35 Princess Star Princess Europe - Eastern Mediterranean Cruise Reviews

My husband and I booked a mediterrenean cruise on Star Princess (Venice to Rome) for our one year anniversary. I was not sure what to expect as I've always been a laid-back traveller....certainly not used to travelling in luxury. We ... Read More
My husband and I booked a mediterrenean cruise on Star Princess (Venice to Rome) for our one year anniversary. I was not sure what to expect as I've always been a laid-back traveller....certainly not used to travelling in luxury. We honestly booked the cruise more for the ports than anything, however, the cruise itself was just as fantastic as the ports. Everyday we kept saying to each other...could this literally get any better! Our embarkation at Venice was super easy..maybe 20 mins max, and our room while small was cute and most importantly clean. We were exhausted from the long flight from Toronto, but we spent the evening exploring the ship...it was beautiful. Our luggage didn't arrive with us, but Princess gave us little bags of tolietries and even provided outfits for the first formal night, although out baggage arrived beforehand. Overall, we absolutely loved the ports...it was incredible waking up to such gorgeous places everyday. We did a few excursions...The Parthenon in Athens as it is such a big city, Ephesus in Kusadasi and Vesuvious and Pompeii in Naples. The rest of the time there was no need to book an excursion and we just had a lot of fun exploring the various little port towns. Evenings were really fun because the food was always so good. I don't think I can recall a bad meal. It was delicious and varied. The buffet was also good, but we prefered meeting the other passengers and dressing up a bit in the proper dining rooms. We had an anniversary meal in the italian restaurant on Star Princess....$20 extra and worth every penny. The food was to die for! Some nights we played bingo...a good laugh or went to shows or events on board...it was all good. Our fave thing though were the movies under the stars...we went often and it was so much fun. We are big movie buffs so it was the perfect way to end the day. I used the gym most mornings and it got busy quickly but it was also really nice to have use of those facilities. I also got a massage in the spa and it was fantastic...well worth the splurge! I can think of a few things that could be better, but they are so many minor it didn't change our feelings about the cruise at all. The biggest thing was I felt there was quite a bit of sales going on...trying to get people to buy stuff...the worst were the photos..that was pretty annoying, but whatever...not a huge deal. I didn't like the way some people put towels on chairs and never seemed to come back all day...I wish people were monitoring it more, but again, not a biggie. The positives of this cruise far outweighed the negatives. We met some interesting people, and found a few of the old fogies to be complaining about little things but seriously...they had nothing to whine about. I liked that there didn't seem to be kids running all over the place...I assume they were all in the kids programs during the day...fine by me. Overall, I cannot think of a better value for money than this cruise. If you drink like a fish I'm sure it would get expensive, but we don't so who cares. We had a truly amazing time and would be doing it again this summer if I weren't pregnant! I have convinced my husband and parents to go on an alaskan cruise next summer and I am literally itching to go!!! If you went on the same cruise as us and didn't like it, I don't even know what to say. Your expectations are unreasonably high and god knows what would make you happy! Trust us...it was out of this world! Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
Let me start by saying this. If you are thinking of cruising with Princess Cruises, DO NOT! Save yourself the time and money, they ship was terrible. Princess Star was a joke, the food was terrible, and I mean terrible. The buffet was a ... Read More
Let me start by saying this. If you are thinking of cruising with Princess Cruises, DO NOT! Save yourself the time and money, they ship was terrible. Princess Star was a joke, the food was terrible, and I mean terrible. The buffet was a 1.5 out of 10 (the 1.5 is only because breakfast was decent, but that's pretty hard to mess up). The restaurants where you had to pay for the meal were just as bad as the included meals, there were never more than 8 items on the menu and I had to regularly send the food back to kitchen. Steaks were never cooked correctly even in their steakhouse, they even managed to forget to put the sauce on fettucine alfredo. The staff are friendly enough and our cabin steward was great. The drinks were $11 or above for anything alcoholic, $4 for a pop or $7 for a mocktail. The water that they provided was usually brown in color and a bottle was the same price as a pop. Even the cream for your coffee at breakfast was sour. When you poured the cream in your coffee you could see it curdle at the top. The amenities on board were a joke, the swimming pools are only a couple feet deep and no bigger than most hot tubs. There were never enough lounge chairs for guests and people were always waiting for the moment anyone else stood up so they could take yours. They had movies under the stars at night, however for 2600 people they had less than 100 seats. The casino was good enough, exactly what you would expect on a boat, nothing fancy, but they had a couple tables and some slot machines. As for entertainment, they had a magician and a comedy show. The comedian was soo bad nobody even laughed at one of his jokes (not one person). The magician was even worse (I left, but my sister and brother in law stayed). Every morning at about 5 AM, the boat would be getting close to port and would turn on the thrusters. This meant every wall panel in the room would start vibrating to the point were it was so loud we would have to get up and hold the mirrors against the walls. We were supposed to arrive in Mykanos in the evening, however the boat did not have enough fresh water on board and the captain decided to circle around to collect water for the desalinzers instead of paying for water at port. His announcement to the public was "We will be delayed in arriving to Mykanos as our navigator has decided he wants to right his name in the water with the boat". We were told this only a few hours before we were supposed to arrive in Mykanos. Shore Excursions: Generally not bad, the tour guides were a bit weird though. In Croatia, the tour guide referred to the war as an "aggression" and that there general was a national hero and he shouldn't be tried for crimes against humanity by the Hague. (This is what she spoke about for more than half of our 6 hour tour) In Athens they told us Public transit and taxis would be on strike so if we wanted to leave the terminal we had to book with the cruise line transportation. (they told us this the day before we arrive in Athens, fair enough) However, when we arrived at port in Athens there was a long line of taxis waiting there to take anyone in to the city. Princess charged us 4 times the taxi rate. I mentioned Mykanos earlier so I won't talk about that again. Our other excursion was in turkey, that was good enough, however it was supposed to be their only religious excursion, people got so frustrated that our guide wasn't talking about the religious aspects of the tour they left our tour and joined other tours. Now one of the tours we were looking forward to, Hike a volcano and go swimming in hot springs in Santorini. The Volcano was a nice start, it was more like hiking up a rocky hill and wasnt really what I was expecting (I thought we'd see a huge crater in the center or something, but nothing like that). The Hotsprings were NOT HOT!!!!! Even our tour operator told us they are "warm springs" and only 2-3 degrees warmer than the ocean. He mentioned that he didn't recommend going into them, but if we wanted to it was at our own discretion, We were 2 of the 10 that went. the other 30 people stayed on the boat. The water was not even warm, maybe 15-16 degrees Celsius. Our tour description specifically said swim in the natural Hot Springs of Santorini on the side of a Volcano. This was not the case, and one of the biggest disappointments in my view. Our disembarkment tour of Rome was good, worth it for the transfer alone and not having to wait in line at the Vatican. Although most other people on the excursion were mad because the tour guide was rarely audible even on the radio system they had us wear. All in all, it was a terrible cruise. The only good thing about the cruise was the ports we embarked at. We always wanted to bring food on board from the ports but that was against the cruise ships policy. So for the most part on board we played cards (that we bought for $8/pack on the boat) and watched tv in the state rooms. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
Flew to Rome 2 days before cruise. We stayed at Hotel Artorius near the Coliseum. Great small hotel, walking distance to many sites and good restaurants (2 Columns is recommended). Hired a driver from FCO (40 Euro) and from Rome to ... Read More
Flew to Rome 2 days before cruise. We stayed at Hotel Artorius near the Coliseum. Great small hotel, walking distance to many sites and good restaurants (2 Columns is recommended). Hired a driver from FCO (40 Euro) and from Rome to Civitavecchia (taxiaroma 120 Euro) again highly recommended. Jet lag tip: we landed in Rome from SFO the morning. We toured all day and did not rest until about 8 pm. Did not have much problem with jet lag with this method and were able to get up early the next day for our Vatican tour. Embarkation was smooth and we were on ship around noon. Ship impressions: Star Princess is going into drydock later in November. We thought the ship was adequately clean and laid out. Our cabin was Caribe 315 extended balcony was nice and used often. Plenty of storage but no dresser. Carpet was a bit worn but I am sure that will be changed in drydock. Cabin Steward John was very attentive and friendly. This sailing was not sold out and as a result we did not find too much problem in finding loungers near the pool. Pools were really too cool to swim in. Dining: Luck out with great tablemates and great servers in Yoana and Rhoderick early seating in Capri Dining room. The head waiter was very involved in helping the crew- first time I had seen a head waiter so active. Food was OK, nothing to complain about but nothing to especially cheer. Most evenings meals were relaxed and fun. I do have one complaint about Princess dining: Their morning dining the the MDR is ends at 9 am. On sea days we would like not to rush to breakfast. Not much a fan of buffets, so really did not visit Horizon Court except on disembarkation day. Entertainment: early in cruise we did not do much in the evening, later we enjoyed the comedy shows. The magician was just OK. We enjoyed the Halloween party and dance. We briefly watched a movie outside but start time was not the same as what was listed in Patter so we missed the beginning. Casino was dead for most of the cruise. Activities on Sea Days seem a bit light compared to other cruise lines. I did enjoy the Zumba, Line Dancing and Ballroom classes. Ports: Frankly a great itinerary- only disappointment was Khios was cancelled due to rough seas (our only tendered port). The weather gods were with us. No rain, a little cool and cloudy but great for touring. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
We are seasoned cruisers, mostly with P&O but chose this one for the itinerary because it included Istanbul and Pompeii. We flew from Manchester to Rome. Oh dear, our experiences at Rome both arriving and departing from put this ... Read More
We are seasoned cruisers, mostly with P&O but chose this one for the itinerary because it included Istanbul and Pompeii. We flew from Manchester to Rome. Oh dear, our experiences at Rome both arriving and departing from put this airport at second worst one on our list. Never mind, check in at the port to board ship was very efficient and we discovered we had an upgrade to a balcony cabin. Things were improving. Star Princess is a lovely ship, a bit worn in parts but we understand it is going for a refit after the next cruise. The staff were very friendly and helpful. In particular, Johanna and Roderick who looked after our table of 8 in Amalfi dining room 2nd sitting with great enthusiasm and professionalism. We had a pre-dinner drink each evening in Wheelhouse Bar and were entertained by Noelia and Ash with their bar tricks and puzzles. I emphasize ONE drink. The drinks were so expensive that we refused to be ripped off by drinking more. (16 dollars for a small can of beer and a small glass of wine)We did complain about the prices, as did many other passengers. I guess the powers that be realised that the bars were empty and 4 days into the cruise a specials price list appeared. Apart from that, the food was lovely and we were impressed with the choice at breakfast and lunch. Evening meal was mostly ok 4 days into the cruise we also got upgraded to a mini-suite after a problem with the shower plumbing. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
BACKGROUND INFO: I am 45 years old and this was my 21st cruise. Princess is my favorite, but I've also cruised on all the typical lines (Celebrity, RCCL, Norwegian, Carnival, Holland America). I traveled with my mom, brother and a ... Read More
BACKGROUND INFO: I am 45 years old and this was my 21st cruise. Princess is my favorite, but I've also cruised on all the typical lines (Celebrity, RCCL, Norwegian, Carnival, Holland America). I traveled with my mom, brother and a friend on this cruise and chose it because of the fantastic itinerary. We like Princess because of the wide variety of entertainment and the anytime dining. ITINERARY: Venice, Venice, Dubrovnik, Corfu, Katakalon, Athens, Mykonos, Kusadasi, Rhodes, Santorini, Sea Day, Naples, Rome (We were unable to stop in Naples due to rough seas -â€" this was a tender port and we were unable to accomplish the tender process due to weather and extreme safety concerns) WEATHER: The weather was superb for the majority of the cruise. Venice through Mykonos was crisp, sunny and in the upper 60's to mid 70's. Kusadasi was overcast but mild. It rained during the morning in Rhodes, but then was simply overcast with temps in the upper 60's. Santorini was partly cloudy and in the upper 60's. Our first sea day was sunny and in the upper 60's, but the day around Naples was overcast in the 60's. TRAVEL TO PORT OF EMBARKATION (VENICE): I love sailing out of Venice because it's an easy airport to get to, relatively small and easy to navigate, and fairly close to the ship. We arrived in Venice at noon and immediately boarded the bus to the ship. It was full, as many passengers arrived at the same time. On our last Med cruise, we arrived in Venice at 4:45pm and the cruiseline transportation was not available so we took a private car at about 50 euros - just found the service online and it was extremely convenient. The ride is about a half hour or less to the ship. HOTEL: We did not arrive early in Venice, but instead just took advantage of the fact that you get 2 half days and a night on the ship before sailing away from Venice. We were on the ship by 3pm and so were able to spend the afternoon/evening in Venice and then the next morning we went back into Venice until about 11:30. Princess charged each passenger a flat fee of $15 (refundable if you don't use it) for a water taxi service from the ship to St Mark's Square, regardless of how many back and forth trips you make. You simply walk off the ship a few hundred feet to the water taxi (running continuously) and take the enjoyable ride for about 15-20 minutes. We went into Venice about 4pm Sunday (day before departure) and then back in the following morning. The last ferry left St. Mark's at 11:30 to get passengers back on the ship by noon. The safety drill was at 12:15 and then we sailed away at 12:30. Tip: If you have a balcony, try to get it on the port side (left side as you are facing forward), as this is the side you will see Venice from as you sail away. This is a beautiful sailaway! STATEROOM: We had a balcony room on the port side, on the Caribe Deck. In researching balconies, we realized that the size of the balconies on the Caribe deck were 1.5 times deeper than all other balconies and also half covered and half open. If you want a balcony, be sure to research the sizes and coverage, as they do vary. We absolutely loved our Caribe balcony. Our neighbor smoked quite a bit, but beginning in 2012, that will end as no smoking will be allowed on balconies. SHIP INFO: My three traveling companions (ages 73, 54 and 42) had never been on a Princess ship and they all three loved it! They easily figured out how to navigate it and thought it was set up really well. We counted over 15 entertainment locations and loved the Piazza area on deck 5 for a regular meeting place. We walked around the outside of the ship on deck 7 regularly to walk off our meals and also loved the gym. My brother commented that although the ship was full (2600 passengers), he never really felt lines or crowds because there were so many venues around the ship. DINING: We chose Anytime Dining because we did not want to commit to 12 days of regularly scheduled dining. We ended up going to the Capri dining room all but 3 nights, and tended to go earlier (between 6-6:30) because then we could get a table for 4 people without waiting. The larger the table, the longer it takes to make it through the meal, and we didn't want to eat for 2 hours. I thought the food on this cruise was the best I'd ever had on a Princess cruise. From the main dining rooms to the Horizon Court buffet, even to the pizza and burgers on deck 14. We loved getting a couple of cookies from the International Cafe on deck 5 in the Piazza! ACTIVITIES: This cruise itinerary left little time on the ship during the day, so we really only participated in the evening activities. We always found something we wanted to do and our favorites were the piano player (Paul Burton) in the Promenade Bar, Accent (the live Caribbean band) in the Explorer's Lounge, various movies shown in either the Vista Lounge or at the Movies under the Stars on deck 14, Shawn Alexander (the Magician), and some of the other shows in the Princess Theater. There was one planned sea day on the second to last day and the crew did a good job of planning various activities -â€" enough for everyone. Our last port (Naples) was cancelled because the seas were too rough to tender in. The crew did a great job of creating a last minute list of activities for an unplanned sea day and the Captain did a superb job of quickly developing an itinerary that had us slowly sailing closely past Capri and the Amalfi coast while commentating on all of the sights were were seeing from the sea. CHILDREN'S CLUBS: We did not use this and didn't see too many children on the ship at all -â€" but in general, I can see that Princess has a great area for kids with really good facilities. SERVICE: I thought the service on this ship was superb and very attentive. The crew in general seemed very happy. I had been on this exact ship in March, 2011 and had the opposite experience. The crew then was lazy and rarely smiled. Clearly, there is different leadership on this ship today and it was very obvious in the crew. ENTERTAINMENT: This ship had plenty of night time entertainment and varied enough that we always had a few options that interested us. I will say that over my 21 cruises, most piano players had one foot in the grave and were boring beyond belief. The piano player/entertainer on this ship was so fantastic that we went to see him every night and there was always a standing room only crowd. His name is Paul Burton and if you ever see his name, make sure you get there early. I loved the live Caribbean band -â€" Accent. Very good. They played good movies each day. There were the typical Caribbean type events (50's night, Country night, Deck party night), but those didn't seem to fit in the Mediterranean. I would have liked to have seen some entertainment specific to the Mediterranean. Maybe showing some movies like Shirley Valentine or Zorba that showcased the region, or even having some Greek music and dancers a few times. It wasn't really very creative entertainment, but it was good. PORT AND SHORE EXCURSIONS: We did not book any excursions through the ship, but I felt they had a good selection at reasonable prices. We chose to explore on our own and I'll talk about what we did in the port reviews. Because the Port Review section only allows 8 ports, I will not cover Venice, Rome or Naples (since this port was cancelled). DISEMBARKATION: We had a 10:20am flight out of Rome, so booked the ship's transportation to the airport and were the second group to leave the ship at 6:05am. Everything on the ship was very organized and getting off and to the bus was very quick and efficient. The ride to the airport took only about 45 minutes, but the Rome airport check-in process is an absolute nightmare, so make sure you get there very early and have lots of patience. SUMMARY: This was an AWESOME itinerary and the reason we chose this cruise. Since I had just been on the Star Princess in March and didn't have such a good experience, I warned my traveling companions to expect the worst but hope for the best. But by the end of day 2, all three were absolutely pleased with the ship, the crew and the experience. My brother even booked his next cruise while on this ship. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
We flew into Venice the day we were to board the ship. We'd had an overnight flight from the US. That evening we went down to St Mark's Square and strolled around to see the sights. The ship had arranged a ferry ride from the ... Read More
We flew into Venice the day we were to board the ship. We'd had an overnight flight from the US. That evening we went down to St Mark's Square and strolled around to see the sights. The ship had arranged a ferry ride from the ship to the square and back for a small amount (I forget) and it was very convenient and a good start to the trip. We had an inside cabin and it was fine for sleeping, We normally get a balcony cabin on a cruise, but decided that we'd be so busy on this cruise that we would not pay for the upgrade. This was our second princess cruise. They remembered my husband had traveled with them before, but not me, which is interesting because I do all paperwork for the family. The next morning we left the port an traveling down the canals, breathtaking view, headed out to see. Next day was at sea, then Athens. Our shore excursions were arranged half through the ship, half though private tours. The private tour we signed up for were through Cruise Critics Roll Call site. Met some great people this way and had much more individual experience. I would recommend this approach. You pay at the end of the tour in cash, generally Euros. And don't forget to tip. Tipping in Europe is generally not as high as the US. Athens was a private tour and we were very busy. You should train for this trip. There were a lot of stairs, marble stairs, and crowds everywhere because you bring your own crowd when the ship arrives. Our small group was 10 people and a minibus that could go places the bigger buses couldn't. We had a very busy and great day, also it was hot, but better than summertime. He also got us back to the boat with time to spare and was very knowledgeable. My husband picked up a bad cold on the flight over so we missed the next stop. That day was when we missed not being in a balcony cabin since he basically slept most of the day, then was OK. Next stop was Istanbul. The water shuttle from the ship was not owned by Princess and we were told this. However I think some people were still surprised that they had to pay for the refreshments they were serving and my husband got incorrect change in the Turkish currency that looked very much like the correct Euro currency would have. Be careful. We were warned at every port to watch for pick pockets. We used a ships tour for this port and they did a great job. The ships tours were the only tours that had access to Topkapi castle and we wanted to see it and its harem. Again there was a lot of walking over stones and a warm day, but beautiful sun. We were back to the water shuttle for the last ride. Should have been 20 min. It took close to 2 hours with the ship not wanting to make a decision to leave people, then making the decision, then when we were approaching the ship reversing the decision and sending us back to get the late people. All well we were trapped on this shuttle with heavy gas fumes and no rest rooms (my husband finally located one-they weren't marked). This left a bad taste on the day and no apology was given for the mess. When we complained about this we were told they didn't own the shuttle; however they did hire them for this service so I believe they are responsible for managing this service. Next day was at sea, then on to Rome and Florence and Naples, etc. We enjoyed this cruise based on the itinerary but the ship board activities were so,so. The food was just OK. We had opted for the Late dining option and food was frequently lukewarm when served. Selections were not particularly interesting. We tried the grille restaurant and the steaks were good, but the fish tasted reheated. This was a full ship. In fact friends of ours tried to sign on late and were told there was a waiting list. Finally we enjoyed the cruise and saw a lot, but left as not fans of Princess. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
STAR PRINCESS REVIEW  MED & GREEK ISLES CRUISE  SEPTEMBER 3-15, 2011  PRE-CRUISE STAY IN ROME After a great business class flight on US Air from PHL, we arrived in Rome 3 days prior to the cruise. We reserved a Rome In Limo ... Read More
STAR PRINCESS REVIEW  MED & GREEK ISLES CRUISE  SEPTEMBER 3-15, 2011  PRE-CRUISE STAY IN ROME After a great business class flight on US Air from PHL, we arrived in Rome 3 days prior to the cruise. We reserved a Rome In Limo transfer from the airport to our hotel, The Albergo Del Senato. We reserved other tours with Rome In Limo, so we decided to also use them for our transfer to the hotel in Rome & our transfer to the pier on 9/3/11. We picked up our luggage and left the baggage area to look for our driver with a sign with our name on it. We were happy to see him and he quickly took our luggage and off we went to our hotel. We arrived at the Albergo Del Senato in the morning and we were able to check in quickly. We didn't plan much for this day because we thought we would be so tired from the long flight. Our hotel was right next to the Pantheon and within walking distance to many of the sights. Our room was quiet even though it faced the Piazza area. Unfortunately, the air conditioning was not as cool as we would have liked it to be. We called the desk each day to have the temperature lowered, but it never got cool enough for us. Our room was on the second floor with a view of the Pantheon and we walked up the stairs many times rather than waiting for the elevator. We were surprised that the carpeting on the stairs looked like it hadn't been cleaned in quite some time. The service was excellent at this hotel and they made excellent recommendations & reservations for dinner during our stay. We also enjoyed the rooftop bar and our chats with Joseph, the bartender there. This bar had magnificent views of the city and was a great place to have a pre &/or post dinner drink. At the Albergo Del Senato, breakfast was included, but we were disappointed in what was offered. We weren't looking for an American breakfast, but we thought that this highly rated and expensive hotel would have offered a small assortment of hot items too. They served pastries, cereal, juice, cold meats/cheese and very watery scrambled eggs that guests were staying away from. Guests had to toast their own bread in the toaster on the buffet table & all items were served buffet style. The next day, we had a full day tour of the highlights of Rome reserved with Rome In Limo. Maurizio, our driver/guide, picked us up at our hotel right on time. We then picked up another CC family at their hotel and off we went on our tour. Maurizio had a great personality and drove us right up to each site. We visited the Coliseum, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, the Forum, the Jewish Ghetto, the Pantheon, etc. We never waited on any lines because our Coliseum tickets were purchased before we left home. Maurizio took us to a wonderful restaurant filled with locals for lunch. After lunch, he took us to his favorite Gelato store. Thanks to Maurizio, it was a terrific day. He shared his knowledge of Rome and we saw many of the sites in a short time. The next day, we reserved a 3 hour Vatican tour with Rome In Limo. Massimo/our private guide, arrived at our hotel along with 2 other CC couples who were sharing the tour. We took 2 taxis (our cost) to the Vatican and we never waited on any lines because our Vatican tickets were purchased on line before we left home. Massimo was an excellent guide and he seemed to know everyone who worked in the Vatican. His knowledge of the Vatican was unbelievable & he used his iPhone to display pictures of the artwork that he was discussing. His tour was very interesting and he too had a terrific personality. We visited the museums, Sistene Chapel, and St. Peters, and never waited on any lines. Massimo was great at weaving his small group of 6 in and out of the larger tour groups. This was a wonderful tour and we were so glad that we reserved our own guide...Massimo was great! DAY #1-ROME The next day, Mauro from Rome In Limo transferred us to the pier. Mauro picked us up at our hotel, took our luggage, and then we picked up another CC couple at their hotel to share the transfer. Everything went as planned and we arrived at the pier at 10:30 AM. The porters took our bags and we went inside to board. We boarded at 11:15 AM and went directly to our cabin to drop off our carry on bags and wine that we purchased in Rome. We like to begin our cruise by eating lunch in the Main Dining Room and we were able to do so. We had a nice relaxing lunch and it set the tone for a great cruise! We booked an Oceanview Guarantee and when we received our cabin assignment we were concerned about the bunk beds in P305 causing an obstruction. This cabin was fine and its location was terrific...we were close to the International Cafe for our morning coffee & the bunk beds never caused any problems. The location of this cabin was also great for this itinerary because we were off the ship 11 out of 12 days. Our Meet & Greet was held in Skywalkers after dinner on the first night and was well attended. We had a large Cruise Critic group who arranged to share private tours together and it gave us the opportunity to put names to faces. Great friendships began at this Meet & Greet. DAY #2-MONTE CARLO, MONACO: We went on a full day tour with Revelation Tours to St. Paul de Vence, Eze, Nice, & Monaco. We shared the tour with 3 other CC couples that we prearranged through our Roll Call. Michel, our driver, was very knowledgeable about the areas we visited and we were glad to be able to see everything in one day. When we arrived in St. Paul de Vence the shops were closed because it was so early, but I was able to purchase 2 paintings before we left. St. Paul de Vence is gorgeous, with winding stone walkways, and little quaint shops selling art and other items. We were able to visit Chagall's grave in the local cemetery. Next, we drove to Eze and we were dropped off near the top of the hill so we didn't have to walk so far. Eze is a beautiful medieval village with winding pathways, shops, and restaurants. We had a lovely lunch there in an outdoor cafe...very scenic! Next, we drove to Nice and stopped at the famous outdoor flower market. Gorgeous flowers, fresh fruits, & vegetables were sold in the market. After that, we went to Monaco, but we decided to go back to the ship because we were exhausted. It was another great day...loved St. Paul de Vence & Eze. DAY #3-FLORENCE/PISA/SAN GIMIGNANO (LIVORNO): Vinny, our driver from Rome In Limo, picked us up in Livorno for our full day tour to Pisa, Florence, San Gimignano, and the Tuscany Region. First, we drove to Pisa in the rain and were able to see the famous leaning tower and take some quick photos. After that, we drove to beautiful Florence. Vinny continued to share his knowledge of the area with us. He stopped at an overlook area of the city of Florence and it was breathtaking. We drove down into the city and he dropped us off and we planned to meet at a specific time. We shopped in the leather shops and walked around this beautiful city. Today was Monday and unfortunately, the museums were closed, but we were able to see the copy of the David statue in the Piazza. Next, we drove to San Gimignano where we had free time to shop and have lunch. Vinny called the restaurant so they would be ready for us when we arrived...another wonderful lunch! I purchased some photographs in San Gimignano of Tuscany by award winning photographer Claudio Calvani...they are beautiful! Vinny also recommended an award winning gelato shop to us. After that, we drove through the Tuscany Region on small two lane roads. The views were unbelievable and Vinny pointed out wineries and shared his knowledge and love of the Tuscany region. This tour was also shared with 3 other CC couples and a great time was had by all. DAY #4-NAPLES: POMPEII, SORRENTO, AND POSITANO Giovanni, our driver from Rome In Limo, picked us up and drove us to Pompeii. We hired a private guide there and our tour lasted 2 hours. Our guide was very interesting and she walked us through Pompeii explaining everything. Our group of 8 (Cruise Critic members), were all glad we hired the guide because she made everything so interesting. After Pompeii, we drove to Sorrento, but we stopped at an overlook above Sorrento on a coastal road. Giovanni had us pose for pictures and he was the cameraman. After pictures, Giovanni told us to stay there and he went to the van and came back with champagne and glasses to celebrate. We all toasted our day! We drove into Sorrento and Giovanni played Italian songs in the van and then he took us to a great restaurant for lunch. After that, we had free time to walk around beautiful Sorrento. Then, we met at a prearranged spot for our drive to Positano on the Amalfi Coast. In Positano, we had time to walk around and shop. At the end of this wonderful day, Giovanni gave us a bottle of Limoncello to share. We all decided to have a Limoncello Party at the pool tomorrow (our 1 and only sea day)! DAY #5-AT SEA Since this itinerary had 11 port days, everyone was happy to have a sea day. We slept late and got some well-needed rest. We went to the hot tub and had a nice relaxing lunch in the Main Dining Room. In the afternoon, I called room service to get 8 Limoncello glasses delivered for our party. Eight "shooter" glasses were promptly delivered to our cabin. We walked to the pool with a tray of glasses and our bottle of Limoncello. Our CC group was there and everyone had a great time. DAY #6-SANTORINI We took a private 5 hour tour with Ocean Wave Tours to see the highlights of Santorini. After 7 of us rode up on the cable car, Dimitrius, our driver/guide was waiting for us. He drove us all around and took us to a waterfront restaurant for lunch. We also had free time to walk around in beautiful Santorini. If we visit there again, we would not take a tour...this is a very walkable port. DAY #7-MYKONOS Mykonos was filled with art galleries and interesting shops...a great place to wander around. We had a Greek lunch in town and walked back to the ship later in the day. DAY #8-ATHENS We booked a full day private tour (with 8 CC members) with Private Greece Tours. Our driver picked us up in a van and we visited all the highlights of Athens. We spent the afternoon at the Plaka and everyone ate lunch there. We enjoyed our time wandering around the Plaka area. DAY #9-OLYMPIA We took a taxi from the pier to the beach...about a 5 minute ride. We arranged for the taxi to pick us up in a few hours and we didn't have to pay until we returned to the ship. We felt sure we would get back on board with no problems. We relaxed on the beach and ate Greek appetizers for lunch at an outdoor cafe overlooking the water. A very relaxing day! DAY #10-CORFU We prearranged and shared a 4 hour taxi tour with another CC couple. The tour was with Corfu Taxi Tours and our driver, Cristos, was there to meet us. He drove us all around Corfu, up in the mountains, with stops for photos. We purchased homemade wine from a local stand and tasted some local foods there. Our driver was excellent...he shared his love of Corfu with us and showed us all the highlights. DAY #11-SPLIT We walked around beautiful Split and spent much time looking at the beautiful artwork in the shops there. The Cruise Critic port guide recommended a restaurant called Sperun. We had a delicious lunch there and a great house wine. Sperun was about a 15 minute walk from the ship. DAY #12-VENICE We planned to meet 4 CC friends to share a gondola ride. We all agreed that the gondolier had to be wearing a striped shirt (with matching hat) and he must agree to sing during our ride. I was bringing wine, another couple was bringing glasses and ice. We all met and went on our search for the "right" gondolier. We found him and corny as it was...we will always have fond memories of that afternoon in our gondola. Venice was magical and getting lost was half the fun. Every street corner you turned the views were more beautiful than the last. We tried our best to get away from the San Marco area because the crowds were unbelievable. We had prepurchased Vaporetto tickets for our stay in Venice & that is how we got around. One day we went to Murano, but we ended up buying a Murano glass vase in Venice because it was cheaper than in Murano. POST CRUISE STAY IN VENICE Princess had a package where passengers could pay $39.00 per person to have their bags shipped to their hotel in Venice. Unfortunately, this was not advertised before the cruise. We wish it had been because it would have made our plans easier. We purchased the luggage package from Princess and sent our large bags ahead to our hotel, the Locanda Orseolo. Getting to the Locanda Orseolo was an adventure in itself. We rolled our carry on bags there using the directions from the hotel. It was a short walk from San Marco and we were glad to be away from the crowds there. When we entered the hotel, Igor greeted us by our first names. The staff came out and introduced themselves and we felt as if we were staying in someone's home. They carried our bags up to our lovely room on the second floor. The room temperature was comfortably cool and we were very happy to be there. Our breakfast was served each morning in the breakfast room overlooking the canal. A buffet table of meats, cheese, pastries, Italian quiches, and juices were set up each morning. In addition to these items, guests special ordered different kinds of crepes and eggs...everything was delicious! The shutters were kept open on the windows and we were serenaded with music and songs every morning from the gondolas passing by. Each day we were given great restaurant recommendations for dinner by one of the staff members. We were continuously told that this was our "home"for the next few days. Staying at the Locanda Orseolo was a wonderful experience and if we ever visit Venice again we hope to stay there again. STAR PRINCESS Since this was such a port intensive cruise, we spent little time on board during the day. The ports were wonderful, but the meals on the Star Princess didn't live up to our 2 previous cruises on this ship. The Portofino Dining Room seemed chaotic and the service was spotty there too. There was a noticeable decline in the quality of the meals served. Since we didn't bring formal wear, we ate at the Crown Grill & Sabatinis on both formal nights. Both of the alternative restaurants were excellent. On the last morning we always look forward to the James Beard French Toast that is served. Our french toast was so cold & hard that it was like a concrete slab. We sent it back and we left the dining room. The headwaiter that greeted guests at the dining room always seemed to be stressed, and many times we felt as if it would be better if we didn't ask for a table. We didn't attend any shows on this cruise, but we did go to the Platinum/Elite Happy Hours in Skywalkers. The waitstaff during these happy hours was terrific...some sang and played music. We had some great evenings there before dinner. Excluding the dining room issues and the decline in the quality of the food, the service on the Star was quite good everywhere else. Unfortunately, our on board dining experience in the Portofino Dining Room wasn't anywhere near what our previous experiences had been. Our room steward was terrific...he kept our room clean and we always had ice and everything else we needed. This cruise was all about visiting some wonderful ports and what we did in those ports was unforgettable. Cruise Critic was a great resource in planning these private tours and the Roll Call was a terrific way to connect with others who wanted to share the tours. Most of the private tours we took were exceptional and the guides made this a trip of a lifetime! Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
Star princess, in,our experience did not compare well with all the other Princess ships we have sailed on. It certainly is not as good as P& O We would not travel on the Star Princess again and doubtful about another Princess ... Read More
Star princess, in,our experience did not compare well with all the other Princess ships we have sailed on. It certainly is not as good as P& O We would not travel on the Star Princess again and doubtful about another Princess Cruise. We are not people prone to complaining but unfortunately our experience in some areas led us to complain Our cabin steward Howard was great and could not have done more for us.Our luggage did not arrive in time for the sailing,( KLM problem) along with 30 other cabins and we did not receive it until 4 days into the cruise. We met with Passengers services management and advised them of our disappointment in their handling of this. Although not the ships fault it became apparent that there appeared to be insufficient resources allocated to dealing with the problem and communications suffered as a result. We had anytime dining and it appeared very disorganised at peak time with queues forming . One night we could not get a table until after 9. This meant we were unable to get to shows. When we did eat the food was superb best on any ship we have been on. Beware to check what the coke offer really entails as if travelling as a couple it only gives 1 person sticker for a coke for themselves !! Staff were inconsistent in their handling/ understanding of this. Our friends cancelled theirs as a result and did not get a warm response from Passenger Servioces for this and as a result an apology was given to them by phone in their cabin. Entertainment was not great. Best show was the best of British. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
This was my ninth cruise, and my Mother's first. Seeing a cruise ship through the eyes of a first time cruiser helped with a few of the disappointments that were based on prior cruising experience, such as long waits for a table for ... Read More
This was my ninth cruise, and my Mother's first. Seeing a cruise ship through the eyes of a first time cruiser helped with a few of the disappointments that were based on prior cruising experience, such as long waits for a table for two in the main dining room, and one very poorly run shore excursion. Overall, the minor inconveniences were just that, minor, and I had a fantastic time. We stayed in Venice for two nights pre-cruise and with a 48 hour Vaporetto pass managed to see quite a bit. The overnight on the ship gave us that third day to finish exploring and even though we didn't depart until 2pm, we opted to not go ashore that last morning and just relax on board. Embarkation was a breeze. We arrived at the port quite early but that allowed us to be in group #5 to board and once they called our number we were on the ship in just a few minutes time. We found our cabin, an AC mini-suite almost at the very back of the ship. Our cabin steward was friendly and helpful and got us egg-crate mattress toppers and robes when requested. The first night on the mattress I though I was sleeping in one of those stone beds in Pompeii, but the mattress topper worked wonders and I slept very well the rest of the cruise. The mini-suite was nice and roomy, and it was a nice change to have a tub size shower instead of those tiny little showers in my usual outside cabin. The food was so-so, but I don't expect gourmet food on a mass-market cruise line with well over 2,000 people to feed at each meal. We never made it to any of the specialty restaurants, although we did go to the afternoon tea (fabulous) and the pub lunch (blah). Service in the dining room was MUCH better when we had a table for two than when we opted to share. We didn't see too many of the shows, but my Mom seemed to enjoy the ship's singers and dancers. The one show we saw that I didn't like at all, my Mom loved - must be a generational thing :) All the ports were absolutely fabulous. We did some on our own (Athens, Rhodes, Dubrovnik) and did ship's tours at the rest. The only "bad" day was in Santorini when we were there with eight other ships. It was awful, in fact this was the only tour ever where I have complained and received a partial refund. Unless you are in Santorini with only one or two other ships, do not get off the ship. The port itself was beautiful, but I have never witnessed crowds like that anywhere before. Passengers services could have been better. We dealt with lukewarm water for almost two days. It took multiple phone calls and visits to passenger services before it got fixed, and even then we endured a maintenance guy in our cabin for several hours changing out the thermostat in the shower. I loved having self-service laundry on board, and our cabin was just steps away from it. Very nice and convenient. Disembarkation in Civitavecchia could not have been easier. We were scheduled to leave the ship (according to our luggage tag color) at 7:45. We could have left earlier, but weren't quite ready. So at 7:45 we left the ship, found our luggage, our driver and were on our way to Rome by about 8:00. We had arranged to share a private cab (Rome Cabs) with two people we met through our CC roll call. It worked perfectly and I highly recommend this option for getting into Rome. We paid 75 Euros per couple (150 total) and got dropped off right at our hotel door. We happened to be staying at one of the Princess hotels but it was pure coincidence. We arrived well before the bus load of Princess post-cruise passengers. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
We are loyal RCL crusiers, before this summer we have complete 7 cruise with RCL. In Europe and Carribean on various ships. Well it was time to try something new. Not really a good idea, you just compare what is in front of you to what ... Read More
We are loyal RCL crusiers, before this summer we have complete 7 cruise with RCL. In Europe and Carribean on various ships. Well it was time to try something new. Not really a good idea, you just compare what is in front of you to what you have had, really not fair to the ship. But it is also good to see what another cruise liner is offering. I would breakdown our cruise into three parts; ship, food&wine, activities/shore start with the good Food excellent, why lots of variety, always available, very good, bad, we had anytime dining which was more like line-up and wait. most nights it was an hour long wait to get seated, whether you had reservation or not...and the Matilde was very very rude. I complained multiple times to just be left standing even longer. If I want a buzzer ed and wait in line, I'd rather go to the cheese cake factory.. Wine, if you like American wine, sure lots of variety, no wine deals like on RCL, only on expensive wines they cant sell...did we drink lots of wine, yes was it good yes but hell to get! Ship, small, tight closterfobic, it felt crowded at the time, our room had double hanging bunks. we were only 2, why. i broke my shoulder, head on them daily, never again. room was also smaller than RCL.getting off the ship was a nightmare, it was the most poorly organized group ever...they just dont gett eh fact that we are on vacation and they should be taking care of us. We may try another Princess cruise, but the Star is not for us.... Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
Our Mediterranean cruise aboard the Star Princess was an amazing experience! We are an active, healthy couple in our early sixties and this trip was our first cruise and visit to Europe. We have waited 40 years to visit Europe, and the ... Read More
Our Mediterranean cruise aboard the Star Princess was an amazing experience! We are an active, healthy couple in our early sixties and this trip was our first cruise and visit to Europe. We have waited 40 years to visit Europe, and the Star Princess cruise and our European adventure were both as great as we hoped! The Star Princess experience was excellent in every respect! The attentiveness and high level of customer exhibited by each crew member was actually astounding to me since customer service is so dismal and decining in the US, at least! Our Steward in balcony stateroom C209 and our Traditional Seating waiter and assistant were the best! Our requests were consistently and quickly granted. For example, ice was in our room every day without a reminder and our room cleaned quickly and promptly. And unfailingly cheerful in the face of a lot of banter from our table of 6. Ignacio always gave us excellent menu tips and recommendations and frequently brought us extra tastes of various menu items, particularly chocolate since we expressed our addiction often! The ship was in excellent condition and the common areas kept sparkling. Although the two main pool areas were usually crowded during the day, I always could find a deck chair facing the sea,, my preference, in the sun or shade. The embarkation, disembarkation and land tour off-loading processes were amazingly easy - very well organized and did not take much time at all, considering the 2600 plus passengers! Since this cruise stopped each morning for the day at a different Med port with popular excursion options, there were hundreds of us taking tours each day. The passenger demographics were probably more in the older age range, but just barely - plenty of families with young children and teen-agers - and plenty for them to do too. More passengers from Great Britain and Canada then US -many from Australia as well -overall a nice mix and it was very easy to find "child-free" locations aboard ship for quiet relaxation. Since we picked a Med cruise to see the historical sites on the Greek Islands and Italy, we took a Princess tour almost every day and each one was excellent - (we walked the wall in Dubrovnik ourselves) The disembarking process were smooth each time with no confusion or long waits. Other US companies could learn how to handle crowds and lines from Princess! Each tour guide was pleasant and extremely knowledgeable - and of course the historical sites - Olympic Stadium, Acropolis, Delos, Pompeii, not to mention all of Venice and Rome are must-see places to visit. Of course everyplace was really crowded since this was July - but the only place that the crowds really got in the way was Santorini - the narrow little streets in Fia were just choked with visitors from several cruise lines. But the Santorini views are not to be missed! Outlined below are some specific comments prompted by my first time cruiser experience and my reading of past Cruise Critic comments. While we each have our own particular likes and dislikes, I'll add my two-cents worth to some of the popular topics discussed on CC. Princess vs private excursions - we went with Princess because as a first timer I felt they would be more reliable and certainly easier to arrange! We were not disappointed - the guides were extremely knowledgeable of the sites and ancient history, the buses were air-conditioned and comfortable, and we arrived back on time for our evening sailing every day! This is not a small detail, since several times the Captain commented as we were leaving port that some passengers were not yet aboard! Since the "Port Review" section does not allow for more then 8 ports I will add here that Santorini and Pompeii are also not to be missed - Pompeii is truly incredible - and the Princess tours are excellent!! As noted elswhere, Santorini was really crowded and the line for the cable car down to the tender was a 40 minute wait so I walked those 700 steps - very hot and crowded with donkeys and their droppings - but beat my companions who waited in line! I would book Princess excursions again - I guess if you are a very experienced traveler private tours or going in on your own might be preferable, however. We did use RomeInLimo for a one day Rome tour, where we stayed for 3 days after the cruise. RIL is an excellent as advertised - our driver Mauro and Vatican guide Aurora were excellent - make sure to book Vatican guide through RIL and purchase your Coliseum and Vatican tickets via internet before you go - you really do avoid the line this way! In Venice we walked around on our own and loved Venice - however I did a walking tour of St. Marks which was great and avoided lines - and we did a gondola tour booked though our hotel which was also great - at first I thought it would be too cheesy - but you get too experience the smaller, back canals and gondolier expertise is amazing! (Hotel Bartolomeo - small, inexpensive, great staff) What to Bring - we each packed one large bag and one carryon - the latter more as a safeguard against lost luggage or delayed bag delivery. The latter did happen because our room was upgraded and changed last minute and I forgot to change the number on the luggage tags provided by Princess. So because we had carryons with a few changes of clothes, including "smart casual" clothes for dinner - we were fine. In general I probably packed about 5 or 6 more outfits then I needed because I didn't wear everything twice- but that's what women do! I thought the 2 formal nights were a great chance to dress up and a couple of cocktail /shoes and coat/slacks and couple of dress shirts do not take up that much room! Since we went off the ship for each of the 10 ports, we needed more "touring" clothes (capris/shorts/tee shirts, etc.) then one would need for a stay on the ship type of cruise. Dining/Food - we chose the early traditional seating in the Capri dining room and it was fine - a little early at 5:30 pm, but not crowded on the other hand, and we were done early enough to catch the 8 pm shows! Plus we had a window table and enjoyed the sail-away each evening! I might try anytime dining next time, but I did notice that after about 6:30 pm there was a wait for a table. The food was consistently above average to excellent and there are so many choices it was easy to find something delicious every night! We tried both Sabatini's and the Crown Grill and they were both worth an extra $20 if you want to spend the $$- personally I liked the Crown Grill better - great steaks! For breakfast we got room service since we left on tours at 7 or 8 am every morning! It was simple (fruit/cereal/pastries) but satisfying and promptly delivered! For lunch if we were on board we went to the Horizon Ct. which was excellent for a buffet - a million choices it seemed - hot and cold. The dreaded "syrup" coffee isn't that bad - but we got the coffee card so we could have brewed at dinner. I was worried about eating too much, of course, and lost 5 lbs before the cruise in preparation! I ate very light at breakfast and lunch (salad bar!) so I could pig out at dinner and at the couple of lunches during tours (great Greek food everywhere!). My scheme worked better then expected - I came back half a pound lighter! Guess all that walking on tours paid off! Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
This was our 11th cruise, but first with Princess. I was fairly excited about trying this new line as I'd read several things which sounded fun. After the cruise I have mixed feelings about the experience and in the end have decided ... Read More
This was our 11th cruise, but first with Princess. I was fairly excited about trying this new line as I'd read several things which sounded fun. After the cruise I have mixed feelings about the experience and in the end have decided not to cruise Princess again. Below is my review to explain. As per Cruise Critic's Guidelines, I will try and structure my review into categories... BACKGROUND INFORMATION As mentioned, I have cruised 11 times. Mostly Royal Caribbean and Carnival with one cruise on Celebrity and now this one on Princess. We are from Calgary Canada and mostly cruise the Caribbean, although we have done one Alaska cruise and 3 cruises in Europe. This cruise started the same day as we debarked a Royal Caribbean cruise so it was easy to compare several things while it was fresh in our minds. TRAVEL TO PORT OF EMBARKATION We took the train from Rome Termini to Civitavecchia. Easy sneezy. HOTEL INFO We stayed at the Buonanotte Garibaldi B&B in the "blue room". Wonderful private terrace, great service. In the heart of the quaint restaurant district. STATEROOM We were in E201, which is a rather unique balcony cabin (there are only 8 like it on the ship) in which the promenade deck actually steps up and in front of the balcony. So while you were on your balcony people would periodically walk by. For privacy they have a tinting film on the glass and at night (if the ship is underway) they shut off the lights to aid in Navigation and thus close that portion of the walkway for safety reasons. The balconies themselves are huge and easily the deepest on the ship and have a table, chairs and loungers. The problem is that the tinting impedes your view when sitting or lounging on the deck. We found the lack of view while lounging so annoying that we would not book this type of cabin again. The other aspects of the cabin which are worth mentioning is the bathroom. The shower did not have a hand wand. I have never experienced this on any other cruise line and it is a real pain. The safe was wonderful with a knob instead of an electric locking mechanism. The cabin layout was quite nice with the wall between the bed and bathroom forming a pseudo walk-in closet. SHIP INFO Having walked onto this ship about 1 hour after disembarking Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas made us notice several things about the ship that seemed better or worse by comparison. First off, the artwork on Star Princess was wonderful by comparison and we felt like we were on a much classier vessel. The layout of the ship however was dreadful. There are no public stairwells at the very front and rear of the ship so you must always walk a bit further than it seems like you should have to. Many public spaces have access only from one side of the ship or the other, so until you have memorized the layout you are constantly turning around and retracing your steps to get where you want. The Sanctuary looked nice, but really wasn't much of an option on an itinerary which with 12 nights had just one sea day. On that sea day it was sold out by 10am. The fitness area was completely inadequate. DINING This more than anything killed the experience for us. While the dining room food and overall experience was fine and comparable to other ships, the other dining options ranged from disappointing to down right unacceptable. The buffet was in a crowded space and was below acceptable in my opinion. Very limited variety and tray after tray were empty. The pizza place had decent pizza but closed very early. One of the things I had looked forward to was room service pizza, but late at night when I would have wanted it, the place was closed. The room service was prompt, but did not accommodate any request which was off menu and occasionally brought dirty dishes. The buffet though is a key part of the cruising experience. It is the most used venue for breakfasts for us and it was just awful. So much so that we have since cancelled another Princess cruise which we had booked. ACTIVITIES We found the activities on board to be adequate and nothing more. For being a supposedly upscale line we anticipated more lecture type activities but there were none. Other activities seemed on par with other lines. SERVICE With the exception of our room steward, service was surprisingly good. I enjoyed the dedicated and staff operated elevators at embarkation, a nice touch. Any interaction I had was for the most part very pleasant. ENTERTAINMENT Typical cruise entertainment but a big focus on movies which we found quite enjoyable especially those late night movies on deck. Their movies under the stars program is top notch. My only complaint is that they should leave the hot tubs open so you can watch the movies from there when it rains. This is the only ship I've ever been on which didn't have pay per view movies or TV based room service ordering capabilities on the stateroom TV. PORT & SHORE EXCURSIONS Something I think Princess does better than any other line is their excursions. The information they make available for excursions is top notch and even when we had an alternate port due to bad weather, the way in which the excursions were re-booked was wonderfully communicated and was seamless. DISEMBARKATION Typical disembarkation. We cruise only with carry on bags so disembarkation from the ship is always a breeze. There were no customs lines at all at the Venice terminal, we just walked out. SUMMARY While Princess had some wonderful aspects to their ship, and good overall service, the casual dining experience was just too shoddy to overlook. Especially when compared to other lines like Royal Caribbean's wonderful Windjammer Buffet. Princess is supposed to be a step up from Carnival, but I found this only seems to apply to the decor and perhaps the afternoon tea service. Everything else seemed like an entry level line on par with Carnival and absolutely no comparison to Royal's "step up" line, Celebrity. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
We are an American couple in our 60s, experienced travelers who have recently discovered cruises. The Star Princess Italy-Greece tour was our fifth cruise overall and our fifth with Princess. Previous cruises were to Alaska, Baltic, Black ... Read More
We are an American couple in our 60s, experienced travelers who have recently discovered cruises. The Star Princess Italy-Greece tour was our fifth cruise overall and our fifth with Princess. Previous cruises were to Alaska, Baltic, Black Sea and Panama Canal. Here are our thoughts about the Italy-Greece cruise. Rome (Civitavecchia) (Embarkation), June 23: We spent three days in Rome before the cruise and took a car service to the port for €150. The alternative would have been the train - cheaper but with baggage-schlepping. The driver, arranged by our hotel, took us directly to the ship, where we embarked almost without stopping. Left our Rome hotel at 11:30 & were onboard and in our cabin by 1:00. Wheeled our own baggage aboard, so there was no waiting for it to be delivered. Unpacked, hung everything up, toured the ship, got lunch in Horizon Court, reported for lifeboat drill at 4:45 and were prepared for sailaway, when the captain announced that a Princess charter plane from Manchester, England, with 186 people, was delayed indefinitely & we wouldn't sail till they were onboard. So we watched Civitavecchia's container cranes from our balcony, had dinner, watched some more from the balcony, cheered the late arrivals around 11:30 PM and set sail round midnight. Monaco, June 24: Because of the sailaway delay we were late getting to Monaco (which we'd visited before). Arrived mid-morning, but couldn't debark immediately, as it is a tender port & we had to await the boats. Princess organized this efficiently. Got ashore about noon, wandered the port, ascended to Old Monaco, had a drink with a hilarious Irish (!) family, walked back down the hill through the gardens to the port & ship. Many who took ship's tours found them shortened by last night's delay, and the palace and cathedral (two of the major attractions) closed for a royal wedding rehearsal. Nothing Princess could do about the delay, but the closings might have been announced in advance, giving people a chance to cancel and get a refund. Livorno (Cinque Terre), June 25: The ship made up all the lost time & we arrived on time at Livorno. Room service breakfast arrived promptly at 6:30AM & was just fine. Having been to Pisa and Florence before, we took the Princess Cinque Terre tour and were delighted. Five little towns within five kilometers on the peninsula between La Spezia and Portofino. Our guide Andreas, from the area, was well-informed and entertaining. The bus let us off at the top of Manarola, whence we walked downhill to the cliffside footpath (about 1 km.) to Riomaggiore, then a boat ride past perched Corniglia to Vernazza, for a noontime refresher, then another boat to the fifth town, Monterosso, where we lunched on pesto and stuffed anchovies at a place Andreas recommended. The group reassembled and walked along the beach, where we saw that Monterosso is the most Riviera-resortish of the five towns. From the far end, all five towns were visible to the south, each on its own peninsula. While we waited for the bus, two members of our group wandered off, never to return. Andreas walked all the way back to town looking for them, made phone calls to restaurants, shops, other tour operators and the police. After we all waited for them for over an hour, Andreas ordered the bus to return to the ship, to all our great delights. The police ultimately tracked the vagrants down in another town, where they blamed Andreas for abandoning them. We on the bus agreed to testify on his behalf should anyone blame him for their truancy. Although we shuddered for our shipmates who took ship's tours to the crowded places of Pisa AND Florence in one day, most of them came back happy. It was Saturday, so, although the towns were thronged as usual, most of the locals were off the streets, which made getting around much easier! Naples (Amalfi Coast), June 26: The ship was slightly late getting into Naples, because of headwinds overnight. Having already visited Sorrento, Capri and Pompeii, we took the Princess excursion to the Amalfi Coast, which we'd looked forward to for years. It was great. Tour guide Sebastiano was superb, but the real star was bus driver Pino, who found detours around Sunday traffic jams and negotiated the thousand hairpins on the Amalfi Coast with aplomb, while the rest of us alternately gasped at the vertiginous view down the cliffs and grasped our neighbors with white knuckles as the bus lurched round yet another curve and plunged into yet another tunnel. We teetered past Positano and Praiano, then fetched up at a cliffside hotel for lunch, which was standard Italian tourist fare, but with a view over the bay that made the food irrelevant. Back on the bus, then to the town of Amalfi, where we had about an hour on our own. Couldn't get lost - the town has a single street. Then back to Naples on the only straight road of the day. Whew! The only thing that made Amalfi slightly anticlimactic was Cinque Terre the day before, which was like a miniature Amalfi Drive, but with a footpath and boat ride thrown in. Ambitious shipmates who took the Capri-Sorrento-Pompeii tour (or any other Capri-plus tour) were disappointed at the short amount of time spent on Capri. An hour there by boat, a half-hour wait for the funicular to Capri town, 45 minutes in town, then another wait for the funicular down, then another boat ride to the mainland. This wasn't really Princess's fault. Anybody trying to hit so many spots in one day could have done the research to see how perfunctory each stop would be (though Princess might have advised that combining Capri with anything else would short-change Capri). For Capri, a Capri-only tour is the best. The Captain, exasperated with late returnees, set sail leaving some behind, to general applause. At Sea, June 27: To nobody's surprise, on this only at-sea day, many staterooms posted signs requesting "Privacy Please" till well after noon. It was formal night, with a Champagne waterfall in the Atrium. Star Princess Atrium is not as big as those on newer Princess ships, so crowd-smarts dictated staying in one place and grabbing Champagne from passing trays. Joe May is the shipboard tour guide. Most of his tour lectures are taped and televised, but today he was able to speak to us live in the Princess Theater. He's much more fun and engaging in person than on TV, where his slow delivery and random pauses are soporific. Unlike most Princess guides, who combine practical advice with a travelogue, Joe spends most of his time telling us how to get from place to place (ship-to-shore-to-town, for instance). For Santorini, his advice boiled down to: "Going ashore in the tenders can be difficult in high seas, so hang on and be careful. Once ashore, you can take the funicular up to town, but each car holds only six passengers, so be prepared for long lines going up and, particularly, going down. There is a road up, which is very steep and you shouldn't really walk up it. You can walk down it, but it can get slippery from all the horse and donkey dung. Oh, yes. You can take a horse or donkey up the road, but the horses are dangerous and several passengers have fallen off and been hospitalized. The donkeys are better, but they go where they want to go, not where you want to go." Santorini, June 28: After Joe May's dispiriting advice, we almost stayed on the ship. Instead, we took the tender ashore, found no line at the funicular, got whisked up to the main town, walked quickly north out of the souvenir and souvlaki area, and soon found ourselves on a sparsely traveled path past whitewashed churches with blue domes and heart-stopping views of the semi-circular harbor (Santorini is a submerged volcano). Watched some birds, watched some people, had early drinks, found a restaurant with a view of all three moored cruise ships, dodged some donkeys meandering through town with children aboard, found a slightly longer line for the down funicular, got on board in plenty of time, watched a brilliant sailaway past neighboring islands (the dawn arrival wasn't too shabby either). Mykonos, June 29: The ship docks an easy walk from town. Mykonos village is at sea level, as opposed to the Santorini towns, which are on the crest. Joe May, at his desk in the Tour Office, sketched out a good walking tour for us, along the beach, then the harbor, then a coastal walk to Little Venice and the famous windmills. Walked back through the maze of streets to a beach taverna, where we had earlier seen octopus drying in the sun. Ordered some. Ate it, joined by some shipmates. Ordered more. Drank ouzo. Delicious. Athens, June 30: The most exciting stop, for many reasons. We arrived the day after a 48-hour strike halted all municipal services, and the morning after police and demonstrators clashed in Syntagma Square, breaking shop windows and firing tear gas. (This was part of a month-long peaceful demonstration against the government's austerity budget.) We took Joe May's advice and avoided the train from Piraeus harbor to town, opting instead for the Princess bus-shuttle. To our guide's surprise, the road was clear all the way to Syntagma Square, and we were able to alight at the entrance to the Plaka and Acropolis. We had visited the Acropolis recently, so instead walked through modern Athens, starting with Syntagma Square, right in front of Parliament. All was peaceful, demonstrators camped in tent villages with signs in many languages. Police and civilians were collaborating in sweeping up broken glass. We poked around taking pictures until the lingering tear-gas fumes drove us away. Walked up to Kolonaki Square and the foot of Lycabettis Hill, then back down to the Plaka for late lunch. The bus group rendezvoused at 4PM for the drive back to the ship. Because the port had been closed for two days by the strike, at least two other cruise ships detoured and arrived today, with many passengers heading for the Acropolis all at once. The extra ships meant crowds of unusual proportions climbing up and down, shoving and jockeying, and order was hard to maintain. Those who took Acropolis tours had lots of complaints about the crowds, the waiting and the heat, but it's hard to know what the tour operators could have done about it. Skipping it was one option, but can anyone really go to Athens and NOT climb the Acropolis? The only significant remaining strike was by ferryboat operators, which left many ferryboats stuck in port. This made for a spectacularly crowded harbor and some exquisite maneuvering by the Captain to get us out. We and many others watched the drama from the Outrigger Bar and pool aft, which proved a great place to watch subsequent sailaways as well. Greek music played. People danced. Katakolon (Olympia), July 1: Canada Day, the ship draped with maple leaves. Although the ruins of Olympia were in easy reach, research had shown us there wasn't much there, so we just went for a walk through town. A really pleasant village, with horse-drawn carriages, shops and piney hills. Pretty much an at-sea day with a walk ashore. Corfu, July 2: The ship docks a little ways from town, but Joe May recommended the No. 16 bus, which plies the two miles from dock to town. Corfu town is a real municipality, capital of a former city-state, more substantial than the earlier island villages. At the esplanade, we took a little tourist train (which we're suckers for) out to the New Fortress on the point, past villas and swank hotels. Then lunch in Town Hall Square, where the proprietor picked fresh basil from the restaurant garden and made us penne al pesto! Of all the Greek towns and islands, we would return to Corfu first. Split, Croatia, July 3: Another tender port, but getting ashore was easy, and the boats landed right on the town waterfront. We who stuck to the old town center had no trouble touring on our own. The Roman emperor Diocletian laid the place out in a North-South-East-West square, with towers on each corner and a gate at the center of each wall. The streets are a grid. It's a delightful new town laid over an ancient one. Next door to a crumbling ruin is a glass-and-steel techno-bar advertising "Jack & Coke". People who took morning walking tours (offered both by the ship and local guides) were happy with the in-depth look at the city. This was the only non-Euro port, but despite Joe May's warnings that "only local currency" was acceptable, every shop and restaurant we encountered took "whatever you have - dollars, Euros, drachmas, dinars." Venice, July 4: Up at 7AM for the approach to the Lagoon and Venice. Our starboard cabin balcony was the perfect viewing spot for Piazza San Marco and other sights, so we ordered the Champagne brunch and just sat back and enjoyed it (actually, we were jumping up and down a lot too). Took the ship's shuttle into town & spent the day on our own, hitting the crowds only at the Rialto Bridge and San Marco. Those who took the ship's tours through the Basilica and Doge's Palace were wise, as the lines for both stretched endlessly. Venice isn't getting bigger, but the crowds are, and there is talk of limiting the number of cruise ships (two sailed in behind us and three left during the day). Venice (Debarkation), July 5: We had a 1PM flight, so exited our stateroom at 8AM, had a long breakfast in the Portofino room, then waited in the Wheelhouse Bar until our group was called at 10. Easy off the ship, easy onto bus, easy drive to Marco Polo Airport, where Princess had delivered our bags and sorted them by tag-colors, checked in easily for our return flight to NYC. We were lucky. Last night, after luggage had been collected from people's cabins for transport to the airport, came an announcement that, because of a strike, no flights to or through Germany (including many flights to the US) would depart from Marco Polo. This left people scrambling much of the night to make alternate arrangements. Princess staff were as helpful as possible, but the problem was not in their hands. In the morning, Princess staff were all-hands-on-deck for departure, both on the ship and at the airport. Shipmates we talked to whose flights were canceled had nothing but praise for Princess' efforts on their behalf. So, to tally it up, in the course of this cruise, the ship had to contend with: • Almost 200 passengers six hours late for departure • Delays getting ashore in Monaco and Naples • Late passengers at several ports making the whole ship wait for them. • Strikes in Athens • Flight cancellations from Venice The staff coped so well that all these potential catastrophes were just blips on an otherwise perfect cruise. But . . . a plea to fellow passengers: Get back to the ship on time! There is no excuse for making 4000 passengers and crew wait for you to straggle on board! Shipboard: We chose this cruise for the ports, not for the ship, and we tend to treat ships as floating hotels rather than destinations. That was particularly true for this port-intensive cruise. That said, we have a few observations about shipboard experiences. Fellow passengers: 2700 passengers, 1500 from US, about 700 from other Anglophone countries (UK, Canada, Australia, NZ), the others from 30 other countries. Many fit the typical cruise demographic (white people over 60), but there was a healthy selection of younger people, many with families. I think there were 300 "children" onboard, from toddlers to teenagers. Parents we talked to were happy with the Princess kids' programs, which let parents go ashore alone. Our 6-year-old neighbor Hannah pronounced the kids' program the best part of the cruise. Pools. Star Princess has two main pools on Deck 14, one roofed and one open. There is a smaller pool on the same deck aft, served by the Outrigger Bar, where we often ended the afternoon. This aft complex actually extends three decks high, with a couple of hot tubs as well. The small pool was posted "Adults Only," which generally discouraged children from using the whole area. It was a great place to watch sailaway (particularly from ferry-clogged Piraeus) and sunsets, with stools not only at the bar, but at railings further aft overlooking the pool. The only people who ignored the "Adults Only" designation appeared to be one family, who arrived daily with their children, who were daily kicked out of the pool by staff, only to return the next day to be kicked out again. This same family also arrived late for departure from Katakolon, earning jeers and catcalls from the balconies. They didn't seem to care much. Dining. Except for embarkation and the single at-sea day we skipped the Horizon Court buffet in favor of sit-down breakfast and lunch in the Portofino room. No lines, wait staff at the ready, good views from both sides. We chose late-seating dinner in the Capri room & were seated with six other people, who became our permanent tablemates. We got along pretty well, and it became fun to encounter each other on shore. Our waiters, both improbably named Joe, were attentive and efficient, remembering everyone's preferences from day to day (I asked for Tabasco on day #1 and it appeared at my place every day after.) Entertainment. We don't expect much of cruise entertainment and were not disappointed. The one show we dared to try, in the Princess Theater, was titled "Stardust," which led us to expect selections from Hoagy Carmichael, the Gershwins, Rogers & Hart, Cole Porter, etc. Instead we got what the cast described as "songs our parents and grandparents loved," which turned out to be non-rock 'n roll 50s schlock, such as "Que sera sera" and "Come-onna My House." We fled after ten minutes, followed by many other parents and grandparents. Bars and Lounges. The Wheelhouse Bar, Explorers Lounge and Promenade Bar are all on deck 7, close to each other. The Wheelhouse seemed most promising, with a combo and singer every night that played good dance music. But most nights nobody was there. We and one other couple danced a rumba and a foxtrot one night, then shrugged and quit. The Explorers Lounge seemed dedicated to nightly art auctions and versions of the Newlywed Game. The Promenade Bar in the Atrium, which is the after-dinner center of gravity on most Princess ships, was not so on this one. It was jammed in a corner, with a pianist-singer up against a wall in the dark. She sang and played fine, but wasn't much of an entertainer. There was no byplay with the audience, nothing to get folks up and singing and dancing. Most listened politely to a few numbers then drifted off. Captain and Crew. It may be that Star Princess's crew is a mirror of its Captain William Kent. The first few times we heard from Captain Kent, over the PA, he was all business, announcing departure delays, giving course headings, describing what the ship was doing and why. After a few days glints of humor emerged, as he described dropping anchor as "rattle-rattle-splash" and gave increasingly colorful descriptions of the fate awaiting those returning late to the ship. By the end of the cruise he was a laugh riot. Far better to begin the cruise with a no-nonsense Captain who turns out later to be a card, than to begin with a skipper who tells too many jokes before he gains your confidence. Same with the crew and staff - their jobs were their first priority - whether it was taking drink orders, responding to cabin requests, answering questions about money and postage, arranging shore excursions. Always business first, then time enough for jokes and good fellowship. We have tremendous admiration for the entire Princess staff. When emergencies arose, their professionalism from day #1 gave us all confidence they'd handle things fine. A complicated, port-intensive voyage with exciting landfalls and an enthusiastic, professional staff. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
We were on the Star Princess Eastern Med, Greek Isles cruise from June 23-July 5, 2011. I was traveling with my teenager and tween, and another friend and her daughter. The route was from Civitavecchia near Rome to Venice. 12 day itinerary ... Read More
We were on the Star Princess Eastern Med, Greek Isles cruise from June 23-July 5, 2011. I was traveling with my teenager and tween, and another friend and her daughter. The route was from Civitavecchia near Rome to Venice. 12 day itinerary with 11 days in port, one day at sea. Summary: We loved the cruise, and it was especially fun for the kids. We found this to be a great way to travel with kids and see many ports without a lot of stress. The staff of the ship were always courteous. Although it's a large ship-I believe we had 2,700 passengers on our cruise-it doesn't feel overly crowded. Food was pretty good and the kids enjoyed the availability of the buffet and snack bars. The itinerary was fantastic. The ship was beautiful and fun to explore. All in all a very positive experience. Pros: Mini-suite was perfect for our family, ship's design makes it feel less crowded, kids programs were wonderful. Staff was amazing and friendly. Also wanted to note the private guided tours we loved so much: Unforgettable Tuscany for Florence/Pisa (info@unforgettabletuscany.com), Pleasant Travel in Naples (www.pleasantravel.com), and Spiros Tours in Athens (spirostours@yahoo.com). Cons: Felt like I was being nickel and dimed for things which should be included in price of cruise like: sodas, coffee, some of the transfers to shore etc. In Rome we stayed in the mini-apartment suite at Albergo del Senato right next to the Pantheon. Loved this hotel and our room. Embarkation was a breeze, but we arrived later than most people, about 3:30 to 4:00pm.Our transfers were through Limo in Rome and they did a great job. We also took a tour with Limo in Rome and it was very good except for the ac was broken in our car. After getting settled in the room we went to explore the ship and get some food at the Horizon Court buffet. We checked out the swimming pools and giant movie screen then got the kids checked in to the kids programs. The cruise was delayed 6 hours while waiting for a plane that was delayed getting into Rome. We arrived late at our 1st port, but after that it was pretty much on time. The mini-suite: We had a mini suite for myself and 2 kids. It was roomy with just enough separation between the sleeping area and the sitting area. My son had a pull down bunk above the sofa, my daughter stayed in the bed w/ me. Great deck outside with a table and 2 chairs. Bathroom had a bath and shower. There was a mini fridge, a desk area and closet space enough for my daughter and I. My son lived out of his suitcase. Our room steward was wonderful, Alberto from the Philippines. We were on Dolphin deck rm. 702. The ship: The design of the ship is great, loved the atrium with all the shops and cafe around it. There are so many discreet spaces to find privacy or for gatherings of smaller groups that it really didn't feel crowded most of the time. There was even a pool at the back of the ship for adults only that was less crowded than the 2 pools for families. The kids programs were right above the buffet and this was a great idea. The food: The food was a step up from our previous experience with Disney cruises food, but was not an amazing experience like I was expecting. We did eat at the Steakhouse 1 night and it was very good, but I'm not sure if it was worth the extra cost. (we had coupons so we went for free) I noticed that the specialty restaurants were never crowded. We ate frequently at the buffet and several times in the dining rooms. We had anytime dining and found that we never had to wait, if we were willing to sit with people we didn't know. We met some great people this way. Service in the dining rooms was very good. The buffet gets a bit repetitive but we still liked it for the convenience. Kids programs: My daughter and her friend were just old enough to check themselves in and out of the kids club, but only when the ship was at sea. This made it more of a choice on their part so it didn't feel like babysitting and they loved that. My daughter always wanted to go to the kids programs, her friend was not so inclined. Her friend could go with her up to the kids area and then check herself out when she got bored. My son loved the teen lounge and he was there all the time he was allowed to be. The kids made friends from all over the U.S. and from all over the world. The itinerary & excursions: This is the reason we booked the cruise-the itinerary was perfect for our family. Ports were: Civitavecchia, Monte Carlo, Florence & Pisa (Livorno), Naples, at sea, Santorini, Mykonos, Athens, Olympia (Katakolon), Corfu, Split and overnight in Venice. We did a combination of private tours and ships excursions. I would have to say that we enjoyed the private tours the most. Florence/Pisa-We had a private tour with Unforgettable Tuscany and the owner/driver was Paolo. This was a wonderful way to see the countryside and tour the sights with the least amount of hassle. All of our tickets were reserved in advance so we by passed the 2-3 hour lines at the Uffizi and Accademia. We stopped briefly in Pisa and then stopped on the way to Florence at a castle. The owner of the castle is a friend of Paolo's. We did a quick tour of the castle and then stopped at Piazzele Michelangelo overlooking Florence. After lunch we went to the church square, then to the Accademia and then to the Uffizi. Made it back to the ship in plenty of time. Mykonos-shore excursion to Platis Yialos beach. Loved the beach, had 3 hours to enjoy ourselves here. After the shore excursion the kids stayed on the boat while my friend and I walked around Mykonos Town. Mykonos Town is very picturesque and fun to explore-lots of winding alleyways. Katakolon-I went into town to shop, the rest of my party stayed on the ship and took a day off. We debarked the boat at 2 p.m. and got on a bus which took us to the airport. The airport was on strike so we were actually lucky our plane took off at all. We flew to Barcelona, Spain and stayed there for a week and then flew home. We all enjoyed the Princess Cruise very much and the kids can't wait to take another one. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
Here is my review for my recent Greek Isles and Mediterranean cruise on the lovely Star Princess, from Rome to Venice. I'll try to write it in sections, so feel free to skip the ones that don't interest you! ... Read More
Here is my review for my recent Greek Isles and Mediterranean cruise on the lovely Star Princess, from Rome to Venice. I'll try to write it in sections, so feel free to skip the ones that don't interest you! Background..... We booked this cruise about 16 months ago, and had a Caribe deck balcony cabin, midships, and chose to do anytime dining. I was with my lovely DH, and we were cruising with two great friends (I will call them Wilma and Fred to protect the innocent!). We had cabins next door, and had the balcony door open so we could share our balconies easily. DH and I are in our very early 50s, and this was our 10th Princess cruise (plus one Celebrity and one NCL). This is our 2nd time on the Star. Getting there..... We, and another 195 passengers were on a charter flight from Manchester. Our friends flew from Heathrow on a scheduled flight, but we kept in touch by text messages. This was part of the package that we booked with Princess - they arranged the flight and transfers to the ship. After leaving the house at 3.45am, the flight took off at 7am, but about an hour into the flight, the pilot came on to say that due to a "technical problem", we were returning to Manchester and would be landing in about 20 minutes. My first thought was that the plane was "in trouble", but my sensible side (which doesn't show itself very often!), thought that if there had been an emergency, we would have landed in Paris or at least one of the other airports that we passed over on the way back. Anyway, back in Manchester, the technical staff were presumably working on a solution, but as we were not getting any information, I rang my TA, who rang Princess, as I was aware that the ship was due to depart at 6pm (and Rome was an hour ahead of us), and time was pressing on. Princess said that they were aware of the situation and they would wait for us, "unless it got to a really silly time". Their words not mine! While I was sitting in Manchester airport, I had this thought.....I'm sure that they do pina colada soup on the first night....yummy....so I text Wilma to ask her to make sure that she got me at least one for when I arrived! Another thought also ran through my mind, which was a feeling of "de ja vu". We were due to fly to LA last xmas to join the Golden Princess to Hawaii, but our flight was cancelled due to the snow at Heathrow, and so we were gutted to miss that cruise, and I had a horrible feeling that we were also going to miss this one! The good news was that we eventually landed in Rome, and as DH and I were on the first coach to the ship from the airport, we finally boarded the Star at just gone 10pm! When we checked in, they didn't even take a swipe of the credit card - they were just rushing to get us onboard. Our cabin steward John, had waited for us to arrive, and was very welcoming, and Wilma and Fred met us with tea and choc chip cookies on the balcony. With all the faff, I completely forgot to ask her for my pina colada soup! Luggage arrived about an hour later, but at least we were on the ship at the start of the cruise. We left the port gone midnight, but we were so pleased that we were actually on the ship as its sailed into the darkness (as opposed to the sunset!). We found out later that the Captain was going to wait until midnight, and then he was going to have to leave, so we feel very fortunate that we made it! Ports of Call - I'll write a bit about each of the ports before I include my overall thoughts and stuff on the cruise itself. Day 1 - Monte Carlo (Tender) The Captain had told us that we would be 3 hours later than scheduled arriving here, but we would also depart 3 hours later too. We did our own thing here, strolling around the town, and people - and car - watching. There was a horse show on, and it was a bit strange, to see the arena right beside the road, and the stables and some of the viewing seats on the other side of the road! It was a lovely day and I was finally beginning to wind down after the "trauma" of yesterday! As we were going out for dinner, John saw us and said that he had something for us and rushed off. He came back with 4 glasses of champagne! When Wilma asked him what it was for (we were thinking that perhaps he had given it to the wrong passengers and we were drinking somebody else's champers!), he replied that it was "for yesterday" (to make up in a small way for the delay and the hassle of the day before). Although Wilma and Fred had not been delayed, they were probably just as stressed as we were, wondering whether we would actually get to the ship in time, and it was very nice that John gave us all a glass. A lovely surprise and gratefully received. Day 2 - 2am I was awoken from my sleep to hear an announcement for "assessment party" to go to the galley on deck "something" (bear in mind I was still half asleep at this point). My first thought was "fire!" and as I was aware that the Star had a fire before, you can imagine what was going through my mind! I then heard footsteps running down the corridor, but decided the best thing I could do was just lie there until told otherwise! Ten minutes later, the order for the assessment party to "stand down" was given, and another ten minutes later (I was continually looking at my clock for some reason!), the Captain came on to say that they thought they had a fire, but nothing could be found and it was due to an electrical issue. So eventually I got back to sleep!! Day 2 - Livorno We prefer to do the Princess Excursions on the med cruises, so had booked the Leaning Tower of Pisa tour. This was great. It was a bit of a trek from the coach drop off to the Tower itself, which was fine for DH and myself, but it was a struggle for some of those with less mobility. Wilma and Fred did the same trip but on the "little train", which goes from the coach drop off point and returns to the same place....it just saves on the walking. It was another "must do" ticked off my list, seeing the Leaning Tower - and without scaffolding! I will say at this point, that when we usually arrive on the ship on the first day, DH suddenly develops his "bad hand syndrome", as we wander around the ship getting our bearings and sussing out the best spots (like the IC, dining room, scoops!), but due to the delay in our arrival, there was no chance to do this. However, he made up for it in Pisa! His bad hand managed to record lots of stuff, and he looked far happier now that his was getting his "fix"! Back at the ship, we chilled - or rather heated - on our balcony in the afternoon. There was the announcement for a number of folks to contact the purser's desk (the ones who hadn't returned to the ship presumably), around the time that all passengers should have been back on board, and little did we know at the time, but we left Livorno minus two passengers! Day 3 - Naples As we'd done the full day Capri, Sorento and Pompeii on a previous cruise, we had booked the Princess tour to Herculaneum. This was excellent with such a character of a tour guide! At one point on the tour, a group of teenagers came into the room we were in, where the guide was talking and explaining about the house, and our guide got really huffy with them. "Are you a professional tour guide?" he asked one of the group, "I am and you should not intrude on my group so please leave" (or words to that effect!). It had the desired effect and they did go out quite sheepishly! In another room, he was explaining again about the family who had probably lived there and their lifestyle, when two women came in, pushed past some of our group, walked around the room (while we are all standing still and listening), then pushed their way our again talking to each other! I couldn't believe the rudeness of some folks! Anyway, a great tour and well worth going. Very moving. It was on this day that we left a few more folks behind! DH lived in Naples for 6 months when he was a student, (I have been trying to get him to say something in Italian to me for years but to no avail!!), and he said that on Sundays, the traffic, especially on the coastal roads, is far worse than in the week. We went down for dinner at our usual time, and were waiting with a pager near to the gangway, which was on deck 6. The now usual suspects were called on again to report to the purser's desk (if you listen closely, the same names come up time and time again!), but this time there were 15 AWOL! All aboard should have been 7.30pm, but at 7.50, one guy raced up the gangway (I prefer to call it the gangplank!), saying the rest of his group (6 of them) were "on the way", including an 85 year old woman. Why would you leave it so late to return, especially with an elderly lady who obviously couldn't "leg it" along the dock? I couldn't hear what the guy was saying to the staff, but he was getting quite stroppy and somewhat aggressive when they wouldn't let him back off the ship to find his group. The rest of the group arrived a few at a time over the next 10 minutes or so, with someone trying to calm the irritable guy down, but they didn't even look sorry as they strolled onboard. It was now gone 8pm, and the gangplank was pulled up. As one of the staff walked past us, we asked if everyone was now on board, and his response was "minus eight"!! So we had left yet more people behind! If I had been in charge, I would have left the whole 15 behind as they were not back at the due time, but the Captain was obviously a lot kinder than I am! As we were then leaving Italy and the next stop was Greece, I just wondered if the 8 missing folks had their passports with them and a credit card! If not, it would be a tad more difficult to get from one country to another, especially as there was a sea day inbetween! Day 4 - at sea A great day to relax on the balcony and catch up on some sleep. Nice sunset too. Day 5 - Santorini We did our final Princess excursion here which was the island drive. It was an enjoyable trip, although I was quite surprised that the island was so volcanic and what struck me as "barren". There were vines growing from the ground, and the alcohol content of the wine is apparently much higher than "normal" wine. So bear this in mind if you try it out Day 6 - Mykonos (Tender) DH had not had much sleep the night before, so he decided that he would rather catch up on his sleep than go ashore, as we had been to Mykonos before. So I went off the ship with Wilma and Fred, and then wandered around on my own. There were 3 cruise ships in port, so the town was busy. We were docked, while the other ships were tender, but this meant that we were charged 7 euros for the return transfer to town. It could have been walked, but it was quite a way, and in that heat and without a proper pavement for much of the way, the bus transfer was the only real option. I felt safe just strolling around the town on my own, although I did get some attention from a shop owner in a pink shirt, who danced around me, and said that I looked like "someone on a mission". I smiled politely and carried on walking! When I told DH when I got back, was he insanely jealous that a man in a pink shirt had tried to "chat me up"? Of course not, all he said was "oh, ok". Thinking about it, I must "attract" (and I use the term attract very loosly!) men in pink shirts for some reason - he was the second man who had smiled at me wearing a pink shirt in the past few days!! And DH doesn't possess a pink shirt!! Day 7 - Piraeus (for Athens) There had been reports of riots in Athens the day before, but we were kept informed by the Captain, and it was considered that it would be OK to dock here this day. We have done the Acropolis before, so decided to have a day just chilling (or rather heating) on the ship. Day 8 - Katakolon This was a nice little port, easy to walk around, with some nice shops. The olive wood shop had some lovely olive wood bowls and other stuff. Good views of the ship from this port. A nice change from busy cities. Day 9 - Corfu Although we trundled to the duty free shop, we decided not to venture out any further here but to spend the day enjoying the ship and just doing our own thing, relaxing. Some of the staff were playing "lifeboats", so it was fun to watch. They weren't really "playing" but practicing their skills just in case it is ever needed! It still looked like fun to me though. You could walk right under the front tip of the ship which I don't think I have ever done before - here is the view looking up. Day 10 - Split (Tender) This was a nice port and I can now say that I have been to Croatia! We walked around the local markets - fish and fruit / veg - and it was really nice getting a feel of local life. There were also stalls with clothes and nic nacs (and some tat!), and although the prices were in Croatian currency, they accepted euros. I also bartered a bit here. I am an arctophile and wanted to get another for the collection, which was 3 euros. I "bartered" and got 2 for 5 euros, so I gave one to Wilma too! Day 11 - Venice We had deliberately booked a cabin on the starboard side of the ship, so we could be on the balcony going into Venice. We had previously done the "going into Venice" from the top deck, but as it was early this time when we were due to arrive, we thought being on the balcony would be fine, which it was. It afforded us an excellent view. There was a shuttle from the ship to the centre, and we were charged $15 per person, which was added onto our account a few days before. They left the shuttle tickets in the cabin (they were pushed under the door in the night!), and if you didn't want them, you just needed to return the tickets to the purser's desk for a refund. I guess that they figured that most people would want to use the shuttle and go into the centre, and this was the best way to do that. Although I thought this was quite expensive, you could use them as many times as you wanted to. Venice was fab! We wandered around and found places we had not seen before - lovely small open squares and little shops. We even saw a gondola jam - and a taxi came barging through the middle of it! No one was going anywhere! The ship stayed overnight in Venice, and the last shuttle back to the ship was 12.45am, so anyone wanting to return in the evening, had plenty of time to enjoy it. At 3am, I woke up to a flashing light in the cabin. My first thought was that I had left my epilator charging! (Just in case you are wondering and thinking that I am a bit obscene, an epilator is a razor type thing that removes the hairs from my legs!) Considering that I hadn't even brought my epilator with me on the cruise, and as everything had already been packed and both big bags were in the bowels of the ship somewhere, I suddenly realised (when I woke up properly), that it must be something else. Then I noticed that it wasn't even coming from the cabin but from outside. A peek through the curtains showed sheet and fork lightening that lit up the entire sky! By morning it was throwing it down with rain (reminded me of being at home!). Still, we were going home that day so it didn't really matter. In fact it made it a bit easier to actually leave when the weather was so horrible. Return flight.... No delays this time fortunately, although some turbulence. Home by mid afternoon, and Wilma and Fred arrived home later than us, having gone through Heathrow in London. Back to reality is not a nice experience! My Cruise thoughts.....let me start with one of the really important features of a cruise..... Food!!..... When we returned to the ship from shore, for some very strange reason, my legs just would not go any further than deck 5, either via the lift or the stairs! No matter how much I tried to move them, they would just go as far as the IC! So we just had to stop there, where miraculously, I got the use back in my legs after a tasty chicken sandwich, or chicken waldorf salad, and a pastry (or two!). I must admit that I was a little disappointed when I first visited the IC though - I had got used to the IC on the Crown last July, where they had cheesecake and usually a mousse or vanilla cream type desert every day. Here they didn't have these on every day (which was far better for my waistline though!) - instead there were more cake type deserts, that I personally am not so keen on (my hips were thankful though!). However when they did have my favourite deserts in the cabinet, they didn't stay in the cabinet for long and they were gorgeous! On Canada day and Independence Day (4th July), they decorated the IC with balloons and flags, which was a nice touch. Anytime Dining..... As we prefer to eat around 7.30 - 8pm and have a table just or the 4 of us (we don't get to see our friends on a regular basis at home as we live so far apart geographically, so this gives us a chance to catch up with each other and enjoy each other's company). We have always done AD so know what to expect, including having to wait with a pager. We went to the Portfofino restaurant for dinner on the first night - well it was really the second night as we had missed dinner the first night due to the "bit of a delay" we had getting there. We had great wait staff on this first night, Lana and Pamela. There was also an assistant waiter - Sergie - who was "looking after" that section of the restaurant. They said that this was something that only the Star was doing - having assistant waiters in sections, who "floated" and helped out where needed. All 3 of them were great! On this night, my brain was still addled due to the events of the day before, and I had completely forgotten to ask Wilma where my pina colada soup was! It was only when Sergie was talking about the menu that I suddenly remembered and asked Wilma where my PC soup was? Sergie overheard and admitted that it had been on the menu the evening before!! Where was mine then - I demanded to know from Wilma!! As her and Fred had been so shattered - from their early morning flight and probably from all the worry of whether we would be joining them on the cruise or not - they had eaten at the buffet and not the restaurant, so I had missed out on the special soup! Some friend!! I said I would not speak to her again for the rest of the cruise!! LOL! Sergie overheard all this, and I thought he said that he would make the soup especially for us, but then I was sure that my ears were not hearing right! We enjoyed our time at that table so much that we tried to reserve it for the cruise, but they didn't accept reservations (I guess we could have got it for when they first opened but that was too early for us), so we just decided to take our chances. The Maitre d' was at the door generally every other night (I guess he was at the other AD restaurant on the other nights), and so got used to us arriving around 7.30pm. We generally waited for between 10 and 30 minutes, but that was fine for us. We preferred to wait and get the table than we enjoyed being at. The other thing that was a consideration for me was that I have a serious allergy to mango and DH to melon. Although we can obviously avoid dishes that clearly state they have mango or melon in them, I have found that they sometimes put a mango sauce on the side of desserts like cheesecake, so I am careful. Our wait staff were aware of this and made sure that we were "looked after" in this respect. We managed to get the same table every evening except one. The only night we didn't get the same table was the next to last evening, as when we got there (the Maitre d' hadn't been around when the table had been allocated), we were told that a couple who only spoke Russian had been given that table, as the waitress spoke the language. Fair enough, but as they were only on their soup course when we arrived, we decided it would be too long a wait, and so had to have a different table. However, both Sergie and Lana came over to see and chat to us (and we were at the complete opposite side of the restaurant), and we heard Sergie telling the waiter to look after us!! At this point, it's probably the time to mention the soup again! Much to my delight, we had pina colada soup not just once, but twice during the cruise! Although I love the PC soup, my very favourite is strawberry soup! I mentioned this to Sergie and the little sweetie even arranged for us to have this twice during the cruise too! I felt completely spoiled and the staff went way above and beyond what we expected of them. Fantastic - although my waistline was telling me otherwise! We had 2 formal evenings - although some folks obviously didn't understand the idea of "formal dress" and I did notice that on the smart casual nights, although most folks adhered to the dress code, there were some adults wearing shorts and t shirts. I guess it depends on who is "on the door", but I can't say that it particularly bothered me. I just wish that as a courtesy for other diners and the staff who make the effort, those who don't want to adhere to the dress code of the venue should go elsewhere. The food I found was generally very good. I know that it's very subjective anyway, but I always found something to eat (in addition to my yummy special soups) from the menu. I don't eat fish, lamb, veal or pork, but the beef, chicken and turkey were good. There was always the "always available" beef medallions if I got stuck, and the fettuchine alfredo (no idea if that's how its spelt!), was as gorgeous as ever as a starter. I also had a couple of "volcanoes" as desserts over the cruise. I was worried when I got home that I would struggle to fit into my jeans, but they fit just fine! We didn't really over indulge and did a lot of walking in the ports, and the portions were not that big, so we did quite well in that respect. I am still putting us on a healthy eating regime though for at least a few weeks! Birthday Celebrations..... Both Wilma and I are celebrating our birthdays in the next few days, so we filled out the request on the cruise personaliser beforehand. On the day we had chosen to celebrate, our cabin steward put balloons outside our cabin and a lovely "happy birthday" picture stuck to the door. I also saw anniversary ones around too. We also got a chocolate cake in the dining room, which was lovely, apart from the fact that after so much food, we could only manage a part of it, so the staff very kindly wrapped what was left of my cake in foil, I put it in our fridge overnight, and I gave it to John (our cabin steward) the next day. I think he appreciated it by the look on his face. Hope he did. Wilma's balloons disappeared after a few days, so I took mine in the day after they went up. We expect that it was kids, as we did hear them running up and down the corridor at times. Cabin and sea sickness..... As I said, we had a balcony cabin, starboard side, midships, on the caribe deck. We spend a lot of time on the balcony, so the larger size is great. We always book early to ensure that we have a bigger caribe deck balcony (depending on which ship we are on of course), as it is important to us. In my texts to Wilma from Manchester airport, I had asked her to ask our steward for an egg crate and bathrobes. The egg crate was on the bed when we arrived and the robes arrived the next day after they had been laundered. We had a couple of minor faults with the bathroom - the door didn't close properly as the hinge was hanging off, and one of the bulbs died, but they were easily and quickly rectified when we let John know. I did notice that some of the balcony furniture had been "painted" white - they had all been blue on my previous cruises - and some cabins still had the blue ones. Just an observation. John looked after us very well throughout the cruise. He got used to us getting up "late" and when he had got used to our "habits" of breakfast and dinner, he obviously worked around this and he often cleaned our cabin when we were at breakfast - I should really say brunch at that time! We are not messy folks but John was very tidy. I used to leave my sandals by the fridge in the evening when we went for dinner - or at least I thought that's where I had left them, but at some point in the cruise, I was getting worried that I was doing things without remembering that I'd done them. It took a while for me to work out that John was putting my sandals in the dressing area with my other shoes! I thought I was going mad! He was lovely and did a great job. If you've been reading my previous ramblings, you may remember that I mention being an artcophile. That's a teddy bear collector if you are wondering! We had a few of our family with us - one bear is a rucksack who went into port with me everyday, and the other is a little red bear who also goes on all of our holidays with us. We managed to get 3 little bears (from Croatia, Pisa and Santorini), and most evenings when we came back from dinner, John had lined the bears up on the bed and had left them (as well as us) chocolates! As a thanks and in return, they left John some sweeties. We managed to get a pin badge for the bear from most of the ports that we went to, so if we were overweight with the luggage on the way home, I was going to blame the bear for the excess weight. It is a good job that they didn't weigh ME on the way out, after all the strawberry and pina colada soup that I had had, as I would definitely have been over the weight limit!! We had a couple of nights when the ship battled with a strong wind, but I can't say that I really felt sea sick, just a bit queezy. I had taken an anti-emetic with me as a precaution, so took that, but this was not a problem for either myself or DH. At other times it was as if the ship wasn't even moving (which it obviously wasn't in port!, but you know what I mean!!). Other passengers..... There was a mixture of nationalities on board and about 200 - 250 children. This week there will be 450 kids on board apparently! I didn't really see more than about 20 or 30 in all, and they were generally well behaved, apart from the few who ran down the corridors occasionally. It was good to have the mix, and as in life, there were rude passengers who barged their way to the front of any queue, but also some really nice people who were great to chat to. There was a Sheik and family on board (total 45) and they had cabins just for their clothes! On turnaround day, I saw John taking clothes rails out of one room, with the bed frames waiting in the corridor to go back in! At least they were in inside cabins and not balconies! Staff..... The thing that I noticed above all else about the Star this time, was the staff. Ignoring the one or two who appeared miserable and not happy in their job (and it was only one or two), I would say that all of the staff were so friendly and welcoming. They would always say hello, and one of the waitresses at the IC used to ask me whenever we were there on our return from shore, what badge I'd got for the bear from the port we were in! The buffet staff in the Horizon Court were always willing to get you anything you wanted, and were a delight to talk to. Entertainment..... DH and I don't "do" the entertainment, but Fred went to some of the shows. He commented that they were generally not very good (I also heard others talking about how poor the entertainment was in general). The comedian though had a lasting impression on him, as Fred repeated some of the content of the show. Passengers had asked.. "How will I know which photographs are mine?" "Which lift goes to the front of the ship?" "Do the crew travel in a ship behind?" Weather..... We couldn't have wished for anything better! It was in the high 70s /early 80s Degrees C, every day and the sun shined constantly. It was great to wake up every morning and peer outside, to see blue sky and sunshine! It not only warms the skin but also the heart. Other bits and pieces..... Wilma and I went to afternoon tea on day. The tea is far better than the stuff in the buffet or from room service. It was so good that I had 3 cups! The scone with cream and jam and the cakes (I only had one small cake honest!), were really nice. Wilma had decaf coffee, so you don't have to drink tea to enjoy the white gloved service with sandwiches and cakes. Just don't eat too much otherwise there will be no room left for dinner! The two of us also had a game of Princess Links (or crazy golf as I know it). That was fun, although I'm sure that Wilma cheated - I never would! Much! I was stunned to discover that the carpet is the same colour on both sides of the ship - no looking for either the blue or red strip in the carpet to know which side of the ship your cabin is on!! I went the wrong way just a few times, but i saw many others doing the same! I wanted to do MUTS after dinner but there was nothing that I wanted to see. The only film I fancied watching was the Black Swan, shown in the theatre, on the sea day afternoon, but I have to admit I forgot to go! I think by that time, I had "escaped completely"! The thing I noticed about MUTS, was that during the day, there was "background music" playing rather than a film or anything really loud. This was different from what we had experienced before. Made it more pleasant being out on the deck. I think the films or tennis etc started in the middle to late afternoon on MUTS. Neither DH nor I go in the pools or sunbathe on deck, but Wilma and Fred did both and didn't have a problem getting a sunbed. As it was such a port intensive cruise, many folks would have been off the ship most days anyway. We preferred to make use of our balcony. I wouldn't say that it was a real problem, but there were smokers next door to Wilma and Fred, and we could often smell their smoke. Fortunately they seemed to be out of the cabin most of the day, so it didn't bother us too much, but we did have to go in while they were smoking, as smoke can set off my asthma. It was a small irritant (excuse the pun), but something we put up with. DH and I don't generally get up early on cruises, so we didn't generally surface until around 9.30, so we were never up in time for dining room breakfast, so can't comment on that. As we had a late breakfast, we didn't use the buffet at lunchtime, so can't comment on the range of food available. What I did notice this time was that the Horizon Court, which used to be open 24 hours, now closes for food at midnight, although the drinks stations are still available. If you wanted to eat, room service I guess would be available, although we didn't need to use this at night - I was still full from dinner and the yummy cold special soups! The library was with the internet cafe. It didn't have such as good a range of books as I've seen on other ships, but there was still enough choice for me to find something to read. The ones that appealed to me most were the ones that previous passengers had left behind. I spent a lot of time relaxing on the balcony and reading - something I just don't get the time to do at home (besides I don't have a balcony at home!). On other cruises, I have signed out the books I've borrowed from the ship library, but when I tried to sign them out this time, I was told just to take whatever I wanted. No limit and no check on who was taking what! I noticed towards the end of the cruise, there was a sheet for folks to fill in what they were borrowing, but there were not many names on it and it didn't appear until quite late in the cruise! I had always used my cruise card before to sign out books. Strange! Still, I read 3 fairly good books and DH read 6 - he reads quicker than me. I made sure that they all went back before the end of the cruise for others to enjoy. Cabin check..... You know how, on the last morning, you do a double, then triple check on every drawer and cupboard in the room, and expect to find nothing? Well I also did a check under the bed - just in case something had rolled under it that I would miss when I got home. I was surprised to find a suitcase! What instantly struck me was that it had no labels on it, an outside zip was open, and the main zip was half opened, showing clothes that were not neatly packed. It was as though someone had rummaged through the case rather than opening it up and finding whatever they wanted. It was only when DH and I were discussing it later, that we wondered if the case had been stolen, and someone had put their hand in to see if they could feel anything they wanted, and had then "got rid of it". On changeover day, the cabins are often left with the door propped open while the stewards do everything they need to do, so I guess it could have been possible that someone went into that cabin and pushed the case under the bed before leaving. No idea how long it had been under the bed in our cabin - I guess it could have been there for quite a few cruises before us! It had been pushed up towards the headboard end, which is why I hadn't noticed it when I pushed our bag under. I gave the case to John, but I do wonder whether someone just left their case in the cabin by accident, or if it had actually been stolen. It was just that it seemed so strange not to have any label of any kind on the outside, especially on this med cruise, where it is very likely that passengers would be either going to a hotel following the cruise or catching a flight or train. I'll never know! You'll probably think I'm mad but.....a strange event happened in Venice..... My lovely mum passed away nearly 5 years ago (I think she would have loved to have gone on a cruise), and when I think of her, I often see white feathers around, which some people believe are of our loved ones or angels. As DH and I were walking through a small quiet square in Venice, I was thinking of my mum and how she would have loved this, when a white feather suddenly fell out of the sky and landed at my feet! Fact is often stranger than fiction. My final thoughts..... Overall, I had a brilliant cruise. The friendliness of the staff and what they did for us made the cruise for me, so I would say that its probably one of the best - if not the best - cruise I have done so far. That is if you obviously ignore the delays of getting there - but these things happen. It was lovely to spend time with my DH and our friends, and seeing some wonderful places and sights. I wish I was back there now and hope that everyone who follows in my footsteps has a wonderful cruise, just like I did. Happy Cruising on the Star - Star by name and Star by nature. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
We just got back from a 12 day Star Princess cruise through the Greek Isles. We had a great time. The embarkation procedure was very easy, once we arrived at the terminal. Getting from the Venice Train station to the port turned ... Read More
We just got back from a 12 day Star Princess cruise through the Greek Isles. We had a great time. The embarkation procedure was very easy, once we arrived at the terminal. Getting from the Venice Train station to the port turned out to be a bit of a pain. Word of Warning: I'm going to vent about the people we encountered in train stations in Italy. If you want to read the review, just skip the next few paragraphs... We tried to cross the constitution bridge from the train station to get to the people mover to the port. As we started to cross, an older man walked up and took my wife's luggage from her. He came back to me and took mine. I told him 'No' several times and he just grabbed and pulled harder on my bag. I was so taken aback that I let go and he just took off going across the bridge. He wasn't trying to steal them, but I didn't want him to take my bag and he took it anyway. I wasn't ready for how rude he would be about it. At the other end of the bridge he dropped our bags and stuck his hand out. I gave him the change in my pocket which was about 3 euros and he acted quite offended and wouldn't get out of our way when we tried to leave, still holding his hand out. We had a similar experience in the Rome Termini a week earlier. We were trying to get onto the First Class car and a man stood in our way and took our bags. He heaved them up the two steps onto the train and set them down. He then stuck out his hand. I gave him 2 euros and he started acting offended. He stood in our way so we couldn't continue into the seating area of the car. He was speaking loudly in Italian something about how hard is was to move our bags about 2 meters into the car and how offended he was at my offering of 2 euros. We had people behind us trying to get on. One of his cohorts was yelling loudly for us to move as this man stood in the way with his hand out wanting more. After what seemed like a long time, he grudgingly moved aside and gave me a dirty look and saying something I didn't understand. 30 seconds later he and his cohort started the same routine, this time the other man was standing in the way with his hand out and our beggar was behind him and his marks yelling for them to get out of the way. I just wanted to get that off my chest. I wasn't prepared for either case. We never had these kind of problems at any of the ship's ports. Be prepared to fight these guys off. I wasn't prepared for an older man to physically pull my bag away from me even though I told him no. They were both rude, counting on us not to make a scene. Be prepared to be rude back. OK, back to the review. We had bought our passage 6 months before the cruise and we paid what I thought was a decent price for an inside cabin. We knew we would be busy every day and we didn't want to spend extra money on a balcony that we would rarely use. The upgrade fairy visited us and gave us an obstructed view room. It was nice to see the port before we left the room. The room had plenty of storage and we never felt too cramped after 12 days. Having the fridge in the room was very handy too. The ship seems to be in pretty good shape. The food in the Anytime dining area was quite good. We never had to wait to get a table. It was the first time we tried Anytime dining and we really enjoyed it. Each night we met some new people and had some fun conversations. Two or three nights, we were all still talking when the restaurant closed and they were waiting for us to leave. They never once pressured us though. Very nice. The Horizon Court 24 hour cafeteria on the 14th floor was like an upgraded Golden Corral or any other All-You-Can-Eat restaurant. The food was OK. Not bad, but not great. It was nice to have a decent selection of fruits everyday. We tried the Crown Grill the second night of the cruise and it was very good. I considered it worth the extra $20 each. I've had better steaks, but overall it was a much nicer experience and the food was very good, including the steaks and the rack of lamb. The Hamburger/hot dog grill was pretty good and the fries were very good. The pizza place had some interesting specials of the day. Some were pretty good. The crew was very friendly. The shows were just OK. The British Invasion show and the Destination Anywhere shows were good, but the rest were fairly boring to me. The Movies-Under-The-Stars was fun and they had some pretty good movie selections in the evenings. We went to a few of the pools but for the most part, we were off of the ship during the day and getting some rest in the evenings. The Internet is dial-up speed slow and VERY expensive. We ended up using the Internet cafes at the various ports. Most of the restaurants have free Wifi if you eat lunch there. That's when we did most of our email checking and blog updates. The IPad came in very handy for that. In general we had a much better time with the private tours that were arranged by a friend we met on the Cruise Critic message boards (thanks again YaYa). The Princess tours were much more expensive and weren't nearly as much fun. Next time, we will do mostly private tours. We also picked this cruise because of the number of Greek Isles and ports that we would visit. It was great to see all of these places. Next time, I would pick a cruise with a couple more sea-days. We felt like if we were in a port, that we should be touring. We were exhausted by the end of the trip. Leaving Venice was fantastic. If you go, be sure to be on the port side deck as you leave to watch the city cruise by. It was a great way to start a cruise. Dubrovnik is an easy town to do on your own. Very much worth going to see. Corfu was much prettier than we thought it would be. Just get out of the town by the port. The island is beautiful. We had a private tour here with Dimitris with 4 people in each taxi. We had a blast. Olympia and the original Olympic sight was interesting, but I don't think I'd go back again. We did a private tour in Athens and it went very well. We were able to decide where and when we were going to see the sights. A very nice visit. My wife loved the fact that the bus had a fast Wifi connection and she took advantage of it by uploading pictures for our friends and family as we moved from sight to sight. Mykonos was another port that we did on our own. We didn't see all of the sights, but we did see the town and it was easy to do on our own. Little Venice is a lot of fun and the whole area is postcard beautiful. Ephasus in Turkey was an interesting tour. The Terrace Houses were especially interesting. Our Princess tour ended in a rug distributor shop with a demonstration. They said no one was obligated to buy, but they did put on the hard sell. Walking from that shop back to the ship was like running the gauntlet. We were approached by every vendor on the street, trying to get our attention. Kind of crazy. We decided to take the next day off in Rhodes and go to a beach. We went to a Golden Sand beach and had loungers and an umbrella we could use. It was a very welcome relaxing time and the beach was great. Santorini was beautiful. The Princess bus we were on did not have a working Air Conditioner and it was very hot in there. We were glad to be done with the tour and visit on our own. The town of Oia is just gorgeous. Again, this would have been much better on a non-Princess tour. In Naples, we went to Pompeii and Sorrento. Sorrento is a great little town to get lost in. Pompeii was very interesting and our last big 'pile of rocks' to look at. We didn't go to the museum and is sounds like the most interesting pieces found in Pompeii were in the museum. Next time... Overall, a very good trip. We would definitely suggest it. 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Sail Date June 2011
First review so please be kind! We've just returned from our 3rd Princess Cruise, this time a 12 night Med & Greek Isles port-splurge. All started well when the Upgrade Genie decided we deserved a break, and our inside ... Read More
First review so please be kind! We've just returned from our 3rd Princess Cruise, this time a 12 night Med & Greek Isles port-splurge. All started well when the Upgrade Genie decided we deserved a break, and our inside cabin became an outside double with balcony on Lido Deck was much appreciated. Being Port side it was spot on for Venice too. Embarkation was quick and efficient and by 3pm on day 1 we were enjoying cocktails and pizza by the pool. We opt for Fixed Dining as for us, dressing up and a little formality all add to the holiday occasion, and again, Princess came up trumps with terrific dinner companions. Food was OK, I do think the standard has dropped off a little in the Formal Dinning areas but as a compensation the casual buffet and snacks were much improved. First port was Monte Carlo - we opted for a ships tour to St Paul De Vence as we had been there previously and had a great time. Next day we took another tour, Pisa and Florence, purely because we wanted to see both places in 1 day and I didn't want to chance any travel mishap. Final tour was the next day, Mount Versuvius and then Pompeii. Versuvius was stunning (and windy!) but coming back down in sandals with sharp grit underfoot isn't recommended. My own fault, my idea of 'sensible footwear' is something with less than a 4 inch heel! Pompeii was truly stunning and a 'must see.' All of our guides were helpful and informative and whilst ships tours can sometimes be expensive, there are occasions when it's worth splashing out. All other ports we did ourselves - Santorini, truly beautiful and my favourite of this cruise, despite being accosted by a wayward donkey on the way back down. Mykonos was gorgeous and on both days we ate our meals overlooking the bay. Other ports were Katakolon, Corfu, Split and Athens. In each we used local transport to go where we needed without any problem, no need for taxis. The only port I did not enjoy was Athens, we arrived the day after local disturbances and I was affected by tear gas, plus the 'crowd control' at the Acropolis was a shambles and people were jostled and hurt. Final port was Venice and we had a superb view from our balcony - eating breakfast as we slowly sailed past St Marks Square. A place we've already decided to visit again. Entertainment on board wasn't great - but then again we weren't on board much (only 1 sea day) so it wasn't a problem. Journey South were very good. Staff on board were extremely friendly and really made the cruise, our cabin steward was excellent, as were the wait staff in Crooners bar. Captain William Kent was the highlight of the cruise, I loved his announcements and dry sense of humour. Fabulous cruise, well maintained ship, great staff. Recommended! Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
The Ship: the Star looks a little warn down since we were last on her quite a few years ago (our first cruise was on her!) but I hear she's going in for dry dock in Nov/Dec of this year which is good but overall she is well ... Read More
The Ship: the Star looks a little warn down since we were last on her quite a few years ago (our first cruise was on her!) but I hear she's going in for dry dock in Nov/Dec of this year which is good but overall she is well maintained. We always enjoy the International Cafe and miss the aft set up of the Emerald, so we'll see what becomes of the drydock. Had a BD category which we enjoy. Felt no movement at all!! Only 2 things to criticize about the Ship/Staff: There was noone enforcing hand sanitization at the buffet on Deck 14. We saw numerous passengers caughing on their hands and then entering the buffet without sanitizing and touching stuff. It was so discusting. They also had no sanitizer at the international cafe (I don't think they ever did) but I wrote a suggestion and placed it in the Purser's Desk Box about these issues and nothing was done. By day 10 of our cruise they had cases of either Traveler's Diareah (from Egypt) or Nurovirus (most likely) and they had all staff serving at the buffet and limited the choices of food being offered as it was more work for the staff to serve everything to the passengers. I am glad this was 2 days before our disembarking because it ruined the buffet experience and choices of food. If they had of just enforced the sanitizing at the entrance from day 1 they would have eliminated/reduced the spread of whatever was going around. I've seen them enforce sanitization before and it was a perfect way to teach the passengers how to reduce the spread of viruses. The beds were very hard after 10 days my husband thought he had kidney stones his back hurt so bad and I felt like my kidneys were in my stomach I was in such pain. This is even with the egg crate. i think we just got too used to a sofeter mattress at home. but what can you do!! This and the reduced buffet were the only 2 things making me want to leave. Not so bad I guess. The ports: Rome - was great, have been here before. Spent 3 days pre cruise and took the IC express train to the port without any problems. Shared a pre arranged taxi with another CC memeber on the way back from port to airport on day of disembarkation which was a great idea. Worked out very well! Alexandria - did a private tour with Ramses tours. Did a 1 day tour with pick up at 7am and drop off back to the ship at 7pm. Was amazing. Did the pyramids and a few other stops, including a Camel Ride - really great! Glad we didn't spend the night in Cairo, and spent day 2 on the ship relaxing. heard there were several cases of Travellers Diarreah from the food/drinks on the overnight tours. We took packaged food with us and our own water. No problems. Wished the overnight was in Istanbul as we didn't think we needed a second day in Egypt (personal preference). Istanbul - amazing! Took the ships tour to the Blue Mosque, St. Sophia an time on our own at the Grand Bazar. The nice thing is you can take the ship's shuttle back which we did - so we had extra time to spend on our own at the Bazar. Lots of fun, ate some food also and loved it! Khios & Athens - both good ports. Did the Monastery tour in Khios and then enjoyed walking around the port. Look for the old fortress walls and walk inside them - pretty area where locals live in Khios. Ate Gyros in Khios and Althens and loved them. Athens did the Acropolis princess tour with time on our own in the Platka. We had 2 hours in the Platka on our own and thought it was a great tour. Kusadasi - the Ephesius tour was amazing. We did the elite tour include the Terrace houses - nice small group of 20 people. It was amazing! Naples - did the princess Elite tour to Pompeii, Positano and Sorrento. Great tour with only 14 people and the buses are very small so they can drive into Positano like others can't. Really great and the Almalfi coast drive was so scenic. Would have loved another day here too!! Overall amazing and looking forward to another cruise to see other Greek ports and would go back to Istanbul for an overnight. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
We flew into Rome 4 days prior to embarkation. Through a friend, we arranged a car service from the airport to Rome via the USO. Our driver must have had an appointment to get to, because I can't remember going that fast on a highway ... Read More
We flew into Rome 4 days prior to embarkation. Through a friend, we arranged a car service from the airport to Rome via the USO. Our driver must have had an appointment to get to, because I can't remember going that fast on a highway - ever. The car was a big Mercedes Sedan, which would have been great except for the fact that we were scared to death the entire trip. "Honey, I love you." were words exchanged between my wife and I several times in the 10 minutes or so it took to carreen through the streets of Rome from the Airport. Once we arrived, we checked to make sure we were still in one piece. Once this had been accomplished to our satisfaction, we proceeded to check into the Hotel Rafaello. Luckily, this was the hotel we had a reservation for, not just some random place the driver found. Over the next few days, we managed to see the Vatican, the Roman Forum, Palantine Hill, the Colisseum, Pantheon, Spanish Steps, Basillica Maria Maggiore (don't miss this), Trevi Fountain and Villa Borghese. I woke up on the date of embarkation and said "Damn, we have to get on the ship today". Rome is fabulous. We took the train from Rome Termini to Civitavecchia. While waiting for the train, my wife counted no less than 135 pairs of boots in a 35 minute period. The women in Rome LOVE their boots. I have to say, they look quite good. The train ride was nice. A word of advice if you're planning this: take the Eurostar, it's worth the extra. And let's be honest, the cost isn't that much to begin with. 25 Euro for two people beats the heck out of hiring a cab for 150 Euro. Once we got off the train, it was a relatively short walk to the entrance to the Civitavecchia port. I couldn't see our ship. I started to panic. Thoughts of "did we get the wrong date?" crept into my head. We didn't see any shuttle busses. We finally came upon a bus for one of the ships I could see, and they told us where to go to catch the bus for the Star Princess. I breathed a sigh of relief. I may not be able to see the ship, but it's evidently here. We find the spot to catch the bus, and within a couple minutes one pulls up. We all line our luggage up next to the bus and wait for it to be loaded... nothing. The driver gets off the bus and goes and starts up a conversation with a buddy who is cleaning off another bus. They apparently have a very nice chat, because he is showing no interest whatsoever in loading our luggage on the bus and taking us to the ship. We stare at him. He ignores us. This war of wills goes on for a good 10 minutes before he finally comes over and says "Luggage". Yes, luggage. We know. Luggage. We want it put on the bus. Are we supposed to do that? "Luggage" was the response. Yes, luggage. We got that part. What now? "Luggage" was the response once again. OK, so I finally figure out that this guy has no intention of putting the luggage on the bus and in addition, it's our responsibility to do so. Glad we got that worked out. Finally to the ship. Embarkation is, as always, easy. Once off the now infamous "Luggage" bus, we are on the ship in less than 20 minutes. The Star Princess is a beautiful ship. Perhaps a few scratches and dents, but certainly nothing to be concerned about. Overall, I was impressed that a ship of 9 years age would look as good as it does. The service onboard was fantastic as well. Smiles on faces and a can-do attitude permiates this ship. Captain Perrin looks like he just got out of high school, but apparently he's a highly qualified sea captain. He did a nice job of keeping the passengers informed and was very engaging and personable. First stop: Egypt. The first thing you notice when you pull into the Alexandria port is the smell - they're burning something. It's trash. Egypt is a country of 88 million people and not a single trash can between them. They also don't appear to have any traffic lights. This is especially problematic in Cairo, where it's apparently against the law to use your brake or your turn signal. After the three hour ride from Alexandria to Giza, we emerge at the base of the Pyramids. YESSSS! It's amazing. Nothing like it anywhere else in the World. After the obligatory camel ride (oh yeah, I rode a camel, baby), and photo ops from every conceivable angle, we proceeded to Sakkarra and Memphis before retiring at the Meridian Hotel. Dinner (Thanksgiving Dinner, by the way) was on a Nile Cruise, complete with a belly dancer. This was by far the most unusual Thanksgiving Dinner I've ever had. I won't ever forget it, that's for sure. The next day we went to the Citadel of Mohammed Ali (not the boxer) and the Mosque. These are located on a bluff that overlooks the entire city of Cairo. Ordinarly, that would be really neat, but Cairo isn't much to look at, so we got back in the van and proceeded to the Cairo Museum. I have to say this was a disappointment for me. Literally thousands of pieces of ancient Egyptian antiquities, with virtually no explanations for what they were. It was like being in a warehouse, not a museum. I know they're working on building a new museum, so hopefully this will be remidied. Lunch at the Hard Rock, then back to Alexandria, where we see the Library and the site of the original Alexendria Lighthouse. Finally back to the ship. We take a nap. We deserve it. A day at sea (definitely needed) was followed by another relaxing day at Khios. Khios is a Greek island just off the coast of Turkey. Very nice little place. Not much there, but it's nice just the same. The next day finds us in Istanbul. WOW. What an awesome city. Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Hippodrome, Grand Bazaar - all of it simply amazing. I'd like to go back there someday. Istanbul is everything Cairo isn't - Cosmopolitan, clean, orderly, contemporary but keeping a very real sense of history. Imagine San Francisco, only instead of being 200 years old, it's 2,000 years old. On to Kusadasi. We arranged a tour through EKOL of Ephesus with the Terrace Houses. Words cannot adequately describe this place. Just go see it for yourself. It's astounding. Next stop - Athens. Mrs. Sackman is disappointed because a lot of the renovations on the Temple of Athena are too obvious. Still, it's a place of significant ancient history, and it's a gorgeous spot to view the city of Athens. Unfortunately, no stops at the Olympic Stadium or the Temple of Zeus, which I would have enjoyed. A day at sea was followed by a stop at Naples. We took a ships tour to Pompeii and were not disappointed. Next time, we'll go on our own, though, and spend more time there. It's awesome. Next day back at Rome. Ship's transfer to the airport, one night at the Airport Hilton, then return home via British Air to Denver. Fabulous trip. I can't think of anything to legitimately complain about. Simply fabulous. I'd recommend this to anybody. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
We started our vacation in Rome, and needed transportation from the airport to our hotel in Rome (and later to and from the port of Civitavecchia). We picked Rome Shuttle Limousine, as they had one of the least expensive services, with a ... Read More
We started our vacation in Rome, and needed transportation from the airport to our hotel in Rome (and later to and from the port of Civitavecchia). We picked Rome Shuttle Limousine, as they had one of the least expensive services, with a useful website (romeshuttlelimousine.com), excellent responses to my emails, and good reviews on CruiseCritic and TripAdvisor. We're very glad we picked them as they were reliable; had large, clean vans; spoke acceptable to very good English; and were exceptionally helpful. This was especially true of our driver for the port to the airport where my friend needed a wheelchair and assistance; his help really made a difference when it was most needed. Our hotel in Rome was the Hotel del Corso (website: www.hoteldelcorsoroma.com), based on location (near the Spanish Steps) and reviews. Once again, the reviews were on target, because we found the hotel's location perfect, the rooms relatively large (for Europe), clean, and with a staff that could not be more helpful. The downside is that both of our rooms faced the Via del Corso, which made it pretty noisy until between midnight and 1 AM or so. The included breakfast was also better than the standard continental, with fruit, yogurt, hard boiled eggs, and excellent cappuccino. Internet service was also available. We had been in Rome before, but still wanted to get the most out of our short stay, so we did two free tours (Spanish Steps to the Vatican, ditto to the Coliseum) from RomeFreeTours.com. Both were excellent; the guides work for tips, so plan accordingly. We also did an excellent paid tour of the Vatican Museum through MaximusTours.com (also known as VaticanTour.com). We (re) did the Pantheon with their excellent AudioGuides, strolled in the Piazza Navona and Trastevere section, and overall enjoyed the Eternal City. The Star Princess is very similar to the Sapphire Princess, the ship we previously cruised on. The cabins are very well laid out, which gives as much usable space as you're likely to get in a moderate cost cabin. I thought the temperature control was not very good, with both our cabin (set at the lowest temperature setting) and the common areas sometimes very warm. The food is still very good (especially the International Cafe for snacks or light lunches), but service is beginning to suffer now that most people just go with the ship-imposed (recommended?) daily gratuity charges instead of tipping actual individuals. Several times we needed to ask to get our water glasses refilled or have more wine poured. Service at the purser's desk was another source of irritation: there were almost always moderately long lines, partly because of understaffing, but mostly because you needed the purser's desk for almost any problem that might arise. Want another copy of the Princess Patter? Stand on line. Want to get a copy of your current room charges? Stand on line because there's no terminal where you could request that. Need foreign currency? Stand on line because all the on-board machines to do that were out of service. Still, the staff was always friendly and willing to help when they could. The ship offers the usual activities, such as trivia once or more daily, galley tours, art auctions (free champagne!), generally decent entertainment, and an almost unlimited number of activities that get you to spend money (wine tastings, spa treatments, teeth whitening demos, and lots more). This constant nickel-and-diming, though, is no different than any other ship we've sailed with, and rather than be turned off by it we were able to accept it as the way we were able to get a very inexpensive cruise. Some of these extra charges, especially drinks, wine, and boutique merchandise, seemed very reasonably priced; other profit centers (think photographs and Internet connectivity) seemed overly expensive. For coffee lovers, the coffee card (15 cups of cappuccino, latte, espresso, and more) was a good buy at $24, especially if your travel agent is able to get you the coupon booklet which includes a buy-one-get-one-free offer. That lets you get an ice-blended mocha caramel coffee for under a buck. With the card, premium fresh brewed coffee, hot chocolate, and premium tea are always available for free. A final note: we are very pleased with Princess's policy of allowing each of us to bring a bottle of wine on board for personal consumption (the three of us actually brought on a 3 liter box -- no breakage on the flight overseas). It was especially useful when we made friends with fellow passengers upgraded to a balcony cabin. We opted to use RamsesTours.com for our overnight stay in Cairo. We were met promptly at the port and taken to a large, clean van. I was raised in NYC where driving is considered a contact sport, but I'd perhaps rather stuff hot pokers into my eyes than try and negotiate a car in Egypt. Nevertheless, our driver made driving (safely) in Egypt look almost simple! Our guide, Islam Said, was knowledgeable about all of the places we visited, giving us good history and advice throughout the long trip from Alexandria to the pyramids and at the various sites we visited, even those that we added that were not on their regular tour. Our only problem was the Nile Dinner Cruise, which everyone thought was a waste of money (institutional quality food, high prices for drinks, overly loud music, hokey belly dancer and "Whirling Dervish"-type dancer). The Cairo Museum had some fantastic displays, especially the King Tut exhibit, but also had its downside, namely many exhibits without any clarifying information about what was displayed. Hopefully this will change when the new museum is built. Ramses booked us at the Mercure Cairo Le Sphinx hotel (formerly the Sofitel). A few reviews to the contrary, we found the hotel to be clean, spacious, with a view of the pyramids and with an excellent included breakfast. Khios was the big problem in terms of setting up a tour. All three of the tour companies I found wanted some to full pre-payment in advance, which is a real problem when there's a substantial chance that the weather will not let you tender in. After a lot of emails, our tour company (SunriseTours.gr) accepted a reservation for a full day tour for 7 without requiring any deposit. Due to a tour guide strike in Greece, and some communications problems in emails between our group and Sunrise, this tour fell apart at the last minute, but Sunrise was very flexible in putting together an alternative that covered what we wanted for a very good price. I'm glad we could work so well with Sunrise, because we did enjoy our tour of the island, the monastery perhaps more than the Mastic villages, although both were fairly interesting. We were to Istanbul a year before this cruise, and it is a very easy city in which to get around on your own, so we took the tram to the Sultanahmet stop (the heart of the city) and toured the Basilica cistern (okay, but not as good as we expected); the Grand Bazaar (shopping on steroids, with haggling over price the thing to do); and the Sulemaniye mosque (not as impressive as last year's stop at the Blue Mosque, but worth seeing in its own right). For a city that is relatively inexpensive, though, we found it easy to spend way too much money for what you get at lunch. Grabbing something on the go is a better idea here. This review doesn't talk about the Blue Mosque, Topkapi, or Hagia Sophia, because we did that last year on a land tour, but all of those sites should be on your MUST SEE list. We were in Kusadasi/Ephesus a year ago, but the area was worth a return visit, especially because we hadn't done the optional terrace houses in Ephesus last time. This is a definite "Don't Miss" attraction. Ephesus itself is an ancient city, possibly as well preserved as Pompeii, and a more important, wealthier city in its time. We went with HelloEphesus.com, which has an easy to navigate web site that includes prices that are actually listed (no need to request them via email) and very reasonable. Like the other companies we used, Hello Ephesus was waiting for us when we got off the ship with a clean and large van. Our guide, Yigit, was excellent; although we had been there a year ago, Yigit found much to talk about in Ephesus that we hadn't previously covered. He not only knew his history but was also pleasant and friendly. Our driver, Mustafa, was also professional and an asset to our trip. We did not revisit the Virgin Mary house this trip, but recommend it to those who haven't been there before. In Athens, we used Paul Kalomiris, owner of GreekTaxi.gr. Paul responded quickly to our emails and provided an excellent running commentary (in near-perfect English) as we drove through Athens to the various sites. Licensed guides are required for the Acropolis, but we hooked up with one and got information overload. The guidebook Paul provided would probably have been all we needed for a good overview of the site, which is really what we wanted. Paul was good about watching the time and got us back to the ship without any time concerns. Athens, as a city, has a lot to recommend it. The Acropolis is the main focus for tourists, and is certainly worth an extended visit, considering how much there is to see and do at that site alone. Related to that is another important site, the New Acropolis Museum, which contains many artifacts from the Acropolis (replaced, on-site, by reproductions such as the friezes from the Parthenon). The museum's construction, however, left a lot of open space inside, so it can be gone through perhaps quicker than one might expect. There are good descriptions in English and a recommended short movie (subtitled and English) talking about the Parthenon and Acropolis. The ticket for the Acropolis includes many other sites in Athens (although the museum is an additional 5 E), and includes something like an additional 10-12 sites including Hadrian's Library, the Ancient Agora, the Roman Agora, and the Temple of Zeus. Our final port of call was Naples, where AmedeoAvellino.com had been recommended. Although we knew that his company could not act as a guide at Pompeii, we did think the driver or another person would give us background information about Pompeii and the other sites on our itinerary. There was some misunderstanding, as all we got was a car and driver. Our driver, Nicola, spoke minimal English, but directed us to a wonderful restaurant for lunch and was very helpful when one of us fell on a step and tore a ligament in her ankle. Naples itself is the port not for Pompeii and also the Amalfi coast drive. We had been in Pompeii previously, which was good because we got very little out of it this time, having found the AudioGuides not very useful. We think the cost of a licensed guide, shared among several people, is a much better deal, but no one showed up until after we rented the AudioGuides (we were there early and off-season). The drive to Amalfi, however, was wonderful, and Ravello was an excellent place to stop, visit, and have lunch. Although the coastal drive is really the main attraction, Amalfi itself is also an interesting town worth the time. Be sure to visit the church. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
I've cruised 7 times, but it's been several years and I waited with anticipation to see how things had changed and how they'd stayed the same. As a travel agent, I have achieved Commodore status with ... Read More
I've cruised 7 times, but it's been several years and I waited with anticipation to see how things had changed and how they'd stayed the same. As a travel agent, I have achieved Commodore status with Princess Cruises, their expert certification program, and part of that reward is a free cruise for two anywhere in the world, for any length of time. The catch is that not every cruise is available for the Commodore reward. I watched the website for about 3 years before the perfect cruise dropped in my lap. The other part of the deal is that free only applies to an inside cabin. Other cabin types are available at substantially discounted rates. Jack and I went back and forth about whether we would take advantage of the awesome option of free but we both know that once you've sailed with a balcony, you're never going back. The compromise we worked out is we'd pay for the balcony, but not take as many shore excursion to make up some of the cost. When push came to shove, however, we took the balcony AND the shore excursions. Any logical person would know this was the way it would work out. We may be eating ramen noodles for the next six months, but it's worth it for the amazing adventure we had over nearly two amazing weeks in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. Planning our vacation, after choosing the cruise and Jack getting approval from work, included having to find a good airfare from Dubai to Rome. We had a variety of options ranging from nonstop and super expensive to awkward and slow but cheap. We took cheap which meant we'd be taking the airport shuttle bus from downtown Dubai to Abu Dhabi, flying from there to Frankfurt on Etihad Airways and changing to Alitalia for a regional flight to Rome after a several hour layover. We did this in both directions and it was seriously inconvenient but was about $800 per person cheaper. Time is money, but it's not THAT much money. We also were not going to add on any days in Rome so that Jack wouldn't be taking too many days off work and we would save probably $1000 or more between us. It turns out that was a great decision. The weather in Rome the several days before the cruise sailed was rainy and cold, and afterward we were so exhausted that we were glad to get on the plane so we could just RELAX. So jumping ahead, we arrived in Rome after a long but eventless trip and found our Princess rep who did not have us on her transfers manifest. I didn't panic too badly because I knew it would be taken care of one way or another (it's not like they'd leave us at the airport, after all), and sure enough, after a few phone calls, she discovered that we had been added after the manifest was printed. No worries; we're on our way! The drive through the Italian countryside was pretty, green, rolling hills, so a vast difference from the flat flat flat brown as far as the horizon view we see when driving through the Arabian desert we now call home. Our guide was pleasant and thorough, telling us how to pronounce the name of the port city for Rome, Civitavecchia (chivy ta veck ya) and saying we would be quizzed before being allowed off the bus. For some reason many of the old bitties on the bus seemed to be taking her seriously, were quite concerned about getting it wrong and couldn't have been more so. She would say Civitavecchia, and they would respond back words that might as well have been "meatloaf sandwich" they were so far off. She finally started saying they were pretty close when they were not anywhere near the correct pronunciation for fear they may actually not get off the bus when the time came! Finally the ship came into view, much larger than any ship I'd sailed on before, but still with that iconic logo waving to us from a distance. Because we were on an official Princess Cruises transfer, I wasn't worried about missing the ship, but this was the closest call I'd ever had on boarding the ship. We got on board, got to our room and only had less than an hour before the ship sailed. I definitely prefer being able to get acclimated to the ship before its departure, but c'est la vie! Over the next 12 days, we'd get to know it just fine, and they did provide a map which I carried with me for two or three days to help us find our way around. Regarding the cruise experience, as always we had a very attentive room steward, Paula from Brazil. Our cabin was on the 10th floor, Caribe Deck, C523, just aft of midship on the starboard side. The starboard side is the one that looks out to sea if the ship is harbored cross-wise in port. The way to remember is port (side) and left (hand) both have 4 letters - the same! Of course, keeping this straight when you can't see the water is all but impossible. Thankfully the ship had signs that said Starboard side, odd numbered rooms; Port side, even numbered rooms. I used the odd and even part, not the Starboard/Port part to remember which direction we went. Also, the painting with the weird globes when we got out of the elevator meant we went right. Whatever it takes! As always the food was good and more than plentiful on board. The difference for us this time was we chose Anytime Dining instead of fixed seating. This was not an option the last time I cruised, a little more than seven years ago. How this ended up working for us is as we met people we liked on the ship, we'd invite them to dinner with us at 8 PM at the Portofino dining room. So by the end of the trip, we pretty much had made a customized fixed seating arrangement. On one hand it took us having to troll for people to be friends with and take it right to the next level by making dates, but on the other hand we were able to have great dining companions of our choice. And this is what I would recommend. Set out to meet new people and make a dinner date! You may not find your perfect dinner companions the first time out, but it does complement your cruise experience very well! In addition, on a cruise with an older clientele, this allowed us to have dinner within our demographic. More on our dinner companions later. A new element of dining on cruise ships is the specialty dining venues. There were two on the Star Princess. One of them comes with great reviews for just $20 extra per person. I fully intended to go, but never quite made it. I found as the days went on, the menu in the dining room got less creative and special, and to do it again would have booked one or both of the specialty restaurants during the cruise. As always, I spent pretty much every evening in the casino. However, the casino was MUCH smaller than I remembered. There was only 1 table of any game, and not a single table of regular, $5 minimum, 8 deck black jack. There were two games, face up black jack, which seems like a good idea but is in fact a sucker bet, and "fun 21" a copy of Spanish 21, which varies from black jack here and there, and of course, increases the odds to the house. There was also a $10 minimum bet table that had an auto shuffler. The one thing I found with this is if you're hot, you're hot, and if you're not, there's no "new shoe" to salvage a bad run. However, as is pretty much always the case, the better gamblers go to higher minimum tables, so when they got sick of the stupid play at Fun 21, they'd move over to the $10 black jack. There was also one craps table, one roulette wheel, a Caribbean Stud table (which I love but I know is risky when you don't want to spend a lot of money), and a few other tables. Then of course there was an abundance of video poker/slot machines. Two of our dinner companions work for a casino in Ontario Canada and explained why the games have changed so much.... MONEY. The house doesn't make enough money on regular 8-deck $5 black jack, so they eliminated it. Also, the casino was never crowded, and usually quite empty. I would be interested to learn how revenue has changed as a result, since I'd think butts in chairs would be better, even if you have to give away a little more money here and there. But maybe not. As always, I didn't attend a single show on the ship. It's a holdover from my Club Med days, and no matter how logically I know that cruise ship shows are NOT the lip-synced, non-professional mess we put on, I still can't get myself to go. I met a member of the cruise crew who also worked at Club Med years ago, and she said the same thing... she can't watch the shows either. We had a good chuckle reminiscing (cringing) about "Hands up" and the duck dance. Sadly, we were interrupted by her having to do actual work and we never got to finish our conversation. What I got from other passengers is that the shows are well-staged and well-performed, if cheesy. The more mature set loved it. Two more new things on this ship (and many of Princess' ships) are The Sanctuary and the Thermal Suite. Although I'd do it a little differently next time, we enjoyed the Thermal Suite, and didn't use the Sanctuary. The Thermal Suite is part of the Lotus Spa, which includes the salon, spa services, and the gym. It's a room with relaxation beds, s-curved heated stone beds that were oh so relaxing, a sauna, steam bath, eucalyptus steam bath (the part I used the most) and big walk in showers with the spray all around. After a long day it was fabulously quiet and relaxing. Luxurious, really. However, I wouldn't spend the money on this again, especially for both of us, because Jack wouldn't go very often (that would be a big fat duh, but he insisted he would when it was time for us to commit to it), and it was nearly $200 for both of us for the length of the cruise, at a discount, and the regular changing room for the spa (the "public area") had both a steam room and sauna. It wasn't as nice as the Thermal Suite, but if I'm going alone that's good enough, and free is better. On the other hand, we didn't use The Sanctuary, and I wish I had. At the far aft of the ship, on the 16th floor, there was an area with a cover over it, with potted trees, awesome lounge chairs with almost mattress-thick cushions, and Serenity Stewards bringing you drinks and Evian face misters. Our ship was not very crowded, but I can imagine this being a fantastic option on a full ship at a warmer time of year. They charge $10 for ½ day (4 ½ hours) or $20 for the full day. I'm thinking 4 ½ hours of pure relaxation per day is probably sufficient, and a great way to spend part of a sea day after a crazy couple days of touring, especially with the crazy schedule we had. Unfortunately, our cruise was front-loaded with sea days, so by the time you figure out the best way to handle your day, they're past you. Just a brief note about our stateroom. The balcony was FANTASTIC, and it appeared that the 10th floor (Caribe deck) had the best balconies. The floors both above us and below had smaller balconies, and if the balcony is the thing, bigger is better. We spent quite a bit of time on our balcony, having breakfast, Jack having his smokes, enjoying the islands we passed, just being at peace, and I'd push for Caribe deck balcony over a fancier cabin on a different floor, unless of course we were getting upgraded to a full suite or something. I think those balconies are supposed to be pretty posh, but I can't say from first hand experience. The balconies, by the way, have doors that go between them, so if you do have adjacent cabins, you can add an access point, which could be nice if you're traveling with family. Years ago we were on a Carnival cruise and they removed the entire dividing walls between our family's balconies, but I haven't found a cruise line since them who does the same. That's one point for Carnival, a gazillion points for Princess. But I digress. The bathroom was smaller than the one in the inside cabin I had on the Regal Princess eons ago. However, it worked as it was supposed to and the bathroom isn't the thing for me, so not worth making a big deal about. I would recommend, if little showers annoy you, to use the showers in the Lotus spa. They're bigger, better shower heads, and have shampoo, conditioner and liquid soap in dispensers, which is much more earth-friendly. And since it seemed like we had to use mountains of shampoo to get a lather, not going through an entire hotel bottle of shampoo every day eases my conscience. The other note about the stateroom is that the bed sucked. S.U.C.K.E.D sucked. It was Icky Holiday bad (another story for another day). Given an opportunity to gripe and yet not be ungrateful, I would go on and on about how old and uncomfy the mattress was. I would be interested to know if the suites or mini-suites had better/newer mattresses because if I'd paid for a cabin at that price point I'd have seriously been screaming about it. Alas, we were so exhausted every night, I could have slept on the floor. On to the destinations! The itinerary ahead of us was 2 days at sea, Alexandria for 2 days (which meant we could go to Cairo, which is 3 hours away in each direction), day at sea, Khios, Greece, Istanbul, Ephesus, Athens, day at sea, Naples, and back to Rome. I was really glad to have 2 days at sea so that I could decompress before the touring started. I was really excited to have so many new destinations to visit. The only place on the entire itinerary I'd been to before was Athens, but that had been years ago, and it certainly merited at least a second viewing (and cutting ahead, definitely merits a third visit), so we were going to see some new and very important places. Really the entire top of my bucket list (I know it's clichE but it soooo effectively states the point) was going to be checked off. Of course, the trade with cruising is that yes, you get to visit these places, but many of these places required more than one day to do it justice. On the other hand, it's a fantastic introduction and some places will go back on the to-do list while some have gone off, never to be even considered for a revisit (Cairo, I'm talking to you). So speaking of the devil, Cairo, here we come! The Star Princess holds about 2800 passengers. The ship wasn't full, but probably 2200 or so (I have no actual idea how many were on board), and virtually everyone there was boarding a shuttle bus to Cairo, to see the pyramids, the Egyptian museum, a Nile cruise, an overnight stay, there were a lot of options. So the deal is that cruise ship passengers have to go by convoy with armed security forces. It doesn't exactly start the trip on a warm and fuzzy note, but it is what it is. So the 25 or so busses loaded up and off we went. We chose to see the pyramids, the sphinx and the Egyptian museum. It was a great day for the pyramids! There are 3 stops in Giza that you make, pretty much just for photos. There's nothing there except the pyramids, although you can go into one of them. I had been warned to not go in! Our guide said the same thing and mentioned it is such tight quarters that if you are a smidge larger than you should be, you might literally not fit. They had me at huge claustrophobia with nothing to see as a pay off, so that was easy. When you get to the pyramids, everyone gets off the bus, takes a couple pictures, gets hassled to buy crap, and then back on the bus. So on our bus was a group of Brazilians, a few of whom spoke English, several old couples, and a family of four from Chicago. The bus had a front door and a side door. The side door was great for crowd control, but the steps were extremely steep. The first time out of the bus all the old people took FOREVER getting off the bus. This is understandable to an extent, although the people waiting for the steps down could have walked around the people nearly falling to their death. Instead, the same old people used the back stairs every time, instead of walking to the front of the bus and the perfectly manageable stairs there. Thankfully after a time or two, we figured out the process, and walked by the old people nearly falling to their deaths. Concern is concern, but this is the pyramids, and we have 10 minutes. So cutting to the chase, we made 2 stops at the pyramids of 10-15 minutes per stop to take pictures, and then went to the Sphinx. The sphinx is dramatically less spectacular than you think. On the other hand, you have to walk through an ancient temple to get close to the sphinx. This temple? Nothin. It was not even a little organized, documented, or secure. You walked through and got to the other side with no commentary of any sort en route. Our guide had told us about a hole that was used as a wishing well where a statue had been found that we would later be seeing at the Egyptian museum. So there was a hole with a metal grate over the top, and a few dollars and coins thrown in. No sign, no one standing there, nothing. Just weird. So we took a couple pictures of the sphinx, and back we went to the bus. Then we went to the Oberoi hotel for lunch. I have to say, they did an amazing job of hauling several hundred people through a buffet, provide water, coffee and tea, and have us on our way in less than an hour. The food wasn't fantastic but it was fine. People not from the Middle East may have seen the food as acceptably exotic. I thought the hummus was lousy, but I digress. After lunch we drove into Cairo. You've heard about the traffic there. It was all that. I don't need to elaborate. But what we had to get to was our "shop stop." Like 10,000 other tchotcky stores around the world, this was sort of a mall with several vendors. We were all given a card designating our driver so they'd know who to grease after our sale. The only thing that was any kind of interesting was the cartouches they were selling, but they were expensive and I wasn't going to deal with the crowds just for that. So 5 or 10 minutes and we were out of there. Even Jack wasn't tempted to buy something! So back to the bus we went and waited. We were there for more than 45 minutes, longer than the total amount of time we'd spent at all 3 stops in Giza. This was about enough for the obnoxious Chicago guy to go into full meltdown. Apparently he didn't get the memo that Cairo and Egypt in general is a cesspool of corruption, greed, and useless wastes of time. So the fact that our guide rushed us through the site of one of the most mysterious, significant relics in history so that she'd get her cut of a single $200 (I don't actually know what the one woman paid for her piece) cartouche, should have surprised no one. Bitching about it, although pleasant for me sitting immediately in front of the guy, was going to get him exactly nowhere. Moving on. We went to the Egyptian museum, the home of the King Tut items you may have seen on the exhibit that toured the US and Canada when I was a kid. It also holds a bunch more than that, in a 2 story oldish building. So you walk into pure chaos. There is no organization to the building or any of the exhibits. The lighting is so terrible it's hard to get around, and certainly hard to figure out what the artifacts even are. We skipped right by any of the ground floor exhibits and went straight upstairs where we struggled to see mummies of animals. Every once in a while there would be a 3X5 note card, written in Arabic only, with a short description. I don't speak or read Arabic. Our guide was very excited to show us a handful of items, which were in cases similar to my mother's hutch. Ok, they were bigger than that. Maybe each one would hold 3 sets of china instead of one. The inside of the glass was dusty, which would tell anyone, even in that dim light, that the displays were not air tight. She showed us one statue she was especially excited about, and in order to show us the remarkable eyes, she pulled out her cell phone which as a flashlight on it so that we could see it. Seriously. She had to provide her own flashlight so we could look at an exhibit in possibly the most important collection of artifacts in the world. So we were there for an hour I suppose. I was interested to see the gift shop; maybe I could buy something that I could appreciate later. We had to search for awhile to even FIND the gift shop because you had to leave the museum, walk around the outside and in a sort of side door. The gift shop was approximately the size of my bedroom, but less clean (and if you know me, you know I'm a slob), and I had to seek out assistance to buy something. So back on the bus we went. The return drive took longer because getting out of Cairo is its own little piece of hell. We got back to the ship at about 9 PM, and although we could have gone straight into the dining room, I was so dirty, it would have required a shower with, I don't know, a triple shampoo, rinse, repeat. I swear I took half of Cairo with me in my hair. And Jody was nowhere in sight to laugh at me! More on our dinner later. Next day: Alexandria. I didn't have high hopes after yesterday, plus we were very tired, but we'd paid our money so off we went. We boarded busses again, but this time there were way fewer and not all the busses left at the same time. Again it was a beautiful day, not too hot, not humid, bright sunshine, perfect! The tour we took included the catacombs, Pompey's Pillar and the Alexandria Museum. Any of these three beat out pretty much all of yesterday AND we had limited old people. The warning about the catacombs was that there were 85 steps (or something like that), but the reality was each step was about 2 inches tall. It was more like a jagged circular ramp than a staircase. I'm not going to go into all the history here, except for 2 things. One day a mule fell into a sink hole, and in trying to get it out, they discovered these ruins. The other thing of note is this catacombs was originally built to be a mausoleum, more or less, for a single wealthy family. The place included a big dining room table in a room because they thought people would want to come down and spend the day visiting them, and they'd need somewhere to have lunch. The funny thing is they did! They found in this room a huge pile of broken dishes because although it was fine to have your lunch next to dead people, it was bad luck to take anything out with you. So they broke all the dishes before ascending. I thought that was pretty funny. We then visited Pompey's Pillar. As it was a beautiful day, even though this ruins site wasn't all that spectacular, we really enjoyed learning about it and then walking around for a few minutes. I think we had 30 minutes of free time there, and that was plenty. The take away on this is the pillar is called Pompey's, but is not in fact his. They don't know why it got this name, but they do know who it's dedicated to (and yes, I've forgotten already). Finally we visited the Alexandria Museum. The building that housed the museum was formerly the US Consulate. As far as museums go, this was fair, but relative to Cairo, this was the Smithsonian! The artifacts were reasonably well protected and lit, but still the descriptions were on 3X5 note cards and language was not consistent. What we didn't see in Alexandria was the library. The original library is completely gone, and they've built a new one where they think the old one might have been. We were told the outside was cool but the inside was just a library, so we skipped it. I came across one couple who did go in and said it was great, and it sounded like it was much more than just a library. Alas, you can't do everything, and I think we made a fair trade. We had another day at sea and then Khios, Greece. This is one of the biggest and more important islands of Greece, although I'd never heard of it and had trouble finding information online. I should have thought to try alternative spellings. Anyway, they don't have a deep water port, so the tenders would be used on this day. The weather was pretty rough, so they had to send out a test tender to see if it was safe to send passengers. When I saw this first boat hit the water, my day was instantly rescheduled. I have never seen a boat bob and weave like that before. I got an image in my head of getting in there and insty-vomiting on 6-10 people, and that was it. They determined that they would send people ashore, but if you were booked on a tour and didn't want to take the tender, you could get a full refund. And the entire crew was kept on the ship. They weren't happy about this because it was the first time they'd ever been to this island. Anyway, the people that went said the ride was fine, and the island was fine. There is a UNESCO world heritage site that people said was nice but small. When I said I get sea-sick, they ALL said, oh, well no, then you definitely did not want to be on that tender. I have no regrets, except that I wish Jack would have gone without me. It wouldn't have bothered him at all. Next day: Istanbul! The AWA Dubai Travel Club is planning a trip in the spring to Istanbul, so I was excited to get some firsthand information. Istanbul is awesome, so easy to get around and all the things you'd want to see and do on a short trip are all within walking distance of each other (really within several square blocks you can see 6 or 8 really cool places). We took the shuttle from the bus into town. They charged 12 Euro one way or 20 round trip. We bought the round trip, but this is another thing I'd do differently. The tram system in Istanbul is terrific and there's a stop very close to the pier, and it costs 1.50 each way. The meeting place to catch the bus back was near the Grand Bazaar, back up the hill, and by the time we were done doing our thing we were way too tired for the walk and ended up taking a taxi back to the ship. The guy kind of ripped us off because he let us off quite a ways from the entrance to the pier. In his defense, he probably didn't know where he was going, but we paid, I don't know, maybe 40 euro to get back to the ship and then had to walk a very long 2 or 3 blocks. If we'd have taken the tram for 1.50 we'd have gotten closer to the ship. Grrrrr. But live and learn. I don't know what to say by way of advice for money. Pretty much everyone in Turkey would take dollars, euros or lira (and plastic), but of course none of those is our preferred currency (except plastic, of course!). I would probably recommend having 50 euro in small bills and coins for things like tips and sodas, but to take the tram you need lira. If you're going to spend several days in Turkey (we had 2 days, including Ephesus), I'd probably get at least 20 euro for the same kinds of things. What we found ourselves doing to figure out what things cost is this. There are 2 lira in a Euro, a Euro is about $1.40 US, and a dirham is about $0.27. Thankfully we didn't buy much because by the time you estimate here and there, you'd be WAY off. The Grand Bazaar was substantially more expensive than the people outside, and you can't trust what any of them are saying. We had a guy approach us, looked normal enough, spoke English well, and asked us if we needed help. Here's the story he gave us. He is a rug wholesaler in the US and goes back and forth to Istanbul to buy rugs. His wife is American, but she is back in the US. There was a young attractive woman with him, but somehow he never got around to introducing her. My first red flag went up when I told him my sister sells furniture in the US and she'd love to work with him and he DIDN'T whip out a business card. So he's kind of telling us what he knows about rugs, and tells us he helps people find the right items for them, as a courtesy, because, you know, he's a good guy with time on his hands. Well I know for sure we are not in the market for a rug since we already have one, and even if Turkish rugs are better than Persian rugs, I think I could still probably find a good one at home. Then he told us he's a producer of rugs (did he forget he's a wholesaler, LIVING in the US?), and if we've ever been told a silk rug is made from natural dyes, we've been lied to. He has silk rugs with natural dyes but they are quite a bit more expensive, but worth it if you want the real thing. Also, you really want a wool rug because they last longer. And, how do you tell if a rug is handmade versus machine made? Turn it over. The knots won't all be the same size if it's handmade. A little corner of my brain got a little worried that we'd gotten completely screwed on our rug (had we been told our rug was made from natural dyes? I couldn't remember. And my rug is so consistent you could almost have the bottom face up!), but another little corner said this guy is a douchecanoe and don't pay any attention to him. So cutting ahead to the next day in Ephesus, our tour dropped us off at a place that makes and sells rugs. We went through the whole spiel and I asked the guy about the silk rugs. He said silk rugs are NEVER made with natural dyes. It won't accept the color. Plus, it is fairly obvious to see when natural dyes are used on wool rugs, and he showed us the differences. We had just sat through a demonstration of a woman making the rugs (wow), and I asked him about the knots thing. He turned over a rug that had been made in-house (no reason not to believe this guy; I'd just seen a very good demonstration). If the knots weren't all perfect, they were close enough without a microscope.As his story started to twist and it became clear the hard sell was going to start any second, we extracted ourselves and walked away. At about this time, we were standing between the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia at 12 noon, straight up. A cacophony of calls to prayer surrounded us. It was really cool! Every mosque, and there are lots of them, did the call to prayer, not exactly in unison and as opposed to how it is in Dubai, it was LOUD. If I had to deal with this every day I'd imagine it getting really old, but one time during a great day in the heart of Istanbul, yeah, I can do that. Finally, we made our way to the Topkapi Palace, the only site we paid to actually enter. This is a huge palace with beautiful gardens, the treasury of jewels, the spoils of war, gifts, clothing, all kinds of stuff. And because this was not Egypt, there were great signs, in Arabic and English that explained what we were looking at fabulously well. By this time we were both beat, so we didn't do as much exploring as we'd like. I would definitely do this again, and get the head phones, or take advantage of a guide. You know about the trip back to the ship now. There's no rest for the weary, as the next day we arrived in Kusadasi (pronounced KOOSH a DAASH e), the port for Ephesus. Based on recommendations and what I remember Mom and Dad telling me about their trip here, we did Ephesus, the Virgin Mary shrine and St John Basilica. To do it again, and if it was offered, I'd do Ephesus and St. John Basilica. The shrine was in a pretty area; it felt like a state park, but the story is pretty weak and if you're not a true believer, this is an hour out of your day that could be spent much better. The house (a representation, not the real house) is not very exciting, but there is a shrine inside. However, you are not allowed to stop to say a prayer or even light a candle. You are shuttled in the front door of a room about 8 feet by 10 feet, and out a side door. Once outside there's a place for you to light a candle. Even if you wanted to be moved by it (I'm remembering the lame-o woman who was brought to tears in the 4 year old Greek Orthodox Church at the Baptism site in Jordan), you wouldn't have time until later. A little further down there is a wall with 4 niches, 3 of them right together and one a little bit separated, each with a water spigot. This is the fountain of sacred waters. So you can turn on the spigot and fill a bottle with holy water, or you can simply wash your hands, as most did on this day. Each spigot was supposed to provide you with a different blessing, health, wealth, love, and the 4th is for non-Christians (Muslims also believe in Mary). They apparently don't get a specific blessing. The fact that each of these came from the same spring didn't seem to slow anyone down. I think this little piece of mythology is something the Catholic Church wants to downplay. I couldn't remember the 3rd wish so I googled it and didn't find any official or semi-official websites that spelled out the purpose of each spigot. Needless to say, it made the rest of the site seem kind of ridiculous. Finally there is a wishing wall. I played along and put a wish for both Jack and me in there. He wouldn't play along. Next was Ephesus. I was a little concerned that after having been to Petra, Ephesus would be a letdown. It was completely unnecessary worry. The similarities are that they are both ruins and the main attraction at both is a large building of 2 stories with columns. There's no need to go into a full description here. It was large, a lot of walking, totally cool, and our guide was great and very informative. Given the chance to visit, don't hesitate. I am looking forward to comparing my photos with my parents. They went 10 or 15 years ago and I'd like to see how much has changed, since it is actively being excavated and restored. Finally, just so we can pile on, we went to St. John Basilica. Although people confuse this St. John with John the Baptist, they are two different guys. This Basilica is for the apostle John who went with Mary from Israel to Ephesus, not the one who baptized Jesus and then had his head on a platter. Anyway, this site was beautiful, a high point in Kusadasi, literally, so it had great panoramic views of the area, and had a more plausible back story than the Mary shrine did. Unfortunately, at this point in the day, we were pretty wiped, so I don't remember too many of the details. Jack might, since it was his namesake we were visiting. When we were done there and it was now nearing darkness, the driver said there's a store that does carpet making demonstrations and if we hadn't visited the place in Istanbul, we could go in and look. There were only 2 couples who went in, which was disappointing to me, since I knew we would only be learning from them and not BUYING. But that's just the way it goes sometimes, and I'm not going to throw the guy a bone by buying a $1000 rug. I've already discussed part of this visit, but the first part was maybe even more interesting. They showed how they go from silk worm cocoons to silk thread. Here's what happens. They take a bunch of silk worms, maybe a hundred at a time, and dump them in a pot of water. They are soaked for a few minutes, and then the guy takes a sort of brush and starts beating against the cocoons. As he does this, the ends of the strings start to stick to the brush. He takes those ends and runs it through a guide, kind of like threading a sewing machine, and hooks it to a paddle thingy. Then he starts winding the paddle up and before long you've got a paddle full of silk thread (each cocoon makes about 1 kilometer of thread) at one end and a pot of dead black silk worms at the other end. The guy let me take a cocoon with me, so that was cool. Next day (no, we get no breaks for awhile) was Athens. I've been to Athens before and loved it, so I was really looking forward to going back. Jack has never been, and I was concerned about all the walking we would do. Because he had done so well through Cairo and Alexandria, I decided to go for it and buy the tour in Athens. We did "The Acropolis and on your own" which is fairly self-explanatory. However we did get a pretty good city tour en route to the Acropolis, including a stop at the original stadium from the first modern Olympic games. The stadium isn't all that exciting, but it offers a fantastic first view of the Acropolis and Parthenon from there. One thing that was a pleasant surprise is that the Acropolis has changed since I visited last. I remembered being wowed by it, but wishing there was more of it standing. My wish was their command. The site was much more complete this time. They are slowly dismantling and reconstructing the Parthenon and other buildings to make them earthquake-proof. When I visited before I think they were just starting this process. There are miles to go before they sleep, but definite progress has been made. In addition, we were able to watch them moving blocks around to do some reconstruction. It's an exceedingly slow process, so I couldn't wait around for the stone to actually get where it was going, but with time I could have sat there for hours watching the process. But then Jack's head would have exploded from the tedium. Instead of walking back down the front to our bus, we walked out of the acropolis the back way and down to the Plaka, the shopping/dining district I'd spent so much time in the last time I was in Athens. Our guide pointed out a couple things, but we didn't get any sense of him really pushing us to one store or restaurant, which was a really nice change of pace. We finished our walk right on the square in front of the first Greek Orthodox church. There was an al fresco restaurant right there, and noticing there were actual Greeks sitting there, I suggested we give it a shot. One of our new friends, Sharon from New Zealand joined us. They had a menu of pretty typical Greek things, and we began to order. We thought we'd 5 or 6 dishes and share between the 3 of us. It seemed weird when I got half way through my order and the waiter said Great, and started to walk away. I called him back and finished our order. Here's why the waiter was smart and we were stupid. These were entrees, not mezze, so we basically ordered enough full meals for 6 people. On the other hand, it was all awesome and we chowed down. There was tragically little left over, to all of our bloated embarrassment. After Athens, we blessedly had a day at sea, and man oh man did we need it. Our final port of call was Naples. What did I know about Naples going in? Not much. Pizza comes from there and Pompeii is sort of close by. I've been to Jerash in Jordan and I met a woman there who said she'd been to Pompeii and Jerash blows it out of the water. That is kind of like saying Paris is better than Rome, so you don't need to bother. What? The two have virtually nothing to do with each other. I am SOOOO glad I listened to friends who said although they hadn't been to Jerash, there was no way I could skip Pompeii. The other thing I got was you HAVE to see the Archeological museum in Naples. The third biggy for history/museum geeks is Herculaneum but there are only so many hours in the day, and since I'd heard most of the artifacts had been removed from Herculaneum to the museum, I felt safe in skipping it. Whether that was right or wrong, I can't say, but I'm happy we did what we did, Pompeii, the museum and pizza for lunch. And every single tour that went out of Naples stopped by this cameo factory. It's nice of Princess to try to prop up an ancient and dying art, but I seriously could not care less about cameos. So they shuttle you in so you can use the bathroom and stretch for a few minutes, and off you go to the next thing. I don't know if anyone on our bus bought anything. I'm not going to go into the details of Pompeii (you can read about it online somewhere) but suffice it to say you cannot miss this! It was astounding, educational, beautiful, really amazing. Unfortunately this is the only day we encountered any sort of bad weather, but even then we were very lucky. We got into the baths just as a deluge of rain started to come down. By the time we'd finished the baths (without dawdling) the rain had pretty much finished. We did get caught in the rain closer to the end but pretty much everyone had rain gear on. I didn't, but I did have my winter'ish coat which I pulled over my head. It wasn't pretty but it got the job done. Note to self, don't forget the friggin umbrella! On a side note, one of our friends who also visited Pompeii in a separate group said as soon as it started to rain (much earlier for them as they arrived later) one woman declared that they should stop the tour and just head back to the bus. The guide thought this nutbag was speaking for the majority and almost called it quits. My friend and some others apparently spoke up and continued on, with the woman complaining the entire time that they should stop. The only thing of note from our group is that after we were finished and waiting at the meeting place, our guide had 4 (!!!) different old people approach her because they'd lost their group. One guy's group had already given up on him and left, and he was like, well what are you going to do about it? She was asked so many stupid questions on this day I don't know how she got through. For example, there was an old lady who apparently didn't hear too well. The guide was saying how this or that thing (like architecture or religion) dates back to the Egyptians. This woman said, "the gypsies?" and the guide, not understanding her said, "yes, the Egyptians" and kept talking. After MINUTES have gone by the old lady says, "oh, you are saying Egyptians!" hmmmm, where have you been for the last 11 days? Later she's talking about the wife of Jason (of the Argonauts) and what Jason did. The old lady asked her, "what about the Jesuits?" Seriously people, try to keep up. And god forbid read up on your Greek and Roman mythology before going on an historical tour of Southern Europe. Anyway, she was a fantastic guide and was able to cram in a remarkable amount of the museum in a fairly minimal amount of time. The long and short on the museum; you should place this in the pantheon with the Louvre and the British Museum. It's that impressive. I would go back to Naples just to be able to spend more time in this museum. Or maybe do Herculaneum and the museum since I missed that last time. On a separate note, some friends of ours went on a hike of Mt. Vesuvius. Again, this is the only day we had bad weather and they got PELTED with hail while on the mountain. Apparently it was awful, although they did say in nice weather it would have been beautiful. They were disappointed at having made a bad choice since everyone raved about Pompeii and the museum. So that's the cruise! Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
We took this cruise because it was our Pearl wedding anniversary and we wanted a short get away to celebrate. Star Princess was perfect for us, we were able to get a table for 2 every evening in the Portofino restaurant with no trouble at ... Read More
We took this cruise because it was our Pearl wedding anniversary and we wanted a short get away to celebrate. Star Princess was perfect for us, we were able to get a table for 2 every evening in the Portofino restaurant with no trouble at all. With the exception of one evening the menu was excellent, the only poor menu was the "Chef's Menu" which was the worst menu we hae seen on any Princess ship, the usual regular alternative choices were not listed and since I had not had need to look at them previously I didn't know what they were and the waiters at our table didn't know either. I requested a small portion of a pasta dish as a starter because there were only 2 starters on the menu and I disliked both dishes, the waiter brought out a very large portion of gnocchi and when I said that I had requested pasta she replied that gnocchi was same thing (not in my opinion as I don't like gnocchi). My only other problem with the food was that quite often I thought that it was over salted but this maybe because I don't use salt at home so I notice it when it is present in food. With the exception of the one female waiter who thinks that gnocchi is pasta the restaurant staff were wonderful and our cabin steward was second to none. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
The itinerary was the selling point for this cruise - our 10th with Princess. Two days in Egypt, two in Turkey and one in Naples for Sorrento were the highlights for us. Embarkation was quick and smooth as is the case with Princess. ... Read More
The itinerary was the selling point for this cruise - our 10th with Princess. Two days in Egypt, two in Turkey and one in Naples for Sorrento were the highlights for us. Embarkation was quick and smooth as is the case with Princess. We had stayed at the Hotel Traiano in Civitavecchia - separate review on Trip Advisor. The Star is well appointed and easy to navigate. We cannot say enough about our room steward Francisco. We have had some good ones, but this guy takes the service standard and sets the bar. Mini Suites are very well appointed with lots of storage room. The same goes for the Portafino restaurant staff. Titziano our head waiter, Jorge the waiter, and Santi the assistant waiter all took fabulous care of our group (we sat at table 126). Our only complaint about the cruise comes from the Purser staff. Apparently someone ran credit cards through during the cruise instead of at the end. Then when you asked for a daily recap the Pursers staff first told you the printers were out of order and couldn't give you a bill. The second day more excuses, until the third day when they admitted the mistake. In the case of a couple who were travelling with us who had expected to pay their onboard bill with cash, this was unacceptable. In our case since we had an onboard credit, they mistakenly removed the credit, then charged our credit card that amount, effectively doubling the mistake. When they attempted to rectify the mistake they only returned the credit card amount and not the onboard credit. At the end it was fixed but this was a detriment to our enjoyment and by the number of people who were also complaining, we were not alone. We did our own tours and were not disappointed. Ramses in Egypt, Ekol in Kusadasi and Italy Car Service in Naples were all great (see separate reviews in the Port section. Athens is an easy port to do yourself - 20 minute walk to the metro and straight shot to the Acropolis. Istanbul is also easy to get around and very safe. Unfortunately our Chios stop was deleted due to wind. Overall the cruise met our expectations and we had a great time. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
I've been waiting for a while before writing this review, just to cool down - I didn't wanted to write upset and biased with the facts. So, more than a month after cruising, I think it's time to share our experience aboard ... Read More
I've been waiting for a while before writing this review, just to cool down - I didn't wanted to write upset and biased with the facts. So, more than a month after cruising, I think it's time to share our experience aboard the Star Princess, who left Venice October, 5th, to the Eastern Mediterranean. Service is fair, restaurants are good, overall cleanness is good, shore excursions are well organized, so what's the point? The point is, some days, you don't have any activity in the morning; some days, you don't have any activity in the afternoon - or you just returned from your morning shore excursion. Time for a nap, uh? No, not aboard this ship, not with this Captain. Every day, every afternoon - I said EVERY - Mr. William Kent, the Master of the Ship, will wake you up with all sort of navigation and weather data - JUST THRU YOUR STATEROOM SPEAKER SYSTEM!!!! OK, I've been cruising every year, over the last 10 years. I've been cruising with Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Carnival, Celebrity, Costa - even with Princess, and I've NEVER seen such an abuse, such an invasion to my privacy and rest!!!!! The only time I've heard something thru the stateroom speaker was during the safety drill - never more. Of course, we complained to the Purser's Desk. I'm sure the Captain received the message, because he said he was worried with this complain, during the Captain's Cocktail. The next day, he kept silent - but, the day after, things went back. This demonstrated that they CAN address to the passengers only thru the public areas PA system, if they WANT TO. In every ship I cruised before, this kind of announcement and information was made thru the PA system in public areas, only. But this sir - the Captain - seems to be in desperate need for audience, so he has to bother every passenger inside their staterooms. And, of course, for safety reasons, you can't turn the stateroom speaker off. You can't even adjust the volume - it's always high. Unfortunately, I've booked another cruise aboard the Star Princess to 2011, in the very first day of the cruise. If I only knew..... Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
Star Princess Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.2
Dining 4.0 3.9
Entertainment 3.0 3.7
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.8
Family 4.0 3.8
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.8
Enrichment 4.0 3.7
Service 4.0 4.2
Value For Money 4.0 3.8
Rates 4.0 4.1

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