This was our 7th cruise and 2nd with Princess. We are married and Mid 50's. Very important: prior to cruising enroll in your ship's/cruise Roll Call on this site, its a great way to get and share ideas and make friends prior to ... Read More
This was our 7th cruise and 2nd with Princess. We are married and Mid 50's. Very important: prior to cruising enroll in your ship's/cruise Roll Call on this site, its a great way to get and share ideas and make friends prior to your cruise!!!! We did the Venice to Barcelona route departing Venice Friday at 1 PM and beginning with Istanbul....however we never made Istanbul because on Saturday night we rec'd a distress call from 118 Syrian refugees on a small boat and it took us out of our Route from 9PM until disembarking the refugees in Greece Sunday at 2:00 PM, so they took us to Santorini instead of Istanbul which was VERY, VERY Disappointing to many of us...Santorini was nice but NOT Istanbul!
The ports were all nice, the weather was hot, seas calm, food very good, the entire staff/crew were all VERY nice and accommodating, the ship clean and well maintained, good entertainment and overall a typical great cruising experience on Princess. Our cabin was A333 (Aloha Deck/deck 12 starboard side). Very nice cabin, our steward Imran was great however 2 minor points to mention: Our cabin was along the inside "curve" of the ships cabins so we could see out well, but not able to see fwd to the bow or rear to the stern, also the floor of outside deck 14 directly above us did provide shade on our balcony but also restricted your view upward (not a big deal) however cabins at the front, mid ship and stern sections were on the outside of the curve and had a more complete view. By "curve" I refer to walking down the hall from front to back, after about 15 cabins the hall turns inward and then straight again until mid ship when it curves out again and repeats to the stern. Also, having the floor of deck 14, where its outside near the pool, directly above us, we did hear the occasional pounding of feet when someone ran along above us. Barely noticed that but wanted to mention it. Cabin A333 was about the 5-7th cabin down from bow to stern, on this inside curve. Thats really our only very minor complaint.
We chose the anytime dining and that enabled us to sit at different tables and meet many people and staff members. We only had to wait once for a table, about an hour for a table on the first Saturday night when everyone showed up to eat around 8PM. In the MED it was light outside until about 10PM so everyone enjoys eating later. Aside from the first night, we had no trouble getting a table immediately. For the formal nights, some dressed up with Tuxes, suits etc, we chose not to and just wore khakis and either a long sleeve dress shirt or a collared golf type short sleeve and that was fine. No shorts in the dining rooms for dinner. We were scheduled to eat in the Bordeaux dining room on deck 5 which was fine. We were not impressed with either the Italian (extra fee of $25/person) or the Bayou Steak house menus so why pay extra for menus that we didn't care for. The Crown Steakhouse was NOT on the Island princess and that in the past was very enjoyable. Those who did pay extra and ate at either place said all was fine, however we are not into cajun etc. For 3 nights the ship offered a "Crab Shack" on the port side of the Buffet area, it was roped off for some privacy, cost $20/person and we found that well worth it as it was all you can eat, great choice if you enjoy seafood.
"IF you meet others on Cruise Critics ROLL Call, be sure to ask the cruise director onboard or even contact Princess prior to the cruise and request a "meeting/meet and greet" set up for your Roll Call friends, Princess and other lines have always met this request!!!! They even mentioned it on the ships TV after our meeting but did not publish it in the newspaper due to the name "Cruise Critic'.
On our ships Roll Call (which is apparently deleted at the start of our cruise) we noticed several of our future shipmates spent an incredible amount of time researching port excursions from private operators and sharing that info and allowing others to join them...GREAT Idea!
Shore excursions: In our opinion and that of many of our ship mates the Princess excursions were FAR TOO COSTLY and had too many people.......we heard many complaints and people had wished they had heard about our private tours. The operators we used were EXCEPTIONAL, great guides, great vehicles and usually anywhere from 6 to 12 people max. These operators were also very sensitive to our departure time and many boast that they have never had a passenger miss their ship's departure. We did the Ship's Mykonos beach excursion, $47/person for a 15 minute bus ride to the beach that wasn't all that nice, it was the 2 name beach something p......giallo ???? Just a ripoff, others took a cab or local bus for no more than 10 Euro and made out fine. Also on the above beach, an umbrella and 2 sand chairs were $12-20 Euro for the day however the Princess tour lasted just 3 hours.
I'd like to now share our tours with you as they were all VERY Good and we payed less than HALF price of the Princess tours for double the amount of tours:
Venice: We arrived on Thursday July 9th and spent the day, after checking in, with relatives in the area. That left us Friday from 8-noon to see Venice. We booked a walking tour thru Dark Rome.com, the cost was about $43 Euro/person www.citywonders.com and was very good, it lasted 9-11AM, we got there from the ship to the Rialto bridge via water taxi and a 15 minute walk, then had plenty of time for a Gondola Ride $85 euro for 2 people for about 30 minutes, worth doing as you are in Venice.
Mykonos: Nice place, no tours, beach then strolled thru town, had lunch bayside.
NOTE: Most tour groups offer to buy ahead skip the line entrance fees, DO IT!!!!!!!
These tours also all had small vans/mini buses with good air conditioning and good drivers.
Athens: $70 Euro/person for 8 person group includes entrance fees. Spirostours@yahoo.com owner Spiro was a NYC Taxi driver, speaks english, GREAT TOUR and Guide. Our Guide Caliopi was sensational. Driver George (Yorgo) was from Crete, knew of a Cretan restaurant named 5 Phi's located a few blocks behind the Hilton near the US Embassy. We had a huge family style lunch of freshly prepared Greek/Cretan food at a cost of JUST $9 euro/person. Awesome tour, guide and fantastic lunch, a GREAT Value. Highly recommended. Saw the main sites of Athens. I'd give you the address of the restaurant BUT their business card is in Cyrillic. Web address: www.ta5f.gr
Naples:$73 Euro/person APTours, Info@APTours.it or www.aptours.it.
We chose the Pompeii, Positano and Sorrento Tour including the Amalfi Coast. Spectacular! Highly recommended. Arturo was our driver, great guy! Dario was our guide in Pompeii, awesome guide, we paid him that day to buy us pompeii tickets as guides have their own window, no lines, he took us first thing in the AM, even then it was hot, we walked around the ruins in "out of the way" crowd avoiding places where we saw some awesome sites, walking around on cobblestones and dusty streets, wear shoes/sneakers. positano was a charming seaside town and the ride down the Amalfi coast was spectacular, we stopped for photos several times, Sorrento was very nice as well. We ate at a restaurant/pizzeria called 'basilica" down a long alley near the center of town. Great pizza and other items, reasonable. After Sorrento, we opted for taking the Ferry back across the bay to our ship, cost of $13 Euro/person, 35 minute boat ride, very well worth it, sailed right past the Isle of Capri.
Rome: Gianluca Colonnelli was our driver, great guy, brand new Mercedes minivan, informative. $137 Euro/person included tickets to the Vatican and Coloseum + Vatican Guide Barbara who was very knowledgeable. About an hour- 1:30 ride into Rome from the ship, we were there on a Saturday so roads were empty but Rome was hot and crowded with 9 cruise ships there. Tour Group was Italytours.eu or email@example.com
The Vatican tour took 4 hrs instead of 3 due to crowds and we were there early around 9:30 am, Coloseum was next and we spent 30 minutes there, then saw the Pantheon, had lunch sandwich and a drink at a little deli with tables in the rear, first shop as you exit the Pantheon on the left, Pantheon crowded but we went inside and then saw other sites by van then headed back. The heat and crowds plus travel time do make these tours somewhat tiring but they are all far superior to the ships tours.
Livorno/Florence: $65 Euro/person for 8 people + $25 euro for a GREAT Lunch!!!
Italy Shore Drivers : www.isdsharingtours.com or www.italyshoredrivers.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Michele Traversi or Gianmaria Mariti Phone: +39-348-60-05-482 or +39.328.18.88.057
Florence is a good hour drive in from the port of Livorno and we did NOT get to Florence. We chose the Pisa and Lucca tour. Our Driver/guide was Mauro and he was excellent. He had us at the Leaning Tower in Pisa at 8:30 am on a Sunday morning and there was nobody there, crowds started forming as we left about 9:15-9:30, including the huge groups from our ship. Mauro then pointed us in the right direction in Lucca's square following a car tour of parts of the city. lucca was a nice, leisurely stroll thru an old walled town and we enjoyed the slower pace. We found a deli a block away from St. Michaels church(facing the church front, make a left down that small side street and its the next to last shop on the right called something pizzeria I think) and ordered some Italian cold cuts, (bread, cheese, proschiuto and mortandella (a huge piece about 14 inches round) and ate on the steps nearby. We also bought small bottles of local Chianti here to bring home.
Following our 1:30 minute stroll, Mauro took us to a friend's restaurant in the hills overlooking Lucca. It felt as if we were guests on a cooking show with one of the famous TV Chefs, the place resembled a private home, we ate freah local Italian food and had 3 bottles of local wine, dined out on a covered patio among the rolling hills with mountains in the background. There were 8 of us and cost with tip came to $50 Euro Per couple Including appetizers, main course, some had dessert and coffee. This included a complimentary glass of Prosecco wine. Truly a marvelous experience and a needed relaxing day/tour. We passed numerous large sunflower fields on our travels here and highly recommend the tour. We had friends who chose Pisa and Florence and they too had a good day/tour but did not enjoy the hillside restaurant as we did. Restaurant: Osteria da mi pa, Via della Chiesa 65, Gragnano, Lucca. email@example.com Phone: 0583-975010. If you can get there...do it!!!
Toulon: We paid the $20 dollars each and took the short ride on the ships ferry into town. We docked near many French navy ships including their aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle. At the ferry dock there was a small train tour available and we did this for about $10 Euro/person. Not a real train but a small motorized vehicle designed to resemble a train and it towed 3 'train type' cars with about 6 people in each. Nice 45 minute tour of the town. After that we poked around the shop area and headed back to the ship for lunch.
St. Tropez beach is a 2 hour drive 1 way. There is also a local beach on the opposite side of town but we did not go there.
Barcelona: Barcelona day Tours info@Barcelonadaytours.com About $210 euro for 2 people. Marta was our guide and Manuel our driver, the 12 of us did the Barcelona and Montserrat tour. Marta was great, Barcelona is a very nice city, we prepaid for tickets to the Park Guell (very nice to see) toured the "Sagrada Familia" Church from the outside, this church has taken 130 years to build, was designed by "Gaudi" and should be done in 2026 finally. Impressive site. Montserrat was amazing, we drove up a steep winding mountain road far above Barcelona to see the Monastery and church up there and we had lunch there. Awesome/tremendous mountain views, amazing structures, cable cars etc....highly recommend going to Montserrat and of course Barcelona. The tour group loaded our luggage and then dropped us at our respective hotels. Again Highly recommend this tour group.
Our travel agent recommended us to take this company from Barcelona, (our Hotel was the Colon across from the Cathedral (very nice old hotel with modern amenities as Wifi, Air Conditioning, rooftop pool spa and terrace where you can see the Cathedral and the sea, very clean, elevators etc. We had dinner at "Neyras" 2 blocks away which was excellent and reasonable.) Anyway: Suntransfers.com Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or www.suntransfers.com. $39 euro for a private car for the 2 of us, 20 minute ride to the airport at 8am on a Wednesday. We were told a taxi would be just $30 euro however we found taxi prices to be about $50 euro for 2. The driver was there 5 mins early and got us to the airport no problem.
Thats it, hope this helps and hope you get to Istanbul.
NOTE: We booked at the end of march, friends booked about a month later and received a great deal of about half of what we paid...FYI Read Less