Sail Date: March 2014
General insight I am late 30's, my spouse is mid 40's. This outing was to praise our 15 year celebration and it was our first time to Europe. The #1 recommendation I would provide for anybody on an outing like this is to do your ... Read More
General insight I am late 30's, my spouse is mid 40's. This outing was to praise our 15 year celebration and it was our first time to Europe. The #1 recommendation I would provide for anybody on an outing like this is to do your exploration and arrange a long ways ahead keeping in mind the end goal to make the most out of each day - one day in a major European city obliges much development arranging and a choice making about what is imperative to you to see. We felt like this was a stupendous approach to see Europe surprisingly and would propose it to anybody. It was positively an outing of a lifetime and empowered us to get the kind of a considerable measure of distinctive nations in one shot. We did private visits in every port except 1 and unquestionably feel this is the best approach to make the most out of your excursion. We had immaculate climate - it was high 70's with a slight breeze and not a cloud in sight consistently yet one. We felt so blessed to have this stunning climate in the first place of May (the excursion was May 2 - 18). Flights & precruise in Barcelona We flew Air France out of LAX through Paris to Barcelona and again by means of Paris back home from Venice. I had heard flying through Paris was a bad dream however that wasn't our experience - our flights advancing and going were on time and agreeable and the administration was remarkable and the nourishment was even great and all baggage made it securely - phew! We stayed 2 nights at the Le Meridien Barcelona precruise. It was a flawless area on Las Ramblas and exceptionally agreeable and we had marvelous administration. We had 2 full days in Barcelona and feel like we scarcely touched the most superficial layer. We could have effectively used a week there. Barcelona ended up being one of our most loved stops of the whole excursion. The principal day we took a 2 hours strolling voyage through the Gothic Quarter - this was a brilliant approach to begin our time in the city and we took in a great deal about the historical backdrop of old Barcelona. Completely delighted in this visit and it was extremely modest. After our strolling visit we went to the Picasso Museum, then Citadel Park, then meandered through the Gothic Quarter all alone and obviously halted for tapas and sangria in the later evening to show our feet an a bit of mercy. Later that night we went to see the enchantment wellsprings at Montjuic. This was, exceptionally extraordinary and an absolute necessity see in Barcelona in case you're there overnight! One of the highlights for us. Don't miss it! Day 2 in Barcelona was used in the Eixample District. We saw all the Gaudi sights. All were, exceptionally gathered so we simply took pictures to them from the road and didn't draw near up. We did go into Parc Guell which was well worth the trouble. Exceptionally interesting range with delightful city sees. Likewise an unquestionable requirement see! We had bought an one day pass for the HOHO transport however every time we attempted to get on it the hold up was 30 to 60 minutes so we generally wound up surrendering and strolling (we abhor lines!!). In the event that I were to go again I would likely simply skip out on the HOHO transport and walk all around or hail a taxicab on the off chance that I get excessively tired. I'm not certain in the event that we simply hit the HOHO transport on a terrible day (there were bunches of boats in port). Possibly its not generally like that. Before heading to the boat we went to take out some money at an ATM on the Ramblas. Our card was consumed up and we couldn't get it back. Thankfully we had an auxiliary ATM card. Verify you have a reinforcement plan for getting money! We sheets the boat at around 4 PM. Embarkation took around 10 minutes. We took a taxi from the inn and it was a snap. The boat - Ruby Princess Wow - what a magnificence! This was our 6the Princess journey and this boat was the most noteworthy as such. This voyage was so port serious that we felt we scarcely got to appreciate all the sublime luxuries installed. At the same time what we did use we couldn't have been more content with. The staff was perfect - the best administration we've ever had installed Princess (its constantly great yet this was silly). The matire d' inn, Generoso Mazzione, was a flat out diamond. He and his staff gave careful consideration to each point of interest and went by a long shot past any administration I would ever expect on a boat with 3,000 travelers. The nourishment was general the best sustenance we have ever had on a journey. After quite a while, for a long time, the sustenance was flawless. We had at whatever time eating and the head server, Godwin, had the same table for 2 held for us in the Da Vinci lounge area consistently paying little mind to what time we appeared. Our server, Grisana, turned into our companion. We were sufficiently blessed to appreciate the Chef's Table one night. It has been generally covered as of now so I won't be excess yet suffice it say it was one of the best suppers we have ever had (and we're significant foodies) and the VIP treatment that accompanies the experience is so over the top that we simply couldn't trust it. We will never, ever overlook that uncommon night! Positively a highlight of the outing. We didn't see as much stimulation as we ordinarily do since we were so depleted during the evening. We did figure out how to get each of the 3 Broadway style shows and they were all great - Once Upon a Dream was absolute extraordinary. So imaginative and special - the best show we've ever seen on a voyage deliver by a wide margin! Don't miss it! We had an overhang stateroom on the Baja deck. We initially had an inside lodge in light of the fact that we were supposing we'd scarcely associate with enough to appreciate an overhang so why pay for it? We reconsidered it a couple of months before the trek and I am so happy we did! Toward the end of every day we were so depleted and emptied we were so content to have a pleasant room and overhang to unwind in! Well worth the additional cash - particularly for a journey this long. One other paramount thing - Ultimate Balcony Dining. We did this the night in the wake of cruising far from Istanbul. Wow - what an experience! The greatest lobster tail we've ever had and the filet was incredible as well. Not one or the other of could complete our supper which just about never happens (we're enormous eaters!). I very propose this experience - genuinely exceptional inside and out. As it would turn out we had a mind blowing nightfall that night as well. The 2 servers even came in and sang "Glad Anniversarywith a cake and a light. They were so sweet! It was the ideal approach to end an amazing day and we would do it again in a moment. From that point we headed to Positano. Everything I can say is - WOW! You approach the town from above and the auto can just go to the highest point of town. From that point you can just stroll as you wind through the shops and exhibitions and head towards the ocean. There is a sure enchantment or persona to this place that it is tricky to portray - an unquestionably must see on the Amalfi Coast! We plan to retreat sometime and stay for a couple of days. In the wake of leaving Positano as we were slowing down the street Fabrizio stops and there's a man remaining out and about that hands him something. We are pondering what on the planet is going on. Fabrizio them hands the bundle to me and lets me know its a blessing. I open it and its a plate with a hand painted plan and lemons on it and it says "Amalfi Drive 2009" and has my name at the base. What an exceptional, keen touch. I will dependably treasure that plate and the memories of this extraordinary day. From that point Fabrizio took us to La Tagliata for Lunch. It sits high up in the mountain, ignoring Positano and the ocean. The moment we sat down (there were 6 in our gathering) - they began bringing sustenance and wine. We had NONE - yes NINE - antipasti, then 5 separate pastas and all the red or white wine we could drink. At that point they brought 7 sweets and shots of limoncello for all. This was presumably the second best feast we had on our trek (after the Chianti winery) and we were stunned when the bill came and it was just $25 every individual. At home a dinner like that would have been at any rate $50 every individual. This restaurant has stunning perspectives and the administration and mindfulness from the staff is first rate. What an unbelievable experience! Presently it was time to head to Pompeii. We can't say enough in regards to how inspired we were with Pompeii. We paid the extra expenses for an authorized aide (I exceptionally prescribe this!!). He was additionally named Fabrizio and he was a pleasure. We adapted so much and completely delighted in this look into first century Roman life. Pompeii is not to be missed. It was extraordinary going tin the evening in light of the fact that it wasn't jammed in any way. Our aide said the first a large portion of the day you can scarcely get around its so packed. When we returned to the auto Fabrizio #1 had a pizza holding up for us. He had heard us speaking prior about how we needed to make sure to attempt a pizza from Naples since that is the place it was developed. This was an alternate mindful, individual touch that truly awed us. I can't say enough in regards to Fabrizio and his kind attitude. He made a special effort to make our day unique and he succeeded. I would enlist him again without a second thought. Ocean day Kid we were prepared for this. The weariness was truly setting in. We had perused how tired you are on this outing however nothing could have set us up for this level of weariness. I rested in til 10 AM, my spouse dozed till 1 PM. I got a pedicure (which was so-along these lines, not about on a par with the spa pedis I get at home). We sat by the pool for several hours then slept. It was truly decent to restore and get up to speed no rest. We required it! Mykonos This port was a pleasant preoccupation - easy, shoreline y, simple. This was an awesome approach to investigate the island. We rode everywhere and completed the day at Stefanos Beach directly before where the boat was docked. An exquisite island and bunches of delightful shorelines. I exceedingly prescribe leasing a quad or moped so you can investigate all alone. We got lost several times which was a large portion of the fun. The island is little so its not difficult to discover your direction in the event that you get turned around. We felt totally protected on the quad. We leased 1 and rode on it together. Istanbul Since we were in Istanbul on a Monday we needed to take a boats visit on the off chance that we needed to see the Hagia Sofia. We reluctantly needed the "Best of Istanbul" visit and trusted generally advantageous. We were charmingly shocked. It was not awful whatsoever. Our aide was fabulous and we didn't feel like we were in a cows group like I had dreaded. I conversed with other individuals who took this same visit on an alternate transport and they said it was a completely bad dream. I surmise that end result is - when you take a boats visit in a city like this present its an unpredictable mess. A great deal relies on upon the aide and the timing of your arriving at specific locales. We delighted in our day all that much and were so glad to have the capacity to see the Hagia Sofia. I read some place else that somebody was extremely "disappointed" by it - I figure everybody is different......because it was the highlight of the day for us. The historical backdrop of that building is so amazing and to see the Muslim and Christian relics side by side is truly something. I would characterize this as an unquestionable requirement see. We likewise went by the Blue Mosque - wow - what a delightful and exceptional spot of love. We then headed to Topkapi Palace where we visited the castle, then had an extremely delectable lunch in a gorgeous restaurant disregarding the water, then visited the Harem. Don't miss the Harem! It is a captivating investigate the life of the sultans and their families. After the Harem we had about an hour in the Grand Bazaar. A truly fun experience - I felt an hour was bounty - its sort of the same 10 shops rehashed again and again. We were prepared to pursue an hour. We got somewhat lost and turned out the wrong passageway - the spot is immense! We had some transitory frenzy as it was getting closer to the time to get together with our gathering, yet we discovered our direction and got together with 2 minutes to extra. Near fiasco!! This was an extremely essential day - Istanbul is a captivating city and completely delightful! Simply strolling over to Topkapi Palace from the Hagia Sofia was flawless - excellent boutique inns, some recently revamped lofts -, extremely beguiling. We are so content we had the chance to visit such an extraordinary and captivating city. Ephesus Visit manages in Turkey are extremely reasonable so we chose to do a private visit here with simply the 2 of us. We utilized EKOL visits and had Ozgur as our aide. It was decent to have a private visit and Ozgur was an enjoyment and was exceptionally educated. We were shocked to find that Kusadasi is a totally delightful, current port. We had the capacity meander around there for several hours after out visit - we did some shopping and sat down for a brew at a waterside bistro. I very propose permitting time to use in Kusadasi itself. It is lovely and the individuals were inviting. Our visit took us to Mary's home, Ephesus and the Terrace Houses, and the tomb of St. John. Old Ephesus was so great and we felt the Terrace Houses are an unquestionable requirement see. They are even now uncovering there and you wouldn't accept how overall protected everything is! Ephesus generally was a standout amongst the most noteworthy locales from the entire outing. We are understudies of the Bible so it truly implied a great deal to us to see in individual a territory that is regularly said in the Bible. Regardless of the fact that you aren't a Bible understudy, I can't envision anybody not being inspired with this aged city. Having a private visit was the best approach - we landed at each site around 30 minutes in front of all the huge transports so the swarms weren't excessively terrible. It was incredible to get at our own pace since it was simply the 2 of us. The topography around there was wonderful - moving green slopes down to the ocean - it helped us a great deal to remember home (southern CA). Athens We imparted a visit to 8 different parts of our move call we utilized Paul, Paul was exceptionally decent and was educational. We were shocked at how grimy Athens is - there was a considerable measure of graffiti all over. This was one of minimum most loved urban areas. We went by the Acropolis and all its locales, then went to the National Archeological Museum. Thereafter we had a couple of hours to meander the Plaka and we utilized that time to eat there as well. After that we investigated the aged Roman & Greek agoras - both interesting and gorgeous and worth seeing! The National Archeological Museum was the highlight of the day for us. Exceptionally amazing gathering. We just had an hour there and wished we had longer to investigate the numerous fortunes. The shopping in the Plaka was so-so - heaps of garbage and we could have utilized less time there. We did have a brilliant lunch there at one of the tavernas. We sat outside and appreciated viewing all the hussle and bussle. It was a welcome break on the grounds that it was extremely hot that day! Ocean Day An alternate welcome split to apparatus up for our 3 day Venice party! What's more excellent climate to boot. We used the entire day on a parlor just outside the asylum - so quiet and calm! We snoozed on and off. An extraordinary, incredible day! Venice Cruising into Venice was very much a site to view. This was the main overcast day of our outing yet even that didn't hose the fervor of our sail-in. We stayed on or overhang - I heard it was extremely gathered on the upper decks. We were upbeat to be as an afterthought of the ship that cruised by St. Marks. What a paramount approach to see Venice surprisingly - from the water! They had the Andrea Bocelli music paying up on deck furthermore had it funneled in through the television so we had the capacity turn it on I the lodge and listen to it on deck. It was genuinely supernatural and satisfied the buildup! Our boat cruised in at 1 and we had a visit lined up at 2 PM alongside 6 other move call parts. We were gotten by a water taxi and had a 1 hour Grand Canal visit emulated by a 3 hour strolling visit. We utilized: www.vivatuscanytours.com Our aide, Sabine, was so enthusiastic about Venice! Our property visit began at St. Mark's Basilica. In the wake of going inside we then started a voyage through the out of the way regions .This was amazing! We saw where Venetians really live and adapted such a great amount about the historical backdrop of the city. We never would have discovered any of these spots all alone. It was a staggering prologue to the city. After the visit we all went our different ways. We shopped a bit then headed towards the boat. We got lost and it took a few hours to at last make it there. We were wiped out! The following morning was disembarkation day. We picked to land toward oneself and it was an outright breeze! We were among the leading the boat and an alternate part of our move call had orchestrated a private water taxi for 6 of us. The taxi dropped them off at their lodging with their gear then dropped us and our baggage off. We stayed at the Hotel al Ponte Mocenigo, simply a short distance from the St. Stae vaporetto stop. Cherished everything about it - including the area and cost! They invited us with open arms despite the fact that we landed at the lodging at 8:30 AM. They welcomed us in for breakfast. We had some espresso and got our orientation and took off for the Secret Itineraries visit at the Doge's Palace. We took as much time as required getting there since it wasn't until after 11. We took the lift to the highest point of the campanile at St. Mark's Square - extraordinary perspectives! It was early enough in the morning so there was not hold up to go up. Great timing! The Secret Itineraries visit was magnificent! I exceptionally propose it. The Doge's Palace itself is truly something as well. After our visit we meandered around there a bit. We could have invested additional time there however we were getting eager. Off we went to Cafe Florian for lunch and obviously champagne! Sitting there in St. Mark's Square with the music of the ensembles shipping champagne...wow! Dreams to work out as expected. It was stunning. We then headed to our inn where our sacks had as of now been conveyed in our room. We cooled it for the evening and ate at a bistro close to the Rialto Bridge. It was a critical dinner with incredible perspectives and fabulous people viewing! The accompanying day we went to the Accademia - exceptionally noteworthy! I had prereserved tickets with a particular door time. It turned out it wasn't required - there was no line. However you never know. Thereafter we had pizza and lager at the pizza put close by the Accademia span - YUM! We simply continued saying :" I can't accept we're truly here!" From there we visited Ca' Rezonnico - which we truly enjoyed.....we paid the extra expense for the sound visit which was well worth the trouble. For supper we went close to the St. Mark's square zone to a restaurant that Generoso had suggested to us - magnificent feast and a tremendous approach to end our outing! It was called Centrale Bar and Lounge. Cautioning - its not modest! Venice is such an otherworldly place - we had, exclusive standards and they were surpassed. It wound up being our most loved city by and large from the entire outing and we can hardly wait to backtrack. It is dissimilar to whatever other spot we've ever been, and I would envision, not at all like wherever on earth. What a flawless spot to end this get-away of a lifetime! The ports: Monaco We had a visit with Michele at: www.revelationtours.com We went to St. Paul de Vence, then drove through Nice on the best approach to Eze, then completed the day in Monte Carlo. We imparted the visit to 6 different parts of our move call. Both SP de Vence & Eze were unfathomable - two towns that time appears to have quite recently passed by. We altogether delighted in them both yet in the event that you can just see one I think I would pick Eze - simply marginally additionally enchanting and a bit less packed. In any case either one is phenomenal and we were so glad we got to invest time in each of them. Pleasant was simply OK - I'm happy we didn't invest whenever there. We live in Southern CA and it felt a considerable measure like home to us. We appreciated our time in Monte Carlo. We went inside the church building and strolled around the clubhouse range and after that through the recreation center close to the house of God which is simply gorgeous. Michele was marvelous - extremely adaptable with our calendar (we had some disarray with our ship's docking time) and he was likewise exceptionally enlightening - we took in a ton about the historical backdrop of the region, and so on. We truly appreciated having him as our aide. He additionally took us to a couple of post focuses with unimaginable perspectives where we got some of our best pictures of the entire outing. Of every last one of ports, Monaco was the one we were minimum amped up for before the excursion - however in the wake of going there we felt in an unexpected way. This was an, exceptionally important day and we totally adored the region and it is positively interesting inside and out. We'd go there again instant. Livorno We visited with Guido from: www.tuscanyinmypocket.com We can't say enough in regards to the day we had with Guido. I really got passionate saying farewell to him - that is the extent to which he touched our heart. He made this day extraordinary and critical all around. He was brought up in Florence and all over we went individuals we blaring and waving at him like he possessed the spot. He would pull us up to the entryway of each one noteworthy site - directly into the square in the midst of swarms of individuals - and get is into the locales with no line. We felt like Vips. It was insane. His insight into the area is just dumbfounding, and his enthusiasm for his home lives up to expectations in all that he says. We used the first 50% of the day in Florence. There's such a great amount to see there - we required 3 days! We did see the first David - an absolute necessity see as I would see it. Totally psyche blowing - the size, the subtle element. We will always remember it. We obviously went to the duomo and invested a little time in the zone around it. We additionally went to Santa Croce house of prayer and saw the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo, and so forth. We cherished everything about Florence. An enormous city with a residential area feel. Without a doubt on our rundown of spots to come back to! After Florence we went to Chianti. Guido took us to a family claimed winery called Montagliari. We sat outside neglecting the vineyards and had the best feast of the whole outing at the winery. Caprese w/ natively constructed mozzarella and home-become tomatoes, custom made pasta with wild pig sauce, wads of spinach with gorgonzola sauce, and Italian crusty fruit-filled treat, all joined by a container of Chianti obviously! After lunch we visited the wine holes and the balsameria where they age the balsamic vinegar, then we completed with wine tasting in the tasting room. The winery and encompassing territory were unbelievably delightful - green and lavish all over you looked. The neighborliness at the winery was over the top - we had a feeling that we were at somebody's home. This day was one we will always remember. It was exceptional all around and meeting Guido was one of the highlights of the whole excursion. I can't say enough in regards to him and about this visit. Civitavecchia We utilized: www.limoinrome.com We went along with another person's visit from our move call. There were 8 of us. Our driver was simply OK. He was decent yet never let out the slightest peep after we got into the van as we were heading to Rome. I had an inclination that I didn't learn almost as much this day as we could have. He appeared to be more like a driver than an aide. He simply sort of dropped us off at destinations and we were forgotten to figure it all alone. We saw all the must-see locales: Circus Maximus, Palatine Hill, Colesseum, Pantheon Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Forum, and so forth. One spot we went that is not as common is the Basilica of Sao Paulo. This was presumably the most wonderful church we saw in Italy. Also on the grounds that its somewhat out of the way it wasn't packed. I exceedingly prescribe going to this congregation. It additionally has the remaining parts of Peter and the genuine chains that he wore when detained. Extremely great building. In the wake of dashing from site to site we got a brisk sandwich and afterward got together with our authorized history specialist at the Vatican for a 2 hour visit. I can't envision going by the Vatican without an aide. It is so huge and there's such a great amount to see and learn - we would have been lost without her. She was a dynamite aide and this was doubtlessly the highlight of the day. All that we saw at the Vatican Museums knocked our socks off yet the Sistine Chapel is in a class all its own. Don't miss this! Naples Our aide was Fabrizio Fiorinelli at: www.amalfi-drive.com This was a staggering day and a decent change in pace in the wake of running worn out throughout the day in Rome. Fabrizio was so expert and sweet and provided for us marvelous foundation on the range without talking excessively. We first went to Sorrento. Wow - what a spot! The appeal and the lemons all around - simply a truly extraordinary, exceptional little town. We went to the Limonoro Limoncello Factory for some tasting and obviously exited with 2 packs of buys. They are so neighborly in there and when I inquired as to whether I could take a picture of the fellow making the limoncello he welcomed me to come in and be in the picture with him, holding the flask just as I were making it. Simply a fun, cheerful spot! We had around 90 minutes to stroll around and investigate the alcoves and corners of this uncommon Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2013
Just returned after 12 days in the Med on board the Ruby Princess, it is my second time with this line after doing the Panama relocation on the Sea Princess. I read the reviews about the Ruby and I did have concerns about her size and the ... Read More
Just returned after 12 days in the Med on board the Ruby Princess, it is my second time with this line after doing the Panama relocation on the Sea Princess. I read the reviews about the Ruby and I did have concerns about her size and the number of Passengers. I also read a lot of negative reviews about service, food etc, which I guess is down to individual taste. Ok so here is my view of this ship and this cruise of the Med & Greek islands departing from Rome 5th Nov 2013. Rome, we decided to spend a couple of days prior to the cruise in Rome, there is a lot to see and it really is worth it, on the day of embarkation we took a train around 12:00 from Rome to the Port, so easy and not expensive at all. The train wasn't busy and had no issues with space for our Luggage either, a 10 minute walk to the Port entrance and the free shuttle to the ship. Check- in queue was no more than 20 minutes and very organised, probably in our room within 30 minutes of arriving. The room was more than adequate for two of us, (B214) all the amenities we needed, the Balcony was very welcoming & worth the extra in my opinion, no real noise or vibrations apart from docking. Naples, we chose to do our own tour and chose ‘SeeAmalficoast’, our tour was to Sorrento, Amalfi Coast and Positano for Lunch before an afternoon in Pompeii. Great trip and one of the highlights of the cruise, we were fortunate to have the owner Carmine, so enthusiastic and really a nice tour with some surprises thrown in to enjoy the day even more. Sadly on our return we heard the pick pockets had been at the Port and a couple of fellow travellers were targeted twice once in the taxi queue and once on the train/metro to Naples, never nice to hear. Days at Sea, we had 2 scheduled for the cruise but also had a 3rd unplanned sea day due to bad weather. The only bad day on the whole cruise in fact considering it was November I was pleasantly surprised by how warm it was up to 26c in some places and made the trip even more enjoyable. Santorini, Very nice very picturesque, but you need to be smart here or you will be queuing for ages, we planned in advance with the help of a very good port guide http://tomsportguides.com very useful and saved us a lot of time and money too on this cruise. We followed Tom’s advice and even his GPS Co-ordinates and seemed to have the island to ourselves, by starting at the opposite end of the island to the cruise tours, we enjoyed so much more and even lunch on the black beach. Ok all good so far and with the car safely returned, it was time to return to the ship. Oh boy it is November, it is not the summer and the queue for the cable car was half way around the town. I am not patient, so it was the long walk down the hill with the donkey’s for us, very enjoyable but not advised for those not so steady on their feet or those who may have enjoyed the wine tasting a little too much. There were a number of other ports of call on this itinerary, too many to review and better left to the experts. The itinerary meant there were lots of ancient sites to see which were all very interesting, but you did get the feeling of same monument different town. Mykonos was a welcome break to the walking up and down ancient sites. So back to the Ruby Princess, having found our bearings and got past all the first day sales pushes of drinks etc, (which to be fair wasn’t really pushed on to you so much). We started to get to know some of the staff who looked after us and got to know our habits, it is these amazing people who make the difference, they work very hard and are always polite. We booked the anytime dining plan for maximum flexibility our longest wait in-line was 5 minutes for a table. We also used many of the other restaurants on board too, all of which we couldn’t complain about. Maybe it is because we did not partake in ‘the eat as much as you can’ races which is still a favourite pastime on board (yes, it still goes on). The bar service is where the money can easily be spent if you choose, however this itinerary was very busy so I guess not so many late nights, the entertainment on-board was very well organised and apart from one act early in the cruise all thoroughly entertaining. It is never easy to keep everyone happy, but I honestly do think Princess go out of their way to try and do just that. It may sound as though I am in the Princess fan club it is not about that, I have some issues that I need to resolve with them as I could have anywhere. I go on holiday to do as much or as little as I choose, to see new sights and meet new people and make the most of my holidays, Princess allows me to do that. There is no need to find fault in areas we would normally ignore in our normal everyday lives just because we are on holiday or on a cruise ship. I can only speak for myself when I say I believe I get value for money with Princess, I am always treated with respect and made to feel welcome without feeling the staff are being false, the food is very good and the rooms are more than adequate, add in the excellent entertainment team led by very funny and genuine Dan Styne and the rest is up to you to make it what you want. In closing, it would be wrong not to mention the Venice sail in, OMG! Amazing I know 2014 maybe the last year for large Cruise ships, but I really didn’t expect to feel the way I did, the music played by the ship (Andrea Bocelli) and the elegance this mighty ship arrives into Venice in the morning is something special, well done Princess!! Disembarkation in Venice, was well organised and managed well our luggage was collected the evening before and we took advantage of the last luggage sweep just before Midnight so we had nothing to carry the next day. We were going to the Train Station so knowing how difficult it can be with the various steps etc and then paying to store the luggage at the station, we chose the transfer option and they store the luggage for you, less stress and less work. Overall, great job by Princess especially organising such good weather too!   Read Less
Sail Date: September 2013
This was our first cruise ever as we had previously thought that we might feel bored or claustrophobic being on a ship for an extended period of time. We viewed a cruise ship as like a large hotel and no matter how nice the hotel is, we ... Read More
This was our first cruise ever as we had previously thought that we might feel bored or claustrophobic being on a ship for an extended period of time. We viewed a cruise ship as like a large hotel and no matter how nice the hotel is, we could not imagine staying there for 12 days. Also, we had traveled overnight on large ferries in the past and found them to be crowded, loud, smelly, unstable in bad weather, and with very limited and poor food. Despite this poor attitude at the start, we must admit that we were wrong. We thoroughly enjoyed this cruise and would recommend it to anyone. Here are a few of the highlights that we particularly liked. The ship, Ruby Princess, is beautiful and huge with a large variety of onboard amenities to dispel any feelings of boredom or claustrophobia. She's fairly new, beautifully designed and appointed, and well maintained. We were particularly impressed with the grand 3-deck central atrium in which there were many seemingly impromptu performances including piano, strings, ballroom dancing, etc. The grand theatre in which there were several performances every night was also impressive. the beautiful 3 pools (we particularly liked the smaller but quieter aft pool), Other beautiful physical amenities which we noted but personally did not find any use for include the numerous (5?) bars, a casino, several shops, a huge spa, and gym. Moving throughout the ship was fairly easy after you became familiar with the general layout. There are several banks of beautiful elevators making short wait times except during rush periods such as following a performance in the theatre. Also, you can often find a quicker alternative route by taking a corridor or stairway to a different elevator. Also, although we did not encounter any bad weather, we found the ship to be very comfortable. There was no instability, engine noise or vibration, and no noise in our cabin from the corridor or from activities above or below us. We had an "ocean view" cabin. It was rather small, with just barely enough room on either side of the bed to move, a small table at the end with small bar fridge and tv, a small bathroom with shower, and a small closet with a combination safe. Although we found the ocean view cabin to be small, it was sufficient for the small amount of time we spent in it, and for us, the extra $500 or more cost of a balcony room wasn't worth it. As another passenger we met at the aft pool noted, "who needs a balcony in your room when you have a much better view from here". And, this guy was speaking from experience. This was his 7th time on this cruise! If you happen to read this Ian (from the Baileywick of Jersey), thanks for the great advice. I think next time we may go for an interior cabin as well, although it was nice to take a quick glance out our window now and then. The crew are marvellous. Most of them are truly beautiful people. At first their attention to our comfort seemed a bit "over-the-top" until we realized they actually meant it. You could see the sincerity in their eyes. We particularly liked our steward and the numerous waiters and bartenders. They seemed to come from all parts of the world including the Philippines, eastern Europe (Albania, Croatia, etc), South America, and Mexico. The senior crew members were also great. Often we would see them around the ship and found them all very approachable and generous with their advice. We particularly noted the Commodore, Captain, and Entertainment Director ? (Dan Stein) as being very nice. Princess seems to have done an excellent job scouring the world to find the very best employees for its ships. The food was great in terms of quality, quantity, and variety. Ruby has 2 large main sit-down full-service dining halls, one main self-serve cafeteria-style dining room (Horizon Court), 2 specialty restaurants (extra charge of $50? pp), and numerous small bars near the pools which served excellent burgers, fries, pizza, etc. The dining rooms are available for every meal and you can choose either to reserve your time and table, which is nice if you are travelling with a larger group of family or friends, or "anytime dining", for which you might have a short wait at the door before being seated at any table and with any other passengers. We chose the latter option and quite honestly enjoyed the company of the other passengers from all parts of the world (US, Canada, Australia, UK). Except for 2 "formal" nights, at which I recommend that men bring a suit and tie, dress in the dining rooms is "smart casual". You won't be turned away if you are under-dressed, but I think you will feel a little uncomfortable. We tended to go to the dining rooms for supper, but preferred a more-relaxed atmosphere in the Horizon Court for breakfast and lunch, or just grabbed some fast food at a pool bar. Except for the specialty restaurants, the cost of all food is included in the cost of your ticket. Unbottled water, milk, tea and coffee are also free. All alcoholic drinks, pop, bottled water, and specialty coffees cost extra and a service charge of 15%? is added to your tab. Finally and perhaps most importantly, all the ports-of-call on this trip were absolutely marvellous and we thoroughly enjoyed several of the tours that we booked. On that subject, we saved at least 50% by booking a tour with our fellow passengers on Cruise critic (CC). We particularly enjoyed Santorini which we did on our own. We started by taking one of the tour boats (35? E pp) at the main dock to the nearby town of Oia where we walked around on our own and grabbed a bus (included in the tour fare) back to the main town later. Oia is breathtaking, post-card perfect, a must-see. On the way back to our ship we took the cable car down to the dock. By all accounts that we heard, the donkey ride is only for the more adventuresome (slow, hot, uncomfortable, smelly - lots of poop). I could go on and on about the ports-of call, but feel it would take too long, so let me summarize. Rome- we were there several times before so we skipped it this time, but it is a must see, recommend 3 days, Rome airport is a long way from the port in Civatavecchia (1 hour by Rome Taxi for 75? E), can do for cheaper by train but not worth the saving - can take 2-3 hours, must make at least 1 transfer, watch out for pick pockets, and 1/2 hour walk with luggage from the station to the Port (taxis are scarce and very expensive there). Same for Venice except recommend 2 days and airport is easily accessible by the "People Mover" and the airport bus from the nearby square (Piazzale Roma), we walked around on our own and took a water bus ride. Naples - we took a private CC tour of the Amalfi Coast and Pompeii, both a must-see, particularly loved our tour guide and lunch at the vineyard at the base of Vesuvius. Kusadasi, Turkey - CC Ephesus tour, amazing site, a must see, also great shopping in the bazaar in Kusadasi, good bargains (1/3 of asking) if you're willing to negotiate hard. Athens - on our own, 40 min walk to metro, and 20 min walk up to Acropolis (worth the walk), good shopping in the Placa but not as good as Kusadasi, stay away from people selling Ipads and Iphones (brand new in the box) on the docks - they are FAKE! Myknos - on our own, beautiful little town, windmills, tiny streets. Kokatolon - on our own, nice tiny town, we skipped Olympia - felt it wasn't worth it for seeing more ruins, and later heard we were right. Corfu - on our own, a big town, climbed up to the top of the old fort, great views, explored the square and shops. Dubrovnik - on our own, the old city is fantastic, a must-see, we paid to walk the walls and found a beautiful bar on the cliffs outside the wall, a must-see. We also recommend the tour guides and helpful comments from fellow travellers on the Rick Steve’s website. A couple of other general points in case you may not know. First, Princess charges all passengers a gratuity fee. In our case it was $12 per day per person I think, about $300 in total for both of us for 12 days The rationale is that this covers all staff except for those in the bars and casino where additional 15% gratuities are charged. We thought this was at the upper limit of our generosity but appreciated the freedom of not having to deal with deciding who to tip, how much, etc. Also, our fare came with an onboard credit of $120 I think. Some passengers complained, had the charge reversed, and said they paid tips as they felt it was justified. Make up your own mind on that one. Second, although the official policy is that any alcohol that you bring onboard from your shore excursions will be confiscated until you leave the ship at the end of the cruise, in practise we were scanned but not searched and did bring wine aboard with no problem. However, we kept it in our cabin and would not recommend bringing it elsewhere. Overall we rate the Ruby Princess and this cruise in particular at 4.5 out of 5. It's hard to imagine it being any better, but we feel we should withhold half a point just in case. Oh, and yes we are now hooked on cruising and planning cruises for the Caribbean, Baltic, Alaska, and Australia-New Zealand. Bon voyage!   Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2013
My husband and I celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary with a cruise that began on Sept. 9 in Rome. The itinerary was very good and we have sailed with Princess about 5 times now, the last being just 6 months ago when we sailed on the ... Read More
My husband and I celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary with a cruise that began on Sept. 9 in Rome. The itinerary was very good and we have sailed with Princess about 5 times now, the last being just 6 months ago when we sailed on the Coral Princess through the Panama Canal. I liked the Ruby much better than the Panama canal trip with the Coral. The ship was big enough to have the amenities we like and not so big that we feel we have to trudge miles to get anywhere. We stayed on the 11th floor and felt we were close enough to the pools and Horizon Court and everything seemed quite easy to find except the Boticelli dining room, which is on deck 6, in the mid-ship area. The food was actually better on this ship than it was in Panama but I do think overall, Princess has gone down in quality quite a bit since we first started cruising 15 years ago. The familiar icons of the dining room such as the flambe' cherries jubilee and Baked Alaska parade, singing waiters for Italian night, etc. are shadows of how things were. Some changes are good, we actually like smaller portions and I think Princess is trying to be flexible by allowing 1 bottle of wine per person to be brought in each port stop. We carried in wine and beer almost each time we stopped and security never even glanced at them. Often we paid a corkage fee to have wine in the dining room but sometimes we asked for wine glasses and drank it somewhere on the ship. The excursions have gone up quite a bit in price and they still have the same format, spend 1 hour sitting in the theater or someplace waiting for your tour to be called and ending with shopping at some place that Princess picks for you to shop. Wasted time in my mind and Europe has great opportunities for self-guided tours. Check out Rick Steves' website for Mediterranean cruise ship port guidebook and free apps you where you can download tours for your iphone or ipad/ipod. They were fabulous, and no heavy foreign accents to wade through. My husband has hearing issues and we did the Sorrento/Pompeii tour and it was really hard to understand our tour guide. Also, we had some very elderly, slower people on the tour even though it had a 'strenuous' emblem but they still came. Really read the tour materials to get the most out of your tour. We loved Dubrovnik, Athens, and Corfu. Corfu had a city bus in the parking lot that you could take into town and back, Athens had a bus stand across from the terminal we took to the metro, went to the Acropolis (couple of ways to do it, ask in the cruise terminal), we shared a cab in Dubrovnik and there were Ephesus tours advertised in the cruise terminal in Kusadasi that were half of the ship's cost. Venice had a vaporetto (water bus) stop at the cruise terminal ( it only takes Euros ) or take the People Mover over to the train station and walk to the Vaporetto stop. The Princess ticket for the water shuttle didn't go down the Grand Canal, it went outside, by the cruise ship entrance so if you took that, you missed a chance to see the canal. Some of it took a bit to figure out but not too bad. Since you only have a few hours in Athens, check out the Acropolis museum, it is new and much closer than the other museums. Overall, we loved the trip, we probably will give Princess another try since we just hit Platinum after this cruise but we are interested in checking out other lines. Enjoy!   Read Less
Sail Date: September 2013
We last cruised with Princess in 2009 with subsequent cruises on Holland America and Celebrity. After a wonderful cruise on the Ruby we definitely will be back to Princess in the future. Of course, we have been on some cruises that are ... Read More
We last cruised with Princess in 2009 with subsequent cruises on Holland America and Celebrity. After a wonderful cruise on the Ruby we definitely will be back to Princess in the future. Of course, we have been on some cruises that are better than others, but never a bad cruise, however, this was one of our best. We stayed a couple days in Rome and then used Rome Cabs for easy ride to Civitavecchia. We got to the ship around 12:30 and embarkation was the easiest we have ever had, as we must of been on the ship with 10 minutes!! We had a balcony cabin on Baja deck on port side almost to aft of ship. The only time we had any vibration was when ship was docking, but we were already up, so no issues. Cabin was obviously a long way from mid ship, but we love to walk, so wasn't an issue. Cabin steward was excellent! The thing that struck us on the cruise was that the only time we felt crowded on the ship was at the main show; otherwise, the ship never felt crowded, even with over 3000 passengers on board. We had a great Cruise Critic meet and greet in Skywalkers lounge. The Commodore, hotel general manager and cruise director were all present. I think this indicates how much Princess is aware and sensitive to the cruise critic folks. We understand that food is very subjective, but we were very happy with quality and service in the main dining room. This was the first time we tried anytime dining. We normally went to dinner between 6 and 6:30, and never had to wait, even when we requested a table for two. We also ate at Crown Grill and Sabantini's. We thoroughly enjoyed Crown Grill, but Sabantini's was just okay, and the atmosphere was dampened by a window seat that looked out at all the smokers seated outside, just a few feet away..... Unfortunately, Princess still allows smoking in more than half of the casino, which you must pass through on one deck to get to the Princess theater. Also, this becomes the smokers' gathering point even when the casino is closed, so certainly the casino is an area to avoid. We did Princess tours in Athens, Naples (to Capri), Katakalon (to great family winery) and Santorini (Oia, winery and Fira) and a cruise critic roll call organized private tour to Ephesus, which was fascinating. The rest of the ports we explored on our own. The tour in Santorini was a disaster, as the tour guide was very unorganized and rambling, to say the least. And her English was extremely difficult to understand. In Oia, she told everyone to meet at certain time in the square. After waiting around for a while, we learned that she had left 10 minutes early, so the entire group had to find the way to the bus on our own. Later, after we arrived in Fira, we discovered that she had left a passenger back in Oia!! In Fira, she led us up through the town on a difficult route, and having some folks with mobility issues, this created a number of problems, so many people were angry at this point. Someone asked the tour guide why we weren't following the same route as the other tours, and her response "this way is shorter." Along the way she refused to give us any directions to the cable car, then finally, after quite a while, she pointed and said that was the way to cable car and promptly disappeared, without announcing that she was leaving! We have asked that Princess refund cost to all on tour but have gotten no response. This is sad, as otherwise we were very impressed at how well Princess organized their tours and got people on and off the ship in a very efficient manner. Our Cruise Director, Dan Styne, was one of the best that we have encountered as he was very visible on the ship, a funny and quick guy on stage and came across as a genuine person unlike many today that are so scripted and rehearsed that is is almost laughable. Overall we had a great time on the Ruby Princess! Read Less
Sail Date: September 2013
This was the 2nd half of our biggest holiday ever! We had been on a land based tour of France - Spain and landed in Rome, Italy to join the most wonderful cruise ever! Yes it was only our2nd cruise ever (there was nothing wrong with our ... Read More
This was the 2nd half of our biggest holiday ever! We had been on a land based tour of France - Spain and landed in Rome, Italy to join the most wonderful cruise ever! Yes it was only our2nd cruise ever (there was nothing wrong with our first its just that well) cruising is awesome! Everytime you cruise you have the opportunity to meet and make lifelong friends and I believe we have done this on Ruby Princess! So..the boring stuff, Embarcation was a breeze! beautifully organised, from the time we arrived at the terminal to the time we arrived on board..I would estimate 10-15 minutes. Dis-embarkation even smoother! we went to our alloted area and no sooner had we sat down and started to chat, we were called to leave :( and we strolled right off the ship in seconds..found our bags in a minute or two and we were off! I had heard that sometimes both ends of the cruise can be quite trying..but not this one! Now the other stuff....our cabin was lovely, we splurged and got a balcony, really reccomend this as mornings and evenings are really nice in your own space and still getting the viiew.. Although one disclaimer here...I think we socialised less because of it. I actually would consider getting a cabin with an ocien view only next time...that would let us know when its morning..but force us up to the decks to see the views and meet all the awesome ppl onboard! things I love about miss Ruby... i love the big screen movie under the stars, I love the smoke free casino, I love skywalkers...I love the international piazza place...and I love the dining rooms. What I didnt like so much...the Princess Theatre...after our first cruise which was on the Pacific Sun, 8-9 years ago.. I have to say I hated the fact the seats on Ruby were in rows..on the Sun the seating was in booths, and the friends we met in the dining room became our friends in the theatre and bars after hours! apart from that one thing...we had an amazing time and the best part was we met people on Cruise critic..seriously, who have become our friends, the tours and meet n greet were amazing and I am so glad I took the punt and joined in with this online community..thanks CC for bringing us all together and thank-you Princess for an amazing holiday, out table staff and porter were amazing, smile and make my holiday fantastic while you are working?? Thank you and much respect!   Read Less
Sail Date: June 2013
This was a great cruise with a great itinerary. Nine ports in 11 days with 2 sea days; one here, one there. The Ruby Princess embarked from Rome (Civitavecchia) to Naples, Italy; Santorini, Greece; Kusadasi (Ephesus), Turkey; Mykonos, ... Read More
This was a great cruise with a great itinerary. Nine ports in 11 days with 2 sea days; one here, one there. The Ruby Princess embarked from Rome (Civitavecchia) to Naples, Italy; Santorini, Greece; Kusadasi (Ephesus), Turkey; Mykonos, Greece; Athens, Greece; Katakolon (Olympia), Greece; Corfu, Greece; Dubrovnik, Croatia; and overnight in Venice, Italy. The food was very good in the main dinning rooms as well as the Oceanview Cafe. The Caribe Grill served a specialty menu on sea days only. One was Mexican and the other Asian; both were very good with a wide selection of choices. Entertainment was good especially the production show "Dream City" which is now being shown only on the Ruby Princess. It was superb. Our cruise Director Dan Stein was very good and VERY funny. Embarkation and disembarkation were very smooth and fast. If you have transfers from the ship to the airport your luggage is taken direct to the airport where you claim it there, not in the port terminal as is the usual custom. Another nice feature was that the ships dock a fair ways from St. Mark's Square in Venice. Water taxis are very expensive, around 70 Euros or $100 USD. Princess provided their very own water taxi (exactly the same as the others). They gave everyone a ticket for $15 USD which is charged to your onboard account. The ticket was for unlimited use all day long. If you didn't want the ticket you simply turned it in to Guest Relations and you were not charged. It was great. Be aware that the water taxi drops you off and picks you up 4 bridges past St. Mark's Square, not right at St. Mark's. If you plan on going in to Doge's Palace, which I highly recommend, and are not on a ship excursion, purchase your ticket ahead of time on-line. The line to purchase tickets was over 1 hour long. There was a second line for pre-purchased tickets that moved right along. When we were there the price of a ticket was 8 Euros for persons 65 and over and a regular ticket was 16 Euros. You can rent an audio tour device for 5 Euros. There was a special Monet exhibit that cost extra to view. No pictures are allowed in the Doge's Palace but you can take pictures and video in the courtyard, out the windows and on the Bridge of Sighs and the Prisons. The line to get in to St. Mark's Basilica was very long and in the sun and it was hot. There are no pictures allowed in the Basilica. There were 5 ships in port this day so it was very crowded. Greece, Italy and Turkey were quite hot at this time of the year but the weather was clear; no rain. Dubrovnik Croatia was quite pleasant and not as hot. This was a great cruise, a great ship and everyone seemed to enjoy it a lot. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2013
My partner and I are on our 26th and 25th cruise respectively and had previously sailed on the Ruby Princess three times, all in the Caribbean. When we saw her itinerary for the summer, we started planning our vacation. Fortunately, we ... Read More
My partner and I are on our 26th and 25th cruise respectively and had previously sailed on the Ruby Princess three times, all in the Caribbean. When we saw her itinerary for the summer, we started planning our vacation. Fortunately, we were able to get the same cabin we had the other three times, a roomy cabin on the Lido Deck. We flew from Miami to Rome three days early and stayed in a nice, very reasonable, and convenient boutique hotel (Hotel Caprice) near the U.S. Embassy. Our reservation also included breakfast daily. We toured on our own and went to the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon and the Vatican to do some shopping. On our last trip to Rome, we had toured the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel. We booked flights through Princess EZ Air and also took the transfers from Princess. Princess had a city pick-up at the Crowne Plaza and we did not need to return to the airport. We took a cab from our hotel to the Crown Plaza in Rome to catch the Princess bus to the port. Princess Representatives were waiting and immediately took our luggage. The coach bus arrived a short time later and we had a nice ride to the ship (from Rome 1-1 1/2 hours). The luggage arrived in our cabin 45 minutes after we arrived; the ship embarkation was fast and easy. The Princess Representatives were courteous and efficient. We highly recommend the ship's transfers both ways, as we did hear a few horror stories from several people taking the train from Termini station in Rome and then had to walk to the ship, as the Port busses were overcrowded, as other ships were in port. It was the best money we spent on the transfers. The ship was beautifully decorated, just as we left it last year. We went to our cabin on the Lido deck, which is a spacious inside handicapped cabin with a large bathroom. We met our new Steward, Taslim. He was wonderful throughout the entire cruise and took care of all of our requests. Our next stop was Crown Grill to make reservations for a mid-cruise dinner. We had chosen late seating in the Botticelli Dining Room (traditional dining), so we stopped by to see our table location. After lunch, we went back to our cabin and unpacked our luggage. After Muster Drill, we met about 35-40 of our fellow Cruise Critic members at the Tradewinds Bar for a Sail Away Party. It was so nice meeting everyone and many members did excursions together. Dining Room/Buffet We were fortunate to have a nice table for 10 (Table 118) in a good location with Natalie as our Waiter and Lovika as our Assistant Waiter. They did an excellent job and were happy to bring you whatever you wanted. We had fabulous tablemates from Australia and Great Britain. The food in the dining room was very good to excellent. The menu was different from the one we were used to in the Caribbean, as Princess was trying to accommodate people from 64 countries. They did have Prime Rib, Medallions of Beef, Lobster Tails, Lamb Chop (mixed grill), as well as fish and chicken dishes etc. Don't miss out on the Goat Cheese Souffle, Fettuccini Alfredo or the Pasta with Fresh Clams. Our Maitre d'Hotel was Giorgio Pisano. He assisted all of the Waiters and Assistants and took care of any request we had. If you are going to make a reservation for Crown Grill or Sabatini's, the specialty restaurants, do it as soon as you get onboard. We dined in Crown Grill this time. The food was excellent, and the service was very good as they were not overly crowded. In this venue ($25 cover charge), you can select whatever you like. We shared several appetizers, but the Spicy Shrimp with the Thai Chili Sauce was outstanding. I had the Rib Steak and my partner had the Filet Mignon. We both added a lobster tail and had most of the side dishes, which were properly portioned for two. We both had the Sampler Dessert (excellent) and coffee. The buffet was generally good to very good. The buffet area at the back of the ship normally has a different "theme" each day, i.e. Asian, Mexican and Italian. With such a port intensive itinerary, the theme lunches were limited, as most people were off the ship for the day. We never went away hungry; pizza and burgers at the outside grills were very good. Soft ice cream is available near the pizza area in the afternoon at no charge. Don't miss the Belgian waffles for breakfast. Entertainment The production shows were very good. One show called "Once Upon a Dream" was truly awesome. With a large and talented cast of 17, this show was the most creative undertaking, using moving projections throughout the entire show, paired with a wonderful selection of musical numbers. "Broadway Ballroom" was beautifully performed by the singers, dancers and orchestra. The costumes were magnificent and the choreography was done by those on "Dancing With The Stars." Generally, the outside entertainers were fair, as this is an area Princess should work on. There was one exception. A group of four men called the Beatlemaniacs boarded in Athens and did an outstanding show with standing room only in the theater. Many activities took place in the Piazza --The Champagne Fountain, The Captain's Welcome Party, various entertainers throughout the day, etc. Cruise Director Dan Styne did an adequate job. The Officers were also visible and mingling with guests, unlike some other ships. We were glad to see Commodore Giuseppe Romano. We had sailed with him before and we had a brief conversation at the Captain's Circle party. Bars/Disco/Casino There were several other venues for entertainment-- the Crooners Bar is their Martini Bar in a great location. Unfortunately on this trip, Crooners did not have their strongest bar staff in that bar and we had drinks incorrectly made. We hope to see better more experienced bartenders back in this location, as was the case on past cruises. The Skywalkers Disco was active every night. Princess has a policy that you can be 18 years of age to enter Skywalkers, but you cannot drink alcohol unless you are 21. In my opinion, this is sending mixed signals to the kids. This trip they made a separate venue in the underutilized Club Fusion for the 18 to 20 age group and it worked out much better. We had made this suggestion numerous times and we were glad to see Princess acted upon it. At Skywalkers, our favorite waiter was Jerome and the Bar Supervisor Sandeep. They did a wonderful job. They were warm and personable; all were sad to say goodbye on our last night. Other lounges had piano players and smaller ensembles, which was nice. Casino staff were also quite welcoming. Black Jack tables were busy and amounts to play were generally $5 - $10 per hand. They also had Three Card Poker, Caribbean Stud, Let It Ride, Craps, etc. My partner didn't win on slots, but I actually won on my favorite - Three Card Poker. Cruise Stops/Excursions We took all of our excursions through the ship and though a bit more expensive it is a lot less hassle and we were quite pleased with the tour guides. Also, watch the information from the ships Port Guide on the Ruby TV, as he provided some valuable information before arriving at each port. Naples - We visited the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento and Positano. It was lovely drive and we had a nice lunch overlooking the coast. This was the "easy" excursion, as the others were much more challenging, as you will see below. Santorini - We took the tour to Oia and Fira and it was very nice to see the shoreline and explore the towns. We were happy we took the tour through the ship avoiding crowds at the cable cars and avoided taking the donkeys up the mountain or walking 600 -700 steps. This was a somewhat strenuous excursion between walking and steps. We took the cable car back to the tender mid-afternoon before the crowds arrived back. Kusadasi - We took the tour to the final house of the Virgin Mary and to St John's gravesite and Ephesus. We did find out after we got there that John's remains had been moved to Rome. The highlight of the trip was Ephesus. This is a must see and do and should not be missed. It is amazing to see all of the reconstructed ruins from 500 B.C. and to walk the 3,000 year old marble streets. We will say this is a lot of walking and you must be in fairly good shape for this excursion. Also, very little shade is available; wear sneakers or rubber soled shoes - no flip flops, open backs, etc.. At the end of the tour, we received a tour of an oriental carpet weaving store where carpets are made by hand. It was quite interesting and informative and no obligation and they provided welcome refreshments. Mykonos - We had a day at the beach. We took the bus in from the ship out to the edge of the port and then walked to the city bus to the beach. It is too far and dangerous/far to walk - take the bus from the ship. We had a lovely day at Paradise Beach, food and restrooms are available and we had two lounges and an umbrella for 12 Euros/$15US. Piraeus - This is the port for Athens. We booked an all-day tour with Princess and it was fantastic. First stop was the Olympic stadium; then on to The Acropolis. We climbed what seemed like hundreds of white marble steps up to the Parthenon. This had to be another major highlight of the trip - not to be missed. They then took us to the Plaka, a quaint shopping area in Athens. Afterwards, we stopped at the Chandris Hotel for a wonderful Greek buffet. After lunch, we drove quite a distance through the countryside to Poseidon's Temple. It is on a windy mountain top overlooking the Aegean Sea. It was built during the 5th Century B.C Katakolon - This is a small seaport so we walked into town and looked around at the shops. The village is only a few blocks long but we needed a break in the action anyway. Corfu - We took a local bus to Old Town and explored the narrow streets and charming shops. We were hesitant to make it a beach day because it was Sunday and the buses were on a weekend schedule. This is one stop we would like to return to someday. Dubrovnik - This is a beautiful harbor with a towering contemporary bridge nearby. We boarded a bus (on our own) to the walled Old City. Inside, we climbed to the top of the wall and proceeded to walk all the way around. It takes about two hours or more and you can take a few rest breaks. Wear good walking shoes or sneakers and be careful as stairs are steep and you need to be n fairly good shape. We had a lovely lunch by the water after the walk. This was as a great photographic opportunity. Venice- This was our first visit to Venice, so we took a Princess tour. A boat picked us up directly off the ship and took us to San Marcos Square. Our guide took us inside the Doges Palace (no waiting in line) for an informative tour and on to San Marcos Basilica, ending with a glass blowing demonstration at a Murano glass store which was quite interesting. We then had lunch at a canal-side cafe and on to our gondola ride which was great. We were so tired from the day we did not have the energy to return at night. Service The service overall was very good to excellent. There were some wonderful standouts on the ship, as noted above, and they were rewarded accordingly, beyond the daily automatic tips. Miscellaneous Overall it was a wonderful trip and we highly recommend the Ruby Princess. The layout of the ship is very good (much better than Golden/Grand). Though many children were aboard, they were generally well behaved. The Captain and his staff were personable and visible the entire cruise. It was very nice meeting all of the people that turned out for the Cruise Critic Sail Away Party. It was sad that we could not do more activities, but with such a Port intensive schedule, it would have been very difficult. Trip Home Debarkation was smooth and our luggage was sent ahead to the Venice Airport and was waiting for us when we arrived. The Princess transfers and flights were flawless. We flew home and arrived back in Miami right on time. We look forward to returning to the Ruby in the future. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2013
My wife and I are aged 60 and love cruising having been on 14 cruises with various lines. We are out to enjoy ourselves, up early, stay up till the bars close and usually come home worn out, but not on this cruise. EMBARKATION.-----We ... Read More
My wife and I are aged 60 and love cruising having been on 14 cruises with various lines. We are out to enjoy ourselves, up early, stay up till the bars close and usually come home worn out, but not on this cruise. EMBARKATION.-----We could have no quibbles with this,from check in to boarding was fast and efficient. CABIN-----We had a balcony cabin on Deck 11, it was very nice although it had not been cleaned properly, I found a part used packet of Tamiflu tablets along with some used tissue paper just under the bed. Its not what you want to see but a call to house keeping and a word with the room steward sorted it out. Dining room, buffet and specialty restaurants-----------Food quality has never been a problem for us on any cruise line, it varies ofcourse from ship to ship but we found the found the food in all the outlets to be fine, but nothing more, certainly no WOW factor that used to be the norm. The exception to this was the specialty restaurants which we used 4 times, they were excellent in both quality and service. ENTERTAINMENT-----------This for us is were our cruise experience took a nose dive. The quality of some of the performers was without doubt the worst we have ever seen, so poor in fact that some of the bar staff passed comment about it. The stage productions were a mixed bag, as they usually are, some very good and some poor. The best venue on the ship is without doubt Club Fusion, very classy. Unfortunately it was never used once for live entertainment, it was set up as a sports bar. They did have music on in there but would you believe it was archive clips of tv performances from yesteryear. On most nights there was interactive shows like the Marriage Game or Whos the Liar along with trivia games and quizzes and yes you've guessed it, at evening prime time. I tackled the cruise director Dan Styne about the quality of the entertainment and he agreed that it was poor but it wasn't his fault as he could only work with what was given. As a parting shot he then said that if we thought it was bad so far then we see should see the comedy magician Thom scheduled for that evening. We did and it was cringe making, simply horrendous. The result of all this was boredom, bored for the first time ever on a cruise ship.We went to bed early on several nights, again a first for us. Our bar bill was a fraction of what it normally is! DISEMBARKATION--------- We left the ship in Venice, every thing ran smoothly and in a timely manner. SUMMARY-----------We booked this cruise based on a previous experience with Princess having sailed on the 2nd voyage of the CROWN some years back. When looking to book a cruise there are two things of paramount importance to us---- Itinerary and good entertainment. We presumed the entertainment would be of a good standard based on our previous experience, we were wrong and it ruined our cruise. Its obvious to me that Princess are cost cutting and we will never return. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2013
This was our first cruise on Princess. We started cruising with Royal Carribean (RCL) and then switched to Celebrity. Neither offered a Med itinerary we wanted. This Princess cruise did so we decided to try them out. This was our 2nd Med ... Read More
This was our first cruise on Princess. We started cruising with Royal Carribean (RCL) and then switched to Celebrity. Neither offered a Med itinerary we wanted. This Princess cruise did so we decided to try them out. This was our 2nd Med cruise, the first being a 12 day trip from Barcelona, around France and Italy and back on RCL. That cruise was magnificent, and this cruise turned out to be magnificent. We decided to come into Rome 2 days early, one day to unwind from the flight and the 2nd day to sightsee in Rome before heading to Civitaveccia and the ship. We booked the airfare thru Princess. The outbound flights were British Air (BA) from DC (Dulles) to Heathrow to Rome. The return flights were Air France (AF) from Venice to Paris to DC. Well, about 5PM (an hour before we were leaving for the airport) on the day of our outbound flight we get a call. BA tells us that our Dulles to Heathrow flight had been cancelled. My wife and I were not happy campers. British Airways would only offer us flights on another British Airways flight or a partner airline and could only get us a flight the next day from BWI to Chicago and then to Rome on American. Calls to Princess were very frustrating. We were not allowed to talk directly to the air travel department so we had to deal with questions to them thru a Princess ship rep. First Princess said a flight on another airline (United) had seats but BA would not book them. By the time we went back to Princess that flight was no longer available. We eventually had to settle for the American booking after several back and forths with Princess and BA. We never received a good explanation from BA about when they knew of the cancellation and why it occurred. Needless to say we lost one night lodging since we could not cancel. Also, because we did not make the lodging reservation thru Princess, our “Princess Platinum Protection Insurance” did not cover this. We lost our pre-booked tour of the Vatican Museum, and the tour company could not place us in a later tour that day since they were sold out. However our plane arrived on time at 9:30AM and we made it to a 2PM Tour of the Catacombs that was substituted at no extra cost. It wasn’t our first choice, but we enjoyed it. The cost of hotel rooms in Rome is outrageous. We ended up booking a bed and breakfast room with Altos B&B thru The Beehive Cross Pollinate web site (www.cross-pollinate.com). This has a large number of small B&B establishments that offer rooms at reasonable prices. This is a great service and is well run by the owners of the Beehive Hotel and Café. I would highly recommend using this site to book reasonably priced rooms in Rome. The Altos B&B is run by a very nice Italian lady, Gabriella. She does not speak much English, and we know very little Italian. However, we managed very well. This B&B is on a side street only 3 blocks from Roma Termini Rail Station. We had a single room with attached bathroom. It was nothing fancy but it was very clean, comfortable and was a reasonable price. It was located on the 4th floor of a building. You did have to lug your luggage up one flight of stairs, take a small elevator to the 4th floor and then go up another set of stairs. The breakfast part was a ticket to a small cafe across the street that allowed you to have a cappuccino and a croissant which were very good. We took the Leonardo Express from the airport to Roma Termini. This is an excellent way to get into Rome and we would do this again. So our one day in Rome was really hectic. Take an overnight flight and the airplane lands in Rome at 9:30AM. Take the train to Rome, check into the B&B and leave the B&B about 11:30AM. Walk around some and have a pizza slice for lunch before the 2PM Catacomb Tour. This Tour was good and our tour guide was great. The tour is run by Dark Rome Tours (www.darkrome.com). We highly recommend them. After the tour ends, walk some more and see The Spanish Steps, The Pantheon, have dinner near Piazza Navonna and then take a bus back to Roma Termini. Then the short walk to the B&B by 9:00PM and crash for the night. We had booked a 12:10PM train from Rome to Civitaveccia the next day. We booked the Freccia Bianca since it was a direct train with no stops. The train ride was great, about 40 minutes. Met some other people going on the cruise and enjoyed talking with them. The only issue was getting off the train to the ship. We had to carry our luggage down a set of stairs, take a tunnel under the tracks, get the luggage back up another set of stairs and then walk about a quarter mile to the bus that takes you to the ship. It was tiring for our old bones. Our paperwork stated our embarkation time was supposed to be 3PM. It was now about 1:30PM. Instead of waiting for 1 ½ hours, we joined the short check in line and were on the ship in about 10 minutes. It was a breeze.This was our first time on Ruby, and we did like everything about the ship. It is every bit as nice as the Celebrity and RCL ships we have been on. We had an inside cabin on deck 12. We had plenty of room in the cabin to move around and store our luggage. There was a mix up in the bed arrangement. We had originally asked for the beds to be together but made a change in our booking to separate the beds. When we arrived the beds were together. The bunk beds above made it a bit difficult to get to the night stands or even just stand next to the bed without hitting our heads. We tried that arrangement the first night but had it switched by night 2. It also helped because my wife does not like me waking her when I get up at 6AM! Our cabin steward, Joey, was good. He had quite a memory as he met us once and then addressed us by our names every time we saw him from then on. He did an excellent job of keeping the cabin clean and the beds made as well as placing a bucket of ice for us to use every evening in the frig.This was the first ship we have been on that had laundry and ironing facilities available to the passengers. While we did not use the laundry, my wife made good use of the ironing facility and really liked that this was available. We had the 5:30PM seating in the DaVinci Dining Room. We would have preferred the seating to be at 6:00PM. We did not want the late seating as it was too late for us. The freestyle we did not want because we enjoy having the same waiter and dinner companions. We suspect that with the freestyle diners being able to come to the DaVinci starting at 7:00PM, Princess figured the 5:30PM start was needed to accommodate them. We sat at a table for 8 but there were only 6 of us. What a great time we had at dinner with our table mates: Sheila, Sonia, Jan and Perry. We discussed many different topics and told each other about our days at each stop. Sheila and Sonia joined us a few times for the after dinner shows. Arsenio was our waiter, and Lovely was his assistant. Arsenio was great. Very efficient in making sure the dinner went smoothly. His recommendations and explanations of the food were good. At the end of the meal, he would take our dessert orders and then bring an extra dessert we did not order for us to share and try out. Lovely was also good but unfortunately jammed her wrist and had to be reassigned about halfway thru the cruise. We understand that she had to be let off the ship at the end of the cruise and sent home to recover. We hope Princess takes her back when she has recuperated as we considered her an asset to the ship. Her replacement was also good. We did eat one night at the Crown Grill which was a highlight. An excellent meal and Herman, our waiter, was great. As to the Formal Nights, this was the first cruise my wife and I (mostly me) “opted to not add the formal wear to the limited luggage alottments!” With the cost of the cruise and air fare, the cost of adding another piece of luggage and then get hit with a $50 air charge on each leg of the trip, we could not justify this cost ($200.). We ate in the Crown Grill the first formal night and were going to eat in the Horizon Court buffet the 2nd formal night. However, our table mates did not care that I did not have a coat and tie and convinced us to come the second night. Although it wasn’t the way my wife would have dressed if she had planned on going formal, she was prepared. I did feel somewhat out of place but had a nice pair of dress pants and shirt on. I have no regrets in doing this as our table mates wanted us with them. I am not sure why anyone seated at any other table should care. As to the ships food, I really wonder what kind of food people eat on a daily basis that they could whine about the quality of food served on this ship. We found the food in all the venues (and we tried every venue except Sabatinos and many food items) to be really good. Yes, there were a couple of misses, but all in all we liked the food and think the chefs are to be commended. The dining room menu had a set of classic foods available on the left side every night and new items on the right side. There were not a lot of food choices with sauces, but I thought the choices were diverse enough that on many nights there were 2 or 3 main dishes that I would have liked to have tried. If you did not like what you ordered, Arsenio was more than happy to bring a substitute dish very quickly. Outside of the main dining there were options galore. One of our favorite food excursions was afternoon tea in the DaVinci Dining Room. We enjoyed tea, scones with cream and jelly (This seemed to be the favorite of most people), small sandwiches and small desserts served by the white gloved staff. We managed to make it to this 4 or 5 days from 3:30PM to 4:30PM. It was popular with men joining their wives as well. Needless to say, we had to limit our intake here as we had to save room for dinner at 5:30PM ?. It was especially nice on days when we skipped lunch while out on an excursion. Best of all, this was at no charge. Celebrity does offer a “High Tea” experience which my wife and a friend enjoyed. She thought it did warrant the additional charge (live music, etc) though. One day lunch was available in the Wheelhouse Bar. Fish and chips, shrimp and chips and Scottish eggs were 3 of the dishes available that we remember. We had the fish and chips which were excellent, and since we had never had Scottish eggs, we had to try them. This was a hardboiled egg whose shell was peeled, surrounded by a ground beef layer about ¼ inch thick and then deep fried. It was good and we were stuffed after finishing with a delicious ice cream topped with cherries. Again, the waiters were all eager to serve and did a wonderful job. The International Café was open 24 hours and had a variety of salads, sandwiches and desserts available at no extra cost. There were always one or two desserts we liked and ate. If you wanted gelato it was a $1.50 charge for 3 scoops. Horizon Court and the attached Café Caribe were open from 6:00AM to Midnight for breakfast, lunch, dinner and a late night snack. Good food and a good variety. No one should have ever complained about not being able to find something to eat. We also never had difficulty finding a seat as waiters were always available to take our plates and find one for us. They would also promptly bring us a beverage of our choice. They had a pizza and ice cream bar open from about 11:00AM till I think 11:00PM. The ice cream was good. The pizza wasn’t the best we have tasted, but it was the best we have had on a cruise ship and acceptable. There was always plain cheese pizza along with a pizza with toppings that varied. I thought the Fitness Center was the best one I have seen on any cruise ship. It had a variety of weight training machines, exercise bikes and tread mills. It has the RCL and Celebrity ships beat by a mile. Needless to say I did not visit there nearly enough as I gained 7 Lbs. ?. We did not watch “Movies Under The Stars” because we were too beat from touring all day. The ship staff would set up lawn chairs and blankets on the deck. All you could eat popcorn was available for the movie goers pleasure (or for anyone that walked by the pop corn machine). We did manage to catch 2 movies, Lincoln and Les Miserables, in the Princess Theater on the sea day’s afternoon. We were impressed with the number of first run movies that they offered on the cruise. The movies were also available in the TV in your room.Speaking of the Princess Theater, we enjoyed the evening entertainment, some more than others. Dan Styne the Cruise Director was very entertaining and funny. The 2 production shows were good, especially the Once Upon A Dream show the next to last night of the cruise. It was excellent. The two comedians Doug Funk and Tom Briscoe were entertaining but not great. Siobhan Phillips, a comedian and singer, was a good singer but so so on the comedy. Vincenzo Gentile gave a great violin performance. The Chapman Brothers brought down the house with their high energy song and dance routines. They were great. Also, the Venetian Chamber Orchestra was very entertaining on the last night. In the Crooners Bar, Arnie G was available most nights to listen to, and we enjoyed him. He even brought the audience into his act with a sing along. The Piazza had a number of live shows each day. The Fiesta String Quartet was 4 very talented ladies who played nightly. Maria Margiveva was a double jointed lady that made us cringe at some of the contortions she could place her body into. Gatsbys Casino entertained me a number of nights as I watched (did not partake for once) people win and lose at roulette, poker, blackjack and craps. As I stated previously, we chose this cruise due to the ports that were visited, and they did not disappoint. We liked having only 2 sea days. The bad thing about the sea days was that the first was after the first port stop in Naples, and the 2nd was before the last port, Venice. Seven ports in a row made for some weary bones, but it was worth it to see the sights we did. We would do it again. Our synopsis of the ports follows. Naples: On our previous Med cruise we had taken a ship’s tour of the Amalfi Coast and Pompeii. This time, we pre-booked a customized private tour with Worldtours. We wanted to see Ravello, Positano and Sorrento, a difficult task in only 8 hours given the travel time involved between each of the towns and the distance to and from Naples. We settled on stops in Ravello and Sorrento and only a brief picture taking stop above Positano. Antonio Belardo was our guide and driver (of a comfy Mercedes). Antonio was waiting for us at 8AM and got us back to the ship at 4PM as requested. He not only drove us but gave us background information on the region and answered all of the questions we had. He truly wanted to make the day what we hoped for. He drove the back way up the mountains and their winding roads and dropped us off in Ravello first. One nice part of arriving early was that there were very few tourists. We visited the gardens in Villa Rufolo and Villa Cimbrone. The gardens were fantastic, and the views of the Amalfi Coast were just stunning. We also had some time to briefly walk thru a small part of the town of Ravello. After leisurely driving down the Amalfi Coast, enjoying it’s stunning beauty, and capturing some photos around Positano, it was off to Sorrento for an hour and a half of shopping and site seeing in this wonderful city. The trip was fantastic, the value received for the price of this tour was excellent, and we would book with Worldtours again should we ever return. Antonio made the day extraordinary.Santorini: We did the ship’s tour here and are glad we did. The weather was perfect. The tender from ship to shore was great. Our guide, Vaso, was good. It was sometimes difficult understanding her English (with her grammar and Greek accent), but it was not too bad. We visited Oia first. It was crowded!!! There were only 2 cruise ships anchored, and I cannot imagine how crowded it must be when there are up to 9 cruise ships at one time (as our guide told us is often the case). We visited the Kamari Black Sand Beach, the Panagia Church and had lunch at Pyrgos Restaurant. The lunch was good but nothing exciting. We were disappointed that they did not offer Baklava for dessert ?. In the afternoon we enjoyed spectacular views of the island from the Mt Of Prophet Elijah and while we sampled wine at the Santos Winery. We ended our pleasant excursion at Fira where we shopped for a short time. Then we joined the very long line for the cable car back down to the port and the tender to the ship. Kusadasi: Under sunny skies, we went on a private tour with 10 other shipmates to see Ephesus, the Temple of Artimis and the Basilica of St John (arranged by one of our shipmates). Our thanks go out to her. The first stop at the Temple of Artimis was disappointing as there was basically nothing there but a few stones left from the temple and a couple of signs explaining and showing the temple as it would have appeared. Ephesus is just spectacular although it was very, very crowded. The site is huge and requires a lot of walking over uneven surfaces. Be sure to get tickets to see inside the Terrance Houses that are being restored. We had an interesting lunch of Turkish food at a small road side location. We then visited the Basilica of St John. This is the ruins of a Basilica where St John is buried. They have not been restored. We enjoyed the tour thoroughly and would recommend the No Frills Tour Company and our guide Kenan Seber.Mykonos: We decided to do this one on our own. We took the ship’s bus into Mykonos Town (Hora) and walked and shopped and took lots of pictures. We got to see Petros, the pelican, not once but twice, and we had chicken souvlaka and baklava (yummy!) for lunch. It was fun just wandering and taking in the sites of the town. It was very windy out and hazy but no rain. Piraeus (Athens): We took a 6 hour tour arranged by one of our shipmates with the Piraeus Express. This company operates in Athens as Piraeus Express and Katakalon as Katakalon Express. There were actually two busloads of our shipmates on the tour. The owner, Stephen Todd, was the (shall we say) Tour Director in our bus. In Greece he is not a licensed guide and cannot accompany us outside the bus as a tour guide. He did all his talking inside the bus and was excellent. We visited Panathiniako Stadium (Site of the 1896 Olympics). Our next stop was the Greek Parliament Building where we witnessed the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Next was the Temple of Zeus and Hadrians Gate followed by the long trek up to the top of the Acropolis. We finished up with a walk, lunch and shopping in the Plaka before returning to Piraeus and the ship. It was a great day and once again great weather. Katakolon. Again 2 bus loads of shipmates signed on with the Katakolon Express for a 4 hour tour out to the Ancient Olympia archeological site. Once again we had Stephen as our Tour Director, and he gave a good informative and educational commentary on Ancient Olympia during the bus ride. Although the Ancient Olympia site was interesting to see, especially the museum, not having someone with you to explain the ruins in more depth made this walk a tad boring but there were plenty of Kodak moments available. After the visit to the historical site, there was a brief stop in Olympia for some shopping. One bus load went from here back to the ship. Our group was taken by the tour company to a stop at a restaurant to take in gorgeous views overlooking the sea and have a drink of local wine, beer or soda. Then we could either be taken back to the ship or dropped off in Katakolon (which we did) for some more shopping. Katakolon was basically a quaint street on the sea that had a number of shops and restaurants within walking distance of the ship. Corfu: We previously visited this island on our last Med cruise and took a ship’s tour of the main sites of the island. We decided to take the ship’s bus and walk Corfu town on our own. My wife had a great time shopping, and I had a great time taking pictures of the many streets and the two forts. We found a small bakery here and had some excellent baklava ?. We received a detailed map of Corfu Town on the bus with all the streets labeled in English. This would have been perfect, but all of the street signs were in Greek! It was easy to get lost, and we did ? . All in all it was a great day again with perfect weather. Dubrovnik: We previously visited this city also on our last Med cruise on a ship’s tour. Unfortunately, all of our pictures were lost due to my camera getting stolen in Barcelona. So we took the ship’s bus into town to tour on our own. We exchanged some Euros for Kunas and took the Cable Car up to the top of the hill above the walled city. What a spectacular view on another picture perfect day. Well worth the 94 Kunas each. Next we went back down and walked the wall (there went 90 Kunas each and 15 Kunas for some water). Very tiring but spectacular, and a lot of Kodak moments were had. We finished up with some shopping to spend the last 48 Kunas on some sea salt (supposedly some of the best in the world) for cooking before it was back to the ship. My wife rested up, and I walked around the port before dinner. Venice: A windy, cloudy grey overcast greeted us as we sailed into Venice. By the time the ship docked, the clouds were dissipating, and we had another great day for site seeing. There was an automatic $15 cost tacked onto our accounts for the water taxi ticket to near St Marks Square that was not appreciated by many passengers. If you did not want to use this, you had to return the ticket by a certain time in order to get reimbursed. We thought the price was a bit high, but knowing where the ship was docked compared to St Marks Square, it was the easiest way to get there. We had been to Venice before so we opted once again to tour on our own. Five hours of walking Venice’s fabulous sights (EX: St Mark’s Square, The Rialto Bridge, and the quaint streets of San Marco, San Polo & Dorsoduro) made us glad to get into the water taxi and get back to the ship. Leaving the following day for the airport, we made one excellent decision the night before. We had arranged to use the ship’s bus to the airport and were scheduled to leave at 10:15AM for a 12:45PM flight. One of the couples we had met during the cruise was on the same bus for the same flight, and they wanted to get to the airport sooner. We followed their lead and changed to a 9:30AM bus, and we were glad we did! As soon as we arrived at the airport, the deluge hit. It started pouring and did not let up. We can sympathize with The Bun Mom. That could have been us standing in the pouring rain waiting for the bus. As it was, we have never seen such a chaotic check in as we witnessed in Marco Polo Airport. The airport check in area is small for the amount of people, and there were lines of people going every which way. We thought at one time some fights would break out. We never want to fly out of Venice again. We have to give Kudos to Air France. Great flights, complimentary wine and great food served on the flight from Venice to Paris as well as the flight from Paris to DC. We were even in the cattle car cabins. Overall: A GREAT BIG THANKS to all of the people that built and maintained the web site for this cruise and that arranged for the private tours that we had the option to take (and did take in 3 ports). All the information that was available there about every aspect of the cruise made it easy to plan your day and know what to expect at each port. Two huge thumbs DOWN to British Airways for screwing up the beginning but two huge thumbs UP to the Ruby Princess and all of her crew and officers as well as to Air France for making this vacation special. If the itinerary and price are right, we would have no issue with sailing Read Less
Sail Date: June 2010
We (early 30's) have been anticipating this particular itinerary (Jun 22 sailing) from Princess for several years. Being this was a milestone anniversary, we decided now was the time. This was our 9th Princess cruise, 11th overall. ... Read More
We (early 30's) have been anticipating this particular itinerary (Jun 22 sailing) from Princess for several years. Being this was a milestone anniversary, we decided now was the time. This was our 9th Princess cruise, 11th overall. This review is lengthy, but I appreciated those who took the time to detail out their trips on this itinerary (i.e. SingerEsq), especially since this is a bigger trip/investment than most itineraries. (Note: all prices below are per person) The ship was wonderful, as expected from the newest Princess ship in fleet. Service was spotty, and food is good but we continue to see spotty Princess service (see Princess Specialty Restaurant review below). The itinerary was perfect, and the weather couldn't have been better. Rome Transfer: Marco to Termini was 14Euro each. Once to Termini be sure to take a taxi to your hotel. DO NOT transfer from Termini to Red/Blue Line. I cannot count the amount of steps we took with no escalator in sight. Take a taxi with luggage since they are reasonably cheap. Rome: Spent 2 nights at Westin Excelsior using points. Room on 6th floor facing courtyard was exceptionally nice & spacious compared to Euro standards. Everything regarding the room was perfect. The only complaint was the concierge service (or lack thereof). Our friends lost their luggage & for 3 days their only answer to helping find the luggage was "no news". In contrast, after boarding the ship Princess located & had the luggage in their stateroom w/in 2 days...And the ship moves everyday! Westin Excelsior Rome Concierge Staff...You badly suck! As for Rome, we loved the city. Used RomeinLimo for a '1-day tour of Rome'. Visited the Colosseum (12Euro), Catacombs (6Euro), Vatican (15Euro), and other highlights of Rome. We opted for a private guide inside the Vatican (150Euro total for party), which was well worth the price. The trip can be done on your own, but with our first visit & limited time we wanted to see everything. Ship Transfer: Taxi was 8Euro from Westin to Termini (worth the price with luggage!). Train was 3Euro from Termini to Civitavecchia. We each had baggage & no steps in station. As long as you can carry your own luggage on/off the train, there is no reason to pay the excessive 150-200Euro for a private transfer...You'll need that cash for more pizza & gelato. Once off the train, proceed toward the boats (you'll see them). Once inside the gate look to your left for the free bus shuttle stop to take you to your ship. The guards didn't tell us this while watching us haul our luggage down the street, so we walked more than necessary before figuring out on our own. Shuttle drops you off at the check-in area where you proceed to the ship's check-in from there. We arrived around 4P, & looked to be the last people checking in so there was no line (VIP style!). Cabin: We had an inside room (Cat J) on the Baja deck. Room was standard Princess cabin. We always find them roomy enough for 2 with plenty of storage. Steward was good, except we had dirty glasses again as we found on the Emerald in Mar10. We don't think they bring clean glasses like some hotels, so we always wash them ourselves to be sure, or just get some from the bars. I think we're bringing a small spray bottle of 409 to do our own germ spot cleaning next time. Oh, & if your bringing wine onboard (see Monte Carlo), don't forget to buy your own wine opener. The bottles fit easy in the fridge, and for wine glasses just call room service & they will bring as much as you want. Monte Carlo: Did on our own. We took the public bus from outside the dock area to a stop on the other side of the harbor (1Euro) to catch the bus going to Eze/Nice(1Euro). Got off in Eze & visited for over an hour. Then we caught a bus from Eze to Nice(1Euro). Enjoyed the sights of Nice & caught local train to main station (1Euro), then regional train back to Monte Carlo (3.3Euro). Walked to the Casino & then back to Port. This was all easily doable in a day. Also, there is a supermarket (aka Casino Supermarket) a few blocks from the port on the main street facing the water. This was the best & cheapest wine/champagne & bottled water stop on our entire trip. So stock up & carry as much as you can to your stateroom...A 6-pack of 1L water bottles was less than 3Euro! And great wine/champagne for 3-6Euro. Livorno: Did on our own. The problem with this port is you cannot walk to any public transportation. You are bound by the shuttle or taxis to take you out of the port (very industrial & far). A taxi will take you to the Livorno train station for 20Euro. So round up some people & share the cost. We caught the 830A train to Pisa San Rossore Station (3.6Euro). You will transfer trains at Pisa Centrale to get to San Rossore Station which is only about a 5min walk to the Leaning Tower (no signs, follow crowds or ask). We took pics & walked back to Centrale station (about 2mi), found some cheap clothing stores, and then caught the 10A train to Florence. (Search online for the Tom Ogg review of Florence for step-by-step guide of Florence). We walked around, took pics of Duomo, David, & bridge, shopped, had lunch, and then took 335P train (6,6Euro) back to Livorno Centrale. Shared 20Euro taxi back to port. Naples: Used Pleasant Travel for a private tour of the Amalfi Coast & Herculean with other CC'ers. Public bus/train strikes appear to be common here so be wary of doing on your own. We visited towns of Ravello, Amalfi, Positano, Sorrento, and Herculean (11Euro). We purchased radio guides inside Herculean for 6Euro each, which provided lots of info & easy to use. With so much driving, we were only able to explore for 20-30min in each town, and 1hr for Herculean. We will go directly back to Amalfi on our next trip to Naples (and Capri which our friends did on their own & loved). Capri is easier to get to on your own by hydrofoil. Boats to Capri are private owners so no strike worries. Kusadasi: We took a private tour with other CC'ers to St John's (2,5Euro), Ephesus (10Euro), Houses (inside Ephesus for an addtl 7,5Euro!), & House of Virgin Mary (6,5Euro). Did not enjoy our guide & not many fond memories for this port. Ephesus is well preserved, but it's very hot & this would probably have been easier & cheaper on our own by getting a taxi. Shopping is lots of pushy salespeople. Kusadasi is checked off our list. If we ever find ourselves back here on another cruise, we heard from many people that the beaches just south of town are amazing. Santorini (awww, Santorini!): We rented a car & explored on our own. Driving & parking is very easy on this island. We were on one of the first tenders into Fira. Took cable car up (3Euro) & rented a 4dr manual from Tony's (40Euro), who said we were 1st to check-in & last to check-out. Drove to Oia first & explored the town for several hours (much larger than I expected). Then drove to Kamari Beach (8Euro for chairs/umbrella), and then to the Red Sand Beach (6Euro). Both beaches were very nice. Dropped off car & shopped Fira for a little before deciding the line for the cable car was too long (what a mistake that was). We proceeded to walk down the donkey path dodging nastiness & missing the views down. That's a one-time only experience I need. Cable car is your best (& should be your only) bet. Mykonos: We did on our own. We paid 5Euro for the shuttle from the ship to the main port area (worth it). Then we walked from the drop-off point around the harbor to windmills & up to the bus station to go to Paradise Beach. Bus was 1Euro each way; just find the store sign which says "Bus Tickets". Paradise Beach is very nice; just don't get too close to the rock barrier as several friends were stung (luckily not harmful). Chairs & Umbrella were 12Euro. We then proceeded from the bus station visiting some shops & getting some excellent gelato in the harbor area (like Roma) before catching the last 5P shuttle to the ship. Athens: We did on our own. You take the free shuttle to the terminal. Once outside, no taxis will take you to the train station. So if you are able to walk about 2mi, then do so & catch the train to Akropoli for 1Euro each vs a 20-40Euro cab. Station is a few blocks from the Plaka & Acropolis entrance (12Euro). We hiked up the entrance for pics, then visited the museum for 9Euro, which had great A/C to cool off but we're not museum people so we didn't find too interesting for the price. Afterward, we walked to the Plaka for some excellent gyro's & moussaka. Then took train back (1Euro) & walked lunch off with the 2mi trek back to the ship. Katakolon (or 'cat-a-colon' for the smell): We rented a car & did on our own (40Euro for 4dr manual or 80Euro for 8pax manual van). We had no reservations, but as long as you show up early (830A) you should have no problems renting. The roads were very easy to drive as they were much like the US. We drove to Olympus, and walked around (9Euro). The ruins were very disappointing as they were nothing but scattered rocks on the ground. Nothing like Herculean, Acropolis, or Ephesus we visited. We all felt this could be skipped if not that important in your itinerary. Afterward, we drove back to ship and parked the rental car (literally) next to ship for an onboard 'free' lunch. Then we proceeded to Kastro beach for the afternoon. The beach was very nice (but small) with nice facilities & a restaurant. Corfu: We rented a car & did on our own (40Euro for 4dr manual). Visited the Paleokastritsa beach that was very nice water but ICE cold. Others reported Dassia beach was nice with warmer waters. Island is very easy to drive on own, although signage (as most of Europe) could be better. Princess Specialty Restaurants: We dined in the Crown Grill for our anniversary dinner with great company. And while our steaks were good, the service needs work. They would not allow us to order 2 main entrees in lieu of appetizers/salad. Now, if this were a normal restaurant we'd understand. But we're paying $25 each additional to dine here. In contrast, the dining room let's you order whatever & however many dishes you please (i.e. my 4 orders of Lobster & Prawns!). So why could I not order a Filet & Lamb Chops? One in our group ordered 2 steaks, but we were made to feel as if the waiter & the kitchen were doing us a huge favor. We were all perplexed & certainly felt $25/each was a waste. As for the food, my medium filet was bloody in the middle which had to be sent back. Shouldn't these "specialty" restaurants have the best cooks & wait staff on the ship for the extra (stiff) price..?!? We also had bad service with Sabatini's on the Emerald in March 2010. I think Princess needs some serious service work on their "specialty" restaurants. We will not be paying extra to dine in the future. Entertainment: We were too tired to ever see a production show. We did watch & participate in some game shows. Watching the World Cup on MUTS was an experience. This is a port intensive cruise, so we needed our rest. Venice: We carried our own bags off the ship. Walked outside the building & to the right where you can find the Alliguna (public boats to St Marks Square). Price was 6Euro + 3Euro for each large bag. We walked from the stop to the Westin Europa. Mostly flat except for 2 stairs over water. So if you cannot handle carrying your own bags, then get a private boat (75-90Euro). We enjoyed walking around, but Rome was our favorite over Venice. Found some good restaurants around the Rialto & Traghetto area. This is an expensive city, so save your Euros for this visit. Westin Europa: We spent 2 nights on cash & points. Hotel refused to check anyone in before 3P, which is their policy but how can all the rooms be ready exactly at 3P...? With Gold status, not a good start Europa. The room itself was roomy & nicely furnished however there was no AC in the bathroom which made for sweating & multiple cold showers. Not something I'd expect from a $500/night hotel. Again, not good Europa. But the location was excellent & after figuring out the bedroom door had to be closed individually for the room to cool, we had a good stay. One bonus goes out to the concierge staff who, when we inquired about visiting Murano, recommended a glass factory that was offering a promo which provided a private taxi to/from Westin to Murano. So we took up the offer, did the sales tour, had lunch in Murano (cheaper than Venice), and headed back to the Westin in a free taxi! The boat alone would have been 12Euro each on the public boat. Free IS better. Leaving: We had an early flight out (650A), so the only viable option was a private water taxi for 110Euro (ouch!). Luckily we shared half with some fellow cruisers & the boat picked us up right at the hotel dock. Concierge staff made sure the boat arrived on time. Thanks again Westin Concierge Staff! Venice airport was surprisingly busy at 630A. If not for our business class tickets, carry-on luggage, and preferred security line we may not have made our flight on time. To check-in luggage would have taken at least 30-45min, and the security line, with only 2 stations open, would have taken at least another 45 minutes. So if your coach, be sure to arrive at least 2-2.5 hours before your flight. Air France Business Class: A disappointment from Venice-Paris with a 3-seat configuration for business. But we flew the 777-300 from Paris to Houston. Excellent. Great Service. Great Food. We were impressed. A great end to a long trip. Thank you miles! ? Read Less
Sail Date: June 2010
Monday June 21 - Leaving Florida enroute for Rome We had a car service take us to Ft Myers airport for our 12:15 flight to Atlanta. We were using Delta Airlines which was a good thing as I heard Alitalia was striking around this time. ... Read More
Monday June 21 - Leaving Florida enroute for Rome We had a car service take us to Ft Myers airport for our 12:15 flight to Atlanta. We were using Delta Airlines which was a good thing as I heard Alitalia was striking around this time. Smooth sailing on leg #1. We boarded our second flight to Rome at 3:00pm. The kids were THRILLED to find they had Movies on Demand at their headrest. It was a 9 1/2 hour journey across the Atlantic. Not too bad but unable to really sleep. We arrived in Rome at 7:00am. Since we visited Rome for a week back in 2006 we did not spend any time here again. We headed straight for the ship. Tuesday June 22nd - Rome I hired a private driver to pick us up. He was the least expensive I could find. He was 120 euros and drove us in a Mercedes minivan. Email address is info@mudicartransfer.it. Our driver, Mudi, met us after baggage claim at 8:00am and we (and our five suitcases) were literally wisked away in a minivan to the port of Civitavecchia. We arrived at the ship's port at 9:30am. We were actually the first people to arrive! The kids used this opportunity to lay down in the waiting area and sleep. We just waited. Finally at 11:30 we were called up for check in and not long after we were on board the Ruby Princess from the Princess Cruise lines. We first went to check out our cabins. We were on deck 14 - Riveria Deck. Cabins 725 (inside) and 723 (balcony). The kids were in the inside cabin sleeping two twin beds and an upper bunk. Husband and I had the balcony cabin. A little smaller than I expected but fine nonetheless. After dropping off our carry-on bags and approving of our accomadations we went off to find some lunch and explore the ship. We took a nap from 1:00 to 3:45 and then we all showered before going to the 5:00pm muster drill. After we mustered it was time for the meet and greet with members of Cruise Critic that I was corresponding with on line prior to the cruise. Around 7:00pm we made it to dinner and decided to eat at the buffet. Dinner was good. Nice variety and lots of seafood. After dinner we went up to the teen lounge and the youth center to sign the kids up. Next we decided to take in the 8:30 show (the comedian was pretty funny. I can not say much else nice about the entertainment. Wednesday June 23 - Monte Carlo We had breakfast at the buffet and then were off the ship at 9:30 am. Monaco-Ville ("The Rock") and Monte Carlo are pretty easy towns to visit on foot. We first walked through The Jardin Exotique. Lovely cliffside botantical gardens. Our first stop was at Prince Albert's residence - Palais Princier. We took a 30 minute audio guided tour through about 12 rooms. Then we walked down the tourist engrossed streets to the Cathedral of Monaco. Here is where Princess Grace married Prince Rainier and where they are both now buried. At about 11:30 we made it back to the Palace Square and lined up to watch the changing of the guards ceremony at 11:55. Only 5 minutes long! Our next stop was to the Napoleon Collection which was right next to the Palace. This is the prince's private collection of items that Napoleon left behind. Small museum but pretty cool. Next we made our way over to the Oceanographic Museum or the Cousteau Aquarium. This cliff-hanging aquarium was built in 1910 by Prince Albert I. The kids really enjoyed the Aquarium. We were all pretty much spent after this and we went back to the boat around 4:00. Thursday June 24 - Livorno We docked in Livorno around 6:00 am. I had arranged for a private driver to meet us when we got off the boat at 8:30 am. We used See Amalfi Coast for our tour in Livorno and Naples. Carmine and Vito are the owners and are wonderful. They were very responsive to my numerous emails. They were also very competively priced. Monty was our driver and he was very good as well. Email for Carmine and Vito is info@seeamalficoast.com. I believe their webstie is SeeAmalfiCoast.com. I highly recommend them. We got in a Mercedes mini van and took a thirty minute drive to Pisa. We saw the Baptistery and the Cathedral and then climbed the Leaning Tower to the top. About 300 steps. Kids loved it. We left Pisa around 11:30 and headed towards San Gimignano which was about a 1 1/2 hour drive through winding roads of the Chianti Region in Tuscany. Beautiful. We only had about an hour in this medievil town that is surrounded by walls and towers. Then we went to Ulignano and visited a restaurant, Tenuta Torciano, that had a vineyard. In the familia since the 1700s. OMG! Worth every penny! We had three courses and tasted 10 different wines (mostly Chianti). 85 euros for the five of us. Their lasagna was absoultely out of this world! We ordered five bottles of wine to be delivered to our home in a few weeks. Around 3:30 we left to drive back to the ship. Good thing we had our driver because we were a bit tipsy! We arrived back at port around 5:00pm. Friday June 25 - Naples Same routine and private driver service as yesterday. We were up at 7:00 to meet our driver, Vincenzio, at the dock at 8:30. He first took us to Vesuvio where we had the unique experience of hiking to the top of the volcano that destroyed Pompeii in 79 AD - Mt. Vesuvius. The driver takes you up in the car to the 3000-foot level and then we had to hike the remaining 550 yards. A nice old Italian man and his wife were handing out walking sticks which came in very handy. The walk up took us about 40 minutes. Great views and it was awesome to be able to look down into the crater. We got back to the car around 11:15 to head out of Naples and down to Sorrento. The Amalfi Coast drive was majestic and not as scary as we imagined it would be. We arrived around 1:00pm and made our first stop at an inlaid wood factory for a private presentation of how their woodwork is made. Interesting and their products were very nice. Grandfather clocks, tea carts, jewelry boxes, game tables, pictures. Too many things to look at and decide on. At 1:30 we went to a local restaurant, Vela Bianca, for Naples' famous pizza. Yummy. 41 euros for three pies and two beers. At 2:30 we left Sorrento (too short a visit) and headed for Herculaneum. We arrived at 3:30 and had about an hour and a half to explore. Definately much smaller than Pompeii (which we visited back in 2006) and strange to see the modern homes that now surround this 2000 year old city destroyed by Mt Vesuvius' lava in 79 AD. At 5:00 we headed back for the ship. Unfortunately our daughter left her book in our hired car. I emailed Carmine and Vito and asked if they found the book would they mail it to our Venice hotel. They did. It was waiting for us when we arrived! Saturday June 26 - At Sea Most of the family used this day to sleep in. I, however, was up at 6:30 to do two loads of laundry before the crowds arrived. Mission accomplished. Next at 9:00 am Lori secured four chairs on the Movie Under the Stars (MUTS) deck by the Calypso Pool. Chairs are pretty much taken by 10:00am the latest. It was another sunny and beautiful day. Hot in the sun but we enjoyed the pool deck very much. At 1:30 they showed Mamma Mia. Lunch and a drink by the pool sailing in the Mediterranean watching Mamma Mia! At 5:00 we finally went in to start getting ready for our first formal night. Portaits first before dinner at 8:00pm in Michelangelo's dining room. Sunday June 27 - Santorini This was our one and only tender port. Since we did not have a tour planned and we knew there would be lines to tender we disembarked later. We ate breakfast out by the Terrace Pool. The view was wonderful. Santorini is a town on top of a cliff. We got off the boat around 10:30. When you get to shore you next have to go up the cliff. There are cable cars for 4 euros per person that is the most logical mode of transportation but long lines. Otherwise there are donkeys you can ride up for 5 euros. The more adventurous and money concious traveler will walk. Guess which we were? However, the long and steep path that DH chose to take his family on is the same one traveled by the donkeys and 1) they are not potty trained and 2) they have the right of way. Let's just say an awful experience and leave it at that. Now at the top we are in Fira. Beautiful village. All white homes on the side of this cliff. Lots of stores to shop in and restaurants to relax in and take in the view of the beautiful blue sea. We walked through town and then found their bus terminal. We took the local transportation to the beach. For 1.40 euru pp we could take the 1/2 hour drive to Kamari, their black sand (really gravel) beach which once was the ancient port of Thera. We arrived here around noon. We got two sets of chairs and umbrellas for 12 euros. We had to change into our suits in a small outside changing cabana. DH took the kids in the Aegean Sea for a swim. They went out to some rocks for awhile. The girls sunbathed there. Lori read her book still recovering from the donkey incident. The beach is right next to a pedestrian street with shops and restaurants. We walked down the "strip" and stopped for lunch at 4:00. We left Kamari at 6:00 and took the local bus back to Fira at 6:15. It was VERY crowded. From Fira the girls and I took the cable car down to the port and DH guided our son down on a donkey named Zorba. Probably the highlight of his day. We tendered back to the boat around 7:30pm. 8:00 MUTS movie was How To Train Your Dragon. We set the kids up for a quick bite to eat while they watched this movie and then went off to eat and stroll. Monday June 28 - Kusadasi Early morning once again. I arranged for a private tour (driver and guide) through Meander Travel and we were being picked up at 8:00 am. Their email address is ephesustours@meandertravel.com. I am sure they have a website as well. Our guide's name was Sinon and he was very informative and spoke excellent English. We started our drive to Ephesus which took about 30 minutes and had our first stop at the house of the Virgin Mary. This is said to be the home that John brought Mary back to after the death of Jesus. It was beautiful. Small home with a statue of Mary dating back to the 1700s. After you exit there is a fountain of holy water that you may drink. We all had a sip. We left this area and made the drive down the mountain to the ancient city of Ephesus. Here our guide took us through this amazing ancient city. We walked the same streets that Mary and some of the Apostles walked on. Some of the highlights were the library, the Slope or Terrace Houses and our son's favorite - the public toilettes. After several hours in the hot sun it was time for lunch. We stopped at a rug factory and had a lovely lunch outside in their courtyard. There was no ordering other than the beer that Lori and Jerry had (Ephes). They provided a sampling of authentic Turkish food. The kids did well trying different things. My favorite was an eggplant puree that was delish. They had chicken keebobs that Chris devoured five of. After we ate we went inside the factory for a private presentation on how the rugs were made. We were served hot apple tea. Then they started presenting different rugs for sale. Lori fell in love with a particular rug for the family room. Negotiated final price of $2200. We declined. We left around 3:00 to our final destination which was St. John's Basillica. This was an ancient church now in ruins that was built for St. John the Evangelist. His tomb is there but there is speculation as to where his bones are. Finally we headed back to port. Back on board just in time. Tuesday - June 29 Mykonos We handled this day on our own. We were not happy that we were asked to pay 7 euros pp for a shuttle bus to drive us from where the ship docks at the Old Port to where they let you off a 1/2 mile down the road at the New Port. We walked however, there was no side street so be careful. Once we got into town we found the local bus again and took the 20 minute ride to Platy Gialos. Again, we rented chairs and umbrella for 10 euros and relaxed for a few hours before catching the bus back. Wednesday - June 30 Athens Off the boat early around 8:00. We shared a private tour with three other families so there were 16 of us in a small bus with a driver that never said a word. We went to the Acropolis first. It was a zoo with many tourists. Very hot too. We paid extra for a private guide but her accent made it very hard to understand her. Cool to see the sites though. Parthenon, Theater of Dionysus, Hadrian Arch, Temple of Zeuss, the Agora. We were there about two hours. Around 11:30 we left that area and did a city tour. We stopped at their Parliament building for their changing of the guards near the Unknown Soldier. By 1:00 we were done driving around the congested city streets and were dropped off at the Plaka which is their shopping and restaurant district at the base of the Acropolis. We had lunch. At 3:30 we left the Plaka and drove around a bit more. We stopped at a Naval Museum. It had a replica of a wooden vessel used long ago along with a few battle ships. Place was closed so we could only view from the street. We got back on the ship around 4:30. Overall not one of our best days. We did find out that yesterday the greeks were striking and cruise ships were not allowed to come in so I guess we were lucky that we made it here at all. Thursday - July 1 Katakolon Today we woke at 7:30 to meet our private driver, Takis, at 9:00 am. I had arranged for a private driver with georgetaxitours@gmail.com. We had a little bit of a late start but left the port of Katakolon around 9:30 in his Mercedes taxi and headed for Olympia. It was a half hour drive to the ancient site where the Olympic games began in 776 BC. We did the tour ourselves with the help of Takis' guide book. Very informative and the girls were really into all the greek mythology. We saw the remains of the Temple of Zeuss which was one of the 7 Ancient Wonders of the World. We also went to the stadium where Victoria beat Chris in a foot race and then Jerry ran with the kids. Amazing to run the same track the ancient greeks ran on! After about two hours in the ruins we went into the Archeological Museum. That had some really fascinating remains from the Temple and Olympia. 1:00 we were off again. Quick stop at an ampitheater and then to the center of Pyrgos. A non tourist city square where I stopped at a bank for a money exchange and the kids grabbed food at a greek take away. Takis was wonderful to direct us everywhere. At 2:30 we paid a visit to the Mercouri Winery. Takis gave us a tour of the lovely grounds that date back 150 years. There was a farmhouse that had old tools, an olive oil press and machines used to crush the grapes. The grounds are "protected" by peacocks walking the fields which lead all the way down to the sea. There is a villa that the only surviving member of the family (85 year old aunt) still lives in. We also had a tour of the wine cellar. We sat outside in the courtyard to sample 6 different wines. The kids had juice and were entertained by the peacocks and the St. Bernard named Laura. Wonderful experience for 10 euros per adult. (The ship will charge you $59 USD). We bought a bottle of white wine to bring back to the boat. Time to go. 4:30 back on the ship with not a minute to spare. One of our better days. Takis was wonderful. Friday - July 2 Corfu At 12:00 we departed the ship for a Princess arranged tour. Another beautiful sunny day. We got on the tour bus and first we visited the Achilleion Palace built for the Empress Elizabeth of Austria. Our guide was very informative. This cliff side palace overlooked the Ionean Sea and was adorned with statues and paintings related to Greek Mythology, particularly Achilles. We departed at 2:15 for Corfu Town. There we could see the old and new fortress built by the Venetian Republic. Our guide took us to see the Church of St. Spyridon who is the patron saint of the island. Relatively small 16th century church for the greek orthodox. The saint's crypt is kept there. After visiting the church we had about an hour to walk around and shop. We were back on the boat at 4:30 again without a minute to spare. We love stopping at the International Cafe when we return to the ship. They have such nice pastries and salads in small portions. At 6:00 we began to get ready for the last formal night. We took some photos and then had dinner in the Davinci room around 8:00. Lobster tail and prawns for most of us. Ice cream for dessert. At 10:00pm we made our way to the Princess Theater. We have not taken in many of their shows but this was supposed to be their best one - Once Upon a Dream. Since we were all dressed up and the kids wanted to see it we went. Jerry slept through parts. Lori thought it was stupid. Kids were confused. They don't complain though but we all agreed that Norwegian cruise line had much better entertainment. Saturday - July 3rd - At Sea We were up about 7:30 and went up to the MUTS deck for lounge chairs. Gotta grab them early! We had coffee and let the kids sleep in. The day was full of sun and smooth sailing. The kids played table tennis and miniature golf and swam with their friends they made on board. At 4:00 the World Cup soccer game came on the big screen TV outside. Finally 10 hours later we left our deck chairs and headed back to the cabins to pack and get ready for dinner. After dinner, more packing. Lori and Jerry watched the ship pull into the port of Venice from their balcony around 11:00ish. The bell tower at St. Marks Square welcomed our arrival at midnight with its chimes. Sunday - July 4th Venice Up at 7:00 as it is time to leave. We had to be out of our cabins at 8:00am so we went up for our final breakfast. Then to the Princess Theater to wait until they allow us to disembark. We met up with the two families that we went to Athens with and waited with them. Finally at 10:15 we were allowed to disembark. We got off the ship and found our luggage no problem. Once we left the terminal and got outside it was a zoo. And HOT. Very humid. We had to wait on line to arrange for a water taxi. We ended up sharing a ride with Claudia and her family as it saved us a little money. Once you pay for the taxi they dispatch for the boat. You then go to the dock with all your bags and look for your boat's number amongst all the other water taxis transporting people. Finally our boat arrived and we all piled in. Now we are on Venice water traveling the canals. Claudia and family were dropped off first then we were deposited at our hotel. So two hours later at 12:15 we are in Venice at our hotel. We were staying at The Westin Europa and Regina located right on the Grand Canal. We were using points and paying a nominal rate for two rooms for two nights. The hotel was definately old and worn down. At 1:00 we went out to explore. It was a very easy and short walk to San Marco or St. Mark's Square. What a disappointment though. Besides being crowded and extremely hot the area had a lot of scaffoling up (for repairs) and there were billboard advertisements covering the scaffoling. One of St. Mark's Basillica's domes were covered as well as parts of other areas. Not the best photo opportunities. At 2:00 we went into the church. Lori had already made reservations in advance to go directly in (1 euro pp) so we avoided the long lines in the hot sun. Also before we left home Lori downloaded and put on Ipods a free audio tour by Rick Steves of the Basillica. This was very informative to describe what we saw. The gold mosaics were awesome. We paid 16 euros for all of us to go upstairs to view the museum and view the square from up high. Pretty neat. We finished with the church around 3:30 and began to walk around some more. Monday - July 5th Venice Our final day. Wow what a long trip. We left the hotel around 10:00 to stroll. The streets of Venice were already packed with tourists. We made our way to San Marco and the Doge's Palace. We had a tour (Secret Itineraries) scheduled and had to pick our tickets up at 11:00. In addition to touring the common area rooms of the Palace this Secret Itineraries tour took us to the third and fourth floors where the administration offices were and where the political prisoners were kept and tortured. This books a month in advance so do before you leave. We saw where Casanova was held and where he escaped from. Chris' favorite part was the secret tunnel that we passed through. The prisons were pretty neat to see and we could only get a glimpse of the Bridge of Sighs as it too was covered by scaffoling for repairs. The tour of the Palace took 3 hours. There were just so many rooms with artwork and artifacts. At 2:00 we made our way out of the Square and walked towards the Rialto Market. We stopped for lunch on the way as we needed the rest. The Rialto bridge offered a great view of the Grand Canal and many tourist kiosks to shop at. By 5:00 we were spent and headed back to the hotel for a rest and to do some packing. At 7:00 we went back out for one final stroll. This time we went to the Accademia Bridge. Much more peaceful than the Rialto. After some final photos and sightseeing we headed back and grabbed some panini sandwiches along the way. We were ready to go home! Read Less
Sail Date: June 2010
Ahh yes where does one begin? Trip: June 20 to July 6th 2010 --- 12 Night Greek Isles & Mediterranean (Rome to Venice) First, it was my wife (45), son (16) and my nephew (17) who is buds with my sonn and I (46). All of us in pretty ... Read More
Ahh yes where does one begin? Trip: June 20 to July 6th 2010 --- 12 Night Greek Isles & Mediterranean (Rome to Venice) First, it was my wife (45), son (16) and my nephew (17) who is buds with my sonn and I (46). All of us in pretty good health; we are on the adventorous side. Wife and I have been on about five cruises but none in the past seven years KIDS VS NO KIDS: We brought our son but not our 7 year old daughter. we ;made the right decision in our opinion.... it would not have worked considering our temperaments and our dear daughters, regardless of the kids care. She had a blast staying with an assortment of family and friends...and going to amusement parks. CELL PHONES: We purchased two internations cell phones..... When you have a group more than four you definately want to be able to communicate when on shore. We used the "national geographic international cell phones".... they were at best OK... two key ports.... Athens and Venice they weren't able to send calls all day.... all other places they worked.... It's good to have. On ship INTERNET ACCESS: Still a ways away from working well... unless you go around 2 am at night and want to wait another 20 plus minutes to get access...you aren't going to like it. This service just isn't yet really functioning well... fYI PRE AND POST VACATIONS ARE A MUST: Extra day night in Rome; extra two nights in Venice:You definately want to spend extra time...if I had to choose one over the other I would go Venice.. although personally both is the way to go. PRIVATE NON-CRUISE TOURS ARE A MUST: We actually only did one... Naples/Capr ... but it was just great... a great contrast to our other days... (we used the recommend tour (Pleasant Travel) DON'T OVER DO IT: There is so much to do on these Mediterranean Cruises... so, so cool... just understand that if you are doing an 11 port trip like this don't over book each day. IF NON-FAMILY TEEN IS COMING... Make sure you follow the guidelines for doing such. Our cruise trip company said "don't worry about the signed documents" they rarely check... well they did! Very closely! Be sure to read up on this. RUBY PRINCESS WAS FANTASTIC: Granted we haven't been on another cruise line since around 2003, everything about the Ruby Princess was just great. Food was great! (yes we had lobster and steak and all other great meals). Service was great! The ship was great, great ship. OK Let's begin: Rome/Venice/Barcelonia CRUISE ITINERARIES: After carefully looking at all the choices we went with the Rome to Venice. Glad we did. (Note: there are no Barcelonia embarkment Cruises that included Rome and Venice. Personally, you want Venice at the end... it was so fun to look forward to Venice and to us Rome is not an "end of cruise" type distination.... by the end of this cruise Rome would have been too much for us. FLIGHTS: We did a direct Flight from Newark Airport to Rome's International Airport. We tried to do the train, but the lady there talked us out of it... She said it was the same price to for her taxi guys to drive us there and much easier. I didn't fight so we did it. All worked nicely. We flew the Venice to Frankfurt Germany, then to Newark. It was the cheapest for us at the time. GET TICKETS: before you go for certain key things: Vatican, Colosseum, stuff like that.... go to the websites of the specific site and away you go! CLIFF JUMPING!? Black beach in Santorini and a bar/restaurant paradise called La Grotta Beach Bar in Carfu Greece (I wrote Port Reviews on most of the islands... however they only gave me six! I must speak about Venice! VENICE: You must spend at least two days in Venice. We went around July 4th it is was just tremendous. IT was very warm, but the streets are so narrow that there is a fair amount of shade. Read below about disembarkment! Compass? Get lost is a fun thing in Venice-- apparently GPS's don't work... a good large sized map and a compass did the trick! The compass is very useful in giving a general direction... it worked great for me. However I was quite surprise to see no one doing the same... hmm. Favorite Restaurant in Venice: My wife found such a winner! It is the restaurant just below the Hotel Al Gazzettino in San Marco.... It is nothing too much too look at but when you come in meet the owners and try their food.... it is amazing. Here is our suggestion: tell them to treat you to their recommended meal... it was such a delight... cannot describe. WARNING! Disembarkment in Venice... Wow.. it was quite a mess. Here is the scoop... somewhat different than what the Cruise seems to communicate. When you get off the boat hoping to get a water taxi to take you to the approximate hotel destination.. look out! It is just a total mess. Ticket booths that make no sense.. .long lines everywhere...hot, hot in mid day... luggage.. yuck. There are many costly ways to excape this.. I suggest this... Apparently you can get off the boat first thing if you leave very, very early.. .if so do it! If you wait for the normal disembarkment times and you hope to get on a water bus... you are in for a chaotic, long wait. Naturally you can do the taxis that cost a lot but even that is choatic. Try to get off early! Read Less
Sail Date: June 2010
Ciao! My family of 4—-husband and myself age 51, daughter age 24, and son age 23—-made this trip on the Ruby Princess Eastern Mediterranean Cruise with 12 other family members. We had 2 boys age 9 and 10 (one with special needs), teens ... Read More
Ciao! My family of 4—-husband and myself age 51, daughter age 24, and son age 23—-made this trip on the Ruby Princess Eastern Mediterranean Cruise with 12 other family members. We had 2 boys age 9 and 10 (one with special needs), teens (age 18 and 19), five 20-somethings (20 to 28), and adults age 50 - 74. My immediate family of 4 began our trip 3 days early in Rome. As this was our first trip to Italy, we wanted to make the most of the opportunity...and I'm SO glad we did! Rome ended up being the best part of the trip because we were able to see the city in depth, although 3 days only scratches the surface. We (all 16 of us) also stayed an extra day in Venice. In Rome, we stayed at the Hotel Artemide. I'm sure we could have stayed at a less expensive hotel, but we had no complaints about the Hotel Artemide. They were very welcoming and accommodating. We arrived at the hotel around 10:30 am, and our rooms were not ready. This was no surprise. They stored our luggage and provided us with a safe for valuables that I did not want to carry with me as we began our sight-seeing. They gave us a map that I found very easy to use, and we set out for the Spanish Steps and lunch. Many of the important sites were within a 20 - 30 minute walk, and the walks were enjoyable in themselves. When we returned, our rooms were ready for our afternoon siesta! The rooms were a little small by American standards, but they were very nice. The bathrooms were spacious. There was free Wi-Fi and a FREE mini bar. The free mini bar was a nice welcome after a long day of sight-seeing. Breakfast was included, and it was very good serving both European and American fare (eggs and bacon). Taxis were not too expensive considering all 4 of us could ride in one taxi. I enlisted Rome In Limo (romeinlimo dot com) to pick us up at the airport and the driver was waiting for us outside of baggage claim. Rome in Limo also picked up the other 12 family members when they arrived the day before the cruise. I highly suggest arriving at least a day early. 6 of the family members did not have their luggage when they arrived in Rome (thank you US Airways). Their flight was late leaving Tampa, and they made the connecting flight in Charlotte but their luggage did not. We used Rome in Limo (romeinlimo) for the transfer to Civitavecchia. They picked us up at 2 pm, and the luggage arrived at 12 noon, so there were no problems. Rome in Limo also provided an evening tour of Rome, which was nice for the family group of 12, since this was all they really got to see of Rome. We arrived at the port of Civitavecchia around 3:30 pm, and there were no lines what so ever. This late arrival made for a very smooth embarkation. We were able to go straight to our rooms, and some of our luggage had already arrived. All luggage arrived within 30-45 minutes. We had 5 mini-suites side by side on Dolphin Deck 9. Our room steward opened the balcony dividers, so we were able to "roam" the balconies between rooms. The mini-suites were plenty roomy for the 3 adults in my room. We also had 2 flat screen TVs—-one angled towards the king-size bed and one towards the sitting area with the large sofa that turned into a bed for my 23 yr. old son. My son is 6' 3", and he was comfortable on the pull out bed. I thought the king-size bed was hard, but I was so tired after full days of exploring that I still felt rested in the morning. The balconies were open to the decks above, but we did not feel "exposed". We did have a few instances of a little water sprinkling down on us, but we figured it was from the pool deck. My mother had the beautiful Curacao suite on the back of the boat on deck 10. Wow! The view was incredible from the super-sized balcony. She had teak furniture with 2 chaise lounges and a table with 4 chairs. There were 3 people total in this cabin, and she enjoyed the room very much. Personally, I don't think I could justify paying twice as much as the mini-suite, though. It did have lots of amenities like free laundry, free Wi-Fi, daily hors 'doeuvres, fresh flowers, and breakfast in Sabatini's (only for suite guests). Our first port was Monaco. This is definitely a port right out of "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous". The view from the Ruby Princess was amazing. This is not an easy port for walking, and it was very expensive. I did not see people returning to the ship with shopping bags. If climbing stairs or walking up steep inclines is not for you, definitely get transportation to the town square. My husband and daughter made the most of the day seeing the Oceanographic Museum, casino, outside of the palace, gardens, and the beautiful scenery. I stayed close to the ship with the 2 young boys and others, and we were not too impressed with the shopping and restaurants. We could not walk to the town square due to physical limitations of some our group, so we headed back to the ship pretty quickly. We definitely should have researched the transportation options and made our way to the town square, etc. Next was the port of Livorno. Again, I arranged the services of Rome in Limo (romeinlimo dot com). We took a private tour to Pisa and Florence for all 16 of us. Marco was our tour guide, and we had a driver as well. This ended up being cheaper than the ship's excursion, and we had flexibility that we would not have had on the ship's tour. We visited Pisa first, and there was a lengthy walk to the tower. The cathedral and baptistery were a wonderful surprise. After about 30 minutes of photos and souvenir shopping, we headed to Florence (they said it was 1.5 hours away but I think it was less). We walked through the town center (Duomo), and went to the Accademia to see the statue of David. Half of our group was tired and hungry, so Marco, our guide, arranged a meeting place for all of us. Marco then took 7 of us for a quick bite, and then we headed to the Uffizi and a quick stop at the Ponte Vecchio Bridge. It was a rushed trip to Florence, so we rubbed the nose of the bronze boar (Il Porcellino) to ensure we would return to Florence one day. We met the rest of the group at the arranged meeting site, and took a short walk to meet the driver outside of the town center. The return trip was 1.5 hours or less, and they made a pit stop at a rest area with free bathrooms. Naples was next. 6 of us took the ship's excursion to Pompeii, which included a pizza lunch, and a trip to the National Archaeological Museum. After Pompeii, we stopped at the cameo factory for a "demonstration". Of course, they hope you buy something, but I did not feel any pressure to make a purchase. They took us to the "nice" residential area of Naples for lunch. The restaurant seemed open only to us, and it had a nice view of the bay. There was no ordering, but you had your choice of beverage (wine, beer, soda, water). Then we went to the museum, which was better than I expected. It was a nice way to finish the tour--seeing the artifacts from Pompeii as well as many others. My daughter is an artist and has a minor in art history. She loved this museum, especially the Farnese Collection! Don't expect all the high tech lighting and humidity control of US museums, but enjoy the sculptures and artifacts up close. This was a nice excursion because I would not have wanted to maneuver around Naples on my own—very scary! I definitely suggest a tour in Naples! Next was the much needed Sea Day--a great day to relax. I'm not a pool go-er but I would have breakfast by the pool on most mornings. The chair hogs are alive and well on the Ruby Princess! The saving of chairs with a towel is ridiculous! Chairs would remain empty for long periods of time. I'm surprised that people honored this tradition, because I would have been very frustrated looking for a chair. At the very least, a real live person should be required to save chairs. Comments about the cuisine... It was important to our family to have dinner together each night, so we had standing reservations in the Michelangelo Dining Room at 6 pm. Wish we could have made it later, but that's all we could arrange. We were able to do this in advance because we were a large group of 16. We had 2 tables of eight, and we would switch up the seating each night. I definitely developed a preference for the waiters and would try to maneuver my seat at the table with Eduardo and Agnelo (not to be confused with Angelo)! There were 2 female waiters at the other table. I can't even remember their names, and they would never ask me what I wanted to drink...which bugged me! The men seemed to get their attention, though, but perhaps that is because they ordered the same drink each night. I felt the food at dinner was very good. It was definitely a step up from the Carnival cruise we took last summer. We tried the Crown Grill and Sabatini's, too (the specialty restaurants with a $20-$25 charger per person). I loved the Crown Grill, which is a steakhouse but has seafood and more. Definitely go to the Crown Grill one night! Sabatini's was beautiful, but I did not enjoy the food (Italian) as much as the Crown Grill. The buffets were good, too, and I enjoyed grabbing lunch or a snack at the International Cafe. My son likes sushi, so we went to Vines Wine Bar once. They serve a plate of sushi (four small pieces, I think) if you buy a glass of wine. It was OK, but not worth the price of a glass of wine, IMHO. The next port was Santorini. BEAUTIFUL! We tendered ashore with not much wait. We rode the donkeys up—for the experience. It is a very nice man-made trail up to the town of Fira. I made the mistake of riding them back down, which I would NOT recommend. The donkeys hug the stone cliff/wall, and they bump into the donkeys going up with no regard to your leg in between! I ended up with a very large bruise on my leg after the trip going down. Also, on the trip down the donkey guide got to know me much too well helping me on to the donkey, ha, ha! There is a platform to mount the donkey going up, but not going down...so leave this to your own imagination. My husband and daughter took the bus to Oia, and they loved it! Their photos were amazing. Fira was very beautiful, too, and the shopping and vistas were marvelous. Take the cable car if you don't want to ride the donkeys. There were lines, but they moved pretty well. Kusadasi, Turkey, was our next stop. Here, I arranged the last "full family" tour for our family of 16—-a tour of Ephesus. I used Ekol Travel (ekoltravel dot com), and they were very easy to communicate with by email. We toured Ephesus, Mary's House, the Terrace Houses, and saw the Temple of Artemis (a lone column in a field). We had a private guide and our own charter bus with plenty of room. Our guide was great and she allowed us to use an English version of her name, Sky (her Turkish name means "sky"). It was very hot at Ephesus, but Sky was very aware of some of the limitations people had in our group. She migrated to shade and seats whenever possible. I paid by credit card after the tour, and they stopped by their office on the way back to the ship. It was a very quick stop. I should have researched my credit card fees before I left home. My Chase credit card charged large transaction fees. Should have used my debit card! We stopped at Mary's House first. It was very crowded and very shady, but the line into the house went very quickly. We drank holy water and put our wishes on the Wishing Wall. Take a paper and pen! We found receipts to write on, and other tourists were nice to share scraps of paper. Then it was off to Ephesus. It was amazing! It was also very hot! Take water! The extra charge for the visit to the Terrace Houses was worth it! The visit really allowed me to visualize people living at Ephesus. Also, it was a little cooler in the Terrace Houses because of the protective roof. There are a few sets of stairs in the Terrace Houses, so beware. Only about half of our group went in. My daughter strayed taking photos and missed the opportunity to see the Terrace Houses-—she was very disappointed, especially after I raved about the visit :-) When we left Ephesus, you go through a market area. Check out the "Genuine Fake" items...what a hoot! Turkish retailers are very "friendly" (i.e. pushy), so be prepared. You can definitely "deal" for items, though. We just drove by the Temple of Artemis, which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Our bus just pulled up for us to view the one column left standing. We were hot and tired...and didn't want to get off! I'm glad we didn't waste too much time there. Sky offered to stop at a government approved shopping area, which assured us of authentic Turkish items. Some of the group was tired, so we skipped the shopping stop. There are plenty of shops in the port area. One in our group was very interested in a purse with matching sandals. The price started a $300 US, and she ended up getting them for $90 Euros cash. Ephesus is a must see! Next was the island of Mykonos. The ship arrived in Mykonos at 1 am, so some of the young people went ashore at that time to visit a few clubs. My immediate family of 4 took a ship's excursion to the island of Delos. We left early and missed many of the tour boats that arrived about an hour or two after us. We had a great guide (Amaryllis) who took us the opposite direction of the other 5 tour groups. She spoke very good English and was very knowledgeable. If you are interested in Greek mythology and ancient ruins, then this tour is for you. The island is mostly rubble, so the guide makes all the difference. We were back to ship around 12-12:30...had lunch...then took the shuttle to downtown Mykonos. I loved Mykonos a little more than Santorini, probably because I didn't have to take a donkey to town, ha, ha! My daughter and I just roamed the alleys. I'm still amazed that cars make it through the streets/alleys. Around every corner is a church or chapel. We made our way to the windmills and saw the island mascot, Petros the white pelican. I wish we had eaten in a cafe on Mykonos. We found the most beautiful cafe with a canopy of magenta bougainvillea. The table tops were painted magenta to match! All in all, a lovely day in Mykonos! Athens... The day before we were to dock in Piraeus (the port for Athens), the BBC news channel reported riots in Athens. They also reported that protesters closed the port and no one could leave. We were a little concerned, but we had booked a ship's excursion and knew it would be refunded if there was a problem. Also, we knew that Princess would not dock if there was any danger. We arrived to a quiet port, and we took the "Acropolis and City Drive" tour. Our tour guide was "OK". We knew if she could make it to the top of the Acropolis, then we would have no problem! Our guide was asked about the riots, and she said that 300 young people out of 4 million residents cause all the problems. Sound familiar? The Acropolis was VERY crowded, and I'm amazed at the stairs going up and down—no railings so it seemed unsafe considering the large crowd. At least I can say I've been to the Acropolis and seen the Parthenon. Katakalon... This is the port where you can visit Olympia. We took the ship's excursion to Olympia and then to the museum. It was interesting to see the change in the geography—very green, lots of trees, farms, etc. Olympia is a very nice 30 minute drive. As with Delos, the guide is the most interesting aspect of the tour. The archaeological site is mostly rubble, some pillars, and the stadium. The family enjoyed "racing" on the track and taking photos. Then we were off to the museum. The museum is small, but the artifacts were remarkable. Seeing the museum after visiting the site (as we did in Naples/Pompeii), allows you to appreciate the historical significance of Olympia. Then we headed back to the ship, and this time we chose to eat lunch in the small town of Katakalon. So glad we did! We ate at a small corner restaurant that a shopkeeper referred to as "fast food"—if only we had this kind of fast food in the States! We had yummy gyro platters, a Greek salad to share, and Greek beer (of course). After this lunch, I wish I had taken in more Greek cuisine at the other ports. Shopping here is typical, and it is a good place to pick up souvenirs. The next day was Corfu—what a pleasant surprise! We took the ship's shuttle to the terminal, and then you can take a taxi to the town center ($10 Euro). We always fill the taxi, so the cost was $2.50 Euro each—not bad. The city looked very Italian, due to its history of being part of the Venetian Republic. We enjoyed shopping, and we "discovered" a woodworker's shop down a little alley. He was busy making olive wood items. His items may not have been as refined as other shops, but we felt his items were "authentic". Lots of places to eat, but I couldn't get my group to stop shopping long enough to grab a bite. Others from my family enjoyed an affordable meal of—-you guessed it—-gyros! I definitely wish we had more time to explore the island of Corfu! The last sea day was busy for me getting packed. They ask that you put the majority of your luggage outside of your cabin before dinner. We enjoyed our last dinner on the Ruby Princess at Sabatini's. They serve lots of food, but I still did not enjoy it as much as the Crown Grill. Disembarkation was a breeze! I love the silent disembarkation. About 2 days before the end of the cruise, you are assigned a time and place to meet. Don't forget to tear off the luggage tag stubs (like I did). This indicates to the crew that you are scheduled to disembark at that time. One of our family members had extra luggage tags, so I was fine. You take a shuttle to the area that houses your luggage. There were plenty of carts, and it was very organized. Within 5 minutes, all 16 of us had our bags loaded on carts, and we headed to the bus provided by Princess. We paid Princess $24 US each to take a bus less than 1 mile to the Piazzale Roma, which is the location to get taxis, buses, or take a short walk to the train station. If I had it to do over, I would have arranged for 2 water taxis at the port to take us to our hotel on the Grand Canal. It would have been cheaper because there were so many of us, and it would have been more fun! All 16 of us stayed one extra night in Venice at the Hotel Antiche Figure, which I found on Trip Advisor. They were very easy to communicate with by email, and they required a small deposit in advance since we required 6 rooms. It was a short walk to the hotel, but be prepared to cross 2 small bridges that have steps. We had plenty of able bodied people to handle the luggage for the few who could not. We arrived at the hotel around 10 am, and we knew our rooms would not be ready. They stored all of our luggage in one room that was ready. The hotel's staff was very welcoming and suggested a small cafe behind the hotel while we waited an hour for available rooms. When we returned at 11 am, the rooms were not ready (I didn't think they would be), and another staff member apologized and said we should not have been told the rooms would be ready so quickly. We did not really need to wait for our room, so we decided to head to St. Mark's Square. It was very hot (at least 90) and very crowded, still worth the trek. The hotel staff gave us a great hint when we left. Just follow the signs that indicate San Marco or Rialto with an arrow. On the way back, we looked for the signs that indicated Piazzale Roma or Ferrovia (the train station). This was an easy and enjoyable way to go sightseeing in Venice, because we knew we could always find our way back. Buy food, drinks and souvenirs before or after visiting San Marco (St. Mark's). Prices jump a few Euros on and around the Square. All in all, our Ruby Princess Easter Mediterranean cruise was fabulous! The food was good, and the service was excellent. Bring good walking shoes, and be prepared to do lots of walking—-some strenuous. If this is a problem for you, I would suggest a cruise that is less port intensive. I could have used an extra sea day! I would also suggest extra time before and after the cruise to see Rome and Venice. Arrivederci! Read Less
Sail Date: June 2010
Last fall my best friend with whom we regularly cruise told us that his two sisters insisted on a big family vacation. They were all asking their friends to join as well. We ended up being a group of 13 with 8 married adults and 5 ... Read More
Last fall my best friend with whom we regularly cruise told us that his two sisters insisted on a big family vacation. They were all asking their friends to join as well. We ended up being a group of 13 with 8 married adults and 5 "kids" in the 19-29 year old range. They chose the Ruby Princess June 22 thru July 4 and we choose to join them. (Side note - my DW and I did a similar cruise in 2007 on RCI and our granddaughter - RUBY - was born back in Chicago when we were between Florence & Naples. So taking a cruise on the RUBY Princess 3 years later seemed somehow very appropriate.) With a debark day of Tuesday, it was a 'no brainer' for us to fly to Rome over the weekend. Wrestled a pair of tickets from Delta using a lifetimes worth of Sky Miles. Disappointed that it took 75,000 miles each for coach seats - but such is life these days. Flight over was uneventful. Actually a bit better than we expected. Arrived on time in Rome and after a small delay awaiting the driver the hotel had arranged, we were on our way. We stayed at Hotel Genio in Rome. Its just a few steps from Piazza Navona and the location could not have been better. Its very old, and we saw conflicting reviews on Trip Advisor, but we were very happy with the arrangements. Much less costly than many other hotels we saw, and while it was not the lap of luxury, it was completely acceptable. Our room was not ready when we arrived, but they held our bags right by the check in desk, and we were off to explore Rome. We had the "formal tour" of Rome in 2007 (used Limo in Rome and were very happy) but this year wanted to do a more leisurely 'Rome on our own' kind of a thing. Equipped with a good street map, we easily found our way from P. Navona to the Pantheon and back. Stopped off for a coffee, people watched, and went easy as we had not slept the night before on the plane. Got into our room around noon, freshened up, and then took a cab to the Great Synagogue of Rome where we meet my friend and his wife for a prearranged tour of the Jewish ghetto. (Their daughters were bumped by US Air in Charlotte and did not arrive till the next day.) Lunch and a private tour pretty much finished us and despite the fact that Italy was playing in a World Cup match, we managed to find cabs back to our respective hotels. An early and light dinner followed by 12 hours of sleep was just what we wanted, and just what we got. The next day after a nice breakfast at Hotel Genio, and we were off to the Roman Forum. Had a wonderful morning exploring at our own pace. Found a little restaurant for lunch (deliberately walked several blocks away from the tourist area to finds something less - well less touristy) and then we were off to St. Peter's. We had done the Vatican tour with a licensed guide before, and this trip just wanted some time in this most beautiful church. A little research told us of the dress code, and where we could gain entrance without an admission fee. When done we took a cab back to Genio and then had a wonderful dinner at Osteria dell' Antiquario - just a few blocks away - recommended by our TA, and very enjoyable. Following dinner we met up with our fellow Cruise Critic Roll Call friends for a "Gelato Crawl." We had a very active roll call, and one lady in particular (Joan) was a great planner. In addition to an onboard "Meet & Mingle" she coordinated a gelato crawl for the night before embarkation in Rome, and I was very surprised at just how many of us turned up. Meeting the folks we had exchanged so many messages with via the boards was wonderful, and between Joan's knowledge of Rome and my map, we found our way to our first gelatreria, and then to the Pantheon, and then to P. Navona. Rome after dark was something we had never experienced, and are so glad we did. Street artists and family's out for an evening stroll - it was very enjoyable. The group was off to another gelateria (near the Spanish Steps or Trevi fountain- not sure which) but we said our goodbyes to the group as we were close to "home" and tired. My friends sister had arranged our transportation from their hotel to the port, so Tuesday morning we just grabbed a cab over to the Splendid Royal where we were met by a full sized "cruiser" bus (like what the cruise lines use for their tours of 60 folks) for our group of 13! But at $50 per person, what the heck! Check in was as easy as could be. Princess does such a good job of managing crowd flow. Compared to my recollection of RCI & Celebrity, Princess is the best at getting you on and off the ship. We had cruised on the Crown (sister to Ruby) several times, so our mini-suite accommodations were exactly what we expected. (OK - we have to find something that's not perfect so here goes - the paper products - TP & Kleenex - both are very poor quality - like sand paper. That's it. Those are our 'beefs." That and a lack of quality Kentucky Bourbon in the bars.) While on the subject of the ship, let me say the food was very, very good. Likewise the service, both in our stateroom as well as the dinning room. Ships staff were all very anxious to accommodate any request. First stop was Monte Carlo and we had arranged for a private tour from Med Tours. They usually do land based tours starting in Nice, but for an extra €20 they agreed to pick us up at the dock, and return us. It was a half day tour that included Nice, Antibes, Cannes, and St. Paul de Vence. The latter was the best and on our next trip (please may there be a next trip) we will plan on spending more time there. We opted for a drop off by the Grand Casino, and we splurged on a outside table at the Cafe de Paris and enjoyed some gelato while people watching. It was so very 'continental' of us. Did "Florence on your own" via the ship. I had purchased ticket to the Uffizi in advance, and did a quick run through to see a few of the masters (which is all we wanted) and then wandered Florence. Ended up purchasing several items for the folks back home, and even a pair of leather belts and a wallet which I needed. (And of course - some gelato.) Naples - in 2007 we used AP Tours for our day in Pompeii & Amalfi. We did not hesitate to go back to them again. Were joined by 4 other folks we found on our roll call and we enjoyed a very nice day touring the beautiful Amalfi Coast. After a very port intensive couple of days we needed the day at sea to rest. Next stop was Santorini. Taking the cable car was another one of those 'no brainers'. Once "UP" we strolled over, found the bus station and for a few Euros we had a ride to Oia. WOW - talk about picturesque! One view was better than the next. We were just talking about finding a place for lunch when my wife spots a place that our TA had suggested: Pelekanos. We bounced up stairs and had a delightful and delicious lunch with breathtaking vistas. Our next stop was Kusadasi - the port city for Ephesus. Before arriving, we were unsure how we would feel about this port, but joined the rest of our party of 13 on a private tour. As my wife later said, "it was our first really big wonderful surprise of the cruise". After seeing the wondrous sites, our guide suggested we stop, sit and have a cup of Turkish coffee. After getting our legs back (and laughing at the signs that were all over advertising "Genuine Fake Watches") he asked if we would like to visit a mosque. No hesitation in our group. We visited a mosque built in 1375. Earthquakes had damaged it several times, but it was always rebuilt. It was completely empty when we arrived, and we were told we could enter & even take photos as long as we removed our shoes and hats. It was an extra that we never thought we'd experience. From there he took us back very near the port for a typical Turkish lunch, followed by the demonstration of rug weaving, the expected pitch to buy, and we left with full bellies and big smiles after a wonderful day. We of course had to go through the (Turkish) Bazaar, and even bought a small item. Back on ship a dip in the pool was definitely needed. That night 12 of us were 'wined and dinned' at the Chef's table. I could easily write another 3 pages here - but suffice to say for "foodies" like us, it was wonderful. Next was Mykonos. A very pretty little island, know for it's tolerance and love of late night parties. Apparently one of the hair dressers on board told one of the girls in our party that we'd dock about 1 AM, and often the younger folks went directly ashore to join the parties. Sure enough a few of them did exactly that and even reported a "TV star" sighting. Apparently a good time was had by all. We did the i-pod self guided tour at a more reasonable hour, and enjoyed a leisurely day ourselves. Lunch with my loving wife at a quaint little place overlooking the Med - well it doesn't get much better. Later that evening folks were all abuzz as the news reported that there was trouble in Athens - our next stop, but we docked as planned, and were picked up by Athens Taxi at 7:30 AM - as planned. We had Paul's son - Dimitri as our driver/guide. We started early on purpose, and were at the entrance to the Acropolis ticket office at 2 minutes to 8. It opened at 8 on the dot, and we were among the first 15 or 20 people in. The early start allowed us to beat the crowds and the heat of the day. We shared our day with two of the folks we had been in Amalfi with, and were very comfortable with them. We saw all the highlights (and then some). We were all bone tired, and had more than our fill of ruins, so after lunch and a visit to the Plaka, we implored Dimitri to take us back to our ship - the fact that it was only 2:30 notwithstanding! He reluctantly complied - wanting to make certain we got our full day tour as promised. Next stop was Katakalon where we took the ships tour of Olympia - site of the very first Olympic games in 756 BC. It was very hot, it was more ruins, there was heat thunder, there was no shade, and other than the entry to the old stadium, the old stadium, and a the purchase of a few souvenirs, we were pretty wasted. This was our 5th port in 5 days. Temps were frequently 90 degrees plus, and we were feeling it. Corfu - we had been to Corfu on our last trip and were not impressed. That changed this time. My friend rented a car and we drove off to Paleokastritsa. (Yep, you pronounce it just like it spells :-). Anyway, there you find the clearest water anywhere. If I'd have known, I'd have wanted to snorkel, and I don't even know if snorkeling is allowed. The locals offer rides in their small boats to see the caves and crystal clear waters. For ten Euros each, we went and enjoyed. Then we headed for another beach where his sisters had headed, but the weather turned cloudy and cool and we headed back to Corfu town. Here was another pleasant surprise. We all wished we had more time as it looked like it was really cool, but we needed to get back on board. One final day at sea, and then Venice. Debarkation was painless (or as painless as leaving paradise can be). I again compliment Princess for doing it so well. Off at 8:15 AM as planned, grabbed our bags, and found a taxi to P. Roma (€12 for the 2 of us because we had so much luggage!) From there it was a reasonable walk (300') to our hotel (the Carlton on the Grand Canal) just over "2 small bridges." Right! Their bellman stored our bags and by 9:15 we took off to enjoy our day in Venice. It is as charming as we remembered. We walked until our feet hurt, then stopped and sat by the Rialto Bridge for a couple of Cokes. Rejuvenated, we continued, buying a 12 hour Vaporetto pass and heading back towards our hotel. Lunch at a near by restaurant was authentic Venetian (suggested by the fact that there were two tables filled with gondoliers on lunch break). Our bags were waiting by our room when we arrived, and while not requested, we were given a room overlooking the Grand Canal - SWEET!! After a short rest, we were back out and about. Ended up running into some CC friends at the restaurant we wandered into for dinner. At St. Mark's we also ran into my friend and some if his family. It was their first time in Venice and they were as blown away as we were the first time we experienced this magical city. We had to stay in St. Marks a while longer as the skies opened and there was a huge rain/thunder storm. So we forced ourselves to have more gelato as we waited out the storm. Managed to get back to our hotel without getting drenched. Next morning we used two smaller bridges to get back to P, Roma and took the D2 bus to the airport for €3 each. Arrived at 9:30 for a noon flight, and the Delta agent asked - "What are you doing here - your flight has been cancelled - weren't you notified?" Well no - and apparently nor were the other 250 or so folks that we were flying with. So we milled about as this very brave and capable man eventually found us all overnight lodging. (And that story is another 3 pages, so we'll just let it pass.) Next day we were up at 5 AM, picked up at 5:45 for a morning flight to JFK. Layover from 12:30 to 4 PM extended to more like 6:45 PM and then circled Chicago for an hour due to thunder boomers, and at long last, home at about 10 PM. Some 24 hours after the alarm woke us in Venice. We had been awake and in travel mode for 24 hours straight! Next morning it was back to work! All told, with the exception of the journey home, it was a near perfect vacation. A few photos (and I had a hard time getting it down to a manageable quantity) can be seen here: http://picasaweb.google.com/TDW826/MedCruiseSummer2010#. My only outstanding question - when do we (when can we) go back? Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
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
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2009
First, I must thank the cruise critic website for such a good, and informative site concerning cruising, ports, tips, deals, and other travel information. I must also thank everyone who have contributed to the site, concerning cruises, ... Read More
First, I must thank the cruise critic website for such a good, and informative site concerning cruising, ports, tips, deals, and other travel information. I must also thank everyone who have contributed to the site, concerning cruises, reviews, boards, and all other travel advice that I have repeatedly read on the site. Further, a special thanks to the cruise critic people I have met in person on this cruise and the several people I have shared numerous emails. Before I book any cruise I consult extensively w/ CC. Thus, this cruise was selected b/c of cc's reviews, the itinerary, and my experiences w/ Princess. I feel indebted to the site and their numerous contributors. Here is a review as a small down payment to this debt. This is my 6th cruise, 3rd w/ Princess, (The Diamond, and The Tahitian) I have sailed w/ Carnival, Cunard and another smaller line that I cannot remember from the 80's. We are an active couple in our 50's We stayed in cabin C323 on the Caribe deck w/ a nice size balcony, which all balconies on the Caribe deck has b/c of the ship's design. It was a quiet location and we felt very little, if any movement on the ship. Yes, you can see into other people's balcony and people can see into yours, but what are you planning to do on your balcony that would warrant anyone's interest? I enjoyed a friendly wave to another couple that we meet on CC. I really do not think that people have traveled this far, and paid this amount of money to engage in voyeurism or exhibitionistic activities. After all, there are beaches in Cannes and Mykonos that were included on this sailing where this is allowed. One area where Princess can improve and be progressive, like a few other cruise lines are starting to do, is to install a non-smoking policy because smoke can blow into your balcony if other people on nearby balconies are smoking. Further, we went to the casino on the non-smoking nights and it was more crowded than on the smoking nights. Princess really needs to assess this policy for safety reasons; a lit fire is nothing but trouble. This is non-debatable. A no smoking policy was installed in the bars of NYC & business actually improved, after the initial out cry. Oftentimes, there is a need for change. We arrived in Rome after about an hour delay at JFK. Delta served unlimited wine and the service and the food was good. I was pleasantly surprised. Customs in Rome was a breeze. Watch the boards, in order to find the carousel your luggage was placed on. Pay attention to all the signs. It would help to brush up on your Italian. A few phrases can go a long way. We took the train into the termini roma and transferred to the metro, which took us to w/in blocks of our hotel, the Residenza Paola IV. Yes, there may be some walking involved but we are New Yorkers and used to it. Further, it is always good to travel light, especially for the stairs. In addition, when using the bus, trains, and waterbus in Rome and Venice, make sure your tickets are validated from a nearby machine. We arrived in Rome 2 days prior to our disembarkation, and stayed in a lovely hotel named the Residenza Paola IV. The staff was very friendly, helpful w/ dining, travel, and sightseeing recommendations. The breakfast was incredible. This was not a heavy American type of breakfast, but it was very adequate. They did have scrambled eggs. After all, when in Rome,.... The hotel also had a nice terrace overlooking St. Peter's square and was near transportation and w/in walking distance of the must see-sights. The room was nice, clean, and most important very quiet to be near such a busy area. I would definitely stay there again when in Rome. We arrived from Rome to the port in Civitavecchia by train in about 50 minutes, for about 4.50 Euros. We did not have to change trains and the station was w/in walking distance of the hotel we were staying near St. Peter's square. Tip: I would strongly advise having small Euro denominations and plenty of change to purchase your ticket from the machine. It is also a good idea to carry change for the WC (public bathrooms) because there is a small charge 30 to 50 cents. The ticket windows are close on the weekends. We had to depend on the kindness of strangers for change. If possible, purchase your ticket a day in advance or arrive early to the train station. The embarkation in Civitavecchia went very well. It was smooth and very quick. One of the best and quickest I have experienced. However, that joy was quickly dampen when it took Princess over 3 1/2 hours to delivery our luggage to our stateroom. We had to dine in the clothes we had on all day. Further, when my luggage did arrive, the cologne I had wrapped around clothing and put in a plastic bag were broken, and my other clothes were wet and sweet smelling. I promptly informed the passenger's desk of this, and they gave me claim forms to fill out and offered to do my laundry and ironing. I accepted they offer, although I had to wait for about 2 days b/f my laundry came back crisp, clean, and plain smelling. I was informed that if Princess does not contact me after 2 weeks to contact them about my claim. I was also left with the impression that Princess would reimburse me for my loss. Apparently, their personnel was not aware of this policy or simply mis-lead me. On September 14, 2009, I received a letter from Princess that stated, "Princess recommends that passenger's hand-carry all personal, valuable, and/or fragile items. "As you are probably aware luggage passes through many hands during the course of a cruise and Princess has no jurisdiction over personnel handling luggage on the piers, during transfer operation or air travel." I called Princess to register my complaints, and the Property Specialist Claims person stated that this was stated in the contract.-----in the fine small print of course. I also stated that the luggage was literally snatched from our hands w/o anyone offering us the option of carrying it ourselves. Therefore, future cruisers please by advised, and if you can and want to be 100% safe with your luggage arriving to your cabin undamaged and without delay, carry it yourself. Stand up for your rights. If I do another Princess cruise (I do enjoy their itinerary's) I will be carrying my own light luggage. However, I do not feel any animosity towards Princess, and I understand that things happen. Still, It is time for me to try another cruise line. I am very curious about the buzz that is circulating around Celebrity's Solstice. I Also, they have adopted a progressive no smoking in the rooms or balcony policy. It would be nice to compare both cruise lines' top ships. I am looking towards a booking in 2010. After meeting a couple whose luggage never arrived in Rome, with their necessary medication, camera, etc., I felt my little incident was very minor. Travelers, never, never, pack your medication, camera, or other values in your checked luggage. This couple had a time trying to get a prescription from the states for an Italian pharmacy to fill. I am sure you do not want this experience in Aug. when many people are on vacation on both sides of the Atlantic. The muster drill was done very well. It was professional, informative, done w/ the appropriate amount of seriousness from the staff and passengers. I have seen people not attend and done rather cavalier on another un-named cruise line, which shocked me. Usually, and hopefully, this is the most serious part of any cruise. Dining The seats near the window Botticelli dining room are very nice. The food was good to very good. However, there were many people in the dining room w/ shorts and very informal clothing for the 1st dinner. I deducted that their luggage was also delayed in arriving to their cabins. We dined at the 1st seating in the Botticelli dining room. The lighting and dEcor was elegant and subdued. The food overall was very good, well presented and with some creative flourishes, despite that fact that they served rice, albeit in different ways, w/ different pairing on four consecutive nights. I simply asked for a substitute and was graciously accommodated. The deserts were very good. I enjoyed some of the best tiramisu I have ever tasted. They also had their traditional baked Alaska presentation, minus the flames, apparently because of a fire mishap. Once again, an example of the dangers of an open flame. We also lunched in the Da Vinci dining room and were very pleased with the staff and food. I was also impressed with the Pizza. The buffet style breakfast was good in the Horizon Court. However, they must have run out of the variety of smoked fish they served the 1st couple of days. They did have a good selection of fresh fruits w/ succulent strawberries. Specialty Dining: We visited Sabatini's twice on this cruise. The service and quality of the food was all first rate and excellent. Make a reservation as soon as you get to your cabin. The tasting menu is extensive, and it would help to arrive with a healthy appetite and to pace yourself. The seafood was extremely fresh and delicious, with some of the best scallops I ever had. This can easily be a 3-hour affair. Yes, it is worth to do the specialty dining at least once on any cruise, you owe it to yourself. Any real foodie should do at least one cruise and visit the ship's specialty restaurant. Our waiter Michelangelo was knowledgeable, extremely gracious, and skilled at his job. Other waiters and service employees can learn from him. Why is it becoming so rare where you can find someone who is skilled at what they do, especially in the service industries, and actually enjoy what they are doing? Excursions: They were all booked through Princess, (although I did considered booking them independently) and were well organized, although many of them left very early in the morning. I begrudgingly made the adjustment. Val, was a little spooked on booking independently b/c if the port is passed for any reason, there are no refunds. Also, the Princess excursions have priority in disembarking and using the tenders. Rome is full of ancient history, monuments, and ruins. It is a walking town, and we walked to all the major sites, St. Peter's Square, The Vatican, the Coliseum, the Pantheon, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, etc. Monte Carlo & Cannes was nice and elegant. The lunch option is worth it b/c the guaranteed reservations. We witnessed many restaurants were filled to capacity. Cannes had a very nice public beach. The Amalfi coast excursion was simply exhilarating. The tour guide was humorous. The shopping in Florence, although expensive, was nice with some high quality leather goods. The historical churches and architecture were nice. Pompeii is educational; archeologists dream that and is well preserved. Pisa was nice but the visit was too short. Expect plenty of tourists. In Santorini, the wine tasting and Oia for shopping was nice. In Athens, the acropolis w/ The Parthenon is a must. Katakolon was nice, we did some walking and sightseeing on our own. Sample the olives and bring back some olive oil. Corfu was photographic, as was the ship, and Europe. I took over 2,000 photos. Bring a large memory card, and a charger that hold at least 2 sets of batteries. Entertainment It was much better than on my previous cruises b/c the live bands played with so much feeling and energy. The B-way style shows were enhanced w/ video and special lighting effects. The dancers and some of the singers were good. The comedians were average to good. The hypnotist was hypnotic. The lounge singer was very good. The karaoke lounge was very popular. Overall, the entertainment was a huge step up from the other Princess cruises I have previously experienced. The aerialist and acrobatic dancer was a very creative touch. The movie under the stars (muts) was nice w/ the popcorn, although we never sat for a movie, just took in some clips b/c of competing events on the ship. I did not use the Internet and heard it was expensive. I understand that the point of a vacation is to get away and to leave the routine behind, therefore, I had no desire to check my emails or use the internet. Further, it could be some bad news, and what could you really do about it, other than ruining your vacation, being in the middle of the Mediterranean? The fitness Center is nice, well equipped w/ a nice panoramic view. I was a frequent visitor b/c I was taking in more calories than usual and I try to stay fit. Twice, I had to wait for an elliptical machine, but most of the time there were just a few people in the fitness center. I also enjoyed the hot tubs and the swim against the current pool. I was determined not to gain weight during the cruise by staying active, although I did gain two pounds. This was all balanced out b/c the week bf/ I eat very lightly. I did not use the services of the spa, even though I booked on line, but cancelled as I saw less expensive prices advertised in the Princess Patter and flyers that were placed in the cabin. I did visit the area and it was nice and serene, similar to the adult's only areas and the sanctuary. (there is a charge but it is worth it if you prefer a more serene environment) I stumbled into the children's and teen areas & they were kept busy w/ various video and other games. The children were well behaved. Even though a handful of teens were turned away when they attempted to sneak into an empty disco, by saying they were over 18. I thought it was funny b/c the disco was empty or near empty most nights b/c this sailing is very port intensive. Tip: On port days, and later in the evening, and as the cruise gets closer to the last port, the spa and store prices tend to drop w/ "special sales." In conclusion, We could not ask for better weather throughout our 16 days in Europe. It did not rain once, and we only had to use the air-conditioner in our hotel room and cabin for only about 2 nights. The sunsets and sunrises from the ship were amazing. I was late and missed a few evening shows b/c of these natural wonders. 5 Stars The Ruby is a new, beautiful, clean, and elegant ship that exemplifies class. The marble on the ship is gorgeous. This is by far the best cruise I have taken. The Ruby provided a wonderful experience. They put forth a good effort to please the passengers and often times succeeded in many areas. One of the highlights and a very nice touch from Princess was to arrange a daytime arrival into Venice, as opposed to the scheduled 10 pm arrival. I thank Princess for this pleasant surprise. It is an experience to behold w/ the Ruby slowly and gracefully arriving into Venice's port w/ Italian music playing while passing St. Marco's Square. That was one of many wow factors throughout the cruise. I believe all cruises should have at least one, if not a few. A few other highlights were the fine dining; the window seat in Sabatini's overlooking a fountain, and the ocean, the white, and faux New Year's Eve party. The champagne party on Princess cruises are always a blast. The live bands kept the passengers dancing. The disco was very colorful w/ a nice light show. However, most nights it was near empty because the daytime excursions can be exhausting. This can be minimized if you Increase your stamina by doing plenty of walking or other exercise b/f the cruise, and you should be fine. Also, pay attention to how the excursions are rated. Further, this cruise is port intensive w/ plenty of excursions and activities in the day. The Piazza is very nice w/ the musicians, and various entertainers. Sweetpk / Ken W. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2009
This was our 8th cruise and our fourth with Princess Cruises and we feel that it did not live up to expectations. The menus in the restaurants were abstract and ambiguous. What you ordered from the description on the menu was not what was ... Read More
This was our 8th cruise and our fourth with Princess Cruises and we feel that it did not live up to expectations. The menus in the restaurants were abstract and ambiguous. What you ordered from the description on the menu was not what was served up to you, i.e. a ribeye steak turned out to be a sirloin, a fillet steak turned up as medallions and also what was described as ribbons of beef turned up as massive sirloin steaks. There was also a great lack of seafood and shellfish. What was even more disappointing was the buffet lunch in Horizon Court. The choice was very poor and some of it wreaked of recycled food. It appeared that surplus food from previous meals had been recycled and camouflaged. And to see sandwiches wrapped in clingfoil was something to behold. In our opinion the menu was not geared for European tastes. The coffee for breakfast was inconsistent. It appeared to be made from concentrates and the strength varied enormously. This seemed to be the case on previous cruises and we now take our own caffeteire. It appears that every effort is made to extract as much money out of passengers as possible. When you arrive on board you are offered a drink and then asked for your card! And there is constant pressure by staff to sell you drinks etc. If you are a smoker there are only 24/26 comfortable chairs, next to the casino,in which you can enjoy a cigarette unless you want to sit on deck or closed in deck. It is virtually impossible to sit in a comfortable chair and have a cigarette with a coffee and brandy. The ship is spotless, service is good, entertainment excellent. A word of warning for those booked in cabins at the front of the ship, above the bridge (we were in Cabin L102) the bridge deck was only open on our departure from Rome and our arrival in Venice. This was a great disappointment. Overall the standard on this ship is not up to what we have experienced on the Sea Princess, the Grand Princess and the Carribean Princess and we did not have any hesitation in booking for the Ruby Princess but after our recent experience on the Ruby I would book again with some reservation. I only hope that the downgrading in standards is confined only to this one ship and does not encompass the whole of the Princess Cruises ships. Finally we were not alone in our disappointment. Many passengers who had sailed on other Princess ships also felt the same as us. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2009
Having very much enjoyed our first Princess cruise last summer to the western Med on Sea Princess, my wife and I responded to a bargain offer from Princess to go to the Aegean this summer on its newest ship, Ruby Princess. The itinerary ... Read More
Having very much enjoyed our first Princess cruise last summer to the western Med on Sea Princess, my wife and I responded to a bargain offer from Princess to go to the Aegean this summer on its newest ship, Ruby Princess. The itinerary was a history teacher's (that's me) dream, calling at Naples, Santorini, Ephesus, Athens, and Venice, all of which have some connection to the curriculum I teach. The cruise departed from Civitavecchia, the port of Rome. We had four days in Rome beforehand and took the train from Rome's Termini Station to the port. It was an easy trip, as we had purchased reserved seats for a direct train the day before. I would strongly advise doing so, as many passengers who hadn't were unable to sit together. From the Civitavecchia station, it was an easy four-block walk to a free shuttle that took us to the ship. Embarkation went smoothly and efficiently. It is our experience that Princess is very good at moving people on and off. We were in a minisuite forward on the port side. It was spotless, spacious, with plenty of storage. However, when we went out onto the balcony we experienced the first of a number of annoyances we had with the design of the ship. Dolphin deck (Deck 9) is made up entirely of minisuites, and its balconies look down directly onto the sea, which is good. However, its balconies also are looked down on by all the other balconies above, which is stupid. You have absolutely no privacy. Because our balcony extended farther out than those above us, on four separate occasions we found ourselves dealing with rubbish that had fallen on our balcony from those above. Once an orange peel, once a sodden newspaper, and twice cigarette ash. The first problem with ash required cleaning of two of the balcony chairs, and on the second occasion a chunk of still-burning ash fell on my wife's bare arm. The orange peel, newspaper, and first problem with ash occurred during the night, so finding them on the balcony does not at all reflect badly on our room steward, who was excellent. The problem is with the ship's design. Considering that Ruby Princess is the last member of this class of ship, you have to wonder why Princess didn't deal with this obvious design flaw. Food. We don't do formal nights. On Sea Princess last year we found that our favorite place to eat was the Horizon Court Buffet, so we looked forward to doing the same on Ruby Princess. Our experience this time was not so good. Where last year the buffet included a terrific variety of fresh and nutritionally dense salad ingredients, the salad bar area of Ruby Princess's buffet was comparable to that of an American corporate cafeteria, and not a particularly good one. This lack of variety may have been a budget-cutting response to the economy of the last year, but it made for a less than wonderful experience. Also, the design of the buffet area, which included both the Horizon Court and the Cafe Caribe aft of it, is very poor. The Horizon Court buffet has entrances both fore and aft. While the line is intended to be entered forward and exited aft, the "Exit Only" signs were almost universally ignored. This led to confusion and traffic jams at almost every meal. Further, seating in Horizon Court is simply inadequate to the demand, so we frequently found ourselves going through the buffet in Horizon Court only to have to find seating in the Cafe Caribe. Sometimes, however, the Cafe Caribe was closed, so we (and many others) would have to use the aft elevator lobby to go to the other side of the ship. Why? Because only one side of the Horizon Court would be open at a time. The Cafe Caribe buffet was another study in strangeness. You would enter, and there would be the bread. Fine. Then a choice of two salads, already plated. One was always a Caesar, already dressed, and the other was a very ordinary mixed green, with a limited choice of dressings in bottles. Next you'd get to the pastas (always two kinds), and then the potatoes. This emphasis on starch again makes me suspect budget-concerns. Next you would get to the meats and fish, with still no sign of a vegetable. If you kept going, which many didn't because by that time their plates were full, you'd eventually find soups and a vegetable dish or two. Desserts were varied, and always good. The meats were always well prepared, as were the pastas. The vegetables were scanty and pretty hit-and-miss. Compared to the well oiled machine that was last year's buffet on the Sea Princess, however, this one has a long way to go. We never once went to our dining room. However, we did eat at Sabatini's. The service was excellent, but we did not particularly like their approach of serving every single menu item until you get to the main course. By the time the main courses arrived, we were pretty full, even though we had skipped the soup. And my main course, stuffed chicken, was simply not very good. Our Sabatini's experience actually caused us to cancel our planned dinner in the Crown Grill. One aspect of the Sabatini's evening did prepare us for the Cafe Florian in Venice (renowned for its expense) - our one bottle of mineral water, a regular coffee, and a double espresso cost about $35 (including tip) in addition to the $40 cover commanded by Sabatini's. The International Cafe was a nice place for a snack, and my wife and I both purchased Coffee Cards so we could get some real coffee or espresso. This was necessary, as the coffee served in the buffets is made up of some kind of coffee syrup mixed with hot water. Its caffeine content seems to be negligible, so we wound up drinking tea instead in the buffet. My only previous experience with ships aside from Sea Princess has been on honest-to-God ocean liners (United States, France, Lurline, QE2, QM2) with lots of deck space open directly to the elements. I found Ruby Princess to have almost no such deck space. There was plenty of outdoor space on various upper decks, but it was almost all behind glass. Deck space aft is very limited, and open deck space forward is almost non-existent. There is an observation area on Lido Deck above the bridge, but it was blocked off with obviously bogus "wet paint" signs for the first eleven days of the cruise. The Promenade Deck is not only very narrow compared to every other ship I've been on, its surface is some kind of synthetic with a wood pattern painted on it. Very slippery when wet. One very nice feature is that the Promenade Deck does extend all the way to the bow of the ship, although the most forward area was blocked off frequently due to wind and always after dark. There was always music playing in the various public spaces, and the most enjoyable for me was a pickup band of orchestra guys who like to play jazz. They were terrific. We frequently used the laundromats on board. Aside from the fact that the change machines in almost all of them ran out and were allowed to remain empty for days, they were fine. However, the ship was at bottom a port-of-call delivery vehicle. As mentioned earlier, the itinerary was of great interest to us. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2009
We are a family of four. I am 46, and DH is 54. Our children are 14 and 12.  Although I had been to Europe several times in my younger years, my husband had not.  Note: VERY different returning to Europe middle-aged and with kids than ... Read More
We are a family of four. I am 46, and DH is 54. Our children are 14 and 12.  Although I had been to Europe several times in my younger years, my husband had not.  Note: VERY different returning to Europe middle-aged and with kids than carefree and in college..ha! We had both a mini-suite and an interior room. We had originally booked a PH on Riviera but after reading reviews here,  decided to save the $5,000 or so and "downgrade" to a mini-suite.  We were very happy we did as our mini-suite on Dolphin was VERY comfortable with more than enough room. We started our "dream vacation" with 4 nights in Rome. There, we hired private guides for the Vatican and St. Peter's as well as the Forum, Palantine Hill and Coloseum. The guides are invaluable as there is so much information. Certainly a guide is not necessary but was worthwhile to hold my kids attention if nothing else.From Rome we took day trips to Florence (via train) and Pompeii/Naples. Although we would go to both these ports once on the ship, I did want to be rushed and wanted to see other sites when in those ports. Florence was wonderful as always, and my kids agreed it WAS the best Gelato in all of Italy.  The  "David" was amazing but the kids were a little tired of museums so we skipped the Uffuzi. Pompeii/Naples was incredible.  We hired Fabrizio from all-arounditaly@it.com  and he was a true gem. He picked us up at our hotel and drove us to Pompeii to see the ruins, then to hike Mt. Vesuvius and finally to the Nat. Arch. Museum. It was a long but very enjoyable day and with the four of us, not much more expensive and MUCH easier than the train.EMBARKATION:  We arrived later in the afternoon, so there were very few standing in line. We found the process and staff to be very efficient.  My son had purchased a replica Roman sword which security would not let us carry on board, however, they were very accomodating and after a few conversations Princess agreed to keep for us until we disembarked. CABINS: As mentioned, we loved our mini-suite mid-ship Dolphin. We used the balcony for each sailaway as well as after long exhausting port days and to relax before dinner. It is true that Caribe and Dolphin have no privacy or covering for the balconies, but that did not bother us in the least and we preferred being on the deck closest to the water and not being able to see anything below us except the water. The bed and pillows were exceptionally comfortable and we used the long couch to "kick back" and watch TV (which unfortunately we did a lot with the breaking news of Michael Jackson's death).        SERVICE: Without exception, the service was superb in all areas.  Our room steward, Jamie,  and dining room waiter Christian and his assistant, were especially notable. FOOD: I am not a fan of food served in mass, but the food was decent.  The dining room and Horizon Buffet were certainly adequate and some dishes were very good, but food would never be my reason for taking a cruise. Plus, with all the incredible food in port, it is hard to compete. I will say that the specialty restaurants were very good (especially Crown Grill) and my kids were thrilled they could get all they could east sushi at Vines.SPA/SANCTUARY: I rented a designated lounge chair for the entire cruise in the Sanctuary. It was well worth it. I looked forward to my alone time reading and relaxing after being with everyone in port all day.  My husband and I signed up for the thermal suite which was a waste of money in my opinion. The other spa services (massage and manicure) were good, although pricey.TEEN/KIDS CLUB:  I had one in Remix (teen) and one in Shockwaves (8-12)  My kids absolutely loved getting together at night with their newfound friends. They are both very social and made new friendships and are continuing to keep in touch via Facebook and email.  They liked it so much in fact, that my husband and I ended up having dinner by ourselves more than I anticipated, which was a nice treat. Princess did a nice job with their choice of counselors and planned activities.   PORTS: There are many reviews on ports so I just highlighted a few with possibly noteworthy information. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2009
Our Mediterranean cruise was chosen primarily for its itinerary, and taken by mom & dad (late 40's) and daughter (15) along with another family of similar configuration from the Puget Sound area in Washington, USA; for most all of ... Read More
Our Mediterranean cruise was chosen primarily for its itinerary, and taken by mom & dad (late 40's) and daughter (15) along with another family of similar configuration from the Puget Sound area in Washington, USA; for most all of our extended group, this was our first trip to Europe and was our first cruise with Princess Cruises and our 7th cruise overall.  The cruise was booked through a local travel agent, with our air arrangements booked separately with frequent flier miles (by mom).  It should be noted that a fair amount of planning went into this whole trip (mostly by mom) which should not be under emphasized as important. At the outset, it should be said that the main purpose of the trip was to get a 'taste' of what these great regions of Europe have to offer; it is really tough to more than scratch the surface on a trip of this nature.  Given our limited time, and tastes, we also were not specifically looking to 'dive deep' into the wines, foods and museums of the region and this review probably reflects that. We flew into Rome via London with no major problems (thank you British Air) with enough time to spend a full day and a half in Rome prior to leaving for Civitavecchia to meet the ship.  We had arranged our transfers and touring (through most of the Italian stops) through 'Rome in Limo'  who did a fantastic job of meeting us, getting us to and from sites and to the ship on time (thank you Vincenzo).  We could not recommend them highly enough (www.romeinlimo.com).   In Rome we were able to see the Coliseum, Trevi  Fountain, Forum, the Vatican, Sistine Chapel and St Peters Basilica; we had also arranged a private guide through the Vatican which was well worth the added cost.   I'll leave specific descriptions to others; there is obviously a reason it is called the Eternal City.  There were also a number of other stops which are probably too many to list here; suffice it to say Rome in Limo was able to coordinate just about anything and tell us what could fit into the time we had; they also directed us to some nice quick, affordable and tasty dining establishments; here is where doing your research pays off: know what you want to see and it can be coordinated so there are no disappointments.  We had none. We were dropped off at the ship with plenty of time for embarkation; Civitavecchia appears to be a busy port that seemed somewhat complicated with several cruise ships docked and a number of routes to them; we saw several people rolling their luggage a long way to get to the correct ship.  Embarkation went pretty smoothly other than after you drop you bags off and go into the tent, there isn't really much direction to 'get a number' to proceed in order to the formal registration.  A loudspeaker would have been welcomed. We had done most of the pre-registration before hand and had no problems; and were in our room in about a half hour. The Ruby Princess is a pretty handsome vessel; sometimes cruise ships come off as a cross between a palace and a bordello; this ship was just right in decoration and theme for the Mediterranean as well as being clean and reasonably efficient.  We were in a BE class cabin with an outdoor balcony on the Baja deck, which was of average size for a cruise ship, and efficiently laid out; the closet configuration made it seem a little bigger than cabins on past cruises.  Our travelling companions had an adjoining cabin and we were able to have the balcony divider opened which made everything seem bigger.  Our cabin steward was probably the best that we have had on any cruise (thank you Piotr); and made our stay most comfortable and entertaining. Most of the facts about the ship concerning accommodations, amenities, size and capacity can be gathered better elsewhere; let's just go forward with the following observations:  For carrying about 3000 people, it never really seemed crowded, even on sea days.  While there were lounge hogs, it still seemed possible to find a place.  For all this space, it seemed like the arrangement of things didn't flow as well as other ships; it isn't really symmetrical and there seemed to be a number of dead ends that we found ourselves in. It was very clean and the staff/crew were very hospitable. Other negatives (to us): The large movie screen at the main pool; for the most part we thought it was really annoying at sea and hear some movie with loud car crashes (why are we going to sea again?).  There also seemed to be a lack of shade on public deck areas.  The one place they had it was in an area called "The Sanctuary"; this appeared to be a nice quiet comfortable area, though it cost about $ 10-$ 20 per day to use it.  Excuse me Princess but haven't we paid enough for this already?  I'm sure Princess has done their demographics on these items but they missed the boat as far as we were concerned. The entertainment was not a real big deal to us.  I don't think I could remember more than a few messages from the cruise director (which is a good thing to us); no constant annoying contests and announcements.  They had a reasonable deck band during the days and some at the clubs at night that we didn't really check out too much.  The ship shows in the evenings were poor; really, really poor; though after seeing one or two we did not go back. The food and drink aboard was fairly good by our standards, considering the number of people served.  We did not try any of the specialty restaurants and ate mostly in the dining room for dinner and lido deck cafe's for breakfast and lunch.  Due to a miscommunication with our travel agent, we were stuck with Anytime Dinning which stunk for us; the last thing I want to be doing at 6:00AM in the morning before a shore excursion is coordinating dinner reservations for 6 people.  We finally got that changed on the second day and had a consistent time being served by Luisto and Bruce who were excellent for the whole trip (Thank You). Dinners were OK from a variety standpoint with the best foods, to us, being sea food (salmon, crab legs, lobster) and pasta; steaks were OK though they looked like they came from cows about the size of a big Labrador Retriever.   Breakfasts and lunches were commercial though they did seem to have a variety that might appeal to travelers with a more adventuresome palate than ours; unfortunately, when something new and good appeared it only seemed to last a day in the cafe.   The drinks aboard were typical by cruise standards (to us); fairly expensive.  Beers about $ 6.00 including tip; didn't try mixed drinks as they never seem to get it right to me.  There didn't seem to be a lot of 'hustling ' to buy the drink of the day on this cruise.  We had soda cards (about $ 51.00 each for the cruise) which were worth it to us.  Getting juices, lemonade or tea seemed tougher to come by as it seemed the wait staff handled that as opposed to a self serve dispenser. Our first stop was Monte Carlo; we had not arranged any formal tour but decided to go out on foot by ourselves.  This was a tender port and we got ashore mid morning and decided to walk up to the palace area.  If you stay to the left going up, around the tunnel, you can catch escalators that make the trip easier by foot; going around towards the city and up is a much more difficult walk.  At the top there is a palace guard, beautiful views on both sides and a small shopping restaurant area that you can find any number of souvenirs and food/beverage.  Towards the sea, on this plateau, are a beautiful church and the oceanographic institute.  Our next port was Livorno; we had arranged a private tour through Rome in Limo which was fantastic (thank you John).  We started out early and headed to Pisa with the Leaning Tower being the main 'attraction'; while this is interesting and shouldn't be missed it was just as interesting to see the whole area around it; the former walls of the city in their various layers, the architecture of the compound and the view from atop the tower is one not to be forgotten; we also learned that the leaning tower of Pisa is not the only leaning tower in Pisa!  From Pisa, we went to Florence, taking a route through Tuscany which was much more interesting than a typical highway drive, arriving at a great vantage point to see an overview of the city including the Ponte Vecchio bridge over the Arno river, and remnants of the old city walls against the background of Florence.  We also took in seeing il Duomo, the Baptistry, as well as Michelangelo's David;  Rome in Limo had arranged admission so the wait to get in was minimal, which should not be missed.  There was even some time for shopping before the trip back to the ship. John also found us some great gelato. The next stop was Naples; again a private tour arranged through Rome in Limo which was great (thank you Raphaelo).  This tour included a trip down the Amalfi Coast with a stop in Positano and Sorrento; the road along the coast that we took was one of the most picturesque that you could imagine; we were able to stop several times for pictures of this beautiful Mediterranean coast line.  In Positano we had time to wander some of the narrow streets for shopping as well as in Sorrento on the way back.  Raphaelo found us a restaurant for lunch, Antico Frantio, which had fantastic, fresh local food in a setting overlooking Sorrento and the Gulf of Naples, that was 'priceless'. On the way back to the ship we stopped for a tour of Pompeii; surprisingly this is just about 5 minutes off the freeway, just next to a commercial district.  We had arranged (through Rome in Limo) for a private guide who was fantastic; Alphonso (Thank You) guided us through an informative/entertaining two hour walk through some of the ruins, giving us probably more information than we could have gathered in a whole day or two on our own; again, these guides are well worth the cost when they are as knowledgeable and passionate about their subject as Alphonso was.  Following this trip, we were driven back to the ship to a chorus of 'That's Amore' led by Raphaelo; a great way to end the day. The next stop was in Santorini Greece.  Our tour here was arranged through Princess; which while not necessarily the best value, was very well organized (Princess seems to do this well), especially  for departure.  Our tour started with a tender ride to busses that took us to a winery (at 8:30 AM); a little early for a trip to the 'magic kingdom'.   The tour then went to the village of Oia, which has nice shopping and some of the most beautiful views and buildings that you could imagine.  After that, we were taken on a short trip of the island and taken to Fira for shopping and snacks; from here you could catch the tender back to the ship.  Fira had some great  view restaurants; it is worth taking the time to stop and have bite and a beverage overlooking the sea.  Be sure to allow enough time to catch the tram down to the tender area; this can be a long wait in hot sun. Next in line is Kusadasi, Turkey where the main attraction for us was Ephesus.  Arranged through Princess, this bus tour took us from the ship for a 40 minute drive to Ephesus; throughout this drive the tour guide gave an informative and interesting history of the region from both an archeological and geological point of view; the Ephesus site was a real surprise (positive) as we had not heard much about it but it was well worth the trip; we also saw the ruins of St John's Basilica and the house of the Virgin Mary.  The final stop was at a rug/carpet store which was pretty useless unless you were in the market for such, which we were not.  A final note, the shopping areas around the ship are much like the streets of Tijuana; a lot of hard sell and negotiating.  This area of Turkey is far more beautiful than we thought, when we think of Asia minor. Mykonos was the next port; here we had scheduled a beach day, through Princess Cruises. This was swimming at Platis Yialos.  This trip was a disappointment as we didn't get much history of the area on the bus ride, were sort of 'dumped off' and left to figure out where to go.  This wasn't too difficult, though.  The water was a little dirty (seaweed) at one end; go to the far end of the beach where it seemed cleaner and a nicer beach though the lounge/umbrella rental was slightly more expensive; the water there was divine. Athens was the next stop and probably the most anticipated for our group.  We had tagged on to a tour arranged by someone we met on the Cruise Critic roll call for this cruise (Thank you, Luvz2run2000).  This tour included a first stop at the Acropolis to see the Parthenon and other sites; for this part of the excursion, we had a private guide who, while probably very knowledgeable, did not have a real good command of English; as such, it was tough to get as much out of this tour as we would have liked.  I suspect there is not much point in describing this site too much other than to say, it looks as much like a modern construction site as it does an archeological ruin; also, try to get there early in the morning (heat and crowds). Also on our Athens tour we were able to see the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown, do a little shopping at the Placa, and take a leisurely drive to Sounion to see the Temple of Poseidon ruins.  We had not thought too much about this before our trip but found this to be very enjoyable; the ruins are  in pretty good shape (for ruins, that is), not near as many crowds and there is a nice restaurant for a drink and a rest in the open and shaded air. Katakolon, Greece was the next stop, where our primary destination was to see Olympia; this tour was arranged through Princess and was very good.  It was about a 40 minute bus ride from the ship to Olympia on which our guide gave a great description of the area and history surrounding Olympia.  The site itself, while in more of a state of ruin that some others, was more than worth seeing given the history surrounding it; again a good tour guide made this better than we could have hoped.  Near the ship in Katakolon, there is also a main street within walking distance for typical shopping opportunities. Corfu, Greece was our penultimate stop, here we did a morning beach excursion to a local beach/hotel which was nice but all too short (this was arranged through Princess).  In the afternoon we walked along the waterfront on our own, past the fort to a shopping/restaurant areas and spent some time there; a very relaxing day all things considered. The final stop of our cruise was Venice.  The ship itinerary puts the arrival time at 10:00PM; we were able to get in earlier and sailed in about 7:00PM in time to see the city as sunset neared.  With the music of Andrei Bocelli playing it was a dramatic entrance that should not be missed; make sure you get to starboard early enough to get a spot on the rail to take in the view and great pictures.  Princess had arranged for transportation via vaporetto ($ 15.00 per person)that evening so we went in and looked around a little during the evening.  The next day, after disembarkation, we had arranged for pick-up and bag storage for the day and transportation to the airport at the end of the day, which worked well. Disembarkation went pretty well; probably better than any other cruise we have been on.  Generally, they give you a time to get off rather than call your area; make sure if you have a connection to meet that you see the pursers desk to change your time if you need to; this was handled for us very easily. We spent the day in Venice travelling around mostly by vaporetto which is basically a water bus but works pretty efficiently (16 euros per person for a day pass).  Most of our time was spent taking in the area around the Piazza San Marco; fantastic sights (with the exception of the bridge of sighs being mostly covered for restoration with shrouding that basically looked like a commercial).  We also did the typical gondola ride (100 euros for all six of us lasting 40 minutes) and had a leisurely snack and drink at a cafe right on the Piazza; you could also go for some American food at the Hard Rock cafe which isn't too far away. The transfer to the airport was not too eventful; the airport itself is rather unremarkable until you get through security and it looks very upscale and remodeled; if you can't check in early you sit and wait in an area more akin to a bus station than and airport.  After leaving Venice, we spent two days in London which is another subject but, well worth the visit there.In summation, this was a great trip; you could call it a trip of a lifetime, though we all hope to return again someday.  While we chose this cruise mostly for the itinerary, Princess was a pleasant surprise.  We would definitely use them again though probably not this same cruise (we just did it, of course!)   the weather we had was great; we only had a couple instances of rain (Rome) that didn't last too long.  Being from the Pacific Northwest, we couldn't imagine doing this trip in the dead of summer; it was pretty hot and humid as it was in late June (Keep Hydrated!!).   The only other thing to re-emphasize is planning; mom did a fantastic job on this and used a number of resources including the CC roll call for this trip; while we didn't meet many from the roll call, the duscussions were of much value (Thank you Mr Shy, though we never got to meet).  The sights were largely unforgettable and coming from an area where a 100 year old building is a rarity; seeing a 100 year old building that is, by relative standards, a new building is eye opening.  Read Less
Sail Date: June 2009
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
Ruby Princess Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 0.0
Dining 4.0 0.0
Entertainment 4.0 0.0
Public Rooms 4.0 0.0
Fitness Recreation 3.0 0.0
Family 4.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 5.0 0.0
Enrichment 4.0 0.0
Service 4.0 0.0
Value For Money 4.0 0.0
Rates 4.0 0.0

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