Year Started: 1965
Ships in Fleet: 18
Summary: Princess is one of the most consistently excellent cruise lines in the upper mainstream to premium group. All the diversity of larger ships but personalized service.
Regions:Canada, Caribbean, Europe
Good for: Families. Seniors. First-time Cruisers.
Regions:Alaska, California Coastal, Panama Canal
Good for: Teens. First-time Cruisers. Families.
Regions:Caribbean, Europe, South America
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe
Good for: Group. First-time Cruisers. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Asia & Africa, Australia
Good for: Families. Teens. Children`s Programs.
Regions:Canada, Caribbean, Europe
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Group.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Group.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, Mexico
Good for: Families. Overall Service. Teens.
Regions:Alaska, California, Panama Canal
Good for: Seniors. Group. Singles.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe, Hawaii
Regions:Caribbean, Europe, Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Value for Money. Group.
Regions:Caribbean, Europe, Transatlantic
Good for: Overall Service. Teens. Children`s Programs.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, Mexico
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Panama Canal
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, South America
Good for: Families. Overall Service. Teens.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, South Pacific, Tahiti
Good for: Overall Service. Disabled Travelers. Seniors.
A little background, I'm in my mid 40s and DH is mid 50s. This was our 12th and 13th cruise, 7th and 8th on Princess. We have cruised RCL x2, Celebrity, HAL and NCL. We booked this as two separate cruises…a 3 day Coastal followed by the first 7 day Mexican Riviera of the season. We were lucky to snag the aft corner BB Caribe 753 for both cruises.
Embarkation: Nightmare! But nothing we can blame on Princess. Unfortunately the lady that committed suicide by jumping off the back of Sapphire was being searched for the morning of our embarkation so Princess Staff had stopped the line and prevented anyone from boarding. We stood in the Security line for about an hour without moving. Princess staff told passengers that the Coast Guard was doing a "Drill".
Once we got through Security, boarding was a breeze. We found our cabin pretty easily and instantly fell in love with its location and balcony.
Cabin: Wow - what can be said about those corner afts that hasn't already been said? We loved it! The view was incredible. We had a lot of sea days on this10 day voyage and that balcony was perfect. The Cabin was laid out really well, tons of drawers and closet space. Suitcases fit under the bed no problem. The egg crate was already on the bed and robes were in the bathroom for us. Even the shower curtain didn't seem to hug the way it used to.
Ship: The Sapphire Princess is beautiful - absolutely beautiful and not showing any aging at all. We were on the Zuiderdam in May and she was a disgrace. Sapphire was truly spotless. She has so many great hidden areas for reading and relaxing and an abundance of pools. The first couple of days out the pools where far too warm. It felt like you were being dipped in soup. They cooled down a bit towards the end. I think they must have been heated for Alaska and just took time to adjust the temp.
Service: Another WOW - we've been on 5 cruise lines and about 11 different ships - Sapphire crew were the best - everyone that you ran into was friendly, happy and very helpful. Gerry our cabin steward was the best we've encountered on any ship. Bar Staff, waitstaff, officers, everyone was so nice. The staff in the Pacific Moon dining room were fantastic. I ordered a Cappuccino in Lobby Bar one morning and had a bit of a wait…just a couple of minutes, but I had three people apologize for the wait. Honestly, I can't say enough about the staff…..except… the pursers' desk…I'm not labeling them all as bad, but we certainly ran into our share. We had a problem with an internet credit that took 4 trips - over 4 days to the purser's desk to fix and you could tell she really didn't have a clue what she was talking about. The second instance was the billing on the ultimate balcony dinner. We did this with friends - in their cabin - and our cabin got charged for both couples. The men went down to fix it up and thought it had been done and sure enough on the final bill, it was still screwed up and charged to our cabin. The other couple just ended up giving us $100 cash as the Pursers desk was unable to fix it.
Dining: We had Anytime Dining and I think ate in the dining room 3 times. Had reservations each time and no wait. We did the pub lunch which was good, but doing it in one of the fancier dining rooms is a bit strange. The wheelhouse pub is a much better location. Couldn't believe when our drinks server at the pub lunch clearly remembered what we were drinking the night before - great memory - I barely remembered ;)
We had our anniversary dinner in Sabatini's - Fantastic! Alex our waiter was awesome as was the food except for the lobster which was overcooked - knew I should have had the Seabass. But the rest of the meal made up for it including the plethora of desserts he brought us.
Last formal night we dined with our friends in Sterlings. My Filet was very good but hubby's Rib eye had a lot of fat on it.
We also did the Ultimate Balcony Dinner which was superb. We did it for 4 on the other corner caribe balcony. 4 fit out there quite well. They brought a larger table. We had a Goat Cheese Salad, Crab Tart, then Steak/Lobster or both followed by dessert. They start you a cocktail of your choice then with dinner a ½ bottle of champagne per couple. I'd run down to a bar earlier and grabbed a bottle of red for dinner which they gladly served us. Service, food, ambience - all excellent. A photographer also comes up to take your pic and you get a free 8 x 10 per couple. We had about 4 shots to choose from. Cost was $100 per couple and well worth it in our opinion.
Horizon Court was actually pretty good. Anytime they had seafood on the buffet it was excellent especially the breaded shrimp.
Overall, I'd say the food everywhere was pretty impressive.
Entertainment: This part is going to be short, other than Steve Morris, we didn't see any. He was good though. We also attended some of the Karaoke (oh my ears are still ringing) and we won Passenger Feud.
The Ports: Well this was a 10 day cruise for us, with only LA, PV, Mazatlan and Cabo so a lot of sea days! Getting off the ship in LA as in "In Transit" passenger was very easy. We congregated in Club Fusion for about 20 minutes and where then led off. A short walk for someone to check your documents and you were back on board. We decided to leave the terminal and check out San Pedro…hmmm… don't bother. We were directed to "Ports of Call" there really wasn't anything there. We should have just stayed on board and enjoyed the solitude of the ship.
Puerto Vallarta - we just took the white shuttle buses into town $3 each. Easy and quick. We were dropped off outside Diamonds International..of course! We wandered around a bit. There were a couple of nice Silver and Leather shops that the ship recommended. We then went for a beer and walked around a bit more. We ended up taking a taxi back to Walmart to replenish water and pop. We also went to the mall next door to Walmart which was very nice and just walked back to the ship.
Mazatlan - we took a Ghetto Taxi (taxi driver's words not mine) down into the Golden Zone. Wow tons of construction going on and lots of stores added since the last time we were there. The cab driver asked if he could drop us off at Diamonds International as he gets $5 for doing so, we said sure and just walked straight through it. Taxi was $8 for the 4 of us. We walked around a bit, bought some silver jewelry and friends of ours bought some Pewter from a store we bought from 9 years ago - it was good to see they were still there. Went for a beer (starting to see a pattern?) walked around a bit more and then headed back to the ship. There are tons of stores in the port area to navigate through. Mazatlan runs a little shuttle in and out of the port area which is Mandatory and Complimentary. It's an industrial port area so they want you to be safe. Jewelry prices were pretty good in Mazatlan but watch your prices in the store sponsored silver store. They wanted about $160 for a bracelet that I found a few stores down for $72
Cabo - Cabo is a tender port. We got our tender tickets about 8:30 am and within about 5 minutes were being led to the Tenders. It was so hot in Cabo…it had actually been very hot and humid all cruise but Cabo seemed especially warm. We started walking around the Marina area and quickly ran into our friends who had done an earlier excursion… so even though it was only 9:30 am, we needed that beer to combat the heat ;) We shopped a little. Cabo prices were out of line compared to the other ports. Earrings that I had looked at in Mazatlan were starting price of $40 Cabo they were $70. I told him he was nuts and walked out the store. We ended up at Cabo Wabo for Margaritas a little later in the morning and wound our way back around the Marina back to the ship. We bought some Almond Tequila and some Pomegranate Tequila in Cabo and had no problem taking them back on the ship.
Disembarkation: A breeze! No announcements which is nice. You just head to your designated public lounge/dining room and disembark at your time. We were in the Platinum lounge and disembarked on time.
Highlights: Sea Days - we've never done a cruise with this many sea days before, we now know that we love them, so relaxing. We spent so much time on our balcony just watching the wake and the dolphins racing the ship. The Staff - can't say enough. We've never run into this much consistency of good service. The Ship - just beautiful and spotless The Food - shockingly good - especially the seafood on the buffet.
Once again there were problems with a Princess cruise.
Since cruising with another Princess cruise ship in June, I must report that I will not be cruising with this cruise line again.
Their ships are very well kept and clean,and the crew very good,but these problems persist (on this repositioning cruise):Food - very average, and sometimes unacceptable. Their desserts are uninspiring and industrial The coffee is tasteless, even at their coffee house (not free) Poor entertainment, with no main theater shows at all No upper sheet on the beds Breakfast not available in the cabins (at least a full breakfast) Poor movies and bad TV programming The on-deck big screen movies are noisy and a nuisance There is a 15% hotel fee every day per person (meant to cover tips). But tips are asked for on every order as well!
All this I believe is due to cost cutting. The only result is that I will choose another cruise line next time.
Princess Cruises Caribbean Princess by Marc Eastern Caribbean August 13, 2009
AVOID THIS CRUISE LINE AT ALL COSTS! The cruise we took was the worst vacation we have ever had. As experienced travelers and cruisers we had a good idea of what to expect. We were disappointed in almost every aspect of the cruise. One expects a certain amount of "nickel and diming" as that is the nature of cruises. But Princess takes this to a bizarre extreme. Every possible way to separate one from his or her money is exploited.
The ship is completely and totally overcrowded. There is no where to go and nothing to do without being crowded by other passengers. The dining rooms, the fitness center, the decks, the pools….everything was crowded. The anytime dining rooms had lines frequently an hour or more. In the buffet areas the dining areas were always full leaving no place to sit. Princess cruises staff actually took up tables while passengers had no where to sit.
Early in the morning passengers would spread towels on lounge chairs since if one waited until late morning there would be no available lounge chairs to use. Eventhough there are signs asking passengers not to reserve lounge chairs, this was never enforced. The pools were always packed, the adults only pools frequently had many children in them.
The staff seemed simply angry. From the cabin steward to the bar tenders to the front desk it was clear that they were overworked, mistreated, or just unhappy to be there. Our cabin steward was frequently AWOL. On more than one occasion we actually had to go to the front desk to request someone clean our room and bring some fresh towels. Our room was not clean when we arrived. My wife actually had to do cleaning in the bathroom area. The towel she used was filthy when she finished.
When calling for room service or any other service the phone would ring, on some occasions 20 times or more. Both times we ordered room service they said they were extremely busy and the service took over an hour. There was never a time when anything was done in a reasonable amount of time. The ship was too crowded.
There are many other examples of poor service and a lack of promised facilities. I rarely write reviews for cruises but in this case I wanted to warn those who may be contemplating booking a cruise with Princess. What is promised in their promotional material will not be delivered. You will spend far more money than you expect due to the extreme "nickel and diming" that is practiced by princess. You will receive poor service.
The food was ok, not great. Trying to get a table in the anytime dining rooms is impossible. Expect to wait in long lines. The buffet areas are so busy that it's very difficult to make ones way through. Fining a place to sit is also very difficult. If you’re expecting gourmet meals served by good waiters then you will be very disappointed. The cuisine is similar to what one would find in a chain restaurant. The service will be far less than one would expect.
We had a balcony stateroom on the Riviera deck. The room was small as one would expect. The balcony was small. There is a plastic pane that is about 4ft high. This piece of plastic was so filthy that one could not see through it. I requested that it be cleaned and was told that nothing could be done. I have been on other ships and this pane of plastic is cleaned each day.
The television would frequently lose its signal. The only stations that would be available were the ones that have promotional commercials. It was actually comical to see them trying to market their cruise showing people in different parts of the ship. In their infomercial nothing was crowded. On the ship everything was crowded.
The bottom line: The room was about what was expected as far as size, but unacceptable dirty.
The onboard activities were lacking. The swim against the current pool NEVER worked not once when we were on the cruise. Each time we inquired as to the reason, we got a different answer as to why it was not working.
The internet cafe charged exorbitant rates to use the computer. The connection was frequently poor, resulting in the need to reboot. The shows in the evening filled up very fast. If you did not get there early, you would not get a seat. The cruise director staff in general seemed to think that we were there for them instead of them being there for us. Plan on entertaining yourself on this ship.
Lesson to the wise: DO NOT PLAN AHEAD FOR SHORE EXCURSIONS. Our itinerary was changed while we were on the cruise and we were not able to attend any of the shore excursions we had booked. Princess re-routed us to ports of call that had limited shore excursions and extremely limited tourist amenities. The alternate route was clearly chosen to save Princess money (i.e. a lot fewer nautical miles traveled). It was clear to us that more desirable ports could have been chosen with no danger based on weather conditions.
AVOID THIS CRUISE LINE AT ALL COSTS! You were warned. The culture of this cruise company is designed to make money and not to satisfy the customer.
For our 17th cruise we flew to Heathrow and took the National Express coach bus to our port of Southampton, bookable on the net, 20 UKP return, and 10 UKP for seniors. Get the bus at the Central Bus Station in the terminal 1, 2, 3 area, follow the bus signage. Book ahead, buses to the ports are full. The trip is a little under 2 hours. From Gatwick it's a little over 3 hours. From the bus station in Southampton it's a 4.60 UKP cab to the ship, and 5.60 going back after the cruise.
We arrived at the Mayflower cruise terminal at noon, luggage handling was fast, and we had our ship card by 12:15. Then there was a holdup in boarding like the old days many years ago. After getting ship cards we were sent to a large lounge with several hundred people to wait to board by colored cards handed out. After an hour and 10 minutes our color was called, with about 50 other people. Then we discovered the reason for the holdup. A minor one was the ship's portrait photographers stopping the line for boardingphotos, which we declined, and kept moving. The major lineup turned out to be getting security photos done to match our ship cards. This is usually done at the ship card stations, and we saw camera cams there but not in use.
The Crown is a classy, well-appointed ship, similar in décor to the HAL and Celebrity lines, not gaudy like Carnival. We were surprised that a ship as large and new as the Crown did not have a soaring open atrium, but an older style closed atrium extending from deck 5-7. It also had the traditional promenade shops and bars along laneways rather than the newer open air street promenade concept.
There is a quiet adults only area with pool, luxury loungers, cabanas, and green foliage called the Sanctuary, with a charge of $10 per half day and $20 per full day. This is similar to the solariums on the RCL Vision class, which are free, and also has a closeable roof in bad weather which the Crown didn't.
We thought the upper level in the Da Vinci dining room would have an open center area allowing tables a view of the lower level, but it's closed in, permitting extra tables.
One nice little special spot we liked was out the back of the Horizon buffet, up either staircase on each side, where there are about 6 nice glass tables with comfy chairs, lovely stern view. The windows in Sabatini's alternate restaurant look out onto this space. These tables are usually occupied, hard to find an open one in nice weather.
Specialty features on the ship include Movies Under the Stars, which are on-deck giant screen movies night or day, extra padded loungers, blankets, free popcorn. Picture was a bit grainy but watchable, Also a miniputt course. No ice rink, rock-climbing wall, surf pool, or kid's water slide.
Nice to have laundrettes, made my wife happy. And the gym was great, large with lots of equipment, some machines you don't often see on ships. Easy to get on even at peak times, maybe because the folks were mostly older. Outdoor jogging track, 1/16 of a mile, was tight for passing people. No dance area by the pool band, strange, but that didn't stop some people dancing between the loungers, great band.
All together the design of the ship or attractions would not make it a “destination ship” for us, but if you love outdoor movies and don't mind paying for a quiet pool area it could be for you.
THE CABIN (inside Riviera deck 14)
We liked the walk-in closet/dressing area, no doors to mess with, and 2 electrical outlets on the vanity, didn't need the power bar this time. We were surprised there was only seating for 1, just the vanity chair, first time for that, our other ships had some type of side chair or loveseat. Our steward said outside cabins have seating for 2. There was a little round table in the closet, but we couldn't see anywhere in the cabin to put it, so we left it there. Widescreen TV, but can't check your ship account or book tours on it. Lots of storage space, robes, extra hangers on request. Hair dryer was on the weak side, not great for thick hair, bring your own if necessary. Good sized vanity. Loved having a fridge!
DINING/FOOD The dining room food was fine, equivalent to the other major cruise lines. About 10 entrees each night including alternates. We chose Anytime Dining which we love, and if you agree to sit with others they can seat you anytime you arrive. We often needed a table for 2 of which there was quite a few, but in some areas they were pushed so close together, a few inches apart, that there was no privacy. If you want privacy, note the table numbers you like, then call Anytime Dining reservations between 8-4 that day, give them those numbers, and they will attempt to reserve one of those table for you. In Da Vinci the private tables are 480, 481, 484, 441, and 437. Call soon after 8 for best preference. Every time we called early we got our request, and once calling later nothing was available.
There are 2 alternate restaurants that charge a $20 fee, a steak house and Sabatini's, for seafood and pasta. We tried the latter, had a combo lobster and shrimp dinner with a variety of starters and appetizers of which you are brought many samples to try, and it was wonderful, well worth the charge.
The food in the Horizon buffet was fine, but at peak times it was more crowded than other ships we've been on, hard to find a place to sit, and the joke among passengers was how long they had to circle to get a table. The staff try to help find people tables, especially if they already have their food. Ice tea always available, great lemonade, harder to find, but if you ask the staff they will get you some.
The pizza joint was good, several kinds rotated daily, nice thin crust. Burgers, dogs, and fries at the pool were good.
The International Café has an assortment of sweets and tapas, some for a fee. Gillatto ice cream is 3 scoops for $1.50. Free donuts, cookies, brownies, etc.
The song and dance floor shows and other entertainment were fine, but for the first time we've seen, shows were repeated on later days, apparently because the theatre can't seat everyone on the ship in 2 sittings, so they repeat in order to give everyone a chance to see the shows. People we talked to did not like that, wanted more variety.
We tried to get to the famous Pulpit Rock http://www.stavangertravel.com/news/pulpit-rock-norway.cfm), jutting out 2000 feet above the fjord, but with an early ship departure, all aboard was 3:30, we ran out of time about half an hour from the top and had to turn back. To get there you take a ferry across the bay which connects to a tourist bus going there. If your ship arrives in time for you to catch the 7:20 or 8:00 ferry, it will connect with the 8:30 bus, and you will be at the Pulpit Rock welcome center at 9:00. It's a hard, uphill climb mostly over rocks, often little ground to step on, not pleasant, about 2 Km each way, and no way to rush it without breaking an ankle. 100,000 people do it annually. If your ship leaves at dinner time you could do it, there are quite a few buses and ferries through the day. Here's the bus link which also includes some ferry times. There is also a bus leaving Pulpit at 1245 which isn't on the schedule. http://www.veolia-transport.no/getfile.php/Internett/Filer/Rutetider/Bussrute_tau_preikestol_eng%20%282%29.pdf
Here's the ferry schedule, all times are departures, for arrivals add 30-40 minutes depending if it's a speed ferry (bold) or not: http://www.tide.no/uploads/documents/Ferjeruter/Rogaland/Ferjeruter_Stavanger-Tau.pdfTrondheim
The ship offered a $5 shuttle to town, very reasonable since the local bus is about 25 NOK or $4. In the morning we did the 6 Km Ladestien (Lade) hike around the bay, pretty and easy. The #3 bus from downtown takes you there and back. Email if you need details. In the afternoon we walked around the town, lots of interesting historical sights to see. The 2 best pedestrian streets are Nordregate and Thomas Angells Gate. Fjordgate is also mentioned but we didn't get to it.
Again the ship offered $5 shuttle rides to town, 3 miles. In the morning we took the cable car up Mt. Storsteinen, lovely views from the top. To get there take the #26 bus from the stop downtown in front of Pepe's Pizza taking you across the bridge past the famous Arctic church. The driver can sell you combo tickets covering the bus both ways and cable car, which costs 120 NOK and saves about $12 over buying separately. The bus was jammed full, almost completely tourists, only a few locals who had a tough time getting off at their stops. The driver will tell you when to get off, but it's quite evident by everyone leaving. To get to the cable car station walk back the bus route one short block, turn left, and you will see the cable car station. Do this as early as you can, when we came down the cable car late morning there were tons of people in a long line out into the parking lot, with a 2.5 hour wait we heard. We had no wait arriving just after 9. Here's the bus system link: http://www2.uit.no/ikbViewer/Content/97797/THE%20BUS%20SYSTEM%20IN%20TROMS%C3%98.pdf
At the top there is a good open hiking trail up to the next peak, Mt. Floya, takes about half an hour, not a bad trail, uphill but lots of good footing, wide open with no trees going up so good viewing, past snowy patches left over from winter (snowballs in July), great views from the top in all directions. And if you want you can continue to the next peak too.
Downtown Tromso was pretty, and the 2 good shopping streets are Storgata and Grannegata. Cokes are 25 NOK ($4), and a simple lunch like a hot dog with drink is about 60-80 NOK. Free internet for tourists in the library, 2nd and 3rd floor, about 6 stations on each floor.
This port is a 30 minute drive from the most northerly tip of Europe, a cliff 1000 feet above the Arctic Ocean called the North Cape (NordKapp). It's a lovely rugged area to walk around, large reception center, expensive snacks, small bottle of water is $7. The ship tour there is $130, and 8 of us pre-booked a van with Verina at NordKapp Taxi for 1800 NOK, plus 215 NOK entrance, totaling 440 NOK pp ($73). There is also a local bus departing 1045 from the tourist office for 100 NOK, plus entrance fee, return trip leaving the Cape at 1:15. Here's the bus link: http://www.veolia-transport.no/timetables-bus/330-honningsvaag-north-cape-summer-article800-384.html
Honningsvag is a cute town to walk around, there are trails on top of the hills, or you can walk the highway along the coast. Cheap internet at the tourist office, one machine, I think it was 1 NOK per minute.
We took the cable car (Funicular) up Mt. Floyen, lovely views from the top. Get there early to avoid long lines. The station is an easy walk from downtown, about 10 minutes. At the top there is a nice network of trails, well maintained, more like roads, over hills, around lakes, very good signage.
Lots of downtown action around Torget, Torgalmenning, Strandgaten. Everything is expensive, and we were told the locals take the short ferry to Newcastle UK to do their shopping. A local TA told us all the internet cafes are out of business, but there were free stations at the library (Biblioteque), which we found.
We did the hiking trail that follows the famous Flam railway, and took the side trail to the Berkenfossen(?) Falls, very pretty. Flam is a small village, just some tourist shops at the dock, and internet.
From the Fjordcenter we did hiking trail A winding 1000 feet up the side of the fjord to the Vesteras farm, good trail, and from there, level side trail B to a great lookout with the ship way below. There are quite a variety of trails from Geiranger. The tourist office will mail you a great map, or get it here: http://www.geiranger.no/map_of_walks_with_descriptions.html
Small village, no serious shopping.
Very well done, off at 9:00, no announcements, you wait in a lounge and the crew tell you when to leave, by color code. Lots of cabs, 5.60 UKP back to the bus depot. Pre-book your National Express bus, people trying to get on were told they were full till mid-afternoon.
After Cruise in London
After taking the National Express bus to Heathrow, we got the hotel shuttle to the Crown Plaza Heathrow in West Drayton just outside the airport. We got the 4 star Crown Plaza on Priceline for $50. Internet rate was 80 UKP, or about $150. All Heathrow hotel shuttle buses are 4 UKP, no freebees here. After checking in, we got a cab to the nearby West Drayton train station (10 UKP), 20 minute ride to London, faster than the Tube from Heathrow. An all day TravelCard pass for all trains, subways, and buses is 7.50 UKP for off-peak travel (after 9:30 M-F, and all day weekends) in all zones 1-6, which covers Heathrow to London. Each trip by itself is 4 UKP. A peak Travelcard for use before 9:30 costs 14.80 UKP. Buy them at any tube, train, or bus station from the machines.
Speed trains run from West Drayton to London Paddington every half hour, take 20 minutes, and at Paddington you can transfer to the Tube. We took the Tube from there to St. Paul's Cathedral, and then back to Leicester Square and Soho, had dinner there, and then back to Paddington for the train to West Drayton. Soho and Chinatown are a hoot to walk around, tons of people even on Sunday evening, every kind of restaurant, café, and club, as well as the stage shows.
And finally, here's one for the books, the licensed cab drive from the hotel didn't know where the train station was, and the cab driver from the train station didn't know where the hotel was. They are about 1.5 miles apart.
Also, wait to get home to change your UKP back to your currency, the rate at Heathrow was about 15 percent worse than at home.
And lastly, at the Crown Plaza we overheard a guest complaining about being charged for minibar articles, and they were told there is a sensor in the bar, and if you move anything it's assumed you used it and are charged for it. Really.
Email us if you need more info: Bob7 (at) Canoemail dot com
-Bob and Wendy Evans July 2009
I went on a Princess cruise this summer. Although these problems may seem minor, what upset me most about this cruise line is they did nothing to fix them or make me feel like I was a valuable customer. When I got home, I mailed this letter to the President of Princess and two other senior level people. I mailed this over a month ago and got no response. If you plan on sailing Princess and have any issues, don't expect them to be resolved or even given consideration for your feelings. Once they have your money, they don't care if you are happy or not.
July 16, 2009
Alan Buckelew President and CEO of Princess Cruises 24844 Avenue Rockefeller Santa Clarita, CA 91355
Dear Mr. Buckelew:
My husband and I vacationed on the Princess Sapphire with the rail tour after our cruise, booking number XXXXX. We are disappointed with our experience. Despite our efforts to correct some of these issues, none of the Princess Tour employees assisted us. Then when I called to talk about it to customer relations, I spoke to Raymond, and he just told me to write an email.So once again, I felt disregarded. Prior to this cruise, we sailed with Norwegian which had superior service and activities. We were looking forward to this cruise line but it will be highly unlikely we would ever sail it again and we definitely would warn our friends and family about the poor customer service. Hopefully, we will get a response from this letter to show that someone at Princess still cares about their customers.
Problems we encountered on the cruise ship
1. The nightly entertainment repeated. On Norwegian they had a different show every night and not just the cruise ship dancers. On Princess they had “Do You Wanna Dance” by the ship dancers on Sunday and Monday and “Piano Man” by the ship dancers on Thursday and Friday. Therefore, two nights on board we did not have new entertainment.
2. We could never sit by a window at dinner. Six of the seven nights we did anytime dining, and every night I asked to sit by a window, they said they don't have two person tables by the window. We don't understand why you don't have a few since you know couples will be on board. If you do, we don't understand why we always were seated as far from a window in the restaurant as possible.
3. One night, after I asked to be seated near a window, they put us against the wall, once again. Moments after we sat down, a couple were being seated near us, when they asked to be moved closer to a window, they got a better table near one. I complained to the maître d' who just apologized. He didn't offer to sit us by a window on another night or make any kind of compensation.
4. The waiter kept trying to sell us items. At dinner one night, the waiter asked us about the breakfast on our balcony about 5 times in a row. We understand being asked once, but a no should end the conversation. At this point it became harassment. I should have said something to someone else but was so aggravated and didn't want to talk about it anymore.
5. The only sit down restaurant's breakfast ended by 9:00 and didn't open for lunch until 12:00. If we did not get there by 8:30, the buffet was our only option for three and a half hours.
6. On the morning of departure, the main dining room didn't open until most passengers disembarked.
7. One day we went to get soft serve ice cream at 6:00 and the woman serving the ice cream said they closed at 6:00. We would understand if we came at 6:10 or if the machine was being cleaned, but neither were the case.
8. All the restaurants had the same menu for dinner so if we didn't want an item on that menu; our only other choice was the buffet.
9. There was no one to talk to about land excursions on the rail portion of our trip on the cruise ship. The cruise ship could only talk about their ports. We don't understand why they couldn't help us with the land excursions of the trip since it is all the same company.
10. No special event – Norwegian had midnight chocolate buffet, Royal Caribbean had midnight buffet as well.
11. Our reserved dinner in the main dining room was supposed to be by a window and it was next to the entrance.
Problems we encountered on land portion
12. We were told it was a rail tour but the majority of our trip was by motor coach. We had rail from Whittier to Talkeetna and the rest was by motor coach (Talkeetna to McKinley, McKinley to Denali, and Denali to Fairbanks)
13. The shuttles from the hotel to town cost money and they were far away from everything. In the land excursion brochure on page 26 it says shuttle is complimentary. In addition, it is a Princess bus so we don't know why it costs extra. For McKinley it was $10 round trip per person and Fairbanks it was $5 roundtrip per person.
14. We asked if we could switch the tour we were given with a lesser priced one in Denali and they would not do it. We did not pick that tour; it was assigned to us so we don't know why we were not allowed to switch to something that we would enjoy. When we went to the park, they switched it for us so I'm confused why Princess refused to do it.
15. The hotel in McKinley had neither air conditioning nor fans in the rooms. It was in the upper 80s and was very hot in the room!
16. None of the rooms on the land portion had a safe to lock up our valuables.
17. From Fairbanks to the airport they would not change the shuttle time. It had us leaving at 6:45 when the airport is 5 minutes away for a 9:30 flight and they refused to make a second trip.
18. There was a luggage fee for the Alaskan Airlines flight that we were not told about before we booked our trip.
19. We had a long layover in Anchorage when there were flights that left sooner to go to Seattle
What upsets us the most is the lack of any Princess employee's attempt to rectify even one of these items.
Lauren and Wayne
cc: Charlie Ball Jan Swartz
We cruised out of Seattle on June 28, 2009 for the Inside Passage. We took this same trip last year at almost the same week and on the same ship.
I have to say that this year was even better than last year. The weather was perfect, the company good and the food was fantastic.
Our cabin on the Caribe deck was nice with the larger balcony. We traveled with 2 other couples and had the balconies all open to each other. Made for great happy hours and was nice sharing the scenic glacier viewing of Tracy Endicott Arm.
Our room stewardess went way beyond expectations and everywhere on the ship the entire crew was pleasant. Our waiters were awesome at dinner service too.
The newly renovated Star Princess was nicely done. The bed was a bit lumpy, and I would have thought with the renovations recently done they would have changed the mattresses out.
We found the embarkation and disembarkation very organized and efficient. We used the Princess airport transfers and those too were very well organized.
The shows were entertaining and upbeat and very colorful. We went to several other activities throughout theship too, and those were also very entertaining. There was no lack of things to do. I only wish that some of the activities didn't overlap into the times of other activities. I would have liked to have done more.
Cruising is truly the best way to vacation. You have your lodging, entertainment and food all right there. You don't have to live out of a suitcase or worry about drinking and driving. All of this and visiting fabulous destinations too. What more could you ask for? Princess Cruise Lines know how to make traveling fun.
Princess Cruises Ruby Princess by Harry F Smith Eastern Mediterranean June 9, 2009
About the Reviewer I am a 49 Y/O married man with 2 kids ages 11 and 12. This was our 5th cruise and 2nd with Princess. I am a Naval Officer. I selected this cruise due to the itinerary and the brand new ship, Ruby Princess.
Embarkation/Disembarkation Embarkation was flawless and fast. We arrived at the Port of Venice at 1130. From entrance to the terminal to boarding the ship, total time elapsed was 30 minutes. Disembarkation did not fare as well. Specifically, we opted for the "self disembarkation" status since we had our own arrangements to get to our hotel in Rome. We were off the ship by 0730 only to discover our luggage had been placed in an outdoor tent way too small for all the luggage in pouring rain. Upon entering the chaos in the tent, we found our luggage sitting in 4 inches of water! To add insult, everyone and their luggage was so jammed packed under the tent, I had to carry each back at waist level tippy toeing around passengers to get out.With all our clothes wet, it meant wearing the same clothes for another 2 days.
Service As in the past with Sea Princess, room and restaurant service was top notch. Our steward and waiter would do anything to ensure our satisfaction. One note of difference, the servers in the buffet area were exceptional. From the moment you sat down till the moment you left, someone was always ensuring your coffee was hot and your juice glasses filled. If however, you tried to get a drink using your free refill card in any show lounge, FORGET IT, servers avoided us like the plague.
Ruby Princess gets failing grades with the pursers' desk, the two Brazilian individuals in particular were no less than awful, acting annoyed if your needs were not simple and quick. In addition, another area terribly concerning was the level of response to a legitimate health concern within the room. Immediately upon initial arrival in our stateroom (235 Aloha Deck) we noticed an overpowering smell of volatile organic compounds (VOC's) like varnish or paint thinner. My wife was experiencing an immediate reaction of headache, nausea and dizziness. Princess staff acted as if there was no smell. It was not until I identified myself as someone with a Masters in Occupational Health that they began taking action. It took 4 hours to get a response to our concern whereby we were offered a temporary alternate cabin for the night. Needless to say, our port day in Venice was ruined.
Itinerary This particular cruise was very port intensive, calling on 10 ports in 12 days including Venice where we were docked a day and a half before leaving. Each stop was very beautiful. What was very disappointing was how early we were required to pull out each afternoon (4:30-5:30). Trips between ports of call taking 3-4 hours by regional ferries (such as Athens to Mykonos) required we take 12-14 hours, crawling at 10 knots. We can only assume Princess wanted us on board to spend money or they were too cheap to burn fuel at a higher rate. With excursions getting back at 3:30 or 4:30, it left little or no time to legitimately explore on your own.
Also of note, when 3080 passengers plus some crew descend upon quaint ports such as Mykonos or Santorini, you will find yourself dodging massive crowds and tour groups of 30 to 40 people, not exactly relaxing.
Food Food was hit or miss, overall I would rate it 3.5 out of five. In general, we found the food in the buffet area for dinner to be bland and lacking. I offer some details of foods not to be missed and foods better left alone.
Foods Not to be Missed: Pizza (YUM!) Fettuccini Alfredo in main dinning room (best I have ever had anywhere) Chocolate cake in main piazza pastry shop Pork Belly in main dining room NY cheese cake
Foods Better Left Alone: Steaks (any and all) in main dining area, they were bland and tough mousse -- they tasted like eating grease chocolate cakes in buffet area (bland)
Onboard Experience Overall Princess gets high marks for keeping 3000 passengers apart using clever tactics such as two show rooms offering the same shows twice in a row so passengers can view both shows over two separate nights. One feature that really, really jumped out at us was how Princess constantly marketed to us. The "Welcome Aboard Show" featured 45 minutes of Princess hocking their wares, showing all the places you could spend additional $$ such as the optional dining rooms, very disappointing. If you are planning a cruise on Ruby, skip the opening show unless you like to be shaken down to spend money. On the first formal night there were no less than six photography stations set up, two blocking main passageways. I made no apologies for waling right through a photo shoot taking place directly in the path of passengers along the main Promenade deck. Spirits, beer and wine are reasonably priced from $3.50 to $7.00.
Concluding Remarks Overall, the trip was nice, but I would caution expecting rest and relaxation. With more time in each port and less being marketing to, the experience might have been more enjoyable and relaxing.
Golden Princess has been refurbished.
We just sailed out of Seattle to Alaska -- Juneau, etc.
The food was better than expected. Food was so good in the Food Court that we often skipped the 1+ hour sit down meal. Try the International Café. Best doughnuts around in the morning. Fresh cookies baked on site. Lunch snack grilled ham and cheese croissant, fresh soup, and the best lime marinated giant shrimp you will find anywhere. Service was wonderful.
Three separate swimming areas. Really enjoyed the small pool (as hot as a hot tub) on the rear deck. They also have an Under the Stars outdoor movie which was okay, but the sound didn't work the night we went.
Procedures in general were very smooth. Embarkation and debarkation took only a few minutes and there were actually friendly, patient staff to help answer "dumb" questions.
I disagree with the review that the food is not world class. Pretty close to the best I have had cruising, especially at a buffet. Enjoyed the movies and shows. Singers and dancers were of advanced amateur theater talent. Male lead singers were average at best.
Negatives Only 2 serving "lines"for 2000 guests. Tables are hard to find. Sitting outside with a 20+ knot wind going to Alaska is not fun. Food courts clog up quickly because there is no flow to the serving line. Carnival has a much larger area to serve food in. For that many people you really need 4 separate areas. Also, only 1 sit down area for lunch. Lines to get in and when we would leave at 12:45 there would still be people in line. Beverage service in the food court was inconsistent. Even in slow times there were a few staff members who were bored, maybe afraid to speak English? -- puttering around, they would walk past you and didn't bother to ask if you needed anything. Princess does not serve "punch." You will find milk to drink rarely, unless you steal it from the cereal or coffee area. Juice in the morning is hidden, even in the self serve areas.
Do not miss the cooking demo with the Chef and the Maitre'd. Entertaining and informative.
General Criticisms Foreigners just don't understand American breakfasts -- scrambled eggs, "hash browns," occasional gravy are much better at Denney's or Cracker Barrel. Pizza, even though freshly made, was sub-par. Pastries always looked good, but were tasteless. "Pies" have no real fruit, just use the jellied fruit cake fillings.
Coffee in the buffet area is very weak. I guess they want to push the $2.50 premium coffee/espressos.
Sabatini ($20 extra) was a good experience, but the food itself was not what I would call classic Italian. I had langoustine which were large crawdads (with the eyes looking at you) About 12 bites of meat from 6 large critters. Service was outstanding.
Exercise Area: They were always pushing the spa treatments. The exercise area was standing room only in the early morning. Despite the number of machines, the room was overflowing. So you have to go later in the day. Maybe they should open at 6AM instead of 7.
Also we did not get real close to a glacier. The fjords are real narrow (Endicott Tracy Arm was iced up). It is amazing to maneuver the ship in such tight quarters, but you might as well go to Mendenhall glacier if you want up close viewing.
Princess Cruises Ruby Princess by Ken T. Eastern Mediterranean May 28, 2009
We were on back-to-back cruises aboard the Ruby Princess from 28 May to 9 June and 9 June to 21 June 2009. We are Elite Captain's Club members so we are familiar with a lot of their ships and the services provided. Our overall impression of both cruises was that they were excellent, but there were some limitations regarding the ship and the services.
Cabins Our most serious complaint concerns the outside cabins. We have purchased inside, outside, balcony and suite cabins on various Princess ships and have always been satisfied with what we received -- up until these cruises. On these two cruises, we reserved outside cabins without balconies and expected to receive a cabin with a configuration like that shown on the Princess web site. NOT SO -- BE WARNED. The outside cabins are nothing like the one shown on the web site. That representation is much like all the cabins we have had on other Princess ships and it is what we expected on these cruises, but Princess has made some radical changes to their outside cabins andthe result is nothing less than horrible.
We were given a cabin that had a queen bed pushed into a corner of the room with the head of the bed under the window. On the left side of the bed was a single nightstand with two attached lamps. Obviously, the nightstand was supposed to be used between two single beds. When the two beds were pushed together to form a queen, the nightstand provided light and storage for only one person. The other person could not read in bed and was forced to climb over the top of the bed to enter and exit.
There was one small table and one chair in the room and the table was blocking the door to the refrigerator. The only drawers in the room were those very small ones in the nightstand. All the other storage was in the form of shelves under the vanity or in the closet area. The bathroom storage was almost non-existent with two small, exposed shelves in one corner.
The inside cabins on the Ruby Princess are better than the outside cabins. We looked at several of them on the first day of the second cruise when all the doors were left open to greet the new guests boarding for that cruise. We also showed our cabin steward a copy of the configuration shown on the web site and asked him if any of the outside cabins looked like it. He said he had never seen an outside cabin on the Ruby Princess like the one represented.
We, of course, made our way to the Purser's desk immediately upon seeing the cabin and made known our displeasure. We were at first told that they might not be able to do anything about the situation as the ship was full and no other cabins were available. As it turned out, the head of Passenger Services did eventually come up with an upgraded cabin that had the configuration that we wanted. It was a balcony cabin. However, it was necessary for us to spend a couple of uncomfortable days in the first cabin before the other one opened up. On the second cruise, we had to go back to the first cabin for one day before another balcony cabin became available for us. It took some shuffling and a lot of wasted time, but we were finally satisfied with the result. The head of Passenger Services was very cooperative and did everything she could to satisfy our needs. She is to be commended for her efforts.
The one redeeming factor regarding the cabins was the closet space. It was excellent in all the cabin categories. The cabins also had nice vanities, but they lacked drawer space.
Food We took anytime dining on both cruises and ate almost all of our meals in the restaurant that provided that option. That included breakfast, lunch and dinner. We felt that the food on both cruises was excellent, even a cut above some of the other Princess ships we have been on. Strangely, it seemed like the food in the restaurant was better prepared and tastier on the first cruise and the deserts were better on the second cruise. We noticed a lot of crew people leaving the ship at various ports and surmise that we may have lost or gained some cooks and pastry chefs along the way.
We liked the fact that the dining rooms were opened every day for all meals. Some ships don't open their dining rooms for meals other than dinner on port days and everyone is forced to use the lido restaurant. We prefer to take as many meals as possible in the more formal restaurants. On those few occasions when we did use the lido restaurants, we found the selection and quality to be good.
Service The room stewards all did good jobs. Those servicing the balcony cabins seemed to be a bit more experienced. Whatever is lacking in the room service seems to be the fault of the people working at the Princess on-land offices. We are asked for our onboard preference at the My Princess web site regarding robes, beverages, fruit, etc. Apparently, this information was not transmitted to the room stewards as nothing in the room matched what we had ordered. It was necessary to contact Room Service to correct this situation. It is not a huge issue, but we wonder why Princess asks for our preferences if they don't intend to follow though and satisfy our requests.
The dining room service was excellent on the first cruise, but extremely slow on a few nights of the second cruise. There did not seem to be any noticeable reason for the slowness on the second cruise. Everyone was commenting about it but nobody knew what was going on. On two occasions, we spent nearly 3 hours having a normal dinner. Most of that time was spent waiting to order or for the next course to be brought. The waiters seemed to be having a good time and were under no noticeable stress. We were told that both cruises were full, but there seemed to be a lot more people on the second cruise. I am not sure how that could happen unless there were multiple cabins with more than 2 people to a cabin. We missed two shows because we were unable to get out of the restaurant in time.
Shows We are not big on production shows and only saw one. It was well done. We prefer the comedians, magicians, jugglers, etc. Unfortunately, Princess seems to be cutting back on some of the shows and replacing them with games provided by the cruise staff. In the past most of the Princess ships had two venues for shows; the Princess Theatre where the production shows are shown and a smaller venue like the Explorer's Lounge where comedy and magic acts were performed. They would usually have the same show repeated for two nights so everyone had an opportunity to see both shows on one or the other night. Each show was usually performed at least twice each night. On these cruises, there were times when only one show was presented in the Princess Theatre and the acts in the alternative venue were replaced with game shows or art auctions. We did not understand why this was done as all the entertainers were onboard and could have performed.
Tours We took Princess tours in 13 ports. They all had very knowledgeable guides that spoke excellent English although some had heavier accents than others. The buses provided were all in excellent condition and most of the drivers did a good job. Some were a little aggressive and scared the devil out of pedestrians as well as passengers that were watching the pedestrians jump out of the way of the oncoming bus. Drivers in this part of Europe have a lot of faith in other drivers. Pedestrians need to beware. One guide told us there are two kinds of pedestrians in Italy, the daring and the dead.
Be forewarned that there is a LOT of walking on most of the tours provided on these cruises and a lot of it is up some very steep hills and/or over uneven ground. Several people on each cruise required medical treatment as the result of falls taken while on various tours. Some of them were fortunate that the injuries were not more severe. Pickpockets were also very active and few days passed without someone mentioning that they had lost property while on a tour. These crooks are very professional and you don't even notice them being part of your group until it is too late.
Docks and Shuttles Many cruisers would like to go into the nearest town at some ports rather than take a Princess tour. Shuttles are often provided. Some charge a minimal fee and some are free. It is often very difficult to find this information before you arrive at a port. The information below pertains to our cruises only. It can vary by company and on each cruise with the same company. This information is taken from the Princess Patter. We took Princess tours in most of the ports and only took a shuttle on a couple of occasions.
Monte Carlo: We were under the impression that we would tender into Monte Carlo, but we docked. There was no shuttles provided, but it was not far to walk to town. The Princess Patter stated that walking around the harbor to the Casino would take about 30/40 minutes.
Livorno: Shuttles were provided by a private operator. Cost to the Livorno train station was 12 Euro ($15.00) per person for cruisers wanting to take a train to Pisa or Florence.
Civitavecchia: A complimentary shuttle was provided from the ship to the Port Gates in Civitavecchia. From there it was about a 10-minute walk to the railway station. Information was also provided about the cost of trains to Rome, but there is too much of it to include here.
Naples: On our first cruise, a complimentary shuttle was provided from the ship at Pier 21 to the Stazione Marittima (Maritime Station) where public ferries to Capri and Sorrento depart. On our second visit to Naples, no shuttle was provided, but it was only a short walk to the ferry depot. We took the ferry to Capri and back and it was an easy day once we found out where and how to purchase tickets and where to get on the boat. The Princess tour office onboard has a printed sheet available that provided the names of the boat companies servicing Sorrento and Capri. It also provides the cost of tickets, but the information was outdated and the cost was higher than stated. Just use this information as a general guide. The Princess Patter stated, "Please be advised that return tickets from Capri on the independent hydrofoil can only be purchased whilst in Capri on a first come first served basis -- please be careful when returning as hydrofoils do get very busy in late afternoon." The boat going to Capri was full. We returned on a boat in the early afternoon and it was less than half full. Later boats may have had more passengers.
Mykonos: On the first cruise, we anchored off shore and a shuttle boat was provided at no cost. On the second cruise, the boat docked at Tourlos Pier about 1.2 miles from town. A private shuttle was provided and the cost was Euro 7.00 per person round trip. Princess advised against walking into town, because there is no sidewalk.
Istanbul: Salipazari Cruise Port is located approximately 2.5 miles from the main tourist attractions. There was an independent shuttle bus service from the pier to a drop off point in the Grand Bazaar area. A guide was aboard the bus. She walked us into town and showed us where we would meet to return to the bus. The cost was US $12.00 per person for a round trip ticket. Tickets were purchased at the Shuttle Desk inside the terminal.
Kusadasi: The ship docked a short walk from the center of town. Kusadasi has the second largest bazaar in Turkey after Istanbul. It is a very clean and interesting area to shop and bargains are available. Bargaining is encouraged. Taxis to Ephesus are about $60.00 to $70.00 each way.
Athens: The ship docked at Kanelos Pier (Piraeus). A complimentary shuttle service was available between the ship and the Main Cruise Ship terminal. At the main Terminal taxi service was available.
Venice: Princess has a water shuttle available that goes from the cruise ship pier to St. Marks Square. The cost is $15.00 per person and it can be used all day and the next morning. The vendor provides maps of Venice. Be sure you get one. You can take a local waterbus down the Grand Canal to Piazzale Roma where it is about a 20 minute walk back to the pier. Be sure to get directions from a knowledgeable local about the route back to the ship. It can be confusing. Taxis are also available at the Piazzale that will take you back to the ship for a fee.
Dubrovnik: The ship docks about 3 miles from downtown. A local shuttle bus ran between the ship and Pile Square. Cost was 5.00 Euros each way.
Corfu: A shuttle bus was provided from the ship to the terminal building. Outside the terminal building, there was a local bus at the other end of the parking lot that took us into downtown Corfu for one Euro twenty. The bus was a little hard to find because it was always parked behind another bus. Ask the lady handing out information brochures just inside the terminal building. She walked us out to the parking lot and showed us where to find the bus. Princess did not provide information about this local bus. I learned about it from the lady mentioned above.
Katakolon: The ship docked about 700 yards from the fishing village of Katakolon. The village had a couple of blocks of tourist stores. One storeowner said that she closed up as soon as the ship left. The stores were all very nice and had good merchandise.
Rhodes: The ship docks at Rhodes Commercial Harbor about 300 yards from the Old Town Entrance (it is a flat walk to town). This is another fun place to walk around and check the shops.
Santorini: Independent passengers will be tendered to the port of Skala where there is a cable car that goes up the mountain to Thira. The cable car is 4 euros per person each way. You can also walk up or down the donkey path if you don't mind dodging what the donkeys leave behind. Expect lines and crowds at the cable car. Thira is another fun place to take a walk and window shop.
Here are port reviews and shore excursion information that we took on our Grand Princess Med Cruise - 6/9 - 6/21.
Venice: We flew in a day early and stayed at the Hotel Monaco. The hotel is very well located - right next to St. Mark's Square! The hotel was nice and room was clean but very small.
We did not book any tours of Venice through Princess. We did, however, book the Doge's Palace Secret Itenerary Tour. This is not the regular tour of the Palace, but a behind the scenes tour with only 25 people. It takes you through back rooms of the palace - the jail cell where Casanova stayed, the secret police room, etc. I highly recommend this tour. I booked it ahead of time through the internet.
Athens: We booked the Acroplis/Plaka Sampler shore excursion through Princess. It was very enjoyable and was just about the right amount of time. Showed us the highlights of Athens, important buildings, etc. Then on to the Acropolis. Tour guide was very informative. Included time on our own at the Acropolis for wandering around and pictures.
The tour dropped us off atthe Plaka for a couple of hours on our own of shopping and eating. Many designers stores in this area. We ate a delicious greek lunch at a local cafe. It started raining so we were happy when it was time to be picked up by our bus.
Kusadasi/Ephesus: We booked the Ephesus, Virgin Mary, St. John's shore excursion through Shorex Turkey (www.shorexturkey.co.nr) . Also very enjoyable. First stop was Virgin Mary home. Then Ephesus. Ephesus was beautiful but an absolute zoo! It was packed full of people! I wish that we would have stopped there first - maybe we would have been able to avoid some of the crowds.
Be prepared for the local vendors. They will bug you to buy stuff constantly.
Istanbul: We booked a full Day tour through Transbalkan. Istanbul was one of my favorite stops. It felt very exotic! In the morning, we visited the Blue Mosque, St. Sophia and Underground Cistern. They were all within walking distance of each other. Then lunch in a garden patio of a restaurant. Nice atmosphere - good food.
The school children taking tours of the local areas like to practice their English on the American tourists! They were very friendly and asked questions like "What is your name?" and "How are you?". When I answered them, they were so happy and excited!! I felt like I was a rock star or something, when they all were clamoring to say hello and give me high fives!! We joked about my "fan club" for the rest of the trip!
After lunch, we went to the Grand Bazaar (what a place that was!!) - with time on our own for shopping - and the Topkapi Palace - also time on our own. It was a long day and we were very tired at the end!
Naples: We booked a private tour with Marcello of seesorrento. It was the highlight of our entire trip! The first thing Marcello asked us when we started was what were our expectations. If we wanted to go shopping, he would take us shopping. If we wanted to go off the beaten path, we would go there. By this time, we were pretty tired of the buses/herds, so we wanted to see Marcello's Italy. He took us through Sorrento, Positano and along the Amalfi Coast. Many photo stops. He showed us beaufiful little villages that the buses don't stop at. He then ventured beyond where the buses can travel and totally beat the crowds. As I said before, by then we were very tired to the crowds, so we really loved this. We stopped at a village called Pontone and had a wonderful lunch in a garden patio with an awesome view. We did not order off a menu. Marcello brought us dishes upon dishes of food that he thought we would enjoy - food that the locals eat. The food includes the yummiest olives I've ever had, caprice salad, goat cheese, cheese cooked in lemon leaves, gnocchi, mussels with linguine, red and white wine carafes...I could go on and on.....then on to the dessert. We had an assortment of 4 different desserts on our plates! He also brought out bottles of liquers - Lemoncello, some sort of fennel liquer and cantalope liquer. We all had shots of these in chilled glasses. So much fun - what an experience he made this lunch for us.
After lunch, we went to Pompei. Since we went in the afternoon, it was less crowded, then if we had gone in the morning with all the bus tours. I can't even describe Pompei! It was huge! Street after street after street of ruins - and so well preserved!! We spent 2 hours there which just flew by. We definitely could have spent many more hours there. We were glad that Marcello had taken us to the farthest place first (Amalfi) and worked his way back to the closest place to the ship (Pompei) so we wouldn't worry about being late in arriving back to the port.
There were some tours that arrived back at port late, but they were Princess tours so the ship waited for them.
Mykonos: We did this on our own. We just wandered around, walked up to the windmills and ate lunch. This town is definitely doable on your own. It is the cutest, most beautiful place. Many back streets with shops and cafes. I loved this port!! We also got to see the pink pelican!! Took pictures - will post later.
Civetevechia: We did not do a shore excursion into Rome, since we had visited Rome two years ago and it's a 1 1/2 hour drive into Rome. We thought we would just wander around Civetevechia and do some shopping, maybe eating. There wasn't much around this port at all. Minimal shops and restaurants - most closed since it was Sunday. We walked around and then just got back on the ship and relaxed. If you want to walk around, you will have to take the Princess shuttle as it is not possible to walk from the ship into town.
Livorno: We booked the Medevil Lucca shore excursion since we had been to Florence a couple of years ago. The Lucca tour was a half day tour. We didn't really enjoy the town much. We had thought it would be a more charming town, like Siena or San Gigmanio, but it was more of a working class town. We were disappointed in this tour but maybe it was just our expectation of something different.
Marseilles: We booked the Arles/Le Baux all day exursion through Princess. We enjoyed this tour much. The drive to Arles was approx. 45 minutes. Guide was very informative. Van Gogh had spent time in this town. Walking tour of important sights, then time on our own for shopping. Lunch was at the Atrium Hotel in Arles included in the excursion. The buffet salad bar set up was very. I didn't enjoy the chicken lunch much, however. The lunch also included red and rose wine and also dessert.
We then went to Le Baux in the afternoon. Beautiful medevil town up on a hill. Very hilly area with many cute shops and cafes.
I hope you enjoyed this information regarding the tours and excursions we went on. If you have any questions, please let me know!