In June we made 12 day Mediterranean Cruise with Star Princess and had a wonderful time.
We ended up with approximately 2000 passengers. There were about 900 from the USA, 700 from Canada and 400 from Great Britain. There also appeared to be a pretty large contingent of Russian and Asian speaking passengers.We were quite aft and never felt any motion from the ship. That, of course, could be due to the fact that we had perfect weather the entire cruise. Our cruise docs said that embarkation started at 5pm. I sure didn't believe that. Since we had been in Barcelona a day early, we arrived at the ship at 2pm. There was no one in line and we got on the ship within 3 minutes. The next day, while looking at embarkation pictures, I noticed that they had them categorized by time of embarkation and it looks like passengers had been arriving since 11am.Barcelona - We stayed at the Regencia De Colon hotel. It is a sister hotel to the Colon, both which sit at the foot of the Cathedral and a 2 minute walk from La Rambla.
The room was small, but well appointed in a great location. We had to go to the Colon to get ice for our drinks. We had dinner at Neya's. A small tapas bar 1 1/2 blocks from the hotel. The food was great-tapas and paella. and very inexpensive.We really enjoyed the city. La Rambla is maybe 6 blocks long and activity abounds! We spent much of the time just watching the street mimes. They get dressed up in amazing costumes and hold perfectly still till you come up to have your picture taken..then they go into action! Quite a site to see. La Rambla is also lined with plenty of street vendors, artists etc. But they even have street vendors that are pet shops along with the normal florists and trinket sellers. We had sangria at a street side cafe. Ugh...it was thick and really sweet and reminded us more of children's cough syrup than a cocktail.On the day of embarkation we took the hop off/hop on bus. We took the north route to catch all of the architecture and it really was a beautiful ride. It did, however, take the entire morning as the traffic in the city was really bad. We bought a one day ticket that would have allowed us to take the south route if we had the time. Two day tickets are also available. Cash only, but you purchase the tickets at the boarding stops. We thought Barcelona was beautiful, we were pleasantly surprised. It is a very easy city to do on your own.Cabs are very easy to get either in the city or at the pier. It is about 10-15 E from the pier to the close end of La Rambla. Make sure and negotiate price before you get in.We had late seating, traditional dining. We love traditional dining, however, due to the lateness of some of the tours we ate every night at 8:45 pm. That's pretty late even for folks who like to have prolonged cocktail hours! We were rarely finished with dinner by 11pm. I won't comment too much on food...but...all of the soups were absolutely fantastic. we never had a bad one. Many of the nights I had a hard time choosing which entree to select as none of them completely excited me, but they were all good.
Sail away was also our 1st formal night.We never had any pomp or circumstance for any of the sail ways. I find that disappointing..I really used to love watching the bands or school children perform as we sailed away.PORTS OF CALL :* Monte Carlo: We took the ship tour of the medieval village of Eze. It was a beautiful little village..lots of steps with a cactus garden at the top..not what I would have expected for a Mediterranean town! The drive to the town was spectacular and the guide pointed out the homes of Bill Gates, Tina Turner and Bono from U2. * Livorno : After much deliberating we took the Princess transfers into Florence instead of trying the train. There was just too much at risk if the trains went on strike. The transfer was pleasant and the guide gave us a nice history/cultural lesson on the area. It was 1 ½ hours by bus and then a 5 minute walk from the drop off point into the city.The queue for Uffuzi is very misleading. They have a sign out front telling you how long the outside queue is, but there is also a queue once you get inside. We got in line before the gallery even opened, but still had to wait almost an hour before we were admitted. There are 4 or 5 very long/steep sets of stairs to climb before you even get to the showrooms. Also, the showrooms are very poorly labeled. A good guide book of the gallery is a must or you could wander for hours aimlessly. Unless you're really into the masters..I'd pass. It was also hot in the building.The open air leather market had spectacular shopping, but it was very crowded. If you're willing to pay cash versus credit card you have more price bartering ground to work with.We loved the food markets and bought 6 bottles of Tuscan wine (red and white) for 5 euros each. When our waiter wanted to charge us corkage we jokingly stated that we hadn't been charged in the past. This was the first time that the new ownership was mentioned to us.they said that the new policy no longer allows for waiters' discretion on charging corkage. Oh well..we figured with such inexpensive wine we were still way ahead based on the wines Princess offers. Oh..and the local wine was superb.The street cafes had big umbrellas for blocking the sun and we had a great lunch. Everyone we encountered spoke good English. The bus picked us up at 3:15 for the transfer back to the ship.
Four passengers did not make it back to the ship before we sailed. Never found out what happened to them.* Civitavecchia : Civitavecchia is a nice port town in its own right and some who had seen Rome just stayed there. We had a private driver to take us to Rome for a General Audience with the Pope (he does these Wednesdays). Very nice. Many taxis at the port and prices are not bad. A free shuttle takes you to the train station and its about an hour into town. The Vatican by itself took us all day. Museum, Cistene Chapel, and St Peters are all breathtaking. If you want to see more than a couple of sights take the city tour. The distances via the subway or on foot are too far. You need to buy subway tickets at a tabak or newspaper shop with a "T" sign.
* Naples : We used Marcello Maresca from See Sorrento - www.seesorrento.com Our trip included a visit to Pompeii, Pompei is amazing, a not to miss site. I had no idea how huge the city was and how well preserved it is. You can still see many frescos. The walking is extensive on very uneven cobblestones and it was HOT. We found that in all of the sites where we visited ruins (Ephesus, Acropolis, Pompei) that it was always hot.up on a hill, no trees for shade. Be prepared to wear as little clothing as possible and carry water bottles. * Athens: We used Spiros from www.athenstaxi.net He is very reasonable. He took us to
Acropolis and Plaka. Acropolis is really really really crowded and the stairs up and down are narrow. You can have quite a queue just getting up and down. Great food (I'm Greek) and great shopping. I got lots of kisses from the older ladies when they found out I was Greek.sure didn't help get me any better prices tho'!* Kusadasi: For the Ephesus Tour, we used Shorex Turkey - www.shorexturkey.co.nr We had a fantastic guide with great knowledge. We were so thrilled to make it to Turkey and they were thrilled to have us. This was definitely the highlight of the trip. What amazed us all was how clean and beautiful Turkey was. No garbage in the streets, beautiful parks and landscaping everywhere. And the architecture wow. * Venice: We did Venice on our own for both days. Princess offered a free boat shuttle from the pier to the city..took about an half an hour and dropped you at San Marco. Get a good street map..we used Streetwise. It was a lifesaver. Prices for glass are the same in Murano as they are in the city and there is very little bartering. We bought lamps for our screen porch, Christmas decorations and quite a spectacular statue that is being shipped.Everyone spoke great English. We had an early evening flight out to London. The last Princess transfer to the airport left at 3pm. Perfect for us. Even though it was more expensive than a cab, it was well worth the money as they held our luggage for us. So..we were able to spend the day of disembarkation touring (without worrying about what to do with our luggage) and then get to the airport in a timely fashion.ENTERTAINMENTLest you think we completely skipped the entertainment on the ship, we did eventually catch some shows. We really loved DANCE! and Give My Regards was also good, two Vegas-style shows on the Star. The singers and dancers were top-notch and very enjoyable. We skipped "Da Beat", as we didn't want to see the same entertainers three nights in a row. Maverick the magician was excellent and the comedian Jim McDonald was great too. The only entertainment that was bad at any time was the passengers attempting Karaoke, which was not fault of Princess! Be sure to arrive early for shows. most let you sit a half hour before showtime, and some even earlier. We were turned away from the Princess Theater when attempting to see DANCE! on the second night, arriving 15 minutes prior to showtime we were told it was already full. The two showrooms are very impressive. The Princess Theatre is situated like a normal theatre with rows and rows of seats. Its big and impressive, the stage moves and drops as impressively as any big production stage you would see elsewhere. It is at the extreme fore of the ship. The Vista Showlounge is at the aft and is designed like a Las Vegas showlounge with rows of little tables for two with chairs next to them. Behind each set of chairs and tables is a custioned bench seat with more small drink tables. Both venues work well.
THE LOTUS SPAI had two treatments in the spa while on the Star. I was very pleased with the standard facial. Upon embarking there was a coupon for $15 off any hour long spa treatment on an in-port day found in my shore excursion ticket envelope. The facial was very relaxing and the lady was very nice. The other treatment was a head and shoulder massage called Frangipangi Conditioning and Scalp Ritual, found in the Salon brochure. What I found weird about this, is that on the Star they didn't do it exactly as advertised in the brochure. One of the best parts of this ritual is getting your head wrapped in a steaming towel, which they didn't plan to do. Also, rather than just applying massage oil to my scalp to massage it, the lady slopped oil all through my very long hair, which I could NOT get out on my own. She did say I could come back and get it shampood out if I wanted later. which I did end up doing a couple days later. Her explanation as to why the ritual was different on the Star than what I had experienced on another Princess ship is that they do it a little different on every ship. I think that's a lousy policy if they use the same advertising brochure / explanation on all of the ships! I guess I just suggest you ask ahead, because I LOVED this treatment on my last Princess cruise.. its only $26! LAUNDROMATOn the Star the self-service laundry is not free. You can buy individually boxed soap in a dispenser for $1 each, or a liquid one-dose in the gift shop for a few cents over a dollar. The washers cost $1 a load and the dryers are $.50 a load.. both high capacity. And just FYI.. Princess casino .25 tokens work the same as quarters in the washer and dryer (a great way to get rid of any you find in your pocket at the end of the cruise). We found the laundry facilities busy all the time and had a hard time getting in. I was quite bummed after hearing that they were lightly used by many frequent cruisers. I ended up doing laundry late at night on the first formal night and during the prime dinner hour a few nights later, as I couldn't get in there during the day. The laundry rooms are different sizes on different decks. We were on Baja, which had the laundry room at the aft (a far hike for us) and with only two washers and dryers on each hallway. The laundry rooms were bigger on the Caribe deck below us, and they were closer to amidships there. There are free ironing boards and irons in the laundry facilities, but they are also very busy.. especially on the formal nights. Try to plan ahead and go at an off hour if you want to use these too. Done with the generalities of Star. on to the specific sights and ports!... In conclusion.no problems, no complaints. Yes, I would've liked a bigger cabin and yes, I would've liked the wait staff to be better, but all in all.we had a lovely time.Enjoy your cruise !