hours and it would have been nice to be able to hear and see at the same time. Dunedin, New Zealand We had organised a hire car in advance through Dunedin Rent a Car ($146NZ including the extra insurance) and were met by a very pleasant lady who showed us to the car, completed the paperwork in a couple of minutes, offered us directions and we were off towards the beautiful Otago Peninsular. I had arranged with The Penguin Place for a special tour and they were most accomodating of my husband's disability. Instead of the usual bus tour and long walk through the hides a lovely chap called Brian took us in a 4-wheel drive vehicle though his family's sheep farm to see the penguin beach from the hills above. It was beautiful countryside and as it was nesting season we were able to see 2 of the rare yellow-eyed penguins on their nests in the hills and also one wandering along the beach. A small blue penguin had been seen earlier but eluded us, but we did see (and smell!)a huge male fur seal on the rocks by the beach - he does not hurt the penguins but several had been killed by sea lions this year. We would have liked to have seen more penguins but Brian was an excellent guide to this lovely natural habitat and clearly loves the wildlife that live there, we thoroughly enjoyed the hour tour (cost a very reasonable $100NZ for the 2 of us) and would thoroughly recommend The Penguin Place as an out of town excursion. The Albatross Colony is only a couple of miles further on and we did drive there but the road, which has been basically sea level all the way along, suddenly rose up a high cliff-edge and DH (who hates heights) was more interested in getting back down that seeing the albatrosses, which Brian had told us only fly out to sea and never over the land. But if you don't mind a hairy drive it is another beautiful place. Returning to Dunedin the weather took a turn for the worse and we arrived in town to a heavy rainstorm. It did not last long and we walked around the shops and found the Cadbury's factory - I had originally booked a tour but cancelled it when I found out there are over 200 steps to negotiate. Surprisingly we were not even allowed into the shop without taking a tour. The rest of the town was pretty enough and did have a Scottish feel but a couple of hours there was enough for us. We returned to the ship about 5pm to find the dock in a complete state of commotion. Apparently the high winds during the storm had snapped a mooring line and the Star Princess was now using side thrusters and being pushed by a tug just to keep alongside the wharf. Instead of a 2 minute walk along the quay we had to board a bus and wait behind about a dozen other buses as they disembarked tour passengers right by the gangway so that nobody was walking on the dock. So nobody was surprised when 6pm came and went and we did not sail, but at about 9pm the captain announced that high winds were preventing us safely leaving port and that tomorrow's call to Lyttelton (for Christchurch) would be curtailed or missed altogether, depending on how the weather situation changed overnight. In the end we did not leave Dunedin until 7am the next morning and spent the day at sea catching up and did not call at Lyttleton at all. This was so sad as one of our main purposes to this trip was to meet with my husband's cousin who lives in Christchurch - it was to be only their second meeting in over 50 years so, while understanding completely the Captain's decision (the entrance to the port of Dunedin is very narrow), we were of course very disappointed. Wellington, New Zealand We were greeted by freezing cold winds but at least it was dry, and we walked into town towards the beehive Parliament building (about a mile). There were shuttle buses running to a department store in the city centre ($5 US return ticket) but there were several hundred people queuing and after all the sea days I was glad of a good walk, and the pathway is flat so no trouble with the wheelchair. There are free tours of the parliament every hour but we decided to see some other sights so headed off down Lambton Quay - which is not a quay, it is a couple of blocks inland but lined with touristy shops selling lots of NZ made goods. Later we walked to Te Papa, the NZ National Museum on the waterfront and spent an interesting couple of hours there, focusing mainly on the Maori cultural area and the colossal squid exhibition. The museum is free (some exhibitions have a charge) and well worth a visit, our only complaint was that the inside was a little dark and we were pleased to get back out in the daylight and icy cold wind. We wandered back to the ship via some more shops, by accident finding Cuba Street which seems to be the main non-tourist shopping area. I earned my dinner today - we must have walked several miles, Wellington is a nice city, just a shame it was so cold. Auckland, New Zealand Thank goodness the weather had improved and it was a pleasant, sunny spring-like day. Our visit coincided with the Auckland Marathon so on leaving the ship (which docks right in the city centre)we followed the marathon circuit the final half mile or so to Victoria Park and watched some of the runners crossing the finishing line. just across the street was Victoria Park market where we picked up some NZ shell jewellery at very reasonable prices.our next stop (up a steep hill, unfortunately)was the Sky Tower. DH would never go up but we watched several people jumping off, not quite a bungee but a freefall controlled by 2 fixed ropes. Definitely not for us, but we met some people on the ship who had taken the plunge and were still in a state of excitement several days later. From there we walked along Queen Street, the main shopping street, back to the ship. We were not so keen on Auckland, a nice enough city but could have been anywhere in the world, really. And by now I was getting seriously stressed about communication problems which seemed to blight our entire time in NZ. Wifi connection ashore seemed to be nearly impossible (the only one we managed was at the Wellington tourist information office, and all the emails I sent from there immediately bounced back). Our internet package on the ship would not let me send from Outlook Express, only by logging into our service providers' websites, which we had to make do with but at 50c a minute it worked out expensive. Between the 3 NZ ports of call we had tried 6 or 7 internet cafes and been unable to log into either of our email accounts or into my officelive workspace. I know this should not blight a holiday , but I have my own business which a colleague was kind enough to be looking after for me and it was important for us to be in regular contact - I mention this only so that readers for whom communication is important are aware that it might be difficult in NZ. We had to resort to regular use of the ship's wifi, a situation I have never found before in any country. Suva, Fiji After a hot and sunny day at sea we arrived into Suva in a downpour, but fortunately by about 10am it had stopped, except for a little intermittent drizzle on and off all day which was not enough to wet you, in fact it was pleasantly cooling. There are no beaches on this part of the island and it is not the picture-postcard Fiji.Our first impression of Suva was not favourable, but like many cities the port is the worst part, and a 5-10 minute walk took us into the city centre, which was far nicer than my research had led me to expect. We walked first about a mile through town (flat again) to see the President's house from a distance (we arrived just in time for the midday changing of the guard) and then visited the lovely Thurston gardens next door. These also house the Suva Museum but we decided not to visit that but headed back into town, where we finally found an internet cafe from which we could both send and receive emails - what a wonderful relief !! And it was cheap, too. We had exchanged some of our left over Aus & NZ $ with a money changed on board that morning and got what seemed to be a very fair rate of exchange. Most of the shops seemed happy to accept US$ and in Jacks, the main souvenir shop, we were able to pay with NZ$. Jacks runs a free shuttle bus from the port but it is such a short walk it is hardly worth using. I had read about Suva being a high hassle place but I must say that the only place I felt this was in fact in Jacks, where an assistant follows you a pace behind and tells you 'that's a nice scarf', 'that's a nice watch', 'that's a nice ornament' every time you show interest in an item - most annoying. We must have walked in and out of about 50 other shops and experienced nothing but pleasant helpfulness. The Fijian people seemed genuinely lovely. To my shame I was suspicious of the first few people to say 'Bula' (hello) to us, but unlike many other places this was not an introduction to a sales attempt, but just saying hello to a visitor, and was repeated several hundred times by schoolchildren, older men wearing their traditional dark skirts, policemen in their white pointed skirts, and nearly every passer-by throughout the day. Suva is not pretty city but we thoroughly enjoyed our day and would love to return to Fiji one day. Apia, Western Samoa It was hot here and very humid, as we left the ship about 10am others were already returning saying that it was too hot to do anything. It was hot but we walked around the harbour to Apia town, passing the famous Aggie Grey's hotel and stopping a couple of times to look at shops and stalls, it took us about half an hour to the tourist information office. From there I had planned to walk out along the peninsular to see the parliament and historic buildings but it did look quite some distance so we settled for a look around a tourist market on the seafront and then crossed over the main street and looked around the local market and shops and also the Catholic cathedral, which was had some nice painted glass round windows. Later we took a taxi to Vailima, Robert Louis Stevenson's home. I had read on the internet that it was a fixed taxi fare of 7 tala (1GBP = 3.5 tala,and local bank officials had been on board that morning to exchange currency). We asked several taxi drivers and they all said it was 15 tala each way for the journey - still very good value but I think like some other ports the price of everything doubles when a cruise ship is in town - we declined postcards at 3 tala each. The taxi ride was still good value, it is not all that far (maybe 3 miles ?) but a pleasant ride up the hillside towards the interior of the island and we saw some beautiful gardens on the way, but the best of all was when we turned into Vailima and followed the long drives lined with tropical trees up to the clearing where the house stands. Admission is 15 tala each (or 7 USD) and the taxi driver was happy t6 wait for us. Admission includes a guided tour, which seemed to leave every few minutes and each room has its own guide to tell you a little about the history - very nicely done. There was also a dance performance on the terrace, I think laid on for the ships tours which kept arriving, but everybody seemed welcome to watch it. on leaving I asked the taxi driver about the beach just beyond the wharf but he did not seem to think it was a good idea to go swimming there, so we asked him to drop us back into town where we visited an internet cafe and then walked back along the nice seafront promenade to the ship. Several people we spoke to later had been to different beaches and the consensus of opinion was that the beaches of Western Samoa were not very good, no doubt still suffering the effects of the tsunami, although Apia itself seemed fine. Pago Pago, American Samoa 'Pango Pango' (as it is called) had unfortunately suffered far worse and, although they have tried very hard to clear up the town of Fatagogo immediately adjacent to the wharf, a few minutes' walk beyond that led to the devastated area - so terribly sad for the people of this lovely island. Because it is lovely. The fjord-like harbour is surrounded by huge green mountains and in the rare moments of sunshine the water took on the multicolour shades of blue you see in pictures of the South Pacific. Those moments were rare and we dodged tropical showers for most of the day, but enjoyed our visit. Later in the day we walked the other direction (turning left out of the port) and after a few minutes walk you can see the governor's house up on a hill and then arrive at 'Sadies by the Sea' Hotel and an adjacent public beach park. There is a toilet block here (not particularly nice) and a few seats and 'palapa' style sunshades. The beach itself was OK, not the South Pacific beach of my dreams but quite nice sand, although you need shoes for the water due to the sharp pieces of coral, and various other debris which I blames on the tsunami. I did think twice about swimming in an enclosed harbour but after several fellow cruisers took the plunge it was just too much of a temptation to have my first swim in the South Pacific, and it was great -nice and warm, not crystal clear but not too cloudy, and a nice swell as waves hit the harbour entrance - lovely, Moorea, French Polynesia We had pre-arranged a hire car for 4 hours via Avis Pacificar (cost 68GBP = $100 US including nil excess (deductible) insurance by booking in advance - would have been about 20% dearer on arrival) to explore the island that was 'Bali Hai' in the film 'South Pacific'. We felt this was a good investment even for the 2 of us, and we were able to invite another couple we had made friends with on the ship to join us, and we had a thoroughly enjoyable day, even though the weather was disappointing. There were a couple of heavy showers in the morning and low grey cloud all day. The car was delivered to the dock (where island tours were also being sold for about $50 each) and we set off clockwise around the island, making several stops including the Moorea Fruit Juice Factory (where a wonderful pineapple aroma greeted us), Club Bali Hai (did not seem a particularly nice hotel, despite the name), 'le Pettit Village' touristy shopping centre and the Intercontinental (lovely hotel, you can just wander in to look at the water bungalows, dolphin & turtles) . The island was very beautiful with amazing volcanic peaks dominating the lush green centre. There were some lovely beaches but these seemed to be dominated by the hotels. Apparently there is a public beach near the airport which we did not find, so no swimming today either. The island had a slightly 'dead' feeling to it, as if it was off-season (perhaps it is in November ?), a lot of shops and restaurants were closed, whether permanently or temporarily we were not sure, one bar owner we spoke to said that he only opens at weekends and did not think it was worth working midweek, even when 2,500 passengers arrived on a cruise ship - what a lovely life ! Tahiti, French Polynesia At last the sun shone on us in Papeete, the busy city that is the capital of French Polynesia. We arrived at 8pm, just 3 hours after leaving Moorea, to be welcomed by a large troupe of local dancers and musicians. Our plan for he next day was to use the local bus for a ride outside the city (disappointingly most of them are proper buses now - the traditional 'le truck' seem to operate only in the city). We headed for the west coast bus station just behind the market, a few minutes walk from the dock. The first bus to arrive was a no.3 destination Paea about a quarter of the way around the island -that sounded like a nice trip so we paid our 200 franc fare each (about 1.50 GBP or $2US) and jumped aboard. The journey took about an hour (I think roadworks added a good bit to the usual time) and was not as scenic as we had hoped, the first half passing the shops and offices of a typical city. We then joined the coast road but the view was blocked almost continually by hotels and villas. We passed the lagoonarium and a couple of public beach parks and the local passengers gradually got off, leaving us the only ones on the bus. We wondered whether to get off and make our way back but the driver gestured us to stay on and the end of the line was a small but beautiful public park called Grotte de Mara'a and also Grotte Teanateatea and Grotte Vaipoiri, small caves filled with pretty tropical plants and little waterfalls. This was just how we imagined Tahiti, but of course it is only one little spot. No 3 buses seemed to arrive and leave about every 15 minutes and after about half an hour the driver who had brought us waved to say he was leaving and we decided to go back, the only passengers for the first few miles, and when he realised that I could speak a little French he chatted away to us, telling us the history of Tahiti, pointing out the spot where Captain Bligh landed and even stopped to pick me some special 'Flower of Tahiti' that only grow in these islands. The journey back was much quicker and we spent the afternoon exploring the market and shops of Papeete but everything seemed very expensive here, as it had throughout French Polynesia. I would recommend anyone visiting Papeete to get out of the city and see some of the island (several tours were being sold on the dock for about $50). Bora Bora, French Polynesia WOW - Bora Bora was beautiful ! Apparently on the ship's last call it had been rough and raining but we were lucky enough to have fantastic sunshine. We had again pre-booked an Avis hire car - more expensive here at 8,800 francs for 4 hours plus 1,800 compulsory fuel payment (in Moorea we had just filled the car before returning it). I had originally signed up for 2,200 francs of insurance, but on arrival found that, unlike in Moorea, this did not eliminate the excess (deductible) but only reduced it from 200,000F to 100,000F, this seemed a bad deal so we cancelled the insurance, making the cost of the car and fuel about 85GBP ($120) for 4 hours. We probably could have done without a car here, in fact, as there was a shuttle bus to both Bloody Mary's and the public Matira Beach for $5US each way, a free shuttle to a pearl factory quite close to the beach and also tours being offered on the dock for $30 - $50, but I had not been able to find out anything definite in advance about this so had opted to play safe and hire a car. Again our friends joined us and it was definitely the best day of the cruise - in fact I would go so far as to say that Bora Bora made the whole cruise worthwhile. Any number of words cannot do justice to the beauty of this island and, especially, its amazing lagoon which seems to continually change between a multitude of shades of blue, green and turquoise. For anyone who has been to the Maldives (our favourite place on earth) the water is similarly fantastic but Bora Bora has the added bonus of a green mountainous interior - just stunning. Again we drove clockwise around the island's only main road but we stopped so many times to take pictures it took us over 2 hours to cover the 30km to Matira - and at last the South Pacific beach of my dreams ! We spent a wonderful hour there just floating around in the lovely warm, clear water (but do take water shoes, there was quite a lot of sharp coral around) . Our final call was the legendary 'Bloody Mary's' Bar, which is actually not beachfront, in fact we drove past it several times as we were not looking on the inland side of the road. It is a nice bar, and not so outrageously priced as we had been led to believe (about 500francs for a local beer, 300 for a soft drink, 650 for a bloody mary and other cocktails up to 1,000). It was good to have been there, taken the photos and used the waterfall basins in the restrooms but I doubt we would bother to call there again. It is also very sad that several hotels on the main island of Bora Bora have closed down - I'm not sure why, it must be for economic reasons as it is such a beautiful place I can't believe they would be short of willing visitors. Most of the main hotels now seem to occupy the 'motus', little offshore islands on the reef which look wonderful (very Maldives-like) . It's a shame that Bora Bora is on the other side of the world and so expensive - we would love to spend a holiday there. Crossing the Equator As soon as we left Bora Bora the weather deteriorated again, the first of our 4 days at sea was very very wet, very very windy and not really very warm. The following day was better and the traditional crossign the equator ceremony took place so all us 'pollywogs' (including the staff captain, who was a great sport) became 'trusty shellbacks'. The following day brough much better weather but it deteriorated again and the last 2 days before Hawaii were quit rough. Honolulu, Hawaii I liked both of our Hawaii ports better than I had expected, even though we docked in Honolulu to a magnificent rainbow which, of course, meant rain. It drizzled on and off all day but did not get heavy until early evening. Our plan for Honolulu had been to go ashore early in an attempt to get to Pearl Harbour in time to get tickets, which research had told us were usually gone by mid morning. However, this plan was thwarted by US immigration, understandably taking place here. Princess tour participants were of course allocated the earliest time slots and ours was not until 9.45-10.15am. A note of caution to anyone on a similar itinerary, we were not told until the day before that we could not leave the ship until after our immigration time so had we booked an independent tour here (which we had considered) we would have missed it. Immigration went quite smoothly and we left the ship about 10am and, knowing that by then we would stand little chance of a ticket to the Arizona Memorial we decided to save the cab fare and take the public bus. We had docked at pier 22 instead of the expected Aloha Tower but it was not far away. We could have caught the no. 20 bus from just outside the pier but opted to walk a little of Honlulu city first and got the express 'A' bus which took about 30 minutes. There is a lot of building work going in at Pearl Harbour but it will be a nice museum area when finished. Memorial tickets were of course gone by the time we arrived about midday, but we were very lucky in that a kind gentleman who decided not to wait until his 2pm timeslot gave us his tickets. he 2 hour wait passed quite quickly as we looked around the outside exhibits and Arizona museum (the submarine was available to tours but the Missouri is closed until January 2010). At 2pm we saw the film about the terrible events that occurred at Pearl Harbour and were taken out on a boat to the memorial, floating above the still visible Arizona, parts of which still protrude out of the surprisingly shallow water. A very thought-provoking visit. Leaving Pearl harbour we took a no.20 bus back thought Honolulu to Waikiki. The beach is very nice and, although very commercial, the area was much more tasteful and up market than I had expected. We saw the sunset from the Sheraton hotel, it was nice, if not spectacular, and watched the surfers for a while, then wandered around the shops (most of the shopping centres laid on some hula dancing or other local entertainment) and international marketplace and adjoining Dukes Lane market until the rain really turned heavy at about 7pm, when we took another bus back to the ship to have dinner beefore our 11pm departure. Bus fares are $2.25 each journey (even if you go all around the island), with a free transfer within 2 hours of a paid journey - very reasonable. Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii Our stay here was cut short as the captain decided to leave at 3pm rather than 5pm to ensure we got through the impending bad weather and arrived in Los Angeles on time. So last tender was at 2.30pm and inevitably it was absolute chaos. From about 1pm the queue stretched the entire length of the town square, and in fact the last tender arrived back about 4pm, so for all that we gained less than an hour of sailing time. To be fair a lot of it was due to US immigration who were hand searching all handbags and frisking everybody as they LEFT the island - (why ????) - but it was a shame we were so rushed as Lahaina was a nice town. We wandered around the main street and shopping centre then went for a swim from the beach near the tender pier (again, water shoes needed) and watched the surfers for a while. Some people took the local bus to the Whalers Village and enjoyed it. Los Angeles (disembarkation) The weather whipped up again as soon as we left Hawaii and was quite rough for a couple of days but actually improved as we nearer LA. Disembarkation was running about 90 minutes late due to 'immigration' and also a passenger falling on the gangway early in the morning. But once off the ship it was straightforward to collect luggage and (after a short wait) take a taxi to the Queen Mary. Our plan had been to tour the ship but there was not time so we just sat in the sunshine waiting for our 'Prime Time' shuttle, booked for 12.10. After several telephone calls and promises each time that it would be there in '5 minutes' it got to 1pm and we asked the concierge to call a taxi for us. The cost was more ($75 as opposed to $32 in the shuttle) and I have no idea whether the shuttle ever did arrive but at least we got to LAX airport in time for 2pm final check in for our 4pm flight home. Air New Zealand were offering a 'twin seat' deal so for $60 we got an extra seat between us - money well spent, we thought, and the flight home was good. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
Nice ship, excellent dining room staff and food! The food was wonderful. Crown Grill is excellent (cost you extra but it is worth it -- 5 star dining service and food!!) All the food from the dining room and buffet is excellent too. If ... Read More
Nice ship, excellent dining room staff and food! The food was wonderful. Crown Grill is excellent (cost you extra but it is worth it -- 5 star dining service and food!!) All the food from the dining room and buffet is excellent too. If you are a smoker -- this is probably not the cruise ship for you!! Very, very limited smoking -- and you can hardly even find an ashtray in the casino! You cannot sit at any bar and smoke-- neither pool side, or casino, or inside. Wish I had known that before I booked this trip! You can smoke on Port Side on level 7 and Port side on level 15 by the small pool-- not the big pool where the movie screen is and you can smoke on level 16 port side next to the bar in a very, very tiny space with 3 ashtrays. Smokers were having a real hard time trying to cram into very little spaces in segrated areas with hardly any ashtrays. They might as well make it a non-smoking cruise ship other than in your room -- that's about what it amounted to. Wed night in the casino was "Non smoking night". We have traditionally been on NCL and loved it! We wanted to go to St. Maarten so picked Princess this time. Everyone kept asking "what do you think of Princess" -- we just listened -- alot of people had been on Royal Caribbean & liked that better,etc. The people who had only been on Princess said they liked it. I said I think it's just what you are used to --personally I still like NCL and I've been on Carnival (which I hated), been on Royal Carribean which I really liked and now tried Princess -- which I prob won't go on again. Why not Princess? Like I said -- the food was probably the best I've had! They do not make people sanitize their hands getting back on the ship. You do it going into the buffet, but not in the dining room. The ice cream lady did not wear gloves. They are not as bacteria conscious as NCL. The bar staff on our departure date on the pool side -- almost didn't have a clue as to what they were doing. Couldn't get a drink for 20 minutes and that was after the rush hour when we finally ordered one. 1 bartender & the waiter just stood and roamed around waiting for 15-20 minutes not knowing what to do. As my friend said -- they just don't have it together and look like they don't know what they are doing. Our room steward Mike was a Godsend!! He was absolutely wonderful!! I wanted to take him home!! He's so fast -- I bet he could clean my whole house in one day! I will say their prices were very reasonable on the ship for anything you buy. That was nice. The entertainment was good. I wish the captain would have spoke to us more often and explained what islands we were passing by or given us a morning report from him. The cruise director was about the only one we heard from telling us when we could depart, etc We really had no idea what we were passing or seeing as they didn't tell us. I will say every crew member was very friendly. If you passed anybody in the hall or on ship -- officer or staff they always said hello to you and spoke to you -- that was nice! Overall, we had a great time and really got to relax and enjoy our vacation. I'm sure you will too. Comdoc 2 Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
My husband and I are loyal RCCL passengers but decided to try another line for our anniversary, booking the Emerald Princess. While we did relax and enjoy ourselves, this cruise only solidified our loyalty to Royal Caribbean. THE ... Read More
My husband and I are loyal RCCL passengers but decided to try another line for our anniversary, booking the Emerald Princess. While we did relax and enjoy ourselves, this cruise only solidified our loyalty to Royal Caribbean. THE GOOD: Embarkation was smooth and efficient. From the time we exited our car (we drove, stayed the night at Embassy Suites in Boca), we were in our stateroom in less than a half-hour. Luggage was delivered about four hours later. The ship itself was, in a word, gorgeous. Tasteful colors, immaculate and well-appointed. Our stateroom was a bit smaller than those on other ships because Princess chose to take the sitting area and use the space for expanding the balcony, which we loved and preferred. Four adults could comfortably occupy the space. Also, we had more closet and storage areas. Besides the two large pools mid-ship the Emerald Princess also featured an adult-only area (in addition to the Sanctuary) aft, called the Terrace Pool. The area itself as well as the pool were smallish, and passengers were eating breakfast in deck chairs at seven in the morning to ensure a seat later. Nevertheless, we had no difficulty finding space regardless of the time of day. Hands down the very best and most consistent experiences we had were at the International Cafe and the Crown Grill. The food and service in these areas were the shining stars of our vacation. Had we known the Grill would be so exceptional (we visited on night five), we would have gone every night, regardless of the upcharge. Tim, the cruise director, and his staff were superb--probably the best team I've seen on any ship. They were upbeat, happy people and their attitudes were contagious. The activities offered on days at sea were the very best. Regardless of your preferences, they had something for everyone. THE BAD: Overall, service was severely lacking. The deck waiters were in absolutely no hurry to serve passengers. Likewise in the upstairs buffets, Cafe Caribe and Horizons Court, which was worse because only coffee and water were self-serve. I rarely had juice available for breakfast. The juices and milk were kept in pitchers at small service areas dotted around the dining room, which meant the juices were diluted from the ice and the milk was room temperature. While the service was more consistent in the dining room, our waiter knew very little about the menu and was unable to advise us in dining choices. He was unable to anticipate needs and any special request (two appetizers instead of a salad course) threw him off his game. Not only were the waiters and bar staff less than willing to speed their paces, we heard them openly gossiping about passengers and each other. They were rude to one another and also to passengers. This was also true of the ship's photographers, who were hostile to any passenger who chose to use their own cameras in lieu of the ship's services and were openly critical of the passengers' equipment. (At $20 per photo, can you blame us?) Now for the ship's boutiques. Prices were over the top, and the cruise line assumes the passengers to be complete morons. My husband was eyeing a watch and noted the price was $150, which was supposed to be 10% off USRP. Five days later, the sign on the display indicated the price to be 40% off USRP but guess what price we were quoted? You got it--$150. When we asked if the price were correct, the sales clerk confirmed it. Overpricing was also noted in the spa. Services were 30% to 40% more expensive than on other lines. The gym was very well equipped, though you should bring your own water bottle because no fountain or cooler was present. Menu choices were more expansive on this ship than others, but frankly my palate isn't sophisticated enough to eat pate' or mackeral for breakfast. Apparently, neither was anyone else's as most of these choices dried out under the warming lights. Given that our waiter knew nothing of the menu in the dining room, I was unwilling to sample the unfamiliar delicacies there. (I have a sensitive tummy.) The omelet station in Horizon Court is marked by a small sign displayed among other items atop the hot bar. Finally, Princess has a way of nickle-and-diming its passengers to death. The Sanctuary, an adult-only area costs about $150 to use for the week. Royal Caribbean offers the same service at no cost. The ice cream next to the pool area is not complimentary, and if you want juice or coffee mid-morning or afternoon, you pay for it at the bar--no machines in the buffet as noted with other cruise lines. Popcorn for Movies Under The Stars is at cost, not free. Your gratuities are automatically charged at a set rate (again, more than the recommended amount for other lines) to your shipboard account, which was dismaying considering the service we received. THE UGLY: I suppose the entire attitude of the staff belongs here; we found that pleasant, helpful employees were the exception, not the rule. The entire ship seemed to have an air of discontent. When most of the employees in a business are unhappy, one should consider the impact management has on the attitude. Also, we felt that people in key positions (such as our waiter) had been poorly trained. Sadly, the service we received in the Crown Grill is the level of service we've enjoyed in every area of our Royal Caribbean ships. The absolute worst was on our return to Port Everglades. As we pulled into the waterway, my husband noted we were not returning to the same pier as embarkation. We had chose early disembarkation, which meant we carried our own luggage off the ship and to our car. I went to the purser, who confirmed that we were docking at pier 21. The distance was about two miles by street. I asked if a shuttle would be provided to return us to pier 2 and he suggested we take a cab. (Nevermind that the cabs wouldn't show up until eight-thirty and we would be off the ship by seven-fifteen.) We moved on the dining room that served as a holding area for other passengers carrying their own luggage. Being the good citizens we are, my husband and I informed others about the change in piers. As you can imagine, it became a bit heated--particularly when the ship's employee denied the change in pier until I told him that I had already confirmed it with the purser. Mysteriously, Customs and Immigration were an hour delayed arriving at our ship, which coincided with the arrival of complimentary shuttles that would transport us to our cars. Had we not spotted the change, Princess was prepared to let us disembark without notifying us. Once off the ship, we were no longer their problem. Don't get me wrong--we enjoyed ourselves on this vacation. We do not regret going. But we will never choose Princess again. They've been reading too much of their own press. Not a lot of love on the Love Boat. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
Originally my wife and I were to be married on the Crown Princess on the 3/1/09 sailing, but some post-surgery complications caused us to cancel just two days shy of the sail date. The rest of our wedding party (ten people) sailed without ... Read More
Originally my wife and I were to be married on the Crown Princess on the 3/1/09 sailing, but some post-surgery complications caused us to cancel just two days shy of the sail date. The rest of our wedding party (ten people) sailed without the bride and groom. With the health issues behind us, we rescheduled for the 10/11/09 sailing on the Emerald Princess (same itinerary as the Crown Princess from the spring). This time, my wife's parents and my father joined us for a party of five. We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale Saturday 10/10 in the evening and went to our hotel (Comfort Inn Airport/Cruise Port South, 2520 Stirling Rd., Hollywood, FL). No complaints on the hotel, although we were only there for 12 hours or so! Room was clean and quiet. The hotel seemed as though it had a nice pool area, although we didn't use it on this visit. EMBARKATION: Due to our hotel's shuttle schedule, we arrived at the port at 1145a. We were assigned to Group 8 (since we aren't yet Elite or Platinum...this was our first Princess cruise) and we told boarding would begin at 1230p. While waiting in the embarkation lounge, the biggest problem was we couldn't hear the public address system very well...sounded like all the adults do in the Peanuts cartoon specials! Once our group was called, the embarkation went smoothly: Lines are divided up by deck. Our cabin was on Dolphin and the line there was only a few parties in front of us. The check-in process went very smoothly and five minutes later we were walking onto the ship. CABIN: Our cabin was ready for us and once we were there, we met Luiz from Mexico, our cabin steward for the trip. He asked about any special requests we had and brought us complimentary champagne prior to sailing. We had various requests for him throughout the trip (some pertaining to the upcoming wedding as my fiancee needed her wedding dress pressed, etc) and he was responsive to us. The only thing we didn't get from him when asked was on the last day: We never received our questionnaires for the trip, despite asking for them twice. As I wanted to be sure that certain staff members were recognized, I just filled out cards at the Passenger Services deck instead. SHIP: It did take us a few days to figure out whether we were walking towards the back of the ship or the front, but that's happened to me every single cruise, so I don't have any specific fault there. One helpful hint: For the floors with cabins, the carpeting has red striping on the port side; blue striping on the starboard side. This helps you figure out where you are coming out of the elevators. The EP has two adult-only pools (the Sanctuary area and the pool on Riviera Deck - 14 aft) and we used the Terrace pool, but didn't want to pony up for the extra charge for the Sanctuary. The other pools located on Lido Deck (Calypso and Neptune)tended to be most crowded on sea days -- no big shocker there. Other times although the pools were definitely used, we didn't feel overly cramped. Mornings found the pools much less crowded. I have read on other reviews about the infamous "Chair Hogs." I'm not sure how it worked on Lido Deck (as we wanted to be on the open air decks instead), but we found we could walk up on the Sun Deck (16) anytime and find chairs without issue. The Piazza area on Plaza Deck (5) had "street performers," some of which were quite good. The Plaza also has Vines the wine and sushi bar; International Cafe, which had specialty coffees and some incredible looking bakery -- I managed to resist that for once; the Internet Cafe and Future Cruise Sales. I should add that Vines and International Cafe have surcharges for items. The Princess Fine Art Gallery is located on this deck as well, but that isn't one of my areas of interest, so I don't have anything to add other than I walked through it! We ended up spending much of our time in Club Fusion -- Promenade Deck (7) aft. Here one can find various activities led by the Cruise Director Staff (line dancing, bingo, "Newlywed Game" variants, etc), but we did come in to listen to music from time to time. I have yet to figure out where all the crowds were on this voyage. Aside from the Lido Deck being busy on sea days and the line to disembark at ports, it just did not seem crowded. We rarely had to wait for an elevator in the evenings and were able to move about the ship very easily. ENTERTAINMENT: This was the first time we saw shows on a cruise. We sat through comedian Kevin Hughes, some performances by the "house band" Temperature, part of hypnotist Tim Triplett's show and comedian Jim McDonald. Of these shows, I enjoyed McDonald's act the best, but I think whether you enjoy the shows will be solely based on personal taste. I did not attend any of the Vegas-style reviews. The ship's activities include the usual assortment of daily trivia, art auctions, dancing, but Princess also includes Movies Under the Stars on the big screen above the Lido Deck. Features on our cruise included X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the new Star Trek movie, as well as football on Sunday and Monday and other recent film/concert releases. FOOD: Keep in mind that I have only cruised three times so far over ten years, so I can't speak to the changes in how cuisine on cruise lines has changed over the past decades, but in general, the food on EP is very good. My wife enjoyed her share of lobster (one of her favorites) and of the food in the Botticelli Dining Room, the only dish that didn't meet my expectations was a lamb dish. It was tender, but didn't seem as flavorful as I would have expected. Taking that aside, however, I have no complaints about the food in the main dining room. There is a Pizza and Ice Cream Bar located on Lido Deck. The pizza was good but I can't speak to any experience with the ice cream. Specialty Restaurants: If you go to Sabatini's, my advice is GO HUNGRY. Primarily, you pick your main course and then all other dishes are offered to you in small quantities. I should note, however, several "small quantities" add up to one big meal if you partake of most of the courses! There is a cover charge of US$25 per person. Crown Grill: Also a cover charge of US$25, but add an additional $9 per person if you want lobster. The food in the Crown was very good, but since I had such good experiences in the main dining room, I'm not sure I would make the trip again. Don't take that as any slight against the Crown; I was just perfectly satisfied on the whole by dining in Botticelli. DINING STAFF: We were at Table 25 in Botticelli. Our waiter, Eduardo from Portugal was, by far, the best waiter I have had on any of my cruises. He was great to talk with, very knowledgeable about the items on the menu. He was assisted by Junior Waiter Eddie from the Philippines. This duo was just outstanding at meeting our needs and I hope that Princess does indeed recognize them for fantastic service to passengers. BAR STAFF: Overall the staff was polite; we had no instances of staff treating us with anything less than respect. Eileesha, who was working on Lido Deck near one of the pools, and Nikloshe in Club Fusion were two of the people that stood out. I did purchase a soda card and made a point to make sure that was a money-maker for me: I have to admit I did up my soda intake a bit until I was sure I had enough sodas to justify the US$29 charge (approximately 15 sodas over the course of the cruise will get you even); sodas are another "additional charge" item for Princess. CRUISE DIRECTOR STAFF: On our voyage, Cruise Director Lisa Ball and Deputy Cruise Director "Hollywood" were very visible from early in the morning until late at night. The other members of the CD staff (Hi, Renee!) were great as well. I certainly couldn't keep up with their schedules. OTHER: As mentioned at the beginning of the review, my wife and I were married on this voyage. Timing worked out a bit strange as we were married on the second sea day which was the last day of the voyage. We were married in the Hearts & Minds Chapel on Sun Deck (16) by the ship's captain, Giorgio Pomata. Asst Purser Michelle Holbrook was our contact on the ship and she was simply fantastic in dealing with our endless assortment of questions. As part of our wedding package, we purchased "The Eternal Collection," which is a fancy way of saying "all our wedding photos on CD." I have to say we were NOT disappointed. Rachel, one of the ship's photographers, did an amazing job. We had over 330 pictures and we consider more than 80% of them to be great pictures. I have to admit, I didn't expect the quality or quantity of our pictures to be as good as they were! Speaking of pictures, one has the option to purchase the candid or posed photos on board, of course. Pictures run in the US$15-20 range, depending on size of the picture. While we did purchase two photos on-board, for the majority of them we decided to save the money instead. The weather for this voyage (October 11-18, 2009) was fantastic. Temps ranged from 85-93F (29-33C) during the day and I think we had about four hours of rain the entire trip. Our stop in St. Thomas was cloudy, but otherwise sunshine...and a lot of it! DISEMBARKATION: Well, not my favorite time to begin with, but this is the area that fell short. We were scheduled for an 8am and I think we finally were allowed to get off the ship at 9:30am. I believe part of the delay was due to a medical emergency that occurred on the Plaza near the walkway to the pier, but we were well into a delay before that occurred. The process, once we left the ship, took approximately 20 minutes for us to get our bags and clear customs. We were able to get a cab after only a few minutes waiting in line. OVERALL: I have cruised on Carnival, Celebrity and Princess in the past. While one needs to guard the wallet -- or rather the shipboard account -- for charges on some items, overall, I would cruise with Princess again without question. Maybe that is due to the special occasion of my wedding on-board, but I feel that we had a great cruise on the Emerald Princess, October 11-18, 2009. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
Background We're a couple aged 41 and 51, and this was our second cruise. We had cruised the Western Caribbean on the Carnival Valor in 2007 and had enjoyed it so much that we wanted to cruise again and try a different cruise line. ... Read More
Background We're a couple aged 41 and 51, and this was our second cruise. We had cruised the Western Caribbean on the Carnival Valor in 2007 and had enjoyed it so much that we wanted to cruise again and try a different cruise line. We were looking for a beautiful and attractive ship from a premium cruise line offering flexible dining and affordable fares, so we chose the Emerald Princess. Embarkation We liked Fort Lauderdale better than Miami. We found the airport very welcoming. We stayed overnight the day before our cruise and found the city very nice and pleasant. We got to the port around 12h30 noon. There was already a long line outside the terminal but it moved quickly and within a few minutes we stood in line in front of the check-in counters that were identified with the deck names. The check-in was a breeze and by 1 pm we were already on board the ship. Our lifeboat drill was held in Club Fusion around 4pm and took about 15 minutes. Cabin We had a standard balcony cabin on deck 12 near the stern of the ship. The walk-in closet was a nice feature. The tiny shower stall had a curtain and bars of soap and samplers of shampoo were provided instead of a dispenser mounted on the wall. We had requested an egg-crate mattress and found the bed and the pillows very comfortable. There was an individual air-conditioning system, a flat screen TV above the minibar, plus a small desk and a chair. We experienced some vibrations sometimes but it didn't bother us. Our cabin steward was very friendly and did a good job. Ship in general She's a very beautiful and attractive ship. The public rooms are all tastefully decorated in subdued earth tone colors and the decor is similar throughout the ship. There's nothing gaudy here, all the spaces are luxurious, pleasant and inviting. The Italian-style Piazza is small but very nice. However, we found the decor in the Princess Theater rather plain. The indoor space is generous and we rarely felt it was crowded but sometimes we had to wait a while for the elevators. In comparison to our first cruise, we found that the ship was pitching and rolling a lot even though the sea was calm, making both of us feel seasick sometimes. The average age on board was 50-60, and really not many kids or teens. Dining We had Anytime Dining and it worked just fine for us. We usually went for dinner to the Da Vinci dining room around 8 pm and requested a table for two. There was usually no wait at all and we always got a table for two without any problem. We were given a pager twice and our table got ready in less than 10 minutes. We found the dining room very nice, cozy and not noisy at all. The service was good and quick, and the food was very good. All in all, Anytime Dining is a well-run feature. We had dinner one night at Sabatini's. It was really the best meal of our cruise. We got an impressive selection of cold appetizers, hot appetizers, soup and pastas, then the entrEe, and it ended with the dessert. Everything was so good and we ate a lot. The $20 per person fee was really worth it! The Horizon Court buffet was disappointing. The decor was nice and cozy but eating from plastic plates wasn't exactly what I had expected. We also found that the stations area was cramped and most of all we found that the buffet was poor. There wasn't a lot of choice, it was disorganized and not looking good, and there wasn't any mouth-watering cake or dessert of any kind. At breakfast, it was not possible to get an omelet cooked on the spot in front of you. It was totally not like what we had seen earlier on the Carnival Valor and certainly not suitable for a so-called premium cruise line. Having beverages delivered to the table was nice, though. We liked very much the International Cafe, located just off the Piazza, where we could sit down and people-watch while sipping our cappuccino. There were a few tables and waiters came at the table to take the order. I bought a coffee card good for 15 specialized coffees for $24 (gratuities excluded). Plus there was a nice selection of croissants, pastries, danishes and sandwiches, most of them free of charge. We also liked Vines, also nearby the Piazza, where we had cheese and wine one night and sushi and wine one other night. Outdoor areas We found that the outdoor space was generous and beautiful. The outdoor promenade on deck 7 was a nice place to stroll and relax. It went all around the ship and had many padded wooden chairs. The terrace on top of the bridge was a well-kept secret and you could access it through exit doors located at the end of the hallways on deck 15. We liked the two adult-only pools and hot tubs located at both ends of the ship. At the stern was the Terrace pool from where the decks rose in tiers. We liked the few outdoor tables on the Horizon terrace (overlooking the Terrace pool and the wake) for al fresco breakfasts and lunches. Better yet, the tables and the padded chairs by the two small fountains on the deck above (outside Sabatini's and Adagio). At the bow on deck 16, the Lotus Spa pool was very nice and had a few padded loungers. It was a little bit hidden and better accessible from the deck above via a flight of stairs. It was designated as a quiet area but unfortunately some people were ignoring those rules while we were there. Also, we found that the swim-against-the-current system was noisy when it was turned on and not very appropriate for that so-called quiet area. We liked The Sanctuary with its plush loungers where we spent an afternoon on a day at sea for $10 per person. However, we thought that there was not enough loungers in the sun (most of them were in the shade or partial shade) and that the noise coming from the nearby Lotus Spa pool could be annoying (we heard some people behind us complaining). During sea days the outdoor decks were crowded. Even the Lotus Spa pool and its two small hot tubs could be crowded sometimes. However, we really liked being able to take a hot tub at night under the stars. We didn't go to the Movies Under The Stars but it seemed pretty popular and fun with the loungers specially covered for the occasion. Bars and entertainment We liked Crooners, the martini bar, for pre-dinner cocktails. Adagio was very nice but it seemed that nobody went there, so it lacked some ambiance. The Skywalkers nightclub was always busy late at night. We saw only one show in the Princess theater so that we cannot comment on that, but we liked the quartets that played regularly in the Piazza. Here's what we paid for some drinks (gratuities not included): can of Sprite $1.95, imported beer $5.75, martini $6.50, frozen margarita $6.75, glass of RosE d'Anjou $6.75, glass of Pinot Grigio $7.75, glass of Pouilly FumE $9. There was not many intrusive announcements. However, we found that they were trying too much to draw our attention to shopping with flyers and shopping speeches of all kinds. We even heard at many times crew members asking passengers "Did you go shopping today?". Has shopping become the main reason for cruising today? Ports of call This will be brief because we didn't take any tour. In spite of cloudy skies, Princess Cays was nice and well-organized with lots of things plus a free buffet. In St-Martin, we took a cab to Marigot on the French side and had lunch on the terrace of a French bistro overlooking the marina. Before going back on board, we strolled a bit in Philipsburg. In St-Thomas, we took a cab to the beautiful Magen's Bay beach ($4 entrance fee), and after a while we came back to Charlotte Amalie to have lunch and to stroll a little bit. In Grand Turk, we stayed in the cruise facility which had a good sandy beach just a few feet from the pier. Debarkation We paid $20 per person for the EZCheck service. With that service, we got our boarding passes and luggage tags the day before debarkation, allowing us to leave our luggage in the hallway the night before as usual and collect it at our destination only. No hassle with the luggage in the cruise terminal or at the airport and no need to check-in with the airline. Worth it! On the final morning, we were invited to meet at the Crown Grill between 7h30 and 9h00, we showed up around 8h30, waited there about 20 minutes and then we were escorted out the ship. Thumbs up for... - the beauty of the ship - Anytime Dining - Sabatini's - International Cafe - Vines - adult-only pools and hot tubs open day and night - The Sanctuary - Movies Under The Stars - EZCheck Thumbs down for... - Horizon Court - the swim-against-the-current lap pool located in the quiet area - the importance attached to shopping Finally, was our cruise on Princess better than our cruise on Carnival? Is it fair to say that Princess is better than Carnival? The answer is probably no. Princess does a few things better, Carnival does some other things better, but all in all it is certainly similar. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
We sailed on the Caribbean Princess on a similar itinerary last year and loved every minute. This cruise on the Ruby Princess was even better. The ship was very clean in every area and the staff really seemed to enjoy being on this ... Read More
We sailed on the Caribbean Princess on a similar itinerary last year and loved every minute. This cruise on the Ruby Princess was even better. The ship was very clean in every area and the staff really seemed to enjoy being on this beautiful ship. It's great to sail with people who love their jobs and understand the concept of "service." Since this ship had just repositioned from the Med, there were many cruisers from different countries and it was fun to get to spend time with different nationalities. Pre-embarkation hotel: We stayed at the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Courtyard Airport and CruisePort. Hotel provided a free shuttle from the airport as well as a free shuttle to the ship. In addition, the complimentary breakfast was fantastic. Rooms were clean and quiet. Hotel is located by a good seafood restaurant and also the Sport Fishing Hall of Fame. Embarkation: We found embarkation at Port Everglades to be very well organized and painless. We arrived at the port around 11:45AM and thought we'd be able to get right on the ship. However, because of the Coast Guard inspection (a good thing for a ship that has just come from overseas!)boarding was delayed for about an hour. We sat inside the terminal which was air conditioned and had restrooms. At the "all clear," boarding was effortless. After we checked out our stateroom, which was all the way on the back of the ship, we began the Scavenger Hunt to find all the fun areas of the ship.This was a great thing to do and we actually won a prize in the sailaway drawing! The tour of the Lotus Spa was really the best! They did such a good job of showing us all the amenities that we signed up for quite a few which included massages, exercising in the gym, swimming in the Sanctuary pool, and acupuncture with Dr. Martina. We are in our 60's and have some arthritis issues that we decided to address. We found the acupuncture treatments to be an unexpected benefit of this ship. Stateroom: Our stateroom was a regular balcony stateroom on the Baja Deck, but at the aft of the ship looking out over the wake of the ship. It was wonderful! The balcony was 1/3 bigger than usual balconies with an overhang for shade. We could not see into a balcony below or above. Because of the breeze, there was never any cigarette smoke smell on the balcony. There were some food smells from the kitchens below but these were not offensive. This area of the ship did not seem any "tippier" than any other area of the ship. The view was always amazing and peaceful. We'll try to do this again. Sea Days: We had 2 sea days at the start of the cruise and we found lots to do as well as relax during these days. Dining: We were wait-listed for First Seating Traditional and so we experienced Anytime Dining for the first time. We ate in the DaVinci dining room the first night and joined 4 others at a table. Enjoyed the company, but found this dining room to be a bit noisy for conversation across the table. Our breakfasts were either in our stateroom or in the Horizon Court. Because we're not picky or huge eaters, we always found good things to eat there. Yes, at times it was hard to find a table by ourselves, so we asked other diners if we could join them and met some very nice people this way. The 2nd through the 10th evenings we ate at about 5:30PM in the Michaelangelo dining room. We met another couple that we enjoyed so much that we became traditional diners at a certain table at 5:30 every night. This standing reservation allowed us to get to know our Waiter and other dining staff. We were very well accommodated at a table by a window where it was quiet and delightful. The food choices were enough so that we could always put together a gourmet meal. Our waiter's recommendations were always very good and we came to trust his choices. One night he brought us one of every dessert on the menu for a sampler! Now that was fun! Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
We arrived in Fort Lauderdale a day before and stayed at the Comfort Inn in Hollywood. Fla. Nice room with a king size bed, fridge and microwave. Free shuttle from the airport and cruise port and breakfast included for $99. Embarkation ... Read More
We arrived in Fort Lauderdale a day before and stayed at the Comfort Inn in Hollywood. Fla. Nice room with a king size bed, fridge and microwave. Free shuttle from the airport and cruise port and breakfast included for $99. Embarkation - not a good impression, I must say. We spent 1.5 hours in line outside before spending another hour inside. Apparently there was a language barrier which held up our line. I was very surprised because I had heard that Princess was very good at this...maybe it was just a fluke. Our cabin was larger than i had expected and Ren, our cabin steward was the best. We had an obstructed view which was okay but next time I would get a balcony. Dining - I would say the food was good but not great. We chose the anytime dining and ended up eating with other people at our table most nights. We asked for a table to ourselves one night and were told it would be 40 minutes...we waited 5 minutes. I think I get it. We loved going out on the promenade deck late at night with a glass of wine and just relaxing. Maybe it's a first time cruiser thing, but I enjoyed it. The entertainment was top notch and there was always something to do. We hung out at the pool a few times but found it very hot and kind of boring. Went to the casino once and lost $10 - not big gamblers! We enjoyed Sabatini's and the Crown Grill very much - well worth the cover charge. Vines was fun as well. We did the wine tasting for $25 a person which was an interesting experience, we learned a lot. The galley tour was fun and a great opportunity to have a "behind the scenes" look. Can't wait til the next cruise!! Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
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