Our family of four (teen daugher and pre-teen son) just returned from the 12 day Eastern Mediterranean on the Ruby Princess, Venice to Rome. Overall, it was excellent but mainly because of the itinerary. The weather was unseasonably hot, ... Read More
Our family of four (teen daugher and pre-teen son) just returned from the 12 day Eastern Mediterranean on the Ruby Princess, Venice to Rome. Overall, it was excellent but mainly because of the itinerary. The weather was unseasonably hot, but nothing Princess can do about that -- just make sure to wear lots of sunscreen and drink a lot of water. As for each area:
Embarkation - excellent. We selected the Princess transfer so as to not have to worry about it ourselves while seriously jet lagged, we got on a bus with many others and were checked into the stateroom just a little over an hour after landing, which is awesome.
Cabin - we had a mini-suite with balcony, one double bed for my husband and I, the couch pulled out into a bed for our daughter and they pulled down a bed from the ceiling for our son, with a ladder, which he totally loved. It was roomy enough, and I can't imagine ever going on a cruise without a balcony. The bathroom was significantly larger than bathrooms we have had in the mini-suites on Royal Caribbean, and we had a large closet, so high marks here as well.
Dining - we chose anytime dining, which I highly recommend for flexibility. Some nights we went to the dining room, other nights the buffet, room service one night, bottom line - whatever we felt like, when we felt like it. We never ate lunch on the ship except the one day at sea, but ate in the port stops. Thank goodness, otherwise we would never have had Greek food on this Greek island cruise, which is one of our main areas of complaint. On the ship, there was no link whatsoever with where you actually were, a few Greek dinners and desserts would have been nice. An Indian curry buffet? When you are in Athens? Is simply wrong. In other words, I really missed the fact that there was no attept to tie the meals and the entertainment in with the ports of call and think this would have greatly improved the cruise. As for the meals, they were just OK. Not great food, not bad food. We ate at both Sabatini's and the Crown Grill for a change of pace. Crown Grill was great, Sabatini's food was good but the service was ATROCIOUS. We seemed to be repeatedly "forgotten" and, no exaggeration, our dinner took 2 1/2 hrs. without any lingering. And the few times we reminded our waitress that we were still waiting for our pasta course for example, or our main dishes, she was brusque and made excuses about it being busy. Waiters in the main dining rooms were much more pleasant and although this was only one bad service experience in the 12 days of the cruise, it did leave a bad taste in our mouths.
Entertainment and public spaces - another caveat here, we aren't big on the entertainment and nightlife aspects of a cruise. We view a cruise as a very convenient method of transporting us from one stop to another, with a pool and areas for relaxation, but we don't get into the deck parties and formal nights and that sort of thing, and never stepped foot on the casino or made significant purchases in the shops. So I won't say much except to say that I LOVED that they had a Venice orchestra perform the first night, great and very unique and that got my hopes up. But they were later dashed, as a few nights later the headliner was one of the cheesiest, corniest, cruise-lounge-singer type of entertainers I have ever seen, almost like a parody of cruise entertainment with the snapping fingers and shuffling around while crooning. The British comedian, British magician, and British opera/showtune singer were all good but, obviously, British -- on a cruise through Italy, Turkey and Greece. More local entertainment and music would have made this far more enriching. I don't mean to beat this point like a dead horse but it was almost bipolar, getting off at these stops stepped in certain cultures and music and foods and history and then getting back on the boat which seemed to be in a completely different place. Pools were nice but I wish Princess would actually enforce the "don't save a seat with your towel all day" rule, as there were some times we couldn't get seats by the pool together as a family yet each seat on the deck was "occupied" by a towel and we never saw an actual person go anywhere near it the hours were were there. A pet peeve of mine - the first cruise line that actually does something about this obnoxious behavior will get my future business, it is that simple.
Ports of call - this is why I chose this cruise and this ship, for no other reason than that it went to many different stops, including Athens and Santorini (many other lines do one or the other but not both). The only thing that could be better is if we stayed in some a bit longer than late afternoon so you could see the location lit up for the evening. The write-ups on this site allowed me to determine when we should sign up for a shore excursion and when we could go it on our own, which was very helpful. In short:
Venice - can easily be done on your own, I highly recommend splurging for a water taxi ride down the Grand Canal, it was one of the best experiences of the whole trip for us, also toured St. Marks' and the Doge's Palace on our own and had a wonderful pasta dinner at a restaurant we stumbled across as this is a wonderful city for just wandering.
Split, Croatia - can easily do on your own, the old palace is a 5 min. walk from the ship.
Corfu -also manageable on own, excellent archaelogical museum and can tour both the old and new forts, very short cab ride from port to town and cabs easily available to get back to ship.
Katalakon - we did a shore excursion to Olympia, which you need because it is an hour or so drive from port and you really need someone to give you the background on what you are seeing, followed by an afternoon at the beach which was great, umbrellas, sand, lunch service to your beach chair, woo-hoo!
Athens - here too we did a short excursion to the Parthenon, but could have done with more time there and less at the Plaka, as we aren't big shoppers, and then a drive to the Temple of Poseidon which was interesting but not a must see. If I did it again, I would have done the afternoon on my own after a guided tour of the Acropolis.
Mykonos - we took a shore excursion to Delos, also necessary to understand what you are seeing, and then spent the rest of the day exploring Mykonos town on our own, which is very easy and close to the port. We had the best gyro lunch ever there, the kids still talk about it.
Kusadasi - here too we took a shore excursion to Ephesus, also necessary as it is a bit of a ride from the port, had a very informative guide. We also saw the House of the Virgin Mary which was very moving and a highlight for us. The included lunch would have been much better had it not been served outdoors, in almost 100 degree weather with no breeze whatsoever. Shopping at the bazaar was fun and we actually bought a beautiful Turkish rug which I never thought I would actually have done but the quality was fantastic and we decided we didn't know if/when we would ever be in Turkey again
Rhodes - did it on our own, also very easy to do, the main city is right next to the port, and easily walkable, had a fantastic Greek lunch in a garden restaraunt off the main drag. Here I highly recommend getting off the tourist streets and walking around the side streets which gave us a great view of authentic Greek island life.
Santorini - took a shore excursion just up to Oia, which was worth it to get up there for the fantastic views, spend some time up there and then down to Fira, which can easily be done on your own with a return to the boat whenever is convenient for you.
Naples - we did this on our own and stayed in Naples, only because we toured Italy last year and spent a few days in Sorrento, and saw Capri, the Amalfi Coast, and Pompeii then. So this time we headed for the archaeological museum in Naples and saw much of the materials found in the homes at Pompeii, so it made a nice coda to last year's trip and is a really great museum. You must have pizza in Naples, it was everything we hoped it would be, then we explored the city on our own.
Rome - had to get back to work so didn't tour Rome this time, just went right from the port to the airport, but Rome is, of course, fantastic and in the past, a guided tour of the Vatican was worth every penny. Read Less